Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Live Brainstorming Session with The Shredder aka Danica, Camy & Cheryl and CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY

Hey all! Cheryl here...

Have a special treat for you. Today's guestblogger is my good friend and critique partner-extraordinaire, Danica Favorite-McDonald. Danica, Camy Tang and I are in a critique group together. Because of our raw honesty we refer to our crit group as The Shredder...hence the photo.

Dream uses those horns to point out my plot holes. Camy keeps those fangs sharp and ready to chew my heroine's arm off at the first sign of whine or wimp. And of course there's a halo above my head because I NEVER say anything bad about their books...ahem! Well, errr...maybe I DO since the halo is black. LOL!

In addition to talking about cohesive critiquing, Danica and later Camy, will help me brainstorm a book in real time, here in the comment section of Seekerville. Feel free to dive in with input, questions, etc.

Everyone who leaves a comment by Midnight CST tonight will be entered into a drawing for a free, first chapter critique by moi.

Be sure to leave your e-mail address as you chime in with questions or thoughts as we go along. How this will work is I will post my scenario in the comment section and the girls will respond and this will go on until I've worked the bugs out of my plot. Danica, Camy and I have not yet brainstormed this story...so what you see unfolding in the comment section will be live and in real time and what you'd hear if you were with us during one of our brainstorming sessions either by phone or IM.

We hope you will see how a cohesive critique group can help on the front end of your writing too, during the brainstorming phase, which is going to also be the time you'll be able to determine whether your story has a solid foundation of structure. Without further ado...here's Danica:

Working with a critique group-

Hey Seekers! Thanks for having me back again. Cheryl asked me if I'd join you for a discussion on working cohesively with a critique group. For those who don't know, Cheryl Wyatt and Camy Tang are my critique partners. Today's post is going to be a little different from what you're used to (we hope!), so bear with us if it seems a bit weird. Because today, you guys are going to get a peek inside how we work together. At the end of this post, you're going to see a sample of what it looks like when we brainstorm together. Throughout the day, keep checking back, because we're going to continue the critique in the comments.

Before we begin, I want to share our rules for critiquing.


Be honest!! It hurts a lot less to hear from each other that
there's something wrong than it does to hear it from an editor.
The very worst thing in the world to hear as we're sharing the
rejection letters is, “oh, I thought that too.” Really? Then why
didn't you say so in the first place!!

The guiding principle here is Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” I'll be honest. We like hearing what we do well. But when all we hear is “your writing is so wonderful,” it does not help us grow as writers. We are VERY tough on each other because we love each other enough to want to help each other grow.


Be open to changing. If you're looking for the kisses, send your
book to your grandma and don't expect to sell. Your grandma will
give you little gold stars and frame your babies. However, your
critique partner may ask you to kill them. Every baby I've had to
kill has made me a better writer.


Don't take it personally. Whew! This one is hard. We all put a
little of ourselves into what we write, and sometimes being told
something doesn't work feels like an attack on who we are. “I hate
this and this about your heroine” can feel a lot like “I hate you”
when you've put those pieces of you into her. Just remember, this
is fiction, and what sells fiction is different than what we love
(or don't love) about our friends.


Understand and accept each other's processes. Camy ripped one of
my stories to shreds. She didn't say she liked it, so I assumed
she hated it. In her mind, since she didn't tell me she hated it,
I should have assumed she liked it. Once I realized that Camy's
process is more about telling me what to fix, I learned to trust
that if she hated a story, she'd say so. She learned that I always
assume the worst, so she needs to reinforce the positive.


Remember to tell each other the good. Camy, Cheryl, and I refer to
each other as the shredders because we literally shred each
other's manuscripts. But we LIVE to hear the compliments. After
I'm done critiquing, I go back through the manuscript and find a
couple of places where I can show them something they've done
that's really good.

And now for the critique!!

Check the comment section for Cheryl's set up then Danica's (and later today, Camy's) response:

Cheryl, Danica & Camy aka The Shredder :-)


  1. Okay, here we go.

    Set up: I know my heroine. No clue who my hero will be. I'm hoping I will know by the end of the day however. LOL!

    My heroine will be Ashleigh Petrowski, who was an ancillary character in Soldier Daddy, my October Love Inspired.

    I have received countless letters from readers, asking me to write Ash's story. So that's what we're going to brainstorm here today.

    Normally when we brainstorm, I know my hero and heroine, but not this time.

    All I know is that he needs to be someone whose goals will conflict with my heroine.

    Here's what I know about Ash: Name: Ashleigh Petrowski-AKA Ash or AK37 Ash Petro

    Age: Late 30s

    Other stats: She’s twin sister to Chief Master Sergeant Aaron Petrowski, commander over three Pararescue Jumper teams. We met her briefly in previous Wings of Refuge books.

    She stays with her brother, Aaron, in Refuge, IL (where story is set) when she’s not traveling abroad as a government skip tracer.

    She makes people disappear (her specialty is battered women) via the witness protection program as well as hunts down International fugitives for the government.

    Prior to becoming a government skip tracer she was a private investigator who specialized in exposing extramarital affairs. Part of her reticence to relationships is because she's seen firsthand how many marriages end due to infidelity and with her traveling all the time, she has little time for romance.

    Her parents were pilots who flew supplies to missionaries. We know from Aaron's story that their parents were killed in a plane crash while on their way to deliver supplies to missionaries and third-world villagers in need. Because of the manner of their death, Ash is bitter toward God.

    She is also cynical of men due to spending ten years in the business of investigating marital infidelity.

    We know she has a hard time making friends but in Soldier Daddy, we saw glimpses of her soft side by book's end. She is tough and independant and stands up for what she believes in.

    I'm thinking a good hero for her would be a single father type. Possibly a character we've already met in previous books or possibly someone new. I'm leaning toward someone new in town or at least to my readers.

    Okay...that's about all I have. More info will be revealed as the gals tear in and ask me questions.

    Have at it girls!


  2. For you early risers, we've had Panera's catered in. Grab some fresh Panera's coffee and breakfast danishes in the corner there.


  3. Hey Cheryl! My first question--and you knew this was coming, right?--is what does Ash want? What's most important to her? You need to decide what her deep desires are so you can figure out possible external goals for her for the book.

  4. My first question is (after I grab some of those wonderful Panera's Danish...) is how are you going to make me like her because you did a great job of making me hate her in Soldier Daddy...


    How do you intend to suspend that disbelief in a natural way?

    'Cause I'm not an easy sell when someone does SUCH A GREAT JOB of making me dislike a person...

    And then turns about face trying to make that person palatable.

    So you've got to make me root for her, right? Want her success?

    Umm... good luck, ladies. Should be an interesting day.

    Convince me. And the coffee's great, btw.


    Ruthy (skeptical but somewhat willing to learn)

  5. A question, a question...

    I think I would ask you what you would consider Ashleigh's opposite? Would you consider her opposite in personality, job, or beliefs? Or all three? If the hero's going to foil the heroine, you need to know what you want that foil to reflect.

    I've not read Soldier Daddy, Cheryl (sorry), so I don't have Ruthie's problem of disliking the character. I can, however, vouch for using critique partners. Christy LaShae Smith and I tear each others work up on a regular basis.

  6. Welcome to Seekerville, Danica! I'm eager to see you, Camy and Cheryl have at it! Brainstorming in real time should be a blast, especially with Ruthy playing hard ball. :-)

    Thanks for the coffee and Danish! Panera is a favorite of mine.


  7. What a great way to show how a good critique group operates! Thanks for sharing your process.

    I haven't read Soldier Daddy yet--my TBR pile grows weekly, so I'm clueless about Ash.

    You said Ash is cynical about men because of her previous job investigating affairs. How did she get into that job? Was it explained in Soldier Daddy? If not, what if Ash was married in the past and her husband cheated on her? What if she had eloped so no one knew she was married before? And why battered women? Can she relate in some way? Maybe she has firsthand experience that her brother knows nothing about? Maybe her cheating husband was also an abuser?

    Also, what's Ash's identity? What's one person or image she can compare herself to?

    I love brainstorming, but really struggle at times with my own novels. That's why it's so important to have a couple of solid partners.

    lisajordanbooks at yahoo dot com

  8. Why not make the single father a divorce lawyer, a living reminder of relationship failure.

  9. I am not awake yet. But I wanted to pop in and kiss the ground you walk on for bringing in Paneras.

    Welcome back to Seekerville Danica!!

  10. Cheryl, Danica and Camy, this is a great idea and I'm loving the fact I can WATCH you guys at work. Thanks for sharing.

    As for Ash, some questions--why did Ash go into this profession in the first place? Why is she cynical about men besides her experience with battered women? Strong women generally have one big weakness--what's Ash's?

    For the hero, what if you had someone who had watched his father batter his mother who lives in fear of repeating the cycle, thus pushing him away from Ash while admiring her strength--something his mother lacked. Ash admires his compassion while wary of the control he has over every aspect of his life(a symptom of a batterer.)

    Just some thoughts,

  11. Another thought...for the hero, what if he was a romantic to contrast her cynicism? When he does something sweet, she'll wonder what he did or what he's apologizing for?

    One time hubby delivered a dozen roses to my work. The card read "just because I love you" yet the rest of the office staff believed he had done something wrong and was sucking up. Cynics.


  12. will be fun to see your story unfold in comment-style! Good luck!

  13. Hey Walt- I had the same idea about making the hero a lawyer as well. Perhaps one who wants to keep Ash from hiding a witness because he needs her testimony to put some lowlife away?

    BTW- my addy is diannawrites at bellsouth dot net

  14. Oh man, I'm SO glad you all posted this today. I'm seriously bummed because hubby just pointed out a major plot hole I have. I feel shredded. Wah!

    Okay, I'm going to read your brainstorming now. :-)

  15. OK, I can already tell that I'm going to spend way too much time checking in here today instead of dealing with real world work. Sigh.

    I know just enough about witness protection programs to be dangerous, so I could be off base here. But what if the hero has an aversion to Ash because of her job (assuming he knows what it is - would he?)? Maybe he knows someone who was under WP and the thugs still tracked the person down and killed him/her (best friend? family member? client he helped get in the program if he's a lawyer?). Or maybe he was in an abusive relationship at some point -- but it was a case of husband abuse. He's still dealing with issues from that and is super skittish of strong-willed women who remind him of his ex. Of course, you'll need to find ways to help him still be a hero instead of a wimp. :-)

    Enough for now -- I'd better get back to the real world. I must work instead of play ... I must work instead of play ... I must work instead of play ...

    Have fun!
    leigh at leighdelozier dot com

  16. Great characterization! This is actually making me smile because I have an extremely similar character. A cynical detective because she's always uncovering affairs, plus her own fiancee cheated on her. I gave her a cop hero who has a reputation for being a bad boy and his external goal clashes with hers.

    I like the idea of a divorce lawyer, but then someone might have to change.
    I also liked Camy's advice about an external goal.
    I think it's preferable that the hero's goal clashes somehow with the heroine's, but I also think there should be personal conflict.

    If he's a dad, maybe Ash has a weakness for kids?
    I can't wait to see what others have to say!

  17. This should be fun to read! :-) I have a feeling I'll be going through this same process with my critique group soon, so I'm excited to see where you ladies take the story.

    Oh, and thanks for the danishes, Cheryl! :-)

  18. Morning Cheryl and Welcome Danica, It was great meeting you in Denver seeing the three of you play, so will be fun to watch you three shredders at work. I'll say good evening to Camy later when the "night owl" wakes up. LOL

    Thanks for the paneras and coffee.

    I too want to see how you make us love Ash. Great ideas already out there for the hero. good going gang.

  19. Cheryl, Camy, Danica -- brilliant idea! This will be fun to watch ... and learn from.

    How often do you three get together for critique sessions and when you do, do you brainstorm just one person's idea or all three?


  20. Could you make the divorce lawyer someone she knew before who had a less than stellar reputation, but that was changed by the responsibility of fatherhood. She always sees him the old way.

    Walt - whose addres is wmussell[at]hotmail[dot]com and who just had a Dutch apple bagel with a pumpkin schmear. (Feel the sugar rush and make the coffee black.)

  21. Hi everyone,

    This is such a great process to witness first hand!

    To go in a very different direction, I thought of making hero a newly widowed father who has come to town as the new Minister. His faith and sincerity would play nicely opposite her cynicism.

    Another thought, he could be an uncle raising his murdered sister's child. She could have been murdered by an abusive ex-husband. Or again, maybe she was in the witness program and the guy found her anyways and killed her.

    Wow - you could get carried away with this stuff!!

