Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Using Unique Real Life Experiences in Your WIP.

Hello Seekerville,  Sandra here and it is great to be posting again. It has been awhile and I need to thank my Seeker sisters for covering for me this spring. I lost another loved one this spring, one very dear to my heart and my Seeker sisters stepped in and posted for me.  Thank you dear friends.

I want to write about using our real life experiences in our books. This process authenticates what we write in books even though they might seem bizarre to someone who has never shared those same experiences.

Not only does it authenticate what we write, but real life experiences give us depth that we might not obtain in our imagination.

Vince Mooney wrote: “I just finished "Where the Eagle Flies" and I think it is the best 5-sensed story I can remember reading. Obviously you were on location under those same conditions and more importantly you were observant. This story is a perfect case-study in five-sensing. Loved the way the eagle kept playing a part in the story. Great job.

Thank you Vince.

In my novella,Where the Eagle Flies, (which is in the Seeker Anthology With This Kiss) my characters have several experiences that seem a little far-fetched to most people. They are on a houseboat in Lake Powell, Arizona and they barely live through a water spout.


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Vince is correct when he said it was obvious I had been on location. I didn’t even know what a waterspout was until I myself barely lived through one on Lake Powell. My first hand experience authenticated the water spout that appeared in Where The Eagle Flies. I knew the terrible fear you experience as you helplessly watch it approach. I know the sound. And I know the horrific force of wind one produces. All of this I hopefully portrayed in Where The Eagle Flies.

By the way, waterspouts are a tornado that occurs on water. The movement of wind forms a spout of water similar in looks to a tornado and it moves like a tornado. They are rare, so don’t stop yourself from the lovely experience of going out on Lake Powell in a houseboat or any kind of boat actually. And they usually only occur during the monsoon season so if you want to be sure you don’t experience one, go out on the boats when it isn’t monsoon season.

Lake Powell is located in rugged country. Gorgeous country. Isolated and primitive country. Breathtakingly beautiful country.


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The lake was formed by damming the Colorado River. It is huge. It extends into two states, Arizona and Utah.

Hubby and I have been out on this lake many times. One trip (Mind you-we were still in our twenties so could actually do this LOL) we spent two weeks out in the lake. We were not on a luxury houseboat like the characters had in Where The Eagle Flies, but we were in a 14 foot Valcro aluminum boat. That meant we camped on shore every night. We would find lovely sand bars and because it was over 100 degrees, we would spread out a sheet and sleep on top of it. Sid and Melissa did the very same thing in Where The Eagle Flies. And they saw the tracks of snakes crossing the sheet at night.  YIKES.

Does that sound unbelievable? Like Sid, hubby would erase the tracks before I woke up because he knew I would freak out. And on the last morning, he showed them to me. Smart man. If he had shown those snake tracks to me at the beginning of the trip, it would have been one short trip. LOL

I can only say that I was so exhausted each day from the heat, that I slept through the night without a clue that snakes were crawling over me. Thank you Lord.

And because the temperatures would climb to 100 degrees in the afternoon, we would slip through slot canyons and find moqui caves to explore. Compared to the outside temperatures, they were cool and refreshing. And most of them had been inhabited by the Anasazi tribes hundreds of years ago. So not only did we have nice cool caves to rest in, we had fun exploring the ancient habitats. There were drawings on the walls and sometimes we would find a rare artifact.


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I loved sitting in the caves and imagining what life was like for the original inhabitants. Guess that was the writer in me—the writer that hadn’t yet been formed. smile

On our last night, we pulled into shore and guess what greeted us there?  A rattlesnake, all coiled and ready to strike. So Melissa and Sid’s experiences with the rattlesnake are real. We did not eat that rattlesnake, nor kill it like Sid and Melissa did.  We just moved to another part of the beach. But we have eaten rattlesnake tacos and they are quite tasty.

Because of all of these experiences, I was able to put them in my novella with such detail that allowed the reader to see, taste, smell, hear, and feel all the elements of this unusual setting. And I was able to write about some unusual experiences that might be new and different to most of you.

This story was rejected by traditional publishers because they thought the circumstances were too bizarre to risk putting within their traditional parameters.

The fun thing about writing and publishing indie, is you can include some unusual and different experiences.  Most traditional publishers don’t like to take the risk of “rocking the boat” and giving their readers something outside of their framework.

Seeker sister Audra Harders has an indie book that traditional publishers thought was a bit risky for inspirational romance because of the experiences of the heroine. She shared her experience with me:

In my book, Second Chance Ranch, Jennifer O'Reilly discovered she was pregnant just as she was entering her freshman year in college. Can you hide such a thing from your family? Apparently, yes you can. While I was a Resident Advisor in college, a freshman on my floor - the second week of school - confided in me that she was pregnant. Though her reasons were different from my character, this student didn't want her family to know and abortion was out of the question. Her roommate, a complete stranger at the time, turned all mother hen on this girl. Our little mother continued classes with her roommate's help and even told her family she wanted to go home with her roommate for Christmas since she lived locally, rather than fly back to Wisconsin. For some reason, all the pieces slid into place throughout the year. She took her finals early and went into labor the next day. Since I had said my goodbyes to her and left for home before she had her baby, she wrote to me later and thanked me for respecting her life decision and for all my support through the year. She'd had a little girl and though she didn't meet the adoptive parents, she said it felt right. Tell me, how could you not put something like this in a book???



An unwed mother is not what most traditional Christian publishers want to feature in their novels, but Audra’s experiences with this unwed mother were so powerful that she wrote an engaging and powerful novel. Second Chance Ranch has wonderful and deep characters because of Audra’s experiences with her classmate.

Other Seeker sisters deepened their stories and characters with real life experiences and those books were published by traditional publishers. Mary Connealy shared her experience.

The Kincaid Brides Series was inspired by a long-ago visit to Carlsbad Cavern.
Years before I started writing, I was so struck by that place that my imagination caught fire. I felt like I could BE the first guy in that place. I really felt transported...and I don't mean in a literal sense but a powerful imagination bringing the feelings to life as I walked in the super safe cave, all well lit and safely fenced off.
What would it be like to go in there with a lantern and no other light?

I was so powerfully struck by the beauty and the danger. The beauty would draw you on, especially if you could only peak at it, just the small area lit up by your lantern. The danger would hold you back. Cliffs and sharp stones and steep slope, so many ways to die.

I felt that tug of that first man...drawn forward...scared back.
That's what I tried to capture in my books, that tug. The lure and the revulsion battling in each brother's heart.




You definitely feel that when you read the books in this series. Good job, Mary.

In Pam Hillmans novel, Claiming Mariah, the account of Yellow, the half-wild tomcat and his precarious beginnings after being born in the woods, is an almost exact retelling of a cat that Pam befriended several years ago. Pam had to work for that cat’s trust, just as Mariah earns the trust of both Slade and Yellow in Claiming Mariah. The entire true-life account of Taming Yellow can be found here.




I love this article Pam. You got multiple uses out of this experience—a novel and an article.

Missy Tippins used a real life experience. She wrote: What was really fun for my Love Inspired book titled The Guy Next Door is how the idea for this book came about. It started in the 1980’s. As my daughter would say, that makes me sound REALLY old! But it’s the time when I was working as a microbiologist in a hospital lab.



