Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Serious Side of Reality Fiction

Reality Fiction... What is it? Isn't most fiction based on reality?

Kind of. With exceptions.

Anyone who is married to a male of the species knows that fictional heroes might make a few gaffes, but they always come through in the end with the appropriate groveling, grinning, gut-wrenching smile that wins our hearts... and makes us love romance.



In real life that might come through as a grunt. At least around here, grunts tend to outnumber gut-wrenching smiles. Please DO NOT tell me if your reality is different. Let me live in my obscure view of reality.

So what makes "reality" fiction different?

It goes deeper. It taps into the poignancy of the moment with a punch. It deals with the dark sides of life and sheds light and faith on them... and healing.

Or it simply goes all mainstream literature and leaves you wondering if life is worth living... But I love my happy endings. I love hope and no matter how bad reality is, hope springs forth.

Hi, I'm Ruthy and I love writing reality fiction. And with almost two million books sold, it seems readers like it, too.... But this blog isn't about me. I know my strengths. I work to polish my weaknesses, and they are many.... Here are a few flaws that editors help me on all the time:

Repetitive phrases
Ascribing the same catchy words to more than one person
Messed up timelines
Not enough romance
Too much romance
Too much time on secondary characters in short books

So you'd think I'd learn that these are my weaknesses, and I know it... and I try to slice and dice and deliver a clean product. But writers aren't perfect and that's why an editor is a marvelous and very necessary thing.... It's okay if you don't think so. I know writers who offer their work up after a beta reader gives them the thumb up emoji.

That's them.

I want the polish. I want my indie fiction as strong as my traditional fiction. And I've worked with great editors from half-a-dozen publishing houses. I've learned so much from them... But not so much that I trust my work raw or with readers because an editor looks closer. Deeper.  I use Beth Jamison of Jamison Editing for my indie work. We make a good team. She's reasonable, quick and good at her job.

The reason I'm going into all of that is because when  you're writing reality fiction... A term that our friend Vince used years ago in a book review... fiction that's going to jump into tough subjects, you need to take it and your work seriously. I once read the opening of a book that dealt with a grave disaster... a disaster that killed thousands of people in its path, including people the protagonist saw EVERY DAY.... and it got a mere mention. As if the protagonist was too caught up in her life to be blindsided by the disaster.

Instantly I knew this person had never been through a storm of that proportion... I knew they were focusing on the internal struggle of the character and ignoring the HUGE, MONSTER STORM raging outside the door, leaving havoc and death in its path.

A storm that killed so many people and left thousands homeless deserved better because the aftermath of the storm is just as devastating and life-changing as whatever was going on in that poor girl's head. It was painfully clear that this person either didn't think the MONSTER STORM was of any consequence (and it was of huge consequence to the entire story) or they rushed their work (a common problem with indie authors) and/or they didn't think an editor's advice was worth it (Disagree.....) or they ignored the editor's advice and published as is.

And yes, I know people who've done that.

Reality fiction might deal with hard-hitting subjects... Sex. Divorce. Death. Abuse. Crime. Mental Illness. As an author you need to know how much to say... and when to say it.

Over 300 reviews and a 4.7 rating. An unforgettable story that had to be told.   
 http://amzn.to/1GwgOWL

Do you keep the reader in suspense?

Sometimes.

Do you start out with a full confession?

Sometimes.

And those variances are crucial to your story development. And remember that circumstances (like that monster storm) are a big part not only of your setting, but your character's character. What kind of character isn't gobsmacked by a horrific event? A shallow one.

If you're keeping the reader guessing, then subtle hints or over-the-top reactions help set the stage. An over-zealous reaction to a stranger's child pitching a fit in a store might have its roots in a past trauma. A lost child. An abused childhood. Inability to have a child.

When you tackle deep subjects, don't skim. Don't dwell. Walk the tightrope, keep your balance and don't be afraid to edit. Edit. Edit. And trust and editor and cut things when they hit you over the head with virtual white-out and say "enough already, darling. Move on."

The same holds true if you're writing diverse fiction, fiction with characters that aren't a carbon copy of you. If it's not an issue, don't make it one. (Corrie in "Her Cowboy Reunion", a sacrificial black surrogate mother to three white Steel Magnolias who raised them from infancy and stayed the course)...


But if it IS an issue, handle with care. (Kerry and Ben in The First Gift, when his mother disapproves their relationship)

Whatever you're writing... or any other job you're doing! Give it your best. The best waitress, the best cashier, the best retail clerk, the best executive assistant, the best mechanic.

The best writer you can be.

Wanna talk?

