Category Archives: Writing

Award season, and we have news!

RF Green-Hon MentionFresh Start Summer cover



It’s red carpet season for books, and I’m thrilled and honored that FRESH START SUMMER received an award from Reader’s Favorite, a juried, peer reviewed contest that considers hundreds of published and pre-published books.

ALSO!! SPRING BLOSSOMS is a finalist in the AUTHORSdb cover contest that will be announced in a few weeks. The original artwork was done by my amazingling talented friend, Carol Field. She really captured the charm and flavor of Main Street Cherryvale. Congratulations, Carol!

Spring Blossms Cover - Version 4


Spring Blossoms

Exciting news about “The Kaleidoscope”

KaleidscopeAbout two years ago I began a journey with a manuscript I started calling “The Kaleidoscope.” I was visiting a friend, Karla Ramsey, in Texas, and as we drove the sprawling highways of  Houston, I shared some of my early kernels with her. We brainstormed and what-if’d until we arrived home with character ideas for a wacky, self absorbed computer genius who finds a magical ‘scope that turns his world upside down.

When I started the actual writing, I decided to post the journey here because so often readers hear of a book’s birth and ask about the process of writing and rewriting, editing and pitching. In earlier posts, I shared my first ideas and thoughts about the plot, story and development. I wrote, rewrote, took samples to my critique group, sought first readers’ feedback, thanks Jesse!… and hired the accomplished and savvy T Greenwood to assist me preparing it for submission.

I read in the genre, studied craft books and revisited technique.

TK is a departure from the cozy women’s fiction I’ve written before, I challenged myself to stretch and grow, and all these people helped. It takes a village, y’all! Of course every author hopes to see their manuscript grow up to become a book…

So it gives me great pleasure to announce that The Kaleidoscope has found a home!  I’ve just this week signed a contract with Wild Rose Press! TK will grow and bloom in their Crimson Rose, Mystery and Suspense division!

High concept with car chases, road trips to Yosemite, humor and some hankie moments, there’s something for everybody in “The Kaleidoscope.”

What’s next? MORE editing, this time with my WR/CR editor, as well as lots of pre-marketing, cover discussions, and details I don’t even know about yet, so we’ll learn together.

Still too early to predict a release date, here’s a quick summary of the story:

In the vein of National Treasure, “The Kaleidoscope” asks the question; what if advances in artificial intelligence, together with mystical properties found in the earth’s elements, produced unexplainable images of the viewer’s future?

Harold Donaldson, a know-it-all computer analyst, unwillingly becomes the guardian of a magical kaleidoscope that reveals glimpses into the viewers’ future. When Harold’s boss tells him his interpersonal skills need improving for consideration for a promotion, he stalks a homeless man to prove his philanthropy, and ends up the custodian of a beautiful, handcrafted kaleidoscope. The ‘scope immediately attracts a circle of colorful characters, including Rhashan, a Rastafarian who teaches Harold to look beyond stereotypes, to Pepper Eubanks, a free-spirited neighbor recovering from breast cancer who inspires Harold to face his troubled past and embrace the future. Then when Harold’s best friend, Morrie Guthrie, views a long-lost cousin’s image, Harold becomes the focus of a ring of corporate spies intent on capturing the kaleidoscope and using the remarkable technology for their evil purposes.

Stay tuned and I’ll continue to blog the process to publication!

Here’s a Pinterest board for TK for those of you who appreciate the visual.

And make note of its very own hashtag – #thekaleidoscope to follow the epic journey.



The Waltons, Mary McDonough and Me

This week, Good Morning America and Entertainment Weekly are revisiting classic shows and movies, reminiscing with their cast members, and finding out what they’re doing now. On Friday, October 18th, GMA will air the interview segment featuring cast members of The Waltons. Since I get asked a lot about my experience writing with Mary McDonough (Erin Walton), I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the highlights of what’s happened since Lessons from the Mountain came out, and what Mary and I are both up to now.

Now, Mary is busier than ever with her coaching, acting, and speaking. Keep up with her on Facebook, or her website. And yes, she’s writing more, but I’ll let her tell you about that herself.

Since Lessons came out, I’ve continued adding to my popular fiction series, The Seasons of Cherryvale. I’m also branching out, working on a high concept adventure story, The Kaleidoscope. I also have a new nonfiction project in the pipeline called “God Stops, a Pediatrician’s Faith Journey After Her Son’s TBI,” written with Dr. Karla Ramsey.

