Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why Writing is Like Walking on Water

with Jessica R. Patch.


Thank you, Seekerville, for having me! I’m looking forward to spending the day with you.

I’ve walked on water many times. Sometimes, only the bottom of my feet gets wet. Sometimes, I sink. And sometimes, I get sprayed by waves pretty good. 

But man, I love it. The thrill. The adventure. 

Just not so much the fear. And there is always some amount of fear when walking on water.

One of my favorite accounts in the Bible is about Jesus walking on water like it’s an everyday kind of thing. I can picture Him just rolling on up. Hair damp on His forehead, tunic clinging to His legs. “Come on, Peter!”

First, comes some fear. But then imagine Peter’s rush of excitement as he lopes over the side and gets going. He’s looking right at Jesus and he’s. walking. on. water. 

Until he takes his eyes off of Jesus and looks at his surroundings. Then things get hairy and he starts to sink.

Writing is like walking on water. It is an everyday occurrence—if you’re writing every single day. 



Expect the Initial Fear.

The call to walk on water isn’t always as expected as one might think. For me, it came out of the blue in 2008. Like that early hour of three o’ clock in the morning when Jesus came walking to the disciples. They weren’t expecting that. Neither was I. Can I do this? How do I do this? What do I do once I write the story that’s burning in my heart? I want all the answers. All the steps. But they don’t come all at once. Like walking on water, it’s one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. And you will have to walk over waves. You’ll have to squint from the salty spray that will smack you cold in the face. It’s called rejections, criticism, and doubt. Keep walking. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Because if you don’t, you will sink. You could easily drown in a sea of despair and hopelessness. You can quickly talk yourself out of the calling. You can bow to the criticism of man and not surf on the approval of God. But remember that when you sink, Jesus is right there to pull you up, hold your hand, and get you where He wants you to go. Think about this: How did Peter get back to the boat after he sunk? Me? I think he and Jesus walked right back to it hand in hand. Keep walking, friend.

Anticipate the Fun.

Anything to do with the ocean and the beach is fun. Minus sharks, jellyfish colonies, and hurricanes. Okay so maybe not anything to do with the ocean and beach is fun. But let’s just say we’ve overcome that initial fear and are trusting God to help us get through all the scary things left in the ocean. When called to walk on water, we can anticipate the fun. Because walking on water with Jesus whether it’s in writing, or any calling, should be fun! Adventurous. Jesus isn’t boring and when He plants a passion inside you, it won’t be either. I didn’t say it wouldn’t be hard. You’ll work up a sweat for sure, but we have that glorious ocean of grace and mercy to rest in and cool off. When the ideas swirl and you find a group of water-walking friends (like here at Seekerville!) this whole thing can become downright fun! Yes, you’ll battle monster waves. Colonies of jellyfish that sting. Even sharks. But nothing can hold down someone walking on water whose focus is clearly on Jesus. Make those hard times learning experiences and chances to grow closer and hold tighter, then pour them out into the stories you write! It’s a testimony. There is joy in traveling the ocean of the publishing industry (no matter which path you take—traditional, indie, small press, or hybrid). Don’t let that initial fear rob you of the fun. Keep walking, friend.



Find Your Footing in Faith. 

Once you leave land, there’s nothing but ocean. It’s all uncertain. Uncharted—for you. But there are no uncharted waters for God. He’s got the plan. He’s given you the purpose. But man, it’s tough to trust God once you get into the deep waters, isn’t it—when your feet don’t touch? It’s a struggle to remember that while you don’t know what will happen or when, God knows. It’s excruciating at times to see others who have been walking on water (maybe less time than you) make it to their destination. You see their books published and you think, “Lord, help me with my sea legs! Am I not walking fast enough? Why not me?” I’ve been there, but we can’t look at others and feel competitive. Rejoice with them! Mary believed what God spoke to her and she was blessed for believing. It came to pass. And it will come to pass for you. It almost 100% won’t look like what you expect. But tides change. Be flexible to go with the flow of God’s plan. Even when it feels like an undertow pulling you down. Stand firm in your faith. You won’t find the beauty until you’re in deep waters. 

