Monday, October 8, 2012

Seekerville Welcomes Brenda Minton

I would like to thank the ladies at Seekerville for inviting me to be a part of their week. I would also like to apologize because I am really not sure what to talk about. 

When I got stuck looking for a topic I asked my friend Stephanie Newton and she didn’t hesitate. She told me to talk about creating a small town that readers connect with and want to return to.

I hope that for my readers, Dawson, Oklahoma is that small town. It either reminds them of a town they have lived in, or it is a town they wished they lived in. More than once in the last few years I’ve been told by readers that they want a “Love Inspired” type church.

By that, I take it to mean a small town church where people know you and where they notice if you miss a Sunday. 

I grew up in a town very similar to Dawson and attended churches like those Love Inspired churches. When I think of the town I grew up in, I think of the people I knew growing up. There are characters in towns and cities of all sizes. Small town characters, real or fictional, are just a little more noticeable. 


When I was growing up one my favorite characters lived down the road. She was Iva to most. As I got older she became Granny Iva (she married my uncle’s dad, and that’s just how it is in a small town). Granny Iva had faith that could move mountains. There are very few people in my area who didn’t know Iva. She taught our Sunday school class. She bought our fundraising projects. She prayed for us.

Granny Iva lived almost twenty-five years from the day that a doctor told her she had six months to live. She lived five years from the day that they told her there was ‘nothing more they could do.’ Iva knew she wouldn’t go until God called her home. Until the very end she was attending church, sharing songs and poems she had written, and taking meals to the sick or grieving. She was a character.

Granny Iva left this world the same week that I lost my dad. I was at the hospital with my dad while her close family stayed at her side. But even in her last days, Granny Iva was thinking of others. I have a card that she asked her sister to buy and send to me, to let me know she was thinking of me in my time of grief. Little did she know that my grief would soon be doubled because I would lose both my dad and Iva. But I can smile, because Granny Iva taught important lessons about living our faith. She was always the person with a casserole, a little gift, a helping hand. 

Characters like Granny Iva belong in books. Even fictional characters should tug on our hearts, teach us lessons, make us smile, and if they need to—make us cry. Characters bring a book to life and keep the readers involved in our stories about small town America.
I love creating those characters that readers ask about and look forward to seeing again. They are individuals, just like the real characters in our lives. They have little habits. They get in the business of others. They don’t give up on someone who is down. Sometimes they push too far but of course with the best intentions. In each book the character continues on, a familiar face, a familiar voice, someone we’ve come to count on and to trust.


Small towns are made up of businesses where you can still charge a bag of grain. If you forgot your purse, you can come back later. The businesses serve the community. In our stories, they add depth and taste of small town life.

The local feed store where locally grown grains or corn are turned into feed for livestock still thrive in small towns, selling not only feed but garden plants, farm supplies and hardware items. You can buy a light fixture for your bathroom or a roll of chicken wire and of course stop and talk to someone that you’ve known forever.

There’s a local café. You can smell the burgers and fries from a block away and you know its lunch time. When you walk through the door people know your name and rarely do you sit at a table alone. There is always a crowd, sharing gossip, and sharing news. Deals are made at those tables: Land, cattle, maybe someone needs a used washer, or there might be a fund raiser for a neighbor with medical bills they can’t pay. It isn’t just about lunch, it’s about keeping in touch with your neighbors. 

The grocery store isn’t big, but it carries everything you need. If they don’t have it, you probably don’t need it. I will never forget going to the local grocery store and not realizing I grabbed a check from an account we had just closed. The cashier looked at me funny when the computer denied payment but instead of fussing or even asking what was wrong, she hit a button and took the check. I had no idea until the next day when my husband asked for the checkbook and I gave it to him. He spent the next few hours contacting stores and apologizing for my mistake.
We don’t have fast food in our small towns, but there’s always something on the warming tray at the local convenience store. Yes, you’re taking a chance, but who wouldn’t for a corndog?

And flea markets. What small town doesn’t have at least one? They took the place of the stores that existed before the big box stores hit the area. What used to be a shoe store is now a used furniture store. The cloth store where my mom bought patterns to make my clothes is now a resale shop. The drug store is now a flea market, but they serve sandwiches and pies at the old soda fountain. If you like Fenton Glass, the store that once sold clothing and shoes is now a Fenton dealer. Years ago it was called the Red Front. 

My readers are familiar with The Mad Cow Café. I know a place like the Mad Cow and I love it. Most Sunday you’ll find us there eating lunch. If things get busy, I’m okay with getting the coffee pot and refilling cups. My daughter loves to jump in and clear tables. We often share a table with friends and family and life is good. 


The sense of smell is important because certain smells transport us. Twenty-five years ago my husband and I lived in Carmel, California for a wonderful six months. Each day when I walked to work I had to pass by a store that had a certain floral scent. To this day I will sometimes catch a hint of that scent and it takes me back in time. I instantly remember the cobblestone sidewalks, the hint of coffee, the fresh sea air.

Smells transport us. The right words transport a reader into the setting of our small town. If I mention a hero chewing spearmint gum, the heroine with strawberry scented hair or the wonderful aroma of roast in a crockpot, memories are triggered and a scene is created.
Growing up in a small town, there are scents that trigger my memories. The daily special at the diner. The hint of molasses from the grain being mixed at the feed mill, the hot tar on the road in the summer, and the scent of honeysuckle on a spring night.

Are you there yet?

And sounds. There are certain sounds that are a part of my small town life. The train whistle in the distance. Coyotes on a cool night when the windows are open. The bat hitting the ball and the crowd cheers at the high school baseball game. Somewhere in the distance children shout as they play. A car honks as someone drives past a neighbor’s house.

We create small towns because we know them and love them. We’re a part of our small town and we want readers to be a part of them, too.

It’s always great to chat and I’d love to know your small town experiences and the ‘characters’ you’ve known. Or maybe you’re the character in your small town. I plan on being one as I get older. The unforgettable cat lady, or the lady down the road with all of the stray dogs.

If you have any questions about creating a fictional small town, I’m more than willing to talk writing.

Thank you for sharing this time in Seekerville with me!


