Monday, November 24, 2014

Giving Thanks for Turning Points in a Writer’s Life!

Debby Giusti here!
Thanksgiving brings to mind friends, family and blessings. I’m especially grateful for Seekerville and the wonderful people who are part of this online community – my Seeker sisters and the extended family of writers and readers who visit each day. Sharing the ups and downs of the writing journey with all of you has been and will continue to be one of the highlights of my life.

Since most of us are writers and in keeping with the season, I decided to revisit a few of the turning points in my road to publication and beyond. I invite you to do the same. Think of the events, whether planned or happenstance, that have spurred you on, turned you in a new direction or impacted you and/or your writing for the better. Together, let’s find those special moments for which to give thanks.

Often we focus on the big successes, which are so important, but we also need to consider the small stepping stones that have merit and help guide us to our destination.

1. Writing a book.

Early on, I published a number of fillers and slice-of-life vignettes. Because I wrote short pieces, I never thought I could pen a full-length manuscript. With encouragement from an instructor at a one-day novel writing workshop, I started to think of each chapter as a short story. If I put the chapters together, I could end up with a complete manuscript. The instructor stressed the importance of finishing the work. Four-hundred-plus pages later, I typed “The End.” Writing that book was an important first step and a significant turning point in my journey to publication. 

 2. Contests!

Pam Hillman talked about contests in her blog last week, which brought back memories of the many writing contests I have entered over the years. Each critique, as well as any final or win, boosted my morale and motivated me to keep working. A turning point came when I won three contests, and the final round judges were all editors at Steeple Hill, later renamed Love Inspired Books.

  3. Meet the editor!

Long before those three contest wins, Steeple Hill senior editor, Krista Stroever, visited my Georgia Romance Writers’ chapter. The Love Inspired Suspense line was expanding from two books a month to four, and Krista was looking for new authors. She encouraged me to rewrite my secular suspense into an inspirational story. I vividly remember my hesitation before making that first editing change as I weighed whether the Christian market would be a good fit for me. Once I started to include a faith element, the story came alive, and I knew I’d found my home in the inspirational genre.


  4. The Call!

As we all know, getting “The Call” is a huge turning point. Like many of you, my dream was to have one of my stories (I’d written six by that time) accepted for publication by a traditional New York publishing house. My pre-pubbed journey had been long and many of my peers had already received contracts, while my forward momentum seemed to have sputtered and stalled. I attended the RWA Conference in Reno that year, knowing I was close because of the positive rejections I’d received and the feedback on my various submissions.  It was in Reno that I won the three contests judged by Love Inspired Editors. A few days after returning home, Krista called and asked to buy my debut novel. NOWHERE TO HIDE was published in 2007 -- certainly a significant turning point, but my journey didn’t end there…I had other roads to travel.

  5. Book Ten!

In the beginning years when I freelanced for magazines, I often wondered if I would ever intuitively understand "story" and how to craft a novel the way I could mentally envision a magazine article before I started the writing process. After publication, the number “ten” took on significance as if that would be an important milestone, which indeed it was. That inner sense of how to craft a story was in place by my tenth book, which provided another turning point.

 6. Say “No!” to Fear!

The thought of creating an entire work of fiction can be daunting. A tight deadline makes the task even more of a challenge. Frequently, I would be nervous midway through a story and grow even more anxious as the submission date drew near. In scripture, we hear Christ say, “Do not be afraid.” Unwilling to let anything negative have power over me, I prayed to lose the fear and put my writing totally in the Lord’s hands. Although I never missed a deadline, I hated the stress. Anytime I felt anxious, I turned it over to him, and eventually, the fear lifted.  Some months later, I began to focus on living “in His perfect time.” It’s a mindset of sorts, but when I give him control of my schedule and ask his help, I am working in accord with his holy will and living in his perfect time. Now, the many tasks and projects that need to be done are achieved not only on schedule but also without fear. 

7. Confidence!

My most recent turning point came during RWA 2014. I attended a number of workshops that focused on the business side of publication and came home with a newfound confidence. I can’t explain exactly what happened, perhaps an acceptance that this is the road I have been called to travel. Up until then, I sometimes wondered if writing fiction was a bridge to the next stage of life that might not include the written word. Whatever I experienced at RWA left me firmly committed to my writing career. There will always be more to learn and new ways to improve my craft, and while the various stories may take time to develop, I am a writer. I can trust the process and my ability—with inspiration from the Lord—as I continue on my journey.

What have been the turning points—large and small—in your writing life? Look back on 2014 or farther. Are there moments that seemed insignificant at the time, which have turned into major breakthroughs to success? What about today? Are you struggling to find your way and unsure which road to travel? Perhaps you’re being called to write a bigger book or to change your genre or to break into the independent market and go hybrid. Could you be standing at a turning point, not yet ready to venture forth and take that leap of faith?

