Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Art of Writing Continuities

Hi, all. Charlotte Carter here.

The key to writing a continuity series is communication and keeping close track of the details.

In the course of my 20 years of writing fiction, I’ve authored several author-created continuities and connected books. They’re fun to write and readers enjoy revisiting characters they’ve come to love. Keeping track of the details is almost easy; only occasionally does a character change eye color from one book to another. Oops!

In the past few years - in addition to writing for Love Inspired - I’ve been writing continuity series for Guideposts Books, most of them cozy mysteries.

These continuities are BIG. Some run as long as 30 individual, related books.

The recent Hope Haven Hospital series had a guide (or bible - note lower case) 55-pages long. The guide includes information about the characters - height, eye color, occupation, what kind of car they drive, etc. This series has a cast, almost literally, of thousands, all of whom have spouses, children and relatives a’plenty. Worse, for each book three months pass. They’re getting older, retiring, graduating, marrying, having babies. (Envision author with crossed eyes.)

To add to the complexity, Guideposts series have multiple authors, typically six, and more if the series continues for several years. This is where COMMUNICATION comes in. Nowadays, that’s usually via a Yahoo group.

If I’m writing book #3 in the series, the author of book #1 has just completed her book. I need to know if that author has described Jane’s house or the church Jane attends. While she can and often does share that information with me and the other authors, the editor hasn’t yet approved the descriptions or maybe Jane’s odd habit of chewing gum. That tidbit of information has not yet been added to the guide.


I write merrily on my way, a wad of gum in Jane’s mouth. By the time my book is in the editor’s hands, she tells me in rewrites that Jane no longer chews gum.

SAY WHAT? I’ve used Jane’s gum to stick an important clue to the bottom of Jane’s shoe. Now I have to go through the entire manuscript ridding Jane of her favorite mint-flavored gum plus find a clever way for Jane to discover the critical clue that used to be stuck to her shoe. (Ah, the next door neighbor kid chews gum, drops a piece in a critical spot and voilá! Jane finds the clue. Whew....)

So, you may ask, what are the Pros and Cons of writing a continuity of this sort?

First, the flat rate paid is comparable to the earn out for most category romances. Once you’re on the team, the work is steady as long as the series continues. It’s also a creative challenge to take someone else’s characters, locale and storyline and make it your own. Unlike stand-alone books, the publisher does all the promotion, which allows the author to concentrate on what she does best – write. I really like that. I also enjoy getting to know some really talented authors.

The most obvious con is that many authors want to write THEIR story, not someone else’s. Deadlines are tight. If an author doesn’t write fast or procrastinates, she’ll be in trouble down the line.

I should also mention, in the case of Guideposts Books, the publisher invites experienced authors to participate in a series and there is often an audition chapter required.

In my case, I get the best of both worlds – the steady and interesting challenge of writing books in a complicated series and the fun of writing my own stories for Love Inspired, sometimes even connected books such as Big Sky Reunion (4/2011) and Big Sky Family (11/2011).

What is it about reading a series or connected books that appeals to you?

Happy reading......


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Smells of summer with Janet Tronstad

Janet Tronstad here. I just finished writing a new book called 'Lilac Wedding for Dry Creek' and I have been smelling lilacs in my head ever since. When I was growing up, my mother had a row of lilacs on our family farm in Montana -- they are still there in fact, taller and greener than ever. Lilacs aren't my favorite flower in terms of looks, but there is nothing like sitting outside on a sumemr evening and smelling the lilacs.

My lilac book (that's what I'm calling it) talks about the struggles families have to forgive each other (and themselves) when bad things happen. My family has some of those wounds (and yours probably does, too). The combination of that emotion and the imagined fragrance of the lilacs made this book satisfying to write. Through it all, I realized lilac is my favorite flower fragrance. Since it's summer, there are lots of flowers around that have scents. Roses are a contender, too. What's your favorite scent? And is it your favorite because it reminds you of other times (like lilacs always remind me of my Montana home)?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Goodbye Borders

I don’t remember the first time I entered a Borders. Seemed to me, my feet led me into bookstores every time I entered a mall. Bookstores in busy malls made sense. I’d go there when I needed something – say a new shirt or perhaps a movie fix – and a trip to the bookstore was inevitable. “I’ll just walk through a bit,” I’d think to myself. Right! Three or four books later, I’d leave the store. Sometimes I went to the mall just to hit the bookstore. Three or four books later – but no new shirt or movie fix – I’d leave the store.
I was in a mall bookstore that I discovered LaVeryl Spencer. I told the clerk, “I want a historical with a teacher heroine.” It took her all of two seconds to scoot to the book Years, which I've now read three times.