Brenda Minton lives in the Ozarks with her husband, three kids and four dogs. She is a pastor’s wife, Sunday school teacher, and coffee addict who has somehow found time to write twenty books for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. She is currently working on the sixth book in the Cooper Creek series.  Brenda can be found lurking on Facebook or twitter, where she loves to chat with readers and avoid the dust bunnies multiplying in her house.

If you’ve enjoyed the Cooper Creek series, don’t miss book four, The Cowboy’s Healing Ways, a February 2013 release from Love Inspired. And if you need something to tide you over as you wait for more cowboy heroes, look for the Harlequin Winter Anthology: Countdown to Midnight, featuring stories by Jillian Hart, Margaret Daley and Brenda Minton.

Thank you to Brenda for offering a double Brenda Minton present to give away to one commenter. Signed copies of The Rancher's Secret Wife and The Bull Rider's Baby. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

Seekerville Birthday Presents are here!


  1. Wow, Brenda, you really take me back. I've lived in a city for so long that I've near forgotten what a small town was like.

    Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville always takes me back to summers when I was a kid. That song played at the pool all the time. Fireworks, town squares. Our librarian had a pet raccoon. She used to take us across the river to St. Jo, MO for ice cream. The last time she took us we witnessed a horrible accident when a fuel truck caught fire. My dad was a Highway Patrolman, his partner was larger than life, really tall. He owned a basset hound. Once I came up missing, well I knew where I was, my mom didn't. I remember all the Hypos pulling into the drive like something out of CHIPs. I was sitting on the back porch waiting for mom to get home from work. Ice cream and dime stores, wow those are some memories.

    Thanks for the memories and welcome to Seekerville!

  2. Hi Brenda! I'm pretty sure you've got the small-town thing absolutely spot on! I've lived in a small town my entire life and everything that you describe we have other than the feed store which is still standing but closed years back. We even have our own flea market, grocery, restaurant, bakery and drugstore that have been around for ages. :-) This weekend we had our annual Pioneer Days festival to celebrate our town's heritage. Washington's Grist Mill was open for tours and the bakery right next door was opened and the brick over fired up for the homemade bread. :-) Gotta love small town livin'.

  3. BTW we have a real small town right next door called Dawson. :-)

  4. Welcome to Seekerville, Brenda. Thanks for letting me drag you out of your writing cave.

    So for me this small town scenario is Silver Creek, NY. Home of the Grape Festival. One gazebo. Three stop lights and one Hoggs Dairy for buying donuts on a Sunday morning.

  5. good morning seekers.
    enjoyed this article, very much :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  6. Loved your post Brenda. Up until 11 years ago, I had always lived in big cities. I now live in a relatively small town and there are a lot of people in this town that everyone knows.

    I love reading about small towns and my WIP is about a small town so thank you very much for your post. I also attend a small church where everyone knows everyone. I love it.

    Have a wonderful week!
    Happy Birthday Seekerville!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  7. Oh, Brenda, besides loving you to pieces, I'm all over this post like August fleas on a livin' room rug!

    Doncha just love writin' small towns? And you have a natural way that sifts through your writing, putting the reader there, right there, smack dab in the third Cape Cod facing Maple Street to the left.


    Hey,I brought coffee.... The Keurig is being donated for the day and there is pumpkin spice... Folger's Gourmet.... Starbucks Prima... Hot chocolate....Jamaiccan Me Crazy.... and something else I can't see from here because I don't have my glasses on.

    Flavored creamers.

    Cider fry cakes because it's October!!!

    And...THE YANKEES WON!!!

    Color me happy in upstate!!!

  8. I forgot to say that in my small town, one of the characters that I encounter daily is one of my co-workers who is married to a funeral director. She knows absolutely everyone in our town and her town and many other local small country towns. She is a pleasure to be around and has stories that tend to make you laugh.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  9. Welcome Brenda,
    Im not exactly sure what a flea market is.
    I am from a small town but not this small. our town has around 5,000 with many more in the outlying areas. We don't know everyone but we do tend to know alot of people. Many of the people I went to school with still live and work in the town.

  10. Hi Brenda,

    Welcome to Seekerville. You've really got my brain cells firing.

    I've created two small towns in my writing (I'm not published).

    A town character is what I'm missing. AND I live in a small town with wonderful "landmark" people.
    I'm so excited to work on this.

    Smells are another problem for me. I have lots of allergies and miss a lot of smells. Sometimes I even Google what something smells like.

    Thanks so much for sharing with us today!

    Jackie L.

  11. Welcome to Seekervillle, Brenda! I grew up in small towns, too. Little places where there was no mail delivery to homes because no one lived more than a few blocks from the post office. You just had a P.O. box and one of the kids would pick up the mail on their way home from school. And you walked to church and school (or biked to that latter) -- no buses needed except for the farm kids coming into town.

    Your books (and this post!) bring back those warm, small-town memories!

  12. I know progress is good and all, but my small town now booms with housing tracts and triple the number of businesses up along the 'highway'. Downtown main street is the same only much quieter.

    It's nice to know that my school friends and I still remember that small town. When I visit now, I hardly see anyone I know.

    Thanks Tina and Brenda. You emphasized the importance of the closeness of a small town setting and made me think of my own.

    I might be the only one here who's been to Silver Creek. Is the dairy still there with its donuts? Because our small dairy closed. It was right on the way home from church.

  13. You have me waxing nostagic and I've never lived in a small town!!!! But oooohhhhhhh I want to so badly! That's why I love reading about them and I blame Love Inspired books for my craving for small town life.

  14. Welcome, Brenda! I've lived in 10 towns and cities, large and small, from the east coast to the west coast. My favorite is Hinesburg, Vermont mainly because the people are wonderful. Friendly, helpful. etc. I loved going to the best IGA in the state (Lantman's) where I always ran into people I knew. Now I live in a city. I miss country towns!

  15. BRENDA! /waves from just up the road/

    Seekervillagers - I just found out a couple months ago that Brenda and I are practically neighbors :). Not quite but close enough ;).

    I <3 small town books. Like Ruthy's [love the bold darling!].

    The town in my books is based on my hometown. It's not a small town [but it's not big either - current population is about 15K people]. Within that town is a neighborhood that operates in many ways like a small town. The church does too. Everyone knows everyone.

