Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Putting the Pieces Together

by Debby Giusti

Happy Birthday, Seekerville! October has been a fantastic month. I love the daily giveaways and all the wonderful posts our guests have provided. The take-a-closer-look-at-a-writer’s-life blogs have been fun too. I’ll never forget Ruthy’s 4 AM shot with the kitty and Myra doing her morning exercise a la Wii.

Now, it’s my turn. What to write? What to share? What to ignore?

I start with an internal picture. (I  believe it's called a freeze frame in the screenwriting world.) It’s as if my mind’s eye catches a glimpse of action, either the beginning of the story or the climax. If not worth developing, it flutters away like the falling leaves. But if the idea captures my imagination then I begin to “what if” and the story starts to build.

When my husband and I moved into a new home that had a security alarm, we inadvertently activated the emergency code and were surprised when the police arrived with their guns drawn. Naturally, my suspense writer brain pictured a woman tripping an alarm and the law enforcement hero arriving on scene to check out the situation.

Eventually that “mental picture” morphed into NOWHERE TO HIDE, the first book I sold to Steeple Hill. The heroine and her young son are on the run and need to hide out in her elderly aunt’s coastal Georgia home. To compound the problem, the aunt set the security alarm before she left on a trip and a storm knocks out the electricity. The house is dark, and when the heroine opens the door, the backup power supply triggers a screeching alarm that alerts the island chief of security. You guessed it! Enter the hero.

My second book took shape when I thought about a winding road, an ice storm and a car that plunges off a bridge into raging water, which is how SCARED TO DEATH opens. Of course, the woman is rescued only to learn the old friend she was driving to visit died earlier that day. I had been researching liver transplants for a clinical laboratory article I was writing at the time so I considered adding a black market organ transplant operation that morphed into a transplant tourist racket. (FYI, that’s when US citizens skirt the long wait for an organ by traveling to a foreign country for their transplants.)

Currently, I’m writing a series about special agents in the US Army Criminal Investigation Division. THE OFFICER’S SECRET will be out in May 2011 and began with a fictional Army post in Georgia, two estranged siblings and a CID agent who investigates the death of a female major on post. The second book in the series, THE CAPTAIN’S MISSION, starts with a possible training accident my blond, blue-eyed CID heroine is called in to investigate.

Once the plot starts to take shape, I work on the hero and heroine’s back story and their inner conflict. Usually they are tackling similar issues, which play into the overall theme. Layers are added as I enhance the love story, increase the suspense, plant clues, add a few red herrings and drive the action to the climax. Including an act of nature—a fire, tornado, hurricane or flood--ups the tension and provides another complication.

I’m always thinking of worst case scenarios for my characters. Given two choices, I pick the one that provides more difficulty, anxiety or pain. Speaking of pain, I usually wound the hero or heroine or both. Gunshot wounds, stabbings, infections and extreme cold are some of the problems my characters have had to endure.

Since I write for the Love Inspired Suspense line, I focus on an exciting beginning, a hero or heroine in danger throughout the story, a concrete external problem that needs to be solved and internal conflicts that inhibit the characters in the beginning. During the story, they change and grow. By the end of their journey, they are able to forgive themselves and accept God’s love as well as the love of another.

The picture was taken in my garage, but you get the idea! :)
Now a peek into where I write…the picture at the beginning of this blog shows me on my deck with my AlphaSmart in hand. The simple word processor can hold about 25 pages of text in each of eight files and allows me to write on the go. When hubby and I travel, I’ll work while he drives. Sometimes in the winter if I’ve been housebound too long, I’ll take my Alpha to Starbucks just for a change of pace.

Often I’ll get up between 5 and 6 AM and work at my kitchen counter for two or three hours. About 9 AM, I head to church for Bible Study or some other activity followed by grocery shopping and errands. By noon or 1 PM, I’m back at work. In the late afternoon, I walk before cooking dinner, and most evenings, I’m at my computer, catching up on emails.

Before I start writing, I always recite The Writer’s Prayer. God gave me the prayer shortly after I got The Call. (He must have known I would always need His help.) For the last few years, I’ve handed out the prayer at conferences and am touched when others mention praying it as well.

The back of the previous page provides room for inserts.
When I finish the first draft of a book, I do a number of rewrites and often read the text in a web layout or use a different font to pick out errors I might not notice otherwise. I also print the entire manuscript and put it in a binder for my final revisions. To enter the changes in the computer, I work from the back of the book and move forward, which keeps my page numbers intact as I make corrections.

Here’s a picture of some of my favorite research books. The US Army Survival Manual (Platinum Press, Inc), A Special Forces Guide to Escape and Evasion (Will Rowler, St. Martin’s Press), The Forensic Casebook ( N.E. Genge, Ballantine Books) and Extreme Survival (Akkermans, Cook, Mattos, Morrison, JG Press) have been especially helpful for the CID series.
Research books for the suspense writer.
I hope this brief glimpse into my writing life brings to mind something you’d like to share about your process. Leave a comment or question to be entered into two drawings. I’m giving away PROTECTING HER CHILD and SCARED TO DEATH, along with two $10 Starbuck’s gift card, today.  Your comment automatically enters you in the Big Birthday Bash drawing for a Kindle!
My favorite writing snacks!
The breakfast bar is open—make your own omelets.  Help yourself to the sausage, hashed browns, biscuits and gravy, an assortment of pastries and, of course, grits! The coffee’s on. Grab a plate, pour a cup of joe and let’s talk writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,

Debby Giusti


Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Wow Debby isn't it funny how things that happen in real life can inspire you? I LOL'd at the security alarm thing with you and the hubby. I have to say this too with all of those survival guides that you have you MUST know how to survive anything! Surviorwoman! LOL!

