Monday, January 31, 2011

Which came first? The character or the plot?

Hi. Renee Ryan here. I’m in the beginning phases of a brand new novel and wanted to share part of my process with you. So, which comes first? The character of the plot? I should start by saying I love this phase of writing. The possibilities are endless. The story can go in any and all directions. So how do I go about creating a brand new story? Glad you asked.

I’m what writers call a character plotter. I need to know who will people my book before I can tackle the actual storyline, AKA the events. I always start with my hero and heroine. I first determine whose story this is going to be. And, yes, there is always one protagonist in my stories, not two. Although both the hero and heroine will play major roles in the story, one will be the main focus throughout.

The protagonist is the person who will experience the most growth throughout the course of the novel. This main character can be either the hero or the heroine. But whichever one I choose to highlight, the other will be the antagonist.

Yes, you read that correctly. The hero and heroine are either the protagonist or antagonist of their shared story.

Think of it this way. If the heroine is the protagonist that means the events of the story will impact her most and she will experience the most change in her life/lifestyle/thinking/mores and so on. Who will drive that change? The hero, hence his role as the antagonist. He is not a villain, not in the traditional sense, but rather the person the heroine will have the most conflict with throughout the duration of the story. He is quite literally the main obstacle standing in her way. But here’s the good part. He is also the person who will help her meet her goal in the end. And that’s what makes a romance a romance.

The Disney movie Aladdin is a good example. The protagonist in that story is definitely Aladdin. Aladdin is a diamond in the rough. In the early part of the story he is more “rough” than diamond. In the opening seen we get a few glimpses of that diamond underneath, enough to see he’s a good guy (remember how he gave his bread to the little orphans after stealing it?). But he has a long way to go to become a diamond. Even in that opening scene he makes questionable choices. He’s a thief and rationalizes that behavior because he has no other choice.

Although Jafar is the clear villain in the story, Jasmine is our antagonist. She is the person driving Aladdin’s change. Once Aladdin meets her he begins to make even worse decisions than before, decisions that take him farther away from becoming the diamond he’s meant to be. However, through the events of the story and his relationship with Jasmine, Aladdin comes to discover his true nature—a man of integrity who will save the day with the cunning he once used for selfish gain.

Okay, that’s a super abbreviated explanation but I hope you get the point I’m trying to make. If not for Jasmine, Aladdin might have never become the man he was meant to be. Trying to win her love was what made Aladdin a better man (despite or maybe even because of his many wrong turns). His altercations with Jafar would have been the same with or without Jasmine in his life, but without her Aladdin might not have made the right (and wrong) choices that led to vanquishing that terrible villain.

Can you think of other examples?

Friday, January 28, 2011


Second chances. Another shot at doing something right that we did wrong the first time. An opportunity to make up for something we wish we hadn’t said or done. Unfortunately, as much as we’d like that “do over,” we don’t often have that option.
However in "Second Chance Courtship"--my second Love Inspired set in the rugged mountain country of Canyon Springs, Arizona--big city interior designer Kara Dixon and ex-rodeo cowboy Trey Kenton come face-to-face once again.
A dozen years after their fledgling teenage romance came to an abrupt end, Trey’s looking to settle down but Kara’s returned only long enough to care for her ailing mother. One wants to call Canyon Springs home. The other wants to hit the door running. One hungers for roots. The other wings. Old feelings rekindle, but Kara harbors a secret that can split them apart once more. Both must learn that only by trusting God can their hearts be set free to find a second chance at love.
If you’re looking for a romance to cozy in with on a cold winter’s day, I hope Second Chance Courtship hits the spot! Pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate--top it with a dollop (or three!) of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon--and settle down for a visit to Canyon Springs!
Then you may want to check out the heartwarming story of Kara’s best friend and her ex-Navy corpsman hero in my award-winning “Dreaming of Home” (Love Inspired October 2009). And in August 2011, we’ll be making another visit to Canyon Springs with “At Home in His Heart” -- where a widowed mom may find a home in the heart of the very man who tried to stop her husband from marrying her!
So, where is YOUR favorite spot to “cozy in” to read during the winter?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

All Shook Up

I kept my daughter's and son-in-law's dog today while they are packing to move. Maile is usually a very obedient dog. She's not allowed on the furniture, but today I had to hall her off the sofa 3 times. She senses something is changing and she's flustered.

