Monday, May 17, 2010

Special Guest Irene Hannon!

Missy here. I'm really excited to introduce you to a special guest today. Irene Hannon! And since we talk so much about contests in Seekerville, let me just say Irene has an impressive list of contest results to her name! Here's her bio:

RITA-award winner Irene Hannon is the author of more than 30 novels, including the bestselling Heroes of Quantico suspense series. A four-time RITA finalist (Book 2 in her Quantico series, An Eye For An Eye, is a current finalist), she has also won two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT BOOKreviews magazine as well as a HOLT medallion. Book 3 in her Quantico series, In Harm’s Way, has just been released. (Note from Missy: I see on Irene's website that this book has already hit the CBA bestseller list!)


All I can say is, WOW! I want to be Irene when I grow up. :)

Welcome, Irene! We're so glad you're going to hang out with us today. Y'all stay tuned for info at the end on entering to win a copy of your choice of one of her books! So now on to a word from Irene...



Tips for the Journey

By Irene Hannon

Through the years, a lot of people have asked me what it takes to become a novelist. Sometimes I think they’re looking for a secret formula, or an easy way to achieve success—like those ads that promise you can lose ten pounds in a week, safely and painlessly. I wish it was that simple!

Truth be told, there is no easy way to achieve success in the world of fiction. In the end, it comes down to innate talent, hard work and more than a few lucky breaks. As I often tell audiences at speaking engagements, I truly believe writing is a gift—much like the ability to paint or draw. You either have it or you don’t. My husband is a wonderful artist; I can barely etch out a stick figure.

But let’s assume the talent is there. How do you go about learning to write a novel? What does it take to be a novelist?

Best-selling author Leon Uris had an answer to that question. He said the ideal writer would “own the concentration of a Trappist monk, the organizational ability of a Prussian field marshal, the insight into human relations of a Viennese psychiatrist, the discipline of a man who prints the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin, the exquisite sense of timing of an Olympic athlete, and by the way, a natural instinct and flair for exceptional use of the language.”

Somerset Maugham chimed in on this topic, too, with a much more pithy reply. He said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

So…where does that leave an aspiring writer? Intimidated, for one thing! At least that’s how I felt when I sat down to start my first novel.

But if writing is in your blood, you pursue the muse despite the daunting challenges and despite the less-than-favorable odds of publication.

I’ve been a published novelist for more than 20 years and have sold 30+ books. Some people might say that makes me an “expert” on writing. Nope. I still learn something new every day—about the craft, about the business, about my own abilities. In fact, the more I learn the more I realize how much more there IS to learn! So what I’ll offer you today are simply some observations about tactics that helped me land my first contract—and that continue to help me grow as a writer.

1. Read a lot—especially books similar to ones you’d like to write. And read with a critical eye. Why does a particular scene work? How does the writer use dialogue? How is point of view handled? Does the book drag anywhere—and if so, why? What is the mix of narrative and dialogue? Does the author break any “rules”? If so, how did that help—or hinder—the story development? What made this book stand out for you? It’s amazing how much you can learn if you analyze what makes a book a tick. Even better, do this exercise with some fellow writers and learn from each other.

2. Join a professional writers’ organization. I highly recommend Romance Writers of America, which has a monthly magazine that alone is worth the price of membership. And the organization puts on a fabulous annual conference that provides amazing learning opportunities and also gives members the opportunity to mingle with some of the stars in this genre. You don’t have to be a romance writer to benefit, either. The organization is also a good source of general industry information. But there are many other good groups out there, too. Find one that focuses on the kinds of books you want to write. The networking and information exchange is invaluable.

3. Master the basics. I can’t emphasize this enough. My background is journalism, and in a former life I was a magazine editor. I can tell you that when a story with typos, misspelled words, incorrect punctuation or bad grammar crossed my desk, I considered it unprofessional and the piece—as well as its author— immediately lost credibility. Book editors feel the same way. If you have trouble with any of these things, bone up on the technical aspects of writing or have your manuscript vetted by someone with these skills before submitting it. (English teachers are good resources for this kind of review.)

4. Start writing—and keep writing! I had three books finished before I sold my first novel. And yes, there were days when I got discouraged and wondered if I’d ever sell. I amassed a file full of rejection letters before I got “the call.” But because I kept at it rather than waiting to sell the first book before I started another one, when I did sell I had three completed manuscripts ready to go. And my first publisher bought all of them!

5. Once you feel your manuscript is ready for publication, start submitting it. As important as it is to polish a book before sending it out, remember that it will never be perfect. Waiting for perfection can paralyze you. So get all the technical aspects polished, make sure the book is the best you can write at that point in your career, and go for it.

