I attended the monthly meeting of my local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers last night, and was reminded of one of the great blessings of this career—spending time with fellow writers. What a joy to talk with like-minded people who understand each other, learn from each other, and speak the same language. To be reminded that other people also hear voices in their heads and live in different worlds (or time periods) for hours a day. It puts me in mind of this quote an author friend posted this week:
Many authors like me are introverted, work-alone types. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to connect with others—in fact those times may be rare but special. So, just for fun, here are some photos of me spending time with various author friends over the last few years, in no particular order. I’m guessing you’ll recognize most of these ladies. It’s been fun for me to look through these photos again and remember the treasured moments behind each. I hope you’ll enjoy looking at them as well. Hugs to all my Writes of Passage writer and reader friends today! Lynn Austin Tamera Alexander & Liz Curtis Higgs Beverly Lewis (with the book she dedicated to me) Julie Lessman & MaryLu Tyndall Melanie Dickerson Kim Vogel Sawyer Laura FrantzJudith Miller
Novelists write stories because we want others to read them. There may be lots of additional reasons why we write, but I would venture to say this reason is on every author's why-I-write list.
January 2014 ebookWhen I sent my first book out to the reading public in 1984, there was no Internet. Most offices didn't even have computers. (Shocking to realize that wasn't so very long ago!) There were very few periodicals or newspapers where books were reviewed, and mass market romances were seldom selected for those publications. There were only two where most romance novels could hope to be reviewed; Romantic Times and Affaire de Coeur.
Back then, there were also only two ways to hear back from readers about a book. One was to meet them in public, most often at a book signing. The other was fan mail. You know, hand written notes that arrived in the mailbox.
I remember what it felt like when I got a fan letter for my first book. I earned about 17 cents for every copy of that book that was sold. But when I got that fan letter, I went to the bookstore and paid a dollar for a special bookmark to send to that reader. Obviously, I couldn't continue to spend over four times my earnings just because a reader said she liked my book. LOL!
Coming May 2014Today, there still are a very limited number of publications where a book might receive a professional review, especially when you consider there are 15 million books for sale on Amazon alone!! But because of the Internet and social media, the opinions of readers have taken on an even greater importance. Reader reviews on Amazon, BN, CBD, and Goodreads have become a large percentage of today's "word of mouth." And positive word of mouth for a book is very important to the author.
Reviews from readers can be wonderful. They can lift a writer's spirits and encourage her creativity. Reviews from readers can also send a writer into the pit of despair. And I doubt there is any writer who wouldn't agree that it's the negative reviews we tend to remember most.
Which is why many writers avoid reading reviews. Especially negative, one-star reviews.
In our society today—and especially when it can be done anonymously—some people seem to go out of their way to be cruel. Sometimes they don't just criticize the book; they take personal potshots at the author of the book. I'm sure it is a sad commentary on modern day Western culture. I'm also sure psychologists and psychiatrists would be able to expound on said commentary for hours.
January 2014Recently I stumbled on something that actually made me shake my head rather than despair over a few one-star ratings of A Promise Kept on a social media site. This novel has generated some of the best reviews of my career, and because of the personal nature of the story, I have followed reader reactions closer than I usually do. So when a few one-star ratings showed up (no reviews, just ratings) after the book had been out a couple of weeks or so, I decided to see for myself what books these readers both liked and what books they also hated. One man had rated over 1900 books, all of them added on the same day and all but 5 of them receiving only one star. Now, how seriously can I take that?One reader gave one-star ratings to pretty much any Christian book she'd supposedly read, including anything by Beth Moore, anything by Billy Graham, the King James Bible, and one of my all time favorite novels, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Hey, if my book is ranked the same as those books, then I think I'll just take it as a compliment. Thank you very much.And two more had given one-star ratings to over 90-95% of the books they'd read. Which made me think I would quit reading if I hated almost every book I opened. Seriously. There are other things I could do with my time that would bring me pleasure. If reading just made me miserable, I'd quit.Coming June 2014 An author cannot expect every reader to love her book. It may be that the very word "divorce" in a back cover blurb can generate such a negative reaction that a reader will give it one star without ever reading it. Maybe her husband left her. Maybe her daughter was traumatized by divorce. Every reader brings their own past experiences into their reading. An author never can tell how someone will react to the words she writes. A book that is thought brilliant by one reader for one particular reason may be detested for the very same reason by another. You just never can tell.