XOXO~ Renee

Helen Gray said...

Hi Debby:

Today I have to double celebrate.
Happy Birthday Seekerville.
Happy Birthday Me.

At least Seekerville doesn't have to worry about things like wrinkles and rickety knees the way Seekerville friends do.

I have both the books, I don't drink cofrfee, and there's not a Starbucks closer than sixty miles. So the Kindle's the only drawing you need put me in for.

Since you've already provided the coffee, here's a pot of tea to go alongside it.


BK said...

Ohh...that Escape and Evasion book sounds VERY interesting. I'll have to look that one up.

KC Frantzen said...

Splendid, Debby! You are so photogenic too!!

This was fascinating...

When you think of the worst scenario(s), what process do you use to tackle the remedy?

I love your Writer's Prayer, and have it on the wall just to the left of my monitor. But duhhhh, I've just never thought about making it a point to specifically pray it each time. That will be remedied tomorrow!

May at Maythek9spy dot com

Looks like sustenance is taken care of. Y'all are great!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Happy Birthday Helen!

Pray the writer's prayer, then make a wish...


Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

Eva Maria Hamilton said...


I love the story behind your first book :)

And thanks for sharing your research books. I don't write mystery, but I'd like to read these books just for the info.

Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

Nicole Zoltack said...

What a great post, I really enjoyed it. Loved the pictures. :)


Anonymous said...

hoo boy biscuits and gravy!! I'm awake now!


Keli Gwyn said...

Debby, thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing process. I learned something that will help me. Like you I prefer to edit on hard copy. I never thought about entering the changes from back to front in order to keep the page numbers from shifting. Great tip, one I'm going to incorporate into my writing process.

Renee Ann said...

I love your writer's prayer, Debby! And it was fun to see a glimpse of how you go about creating your stories! However you do it, it works beautifully! reneeasmith61 [at] yahoo [dot] com

Cindy W. said...

Wow! I'm impressed and inspired. Obviously my "what if" muscle needs to be strengthened.

Thanks for bringing the grits. Since I moved from California to Indiana grits has become one of my favorite things.

Have a great day!

Cindy W


Julie Hilton Steele said...

First, Happy Birthday Helen!

Debby, that first shot looks like you are in a tree house. Lovely!

Glad that not all your ideas come from personal experience!

Would love either of the books....

Peace, Julie

Kav said...

Loved getting a glimpse into your writing life, Debby! You've intrigued me with your AlphaSmart before but now that I see it I think I see what a nifty gadget it is. I wonder if I could use it on the bus? Wouldn't that make people curious? LOL. But my bus ride to work is also my reading time. Sigh, such a quandry!

Please enter me in the draw for either of your books. I've only been able to get my hands on 'Yule Die' and 'Killer Headline' and I would love to read more of your work!

rowanwood AT rogers DOT com

Cara Lynn James said...

Happy birthday, Helen!

Debby, I like how you fit your walk in every day. Obviously discipline pays off for you!

Now I think I'll have my second latte. They're small.

Kirsten Arnold said...

Happy birthday, Helen!


Thanks for the look into your writing world. As others mentioned, I love the story of the tripped alarm giving you the idea for the meeting between your hero and heroine. And I'm with you, either my hero or heroine, or both, have to be wounded or suffer some sort of injury. Sometimes I don't know where the things my villains do come from, and I wonder if I suffer from some sort of suppressed anger disorder. :o)


Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Happy Birthday to HELEN!!!!

Great pictures Debby. Ohhh I have the Howdunit book too. Another good one is the Crime Writer's Reference Guide and as Missy mentioned, Debra Dixon's, When You're the Only Cop in Town is good too.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Renee!

I am learning through my research and am amazed at what I can find in the various books. I especially like the pictures since I'm a visual learner. Then I can take that image and include it in my stories.

Of course, the Internet is a great source. Love having everything at my fingertips.

And You-Tube is wonderful for how-to film clips. There's a guy who has a zillion videos on military weapons, which have provided good insight for the books as well.

Debby Giusti said...

Happy Birthday, Helen!!!

No wrinkles or rickety knees allowed in Seekerville. We all look fantastic--must be the ocean air--our figures are to die for and we never gain weight. Love it! That's what makes Seekerville so much the people, of course!

Have a super wonderful day, Helen. Cyber hugs and lots of love heading your way, Birthday Girl!

Charlotte said...

I would love to win one of your books,
I have not read one yetK however that will change soon! I find that I am drawn to suspense books lately, That's new for me, so I will be reading one of yours soon!
God bless you!

Rose said...

Hi Debby,

Thanks for a look into your writing life. Isn't it great how on small incident can trigger a book idea for a writer?

I know Alpha smarts have been around for quite a while. Can you tell us more about them? I can you upload/download files from your computer?

RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

Rose said...

Happy Birthday, Helen! Enjoy your day!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi BK!

Whenever I'm on an Army post I check out the new military books. Lots of good resources to choose from.

Ranger Joe's is great too! Do a Google Search to find the online site or to order a free catalogue. They have a large store in Columbus, GA, near Fort Benning and another in Hinesville.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi KC!

Glad you like The Writer's Prayer!

Worst case scenario? My first thought is to make it easy on my hero and heroine.