Now, skip forward a couple of decades. I was thinking of story ideas for a series that could involve characters who work in the hospital in my fictional small town. And I immediately thought back to a scenario from my pre-stay-at-home-mom days. At that time, I was able to tentatively identify the bacterium that was making the mother of one of my co-workers very sick. And the reason the unusual bacteria looked familiar under the microscope was because I'd had to identify it on an exam when I was in graduate school. Also, the only way I could do so in such a small lab where we didn’t have the capability to run the needed tests was to rig up my own “test.”

It was so fun to recall that event, and I wanted to write about it. The Guy Next Door included a scenario with my heroine in the microbiology lab that really happened to me. It spurred the idea for the book (in my early versions, I opened the story with that scene). However, most of the medical aspects of that true event had to be edited out for the general reader (my critique partner got grossed out! LOL).

Myra Johnson shared this with me:

My best example is from one of my first published novels, Autumn Rains. The idea for the story was sparked by something that actually happened to my brother-in-law, now a retired Lutheran pastor. Several years ago, an ex-con fresh out of prison was on his way through Houston by bus to follow up on a job opportunity. During a layover, the man secured his money and possessions in a bus station locker and then lost the combination. When he asked around for help, someone directed him to my brother-in-law’s church, so in the middle of an extremely hot summer, he hiked the 25 or 30 miles from the Houston bus station to the church.


My brother-in-law was glad to provide the ex-con enough money to continue his journey. Then he and another church member drove the man to a location where he could catch a local bus back downtown. Only after they were on the road . . . late at night . . . in the dark, did the man admit he’d been in prison for murder. The good news is that the man later wrote to thank my brother-in-law and to say he’d found a job and was getting his life back on track.

I knew I had to write about this experience somehow. The challenge was finding a way to turn an ex-con into a romantic hero and then create a heroine who could bring out the best in him. And that’s how Healy Ferguson and Valerie Bishop took on the starring roles in Autumn Rains. After serving his sentence, Healy heads to Missouri in search of an old friend whose faith and encouragement helped him survive the prison years. Instead he finds Valerie, his friend’s widow. After witnessing her husband’s violent death five years prior, she became a prisoner in her own home, afraid to venture outdoors farther than the backyard . . . until she meets Healy.

Tina Radcliffe’s Love Inspired Home on The Ranch novel The Rancher’s Reunion was based on her real life experience. Tina says, “Long ago I had the opportunity to work through the ranks at a residential care facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I began as a nurse aide and eventually went on to become Director of Nurses. It was there that I met a young orderly willing to face the incredible odds of Huntington's disease with the woman who loved him by his side. When they shared their engagement news with me, my first Love Inspired release, The Rancher’s Reunion was born.”



Julie Lessman wrote: As far as “real life experiences,” I actually had several I put in my books. They are relationship issues I dealt with. Two come to mind that came straight from my life — the argument Marcy and Patrick had in book 1 A Passion Most Pure when he comes home from the bar (I had the same scenario, except it was work, not a bar) and the two-month silent treatment Patrick gives Marcy in book 3 A Passion Denied when he sleeps at the Herald. 



See all the many ways our different experiences can inspire and impact our writing? If you’ve had some unusual or emotional experiences—use them. They will enhance the emotional impact and they will deepen the use of all five senses.

Please share an unusual experience you’ve used in one of your books or work in progress. If you comment, your name will be placed in the crystal bowl I found when I started to de-clutter my kitchen.  I also found a large crystal bowl and platter. For a snack, I have the huge crystal bowl full of fresh fruit and a the large crystal platter full of meat snacks for those of you on low carb plans.

I have a steaming pot of Chocolate Velvet coffee, some assortments of tea and iced cold lemonade for those of you reading this in the heat of the afternoon.

In honor of Pams post yesterday about de-cluttering, I dug into my office and found a whole bunch of goodies that I am not using anymore. I have a surprise box full of gently used writer craft books, and other assorted goodies writers will love. If you are interested in this prize, let me know in the comments by saying writer box.

And guess what? This month is my birthday. It is one of those horrible zero numbers, but the good thing is it means I get more money.  YAY!!  Can’t be unhappy about that.  So in celebration, the prize today is a kindle loaded with the contemporary version of With This Kiss.  If you are interested in this prize, put Kindle in the comments.







Sandra Leesmith writes sweet romances to warm the heart. Sandra loves to play pickleball, hike, read, bicycle and write. She lives in Arizona with her husband and during the hot sumers she and her husband travel throughout the United States in their motorhome where she enjoys the outdoors and finds wonderful ideas for her next writing project. You can find Sandra's books here on Amazon. Three of Sandra's most popular books are also audio books at Audible.  

You can read more posts by Sandra here.


137 comments:

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love using real life experiences, mine and other peoples... to write my stories. So many stories start with a "What if?" and then "Why????"

Sandra, these are great examples of how to take a real-life situation and turn it into today's fresh fiction!

COFFEE IS HERE!!!!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Oh, Sandra, that is fascinating! I have to share that with my kids when they wake up because we just learned about water spouts the other day and they were having a hard time wrapping their little heads around the concept. Loved your description of your travels. It's going to be 110 here this week so I know what you mean by that desert heat. We do have good soil so we have grass and trees, but when there's a breeze, it's like being in a convection oven. :P

Tina Radcliffe said...

How cool is this, Sandra. I had no idea all these Seeker books were traced to real life stories.

But Ruthy is correct (shhhh). It all starts from WHAT IF...

Tina Radcliffe said...

AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SANDRA!!!! The nice thing about being a writer is we get to revise our age. I'm revising mine to 45 this year.

Jackie said...

Happy birthday, Sandra! What an inspiring post.

Ruthy, the story I'm working on now started with my own what if after I heard a friend share another story.

Have a great day everybody!

Barbara Scott said...

Great post, Sandra! I used two or three real-life experiences in Dreams of My Heart. To give Kate motivation for not wanting to consummate her marriage, she had a fear of dying in childbirth because all the women in her life whom she loved had died that way. I had a similar irrational fear. But it wouldn't have been so irrational for a woman living in the 1870s in the middle of Montana Territory. A lot of women died in childbirth. In fact, it's a great way to get rid of inconvenient characters like mothers and sisters. Men we can shoot. Women not so much.

Please put my name in the crystal bowl for the Kindle. My old one is on its last legs. I have to use my thumbnail to squeeze the little metal thingies on the USB thingy to recharge it. Then I use a tube of Vaseline lip balm to prop under the connection so the light will stay on and actually charge the darn thing.

Of course, if someone is Kindleless, they deserve to win. I've used mine for so many years I've almost forgotton what real paper smells like. ;-)

Have a great birthday!!

Mary Hicks said...

I've often wondered how many times stories and segments of books are taken from real life. This was a fun post to read, thanks Sandra.:-)

And thanks, Seeker girls, for sharing the snippets of scenes you experienced in real life—I guess that's why the scene feels so real!:-)

Jessica Nelson said...

Great examples, Sandra! I use real life emotions all the time, and there's usually a real life event that prompts something in my books.
Snakes...*shudder*

It freaks me out to think of you sleeping and them crawling...Yikes!!!!

Mary Hicks said...

