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Friday, November 21, 2014

Deepening Internal Conflicts in Romance Novels

Yesterday I sent a partial to a trusted friend for some feedback. I mainly wanted to know: Is the story strong enough? Do you like the characters? Is there enough tension?



Naturally, fifteen minutes after I sent it, I realized my hero's internal conflict keeping him from falling in love wasn't fleshed out enough in the opening chapters. He had a good reason to avoid relationships, but I hadn't really shown how that affected him emotionally.

This got me to thinking. My favorite romance novels stick right to my heart. It's as if I'm taking the journey with them.

A good reason not to fall in love isn't enough. We need to show how the good reason emotionally affects the character.

Example of a good reason:

John's girlfriend died in a car accident two years ago. He loved her and was devastated when she died. He hasn't been willing to take a chance on dating since.

John's beloved girlfriend dying IS a great reason for him to avoid romance. However, it's not really enough. How did her death affect him? Why, specifically, is he scared to try again?

Possible emotional reactions:

- John is afraid of his heart breaking again if a new girlfriend dies. (Afraid of getting hurt)

- John feels betrayed by God that his love was taken from him so young. (Can't trust that God is for him)

- John doesn't believe he could ever love anyone like he loved his dead girlfriend. (He's unrealistically forgotten all the girlfriend's faults, putting her on a virtual pedestal. No one can live up to the memory of her.)

- John feels responsible for her dying, even though he wasn't involved in the accident. (False sense of control--he should have driven that night, etc...)

- John had his life planned out with girlfriend. (Doesn't believe a future with someone else could ever be as good as the one he lost.)

It's important to not only give our characters reasons to avoid love, but to show the emotional impact as well. If you took three real people and gave them the same reason for avoiding love, each would have a different emotional reaction. Our characters do too!

Is there a fictional character that stays in your mind? Do you know why? 

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Have a terrific weekend!!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Extending Grace and Offering Hope: Guest Jessica R. Patch

Today, I'm so happy to welcome one of my best friends--and gifted writer--Jessica R. Patch! She's not only taking over my blog, but she's also generously giving away her Christmas novella to anyone who signs up for her newsletter. Take it from me, this is a heartwarming story, so I hope you sign up!

***

Thanks so much for having me today, Jill!

We all struggle. We all fall short and miss the mark for sure. In my Christmas novella, Hope Under Mistletoe, my hero Knox Everhart thinks the heroine is perfect. She’s a widowed pastor’s wife, a single mom, and she’s still trying to meet the needs of the church congregants. To top that off, her father drinks too much and she’s constantly dragging him out of Knox’s bar. Here’s a small excerpt:

***
 “My dad left when I was just a kid, Eden. Some days I can’t even remember his face. No brothers and sisters. Just Nathan—and he…he had you,” he murmured. “The people in that bar, they became my family. And I liked the feeling.”
Eden’s heart exploded into a million jagged fragments.
Family. No judgment, just unconditional love. That’s what Knox craved. Didn’t everyone? She clutched his black-and-gray scarf. “That’s what the people in the church are for me.”
His sight trailed over her head, then he met her gaze. “Even the gossips? It’s no secret Betsy Davis knows everything and tells everything in the name of truth.”
“But do you know that Betsy Davis gives thousands of her hard-earned dollars to help missionaries and orphans? Did you know her husband Leonard gives free legal aid to single moms who can’t get the child support they deserve?”
“Your point?”
“Knox, none of us are without sin. We’re not perfect. We’re progress. Betsy struggles with her tongue. But she loves the Lord. So we get irked,” she snickered, “and we pray and confront her in love, and we extend mercy and grace. That’s family.”
“I think you’re perfect.”
She’d have laughed in his face if he wasn’t so serious. “I am far from perfect. My struggles aren’t on public display. They’re here.” She touched her heart. “And here.” She pointed to her head.