Early on in my writing, no one ever got hurt. Bullets would fly around the hero and heroine, and they'd remain unharmed.

Then I had a Eureka moment and realized I was missing a lot of good tension in my stories. Now I may initially give them an easy out, but before long, I've realized they need to suffer and up the difficulty, problem, struggle, etc.

But I really am a nice person, and they are victorious in the end! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Eva!

Let's sing Happy Birthday to Helen.

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday, dear Helen, happy birthday to you!

Birthday cake will be here in the afternoon. Ice cream too. Stop by later for the celebration!

Loves 2 Read Romance - Laura said...

Happy Birthday Helen!!

Debby thank you so much for sharing how you write and where you get some of your ideas. I have only read your book Countdown to Death but I am going to add all the books you mentioned to my book wish list. Thank you again!!

fantum2004 AT sbcglobal DOT net

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Debby, Love reading your process. Your deck is wonderful. What a view of those Southern trees.

Aren't Alphasmarts the best?

Rose you can't hardly do anything on them but write which is why I love them because then you can create without stopping to edit mid stream. Also they run on Double C batteries and are very light. Good for travel.

Happy Birthday Helen. October is a great birthday month.

I love your writer's prayer and your military prayer. I say them every morning.

Love the biscuits and gravy. That is one of my favorite breakfasts.

Audra Harders said...

Happy Birthday, Helen! I brought a hot out of the oven cinnamon roll from Cinnabon just for you! Mmmm, smell that tasty goodness - glad I brought one for myself, too! LOL!!

Debby, love the way you come up with ideas. I especially loved the opening of Nowhere To Hide. Put me right in the action and I loved how the hero made his entrance.

I love my Alphasmart, too. Automatically saves your work, rarely needs a battery change and mine has outlived 5 computers.

Great post and great omelet bar! I think I'll fill up on protein now that I've saturated my system with sugar. LOL!

Missy Tippens said...

Debby, oh my gosh! I never thought of entering changes from the back, forward!!! Once those page numbers get off, it can turn into a nightmare. What a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing that tidbit today. And for letting us get a glimpse of your writing world. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Helen, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! Thanks for celebrating with us and letting us celebrate with you today!

KC Frantzen said...

Happy birthday Helen!

Glad Seekerville is a magical place, Debby. No wonder y'all have such a following. Always thought it was the food. :)

Understood on upping the tension. What I mean is, when you decide on a worst case scenario, how do you write their survival (as it were) out of it? Do you have the finish in mind and try to tie something in from that? Do you possibly take things in a new and unexpected direction from your original ideas? Introduce new characters?

I'm asking because May has the potential for lots of mayhem (ahem) and I'm not sure how to write her out of some of it.

Thought there might be a process I could borrow.

Patsy said...

Loved your interview Debby. That picture of you writing in your car was so funny to me. Thanks for sharing your writing process. And happy birthday Seekerville, today is mine as well! (Although I'm much older than Seekerville! haha)

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Didja see that?


Oh mylanta, white is not allowed in Ruthy-world.

I'll be back. I'm going outside now to throw stones at my house.

Erica Vetsch said...

I Love the Writer's Prayer! I have it printed out and posted by my computer! Thank you so much for letting other writers use it. :)

The CID series sounds so exciting! I love a good, suspenseful novel.

ericavetsch at gmail dot com

Julia M. Reffner said...

Your research books look fascinating, even though I don't write mystery. I just love getting a glimpse into your writer's process. I never thought about the back-to-front thing, but now I will do it that way. Also, I've never tried different fonts in editing to pick up errors, but I think I've heard this several times lately so maybe it is something to try.


Pepper Basham said...

Happy Birthday Seekerville AND Helen!!
Debby, I love the way you describe stories coming to mind. Isn't that one of the most fascinating parts of writing?
I've always thought that writing suspense would be an incredibly complex process - with planting clues and researching forensics - etc. Do you find the research to be grueling?
I have Howdunit on my wishlist. Not that I need to start writing a different genre, but I do have an idea in the deep-brew stage.
Mary, slap me - please.
or Ruthy...

Linnette R Mullin said...

Hi, Debby!

Thanks for sharing with us. I'm a newbie and have finally had the time and opportunity to fly with my writing.

I think the slowest part for me will always be the beginning of the book. I have to have the beginning just as I want it before I move on. Once that's accomplished, the rest seems to fly.

I do get writer's block now and then when trying to decide how to start the next chapter. But, once I start the fingers fly. I'm enjoying this immensely!

I'm nearing the end of my book and can't wait to hold the whole thing in my hand. Of course, there's the going back to edit, proofread, and rewrite, but, wow! I'm so close and I can't wait to see how the story finishes. Like Ruthy, I don't know exactly what is going to happen until I write it.

One chapter I wrote began with one direction in mind, but I found my characters guiding the scene a different way and I loved it!

Thanks for sharing your birthday with us, Seekerville!


lr. mullin at live. com

Digging for Pearls said...

Love the photos Debby. It's been so interesting to read about the different ways the Seekers approach writing.

Jodie Wolfe

Casey said...

I had never seen of those Alpha things. How interesting! Loved this peek into your writing life, I would hang around longer, but I am headed out of town for the day. See you all later. ;)

Anonymous said...

You make it sound so simple Debbie.

Your books sounds wonderful.
Please enter me for the drawing.

bcountryqueen6 at msn dot com

Julie Lessman said...

