Thursday, February 23, 2017

Using Readers for Story Inspiration

with guest Karen Witemeyer.

Writing is a solitary endeavor. We sit alone with our computers, locked away from reality for hours on end crafting (and re-crafting, and tossing out, then crafting again) page-turning, award-winning prose. We instruct our children not to disturb us unless there's blood. We plead with our husbands to pick up pizza because we just need five more minutes (okay, forty-five minutes) to finish our chapter. We become experts at pushing people out of our writing world, at least I do.

On the other hand, anyone who has published a book can tell you that creating a saleable product takes an entire team of people working together. Editors, cover designers, marketing specialists, sales directors, retailers, and most important of all, readers. Out of necessity, professional authors learn how to allow numerous cooks into their kitchen during the production stage, but like a chef whipping up a batch of secret sauce, we tend to shut the door on outsiders while we're perfecting the recipe of our manuscript.


The control freak in me resists letting anyone else in on my creative process. I'm not one of those authors that have dozens of ideas floating around in their heads or stored in their filing cabinets. I'm a rather odd duck. I search for one viable idea then grab on with both hands, not letting go until the manuscript is finished. I'm very quick to throw ideas out and very slow to commit to the one. (Hmm… sounds like some romance heroes I know.) So brainstorming is hard for me. However, when tight deadlines offer little wiggle room, and my current creative well is running dangerously low, I don't have time to sit around and wait for a flash flood of creativity. I have to woman up and ask for help.

That's what happened to me with this latest novella. I had already completed the manuscript for the first book in the Ladies of Harper's Station series, No Other Will Do, and I needed to get rolling on the sequel novella. 

Worth the Wait $1.99 for Kindle.

 I knew the characters: Shopkeeper Victoria Adams – single mother and determined never to let a man close; Freighter Benjamin Porter – has delivered Tori's supplies to the women's colony for a year and sells their goods to outside vendors. He's determined to woo the shopkeeper into a partnership that goes beyond business.

I knew the starting plot point – Tori and Ben start up a new business delivering goods directly to area farmers and ranchers. They set out on a day-long run to drum up business for their new venture.

What I didn't know was what was going to happen on this trip to draw them together. Everything idea I had, I'd used before. I needed something fresh. Different. But I had nothing.

It also happened to be time for me to write a blog post for Inspired by Life and Fiction, a group Christian fiction blog I'm a part of, and I had nothing to write for that, either. Pitiful.

You know how your mama always told you that two wrongs don't make a right? Well, this time she was WRONG! I threw those two wrongs together and came up with something exactly right. I wrote a blog post asking readers to help me plot my next story. I gave them the bare bones of what I knew then begged them for help. The result was better than I could have hoped.

Comments poured in. So many ideas. Some I liked, some that weren't quite right, but all of them stirred my creative juices and got them flowing in new and exciting directions. Four in particular made a meaningful enough impact on me that by the end of the day, I pretty much had my entire story plotted.

Those four readers saved my bacon, and in appreciation, I dedicated my novella to them. Be sure to look for their names if you download a copy of Worth the Wait.

Readers have help me out before. One day we were chatting about character names on Facebook and one lady mentioned that she'd recently had a daughter and named her Charlotte because it was such a beautiful, old-fashioned name and suggested I consider it when naming my next heroine. I did, and a new Charlotte was born – Charlotte Atherton, my heroine from Worthy Pursuit, the novel that won the ACFW Carol Award this past year.

A Worthy Pursuit

A year and a half ago, I had the honor of doing a book tour with my Dutch publisher in The Netherlands. So many of the readers there jokingly asked me to write a story with a Dutch hero. A few random ideas started percolating, and by the end of the trip, I had decided I would do just that. The Ladies of Harper's Station series alternates between two novels and two shorter novellas. The last novella, which I turned in a couple months ago, will feature that Dutch hero. In America, of course, coming to Harper's Station, TX. It took a little finagling to get him there, but I had already introduced a runaway mail order bride in the first book who was Irish, so it didn't take too long to piece together a way for these two immigrants to have known each other back east.

The best inspiration I receive from readers, though, are the notes they write. Hearing how my stories touched them, made them laugh, or helped them get through a hard time makes all the work worthwhile. Without readers, I would have no reason to write. So I look for ways to honor them whenever I can. 
No Other Will Do

Question for you:


  • If you were to give me a plot point to use in my next book, what would you suggest? The only parameter is that it must fit into a late 1800's time frame. Other than that, anything goes. Have fun! The crazier the better.  

