Friday, July 31, 2015

Good Story Comes from Writing What We Know

with guest Kate Breslin.

Good morning, Seekerville! Thanks to the Seekers for hosting me today on Seekerville. I’ve brought along some freshly baked white chocolate and cranberry scones, and a steaming pot of Earl Grey, so everyone can sit back and relax with a cup while I talk about today’s topic:

Years ago as I began the journey toward publishing my first novel, I attended a writer’s conference near Portland, Oregon. Unlike most conferences held at a Hyatt or Marriot hotel with comfy beds, room service, and five-star restaurants, we budding novelists spent the weekend at a “new age” retreat, much like a Scout camp, with log cabins, bunk beds, and muesli for breakfast. The park like grounds were beautiful however, and it was thought the rustic setting might release our inhibitions and inspire creativity. Among the workshops held at the main lodge was a class entitled, “Write What You Know.” The instructor, a self-proclaimed fencing expert, arrived in her pirate garb brandishing a saber, ready to show us newbies the proper technique an Errol Flynn-styled buccaneer would use to fight on a ship’s deck—thrust, parry riposte, thrust, parry, etc. Anyway, you get the idea. 

In my naiveté, I worried that since my own story idea revolved around a Scottish highway woman and a reformed English duke living in eighteenth-century England, I lacked the skills of horsemanship, swordplay, and firing a blunderbuss shotgun, all required in making my story sound authentic. Nor had I traveled beyond the U.S. How was I supposed to write about England…or even the eighteenth century? My novel would come across vague and juvenile, like seventh-grade Creative Writing class material, while my hero and heroine would be cardboard cutouts instead of three-dimensional characters. Then it occurred to me that I’d read countless historical novels whose authors hadn’t jousted with knights or suffered the dusty, scorching confines of a covered wagon crossing Oregon Territory. Most probably they hadn’t ridden sidesaddle or churned their own butter or made tallow candles, either. So how was it that their stories and characters seemed so believable? 

It’s been a long time since those novice days at “Scout camp,” and I’ve come to realize we don’t need to be experts at fencing or riding sidesaddle in order to “write what we know.” Admittedly, personal experience is a plus, but whether it’s historical or contemporary fiction, research and reflection are keys to writing good story. Learning to understand an event, skill, or subject in such detail that we can visualize ourselves doing it. For example, in my years of storytelling I’ve discovered how to dress a turkey, deliver a breech calf, and switch a railroad track so that a trainload of Jews in WWII could bypass Auschwitz and head along a carefully mapped route beyond the Carpathian Mountains. In my upcoming WWI historical novel, Not By Sight, I learned with my heroine, Grace Mabry, to cut, aerate, and tie off bales of hay with the use of a steam baler and turn-of-the-century tools. We found that when cranking over the engine of Lord Roxwood’s 1913 Daimler automobile, Grace must keep her thumb aligned with the rest of her hand while giving the handle a quick backward then forward motion; otherwise the force of the engine’s ignition could send the handle flying and break her delicate wrist. She and I and our hero, Jack Benningham, traveled to the lovely seaside town of Margate in the county of Kent in 1917 Britain. We smelled the salt of the sea and watched gulls wheel overhead as gray green waves crashed upon the shore. And I was with her when she visited Margate’s Hall-by-the-Sea, once a very real place with its mechanical amusement rides, and street vendors selling roasted nuts, sausages, and sweet candy floss. 

I experienced these things with Grace through the benefit of research and my imagination. Yes, it’s wonderful if you happen to be a knight with the Society for Creative Anachronism, or a train engineer, or work on a farm, but if not then gaining insight—through books, Internet, photos, videos and movies—can suffice for creating good story. 

And what about those three-dimensional characters? Well, we may not literally take on the role of our hero and heroine, yet as writers and readers we can imagine what it feels like when Grace gets another blister from shoveling trenches beneath a scorching sun, or breathe in the stench of soggy feathers as she gingerly plucks her first chicken. The energy she must expend to crank over the Daimler. We know the pulse-pounding sensation of first love and the tremor of fear; our hearts have threatened to burst with excitement and ache with loss. We know the way joy touches our soul at the sight of a small miracle, proof that God is listening to our prayers. 

Just like actors mentally prepare for their roll on stage, writers must draw upon their own emotional experiences to enhance and deepen their story. “Bleeding onto the page” is a term we often use to describe having to write an intense scene; peeling back those layers and exposing our vulnerabilities in order to create authenticity in our characters. Literally writing what we know so as to reach out and grab the reader by the hand and bring them into our world…

Now, just for fun and a chance to win a free copy of my new novel, Not By Sight, choose one of the questions I’ve listed below and answer in a comment:  1) In a sentence, describe a scene from the novel you’re currently reading that really drew you into the story. 2) In a sentence, name a scene from a previous novel that affected you deeply and tell us why.  

 Not by Sight

In the spring of 1917, all of Britain's attention is on the WWI war front and the thousands of young men serving their country on the front lines. Jack Benningham, dashing heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, is young and able-bodied but refuses to enlist despite the contempt of his peers.

A wealthy young suffragette, Grace Mabry will do anything to assist her country's cause. Men like Jack infuriate her when she thinks of her own brother fighting in the trenches of France, so she has no reservations about handing him a white feather of cowardice at a posh masquerade ball.

But Grace could not anticipate the danger and betrayal set into motion by her actions, and soon she and Jack are forced to learn the true meaning of courage when the war raging overseas suddenly strikes much closer to home and their fervent beliefs become a matter of life and death.