People often ask me what were my lessons from the mountain. My answer? To be open to the possibilities of what God has in store, and with some lots of hard work, your dreams can come true. ALSO, I learned that the people behind the scenes of one of the most classic, enduring television shows ever, from the creator and writer Earl Hamner, to the crew and cast, guest stars and their families, are all truly a part of an American legend.

I’ve been honored and blessed to be a small part of The Waltons‘ legend, continuing its positive influence on the world’s culture through entertainment. Because after all, “the Walton way” is truly at the heart of every loving community.


Horse stories for a good cause? Yes, please!

Today I’m thrilled to host my friend and fellow author, Candace Carrabus, and tell you about how buying her books will help a nonprofit animal rescue facility.

Candace I met through a mutual horse-loving friend-hi Pam! and were amazed at how many things we have in common. Both Candace and I trained in the British Horse Society certificate program-different stables, different times, and we’ve both lived on Long Island, and of course we share a love for writing, and horses. (Oh, and we even drive the same kind of car!) All my books end up having horses in them, and so do Candace’s. And we both care about helping out animals in need. More about that in a moment.

Raver jpg

Click through to see The Raver trailer (you will be taken to Youtube.

Here she is to explain how she writes, why horses are so compelling to us all, and what you will find in her great books.

Hi Candace!


Candace and Remi

Hi, Bev, thanks for having me!

What is it about horses? From the avid rider to the long-distance admirer, everyone agrees their beauty, power, and grace stirs deep emotions.

Author Jane Smiley said, “I discovered that the horse is life itself, a metaphor but also an example of life’s mystery and unpredictability, of life’s generosity and beauty, a worthy object of repeated and ever changing contemplation.”

Ah, that explains it! And in literary terms no less. All I know is I love them and can’t live without them. They have made me who I am, and who I am is way better than who I would have been if horses hadn’t helped raise me and continue to mentor me. I’m a lifelong horsewoman and author. I haven’t been writing as long as I’ve loved horses—mainly because I couldn’t connect pencil to paper soon enough—but I’m not sure I can live without that, either. Now, come ride with me, which is where I do a lot of my story development.

horses grazing

W.C. Fields famously said, “Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.”

Images, characters, and snippets of conversation flow naturally during long trail rides. On the undulating back of a horse you can be anyone, you can go anywhere, you can fly. Imagination awakens, stretches, and flexes its muscles. When I started pulling ideas out of my head and writing them down—at around age 12—horses were as inextricably entwined in my stories as they are with my heart. Writing romantic adventures centered around horses is still rewarding. The seed that grew into Raver began in a dream of a trail ride on my old thoroughbred, Smirnoff. Raver tells the story of Lauren Gallagher, a woman who longs to simply be left alone with her horses.

When a strange man arrives at the stable seeking a particular rider, Lauren and her mount, Pindar, find themselves transported through the Ravery to Cirq, a dying land bereft of its beloved steeds. In Cirq, Lauren is proclaimed the long-awaited Horsecaller and she’s expected to find the lost horses and return Cirq to greatness. No pressure.

buy a book, save a horse

Click here to go to the fundraiser FB page

So it is with great joy that I am able to further connect my two passions with the Buy a Book—Help a Horse fundraiser for Amaryllis Farm Equine Rescue and Horse Sanctuary. This non-profit sanctuary’s owner, Christine Barrett-Distefano, works tirelessly on behalf of horses, mules, and ponies as well as some chickens, ducks, goats—you name it—who are no longer wanted by their owners. Owners who often promised to love them forever. Circumstances change, children grow up, horses get old and lame and are too often discarded as easily as yesterday’s newspaper.

Amaryllis rescue farm

Some of Amaryllis’ success stories.

Sometimes, people like Christine are all that stand between a once beloved horse and the misery of neglect and even slaughter. All too often this is also the fate of successful racehorses.

How you can help.

When you buy one—or all three!—of my books between August 25th and September 8th, I will donate all my author royalties to Amaryllis Farm. You can get them in print from Amazon or Barnes & Noble and for Kindle, Nook, or Kobo.

