The MacGregor Legacy - For Love or Loyalty

1760 Scotland - To atone for her father's evil, Lauren Campbell agrees to help Malcolm MacGregor. By the time she realizes she's the bargaining price to free Malcolm's mother from indentured servitude, it's too late.

Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Naming Characters

I can't write a story until I have the names of my characters situated in my head. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Most often, I start with The Character Naming Source Book. It's a great reference because it gives you surnames with the country they originated from and the meaning of the names. This is important to your characters' background, family origin, culture and beliefs.

Because America is the great American melting pot of so many different names, cultures and countries of origin, we tend to just choose names that we like for our hero and heroines and names we dislike for our villians. This isn't good enough. We've got to be true to who our characters are, correct for the time period we're writing in, and the place we've set the story.

One of the problems I've struggled with is having several characters in one story with names that begin with the same letter. I don't know why I do this. It could cause unnecessary confusion for my readers and I know better. But I still find myself doing this anyway. So I end up correcting it during my edit revisions.

In Promised Blessings I had Evan and Elliot.
In Faith Endures I had Alyse and Avery.

I'm in the process of choosing new names for Faith Endures, but once you begin to think of a character as a certain person, it's hard to give them a new identity--even if their characterization doesn't change. You think of the character by that name. So try to think of something similar that may still mean the same thing. For instance, I'm changing Alyse to Elyse.

Other ways I like to choose names is through Genealogy research of known family surnames in the area of where my books are set. These are accurate and appropriate. Tombstones and census records will tell you who lived in the area and when they lived there. You can't get more accurate than that, although keep in mind some of the spelling variations were different from place to place and family branch to family branch. This is because of dialect in regions, illiteracy, and people changing their names to accommodate the new area where they are living. Some great genealogy resource sites are http://www.ancestry.com/ and http://www.rootsweb.com/. These sites will get you started in the right direction.

These are just a few thoughts to keep in mind when you set out to name your characters or you go through a mansuscript with deep edits and revisions.



Monday, September 22, 2008

After ACFW 2008 Conference


I've been off my regular blog schedule since I left for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Minneapolis. One of the best things about being at one of these conferences is reuniting with friends and seeing what God is doing in their lives. To the left is a photo of the F.A.I.T.H. girls. It was the first time all six of us were together since we started blogging together a couple of years ago.

From left to right: Christy LaShea Smith, Angie Breidenbach, Mindy Obenhaus, Belinda Peterson, Jennifer Hudson Taylor, and Missy Tippens. We were all dressed up for Saturday night's awards banquet. We're talking about getting together before the next ACFW Conference in Denver. My husband says he wants to come with me to that conference. He's always wanted to visit the mile high city of Denver.

I will probably remain off my blog schedule this week as I struggle to slip back into my work schedule (the day job) and begin final polishes to manuscripts I need to send to my agent. By next month I'll have several complete manuscripts with editors and a couple of proposals out! This is the most I've ever had out at once.

Also, I have two articles that will be coming out in the October issue of Affictionado, the ACFW ezine. I'm reporting on a couple of workshops from the conference. I'll post a reminder and a link here on my blog when the articles are available. My assigments were The Power of Pre-Writing and Launch Your Career with Barbour Publishing.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Boone Hall Plantation


Boone Hall Plantation is one of the most well known plantations of the south, used in the filming of North and South and Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook. Founded in 1681 by John Boone, the first wooden structure was built in 1790. The current structure wasn't built until the early 20th century.

Traditionally an antebellum cotton and pecan plantation, Boone Hall is one of the oldest working plantations in America, still producing crops of peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins and many other fruits and vegetables. The McRae family purchased the plantation in 1955 and opened it up to the public for tours in 1956.

A breathtaking view of the Avenue of Oakes leads to the front of the main plantation house down the drive of a least three quarters of a mile. These oaks were planted in 1743 by John Boone's son. And over 250 years later, stand thick trees towering over the drive with Spanish moss hanging from the limbs and through the leaves.





Nine original slave cabins still exist, some that have been restored date back between 1790-1810. A smoke house dates back to 1750 and a cotton gin house around 1853. Beautiful gardens exist with a corn maize. Boone Hall Plantation is a beautiful sight to behold and a great historical site to see.





Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Author Interview - Trish Perry


Meet Trish Perry! She writes fabulous contemporary Christian fiction. I first met Trish at the 2007 ACFW Conference where a few of us gathered one night and taste tested some desserts. One thing I noticed about Trish right away was her sense of humor.

If you leave a comment, I'll put your name in a drawing for a free autographed copy of one of Trish's books. Please leave a name and an email address where I may contact you for your mailing address.


Here's Trish...

