Welcome to Day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!
Ten authors of Christian fiction joined together to shower twelve winners with gifts. In true twelve days of Christmas style, the prizes accumulate as time progresses. Yesterday, Liz Johnson kicked things off by giving a copy of her new release, Christmas Captive. I’m a huge fan of Liz’s Love Inspired Suspense novels–and every winner gets a copy! From today on, every winner will also receive a copy of my latest Love Inspired, The Rancher’s Mistletoe Bride! It’s the first book in my new Wyoming Cowboys series. Yay!
The prizes are building, and each day a different author will share the day’s prizes, so keep stopping back! The entry is below–super easy options!
Enter in the Rafflecopter giveaway below by following some of your favorite authors on social media and signing up for their newsletters. We draw a new winner every day, and on December 12th, we’ll give away a Kindle Fire HD 8.
I’m so pleased to have author Barbara M. Britton as my guest today! Barbara writes Christian fiction, and her new book Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journeyreleases December 1! More information is below. 🙂
How a Tech-Challenged Author Navigates a 21st Century Marketing World
I’ll be honest. Technology scares me. I grew up with carbon paper and copy machines. My typing skills are hunting and pecking on steroids. Woe to the registrar who put me in freshman biology instead of typing class. Who knew I would someday be an author in the world of social media. How do I get the word out about my books? I work within my comfort zone and rely on friends to help me with the rest.
Remember the world I grew up in? We had phones, but we didn’t have texting or instant messaging. I love to talk on the phone. I use that to my advantage. I call reference librarians in my area and tell them about my books. If the library is nearby, I show up—in person. A local author in the flesh. As a youngster, I went door-to-door selling Campfire Girl mints. If I could talk to strangers when I was ten, I can do it now.
With my limited graphic design skills, I create a simple information sheet about my book. This sheet includes my cover art, blurb, ISBN, distribution channels, publisher information, and a short bio about me. This sheet is something I can e-mail to a librarian or book store. I also carry them into places of interest. My sheet isn’t the fanciest, but it relays the necessary information about my book.
When I need swag (bookmarks, postcards) or advertisements, I hire my friends to create the designs. Some even do the printing. Does this take money? Yes, it does. I tell aspiring authors who have limited tech skills like me, to save those tax refund checks, or scrimp away funds for the day you will need some help. I wish I had the ability to change advertisement dimensions or place graphics and text on small bookmarks, but I don’t. The money I spend for awesome-looking graphics, saves me a technology meltdown.
Remember those Campfire mints I sold? My mom would wrap boxes for Valentine’s Day and take me to the BART station. We would sell chocolate to forgetful husbands. Did this increase sales? You bet. Today, I show up where booksellers and readers are waiting to hear about books. I find out about local book festivals or library conferences and reach out to see if I can show up and teach a workshop or talk about the publishing industry. We can call this skin-on marketing. Building relationships with people who love books is setting a foundation for future interactions—and possibly future sales.
I still engage in social media marketing, but I do the ones that I enjoy, and the ones that I have time to manage. After all, writing my next book is a priority. Staring at a computer screen, no matter how full of pretty pictures it is, eats away at my writing time.
Use the strengths God has given you to promote your stories. May you enjoy your writing journey and make new friends as you launch your books into this high-tech world.
Barbara M. Britton was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently lives in Southeast Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. Barb writes romantic adventures for teens and adults in the Christian fiction and Mainstream markets. She is published in Biblical fiction and enjoys bringing little known Bible characters to light in her stories. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate.
Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey
When Adah bat Shallum finds the governor of Judah weeping over the crumbling wall of Jerusalem, she learns the reason for Nehemiah’s unexpected visit—God has called him to rebuild the wall around the City of David.
Nehemiah challenges the men of Jerusalem to labor on the wall and in return, the names of their fathers will be written in the annals for future generations to cherish. But Adah has one sister and no brothers. Should her father who rules a half-district of Jerusalem be forgotten forever?