And, as if that weren’t good enough, you can also enter a contest on Facebook for giveaways such as

• A $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card

• A fabulous hand-crafted horse hoof necklace

• Gumy ear buds

• Horsehair bracelet

• Tablet pillow sleeve

• Pony Pizza Company’s pizza-shaped horse treats… Winners will be announced September 9th. The horses thank you! See ya on the trails!

Links & Credits

Buy a Book—Help a Horse photo by

Horses Grazing photo by Cynthia Roysden Photography

Next time we’ll tell you about Candace’s next title, On the Buckle, another horse story. The world can never have too many of those, right? And to help out an author, if you enjoy our books, please leave a fair and kind review on any site like Amazon, Goodreads or Barnes and Noble, they really do help spread the word.

Bev out!


Get your lanyards ready, rediscovering summer camp with my guest T. Greenwood

Today I’m thrilled to host Tammy Greenwood, author of so many titles it’s hard to list them all here, but I highly recommend you check them out. Tammy’s also a writing teacher and editor, and has been helping me with my latest WIP, THE KALEIDOSCOPE, so if you’re an author, I suggest you find out more about her uber helpful editing services and classes as well. Her lengthy summaries of good and >cough< not so good parts of my submission to her are keeping me busy making changes, and I know will make the book SO much better. I’ve posted her bio, photo and links at the bottom of this post. She’s graciously allowed me to repost her list of some books I’ve already added to my list of TBR’s, let us know if you find one you’d like to read, or want to, or perhaps another you’d recommend.

Here’s Tammy!

(Originally posted on May 26th, 2013 on Tammy’s blog.)

It’s Memorial Day weekend, which even here in sunny southern California, signals the advent of summer. And so I begin compiling my list of summer reads. And what better books to complement the season than novels set at summer camps?
Here are some I can’t wait to read and re-read (blurbs are from

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns“The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, from the best-selling author of Apologize, Apologize!, introduces Riddle James Camperdown, the twelve-year-old daughter of the idealistic Camp and his manicured, razor-sharp wife, Greer. It’s 1972, and Riddle’s father is running for office from the family compound in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Between Camp’s desire to toughen her up and Greer’s demand for glamour, Riddle has her hands full juggling her eccentric parents. When she accidentally witnesses a crime close to home, her confusion and fear keep her silent. As the summer unfolds, the consequences of her silence multiply. Another mysterious and powerful family, the Devlins, slowly emerges as the keepers of astonishing secrets that could shatter the Camperdowns. As an old love triangle, bitter war wounds, and the struggle for status spiral out of control, Riddle can only watch, hoping for the courage to reveal the truth. The Last Summer of the Camperdowns is poised to become the summer’s uproarious and dramatic must-read.”

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel“It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy, passionate, strong-willed Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. High in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty, and girls’ friendships, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a far remove from the free-roaming, dreamlike childhood Thea shared with her twin brother on their family’s citrus farm—a world now partially shattered. As Thea grapples with her responsibility for the events of the past year that led her here, she finds herself enmeshed in a new order, one that will change her sense of what is possible for herself, her family, her country.

Weaving provocatively between home and school, the narrative powerfully unfurls the true story behind Thea’s expulsion from her family, but it isn’t long before the mystery of her past is rivaled by the question of how it will shape her future. Part scandalous love story, part heartbreaking family drama, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is an immersive, transporting page-turner—a vivid, propulsive novel about sex, love, family, money, class, home, and horses, all set against the ominous threat of the Depression—and the major debut of an important new writer.”

The Inverted Forest
“Late on a warm summer night in rural Missouri, an elderly camp director hears a squeal of joyous female laughter and goes to investigate. At the camp swimming pool he comes upon a bewildering scene: his counselors stripped naked and engaged in a provocative celebration. The first camp session is set to start in just two days. He fires them all. As a result, new counselors must be quickly hired and brought to the Kindermann Forest Summer Camp.

One of them is Wyatt Huddy, a genetically disfigured young man who has been living in a Salvation Army facility. Gentle and diligent, large and imposing, Wyatt suffers a deep anxiety that his intelligence might be subnormal. All his life he’s been misjudged because of his irregular features. But while Wyatt is not worldly, he is also not an innocent. He has escaped a punishing home life with a reclusive and violent older sister.

