Monday, December 6, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and Me

I want to talk about how my writing changed after reading Harry Potter. And read carefully for your chance to win the FIRST EVER IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE GIVEAWAY OF SHARPSHOOTER IN PETTICOATS.
I have read all the Harry Potter books. But I’ve never gotten into that ‘thing’ kids do where they read and re-read over and over. I didn’t quite get why they did that. And then, one day, my oldest daughter was reading the first Harry Potter again and she looks up from the book with this gleam in her eyes and says, “Hagrid is riding Sirius Black’s motorcycle.”

Harry Potter

Well, I knew my Harry Potter well enough to say, “Are you kidding? In the FIRST book?”

Sirius Black doesn’t appear in the Harry Potter series until book #3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
In book one there is no indication that Sirius Black exists except for this tiny passing mention of his motorcycle. No further remarks are made, nothing. Well, nothing I know of, like I said, I'm not a true student of the books. But I know he wasn't important enough for me to have recognized the name when he made his appearance in book #3. Add to that, the sentence could have completely stood on it's own. Hagrid arrived on a motorcycle. Cut those two words, Sirius Black's, because they aren't important to the scene and there is no explanation for them to slow down the story.
 As a writer, this just made me ITCHY with envy. I got the complexity of what J K Rowling was doing. I mean I knew there was an over arching story about He Who Must Not Be Named. Of course I got that. I got that Rowling was building to a huge life and death all out battle of good against evil. Harry against Voldemort.

And I got the enormity of her details, Diagon Ally, The Mirror of Erised. All of this is amazingly deep, where a thousand (honestly a MILLION) little details matter and have clearly been given a tremendous amount of thought.

But with that tiny detail about Hagrid and Sirius Black and that motorcycle, I got that the series wasn’t seven books it was a seven book volume of ONE book. And that Rowling already knew, on a really deep level, her story. She knew Sirius Black mattered and she knew it so profoundly that she didn't even really bother to tell anyone. She just knew who's motorcycle Hagrid was riding and mentioned it in passing. I just loved that.

More importantly, from an author’s perspective, that little detail made my daughter eager then to re-read the books to find more tiny clues and asides that all mattered to this massive story.

Enter the Romantic Comedy with Cowboys author. Me.

When this great awakening occurred, I had the Lassoed in Texas series done and in print. Petticoat Ranch, Calico Canyon and Gingham Mountain. I was mostly done with the Montana Marriages series but they weren’t in print yet…still time to make changes. So began this process where I started thinking in terms of a high level of complexity, but in books that still stood alone.

In a lot of ways I can boil this down to Tom Linscott. The hero of Sharpshooter in Petticoats. Of course there’s much more to it than this, but he’s a good example.

In the original incarnation of Montana Rose, Tom Linscott was a name. A cranky area rancher who’d be willing to bid against the tyrannical land baron Mort Sawyer for Cassie Dawson’s foreclosed upon ranchland. In the beginning, Tom had no lines, no description, no role. He was a name spoken between Red and the banker. Linscott’s a trouble maker, he’ll make an offer just to spite Mort.

That’s it. Mort had to pay a little more than he wanted. And since Mort wanted to marry Cassie mainly to gain possession of the spring on her land…thus paying nothing for it…it was a burr under Mort’s saddle.

So now I’m thinking complexity. I already wanted to write the Sophie’s Daughters series, Sophie McClellen’s daughters all grown up…and I fact I was excited by the opportunity to be TRUE to those little girls as adult women. But to make it truly complex, I decided to have my characters from Petticoat Ranch run into my characters from Montana Marriages.

First thing I had to do was change dates. Montana Marriages was set in almost the same time exactly as Lassoed in Texas, early 1870s. But to run these families into each other, I needed to push Montana Marriages to a later date to give Sophie’s Daughters a chance to grow up. I still had time to do that because those books weren’t in print.

And I needed a little more depth in my sub-characters because minor characters in Montana Marriages could now be developed and used fully in Sophie’s Daughters, but of course, they had to EXIST.

So Tom Linscott, who is utterly undescribed, and who I saw as a crusty old goat, in Montana Marriages...well, let’s not do that, let’s make him HERO material. So now he needs to be described. Now he needs to be young and single. I still want him to be cranky, so now there's a bit of a feud between him and the Sawyers. To enhance Tom's character I gave him a mean horse to match him, but made that about him being a successful, forward thinking rancher. And I pulled a thread through all three Montana Marriages series pitting him against Wade Sawyer.  And I could now show Wade Sawyer's growth as a Christian through his struggle to get along with a very annoyed Tom Linscott. And double that clash by letting Wade marry Tom's sister.

All of this really matters in the Sophie's Daughters series, especially in book three. I had time to go back SIX BOOKS, from Sharpshooter in Petticoats to Montana Rose, and weave in the details that wouldn't matter until so much later.

My very own Hagrid-riding-Sirius-Black's-motorcycle-type detail. And I included many of them.

It’s hard to mention all the threads in a single blog post, but the bottom line is, I had the Lassoed in Texas series in print, it was set in stone. So I used that as my foundation and built from there. Now I can’t imagine the Montana Marriages series without Tom Linscott. He isn’t a huge character but he’s there in all three books, most importantly Wildflower Bride.

All of this is just me trying to interweave nine books to the point each of them matters to the whole.

 I think a big part of the reason Harry Potter was able to be so complex was because it took so long for Rowling to get published. She had the luxury of time. I’m sure when she was struggling to pay her rent she didn’t see it as luxury, but for the strength of the series, it was vital that she know the whole story, not just the over arching themes, but the details. This is what makes the stories re-readable.

Just for the record, I will say that the comparison between my books and Rowlings' pretty much ends there. I believe it ends totally at the point where her book and my book released the same month and hers sold twelve million copies the first DAY!!!!!!!!!!!

Mine sold.........somewhat less.

Someone once told me that the mark of a good book is when the reader can tell the author knows more about her characters than she's telling. That sounded so strange to me at the time, but we talk about backstory a lot. I'm a minimalist, and maybe I go too far with my minimalization (I may have just invented that word). But knowing your characters right down to their parents--who aren't in the book, and their childhood traumas which maybe you  barely mention and certainly not in detail....that kind of stuff makes a book shine. It becomes three dimensional in your writing and gives it depth.

