Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thinking Outside the Box and Trusting Your Own Instincts as a Writer


Happy Holidays everyone!  Belle Calhoune here, wishing everyone all the joys of this blessed season.  Today I'm going to talk about writer instincts and thinking outside the box, two things I did when I wrote “Heart of a Soldier,” my January 2015 Love Inspired book. 

Back in 2012 when I wrote my first Love Inspired book, “Reunited with the Sheriff” I created a secondary character, Holly Lynch, who was paralyzed after a reckless driving accident caused by her best friend, my heroine, Cassidy.  I was trying to break in with Love Inspired during their “Speed Date with Emily” pitch on the Harlequin community forums.  Side note: if you're trying to break in to Love Inspired, watch those forums for contests and pitch events.  My big idea for that first book was to create a heroine who had done something so monumental that she couldn't walk away from it, even though for many years she tried.  Being the driver in an accident that makes your best friend a paraplegic seemed fairly huge to me.  Little did I know then that the character of Holly would burrow herself so deeply into my heart that I couldn't stop thinking about her and wanting to create a Happily Ever After for her. 

By deciding to feature a paraplegic heroine I was thinking outside the box. I was going out on a limb when I wrote the first page of the book and started out on this journey, not knowing if it would be accepted by readers.  And then it hit me!  What exactly do I know about being a paraplegic and the daily issues that surround that condition?  I had done research for the initial book, but if I was going to write a romance novel featuring a paraplegic I had to do major research.  So I did...lots and lots of intensive research about nerve pain, medication, wheelchairs (manual or power?),  mobility issues, driving as a paraplegic, riding horses as a paraplegic and the emotions that go along with it.  One of the most personal issues I researched was whether a paraplegic can bear a child, which was very important to Holly and is an issue in the book. 

As most writers and readers know, there's always a black moment.  Cue the spooky music.  During the edit phase I had a random copy editor who attempted to convince me that I'd

pretty much done everything wrong.  I felt powerless and demoralized.  And angry.  I'd worked so hard and given the book my all.  I prayed about the situation and asked God to lead me in the right direction.  So, I decided to speak up and let my editor know how I was feeling.  This wasn't easy for me because it felt like complaining when it reality it was protecting my vision of my book.  There's a difference.  Now comes the good part.  My really cool editor, Emily Rodmell told me that I could STET all the copy editor's suggestions.  STET is a fairly magical word for authors.  It basically means we can reject the edit/suggestion and keep the original words or descriptions we used.  It meant I had my voice.  To have my editor give me the power to keep the work as my own creation was a miraculous feeling.  I think I may even have been Snoopy dancing. 

This experience taught me a memorable lesson.  In going against the copy editor I wasn't being rude or bratty.  I was using my writer instinct to protect my work.  I knew instinctively that I'd created an accurate, moving portrayal of a paralyzed heroine.  And what I learned by speaking up and voicing my concerns was that my editor had my back and supported me. 

In many ways this book has changed me as a writer.  It was a little scary taking it on, knowing that I might be facing criticism if I didn't get it right.  But in creating a non-traditional heroine, I set myself free as a writer.  I allowed myself to write the story of my heart.  At some point I told myself that as a writer it was my mission to write this story.  As a human being I believe that love isn't reserved for physically perfect people.  It felt powerful to have a book reflect that belief and to know that I would stand behind the work no matter what.

Validation as a writer comes in many forms.  As writers we always love hearing our editors say we wrote a good book.  If “Heart of A Soldier” hits the readers as emotionally satisfying and well crafted, my job is done.  A few days ago I received a message from a reader who I've known for a few years.  What I didn't know is that she is in a wheelchair, has nerve pain and takes daily medication like Holly.  To have her tell me I got it right is probably the most moving thing that has ever happened to me as a writer.  Her letter brought me to tears.  And although I don't live or die by reviews, receiving a 4.5 star review from RT Book Reviews was a celebratory moment, mainly because it showed me that you can rely on your writer instincts and have it pay off big. 

