Monthly Archives: May 2013

Backstage chat with some of your favorite authors

Ever wonder what it’s like backstage in an author’s “workshop?” Inside their brain…and if anything ever went a little off the rails? Me too! So I recently had some fun asking a few of my author friends two questions, and got some really interesting and amusing answers.

(We had such great answers, I hated to cut them down, so we decided to break it into two parts. Part 2 with a new set of authors will be posted on June 2nd)

The authors in today’s post are Sherry Kyle, Sarah Sundin, and Susan Meissner. I’ve linked to their sites so you can add their books to your TBR pile, and find out what they’re talking about here. I personally recommend every one!

Here are the two questions I asked each of them:

1. What’s something funny or ironic that happened to you while writing/researching one of your books?


2. What’s one thing you find most helpful when developing a character? 

Here is Sherry Kyle to kick off the discussion.

 While writing THE HEART STONE, my latest contemporary release, I discovered I could write humor, or my version of humor, into a novel. I inserted a name that made me (and others, I’ve been told) chuckle. When you find it, please let me know. If you could give a character a funny name, what would it be?

2. One thing I find helpful while developing a character is to find a photo of my character and keep it handy as I write. I’m such a visual person, and the picture helps me imagine what she’d do, how she’d act, and what she’d say. I also find photos of her home, her wardrobe, and her pet, if she has one. It’s like I’m playing with a paper doll. What can I say? I’m a young girl at heart.


Sherry-Kyle-photo-3-150x150 The-Heart-Stone-by-Sherry-Kyle-coverSherry writes faith-based fiction and nonfiction for women and girls. Her upcoming release, THE HEART STONE challenges us to turn over the hard places in our hearts to the One who can heal and restore.


Next up, welcome  Sarah Sundin.

1. While researching my upcoming novel, On Distant Shores (Revell, August 2013) which is set in Italy in World War II, I had the privilege of visiting Italy (suffering for my art). We found a tiny museum in Anzio dedicated to the battle there, which had a delightful docent. Except he spoke Italian with a smattering of English—and I had a few months of “Learn Italian While You Drive!” He showed me every inch of the museum, including some materials he didn’t have on display, and answered my questions (I think). The intersection of my pidgin Italian and his pidgin English was quite funny.

2. I love characters! What helps me most is spending lots of time getting to know my characters before I start writing the book. Being a nerd, I fill out a very long character chart—appearance and health, family and friends, social and economic and religious background, education and job, talents and hobbies, goals, fears, secrets, and more. I give both the hero and heroine a personality test and read up on that personality type, so I know he or she will act. It’s a lot of fun.Blue skies tomorrow by Sarah Sundin Sundin47_LindaJohnson

A scientist by training, Sarah uses her awesome research skills to write award winning historical romances.


Wrapping up today’s interviews, Susan Meissner.

1. It’s not exactly funny or ironic, but it happened and it was pretty cool! I was researching my Rachael Flynn mystery series and interviewing a Ramsey County prosecutor. When I had finished asking him all my legal procedure questions, he asked me if I an hour or two. I thankfully had made NO other plans. He invited me to sit in on an afternoon in court. I got to sit in front on the prosecutors’ side and I was able to learn things – like what color the file folders are (brown, like old pennies) and what the chairs were like and on which side of the room the defendants entered the courtroom- details that I hadn’t asked and didn’t realize I needed to know. So, word to the wise: When you make an appointment to interview a field expert, don’t make any other plans that day! You never know what opportunities may come your way after you think the interview is over.

2. It’s helpful but it also drives me crazy. I discover my characters as I write. The hard part is I never feel like I’m ready to write until I know the character. I have to start writing in the fog of not knowing, which is NOT enjoyable for me, an avowed outliner. If I waited to start writing until I knew the characters, I would never write anything! In A FALL OF MARIGOLDS, which will release in February, I wrote the beginning chapters (we’re talking 75 pages) over and over until one day, everything clicked. I knew who Clara was. I knew what she loved, what she feared, what could hurt her, what could make her strong, and what could take her to the mat. But I had to write and rewrite and rewrite to get there.

