Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Broke The Rules Again...

Hello Seekerville, and thanks to Audra for this wonderful opportunity to come visit again.  I always feel at home at Seekerville because the readers and bloggers here possess something that I have an abundance of.  It’s called “Faith.”

I was raised Catholic, so imagine my surprise when I suggested to my then agent that I write a Catholic inspirational.  She quickly nixed the idea, saying Catholicism isn’t recognized in the mainstream of Evangelical Christianity.  At a conference someone said to me, “There are Christians and then there are Catholics.”  So For years, I veered far from writing something so absolutely intrinsic to me.  After all the industry professionals know best, right?

All right.  No one would let me play in their sandbox, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t put the tenements of my beliefs into my secular novels.  In The Past Came Hunting, from Bell Bridge Books, the theme of redemption is huge in that story. 

Still, I was raised in New Mexico, in the Four Corners area, and I am nothing if not influenced by that state’s rich Hispanic and Indian culture.  To leave Catholicism out of a potential story set in New Mexico was like leaving the fish out of the ocean.  I also LOVED stories like The Trouble with Angels, or the stage production of “Patent Leather Shoes Reflect Up.”  Those stories summed up my Catholic education.  And I’m hardly a political or a “tell all” writer.  I simply write romantic suspense and mystery, and the more people that told me no, the more DEADLY RECALL called to me.   (Kind of like those check marks I received in parochial school for failure to conform.)

So I wrote Deadly Recall, against expert advice, knowing I was taking a risk, and the outcome of its success or failure remains to be seen. (This is not a Dan Brown, Davinci Code novel, mind you).  It simply a mystery that takes place in a Catholic Church setting.  I found out quickly what I was up against.  In the Linda Howard Award of Excellence, I received two perfect scores, one of the judges, a multi-published author wrote, “I can’t wait to see this in print.” I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I confess I was hugely disappointed when it came back from the final round judge/editor as an Honorable Mention.   

I could have stashed it in the drawer at that time, (maybe I should have) but there’s that check mark thing again, and I’m stubborn.)  I entered the Golden Heart, and Deadly Recall went on to become a 2010 Golden Heart® finalist.  What this was telling me was that readers liked the story, but industry professionals weren’t sure what to do with it.

I admit I had severe doubt when writing the story.  My mother who is exceedingly Catholic and my first reader said of the opening, “You can’t do this.  Flipping more pages, she said, “You can’t do this.”  Eventually, though, she said, “All right.  You can do this.”  Good.  I had my mother’s blessing ;)

For me, this story has been an emotional rollercoaster and so far, a month after its release I have 15 five and four star reviews.  Two in particular make me smile, one because I wondered myself and the other because the author clearly understood what I was trying to do in this story:

~~ I loved Bell's first novel, and feared that she might be a one-hit wonder. I found Deadly Recall edged out The Past Came Hunting by a nose. Now I can't wait for her next work.  ~ Bill Abell

~~ I enjoyed Deadly Recall. Having a detective fight an attraction to someone on the "dark side", a cute public defender, made for great dialogue exchange and character interaction. Having the mystery in the Catholic Church, without pulling too many PC punches, was nice as well. The plot was realistic and kept my attention. For mystery fans, this is lightweight on the blood and gore, with a reasonable taste of violence, so you can kick back and enjoy watching things play out without too much "shock" factor. Nice solid story I definitely recommend.  ~ C. Hope Clark

As I mentioned, I’m big on writing redemption stories as part of my happily ever after and the theme of forgiveness lives on in this book.  Amazingly, I felt lighter at the story’s end so for that I’ve already been paid in full in writing it.  I’m happy I wrote Deadly Recall, and delighted that Bell Bridge Books saw fit to publish this mystery.  And about those rules I always seem to break . . .

Pablo Picasso wrote, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” 

So I ask you Seekerville readers, have you ever been told no but stubbornly persisted?   What were the results?  Success or failure?  I’d love it if you’d share your stories.  I’ll give one commenter in North America a paperback or digital copy of DEADLY RECALL.  

Thanks for having me, my Colorado buddy and Seekerville.  Always a pleasure.

A terrifying memory is locked deep inside her.  A killer wants to keep it that way.

Nine-year-old Eden Moran thought she was saying good-bye to her mentor that fateful day in St. Patrick’s.  She had no idea she’d witness the nun’s demise, or that her child’s mind would compensate.  Now seventeen years later, Albuquerque cops have unearthed human remains, and the evidence points to Eden as being the key to solving Sister Beatrice’s murder.  When a hell-bent cop applies pressure, Eden stands firm.  She doesn’t remember the woman.  Unfortunately for Eden, Sister Beatrice’s killer will do whatever it takes to keep it that way.

News Flash! Amazon has just selected Deadly Recall as its Kindle Deal of the Day (tomorrow) Friday, April 5 at a deeply discounted rate!! Don't miss this opportunity! 

Donnell Ann Bell is the author of The Past Came Hunting and newly released Deadly Recall from Bell Bridge Books.  Both books were nominated for the prestigious Golden Heart from Romance Writers of America.  Her website is  
Hi Everyone, Audra here. As always, I love having Donnell as my guest in Seekerville. And isn't that a great Amazon promotion tomorrow? Don't miss out! Of course, leave a comment and look for the Weekend Edition on Saturday to see if you're the lucky winner of a copy of Deadly Recall. Thanks, Donnell for playing with us today!! To start off the morning, I've brought my special recipe Cherry-Almond Oatmeal to share. It took all night in the slow cooker to blend the flavors to perfection. Pour some milk over the top and enjoy!!


rbooth43 said...

