Friday, February 23, 2018

Mystery Date and Why Some Things Work... and Others Don't

Do you all remember that game? They featured it in "The Santa Clause", starring Tim Allen. It was his ex-wife's Christmas wish and she realized that there was no Santa Claus because she never, ever got the game... And she was CRUSHED....


Well today we're not crushing anybody's spirits. We are not stomping on anyone's dreams. Today we're going to have fun.

How, you ask?

By working together.

Today is all about you. About your work. Your thoughts. Your prayers. Your goals.

Tell us what we can pray for. Tell us where you see yourself in two years. Five years.

Years ago I was at an ACFW conference and I had signed up for a fifteen minute slot with a big author. She asked me about goals and dreams and said "Ruth, where do you see yourself in five years?"

And I said "I'll be like you, a multi-published, award-winning author, living my dream."

She looked startled and said, "Let's pray."

I felt like I wasn't supposed to have the audacity to say that in the presence of greatness. Now maybe I caught her off guard, maybe it came out wrong and she didn't mean that I'd need a boatload of prayer to get there... BUT THAT'S HOW IT FELT. :) So I hope I've been careful not to squash or quash dreams, hopes and aspirations.


So here's the scoop: You are my mystery dates. 

If you want to post a short excerpt about your hero or heroine or story, post it and I'll tell you what I think... and I'll advise... but you don't have to take the advice, because you know your story best!

Are you feeling brave?

Are you feeling confident?

Doesn't matter.

Like Nike says:  Just Do It.

And we'll play. I've got most of the day at home today, so it's the perfect time for you to be my Mystery Date!!!!

Coffee is here.... and fresh Cronuts from NYC because you might need sustenance.

And the other gals may stop in and offer wisdom.... So where else can you get a published audience, looking at your work... and praying for your success? Just like we prayed for one another's!

Grab a cuppa and let's have some fun!

Multi-published, award-winning and sometimes bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne loves to cheer others on to success, sometimes by helping them, often by browbeating them. She smiles when she does it to lessen the pain (or so she thinks). Make her feel good about herself today by jumping in and having some fun with her... She did bring you pretend food, after all! :) And she didn't add ONE BOOK LINK to this post. Right there you know it's all about you!!!! Although there might be a surprise drawing at the end of the day... you never can tell when Ruthy's in the house.


  1. OR... If you need a story starter, here's one to get you going... then you write a paragraph or two based on the opening line:

    Forty-eight hours and he was out of here, guaranteed.
    He shouldn't have come back. He knew it the minute he key-stroked the "buy" button on Expedia. Or maybe it's that he knew he should have come back sooner. Much sooner. Before she was gone. That didn't happen, and here he was in Port Glen, the bad boy, coming home.

  2. I brought cheese grits because I know how much you love the food of the South, Ruthy!!! [Chuckle, chuckle!!!] Pouring a cup of coffee and mulling over your story opening.

    Jane stared out the window into the garden her Grammie had tended so faithfully. Weeds had taken over the beds as her sweet Gram's illness had progressed so that it was almost impossible to see the beauty that had grown there under her care. The call from the nursing home had brought Jane back to Port Glen, back to an empty house, an overrun garden and a funeral she needed to plan.

    1. Oh, I love Jane already.... And I can see her trying to fix the unfixable in so many ways... and then maybe being surprised that the unfixable was made right after all!

      Love it, Debby!

    2. Confession, Debby. I've never had grits...but anything with cheese can't be bad, right?

    3. So funny, Karen! I like plain grits, especially with eggs. YUM! Ruthy doesn't like them so thus the reason for my comment. :)

    4. Oh, I LOVE grits! I love cheese grits, garlic cheese grits, plain grits with salt and pepper. And I grew up in Kentucky eating grits with sugar and butter on them. :)

  3. Great post, Ruthy! Here's a snippet from my current story. Enjoy!

    “What’s this about, Drake? Can’t you handle some little bug?”
    “We need to cancel the fair. I need time to figure out what these bugs are and what they can do. I’ve got two dead bodies to account for. No one else in this town is going to die on my watch.”
    “Then you’d better protect them. Isn’t that your job? The fair will go on. You know how it’s been.” The mayor bent his head and brushed his fingers through what was left of his hair. “With the economy. The town needs this fair. I’ve tried not dwelling on this too much. Without this fair, the town will struggle. We need the business the fair draws to town. A couple of businesses are just a bad season away from closing their doors and leaving town. You don’t want that. I don’t want that.” The mayor leaned over the desk toward Drake, shaking his finger in Drake’s direction. “Do I need to replace you to see that this is handled appropriately?”
    The mayor’s squinty gaze clashed with Drake’s. “No, sir. I’ll handle it.” Drake stormed out of his office. He’d have to handle it. If the mayor replaced him no telling what might happen. The town as he knew it would be gone and it’d all be his fault. Where was that agent that was supposed to be coming to help him? He could really use his help right about now.
    He walked down the street, past the Rock Barn Bed-and-Breakfast. Up ahead, a woman drew his attention. That gait. He’d recognize her anywhere. What was she doing here in Red Rock?


      So in this snippet, are these real bugs or like "stomach bugs"? And I'd like to know what Drake's position is, but maybe in the book/story that's already been explained.

      Here's my main suggestion: Ugly the mayor up a notch. I'd suggest a dialogue tag after the opening line something to paint a brief but vivid picture for the reader.

      "Can't you handle some little bug?" The stout, stuck-on-himself mayor's voice interrupted Drake's examination of the body.

      By doing something like that, all of a sudden Drake's the good guy, winning hearts, fighting for truth, justice and the American way and the mayor is a no-good, wants to be re-elected jerk who isn't willing to put public safety ahead of money.

      Now that can be softened later, because towns need money, but setting them up as antagonists is an instant story-deepener.

      The other thing I'd change is the "his" when he's talking about the agent... I'd use "that" because we don't want him thinking in terms of it being a woman, but having him think that it's going to be a man is a hint of sexism... that simple word change makes him look more open and he's going to be surprised to see her anyway...

      And now I want to eat at a place called the Rock Barn Bed-and-Breakfast. How fun would that be???

      AND THANK YOU FOR BEING BRAVE ENOUGH TO PLAY!!! I wasn't too tough on you, darling, was I???


      For going first, you get an automatic Ruthy book... you name it, I'll provide it, Braveheart!!!

    2. Ruthy! This is a snippet from Chapter 5. I needed to find a way to "up" Drake's conversation with the mayor. Thank you! Drake is the local sheriff. The bugs: "real" bugs. Drake's trying to find out what they are too lol. Thank you so much for your feedback! Makes the story so much better! Wait till you see the inside of Rock Barn Bed-and-Breakfast. I am in love with this story and need to shake it up.

      No, you weren't too tough. I knew you'd tell me what I needed to hear.

      A Ruthy book?! I'm so excited! Could I get a copy of Swept Away? I've had my eye on that one.

    3. Yup, I'm putting you on the Swept Away list right now... Okay, so we're several chapters in... so now I'm going to say another thing... why isn't this the first chapter? He's in a bind, people are dying, heroine appears.

      Darling girl, that's got all the earmarks of "OPENING CHAPTER" that my editors go back and make me rewrite, LOL! Think about that... Drop them right into the middle of the life-and-death action... What do you think? I usually think of this after I've written 3 chapters or so of getting to know my characters, backstory, circumstances, setting... and then I see that my story should start right there... Do not hit me, Sally Shupe! You know you love me!!!

    4. Imagine a fish. Do you see a fish? Open mouth, close mouth, again. Hmm. To move this to opening chapter would require major consultation...what do I do with the previous 5 chapters? Those events are now past tense instead of leading up to this exchange.

    5. You'll work it out, Sally! I often write scenes and chapters that end up being cut...but not wasted. Every story has a lot of good starting places, but only one "perfect" starting place. Everything before that is backstory. :-)

    6. Is this a medical suspense, Sally? I love the mention of deadly bugs! :)

    7. Sally, welcome to the world of publishing. I mean it when I say that I'm always having to dump chapters... so what I would do (and you're going to throw darts at my picture and that's okay... ) Begin it here, and feed the other chapters in as bits of backstory. We're old school, you and me, we're from the "lead in and explain, set up the story" school but that's not what sells now.

      Maybe in obscure Oprah-friendly literary circles, I can't speak to that, but not in romance or romantic suspense.

      So don't hate me!!! But that's what I'd do. And I had to do it just a few months ago, change it all around and tossed 80% of the book... and re-wrote it.

      I'm never kidding when I say this business is hard, and the more practice you get with editing and revising, the stronger a writer you'll be.