I wrote a scene about a couple riding in a car, the man was driving. He reached and took the girls hand. They held hands for several minutes before the man raises her hand to his lips and brushes a light kiss on it and then places their hands back on the console between them . . .

After reading through the scene my daughter said, 'Mom, I remember sitting in the back seat when I was little and seeing Dad do that . . .

How can you not write from real experiences every now and then.:-)

Bettie said...

Happy birthday! My first completed manuscript relied heavily on an experience I had writing a musical about the local underground rail road. I'm starting on my second one based on the research I did on the u g r r. I've had a lot of fun this year visiting historic sites from Mississippi to Ohio so that I could make that journey come alive in my mind. I've been decluttering my desk the last few weeks though.... Please enter me for either the writers box or the Kindle. May you find God's peace in the loss of your loved one.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning RUTHY and thanks for the coffee. Yes, I have witnessed how your brain works many, many times and LOVE it. You can be witnessing the most ordinary event and your creative mind is already churning a story.

I love how you have used situations in real life, maybe something you've heard in the news or from someone you have met and make the most compelling story. Running on Empty and your new one coming out with Franciscan,

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh VIRGINIA, I so know about that hot air when the wind blows. How in the world did you grow blueberries in that heat?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Well TINA, at least you LOOK 45. I can't get away with that anymore. LOL

Yes, I had no idea those scenes were based on real life stories. I loved doing this post as I found out some interesting things. I'm looking forward to finding out more during the day. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JACKIE, Now that was a teaser. You are going to make us wait. hmmmmm.

Happy writing.

Thanks for the birthday wishes.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi BARBARA, That sounds like a great use of a tough experience, but it makes it so real for your story. It truly was a concern in those days.j And a real one for today. Thanks for sharing.

Great tip on using the Vaseline lip balm. My friend has the same problem with her jet pak. I'll share that solution.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Awwww MARY H. that scene sounds so sweet and how wonderful that your daughter remembered the real life version. smile

I bet that scene jumps out when reading it in your book.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JESSICA, Yes, it was rather freaky. I don't really like snakes at all. What amazed me is that they weren't afraid and that we didn't feel them. Maybe they just crawled over the sheet and worked their way around our bodies. I'm so hoping that is what they did. But we did see their tracks going off on the other side of the sheet so they were there with us.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Sandra! I haven't used any events from my past or anyone else's for that matter in a book. I think I will.

Your pictures of Lake Powell are beautiful and I'm just amazed about the snake story! You've had so many adventures. Actually, I'm sure we all have if we dig into our pasts deep enough.

DebH said...

Hi Sandra
I love this post and really enjoyed reading about the origins of different Seeker books. Really cool. I spent a week on a dive boat with University researchers who were collecting cone snail specimens. Really interesting stuff. I used that and my general scuba diving experiences in my Killer Voice entry last year.

Because of my animation/cartooning background, my family has long known any interesting family event was fair game to be used creatively. I guess I've been looking for stories in regular life for a good while now.

P.s. my condolences on your loss earlier this year *hugs*

and HAPPY BIRTHDAY! one of the round number ones? hmmmm, you don't look a day over fifty... that's a round number. am I close? that's my next round number. I keep thinking all you Seeker ladies are my age.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi BETTIE, WOW you wrote a musical about the Underground railroad? I can imagine the great music that piece of history inspired. And how interesting to be able to travel their path and get the physical feel of their experience. Good for you. I love doing research like that.

Thanks for the birthday wishes and condolences. I am at peace because I do know he is with the Lord. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning CARA, I think we use a lot of our emotional experiences as well as physical experiences. I think you've had experiences of true love that shine through in the love formed with your characters. smile

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi DEBH, My, my you just made my day. smile. And thanks for the hug also. Much appreciated.

Your real life experience on those dives had to have made a great impact on your writing. And what an interesting setting also.

I'm laughing at your family's reactions to your writing. My friends and family are always telling me, "We better not see this in a book." chuckle. Those are the best scenes.

cathyann40 said...

I've always wanted a KINDLE. Happy Birthday Sandra! This was interesting to read.

Barbara Scott said...

Oh, and thanks for the travel tip, Sandra. I just scratched Lake Powell off my bucket list. As Indiana Jones once said, "Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?"

Thanks for the coffee, Ruthy!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thank you CATHYANN, I'm glad that you enjoyed our experiences.

Are you a writer also? Have a wonderful day.

Sandra Leesmith said...

BARBARA, you would love Lake Powell. It is really rare to see a snake.

But they are there. You can always stay on the boat and still enjoy the beautiful scenery. smile

Julie Lessman said...

SANDRA, Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!! You did NOT find snake tracks on your sheet, did you???? Oh, honey, that would have been the very last time I camped on a beach without a tent. Did you ever do that again???

Love, Love, LOVE all the Seeker examples -- sooo fun to see real-life situations help shape a story!! Makes me reflect back on some of my favorite classics (To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind, etc.) and wonder what true-life experiences shaped those stories. :)

BARBARA SAID: "A lot of women died in childbirth. In fact, it's a great way to get rid of inconvenient characters like mothers and sisters. Men we can shoot. Women not so much."

LOL ... SOOOOO true, my friend!! ;)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SANDRA!!! Don't know which one it is, but you sure look good, darlin'!

Hugs,
Julie

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Sandra,
I'm sorry you had to go through the loss of a loved one this year, we lost both our fathers this year so I understand, you have my sympathy.

Happy birthday month too. You make me smile giving presents away for your birthday, I've done that a time or two, but not on the scale of a KINDLE. I'd love to be in the drawing for your birthday present ;)

I wish I was a writer because I always thought a real life experience of a family member would make a terrific redemption story. It would definitely be an indie like Running on Empty. A married man has an affair resulting in a child he talks the mother into giving away at birth. Years later, that child traces her mother looking for both parents. The impact on the man's family when this daughter surfaces gives all kinds of opportunity for the love of God to show up and the forgiveness the family has to extend. True story, you just can't make this stuff up. Some would say it wouldn't be a believable story, that's were the skilled writing would come in, sigh.

I enjoyed all the true life experiences that prompted storylines and the commenters too. So interesting.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, birthday girl???????

I'm revising to 45, too.

It's like a SOLID AGE.

Not too young and stupid. Not too old and bossy. Middle-perfection.

AND TINA AGREED WITH ME???????? TINA RADCLIFFE AGREED WITH ME???? HALLELUJAH CHORUS BEIN' SUNG IN UPSTATE!!!! :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Virginia, 110 is wrong for Oregon. Isn't it? I know you're kind of Central Oregon, but that's awfully hot, I wonder if your warm, early spring led into extended heat summer? I watch Mr. Jet Stream, and he's a stubborn one, for certain... Toss in a little extratropical punch and Pacific currents and El Nino and what a mix this year!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cathy Ann, Amazon had a great Kindle deal going on last week. Way better than the Black Friday deals, even! Keep checking on it, they love new Kindle readers!

kaybee said...