Today and throughout the week, I’m giving thanks for all those who have touched my life and have joined me on my writing journey--to the wonderful readers who buy my books and share my stories with friends and family, to my agent, Deidre Knight, and my talented editor, Emily Rodmell, and the entire editorial staff at Love Inspired Books and to all of you who bring joy to my heart. Thank you for being such an important part of my life.

Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a copy of HOLIDAY DEFENDERS and a special surprise gift.

The breakfast bar is loaded with goodies: eggs, ham, biscuits, coffee cake, fresh fruit and grits. The coffee’s hot, thanks to Helen, and tea is available. Fill your cup and your plate, and let’s talk about our thankfulness for turning points on our road to publication and beyond.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Debby Giusti

Think of Seeker books when shopping for Christmas!  

Watch for A RECIPE FOR ROMANCE, a collection of short stories and recipes from some of your favorite Love Inspired Authors. Proceeds benefit children's charities. Details to be announced on Black Friday!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Weekend Edition

Did you claim your giveaway from LAST WEEK

Giveaway rules can be found here. Please drop us a line to claim your giveaway at All prizes not claimed in 8 weeks go back into the prize vault. We wish we could contact all our winners individually, but we'd rather write books!

Monday Janet Dean hosted Emilie Hendryx, photographer and writer, who shares her informative post “Writing Like a Photographer: The Key to Descriptive Writing.” Elizabeth Kitchens is the winner of a set of 25 flat cards (with envelopes) customized with the winner's favorite verse and the option of photographs that she's taken and will provide.

Tuesday: Susan Page Davis visits Seekerville to talk about using symbolism in our writing to add depth. The winners of Susan Page Davis's books are Meghan Carver, Terri Weldon and Connie Queen. Susan is giving away three books. The three winners may choose either of the e-books Frasier Island or The Christmas Tree Bride, or a paper copy of Frasier Island or another book in this series, either Finding Marie or Inside Story. Contact us at Seekerville and we will connect you with Susan to choose your prize.

Jennifer Delamere was back with us Thursday with an inspiring post. "Visualizing Success:  My “Door of Victory.” Marianne Barkman and Nancy C are the winners of a copy of A Bride for the Season. 

Friday we  wrapped up the week with some "Two-Fer" Fun when Winnie Griggs (Her Holiday Family, Love Inspired Historicals) and Ruth Logan Herne (Her Holiday Family, Love Inspired Contemporary) got together and chatted about having books with the same name... out at the same time!!!  Winners of 5 two-packs of their books are:Jennifer, Liz Flaherty, Sherida Stewart, Carol Garvin and Anna Weaver Hurtt.

 Next Week In Seekerville

Monday: Love Inspired Suspense author and Seeker Debby Giusti will blog today with "Giving Thanks for Turning Points in a Writer's Life." Stop by for inspiration and fun as the discussion focuses on those important steps toward publication and beyond. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for Debby's  Christmas anthology, Holiday Defenders, and a special gift for the lucky winner!

Tuesday:"Write What You Know."  Today, Sandra Leesmith will share how writing what she knows led to unexpected results. We may think we live ordinary lives with nothing to share, but you can be surprised at how what you know will spark up interest in the reader.

Wednesday: Seeker Tina Radcliffe brings you, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effectual Writers: Part I." This is the first in a series based on Stephen R. Covey's international bestseller. An amazing giveaway is a given.

Thursday: Seekerville is closed to give thanks and eat turkey and pie.

Friday: The Best of the Archives. Seekerville revisits one of our favorite and most popular blog posts from the archives. Giveaway is included!

Seeker Sightings

Tina Radcliffe is REALLY excited to share all the fun she's been having with her Ninja Prep. Stop by Yankee Belle Cafe on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving for guaranteed FUN!

Julie Lessman Sighting! 

 Radio Interview November 22-23, 2014. Listen to a fun interview with Julie Lessman and Ivy Donavan of "Dottin' the I" radio show Saturday from 7-8 PM or Sunday from 2-3 PM, OR on the pre-recorded link on the website after the interviews.  Anybody who leaves a comment will automatically be entered into Julie's giveaway for a signed copy of any of her books, including her latest release, Surprised by Love. Here's the link, so come on by!
 November 24-December 8, 2014: Join Julie Lessman on the Artist Librarian blog for an interview and giveaway of winner's choice of any of her books, including her latest release, Surprised by Love!

Ho-Ho-Ho! Don't Miss These Seeker Holiday Reads, Available now!