Susan Meissner has so many awards and accolades to her name we don’t have enough room here to list them all. She’s best known for her parallel timelines, a talent only the most crafty writers should attempt! png thegirlintheglass1







Beverly Nault writes fiction and nonfiction over at FRESH START STORIES, and mostly tries to stay out of trouble. Check out her award winning SEASONS OF CHERRYVALE series. Bev HS 1

Every Hill and Mountain – fiction

Today I’m pleased to be a part of a CrossReads book blast! Stay tuned, and read to the end to find out how to enter to win a $50 Amazon card.

Every Hill and Mountain (Time and Again) (Volume 3)

By Deborah Heal

Visiting another century…not the summer vacation she had planned.

Those who have read Time and Again and Unclaimed Legacy know that Abby Thomas is a college student on a summer service project with 11-year-old Merri. And they know that the summer is not going the way Abby had expected—but in a good way. For one thing, she meets a very nice guy named John Roberts. And for another, she discovers a strange computer program called Beautiful House that lets her fast-forward and rewind life. Not her own, of course, but those of the people who lived in Merri’s old house. And the Old Dears’ old house, and…well, any old house.

And since the program worked so well for the Old Dears’ family tree project, Abby’s college roommate Kate hopes it will help her find out more about her ancestor Ned Greenfield. And Kate’s fiancé Ryan thinks the program has lucrative commercial potential.

Abby and John reluctantly agree to help Kate, but only on the condition that she and Ryan promise to keep the program a secret, because if it fell into the wrong hands…well, no one wants Big Brother invading their privacy.

The two couples take a trip to the tiny town of Equality, set in the hills of southern Illinois and the breath-taking Shawnee National Forest. According to Kate’s research, Ned Greenfield was born there at a place called Hickory Hill.

The mayor, police chief, and townspeople are hospitable and helpful—until the topic of Hickory Hill comes up. They seem determined to keep them away, telling them, “There’s nothing there for you to see.”

Eventually they find Hickory Hill on their own—both the mansion and the lonely hill it sits upon. Built in 1834, Hickory Hill stands sentinel over Half Moon Salt Mine where the original owner John Granger accumulated his blood-tainted fortune.

Abby and her friends meet Miss Granger, Hickory Hill’s current eccentric owner, and they eventually get the chance to time-surf there. Their shocking discovery on the third floor concerning Kate’s ancestor Ned Greenfield is almost too much to bear. What they learn sends them racing to the opposite end of the state to find the missing link in Kate’s family tree. And there they are reminded that God is in the business of redemption—that one day he’ll make all things new.

Download on Kindle | Purchase Paperback

Deborah Heal
sticker picture
Deborah Heal, the author of the Time and Again time travel mystery series, was born not far from the setting of her book Every Hill and Mountain and grew up “just down the road” from the setting of Time and Again. Today she lives with her husband in Waterloo, Illinois, where she enjoys reading, gardening, and learning about regional history. She has three grown children, three grandchildren, and two canine buddies Digger and Scout (a.k.a. Dr. Bob). She loves to interact with her readers, who may learn more about the history behind the books at her website and her Facebook author page

Enter to Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Enter below to enter a $50 amazon gift card, sponsored by author Deborah Heal! a Rafflecopter giveawayThis book blast is hosted by Crossreads. We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

Starting off on the right hook…not in a pirate sort of way.

This is part of a series I’m posting as I write THE KALEIDOSCOPE A Novel of Unusual Circumstances.

I’ve been reading about making great openings. As soon as I’d arrived at a conclusion (notice I didn’t say The End yet) of most of the story threads, I zoomed back to the beginning.

I don’t know about you, but when I read a novel, I want all the pieces to fit together and the journey to end in a satisfying, even in a clever way, that the author had my satisfaction in mind both from the first to the last.

The First FiftyI picked up a copy of Jeff Gerke’s First Fifty Pages and devoured it/lost sleep/highlightedtheheckoutof. Trained as a screenwriter (and having worked as an editor and successful author), he zooms right to several points I could understand how to implement, and WHY.

