Monday, November 11, 2019

Story Ideas: More Than a List of Sources, They Must Spark Passion

Before our post today, I would like to take a moment to honor our veterans and families.  Thank you for all you’ve given in service to our country. Please let us know in the comments today if you're a veteran or family member. We want to honor you!

We recently had a blog reader email us asking where we get our story ideas, and whether it’s okay to write a story if the idea got sparked while reading someone else’s story. I’m not an attorney or able to give any legal advice about copyright law. But I can say that story ideas come from everywhere! And certainly, our creative brains get clicking while we’re reading. If you’re concerned, I’d suggest reading more info on copyright (click here). It specifically says ideas cannot be copyrighted. Still, I suggest reading up on the topic. It’s always good to be informed!

However, all of us reading here today could be told to write a story, and given details about the characters and plot, and each story would turn out differently. We all bring different perspectives, different life experiences, different voices to our work. This is what makes stories so rich!

I thought it would be fun to share a bit today about where some of us get our story ideas. I recently polled the Seeker authors, and we had a discussion about this topic. Here’s what they shared with me…

I get a lot of my story ideas from research on my work in progress. I come across some interesting detail that doesn't work for the current book but sparks a whole idea for another book. I've also gotten ideas from movies, books, travel and people watching.

My idea for The Kincaid Brides Series came from a long-ago trip to Carlsbad Cavern.

Petticoat Ranch came from my husband growing up with a family with seven sons, then us having four daughters and watching his mind be boggled by the way girls act.

The Sophie's Daughters Series was based on my belief that despite all the very strict rules for women's behavior back in history, folks who headed west probably went their own way a LOT. Women NOT riding side saddle. Wearing pants. Working alongside husbands and husbands not being afraid of women's work. Thus the female doctor, wrangler and sharpshooter....all manly jobs.

A new idea came from the founder of my home town, Decatur, Nebraska....he LIED and said his name was Stephen Decatur, related to a famed Revolutionary War general. And OUR Stephen Decatur was a scoundrel...much of that has been hushed up. I'm changing the names to protect the legacy.

Lots of my ideas come from research and visiting museums. Or from wanting to tackle a social issue like PTSD, war veterans, orphans, social sins...I tackle all those issues in my upcoming Regency series. Finding a timeless issue and putting it in a different social, economic, or historical environment and seeing what happens. :)

We all get inspired by stories and each person tells it differently.

I'd remind folks that it's not just creativity. It's science. Action/reaction. Character arcs. I think that's where writers lack inspiration, is keeping people in their lane and building the story from how they would react under the circumstances. The mathematical side of writing fascinates me.

I'm a people watcher. And listener. And, like Mary, when I'm researching one book, a detail will jump out and be used for a different book.

The basic is, where don't I get story ideas? They're EVERYWHERE. I have WAY TOO MANY, and not nearly enough time to write them all.

One example - I got the idea for Christmas in Hiding when I was standing at my kitchen sink doing dishes.  I could hear a block party on the next block and I started thinking, what if everyone was invited except one person, and what if everyone got poisoned (not fatal) except for that one person? Would she get blamed? Would she have done it? Ultimately, everything about the opening scene (and the book) changed, but that party was what triggered it.  

Another story idea (that I haven't used yet and probably won't) came as I was walking to school and saw a muddy communion veil by the curb. Like every other idea, my brain immediately turns it into a story. How did it get there? Was it just lost, thrown away? Since I write suspense.... the questions get darker. 

Ideas can come from just about anywhere. Watching the news, hearing a story about someone… Other times things just pop into my head. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of writing a book and then read another one with the same premise. But every writer comes at a specific situation with a different perspective. Like Ruthy said, no two books would be written the same. Different voice, different life experiences, all those things play into the telling of a story.

From my experience:

I get ideas from everywhere—listening to conversations at restaurants and elsewhere, watching people (while trying not to look too nosy!), reading news reports, and listening to sermons. Because I love to write about opposites attracting, I often dream up two entirely different people to throw together in a story.

In Her Unlikely Family, I wanted to put together a stiff banker in a tough situation with a unique, generous waitress ready to jump in to help. In The Doctor’s Second Chance, I wanted to throw together a small-town rugged home contractor with an uptight big-city pediatrician whom he resented.

In A Family for Faith, I was on a flight home from an RWA conference and watched as a single dad tried over and over to put a bow in his daughter’s hair and could not manage it. I yanked out a notepad and started writing ideas for a story about dad with a daughter at an age where she really needed a mother. I also used the real-life experience of a friend of mine as part of my divorced heroine’s backstory—where her child chose to go live with his dad and the pain that caused. So that story had ideas from everywhere!