A Florida girl and former bookseller, Kate Breslin migrated to the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her guitarist husband and a persnickety cat. Author of travel articles and award-winning poetry, Kate received Christian Retailing's 2015 Best Award for first time author, and her debut novel, For Such A Time, is a Christy award, RITA award, and Carol award finalist. Kate's second novel, Not By Sight, will release in August, 2015. When she's not writing inspirational fiction, Kate enjoys reading or taking long walks in Washington's beautiful woodlands. She also likes traveling to new places, both within the U.S. and abroad, having toured Greece, Rome, and much of Western Europe. New destinations make for fresh story ideas. Please visit her at


Mary Preston said...

A fantastic post thank you.

I love the descriptions in my present read. The table has been laid out with dishes fit for a 14th century Moghul. (Made my mouth water.)

Tina Radcliffe said...

GOOD MORNING, KATE. Another chance to breakfast with you! I love scones. Had my favorite a few years ago at the Pullyup Fair. Did I say and spell that right?

Gorgeous, cover. Lots of Downton Abbey there too! So excited. So where did this storyline come from?

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'm currently reading Katy Lee's RITA finaling Love Inspired Suspense. She really drew me in with the immediate internal conflict of the hero and heroine. The dead body was helpful as well!

Jackie said...

Hi Kate,

What a beautiful cover on your book. Thanks for sharing with us today.

In Cathy West's new book, Bridge of Faith, she does a great job with a scene where a boy goes onto a boarded up bridge that's about to collapse. The hero goes in to save him, and...
(I can't spoil it.)

Thanks for the encouraging words!

Rose said...

Hi Kate!

It was great to meet you at RWA. Can you believe it's been almost a week since the award ceremony.

Your second book sounds great and I love the cover.

Good luck with this release!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Kate! Your book sound REALLY REALLY intriguing. I love books set in that era, too.

I think you have an excellent point about research and, in particular, the DETAILS that make the scene come alive.

Even though we may not have dug a post hole or crossed the prairie in the heat of summer, there are so many UNIVERSAL things we do know about firsthand that can apply. As you mentioned, blisters. And we know about heat and humidity that makes sweat pour, what it feels like to down a glass of cold water in the shade, etc.

The universal details of what we've experienced ourselves--even if under totally different circumstances than our hero/heroine--can ground the scene and give it a strong sense of authenticity. I think this is something that we (I) need to stop and think/feel in each of my scenes to come up with that added, grounding layer of reality. Thank you for the reminder!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Good morning, Kate! How nice to have you here, and I'm lovin' the scones.

I did, however, bring coffee. Earl is fine, of course, but for the hard-core among us, a cup o' joe to start the day is a welcome thing.

Fascinating story ideas here! And I love the boot camp idea, what a great writers' retreat/gathering!

I love that life and research have shown you so many new skills. Who knows when we might have to deliver a breech calf???? :)

Gorgeous covers, your art team rocks!

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Kate,
Your story sounds so interesting and what a beautiful cover, I'd love to read it.

I have been on a Lisa Wingate binge lately and have read her 3 Carolina Chronicles books and 3 novellas in the series. I love quotes that have universal truths in them, things I have thought myself or could identify with. Some of her phrases from The Story Keeper I especially liked:

*I understood the lure of a good story. Sometimes a world that doesn't exist is the only escape from the one that does.

*The trouble with obsessions is that by the time you know you've got one, it already has you by the throat.

*for all appearances, this was a beautiful life. A perfect life. It is so easy to make assumptions, yet the reality is that containers often tell nothing of the contents.

*I have walked my path and prayed that I might find God upon it. He has, instead, found me and called me to a purpose.

*What can't be understood and neatly sewn up must simply be let go, not in the way of giving up, but in the way of understanding who is really in control of it.

*I see the path from the beginning to this moment and clearly as if it had been sketched on the paper and handed to me. The journey has lead me here. I experience it in a soul-deep way that is new and all-encompassing. This is the glory hour. I step fully in.

Great stories with great lines like these are why I love reading so much, by far my favorite pastime.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Kate! This post is bursting with details that make stories and characters come alive. Must get your book. The cover is beautiful.

That "bleeding on the page" is essential and can't happen for me until I know my characters and can feel what they'd feel. Any tips for getting to know them quickly? Do you find them by writing or do you create their back story before you write?


Elaine Stock said...

Kate, I love scones! And I love learning more about you!

What a great question. I still wince when I think about Jodi Picoult's THE STORYTELLER, the scene in the concentration camp barrack when the main character had to help her friend fight an infection and live by pulling the friend's tooth. Enough said, right?

Vince said...

Hi Kate:

I believe that you don't have to write what you know so much as you must know that what you write is right. I don't think you were there for WWI.

BTW: I see a trend in your writing. WWII, WWI, is your next book set in the Spanish American War? Good old TR -- I'm ready for the Rough Riders. After all, I just finished reading a "Rough Road Home". Some say I'm a rough writer myself! : )

I see you're a 'headless' heroine on the cover author. Mary Connealy is also a fan. Is that so the reader can see herself as the heroine? Because for myself, I'm with you, I don't ever want to see the hero on the cover because then I will know he is not me. And why read the book if you can't be the hero?

About 'Breslin': any relationship there to the great Jimmy Breslin? I put 'Breslin' in the Amazon search and up came one of Jimmy's books and next were two of your books! You out Breslined, Breslin. Why to go!

