Especially for Writers

and other announcements . . .

one more . . .

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Giveaway!

 

I forgot to tell everyone about the new giveaway! Check out my website for details!

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How to Keep Your Character Engaged

You’ve probably seen Chuck Palahniuk’s quote before. He prefaces it with “One of the most common mistakes beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone.” I have to add that the second most common mistake beginning writers make is to have their characters actually fall asleep in front of other characters. This invariably occurs during a long drive of some sorts where the characters are in close quarters—a car or a coach. The POV character will have a long internal monologue, then fall asleep.

I know that a few of my friends and clients will read this and think I’m talking about them. I am. But because I’m seeing it so frequently, I’m addressing everyone who feels tempted to (1) give the POV character an entire scene in his or her head, and (2) have that character fall asleep while in the company of another character.

Let me start with #2 first: Don’t do this. Unless something amazing and earth-shattering is going to happen while the POV character is asleep—he awakes to the apocalypse or she grows pointy ears while she snoozes—don’t do it. Just don’t. There is no valid reason. If you need to illustrate the passage of time, use a scene break instead. Take the characters from the events of one scene and put them in the next. We don’t need a transition during which nothing happens but snores, snorts, and drool. Dosing your character with a sleep aid is a missed opportunity. It doesn’t advance anything, doesn’t solve anything, doesn’t provide any insight.

But back to Palahniuk’s remark about leaving characters alone: this also is missed opportunity. Whenever your character is alone, nothing is happening, so it’s best not to leave them alone. Granted, there are times when you have no choice because of the plot, but try not to leave your character alone in his head too long. Leaving them alone results in a long, dry experience for your reader.

Here’s a list of “alone” times, along with their alternatives:

* The POV character is alone or with another, describing the setting.

Usually, this is the author’s attempt at “putting the character in the setting” while deluging the reader with description. If this is a paragraph or two, that’s not too bad; but if this involves in-depth description of absolutely everything, then you need to rethink what you’re doing.

First, understand what “putting the character in the setting” means. For instance, instead of having the character walk into a library and describe it—floor to ceiling shelves, heavily draped windows, dim lights over reading tables beside cozy padded chairs—have the character walk into the library and use it. POV character finds the book he wants three shelves over his head, barely within reach of his fingertips. He wiggles out the copy of Tom Sawyer from between The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Prince and the Pauper and strolls across the plush carpet to an overstuffed chair beside a ceiling-tall window {and so on.}

Once you realize how to put the character into the scene, use all five senses to help describe it. The more you rely on sight, the more you’re describing instead of advancing the plot.

Let’s go back to the library. What if I said, The door at the other end opened with a hydraulic swoosh and closed with a thunk, would that change the image in your head? That alone carried you from whatever you had in mind to—what? The Enterprise?

There are all sorts of tricks and techniques to plop your reader dead-center into your setting. Use them. Cut out a lot of the description so you can get that other character into the room and get the story moving.

* The POV character is with someone who is the source of her problems. 

Newbie authors usually preface this with a description of how each character “falls silent,” then dives into the POV character’s head. All the things that the two should be discussing together are trapped inside the mind of one.

If they have issues, argue them out. They don’t have to be solved, if finding a solution isn’t in your plans, but let the characters discuss them. The dialogue can provide far more tension than a monologue. Their reactions to each other’s statements can lead to delicious confusion and misinterpretations. Allowing your reader to watch the dance between what’s intended and what’s actually said enhances the reading experience. All sorts of twists and turns can occur when the two personalities discuss what’s on their minds.

* The POV character is actually alone, but the other character dominates her thoughts.

This isn’t always a bad thing, depending on how long you leave your reader in her head. If she’s engaged in some activity requiring her to concentrate and she finds she can’t because of the other character taking up her thoughts, that can be fun. Ever use cayenne when you wanted cinnamon?

But if your character’s need to rehash events requires long periods inside her head, then find her a buddy instead. A BFF. A bartender, a priest, a psychiatrist. Someone with whom your POV character can enter into a dialogue. Whoever this sage is can help your character figure out her problems—or worsen them. Whatever you require in this respect would be far more fun to read than delving into the character’s head for paragraph after paragraph, page after page.

Because you want to advance the plot. Everything you do should advance the plot. If your plot requires that your character be alone, that’s fine. But if you’re leaving your character alone for the sole purpose of rehashing her emotions or whatever, then rethink your plan. There are better, more engaging ways to show your reader what’s on your character’s mind.

 

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Especially for Writers

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Looking for Me?