***
Like Eden, many of us struggle more on the inside than the outside. We wear big smiles, we fix our hair, match our scarf with our shoes and purse. We can easily look put together, can’t we? And on the inside, we’re miserable. Hurting. Suffering.

I think sometimes Christians are labeled hypocrites when really we’re just imperfect people working our way through this thing called a saved life. We slip up. We say things we shouldn’t. We sin in our anger. But then we repent, and move forward again. Oh, there are a few hypocrites—who know they’re acting opposite of how they should, they don’t repent, don’t care but never have trouble pointing the finger at someone else. Those few have a way of spoiling the good things about being about Christian for others.

At the end of the day, what Eden says rings true: “We pray, we confront in love, and we extend mercy and grace.”

“Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.” James 2:13 MSG

Whatever you’re going through, these words of Christ still hold weight: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

I’d love for you to subscribe to my Patched In Newsletter.  And to say thank you, you’ll receive this exclusive Christmas novella!




A rowdy bar owner. A widowed pastor’s wife. And Christmas Hope that brings them together.
After widower Eden Snow’s church almost burns to the ground, she’s compelled to find a temporary place to hold services and Christmas cantata practices.
Has-been hockey player, Knox Everhart, has a reputation for being fast on the ice and with women. Except Eden. She’s always been a fascinating mystery to him, which is why he agrees to let her use the back room of his bar—with one rule: No converting his customers.
But when Eden brings the church to the bar, it offers something the bottle can’t. Hope. And he finds himself falling in love with a woman and a Savior he feels unworthy to pursue.

***

Jessica and I at ACFW a few years ago. This is one of my favorite pictures!
Jessica R. Patch writes inspirational contemporary romance and romantic suspense. A passion to draw women into intimacy with God keeps her motivated, along with ice-cold Perrier and adventurous trips in the name of research. When she’s not hunched over her laptop or teaching the new & growing believer's class at her church, you can find her sneaking off to movies with her husband, embarrassing her daughter in unique ways, dominating her son at board games, and collecting recipes to wonderful dishes she'll probably never cook. She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management.

Connect with Jessica on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and her website


***

Thank you SO much for being my guest today, Jessica!!

When do you put up your Christmas decorations?

Have a lovely day!

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Ideal Holiday Schedule

Holiday schedules? Already?

Yes! Thanksgiving (for my American friends) is less than two weeks away. And Christmas? Rolls around about four weeks later.

Did this cause panic to rise within you? It did me!



I started thinking about the upcoming festive season, and instead of excitement, I felt a bit of dread. Who wants to dread the holidays? NOT ME!! I realized if I had a solid plan, I'd anticipate everything more.

First, I needed firm dates for all the parties. After talking to both sets of parents, I had a better idea of when we could celebrate Christmas with them all.

My husband and I then had our annual argument--oops! I mean discussion-- about where and when we were celebrating all of these Christmas parties. This year was pretty easy, and knowing the parties were on the schedule took a lot of stress off my shoulders.

I moved on to Thanksgiving and planned the dishes I was making, even purchasing several ingredients on sale while grocery shopping last week. I jotted down a shopping list for the rest.

Once Thanksgiving is over, I plan on putting up our Christmas decorations and making a list of everyone we buy presents for to brainstorm possible presents. This will be done before December 1. After that, I systematically tackle gift shopping, sending cards, and planning food for all the parties.

I don't like shopping, so if my husband and I can buy every gift before December 14, I'll be thrilled!

One thing I refuse to do is focus so much on the preparations that I miss the things I absolutely adore about December. Our zoo has an amazing Christmas light show open every night. I'm hitting that! There are several original Hallmark Christmas movies I'm dying to see. I want to enjoy a hot cup of coffee at the bookstore and browse all the fabulous books. My preschool class will be dressing up for our Sunday School church service, and I'm bursting to see them sing.

So my ideal schedule involves pre-planning, buying gifts ahead of time, and enjoying the things that make the season wonderful.