6. Listen with an open mind to input from editors and other writers. This is often one of the hardest skills to master. We all make such a personal investment in our work that it’s hard not to take literary criticism personally. But when we do that, we often get defensive—and that can blind us to very good suggestions. Remember that if an editor responds with a personal letter, no matter how many criticisms or suggestions it contains, it means your manuscript caught his or her attention. That’s a huge accomplishment in itself. So consider the comments a free class in fiction writing and learn from them. That doesn’t mean you have to incorporate an idea you don’t agree with, or change your voice. It just means you should take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the experts and use that to advance your career and develop your talent.

7. Set aside time to write—and do it on a schedule. It’s way too easy to find other things to do, but if you have a schedule you’re more inclined to actually produce. I recall someone once asked a famous writer if he waited until inspiration struck before he sat down to write, and he said something like: “Absolutely. And I make sure I’m inspired every morning at nine o’clock.” That sense of discipline—of making yourself write even when the muse is hiding or you’re not “in the mood”—is, to me, the sign of a professional writer, whether you’re writing full time or juggling your writing with a day job. Even an hour three times a week is a schedule. And it signifies commitment.

8. Finally—believe in yourself and persevere. This is a tough, tough business rife with rejection. We’ve all heard stories about writers who get multi-million-dollar deals for their first book. And yes, it happens. But it’s very, very, very rare. Most novelists try for years to get their first contract. So don’t let rejection get you down. Continue to hone your craft, do another polish on your rejected manuscript and send it off again. And while you’re waiting to hear back, start a new book!



Irene, thanks so much for being with us today, and for your insight and encouragement. We look forward to spending some time with you over coffee and tea (and whatever wonderful pastries Ruthy will provide today). In the meantime, I’ve brought bagels and blueberry cream cheese for breakfast.

And before I forget, y'all can find Irene at http://www.irenehannon.com/.

Irene has graciously offered a choice of one of her books to one lucky winner! To be entered in the drawing, please leave a comment with your contact info. (See contest rules in the side bar.) I'll draw a name around 11 pm Eastern.

94 comments :

  1. Wow! I think I get to write the first comment! :)

    This was a great post, and the encouraging words/pieces of advice were wonderful! I think the part about having a writing schedule is something I can learn from and take to heart--it is so easy to get distracted. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Please enter me for a chance to win one of Irene Hannon's books!

    ~Amber

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  2. Amber, you nightowl, you!!! Good job, girlfriend, gettin' in first thing. Um, honey, next time, feel free to set up the automatic coffee maker and just hit 'brew'... It'll kick in the first pot at 4:00 A.M. 'Preciate it!!!!

    ;)

    And Helen must be otherwise engaged this fine, bright Monday so I've commandeered the normal HUGE coffee pot, installed the Keurig for you discerning types and brought along a host of great creamers.

    And Missy, YES!!! Irene is deserving of good pastry although your bagels with blueberry cream cheese (um, where'dja go, the local convenience store freezer, honey??? Didja TRY one of them thar bagels????? Talk about yesterday's news...)

    Anyway, I brought home-made strudels. There are cheese, apple and cherry, and a walnut/honey/cheese that's a new experiment for me. Tell me what you think!

    Irene, I've just finished reading a slew of your books and have several more to go because I believe in the adage "learn from the best" and if Rita judges and Holt judges and RT judges find significant merit with your work, I'm right there to study why because being a good writer means touching hearts. Melding spirits and souls, and your work does that. I have the new books, but I've been concentrating on your award-winning LI's for the moment, and they're simply lovely.

    Thank you so much for being here today, for coming by and playing with us. We're a friendly bunch and we do like food. We like food A LOT.

    It is one of our downfalls but we eat WHILE we work. There are no lunch hours in Seekerville. Uh, uh.

    Grab some coffee or tea, relax and enjoy yourselves. Irene Hannon is in Seekerville!

    Whoooo HOOOOOO!

    Ruthy

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  3. Irene, sooo encouraging! Thanks for those gems. It really helps to be reminded to perservere.

    Missy, you know I'm up for drawings, especially for books. My hubby sees me with a new book, shakes his head, and goes to watch TV. I tell him TV is for sissies, he should read a book. He ignores me. Oh, well. At least my kids read. Sometimes.

    Ruthy, strudel? Really? Count me in! Can't pass up cheese or cherry.

    You ladies all have a great day. I'm off to work now. :(
    (I would much rather write.)

    diannashuford at gmail dot com

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  4. I would love to win one of Irene's books!

    pepsi324[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  5. Good morning, Irene, and welcome to Seekerville! Ruthy might be the gourmet of our clan, but never poo-poo a southern girl's bagels!!!

    Great advice, Irene. Patience is the most difficult when year after year flies past you and manuscripts clutter up your computer! Still, there are lessons to be learned and methods to be practice. Never stop either one!

    Thanks for your encouragement, Irene. It's always best to learn from the best : )

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  6. I absolutely love this series, Irene. I was drawn to it because it takes place in Quantico, which holds a special place in my heart. My hubby was a handsome Marine (Ruthy, you know what a sucker I am for a man in uniform) stationed for three years in Quantico. While I was in college, I used to drive the six hours each way on the weekends to see him. Ahh, memories!