Whether or not an author reads reviews, I'm sure most would tell you how very much they appreciate it when a reader takes a moment to leave a rating and/or a review. So, thank an author today. Especially let others know when you have enjoyed a book because, as stated above, there are 15 million other books listed along with that book on Amazon and other sites.
And may all the books you read this year be a blessing to you!
Over the years, we’ve set a new world record for the number of Legos that can fit into one house. At every birthday and holiday, Legos have been a staple gift. In recent years, even my youngest daughter has collected the "Friends" Legos with a house and boat. (Now we’re considering adding a separate room on to our house–one just for displaying Lego projects!)
As I've watched my kids build with Legos, there are times when all the pieces seem to fall into place easily. They put the new creation together without any trouble and are soon happily playing with them.
But then there are other times when they struggle to piece together 500+ tiny blocks into some semblance of order. They get frustrated, call for help, or even have to take a break. I've come to realize that writing is a lot like building with Legos. In fact life is like building with Legos. Sometimes everything falls into place easily. But more often than not, events and problems spill around us. All of the different shapes and sizes overwhelm us. It looks like chaos and we wonder how we’ll ever be able to make anything good out of the mess.
Whether in writing or life, there are a couple of lessons we can take away from Legos–at least here are two lessons I've learned:
Work Small: Take it One Step at a Time
Anytime something looks overwhelming, it’s easy to toss up our hands and say, “This is too hard. I can’t do it.”
When we’re trying to get started writing a book or are in the middle of editing, the 80,000 words look daunting and messy.
When we’re trying to find writing time in the middle of a busy and chaotic life, we’re often overwhelmed and it’s easy to get discouraged.
Sometimes we need to take a step back and break down the problem into smaller chunks that are manageable. Recently when my son put together his new Lego kit, he took it one page at a time. Because he focused on a specific section, he could make slow but steady progress forward.
Likewise, I’ve found that when I break my novel down by scenes, I’m able to work better by focusing on one small section at a time. Whether in the first draft or in the editing phase, I’m less likely to feel overwhelmed.
And when I’m discouraged about finding writing time, I can break that into smaller chunks too. I don’t have to wait until I have one full hour before I write. I can take 15 minutes. Those little pieces will all eventually add up.
On the long journey to publication, we can learn to take things one step at a time and not rush ahead of ourselves. If we try to skip steps, we may find ourselves with a shaky, crumbling story or a set of unnecessary rejections.
See Big: Keep the Larger Picture in View
While we need to work small, we also need to see big. We need to know what we’re aiming for, where we’re headed, what the final goal looks like. It’s easy while we’re in the midst of the daily grind to lose focus of the larger picture.
When my son was in the middle of piecing together 500 tiny blocks, he kept the big box right in front of him. Seeing the desired finished product gave him extra motivation during the hard times, especially when he was tempted to give up.
We’re wise to keep the end in sight too. That requires that we know what we’re aiming for. A friend once asked me this question: “Why do you write?” It's a great question for each of writer to answer. The surface answer for many writers might be, “Because I want to get published.” But then I'd ask, “But why do you want to get published?”
Publication is a worthy goal, but we need to dig deeper than that. If publication is still years and years in the distance, what keeps us writing? What will motivate us to write once we finally are published? In other words, what is the big picture reason we write?
Because stories burn inside us and we can’t hold them in? Because we want to offer hope to the hurting? Because we want to bring to life the heroes and stories of the past to a generation who needs to remember?
Those are just a few of my reasons!
So how about you? Do you get easily overwhelmed? Or are you working in small steps but keeping sight of the big picture?
