Going Indie

Friday Jenny talked about her writing path changing, going another direction. Today I’m going to talk about my publishing taking a different direction.

This past Spring a publishing company expressed interest in helping me hybrid publish my YA contemporary novel, Knee High Lies. Due to some unforeseen issues, they have had to back out of finishing the project. So, I’m going Indie.

That means that I’m finalizing the edits on my own, not an impossible hurdle as my editor Sarah, along with her line editor Josh, did an amazing job. I owe them a huge thank you for helping polish my story and bringing it to a level above what I could have ever done. Thank you to Ben Wolf who is helping to make this transition as easy as possible.

linda-fulkerson-300x300The next real hurdle is finding a cover image that will work. I have enlisted the help of Linda Fulkerson and her company DLF Digital Services to help with the cover and formatting my book for publication. I know she’ll do an amazing job, IF I can ever settle on an image.

Which brings me to what I’m doing now. I have searched pages and pages of images on the stock photo site but so far have not come up with an image that completely fits what I have in mind, though there are several that might work. So, I’ve asked a photographer friend to help me bring the image in my mind into reality. I have a model, now I have to find a place and create a summer scene in these winter months. Ha! I might need a miracle.

I’ll be putting together a street team soon and navigating my way through marketing the book. street-teamThis is as exciting as it is terrifying for me to undertake. But, I’ve had some great examples that have gone before me. With the help of friends I know I will succeed in getting my book published by the summer of 2017.

I’ll begin documenting my journey, do a cover reveal when we finally have an image, and share dates when they become available on my personal website at dawnfordauthor.com. So far I haven’t had much to share. I’m looking forward to actually having something noteworthy to talk about.

Prayers are coveted. May God bless this journey.

Inksper Updates – February 2016

Welcome to our monthly Inksper update post! It’s a day we’ll use to celebrate good news and spread word about new Inksper books or any other updates that come about during the month.

Lassoed by MarriageCongratulations to Rose Ross Zediker! Her new release, The Lassoed by Marriage Novella Collection, in which she collaborated with eight other authors, made the Top 20 ECPA List for Christian fiction! Look at #18 on the list >here<.

Coloring Book for WritersColoring books for adults are the big craze right now, and our own Linda Fulkerson has created two coloring book especially for authors! Check out the books >here<.

Coming Home Series 4-in-1 Box SetAnd Brenda Anderson has put her Coming Home Series into one nice box set for ebook readers. All four ebooks for only $9.99! You can purchase the set >here<.

The Latest from Shannon Vannatter

If I could sum up Shannon in one word, it would be dedicated. She dedicates herself to everything she does – for her family, the church, her writing, and her friendships. As one of her friends, I appreciate that dedication, because she has been a great blessing in my life! I’m proud of you, Shannon! Thanks for sharing with us today. – Linda

Two of Shannon’s books up for grabs, White Doves and Rodeo Hero. Two books, two winners. Comment on this post to get your name in the drawing. Deadline August 17th, 11:59 pm central time.

Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife, and award winning inspirational romance novelist. She’s had 5 books released since 2010 with four more to come. Find her books at amazon.com, barbourbooks.com, and readerservice.com. Her latest title, Rodeo Ashes will be available at Kmart in Sept. and Walmart in Oct. Learn more at http://shannonvannatter.com/ and http://shannonvannatter.com/blog/.

  • Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

I thought writer’s block was a myth until it happened to me. I work on another writing project. Usually, once I rid my mind of the project I got blocked on, the ideas start rolling. If that doesn’t work, I go for a walk, drive aimlessly, mow the yard, or shower. Any mundane task can get me thinking and when I think, I plot. Occasionally, it takes a change of scenery. Usually moving my laptop out to the front porch.

  • What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

During the school year, I write from 8:30 to 2:30. In the summer, from 11:00 to 2:00 AM. When my family is home and awake, I don’t write. Occasionally, when I’m on deadline, I have to break that rule.  But I try not to let my writing take away from my family.

  • You write a lot of setting-based stories. Which comes first for you – picking the setting, the story, or the characters?

The characters and story come first, then I pick the setting. I used to base all my books in fictional towns. But after a few publishers wanted real settings, I realized it’s fun to use real places and it really draws the reader in. I try to use settings that I’ve actually been to. If I stick with that, all of my books will either take place in Arkansas, Texas, or Georgia. Yep, I’m a world traveler.

