When the writing stops – a RE-introduction

When the writing stops . . . I didn’t plan to write a book.  Fifteen years ago – no TEN years ago – I would have laughed at the prospect. I mean, maybe a little devotional or a sweet little encouraging gift book?

In The Beginning . . .

. . . I found fanfiction – I started reading stories and found some incredibly well-written pieces, and some not-so-well-written. After reading some of the not-so-good, and running out of the excellent, I decided that if I wanted to read good stories, then maybe I should think about writing some. So I did. I found somewhat of a following, and the instant gratification was AMAZING.

That’s when I met author Lorna Seilstad. She and a few other writers on the site were trying to make the transition from fanfiction to published original fiction. I joined their group, and I started writing in earnest.

Serious Writer? Me?

I joined ACFW, and started networking on email loops and blogs, started writing on Inkspirational Messages, and before my first ACFW conference, I already had friends “in the biz.” The first author who reached out to me outside of our beloved Inkspers was Kaye Dacus. I interacted on her blog, and when we met, she said, “you’ve got to meet Kathy Cretsinger.”

Sometime after that, I did, and joined the Ken-Ten (Kentucky/Tennessee) Writers’ Group. I was in the group a little over a year when I really started looking for someone to publish my book. Since it’s Christian Fiction of the “romantical” sort, I thought maybe Love Inspired. They asked for a full manuscript, but when all was said and done, they didn’t want it. I entered contests. Got the same scores no matter WHAT I did to it.

So I gave up. Kinda.

After the last rejection, I took a break from writing, my writing group, and this blessed blog. But it wouldn’t go away. I tried starting other books. I kept going back to Carolina Dream, the book of my heart. I don’t know what it was about that story.

So, after a year of upheaval, minor health issues, and a busy life in general, I felt the urge to go back to my writing group, and writing. In corresponding with Kathy, who is the unofficial leader of our group, she indicated that she was interested in my book. She had read it, she liked it, and, by the way, she had a publishing company, Mantle Rock Publishing.

I wasn’t sure. I mean, was I ready? Had I missed my opportunity? It’s kind of like the guy who drowned in a flood. He got to the Pearly Gates and asked God why He didn’t rescue him? God said, “Man, I sent you a raft, a boat, and a helicopter!”

I felt like this opportunity, and Kathy, was my helicopter. I still do.

Publishing Contract Signing with Mantle Rock Publishing, Kathy Cretsinger
Publishing Contract Signing with Mantle Rock Publishing, Kathy Cretsinger

What Next?

Currently, my book, still titled Carolina Dream, is in the hands of an editor who is doing wonderful things with it. A graphic artist is working on a cover. One of these days I’ll reveal that both here and on my author website.

In April, after I get up from keeling over at the sight of my new book, I’ll invite all of YOU to the launch party.

God didn’t want me to quit writing indefinitely, but he had things to show me in the interim. Things like watching two girls grow up into young women, go to college, suffer heartbreak, move away, etc. Things like helping a husband get ready for retirement somewhere down the road. Things like accepting some things as they are, and changing things that need to be changed. Just little things like that.

It all came down to this – when I decided to get back in the writing game, I re-read the story of my heart. Guess what? I still liked it. I still LIKE it.

God doesn’t give you a story that’s a dud. EVER.

 

Thanks for reading, and for having me back!

Regina

Regina Merrick

GOT YOU COVERED!

CatMOckingbirdI am a librarian. Yes, I see book covers on a daily basis, and yes, a great book cover STILL has the power to draw my eye. I’m a sucker for a great cover – contemporary, historical, fantasy – you name it, I am drawn to that cover.

I did a little thinking, though, and found some of my favorite covers. They’re not new, up-and-coming titles, nor are they vintage covers – they’re just covers that will STILL draw me in and make me read them, even if I’ve already read them!

And yes, I think Book Covers have distinct personalities.

Almost AlwaysComeHome

I remember the first time I saw Cynthia Ruchti’s debut contemporary novel, They Almost Always Come Home. The cover entranced me. Cynthia, in a mentor meeting at ACFW, entranced me. Now, some of you know that I’m not usually drawn to reading material that won’t make me laugh, or at least swoon. But I was drawn. And I read it. And I was totally, fantastically, humbly, AMAZED at the story journey that that little boat took me on. Sometimes we need to let the cover draw us in!

BrideMostBegrudging

Occasionally, it’s the dress that gets me. I read my first Deanne Gist novel because the dresses were just SO PRETTY! What was great, however, was the girl inside that dress!

CourtingMorrowLittle

I would have read Laura Frantz if it had a plain brown wrapper, but you know what, her books do NOT have a plain brown wrapper – instead, her heroines are bedecked in glorious silks and an expression that is JUST LIKE you would expect when you get to know the heroine.

the-brides-of-bonneterre-series

And then there are the “fellas.” A few of my favorite authors, for certain series, have opted to put the HERO on the cover, as opposed to the HEROINE. I can certainly live with that . . . Kaye Dacus, in her “Brides of Bonneterre” series, just gave us PART of the hero . . . and that was enough. OutOfControlMary Coneally, in her “Kinkaid Brides” series, gave us three distinct personalities for her three distinct heroes. Interesting that both series titles have the word “brides,” and they feature the GROOMS! I love it.

