|with guest Kate Breslin.
Good morning, Seekerville! Thanks to the Seekers for hosting me today on Seekerville. I’ve brought along some freshly baked white chocolate and cranberry scones, and a steaming pot of Earl Grey, so everyone can sit back and relax with a cup while I talk about today’s topic:
Years ago as I began the journey toward publishing my first novel, I attended a writer’s conference near Portland, Oregon. Unlike most conferences held at a Hyatt or Marriot hotel with comfy beds, room service, and five-star restaurants, we budding novelists spent the weekend at a “new age” retreat, much like a Scout camp, with log cabins, bunk beds, and muesli for breakfast. The park like grounds were beautiful however, and it was thought the rustic setting might release our inhibitions and inspire creativity. Among the workshops held at the main lodge was a class entitled, “Write What You Know.” The instructor, a self-proclaimed fencing expert, arrived in her pirate garb brandishing a saber, ready to show us newbies the proper technique an Errol Flynn-styled buccaneer would use to fight on a ship’s deck—thrust, parry riposte, thrust, parry, etc. Anyway, you get the idea.
In my naiveté, I worried that since my own story idea revolved around a Scottish highway woman and a reformed English duke living in eighteenth-century England, I lacked the skills of horsemanship, swordplay, and firing a blunderbuss shotgun, all required in making my story sound authentic. Nor had I traveled beyond the U.S. How was I supposed to write about England…or even the eighteenth century? My novel would come across vague and juvenile, like seventh-grade Creative Writing class material, while my hero and heroine would be cardboard cutouts instead of three-dimensional characters. Then it occurred to me that I’d read countless historical novels whose authors hadn’t jousted with knights or suffered the dusty, scorching confines of a covered wagon crossing Oregon Territory. Most probably they hadn’t ridden sidesaddle or churned their own butter or made tallow candles, either. So how was it that their stories and characters seemed so believable?
It’s been a long time since those novice days at “Scout camp,” and I’ve come to realize we don’t need to be experts at fencing or riding sidesaddle in order to “write what we know.” Admittedly, personal experience is a plus, but whether it’s historical or contemporary fiction, research and reflection are keys to writing good story. Learning to understand an event, skill, or subject in such detail that we can visualize ourselves doing it. For example, in my years of storytelling I’ve discovered how to dress a turkey, deliver a breech calf, and switch a railroad track so that a trainload of Jews in WWII could bypass Auschwitz and head along a carefully mapped route beyond the Carpathian Mountains. In my upcoming WWI historical novel, Not By Sight, I learned with my heroine, Grace Mabry, to cut, aerate, and tie off bales of hay with the use of a steam baler and turn-of-the-century tools. We found that when cranking over the engine of Lord Roxwood’s 1913 Daimler automobile, Grace must keep her thumb aligned with the rest of her hand while giving the handle a quick backward then forward motion; otherwise the force of the engine’s ignition could send the handle flying and break her delicate wrist. She and I and our hero, Jack Benningham, traveled to the lovely seaside town of Margate in the county of Kent in 1917 Britain. We smelled the salt of the sea and watched gulls wheel overhead as gray green waves crashed upon the shore. And I was with her when she visited Margate’s Hall-by-the-Sea, once a very real place with its mechanical amusement rides, and street vendors selling roasted nuts, sausages, and sweet candy floss.
I experienced these things with Grace through the benefit of research and my imagination. Yes, it’s wonderful if you happen to be a knight with the Society for Creative Anachronism, or a train engineer, or work on a farm, but if not then gaining insight—through books, Internet, photos, videos and movies—can suffice for creating good story.
And what about those three-dimensional characters? Well, we may not literally take on the role of our hero and heroine, yet as writers and readers we can imagine what it feels like when Grace gets another blister from shoveling trenches beneath a scorching sun, or breathe in the stench of soggy feathers as she gingerly plucks her first chicken. The energy she must expend to crank over the Daimler. We know the pulse-pounding sensation of first love and the tremor of fear; our hearts have threatened to burst with excitement and ache with loss. We know the way joy touches our soul at the sight of a small miracle, proof that God is listening to our prayers.
Just like actors mentally prepare for their roll on stage, writers must draw upon their own emotional experiences to enhance and deepen their story. “Bleeding onto the page” is a term we often use to describe having to write an intense scene; peeling back those layers and exposing our vulnerabilities in order to create authenticity in our characters. Literally writing what we know so as to reach out and grab the reader by the hand and bring them into our world…
Now, just for fun and a chance to win a free copy of my new novel, Not By Sight, choose one of the questions I’ve listed below and answer in a comment: 1) In a sentence, describe a scene from the novel you’re currently reading that really drew you into the story. 2) In a sentence, name a scene from a previous novel that affected you deeply and tell us why.