Adah bravely vows to rebuild her city’s wall, though she soon discovers that Jerusalem not only has enemies outside of the city, but also within. Can Adah, her sister, and the men they love, honor God’s call? Or will their mission be crushed by the same rocks they hope to raise.
Purchase Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey now! Click HERE
Check out the trailer for The Tribes of Israel series–wow!
Do you consider yourself tech-challenged? What is your best marketing tip?
Have a terrific weekend!!
Reminder: I’ll Be Home for Christmas, the bestselling, four-novella collection of inspirational romance I contributed to, is only 99 cents! Click HERE to buy it!
I skipped blogging last week because I was pushing hard to finish the first draft of a new book. On Monday, I typed The End, and it felt so good! I’ve been running errands and doing laundry ever since. 🙂
Thanksgiving week is always busy here. This morning I’ll sip my coffee with a splash of Cinnamon Vanilla Creamer to make it special. Then I’ll get my tush in gear. Well, maybe I’ll have an extra cup of coffee… It IS a holiday week, after all.
I’ve been watching the original Hallmark Christmas movies lately. So far my favorite is Miss Christmas. Such a heartwarming story, and I thought the actress was adorable. I can’t wait to keep watching the other ones on my DVR.
Do you love Hallmark Christmas movies? Are you looking for heartwarming romantic stories to get you in the Christmas mood? If you answered yes to either of those questions, I have great news! Four multi-published authors of Love Inspired romance novels (including yours truly!) teamed up for the inspirational novella collection, I’ll Be Home for Christmas. You get four Christmas stories for one low price! Only $0.99!
Four best-selling authors of Christian romance bring you heartwarming stories filled with holiday cheer and romance under the mistletoe. Featuring A Hope Valley Christmas by Belle Calhoune, Sugarplums and Second Chances by Jill Kemerer, A Brilliant Christmasby Allie Pleiter and Seashell Santa by Lenora Worth.
For those of you who’ve read my novel, Hometown Hero’s Redemption (linked if you’re interested), you’ll be happy to know Sugarplums and Second Chancesfeatures Chase McGill, Wyatt’s father, and is set in fictional Lake Endwell, Michigan.
Sugarplums and Second Chances
Former NFL star, Chase McGill, invites his teammate’s widow, Courtney Trudesta, to spend Christmas in his guest cottage after her mother dies. Courtney faithfully wrote him letters every week while he was in prison for attempting to avenge the murder of the mother of his son, Wyatt. Chase wants to be there for Courtney the way she was for him. But there’s more to Christmas than sugarplums and wishful thinking. If they trust God’s plan, they’ll have a second chance at happiness…with each other.
This novella collection is available on Amazon for a limited time. It’s only offered as an ebook. If you do not have a Kindle and would like to purchase it, simply download the FREE Kindle App to your smartphone, iPad, tablet or Nook. Easy!
You’re nearing the end of a writing session, and you’re in the zone. The words are hopping onto the page–it’s as if they’re writing themselves. Isn’t that the best feeling? Zone writing is fast and delicious. But it often lacks layers, and these layers affect the pace.
When I write fast, I’m typically writing action and dialogue, but scenes need more than words and actions. The reader needs the subtle clues in between to propel them to turn the page. Pacing that’s too fast will leave the reader unconnected to the characters. Pacing that’s too slow will make them stop reading the book.
Pacing isn’t easy to identify. If you want to check your manuscript for pacing, here are my top two tricks.
1. Do the sight test. Skim a few chapters (or more) of your manuscript.
Are there long paragraphs with no dialogue for pages on end?
If the scene only features one character, make sure you’re breaking up her thoughts with movement. What is she doing in this scene? Show her doing it. And make sure the actions are furthering the story. Showing her brush her teeth will notrivet the reader.
If you’re writing any genre of romance, make sure the dialogue is interspersed with action beats, internal thoughts and sensory details to help the reader flesh out what is happening and feel connected to the characters.