Good post, SANDRA. Yes, we can and should mine our real-life experiences. I'm doing historicals right now but find that even though the conditions don't always transfer, the emotions do. We've all been hungry, angry, lonely, tired etc. But we probably didn't feel it on a wagon train. Emotions transfer across the ages. That is part of being human.
What we DON'T want to do is replicate the emotion or experience verbatim, but massage and tweak it until it fits the vision of our story. It's a warning flag for me in crit groups when a writer defends something by saying, "It Really Happened." That's probably true, but it needs to be shaped for the story. Even when truth is stranger than fiction.
Sorry about your loss, congrats on the birthday, you're still alive, writing and playing pickleball, look at it that way.
Please put me in the crystal bowl for Kindle, I don't have one.
Kathy Bailey

Ruth Logan Herne said...

My beautiful niece/stolen daughter Mandy gets snakes in her basement, just garter snakes, nothing dangerous, but it's just downright rude of snakes to come slithering in!!! A few weeks ago she opened her washing machine, and Mr. Snaky was looking back at her!!!!

She'd tossed him in with the laundry, washed him and he was fine... unfortunately! He survived the SPIN CYCLE!!!

At least he was clean.

Life in the country.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thank you JULIE, You always have a way of making me feel good. And young. smile

Yes, wouldn't you love to be able to sit and talk with Margaret Mitchell or Harper Lee?

That is why I love my friendship with you Seeker gals and our Seeker friends. It is always so interesting to share ideas and learn of what motivated your stories.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh TRACEY, It must have been a tough day last Sunday. Both of my father's are gone also. I miss them. So sorry for your loss.

Wow, that is an inspiring story and would make a great novel. Thanks for sharing it. God gives us all opportunities to love and forgive, doesn't He?

Happy reading.

Tracey Hagwood said...

Forgot to mention, on my Grand Canyon bucket list trip years ago, we spent a day and a night on Lake Powell. We took one of those cruises through the canyon, it was so stunningly beautiful. Your pictures brought it all back in vivid detail. On our way back to our room that night guess what was wrapped around the outside entrance door frame? At least a six foot snake with the most unusual markings I'd ever seen. The next day we described it at the office and they knew what type it was and said they were seen all over the place! As much as we enjoyed that day, we were glad we were moving on :)

DebH said...

Glad to have made your day. I do love your picture, I think it's great.

Forgot to say I'd like to be in the draw for that Kindle. I woulda said the items of your de-cluttering except that I need to de-clutter too. *sigh*

Again, this was a uber cool post. (back to work...*sigh*)

Myra Johnson said...

Wow, Sandra, you do lead an adventurous life!!! Thank you, but I'll sleep in my nice little house with all the doors and windows tightly closed so I don't have to worry (much) about snakes crawling over me at night! YIKES!!!!!!!!!!

What a treat to read about the many personal experiences you and other Seekers have incorporated into your stories! The old adage "Write what you know" certainly applies in these cases. Living through not just the events but the emotions brings such a depth of realism to characters and scenes.

Sandra Leesmith said...

I am laughing so hard RUTHY. She really washed the snake and it survived??? That has to go in a book.

When we lived in the country we used to have chipmunks that hid their acorns in our laundry soap so we were always washing acorns.

And 45. Yes, that is a great age. smile My mom used to tell me that you will love the fifties because you are too old to care what other people think, yet still young enough to do the things that you want to do.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi KATHY, Good point about using the emotion but making it fit the the time and circumstance of the story. Aren't crit groups wonderful?

Thanks for the birthday wishes and condolences. Yes, I have so much to be thankful for. I thank our Lord every day. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh TRACEY, What a great experience. Did they tell you what kind of snake? Was it a king snake?

And yes, it is gorgeous country.

Sandra Leesmith said...

You're in the draw DEBH. And that is exactly why I suggested folks mention what they want because they might be decluttering also. chuckle

But hey, Haven't they always said about yard sales, "one man's junk is another man's treasure?" Someone may really like those craft books and other assorted goodies. I know they came in handy for me at one time.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi MYRA, yes, I have led an adventurous life--all thanks to my hubby. He's the adventurous one. If it were up to me, I'd be right there with you staying in the house. chuckle. He says my middle name is "La Clucka" (for chicken)

Anyway, you've had some pretty wonderful adventures yourself. And they do give our stories more depth.

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, thanks for sharing these! I didn't realize so many of us used real life experiences in these stories!

I think you're right about how we can use the experiences to help add emotion because we've been there ourselves.

Jackie Smith said...

Great post, Sandra.....and Happy Birthday!
Please put my name in for the KINDLE.....what a nice giveaway. Thanks!!

Missy Tippens said...

Yeah, Jessica. I agree. I'm shuddering over the snake tracks!! Sandra, wasn't that dangerous??? What if you'd moved in your sleep and they'd struck??

Think I'm hyperventilating just imagining a snake crawling across me.

Missy Tippens said...

Okay, if all of you are claiming to be 45, then I'm going to claim I'm 40. I must stay younger than all of you!!!

:)

Wilani Wahl said...

I have found that if I include real life experiences it is so much easier to make the story come alive.

Please put my name in for the Kindle.

Deanna Stevens said...

Some great books you mentioned today I'd love a new KINDLE to read them on.
toss me in too please :)

Connie Queen said...

Real life experiences can be very unbelievable.

I've know of 2 different girls that hid their pregnancies from everyone until they were in labor/delivering the baby. I never could've gotten by w/that. But the fact they your friend hid it the pregnancy and didn't tell her parents about the baby is very sad to me. Hopefully she leaned on her family later...

I have one life experience I put into one of my stories. I had come home from Church w/the kids while my husband stayed after to sing w/other members. It was dark when I saw his headlights pull into our long driveway. I hurried outside and, still wearing my dress, I hiked up my skirt and danced around silly-like for my husband. Boy was I surprised when he opened the car door and in the interior light showed that their were 2 people in the car, not one. He had brought home our teen-age next door neighbor. My husband said the teenager let out a gasp when she saw me. Hopefully she has forgotten and I didn't scar her in anyway.
I tweaked this scenario for my historical.

Pam Hillman said...

Loved reading all the real-life stories that brought the fictional ones to life. Reading these also reminded me of more from my own work. Too fun! :)

Sarah Claucherty said...

Sandra, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I love birthdays, so thank you for letting us share yours :) I am so sorry for your loss earlier this year...I can empathize, so please know I'm praying for you today.

As I am working on improving my writing craft these days, I'd love to peek into that WRITER BOX you mentioned! Any craft book or resource you'd recommend in particular?

And snakes crawling by while you sleep?!? Smart husband you have, to erase the tracks before you saw them! [shudders]

One real-life experience I've used that comes to mind is in the first story I remember writing--EVER. My 3rd-grade teacher asked us to write a story. She provided little chapter book-sized blank books (hardcover, full of lovely clean white pages), and we had to write and illustrate our stories. I filled my blank pages with the tragedy of leaving my favorite (FAVORITE, I TELL YOU!) blanket at my grandmother's house one Thanksgiving. Originally my crib quilt, it was security and comfort to young introverted me, and I was absolutely crushed 3 hours into the drive home when I tried to go to sleep and realized it was missing. We were only about an hour from home and it was late, so my parents wouldn't drive all the way back to retrieve it. I didn't sleep well for a week, but I got my beloved blanket back in the spring, when my grandparents came to visit.