Trusting God in the deep waters is what my newest book is about. This will be my fifth Love Inspired Suspense novel. I’m still walking on water. Every single day. Every book is a testimony of His faithfulness, but even when I had no book in hand, no contract, I had to trust Him and believe in what was unseen at the time. That’s faith.  Keep walking, friend.




I’m giving away a copy of Deep Waters! I’d love for you to enter for a chance to win. Leave a comment and a winner will be posted in the Weekend Edition. You can read the Prequel to Deep Waters FREE on Harlequin.com. Check out the online read Protecting the Witness here. 

Question for you: I’ve compared writing to walking on water. What would you compare it to, and do you have a favorite verse that helps you keep going?



Deep Waters
Thirty feet underwater when her oxygen tank fails, Caley Flynn fears it's been sabotaged—and she'll be the next to die. Her intern's already dead, her home breached and something's amiss at her Florida marine-life rescue center…but no one believes she's in danger. Except Shepherd Lightman. When Caley's brother asked him to check on her, the marine turned security specialist hoped it would be a case of calming down a nervous veterinarian. But the threats are all too real. Rescuing Caley and remaining alive isn't easy, but resisting his boss's sister is where the real danger lies. Because with his heart in the balance, he'll do whatever it takes to stop a killer who's desperate to keep a secret hidden.


Jessica R. Patch writes inspirational contemporary romance and romantic suspense. She is the author of the Seasons of Hope series and several Love Inspired Suspense novels including, Fatal Reunion, Protective Duty, Concealed Identity, and Final Verdict. When she’s not hunched over her laptop or going on adventurous trips in the name of research with willing friends, you can find her spending time with her family and collecting recipes to amazing dishes she’ll probably never cook. Jessica is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management.



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Clubs

By Debby Giusti

Today’s the first day of summer so grab a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea, take your tablet or laptop outside to soak up the sunshine and join me in talking about one of my favorite subjects—book clubs! If you love to read, analyze characters and discuss theme, moral premise, symbolism or motifs, you’re probably in a book club. If not, you need to be.

My Book Club! We've been meeting for over a decade.
Oprah Winfrey is often credited with the rise in popularity of book clubs. The talk show hostess started her own television book club in 1996 and encouraged women to read books she chose, beginning with the club’s first read, The Deep End of the Ocean, by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Oprah picks invariably soared to the top of the bestseller charts, and even classics, such as John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, gained a new resurgence of notoriety due to what has been called the Oprah Phenomenon. Over a span of fifteen years, members read a total of 70 books until the club ended in 2011.


This great group of ladies hosted me at their first
blook club meeting. They started out with four
people. Now they have more than a dozen members.
Everyone wants to be part of their group.
Carroll Pelligrinelli, second from left, is a Villager!
Pamela Burger, in her article, “Women's Groups and the Rise of the Book Club," claims that women’s clubs in vogue in the late 19th century--when ladies gathered to discuss literature and the arts--actually gave birth to the concept of the modern book club.

Katie Vu goes back even farther. In her article, “The Book Club Phenomena,” Ku attributes the beginning of book clubs to Puritan Anne Hutchinson, who first gathered women into a reading circle in 1634. Margaret Fuller supposedly sponsored the first bookstore based club in 1840. Some sixty years later, avid readers received selections in the mail thanks to the Book-of-the-Month-Club and The Literary Guild.

Our read this particular month was Kristin Hannah's
The Nightingale.

Today virtual book clubs abound. Word of mouth book promotion has turned digital with readers sharing information online about authors and their books. Goodreads provides a forum for its more than 20 million members to discuss and review their favorite reads. Facebook reading groups interact with authors and discuss their stories in a number of forums, including Q & As and author chats.