As my husband said to me, don't command that I do or don't do something, just suggest that I would rather! This worked for us for 36 years until his death. Everyone has a right to their own befief and I enjoy reading about people who live life to fullist because one day you might lose someone very special. The memories are always so special and reading is my pleasure!
I have a nephew that became a Catholic and I am very proud of him and his family!
I would love to read Deadly recall!
rbooth43 at yahoo dot com

Julie Hilton Steele said...

I am in! Getting married in the middle of my college years seemed like a big no for a lot people, including my parents. But it was the best yes I ever said. We have been married for over three decades.

I am thinking a lot about rule breaking in writing these days. One person's rule breaker make be a publisher's definition of a fresh voice.

Thanks so much for this post.

Peace, Julie

Christina Rich said...

Wow! Great inspiration! So y'all take notice.

When I first started writing I was told there was no room for another Scottish historical author. I persisted for awhile until a western came to me. Pitched it. Was told westerns we're dead. I finished that story and it's currently out on submission. Felt lead to write a biblical romance, again I was told they we're dead. I just sold my second bib.

So, take more of Donnell's post.

Marianne Barkman said...

As long as the novel is not seeking to covert the reader to a certain church, why would it matter? I mean, look at all the Amish stories! So, please put my name in for this one, and no, I am not a Catholic, but would have no reason not to post a review of it on my blog! Thanks


Playground Monitor said...

...Catholicism isn’t recognized in the mainstream of Evangelical Christianity. At a conference someone said to me, "There are Christians and then there are Catholics."

*blink blink*

I'd say I can't believe someone actually said that, but I live in the South where that sort of ignorance is common.

Yay you for breaking rules and having such wonderful success!


Kara Isaac said...

Coming from "Down Under" I was told from the beginning that no US publisher would be interested in a story set outside of the US because they didn't sell.

I wrote the story anyway, then I rewrote it to be set in the US, but it never felt right. Then I went on to write other stories, one US based, one not.

Then last year at ACFW an at a big publisher mentioned they were actively looking for stories based outside of the US, in other English speaking countries. What was unthinkable five years ago is now a real possibility!

Walt Mussell said...

It;s nice to hear that Catholic storiues do have a place. The Jesuits were the ones who brought Christianity to Japan in the 16th century. However, I have to downplay that in my medieval Japanese settings. (An old deacon once accused me of blasphemy for downplaying the Catholic Church's role in that time period. However, the priest nearby recognized the marketing challenge aspect. He wasn't as "upset" about it and gave me some helpful suggestions.)

Jackie said...

Welcome to Seekerville Donna,
Congrats on getting your story published, and congrats on being picked for the deal of the day.

Deadly Recall sounds like a great story, and I'd love to read it one day.

I'm working on a romance between a couple in their 40s and early 50s. What can I say? It's the story God put on my heart for some reason.

Thanks for sharing.

I'd love to have my name in the drawing. joyfuljelatgmaildotcom

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Good morning, Seekerville! Oh my goodness, I wake up and there's already eight of the kindest comments. I really appreciate you sharing your "No" stories and then turning it and letting me know that you met the challenge and more.

Rebecca, I'm so sorry about your husband's death, but he sounds like a very wise man.

Julie, sometimes decision making is about heart, and obviously your heart knew. Yes, where once upon a time doors were close to rule breakers, publishers like mine allow us to tell some very special stories.

Hi, Marianne. I love Amish stories, and I love mysteries set in spiritual settings. Personally, I think God is too big for one religion. ;)

Marilyn, good morning and thanks for the blinks! I'd love to say that ignorance is relegated only to the south, but it exists all over, unfortunately. So does faith hope and charity -- we need more of it going around. Thanks for the smile!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Kara. You follow your heart. I can't believe someone would tell you to write a story not intrinsic to your background and share your wonderful Australian roots. I have never understood this about Historicals either. They have to be Regency period and set in England.

Ha! I just finished a wonderful western historical by Seekerville author Mary Connealy, I love stories set in the middle ages. Why on earth would we limit story telling? That's always confused me.

I also read a wonderful book recently about Australia called Burning Lies by Author Helene Young. It was a romantic suspense and read it was like taking a trip to Australia -- I may never get to travel there, thanks to her story I visited and understood more about her country. Of course it felt wrong. Glad you stuck to your guns!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Walt. Part of writing is ignoring our fears, our internal editors as well as the external ones, would you agree? There will always be critics of our work. Blasphemy sounds ridiculously harsh. Glad you found a way to tell your story to make it work. Well done!

Donnell Ann Bell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donnell Ann Bell said...

Jackie, another rule that blows me away. Telling an author he/she has to write their protagonists in a specific age.

Well, I guess there is Young Adult and Middle School, so we wouldn't stick a 40 year old or 50 year old in those books but in romance? Women's fiction, Mainstream. Ahem, being in that specific age group, I think we have a lot of stories to share that a twenty something couldn't possibly know.

Many of the mysteries I read surround older protagonists. Diane Mott Davidson's Goldie Schulz is such a character. The story wouldn't be near as interesting without her life experiences included. Keep up the good work! And thanks for the congrats.

Bridgett Henson said...

I’m a big fan of denominational specific books. A religious belief or doctrine is a character trait. If a writer omits that piece of motivation, the story loses authenticity.

Kudos to you for staying true to your characters.

I write Pentecostal fiction. I incorporated a publishing company and hired an editor rather than compromise the story.

I’d love to win a copy of your book.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Bridgett, you're my hero. I never even thought of going that far. Kudos to you for having so much vision and determination in staying true to your story. You said it better than I did. Compromise the story. Well done and best wishes. I should have mentioned, you're all entered to win either a paperback or digital copy (your choice) in North America, or digital elsewhere. Thanks for making this keen observation.

Edwina said...

I was told that a nonfiction that I am writing would never by a CBA publisher. My book proposal is now under consideration by an agent. I will keep persisting until this book is on the bookshelves!

Audra, would love the recipe for the Cherry-Almond Oatmeal - sounds delish!