As I was looking at her, God reminded me how much we are like Maile. God wants to lead us to a new place and we're flustered and fighting against Him. He's going to move us to a new place and we're afraid.

Trust. That's what He wants. Trust that God has our best interest at heart.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Miracle Needed

Pat Davids here, and I'm asking for a miracle.
I need your prayers, ladies and gentleman. Rather, I should say that my cousin Kay needs your prayers. She has a brain turmor. They were unable to get all of it in surgery and they are telling us she doesn't have much time left.

I'm a nurse and I've seen many a medical miracle in my time. There's just no way to explain how a baby's failing heart suddenly begins beating strongly when his mother is brought to his side. Shouldn't have happened, but it did. He's in high school now and I often think, what do we really know about medicine? We've only skimmed the surface of understanding. My friend, Jean, had a brain turmor. They gave her three months to live and she's doing well after four years now without a trace of cancer. They both got their miracles, is there one more?

I know there is. I know it as surely as I know there is a keyboard under my fingers. I also know miracle don't come around that often. So I'm praying for one more. I'm selfish. I want Kay to see another birthday, I want her to dance at her daughter's wedding. More than that, I want her to know how much she is loved.

I won't be by my computer today to reply until late tonight. I've got to go to the hospital, but leave me a note and I'll pass your words on to Kay tomorrow. She is a true believer, but even the bravest among us needs the help of others.
Blessings to all.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Our world loves 'magic sex'

Janet Tronstad here sharing a few thoughts on -- that's right -- magic sex. I read a broad range of romance authors (mostly from my local library) and I was reminded again that one of the main differences between secular romance and inspirational romance is what I call 'magic sex.' The hero and heroine in many secular romances today recognize their true love by the simple fact that, out of the hundred or so sexual partners they have had, sex with their true love is somehow magical. It's never been like that before, they all say. So they decide they are in love and the book ends happily ever after. But, I'm sitting there as a reader going, what if they find someone tomorrow who is even sexier than their true love? Is 'magic sex' really a reason to think you're in love? Fortunately, in inspirational romances, authors need to reveal a deeper reason for the hero and heroine to be in love -- some piece of their characters and lives that makes their emotion seem genuine. I like to read (and write) books that have the hero and heroine making a significant change in their lives (usually spiritual) that allows them to come together and make a commitment. Therefore it is the commitment that holds them together. If you think of your favorite romance story, how did those characters know they were in love?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gulliver's Travels

Kim Watters here. I took my kids to see Gulliver's Travels Tuesday.

Why, you might ask?

1) Because they were off of school (another teacher professional day-gee I wish we had that many when I was a kid)

2) Because I have a little thing for Jack Black. Okay, I admit it. Now I need a ten step program.

3) I had free tickets.

This movie, while quite campy at times had two of my favorite premises. Fish out of water--make that a big fish and underdog. Throw in some unrequitted love, heroine in jeopardy, lots of new technology to update the classic tale, and you've got a cute story. Me and the kids give it a thumbs up. It will definately hit the rental pile when it comes out on DVD.

So, what are your classic plots or premises? Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Getting Organized by Marta Perry

I have to confess that I'm addicted to organizing systems, maybe because I'm not by nature very organized. I'm constantly trying to find something that will simplify my life as I try to keep up with family (including six grandkids), church work, exercise, my house, and writing for two different publishers. And I think I've found it! Or, at least, something that helps me organize my writing for the most effective use of my time. Best of all, it's free!