My most memorable scene is easy. Ruth Logan Herne's, "Red Kettle Christmas", on the streets of NYC in 1947, with the Macy's Day parade coming, a New York cop, a Salvation Army bell ringer dressed just the way they really were dressed back then with the red kettle and all, plus the smell of bagels coming from a nearby bakery. It was just like I was there but then I was there in 1947 thru 1951. Reading it was like stepping into my own private time machine. Priceless!

I have a title idea for you: "The Gang the Could Shoot Straight". This could be your 4th book set during the Lincoln County Wars with a cameo appearance by Billy the Kid. Welcome to Connealy country! : )

I'd love to win either of your books. I'm a student of American history!

Thanks for coming and spending time with us today.


Sarah Claucherty said...

Kate! I've wanted to read this new release since I first read the blurb on Goodreads! Would love to win :)

The first time I read Dee Henderson's O'Malley series, I was struck by the family interactions and how she portrayed such a group of characters as so close and intertwined despite distance and their histories. She created a family closer than my own, and full of tragic memories and determined love. I especially responded to Lisa, who struggled with her own worth, and Rachel, whose sensitive heart echoed my own. And Kate's battle to keep her family whole through Jennifer's illness is something I identify with closely.

In the single sentence you asked for: Dee Henderson's O'Malleys' family scenes struck me with the determined love they showed and the strength they drew from one another.

Thanks for dropping in at Seekerville, Kate!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince I love you and I love that scene from "Red Kettle Christmas" too.

The Salvation Army does so much good in so many places, it was an honor to give them that shout out... along with the NYPD, another favorite of mine!

Tracey, I love Lisa's stuff, too. I found her years ago (Texas Cooking series and then her NAL books) and just loved them. Her work adds a shine to inspirational fiction!

Hey, homemade zucchini bread to go with Kate's scones. The ovens are fired up at Ruthy's!!!!

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome, Kate! We historical authors would all be in a pickle if we had to write what we know from personal experience or observation. YAY for the Internet, libraries, and historical societies!

A memorable scene from a current book I'm reading? Well, I just left Zach and Abby on a sandbar racing on horseback away from pirates, thanks to PAM's novella Castaway With the Cowboy. The sand, the sea, the salt air, the danger . . . can't wait until I have time later to get back to the story and see how they get out of this fix!

Suzie Johnson said...

Kate! First, I am so happy for you! I am so excited about the way your first book has been received. Super congratulations! I love the cover on the new book. It's so gorgeous.

Was the Portland conference the one near Multnomah? I went to that once, a very long time ago. It was so beautiful there. I sure do miss the Sleepless in Silverdale conferences.

You've worked so hard and I'm really happy for you.

Julie Lessman said...

Uh-oh, Kate, now you've gone and done it, priming my pump because I just thought of another scene that I read recently "that affected me deeply," so I'll "tell why."

Recently I reread my own book A Hope Undaunted, which is Katie O'Connor and Luke McGee's story, because I planned to write a Christmas novella about them and I wanted to refresh myself and come up with possible ideas. Well, I read a scene that was JUST what I needed to read at the time since I was having a pretty serious emotional upheaval in my family. I was so despondent and nervous about an upcoming family vacation together due to very strained relations, that when I read the following scene, I started sobbing because the lines pierced my heart so much. And then all at once, I started laughing after the sobs at the idea that God would use my own book to speak to me and comfort me.

The lines from the scene I read are as follows:

I love you more with every waking moment, Faith, and I can’t help but wonder—how in God’s name did I ever find a woman like you?”

Her heart swelled till she thought she would burst, and her eyes welled at the moisture she felt on her neck. “In God’s name, Collin,” she repeated softly, “where the desires of one’s heart always rest.” She pressed a gentle kiss to the edge of his bristly jaw as a wellspring of gratitude dampened her cheeks. “The desires of our heart, my love. Both yours,” she whispered, “and mine.”

Gosh, in that moment, I knew without a doubt that the awful upheaval in my family was going to be healed -- which was the desire of my heart -- in God's name and strength, not mine. And you know what? It was!! My family got together the last two weeks, and God did abundantly, exceedingly more than I thought, hoped, or prayed!!

Now THAT'S why each of us write as Christian authors, to allow God's Holy Spirit to touch us through the words of authors who love Him.

Thanks, Kate, for being one of those authors who has touched me immeasurably!


Julie Lessman said...

WHOOPS ... GOT MY COMMENTS OUT OF ORDER, which doesn't bode well for my day, but oh well ...

KATE!!! SOOOOO fun to have you in Seekerville, my friend, and honey, you had me at "white chocolate" and "cranberry scones"!!! YUM!!

First of all, you already know just HOW MUCH I loved Not By Sight, not just the glorious writing, but the INCREDIBLY CREATIVE plot -- LOVED IT!!

Secondly, I had to smile at all the things you and your characters had to learn to do because I can't tell you how many times I've researched how to operate old-time cars, from Model Ts to Stanley Steamers, just because I always seem to have a scene in a car! :) But I've never done anything as detailed and intricate as you did with Grace and the lady war workers in Not By Sight -- absolutely fascinating!!

You said: "2) In a sentence, name a scene from a previous novel that affected you deeply and tell us why."

LOL, well first of all, if you have ever read any of my books or blogs (or comments, for that matter), you KNOW I can't do ANYTHING "in a sentence"!! ;)

With that caveat out of the way, the first scene that comes to mind for me is one in Laura Frantz's Love's Reckoning. Now mind you, Laura is absolutely one of my top faves anyway, but HOLY COW, she is the first author that gave me palpitations SO bad, that I was actually concerned for my heart.