One lucky commenter will win an autographed copy of the book that started the Ladies of Harper's Station series – No Other Will Do.  Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

Men are optional. That's the credo Emma Chandler's suffragette aunts preached and why she started a successful women's colony in Harper's Station, Texas. But when an unknown assailant tries repeatedly to drive them out, Emma admits they might need a man after all. A man who can fight--and she knows just the one.

Malachi Shaw finally earned the respect he craved by becoming an explosives expert for the railroad. Yet when Emma's plea arrives, he bolts to Harper's Station to repay the girl who once saved his life. Only she's not a girl any longer. She's a woman with a mind of her own and a smile that makes a man imagine a future he doesn't deserve.


As the danger intensifies, old feelings grow and deepen, but Emma and Mal will need more than love to survive.


Christy Award finalist and winner of the ACFW Carol Award, National Reader's Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, CBA bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes Christian historical romance for Bethany House, believing the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.



124 comments :

  1. Welcome Karen! I've enjoyed many of your books & find your wit refreshing :-) I do so love an author who lets their humor shine in a book!

    I am no writer, and I don't really understand what a plot point is, but they only two things I would love to read more about are female Pinkerton agents and/or Harvey Girls. I know of Carol Cox who wrote "Love in Disguise" featuring a young woman who ends up working as an undercover Pinkerton agent (a funny read). Then Margaret Brownley wrote some of the same kind of characters as well (Undercover Ladies series). She also had a Pinkerton agent disguising as a Harvey girl in "Calico Spy". I think there would be so many interesting scenarios you could take off from there :-) All sorts of trouble could come to a female Pinkerton agent...lol! Maybe it's just in my imagination :-)

    I didn't know you asked readers to help you, I think that's so neat! And how they did just that, you never know what will spark an idea. Please add my name to the hat for your book "No Other Will Do.", thanks so much!

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    1. I have to admit, I love the Pinkerton idea too!

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    2. Pinkertons - Got it. :-) I just recently discovered a Canadian drama now available on Netflix called The Pinkertons. It features real life detective Kate Warne who was the first female Pinkerton agent around the Civil War. I'll have to watch some more and get some ideas flowing.

      And one of my favorite old movies is Harvey Girls with Judy Garland. She was so spunky and fun. Loved when she served raw steak to the saloon owner and called it rare. :-)

      Great ideas, Trixi!

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  2. Welcome back to Seekerville, Karen! I love the covers of your books. And Worth the Wait is on sale. I scooped that puppy up.

    I am going to go ponder your question, because, yes I am writer, but I am a reader first and I want to toss some ideas at you!!!

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    1. Thanks, Tina! Always fun to visit you fabulous ladies here at Seekerville!

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  3. Welcome Karen:

    I've long wanted a historical romance author to have a chance encounter with one of the several English authors who toured the U.S. in the late 19th Century. These speaking tours were very profitable. Many went out west and even into small mining camps! Speaking fees were key.

    I'd also like to see a salesman come to town to sell Mark Twain's newest novel, probably Tom Sawyer, which like many of Twain's best selling books, were sold by subscription only. They were not sold in book stores. Most people do not know this. I think it would be interesting to hear part of the sales pitch the salesman would give to sell a Mark Twain book for future delivery to a couple in their farm home.

    Selling by subscription was profitable but authors who did this were looked down upon as if they were not good enough to be accepted by the traditional publishers. Does that sound familiar?

    Please put me in the drawing for one of your books.

    Vince

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    1. Vince, this is a cool idea, I totally never knew about. Going to look this up!

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    2. Interesting! I did have a traveling book salesman in one of my early books - Head in the Clouds - but he ended up being a villain. Might have to try again with a more heroic bent. Thanks!

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    3. Hi Karen:

      Wow! I just went to buy "Head in the Clouds" and discovered I already own it! It's still in my TBR file on an old Kindle. I remember at the time it was an impulse purchase because I had read "Love on a Dime" and loved that book with its beautiful heroine reading a book on the cover. This is like winning a book! I'm going to download "Head in the Clouds" to my new Paperwhite Kindle and start reading about the book salesman. As someone who has given sales training seminars for many years I'll end with this: "Nothing happens until someone sells something."

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    4. I hope you enjoy it, Vince! The book salesman has a very small role at the beginning of the story to set up the heroine's predicament, but hopefully you'll enjoy the rest as well. Blessings!

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  4. There is a reason I don't write, more than one actually, but I can't think of a single thing.

    Count me in thank you.