Last night, I had critique group to attend, so I printed out my first three pages. After some  a lot of tweaking. I even moved an entire scene to the beginning based on Jeff’s advice. My opening had bogged because it was a lot of blah-blah narrative. But I need the reader to know my guy, I whined.

So Jeff, when is it OKAY to give information? Here’s what he says:

A)   when the reader must want to know it

B)   when the story cannot go on without the information (Kindle loc 683)

As you know, I wanted to raise the bar on myself, so instead of beginning in dialogue or action, I had started out in my MC’s head, and that was borrinng, but he’s a complicated guy.

Aannnddd then I read Jeff’s advice and now I have my MC DOING something, the thoughts in his head are now generic to what he’s doing, even though he’s just on his way to work (I’m also establishing his normal, another necessity of an opening), we see a lot by how he thinks about what’s around him. Notice I said SEE?

So did my tweaking work for my critique buddies Veola, Ron, Ralph and Kelly?

You decide.

Here’s one of the opening paragraph for which I got several positive comments:

“He double-timed the staircase and sailed inside the office building. His steps clapped against tile, echoing around the bank’s tiled lobby. ID card drawn for the guard and swiftly replaced, he tapped a loafered toe to send a subliminal message to the couple selfishly absorbed in a personal discussion, and by 8:58, pushed the elevator button. Despite the challenges of the morning, it was going to be a good day.”

What’s interesting about this one is, I had it buried about five pages later, and when I read Jeff’s logic, I brought it forward to the opening. (BTW, he’s just bypassed a homeless encampment, and that’s why he’s in such a hurry…nice guy, right?)

Something else Jeff said resonated as I realized my “cuts” file is getting longer than my MS. “What you lose in detail, you more than make up for in reader engagement.”

To write complicated characters, which makes them more compelling and makes the reader want to know what happens next, you need to know a LOT of details and background yourself. In first drafts a lot of inner thoughts may find the page, but to follow Jeff’s most compelling nugget now burned into my writerly brain: “Can the camera see it?”

Sean Maxwell

Here’s my BIL Sean, an uber talented cameraman. (He’s smiling because he knows how the camera adds ten pounds. LOL. Or maybe just because he knows how all those gizmos work.)

Like I said, he was a filmmaker by education, but that explanation makes it so much easier to remember than the tired old, “show don’t tell” which doesn’t really say anything to the 21st century brain. But I get camera angles and the importance of “the visual.”

Also this week, I hit a low when I realized how long this was all taking, and I want the book done NOW.

But I read the terrific writer, Jess Walter’s BEAUTIFUL RUINS, a complex, character driven, yet plot complex story about an American actress, and the Italian hotel owner she meets when she’s looking for privacy…a great read y’all.

Anywhoo…Jess admits it took him fifteen years to get the story ready. FIFTEEN YEARS. But it’s a great read, recommended!Beautiful Ruins

A big shout-out of thanks to both Jeff and Jess this week. (And Rebecca’s critique group)

Writers, what’s helped you with your opening?

Readers, What keeps you interested past page one…or worse, what makes you toss the book aside and reach for the remote?

I’m having fun writing The Kaleidoscope, A Novel of Unusual Circumstances, where the main character, Harold, finds himself the custodian of a magical scope that reveals much more than just colorful shapes! Here’s a Pinterest board where I’m gathering images of the characters and setting for Kaleidoscope.

The Kaleidoscope




Free Kindle Romantic Suspense

Free Tuesday May 14th and Wednesday May 15th

Today I’m hosting my friend, Laura Marshall, helping spread the word about her book, Persistent Love:


A Christian Romantic Suspense Novella set in 1685, England.

 Fear has been Tara’s constant companion since age nine when she witnessed her mother’s murder. Tara’s father moves his family to the ancient castle of Raven’s Cliff, far from the ships that could carry her back to India and the answers she believes lie there. Andrew offers her friendship and guides her gently to the One who will give her peace. Will she find hope for something other than revenge?

Here’s a brief Q&A with the Author, Laura J. Marshall.