You see, I have a condition called atrial fibrillation, so I am on meds to keep my heart from beating too fast, but let me tell you, when I came to the scene in the last fifth of that book where the hero and hero meet again after about eight years at a ball, my heart stopped, then lurched into a breakneck rhythm that even my heart meds couldn't calm. WOW!! I think it affected me so because the romantic tension was some of the best I've ever read or felt, and romantic tension happens to be a weakness of mine (along with my heart!). :)


Rachael Koppendrayer said...

Lynn Austin's Wonderland Creek grabbed me right from the beginning when the heroine sneaks in her book to read during a funeral - something I would not have hesitated to do too. I never went anywhere (except Sunday morning church services) without a book - school programs, concerts, 11th grade geography, even my uncle's wedding reception when I was 18.

I have to say, the stench of wet feathers is the worst part of butchering chickens. Chopping heads is fine, but once the bird is dunked in hot water to loosen the feathers, your hands will stink for the rest of the day. [Gag]

I loved For Such a Time, and I'm looking forward to reading your book!

Julie Lessman said...

TRACEY, I am just starting Lisa Wingate's The Story Keeper, so thanks for sharing those lines -- beautiful!!

Ooooo, VINCE, you come up with the BEST ideas!! If Kate doesn't want the "The Gang the Could Shoot Straight" concept, can I have it??? ;)

You are SUCH an idea man, that I honestly think you could go into business as an author's consultant for brainstorming!! I have used two or three of your ideas and plan to use more ... :)


S. Trietsch said...

This is 90% of my inner voice's mantra:

"My novel would come across vague and juvenile, like seventh-grade Creative Writing class material, while my hero and heroine would be cardboard cutouts instead of three-dimensional characters."

Thanks for the encouragement! Stephanie

Kathryn Barker said...

Earl Grey and way to start a Friday!!

Great post, Kate. I agree writers and actors share similar goals...needing to know their characters thoughts and feelings and responses. I remember being in a few high school plays...and my drama teacher constantly nagging us to get inside the skin of the character we were playing. He'd have us practice improvisation to get a feel for the person...such fun!! Sometimes I find myself speaking my characters thoughts and feelings see how it sounds...does anyone else do this?

From The Convenient Bride Collection~Melissa Jagears' Blinded by Love~The scene where the hero and herione discuss the gift of singleness made my heart ache for both of them, and created hope that they'd overcome their fears and awkardness.

Happy Friday...enjoy your weekend!! I'm picking up the older grands and gonna have a FUN couple of days!!

Kate Breslin said...

Good morning MARY PRESTON! I love the scene you've described. Providing detail is always an important part of good writing. It makes you feel as though you're ready to sit down and dine with them, doesn't it? Thanks for posting! :)

Kate Breslin said...

Good morning, TINA! I'm enjoying a scone and a second cup of Earl Grey, so I'm ready to join in. Yes, the Washington city is Puyallup, pronounced Pew - allup (like gallop)! Isn't the fair wonderful? All kinds of good food!

I love Downton Abbey and that's what originally sparked the idea for my story, Not By Sight. Talk about being affected by scenes, I never forgot the episode in which the young footman, William, received a white feather from a local feminist crashing Lord Crawley's soldiers' benefit. After I began the research the time period, my story grew from there.

Kate Breslin said...

Oh, Jackie, you're leaving me in suspense? :) The collapsing bridge in Cathy's book sounds like a gripping scene and anything involving a child always grabs me. Thanks for sharing!

Kate Breslin said...

Hi Rose, it was wonderful finally meeting you at RWA! That's what I love about conference--seeing the faces and hearing the voices of the friends I've made through social media. Since we already know each other, it's like icing on the cake!
And no, I can't believe it's been a week already! The laundry still calls.... ;)
Thanks for saying hello!

Vince said...

Hi Julie:

OMG! You write a great scene like that for your secondary characters! Just what would you do for Katie and Luke?

However, as emotionally satisifying as that scene is for female readers, I much perfer Faith's adriation for the hero just before that scene:

"Faith thought with a languid sigh. She closed her eyes and envisioned the man who had fathered her children, and tears readily pricked her eyes. Thank you, God, for giving me the desire of my heart! In her mind’s eye she saw his smoldering good looks and his teasing ways, and warmth rushed through her body that had little to do with the tea in her hands. At thirty-four years of age, Collin seemed to be a man who only improved with time, and whenever he walked through her door, he never failed to trigger her pulse."

Can you see why I much prefer this passage? To be worthy of a love like that! Divine!

So good and this is not even Faith and Colin's story. (Shaking my head.)


P.S. While I liked Faith the best, I loved Emma the most.

Kate Breslin said...

Glynna Kaye, thank you! And yes, there is commonality in all of our actions and responses, and if we apply them to our writing, the scenes will resonate and come alive with readers. Well said!

Kate Breslin said...

Ruth Logan Herne, thank you, I am deliriously happy with my cover! Bethany House has a spectacular art department and so far I'm 2 for 2! I enjoy coffee as well, but today I thought I'd provide the tea, in honor of NBS's Swan's Tea Room in London. ;)

Researching for a novel is my favorite part of writing. (Though learning to deliver that breech calf was a bit more intense than I'd care to repeat. Still, it made for a fun scene.) Thanks for your post!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Whoa, Julie!!! Good stuff! My heart is potter pattering!

Kate Breslin said...

