Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Team-Writing a Continuity for Love Inspired Books

 by Guest Blogger Val Hansen!

Good morning, all!  Ruthy here! This past winter I had the pleasure and honor of teaming up with Love Inspired editors Shana Asaro, free-lance continuity creator Marcia Adirim, and five other Love Inspired authors to work on the 2014 "Big Sky Centennial" continuity series. With Val Hansen as lead author and Arlene James pulling all the threads together as the anchor, the six of us worked together to transition six distinct stories into a book-a-month series. I HAD SO MUCH FUN! First, it was awesome to get to know these ladies, and I'd work with any and all of them again in a New York minute! :) (Because we Yankees don't know the meaning of s-l-o-w, of course, LOL!!!!)

And I learned so much by sitting back and listening...(yes, Tina and Mary, I CAN listen, I just don't do it often!) For the next six months we're featuring a continuity author here in Seekerville and today we start out with my new friend Val Hansen... Go get 'em, Val!


Hello, Seekers and friends! It's great to be visiting again. Right now I'm involved in another continuity series which will be my - wait, let me count - thirteenth, not counting the ones I've done all by myself that are more loosely tied together by "Serenity, Arkansas", my favorite fictional Ozark town.

(And here is a link to Val's opening book of the Big Sky Centennial, "Her Montana Cowboy"!!!)

You're looking at the covers for my 12th series, "Big Sky Centennial", HER MONTANA COWBOY, and the digital prequel, MONTANA REUNION, set in Jasper Gulch, Montana. I had actually completed the book, which is #1 in the series, when I was asked to write the prequel. 
Believe it or not, that can be tough to do. I borrowed the hair stylist from Carolyne Aarsen's story and then decided to use the town vet, with a twist from their past that made this a tense reunion. And, loving animals and especially dogs the way I do, I decided to use a litter of puppies to help accomplish my goals. 


When 6 authors work together to create a series like this, we can sometimes drive each other crazy - in a nice way! I have always enjoyed meeting and getting to know different writers. This group is a prime example of how serious professionals with a good work ethic, sense of humor and strong faith and prayer life can become real friends in the course of their work. I cannot begin to tell you how much Ruth Logan Herne, Carolyne Aarsen, Brenda Minton, Jenna Mindel and Arlene James helped me. They each brought their special touch to this series and made it wonderful.

In case you don't know, we all write at the same time, using many characters in some aspect or another, and finish our books at about the same time. This means that we can't wait and read the earlier books to help us. We all have to dive in together. Every street, every description of a building, every background element as well as the characters themselves must match. Totally. Even if they're not our main interest, everyone who is mentioned should be described so a reader can picture them. My favorite background character in this series is old Rusty, a town fixture who is old enough to dish out homespun wisdom without being ostrasized for speaking his mind. And believe me, he does!

I love Val's country home!!!! Isn't it charming? I could sit on that porch, sip tea or drink coffee and think up stories all day!
My heroine, Julie Shaw, raises sheep for wool in cattle country, not the most popular form of ranching there, while my hero, Ryan Travers, follows the professional rodeo circuit and considers himself a free spirit who will never settle down. Julie loves her home town, rodeo rough-stock events and handsome cowboys. Ryan loves winning. Why he feels so compelled to always be the best is a secret he carries hidden in his wounded heart.

The other two pictures are of me and my old farm house. Both have a lot of miles on them but belong just as you see them; planted with deep roots and blooming in the Ozarks.


Valerie Hansen 


Ruthy again: Val is giving away two copies of Book One of the Big Sky Centennial "Her Montana Cowboy" !!!!  I brought a nice pot of coffee, a red-white-and-blue confetti cake to celebrate the 4th of July and patriotic plates to serve it on! In Big Sky Country, they love America, ranches, horses, cattle, ridin' range and good food... and of course, romance! Mosey on in and set a spell... We'll get the weekend fireworks display ready with help from some town locals, Chauncey Hardman and Rusty Zidek, two fun characters you'll love getting to know in Big Sky Centennial!!!


