Thursday, June 15, 2017

Seeking Inspiration – Find The Spark That Ignites Your Story Into Lift Off!

with guest blogger Kate Breslin.


Hello Seekerville, thank you so much inviting me to be a guest blogger today! With a third book release recently under my belt, I thought I’d share with you the ways in which I find that (sometimes elusive) spark of inspiration. For writers, it’s a little how-to, mixed with a bit of interesting history for our readers, and I hope something all can use. 
—Kate 

“Seeking Inspiration – Find The Spark That Ignites Your Story Into Lift Off!”

So, you’re going to write a romance novel. Maybe this is your first endeavor or you’re embarking on the next book for your publisher. So…where to start?

Girl Typing-Circa 1912
As an author of historical romantic fiction, I usually find my story inspiration by reading history books, biographies, or watching BBC. The “spark” for my first novel, For Such A Time, came while reading the Bible’s Book of Esther and realizing that the Jews had been persecuted throughout history. Moved by their suffering, I thought about the most recent atrocity—the Holocaust of WWII—and began to wonder how I might parallel Queen Esther’s love story into a concentration camp setting. 

With Not By Sight, the spark ignited as I watched an episode of Masterpiece Theater’s Downton Abbey. Two WWI suffragettes had crashed Lord Crawley’s Soldier Benefit, handing out white feathers of cowardice to men out of uniform. As I saw the young footman take a feather, knowing he would be shamed into enlisting and the price he would pay, my heart was touched; I began to envision a costume ball, with a suffragette dressed as Pandora giving her white feather of shame to an aristocrat she believed a coward. Pandora would have no idea this Casanova was a British spy on assignment for the Crown, or that her actions would be far-reaching.

In my new novel, High As The Heavens, inspiration struck as I read about the courageous British nurse, Edith Cavell, who was executed by the Germans as a spy for smuggling wounded Allied soldiers out of occupied Belgium during the First World War. That spark led me to read other stories, about brave civilians who secretly worked to resist the Germans behind enemy lines, and the women who risked all to work as real spies for British intelligence. I began to visualize my British nurse, Evelyn, a spy for the Allies in occupied Brussels and the crashed British flyer she would need to rescue in order to save them both.

Once I’ve found that passionate spark and my story ideas begin to flow, it’s time to launch—or in my case, get organized. If you’re a plotter like me, you probably write an outline before you begin the manuscript. (Pansters, I applaud your ability to simply sit down and let the words fly onto the page.  🙂 In truth, there is no right or wrong way, as everyone’s approach to writing is different. Some even use software to organize their work. Here I’d like to share a tried-and-true method that works best for me.  I start with:

A 3-ring binder and dividers with color tabs. I label each tab with headers, like Synopsis, Character List, Maps, Timeline, and Research (and add sub-tabs for specific subject notes I need for my story.)

Kate’s Story Notebook a.k.a. The Brain Binder
Collecting Data. Research can give me the spark AND helps me to plot my story. Before outlining, I read in-depth and surf the Web, Pinterest, YouTube, Google Maps for my setting, and explore other media to help lay out my storyline and theme. My spiritual thread can occur during this discovery process, or later on as I’m writing. I always pray about it and trust that God will show me the message He wants in my story.)

With hard copy resources, I type up notes, including specific page numbers and insert these into the binder. For online research, I investigate relevant websites, cross-checking my facts, and oftentimes download PDF files. (Old tomes that have been digitalized can be great resources!) I then copy and paste the excerpted notes and URL links into a created Word file for each particular subject. The files are then collected into a Word folder with my story’s working title. 

I might create, for example, a file entitled, “Canaries of WWI,” and copy and paste online photos to go in with my notes. As I’m writing the story, it’s great to have at my fingertips the Word file and just a click I can double-check some fact about these canaries who aren’t really birds at all, but women working in WWI munitions plants. Because they were daily exposed to TNT powder, their skin turned a yellowish hue. Hence the nickname “canaries.”

Munitionettes of WWI Canary Women
Once I’ve perused my notes, I can jump right back into my story window and continue writing. The research files can also be printed and kept in the binder, but I leave a copy on my computer for easy use and in case I need them for my next story. Those who don’t outline first might still find these research files helpful for quick fact-checking as you go.

Time to Launch. My outlines are usually very long, from describing brief action segments to writing fully fleshed-out scenes. They’re not carved in stone, either. I want the freedom to be creative, but having a “road map” for my story helps avoid those unforeseen plot snags later on and it keeps me on task. When the outline is complete, I save two copies—one to revise and synopsize later for my editor, and the other I use as my story’s template. I’ve found I like writing the manuscript within the outline document itself, scene by scene, using different colored fonts to distinguish notes from my unfolding story. I delete the extraneous notes as I go, or save them to a clipboard (I have word separation anxiety 🙂) and once my first draft of the book is finished, it’s revise, revise, revise, before sending to my editor for review.

That’s my process. I hope you find some of this helpful. All fiction research can be organized in this way, and any media used to find that spark. I once wrote contemporary romance (unpublished) and still have a folder of collected newspaper and magazine articles. Since truth is usually stranger than fiction, there is no shortage of good story fodder. Like this grab-phrase from the September, 2013, edition of Popular Science: “World War II Combat Pilots Have Been Lost at the Bottom of the Pacific Ocean For Nearly 70 Years. Now Robots Have Been Deployed To Find Them.” Doesn’t that just make your mind start popping with ideas? 

And here’s a headline from our local newspaper dated March of 1999, “Daughter Brands Dad With Scarlet Letter.” Aren’t you immediately intrigued? A teen girl, after reading Nathanial Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter, constructed a giant red “A” from plastic pipe and red garland and placed it on the front lawn of her home after her cheating dad abandoned her and her mother. The dad, desperate to remove the scarlet lawn ornament, was prevented from doing so by a restraining order. Sad circumstances, but I couldn’t help smiling over this young woman’s ingenious pluck and the potential for a story. 

