Posts Tagged ‘ACFW’
Posted on March 19, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
Just hearing the words “writer’s block” is enough to strike fear into a writer’s heart. It’s a big, ugly, dirty, hairy beast that thrusts itself into our lives and takes up residence in our computer. The brute steals into our mind, numbs our fingers, and fills our heart with dread. We KNOW, at that moment, we’ll never write another decent word in our life.
Cue the music. Any music. Whatever music calms your spirit and speaks to your heart. Then sit back and let it wash over you, soak into you, speak to you.
I’ve been wrestling for months with the beast of writer’s block. You’d think, being unemployed, I’d be writing my brains out. Instead, my brain has turned to mush, my fingers wobble over the keyboard in search of words. The beast has had me by the throat.
So I’ve called out to…Josh Groban. Seriously. One of my stories is about an up-and-coming singer and the now-spotlight-phobic model he falls for. Listening to the powerful music of Josh Groban helps me visualize what life might be like for a struggling performer. It loosens the beast’s grasp on my throat.
In another story, an ex-con builds a ministry for kids on the street. Listening to contemporary Christian music from Sanctus Real, the Robbie Seay Band, and Big Daddy Weave drowns out the beast’s whispers that have kept me paralyzed. It allows me to enter my story world and be the characters.
I love to sing. I’m not good at it. People will move away if I sing too loudly in church (just kidding). But I still love to sing. Sometimes I go far from my computer (where the beast lies in wait) to play worship music and just sing. It reminds me to take the focus off of me and put it where it belongs – on the One who called me to write in the first place.
And when the beast finally slinks away (I know he doesn’t go far, but at least he goes), I play music to thank God for bringing me through.
Do you have any particular music that soothes your beast?
Posted on January 15, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
Every writer has the story of their heart. The one that pulls and tugs at them until they write it, even if it’s something unsellable or hopelessly out of vogue. From the time I was fifteen, I had this story in my head. It played over and over. I’d change it as I went along, add new complications, try different endings. Sometimes late at night, I’d even act it out in my bedroom. I didn’t tell anyone about it. They’d think I was weird.
I watched a lot of detective shows then, mostly Baretta, Starsky & Hutch, and Vegas. My story was a girl in jeopardy and the detective who moved mountains to keep her safe. Of course, along the way, they fell in love. I thought it was a movie, but I wasn’t going to Hollywood. So what to do with it, other than play it over and over in my head, act it out, and tweak scenes?
After I met the guy of my dreams and had my own romance going on, I left the story in my head deep in the recesses of my brain. Until my new husband worked nights and I worked days which left me a lot of thinking and TV time. A short-lived detective series, Wolf, starring the yummy Jack Scalia got me thinking about that story again. But I still had no idea what to do with it.
About ten years later, when searching the library for a clean romance and not finding any, I finally realized–Hey, that story in my head could be a book. But I didn’t have a computer. And I wasn’t a very fast or accurate typist. I set the story aside again, but promised myself if I ever got a computer, I’d write it.
Three years later, my father-in-law got a new computer and gave me his old one. As soon as it was hooked up, I started the book. The words flowed from my fingers. A funny thing happened as I wrote. My characters started talking to God. I’d set out for clean romance and ended up with Christian romantic suspense.
Three months later, I had it completed. Now, what? I headed to the library and learned about the Writer’s Market Guide. I had no clue my book was badly written, that writing is a craft you learn and hone, that you have to show the reader your story instead of simply telling it. And I thought I was starting a new trend. I had no idea there were Christian romance novels since I always hung out in the music section of the Christian book store. Imagine my amazement, when I found fifty-two Christian publishers looking for books just like I’d written. Not necessarily the suspense part, but maybe I could still start a new trend.
I really thought that all I had to do was write a book, send it to publishers, and the right one would publish my baby. Everything was by mail then. I sent out ten proposals. With each rejection I received, I sent out another submission. Imagine my amazement, when all fifty-two rejected me.
But my story ends well. Eight badly written books later, I finally attended enough writers conferences, took enough workshops, and joined ACFW to learn to hone my craft, show the reader my story, and draw them in. I managed to polish one of those badly written books and interest a publisher. Three years later, six published books later, and a contract for three more books later, the Christian romantic suspense genre is thriving and I’m polishing the book of my heart. With some tweaks, that is.
My original story was set in a fictional small Arkansas town. The heroine was an interior decorator, the hero was a detective. But once my three book rodeo series turned into six books, I dusted off old ideas and manuscripts. The story of my heart is now book 5 in my rodeo series titled Rodeo Queen, the heroine owns western clothing stores at the Fort Worth Stockyards and the Galleria Dallas and serves as the rodeo queen at the Stockyards Championship Rodeo. The hero is a Texas Ranger.
I learned two things a long time ago: 1. I stink at fight and shoot em up scenes. 2. I don’t want to learn ballistics and deal with dead bodies. This version of the story of my heart is less suspense, heavy on the romance. The suspense basically just brings them together. I started from scratch on the manuscript. That’s another thing I’ve learned: It’s easier to rewrite than to polish a very badly written book.
Brenda recently critiqued the first sixty pages for me. She commented that she loved my voice and characters. This book has been a breeze to write. I know exactly what happens and I’ve known these people since I was fifteen. God is good!
Question: Based on what you know about me, who was I in love with–Starsky? Or Hutch?
Posted on December 4, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
Shannon here: I’ve never met Shawna, but she’s Arkansas gal like me. And since she has a Christmas book out, I snagged her for my inksper interview. Shawna is giving away an e-book copy of A Hand to Hold and a cute pair of snowman earrings (pictured). Comment on any post dated Dec 3 – 7 to get your name in the drawing. Deadline: Dec 8th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Shawna:
1.) What is the biggest writing challenge you’ve encountered this past year – craft, career, writing life, etc? How did you solve it?