  1. Wow, what a cool concept! Y'all impress me so much. :) Thanks for sharing with us, Valerie!

  2. Hi Valerie,
    So nice to have an explanation of team writing. A real lesson in cooperation! Love your sweet porch! Do you write there?

    I brought warm blueberry cobbler to share. :)

  3. Interesting. I always thought a continuity series was written one after the other, not all at the same time. I love reading them. In fact I have a series I'm working on reading right now. I waited until all the books were out so I could read them in one block of time. I usually can't wait to start reading a series but circumstances forced me to wait.

    I downloaded you prequel and can hardly wait to get the series. Would love to be entered to win Her Montana Cowboy. Thank you for the chance.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  4. COFFEE IS SERVED!!!! And a nice big ol' pitcher of sweet tea, bottomless, of course!!!

    Mornin', peeps!!!!

    Anna, my little newlywed friend!!!! Here, try some of Lyndee's blueberry cobbler, thank you, Lyndee!!!!

    And Cindy W., it's a hoot writing them all at the same time!!! Val set up a map for us of the town so we could get the geography right but the intricate parts are weaving new characters into old, establishing personalities and threading them through, timelines!!!!

    But it was so stinkin' much fun, and these women were the absolute best to work with. AMAZING... and they made this so much fun that it should probably be taxed and since I'm in New York, it probably will be, LOL!

  5. Loving the puppy cute factor here! :-)

    I find it really interesting that you are all writing the books at the same time. Do you have a major brainstorming session about secondary characters and town details before you begin? And what about the ties that lead to the next book? That must have to be settled before you all start writing.

    I adore Love Inspired continuity series and I have the first two books on order so don't enter me in the draw. Can't wait to read them!

  6. wow! now that's what ya call "team work" ladies are more than AWESOME! It just amazes me how some people are so blessed with such a wonderful fantastic awesome talent of writing such super great stories! God has truly blessed you lovely ladies!

  7. It sounds like so much fun. I can't wait to read this series. Please add my name to the drawing.

    I love your back porch. What an inspiring place to work. Thanks for sharing today.


    I've a love/hate relationship with continuities. I love 'em because I really get to know the characters, but hate them when I lose track and/or can't find all the books. (this has happened *sniff*). Not reading all the books leaves a hole, ya know?

    that said. I am soooooooo looking forward to this continuity. Montana is a favorite setting for me (big skies and mountains!).

    thanks for the insight into the process. i would think being the anchor author would be the most difficult position because of needing to tie everything up neatly. put me in the middle somewhere, is my thought.

    jumped all over that prequel Ruthy, thanks for the instant link. you're Derek Jeter awesome.

    name in cat dish for a book op for me please.

  9. p.s. what was it like working with Shana Asaro? just curious 'cuz she's the editor reading/considering my Killer Voice ms...

  10. Hi Val,
    It was such a pleasure working with you!! And I can't wait to read them all!

    Best and lots of hugs,
    your new continuity bud,

  11. Shana Asaro was beyond wonderful...

    Now I did let her and Melissa Endlich know we were launching Her Montana Cowboy today, so I might be blowing smoke, right????

    But I'm not, LOL! This was my first time with Shana and she was marvelous from beginning to end, her suggestions were excellent and she made my book stronger... and Marcia Adirim, the continuity "author" who set up the premise, was also wonderful. NO COMPLAINTS.

    And yes, we brainstormed ahead of time, there were e-mails shootin' cross the Appalachian divide and heading this way and that!

    I love my cowboys!!!!

  12. DEB H I'm sure that anchor author job is tough for certain! You have to make sure that the original threads are tied up and any we've added and make sure names, places, time-lines, conclusions and then the emotional factor that threads through the series... But Arlene James has anchor and she's amazing.

  13. Jenna Mindel!!!! His Montana Homecoming author!!!!

    Jenna, you cute thing, thanks for stoppin' by!!!!