DEB!!! What a fun glimpse into your busy day, girl!! LOVE he pics and LOVE the sound of The Officer's Secret!!! You sure know how to write suspense girl, I'll tell you that.

Thanks for the fun blog today and off to do my own writing ... :)


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Nicole, thanks for stopping by! Did you laugh at me in the AM picture? I wouldn't have included it except we saw Ruthy and Myra in the early hours so I thought I had to follow suit.

Yes, Susanna, biscuits and gravy today! No calories though. Never in Seekerville!

Debby Giusti said...

Glad the back to front tip is something you can use. I need to read my pages in a hard copy to pick out errors. Changing the font on the computer also helps, as I mentioned in the blog.

I'm always amazed at the typos I catch, even if I've worked the pages a number of times. My eyes see what I want them to see and not the actual text.

Missy uses a double page layout on her computer and reads her manuscripts as if in book form. I've done that a couple times and it helps as well.

Rebekah E. said...

Thanks for the interesting post and coming today.

Leigh said...

Good morning, all, and a big happy birthday to Helen! What a gal -- it's her special day and she's still bringing the drinks. :-) Since Deb's bringing cake this afternoon, let us know your favorite cookies and we'll whip up some batches.

I enjoyed the look into your writing world, Deb. And although I don't have an Alphasmart, I sure love my little netbook. :-)

Hope everyone has a great day,

Melanie Dickerson said...

Reading about your writing life was so interesting, Debby! I mostly like to write in the mornings, but I can write any time of the day if I'm inspired and on a roll! Right now I'm praying for inspiration and fewer distractions!

Thanks for sharing. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh! Happy Birthday, Helen! You cute thing, you!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Renee Ann!

Thanks for your kind words! Glad you like The Writer's Prayer.

BTW, if anyone doesn't have it, the prayer is on my website in a downloadable form. Go to and click on Writer's Prayer to get a printable copy.

Jessica Nelson said...

Wonderful glimpse, Debby. :-) And I love the writer's prayer. I believe you gave me one at one of our meetings.

Your house looks so nice!

Debby Giusti said...

Cindy W,
You HAVE to explain how you learned to like grits in Indiana. That's the good old Midwest! Are folks there eating grits now?

Also, where did you live in CA? My hubby was born in San Fran, and we lived at Fort Irwin, in the Mojave Desert, for two years while he was stationed at the National Training Center.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Debby, I love the security alarm story! It's so neat to see where my Seeker sisters write their stories. Thanks for sharing pics too! Love the view from your deck.


Cheryl Wyatt said...


Hope you have a wonderful day!


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Julie,
I do love the trees that surround my house. I mentioned living in the Mojave Desert, but I didn't mentioned how much I missed trees...oaks, poplars, sweetgums. They're especially beautiful this time of year.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Kav,

You're in the drawing.

The AlphaSmart would be a perfect way to write while you're on the bus. I take it to doctor's appointments, the beauty parlor, everywhere I go if I know I'll have to wait. Folks are always interested in "that strange little computer!"

You know AlphaSmarts were created for school students so they're sturdy and easy to handle.

Janet Dean said...

Debby, You're just adorable in the morning! I loved the pictures and hearing your writing process. I have The Writer's Prayer below my monitor. Love your prayers in person and on this card!

We triggered my parents' security alarm by entering the code wrong. A voice shrieked that the police had been called and scared me spitless! No wonder I don't write suspense. LOL But they merely called instead of coming with drawn guns.

Happy birthday, Helen! Have a wonderful day!!!


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Cara,

I wish I were more disciplined when it comes to exercise. After sitting all day, I need to move my legs and work the cobwebs out of my brain as well.

Susan Anne Mason said...


Thanks for sharing your life with us! Love your pictures. Everything is so CLEAN & WHITE! Would never survive in my house!

I have an alpha smart but it's acting up and sometimes won't transfer the material. So now I don't trust it anymore. :( Plus my family complained when I typed in front of the TV that the noise of my fingers tapping distracted them!

I would like one of these really small notebooks one day. They look so handy! And no internet distractions!

Happy birthday, Helen & Patsy! Hope you have a lovely celebration.


sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Debby Giusti said...


Love your mention of "suppressed anger disorder!" You got me laughing.

I think all suspense writers are twisted, don't you? In a good way, of course.

Although I'm always searching for new ways to harm people. I don't think that's normal.

Debby Giusti said...


Thanks for mentioning the Crime Writers Reference Book. I checked it out on Amazon. Looks like something I need to buy.

Another good book is HOMICIDE, by David Simon. Simon's a journalist who spent a year working with Baltimore Homicide detectives. The book is authentic, and even cops will tell you it's a factual read.

mary bailey said...

Debby, I love how you describe the "internal picture" you start with. I use a similar method. My brain is full of mental snapshots!

Thanks for this inside peek into your writer's world!


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Charlotte!

So what caused your new interest in suspense stories?

I love the pieces that need to fit together in a suspense. And the excitement of the chase or of being on the run or of having to hide out.

Debby Giusti said...

The AlphaSmart is just a word processor. You type and the words appear on a small screen. The text can be downloaded into a computer (through a detachable cable). My Alpha is an old model with limited functions, but there are newer versions that include more options.

When working on my computer, I often revise the text and try to make it "perfect," which slows down my forward progression. With an Alpha, I just keep typing.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Laura,
Thanks for your interest in my stories. Thanks especially for being in Seekerville today.

Everyone is in the drawing X 2!

Remember birthday cake for Helen this afternoon.