One of the most enjoyable parts of writing about “women in costume” is the costuming phase. Unless, of course, your main character must engage in activities that don’t exactly lend themselves to hoop skirts and silk. My current heroine, Laura Rose White, pilots a steamboat. Can you imagine climbing a narrow ladder up to a steamboat wheelhouse dressed in this? Can you imagine doing it when you were in a hurry in the middle of the night? When straightlaced Fiona MacKnight is intimidated by the prospect of the climb up to the wheelhouse, her brother resplies, “Well, dear sister, if you insist on the hoops, you’re right to be concerned. Climbing that ladder will risk giving passing steamboats quite a view. And on a windy day, you’d risk getting blown right off the ladder.” Later on, when Fiona disapproves of Laura, MacKnight reminds her, “Surely you don’t expect her to pilot a steamboat wearing weighted silk … even fingerless gloves would affect her grip on the wheel.” Laura finds a way to be feminine, though … and MacKnight notices. This is, after all, historical romance. My heroine, Laura Rose White, grew up on a steamboat and has a talent for what pilots in that day called “reading the water.” But all the talent in the world isn’t going to get her a license, because it’s 1867 and Laura is … well. Named Laura, not Larry. When tragedy strikes and Laura is faced with the possibility of losing the only life she’s ever known and the only life she wants, she’s forced to swallow her pride and enlist Finn MacKnight’s help. MacKnight has a terrible reputation as a drunken philanderer, and the idea of sharing the wheelhouse with him isn’t something Laura wants to entertain. And that’s the set-up for the story. A woman with very few choices and a man who’s ruined his life. Here’s my vision of Laura ... ... and Finn ... I had great fun dressing both of these characters for the dance about the steamboat named the Laura Rose. If you’d like to step on board, here’s a link to the book on CBD.
If you could step back in time, what would you want to dress for a ball or a day at home? What’s your favorite era of historical fashion?
I love the Olympics. Summer. Winter. Any season would work for me. I love cheering on the USA athletes and rooting for the underdogs. Over the last week and a half, I've been staying up far too late to watch the events. Figure skating, snowboarding, downhill, speed skating, bobsled . . . I love them all. Yet, since I write westerns, every time I get wrapped up in the competition between nations, it reminds me of the competitions that used to arise between ranches. Instead of riding for country, these men rode for the brand that represented their ranch (and stamped into the hides of their cattle). A few years ago, on a family trip driving back to Texas from California, I happened to notice a proud billboard on the outskirts of Pecos, TX. Intrigued, I decided to do a little digging and learn more. However, I quickly realized I had stumbled into dangerous territory. Pecos, TX isn't the only town claiming to have hosted the first rodeo.
Now, I'm sure most of you know that rodeos evolved from friendly competitions cowboys would engage in at the end of long trail drives. They were a way to have fun, blow off steam, and blow up egos. Who was the best steer roper, bronco buster, or all-around drover? Well, let's just have us a little friendly competition (along with some wagering, of course) to see who that might be. Each outfit would send their best men to represent the brand for bragging rights.
But who hosted the first organized rodeo?
Author Clifford P. Westermeier in his book Man, Beast, Dust: The Story of Rodeo cites a report in the Field and Farm Journal of Denver that claimed an Englishman named Emilnie Gardenshire and his horse, Montana Blizzard, competed in the first rodeo on July 4, 1869 at Deer Trail, CO and was named Champion Bronc Buster of the Plains and was awarded a new set of clothes in honor of his achievement. However, the most heated argument seems to be between the folks of Pecos, TX and those of Prescott, AZ.
So we're gonna have us a little showdown.
Pecos, TX July 4, 1883 - Recorded interviews (in 1928) from eyewitnesses who remembered attending the event. Men hanging out at Red Newell's saloon decided to have a steer roping and bronco busting competition. Ranchers put up $40 in prize money making it the first organized rodeo with prize money. The rodeo did not recur on an annual basis, however, until 1929. Willard Porter, former rodeo director at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City agrees Pecos was chronologically first.