Describe yourself for our visitors. (ex. hobbies, favorite music, ministries).

When I tell you my hobbies, you’ll wonder why I don’t weigh 300 pounds. (I’m working on it.) My favorite leisure things to do are reading novels, watching movies, singing, and eating interesting cuisine that I don’t have to cook for myself. My taste in reading and music is eclectic. Actually, I guess my taste in movies and food is eclectic, too! I love to gather with friends, to laugh (and sometimes cry) about everything life throws our way. I like to dance, too—I was a dance-club freak in my wilder days—but these days I save the dancing for when I’m alone. And I do love my alone time! Up until recently my ministry was singing on the worship team, but I’ve cut back on that to have more time for writing and family.

How do you find time to connect with God?

I certainly don’t get to my Bible study every day. So a year or so ago, I realized my key to connecting with God was to spend the first moments of the day with Him. I don’t really pray much during those moments. I simply open up to anything He might want to put on my heart for the day. Sometimes He orders my thoughts about what to write. Sometimes he blasts me with fantastic energy for the tasks of the day. He doesn’t seem to want me to do a great deal of housework or laundry, and I try to honor Him in that regard. And, of course, I don’t sense immediate guidance all the time, but when I’m consistent with starting my day with Him, I get a wonderful, overall sense of His guidance through every day.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?

I don’t really have favorites, since I expect such different experiences from each author and from each book. That said, some authors (Khaled Hossein, Leif Enger, Charles Frazier) are so poetic they make me want to cry. And some write with the smart, dry wit I absolutely love (P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, Oscar Wilde, David Lodge, James Hamilton-Paterson). Some are just funny “chicks” (Jennifer Weiner, Sophie Kinsella, Nora Ephron). And some weave great stories (Philippa Gregory, Ken Follet, Audrey Niffenegger, Jane Austen, Geraldine Brooks, George Eliot). I haven’t even started to mention the Christian authors I enjoy, and I won’t, because they’re too numerous and I’d hate to leave anyone out. But I’ve read so many excellent Christian authors who would easily fit in the above-mentioned categories.

Tell us about your journey to publication.

I wrote occasionally when I was younger, but I didn’t have that passion—that feeling that I couldn’t not write. I went through plenty of life without writing, during which time I did all kinds of stupid things in an effort to get myself into really bad trouble. God worked double time and protected me from my own bad self. During that crazy period I enjoyed doing artistic things—dancing, singing, painting, craft-type things—and writing was just another art form for me. But after I accepted Christ, and while I worked on my Psych degree, I awoke to the joys of writing and learned He was drawing me to write fiction for Him. The passion kicked in! By the time I graduated, I decided to write full time. A year or so later I finished a spiritual warfare novel, which sits patiently on the floor awaiting a return to favor for SW stories. While I finished that book, I craved humorous writing. So I wrote Too Good to Be True and found a fantastic agent, who placed TGTBT and The Guy I’m Not Dating with Harvest House Publishers. I’d say the period between deciding to write seriously and being published was about eight years.

Tell us about your current book.



Beach Dreams, a humorous contemporary romance, is my third published novel. The romantic leads are Tiffany LeBoeuf and Jeremy Beckett, secondary characters from my first two novels. Readers gave me quite a bit of feedback about those two, and I wanted to give them a story of their own. I’ve changed the setting, however, from Northern Virginia to beautiful San Diego.

Due to a booking mistake, Tiff and Jeremy end up at the same San Diego rental house at the same time. Their initial meeting is awkward, and Jeremy’s girlfriend despises Tiff, but circumstances enable Tiff and Jeremy to get to know each other better and become friends. Both Tiff and Jeremy have widowed fathers who arrive at the beach house, each with a surprise to share. A number of deceptions and secrets come to light before the book’s end, and the truth presents some promising possibilities for Tiff and Jeremy.

How did you come up with ideas for this book?

I knew I wanted to write a book featuring Jeremy, because everyone who reads him just loves him to death, and the poor boy never gets a break in the romance department. Casting bad girl Tiff as the heroine didn’t occur to me until I did my rewrites on the second book, Too Good to Be True. Tiff was such a pill in the first two books, but she eventually found Christ and faced a painful family crisis, so I liked her potential for growth in Beach Dreams. The setting change was a nice gift from God—Beach Dreams released as a title in The Beach House Series. Those books all take place at the same funky beach house in San Diego. So Tiff and Jeremy made the trip, and the trip afforded some fun plot points.

List your three most recent books (if applicable).

Beach Dreams is my third. My first was The Guy I’m Not Dating, and the second was Too Good to Be True.

What's next for you?

