Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Keeping a Huge Cast Straight with Guest Debra Clopton

Hi! Debra Clopton here, so excited about being in Seekerville!

 My latest book, Her Homecoming Cowboy an August release from Love Inspired is on shelves now. Bull rider Colt Holden is my most tortured hero ever. And he needs a reason to smile. Click here for an interview with Colt.

 Since it is the 21st book in my ongoing Mule Hollow series Tina invited me to talk a little about “my people” and how in world I keep them all straight? Keep them straight--ha! There is no keeping these fun, God-loving folks straight—they do whatever they want to do! Oh, wait, Tina meant there are so many of them how do I keep them straight as in keep up with them? Ha, that’s just as tough because after 21 books there’s a bunch of folks wandering around Mule Hollow. It can make this ole gal crazy! But, thank goodness I have my ways and I’ll tell how I do it?

But first, she also asked me if I set out to create a huge series when I wrote that first book The Trouble with Lacy Brown back in 2003?

The answer to the second question is NO! For starters, I have to thank my wonderful readers who grabbed hold of Mule Hollow from the beginning and held on! Their loyalty gave me the opportunity to write this many. Big {{HUGS}} if any of you are reading this!!!

Okay onward: I didn’t have a clue Mule Hollow would go past 3 books. But I hoped for a 5 book series. Also, I didn’t know if I had it in me to stick with the same characters past 5 books without me getting bored with the characters—or them having nothing left to say to me. As you can see “my people” are long winded—they don’t know how to stop talking! Fact is they are planning their next escapades before I end the current books!

So what did I know when I started:
  • I had a plan and knew I wanted to set it up for success.

  •  I wanted to create a place a community with in my books that would make people smile, enjoy themselves with good friends and hopefully desire a closer relationship with God when they closed the book. 

  • Writing the first book, The Trouble With Lacy Brown I wanted Lacy Brown to be a larger than life character who loved the Lord with all her heart. I wanted readers to love her, because I did plan that she would be in every Mule Hollow book. Her vision would drive the books and her appearance would be essential to connecting them.

To make the community I needed the right characters. They would be my nucleus characters who would appear in each book.

  • Lacy Brown 

  • The Mule Hollow Matchmaking Posse were born; Norma Sue, Esther Mae and Adela the 3 older ladies who had a vision to save their town by exploiting the one commodity they had: lonesome cowboys

  • Add to Sam’s Dinner and Sam the owner, as Lacy would say he is as small and wrinkled as a raisin. 

  • Then there are my two hard-of-hearing old dudes, Applegate Thornton and Stanley Orr who play checkers every day at the diner and get into all kinds of stuff.

I had a blast creating these folks—or they had a blast taking over my mind might be a better way of putting it. Add that up and its 7 characters plus my hero and heroine who must show up in every book.

Then there are secondary nucleus characters who show up a lot:

  • Samantha, my matchmaking donkey who had a starring role in book 2 And Baby Makes Five. Samantha has to make an appearance every so often to keep readers happy since she is a reader favorite. Then Sheri, Lacy’s best friend and sidekick, there is Pete from Pete’s Feed and Seed who doesn’t have to be in every book but he’s a big part of the community. And the ladies from No Place Like Home, the local women’s shelter. 

  • Then there is the problem of letting heroes and heroines from past books come back and say hi to the readers. 

So you see “my people” have grown bigger than a 5 generation family reunion!

How do you keep a large and growing cast straight? Who gets in the book and who doesn’t without bogging the stories down with tons of character backstory? This is what I do. 

First: Your nucleus characters get in because they make the community. They are essential to the stories because the readers know them as friends and want to catch up with what they are up to as much as they want to read about the new romance. But, remember it is your Hero’s and Heroine’s story and you must focus on their romance and use your nucleus characters to enhance their love story. 

Second: You have to choose between the rest of the group. They don’t all get into current books—(if I hadn’t figured this out Mule Hollow would not have worked. Can you imagine if I had all 20 of my previous couples from the other books showing up in Her Homecoming Cowboy!) There wouldn’t have been any new plot because of wading through backstories. My plots would drag—and I don’t like anything to drag or get boring! I’m in the entertaining business first and foremost cuz if readers get bored they don’t make it to the end and get the message.

So what do you do when you have all these other characters wanting to make an appearance?

I incorporate them into the story in small ways. For instance my hero from Her Baby Dreams is Dan Dawson. He’s a cattle hauler. (a tall dark and handsome cattle hauler) So is Jess Holden my hero from Her Lone Star Cowboy (tall dark and handsome too). Let’s say in my current book my hero needs cattle hauled across Texas, they call Dan or Jess. We’ll use Dan for now. When Dan drives up with the cattle and hops from his truck grinning and being the happy-go-lucky cowboy that he is, I don’t have to give an elaborate backstory of him. I let the reader experience him by actions or conversation with the current hero. 

Maybe the hero asks about his wife, the baby—but that’s it, no paragraph recap of Dan’s love story. The readers who have read Dan’s story just got to say hello to him in this small cameo that he has made. But the reader who is coming into the series at say, book 10, and didn’t read book 4 (Her Baby Dreams- Dan’s starring role), this reader is just seeing a nice cowboy hauling some cattle for the character of the current book. Likewise, if heroine needs a dress she goes to Ashby’s Treasures, the local dress store and there’s Ashby. The diehard readers get to say hi while a new reader meets this sweet helpful store owner.

NOW THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS, sometimes when a previous characters background is essential to the story I do tell it. But there has to be a reason why I take the readers into this backstory. As with my current book the 3rd book of the Mule Hollow Homecoming trilogy. These brothers share a past that affects each of the stories and so their backgrounds are essential to the stories. Same with the Men of Mule Hollow series those 4 books start with the setup in Her Lone Star Cinderella and reoccurs throughout the other 3 books.