(Hey – you forgot North Dakota! Surely you haven’t forgotten the day the riff-raff went north! – LF)

  • While you are writing, did you ever feel as if you are one of the characters?

I become each character as I write them. Even the men. I try to get in their heads and get in touch with their feelings. I put myself in each situation and wonder how I’d feel if it happened to me.

  • What was the hardest part about writing your last book?

I had to do it in four months. If I don’t have to write a book, three months is no problem. But with a deadline, the words don’t flow as easily. Once I get a fourth of the way into a book, I know the characters and everything starts to flow. The beginning is always hardest for me.

  • What is your favorite part of the book-writing process and why?

The first draft midway through the book. I’m a pantser. And I honestly don’t know each little thing that will happen in a book. Even after I’ve written the synopsis first, things pop up as I write the book. Characters do things I didn’t plan and I love just going with it and thinking, Whoa, I didn’t see that coming.

  • What book(s) have you read that made you think, “Wow! I wish I had written that!”?

Everything I’ve read by Denise Hunter. I love her characters and the romance in her books. I fall in love with each hero.

  • Tell us about your recent research trip – do you research travel to get inspired for the story or do you already have the story & go on research trips simply to flesh out details?

Both. For my rodeo series, Rodeo Dust was turned in before I went to the Fort Worth Stockyards. I went to the rodeo and then added more detail and changed things I had wrong in the editing stage.

I witnessed a cattle drive through the town. I’d heard about it and pictured it as being like the running of the bulls. It wasn’t like that at all. The longhorns just meander along in an orderly fashion and turn when they’re supposed to. It inspired a scene in Rodeo Hero. I had one of my characters experience my expectations of the cattle drive verses the reality.

I visited the Cattlepen Maze, a human-sized maze and had the idea that my couple could get into an argument in the maze, but she can’t get out of it to get away from him. It didn’t fit in Rodeo Hero, so my characters almost kiss in the maze. In Rodeo Ashes, the argument fit, so I used it.

We recently took a Texas trip. I had a book signing at Moms on Main in Aubrey where all my characters eat after church. My second signing was at the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame Museum at the Fort Worth Stockyards. After that, we went to visit family in Medina, near San Antonio. My husband took our son on a wild boar hunt and I think that’s going to end up in book four, Rodeo Regrets. My son took down a 175 pound boar with one shot of a 30 – 30. He’s ten.

We visited two Cabella’s and two Bass Pro Shops. I compared them to Hotel California. You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave. Still I got ideas for my hero’s cabin in book five, Rodeo Queen. In that book, my characters go to Medina and San Antonio. The hero is a Texas Ranger, so we visited the Texas Ranger Museum in San Antonio. I really didn’t think I’d use any of it, since it was all history and I write contemporaries. But I was working on my synopsis the other day and my hero takes my heroine to the museum.

I get lots of ideas on research trips. My husband can tell when I’m plotting and getting ideas. He says, “She’s not here anymore.”

(Thanks for taking time during your trip to stop for late night Starbucks with me! I’m SO glad you were able to stop & chat! – LF)

  • Tell us about your new contract – how many books, titles, who is publishing it, etc.

I recently signed a contract for three more rodeo titles to continue my series. Heartsong Presents is now owned by Harlequin. My agent sent the new editor an e-mail about me. The editor had just read book two in my rodeo series and loved it. My agent asked if I had anything else along those lines. I didn’t, but there was a character in the series, the rodeo slut that I wanted to explore. Book four, Rodeo Regrets will be her story. Book five, Rodeo Queen and six, Rodeo Song will be her sister and cousin.

The line will stay the same, the book club will stay the same, but with bigger distribution. The books will be available in K Mart in September and Walmart in October. So everybody go buy Heartsong Presents titles. If sales go well, it will become permanent.

Here’s the blurb about Rodeo Ashes:

It’s never too late to start over.

Lacie Gentry, a young widow and mom, is struggling with the aftermath of her husband’s tragic death. When she bumps into former classmate Quinn Remington, her future is undecided. She accepts a job teaching kids to ride at Quinn’s neighboring ranch, hoping to revitalize her life with an old pastime but soon sees in Quinn a chance to move forward with new love. . .if she’s ready.