Prescott, AZ July 4, 1888 - The first rodeo competition to charge admission and therefore make rodeo a spectator sport. It was organized by local merchants, area ranches were invited to compete, contests were documented, and prizes were given to the winners. It continued on an annual basis, though the location moved around slightly year to year. In 1985, the US Patent Office approved Prescott's application to use the term "World's Oldest Rodeo."
The bullets really started to fly in 1985, when Pecos and Prescott shot it out with the makers of the game Trivial Pursuit. When the game listed Prescott as the place where rodeo was formalized, Pecos threatened to sue. Prescott threatened to sue if it was changed. When the dust settled, Prescott still had Trivial Pursuit's vote as the oldest rodeo, although the people of Pecos hold fast to their claim.
Wherever rodeo originated, I'm just glad we have it, aren't you? The world needs a place for hunky cowboys to strut their stuff.
So have you been watching the winter games in Sochi? What are your favorite events? Which event do you think is the most cowboy-ish?Oh, and speaking of cowboys, I know where you can find one, cheap. Ha!
To Win HerHeart, winner of the 2012 Carol Award and Holt Medallion, is on sale this week for only $1.99for both Kindle and Nook. Just like a mom isn't supposed to pick her favorite kid, a writer probably shouldn't pick her favorite character. But if I were to pick a favorite hero from my books, I would probably pick Levi Grant from this one.
I told my kids tonight that they could watch one cartoon before bed. My youngest kids are ages six, three, and three, and we lowered the lights and turned on an exciting episode of Busytown Mysteries. The cartoon show started up, and my three-year-old cuddled to my side. I took my laptop computer from the end table and opened it. I was almost done with a blog I'd been writing. I was typing away when my three-year-old son tried to cuddle up to me.
“Hold me, Momma.”
I stopped typing and wrapped my arm around him . . . for about two minutes. Then I pulled back and started typing again. I was “this close” to finishing my blog. I just wanted to edit it and—
“Hold me, Momma,” my son said again. Two more minutes, and then I tried to slip my arm away.
“Hold me! Hold me!” he insisted.
Finally, I realized what I was doing. For the rest of my years on earth, I'll have words to write. I'll never run out of words, I'm sure, but my three-year-old won't stay three forever.
The truth is that writing is much easier than parenting. The words stayed where I put them, and they do what I say on the page. The words don't talk back or throw themselves on the floor. The words work for me, instead of trying to rebel against me.
As a mom and a writer I enjoy my quiet time when I'm writing, and then I felt even more guilty for liking it so much. To combat this I often buy my kids little things like a coloring book when I'm at the store. Or I add another fun activity to our schedule. But the truth is that what my kids want most is ME.
I've prayed about this. I've gone to God more than once. I pray for Him to “bring my heart home.” I have to remind myself not to be so busy with the words that I miss out on the special moments.
Yes, I love writing, but I love my kids more . . . even if they are more work! Both my words and my kids have the opportunity to go into the world and make a difference, but it's only my kids who I'll take into eternity with me, as they seek Jesus and dedicate their lives to them. And that is more important than any book, any blog!
Are you struggling to balance working at home and raising kids? Check out my new book Balanced. Only $2.99!
The winners of the pre-reader copies of The Kissing Bridge are Lindsey Bell and LuAnn Braley! Congratulations!
I love first lines of books and quotes from movies. So today, we're having a trivia quiz/giveaway. It's a two parter giveaway. Confused? You won't be, it's very easy. Part One (winner wins a book):Everyone who leaves a comment on this blog post between now and Friday at noon Central sharing what you most look forward to about Heaven will be entered for a chance to win the book. (U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only, pls, due to postage fees.) What book you ask? It's the truly fabulous new book by Pastor Steve Berger, Between Heaven and Earth. Steve is a very gifted pastor here in Nashville, and here's a little about the book: When Pastor Steve Berger tragically lost his 19-year-old son in 2009, he was tempted to despair––but instead, he committed himself to a life-changing study of our eternal home. In this deeply personal account, he shares hope-giving reassurance of what believers can look forward to in heaven––including reunions with family and friends, perfect bodies, and face-to-face fellowship with God.