  14. Wow, Valerie...13 continuities?? I've only worked on one and that was with only 2 other authors. I can't imagine trying to keep details straight with 6. What do you like most and least about writing continuities?

  15. Ruthy, I WANT ALL SIX! Are you doing a draw for the others when they come out? I love me some puppies, too. You are lucky these were only pictures, I'm thinking you'd be missing one about now if they were not. Thanks Ruthy

  16. thanks Ruthy
    i'm sure Shana will have plenty of good suggestions for my manuscript (if she thinks it's worth the effort - i'm getting newbie jitters that it's a bunch of... well, it needs work of that I'm well aware). I'm all for getting help to make my writing stronger.

    of course, that's why i'm always wandering over here. i learn so much. Seekerville is the best free Higher Learning education I've come across in my internet wanderings.

  17. Thanks for sharing about writing continuities. Fascinating that the writing for all the books happens at once. I'm curious how much time goes into advance planning, and how much is left for writing and revising?

  18. Hi Val, I got the prequel and read half of it last night, no doubt I'm going to enjoy this series!

    Ruthy, cake for breakfast? your my kind of girl! I've had His Montana Sweetheart on my Amazon wish list since March, now I have a point of reference and I know Your and Vals books will be great summer reads.

    Please enter me in the drawing for Her Montana Cowboy.

    Happy 4th of July week everyone!

  19. Thanks for the insight on how this works. So looking forward to reading this series!

  20. Welcome to Seekerville, Val! Big Sky Centennial continuity series sounds terrific! How could it not be with six fantastic authors?

    Can you share how you all were able to match the descriptions for the area and characters? Did you toss out details, then finalize them before you set down to write?

    Love your farmhouse porch and the gorgeous flowers. Makes me want to sit and cogitate, as my mother used to say.

    Fun to imagine these adorable puppies accomplishing your story goals in the prequel.


  21. Oops, sat down to write. Hurrying to correct my mistake before Grammar Queen slaps my hand.


  22. I am wishing I was sitting on Val's beautiful porch with a lap full of those puppies! Our local shelters are busting at the seams now with puppies. A good time to volunteer!
    Thank you for the free prequel and please put me in the drawing. I absolutely love series!

  23. I am on chapter 4 of her Montana Cowboy and loving it. Now I will also read the prequel and hopefully be ready for Ruthy's book when it comes out.

    It is nice to read a little about the background of how this is written.

  24. Answering Marianne's question, YES!!! There will be giveaways of all books here in Seekerville!!!!

    And I'm sure the ladies would love your reviews of the series afterwards... but even that word of mouth (which I still think is the very best way of showing an author how much you love him/her!!!), given over social media or the back fence when you loan a book... Man, that stuff is huge to authors. Groundswell of affection rocks!

  25. Hi, Ruthy! Hi, Valerie!

    What a fun idea! I love a continuity series with different authors. Amazes me how they all tie in together.

    Love all those puppy pics! ;)

    And that flower bed? Beautiful! So far, every flower I ever planted has died. So I write about them in my stories instead. :)

  26. Valerie, welcome--and what fun to learn how a continuity comes together! Hard to believe you're all writing your books at the same time!

    Do these kinds of stories always connect chronologically, or do some events happen simultaneously between books? Also, I'm assuming there's an overarching storyline that links characters and plots?

    Just wondering how you keep it all straight!

  27. Welcome, Val. What a great photo of you! Love your porch and LOVE those covers!

  28. I'm going to need all 6 of these. I love the covers.

  29. Okay, and worth repeating..YOUR COVERS ARE GORGEOUS!!!

    Have you ever been to Montana. Interesting state because it is so diverse. I've spent a lot of time on Flathead Lake. The most green and lush area and just beautiful.

  30. Couldn't get into the site last night. So fresh coffee is here now.

    I enjoy continuities. I think the hardest part of working on one with other authors would be knowing I had to finish when they did.

    Now off to grab the prequel.