Along with the other new counselors, Wyatt arrives expecting to care for children. To their astonishment, they learn that for the first two weeks of the camping season they will be responsible for 104 severely developmentally disabled adults, all of them wards of the state. For Wyatt it is a dilemma that turns his world inside out. Physically, he is indistinguishable from the state hospital campers he cares for. Inwardly, he would like to believe he is not of their tribe. Fortunately for Wyatt, there is a young woman on staff who understands his predicament better than he might have hoped.

At once the new counselors and disabled campers begin to reveal themselves. Most are well-intentioned; others unprepared. Some harbor dangerous inclinations. Among the campers is a perplexing array of ailments and appearances and behavior both tender and disturbing. To encounter them is to be reminded just how wide the possibilities are when one is describing human beings.

Soon Wyatt is called upon to prevent a terrible tragedy. In doing so, he commits an act whose repercussions will alter his own life and the lives of the other Kindermann Forest staff members for years to come.

Written with scrupulous fidelity to the strong passions running beneath the surface of camp life, The Inverted Forest is filled with yearning, desire, lust, banked hope, and unexpected devotion. This remarkable and audacious novel amply underscores Heaven Lake’s wide acclaim and confirms John Dalton’s rising prominence as a major American novelist.”

Shelter: A Novel

“In a West Virginia forest in 1963, a group of children at summer camp enter a foreboding Eden and experience an unexpected rite of passage. Shelter is an astonishing portrayal of an American loss of innocence as witnessed by a mysterious drifter named Parson, two young sisters, Lenny and Alma, and a feral boy called Buddy. Together they come to understand bravery and the importance of compassion.
Phillips unearths a dangerous beauty in this primeval terrain and in the hearts of her characters. Lies, secrets, erotic initiations, and the bonds of love between friends, families, and generations are transformed in a leafy wilderness undiminished by societal rules and dilemmas. Cast in Phillips’ stunning prose, with an unpredictable cast of characters and a shadowy, suspenseful narrative, Shelter is a an enduring achievement from one of the finest writers of our time.”
The Interestings“The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.”Camp“Every secret has a price.For most girls, sleepaway camp is great fun. But for Amy Becker, it’s a nightmare. Amy, whose home life is in turmoil, is sent to Camp Takawanda for Girls for the first time as a teenager. Although Amy swears she hates her German-immigrant mother, who is unduly harsh with Amy’s autistic younger brother, Amy is less than thrilled about going to camp. At Takawanda she is subjected to a humiliating “initiation” and relentless bullying by the ringleader of the senior campers. As she struggles to stop the mean girls from tormenting her, Amy becomes more confident. Then a cousin reveals dark secrets about Amy’s mother’s past, which sets in motion a tragic event that changes Amy and her family forever. Camp is a compelling coming-of-age novel about bullying, mothers and daughters, and the collateral damage of family secrets. It will resonate with a wide teenage readership. Camp will be a strong addition to school recommended reading and summer reading lists, and it is appropriate for anti-bullying programs. Mostly, though, Camp is a mother-daughter story for mothers and daughters to share.”
T Greenwood
About my guest:
T. Greenwood is the author of seven novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and, most recently, the Maryland State Arts Council. TWO RIVERS was named Best General Fiction Book at the San Diego Book Awards in 2009. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks; THIS GLITTERING WORLD was a January 2011 selection, and GRACE is an April 2012 selection. Her eighth novel, BODIES OF WATER, will be released this fall.

She teaches creative writing at for San Diego Writer’s, Ink. She and her husband, Patrick, live in San Diego, CA with their two daughters. She is also an aspiring photographer.

