Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tag--You're It ~Tanya Hanson

I’m ever grateful for the colleague years ago who pointed me to an RWA chapter. Not that I didn't know
writing already, but teaching high school composition is a tad different from writing romance.

Mostly because fiction needs dialogue.

During one RWA chapter session early on, the speaker handed out an entire 8-11 sheet filled with speech tags, those little words that help the reader along during characters’ conversations. The alphabetical list included a million verbs like asked, answered. Anticipated. Articulated...affirmed, begged, bantered.
Chastised, chorused...demanded, dared. Remarked, recited, rebuked...said, stammered, spoke.

You get the picture.

My "first" best editor alerted me that the best tags to use are the simple ones: said, asked.

Well, I have fought for a “drawled” or two since my heroes are usually cowboys. But I do want to stave off too many he said/she saids while keeping clarity. Of course I know full well we need tags to identify the speaker, to keep the reader from getting confused, and to break up long sections. But...

...Most people don’t stand on a stage reciting Shakespearean monologues. They are doing something while they talk to somebody else. They’re driving around town. Emptying the dishwasher, chopping herbs. Even sitting at a table, they’re drinking tea or picking at a finger nail, maybe shuffling their feet. So why not use these physical actions as clues to teach more about our characters and balance out all the said’s and asked’s?

One thing, when a character’s spoken query is clearly punctuated with a question mark, I may not need to use another “asked”. What if the character scratches her head, or wrinkles her forehead instead?
And maybe we can short-cut sometimes. It might work using “He grimaced.” Instead of ...” he said with a grimace.

I personally want to avoid so-called “speech tags” that clearly are actions in themselves with nothing to do with talking. Like grimaced. Belched, laughed, wept. Nodded, sighed. Let’s hear a burp, wipe away tears.

Nope. “I’m so full I could burst,” he belched.

Better: “I’m so full I could burst.” He belched...

She nodded can stand alone, without being punctuated as a speech tag.

“I understand,” she nodded. Nope.

“I understand.” She nodded.

Yup. Run with those possibilities in your own style.

And I've got a pet peeve with “he lied.” Sorry, but that’s the lazy way of informing or reminding a reader of a character’s dishonesty. Let the reader see his face reddening, how he can’t look anyone in the eye.

Oh, and I grind my teeth at animal sounds like She chirped. He barked; she hissed. He roared, she growled. He snarled, she howled.

(Okay, I admit a good hiss can work but puh-leeze, have the S sound in the dialogue!) “I hate you,” she hissed does not work. “You’re a scandalous snob,” she hissed...Yeah.

Of course I use said and asked. And I know she whispered has as much potential as she said softly. But balancing a speech tag with action can grant us writers some variety and invite our readers right into the moment.

What are some versions you can think of for:

“I didn't mean it. It wasn't my fault.....” he said, looking guilty.

A native Californian, Tanya Hanson lives with her firefighter husband on the central coast where they enjoy traveling, good health, and two little grandsons. An award-winning author of both inspirational and secular western romance, she recently released Seeing Daylight, the seventh book in her Hearts Crossing Ranch series featuring the eight siblings of a Colorado ranching family.

 A beautiful attorney widowed by a foolhardy man...a successful builder vanquishing guilt over his wife's death. Can they rebuild faith and find love enough to give each other and their kids a happy home together?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Is Today Really Necessary? by Mary Manners

Is Today Really Necessary?
By Mary Manners

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
~James 1:2-4~

Long ago, when I was in middle school, I came home following a particularly rough day to find my dad sitting on the front porch. I joined him and he spent a good hour listening while I vented about the trials and tribulations of being a thirteen-year-old in a cruel, cruel world. I imagined he had no idea what I was going through, since he couldn't have possibly even been as young as thirteen himself. Little did I know...

The next day, Dad came home with a small treasure for me--a poster with the most forlorn-looking bloodhound sitting in a washtub full of soap bubbles that had been dumped over his head. The caption read, "Was today really necessary?" Dad helped me mount the poster in a place of honor on my bedroom wall, and then we sat together and talked some more. That's when I began to understand the power of adversity in shaping who I am as well as my life's path.