FoolsRushIn

A few other series that caught my eye, and one that I’ve seriously already read twice, is Janice Thompson’s “Weddings By Bella” series (which now has a sub-series started!), and Susan May Happily Ever AfterWarren’s “Deep Haven” series. The colors, the art, the playful quality of both series’ covers make me want to hang them on the wall so I can look at them all the time!

So yeah. Talk about a topic that a librarian can sink her teeth into? It’s book covers.

I’m totally . . . flabbergasted

SPRING, WHEN A READER’S HEART . . . SOARS!

I am overwhelmed by the number of new books coming out! Every time someone asks, “have you read . . .?”, I just shake my head and say, “I’m at least 4 books behind on my TBR pile as it is!” Lorna’s When Love Calls is VERY high on that list, BTW – and check out the contest at the bottom of the post for YOUR chance to win a copy!

Anyway, I’ll get to them, eventually – that’s one of the perks of working in a public library with a growing Christian Fiction section!

Today I want to focus on the four books that I’ve anticipated for a LONG time – One of which, I’ve read, and four that I want to read ASAP!

Here they are, in order of their release . . .

***

Picture Perfect, by Janice Thompson, came out in February, and as an avid fan of her “Weddings by Bella” series, I was thrilled to see Bella back with her family and business in full swing, and ready to help out some other professionals in the wedding biz! Here’s a blurb:

She’s trying to focus on her future. How can one man make everything feel so . . . fuzzy?

Hannah McDermott has a successful photography studio. She’ll soon be featured in Texas Bride magazine. And she has a celebrity client whose Galveston ceremony will be her ticket to the top spot on wedding coordinator Bella Neeley’s list of recommended photographers. But it could all come crashing down around her because of one man: archrival and photographer extraordinaire Drew Kincaid.

As the competition between Hannah and Drew heats up, Hannah is surprised to find that it’s not the only thing getting more intense. She can’t get the handsome man out of her thoughts–or even out of her line of sight–and the job of her dreams is turning into a nightmare. Will everything she’s worked for slip out of her hands? And can she see past her pride to find a picture-perfect love?

With contagious humor and a cast of quirky characters, Janice Thompson gives you crazy bridal-business drama, sweet romance, and a satisfying dose of laughter.

I am told that there will be MORE Bella books coming!

***

I met debut author Patrick Carr at my first-ever ACFW conference – his, too – and liked him immediately. Not only does he have a quirky sense of humor, but, bless his heart, he has taught middle and high school, just like my husband. A minion of author Kaye Dacus, he and our own Dawn Ford will be the reason I delve into Speculative Fiction!

Here is a bit from Carr’s February release, A Cast of Stones:

The Fate of the Kingdom Awaits the Cast of Stones

In the backwater village of Callowford, roustabout Errol Stone is enlisted by a church messenger arriving with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Eager for coin, Errol agrees to what he thinks will be an easy task, but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he’s joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.

Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom’s dynasty nears its end and the selection of the new king begins–but in secret and shadow. As danger mounts, Errol must leave behind the stains and griefs of the past, learn to fight, and discover who is hunting him and his companions and how far they will go to stop the reading of the stones.

Pssst . . . Patrick’s 2nd book in the “Staff and the Sword” series comes out this summer!

***

Sandra Robbins’ March release of Mountain Homecoming is next on my list. Usually a writer of suspense, Robbins took historical romance to heart and placed it her beloved Tennessee Smoky Mountains.

In the second book in the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, acclaimed author Sandra Robbins spins a tender tale of God’s faithfulness throughout the generations.

Rani Martin, Simon and Anna’s only daughter, is a beautiful and spirited young woman living deep in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. She has plenty of ideas about the man she’ll marry someday, but none of them could have prepared her for the return of Matthew Jackson.

Matthew left Cades Cove as a child after his father’s death. Now he’s come back to build a new life for himself, and it’s his dearest wish that Rani be a part of that life. But the people of the Cove won’t let him forget the sins of his father, and Matthew can’t forget the darkness of his own past.

Is there a place for Matthew in the Cove? And can the light of Rani’s love overcome his pain?

***

Last, but CERTAINLY not least, is the highly-anticipated May 1 release of Kaye Dacus’ Follow the Heart: A Great Exhibition Novel. For those of you who have followed her contemporary “Brides of Boneterre” series and her historical “Ransome Trilogy,” you know that to read Kaye’s books is to find humor, suspense, and tender romance, no matter what the era.

A bit from Follow the Heart:

Set during the Industrial Revolution and the Great Exhibition of 1851, Follow the Heart is a “sitting-room romance” with the feel of a Regency-era novel but the fashions and technological advances of the mid-Victorian age.


