Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winner of The Doctor's Lady!!

Congratulations to Deb, the winner of Jody Hedlund’s novel “The Doctor’s Lady”!! She has been notified and will receive her novel shortly!
Thank you all so much for entering!!!
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Understanding Deep POV

Have you ever heard the following phrases from your crit partners, “Your novel is great, but it lacks deep POV” or “What you need to do is read some novels which utilize deep POV, as it will expand your writing ability?" I know I certainly have.

Is there a way to fix this? A way to make the move that lands our novels from the slush pile onto the bestseller lists? Utilizing deep POV gives our novels a better chance of succeeding in this tight publishing market. It also brings readers into a deeper experience with our characters. Writing deep POV is what distinguishes the above average writers from their counterparts.

So what exactly is deep POV? Deep POV is third person told in an intimate way. Rather than telling readers it uses descriptive language and thought processes to show them. The best novels are those where we connect with the characters, right? Deep POV helps us do just that. So to sum it up in one sentence: Deep POV is showing the reader the character’s emotions instead of telling them. The following examples will demonstrate.

Instead of:Amelia was angry, yet she tried not to show it.
Say:Amelia bit her lip, sucking in a deep breath, while fighting the urge to spew forth angry words.

See how the second example gives a better picture of what is going on inside the character’s head?

Another tip is to take out words such as, felt, saw, watched, thought, and knew. I confess I tend to use a ton of these words while writing the first draft of my novels, and then taking them out during the editing phase. Let’s look at another example:

How dare he, Susan thought? She knew Jack Kincaid was the worst cad she’d ever met and it would be a struggle not to tell him.

Pretty bad huh? Now let’s try and fix it:
How dare he? Susan splayed her hand against her bodice, trying to calm her pounding heart. Jack Kincaid was the worst cad she’d ever met. She gritted her teeth. The only thing better than telling him would be slapping him silly.

In the above example we not only get deeper inside Susan’s head but we also learn something new about her personality. This helps us to connect with her, which is what every author wants. We want readers to connect with characters, which better enhances the emotional experience of a good novel.

Novels That Show Deep POV Writing
Here are some novels which I’ve found utilize deep POV extremely well. These are only a sampling and I’m sure there are many more, but I’ve used several of these novels as “manuals” for good deep POV writing. Descriptions of the novels below can be found on

Heiress – Susan May Warren
A Heart Revealed – Julie Lessman
Fairer Than Morning - Rosslyn Elliot
Abigail – Jill Eileen Smith
The Doctor’s Lady – Jody Hedlund
The Falcon and the Sparrow – M. L. Tyndall

This list is by no means definitive, but I’ve found these authors’ techniques to be extremely helpful when writing my own deep POV.

Remember, deep POV is showing the character’s emotion instead of telling it. It’s bringing readers deeper into the lives and hearts of our characters thus giving us the ability to better touch hearts and lives with our novels.


I’m extending my Countdown to Christmas one more week to offer one blessed reader a special book. This week I am giving away an autographed copy of “The Doctor’s Lady” by Jody Hedlund, one of the novels mentioned above. A great novel by an author who does deep POV extremely well. Reading this will give you a mini hands on course in writing deep POV.

Get your comments (and don't forget to leave your email) in by Friday, December 23rd and I will pick a winner. Have fun!

This is also the last time I will be posting until after the New Year. I’m taking next Monday off as a holiday hiatus, but look forward to seeing you all back the following week to kick of the year 2012!!

A very merry and blessed Christmas and New Years to you all!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Interview with debut author Zeke Lam

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Hello everyone! Today we have a special guest we are interviewing. Usually, we have only fiction authors on this blog, but I was asked to interview debut author Zeke Lam, whose nonfiction book "subMISSION: Heeding only His Voice," has recently been released. Zeke is the founder of SUBMISSION Ministries—a ministry devoted to seeing lost souls encounter God and live lives fully surrendered to the risen Christ. A graduate of Liberty University, Zeke’s deep passion for following Christ’s will has led him through many years of youth ministry and itinerant evangelism. Both of these experiences have enriched and fueled his desire to hand others the keys to a Christ-centered life. Zeke resides in Virginia with his beautiful wife, Kathleen, and a growing family of future world-changers.

Thank you so much for joining us Zeke and giving us the opportunity to hear about you and your new book.