Schools, libraries and even communities host monthly reads with such programs as One City, One Book that started in Seattle in 1998. The National Endowment for the Arts sponsors The Big Read, and since its kickoff in 2006, more than $18 million in grants have been given to fund reading events across the country.
Inevitably, everyone congregates in the kitchen!
No matter how or when they started, books clubs seem to be a permanent part of our American culture. In 2014, BookBrowse interviewed women who read more than one book a month and found that 56% were members of book clubs. The majority of clubs—89%--meet in person and read an average of 9 to 12 books each year. The books are selected from various genres with the classics and bestsellers being the most frequently chosen as monthly picks.
L to R: Sandy Marvin, my daughter Mary and Sandra
Kirkpatrick chat before our book discussion.
The book club in which I’m a member started more than a decade ago with a church retreat. After the weekend religious gathering, many of us wanted to continue to meet monthly. We started reading inspirational non-fiction but quickly evolved into a fiction reading group. The second Wednesday of each month finds us gathered in one of the member’s homes. The evening begins with appetizers and beverages as we socialize for an hour or so. The hostess provides a light dinner or heavy hors d’oeuvres and dessert.  After eating, we turn our focus to the monthly read. Questions in the back of the book sometimes provide a springboard for our discussions, and it’s rare that a story doesn’t leave us with a thoughtful insight or takeaway that we can apply to our daily lives. At the end of the evening, the hostess announces the next month’s read. Each December, we have a book exchange with the January selection chosen from one of the gift books.

Great discussion at our May meeting.

Four Basic Steps to Form a Book Club:

1. Choose a book to read.
2. Meet with friends, food optional.
3. Discuss the book.
4. Select a story to read and discuss at the next gathering.

I enjoy visiting book clubs and greatly appreciate having my story selected as their monthly read. The conversation flows, and book club members invariably have questions about where I get my ideas and who creates the cover art and the back of the book blurb. In addition to answering their questions, I also provide a behind the scenes look at publishing and the writing life. 

Shelba Jean Carroll won my gift basket
the month my book, Plain Truth, was
her book club's selection.. 
I asked the Seekers to share their book club experiences and received the following input:

Sandra Leesmith was invited to a luncheon hosted by a book club that read her book, Price of Victory (Montlake publication). What interested her the most were the questions asked about things in the book she wasn’t even aware were there. She deduced that since readers bring in their own experiences, they relate to the plot and characters in relation to their own lives.

Janet Dean recounts this lovely story:

“I’ve spoken to several book clubs. All have been gracious and fun. They had read my book and were eager to discuss it. Some even asked me to bring other books to sell. But it was my first book club encounter that blew me away. Members had read my debut Courting Miss Adelaide and had prepared the dinner Adelaide served Charles. They had decorated the living room with hats and gloves in honor of my milliner heroine. Their efforts touched my heart. Plus the meal was delicious. Afterward the discussion of the book was lively. One member questioned Adelaide’s refusal to accept Charles’s proposal. Others jumped right in to support her decision, saying Charles had not yet returned to God, and Adelaide knew Charles wouldn’t find peace until he came to terms with his past. It was my first experience of readers defending my character’s action for me."

Mary Connealy had this to offer:

“I was told a book club somewhere far off, like Seattle, was reading my book and asked me to send book marks or such things. Which I did. Then they invited me to Skype into the book club. I said no because I just didn't know how. Then on the day and hour of the book club, I happened to be looking on my laptop at Facebook and here's this post from the lady in charge of the book club saying, "We're doing it now, live! Stop in." Not aimed at me but at her Facebook friends. So I clicked on a link to find out more, and BAM, I'm at the book club. My face is on their laptop right in the center of the ladies. Well, I was NOT camera ready. My goodness, was my hair even brushed? So I clicked on the camera icon to cut off my picture, but I stayed on and talked to them. I could see them, they just couldn't see me. It was fun and so unplanned that I didn't have time to worry about it.”

Missy shares information about her own book club:

“I belonged to a book club before we moved last year. We had a small group of women in our church who often shared about good books we'd read and finally decided to form a book club. We met monthly at a member's home. We took turns picking a book for the month, and read from several different genres. We often used the discussion questions in the back of the book, but usually ended up off topic pretty quickly. :) When life got crazy (several had young children in sports), we just got together for a movie and dinner and discussed the movie (which was actually based on a book in a series we had loved). So there's a lot of flexibility for a group of readers who love talking about stories!”