All the fuss over Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows has me thinking about what I see as the real strength and brilliance of J. K. Rowlings' books. What makes them enduring. And with all of us who hang around Seekerville and many of us (including me for a long, long time) taking what seems like too long to get published, I say...use that time.

 Use this chance to give your stories depth, complexity, details. This is your chance to know your characters on a really deep, personal level.

See it as a luxury. And hope and pray that luxury ends real soon.

And that’s the story of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and me.
Now, to get your name in the drawing for an IOU for a copy of Sharpshooter in Petticoats--I haven't gotten my author's copies yet, but should in a couple of weeks, I want you to tell me something only you know about one of your characters. If you're not a writer, you can just tell me one of your favorite characters in a beloved book.

Hopefully I'll get the books a week or so before they release, but probably not in time for Christmas. Then I'll send it straight off to you.

Mary Connealy
And here's the Seekerville Tweak of the Day.


  1. Am I the only person who has never read Harry Potter? LOL

    Anywho Mary, I loved how you tied NINE books together. I couldn't imagine doing that and keeping everything straight as far as dates, locations etc. WHEW but it definitely worked because I have enjoyed all of the books so far!

    XOXO~ Renee

  2. well darn! Now I'm not only wanting to read all of Mary's(and I'm not a huge fan of historical so that's saying a lot!) I'm wanting to read Harry Potter too! I've read the first book and I don't remember a motorcycle in that book at all LOL! I still have the movies to catch up on(left off after the 2nd) anyone else have a crush on that slitherin teacher - snape? something 'bout that brooding look..

    Now I've re-read plenty of books and caught more things the 2nd or 3rd or 4th time though(A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for instance) but don't know if I notice the layering.or maybe I do and that's why some books disappoint me when they're not developed or they're too obvious and I like to figure it out and think I pulled a fast one!...hmm..

    oh well here's some Shipley donuts..maybe someone else will show up with some protein to off-set the carb rush!


  3. J. K. Rowling did a great job weaving in those little details. Clearly, she knew her plot and characters intimately, which makes for the cohesion throughout the Harry Potter series. It's cool that you were able to work the same kind of literary magic in your series, Mary. And you did it with nine--count 'em--nine books.

    In regard to my story, I know the hero of my historical is such a dandy that he sought out the best tailor in the area to make his clothes and spares no expense. The reader won't learn this little bit of info about the hero until he makes a cameo appearance in a subsequent book.

  4. Mary, wow, how do you keep all those various threads straight over time? It is also good to hear that there is a way to shift the course of the river,if necessary.

    I wasn't really a fan of Harry Potter for myself. I enjoyed the first book but just didn't continue. But I am indebted to J.K. Rowlings for making my daughter a devoted reader.

    When it comes to characters, for some reason I have the Little House on the Prairie books on my mind. Characters from early on make appearances years later. It seems Laura Ingalls Wilder often put these appearances in to show that time marches on.

    Peace, Julie

  5. Renee, no your not I haven't read him or watched him.

    I would have to say one of my favourite characters in a book was in Sincerely Mayla by Virginia Smith, Mayla's aunt Louise I really identified with. She was a minor character but to me she was very important. She was single and caring for her mother who was quite manipulative. As I was in a similar situation I really identified with Lousie and she ends up with a boyfriend who her mother tried to stop but it gave me hope that I may find someone too even in the situation I was in. For me she was only part of the book but had more impact than anyone else.
    Please enter me I really need to read the new book.

  6. Mary, what a wonderful analogy of how to work threads into series of books.

    Michener was great at that, I loved his epic tomes (I've been DYING to use the word tomes) and he did it all in one huge volume of historical threading, and that's the kind of innocent genius you put into your ongoing series and your work.

    And I know funny doesn't always equate with genius, but I know my stuff and the fact that you aren't afraid to layer, to twist, to wind those people...

    That worked so well and this post is a great tutorial (I've been dying to use the word tutorial) on how to do it.

    And no, I'm not sucking up to you. Unless you've got chocolate for me.

    Oh, oh, oh....

    A secret to share.

    A sweet, two paragraph interlude in Reunited Hearts (April, 2011, Love Inspired) sets the plot for Mended Hearts (September, 2011, Love Inspired.)

    I love doing series work and if you plug in (like Mary did with Tom Linscott) random characters in the first book (they have to have some kind of purpose, of course, but it doesn't have to be a major component at all), you can utilize them in future books. They don't have to be family related, they can be geographically related, using the same setting of time and place. Sometimes I know who is going to go on to another book, and sometimes I don't, the character kind of builds him or herself.


    I was so bad this weekend. But I'll eat a donut anyway, and thank you very, very much!

    Keli, I love that hint...

    Just love it. So fun.

    I set up coffee, various strengths, gingerbread latte and pumpkin spice for us girly-girls and Newman's Own Extra Bold for you tough guys and gals.

    It's Monday and I love my coffee.

  7. Renee, you've never read HP? You have got to rectify that girl!

    As a matter of fact, this post makes me want to reread the whole series.

    And while I'm at it, I think I should reread all the books Tom Liscott shows up in.

    Something I know about my character that doesn't appear in the book, no body calls him by his full name unless they want to fight.

  8. Mary,
    FABULOUS post. Oh my goodness, if I could write with such vivid detail and complexity as J.K. Rowling.... Wow!
    Her imagery is fantastic and the way she can turn a phrase inspires my writing too.
    Does it have to do with being British or something? :-)

    That's what I love about thinking in series writing. There are so many neat and interesting things that grow out of that first book.

    Cassie Dawson is a spitfire in her head. and I LOVE how all those little conversations she has with herself end up popping out while she's in labor. Love it!!

    Oh - and I'm pretty sure Belle Tanner was trying to kill Silas with a look in the first part of The Husband Tree - you played it off as attraction, but I know the truth ;-)

    Love your books, Mary. Can't wait for the next one.

