Saturday, April 29, 2017

Spring Fling Giveaway

It's spring and I'm feel frisky because hey . . . who isn't? One can't help but frolic when the sun is shining and the grass is green. Except those who are sneezing their heads off from allergies, I suppose. But never fear, even for allergy sufferers, here's a reason to kick up your heels with my SPRING FLING GIVEAWAY.

Here's your chance to enter to win a signed copy of The Captive Heart. Just click on the Rafflecopter drawing below to toss your name in the hat. Easy peasy! And feel free to share the love.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

5 Types of Rough Drafts ~ An Infographic

As always, this is yours for the taking. Copy and paste wherever and whenever because it's all yours.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Being an Artist is Scary

I'm starting a new book. See the picture? Yeah, that's a blank plot board. You would think by book number thirteen it would get a little easier, right? Hah! Wrong. It's not. In fact sitting down to write another manuscript after a dozen is just as scary as writing the first.

Newsflash: It doesn't get easier. Ever. Why? Because being an artist is always going to be scary. I don't have any scientific evidence to back that statement up, but I do have a few thoughts as to why that is . . .

Art is subjective. 
Not everyone is going to get your art. You can know that and even believe it, but when a critic comes along and barfs nasty-venom juice all over your work, it still stings. That's a frightening risk you take every time you go public with something you create.

Not all art is equal.
Your new piece of work might be suckier than previous creations. You're afraid people won't like this project as much as ones you did before. But here's the deal . . . odds are what you create won't be 100% awesome all of the time. You can always hope to do better, but the niggling fear that this time whatever you made might be a flop is always in the back of your mind.

The magnitude of the project is terrifying.
Writing a book is a HUGE undertaking. So is painting a picture, designing an ad promo, photographing a wedding . . . whatever art it is that you're attempting to do is always going scare the bejeebers out of you if you care about your work.

Anytime you set out on an artistic endeavor, you're going to be afraid. It's the nature of the beast. The question is will you let that fear paralyze you or empower you to beat it back with a stick?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thoughts on a Few Non-Fictions

On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An engaging read. I can't say I learned a lot about the craft that I didn't already know, but King did a great job with his no-nonsense presentation. Here are a few of my favorite quotes . . .

"What made me think I had anything worth saying?"
I love that even one of the most prolific and successful writers I know has doubts about his abilities.

"Fiction writers, present company included, don't understand very much about what they do--not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad."
Whew. I can finally stop looking for a magic formula because apparently there isn't one.

"The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better."

My biggest takeaway value from this book is that it validated my sometimes angst over writing a story, that I'm not the only one who carries around a basket of doubts.

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant LifeThe Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blown away.

Yep, once again Voskamp's amazing writing style kills me with a thousand different phrases. I totally mutilated this book with highlights and dog ears and tears. Here are just a very few of the awesome things Ann had to say . . .

"Who doesn't know what it's like to smile thinly and say you're fine when your'e not, when you're almost faint with pain?"

"There are graves coming, there is dark coming, there is heartbreak coming. We are not in control, and we never were."

"Great grief isn't made to fit inside your body. It's why your heart breaks."

"Maybe our hearts are made to be broken. Broken open. Broken free. Maybe the deepest wounds birth deepest in wisdom."

"What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it."

I could go on and on but what's the point? Go buy the book already!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mid-Week Inspiration

Anyone need a mid-week writerly kick in the pants? I sure do. So today just sit back, grab a cup o' joe, and be inspired. Oh yeah, and feel free to steal these and spread the inspiration around.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Free Book!

Yeah, you read that right. My publisher is running a hot spring sale today and tomorrow -- hot as in el freebo. You can get the ebook version of OUT OF THE FRYING PAN right now, right HERE.
And just in case you don't have one of them there fancy newfangled ebook reading gadgets, no worries. You can always download it to your computer and read it from there -- or if you're super lazy, install text reading software and have your computer read it back to you. Easy peasy.

