Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Home For Holidays by Gail Gaymer Martin

Gail Gaymer Martin
We're so happy to have award-winning author Gail Gaymer Martin back with us! Today the topic is Christmas stories. Because of family members I've lost around the holidays, it takes a bit longer each year to prepare my heart for Christmas. Today Gail shares how to take tough situations and turn them into uplifting Christmas stories. Enjoy! ~ Angie

Holidays are a time when most everyone wants to be home with their family and friends. Whether birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas, home is where the heart is. But when my mom was a little girl, her mother had a stroke shortly before Christmas. Since she was the youngest child and needed care, she was sent to spend Christmas with affluent relatives living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, hours away from her home and family. While the experience frightened and saddened my mom, later in life she talked about her visit with a few warm memories.

Most of the remembrances revolved around the family’s Christmas traditions—the gifts she received, the Christmas d├ęcor and music. But the memory that stood out in her mind happened on Christmas Eve. Mom said the main parlor doors remained closed during her stay, but on Christmas Eve, the doors were opened and she gasped at the huge Christmas tree decorated in a multitude of ornaments and lighted with real candles. Buckets of water sat nearby to put out a possible fire.

Yet a child wants to be with family at Christmas time, and the poignant situation settled in my mind and became a Christmas novella called Yuletide Treasure, a romance with a thread of mystery involving a package Livy, the heroine, is asked to deliver in secret. Instead of a young girl as my mother was, I wrote about a young boy named Davy. Though the story is fictional, the basic idea came from my mother’s situation and the Christmas memories of that experience.

These types of occurrences make great fodder for story ideas, but they are also touching and sad. I have never been away from family at Christmas, except one time by choice, and I’m grateful. I’m sure some of you may have had that experience and can remember how you longed to be home with loved ones.

If you would like to read Yuletide Treasures, it is included in An Old-Fashioned Christmas Collection from Barbour Publishing along with nine other Christmas novellas by various novelists.

Click to Tweet - Click on the links below to tweet them. All links tag the author and include #SeriouslyWrite and a link to the story.
Preparing for Christmas: Christmas memories with @GailGMartin.
Using poignant situations for uplifting stories.

About the Author
An Old-Fashioned Christmas Collection,
anthology by various Christian authors
including Gail Gaymer Martin
An Old-Fashioned Christmas Collection
Many of us have a secret picture of Christmases past—a time when windows shimmered with lacy
frost and candlelight, fireplaces kept a home warm and snug, ladies’ skirts swirled and gracefully skimmed the floor, and gentlemen were gallant and true. Experience Christmases spanning over one hundred years through nine inspiring historical romances, beautifully and economically packaged for you and all your gift-giving needs.

Gail Gaymer Martin
Award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin is the author of contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction with 52 novels published and nearly 4 million books in print. Her novels have received many national awards, including: the ACFW Carol Award and RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. Gail is the author of Writer Digest’s Writing The Christian Romance. CBS local news listed Gail as one of the four best writers in the Detroit area. She is a cofounder of American Christian Fiction Writers and serves on their Executive Board. She is also a member of Advanced Speakers and Writers and the Christian Authors Network. Gail is a keynote speaker at churches, civic and business organizations and a workshop presenter at conferences across the U.S. She lives in Michigan with her husband Bob.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

The Road to Creating Great Characters by Kathryn Springer


Kathryn Springer

The Road to Creating Great Characters
By Kathryn Springer

Recently I had the absolute privilege to attend the Country Memories Farm Writing Conference in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, as a workshop leader. A beautiful setting, sweet fellowship with other writers, words that blessed and encouraged and. . . alpacas! Speaking anywhere is a gigantic leap out of my comfort zone, but for a girl who loves God’s creation, it was better than a day at the spa. :)

My topic was creating great characters because, well, because I love great characters! The books that line my “keeper” shelf (okay, shelves!) all have something in common. The characters became so real it was like making a new friend. And you keep your friends close, right?

The more you get to know a person, the more they reveal about themselves, which results in an emotional connection. It’s the same thing when it comes to our characters. We want the reader to get to know them. To bond with them. To remember them.