Not by Sight
In the spring of 1917, all of Britain's attention is on the WWI war front and the thousands of young men serving their country on the front lines. Jack Benningham, dashing heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, is young and able-bodied but refuses to enlist despite the contempt of his peers.
A wealthy young suffragette, Grace Mabry will do anything to assist her country's cause. Men like Jack infuriate her when she thinks of her own brother fighting in the trenches of France, so she has no reservations about handing him a white feather of cowardice at a posh masquerade ball.
But Grace could not anticipate the danger and betrayal set into motion by her actions, and soon she and Jack are forced to learn the true meaning of courage when the war raging overseas suddenly strikes much closer to home and their fervent beliefs become a matter of life and death.
A Florida girl and former bookseller, Kate Breslin migrated to the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her guitarist husband and a persnickety cat. Author of travel articles and award-winning poetry, Kate received Christian Retailing's 2015 Best Award for first time author, and her debut novel, For Such A Time, is a Christy award, RITA award, and Carol award finalist. Kate's second novel, Not By Sight, will release in August, 2015. When she's not writing inspirational fiction, Kate enjoys reading or taking long walks in Washington's beautiful woodlands. She also likes traveling to new places, both within the U.S. and abroad, having toured Greece, Rome, and much of Western Europe. New destinations make for fresh story ideas. Please visit her at www.katebreslin.com.
Today I'm going to set the record straight.
What's it really like to be an inspirational romance writer?
It's fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.
Sure, it's annoying to have to dress incognito when I go into the world, but that's a small price to pay for the life I live.
Wait a minute. Wait a minute. The truth is I do dress incognito. My whole life is incognito. HA!
In my ordinary world no one knows that I'm an inspirational romance writer.
This week a coworker asked about my recent absence. I shared that I went to New York City for a conference on my vacation.
"A conference? What kind of conference?"
"Um, I do a little writing on the side."
"Oh, a hobby."
Sigh. "Not exactly a hobby...."
This is a typical reaction to my revealing my secret life.
Of course there is the occasional flip-side of that. I have another coworker with whom I have shared that I write inspirational romance. She told me that her mother is a voracious reader. So I brought in a copy of my latest release, Safe in the Fireman's Arms (in a brown paper bag, of course) for her mom.
That coworker came by my desk later with tears in her eyes and stunned expression on her face. "I texted the cover of your book to my mom. My mother already read your book. She said it was really good. She wants to read it again."
"Your mom is a fan of mine?"
Those moments are far and few between, but they are absolutely priceless. They make me want to shout!
"I'm an inspirational romance writer! I'M AN INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE WRITER!"
So although I'm not fabulously rich and famous.
And no one recognizes me when I walk down the street.
And though I don't dress in full tiara mode.
Or sit in on a mountain top waiting for a word from God.
There are a few perks to this gig...
I write fun and sassy books about real Christians and their daily struggles and my name is on the cover of those books.
I get paid for that honor.
My book is on the shelf in the grocery store!
I'm honored to have the privilege to share my faith in a way that is truly me.
And once or twice a year I get to meet my tribe at conference. And there is nothing like it. That amazing feeling of being surrounded by like-minded individuals who really, really get me.
Each year the tribe grows a bit more as I reconnect with old friends and add new ones.. It's truly an amazing honor and a kick in the pants as well. I'm not ashamed to admit I need my people and yes, they do validate me in a real and very necessary way. After five days with my peeps am ready to go back in the cave and back to my solitary life for another year or so.
By the way, another perk of conference is I still get to be a fan girl who crushes on her favorite authors.
Here I am with suspense author and two-time RITA winner Laura Griffin. (EEEEEK!)
And with New York Times and USA Today, best-selling author Shelley Shepard Gray who asked me (ME!!!) to sign a book at the Harlequin Book signing event. Another fan girl moment! (omgosh, omgosh, omgosh)
The morning after the Harlequin Black & White Ball, I could barely walk after hours of moving on the dance floor like a John Travolta wanna-be. Limping and suffering quietly, with only four hours of sleep, I met Kate Breslin for breakfast.
Kate! You were worth the pain.
What a treat to chat with her and Irene Hannon and Lisa Carter and Tanya Agler over scrambled eggs.
Surrounded by STARS!!!! I can now die happy! MY TRIBE!!!
Today I'm back to my office. This is the reaction I got upon my return.
So what about you? What's your world as an inspirational romance writer like? Do you ever share that you have a secret life? Does anyone get it?