    Need more coffee!


    sbmason (at) sympatico (dot) ca

  22. Hey Camy! Great question...and yep, I figured that one was coming. LOL! I think that what Ash wants (whether she wants to or not) is a sense of normalcy, constancy and belonging. Her job rules her life to the point that she literally spends more time gone than at her office or home and the location of her home is constantly in flux because she has to set up living close to the fugitive she's watching and following. When that person moves, she moves and it goes on until she has given the government enough information and evidence to apprehend.

    She hasn't had a sense of belonging since her parents died when she and Aaron were teens. The loss pushed her brother closer to God but Ash farther away. So deep down there's a draw to come back home, but she can no longer define what home is.

    Her job is extremely dangerous and stressful and she's grown terribly restless in it in its current form.

    She wants to understand why she's feeling this sudden and unshakable discontent so she's taking three months off to stay in Refuge with her brother at the prompting of her skip tracing partner. She hasn't had a vacation in ten years.

    She loves her nephews (Bryce and Braden are Aaron's twin boys--age 5 or so when this story starts).

    So part of her external goal could be to plan and prepare a career change. She'd mid-thirties by the way, not late. My bad. She might be considering how to drop the International travel so she can have a stronger sense of home. That would mean a career change to some degree.

    Still thinkin on that one...

    Ideas welcome.


  23. Hi Danica, Cheryl and Camy,

    I'm sure I'll be stopping in all day long to watch the progress.

    Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your techinques.


    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

  24. Hi Ruthy,

    Good point about Ash being curmudgeonly to Sarah. I think that readers were able to see Ash's redeeming qualities, otherwise I wouldn't have received hundreds upon hundreds of letters from people who took time to try to figure Ashleigh out. I have not had a single reader write saying they don't want Ash to have a story but she has been the character who readers have requested a story from the most. Officer Stallings comes a close second, but I knew when I received too many letters to count that readers somehow connected with her.

    I think it's because they were able to glimpse what drove her in Soldier Daddy. She was concerned for the safety of the twins and when she's protecting someone in danger, and especially someone she loves, she can be ruthless. So I think readers could understand why she was hostile toward Sarah. The other thing was that as soon as she had all of her info and knew her initual opinion of Sarah was wrong, she went to her, humbled herself as best as Ash could (LOL) and not only said she was sorry but explained herself.

    She was also acting out of a place of pain because her best friend Donna was Aaron's first wife. It was difficult for Ash to see him fall in love again with another woman and especially when she was the one who fixed Donna and Aaron up to begin with. She doesn't like not being in control of her emotions and so she fought sadness seeing Sarah interact with Aaron.

    Also, that readers know the circumstances behind her parents' deaths helped them to have sympathy for Ash.

    Before Aaron's book end, we started to see a change in Ash. Spoiler alert: in the beginning she ridiculed Sarah because she involved herself in child sponsorship. Ash is jaded because she saw a never ending stream of poverty as her parents devoted their lives to flying supplies (food, medication, equipment for water wells, etc) to third world countries. Yet no matter how much they sent, it was never enough to help everyone. So Ash has a hard time accepting that and understanding how come God doesn't help more because she knows Him well enough to know and believe that He could make food appear on a person's table if He wanted to sustain them and end their suffering and hunger.

    By the end of the book we know that she has sneaked one of Sarah's child sponsorship cards and she has been faithfully writing that child and supporting the ministry...yet she didn't tell a soul that she'd done it. That was a glimpse into Ash's ability to change and readers have not ceased to stop writing and asking for her story. I have entire pages where readers have spent in effort to analyze her. I have collected all of their notes and they are very interesting. I may post some of readers' thoughts here later.

    But first to get through some more of these comments. LOL!

    For now, I hope that gives you a glimpse. For those of you who did read Soldier Daddy and did find Ash endearing or likable or sympathetic to the point of deserving her own story can also chime in as to why you think she'd be worthy of having her own story.


  25. Hey, thanks for the nice welcome back!

    A few thoughts before I get to shredding...

    1. In case you haven't noticed this about us, Camy is in California, I'm in Colorado, and Cheryl is in Illinois. It's a little hard to do face to face critiquing. So we do a lot via email, sometimes IM, and then, we talk on the phone A LOT. We are so lucky that we all have the same calling plan so calls to each other are free. YAY!

    2. Yesterday, as we were talking on the phone about today (while I was at the grocery store, no less! I take multitasking seriously!), one of the things Cheryl and I talked about is that since we're in public with this one, we're on our best behavior. We will probably be nicer to each other here than we are when we actually critique. Don't want to scare anyone. :) Seriously, we are pretty no-holds barred.

    Apparently, I'm too wordy for the post, so I'm going to break this up.

  26. Now... *rubbing hands*

    The first thing I thought of when you started talking about Ash is that she reminds me a lot of my precious, most beloved Veronica Mars that those idiots at the CW ruined before they canceled her. I have the first two seasons on DVD (the only two worth watching, don't waste your money on season 3), and I recently re-watched them all, so this is fresh.

    One of the similarities that struck me about them is the whole PI extramarital affair thing. You're right, it jades a person. I watched as VM destroyed a lot of good relationships because she always assumed the worst about people. Something I can see in Ash. HOWEVER...

    Veronica came from a pretty messed up background. Dad was a deposed sheriff, Mom was an alcoholic who ran off when she couldn't take the heat (and later stole all her college money). And her Dad worked exposing the town's ugly secrets. So she has reason to be a PI, reason to be jaded.

    Here's my point... it seems to me that a person becoming a PI who exposes extramarital affairs would have baggage that makes her want to expose cheaters. Also, someone who specializes in battered women typically have some sort of experience in their past making them sympathetic toward their cause. Finally, people typically go from being gov't investigator type to private eye, not the reverse. All of this tells me there's something messed up in her past. What is it? Why does it drive her?

    Secondly, I'm going to disagree with the peanut gallery. A jaded hero is what we'd expect with a jaded heroine, but as you know, I'm twisted and I like to twist things. Plus, you like calling me out for making my characters too similar, and I'm afraid that a jaded hero will put you in the same boat. AND... we know your predilection for wordiness. To sort out her issues plus a jaded hero, you're going to have a hard time getting it all done and not going over word count.

    My initial thought on your hero. Like the new in town angle. LOVE the single Dad angle. If she's this jaded, she's going to freak over the thought of a guy with a kid. But we need to see her tender side as she wars with realizing a kid's not such a bad deal, and freaking out that things like this end badly. She's probably worked with tons of kids in her battered woman dealings, so she's used to them. She just knows the reality of how harsh life can be, so she's not going to want any of her own to put them through the mess life has to offer.

    What's he like? Honey, we need him to be such a Pollyanna that we all want to vomit. In a nice happy Steeple Hill way, of course. He has to believe with his whole heart that everything always works to the good (of God of course!) and have such a positive attitude that he nauseates her.

    Everyone she's ever known with a positive happy attitude has been a complete and utter fake. She's going to be digging in trying to find his weakness, who the REAL McCoy... oooh, oooh!!! The book could be called The Real McCoy and his last name could be McCoy. Yep, there's my lame, haven't had a cup of tea yet, contribution. Right. Back to reality. I see her digging in to expose him because she's so sure he's a fraud. No one can be that happy.

    Other stuff about him... could you make him a witness protection client, recipient, whatever? Trying not to flip you into the dark side, and I honestly don't know how it works, but has he come to Refuge because this is where he's been placed? Maybe his late wife is the daughter of a mob guy or something. He's innocent, but Ash doesn't believe it. Oooh oooh, please do mob. I love mob stories. Plus, that would go along with her whole attitude of wanting to expose him. She puts dirt bags in jail and hates that this probable dirt bag is in witness protection.

    Okay, I'll get my kiddos ready for school and head back shortly

  27. Hi Dianna,

    Welcome to Seekerville! That is a wonderful question about who would be Ash's opposite.

    Someone who has stability and who doesn't travel in their job. Someone with a child perhaps, a widower or divorced man who is raising his child is who I'm envisioning. Someone who owns their home since Ash's job makes her a nomad of sorts and she doesn't have a place to call home per se. She finds Refuge in a spare bedroom at her brother's home in Refuge whenever she's between cases. So that she automatically gravitates there hints to the reader her longing for a home and a sense of belonging.

    So I'm thinking her opposite would be someone stationary and rooted in one place. Someone with an even temper because Ash doesn't extend trust easily to anyone, her opposite would probably be someone extraordinarily trusting and the complete opposite of someone jaded.

    Great question! You've got me thinking which is what this is all about. God's best to you and your crit group.


  28. Dianna, I also think her opposite spiritually would be someone who trusts in God's goodness despite all the bad things in the world. Ash has a tough time swallowing it which will be part of her epiphany.

    So her opposite would need to be someone who wholeheartedly trusts God even though life is hard.

    So your question sparked an idea. I'm wondering if the hero could have had some trauma in his past...a trauma that could have caused him to suspend his belief in God and in God's goodness...but for whatever reason the guy chose to trust God and in His goodness despite the tragedy maybe.

    Perhaps Ashleigh has a hard time accepting how he can just accept that God allowed it for a reason when in her mind the tragedy or event seems senseless. It could be that he was hurt by a Christian too which would further fuel Ash's ire. LOL!

    This is fun!

    Got my brain and my creativity broiling...


  29. Hi Janet! Thanks for stopping in.


  30. Hi Lisa, welcome to Seekerville.

    I'm guessing on some of this as I go along so this isn't set in stone, but I'm thinking that Ash got into it because she has a strong need to exact justice and see that it's served.

    Her best friend (which was also Aaron's first wife) was killed by a drunk driver so she has a difficult time with people who make bad choices when those choices endanger the lives of others.

    She has always wanted to be a skip tracer and being a PI first gave her the groundwork to be an esteemed and highly sought after-skip tracer. Her specialty is twofold. First, she works for the government to hunt down International fugitives. Second and most fulfilling to her these days is finding refuge and safe haven for women who've been battered and giving them a new start in life, a safe world for themselves and their children.

    I'm not sure yet what her motivation is for why she chose the profession she did...but your question sparked my imagination so I'll be chewing on that and when something comes to me, I'll post it.

    Feel free to chime in if an idea pops in your brain girls.

    For now I'll attend the rest of the comments then revisit this.


  31. OOOH! Now I kind of like that she might have eloped before.

    I'm not sure if any of that would be "in character" for Ash because she's been mentioned in several of the last few Wings of Refuge books, including the two that have not yet released. So I'll have to be careful not to contradict something.

    But that would be an interesting slant because her brother is the one person on earth who knows her best, but otherwise she is secretive and has to be for her job. So that could possibly work. Oh, Aaron would freak if she kept something like that from him. LOL!

    She didn't use to be cynical about men. She became a PI right out of high school. She's never in one place long enough to let herself get attached to anyone so she's probably never had a very serious relationship...or maybe she did elope with someone also in her profession. Readers know she has a skip tracing partner called "Stone." Could be she eloped with him and it flopped or it could be that the first guy she fell for maybe lied to her and was already married and Ash didn't discover it right away.

    Maybe that was even worse in her mind because here she spent a decade of her life devoted to investigating infidelity in a for-hire basis...yet she didn't pick up right away on the fact that SHE was "the other woman." Hmmmm...thinking...that could be an interesting angle.

    It wasn't explained in Soldier Daddy or the two yet-to-be released books how she got the job so we have leeway there and can play with that and try to figure that out about Ash.

    Part of brainstorming is asking the writer questions...but also part of it is inputting ideas too. Three (or more!) heads are better than one. So if you all have ideas sparked by this discussion, by all means, chime in.

    We won't lambaste anyone's ideas here, just so you know this is a safe place to comment.

    Okay...moving onward in the comments...


    Also you

  32. Walt...THAT IS A GREAT IDEA!!!!

    She's seen so many men cheat on their wives and wives cheat on their husbands that it could help to heal her own hurt.

    What if she did have a bad relationship where she didn't know the guy she fell for was married, she stopped investigating and exposing affairs and buried herself in skip tracing instead.

    The guy being a lawyer could be something that would constantly remind Ash of her weakness in not picking up on the fact that SHE was the other woman. And him being an attorney would definitely give him a stationary occupation too.

    Great thoughts!!!


  33. Hi Tina...thanks for dropping by.


  34. Dianna...GREAT IDEA!!! That would tie in nicely.

    You guys are awesome!


  35. If Ash eloped and considered that romantic but then had to have it annuled because he was already married, unbeknownst to her could be something that makes her feel like a failure so maybe that's why she kept her marriage from her brother. Because she'd just rather forget her mistake.

    One of her friends maybe could have been battered. Thinking...thinking...


  36. What if the hero were a former crook. White collar, fraud type thing. He's found the Lord and reformed and has all the enthusiasm of a new baby in Christ. Perhaps he's come to town to take care of a widowed grandmother or something like that. Ash is attracted to him at first but because of her distrust she uses her resources to check him and out and discovers his criminal past. She then assumes the worst and thinks he's trying to scam the old lady. She tries again and again to set up a 'sting'. But can't get him to fall for it. Eventually of course she will come to the realization that he has changed and that she can too.