You know, for this post, I was originally going to try to create a list of places or methods for getting story ideas. But now that I’ve re-read all the input from these writers, I don’t think I’ll try to do that. Every one of us gets ideas from whatever inspires us, whatever makes us question things, whatever sends our brains off in wild directions (worse-case-scenario-itis for some of us!). :)

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, look at what interests you. Open your eyes, ears, and heart. Pray for God to show you something that you can get passionate about. Because no matter how great an idea might seem, it really needs to be something you can wholeheartedly throw yourself into for the book to resonate and have heart.

Each of us is unique. Each of us has a lot to offer the world. Now go, enjoy writing those stories that are uniquely yours to tell!

Let’s chat! Tell us where you get your ideas. And those who aren’t writers, tell us story ideas you’d love to see written.

After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com and

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Weekend Edition


If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Note our new email address and please send your emails to

Monday: Our very own Ruthy Logan Herne, Mary Connealy and Margaret Brownley have teamed up to offers us a holiday novella collection - yes, Christmas!! - Christmas At Star Inn. Don't miss out!! The winner of a copy of Christmas at Star Inn is Linda.

Wednesday: Mindy Obenhaus shared some fascinating Facts and Fallacies of Being a Writer.

Friday: Seekers shared their perspectives and experiences from The Art of Writing Conference and The Christy Awards Gala held Wednesday in Nashville! Since we're plumb partied out, giveaways are extended through the weekend and winners will be announced in next week's Weekend Edition!

Monday:  Missy Tippens will be bringing you the post she promised last month about how writers get story ideas. She polled the other Seekers and has info to share!

Wednesday:  We dive right into the "Writing a Christmas Story" fun with our very own Ruth Logan Herne on Wednesday as she talks about story-building, playing nicely with others (Mary Connealy and Margaret Brownley) and how to touch the senses and emotions to bring the true spirit of Christmas to life. And she's got a copy of their new anthology "Christmas at Star Inn" to give away!
Thursday: Jill Kemerer will be joining us with some timely motivational tips for writers. 

Friday: Winnie Griggs

Ruthy, Beth Jamison (editor, graphic designer Jamison Editing), Beth Erin, Annie "Just Commonly" and Melanie Dickerson are meeting up at the "Art of Writing" mini-conference AND The Christy Gala to cheer the finalists on! A wonderful chance for a Seeker mid-country clandestine meeting... which always includes Peanut M&Ms!

10 Steps to Publish Your Reverted Rights Stories by Nancy Cohen. Great step-by-step succinct instructions to unravel the mysteries behind re-publishing your reverted work!

23 Tips for a Zero Waste Home Office by K.M. Weiland at Helping Writers Become Authors

Book Marketing: Engineering Your Book Launch Success With A DIY Strategy by Boni Wagner-Stafford at The Creative Penn

Building Your INDIE Author Brand by Ray Flynt at Fiction University

5 Things I'd Go Back and Tell "Baby Author Me" by Jenny Hansen at Writers In The Storm

I Have Plans To Write That Book by Tamela Hancock Murray at Steve Laube

Questions To Ask A Small Publisher by Rachelle Gardner

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Art of Writing & The Christy Gala Recap

On Wednesday, November 6, 2019, a few of us Seekers attended The Art of Writing Conference and The Christy Awards Celebration Gala held in Nashville, Tennessee! We'll be doing quite a bit of chatting in the comments about our personal experiences and perspectives over the weekend and perhaps into early next week (depending on interest) but let's start with some general information about the events and where you can learn more!

Melanie Dickerson & Laura Frantz
The Art of Writing Conference

An afternoon of learning and connecting with writers and publishers featuring four workshops designed to take your writing to the next level. Sessions led by Lysa TerKeurst (Reaching the Heart of Readers); James Rubart (Next-Level Writing); Anne Bogel (Casting Novel Characters Using the Enneagram); and a panel of marketing pros that included Dave Schroeder (B&H), Michele Misiak (Revell), Steve Laube (Enclave), Anne Bogel (author/ podcaster/ blogger), and Amy Green (Bethany House).

Learn more at

Annie, Beth, Ruthy, and Beth
The Christy Award Celebration Gala

The Christy Award Dinner Gala celebrated the art of Christian fiction, announced the 2019 winners of The Christy Award, and featured bestselling authors Patti Callahan, James Rubart, and Becky Wade.

In addition, the legacy of bestselling author and pioneer of inspirational fiction, Janette Oke, was honored in the 40th anniversary year of Love Comes Softly and the impactful lives of C.S. "Jack" Lewis and his wife, Joy.

Learn more at

The Christy Award Finalists and Winners

A complete list is available on the Christy Awards website (and check out the Hall of Fame, too) but especially be sure to congratulate our own Melanie Dickerson! The Warrior Maiden has been named as the 2019 Young Adult category Christy Award winner!!!