    I do need a crazy cat lady still though... ;)

  16. Hi Brenda, Welcome to Seekerville, Loved all the things to think about when creating a small town. Of course you focused on all the positive things.

    I can name a bunch of negative things too which I won't, but they could add conflict in your story.

    Me, I prefer the city if I have to be home. But then I get all the small townness when camping. So I guess you can have the best (and worse) of both worlds. smile

    Enjoy your day. I brought a big basket of crunchy apples to add to Ruthy's cider fry cakes. I'm not sure what those are but knowing Ruthy, they are probably sinfully yummy.

  17. Oh, would you believe you almost made me cry?! So beautiful.

    Bless you, Brenda!

    I LOVED YOUR POST! Seriously.

    I know for me, when I hear some hymns and when I smell the fresh sent of rain, I remember growing up and visiting my grandparents at Christmas time, with my family, in their small community. *Sigh*

    What a heart-warming thing to see this morning!

    I can't wait to come back and see your answers!

    Gotta run now :-)

  18. Hi Seekerville! I've not commented in a long time, but I wanted to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! You ladies are the best...

    Brenda- thanks for the advice on creating that small town. I grew up in a small town, too, and it is so very different from both the large city and the suburbs.

  19. Hi, Brenda! I really enjoyed your post.

    I grew up in a really small town. But when I was little, it was just where I lived and just the right size. =) We had a lot more businesses back then and that little town was hoppin'. Many of the things you mentioned in your post were present in that little town.

    Sadly, some of the small towns I knew of yesteryear are dying. But I'm so glad they're not dying in books, because I love to visit them through what I read and write. Pretending (if just for a little while) that it's real and I'm smack dab in the middle of them.

    Thanks for a wonderful post and the trip down memory lane.

  20. I think you must live in my small town. Thanks for a reminder that I need to use all the senses to create a setting.

  21. Brenda, you brought the beauty and uniqueness of small towns to life in my mind, using all five senses. Your sharing about Grandma Iva brought tears to my eyes. :)

    I've always lived in a city, but I've visited small towns. I drive through them on our many family road trips. Thanks for sharing important aspects to consider when writing about small towns. :) I love the spice of life and intimacy they invoke.

  22. Sandra -- Oh, yes, small towns have their negatives, too, and I use those in my Love Inspired Canyon Springs stories--like people knowing all your business before YOU even do. LOL.

  23. Blogger doesn't like me today, so let me try this again.
    First, Tina, wow, the cover of my February book! I hadn't seen it yet!
    Thank you.

    My dad was a cop and I have a similar memory that was brought on by my imagination and dislike of being alone as a kid. I was babysitting and convinced myself there was someone outside. I called my dad and within minutes the house was surrounded. The bush outside the window was taken into custody.

  24. I live in a small Ozark town like you describe---about a block from that feed store. :)

    Welcome to Seekerville.


  25. Thank you ladies for the warm welcome.
    And Renee,
    I bet you do know some of those characters.
    And little things that happen. I was talking to a young friend last night and she shared something that happened to her. It will be in a book. That's all I'm going to say. ;)

  26. Renee
    Love thos small town festivals. A local town just had Bonnie and Clyde days, because all of the old timers remember when Bonnie and CLyde came to town and they have stories about playing poker with them...

  27. Ruth,
    Thank you for having me over for coffee and good company on a cool autumn day.

  28. Jackie,
    Okay, I'm somehow sliding throug here and missing posts and getting people confused.
    Small town characters. Sorry, I posted that response to Renee, but I think that's okay.

    FLEA MARKETS! A place where everyone takes their junk and someone else's treasure.
    A store goes out of business and someone buys it and rents booth space to people who bring in antiques, books, clothes and other used treasures.

  29. Carol,
    Yes, neighbor and we still need to get together. I know where we can get fried bologna sandwiches and great pies.

    Oh, there are definitely negatives in a small town. I grew up in one, a rebellious kid with a cop for a dad. EVERYONE knew my business. :)

  30. Ganise,
    Oh thank YOU so much.
    Have a great day!

  31. grew up in a big city (Denver), but my mom grew up in rural North Dakota. She's quite the character. You don't have to live in a small town to be one.

    My mom couldn't work (my brother and I supported her until the Lord provided her with a new husband). But she went for walks everyday and baked cookies to give to anyone the Lord led her to give. She began giving cookies and cool drinks to the mail carriers and the trash collector people everytime they came by. She got to know the trash guys and would ask about their wives/girlfriends/families as she'd give them cookies, lemonade, or coffee (depended on the weather). She would pray for them too - they seemed eager for it, even though some said they didn't have time for God. She became known as the "Cookie Lady". The trash guys said they never had trouble getting coverage if they needed days off because everyone at the central station knew about the "Cookie Lady" route and wanted to meet her and have her care about them.

    When I was little, I was embarrassed by my mom. As I've grown older, I've realized how much she's enriched the lives of people who so often get overlooked. I cannot pass a janitor, security guard, etc without stopping to give them thanks for their hard work. My mom always did that (embarrassing little ol' me) but she was the only Jesus lots of those people ever experienced.

    I guess my mom brought a little of that "small town" feel to a neighborhood of a big city.

    Thanks for this post. I like the use of all the senses for creating a fictional place. I know I've read quite a few books that made me wish I lived in that fictional town.

  32. Susan,
    You're welcome.

    And Pat, I definitely live in a small town. Actually, about five miles from town. And our church is in an even smaller town (my husband is a pastor)

    Ruth, I'm still giggling over the fleas in the carpet. LOL. Thanks for making me itchy with that memory.

  33. Helen,
    I live in a small Ozark town, too!

  34. Lovely, lovely post, Brenda! Such evocative descriptions! Yes, there's definitely something enchanting about a small town.

    Thinking back, I realize I've set almost all my novels in a small-to-medium community invented just for the story--but usually close enough to a real-life big city the characters can visit now and then.

    The nice thing about creating fictional communities is that you can establish businesses, design the street layout, and add whatever other "special ingredients" might contribute to the story.

    Most recently I invented the small town of Kingsley, NC, which is just outside Charlotte. That's where my three "Horsemen" novels are set.

    For my first HP, Autumn Rains, I based fictional Aileen (several miles outside St. Louis) very loosely on Villa Ridge, MO, the tiny community where I used to visit my grandparents. I still have such poignant memories of that place!