Blessings to all,

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Me too, Audra :)

Edwina, keep going. My critique partner finaled in one of the CBAs contest. Her title is The Affair. It's not about a man and a woman having an affair, it's about a man's addiction to a drug and his wife stating as such.... needless to say she's heard a lot of nos to this day. It's an amazing story. I hope she finds a home for it some day through a publisher or Indy publishing. It deserves to be out there.

Cara Lynn James said...

Donnell, I just bought your new book on my Kindle. It's looks great! Welcome to Seekerville!

Audra Harders said...

Don't you just love someone telling you to break the rules?

Oh my mama would be frowning!!

But seriously, how can we be true to our story, our characters, our faith, if we have to follow guidelines that work for others?

I'm not saying we should all pooh-pooh editor suggestions, not at all. But God planted the seed of desire for us to write. Follow that desire and you'll never go wrong.

Just look at Donnell!!

Hey girlfriend, so glad to have you here in Seekerville!!

Audra Harders said...

Christina, that is a story of faith worth tacking up on a wall and re-reading each day.

Good for you for following your creativity!

kaybee said...

Thank you thank you thank you. I am writing a Western historical with an Irish man fleeing for his life on the Oregon Trail. I could not write about an Irishman in 1846 without Catholicism. I have tried to do it respectfully and show that it isn't a particular "religion" but knowing Christ in your heart. In the sequel, I have a young woman -- Irish again -- who left the convent and struggles with her faith before finding Christ, again outside of any "denomination." I was raised Catholic in the 1950s and ran the gamut of experiences, even spending a short time in a "Trouble With Angels"-type boarding school. Brock and Bodie Thoene had positive nuns in their Jerusalem series. I love the scene where Rachel and Ellie take shelter at the convent, and the Mother Superior leads them out past the Arabs. I hope to do a memoir some day, although sometimes I wonder if it's all ben said. Anyway, this hit the spot.
I just won something, so don't enter me.
Kathy Bailey
Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire

Audra Harders said...

Walt, I'm glad you have the support of your church in weaving in the faith aspect. Your entire setting and subject is so unique, I pray it hits the shelves soon!!

DebH said...

Oh, I LOVE this post! My favorite part - Pablo Picasso wrote, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” That is so true! I try to implement that in my daily work (graphic artist/animator) and have tried to teach that in past classes I've taught. So cool to see it here.

I, for one, am grateful for the fact you were stubborn and wrote the book. I am definitely visiting Amazon tomorrow to load my Kindle with Deadly Recall. It sounds like an awesome read.

I've never understood the full there's Christians and then Catholics thing. I always figured we're all on the same team, just wearing different jerseys (denominations). My family history is Catholic, but I grew up non-Denominational since my mom felt we didn't need to be constrained by one particular denomination - she wanted us to focus on Jesus and our relationship with Him. I am so glad you stayed true to what you believed to be integral and right for the story.

thanks for sharing your wisdom with Seekerville.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Audra, my mama too about rule breaking. Some of the stories ya'll mention sound amazing. I'm off to physical therapy for a while for my poor little old foot, but I'll be back. I'm paying close attention to all your comments and your rule breaking. Something tells me you want to tell the stories that touch your heart as I did.

Audra, great point by the way. After Bell Bridge bought the book they of course made suggestions that I listened to and incorporated. But they didn't change my vision of the story in either book they've published. For that, I count my blessings to have found such a innovative publisher.

Cara Lynn, thank you for buying! So grateful. Be back in a few hours!

Jeanne T said...

Donnell, I loved your post, and that you followed your heart in writing Deadly Recall. And that it's now published!

My hubby and I followed our heart in adopting. Some were very supportive us, but there were a few family members who were quick to point out that some adoptions fall through (duh!). We did it anyway, and God gave us two amazing boys.

In writing, I'm following my heart by just doing it. :O) Some have told me not to at this season in life (two elementary aged kiddos), but I believe this is God's timing and calling for me.

Loved your post, Donnell! Maybe I'll get to meet you one day, as i live in the southern part of the state. :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oooo! Congrats on being the Kindle Deal of the Day tomorrow!!! That is so exciting, Donnell! I hope you sell millions!

This same thing happened to me. All the industry professionals told me my Medieval YA romance would never sell. Christian publishers didn't want Medievals because they don't sell well, and the characters were Catholic of course, and that was also not a sale-able point. Not to mention the fact that Christian publishers didn't publish romance for Young Adults. After three years of trying to get it published, I was ready to set it aside. Then Zondervan's YA editor decided she wanted to publish it as a Christian alternative to Twilight, and the rest, as they say, is history. ;-) I now have three Medieval YA books out and a fourth coming out later this year.

I'm not Catholic, but I want to be as true to history as I possibly can. Even most secular readers seem okay with my Catholic Christian characters, because everybody knows what a big part the Church played in Medieval times.

Go get 'em, Donnell! ;-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

First, I love Donnell... she and the crew from KOD gave me great feedback (and scores!) on two romantic suspense novels back in the day...

"Neither Race nor Creed" and "The Dark Rose"...

One an interracial suspense and the other an Irish terrorist fantasy.

Their ideas and thoughts are still with me today, so I'm thrilled to see Donnell breaking out of the box with Deadly Recall! Yay for you!

Donnell, you have given so much of yourself to others and to writing. My prayer is that God blesses you like you've blessed so many.

And I'm bringing chocolate. Because this is a chocolate-rich celebration!

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Some great points here, thank you for sharing!

I especially liked the idea that publishers didn't quite know what to do with your work. :)

Others have faced similar circumstances and "created" an entire new genre! Some would call that trail-blazing!!!

Thank you for sharing your story with us today. And super quotes by the way! Congratulations!!!!

may at maythek9spy dot com

Keli Gwyn said...