More information on T. Greenwood can be found at her website: and her blogs: and



One Writer’s Encouragement for Hearing God’s Will

Welcome fellow Texas girl, Jayna Morrow, who’s got a great message of encouragement from a time when she experienced a fresh start in her own writing. (Love the bluebonnet cover, Jayna!)
Thanks, Bev!
For me, writing is therapy. Upon completing any project, I reflect on what I learned and anchor it to Bible scripture. My debut novel, Garrett, was a last-ditch effort to jumpstart a writing career that was going nowhere. Like Garrett, I was at a point in my life where I was ready to give up. The plan I had for my life just wasn’t working out. That’s when I stumbled across this scripture:
“You can make plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:21
Garrett COVER_72 dpi-1
And that’s when it hit me that I hadn’t consulted God about what was in the plan for my life. All I knew was that I had the urge to write around the clock and there was nothing I could do to make it go away. I know. I tried to quit writing for an entire year and couldn’t. Garrett Hearth felt the same way. An injury had ended his athletic career and he believed that his life held no purpose beyond that.
But Garrett Hearth is a fictional character?
There’s a saying that goes, “art imitates life far more than life imitates art.” Oscar Wilde wrote those famous words. So can we learn and grow through our art? I believe so absolutely. But more importantly, can God speak to us through our art? YES!
In my novel, Garrett finds an entirely different purpose than the one he had in mind. In my case, it was all a matter of turning my gift of writing over to God. Until that time, I had been writing traditional romance and going nowhere. A small voice told me I should be writing inspirational romance. Then a Christian friend told me the same thing at about the same time. That solidified things for me. I completed a Christian romance novel, and that’s when things started happening.
A double lesson from one scripture.
Sometimes the plan you have yourself isn’t the one God intended. And sometimes the plan matches up, but you’re not doing things for the right reason or in the right way.
One solution for both lessons.
Pray, pray, pray, PRAY! Turn your life over to God. Whatever your purpose, whatever your talent, whatever your interest or hobby. Find a way to glorify God in all things.
About Jayna:
Texas romance author, Jayna Morrow, has been creating imaginary worlds since a young age. As an elementary school teacher, Jayna juggles the demands of molding young minds, raising two precious daughters, and spending time with her husband/best

Jayna Morrow

friend…while making time for her passion of writing romance novels.
Find Jayna at or

on Twitter @JaynaMorrow
~ Sweet Life, Sweet Romance, Sweet Home ~
*GARRETTAvailable now from Prism Book Group*
*GABRIEL – Coming soon from Prism Book Group*
*HOLDEN – Coming soon from Prism Book Group*


5 Authors Share Lighthearted Moments and Insights about their Process.

This is part II of a post I started last month talking shop and having fun with published authors about their process. I know you’ll find their answers as interesting as I did. And when you’re finished, check out their books and blogs, especially if these excellent authors are new to you. Here are Dona Watson, Ashley Ludwig, Dineen Miller, Nancy Farrier and Joanne Bischof. Welcome ladies!

First, here are the questions:

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?

Welcome Dona Watson, who writes, reads and breathes fantasy fiction. Her most recent release, Deathchaser, is in the online magazine, Sorcerous Signals. Hey, Dona!

Hi! First of all, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share. Writing can be an intriguing adventure.


1. While researching for a science fiction novel that I’m working on, my main character needed to break into the computer network of a corrupt government. However, in order to make it believable, I needed to know how the technology works. I searched Google diligently, and when my son, the technology guru in our house, ran diagnostics on our home network, he noticed that we had become the target of someone with very advanced technology trying to break past our extremely secure firewall—and succeeded. We traced the incoming signal and realized it was very likely we had become the target of the NSA, who had flagged my searches!

2.  When I’m developing a character, I try to mentally put myself in their shoes to imagine how they would respond emotionally to certain circumstances. Another way is to imagine I’m the interviewer and ask my characters what their story is, then record their answer. As long as they’re talking to me, life is good. Like they say, “Writer’s block is when your imaginary friends stop talking to you.”

Ashley Ludwig writes sweet romance, and her stories will sweep you away, I guarantee! I love Ashley’s writing voice. You’re up, Ash!

AshleyIronically, my answer to question 1 dovetails into question 2! I love writing sweet romance, but have always been a huge fan of romantic suspense. While veering from it  (By Another Name, and His Darling, which both explore re-finding your joy after an abusive relationship, I find myself back in my wheelhouse of Romantic Suspense. While All or Nothing is a historical romantic suspense, my current characters live in a contemporary setting. I love developing characters, getting them in those impossible dilemmas, and helping them sort it all out. I find inspiration in things that happen every day, especially in moments when I’m developing character back story. I discovered something MOST disturbing about a villain for my next manuscript (Working Title) In Seconds when listening to a country song, “Don’t Lie.” I  asked my hubby, “Doesn’t this guy sound creepy?” He and my kids laughed at me, saying, “That’s not what this song’s about…” but apparently my subconscious turned the *ahem* nice guy in the song, into a sinister stalker. Just wait. He’s absolutely HORRIFYING. But no match for my hero. 😉

2.  When I sit down with a new story, I let my characters bounce around a bit. I start at the meet, and they usually whisper their names, and their names gives me clues as to their personalities. I read that you can put the same two people in MANY different situations, and see how they play off of each other. Everyone has weaknesses and strong points, even villains. The most challenging is making my heroines likable, and my villains truly evil.