This biggest challenge for me this past year has been balancing life with my writing career. This past year has been a tough one with the sudden loss of a close friend, spiritual attacks within our circle of friends, and the failing health of both mine and my husband’s parents. With the holidays, conference, and my dad’s numerous surgeries I found myself traveling every couple of weeks from about late November through May. Apart from writing, I also work as an editor for two small presses, home school three teens, and manage the social media for The Wordsmith Journal Magazine and work as their submissions editor for short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. I had a book due at the first of August. I managed to get it written, and I absolutely love the story, but my constant state of stress this past year was hard on me and consequently also hard on my family.
My solution for now is a promise I made to my family to not sign another book contract based on a proposal without the book being at least half written. The second half usually goes fast because at that point the story is firm in my mind. If it’s not firm, that means I probably need to scrap the first half because clearly there’s no direction.
My hope is this will encourage me to make time for writing in shorter increments, but more frequently, like daily, or every other day.
Last year I kept putting it off, trying to create space in my mind by tending to everything else first. While I’m very proud of the story that finally came together, the path I took to complete it was littered with more than a few “freak out” episodes. I tend to be one who holds everything in, so these weren’t pretty. Lol! My youngest daughter told me, “Mom, for fourteen years I’ve never seen you cry, and now you can’t stop.”
I’m happy to say the leak now seems to be plugged.
2.) What is the one thing you’d like to share with other writers?
Remember that you love to tell stories. No matter how frustrated you may feel. Never forget that’s why you chose this path. It’s not about notoriety, money, or whether or not everybody just loves your work. You write because you have to; you love it, and you will explode if you aren’t able to get these stories out of your heart and head and into the written word. In a sense, you’re making your characters real because they no longer just live in your head.
Also, be true to yourself and write what you feel passionate about — what excites you. That emotional involvement carries through in your choice of words. Readers can tell.
3.) Where is the coziest spot in your home?
The coziest room in the house is the reading room. Our house was built in 1941 and renovated in 1980, and currently under never-ending slow renovation again. I’m fairly certain that the reading room was formerly a porch and enclosed at some point in the past. Now it’s the cozy little room with the book shelves and Victorian sofa off at one end of the house. Very quiet and isolated for settling in for some alone time.
4.) What is your most laughable dating story?
I once almost shot my date’s dad. This was before I met hubby.
My date had asked me over to his uncle’s ranch. Huge house, lots of land, four wheelers, swimming pool, equipment for every sort of outdoor recreation in existence. It was late fall, so it was too cold to swim. But after having a great time on the four wheelers, my date wanted to teach me how to shoot skeet.
His dad had come up for the weekend, so we went into the house and he asked his dad about the guns and clay disks. All three of us went outside and my date demonstrated how to shoot as his dad threw a disk. Then it was my turn, and he helped me position the rifle, explained the site and all that. When I said I was ready, he threw a disk. I watched it as it fell into the line of site and followed to make sure I had it. With very intent focus, I followed it down… and down… and just as I pulled the trigger my date hit the end of the rifle to knock my aim upward.
My response: “Why’d you do that?” Then I noticed his dad was lying on the ground on his belly looking at me with very large eyes. Apparently he’d been walking in front of me as I followed the clay disk as it fell. According to my date, my aim was about to line up with his dad’s head. Key words being “about to.” The date could’ve been much worse.
We went inside to watch a movie after that. Slim risk of injury while sitting idle.
5.) Which amusement park ride is your favorite and why?
Roller coasters. They scare me to death and I love it.
6.) Would you rather live a week in the past or a week in the future?
This is a hard question for me. I’m completely intrigued by the past. I love history and spend a fair amount of time researching and broadening my knowledge on it. But what you don’t know about me is that I grew up with a Trekkie mom. We were raised watching Star Trek, Star Wars… First in line at the movies to see Close Encounters or any other Sci Fi flick that came out. Some of them were real stinkers too.
Now that I have my own family, we have Star Wars marathons, Firefly marathons, Stargate marathons, Battlestar Galatica marathons, Lord of the Rings marathons… Oh wait, that’s fantasy, not future. Well, you get my point. I enjoy the escapism that comes with imagining futuristic possibilities and adventures. Except Stargate is actually current day science fiction, and hmm… Star Wars was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Okay, I digress.
As fun as the futuristic fantasies may be, I’d have to go with the past — ancient history. There are so many mysteries to speculate about and I’d like to know how it really was. Might need more than a week. The Egyptian, Greek, and Roman empires didn’t exactly coincide. If I had to choose one, I want to see what Pharaoh Akhenaten, Queen Nefertiti, and their new capital city el-Armarna (abandoned and dismantled after his death) was all about.
7.) How do you balance writing, exercise, home, etc.?
Not very well. My house is never as clean as I’d like these days, and as far as exercise goes, I have very fit fingers.
8.) Who is your biggest cheerleader?
That would be dear hubby. He’s not really a fiction reader, and for awhile after I started writing he didn’t want to read my stories. He was afraid they’d be sappy and he’d be bored. He’s blunt, so he’d tell me, which is actually why I wanted him to read them. I didn’t want to write sappy or boring and I needed to know. If I could hold his attention, then maybe I had some skill.
The biggest boost I ever got was one Saturday morning when I was sleeping in, and hubby woke me up by shaking my shoulder while holding my Kindle in his other hand. He’d woken up early and decided to read my latest WIP (work in progress). I’d loaded several chapters onto my Kindle to review. Well, he got to the end of those and couldn’t stand not knowing what happened next, so he woke me up to get me to hurry and load the next chapters so he could continue.