 That's a lot of books to be thankful for!


Winner selected from Filly Friends will receive a bookshelf of prizes including a $100 Amazon gift card, autographed books, Dreamcatcher, jewelery, western picture frames, ornament, journal, decorative pin, tea collection and much more. Second prize of a $30 Amazon gift card, autographed books and more is also up  for grabs.

Random News & Information 


Self-publishing’s vices and virtues (The Passive Voice via The Guardian)

From Michael Hauge:

I am happy and excited to announce that my new website is finally up and running at We can now offer an abundance of storytelling articles, tips and Q&A, many illustrated with video clips; separate story coaching packages for Screenwriters, Filmmakers, Novelists, Speakers, Marketers and Attorneys; keynotes and workshops for all of those categories, subscriber comments; my upcoming schedule of events; and a much more user friendly store containing all of my books and products. And thanks to the new website, you will finally be able to watch The Hero's Two Journeys, the widely acclaimed seminar I gave with Chris Vogler, as a streaming video. To celebrate the occasion, we're also making a very special offer on all my products and coaching. So take a look , then click through to and surf around all the new features. We hope you like it."

That's it! Have a great reading and writing weekend!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Different Books, Same Title Join Winnie & Ruthy for some Her Holiday Family Fun!

Ruthy here, having fun with fellow Love Inspired author Winnie Griggs! Winnie and I realized that our Christmas stories had The Same Title this past summer, so we figured... HEY! LET'S HAVE SOME FUN!!!! And that fun begins today! Winnie's delightful historical "Her Holiday Family" was released a couple of weeks back and my fun contemporary "Her Holiday Family" is hitting shelves this week! So come on in, have some fun with us, and we'll tell youse a little about "Her Holiday Family"... both editions!

Of all the gin joints, in all the world….

That’s the line that went through my mind when I realized that amazingly wonderful historical author Winnie Griggs and I had the exact same title for my 5th Kirkwood Lake book and her 5th Turnabout, Texas story (another coincidence!)

And not just the same title.... but with a 2 to 3 week sales overlap!!!!! 

Now I’m ALL ABOUT riding the coattails of Winnie’s success! This could have her people buying my book! (YES!!!!)  And my readers grabbing hers! (YES, AGAIN!) So today Winnie and I are giving away 5 double sets of “Her Holiday Family” in historical (Winnie!) version and contemporary (Ruthy!) version.


“Her Holiday Family”, one set in present day Western New York... 

"Her Holiday Family" set in Turnabout, Texas, circa 1896...

(Winnie!!! I love this cover!!!!)

A gentleman, overseeing the care of ten young orphans and a returning military hero coming back to face the past he’d left behind.

A woman of means and elegant breeding and a woman whose hard work earned her a glowing community business until arson blinked it all out in one cold, windswept night.

What do these two stories have in common? What would earn them the same name?

That’s what we wondered! And you know what? At Christmas time, it’s all about family and neither one of these heroines had one. But let’s see what we’ve got!


Winnie’s: Eileen Pierce is a widow who made a lot of mistakes, including bearing some responsibility for her former husband’s death.  Because of that she’s lost the socially prominent position she once held in the community.  But she’s spent the three years since her husband’s death trying to keep up appearances  and pretending the snubbing she’s received from most of her neighbors don’t matter to her.  All the time she’s secretly longing for a family of her own.  But having her home invaded by ten children and their handsome caretaker wasn’t at all what she had in mind!

Ruthy’s: Tina Martinelli is a tough young lady. She lost her family business to the underhanded dealings of her aunt’s late husband, her parents have died, her aunt and cousin don’t acknowledge her existence, and her beloved coffee shop was burned to the ground on a windy fall night. She’s got no reason to stay in Kirkwood Lake, she needs a fresh start, a new beginning. And she’s ready to make that happen until Max Campbell rolls into town to help his sick father.


Winnie’s: Simon Tucker is providing escort to Mrs. Fredrick, a kindly older woman, and the ten orphans she’s taken in, as they travel by train through Texas to the new home waiting for them.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Fredrick has a stroke before they reach their destination, forcing them to stop over in a strange town to seek medical help for her.  Suddenly he finds himself the sole caretaker for ten children and though he has no idea how to be a father he’s determined to keep the children together-not separate them like he and his sisters were as youngsters.  When Eileen Pierce, who has the biggest home in town is cornered into volunteering her home for their temporary lodgings, he can tell she’s not the maternal type.  But  beggars can’t be choosers, and besides, there’s something about the pretty young widow that intrigues him...