The Bottom Line:  Passion is at the heart of inspiration, and it’s that spark that makes us think, shifting our paradigm and introducing us to new ideas and insight—case in point, the girl who read The Scarlet Letter. She was inspired by Hawthorne’s novel to devise a clever and yes, outlandish way to shame her father for what he’d done.

So writers, what spark ignited your most recent story? And readers, what recent books or film most inspired you? 
 One lucky commenter will win a copy of High as the Heavens! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


High As The Heavens

A British nurse in WWI German-occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital and her nights working at a café . . . or so it seems. Eve's most carefully guarded secret is that she also spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a Belgian resistance group.

When a plane crashes as she's en route to a rendezvous, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to recognize the badly injured pilot as British RFC Captain Simon Forrester. She risks her life to conceal him from the Germans, but as the secrets between them grow and the danger mounts, can they still hope to make it out of Belgium alive?


"What a thrill ride! Breslin's latest has non-stop action and intrigue set in the fascinating time period of World War I. The characters are detailed and realistic, reflecting emotions that speak to a broad audience in any era. The storyline is intricately plotted and filled with incredible detail that will keep readers engaged and desperate to know what will happen. The romance is tender and the historical events are captivating, making this a book that is not to be missed." 
----RT Book Reviews TOP PICK!


Former bookseller-turned-author Kate Breslin enjoys life in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and family. A writer 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, won the 2015 Carol Award for Debut Novel. Kate's third novel, High As The Heavens released June 6, 2017. 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 www.katebreslin.com



136 comments :

  1. Welcome to Seekerville, Kate! As I shared with you already, this topic has me totally fascinated.

    Anyone who has a minute should look up those Canary Women. It's an amazing piece of history and patriotism. I am totally jazzed about this new release Thanks so much for stopping by today!


    BTW I found a ration list while traveling down the rabbit hole and ration recipes. Fun for me to look at but this was a reality in the WW1 era!

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    1. Hi Tina, thank you, it's great to be on Seekerville again! Aren't those ration recipes interesting? The women of WWI certainly were creative in stretching meals. The soldiers received ample portions because they were the fighting forces in the war. The civilians back home however, felt the food pinch and in early 1918, Britain finally made rationing mandatory for items like sugar, meat, butter, and cheese. In occupied Belgium and northern France, KK bread, or "war bread" had become the norm due to severe flour shortages. The bread used a filler of potatoes, beans or sawdust, mixed with a small portion of flour and tasted awful! Makes me thankful I can wake up each morning to fresh coffee and hot muffins.

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  2. Hi Kate welcome to Seekerville! As a reader, I love learning history through fiction and a well researched book will reflect the writers dedication in getting the facts "just right". I really enjoyed reading your method of incorporating history in each of your novels and how it sparked your stories. I think anything can spark a story :-)

    I also love the fact that you pray for God to give you the message in your story! It's why I only read Christian fiction, because He always speaks to me through them. Maybe it's just the thing I need to hear :-)

    Interesting fact about the "canaries"; women exposed to TNT powder all day...yikes! Never really thought about all the stuff people worked with and how it affected them. I'm sure that wasn't healthy at all!

    You asked what recent book or movie inspired me. We just recently watched "Hidden Figures", the true to life film about the black women behind NASA who were instrumental in launching our men into space for the first time. First off, I had no idea about these women, never even heard of them! Secondly, I grew up in a world where black and whites lived in the same world, there was never any segregation in my life time. Prejudice, yes, but never segregation. I never knew just how hard it was for these women in society or jobs or to even get any credit for a job well done or recognition. So I learned a lesson in that. My goodness, if it weren't for them, we would have never launched our men into space! If you haven't watched this movie, you must!! It will really change your world, at least it did mine. I guess it inspired me to treat people right no matter who they are or what they do. Which I do anyway! And to always think about the other person. Sounds like scripture doesn't it? This movie was a real history lesson for me, 'cause I had no idea! I'm sure most people don't. It wasn't until years later that they ever got credited or recognized for what an important role they played. Powerful movie!!

    I would love to be in the draw for "High as the Heavens", thank you so much! I have a copy of "Not by Sight" which I am sad to say, haven't gotten a chance to read yet. I really need to move it up my TBR pile after this post :-) Thanks for some insight into your writing! I learned a thing or three.

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    1. Hi Trixi, my pleasure! I also believe anything can spark a story, so long as it touches our hearts. Hidden Figures was a fantastic movie, wasn't it? I watched at the theater and like you, I was tremendously inspired! To think of all the social obstacles those brilliant women had to endure...I am so thankful their passion and persistence outweighed their personal feelings, or we might not have a space program today. I also have family members who worked for NASA years ago, so the movie holds a special sentiment for me. Thank you for your post, I'm glad you love learning about history and I hope you enjoy my stories!

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  3. Hi Kate, first let me say I love your notebook. With everything on the computer I still like to print certain things out, not all, and have a copy I can physically touch.

    In my latest novella release my heroine is arrested for a crime she didn't commit. It's a light hearted story and was fun to write.

    I've gotten story ideas from everywhere - the name of my hair salon to a single line at the theater describing their sound system.

    Congratulations on book number three and please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. Terri, thank you! I have to constantly work at being organized, and it's nice having my notes handy when I need them. It sounds like you have a great imagination for story ideas, and congratulations on your newest release! Good luck on the drawing as well!

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  4. See you all here in the morning!

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  5. Kate, I'm thrilled for you that your third novel has released! I'm the same way: I can't finish a story unless I'm passionate about it. Writing for production sakes doesn't get me anywhere.

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    1. Good morning, Elaine! Thank you, and it's great to see you here! Yes, I write much better when I'm passionate about a topic. Those words come from the heart!

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  6. You know, Vince Mooney and I have both taken James Patterson's Master Class and your writing technique is very similar to his. We should all take note!!!!