Leave a comment as I have a more conference swag to send out! This year I sent TWO big boxes of swag home via Fed-Ex! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
And remember that we have a sale going on through Friday. Pick up some fun reads at a nice price while you can. Hope for the Holidays, Christmas in July sale!
P.S. Apologies for the excessive use of exclamation points in this post. It was..well, unavoidable!!!
Starting your story with an art fact sheet?
Isn’t an art fact sheet something your editor asks you to complete once you’ve submitted the manuscript and it’s been approved? That’s the norm for authors writing for Love Inspired Books anyway.
Love Inspired authors are fortunate to have an opportunity to provide input on covers. Not that all our ideas are used, but we do get to provide insights into the story for the cover artist. LI actually has a database for this purpose that an author completes!
So how can doing an unofficial art fact sheet (known as an AFS) as you’re beginning to formulate a new story help solidify your plot, characters and scenes?
The Love Inspired AFS database will ask you to provide:
A 30-word “teaser” that will hook the reader. You know, something simple like “Drawn to a spunky woman ten years his junior, can a guilt-ridden widower overcome his fears and trust God for a second chance at love?”
A two-line pitch. This forms the introduction to a story synopsis. A 500-word synopsis. 3-5 paragraphs focusing on the conflict and its resolution, not the backstory.
Precise dates for historicals.
Story location. Seaside resort? Montana ranch? Military base? Mountain country Arizona?
Season or holiday. Autumn. Christmas. Valentine’s Day. Fourth of July. The artist may want to play up these seasons or special events.
Story themes. Friends to lovers, second chance at love, military rescue, mail order bride, marriage of convenience, woman in jeopardy, save the ranch.
What the book is about (beyond plot description). In other words, the story’s moral premise. The takeaway.
The most appealing points/elements for the reader. For instance: opposites attract, Southwestern Christmas, guide dogs, May/December romance, wagon train, a wedding, Texas cowboy.
Interesting visual elements. Objects or places that have great significance in the book, such as: An heirloom necklace. A Model T. Pottery the heroine designs. Snow-covered mountains.
Story scene details. The mood, time of day, season, weather, situation/location that would make an eye-catching cover.
Hero and Heroine details. Age, occupation, hair style/color, eye color, race/ethnicity, marital status. Love Inspired also asks for a single defining trait for each character (guilt-ridden, dreamer, headstrong, impulsive, dependable, burned out), as well as a single character type/theme (former bad boy, fugitive, mountain man, tomboy, working mother, undercover cop). These concise portrayals force you to dig out the core essence of your hero and heroine.
You’ll also be asked to provide photo images or links to images of your hero/heroine, children, pets, settings, clothing and images representing action in a scene. Currently, Love Inspired requests ideas/images for three cover options–-two with people and one with scenery only.
I always find photos of people who resemble the hero and heroine I have in mind for my story and place them in a “Wanted Poster” next to my desk to keep their faces fresh in my mind as I write. (But more on THAT in my next Seekerville post!)
Can you see how an Art Fact Sheet might serve as a magnet for drawing ideas and getting the creative juices flowing when brainstorming a new story?
Because you’re not submitting the AFS at this pre-writing point, when things change as you actually write the story, you can modify the AFS. An extra added “beauty” of using AFS basics to help you establish the core of your story is that if your publisher is one who asks for input on cover ideas, there’s no frantic, last-minute scramble. You already have a draft ready to polish and submit.
Plotters, pantsers, and plansters: What advantages/disadvantages do you see in using the elements of a basic art fact sheet to dream up that next book? What other “devices” do you use to nail down the essence of your story and characters as you prepare to launch into a new fictional world?
To celebrate a win in the short contemporary category of the 2015 RWA Faith, Hope & Love “Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award” contest, I’ll do a drawing for a copy of award-winning Pine Country Cowboy and High Country Holiday. If you’re interested in being included, please note which book (or both!) in the comments section.
GLYNNA KAYE treasures memories of growing up in small Midwestern towns--and vacations spent with the Texan side of the family. She traces her love of storytelling to the times a houseful of great-aunts and great-uncles gathered with her grandma to share candid, heartwarming, poignant and often humorous tales of their youth and young adulthood. A Future to Build On - All widower Luke Hunter wants is to raise his three kids—and be left alone. When Delaney Marks arrives in town to oversee the youth group's house renovation project, Luke decides he must come out of hiding. He's worried she's too young to get the job done. He'll have to keep a close watch on her—and on his heart. Because being with the vibrant girl makes it easy to forget their age difference and to start hoping for a future he doesn't deserve. As tensions rise over project pressures, Delaney tries to make Luke see that some things are just out of his control—and that he is worthy of happiness...with her. (Release: October 2015)
Sandra here and nice and relaxed because I didn’t go to the conference.