1) Tell us a little about yourself and your journey so far.
I am 27 years old and have been married to my beautiful wife, Kathleen, for 6 years. We have three children (4, 2, and 2 months) that we love very much. I have ministered since the age of 18 as a youth minister and evangelist. In addition to this, I operate a small business which constructs ornamental concrete such as flower pots, bird baths, etc. I also help out with the family furniture business when time permits. We are passionate to see Christ glorified through our lives, and constantly seek to use our lives to share the Gospel. This has led our family all over the world. Our most recent “adventure” involved us literally driving to a town in Texas, renting an apartment, and seeking the Lord. Although we knew nobody or anything about the place, God gave us an entire church fellowship in 2 days! This turned into an incredible 7 month stay that is surely not finished yet.

2) What motivated you to write this book?
Compromise is way too commonplace today. I have seen it in the church, in families, and in my own life. If revival is to take place in or society, God’s people must be willing to operate with the level of obedience and submission God requires. Mixing our opinions with God’s commands or desires is the very recipe for disaster. If we will fully release ourselves to Jesus Christ, and be willing to follow Him the way He commands, a shift will take place in our society! Ultimately, shortcomings in my own life with regards to submission sparked this fire.

3) What do you hope this book accomplishes?
My hope and prayer is that Christians nationwide will be challenged to step into a realm of Scriptural obedience that will spark revival!

4) Did you learn anything (or did God show you anything) as you were writing?
I certainly experienced moments where I was convicted about the level of submission I lived under. God revealed to me the importance of denying any and all voices that seek to lure us from His presence. Submission to Him will position us for spiritual greatness!

5) Do you believe people struggle with the idea of "submission"? If so, why?
Yes, we all struggle with the idea of full submission. It means releasing our control and desires to the Lord. When we do not feel in control, it creates an emotion of insecurity. This insecurity is what makes us resists submission on many levels. When it comes to submitting to our Lord Jesus, we must reject these emotions, and faithfully surrender our lives.

6) Your subtitle mentions obeying only God's voice. What are some ways people can hear God's voice?
God desires to interact with us in ways we could never imagine. The Holy Spirit is very much alive and active, but the question is, will we allow ourselves to get in position to hear Him. He speaks through the Scriptures, His written word. He speaks to our hearts as we intimately seek Him daily through prayer and fasting. He can speak through people and situations around us. God is not limited to anything and can therefore speak any way He chooses. The only real issue is that which restricts and hinders us from hearing.

In Conclusion:
Zeke Lam suggests that the greatest challenge the Church is facing today is submission, or the lack thereof. It is not external forces that nullify the testimony of a Christ-centered believer, but rather the failure to humbly submit to the voice of the Lord. This book will help you to live a surrendered life abiding in Christ.
Learn how to submit your life wholeheartedly to the Lord so that you can dwell continually in the secret place—a place of intimacy, surrender and joy.

You can order Zeke’s book from Amazon (it would make a great Christmas gift)
and can find out more about him and his ministry at his


We are on our last week of our Christmas giveaway. This week we are giving away a copy of Christmas Gifts, by Gail Gaymer Martin and Brenda Minton, along with a Taste of Home Bake sale cookbook filled with recipes for this holiday season. Yummy things to bake and give away this Christmas. These books would also make nice gifts. So please leave your comment and email and I will draw a winner Friday.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Congratulations to This Week's Winner!!

Congratulations to Anita Mae Draper, the winner of a Julie Lessman book!! She will be notified by Julie shortly and soon after receive her book.
A big round of applause for all who entered! I had such fun this week, reading everyone’s comments and chatting with everyone! And a HUGE thank you to Julie, for doing the interview and responding to everyone’s comments!!!!!
Have a great weekend!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Interview with award winning author Julie Lessman!!!!!

Hello everyone!! Happy Monday! It’s an especially happy day for me because I’m hosting a very dear friend of mine, Julie Lessman!! Julie is not only one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, but also an amazing writer whose novels are full of passion -- both for romance and for God. Now that’s an unbeatable combination! Today, Julie will be sharing some fabulous tips about writing love scenes and some information on her upcoming series -- The Cousins McClare.

So with much excitement I present to you the woman whose books I have on auto buy….Julie Lessman!!

1) What do you like most about being a writer?
Oh, that’s a no-brainer—writing love scenes, of course! I like tension, lots and LOTS of romantic tension, so when I write those scenes, my keyboard is smoking because my fingers fly. In fact, one of my friends wanted to know why I couldn’t just write a nice, “sweet” love scene. Duh, because I would fall asleep! :) Even my husband noticed the fast and furious pace of my love scenes—he said he would be meandering along in a nice, easy passage and then, BAM! A love scene would hit, and before he knew it, he was 20 pages down the road!