Ten Things You Need to Know About Borders.

1. Borders originated from two brothers who, in 1971, opened their first store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They soon opened more stores and their success came because they tried to make their stores offering fit the needs of the community. (Cool! Makes me think of the Poison Pen mystery bookstore here in Scottsdale, Arizona.)
2. In 1992, Kmart got ahold of Borders. They’d purchased Waldenbooks in 1984 and now they tried to merge the two. (I’m always a little sad when a mom and pop store goes the way of big box.)
3. In 2001, Borders teamed up with as a web-based delivery service. (Sounds like a good idea to me.)
4. 2003: Borders peak year with 1,249 stores (including Waldens).
5. In 2006, Borders was making money. (Some of it from me!)
6. In 2007, Borders ended its alliance with (Hmmm.)
7. In 2007, Borders lost money.
· What? We need to sell on the Internet!
· What? People can find DVDs someplace else for less!
· What? Rent is how high!
· What? Who says we have much inventory!
· What? Whose coffee is this, really!
8 Did you notice how of the five bullet points above, only the first one had to do with actually putting a book in the hand of a consumer. (That would be me, a book lover and book reader)
9. In 2009, Former CEO George L. Jones received a severance package of $2.09 million. (I’ve tried doing the math. I haven’t made that yet, in my lifetime, and no, I’m not telling you how long I’ve been employed.)
10. 2011. Borders closes.
My research came from the following sites:

Pamela Tracy's book Once Upon a Cowboy is available now - but, unfortunately, not at Borders.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer Travel

This is Merrillee, and I'm going to piggy back on Debby's previous post. It's an American tradition to have a summer vacation, whether you just go to Grandma and Grandpa's house as I did when I was a child or go cross county as I have done this summer. I've made three trips--Tucson, AZ; New York City and Spokane, WA. Each place has something of interest for me. Tucson has my granddaughter.

I was in New York City for RWA, and there are lots of fun sights to see there.

Two of my brothers live in Spokane. Since I live in Florida, you can see why we don't have a chance to visit each other often. I had a high school class reunion this year, so I took the opportunity to visit my brothers and their families and take in the class reunion.

Some former classmates.

My brothers and nephews and niece and Shadow.

In addition, I had to share what I saw in the front yard of a house that we drive by on the way to my brother's neighborhood.

Space creatures and dinosaurs are quite a combination.

Have you taken a summer vacation? Share your adventures with us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Big Apple and RWA 2011!

By Debby Giusti
This time three weeks ago, I was touring New York City and getting ready for the opening of the Romance Writers of America National Convention. Writing conferences are always fun. I learn so much from the workshops as well as chatting with industry professionals outside the regularly scheduled programs. The best part, of course, is seeing old friends!

One of the highlights of my trip to New York was visiting the Love Inspired Office located in the Woolworth Building, along with Love Inspired Historical author Janet Dean. Commissioned in 1910 by five and dime mogul Frank W. Woolworth, the 57-floor skyscraper--one of the oldest in the city--is a National Historic Landmark and sits across from Park Place and City Hall, not far from the Brooklyn Bridge. The lobby, shaped in the form of a cross, has a vaulted ceiling with inlaid mosaics that reminded me more of a gilded ballroom than an office building.
Entering the narrow wooden elevator that was state-of-the-art in its day, Janet and I headed to the 10th floor where Executive Editor Joan Marlow Golan (photo above: Debby, Joan, Janet) gave us a warm welcome. Senior Editor Tina James (below center) showed us around the suite as she explained the steps our manuscripts take from submission to publication. My hat's off to the entire Love Inspired team and the fantastic books they publish. Seeing their small offices and the piles of manuscripts waiting for review made me appreciate them even more!

To learn more about my time in NYC, visit tomorrow, July 20. I'll be giving away a copy of THE OFFICER'S SECRET, the first book in my Military Investigations series, and THE OFFICER'S SECRET T-shirt, featuring my Prayer for Our Military. Size XL, it's perfect for a pool cover-up or nightshirt.
Wishing you abundant blessings,

Debby Giusti

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Family Tree by Leann Harris

My daughter is doing our family tree. I was the keeper of 'the books'. My father's aunt had done his side of the family and my mother's brother did hers. I got the information, but with young children, I didn't know anything with it but put it in the closet.