And there you go! That is how I keep up with all the craziness. Doing it this way has worked for me and Mule Hollow. It allows me to have new fresh plots that aren’t bogged down and I try to make it so readers never know who they are going to get to see (say hi to) when they pick a book up. It works well, giving me a host of characters to enhance the new stories. Mule Hollow folks have become like family to me and I think to readers too.

Now what? I’ve just completed the first book in my new series The Sunrise Ranch series. Once again there is a cast of characters who I’ve had a blast creating and can’t wait for readers to get to know. Her Unforgettable Cowboy will be out March of 2013. Set on a 10,000 acre working cattle ranch owned by the Randolph McDermott and his 3 sons. It is also a boy’s ranch, home to 16 abandoned or neglected boys ages 8 to 18. Set near the fictional, small town of Dew Drop with its own cast of characters.  This series starts with a fairly big cast—so here I go again! I don’t know how many books will be in the series but there are lots of cowboys who’ll be lookin’ for love. If I can just keep them all straight! I hope to see you all there.

Please visit my website and join my monthly contest—which signs you up for my newsletter. Lots of new things coming. Plus a 1800’s novella from Thomas Nelson Publishing in the Bride for All Seasons anthology coming summer of 2013 

More about Debra:  

 Debra Clopton sold her first book The Trouble with Lacy Brown in 2003, which was a Golden Heart finalist and was published in 2005. She is an award winning, multi-published novelist—her most recent award a finalist in the 2012 Gayle Wilson Award for Excellence for Her Rodeo Cowboy, book one of the Men of Mule Hollow series.

 A three-time Carol Award finalist, Debra lives in the country near the small Texas town of Madisonville with her husband, Chuck Parks, and her two teenage stepsons. Her two adult sons, her lovely daughter-in-law and beautiful granddaughter have recently moved across country—it’s been a bit of a shock for her to adjust to not having them close. 

Though she has numerous awards her greatest awards are her family and she feels blessed to have a career that enables her to visit them often—have computer, will travel! Along with her writing Debra helps her husband teach the youth at their local Cowboy Church. Debra loves to read, travel and spend time with her family. She is the author of the acclaimed Mule Hollow series through Love Inspired, the place readers tell her they wish was real. She is currently working on her 24th book—a novella for Thomas Nelson. 

Today our most generous guest  is giving away THREE COPIES of Her Homecoming Cowboy!

Here's a sneak peek.

After losing his mother, Annie Ridgeway's sweet six-year-old nephew thinks he's an orphan. Turns out the father he never knew is bull rider Colt Holden—the boy's hero. Before bringing them together as father and son, Annie has to make sure Colt is as good a man as he is a cowboy. When she arrives in Mule Hollow, she finds the handsome, honorable man guarding his burdened heart against caring for anyone or anything. Will a little boy's devotion be the fighting chance they all need?

Winner announced in the Weekend Edition! So be sure to say hi, and let's chat about continuing series,characters, cowboys and how you keep it all straight.



  2. Yes, Welcome Debra. Always wonderful to have guests, especially those with great helps and ideas for us to use. Thank you.

  3. I am a HUUUUGEE Lacy Brown fan (Debra Clopton fan as well, LOL).

    If any of you have not read Lacy Brown, get thee to Amazon and get a Kindle download.

  4. Many thanks for the intereting blog- you've whet my apetite to read your books.

    Do you keep a spreadsheet or have some other way of keeping track of birthdays, physical characteristics, life events etc of all these characters?

  5. Hi Debra,
    How many of your books are on kindle? I still don't have one but when I do ..I will read more Mule Hollow books, I have only read one, loved it.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I approve of the decided Matthew McConaughey look of that cover model. =)

  8. I'm a huge fan of Mule Hollow! it's one of the first love inspired series/authors I clicked with. Now honestly I can't keep all the characters straight..I'm bad with names in real life..but I remember different parts of the stories 'in general'. kinda need a flowchart family tree thingy or something in the front of the books! :-)

  9. Hi Debra,

    Your story and town sound great.

    I'm not published yet, but I've set 3 stories in the same beach town. I love the town, and I hope at least one of my stories will one day get published.

    Thanks for sharing with us today!

    Jackie L.

  10. oh wow...
    i haven't had the opportunity to find Mule Hollow, much to my chagrin. Now i'll need to catch up on the entire series. I LOVE when an author has a series. Thanks, Seekerville, for introducing me to Debra.

    i do hope most of your books can be had as eBooks - i don't have any extra bookshelf space in my house. Plenty of room on the eReader (not a Kindle or Nook...maybe someday *sigh*)

    each character sounds like someone i want to meet. i am so impressed that you've figured out a way to keep all your posse straight.

    thanks for sharing!!!!

  11. Good Morning Seekerville, so happy to be here! Thank you for the welcomes, Mary, Sandra, and Tina.

  12. Hi Ruth Ann--NO I need a spreadsheet and would recomend that. But crazy me, I have never used one. I try to use a notebook, doesn't work for me. LOL I'm not a plotter as you can guess from this bit of info. I have each book on file and I just do a "find" and pull up their descriptions like that to remind me. SO not the easiest way to do it but it works. On my new series I'm going to think positive and start a notebook or spreadsheet ot SOMETHINIG to make life easier. lol

  13. Mary Cline all of the Mule Hollow books are now ebooks. So you should be able get any that you want. Thanks and good luck with that :)Hope you enjoy them.

  14. Nancy--Colt is a cutie on the cover isn't he :) The art department does a fantastic job. I send them shots of who I think the character looks like and they have given me some wonderful cowboys. You should check out the cowboy covers at my website Thanks for your comment :)

  15. Debra,

    Good stuff here. I've never written a series longer than three books where characters show up each other's stories.