If the scene seems dialogue heavy, how can you dot in sensory details, reactions and thoughts to make the story come alive for the reader? Just don’t overdo it, or the dialogue will fall flat.
Here is stripped down dialogue (which can be effective in small doses).
“I can’t believe you did that.”
“Why not?” Jane said. “You drove me to it.”
“Next you’ll be telling me I drove you to steal from me, too,” Sam said.
“You said it. Not me.”
Here is fleshed out dialogue (sorry it’s cheesy!).
“I can’t believe you did that.” Sam slammed the door of his truck and stood, legs wide, facing her. How could he have ever loved this psychopath?
“Why not?” Jane got up in his face. “You drove me to it.”
“Next you’ll be telling me I drove you to steal from me, too.” Snow flurries carried the scent of winter, reminding him he had better things to do than argue with the woman responsible for his frozen heart and empty bank account.
“You said it. Not me.”
Every scene has a rhythm, whether fast or slow. But scenes also need balance. Readers get bored with pages of a character thinking about a problem. And, unless they’re reading a genre such as suspense or thriller, they get whiplash with chapter after chapter of nonstop dialogue.
2. Are your scenes starting and ending with a hook?
When you begin and end a scene with a hook (something that entices the reader to keep reading), you automatically help the pace.
To check for hooks, copy and paste the first line and the last line of each scene into a new document. Read through them. If you were a reader would you keep reading based on these sentences? If not, rewrite them to give them more oomph.
I still review the opening and closing lines of each scene before submitting my work. I almost always change at least three lines. It keeps me from getting lazy.
“I don’t see how this problem will keep the couple apart for an entire book.”
“This could be cleared up with a simple conversation.”
If you write romance novels, you may have heard the above a time or two from professionals or critique partners. I know I have! It’s one thing to get the feedback, but it’s another thing to understand it. So today we’re talking about romantic conflict–what it is, what it isn’t and how to sustain it for an entire novel. Buckle up!
WHAT IS ROMANTIC CONFLICT?
This isn’t a formal definition, but it’s the way I define it.
Romantic conflict is what keeps the hero and heroine from accepting they love each other and living happily ever after. Both of them have their own individual internal conflicts preventing them from embracing love. External circumstances plus their internal conflicts combine to produce the romantic conflict.
Example: From Her Small-Town Romance
Hero’s internal conflict: His ex-wife cheated on him and the whole town knew about it. He’s ashamed about the divorce and won’t date or marry again.
Heroine’s internal conflict: She’s never been good enough for her parents or the guys she’s dated. She wants roots, including marriage and a family.
External circumstances: He’s secretly applied for a job as an outdoor guide in another country. She moved to Lake Endwell to create a life there and overcome her phobia of the woods. He’s helping her get used to the forest and feels responsible for her since she’s all alone. She’s helping him train his St. Bernard because she wants to repay him. She doesn’t understand why he can’t see what an amazing man he is. He doesn’t understand why she can’t see what an amazing woman she is. And through all this, he’s not going to date because it wouldn’t be fair to her. And she’s not interested in someone who won’t be around to plant those roots with her. All these factors combine to create the romantic conflict.
WHAT ROMANTIC CONFLICT IS NOT:
It isn’t a simple problem that can easily be solved.
It isn’t one-sided. Both the hero and heroine must have compelling reasons for not being open to an emotional love relationship.
It isn’t based on a misunderstanding.
It isn’t solely based on external circumstances.
It isn’t characters arguing.
It isn’t sexual tension.
HOW TO SUSTAIN ROMANTIC CONFLICT FOR AN ENTIRE BOOK
Really know and understand your main characters’ pasts.
Why are they unwilling to have a serious relationship with each other? It’s fine to start out with “He got divorced and won’t date again because marriage isn’t for him,” but you’ll have to take it further. Why did the divorce make him decide never to marry? And why won’t he at least date? Take time to brainstorm what happened and how it affected him. He’s a man who believes marriage is forever. When his wife cheated on him, it made him feel inferior. He also was ashamed that the entire town knew about it. He thinks dating leads to feelings and feelings lead to love and love leads to marriage and marriage leads to being humiliated and destroyed. When you understand this about him, you’ll be able to throw him in situations that force him to confront these issues.