Productive Flourishing is a gold mine of organizational tools that are free for the taking. If you don't believe me, go to and see for yourself!

I started the new year by downloading all the action planners to help me organize my work. The Yearly Planner helps me by showing me all my deadlines and allowing me to think through what needs to be done when. The Quarterly Planner breaks those goals down to a three-month period. The Monthly Action Planner pushes me to list my objectives for the month, to recognize the major events that will take me away from my writing, and then to plan each week's work. And finally, the Freelancer's Workweek breaks it all down to what has to be done each day of the week in order to stay on track.

One of the best things about using this system has been that as each new deadline comes in, whether it's reading a book for endorsement, writing a blog, writing a will be entered into my work planner with its due date. No more panic because I know there's something I have to do and can't remember what it is or when it's due!

Now, this may sound obsessive, but I'm in favor of anything that will make me feel on top of things!

What gives you that feeling? Do you have a system that works for you in keeping track of your busy life? If so, why don't you share it?


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My word for this year - blessing

Camy Tang here!

I got the whole concept of a “word” for the year from Marilynn Griffith. I haven’t always had a word for the year—I didn’t last year—but this year, I’ve been feeling like God wants me to focus on the word “blessing.”

But not receiving blessings—rather, being a blessing. I’ve been reading this word a lot lately in my Bible and in conversations with people and in my devotional books. I want to be a blessing to people this year. I’m not sure how, but I’m going to look for ways and I’ll be open to what God wants me to do for Him.

How about you? Any “word” for your year?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance Sushi series and her romantic suspense, Formula for Danger. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders dogs, knitting and spinning wool, running, Asiana, and other frivolous things. Sign up for her quarterly newsletter for giveaways!

Click here to find out how you can join my Street Team--it’s free and there’s lots of chances to win prizes!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rick Warren--setting goals

Hi, this is Margaret Daley. I receive the daily devotionals from Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life blog. Lately he has been talking about setting goals in every part of your life. And when you set them, set them high, keeping your faith in the Lord in mind. When we don't set goals, we are content with the way our life is. It got me thinking about different areas of my life I might want to improve. Not just one but the whole package--family, writing, health, etc.

I know a lot of people do it at the new year--like a fresh start. Did you make a resolution or set a goal at the start of the year? Are you one of those people who won't or does and by the end of January have either changed it or dropped it? Has setting a goal or making a resolution worked for you?

I normally don't do resolutions. They have never worked for me. But Rick Warren's series on setting goals has been interesting to read. They have made me think. Set a goal then push the limit. For example if I wanted to lose ten pounds, instead set my goal for fifteen pounds. I have always set goals in my writing in order to meet my deadlines. It shouldn't be too much different than that. At least that is what I'm hoping. Any suggestions for me?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eight Years at Curves!

Hi from Charlotte Carter . . .

This month I’m celebrating eight years as a member of Curves®, the women’s 30-minute exercise program. After eight years, I’m not exactly buff (not even close), but this is the only exercise program that I’ve ever stuck with.

So I’m patting myself on the back!

For those of you who go to a gym regularly, enter 10K races or, gulp, do marathons, you may not think eight years at Curves® is all that great.

In my world view, you should congratulate yourself for achieving the smallest success or reaching an admirable milestone you’ve strived to achieve. (Including running a marathon if that’s what you think is fun.) Chances are all too good that no one else will stand up and cheer for you unless you cheer for yourself.

Certainly, a writer’s life can be filled with negatives: rejections, unhelpful comments from critique partners, negative reviews, pronouncements that the publishing world is crashing around us. In this business, praise is a scarce commodity.

To be a successful writer, you need to be your own best cheer leader. You wrote a great scene today? Whoohoo! You finished a chapter? A double Whoohoo! You sent out a query letter, you submitted a proposal, you wrote something for your blog today? Give yourself a standing ovation.

I think to be a successful person you need to appreciate and value yourself.