  9. I have not read nor seen Harry Potter. My sister, however, was at IMAX at midnight a couple of weeks ago...

    Something no one knows... Well, I dunno about no one, really, but it goes along with what Mary was saying about weaving stuff in. In book 2 [that is if book 1 ever gets picked up anywhere], there's a guy on TV in the background. He's got a name and you know who he is, but you think the sisters are just bored. In book 5, one of them marries him. I know this already and have worked a few mentions of him in earlier - need to try to find a way to reference him in book 1 as I edit it THIS WEEK for emailing out the full...

    Pray I can get that all done, would ya?

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

  10. Mary,
    Thanks for offering up your latest book!
    Please enter me!
    Many Blessings and Smiles,
    Chakasa58 at gmail dot com

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. I stopped reading the Harry Potter series midway through, but I could definitely tell that Rowling had an extraordinary eye for detail. Sometimes I wonder how she did it, and I haven't even read the whole series!
    One of my favorite characters in a story is Bobbie Bradford in Lori Wick's As Time Goes By. I also liked Faith from Julie Lessman's series. I do have a lot of favorite characters, and I have read so many multiple books from different authors that I could probably name my favorite character from each author.

  13. Great post, Mary! I've never read Harry Potter, but maybe I should--someday when I have more time.
    And I like the way you carry your characters from one book to another.

  14. I'm not a writer, but I recently finished reading An Amish Christmas and enjoyed the character of Karen. She was such a strong woman. Your book sounds great. Looking forward to reading it.

  15. Loves 2 Read Romance - LauraDecember 6, 2010 at 8:25 AM

    First off I have to tell all of you that haven't read the Harry Potter series you really need to read it. I didn't want to read it at first and in fact teased my brother about reading them. Shortly afterward I ended up not being able to go to the library so I picked up the first book. Needless to say I have loved all the books and reread them many times. In fact I am in the middle of the 3rd one again. I would have to say my favorite character in the Harry Potter books would be most likely all of them! It's to hard choose.

    fantum2004 AT sbcglobal DOT net

  16. Oops, forgot to answer Mary's question:
    The heroine in one of my stories keeps a stash of dark chocolate hershey kisses in her nightstand.
    Comfort food.

    Another one of my heroines has a crazy fear of those pale face medieval portraits. She's an artist, but can't stand looking at those types of pictures. She avoids them as much as possible in the book, but I don't think I ever mention her fear :-) Maybe I should.

  17. Mary, I haven't read Harry Potter. Nice to know I'm not alone. Waving to Renee, Cara, Jenny and Carol. Wow, we're almost a crowd.

    Even so, your post grabbed me, Mary. Especially this bit of wisdom:

    All of this is just me trying to interweave nine books to the point each of them matters to the whole.

    This is something I intend to work on. I planted a minor character in The Substitute Bride that shows up in my wip. Not as the hero but his journey matters in this book. Or so I hope.


  18. This is a wonderful post. So full of information on writing better stories.
    I am not a Harry Potter fan, that said I still recognize the talent involved in the writing.
    In the book The Road Home there is a wonderful character that is only slightly mentioned that really grabbed my interest. She is Ruth's neighbor, but I have imagined a whole life for her.
    I loved the Lassoed in Tx Series; now I'll have to read all of the Montana series.
    I would love to read Sharpshooter in Petticoats. Sophie's girls are wonderful.

  19. Mary! Talk about a defining aha moment. Scattering little bread crumbs of seemingly disposable details throughout a book only to give way to their importance in futured volumes.


    But in order to scatter said breadcrumbs, one must have the entire journey mapped out first. Something I'm not very good at.

    Minimalistic or minimalization, both terms apply to me when I'm plotting out a book. I may have an idea of which characters I want to develope for future books, but it isn't until my final read through of the mss that I discover the reason they get their own books.

    Makes for writing a gripping synopsis very difficult.

    Well woven series? My all time favorite is the Suz Brockmann series Tall, Dark and Dangerous about a unit of Navy Seals and how their lives are intertwined throughout each of their own books.

    Fun, thought-provoking post, Mary. I love it!

    And I stand in continued awe of your talents, Mary. I can't believe you write such deep, intertwined books turning them into not-to-be-missed series in the blink of an eye.

    Next conference, I'm rubbing up against you girlfriend and getting some of that creative fairy dust sprinkled on me, LOL!

    Breakfast lasagna, anyone? better come get it quick before Garfield wakes up, LOL!

  20. Breakfast lasagna....


    Goes great with this CARROT CAKE I brought to save me from myself.

    The problem with behaving during the week and having food fun on weekends is summed up in one word:


    So we need to share this leftover carrot cake with cream cheese frosting before I annihilate the whole thing sliver by sliver...

    (Small servings appease guilt)

  21. Hey Mary,
    Haven't had time to read. Dashing this morning, but will...
    Thoroughly enjoying Lassoed in Texas, am on Gingham Mountain now! Loving them. Thanks for your stories.

    Wanted to be sure to enter the 1st ever drawing for Sharpshooter!!!

    may at maythek9spy dot com

    y'all have a great one! Stay warm!

  22. Great post, Mary! And I have to say you're brilliant. And amazingly persistent to go back to those books and weave in Tom.

    I had a bit character in my upcoming book, A Family for Faith (April 2011), who I used for a little humor. He pursued my heroine at a church dinner, and I had my hero be put out by it--but not really threatened because the guy was a goofball. But my editor suggested I make him older and a real threat for capturing the heroine's eye. So I changed him into a hunky, nice guy who asks her to dinner just to torment my hero. And now I'm considering a new proposal with him as the hero. What fun! Now your post reminded me that he needs to make an appearance in the book I'm working on now! Gotta keep him in readers' minds. :) Thanks, mary!

  23. Love, love, love this post, and I haven't even read the HP books. :D

    I'm yearning to get my hands on a copy of Sharpshooter in Petticoats ASAP, because I HAVE to know what happens to the nasty Sid. :)

    Something only I know about one of my characters...hmmm...In my book The Engineered Engagement, Josie, my heroine, looks just like her sisters, and their mom makes them all dress and act alike. But Josie wears red ribbon laces on her shoes, just to be different.