Q: What do you think makes a good story?

A: To make a good story, I believe characters that you can relate to are important, as well as being able to place yourself in the scene as you read. I love a “cozy” feel to a book as I read it. I don’t know what the secret is to writing a story with this element, but I hope I achieved it in Persistent Love.

lauramarshallLaura J. Marshall is the full-time mother of five sons and part-time writer and blogger. She operates a popular blog called The Old Stone Wall. Laura is the best-selling author of the Battle Cry Devotional Series. Visit to find out more about Laura’s books.





Grace and pride can go together…I’ll prove it!

Be-Still-My-Soul-3D-CoverWe interrupt our regularly scheduled post today to do a little bragging.

A few years ago one of my critique partners, Joanne Bischof, wrote a book that was so different from anything that had ever been written, the plot so out of the ordinary, her characters so messed up compared to books already on the shelves, she wondered if her storyline and bad-boy main character would ever be accepted.

But she persisted, tweaked, edited and poured out her soul into this book (this is supposed to be encouragement to other writers!) and found a very insightful and inspired agent who found the first book in the Cadence of Grace series a home at the very smart publishing house, Waterbrook.


I feel like a proud auntie clapping in the seats at the spelling bee as Be Still My Soul begins to progress through the ranks of reviewers, bestseller sales, and attracts attention from  judges in award competitions. Already a Christy nominee, today it was announced that Be Still My Soul is a 2012 Grace Award WINNER.Grace Award 2012

If you haven’t read it yet, run and get a copy. Now. And while you’re at it, get the sequel, Though My Heart is Torn so you’ll be ready for the series finale, My Hope is Found, due out in October.


Here’s a fun interview I did recently with Joanne to give you a glimpse into how real and transparent, smart and funny she is. And hardworking.


Joanne Bischof

Big fat {{hugs}} of congratulations, Joanne, you so deserve this!

Also a shout out to my Christian Writer’s Guild mentor, Kathy Tyers, for her Grace award for DAYSTAR.



Body Image Lies Women Believe: Free Kindle eBook & $100 Giveaway

By Shelley Hitz and contributing authors

Download on Kindle

FREE three days only: 5/8/13, 5/9/13 and 5/10/13

PLUS enter to win a $100 Amazon Gift Card!


About the Book, Body Image Lies Women Believe:

  • Are you insecure about your looks?
  • Have you ever compared yourself to someone else and found yourself wanting?
  • Do complements or put downs determine the image you have of your beauty?

Real Stories of Overcoming Body Image Lies Women Believe with God’s Truth

Throughout this book, Christian women share their stories of how they have struggled with body image lies and a distorted view of themselves. However, each of their stories also contains hope – the hope of replacing these lies with God’s truth. Our prayer for you is that you find encouragement within these pages and allow Christ to transform you with His truth.

We Are Each Created Unique

God has created each one of us with unique abilities, unique talents and a unique personality. As women we are influencers and God has given us that role and our beauty to share with others. Yet so often we settle for a counterfeit. The enemy has counterfeited our idea of beauty, convincing us to share our beauty with the world in a distorted way. Today that often means that we see our beauty as what we look like on the outside.

What Lies Have You Been Believing?

Join us for the journey of replacing body image lies with truth from God’s Word.

Download on Kindle

FREE on 5/8/13, 5/9/13 and 5/10/13

Paperback | Large Print | Audiobook



Shelley Hitz

Shelley HItzShelley Hitz is an award-winning and international best-selling author. Her openness and vulnerability as she shares her own story of hope and healing through her books will inspire and encourage you.

Shelley has been ministering alongside her husband, CJ, since 1998. They currently travel and speak to teens and adults around the country. Shelley’s main passion is to share God’s truth and the freedom in Christ she has found with others. She does this through her books, websites and speaking engagements.

Follow Shelley Hitz
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Enter Below to Win a $100 Amazon Gift Card!

Thank you to our sponsors! The giveaway is sponsored by Staci Stallings, Spirit Filled Kindle, Grace & Faith 4 U and Body and Soul Publishing.

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