My advice to writers or aspiring writers is to write the book of your heart.  Don't rely on the ordinary.  Or what we feel is the norm. Sometimes in letting go of our fears and the things we believe are expected of us, we reach a state of grace where we truly can achieve a personal best.  

 Have you written the stories of your heart, the ones that are just begging to be told?  If not, what’s holding you back?




Belle Calhoune  grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, one of five children.  One of the best things about her childhood was growing up across the street from a public library and having a summer house in Cape Cod.  Although her mother was a Psychiatrist and her father a Biologist, Belle gravitated towards literature and writing.  Married to her college sweetheart, she is raising two lovely daughters in Connecticut.  A dog lover, she has one mini poodle and a chocolate lab.   Writing for the Love Inspired line is a dream come true.  Working at home in her pajamas is one of the best perks of the job.  A French enthusiast, she dreams often of her next Parisian escape.  Belle also enjoys summers in Cape Cod, traveling and reading.



Today Belle is giving away two print copies of "Heart of a Soldier." Leave a comment letting us know you want your name in the Stetson. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition!


A Soldier's Unexpected Homecoming

Returning soldier Dylan Hart heads to Texas to finally meet pen pal Holly Lynch. When he arrives, he's shocked to discover the plucky beauty he fell in love with has kept a very big secret. Scarred emotionally by his past, Dylan is deeply hurt that Holly didn't trust him with such a vital truth about herself. When he's hired as a cowboy on her family's vast ranch, he's committed to staying in town. And as he slowly reconnects with the woman whose letters once saved him, he'll have to take a look inside his heart to discover what matters most.



This is such an exciting story behind the story, that Seekerville is also going to give away two Merry Christmas copies. Print or ebook. Winners choice. Ebook releases on January 1 from Amazon.

99 comments :

  1. Oh Belle, I hope I win your book. It sounds amazing. I love non traditional characters. I'm probably the only person on the blog old enough to remember Janet Dailey's The Ivory Cane.

    I love the idea of a paraplegic heroine. And what a hero you must have created!

    Now if I could only get my thinking outside the box to work as well as yours. Mine tends to land me in trouble. LOL

    Congratulations on your amazing reader letter and your great RT review.

    Since I'm the first one here this morning I brought orange juice, hot tea, bagels, and individual breakfast quiches. I'll leave the coffee to Helen.

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  2. I love how you believed in your story & fought for it.

    Count me in thank you.

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  3. Congratulations on those 4.5 stars, Belle, and on the great feedback from that reader who empathized with your heroine. I love that you held to your vision of your story and received such validation for it.

    Putting our hearts in our stories can be tough. I've wept as I've written certain scenes. It's my hope readers will be moved by them as well. Emotion adds such depth to a story. We're wise to dig deep into our life experiences and pour those feelings on the page.

    On a totally differently note, I'm happy to report that "I'm not a robot." My hat's off to the CAPTCHA folks for giving me a little box to check instead of leaning forward and squinting my old eyes as I endeavor to figure out all those teensy weensy numbers that used to appear below the comment box.

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  4. Good morning Belle! I loved that you stuck to your guns and was able to keep your story the way you wanted it. I would love to win a copy it sounds wonderful. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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  5. Belle, this is a great story and it looks like an absolutely beautiful book! Happy dancing for you!

    I'm going to go grab it for my Kindle...

    You know, it can be touchy and intimidating when working with industry professionals whose vision might not mesh with ours.

    You handled it beautifully! Good for you!

    And we have food here so I'm going to grab some coffee and hobnob with all these sweet folks today!

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  6. WELCOME BACK, BELLE!! So excited about this book. Love, love, love the cover too!!! And your quote is going on my wall.

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  7. Ignore the I'M NOT A ROBOT thing. Blogger is having growing pains. AGAIN!

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  8. So now that Holly's story is done, what's next, Belle?

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  9. And guess what we have today...Ruthy's cream puffs!!! Pass that tray!


    Cream Puffs!

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  10. I'll have one of those cream puffs. I just got my coffee. This book is on my wish list.