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    1. Good morning, Tina! Wow, James Patterson, really? I've pretty much just learned through my mistakes. I'm sure this process will continue to evolve. I bet James Patterson's Master class was amazing. I think as a writer, he's amazing!

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    2. Tina, I'm taking that class now!

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    3. I know there is a lot in that class we already know, but knowing and applying are two different animals, right Terri. I really like the class.

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  7. Welcome to Seekerville, Kate. Thank you for sharing your process with us. Being a visual person, I'm a notebook gal too. I also utilize a story board so I can have my scenes and picture of my characters, front and center. As for story ideas, I have file folders full of newspaper and magazine clippings. Thanks for visiting today!

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    1. Hi, Jill! I'm visual as well and use a Pinterest board to pin photos to help inspire me while writing. Once my secret board has all the images and notes I want, I invite my editor and graphics artist to view so they have an idea of what I envision for my novel (and cover!) I haven't yet used a story board, but it sounds like fun. I may try that for the next book!

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  8. Kate, welcome back! I love the snippets of where your story ideas came from... it always makes me smile to see how our brains work and how we take a tiny bit of raggedy information and transform it with the power of "But what if.... " Well done!

    I'm a pantser, so the notebook STRUCK FEAR INTO MY VERY HEART OF HEARTS, but I survived and read the rest!

    Congratulations on all of your hard work!

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    1. With you, Ruthy! I do keep all my research in a Scrivener file, but all that intensive outlining and preplanning??? Gives me the willies!!!

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    2. LOL! Hi Ruth, it's great to be back! Yeah, I know you Pansters break out in hives over this stuff, but I've talked with a few who hate having to dig around for their notes and double check a fact while their in the throes of writing, so maybe the quick-click file can work for them, too. My hat's off to you and Myra both for your free-style approach!

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  9. You're a pantser, Ruth? Seriously, I had no idea.

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    1. I hope you are being facetious.

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    2. I am not. MYRA!! I figured with as prolific as Ruth is, she must plot.

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    3. LOL! I can't believe you didn't already know this about our Ruthinator!

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  10. Good morning, Kate! I enjoy hearing how different authors prepare to "launch" their stories. Thank you for sharing your ideas! I love the history your research has unearthed and how you've incorporated that. I love history--and especially enjoy fiction that sends me off to learn more about something intriguing that I didn't previously know about.

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    1. Hi Glynna! Thanks for your post! It's hard to believe I used to fall asleep in history class, but reading historical romance later on in life gave me the passion for learning. I thank all of those wonderful authors!

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  11. Thanks for sharing your inspiration and process Kate! Those headlines and story descriptions got my mind to thinking!

    I tried the binder thing once but all the papers just end up in a pile next to my desk when I can't stand how cluttered it is. Eventually I get around to cleaning the whole office but I have I have a clear desk to type. I do most everything digitally through Scrivener or tons of documents with my working title. For print resources, if I own them I flag pages or if I don't, I photo copy the pages and slide them into sheet protectors in a binder (I guess I do use a binder!).

    As far as a spark for my current story, I don't exactly remember what interested me in the Secret Service, but bits and pieces of the original plot came from reading a series of articles published in the newspapers in the 1910s and later a book about his experiences in the 1870's to 1890's. For one case he "went" to jail and helped a counterfeiter "escape" in order to gain the trust of other counterfeiters and get pulled into the gang. Fun stuff!

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    1. Hi Crystal! It's taken me years to get myself this organized and I'm sure I'll find more to improve on. Aren't those tidbits we discover in history enough to make our imaginations soar? I'm reading a 1929 book about American spies in WWI Europe. Talk about amazing stories! Great fodder for the next book. :-)

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  12. Kate, what a great method. I love the three-ring binder idea. I still do a lot of my research and collecting info on paper. I spend a lot of time AWAY from the computer, so it helps to have something portable that I can pore over. I also do a lot of editing on hard copy.
    Inspiration is funny. Sometimes the "seed" of a story comes from a snippet, and I build my nest around it like a magpie. I honestly don't remember where the idea for my Oregon Trail story came from, except that I've always been fascinated by the Oregon Trail. But once I got my "what if," that was that. WHAT IF a woman and a man with a troubled history were thrown together on the Oregon Trail?
    My post-World-War-I story about the settlement house in Hell's Kitchen began with a character, ironically, a minor character from a World War I book that was never published. The second books in both series grew organically out of characters in the first books that needed their own stories.
    My Christmas novella grew out of two characters in the Oregon Trail story who asked me politely if they could have their own story.
    And my current WIP, a Christmas contemporary, is the only one that didn't start out character-driven. I wanted to write a series based on this sweet Christmas festival I go to every year (CHRISTMAS, not "holiday"), and I prayed and brainstormed with myself until a hero and heroine showed up. But most of the time, it starts with character.
    Worked on my revise-and-resubmit last night, almost done. Off to the mountains with my daughter for a little change of scene, more revision work tonight, and Saturday I'm going to a book launch for one of my crit partners.
    Please put my name in the drawing, I love ANYTHING World War I. World War I did more than anything, for good or ill, to shape the nation we are in today.
    See you all at the Weekend Edition,

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    1. Loved hearing about all your idea starts. What fun. Happy writing.

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    2. Kaybee, thanks for your post! I agree, stories can come from anywhere, even a glimpse of something that might start an idea germinating in our heads. I love playing the WHAT IF game too, especially while plotting! Congrats on getting your resubmission finished and I hope you enjoy that away time with your daughter!

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  13. Well, I forgot to sign my post, but most everybody knows me by now.
    KB

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  14. Good Morning, KATE! A movie that has inspired me is I AM ISRAEL. It is a moving depiction of the people and the land.

    I brought chocolate chip pancakes and fruit smoothies.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. Hi Caryl! I haven't seen that movie, so I'll check it out. I'm still on my first cup of coffee and munching on my peanut butter toast topped with Craisons and bananas. Gotta have that fiber LOL! Good luck on the drawing!