Here's what RT Book Reviews has to say about it:

"A laugh out loud mystery with quirky, lovable characters who find themselves in all sorts of trouble. The storyline is believable and comes with descriptions of mouth-watering food, which makes for a delicious plot! A cohesive and fast-moving novel." 4-Stars! RT Book Reviews

And here's a blurb:

Murder in Paradise whips life into a froth for FERN and ZULA HOPKINS. When the retirement center’s chef is found dead, the two ladies get folded in with the case. Their zany attempts to track down the killer land them in hot water with Detective JARED FLYNN. Should he be concerned about their safety—or the criminal’s?

But there are deadly ingredients none of them expect. Drugs. Extortion. International cartels. And worst of all…broken hearts, especially when the Hopkins sisters’ niece KC arrives on the scene.

Life at Sunset Paradise Retirement Village will never be the same.

If you haven't read this one, give it a whirl. You've seriously got nothing to lose. And if you have read it, thank you and spread the word.

Friday, April 14, 2017

National Library Week

Pull out your wing-twingler horns, bang on your whoopdedoodle drums, and let's have a big round of applause for National Library Week!

I grew up going to the library several times a week . . . which is quite a statement on my social life. But nowadays not even book nerds are hanging at the library. Information is accessible online. Amazon is just a click away. As a result, local libraries are visited less and less. 

So besides stuffing your face full of Peeps this weekend,  let's do our part to celebrate libraries. Pay yours a visit.

Another fun way to celebrate is to pop over to Out of Print Clothing. Besides snatching up yourself a sweet book-related tee-shirt, this company is responsible for donating 2.5 million books to communities in need and literary programs. And in honor of National Library Week, they've launched some fun collections.

Out of Print’s mission is to celebrate literature through fashion while spreading the joy of reading - - especially to those without access to books. By unearthing and licensing iconic book cover art to tell a story on fashion and lifestyle merchandise, Out of Print has developed a passionate following online and in stores across 80 countries.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Springtastic Easter Giveaway

I’ve teamed up with more than 45 fantastic inspirational historical romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner!

You can win my novel The Captive Heart, plus books from authors like Tamara Alexander and Erica Vetsch -- and a whole host of other awesome writers.

Enter the giveaway by clicking HERE.

Even if you don't win, you'll have a great list of authors to check out, some of which might be new to you.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Writing Isn't Magic

I just typed THE END on my twelfth book. Or is it the thirteenth? I don't know because I'm too busy writing the next one to stop and count what I've done. I didn't break out a bottle of champagne. There were no confetti parades or big balloon drops. There wasn't anything magical about it except for the satisfaction of finishing yet another project.

The truth is, folks, that writing isn't magic. It's work.

Granted, there are sometimes when the words flow and it's all mystical and dreamy. You feel like you're one with the muse and you can conquer the world with your pen.

But that doesn't happen very often. Most of the time writing a chapter is about as exciting as vacuuming up the dog hair on the carpet or hauling out the trash. If you're under a deadline, it's just something that needs to be done every day.

Magic is capricious and elusive. You can't expect to produce much writing if you only write when you feel the magic. But take heart . . . just because you feel like you're having a bad writing day doesn't mean your writing is necessarily bad -- just like if you think you're having a good writing day doesn't guarantee your writing is stellar. The main thing is to write, whether you feel like it or not.

Friday, April 7, 2017

What to Do Before a Research Trip

Just because you write fiction doesn’t mean you can make up everything. But other than dozing off in dry non-fiction research books, how else can you discover the information you need to know to make your story come alive?

A research trip, silly rabbit!

Whoa, there. Before you go packing your bags, you've got some pre-research trip planning. I know. All you spontaneous types out there just flinched. But here's the dealio . . . **steps up to the mike, clears throat, manifests the most motherly tone possible**

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

But you can’t even formulate a plan until you figure out some basic information. It’s worth it in the long run if you sit down ask yourself 3 key questions:

1. What are you looking for? 

What’s the whole point of this research trip? What do you want to find out? Your trip hinges on the answer to this question. Let’s use my research trip for The Captive Heart as an example. I wanted to know what life was like in the late 18th century in the rural south, especially for an outsider (as was my heroine). Pinpoint what it is that will be important for you to know in writing your story. Don’t gloss over this because your entire trip orbits around the answer to this question. This is your prime objective.