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    1. Ha! Don't feel bad, Mary. Even we authors get in that funk from time to time. Hence why we need brainstorming help from time to time. :-)

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  5. Hi Karen! You've got me thinking :-) Okay, a plot point that would work in in the late 1800s? Hmm. 1) Bandits kidnap someone's child and hold the child for ransom. 2) The main character wears some type of disguise to get something 3) A woman inherits wealth or a business and now has to sift through the intentions of a bunch of suitors who show up in her life all of a sudden.

    Please enter me in the drawing!

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    1. I love the suitors idea, Preslaysa.

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    2. That suitor idea caught my attention, too. Usually it's the wealthy man who saves the destitute woman. Might be fun to flip that around. Hmm...

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  6. Hi Karen! What about a mail order groom that meets his intended and is spooked and can't go through with it. Maybe a female sheriff comes to his aid and helps him by paying back the money used to get him to his intended. Role reversals?

    Please enter me. I love the covers of your books as well.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. As a matter of fact, I just saw that Margaret Brownley's next book has a female sheriff. A Match Made in Texas is her title - not to be confused with the novella collection of the same name that Mary Connealy and I participated in. I do like the mail order groom, though. I've been wanting to use that idea for a while now. Maybe I'll come up with something along those lines one of these days.

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    2. One of my favorite authors, J. A. Jance, has a big series of female sheriff mysteries that are best sellers. Look for the Sheriff Brady series. Highest recommendation!

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  7. I love using readers to help me, Karen... it creates such a wonderful bond between us! They help me shape stories, pick names, dogs/puppies... it's so much fun because we get invested in the outcome together!

    Great stuff here and thank you for being with us in Seekerville today. Congratulations on all of your success, your stories absolutely sparkle for the reader.

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    1. Thanks, Ruth! Love this Seekerville group!

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  8. I brought coffee and fixin's! With a tray of fresh, chewy Brooklyn bagels and smear... Let's start the day off right, my friends!

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  9. Welcome to Seekerville, Karen. Ruthy, I need your coffee. Thanks!

    Late 1800s? Bitter feelings about the Civil War? My family is from Kentucky, and you know we were divided. There were two Civil War forts on my family property in the 1800s. In my life, my granddaddy ended up with one of the forts on his farm. My brother and I often hiked out past the cattle to play at the fort. My family never really talked about the war, and I'm talking in the 1980s. So if they were still affected by it, how much more so would people living in the late 1800s? Plot point? If it's romance, maybe a girl growing up with brothers and playing with their friends falls in love with one of the guys who goes off to war. He starts with one side, but converts to the other side. She doesn't realize it, even after he returns home. Maybe he was a prisoner or in a hospital. She's happy when he returns until she accidentally finds out he fought for the other side.
    Hope that helps. Thanks for sharing today, Karen! Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!

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    1. Jackie, the Civil War fort is a cool bit of history to have, but not so cool for your family. I can only imagine the strain on their relationships.

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    2. ooooh!ooooh!oooh! So cool Jackie. What rich history you have in your life, first hand.

      Mine is limited to immigration through Ellis Island.

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    3. How wonderful to have that piece of history literally in your back yard! The Civil War certainly provides a lot of avenues for conflict. Even withing families there were rifts when one brother fought for the North and another for the South. A lot of tension there.

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  10. Welcome, Karen! What a fun way to brainstorm -- with readers! Love it!

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    1. Thanks, Glynna. It was a fun experience for me. I'd definitely do it again. :-)

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  11. There were so many events for the 1800's. One that could be cool is a fictional twist of the opening of the Library of Congress, give it a female librarian and a romance with a young congressman. I am thinking a tale of a young mane needing to be save (the beast of DC ) then a young lady who's dream of being a part of this historic library comes true and she is our Belle.

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    1. Bree Herron! Waving. Great to see you here. And cool idea!

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    2. Fun idea, Bree. I love Beauty and the Beast tales. That is my most favorite trope. And as it turns out, one of the writer's groups that I'm a part of is having a retreat this April in DC. How perfect is that! :-)

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  12. Oh and in 1806 is when Noah Webster published the first dictionary. That would be a cool idea. As a book lover doing some sort of twist with him or character that was very excited about the dictionary lol.

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    1. Good old Noah would be a fun character to have a cameo appearance in a book. Wonder how he collected all his words. Would he have had a female assistant anywhere along the road? Hmmm...