2) What do you like least about being a writer?
Oh, cold chills—trying to get published and promotion, absolutely! Thank God half of that is over for me … uh, I hope! :|

3) Do you have a particular place or setting in which you do your writing? Maybe an area that fuels your creativity?
You bet!! My family jokes that I am an “Ambiance Queen” because dim lighting with candles during dinner is a must, as well as a mainstay for my writing. During the summer months (basically May through October), I sit outside on my lower deck that runs the length of the house, overlooking a lush, green wooded area that has sunlight dappling through the trees. I have my feet up on this cushy lawn furniture at all times, hazelnut coffee, lip gloss, phone, a mirror (to capture those expressions I’m writing about) and a fan gently blowing while I sit with my laptop on my ... where else? Lap!!

In the winter when I’m not in the hearth room with a crackling fire, I write in a tiny computer room that my artist husband and I share. It has a big window that lets in gobs of light and lots of fun distractions like chipmunks and deer. It’s a pretty small room, though, so most of the time, we are back to back, which is kind of nice because I like to lean back and kiss him after I put lip gloss on, which is OFTEN! That would definitely qualify as one of my quirks—lipstick and lip gloss. I wear it everywhere, even to bed (the lip gloss, I mean). Also, when I do write in our office, I always have a candle lit next to a favorite picture of my husband and me before we were married. How’s that for romantic inspiration? J It sure works for me!

4) How many words do you write a day? On average, how long does it take you to finish a novel?
Oh man, what an embarrassing question because I don’t write many at all unless I’m really bearing down on a deadline and then I’ve been known to write all day and all night (from 8:00 AM to 5:00 AM several times!). There are actually months when I don’t write on my contracted ms. at all, but when I do, it can be anywhere from four to twenty pages in a day. Of course, it’s different on every book, but generally it takes me about nine months on a book—six to write it and about two to edit/revise. A Passion Redeemed was the only exception, because I literally pounded it out in two months while working part-time, which boils done to one month straight to write an almost 500-page book. Which proves I can do it if I have to … :)

5) Do you plot your novels or do a chapter-by-chapter outline?
I do not do a chapter-by-chapter outline, but I do now plot my novels, all except for the first two, A Passion Most Pure and A Passion Redeemed. Back then, you could pretty much label me a “Seat of the Pants” Queen! You see, I’m a first-line freak, whether beginning a book or a chapter, so all it takes is a key line popping into my brain (while on the treadmill or in the middle of the night), and I’m off and running.
However, with two 3-book series that chronicle fourteen characters in the O’Connor family from 1916 to 1932, I was forced to become somewhat of a plotter as well, creating an age/birthday/anniversary chart that would boggle the mind. In addition, I have created incredibly detailed synopses to help me keep all the plots straight for both primary characters and subordinates, WHICH if the “pantster” in me has its way, may or may not end up in the final story. :)

6) Tell us a little about your upcoming series, The Cousins McClare. How do you think this series will differ from your previous novels?
The Cousins McClare is set in 1900 San Francisco with book one releasing April of 2013 and the subsequent books out at nine-month intervals rather than yearly. It covers the stories of three cousins from a wealthy political family in 1902 San Francisco (four years before the earthquake!) and the unlikely men with whom they fall in love. From the glitter and glamour of San Francisco’s Nob Hill, to the seedy dance halls and gambling dens of the Barbary Coast, you might say “The Cousins McClare” is a study in contrasts between the haves and have-nots, and barriers between rich and poor that only faith can transcend. Think Little Women meets Dynasty.” And for those of you too young to remember the TV show Dynasty, think family wealth and poverty in a political setting.

