Posts Tagged ‘heroines’
Posted on November 5, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
I’m celebrating my new release, Rodeo Queen by giving away two print copies. Answer the question at the end of the post or comment daily for the next two nostalgic weeks to enter the drawing. Deadline: Nov 16, 11:59 pm central time.
No, I was never a rodeo queen. But I’ve been feeling nostalgic about my latest release, Rodeo Queen. Why would my recently released book make me feel nostalgic? Because it formed in my head as a teenager. It was the story that wouldn’t go away until I finally realized it was a book around 1996. Then it took me three more years to get a hand me down computer and write it.
That’s me in 1999 writing my first ever book about a interior decorator with a stalker and the private detective who protects her. My husband took the picture and it’s my favorite. I was so involved in my story, I didn’t even know he’d taken the picture until we got the film developed. Yep, back then the pictures actually got out of the camera and you didn’t know how they looked until you picked them up from Walmart. I love the picture because it reminds me how supportive he’s been of my writing–from day one. He didn’t complain that I was ignoring or neglecting him, he just took a picture of me doing what I love.
Back to the story, after fifty-two rejection letters on that first book, countless others on six more books–I stopped counting at 200–fourteen years, and seven published books later, that first book I ever wrote releases this month. Rodeo Queen is a reworked version of my first story.
The original version was set in rural Arkansas. Rodeo Queen is the 5th title in my Texas rodeo series and is set in Aubrey, the Fort Worth Stockyards historical district, and Medina, Texas. My heroine morphed into the owner of a blingy western clothing store and a rodeo queen–which lent itself well to the stalker angle. The hero became a Texas Ranger. And in the new version,they were high school sweethearts.
The Medina part was originally in there and it makes me nostalgic too. My hero and herione visit his grandfather’s ranch in Medina twice during the course of the story. The ranch is based on my father-in-law’s ranch in Medina, near San Antonio. My father-in-law passed away, but we still visit his wife–Texas mom–once a year.
I’ve heard countless authors say they have their first awful manuscripts moldering in a drawer, that they’ll never see the light of day, and they shouldn’t. I wasn’t willing to let my story die. I didn’t go back and try to fix that original manuscript with all the knowledge I’ve gained from countless writers’ meetings and conferences, I started from scratch.
And I like the new version better. Readers often ask me which of my books is my favorite. I’ve never really been able to answer that question. It’s like picking your favorite child or pet. I love all of my books–otherwise I wouldn’t have written them.
But I think I’ll play favorites now–Rodeo Queen–hands down.
CAITLYN WENTWORTH LOVES BEING A RODEO QUEEN
Until she starts receiving threatening letters from a stalker. The good news is, the Texas Ranger assigned to her case is none other than her former sweetheart Mitch Warren—the man who chose his career over love.
Mitch vows to focus on protecting the woman he’s never forgotten. But Caitlyn stirs up memories best left in the past. When Mitch insists on hiding Caitlyn away on his family’s San Antonio ranch, will he keep things professional or seek out a second chance?
Remember to enter the drawing daily with each new post from all the inkspers. And if you can’t wait or don’t win, here are a few purchase links for your convenience
Question of the day–for readers or writers. Have you ever had a story in your head that wouldn’t go away?
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 October 23, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
Naming characters is one of my favorite things about writing a book. I’ve used several names I circled in the baby book when I was pregnant, before I knew my son’s gender.
Laken, Shell, Kendra, Lacie became heroines in published books. Paige and Lexie lurk in unpublished works. Jenna and Caitlyn will soon see the light of day. All these are circled in my baby name book. Rayna—another published heroine—I invented. Hers is the only heroine name I’ve ever come up with on my own.
From real life, I used to work with a woman named Adrea (AdrEEuh) and loved her name. I used it in my first published book. Another coworker had a daughter named Devrie (DevrEE). Her story hasn’t been published yet, but she’s waiting in the wings.
My next heroine is Natalie. I’m not happy with her name. She was a side character in all three rodeo books. And I don’t take as much care with my side characters. In my books, heroines and heroes get unique names, side characters more common. When I got the chance to continue the series, I knew Natalie’s story needed to be told. I wish I’d named her something more unique now. But since she’s been in three books already, it’s too late to change her name. It’s not that I don’t like the name, it’s just not unique enough.
