Friday, June 22, 2018

Research: Always Expect the Unexpected

Pam Hillman
When I first started plotting my Natchez Trace Novel series, I decided to make a trip to Natchez. I live about 2-3 hours away, so it was a great day trip, except my mother and I took two days to tour the area and walk some of the old trace that still exists along the Natchez Trace Parkway.

But one of the most interesting (and looking back, strange) things I did was tour King’s Tavern. Believed to be the oldest building in Natchez, it was built in 1789 and as various times operated as a tavern, stage stop, and a mail station.

Knowing my mother would likely balk at eating dinner at an establishment called a tavern, not to mention that it’s still fairly dark and seedy looking, we opted for something a little less risqué and pricey.

After dinner, though, I was dying (no pun intended) to see King’s Tavern, where Madeline the ghost lives. We found the tavern easily enough on a narrow, dark street. Mama was not impressed. I told her to just stay in the car, and I wouldn’t be long. I just wanted to see the building.

So, off I go to this tavern, which in reality is now a very respectable restaurant.

This is where my tale becomes a bit eerie.

When I waltzed in with my camera, the hostess on duty said that she wasn’t supposed to let people tour the building if they weren’t dining. But, she said, since they weren’t very busy that night, she’d make an exception. She pointed me to the stairs and away I went, feeling very adventurous and a bit nervous that the manager was going to find out and throw me out.


So, there I was, creeping around upstairs taking pictures and getting a feel for what the sleeping rooms and taproom of an 18th Century tavern looked like.

Not wanting to overstay my welcome, and a bit afraid that Madeline would make an appearance and I’d make a fool of myself by screaming, I didn’t stay long. I made my way downstairs and back toward the entrance.

And there, scowling and looking a lot like the ghost from the past with his tails and top hat (not really!), was the manager. I’m sure the hostess was on pins and needles, so I just smiled, sailed on by, and said, “Thank you so much. I enjoyed it!”



“It” is relative, if you’re vague enough. :)

Anyway, it was all quite fascinating and enlightening. I don’t know what I expected to find at the tavern. I mostly wanted to get a feel for such an old building, one built a couple of years before my series starts.

What I didn’t expect was the tension I felt. Not because of the place exactly, or the stories of ghosts that roam the tavern, but because of my covert trip up those steep, narrow stairs and the floorboards creaking under my feet that might alert the manager that someone was upstairs.


I had to write several tavern scenes in the series and I think I channeled that feeling of tension in each and every tavern scene, so the trip up those creaking stairs was totally worth it.

So, tell me the most memorable (scary? Funny? Interesting?) research trip or situation you ever found yourself in?


Pam's latest release, The Road to Magnolia Glen, book #2
in her Natchez Trace Novel series, released June 5th.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Debby Packs Her Suitcase…for the RWA National Conference


By Debby Giusti

Have you ever played the children’s word game about packing a suitcase? My grandchildren and I play it when we’re riding in the car. The basic idea is for players to take turns mentioning items they would add in alphabetical order to a suitcase. To increase the challenge for older children, each player repeats the entire list that continues to grow as items are added.

I’m attending the Romance Writers of American National Conference in Denver this July and wanted to share some of the items I’ll pack in my suitcase as well as travel tips for first-time conference goers or anyone planning to attend a conference in the not-too-distant future.

Let’s see what’s in my suitcase.

I found the luggage at Stein Mart.


Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts an…AlphaSmart!

I write my rough draft on the small word processor that runs on 3 AA batteries and was initially designed for special needs children. The AlphaSmart is sturdy and durable and has a screen that shows only four lines of text and has limited editing functions. Each of its eight files holds 25 pages of text when downloaded into a computer. The Alpha allows me to work on my current manuscript when I travel or have free time at the conference.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Books.

Seeker books are included in my suitcase for end-of-the-day reading and relaxation. I also tuck a few copies of my latest release into my carry-on to give away as I travel.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Coffee Creamer.

I brew coffee in my room each morning, and because I prefer liquid creamers to powdered products, I pack a box of individual serving creamer cups and my favorite sweetener in my suitcase. Chocolate gets packed too.