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  15. Kate, Welcome to Seekerville.

    I keep each writing project in a notebook as well. I create a cover for each book and slide it in the plastic on the front of the notebook. As I write I add in each page as I write it. If I need to check back on a name or something I wrote earlier, I find it easier to find in a hard copy as to going back to find it on the computer.

    I am more a plantser.

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    1. Plantser. Wlani. Great word!!! LOL

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    2. Hi Wilani! I hope we're all plansters--our backsides in the chair writing stories! :-) I like leaving an extra set of notes on the computer until I finish the book. The ability to do a quick word search to find what I need is priceless. Glad the notebook helps you as well!

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  16. Okay, I will say, I do keep a binder notebook. I don't hole punch, but it at least keeps each story I am working on separate on my work table. And maps are tucked in there and tourist things I mailed off for. For contemporaries I always call the Chamber of Commerce and they mail me information booklets and maps. Even though my towns are fictitious they are based on real locales and folks are always pleased to find out you are writing about their corner of the world and generous to send information.

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    1. I like binders too. Keeps me organized.

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    2. I used to do binders and file folders. Now, most everything is in computer files and/or Scrivener so I can find whatever I need quickly. Even web pages.

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    3. I do both, Myra. Sigh. Redundancy is my middle name.

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    4. Tina, that's a good idea contacting the Chamber of Commerce. I think it's important to visualize a real place when writing setting. I confess, I've turned into a Google Maps nerd. I map out my character setting, and zoom in to see if it's farmland or city or any historic monuments (even though I write about the past.) I use Google Earth and pin all the places my characters live or will travel to. For Not By Sight, it was a great way to gauge how long it would take a car at 35 mph to get from Canterbury to Margate in Kent, England. I've used the same map for three stories now and it's full of yellow pins. I enjoy looking at where my characters have been!

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  17. Good morning, Kate!

    I've been keeping notebooks on all my novels for years. There were times when my health caused me to set my writing aside. I found the notebooks kept my work intact and ready to pick up where I'd left off. The system worked beautifully for me. And now that I'm writing full time, I have a backlog of stories on the shelf like old friends just waiting to be rewritten. ;-)

    The thing about using notebooks for historicals is that the material never goes out of date. So, I can work on my contemporary stories and the information stays relevant. I also use notebooks on my contemporary stories too. But mostly, I use Pinterest and then I print off a hard copy for my notebooks.

    Thank you for sharing your method today. Please put my name in the hat for your book. I had a crit partner some years ago who wrote in your era, so I've come to love WWII romances.

    ~ Renee

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    1. This is even better, Renee..WWI!!!!

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    2. Hi Renee, I'm glad you've found the notebook process helpful in your writing over the years. And isn't Pinterest great? I have to put myself on a timer though, or I get caught up with pinning for hours. Good luck on the drawing!

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    3. WWI!! Awesome! In that case, I'm totally fascinated. And Pinterest isn't the only thing I need a timer for, lol. I can get sucked in to research and before I know it an day has gone by.

      ~ Renee

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  18. Loved this post. Thanks, Kate! I had never heard the term canaries in reference to these women. Very interesting. I love history. What sparked my current story I'm working on? What would happen if flying spiders invaded a town? I love SyFy and the abnormal animals movies. And wanted to write my own inspirational version.

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    1. Hi Sally! Wow, flying spiders? You have a great imagination! Do some spiders fly or would they be mutants? Makes me think of the cult classic, Killer Tomatoes, so anything is possible. Have fun with your idea and good luck!

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    2. Exactly! Killer Tomatoes! I love that movie! I'm thinking genetically engineered or army secret gone awry. And I get to research movies like Volcano, Sharktopus, Dinocroc, Lake Placid, etc. Thanks!

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    3. It is sure to be a mega-thriller! :-) I say go for it!

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  19. Hi Kate and welcome to Seekerville. What interesting topics you have in your novels. I bet the research was amazing. Sounds like it anyway. I like how you've used it to fuel your novels. Thanks for sharing your system with us. I'm enjoying our stay here in Oregon. Nice cool weather - smile. Good for writing. Have a fun day today.

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    1. Hi Sandra, and thank you, it's wonderful to be on Seekerville! Isn't Oregon lovely? I'm just north of you, near Seattle, and it's cool and misty out today. Yes, great for writing!

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  20. Hi Kate,
    Your new story sounds great! Congratulations.

    I love that with all of the computer programs out there, you still keep notes in notebooks. There's just something about touching your research, isn't there. (I do use Scrivener and Pinterest, but I also like hard copy research.)

    Thanks so much for sharing today!

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    1. Hi Jackie, thank you for the good wishes! Yes, to me the notebook is more tactile, like scrapbooking. It might also be the reason most of us choose a paper book over a piece of electronics. I love the access the computer gives me, but the binder has its advantages. Another great plus: once I finish a book, I keep the binder on my shelf and later on I can peruse the notes for other story ideas.

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  21. Welcome, Kate! Fascinating to read about your research and writing processes! I never thought I'd write historical romance, but with two 3-book series published now, I have to say I enjoyed delving into history and learning far more than I ever did in school.

    Exploring those interesting rabbit trails has helped with my plots, too. For my most recent book, information I came across about the Civilian Conservation Corps fit right in and gave me a solution I needed for the story hero.

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    1. Hello Myra! Learning history through reading inspired my thirst for knowledge, too! I just looked up the CCC and it sounds fascinating! I remember the movie, "Seabiscuit" and how the hardships of the Depression and the jockey's life touched me. Great era to write about!

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  22. Hi Kate and welcome to Seekerville. I really like your story notebook idea. Having something tangible and concrete to refer to whenever I forget what a character's eye color is or what was supposed to be the next plot point would be a great option. Thanks for all your great ideas.