  35. Deb,
    Yes, characters DEFINITELY live everywhere! We've lived in cities, big towns, and we've met characters everywhere! The world is full of them.
    THey make our lives and our writing richer for having known them.

  36. Myra,
    It is definitely fun to create our own small town.
    My fictional town, Dawson, is a short drive from Grove, Oklahoma and close to Tulsa.
    After creating it, I found out that there is a place called Dawson. It was a small community that got gobbled up by Tulsa, but still exists.

  37. Brenda, as a small town girl, your beautiful post has transported me to a dear time in my life. I too have a "Granny Iva" of sorts. I called her Miss Ruth and she made such an impact in my life. Thank you for taking me back to visit memories of her. :)

    I'd love to read your books, whether I win them here, or by the stars I'll put beside your titles on my Christmas wish list. ;)


  38. Brenda,

    I loved your comment about having a church that looks like the Love Inspired church!

    I go to a church that looks like that! And the small town I grew up in has a church like that too!

    I call them Christmas card churches.

  39. Fried bologna? I may pass on that... ;) But I will definitely contact you about lunch sometime soon :D.

  40. Brenda, I lived in Tulsa from 2006 to 2011! I love reading Tina's novels set in that area--so fun to recognize landmarks and other familiar references. I'm sure I'd enjoy your Oklahoma books, too!

  41. Smells are so important to anchoring a reader in setting! It triggers memory and makes them feel more a part of the scene and events!

    I lived in a small town growing up, and your description really brought me back to it. Nice to meet you,


  42. C.E.
    Thank you and you're welcome. :) It sounds like my Granny Iva and your Miss Ruth would have liked each other.

    Yes, definitely Christmas Card churches. Not saying they're perfect, but I do love ours. Even with all of its characters.
    The church where my husband pastors is definitely Christmas Card. It has been around for 125 years. The benches are wood, narrow and guaranteed to keep people awake!

  43. Carol,
    LOL. You can pick something other than the fried bologna. ;)

    I love Tulsa. When we drice through that area I always think that if I move to a city, it will be Tulsa.
    I have a strange love for Oklahoma.

    Nice to meet you, too. :)

  44. Brenda, you really captivated me with your coffee cup sat empty for 5 minutes...well, yes i had had my first cup already. i look forward to reading your LI books, and reviewing them. Thanks for being a part of the seekerville birthday month, even if you were not sure what to write. i'll be looking for your name!


  45. Hi, Brenda! Thanks for the insight on creating small towns in your writing! I once created a small town, more of a community, out in the country in 1880 Alabama. I had good people and not so good people, but I'm thinking maybe I didn't make the town friendly and likeable enough--since that book and series still hasn't sold!

    Anyway, welcome to Seekerville! Which is a VERY friendly and likeable town! I pretty much moved in years ago and they still haven't kicked me out! :-)

  46. Small towns are great! I know because I live in one. Love it!
    Amy Campbell

  47. DebH, that was such a sweet tribute to your mother! Thank you for sharing that! I have tears in my eyes!

  48. Dianna!@!! Long time no see. What is up in your writing world??

  49. Pat Trainum! Met you at ACFW this year. Welcome to Seekerville.

  50. Something we have in common, Brenda. I love T-town as well.

    We'll have to plan a giant booksigning in Tulsa sometime soon.

    Vince will easily be our PR man.

  51. Brenda, I wish my little incident had been more like yours. If I remember correctly, I was too scared to go inside. Something about Bigfoot lurking in the house waiting to get me.

  52. Marianne,
    Thank you.

    ANd NEVER EVER let a coffee cup stay empty for five minutes!!!
    Which reminds me, I need coffee!!

  53. DebH, I want to be like your mom, and I don't make cookies. At least not very often, but what a ministry!

    Carol, you won't eat fried bologna? One of my childhood favorites.

  54. I love small towns! I usually write them in my stories, so these were great tips. It's extra special when towns can become another character - and books with towns like that are even more fun for me. Thanks for this informative and enjoyable post!

  55. Christina,
    I was always positive Bigfoot lived on our farm. And I am POSITIVE (should I admit this in public) that I saw Tinkerbell fly past my bedroom window. Or maybe a lightning bug. (firefly)

    Thank you. I think we definitely have to sprinkle the unfriendly in with the good, friendly folks of a small town. They add depth and a touch of reality.

    There are bad people in the world. But, as my son pointed out when he was five--There are a lot more good people. Sometimes the bad ones just get more attention. :)

    Tina, that would be GREAT. I'm just a short drive from Tulsa. We went last winter to see The Nutcracker and it was amazing.

  56. Seriously??? My daughter was in the Tulsa Ballet production of the nutcracker when she was little. Such memories.

  57. Brenda, great blog. I was drawn into it just like I'd be drawn into a good book.
    I live this life.
    Small town America.
    The mini-mart, the local cafe, the flea market/used junk store, the grocery stores that 'if they don't have it, you don't need it.'

    You've captured it perfectly.

  58. Tina,
    Definitely a memory! I bet she was on top of the world.

    As much as we love our small town here in the Ozarks, we do also love a trip to the city!

  59. Here's one I love that you didn't mention.
    The local gas station/mechanic...when my mom needs her car's oil changed, Charlie comes to her house, gets the car, leaves his pick-up in her driveway and drives her car to his shop, then returns it to her when he's done.
    For a while there was even a gas station/mechanic who would go around town and pick up your car and fill it up with gas and return it to you.
    The grocery store kid who carries groceries will just bring them all the way to mom's house.
    And one time when she was at the store she said something in the course of visiting with the check out lady about needing to get her Christmas lights up and when the store closed for the night, the carry out boy came to her house and hung her lights for her. Then after Christmas he took them down.
    She paid him but he didn't ask for money, she just gave it to him.

  60. There's a "small" town not far from us where they have this quaint little hardware store downtown that is only open, I think, Thursday-Saturday. They have the neatest stuff there--things Home Depot and Lowe's wouldn't think of carrying! So fun!

  61. I set a cozy mystery series in a small town and this was the fundamental truth I came to.
    The best thing and the worst thing about a small town is the same thing.
    People know.
    They know if you mess up, but they also know if you need help.
    If you get a traffic ticket, it's all over town. If you have a death in the family, there are people at your door with food within hours.