    I read the first novel in this series and can't wait to read the rest! Thanks for a great post!

    Lisa
    lisajordanbooks at yahoo dot com

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  7. Irene, thank you so much for that encouraging blog. Lots of great points to take to heart. I've been going to town on the reading one.

    I read A LOT!!!!!! I've always read with a discerning eye because I love talking books, but lately, when I finish a book, I jot down a few notes about what worked (or didn't)to capture my attention. It's surprising to compare those notes over a months' worth of reads. Some of the same things always stand out.

    I've read many of your books and LOVED them all. Words that flow, seamless plots, intense action, entralling characters, toe-curling romance...sigh...So -- does it come easy for you? Do you ever struggle with word choice, awkward scenes, misbehaving characters? Ever get stumped on a plot detail or completely stymied by a romance scene?

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  8. Whew!! My Internet has been out since last night. We were travelling yesterday, but I think we had a big storm here.

    So yay, they got it fixed early this morning! :)

    Welcome Irene! And thanks, Ruthy, for the streudel. Much better than bagels. (Although I did make them homemade.) haha

    Amber, thanks for starting us off so early last night!

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  9. Irene, I'm so glad you're here with us today. I'm like Ruthy and have been reading several different authors lately. And right now I'm reading Where Love Abides and love it!

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  10. Dianna, thanks for stopping by before work! I hope you have a great day.

    BTW, I'm not sure if said it this past weekend, but Dianna is a Genesis finalist! :)

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  11. Thanks for stopping by Collettakay!

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  12. Audra, honey, thank you for taking up for me and my bagels! LOL

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  13. Wow, Lisa! Now that's true love! But you're right. There's just something about that uniform...

    :)

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  14. Kav, what a great idea to write down notes from each book!! I'll have to try that. Keep a notebook or journal. Thanks for sharing!

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  15. Great tips! Thanks for the reminder.

    Good luck & God's blessings!

    PamT

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  16. Welcome to Seekerville, Irene, it's SOOOO great to have you here!!

    I have "An Eye for an Eye" burning a whole at the side of my desk, begging me to pick it up, and I cannot wait to do so because I KNOW it will be great!

    Thanks for such a definitive and encouraging blog today -- it's a very inspiring way to kick off a week!

    SUPER CONGRATS on the Rita nomination, too, my friend, and here's to a win!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  17. Thanks for sharing your tips. I especially love the author who shared about getting inspired every morning at 9 am. That is one thing I have to work on more faithfully, starting a routine for my writing. I would love to read Irene's books.

    julesreffner(at)gmail(dot)com

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  18. What a great post! So interesting. I've only gotten to read the first Heroes of Quantico book, but I loved it!


    Holly
    oceandreamerfla(at)aol(dot)com

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  19. Thanks for stopping by, Pam T.

    And you, too, Julie!

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  20. Amen to that, Julia. I think having a writing routine is a key to success. Whether that's starting at a certain time, or committing to a certain word count each day.

    It's sort of like exercise. If you don't set aside time for it, it'll end up skipped. :)

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  21. Holly, I'm glad you joined us today!

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  22. My, you all really get an early start! Or should I say late? What time DID you go to bed, Amber?

    Now on to Kay's questions.

    Some days the writing comes easy; some days I have to wring the words out. I LOVE writing dialogue, so that's always easy. But scenes requiring a lot of research can take forever.

    Not many of my characters misbehave (thankfully!), but I do pay very close attention to word choice. Yes, sometimes I have a scene that feels awkward. When that happens, I usually stop and ask myself a few questions. Am I in the right POV? Is this scene in the wrong place? Do I even NEED this scene? Eventually I figure out the problem!

    Yes, I do sometimes get stumped on a plot detail. The longer I've been writing, the less detail I work out ahead of a time on a plot. That can be a bit tricky, especially in the suspense books. For example, in Book 1 of my Heroes of Quantico series, I had the heroine in a safe house. A GREAT safe house. Trouble was, I then realized I had to find a way for the bad guys to get in! That took some serious thought and some serious research, but I came up with an inventive idea that required lots of research and some correspondence with the head of the chemistry department at a local university. As I've discovered, plotting romances is challenging, but plotting suspense is REALLY challenging!

    Have I ever been stymied by a romance scene? Hmm...not really. The big challenges in writing romantice scenes for the inspirational market is that you have to be very, very subtle, yet still convey the sexual tension that is integral to a romance. I do struggle with that part of it on occasion.

    Hope that helps, Kay. And if anyone else has any questions, feel free to send them in. I'll be checking back periodically throughout the day.

    And thank you all for the warm welcome. It's good to be here!

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  23. Something strange has happened to my Blogger ID.
    I'm not sure quite what yet but I'm listed by my brother's name.

    So I'm going with anonymous today, rather than as my brother who might not be thrilled to have his name linked to my rambling comments.