Donnell, what fun to see you here in Seekerville. It's one of the coolest places in the Blogosphere, isn't it?

I love that you wrote the story of your heart and didn't let all the naysayers get to you. There are plenty of books published that "they" said would never be. Glad yours is one of 'em.

Debra E. Marvin said...

I met Donnell somewhere in Contest Land a few years ago. (I think I was entering and she was coordinating) And I'm thrilled to find out about Deadly Recall!
The growth of smaller publishers has been such a boon to authors who haven't found a home in the center of traditional CBA publishers, hasn't it?
That's a very good thing...

I love the Four Corners setting--this sounds like a must read for me. Thanks ladies!

Debra E. Marvin said...

I've barely been online this past week so I missed the best time to say thank you for the opportunity to win your children's book! I'm so excited about it! (Okay back to our regularly scheduled program)

Myra Johnson said...

Donnell, it's a pleasure to have you in Seekerville today. Your book sounds fascinating! Congratulations on being a successful rule breaker! ;-D Your mom's comments cracked me up!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Donnell!

I'm one of those who also doesn't understand the whole "no denominations mentioned" thing - especially since I write Amish stories. Go figure.

I'm glad you stuck with it! And I'm looking forward to reading Deadly Recall :)

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Jeanne T. Congratulations on your adoptions. I can't imagine how generous your husband's and your heart must be. Lucky lucky kids. Hmmm. I'm hoping that unlike publishing where and editor/agent says this won't sell that your family members were doing this out of concern for possible heartbreak.

I thank God that there are people like you who know they're up against a difficult process and do it anyway. Kind of like Christianity. I read a fantastic article recently that said, Jesus never promised it would be easy.

Would love to meet you. I'll be at Mountain of Authors at the Pikes Peak Library District on April 13th! Thank you!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Kaybee, your western historical sounds like my kind of read. Please, please contact me at when this story's release. Would love to read it. I appreciate you doing your best to keep to historical facts. A lot of our history is being re-written inaccurately these days. And that's in nonfiction.

Please let me know how you're doing!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Donnell (neat name btw),

Love the fact that you 'broke the rules'. Some of my stories do the same thing. One historical I broke all kinds of rules with having the hero and heroine (servants) already in love and a light kiss in the first chapter (horrors). Then I let them elope very early in the book (more horror) and circumstances then intervene to keep them apart for a while (another big no-no).

Who knows if this will ever sell. I may have to revise the plot a bit to conform to pre-conceived notions about historicals - or not! We'll see.

Another book has two romances and 4 or 5 points of view. We'll see how that one does in the contest circuit.

Glad there's hope out there. Publishers/agents want us to be 'fresh and original' but not TOO much so! LOL.

Best of luck with your new release!


Donnell Ann Bell said...

Deb H. Your post means so much to me. I've gone to a lot of different churches as an adult. Before he passed away, my father was Church of Christ so I always shared a lot of his spiritual beliefs. Thanks for your lovely comments!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Melanie, I need to look up your web page and read your books. Sounds like my kind of reads. Love Zondervan. I think they have an amazing stable of authors. If you swing back by let me know how I can find them. I'll search on Amazon in any case. A YA medieval -- I can't wait to read to see how you handled the history. I'm so excited you commented today!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, May, I'm glad my post resonated with you. I collect quotes. There's so many smart people out there, would you agree? Thanks for stopping by to comment today!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Keli, Seekerville is indeed one of the coolest blogs in the Blogosphere! Great to see you. Thanks for your lovely sentiments! Great to see you!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Ruth! Those scores were well deserved. What a storyteller you are. I love that you've pushed the envelope in your books. I think there's a great quote by Dr. Seuss that says, Why try to fit in when you were born to stand out. Oh my goodness, chocolate. Unfortunately, I've never turned down chocolate a day in my life :) Thank you for having me on Seekerville again.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Debra. I seem to remember our paths crossing as well. As a contest coordinator, I used to get so frustrated seeing all the amazing talent out there and all the books that couldn't find a home. I love that the market has exploded. It's harder I suppose to find new authors because there's so many of them, but at least their stories are out there. Word of mouth sells books more than any amount of bookmarks, ads and marketing, would you agree?

By the way, Deadly Recall takes place in Albuquerque. My hometown is in Farmington, the Four Corners area. I love the whole state! It's home. Thanks for stopping by today.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Susan Anne, you rule breaker you! Let me know when these books are out there. I have not doubt that they will be. Sometimes you have to start a story a certain way -- if it works it works. Also, I'm a huge fan of multiple POVs. I use several in my books. I don't head hop, but I like delving into the heads of my characters. Good luck to you. Please add me to your list and notify me of your success! Thank you!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Myra. I think you'd love my mom, I sure do :) Glad you enjoyed the blog. I was very nervous about writing it! Thanks for stopping by.

Debby Giusti said...

So wonderful having you in Seekerville today. Sorry for the struggle you had to face with your stories. Thrilled you persevered. Love the Belle Books gals, the two Deb's, Sandra and Nancy, et al...such an amazing group of writers-turned-publishers. Their success has been so well deserved as is yours. Can't wait to read your latest!

Hope to see you at RWA this summer.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Jan, something just occurred to me. I may not be Amish, that doesn't mean I'm not curious about their lifestyles and the simple discipline they have in their culture. Same with Catholicism. I think a lot of people enjoy learning about that particular culture. I'm sure you love writing your Amish Stories. If you stop back by and you've published them, please let me know their titles. As you can see I'm always reading! Thanks for commenting today.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Debby! Thank you so much. BelleBooks has been an amazing learning experience for me. I'm constantly amazed at their innovate process and how smart these women are. I haven't decided to go to RWA this year. I'm going to the Writers Police Academy for the first time this year. Really looking forward to it. Great to see you! Have fun at RWA!