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  11. Thank you for this post, Belle - - WOW!! This is exactly what I needed to read right now (and I mean that sincerely).
    What a blessing your editor supported you and you stayed true to the story you believed in.

    Please put me in your drawing, but if I don't win I do plan on buying a copy anyway! :)
    And did Tina mention CREAM PUFFS?
    Yes, please - - coffee and cream puffs (it'll help my cold, right?) ;)

    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

    p.s. LOVE that book cover!

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  12. Thank you so much Terri. I grew up reading Janet Dailey. She was my absolute favorite! I can't remember that book though! Now I am going to look it up today. Thanks for bringing the breakfast. I need a jump start before I drop my daughter off at school.

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  13. So happy just to be able to chime in my congratulations to this lovely lady. Blessings, all!

    bizzysyb[AT]gmail[DOT]com

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  14. Thanks Mary! I'm glad I fought for it too. Sometimes as writers we know instinctively that the work is worth fighting for. Getting the reader letter made it so worthwhile.

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  15. Hi Belle! Good for you for believing in your story. When a story is written from your heart, you've got to fight for it and you did. Congratulations on a terrific review! Great quote! I printed it.
    I'd love to be entered in the drawing.

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  16. No need to put me in for the drawing. You know I love the book.

    I'm betting your words will inspire others today. Thanks for sharing your experience. It takes courage to do that as well.

    Peace, Julie

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  17. A wonderful story well told Belle! And I'm so glad you have received validation. It is not easy to say yes when everyone around you is saying no. Asking God for help, as you did, in the middle of the storm can put things right.

    So glad and proud of you!

    Piper

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  18. Belle, welcome to Seekerville.

    What an inspiring story you've shared. I think there is a small part within all of us that immediately questions the direction of our artistic work as we submit it for editing. Receiving edits that tell you you've got it wrong can be daunting.

    Prayer and good communication with your editor ARE the ways to go! Good for you for listening to your heart.

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  19. Congratulations on following your heart, Belle!

    I'm a firm believer in going with that 'gut' feeling. :-)

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  20. Coffee and cream puffs. What a great way to start the day!!

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  21. Hi Keli! Thanks so much for your kind words. Yes, writing can be such an emotional process. I always like the feeling where I have goose bumps as I'm writing. That usually is a good indicator that I'm on the right track. Looking forward to your LIH debut.

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  22. Hi Cindy,
    Thanks for stopping by. The book turned out much better than I ever imagined with the help of my Editor, so I'm very grateful.

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  23. Hi Ruthy. Thanks for the coffee. I can always use a little pick me up in the morning. You are so right about the intimidation factor in working with publishing professionals. Sometimes it seems as if you speak out it will be viewed as complaining or being difficult. I had to really focus on the reasons why I didn't want my story chopped up and not allow my feelings to complicate things. Thanks for the kind words.

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  24. Thanks for having me back on Seekerville, Tina. It's a great place to be. And thanks for your enthusiasm about my cover. I really love it too. It's great the we Love Inspired authors are afforded the opportunity to be a part of the cover process.

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  25. Belle, thanks for sharing your story. I'm glad you had the courage to fight for your book, and I hope to read it someday! I love stories with original elements. I'd love my name in the hat for the drawing as well. :)

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  26. Welcome to Seekerville, Belle. Thanks for the inspiring post! Congrats on the review and reader letter! When God plants a story in our hearts, He blesses us when we are obedient. Thanks for the encouragement to take the risk of thinking outside the box.

    Janet

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  27. Belle, congratulations on protecting your story. Also congrats on your RT review and connecting with your reader.

    A friend of mine got an infection after having a mole removed this summer. She almost died during the time she battled the infection. To save her life the doctors removed both feet and hands. Instead of being depressed, she's in therapy and determined to get back to teaching on next fall wearing her prosthesis. (Is plural prosthesises?)
    Anyway, she is such a great role model for many of us. And so is her husband as he travels this journey with her.

    I can't wait to read your story, and I may buy a copy for my friend too.

    Merry Christmas, Belle!

