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!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Congratulations Winners!!!

Happy Friday everyone!! I sure had a fun week visiting with Ruth Logan Herne on Amanda Barratt Author and I’m sure many of you did too! A HUGE thank you to Ruthy for doing this interview!! Fun galore!
Drumroll please! Our six winners are as follows,
“Mended Hearts.” Joanne Sher
“Small-Town Hearts.” Pegg Thomas
“Winter’s End.” Pam Hillman
“Reunited Hearts.” Patricia
“Made to Order Family.” Joy Melville
“Waiting Out the Storm.” Holly. Holly didn’t leave an email address, but I would love to mail her this fantastic book! If Holly could please email me at I can get this book mailed out to her. Thanks so much!
Congratulations to all our winners, and thank you to all who participated and left comments! Stay tuned. Lots of fun coming up, and lots more of opportunities to win books!
Happy Weekend!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Interview with award winning author Ruth Logan Herne!

I’ve been sooo looking forward to this week! Why, you ask? Because I’m hosting the amazing and, oh so talented, Ruth Logan Herne! I had a chance to chat with Ruthy at the ACFW conference and she is SUCH a sweet lady! I loved meeting her! And I LOVED hosting this interview and I’m sure you’ll love reading it! So with no further ado, I’ll hand it over to our lovely guest today, Ruth Logan Herne!!!

1)What made you want to become a writer? Was there a particular person, event, or novel that particularly inspired you?
Amanda, like you, I was born a writer. I think I was born loving books, story-telling, make-believe. I was born into very rough circumstances. My parents were older, I was the seventh child, and both had become alcoholics. Stories and make-believe became my escape. The library became my home away from home. And the librarians were so nice to me… long before I was supposed to, they would let me bring home a stack of books. Which I would read and then return mid-week to get another stack, LOL! Losing myself in the ‘normal’ lives of people in stories gave me hope that normal exists. LOL! My life now PROVES that normal exists, from the puppy kennel and the litter box to scrubbing bathrooms! J And I wouldn’t change any of it except, maybe the scrubbing bathrooms part. But they do look nice when they’re clean, don’t they??? (Not enough to enjoy doing it, though!)

2) What do you like most about being a writer?
EVERYTHING. I love creating, I love starting projects, I love the satisfaction that comes from finishing projects, I love editing, revising, meeting new people.
Want some chocolate???? I’ve got a huge Symphony bar right here, the kind with almonds and brickle…. So good!

3) What do you like least about being a writer?
That one’s easy-peasy. I still work full-time so I have to mete out writing hours. I’m up at 4:00 AM to write. Then my day job with little children starts around 6:45…. And lasts all day, so I can’t write/edit/create until night-time again. GRRRRR….. But I love me some babies, Amanda, and I’m so blessed by what I do. So eventually the dream is to write full-time and have my daughter help with the daycare. A shared job, so to speak. And that would loosen me up a few hours/day. But that’s in the future, and I’m loving the Here-and-Now.

4) What would you say is the biggest mistake beginning writers make? Did you find yourself making this mistake early in your career?
Well, this is a GREAT question. There are several, but the very stupid one I made stands out in my head. Being new to computers and “loops” I said some things on a public loop wondering OUT LOUD why a certain publisher did things the way they did. I don’t know what I was thinking. That I was in someone’s living room, maybe??? What a dork. But eventually it all worked out because I learned how to be funny in e-mails and online (a timing and formatting trick, for sure, because otherwise you just sound like a jerk… And I don’t want people to think I’m a jerk. Bossy, yes. Intimidating? Sure. Stubborn???? Absotively-lutely. But not a jerk. 

5) Do you have a particular place or setting in which you do your writing? Maybe an area that fuels your creativity?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! No. Right now I’m at the kitchen table ignoring last night’s dishes. Crazy busy weekend, new baby grandson, granddaughter’s baptism, toddler grandsons and granddaughter staying overnight on Saturday…  So I write wherever I’m at. “Bloom where you’re planted”… THAT IS A VERY SMART SAYING. Really. Truly.

6) Is there a particular book on writing that you return to again and again?
I never read writing books. I write. And write. And write. Then I write some more. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect writing books, and the people who write them. Read them. The human mind is so diverse that every author should find his/her own BEST path and work it. Own it. Travel it. (I only said all that to keep myself out of trouble for dissing writing books. I’m a Nike girl: JUST DO IT.)

7) Is there a scripture verse that has inspired you in your writing?
Oh, yes. Even this old snark thinks that God’s pretty smart. Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” LOVE IT. My Aunt Isabelle (a tough old gal, hard working, industrious, frugal and very kind to me) used to say, “And this too shall pass”. Again, a great saying because the good and the bad comes and goes. Trust. Trust in God, in his way, his will, his timing. And trust when it’s especially hard to trust.