      But it's okay to NOT LIKE ME today.

      But just for today!!!

    8. Jan makes a great point... even if you don't use the whole chapter later on, you'll be able to grab parts of it and thereby deepen the whole story because people will sense the backstory and why they're doing what they're doing... Her showing up on the street is way better than someone giving her the assignment...

      Him on body two, facing the mayor, having to go toe-to-toe and then to stumble into her...

      First chapter, my darling.

      But it is, (of course!) up to you. :)

    9. Debby, this is syfy meets inspirational romance lol. The bugs are engineered (poisonous flying spiders).

      Ruthy, you've got my attention. Now to figure out how to print your picture, in color, for target practice...haha! Off to talk to Drake and see how this is going to take shape.

  4. Cronuts, yes! Coffee, no. Here's nice pot of tea. My favorite black tea blend called Lover's Leap. Rather appropriate for a bunch of romance writers.

    Ruthy, this is so fun. And I always wanted a Mystery Date game. Never got it, but that didn't stop me from believing. And now I get to make up for it by inventing my own mystery dates in my heroes.

    1. Lover's Leap Tea has been served!!!!

      Mindy, we haven't done this in a while, and it's such a hoot to play when we've got all day.... except when I have to drop Jeter off to be shaved down. Right now my big shaggy dog looks like one of those neglected animal infomercials.... until he smiles, so happy! :)

  5. Before I lose my nerve...Excerpt from contemporary Christmas romance I'm working on, below.

    Chapter One

    “You want me to what?”
    Jane Archer fluffed her grandmother’s pillow one more time and tucked the quilt around Gram’s legs, a frontline defense for a cold night in New Hampshire’s North Country. Was she not hearing right, had Gram’s meds scrambled her speech?
    No. Alice Merrill always meant what she said and said what she meant. And what she meant now bode no glad tidings for Jane.
    A chilly November dusk had fallen. In the lamplight Gram’s eyes were clear as ever, her voice strong as she looked up at Jane. “I need you to run the Festival. I can’t get around on my own for at least six weeks, and there’s a lot of legwork. You have the time.”
    “I’ll be taking care of you.” It wasn’t much of a gauntlet to throw down, and Jane knew it, but she threw anyway.
    And Gram tossed it back. “The visiting nurse comes every day, I’ve signed up for Meals on Wheels, and I have my books and my DVDs. I’m perfectly capable of amusing myself. And a lot of the prep work is done.” She waved a graceful hand toward her desk. “You remember the notebook.”
    The Notebook. The two-inch-thick loose-leaf binder that helped a busy widowed schoolteacher run the legendary Hilltop Christmas Festival. Before a hip replacement sidelined her and brought Jane home to Hilltop.
    “I’m not much for Christmas,” she managed. “I’m not, well, religious.”
    Gram sighed. She had always been the cool grandmother, wearing jeans and hiking boots on her weekends, keeping up with the granddaughter she hadn’t expected to raise, keeping current with the fifth-graders she taught, serving as a stalwart member of the Hilltop Community Church. She was still slender, her silver hair in a pixie cut, her skin unwrinkled except for the laugh lines.
    But for the first time in Jane’s memory she looked fragile. “Janie, Janie. What happened to you?”
    A valid enough question from the woman who had shepherded her to Sunday School, worship service, youth group. Jane had gone with Gram every Sunday until she left for college, and stopped the week she moved into her dorm room.
    But it wasn’t Gram’s fault, wasn’t even Hilltop Church’s fault. They had done their best. Jane had been damaged before she came to Hilltop.
    Would Gram understand? Probably. Could Jane bear to open that box? No. She’d sealed it the day Gram met the bus and took her home.
    Gram had done so much for her – everything, really. Taken her in, provided for her every need, inspired Jane toward her own teaching career. She owed Gram. Owed her for things even Gram didn’t know about. Could anything she asked, even the Hilltop Festival, be too much?
    Jane was organized. She could run a festival, couldn’t she? Even if she no longer believed in what it celebrated.
    She looked around the cozy parlor, the heart of Gram’s old Victorian house. A fire crackled in the fireplace. Winter came on early in New Hampshire, and even earlier in its hilly North Country. She was here for six weeks anyway. Might as well do something useful.
    Jane picked up The Notebook and perched on an ottoman next to Gram’s recliner. She closed her eyes briefly, then used the words she’d heard Gram use in a dozen crises. “Let’s see what we have here.”
    Best to get it over with, another lesson Gram had taught her, though she’d learned a good bit of that on her own.
    “You’ll want to talk to the pastor,” Gram said.
    No. Jane wouldn’t.

    Kathy again and of course the pastor turns out to be cute and young, with an attraction to this beautiful apostate he can't possibly indulge. This is the first in my Hilltop Christmas series. The tag is, "Welcome to Hilltop, the Town That Heals."
    Erica is on Petticoats and Pistols today, I've got to get over and see what she has to say, back later.

    1. I already want to read more about Jane and Gram. This sounds wonderful!

    2. Great job, Kaybee.
      Love the subtle humor.

    3. FIRST... THIS IS SO GOOD. So good... Kaybee, you've nailed so much of this.... and you know I've got a couple of ideas, but nothing major like throwing it away and starting over. So that's good, right??? :)

      Here's what jumped out at me instantly. Jane's first line about Christmas. This is your punch, your in-the-face backstory, reader-investment line... Punch it. Make it count so the reader might not want to cry yet, but they want to make things right for Jane. Make them NEED to make things right for Jane... I'm going to write an idea to spur your idea if you want to thicken this up just a little...

      "... and brought Jane home to Hilltop at the worst possible time of year. Christmas. Stinkin' twinkle lights, creches everywhere, stupid carols and poignant hymns, the whole pomp and circumstance. No. She didn't "do" Christmas. Ever. But now, with Gram... she had no choice. "So the Grinch comes home to save the festival?" She made a face at Gram. "Irony reigns."

      "I prefer the Dickens analogy better." Gram smiled at her, softening the moment. Brightening the day. Gram who'd gone to the mattresses for her.

      (Okay, that's just an idea of how I see this whole thing going to layer in Jane's hidden anger, her realization that she can't say no, but the last thing she wants to do is say yes... Have it make sense, but grab the reader's heart because now we know something's gone wrong. Really wrong. And it's not an easy fix.)

      The other thing I'd tweak (if it doesn't ruin EVERYTHING) is to have her not think she can run the festival... have her know it. I'd like to see her confident because she seems it above... and with the notebook, experience and everything already arranged, I think her confidence paints her as an overcomer... But that's totally up to you!

      And the rest is exactly as I'd want it to be... so those two tweaks to heroine's character and inner story are it.


    4. I want to read more of this story!

    5. Lovely, KB! You blew me away! I see Hallmark Movie! I'll be watching SAT night, Hallmark channel! Plus, I'll definitely BUY YOUR BOOK! Have you submitted it?


    6. I had the same thought, Sally!

      And KB, I like Ruthy's idea of showing the reader Jane's anger about the whole situation. She thought she had escaped this too-good-to-be-true Christianity stuff and had planned to NOT celebrate Christmas on her own terms. And now here she is, back in the past, when she has a whole life back home...

      And I loved the glimpse you gave into Jane's past - that she had been damaged before she came to Hilltop. :-)

      Yes, I definitely want to read more!

  6. LOL, Ruthy.

    I would've had the same thought as you.
    Me. "I want to look gorgeous for my date tonight."
    Beautician w/startled look. "Let's pray."

    Okay, I got sidetracked...

    Let me think about what to put out here and I'll be back.

    1. LAUGHING!!!! "Let's pray." That's exactly how it was, LOL!

    2. Connie... ROFLOL!

      You know, I met with an industry professional once who was known for praying with folks. So I was expecting the prayer at the end of our meeting. Now I'm wondering about that prayer! lol

    3. Well, we weren't at the end of the meeting... I think she was just gobsmacked, LOL! :) And I do come off as a little strong, I know... but golly gee whillikers, there is nothing wrong with a self-confident woman... :) That's what I'm going with, gals!!!

  7. Here is a clip from my novel. Background: Rick Montgomery is a local television meteorologist whose coverage of a tornado saved lives. Now he wants to move up to working at The Weather Channel but his wife Beth doesn't want to move. In this clip they are in marriage counseling with their pastor, William.