Ruthy’s: Military hero Max Campbell hasn’t come home in a long time. Coming home means facing the past he tried to bury. Epic: FAIL. Now he has no choice. His father is fighting cancer and the prognosis is grim. Max has to come back because his adoptive parents need him. He’s determined to make amends for teenage indiscretions, and when he comes face-to-face with Tina Martinelli, he realizes that maybe God brought him back for other reasons… Like settling down in the old hometown with a bunch of his siblings. But first he has to convince Tina to stay and Tina’s a mighty stubborn girl. (Any resemblance to any Tina’s in or around Seekerville is purely coincidental. Really.)


Winnie’s: Turnabout, Texas...a fictional town set among the rolling hills of north east Texas.  It’s the last decade of the nineteenth century and Turnabout is a small but growing community surrounded by farms and ranches.  The townsfolk there are just your normal everyday people, which means it also includes, among others, the quirky,  the busybodies, the wise mentors and the silly ninnies.  For a small town, Turnabout has drawn lots of newcomers over the years, all of them looking for second chances, for someplace to turn their lives around.   And for the most part, they’ve succeeded.  The people of the town have become very dear to me and every time I think I’m ready to end the series another character tugs at me to have his or her story told.

Ruthy’s: Kirkwood Lake… a fictional town and lake modeled after the beautiful Chautauqua Lake in Western New York. Gorgeous, surrounded by rural settings and yet home to wealthy people, it’s a great mix of folks to draw from for books! And who doesn’t L-O-V-E homegrown military and cop heroes???? I loved that I could run the full gamut of all four seasons, have babies and kids running amok, bad girls and sweet lakeside churches! And dogs, Nigerian dwarf goats, puppies, cows, and orphaned babies. Kirkwood Lake had it all, and I’ve loved working there!


In Winnie’s story, the reserved heroine didn’t really intend to volunteer her home as a temporary children’s shelter.  For one thing, she doesn’t want her true state of affairs to become public knowledge (she’s been secretly selling off many of her possessions to get by).  But  when the town’s busybody makes thinly veiled comments about Eileen’s unsuitability to play hostess to the group, Eileen’s I’ll-show-you side gets the better of her.  Before she knows it her quiet, nearly empty home has been invaded by TEN rambunctious children and their laid back and oh-so-handsome caretaker.   Her cool reserve has served as an effective shield for her since the scandal of her husband’s death rocked her life, but will these children - and Simon – succeed in thawing her heart once more?

In Ruthy’s version, the heroine is determined to go and not look back. (Did I mention she’s s-t-u-b-b-o-r-n??? Like possibly named after someone I know and love who is strong, hard-working, fiercely independent, and oh… WAIT FOR IT!!!!.... STUBBORN?????) She’s had enough, there’s nothing to keep her here and realizes it’s time to start over. So she has no intention of staying, but now that Max is back, he can’t leave. He has a duty to his parents, a task he must fulfill, and for the first time in a long time, Max Campbell feels like he’s finally come home. But can he convince Tina that staying in Kirkwood Lake… with him… is the future God planned for her?

Winnie here
So there you have it – a quick comparison between Ruthy’s story and mine.  It’s been fun sharing a title and we’ve had (and are having!) lots of fun comparing and contrasting our two stories.   And we want to share some of our fun with you!

So what do you think – what stood out to you as the biggest thing they had in common, or the biggest difference (other than the century they are set in)?  As Ruthy said, we’re giving away a copy of each of our books to five folks who stop by and leave a comment, so come on and join the conversation.

Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace.  She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.

On a fun note - having been born on a Friday the 13th, Winnie has always considered 13 her lucky number.  This belief was recently reinforced when her 13th book, Handpicked Husband, won a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award in - what else - 2013.

Winnie loves to hear from readers.  You can connect with her on facebook at or email her at

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Visualizing Success: My “Door of Victory”

with guest Jennifer Delamere.

Hi, everyone! First, I would like to extend my thanks to the Seekers for having me on the blog today! It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve brought along some steaming cappuccino from my favorite locally owned coffee shop, so let’s get started!

 Oh, and in honor of the upcoming release of A Bride for the Season, I’ve also brought along this real chicken pie. In the book Gone with the Wind, Scarlett and Rhett feasted on chicken pie and champagne on their wedding night.

Today I want to share how my home office door has been a tremendous help in my writing journey. I don’t mean because I used it to keep people out—although it is indeed useful for cutting down on interruptions. No, what helped me was not so much the door itself, but what I put on it.

It started simply enough, back when I was still fairly new to writing and had yet to complete a manuscript. I’d made several false starts with contemporary romances, but nothing seemed to click. Then I began to seriously consider writing a historical. At about that time, a friend told me about National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with NaNoWriMo. You are perhaps in the midst of it right now, and stealing a few minutes away from your wild typing marathon in order to read this post. (If so, I am extremely grateful!) The goal of NaNoWriMo, of course, is to write 50,000 words in one month. NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. But in my case, it was exactly what I needed, at exactly the right time.