During the workshop, I shared some of my favorite ways to bring characters to life—habits and hang-ups (we all have them!) and the use of props.

Inward thoughts and feelings are usually expressed in outward behavior, so when it comes to your characters, make them count. Tie a habit to something in your character’s past. One of my heroines kept butterscotch candies in her pocket. When she was a little girl, her dad knew she struggled to control her temper so he doled these out to her with the rule that she couldn’t speak until it was gone—and she couldn’t chew it! It was a habit she carried into adulthood. She even knew how long it took for one to dissolve (6 minutes and 38 seconds!). When she and the hero clashed, she went through a lot of candy. In one humorous scene, she handed him a piece and by the end of the book, he was carrying his own private stash!

I brought a life-size, cardboard cut-out of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz to use as a visual aide for the workshop. She’s holding a basket and her dog, Toto, and wearing the ruby slippers. They’re her standard “props,” aren’t they? But think about props in terms of character.

When the story opens, Dorothy is running away from Miss Gulch, who wants to do away with Toto. That basket is more than just a cute accessory—it reveals Dorothy’s heart. It symbolizes her desire to protect those she loves, even if it means putting herself in danger. On her way to Oz, you see that quality again when the Cowardly Lion bullies the Scarecrow. Dorothy puts her own fears aside and stands up to him.

Consider some of the props in great epic stories. Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, King Arthur’s Excalibur, Frodo’s ring. Props can reveal a character’s dreams and goals and values. Their God-given gifts or abilities. Sometimes even their greatest fear.

Now think about props as they relate to your characters. Props can also represent a specific career. A musical instrument, a paintbrush, or a laptop computer. A gun if you’re writing suspense. A diary, a piece of jewelry, even a stray dog can be a prop.

Ask yourself what would happen if they lost it. What if it were taken away? Maybe the prop is holding them back from becoming the person God wants them to be. Maybe it’s going to save the world. . . or someone they love.

I hope some of these things got you thinking about your characters in a new way! Now, off to the kitchen to grab some chocolate. . . not that it’s a habit of mine. :) 

~~~~~~

Annette here: I love this advice! So, how about your characters? What kind of props have you given your characters, or could you give them?  

~~~~~~


USA Today bestselling author Kathryn Springer grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin, where her parents published a weekly newspaper. As a child she spent hours at her mother’s typewriter, plunking out stories about horses that her older brother “published” (he had the stapler) for a nominal fee. Kathryn loves writing about imperfect people, small towns and a great big God.