To please my husband (who wants me to write for the market, which means shorter, less passionate and more linear plots), the next series will be a lot shorter (yeah, good luck with that!), less sensual (everybody’s single, so no married love scenes) and less complicated, God willing!! Which means the books will be about 300-400 pages rather than 500, and the plots will be two tier instead of 3- and 4-tier (i.e. less subplots than A Passion Denied and the “Winds of Change” series). There will be the story between the hero and heroine, of course, but also a second-tier love story between the older couple in the series, a godly widowed matriarch who butts heads with an ungodly brother-in-law to whom she was once engaged before he cheated on her, causing her to marry his brother instead. Now that she is widowed, the brother-in-law wants her back, so of course there will be LOTS of romantic tension between them as well as between the hero and heroine. J

7) How did Seekerville get started and what part did you play in starting it?
Seekerville got started when fifteen contest divas kept butting heads with each other in various contests, so we knew each other’s names. Then Ruth Logan Herne and Tina Radcliffe came up with bright idea of joining forces to support each other (and eventually our readers) on the road to publication and beyond. When we started four years ago, only two of us had contracts, Deb Giusti and Mary Connealy. Since then, all 15 of us are now published and anxious to see our Seekerville friends published too!
As far as what part I played in the initial start of Seekerville? Almost nothing initially, but now I like to think I play an important part because I get my husband to do a lot of the art-related things for Seekerville such as the bookmarks and the ads in the ACFW Magazine. :)

8) What’s your typical writing day like?
Gosh, lately pretty sporadic because life has been “getting in the way." But usually I rise at about 6:30 or 7:00 AM, eat peach oatmeal and drink coffee while I check a few blogs (The Seekers, for one, at, then I listen to worship music on the treadmill for 30 minutes followed by Bible reading and prayer time. Laundry, paperwork, etc. gets my attention briefly before I dive into e-mails. When I write (I don’t write everyday like a good author should), I start about 10:30 or 11:00 AM and crank ALL day (usually without lunch) until Keith’s stomach starts to growl around 6:00 PM or so … :) Not real “disciplined,” I know, but it works for me!

9) Recently you had to cut 50,000 words from your upcoming release, A Love Surrendered. How did you go about doing that?
LOL … a WHOLE lotta prayer!! Basically my editor had me cut two sub stories (Lizzie and Brady’s and Charity and Mitch’s) plus half of the epilogue and several bit characters. I also cut a long “come-to-Jesus” revival scene for the heroine where she and her “wild” friends get her drunk and take her to a Billy Sunday revival, who actually spoke in Boston at that time. That accounted for about 30,000 words, and then I was able to cut another 10,000 by simply going page by page, cutting lines and words.

10) What’s the number one tip you have for writing a great love scene? If you can’t name just one, what about the top two tips?
Goodness, great question!!! The #1 tip I would give for a great love scene is getting inside of the hero’s head. The male is key. I personally believe his feelings/reactions generate readers' feelings/reactions even more so than the heroine's because his desire translates into the desire every woman wishes she could elicit. For me, getting inside the male head during “the kiss” intensifies the “desire” factor. You can show his strength, his dominance, his angst at falling in love with a woman he wants, but can’t have, which always enhances the “WOW” factor. Like Rhett with Scarlett in Gone With the Wind or … ahem … Collin with Faith in A Passion Most Pure.

This was one of the tips given (along with actual excerpts to bear it up) in the detailed handout for the ACFW workshop Ruth Axtell Morren and I taught called, “A Kiss is NOT Just a Kiss,” so if the winner of your blog contest would like a copy of that handout, I will be happy to forward it to her.

Thanks SO much, Amanda, for hosting me on your blog this week. I LOVE to hear from reader friends, so they can feel free to contact me through my website at:, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter at:

My newsletter is chock-full of fun info on my books and there’s always a contest featuring signed book giveaways including one right now to have a character named after you or a loved one in my next book. Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots”  (, which is a very laid-back, Friday journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Then finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog (, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.


JULIE LESSMAN is an award-winning author whose tagline “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards. She was voted as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction.” Chosen as #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also awarded #1 Series of the Year; #3 Author of the Year; #5 Novel of the Year; and #4 Historical Fiction Author of the year.

Julie resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law and new granddaughter, and is the author of “The Daughters of Boston” series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Her “Winds of Change” series features A Hope Undaunted, which ranked #5 on Booklist’s Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010 and is followed by her most recent release, A Heart Revealed. You can contact Julie at: 

Blessed readers, you have the opportunity to win an autographed copy of one of Julie's books (the book of your choice) by leaving a comment with your email.  The winner will be drawn on Friday and can select the book they would like to recieve.  I will contact Julie to let her know what book you would like and she will mail it out to you. So leave your comments with email to enter.

Next week we are offering yet another interview, this time with author Zeke Lam. Zeke is the author of "subMission" a nonfiction book about Biblical Submission. This is a great opportunity to support a new author so stop by and read Zeke’s inspiring interview!