Today, I use the trials of my life--both the small inconveniences that jab like bony fingers along my rib cage as well as the tsunamis that sweep through to wash away any semblance of sanity--to shape and mold my writing. Characters come alive when their story is infused with nuances of my personal trials. In daily tribulations I find a never-ending fount of inspiration.

My dad succumbed to Non-Hodgkin lymphoma twelve years ago, but his memory is alive and well in the poster that has traveled with me through the decades. It now holds a place of honor on the wall across from my office desk. Each time I glance up to read the caption, I smile and think, "Yes, today is really necessary and thank you, God, for allowing me another breath and another test."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When Caroline flees Chicago following the brutal murder of her husband, the last thing she expects--or wants--is to fall for Matt Carlson, a builder with strong roots in the small town of Mountainview, Tennessee. She needs to focus on raising her six-year-old daughter and protecting both their hearts from ever being shattered again.

Matt is struggling with issues of his own…guilt over the death of his wife and the responsibility of raising a cynical teenaged nephew who is dropped on his doorstep, abandoned by Matt's alcoholic sister. He doesn't have time to fall in love, yet he can't help being drawn to the woman who is ready to defend her home--and her daughter--with nothing more than a feisty attitude and a broom handle.

Can Matt's help and friendship convince Caroline to trust again--and when Caroline's daughter goes missing, will Matt be able to find the girl before it's too late and he loses everything he loves…again?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mary Manners is an award-winning romance writer who lives in the beautiful foothills of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and the cherished cats they've rescued from local animal shelters...Lucky and Gus.
Learn more about Mary Manners at her website: www.MaryMannersRomance.com.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tips that Helped Me on My Journey to Publication by Sandy Nadeau

Sandy Nadeau

There’s so much to learn about writing and the publishing business, it can often feel a bit daunting. Today, debut author Sandy Nadeau shares tips that helped her while on her own journey to publication. ~ Dawn

Tips that Helped Me on My Journey to Publication
by Sandy Nadeau

I sat back the other day to figure out how long it had been since I first attempted to be published. I don’t want to tell you. I’ll tell you this: the writing rules have changed several times. The way I figure it, about every five years, the “rules” change on us. It’s hard to keep track and it can be discouraging.

If your heart aches to write, then I know that God gifted you in that area of encouragement and you need to continue to persevere. Some days it may seem impossible, or like you’re beating your head against the wall, or that everyone hates your writing. Not true. If you’re following God with all your heart and soul and mind, how can you go wrong? You may be practicing as God moves you in the direction He wants you to go.

I’ll tell you what worked for me. First and foremost, I set time aside daily to read the Word. To spend that quiet time just with Him. Not just Sundays, not every few days if I have time. Daily. I desired to see what He wrote about. That helped more areas of my life than I would have guessed.

Next step: finding someone that can show you what’s lacking in your writing. I needed specifics since my head tends to be on the thick side. Critique groups are great. Writer peers if they have time. READ those craft books and apply. Conferences, of course. Enter contests that offer you the judge’s notes to find what’s lacking in your writing. That was a great help to me.

My “break” came following three rejections from the same editor. You see, God’s timing is everything. I’d learned a lot. I think I was a pretty good writer, but I was still missing a couple “rules.” My editor rejected me, but she also gave me a lot of help in my problem areas by pointing out specifics. I rewrote and resubmitted—two more times. We have to be teachable and not assume the “rejecter” is the one with the problem. Our writing really might not be up to par. Mine sure wasn’t.

My biggest problem was in POV Viewpoint. What is that, you may ask? Point of View Viewpoint. Think of it this way: close your eyes and become the character in that scene. What can they see? What do they hear? What can they touch? They can’t possibly know what’s in the other person’s mind, only what they perceive. And they can’t see behind them. Nor can they tell the future. Things like that. As you write, become that character in your head and let it flow out onto the keyboard. I haven’t mastered it by any means, but with terrific editorial help, my book was published. They made it into a much better flowing story.

Get that story written and pray! Pray for guidance, direction, and the right help. God’s got this. Just write! 


If you’re following God with all your heart and soul and mind, how can you go wrong? Click to tweet.

Get that story written and pray! Pray for guidance, direction, and the right help. God’s got this. Just write! Click to tweet.