  31. These sound great. Can't wait to read them.

  32. Helen, you made a great point... We all start out together, but the later books have later due dates, so they can actually wait a little for the first few books to get partially written... and then there's a nice cross-over time for sharing and tweaking. So we start in the gate together, but each book has an additional 4 weeks or so (at least in our case) of writing time to tie up those previous stories.

  33. Hi Valerie:

    I started reading LI books with your “Serenity, Arkansas” series. That seems like a long time ago now. I always thought that the covers and the town descriptions were taken from Bentonville, Arkansas. I told my wife that if I parked on the town square in Serenity, I would know my way around the town and that if I meet some characters, I would probably recognize them and say “Hello” using their first names. Serenity is very vividly written. I hope there’s sill future life in the town.

    My favorite all time LI series is the “Alaskan Bride Rush” – with six authors, like Linda Goodnight and Janet Tronstad (Dry Creek, Montana!), who are on my auto-buy list anyway. It was great to see so many favorite authors work together in one series.

    Better yet, after you read the last book and thought it was all over, LI Historical put together a three book series of stories that takes place 100 years before the “Alaskan Bride Rush” series. It just might be the first “Prequel Series”. It shows how the town was founded.

    Is that what you are going to do? Is there going to be a three book LI historical series when this series is over? LI did it once before!

    BTW: Ruth can do a great historical, if you want to call 1947 historical, which I don’t! : ) I’d pick Janet Dean for the first book. Janet’s prose is like a cool, crystal clear, Montana mountain stream. It’s a natural fit!

    I already have downloaded your prequel; please put my name in for the 'cat dish' for the full novel.

    And, if you can, let’s get back to Serenity which is always in the heart and never far from home.


  34. Cathyann40 They did an awesome job with the covers, didn't they? I love mine, total cowboy ranch... and we'll give away a bunch of those next week!!!!

    And then Carolyne Aarsen's book with TWIN BABIES on the cover, wearing fire hats, oh my stars, SO STINKIN' CUTE... and you get to meet those sweet babies in my book!

    LOVE IT!!!!

  35. Deb H., you are so sweet. And kind. And hard-working. Love you!!!

    I SEE VINCE!!!!

  36. Hi Val and Ruthy, Sounds like a fun series. Now I know why you were talking about Montana for so long, Ruthy. smile That is why you went on the dude ranch isn't it?

    I love Montana so will look forward to reading this.

    Have fun.

  37. Welcome, Val! I LOVE your covers. And I just downloaded the prequel!!

    I'm so excited for the new series! I think it would be so fun to work on one. I imagine y'all had about a gazillion emails flying between you in an email loop/group! LOL

  38. Hey, Jenna!! Glad to see you here!

  39. Ruthy,

    I would definitely want to be in the latter half of the series and benefit from having more time. :)

  40. Helen, that's a good observation! You do have more time after book 2-3 so that makes a difference, sure. But they still gave me 8 weeks and that was plenty of time for the book and then some revisions... and even the revisions taught me more about group writing, so it was a great education for me from beginning to end!

    And with some great teachers!

  41. That's a TON of continuities, Valerie! Having participated in one (2012's "Texas Twins" series with Marta Perry, Barbara McMahon, Arlene James, Kathryn Springer, and Jillian Hart), I know how much work goes into the continuities to keep everything coordinated. Hundreds and hundreds of emails.

    It was so much fun to read them for the very first time as they were published each month-- Book #1 thru Book #6.

  42. Nice touch, Ruthy, with the patriotic plates! Reminds me I need to get something going for the Fourth. :-)

    Val, thanks for sharing an inside look at writing a series. As a reader, I love when so many books connnect and I don't have to say goodbye to the locale or the people. As a writer, it just sounds like fun!

  43. Cute pictures!
    I can't imagine writing a continuity, but I like reading them (especially if I have all the books at once so I don't have to wait. Ha!)
    I remember a suspense one I read by Love Inspired that I devoured. Hmm...what was the name... The town started with an "L" or "S" maybe. I don't know :) But I have respect for any writers who can collaborate like that.