    Poor baby.

    Thanks for being on Irene. Great post.

    Mary Connealy

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  24. Thanks for the insight, Irene! I enjoyed one of your books a while back. Maybe it's time for another one!

    terism at rgv dot rr dot com

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  25. This was a great piece filled with awesome advice! I know there is so much more to learn, makes it kind of discouraging, but mostly exciting because this job will never be boring! :D

    Thanks for posting. :)

    email in profile- thanks for the chance.

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  26. Irene, thank you so much for sharing your heart, and your journey today! I so needed to here some words on being persistent, and then your comment, earlier, about it being harder to plot a suspense than a romance? I'm SO there. Dialogue is my favorite, too, especially when there are little threads "between the lines" that are obvious, but not said.

    I'd love to win a book! My turtles are DELICIOUS, by the way! ;)

    Regina

    trmerrick@bellsouth.net

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  27. Okay, well that was frightening.

    But I'm back...as me...not my brothers. Who was never my brother I was him...but he's gone. I mean I was never GONE, I was just someone else...who was here.

    I need an aspirin, excuse I'm going to go now. Me. Not someone else like my brother.

    If someone wants to delete this comment I totally respect that.

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  28. Please enter me.....have not read any of her books, but am anxious to.
    Sounds great!! Thanks!!!
    jackie.smithATdishmailDOTnet

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  29. Irene,

    What a thrill to 'meet' you. I have half a shelf of your books in my closet (guess I just came out of the closet, LOL). I kept them obviously because they touched me somehow and I've been meaning to go back and re-read them to figure out what your secret is!

    Switching to suspense must have been challenging. I tried writing one before I switched to inspirational and found it quite difficult to keep the reader from finding out 'who-dunnit'.

    I'd love to be in the draw for one of your books.

    Thanks for the inspiring words.

    And thanks for the strudels, Ruthy! Love them.

    Cheers,

    Sue

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  30. Oops, forgot email address. Must be Monday morning!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

    Sue

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  31. What an informative post, chock-full of great advice and reminders!

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  32. Thank you for the basic tips of becoming a writer. I really find it hard to sit down each day to write though. I know it's important and keeps the creative juices going. Unfortunately in my line of work I find it truly difficult to write each day and will often write in spurts on weekends or vacations. Also, I don't always feel the creativity and get frustrated when I am stuck in my writing.

    Please enter me in the book drawing. I love the books that I've read so far.

    cynthiakchow (at) earthlink (dot) net

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  33. Irene,

    What great reminders!

    Rose

    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

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  34. Thanks for a great post, Irene, and for the wise counsel and advice.

    Now Ruthy is likely to get on my case for questioning you on one of your points, since she knows me and how pesky I can be, but I'm gonna do it anyway, knowing that Missy will smooth things over with the Ruthster. :)

    You recommended querying as soon as we feel our story is ready. However, I've heard many agents, editors, and authors caution us not to submit before we have something worth a publishing professional's time. One reason is that we only get one chance to make a first impression.

    As one who submitted a few times back in my so-green-I-glowed newbie writer days (and have the rejections to prove it), I think submitting our earliest work can be a mistake. We may think our baby is the best thing since a Taco Bell seven-layer burrito, but, due to inexperience and lack of knowledge regarding craft, we can be poor judges of our own work in the early stages of our journeys.

    I'd like to hear your thoughts (and those of the published authors hanging out here in Seekerville) regarding how a writer goes about knowing s/he has reached the point of being ready. I'm not asking so much for myself, since I have an agent, but because I want to spare others the pain I experienced in the past due to my own lack of experience.

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  35. Yay, Irene has been here! :)

    Mary, I think maybe your brother hijacked your account. You better check into his covert activities. :)

    And no, I won't delete your rambling post. It shows the world what we put up with every day on our loop! ;)

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  36. Thanks for stopping by Teri Dawn!

    And Casey, the writing life certainly can get discouraging. But you're right about it mostly being exciting. It's so worth any of the angst and setbacks! The rewards are definitely greater. :)

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  37. Regina, I love dialogue, too. I have so much fun writing it. :)

    Oh, now I'm craving turtles thanks to you! And I don't have any around. Bummer! :)

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  38. Jackie, thanks for stopping by!

    Sue, oh my! We can always say that Seekerville was the place Sue came out of the closet! :) A secret hoarder of keeper books! Whoa. What an extreme revelation.

    ;)

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  39. Hey, Erica! Thanks for coming by.

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  40. Cynthia, everyone works differently. I know a couple of people who write only on weekends because that's the only time they have available. And they're both published and have been successful.

    I guess the main thing is to plan the schedule and then stick to it. :)

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  41. Irene, thank you for sharing all that great information. I love your books. In fact, I have "In Harm's Way" in my van right now. (It's my read while I'm waiting for the kids to come out of school book. A choice position in my world. :)) I'd have to echo Kav in how seamless each of your books are. They are a real joy to read.