Mandy Phillips loves life with her husband running an adventure ranch in the Colorado mountains, but when Mr. Shonee, their crotchety old neighbor, tries to stop them from building a kid-size old west town their dreams of expansion are crushed.

Is Shonee just being a difficult neighbor, or is something more sinister going on? A discovery on the property of Colorado's state mineral leads to more mysteries for the ranch, and then a teenage guest finds herself thrust head first into danger.

Mandy will have to rescue her, but who will rescue Mandy? Her faith in God is her only source to keep the guests safe, solve the mysteries surrounding her ranch, save her neighbor from himself, and discover the secrets of the Red Gold.

Sandy Nadeau loves to go on adventures, photograph them and equally loves to write about them. She and her husband do a lot of four-wheeling in the back country of Colorado and share those experiences with others by taking them up in the mountains. With a background in writing a column about her community for a local newspaper, she also has had several magazine articles published. She loves to write novels about adventure, mystery, romance, but most importantly sharing God’s love. She is currently a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Vice President of the ACFW South Denver Chapter.

Married for 37 years, she and her husband are loving life as grandparents to their two grandchildren. Travel is their favorite thing to do and they don’t get to do it as often as they’d like. Adventure awaits around every corner, over every hill and mountain.

You can learn more and connect with Sandy by visiting these online sites:

Twitter: @SandyNadeauCO
Facebook: Sandy Nadeau, Author 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Who Keeps Your Time? by Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi Chiavaroli
Two hours, one minute, and sixteen seconds.

I stared at my time in the Jamestown Half Marathon, the black type shouting up failure against a white backdrop.

One minute and sixteen seconds away from my objective. If I’d gone six seconds faster per mile, I’d have reached my goal.

I wondered if I could have done better. The race was torture, but I’d been prepared. I’d trained. I’d done the work.

I only neglected to wear a stopwatch. A stopwatch would have revealed how close I was to reaching my goal. It might have been the push I needed to close the seventy-six second gap.

As I often do, I thought about my writing and the goal I’ve had for years (and years!) of getting one of my books published. I trained with classes, books, conferences, and a critique group. I worked hard writing until I reached “The End,” taking comments from judges and my critique partners and editing for countless hours, letting my skin thicken and my writing improve.

And still, I have not reached my goal.

Only on the writing journey, there’s no option of a stopwatch. I don’t know if I am months away from selling one of my books, or years. I don’t even know if it will ever happen.

But I do know that I can’t give up now. I put too many hours of work and too much of my spirit into this work I believed God has called me to do. And maybe that’s why I don’t need a stopwatch. If He’s called me to do this writing thing, I only need to trust Him for the timing He’s laid out.

For me, the easiest way to practice that trust is to offer up my writing to God each time I sit down at my laptop. It’s His. He can do with it what He wants—either to mold me in some way or one day give readers enjoyment, and hopefully growth, through the telling of my stories. I don’t perform this spiritual release often enough. I hold too tightly to my work, my plans. And that’s likely why I often feel anxious over my writing career. But when I release it to the One who knows best, I experience the freedom He’s called me to.

So whether it’s running or writing, a bad race time or a rejection email, I don’t need to beat myself up about it. I don’t need to think of it as failure, but rather as a step in the right direction.

After all, there will be another race next year. Another book, and another chance to sell it.

I only need to run the race, and let God keep the time.

What do you do when you’re anxious about your writing? 
Do you find it helps to realize you’re not ultimately in charge?

Heidi Chiavaroli writes History Woven in Grace. She is a wife, mother, disciple, and grace-clinger. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and has finaled in the Genesis contest and My Book Therapy’s Frasier contest.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Outline on a Clothesline by Gail Sattler

Do you outline your novel completely before writing? Today, Gail Sattler has a method she's developed for making sure all those scenes are in the right order. -- Sandy

Gail: I've been asked to post on outlining a novel, a subject that is dear to my heart. I have a workshop class called "Outline on a Clothseline" that I'd like to share with you.

Yes, this works exactly how you think it works. One evening, watching one of my favorite shows, Castle, they had a quick view of Richard Castle doing pretty much the same thing, with a clothseline strung across his apartment, and recipe cards hanging from clothsepins. 

I may not use an actual clothseline, but it's close. 