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  28. Hi Cathyann! I'm so happy that my book is on your wish list. That's what authors dream of! And the cream puffs sound divine, don't they?

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  29. Hi Patti Jo! So glad that my post is giving you a little inspiration. As writers we need that in large doses. I'm really overjoyed that the book ended up being the work I envisioned it being. It makes it all the more gratifying.

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  30. Cooffee and cream puffs, excellent. Sorry, TERRI, about the quiches. Thanks for a great post, and that giveaway? I'd love to win. Now off to the library to see if the have the Siver Cane.

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  31. Good morning, Belle! What a challenging book to write, and how rewarding to hear "you got it right." And to garner that 4 1/2 stars is extra special! I'm so thankful your "cool editor" let you stand your ground to tell the story the way you needed to tell it. I can't wait to read it!

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  32. Tina...what's next for me is a Love Inspired book set in Alaska. It comes out in September 2015 and I just got the title. AN ALASKAN WEDDING. And it the most comical book I've written, although there is also a ton of emotion.

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  33. Hi Sybil! Thanks for all your support. It means a lot to me. I'm really enjoying your gazette.

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  34. Hi Belle, so exciting to hear about the backstory behind a novel's creation. I'm thrilled that you stood your ground because I love all kinds of diversity in my fiction. Personally, I don't think there's enough of it -- especially in the Christian market.

    And guess what's teetering on my TBR pile? Heart of a Solider! More excited than ever to start reading it now. So -- no need to enter me in the draw! :-)

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  35. Hi Jill! Writing books that come straight from our hearts is a winning situation. I think there is real power in knowing you poured your heart into something. Thanks for your kind words.

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  36. Sometimes we are the ONLY one who knows what is Exactly right in a given situation and we MUST stick to our guns. So happy to read about your determination!
    Merry Christmas!!
    Connie
    cps1950@gmail.com

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  37. Hi Julie. Thanks for all your support and kind words about "Heart of A Soldier." I hope I can inspire others. Facing something daunting in the writing world and powering through it is liberating.

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  38. Hi Piper. Thanks so much for all your kind words about the book. What you say is so very true. It's not easy to speak up, but sometimes what you stand to lose if you don't is so much scarier. Thanks for being my first Amazon reviewer!

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  39. Great post and a good reminder that it's okay to speak up. I'm looking forward to this book.

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  40. Belle, thank you for sharing this with us! And if I understood correctly this was only your second published book. How fantastic that your instincts were right in knowing you should go to bat for your story.

    I was complete drawn in by Cassidy and Holly's story so I will be getting them asap!

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  41. Hi Audra. Thanks for having me on Seekerville. Yes, that is so true. When we hand off our books it's like dropping our kid off at kindergarten on the first day. We have no idea what's going to happen and if our baby will make it through in one piece. And good communication with a great Editor is priceless.

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  42. Hi Mary H. Thank you so much. I'm a big believer in following your gut. I can't think of any instances where it has led me astray.

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  43. Hi Jennifer! I'm honored to share my story on Seekerville. I also love unique stories or ones that have a twist on the expected. Makes the read all the more interesting.

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  44. Stopping in to Seekerville to wave at you!! I love this post! You know I've had a similar copy writer experience (not with LI) and it definitely threw me for a loop. But when I asked a writing group, I received an amazing outpouring of support.... mostly from the writing veterans! I don't think you can work long in this biz before running into situations like this and you did just the right thing contact your editor ASAP! They acquired your book for a reason!
    P.s. I loooooove your cover. I think you got the prettiest cover I've seen this year!

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  45. Thank you, Belle, for sharing your heart with us today! Your book sounds wonderful, and congratulations for staying true to your voice and your vision for the story!

    I'm all too familiar with the knifed-in-the-gut feeling of seeing my words changed by a well-meaning copy editor. Sometimes I have to concede a house style issue and let it go. Other times, like you, I've stepped up to defend my personal voice or cite research sources, and my editors have usually been supportive.

    The thing I try to remember is that the copy editor is reading my story with new eyes. If she is stopped by a sentence or passage, either because of my syntax or the way a research detail is presented, how many other readers will be, too? Then I have to step back and try to think objectively--which isn't always easy with my "baby"!