He’s always encouraged me, even before he read anything I wrote, but now he also believes in me, and he lets everyone know it. That feels really great.
9.) What is the best book you’ve read recently, and why did you like it?
I’m a huge Francine Rivers fan. The Mark of the Lion series is my favorite. I really can’t decide between the three books because they’re all just wonderful. I think God has really blessed her with the ability to portray human nature: our fears, longings, frailties. She also writes with great compassion, and the theme of Grace is continual throughout her stories. She never compromises on principal though, even the characters’ failings add to the underlying theme through both consequence and redemption. Her stories just fill me with hope. Who doesn’t need that?
10.) What is your favorite season and why?
I adore late fall and early winter. I just love crunchy leaves under my feet, the smell of burning wood in the fireplace, and the stillness that settles in after a good snow. When it snows, I bundle up, go outside and walk until my limbs are numb, come inside and thaw, and then do it again. Just love it! It’s so cozy and peaceful and something about it makes me feel appreciative of everything around me.
11.) The biggest challenge in writing this book?
The biggest challenge in writing A Hand to Hold was time and space. Head and heart space. I can’t write a story with an uninvolved heart, and for my heart to be involved, I need to immerse myself in the setting and with the characters and their journeys. That’s hard to do when your world is in turmoil and head cluttered.
My dad has Parkinson’s disease, and he also has a degenerative spine. He’d had surgery last Nov to fuse discs, but he fell and the screws all pulled out of the bone. The other issue with my dad was that something about the anesthesia and his meds caused him to hallucinate and not be rational at all. His advanced Parkinson’s contributes to this but after his surgery it was far worse, and for a while we didn’t know if we were going to get him back. This pattern continued following his next three surgeries, and well into his recovery. My sister and I both live eight hours from my parents, so we were trying to balance life with our own families and see that our parents’ needs were met.
This plus other struggles here in our community and financially kind of cluttered my mind, kept me busy, and then other duties I’d put on the back burner while looking after my dad took priority. I kept thinking, “Just let me get this out of the way, then I can focus.” Next thing I knew, I had two months to my deadline and nothing written but a synopsis and the first two chapters of the book — lousy chapters I might add.
This is where God stepped in because I swear, writing this was such a blur. He brought me to that place where I could immerse myself and somehow a story was formed. Rewrote the two lousy chapters and the rest just followed. I really love how it turned out. I think readers will too.
12.) What do the Post-Its around your computer/screen/ bulletin board say?
I don’t do Post-Its. I’m a random file maker. Every time I think of something I make a file. Sometimes I send myself emails. My documents section is loaded with files titled, “To-do list number 35″,”Confused character ramblings” (I use these a lot to work out my character’s mindset) “Story title outline # 10″, “To-do list number 36″, “Christmas list”, “Stuff to remember”, “CLEAN YOUR HOUSE schedule”, etc.
13.) If you could have free unlimited service for one year from a cook, chauffer, personal secretary, housekeeper, or masseuse, which would you choose and why?
Housekeeper, hands down! I hate having a messy house and I can’t seem to get on top of it.
14.) Which character in your books is the most like you? How?
Hmm… This is a hard question. I know that there’s some of me in each character. I probably identify most with Pennye and Jakob. Pennye is the heroine from my book The Good Fight, and Jakob is the hero in No Other and In All Things. He also has a fairly large role in The Good Fight as Roger’s once rival now determined to be his friend.
With Pennye, I think I can relate to the underlying insecurities she struggles with. Despite how confident I may try and convince you I am, I struggle. She’s the same. I think we all have those little areas of sensitivity we try and conceal because it really hurts when they get poked! At the same time, these very things make us who we are, and give us the ability to empathize and show compassion. I wouldn’t want to lose that ability, and if having a few sensitive spots helps me to be more caring and understanding of others, I’ll take it.
Jakob is actually similar. His character feels very deeply, not just for himself but for others, and he wants to fix everything for everybody because of this. When he can’t, he views it as an inadequacy on his part. Of course, that’s twisted and wrong, and learning to rely on God for this role is the major part of his journey in the books No Other and In all Things. I guess that might have been a journey for me too.
About Shawna: Having never considered becoming a writer, Shawna K. Williams’ path changed in a single night all because of a dream. Her early writings were a mere attempt to fill in gaps within the dream and satisfy her curiosity, but later became the inspiration for her first two novels. She is a content editor for Desert Breeze Publishing and Solstice Publishing, acquisitions editor/social media specialist for The Wordsmith Journal Magazine, speaker, homeschooling mom and multi-published author of twentieth century historical fiction. Shawna enjoys books in almost any genre as long as they contain strong characters tackling real-life grit. She also has a thing for dogs and pygmy goats, and believes the world would be a better place if people aspired to be the person their pet believes them to be.
Shawna’s books: No Other, In All Things, The Good Fight, Orphaned Hearts, and coming in Dec. 2012: A Hand to Hold. All books are available as ebooks. No Other is also in print, In All Things releases in print in November 2012, and all other books will be available in print in 2013. Learn more: http://shawnakwilliams.com/, http://shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com/, https://twitter.com/shawnakwilliams, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shawna-K-Williams/236629884245
About the book – A Hand to Hold by Shawna K. Williams:Having come to Brady Hill as an orphan, Caleb Langley cherishes his memories of growing up in a place where he was embraced, nurtured and loved. With the zinc mine closed and the town in near ruin, he agonizes over what can be done to save his home.
Sarah Sheldon, the little girl Caleb adopted in his heart as a sister, has lived life in the shadows of a once glorious town. She’s resentful those around her are held captive by old memories, and refuse to let go and move on. To Sarah, the demise of Brady Hill may be the best thing that ever happened.