Helen, if you stop back, be sure to tell us how you plan to spend your day!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Sandra,

Thanks for mentioning that the Alpha runs on batteries. I've had mine for years and have only changed the batteries two or three times. Very energy efficient as well as portable.

Debby Giusti said...

Audra, the cinnamon roll smells divine!

I've got Helen's cake in the oven. Should be iced and ready to eat about 2 PM.

Another Alpha user! YAY!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Missy!

You always provide such great tips...glad I could reciprocate.

I mentioned your trick of reading text in a two-page format. Very cool!

Kirsten Arnold said...


I agree, suspense writers have to be twisted. But it's more fun that way. :o)

Your comment about always trying to find new ways to harm people made me giggle. I just went to an NFL game at FedEx field and during halftime I told my brother this would be the perfect stadium for the heroine in my new wip to be stabbed at (the wip has an NFL theme) because the hero could easily jump over the short walls. He shook his head and called me warped. Go figure. I thought that’s what everyone was thinking about during halftime.

Glad I’m not alone with my disorder.

Debby Giusti said...

KC...oh, that May gets into so much trouble!

I always know the ending before I begin to write. That gives me the general direction for the story although there are surprises along with way. (The Alpha and typing in a sort of stream of consciousness free my mind and allow inspiration full rein.)

My worst case choices are at every step along the way. So if I need to decide the weather, I'll pick overcast or rainy--unless there's a momentary lull in the action and I want to show something good happening to the hero or heroine. Then the sun will shine.

Usually my characters are loners with little or no family to support them. And if they HAD a support network, I take it away. They have to be totally on their on in the climax...or both of them are working together without the help of others. That's usually when they realize they need God's help and turn to Him because they have nowhere else to turn.

So at each step, I'm trying to make the situation worse. That doesn't mean there aren't little successes along the way. But on the main journey or the main goal that needs to be achieved, everything has to get very, very bad. The bad guy has the girl, and the hero doesn't know where she's being held or how he's going to save her. He has finally realized he loves her and his world will end if something happens to her. That final race against time to save the one he loves is what I focus on in the climax.

Does that help, KC?

Debby Giusti said...

Happy Birthday, Patsy!!!

Whoo-hoo! Two birthdays in Seekerville today. Wishing both you gals all the best!

Oh, yeah, the photo in the car was taken in my garage. Notice the window screens stacked along the wall. I should have pulled the car out before I had the photo taken. But then we are writers and we know how to use our imaginations, right?

Debby Giusti said...

Notice, Ruthy, I did not include a picture of my office. Okay?

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Erica,
Thanks for your mention of the Writer's Prayer!

So fun seeing you at ACFW!!!

Walt M said...

Debbie, thanks for the look into your day.

As for the drawing, I already have all of your books. Looking forward to the next one. :-)

-Walt (who made poached eggs on toast for breakfast this morning)

Walt M said...

Except I should have spelled it "Debby."

Debby Giusti said...

Save trip!!! Hope you're singing Happy Birthday to Helen and Patsy as you travel!

It looks like rain in GA, which we need. A good day for a suspense story.

Myra Johnson said...

First of all, happy birthday to Helen! Can I share your pot of tea? How about a blueberry muffin with a birthday candle on top to go with it?

And Debby!!! Wow, girlfriend, how your mind works is SCARY!!! Glad those scenarios ONLY play out on the printed page!

Okay. Diet Coke and . . . TicTacs???

You call THAT a snack???? Honey, at least peanut M&Ms have protein!

Helen Gray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karin said...

What a fun post - I always enjoy seeing how other people do it!

Pam Hillman said...

Loved reading about your writing process, Debby.

I play the "what if" game a lot. Something will happen, and I'll start thinking, what if....

And sometimes it can be some little thing, like dialing a wrong number (what if I heard screaming on the other end?), or seeing someone drop a note in a mailbox (is that REALLY the mailman?)...or meeting the same guy every morning on the way to work for 20 years, then nothing... what happened to him? Where'd he go?

KC Frantzen said...

Hey Debby - yes - thanks ma'am!!!

and Myra - I'm with you. At least a little PROTEIN with those M&M's - the "other" food group.

Happy B'day again Helen. Looks like we'll be celebrating with all sorts of goodies today!!!

Alrighty then - off to WRITE WRITE WRITE!!!

I have been on a bit of a mission of mercy this morning. So - now - time for Debby's prayer and getting with it. May needs to get into some more trouble. ;D

Holly said...

I always like reading the different approaches writers take to their work. So interesting, although the AlphaSmart is definitely one I hadn't heard of before.


Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Happy Birthdya Helen! It sounds like it has been fun so far! Are you going to share the angel food cake with the rest of us? :-P

XOXO~ Renee

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

throwing rocks at your own house - ROFL :)

Renee Ann said...

Thanks for the link to the printable version of the prayer, Debby. And I LOVE the Cross My Heart Prayer Team! I added it to my blogroll!

Debby Giusti said...

Isn't it great to be able to share how-to ideas? I always learn something from every post. Usually I'm struck by a well-duh! moment as in "why didn't I think of that!"

The screenwriters who have spoken at RWA conferences, think Michael Hauge and the late Blake Snyder, mentioned their amazement the way romance writers share information and help one another. They never see anything like that happening in Hollywood.

We are truly lucky to have one another. Seekerville provides great support and is a wealth of information. Plus, there's always good food.

The birthday cake is almost ready. Someone pass out the paper hats and balloons!

CarolM said...

Edit from the back forward to keep the pages numbers intact.