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  46. This book sounds amazing. I'm all for characters who are unique. It would be a shame for us to get so caught up in the "rules" or the "norm" that we don't write what God would have us to write.

    Praying this story continues to bless people. :)

    (Blogger asked me if I'm a robot...I promise I'm not. Ha!)

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  47. Belle, I loved reading your story about this book! Thanks for reminding us to follow our instincts as writers. Being pre-pubbed, it's easy to think I don't really have a voice. What you shared was a need to have confidence in the story/your vision of the story and the confidence to speak up when necessary.

    Not always easy, but definitely good.

    Thanks! :)

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  48. Hi Janet. Thanks for having me on Seekerville. And you used the perfect words for it...God Plants a story in our hearts. I think when that happens we are moved to protect our vision even more. It gives us a sense of purpose.

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  49. Hi Jackie. Merry Christmas to you as well. Wow. Your friend's story is so incredibly moving. A huge obstacle has been placed in her path and she's rising to the challenge so beautifully. Her circumstances are so extraordinary I'd love to give her a copy of Heart of A Soldier. If it could provide any small measure of inspiration to her that would be such a blessing.

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  50. Hi Glynna! I'm really thankful also for my editor. She really helps make my books better, tighter and often spots things that I might overlook. It really is a collaboration. As they say...it takes a village to create a book.

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  51. Hi Marianne. I've been trying to hunt down the Ivory Cane as well. I thought I'd read all those Janet Dailey Harlequins ages ago, but this one I may have missed. Thanks for stopping by.

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  52. Good afternoon, Belle! I'm looking forward to reading your story. I grew up with a paraplegic father, and tomorrow is the five-year anniversary of his death. He lived to be 73 and had a wonderfully active and healthy life for a paraplegic. I wrote a book about him which actually semi-finaled in the Genesis, but it's in a drawer now. I'm not sure what God has in mind for it, but it was cathartic for me to write, a tribute and good-bye in one.

    Thank you this encouragement, and have a wonderful Christmas! :-)

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  53. I heard a rumor the hero is Adam Levine inspired!

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  54. Hi Kav! I'm so excited that Heart of a Soldier is on your TBR pile. I so hope you enjoy it. And I love diversity in my fiction as well. I love the idea of all stories being told.

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  55. Hi Connie. You are so right. As writers we know our characters inside and out...their goals, desires, motivations, heartbreak. And that means that we know the path of their journey like no one else. There's power in that.

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  56. Hi Alison. Thanks so much. It is okay to speak up. And life has taught me that if you don't speak up you'll never know what might have been. I love being a grown-up because my younger self didn't know that. Congrats again on your 4.5 TOP Pick from RT reviews. Awesome my friend.

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  57. What a lovely story! Thanks for taking a chance and writing a wonderful story!

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  58. Belle, so glad you could join us in Seekerville. Love how your heroine burrowed into your heart and demanded her own story. And that cowboy/soldier hero! ;)

    Same thing happened with Buck in Claiming Mariah. He hasn't found his way into print yet, but that hasn't stopped lots of people from asking. Hopefully, someday I'll get to tell his story.

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  59. What an awesome story --I think having a unique or nontraditional heroine or hero would be important for LIs, since they publish so many every year!

    If I were a writer ... my dream would be a way to figure out how to have an Asian or Asian American heroine in a pre-WWII setting (but in a believable, historically accurate way)! =)

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  60. What an awesome story --I think having a unique or nontraditional heroine or hero would be important for LIs, since they publish so many every year!

    If I were a writer ... my dream would be a way to figure out how to have an Asian or Asian American heroine in a pre-WWII setting (but in a believable, historically accurate way)! =)

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  61. Hi Donna. This is actually my third book for Love Inspired with a fourth coming in September. I'm so glad you're intrigued by the characters. They are near and dear to my heart.