    I'm curious as to how much plotting do you do before you start writing?

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  42. Good to see you, Rose!

    And Keli, I think maybe someone is ready once they finish a book, get feedback on it through critiques and contests, and study the craft by attending workshops or reading how-to books. What you mentioned is a problem--sending too soon. But I also think another problem comes in when someone is a perfectionist and won't ever bite the bullet and send it even if they're about as ready as they'll ever be. :)

    So my advice would be to find the happy medium. :)

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  43. Lorna, I always have a book in my car, too! For carpool line or dentist visits. :)

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  44. Irene,

    Thanks so much for the excellent advice!!

    edwina.cowgill@yahoo.com

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  45. I think I've discovered my problem and why I'm still unpublished. I set my coffee maker for 5:00 a.m. normally. Ruthy sets her for 4:00 a.m. I need to put in an extra hour every day!

    Irene, wonderful post. My favorite comments #4 and #5. I think you can be so obsessed with perfection that you do paralyzed about it. (In my case, though, I've sometimes sent things in TOO early.)

    I also love that you had three books written before you sold your first one. Hopefully, that means I will sell as soon as I finish the book I'm currently writing.

    wmussell(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  46. Hi Irene:

    I’ve enjoyed your Lighthouse Lane Series.

    Will your next series be in a beautiful resort location?

    Also, is there any chance that Zach will have an unmarried aunt come visit them on Nantucket Island? I’d like her to be a diving instructor who lost some students on a diving trip to Aruba and is now living under a cloud of suspicion.

    Vince

    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

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  47. I'm back again!

    Keli, Missy said exactly what I would have said about submitting your work. It's true that we're not always the best judges of our own writing--but we become BETER judges the more we learn. That means stuyding the craft, entering unpubbed contests, listening to feedback, attending workshops, etc. Then, armed with all that knowledge, you can evaluate your work more objectively. Once you do that and feel it's ready to be submitted, submit. That doesn't mean it will be the best thing you ever write. In fact, it shouldn't be. Every book should get better. I recently looked over some of my early published books and cringed. I still love the stories, but I've improved so much since then. Would I submit those books now? No. Were they good enough to be published? Yes. My point is that a work doesn't have to be perfect before you submit it. If you wait for that day, it will never come.

    Lorna--I used to do very detailed plotting. I don't anymore. I do have a basic idea of the plot because most publishers want a synopsis of the story before you write it, but once I turn that in I put it away and rarely look at it again. What I do know are my characters. I spend a lot of time thinking about them, and I often write the first two or three chapters very early in the story creation process, because I find that helps me get to know them better. And once I know them, their personalities and
    quirks and backstory often suggest interesting plot twists.

    It's near lunchtime here in the Midwest, and I sure am getting hungry for a piece of Ruth's homemade cheese strudel! Guess I'll have to settle for yogurt, though. Sigh.

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  48. Irene,
    Thanks so much for sharing this terrific post with us. Leon Uris and Summerset Maugham gave great answers, but when it comes to the specifics, you're advice is spot on.

    leigh@leighduncan.com

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  49. A very helpful post, Irene and Missy. Keli raised a very important question on when to submit. I submitted too early to editors and received rejection and then realized that I had much more to learn After spending time studying the craft through reading, attending workshops and conference and entering contests, I now have a more professional looking and more interesting story. No contract yet, but I've received helpful comments and suggestions on my work from agents and editors. Now after reading Irene's post I view those comments as a step forward.

    patjeannedavis[at]verizon[dot]net

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  50. This post was very uplifting and helpful, especially the tip on sticking to a schedule. I need to work on that for sure.

    I'd love to win one of Mrs. Hannon's books!!!!

    dancerchick(at)cimexico(dot)org

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  51. Hey, Walt! Getting up at 5 am? Man, you slacker you.

    LOL

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  52. Oops, I missed Edwina's comment. Thanks for coming by!

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  53. Hey, Vince. Sounds like you have your suspense-plotting mind working today. I love the idea! :)

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  54. Hey, Leigh, thanks for dropping by.

    Pat, you should definitely look at any editor or agent comments as a positive!! Often, we start off with generic, standard Dear Writer rejection letters. Then we may get one with our name on it and also the title! :) Then a next big step is to get some feedback--and the ultimate of an invitation to resubmit!

    I actually did follow that order. And the next step was a revision letter which ultimately let to a sale after I made two sets of revisions.

    So don't be discouraged by rejections! Just consider them a stepping stone.

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  55. If anyone can figure out the three rules to writing a novel it's Seekerville! And I think you must have since so many of you left unpubbed island!


    EvaMariaHamilton at gmail dot com

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  56. Angela,

    I'm glad you found the post helpful. I did as well!

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  57. Irene,
    You have given some very good advice.
    Your book sounds great.
    csdsksds[at]gmail[dot]com

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  58. Irene, thanks for joining us today in Seekerville. Great post--I learned a lot!