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  13. I just slipped over to Amazon...as Tina pointed out, Karen's "Worth the Wait" is $1.99 on Kindle right now. Couldn't resist! :)

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  14. I'm so glad you mentioned that don't have tons of ideas just waiting in the wings. I like to think I'm a writer, but ideas are the hardest part for me. I'm in awe of those creative types who have page after page of prompts and plots just waiting for them. It makes me feel better to think that there are other writers out there like me!

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    1. Glynis! Great to see another upcoming Speedboer in Seekerville. What do you write?

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    2. You are definitely not alone, Glynis. It just recently occurred to me that maybe we are like the Israelites depending on God to feed our creativity. He gives us enough manna for one day. We collect it and work with him to make the best tasting manna meal we can, serve it up, then when that one is done, we step out in faith the next day and see what manna he has left for us this time.

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    3. Tina, I'm still looking for my heart's genre if that answers the question of what I write :) I've only written one manuscript--for Harlequin's Book to Blurb last year, but I'm not sure romance is my call.

      Karen-that's a wonderful analogy. I'm definitely going to keep that in mind as I seek Him and His call for me.

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  15. WELCOME BACK TO SEEKERVILLE, KAREN -- it's always fun to have you here!

    And I'm with Tina -- I think your covers are some of the best in the historical genre, so kudos to Bethany! In fact, I was so taken with them that I used several as "examples" of what I wanted Revell to do for me! ;)

    I have to say that you -- along with Mary Connealy -- have some of the most unique and intriguing plots in the historical biz, so I can well imagine it gets tougher and tougher to come up with something you haven't done before. But the idea of asking your readers is absolutely brilliant!

    The closest I came to that was a group of work friends I used to have lunch with. One day I confessed I was having problems coming up with plot points I liked and WHOA! Ideas suddenly came flying at me left and right from my dear friends (who were also readers of my books), so we nicknamed the group Club D after the restaurant we always went to, which was named Donohue's. That group saved my life on more than one occasion with their fresh twists and ideas, so I think I may just give that a try with my readers as well. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Hugs!
    Julie

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    1. Hi Julie:

      By 'best historical coves' do you mean what I mean: beautiful heroines? I noticed the covers don't show the heroes (or they cut their heads off). And it seems your books that come after "The Daughters of Boston" don't show heroes either. That's fine with me. I'm the hero in romances but how about showing the heroines? Won't the female readers know that the heroine is not them? What's the story?

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    2. What a lovely compliment, Julie. You're making me blush. Thank you!!! And, yes, I've been so blessed with my covers at Bethany House. They do such good work. My next one for Heart on the Line is one of my favorites so far. Partly because I finally got a heroine with a historically accurate updo. Ha!

      And Vince - I think the tendency to cut off heads in cover art is fading. The majority of my covers have had faces cut at various places, but I think the trend is moving back toward full faces. Although some have had cover models who are facing away from the camera. I think the idea of hiding faces is so that the reader can imagine the heroine or hero however they would like them to look.

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    3. Vince, the reason my books don't show the heroes after the DOB series is because it's too difficult to find a hero that all women like. For instance, Collin on A Passion Most Pure reeled in TONS of women because he's pretty hot. But on book 2, the original model pic for Mitch Dennehy actually made me cry, it was so bad. So I begged my artist hubby to work on him, and then sent the suggestions to Revell, who made the changes I asked my hubby to make based on his rendition. The bottom line is it's just TOO hard to get a hero most women will like, so they nixed the heroes in the next series. And, YES, that's adorable that YOU are the hero in the romances you read. I just love you, my friend, you know that???

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    4. Karen, I LOVE the cover for Heart on the Line -- it actually reminds me of Deeanne Gist's Love on the Line a lot, but then I do think that Bethany does pattern your covers after Dee's very successful ones, so that's pretty cool.

      I actually like the heroines cut off or not showing their faces, but then that's just me. Sorry to hear that trend is fading.

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    5. I could be wrong on that. They do still show up from time to time. My last novel had a head cut off. But it seems to me that more and more covers are showing the whole face. it will be interesting to see what new style comes into vogue next.

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  16. I'm with Karen. I do not brainstorm. I can come up with tons of ideas on my own, but I cannot brainstorm with others. But this method is fun!

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    1. Hi Tina:

      You don't need others to brainstorm. Have you tried to brainstorm with your characters? Brainstorming is also a good time to interview your characters. You can catch them off guard! You can also learn a lot about your characters by watching how they brainstorm. This really works! (And don't overlook characters from your past books. They may have left the nest but they still have something to say.

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  17. 1889 The First Wall Street Journal began...okay now need conflict...thinking. Thinking.