    Beth bit her lip. Why were they getting into this again? “I just don’t understand why you can’t be content with giving the weather here. You are making a big difference right here. Look at all the lives you saved. You don't need to go elsewhere for an important job.”
    “But it’s not where I want to be forever.” Rick slammed his hand on the arm of the chair. “There is more weather to report in the world and I want to be part of it.”
    “Is that more important than your family?” Beth asked.
    “That’s not fair, Beth.” Rick glared at her, then turned to William. “You haven’t stayed in one job your whole life, have you?
    William cleared his throat. “No, I haven’t. But I don’t think you can compare. The ministry is certainly a different career. Pastors can never get too comfortable for long in one place.”
    Beth thought she saw William’s eyes wander far away a moment. “Rick, we’re not talking about the pastor.”
    William seemed to snap back into the moment. “As I was saying, we can’t really compare the two. But it’s important that the two of you have a serious heart-to-heart about your goals and your future. Sometimes in marriage we have to make some hard choices. The two of you need to sit down and talk without anger and recriminations. Marriage often requires compromise.”
    Beth sighed and looked at Rick. “I suppose we do. But right now you’re busy with all the post tornado coverage here. We don’t need to worry about it now.”
    Rick clenched his fists. Beth could see the vein bulging in his neck and knew he was angry. “We do need to talk about it, Beth, because next week I’m flying to Atlanta for a visit to the Weather Channel.” Beth jumped up. “What? Just when were you planning to tell me?” She began pacing behind the chairs. She couldn’t believe that Rick would spring this on her now.
    “I don’t know, Beth. I was waiting for the right time to tell you.”
    She stopped pacing and glared at him. “And you thought right in the middle of marriage counseling was the right time?”
    “Clearly no.” Rick shook his head.

    1. Rick wants to work at The Weather Channel? Jim Cantore is my hero. If he comes to your town you know you're in trouble lol. Love the set-up to this story and would love to read more!

    2. Oh, Sandy.... This has some very gripping moments, and I'd be probably sending them to opposite corners of the boxing ring, with gloves on.... Because they're so angry at each other and it sounds like deep-seeded anger.

      You nailed the anger so well. The movement, the mixed emotions, the lack of understanding. There's not a married couple in the world that wouldn't see this and identify with it, I bet...

      But he seems very unlikeable. There is no reason in this excerpt for me to like him. I actually dislike him a lot because he sounds like an unsacrificial snot... So that's tough because I want her to walk out on him... and unless that's how you want the reader to feel, you might want to think about changing this...

      I'm not sure how. I'm disadvantaged because I don't know how far we are in the story, but I know you've been working on this a while, haven't you? So maybe if we look at the Goal/Motivation and Conflict of the story it will help.

      Is their goal to make their marriage work? To reconnect?

      Why do they want to make it work? Kids? Finances? Love gone cold but can be reignited?? Because marriage is a Godly institution and failure would be embarrassing? There can be multiple motivations, of course!

      Conflict is obvious here, but I bet it goes deeper... that they have different goals and lack of understanding.

      So that's what I'd look at here. We see where the story is now, but where do we want it to go and why?

    3. I love that Rick is a meteorologist whose weather prediction saved lives. How creative! I need to think more outside the box with my characters' professions.

    4. Sally, thanks for your nice comments. It is true about not wanting the Weather Channel to come to town. I love that commercial where Jim Cantore shows up on the beach and everyone runs away screaming and he has the whole beach to himself. Fortunately he has never come to my town. But a couple years ago when they were predicting a major tornado outbreak, Mike Bettes came to our town. That really made me worry. Fortunately, nothing much happened here.

    5. Ruthy, thanks for the critique. We are pretty far in the story at this point and I have tried to show how each of them are trying to reach their own goals. I will try to make sure that Rick comes across as a likeable character. I think here he is feeling frustrated because he hasn't felt like he could tell Beth about this interview because she is so set against it.

    6. Karen, thank you for the nice comment. I got the inspiration for this character from a story years ago about a weatherman who was credited with saving lives because of his precise forecasts and coverage during the storm. In my story, he kind of lets all the praise go to his head bit too much!

    7. I love that commercial where Jim has the beach to himself. But I always wanted him to come to my town in front of a huge snowstorm, but it hasn't happened yet. I didn't even get to make a snowman this year, again. Would love to read this story when it's finished!

    8. Sandy, may I add my two cents? Saving lives in a tornado sounds like the perfect climax to a story, with the weatherman worried as he sees the storm heading straight to where his wife and children are living. That would be so gripping. As he's trying to report the news and warn her via phone call or text, he realizes he's always loved her and wants to remain married. Again, you've probably got everything written for the storm in the beginning, but could you tone that one down a bit and then make the huge, life-and-death situation come at the climax?

    9. Debby, thanks for your comments. Actually, the tornado comes early in the story. The rest of the book concerns the aftermath and rebuilding. Also, it is the storm and the praise he gets afterwards that really fuels his desire to "move up in the world" when he gets so much attention and recognition afterwards. I do have him being frantic about his family, not knowing how they fare in the storm, but then he is so busy afterwards with all the media attention, he isn't able to devote time to his family. In addition, his house has been badly damaged, which leads to further conflicts and frustration.

      Something else about the story I didn't mention is that in the opening, there is a tornado warning that he misses. It turns out not to be anything, but his station manager is upset and his job is on the line. This further erodes the situation at home because now he feels he needs to spend even more time away from home--leaving his wife home alone with premature newborn twins with medical needs. In the end, they both realize they are each partly to blame and I have figured out an ending to help him make a decision.

      I appreciate your suggestions.

    10. Sally, having Jim Cantore come during a snowstorm wouldn't be as scary.

      Thanks for your interest in my story. It won't be ready for a while, but I will remember that!

    11. Debby, great suggestion! Gives me chills.

  8. It's so hard to know what's a good excerpt to post! I have no idea if this will show my characters at all, but I do love this exchange from the beginning of my WIP. So I'll put it out there and ask for your advice. And I'll take a cronut, too, since I've never had one :) Thanks in advance, Ruth. What a fun way to start the day!

    “What is this all about? Am I a suspect now too?” The anger was rising inside of her and she was sure he could see it in her eyes. She just hoped he couldn’t hear her heart beating or see the sweat she was sure was beginning to form on her forehead.

    Connolly put his hands out in front of him, palms toward her. “Calm down, Ms. McGuire. You’re not a suspect. Professor Watson is unavailable and you’re the only other person that I know of in this little town that can speak Russian. I’m on a bit of a timeline here—this suspect may know something I really need to know—and you’re my best bet.” He smiled again, a little longer this time, showing a row of nice, white teeth. “I’ll just need you for a little while, to help me determine if this man knows what I think he does, then I’ll be transporting him back to Seattle where I work.” He paused. “I’m sorry if I was a little over-the-top. I do that sometimes.”

    She sighed. He was right. Maggie wasn’t home right now. Rian had been hoping to have a couple of hours at home by herself, to unwind a little after a long week. A little music, a glass of wine—that was the fantasy, which she knew would be replaced by the reality of a messy house, a sink full of dishes and nothing in the house to drink except on-the-edge-of-its-expiration chocolate milk.

    “I don’t think I can help you and I don’t appreciate you bringing my daughter into this.” She did not want to go to the police station. The sweating became more noticeable to her, across her stomach and under her arms. Luckily it was cold outside and she’d worn a sweater today. Maybe he wouldn’t see the stains she was sure were spreading.

    He squinted at her, as if trying to see what she was saying underneath. He probably did this automatically as a hazard of the job, but it was uncomfortable. She was sure that was the point.

    "Look at it as your civic duty. I can’t promise it will get your name off the jury duty list, but…” Another smile. So now he was trying charm, since the heavy-handed approach wasn’t working. Unfortunately, a charming smile was the one that worked on her. Almost every time.

    1. Love the exchange between these two. I want to know what's going on and what's going to happen! Russian? Why does she know Russian? And why is there a suspect who speaks Russian in custody?

    2. Oh, Glynis, good for you jumping in!!!! Yay!!!! Okay...

      I love Sally's questions, because they tweaked me, too...

      Okay, we've got an instant adversarial relationship here... I'd get rid of his straight white teeth and use a more up-to-date feminine assessment...

      "Connolly, what is this all about? Am I a suspect now, too?" A cool sweat broke out along her neck.

      She ignored it, just like the clammy damp palms she'd clenched the minute he turned those baby blues her way. He was crazy good-looking. Tall, but not too tall. Broad, but not squared off... just right. Strong chin, strong gaze, strong everything and that was reason to break into a sweat right there. Luckily winter sweaters covered a multitude of sins.

      (Okay, I pieced that stuff together to draw the reader instantly in to his charisma and strength... and to show her discomfort without going into underarms, etc... )

      And here's a crazy Ruthy romance suggestion... to set the later stage... When she demands why she's here, have him say three little words.