What does your ideal holiday schedule look like? Take half an hour to brainstorm it and you might be surprised what you learn!

If you haven't signed up for my newsletter, you can do that HERE. I'll be sending out a Christmas newsletter soon! All you need to do is provide your name and email address, and you can unsubscribe at any time!

Have a fantastic day!!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Top 10 Things to Do After Thanksgiving Besides Shopping: Guest Krista Phillips

I'm excited to be hosting special guests for the next several Wednesdays! Please join me in welcoming Krista Phillips!

TOP TEN things to do the day after Thanksgiving BESIDES shopping...



Want some ideas for things to do on Black Friday... that DON'T involve braving the crowds and shopping? Because you KNOW that's not what you want to be doing....

10.) Eat. More. Turkey. Sandwiches.

9.) Read a good book.. or two... or three. (One about, uh, sandwiches, would be a GREAT option!)

8.) Go golfing. Mini-golf is fine. Even golfing on the WII. Or I'm sure they make some golf app for your phone.

7.) Sleep. Turkey does have that effect on people.

6.) Go to the gym. WORK off those calories you just ate! It'll probably take you ALL DAY LONG, but you can do it.

5.) Put up Christmas decorations. Spend hours on a ladder only to find that one bad bulb made your whole string of lights not work. Spend a few more hours trying to find which bulb is bad. This is fun. I promise.

4.) Board games. Lots and lots and lots of board games.

3.) Go to work. I know you'll be the only one there, but think of how much stuff you can get caught up on with no one there bother you.

2.) Go visit Grandma. I know you just visited her yesterday, but hey. She loves seeing her grandkids. Why not two days in a row?

And the number one thing to do the day after Thanksgiving besides shopping is......

Go take coffee (or Hot chocolate…) to your friends who are standing in line to get that deal that really isn't all that great.

Just whatever you do... DON'T GO SHOPPING.

(and, I, uh, definitely don't say this to help make the lines shorter and encourage more people not to shop so I can shop with better ease... nope... not at ALL...*ahem*)

So... what is YOUR after Thanksgiving tradition? Do you have one?

Me? Well, I think you already know. You'll find me shopping! (I'm not a fan of the whole Thanksgiving day thing though... but 4am on Black Friday? I'm THERE! It's a tradition!!)

*** 

About Krista ~

Krista Phillips is the author of Sandwich, with a Side of Romance and A Side of Faith. She enjoys life with her husband and their four beautiful daughters in Tennessee. She is an advocate for congenital heart defect and organ donation awareness and blogs at www.kristaphillips.com.
Connect with Krista on Facebook and Twitter.

***

A Side of Faith

He is everything she never wanted...

Rachel Carter is on top of the world. A new job in a new town, friends, and a house to call her own. Men? Eh, someday. And when the time comes, she’ll go for a nice safe geek or something. She will NOT be repeating the mistakes of her youth. 

But then Cameron Foster comes knocking on her door, reminding her of the man she vows never to think of again.

God wouldn’t send her a man who reminds her of everything she is trying to put behind her...would He?

Interested in purchasing A Side of Faith? The following sites are linked! 

***
Thank you so much for being my guest today, Krista! I'm definitely planning on reading and getting hot chocolate!

It's giveaway time!! Leave your email address in the comments of this post for your chance to win a copy of BOTH Krista's books, Sandwich with a Side of Romance and her novella, A Side of Faith.

 Contest is open to U.S. residents 18 and older. Winner will be randomly selected from the comments on Saturday, November 15 and  notified via email the following week.

Back to Krista's question:

So... what is YOUR after Thanksgiving tradition? Do you have one?

Have a terrific day!!

Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Combat Common Work at Home Problems

Many people dream about working from home on a part time or full time basis. You get to skip the commute, dress however you want, avoid unnecessary interruptions in your day, and set your own hours. What's not to love, right?


While I love working from home, I'll be the first to admit there are drawbacks.