Connie Queen said...


I didn't realize Catholic religion was a no-no in romances. TV's shows like Criminal Minds and Young and the Restless always shows everyone being Catholic.(Been years since I washed soaps. :) )

I figure the publisher wants generic beliefs so I try not to go on too much w/specifics. We don't have paid-preachers (pastors, ministers, etc.) or Sunday School at Church. So far, I just have the characters go to worship services and omit any discussions, but it's easier because most of my stories are historical.

I grew up in Texas. All my friends were a variety of religion; Baptists, Pentecostal, Catholics, Church of Christ. I expect books to reflect that w/out being pushy. I try to be pushy either.

One thing, in one of my historicals, I have a prologue. AND I'M KEEPING It. Unless, of course, an editor asks me to change it. It's much stronger w/the prologue. I know I can sprinkle the info later, but I believe it loses the emotional impact. I intend to be stubborn unless it comes to the death of my story.

Debby Giusti said...

May I provide a takeaway for your blog post?

Be true to your story!

Something we all need to remember.

Tina Radcliffe said...

"One person's rule breaker make be a publisher's definition of a fresh voice." HA@@!! Love it, Julie.

And welcome back, Donnell.

Gina Welborn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Connie. I didn't realize Catholic novels in romance were no nos either, unfortunately (or maybe) fortunately until I was well into it. It is not my goal go convert people, but to tell a story. My themes always seem to be about redemption and forgiveness. It's a big part of who I am. Like you I have dear friends of differently religions. Love them to pieces because we share the same morals. Good luck with that prologue. Robert Crais once said to me, "Sure you can write a prologue, just don't write a bad one." Your editor will guide you. Thanks for stopping by.

Gina Welborn said...

Donnell, girlie, I am so glad to see you at Seekerville today! My oldest daughter wrote an essay over the weekend about Tony Hillerman, whom she didn't find remotely intersting until she got to the detail about the Four Corners. That's when she went, "Mom! That's where April and Andy went on Parks and Rec!"

Rule breaking . . . Love it. Over on the Laube blog today, Tamela shared how when she was a child, she didn't like the questions on her math test so she made up her own. Expectedly, she failed. On one hand, what creativity and out of the box thinking!!! On the other hand, the test wasn't grading creativity but evaluating if she was comprehending and retaining what she was being taught.

One isn't more right or wrong than the other.

How do we as writers break rules when the parameters of the genre (say, romance) or the industry (say, CBA)? I don't know. I like rules. Especially grammar, punctuation, and spelling ones. And the "don't put ketchup on watermelon" one too.

Then one of my CPs on my second novella for Barbour told me that "there is no place for parentheses in fiction. EVER!" Really? (Feel free to hear as much or as little snark in my response.) I think we all would agree that there are some really stupid genre and industry "rules."

What God has been working on in my life is to help me learn the difference between . . .

~breaking a rule because (1) it's a stupid rule or (2) I have a good, noble reason


~having a rebellious heart.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Debby love your takeaway! Oh, darn, I would have loved to spend time with you at the WPA.

Tina, great to see you. Thanks for having me on Seekerville today. Yeah, I've never understood how someone breaks the rules/fresh voice thing. If you break through then I guess you're fresh Hope you're doing well!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Gina, your posts make me smile. You tell it like it is. I guess with math which is so black and white, you better know the answers. But with writing, which a lot of it, is so subjective, you'd better learn craft -- be aware of the so called rules and then choose (which ones to incorporate). Those parenthesis are for you, GF :)))

If we tried to avoid every rule in writing that was, I submit we'd never write. Don't you dare write a prologue; semicolon and colons are no-nos; parenthesis, this is fiction, there are no parenthesis in fiction. Use always said. Said is invisible... she exclaimed! Oh, gosh an exclamation point slipped in... another no no!!! Adding the following to my rule quotes along with Picasso Thanks, Gina

~breaking a rule because (1) it's a stupid rule or (2) I have a good, noble reason


~having a rebellious heart.

Walt Mussell said...

Donnell, it was an older deacon who made the comment. I did sit down with a vicar who had studied at the Vatican. The vicar understood the marketing issues with denominations. His advice was, "As long as you quote Scripture, you will never have a problem with 'The Church'."

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Donnell

Thank you for persevering and being a trail blazer. I know some readers are offended to find beliefs contrary to their denomination's interpretation of scripture, but maybe it does them good to be reminded that it's Jesus Who saves, not the denomination, Protestant or Catholic.

My first manuscript is a 600 page historical set in Austria and all the characters were Catholic. It was written 15 years ago and still lies at the bottom of my closet. Your success gives me hope it might yet see the light of day.

Annie Rains said...

Rule were meant to be broken!

Congrats on your wonderful success! I can't wait to read this one :)

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Walt, I love it! BTW, my husband isn't Catholic, and he sought out the priest who married us for newlywed advice. My mom likes to tell the story of a priest who was challenged when he gave married couples guidance. His response was, a doctor doesn't have to have the illness to make a diagnosis. There's a lot of good people out there in many denominations. Thanks for checking back in!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Elaine, never give up your dreams and the reminder that it's Jesus who saves. Ever heard the Catholic joke about heaven. Shhh, they think they're the only ones up here. Austria. Another place I'll likely never travel. Would love to read this. Keep going! Thank you!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Annie, thanks for your lovely comment and for stopping by today!

Helen Gray said...


Blogger was weird last night. Instead of the usual problems of eating my comment or not loading the post, it loaded the post but would not open the comments link.

It's been ages since we conversed via e-mail. I hope the military info I provided was helpful.


Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi Helen! Sometimes Blogger has a mind of its own. Okay, confession time, and now I'm banging my head on my desk and wondering about military information. I ask sooo many questions and if I forgot to thank you, my deepest apologies. You mentioned ages so please forgive my dimwitted brain and contact me at and refresh my recollection? So embarrassed to have to ask. I write cop stories, but I do have one story where I asked a ton of questions about Vietnam and military benefits. Could that be the case. I am red faced here. Please contact me :)

Jeanne T said...

Thanks for your encouragements, Donnell. I'll have to see if I can make it on the 13th! :)

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Jeanne, please do! I'd love to meet you in person!

Eileen said...

Wow! The Lord sent you to me today. Here I was, deciding if I should enter my story into the 'inspirational' category or the 'historical', agonizing for the 100th time about the theme of Protestant boy in Northern Ireland falling in love with a Catholic girl and I read your blog. I wondered if there were any other Catholic authors out there who wanted to put inspirational messages into their stories...Thank you for your courage. You and Julie Lessman are my heroines. I intend to buy your book tomorrow...thanks again. Inspirational category, here I come.

Vince said...

Hi Donnell:

So glad you broke the rules. That makes me sure to read your book. Julie Lessman broke the rules and her books have the best depictions of Catholic life and Catholic priests that I’ve read in the romance genre. I always tell Catholics to read her books. I sent the first book to my sister who runs the bookstore in her Catholic church.

However, I do think writers need to get real. When you go to the hair dresser do you give her ‘rules’ (instructions) as to how you want your hair done or do you let her give you the ‘hairdo of her heart’? Publisher rules (guidelines) at least give the writer an idea of what they are buying. And if you are trying to sell something, you need to have what buyers are buying.

I did ask a Love Inspired editor why she would not allow Catholics in LI books since they are the largest Christian denomination. She surprised me by saying: “We don’t allow any named denominations.” They don’t have Baptists or Methodists or whatever. Just simply Christian is good enough. While I find that to be true in all the LI books I’ve read so far, I can’t say I ever encountered a priest in a LI romance. As such, Catholics are de facto excluded.

Why are Amish now allowed? Because Amish has become a romance subgenre. This is a recognition of the subgenre and not the religion per se. It took years for this to happen and a lot a great writing by the pioneers. Of course, anyone can break the rules if they self-publish. Indie publishing is going to force traditional publishers to adjust to marketplace realities much quicker than in the past.

I fully believe in making a story as real as possible: like Julie Lessman’s Catholics. For example, there is a very good LI romance that I just read that features a Mexican community of immigrants in Texas. The heroine teaches English as a second language. Amazingly all these Mexicans just happen to be protestant. What are the odds of that? This fact hurt the story with me and I wish LI would have allowed Catholics where it is so readily called for. By the way, this book took years to be accepted as things were so I don’t blame the author for this. There is an old retail saying: “The buyer is always right”. (Of course, everyone in retail knows that’s not true.)


Please put me down for a chance on your book.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Eileen, if you have a chance to read Deadly Recall, I hope you enjoy it. It is first and foremost a secular mystery though. I worked around the system :) Thanks so much, I hope you'll stay true to your dreams!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Vince, what an incredible post. I'm off to pick up my DH from the airport but I had to wave hello. I will also make a point to read Julie Lessman's novels. I'm intensely curious now, particularly if they're Inspirationals.

While the majority of Hispanics in Texas and New Mexico are Catholic, I must point out that my sister in law who is Hispanic is Baptist. I always enjoy your knowledgeable points, Vince. Thanks for commenting today.

Debby Giusti said...

Vince, I believe Ruthy had a priest in one of her LI books. But she also had a number of Protestant ministers as well.

And Ruthy is the exception.

Perhaps I should say, Ruthy is exceptional! :)

Walt Mussell said...

Vince, thanks for reminding me that I don't read enough Julie Lessman (though I have two books in my TBR pile).

Missy Tippens said...

Donnell, thanks so much for being back with us in Seekerville! Sounds like you're getting some great reviews! Congrats on the new release. It sounds like an heart-pounding read!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Before I say anything else I have to congratulate my buddy CHRISTINA!!! ON HER SECOND SALE!!!!


Piper Huguley said...


Thank you so much for your visit to Seekerville today! My word for the year is persist and I am one of those writers who is breaking all kinds of rules. It can be tough going some days, so I appreciate your validation. Congrats on your new release.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ah, Vince, rules, rules, rules... I have Catholic characters in several unpublished novels. And I used some Catholic things in my Summerside Christmas novella "Red Kettle Christmas" coming out in October, but you're right, I miss the realism of Catholic characters being Catholic in historicals particularly.

Nora uses Catholic characters. Her MacGregors were always tripping over priests at weddings!

And you'll see Catholics and Mass and priests in other Harlequin lines, but I totally appreciate that LI wants to be inclusive... and I'm okay with that.

My Catholic heritage is a great source of stability for me and always has been... but I also see Faith as a many-traveled road. So I've learned to look at the Jesus aspect and not worry about denomination. BUT... having said that, it does seem wrong to not let Catholic characters (especially in historicals because we're basically rewriting history) be themselves.

Would Jan Karon's Mitford series be the same if it was Minister Tim?


Is it coincidence that the majority of Irish who emigrated during the famine years were Catholic?

No. And they stayed Catholic as evidenced by the influx of churches with Italian/Polish/Irish immigration in the late 1800s... Check out Baltimore/NYC/Boston/Philadelphia records... a whole lot of us Catholics came across.

So I hate seeing history inaccurately portrayed but I don't mind doing non-denominational books now because I don't think God sees church buildings.

He sees church folk.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Donnell, this has opened up a wonderful discussion... I brought more coffee... I'm working tonight so coffee is a must at 6 o'clock! There's a cooler of Southern Cokes for anyone who needs one... (which means any kind of pop because... sigh... they don't call "Coke" coke... Don't ask me, y'all. My Southern friends make up those rules!)