    I'm thinking, I'd need a spreadsheet for them, too.

    Tell us what you do about setting. Do you add businesses(for hero/heroine's occupations) to the town, as each story deams OR do you have the layout/businesses all set, say ranchers/farmers and only use those in your books?

  16. Anonymous, I am sooo glad you clicked with me and my books! You have a great idea about a chart at the front of the book!!! I may see about doing that on the next Mule Hollow book. OR for now, I could do a chart on my website...hmmmmm something for me to think about. Stay tuned on that :)Thanks for the idea.

  17. HI Debra, I'm a plotter also and am tickled that you don't have a spreadsheet. They make so much sense, but to do one???

    I like the idea Susanna had of a chart in front of the book. Might make a new reader who picks up a recent book want to go dig up the older ones.

  18. Oops meant to call anonymous, Susanna!
    Thanks Susanna for your suggestion/comment :)

  19. Hi Jackie L. Hang in there and keep writing more books. The right one will catch the right editors eye. The Trouble with Lacy Brown was my 7 or 8 book. So keep pushing and creating and moving forward. God's timing is the best timing. I love beach town stories.

  20. Debra H--I do hope you enjoy getting to know my people! They are fun and get into all kinds of stuff lol each book is a stand alone, but as a whole its more of the community feeling. Happy reading :) Thanks see you in Mule Hollow!

  21. Good morning, Debra. So, I think I've announced before on Seekerville that Deb and I are part of a team writing a novella collection together.

    Debra, Robin Lee Hatcher, Margaret Brownley and I each have a story in a book called "A Bride for All Seasons" (that's what it's called right?)

    I have the winter bride.
    And it's cowboys, never fear.

    It's coming out next June and I can't believe Tina stole you from me to have you as a guest.
    I can't take my eyes off her for a minute!

  22. Hi Rose, great question. Mule Hollow was a forgotten oil boom town that died after the boom busted and all it had left was Sams diner and Pete's Feed and Seed pretty much. And a bunch of deserted clapboard buildings that were really sad. It was fast becoming a ghost town. But it ranches full of cowboys and three little ladies determined to keep their town alive and so the story begins. So that has been some of the fun as gals move in they come with business and so the town is revitalizing as the stories go. Of course the first gal Lacy is a hair stylist so her salon, Heavenly Inspirations is the first new business to open.

  23. Sandra I am so glad to hear that a plotter doesn't have a spreadsheet! I feel bad, it really is a good idea but I'm always too busy writing the next book to stop and do one!

  24. Mary, I am so excited about the novella. I'm doing another edit on it next week lol the final one before I send it in. Got to pull some more funny into it!!!! This is my first 1800 setting and I'm a little nervous. But I've had so much fun writing this story. Mine is a cowboy story too.

    And I would love to come back to Seekerville later. Tina is pretty sneaky lol

  25. Nothin' makes this country gal smile broader than a visit to Mule Hollow!


    So good to have you here, girlfriend! Welcome!!!!!

    I love the whole town theme of your books, the fun recurring characters, the warmth and wonderful story telling.

    I have no idea what to ask you, just know that you've got a fan up here in NYS!!!!

    Hey, I brought some fresh coffee along, been totin' it for hours!

    And Dave brought home chocolate chip muffins....


  26. The thought of spreadsheets makes me physically ill, and I'm way too fun to be hurling in public, so I'm ignoring all talk of spreadsheets....

    Picture me, ears covered, singing "La, la, la, la, la" to block the noise.

    Deb, are you planning to wrap up Mule Hollow and move to another series? Or doing something alongside Mule Hollow?

    Cause, um... Deb....

    You can't just CLOSE A TOWN DOWN???? RIGHT??????????

  27. Hey, Debra! Thanks for the great advice! It's not easy to manage a series, especially one as long as yours, but knowing who to leave out and who to bring in is key. Great job! Looking forward to your next book. Blessings, Leanna

  28. Debra, I love your books, they are entertaining and a blessing at the same time. I have learned lessons about getting along with others and also forgiving. God Bless your writings and your life.

  29. Ruthie!!!! Thank you for the coffee, I've already had an entire pot but I can always, always use some more lol. My mind already gets way ahead of my fingers typing--cuz of all the coffee but hey, couldn't do without it.

    Glad we are both ill about spreadsheets. No, I'm not planning to shut Mule Hollow down, just got all of them feeling good and lively and the town feeling good about itself. Can't just walk off from it. The Posse would come after me!

    But yes I am starting a new series set on the Sunrise Ranch near a little town called Dew Drop. Having a blast creating it and the new setting gives me an opportunity to bring in new plot lines. The first book comes out in March.

  30. Hi Leanna, Thanks for dropping in!

  31. Joyce thank you so much for sharing this. I try so hard to have my characters live and struggle with things in their lives just like I do as a Christian. I don't preach but rather let them live their story and come to a new understanding like I would. And I tackle problems that give me problems like hard issues of forgiveness. So thank you for talking about this and encouraging me. I love to have fun but learn something too.

  32. I have a question or observation. I do have a problem sometimes of putting in the wrong name of a character! It is terrible. And my readers have always caught it. Its not that I don't know their names but gosh, have you ever been talking to someone and called them the wrong name? I do it all the time!!! Especially if I'm on deadline and my brain is fried. Friends just laugh at me now. BUT when it happens in a book its not always a good thing.