Kate and Christopher Dearing’s lives turn upside down when their father loses everything in a railroad land speculation. The siblings are shipped off to their mother’s brother in England with one edict: marry money.

At twenty-seven years old, Kate has the stigma of being passed over by eligible men many times—and that was before she had no dowry. Christopher would like nothing better than to make his own way in the world; and with a law degree and expertise in the burgeoning railroad industry, he was primed to do just that—in America.

Though their uncle tries to ensure Kate and Christopher find matrimonial prospects only among the highest echelon of British society, their attentions stray to a gardener and a governess.

While Christopher has options that would enable him to lay his affections where he chooses, he cannot let the burden of their family’s finances crush his sister. Trying to push her feelings for the handsome—but not wealthy— gardener aside, Kate’s prospects brighten when a wealthy viscount shows interest in her. But is marrying for the financial security of her family the right thing to do, when her heart is telling her she’s making a mistake?

Mandates . . . money . . . matrimony. Who will follow the heart?


If you want more in-depth info about this series, check out Kaye’s blog at http://www.kayedacus.com!

Happy Reading, Happy SPRING!

***Contest Reminder***


Every time you  leave a comment on posts dated April 8, 2013 through April 19, 2013, you’ll be entered for a chance to win an autographed copy of When Love Calls plus a $10 Starbucks card! Contest ends Friday, April 19, 2013 at midnight. Winner will be posted on Saturday, April 20, 2013.

Also, be sure to hop over to Lorna’s Facebook Fan Page and *like* it. She’s having a Likefest. As soon as she reaches 800 Likes, her publisher will have a giveaway for a complete set of her books!

HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO

Heroes.

There’s just something about a hero that makes you feel safe. Secure. Sometimes even a little twitter-pated?

My first fictional hero was Daniel Boone. He was right up there with the Cartwright boys on Bonanza. Dan’l was larger than life. The strong, silent type – at least according to Fess Parker’s portrayal. Honestly, I’ve never wanted to learn much about the REAL Daniel Boone, because I hear he wasn’t exactly the upright citizen that inspired confidence in all those who called Boonsboro “home.”

When I started reading romance, as a teen, I was drawn, once again, to the “strong, silent type.” Grace Livingston Hill, Essie Summers . . . they always featured a hero that was above reproach. Whenever they faltered, there was a REALLY GOOD REASON for it! They will climb they highest mountain in the fiercest blizzard to deliver medicine to a dying stranger. They will risk all to save the family farm. You get the idea.

More recently I have found more variety in my hero crushes. Laura Frantz’ “Ian,” in The Frontiersman’s Daughter, literally made me swoon. Not only is he a doctor, and so to be respected, but he is also Scottish, with piercing blue eyes and thick dark hair. He teaches Lael so much about grace, and ultimately, about love.

Kaye Dacus’ series “The Brides of Bonneterre” feature three amazing heroes, but my favorite was in the third book, and the one I least expected to like – “Forbes Guidry.” In A Case for Love, we focus on Forbes ,et al, and it’s not like we’ve not met him before. He’s the “glue” that holds the family together. Oldest son, successful lawyer, “most eligible bachelor,” always there to keep the peace. That’s Forbes. He’s even a neat freak. But we see a different side of him in his book. He’s still all of the above, but we learn that Forbes is human after all. He worries about strife in the family. He has panic attacks. But when all is said and done, he does the right thing and you find yourself literally CHEERING when that happens!

Somehow, I think ALL these heroes would climb that mountain to deliver that medicine. ALL of them would risk everything to save the family farm – and more importantly, the family.

So, my kind of hero? He may be good-looking, but more importantly, he’s good to those around him.

Hmmmm . . . could I just write a BOOK about my favorite heroes? It would take that long to list them all!

What trait is YOUR favorite in a fictional character?

Profound Advice Times Two

When I started writing, I just did it. I wrote 6 books without ever attending a writer’s meeting or conference. I’d hear about such things, but think why spend time learning to write when I can just do it? 

But it doesn’t work that way. Writers have to learn to write. They have to learn to put what they see or hear in their heads on the paper where the reader can see and hear it too. After I’d been writing for a year or so, I met a fellow writer in the office where I worked, Peggy Stirling. The first thing she asked was if I’d joined a writer’s group. 

Peggy wasn’t published, but had won some writing awards, and was related to Catherine Palmer. How cool is that? Peggy even sent my first chapter of my first badly written book to Catherine to see what she thought of it. That makes me shiver now. I really hope Catherine didn’t read it. She sent me a nice letter saying that she’d long ago had to set up a policy of not critiquing other writers simply because she didn’t have time. Last month, I signed with Spencerhill Associates, the same literary agency that represents Catherine Palmer. How cool is that?

Anyway, it took another year or so for me to actually follow Peggy’s advice. By then, I’d had a very badly written book Print on Demand published. My sales were dismal since the book was overpriced and not in stores. I finally took Peggy’s advice. In fact, she went with me to my first writer’s meeting and conference. 