I can still remember the little frisson of excitement when my friend and I met at a café on November 1, 2009, and I sat down to begin that 50K journey. I remember with crystal clarity the first sentence I typed. I remember feeling that I was on the verge of something great. 

(Spoiler alert: That first sentence never changed, right through to the book’s publication as An Heiress at Heart.)


(Another spoiler alert: That line was spoken by James Simpson, a secondary character who went on to become the hero in A Bride for the Season.)

On that day, I felt like I was stepping off the deep end of the pool and hoping that my swimming skills, although shaky, were enough to get me to the other side.

I “won” NaNo that year. I swam across those fifty thousand words, using every trick they teach you: never use one word if two will do; don’t waste a minute second-guessing yourself or trying to rein in those flights of fancy; if you get stuck, skip over that scene and write the next one; write a scene even if you suspect it will later get trimmed as backstory; and above all, never delete whole sentences or paragraphs (just put them in red font and delete after NaNo is over)

Granted, although my lovely mess had a beginning, middle, and end, it was not complete. It was full of gaps and plot holes. Filling in those gaps, not to mention skimming the dross and putting on the spit polish, would take a few more months. But I had something to work with, and I was flush with success. I was also amazed to see that most of that speed writing was actually pretty good. There is a lot to be said for that unbound muse.


But back to the door.

I was so proud of my NaNo success that I posted three souvenirs from the experience on my office door.

Here’s a close-up of the poster, because it contains a quote from Leonard Bernstein that has sustained me time and time again—especially after I had sold a book and got on a deadline: 

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” 


About eight months later (after the above-mentioned polishing), that manuscript earned its first contest final—in the Romance Through the Ages Contest, sponsored by Hearts Through History Romance Writers. It won the prize for Most Memorable Hero in the same contest. I received two lovely certificates, and because my small office does not have a lot of open wall space, I taped them to the door with my NaNoWriMo souvenirs.

Truth be told, even if I’d had tons of wall space, I’d probably have done the same. Many years of constant moving—as both a Navy brat and an adult—have taught me that a manila folder is a lot easier to pack and move than a stack of picture frames. 

But in the end, pasting those items to the door turned out to be a boon, because those reminders of my success were right where I could see them every time I went in to write—not to mention every time I walked down the hall. That door now gave me constant reinforcement that yes, I can do this writing thing—and succeed.

More and more things kept finding their way onto my door: two more contest finals, a screen shot of my agent’s tweet when I signed with her; the welcome letter from my publisher when I sold my first book; and a lovely poster advertising my first book signing. I filled in the gaps with cartoons, bookmarks, postcards, and other things that made me laugh and/or inspired me. By last year, that door had become a wonderful hodge-podge of whimsy and inspiration. It was a visual shot in the arm whenever I needed it. It was also packed full. 


And so, on that thrilling day in 2013 when I received a certificate for being a finalist in the RITA® contest, I had no place to put it!

I realized that it was time to take everything down and start again. A clean slate, with fresh inspiration and new victories to mark. But still I keep the mementos from NaNoWriMo. Because being a published author on a deadline means that Leonard Bernstein’s wisdom is as true now as ever.

Recently a friend shared with me that she’s keeping a “blessings diary.” Every evening she sits down and writes something that has blessed her that day. Another friend keeps a prayer journal, where she notes specific things she is praying for and then records when and how the prayer is answered. I have also seen exhortations to keep a pretty box or a big glass jar handy; then write your blessings on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, go back and read through them. 

Over the past few years, I think my door has functioned as a bit of all those things.

So how do you log your victories? Do you have a scrapbook? A journal? A brag wall? Do you get artistic with your mementos, tack them to a corkboard, or simply file them? I’d be curious to know if there are any other compulsive door coverers like me! I’m giving away a copy of A Bride for the Season to two commenters.

 A Bride for the Season
by Jennifer Delamere

London’s most amiable rogue has finally met his match.

Lucinda Cardington doesn’t care that she is close to being “on the shelf.” She has more serious pursuits in mind and is perfectly content to leave dreams of romance to silly young ladies like her sister. Yet when her sister places herself in a compromising situation with London’s most scandalous bachelor, the entire family’s reputation comes perilously close to ruin. Suddenly Lucinda is in the limelight…and in need of a husband.