My teacher loved the tragic tale of my forgotten blanket, and actually asked if she could keep it as an example of fine work. I was amazed, and that was the first time I realized that I was good not only at reading voraciously and well above my age level, but that I could write stories of my own, too. :)

I still adore reading, and I would love to win the KINDLE you are offering as a gift on your birthday to us!! Have a birthday full of blessings and fellowship, Sandra, and enjoy your day!

Pam Hillman said...

I'm reading Where the Eagle Flies now, and haven't gotten to the part about the snake. Ahem. Thanks for the warning! lol

Pam Hillman said...

Awww, Mary Hicks, that is SO sweet. I especially love that your daughter remembers it. Adorable! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Yay, someone else is 40! High five, Missy! :)

Vince said...

.
Hi Tina & Ruth:

While you can revise your age, the original copyright stays the same.

Tracey Hagwood said...

I can't remember what type of snake they said it was. (probably blocked it from my memory, lol, may have it in my travel info) I do remember it was whitish with orange markings like the Powell rocks. Nothing like any snake I'd ever seen on the East coast.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks MISSY for rubbing it in that you are so much younger. chuckle. You sweet thing. But we love you so its okay.

And I guess the snakes weren't dangerous since I've lived to tell the tale. But wouldn't you think hubby might have been concerned? I guess he figured we had lived through the first night so they weren't going to bother us. He's just way too adventurous.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JACKIE SMITH. Thanks for the birthday wishes. I always love my birthday month.

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

I have a sneaky feeling I'm a year older than you…but let's keep that a secret. Are you a Gemini like me or are you a June Cancer like my father? As a kid I also regretted that our bithdays were so close together and yet we shared different signs. He would always say I was his birthday present but he was so anxious to get me, that he went to the hospital and picked me up early! That could be used in a story when the hero is a junior. Come to think of it, when was the last time a hero was a junior? Has any Seeker had a junior for a hero?

Vince

P.S.: The good news is that it is going to be ten more years before the next odious "0"!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi WILANI, We'd love to hear about any of those real life experiences. That's what I love about hanging with writers. We all come from different worlds and have so many interesting things to share.

Sandra Leesmith said...

H DEANNA, I can guarantee that those books are wonderful since I've read them all. Seeker books rock!!!

And Seeker friend's books rock too!!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

CONNIE QUEEN, I am still laughing at that story. I think it is so sweet and I know your husband would have loved that dance if he had been alone. Toooo funny but kudos for using it in your story. smile

Myra Johnson said...

Okay, you're bringing back snake story memories!

Like the time in 5th grade when I found a cute little pink snake in my backyard and took it to school for Show & Tell. Except the teacher determined it was a copperhead and made some boys take it outside and kill it!

And a few years ago in Tulsa when we came home from church to find a HUGE black snake in our garage! "Brave" hubby called a neighbor and his son over to remove it to the woods out back.

Debby Giusti said...

Happy Birthday month, Sandra! Oh my gosh! You were adventurous in your youth...wait, you're still young and you still do adventurous things. But two weeks camping and paddling around Lake Powell! With snakes slithering across your sheet! I don't even want to think about that!

No wonder you're our Pickle Ball Champ! :) You're always ready to conquer anything new!

Great post! Thank you for sharing your Lake Powell experience. Fascinating and so informative! Love the setting and the story.

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

Is there a danger of seeming too autobiographical in fiction? I remember full well reading Missy's, "The Guy Next Door", about the lab experience and thinking, 'she's done this' which kind of takes you out of the story for just a moment. I had the same feeling when reading Debby's "Yule Die". I wonder if "Yule Die" is based on a real life experience.

I'm surprised you didn't pick "The Bossy Bridegroom". That books was like a docudrama. That's a story you still feel years later.

The great thing about "Autumn Rains" is that the hero was actually guilty of his crime! In so many romances the ex-con hero was actually innocent and has suffered a great injustice which makes him immediately more sympathetic. "Autumn Rains" was one of the most 'real' books I ever read. It still is.

Vince

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

What an inspiring, informational post!
Thank you Sandra...

And I'm so sorry for your loss...
(((hugs)))

/waving to all/
I've been on deadline (still am).
Just had to stop in for a Seeker fix!

kc

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

It's not just the big experiences that make a story so real it's almost like being there. The little things make the total sound ring true.

The one thing I noticed above others on Lake Powell was how the colors were always changing on the stone cliffs. Look at the picture you posted of those cliffs. Even in that picture the colors are different depending on the sun, shade, texture of the stone, wetness, and natural stains on the walls. When I was on the lake colors would change instantly as the boat moved down canyons and the backtrail (the ride back the way we came) would offer even greater changes.

You captured all these changes in your book. You got the sounds of the insects, the lapping of water, the wind blowing thru the narrow cliffs, how the heat changes in shade and at night, and how it's hard to see the sky at times while in the narrow canyons.

I thought it was so funny when the hero said that rattlesnake tastes like chicken. And how the heroine finally got hungry enough to eat the snake! That's how to get emotion out of a reader!

"Where the Eagle Flies" did upset me in that you spent all those great experiences on a novella! This is the kind of story that southwest genre fans dream about!

Something else kept me on edge: can you really take ancient artifacts out of those Anasazi caves? I've been in some of those places at Mesa Verde so I know how you would love the view looking out.

I also know that the natives placed those footholds in the cliffs in a sneaky way so that if you did not start the right way up, you'd get hung up in the middle and be unable to finish the climb. It's brilliant! This places enemies in a position where you could stone them off the walls. They could not climb higher and they could not climb down as there were more enemy behind them. I was worried that the heroine would be stuck halfway up the wall with an injured foot. I won't say what happens.

Lake Powell deserves a full novel! A series!

Vince

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks SARAH for the birthday wishes and condolences. I love to share. The writer box is full of goodies. Office supplies, RWA magazines with great craft articles, screenwriting books which were some of the biggest helps for making my writing active.

Do any of these things appeal to you? I hate to just throw them away.

I love your blankie story and what a tribute at such a young age to being a terrific writer. YAY God is good in letting us know what He wants us to do. smile

I got the Kindle on sale and was saving it for a special day. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oops PAMMERS, Hope I didn't give too much away.

Happy reading.

Sandra Leesmith said...

And PAM, Hush about being so young.

Okay. Enjoy being so young. chuckle

Meghan Carver said...

Love this post, Sandra! I'm going to have to dig deep to find those real-life experiences now. I know they're there. It's just a matter of working them into a plot. Thanks for the nudge and the terrific examples. Would love to be in the drawing, including the goodies from your writer box. Happy birthday!!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh VINCE. A year hmmmm? I'm a crabby crab as my hubby says. LOL Late in the month. And yikes. Another odious 0!

But hey, as long as we are still here to enjoy them. And can keep having these wonderful experiences. However as we add zeroes they might be vicarious experiences as we read about them. LOL

My hubby is a junior. That's a great idea to have one as a hero. Never thought of the possibilities. Could lead to mistaken identity. Oh my, I'm getting like RUTHY and letting my mind trip into another story. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

TRACEY, I googled red and black snakes of Arizona and came up with way too many photos of snakes. YIKES

It might have been a long nosed snake since they weren't concerned about venomous bites. The coral snake is very dangerous.

But there are several more in Arizona. I guess they want to match in with the red rocks. You might need to look at the photos and find one that looks like it.