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  59. Eva Maria (Yay, I finally spelled your name right!):), we each sold in a different way. I wish there was some way we could boil it down to 3 things we did. Hmm... maybe an idea for a post, though! :) Maybe we could try to find three things we did in common or something. :)

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  60. Thanks for stopping by Runner and Cara!

    I'm so excited to say I have a copy of Cara's debut novel! It's gorgeous!! And I can't wait to read it. :)

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  61. Irene, thank you! Your post is very timely for me. I'm on my fourth manuscript, and I keep obsessing over perfection. I know it will never be perfect, but I'm concerned I'll look at it three years down the road and cringe.

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  62. Irene, so nice to have you in Seekerville today! Everything you said in your post is absolutely true.

    And one statement especially: "The more I learn the more I realize how much more there IS to learn!"

    Great books happen because writers keep learning and growing and sharpening their skills. One of the highest compliments an author can receive is that every book just gets better and better.

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  63. Vince, I'm glad you enjoyed the Lighthouse Lane series. "A Father for Zach" was the last book in that series--but I love your story idea for another book. Maybe there's a "Return to Lighthouse Lane" series in my future! Many readers have asked for more books set on this charming byway--and that would give me a great excuse to visit lovely Nanatucket again!

    As for beautiful resort locations as settings--yes, my next novel (a standalone, not part of a series) takes place in picturesque Pier Cove on the shores of Lake Michigan. It's a real place, but you probably won't find it on any map (long story!). "Child of Grace" will be out in February 2011.

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  64. Hi Irene,
    Love your Quantico Series!!! I devoured the first two books and have the third one waiting on my nightstand. Excellent suspense.

    Can you tell us a bit about making the leap from Love Inspired to the Quantico heroes? Did you change your writing technique in any way? Any obstacles you had to overcome? Lots of research, no doubt.

    I was impressed by your characters' body language. Any tips on how you came to be an expert in that area of characterization?

    BTW, I'm reading your Lighthouse Lane series and enjoying those books as well.

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  65. Ruth: I guess I'm kind of new-ish around here, but I'll try to remember to help get the coffee started next time! ;) Maybe I can bring some lemon poppyseed scones next time, as well, to help make up for it! (Although they're from a mix; hope that's alright!)

    Irene: I didn't really think it was that late! I guess being a college student can help make a person into a night owl--although I might have been one before. ;) But I suppose I was lucky I had finished a book earlier yesterday, so I wasn't staying up even later reading!

    Thanks again for the great post!

    ~Amber

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  66. Oh, I think I should also say that I'm a Californian, so there might be a bit of a time difference, too! ;)

    ~Amber

    (Not saying that I didn't stay up late, anyway; just saying that my comment wasn't posted at an extremely late hour here!) :)

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  67. a fabulous posting, as always :)

    blessings to all :)

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

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  68. Irene, truly have loved all your books. I have recommended you to friends as someone who can paint a truly emotional picture of love and faith in every book.

    Writing blessings your way,

    Julie

    jhsteele(at)bellsouth(dot)net

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  69. Hi, Debby! I'm glad you're enjoying the Quantico series!

    Making the leap to trade suspense from Love Inspired was, indeed, a huge undertaking, and there were definitely obstacles along the way. I'd been wanting to try my hand at a longer book for quite some time, and I did write a longer romance. But I could never get anyone interested in that one, so it's still sitting on a shelf. Maybe someday!

    When that didn't fly, I returned to my first love, romantic suspense (going all the way back to my Nancy Drew days!). I originally planned to write one book, but as I worked on the first one, two other characters appeared and I knew I had to tell their stories, too. So the "Heroes of Quantico" were born. Now, the scary thing about all this is that I wrote the entire series on spec, no contract in hand. It was a huge gamble, consuming a full year, but I really believed in these books.

    In the meantime, I realized that to place these longer books, I'd have to get an agent. The truth is, when you want to make the leap to bigger books, publishers don't give a lot of credence to category romance. As Joan Golan pointed out in her interview on this site a couple of weeks ago, the brand in a line like Steeple Hill is Steeple Hill--not individual authors. Other publishers know that, and while your category sales numbers may be good, they see that more as a reflection of the popularity of the line, not of the author. So it's very, very hard to make that leap.

    I did connect with an agent at an ACFW conference--Chip MacGregor--and he found the perfect home for these books with Revell. I'll always remember my immense relief--and gratitude--when he called to say we had a contract. When you invest a year of your life in a dream, that is a sweet moment.

    Did I change my writing for the suspense books? Well, the voice is the same. But with suspense, the pacing is faster, with clipped, high-intensity dialogue. Lots of dialogue! In addition, my suspense books incorporate many more points of view, which I love. It’s really fun to get into the head of more than two characters—especially the villain’s! The timeframe of the books is also much shorter. The first book in the series, "Against All Odds," takes place in the course of about a week. And that week is action-packed! Finally, the books are a lot longer--90,000-100,000 words vs. 55,000-60,000 for category books.