What have you done today that deserves an ‘atta boy' or 'atta girl?' Let me know so we can all cheer for you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Migraine anyone?

Terri Reed here and I'm a migraine sufferer. I wish there were a twelve step program for headaches but the closest thing I can find is the team of doctors whose offices I've visited over the past four years since my very first migraine struck. Neurologist, physical therapist, Spinal Pain management doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, MD, Dentist, ENT, Endocrinologist. Oh yeah, and some meds.
Its all so very trying and yet day and after day I seek help. I shouldn't have to suffer, not with the advances in medicine and technology. We're getting closer. Now I only have the real barn burners once a week, sometimes the stretch will be every other week. The mild, dull headaches are more consistent but I've had days without pain!, something I wasn't sure would happen. I'm learning to manage my care better, meaning--I'm more aware of what triggers my pain. Overhead lights, especially fluorescent light-- major trigger. Neck flexing--trigger. Fatigue--major trigger. Clenching my jaw-trigger. Stress-trigger(I hold my tension in my neck and shoulders which then makes my whole upper body spasm). Computer work--trigger( which is a really bad thing for a writer!) But I'm learning that if I write with a cervical collar, ice pack, bite guard, no overhead light, just natural light from the window in my office, drink lots of water, take my vitamins (deficient in D and B2) and take breaks for a little exercise, I can do what needs to be done. Which is a good thing since I have books to write!

Do you suffer migraines? What are you doing to keep going?

On sale now!!

Duty, Honor...Love?

Texas Ranger Ben Fritz woudl give his life to protect Corrina Pike. After all, she's his captain's beloved daughter--and the only witness to her father's murder. When the assassin targets Corrina, Ben dedicates himself to her safty...while keeping his distance. The beautiful ballerina deserves better than a rough and tough ranger. Yet Corrina refuses to ignore the draw between them, just as she refuses to give in to fear as danger grows. Ben will need her courage--and love--to guide him through the line of fire when the killer strikes again.

Monday, January 10, 2011

We Had a Party!

Hello from Sandra Robbins. It's been quite a hectic weekend in the Robbins family. Our son's daughter turned fourteen, and she had her first boy and girl party. She's pictured here posing with her birthday cake.

I have to say, though, that I was very proud of her. Months ago she announced that she was going to have a big party on her fourteenth birthday and began making plans. She had a notebook that she wrote ideas in and kept lists of all the foods she wanted to serve, the kinds of decorations she wanted to use, and the music that would play during the party. Everything was planned down to the last detail. But what impressed me the most was that she saved her money to help pay the expenses. She saved for months and didn't spend any of the money she'd set aside.

When I took her to pick up the printed invitations she'd ordered, she wouldn't let me pay for them and insisted that's what she'd saved for. She did the same when it was time to buy the candy, chips, soft drinks, decorations, etc. The cake was provided by her aunt who lives in Texas and wanted to be a part of the celebration even though she couldn't be there. Other family members provided assorted finger foods. Her uncle was the resident DJ for the night and provided the music.

Our whole family gathered Saturday night to chaperone and waited for the arrival (or should I say invasion) of between 40 and 50 eighth graders. We never could get an accurate count of how many were there because they wouldn't be still long enough to be counted. But they had a great time and a LOUD one, too. When it was over, one of the girls announced that it "was the coolest party ever."

I was thrilled that the night turned out to me such a success and that her party lived up to the expectations she had. Most of all I was proud of her, though, because she realized she had a responsibility in planning and implementing the kind of party she wanted and didn't expect everyone else to do it for her.

I pray she'll have a wonderful fourteenth year. But the years pass quickly, and soon she'll be grown. I have no idea what she'll face in the future, but I know the one who can give her strength to face whatever comes her way. My prayer is that she and my other grandchildren will place their faith in God and follow where He leads.