Seekers in attendance

Ruthy Logan Herne, Melanie Dickerson, Annie, and Beth were among the few hundred industry professionals (and a few readers, too) who participated in The Art of Writing Conference (and/or PubU, an ECPA publishers conference held just before the writers' conference) as well as The Christy Award Gala.

Melanie & Mesu Andrews

Beth & Morgan Busse

Please join us in the comments with your questions and personal perspectives! 
Did you (or would you like to) attend these events? We'll share some more pictures here and drop in to share our highlights and answer questions about our experiences as we return to our normal schedules!

Let us know if you'd like to enter for a chance to win your choice of one book from Beth's bookstash!

And a little addendum from Ruthy!

I was supposed to add my thoughts here, so I'm breaking in with a Public Service Announcement, LOL!
This mini-conference is a wonderful experience for authors, whether or not you're a Christy finalist. The chance to chat and talk with numerous industry professionals, to hobnob with wonderful authors, to get a glimpse of what publishers are seeking and to have a chance to visit and stay with Seekers... to talk writing and publishing and life and love...

It's an amazing and very affordable opportunity. Next year is the 20th anniversary of the Christy Award, named for the character in Catherine Marshall's award-winning, bestselling book. Am I planning on going again?

Yes, ma'am! 

Because it is an experience that does not disappoint!


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Facts and Fallacies of Being a Writer

by Mindy Obenhaus

So you want to be a writer? Or, maybe, you’re just curious about writers. From the outside looking in, being a writer seems so glamorous. Once upon a time, before I was published or really knew much about writing, I envisioned myself in my beautiful, always-clean office, pecking out thousands of words each day, uninterrupted, with so many ideas in my head there just wasn’t time to do it all.

I must have been delusional.

Yes, people have all sorts of preconceived notions about writers, many derived from movies, television or headlines. So let’s examine some of the facts and fallacies of writing.

Fallacy #1 - Writers are wealthy

Fact: You’ll have to excuse me while I stop laughing. I know we’ve all heard stories about authors getting six and seven-figure advances, but unless you’re Nora Roberts, Stephen King or someone already famous, you may be looking at more like three or four-figures. Now, granted, there are exceptions, but if you think writing is going to make you rich, you might want to focus your efforts elsewhere.

Fallacy #2 - Writers are prolific

Fact: Not everyone, including myself, can write as fast as Ruthy or Mary Connealy. I am in awe of these women. How fast they write, how many ideas they have rolling through their heads. But while I may not be as prolific as these two, I can be consistent. Since I write for Love Inspired, my books run approximately 55K words and it usually takes me about 4-6 months from proposal to book delivery. Those who write longer books, though, may need more time. Don’t get hung-up on how many books you can write, instead, focus on writing consistently.

Fallacy #3 – Writers can’t NOT write

Fact: Sometimes writers don’t write. The reasons can vary, sometimes life gets in the way and steals our attention, while there are other times when the words just won’t come. What I’ve learned, though, is that writers are creative people. Even when we’re not writing, we’re often expressing our creativity in other ways. 

Several years ago, my husband spent ten days in the hospital, and I can assure you that writing never crossed my mind. But Christmas was approaching, so I poured over magazines, gathering decorating ideas and planning my holiday menus. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t a writer. 

Nowadays I have deadlines to meet, but there are times when the words don’t flow onto the page. So, rather than staring blankly at a computer screen, I create things in the kitchen or rearrange something around the house. Of course, I’m usually praying as I do those things, asking God to open the floodgates of my mind, because even though I'm not writing at that moment, I’m still a writer.

Fallacy #4 – The more you write, the easier it becomes

Fact: Writing never gets easier. You may become more proficient, but I know multi-published, best-selling authors whose ideas have been rejected. Your current contract never guarantees another. So we have to strive to come up with fresh ideas or put interesting twists on old ones in order to grab the editor’s and reader’s attention. Anything worth while is never easy. And if God has called you to write, then it’s an endeavor that is definitely worthwhile.

Writing is hard work. And, as you can see, the life of a writer really isn’t as glamorous as I’d once anticipated. That vision I had of my always-clean office? Now my philosophy is that a messy desk is a sign of a productive author. Because when I’m busy writing, I have no time to clean off my desk.

What are some of the fallacies you've heard about writers? Writers, how many of them have you learned to be false?

Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at

Monday, November 4, 2019

Merry Christmas! (Yeah, I'm going there!)

It's Christmas in November Seekervillagers!!!