2. Where are you going?

It’s a big world out there. You can’t tromp around all of it for the sake of a story. You have to decide exactly what geographical location will best suit your trip. Going back to my example, the rural south is a large area. Even South Carolina where my story takes place covers a lot of ground. So I narrowed the area down to about a hundred mile stretch that included where my characters would’ve roamed.

3. How are you going to find what you want to know?

Once you’ve figured out why you’re going and where, it’s time to figure out how to discover the information you want to find. Remember to keep your prime objective in mind while doing this. Back to my example, I brainstormed a list of possibilities like hiking the area, hitting up museums, visiting reenactment historical sites, making an appointment with a curator, stopping by at an Indian reservation. Yeah, that’s quite a big list because at this point in the research trip stage, the sky’s the limit. Dream big. You might not get to do everything you’d like, but at least you’ll have a plan.

So, now you have an idea of what, where and how, but what comes next? How exactly do you pull it all together into one coherent research trip?

Figure Out Your Budget

I’m great with words but money? Not so much. Okay, not at all, unless it comes to spending it. Still, budgeting is a necessary evil if you don’t have unlimited funds. You’re going to have to crunch numbers sooner or later, and the first number you need to figure out is how much money you have to invest. This will determine the other thing you need to budget: your time. How long you stay on a research trip hinges on how long you can stay—and you won’t know that until you have a dollar amount. Just a little heads up: it will never be as much as you want and you’ll never get to stay as long as you want. But don’t panic, even if all you can manage is a weekend jaunt, or just a day trip, whatever you can do is totally worth it. 

Draft an Itinerary

Remember all that brainstorming you did? Now's the time to figure out if doing all those things is feasible. Map out your days. I suggest you don't do more than 2 things in a day. If you can squeak in more, fabulous. If not and you can only get to one, hey, that's better than nothing, right? This itinerary is a guideline for you so that you don't waste your time once you arrive at your destination. If you discover other things to do that pique your interest more than what you'd planned, then go for it.


The last thing to do before you step foot out your door on your research trip is to pray. I know. Sounds a little holier than thou. But this is an important step. Not that you’ll be calling down the heavens to bless your trip, though that’s not a bad idea, but think about asking God to prepare the way ahead of time to bring people across your path that you can be a blessing to. There’s no reason in the world your research trip can’t also be a missions trip. It’s not all about you or your story all the time. Pray that you’d be mindful to see opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ while you’re in a different place.

If you take the time to put all these pieces into place before you go galavanting off into the sunset, I predict your research trip will be a rousing success.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Graphics For Authors

There's more to being a writer than just words -- especially in today's cut throat market. An author is expected to promote their own material. The easy way out is to hire a publicity firm to do the dirty work of selling for you. A valid option . . . but an expensive one. So most authors I know opt to slap on a graphic design hat and wing their way through hacking up a few ads on Facebook or Twitter or what have you. Thank God for web sites that make that a hair easier.

Normally I use Canva. It's an intuitive site to create sweet ads or invitations or whatever it is you want. It's free. It's easy. I love it. But (and I've always got a big but) the problem is I've exhausted a lot of their standard freebies. I could pay for more elaborate or new graphics, but my marketing budget is about as big as my new shoes budget. Translation: not much. I've tried other sites, but most of them are confusing or the learning curve is just too great for me to devote that much time to. So I've been using Canva simply by default.

Until today.

Recently I received an email request asking me to review a new graphic site. I put it off because I am crazy busy with deadlines, but I finally got around to playing with it today. Whoa baby. Canva just met it's match.

Allow me to introduce you to the new kid on the graphics block: FotoJet. Here are the pros and cons as compared to Canva . . .

New templates to play with
A photo editor
A photo collage creator
Easy and intuitive to use, quite reminiscent of Canva

No infographic templates (would really love to see a site include this)
Not as many ad /social media templates to choose from as Canva

Here's what I created in the space of a half hour:

Overall I think FotoJet is an awesome tool to put in your writerly tool box. You know you're going to have to promote, you might as well make it easy on yourself and give this one a whirl.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Weird Friends and Strange Books

I've got some strange friends. Not that the people in and of themselves are strange, mind you. What I mean is I've got some very close friends that I wouldn't normally gravitate towards, but because of circumstances throwing us together, we ended up becoming best buddies. Opposites do indeed sometimes attract.