It’s been years since Quinn has seen lovely Lacie Gentry—the girl he always admired in high school but never came close to dating. By the time they met, Lacie was engaged to rodeo star Mel Gentry then happily married. Now Lacie’s closer than ever. The attraction is still there, but so is a secret that might end any chance of romance.

Can they rise from the rodeo ashes?

Singing Praises of ACFW

I sing ACFW praises every chance I get. What an awesome organization. What an awesome conference. Put together by an awesome God. This year, I met Lynn Coleman, founder of ACFW. We chatted about how she wanted to start a Christian writing group to support and uplift one another, with no competition or jealousy. Like most things, ACFW started small as American Christian Romance Writers.

I discovered it by google in 2004. By 2005 when I attended the conference in Nashville, the name had changed to American Christian Fiction Writers. Though I’d been to numerous local conferences, writers’ group meetings, and workshops, ACFW made me realize I only knew the basics about writing.

ACFW goes deep in helping writers improve their craft. So deep, it boggles. I always get brain freeze and have to sort through what I learned when I get home. And yes, even though I’m published and an old hand at working with editors, I still learn from ACFW.

I had so many appointments, interviews, and meetings, I only got to go to four workshops this year. But I still learned. I’m not sure what yet, haven’t had time to sort it out. Oh, I did learn that the voice that tells me I’ll never get another book published when I don’t have a current contract or deadline, that’s the enemy and he tells all writers that. Now I know to ignore him and press on.

ACFW is also about having friends along for what can be a very solitary journey. I took the solo route until 2008. Though I’d been to the conference for 3 years, I stood on the fringes and wished I had someone to hug and cry over like all those other writers. In 2008, I met Linda from my local zone and rode with her to Minneapolis. I met my critique partners face to face, met their friends and Linda’s friends. We all went out to dinner together and had so much fun. The next year when I met them, I hugged and cried over them.

Lorna is my designated shoulder for phone calls or in person. Lorna and I have traversed our getting published journey together. When my husband is at work—I call Lorna and blubber over disappointments or triumphs in writing. When my husband isn’t at ACFW—he hasn’t been able to come since 2007—I blubber on Lorna over disappointments and triumphs. Lorna is getting soggy.

Linda is my designated roomie. We often dance in our room over triumphs. Dawn is my designated can’t find her writing friend. I once called her husband at home in Iowa trying to find her in the hotel so I could get the pie I left in her room. This time, I called a friend at home also named Dawn in my quest for Dawn’s room and went to the wrong room looking for Dawn.

Brenda, my other critter, is much better in person than in bobble-head form. We’ll look forward to seeing her in Dallas. Maybe we can wish her there. Kim and her sweet southern accent were missed this year, but Regina brought her husband. I wonder how many times did I say, “I love to hear him talk.” I also got to connect with Shari again. The only problem is there’s never enough time to spend with my writer friends.

ACFW is the highlight of my year. The knowledge to gain, the friends to hug, the contacts to be made. The kind of place where I can walk up to the keynote speaker–who is always way above the realm I live in–and thank them for what they said to inspire or encourage me. Knowing that all those writers sleep-walking through the conference totally get me. They hear voices too—not only their characters’, but God’s.

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.

Pearls of Great Price

While shopping with her mother, five-year-old Suzie’s eyes zoomed in on the costume jewelry county. There it was — a set of pearls, just like Grandma’s.

“Can I get them, Mommy?”

“Hmm. Let’s see.” Her mother checked the price tag. “They’re $1.98. Do you have that much?”

Suzie crammed her little hand as deep into her jeans pocket as possible and pulled out a yet-to-be-chewed wad of gum she’d been saving, a broken ponytail holder, half of an orange crayon, and seventeen cents. “Not quite,” she said, her voice bouncing with optimism, “but I can work for it, right Mommy?”

Her mother smiled. “Yes, I’m sure you can. I’ll buy the pearls, but you’ll have to earn the money before you can wear them.” Suzie threw her little arms around her mother and the two headed to the register to make the purchase.

During the next two weeks, Suzie fed the cat, set the table, played with her baby brother, and did everything her parents asked her to do. Soon, her little pile of dimes and nickels added up to two dollars. She could finally wear her pearls!