  44. Without A Trace series set in Loomis, Louisiana. Had to look it up :)

  45. WOW, Val and Ruthy -- I am blown away by the continuity concept and TOTALLY impressed that it can be done given that you guys all write at the same time about the SAME people and place!! HOLY COW!!

    Maybe you answered this already, but I assume you have a master list of all characters in the town, along with physical and personality descriptions? I can see how discussing the town itself would help flesh it out for you all, but continuity with characters is something far more difficult to do, I imagine, and it blows me away that none of you has the chance to read the others' stories before you write your own.

    When did this "continuity" concept first begin at LI and I assume it's been pretty successful?

    I wish all of the authors in this amazing project MUCH success with this series.


  46. What a neat concept! Thanks for sharing. :)

  47. Val just e-mailed me this post because Blogger ate her first one...


    From Val:

    Seekerville peeps,
    Okay, here goes again, hopefully thanks to Ruthie and not thanks to Google, which disowned me and dropped my previous comments. Computers hate me. So do operating systems!

    Vince asked about Serenity and for others of you who wondered, it will be back soon - in August to be precise - with A TRACE OF MEMORY.

    Now back to Montana. I had no idea they were going to offer MONTANA REUNION free but I'm delighted they did. I love writing continuities, partly because I love solving puzzles and partly because it's such fun to work with other authors toward a shared goal. This last group was a special joy due to many factors. Basically, we shared a love of the Lord and much empathy for each other. It can sometimes be hard to separate our personal lives from those of our characters and prayer always helps.

    I'm going to try to make peace with Google and plan to be back soon, one way or the other.



  48. Hey, patriotic plates are so cool!!! Like Christmas plates at Christmas time... Those are the two times of year I actually buy themed plates...


    I will buy color-themes for showers!!! I'm that cool!!!!!!!!!! :)

  49. Julie asked about an outline....

    Yes, absolutely! There is an outline referred to as the continuity bible that gives a synopsis for each story and addresses the threads running through the series...

    But then we get to create our own secondary characters, animals, settings, quirks, actually the essence of the story is up to us, the basis for the story (boy meets old girlfriend, girl comes home, Cinderella story, etc.) comes from the "bible" outline writer, in this case Marcia Adirim, a former Harlequin editor... and she did a great job of designing the "bible" and editing the stories.

    Kudos to her!

  50. Helen and all, Blogger's been having late night issues, I wonder if they're doing reconstructive and connective surgery within Blogger's core....

    Because that's twice this week.

  51. Val, just finished Montana Reunion, cute story, left you good feedback on Amazon. Your puppy pictures are so cute and after reading about Stormy and her pups, I want one!

  52. I don't think I've ever read a continuity series, so this will be my first. Thank you for the prequel....already downloaded and I've passed the word along to my sister. Please put my name in the puppy dish for Valerie's novel! I agree with DebH, you had me at the mountains....and then with the puppies. :)

    Thank you, Valerie and Ruthy, for explaining how the writing process works for this type of series. My questions were the same as Kav's and Julie's, so you told me what I wanted to know. Very interesting!

    I'll join Donna on Valerie's porch with the sweet tea, some of Lyndee's blueberry cobbler, and a BIG slice of 4th of July confetti cake. Then finish with a cup of Helen's coffee. Thank you all!

  53. The continuity sounds wonderful, Val! So nice to have you on Seekerville today. Cute pups! Love your country home. May we all come for a visit? :)

    Happy Fourth of July weekend!

  54. Ruthy, Val, Jen, Brenda and Carolyne, you all made my job very easy. You were so good to post pics and descriptions of all the characters, and I loved the brainstorming that nailed down all the details of the backstory. The series was very well organized, too. (Thank you, Shana and Marcia!) You were great to run every scene that contained my characters by me, and that helped so much. I've never worked with a more cooperative or supportive group--and God knows I went through some stuff during the course of this project. I'm sorry it's over!