Now it’s your turn. Tell us about your book club or any reading programs with which you’ve been involved. Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for the first book in my Amish Protectors series, Amish Refuge, along with a two-in-one that features Plain Danger, from my Military Investigations series, and The Shepherd’s Bride, by Patricia Davids. The winners will also receive a copy of The Reader’s Prayer.

Happy reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings!
Debby Giusti


AMISH REFUGE
By Debby Giusti

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT

Miriam Miller barely escapes the ruthless attacker that killed her mother and kidnapped her sister. Running deeper into the woods, she’s running out of hope…until she falls into the arms of an unlikely bodyguard—a peaceful Amish farmer. Something about Abram Zook inspires her trust, but even in bucolic Willkommen, Georgia, Miriam faces danger. Both from the men pursuing her and from her growing feelings for the caring—though guarded— widower who protects her. Because if she falls for Abram she’ll have to embrace his Amish faith as her own—or lose him. With each minute, her abductor creeps closer, pushing Miriam to an inevitable choice: stay and risk her heart…or leave and risk her life.

Order HERE!






Tuesday, June 20, 2017

6 Things I Learned from a Crunch Deadline and a Giveaway


by Pam Hillman

Overcoming obstacles is a badge of honor for our characters. Just as overcoming obstacles should be for those of us who write those characters' stories and literally pull them out of the fire and save their bacon!

Typing The End, and then digging in to smooth and polish should make us pump our fist in the air and do a joy-jig. Yes, I did a joy-jig when I turned in The Promise of Breeze Hill. Actually, I did FOUR of them.

The first was when I typed The End.

The second was when I finished the rewrite and met my deadline.

The third was when I turned in requested edits on time as promised.

The fourth was when I turned in copy edits a month or so after that.

And each time was su-weet! Each pass made the manuscript better, made me fall in love with my characters and the story even more than before. Summing this whole process up in four short sentences makes it sound easy, but it was far from it. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.

So here are six things I learned to make those joy-jigs as joyous as humanly possible. By the way, I write in Scrivener, so a couple of my tips are specific to that software. If you use Word, or even write long-hand, just apply some of the same basic principles to your method.






Plan the Work - Work the Plan. My husband is a carpenter. He’s been building houses for over thirty years. His father has been in the business for over fifty years, and they still use very detailed house plans.

Every. Single. Time.

Trying to work through plot issues mid-stream really does a number on my daily word count. Sometimes a major plotting snarl can set me back several weeks. I’m about to start book #3 on the Natchez Trace Novel series, and I’m going to take a page from Melissa Jagears. In a Seekerville blog post last month, 5 Ways to Maximize Your Writing Time, Melissa said she pre-wrote between 30-50K on her last two manuscripts before she even started writing the novels.

I’ve done this to a certain extent, but in my mind, I was writing portions of the manuscript, not a 20, 30, 40K synopsis. Thinking of this pre-writing as an extremely detailed synopsis instead of part of the actual manuscript will keep me from cringing when I have to delete 5K because it no longer works for the story.

If the above makes you cringe (you know who you are), then let’s just move on …

Frontload. Do not wait until the last few weeks to write your novel. Life happens. I had eight months to write The Promise of Breeze Hill. EIGHT MONTHS. Never mind that I wrote several novellas in that time, took care of the accounting for three family businesses and babysat the grand during that time. I needed to get started earlier, write longer, and more often. You’ve heard it said, you can’t edit a blank page. No matter how bad it is, get it down on paper long before your deadline. Allow two months to edit. Three or four are even better. What? You scoff at needing three months to edit? Of course you probably don’t. But start with that mindset of getting it done earlier, rather than later, and you’ll have time to spare. If you’re blessed enough to get finished long before your deadline, then yippee…start your next book.