      "I need you."

      And then her internal reaction to that because she'd love to be needed someday... but she also is keeping him at arm's length...

      He needed her? For one fraction of a second the words teased, but then he jutted his chin toward the back. "I've got a Russian suspect back there, the professor isn't in town and you're about it when it comes to Russian translators at the moment."

      Now here's why I'm changing the way he'd respond like this (but don't feel pushed...) Most cops don't waste words. They tend to be direct, succinct, to the point. A minister might use the comfort speak but a cop generally speaks, then listens. Connealy taught me that cowboys tend to grunt. :) And her words suddenly opened up a whole thing for me to see how different men speak depending on position, career, etc. Then the rest of that passage, I like a lot, after we get rid of the teeth... that sounded too romance-novel to me, especially if she's uncomfortable.

      I'm confused about the daughter part... Maggie's her daughter, right? But where did he bring her into it? Is that a part I haven't seen?

      I love cop heroes. I love military heroes. I love cowboy heroes. They all draw me and I love writing them! (I love handymen heroes too, they're so stinkin' down-to-earth!!!)

      I love the charming smile line... it makes her human and him cute... but I'm not big on the heavy handed line because I didn't find him heavy-handed and it makes him sound kind of mean... so I'd adjust that, too.

    3. This is great, Glynis! I'm so glad you shared this!

      And now I'm wondering why Rian speaks Russian, and who the real suspect is.

      The detail of "nothing in the house to drink except on-the-edge-of-its-expiration chocolate milk" is perfect. You've shown the reader tons about your character with that little phrase. :-)

      Now I'm anxious to see what Ruthy will say!

    4. Ruthy and I commented at the same time!

      She's good.

      I'm looking forward to seeing you later at our writer's group, Glynis!

    5. Thank you both! Yes, Maggie's her daughter. I wasn't sure where to start my excerpt and I forget to set that up for you :) She hadn't told him she had a daughter, but he'd been checking her out before he asked for her help, so she'd gotten her feathers ruffled by him knowing about her daughter. Thanks for the suggestions, Ruth. It means a lot to have you take the time to do that.

      See you in a little while, Jan!

    6. I figured that's where the daughter came in... Glynis, this was so much fun! Thank you for being brave enough to jump in!!!

  9. Ruthy, one more thing, my goal is the same as yours was lo those many years ago. I want to be a multi-published author of Christian fiction. Period. Over the years I've given myself the litmus test, what would I do if I won the lottery (assuming I play the lottery which I don't). And I always came back to the same answer: after I paid everyone off, I'd use what was left for classes and conferences to make me a better writer. So it isn't about the money, which is a good thing because there isn't any or at least not much.
    NOW I'm going to Petticoats and Pistols.

    1. And you know that I borrowed scads of books from the library to study how successful authors put together stories, plots, arcs, etc. because there was no money here, either... and that might make me a copy cat author, but I'm okay with that! :) because eventually our own voice "leaches" through!

  10. Okay, Ruthy. You said do it. My heroine has just found a dead body. Peter. The dog is Hank. Here the heroine and hero meet for the first time.

    “Whoa, what’s going on?” The man’s eyes widened and he entered the room. A tall, muscular man stood in long athletic shorts and a damp T-shirt breathing hard. His scruffy face indicated he hadn’t shaved in a few days but it didn’t take away from his attractiveness.
    “It’s Peter.”
    “I can see that. Why’d you kill him?” He pulled a cellphone from his running shorts and punched in numbers.
    “I didn’t hurt him. I came over for Hank.” She pointed to the dog.
    Hank lay on the floor with his head propped on his front paws. His big brown eyes looked heartbroken. Only an ear flickered when Marc spoke.
    “Yeah? Well then, what are you doing here standing over Peter’s body with a heavy paperweight in your hand?”
    “He’s dead. No pulse.” She gasped for air. Did he think she hurt Peter? Could this look any worse. She stood over her friend with a possible weapon. “When I heard your footsteps, I grabbed the paperweight to defend myself. I thought you might be the killer.”
    “You don’t say.” He met her eyes instead of continuing to dial. It was if he tried to read her mind to determine the truth. “Why don’t you put the paperweight down and tell me who you are.”

    1. Good job, Jackie! I like the changes you made since the last time I read this!

      Note to curious onlookers: Jackie won a 5-page critique from me last month, so I was privileged to read her story ahead of time!

    2. If she didn't kill him, why is she there and standing over him? Have to read more! Love this story.

    3. Oh, oh, oh... first, congrats on making changes Jan suggested. We know it takes guts to do that!!! Second... I love this back-and-forth, it has the fun "Castle" reparte all over it!

      Okay, the first thing I'd suggest is that I want her reaction instantly when he asked "Why'd you kill him?"

      I'd make it funny... Because he's clearly good at his job and my cop friends would nod and smile at how you handled that line... So he says "Why'd you kill him?" and she goes internal.

      Kill him? Umm, nice try, handsome, I didn't kill anyone... yet. But then the day ain't over. Swallowing the urge she caught and held his gaze. "I haven't killed anyone. Yet." She kept her eyes on his long enough to send the message and when he lifted a brow she knew: Message received.
      "I came over for Hank." ....

      Then he asks about paperweight...

      I'd lose that next section and keep it simple.

      "I picked this up when I heard you coming. I figured it was the killer coming back. Last I knew, self-defense wasn't a crime."

      And then I love (this is me talking again!!!) that last line about why don't you put the paperweight down...

      THIS IS SO MUCH FUN. Great back-and-forth, I'd suggest shoring up the heroine with a little cryptic backbone (although there IS A DEAD BODY at her feet....) :)

    4. Thanks so much, Ruthy! I appreciate your feedback.

  11. Ruthy, I'm going to cut that famous author from years ago some slack. Of course she wanted to pray! She didn't realize that she was face-to-face with a dynamo who not only dreamed of being a multi-published, best selling author, but had the plan and will-power to make it happen!

    But even so, prayer is the most powerful of all of your assets. :-)

    1. Hahahahaha! I agree... and she's a nice woman, I'm sure!!! It was the dumbfounded look she gave me, like I was a cheeky kid... :) But yes, we will cut her slack because I did show up early for my appt. with her and was afraid she'd forgotten... but no, I was ten minutes early. That was MY BAD!!!! Over-anxious even then!

  12. Hi Ruthy, at the risk of repeating it for the zillionth time, I am just a reader so I don't have anything to throw at you. Thanks for giving others the chance to share their work and Kaybee, I want to learn more about A Hilltop Christmas!

    1. Connie, hi!!! Isn't this fun? It's fun to see how the process plays out, what we're thinking, why we stylize a story the way we do... I'm so glad you're here and you're brave enough to hop in... Free book for you! First reader to brave the waters!!!! Let me know which one you'd like, I think I have almost everything here! And thanks for jumping in the water!!!

  13. Ruthy, I'm in the middle of my WIP but can't move forward because my original first chapter didn't work. This is my third complete rewrite of Ch 1--different POV character, different scene--total overhaul. Here is an excerpt from the opening scene. Will readers want to read on? I have a very thick skin...seriously I do. So whatever flaws you see, feel free to use this as a teachable moment for me and any new writers who might benefit from your quick critique. :) All my hugs are for you today--in exchange for brutal honesty. :)

    Why are you sabotaging the most important night of my life? Amie squeezed the back of Jackson’s arm just above his elbow where her hand rested. His limp grin remained distant, his stare pasted in the air somewhere between the prestigious man standing in front of them and the mass of people suffusing her art gallery with energy. She should be waltzing artists among the patrons, making introductions, influencing buyers—not babysitting her husband who’d been anxious and aloof since his unfashionable arrival almost two hours late.

    “Jackson.” The corners of her mouth pushed back humiliation to produce a counterfeit smile. She elevated the squeeze to a pinch, quick but vicious, just enough bite to restore life in his eyes. His arm flinched. “Geoffrey asked you a question.”

    He cleared his throat and staged a winning smile, too enthusiastic to be convincing. His glance bounced from her to her mentor as Jackson rattled the ice in his glass and tipped it to his lips even though it was empty. His attempt at nonchalance didn’t convince her either. “I’m…considering it.”

    “Considering whether tonight is a success?” She stepped aside and peered at him, waiting for his response to break the heavy pause between them. What’s to consider? The evening had to be a success. Distant from major cities and art hubs, the gallery’s first year floated in the red. But thanks to Geoffrey’s influence in the industry and the exhibit he curated, she might be able to keep her dignity and begin repaying the loan her mother insisted was a gift, a gift with strings attached, to the hands of a puppeteer.