  24. Mary, I haven't read Harry Potter--well, I started the first one but didn't get very far into it. But I've read your books and I love them. I'm kind of not detail-oriented when I read, so I didn't remember Tom Linscott's name being mentioned before The Wildflower Bride, but I could tell you were going to use him later as a hero. Us writers just know these things. But you did a great job weaving lots of characters together through so many books. I am serious impressed, because that is not easy to do. You and Julie Lessman. You rock.

    I tried to shade in things that the reader might not catch in The Healer's Apprentice until a second or third reading.

    I never explained this, but my heroine in that book learned to read because she begged her mentor, Frau Geruscha, to teach her when she was a little girl. But there are some secrets in the book that put certain characters in the know, but the reader doesn't know they know, or how much they know, until the end of the book. So I figured people might want to re-read the book to catch the shading of meaning in some of their actions and dialogue that they wouldn't have noticed the first time through.

    However, if you're one of the two or three reviewers who gave my book a 1-star rating on Amazon, you already figured out ALL the secrets from the VERY beginning of the novel and you HATED it so much you would never THINK about reading it again. So I'm not talking about THOSE people. THEY already noticed my subtle shadings and were completely BORED by them and couldn't even enjoy the pure romance of the story.

    Ha. Too bad for them.

  25. Not that I actually read my reviews anymore, Ruthy. Okay, so I only read the positive ones. I'm working on it.
    Okay, so I read them. But I have gotten better, Ruthy, I promise. I don't check Amazon nearly as often as I used to!

  26. Good morning everyone. I'm slow weighing in this morning. Sorry.

    I've still got such a stinking bad cold I'm probably a danger to you all, even just leaving a comment.

    I think you're more likely to have read Harry Potter if you've got kids in the house, which might be why some of you haven't read them.

    The thing that sort of stayed with me from Harry Potter was The Mirror of Erised.

    Erised is DESIRE spelled backward. And this mirror would show you, when you looked at it, the thing you most desired. But the mirror wasn't TRUE, so it haunted people and could sort of....capture them...until they were so drawn to the mirror it disrupted their lives.

    Loved that detail. And the wisdom of it. That we can waste our lives wishing for things we can't have.

  27. hi mary,

    thanks for the chance to read your latest book...i have enjoyed ALL of
    your books so far...

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  28. There is actually a detail in Sharpshooter in Petticoats that is a big detail there but is only a small detail in Wildflower Bride.

    I think it's something only I know.

    The bad guys in Wildflower Bride want two things. They want Mort Sawyer's ranch and they want some gold buried in a mountain valley. They massacre a small indian village in that valley to clear them out so they can get that gold.

    That gold, is the gold Sidney Grey finds in the very end of book #1 in the Sophie's Daughter's series.

    He didn't STRIKE gold, he FOUND gold. And Mandy wants that gold to solve her problems in Sharpshooter. So she and Tom have to go back to that valley where Glowing Sun/ Wade Sawyer's wife...was living during The Husband Tree and the first chapter of Wildflower Bride.

  29. Also Clay McClellen named his son Jared after his father. But though I mention the child's name, I don't mention Clay's father's name until book three of the Sophie's Daughters series. That's a NINE BOOK WAIT to explain the barely mentioned name of the oldest of Clay and Sophie's twin sons.

  30. Mary, What a tease to tell us that gold being hidden in the valley where Abby's family was killed. Nice going.

    Ruthy, the leftover lasagna is delicious.

    Renee, I've never read Harry Potter nor seen the movie.

  31. I read Audra Harders book this weekend.
    Rocky Mountain Hero.

    Such a great hero. The heroine, too, but ahhhhhh Gabe.

    Such a tough exterior and soft heart.

    Audra honey, so well done. And I can already see the next books. You've got to get them into the book stores so I can find out what happens to Gabe's brothers.

    Rocky Mountain Hero
    is available for pre-order.

  32. I don't think I've ever had breakfast lasagne. Has it got eggs and bacon in it? And uses....pancakes instead of noodles for layers?

  33. And syrup instead of spaghetti sauce?

    seriously, this doesn't sound all that good.

  34. I just knew that Tom was a hero in the making waaaaayyyyy back! I'm so excited about getting my hands on Sharpshooter in Petticoats (though I haven't quite forgiven you for what you've done to Mandy thus far. :-( ) Sigh, disappointed though because I thought it was releasing this month, but it's next month. Grrrrrr.

    I've always wondered about how much J.K. Rowling knew about some of these characters as she was writing. I read that she just had a rough sketch of the story before she started writing. Maybe she expected to bring Sirias Black into that first book hence the motorcycle reference only the book took on a life of its own and it took her three of them before Sirias got to make his appearance.

    Which leaves me wondering if a newbie writer on her first book can really answer your question about 'one thing only you know about your character'. I think I know but I won't really know until I finish know? And then what am I going to do about it when I do really know? Oh dear, my head is spinning.

  35. The hardest part of keeping threads straight is always minor things.

    The MAJOR things I know and don't have to keep track of.

    but minor things can really trip a writer up.

    A great example is small children, who have very little part. Mandy had three children in Sharpshooter.
    Belle Harden has her four girls but she and Silas have two more. For some reason I kept flipping the names of Mandy's two older girls and I'd just from two to one to two with Belle's sons.

    And Belle's fourth daughter Betsy. I kept failing to put her in the book. Where's Betsy. I actually came to just LOVE Betsy. She's still quite young but she's a fiery Italian beauty. Betsy Santoni. I have a whole story for her when she grows up. Hope I get to write it.

  36. Kav honey, thanks to your comment MY head is now spinning too.
    I know you know that I know what you know, you know?


  37. For some reason I never made it through either the first Harry Potter book or movie. I was never charmed by him like I was Frodo and the hobbits. Tolkien was an author who kept all the threads going and mentioned things in the first books that seemed insignificant until you'd read them all. I'm so glad you do that Mary! It makes the characters' world seem full and real. Please include me in the drawing . . . reneeasmith61 [at] yahoo [dot] com

  38. Thanks, Mary. NEEDED this reminder (as I WAIT).

    Hmmm - something about my character that nobody knows.