1. Lack of structure can equal no productivity.
2. Errands, phone calls, chores and other interruptions can take over your day.
3. Lack of "watercooler" chit-chat can lead to loneliness.
4. Others don't see your at-home work as important as the business you conduct at a place of employment.
5. Most at-home jobs involve sitting for long periods behind a computer.
6. Work spreads beyond the normal work day, often creeping into weekends and nights.

I've always been independent. Setting deadlines and goals and actually achieving them comes naturally to me. However, I also work hard at keeping our home running smoothly and managing our household. This can lead to a conflict in priorities.

The things I struggle with the most on the above list are #2, #3 and #5, but I've fought with every item up there at one time or another.

How to fight the drawbacks:

1. To be successful working from home, you need to be productive. To be productive, you need to meet your work goals. To meet your work goals, you need to set them first. Using whatever tool works best for you (a day planner, phone calendar, scrap of paper...), write out your most important tasks for that day. Make them specific. Vague, grandiose goals will get you nowhere.

2.  Errands and chores make you FEEL as if you're tackling necessary tasks, but they're not contributing to your job. Striking things off your to do list gives a false sense of accomplishment. Your work suffers. Deep down you know you should be devoting that time to work, but errands and chores don't require the brainpower your job does.

If possible, set specific days and times for ongoing chores. Delegate any you can. I don't like crowds, so I grocery shop at a certain time on a weekday. I also don't like laundry. I plan one mega laundry day every week rather than doing a load or two each day. 

Guard your work time. Do not answer phone calls unless they are work related. You wouldn't gab on the phone with your best friend for thirty minutes at the office. Treat your home office the same. 

3. Working from home day after day can be extremely isolating. And the desire to be productive can get in the way of staying connected to other people. I get weird (talk 200 miles per minute, have pent up energy ready to blow) when I've been home by myself too many days in a row. I've found that meeting a friend for coffee once a week helps me maintain relationships and not get as spazzy. I also nurture friendships with other writers online, and check in on social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, blogs and email help me feel connected.

4. People will think what they want to think. Rather than getting defensive, I let my work speak for itself. Passive aggressive statements tend to reflect the person saying the words. Maybe they're jealous they don't have the work at home option too. Or maybe they just are unhappy. It doesn't matter. Be proud of your work.

5. Sitting for hours on end? This is a big deal. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods is unhealthy. I try not to sit for more than two hours at a time. I have a lot of twitchy energy, so I hop up often to get a cup of hot tea, take the dog out or whatever. If I think of it, I might march in place for 30 seconds or do a few stretches. Depending on the weather, I'll take a ten minute walk at lunch. I'm still working on this one!

6. This is another tough one. You want to get your work done, but you also need to make dinner, go to a meeting Tuesday night, pick up dry cleaning, vacuum and buy three birthday presents. What happens? You try to do too much, and soon you're finishing up work tasks at seven o'clock at night and polishing off a quick project Sunday afternoon. It's VITAL to set limits. 

Have a planning session and determine your ideal work schedule. It doesn't have to be nine-to-five, but it should allow for clear divisions between your work and your life. Once the parameters are set, guard them. If work is creeping into your free time, step back and evaluate why. Are you frittering valuable hours when you're supposed to be working? Maybe you underestimated how much time a project would take. Or maybe you're trying to do everything--remember, you're juggling home life with work life. It's not easy! You don't have to do it all. 

With a little planning and a lot of discipline, I've made a work at home life that works for me. I hope you create the ideal life for you too!

How do you balance everything?

Have a fun weekend!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Writer's Life: Dawn Crandall

Welcome to another edition of Writer's Life, an ongoing interview series with authors of inspirational or sweet romance novels. Today's guest is Dawn Crandall! 