I’m writing the fourth book in The Beach House Series, Sunset Beach, which will release June 2009. The setting will be the same as all of The Beach House books, but all of the characters will be new.

Where can visitors find you online?

I love to get visitors to my website, which is
www.trishperry.com. I feature many author interviews and book give-aways at my site. I’m also on several sites, such as ShoutLife and Shelfari.

Thanks, Trish!
________________________________________________________________________

If you'd like to be in the drawing for one of Trish's books, remember to leave your name and an email address in the comment section. Trish would love to hear from you!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Creating the Emotional Heartbeat of a Story

I think of the plot structure as the bare bones to a story and the main characters as the vital organs. But emotion is the heartbeat. It’s what makes a story come alive, and helps us experience what the characters are feeling. Our emotional response is our sense of reality.

Without emotion, our stories are flat, boring, and nothing more than a narrated documentary.


We experience emotion through the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. These senses are the pathways or arteries through which we experience emotion. In order to make the heart of the story beat with reality, we must stimulate emotional responses in the reader and create a pulse—a source of life.

Emotional Senses
1. Sight—It isn’t enough to simply state what is being seen. The last thing you want is to make a scene sound like a boring police report. You need to layer in images that include similes, analogies, and metaphors. Include color, shapes, sizes, textures, and picture words that create vivid images. Painting a setting with words creates a mood, which stimulates an emotional response in readers.

Example:
He looked back at the photo for more clues. Her smooth skin cast an enchanting radiance against the outline of her austere face. High cheekbones narrowed into a chin of determination. She wore dark lipstick on full lips that drew into a tight smile revealing a straight row of perfect white teeth. Her hair framed her face, only an inch above the shoulders. Everything about Nicole from her red suit jacket and white pearl earrings to her matching necklace implied a confidence that had not existed in high school.

Simile—Shows a comparison by using the word like.
Example: His head pounded like a persistent woodpecker knocking against him with every pulse beat that raced through is head.

· Metaphor—A comparison that uses a creative word or phrase to substitute for something else.
Example: A bouquet of red roses lay across Casey’s arm. Casey bent forward, passing them to Catherine as if an infant was wrapped in the package.

· Analogy—A comparison of two things with common elements.
Example: The beginning of this blog post opens with an analogy in comparing a story to the human body. Other analogies include: 1)The plot as bare bones 2)characters as vital organs 3)And emotion as the heartbeat.


2. Sound—Sounds can range from a soothing, calm response to a loud, annoying noise that makes a person cringe and want to escape. An author should use words that imitate the sounds they describe to give the reader an immediate idea of what the character is hearing. You don’t want your readers to have to stop and imagine it. This will pull them out of the story.


Don’t make your readers think too hard about what the characters are hearing. Instead, make them experience it. Think of words sizzle and crackle. These words sound exactly as they are. If you’re going after the simile or analogy effect, most everyone knows the sound of thunder, a whistle or the ocean. Use these common things in a creative way to compare to other sounds. These words will trigger an emotional response of sound.

Example:
He took her hand in his and led her back toward the wagons. Just as they emerged from the woods gunfire exploded through the atmosphere, echoing across the sky like thunder.

3. Smell—Every place you go has some kind of smell whether or not it’s a pleasant fragrance or an unpleasant odor. Your characters should be experiencing something similar. A smell can spark a past memory, remind you of someone, or spark a specific transition from one setting to another. While each place may have a unique smell, we may have become so used to it we’re immune, but a newcomer will notice it right away, or we’ll notice new smells as soon as we arrive in a new place.
Smells bring the senses alive and connect to our sense of taste. It’s hard to smell the aroma of coffee or blue berry pie without smacking our lips and almost tasting it. Your characters need to have these same sensations to make them seem real.

Keep in mind the connotation of how we interpret certain words. The word stench wouldn’t have the same meaning as fragrance. Stench brings a nasty smell to mind, while fragrance reminds us of pleasant perfumes.

Example:
Lying in the wagon bed, Jacob peeked out from under the cover that concealed him. By the time he got back, he’d reek of dried tobacco leaves. The thin layers crackled beneath his weight with the slightest movement. It sounded like the rustle of papers. He’d have to be statue still when they arrived at J.P.’s farm.

Taste—Taste is used in Christian fiction less often unless it involves food. But taste can also refer to someone’s preference when describing what kinds of things they like or dislike. This is an excellent sense to use when introducing our characters to our readers. Creativity is the key.
In romance or in a romantic scene taste is often used, in kisses. And in Christian romance, this has to be handled tactfully.

Example:
Bryce could taste the salt of sweat upon his upper lip as he grunted with the heavy pressure on his shoulder.