Travel Tip: A few years ago, my roommate packed powered Coffee-mate in a plastic baggie. TSA opened her suitcase and may have thought the white powder was an illegal drug. Someone sliced through the baggie, and the Coffee-mate spilled all over her clothes. What a mess!

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts a…Devotional.

I use a monthly devotional that includes scripture passages for each day—an Old Testament reading, Psalm and New Testament reading—so my Bible, which is heavy, stays at home. 

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Earbuds and Earplugs.

If you enjoy listening to music, pack your earbuds or headphones in your carry-on to tune into the airplane’s sound system immediately upon boarding your plane. Earplugs help to drown out ambient noise whether in flight or in the hotel.

Such cute luggage.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Favorite mix and match outfits for daytime wear 

And a party dress or two for evening events, such as the RITA Awards Ceremony and after-party Thursday night.

Travel Tip:  With the current airline luggage weight requirements, I try to pack light—or a light as possible—and stick with basics on the road. Black slacks are a must and can be worn with various tops or jackets. Daytime dress for most conferences is business casual, although in my pre-pubbed days, I included a business suit for pitch sessions with editors or agents. 

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Glasses. 

Extra reading glasses and a second pair of contacts are a must as well as a reading light that could double as a flashlight in case of emergency.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Hangers. 

Yes, the hotel provides hangers but never enough, especially if I’m sharing the room. Hand sanitizer and wet wipes travel with me as well.

Travel Tip: Keep wet wipes in your purse or carry-on for quick clean ups while traveling. I often find crumbs from the previous passenger’s meal on the fold-down airplane tray. Call me a germophobe, but I wipe the tray before enjoying an in-flight snack.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts an…iPad

To check email and access the web. If I’m on a tight deadline and need to work while at the conference, I’ll take my laptop, otherwise, it stays safely at home.

Travel Tip: To lower the odds of having TSA rummage through my suitcase, I pack electrical cords, battery chargers, umbrellas and curling irons—items that could look suspicious when scanned--in my carry-on bag. Going through security, I place those types of items in a plastic bin to be screened separately.

This set of luggage is lightweight and so cute!

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Jewelry. 

An unusual pin or necklace can be a conversation starter. Some writers wear unique jewelry that ties in with their brand or genre to stand out from the crowd. Check to ensure you pack the right accessories for each outfit. Don’t forget an evening handbag for the Awards Ceremony.

Travel Tip: If you’re flying to the conference, remove jewelry, belts and sweaters or jackets prior to going through security and store them in your carry-on tote.  Before being scanned, you’ll need to remove your shoes. If you’re not wearing sock, take a pair to slip on to protect your feet.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Kleenex tissues. 

I always go through a lot of tissues and include a number of packs in my purse, makeup bag and carry-on tote.

Lots of color selections.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Lip balm. 

A lint remover roller too, and a TSA approved lock to secure my suitcase during travel and in the hotel when I'm away from the room.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Money. 

Namely dollar bills for tipping housekeeping, taxi drivers and bellboys. Rule of thumb for the cleaning staff is $3-5 a day as a thank you. I leave the tip on the bed in plain view with a note saying it’s for the housekeeper.  Tip cab drivers fifteen to twenty percent of the fare. The customary tip for bellmen is $1 to $2 per bag. Add more for extra help, such as filling the ice bucket.

So Bright. So Lite!

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts a…Notebook 

And pen. Sometimes they’re provided in the conference handouts, but not always. If you plan to take notes on your iPad or laptop, remember your battery may run low so include paper as a backup. I’d rather be prepared than unable to take notes in the various workshops.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Oils, 

Creams, lotions and other toiletries. Although soap, hand cream and shampoo are provided in most hotels, I have a few allergies and always bring my own products. Hotel air can be drying and my skin requires a little more TLC when I’m traveling. Invariably, my eyes become bloodshot so VISINE comes in handy as well.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Promotional Items 

For the Goody Room. Heavier giveaways can be mailed ahead to the hotel, although check hotel fees for holding boxes until your arrival. Print outs. Don’t forget to make copies of your hotel and conference registration forms, special event tickets and any other paid admission forms.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Quick Snacks.

Power bars, chips, cookies as well as breakfast on-the-run items, like granola bars or pop tarts. Dried fruit, crackers, gum and mints as well. Lunch is provided Thursday and Friday at the RWA conference, but attendees are on their own for the rest of the meals.  