  37. Patty, you're the second person who has asked that...why she went into the profession in the first place.

    Ash has always had a driving need for things to be right or made right. Possibly due to how her parents died...something she couldn't control. So maybe she wanted a career where she could not necessarily control people's bad choices, but ensure they'd face consequence for harming others. I'm open to ideas because I didn't mention in Wings of Refuge why she became a skip tracer and before that a PI. The two are very similar.

    She has a strong sense of justice and can't stand to see someone wronged. So she gravitated toward a career in investigation so she could head crime off at the pass maybe.

    Great thoughts and questions guys!

    Also, Lisa, Ash's identity is totally in her job, first and formist. Then next, she sees herself as an aunt to her nephews. Her job is paramount but her nephews are the next center of her world as is her brother Aaron and his housekeeper Mina, who was Ash and Aaron's nanny growing up and who raised them after their parents passed away.


  38. Cheryl, people have given some great ideas!!!! I especially like the idea of somehow tying a past relationship or marriage with her past experience as a PI exposing cheating husbands. I really like that idea of her marrying a man and then finding out he's already married. As a PI, she had been investigating men with their "other women," but now suddenly she's the "other woman." It makes her dump the PI job and instead become a skip tracer.

    I also like the idea about some connection with battered women that makes her focus on helping battered women as a skip tracer. What if her best friend was being abused or stalked by her ex-husband, and Ash helped her friend escape her ex-husband? That was her first time being a skip tracer. Just a thought.

    Ash wanting a home--great internal struggle, especially if she herself isn't even quite aware of how much she wants a home.

    It also is a good relational tie to bind the hero and heroine together and explain why they fall in love.

    But if her desire is for a home, then you need something else as a relational conflict between Ash and the hero. What keeps them from getting together?


  39. Patty, I think her one big weakness *could* be that in her own personal life as far as relionships, she tends to be blinded to whether someone is faithful and trustworthy maybe.

    That's one option. Thinkin on more....


  40. Lisa, you said:

    ...what if hero has a romantic to contrast her cynicism? When he does something sweet, she'll wonder what he did or what he's apologizing for?

    That's hilarious! That would make for some fun scenes and add tension when she constantly is paranoid about his motives or behavior. Too funny...I'll consider using that after reading more comments.

    Thanks for your input. Great ideas all!

  41. Wow! This is such a cool idea--critiquing in real time for all of us to see! Thank you, Cheryl, for putting your story and ideas on the line. I love the ideas pouring in.

    I'd lean toward making the hero her opposite, also. He could be super-sweet, but maybe he doesn't want his daughter to be around someone so jaded? That could work in some conflict on his part.

    Can't wait to check back!

  42. Patty, I will have to look back but I *think* I had another character (hero I think) whose father battered their mother so I may not be able to repeat that theme.

    But I'll go back through previous books and check because that is a great idea as far as figuring out the hero and what makes him tick.

    Great possibilities being brought up here. You guys are GOOD at this!


  43. Hi Jessica...so sorry about your plothole! That always stinks.

    But hey...I'm not opposed to you bringing it up here and getting input if you want to hear people's opinions.

    This brainstorming doesn't only have to be about me and my story.

    We're just tryin to show you all how more heads are sometimes better than one. I love how you all are coming up with ideas that never would have crossed my mind.

    That's the magic and I'm glad to see it unfolding.

    Thanks for coming to play with us today!

  44. Patty, I love that the hero could admire Ash's strength. It's going to take a special guy to be able to do that.

    I really love that idea.


  45. Leigh,

    You have helped me consider just the opposite. Maybe the guy is skittish of strong-willed women and that he was the one abused is very unique. Love the idea!

    I've had a heroine attorney in Wings of Refuge series but Ash's story will be pitched as part of a new series so I could use that profession for hero if needed.

    But it doesn't have to be that. Could be something else. But since several of you mentioned him being an attorney...I'm considering that.

    What else?

    Having FUN!

  46. Also, in picking a career, I try to stay away from careers that are over-done. I'm thinking I've read a lot of hero ministers and a lot of hero attorneys. Plus I've already done the atty thing so I *may* need him to be something else.



  47. Hi Krista! Thanks for coming by.


  48. Leigh, that is a great possibility for the hero. And even worse, maybe it was someone in his family...his wife perhaps. Perhaps she was murdered after testifying...oooh!



  49. Hi Cheryl:

    A suggestion from the male POV: start with a ‘to-die-for’, problematic, hero and adjust the heroine’s goals to conflict with his.

    How about taking a really big risk? The hero is a former hitman for the mob who is now in the witness protection program and has become a minister in a small church where no one would ever expect to find him. He’s a alpha male, big, handsome, fearless, and now passionate for serving the Lord.

    The conflict: can the heroine love a former killer? When and how does she find out he is in the witness protection program? Does she learn the truth after she has fallen in love with him? When and how does he confess his past? Is the hero sincere or is this all a scam?

    The story could start with the hero dramatically, at great risk to his personal safety, saving a child’s life. Only the heroine witnessed his heroism. He sneaks off before anyone can learn who he is or get a photo of him. This makes the heroine very suspicious and she starts trying to track him down only to ‘discover’ him preaching when she visits the little church on Sunday.

    This could be all about redemption and a quest for forgiveness.

    I think this would be very hard to write as I don’t remember any Love Inspired books where the hero was an ex-hitman. Will editorial forgiveness extend this far? This is the ultimate ‘bad boy’ plot.


    Have you considered an exchange program for critique partners as a way to inject new blood into the group and lessen the possibility of developing a ‘group think’? How would you like an author who writes Harlequin Romances, for example, as a guest CP? These would just be guest appearances. Would you be willing to share a CP from time to time? Just an idea.


  50. I'm loving this great conversation. I feel like a fly on the wall. Thanks for doing this and letting us see you as the wheels turn!

  51. Jessica, I put a story goal into every book and that was advice from Camy. She taught me that an external goal in a romance has to be more than just the hero winning the heroine's heart and vice versa. And it ensures that there's an actual story there outside the romance, which is part of my signature as a writer I think. Of course the goal can't overshadow the romance, but it will drive the story and be the groundwork and foundation for the plot and story arc.

    Camy's advice to me regarding coming up with story goals are that they need to be something measurable and attainable within the timeframe of the story timeline. My books usually span a six month time period for the characters. So my characters' story goals normally are something that must be able to be attained within one year's time.

    For instance if they're getting a degree and that's their story goal, they'd need to be in their last year or close to graduation...that sort of thing so that it's attainable by story's end.

    Camy has great eye for strong story structure and she has taught me so much about external goals. I love brainstorming them with her and Dream.

    Ash's goal could be that she's trying to have a stationary office. So by book's end she either has an immovable base of operations from which to work from or she doesn't. This is just one idea that I could use for her external story goal.

    Her internal goal could be to figure out why she has such a strong sense of restlessness and growing discontent with her job...or at least the International traveling aspect of it. Of course as the author I know that her discontent is partially arising from the fact that God is actively drawing her back into a relationship with Himself and desiring to dispel lies Ashleigh has been believing about Him and healing her of the dissilusionment she suffered when her parents died in Christian service and the supplies never reached those going hungry. She sees it as a senseless act and doesn't understand why God allowed it.

    But she's maybe not aware of the reason behind her growing discontent and restlessness. Maybe she's just attributing it to job burnout.

    Chime in all!



  52. Leigh, you may be right in that it's going to be a challenge to make an abused man not seem wimpy. Of course it took courage to exercise restraint but that is a different twist.

    You all are sparking lots of great ideas. Keep it coming!


  53. Cheryl:

    Maybe one of his children has a problem--in trouble, wanting to go into dangerous work, hanging out with the wrong crowd, whatever--and the heroine could recognize herself in the kid. And help in some way.

    Or maybe the hero is a Christian counselor--and she DOES NOT want to be counseled.


  54. Jessica, Ash does have a weakness for kids. I'd love to know in what way you mean though. Whether she has a fondness for them or an aversion and why.

    She loves her nephews but hasn't really allowed herself to have a driving need for children of her own because her job would make it difficult for her to be a mother due to her extensive travel.

    So that the hero is a single father could clash nicely. LOL!

    Good ideas all!

  55. I'm back! Kids gone, shower taken so I don't stink, and I'm ready.

    Also loving the whole marriage annulment thing. It would make total sense and give really good motivation for her if she married a guy who was already married, and BAM! She's now determined to keep other women safe from slimeballs.

    Still loving the mafia angle. Not so sure about Vince's suggestion of him being an ex hit man. That seems a bit too dark and I'm not sure editorial would go for it. I'd check with Melissa or your agent first.

    So back to the mafia, because that's ALL I thought about in the shower. Showers are great for brainstorming. I really have nothing to add other than I love mafia stories. I'd make them too dark, but you could pull it off. So if not this one, you've GOT to do one. I'm just saying... I will demand a mafia story. I'm too dark, and Camy's even darker. Although... Asian mafia is SO hot. Seriously. And I've never read an Asian mafia romance. Maybe Camy should write one.

    Right, so all I can think about at the moment is hot mafia guys. I'll go back and read comments and come back.

  56. If you're wanting the guy to be the one rooted, I'd suggest he can't be new in town--unless he's returning to his ancestral home. Best case scenario his family has been in the area for generations.

  57. Sarah, thanks for coming. Glad you're enjoying the virtual food! God's best to you in your story. Brainstorming is one of my absolute favorite things to do as far as aspects of writing. I'm glad you have a critique group that you can do this with. You all will have a blast.


  58. I meant weakness in a good way.
    :-) Maybe she protects a kid from something, or helps the kid, and that's how she meets the hero? Only she finds out that the dad somehow is someone she can't trust, yet she loves the kid and the kid really latches on to her.
    Actually, the kid could even be the hero's niece or nephew. Mom killed by dad somehow, maybe not murder, but it was the dad's fault. So this hero who Ash doesn't trust is taking care of a kid who has somehow touched a vulnerable spot in Ash.
    Hey, maybe the kid rescues Ash from someone? LOL
    This is fun stuff. :-)

  59. Ideas I like:

    1. Ash's annulment
    2. Hero's tragic past where he still believes in the absolute goodness of God in spite of it all.
    3. Single father
    4. Her desire for stability... BUT, I think part of her has to fear it as well. Based on what I know of her, I see more of a push/pull. She wants stability, but I think she's also going to wonder if that will really make her happy.
    5. I really like the idea of her investigating him for some reason. I see it as more of an unofficial thing, like Lisa was saying about the grandma, for example (LOVE that idea, BTW).
    6. I'm still rooting for him to be a too good to be true optimist with strong faith that she can't wrap her head around.

    More questions...

    1. What brings them together? So far, I'm not seeing anything that gives them a reason to be in each other's lives.

    A couple of ideas:
    - He's a witness she's relocating to Refuge. Doesn't have to be mafia, but it sure would make my heart go pitter patter. It could be anything.
    -He's trying to find his ex wife because his kid has a health problem and he wants to see if she's a genetic match, so someone in Refuge recommends her and she agrees to find the ex. She's going to do whatever she can to help a kid.

  60. Hi Sandra! I appreciate you coming by. This is fun to do for the three of us so I'm hoping it'll also be fun to watch unfold.

    You guys are getting the info at the same time as Danica and Camy so we're coming up with this stuff right off the cuff...just like we do in the other brainstorms we've done. Only we're doing it "on display" so to speak.

    Julie, we brainstorm every time we get together in the year which is a few times a year like before conferences etc. We're actually going to start doing an actual annual brainstorming retreat too, which will be fun. But anytime we're together, we're talking shop, talking story. We were laughing so hard in Donald Maass's recen't workshop at ACFW because of ideas his questions were sparking...I can't remember when I've laughed so hard.

    And when I shared something I'd written with Danica who was beside me, she about blew a gasket because she knew my character from having helped me form him from scratch. So that we are invested in one another's characters and in each other's careers really helps.

    We brainstorm in person, by phone, my e-mail and by Instant Messaging...you name it. Any method of communication. We do it often...every few weeks or so when one of us runs into a snag or needs revision help, etc. Honestly we probably brainstorm weekly or at least several times a month because we are always working on projects.

    Sometimes we just brainstorm one of us...often it's that way because we're all three always in various stages of our books. For instance, we chose to brainstorm one of my stories today because Dream (Danica) is writing a book for NaNo and Camy is writing a deadline book and so they're past the brainstorming part. But I'm in between deadlines right now and plotting a new series.

    Occasionally we all three brainstorm but normally we just call each other up (and we have our own private group too in which to brainstorm) when we hit a snag and we brainstorm on the spot. That happens several times a month and may only last for a few minutes at a time up to a few hours at a time.