James Simpson’s rakish ways have finally caught up with him. Snared in a scandal that for once is not his doing, he is forced to do the honorable thing and offer marriage to the lady. But her father won’t agree to a dowry unless James can also find a suitable husband for the lady’s elder sister—quiet, reserved Lucinda Cardington. As James gets to know the vibrant, charming, and passionate woman behind Lucinda’s shy exterior, he comes to the distressing realization that he doesn’t want her in anyone’s arms but his own…

 A history fan, travel lover, and outdoor enthusiast, Jennifer Delamere writes sweet historical romance with plenty of joy and sizzle. Her debut novel An Heiress at Heart was a finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA® award. Her follow-up novel, A Lady Most Lovely, earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Jennifer loves reading histories, biographies, and travelogues, which she mines for the vivid details to bring to life the people and places in her books. For more information about Jennifer’s books, blog, and mailing list, visit

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The 12 Stages of the Writing Contest Journey

The Winding Road in front of Pam's House
by Pam Hillman

Do you enter a lot of writing contests? Have you ever wondered about some of your weird reactions to contest scores but have been too embarrassed to share them with friends and family because…well, you know, it’s just weird! lol

Having entered hundreds of contests before receiving my first contract, I put together the 12 stages of the Writing Contest Journey. See if you relate to some of these.

Stage 1: You enter your first contest. You’re absolutely terrified, hoping for a kernel of encouragement that you MIGHT have a tiny bit of writing talent.

Stage 2: You survive your first couple of contests and throw your hat in the ring a few more times. Still terrified, but you’ve used every bit of advice from the first few contests and are hoping to up your scores. Here is the time where you have to research POV, GMC, head-hopping, clichés, scene and sequel, sagging middles, black moments. Ack!!!

Stage 3: But you persevere and move forward for another round. The mechanics (punctuation/grammar) are much better, so now you can now concentrate on cliches and craft.

Stage 4: You still don’t know why one judge dings you for a cliché and the other one doesn’t, or why one judge loves your heroine, but the other thinks she’s too stupid to live, but your scores are better (most of the time) and you’ve got a pretty good handle on POV. Now you really have contest fever, and you’re dreaming of a finalist slot, but you’re still not sure if you’re ready yet.

The fenced in "lane" behind Pam's house going toward the hay field.

Stage 5: Finally, you snag a finalist slot!!! But was it a fluke? Can you do it again? With that first finalist slot, you’re just thrilled to final. If there are 4 finalists, you know you’re not ready to win (what would you DO if an editor asked for a complete????), but you’d rather not end up #4 either. 2nd or 3rd place would be perfect.

Stage 6: You are a star! You finalled in a writing contest. You’ve proved to yourself and the publishing world that you can write. It’s just a matter of weeks (or the next contest) where big name agent or editor discovers you. Then one of your manuscripts that has already finalled and/or won in a couple of contests crashes and burns and comes in dead last in a field of 52. You’re a has-been before you had a chance to be. Sigh.

The old Natchez Trace north of Natchez, MS. Wagons and travelers
wore this trail down over hundreds of years.

Stage 7: This is where you get serious. You get a little bit mad at how hard this is, how subjective, and you get a lot hardheaded. This is where you decide to fish or cut bait. All these thoughts run through your mind as you’re shredding your latest masterpiece. Breaking in is too hard! There’s too much to learn! But there’s something there that makes you want to try for one more rung of the publishing ladder. So you do. After all, that manuscript just won 3 contests. By this time, you’ve developed some writing buddies who can help pull you through this stage.

Stage 8: You pull up your big girl panties, grit your teeth and declare you’re going out there again. You’ve realized this is BUSINESS, not just fun-and-games, and that it is subjective, and everyone isn’t going to like what you do, but you’ve got enough feedback under your belt to know that SOME people do like what you do, and that’s enough to keep you going.

Stage 9: Now you get strategic. You develop a plan. You figure out which genre you’re most passionate about, you figure out what houses you’re best suited for, you figure out which of the half-dozen manuscripts you’re working on are the best you’ve got, and you run with that. Here you start finalling and winning more and more contests.

Beautiful shaded lane between Pam's house and her mother's house.

Stage 10: You’ve got a lot of contests under your belt, maybe even signed with an agent. Editors are requesting your stuff. Here, you’re likely to cut down on the number of contests you enter, just entering the big ones like the Golden Heart and the Genesis, and maybe a couple just because a certain editor or agent is judging. If you have an agent to send your stuff out, entering lots and lots of contests isn’t as critical.

Stage 11: You’re still in contest mode, but you’re very selective, and you only enter your absolute BEST work. It’s not exactly smart to enter a half-baked idea that MIGHT get in front of that editor who’s already got one of your best stories sitting on his or her desk.