I've got a copy of the much awaited (SQUEAL IS REAL!!!!) "At Home in Wishing Bridge", book two of the Wishing Bridge series and it's going out to one of you!

Thea never expected to find herself in a small rural town where wishes and prayers mix with hopes and dreams... but here she is. And even more surprising? She might be falling in love... with the town... and maybe with the kind of geeky, grumpy doctor running the needy practice. But he's got plans and dreams of his own and none of them include Wishing Bridge. Yet.

 Leave a comment or jump into the discussion... Agree? Or disagree?

I'm open to both!

Multi-published, award-winning author Ruth Logan Herne absolutely positively loves what she does and loves chatting with readers and writers. Author of over 40 novels and novellas, she's living her dream... when she's not picking up after cute kids, tiny kittens, a couple of dogs, two mini-donkeys, a flock of too many chickens, and one aging farmer. Email her at loganherne@gmail.com, visit her website ruthloganherne.com or follow her on Twitter @RuthLoganHerne.

59 comments:

  1. Yes I agree! Editor are blessings to me as I often cannot see my own mistakes, and so they help me to create the best work I can.

    And yes, I agree, dealing with issues needs a tremendous amount of care, and can bring healing to a reader if done properly. However I worry that my words might trigger unhappy emotions in a reader and cause her pain. I would love you to write a post dealing with this topic.

    Please enter me in the draw. Thank you

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    1. Oh, Ruth, that's an excellent point. Because those words that can heal can also stab... and sometimes they stab first, then heal. What a great idea. Thank you!

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  2. Ruthie, I agree. I am working on the three novels that I have finished the first draft and continuing to make them real plus as I write new ones trying to catch things before I get to the end.

    At this point I want to be traditionally published before I Indie publish. One thing as a reader I have noticed is the difference between some who produce multiple Indie books but have not gone the traditional route have so many errors in them. Now the authors who have produced multiple traditional published books before going Indie do not have near the amount of errors.

    I have difficulty sometimes writing the romantic kissing scenes since I have never experienced it personally. I do try to observe what is going on around me and what my friends are experiencing

    This is a rough week with the weather and storm coming in. Vertigo is extreme and affecting my vision to the point that I cannot read or write. Let alone think clearly. Since the rain from Florence will head this way last report as of last night. Please help me to be patient. yesterday I was in bed most of the day. Today is our monthly Staples run to the nearest store an hour away. Thank you so much for all the prayers for my health. Barometric pressure and storms always make it worse.

    I hope you will all have a great day. Please know that I am praying for all that are in the path of this powerful storm.

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    1. And we're praying for you, too, Sweet Wilani!

      You brought up an interesting point about indie vs. traditionally marketed books. I wonder if others have seen this, too?

      It's understandable in a way. We have a saying that's popular here "You don't know what you don't know until you need to know it."

      So an author going indie from the get-go might not have the experiential knowledge to polish or trim or comb for mistakes repeatedly.

      And sometimes formatting messes things up, and that's something to be addressed too, going in and making those changes.

      Nice insights, Wilani!

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    2. Wilani, please contact me off line so I can send you a card or something. Send me your mailing address. ampie86@comcast.net

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    3. Wilani, I want to be traditionally published first also, partly because I can't afford an editor! But also because I learned a lot from being edited by a professional for my first book. There really were things I hadn't noticed, and went a lot deeper than even my crit partners. I have seen some disturbing errors in indie work and I'd just as soon not take the chance right now. But am leaving options open, only thing you can do in this current publishing climate. Not for the faint of heart.
      Hope you feel better! We appreciate your insights.

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    4. Wilani, I'm praying for you today

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    5. I love you guys. You are the best.

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    6. Also praying for you, Wilani. I also agree about the writers who are only indie published. So many of them clearly don't know how to write. It is a totally different thing when the good writers decide indie publish.

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    7. Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement.

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  3. KICKING MYSELF that I missed Melanie Dobson. Her "River" series was a touch point for me for series writing. I'm going to have to be more astute as to when you have Tuesday bloggers.

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    1. Hey, you can still go back and chat, Kathy! Go do it!

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  4. Ruthy, I get your point about the storm. I think setting should be integral to the plot, for example, if a book is about the Oklahoma Land Rush the hero and heroine had better be fighting about a plot of land. Or something. Like "Gone With the Wind" without the war...

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    1. Kathy, I think Vince was always a big proponent of this in historicals, that if you're going to place something at a certain place or time or with historic events, citing them adds credence to the work... so the same holds true in contemporaries, that a huge circumstance shouldn't be glanced over... Imagine mentioning Pearl Harbor on December 8th, 1941.... Or JFK's death in '63?