When she isn’t at the computer, you’ll find her curled up (in the sun!) with a good book, spending time with her family and friends or walking the trails near her country home. 

~~~~~~




All Annie Price has ever wanted is a place to call home. So when an online friend offers her a fresh start managing a little bookstore in Red Leaf, Wisconsin, Annie packs her suitcase and says good-bye to her former lonely life.

Deputy Jesse Kent can't believe his mother has handed the keys to her bookshop to a woman she met on the internet. Annie might be vivacious, smart as a whip and beautifulbut what do they really know about her? Jesse has seen his mother taken advantage of before, and he decides to keep a close eye on Annie.

But when a close eye turns into a historical wedding reenactment with Jesse and Annie as the couple, make-believe nuptials quickly give way to real-life emotions. As the wedding approaches and Annie and Jesse's secrets some to light, the deputy has to face the truth: this wedding was just a ploy, but he might want Annie to be his September bride. . . for real.
 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Valley of the 100 Word Days by Carla Rossi


Carla Rossi
Do you ever struggle with self-doubt? Do you question your writing abilities or if you’re really called by God to this profession? Are you currently in a writing slump?  Then you’ve come to the right place. Author Carla Rossi shares personal experiences and offers honest, heart-felt encouragement. 
~ Dawn


The Valley of the 100 Word Days

Sometime last fall I slipped into a foreign land. Life crept up on me from all sides—and I mean ALL sides—and suddenly I’d arrived in a place where my writing productivity slowed. My stream of creativity stalled, and my world-building skills seemed to have dried up. I went from writing with lightning speed through a new project, to no words on the page in a week. That stretched to two weeks, then three.
           
I knew I was in trouble. It all started when there was a medical crisis in my immediate family. My writing time disappeared, and all energy went to the problem at hand. From there, life events continued to pile on the heap until writing thousands of words in a week was a distant memory. I’d lost my momentum. I hated that good time-drains (holidays, new babies, vacations) were outnumbered by bad time-drains (dying pets, struggling children, more health stuff) at a rate of two-to-one. Not only was there no end in sight, I couldn’t lift my head enough to train my gaze toward the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

I started to fight back. I made up my mind I was not going to be brought down by circumstances I could not and should not control. I did all that was expected of me and then tried to force unnecessary baggage out of my mind so I could write. I turned off my phone, rearranged my writing office, and rededicated my writing talents and abilities to the Lord. I prayed, in earnest, to get back on track—and promptly stared at a blank page.

For many days.

Why? Because doubt had set in. Why isn’t it coming back? Where’s the spark? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I don’t have ‘it’ anymore.

My writing process has always included a daily check-in with things I need to do outside of actual writing. Social media, blog posts, publisher/fellow author support, marketing… you get the idea. I completed these daily tasks and found more doubt. Positive professional envy of those who seemed to be getting so much more done than me magnified my lack of productivity and caused me to wonder further if I should even bother. I immediately recognized this poor attitude and deep self-doubt as a trick of the enemy.

Self-doubt equals no writing. No writing equals no ministry. No ministry equals disobedience.

That’s when I put my foot down and staked a tent in The Valley of the 100 Word Days.

I decided I would not be defeated, discouraged, or disarmed. My talent would not be neutralized by life’s unfortunate occurrences, nor would the happy and joyful times cause me to lose focus. I am a writer on good days and bad. I have to write.

I started with a goal of one hundred words a day on my current WIP. The first few days were rough. I struggled for every creative phrase, but I conquered with this realization: It may be bad, it may get cut, but it does get on the page. On most days, one hundred words grow quickly to three hundred or more. It is something. It is what I have to do. In time, The Valley of the 100 Word Days will give way to a new and improved discipline. I’m on my way back.

One hundred words at a time.

If you are in The Valley of the 100 Word Days, be encouraged and know the following:
           
1. Your talent has not disappeared. You have not run out of words, ideas, genius, or knowledge of craft. It’s not even writer’s block. You are in a slump, covered by the woes of life. You will crawl out. You will write at your maximum again. You will start with one word, then two… You will write again. 

2. This is not God telling you to do something else. Let me clarify: It’s always possible God is moving you in a new direction as He is God and can do whatever He wants to do. But if writing is the love of your life, your career, your passion, etc., it’s probably not so much God telling you to quit writing and move on as it is the enemy trying to douse your writing ministry. Perhaps it is simply a season in your life when you need to deal with issues, juggle priorities or responsibilities, and develop new ways to deal with things like chronic pain, pressure from family, and all those other stresses. Make the changes God is nudging you to make. Let some stuff go.

3. Your writing is still a blessing. As an author called by God, your words are blessed and ordained and will land in the hearts and minds of those who need to read them. You are still creating meaningful stories that will find grace and favor with publishers, editors, and readers. Your gift of stringing random words together until they make perfect sense and bless an unknown reader is still your gift and will once again bloom on the page. All previous work is still out there ministering. All new work will bless even more than the last. 