I did change a child’s name. In book 1 and 2 of my rodeo series, there was a child whose father died before he was born. The child became Little Mel after his father. In book 3, the story of Little Mel’s mother, the child was a little older and it was getting old calling him Little Mel. In the very first chapter, I showed his mother thinking about how she used to call him Little Mel. Readers learn the child’s name is really Maxwell, his mother’s maiden name, but she called him Little Mel after his father. After her friend told her the boy needed his own name, he became Max.
Grayson, Hayden, Clay, Quinn became heroes in published books. Braden and Reece lurk in unpubbed land. All came from potential names for our son that my husband didn’t like as much as I did. Okay, a few, he really hated.
Stetson was the only hero name I came up with on my own. It hailed back to the TV show, Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Remember that one? Bruce Boxleitner and Kate Jackson. He was a spy and his name was Lee Stetson. I decided Stetson would be a great first name and thought it would be a great name for a son if you married a cowboy. I didn’t, so I christened my rodeo clown with the name. For my rodeo series, I looked up a lot of bull rider names too. Guess what, there’s a bullrider named Stetson. Guess I wasn’t as creative as I thought.
From real life, we know a young gospel singer named Ryler. I thought it was such a cool name and asked if I could use it. Ryler was sixteen when the book came out. It’s a running joke in his family the way I described my hero–Ryler as a big brick of a man.
I also have fun with last names sometimes. Ryler Grant because my husband’s name is Grant. Besides being a rodeo clown, Stetson Wright is a virgin/youth director committed to true love waits. I had fun with the formerly promiscuous heroine
thinking of him as Dudley Do Wright. Grayson Sterling is the preacher with sterling character and the heroine’s Prince Sterling.
Garrett Steele—a hardened country singer, Lane Grey—a rodeo pickup man (the kind who pick up the cowboys out of the bronc’s way, not the kind who pickup women). I named Lane after Lane Frost, but I thought it was fun for his name to rhyme with western author Zane Grey. Mitch Warren—a Texas ranger rounds out my next three heroes.
I’ve also gotten names out of the phone book. I love using last names for first names—like Miller for a first name. I got the name Holland Fleming for a powerful businessman in an unpublished work from a writer’s conference brochure—the last names of two speakers for the event.
I just finished up Denise Hunter’s Big Sky Romance series. I love her cowboy names: Wade Ryan, Travis McCoy, and Dylan Taylor. I wonder if Denise looked up bullrider names for the series. From her Nantucket series, I loved hero–Lucas Wright. I fell flat for Lucas. He was such a great guy. He’d loved the heroine from afar for several years and was there when she needed him most. In my defense, I wrote Stetson Wright’s story before I read Denise’s book.
Writers—where do you get your character names? Readers—what are your favorite character names that have stuck with you over the years?
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 March 8, 2011 - by JerriLynn
Books. Oh how I love books. But I’m not tied to the paper kind. I’m not that person that appreciates the ripple of the paper as you fan the pages or the smell of a new book. I don’t even get overly excited when you crack the spine the fist time. Nope. I like the story in whatever format I can get it. And growing up, it was the story that mattered to me.
I don’t remember a lot of the books that I read before about the fifth grade. I know I read a lot, but due to a childhood accident, I don’t remember a large block of time. So, my first memory of books is when I was in the fifth grade and had to read Island of Blue Dolphins. I’d have to say that still remains one of my favorite books of all time.
The story in that book drew me in, and I remember distinctly wanting to be Karana; strong, resilient, and resourceful. After I finished that book I sought out other books about strong female characters. In a small base library on a military installation in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the offerings were slim and I ended up in the Biography section.
There followed a quick procession of books. Two of which stuck with me; Helen Keller and Joan De’ Arc. But I read everything I could get my hands on. Eventually moving back to fiction and becoming completely immersed in The Bobsy Twins, Nany Drew, and The Hardy Boys. Read every book in all of the series and fell in love with the mystery and adventure of all of them.
Eventually, my tastes moved to more of the macabre. Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker were my middle-and high school favorites. But I never felt tied to a genre. I read everything I could get my hands on. Romance. History. Biography. Science Fiction. If there was any kind of a story that I could fall into and become someone else for a short while, I was willing to read it.
As a kid that moved often (I went to 13 schools in 12 years), books were the friends that helped to shape my character. I had real friends, but only for a year or two at a time. My “book friends” stayed with me, no matter where I went. The Jungle Book, The Lord of the Rings, and Little House on the Prairie and later the Star Wars books would go with me when I left Belinda, Mark, and Jaimie behind.