Suzie loved her new pearls. She wore them everywhere, with every outfit. Even the brown turtleneck sweater with the itchy tag. Over time, Suzie began to neglect daily tasks she normally had done without being asked. Her parents noticed she often whiled away the time, counting the pearls on her necklace. It seemed as though the pearl necklace had become the only thing of importance in her young life.

One day, her father asked, “Suzie, do you love me?”

“Of course, Daddy!”

“Then would you please give me your pearl necklace? I have something I’ll trade you for them.”

“Oh, no, Daddy! Not my pearls!” She clung tightly to her necklace with one hand and reached for her favorite Teddy Bear. “Here, Daddy. You can have Merle. You know he’s my favorite.”

“No, thank-you, Suzie. You can keep Merle. Good-night.”

A few nights later, her father again asked her to trade a surprise for her necklace, and once again, Suzie refused. “Daddy, I worked so hard for these pearls. I can’t let you have them. I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay, Suzie. I understand. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Daddy.”

During the following weeks, her father invited Suzie to trade her pearls for a big surprise, but she continued to refuse his offer.

A few nights later, Suzie tugged on her father’s pants leg. Tears welled in her big blue eyes. “I love you, Daddy. You can have my pearls.” She handed him the two-dollar string of plastic beads. A tear trickled down her cheek.

Her father pulled her into his lap and reached inside his suit pocket. “Thank you for giving me your pearls, Suzie. Here is what I have to trade you for them.” He pulled out a black velvet case and handed it to his little girl. She opened the case and saw a perfect pearl necklace inside.

“Oh, Daddy! Are they real pearls? Just like Grandma’s?”

“Yes, sweetheart. They are real. I know you loved pearls, so I bought these for you. I want the best for you.”

—-

We, too, must be willing to give up our two-dollar earthly treasures in order to receive the bounty our Father wishes to give to us. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like one seeking beautiful pearls. “Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:46).

God is waiting to bless us. He longs to share the splendor of His abundance, but too often I become so engrossed in earthly things that I’m not willing to give them up, even for the riches of heaven. I need to learn to set my heart on things above in order to gain the true victory that awaits me.

How about you? Are you clinging to any costume jewelry instead of trading it in on the real treasure?

 

 

Summer Reads and Recipes

During the dog days of summer, when it’s simply too hot to do much else, picking up a great book and heading to the lake or stretching out beneath a favorite shade tree is a great way take a break. The Inkspers have shared some great reads on the blog so far this week, and I’d like to add to that list and suggest everyone pick up a copy of Lynne Gentry’s new release, Reinventing Leona.

I first met Lynne Gentry several years ago at an ACFW conference. (Isn’t that where we all meet the coolest people we know?) She is a drama minister for her church, and she began sharing Leona’s story through a one-woman dramatization. It’s hilarious, but touching at the same time.

Without creating any story spoilers, I can tell you that Leona Harper is a woman many of us can identify with. Her life had always been the same, until the day one event changed everything, leaving Leona with no option but to reinvent herself. Not an easy task for a middle-aged pastor’s wife.

The fact that she’s a pastor’s wife makes her transition even more challenging, because the congregation and community have some strong traditional ideas of how and what a minister’s family should be and do. Besides being touching and hilarious, Reinventing Leona has an underlying theme that cautions Christians against judgmentalness – a lesson many of us (including me!) can benefit from.

Before you head to the lake, be sure to prepare and pack some potato salad. Here’s my favorite recipe for this summer side dish:

Peppery Potato Salad

6-8 potatoes (I use the red ones, but any will do), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks. Boil in salted water until tender, but not mushy. Set aside to cool.

Mix together (amounts listed are estimates – I just add according to taste):

1/4-cup mustard
1/2-cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1/2-cup dill pickle relish
1/2-cup chopped green olives
1/2-cup chopped onion (I use the purple kind)
6 slices peppered bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
2-3 boiled eggs, chopped

Add above ingredients to cold cooked potato chunks. Blend well. Salt and pepper to taste. Cool, preferably overnight. Top with additional peppered bacon crumbles. Best served with burgers or ribs, alongside baked beans. Serves about 8-10.

What’s your favorite read so far this summer? Leave a comment, and your name will be entered to win a summer reading drawing!