    A wave of heat flushed Amie’s face. Nerves? Illness? She’d been fighting it since early afternoon. The track lighting intensified the white walls to a glare. The colors in the paintings swirled. The room tilted. She closed her eyes to right it again. When she opened them, Geoffrey’s brow was stressed, pulling his white hairline forward. The familiar expression accelerated the palpitations in her chest. Except he wasn’t critiquing a project that failed to meet his expectations in spite of the extra hours she’d spent in the studio. No, her husband was the subject of his inspection.

    Jackson dipped his chin and chuckled, brushing aside a dark strand of hair that fell loose on his forehead. And just like that, he beamed and his charisma resurfaced. He slipped an arm around her waist and tucked her into his side. “I meant to say that because your esteemed professor here persuaded so many talented artists to travel all this way, Gallery 433 feels like we’re back in Chicago instead of…here…a college town on the banks of the Mississippi.”

    An acceptable recovery but not a pardon. This was the man she’d expected to arrive to the party, to revel in the festivities, to radiate charm as he mingled. Geoffrey extended his arm and engaged Jackson in a fervent handshake.

    1. Unfashionable arrival-does her husband not normally come? Why is he here now? Why is his presence sabotaging her evening? I want to read more about the gift and the strings attached. Sounds like a great story!

    2. Karen, hey!!! Is this romantic suspense?

      I love that she's got a lot riding on this, but I think I'd shorten is slightly. Not too much...

      And I'd start it in first person internal dialogue to make that first line more immediate...

      Why is my husband... the man who's supposed to love, honor and cherish and do all that other stuff that sounded so stinkin' easy at the altar...sabotaging the most important night of my life?

      He might need to die.

      "Jackson." (and then I'd continue on as written, but I'd trim some words... And I'd like a hint of WHY he seems disengaged... bad day at work? Did he just murder someone? Lose his job? Now she might not know why because he was two hours late, but if there's a reason, wouldn't she suspect it? Intuition?

      So I don't want to cut him too much slack because I like this, but I'd want a hinted reason for what's going on...

      And then the turnaround.

      And I'd keep that vicious pinch, LOL! :)

      But I'd minimize her paralyzing reactions unless they're integral to the story line... I'd suggest keeping her annoyed (read THOROUGHLY TICKED OFF) but less fainting/dizzy unless we're about to find out she's pregnant, poisoned or dying of imminent heart failure... Anger and apprehension and disappointment are good, but if that's all it is, I'd keep her stronger looking by making some of that go away, my friend!

    3. Thank you so much, Sally & Ruthy! You touched on a few things I've wondered about and helped me realize a couple of new things. Yes to all your good ideas! Thank you. And yes, she is pregnant, which will be a plot complication she'll find out in a couple of chapters...but maybe I need to move that physical reaction to a different place, so it won't seem like an emotional overreaction to Jackson. Much appreciation!!!! When I grow up, I want to be like you. :)

    4. You know, you can leave a hint of it... that's a great foreshadow and the women readers will say AHA! I KNEW IT!!! :) But I'd leave just a hint.... And isn't this fun??? You are a woman of courage!!!! So many people would never do this in the open! :) Go you!!!

    5. You call it courage. I call it desperation. :) I really needed some direction, so I can leave Ch 1 and get back to the middle of my WIP. Believe me, I had to talk myself into posting this excerpt, but I didn't want to miss this opportunity. <3

  14. Oh, I love this! So much fun to "Speed date" and the imbedded comments helps to keep it all in each thread. Smiling!

  15. I don't think I've ever played Mystery Date. I've also never watched the Santa Clause so excuse me as I'm a little behind on the times... ;P

    Well let's see I'm currently working on three stories. League of Thieves which I started in November. I have 82,129 words. I'm also working on a dark fantasy Snow White retelling titled A Winter Dark and Deadly. I started it in January an it is the sequel to my 20,000 word short story that I wrote for the Rooglewood Press contest. I have 15,162 words written so far. And I started another story titled A Certain Sort of Madness just this past week. I have a grand total of 2,300 words in that. Lol.

    I don't know where I'll be in two (good heavens- five?) years. But I certainly do hope to be a successful writer with several books published and maybe some of them (???) bestsellers (I mean really, is that too much to hope for?)

    1. Nicki, I don't believe anything is too much to hope for... as long as you're willing to do the work, amazing things happen!

      Opportunities tend to open for the well-prepared. :)

      If you're not ready to get off the "bench", the coach ain't gonna put you in the game.

      The harder we work, the luckier we get.

      All great thoughts that simply mean... Just do it. Nobody buys a blank page! :) Go get 'em, youngster, and think of how cool and long your career would be????

    2. Well, I'm certainly working toward it :) And yeah, I'm glad I started so young. Perhaps by the time I'm eighty I'll have written all my ideas into book form... probably not, but it's a nice thought to have ;P

  16. League of Thieves. I actually hope to publish this traditionally (!!!) so that's kind of big for me. So if you could just pray that when the time comes it will find the right publishing company :)

    Here's an excerpt from it. It's a conversation between my characters Adilah (who is an assassin) and Sahir (who is a smuggler)

    “What do you believe you are doing, you fool,” she hissed.
    “Being heroic, what does it look like I am doing?”
    “Heroic!” Adilah laughed scornfully. “You?”
    “I decided to try something new.” Sahir glanced at her. “Don’t look so flabbergasted. It was only after I saw you being heroic that I decided to be heroic myself.”
    “I wasn’t being heroic!” Adilah cried exasperated. “I was being logical.”
    “Yes, because the logical thing would be to attack the forty thieves and their ruthless leader in order to rescue their fantastic, but hopelessly outnumbered captives.”

    1. Oh, this is so fun to jump into a historical realm like this!

      She's got spunk. I love spunk! And I love the last line, because the logical to do would be to attack the forty thieves, LOL! That's a great line, Nicki!

      Okay, here's what I would suggest... I'm getting dialogue and no picture of where or when. I want that. A cultural, foreign setting like that would offset this dialogue beautifully. Show us where they are... what's around... I'd love that...

      And Adilah's dialogue tags could be softened... There will be some authors who disagree with me, but to go from 'hissed', to 'laughed scornfully' then 'cried, exasperated' sounds over-the top to me. Now you can change that by mixing it up a little. " fool?" She kept her voice to a low hiss to avoid detection.

      Then you can leave the scornful laugh if you want...

      "I wasn't being heroic." She nailed him with a short, sharp look, still quiet. "I was being logical."

      And then the final line. When we mix up the way we use verbs, the way we form sentence length and strength, we sharpen our writing and our way of seeing things.

      I'm so glad you did this, Nicki!!!

    2. Haha! I'm glad you like it. Adilah is one of my spunkier characters because she doesn't care what people think of her. And I love writing in the exotic setting. I was kind of going with an Egyptian/Persian/Roman (think if Rome had conquered Persia instead of Greece and so was influenced by their culture instead) setting with a character who is from the "Greek" city states, though so far they haven't traveled there yet. I love ancient lands so I like to incorporate them heavily in my fantasy worlds.

      Thanks for the tips with the dialogue! You're completely right! Adilah would keep her voice low. She doesn't really raise it I don't know why she did there (I guess Sahir provoked her, lol) thanks for the advice!

      Adding the description and the world building comes in the second or third draft, though I believe the paragraph just before the dialogue is describing the setting of the cavern of the collapsing temple they are in... But I'll have to add more things like how Sahir's face is mostly hidden by shadows, and the rumbling, and the pebbles raining down on their shoulders as they talk...

  17. A Winter Dark and Deadly. It's the sequel for Winter Cursed which is right now part of the Rooglewood Contest. (Can somebody say stressful?). I loved the characters so much that I decided to write a sequel, but since the first book was a short story I had to only put in what was completely necessary to the story and even then I had to delete some scenes in order to make certain that it would fit the word count. But now it feels like I have so much freedom for Winter Dark and Deadly's word count that the plot is meandering a little.

    Here's and excerpt. It's a conversation between the princess Elisabeth and Prince Cedric (who also happens to be the son of a dark lord)

    “What? You thought I came in here simply to enjoy a picnic? I am here, the High Chancellor’s papers are here, and the High Chancellor is not here.” Cedric picked up several papers, flipping through them. “Really it is too much for me to resist... Oh, that is interesting.”
    Elisabeth placed her hands on her hips and tapped her foot. “You know this is wrong.”
    Cedric glanced up at her and sighed. “Tell me, Lizzie, when did I ever steer you wrong so much as to lead you to believe that I cared for the difference between right and wrong?”
    “What about your own neck? Do you care for that?”
    “Naturally,” Cedric muttered, not bothering to look up from the papers.
    “Then do not do this, Cedric. If the High Chancellor learns of what you did he will-”
    “What?” Cedric asked looking up at her. “Order my execution? You’re behind the times, Lizzie, dear. He already has.”