Oh, Tracey Hagwood, Lisa Wingate's writing is lovely! And you're right, just reading those lines gave me inspiration. Now I'll have to check out her series! :) Thanks for the post!

Kate Breslin said...

Janet Dean, thank you, I'm so happy to be at Seekerville this morning.

In writing the first draft of a story, I'll sketch my characters and their arc, but in the ensuing drafts, I'm able to get to know them intimately. I discover what motivates them and how they must feel given any action (this is where my own layers get peeled back) until finally they come fully alive for me as the writer. I hope the reader feels the same way without consciously thinking about it. :)
Great question!

Kate Breslin said...

Elaine, my friend, it's good to be here with you! Wow, yes, that scene in the concentration camp sounds edge-of-the-seat. Jodi Picoult does gritty scenes exceptionally well, too. I remember reading My Sister's Keeper and being completely jarred by the ending. Yikes!

Thanks for sharing!

Kate Breslin said...

Vince, very well said! Absolutely, the history's got to be solid in order to make our stories authentic. And my stories do seem to be traveling backward in time, don't they? I'd love to read about the Rough Riders, but I'm hanging around the Western Front for the next story, too, though I may change location. The period surrounding the First World War is so full of interesting facts--the war itself, Women's Suffrage, Ireland's Easter Rising, then there's assembly line production, the dawn of ready made clothes, department stores, etc. well I could go on and on. ;) I loved your description of 1947 NY during the Macy's Day parade. Sounds like Ruth Logan Herne captured the scene beautifully! Thanks for the post!

Kate Breslin said...

Sarah Claucherty, thank you! And I loved reading about DH's O'Malleys! It's inspiring to read about family dynamics and how they deal with one another, especially through faith and love. As readers we *soak this in* and apply many of these principals to ourselves. I feel over the years I've grown as a woman and a daughter of Christ through the lovely works I've had the pleasure of reading. Seeing great examples helps us remain hopeful for our own life story. I appreciate your insight!

Kate Breslin said...

Hey Ruth, I'm up for zucchini bread!

Myra Johnson, you must have some kind of will power to leave poor Zach and Abby hanging like that! ;) And my stories would be *dull, indeed* if I relied on my own experiences, LOL! Thank goodness truth is stranger than fiction. I appreciate your post!

Pam Hillman said...

Sarah, I too remember the O'Malleys, and after all these years I especially remember the opening scene of The Negotiator. Great scene to draw you in!

Kate Breslin said...

Suzie Johnson, I remember you! My word, it's been a long time! And yes, it was the writer's conference at Menuchah Retreat Center near the Colombia river. You were there? It was a beautiful place, and really did feel like summer camp! I recall those Sleepless in Silverdale conferences too, especially the time we writers all dressed in our (themed) jammies and went down to the hotel ballroom. Author Catherine Coulter, clad in her nightgown and robe, played the piano for us. :)
So great to reconnect with you on Seekers!

Pam Hillman said...

I'm currently reading The Creole Princess by Beth White. I can't really pinpoint a particular scene that stands out to me, but the book...the whole book...draws me back. I want to whole what happens to Rafa, Lyse, Simon, Daisy, and their extended family. I'm invested in the characters. I only have a few pages to go! :)

Myra, they are in a fix, aren't they? And, not sure exactly how far you've read, but it gets worse before it gets better! lol

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, pitter-patter, not potter. Lol

Tina Radcliffe said...

A retreat on the Columbia River! Perchance near those famous wineries?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Kate, what are working on next?

Kate Breslin said...

Julie Lessman, HELLO!!!!! And thank you again for your support of Not By Sight! I read your posts out of order, too, and the scene with Collin and Faith brought tears to my eyes--see how even a few lines of good story can reach out and grab us? It's gratifying, not to mention ironic--how God touched you in your own writing and gave you insight to help with a problem. I love how He sprinkles His Truth in the most unpredictable places and tells us exactly what we need to hear when we need to hear it. :) As for those palpitations, boy, that's the sign of a good scene! But take it easy, girl! ;)
So glad to be with you on Seekers today! xx

Kate Breslin said...

Hi Rachael Koppendrayer! I'm also an avid reader, and while I prefer paper to e-books, the one benefit of having a Kindle is that it slips into my purse and I can take it with me anywhere. Sounds like you've got real experience with those chickens, too! I watched several videos on YouTube to see how the butchering and plucking was done (gulp!) The woman instructor was very humane about it, but I'm such a wimp I couldn't watch her behead them. I imagine if I'd grown up on a farm, I wouldn't think twice, right? :) Thanks for your post!

Chill N said...

Oh Kate, such a good post! Love the list of all the things you've learned to do as part of your writing. I consulted a veteran horseback rider once about my hero riding at night through unfamiliar territory. Not only did I learn a lot, she gave me an added tip -- the horse's shoes would cause little sparks against the rocks at night. Way cool detail!

A scene that really pulled at me in a story was a woman Army captain, stateside from being severely wounded while serving in Afghanistan, facing the possibility of never being able to use her right leg completely again. Watching a character who is accustomed to being in perfect physical shape, who is used to control (and command) having to come to grips with something she can't change was powerful.

OMG, what a book cover. Love the dress color :-)

Nancy C

Kate Breslin said...

Oh, Stephanie Trietsch, we writers always second-guess ourselves, so don't feel alone! That's why we must give ourselves permission to turn off the inner editor and simply write for the joy of it, even if it's dreck! The clean up is always easier when we have something on the page. Bless you and wishing you every success!

Wilani Wahl said...