    For instance I can't remember which MEN Of MUlE HOllOw book it is but in a scene in Sam's I have one of the brothers and his wife eating and old App says he saw them making goo goo eyes at each other--only a reader wrote me and asked me why I had Cole's sister-n-law making goo goo eyes at him in Sams!!! I didn't catch that I'd called the gal by the wrong name. I felt soooo terrible. So anyway, theres readers a challenge--see if you can find that mess up.

    Is it just ME that this happens too?

    I don't think a spreedsheet would help me with that.

  33. I never read any of the Mule Hollow books, but after reading about the characters I know I will be picking one of these books up and I would love to read Debra’s new book.

  34. I own and have read all of the Mule Hollow books. I absolutely love them--my favorite one is the first one about Lacy Brown. I haven't read the Men of Mule Hollow or the Mule Hollow Homecoming as of yet. They are in my to be read stack. And I am sure that this new series, Sunrise Ranch, will be great. I am looking forward to it and am glad to hear that Mule Hollow will not be ending. There's just something about that place that touches the reader's heart.

  35. Ha! Debra that's just what a mom does.

    She has three boys, Joe, Pete and Bill.

    Pete gets in trouble and she says,

    Joseph, I mean,William..I mean Peter get yourself over here right this MINUTE!!!!

  36. Debra,

    You just got the Susanna the lurker seal of approval.



  37. And Debra is a not a plotter. Where is Vince when you need to gloat???

    Debra, tell us a little about your writing day. Typical? If that exists!

  38. PS. Will you be at ACFW this year?

  39. DeborahD--I so hope you enjoy Mule Hollow when you check them out :)
    Hope you get a good laugh in there somewhere. Some of my books are funnier and some or more serious but still hope they give you a smile.

  40. I've done that with the wrong names, Deb. I've had them get into books, too. Yikes. I have learned this. Do NOT name a character a word that exists as a non-name.
    Like Chance.
    Because then, if you change his name with find and replace, you've changed the word CHANCE in all it's other locations in your book.

  41. And the more you're re-using names, like in a long series, the more those many names are all in your head and it gets easy to time travel to another hero...for the space of the keystrokes in his/her name.
    My heroine in Over the Edge is Callie.
    My heroine in Montana Rose is Cassie.
    I caught myself writing Cassie so often that I did a FIND everyone once in a while for CASSIE just to check.

  42. Thank you Deborah H for being a reader of my series. I keep readers like you in mind when I'm working on a new book! Kinda like wanting to make you have a good experience when you come home for a visit! Thanks so much.

  43. I'm so glad I stopped by here today! I saw Debra Clopton on my blog feeder and got SO excited.

    I bought The Trouble With Lacy Brown waaay back in 2005, and Debra, you went on my 'must buy' list. I may have missed one or two over the years, but no more than that I'm sure.

    I feel like gushing on and on about how much I love Mule Hollow, but I won't. Any more, that is...

    I love your advice on keeping everyone straight. I'm working on my first novel (I've been working on it for a couple of years, Yeesh!). It's the first in a series of three centered around one family, so lots of the characters will return. But I don't think I'll be adding new ones at the same rate you do, so perhaps I won't have too much trouble keeping them straight. Hopefully.

    Another person who is great at wrangling a big cast is JULIE LESSMAN with her 7 O'Connor books. Then there's MARY CONNEALY with 9 books in three series. Wow! I wanna be just like all y'all when I grow up!

    I absolutely want to be in the drawing for a free copy. I haven't bought one yet.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

    I'm off to write now!

  44. Well Mary Connealy, I met Debra last year at RWA. I started picking up her books then.

    SOOOO, I had just picked up another (because let me tell you they are everywhere) and I thought...

    "How does she keep all these cowboys straight?"

    So we had to have her in Seekerville.

  45. Then Hello again Sussanna, thank you so much for commenting :)It means a lot to me.

  46. Tina, I kinda have an outline and something that turns me on but to know each chapter--nope couldn't do it if I tried. And I have tried!!!

    YES I will be at ACFW can't wait! I was at RWA and missed seeing so many of you. You will be there right Tina?

  47. Wonderful to see you in Seekerville, Deb! I love your books and humor and totally impressed with how you keep track of your characters. Fun that you and Mary are teaming up in the novella collection!

    Looking forward to seeing you and your d/h at ACFW! Or hope I will since the conference is in Dallas.


  48. Wow Andrea, so glad you stopped in and gushed lol big hug to you.
    Good luck with your books. Hang in there and make it happen!!!
    This is sure the blog to get great tips on success.

    Like I always say, keep writing and preparing and then when God's time colides with yours you will be off and running. That is what happened with me.

  49. Mary!!! This is sooo true. Like in one of the last book of the Men of Mule Hollow books my hero is Cole and then right after that in the Mule Hollow homecoming I have COLT oh my goodness it like to have driven Melissa my editor crazy because I kept getting the names mixed up and then they were getting them mixed up--it was almost a total train wreck but we got it figured out in the final edits lol at least I think so. I havent gotten any notes from readers telling me a Colt slipped in when it should have been a Cole.

    And now, my hero of my novella is Mathew and the hero of my Sunrise ranch is Morgan and I'm catching myself goofing on that. lol fun stuff.

  50. This is really funny to me because here I am talking about how to keep them straight and I'm telling about how hard it is to do it. For the most part I have it figured out lol need a rope to take care of the other times. :(

    Tina I do the same thing with my kids as your mother does. So I guess it stands to reason I'd do it with books since they are like kids too

  51. I want to echo Ruthy's sentiment about not shutting down Mule Hollow. And I'm really excited to see what you do with a new town. Yay!

    Also, I have to have the novella collection. Debra Clopton and Mary Connealy! Plus two more authors? Can two thin paper book covers hold all those cowboys? I can't wait to find out.