    Amal is his mother's favorite, though he reminds her so much of his father she sometimes forgets.

    Enter me :)

  39. Hi Mary,

    Great post. I love to weave in small details that might appear in a book down the way. I also love to pick those out of books I read. It's always fun to go back to book one and sift through all those small things mentioned that take on a deeper meaning later.

    My character is a football player, and no one knows he keeps an almond mint freshner in his locker for good luck, becuase it smells like his wife.


  40. What's a Seekerville Tweak of the Day? Do I get to pinch you?

  41. btw there are LOTS of people who've never read Harry Potter.

    There've gotta be at least fifty.

  42. And here's an interesting take on Harry Potter.

    Harry Potter has always reminded me of Tom Sawyer.

    This team of kids getting in trouble, striking out on their own. Having adventures while the adults try and stop them, protect them, discipline them.

    Tom, Huck and Becky
    Harry, Ron and Hermione.

  43. Hi Mary:

    I like the way Cheryl Wyatt has created an ongoing world in “Wings of Refuge” which is now at seven books. My favorite character is Vince who is a real hero and not a gangster.

    The author of Harry Potter
    is definitely
    a plotter.

    You can’t
    ‘seat of your pants’
    nine books
    in advance.

    I believe that the secret of success of Harry Potter, as with the C. S. Lewis series on Narnia, is that the author has created a world in which children have secret access and in which their parents are irrelevant Muggles. The children are the heroes and their parents are the outsiders. Kids love this and they always will. Add magic and give the kids mystical powers and you’ll become a modern day Pied Piper.

    Something nobody knows: Syd faked his death, was mayor of San Francisco for eight years, and became a lifelong friend of Annie Oakley. He even introduced her to her future husband, Francis E. Butler. Syd lived to speak at Annie’s funeral service on November 3, 1926. Like I said, no one knows this except the 17,000 people who are going to read this. BTW: this is also covered cryptically in the roman à clef : “They Couldn’t Kill the Dream” by Ernst Voldevivere. Now you know the rest of the story.


  44. Hi, Mary! I totally enjoyed your post. Very interesting. I'm never disappointed when I come to Seekerville to learn some helpful writing tidbits. Thanks you!

    Something I know about my character that the reader wouldn't know? Growing up, Beth always made Josh's favorite cookies when he had friends over because he was such a terrific brother and always included her. He loved her immensely and never made her feel like she was in the way even when his buddies were around.

    lr dot mullin at live dot com


  45. @ Janet maybe we all need to get together and have a reading challenge where we all vow to read/watch the entire series in 2011!

    I forgot to mention my favorite fictional character but if you know me at all you probably know that it's Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Do I really need to tell you why? Hahaha

    XOXO~ Renee

  46. No Renee, I haven't read them either and can almost say I never will. ;) But that's another comment for another time.

    MARY, great post. I love characters that crisscross books. Tamera Alexander has done that and it makes it so much fun to see the characters from earlier books make a cameo appearance in the later books.

    Mary, did I ever send you a thank you for doing my blog party?? I can't remember. Sheesh. Let me know would you?

    Thanks for the post!

  47. I got your very nice note, Casey. Thank you.

    We had fun at your blog's birthday party didn't we? :)

  48. Vince I really like your take on the kids vs parents. It's an old theme.

    Boxcar Children comes to mind besides Tom Sawyer. Little Orphan Annie. She was on her own with her dog but of course Daddy Warbucks was always in the back ground to save the day .... Dumbledore style...when needed.

    Think about Charlie Brown. The adults don't really exist in that comic strip.

    And on the cartoons of Peanuts the adults voices are saxaphone wails.

  49. The Seekerville Tweak of the day is to be ignored.


  50. Hmm... Another person who's done this is Tom Clancy. He had something pay off like 8 books later once - though he wrote them at least partially out of chronological order so that could be part of why. But he's done other stuff like that - though only the one occurs to me at the moment. A guy who was involved in John Clark's life [when John Clark was still John Kelly] is a minor character in another book [Clear/Present Danger] but is a major character in Debt of Honor and the payoff is when he sees John Clark again after like 30 years of thinking JC is dead. LOVED the payoff moment. However, Without Remorse [the story of how John Kelly becomes John Clark] was written after Clear/Present Danger and not TOO long before Debt of Honor so he may have done it later - or he may have already known it before he started.

    If that makes any sense at all :p.

    Captcha: thotlea - I thot I had a thot about it... ;)

  51. You hit it right on the head! Why I LOVE the Harry Potter series so much. Every time I reread them, I discover anew just how brilliant JK Rowling is! She has SO many of these instances.

    There's one point, in the first book, where Harry makes a reference to Snape, and how he sometimes feels like Snape can read his mind. I read that and was like, LOL! He can!

    Great post!

  52. Katie, you're one of the true fans? You probably know all sorts of cool, tiny details. In fact, you may know more than even YOU know.

    A lot of that richness, that shine, is almost subconscious.

  53. WOW, Mare, fascinating post -- shows how deep your mind is and how mine is well, basically ... NOT!!

    I have problems figuring out what I am going to do next week, much less in the next three books I'm going to write, so both you and J.K. Rowling impress the socks off of me!! I will definitely be thinking about this post as I embark on my next series, attempting to layer hints and details throughout. Thinking ahead ... mmm, what a "novel" idea for a seat-of-the-pants writer ... :)

    And I have never read Harry Potter, either, but have been tempted to many times despite my exposure to the occult in my deep, dark past, which makes me a wee bit squeamish about wading into anything about witches ...

    Oh, and thanks SO much to both ADGE and MEL for your kind comments about my books!


  54. Mary,

    On the road now. Just had time to read the post. LOVE it! May's "boyfriend" is the electrician. :)

    I can see where you have implemented well. Which is why we adore your work!







    I'm doin' the happy cowboy dance in upstate NY, let me tell you!


    And interrupting Mary's wisdom.