I’ve lost touch with Peggy and I have no idea if she knows I got published or not. I did name my hero in my first contracted book (White Roses) after her, Grayson Sterling–a perfect name for a pastor. If not for Peggy, I might still be cranking out badly written, very telling stories—instead of taking my reader along for the ride and showing how the story plays out. 

My second profound piece of advice took place years later. I’ve talked about Kaye Dacus and writing my second contracted book (White Doves) before. Once my editor asked if White Roses could be a series, I threw together two one page synopses using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. With a few changes and tweaks, I had a verbal promise of a three book series. But then I had to expand the synopses into chapter by chapters before the other two contracts could be signed. 

I’m a pantser. When I begin a new book, I know the main characters, the beginning, a couple of big issues or problems, the black moment (but not necessarily how to resolve it) and the end. That’s all. I have no idea what will happen in chapter two, eight, or thirteen. 

Writing that first chapter by chapter for White Doves was TORTURE. I used the Snowflake Method and eked out every possible thing that could happen with these characters. I expanded a word at a time, a paragraph at a time until finally I had three pages of exactly what would happen in the book I hadn’t written yet. 

It was enough and I signed the contract for book two of my series. I then had eight months to write the book. But I already knew what was going to happen in every chapter, what had to happen in every chapter. With no room for creativity or pantsing. And I had a deadline to get it finished.

I couldn’t do it. For the first time, I realized writer’s block was real—not a myth. I tried going for walks, taking bubblebaths, mowing the yard—all things that free my mind and usually get my creativity and ideas flowing. But I couldn’t be creative with the book. I’d already told my editor exactly what would happen. 

I attended my monthly writer’s meeting excited when I heard we’d managed to land Kaye Dacus in Little Rock. I think Kaye taught on editing. We’re talking 2009 and I’ve slept a few times since then. What I do remember—I knew Kaye wrote for Barbour which meant she had to write chapter by chapters pre-book. 

After her workshop, I asked if she was a pantser or plotter. She said she used to be a pantser, but since she’d learned to write chapter by chapters, she’s part pantser and part plotter. I told her my dilemma. She said she writes her chapter by chapter, then puts it away and writes something else, or reads a book, anything but think about the book she has to write. Once it’s totally off her mind, she writes the book. Then if she gets stuck, she looks at the chapter by chapter to jog her memory. 

I followed Kaye’s advice and it worked. Before long, the words were flowing from my fingertips. Since then, I’ve made a point to write my chapter by chapters several months in advance of when I need to turn them in. By the time, the contract is signed, the chapter by chapter is out of my head and I just start writing.

Six chapter by chapters later, my words are still flowing for the most part. Some books have been harder to write than others, but I’ve met all of my deadlines so far. So, if not for Kaye, I might still be stuck with the motherlode of writer’s block and only have one book published.

BTW: The picture is actually the cover of a book. Years ago, when all I had to prove I was a writer was over two-hundred rejection letters, my husband believed in me enough to buy me this nifty little book. The book is in the shape of a cube and is chock full of pictures and prompts to inspire writers.

We’ve discussed this before, but we probably have new readers since then, so here goes: Writers–are  you a pantser or plotter?

CAPTAIN HOOK

Hooks.

Captain Hook’s hook doesn’t have much to do with the kind of hook I mean, but you might be surprised when he comes up again, later . . .

A hook is that part of a book, television show, movie, etc., that leaves you wanting more.

There’s a great writing exercise that points out just how important those first lines of a novel can be.  Go to a shelf in your library, or your home library, and look at first lines of your favorite novels. It is an amazing, eye-opening activity that certainly made me look at first lines differently.

In my first manuscript, I started out with a dream sequence:

There was restlessness within me as I made my way through the forest.

Since it was based on an actual dream that I had, it was the best way to start the book, right? WRONG. About three revisions later, I came up with this first line:

“Who needs a man when I have a great big hunk of dog to keep me company?”

Which one makes you want to read more?

Hooks aren’t just for the first line of a book. Another area where a hook is important is at the end of a scene – EVERY scene. “Scene and sequel,” or “what happens,” and “what happens next” can either keep your reader with you, or send them scurrying to another novel! Always know where you’re going – but don’t get there all at once.

Back to Captain Hook . . .When we first see him in the Disney version of “Peter Pan,” we know he’s evil, and we know he has a hook. We’re curious, but confident that he lost it in a violent fashion. Must learn more! We find out midway through the story of Peter Pan that Peter was the cause of his losing his hand, and gaining a hook. And of course, since he’s evil, he deserved it, right? Hmmm . . . but then we learn that Captain Hook has but one fear – a crocodile – and not only ANY crocodile, but the one that swallowed his clock AND his hand with it. The fact that the movie ends with Captain Hook being pursued by the croc is not only humorous, but satisfies all those little “hooks” we’ve experienced throughout the story.