      NICKY.... you should be writing this and more of these, as well and fast as you can. You have a few mechanical problems that an editor can clean up, but the voice behind this segment is sterling. No. I'm sorry. Not sterling.

      It's gold.

      I am not kidding you, kid.

      Get to work.

    2. *blushes* THANKS SO MUCH! I'm so glad you like it! :D

  18. A Certain Sort of Madness. This is the companion series to My Time in Amar. It will be two books long. I plan to publish it interspersed with the other books in the My Time in Amar. I'd like to have this story done by the fall so I can publish it then, but I also need to rewrite the second book in the My Time in Amar series. So... I'm going to have to figure out some time to do that, shan't I?

    So far I have only a very vague idea of what I want to do with this book so I'm basically just pantsing it.

    Here's an excerpt of the beginning.

    My story always begins with, “Once upon a time there was a girl torn between worlds.”
    Even though I had heard this for years, from before I could understand words. Despite the fact that I probably knew this tale better than my ABC’s, I would lean forward, watching my mother’s face with rapt attention.
    She would smile. I was too young to see the sadness to it. “There was the world she had always lived in. The one she where she would always be safe in But that was not the world she was destined for. That was not the world she was from. This world was a fantastic land, rife with magic and creatures. Oh such magnificent creatures you could never dream to behold, my dear Alicia. And the very magic that is so prevalent in this land runs through her veins. With it she could choose to return to this world- Amar- her world.”
    At this moment my mother would pause in the tale and regard me sternly, “But you mustn't ever choose to return, Alicia, never. For that very magic, is what would be your undoing.”
    I would gasp, feeling the thrill and terror of her words as if it was the first time I was hearing it. As if this was the first time she was revealing that the story was actually my story.
    “You were fated for death,” my mother would always say. Then she would pause. Lick her lips, or fiddle with her broach, or run a hand through her hair. Finally, when I was about to burst from the suspense of not knowing, she would say, “But I didn’t care for that kind of fate for my little girl.”
    She would lean forward and place her hands which always slightly trembled with her nervous energy on mine, she would look at me with the clouded blue eyes- the same shade of my own- and she would rasp, “Never lose sight of who you are or who you are meant to be. So much more than this weak world, we must resign ourselves to, could ever understand.”
    My story always ends with, Carolyn Hareton! What foolish nonsense are you filling that child’s head with?

    1. I am in love.... and I've had a fantasy story that's somewhat similar but NOT AS GOOD.

      You stinkin' brat.

      I hope I live long enough to see you shine, my friend.

    2. Haha! *whispers* sorry. What was your fantasy story about?

    3. It's about a woman who has the "power" to overcome the evil that fell upon a small town years ago... but all the main players left, with the exception of a few old timers... and they're prepared to fight the devil when he/it/they show their faces again... It's possible this mountain town was built on a portal to another dimension... and when the heroine shows up in her grandmother's house for a very mortal reason... the other world gets shaken up because her time has come, making the locals think she's a witch... but her powers are purely for good, and strong. Great supporting cast. I'm grinning, thinking about them!

      One of these days I'll have time to write it!

    4. Oh wow, that sounds intense. No worries, that's not what my story is about. It's about a (slightly insane) girl who is from another world but when she was born her mother had to flee to earth because of *reasons*, but she has always been drawn to Amar so of course she goes and *stuff happens*

      I think the only thing they have in common is the portals (though my portals are created by people, it sounds like yours is just kinda there) and a heroine with powers, but pretty much every fantasy book has that so no problems there ;P

      Yes you should! Because I would love to read that story!

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Oh my stars... Connie. Connie. Connie... I am totally caught up in this... first let me tell you what you did right...

      Wait. Blogger doesn't have enough room for that! :)

      You varied your sentence length. You used a lot of quick, short sentences. Great descriptors/adjectives/adverbs. "Slowing down to a fast walk"... a simple sentence, simply perfect.

      Thick vegetation provided a canopy against the rain, but the saturated ground was slick. A fall would seal her fate.

      (I have a total picture/image/feeling for this entire scene!!!!)

      Okay, italic and bold are easy... < goes in front of the part you want bolded... then the letter b... then the "greater than sign >

      And then for italics you do the same thing < (less than) i > (greater than)!!!

      so the less than and greater than signs are the signal to Google to use bold or italics. Then at the end of the part you want to do ...No one< (less than) /(forward slash) i (self-explanatory!) and then the greater than symbol >

      It's funny if I put it there for you , then blogger will say "TAG NOT CLOSED" and won't post it...

      Connie. This is so good! Great solid grab-me opening!

    2. Nice suspense, Connie! I want to learn more about the heroine...and the bad guy who's after her!

    3. You're the best Ruthy. Thank you!

    4. It worked! And it only took me 5 tries!

  20. Ruthy, Hello! Thank you so much for asking some great questions. Two years? Still writing. Five years? Still writing! I would love, love, love to be a published author one day. Still working on that. In fact, I'm leaving in a minute to go write this afternoon and work on my newest WIP. Thank you so much for praying for all the Villagers who are trying to get off unpubbed island. Well, at least, thanks on my behalf. Prayers are always appreciated. It's been a hard week and a half so I'm treasuring this time to go spend getting to know Piper and Cole (my newest hero and heroine) better. Have a great day! I'm also looking forward to reading Ruthy mysteries in the next two years ;)

    1. Tanya! I had a Piper in my lead Kirkwood Lake book... Piper McKinney, and she was a great, tough as nails, take no prisoners heroine, running a dairy farm with two illegal immigrants (who are now legal!) and a lot of drama... and she does not like drama! I love that name, Piper!!!!

      I'm so sorry about the week and a half, and you know if you ever need help or encouragement or a shoulder or to shoot someone, I'm here. You have my e-mail.... I'm here anytime.

      Those questions are fundamental to this business and the important thing is Don't Quit. Don't Quit. Don't Quit.

      I can't say that enough.

      On the very worst possible day, I have the best possible job. (stolen from Lenora Worth a talented woman that I love)

      We hang in. We don't quit. We paste smiles.

      And pretty soon we're good at all of it!!!!

  21. Ah, Ruthy, I bet you've surpassed that author you met with. LOL!!!
    I remember Debbie Macomber saying you should pray for your goals, and not be afraid to shoot for NYT bestselling status, or whatever lofty goal you wish to shoot for! I thought that was awesome.
    I love that you're offering advice today. You're so unselfish and generous. (Oops. I better think of something to keep you from getting the big head. Nope. I got nothing.)

    1. Melanie, I love that you shared what Debbie said. I feel selfish praying for success. Instead I say, "Here you go, God. Whatever your plans are, that's what I want." But the Bible tells us God wants us to ask, doesn't it? And look how it's turned out for Debbie! :)

    2. Melanie, I agree. I never, ever compete with other authors. I don't see it that way. I compete with myself, trying to be better, stronger, and more diverse... and to make enough money to pay the bills and fix this old house, LOL! We had 20 years of no money and putting things on hold... so the house is celebrating my success with me, and in an old house when you fix one thing... you break two others!!!


      I truly believe that we should shoot for the stars. BUT the stars go on forever, so if we lasso one of the closer ones, it's okay to ride that star. The ones farther away are probably dark and cold... and lonely.

      So if we keep those dreams and goals doable and reachable... and we work... the sky's the limit!

  22. Be brave, little Piglet! Here's a snippet of my WIP. My hero, Garrett, and his family have thrown a surprise birthday party for my heroine, Sloane...except Sloane was abandoned at birth and then adopted, so birthdays are a very strange mishmash of feelings for her. She was so caught off-guard by the party that she fled, and Garrett, good man that he is, chased after her. This is part of their conversation following that scene.