Caleb is dismayed that Sarah’s view of growing up in Brady Hill differs so much from his own. In his determination to save the town, he also sets out to alter her perception. In doing so, might he learn to see Sarah in a new light as well?
Posted on November 27, 2012 - by Stacy Monson
Even at my age (a closely guarded secret – although my love for Trixie Belden books might be a dead give-away), I still love the feel and smell and look of a brand-new, untouched book. Fiction or non, an author I love or one I’m about to meet – a new book is a treasure. Here are some books that will make great gifts – for yourself or for others (preferably both!).
I rarely pick books from the mystery/suspense genre, but I have a new favorite author thanks to the ACFW conference in September – Davis Bunn. I am currently reading his 2011 release, “Lion of Babylon.” Talk about on-the-edge-of-your-seat action! While I don’t prefer to bite my nails off while I’m reading, that’s what I’m doing with this book. It’s a fast-paced, well-written story that pulls you in from the start.
“Marc Royce worked for the State Department on a variety of clandestine assignments – that is, until personal issues led to his dismissal. When Alex Baird goes missing in war-torn Baghdad, State comes calling again. Alex is an intelligence agent – and a close friend of Royce. Three others have also dropped out of sight – a nurse, an aid worker, a wealthy young Iraqi. Are these cases linked? Rumors circulate about a kidnapping conspiracy, yet both American and local officials refuse to pursue it. Blocked at every turn, Royce eventually unearths a trail of secret encounters between sworn enemies. What he discovers could transform the course of rivalry and reconciliation through the Mideast. As the human and political drama escalates, can one man summon the courage to make a difference?”
When I finish “Lion of Babylon,” I plan to read the next book in the series, “Rare Earth,” (July 2012) which continues the escapades of Marc Royce. If ever you want a hero to swoon over, root for and fall in love with – this is the guy! These books, however, will truly make great gifts for women and men alike from teens on up.
A book that I’m waiting for with bated breath (whatever that means) is Katie Ganshert’s second novel, “Wishing on Willows” (March 2013). I truly loved her first book, “Wildflowers in Winter,” and have impatiently looked forward to the follow-up.
This story follows Robin, one of the characters in the original story, as she tries to move past her grief and build a future for her fatherless son. Katie’s characters are deep, wounded, multi-layered and yet still easy to connect with and care about.
“Does a second chance at life and love always involve surrender? A three-year old son, a struggling café, and fading memories are all Robin Price has left of her late husband. As the proud owner of Willow Tree Café in small town Peaks, Iowa, she pours her heart into every muffin she bakes and espresso she pulls, thankful for the sense of purpose and community the work provides. So when developer Ian McKay shows up in Peaks with plans to build condos where her café and a vital town ministry are located, she isn’t about to let go without a fight. As stubborn as he is handsome, Ian won’t give up easily. His family’s business depends on his success in Peaks. But as Ian pushes to seal the deal, he wonders if he has met his match. Robin’s gracious spirit threatens to undo his resolve, especially when he discovers the beautiful widow harbors a grief that resonates with his own. With polarized opinions forming all over town, business becomes unavoidably personal and Robin and Ian must decide whether to cling to the familiar or surrender their plans to the God of Second Chances.”
So this is what I’m reading now and what’s on my wish list for future reading. Also on my list is time – free time to read these and all the other great books out there.
Posted on January 17, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
Shannon here: This fall–in between deadlines–I set out to find an agent and my writing twin. When a writer sends proposals to agents or editors, we’re supposed to compare our books to published novels. I needed a published author who writes similar to me to compare myself to.
I’d heard of Denise Hunter, seen her at the American Christian Writers Conference, and knew she was a best-selling contemporary romance author. I bought The Convenient Groom and immediately wished I’d come up with such a great premise.
At ACFW this year, I introduced myself to Denise, told her why I bought her book and how much I loved it. She asked if I’d found my writing twin. Not by a longshot. Denise is a much better writer than me.
Since then I’ve read A Cowboy’s Touch, Driftwood Lane, The Accidental Bride, and Smitten. I read the last two in one weekend. Both of them.
I’ve discovered so many authors with a book I love, but then I’m often disappointed by at least one of their books or I don’t like the others as well as the first book I read by them. Not so with Denise Hunter. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. Next on my list–Seaside Letters. So without further ado, here’s Denise:
- What is the biggest writing challenge you’ve encountered this past year – craft, career, writing life, etc? How did you solve it?
My biggest writing challenge is finding my way through the middle of my stories. It really is like driving at night, and you can only see as far as your headlights will shine. I get through it with lots of prayer and lots of forcing myself to sit and work when I’d rather be doing anything else (laundry, dusting, toilets, ANYTHING).
Shannon: Okay, maybe we are twins. The middle befuddles me too. But not enough to make me want to clean or do laundry.
- If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be?
I enjoy design—actually started college as a commercial art major—so that’s what I’d do. Maybe even designing book covers to combine my interests.
- Where is the coziest spot in your home?
My spot on the sofa/recliner. That’s actually where I work.
- What is your favorite time of the day?
The evening, after dinner, when all the day’s work is done and the family is just hanging out.
- In what ways do you think your writing journey has benefited your family? How does your writing affect your family?
Great question! Besides the obvious financial benefits, my career has made me a happier more well-rounded individual. It has forced me out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways. One of the best things about writing, though, is that it has allowed me to stay home with our kids.
- If you could pick a theme song to play every time you entered a room, what would it be?
LOL! “Move” by Mercy Me. Sometimes I need extra motivation.
Shannon: Mercy Me is my favorite group.
- What is your most laughable dating story?