And it's the same for books. There are some titles I wouldn't have normally picked up, but for whatever reason did, and now they hold a special place on my bookshelf.

Mark Mynheir
If I'm going to grab a book, it's either going to be historical, YA, or sci fi. This isn't any of those. This is a story of a washed up detective in modern day Florida. Why do I like it? Honestly, I don't know. The hero, Ray Quinn, just kind of grew on me. I think he reminded me of several cranky male teachers I've had throughout the years. I keep waiting for him to put out more, but he hasn't yet.

Eleven months ago, Ray Quinn was a tough, quick-witted Orlando homicide detective at the top of his game--until a barrage of bullets ended his career…and his partner’ s life.

Now medically retired with a painful handicap, Ray battles the haunting guilt for his partner’s death. Numbing the pain with alcohol and attitude, Ray takes a job as a night watchman at a swanky Orlando condo.

But when a pastor and an exotic dancer are found dead in one of the condos in an apparent murder-suicide, Ray can no longer linger in the shadows. The pastor’s sister is convinced her brother was framed and begs Ray to take on an impossible case--to challenge the evidence and clear her brother’s name.

Ray reluctantly pulls the threads of this supposedly dead-end case only to unravel a murder investigation so deep that it threatens to turn the Orlando political landscape upside down and transform old friends into new enemies. As Ray chases down leads and interrogates suspects, someone is watching his every move, someone determined to keep him from ever finding out the truth--at any cost.

Mary-Ann Kirby
I live, eat, and breathe fiction. This one isn't. This is a freaking biography. But it's so interesting that I couldn't put it down. Here's a blurb:

I Am Hutterite takes readers into the hidden heart of the little-known Hutterite colony in southern Manitoba where author Mary-Ann Kirkby spent her childhood. When she was ten years old her parents packed up their seven children and a handful of possessions and left the security of the colony to start a new life. Overnight they were thrust into a world they didn't understand, a world that did not understand them.

Before she left the colony Mary-Ann had never tasted macaroni and cheese or ridden a bike. She had never heard of Walt Disney or rock-and-roll. She was forced to reinvent herself, denying her heritage to fit in with her peers. With great humor, Kirkby describes how she adapted to popular culture; and with raw honesty her family's deep sense of loss for their community. More than a history lesson, I Am Hutterite is a powerful tale of retracing steps and understanding how our beginnings often define us.

Controversial and acclaimed by the Hutterite community, Kirkby's book unveils the rich history and traditions of her people, giving us a rare and intimate portrait of an extraordinary way of life.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
This is a really strange read and NOT for the, umm, sensitive or easily offended crowd. Okay, let's just say it's rated R, shall we? Why do I like it so much then? Probably because it continually throws surprises at the reader, from line drawings to interesting paragraphs that make you think.

In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.

So, what about you? Any strange reads to recommend?

Friday, March 31, 2017

3 Ways Writing a Book is Like Parenting

Being a parent is an emotional experience. From the mountain peaks of watching a child take his first steps to the valleys of the terrible twos. One day you're feeling like the luckiest person alive to get to hold a beautiful, sweet creation, and other days you wonder what you were thinking to ever have spawned a devil-chid. And let's not even mention the excruciating pain of Lego-walking in the pitch black of night when said child is screaming his fool head off because he needs a drink of water.

Yeah. That's what writing a book is like. And here are 3 specific ways . . .

1. What’s engrained early on will stick with it until the end.

Just like kids, early impressions or experiences remain with them for life. Unfortunately, it's the same for your story. If you don't take the time to set things up properly plot wise in the beginning, you're in for a world of hurt by the end when all the pieces don't fall nicely together.

2. You’re going to want to kill it at some point in time.

Face it. Those little rug-rats, while cute, oftentimes push you into the danger zone—and beyond. Writing a manuscript is like that. You will want to trash the whole thing at some point. Persevere. This too shall pass.

3. You gotta let 'em feel the growing pains.

As hard as it is, sometimes you have to let your kids face natural consequences in order for them to grow into a responsible adult. It’s heart wrenching to watch that happen. And yet you must do the same to your characters. Let them feel hurts and go through awful circumstances so that they can grow too. That’s called character arc.