    “Birthdays are wonderful.” Sloane’s voice sounded faraway, pushed out by the thud of her heartbeat in her ears. “And I want to celebrate them, and be grateful when other people do nice things for me because they like me and want me to be happy. I want me to be happy. And I am.”
    “Are you?” Garrett’s concerned gaze flitted over her face. He still hadn’t taken his arm out from around her.
    She hoped he never would.
    “Mostly.” She dared to scoot closer into the safety of his embrace. “But…today is also the anniversary of the day that the woman who gave birth to me left me behind in the back of a city bus. Just left it all up to chance that someone would rescue me. And someone did. My parents gave me a good life, and I’m grateful…but…it so easily could have not turned out that way, and…it’s just hard, y’know?” Her throat clogged. “To know that my mother didn’t want me. Didn’t even care enough to go through the proper channels. And I’ve tried to imagine what would make a person do that—she was scared, she was desperate, she was on drugs—and I know my life with someone like that would’ve probably been awful. But…even then…I’d have known her. And she didn’t want that. Even now, she doesn’t want me to know her. And twenty-nine years ago today is when she decided all that. That she didn’t want to raise me, didn’t want to know me. And she still doesn’t.” She swallowed hard. “I mean, does the woman even remember what today is? Does she remember that I exist? Does she care—at all—about what happened?”
    Garrett’s embrace tightened. “Well, for what it’s worth…I do. I care. About what happened, sure…but mostly…mostly I just care—a whole lot—about you.”
    The sunshine of his comment brought a genuine smile. “Thank you.” With a sigh, she leaned her head on his shoulder and breathed deep of his cologne. “I feel like such an idiot. You guys had no clue about my birthday issues. All you wanted to do was throw me a nice party, like normal people do.” Her eyes slid closed. “I really should go back in there.”
    “Nah, there’s no rush.” Garrett stretched long legs out in front of him and crossed one on top of the other. “Just sit. Right here. As long as you want. Until you’re ready to go back in. And if that’s never? Then that’s okay, too. I’ll make up an excuse for you. Tell Lauren you have a migraine. Food poisoning. You’re in Witness Protection. How far do you want me to go with this thing?”
    Sloane laughed. Oh, it felt so good to laugh. “Somewhere between salmonella and WITSEC should cover it.”
    “You got it.” He gave her a gentle squeeze.

    1. Okay, I love him already.... I love him... He's handling this beautifully... That he tells her there's no rush and you timed that perfectly with stretching out his long legs... so nice.

      And then the list of excuses. :) Perfect!!! And her response was spot on.

      Now here's what I'd suggest up above...

      Either shorten it or break it up a little. She goes on about her issues and I think this could be done more directly without the prattle effect. (Did I hurt your feelings, dear one??? Consider it a gift because readers will do that, too! :)

      I'd kick the faraway voice to the curb. Like with a firm foot, and here's why... it makes her sound immature. It's okay to be overwhelmed with emotions from trauma, and it's understandable to have buttons pushed, but if they're too engaged, well that tends to sound more "let's certify her and lock the door" as opposed to "Oh, that's such a rough thing to live with..."

      Because the fact that she had a good life for all those years trumps everything.

      So let her leave the party (she was unprepared and we know it's important to prepare ourselves when we know buttons might get pushed) but then I'd make her part less dramatic. More introspective. As if she's asking for help, not whining about what she can't change.

      If she goes at it from a position of power and longing, the reader gets a whole different picture of the heroine... As a survivor, not a whiny pants... Wait... don't I have a BIG GIRL PANTIES meme on this post? At the top???

      Why, yes.

      Yes, I do. :)

      #mustlovephineasandferb :)

  23. Okay. You asked for it. Here's the beginning of the MS I'm editing right now (I'm posting most here and a little more in the comments because I feel like you need those last few lines to really get it):

    “Oh, come on!” Hope Cook pulled her foot out of the puddle that had just soaked through her shoes and socks. Where had this rain come from? It wasn’t supposed to be here until tomorrow. Of course, why should the weather be any better than the rest of her afternoon had been?
    “You have got to be kidding me.” She groaned as the umbrella added insult to injury when she tried to close it and got even wetter than she had already been. She tossed the miscreant tool into her backseat and slammed the door. This mid-April thunderstorm had rolled into north Mississippi just as school let out, hitting about as hard as the meeting with the principal – and it had knocked her for a loop.
    Instead of her assumption that they would go over a raise option for the next year, Mr. Smith had informed her that unfortunately, they just didn’t have enough money to keep her on and hire a much-needed coach, too. She was the last hired so she was the one they had to dismiss at the end of the year.
    “I’ll send you off with a letter of recommendation and the highest praise I can,” Mr. Smith said, “but unless something changes between now and August, Buckley High can’t offer you a position next fall. I’m sorry.”
    She had maintained as much dignity as she could while she sat there and watched her dreams crash around her. All she had ever wanted to do was teach high school math. These last two years at Buckley had seemed like a God-send. Instead, God seemed to think she needed to look somewhere else.
    She slowly maneuvered through the wet streets of Oxford and tapped her brakes as she neared a stop light. Her car had not been acting wonderfully lately and she didn’t trust anything to work as well as it should. She slid to a stop just as the light turned green again.
    Her phone jingled with her mom’s ringtone. “Hi, honey. Can you talk?”
    “Sure.” Hope propped the phone between her head and shoulder.
    “You sound down.” Mom had always been able to tell how her daughters were doing just by listening to the tone of their voice … even when they tried to hide it.
    “It’s been a rough day.” Hope checked her mirrors. “Mr. Smith told me they don’t have a position for me in the fall.”
    “Oh, Hope.” Mom sighed. “What will you do?”
    Hope carefully turned right and avoided most of the puddle sitting in the corner of the road. Her wipers beat against the onslaught of water that covered her windshield anyway. “Not sure yet. I mean, there’s more than one high school in Oxford. Surely one of them needs a math teacher.”
    “Or you could see if there’s one somewhere else. I’ll keep my ears open around here.”
    “Mom, I really don’t want to live in Tennessee. No offense, but I love Mississippi.”
    “Hope, don’t limit yourself. Maybe God wants you to move somewhere else.” Mom’s voice held the same note of caution and worry it had when giving advice growing up.
    “Or maybe you do.” Hope ground her teeth against the desire to remind her mother that she was an adult. “Listen. I know you don’t like Kyle, but he’s not as bad as you think he is.” She spoke of her boyfriend. “And he’s not the only reason I love Oxford. I met him after I moved here, remember?”
    She checked over her shoulder before changing to the left lane. Her last turn was coming up and she wanted to be ready in plenty of time as the rain started coming harder. She flipped her wipers to high.
    “Sounds loud there.” Mom changed the subject.

    1. “It’s raining but I’m almost home.”
      “I should let you go until later then. You shouldn’t be driving and talking on the phone at the same time, anyway.”
      “It’s okay, Mom.” Hope tapped the brakes as she neared the intersection.
      “I’ll call you later–”
      Hope muttered a word her mother didn’t approve of and dropped the phone as the car continued to slide no matter how hard she pushed the pedal.
      “Hope? Are you okay?” Mom’s voice was far away yelling through the phone on the floor.
      Was she supposed to turn into the spin or opposite from the way the car was going when hydroplaning? Her driver’s education course was not sticking with her at this moment. She pressed her foot down again with hopes that this time something might actually catch and slow down her vehicle.
      The light continued to blare red. A school bus headed through the intersection just as she reached it. She closed her eyes. The front of her Toyota crunched. The sound made her grimace more than the impact. She slowly looked up to see her sedan wedged under the back of the bus, and a couple of her students staring down at her through the windows. Just great. Way to add insult to injury, God.

    2. Well, Hope should be reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst! :) Poor thing!!!

      Amy, you've got a great set-up here for mega conflict and problems.... but my word of advice is to get out the scissors and trim this way back, like when I get my Doodle shaved down in the spring.

      Now before you get mad at me, look at what I mean...

      And then adjust as it works for you OR don't change anything at all...

      Out of work.
      Soaked feet.
      Soaked clothes.
      And when the stupid umbrella flipped inside out in a gust of wind, the deluge made her even wetter, adding insult to injury.
      Hope tossed the umbrella into a curbside garbage can and climbed into her car.
      The phone rang almost instantly. She slid the car into gear and answered the call.

      (Okay, I'm pausing there to show that we've covered multiple paragraphs and set it up to read crisp and clear and clean... Now she can tell Mom the rest, about her disappointment, etc. in the phone call and that way we don't rehash it twice in one page... or two pages...)

      Now, let's skip down to Kyle... that comes out of the blue in a different conversation. This could be an internal thought after her mother counsels her... don't let it go on too long, a few lines of bossy but loving mother gets the point across. And she can think of how her mother doesn't like Kyle during or after the conversation...

      The crash... This is a fun, strong thing and if you can tighten this by getting rid of some sentences, and making us feel the immediacy of the moment.

      Trimming the crash:

      The car didn't respond. The tires lifted as if airborne and when she tapped the brake, nothing happened.