If you’re looking for me today, head over to the ACFW blog where I talk about how not to write a series. I discuss some of the challenges I’m facing with the Circle Bar Ranch series-that-wasn’t-supposed-to-be-a-series. Yet another opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

While you’re at it, slip over to the More to Life blog—especially if you feel like you’re in a fog. My post, “He Will Not Leave You,” is likely to give you some hope and encouragement.

Be sure to leave comments for me. I always love reading what you have to say.

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Especially for Writers

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Lions Among the Lambs

Lion Among the Lambs, book two of Cecilia Pulliam’s Christian Supernatural series called Lions and Lambs, is a good one. Through supernatural means, Susannah Daniels, the main character, is able to discover when bad things are going to happen to women and children. She and her husband Val are able to save many of them.

But one cult in particular, headed by a scary dude named Ba’al, is the source of many of Susannah’s terrifying visions. Everyone is afraid of him—Abigail, his Tarot card reader, Brian, the man running from him. Ba’al goes “through followers like a sickle through wheat, sometimes without any apparent reason.” Watching Brian run from the cult, observing his extreme paranoia, helps us as the reader understand how bad the bad guy is.

That’s where Cecilia excelled in her writing. Her bad guys are terrifying, yet she never shows them in action. She illustrates how horrible they are by how others react to them.

Brian and Abigail are also scary critters. Abigail has plans for Brian that aren’t in his best interest. But Brian is a psychotic killer, and while he’s afraid of Ba’al, he figures he has Abigail in the palm of his hand. So when he realizes Abigail is conspiring against him, he responds with a “bring it on” attitude. Yes, come ahead, Ms. Abigail. We’ll see who will play the cat and who will play the mouse.

This is the mark of excellent writing. We readers don’t have to have things spelled out for us to get the idea: all the bad guys have done and plan to do terrifying things, but Cecilia doesn’t have to show them for us to feel that sense of fear.

Good job, Ceci!

 

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Ebook Cards

 

I got my cards in—too late for the festivals, but in great time for the rest of the events I have coming up this year. Now, whenever someone asks if my book is available in a digital version, I can hand them the card. “Yes, You can get it here.”

Instant sale instead of the hope of one.

As is evident from the image (somewhat blurry–sorry about that), Texas Association of Authors made my cards for me. The individual cards through TAA are more expensive than what DropCard offers, but with DropCard, I’d have to buy 100. So, instead of paying $450 for 100 cards, I paid $30 for 30 cards.

I’m testing them out right now and seeing advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage, of course, and the reason to have them to begin with, is so that I don’t lose sales to customers who want the digital version of my books, but then don’t follow through to order them. I’m looking forward to the day when I can whip one from my purse and present it to someone I’ve been talking to about my books.

Another advantage is that they serve as an inexpensive giveaway, so I can use them either as an income-generating product or as a promotional item.

The disadvantage of buying them through TAA instead of doing them myself is that the TAA logo and content is on front instead of my cover image. I bought stickers to put on the back so the customer will remember what book to buy. But, as I said, I can’t whip out $450 right now for 100 cards to design as I’d like, especially when I can’t be sure how well they’ll sell.

Disadvantage #2 is how easy they are to steal. I lost two at a conference recently despite the fact I’d put the price on the containers holding the cards. I’ve come up with several ideas of how to display them, but none are theft-proof and each idea adds more cost to the product. Since avid readers know the price of an ebook and already know how much they’re willing to spend on an unknown author, I can’t afford to add too much cost to my product without eroding my return on the investment.

So, the jury is still out. I have three more major events this year, not to mention tons of opportunities that crop up through personal contact with others, so we’ll see how well they’ll sell. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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Especially for Writers

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August 2017 Christian Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Action/Adventure:

Imperfect Lies by Elizabeth Noyes — When another woman emerges from the past to claim Mallory Cameron’s happily ever after, she cuts her losses and sets out to find a headline-worthy story to launch her journalism career. She embarks on a whirlwind journey that takes her across the United States, to the blue-green waters of the Caribbean, on to sunny Mexico, and deep into the dangerous parts of Africa where terror reigns. James Evers turned his back on a life of power and privilege to carve a place in the world for himself. Now that he’s finally discovered his niche as a small-town sheriff and found the woman he wants in his future, a past indiscretion struts in on high heels and sends his newfound love fleeing headlong into peril. His mission: neutralize old enemies, defuse new threats, resolve past mistakes, settle family disputes, and—most importantly—find and rescue his woman from terrorists before the unthinkable happens. (Action/Adventure from Write Integrity Press)

Contemporary Romance:

The Bachelor’s Unexpected Family by Lisa Carter — Young widow Kristina Montgomery moves to Kiptohanock, Virginia, hoping it will give her and her teenage son, Gray, a fresh start. She longs for the peace and quiet only a small town can provide. But her plans are thwarted by her new neighbor, Canyon Collier, a former Coast Guard pilot and a crop duster. Gray is instantly drawn to the pilot and his teenage niece, Jade—and Kristina’s not far behind. She and Canyon are soon bonding over parenting their charges and their spark becomes undeniable. Could it be that the spirited pilot is just what Kristina needs to teach her heart to soar again? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Gift of the Magpie by Zoe M. McCarthy — Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia, has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, Amanda’s heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high-school Valentine’s Day date. Camden may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Mother for Leah by Rachel L. Miller –It’s been ten years since Leah Fisher’s mother died in a buggy accident. But when Leah’s father shows interest in Naomi Yoder, Leah isn’t ready for a new mother. Will Leah be able to let go of her own ideas and realize that God truly does know best for her or will she allow love to slip through her fingers, destroying Samuel Fisher and Naomi Yoder’s happiness at the same time? (Contemporary from S & G Publishing)

General Contemporary:

Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli — An antique ring reunites a Boston Marathon bombing survivor with the man who saved her. Together they unearth the two-hundred-year- old history of a woman who suffered tremendous loss in the Boston Massacre, a woman torn between the love of two men – one a patriot, one a Redcoat. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)

Fresh Faith by Elise Phillips — Joy Abbott had been trying to start her life over for years — and failing. Then a letter summoned her to Texas and everything changed. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)

Historical:

Enchanted Isle by Melanie Dobson — In the spring of 1958, Jenny Winter embarks on a two-month adventure to a quaint village in England’s magical Lake District. With a new camera and an eye for capturing the beauty others miss, she can’t wait to explore the heathery fells and mystical waters. Adrian Kemp, a handsome and enigmatic local, makes the sightseeing even more beguiling. When Adrian shows Jenny his late father’s abandoned dream, a deserted island amusement park, she glimpses a kindred spirit in this reckless, haunted young man. Yet as she opens her heart to Adrian, the two stumble into a mystery leading back a generation to an unforgettable romance and an unsolved murder. As long-held secrets come to light, it’s left to Jenny and Adrian to put the past to rest and restore a lost dream. (Historical from Waterfall Press)

Titus: The Aristocrat by Katheryn Maddox Haddad — Titus intends to become a famous lawyer in the Roman Empire. Instead, he is sent by Paul to arbitrate between arch enemies in wild Corinth, wilder Crete, and wildest Dalmatia. In each place he suffers. But, long before that, he suffers from guilt over the death of his mother when he was eleven years old. How does Titus survive it all? (Historical from Northern Lights Publishing House)

Historical Romance:

 

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander — With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society’s expectations must work together to achieve their dreams – provided the truth doesn’t tear them apart first. (Historical Romance from Zondervan)


The Second Chance Brides Collection by Lauralee Bliss, Angela Breidenbach, Ramona K. Cecil, Pamela Griffin, Grace Hitchcock, Pam Hillman, Laura V. Hilton, Tiffany Amber Stockton, and Liz Tolsma — Meet nine women who each believe their chance for lifelong love has passed them by. From the girls who lost their beaus to war, to the wallflowers overshadowed by others, and the widows deeply hurt by their loss, the desire to love and be loved spans American history from 1777 to 1944. Experience the sweet pull of romance on each life and the blossom of faith that leads them to brighter futures. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman — Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady. The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage. Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe? (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)

Romantic Suspense:

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason — When a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan’s life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she’s made a career out of taking care of others. But after she has an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her–and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he’s not about to let Haley fight this battle alone. In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories–and the depths of the heart–Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley’s past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won’t quit. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])

Plain Retribution by Dana R. Lynn — Ten years ago while on rumspringa, Rebecca Miller and her friends were kidnapped and held captive…and now, living in the English world, she’s nearly abducted again. One by one her friends who once helped send their abductor to jail are targeted, and she is next…unless police officer Miles Olsen can stop a killer. Deaf since birth, the only person on the force that Rebecca can communicate with is Miles, and he needs this case to redeem himself of past mistakes. When the relentless killer tracks them deep into the heart of Amish country, protecting Rebecca must be Miles’s sole focus. Because a mistake this time will cost something worth more to him than his job—the woman he’s falling for. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Cold Blooded by Anne Patrick — Detective Gwen Jamison has the highest closure rate in her division, but a string of armed robberies is about to take over her life. Not only will her job be on the line, but the troubling case also wreaks havoc on her personal life. Lieutenant Ian McKean knew he would have his hands full when he took over leadership of the detectives unit. He wasn’t prepared for the headstrong Detective Jamison, though, who quickly becomes a thorn in his side. If they can stop butting heads long enough they might realize they are more alike than either imagined. (Romantic Suspense from Anne Patrick)

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