Parenting is nearly an impossible task. So is writing a book. 
But both are totally worth it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Voice in an Audiobook

Yesterday I was sent an audition for the audiobook version of Out of the Frying Pan. While I love the fact that my book will be available in yet another format, I don't really like audiobooks. They never sound like I hear the characters in my head . . . which makes me completely incapable of being a valid judge for the voice talent doing the audition.

But it did get me to thinking about how voice talents work. Here's what I discovered ~

1. Start listening to audiobooks.
Hear how other people narrate. Listen to the various styles. Listen to all genres.

2. Practice.
Before you try going pro, practice reading many different books to anyone who will listen. Okay, so not many people are, but good news . . . LibraVox is always looking for volunteers to put books in audio format for the blind.

3. Study.
There are actually voice coaches you can hire or workshops you can take to really polish up your voice.

4. Make a demo of your voice.
A great place to do this is at Audiobook Creation Exchange.

5. Give it a whirl.
Lest you think this is an easy gig, the competition out there is fierce. Be prepared for lots of rejections.

That's it in a very tiny nutshell. Here's a short (5 minute) video that goes a bit more in-depth from someone who is a voice talent:

Monday, March 27, 2017

Top 5 Benefits of Co-Authoring a Book

ON SALE FOR $0.99!!!
If you ever get the chance to write a story with a writerly type buddy, go for it. It's not as overwhelming a task as it seems. In fact, there here are a lot of benefits to co-authoring a book . . .

This goes without saying, but the fact that you can write a book twice as fast compared to penning an entire novel on your own really is a huge advantage. Think about it, you're combining energy, imaginations and experience which serves to drive momentum.

Plotting Power
If you get stuck, the other author knows the story so intimately well that he can help you out of a pickle in a way no one else can.

With two of you, there are double the marketing efforts, meaning you'll get the word out about your book to twice as many people.

Moral Support
It's hard to write a novel. At some point you will hit the wall. The thing about writing with someone else is that it's highly unlikely you'll both hit the wall at the same time.

Double the Strengths
If one of you is great at plotting and the other at characterization, your story will be the stronger for it.

If you want to see how all this meshes together up close and personal, snatch up an ebook version of OUT OF THE FRYING PAN today or tomorrow (March 27 & 28) for only $0.99.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Body Self-Care for the Computer User

Are you a user? An all-day, everyday computer user? If so, your body might be trying to send you a message. Listen real carefully . . .

"Psst! Buddy! You're killing me. I know you're making a living pounding on the keyboard, but my sitter is getting shot, my eyeballs are blinkity-blanking, and have you noticed my skin lately? Saggy. Baggy and dry as the Sahara. Do something!" 

So, what exactly are you going to do for your body? Besides healthy eating and exercising, that is. Here are several things that are easy and don't take a whole lot of time.

3 Strategies for Body Self-Care for the Computer User

Sit Right

Perching on a chair all day can do a lot of damage to your back and neck, so it's important that you position your body correctly. Sit straight in your chair. Yeah, I know I sound like your mother, but it turns out mom was right. Sitting straight, with your head upright, not dipping toward the monitor, really helps you prevent back pain. Your knees should be bent at right angles and don't cross your legs. Your feet should also be flat on the floor, not dangling. HERE'S a link with a picture of the correct position.

Look Right

Staring at a screen can wreak havoc with your eyesight, so follow the 20-20-20 Rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at an object at least 20 feet away. Yep. That simple.

Drink Right

What's the number one drink of choice for most computer users? Coffee. There's just something about a steaming cup o' joe on your desk that makes everything seem better. But here's the deal . . . if you're sipping on coffee or tea -- or heaven forbid, soda -- chances are you're not drinking enough water. Staying hydrated is important. Dehydration leads to fatigue, headaches and an inability to focus, which all inhibit production. The current accepted rule of thumb is to drink eight 8 oz. glasses a day.