So how are you conference attendees doing?
Has your brain turned to mush? Do you feel like bells are ringing in your head? You can’t stop yawning and you’d give a small fortune for a nap? Yep, you were operating in overload.
And maybe some of you who stayed home feel the same way. LOL I mean life can be just as much of an overload as a conference.
So let’s talk how we can organize so we don’t lose all of that information. Conference attendees, you have a huge canvas bag full of information. Those of us at home, I bet you have a pile of the same types of things somewhere on your desk or shoved in a drawer in your office.
Well now what do you do with all of that information? How do you organize it so you can remember what you gleaned, learned, who you met, etc. And for non-conference attendees, you can use these same skills for that pile in your office.
(Admit it. You have one. I know you do. Smile)
I hope you collected business cards. Right now. First thing to do is go through those now and write on the back as much information as you can remember about that person.
DO IT NOW!
If you don’t write down this information you will wonder who these people are when you come across the cards next month or next year. It may already be too late. Most important are the networking contacts. If an editor gave you his/her card and wants you to submit a manuscript, then be sure you write down as much info about that person as you can remember. It will come in handy if you start working with that person.
As you do this, make piles to organize:
Piles such as:
Authors that write in your Genre
Authors you met
Professional services ( you may want to divide this further with line edits, graphic arts, formatting, publicity, etc.)
I bought a box that fits business cards like a mini file drawer and have tabs with those titles. Then when I need to find an editor I met, I go right to that tab. I have boxes for each year so I can find them by year. Sometimes I file them by event, i.e. RWA 2015 conference or ACFW 2014 conference.
I have a friend who puts her cards in a 3 hole plastic business card holder that displays them like photos. She puts them in a binder with tab pages that divide the categories listed above. This is very easy to use and see.
If you’re tech savvy you can use one of those cool machines that file your business cards and receipts electronically. You can find those at Staples, Office Max or Office Depot or online.
If you did not attend the conference, I bet you do have a collection of business cards you have collected at author signings, workshops, or visits to a publishing house. Feel free to mention in comments other ways you’ve collected them.
If you don’t have many business cards yet, be prepared and one step ahead of the game. Get yourself set up with a system because these are some of the best networking contacts you will make. You don’t want them ending up in a corner of a drawer or in a shoebox under the bed, forgotten and unused.
Expenses and Receipts
Your conference expenses are tax deductible. Please don’t wait until next April to grab all your receipts and then try and remember what they are for. This definitely applies to all writers whether at a conference or not. Anytime you incur an expense that can be deducted for your writing career, keep good records.
DO IT NOW!
File those receipts in an organized fashion. Whether you use a spreadsheet, an account page, a three ring binder. Just do it. Write down expenses for everything and organize them by the categories on your tax return. Such as:
Clothing bought for the conference
Organize those right away before you forget what you heard. File your notes and put the workshops in order of preference.
DO IT NOW!
Which workshops helped you with craft skills?
Which workshops gave you insights into editors and publishers? Or Agents?
Which workshops introduced you to fellow writers?
Nowadays, most conferences offer CD’s of the workshops. Even if you don’t attend the conference, you can obtain a conference CD and listen to the workshops. I highly recommend this. Some local RWA chapters buy the CD for their chapter library and members who were not able to attend can check out the CD. Some authors get together with writer friends and split the cost of a CD.
I always bought the CD’s even when I went to the conference. Then I could sit back in the quiet of my office, when my brain isn’t in overload and really get something out of those workshops. During the conference, I was too busy networking and meeting with writer friends that we normally only talked to online. Those CD’s were lifesavers.
Yep, even organize these. If you’re like me, you mailed home boxes of books. Now the trick is to sort them. Put them in order of preference. Place those you aren’t really interested in a box to take to your next RWA meeting. They will make great raffle prizes.
First order of preference:
Stack the books by the publishing house you are targeting in the first pile. Surely you obtained books from that publisher. If you didn’t go to the conference, you should have a pile of books you’ve purchased that are published by the publisher you are targeting. These should be on the top of the TBR pile.
DO IT NOW!
Anyone want to tell us why??? You get your name in the book bag twice if you tell us a good reason we do this.
Bookmarks and other Swag:
I’m always amazed at how many bookmarks there are. I look all of them over and place them in piles as samples of artwork, layout, what worked for me, what didn’t work.
And of course use the bookmarks of your favorite authors to mark your place in their books. Smiling.
Go through the swag that you liked. What swag seemed popular?