    My bad.

  56. Melanie....


    End of rant.

    Oh mylanta.....

  57. I read the first Harry Potter book.

    Adorable. Well done. Kid's book.

    End of story.

    But I know scads of adults who got totally hung up, although not here in Seekerville. We should do a poll or something, figure this out.

    NCIS has done a great job of planting early hints and foreshadowing events, then finishing them many seasons later....

    Lost.... Was ridiculously loose-ended.

    I love a well-thought book/play/show/movie.

    All the difference in the world.

    Love 'em. I'm sharing fresh fudge, the old-fashioned Hershey's recipe.

    Sooooooo good. Garfield loves it.

  58. I read a quote from the guys who wrote the first season of Lost. They said they were signed up to do a sort of take off of survivor/reality type scripted show. It was supposed to stand alone.
    then they got renewed.
    And whoever it was who was quoted said, "We are NOT going to be able to stay true to all the stuff we told you that first season because we never dreamed we'd have to keep going. So just accept that."

    Thus the inconsistancies.

    i'm no Lost fan though. I need a show that doesn't continue. I'm too erratic of a viewer. If I miss a week I need to be able to pick up the threads.

  59. You skimmed my announcement of fame.



  60. Oh good, I couldn't remember. :) Yes it was a ton of fun. :D

  61. Hi Ruth:

    Are you talking about the mention of ‘Ruth’ and “Janet’ in the same sentence or are you talking about the inspirational, faith- affirming, joy-filled passage found on page 131? What a Rocky Mountain Spiritual High!

    May I also suggest reading page 208 of “The Rancher’s Reunion” for an award-winning, ‘standup-and-cheer’ best performance by a heroine! Annie rocks!

    Sorry: “The Rancher’s Reunion” is Ruth-less.

    BTW: “Rock Mountain Hero” and “The Rancher’s Return” are available right now at eHarlequin. No waiting. No preordering. I’ve read them and both are too good to wait 30 days to read!

    Go to the above link then click on Love Inspired. Harlequin uses dynamic links and they change too often for a dependable direct link to the books themselves.


    P.S. Derek re-upped!

  62. I love all the Harry Potter books but never caught the connection about Sirius. Thanks for pointing that out.

    One of my favorite things about writers is when they add characters from other series into a current series. Just the way you have done with your 2 sets of series.

    Robin Jones Gunn also does this in her Glenbrook series and even a couple of mentions in her Sisterchick books.

    These are cool to find, because I then go looking for the different characters in the older books. Thanks for connecting the characters in this way.

  63. VINCE!!!!

    You're read TINA'S BOOK? The Rancher's Reunion?

    I didn't know they were available on eharlequin. Are you talking about e books?

    I'll go check.


  64. Ruth:

    I meant to put: Play “Joy to the World” after Derek re-upped.


    Your Source for Romance & Rock Mountain Spiritual Highs!

    That kind of sounds like a tag which reminds me to get back to work. : )


    P.S. Mary: Yes, you can buy the paper book right now but it will have to be mailed to you. The eBook can be downloaded at once and you can read it on any PC. You don't need a fancy reader. And I can tell you right now it is better that any first book has a right to be!

  65. Patience, Sister Mary. I am mailing TRR to all my Seeker Sisters for Christmas. I just haven't made it to the PO yet.

  66. Patience is a character in a pilgrim novel, Tina baby.

    GET ME THAT BOOK!!!!!!!!

    Liked it, huh, Vince?

    I cannot WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!

  67. I read this post this morning and then I got sidetracked. I'm back.

    I absolutely love this as the intracacies of all the things J.K. Rowling created are just amazing. The whole thing about the wands is fantastic (the dual core thing in Episode Four and wand lore in Book 7). I took my kids to a Harry Potter party on the Friday night before Book 7 debuted. We got our copy some time around 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning.

    As for my characters, one of the oddest things I discovered about one of my secondary characters, a character who demanded his own manuscript, is that he felt guily for his father's death. Never expected that.

  68. Renee, Sorry I dont want to read Harry Potter it doesn't appeal to me and I dont want to watch it either so wont be joining you in the reading.

    The chronicles of Narnia I read many times as a child. Loved them and really wanted a magical wardrobe.

    I think Enid Blyton also had the same style with writing I reread her magic faraway tree series and other so many times and just loved them.

  69. Walt, I thought about writing about the I said, I'm not a student of the books so I missed the book 4 book 7 whatever detail. But what the wands said to me were the INTRICACY. The time, the thought she put into what magical item went in each wand and how it affected the user.

    These things take TIME people.

    When I think of how I've messed around naming a character. Googling names, Irish names, Italian names. Translations of first names and meanings and realizing I've named characters in one book Maggie, Missy and Marty. I mean C'Mon Mary, get with it.
    this stuff takes time.
    And the details in Rowlings books just standing on their own are mind boggling. But then you stretch it out over seven books....

    honestly for anyone who hasn't read them don't even bother unless you really want to. They take TIME and to really do them justice you need to revel in the details.

    One of the main reasons I've never read the Twilight series is simply the length of those massive books. I just don't want to start something that LONG, give it that much TIME.

    But whether you've read them (Harry Potter) or not, you can LEARN from them about depth, details, complexity...and you can see the reason bringing that to your work adds to it.

    And that doesn't mean you now have permission to set the scene for two pull pages per chapter or spend pages on backstory.

  70. Mary:

    I've never read a Harry Potter, but I JUST FINISHED The Rancher's Reunion.

    It's going on my keeper shelf.


  71. Helen has it too?

    Is this a conspiracay to frustrate me?

    The Rancher's Reunion
    by Tina Radcliffe

  72. @ Ausjenny I've never read Narnia either! I live under a Seekerville rock, meaning the only books I've read are Seekerville books. :-P

    XOXO~ Renee

  73. Hi Mary,

    I've never read Harry Potter either...I just don't care for that genre.

    FYI-I made Connealy Crunch today. YUMMY!

    I put planted a little detail in my Lily of the Field book that will help in solving a "small mystery" in the third know if the other two get published.