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  62. Hey Virginia. Waving back at you. I remember you telling me about your experience. Having writer friends as sounding boards is so very important. I don't think any of us would stay sane if we didn't. Thanks for the compliment about the cover. It was truly exactly what I wanted and very similar to the photo ideas I sent in to the art department. Score!

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  63. Hi Myra! Thanks for having me. Knifed in the gut is a good way of putting it. I think writers have a natural inclination to "protect our babies." That being said, I truly appreciate copy editors who find mistakes that I have missed. They perform a wonderful service for writers. When you run into an overzealous one...it becomes a different story.

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  64. What a wonderful thought you shared in the quote box! Thanks so much for your post. I'd love to win a copy of your book!

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  65. I finished reading Heart of a Soldier a few days ago. It's a wonderful story. Watching the hero and heroine deal with personal pain and learn to trust each other and forgive people in their past was heartwarming. Be warned - I had to reevaluate a personal relationship with a relative after reading this. When a story challenges my to look at my heart, it's more than just a story.

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  66. Hi Courtney. Thanks so much for your kind words. I really hope my book can inspire people. I've received a few messages from readers who have let me know it is resonating with them. That makes me so very happy. And I'm not a robot either even though I was asked twice LOL

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  67. Hi Jeanne. You're very welcome. Writers at all stages have an instinct and a voice...sometimes we tap into it and other times we just can't or don't. I think confidence in your work is really a freeing feeling. It allows you to stand behind it without reservation.

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  68. Hi Meghan. Thanks for sharing about your father being a paraplegic. And how wonderful that he lived to the age of 73 and had an active life. That is so inspiring! And how wonderful that you wrote a book about him that semi-finaled in the Genesis contest. It might be time to dust it off.

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  69. I'm so glad you think (and write) outside the box. I loved Holly's character in Reunited With the Sheriff, and I can't wait to read about her "happily ever after".

    Thank you for giving a behind the scenes look into the making of Heart of a Soldier. I especially appreciate you sharing how you fought to keep the story the way you wrote it instead of allowing it to be changed too much during copy edits. I don't know that I would have had the courage to do that, but knowing this story will give me confidence to fight for my voice if I'm ever faced with that situation. :)

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  70. Belle, I really enjoyed reading this post. I also have a chocolate lab. They are fun dogs.

    I'm glad that you have been able to write a book from your heart.

    Please enter me into the drawing.

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  71. Tina...I submitted pictures of actor Chris Pine but my cover guy looks like a twin of Adam Levine. And nope. Not complaining one little bit.

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  72. Hi Sherri. Thanks so much for your kind words. I always tell my kids to take chances and have faith so I have to walk the walk myself.

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  73. Belle, you know I've been dying to read Holly's story!!!!! I contacted you as soon as I read your first book and asked when Holly's story would be out! Now it is! I can't wait to read it! I loved your first book and then I read you next book and waited for THIS book to finally come out - so glad it's finally here! If I don't win it, I'll still be reading it :) I love your writing - you are fantastic!!!!

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  74. Belle,
    What a wonderful post!! Now I have to read your book! I'm so glad you kept to your vision of the story.

    You are not the only writer that has been having issues with copy editors at Love Inspired. From what I've been reading on the loop (and correct me if I'm wrong), LI has been using freelance editors and many writers, (some real veterans) have had very bad experiences. I am so lucky that I had my wonderful editor, Elizabeth Mazer, edit my book herself! She had lots of happy faces in the comments which was SO encouraging!

    Thanks for sharing your story!
    Cheers,
    Sue

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  75. Congrats, Belle, on your success! Your blurb is great. Love the premise for the book. You've already stolen my heart!

    BTW, I have a friend who's a quad. Visiting her Monday with Christmas gifts and hugs. She uplifts me.

    Wishing you and yours a joyous Christmas! Thanks for being with us on Seekerville.

    Emily is my editor as well. She's wonderful! Aren't we both lucky!

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  76. Another of Emily's appreciative authors chiming in. ;)

    Hi Belle! I love this post. I actually read it on the subway this morning but couldn't comment then.

    I guess this is really a case of knowing which battles are worth fighting for. This obviously was. I'm so glad to see you get the recognition.