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    1. Okay, I've got it. The WSJ started with of course stock reports. Only a few feature articles. They can only afford to hire one feature reporter. So it's him and her fighting for the same job. Two dogs one bone. They give them six weeks to prove they can bring up the circulation....I hand it over to you there.

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    2. Fun idea, Tina! Lots of built-in conflict. :-)

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  18. I love that you recruited the help of readers. Brilliant!

    I love people-n-disguise stories. Whether they're the rich pretending to be poor, or a lady pretending to be a man--for a good reason of course, or someone undercover. It makes for instant reader anticipation waiting for the moment their identity is revealed.

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    1. It's Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire!!! Yes. Love it.

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    2. I like those too, Connie. I even suggested an idea along those lines once, but my editor was not a fan of the woman disguised as man angle, so that one didn't fly at the time. I might have to try again.

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    3. I remember one of Catherine Coulter's book where the pretty sister made herself ugly because her father had promised a man the pick of one of his 3 daughters. The heroine was the prettiest, but didn't want to be picked. The hero had no intentions of remaining faithful to an arranged bride so he went for the ugliest. After all, she should feel appreciative that anyone would marry her.

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    4. Ha! That's a fun and unique twist, Connie. Great example!

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  19. Karen, I love the humor and unique characters in your novels, and yes, great covers! Brainstorming with readers is a brilliant idea. So many new writers are afraid someone will steal their ideas. Not likely. We have our own plots to worry about. lol

    Hmmm...ideas. How about a rich, female botanist from back east sketching the fauna as she explores the west? Meets cattleman, rancher, farmer who'd rather eat meat and potatoes and thinks she's a spoiled, self-indulgent rich girl who couldn't survive a single winter in Montana and who'd probably starve to death on her own. A bet perhaps?

    Please throw my name in the hat. :-)

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    1. Isn't that true, Barb. Newbies always fear that.

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    2. So true, Tina.

      Karen, I should have suggested "flora," not "fauna," unless we count the cowboy as fauna and she ends up sketching him a lot. ;-)

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    3. Ha! I like the "fauna" angle. :-) I did have a backstory plot in Stealing the Preacher that had similarities. Joanna's mother had been an art student back east who traveled into the West to paint the rugged landscapes. Until her stagecoach got held up and thieves tried to steal her paints. She put up such a ruckus that the leader opened the case and looked through her portfolio. He was so touched by her renderings that he gave her materials back to her then sought her out later (unmasked)and courted her. They eventually married, she turned him away from his outlaw ways, and they had a daughter who became the heroine for Stealing the Preacher. And she did paint the "fauna" sketching the hero Crockett Archer. :-)

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    4. So true, Tina.

      Karen, I should have suggested "flora," not "fauna," unless we count the cowboy as fauna and she ends up sketching him a lot. ;-)

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  20. Hi Karen,
    I have read and enjoyed every one of your books. You say your inspiration comes from your readers and the notes you receive about how they inspired and touched them, so I though you would enjoy this tidbit.
    My 11 year old granddaughter has followed in my and my daughter's footsteps and become a voracious reader. Not long ago she came over to check out some books from grammy's library. She left with a bag of 20 books, two of them yours. A few weeks later she brought back the 16 she had read. I ask her which one was her favorite. She picked Head In the Clouds. I could see how that story would appeal to her, a girl who likes books reading about a girl who likes books.

    So I guess if I offered any suggestion at all, it would be to incorporate tweenage and teenage girl characters in your books. It wouldn't have to be the main plot, but a few coming of age stories would make nice secondary character stories and would blend nicely with all the other 1880's possibilities. Actually now that I think about it, No Other Will Do starts out with a young friendship that develops into more later on. Exactly what I mean, more along that line of thought. If her misplaced kindle ever shows up, I can lend her the other eleven of your books I have on my kindle.

    You have a whole new generation of readers out there just waiting for you. Your books are the perfect place for young budding readers of Christian fiction to start.

    Thank you for the many quality hours of reading time I have enjoyed inside the pages of your books. I hope you find some new ideas today to inspire more of the same!

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    1. Great idea, Tracey. And how wonderful to hear about your granddaughter. I love that she enjoyed my books. Most of my children characters have been younger, but I'm liking the idea of a tweenage girl as a character somewhere. I'll have to mull that one over and see what I can come up with. Thanks for the idea!

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    2. Hi Tracey:

      I've wondered the same thing about teenagers in romances and I even asked this question on RT some twenty years ago.

      I'd love to hear Karen's answer. At RT the consensus was that teens were not cute. They were awkward, rebellious, and bigger kids had bigger problems. Women were reading romances to get away from the problems of their kids! They did not want romance with kids in them.