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Hi Donnell and Audra!
Deadly Recall pulled in me and kept me reading, thinking I'd solved the puzzle and realized I hadn't and thinking again I did, and yes you guessed it I hadn't.

Great read. I have my favorite characters and I think you might be surprized.

Donnell will be visiting My Story, My Way and you can see if you guessed it right.

I'm so happy she's on Seekerville with such a great post. Breaking rules is my mantra these days.

Kudos to you Donnell and to Audra for having you.


Donnell Ann Bell said...

I love your comments to one another. Such a close-knit group. I happen to agree with you. Ruth is exceptional! Good thinking, Debby

Hi, Missy, thank you! So great to see you again. Deadly Recall has only been out a short while. So ideally it will be well received

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Congratulations to Christina!!! Tell us about your second book and give us a blurb, please. Always looking for new authors

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Piper! Lovely to meet a fellow rule breaker. I don't recommend jaywalking or texting while driving (absolutely not by the way), but when writing, sometimes the author just has to make the call.

We spend a lot of time with these characters and these plots. In my opinion, you better love/like them a whole lot! Thanks for stopping by!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Oh, Ruth: I love it. HE SEES CHURCH FOLK. Another quote to live by. I was so nervous about blogging today. You all have been so wonderfully gracious.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

L.A. My gosh, you must be ready to swat me, but I so want to do your terrific questions justice. I've been working on Left Coast Crime and judging the Daphne and editing my 2013 release. And tomorrow, my wonderful husband of 30 years is taking me to Santa Fe for our anniversary. So I promise to get that interview to you next week. I can't wait to see which character you liked the best! Thanks for always being in my corner. Back atcha, Girl Friend!

Debby Giusti said...

Donnell, you were nervous about being with us on Seekerville? Really? We love you! If you stop by once, you're family. Okay? So you're part of us.

And you have to come back again...often! Pretty please!

Happy Anniversary. Enjoy Sante Fe, a city I have not explored! But I know your trip will be so special.

Debby Giusti said...

Atlanta is the home of Coke. Okay, really it's Columbus, GA--where Fort Benning is located. My son is there, as you know. Also, my fictional Fort Rickman is really an AKA for Fort Benning and Fort Knox. Anyway, Coke sold to an ATL producer, and thus Coke's home is now in Atlanta.

BTW, Atlanta is bursting at the seams this weekend with the basketball playoffs. Streets are closed, traffic will be snarled, gridlock will rule. Yikes! A good weekend to stay at home.

Maybe we should all fly to Sante Fe with Donnell!

Cara Lynn James said...

Donnell, I just read 3 chapters of Deadly Recall and it's great! I may be up late tonight reading.

Chill N said...

I am so thrilled when I read "author's journey" stories like yours. Industry professionals -- who have enormous experience and expertise -- don't always know what readers are looking for and enjoy. One of the interesting effects of self-publishing has been the variety, and a reader's ability to decide for her/himself what they want to read. I'm wondering if the publishing market will show subtle shifts influenced by what's selling in the self-pub market.

When I worked for a newspaper and then a magazine, we operated by the old saying, "Know the rules well, and then know why you break them." So yes, I've done several things I was told couldn't or shouldn't be done :-)

So glad you stuck to what you knew in your heart you had to write. Wishing you all the best!

Nancy C

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Oh, thank you, Seekerville. Hey, come to Santa Fe with me. We're going to go to Loretto Chapel the home of a mysterious chapel built without a single nail by a mysterious carpenter. Debby, thanks for your lovely thoughts.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

That's staircase... not the whole chapel The legend of the staircase was that it was during World War II and nails where in short supply. The sisters said Novenas and a mysterious carpenter showed up and built the staircase without a single nail. New Mexico is full of wonder and mystery.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Cara, you've made my night. Thank you. I hope the rest of the novel meets your expectations!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Nancy, I appreciate your support and very nice comments. How funny. I worked for newspapers and magazines, so I hold the same belief. To know the rules and then know when to break them! Thanks for stopping by tonight.

Audra Harders said...

Donnell, no way! You couldn't possibly be nervous about joining us here! We love you!!

So many great comments, I love them. Ruthy, you are right about God loving church folk. He doesn't see buildings, he sees people.

I'm also with you about historical portrayals being skewed. Vince mentioned a Texas community of Hispanics being Protestant?? Really? That detail alone would stop me cold in a story.

Such great discussion today. I love it!

Audra Harders said...

Pablo Picasso wrote, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Donnell, thanks for including this quote. Definitely a talent to hone.

Audra Harders said...

Happy Anniversary! Enjoy Santa Fe!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Thank you all so much! I'm calling it a night to get ready for my 30th wedding anniversary. I have the best husband in the world. Better share this since you all are so big into chocolate. I recently had foot surgery, and couldn't put weight on my foot for 8 weeks. My husband, knowing I was really depressed would leave a miniature Almond Joy on my pillow in the morning when he went off on his run. He's such a nice guy. I finally had to ask him to stop. I loved them way too much if you catch my drift.

Audra, please let me know who you draw for the winner today, and ladies and gentlemen, if you like mystery and have a Kindle or app, please remember the book will be on special tomorrow at Amazon. That's Deadly recall by Donnell Ann Bell.

Wishing you all tremendous blessings in your life. Thank you once again for having me! Gnight!

Gail Kittleson said...

Oh, how I loved reading this!!!!! I'm in the middle of being a bad girl right now, w/a three novel Women's Fiction series that features a wily Catholic priest, Donell! And so I shouldn't be surprised at how long it's taking to find a publishing niche for it, eh?

Thanks so much for the encouragement.

I was just reading this a.m. in my Al-Anon lit about giving ourselves the dignity of exploring/expressing our own glad you're doing this w/your Catholic background in the writing sphere.

Vince said...