  74. Renee~ I've never read Harry Potter. My sister and nephew have, so I know a lot of the names. This means that I am only 'mostly' and not 'completely' lost when people talk about it. Ex. I know of Harry and of the bad guy Voldemort, but I don't know who Hagrid is.

    Something no one but me knows about my character...this is tuff, b/c I've told so many people so much about my story and it!

    Though the Civil War has been over for 14 years, Calvin (a Yankee from Ohio) is more nervous than he realizes about spending time with Rose's family (who own a plantation in Central Louisiana). This will be manifest in his surprise and discomfort at being served by a former slave who chose to remain with the family when she could have left after the war...And whom the family now pays a wage.

    How's that?

    Mary~ This post is worth it's weight gold...supposing it actually weighed anything. I'm only in chapter 3 of my first novel, but I already have books 2 and 3 waiting in the wings. I'm gonna use that wonderful luxury of time to make certain the three books have as many connections as they can. I can think of some things I've already planned which will serve this purpose.

    Thanks so much!

    Now I'll read the rest of the posts. And maybe I'll be back.

  75. This was a very interesting blog today about how you wove all your books together; now I have even more to read! I would read one of your books over a Harry Potter any day.
    You asked about favorite characters: I'm not a writer but even choosing one favorite from the hundreds of good books I've read is hard. I guess I'll go with Faith from Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure. She had a deep faith in God, stood by her convictions (for the most part), was devoted to her family, and finally, without compromise, got her man!
    I would be thrilled to win a copy of Wrangler in Petticoats.

  76. Audra's book is wonderful, and I totally agree with you, Mary, Gabe is a sigh-worthy hero.

    Renee, what other kinds of books are there? ;-)

  77. Really good post, Mary. And yes, now I have to read the HP series. As for my own work, no one knows that when my MC first met her husband, she thought he was a jock-dweeb and tried to blow him off. A year later, she finally said yes to a date. I'm pretty sure that's never coming out in the story.

    Mary, I'll have to put those nine books on my list, too. What series are they again? sallyatsallybradleydotcom.

  78. Hey, Mary-girl, my DD made Connealy Crunch for her roommates at college yesterday.

    She is now officially the favorite roommate ever! :)

  79. Renee,
    I read Narnia before the Seekers formed! Back when I was about 11 or 12.
    they gave them to the sunday school class and we shared them then I bought the whole set myself and finally donated them to the local library. that was back in the mid 70's.

  80. I haven't read them either and I probably never will. It will take all my free time just to catch up on the Seeker's books alone.

    What? Tina's book is available too?

    Great post Mary. Being an obsessive plotter, I'd love to use the Rowling Method.

    Diana Gabaldon has pulled threads of minor events and characters in and out of her Outlander series also. Those moments, like the "Hagrid is riding Sirius Black's motorcycle" are extremely enjoyable for a reader.

    Are there any donuts left?

  81. Mary~

    You're amazing. I've been thinking for years (literally) about what my heroine's maiden name should be. She's from Louisiana, and I wanted her to have an "authentic Louisiana name" since her family is a plantation family. It probably won't come into play very much since she and her sister are both married in the story (h. is widowed, not a bigamist), and they have no brothers, but it niggled me. Not being one who likes to research things, I decided it didn't matter. She would just be Rose Carter.

    Well, your post has reminded me that it does matter. I need to know these things about my characters. Thank you for that.

    And one of your comments mentioned Googling "Irish names" and "Italian names." My mind said, "Duh, Andrea, just Google, Louisiana names." So thank you again.

    Also, I'm not sure I really answered the question in my first post, so here's another stab at it...

    In the scene where she meets the hero, my heroine is conversing in the depot with a couple just returned from visiting the wife's sister. Said sister will be the heroine of book two. How's that for weaving threads.

    Honestly, that was a thought that had occurred to me while I wrote the scene, but I had almost (not entirely) decided to leave that detail out, and let Rose be standing with only her family members, not conversing. Reading this post made me decide to keep it in there.

    I'm noticing a theme in my comment here. What I've really learned from this post is, if you think you want to leave something out because it's too much work...PUT IT IN!!! Did I just about cover it, Mary? : )

    I'm definitly in for the book.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  82. I forget who it was around here who said they had given away their Narnia books [Don't think it was you, AusJenny]. I saw a big book at Sams' - they had several different colors/styles/whatever, but all one big paperback - for under $15 if anyone is looked. I gave my cheapie set to my daughter. I'd LOVE a nice set for me.

    On a side note, I found a book in my childhood books from the 1940s today. I also found my Honey Bunch and Normans [the original ones, not reprints - did they do reprints on those?] and old Beverly Clearys :). DD9 is interested in those now that we've seen Ramona and Beezus [excellent, btw, if you haven't seen it yet]. I don't have Ramona/Beezus so we'll be off to get that for Christmas...

    captcha: inisms - isms that have ins? There's something more clever right on the tip of my fingers, but I can't figure it out for the life of me :p.

  83. Well, Andrea don't put it in just to put it in. Just KNOW it. A lot of things you KNOW work their way in.

    This is what I mean when I say NO BACKSTORY DUMP. Because you almost always put that stuff in TWICE.

    Once in a massive, boring, action grinding-to-a-halt backstory dump and once in tiny bits in the parts of the story where it matters.

    So it's REDUNDENT. So stop it.

    But KNOW IT.

    I need to work on my explanations. I believe they actually leave people more confused.

  84. And what's with all the Connealy Crunch being made today.


    Here's the recipe.
    Connealy Crunch
    You're not allowed to change the name.

    2 pound package Almond Bark (melted)
    Melt in microwave 1 ½ minutes. Stir. Melt 1 ½ minutes. That should be enough. You might need slightly longer. Almond bark doesn't lose its shape when it melts so you have to stir it to see if it's enough. Add:
    3 C. Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Cereal
    3 C. miniature marshmallows
    3 C. Rice Krispies
    3 C. mixed nuts
    Spread out on waxed paper. Let cool. Break into pieces

  85. One Gallon of Delicious Candy

    Five Minutes

    The perfect recipe

  86. I too have never read or watched any of the Harry Potter stories.

    One of my favorite characters is Ruth in A Memory Between Us by Sarah Sundin. I loved that through everything she had to experience in her youth, you could see the gentleness within. Truth be told, if I LOVE a book the character's become my favorites.