4. Touch—Touch is another creative way to give people a sense of what a character is feeling and bring your story to life. Use words that describe textures, temperature, surfaces, and liquids. What is one of the main things a baby wants to do when he/she sees something new for the first time, they reach out to touch it. Curiosity draws the craving of our sense of touch. Even now if I go to a science museum or Disney World where great wonders are present, I have the urge to touch things to see how they feel. It is in our human nature, so as authors, we must show our characters experiencing the sense of touch.

Intimacy is best shown through touch. Authors do this by having characters brush hands, feeling soft hair, the breeze of the wind, describing the texture of clothing whether it is itchy or silky, or the cold water running through her fingers. The feel of textures and our sense of touch complete the setting of a scene. Without touch, the scene may not be flat, but it will feel like it’s missing something.

Example:
The grandfather clock chimed the hour, but Jacob had lost count of time. It had to be late afternoon. The sun still shone through the open window but hardly a breeze stirred the summer heat. His garments felt sticky against his skin. He hated the itchy feeling.


Other Emotional Elements
While the senses are only one pathway to showing emotional responses, it’s very important to show other emotional responses as well since people are not one-dimensional. Below is a list to other emotional pathways.

~Dialogue
~The difference in gender responses
~Physical Emotional Response
~Mental Emotional Response
~Spiritual Emotional Response

Monday, September 01, 2008

Author Business Cards are Different

The Rest of the World
The purpose of business cards is to promote your business--the company you work for. There is usually a small graphic for your logo and a tagline that will explain what kind of products and/or services your company provides, and your professional title will give people an idea of how you fit into that business.

If you are an author, forget the info above.

Be willing to change your mindset.

Switch gears now.

The Author World
If you are an author, you ARE the business. The author is the company. Therefore, you are going to promote yourself. Your logo is your photo.

Your products are the books you write.

Your service is the genre you write. Therefore, you need a tagline that promotes what you write--your genre or subgenre.

CBA Authors
Because the Bible calls us to be humble servants, Christian authors worry that they are exalting themselves when they promote themselves and/or their work. We worry what others will think. We worry if God will be pleased or displeased.

How can people hear about the message in our books--the stories and help that God has given us to share with others, if we don't step out in faith and promote ourselves and our work?

You can be humble and still promote yourself. Give God the glory for all your work. Never forget who is helping you along the way. Remember who opens those doors for you. Be patient and kind to others, even when you're tired and you don't feel like it. This is being called to humbleness. It is beyond putting our name and face out there to promote our books--the very gift that God has given us.

So don't be afraid to use your photo on your promotional materials. People want to connect with you. They want to know who you are and that includes what you look like. It gives them a mental image to go by and it makes them feel like they know you better. Don't worry that you aren't supermodel material. If you want to be real to people, you can't be flawless. If you want to be humble, be yourself.

What to include on an Author's Business Card
1. Email Address
Your business card doesn't need to have a postal mailing address. Save it for the sell sheets and the book proposals. Provide your email address so they can contact you and connect with you after the conference. Most people prefer email.

2. Your Photo
This helps people remember that interesting conversation they had with you so that it doesn't blur into the thousands of other conversations they might have had at the conference. Also, nothing is worse than looking for a 20-something person who no longer exists because someone hasn't updated their photo in 20+ years.

3. Website or Blog Url
Give people the ability to find out more about you if they are interested later. That way you're not trying to give out too much information to people who don't want it. Writing conferences can be overwhelming so try not to overload others with more than they can handle.

4. A Tagline
This will serve as a quick reminder of what you write without going into a detailed summary blurb. Besides, you might have written many different books, but what category do they all or most fall into? Use that if you don't have a creative tagline.

5. Your Name and/or Pen Name
If you write under a pen name, feel free to promote it, but use your real name. An editor or agent doesn't want to go around calling you Bob if your real name is Ben. Even if you don't mind, it will make them feel awkward when they discover their mistake. Help them out. They have to remember a lot of people with many different names and faces. Anything you can do to stand out from the crowd without annoying them will be a huge help and a great benefit to you.

6. Genre or Subgenre
If it isn't clear in your tagline, mention the genre or subgenre you write in. Be brief. If you write in more than one genre, simply list them. Don't worry about long explanations. Save it for your proposals.

7. Phone Number
List at least one phone number in case an agent or editor does want to call you for some reason--or maybe another author. Don't worry about listing all your numbers between your home, cell and work. Use the one that is less likely to change and where you will most likely be reached.

Some people will try to be creative with their business cards. If you can do it tastefully without making it look too busy--go for it. If you already have a customized website and/or blog, I recommend using a graphic or background that will match your online presentation since that is how most people will look you up--online.