It's hard to focus on your body and stay healthy when you're thinking about deadlines. If you can work to make these 3 habits part of your daily routine, you won't have to think about it anymore, and your body will thank you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Healthy Eating for a Computer Jockey

Apparently it's turning into health week here at Writer Off the Leash. Spring has a way of toggling the ol' sweet-mercy-I'll-soon-be-uncovering-my-body-due-to-heat reflex. Since we've already tackled exercise -- you are exercising, right? -- the next topic is food.

Yeah, I see you. Put that doughnut down!

Let's be honest. We all get cravings for treats on the naughty list. But if you're sitting at a desk all day, then you've got to not only limit those treats, you've got to be actively putting things other than pie into your pie hole. But what?

Foods rich in antioxidants are a go to. These nutrients are substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. Here are the top 10 to keep within reach instead of M&Ms:
1. Small red beans, dried (well, yeah, cook em' first)
2. Wild blueberries
3. Red kidney beans, dried
4. Pinto beans
5. Blueberries, cultivated
6. Cranberries
7. Artichoke hearts, cooked
8. Blackberries
9. Dried prunes
10. Raspberries

It goes without saying that staring at a screen all day is hard on your eyes. Here are some nutrients that can help:
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) ~ found in fish, eggs, and seaweed
  • Vitamin A ~ liver, eggs butter, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach
  • Lutein ~ kale, spinach, broccoli, avocado
  • Bioflavinoids ~ berries, cherries, pomegranates 
And 2 vitamins that keep your nervous system healthy and which you might be lacking after a long winter are Vitamin D and B12. Again, fish and eggs are powerhouses of these.

Above all, don't forget to drink plenty of water. Not pop. Not coffee. Just plain ol' water. Keeping hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body, whether you sit at a desk all day or not.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Get off the Couch, Pork Chop

This week heralds the tender green beginnings of spring. You know what that means? Yeah. Swimsuit weather is just around the corner . . . and the thought of shimmying my winterish jiggly-puff body into a pair of shorts makes me break out in hives. Really. I've got hives today. Go figure.

But back to the topic at hand. It's past time for all of us to get off the couch and exercise -- especially if you're working at a computer screen all day. Besides the obvious health benefits of strengthening your bones, shedding extra fat, and improving the ol' cardio system, it turns out there's one more big bonus to exercising:

Physical activity boosts creativity.

Oh, quit your groaning. I know you wished I had said that eating doughnuts enhances creativity, but there aren't any studies out there proving that (though if you know of any, please give me a holler--I'd sign up to be a lab rat for that any day). There are, however, studies that show regular exercise is associated with improved divergent and convergent thinking. That's scientificky-type speech for the components of creative thinking.

As for me, my plan is to do the 7 Minute Workout once a day for the next week. I'll report back next Monday to let you know how I did. It seriously is 7 minutes, no more, no less, though you can make it repeat and do more if you like. It's basically an app that has fast-paced exercises one after the other, with videos so you can see what you're supposed to be doing. I've got it on my phone.

But you do you. Even if all you do is add one jumping jack to your daily routine, you're headed in the right direction. Just plan on doing it for one week. You can live through seven days of exercise, and who knows? You might continue on with it for longer.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Irish Reads

Looking for a little luck o' the Irish reads? Here are some to check out . . .

My author buddy Elizabeth Ludwig is a fan-freaking-tastic writer. If you've never read one of her books, here's a great place to start: No Safe Harbor. Here's a blurb:

Lured by a handful of scribbled words across a faded letter, Cara Hamilton sets off from 1896 Ireland on a quest to find the brother she'd thought dead. Her search lands her in America, amidst a houseful of strangers and one man who claims to be a friend--Rourke Walsh.

Despite her brother's warning, Cara decides to trust Rourke and reveals the truth about her purpose in America. But he is not who he claims to be, and as rumors begin to circulate about an underground group of dangerous revolutionaries, Cara's desperation grows. Her questions lead her ever closer to her brother, but they also bring her closer to destruction as Rourke's true intentions come to light.

by Susan Anne Mason

Brianna and Colleen O'Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he's put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, rests in their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna, a quiet girl with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry--as long as her father's choice meets her exacting standards of the ideal groom. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant relative Rylan Montgomery visits Long Island during his seminary training, the two men quickly complicate everyone's plans.