In my arc copy of a book that will be out in September, I met the most wonderful character who was very much an integral part of the book even though he is not human. It was a fat lovable Beagle who stole my heart and the story when he escaped from home and invited himself to a new family's picnic by eating their pizza. This is in the first chapter and he makes several appearances in the book. I don't want to spoil by telling other fun instances involving Frankie the Beagle. This book for those who might enjoy it is by Shelley Shepard Gray and is titled A Wedding at the Orange Blossom Inn.

Thank you for this wonderful post.

Vince said...

Hi Kate:

If you are doing another book about the time of WWI, I recommend you listen to the Great Teaching Course, "World War I - The Great War".

This course should be titled "Everything you know about WWI is False". Did you know that the Germans never were invaded? The German people thought they were winning the war and then one day they wake up to find that Germany had surrendered! They were furious. After listening to this course I could see why Hitler had such an easy time getting elected.

This course can probably be obtained at your library. I have not found the WWI period to be very well covered by romance writers but the period seems to be coming into its own at long last. I look forward to reading your new book.


Kate Breslin said...

Kathryn Barker, thanks for your post! I confess that I talk aloud when writing dialog for my characters, and sometimes I don't even realize it because I'm so deep into the scene. But then my husband, John, will call up to me from downstairs and ask who I'm talking to LOL!

Melissa Jagears' scene in Blinded By Love sounds beautiful and heartfelt, since it obviously reached out to you. Enjoy your grands this weekend!

Sarah Claucherty said...

Pam, I still have that series in a coveted central position on my bookshelves! (The other books are always eying them enviously;) I'm contemplating swiping the 2 prequels from my sister's shelves to complete my set! ...whistling innocently...

I have Dee's newest release, Taken, waiting for me near the tippity-top of my TBR pile with bated breath (or is that me whose breath is anxiously bated?) :)

Sarah Claucherty said...

Faith was a familiar soul to me, but Emma just has that something which begs a reader to love her, doesn't she?

Sarah Claucherty said...

I have to echo Ruthy: your covers are beautiful!

Kate Breslin said...

Pam Hillman, hi! I read Beth's The Pelican Bride, and I know what you mean. Her exceptional research of the territory, the hardships, and way of life for the early French settlers makes you feel like you're there! The Creole Princess is definitely on my TBR list! Details parsed out in just the right measure are essential for "painting" the story scenes and inviting readers into our world. Much like rolling the movie camera between the pages. :) Thanks so much for your post!

Sarah Claucherty said...

Ruthy, today I bring fresh-out-of-the-oven, homemade chocolate brownies! And the requisite glasses of milk, of course :)

Sarah Claucherty said...

Fixing up BLTs made with garden-fresh Indiana tomatoes, too, if anyone's hankering for a lunch break from their keyboards!

Mary Connealy said...

Write what you know.

Do you suppose that's why I finally got published? the cowboy knowledge?

I do know I wrote a YA series about kid geniuses once and I think, maybe, I wasn't quite smart enough to write it.

Kate Breslin said...

Tina, there is a winery in Astoria called Shallon Winery, owned by an older gentleman who loves to regale customers with anecdotes of his youth while living in post-war Oregon (not sure which war, as he's getting on in years.) He also produces the most delicious chocolate-orange wine. Whenever I visit the area, I always go in and say hello, and of course, have a little taste! :)

My next novel for Bethany House is set during the same time period, the fall of 1917. I'm still plotting, so for the sake of my creativity I can't reveal much yet, only that readers will enjoy romance, danger, and lots of adventure! How's that for being vague? ;)

Mary Connealy said...

I'm reading a David Baldacci series right now starring John Puller (thank's Vince, really enjoying it) and I'm struck all the time by the military knowledge in this book. So much, so casually tossed in, not central to the story necessarily, that I can't imagine writing this book without either staggering amounts of research or some personal knowledge. But he's a lawyer, so how does he KNOW this stuff. Could it be a ... a ... not co-author exactly, but an expert adviser who goes in and lines it all up?
I thought it was very well done but so complex.

Kate Breslin said...

Nancy C, thanks for your post! Aren't those little-known details wonderful? Like the way Grace would hold her thumb on the crank so as not to break her wrist--I love those bonuses! I just read the scene you described about the Army captain and it gave me chills. I'm sure many readers can relate to how it must feel to suddenly lose control of your life, to be prevented by an injury to follow your passion. I'm an avid walker, so I thank God daily that my legs still function properly and get me from point A to point B.

Kate Breslin said...

Wilani, hello! Animals, no matter what kind (except maybe snakes,) always have a way of tugging at my heart. I can't help thinking of my own little girl cat, Coco, a beautiful Russian Gray mix who is the sweetest creature on earth. It's probably why dogs, cats, and horses make such popular story characters, because we readers can so easily fall in love with them. Thanks for sharing!

Kate Breslin said...

Wow, Vince, what a great site! Just added to my favorites. Yes, the Kaiser and his minions were good at hiding the truth from the German people. I obtained a book from our amazing public library system--a 1919 memoir written by an American National living in Belgium during the German occupation. An interesting tidbit: when the war wound down and German soldiers from the trenches traveled back through Brussels on their way home, they rioted against their own government, and caused additional death and damages to that city. They were tired, wounded, and sickened by war and defeat. Many actually sided with the Allies.

Things are never all black and white, are they? :) Thanks for the link!

Kate Breslin said...