Scrivener Tip #1. Make sure all scenes and chapters are checked “Include in Compile” and after you compile, check the word count in Word against the original Scrivener document. I dropped a scene in a novella once, but thankfully, caught it in the final edit before the collection was published. Whew!

Scrivener Tip #2. If you write in Scrivener, do not wait until 2 am to compile, then run spell check in Word. Compile early and often and run spell check on chapters as you go. Scrivener does have its own spell checker, but a second opinion is welcome.

Learn from the Insanity. Tina has told us over and over again that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I submit that writing and editing for 14-19 hours a day for eight straight days leading up to a deadline is insanity. (Not that I’d know about that. Ahem.) So, whatever your insanity is, learn from it and figure out how to do it differently next time. Me? See all of the above.

Don’t throw in the towel if you find yourself in the middle of a crunch. Just buckle down and do the work. But when it’s over, take a deep breath, and learn from the all nighters and the insanity and apply what you learned next time, and the next, and the next.



AND... We have a GIVEAWAY!



Since my time crunch led to THE PROMISE OF BREEZE HILL, coming August 3, 2017, I'm celebrating by giving away a signed copy to one lucky winner. Solve the puzzle and leave a comment letting me know you want to be on the auction bl --- wait, wrong crowd --- in the drawing.





Also, if you want a 2nd chance to win, hop over to the HHH blog post - Why Write About Indentured Servitude? - and solve the puzzle and leave a comment. Last chance to enter the HHH contest is today, so you're doubling your chances. Cool, huh? :)

Today's discussion...well, as usual, we get to talk about pretty much whatever we want to, BUT, if you need a bit of direction, what's the one thing (or two, or three), you always do to keep yourself from drowning in a crunch?



Breaking News!

The Promise of Breeze Hill received 4 1/2 Stars and is a Top Pick with Romantic Times.



Monday, June 19, 2017

Editing the Editor!

Ruthy here, introducing my talented friend, marketing communications expert and editor Michael Ehret... I've known Mike for years, and he's one of the 'good guys'... you know the type, he says what he means, he's got a good heart, he's true blue and he knows writing... and loves it! I'm delighted to have him with us today, talking about how an editor reacts to being edited! Take it away, Mike!

Wait, What Do You Mean You Have “A Few Edits”?

As editors, we’ve all said these words:
·         Every writer needs a good editor.
·         Nothing is so good it can’t be edited and made better.
·         It just needs a little polish.

And—I’ll stake my reputation on this—those words are true. Well, they’re true for everyone else. Not me. I’ve been writing a long time and I’ve edited other’s words. I know what I’m doing. My words are gold. My mother even said so.

(Quit snickering!)


Recently, I had the opportunity to contribute a novella to “Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection.” Seven of us participated and it was fun! My story, “Big Love,” introduces two people involved in building and tiny houses who come together in a surprising way:

Berly Charles remembers the days before her father was a successful business tycoon in Indianapolis, Ind. Growing up a razor’s edge from homelessness planted a tiny desire for home in her heart that she now, as the owner of Le Petite Maison, LLC, fills for others by building their tiny home ideals.

Nathan “Rafe” Rafferty is a writer for a nationally recognized architecture journal who is used to calling his own shots. When he gets assigned to cover a new trend—tiny houses—the idea makes him furious. Could it be because it reminds him of when he and his mother had to live in a lean-to shack under a railroad trestle in Indianapolis?

Homelessness expanded her world and constricted his. Now she needs his help, but he only remembers the pain. Can they find big love in a tiny house?

So that’s the story I wrote. I’m not sure exactly how this happened. I must have had an off day—or an off 120 days—while writing because when I received my manuscript back from the book’s editor (and one of the co-authors), Linda Yezak, she had edits.

No, really. The book was FULL of them.

She called me “dash happy” and questioned my parentage! Apparently, writing—like—William Shatner talks—is—a little—too much—style. And I guess I sort of prefer the British spellings of certain words to the less colourful American spellings. So kill me.

But then it got worse.

Linda Yezak—bless her heart!—said I wrote a cliché. Or, maybe, several of them. Land o’ Goshen! That woman couldn’t see the forest for the trees. She left no stone unturned trying to ferret out clichés.