    And yes, the research piece for these books is immense. Plus, I had to start from scratch, because I have no background in law enforcement and had no contacts at the FBI. But I do have one acquaintance who is a detective captain at one of our area police departments, and he put me in touch with a just-retired FBI special agent, whose input was invaluable. In the course of writing this series, I worked with police officers, FBI agents, physicians, academics and a host of other experts in their fields. I also enrolled in the Citizens Police Academy. Beyond that, I did lots of reading and traditional research. Each of the three books also required some very specialized research—Afghanistan and terrorism for Against All Odds, the intricacies of police procedure for An Eye For An Eye, and several topics I can’t reveal for Book 3 without including spoilers! In all cases, I found expert sources who could fill in the blanks left by my book research. By the time I finish a suspense book, I usually have at least 100 pages of single-spaced notes and reference citations. That effort has paid off, though, because reviewers have been very complimentary about the technical authenticity of the books.

    Hope that answers all your questions, Debby!

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  70. Irene:

    I've had the pleasure of reading some of your shorter books, but not the longer suspense. And those are the kind of thing I really like! I'll have to get my hands on them.

    Just typing your name is a task that evokes sad emotions. My sister's name was Irene. She died in a car wreck when she was 16, a junior in high school. I love the name, but it's an emotional trip.

    Ruth:

    Remember my stinky week? Well, it got STINKIER! I haven't been manning the coffee pot because my computer problems proved fatal and I've been using my old backup--Windows 98, lack of power, etc.--and haven't been online much.

    Bought a new machine today, but don't have it hooked up, loaded, and configured yet. Hopefully I'll be back at the coffee pot in a day or so.

    Helen

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  71. Renee, I hope you've been sending those manuscripts out! If not, perhaps it's time...

    :)

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  72. Thanks for the encouragement, Missy.

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  73. Myra, I'm always hoping that I'll improve on each one. And I keep studying books and taking online classes, etc. I love to learn about writing.

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  74. Hey, Debby. Thanks for stopping by. I remember you bragging on Irene's books after each of them came out!

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  75. Hi, Amber! My son was just making fun of me the other day when I acted surprised he was leaving to go to a movie at 10 pm. He gave me one of those "get a clue, Mom" looks. Then he said something along the lines of college social life starting after midnight. :)

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  76. Karen K and Julie HS, thanks for stopping by!

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  77. Helen, I'm so sorry to hear about your sister.

    And goodness, I hate that your computer woes have continued. I hope you can be back to speed soon.

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  78. Irene, you're doing great here, and I can't believe you're eating yogurt instead of strudel.

    I mean, really....

    Are ya' serious, girl????

    :)

    Helen!!!! Dagnabbit, girlfriend, I'm so sorry to hear about your computer snafu! Oooooohhhhhhhh, I hate when that happens!!! So disappointing, it's like when the toilet backs up or the electric goes off or the car breaks down... Those things never come at a good time because there is no such thing as a good time for breakdowns.

    I'll take care of coffee, dear girl, you get up and running... And remember what I said about not quitting.

    We're scrappers in Seekerville.

    Walt, yes, set that clock an hour earlier, my friend.

    "Plenty of time for rest in the grave..." Ben Franklin. Love him. He rocks. Smart dude.

    And feel free to start coffee if you beat me here, 'kay? I've got to finish my current wip and jump into book three so I don't miss any crucial smartypants points before I send it in...

    Which means I've got to pay the piper first thing in the morning and can't play until I've pumped some numbers into place.

    I need ice cream. We had puppies unexpectedly today. Six of 'em... Came early. My laundry room is now a Golden Retriever neonatal intensive care puppy nursery. Who knew you could have that much dust in a NICU?????

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  79. Amber, ah.... You're West Coast, hence the time.

    Okay, AND you're new, young and way better looking than me, so we'll give you time to get with the program. Oh my stars, I love having you younguns around. You make me day and decrease our median age by a factor of ten to the second power, minimum.

    Good to see you!

    :)

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  80. Ruthy! 6 new puppies!! How fun! Of course, I can say that from 600 miles away from your laundry room. :)

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  81. What a wonderful post. I enjoyed the comment you made about people thinking you are an 'expert' because you have sold 30+ books, but then you said that's not true as you learn something new every day about the craft, about the business, about your own abilities. I love that statement as my philosphy is we should always look to learn something new everyday. It doesn't matter what our job is we should strive to learn something new.

    May you have a blessed day.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  82. I'm late but hopefully not too late to thank Irene for her excellent inspiring post! Pulling for you in the Ritas!

    Thanks, Missy, for asking Irene to come to Seekerville.

    Janet

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  83. Cindy, I agree. I loved that she said that. It's a great reminder.

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  84. Janet, I was glad to ask her. I've been looking forward to her post!

    Irene, thanks for answering our questions today.

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  85. Ya'll are so fun here!