LOL! Mary Connealy, I'm sure you're way smarter than any of your characters. :) I bet having a ranch background makes the research a whole lot easier too, yes? For us citified folks, it was necessary to take Cowboy 101 just so I could learn how to saddle a horse or brand a herd of cattle. I did write about a bull rider once and got the chance to see them in action at our local rodeo. Wow, that's some kind of crazy, dangerous sport! Though I admit to being thrilled watching those brave cowboys tame the wild beasts.

It was great seeing you at RWA!

Kate Breslin said...

Sarah, all this talk of food is making me hungry again. And when I wait too long to post, the prompt below makes me prove I'm not a robot by making me click on pictures of food. Like, "select the photos with French fries." Really? I need to get a snack!

Kate Breslin said...

Thank you, Sarah! The cover artist is Kathleen Lynch. I send her chocolate. ;)

Jeanne T said...

Kate, it's so nice to "meet" you here. :) What a great post, and I love the cover of your novel. :) Authenticity in characters is what I'm striving for in my book, and what you said about peeling back our own layers to help produce authentic characters. I'm not always great at doing this, but I'm learning. :)

In answer to your question, I'm reading, "Always On My Mind," by Susan May Warren. And the scene I'm reading now is one that really strikes me. Her hero admits to his sister the real reason things didn't work out for him and his former girlfriend (heroine). He was her second choice. It struck me, because it's dealing with rejection, which has been an unpleasant companion of my own for many years. I can't wait to read how he moves beyond that and into a place with a more accurate truth. :)

Kate Breslin said...

Hmmm, so everyone must be at Sarah's house munching on BLTs and home-made chocolate brownies. Can't say I blame you! :)

So, my turn: A unforgettable scene from a story was near the end of Francine Rivers' A VOICE IN THE WIND, the first in her Mark of the Lion Trilogy. Heroine Esther had me in her grip as she faced a fate worse than death. It's a good thing I had the second book at my fingertips because I HAD to know what happened! This was also the series that convinced me to embark upon my voyage into writing inspirational fiction, so it affected me in many ways.

As for a more recent scene, I read debut author Susan Anne Mason's Irish Meadows and was completely caught up in Colleen's impossible love situation. I honestly wasn't sure how things would work out and my heart ached for her! We can all remember a time when love seemed way beyond our reach...and then suddenly presented itself when we least expected it. Sigh. How romantic!

Kate Breslin said...

Hi Jeanne, that sounds like a great scene. Yes, I want to know how the hero works through it, too. Boy, rejection is something we've all experienced--I still cringe to think back to my crushes that got crushed!

Plumbing the depths of our own emotions isn't easy, but you know you're there when the tears start falling while you type, and you realize the universal truth you've just discovered for your character is one you've experienced yourself. In my view, that's gold. If you feel you can't scratch beyond the surface, I find it sometimes helps to ask your characters questions, and I mean the really difficult ones. You'll be amazed at what they tell you. :)

I wish you every success in peeling back those layers!

Kate Breslin said...

Mary Connealy, I think lawyers have to become super-fast readers for their work, don't they? Poring through those massive-sized legal tomes before presenting a case. You could be right though, he might have a research team that sets it all up for him. Dream on, Kate... :)

Missy Tippens said...

Kate, welcome! It was great to meet you at RWA!

Thanks for this post. I'm amazed at the research you've done! I usually enjoy researching careers for my contemporaries but worry that I won't get it right.

Barbara Scott said...

Kate, hurray for Google, Wikipedia, and my most favorite site!! Beats card catalogs.

In my latest WIP, while on their way from Boston to Montana Territory, my newly married hero and heroine (marriage of convenience of course) and their four children (his sister's kids) are caught up in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 in Chicago and have to run for their lives. Before I started my manuscript I knew that it would be set in 1877 and my characters would fuss all the way to Montana, but where was the gunfire and danger in that?

Then voila! My research revealed that 1877 was the year of a great economic depression, and the trains were brought to a halt by the strike. (The railroad barons cut everyone's pay by 10%). The riots started in West Virginia, spread to Baltimore, and from there on to Chicago and St. Louis. It took 45 days to quell the mobs and restore order. Hundreds of people were killed--rioters, policemen, federal troops, and soldiers in the National Guard, as well as decent men who formed militias. Tracks were blocked, trains burned, stores and factories and distilleries looted, and freight (food, cattle, etc.) went nowhere. The trains came to a complete stop, stranding a lot of people. Who knew? I've now read first-hand accounts in the Chicago papers on

I love it when God has a plan before I can even think of an idea!!

Finished an older MARY CONNEALY book last night...Deep Trouble. I feel like I've been injured, kidnapped, and dragged through the bottom of the Grand Canyon by outlaws in 1881 while falling in love. Soooo satisfying. Mary never disappoints.

JULIE, I know what you mean about brevity. I started to type one tiny sentence here and got carried away.

Would love to read NOT BY SIGHT, Kate! Stunning cover!

R Merr said...

A scene from A Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall when the heroine realizes that her sin which she thought kept her bound... was indeed forgiven and covered by the blood of Christ. She finally accepted Christ and realized she was free! It was a scene I won't soon forget!

Kate Breslin said...

Hi Missy! I was wonderful meeting you in NYC! I had such a great time!

The benefit of researching contemporary fiction is that we can often interview the person or go to their workplace and see the operation. I admit, for me it's a bit daunting though, especially when I tell them I'm a romance author writing a story. Years ago I was doing a contemporary romance set on a Florida cattle ranch, so when I was down there visiting family, I toured a ranch similar to the one I imagined in my fictional world. I feared the ranch manager would be stand-offish or roll his eyes at me, but he and his crew went out of their way to be helpful and give me the grand tour, offering lots of good information. I'm so glad I finally got the courage to do it. The trip certainly offered me new insight! :)

Kate Breslin said...