As God would have it, my family and I visited the church Steve pastors the very Sunday he returned to preaching following his son's passing into Heaven. This was the fall of 2009, shortly after Mom had passed into Heaven as well. And Steve's sermon series filled my aching heart with fresh hope about our Forever Home that my soul was thirsty for. In short…this book captures the essence of those sermons. And oh, what a treasure it is. I'm recommending this book to everyone I know. But one fortunate reader here is going to win it simply by commenting on this blog post.
Part Two (winner wins $10 Cinemark Cinema gift card):Everyone who correctly names the movie that goes with each quote will be entered to win the Cinemark gift card. Pretty straight forward, huh? Can you do both Part 1 and 2? Why, of course! I hope you will. For ease, I'm using Rafflecopter for Part 2 of the giveaway (plus to keep everyone from merely copying everyone's answers, LOL), so all you have to do is click the Rafflecopter box at the bottom and answer the questions. Easy! And no googling on the internet either, you sneaky little things. Once you open the Rafflecopter box, there's a cool little gadget that can tell if you leave the site to go google the movie quote. If that happens, it sends a text to my cell phone and I show up at your house to shame you into repenting. LOL. Just kidding. Nothing is tracing you. You can cheat. I'll never know. But Heaven will! ; )
Winners will be posted ON THIS BLOG POST this Friday afternoon, so be sure to check back. You'll have 48 hours to claim your prize, or we'll draw another name. (U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only, please) Have fun with it, and I hope you recognize the quotes. They're from some of my favorite movies. And yes, one or more quotes may be from the same movie(s). Any questions? Just ask. I'm in a social networking session today but will check in as time allows.
I'm so eager to know what you look forward to most about Heaven! Longing for Home even as I'm grateful for here…and YOU!Tammy A Beauty So Rare releases March 25the second stand-alone novel in the Belmont Mansion series
This week’s blog is excerpted from my new non-fiction book, Pilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith In the Land Where Jesus Walked. (Bethany House Copyright 2013)The icy water takes my breath away. I wade into it, stepping down, and down again, until it reaches my thighs. But the shivery water isn't the worst part of this trek through King Hezekiah’s tunnel. There is no light in here, electric or natural, and the claustrophobic tunnel meanders underground as if excavated by drunkards. Ahead of me, a tall man stoops to keep from smacking his head on the stone ceiling. A heavyset woman looks as though she regrets this adventure as she squeezes between the slimy walls. None of us can turn back. There’s only enough room to walk single file.
This water system, deep below the city of Jerusalem, is manmade. The Bible tells us that “It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David” (2 Chronicles 32:30). I know the story well. The first novel I ever wrote, Gods and Kings, was part a three-book series about the life of King Hezekiah, who reigned in Jerusalem seven hundred years before Christ. With no supply of fresh water in the city and the vicious Assyrian army marching toward him, Hezekiah needed to find a way to safeguard the freshwater spring, located outside the city walls. His solution was to dig an underground tunnel from the spring to a new reservoir within the walls. Pressured to complete the work before the Assyrians attacked, he ordered the workers to start digging from opposite ends and meet in the middle.
“Hey, is it safe to trust a tunnel that was dug 2,700 years ago?” someone asks as we slosh forward. I shake my head but no one sees me in the dark. No. I don’t trust an ancient tunnel, especially in a city that has occasional earthquakes. I can only trust God—and keep moving, shining my feeble flashlight. The chiseled floor is uneven and rough, and since we can’t see our feet below the inky water, we shuffle slowly, careful not to stumble and fall. I’m not a big fan of caves, and this manmade one with its straight walls and squared-off ceiling is dark and creepy. The weight of the mountain above my head feels crushing. “How much farther?” someone asks in a shaky voice. I don’t dare tell her that this serpentine tunnel will wind for nearly a third of a mile and take about half an hour to walk through. The college students in our group try to lighten the atmosphere with laughter and jokes. Then one of them starts to sing: “Fill it up and let it overflow . . .” It’s an upbeat version of “Amazing Grace” with an added refrain, “Fill it up and let it overflow, let it overflow with love.” Soon, everyone joins in.