If you’d like to learn about hooks from someone who really knows, check out the “Writing Series Index” on Kaye Dacus’ blog. And while you’re there, check out her other topics!

So, got a hook that you’d like to share? (the literary kind, if you please)

COFFEE WITH KAYE

Kaye Dacus has been one of my favorite inspirational authors since I read Stand-In Groom a few years ago, then connected with her via her amazing blog at http://www.kayedacus.com. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her in person, and she’s as much fun in person as in print.  🙂

So, while we’re visiting with Kaye, let’s pretend we’re breakfasting at the Starbuck’s in the lobby of the Indianapolis Hyatt at last year’s ACFW conference, enjoying a muffin (Mine was pumpkin-cream-cheese – YUM) and a Grande coffee (or for Lorna, we’ll offer tea, as well!).

Me: Kaye, how old were you when you started writing, and what compelled you to write?

Kaye:  Even though I started writing when I was a young teen (because I wanted to be able to continue the next day the story I’d been playing out with my Barbies—until one day, I forgot to pick up the dolls and just went straight to the pencil and paper), it wasn’t until I was sixteen or seventeen when I really felt like writing was what I wanted to do with my life. I just didn’t have anyone around me who knew how to direct me. My parents encouraged me, but they weren’t sure how to give me guidance. I had a wonderful Creative Writing teacher in high school and that was when I knew for sure that I wanted to be like him—I wanted to be able to teach others how to do what it was I loved doing so much. But it wasn’t until much later in my life, at the age of thirty when I attended my first writers’ conference, that I truly realized God was calling me to pursue publication.

Me:  If you could set a book anywhere in the USA, whether you’ve been there or not, where would it be, and why?

Kaye: Las Cruces, New Mexico, the city where I grew up. Because it means I’d have to go there to do research (I’ve only been back once in the more than twenty years since I graduated from high school). And if I’m there, it means I have to eat New Mexican–style food, which just so happens to be my favorite kind of food on the face of the planet! Plus, it’s beautiful, charming, and welcoming; it was a wonderful place to grow up; and it’s chock-full of history.

Me:  Cowboys or pirates? Businessmen or construction workers? What kind of man is your favorite pick for a hero in a novel?

Kaye: Let’s see . . .a personal assistant–chef–lawyer–law-enforcement agent–artist–advertising executive–navy captain–pirate. Can one man fit all of those categories? 🙂 For me as an author it’s less about what he does and more about who he is. Can he make the heroine (i.e., me) laugh? Does he have depth—of character, soul, and mind? Is he someone I want to spend time with? As a reader, because I prefer reading historical romance, I do tend to gravitate toward heroes with slightly more alpha-male qualities. . .but with occasional flashes of beta tendencies, just to keep him balanced (after years and years of reading the Warrior/Caveman type of hero in the general-market romance novels of the 1980s and 1990s). In my contemporaries, I think my heroes lean a little more toward the beta-male end of the spectrum (Dylan in The Art of Romance in particular). But more than anything else, he has to be someone I can fall in love with. Daily. For as long as it takes me to read someone else’s book or to get my book written, revised, edited, and off to the publisher.

Me:  The ACFW conference is coming up in two weeks! I know you’ve been involved in ACFW for a long time and have been an officer in the past. How has the organization changed over the years? How has the CBA changed over the years, in your opinion?

Kaye: The most obvious change in the time that I’ve been a member was when I was serving on the board and we changed the name—and the scope—of the organization from American Christian Romance Writers to American Christian Fiction Writers. (Which seems like it’s a simple, obvious change—but, believe me, we discussed and brainstormed and debated for quite some time before we came up with the idea to change “romance” to “fiction.”) And second to that, also obvious, is the growth the group has seen since I joined in 2001 as member number 120. It’s amazing to see how we’ve gone from forty or fifty people at the first conference in 2002 (Kansas City) to almost twenty times that many last year in Indianapolis—and I’m sure even more will be in St. Louis in a few weeks! (And I have to share—since that first conference in 2002, I’ve only missed attending one, 2009 in Denver, and it about killed me knowing everyone was there having a good time without me.)

The changes in Christian publishing. . .wow! Used to be the only Christian fiction books available were prairie romances with an occasional retelling of a Biblical story in fiction form. But now—spy thrillers and science fiction and epic fantasy and romantic suspense and mystery. . .every genre in the general market is now represented in the Christian market (and thank goodness romance, both contemporary and historical, continues to be popular).

Me:  For those who follow your blog faithfully and see you on Facebook and Twitter, we know you have minions and that they are thrilled to be called such. What is the best part of mentoring new writers?

Kaye:  I’ve shared on my blog about how, twelve years ago, God told me that I will not have children of my own (and given that I’m still unmarried at forty years old, this seems like a no-brainer at this point) but that He would still give me the fulfillment that other women find in motherhood—and He’s done that through the writers I mentor. My minions (a term that came about through a slip of the tongue during a conversation with an agent at ACFW last year) are my “quiver full,” the personal fulfillment for me of Isaiah 54:1: “‘Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman,’ says the LORD.” And just like any parent, my greatest joy comes from seeing my “children”—my minions—successful in their writing journeys.