Top 10 Reasons to Attend the ACFW Conference

If you’re still teetering with whether or not to attend the upcoming ACFW Conference, hopefully some of this information will help you make the decision to go.

Here are my Top Ten reasons for attending the annual ACFW Conference:

10. The Travel. I love to travel. My favorite part is watching an empty airport luggage carousel spin with hopes that my bags will miraculously appear. Of course, I leave Saturday on a 4500+ mile vacation, so I’ll have my fill of traveling for a while, but come September, I’ll be ready to go again. Besides, traveling to the ACFW Conferences fills me with anticipation, and since they are always centrally located in the country, many of us are able to drive. Pretty soon, you’ll hear me humming, “I’m leaving, in a Hyundai . . .” (Sung to the tune of “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane.”)

9. The Food. Seriously. I know we’ve all eaten our share of dull conference food before, but did you know that the ACFW board meets with the hotel staff and actually taste-tests our menus? They do an excellent job of selecting our meals.

8. The Maid Service. Come on, I know you’re thinking the same thing. Four days without having to make your own bed, wash dishes, or clean a toilet. It’s paradise on earth.

7. The Chocolate. No, this shouldn’t have been categorized under “food.” Chocolate is its own entity. And if you’re able to come to the ACFW Conference, you’ll see more chocolate in one weekend than you’ll likely see the rest of your life. That is, until the next conference rolls around. Oh, and some of the carb-cutters bring nuts, which are great, but nothing compares to chocolate. And Coke used to think IT was the real thing. Sheesh!

6. The Name Badges. There’s nothing like slipping that lanyard around your neck, knowing it’s official. You’re now at an ACFW conference. And they’re handy little buggers, too. You can stuff your business cards, meal tickets, conference schedules, and any other of life’s necessities, right behind your name. Yep, name badges rock.

5. The Goodie Bags. You can always tell the quality of a conference by the contents of the goodie bag. And ACFW’s conference bags are better than stuffed stockings at Christmastime. Books, pens, notepads, bookmarks, pins, those little hidden-razorblade envelope openers (note: hide yours from the suspense writers). You name it, and it’s likely to be found in the ACFW conference goodie bag. And while I’m on this subject, let’s stop to say THANK YOU to all those who do this pre-conference prep.

4. The Bookstore. The ACFW conference bookstore is better than any Barnes & Noble I’ve ever been in! A special thanks goes to bookstore staff as well as all the authors who have either lugged or shipped books in order to make this awesome selection possible.

3. The Fellowship. I don’t want to have to stop typing to dab my eyes here, but nothing (not even chocolate) compares to the warm-fuzzy feeling I get while gathered with a group of like-minded people, sitting in a hotel ballroom, and hearing Brandilyn’s voice state the familiar, “Good Morning, ACFW!” I can’t wait!

2. The Training. If you’ve been in this group for even a day, you’re familiar with the expertise we’re blessed with. ACFW has continually offered top-notch workshops, keynoters, late night chats, critiquers, and the list goes on. But some of the best one-on-one training takes place while waiting — waiting for a latte in the coffee shop, in the elevator, standing in line at the concierge’s counter, and, yes, even the bathroom. (The guys miss out on this part, seeing that they never have to stand in bathroom lines.)

First place is a tie. No, this isn’t just a clever literary device to get out of a jam because I suddenly discovered my top ten list actually consists of eleven items (although you’re welcome to use this idea in the future if necessary) – these two items are truly tied. No way could I pick which one of the two is the best.

1. The Spiritual Uplift. I’ve attended many retreats in my life, and all have been a blessing, but the spiritual aspect of ACFW shines through at the worship services sprinkled throughout the weekend. And the prayer room. Talk about tingles.

1. The People. It’s too early to get mushy, but ACFW is the best group of people on the planet. The children’s song “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold” sums it up well. The best part to me is the entire group’s willingness to serve and help each other. In truth, we’re competitors, yet all I’ve witnessed since I attended that first conference in Kansas City is the Golden Rule of helping and loving one another, which ties in with the whole spiritual uplift thing, too.

Ta-da! There’s my list. Now, what are YOUR favorite reasons for attending?

Treasure Hunting

When I sit down to read a book simply for enjoyment, I typically prefer a fantasy novel or perhaps an historical romance. To be honest, that doesn’t happen too often.