When I started dating Kevin (my husband) I turned into an instant klutz. I spilled, I dropped, I tripped. Only around him, mind you. I still do that.
- Which amusement park ride is your favorite and why?
Definitely roller coasters. But due to an old neck injury, I can’t ride them anymore. So I just live vicariously through my boys, who love them as much as I do.
Shannon: I grew up 5 miles from Six Flags over Georgia and never met a roller coaster I didn’t love.
- What do you think is the greatest invention of all time?
The internet. Research is SO much easier than it used to be. And communication! It has its negatives too, I know, but it’s so easy to keep in touch with family and friends now.
- Would you rather live a week in the past or a week in the future??
Interesting question! A week in the future. I prefer the unknown.
- How do you balance writing, exercise, home, etc.?
Not very well! The home and writing I’ve got down pretty well. The exercise, not so much. A couple months ago we even moved the treadmill into the living room so it would stand over our shoulders making us feel guilty. I’ve used it once since then. I do much better when it’s warm out though. I like to walk outside.
- Would you rather meet your great grandchildren or great grandparents?
Great grandchildren, just to be certain I’ll get to, and because I DID meet my great grandparents.
- Who is your biggest cheerleader?
My pal Colleen Coble. She’s everybody’s biggest cheerleader!
- What is the best book you’ve read recently, and why did you like it?
“Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers—although it wasn’t my first time reading it. The message of love and redemption is amazing.
- What or who makes you giggle and why?
Bffs Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, and Kristin Billerbeck. Because we know one another so well. Also my church small group, for the same reason.
- What is your favorite season and why?
Spring and fall. Because we only get about two seconds of each in Indiana!
Shannon: My favorite seasons too. I hate being hot or cold, so I love the in between.
- The biggest challenge in writing this book?
- What do the Post-Its around your computer/screen/ bulletin board say?
They’re my lists of what I need to buy, who I need to call, and what I need to get done.
- What is your favorite research or reference book or tool??
“Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass.
- What is the most unusual costume you ever wore at a Halloween party?
I was Gilligan one year. It seriously disturbed my husband.
- If you could have free unlimited service for one year from a cook, chauffer, personal secretary, housekeeper, or masseuse, which would you choose and why??
Oooh, I want one of each! Probably the cook. I love to bake—cooking, not so much.
- Which character in your books is the most like you? How?
Definitely Reese in “Smitten”. I wrote that one with my 3 friends Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, and Diann Hunt. In order to keep our characters consistent throughout, we gave each of our protagonists a healthy dose of ourselves.
Shannon: Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Denise. I so thoroughly enjoyed it.
My take on Denise’s books: I hated for each book to end, but each gave me that satisfying ahh moment. I love the characters, fell in love with each hero, and marveled at each great, complicated story premise.
The Convenient Groom: She wrote the book–literally–on finding the right mate. But does she really understand what love’s about? Five hours before her Nantucket beach wedding–and on the eve of her big book launch–celebrity marriage counselor Kate Lawrence has everything in place.
Everything, that is, but the groom. She might not have a career, either, when her nationwide audience finds out their marriage guru has been left at the altar.
Enter Lucas Wright, who offers to stand in for the missing husband-to-be and marry her. Kate’s desperate enough to agree–although she’s sure this Mr. Wright is completely wrong for her. But can they pull it off? And why would Lucas marry her in the first place?
Could it be that “Dr. Kate” doesn’t know the first thing about love? An inspiring tale of enduring love set in romantic Nantucket.
Made me cry just reading how much the hero loved the heroine as he tried to win her heart. Such a great, complicated premise, I really wished I’d come up with it.
Abigail Jones intends to spend just one summer in middle-of-nowhere Montana with her Aunt Lucy. Time away from her job is just what Abigail needs to reassess her life. The slow pace has her breathing deeply for the first time in years. And the majestic scenery encourages her to get reacquainted with herself . . . and God.
What she didn’t count on was the handsome widowed cowboy who owns the ranch where her aunt lives. When the rancher loses his daughter’s nanny, Abigail decides to lend a hand for the summer.
Wade Ryan can’t help being attracted to Abigail. But he’s given up everything to protect his daughter, and he’s not about to risk it all on a pretty face.
Under Abigail’s care, Wade’s home and daughter thrive. And with Wade’s touch, Abigail’s heart feels at home at last. But Abigail knows this elusive rancher is hiding something. Will her own secrets separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?
I love the characters and ached for them. I truly couldn’t see how this story could end happily-ever-after. So many complications.
The Accidental Bride: Shay Brandenberger is raising her daughter in Moose Creek, Montana, on her childhood ranch, nestled against the Yellowstone River. Despite the hard work, she can’t seem to keep her head above water—and now the bank is threatening to foreclose. She prays for a miracle, but the answer she receives is anything but expected.
Having agreed to play the bride in the Founders’ Day wedding reenactment, Shay is mortified to be greeted at the end of the aisle by none other than Travis McCoy, her high-school sweetheart—the man who left her high and dry for fame and fortune on the Texas rodeo circuit.
Then the unthinkable happens. Thanks to a well-meaning busybody and an absentminded preacher, the make-believe vows result in a legal marriage. But before Shay can say annulment, Travis comes up with a crazy proposal. If she refuses his offer, she may lose her home. If she accepts, she may lose her heart.
Shay isn’t sure if the recent events are God’s will or just a preacher’s blunder. Will trusting her heart to the man who once shattered it be the worst mistake of her life? Or could their marriage be the best accident that ever happened?
I loved the hero, Travis. So tough, yet gentle. I loved Shay’s temper, yet Travis knew just how to settle her down.
