Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What To Do When Your Manuscript Is Stuck by Vannetta Chapman

Vannetta Chapman
I love new ideas. You know that moment--the one where you're looking at a brand new page, on a clean new document. That place where you are just beginning. It's like an unmarked page on a brand new calendar. There are limitless possibilities!
Fast forward a month, or several months, and suddenly you're rather tired of these people you have created. You're not sure where they're headed, or why they're going there. You really wish you could just move on to another project. Or maybe that's just me!

So what do you do when your manuscript is stuck in the mud? How do you move on? I'm working on my twenty-fifth manuscript, so I have some experience with this phenomenon. Here are a few things that have helped me over the hump.
  • Stop and write your ending. I do this every book now. I begin at the beginning, and then write until I'm bored. That's usually somewhere between 30 and 40 thousand words. When I find myself STUCK (playing more solitaire, cleaning out the bottom desk drawer--you know the symptoms), I move on and write the ending of my story. This might be one chapter or a dozen. You might be asking, “How can you know the ending if you don't know the middle?” I just envision where I want my characters to be when the book is done.
  • Take a break! Sometimes you need a day or two, maybe even a week, away from your manuscript. Set a defined limit and give yourself time off, then start back at it with a well-rested mind.
  • Go to the hammock with a pen and paper. Write down 10 things that could happen to your characters. Don't police your thoughts. Anything goes here! Be as outlandish as you'd like. The next day look at your list, pick one idea, and follow that thread.
  • Consult your notes. If you had any original notes for your manuscript (or even an outline, maybe a synopsis), pull it out and look at it. No doubt, your characters have developed in different ways than you imagined and your plot has taken a few curves. What about those original notes still appeals to you?
  • Pray. You initially felt that God put this story on your heart to share. Ask for guidance and a direction. Ask that God bless your words and your work and use it to touch lives.
  • Keep writing. Even when it feels like you're writing complete nonsense, keep writing. Push through until you find the path your characters are supposed to take. Yes, you may delete some of these pages later, but deleting is not a problem. Just. Keep. Writing.
Being stuck is not a sign of imminent disaster. In my opinion, it's a natural part of the writing process. Hopefully one of these ideas will help you when you’re stuck in the mud. Now it's your turn. What suggestions do you have for writers who are stuck?

About the Author
Murder Freshly Baked
by Vannetta Chapman
Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace. Her novel, Falling to Pieces, was a 2012 ACFW Carol Award winner for best mystery. She writes Amish mysteries for Zondervan, Amish romances for Harvest House and Amish novellas for Abingdon and Zondervan. All of her books have been Christian Book Distributor bestsellers. Her most recent release is Murder Freshly Baked, the third book in her Amish Village Mystery series. Chapman lives in the Texas hill country with her husband.

Murder Freshly Baked
When delicious baked goods become lethal, a trail of poetry leads to a sweet-toothed killer.

The Amish Artisan Village of Middlebury, Indiana, might be the last place you would ever expect to find a murderer. But Amber has been managing the Village for decades and there’s nothing she hasn’t seen. Or so she thought.

When poetic notes begin appearing around the bakery, warning that some of the pies have been poisoned, Amber is as confused as she is concerned. Who poisons pies? And more to the point, who leaves poems of warning after they’ve done it?

Can Amber and Hannah help the police before the Poison Poet strikes? Both women will need to draw on their faith to preserve the peaceful community they’ve built in Middlebury . . . and to protect the girls who work in the Amish Artisan Village.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Characterization of Teens vs. Adults by Annette M. Irby

Student with laptop*

Have you ever written a character that wasn’t close to your own age? For instance, perhaps you’re thirty-eight, but your character is sixteen. Or you’re writing a twenty-something, but he’s coming across as fifteen?

Years ago, I had written a story with a female lead who came across to early readers as adolescent, but that’s not what I’d meant to portray. And at the time, I couldn’t always discern why she seemed so young. Then, recently, as I was editing a manuscript (not the earlier one), I saw a pattern in the character’s actions that brought up this adolescent vs. adult characterization. So, I brainstormed some differences between teens and adults. These are generalizations, but perhaps you'll find them helpful:

Teens overreact to situations, perhaps because they haven’t seen them before. Challenges feel like “the end of the world.”

Adults have weathered tough situations and know storms pass.

Teens tend to participate in and tolerate melodrama in their lives.

Adult generally prefer less drama.

In the lives of teenagers, there are lots of firsts (first job, first romance, first drive). So youthful characters would experience more wonder, less cynicism, more optimism.