Hi All:

It’s Friday morning and I just bought “Deadly Recall” at the ‘today only’ special low price on Amazon for my Kindle. So please don’t put my name in the drawing for a free book. If you want this book, it would be a good idea to get to Amazon today. Vince

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Gail, oh, we're kindred spirits! I have a wily Catholic priest in DEADLY RECALL :) Keep going. Along with our religious faith, I guess we have to have faith in our writing, right? Happy Friday!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Gail, oh, we're kindred spirits! I have a wily Catholic priest in DEADLY RECALL :) Keep going. Along with our religious faith, I guess we have to have faith in our writing, right? Happy Friday!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Well, Vince, I drew your name as the winner, so I'll select another. THANK YOU SO MUCH for downloading Deadly Recall. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Friday, Seekerville! Thanks again! said...


I just bought your book. It sounds too good to pass on it. You sold it to me.

I'm Catholic and my characters are Catholic as well.
I chose a Polish setting for my story's beginning. Polish people are Catholic, so to take away that part away would be creating a story that's not real.
Also, my story takes you back to the 80s when John Paul II from the Polish soil was chosen to become a pope.
This was huge for Polish people. He helped Poland to get freedom from the communist regimen. So to not mention things like that when Polish people's hopes awakened, would be as putting the story down into the ocean not to be heard.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Thank you so much anna!!! I'm not ignoring ya'll but if I don't get in the car and take off with my dear husband I might not make it to my 31st anniversay. Thank you so much!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Anna. One more comment... Please let me know when your book is in print. Would love to read it :)))) Now I'm really off! xxoo

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

OH MY GOODNESS. I hate that I missed the conversation on this one!!!

Buying this book immediately.

And my biggest successes so far have been when I've broken the rules.

And from the bottom of my little Catholic heart, I send you a big, big hug.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Vince- I recently had 'lighting candles' cut from an ms because it was 'too Catholic'.

So, yes, excluded in LI.

But so are angels and miracles, which most Christians agree do exist.

It's a crazy list, but sometimes the rules just have to be followed.

Michelle Fidler said...

If it was a mainstream mystery featuring a Catholic priest or nun, then things wouldn't be cut out like lighting candles above. Oh well, it's weird the things that can be excluded.

A.J. said...

I just took advantage of the Kindle Deal of the Day, and I look forward to reading your book!

Crystal Benedict said...

My biggest thing I have done that I was told I would not be able to do it continue to walk without taking any shots to help my MS. I was told I was only going to get worse. I didn't want to start taking a medicine that could make me feel yucky so I fought back. I done different things to help myself like aquatic therapy, kept a positive attitude and 11 Years later my Nuro says I have done proved science wrong and I'm pretty much a walking miracle. I may still at some point have to give in and take medications to help me but I wanted to wait as long as possible in case they made me sicker.

MinDaf @

Julie Lessman said...

DONNELL!! CANNOT believe I am just NOW getting by to leave a comment -- forgive me!! I actually read your post on the day it posted and was SO excited to answer your question about if anyone had ever been told "no," but persisted.

Ironically, I have Catholic "no" story to share that I actually wrote a Seeker blog about in more detail entitled BUCKLE UP, IT'S GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE!.

But the gist of it was that I pitched my debut novel A Passion Most Pure to an editor at ACFW and actually only got the first sentence out before she stopped me. That sentence was: “Well, you see, it’s a story about an Irish-Catholic family in pre-World War I …” She held up her hand to halt me on the spot, explaining that they don't do Cathoic stories or ANY specific religion, and that was that.

I am happy to report that that book went on to garner me a 3-book deal from Revell and won ACFW's Debut Book of the Year in 2009!! And I honestly do think things are loosening up a wee bit ... I hope!! :)

Thank you for considering reading my book, Donnell, and I would highly recommend you begin with book 1 in The Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Most Pure, because this is a family saga best read in order due to a number of big surprises. :)

I am SO thrilled for you with your "break-thru" and wish you the very best, Donnell. Sounds like I need to read you books too!! :)


Janet Kerr said...

I like your idea of "faith" and that you wrote your story on redemption.
Your writing is truly inspirational.
Please enter me in your draw.


Julie Lessman said...

EILEEN AND VINCE!!! Thank you for your kind comments, both of you.

Glad I can be somebody's "hero," Eileen, but I think you may need to shoot higher next time, sweetie. :|

And, Vince, thank you SOOO much for you gracious support for my books, especially in how I represent Catholicism and Catholic characters. Believe me, I've gotten my share of slams from Catholics who do NOT like how I handle their faith in my books, so I appreciate your support all the more.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Janet Kerr!!! So good to see you!!!!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Wow, I just get back from Santa Fe and felt the need to check the Seekerville blog and there are still comments. You know I almost hestitated writing this blog (Audra will attest) I thought it was too controversial and perhaps would offend. But in truth, I feel Someone was leading me on. Catholicism has had a rough road because let's face it, there are good people and bad people in every religion. But it has also done some wonderful things around the world.

I also hope that maybe Julie Lessman and I opened some doors in the romance genre.

In Santa Fe I saw a saying carved into a wooden billboard. It read. People who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it. It gave me chills.

Crystal, my thoughts and prayers go out to you in dealing with MS. I couldn't agree more, you're a walking talking miracle. Keep going.

Julie, off to buy your books right now.

Again Seeekerville, thank you for having me!

LaVerne St. George said...

What an inspiration! The responses I got from publishers were along the lines of "There are Christians, and then there are Christians." Boxing any religion or denomination into arbitrary boundaries denies the beautiful diversity in which we live. I finally took my inspirational "The Master's Plan" to a POD publisher and made the finals of a national contest. I plan to publish it as an e-book later this summer. It's a great story and I refuse to let it be buried.
Thanks so much for sharing!