Blue's my favorite color.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts a…Rolling Bag 

Or carry-on tote with wheels. I use my carry-on to haul promotional items and giveaway books to the Goody Room instead of having to carry heavy items through the hotel.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Shoes. 

Some cute, some comfy. Conference hotels are large and require lots of walking. Be good to your feet. Break in new shoes ahead of time. Add bandages in case of blisters.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Tea bags 

For an afternoon cup of hot tea. Add ice to make iced tea.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts an…Umbrella. 

A small travel size fits nicely in my carry-on.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Vitamins 

And other supplements. Lots of folks take Airborne when they travel. Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C also boost the immune system. Cough drops, throat lozenges, pain relievers and antacids are good to take as well.

Darker colors don't show the dirt!

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts a…Warm Sweater,

Or a stole or jacket. Conference rooms can be extremely cold. Dress in layers and always include a wrap.

Travel Tip:  Be sure to check your airline’s suitcase weight requirements, and weigh your luggage at home so you can shift heavy items into your carry-on if you’re over the maximum weight allowance.  Hotel fitness centers often have a scale that you can use to weigh your luggage for the return flight. I have a hand-held luggage scale that I take to ensure I don’t exceed the weight limit.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Xenagogy. 

What’s that? A guidebook of the local area. This month’s Romance Writers Report published an excellent article on Denver, “Getting the Most Out of the Mile High City,” by Mariah Ankenman. A google search can provide information about local attractions, restaurants, shopping, churches or tourist attractions. Do the legwork before you leave home for a more relaxed and rewarding conference.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts a…Yellow Highlighter 

To mark and easily identify workshops and meetings listed in the conference program. A lot happens each day and it’s easy to miss a workshop or publishing industry event. Marking my conference program helps me remember the programs and talks I don’t want to miss.

Debby packs her suitcase and in it she puts…Ziploc Bags. 

I pack my clothing in large-size Ziploc bags to keep the fabric from wrinkling or balling up in the suitcase. I can easily slide the bags back and forth as I search for items in my suitcase. Include an extra bag or two for dirty clothing and wet bathing suits or damp workout outfits. I have a number of nice makeup totes, but I routinely keep my toiletries and hair products in Ziploc bags for easy packing and retrieval.

Travel Tip: I carry 3 ounce or smaller containers of important liquid items in a quart-size plastic bag and pack that in my carry-on tote. Items such as contact solution, shampoo, cream and hair products, in case my checked suitcase gets lost. I also pack a change of clothing in my carry-on.

Freshly baked scones and blueberry muffins are on the breakfast bar. The coffee’s hot. So is the tea. Grab a cup of your favorite brew and let’s talk about what’s in your suitcase. Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for the third book in my Amish Protectors series, AMISH RESCUE, which is Sarah’s story.

Happy Writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti


Amish Rescue
By Debby Giusti

Hiding with the Amish
Englischer Sarah Miller escapes her captor by hiding in the buggy of an Amish carpenter. Joachim Burkholder is her only hope—and donning Plain clothing is the only way to keep safe and find her missing sister. But for Joachim, who’s just returning to the Amish, the forbidden Englischer is trouble. Trapping her kidnapper risks his life, but losing Sarah risks his heart.

Order HERE!






Monday, June 18, 2018

Welcome to My (Story) World!

by Jan Drexler

“How long does it take to write a book?” is a question that Louis L’Amour said people often asked him.

He thought the question was ridiculous.

In his introduction to “The Sackett Companion,” the great storyteller elaborated on his point. “If the questioner stopped to think, he or she would understand that it takes as long as is necessary.”

That started me thinking about my own writing: How long does it take me to write a book?

My daily word count – while important – doesn’t account for the hours I’ve spent developing characters and plot lines. It doesn’t touch the time I’ve spent letting the story wind its way through my head while I’ve washed dishes or cleaned the bathroom.

And it doesn’t account for the time I’ve spent building my story world.

How do I build a story world?


There – that’s the secret.

If I want my readers to be drawn into my story so completely that they forget the outside world, then I need to be saturated in the background of my story world. 

How do I saturate myself in my story?

Two ways: Research and day-dreaming.