    Thank you for the great post Mary!

    Cindy W.


  87. What an inspiring post! And I really gravitated to this quote:

    "the mark of a good book is when the reader can tell the author knows more about her characters than she's telling."

    This is a gem I'll be mulling over for the next little while. Thank you, Mary! :)

  88. Carol yes I gave my set of Narnia away to the local Library many years ago and then when it was first made for tv on BBC I was wishing I hadn't.
    it was like when I lent my friends child my Naughtiest girl books by Enid blyton and they came back destroyed. spine broken and ripped off pages torn etc. I almost cried and then went out and got a new set. I wished they had kept them or dont something but her mum was so mad she had to return them and say sorry.

  89. Sally Bradley
    The nine books in the series are:

    Petticoat Ranch
    Calico Canyon
    Gingham Mountain
    Montana Rose
    The Husband Tree
    Wildflower Bride
    Doctor in Petticoats
    Wrangler in Petticoats
    Sharpshooter in Petticoats

  90. Sorry to comment so late, but wow, loved reading that. Thanks Mary!

    Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

  91. Mary,

    What great insight, and encouragement to be a better craftsman! Like some of the others here, I haven’t read the HP series (I know, where have I been?!) but your explanation of what JKR did is excellent. And encourages me to go back to book 2 of my Ticket to Suspense series and make sure I build more deeply on the characters who appeared in book 1 (Still pre-published)—then also make more connections between books 1 & 2.

    And just between you and me, Bethann never did like the Country decor she put in her kitchen; she just chose it to fit in with her neighbors. Are you going to tell us something only you know about one of your characters? (What fun.)

    Mary Kay
    Mary [at] marykaymoody [dot] com

  92. Sorry, Mary,
    As I read further I saw you did tell us some things. Thanks
    Mary Kay

  93. I'm surprised no one has mentioned two foundational pieces of writing that incorporate the kind of threads that Mary is discussion. The original is the Bible, which is astounding because there were many human authors. The threads and prophecies and consequences of one family on generations later give us all the inspiration (including JKR) to do the same. The other is Isaac Asimov's Series about The Foundation and the Positronic Robot Series. I forget how many books and novelettes but the two series were connected decades after they were both written (1941-1992) at the request of his fans and editors. Indeed the last of the series was edited by his widow and published after his death. We will all be mediocre until we copy the masters.

  94. Stan, love what you said about the Bible.

  95. What a great help, I was thinking how God uses the insignificant people, like the unnamed people in the bible to be so important at the appointed time. Include my name in the drawing. We have a happy snow day here in Tenn.

  96. P.S> I never read Harry Potter either, Renee.

  97. Wow, Mary, thanks for the insights you gave today. Only I know that Martin's hesitancy to LIVE LIFE traces back to his father's suicide when Martin was at such a volatile age, and in a time period when the act was so taboo, it colored the family's lives for a long, long time.

    Thank you for the chance to win your book.

    bless you, a peaceful holiday season to you,

    Gail Kittleson

  98. Hey Mary,
    I've read the first HP book and that's about it. I'm in the middle of A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman and have to say I like Katie Rose. She's a strong minded woman who know's what's she wants. Please enter me in the drawing also!!

  99. A very cool post, Mary. I think that's why I really enjoyed the HP series, and well, any well-written series. I tend to remember those little details like that, although I didn't catch that one, and they make the whole story richer.

    I read the HP books with my oldest son, who also tends to catch those little details. Between us, we had a great time as we read, piecing them together and understanding the links between the books.

    I imagine your Texas series will be fun to read. Nine connected books, you say? Impressive even if you never sell nearly as many as Ms. Rowling.

  100. Oops, when I left a comment yesterday I mentioned the wrong book title. Actually, I'd be thrilled to win any of Mary's books.


  101. Stan! Thanks for stopping in.
    The Bible is in such a class by itself I never considered it. But the depth of that writing....the Bible's ability to come to you where you are in your life is, to me just a living creation.

    But yes, the way the old Testament is proven out by the new. The way the prophecies come in unexpected ways. So wonderful.

  102. Another really intricate work is the Lord of the Rings.

    I hate to admit this but I've never read it.

    Crawling under my desk now until the fall out ends.

  103. I think of other writers who've done this... One was Lori Wick, who connected two of her series, several years apart with one character. He was the villain in, I think the third story of her Yellow Rose Trilogy, then several years later she made him the hero of the third book in her Big Sky Dreams trilogy. The two series were not otherwise connected, but as I read the story where he was hero, something about his name niggled in the back of my mind until she came out and explained the whole thing at the appropriate time in the story.

    Another is Rick Riordan. I don't know if many of you are familiar with the Percy Jackson books, but I love them. I read them upon my 15 y.o. nephew's recommendation, and I was not sorry. I'm in the middle of reading them for the third time and I'm finding all those fun little threads that connect all five books. Riordan's second series w/ some of the same characters is now out, and I can't wait to see how he continues with the weaving.

    Mary~ I think the scene in the depot will mention only the young lady's name, and that she used to live in their town. No mention of the fact that she always had a crush on Denny (book 2 hero) as a child. I think, much like the mention of Sirius Black's motorcycle in HP 1, readers won't pick up on the detail until a subsequent reading of the series (assuming someday readers actually read this series) :)

  104. "I think, much like the mention of Sirius Black's motorcycle in HP 1, readers won't pick up on the detail until a subsequent reading of the series"

    I suppose such a comparison of my work to JK Rowling's might seem arrogant. What I should have said was "I hope..." instead of "I think..."

    btw, Mary, I'm gonna make that candy. But I promise not to change the name (Strong Crunch, just doesn't have the same ring to it :)

  105. I haven't read Harry Potter (yet), but I love when authors foreshadow like that. =)

    I've heard so many great things about Mary Connealy's books, I'd love the chance to win!