Adults have more life experience. Adults can sometimes become cynical and pessimistic as they see evil patterns repeated over time.

Teens tend to judge.

Adults often overlook flaws more than teens do.

Teens tend to focus on externals. For example, one of the first requirements in romance might be appearance.

Adults generally search for internals. In romance, adults might look for character traits they now realize they need or prefer in their lives.

Teens generally aren’t cautious. They feel immortal, like risks, and perhaps have pride. They are independent, feeling the consequences of their actions only affect them. They tend to think “it’s all about me.”

Adults have matured. Life has humbled them. Since others (employers, spouses, children) are counting on them (more than in their youth), they tend to take fewer risks for the sake of others. “It’s about them.”

Teens don’t generally think long term. They make decisions for the situation they’re in, rather than consider how they’ll feel twenty or thirty years in the future. (Perhaps because they have only just begun thinking in terms of decades. They can’t imagine carrying a regret for a lifetime.)

Adults consider life decisions in terms of regrets, and the “test of time.”

Teens are still learning to be responsible (drivers, employees, stewards, etc.)

Adults have generally learned the value of responsibility.

Teens tend to shy away from unpleasant tasks, choosing procrastination. (Perhaps out of fear they won't have the necessary skills or know-how.)

Adults have learned how to reward themselves for tackling difficult jobs and the satisfaction of having them finished. Adults also tend to trust they'll have the capability (or resources) to finish the job.

Teens tend to think in terms of “black or white” (or, shall we say “red or green”).

Adults know there is always more than one side to every story.

Teens tend to go along with popular mindsets.

Adults analyze mindsets and develop their own set of beliefs.

Again, these are generalizations. For the twenty-something character, you could combine some of these traits because twenty-somethings are figuring out the world, and learning “responsible independence” for themselves. I hope this list helps when working on characterization.

Write on, friends.  

*photo credit: "Student" by Gualberto107 at freedigitalphotos.net


Her Nerdy Cowboy

Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle? Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. 

Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children, and who reads to her of pirate romance. Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?


Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby has three published books and 
runs her own freelance editing business, AMI Editing
See her page here on Seriously Write for more information.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What’s in a Name? Memories, perhaps? by C. Kevin Thompson

C.Kevin Thompson

Ever wonder how authors come up with names for their characters? I’m not sure if they are unique or not, but I’ve used several methods. For example, surname lists on the internet for foreign characters can be very helpful to pick that perfect name to match the character’s persona. First name lists, organized by which name was the most popular in whatever year your character was born, is another helpful way to locate that correct name and spelling. Probably weren’t that many Gertrude’s born in 1975. Nor were many Heathers or Brittanys born in 1776. 

Sometimes, I just look to the shelf. Often, names of authors or names used within some of those books can be useful. I found the perfect name for a Russian scientist in a book about Vladimir Putin. Name mining, I call it. Makes it very real.

However, my favorite way has been to pull a page out of Thomas Kinkade’s “book,” so to speak. Many of you may already know this, but when Kinkade painted, he would embed the initials of his wife, or her name, into his paintings. It became a sort of trademark. People would obsess with trying to find that “N” for Nanette. It’s been reported that he put 156 “N’s” in his Golden Gate Bridge painting.

As you read my first book, The Serpent’s Grasp, you find some important names, to me, that is. Since I dedicated the book to my wife, I felt using her name in the story would be melodramatic, so, instead, you’ll find the married names of my two oldest daughters. They are introduced in the order in which they got married: middle daughter’s married name appears first, then my oldest daughter’s married name appears later. They’re not major characters. But that’s just it. I needed names for some role players…and this method was just kind of born out of necessity. (And no, I’m not going to tell you what they are…that’s part of the fun. I’m sure the information will come out eventually when I do my Entertainment Tonight interview…a guy’s got to dream, right?)

In my second book, 30 Days Hath Revenge (A Blake Meyer Thriller – Book 1), you’ll find I utilized my namesake grandson, but I used it in a bit of a more creative way by making his first name the last name of the character. When he gets older (he’s five), I’ll show him, explain it all, and it will be something we two can cherish together.

In the manuscript of Book 2 to the Blake Meyer Series, you’ll find my granddaughter’s first and middle name used, again, in a creative way. And in the manuscript for Book 3, you’ll find my oldest and youngest grandsons’ names. With one, I used just his first name because it’s a little unique. The other, I used his first and middle name in the same fashion as the granddaughter. I plan to use my third oldest grandson in Book 4, and eventually use my daughter’s first names in the remainder of the series, if they work out. If not, they pop up eventually.