We reach the middle and stop to see the spot where the two tunnels met. Here, chiseled into the rock, was the oldest Hebrew inscription ever discovered, written by Hezekiah’s men to explain how they had broken through after digging from opposite ends. The inscription is in a museum in Turkey, not here. We shine our flashlights on the wall and see where it once was, and also how the chisel marks slant from opposite directions at the meeting point.
This tunnel is an engineering marvel, especially when you consider that it was dug in 700 BC. Experts still aren’t sure how anyone could dig two meandering tunnels that began a third of a mile apart and get them to meet up in the middle, deep underground. Impossible! Everyone who hears the story and sees the tunnel is impressed with King Hezekiah and his men.
But God wasn't impressed. He sent the prophet Isaiah to rebuke the king for all of his plans, saying, “You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago’” (Isaiah 22:11). In other words, Hezekiah was relying on his own preparations instead of trusting God. Fifteen minutes later, a pinprick of light in the distance tells us we are almost to the end. I have a new respect for that old cliché about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I hear a lot of grateful sighs, including my own, when we wade out into the blinding sunlight. As we sit in the sun to warm up and let our clothes dry out, I’m still thinking of Hezekiah.
The city of Jerusalem was saved from the Assyrians, but not by this tunnel. When the most powerful army on earth surrounded Hezekiah, demanding surrender, he knew he’d reached the end of his resources. Facing an impossible situation, he went up to the Temple and knelt before God, placing his hope and trust in Him: “O Lord Almighty, God of Israel,” he prayed. “You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth . . . Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from [the enemy’s] hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God” (Isaiah 37:16, 20). That night, the angel of the Lord walked among the sleeping Assyrian warriors and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand of them. At dawn, the horrified king of Assyria gathered up his few surviving soldiers and bolted for home. It’s okay to make plans, but the lesson of Hezekiah’s tunnel is that when we put our trust in God, not only is He victorious but He is glorified. I think of the struggles I’ve experienced lately as life has veered out of my control, the times when I’ve panicked as the water has crept higher and higher until it seemed to reach my neck. In spite of all my feverish plans and schemes, the enemy has besieged and surrounded me, leaving me trapped with no way to escape. But as I sit in the sunlight outside Hezekiah’s tunnel, I think of God’s promise from Isaiah, the prophet in Hezekiah’s time: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isaiah 43:1-2). We can step into the deep water, the darkness, the unknown—and trust God. At the end of the tunnel, we will emerge into dazzling sunlight.
In a post several months ago, I made a brief mention of the time I saw a bear during a camping trip to Colorado. Something happened recently that brought memories of that trip back afresh, and I thought you might enjoy hearing “the rest of the story.” That eventful vacation took place summer of 1995, while I was pregnant with our daughter. Some friends from Florida were coming out west, and we decided to go camping together near Durango. We had a lovely time catching up and relaxing in the pines…until the afternoon my friend looked over my shoulder and said, “Wow. Is that a bear?” There are certain statements you never expect—or want—to hear. An announcement that an adult black bear and her yearling cub are only a dozen or so yards behind you is one of them. Leaping straight into the air from a lounge chair isn’t a feat you see a pregnant woman do every day. . .but I managed it. Thankfully, once our families took shelter inside our vehicles, the bears ambled off, and we were left with an exciting anecdote to tell for years to come.We had some interesting conversations with the campground host after the bear incident. When he learned that Dave owned a leather shop, he placed an order for a belt and holster. We came back home, Dave filled the order, and that was the end of it. Or so we thought. But guess who knocked on the door of the leather shop just a few days ago? Yep, the former campground host and his wife. It turns out they now live in Arizona, and were passing through. Remembering the name of the town, he asked around to see if “the guy who makes holsters” still lived here. With all the excitement of our close encounter with the bears, I have to confess the holster order didn’t register in my mind as a highlight of the trip. But this couple remembered our visit in a completely different way. The