4. You must write. Even if it’s only one hundred words a day.



Let’s pray about it:

Heavenly Father,
I know I am stuck. I know You are my only way out. I refuse to let the enemy take away the joy of writing or neutralize my gift. I thank you for Your unending love for me and for the tender care You take with my imaginative nature. Please continue to strengthen my body and expand my creativity as I put words on the page to glorify You and minister to Your people.
Amen



Tweetables:

Self-doubt is a trick of the enemy. Self-doubt equals no writing. No writing equals no ministry. No ministry equals disobedience. Click to tweet.

Make the changes God is nudging you to make. Let some stuff go. Click to tweet.

As an author called by God, your words are blessed and ordained and will land in the hearts and minds of those who need to read them. Click to tweet.





Rocky Lionakis has been a wheelchair user since a fall in college. He plays bass guitar in Cornerstone Fellowship’s worship band and shares his testimony every week with the campers at Towering Pines summer church camp. At peace with his chair, he has settled into a boring but successful career in technology...but then stunning camp counselor, Gia Rinaldi, enters his life and turns it upside down.

Lifelong preacher’s kid and occasional wild child, Giavanna Rinaldi, has always learned things the hard way. With a trail of bad choices in her wake, she has finally grown up and found her niche as a student of Christian child psychology. She returns to Camp Towering Pines where she’s worked since high school, but unsettling dreams and an unexplained illness lead her to a harrowing discovery.

Will Rocky and Gia’s budding romance survive her trauma? And is their bold decision an answer from God, or a serious step outside of His perfect will?



Carla Rossi is a multi-published, award-winning author as well as a cancer survivor, life-long music minister, and speaker. She has been writing inspirational romance for White Rose Publishing/Pelican Book Group since 2007. Carla lives north of Houston with her husband. She has three grown children and two grandchildren.

You can learn more and connect with Carla here:
@carlarossiwrite
facebook.com/carlarossiauthor 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Change...It's Never Easy by Dora Hiers

Two years ago, several of my author friends were announcing multi-book contracts. I was thrilled for them, but my inner voice mocked. "You'll never get one of those. You can't plot."

Sure, I'd managed to crank out five romances, but I’d written all of them in advance, and Pelican Book Group individually contracted and published them. That meant writing the entire story, submitting it, and then waiting, praying and hoping for a contract. I dreamed of snagging a contract for a series that I hadn't written yet...to know that the story I was laboring over would have a home when I finished. But, in order for that to happen, I needed to force myself to learn how to plot, so that I could submit a proposal based on a synopsis for three stories not yet written.

My neighbors probably heard me ranting and thrashing about my office, banging my head against my desk and threatening to toss my laptop out the window. But, I was determined to stick with it. 

Change...it's never easy, is it?

You can read my tips on how I made the transition here and how I organized myself here. Trust me when I say there was plenty of weeping and pulling hair involved, especially when I plunged into simultaneously plotting out five books, two independents and three for a series.

I dug my heels in and refused to surrender. Eighteen months later, I had five completed books…all contracted on proposal!

Want the secret? I'll share. 

Motivation. I wanted it. Big time. There's nothing more motivating to me than thinking I can't do something. Anybody else feel that way? So, unless you find a reason to change, you will keep doing things the same way. Have you noticed how that harbors discontent, sparks envy?

Take the first step. Change isn't even remotely possible until you take the first step. What's holding you back? Fear? Doubt? Why? You're a writer, aren't you? Every day I write I face my fears. Whether that's public speaking, writing curriculum for an online class, navigating the murky world of social media...whatever. God's got your back. Move forward in boldness. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~Phil 4:13, NKJV

Be willing to adjust your course. Just as a ship adjusts its course for winds/storms/tide, I had to make some modifications along the way. I found that by the time I'd reached the fifth book, my skeletal plot needed a few tweaks, but that's OK because the original story line was strong. Multitaskers probably wouldn't have a problem with tackling five books, but for my single track mind, three is the max. Also, sometimes hubby would throw in traveling to a conference that wasn't planned or I'd be called upon to pick up a sick grandchild, so rather than continually adjust my completion date, I set a daily word count goal that took this into consideration. 

Pray without ceasing. A no-brainer. :)

Change is never easy...but it's possible. With a little faith and a good bit of persistence, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

“If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.” ~Anthony Robbins

Do you embrace change or despise it?
What aspect of your writing style would you change?

****
Purchase Link
A Routine Audit? Hardly.
Red flags—including some goon who's following her—raise McKinley Frasier's suspicions that numbers don't add up at the insurance firm. When someone tries to snatch McKinley's daughter from school, she turns to police officer and ex-fiance, Renner Crossman—the cop who walked out on her a month before their wedding. But Renner's not the same guy who broke her heart ten years ago. He calls himself a "new man." She trusts the new Renner with her daughter's safety...but what about her heart?

Dora Hiers is a multi-published author of Heart Racing, God-Gracing romances. She’s a member of RWA, ACFW, and the Treasurer for ACFW-Charlotte Chapter. Connect with her here on Seriously Write, her personal blogTwitterFacebook or Pinterest.