How simple.
How... genius.

And why have I never thought of it?! ;)

That insight will help me tons in edits in the next few days ;).

Thank you!

carol at carolmoncado dot com

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Pepper,
The research part of writing suspense is fun, IMHO! I'm always amazing how one idea will lead to another and end up with a twist I can add to the story. Very, very cool.

Whenever I speak to non-writer groups, questions pop up about where I find my ideas. Bet most of you would agree that writers are never at a loss for what to write.

Ideas float around us, some from the nightly news, some from conversations we overhear, some just spring from nowhere!

I thought everyone went around with snippets of stories twirling through their brains. Finally realized it's unique to writers.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Linnette,
Like you, I spend a lot of time on the openings of my stories. The synopsis also takes time. The middle flows at a decent pace and the end usually zips along.

Linnette, didn't you write 4,000 words the other day? For a newbie, you've caught on fast!

Congrats on being close to finishing your first book. A great accomplishment few achieve! We're proud of you!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Time for cake and ice cream!!!

Put on the party hats, blow up the balloons and let's celebrate Helen and Patsy's birthday!!!!


Red velvet cake and chocolate ice cream. Dig in!

Diet Colas in the fridge. Coke, 7-Up and Pepsi, too! Iced tea for Missy...with lots of sugar.

Renee said...

Debby, your post is very timely for me. I'm in the process of plotting out a suspense (targeted for Love Inspired). I had written tiny blurbs for h and h a while back and then put the idea on the back burner. It's encouraging to see that I might be doing it right. ;)

reneelynnscott [at] gmail [dot] com

Debby Giusti said...

Waving to Julie and Rebekah! Hope you're enjoying the birthday party!

And Seekerville!!!!

Debby Giusti said...

I'm still thinking about getting a notebook or Net. If you stop back later, tell us why you like yours, please.

flchen1 said...

Thanks for the great post, Debby! And breakfast sound good--we could really use it today; we got some news last night that has us reeling. But God is good.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Jodie!

Good seeing you today. Thanks for your sweet note!

Debby Giusti said...

We're praying you get great inspiration today. Birthday cake and ice cream might help!

Linnette R Mullin said...

Thanks, Debby!

Yes, that was me. I did write 4,000 words the other day. Yesterday was a quiet day for me, so I took advantage. I probably got in 9-10 hours of writing.

Motherly duties are crying loud today, so I've had to break for grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning, but I plan to hit it again this evening.

Thanks for your encouragement and support! It really means a lot to me.


Widsith said...

Wow, thanks for all these helpful tips, Debby! For instance, the thought hadn't occurred to me that changing text fonts might help me spot mistakes I'd otherwise miss. This is very cool! :)

Real life experiences are actually what got me thinking about writing fiction in the first place, so my story ideas bear a strong resemblance to the struggles my family and friends are going through.

What are some of the benefits and challenges of transplanting our own inner struggles into our fictional characters? For instance, if I struggle with a certain fear, are there pros and cons to trying to work out my personal fear in a fictional story?
And on a different note, how closely can fiction authors draw our plots and characters from reality before we have to watch out for any kind of legal issues?

I'm not sure if my questions are as clear as they could be, so if I'm not making sense, tell me, and I'll do my best to clarify. :)

Oh, and thanks for entering me into the draws too! :)

Helen Gray said...


Thanks for the party.

I hope Patsy's enjoying it as much as I am.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Happy Birthday to Patsy too! WAHOO!

Did I miss anyone?


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Debby I love my HP Mini. It doesn't have a disc drive but I always save to a flash drive anyway and email my files to myself. I don't like proofreading on it because I can't see a full page at a time on normal print view but it's GREAT for travel.


Anonymous said...

I've read one of your books...loved it...want to read more! Please enter me. Thanks!

Vince said...

Hi Debby:

I just printed out and posted your “Writer’s Prayer” above my monitor. What would you think of having someone, with a really great voice, record the words and then post that audio file along with the prayer? This way people could play the prayer and it would be like having ‘two or more’ gathered together to pray. Do you have anyone with a voice like James Earl Jones in you church? In fact, if you could do this, then you could add some inspirational photos and put it on YouTube.

BTW: you’ve convinced me. I am going to print out my WIP and edit the hard copy. I am going to put it in a loose-leaf with big eyes on the cover. That way those eyes will be starring at me -- making me feel guilty if I ignore it. As long as the WIP was just one more file on my hard drive, it was easy to ignore.

Also, I’d like to buy an AlpaSmart now. I assume that it does not get hot even after an hour of use. I’m taking a 10-day road trip and it would be ideal for keeping up with my NaNo quotas.

Thanks, this has been a very useful post.


April W Gardner said...

I'd never seen an Alphasmart before. That's totally awesome! I just got a new netbook, so I don't guess Hubby would appreciate me asking for an Alphasmart too. :-)
Great post!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Jessica!

Yes, we were together at the RWA autographing. So great seeing you there!

BTW, my dil's sister goes to college in your hometown!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Cheryl and Janet!

Loved your story, Janet! YIKES! A voice comes out of that security system?

The house we were buying was wired for the system so we went ahead and got it. But it was a steep learning curve. When the cops came with guns, I was SCARED TO DEATH! Thus the title for the next book! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Susan,
Sorry to hear your Alpha is acting up. Wonder if you could send it back to the company for repairs?