Sandra Leesmith said...

YIKES MYRA, I guess snakes are everywhere. Thank goodness for neighbors who aren't afraid of snakes.

Janet Dean said...

Sandra, happy birthday, dear friend. Birthdays are to be celebrated. But no need to disclose age. LOL

Loved reading how you and the Seekers used real life experiences and translated them into your wonderful stories!

I don't have a plot element in my stories that came from real life but much of the heart/emotion of the story comes from who we are and what we've experienced.

I'm awed by your courage and athleticism. I'm not a camper. We did stay with my brother and his wife in their deluxe RV in Rocky Mountain National Park. My dh and I walked to the restroom late at night with the tiny light from two flashlights. I was on edge, afraid a bear would devour us. The next morning we retraced our steps and discovered two enormous elk lying mere yards from where we walked. Thankfully they seemed unconcerned. But I'd never willingly approach that close to a wild animal.

Janet

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks DEBBY, Yes pickleball is more to my liking these days. That's about all the adventure I can handle.

We did pretty good in the Oregon Senior Games tournament last weekend. Yay. We survived it anyway. That's victory in itself.

The exciting thing about Senior Games is they divide players by age, not skill level. This is good in a way, however, you will undoubtedly be playing with players who are way above your skill level. So we feel good that we are able to hang in there.

Janet Dean said...

All the snake talk is freaking me out!

KC, thanks for taking a Seekerville break. Wishing you the best with your deadline!

Janet

Myra Johnson said...

Aw, thanks, VINCE! You might be interested to know that Healy & Valerie have cameo roles in my upcoming romance from Love Inspired, Rancher for the Holidays (November). It was fun revisiting their story.

Sandra Leesmith said...

AWWWW VINCE, You always know how to make a writer feel good about their work. Thanks for all the kudos for those Seeker books as well as for WHERE THE EAGLE FLIES. I love how you always notice all the details we manage to convey. You're an author's dream reader. smile

It is against the law to take artifacts. In one of my versions of WHERE THE EAGLE FLIES, Sid reports the artifacts to the rangers when he is rescued.

You are right about the placement of the toeholds in the rocks. They also used ladders that they would pull up when enemies approached. Much safer than the toeholds actually. We were able to climb some in Mesa Verde. Didn't you just love that National Park? It brings that whole era of history alive. The National Parks always do an outstanding job of presenting cultural history.

Kathryn Barker said...

Happy Birthday, Sandra...wishing you a year full of fun experiences to use in upcoming stories!! Sending my heartfelt condolences on your loss...and hoping memories of your loved one will ease the ache in your heart.

Including real life experiences in stories seems so natural...but what appears to be an adventure to some, is a way of life for others. In an earlier story...haven't finished the revisions yet...I included a scene where an Amish woman comes to take care of a garden for an older widowed English farmer. This actually happened in the Ozarks where my Grandpa had a farm. I met this Amish woman years ago at a flea market, she and my Grandpa became friends. Later when he was too ill to tend to his garden, she would drive her buggy to his farm and weed and harvest for him. She happened to be there one day when I arrived from California for a visit. So tender and so very sweet and I just never forgot her kindness.

Snakes...I don't like them...I've always been afraid of sleeping outside of a tent!! Once, in my childhood...long, long, long, long ago...but I still remember...LOL...anyway, once, when our family camped out in Yosemite, a big momma bear sniffed my Daddy's forehead while he was sleeping...he thought it was a fly or something and swatted her nose...fortunately for all of us...she bellowed and trotted off, her little cubs trailing behind her!

In my heart, I LOVE adventure, but the truth is, I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to actually committing to do the deed! Sure am enjoying reading about everyone else's experiences!

Thanks for sharing your amazing adventures, Sandra. And for the beautiful photos. I would love to be included for the Writer's Box or the Kindle. Thank you.

Janet Dean said...

Sarah, thanks for sharing your childhood memory and how that story encouraged you to write!

Our daughter's blanket was left behind in a motel on a trip with her grandparents. We called but no one knew anything about it. The blanket was so ratty they may have tossed it. She was four and couldn't suck her thumb without that blanket. The first tragedy in her young life.

Janet

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Yes, VINCE, I have a whole series of books I'm writing about the Southwest. LOVE'S DREAM SONG was supposed to be released this spring, but got delayed due to the illness and death of my brother. But it is on its way. You will love all the suspense. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thank you KC. Hang in there and finish that deadline.

Way to go, girl.

Give a pat to the canines.

Davalyn Spencer said...

Loved these stories that found their way into novels. My work in progress has a scene I experienced during my days as a crime-beat reporter, and another that my husband worked through as a police officer. Plus he's my cowboy-cop inspiration for the hero. I've read some of the books listed in this post, but now I have to read the rest! It's just too fun knowing that an incident occurred to the author.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks MEGHAN, I know you have some great experiences to draw upon. It is always fun to relive them.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JANET, Your books are so full of emotion, they have to draw on some real life events. smile Your characters always seem so real to me.

And yikes. How funny to be afraid of a bear and yet be that close to an elk. CARA and I saw lots of elk when we visited the park during an ACFW conference in Denver. They are really tame in that park. Guess they are used to lots of humans.

Sandra Leesmith said...

O MYRA, We get to meet up with Healy and Valerie again? I can hardly wait.

Sandra Leesmith said...

KATHRYN thanks for the condolences and birthday wishes. I do have many treasured memories. smile

I LOVE the story about the Amish woman and your grandpa. Perfect for your novel too. What a treasure.

Yes, I'm with you--a wimp at heart. But hubby makes sure I enjoy every adventure possible. smile

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi DAVALYN, Wow, sounds like you have some great experiences to draw from. And a hero hubby. They make the best heroes don't they? smile

Happy writing.

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Sandra!

Your Lake Powell adventure sounds fascinating. One of the books I read with my boys when we were homeschooling took place along the Colorado River long before Lake Powell was created. Ever since we read the book, I've wanted to go there - but it's still on the list!

I often use real life experiences - either my own or experiences other people have told me about. And you're right. It always starts with "what if?"

Barbara Scott said...

Sandra, you are one brave woman.Loved everyone's stories they were able to weave into their books!

My idea of roughing it is staying at a Motel 6, and then I examine the room, the bed, the sheets, the coverlet, the mattress, and the bathroom for any type of creepy-crawlies, especially spiders and snakes and bedbugs and roaches and shudder ... you get the drift. That's why I've never made a trip to the Amazon, or the interior of Africa, or Southeast Asia. A documentary on rattlesnakes or tarantulas can make me break out in hives.

Lyndee H said...

What great examples, Sandra. Very fun to see how some of my favorite Seeker books contain gems of real life happenings.

I like the phrase,'Life is stranger than fiction.' That's so true in writing and in painting. Last night the sky was so dynamic as the tornado approached our area. It occurred to me that if I painted that landscape, people would say it's too artificial. Same with writing. Sometimes I want to write a passage that others might think is too far fetched or contrived, yet it's a true experience from a family story or my own life experience.

Great post!

Sandy Smith said...

My condolences on your loss, Sandra. And Happy Birthday. I enjoyed this post. I am looking forward to reading Where the Eagle Flies. That really creeps me out to think of sleeping with snakes crawling over you. I could never sleep that soundly, especially outside. I won't even camp in a tent!