In a nutshell, at the end of the day, even though she was bold as brass, Linda was right because two wrongs don’t make a right and two (or more) clichés don’t make great sentences. (Like these, eh?)

So, yes, I guess it’s true. Every writer (even me) needs a good editor. Here are just a few of the other things Linda suggested I fix in “Big Love.”

Logistical and repetitive word problems

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. As you know, that means I just sort of spit it out and then go back and fix it later. Well, I don’t always catch everything. Here’s a general clean up example from Linda’s edit.

Text Box: Comment 12          LWY Got some logistical problems here. He can see some things in his peripheral vision, but would he be able to focus enough through his peripheral vision to recognize Holden's squinty-eyed look? You may want to divide this out into two sentences and get Rafe to focus on Holden.

As he peered over his phone, pretending to pay no attention, Rafe saw Holden in his peripheral vision, stroking stroke the stubble he’d been nursing into a beard for six months, his patented far-away-deep-in-thought squinty-eyed look he thought made him seem thoughtfulcontemplative, playing out on his increasingly mashable face.

Starting at the top, I forgot a comma at the beginning of that non-essential phrase—“pretending to pay no attention”—that needed to be there. That phrase is non-essential from the sense of the sentence. I could have just eliminated it. But it is a characterization phrase. In other words, it helps the reader get a sense of who Rafe is and how he works in the world.

The logistical problem she points out is obvious—or should have been, lol—but then there’s also the triple use of the word thought within one very long confusing sentence. I must have written this on the day I was suffering from the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu.

Here’s how I fixed it for the final:

As he peered over his phone, pretending to pay no attention, Rafe saw Holden stroke the stubble he’d been nursing into a beard for six months. This he had to see. His editor’s patented far-away-deep-in-thought look he thought made him seem contemplative, was now playing out on the man’s increasingly mashable face.

Notice what Linda didn’t change: “increasingly mashable face.” Mashable is not a real world, but again, it’s character development for Rafe. He carries around a lot of anger from his past, so this is a close-to-the-surface emotion. And he is a culture sponge, in this case Adam West’s “Batman.”

Since it is a novella, the relationship had to develop quickly, but believably. A good editor walks the line between suggesting improvements and making improvements. In this example, Linda suggested that she thought I could do a better job showing Rafe’s evolving feelings for Berly. She was right. Here’s the original:

He opened his file for another review of his research and was gripped again by her eyes in the IBJ portrait piece—as well as the playfulness of the pose. The photographer had shot her as Rosie the Riveter, only she had a hammer in her hands. It was cute. Very cute.


And then, from the final manuscript:

He opened his file for another review of his research and saw Timberly’s portrait again. Those eyes. So deep and sparkling with playfulness. The photographer had shot her as Rosie the Riveter, only she had a hammer in her hands. It was cute. And charming. 


In the first—“was gripped again by her eyes”—is narrative telling. The second—“Those eyes. So deep and sparkling with playfulness”—is deeper POV showing. The reader sees Berly’s eyes from Rafe’s point of view. I’m not telling you he was gripped, I’m showing you.

Linda, like any fine editor, took my story, in my voice, and showed me ways to improve it—make it stronger. That is the benefit of a great editor. And that is why we all need them.


For the contest today, we’re giving away one print book and three e-books of Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection, which contains Michael Ehret’s novella, “Big Love. To enter, answer the following question in the comments. Be sure to leave an email address so we can contact you.

Question: Could you live in a tiny home? Why or why not? Or, if you prefer, share your best advice for learning how to show and not tell. What tips and techniques have worked for you?


Michael Ehret has accepted God's invitation to write with Him and is also a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he's worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal magazine for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), was editor-in-chief of the Christian Writers Guild, and he pays the bills as a marketing communications writer. Michael sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.

He’s been married for 36 years to Deb and they have three children, one dog (a miniature Schnauzer named Baxter), and a granddog. Since he writes fiction by the seat of his pants, who knows what’s next?