      Now Christian romances may well be different. However there is the problem that in the old west women were in such short supply that they often married (were snapped up) and had children of their own as teenagers.

      It might also be hard to make a nice sweet teenager believable.

      I'd love to see some teenagers, like Nancy Drew, in Christian fiction.

      As a marketing person, I think if you could create some strong teenage sub characters, there would be a market for it. You'd have to put them on the cover art, I believe, because they are so rare. (Also some publishers may think they are covered well enough in middle grade and YA as it is.)

      What will Karen say?

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    3. Oh My: I see Karen posted her answer to you while I was posting my comment. I hope she comes back. Vince

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  21. So glad to have you as our guest today, Karen. Fun to read how your invitation for readers to brainstorm with you turned out so well! That's a tip I'll have to store away for possible future use.

    But, like you, I enjoy honoring my readers (especially friends and family) in special ways, like naming characters for them or including something unique to them as part of the plot or a character's personality.

    No story ideas to suggest--too focused on my wip these days to think of much else!

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    1. I hear you, Myra. It can be all-consuming, can't it? Keep focused. I know that book will be great!

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  22. KAREN, welcome back! Always good to see you. Love how blog readers helped with your plot. Readers are a blessing!

    You made my day when you said you didn't have dozens of story ideas in your head or file cabinet. I'm exactly the same. One wonderful time God gave me a single sentence that sparked a story but normally I must work to come up with an idea for a story.

    Janet

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    1. I'm so glad to know there are more of us out there, Janet. LOL. Being creative is hard work. Whew!

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    2. Exactly! But then we are who we are. Call me a philosopher. ;-) We get there eventually. Your hard work pays off wit wonderful stories.

      Janet

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  23. Hey Karen! I love this! What a fun way to come up with ideas and flesh out stories.

    I don't really have a plot point idea so much as a setting or situation that could create a lot of interesting plot ideas. A few of the oldest zoos in the US were built in the mid-late 1800s. It might be fun to have the heroine be an animal specialist or vet and the hero be an investor or owner or even a reporter or political activist or something like that?

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    1. Oooh - that's very creative, Megan. And what fun cover art that could inspire. :-)

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  24. Hey, Karen. Welcome to Seekerville. Nice blog. Love your books!

    Here's my story idea (don't know if it really qualifies as a plot point yet): A woman is forced to dress as a man in order to get a job (maybe to help her family since her father has fallen ill)? Maybe she becomes a prison guard and meets an inmate whom she believes is innocent? (Google "prison guards in the 1800s" for more ideas.) Maybe her father used to work at the prison and is able to give "him" (his daughter) a recommendation? Or maybe she has to keep it secret from her father so as not to risk his frail heart.

    The romance could be with another guard (who also meets this girl as herself outside the prison – and for some reason—(read on)—she doesn't like him) or with the innocent inmate whom she wants to free. If it's with the guard, I imagine some conflict arising from her desire to prove the other man's innocence, though her seeming incompetence as a guard could certainly also provide extra conflict. Maybe there's also some misunderstanding about her father. The guard, not knowing who she really is says some offhanded things about her father that get her riled.

    The plot point could be that she, disguised as the guard off duty, is discovered visiting the innocent inmates' family and friends to try and get information to prove his innocence. The arrogant guard threatens to tell the warden, but she talks him out of it (for now). He believes her pursuit to be a “Conflict of interest. Your job is to guard, not to presume that you're smarter than judge and jury.” You could even leave it open to the possibility of a romance with either of the two men (angry guard vs. kind inmate – does the inmate discover her secret early on?). But maybe the inmate turns out to be something other than what he appears (really is guilty after all) and, in the end, the angry guard ends up rescuing her.

    Okay. I'll stop now. Even though I'm getting kind of excited.
    (You're lucky I don't write historical.)
    Will someone please write this? I want to read it. :-)

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    1. You're definitely on a roll, Lara. Awesome. There's just something about getting an idea that clicks with you that is so exciting!

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  25. Karen, welcome! What a fun post! I love that you used your blog post to help plot a story! Oh my goodness, I may steal that idea sometime! :)

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    1. Please do, Missy. It worked out great for me. :-)

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  26. This is such a fun post. I've had beta readers help me see different aspects to my story that gave the story more depth. It's always fun to see what others come up with. :)

    Thanks for sharing this, Karen!

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    1. Fresh eyes and fresh ideas can make a world of difference, Jeanne.