I met Dawn a few years ago at ACFW's annual conference. She's delightful! Last year, I was thrilled to find out Dawn was expecting her first baby AND she'd signed a three-book deal with Whitaker House! Her second historical romance in The Everstone Chronicles, The Bound Heart, released this week! Wow, what gorgeous covers!! Dawn is graciously giving away three ebook copies of either The Hesitant Heiress or The Bound Heart. The entry form is at the end of this post!




Let's get to it!



1. What about writing makes your heart sing?

I really LOVE to read my reviews! Every reader latches on to something different in my novels, and it thrills me to no end to learn what they specifically got out of them. There is so much complexity to writing a 90K word novel that takes a character from where she is and what she’s like at the beginning of a book and transforming her, stage by stage throughout the pages into who God wants her to be. I think readers love to see this. I certainly love to write it. Creating a character’s inner/spiritual journey and seeing their transformation by the end of the novel is my favorite part of writing books.  

2. What is the biggest hurdle you're facing right now as a writer?

Writing books while having a seven month old baby around! I keep my notebook near, and also oftentimes write my chapters on my iPhone.


3. What do you do to fill your creative well?

I read books by my absolute favorite authors. Although I write historicals from first person point of view, I do like to read a lot of third person POV (how most books are written) books. My favorite authors are Lori Benton, Jody Hedlund, Julie Klassen, Julie Lessman, Elizabeth Camden and Sarah Ladd.  I also love to look through historical photographs and watching historically set movies usually gets my creative juices flowing again.


4. What are you working on now?

The third book in The Everstone Chronicles series, The Captive Imposter, will release February 2015. This book is about Estella Everstone, the youngest sister of the Everstone family—but instead of taking place in fashionable Boston and Bar Harbor like the first two books, it takes place at a resort deep in the green, hilly mountains of central Maine.

I also have lots of book ideas on the back burner. As soon as all this craziness of my publisher releasing my debut series—three full length books in six months!—is over, I’m going to write up a bunch of proposals for my agent to start pitching to publishers. I’d really love to continue writing stories about some of the other characters introduced in these first three books!

***

Wow, Dawn, you've been busy! I can't imagine how exciting (and stressful) it's been to raise your adorable baby while writing and launching books! You're doing a great job. The reviews have been outstanding! The authors you mentioned are my favorites too. :) Have fun working on Estella's story!

***



About Dawn ~

Dawn Crandall didn't begin writing until her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming traditionally published, he encouraged her to quit her job in 2010 in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress (Book 1 of The Everstone Chronicles). Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.

The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn's first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the series were semifinalists in ACFW's prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.



***


THE BOUND HEART


One accidental kiss. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt's world upside-down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn't have the time or the desire to fall for her friend Lawry Hampton. However, with Vance out of the country and Lawry constantly at her side, Meredyth can’t help but wonder if what’s holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from their unfortunate past.

When Vance comes home to stake his claim on Meredyth, will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web she’s convinced she deserves? Or will she find the strength to accept that God’s plan for her life could include redemption... and quite possibly the love of her best-friend?

I've been squeezing reading time in at odd times during the day, including lunch and waiting in the car.

How do you find time to read?

Have a fabulous day!!

Friday, October 31, 2014

NaNo and Beyond: Creating Word Count Goals

It's almost November! Sure, the holidays are coming, but ask a writer why November is exciting and you'll probably hear, "NaNoWriMo," which stands for National Novel Writing Month. Most of us call it NaNo.



I'm not participating this year, but I apply some useful NaNo tips every time I write a first draft. My favorite tip is to pre-plan how long it will take me to write my book. It's pretty simple. I take out an index card and my calendar, and I assign a word count goal for each day and a target word count for each week until the book will be done.

When I'm actually writing, I highlight each day in either pink or yellow. Pink is for the days I meet or exceed my goal, and yellow is for the days I don't meet my goal.

This method keeps me on track. I write my books in a much shorter span of time when I map out the goals. Try it!

For my writer friends, are you doing NaNo? For everyone else, are you excited November is almost here? I am!!

Have a terrific weekend!