Meridith Ward has crafted a carefully ordered life to make up for the chaos that plagued her childhood years. But one phone call upsets all that. Within the span of several minutes, Meredith learns that the father who abandoned her is dead and she’s been named the sole guardian of his other three children. She nervously heads to Nantucket to care for the siblings she’s never met with plans to stay until their uncle returns from his trip before relinquishing guardianship to him.
She arrives to find the children living in Summer House, a Bed & Breakfast that’s falling apart around them. Meridith wants to move on as soon as possible, but the inn will never sell in its dilapidated condition. Then an itinerant handyman, Jake, shows up with an offer she can’t refuse.
Much like the powerful ocean just a short walk from her deck, Jake appeals to Meridith. But she senses he is also capable of pulling her under in a heartbeat. What if the thing she fears the most is exactly what she needs? Can she trust God with the details and relish the adventure?
Besides the romance and the complicated premise, I loved the one upmanship basketball scenes between the hero and his best friend. And I was reminded that all I really need is a solid foundation through Christ. Everything else is just a bonus.
The proposed closing of the lumber mill comes as unwelcome news for the citizens of Smitten. How will the town survive without its main employer? A close-knit group of women think they’ve got just the plan to save Smitten. They’ll capitalize on its name and turn it into a tourist destination for lovers—complete with sweet shops, a high-end spa, romantic music on the square, and cabins outfitted with fireplaces and hot tubs.
But is this manly town ready for an influx of romantically-minded guests?
Country music sensation Sawyer Smitten, the town’s hometown hero, wants to help by holding his own wedding there on Valentine’s Day. And little Mia’s lavender wreaths hang all over town as a reminder that faith can work miracles. Along the way, four women spearheading the town’s transformation—energetic Natalie, sophisticated Julia, graceful Shelby, and athletic Reese—get in the spirit by reviving their own love lives.
Join best-selling inspirational romance authors (and real-life BFFs) Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter for an inspiring stay at the (soon-to-be) most romantic town on the eastern seaboard.
One visit . . . and you’ll be smitten too.
I laughed a lot while reading this book and enjoyed each story equally. Quite a feat. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novella collection by different authors and been unable to pick my favorite story.
About Denise: Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too! Learn more at www.denisehunterbooks.com.
Posted on October 25, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
GMC. The first time I heard of it, I’d signed with an agent. Back in 2002 with my original version of White Roses. She told me I should read GMC. I thought car. She patiently explained that it’s a book—GMC: Goals, Motivation, & Conflict by Debra Dixon. It was out of print, but I found a copy for $19.95. I was a stay at home mom and it wasn’t in our budget to pay that much for a used book.
Shortly afterward, the agent downsized her list and I was one of her clients that got cut. Looking back, I don’t know why she signed me. She’s a good agent, still in the business, and has sold a lot of books. All I can figure is that she saw promise, but soon realized she didn’t have enough time to polish a diamond in the rough. And I don’t blame her. I know now that my writing wasn’t anywhere near publishable then.
Fast forward to 2008. I went to the ACFW conference in Minneapolis, where I had a paid critique for Rodeo Dust with Margaret Daley. In my original version, my heroine is at the State Fair of Texas, touring livestock barns with a co-worker/date. Even though, she hates farm animals and she has a rule about not dating co-workers.
Margaret: “Why would the heroine go to place she doesn’t enjoy with a co-worker on a date when she has a rule not to date co-workers?”
Me: “So she can meet the hero there.”
Margaret: “You need to read GMC.”
Okay. I gave in. You don’t have to beat me over the head with it. When I got home, I ordered the book. By then, Debra Dixon had gotten the rights back and I got a new copy for $19.95.
I read it from cover to cover and discovered a whole new world. A world that makes everything your characters do—make sense. I changed it to where my Rodeo Dust heroine went with her brother to the fair because she wanted him to date her best friend. So she accompanied them, so it wouldn’t seem like a date and they could realize how much in common they had. See how much better that is?
I also worked out the GMC for White Roses and every other book I’d been reworking for years. Now, I carefully chart out my GMC before I start a book.
Most of the time anyway. I jumped into a story not too long ago, just because it had been bugging me for a long time. I wrote the first three chapters in a hurry, then had an editor express interest when I showed her the One Sheet. I sent it to my critters, Brenda, Lorna, and Jerri.
Brenda: “I don’t understand her goal.”
Me: “Oops. I just dashed it off and forgot to do the GMC.”
I worked out the GMC and made changes. Brenda liked it. And so did I
So for a short lesson:
G – Goal: This is what your character wants.
M – Motivation: This is why your character wants the goal.
C – Conflict: This is why your character can’t reach their goal.
My heroine wanted her brother to date her best friend because she wants them both to be happy, but they wouldn’t agree to go out on a date.
Thus my Rodeo Dust heroine tours the livestock barns, hating every minute of it. But her brother and best friend love it, proving that they should live happily ever after, just like she knew they should. It makes perfect sense for her to be there. And while she’s there, she meets the hero.
This is only the GMC for the first scene. Your GMC for the entire plot needs to have much more at stake. Something like, if the heroine doesn’t get her brother and best friend together, her brother will accept that job offer in China.
I could get into a lot more detail, but I believe that’s called plagiarism. In short, your story should have an over-arcing internal and external GMC. But each scene should have GMC also. If you work out the GMC for every scene, everything your character does will make perfect sense.
Maybe if I’d have gotten the book back in 2002, I’d have sold White Roses in 2003 instead of 2009.
To get into all the intricacies of internal and external GMC, I highly recommend the book. This is one of the few craft books that doesn’t make my brain glaze over. It’s all laid out in a simple, easy to understand format. Debra Dixon is now an acquisitions editor at a publishing house. And since 2008, I’ve had editors actually ask me about my characters’ GMC during pitch sessions.