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    1. Thank you, Cindy! I'm writing connecting stories right now, so that "character bible" keeps expanding. I've caught myself giving two characters the same features, so it helps to have a reference handy to keep track.

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  23. Were putting aside the rations and bringing out the cinnamon buns. Who needs buns of steel when you can have cinnamon buns, I say! Coffee is on!

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    1. Yay, coffee! I'm going to grab another cup!

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  24. This was a great post, Kate. Thanks for sharing. I started out using a binder for my book I'm writing, but it is currently sitting unused. I also have a story board.

    I also find interesting story ideas from photos and historical stories, even if it isn't something I would use. Just this morning I saw a photo on Facebook of a child carried in a mailbag because apparently children could be mailed at one time. I wonder if that has ever been used in a story.

    I am writing my book about a tornado. I have a character of a weatherman who is on the air giving the warnings when the tornado strikes his town, and he has no idea if his family is safe or not. I got that idea from a tornado years ago in which the local weatherman was in the same situation. I always thought it would make a good story. Also in my book, the weatherman gets high praise for his exceptional coverage of the tornado. I used the experience of a real weatherman who was credited some years ago with saving lives with his coverage. So I do like to use real life events to help me.

    Please enter me for your book.

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    1. Hi Sandy, thank you! Your work in progress sounds suspenseful! I've never experienced a tornado, but they both fascinate and terrify me. I saw the movie "Twister" and that was enough! I also love basing my novels on real people and events. With my new release, High As The Heavens I was not only inspired by Edith Cavell's life, but also two other Belgian women who spied for the British beneath the noses of the Germans. One actually lived to tell the tale. My British pilot was styled after a real WWI Royal Flying Corps pilot who escaped his German prison and went on to fly more missions. To me, these people seemed larger than life and I felt compelled to share their stories.

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  25. Fun post, Kate!

    I'm looking forward to reading "High As The Heavens" now :) Please enter me in the drawing.

    As a reader, I'm currently enjoying Kathleen Y'Barbo's story in Barbour's "Secret Admirer" collection.

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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    1. Thank you, Phyllis! I hope you enjoy the story. Good luck on the drawing!

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  26. Great post! I keep notebooks too of my research and also of my characters backgrounds and issues. If I didn't keep notebooks, I'd be looking for that "little piece of paper" I wrote down important information on and must have right now to write a scene. The notebooks are security. Can't wait to start reading High as the Heavens.

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    1. Hi Darlene, thank you! Yep, it was those hours I spent searching for that scrap of note paper that pushed me to come up with a more organized system. :-) I hope you enjoy High As The Heavens!

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  27. HI Kate! As a reader I don't know of a recent film or book that has given me that spark. I've been looking for a spark right now and not finding it so far in my reading. Maybe I just haven't hit upon it yet. Some non-fiction is maybe what I need for a spark. :)

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    1. Hi Sabrina! Reading memoirs or biographies can often resonate with us, so maybe that's something to consider reading next? I think I enjoy books or movies "based on true events" best, because they reinforce the belief that ordinary people can rise above themselves to do the extraordinary, and I always see God's hand in that journey. So inspiring!

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  28. I create a small author helper at the beginning too, but perhaps I should consider a binder for the book I actually have to do research on.

    There's just something about the World Wars that capture the imagination- both the real stories and the fictional, like Captain America and Wonder Woman.

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    1. Hi Boo! I agree, there is so much that occurred during the years of both wars--good and bad. The tales of Doctor Doolittle were actually born in the trenches of WWI, when British author, Hugh Lofting, sent home excerpts of a make-believe world for his children to read, rather than revealing to them the horrors and hardships of war.

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  29. Kate, it's great to have you here! Your latest book sounds fascinating. I'm impressed by the richness of the history in your books. The research you do feels daunting. How long does it usually take for you to discover all the facts that you need to begin writing?

    Thanks for sharing the method you use to keep organized. I am so drawn to your binder. I keep links and notes in computer files. I'm part plotter, but after reading your process, I think I would write faster if I went deeper with my planning.

    Some of my story ideas are sparked by historical tidbits, as was true in my two orphan train books and some are sparked by hooks. The spark for my latest wip came from a disturbing awareness of sex trafficking but with an historical setting (brothel) in the heroine's past. With LIH closing, I'm not sure what I'll do with this proposal. I'm looking to God for direction.

    Janet

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    1. Hey Janet, thank you for your kindness! It can take me months to gather enough research to start writing the book, and I usually do a bit of additional research during the writing. I don't know if it's my attempt to be thorough, or that I'm just a geek who doesn't know when to stop LOL! I hope you find a home for this new work of yours. The horrific issue of sex trafficking is so relevant today, and no matter the timelines, it's something everyone needs to be made aware of. God bless your endeavor!

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  30. Hi, Kate and welcome to Seekerville.

    Alas, I'm not computer literate so I have tons of notes for my current WIP in notebooks and steno tablets.

    I think we, as writers, are never done researching! Just when I think I have a technique down pat, I read another article for a better way to do it! Gah! I also have thirty or so notebooks of those kinds of articles!

    I do admire your story notebook. I have that, too, plus a storyboard. My name is Marcia, and I am a plotter! I need the outlines as I'm a very visual writer. And, older, so my memory isn't as fresh as it used to be and I have to write everything down!

    Thanks for this awesome post...we are never too old to learn new things.

    Please add my name to your drawing. Thanks!

    Blessings,

    Marcia

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    1. Hi Marcia! I hear you!! Between the memory lapses and needing the visual, outlining and keeping good notes saves me. And I'm always on the hunt for a better way to build the old mousetrap. I have looked at Scrivener software, and I'm intrigued, but haven't taken the leap yet. Still, I'm keeping my options open. Good luck on the drawing!