    I wanted to say No Place Like Home is one of my favorite Mule Hollow books. First the story is wonderful. Second "No Place Like Home" is an awesome name for a battered women's shelter. I think there should be a real one named that. Is there, Debra? Or was it a stroke of genius/divine inspiration? Third, Mule Hollow is a perfect place for a house full of wounded women to heal and find God. And for them to disappear from their past if they need to.

    Even before I was a writer I thought what a great tool that place would be for you as a writer. It seems like the story possibilities and the opportunities for showing God's love are endless with a group of women like that.

    Now I'm 18 minutes behind my writing time. I really am going to turn off the internet. Right now.

  52. Hi JANET yes I will see you in Dallas! Chuck will be with me too so that will be fun.

    It will be our 2nd anniversary :) can't believe that!!!! God is so good.

  53. I didn't click the follow up box.


  54. OK Tina, My Workday--I'm ususally working by about 6:30. My best creative time is early morning till about 10 but I keep on working all day if I need to. I like coffee so it goes with me to my office and stays with me as I work. I take a break for lunch but really prefer to just snack on a sandwich or something quick as I'm working. I've learned to keep candy and that sort of snack out of the house or I will devour it as I write. What is it about writing and candy? I always crave it while I'm working. I have a bike that I can sit on, one of those where your feet is out in front of you, and I have a desk thing that goes in front of me and I can edit while i ride. I'm acutally doing that right now as I write this. I find it helps me keep healthy but it also helps me not get sleepy!!! When editing the sleepys come try to slow me down and I can't stand that. So I love my bike.

    I run errands in the afternoon then come home an write. I'm one of those people that writes really hard for a good part of the day and then keeps on working in spurts till late at night. I have been blessed with lots of deadlines that keep me on my toes. When I'm traveling with Chuck I work while in the car as we drive from his clients and I work on the plane. lol but I get lots of good scenery and food in the bargin and great company. I'm not a good one to try and copy on a work day cuz I do it all the time.
    Before I was published and worked 10 hours a day I had a strict schedule and wrote from about 9 pm till 12 then got up at 5:30 and wrote till 7:30 then got my kids up, dressed and we headed to school ad work. And I wrote on weekends. So I can honestly say that if you want it you have to make time for it. Balance with your family is the key. I worked mostly when mine were sleeping before I published.

  55. Thanks for dropping by today, Debra!

    I love the Mule Hollow books I've read, and now I'm itching for another. I'm glad to hear you have a new one!

    I think a chart of some kind on your website AND at the beginning of your books will help readers keep your characters straight - but I don't know how you do it without a spreadsheet of some kind! I'm a visual person, so I keep a separate page in my computer files with lists of characters. I list them by families and birth dates, and then make a note of how they relate to the main characters. Without that, I'd be renaming characters left and right.

  56. I think the novella collection is going to be a lot of fun.
    Debra is, of course, our secret weapon. We all just latched on to her and will ride to glory on her coattails.
    GO DEB!

  57. Wow, either way that's a busy schedule, Debra.

    Okay, one question I have always wanted to ask.

    The Cowboy Church.

    Can you tell us about it. It's real. A real cowboy church called Cowboy Church??

  58. DEBRA!!! What a blast to have you here, my friend, and WOW, I do believe you might hold the record for the most books in a series -- or are you and Karen Kingsbury neck in neck on that???

    I soooo admire how you've done such a brilliant job juggling so many characters and stories because it sure isn't easy. I've only got six books in my O'Connor family saga, but I figured out right away by book 3 that I had to have a mammoth anniversary/birthday/babies chart to keep track of everything since my time span for this family goes from 1916 through 1933.

    I actually incorporate sub stories for each of the prior couples in each book, which had to be trimmed down in the 2nd series since we are dealing with 15 characters who are almost constantly on stage. The greatest challenge was introducing the reader to each character's personality and "voice" to maintain the close-knit bond and fun "feel" and "flavor" the of the family.

    I absolutely LOVE a big cast because they become like family and it's almost no effort to write them, but it's not easy to do well, so I applaud you for a truly successful mega-series.


  59. OHHH you just made me laugh so hard MARY!!! lol still chuckling.

    The anthololgy collection will be a huge success I predict because of You, Robin and Margaret! I am just so thrilled to be included. I have wanted--and my agent, our mutual agent--has been wanting me to give her something other than Love Inspired for a long time so she could get me diversified :) which I wanted to do to but I just couldn't find the time to write her a proposal. SO when she told me about the 3 of you and this wonderful anthology she wanted me to be a part--lol she had already spoken to publishers about it too--she was like, so Debbie do you think you want to do this? And I was like, Hey, I might have a hard time fitting it in but I am not stupid, I know a brilliant thing when I see it! There was NO way I was turning this opportunity down. lol and she knew it too...that sneaky, wonderful lady. hehehe.

    So now I'm shaking in my boots hoping my novella lives up to everyone elses.

    Oh got to share what I'm seeig in my mind right now--just visualize Mary flying behind me swinging in the wind hanging by my coattail...too funny!!! Ok she said ride to glory in her post, so edit that statement and visualize her flopping against my horses backside as I gallop along with her back there yelling for me to keep going! lol okay so maybe I just came up with a new scene for a book. Thanks Mary for your inspiration!!!

  60. Debra, what a great post. :) I love your voice. I confess, I hadn't heard of you before today. But now, I think I'm going to have to check out some of your books. They sounds like great reads. And I was amazed when I read all the books you have in one series!

    I appreciate hearing how you keep your characters straight and deciding which to use in books. I think if I had that many to remember, I'd definitely need a spread sheet (I know, I just said a bad word). :)

    Thanks for being here today and introducing me to Mule Hollow!