    I also recall you winning another award recently, am I correct? Congrats on that too!

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  77. Hi Pam! I really love that feeling of characters burrowing themselves into my heart. There's no way in the world of ignoring them! Buck sounds like an amazing character. Clearly, he's already in the hearts and minds of readers.

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  78. Hi Artist Librarian,

    I believe that there is an upcoming Love Inspired with an Asian heroine. It's by Lee McClain and the cover is beautiful. Your book idea sounds great.

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  79. Hi Heidi! I'm so glad you enjoyed the quote. I'm hoping to feel that way every time I write "The End" on a book.

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  80. Belle, I'm sorry I'm late!

    What a great post. I think we all have to get to the point where we trust our instincts. I'm glad you spoke up when you did on this book. I can't wait to read your story!

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  81. Angel, you just made me want to read it even more. :)

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  82. Oh, Belle, what inspiring words. Thank you! And thanks for believing in and fighting for your book. It sounds wonderful.

    Nancy C

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  83. Hi Angel. Thanks for stopping by. Awww. Such nice words about Heart of a Soldier. Thanks for all your support. And I'm blown away that it has inspired you to reevaluate a personal relationship. Wow. That is deep.

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  84. Hi Rhonda. So glad to hear you enjoyed Reunited with the Sheriff. And Holly's character! She's even more vivid and outspoken in Heart of A Soldier. And yes Rhonda. I'm sure you also would speak up if placed in the same situation. It's within all of us.

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  85. Hi Sandy! My chocolate lab is wonderful. He's 11 years old and a sweetheart. Labs are the best dogs ever. Thanks for your kind words.

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  86. HI Belle, Sounds like you had a great day today. Thanks for joining us here in Seekerville. Sorry I'm late to the party. I was flying all day.

    Thanks again and Merry Christmas to you.

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  87. Hi Valri. You are so sweet. I remember all your enthusiasm regarding Holly's story. In writing it I was writing for all the readers like yourself who opened your heart to Holly and wanted her to have her happily ever after. Blessings.

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  88. Hi Susan! Don't you love all the smiley faces? Emily R does that also. It's fun seeing the places in the manuscript that they enjoy. Congrats on your upcoming Love Inspired debut!

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  89. Hi Debbie,

    Thanks for having me on Seekerville. Wishing you a blessed Holiday season. Thanks for your warm words. We are both lucky to be Team Emily.

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  90. Hi Mary! Yes...team Emily R. Thanks for all your kind words. It means a lot. And yes I did win an Angie award for one of my self published books "Until You Loved Me." First thing I've won lol.

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  91. Hi Missy! Thanks for having me on Seekerville. I'm learning more and more as a writer to trust my instincts. I think it's one of those things that should be in a writer's tool box.

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  92. Belle,

    Thanks for this great post and it came at a wonderful time for me personally! My heroine is also out of the norm as a woman with fuller curves - not the petite ladies so often described in today's romances. I couldn't agree more with your statement about love and romance not being only for the physically perfect! Thank you for the encouragement to write the story on my heart. I look forward to reading your book! Blessings!

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  93. Hi Chill N. Thanks for your kind words. So glad you found inspiration in my post. Blessings!

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  94. Thank you, Belle, for this wonderfully inspiring post. As I've told you many times before, you're a true inspiration to me. Watching your success has been wonderful. And yes, sometimes we do have to fight when we strongly believe in something. I'm glad you had the courage.

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  95. Thanks for this post. I think this is a tricky line as an author. When you want someone to publish your book, it's so easy to think you have to throw your own vision out the door, and cater to every suggestion. But what good is having a story published that is no longer your story?

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  96. that would be awesome to have my name in the Stetson :)
    Enjoyed the read today..
    please enter me into the bowl....
    dkstevensne AT outlook DoTCOm

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  97. Thank you so much for this encouragement! Developing characters with physical limitations isn't just thinking outside the box. It's thinking inside a real world where real people have limitations and struggles. I am looking forward to reading this book, so please put my name in the hat!

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