8) What three tips do you have for beginning writers?
I quote Winston Churchill, even though some say the quote is too cryptic and not exact. It works. “Nevah, nevah, nevah give up.” Write. Write. Write.

9) Share with us a little about your writing journey. How long did it take you to get published? Also, tell us about Seekerville and how that got started.
I started intently writing for publication about ten years ago. So that makes it about eight years and a lot of simple mistakes. But I learned from them. When we formed the Seekers

( we were fifteen unpublished writers determined to pray one another into publication. And we did that just this past spring when Pam Hillman got picked up by Tyndale Publishing. SUH-WEEET! But a few years ago we decided to start a communal blog to HELP OTHER WRITERS. We’d all made so many of the same mistakes and we thought if we just get out there (even though half of us were still unpublished) and help others avoid those pitfalls, then we’ve begun paying back God’s grace to us. Sharing it. What’s the first thing we teach little kids, those pesky one-year-olds that grab, grab, grab??? To share. So that’s what Seekerville is all about. Sharing. Helping. Laughing. Eating. And we don’t mind selling a few books now and again, I’ll be honest, because that keeps the publishers happy. We LOVE happy publishers. But I’m a firm believer in the give-back theory. Always, always, always.

Author of the successful "North Country" series (Steeple Hill, 2010), Ruthy is delighted to be releasing her 2011 series with the great crew of Love Inspired. Married for thirty-six years to a very patient man, she's taken the characters living in her head and given them homes on paper, much to everyone's relief! Using her strong belief in God's redeeming love, she's unafraid to tackle tough subjects with humor, pathos, grace and remorse. And chocolate, of course.

I am ever so excited to be able to give away ALL SIX of Ruth’s books to six of you blessed readers. Please leave a comment with your email and we will draw six winners and give away the books at random. These would make great gifts or a treat for yourself. So leave your comments and you will win
one of the following titles:
1-"Mended Hearts"
2- "Small Town Hearts"
3- "Reunited Hearts"
4- "Made to Order Family"
5- "Waiting out the Storm"
6- "Winter's End"

Look for Ruth’s newest book Yuletide Hearts – releasing November!!! We will be giving this away as part of our Countdown to Christmas Giveaway.


Thanks for coming and visting us this week Ruthy and may God continue to bless you on your writing journey!!

Readers, we are going to be doing a COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS BOOK GIVEAWAY!

In the following weeks we will be giving away a book a week leading up to Christmas.
Among the titles you could win are:
1)House of Secrets – Tracie Peterson’s newest book- released October 2011
2) A Sound Among the Trees – by Susan Meissner- Advanced Readers Copy- released October 2011
3) Smitten –by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, & Denise Hunter- Advanced Readers Copy – book releases in December 2011
4) Yuletide Hearts – by Ruth Logan Herne – releases November 2011
5) Where the Lilacs Still Bloom- by Jane Kirkpatrick – Advanced Readers Copy – releases April 2012

Plus several more titles! So check back weekly for more great blogs, pre- Christmas giveaways, and another great interview all coming in the weeks ahead!

Happy Writing-

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dazzling Description!!

In the era of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, readers enjoyed long sections of description. In fact, they felt cheated if there wasn’t full paragraphs describing how a character went to the store to buy a toothbrush! Well, maybe not that descriptive, but you get the idea. In today’s fast paced world, we are on the other side of the spectrum. Readers today don’t have time for long descriptive paragraphs. Yet, sensory description should still be a part of our writing, especially if you, like me, write historical novels. So how much is enough, and how do we write poignant description, using only a few paragraphs? Here’s some tips:

1) Use the five senses. Taste, smell, see, and touch can be very effective to get the point across quickly. The senses are powerful memory evokers. Using just one or two of them can be more effective than a whole paragraph! Figurative language can also be employed using the five senses. A great example of this is from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby, when Gatsby describes Daisy’s voice as being “full of money.” This does more for the reader than a long paragraph describing her voice, doesn’t it?

2) Don’t write description for description’s sake.  Meaningless description bores readers! This goes back to the “toothbrush description”. Don’t write description just to impress the reader with your flowery language or knowledge of adjectives. Write quick, fast paced description that keeps the reader reading, rather than boring them. I’ve been guilty of writing boring description, and it’s not very interesting to read, and doesn’t add to the depth of your story.