Stage 12: Well, since these stages were about entering CONTESTS, I guess this is the last stage. At some point, an editor is going to pick up the phone and call you or your agent and offer a contract, and when you accept, you are ineligible to enter contests for the unpublished. And you enter a whole new set of stages as a published author.

Like the hero’s journey, these stages can be reversed, you can go through the same stage more than once, and you might even skip some of them, but for most of us, they’re probably much the same. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you make it to stage 12, the odds of you crossing the bridge to publication are pretty high.

Pam's mother-in-law's bridge to nowhere. lol Actually, it goes to a
delightful island in the middle of their pond. Great fishing
spot and her yard is filled with gorgeous flowers and photo opps.

Have you read The Evergreen Bride yet? If so, the world would love to know what you think. Click here to review it on Amazon...and if you haven't read it, well...

When Pam saw the list of proposed titles for the 12 Brides of Christmas series, she jumped on The Evergreen Bride as her title. “I knew immediately the story would be set in my home state of Mississippi, which is an evergreen state. We rarely have snow and even in the middle of winter, we still have a lot of greenery,” thus the heroine’s dream to see a white Christmas with her own eyes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wedding Rings, Christmas Trees, and Other Symbols

Susan Page Davis
By Susan Page Davis

Symbolism in literature has been around almost as long as literature has. Simply put, a symbol is an object that stands for something else, usually something intangible. For instance, newly blooming flowers might symbolize hope. Large birds circling overhead hint at death or evil.

Some symbols are obvious, some are more subtle. The Bible is full of symbols. The crown symbolizes the king’s power. The Old Testament sacrifices symbolized future redemption through Christ.

We can use symbols effectively in our stories too.

First let me say, you don’t have to have symbols in your story. It’s okay. But often, we put them in without thinking about it, as a natural part of the story. They don’t have to be complicated. A necklace the heroine received from her mother might symbolize the mother’s love. A snow shovel loaned to a neighbor could symbolism an offer of friendship.

In one of my first books, Frasier Island, the main character wears his wedding ring around his neck with his dog tags. The ring is a symbol of his ties to the past. George and the rest of the world are in danger. When he realizes he can save the day, he is willing to destroy the ring in order to do that. Only then is he ready to move on.

By the way, Mary told me shameless promotion is allowed here, so let me tell you Frasier Island is a 99-cent e-book right now.

My new novella, The Christmas Tree Bride, has a theme of longing, nostalgia, and realization. All of this is symbolized by the tree itself.

        In the story, Polly Winfield’s desire for a Christmas tree stands for more than that. Since she moved with her family to the plains of Wyoming, where suitable evergreens are hard to come by, she has developed a homesickness, though she remains cheerful and helpful to her parents in running the stagecoach station.

        A friend in Massachusetts sends Polly a postcard with a picture depicting a decorated Christmas tree, which sparks her longing for one. Her family had one every year when they lived in New England. The sight of the card reminds Polly of happy Christmases with family. Deeper than the tree itself, she longs for the sense of security and being loved that always surrounded the tree when she was younger. Polly doesn’t voice this directly, but it’s evident in her reminiscing.

Click to Buy for $0.99
        Polly asks her father to get her a tree, but he says it’s too much trouble and he doesn’t have time. Polly’s wistfulness is contrasted with shotgun rider Billy Clyde’s lack of memories, as his own family never had a tree at Christmas. This only makes Polly sad. She wants everyone at the station to have the chance to enjoy fellowship around a yule tree.

The hero, stagecoach driver Jacob Tierney, is attracted to Polly. He agrees to look for a tree for her as his run takes him into different terrain, where trees are more plentiful. Achieving that goal proves difficult, and Polly’s tree almost becomes sacrificed in an emergency, but finally it arrives at the Winfield station, a bit droopy and bedraggled.

On Christmas Day, the happy gathering around the tree, now resplendent in its garb of homemade ornaments and popcorn strings, climaxes the story. The symbol and the abstract have merged: Polly has her tree and her desire of a happy family around her and a promising future.

Click to Buy ebook for $0.99
I’m giving away three books today. The three winners may choose either of the e-books mentioned here (Frasier Island or The Christmas Tree Bride), or a paper copy of Frasier Island or another book in this series (Finding Marie or Inside Story). I’m sorry, I do not have paper copies of The Christmas Tree Bride at this time.

So…to get things rolling and be entered in the drawing, tell me either a symbol in a story you read that worked for you, or one that was handled in such a clunky manner it made you want to scream. “It was a dark and stormy night,” and all that!
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than 50 novels and novellas in the historical romance, mystery, and suspense genres.

She is the mother of six and grandmother of nine.