    However, we've also had actual brainstorming retreats and we do set up times to focus on each story then so everyone gets a fair shot and the same amount of time and input and effort devoted to their story without one person dominating the show with their story.

    We're all very considerate of one another in that respect.

    Thanks for coming by!


  61. Oooh, LOVE Valerie's homecoming idea. His family has been in Refuge for generations and he's finally coming home. But why? Dead wife? Wife left him and he needs help?

  62. I like Valerie's homecoming idea, too. That definitely gives him roots.

  63. Walt...another great idea!

    Since the siblings (Ash and Aaron) are from this area or lived in Refuge (story & series setting) at one time, it's entirely feasable that he could be someone she went to high school with or that she knew from early on.

    Thinking cap on and ideas roiling...that's a great suggestion. Thanks!

  64. Ash's profession is dangerous, right? What if she got shot or something in her last assignment and Aaron asks her to come to Refuge to recover and to spend time with her nephews, and the hero is her physical therapist?

  65. Susan...that is a great thought. Him being a minister would definitely set Ash's teeth on edge. LOL! I'm wondering if I could make him in the ministry of some sort but not an actual minister since that might be overdone in LI. But I do love the idea of him being the opposite and if he has a heart for ministry...maybe he runs a soup kitchen or something that challenges her ideals about charities not being able to make a dent much less maximum impact.

    Perhaps inwardly Ash feels overwhelmed by all the crime and poverty in the world and so she toughened herself up in order not to hurt.

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the idea of him being a newly widowed father...but it being long enough that he's willing for another romance. That was Aaron's MO but he wasn't newly widowed so it would be different.

    But that could play in our favor if the hero sees Ash's walls and makes it clear that he understands why she is how she is. Maybe that makes her feel vulnerable to the walls coming down...which she does not want but is what she needs. Hope this makes sense...I'm typing as the thoughts come to me, which is how we work in real-time too.

    Great input! Keep it coming...

  66. Susan! WOW. Another great idea. You said: Another thought, he could be an uncle raising his murdered sister's child. She could have been murdered by an abusive ex-husband. Or again, maybe she was in the witness program and the guy found her anyways and killed her.

    I really love that. I think I like it more than him being a single father..well, he is a father to the little one. Maybe it's a little girl and Ash sees herself in the child, or similar traits. And she remembers what she (Ash) was like before her cynicism and that pulls her back in a poignant, nostalgic manner.

    I really, really like that idea of him being the uncle.

    I'm interested to see what others think of this.


  67. Vince's point on group think:

    Vince, great idea, and you're right, sometimes critique groups can end up with group think. One of the things that makes us work well together is our similarities and differences balance each other out.

    My frequent joke about us is that Cheryl tends to be the sweet, tender nurturer. Camy tends to be the one who tells us to get over it already. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. So we usually balance each other out on most things. Cheryl gives us a heart, Camy gives us a kick in the pants, and I sort it all out. :)

    In terms of writing, the interesting thing I've found is that we all have different strengths and weaknesses. I know when I hand a book to Camy, she's going to look for three things: 1. STRUCTURE 2. MRUs (motivation reaction units- if you haven't heard her talk on it, you need to) and making sure there's enough emotional punch 3. Does it make logical sense?

    When Cheryl gets her claws into my books, she's going to: 1. Make me be less wordy. 2. nitpick anything her editor has ever told her not to do (her greatest strength is taking criticism, learning from it, and applying it to everything) 3. Balance me out.

    I'm not sure what I do for them... give them a hard time?

    I guess my point is that we all have certain strengths and weaknesses that tend to work together nicely. There've been times when I've written something and heard their voices in the back of my head on a particular lesson about writing.

    I should also point out that we do sometimes critique with others. We each have other people who will read our stuff. We've all noticed that other people tend to point out the same things we do for each other, so it lets us know we're pretty much on the right track.

    Speaking of, I do have a face to face group I meet with occasionally, and I need to head out to meet them for a while. Catch you all when I get back!

  68. I hope you all are seeing how ideas thrown out can become a springboard for other ideas. It's like a virtual trampoline here.

    So many possibilities, keep the ideas rollin!

    Don't be afraid to speak up. We won't shoot you down, promise. All ideas welcome.

    We go through many scenarios before we finally stumble upon the story aspects and character goals, motivation and conflicts that finally click.

    Love how this is blossoming. Thanks all! Keep at it.


  69. oooh yeah! Forgot to say LOVE the uncle idea!! Men raising other people's children.... seriously melts my heart.

  70. Great post today! Vince I really liked your idea of a possible hitman turned pastor. It is so intriguing to imagine it. I also really liked Helen's idea of a christian counselor.
    What if he has taken over a family business and she is investigating a close relative of his? That way he has a ton of stability and in the end works with her to help his fallen relative. This is fun! Loving the panera by the way,


  71. If the hero is a divorce lawyer, maybe he's looking at his occupation as being a GOOD thing. He sees it as helping women get away from abusive and/or cheating husbands and helping them find a better life. Maybe his dad was abusive to him and his mom and he only escaped by going away to college; maybe he spent his childhood wishing his parents would get divorced and his mom would take him away somewhere where they could both be safe.

    I once knew an AWFUL woman who was basically a serial mom. (TRUE STORY, she hooked up with a friend of ours.) She would hook up with rich men, have a baby by them and hit them up for outrageous child support payments. She would then leave the kids with her mom in a trailer park somewhere and use the support money to live high on the hog and position herself to attract her next victim. Some of the guys got wise to her and would sue for sole custody and take the kids away from her. Maybe our hero's child is the result of such a liaison? And he took the child and is suing for custody? And the mom hired Ash to track him down and get some kind of dirt on him so she can get even more money out of him? She would make the hero look like the scumbag so Ash would not trust him and think he was not looking out for the child's welfare. Then Ash would find out the truth for herself and be conflicted whether she should keep her contract with her own client or help him get the goods on her client instead.

  72. Dream, that is an excellent point about most people becoming PIs as a secondary career rather than a first.

    I am thinking about why Ash did the opposite.

    This is wonderful for helping me delve deeper into her character and to try to figure her out. Some questions are stumping me which is an alert to me that I need to dig deeper and go back farther into the character's background, because everything Dream and Camy are asking me are things crucial to know, especially since my books tend to be character-driven.

    Okay..onward...to attend more comments and think some of this through.


  73. LOL! Dream know me WELL. I can see what you mean, Dream about the plot being too complex. I have to cull in many of my revision notes and simplify my conflict. And I'm always having to shave thousands of words off at the end. I love that you and Camy know me so well.

    So I think you're right about the jaded thing. Watch the pendulum swing here. LOL!

    Regarding this: a person becoming a PI who exposes extramarital affairs would have baggage that makes her want to expose cheaters.

    Maybe, as mentioned, Ash's baggage comes from having a friend who was battered. OOOH! Idea...their nanny, who became like a second mom to Ash doesn't have a spouse nor is a spouse mentioned. For those of you familiar with Wings of Refuge, this housekeeper of Aaron's is Mina. She's also the head of Refuge's Cupid Posse as she loves to matchmake.

    Maybe it was her who was battered. Maybe she came to work for Aaron partially due to the Witness Protection Program. Maybe she fled for her life from spousal abuse. I've mentioned in previous books that she has a mother and siblings but no children or a spouse. So we have leeway there to play. And there are only a handful of people on earth who Ash truly lets herself love...and Mina is one of them. Mina is a mother figure to Ash and loves her despite that she's struggling in her relationship with God. Ash is drawn to that unconditional love, whether she's aware of it or not.

    I'm thinking it's either a good friend of Ash's or Mina. Maybe Aaron's first wife Donna who was Ash's friend had a sister or someone who was battered and needed an advocate. Maybe Ash saw how the advocate helped that person or Mina and that admiration led her to the PI career, which was a means to become what she truly wanted which was a skip tracer.

    The whold concept of being able to find or hide anyone intrigued Ash because she loves a good challenge and she's highly competative and takes her job seriously. She's also not afraid of the dangers involved, not the physical ones. But she is afraid of the emotional danger should she allow herself to care about too many more people..that's a possibility.

    Another idea is maybe Mina was sent to Aaron via the Witness Protection Program because he or his first (late) wife was somehow in the network and him being an elite leader over three special operations Pararescue military teams made his home safe or something.

    Hence the smoke billowing from my ears....LOL.

  74. Dream, maybe Mina's husband was a cheater....and Ash lived with her through that pain so she saw firsthand the devastation infidelity brings.

    What say you?


  75. Rose...thanks for coming by! I hope it helps.


  76. I can't believe all I missed since I came for a visit this morning. This is great fun!


  77. Okay, I'm jealous. How do those of us w/o any kind of brainstorm support do this kind of thing in a vacuum? What you guys have is so awesome and special. No wonder you guys are successful :)

  78. Hi Jill! OOH! I love the idea that he doesn't want his daughter to be around someone so jaded.

    You gave me an idea I'm very excited about. How about since Ash's nephews new stepmom is a nanny, maybe she's offering or just been hired to watch the hero's daughter in Aaron's home...where Ash is staying for her few monthos of R&R.

    THAT could be my crucible! Meaning the thing that gets the hero and heroine together initially. That would also be what keeps the hero and heroine coming back into constant contact with one another because Ash lives at the home that is a daycare for his daughter, so he'd see her dropping the child off and picking her up. And so they become entrenched in one another's lives by default. YAY! This could work I think. We'll see what the shredder has to say but when you said that it felt like something clicked into place.

    I didn't yet have my crucible, or the thing getting the hero and heroine together. And I think that would add to the hero's endearment if he's protective of his daughter. I LOVE THAT!

    And maybe, like Dream said, he has such a positive attitude that makes Ash want to gag. LOL! That would attest to tension every time they come in contact with one another. But maybe the little girl grows attached to Ash and Ash the girl. OOOOH! Another idea just hit...MAYBE Sarah (nanny) gets ill and unable to work. OOOH! Maybe she finds out she's pregnant but has to go on bedrest and can't do the nanny thing so Ash steps in and everyone's cool with that since she's there at the house and already helping with the boys anyway until Sarah gets better.

    I've had readers request for Sarah and Aaron to have their own children so this would work nicely!

    Maybe Ash is also getting attached to the little girl. Maybe she's adopted from another country too and not the hero's biological daughter...that may be a stretch though or too contrived. But that would take Ash back to a painful place emotionally because her parents devoted their lives to helping orphans in underprivileged countries.

    Just literally thinking out loud here...

    Anybody want to expound on it...go for it.

  79. DREAM! I LOVE The Real McCoy. LOL!

    And I'm loving your ideas about his unwavering trust in God. I think it would really be a credit to his character if he ESPECIALLY has that trust after having experienced a tragedy. I'm thinking that tragedy has to do with his wife.

    That could also be an emotional draw between him and Ash since her best friend who was also her brother's bride and her nephews' mother, died and left Aaron a widower. So maybe she sees a little of her brother in the hero inasfar as knowing the pain and suffering he must have endured with her death. And maybe she died in a crime scenario which would also hit a tender place in Ash.

    Love how we're digging deep into the layers and also adding layers to the story and helping the plot to unfold....

    Thought welcome!


  80. Lisa, thanks for coming by! You have great ideas. My initial caution with making him a former crook is that I'm already gonna be challenged with helping readers to like a heroine who was difficult to love in a previous book. So it might be that I need to save that scenario for a different book...but I'll let others weigh in.

    I do think the idea is interesting though and would make for GREAT conflict.

    Open to all ideas...keep 'em coming!

    You guys are great at this!


  81. Also, another thing I want to point out about our brainstorming is that we tend to just throw tons of ideas out there like we're doing here. We don't really do any kind of culling of ideas until the brainstorming session ends. During the brainstorming, we go into full right brain mode and just throw ideas out no matter how outrageous or tangential because we often get our best ideas that way.

    Later, we'll look at what we got and start thinking logically (left brain) and culling any ideas we know won't work for whatever reason (like if we know a particular idea won't fly with Steeple Hill's readership, or if an idea is against what has already happened in previous books in the series, etc.).

    Dream really is the balancer in our critique group. Cheryl is, I think, the most creative. I'm very logical. The best part about us is that we're not afraid to disagree or argue with each other, so that also keeps us from any kind of emotional group think that sends us off the deep end.


  82. Camy, great feedback!

    And I need to figure out what keeps them from getting together. Perhaps like Vince and someone else mentioned...maybe his family has mob or mafia ties.

    I'm not sure I can have the hero have that himself or be a former mobster since I'm already going to have a heroine who will be harder than normal to help readers love and accept. So I'm still considering that but I'll let that idea simmer on a backburner. But what if someone in his family or his wife was offed by the mob because her father, the hero's child's grandfather, was a mobster.