Think hills, not plains.
For characters to grow, they need to have ups and downs. They have to do things that scare them on an emotional level. And sometimes they will win but another emotional conflict will hit them, making them doubt themselves all over again. Romantic conflict isn’t static. It starts at one point for each character and, as the story progresses, gets more complex until both must confront their issues and make a choice–does she embrace love? Or does she let her fears/beliefs define her?
The Black Moment will force each character to confront his or her reasons for avoiding love.
As the story progresses, the reader should be thinking they’re perfect for each other but how in the world will they ever realize it? The Black Moment is also called All is Lost for a reason. This is the point in the story where the hero and heroine love each other but one or both are unwilling to take a chance on a serious relationship. The result is complete emotional devastation for each of them. The aftereffects of the black moment force both characters to OVERCOME their personal internal conflicts and commit to loving each other.
YOU KNOW THE ROMANTIC CONFLICT IS OFF WHEN…
The hero and heroine are coming across as petulant third graders rather than mature adults (or teens if YA).
The hero and heroine could declare their love and get engaged in chapter four and the book wouldn’t change much. Obviously, I’m not talking about a fake engagement here!
Only the heroine has a reason not to fall in love, and the hero seems smitten with her throughout most of the book.
The only things keeping the characters apart are a series of misunderstandings.
I’m sure there are plenty of romantic conflict points I missed in this post. If you read or write romance novels, I’d love to hear your pet peeves regarding what keeps characters from falling in love instantly. Please leave a comment!
*Alert* I will be guest blogging over at Inspired by Life and Fiction on Friday, October 27. I’m talking about pets and giving away a fun prize, including a copy of my latest release, The Rancher’s Mistletoe Bride. I’d love for you to stop by! For easy reference, come back Friday and click HERE for their blog.
I’m so excited to be part of a novella anthology with three other Love Inspired authors! Our novella collection, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, will be available in November. I’ll keep you posted with more info as soon as I get it!
In the meantime, here’s the cover!
I love it so much! My novella, Sugarplums and Second Chances, is going to excite a lot of you! Guess who the hero is?
Yes, Chase, the former NFL star serving time in prison, is in Lake Endwell, raising Wyatt! Aaahhh!! You’ll remember Chase and Wyatt from Hometown Hero’s Redemption. Expect to see a few other cameos from Lake Endwell residents–ahem, Sheffields!–too!
On another note, I’m part of a massive giveaway this week. If you enjoy sweet romances, click the link below to be entered to win all the books shown! What’s not to love about that?
I’ve read several great blog posts about writing lately. I’m not always great about reading blogs, but when I do, I’m amazed at the timely content. I figured you’d be interested in them, too, so I’m sharing them here!
Amy Green, fiction publicist at Bethany House Publishers, was a guest on Seekerville Monday. She shares her “Top Ten Writing Industry Issues You Should Care About.” While all ten are terrific, I was drawn to Writing in Community and Time Management. Both are dear to my heart. I’ve linked the full article below. And stop by Seekerville all of October for chances to win prizes. They’re celebrating ten years of blogging with a month-long party! (Happy birthday, Seekerville!)
And, last but not least, author Jody Hedlund shows how reviews–good AND bad–are helpful in “Why Getting Some Negative Reviews Can be Positive,” at Inspired by Life and Fiction. I especially like Jody’s points about how readers need reliable reviews and how feedback keeps authors from growing complacent.
Guess what just hit store shelves? The Rancher’s Mistletoe Bride–the first in my brand new series, Wyoming Cowboys! Aaaahhhh!!!
I’m super excited about this one. I’ve never written about cowboys before, and, let’s face it, I live in northern Ohio, which isn’t exactly out west. With loads of research and help from social media friends who live in Wyoming, I was able to create a fictional town–Sweet Dreams–where all four books will be set.