connection we made resulted in a lasting impression…so much so that more than 18 years later, they still remembered the name of our town and were interested enough to come looking for Dave.It makes me wonder how many things we say and do have an impact that reaches far into the future. And I’m guessing the answer may be a lot more than we might expect.Take a look at Abraham’s story in the Bible. He and Sarah had been promised a child. But time was marching on, Sarah’s biological clock had pretty much wound down, and they were getting impatient to for God to bring that promise to fruition. So Sarah, in an effort to help the Almighty along, offered her maid Hagar as a surrogate. And Abraham agreed.When you look at it from a short-term perspective, it does make sense in a way. Can’t you imagine the thoughts that went through their minds as they rationalized their way into following “Plan B”? “It’s nobody’s business but ours.”“Who could it hurt?”“It isn’t like it’s ever going to affect anyone but us—no one else ever has to know.” But looking at it from a broader perspective today, we can see the ongoing repercussions of that decision. Hagar did indeed bear Abraham a son, Ishmael. And from that moment on, the stage was set for enmity between Ishmael and Isaac, the son of promise born to Sarah years later. The results of that hostility are evident in our daily headlines.Thinking about that story makes me look at my own actions in a whole new way. What a challenge to realize that the things I say and do—even things that seem inconsequential at the time—may have a far more lasting effect than I could ever imagine!Isn’t Colossians 3:17 a wonderful reminder? “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” When my words and actions are remembered, I want them to reflect God’s love, not my own self-centered ways. What about you? Can you remember a comment or action—your own or someone else’s—that had unexpected consequences years later? I’d love to hear your story! Until next time…Carol
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! I'm a romance novelist, so it's no surprise that I love this holiday. I love See's chocolate in red shaped heart boxes, preparing Valentines with my kids for their classmates, and eating dinner out with my husband. No matter what my plans or your plans for tonight look like -- or whether or not we have spouses or boyfriends on hand -- we can ALL spend this evening cuddled up with our favorite fictional hero. True?
Which leads me to one of my favorite subjects. Heroes! I contacted my friend, debut author Carla Laureano, and asked her if she'd spend time chatting with me about....
She graciously agreed. What follows is our conversation. I hope you'll join the discussion in the comments! Becky: So Carla.... What do you think makes a hero unforgettable? For me, the number one most important thing is a balance of attraction and sympathy. That is to say 1) I'm attracted to him and find him desirable. And 2) I have sympathy for him...there's something about him or his backstory that makes me feel true compassion for him. Carla: I'd have to agree with you there. I think the tricky thing when WRITING heroes though is understanding that everyone has a different standard of attractiveness --at least physical attractiveness -- and being specific enough that readers can picture him, but also universal enough that every woman could get his appeal. Becky: I weigh this balance often when writing. As a reader I tend to think that when writers err on this point, they err on the side of giving me too little detail. I want to be able to see my fictional hero when I'm reading. My imagination will still 'see' him in a way that appeals to me personally, but I do want to know what he's wearing, if he has stubble, how the sun is hitting his hair, etc. Carla: I think that's why it's so essential to get the reader into the head of the heroine quickly -- so we feel her attraction and it makes sense to us. Becky: Agreed. In my opinion, another effective and quick way to reveal a hero's attractiveness is to show him at the outset of a novel being smart/brave/competent/larger than life at something. My friend Dani Pettrey did a great job of this in Submerged. The first time we meet her hero, he's diving into Alaskan waters to rescue survivors trapped underwater in an airplane. I hardly knew what he looked like physically, but I was already attracted to him because of his bravery and competence. I'm also attracted to heroes that think and speak like men. This is admittedly difficult for the female writer to pull off. But when I'm in the head of a hero who feels authentically masculine to me, I recognize it right away, and I'm much more apt to swoon over him. Carla: For me, I have to find the hero interesting. Whether it's because he's mysterious, he has an interesting job or talent, or just because I have the feeling that there's