    I like Vince's idea about making the hero to-die-for.

    Vince, I also love the idea of him dramatically saving a child's life. I normally start my stories with some sort of disaster or chaos so maybe that could be how they meet. Maybe he saves one of her nephews from great harm somehow.

    Great ideas all! Keep the ball rolling.


  83. ROFL about the hot mafia guys! YES, Camy...DO IT! Give us a HAWT Asian Mafia guy. You could pull it off.


  84. Lisa Karon (LOVE your name!) I love that Ash could be attracted to the hero initially. That's totally something that would tick Ash off. LOL! She hates when she can't control her emotions and feelings. That he throws her pulse for a loop whenever he's around her would be so fun to do.


  85. One thing you already have that keeps them from getting together is that the hero is in Refuge for good while the heroine is an international skip tracer, which already gives her no roots whatsoever. The hero is going to fight tooth and nail to keep from falling in love with her AND to keep his kid from loving her too, because he absolutely does not want a wife who's never around.

    And maybe his previous wife OR his mother was never around b/c she traveled a lot for business, and that's another reason he doesn't want to fall in love with her.


  86. Carla, it is so fun being on the receiving end of Camy and Danica's input. I feel so fortunate and thank God for them on a regular basis. My stories wouldn't be what they are without these gals.

    And SOON the entire world will see what Camy and I already know...that Danica is a genius when it comes to writing. She's phenomenal as I'm sure Chip, her agent, can attest to. I can't wait for her to sell...she's totally on the verge I just know it.


  87. Camy, you asked what could keep them from getting together...I'm thinking one thing, reticence from the hero's end, could be like what Jill said...that he doesn't want his daughter around someone so jaded.

    And maybe his daughter had to have counseling after her mother died so her and Ash have that connection maybe. Yet maybe the hero sees that Ash is bitter and cynical because of it and he doesn't want that to rub off on his little girl. I'm wondering how old she should be. Maybe though he also sees that the little girl feels a connection to Ash that she hasn't made with another person since her mother's death...so he knows that, with his positive, trusting outlook that I think we've determined he has, that he trusts God enough to know that Ash is in their lives for a reason whether she picks up on that yet or not, he might. And maybe he trusts too that they're in Ash's life for a reason...meaning Ash sees much of herself in the little girl and it can remind Ash of better days before the cynicism took hold of her and polluted her outlook on life and family and God.

    Hmmmm...loving this and feeling more compassion for Ash with these ideas.

  88. Darci, about finding your own critique/brainstorming group: It takes time and prayer. Cheryl, Danica and I actually met online at the Steeple Hill forum boards many years ago, and we became closer friends as the years went by.

    God can connect you with just the right people. Just be open to different avenues He can use to put those people in your life. For example, Danica has an in-person critique group that just formed in her area, and the timing and the people in that group are totally from God.

    Most often, critique/brainstorming groups form via online connections. ACFW has that large critique group, which is specifically designed so that people can see what others are writing AND also their critiquing styles, so that a writer can pinpoint which people might make good critique partners for themselves, and then hook up with them privately via email. So that might be an option for you.

    Or if there are online writers you tend to enjoy chatting with, or whose posts you like, you might want to ask if they'd be willing to try critiquing together. You never know where you might find a friend. :)


  89. Hi Helen! Thanks for coming by. You know, he COULD be a counselor. Maybe he is not a minister per se but a Christian counselor hired by the local church to start and run a family counseling ministry. That would attest to why he picks up on some of this physchological stuff on Ash and sees past her titanium veneer. Maybe he knows why she has the defence mechanisms she has and did have as a child which helped her cope with the trauma of losing her parents. And maybe that he picks up on that causes conflict because Ash doesn't want to be figured out nor does she want to lose her coping methods or her walls. Thinking....thinking...

    Great ideas!

  90. Camy, maybe another relational conflict could be that the hero wants stability for his daughter and Ash's job and the travel would prevent that since she's gone more than she's home. Maybe he envisioned his new wife as a stay at home mom type or something, someone to actually be there, physically present and emotionally present. And he questions whether Ash could be, yet his daughter forms a fast and deep connection to Ash...and of course there's an instant and shared attraction between Ash and the hero which of course they both have reason to fight. Also, Ash cares about the child enough not to want to let her mind go there as far as contemplating a relationship since she knows she's only on a LOA from work.


  91. Valerie, I like that he could be both new to town yet ancestrally rooted. Maybe he moves here because of the job offer from the church since Refuge claims to live up to its name...so he chooses this job BECAUSE he wants to make Refuge the stable place.

    Share thoughts...


  92. Jessica, I was pretty sure that's what you meant. That is a great twist! That the kid saves Ash. I would love to be able to incorporate that somehow...especially since Ash is so tough and self-sufficient and a renound protector of sorts. That is a FABULOUS idea!

    Now to come up with a scenario...a meet cute or first meeting that would put Ash at the mercy of the hero and his daughter. Maybe the boys are with Ash...and they save their lives somehow. Oh man would that really stretch Ash to have to be helped when she has the boys in her charge. LOL!

    I can't make the story too suspenseful because it's going to be targeted as a Love Inspired and not a Love Inspired Suspense...but I definitely have a lot of disasters in my stories...at least one and it could potentially start the story out.

    Thanks for all the input...

    I'll continue to stew on these ideas and keep working my way through comments..

  93. Dream, I agree with the stuff you like. And that Ash would automatically investigate him would be totally true to character..especially if he has any kind of contact with those she loves, such as him hiring Sarah as childcare for his daughter while he's working.

    That makes total sense and it would be the thing to bring them into each other's lives as well as be the crucible or draw that keeps them coming in one another's lives because Ash lives in the Petrowski home and Sarah does childcare out of the home.

    Let me know if you think this will work and if you like the idea.

    I'm wondering if she should find something in his past...or that might too closely mirror Aaron and Sarah's plot from Soldier Daddy because Sarah had something in her past which is part of why Ash was hostile toward her in the beginning.

    Maybe she expects everyone to have a tarnish in their past and she's having trouble findin his. LOL!


    Carla, can't recall if I said hi! Always great to see you here.

    Okay...more coffe just arrived as did lunch...also courtesy of Paneras. Dig in y'all! All this brainstorming is making me hungry!



  94. Dream the more I think about it the more I also like the uncle idea. That he loves the little girl as his own would endear him I think.

    And Camy is right..our crit group aka brainstorming group formed out of a deep friendship as we all met on Steeple Hill's message boards. We have gotten more honest with one another through the years with the critiques and we really do point out more bad than good in one another's stories because we're all secure in understanding that if we're not picking at it, we like it.

    Pray for God to send you people who will get you as a writer and people who know the genre you're targeting and who will be able to see your strengths as well as your weaknesses because we do all need encouragement. This is a brutal business as far as rejections and believe me the rejections don't stop after The Call. LOL! At least not for the majority of us.

    We are as much of a support group for one another as anything.

    I can always count on the prayers of these ladies. It's to the point with us where God will prompt us to pray for one another if one is going through a tough time and we're not aware of it yet. We have a special bond and I'm so very thankful for it. If I didn't write another word in my life, these ladies would still be my lifetime friends and are two of my very best friends.

    I pray for each of you to have that in your lives and in your writing. That they're STELLAR brainstormers is one tiny splotch of icing on the cake.

    Okay...back to the brainstorm..


  95. Awesome post! I just joined a crit group. Thanks for sharing! I hope to win. God knows I could use a great crit! :)

  96. Also, knowing Camy and her logic and how we balance one another out, I can bet she will be leaning more toward me wanting to run with the aspect of the hero's resistance stemming from the fact that Ash is gone all the time rather than due to the fact that Ash is jaded. It can still be, but probably the former would be a more solid conflict that could sustain the plot for the entire book, especially since Ash's career could be in flux.


  97. Cheryl,
    Good golly, look at all the comments. Way cool!! :-)
    Someone's probably said this already, but I like Danica's idea of the hero being a really good guy.
    Trauma from past? What if he did the exact opposite of what Ash sees happening all the time.
    What if he 'forgave' his wife even after she did something awful, only to have her betray him again...and this pushed him to rely on God more.
    (if he's divorced, the lady could always pop back up again in the story ;-)
    Btw, I love the name Ashleigh (spelled that way). My wip heroine's name is Ashleigh :-)
    Great minds...


  98. Dream is correct in that we don't ALWAYS agree, but much of the time we bring things to the table that the other hadn't thought of.

    One thing that I think I do well is pick up on whether a character is likable or not. That is paramount in a story...that the lead have some kind of draw, some noble traits even if they're not perfect. They shouldn't be too perfect in my opinion.

    Dream brings a lot to the table. She's really great at deciphering character's motivation and coming up with external conflict. External conflict is something that I struggle to come up with.

    Dream can spot a plot hole a mile away. I can pick up inconsistencies in character and sometimes plot if it's a series. Camy is also great at letting us know when are characters defy logic. Characters need to stay logical. My reason for mentioning these things is to show you an example of how we all bring different strengths to the table.

    I have the assurance that if they see a problem they're going to let me know because they care more about keeping me in-contract with my publisher than they care about keeping my feelings intact.

    It hurts to hear hard things about our writing sometimes, but working well together and accepting, craving even, the raw honesty has helped Camy and I and Dream to be able to receive editorial revision notes and agent input regarding our stories. It helped to prepare us to work with editors as did entering contests and working through all variances of critiques from strangers.

    The very funny thing is that we all judged each other's stuff in contests at one time but didn't know it until later...much later after we met. The really funny thing is that we were all TOUGH on one another which is what also drew us. Camy and Dream both have given me my lowest contest scores before and ones that even knocked me out of finaling.

    Once I discovered that, it didn't keep me from having them tear into my work because I eventually understood that their assessments were probably the most accurate of the other judges.

    Hope this makes sense, but what I'm encouraging is that you seek people out who are very honest, as Dream said. This is so very important.

    We still love each other through the shredding. We do it BECAUSE we love each other and want to see one another suceed and for each book to be better than the last. We hold each other accountable to a higher standard with each book I think and that is something that won't change.

    We'll never let each other get a big head or stop growing in craft.


  99. Pepper's idea is really neat--the hero forgiving his wife or girlfriend for infidelity. What a contrast to the losers Ash has investigated!

  100. Dream, your idea about him using her skip tracing to find his ex is an idea I hadn't pondered. But it could be. Thinkin on why he'd need to find his ex wife and the havok that would cause the little girl emotionally.

    That would also be something that would keep them in contact outside of Sarah (Ash's sister-in-law) watching his daughter.

    But since I tend to overplot, that may be too much conflict for the story...depending on what else we come up with. Interested in seeing what Camy thinks because I'm neutral on that one.


  101. I'm not really thinking about if ideas work at this point, I'm just looking for new ideas to throw out there. Later we can cull them, but right now, what's important is coming up with as many ideas as we can. The more, the better!

  102. Okay so we've all agreed on Val's homecoming idea. I love that too.

    What brought him home could be that he got the job at Refuge community church as a ministerial counselor, Christian counselor. So he's not solely a minister like someone who preaches but a certified counselor they've hired to help people in their congregation and who they can refer people to in the community who come.

  103. Remember that you also need something that keeps throwing the hero and heroine together against their will or inclination. Usually it has to do with their careers, but it doesn't have to be.

  104. Heather, I'm glad you're lovin the Paneras and the brainstorming. I am too! I appreciate you coming by and sharing your thoughts.

    EC, that is SO intriguing about the serial mom. LOL!

    I'm thinking that the book will be too hard a sell if I make the hero a crook or former crook even though I love the idea of a crook turned minister. I don't think that will work well for this story for a couple of reasons, but I could be wrong. I'm open to anything still at this point.

    I'm thinking it will make the story too suspensy in tone for one thing. And also, readers will have a hard time justifying falling in love with an ex-con hero I think. That I already have a difficult heroine will be too much of a double whammy I think. So I think I need to keep it simpler and only have one of them be someone I need to redeem. Otherwise, as Camy and Dream can attest to, I will be twenty thousand words over my count trying to tie up those plot threads.

    Ideas I love so far and have decided (unless the shredder gives me good reason to nix) are:

    Single hero dad of a daughter who could be his biological daughter, adopted Internationally or from the foster care system or his niece.

    Hero as Christian counselor.

    Ash having someone close to her who was injured in domestic violence such as Mina (her second mom) or a good friend. This being what drove her to the career she chose.

    I like the crucible being that the hero brings his daughter for childcare in the Petrowski home.

    I like more ideas but that's what's coming to me now.


  105. Thanks Camy,
    I just thought that would be something that would give Ashleigh 'pause' to reconsider all the things she assumes about men.