Categorize the swag in order of preference for future reference when you want to produce some swag of our own.
DO IT NOW!
Write thank you notes or letters:
This is becoming a lost art, but think of all the work that has been going on to provide this wonderful conference.
Editors and agents have donated their time to meet you and listen to your pitch. Please write a thank you note to every editor and agent with whom you had an appointment . This courtesy will not only be greatly appreciated, but will help them remember who you are among the multitude of people they have just met.
Write a thank you letter to the chairperson and the staff of whatever organization put on the conference. The work they do behind the scenes is awesome. Let them know you appreciate it.
Last but not least, please take a nap.
You need to kick back for a day or two and let your body, mind and spirit stabilize.
Meditate and let all you learned sink in.
Bet I don’t have to tell you to do this one now. LOL
Please share with us other helpful things to do after the conference. I get some of my best ideas from your comments, so please share.
Those who comment will be put in the drawing for an ebook copy of COFFEE SHOP ROMANCES
our Christmas In July Special HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS.
If you already have copies, the winner can send us the kindle addie of a friend and they will get the prize.
I’ve been helping my cousin in San Diego and she has tomato plants and her own avacado trees. Look at this yummy snack I’m laying out for you. I call it my special BLTA (Bacon, lettuce, tomato and avacado) The fixings are on a platter so add what you want and DO IT NOW.
Stealing Jake releases in print in just FIVE DAYS - August 1st!!! I'm so excited, probably even more than normal because my debut—which has only been available as ebook—is now in print!
Which brings me to the subject of today’s post in a strange, round-about way.
My cowboys are sticklers about the dates on food--which is odd, if you think about it. I thought rough-and-tough cowboys would eat anything! If the date is expired on a can of vegetables, they won’t eat them. Expired ketchup? Fuh-get-about-it! But don’t expect them to actually search out and open the oldest ketchup bottle first. Oh no! That would be way too much trouble. Salsa? Chips? Canned goods? If I don’t want to throw it out, I make every effort to arrange the pantry with the oldest dates to the front. Or at the very least dispose of the can/jar without their knowledge. Ahem.
And don't even get me started on the expiration date on the milk.
Big ticket items like cars and homes kinda have a shelf life. I mean it’s not stamped on your house, “will expire in 40 years”, but eventually these material things will become run-down, decay, and wear out.
But books are the topic here, so let’s narrow our focus to books. Print books can have a long, healthy shelf life if properly taken care of, but they do age after time. The pages become brittle, the binding loose, the spines stiff. Hardback books have a longer shelf life than paperbacks, but still they don’t last for ever. So, yeah, sad to say, but print books do have a shelf life.
Ebooks have burst on the scene in the last few years, so it will be interesting to see how long of a shelf life they have. They won’t face the same decaying forces of humidity, or dry air, or neglect that cause print books to decay, but they will encounter changes in software and hardware that might make them obsolete over time. Looking at it from this side of the fence, it looks like ebooks will have a long and productive shelf life.
It’s exciting to know that our stories can continue to thrive and draw new readers even after the new release excitement of our print books has waned. Because, let’s face it—it’s a lot easier for an online retailer to “stock” ebook inventory for an extended amount of time than it is to warehouse thousands of copies of an author’s backlist.
And even more exciting is how a story can morph from one format to another, kind of like Oreos. Did you know there are over FORTY different kinds of Oreos? Who knew??? Watermelon Oreos? Ewww! Gingerbread Oreos. Pumpkin Spice Oreos. Personally, I’m a plain, original, traditional Oreos kind of gal. But Cookie Dough Oreos does sound pretty good, though..
However, a story is the same story—has the same ingredients, if you will—regardless of the format it’s in. So, the shelf life of a story is … is… just …infinite.
Whoa! That’s what I’m talking about!
So, there you go. Stealing Jake released as an ebook in July 2011. FOUR years later, it’s getting a new lease on life in print form, plus the ebook version is still happily clicking along entertaining readers.
Conclusion #1: I submit that stories – unlike Oreos – do not have a shelf life.
Conclusion #2: Come to think of it, Oreos don’t have much of a shelf life at my house either. Just sayin’
Are you an Oreo fan? Classic or one of those newfangled flavors?
In honor of milk and cookies and fresh off the press books everywhere, I'm giving away a copy of Stealing Jake today. So, throw your name in the hat if you want to be included in the drawing. And... to increase your odds of winning, hop over to Goodreads and sign up for a chance to win one of the TWO copies there as well. Ends Sunday! :)
STEALING JAKE by Pam Hillman. When Livy O’Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-Fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.
Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy―literally while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town―as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off―Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.
CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com
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