When Michael Hauge came to the M&M conference a few weeks ago, he presented a mega workshop for us. We worked from 8:30 AM until late in the afternoon with only a 30 minute working lunch. I used my Alpha to take notes and was able to capture so much of what he said. Yes, the keys make more noise than a laptop, but no one seemed to mind. And the plus side was that I have a record of just about everything he said. From now on the Alpha goes with me to workshops and conferences.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Mary Bailey!

Glad to know I'm not the only one with a mind that works in freeze frame mode! :)

Those visual pictures stick with me until I'm able to start building the story. It's always like a puzzle. Often the whodunit part comes much later. I'll think one person is the villain, then as I write, I begin to see how someone else is really the bad guy.

Debby Giusti said...

Love it, Kirsten!

Your bro needs to stop by Seekerville. We'll tell him his sis is perfectly normal.

Love the story line, btw!

LoRee Peery said...

Debby, I have a copy of your writer's prayer and treasure it. I have no idea if my mind could make sense of going backwards when revising, but anything is worth a try and I'm so glad it works for you. You are an inspiration and a blessing to other writers.

Dianna Shuford said...

Hi, Debby! Long time, no hear.

I loved your idea about entering revisions from the back page forward. That's brilliant! (Bet you didn't know you were brilliant, huh? Well, I just told ya.) I'll have to start doing revisions that way because the page numbers do get screwed up and it drives me up the wall.

Unfortunately, I can't work in the car because of car sickness, but I have been known to let my imagination work over a storyline while traveling. My hubby figures out real quick not to talk to me. My mind kicks in gear and I often don't hear what he says so he gets no response.

I have both of your books, Debby, so bless someone else with those, but definitely enter me for the final drawings.


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Walt,
You're so sweet to always buy my books! Cyber hug coming your way!

Debbie or Debby...either way is okay!

Debby Giusti said...

Peanut butter M&Ms, Myra! Totally yum! And no calories in Seekerville! YAY!

Anonymous said...

I loved reading about your inspiration for your books. And I'm going to look for The Writer's Prayer.

Mary M

Debby Giusti said...

Helen, sounds like Ken is a jokester as well as a romantic! Does he realize how lucky he is to have you? Tell him to check into Seekerville and we'll set him straight.

Really sounds like a lovely birthday! More hugs coming your way!

Patsy, if you check back, we want to know how you celebrated!

Hope you both enjoyed the red velvet cake I baked! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Waving to Karen. Thanks for stopping by Seekerville!

Pam, we're kindred spirits. I totally think the way you do. Everything that happens could be turned into a story!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Holly!

Keep coming back to Seekerville. There's always something new!

Glad to see you today. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Renee Ann, thanks for spreading the word about the Cross My Heart Prayer Team (check out my website to learn more:!

So, Eva, why are you throwing rocks at Ruthy's house? Please do tell!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Carol,
Did you say I was a genius? Te-he-he! Love it! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Yay, Renee. Glad I helped confirm you've got your act together. Remember conflict!!! Steeple Hill loves conflict...internal and external.

Debby Giusti said...


Prayers for whatever happened today. Hope you're doing okay.

Debby Giusti said...

You rock! Keep writing and writing and writing. That's the best way to learn the craft!

You go, girl!

cynthia said...

Thanks for the great post. Isn't it interesting where we get our story ideas from? Things that happen in our lives, things we hear or read about on the news, or for me from dreams. I look forward to your new books coming out next year.
cynthiakchow (at) earthlink (dot) net

Chris Loehmer said...

Lots of good ideas. I'm glad I'm not the only one who comes up with story ideas from the little things we run into in life. I am also going to tell my husband it is ok for me to write in the car, coz he has told me that I cannot bring the laptop in the front seat with me.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Widseth,
It's hard not to put at least a small part of ourselves in our stories. However, the tales are just because I write about murder doesn't mean I would ever commit a crime. But you know that, of course.

However, I do believe that the themes that run through our stories--especially if a writer always has a certain scenario that she/he explores--could be important to the author. Case in point, I know a gal who struggled with her mom when she was growing up. Now her fictional tales involve strong mothers who impact their children.

My mom died very unexpectedly when she came to visit for Christmas one year. My children were sick, I got sick, my newborn had been in the ER just days I know how it feels to have everything tumble down around you...that dark place that keeps getting darker. That time in my past plays into the stories I write today.

Now if you're asking whether to put events and people you know into your stories, I'd suggest clouding the picture so no one recognizes who you're writing about. It's easier to make up a place or event or person rather than risk offending someone...especially when the truth doesn't flatter that person. Get my drift?

My CID stories take place in a fictional Army post named Fort Rickman. It's similar to Fort Benning, Ga, but by having a make believe post, I don't have to ensure every street, every housing area, every building is accurate. That makes my life a whole lot easier.

So, IMHO, writers add a part of themselves to every story...but most facts or people or events are fictionalized.

Hope that helps.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Cheryl,
Thanks for the info about the HP mini. Good to know about emailing the files and using a flash drive to save. Hugs!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Jackie,
So glad you liked my're in the drawing!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Vince!

Great suggestion about recording The Writer's Prayer. I was hoping you were volunteering!!! :)

So glad the blog helped. Yes, use the 3-ring binder. That way the manuscript looks and feels--sort of--like a book. Easy to flip back and forth to see if you've repeated yourself or obmitted something important.

No more hiding your work on your hard drive. It's time to get it out in the contest circuit and then on to an editor.