    Then she makes it part of her mission to find dirt on the guy...Vince, or whoever, and discovers The Real McCoy ;-)

    Of course, just as she starts to believe in this possibility, the ex-girlfriend (first love - whatever), comes back into the picture.

    I don't know. Maybe that's over the top - but it would test how much she really is willing to risk her heart - and Mr...what's his name, will have a bit of dilemma of his own. Drawn to the past, but hope for the future...I don't know. Maybe I need more caffiene. ;-)

    Everyone's comments are so amazing. What a great way to learn.

  106. OOOH! I just saw Camy's idea about her getting shot. I think I will use that because I didn't know how I was going to be able to justify her taking off from work for 3-4 months. I do think I'll use that. YAY! She's on medical LOA but maybe the reason she got shot was she was slipping, and struggling with burnout and restless anyway. So she also takes the opportunity to regroup mentally while she recovers from a gunshot wound. LOVE IT!


  107. Hi Kerri, it IS fun! At least for me. I hope for everyone. LOL! Thanks for coming by.


    Darci, as Dream said...this was years in the making. And we've all been in different crit groups and critted with people other than one another. Another person I often go to is Cynthia Hawkins because she is such an encourager and is able to give me valuable feedback on my characters. If I don't change something she has suggested, and often if I disobey someting Camy and Dream have pointed out, my editors inadvertanly mention it.

    This has happened so many times that I learned who to listen to crit-wise. That's one reason I now gravitate soley toward those three because their input so closely mirrors what I receive in editorial input so I know that most of what they say is on target.


  108. I like the idea of Mina having been a victim of domestic violence. She's such an integral part of Aaron's home that Ash would be protective of her and would go into protecting other battered women because of her experience.

    Hero bringing daughter in for childcare at Ash's brother's home--just a thought, is that a strong enough crucible?

    Pepper has an interesting idea of Ash investigating hero. Maybe she sees something that seems to contradict his words about forgiving his unfaithful wife/girlfriend, so she investigates. Just a thought.


  109. If you like the idea of her being shot, then hero can either be physical therapist or maybe PTSD counselor, but I think you had PTSD in a book before, so that might not work. I personally like the physical therapist angle b/c it forces them to keep seeing each other.

  110. Martha, glad you're here! Your name's in the pot.

    Pepper! Like Camy, I LOVE that idea, that twist of him forgiving. That would totally throw a wrench in Ash's reasoning. LOVE IT! There needs to be tension on every page and that definitely could be an underlying current of tension between hero and heroine.



  111. Okay - farfetched idea but...
    What if Vince's exgirlfriend/wife used to be a client of Ash's? people can lie about domestic abuse, can't they?

    Okay - this is addictive. I've gotta stop ;-)

  112. OOOH! Camster, I love that his e or late wife (need to decide which...lol) wasn't around. Love it. That would totally help justify why he's fighting falling for her.

    Love it!

    This is going along nicely..


  113. Camy, if it was his mom who was never around, that would justify why there aren't grandparents in the picture for him to rely on for childcare for his child or niece.

    I now need to think of which idea I like better because they're both GOOD. LOL!

    It's easier to do a process of elimination with ideas that won't work or don't seem right than it is to choose between two or more GREAT ideas. Lots to choose from!


  114. Camy I just did a physical therapist, well an occupational therapist in another contracted book so I think that would be too close to the other plot. But I'll still take the idea down because at this point nothing is set in stone.

    I do think we need to come up with more of a crucible to strengthen the other one. But with LIs word count and me not having to put a suspense arc in there, that childcare crucible could be plenty since that will cause him to see her day in and day out...especially if I put Sarah in some kind of distress. Maybe she's pregrant when story opens and then commits to childcare and then something happens so she's on bedrest and she and Aaron asks Ash to help out since the hero already moved here for the job and depended on their childcare.

    But he'd have to feel safe with Ash and be agreeable to that. Hmmm..thinking....


  115. The childcare angle, however, might be too close to the nanny theme in Soldier Daddy.

  116. Pepper, that's not a bad idea. Maybe he and Ash have a history and maybe she had him arrested then he was cleared or the wife or fiance admitted she lied. LOL!

    That would definitely add to the conflict. But I'd still need to make him okay with her watching the little girl I think.

    Ideas still simmering...


  117. I like the thing about hero's mother not being around enough b/c of work, and now both his parents are dead and he's not going to have a wife who's never around for his daughter. You're also right in that it would explain why the kid's grandparents are not around for the story.

  118. How about if the hero gets a job as a physician's assistant to Ash's surgeon who operated on her to remove the bullet? My knee surgeon had a physician's assistant and I saw her every time I went to see my surgeon. Only problem is that I didn't see my surgeon all that often.

    Or maybe Ash has to go to a gym for physical therapy and the hero is a personal trainer who works at that gym?


  119. Wow, there's a lot going on here. And I only touched the tip of the iceburg (I know, cliche allert).

    First, let me just say that I thought Ash was a very strong character and wondered who she'd end up with if you wrote her own story. So glad you are!!

    Now, I've read to the point where you're thinking of finding her someone who is settled in one place. But if you open the book with her taking a hiatus because she's playing with the idea of switching jobs, settling down, then where is the conflict in that?If settling down is on her mind, then wouldn't her falling for someone who is a traveller, cause more problems than one who is settled, which is where her life seems to be heading?

  120. Oh, that's true about the nanny. I might need to nix that unless I can make it work and spin it so that it's vastly different from Sarah. Maybe make it short term so it's known that it's only temporary that Ash is helping them out in a bind. Maybe she and the hero knew one another prior and had some kind of falling out as has been suggested.. so Ash's offering to step in temporarily to assist would catch the hero offguard. Also I'd need to justify why Mina (who also lives in the Petrowski home as housekeeper) can't step in. Readers knew from Soldier Daddy that her BP was climbing too dangerous of altitudes to partake in childcare. That *might* be enough to justify it.

    Hmmm...thinking on the PT aspect. I know a military guy who was a PA Physician's Assistant) who got deployed. So that could help me stay true to my brand for military and rescue romance if he's back from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and ends up being her PA and personal trainer. Plus maybe he has a daughter. Maybe his wife left him when he was overseas. Not sure if I like that idea better than him being a counselor. Or which type of hero would be best for Ash.


    Also, I've had a lot of medical traumas in my previous books and lots of PT and some of my editorial revisions have veered me away from overusing that theme. So the PT angle may not work because I've had injuries often and used that as a crucible. I'm thinking I need to veer away from that to keep from repeating themes...

    Other ideas of situations or a career that keeps throwing the hero and heroine together against their will or inclination, post em here. LOL!


  121. Eileen, hey! I'm glad you connected with Ash.

    Since you've read Aaron's story, feel free to chime in on what kind of a hero you think would be a good match in draw and conflict for her. Even if it's nothing like what we've mentioned here. The thing about this brainstorming is we throw ideas in and out on an ongoing basis. Nothing's set in stone.

    It did cross my mind about the conflict dissolving once Ash figures out that she needs a career change. So I'm thinking her initial story goal is just to take a vacation so she can battle and figure out the burnout and discontent and restlessness she's been feeling. She may not know right away that she needs a career change, so that conflict can sustain for a little while at least.

    You're right in that the moment she figures out she wants a career change, the conflict is resolved.

    So that can't be her main story goal (career change) if I'm going with the angle of the relationship conflict being rooted by the fact that she travels with her job and he wants a mate who's stationary.

    So maybe we should make her story goal be different, like use the injury. She thinks she's come to Refuge to recover from a bullet wound and comes to see that God brought her here to heal in other ways. So her goal changes at some point in the book. But the fact that her job is dangerous and could take her out of the counrty could always be in the back of the hero's mind.

    Great points! Excellent.

    It crossed my mind to have the hero start a shelter for battered women but most of those are run by women because of the womens' mistrust in men. IF I could manage to make it convincing, conflict could arise from that Ash doesn't believe in shelters because they're stationary. Maybe her batter friend was found and murdered because it's easy to find womens' shelters if an abuser is deadly intent on finding it. The other thing is that could have made Ash want to be a PI turned skip tracer because she would want to be able to make people disappear, not find temporary shelter. But move them far away and give them an entirely new identity as skip tracers sometimes do, so she can ensure that the batterer will never be able to locate the victim.

    I like that idea but I'm not sure it's feasible for a man to run or own a shelter for battered women.

    Hmmm....shooting down my own ideas here. LOL

  122. Camy, another positive thing about hero if we were to make him a personal trainer is that we'd have two strong personalities clashing. LOL!

  123. Technically I'm unplugged this week, but I stumbled across this awesome session and had to chime in!

    Thanks for sharing a refreshing approach in critiquing a work in progress, I love the input straight out of the gate. Saves time and tweeking later.

    I'll be poking around...

  124. And a personal trainer is much different than a PT. I do know that physicians will sometimes forgo ordering postop PT IF they know the patient is physically active or has means and drive to work out and access to a gym. So I'm liking your idea the more I think about it.

    Plus the hero would be BUFF which would attract Ash to no end. LOL!


  125. And maybe she sees his tender side when he has his daugher, niece with him at the gym....

  126. What if the hero was Aaron's friend? or developed a friendship with Aaron?
    Then, if Ash is wounded and recouping (i'm guessin at Aaron's house) that would toss them together a lot.
    Probably not enough, though, i guess.

  127. Oh my goodness! I usually read this blog so much earlier in the day. I waited because I knew it would be really good today but...

    Honestly, I'm a little lost after 100+ comments in speed read mode. But here are my thoughts:

    Could the hero be the brother of someone Ash helped to go into hiding?

    Maybe he specializes in helping guys who batter hang on to paternal rights?

    I think a few people suggested a Christian counselor, which was my third thought. Or, some type of mediator. Perhaps he had (or knows of) a bad/abusive experience in his past, yet he still trusts God? And this makes Ash want to clean her teeth with a Brillo pad?

    I think someone also suggested that Ash might have gotten involved in PI/domestic abuse cases as a 1st career by way of helping a friend. Maybe it was fairly early in her adulthood, or even as a teen, and she had no idea what she was doing, and things didn't work out quite as hoped for the friend, so in addition to wanting to help these women, she also has a sense of guilt for which she must atone?

    I'll try to keep up for the next hour or so. :)

  128. Honey... I'm home!!!

    Wow, these are a lot of comments. As Camy mentioned, we tend to toss out a lot of ideas at once and then sort through them. We're starting to get to the point of being done with the tossing out and now we need to sort them out.

    Right now, I'm on the phone with Cheryl and we're doing some of the sorting out. So if you could please hold off on further comments of ideas for a bit, we're going to summarize what we like. Once we've posted them, we'll let you know and you can start shredding. :)

    That's pretty much how we do it. Toss it out, sort it, put it together, then shred some more.

    Another thing I want to mention is that we do spend time on the phone talking through a lot of this. There's so much that doesn't translate online and in type and can get missed. Part of why she and I are the phone right now is because I like hearing her vocal reaction to what we're talking about. I can pick up that she sounds more excited about an idea that she may not yet notice.

  129. Everyone...off subject but please pray for two boys in our local school. They swerved to miss a deer after leaving school grounds and collided with a fire hydrant and then had a head on collision with a tree is the story I'm hearing. One teen has a concussion and the other was airlifted with a life-threatening head injury and bleeding. Please pray for him and his family as they're not sure he's going to live. Everyone's understandably upset but I know that God can turn this around and save his life.

    Thanks all!


  130. Here's what we have narrowed it down (we think!) so far:

    1. Hero's name is Something McCoy. Cheryl actually liked The Real McCoy and it looks like we had some comments showing others resonated with it.

    2. Hero is going to have a positive outlook in terms of fully believing in the goodness of God. Ash has a hard time accepting that. No one could possibly be that happy or content. One of the comments Cheryl made earlier (which I think sums it nicely): Maybe she expects everyone to have a tarnish in their past and she's having trouble finding his. LOL!

    3. His sister was in witness protection and killed, that would make him wary of Ash because it doesn't always work out. Witness protection is supposed to protect people, but it didn't protect his sister. So he doesn't believe her way of thinking and protecting people from the bad guys is always the answer. Sometimes you just have to trust God. Ash doesn't understand how he can trust in God after what happened to him. When his sister was killed, he got her kid and is raising her kid. His love for his sister reminds Ash of her relationship with Aaron. Which is why she can't understand why he's so forgiving over his sister's death. How can he be at peace when someone he loved so much was taken?

    4. The series, which Cheryl didn't mention yet, is going to be called The Heart of Refuge, and it's about all the people who make up the heart of the community and support services. Having the hero run a soup kitchen in Refuge fits this concept nicely. He runs a soup kitchen in Refuge, and even though she's started sponsoring a child, she still doesn't know if it's making a difference. She's still jaded about his work. Is he really making a difference in these people's lives? It's the same people week after week.