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  27. Karen, as you know, I love all your books and I tell you so on a regular basis! I've read your "giveaway" so don't put me in the drawing! I've also read "Worth the Wait" and loved it! Can't wait for your next book!
    I'm not very good at story ideas even though I read hundreds of books (and always have!!) Historical fiction is one of my favorites because HISTORY was my favorite in school! The only thing I thought of was most of my ancestors were pioneers who crossed the plains of this country to come West. Have you ever written a story that involved the wagon trains during that period of time?? Pioneers?? I think there would be a lot of plots you could come up with! Thanks for writing wonderful books!

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    1. Wagon train stories were actually my first love, Valri. One of these days, I might give one a try. Those pioneers battle so much with the elements and warring tribes and sickness - there would be a never ending supply of conflict sources.

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    2. Not to mention the frontier towns along the way! Unsavory characters and damsels in distress kidnapped from the wagon trains :) Even children in peril !!! Unlimited possibilities!

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  28. Hi Karen
    I LOVE your books!! I can never put them down (which means there's been more than one wee hours of the morning finish - but oh, so worth it). I know I don't have all of them...yet, but I do so love reading them when I get the budget to snatch one up. (just got Worth the Wait *yay*)

    I'm not good with historical information so I'm not sure my ideas would be any good. I liked the Pinkerton idea someone mentioned. I tend to like orphaned characters or redeemed thieves too. Has there been much done with someone white who grew up with Native Americans? Like some family homesteading got some sort of illness or met with an accident and the only one to live was a little one that someone from the tribe found and then took care of? See, there's that orphan thing again... I think it comes from being adopted.

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    1. I'm actually working on a new project right now that had back story in the orphan trains. Three kids that bond together as siblings when their orphan train derails. I've thought about using a half-breed with the Native American angle. Someone who doesn't know where they belong. Lots of good ideas!

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  29. p.s. forgot to mention my desire to have my name in the draw for your book. THANKS for your generosity!!!

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  30. Hi Karen, Welcome to Seekerville and thanks for sharing with us your stories of inspiration. It is always interesting to hear all the different ways God inspires our stories. Have fun today.

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    1. Thanks, Sandra. I pray for God's direction and creativity constantly, because I know I'm at a loss on my own. He is the King of Inspiration for sure. :-)

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  31. Some really good ideas here folks! And don't forget that Worth the Wait is $1.99 for Kindle. That's a steal.

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  32. Hi, Karen. For two weeks, I kicked around switching from contemporary to historical (and the 1880s time frame) and I read some great research books in those two weeks, including one about a woman who was a stagecoach driver and no one knew she was a woman until she died. I kicked that one around, a woman stagecoach operator - why would she do it? For a Christian inspirational, I kicked around how desperate she'd have to be - maybe her younger siblings were starving and her parents were dead but they'd taught her how to drive a stagecoach before her father died in a terrible horse accident. You can tell why I stuck with contemporary! At any rate, I do love to brainstorm. Thanks for the reminding the importance of keeping your ears (or in my case keeping my ear) open for suggestions and ideas from others.

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    1. I think I've heard about her! Can't remember her name, but what a story! A female stagecoach driver . . . it definitely has possibilities, Tanya. :-)

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  33. Just in case I needed to mention it specifically, I'd love to have my name in for the draw. Thanks!

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  34. Tanya, that is brilliant. It made me think of the Texas Rangers. But the first woman was admitted in 1917 I think.

    Check this out. Such cool info. The Texax Rangers

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    1. Great article, Tina! I especially loved the account of Gladys and Frank Hamer, when Gladys used a gun of her own to keep the second assailant ducking for cover while her husband fought off the first. That's novel worthy for sure! Of course what really drew my attention was that the incident took place in Sweetwater, TX. That's about 45 minutes from where I live in Abilene. Just around the corner!

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  35. Typo alert. Texas not Texax although an ax murderer...no never mind. hahahahaha

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  36. Thank you for such an interesting post, Karen. Great ideas! Your books sound so interesting, and the covers are wonderful.

    Tina, there's a photo (of a photo) on my author page that I took at the Texas Ranger Museum last month. It was taken in 1922, and shows two Rangers with two women who are wearing the Rangers' badges and guns. The women's identities are unknown. Such an unusual picture. Would love to know the backstory there, or come up with one :-)

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    1. What a great picture, Laura! I need to get to that Museum one of these days. ;-)

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    2. It's a wonderful place, Karen. And if you're a fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines (Fixer Upper show) their store (compound) is right across I35 in Waco. I live about halfway between there and Abilene. The last time I was in Abilene though was to take my granddaughter to a Beach Boys concert at the Expo Center last year - truly a wonderful experience. No matter which direction you head out, there's always something cool to see or do in Texas :-)

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    3. Or come up with a story is more fun IMHO.