Me:  What author, dead or alive, would you like to mentor YOU? Why?

Kaye:  Considering that I’ve loved both her fiction and her nonfiction, it would have to be Madeleine L’Engle. Her book Walking on Water, to which I was introduced in 1999 when it was used as required reading for a college creative writing class, has taught me more about myself as a writer—not so much storytelling or the craft of writing, but the spirituality of being a writer, what it means to be inspired, and how to replenish my soul so that my creativity can continue to flow, even when I’m at my lowest point physically or emotionally.

Me:  What, to you, is the best part of living in a city like Nashville, TN? I’ve always said that if I had to live in a large city, Nashville would be at the top of my list.

Kaye:  Having lived in the Washington DC area before moving to Nashville in 1996, I quickly discovered that even though Nashville has a large population, it doesn’t feel like a big city (except when sitting in rush-hour traffic) because it’s maintained a neighborhood/community feel that makes it seem like a much smaller town. Plus, it’s Nashville! What isn’t there to love about living here? It’s the best of Southern living, yet with the cosmopolitan experience of being a melting pot of people from all over the world (I know very few people who aren’t transplants from elsewhere).

Me:  Why do you write in both Contemporary and Historical romance? Is one easier than the other?

Kaye: You do realize I did two blog posts about this a couple of weeks ago—and still didn’t fully express an answer to this, don’t you? (Yes, I know, but inquiring minds want to know! 🙂 ) The short answer is: I write both contemporary and historical because I’ve had ideas for both contemporary and historical novels. I also enjoy writing both. While they take the same amount of effort creatively to come up with the storyline and develop the characters, there is more work that goes into writing the historicals due to the higher amount of research (yes, contemporaries take research, too) and making sure I’m using era-appropriate language as much as possible. For me, I like alternating writing them, because one is almost like a palate cleanser for the other. Each challenges me in a different way, and I do truly love writing both.

Me:  You have a new book out, Ransome’s Quest, another coming out in November (Turnabout’s Fair Play), which means you’ve basically completed three series:  Brides of Bonneterre, Ransome Trilogy, and Matchmakers (well, almost). Tell us what’s next for Kaye Dacus?

Kaye: Well, from my point of view, I have completed all three. . .as I turned in TFP in May and finished all edits on it last month (and it’s already in the hands of reviewers through Net Galley). Next for me is another historical series with a new publisher, B&H Publishing Group. This time, I’m taking readers to early Victorian England and featuring Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition, one of the first world’s fairs, drawing millions of tourists from all over the world. The series will be more like my contemporaries in that the books will be able to stand alone, each focusing on a different story. It will also give me a chance to write more of the “sitting room” type of romance novel, which I was able to do with Ransome’s Honor. Each book in The Great Exhibition series will also feature two romances—so hopefully, they’ll be double the fun! The three books will be out in May and October 2013 and April 2014.

Me:  Wonderful! I can’t wait to get started on these, and Turnabout’s Fair Play can’t come too soon, in my opinion!

Now it’s time for me to turn the tables and get some feedback: what question would you like to ask our readers?

Kaye: Imagine you’ve been chosen to star in a film version of your favorite book. What book would you choose, what character would you play, and what actor would you choose to play opposite you?

Tough question, but one I’m sure our readers will have fun answering!  Thanks, Kaye, for visiting with us today! Anyone for a second muffin? More coffee?

Remember, there’s a bundle of inspirational fiction books up for grabs for one blessed commenter over the last two weeks!

Company’s Coming!

Oh my, company’s coming to Inkspirational Messages!

And, we’re giving away books too!

Does that mean you have to scrub the floors? Dust on top of the ceiling fan? Take a toothbrush to the grout?

Goodness, no. Just make yourself comfortable. Take your shoes off, pour yourself a cup of lemonade, grab some chocolate, and relax in your recliner.

Ah, that’s better, right?

Now, who’s stopping by, you ask?

Well, we’ll be catching up with our own Lorna Seilstad, Shannon Vannatter, Linda Fulkerson, and Shari Barr. We’re welcoming some old friends: Laura Frantz, Mary Connealy, and Kaye Dacus. We’re even meeting new friends: Sandra Orchard, Gina Holmes, and Jennifer Rogers Spinola.

So, please come on over these next two weeks and chat with us. We’d love to meet you too!

Oh, and don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about those free books. For those of you who stop by to chat, you’ll have an opportunity to win books by a couple of our guests: Deep Cover by Sandra Orchard, Love Remains by Kaye Dacus, and The Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz. PLUS, we’re throwing in two additional books from the Love Inspired line: Marrying Miss Marshall by Lacy Williams and Hearts in Flight by Patty Smith Hall.