    There are no secrets, at least not for long, in a small town.

  62. Mary,
    Definitely the mechanic, small town garage. We have one of those! Its been there since I was a kid and I remember going in with my dad. I've always loved (going back to sense of smell) the smell of a garage.

    And my husband works at the local Ford dealership.(yes, he's also a pastor) He'll pick up a car that needs work or an oil change and take it to work with him.

    I love those little stores like that!

  63. I one time filled my car up with gas at the local convenience store and just drove away. I got about two miles home when I realized I hadn't paid. (no snazzy card swipe machine at this gas station)
    I wheeled around and hurried back and when I went in to pay they had a ticket hanging there with the amount I owed.
    I apologized and the lady working the cash register said on-so-calmly, "I knew you'd be back."

  64. Mary,
    And that's why one of my favorite country songs is "Everybody Dies Famous in a Small Town."

  65. Hi Brenda. My husband is from a small town 20 mins from where I grew up and we now live. It's like a different world. Everyone knows everyone, they really do. My sister-in-law by marriage who grew up there knows everyone and their whole family. And they have old historical homes. But the town is growing, they have a Walmart now! The town doesn't shut down by 8pm like it use to. They still have the Farmer's Market around the square though.

  66. Oh, Mary, isn't that the truth. I remember going into labor. We lived in a small town, dh grew up in at the time. I think everyone knew I was on the way to the hospital before I was out the door. I guess that's what happens when your Mil works at the tavern.

    I don't know if y'all heard of Guy & Mae's in Williamsburg, KS, anyway that was one of the small towns I grew up in. There was this guy, he'd sit outside grandpa's gas station on a red metal chair, remember those? He taught me how to tie my shoes. I think he taught most of the kids how to tie their shoes. I remember thinking he was the oldest man I'd ever seen.

  67. Now you got me thinking and there might be a story in it. LOL. Small towns hate government interference in their way of life.

    When recycling came to the small town I lived in, you can bet there was a furor that the government was going to tell them how to dispose of their trash. It had nothing to do with recycling. It was the point.

    The same with burning leaves in those giant metal barrels. Can't do that anymore. What a storm that caused. Been doing it for 50 years.

  68. Mary the gas stealer.


    Doesn't surprise me.

    Not a'tall.

    Mellie - they haven't kicked me out either. 'Course I'm still hangin' out on the island. In my hammock. In the shade. With a coconut drink in hand. And my Kindle. They've all moved to the mainland. So it's not that they've forgotten about us over here - not at all [they keep building bridges and sending boats and stuff for some... why am I suddenly reminded of the end of Pilgrim's Progress where they all hang out near the river until it's time for them to cross?] but they're apparently gonna let us be squatters here since they're not using the huts anymore... ;)

    Think it's naptime near the beach... :D

  69. Christina,
    I'll have to get Carol to try that fried bologna.

  70. Donna,

    our small town isn't up to a walmart yet. We do have a farmer's market.
    But we also have the people who sit next to the tracks with their produce or fresh eggs.

  71. Great post, Brenda! You really made Granny Iva come alive. Small towns are great for books, I think, and you did a wonderful job breaking down how to write one. Thanks!!

  72. Thanks, Jessica!

    Granny Iva was definitely a special lady to a lot of people! She also taught me how important it is to love the people in our lives.

    Oh, she also taught me the easiest recipe for dinner rolls. She knew all of the really important things. How to love, and how to cook for the people you love.

  73. I had a 'Granny Iva'. We lost her last year and we miss her so very much.

    She would bring us goodies, but she was sort of frail. So she would load them up in her wagon and walk down the sidewalk to our house. When my kids saw 'Grandma yum yum' coming with her wagon they'd get so excited! Brownies... Now I need brownies.

    That said, you don't wanna know the people in my small town!


    Boy, motley crew of pirates on a bad day or United Nations delegation on a good one.

  74. Just read your comment about the dinner rolls!

    My 'Iva' thought it was a crime that I didn't know how to make gravy. So, I got a lesson. She thought a man would love a woman more who could make a good gravy. I didn't have the heart to tell her my husband ate salsa!

  75. Christina, love the old man tying shoes!!!

  76. Those ladies could cook, couldn't they Virginia! Ours was the same way.
    And I think all small towns are a little like what you describe.
    Every town event is like a family reunion.

    I don't know how many of you are on facebook with me, but if we're going to talk small towns, we have to mention my favorite small town incident.
    My son and his friends surrounded by the local police for playing wiffle ball in the school parking lot. The cop thought he heard spray cans. Instead of investigating on his own, he called for backup.
    Imagine their surprise when they hit the little vandals with spotlights and they were holding a bat and a wiffle ball.

  77. This one is for Ruth.

    What discussion of small town America would be complete without discussing roosters and their crowing.
    In the small town I once lived in, and served on the city council, we actually arrested a rooster for crowing.

    And yes, our town made the David Letterman show, Fox News, NBC, etc.

    Those roosters can be serious criminals and keep a town meeting hopping, or is it crowing?

  78. Virginia,

    Oh yes, Granny Iva lectured me often on the importance of a good meal for my husband.
    She also taught me to can peaches. And she taught me which local plants are edible and how to cook them.
    so if rolls aren't your thing, I can wilt some lambs quarters, poke and dandelions.

  79. Brenda said: "I can wilt some lambs quarters, poke and dandelions."

    You should share that with Kav. She's Seekerville's vegetarian.

  80. i think every person should have a Granny Iva. i believe it would solve a lot of the world's ills.

    i think when i grow up, i want to be a Granny Iva too.

  81. The day before I went into labor with my first follow along........
    It was Maunday Thursday, the day before Good Friday.

    I woke up in the morning to find (personal, sorry) my water had broken.

    My husband went to work (after considerable panic on our part)
    He told my in-laws (who are great people) what was going on and there was no sign of labor but it had to be soon.

    My inlaws went to church services early on Thursday and mentioned that a baby might be coming any time.

    One of their fellow church goers went home and, when the UPS man came to her house he asked how to get to my house, he had a package for me.

    She told him I'd gone into labor (which I hadn't) and to leave the package with her.