Hi Barbara, so glad to meet you on Seekers! And how wonderful you found a piece of real history to enhance your characters' adventure in their trek toward Montana Territory!
When I begin to research a time period, like you, I try to discover something epic--a natural disaster, war, famine, bank robbery--in which to set my characters so I don't make things too easy for them! ;) Thanks for the link to too, I didn't know about that one. The Internet is AMAZING!

Kate Breslin said...

Hi Rachael! Wow, that scene sounds like it packs a punch, emotionally and spiritually. I remember the moment when this Prodigal daughter finally returned to her faith, and once I accepted Christ back into my heart, my whole world became a lot brighter and full of love. I realized then I wasn't alone, because He'd never left my side. :} Thank you for sharing!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Kate,
Thank you so much for mentioning my book! I've just started your first book and am sure it is going to be wonderful. You have captured the feel of Nazi Germany very well without having been there!
I must say I am really looking forward to 'Not By Sight', seeing that the time period is the same as my series! Funny how things work out like that!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, last minute question..."GUITARIST HUSBAND?"

Suzie Johnson said...

Kate, yes, it was Menucah (however you spelled it-lol). I only went once. It was wonderful. I didn't spend the night, though, because my husband was with me. Perhaps I'll see you in San Diego next year. I can't go to ACFW this year, but I'll be cheering you on from home. :-)

Suzie Johnson said...

Kate, yes, it was Menucah (however you spelled it-lol). I only went once. It was wonderful. I didn't spend the night, though, because my husband was with me. Perhaps I'll see you in San Diego next year. I can't go to ACFW this year, but I'll be cheering you on from home. :-)

Kate Breslin said...

Hi Susan Anne Mason, I loved reading your Irish Meadows! And thank you for your kind words about For Such A Time. That took me years of research!
After writing WWII, I found I was really drawn to DA, and then the elegance of turn-of-the-century history. I hope you'll enjoy reading Not By Sight, too. :)

Kate Breslin said...

Hi Tina, yes, my hubby, John, is an accomplished guitarist. He plays solo at local pubs and events, mostly electric blues and mellow rock. He's also in a band, the Electric Bards, with Natalie Poss, whose an extremely talented 4th-grade music teacher and plays a mean piano/keyboard while she composes songs using the prose of such greats as Longfellow and Shakespeare. The end result is wonderful! You can listen to sample songs of The Electric Bards at
It was great fun at my debut launch of For Such A Time; after the book signing at B&N, everyone trekked down to the other end of the mall to a restaurant where he was playing. My new readers bought a book and got to listen to some good music! :)

Kate Breslin said...

Suzie, I wonder if we were there the same year? What a coincidence to meet you again on Seekers! And thank you for your encouragement. I plan to make RWA in San Diego, since next year it's being held on my side of the hemisphere. :) I hope you'll be there, too. If you get a chance, find me on FB. I'd love to catch up!

Kate Breslin said...

Tina and Seekers, THANK YOU so much for inviting me to join you today! I've had a blast! Many of you East-coasters have probably called it a night, but I'll check in again before too long. Blessings, Kate

Julie Lessman said...

VINCE SAID: "OMG! You write a great scene like that for your secondary characters! Just what would you do for Katie and Luke?"

AW, thanks, Vince, and to be honest, I cried through most of Katie and Luke's scenes as well because I just absolutely LOVE those two!!

And I really like Faith and Collin's whole subplot in that book, but I caught some flack from some readers for putting Collin the that situation of working with a former girlfriend.

I know you like Emma best, and my husband feels the same way, Vince. She is pretty special, I will agree, but I guess I'm just more partial to the spitfires like Katie and Charity. ;)


Julie Lessman said...

Gosh, Tina, thanks sooo much, my friend! It's one thing to get compliments from readers, but to get them from highly respected peers is THE BEST!!

LOL, KATE, don't worry, I am "taking it easy," just not when I read books ... ;) And that blesses me that that scene brought tears to your eyes too -- a high compliment, indeed!


Danielle Hull said...

Beautiful post! What a confidence builder!

In Billy Coffey's "The Curse of Crow Hollow" a character said that anger and hate make people fear and respect you; I wanted to keep reading in hopes that this rough-and-tumble character would be transformed by love.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Kate, Sorry I missed yesterday. But it looks like you had a fun and productive day. Thank you for coming to Seekerville and posting with us. It is always so fun to meet our Seeker friends and find out more about them. Happy writing.

Tina Radcliffe said...

How cool, Katie. I have a son who is a guitarist as well and is opening his open pub this fall.

Cindi A said...

A scene that comes to mind is from reading A Bride at Last by Melissa Jagears.
It's when Silas put the welfare of his son ahead of his love for a potential wife. (I don't want to say her name for those who haven't read the novel)
This affected me deeply because it is not easy to put someone else's wellbeing ahead of our own.

~Cindi Altman from PA

Sparks of Ember said...

I am currently reading Mardan's Mark by Kathrese McKee and the first chapter did a great job of immediately drawing me into the story. It's where we meet a young man who is a slave on a pirate ship, and his 2 slave-brothers as they discuss their hopes to someday escape to freedom, and we learn this slave has no recollection of his life before he was enslaved and the pirate captain thinks this highly amusing. It made me very intrigued to learn more.