Next week we will also resume our Countdown to Christmas giveaway with a special Love Inspired christmas book and cookbook package. So stay tuned for more prizes and fun!

As always- Happy Writing,

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winners and Special Annoucement!!

Congratulations to Keli, this week’s winner of “Where Lilacs Still Bloom” by Jane Kirkpatrick She has been notified and will receive her novel shortly. A huge thank you to all who entered.
Now I have some BIG news for you. On Monday, I will be interviewing a very special guest and dear friend of mine, Julie Lessman !!!!!!!!!!!! I am SO excited to do this interview and can’t wait to share with you all her awesome advice!! Also, I am giving away reader’s choice of one of her amazing novels! And truly, they are AMAZING novels! So stop by Amanda Barratt Author and join in the fun with Julie!!
Happy Weekend!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!

Do you have trouble picturing your characters? Or can you imagine the expressions they might wear during a particular scene? Imagining our characters as if they were in a movie can help us make them come alive. Before starting the writing process I develop what I call a “Character Collage”. I thought I would explain this tip so you can use it in your own writing journey.

What is a Character Collage? To put it simply, it’s a collection of pictures I gather relating to my characters. I usually do this while I’m plotting my novel and brainstorming my character’s personalities. It really helps to solidify who the character is and what traits they have.

I approach finding the pictures several ways. Either I have an actor or actress in mind for each character and then I search google images and find a picture of that particular person. Or, most often, I only have a vague idea of the kind of person I want to play each “role” in my novel. So I begin searching for someone who fit’s the image I already have in my mind. Since I write historical novels it’s very helpful if I can use an actor or actress already in period costume, even if it’s not the exact era in which my novel is set. One of the first places I check is, “Enchanted Serenity of Period Films”, one of my all-time favorite period drama sites. I go to the index of period dramas where there is a huge data base of almost every period movie available, both British and American. Most of these also have a summary of the movie and a few pictures of the major characters. I start clicking on each movie and looking at the pictures provided, seeing if any of the actors or actresses matches what I’m looking for. Usually, I manage to cast most of my minor characters this way and sometimes my major characters as well. If this site fails to produce what I’m searching for and I still have some “un-casted” characters, I usually turn to Internet Movie Database, where I can search actors and actresses by name, or by movie title. Most of the time, they have at least one picture per actor and if I find an actor/actress I like, I can use google images to find more photos of them. A few other options are using characters from television shows as models, although finding a lot of pictures of a character who appears very little in a T.V. show might be difficult. Also, using models of people you know personally is another idea, but you might want to get their permission first.

Searching for that particular picture that feels “just right”, is a lot of work, so I would suggest carefully studying the characters in the movies you watch, even the minor ones, as you might want to consider using them for future novels. I try to find pictures for every character, including secondary characters. Major characters (usually just my hero and heroine), I like to have at least ten different images, showing them in different poses or with different facial expressions. For secondary and minor characters, one or two photos will suffice.

After I have gathered the images, I either make a collage on Microsoft Paint, print the photos, and tack them onto a bulletin board, or copy and paste them onto a Word document. Then they are available when I need inspiration. Another fun thing I do is make desktop wallpaper by pasting a couple of favorite images onto Microsoft Paint and adding a background. Thus, whenever I turn on my computer, I have my characters staring right at me. This really gets my creative juices flowing.

These are only a few tips, and I’m sure there are many more ways to accomplish character casting, especially if you write contemporaries. I hope you found some of these ideas helpful, and if you try them, they make your writing take on a whole new dimension.

Happy Writing,

Your Turn – Do you cast your characters? If so, do you have any tips to pass on to all of us? I look forward to your comments!

This week we are giving away the book "Where Lilacs Still Bloom" by Jane Kirkpatrick. This book is an Advanced Readers copy as it does not release until April 2012. Included with this is a three pack of Bible Study Notes notepads to use during church or during your own scripture studies. This book and notepad set would make a great christmas gift or something for your own enjoyment. So once again, leave your comment and email information.

Congratulations to Jackie, last weeks winner of the Love Inspired three book set. Next week we have a Love Inspired Christmas book by Gail Gaymer Martin and a Christmas cookbook to give away, so stay tuned.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Favorite Period Dramas

Today, I’m going to take a break from my usual writing posts and blog about another one of my passions – period British dramas. These dramas have provided me many hours of inspiration for several of my novels, plus many ideas for future works. They are also great companions to classic literature as many of these are based on famous novels. So without further ado, here are five of my all-time favorite period dramas with a few sentence synopses for each. Enjoy!