Now, there are a few small rules you need to follow if you want a chance to win the books, but no worries, they’re not too difficult:

Contest Rules:
Comment on our “Company’s Coming” topic dated August 29, 2011 through September 9, 2011. Every time you comment, your name will go into a drawing for the books. Contest closes Saturday, September 10, 2011 at midnight. The winner will be posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011. Winner must provide a mailing address in an email to Brenda AT brendaandersonbooks DOT com. Do not post your address anywhere on this blog.

Behind As Usual

It’s me. The least well-read Inkster. You’ve heard the familiar tale. I haven’t had time to read anything lately.  Between deadlines, booksignings, a potential new series, hubby, pastor’s wifing, and mothering, not necessarily in that order, my life is a constant race. This year, I plan to try to do better. But as usual, I’m behind so I’m reaching into last year to read the books I never got around to reading.

I’ve wanted to read They Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti since it’s debut. The story of a woman They Almost Always Come Homewhose husband is missing and she’s mad at him for finding an out before she could intrigued me. I’ve heard Cynthia speak several times at the ACFW conferences and I got to meet her at the Barbour Publishing dinner last year in Indy. She exudes sweetness, gentleness, and kindness. It caught my interest to hear she wrote such a complicated book.

When Libby’s husband Greg fails to return from a two-week canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness, the authorities soon write off his disappearance as an unhappy husband’s escape from an empty marriage and unrewarding career. Their marriage might have survived if their daughter Lacey hadn’t died…and if Greg hadn’t been responsible. Libby enlists the aid of her wilderness savvy father-in-law and her faith-walking best friend to help her search for clues to her husband’s disappearance…if for no other reason than to free her to move on. What the trio discovers in the search upends Libby’s presumptions about her husband and rearranges her faith.

Several months ago, I read something on a blog. I can’t remember where or the exact words, but the gist of it: The One Imperfect Christmasreader was amazed that Myra Johnson, writer of a sweet book like Autumn Rains also wrote One Imperfect Christmas. I googled the second title and loved the cover. Another complicated book with complicated characters. I met Myra in Indy also and convinced her to be a guest on my other blog. We featured the book and I was sold. I’m in the process of receiving a copy in my hot little hands.

Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she’s allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves-most of all her husband Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she’s one Christmas away from hitting rock bottom.

Junior-high basketball coach Daniel Pearce is at his wit’s end. Nothing he’s done has been able to break through the wall Natalie has erected between them. And their daughter Lissa’s adolescent rebellion isn’t helping matters. As Daniel’s hope reaches its lowest ebb, he wonders if this Christmas will spell the end of his marriage and the loss of everything he holds dear.

Hmm, I think I like to read about messy marriages. Not really, but I love to read about broken people who finally realize they can’t fix it, but God can. Just like life.

On Seekerville, I read the totally shocking opening of The Husband Tree by Mary Connealy. Expecting a grievingBlack Hills Blessing widow, it had me laughing. Out loud. But I’m a contemporary gal. When I heard Mary was delving into contemporaries, that caught my interest. Mary’s tagline, Romantic Comedies with Cowboys, tugs at me. What woman can resist a cowboy? Before it’s over with, I might just have to read The Husband Tree too, but I’ll start with The Black Hills Blessing trilogy. 

Enter the world of compelling, contemporary romance with award-winning author Mary Connealy’s spellbinding three-in-one collection. Ride the range with Buffy Lange, a woman bent on seeing majestic buffalo reclaim their territory, no matter how hostile local cattleman Wyatt Shaw becomes. Meet rancher Emily Johannson who would leave her derelict neighbor Jake Hanson alone if she didn’t feel duty bound to keep saving his hide. Take a stand with Jeanie Davidson, a single-again woman who’s finally gotten her life together, only to have her ex-husband Michael walk right back in, determined to make amends. Can love redeem these hearts and lives?

I met Kaye Dacus in Little Rock when she spoke for my local writers’ group. No particular book intrigued me, but Kaye did. Instead of going to the school of hard knocks, Kaye went to college. Her thesis became her first published Stand In Groombook Stand In Groom. Struggling at the time, I asked her for advice, which she freely gave, and it worked like a charm. I like this series because there are men on the cover. I’d rather look at a nice-looking man rather than a woman any time and I like the premise. She thinks he’s getting married. It’s bound to get complicated.

When wedding planner Anne Hawthorne meets George Laurence, she thinks she’s found the man of her dreams. But when he turns out to be a client, her “dream” quickly turns into a nightmare. Will Anne risk her heart and career on this engaging Englishman? George came to Louisiana to plan his employer’s wedding and pose as the groom. But how can he feign affection for a supposed fiancee when he’s so achingly attracted to the wedding planner? And what will happen when Anne discovers his role has been Stand-In Groom only? Will she ever trust George again? Can God help these two find a happy ending?