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    4. So true, Laura. There are a ton of things to see and do in Texas. Becky Wade told me about Fixer Upper. I've only watched the show once, but the Gaines' look like a great couple. And I've heard their compound is fabulous!

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  37. Hey Karen, time travel would be a fun element in one of your stories.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. That would be a different spin, Caryl. Fun idea!

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  38. Fun post, Karen. I am checking in between my two jobs so can't share any plot ideas off the top of my head. But I would love to be entered in the drawing for your book.

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  39. I would suggest doing something to do with a disease of some sort. There was a really bad cholera epidemic in 1831-1832, not exactly the end of the 1800's but certainly something to consider. Another thing is the rabies vaccine did not come out until the mid 1880's so, hmm...

    No need to enter me for your book, my mother already owns it.

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    1. Great idea, Nicki! I just happen to have a measles outbreak planned for my next novella. You just might get your epidemic there. ;-)

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  40. The only time I can think of asking a reader what I should put in a book was when I asked my younger brother, aka my biggest fan, what I should put in my book and he said, assassins.

    Assassins...

    It was perfect for my story, I'm no sure why I didn't think of it before!

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    1. Assassins - Love it! You know, the whole inspiration behind my book Full Steam Ahead was that I had watched so many action flicks with my husband, that I wanted to incorporate explosions into one of my stories. To keep the reader turning pages. Explosions. That was it. But I eventually ended up with steamboats and exploding boilers and pirate daggers and all kinds of exciting things happening. Sometimes that inspiration from outside the usual box can add delightful freshness.

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  41. Hi Karen! I'm late jumping in here and please forgive me if this is already done/mentioned but I think the prohibition of alcohol is pretty interesting for a story. Maybe how one's a bootlegger and the other law enforcement?

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    1. There were certainly a lot of Temperance movements going on during this time. That could offer some fun conflict, Sharee. Thanks!

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  42. Karen, thanks so much for spending the day with us. This was totally fun!

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    1. Thanks for having me, Tina. Always a joy.

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  43. I was reading that in 1879 President Hayes signed a bill allowing female attorneys to argue in Supreme Court cases. That sounds like an interesting starting point for a story.

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    1. Ooo - Great factoid, Loraine. That could make for a very interesting plot. Cool!

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  44. OH MY GOSH! I'm reading these, too You do NOT own these ideas, Karen!!!!!!!!

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    1. Ha! That's what you think, Mary. They're all mine. Wa ha ha ha.

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  45. How about a woman vaquero??
    How about a rudimentary rodeo?
    How about a man with a broken leg who crawls forty miles to the nearest town and survives? (that might be the plot to Revenant but he wouldn't have to be attacked by a bear and left for dead by his friends--isn't that how Revenant went? I never watched it)

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    1. Your mind is a marvel to me, Mary. So many ideas. I'm jealous.

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  46. Thank you for this post, Karen. I just started a new blog and your post reminded me of the importance of reader interaction. Many thanks! Also, please include me in your drawing. The book sounds great and the cover is adorable! Blessings to you.

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I hope your new blog grows into something wonderful! I'm sure it will. :-)

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  47. Hi Karen, thanks for showcasing your readers. I would probably choose a plot around our famous Kentucky Derby. Since it started in 1875, this would be about the early years. Perhaps a man and woman with horses that could both be contenders. Some mystery, some conflict and of course your unique ability to include fun while they are sparring and ultimately falling in love.
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Nice! I love the Derby. Such an elegant event, and those thoroughbreds take my breath away. So sleek and powerful. That could be a great setting.

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  48. Hi, Karen, you make asking for help look so easy! I'm right there with you and Janet for the empty basket of ideas. I've been working on my one story idea for three years now and when I get mad and ready to chuck it I add a few more sentences making me think I can pull it off. I entered Speedbo for the first time this year hoping for daily inspiration from other participants.
    My grandmother was born in 1885,and at the age of eighteen became a one-room schoolteacher. That would make it early 1900's,but you could back it up a bit. I think you only had to take a test to qualify. She was only a smidge over five foot, and used to tell me about the tall farm boys and her hickory stick (yes, they did exist!)She also talked about home visitation and actually living with her student's parents. No parent/teacher conferences back then!
    Add my name to your book giveaway, please.

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