The point is this: You need names, so why not use ones that have meaning? It’ll make for a great coffee table discussion when the fan club’s book group tries to figure out where the “N’s” are. But more importantly, it uses the people you love, within the craft you love, with the everlasting power of the written word, to create a legacy you all can treasure.

A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.

Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.

But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years experience as an administrator at the high school level.

A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, Kevin is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog: www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com
Kevin’s Educational Blog: www.thehelpfuleducator.blogspot.com
Facebook: C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page
Twitter: @CKevinThompson
Goodreads: C. Kevin Thompson

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trying New Things by Terri Weldon

Terri Weldon
It may be Thursday, but it isn’t my usual Thursday so I hope you’ll give me a minute to get settled in. Thanks to Dora for switching weeks with me, when I had some unexpected events crop up. Hmm, maybe that’s where I came up with the idea for today’s post.

Most authors, myself included, have a specific genre we like to write. Suspense is my favorite genre and it is the publishing path I’m pursuing. Almost all the ideas for stories that pop into my head are suspense. Now, I’m not sure what that says about me, but since I know plenty of other normal suspense authors I’m not going to worry. When I stop to think about it, my penchant for suspense shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve long been a reader of suspense novels and I love television shows that are police procedural dramas. Sherlock Holmes is playing in the background while I write this post.

However, my published Christmas novella is a lighthearted contemporary romance. I had a blast writing it and I’d love to do more, time allowing. Romance has been a staple in my library for years. Christmas books, especially novellas are some of my favorite reads. Plus, my all-time favorite movie is Pillow Talk. Definitely a romantic comedy.

But lately I’ve had a yen to write something totally off the wall – for me. Speculative fiction. That’s what I really want to discuss with you guys today. I’ve read speculative fiction, but it isn’t one of my favorite genres to read. Help me out, how did the idea pop into my head? How in the world would I go about writing a speculative fiction book? Right now I don’t even have a story idea. I just have this niggling inside me that says it would be fun to try. A few thousand words into the story and that feeling may well change! As much fun as it sounds, it also sounds off the wall and a little scary. Is this my idea or God’s plan? If the desire to write this book is from the Lord, I believe He will provide the idea.

How about you? Have you ever desired or felt called to write something totally different? Did you do it? Please let me know if you have and how it worked out.

Purchase Link
Misty Winslow is determined to find her prince, and she meets the man of her dreams through an Internet dating service. Or is he, because the new dentist in town also sets her heart aflutter.

It's love at first sight for Tyler Davenport, but before he can finish his first root canal, Misty is involved in an exclusive online romance with Wes99—Tyler’s online persona. How can he tell her he’s the man she’s been waiting to meet, and how rational is it for him to be jealous of Wes99! Soon Tyler's pulling out all the stops to woo Misty.

As Christmas approaches, Wes99 and Tyler both ask her to meet them under the mistletoe. Which man will she choose?

Terri is a lead analyst by day and an author by night. She enjoys gardening, reading, and playing in the hand bell choir. One of her favorite pastimes is volunteering as the librarian at her church. It allows her to shop for books and spend someone else’s money! Plus, she has the great joy of introducing people to Christian fiction.

She lives with her family in Oklahoma. Terri has three dogs – a lovable mutt and two adorable Westies.

Terri is a member of ACFW and OCFW, a local chapter of ACFW. Her dream of becoming a published novelist came true in November 2013 when Mistletoe Magic, released from White Rose Publishing. To learn more about Terri visit her website at www.TerriWeldon.com.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Finding Inspiration in Discouragement by Patty Smith Hall

Sometimes it's tough to find the blessings in our lives and in our writing. Today, author Patty Smith Hall shares her experience in "planting seeds" and finding blessings. -- Sandy

Patty: last few weeks have not been the greatest for me. Health issues of my husband and youngest daughter along with the news that the home we’d lost in Michigan a few years back was still on our credit record and keeping us from buying a new home had taken the wind out of my sails. The writing ministry which I’d had such high hopes for seemed stagnant.

I felt out of touch with God. I mean, I was doing everything He’d called me to do so why was I ready to give up? Why was I investing so much of my time and effort into writing and not seeing any fruits of my labor? I was lower than low.

Then God showed up and showed out, maybe not in the way I’d expected but my expectations are so small in light of what a big God we serve. Last Friday night, after a particularly bad week, I was rolling through my Facebook page when one of the messages in my inbox caught my eye.