1) Pride and Prejudice 1995 – This is a given for many period drama fans. Actually, Pride and Prejudice was one of the first period dramas I watched, and it was what really sparked my interest in the Regency Era, which led to my writing three novels set in that era. I LOVED this movie and my friends and I are always sprinkling our conversations with such phrases as, “I believe we must have some conversation, Mr. Darcy – a very little will suffice” or “This is all extremely vexing. I am quite put out!” Any of you know who said these?

2) Bleak House 2005– If I had to pick one period drama that was my absolute favorite, this would certainly be in the running. Many great characters, scenes, and lines!! The only bad thing about this drama is once you start watching it, you’ll never want to stop! Screenwriter Andrew Davies is at his best here, with a drama that will make you laugh and cry. There are many of Charles Dickens’ characters that are memorable and Bleak House is full of them.

3) Jane Eyre 1983– There are over twenty versions of Jane Eyre, and I have seen three of them. To date, I have greatly enjoyed the 2011 version starring Michael Fassbender, and the 2006 version starring Ruth Wilson. But my all-time favorite has been the 1983 version with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke. Although it has the feel of a really old BBC production (which in fact it is) the acting is amazing and the dialog is taken almost word for word from Bronte’s novel. And of course after watching it, I immediately decided to have Timothy Dalton “play” my next hero.
4) Sense and Sensibility 1995 – Another wonderful Austen adaptation, this is a great version of “Sense and Sensibility.” With a wonderful cast, lovely scenery, and clever dialog this version of “Sense and Sensibility” is one I return to again and again. Although slightly older than Austen’s description of Elinor Dashwood, Emma Thompson sparkles as the older sister “sense”, and the lovely Kate Winslet captures young Marianne Dashwood “sensibility” perfectly. A lighthearted adventure through Jane Austen’s first novel, it has a permanent place on my keeper shelf!

5)Becoming Jane 2007 – Let’s face it, authors love watching movies about other authors. And if the author is Jane Austen, it’s even better. Perhaps not altogether historically accurate, in my opinion, this movie captures perfectly the life and times of one of literature’s most beloved authors. Starring James McAvoy and Anne Hathaway this movie is a true gem!

These are only several of the many great dramas that are out there, but these five are a few of my favorite. Be inspired, intrigued, and enjoy the British accents in these five period dramas!
Happy Writing,

Your Turn – What are some of your favorite period dramas? I read and enjoy each and every comment!

This week in our Countdown to Christmas we are giving away a Love Inspired 3 book bundle. The titles are, "Made to Order Family," by Ruth Logan Herne, "Courting the Enemy" by Renee Ryan, "Oklahoma Reunion", by Tina Radcliff. These books would make great Christmas gifts or great reads to enjoy. So please leave your comment and your email and we will once again pick a winner on Friday. Next week I will be giving away another bundle as we get closer to Christmas. So stay tuned!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Winners of House of Secrets!!

Happy Friday everyone! Congratulations to Susan and Charity the two winners of “House of Secrets” by Tracie Peterson plus a journal!

Tune in next week for more chances to win!

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Writing the Breakout Novel" – Five Things I’ve Learned From Donald Maass’s book.