Let’s think about that for a minute. I spend a lot of time doing research. I’m a voracious reader. My bookcase full of research materials is only a slight glimmer of the depths of the information I dive into to create a story-world in my mind. 



This extensive research – this living in our story world – isn’t something that only historical authors do. Contemporary and speculative writers need to know their own story world just as intimately!

We need to create a fictional world that welcomes the reader in as if they’re coming home to a place they’ve never been before. A place that resonates with the familiarity of a long-forgotten dream.

To communicate a world like that to our readers, we need to know every nuance of our setting’s history, terrain, animal life, plant life, sounds, and sights. We need to know the humidity (a hot day in Mississippi feels much different than a hot day in the western Dakota prairies!), the strength of the sunlight, and the bite of the wind.

We need to know the specifics of the region we’re writing about. The Kansas Tall Grass prairies are different from the Dakota Short Grass prairies. The Appalachian Mountains are a world away from the Canadian Rockies. Lake Superior, as vast as it is, has a completely different feel than the Atlantic Ocean.

What if you’ve never visited your story location? Talk to people who have been there. Ask specific questions, like, “What does rain feel like on a summer afternoon?”

Then we need to hone the fictional setting. Create roads, buildings, farms, and churches. I like to draw a map of my specific setting to use while I’m writing. When Katie is standing at the end of her farm lane looking east, what does she see? My crude map helps me keep that information consistent through an entire series.



But the physical aspects of our story world are just the beginning. Each of our characters will add their own emotional perspective that will show our readers a particular view of their place in our story world.

If you didn’t read Winnie Griggs’ wonderful post on perspective last Friday, do it now!

Our readers will also bring their own experiences to the story, enriching the story world differently for each person.



Part of being a writer is giving ourselves the time and space to read and dream. Live in your story world every chance you get. You have my permission!


What is your favorite method to develop your story world? Or what are some of your favorite story worlds? 

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for your choice of one of these double book re-releases of some of my Love Inspired books!







Jan Drexler writes historical fiction with Amish characters for Love Inspired Historical and Revell. When she isn’t writing, she spends much of her time satisfying her cross-stitch addiction or hiking and enjoying the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of more than thirty-five years. Her writing companion is her Corgi, Thatcher, who makes life…interesting.

Twitter: @JanDrexler




Saturday, June 16, 2018

Weekend Edition


  



If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Note our new email address and please send your emails to Seekerville2@gmail.com





 Weekend Edition: Winner of last week's Weekend Edition offer of a Ruthy book (either Refuge of the Heart, More Than a Promise or The First Gift) is Laurie Wood! Congratulations Laurie! Let us know which book you'd like at seekerville2@gmail.com

Monday:  Missy Tippens shared about R.U.E., resisting the urge to explain.

Wednesday: Ruthy barrelled into town with talk about grabbing stories out of thin air and looking at them from every possible angle... and the winner of a copy of her newly re-released book "The First Gift" is  Pat Jeanne Davis!

Friday: Winnie Griggs discussed why it's all a matter of perspectivee in our writing





Monday:  Jan Drexler is peeking out of her writing cave to invite you to spend some time in her world. How does she create story settings that make her readers feel like they've come home? Stop by on Monday for some great tips.

Wednesday:  Publishers Weekly Bestselling Author Debby Giusti will attend the RWA National Conference and wants to share some travel tips for anyone who plans to attend a conference in the not-too-distant future. Stop by to read her blog, "What Debby's Packing in her Suitcase...for the RWA National Convention." 
  









Ruth Logan Herne is addressing a local book club on Tuesday 6/19 at the Maplewood Branch Library in Rochester, the very same library she'd hike to as a small child to feed her cute kid passion for books, books and more books. The book club just finished reading "Back in the Saddle", and Ruthy can't wait to hear what they have to say!






Jan Drexler's "Journey to Pleasant Prairie" series is on sale for the month of June! E-books (both Kindle and Nook) are listed at special prices at BarnesandNoble and Amazon - starting at 99 cents!







25 Ways to Promote Your Book with Instagram by Kelly Schuknecht

Non-verbal Communication in Writing by Jeanne Kisacky at Writer Unboxed

Start Your Novel with a Bang! 12 Ways to Hook Readers by Sara Shepard at the BookBub Partners Blog.