3) Think about how your POV character would perceive things. For example, a socialite would perceive a dining room far differently than the servant who cleans it. The socialite would probably notice the crystal, chandeliers, and elaborate centerpiece. The servant might notice those things also, but with an entirely different mindset. They would probably be thinking, “After dinner I’ve got to clean all this!” or “If only I were the lady of this grand house.” This is why getting into your character’s head is so important. When we write, we become that character and must reflect their thoughts and feelings. These in turn are conveyed to the reader, hopefully with an intensity that transports the reader into that characters inner being.

4) Go beyond cliché. Don’t describe your heroine as having hair “black as midnight” instead think of something creative such as “her hair was the color of the coal her father mined - rich, dark, and luminous.” This isn’t always possible in the first draft, when we are just writing. But in the editing stages look for ways to describe something in a fresh non-clichéd way. Remember today’s readers have heard most everything. They are looking for fresh material. Material that will keep them hooked from the first page to the last.

Description is like icing on a cake. You put on too much and it ruins the cake. You put on too little, and the cake is dry. Putting just enough on, makes for a satisfying delicious experience!

Tune in next Monday, October 24th for a special interview with Love Inspired author Ruth Logan Herne!

I met Ruth at the ACFW conference in Missouri and found out what a neat lady she is! Ruth is one of the original seekers from Seekerville and will be telling us all about that and other cool things about her writing adventure. She is a super sweet lady and great writer!! We will also be giving away ALL SIX of Ruth’s books for you to enjoy. So tune in then…..

Now I’m off to describe my next scene……….

Saturday, October 15, 2011

And We Have A Winner!!!

Congratulations to Linda, winner of “The Colonel’s Lady” and Jennie, winner of “Courting Morrow Little.” They have been notified and will receive their books shortly!

A HUGE thank you to all who entered and a HUGE thank you to Laura Frantz for doing the interview!

Tune in for more interviews, including one on October 24th with talented author Ruth Logan Herne! Prizes abound (I‘m giving away six of Ruth‘s books), so spread the word!

Have a blessed weekend and happy writing!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with Laura Frantz- author of "The Colonel's Lady"

Hello everyone! I am so excited to have Laura Frantz as our guest today! A huge thank you to Laura for agreeing to do this interview!!! I was privileged to chat with Laura at the ACFW conference in Missouri, and she is a lovely lady both inside and out. Not to mention, an amazing writer, whose books I love!!! And now, I’ll hand it over to Laura.
1) What made you want to become a writer? Was there a particular person, event, or novel that particularly inspired you? I was 7 when I wrote my first story about ships, then a novella about a girl who lived in Old Sturbridge Village when I was 12. My grandfather was a printer so he would bring home reams of paper and I would spend hours making little books that I’d illustrate and write in. They were always historical in nature and the girls always wore fancy dressesJ . Since my family has been in Kentucky for over 200 years, history came naturally to me.

2) What do you like most about being a writer? Not having to comb my hair or put on lipstick before I go to work! Actually, I love sitting by my woodstove and writing – or sitting on the deck in summer and writing amidst my flower garden and fountain. Being home with my kids is such a joy. I’m a true homebody at heart.

3) What do you like least about being a writer? The marketing aspect of promoting your work and viewing your book as a product. I don’t like the emphasis on sales and numbers either. None of that has anything to do with why I write. I write because I want to honor the gift God has given me and bless readers, no matter how many or how few.

4) What would you say is the biggest mistake beginning writers make? Did you find yourself making this mistake early in your career? Sometimes beginning writers think they’re ready for publication before they truly are. I’ve heard it takes 10,000 hours to master something and do it really, really well. There are exceptions to this, of course, but we can’t all be like Mozart and pick up a violin at age 2 and play beautifully! And I don’t believe we can ever truly master writing. Even Francine Rivers has said she still feels like an apprentice. We can never underestimate the Lord’s workings, either. I know of a published author who was first contracted in her teens and another who wasn’t published until she was in her 80’s.

5) Do you have a particular place or setting in which you do your writing? Maybe an area that fuels your creativity? Last winter my teenage son moved to our garage apartment, giving up his bedroom so I could have a little library. It’s now painted and wallpapered and has wainscoting, so looks very colonialJ . There’s even a little woodstove in one corner and big windows overlooking the woods. That’s inspiration for me.

6) Is there a particular book on writing that you return to again and again? Any craft book by James Scott Bell is terrific, fun, and chock full of great writing tips. But I really learn most by studying the masters of historical fiction in the CBA and general markets. One of my favorite writers in the CBA is Liz Curtis Higgs. I only have to pick up one of her books to feel I’ve had a crash course in writing. Many writers can tell a good story, but few can tell it beautifully. Liz is one who does both.

7) Is there a scripture verse that has inspired you in your writing? Yes, 1 Corinthians 15:58: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."