      We've got to be aware that mere mentions can get us into trouble with the reader...

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  5. Ruthy, yes to editors! I haven't worked with one yet, but I know they make such improvements on stories, and they catch things we authors miss because we're so close to the story.

    your point about the character and the storm is spot on!

    Question for you on this topic: what's your take on the idea of having an editor look at our work before submitting to an agent?

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    1. Jeanne, that's a great question. No two editors are like. No two agents are alike. So the changes an editor might suggest might be in direct conflict with what that agent likes...

      My second agent noted something she didn't like about my writing that she would have had me change... but the editor had already bought it and loved it, so of course we left it....

      And sometimes an agent is looking with trade paperback eyes when an editor is wanting a 60K size book so the approach is different.

      I think having a great critique partner, and critiques from contests helped me more than talking to an individual editor would have because they are so very different.

      In fact, Emily Rodmell tweeted about this in the last few days, and it's true. That's why we all have a pile of rejections, because what one editor loves... seven others might pass on.

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  6. Hi Ruthy, I definitely agree! God didn't give super talents but he did give me super abilities. The ability to try, the ability to persevere and the ability to realize that HE only expects my best!
    Blessings to you and thanks for the wonderful stories that you write! I would love your new book.

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    1. Connie, tucking you in for the drawing! And I totally agree on the super talents... and how we offset the weak spots with hard work and accepting advice.

      I've always wondered why that's so hard for some folks... but personalities differ and some people maybe... take it personally?

      I just want folks to love my work. And to love those characters. And when they walk away, to maybe think about how we could all be a little nicer. A little kinder.

      Of course then I do something dumb and I'm reminded how much I need to learn right here at home!

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  7. Hi Ruthy! I've had limited experience with editors, but I've benefited so much from contest feedback and critiques from friends. And when the advice/opinions are contradictory I pray about it, and then push on with whatever "feels" right. Hoping I will get better with each book, with each passing day, because I truly love writing and can't imagine doing anything else. By the way, I recently bought a copy of The First Gift for my kindle and it's next up on my TBR list. Looking forward to it! Thanks for a great post.

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    1. Laura, thank you for buying it... I hope you love it. And I think you're doing exactly what so many of us do... and it's a trick to balance what we think vs. what is right in the long run... So many factors come in, but for a publisher it's always "Can we sell this?"

      So hopefully the answer is a resounding YES!!!!

      Because if they're shelling out tens of millions for big political books....

      I'm figuring they're still doing at least a little okay in Manhattan and Colorado and Nashville! :)

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  8. Ruthy, I wholeheartedly agree on all counts. Editing may be a pain, but it's necessary and we have to approach those comments from our editor with an open mind. And as for reality fiction, you got dig deep. If the author doesn't go there, how can we expect the reader to? Sometimes you wish you'd bought stock in a tissue company, but hey, it's worth it in the end.

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    1. Exactly.... and I think readers are astute enough to know the difference.

      Of course there are all kinds of readers and we all appeal to certain groups in differing ways. And that's good, I think that's part of the ongoing success of Seekerville and the varied authors that work here.

      We don't all have to compete for the same reader... although we share some!

      We work to build our own readerships and love helping other writers do the same thing!

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  9. Great post, Ruthy. I haven't worked with an editor yet, but I would certainly be willing to listen to what was suggested. Please put me in the drawing.

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    1. Sandy, thank you. And you'll be ready when that time comes. I think the best advice is to comb and then comb again... and listen.

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  10. I think you've paved the way in some of this 'reality' fiction, because of the skill you have presenting real emotions.

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    1. Oh my gosh, what a sweet thing to say, Deb. Thank you so much.... but in humility (dagnabbit) I think part of it was a greater willingness on the part of CBA to broach the forbidden zones and make things jive with what real people are experiencing in American homes.

      But I was really happy to take part, my friend! :)

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  11. Ruthy, I've loved all the editors I've worked with and have learned so much! On my indie work, I've really appreciated Beth, too!

    You know, when writing about serious/deep subjects, it can be nerve wracking. Research is so important.

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    1. Oh, I totally agree, Missy. It's been good to get differing opinions on what they think, how they see things and the variables of readership.... Walmart vs. Private Book Store, etc.

      And I make myself cry all the time. Shoot, I cry when I read books I wrote.

      I am ridiculous.

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    2. Hi Missy! Thanks so much. I have loved working with you on your indie projects! :)

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  12. I loved your perspective on this topic! Even though I love my happy endings, I like the books I read to have a healthy dose of reality too. I get a little annoyed when I tell people I love reading clean and Christian romance and they respond with, "Oh, I never read romance, it's just not realistic." I beg to differ- at least with the books I read. Maybe people assume that all romance is chick-lit, light and fluffy. I really should educate them ;)

    Please enter me in the giveaway for your new book, it looks amazing!