“Are you the Patty Hall  who was in Honduras in 1999?”

Years ago, I’d had the privilege of visiting San Marcos with a group called Opportunity of a Lifetime whose mission was to cloth, feed, educate and share the Gospel to the families and children of Honduras. I say it was a privilege because I was going through an equally rough time then. While I might have gone there on a mission trip, it was the people of Honduras, through their faith and totally devotion to God, who ministered to me.

I clicked on the message. It was Noel, a boy I’d found living under a tree in a small village outside of Tegucigala. His parents were dead and he had no immediate family to take him in. He was only twelve, maybe thirteen with no one in this world and no way of supporting himself. One look at this sweet boy and I knew Danny and I had to help. For the next four years, we supported him as he went to school in San Marcos. After his graduation, we lost touch.

Until now.

I friended him immediately and went to his Facebook page. Noel is happily married now with three little girls of his own, and pastoring a church in Naples, Florida. He still has that sweet smile that captured my heart all those years ago. In our conversation, he told me he’d been looking for me for eight years just so he could thank me for giving him a chance, for introducing him to God.

For planting a seed.

It hit me then. The books I write, this writing ministry I have, it’s all about planting seeds. Some, I’ll see grow to fruition while others may only ripen after I’m gone. That thought—focusing on the eternal rather than the present—is what inspires me to write today.    

Have you ever felt as though you're beating your head against a post when it comes to your writing? Share a blessing you've received that you didn't expect.


Shes ready to take back her life . . .or whats left of it.
After ten lonely years of caring for her grandfather, Kallie Huffman is ready to restart her career. Taking a job in the laboratory of New Hope Community Hospital seems like a logic choice until her nursing license is reinstated. Lab Director Jefferson Muster is everything Kallie has ever hoped for in a man. But the prognosis hanging over her head dooms her to a life of solitude.

Hes never needed anyones help. . .until now.

Jefferson Green needs to find out what is killing patients at New Hope Community before tragedy strikes again. A tremendous loss as a young boy shapes Jeff’s harsh view of personal relationships. When help comes in the person of Kallie Huffman, the walls Jeff carefully constructed around his heart start to crumble. But Kallie is hiding something that could drive them apart forever.

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny, and finds her greatest job in spending time with family and friends. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will be available in July on Amazon. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Focus on Joy by Angela Arndt

Carolina Jasmine Against a Stormy Sky
An uplifting Wednesday night Bible study collides with one brutal gunman consumed with hate. Nine lives lost. Countless forever changed. A world grieves.

I live in South Carolina, only two hours away from the Holy City  Charleston, South Carolina. I’ve passed that church so many times. I heard that pastor speak in our Senate last month. Tonight, network and cable news reveal every hateful detail of the villain’s murderous plot. Nine men and women who loved the Lord and died as martyrs.

Sometimes we have to look past the pain and grief to find our joy again. Look for that tiny bit of yellow against a vast expanse of gray. Romans 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." The good is there, we just have to change our focus.

Writers are sensitive souls. We grieve deeply when tragedy knocks, whether it is at our door or someone else's. Our souls connect with others across the country, across the world. How can we build fictional worlds when real ones have been forever destroyed? But John 1:5 reminds us, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

You may be facing writer's block today because of the Charleston tragedy, inhaling the information, taking it to heart. Pray for those afflicted by tragedy, but stop watching the news reports. Check out of social networks for a day or two if you need to.

Try pouring your grief into another kind of work. Steven Curtis Chapman was inspired to write Charleston, a beautiful song that reminds us: love overcomes evil with good.

Here's a few other ideas to help you focus on joy:
  • Allow God’s love to heal your heart. Wait until you hear your story again. 
  • Each one of the Charleston families refused to inherit the hate from that killer. Instead, they offered forgiveness to the man who killed their mother, father, sister or brother. That’s God’s power at work. If hate is filling your heart, pray that you’ll be able to forgive.
  • Focus on today, not tomorrow and what-ifs. Focus on the present, not the past or what-could-have-been.
  • Seek God’s joy with all your heart. You can find several good online devotions through YouVersion.com (where you can download a mobile app) or BibleGateway.com
  • If you can’t work through your grief, ask for help. Don’t stop until you find someone who will provide it. Don't let it fester within you.
  • Recognize you may need to spend some time alone. It’s hard to do if you have a family, I know. Go to your bedroom. Go to your bathroom! (I remember what it’s like to have a six-year-old following you around.) Ask a friend or a family member to watch your child(ren) for an hour or so. Breathe.
  • Take care of yourself. Remember that you’re more than a writer. Don't beat yourself up if you can't write, right now. Just do what you are able.
There comes a time, after the weeping, when we allow God’s power to heal our hearts. A time when we can focus on joy.
About the Author
Angela Arndt
Angela Arndt enjoys writing mysteries set in small Southern towns. Coincidentally, she, her husband, and their three very large dogs (a lab mix, Staffordshire terrier, and a 12 pound poodle) live in the middle of a big wood outside a small Southern town. She would love for you to visit her website, http://www.angelaarndt.com, or her team blog, http://seriouslywrite.blogspot.com.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fatherhood and Forgiveness