    The UPS man went on into town to a different church--MY church--with a package and mentioned that I'd gone into labor (which I hadn't)

    My husband was part of the Maunday Thursday services at our church that night.

    They got someone else to do his part.

    We got to church that night, my husband all set to act out his part of DaVinci's Last Supper and he'd been replaced.

    The whole church was agog and made a huge fuss over me and the imminent baby.

  82. Mary,
    Oh yes, that's my small town too!
    i think it is standard for these words to be uttered at least once in every small church on a Sunday morning, "have you heard about..."

    Yes, we all need Granny Iva's, and we need to be the Granny Iva's of the world!

    On her deathbed she gave everyone a step by step account of what it was like to go to heaven. ;)

  83. Brenda, you have to give us a little peek into your writing day. Do you have an office? What is the view in front of your window? How do you divide and balance (divide an conquer) your writing day?

  84. Brenda you're never going to believe this, I just submitted a comment about Blogger being stupid sometimes and "eating" my comments and I got an error message...So I totally understand how Blogger fudged your comments to me and Jackie! :-) Isn't technology supposed to make our lives easier? LOL

  85. Truly fabulous post Brenda. You've captured the cozy feel of what small town living is really like. My hometown is just as connected (you never talk about someone to someone else because you don't who they are related to). :) Our town believes in the mantra "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

    Again, terrific post and thank you for sharing.


  86. Tina- things have gone a little haywire in my house. Lots of conflict- nah, don't think I'll write about it. I have been continuing to try to write, albiet much more slowly, but my web presence has been cut way back.

    I will say...I've missed chatting with you guys!

  87. Well good to see you Dianna! You have been missed.

  88. Renee, I went looking for your cake yesterday. We need a link to yours. Put it on your website. I am drooling for it. I went to the Wilton fondant recipe but alas no picture. I cannot have no pictures.

    And for Brenda, we were talking cakes yesterday in Seekerville. Birthday cakes. BTW.

  89. Tina,
    my writing day is a little scary.
    No, I don't have an office. I gave my desk to my son. It's now covered in Dr. Pepper, dirty clothes and food.

    I sit in my living room in front of the window. My pug is at my feet and my chihuahua is next to me. The new cat is usually curled up somewhere on the chair. If she can sneak past the chihuahua.

    The window is floor to ceiling and I can see the fields that surround my house, sometimes a cow or mule grazing, the birds at the feeder and I do watch the neighbor when he makes a trip down to gather eggs or check his mail.
    If I look out, I don't have to notice dust bunnies or the exercise bike that taunts me.

    I am not a plotter. I have a basic outline, and of course the synopsis, but I fly by the seat of my pants for the first 100 pages. By then I usually have a good idea where I'm going with the story and I know who my characters are. I start to outline the rest of the book, scene by scene, chapter by chapter.

    I revise as I write and I keep notes on what I want to change, things that need my attention. At this point I'm a big fan of the highlighter.

    I am not opposed to cutting whole scenes or even chapters if they don't fit.

    Because of my schedule, I don't usually have time to let a CP look at my finished produce. I do sometimes have them look at the first three chapters, but after that I'm on my own and have to trust my instincts.

    Oh, my writing day also includes some serious procrastination and solitaire. ;) And a cup of coffee from time to time.

  90. Tina,
    Cakes, good topic. I'm hungry. :)

    KD, Thanks. And so true about being careful what you say!! I admit to having learned family connections in the most awkward ways.

  91. WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, BRENDA, and WOW, I am soooo there in that small town after reading this blog and reallllly hankering to write a series in one now, so thanks for the inspiration!!

    I always think of the Mitford series when I think of small towns and how the charm of those people and that place captivated millions (over 25 million copies sold), as did Andy Griffith in his TV show long ago with the town of Mayberry. There is just something so homey and innocent and comforting about a setting like that, which I believe is why Amish books are such big sellers.

    Fun and unique topic, Brenda! I'm hooked!!


  92. Hi Tina! I'm sorry that there weren't any pictures! I *think* this link to my Facebook picture of my cake should work for everyone.

  93. Julie,

    Yes, Mitford is definitely a great example of small town. And who doesn't love Andy Griffith. He's still a favorite at our house!

  94. Hi Brenda,

    Thanks for this post! It was a lovely visit to a wonderful small town with quirky characters!

    I love reading about small towns - probably why I enjoy the Love Inspired books so much. And I'm working on creating wonderful towns in my books, too!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  95. Hi Brenda! I grew up in the city but moved to the Ozarks twenty years ago. I love living in a small town. One year we took the kids to see the Grand Canyon and car trouble drained our vacation money. We called the bank president back home and asked him to take money out of our savings and deposit it into our vacation account. No big deal... but the vacation account was with the rival bank down the street. He did it for us!

    I love your books, but I think you already know that :)

  96. Jamie,

    That's what we love about small towns!!
    You can pick up the phone and usually have help, whatever it is you need, in a very short amount of time!

    And thank you. ;)

  97. Gotta say that I love Brenda. Not only do I love Brenda but found out one of my great-great ancestors helped populate her town. I secretly hope we are some how distantly related.

    Brenda was one of my first LI authors. Others I had known through other books but Brenda was the person who helped me branch out into new LI authors.

    The times I didn't have a community for prayer, she prayed for me. What a blessing she is to all who come in contact with her and her writing.

    Peace, Julie

  98. Julie is home from conference!! Thank you Julie, you make my heart happy. And YOU have been such a blessing to me, lifting me up with with your thoughtfulness.
    We are related. Sisters. ;)

  99. Hi Brenda:

    Your description of small towns is wonderful.

    I just love small towns…I love them to be about ten miles away from my homestead. That was my favorite home as a child.

    Here’s something I’d really like to know:

    Do you know who reads your ‘small town’ stories? Do they live in cities and wish they lived in small towns or are they living in small towns and want to see themselves in the stories?

    I life in a big town, Tulsa, but I like reading stories set in small towns. I have no interest in a story just because it is set in a big city. In fact, I’m less likely to read it.

    When I read a story that takes place in Oklahoma, I can’t rest until I figure out where the town is located. I figured out where Dawson was, that is, near Grove. I also figured out where Tina’s two stories were centered. But some novels seem impossible. Are you careful to get the distances right between your fictional town and other real towns? In one Oklahoma novel I read the drive times to real cities made no sense at all. I could not locate it for the whole novel.