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    1. Heidi, how nice to see you! Thanks for stopping in and chatting with us, pretty lady!

      I love happy endings.

      I want everyone to have a happy ending, I am a total SAP.

      But I know that life hands us some rugged and awful turns and twists and I like fiction that reflects the strength within us. That we can rise above and spread our wings. We can be that Phoenix, rising from the ashes. We need to be that.

      And when folks tell me I'm simplistic, I smile.

      And I keep writing. The Pollyanna side of me wants to make things better! And the human writer side wants people to feel that in each and every book. :)

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  13. Ruthy, I love how you don't let the business and busyness of writing and publishing get in the way of remembering that touching hearts is the goal! And doing it responsibly, keeping the balance,as you say, and remembering the big picture are so important. Very inspiring post :-)

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    1. Jenna, thanks for coming over! Thank you so much, your words are beautiful. We aim for the balance, but gosh, truth to tell, I have some SORE KNEES from falling to them more than occasionally. :)

      But then we dust ourselves up and get back in that saddle, eh?

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  14. Hi Ruth:

    Reality romance can have happy endings as long as they are paid for in sacrifices render.

    Traditional romances are like music written in a major key designed to smoothly sweep away the reader in a welcome escape.

    Reality romances are often played in minor keys with discordant intervals which shake the escape event like cold water dripping from the shower head while one luxuriates in a warm bubble bath.

    Why would readers seek this?

    That to me is the real question. Why would a Roman general have a servant whisper in his ear that “all glory is fleeting” as he rode his chariot in triumph through the streets of Rome?

    Could it be that the reading experience is appreciated more when it is felt as more real?

    Vince

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    1. I think it depends on the reader, my friend. Not everyone wants the dose of realism... and escapism is fine, it just tends to not be my gift!

      And that servant's warning is true today, isn't it? As we watch men of power fall by their own hands and actions. Not fleeting enough in some cases...

      "And this too shall pass"...

      Aunt Isabelle's favorite saying. It gets us over the humps and lifts us out of the valleys...

      And there's sun shining on the other side of the mountain.

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    2. "Not fleeting enough..." that's too good not to appropriate! :P

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  15. Ugh. Yes. I know editors know what they're talking about when they tell me to change things, but it's so hard to just do it sometimes (like right now as I am going through first edits on my book coming out in April). So far, though, I am usually getting asked for more instead of less. That might change. This book deals with the harsh reality of miscarriage. I definitely want to make it the best I can.

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    1. Amy, that's a story rife with emotional rises and falls of its own accord... good for you, listening to editors! :)

      I'm not saying every editor is right... or that every bit of advice is spot on...

      But there's a lot of weak writing being put out there because folks are skipping that integral step of polish, polish, polish.

      Folks used to say that you should polish the entire book like you did the first three chapters for submission, and I think that's a perfect benchmark. Slice-and-dice... comb.... delete, delete, delete... and comb again. Tuck in those foreshadowing moments... Add bits of this and that.

      Writing is so much like a recipe, isn't it?

      Add this and that, simmer til done.

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  16. Yay for reality fiction and editors!!! And Ruthy stories!!!!!

    I just had to stop reading a reality fiction novel because it was sooooooo infuriatingly unrealistic I was spitting nails. lol. It wasn't Christian fiction but a good friend really wanted me to read it because 'there's praying in it' and romance. But oy, not my cup of tea as far as heat goes and language but what really got me was how the 'real' grit and angst of the story -- the abuse and neglect of a young child -- was just a way to get the hero and heroine into a modern day marriage of convenience scenario.

    Mother lost custody of child, working to get it back but in the mean time she has proof that the child is being mistreated and neglected so she enters a marriage of convenience with the hero in hopes of gaining custody of her child...only they decide to wait a month to make things look legit and they are romancing around town without a care in the world while this child is living in horrific conditions. Gah! I can't even.....so I stopped reading.

    So, thank you, Ruthy, for making your reality fiction really real. :-)

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    1. So I wrote a reply to this earlier, before farm time and Google/Blogger ate it...

      Kav, that whole idea blows my mind. I want to go punch someone! I can't even imagine that... and waiting a month and dating around town and GRRRRRRRR...........

      Ay yi yi.

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  17. Hello, Ruthy & all of Seekerville. I love this post because I love Reality Fiction stories. I like more depth than fluff, more strength than whining from the hero and heroine, a deeper conflict that can be overcome, but it takes some work.