Alpha's are durable. And they automatically turn off when not in use. You can't hurt it, as far as I know. I've dropped mine, stuffed it in a large tote, used it on the beach, jammed it in a suitcase...well, you get the idea. It keeps on working!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi April,
Save the Alpha for next year!

Debby Giusti said...'re so sweet. Hugs and love!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Dianna,
Thanks for the brillant plug. Someone earlier called me a genius. Hey, you gals are easy! :)

Glad the back to front tip helps! I hated losing my place when I made corrections and knew there had to be an easier way! Another Eurka moment and I had a solution that works for me!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Mary M!

Thanks for stopping by Seekerville today! You're in the drawing for the Kindle. Everyone is who commented. Keeping my fingers crossed for all of you to win...oh, wait, only one person can win...

Guess Seekerville needs more Birthday Bash Party Months!

Debby Giusti said...

You get ideas from dreams? I've heard a few people talk about getting the entire concept for a book in their sleep! WOW!!! Amazing. I don't. Or maybe I get the stories but don't remember them! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Riding in the car is a great time to write. You have to grab those precious moments when you can!

Tell hubby everyone in Seekerville says it's okay!

Ausjenny said...

Hi Debby
very late here well compared to normal. been to brain dead lately (on a deadline of my own making) Just sent my final report in for paper based subjects and this one was by far the hardest 4000 words.
Love how you work and the concepts for books like the alarm going off.
Now that would scare me. bad enough when staying with friends and there fire alarm needed a new battery and around 3am it went mad needing it only problem it was in the room i was staying in!
I would love to read your books I do have one or two of yours in my bookshelf but not these two but would pass on the coffee (if an aussie can enter)
I like learning how authors think up stories etc. I was asking on a forum if current situations like the GFC influence them also. as I have read a few reflecting that at the moment.
Happy Birthday Helen.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Ausjenny...of course, you're in the drawing! I hope Steeple Hill will start marketing to Australia and New Zealand soon!

I believe what's happening in the world around us plays into our stories. As you probably know, the unemployment rate is growing in the US and many people are having a hard time making ends meet. I've been adding a few lines about the bad economy into my books. It's something readers can identify with...sort of a universal truth.

CarolM said...

Yep - said you were a genius! ;)

AND I got an AlphaSmart Dana for Mother's Day this year. I also have a laptop but had anticipated using it at times when I don't wnat to carry it - like during Nano or conferences etc.

So far, my daughter has used it to write a couple stories. She did the Young Writer's Program part of NaNo last year [she was 8] and will do it again this year - she's excited about getting to type!

And now that my hard copy edits are done - I get to grade tests then do those blasted ecopy edits.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Carol,
What a nice Mother's Day gift.

How wonderful for your daughter to use. Good for her!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...


I am not throwing rocks at Ruthy's house - I'd never even think to do that, my goodness.

Ruthy said in a post today:
"Clean...Didja see that? And she's WEARING A WHITE FLEECE...Oh mylanta, white is not allowed in Ruthy-world. I'll be back. I'm going outside now to throw stones at my house."

And Ruthy's joke made me laugh so hard. :)

Please, no one throw anything at Ruthy's house or any one else's!


Eva Maria Hamilton said...

what a sad event in your life; losing your mom at Christmas while everyone was sick. I'm sorry you went through all that. Losing relatives at holiday time always compounds the heartache.

God Bless,

Project Journal said...

Okay Debby,
I am SO, SO sorry that I'm leaving a comment so late!! It's been a bit of a crazy day lol....

I loved this post! Very cool : ) I agree with KC, you are very photogenic.

I would never be able to write in the car. The downside to motion sickness...I can't even read in the car. Hate it!! Planes, trains, and buses are okay, but cars and boats are a no-go!! LOL!

A very happy birthday, Helen!! I snuck it in oh 3 minutes before it's over, probably the last person to wish it to you, even if you don't read it tongiht *wink*

I'd love for an opportunity in the giveaway, Debby!
Thanks so much,

Ann Lee Miller said...

Debby, I loved hearing how you develop your story ideas. Thanks for sharing!

Widsith said...

Thanks so much, Debby! Yes, your insight helps a lot, and I'm so thankful to learn from you and everyone else here at Seekerville who's worked through questions like these.

All the best!
Dana/Widsith :)

Ausjenny said...

Hi Debby we do get the books at the christian bookshops in the city we dont get a huge amount and I dont think we get all the monthly selections and a few months behind. but the downside is the cost at about $9 per book. here in Australia the GFC didn't hit as hard as in america but it has affected us a bit. The Australian dollar is almost on a par with the USA at present. It should bring down the cost in books but doesn't seem to have made a dent in them yet.

Jill W said...

Thanks for the peek into your writing life Debby. I'm going to see if I can find the Writer's Prayer on line. I'm wondering how you like your AlphaSmart. I've entertained the idea of purchasing on. Have a great day and pass it on!

Cindy W. said...

Wow Debby, I love the looks of the AlphaSmart. I never knew there was such a thing. I must check it out. :)

Many blessings,
Cindy W.


KathyM said...

Thanks for all the helpful information. I plan on learning more about the AlphaSmart.

PatriciaW said...

Hope Helen had a wonderful birthday.

I'm unpacking boxes following a recent move. Just Monday, I put my hand on my copy of the Writer's Prayer. I don't know who sent it to me but I love it and when I set up my writing space, it will have a prominent place.

I love how you turned everyday events into the beginnings of your stories.

n2france said...

I've never heard of the Alpha Smart. I'm really into gadgets, especially if it helps me write. Thanks for letting us into your world for a while.