    OH, BTW, I love the idea of riding a recumbent bike while working. I may need to fit that into our budget. ;)

  61. Andrea--NO PLACE LIKE HOME was not the original title of the book. It was, If I Only HAD A HART because Dotties last name was Hart. But the name wasn't quite right so in a group effort with editors to come up with a title the wizard of oz theme came up and No Place Like HOme was born. I immediatly knew it would work as the shelters name! To me it was a God thing. God has done so much with Mule Hollow. There were so many threads that just came together so smoothly with the whole series that I have to give God the credit for.

    I wanted the shelter to give me a path to some serious issues and it has really been a platform to some great plots. I have had some very touching letters from readers who have been battered and it just gives hope that something I can write can help someone find courage to change their life and seek help. God is good :)

  62. Thanks for stopping in Jeanne, and thanks for checking out my site. LOL and so that's what I'm riding a recumbent bike--I can never remember what to call it! But it works. :)

    Yes an a spreadsheet would make life easier :) may have to break down and do one.

  63. Hi Debra:

    I must confess.

    For years now I’ve read two LI series: your “Mule Hollow” , and Janet Tronstad’s “Dry Creek”. I don’t read them in any order. I just read whichever one is available whenever I have a ‘craving’ for that kind of story. So now I am so mixed up about characters it’s almost as if the two are tiny twin towns. OMG! (I know. I’m not supposed to mention another author but this is a confession.)

    Was it you who had the women paint four buildings hot pastel colors? And did you have the lady reporter? I just loved her! I do get the geezers mixed up with the matchmakers. When it comes to “Mule Hollow” and “Dry Creek” I just have to pantser my way through and not worry about what characters appeared in what past books.

    Have you ever talked with Janet about this? I think you have about the same number of books and they are all great reads. You can buy anyone of them.

    BTW: here’s something you might find useful I learned from my first stockbroker. Before I went in the Air Force, I called in stock trades to my stockbroker who I never met. When I got out of the AF, after four years, I again called my stockbroker to check on my stocks. He picked up our conversation exactly where it ended four years earlier. I felt sorry for him because I thought I must have been his only customer.

    Eventually, I went down to see him on State Street in Pasadena. He had a closet-size office with Barron’s magazines piled to the ceiling. He never allowed customers in his office but I just walked in off the street. The room was actually an avalanche risk.

    We talked a little and then the phone rang. As fast as lighting he spun a giant rolodex around (it had 5x7 cards) and stopped at a card. As he talked on the phone he read from the index card on which he had written, in very light pencil, what they had spoken about during their last conversation.

    When the call was over I said, “You cheat. You don’t really remember your customers.”

    “Of course I don’t remember them but people who will never meet me send me lots of their money. I have to make them think they are my most important customers.”

    That impressed me.

    So what do you think about making a big index card rolodex of each character and write in light pencil which books they appeared in and what they did? You could flip to any character, even the most minor, and see at a glance which books the character was in and what they did. Fast, easy, and it does not take up much room.


    P.S. If you are going to do an anthology called “A Bride for all Seasons”, I think you should have at least one major character named Thomas More. (Or at least a cat.)

    P.P.S. TINA: It’s okay to gloat. Pantsers are like guys who build houses without plans or blueprints. They just tap their finger to their head and say “it’s all in here”. When they actually do it and get a certificate-of-occupancy, that indeed is something to gloat about.

    P.P.P.S. Now it’s my turn to gloat! Tonight I’m going to take dw to see Lyle Lovett.

  64. Hi Julie! Its good to be here :) and you are so kind. Julie I must say that if I was writing a family series that spanned generations like that then I would have to have some way different than I do now of keeping up with them. A family with dates like that is would be totally crazy without it.

    But the characters do become family and their personalities become like second nature to you. I know I'll hear something said and I'll go, OH that is so Esther Mae :) or oh that is just what Norma Sue would say.

    Speaking of which, I think that is a key have to make your characters distinctly different from each other so that does tag them easily.

  65. Hi Vince--by the way I LOVE YOU--lol this rolodex might be the answer for me!!! It is fast and easy and sits right there in front of me all the time. Bingo will be getting one soon and let you know how it works :)

    As for me and Janet. We always talk about this. WE have done two anthologys together because know we share readers and it has been great success. I think, Janet may have a few more books in her series the I do. She started about a year ahead of me I think.

    And YES I Lacy Brown paints Mule HOllow bright colors. The cowboys think she is crazy but do it. So Mule HOllow has a hot pink hair salon and all the other buildings are wild colors too.
    And yes, Molly Popp is the reporter who makes the town famous. YOu have it all straight. lol
    Thank you for reading my books!
    And thank you for sharing all these wonderful tips with us.

    Im really excited about this.

  66. I love these books!!!!!

    And I'm so taking ntoes right now...

  67. Thank you Virginia so glad you like Mule Hollow! And,lol I'm taking notes too...

  68. Hello Debra Clopton, I am a mule hollow fan -"I"m just so glad to see ya here" as Minnie Pearl would say, I bet you and Mary C could be the best of friends with the way you both have cowboy type books. I love to pick up a book and read about generations of folks that are happy carefree people that love one another-you have got your backbone of your writing career here I would say , no matter what else you might write.Love them.

    A Ga fan
    Paula O(

  69. Thank you Paula! I'm just so glad to be here :) and to see you here too. Yup, me and Mary could get into some trouble...although Mary does tend to pull guns out faster than me! And she's got some gumption, putting a crazy man as her hero! I got to read that book just to see how she uncrazies the dude. lol

    I believe Paula that you are right, I love writing folks who love one another and make my readers especeially feel carefree for the time they spend with me. Even if I'm writing a serious matter such as alcohol like I'm doin in Mule Hollow HOmecoming books, I love using my supporting characters to liven and lighten the load. So, yes, this will always be a trademark with me. And Mule Hollow will be there in the middle of it.
    Thank you for the encouragment.