In order to write a novel tight, you have to know where you're going, and where you've been, as you move from scene to scene. For an outliner, the condensed version of this is to take a package of recipe cards and make notes of your story, writing a scene, or a POV section from a scene, onto a card, important plot points, important plot turns, and major conflicts. For me, this works best as I'm either reading or making my synopsis. I have the whole novel outlined, and I know exactly what happens and how it ends, including the black moment, including knowing my closing line, before I write the first sentence.  

Once all the scenes are written on cards, knowing the order is important, but at this point,
 not critical, this is where you hang them. First hang your opening, hang your closing scene. Pick what feels like the middle of the story, and hang it in the middle. 

Then comes the fun part. Hang your scenes in approximate order, and this is where you organize them. First, by importance of what happens and what follows. Then when everything is done, look at your scenes. Make sure you don't have similar scenes side by side. For example, don't have two fast action scenes together. 
There should be a contemplative moment or a personal scene with character growth between. Don't have two high conflict scenes together. This is where you separate them on your clothseline.

Once you have a good mix of action and contemplative moments, of conflict and tender scenes, scenes where it looks like the protagonist is sure to fail and moments where they get what they want, even for just a few minutes, then you're ready. Take your cards down, in order, as you write them. Or if you don't actually have them hanging on a clothesline, number them and put them in a pile and use the cards as your outline as you write your novel.

Happy Writing!

If you're a total pantser, you probably broke out in hives reading this, but maybe you're one who outlines first. Share your process with us. Do you use the index cards? How do you decide the order and keep them straight? Are they like puzzle pieces on the floor? 


Gail Sattler an author of over 40 books, lives in Vancouver BC with her husband, three sons, two dogs, and a lizard named Bub, who is quite cuddly for a reptile. When she's not writing, Gail plays electric bass in a community jazz band and acoustic bass for a local string orchestra. When she's not writing or making music, Gail likes to sit back with a hot coffee and read a book written by someone else.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cast a Wide Net by Sandra Merville Hart

Sandra Merville Hart
I had the privilege to meet Sandra Merville Hart at ACFW last year and was so blessed by her humble spirit. I was so thrilled to hear that she'd sold her first book and asked her to share a some of the things she'd learned along the way. Here's some wise words from a sweet friend. ~ Angie

Someone once told me, "You're not a writer until you've been rejected." Though this author obviously meant to encourage me, it did not remove the sting of a rejection recently received -- the first of many.

If you're a writer, your thoughts likely already traveled back to that first painful rejection. Perhaps the most recent one sprang to mind. Receiving refusals doesn't seem to grow easier.

A seasoned author gave me a bit of advice when I began writing. These words of wisdom probably saved my sanity in the past few years. What was this sage advice? Cast a wide net.

Those weren't her exact words, but that's what it has come to mean to me.

When I first began writing, I wrote a short story, devotion, or an article. After researching for magazines looking for this type of writing on the Internet and my trusty writers guides, I submitted it to one editor at a time. Waiting to hear from that one publisher agonized me. Once the rejection letter arrived, it took weeks to summon the courage to send it to the next name on the list.

My friend encouraged me to submit to several publishers at a time, at least to all who accept simultaneous submissions. There's always a feeling of hope and possibilities when submitting. Once it has been sent, she advised me not to wait idly. Write something else. Revise it. Polish it. Make it the best you know how to do. Whenever that work is ready, send it out after researching potential editors. Then begin the next writing project.

The rejections that come in typically don't hurt as much when other possibilities exist. In the meantime writing skills improve with each task, increasing our chances of publication. It's like the basketball player who practices throwing hoops day after day. Continuous practice adds finesse and polish to already familiar tasks.

Will rejection always hurt? Unfortunately, it probably will. Some have crushed me. Shifting focus to learning to be the best writer you can be may be the key.

If you are continuously applying all you've learned thus far to each new writing project, you will improve. You'll be submitting your best work each time because you're not the same writer as a year ago or even six months ago.

And someday your best will be good enough.