    5. The Real McCoy. She's not going to be able to believe or accept that he's the real deal. No one could possibly be that content. He has to be hiding something. Especially after being duped by her former husband/fiancee/boyfriend/conman whatever, she feels like she should have seen it coming, should have known, and now she's unwilling to trust anyone. Her first love ended up being married, and she was snowed. She blames herself for being snowed, and doesn't trust anything that looks too good to be true. (Right now, Cheryl is leaning towards fiancee or boyfriend. She's not sure she likes Ash having been married. I'm not sure I'd buy her getting married without telling Aaron).

    6. Things we all really like and almost definitely want to use:
    - He's raising his sister's child
    - This is a homecoming for both him and Ash.
    -He is very positive and has a deep faith in God's goodness.

    7. Things we like and want to use, but need to flesh out more:
    -Mina's domestic violence background.
    -Ash is home due to an injury and looking for a new line of work.
    -Sarah is watching hero's child. This one needs more work because if she's pregnant and on bedrest (which is AWESOME!), why is she still doing it? And, as Camy mentioned, is it enough? This one, we need to play with more because Camy tends to overcomplicate and Cheryl tends to oversimplify... :)
    -Another Sarah angle. What if hero is working with her to get her advice on how to make the soup kitchen more child friendly? To make it more than a soup kitchen, but a community center where children can come and be safe?

  131. How dare they make me shorten my posts?

    I JUST thought of this, so this is not something I discussed with Cheryl. She had to talk to her niece about something, so she has NO idea!! Tee Hee...

    We've already thrown out there that him putting together a women's shelter thing would be problematic because the women may not trust a man. But... what if, in his soup kitchen stuff, he's looking for a security consultant to make sure everyone is safe and there aren't any violence issues? AND what if he needs background checks on the employees? He knows Aaron somehow? and since Ash is in town with nothing better to do, Aaron recommends they work together. Even though Ash thinks he's a lunatic, she's going to help him because she's hoping to uncover the truth about him while working together. Surely he'll let something slip...

  132. Pepper, that's another option..him being Aaron's friend.

    Patricia, LOL about the Brillo pad. I love the idea of Ash having helped someone in a DV situation and that having gone south. That's great motivation to her career.

    As Dream mentioned, we chatted on the phone, but so you all stay in the know and live with this, I was basically catching her up on comments. We will post everything we discuss so you don't miss anything.

    Dream likes to brainstorm by phone but I prefer to do it on e-mail because if I write it down, I remember. If I don't write it down, it's gone. LOL!

    So she's right now making some notes that she will share which I will respond to here in the comments so you can see another phase of the brainstorm where we enter the phase where we start to make some difinitive decisions.

    As Camy mentioned though, nothing is set in stone yet. But we will make a notation for those joining us late...a summary of sorts so folks don't have to go back and read back through over a hundred comments. LOL!

    You've all been great so far and I hope you're learning stuff. Dream and I will continue the brainstorm here, live in a bit after she has written a Word doc summary of what's gone down and things that have remained from stuff we've sifted through.

    Bear with us, more to come!

    Hugs all!

  133. Cheryl, I'm so glad you posted about those kids. That's what got us off the phone just a second ago. :(

  134. Phew! Got all that out. One of the things regarding strengths and weaknesses is something I just showed. Cheryl's weakness is remembering stuff. If it's not written, she won't remember it, so we always try to help her by writing it down and emailing to her after we've discussed. My strength is that I'm good at summarizing for her and picking out common threads of what she likes.

    Another fun thing about how we work together is how we respond to rejection. When I get a rejection, Camy will say, "gee that sucks, now get over it and write something else." Cheryl will say, "oh, I'm so sorry, let's pray." I tend to do a little of both. So we all give some needed perspective.

  135. Great ideas! I like how it's meshing together.

    My one concern at this point is that there isn't a good reason to keep throwing them together, there's no romantic crucible. There's no reason why Ash can't just give up and walk away. Ideally, for a good story, she has to have no choice but to keep being thrown together with hero.


  136. Dream, yay! Thanks for putting everything in summary.

    I have not seen that before and I like the idea of him consulting with her and the security consultant. I'm not clear on whether that's related to the soup kitchen or his particular role or why he'd need to have a security consultant unless it's for the people who receive food at the kitchen...but not sure that'd be in his role. Will have to chew on that. Like that Ash thinks he's a lunatic...she totally would. LOL!

    And I actually do tend to overplot according to my editors who have encouraged me to simplify, otherwise the plot threads overshadow the romance. LOL!

    I usually end up needing to cut one or mostly several plot threads aka conflict from the book.

    Our main focus needs to stay on the romance development between the hero and heroine for Love Inspired rather than the ancillary plot. But what we're doing here is determining a story that willl carry the romance. So all this brainstorming will hopefully serve to help us come up with a suitable suiter for Ash.

    So much work into one hero...this guy is gonna be worth it. LOL!

    Knowing characters well will help the writing of the story too. I almost always know my characters before I know my plot. My plots arise out of my characters and their careers which is why we're spending so much time on the hero. This is, for me, a must-know before starting the story.

    So anyway, feel free to continie tossing ideas out.

    I love what our hero is becoming so far. Keep up the great work, guys! Once we determine & nail down the hero's career and why he is in Refuge, our plot will present itself I think.



  137. I also wanted to chime in about how we all found each other. We met about six years ago on the Steeple Hill message boards and have been friends ever since. We've always liked and respected each other, but it did take a few years for us to really click and be as close as we are.

    I remember thinking years ago about this very subject, how it seemed like so many authors had these really close friendships. I didn't have anything like that. I kept asking and praying for people like that in my life and it didn't seem like it was happening. I knew Camy and Cheryl at the time, but it just took time for the relationship to deepen and gel.

    I think the key is to just find a place to get involved and start building relationships with the people around you. The Seekers are a great example of how it happened as well. They had a lot in common, kept running into each other, and Voila!

    Camy's suggestion of the ACFW crit groups is a great place to start. That way you find a group of writers you mesh with. Also, if you do like Steeple Hill books, the message boards are a great place to get to know folks. We've had a lot of great writing partnerships and friendships form there. If you're not into Steeple Hill, I'm sure you can find other groups of people who write what you like. You could even try the ACFW message boards.

  138. Camy, I'm thinking I really like her being forced into R&R and Refuge, her brother's house, is always where she comes to recuperate.

    I think I like the gunshot would angle but make it so it's not severe enough to prevent her from interacting with the children. Yet she can't work and was encouraged maybe by her superiors to take a vacation. So that's why she's in Refuge for physical and mental R&R.

    Or it could be that Sarah agreed to watch the hero's daughter who is really his niece but then is put on bedrest and Ash offers to step in.

    The very fact that he has to drop the child off and pick her up twice a day five days a week is crucible enough for a LI I think. Otherwise I'm going to be pushing the outer limits of my word count.

    Thinking back to most other LIs I've read and taking into consideration editorial notes on other stories I've turned in, it can be something as simple as that as long as it's on an ongoing basis. The thing that keeps putting them together time and time again. If the Petrowski home is the childcare and Ash temporarily lives there would be enough.

    But just in case we need to connect them other ways too, we could have Ash offer to watch the little girl when Sarah becomes incapacitated after committing to watch the little girl since the man uprooted himself and his niece to return to Refuge.

    He could have a career outside the soup kitchen...I'm thinking that Sarah could have volunteered to assist him with a soup kitchen. Someone mentioned an inheritance. Maybe he came to Refuge Community Church as a staff counselor or a referral counselor but also in his spare time and with his money he opened a soup kitchen that Sarah planned to help with.

    Another thing that could keep hero and heroine coming together would be the hero coming to the Petrowski home on weekends to plan the soup kitchen. Doesn't have to be a soup kitchen either...it could be a program for children of deployed military...say a tutoring program or a program to help them with school supplies or winter clothes, that sort of thing so it also has a 'support the troops' theme, which could also be why Aaron asked him to come.

    I think it's reasonable that Aaron could know him well yet Ash not so well since her job took her out of the country for months at a time.

    I have to be careful not to overplot as I'm prone to doing. So I honestly think the childcare angle could be enough of a crucible to carry the plot. Yet I want a back up just in case it's not. LOL!

  139. Tamika, welcome!

    Figuring out how to entrench my heroine and hero in one another's lives. LOL!


  140. I think I got it all!

    Camy's right about the romantic crucible. I don't think we have it quite yet.

    But the romance angle is something we haven't discussed yet. We see what makes them clash, but what do they LOVE about each other? Or grow to love about each other?

    Now I'm on the phone with Camy. She's away from her computer, so she asked me to type this in. Gee, you'd think I was a secretary or something. ;)

    What if Ash got arrested for something? Like she's helping a female client escape from a mean husband and he has Ash arrested for interfering somehow? So Ash has to serve community service. And she ends up having to do her community service at the soup kitchen.

    That said, Camy isn't sold on the soup kitchen idea yet.

    Anyone else have thoughts now that we've got the summary up?

  141. I'm just sort of peeking into this, but after reading the comments, I'm wondering, "Where is the romance part of the story?"

    What is going to make the reader believe that these two are absolutely meant for each other? Why do they fall in love? What makes Mr. McCoy different from any other guy in town?

    =) Just something I was wondering.

  142. Hi Courtney...GREAT question and one we will need to tackle as soon as we figure out exactly who our hero will be. LOL! We're still at that stage.

    The romance in a Love Inspired MUST be paramount as I mentioned before.

    Most of the time when Camy and Dream and I brainstorm, I have a pretty good idea of who my hero and heroine are. But not in this case. So we're laying the groundwork for actually deciding who our hero will be.

    Ash is such a strong character, it's going to take a special guy. LOL!

    So we're throwing out ideas as to who will be the hero for her story at this point and doing that live, in real-time so you all can glimpse how an interactive brainstorming session works.

    Once we determiine who our hero will actually be, we will delve into why they are meant for each other. The questions you asked are totally valid and definitely something the editors will want to be able to determine when they read the proposal. Great job! You have a strong feel for romance novels...that's great!

    Your questions will all be ones that need to be answered pretty soon after we determine who our hero will actually be.

    At this point, we don't even actually know who the hero is and I don't just mean his personality. He doesn't have a name yet other than McCoy as his last name. That's the only for-sure that we know.

    So feel free to toss out ideas...even if we don't know who he is yet, we can be thinking about what will bind them together.

    Great job!


  143. I see. :0) Well, y'all are doing a great job brainstorming. Lots of possibilites!
    As for a first name, um...I like Nolan. Haha!!

  144. ROFL! What if Ash was helping a woman to get away and he found them and Ash beat him up. ROFL!

    But as an International skip tracer who works for the govt, I'm not sure with jurisdiction issues how we could make that plausible for her to be sentenced to public service in Refuge unless her superiors don't disagree with her actions but to appease the courts tell her to lay low and serve in community service or something. Maybe she was injured when he shot or stabbed her and, like the brave officer at Fort Hood, she chased him down despite being wounded and attacked him, maybe pistol whipped him or something.

    That would totally be something Ash would do...she's got that sort of Moxie...

  145. I do agree about soup kitchen...I think that's over done.

    Maybe rather than soup kitchen it could be some sort of outreach to miltiary families, especially maybe to children of deployed servicemen and women.

    Keep ideas comin!

  146. We're on the phone again. Ash has a problem with the fact that Aaron forgave the drunk driver who killed his wife. She really has a problem with the fact that the hero has forgiven the person who killed his sister.

    We are discussing the possibility that the hero's sister was killed by her husband.

  147. Courtney...LOL! I love Nolan too...too bad I've already used it in A Soldier's Reunion...

    Bring other ideas! This dude needs a name!


  148. Okay, I worked all day, and you guys wrote a BOOK in the comments section.

    I've got to head to the nursing home, so I just skimmmed....really skimmed.

    Danica said: Camy will say, "gee that sucks, now get over it and write something else." Cheryl will say, "oh, I'm so sorry, let's pray."

    Oh, you know them so well, Dream! lol I can even hear their voices in my head when I read that!

    Luv you guys!

  149. What if he has a prison ministry? Ash is busy putting the losers away (in her mind) and he's trying to save them. She thinks they did the crime, deserve the time, and can't believe he sees anything valuable in them.

    What if he runs a halfway house? It's the stopping off point between jail and being free. He works with transitioning inmates back into society. She's mad because she put them away and they're getting out on early release. She hates that he's helping criminals get back on the street.

  150. Coy McCoy
    Leroy McCoy
    Troy McCoy


    Names, names...

    Need a good first name for our boy McCoy.

    Hubby is beside me saying, Rufus, Billy Bob, Billy Jo...NOOOO!!!!

    We need a GOOD name. LOLOL! See...lots of laughter and joking goes along with these brainstorms.