  70. Now I could be wrong but didn't the hero of Lacy Brown end up accidently getting pink hair??

  71. Hi Debra,

    I don't know how I managed to miss your books, but I do remember folks here at Seekerville mentioning the Mule Hollow series quite often. Now I know why! I have Kindled (is that a word?) The Trouble with Lacy Brown and am only on the second chapter but I absolutely love her already! Consider me your newest fan!

  72. I forgot to mention I enjoyed your post and found it very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

  73. Welllll, you could be right about that Tina ;)if a cowboy messes with a gal holding a can of hot pink paint he might need to watch out! Especially if that gal is on a ladder--and he's made her mad.

  74. Wow Donna--talk about instant gratification :) thanks for buying The Trouble With Lacy Brown. You have just chosen to hitch a ride in a 1958 topless pink caddy with a gal who loves the Lord with all of her heart and is on a mission to help save a dying town! Enjoy.

  75. I LOVED this interview. I've read some of the Mule Hollow books, but I didn't realize that were that many. I'd better get crackin', reading.

  76. Thank you so much Susan--I lol crackin--sounds good to me! Yes, Mule HOllow just keeps growing and growing and growing! :)HOpe you enjoy them if you pick more up. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  77. Debra, your books sound like so much fun! Now I'm dying to read them. And I hope I get to meet you one of these years at ACFW. I heard you speak at a workshop several years ago, and frankly, I like being around people with a stronger Southern accent than mine! :-)
    P.S. I'm from Alabama.

  78. Deb, so happy for you and your success!!! It's always a joy to see you at conferences. And your hubby is the cutest cowboy ever! He needs his own book!

    You're a hard working gal with that writing schedule. Do you take the weekends off?

  79. Hi Melanie! Thanks for stopping in. And I really do try to have fun in my books. I want to lift people up with them.

    I would love to meet you at ACFW! And you know, sometimes you grow up hating something about yourself--no you shouldn't do that but we all do it. For me it was my voice! I hated it. I am so Texas!!! But you know what--when I started writing, the voice I hated jumped on the page and there was no searching for it like some people have to do. NOPE that voice I hated God had given me and it really comes alive in my books. LOL so sigh, in real life I'm a little twangy, but I've learned to accept myself lol. If you have a twang--oops sorry, Southern accent--then hang with me and it won't seem quiet so bad...or country.

  80. Debby you know I love seeing you at conference!

    Yes, I work weekends. But, the thing is, that I also have a life. Like tonight we have youth rally at church and so I will be there with our youth group. And tomorrow I have football. Will take my tiny computer with me to work on if a minute surfaces. This last week my kids were here from OHIO so I had worked hard to be able to spend quality time with them. We are blessed in what we do that we can work things in if we work hard enough to prepare for them. :)

    Sunday is church and we always have lunch at Cowboy Church so I'm there till about because we love helping out there.

  81. TINA--sorry, you asked about Cowboy Church. YES I am a member of the Cowboy Church of Leon County! The cowboy church idea came from a group of Christian Cowboys who realized there was vast group of folks out there who didn't go to a traditional church. So they started a cowboy church and they are exploding across the country like wildfire. Texas first and now heading upwards and outwards lol. It is a great ministry and I love being a part of it. You don't have to have a horse or even boots to be a member you just have to enjoy the atmosphere. It is laid back and folks come on Wed night straight from there work. Cowboy's stroll in with their jeans tucked into their boots straight from working cattle and we serve them and everyone else a meal. Sundays you may see cattle trailers behind pickups and there may be a ropin after church in the family life center (cowboy church talk that's the ARENA)
    Its different and not everyone feels comfortable in Cowboy church but thats the whole thing--there are those it fits just perfect. And men who would never darken the traditional church are coming to them in droves. It is amazing to see the work the Lord is doing. And for me...there are lots of story inspirations :)
    Our pastor is Tuffy Loftin and he is cowboy through and through and if you ever read Yultide Cowboy you got a glimpse of some good ole Tuffisims as we are fond of calling some of the things that come out of his mouth. He is an awesome man of God with a mission along with many boot wearing preachers across Texas.

  82. Well, I love your twang, Debra! And I know what you mean. My voice came out right away in my writing, too. An ironic side note: Everybody said "write what you know," and since I've lived all my life in the South, I wrote a story set in Alabama, and yet that book still hasn't sold, but my Medieval Europe books did! Go figure. But I still think it will sell some day. :-)

  83. Hi Tina - hi everyone. um why is my seal of approval huge?! and I don't usually lurk - I just don't come here too often - seeing all the technical stuff ya'll go through to produce the magic books was sorta taking the magic out of 'em for me! :-( I like to pretend the stories just appear in a dream and become a book! :-)no wrok involved. I did sneak a peak and see Debra was gonna be here and wanted to 'see' her since she's one of my faves and one of the first 4 love inspired writers who got me into the genre then Ruthy had me hooked then Cheryl and now Missy and yep I'm still reading the rest of ya'll's stuff as I find time -still catching up on Tina's and Audra's... work picked up and there went a huge chunk of night shift rotation reading! I hang out a lot on the yankee-belle site where they eat chocolate and corn fungus...;-)

    gosh I'm trying to remember my fave books in this series - also can't remember covers and titles since I'm trying to go all ebook now and I don't see the cover except when I first open the book and it's in black and white if I use my regular kindle...and don't see the title again til I'm done or go back to the index. but this latest one was a favorite and that's saying a lot considering I dont' like hidden baby stuff but this one was 'justified' and didn't drag on and on and I just loved both characters and how honest they were in what they were feeling and going through. I also liked the 2nd book with Samantha..gosh a lot of them.guess I'm a sucker for a strong man dealing with major issues.

    what's strange is I didn't click with Lacy at first - put the book aside until a friend who had a used bookstore talked me into giving it another try and I did and kept going with the series. did great until I caught up around book 8 or so and had to keep waiting for the 'overnight magic' to appear again LOL! :-)and I never did care much for Lacy until after a few books and now she's one of my favorite characters and this is one of my favorite series.