more than meets the eye, that curiosity to know more is what hooks me in. Becky: Yep, the best heroes are not only brave and competent, they're also layered and flawed. And I love it when a hero has a secret and I have to keep reading to understand him and to uncover his secret. Carla: Based on the popularity of classic characters like Mr. Darcy, Heathcliff, and Mr. Rochester, I'd have to say that brooding and intriguing is popular with a lot of female readers. You can count on me to take every opportunity to post images of Colin Firth as the brooding Mr. Darcy Becky: Brooding is ever popular among female readers, including me! The idea of love spearing into the life of a wounded and closed-off man and transforming him from the inside out is incredibly powerful and... for lack of a better word, ROMANTIC. It makes us all sigh and has tremendous enduring appeal. Carla: What do you think? Are you a fan of the boy next door or the dark and mysterious stranger? Becky: Of the two, I prefer dark and mysterious. A nice, normal, well-scrubbed boy next door isn't, well, sexy enough for me. He doesn't have the layers and flaws we mentioned earlier. I do, however, like some cousins of the boy next door. For example: The charming lady's man. He's jaded and all that easy confidence is hiding something deep within. James Bond is an example of this hero type.The humble and hardworking hero. He loves the heroine deeply but doesn't consider himself good enough for her. Noah Calhoun from The Notebook was a humble and hardworking romantic hero.The powerful, successful man. He's risen to the pinnacle of his profession but his reserve is covering the fact that he's achieved greatness in everything he thought mattered, only to realize that love matters more. Thomas Crown in the Thomas Crown Affair was a powerful and successful hero type. Carla: Ah, this must be why I like your books so much, Becky. As much as I enjoy dark and mysterious, I love reading and writing those “almost-boy-next door” types. I’ve got a particular weakness for the charming lady’s man and the successful businessman who has found success isn’t enough. Maybe I relate to the motivation behind those attitudes, because I find it easy to get into those heroes' heads. What about you? Is one easier for you to write than the other? Becky: The brooding hero is the hardest for me to write because THEY DON'T LIKE TO TALK. On the other hand, they're the ones that lend themselves most easily to romance. The other guys are easier to put into scenes, but I have to work harder with them to get the romantic sparks flying. What about you, Carla? Any other hero types that appeal to you? Carla: We’ve been talking mostly contemporary, but if we expand into historical and/or fantasy, I really do enjoy: The reluctant warrior hero. You know, the man who would have preferred to do anything else with his life, but finds himself in circumstances beyond his control and adapts accordingly. There’s always so much drama, and yes, romance, associated with that type. Lancelot from King Arthur was a reluctant warrior hero.Becky: Any thoughts on internal qualities that make a hero great? Carla: I think no matter the type of hero, integrity is crucial. He might be surly, unpleasant, or erratic like the brooding classic heroes I mentioned before, but if he has an honorable spirit, I know the heroine is going to be in good hands when she finally breaks through that shell. I want to know that the hero is going to be worthy of her. Becky: Amen! Yes. Carla: What are the qualities you think make for a memorable hero? Becky: Willingness to sacrifice. For me, sacrifice is a strong litmus test for true love. I always like to challenge my hero to see just how much he's willing to give up for his heroine. The best heroes are willing to give up a great deal indeed. Thanks for taking the time to talk heroes with me, Carla! These guys are the reason I read romance novels and they're so much fun to ponder and discuss. Happy Valentine's Day to you (and to Mr. Darcy there, brooding in the corner). Carla: Thanks for inviting me to to hang out with you, Becky!
Becky: You're welcome!
Carla's debut novel, which released last year.Carla Top Secret Inside Scoop for Writes of Passage readers: In case you don’t get what you want from cupid, Carla's publisher is offering a special post-Valentine’s Day gift! On February 17th and 18th, Five Days in Skye will be free across all platforms. Visit David C. Cook E-books to choose your retailer. Mark your calendars!
Double Top Secret Inside Scoop: The e-version of My Stubborn Heart (which stars a brooding hero type) rarely goes on sale. But it is on sale at the moment. It'll be priced at $2.99 from now through February 22nd. A sweet deal!
In closing, here are my final two questions for you: Which of the above hero types would YOU most like to make your Valentine? Can you think of any other hero types?