These weren’t friends that I could tell secrets to, but they were friends with which I could have secret lives. I could fall into the world of Narnia and become one of the characters and feel the emotions they felt and learn the lessons they learned. Every book changed me a bit, shaped my character a little, and revealed a facet of myself that I might not have known existed before I started reading.
It’s no wonder now that I’m headstrong and independent to a fault. It’s no wonder that I love technology and am intrigued by mystery, madness, and psychological thrillers. All of these things became part of me in the pages of a book.
Did books shape your personality? Did they reveal to you a part of who you are? And what were your favorite personality shaping books? If you’re a reader, I know there had to be at least one book or series of books that still brings images to your mind and reminds you of the things about which you feel so strongly.
Posted on October 12, 2010 - by Shannon Vannatter
The White Rose trilogy for Heartsong Presents is set in the Arkansas towns of Romance (population 1700) and Rose Bud (population 2000). The two towns are seven miles apart. Romance is known for the re-mailing program and weddings. Romantics send stamped/addressed Valentine’s cards and wedding invitations in manila envelopes to get them mailed with the hand-stamped Romance, AR postmark. Couples come to get married in Romance at the post office, local churches or the Romance Waterfalls. Last spring, my mother, my eight-year-old son, and I took a research trip.
The second book, White Doves is set at the post office in Romance, with a Postmaster heroine and mail carrier hero. Postal relief, June Sullivan at the Romance Post Office gave me insight and info into the daily workings. I learned how the mail is sorted by route and some postal lingo. Postmaster Angie Davis gave me the scoop on the weddings. They have three or four weddings a year on Valentine’s Day at the post office. Couples exchange vows in the lobby or outside the office, where someone carved a heart in the parking lot declaring it the Heart of Romance.
Next stop: The Romance Waterfalls. Owner James (Buck) Weatherly took us on an impromptu tour of his privately owned property, he and his wife open to the public for weddings and events. We walked underneath a wisteria-draped archway into a landscaped garden with a heart-shaped flower bed, numerous blossoms and flowering bushes. A wooden walkway leads down to the waterfalls, surrounded by jutting rock/steps with railing all the way down. We could hear the waterfall long before we got there.
Mr. Weatherly built two gazebos and balconies overlooking the waterfalls. Couples get married on the largest balcony and the Weatherly’s open their home for receptions and family reunions. I couldn’t help but include the waterfalls in all three books of my series and the owners let me have my book launch party there. It was hot, so the party ended up in their reception room, but we’re going to try again in April when the 2nd book releases to stores. Hopefully, the weather will be tamer then. Teaser: a realization of true love, a proposal, and a wedding take place at the waterfall in my series.
Last stop: The Rambler Cafe’ in Rose Bud, famous for their steaks. Owner Cheri Limon gave me permission to use her restaurant in a pivotal scene. The rustic restaurant’s plank walls, shelves above each window lined with plants, antique books, and plates was the perfect setting for my hero/pastor to interview a potential associate pastor. Besides hometown friendliness, they have great food and the pie—oh, the pie. Turtle, coconut, pecan, the list goes on.
I’ve made half a dozen visits to the Romance/Rose Bud area and learned something new each time. The series has been fun to write and I’ve enjoyed meeting the local people while researching the rich detail and flavor of the area.
Besides researching setting, since my heroine is a florist, she notices flowers and knows them by name. I don’t, so I turned to my mother. An avid gardener, if she doesn’t know the flower, she has a book where I can find it. I also visited a local florist to learn about arranging flowers and how they’re transported. Lorna, a wedding planner, helped me with describing hand-tied bouquets. I often give my heroines a career that seems interesting to me, so the research is fun to do.
The hero is a pastor. Since I live with one of those, I’ve researched that for the last ten years. And for book 3, the heroine is restoring a historical plantation house. My dad was a carpenter for a good 20 years. That came in handy on getting the order of restoration right. I had no idea if they’d tackle the roof or the siding first, but Daddy knew just how to whip the house into its former glory. Since I’d already done all that flower and plant research, and the hero and heroine needed to work together, the hero for book 3 became a landscaper.
So, even though Lorna’s research and all those historical details exhaust me, as a contemporary writer, there’s just no way of getting around research. I’ve recently learned the art of including research in family vacations and have several new setting ideas stored up for the future. Got any ideas?