I’ll be guest posting around the blog-osphere in the upcoming weeks and giving away copies of The Rancher’s Mistletoe Bride. Save these dates!
I’m also giving away four copies of The Rancher’s Mistletoe Brideon Goodreads! The entry form is in the sidebar of my blog, or you can find it on my Home page. This contest is open to both US and Canada.
One more thing. Fall sports are here, and my book, Game On: The Christian Parents’ Sports Survival Guide is on sale! The ebook’s list price is $7.99, but it’s on sale for only $3.99 until October 31, 2017! That’s 50% off! If you have kids in sports and you wrestle with anxiety, struggle to brush off other parents’ competitiveness, need help figuring out how to get multiple kids at different practices, have no idea where to begin with fundraising or any other number of common sports worries, this book is for you!
Last night I opened a novel I’d borrowed from the library. It didn’t have a prologue, so I dove right into the first chapter. Within one page I knew who the main character would be (at least I assumed he was the main character), and I had a basic understanding of the setting and tone of the story.
The book is Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I’ve only read one or two short stories by Mr. Bradbury, but I’d recently come across an interview of an author who rereads this book every couple of years. I figured why not?
I’ve only read a few chapters, but my initial expectations were correct. The main character is a twelve-year-old boy named Douglas Spaulding, and the story is set in an American town during the summer of 1928. I’m not sure if the town is in New England or the Midwest, but the descriptions make me believe the region must be one of those two.
Douglas is an imaginative kid, very intense, and he’s throbbing with anticipation over what a great summer it will be. There are sour apples and peaches and plums to be picked, meals to be baked with Grandma, and the town habits are so familiar to Douglas that he pretends to orchestrate the movements of the morning. It’s a delightful opening.
It made me think about a common mistake inexperienced writers often make. They open their story in a secondary character’s point of view.
Who is the right character to open a story?
The main character.
Readers are taking a chance when they start a book, especially if the author is unfamiliar to them. I have certain expectations for the first chapter. One of those expectations is that the character I’m getting invested in will carry the book. If it becomes clear in the next chapters that the viewpoint character from chapter one isn’t the main character, I am much more likely to stop reading.
What if you have more than one main character?
Romance novels have two: the hero and the heroine. I’m fine with either beginning the story. What I’m not okay with is reading from the heroine’s sister’s point of view in the opening pages. Or the hero’s funny best friend’s or the sweet old aunt’s. If it’s not their story, don’t let them open it.
What about a book with multiple points of view? You know, the one following the lives of three best friends?
Ask yourself which character has the strongest arc. Which one has the biggest journey? If you’re convinced they all have equal arcs, pick the one who has the most to lose when your story begins. And make sure she carries the book all the way to the very end. If she doesn’t? Rewrite your opening in the point of view of the character who does.
Are there any rules of thumb about characters and story openings?
I, personally, love books where the opening scene and closing scene are in the same character’s point of view. I’ve been with him or her throughout the ups and downs of the book, and I get all emotional when the story comes full circle. Since I write romance, I have to determine which of my main two characters has the most to lose when the book opens. Who will have the bigger journey? The hero or the heroine? When I figure this out, I know which character will begin and end the book.
Secondary characters should never take over your story. The reader wants to find out what happens to the main characters. If you write too many scenes from other viewpoints, the reader will care less and less about your hero or heroine. I’m not saying the plot won’t be furthered by utilizing other viewpoints, but be careful. Readers can’t care equally about every character you introduce. Let the main ones do the heavy hitting.
To recap: the character who begins your story should be a main character, the one with the biggest journey, the one the reader will get most invested in. Wait until the main characters are established before switching to a secondary character’s point of view. And think hard before allowing a secondary character to take over a scene. Ask yourself if it will further the main plot? Or is it taking precious time away from the hero or heroine?
How do you determine which character will open your story?