As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, James O'Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father's machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

by Judith Miller

Ewan McKay has immigrated to West Virginia with his aunt and uncle, promising to trade his skills in the clay business for financial help. Uncle Hugh purchases a brickmaking operation from a Civil War widow and her daughter, and it's Ewan's job to get the company up and running again.

Ewan seeks help from Laura, the former owner's daughter, and he quickly feels a connection with her, but she's being courted by another man--a lawyer with far more social clout and money than Ewan. Resolving that he'll make the brickworks enough of a success that he can become a partner in the business and be able to afford to bring his sisters over from Ireland, Ewan pours all his energy into the new job.

But when Hugh signs a bad business deal, all Ewan's hard work is put in jeopardy. As his hopes for the future crumble, Laura reveals something surprising. Can she help him save the brickworks, and will Ewan finally get a shot at winning her heart?

by Nancy Herriman

Accused of murdering a child under her care, Irish healer Rachel Dunne flees the ensuing scandal while vowing to never sit at another sickbed. She no longer trusts in her abilities-or God's mercy--though when a cholera epidemic sweeps through London, she feels compelled to nurse the dying daughter of the enigmatic physician she has come to love. James Edmunds, wearied by the deaths of too many patients, has his own doubts about God's grace. Together, they will have to face their darkest fears . . . and learn what it means to have real faith.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Why You Should Go on a Research Trip

Research. I know. Boring, right? And if you're a fiction writer, who needs it? We all know story is king, so why bother with dull, dry, boring facts?

Because you’ve got to be credible, or you will hear about it from readers.

Other than holing up in some forgotten backroom of a library with stacks of research books, how are you going to find the information you need? A research trip, and here's why . . .

4 Reasons to Go on a Research Trip

1. Expansion
Visiting an area where you’ve set your story has a way of giving you even more ideas to add to your story. While researching for The Captive Heart, I toodled down to South Carolina to tromp around the same trails my characters would've used near an old Cherokee village. I wanted to immerse myself in the feel of the area so I could write it more realistically. But I had no idea that reality would include spiders the size of Detroit. Seriously, I walked into a web and a hairy monster came right at my face. The thing seriously should’ve been registered with the DOT, and I’m pretty sure his license tabs were expired. Yes, it was that big. Now the takeaway value on this isn’t that I’m a freak about mutant killer spiders (though I am). It’s that research trips add value to whatever story you’re writing because you’ll discover things you didn’t expect. I wouldn’t have dreamed of putting such a creepy creature into my plot. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind because most of the time I’m trying NOT to think about spiders. But after discovering how abundant these things are, I expanded my story to include them. You never know what you’re going to find—and that’s the point. You can’t know unless you go.

2. Education
There are some things you’re just not going to find in an encyclopedia (does anyone even read those things anymore?) or even on the internet. Case in point, an interesting little—and I do mean little—museum I visited last time I romped around England. I don’t even like science, but I sure loved visiting the Museum of Victorian Science. It’s basically just a little shed that’s been added on to a house—and the house is way out in a tiny village in Northern England. Tony is the old man who runs it. So, what could I have possibly learned from an old man in a shed out in the middle of nowhere? Turns out Tony was not only a chemist but also a physics professor—and quite a good teacher at that. I learned about xrays, ion engines, geisler tubes, and loads about historical figures such as Marconi. The thing is that most people haven’t written research books, and you won’t find them on the internet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t learn amazing things when networking with people who you wouldn’t normally meet.

3. Experience
This is the big daddy of them all, and I think one of the most important reasons to go on a research trip . . . the experience. Sure you can read about places and things, but until you’ve immersed all your senses in a place, you’ll never know how it feels. And if you don’t know, how on earth will your reader know? A research trip definitely tweaks all five senses in ways you cannot predict.

4. Expense Write Off
And last but certainly not least, one of the best reasons to go on a research trip is it’s a tax write off. Save your receipts. Stick it to the man because Lord knows Uncle Sam’s going to stick it to you. You can write off everything on a research trip – except for your travel partner. They’ll have to pay their own way.

If at all possible, it's worth it to visit an area you're writing about. My next trip is coming up this summer when I'll be skedaddling around upstate New York, researching the French & Indian War. I wonder what kind of creepy bugs I'll find this time?

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