Posted on September 14, 2010 - by Shannon Vannatter
Once again, reading has been the thing I do least. With new writing projects, marketing, a husband, an eight year-old, and a church family, something had to give. And sadly it’s been reading. No matter how crazy life gets, I make time to read at least one chapter of the Bible daily. And I’m reading Lorna’s, Making Waves. But since I read about thirty minutes two or three times a week before I go to bed and in the pickup line when I go to get my son from school, it’ll take weeks to finish it.
Though I read this book a chapter at a time every three weeks, when the working title was Summer of Truth, it’s fun to see the story in book form, with a really great cover and Lorna’s picture on the back. It’s fun to see what she implemented of my critique advice and what she ignored. And she was right in both cases. But a few weeks ago, before I received my copy of Making Waves, I cleared my calendar and made time for a new writer.
And oh am I glad I did. This book has gripping characters to root for, a wonderful sweet romance, conflict galore, emotional baggage, and a wonderful inspirational theme of letting go and letting God. The adventure-seeking hero was absolutely yummy and the play-it-safe heroine so deserving of his affections. The timely subject matter and pacing of this book jolted me through the pages. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. And every time I thought the characters would get a break, boom things would get worse, which kept me turning the pages to see what happened next. Yet the writer managed to bring it all to a logical resolution. One of those sweet, perfect endings that makes you sigh with satisfaction.
So, who is the new writer I’ve discovered. Our very own, Brenda. Poor Brenda got lost in the shuffle of mine and Lorna’s dueling deadlines. She critiqued her little heart out on our work, taking extra time to read full manuscripts in a couple of week’s time before we turned them into our editors. In the meantime, critiques on her WIP got pushed aside. So after my last deadline to turn in book 3, I told Brenda to send me the full of her new romance she’d written. She did, three months ago.
Then school let out. An all consuming, only child was home alone and bored. We invited friends over, but we’re talking boys, so that just meant double supervision. Plus, I had editing deadlines, a couple of family trips, speaking engagements, and trying to spruce up my hopefully next series to send to my editor. I didn’t touch Brenda’s book all summer.
School started again and suddenly my productivity went into overdrive. Within a week and a half, I finished my manuscript and sent it to my editor. Since I felt so badly about neglecting Brenda, I set a week aside to critique hers. And thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Brenda will be pitching Flying Lessons to agents and editors this weekend in Indy. I’m praying they’ll enjoy it as much as I did, so that one day I can hold it in book form with a great cover and Brenda’s picture on the back and read for pure pleasure.
Have you ever discovered a pre-published author who made you feel like an agent or editor discovering the next big thing?
Posted on June 3, 2010 - by Regina
A heroine, by the very nature of the word, is going to be tough, bigger-than-life, vulnerable at times, but overall, will have the world by the tail by the end of the story.
So what is that piece of a heroine that makes me identify with her? That makes me say, “hey, I could be a heroine, too!”
It’s fear. Everyone is afraid of something. Usually rejection. That fear may touch off a show of strength, but it may show the character, the reader, or the viewer vulnerability that makes a great character completely irresistible.
In the John Wayne classic, The Quiet Man, Maureen O’Hara portrays Mary Kate Danaher. She’s sick to death of taking care of her father and grown brothers, and has basically scared off any would-be suitors that might come calling. Is SHE fearful? Of course she is! She goes about trying to rein in her temper, doing her “Christian duty,” all the while afraid of being left “on the shelf” without a chance to marry and have a home of her own. Later, she realizes that she fears much more than this. It takes a true test of her character to make her the truly strong woman that she is destined to become.
In fiction, two recent characters came to mind in two different series: Bella, in Janice Thompson’s “Weddings by Bella” series; and Alaine Delacroix in the last installment of Kaye Dacus’ “Brides of Bonterre” series, A Case for Love.
Bella Rossi has it all. She’s running her family’s wedding facility in Galveston, TX, trying new things such as “themed” weddings for the first time. Her parents have so much faith in her that they’ve decided to retire and leave it in her capable hands. She can do this! Or can she? There’s this bit of her that’s quaking in her boots—and if you read the first book, Fools Rush In, you’ll find that she has plenty of boots to quake in. She has a fear of disappointing her family, even though they’ve proven, time and time again, that they have confidence in her.