  84. You are discerning Susanna. AND WE MISS YOU WHEN YOU AREN'T HERE!!!

  85. Isn't that Crazy how it works Melanie! I need to pick up one of your books--do your Medieval Euoropean folks talk with southern twang ? lol just curious...

  86. Susanna, I am so glad you stopped in. LOl and see, I didn't bust your bubble or take the magic out because I don't talk about a lot of technical stuff! I was a little intimidated when they ask me to blog cuz I couldn't write a technical blog if my life depended on it or if Mary was holdin a gun on me.

    Magic is the key word here. I LOVE it when a little of that God magic happens in a book. When things just click and I look at the page and smile and go "Yes! Thank you Jesus for that!!!" Because I know HE did it and not me. Yes I write technical, but mostly because I'm a pantser I rely on it happening like magic. I live it as I'm creating it.

    I think some people click with different characters. That's why I love letting each story dictate how much humor is in it or how deep the serious issues are. I love the wonderful way you describe Her HOmecoming Cowboy. I had that story on my heart for almost two years. And honestly some wondered at first that my hero was going to be too tortured and I wouldn't be able to make it a feel good story out of it...but that's the magic, I knew Colt had a story to live.

    I love a strong man dealing with major issues too. And just because a person is a Christian doesn't mean they don't struggle and feel torn. And lost sometimes. I love dealing with things like this. Anyway THANK you. I loved that you came back and talked some more :)

  87. I like the funny ones - the flipflop scene is one of my faves!

  88. lol the Beaver! yup had a blast writing that scene!

  89. Hi, Debra! Welcome to Seekerville!

    I'd think writing a series and keeping all the characters would be daunting! Not sure I could do it, but someday I'd like to try.

  90. Debbie, I'm sorry I'm late to the party!! I worked non-stop on line edits today, so I know you understand. :) The good thing is I got through half the book!

    Now, I can't wait to go back and read your post. Just had to hurry over and say hey!

  91. Hi Debra! Wow--you are amazing! Congratulations on your success with all those books (and characters!). Your book covers are nice too *grin*. ~ I hope to meet you in Dallas at ACFW---I'm thinking I saw you last year (in the ladies restroom, of course--it was "the place to be"LOL) but I was waiting to speak to Merrillee Whren, and then later I had a delayed reaction when I realized I could've also met YOU! (if that was in fact you that I saw....maybe it was another lovely blonde lady). Anyway, thanks for this post today--another one for my Keeper Files. (sorry I'm so late joining in---had a dental appt. and have been kind of sluggish since then*ugh*). Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

  92. DEBRA SAID: "Speaking of which, I think that is a key have to make your characters distinctly different from each other so that does tag them easily."

    SOOOO VERY TRUE, my friend!! I was really worried in the beginning of my saga that my heroes would all sound alike, but with seven heroes, EACH one is totally different and I can hear their distinct voices in my head, even when they are all in a scene together.

    Thanks, ANDREA, for your sweet comment!


  93. Hi Everyone sorry I had to go to church. We teach the youth and had a youth rally tonight! It was great. But I'm back :)

  94. Hi Cara Lynn and Missy! Thanks for stopping in :) Cara you would do great at a series.

    MIssy I totally understand the edits so glad you made great progress. I will be working on mine tomorrow.

  95. Pattie Jo! I think I do remember seeing you now that you mention it. Please grab me next time. I'm always wandering around somewhere!!! Look forward to seeing you.

  96. Thank all of you so much for a great day on Seekerville! I had a lot of fun...and everyone was so nice. I loved it :)

  97. I always enjoy reading Seekerville although I don't always comment because it seems like there are just so many comments already. this time I just had to! I was so intrigued by your process and by the series in general. It sounds fabulous

  98. DEBRA!!! Thank you so much for spending the day with us.You can get off the bike now. LOL.

    You've been a terrific guest!!

  99. I'm very, very late but thank you for a delightful post! Wishes for continued success.

    Nancy C

  100. Tracy thank you so much for commenting. I love what I do and have been soooo blessed to get to express myself in my books the way I do. So glad you made comment :)

  101. Nancy C So glad you made it and that you enjoyed my post! This has been a fun day :)

  102. TINA--I have really had a blast here today. Thank you so much for inviting me. LOL and I will get off the bike now-- :)

    PS. Good luck to everyone on winning a book!

    PSS. Don't forget to come sign up for my newsletter by entering my monthly contest at my site. You could win a book there too. And I hope if any of you are on Facebook you'll join my FB page. Untill next time. Live, laugh and seek God with all your hearts!

  103. A great post thank you.

    HER HOMECOMING COWBOY looks fabulous. Count me in thanks.


  104. Would love to win your book! Love anything with handsome cowboys in it!

  105. Hi!!!!
    Enter me in the drawing!!!
    Thanks and God Bless!
    Sarah Richmond

  106. Love Inspired books are some of my very favorites. I have not had the opportunity to read any of your books
    yet. I just "met" you on the Seekerville blog today.
    I really enjoyed your article. Thanks so much for the tips for my 15 year old grand daughter who has been writing stories her whole life.
    I am sending her here to read your article.

  107. Thanks for these tips as I plan a short series of my own.