Today I'm giving away an ebook copy of a very 
Novella collection called

The three novellas were published a while back but separately.
Now we've gathered them together in one volume.
All three love stories.
All three Christmas stories.
All three set in a beautiful old Victorian Mansion. 
A bed and breakfast called
Star Inn

Fun and special because it's a novella collection with RUTHY!!! And, as always when I'm working with Ruthy....I made her do all the work.
Truth is, I published a novella back in September and I did something … ahem … hinky to KDP so I am...grounded? for a year from putting a book up for pre-order.
I know what I did. I put it up for pre-order and then I decided to change the release date by ONE DAY!
Apparently that exploded something and I was labeled a troublemaker (that was only a matter of time!) and I was grounded like a curfew-challenged teenager!
But that was okay because I have no plans to indy-publish anything in the forseeable future...which could in this case...ONE MONTH.
So Ruthy, who has been, as always, perfectly behaved, (show off) had to put it up.
Margaret let her do it, too, so it wasn't ONLY ME dumping the work on Ruthy. Besides she seems to love it!
Anyway, the lesson for today is, think carefully before you put your indy-pubbed Amazon Kindle book up for pre-order. You could get slapped down like a mosquito in a bug zapper.

I'll add here that they distinctly WARNED me.
Or words to that affect.
But I didn't exactly believe those rules applied to me for some reason.
They did.

Leave a comment about when you start getting ready for Christmas. When you like to read Christmas novels. When you get annoyed at Christmas coming too early!
One lucky commenter will win an ebook copy of
A little bit about Christmas at Star Inn.

In classic "Hallmark" style, these great authors give readers a real holiday treat with three novellas set at the beautiful Star Inn, an iconic B&B tucked at the base of Mount Hood in Oregon. 

"Do You Hear What I Hear?" by Margaret Brownley

Can a tree-hugging activist and lumbermill owner find love?

Two bad things happened to Sally Cartwright that week. Three if she counted the pink slip received at the Home and Family magazine’s annual Christmas party. But nothing was worse than plowing into a snowbank and being stuck in a town she swore never to see again. A town she once called home. Now she must spend the long cold night in the car or follow the bright shining star through the woods to the old Star Inn. She chooses the inn and that’s where her troubles really begin…
Lumbermill owner, Rick Rennick is in no mood for Christmas cheer. Having recently buried his father, he’s still trying to sort out the financial mess left behind. Unless Rick comes up with a miracle, the mill run by the family for generations is about to shut down for good. That would put a lot of men out of work and impact the future of the town.
If things aren’t bad enough he’s now stuck at the old Star Inn waiting for the road back to his cabin to reopen. His luck takes another turn for the worse when he suddenly comes face to face with the past he’d sooner forget. For unless he’s seeing things the only woman he’s ever loved is standing in front of the inn’s blazing fire trying to get warm. How is it possible that one chance meeting could stir up so many old memories?
Both Rick and Sally regret what happened between them, but his family lumberyard clashes with her tree-hugging ways and neither are willing to try again. It will take the storm of the century, one stage-struck young boy, a certain meddling “angel”—and even a cranky cat—to convince them that in matters of the heart, the second time around is sometimes best.

"Silent Night, Star-lit Night" by Ruth Logan Herne

Jed Taylor knows how to cowboy up on horseback and in their busy farm & feed store, but when he heard Mia O’Loughlin was planning a trip north the week before Christmas, pregnant and alone, he can't let her make the long trek alone. More Grinch than grace, he flies to the coast, determined to help.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this...
E.R. nurse and Red Cross emergency responder Mia O’Loughlin was strong, but losing her deployed husband the week before she realized they were expecting their first child knocked her off-kilter. With Christmas and her due date approaching, all she can see is getting back home to Kittitas County for the birth of her child… their child… and seeing her failing Grandpa Joe one last time. Determined to do it on her own, she reluctantly allows Jed to accompany her, mostly because the gruff cowboy showed up and won’t take no for an answer.
But when a blizzard grinds their progress to a stop in Northern Oregon, the light from an old inn beckons them into the sweet town of Heywood where old truths open the way to new beginnings for both of them.

And in "Room at the Inn for Christmas" by Mary Connealy

Welcome to Heywood, Oregon where a lonely woman comes home to find healing, hope and love under the bright light of the town’s old Star Inn this Christmas season.

Amanda Star is a high-powered executive in the multi-national Halston hotel chain…then she inherits the Star Inn, her childhood home, from her father. With no time to be away from her job, she impatiently rushes home to list the beautiful old bed and breakfast for sale. Now that she’s here she’s swamped with sweet memories and keen regret.

As Amanda struggles against the lure of home, she also is reunited with an old classmate: Anthony Carter, a handyman with a guarded heart. Can he help Amanda realize the Star Inn is worth saving…and can he do it in time for Christmas?