  151. Hero names, courtesy of Cheryl's hubby:

    Bobby Joe

    I'm thinking here... where's my baby name book when I need one?

    Something McCoy


    Cheryl likes Colin... peanut gallery?

  152. Pam...have fun at the nursing home. I'm so glad you go.

    COLLIN McCoy! Dream just said it on the phone....tell me what you all think.

    Collin McCoy...sounds a bit Irish. I like it.

    Everyone...speak up if ya hate it. LOL!

  153. ROFL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Cornelious McCoy...

    What a hot!


  154. I think I just made Cheryl aspirate something, she's laughing so hard.

    I LIVE for those moments...

  155. CACKLING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    That was supposed to say HOOT. What a hoot.

    Dying laughing.........

    My eyes are about to explode. I'm serious...I am laughing SO hard.

    Too funny.

  156. SOMETHING McCoy!

    Let's name him SOMETHING.

    Or not. LOL.

    Dream suggested the hero and heroine have a joke in there about naming their first child Cornelious...Corn for short.

    Corn McCoy.

    Oh these poor characters and what we subject them to.

  157. PUHLEAZE... it wouldn't be corn, it would be CORN-Y. If you hadn't been cackling so hard, you'd have heard the "y". Because seriously, you don't get more Corny than this!!!

  158. Would it mess up the entire plan is McCoy's sister was under protection and that's what brings the hero/heroine together. He sees how good she is at her job, she sees what a good guy he is with his sister and neice/child...whichever you choose?

  159. btw, I thought his name was Real McCoy. Is there a problem with that?

  160. I thought after Corn and Rufus, anything was possible ;-)

  161. Pepper, at this point nothing is set in stone. We're still at the tossing-ideas-out-there stage...so your idea is totally workable. Totally.

    I'm gonna go eat dinner and think on it some more...I like your idea. And his sister doesn't have to be dead...but I need to justify how he has guardianship of the child and not her...unless we revert back to the child being his biological.

    Anything goes at this point.

    All we know for sure is that his name is Colin McCoy and that there is a young female child involved. Everything else is up for grabs.

    Regardless of what we end up choosing to do...I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea you said:

    He sees how good she is at her job, she sees what a good guy he is with his sister and neice/child...whichever you choose?

    And plan to incorporate that in their attraction and growing relationship. Nice job! Love it.

    C--off to eat. Will be back.

  162. Collin McCoy--sounds like a winning name to me! I've picked up many a book and read the names of the main characters and thought, "Seriously? THAT'S the name you chose????" Bad names are a big turn-off for me.

    But I LOVE Collin McCoy!

  163. Last thing before I head off to feed the herd.

    Elijah McCoy? called Eli

  164. If you're going with the Real McCoy, then why not stick with a first name that begins with R that would feed into the nickname Real. Rodney, Richard, Rick, Ryan, Robert, Ross, Randy.... how about Reese "Real" McCoy? Just a thought!

    Thanks for letting me join in today. This has been loads of fun.

  165. Or...what if his first name is McCoy. LOL!

    Honestly I don't get attached to my working titles because they normally get changed if the book gets contracted. But I do like The Real McCoy. Of course marketing may not think so if I pitch this story and the editors love it. Will be interesting to find out.

    I'm generally terrible at titles and am thankful someone else inputs ideas for titles that will sell well.

    The Real McCoy would be cute though so I'll keep it as my working title at least.
    Dianna...thanks for spending time with us! We enjoyed having you.


  166. Just so you know, the name "Trigg" is norse for 'true'

    Trigg McCoy ;-)

  167. Cheryl, I've been reading the posts and have a few thoughts.

    I'm thinking about the conflict factor. If Ash is someone who has to be in control, she needs a hero whose life if out of control(but in a good way.) And if she wants roots, a home, a family, then the hero has to be moving in the opposite direction--maybe he's someone who has been responsible all of his life, stepped in to take care of his sister's kids after she died of an overdose or something and now, he wants to get out of town, let loose and follow his dream which may lead him to the mission field or something. (Just tossing stuff out here.)

    That way when Ash starts questioning his motives behind the kids, he may not want to bring up his sister's death in front of the kids. Ash will think the worst and starting digging which will be insulting to this hero's responsible nature.

    Still thinking. . .

  168. OH my goodness. I'm watching a special on Laverne and Shirley reruns on the Bio channel and for some reason it's reminding me of my friendship with Camy and Dream and our brainstorming sessions.

    I can't believe I forgot about that show! We watched it every day when I was little.

    Okay...back to brainstorming.

    Love Trigg! Wow. Trigg McCoy. Colin McCoy. Trigg McCoy. Collin. I think I still might be leanining toward Colin or Collin because I like the cadence of the two "ck" sounds. CKollin MckCoy. But I love the name Trigg too and the meaning behind it is sublime.

    Still pondering the girls' ideas about hero hosting a halfway house. That would definitely provide conflict between Ash and Colin.

    Patty, I'm mulling over those ideas. My first inclination is that he might be hard to endear if he's trying to come out from underneath his responsibilities. Wondering if you might mean that he's doing this after the kid or kids are older and living on their own.

    Him wanting to go on the mission field would definitely repel Ashleigh since her parents died on the mission field. That'd be great conflict but I'm not sure how I'd work it if the child in his care is young. He'd have to think of her first and foremost I think.

    Love that you all are tossing out ideas...keep it up.


  169. Cheryl,
    If Ash is mid-30's, I was thinking a 40ish guy, maybe the only male to a older sister who had to raise her kids when she died/abandoned them. They're off at college or better yet, the youngest is getting ready to graduate and once she leaves the nest, Collin McCoy decides it's time to live the life he always wanted(which he thought was being a missionary.) But meeting Ash has changed that and he's wondering what God wants for him--the mission work he'd always planned on or a life with Ash.

    Thanks for letting me brainstorm with you guys--it's one of my favorite parts of laying out the story!

  170. Wow. I waited until way too late to be able to catch up. But I made it through most of the comments. Very fun and interesting! Thanks, ladies, for sharing a session with us! Cheryl, this is going to be another great book.

  171. Wow, what a lesson we've had today! It's so fun to see all the ideas popping.

    Some thoughts to add to the mix -- you mentioned at one point about trying to figure out the niece's age. Patty suggested college-age, but I've been picturing a smaller child through all the ideas. If you want her to be changed or influenced by being around Ash, I was thinking maybe as young as 8 or 9. Our daughter is 8 and it amazes me how quickly she picks up on other people's attitudes and behavior patterns.

    Case in point -- we went camping with friends a couple of weekends ago and one of the families has a daughter the same age. Only 2 days of playtime, and we had to detox DD of the extra sassiness and disrespectful attitude she acquired. Knowing her usual personality makes watching her act that way even more intolerable -- because we know she knows better. Seeing bits of Ash come out of the child could drive Collin crazy until he starts seeing the good sides too.

    Also - I like the idea of Collin being involved in some kind of community effort for military families. Our church collects school supplies for the teachers at a local elementary school, so maybe it could be something like that. Or he could help oversee some type of mentoring program that Ash decides to get involved with -- and is amazed to see a different side of Ash when she's working with the kids.

    OK, now that I've spent half the night catching up on comments, it's back to work.


  172. holy smokes! this would be awesome to do ALL the time (i'm talking about the brainstorming....but the crit giveaway is cool, too). i *wish* i had something like this all the time. as it is, i have awesome (but rare) conversations on the phone with my crit buddy...using her as a sounding board for plotting help. *sigh*....all this is great stuff.
    charactertherapist (at) hotmail (dot) com
    The Character Therapist

  173. So fun! I had a great time today. Thank you all for being a part of this. As you can see, we didn't tie up all the ends. Just enough that Cheryl's got some direction to think about and pray about. Part of Cheryl's process (and I'm the same way) is that she's going to have to dig in and write part of it and then go back and sort some of it out. Camy, on the other hand, would need this all plotted out before she started writing.

    In fact, that's one of the things Cheryl and I talked about on the phone. Just writing part of it to figure out some of the details we've been going back and forth on.

    There's no right or wrong way to critique as long as you do it in a way that respects the other people and their processes. Do what works for your group. This is what works for us. Hopefully you can take away something from our process that you can use. We're always learning, always growing, and always evolving. Today on the phone, I learned something new about Cheryl. :)

    I love these gals to pieces, and I am so glad we're on this journey together. It doesn't mean we don't disagree, get irritated with each other, or issue the occasional death threat, but we do love each other and we're committed to helping each other grow as people and writers. Cheryl was absolutely right when she said we're invested in each other's careers. Their successes, joy, failures, disappointments, and everything else are just as dear to me as my own.

    It doesn't happen overnight, and I wish I could tell you all about the heartaches I went through along the way, but these gals are an answer to my prayers. My prayer for you all is that you'll find a group who can love and support you the way we do for each other.

  174. Excellent day, guys! I really appreciate that you all jumped in with your thoughts and questions along the way.

    Danica's end post made me all teary-eyed...and curious. I'm wondering what new thing she learned about me. ROFL!

    So I have a nice start here considering I knew NOTHING about Colin McCoy when we started. He was merely a glob of dirt in my mind when we started but now that glob has started to take on the shape of a human...thanks to all of you.

    I'm getting ready to do the drawing since it's Midnight CST here...drum roll please....


    See next comment for winner of the critique.

    Thanks for spending time with us today. If you all have questions or comments, by all means list it here or e-mail me privately at cheryl[@]cherylwyatt.com

    Thanks all!


  175. I am laughing my heart out right now...they're talking about our brainstorm on Twitter.

    Captain Caffiene says: 3 words for ur brainstorming-Amish Pararescue Jumper. Weaves his own parachute.


    Okay...today's critique winner is Dianna Shuford

  176. As Camy mentioned, we toss ideas out all along. After we rapid-fire ideas & continue that stream, we switch to culling.

    What we culled--Camy & I continued this brainstorm by phone. What we came up with:

    The childcare thing isn't a strong enough crucible to carry the story. We decided Ash would be recovering from a bullet wound. Hero will be a former special operative military-turned PT. She's ordered by her doctor to go to him. He left the military after a war-wound & his sister's death to care for his niece. He's a combat war vet. He's using his PT training now to help wounded war vets.

    His tie to Refuge will be that he met Joel & the PJs Aaron (Ash's brother) oversees because hero's special ops team were shot down. The PJs rescued them & saved hero's life. He kept in contact with Joel who discovers he left the military to care for niece and needs a place to settle. Joel and Refuge Air Base bring him in to do PT for combat-wounded veterans.

    Since Ash's wound is from a bullet, her doctor wants her to have PT with the hero. That will be a better crucible than childcare because Ash can't avoid him if she's under doctor's orders & can't be cleared to return to work until she's cleared by doc. We still can use to a minor degree that Sarah is watching his niece later if we need to add to their time together but not make it the main crucible.

    Or it can just be that hero gets niece together with Petrowski twins (heroine's nephews) for playdates since they're same age and the little girl is motherless and new in town.

    We love the idea of having the hero being the ultimate optimist which grates on Ash because she can't understand it.

    Another relationship conflict will be that rather than start a soup kitchen, because we decided that was cliche, was to have hero be asked to lead a Bible study or something in a ministry to prisoners. This adds to Ash's ire since her job is to see that criminals are put away. Whereas the Bible study and Chrisian prison ministry the hero becomes a part of can assist prisoners in shortening their terms.

    Things that will bind them together: Ash respects his service to the country and wounded vets. Their joint care for the little girl---Ash sees herself and her pain in the precious little one. Ash has a secret soft spot for children. Hero sees Ash's strengths and because he's an optimist, tends to believe the absolute best about people. Has a knack for seeing things inside a person that others don't or can't notice.

    They have physical attraction going especially since crucible place is the gym. PT puts them in close regular contact with one another. She admires his profession. He was wounded in combat and that he lost his sister endears Ash to him. Morphs into care once she gets to know him. That he can actually deal with her without losing it also is a draw because most people write her off when they see how difficult she is.

    Hero fights falling for Ash tooth and nail because her job takes her out of country. He wants stability for the little girl.

    We can resolve story by having Ash remain in Refuge to train skiptracers so she's still in the profession yet not required to travel.

    We used many of your ideas and incorporated springboarded stuff you all threw out there.

    There's more but I just wanted to offer some closure regarding the brainstorm and let you know the direction the story is headed.

    Thanks all for hanging in with us through a massive amount of comments. Please take a moment to stop by Debby's post today. It is FABULOUS. Brainstorming with these gals & seeing your comments about longing to have critters of your own reminded me how thankful I am for Seekers plus Danica.

    God is good!

    Check out Deb's post.


  177. Thank you for relating things to scripture. I enjoyed reading your tips, I am saving them in a binder for future reference in writing.
    Linda Finn
    Faithful Acres Books