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  31. It's when I go down the research rabbit hole that I find the most interesting sparks for stories. Accounts of a nearby fort mentioned various people who came through who'd endured some incredible things--from an Ojibwe captive to the Dakota making her escape home by way of three different US forts, all the while her captors hot on her trail; to a 2nd lieutenant who rode right into the middle of a US army-Dakota stand-off, threw down his pistols, ripped open his shirt, and dared the Dakota to kill him (and being impressed by his bravery, they stood down instead [all detailed in a congressional record]). History really can be stranger than fiction! Thanks for the giveaway!

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    1. Hi Rachael! W.O.W.!! You've got some amazing story material to work with. I'm already seeing the movie in my head. :-) God bless your writing!!

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  32. Hello Kate! First of all, I adore all your book covers! Bethany House really does a fantastic job on their covers. And I was heartened to read that my binder/vision board method of writing is also done by someone like yourself because if I'm doing that part right maybe I'll be debuting at some point in the future, lol. The inspiration for my current WIP for the "Oh Canada!" HQ blitz came from a tshirt my daughter wore down to breakfast one day. My husband's in the Royal Canadian Air Force and has been up to Churchill and Alert in the arctic several times. He'd brought our daughter back a tshirt with a polar bear on it from Churchill. And I thought, "the world thinks Canada's nothing but ice and snow anyway, so why not set a romance in the sub-arctic along with those gorgeous polar bears?" and so "Northern Deception" popped in to my mind, practically whole in its story. Lol, then when I started doing the actual research necessary to bolster my science for the story I had to make some massive changes and edits but that's fine - I'd rather get everything right! And I've learned so much from both writing this story and researching it. Please put me in the draw and even though I'm in Canada I love to win ebooks if my name gets plucked out of the hat. Thanks so much for sharing your writing journey with us. I look forward to both of your WWI stories. With a military husband I have a fondness for history in both WWars.

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  33. Hi Laurie, thank you so much! I agree, Bethany House does a beautiful job on covers. I think it's great you got your spark from a T-shirt and your story with polar bears in the Artic sounds very unique! I know what you mean about "dreaming it up" versus reality, and being able to research before you start the story can be so helpful. I wish you every success with your work in progress, and I hope you get the chance to read High As The Heavens!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Kate! Seekerville has been my main support and inspiration this past year and I owe any success I have to these wonderful ladies.

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  34. Hi Kate:

    First let me say that the RT review of your "High as the Heavens" is one of the strongest I've ever read from the POV of motivating someone to go out and buy the book!

    As a marketing person I'd advise you to get that review in front of as many readers as you can. And I see that you are doing just that! Wow!

    Like Tina, as I read your post, I kept thinking how much like James Patterson you work.

    Since you have an interest in the MasterClass, I'll list a few things Patterson does in that class:

    Patterson spends two to three months creating the outline. He likes to give the outline to ordinary readers until they start asking him when he is going to write the book because they can't wait to read it.

    Every scene is its own chapter. His 'brand' is fast paced stories the reader can't stop reading. BTW: that brand is the same for all the different genres Patterson writes in.

    He also revises each scene six to eight times: not to make it publishable or fix mistakes but rather to make the scene the most powerful attention holder possible. He does this in large part by always asking questions that the reader just must have answered as soon as possible. I've noticed that Lee Child, Robert Parker, and David Baldacci also do the same thing!

    Patterson is also okay with pantsering. While his outlines tell what each scene must accomplish and what the emotional environment must at the start and finish of the scene, the actual writing can be pantsered in any way his co-authors like.

    You might like this course because it is really not about how to write, you well know how to do that, it's about how to write from a marketing point of view so that you'll sell the most books. Since it is reported that Patterson sells more fiction than anyone else, it is clear that he practices what he teaches.

    As for my writing, you might say I follow your advice to the extreme! In my paranormal book, "Characters in a romance", (120,000 words) a cosmic black moment explodes the entire universe freeing all the characters from romance books and mixing them up with real people. The rest of the book, like "The Wizard of Oz", shows the adventures of how these characters, both real and fictional, try to get back 'home'. BTW: the characters soon find out that it is impossible to prove who is real and who is fictional. A real problem comes about when an author, who put herself in a book as a central character, meets up with that character and neither can prove they are the real person. Some of the fictional characters are so disillusioned that they claim that there really are no authors.

    Actually, all my books are meta-fiction, fiction in which the characters know they are in a fictional work and also know that they are only 'alive' when a reader is reading their book and they are being 'played' in the reader's mind.

    I've found that contest judges don't know what to make of these works. I've gotten 90s and 40s on the same entries!

    Please enter me into the drawing. As a pilot who has visited WWI monuments in Europe, I'm an ideal prospect!

    Vince

    P.S. As a coincidence, I read two books about a WWII RAF pilot who was shot down over Italy and took months for the resistance to smuggle him back to England. A woman helped him a great deal at a great risk to her. He came back to Italy after the war and married her. He wrote two books. History about the events and a book on how complicated and corrupt it was to buy and restore a villa in Italy. If you've also read this, could you please tell me his name? I can't seem to find it!

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    1. Hi Vince! Thanks so much for the tips on James Patterson's class. His speed in pumping out best-sellers continues to amaze me and I've gleaned new knowledge from your post. Your paranormal sound fascinating and reminds me of the movies, "Never Ending Story" and "Stranger Than Fiction." I can't even imagine how you keep track of all of that in your head. Impressive! I wish I could help with the WWII RAF pilot. The flyer I researched served in WWI and his name was John Evans. He wrote "The Escaping Club" (A.J.Evans) in the early twenties and you'd probably enjoy reading his exploits. I think you can download the PDF online or find on Amazon. I don't recall if he went on to serve in WWII. I wish you the best and good luck in the drawing!

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    2. Hi Kate:

      Thanks for the tip on "The Escaping Club". I've already downloaded it. I've had a college course on WWI which was very interesting. I also served in the AF in the same location as the setting for "A Farewell to Arms". I look forward to reading your book and Escaping.