Fatherhood and Forgiveness

by Mary Manners

I truly hope you had a blessed Father's Day. My dad's been gone more than a decade, but the holiday got me to thinking about him (as I so often do) and a special memory from my childhood days...
My seventh birthday was a momentous occasion mainly because in my family, turning seven meant I was sure to receive what I imagined, in my child’s mind, to be the greatest gift of all—a shiny new bike.
It was a beauty—a splash of bubblegum pink with streamers flowing from curved handlebars. Pedal brakes and a chunky banana seat rounded out the mix. One look and I knew that suddenly I had my freedom, my independence, and the power to travel all the way to…the end of the block. It was better than the confines of our meager, chain-linked back yard. I grew up in Chicago, after all, and the streets could be a dangerous place.
My dad taught me how to ride. An hour, a few scrapes and bumps later, and I was ready to go. No helmets back then and no fancy riding gear…just the wind at my back and pure pedal power. Dad outlined the riding boundaries, cautioning me not to cross the street at either end of the block or the alley that ran behind our house. Cars were dangerous.
Dad’s firm warning rang through my mind for the first week or so, at least until my sister challenged me to a race around the block. We’d ride off in opposite directions, keeping our progress top-secret, until one of us returned to the starting line—and victory—at the front of our house.
Guilt niggled as I launched myself, pedaling into the wind. To circle the block and claim my victory I’d have to cross the alley twice, breaking my dad’s rule. Yet, the desire to be one of the ‘Big Kids’ along with my sister only served to make me pedal faster. The sky smiled clear-blue as the streets whispered encouragement. What could possibly go wrong?
Closing in on the alley, I picked up speed. The faster I crossed, the faster I would be done. No sound of an engine, nary a car in sight. Perfect until…
My gaze kissed the cerulean sky as the front tire of my bike plowed a canyon into the passenger door of an approaching Chevy station wagon. I sailed over the hood to sprawl, several yards beyond, across the unyielding concrete.
Needless to say, in the time it took for the frantic driver to scoop me off the cement, I knew that I suffered a much worse fate than losing the race to my sister. I’d broken my father’s steadfast rule. There was no choice but to return home and confess my transgression. The evidence was clearly etched over my cheeks…and my knees…and across my throbbing elbows.
But, just as it is with my Heavenly Father, Dad was more concerned about my welfare than my transgression. He cleaned my wounds and we had a long talk. Dad repaired my bike and eventually my bruises—both physical and emotional—healed.
I learned a valuable lesson that day, one that remains with me decades later. Boundaries are set for a reason—not to confine but to protect with the deepest love. Yet, even when our free will takes us across a dangerous road or down a shadowed alley, God our Father welcomes us home with open arms and forgiveness. Thank goodness for grace...and for fathers.

Rebecca Gillespie is lucky to be alive following a devastating car accident that claimed her husband’s life and put her in a coma with little hope of recovery. Her heart still aches for the loss of her precious daughter given up for adoption by her wealthy, dying mother-in-law to a couple in Mills Landing. Now, fully recovered, Rebecca struggles to rebuild her life—alone. She soothes the emptiness in her heart with laughter of children who fill her local preschool, Precious Miracles.
Cole Seibert clings to his daughter, Kimmy, following the dea th of his wife. They’d adopted the child as an infant, and Cole never imagined he’d be left to raise her alone. When he drops by to register Kimmy at Precious Miracles, he’s confident the center is the best place for Kimmy…Until Rebecca steals his breath and casts his heart into a firestorm with her revelation--
“I think you have my daughter…”

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. She loves swimming, running, flavored coffee and Smoky Mountain sunsets.
Mary was named Author of the Year by Book and Trailer Showcase. She writes inspirational romances of all lengths, from short stories to novels—something for everyone.
Learn more about Mary Manners at her website: www.MaryMannersRomance.com.