And all of us in Seekerville would like to extend huge congratulations to the ACFW Genesis finalists! Many of us are Genesis/Noble Theme alumni and we've got lots of good stuff to say about that chance to shine!

 
Here are the finalists for the 2018 Genesis Contest.  


Contemporary
 Jessica Brodie
Jessica Kate
Katie Powner

Historical (up to Vietnam Era)
Melanie N. Brasher
Kiersti Giron
Katherine Koch

Historical Romance
Elizabeth Ann Boyles
Martha Hutchens
Savanna Kaiser

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Voni Harris
Leanna Lindsey Hollis MD
Marian Rizzo

Novella
Elizabeth Ann Boyles
Rebecca May Hope
Grace Olson

Romance
Kathleen D. Bailey
Rebekah Millet
Amanda Wen

Romantic Suspense
Michelle Aleckson
Shannon Moore Redmon
Darlene L. Turner

Short Novel
Laura C. Brandenburg
Loretta Eidson
Kerry Johnson

Speculative
Sara C. Anderson
Gretchen E.K. Engel
Jamin N.S. Goecker

Young Adult
Gretchen Carlson
Clint Hall
Camille Ross

Winners will be awarded during ACFW’s annual conference gala in Nashville.
Congratulations!

Friday, June 15, 2018

It's All About Perspective



Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today I'd like to discuss Perspective from three different angles.
A lot of folks think of POV and Perspective as inter-changeable, but while they are related there are some key differences. POV refers to the type of narrator you’ve chosen to tell your story, the vantage point from which your reader will experience your story.  It’s a technical choice you make based on whether you want to tell an up close and personal first-hand account, an omniscient narrative or something in between. 


Perspective, on the other hand, is about how your characters view, process and filter the actions, environment and sensory details they encounter. It takes into account your character’s education, experience, upbringing, beliefs, attitudes and goals. Because the sum of a person’s experiences and beliefs will inform how they view the world and react to whatever they are faced with.
There’s a quote I like from Dr. Wayne Dyer, who was an author and speaker in the field of self-development. You may have heard before:
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Of course, Dr. Dyer, was referring to one individual adjusting their focus to see things in a different light. But it can apply equally well to the writer who wants to present either a deeper characterization of an individual character or slant a scene or description a certain way.

CHARACTER PERSPECTIVE
To nail your character’s perspective, you first need to make certain you understand their backstory, the events, environment, occupation, relationships, experiences and ambitions that shaped him into who he is in the today of your story.
Let me try to illustrate.
If a young child, a woman who just learned her cancer is in remission, and a CEO who’s late for a meeting all got caught in a rainstorm, their reactions and observations would all be different. The child might gleefully seek out puddles to splash in, the woman might smile and view it as a blessed sign of renewal, and the CEO would likely grumble at the inconvenience.

But it goes even deeper than that. Perspective should play a role in word choice, in what details are mentioned and which are ignored, and it will determine the attitude with which those details are viewed. 
Let’s discuss a few examples to illustrate what I mean
In the area of word choice:
Let’s say you have a seamstress who suddenly comes upon something that frightens her. She might think in terms of fear stitching its way up her spine or about her nerves unraveling. But if you put a sailor in the same situation, he might think in terms of being pulled under, drowning or swimming in shark infested waters.
Or suppose we have a young child and an adult both describing a puppy. The adult would probably use words like rambunctious, house-trained (or not!), kid-friendly, purebred, rescue. But your child wouldn’t be thinking in those terms – or at least he shouldn’t be. Instead he would use words such as wiggly, furry, or say the puppy like to gives wet kisses.
If in both of these instances you use generic terms for the emotion of fear or the description of the puppy, you are not only missing the opportunity to add color to your story, but also failing to deepen your characterization
In the area of details:
Let’s say you have a group of friends walking into a museum lobby – we’ll call them Tim, Sue and Leo. Tim has been there a number of times so he doesn’t look around or pay attention to any of the teaser exhibits. Instead he goes right to the ticket counter to pay the entry fee. What he notices is how talkative the ticket agent is, what the discount options are, what flyers are on the counter.
Sue, on the other hand, has never been to this museum before and what she notices when she walks in are the elegant architecture of the lobby, the plush benches and beautiful tapestries and the stunning patterns in the tile floor.
Then we come to Leo who hasn’t been here before either, but he was dragged along and doesn’t really want to be there. What he notices are the long lines and the high price of the tickets.
In the area of attitude and values:
Going back to our example of the three friends at the museum. Let’s say Tim is an artist in his own right and has a deep appreciation for art in all its forms and is eager to share that appreciation with others. If we are viewing the museum through his eyes we will get a very positive, immersive impression.  
As for Sue, she really only has a surface appreciation for art, doesn’t understand any pieces that aren’t literal and really just wants to impress Tim, who’s her boyfriend. If we are viewing the exhibits through her eyes we’ll get a very different impression, one of vague confusion and eagerness to see the beauty that’s just beyond her understanding. 
And of course, there’s our reluctant friend Leo. He grudgingly trails behind his two friends.  He considers the exhibits lame and he’s on to Sue’s pretense so what we’ll get from him is a very cynical view of his surroundings.