    Missy: I don't know if it's necessarily such a good thing that I stay up so late. Most of the time it's because I'm reading or on the computer (commenting on great blogs...), or (during the school year) working on papers. I also don't know if my roomie this last year always appreciated me leaving the lamp on into the wee hours of the night occasionally, but at least she was really sweet about it! ;)

    Ruth: Good to see you, too! I've been getting the feeling that you East Coasters outnumber us West Coasters in the blogging world... But maybe I'm just paranoid. ;) Thanks for the compliment, as well, and for your understanding! I'll definitely have to bring a yummy dish next time to make up for all my blunders! ;)

    ~Amber

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  86. Snuck right in before heading in to watch Castle (SEASON FINALE!!!!)!

    Irene, wonderful interview. I LOVE your books! I have actually emailed with you about them : )

    I agree with Amber, having a writing schedule makes COMPLETE sense! It keeps you obligated. It's really difficult when you have your own deadlines, but it's a good pressure ; )

    By the way, I think everyone should head on over to Amber S's blog because it's camping week. Tonight we read scriptures, sang songs, and made smores!! Check it out! SOOOOOO fun ; )

    Please enter me!
    hccelie[at]gmail[dot]com

    Thanks!
    Hannah

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  87. Just checking in one last time before I shut down the computer for the night. Missy, thank you for inviting me to visit. I had a ball! For all of you who said such kind things about my books, my heartfelt thanks. For those who asked questions, I hope my answers made sense. And for all of you who talked about good things to eat--here's the recipe for one of my all-time-favorite indulgent desserts. It's a bit of work--but well worth the effort!

    Sweet dreams and happy endings to you all!

    Almond Fudge Torte

    4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
    ½ cup butter, softened
    2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
    3 eggs, separated
    2 tablespoons Don Carlos Virgin Island rum (gold)
    Pinch of salt
    1/3 cup ground almonds
    ¼ teaspoon almond extract
    ¾ cup cake flour

    1. Melt chocolate in double boiler.

    2. Cream butter and 2/3 cup sugar for several minutes with electric mixer, until pale yellow and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks until well blended Add rum.

    3. In separate bowl, beat egg whites and salt until whites form soft peaks. Sprinkle on 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until whites form stiff peaks.

    4. With rubber spatula, blend chocolate into butter-sugar mixture. Stir in almonds and almond extract. Immediately stir in ¼ of beaten egg whites to lighten batter. Delicately fold in 1/3 of remaining whites and, when partially blended, add 1/3 of flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly between whites and flour till blended.

    5. Pour batter into a greased and floured 8-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed and 2 ½ to 3 inches around the circumference is set so that a cake tester plunged into that area comes out clean; center should move slightly if pan is shaken and tester should come out oily. Cake must remain slightly underdone; overcooked, it loses its special creamy quality.

    6. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn cake out onto rack. Cool thoroughly before icing.

    Icing

    1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon Don Carlos Virgin Island rum (gold)
    Sliced almonds

    1. Stir chocolate, butter and rum in double boiler until chocolate and butter have melted. Chill until of spreading consistency.

    2. Spread over cake and garnish perimeter of top with sliced almonds.

    Yield: 8-10 servings

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  88. Great advice! Thank you for sharing!

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  89. Hannah, it's so good to see you! Have you had your graduation yet? If not, I hope it goes great!! And whenever it is, congratulations!

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  90. Irene, thanks for the recipe!

    And Erin, thanks for dropping by.

    I'll wait and draw a name later to give our west coasters more time. And then we'll post the winner in the weekend edition.

    Oh, and Hannah, I just finished watching Castle! Oh my. Poor Beckett!!

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  91. Awww... I know I've been commenting way too much on here and probably overstaying my welcome (has it been a full 24 hours since my first comment yet?). I just have to say thank you to Hannah for that shout out for my blog! :) You're so sweet, Hannah! And she's right: I would love to have new visitors! Plenty of room around the campfire (and I'll put more firewood on to keep it going strong!).

    Thanks again for putting up with the nightowl (ie: me!). And thanks again for the great reminders/advice, Irene!

    ~Amber

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  92. No problemo, Amber : D

    Missy!! I HATE that Castle did that to her!!!!! *steam coming out of ears* That's soooo infuriating, especially with his ex-wife!? WHAAAAAAT???

    Anyway, I'm upset that he did that!

    Have you seen commercials for Grey's finale? Even if you don't watch it, it looks intense! I'm kinda scared to watch it! Lol!

    Hannah

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  93. No graduation yet, June 18, 3 days after school gets out.

    I'm sure I'll talk with you between now and then ; )
    Hannah

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  94. Boy, Hannah, you go to school late! This is the last day here. :)

    Oh, I do watch Grey's! I have the finale DVR'd and can't wait to see it (although I don't want anyone to die!)

    Okay, everyone, I've drawn a name for a winner. We'll announce it this weekend. :)

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