Posted on October 6, 2011 - by Regina
This year, at ACFW, I learned that short women would not make good stagecoach drivers. I learned that green beans can be cooked a variety of ways and STILL not be what I consider “done.” I learned that a few minutes of prayer in the prayer room is an amazing way to start a full day.
It was my second conference. I wasn’t as nervous as last year, and I expected it to be similar. It was. It was also different. WHAT was different? The conference? Or ME?
- Amazing worship with author Rachel Hauck and company (I still feel sorry for the guy manning the computerized lyrics!)
- Master-of-ceremony duties by the inimitable Brandilyn Collins
- Inspirational sessions with an amazing keynote speaker – last year was “Bug man” novels author Tim Downs, this year premier historical author Tracie Peterson. What an amazing speaker and woman of God.
- Recurring-theme food – last year was asparagus at every meal. This year? Crunchy green beans. This Southern girl likes her green beans cooked DOWN, y’all.
- Wonderful classes that made me stop and think deeply about what I write, why I write, and for WHOM I write.
- I went to the prayer room. Jim Peterson was on duty, and everyone who came in, he offered to pray with them, or not, whatever made them comfortable. I prayed alone, but when I left, I spoke to him, thanked him for being there. He grinned and said, “what part of New York did you say you were from?”
- I wasn’t a first-timer anymore. Besides my good friends, I saw others that I remembered, and that remembered me. What a great feeling!
- Instead of rooming with 3 other ladies, I took my husband with me. Last year was more chaotic and fun, but this year was more calm and relaxing – and I needed that.
- I got to eat at the AV guys’ table at the banquet – Yes, seating was a challenge, but personally, I think we ended up at just the right place. Those guys were great!
A few things about the conference made me feel like it was truly meant for me to be there. When Janice Thompson opened the first workshop with prayer, I cried. First, because I was finally THERE, and was going to meet Janice Thompson, one of my favorite authors, and second, because of her prayer. She truly ushered in the Holy Spirit. The name of the workshop was “Plotting Your Fiction Career.” What could have been an all-business, how-to-get-to-the-top how-to course, but it wasn’t. We heard Janice’s testimony about how she was called to write full-time.
That wasn’t the last I heard about plotting. DiAnn Mills’ sessions on “How To Write a Bestseller” focused on plot and how to dig DEEEEEEP within yourself, not just your character, to make your book the best it can be. Susan May Warren’s “Book Therapy Live” took a passage, piece by piece, and did a live critique. Janice’s other session, “A Merry Heart: Writing and Selling the Humorous Novel,” and Susan’s other session, “All Glammed Up,” helped me know how to put some polish on a story.
Needless to say, I’m still in information overload. I’m one of those people who try to glean as much learning as possible from any opportunity. Since I’ve been home, I’ve just today pulled up my manuscript. Would you believe I’ve already found things I want to change?
I was supposed to be at ACFW this year. I was supposed to get those amazing hugs from my sisters in Christ, and fellow-writers. I was supposed to meet the new people I met and with whom I enjoyed a meal, or a bit of downtime between sessions or appointments. I was supposed to grow as a writer, and as a Christian. I was supposed to meet God there, and I did.
There’s an old saying common in the Jewish faith: “Next year in Jerusalem.” For ACFW members, right now, it’s “Next year in Dallas.
What will be different next year?
Posted on September 29, 2011 - by Shari Barr
Every so often I go through a phase where I want to chuck the whole writing thing and ditch my dream of writing a novel for adults. I get frustrated when plot eludes me, my characters sound weak and boring, or that little voice inside me taunts, “You’re wasting your time. No one will publish this book, anyway.” And, as most writers know, there’s an easier way to get a paycheck. The reasons not to write go on and on.
Usually this feeling passes.
The last few months have been different. The story that’s been in my mind for over a year simply won’t fall into place. I played with the age of my protagonist, her relationship with the hero, and I switched story lines so many times, my daughter would ask, “Which version are you working on today?”
When none of the versions worked, I turned to God. “If I’ve completed my job as a writer and will never publish another book, please take away my desire and replace it with something else fulfilling.”
Though I’d asked God to take away my desire before, I had never asked Him to replace it with something different. Since He never took away that passion, I was convinced I was meant to write. Well, this time was different. The desire disappeared–just like that. I really didn’t care whether or not I wrote another word. But, no fulfilling replacement materialized, and it scared me.
For years, I had identified myself as a writer, and when the desire died, I felt lost and confused. Now what? I almost backed out of my commitments with the ACFW conference, but I decided to go ahead with my plans, asking God to spell things out for me in St. Louis.
In the weeks before the conference, little signs popped up every now and then. I caught a portion of the back of a stranger’s t-shirt that read “Quitting is easy…,” and a woman commented on our blog about a style of book she would love to read (and which I’ve dreamed of writing.) I was reminded of Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty when he asked God to show him a sign about the fate of his career. Signs popped up as Bruce drove along—“Dead End,” “Detour Ahead,” “Road Closed,” and Bruce still didn’t get the message.
Were the t-shirt and the blog comment signs from God? I wasn’t sure.
So, I set out for ACFW with only a one-sheet based on my “version-of-the-day,” not even a sample chapter, to show editors and agents at my appointments. The response I received from a consultant, gave me my answer. The story inside of me is meant to be written. She suggested a better beginning scene and a place to end. Her enthusiasm and encouragement gave me the confidence I need to keep plugging away. It’s enough that she sees merit in my idea.
The speakers’ messages at the conference couldn’t have been more appropriate, either. Discouragement is the work of Satan—not God.
When God didn’t give me a fulfilling replacement for writing, I now know why. I am supposed to keep on writing—for Him.