  55. We all had/have such a nice bond working together. I don't know if that's the norm, but honestly, I loved it from beginning to end and besides writing a great, fun series together, I think those bonds of friendship and kinship are amazing.

    I'd play in the sandbox again wi' youse girls anytime!

  56. You know Tina, I've never actually been to Montana. I researched it for backstory for "Reunited Hearts" and that diversity was what stood out to me.

    Sections that are quite affluent and upscale and then some tough, independent, almost hardscrabble sorts on the other side. And a little of the two mixing in betwixt and between. Fascinating because I've always thought of it as a more "loner" or recluse state, but the west side seems to be family-oriented and sprawling... What a difference!

  57. This would be the wrong time and place to discuss that I am losing my ever-loving mind trying to deal with the phone company, right?

    That's more appropriate for Facebook, right?

  58. Ruthy do you have the titles in order? I want to order them and Amazon doesn't put Book #1 on them, not that I can see. :(
    Are you second, Ruthy? One a month? So I can tell by the release dates?
    That's inconvenient!!!

  59. Ruthy I sense that you were born in Montana. Probably kidnapped and sold to another family...cuz your folks wanted more kids right? They wanted ... how many was it? a Ninth child?

    Badly enough to go 'black market' with the decision.

    And so Montana is clearly in your blood. So hard for the truth to come out this way and yet, you've made it work for you, girl.


  60. NOTE FROM VAL!!!!

    Thanks, Ruth. One more and then I'll leave you alone. Okay?

    Val here again, thanks to my favorite arbitrator, Ruth Logan Herne. Ruthie is awesome. And, as we all agreed early on, we are all a great match as co-authors of this series. Sometimes people just mesh, as if God had His hand in the choosing. Just don't tell our editors! They think they did it.

    As Ruth mentioned, I just got home from vacation. Here's a picture of me enjoying the scenery in Norway, where my dad was born. If anybody can get it to post, Ruth can.

    Note to all, I've inserted it into the bottom of Val's post....

    Since time is so different over there it feels like bedtime to me already.

    Maybe by the next time I drop by Seekerville I'll be better at fooling Google into accepting me.

  61. Mary, I was born in Big Sky Country on a ranch in Brigadoon County but the problem with that is that it only appears once every 100 years... The family that took me hostage then sold me to a band of roving gypsies and those gypsies dropped me off in Rochester and that's where I met the Herne family. They, of course, took me in because I was CUTER THAN ANYTHING, OF COURSE!!! and who doesn't want a seventh child when you're broke and dysfunctional?????


    #8 and #9 came along after me...

    Umm, how's that phone company debacle going, dear??? YOU SEEM STRESSED

    Laughing, at you and with you, mostly AT YOU!!!!!

  62. I've always wondered about the writing process for series like this with different authors writing each book. I'm so excited to read it since they are by some of my favorite Love Inspired authors! Thanks for the link to the prequel and the giveaway!!!

  63. You know I didn't mind the idea of sleeping for 100, but I was always afraid I'd have insomnia and there I'd be, in Brigadoon, wide awake for 100 years while I waited for everyone else to wake up.


  64. I don't want to talk about the phone company.

    It might reveal an unfortunate side of me.

    The side with early onset RABIES

  65. Thanks for the insight into how a continuity series is written. The series bible must be vast. I loved the puppies. There's is nothing more important on a ranch than a good cattle dog.

  66. I've wondered how this is done. It looks to be s particular challenge as it's all done in the same town. If you have a continuity series that occursin different towns for each story, that would seem to help things.

  67. Oh, Walt, it's so fun.... and it's important to have it in the same central location if it's about a community.... And really, truly doable with someone like Val setting up book one (we mapped everything out, where it was, and I kept a copy of that map on the wall next to my computer. That was a huge help because we could all refer to that to keep the locations on target)

    And the editors search for problem areas and catch them, they're amazing.

    You'd have fun with this!!!