      She dropped the phone. Mom's voice came from the far corner of the floor as Hope re-pumped the brakes.

      Still nothing and the amber light blinked up to full red.

      She couldn't stop. The car had a mind and trajectory all its own as it careened over the white-painted stop line and into the intersection.

      A school bus came rolling her way. She glanced up. The look of fear in that driver's eyes sent her heart racing.

      The front end flew into the mid-rear of the bus.

      Metal crunched.

      Airbags inflated with a loud whoosh!

      And then they deflated, leaving her scrunched between the tires of the bus, below a bunch of screeching high school students. Including two from her second level math class.


      It was a No Good, Very Bad Day.

    3. Thanks for the advice. I knew it needed something, but for some reason trimming isn't always my first thought. Maybe it should be! I'll go back and look at it again and see what I can do.

    4. I had to learn to trim when Love Inspired hired me... and it's honestly the best craft lesson I've ever had (yes, even though I've had to CUT/SLICE/DICE my precious words, I am a wordy writer and had to get over that... I think you're a little like me in that regard.)

      It's not that our words are bad... it's that we really don't need them all.

      And that made it easier for me when I worked for other publishers, on long books and novellas... And writing tighter was the best lesson for learning how to write a wonderful novella and turn that arc on a 25,000 word curve... It's just a great skill to have in your writing arsenal, Amy.

      When you get done throwing darts at my picture, darling! :)

  24. Oh my goodness, I'm so behind! I've been out all day. I'll have to catch up. I look forwarding to reading the snippets! I'm so impressed with how many are brave enough to share today--especially with Ruthy! ;) haha


      Brave, sweet souls, all of 'em!!!!

  25. Missy, I'm right behind you! Way behind and trying to catch up. Ruth, I loved your story! I can only imagine what that author thought when you told her you'd be like her someday. :)

    1. Sharee, I'm sure she thought "Of course she will!!! Bless her heart!!!" :)

      Tenacity and persistence are wonderful traits in this business.

  26. I'm enjoying reading these snippets! I can't wait to read more!

  27. Wow -- I'm way late to the party. Today was physio day and recovery tool longer than usual and I'm all sleepy and discombobulated so I've spent a good few hours off and on reading in snippets. Love this so much. All the brave souls who...well bared their writing souls...and the critiques too. Soooo helpful to soak up. This is the way I learn. It's pure awesomesauce!

    1. Kav, this is how I learn, too. I don't do craft books... even when sent by well-meaning friends. :) I give them away because who needs more dust collectors???? Not me. I'm a trial-and-error learner, or a follow directions learner because each publisher likes their own things their own way... so learning to bend in the wind is an author's best friend.

      We learn as we go!!!

  28. Sorry to be so late! I don't usually browse through the internet until evening. It's been fun reading through other snippets.

    Here's my snippet which opens my young middle grade novel:

    Something’s wrong with Mom. She’s always had eyes in the back of her head, but she gazes past Wayne as he munches on his tenth sandwich cookie right in front of her. We haven’t even had breakfast.
    “Leave some for the rest of us.” I grab for the package, but Wayne hugs it close to his chest. “Mom! He’s eating them all.”
    Without speaking, she yanks the half empty bag from Wayne’s hands and slams it on the counter before stalking out of the kitchen.
    For a moment, the three of us stand there in silence, our eyes darting from each other’s faces to the broken cookies to the empty doorway where Mom exited. Wayne reaches for the crumpled bag.
    “Don’t. You. Dare.” I stare him down, narrowing my eyes to slits.
    He slinks out of the room like a scolded puppy.
    Phil helps himself to several large crumbles.
    I snatch the package and hold it behind my back. “I’ll tell Mom.”
    “Go ahead,” he says with his mouth full. “I don’t think she really cares.”
    So he sees the problem, too.

    1. I love middle grade novels. I love kids' stories and young adult stories. I absolutely, positively love them... and after working with kids full time for over 30 years, I'm well-read at all grade levels...

      First, this is a great idea for the opening. The kid. The cookies. The siblings. The rivalry and back-and-forth. But let's think today's kids as we open this.

      Something's wrong with Mom. (Tells us what we need to know)

      I'm pretty sure my mom's been replaced by a pod person. (Tells us what we need to know and grabs the snot-nosed kid's attention!)

      Wayne (he's my brother, he's younger than me, and a real brat and people think his red hair is so stinkin' cute but that's because they're surface thinkers. I read that term in a book, a book about really smart people and how they look so much farther into like... everything,... and that surface thinkers see what they see, and that's that. I knew right then I didn't want to be a surface thinker.)

      Ten cookies. The brat was chewing his tenth cookie, right in front of her, and we haven't even had breakfast.

      Yup. Pod person. I grab for the bag. If Mom won't pay attention, I will. "Hey! Leave some for the rest of us!"

      Wayne jerks back, clutching the bag to his chest.

      (Ruthy insert here: Check the spacing of the sentences. Paragraphs. For most young middle grade novels, a bounteous amount of white space is good. As readers learn to read more aggressively, they can handle the back-and-forth eye action for smaller print, longer paragraphs, but for most 4th and 5th grade kids, grade level books have a premium of white space. This allows them to follow words with a finger for the more struggling reader... and the quicker reader flies through the pages.)

      Now I want to KNOW what's gone down... divorce... death... violence... lost job.... because you've set up Mom's stress wonderfully. The only thing this needs (in my humble opinion) is a little more kid-friendly back-and forth and mechanics... meaning the placement of sentences to create that white space.

      So as you do this, make sure you give her opinion of Phil, too. Older? Younger? More reserved? Same with Wayne with your own description. Think how would a kid "see" this scene with my description? They're such visual learners, that you painting a picture for them makes all the difference.

  29. Here's a snippet of the book I spent all evening editing to get it ready to send in to createspace, Fugitives, a contemporary young adult action adventure/romance:

    Talking to my Grandmother are two of the Masters’ henchmen.

    “Who do you think you are that you can come and accuse me of such nonsense?” Grandmother demands.

    “We mean no disrespect, ma’am,” one henchman begins tentatively. “It’s just that you do resemble-”

    Grandmother huffs. “Why, I never!”

    What do I do? Should I leave them here and escape? Grandmother seems to have it under control.

    “We’d just like to check your passport,” the other henchman orders harshly.

    Oh. No. They'll recognize her name on the passport for sure.

    What do I do? What do I do….

    It's them or me. And it's not going to be them. I know what I have to do.

    Resolve girds my heart. Then I gasp loudly as I purposely drop the snacks.

    The two henchmen turn around.

    I make sure that they see me. Then I run across the car and swing open the door to the dining room before looking back. The henchmen are following me.


    I jump through the door, run through the dining car, and then through the next car. The car after that is some sort of private car because I burst in on a marriage proposal. The woman stares past her suitor to me in confusion, who remains on his knees, looking unsure of what to do in this instance.

    “Uh, sorry,” I say, still running to the opposite door. “But you should totally accept, sister!” With that, I charge into the next car.

    1. What a wonderful sense of adventure and humor your girls have!!! Tell your parents they did a wonderful, wonderful job!!!

      Okay, this is a solid thought process here, Boo. It shows your talent.

      A few mechanics... first sentence, lose the capital on Grandmother... it's not needed here, because here it's a common noun. In the next sentences it's needed because we're 'naming' her... If you can replace the generic term with a name and it sounds right, you need the capital letter... If not (like in sentence one), no capital and I see authors make this mistake often... you are not alone!

      We have the first one begin tentatively... and the next henchman orders harshly.... so we've got dueling dialogue tags. Change one so they don't sound so parallel. You want to differentiate dialogue tags so that you don't sound repetitive, even though they have different words...

      "Resolve girds my heart." AN ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT SENTENCE, YOU BRAT!!!!! Stellar. Short, with full punch. Love it. And will probably steal it!!!! :)

      Lose the "around" in 'The two henchmen turn around.' Not needed and the sentence is stronger without it. I'd suggest 'The two henchmen turn. See me. Recognize me. I race down the aisle and fling open the door to the dining car. Then I turn.

      They're following me. Good.

      (Now here I'd put either her refusal to look at the worry on Grandmother's face... or have her notice it, but still do what she has to do. We don't want to leave Grandmother's reaction out of this...)

      And the rest I'd leave just as is, darling girl! The proposal... oh my stars, I love it!

  30. It really is so fun with all these snippets everywhere.

    1. Isn't this so much fun???? And I love that you were gutsy enough to join in! Well done!

  31. I love Seekerville. That is all 😊

  32. Wonderful teaching, wonderful learning opportunity. Thanks so much!