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Cast a wide net and more writing advice by Sandra Merville Hart. Click to Tweet
Write something else. Revise it. Polish it. Make it the best you know how to do. Click to Tweet

About the Author
Sandra Merville Hart loves to find unusual facts in her historical research to use in her stories. She and her husband enjoy traveling to many of the sites in her books to explore the history. She serves as Assistant Editor for DevoKids.com where she contributes articles about history and holidays. She has written for several publications and websites including The Secret Place, Harpstring, Splickety Magazine, Pockets Magazine, Common Ground, Afictionado, and ChristianDevotions.us. Her inspirational Civil War novella, A Stranger on My Land, released on August 21, 2014. Her book is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Stranger-My-Land-Sandra-Hart/dp/1941103278/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405606746&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Stranger+on+my+land.

Carrie and her little brother, Jay, find a wounded soldier on their land after a battle which later became known as "The Battle Above the Clouds." Adam, a Union soldier, has been shot twice in the arm. Though Carrie is reluctant to take Adam to their cave where her family hides their livestock from both armies, she cannot turn her back on him.
A Stranger On My Land
by Sandra Merville Hart
But her Aunt Lavinia, bitter over what Yankees have done to their land, urges Carrie to allow Adam to die. Carrie refuses, but cannot remove the bullets. Adam's friendship with Jay softens her heart toward him. It's not long until his gratitude and teasing manner spark a friendship between the young couple. Even though Carrie's father fights for the Confederacy in far-off Virginia, her feelings for the handsome young soldier begin to blossom into love.

When Adam's condition worsens, Carrie knows a Union surgeon is needed to save his life. How can she accomplish this and keep her family's hiding place a secret?

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Endurance Challenge!

Marianne Evans
A couple months back, I told you about my passion for travel, and the ways in which setting becomes a character within the arc of my stories.

Well, I’m blessed to say my husband and I finally pulled the trigger on the trip of a lifetime. We’re headed to Italy next month…for real, and not just in my heart! To prepare, and since I’ve been warned by my well-traveled daughter that the terrain in Bella Italia is quite hilly, I've taken on a fitness quest I jokingly refer to as ‘The Italy Endurance Challenge.’ 

Actually, it’s not so much of a joke anymore. Establishing a new and intensive exercise regimen has led to benefits far beyond the physical (though I better get a kudo or two from my doctor! LOL!)  Pounding the pavement, tooling around town on my bike, wakes me up creatively. It frees me and gives my heart and brain a wonderful push. 

I've enjoyed losing myself in moments of beauty; I absorb the world around me with a fresh and enlivened perspective. If I engage in a setting, live it and breathe it, maybe I can convey that to my readers as well. I’ve hiked gorgeous north-Michigan roads, pedaled along neighborhood streets bursting with summertime color and the spicy aroma of flowers and fresh-cut grass, and I definitely feel stronger.

So, let me tell you—those 463 steps to the top of the Duomo in Florence are not going to stand in the way of me savoring a view like this…

How are you working to keep that all-important balance between the mental and the physical? What challenge, physical or otherwise, are you looking to take on and dominate? Let me know so I can offer up a prayer of provision, and all my best wishes for your goals and dreams! Whatever your challenge, take that first step, and enjoy every move forward!

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What challenge are you looking to conquer?
Take on the Italy Endurance challenge!


Marianne’s new series, Sisters in Spirit, releases in September from Pelican Book Group and is the prelude to Pure Amore – a line of Christian New Adult romances coming in October. Marianne is honored to be one of the six launch authors for this new and exciting venture.

Check out the Sisters in Spirit official website: http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com/sis/
For more information about Pure Amore: http://pure.pelicanbookgroup.com/

Happy reading!


Marianne Evans is a multi-award-winning author of over twenty Christian romance and fiction novels. Her hope is to spread the faith-affirming message of God’s love through the stories He prompts her to create. Readers laud her work as: ‘Riveting.’ ‘Realistic and true to heart.’ ‘Compelling.’ Devotion, earned the prestigious Bookseller’s Best Award from Greater Detroit RWA as well the Heart of Excellence Award from Ancient City Romance Authors. She also earned wins for Best Romance of 2012 from the Christian Small Publisher's Association and the Selah award for best Novella of 2013. Happily married and the mother of two, Marianne is a lifelong resident of Michigan who is active in a number of a number of Romance Writers of America chapters, most notably the Greater Detroit Chapter where she served two terms as President.

Connect with Marianne:

Amazon Author Page:  www.amazon.com/author/marianneevans