I have often used personal experiences in the short stories I have written. One incident I used in a children's story was based on the Christmas that my youngest brother insisted on going to his friend's house for a sleepover on Dec. 23. The rest of the family had all come from out of town for Christmas and there was snow forecast. My parents didn't really want him to go but he was so insistent they let him. The next day on Christmas Eve, the big storm came. His friend lived in a rural subdivision that was so snowed in that my dad could barely make it out there to bring him home and he almost missed being home for Christmas. I took that event and put it in a story in which the boy did have to spend the night at his friend's house. The plot of my story was that the boy was so embarrassed by his large family and their antics and was envious of the quiet life of his friend. In the end, he discovered that his friend's Christmas wasn't much fun and he gained a new appreciation for his family.

The book I'm writing now is about a tornado. I am basing some of my characters and incidents from real life. A tornado hit my town 6 years ago, so it is very real for me.

Please enter me for the writer box.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JAN, I bet that was fun for your boys to read. My hubby rafted down that section of the Colorado River as a Boy Scout before the river was damned. It was quite an adventure. They had a long hike from the river to Rainbow Arch. Now you can practically boat to the base of the arch.

Yes, it is great to use those experiences.

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

BARBARA you are tooooooo funny. But I don't care if you're brave or not, it is always a good idea to check a motel room for creepy crawlies. We even check around our house. After all there are lots of varieties in the desert. I hate the giant cockroaches. They really gross me out. I kind of like the spider webs because they catch all kinds of other creepies.

My brother cruised the Amazon last February. Quite an adventure. Not only things on land but piranhas in the water. YIKES.

Such brave souls. Guess they make great hero material for you and I to write about. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi LYNDEE, Great analogy with the painting. I hope you are staying safe. You must be in the area they showed on the news last night.

And yes, sometimes the sky is so awesome, it would be impossible to replicate. I've even tried to take photos and the camera just doesn't capture the full scope of color.

Stay safe.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi SANDY, What a great story you wrote for children. Did you ever publish it or submit it for publication? I like the lesson he learned. Reminds me of my children's book about Cody the Coyote who thought he wanted to be a dog. Sometimes the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, doesn't it?

Wow, you lived through tornado. I don't ever want that much experience. I'm glad you are using it though. Because you will really be able to make it real.

Happy writing.

Vince said...

Hi Myra:

I just pre-ordered "Rancher for the Holidays" and also discovered that "Autumn Rains" is now just 99 cents on Kindle. I downloaded that too since I find reading really large Kindle type so much easier. I'm going to reread "Autumn Rains" in October and "Rancher" on November 1st!

BTW: I think "Autumn Rains" is the best book ever to only have two reviews on Amazon -- after almost three years! I want to see some more reviews…soon. : )

Jeanne T said...

Sandra, first of all, I'm sorry that you lost a loved one this spring. My heart goes out to you.

Secondly, what a great post. It's fun reading about others' real life experiences and how they put them into books. I don't have a ton of stuff to add to books, but I did have a subplot character sprain her ankle, shortly after I sprained mine while on vacation a couple years ago. Her situation was much more interesting than mine though. ;)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks VINCE, I know you'll enjoy reading AUTUMN RAINS again. I don't think most readers really understand how important reviews are. Thanks for all the reviews you send. We really appreciate it.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Awww JEANNE T, Thank you so much. You are so sweet.

I bet your sprained ankle scene is well written. Nothing like first hand experience and how clever to use it while it was fresh in your mind.

Happy Writing.

Myra Johnson said...

Bless you, VINCE! I really hope you like what happens in Rancher. It was fun to explore what might be happening in the characters' lives all these years later. Healy and Valerie have only a teeny amount of time "onstage," but they played a vital role in the life of the heroine (someone else you will recognize).

Sarah Claucherty said...

Sandra,

Craft articles sound interesting, although my teacher sister would go into raptures over the thought of office supplies! LOL :)

Can't wait till the weekend to see how your birthday giveaway bonanza turns out! It's so sweet of you to share the joy and lovely prizes like the Kindle on your special day; I'll have to start something like this on mine!

Janet Dean said...

Sandra, thanks for your lovely words.

Yes, I think they're used to people, but I'm sure they could get surprised by someone creeping along at night and harm them.

Did say courage wasn't my strong suit? :-)

Janet

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi SARAH, Having been a teacher, I know exactly how she'll feel about the office supplies. I think being a teacher is what made me become such a pack rat. You never know what project your odds and ends will be needed for. Makes me chuckle.

Janet Dean said...

Barbara Scott, I do the same! Especially now with the issues with bed bugs.

Janet

Sandra Leesmith said...

Yes JANET you did mention that. And yes, it is smart these days to check on things.

Makes me appreciate my motorhome. Creepy crawlies do get in, but at least not bed bugs. LOL

One time a mouse built a nest on top of the engine and had baby mice. My husband kept taking the nest out and setting it in the field. But that silly mouse kept bringing it and the babies back. I think after the fourth attempt to relocate it, she finally gave up and moved her nest elsewhere.

Janet Dean said...

Sandy, tornados scare me, even high winds. I'm thankful I've never experienced the destruction of one, though I did see a white tornado going away from us. Weird I know.

Janet

Mary Connealy said...

Sandra I'm not just REVISING my age. I am having it legally changed,
Trust me, downward.

I have the paperwork all done and am just waiting for my updated driver's license.

Mary Connealy said...

Sandra, thanks for the mouse horror story.

Your husband is an amazingly compassionate man.

Myra Johnson said...

These conversations are making me extra-glad the bug exterminator is coming tomorrow for our regular "refresher" treatment.

Mary Connealy said...

After my very first release Petticoat Ranch came out, so many people said, "Oh, you based this on your own life."

I really didn't see it. I mean, I know, four daughters, that's me. But the mountain man who's never been around women, married the widow of his twin brother....I didn't see the similarities to my own husband, from a family of seven sons, and ending up with four daughters.

But once people pointed it out, I could really see it.

Mary Connealy said...

And in Fired Up, with the heroine who couldn't cook opening a restaurant...I got some grief for that....like, "Nobody would open a restaurant if they couldn't cook. Unrealistic book."

But the trouble with that is, as a new bride, for the first year, I couldn't cook at all. I really thought I could. And I had an aversion to raw or rare meat so I never really saw my crispy hamburgers as BURNED.

My husband is lucky he survived until I got a little better at it, and I still overcook things too often.

Now I blame daydreaming. It's just so easy for me to get distracted and forget I've got something frying on HIGH.

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

If I remember right, the publisher of "Autumn Rains" sold books by subscription. I had to really jump through hooks to special order "Autumn Rains" and later "Romance by the Book". (Myra doing comedy.) Each book cost less than the shipping and handling charge! I also think I had to wait some time until the book was released for single sale to nonsubscribers.

If you went to Amazon back then you would not even find the book for sale. That made it very hard to get reviews!

I'm just happy that anyone can get the book now on Amazon! And that now it is oh so easy to review it. : )

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi MARY, That is so fun to think that PETTICOAT RANCH is based on your cowboy and girls. That must be why I LOVED that book so much.