    And I love being an editor. I enjoy getting to see the first glimpse of a story and then see the final result.

    A friend asked me recently if it bothers me when an author doesn't take my suggestions, and I guess the answer is yes & no. Some don't bother me at all, because I am just one person and maybe most of their readers would enjoy the way it's written currently. Other times it does bother me, not because they didn't take my suggestion, but because I know that the story would be stronger if they took the time to change a few things.

    In the end, it's not my manuscript, but I want to do the best job that I can for each client that hires me as an editor. I can only tweak or suggest, and it is up to the author to decide how much work they want to put into it.

    If anyone has questions, please feel free to email me at jamisonediting@gmail.com.

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    1. If you were to be my editor I would listen to you and definitely ask questions if I didn't agree so I could understand more. One day perhaps it will come when I can afford an editor. For now I keep writing and trying to learn on my own and listen to suggestions from my small critique group on the ACFW loop.

      Anyway I want you to know I appreciate you and your job.

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    2. Wilani, you are so sweet! Thank you! I appreciate all the hard work that it takes to write a book (or lots of books). I don't have that particular talent. :)

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    3. But you've got a discerning eye that picks out the flaws and points them out and what a help that is to an author, Beth. And not just me... or you... but an editor that loves good stories has the ability to figure out what's needed (if anything) and what's overdone. And that's huge.

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  18. I tend to shy away from a book that is touted as an "ISSUE" book. Because those tend to be quite preachy on the particular issue. I prefer books that are about great characters rather than some agenda the author is pushing.

    I want a story that makes me think instead of telling me how to think.

    That's a fine line that not all authors walk successfully, and where a good editor can be invaluable!

    I love, love, love my editors!

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    1. Erica, I agree. I love issues... but if the book is about the issue and not the character, then it's probably not my cup of tea, either. Unless it's non-fiction...

      And then the issue is supposed to take over the book. :)

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  19. I failed to mention earlier that I wrote a gripping scene that included the emotions that the main characters would have in reality. In this book the Hero is the chief of the ER and the heroine is a CNA in her last year of Nurses training. One night while working during a bad snowstorm accident victims are brought in. A whole family including a tiny baby is killed because of a drunk driver. It is the job of a CNA to transport all who die in the ER to the morgue. I had to do this many times when I worked in the ER as a CNA one of my least favorite jobs. The heroine after her fifth and final trip to the morgue sits down in the hall because she is sobbing too hard to make it back to the ER. The Hero comes to find her and holds her while she finishes the sobs. I thought at the time I wrote it that it had to show the compassion and trauma from such an experience. I wrote this a couple years ago so I need to go back and see if I can make it even stronger. As a result they are able to lead one of the nurses to the Lord because of the effect this tragedy had on her.

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  20. In all things, it helps to recognise your own flaws.

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  21. How true! We need to know our weaknesses (in writing and other aspects of life) and work towards improvement daily. Thanks for the reminder, Ruthy!

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  22. The thing I love about tackling tough life issues in Christian fiction is that we can give our characters - and the reader - hope in the midst of pain. Knowledge that this awful thing is not the end of the story. A perspective that is different than the world's perspective.

    And like Erica said, I don't read "issue" books. I read stories, and a good story told well is a treasure. :-)

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    1. I am 100% in agreement with both o' youse!

      And I love that aspect of hope. That hope is the shining light, brightening the corners of the story.

      Thank you, Jan!

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  23. A geeky grumpy doctor could be quite interesting! Thanks for the review.

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    1. Hahahah! And he is all that, Paula! Poor Ethan, his life got turned upside down and the last place he thought he'd find himself is in a small northern town with two kids, awful weather, a run-down medical practice and a bossy partner... who doesn't want to be there, either.

      It sounds perfect, right? :)

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  24. Ruthy, I absolutely love your wise advice and entertaining posts. You're the best! It's so much fun to "hear" your voice saying all these things now that I've met you in person. You always give great advice for writers and others. Hugs sweet friend, and throw my name into the hat for your Wishing Bridge book.

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  25. (Lee-Ann B here) Thanks for this post - I hesitate when picking up a book to read about hard issues because sometimes those stories are too heavy and one comes away feeling angry, sad or furious at the injustice - and then one has to pick up a lighter read to stop dwelling on the issue or the portrayal of the issue by the writer. One |issue| book that I read was Karen Kingsburys Shades of Blue. I thought it was well written and sensitive to readers, and it opened my eyes...

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  26. Thanks for the post. Reality fiction is fantastic. Keeps the fiction real. Thanks also for the reminder to do our best in our roles as God has seen fit to give us.

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