      BTW: it took all day but I finally remembered that the author I wanted wrote about the Hindu Kush and since there are not many books in English on that topic, I found his name. His book about escaping back to England is: "Love and War in the Apennines" and how he married his wife and bought a house in Italy is "A Small Place in Italy". These are true stories and I really enjoyed them.

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  35. Here's a tidbit I came across in my research: "The Slug Brigade" was founded when during WWI, Dr.Paul Bartsch of the Division of Mollusks in the U.S. National Museum discovered that slugs could detect mustard gas well before humans could. The slugs would visibly close their breathing pores and compress their bodies, and soldiers in the trenches would quickly don their gas masks to protect themselves. The slugs ended up saving many lives. Probably not something you want to know while eating lunch, but it's history! :-)

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    1. How did they carry the slugs with them???? Interesting.

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    2. Probably in boxes. They hauled around carrier pigeons for sending messages in wicker crates strapped to their backs.

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    3. Isn't it though? I read somewhere that they also used elephants for agriculture (pulling the plow) because of the shortage of horses. I guess necessity is the mother of invention and new ideas! :-)

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  36. For the story I'm working on, I think the spark was more in the theme, it's one that's close to my heart. One movie that I LOVED as Hidden Figures. To meet three women who worked at NASA in the 60's. And the fact that they were African-American? I LOVED that movie, as did my boys. That sparked a few ideas. :)

    Great post, Kate!

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    1. Thank you, Jeanne! I loved that movie, and growing up near the Space Center in Florida made it extra special for me. Those women were brilliant, and so passionate about their work that nothing stopped them. Such an inspiration for writers! I look forward to reading your story one day, it will be marvelous!

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  37. Kate, thanks for sharing your writing process with us today. I came home from last year's CFRR with your first book, FOR SUCH A TIME, and thoroughly enjoyed the story. You included so many details that clearly pointed to your love for research. All your hard work made the story that much richer. Congrats!

    I like your idea of using a binder to hold all the information you acquire about a particular story. Great tip! Thanks!

    Will I see you this year at CFRR in Cincinnati? I know it will be another wonderful author/reader event.



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    1. Hi Debby, thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed reading For Such A Time. That research took years to gather, but I was also working full-time and in those days there wasn't much about WWII on the Internet. You should see the binder for that book--it's six inches thick! I wish I could make the retreat this year, I'm sure it will be just as wonderful as last year, but I'm taking my mom to Barcelona in November and need to save up my travel money. :-) I hope to see you at Nashville in 2018!

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    2. Barcelona is a beautiful city! Enjoy your trip with your sweet Mama!

      I love the WWII time period, and hope you'll use the research for book 1 in future stories. Wishing you continued success!

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    3. Thank you, Debby! I'm looking forward to the trip with her.

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  38. Which time period has been your favorite for writing books, Kate. WWI or WWII

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    1. Tina, I love the history of both periods, but I've still got much to explore in WWI. I blame it on Downton Abbey! :-) I love the Edwardian period and writing stories set in the early 1900s allows me to keep one foot planted in that era of elegance. There are many interesting WWII ideas I'd still like to write about one day. I've seen the BBC series, Bletchley Circle, about the WWII women code breakers turned post-war sleuths and I love it! We'll see what the future holds. I still have the current WWI story I'm working on and ideas for a couple more...

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    2. Isn't it fun when you have more ideas than time???

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    3. Yes! Much better than the other way around.:-)

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    4. LOVED Downton Abbey! Sigh. It was a great place to "disappear" into story.

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    5. Absolutely, Sharee! I want to watch it all over again!

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  39. Great post, Kate! I'm a panster, but I have deep respect plotters, and I'm (seriously) considering making me one of those binders. I love that idea! I'm not techy enough to use any of the online systems, but this I can do. I also love that photo of the woman typing. And your books sound truly fascinating. Thank you for such an interesting post!

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  40. Hi Laura! Thanks for your post and I'm honored that you are considering the binder method! It's really helpful in keeping notes together, especially if you don't use online resources so much. I wish you the best in your writing!

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  41. Hi Kate!! I have loved your books and the inspiration behind the stories is even more fascinating!

    I do binders for my stories too and can get dangerous printing off pictures, stories, etc. But the internet definitely provides a vast place for information, so might as well use it :)

    I'm a panster learning to be a plotter. But revise is my middle name so maybe if I'm a better plotter I'll save myself some time?

    I have your latest book and can't wait to read it. Thanks for the words of wisdom today. Blessings to you!

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  42. Hi Sharee! Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement! Wow, you're thinking to become a plotter? I wrote my very first novel (hidden away in a drawer) by the seat of my pants and it took me a looong time to finish. I painted myself into numerous corners and had to figure a way out, so as time went on, I decided I needed more of a map to start. Still, it's and ever-changing process isn't it? God bless you and your writing!

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  43. I get my 'spark' from all sorts of things, it can be something I watch on TV, a plot I expect to be taken in a story which then is not leaving it delightfully available, a character I read about and greatly enjoyed. Even looking at a cover of a book (if it is an exceptionally beautiful cover) can give me the idea for a story as I try to come up with a story for the cover. I tend not to get a story idea all from one source though, instead I piece it together from a lot of different things. From a song I heard to a TV show I just watched.

    I don't do the binder thing or anything really like it. I'm lucky if I manage to jot down a few notes to myself the disorganized person that I am.

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    1. Hi Nicki! Thanks for posting and sharing your inspiration! My process for writing is just a suggestion and ultimately you should do what feels most comfortable for you. God bless!

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  44. Kate,
    Thanks for the post. Real life / research can be very inspiring. My current story, however, had a strange start. I wrote about a page's worth from a writing prompt at a local meeting. Story facts I invented on the spot piqued my interest and I completed the story later in about 3 months. And now the extensive brainstorming revisions of a half-pantser who finally learned the value of character arc and story structure.