Recently, I’ve been going through Donald Maass’s excellent book and workbook, “Writing the Breakout Novel.” If you don’t own this set, I highly recommend it. To whet your appetite, I’m going to share five things that I’ve learned from “Writing the Breakout Novel.”
1)  Give Your Characters Extra Dimension – Maass claims the most interesting protagonists are those who keep us guessing what they are going to do, say, or think, next. He also says the reader will be more likely to identify with the character because there is more of the character to identify with. He tells novelists to think of their protagonists defining quality, think of the opposite of that, and then try to have the protagonist demonstrate that, at least once in their novel. I have utilized this technique and it really helps to make characters multi-dimensional.
2)  Combining Roles of Secondary Characters – Plot layering helps make your novel truly breakout. One of the ways to do this is by combining the roles of secondary characters. Rather than adding characters, delete them. Yes, actually delete some secondary characters. Maass tells novelists to write down the names of all characters, whether major or minor. If you end up with more than ten, delete one. If you have more than twelve, delete two. Now think of ways to give the roles you deleted to an existing character. Giving a secondary character an extra dimension makes for a more interesting well rounded character, thus bringing that character alive in reader’s minds. I loved this exercise and although I was not able to delete two characters, I did delete one, and was very happy with the results. Try it!
3) Defining Personal Stakes – Personal stakes are more than what motivates the hero, they are why the hero does what he does. Why the hero/heroine does things, must matter, both to the hero, and to the reader. Maass tells authors to write down the hero’s main problem, goal, or desire, and then find ways to make the problem matter more…and more…and more. He says that while this adds a lot of extra plot complications, it also makes the character much more interesting. After all, a hero who has only one reason to solve a problem can become a little boring. Don’t you think?
4) Tension On Every PageMaass reports that the reason most manuscripts are rejected is because they lack tension. They have too many scenes showing characters just passing the time of day and saying meaningless things, while the story stagnates. He encourages writers to randomly flip or scroll with their computer mouse to a page on their manuscript, then add tension to that page. It can be anything from having the antagonist point a gun at the hero, to the mere anticipation of something ominous to come. He advises novelists to do this on EVERY page. Although I have not done this exercise, I plan on doing so as soon as I finish my novel. Plus, as I write, I now try to avoid stagnant passages. They’re boring to read and even more boring to write.
5) SymbolismLastly, Maass encourages authors to add symbolism. For example, a thunderstorm, a particular tree, a sunset, etc. While every scene cannot have symbolism, what about the first and last scene? Or a few choice scenes throughout the novel? Symbols can become cliché, yet if they are chosen well, they can also become another facet of your breakout novel. Maass instructs novelists to find an object that can present at the novel’s end and also three other places within the novel. This concept provides association within the novel.

These are only a few of the many great exercise and ideas contained in the book and workbook “Writing the Breakout Novel.” I’ve found this tool has greatly enriched my novel, thus hopefully, adding to its breakout qualities. I hope you will too!

Happy Writing- Amanda

Your Turn - Have you read “Writing the Breakout Novel”? Did you find any of the exercises and ideas particularly helpful?

In celebration of Love to Write day - November 15th, we are giving away TWO copies of Tracie Peterson’s newest book, “House of Secrets”. This book was just released in October and is receiving great reviews on Amazon. It would make a great gift for Christmas, or for yourself. Along with this book we are including a notebook/journal for all you writers!  Leave your comment and email so we can enter you to win this book/journal combo. We will pick two winners Friday!
Congratulations to Karen who won “A Sound Among the Trees” by Susan Meissner last week.
Stay tuned for more great giveaways next week as we, Countdown To Christmas!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Famous Last Lines

There’s something about the last line of a novel. Something fascinating and bittersweet. And if that novel is a classic one, it’s even better. So here are fifteen of my favorite last lines from classic literature. Inspiring, poetic, and well written; I hope they’ll inspire you as you begin your writing week!

Fifteen Famous Last Lines from Classic Literature (in no particular order).

1. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. –F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

2. The knife came down, missing him by inches, and he took off. –Joseph Heller, Catch-22
3. But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union. –Jane Austen, Emma
4. I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. –Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

5. And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One! –Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
6. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past. –Willa Cather, My Ántonia
7. He knelt by the bed and bent over her, draining their last moment to its lees; and in the silence there passed between them the word which made all clear. –Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
8. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain. –Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
9. “We shall never be again as we were!” –Henry James, The Wings of the Dove
10. “Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” –Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
11. With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them." -- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
12. "Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
        Some shall be pardoned, and some punished;
        For never was a story of more woe
       Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."
                                --William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

13. I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

14. In their death they were not divided. George Elliot, The Mill on the Floss

15. At that, as if it had been the signal he waited for, Newland Archer got up slowly and walked back alone to his hotel. Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

Happy Writing,

Your Turn- What is your favorite last line in classic literature? They were not divided. George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

Countdown to Christmas - Week 2
This week we are giving away the book, A Sound Among the Trees, by Susan Meissner. This is an advanced readers copy. This book is a great read that is getting great reviews on Amazon. Would make a great gift!!

To win this book, leave a comment with your email so we can contact you if your name is drawn. Winner will be drawn this Friday and notified then!