Posted on September 27, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
I sing ACFW praises every chance I get. What an awesome organization. What an awesome conference. Put together by an awesome God. This year, I met Lynn Coleman, founder of ACFW. We chatted about how she wanted to start a Christian writing group to support and uplift one another, with no competition or jealousy. Like most things, ACFW started small as American Christian Romance Writers.
I discovered it by google in 2004. By 2005 when I attended the conference in Nashville, the name had changed to American Christian Fiction Writers. Though I’d been to numerous local conferences, writers’ group meetings, and workshops, ACFW made me realize I only knew the basics about writing.
ACFW goes deep in helping writers improve their craft. So deep, it boggles. I always get brain freeze and have to sort through what I learned when I get home. And yes, even though I’m published and an old hand at working with editors, I still learn from ACFW.
I had so many appointments, interviews, and meetings, I only got to go to four workshops this year. But I still learned. I’m not sure what yet, haven’t had time to sort it out. Oh, I did learn that the voice that tells me I’ll never get another book published when I don’t have a current contract or deadline, that’s the enemy and he tells all writers that. Now I know to ignore him and press on.
ACFW is also about having friends along for what can be a very solitary journey. I took the solo route until 2008. Though I’d been to the conference for 3 years, I stood on the fringes and wished I had someone to hug and cry over like all those other writers. In 2008, I met Linda from my local zone and rode with her to Minneapolis. I met my critique partners face to face, met their friends and Linda’s friends. We all went out to dinner together and had so much fun. The next year when I met them, I hugged and cried over them.
Lorna is my designated shoulder for phone calls or in person. Lorna and I have traversed our getting published journey together. When my husband is at work—I call Lorna and blubber over disappointments or triumphs in writing. When my husband isn’t at ACFW—he hasn’t been able to come since 2007—I blubber on Lorna over disappointments and triumphs. Lorna is getting soggy.
Linda is my designated roomie. We often dance in our room over triumphs. Dawn is my designated can’t find her writing friend. I once called her husband at home in Iowa trying to find her in the hotel so I could get the pie I left in her room. This time, I called a friend at home also named Dawn in my quest for Dawn’s room and went to the wrong room looking for Dawn.
Brenda, my other critter, is much better in person than in bobble-head form. We’ll look forward to seeing her in Dallas. Maybe we can wish her there. Kim and her sweet southern accent were missed this year, but Regina brought her husband. I wonder how many times did I say, “I love to hear him talk.” I also got to connect with Shari again. The only problem is there’s never enough time to spend with my writer friends.
ACFW is the highlight of my year. The knowledge to gain, the friends to hug, the contacts to be made. The kind of place where I can walk up to the keynote speaker–who is always way above the realm I live in–and thank them for what they said to inspire or encourage me. Knowing that all those writers sleep-walking through the conference totally get me. They hear voices too—not only their characters’, but God’s.
Posted on July 1, 2011 - by Kav
First off, there’s something you need to know about me.
Drum roll please.
I love books.
Yes, really! I know, I know, I hide that fact so well, don’t I? But it’s true and the only thing I love more is talking about the books I’ve read. Hence my fascination with book clubs.
I’ve belonged to a few over the years but invariably found myself confronted with a to-read list that just didn’t appeal to me. Mainstream fiction can push the limits of my standards in both language and graphic sexual content and I began to find that even trusted authors were venturing places I just didn’t want to go. And when my last ‘real-live’ book club decided to dabble in erotic fiction I was out of there. Fast!
Not long after that Lorna introduced me to Christian fiction – my new all-consuming passion. But alas, no one in my ‘real life’ reads it so where could I go for a good book chat?
Online of course.
I joined the ACFW book club about a year ago and have enjoyed sharing my views with other ardent readers…and – bonus – the authors of the books we discuss stop by to chat as well! Now that never happened in any ‘real life’ book club I ever attended.
It was a bit daunting at first…expressing my views in such a public forum. Yeah, I know, I blog for goodness sake, but it seemed scarier to ‘speak out’ on ACFW’s official book club site. And did I mention that authors read what you say? (I’m not a groupie or anything – honest – but actual authors that you’ve read are on there commenting on what you commented on!)
The only thing missing is more members so beware I’m on a recruiting hunt. You can sign up here. http://www.acfw.com/book_club and you don’t have to be an ACFW member to join.
Book selections are announced at the beginning of the month and discussions start on the 20th. That gives everyone ample time to read the book before the chattin’ begins. Recently the book club has started selecting two books a month so a reader can participate in both or pick just one.
June was Heartsong/Love Inspired month at the online book club. I participated in a discussion about Second Chance Ranch by Leann Harris. You can read my review of the book here: http://bestreads-kav.blogspot.com/2011/06/second-chance-ranch.html
Looking forward to July, the book club has selected two romantic suspense titles:
Deadly Ties by Vicki Hinze
No Safe Haven by Kimberley Woodhouse and Kayla Woodhouse – I just finished this book written by a mother/daughter duo. A real nail-biting, wilderness survival, cloak and dagger with a touch of romance kind of read. And co-author Kayla was twelve at the time of writing! The book is told in three POV and Kayla wrote the twelve-year old daughter’s point of view. She’s a bit older now and an absolute sweetheart. You can watch a youtube video of Kimberley and Kayla introducing their book here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM2nD5Ec0sY
Have I convinced you to join the ACFW Book Club yet? Hope so…but if you still need more of an incentive, check out their lineup for the next couple of months.
Yesterday’s Tomorrow by Catherine West
A Cowboy’s Touch by Denise Hunter
Surrender the Wind by Rita Gerlach
Out of Control by Mary Connealy
October – Youth Picks
Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren
Found in Translation by Roger Bruner
Hope to see you at one of the upcoming book discussions!