What about your children or grandchildren? What do you want for them in the future?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Research Made Fun from Gail Gaymer Martin

Hi from Gail Gaymer Martin at
Research can take more time than writing a novel. It's all the pre-work an author must do to bring her story to life. While I love writing, sometimes research gets frustrating. I want to make my story accurate so I check many details to make sure it is.

But research can be fun, especially when it involves travel. When I was asked to push back my next book deadline and write a duet novel for next Christmas, I agreed but not without thought. I had just sold three novels to Love Inspired---one completed and two to go---so I wondered if I could manage adding another one to my list of projects. But I hadn't written a Christmas novel in quite a while and had wanted to do one. . .so I said yes.

The problem was they needed a synopsis and information for the cover immediately plus a name for the novel and I didn't have a story yet. Being involved with publishing can be fun.

That night I went to bed and couldn't sleep because my mind was developing a novel for the book. In recent travels to visit a relative in northern Michigan, I'd passed many small towns along Lake Huron, and I thought about creating a new series set in this area. My mind headed for that idea with the Christmas book.

First I needed a town so I used the Internet to find a small interesting town on Lake Huron. I found it-- Harrisville. This is a town of about 500 people with many interesting events around Christmas so I decided a visit there was necessary. 

We went there in mid-November and I visited the elementary school where my heroine will find a job, the library (seen in this photo), the Chamber of Commerce, and a popular restaurant. I visited the stores and talked with the owners. One of them who lived in town was very willing to let me call her with questions.  That kind of resource is needed for an author. I learned about their tree lighting ceremony and a special event called Christmas In The Village which happens in early February.  I visited the park where I climbed the slide (you'll notice that in the first photo) but decided I'd end up in the damp sand if I slid down.

One of the best things I did was drive through the residential areas and take photographs of houses. This helped me create homes for my characters that are typical in a small town. Gathering this kind of information brings the story to life for me. I can picture my characters living their daily lives in this environment. Seeing the setting stimulates story situations that will add interest and meaning to the novel. Research is hard work, but it can be fun. Most of all it helps create a story that readers will love. I hope you enjoy Small Town Christmas to be released next November by Love Inspired.

My next visit with you will be to tell you about A Dad Of His Own, my next LI release, in March, 2011.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cheryl Wyatt Wants to Know: What Makes a Real Life Hero?

A recent reader letter has me taking care to answer. Because I write romance novels featuring Christian relationships, this reader got the impression I know a lot about them. If she could live in my home for one day! LOL! See me gripe at my husband, who really IS hero material. That's him above in the candid photo with me. We're cheezin' it up as usual.

I confess laughter doesn't ALWAYS rule our home. Especially not when I started my dreadful diet three days ago and feel like throttling someone who eats sweet things in my presence. In hubby's defense, he did 18 (not exaggerating) loads of laundry yesterday because he could tell (by my screeching perhaps?) I was OVERWHELMED with tons of year changeover stuff plus unpacking from THREE (count them!) December trips, plus putting Christmas decorations and gifts away.

Did you know that Polly Pocket parts multiply by the hundreds when they hit the floor?

Anyway, not only did my sweet hubby tackle Mount Laundry so I could catch up from a crazy busy December, he washed, dried and HUNG UP a dolly dress. On a hanger just its size.

See the itty dress and hanger up there? Its Velcro must have hooked it to another article of my daughter's clothing and made it into the hamper.

Anyway, the sweet man actually hung up the little dress for my daughter instead of yell at her for not keeping it in the toy box where it belongs. In the midst of my post-holiday clean-up craze, the sight of that little dress stopped me cold and warmed my heart.

And made me know what a nincompoop I've been to him the past couple days.

Thanksgiving is past but not a day goes by that I'm not thankful for him (even through gritted teeth) especially when I have very close widowed friends who'd give anything to have their husbands back. Sometimes the things that drive us the most batty about a person are the very things we miss most about them when they're not here.