Since we’re discussing what we’re reading, I don’t want to frighten anyone by sharing about the stuff I really read, which would include such invigorating titles as PHP for Dummies and Understanding cPanel or something more fun, such as Photoshop: Down and Dirty Tricks or Understanding Shutter Speed. (At least the photography books have pictures!)

I’d estimate that well over 75 percent of my reading time is spent pouring over some tomb in the how-to genre, but there’s a sub-genre in the how-tos that I absolutely love to read, and that is the “how to travel.” I suppose that genre could be more appropriately titled, “where to.” And despite the price of gasoline, travel is one of my passions.

Travel books often fall into the ho-hum category. In fact, I’ve read a few technical how-tos that were more fun than mulling through the usual laundry list of restaurants, motels, and over-hyped tourist traps. But I recently ran across one that is, well, a treasure. Kind of like stumbling across a diamond amongst the mud at Arkansas’s diamond-digging park.

The book, Yellowstone Treasures, was written by Janet Chapple, who grew up in the park because her parents worked at the Old Faithful Inn. I bought it because we’re planning a trip to Yellowstone this June.

Again.

I know I should have been excited when hubby announced our vacation destination, but my first thought was, “We’ve already BEEN to Yellowstone.” In fact, the image at the top of the post is a pic I took during our 2007 trek. I was looking straight down into one of the colorful thermal features. (Click on the image to see it full-sized.)

Since we’re traveling with another couple, who has not been there but has “trip to Yellowstone” written on their Bucket List, I was tasked with planning the ultimate Yellowstone adventure. Every time I read a few more words from Chappel’s book, I get excited about the trip.

This treasure book gives a stop-by-stop overview of the entire park, yet Chappel manages to intrigue rather than bore. What sets her book apart from the typical travel book?

Stories.

Stories about people who once frequented the park, about structures that are no more, about animals who call Yellowstone home, and about the ever-changing formations and landscape.

Yes, Yellowstone Treasures has the usual tour-book stuff. But Chappel intertwines stories from her history and that of the park in every page. Instead of reading some boring review of the Canyon Hotel, this author shares how the spiral staircase was replicated from the Paris Opera House and that, when she was young, she was told she couldn’t go there because that hotel was, “for rich people.”

No matter which genre of book we pick up, it’s the story that makes it worthwhile.

Deeper and Wider Characters

We’ve discussed movies, TV shows, and novels to share what types of characters jump off the page so far during this segment. Today, I’ll head in a different direction — what course, mentor, book, or workshop have you learned the most from on developing memorable characters? For me, the answer to that question is easy — Susan May Warren. She’s not only one of my favorite authors, she’s hands down my favorite teacher, too.

The best fiction-writing training I’ve ever received has been at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) workshops taught by Susan May Warren. She is not only an amazing person, she is an awesome teacher, and I recommend that anyone who wishes to write great fiction either attend her workshop classes or buy some of the books she’s written on the craft of fiction writing.

Which comes first, the Character or the Plot?

Of course, that question is personal to the writer, and every novelist has his or her own way of developing the story. Susan May Warren says she first comes up with a story idea and then figures out what type of person would be best to put in that situation.

What makes her stories and characters so special?

Susan teaches a layering method of character development. She explains these layers in depth in her book, Deep and Wide, but here is a (very) simple outline of the layers she uses. If you’ve ever read one of her books, you know that she integrates these layers seamlessly to create amazing characters and great stories.

Layer One is a character’s Identity — how he or she sees themselves and how the world sees them.

Layer Two is the character’s Purpose — the reason why he does the things he does.

Layer Three is the character’s Competence — the main thing your character does well.

Layer Four is the character’s Security — Susan uses this layer to determine the character’s “point of no return.” What would prompt a character to do something he or she would otherwise NEVER do?

Layer Five is the character’s Belonging. She uses this to develop his developmental and spiritual arcs. What holds the character back from happiness? What holds them back from God?

I picked up the two books Susan wrote, which stemmed from some of her classes I’d taken, at the last ACFW conference. I’ve not been disappointed. The second book in her craft how-to series is called From the Inside Out.

So, who or what has helped you create memorable characters? What “best tip” on character development have you used over and over again in your writing?