Hopefully you can see how, by digging deep into who your characters are you’ve enriched your story and added layers of texture for your reader to enjoy.
In the end, you want to highlight the variety in your individual characters. You need to get out of their way and allow them to reveal themselves through word and thought in a way that is true to who they are.

AUTHOR PERSPECTIVE
There is another kind of perspective that impacts your writing and it’s based on what slips into our stories based on the author’s perspective.  Because your own values, beliefs, experiences can’t help but color your work to some degree. It’ll show up in the subtext, in the way we dive deep into or avoid certain topics - your ideas of justice and morality and spirituality all influence how we portray our characters in our stories.

We’ve all read ‘agenda stories’, stories where the author had a point they are trying make and they are using the story as a vehicle to deliver the agenda. It is like being preached at and if it is very heavy handed it will quickly cause the reader to put the book aside in favor of another, more entertaining read.
But even if we don’t have an agenda or want to hammer home a social, political or moral issue of some kind, author perception can still creep into our work.  As writers we need to be conscious of this and try to minimize this author intrusion in your work so that we can be true to our characters and the story we are trying to tell.

READER PERSPECTIVE
And there is yet another level of perception that impacts your story, and this is one you as the writer have absolutely no control of – that of reader perceptions. Each reader will bring the sum of his or her own experiences into the reading experience. If your story contains elements of violence, abuse, injustice, infidelity, etc., you are going to be touching on sensitive areas for your readers who have experienced some of those things. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go there, just that you need to be aware it will have that impact.

But even something you thought of as quite innocuous when you wrote it might very well strike a nerve with some of your readers. Something as simple as a scene set at an outing to the circus could set off alarm bells in your reader simply because she had a very frightening experience at a circus when she was a child.
As I said you really have no control over this, but it is just something for you to be aware of.

So what do you think? Have you ever looked at perspective from all its various angles in either your writing or reading? Is there something I've left out here or that you disagree with? Let's discuss! 


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Stories Surround Us. So How Do We Harness Them?




You live in the real world.

Me, too.

In the real world we don't always have the chance to ensure the happy ending so many of us like, but we do have our own unique experiences. Those experiences begin in childhood, roll through young adulthood and right on into our lives as card-carrying adults with all the responsibilities that go along with it.

But where does all this fit into a story matrix? And since I write romance and women's fiction, I'm going to stick to those primarily, but you'll see how anything can be put in new context.

Let's start with today's news stories from my local paper:

Oh, wait, the first story is too gruesome.... (Ruthy refuses to write or talk about alligator attack stories)

Okay, still looking at articles.... aha! Here's one:

A. Hotel for indigent people is closed by town council

Okay, this is doable. There are so many ways to look at this. Let's make a list:
1. "Homeless shelter" angle 
2. Real estate buyouts 
3. City politician trying to make a difference 
4. Bad cop muscling locals for graft money 
5. Local minister fights for the rights of the poor 
6. Kindhearted fire marshal sees danger in old, decaying building


Now we go deeper:

Local politicians demanded the closing of a non-certified shelter for the homeless, citing unsafe conditions. Maybe we've got a formerly homeless heroine who is dedicated to making life better for the downtrodden? Her mother was homeless and she's got a "give back" heart?