Inspired by an author friend, I developed a worksheet called “Creating 3D Characters” which is available on my site. This worksheet asks in-depth questions from the high level (eye color, height, birthday, place, etc.) to favorite foods, habits, etc. By the time I’m halfway through, I know exactly who each character is, what phraseology they lean toward, and how they will respond in any number of situations!

Dineen Miller

Dineen Miller‘s debut fiction, The Soul Saver, had me turning the pages until late into the night. She also writes nonfiction for families in unequally yoked situations. Here’s Dineen!

HI Bev!  1. When I started planning The Soul Saver, I knew Lexie and Hugh Baltimore has lost their toddler daughter to a brain tumor. I also knew Hugh was a physics professor at Stanford University. A few months later we found out our youngest daughter’s worsening headaches were due to a malignant brain tumor. Then after her successful surgeries to remove the tumor, we found out her radiation treatments would be designed by a physics professor from Stanford! God is always in the details and we ARE His details!

TheSoulSaverSM2. Motivation. I’m fascinated by what drives us to do the things we do. Is it a lie we believe of ourselves or the world? What a character wants most—is it rooted in a rejection from the past? Or a past failure and a need to prove he or she can succeed? Amazingly, I’ve found that when I was able to identify the lies I held onto in my own life and give them to God to replace with His truth, that creating these premises became much easier to create for my characters. LOL! How funny is that? Yes, motivation is crucial in so many ways. Good and bad.

Nancy Farrier  writes sun-drenched, Southwestern fiction, and it feels so real you’ll need sunblock and a cold lemonade while you’re reading! Look for her novella in Immigrant Brides, releasing July 1st. Go for Nancy!

1) After finishing the final draft of a book and sending it to my editor, having them return the galley for my perusal can take a few months. During that time, I will be working on another book, researching other stories, or writing more proposals. The book that is already written is often completely out of my mind as I focus on a new work.Immigrant Brides

With one of my novels, at the time I received the galley, I was going through a difficult circumstance in my life. I’d been praying for guidance. As I began to read the galley of my book, I was amazed at how God’s answer to prayer came through the spiritual teaching in that novel. I had put from my mind what happened in the story, and now found myself facing some of the same angst my heroine faced. The words I’d prayed about and penned months ago, now spoke to my heart and helped me through a tough time.

2) Characterization has always been tough for me. I usually have a general idea of what the character is like, but that isn’t enough. I find a picture and write up a short description: hair, eyes, height, weight, notable features, etc. Then I write a few pages of background, depending on the importance of the character. If this is a main character, I will begin with their birth, the family they are born into, siblings, family status and location. Then I write major events in childhood that would have shaped them into the person they are at the beginning of the story. If I “lose sight” of my character, or think they aren’t acting like they should, I can go back and reread the character background to get a renewed feel for who they are, what they believe, and how they might change through the book.

And here’s Joanne Bischof, the author of the Christy nominated, Be Still My Soul, the first book in the Cadence of Grace historical series set in Appalachian. Hey, Joanne!


Hi, everyone. I like to do a lot of hands-on research into the Appalachian way of life in the early 1900’s. This involves baking bread to keeping chickens and all sorts of odds and ends. There are a handful of details in  BE STILL MY SOUL that revolved around moonshine. Fear not, I didn’t make moonshine, but I did ask some friends to bring some home from Tennessee. I’d been hoping to test a recipe I did for Moonshine Pecan Pie, and as I was baking that day, the researcher in me couldn’t completely resist. I think I tasted about a teaspoonful, and that was quite enough research for me!

And the last question about characters–Great question! One thing I really find crucial to developing a character is digging for their “humanness.” Developing characters goes  beyond finding nearly-perfect people but allowing the raw and incomplete pieces to come forward. I think not only can we relate to them more, but  the character can grow– giving that person something we can root for. To see those changes come full circle for a character from beginning to end is always one of my hopes as a storyteller.  

Thanks, ladies, this has been so much fun!

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
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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