Alaine Delacroix is a high-powered television reporter when we first meet her in the second “Bonterre” installment, Menu for Romance. Cool, calm, and collected, she exudes confidence and professionalism wherever she goes. She’s going places. When her family and her neighborhood is in trouble at the hands of wealthy landowners, she’s going to fix it, quietly. When she’s alone, she’s just little Alaine, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. She’s not fearful of losing her job, but simply of people finding out that she doesn’t really belong, in her own mind, in the world she’s created for herself. It takes falling head-over-heels in love with a man, outwardly perfect, but himself unexpectedly struggling with fear of rejection, to make her realize that God is not in the voice of the crowd, but in that still, small voice.
On television, I’ve mentioned Kate Beckett of CASTLE when commenting on “strength.” She is a tough lady. She can take down a criminal—or Castle, for that matter—in a matter of seconds and barely leave a mark. Unless she wants to. For all that she’s one tough cop, there is a fearful, vulnerable side to her. She resists facing her mother’s death. As a homicide detective, this is totally against character. Except that this time, it’s personal. It’s HER mom. She fears opening up to her true feelings about Rick Castle. Is she afraid she’ll be rejected? Probably.
There’s a part of all of us, men and women alike, that fear rejection, for whatever reason. We think, eventually, we’ll be “found out” as the frauds we really are.
I’ve created a character that I love. She’s funny, smart, has weathered a few storms in her life, and is ready to make a change. She’s also fearful. In a recent contest in which I did not final, I got some good feedback. After I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I realized that I had done my character a disservice. Fear was actually a theme all through my book, but honestly? I didn’t make her fearful ENOUGH.
I realize now that I need to include that bone-crushing hurt and fear that she had to experience when she realized she’d been betrayed by someone she once loved. Can she trust again? Does she fear rejection? Uh, yes. She’s BEEN rejected. She’d lived what most of us only have nightmares about.
Time for some rewrites. Gotta up the angst quotient a bit.
Fear. We all have it. I know I avoid it like the plague, even in my writing. But you know what? For some reason reading about OTHER people scared out of their wits makes me feel better about myself, reassuring me that even though other people fear all these same things that I do, and more, there is always hope for a happy ending.
Posted on May 27, 2010 - by Lorna Seilstad
If you asked a group of middle school girls who their heroines were, you’d probably get a collection of answers mostly involving those in the limelight. But can you really compare Lady Gaga to Amelia Earhart? Miley Cyrus to Carrie Chapman Catt?
What those young women need to hear are the stories of women who’ve made a difference in the world –real-life heroines who battled the odds and changed things for the better. Even our fiction stories often need this larger than life quality and can inspire women to reach beyond themselves.
One of my best friends is one of those real-life heroines. In the last 16 years, Sandra has had over 20 teenage foster children in her home. They’ve come from all kinds of situations, but when they get to her house, they are home—often for the first time in their lives. She treats them with respect, teaches them what unconditional love is, and gives them a family. They are her kids and she will fight for them, pray for them, and give them every opportunity she can to have some of the childhood they missed. Many have now gone on to have kids of their own who call my 43-year-old friend “grandma.”
Seven years ago, Sandra discovered she was pregnant. She had four biological children living at home at the time, one of whom suffered brain injury at birth and was in a wheelchair, and four foster children. She was sent for an ultrasound and the technician said, “Look! There they are.”
Sandra said she looked toward heaven and said, “What do You think You’re doing? Am I not doing my part already?”
I told her it was because she was doing such a good job as a mother and God needed some more good kids to balance out the bad ones out there.
Sandra is one woman who has made a difference in countless lives. Like Sandra Bullock’s character in Blind Side, she is firm, but has a heart of butter. She’d fight to the death for one of her kids or “kill” them herself for messing up in a big way.
Real-life heroes surround us all. Sometimes they make their way into our books. My second book in the Lake Manawa series features some women who took a stand on the cause of women’s suffrage. One of those women was Amelia Bloomer. She lived here in Council Bluffs and is best known for her wearing of “bloomers.” Actually, she initiated a reform of women’s dress and wore a sort of Turkish pant that was gathered at the ankle. It didn’t catch on very well at the time, but it started things moving. Today, as I sit in my capris, I couldn’t be happier that Amelia stepped out and made a difference.
The link below tells of some modern heroic women in the UK. I thought you might find their stories inspiring.
Do you know some real-life heroines who’ve made a difference? What about those in books or movies? Tell us about them. I’d love to hear your stories.