A Maine native, she now lives in western Kentucky with her husband Jim.
Visit her website at:, where you can sign up for a free book drawing, subscribe to her newsletter, and read a short story on her Romance page, besides seeing all her books.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Writing like a Photographer: The Key to Descriptive Writing

Janet here. This past September I had the privilege of meeting Emilie Hendryx at ACFW. Emilie wore two hats at the conference: writer and photographer. Not just a photographer but the conference's official photographer. If you were there, perhaps you had your picture taken by Emilie as you received an award or while hanging out at the hotel. I invited Emilie to share tips on writing like a photographer as the key to descriptive writing.

I started my photography business shortly after I photographed my first wedding near the end of 2012. As my business has grown, I've started to see the correlation between photography and writing. You are telling a story either way, it’s just the medium that is different.

I’d like to explore three specific areas to write details like a photographer sees them. For each area, I’ll explain my thought process as a photographer and then how that corresponds to writing.

1. Frame the Shot

As a photographer, my very first step to any session is to assess my location for these things:

I look for the right background.
For a writer this is the setting. Where are your characters? Is the setting conducive to the movement of your scene? What can your setting add to the scene you’re writing (think DPOV here)?

I take the lighting into account.
For a photographer, lighting is crucial. It can make or break the shot. In writing, feelings and emotions are the light. The right placement of internal dialogue about feelings can strengthen an emotional situation.

I take into account my subject(s).
To frame my shot, I will move with my subjects. I give them direction, but I wait for them to naturally “sink” into the pose. As a writer, I need to know my characters. Readers will know if my hero responds in a way that isn't true to his character.

2. Capture movement

A photo is a moment stopped in time. Some of the most powerful images I capture are moments that show movement. Sometimes an almost-kiss is more powerful than an image of the real thing. The same can be said for writing. Show the movement of your characters—not in a way that detracts from the focus of the scene, but in a way that adds to the tension and draws your reader in.

3. Show real emotion

My favorite part of photography is capturing emotions. It’s also one of the most challenging parts. To capture the look of true love on two peoples faces is hard enough without all of the details that go into composing the shot.

A writer deals with a similar challenge. How do we convey genuine emotion by only using words? Often there is a void of genuine feeling in our writing because we are cliché in how we describe a feeling or we don’t accurately capture the emotion, only the idea.

Your reader want’s to be drawn in! Your main character may say that she loves the hero, but your readers will be asking why if you haven’t shown them that she does. When I’m trying to describe a scene I consider these things:

Who is thinking/saying this?
Make sure your descriptions are appropriate to your character and their gender. Taking this into account can strengthen your descriptions and your reader’s connection with your character.

As an example: The hero in one of my books is a carpenter and was describing my heroine’s hair. Instead of him saying it was a dark brown, he said it reminded him of the color of rosewood, his favorite wood.

What’s a common way to say this? How can I say it differently?
What’s another way to describe the setting sun? Maybe the focus isn't on the sun at all, but instead on the descending night sky like chocolate over a scoop of ice cream. Ok, not my best work, but you get the idea. Don’t be afraid to be different, but watch for flow. If you’re describing everything in analogies in every paragraph your reader will hit sensory overload. Time your descriptions appropriately in the context of the larger chapter.

What is the movement? Is it natural?
The movement of your characters in a scene can enhance and draw out emotion between them. Don’t direct every little movement, but guide your readers to show them the scene. Also, make this movement natural. I’ll admit right now that I often act out movements, facial expressions, and scenarios (one of the reasons I hesitate to write in public often, but I digress). If you can’t see what your characters are doing, you won’t be able to write it.

Finally, editing is also something writers and photographers have in common. In processing my images, I see them come to life just as my story gains shape and character when I revise it. Keep these three things in mind as you work on your next draft. Remember to frame your scene, describe movement, and show the emotion.

Janet again. Emilie is giving away a set of 25 flat cards (with envelopes) customized with the winner's favorite verse and the option of photographs that she's taken and will provide. These would be perfect note cards for friends or better yet, thank yous for judges or editors. For a chance to win, share a descriptive line from a book you're read or written that created strong emotion in you. Or if no time for that, pick your favorite of her photos in the post. 

In honor of Emilie's visit today, I'm providing a buffet of delicious donuts, coffeecakes, and muffins, along with coffee, tea and juice. 

Emilie Hendryx is a writer and photographer living in Washington, D.C. She’s a member of ACFW, shamelessly addicted to coffee and books, and can often be found wishing for rain. Find out more about her writing at and her photography at

Twitter: @eacreativephoto
Instagram: /eahendryx
Pinterest: /eahendryx
Facebook Author Page: /emiliehendryx
Facebook Photography Page: /eacreativephotography