My final selection is White Doves, the second in my series. This book was the hardest I’ve ever written. I’m a seat of the pants writer and I hate, hate, hate White Doves Coveroutlines. But I had to turn in a chapter by chapter synopsis of White Doves before I wrote the book in order to sign the contract. How was I supposed to know what would happen in chapter nine or any other chapter for that matter. I groaned, gnashed my teeth, and churned out the synopsis. My editor liked it and I signed the contract.

Then from out of nowhere, writers’ block clamped its unyielding jaw around me. Writers’ block which I’d believed to be a myth, until it got me. With great advice from Kaye Dacus, the block lifted. Yet every word was like pulling wisdom teeth. I wrote the beginning almost word for word as it is now, then decided that wasn’t good enough and stuck a whole different scene in front of it. 

Halfway through, a great detail revealed itself, which often happens in my books. This detail pulled the whole puzzle together, but it wasn’t in the synopsis. So, I tried to stick to the synopsis, but added this whole new conflict.

I turned the book in before my first deadline with days to spare. A week later, I got a gentle e-mail from my editor. The gist of it: I’d packed everything but the cast-iron kitchen sink into this book, when I should have forgot the synopsis and went with the new conflict. We had to do an extra content edit and pull several entire threads of the story, before we could even do a regular content edit. One of the threads to cut: my second beginning scene. 

So yes, I’m anxious to read White Doves and see how my wonderful, worth their weight in gold, genius editors pulled this book out of the toilet for me. After all that work, it’s kind of a blur. I’ve only had my author copies since October. Did I mention I’m behind? Thankfully book three wrote itself. 

It’s a good thing. At this rate, I’ll be behind all year. Have you read any of these books yet?

THE PLEASURE OF READING

For once, this topic is an easy one for me. Yes, I’m a librarian. Yes, I love to read, and in fact spent from about 7th grade and up with a novel tucked neatly in my math book. But college, parenthood, and other grown-up things made reading take a back seat.

A year ago, I realized that in my desire to spend as much time writing as possible, I had given up one of my biggest pleasures in life. Reading. So, I made myself a list of goals. One of them was to read more fiction.

And, since there are always more books out there than I can possibly read, I roped my husband into reading more fiction, as well. I told him it was good for him. He agreed, sweet man that he is.

FTD_website_coverI could get him to read some books that weren’t as “romantic” as what I usually preferred, but I wanted to know about them. He turned me on to Robert Whitlow after reading his book, The List. Great read—suspense with enough romance in it to keep me interested, too. He also greatly enjoyed First, the Dead, the first of Tim Downs’ “Bug Man” series. I will definitely put that in my TBR pile, especially after hearing Downs speak at ACFW.

Another of my goals was to read different KINDS of fiction. I picked up and read the first of Kaye Dacus’ “Ransome Trilogy,” Ransome’s Honor. Then as soon as it came out, I picked up and read the second, Ransome’s Crossing! I don’t know how I’m going to survive until the third comes out next SUMMER! ACK! If you like Regency England, British naval dramas, and adventure on the high seas, this is a series for you!

FrantzBooksI went back even further in time with Laura Frantz’ The Frontiersman’s Daughter. Set in Kentucky in the 18th century, it’s a very real look at what life was like in Kentucke Territory before statehood. It was so amazing that I couldn’t imagine loving her next book as much. But you know what? Courting Morrow Little came out, I bought it as soon as I SAW it, and I fell in love all over again. What a beautiful, unexpected romance!

So I found out that in order to enjoy historical romance, one did NOT have to JUST read “bonnet romances.” There are so many eras to choose from these days!

love-remains-revisedOf course my first love is contemporary romance, which is what I write. Romance with enough humor and enough reality to make it seem like I’m talking to someone with whom I simply want to spend time. Kaye Dacus fills the bill with that genre, as well, with the first of her newest contemporary series, “The Matchmakers.” Love Remains introduces us to Zarah and Bobby. What happens when an old love shows up, of all places, in your singles’ Sunday School Class? I highly recommend it – the book, not an old love showing up in your Sunday School Class…… J

AgainstAllOddsAnd then there have been more…. Irene Hannon’s “Heroes of Quantico” series which I fell in love with and could not stop reading until I’d read all three – in a ROW! If you like hunky FBI agents as heroes and strong-willed and somewhat exasperating (to said hunky heroes, anyway) independent women as heroines, then this is the series for you. Very much in the style of Dee Henderson’s “O’Malley” books, these three volumes will stand right up to them in entertainment value, and you’ll fall in love with the characters in each book.

Add to this list Beth Patillo’s Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, Ruth Logan Herne’s  Waiting Out the Storm, and assorted titles by Janice Thompson, Lisa Wingate, Christine Lynxwiler, and Mary Conneally.

Making WavesAnd what am I reading NOW? Why, Lorna Seilstad’s debut novel, Making Waves, of course! And it’s a treasure, I can already tell.

So, what have YOU been reading? Since I need to increase my writing time again, I may have to ride on the coattails of a year of intense reading and live vicariously through your reading enjoyment! Read a good one for me, OK?