8) What three tips do you have for beginning writers? Write your heart out. Read authors who write in the genre you like best. Pray for open doors.

9) Share with us a little about your writing journey. How long did it take you to get published? 40 years if you consider I wrote my first story at age 7. I sometimes tell people I must not be very good at this as it took me so long to get here! But I believe the Lord’s timing is impeccable and it’s not wise to push our way into anything. In fact, when my editor contacted me about publishing "The Frontiersman’s Daughter", I wasn’t sure I wanted to and didn’t call her back. My brother, a missionary, convinced me to not waste the talent God had given me and then things took off from there. At the time I was unagented, had never been to a writing conference, had no writing contacts, had only recently gotten a computer, and so it was no small miracle a publisher noticed me. I came in through the Writers Edge in a very non-traditional way. But I’d been writing my heart out for 40 years and that is what truly matters.

Laura Frantz is the author of three novels, The Frontiersman’s Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, and The Colonel’s Lady. She has been a finalist on two occasions for the Carol Award and a finalist for the INSPY Award. You can find out more about Laura and her books by checking out her blog at:

I am really excited to be giving away Laura's newest book, "The Colonel's Lady". This book is excellent so you will want to have a copy of this great read! Just leave a comment and your email and I will draw a winner this Friday, October 14th!!

We've had a good response to Laura's interview and alot of eager readers
that want to read her wonderful novels, so I've decided to give more of you a chance to read another book of Laura's, "Courting Morrow Little". So on Friday we will draw out two names of those who have entered during this week and the first one we will contact to see which book they would like to receive and then the second winner will receive the other title. Both excellent, enjoyable books!! So leave your comments and enter to win and don't forget to check out Laura's blog from the link above!!

Happy reading and writing,


Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Conference Experience

Wow! I’m back from St Louis and what an WONDERFUL time I had! It would take volumes to go into detail about all the wonderful moments. Listening to Tracie Peterson's keynote address that had us all laughing and crying, meeting many of my wonderful blog readers, and attending all the various workshops and meals, these were just a few of the many highlights. ACFW 2011 was four days I will never forget.

Here’s a few of the best of the best moments!

*Julie Lessman’s and Ruth Axtell’s workshop “A Kiss is NOT Just A Kiss” What an awesome workshop presented by two of my all time favorite authors! It was a dream come true to listen to Julie and Ruth share the secrets of how to write a heart melting love scene without causing readers to raise eyebrows. A must listen for those who write romance!

*Meeting so many authors who’s books I have loved for years!
I attempted to not be too star struck as I chatted with and got books signed by such wonderful people as Julie Klassen, Laura Frantz, Julie Lessman, Jody Hedlund and many more. They were all so kind and encouraging and were a real highlight of my conference experience! That’s me with Keli Gwyn in the photo above. Look for Keli’s debut novel “A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California" - Coming -July 2012!!

*All the other wonderful workshops I attended! From listening to Susan May Warren share techniques on how to write stellar descriptions, to soaking in Cheryl St John’s tips about working the muddle out of your novel’s middle, it was a time of absorbing tons of useful information!! I took notes furiously!

*The devotions and worship team!
ACFW has one of the best worship bands! They brought us back to focus and gave us a sense of peace - despite the busy schedule! The same for those who prepared devotions! Always bringing us back to the One we write for!

 *The Gala Banquet! For many of us writers, myself included, our work uniform is sweats or pajamas. So seeing everyone dressed to the nines was AMAZING! Not only did I get to dress up in a cute formal, but I got to see Keli Gwen’s stunning Victorian dress, Chip McGregor’s kilt, and the list goes on. Seeing so many talented people win the Genesis and Carol Awards was truly inspiring! Congratulations to everyone!

*The Bookstore! I don’t know if I have room on my shelves for all the books I brought home, but I LOVED walking around and looking at novels, dreaming of the day when, if the Lord wills, my novel will be among them. I’ve promised myself if I get all the laundry done today, I can start Julie Lessman’s “A Heart Revealed” tonight. Oh the wait….

In a nutshell, what could be better than Christian writer friends, listening to workshops, meeting authors, networking, chatting, laughing, writing, and writing some more? I sure can’t think of anything!

Coming up on the blog is some great interviews with some talented writers such as Laura Frantz, Ruth Logan Herne, and Julie Lessman. Tune in next week for the interview with Laura Frantz and learn about her writing journey, plus some inside tips about writing. Laura is a 2011 Carol award finalist and the novelist of Courting Morrow Little and The Colonel’s Lady.

So stop by to learn more about this great author and for a chance to win her new book "The Colonel's Lady"!
And now off to do the laundry so I can get to that book!
Happy Writing….

If you had some great moments at the conference, please share them. I would love to hear!!