    Now, before everyone gets too ‘warm and fuzzy’ over small towns, I suggest they read “Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson. It’s a classic and it’s free for the Kindle. It also shows the other side of small town life.

    If you want to read about very quirky and funny small town characters just for inspiration, I suggest “Haircut and Other Stories” by Ring Lardner. I mention these books because I don’t think many young people know about them.

    I am a big fan of small town romance but what I don’t like most are seeing silly old retired men who are always trying to matchmake, seem unbearably cute (if cantankerous) and who seem to always travel in threes. I’d prefer to see the old men play chess in their hangouts (be they feed stores or diners) and have them discussing important subjects. I think the stilly but loveable stereotype is unfair to old men. (Please forgive me if you’re one of the LI writers who do this. : ) )


  100. Hi Vince,
    Its been a while and good to see you again.

    What I find from readers and facebook is that our readers are from all over the country. Rural, small town, big city and everything in between.

    I do have a matchmaker in my books, but she's a grandmother intent on giving away her heirloom rings and seeing her grandchildren married off.

    About distances. I try to be careful about the distances in my books, but won't claim to always get it right. I do use mapquest and since I live just north of the border an hour or so, I've been in that area quite a bit. My dad used to fish on Grand Lake.

    Most of the older gentlemen that i know are not matchmakers, they're hanging out at the Main Street Cafe or Jerry's Barbershop.

    I hope I didn't miss anything, if I did, I'm more than willing to give you whatever answers I have. Or can make up. ;)

  101. Welcome Brenda! I enjoyed your post so much because I LOVE Small Town USA---there are really lots of small towns that still exist (thankfully) and here in the south it seems we have quite a few. ~ I grew up across the street (literally) from the Atlanta Airport (which has grown unbelievably since the airport of my childhood--WOW). As kids we would ride our bikes one block to a big fence, where we would stand and watch the jets taxi down the runway. We were so close to the runway that the pilots would smile and wave at us! ~ I had to laugh at your "cat lady" comment, because I have to admit I'm the cat lady in my community (hopefully folks don't add the word "crazy" before cat, LOL). Congrats on your writing success and all those great books. Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

  102. Brenda you described my town like it was when we first moved here. It's growing bigger every year and slowly losing a little of that small town charm, but I still love the feeling I get driving through downtown--the resale shops, cafe's, and feed stores. BTW, that hint of molasses you talked about stirred a flutter of sweet memories for me. :)

    Great advice on making a story come alive with characters, sights, smells, and sounds! Now I'm going to go back to the keyboard and use this knowledge!

  103. Patti Jo,
    Yes, there are definitely still a lot of small towns. And I'm so thankful. Our kids are still living a childhood close to the way we were raised. The world has changed a lot. Small towns evolve a little more slowly.

    LOL. Oh, if I'm going to be the cat lady, I really want CRAZY in the title. I think we get away with a little more.

  104. Natalie,
    So glad you enjoyed the post.
    And I'm thankful for Stephanie Newton, for her advice on what to write about.

    I still love the smell of 'sweet feed.' And yes, I tasted it when i was a kid. I was curious.

  105. Patti Jo is our resident cat lady in Seekerville the town. She is also our resident baker.

    Which is quite interesting. Patti Jo you need to get hired at the Yankee Belle Cafe.

  106. Dawson is near Grove? Now I am not familiar with Grove. Where is that located in OK.

    My first two books were set in a fictional town called Granby which is really Bixby. I lived in Tulsa and spent a lot of time in Bixby and Jenks.

  107. Jamie Adams. Another long time no see. Brenda is pulling all you 'nose to the grindstone' gals out to play to day. Woohoo!!!

  108. Welcome to Seekerville, Brenda! Thanks for sharing your Granny Iva with us and your excellent suggestions for creating a setting that tugs readers in and keeps them there. Just reading your post eased the tension in my shoulders. :-)Small towns evoke comfort, exactly why readers love them.


  109. Brenda,

    So good to see your post today.

    I've been away from Seekerville too long. Left for M&M on Thursday, and the hotel computer wouldn't let me access the blog!

    I did, however, get to see so many wonderful Seekerville friends! Waving to everyone who was at the GRW Conference. Such a great weekend!

    Got home Sunday in time to welcome my son and his family for an overnight visit. They just left, and I'm back online.

    Loved your description of small town Amermicana! A nice place to call home and the setting for so many LI stories.

    Sucking the nectar from honeysuckle, catching lightning bugs on a summer's night, playing hide and seek after dinner with all the neighborhood kids, riding my bike to the local Five and Dime...lovely memories that returned with your blog post.

    Congrats on your writing success. Twenty books! Fantastic!

  110. It's been so much fun to read everyone's reminiscences about small town life. I never lived in a small town. I moved from NYC out to the suburbs, but we spent summers in a small town in Pennsylvania so my visions of that life come from summers and the books I've read.

    Brenda, it's so interesting to read your descriptions. Growing up in the burbs of NYC, I've certainly never been to a feed store. ;)

  111. Oh. My. Stars.

    We've been busy!!!!

    And I've clearly neglected food duties, a pox upon me for a clumsy oaf!

    Your cape, my dears!!!!

    (It's a Wonderful Life, LOVE IT!!!)

    MINTON!!! You rock, you're handling this like a pro!!!


    Can I have a couple of curls, please? I just want your curls.

    In trade I brought chocolate chip/harvest M&M cookies.

    Do not be confused, please. There is no HAIR in the cookies...

    that's my longing!

    I'm still on duty here, 3 "TWEENS" cleaning the rowboat that was at the bottom of the pond for ten years.

    Luckily the rowboat went down alone...

    The girls????

    They're sure they're saving the Black Pearl or something.

    A day in the life.... :)

    The boat smelled bad, but it smelled worse a week ago, before they cleaned out the mud. By hand.

    Swamp Girls.

    So I get the life in a small town thing. (Grinning!) Yup. I'm right there with you.

    I love me some small towns, Minton!!!

  112. VINCE--- I had to stop reading the comments and ask what you thought of the old men in 'Return To Me', probably one of my favorite movies ever.