That block of Old East Main is currently under consideration as the eastern border of the newly proposed high-rise apartment building featuring lofts for downtown young executives. So we can take our hero or heroine as the developer, the Realtor, the homeless shelter manager, a good cop trying to clean up the force and investigating the bad cop, a minister fighting for the rights of the downtrodden or the fire marshal who sees the dangers inherent in the old building and can't stand by and let people die.

So from the above brainstorming list, we can use any or all of those ideas to deepen and flesh out the story. Or just one and go in a very different direction. Then, based on what you do there, you need a hero or heroine who is standing in the way of progress, not because they're jerks but because they need to stand their ground. Their job could be on the line, they could be paying back a kindness done to them, they could be truly invested in the city's economic growth or they could be the secret daughter of one of the homeless people. SECRETS ARE A VERY GOOD WAY TO DEEPEN THE PLOT!
3. Fairy Godmothers Fix Prom Gowns for Local Students

Okay, this one could be so much fun... Let's brainstorm a list:

1.Organizer is the heroine.

2.Organizer is heroine's mother, a real do-gooder down-home type person.

3.Heroine is busy executive.

4. Heroine had the best of everything, can't see the magic of hand-me-down gowns but is pressed to help by what?

5. Hero is cop? Sheriff? Teacher?

6. Schools with poverty populations are often under-performing. Does this open a new door for heroine?

Maybe heroine has to help because she's assigned community service. Picture a small town and she crossed up the judge by being hoity toity! (oh what fun that would be to write, think Doc Hollywood or Cars only with prom dresses!) Hero lost daughter in tragic crash, donated her gowns. He'd have to be a 40ish hero to do this timeline.... but that's okay, we love all heroes! School is under-performing and heroine is in town to change things? Or was already in town (lives there) but was assigned by state to go into school and write a report? And offers her old gowns to the cause? Hero works at school? Hero is town sheriff and trying to help disadvantaged youth and heroine sees more than she bargained for and realizes it's not a black-and-white situation. Or hero's never been married and it was his niece that perished in a crash and broke up his older brother's marriage, leaving you a wide open door for book two.

Depending on setting a story like this throws open the doors for diversity. A huge plus.

Keep Fairy Godmothers as your voices of wisdom as hero and heroine bump heads.

Now it's your turn. Throw an idea out there and let's see if we can come up with back-and-forth brainstorming ideas to layer it in. When folks tell me they don't know how to deepen a story, I realize they're looking too broadly... narrow the focus, get to the nitty gritty, either the dirty laundry or small town bigotry or nepotism or racial divides or grudge-holding. We are all sinners enough that looking to deepen a story is as simple as letting people be people. They'll do it all for you, I promise!

And while you're jotting something down for today's back-and-forth, I've got fresh coffee and tea, homemade lemonade, sprigs of mint, lumps of sugar and homemade l-o-v-e cookies, shortbread cookies with a spritz of rosemary in the dough... rosemary is the herb of love!

And speaking of love.... I love that Welcome to Wishing Bridge is on sale for Kindle for $1.99!!!!! Such a beautiful story of three women who reunite when one sends out a cry for help... and how God's perfect timing puts them all in the right place at the right time. Oh, that God! :)



Stop in, toss in a comment and I'll tuck your name into the farm hat (it's farm season in WNY!) for a copy of this absolutely beautiful award-winning book "The First Gift".




A story of one child... one teacher... and the men who love them both.

Kerry McHenry is nobody’s fool. She sees her own tough upbringing in Cassie’s dire situation, so she works tirelessly to guide the young girl, trying to help her become everything that God wants her to be. At the same time, she finds herself torn between a commitment-phobic pediatric oncologist from a nearby town and Phillipsburg’s widowed deputy sheriff, a complicated man who is still angry with God. As the stakes grow ever higher and the characters’ lives intersect in unexpected ways, each will face a true test of faith—and come face to face with indisputable evidence of God’s love.


Multi-published, bestselling novelist Ruth Logan Herne has written over 40 novels and novellas and is pretty sure she's living the dream. Stop by her website ruthloganherne.com, friend her on facebook or see what she's up to on Twitter @RuthLoganHerne. An avid gardener and baker, she's pretty sure she does both because flowers don't talk back and cookies are everyone's go-to food!SaveSave