And when I've been around you, you've cooked really nice meals. So there's something for experience. smile

And yes, hubby is a sucker when they look at him with their big eyes. Same thing happened when we moved up to the redwood forest for his first teaching job. The men took him in hand and got him all set up for hunting. We still have all the equipment to load our own bullets, etc. But he got out there and when he stared down the sites at the deer with its big brown eyes??? Well we didn't eat venison. LOL Not that he had killed anyway. We used to get delicious wild pigs from that area. We never minded eating the meat after the animals were butchered. Its just doing the killing that is tough.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Yes, VINCE, you are right. I forgot how tough it was in those days. Amazon has made it so easy to review now. I know for Audible you don't even have to think up stuff to say. THey have a questionaire to fill out so it is really easy peasy.

Becky Dempsey said...

I love when you can tell that an author has had experience with something. It makes it so much richer. I haven't written much, but I did use one experience of having a mostly boy student class of Kindergartners and their repetition of the word "butler" and then giggling because of how it sounded. I would LOVE to win the writer box and the Kindle!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi BECKY, Yes, those kindergartners can be hilarious. They get such a kick out of the funniest things.

One time I had a class of Mexican kindergartners and we were going on a field trip. Because I wanted to be sure they knew what to do, I was explaining in Spanish and I kept saying things like when we go on the trip we need to wear comfortable shoes. When we go on the trip we need.... etc. They were all laughing so cute. Finally one of them told me that I was saying when we go on the old man.... The word for trip is viaje and old man is viejo. I was using the wrong word. No wonder they were laughing so hard.

Myra Johnson said...

Yes, those were the days, VINCE! So glad the early Heartsong Presents titles are now available as Truly Yours digital editions! Autumn Rains was my second published novel, only a month after One Imperfect Christmas. I'd had so many rejections already on that story from both editors and agents that I was just glad to make the sale! It was very frustrating when friends would ask how to buy a copy and had to go through such contortions to get one.

CatMom said...

Great post, sweet Sandra - - and Welcome Back!! You were missed, and I'm so sorry you lost a loved one. Gentle hugs to you.

And I'm giggling at the comment you just posted (about using the wrong Spanish word) because I did something similar when I taught Kindergarten. One year I had a precious little Mexican student who did not want to stay on her resting mat during our brief afternoon rest time. Although she spoke both English and Spanish, I decided perhaps I'd get her attention more if I spoke Spanish to her. So....thinking I was telling her to close her eyes, I was relieved when she looked at me and then promptly remained on her rest mat without any more "crawling around" episodes. Only later did I discover I'd actually told her to "close her grapes" (that poor child probably thought her teacher was nuts, so she'd better do what I instructed, LOL).

Thank you again for this post and all these great examples of using life experiences.
Hugs, Patti Jo

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh PATTI JO, I"m laughing so hard. I think that is hilarious. Teaching those little ones was never boring was it? I am so glad she decided to close her grapes. LOL

Thanks for the condolences. I missed all of you also. And I'll take the hug. Gladly. smile

Have a blessed day. Hugs back.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi MYRA, I'm so delighted to know those books are now available as digital books. Yay.

Sandy Smith said...

Sandra, I did have that story published. I believe it was in "On the Line" magazine, a children's Christian publication. I was very sorry when they folded because they published most of what I sent them.

When that tornado hit, I was at work and huddled in a bathroom with 14 people. The whole building shook and I thought that was it. I heard the sound of a train like everybody always says. I think it went over us. We kept having problems with the roof leaking and were told later that apparently the roof had lifted up and come back down and that's why it was leaking.
Definitely not an experience I care to repeat.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi SANDY, That is quite an experience at your work and I can certainly understand that you don't want a repeat. How weird that the roof lifted up and then came back down and looked all right.

Hey, if you've had children's books published then you are a published author. Be sure and put that info in your cover letters when you submit manuscripts to publishers or when you pitch to an agent or publisher. That is HUGE. Congrats. I certainly understand the disappointment when a publisher goes out.

Hang in there. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks all of you for the fun comments and day. Be sure and check the weekend edition for the winner of the Kindle and the writer box.

Have a blessed week.

Sandra Leesmith said...

PS If you are viewing this tonight, I evidently goofed when I set the post and it didn't come up until this morning. If you comment, your name will still go into the crystal bowl as I will check this again in the morning.

Happy writing.

Jan Christiansen said...

Hi Sandra - so good to see you posting again. Loved the water spout story. I look forward to reading the story. Makes me want to go up to Lake Powell. You post has me searching my memory bank for real life incidents I can add to my story. Thanks for the great idea. Would love to be entered for the Kindle. :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JAN, Great to hear from you again also. smile I bet you have some great real life experiences you can use in your wip. Dig deep and capture all those senses and emotions. They help deepen the story.

Happy writing.

Book Lover, book writer said...

Sandra Lee Smith,
I'm putting "Kindle" in this comment section because I'm eager to read your newest book.

Thanks for this opportunity to win a Kindle with your book pre-loaded! Wish me luck,


I am an-unpublished fiction writer and the most useful advice at class and conferences is
to "study the great writers" like yourself of course, I read for sheer joy too.

Sincerely,
Evelyn Dotson at dotsonevelyn1@gmail.com

The Artist Librarian said...

KINDLE! :)

Loved this post about the origin of some Seeker stories. I wonder if the tradition publishers backed off of Audra's story because they didn't think it would sell or was it based on storycraft? ... If the former, what does that say about us as consumers of Christian/Inspy fiction? Would you not consider buying a book just because the protagonist had given birth out of wedlock? I'm inferring from the wording that she may not have become pregnant consensually though ... ? But even then, what a shame ... We come from all different backgrounds and experiences to be saved by the same loving, redeeming God --why can't publishers tell those stories too? Glad you were able to go indie, Audra. :)

Hope you had a great birthday, Sandra! (June's almost over, so statistically, it's most likely your b-day has already occurred). ;-)

Crystal L Barnes said...

Everyday encounters and experiences are such great fodder for stories. Thanks for the post, Sandra. Happy Birthday!

Happy Trails,
Crystal L Barnes
www.booksybarnes.com

KINDLE :)

Donna said...

Sandra, I have been out of town for a few days, so I'm catching up on my Seekerville posts! I really enjoyed reading how each of you incorporated real life events into your books. I am going to make a list of things I can use in the future!

Please include me in the drawing for the writer's box and the kindle.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi EVELYN - Book Lover, That is sound advice IT is also advice given to me years ago and still holds true today. Read, read, read, especially in the genre you want to publish.

Best wishes on your writing also.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Artist Librarian, Thanks for the birthday wishes. I still have time before the big day. smile

Many traditional publishers are reluctant to deal with unwed pregnancy. And it was consensual. And I agree. I think readers need to read about sinful people and how God forgives and helps redeem them. If you keep having perfect characters to fit that Christian image, you are giving a false identity. That's my humble opinion. Like a model on magazines. The image we want but can't achieve. What readers wants to know is how do we live with our imperfections. smile I'll get off my soapbox.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks Crystal, Happy trails to you also. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Donna, We've missed you. Hope your travels were fun and fruitful.

Great idea to make a list. I have a box full of things I jot down and then toss in there. When I'm stuck I sift through that box. Its fun if nothing else. chuckle