Friday, November 4, 2011

Winners of Smitten

Happy Friday everyone! Congratulations to Dawn and Jen the two winners of “Smitten”!
Tune in next week for more chances to win!
Happy Weekend Everyone,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Name By Any Other Name……

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
So Shakespeare writes in his play “Romeo and Juliet.” Now, I don’t know much about flowers, but when it comes to naming characters, I respectfully disagree with the Bard. Certain names will not smell so sweet, or come across like roses to your readers. Think of great names in literature. For example, Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird”, or two of my favorites, Scarlett O’ Hara and Rhett Butler from “Gone With the Wind.” Now, there are only so many names to choose from, and I’m no Harper Lee or Margret Mitchell, but I do try and put a great deal of effort into naming my characters. Here are some tips I’ve learned through this process:

1) Know Your Character: What kind of background does your character have? Is your hero a cowboy from the old west? Or is he a titled English aristocrat? Would the name Charles Bradley Fitzsimmons III, be better for the former hero, or the latter? What about Jack Taylor? The longer a person’s name, the more likely they are to be wealthy and respected. Also, take into consideration your character’s personality. Is your heroine proper and demure? Or is she athletic and adventurous? Would the name Elaine DeFord fit the former or the latter? What about Bobbie Dawson? (Side note: Please no more than one cross gender name per novel. It can really jar the reader to have a Chris and a Jamie in the same book).

2) Know The Era: As many of you know, I write historical romance. Nothing jars me more, when I’m reading a historical book, than finding a character with a modern sounding name. Of course the author has to like the name (more on this later) but do they really have to name their Revolutionary War heroine, Brooke? Or their dashing Regency Lord, Billy? Really, I’ve seen these names used and worse. Also, pick names that sound age appropriate. Although Maud was once a little girl, and had to use her name her entire life, the name Maud sounds more suited to someone older.

3) Pick Names That are Reader Friendly: Another one of my “name peeves” is to read names I have no idea how to pronounce. Now, if you’re writing a story set in France, or in a biblical era, you may have to use names that might be difficult for the reader to pronounce. One way to help clarify names of this sort is, early in the story, have another character pronounce that person’s name, the way it sounds, not the way it’s spelled. Then of course, your character will correct this. Then your reader will at least know at that point, how it is pronounced. Usually, however, for those novels set in America and England, names that most people are familiar with, are easiest on the reader.

4) Pick Names You Like: This may be common sense, but let’s say when you were in elementary school a girl named Laura teased you mercilessly. Now, twenty years later you decide to name one of your secondary characters Laura. Subconsciously, you may shy away from this character because of the image you have retained in your head from long ago. Another thing, don’t pick a name for your main character that is very popular and overused. I did this once and regretted it. I would constantly hear that character’s name out of context as I was working on my novel, and almost considered changing the character’s name halfway through just because it began bugging me so much. Therefore, I make a rule not to name my main characters names I hear frequently, such as the names of my good friends, because it can really throw me off balance.

5) Consider Nicknames: - In most of my novels at least one of my main characters uses a shortened version of their name such as, Katie instead of Katherine. But don’t use nicknames for all your characters and chose the nicknames just as carefully as you chose their full name. Too many characters having more than one name confuses readers. Above all, be consistent. Don’t have only half of the secondary characters use the nickname and the rest use the full name. If you do this, there should be a good reason, and the reader should always be able to ascertain who is being talked about.

6) How to Choose Names: I keep a list of names that I come across that may work for future novels. When I hear of a new name that I like, I add it to the list. I also have looked for possible names in baby name books, and on websites, plus research books from the era in which I am writing about. For instance, I may google “victorian baby names” if I am writing in the Victorian Era. Once, I researched all the passengers on the Titanic to name a character for a story I was writing, about that incident.

In Conclusion:
Even after all this work, not all readers will like the names you chose. Don’t be offended. We all perceive things differently, and only in very rare cases, will your character’s name drastically effect book sales. The names you choose can increase and enhance reader satisfaction with your story, however. So hopefully this post will help with that aspect of story writing.

Your Turn - Do you enjoy naming your characters? Have you ever had someone say the only thing they didn’t like about your story was a character’s name? Any tips you share are appreciated!

Happy Naming…

WEEK ONE: Count down to Christmas book giveaway! This week we will be giving away two copies of the book, “Smitten”, by Colleen Coble and friends. This would be a great read or a great gift to give away for Christmas. This is an advanced readers copy, as this book will be released in December. Please leave your name and email (don’t forget your email) if you would like to be entered to win one of these two books. We will draw two winners and contact them by Friday of this week. Join in the fun as we countdown to Christmas!