    In other stories, I've started writing/brainstorming, including creating backstories that led to an entirely different story than the one I set out to write.

    You're books all sound really interesting :-)

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    1. YOUR books (I'm still looking for that cross eyed icon). Maybe not a good idea to post while feeding baby.

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    2. LOL! Let's blame it on auto-correct, Lara! Thanks for your post and it sounds like you're flexible in your approach to writing. I say, whatever keeps the creativity going, because all the binders and notes in the world can't replace the imagination for good story. You may, after a time, settle on a process that works best for you. Blessings to you and that sweet baby, and best wishes on your current project!

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    3. Hi Kate. Sorry to be so poky about showing up today. Thanks for being on Seekerville.

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  45. I'm definitely a pantser, but I'm becoming more of a plotter as I gain experience. I have a very broad outline before I start, and I know there will be a HEA, but I usually don't know what it is until I get closer. (The suspense of not knowing is sometimes what motivates me to write when I don't feel like it; I want to see what happens next!)

    The "spark" for my completed MS was a local doughnut shop. I take my boys there once a week on the way to school, and one morning one of the guys who worked there wore a hero memorial bracelet and a set of dog tags. I wondered what it would be like if someone came in and saw the name of a person they knew--maybe even a loved one--on the bracelet of a stranger. My book flowed from there. Current WIP was sparked by a couple of inspiring ancestors of mine. I've been digging through my mom's genealogical research to find out more about these guys!

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    1. Amanda, reading your premise about finding the missing hero's name gave me chills! What a great idea! I love those "what if" moments. Exploring your ancestry is a good way to delve into history too, and having a personal stake in it will give you that extra boost of inspiration. I wish you all the best with your writing!

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  46. I'm working on a revision right now and just last night I had a really great spark that made it all come alive in a new way. This blog today is a perfect match for that. Thank you.

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    1. Mary, I'm so glad! For myself, I've learned some new things today on Seekerville and look forward to getting back to my writing!:-)

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  47. Fascinating! I love to read how others get from Point A to Point ... uh... Point "P" for "published" book. :)

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  48. As the sun set on the East coast...wait is it setting? Well this is my segue to tell Kate thank you for spending the day with us and we pray continued success for you and your writing. Will you be at any conferences in the near future?

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    1. Thank you, Tina! And no conferences this year, but hopefully Nashville in 2018!

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    2. TO NASHVILLE 2018 and DENVER 2018. WOOT!!!

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    3. Oh, yes! It would be great to make RWA in Denver, too!

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  49. Signing off of Seekerville! Tina, thanks for a wonderful day and I appreciate all of your comments, Seekers! Happy reading and writing! Blessings,
    Kate

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  50. I enjoyed reading Kate's steps in creating her novels. I haven't read her books and I certainly intend to change this!
    Connie
    cps1950((at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thank you, Connie! I hope you enjoy my stories!

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  51. I haven't watched many good movies lately (or any movies at all, good or bad) but the last one that I watched that really stuck with me is "The Woman in Gold". What an amazing story of courage and persistence. I could watch it over and over.

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    1. Hi Arletta! I haven't seen The Woman in Gold, but Helen Mirren is such a good actress and the movie's premise sounds intriguing. I'll definitely add to my watch list. Thanks for your post!

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  52. Kate, Let me first say that Not by Sight sounds simply wonderful. I love stories set around WW1 or WW2 (Mrs. Miniver is one of my favorite movies).
    I loved reading the steps of your research and how a split second can provide inspiration. I've been plotting my next book and I've been watching YouTube and reading articles (having to be very careful though about selecting sites). It's fun, and this time all the research has made me very excited to spend time with the characters.

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    1. Hi Tanya! I'm so glad you're inspired by the research. I'm very visual as well, and watching videos or movies or pinning images on Pinterest really gets me excited about my stories. I wish you all the best in your project!

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  53. KATE!!! PLEASE forgive my tardiness, my friend, but I have been out of town, so I a few days behind, but I have to say, this blog was worth the wait!

    It's so fun hearing where your inspiration came from for your books, especially for Not By Sight, which is one of my favorites of your books.

    LOVE the premise for As High as the Heavens, and an RT Top Pick, too, which is no surprise!! Sounds like another must-read, girlfriend. :)

    Hugs!!
    Julie

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    1. Julie, hi!!!!! Ha! I'm just now getting back to you, so it's all good. :-) Thank you for your kindness and it's great to connect with you again. I hope we get to see each other next year (Nashville 2018?) and God bless you in your writing, my friend!

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  54. Very much enjoyed the commentary on your methods and, also, the study of history. I greatly enjoyed your two WWII books and am looking forward to this one set during WWI. I am an avid reader of Christian fiction mixed in with some non-fiction. I just finished a fascinating non fiction book, Last Hope Island, which is the story of the governments in exile in Britain during WWII, with all the conflicts and ramification.

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    1. CC, thank you for your post. Reading about true events in history can be so interesting! I hope you enjoy High As The Heavens!

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  55. Thanks so much for sharing your methods of research, Kate. I love learning about the past!! I will forever be a student of history. So eye-opening! We can learn so much. I so look forward to reading your newest book. I loved Not by Sight! Blessings!

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    1. Cynthia, thank you, my friend! I'm glad you love history too, and yes, we can learn so much from the past. God bless!

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  57. Your books look and sound so interesting. I really appreciate your sharing tips with us. I would very much like to win a copy of your new book.

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  58. Oh my goodness, Kate! That's a lot of research and organization to write an historical novel. It's so worth it, though, to have it historically correct and fascinating. I loved learning how you find story ideas. I might have been able to do all that when I was younger, but now I'd rather just read what others have written. Thanks for sharing your time and talents. I love historical fiction. It has become my favorite genre.

    Your new book sounds wonderful. It's on my wish list. It would be so fun to win a copy.

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    1. Winnie, thank you again and I hope you get the chance to read High As The Heavens!

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