In her letter, the reader mentioned that reading Love Inspired books (YAY!) helped her see how a true Christian man should act toward women. She described her life and current relationship. Her man claims to be a Christian but other respected, known Christian leaders have told her he is not due to his actions and how he treats her. The reader said that all Godly counsel she's received has been from males. While she trusts them, she said she'd like a woman's take on the matter.

I can't get into detail about her man's behavior but it got me thinking HARD of how best to answer her. I prayed and instantly the thought came to mind, "A true Christian man will treat women the way Jesus treated them in the Bible."

While Jesus wasn't romantically involved with women in the Bible, there are lavish examples of his great respect and gentle care toward them. He was the only male present in a near-stoning who took up for the accused woman instead of threaten to stone her to death. After her accusers left, Jesus counseled her to go but sin no more. Which meant His care for her wasn't just for show. He truly cared. Truly respected her. Truly forgave her and He could because He was 100% God in human form in that moment.

I encouraged this reader to seek counsel in four other men. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, whose Biblical accounts offer intimate glimpses into Jesus' dealings with his fellow men...and women. I encouraged her to pray and pay special attention to how Jesus treated women in the Bible and ask herself is her significant other treating her as well. If he is a true Christian, he will be Christ-like. If he is not, my opinion is that her current boyfriend is not a true Christian. Or at least not one being obedient and spending time with God, which is the only thing that will transform the ugliness in our hearts. Harsh words and actions are sometimes more a spirit problem than a self-control issue. We can't change our outward behavior if our inner hearts aren't right.

Likewise, in order to be nicer to my husband during domestic duress aka the house being a disaster, (LOL!) which drives this OCDr NUTSO, it is imperative that I get alone with God and soak in His transforming presence.

My point in telling you all this? I want your opinion.

What do you say? I believe that if a man is a true Christian he will act so and his character and actions are what qualify him to be called a hero. Obviously heroes risk their lives for others, physically and in the every day. That means physical. The reason I write about U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen is because they risk their lives so others can live and I have a strong sense of being rescued by God. I love writing about rescuers. Especially ones as noble and sacrificial as PJs. Trust me, they LIVE their creed, "These things we do so that others may live." Part of their creed mentions putting others' needs before their own comforts and lives.

I think being willing to give up ones life isn't only in the physical death but in every day life, in putting the other person above and before oneself in a Godly manner. Jesus said that greater love has no man than that he lay down his life for his friends. There is NO greater love that what Jesus has for us. Even the most perfect Christian man can't live up to that. But, Christian men (and women) will strive to model that kind of love in the day-to-day. Not being selfish.

So I will ask you what the LI reader asked me: How can you tell if a man is a Christian? What do you think makes a man deserving of the hero's role in a Christian romance novel?

I think Jesus would have taken the time to hang up a little dolly dress for a young girl who didn't even realize it was dirty. Somehow that reminds me of many of the women Jesus forgave. By His very word, he cleansed them of sin they had no idea cloaked them in soil so strong it carried the capability to separate them from Jesus forever were it not for the robe of eternal righteousness He wrapped around their shoulders when he draped that death cloth on a cold tomb floor.

Forever is a very long time.

What do you think? What makes a true life hero? All the little things? One big thing?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts today in the comment section below. Please share!

Happy New Year!

Cheryl Wyatt

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Plot versus Character--Jeff Gerke

Jeff Gerke's book "Plot versus Character" ask the age old question for writers? Which is more important: a gripping plot or compelling characters? Luckily for writers, Mr. Gerke goes on to explain how to balance the two. Oh, joy. Finally we can get this settled once and for all.

This book offers help for merging the two best things about writing a book, so I highly recommend it for writers. As for our readers, I thought it would be interesting to find out how you all feel. Do you love a good strong plot, even if the chaacters are weakly drawn? Or do you prefer strong characters who carry a weak plot? Or do you throw you hands up in despair over both?

Jeff Gerke believes writers can learn how to work wth good plots and strong characters. I think his book will help me to learn to work harder on both.
Meantime, dear readers, tell us what you think.