    My fav scene is the old guys playing poker, and the hero walks in. Someone introduces him and they all grunt. Then the waitress says, 'his wife died' and they all jump up and offer him a chair with much to do. Band of brothers, he was inducted on the spot.

    Makes me laugh out loud every time.

  113. I grew up in a small town. DH and I moved away be near family....4 yrs. ago, and this town is even smaller! lol
    We have friends (a pastor) in Ozark area and have visited there.....great place.
    Would love to read your books...they sound great.
    Thanks for being here today!
    Jackie S.

  114. MARY-- that baby story needs to be in a book. HILARIOUS!

  115. @Tina - Thank you! It took my mom and me a few hours since neither of us had ever worked with fondant but it was fun. BTW the front of the cake says "Bowties are cool!" It didn't show up well in the pic.

  116. "Sucking the nectar from honeysuckle, catching lightning bugs on a summer's night, playing hide and seek after dinner with all the neighborhood kids, riding my bike to the local Five and Dime"

    Debby how could I forget this?? And waiting for the Ding Ding man. The ice cream truck. Kick the can too!!!

  117. Brenda, thanks for your post on small town environs and small town people. I think down deep a hankering for such a place hovers within many of us. Chanute Crossing in my series was my answer and I enjoyed writing about it. Loved Granny.

  118. Hi Virginia:

    I never saw that movie but if I get a chance, I will. As I get older I see that many older people are marginalized. Not taken as serious. Gabby Hayes types. I don’t like the silly, old geezer, stereotype. I like the older person as a source of experience and wisdom. A mentor. But then stereotypes of any groups are usually to be avoided in all but comedy. I guess I’m just more sensitive these days. : )


  119. More Small Town Memories

    Tina Radcliffe said...

    "Sucking the nectar from honeysuckle, catching lightning bugs on a summer's night, playing hide and seek after dinner with all the neighborhood kids, riding my bike to the local Five and Dime"

    Debby how could I forget this?? And waiting for the Ding Ding man. The ice cream truck. Kick the can too!!!

    And for boys:

    Hitting stones into the woods with a stick-bat while listening to the ballgame through an open bedroom window and while pretending to be the player at bat.(And knowing that player’s stats because you have his baseball card memorized.)

    Who wants to go back?


  120. Brenda, I really enjoyed your description of how you develop a small town, the atmosphere, scenery, and characters to go with it. I love your Cooper Creek series and your cowboy series before that. I like to enter for one of your books every chance I get. I live in a small town in Alabama, and the local drugstore soda fountain still brings back memories.

  121. Hi Brenda! Loved my trip home. Small towns are the best. We're lucky we live in small towns fairly close to a small city. Where else could you get a nice steak dinner, shopping spree & $1 massage? Love you! LW

  122. Amazing!

    Almost every place you mentioned brought to mind a place just like it in MY SMALL TOWN.

    Wouldn't trade country life and small towns for anything!

  123. Virginia Mary Ginny, I love that movie and the small town feel in the middle of Big City. Great scene.

    I find it rather comforting to go into any donut/coffee shop in the US and find a group of men sitting around a table.

    Facebook has been a great way to recall the small town feeling. Seeing classmates post about something 'from the old days' is a treat. Being a upstater, a Western New Yorker, I can attest that Ruthy got her small towns just right!

  124. Brenda! What part of the Ozarks are you from? I grew up in SE MO. Love the Ozark Mts! :D Small towns are awesome. It's so easy to feel lost in a big city. I love going into a grocery store and seeing the same cashiers and same bag boys. Some of the best characters I knew were related. :D

    HAPPY 5TH BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    How exciting! :D

  125. Tina,
    Honeysuckle and lightning bugs! And riding my bike down the dirt road to the one business in the farming community I grew up in...the gas station!

  126. Tina,
    Grove is in the northeast corner.

    Janet, great to be here with you all!

  127. Mary, I would let you come visit and introduce you to my small town and the feed store. ;)

    Ruth, thank you. And I'll trade curls for cookies!

    Candle, glad you enjoy the books!

  128. LW, love you back and yes, we are blessed to live here!
    good place, good friends!

  129. Linnette, I live close to Branson and Springfield.

  130. Brenda, it's so wonderful to see you here on Seekerville! Loved your post! After reading it, I do want to visit your small town :)

  131. HI Brenda. Love writing and reading about small towns. I grew up in a large town, but my grandmother lived in a rural town and I have such fond memories of summers spent there. Thanks for the great post! Feeling like I was going down memory lane tonight. :)

  132. Love reading stories set in small towns! Great post! I lived in a small town as a young kid and I totally relate to your comment about smelling the burgers and fries at the local cafe from a block away - ooh those home-made fries!! :)

    jswaks at gmail dot com

  133. This comment has been removed by the author.

  134. Brenda Minton, small town girl, Love Inspired Super Duper Author. Thank you so much for spending the day with us. You were a terrific guest!

  135. Tina,
    Thank YOU so much for inviting me, and thank you all for the making me feel so welcomed. I had a great time!

  136. I enjoyed your posting Brenda. Living in small towns is interesting. In the town next to us we have two businesses that have dogs as their "mascots." I remember the first time I went into either establishment that I was taken aback, but now I use them for inspiration. Your new book cover looks wonderful!

  137. Thanks for the memories, Brenda. Dawson reminds me of the small town I grew up in and moved back to a few years ago. Except it's at least 100 times larger than before and has lost its small town appeal. :(

  138. A great post thank you. I grew up in small towns, so reading about them always takes me back.


  139. I've never lived in a small town. Sometimes I think I would like to, just for the laid-back quality of life.

    Thanks for giving me a sneakpeak into something I'll probably never experience.

    ginger dot solomon at gmail dot com

  140. Enter me!!!
    Sarah Richmond

  141. I am from a small town in MS and your books really make you feel like you are in small town,USA! Love to win your books!

  142. Brenda, thanks for deconstructing a LI small town. This will be very helpful to a lot of writers.

    I grew up in a small town that didn't always feel like one because we were so near to NYC. Yet, everyone knew everyone else (or someone who did) and yes, they missed you if you missed church. I now live in a place that looks in many ways like the area where I grew up, and at times, usually when it's inconvenient, operates like a small town, but lacks many of the small town aspects I treasured.