My husband's sister did extensive work on his family. Several years ago, my daughter got interested and took up the mantel. She even had us drive to Mississippi to continue her search. Apparently, my husband had a relative who suddenly appeared in Texas around the time of the Civil War. You know, we haven't been able to track that scoundrel down to where he came from. There are lots of stories about where the man came from--maybe Georgia or Tennessee. And the boundaries of the states have changed, names are spelled however the census worker wrote them down.

I sense a skeleton in the family tree and so far our relative has kept his secret.

The lesson of that is if you don't want to know what your relatives did, don't go looking.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Meet Kate Michaels and Brock Gentry

Sandra Robbins here. In my last post I told you about Dangerous Reunion, my new release from Love Inspired Suspense. As I wrote the book, I came to know the characters in the book like good friends. I understood them and wanted their lives to be filled with happiness. Of course on the way to a happy ending, there had to be a few bumps in the road.

Kate Michaels has lived on Ocracoke Island all her life except for the four years she was away at college. When her mother died in the summer after Kate’s graduation from college, Kate knew she had been left with a big responsibility. In addition to her grief-stricken father, Kate also had two sisters who were four and sixteen at the time of her mother’s death. Even though Kate was to be married in the fall, she felt a responsibility to take care of her family.

Her fiancĂ© Brock Gentry had also graduated from college and wanted to follow his dream of working on a police force in a big city. He couldn’t see himself living on a tiny island twenty-five miles off the coast of North Carolina. When Brock and Kate couldn’t arrive at a solution, Brock called off their engagement and left a heartbroken Kate on Ocracoke.

When Dangerous Reunion opens, six years have passed, and Kate is the chief deputy on Ocracoke for the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office, a position that her father held until his death three years ago. Kate is happy with her job and living with her sisters who are now ten and twenty-two.

Then Brock arrives. Never having put any faith in God, he’s a haunted man who is reeling from a case in which an innocent man was executed. With his life falling apart he’s come back to Ocracoke in hopes he can gain forgiveness from Kate and soothe his battered soul. He remembers the words of Kate’s mother the last time they sat on the beach together—We can’t go through life without God. Someday you’re going to think your life is falling apart. Think of me sitting on this beautiful beach God created and come back to Ocracoke. God is everywhere here, Brock. All you have to do is look for Him, and you’ll find the peace you need.

As Brock begins the task of earning Kate’s forgiveness, he discovers the truth of her mother’s words and comes to a new-found faith in God. Together Brock and Kate learn the freedom that comes from forgiving and the peace that God’s love can deliver in the most dangerous situations.

Dangerous Reunion is in stores now. If you missed the trailer, you can see it here.

To learn more about my books and me, go to my website

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Death and Taxes

Kim Watters here. Today I wanted to talk about death and taxes. Yes. That’s right.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

Thanks, Benjamin Franklin. True today as it was two centuries ago.

So how does this relate to writing? Interesting question. Well, sit back and grab a cup of coffee see if you can agree with me.

My daughter’s robo dwarf hamster died. Tragic, I know, but not completely unexpected for the two year old hamster. I knew by how Twister was acting a few days before that something wasn’t quite right and had tried as best I could to prepare my daughter. So on that fateful day when I went to feed Twister, I knew the inevitable had happened. Now I had to tell my daughter.

I cried as I held her trembling body, but this is a fact of life. We are born, live and die. I hate to tell you folks it’s inevitable. Some of us just hang around a bit longer than others and some species are just blessed with longer life spans. Between my two children, we’ve gone through 4 hamsters already; each one receiving a proper burial befitting their family status.

I think she recovered quicker than I did and is already talking about her next ‘best friend’. This time we adopted a cat. Two actually. Of course my son’s still alive and kicking hamster is throwing fits about that. Hmmmm. I wonder why?

Anyway, I must admit I kind of feel like a death has occurred when I finish a manuscript. I’ve spent so much time with the characters that once I’ve finished their story and have to say goodbye, it feels so final. I know it’s coming and I can only prolong it for so long. Deadlines, you know? But each time I type ‘The End’ a part of me has died; the relationship ended. The funeral takes place as I ship the package off to my editor. As authors, how do you feel? For you readers, what do you feel when you finish a book?

The other certainty in life is taxes. While that part isn’t quite so traumatic, it does leave my checkbook lighter. Because we’re considered self-employed, writers have to pay their own taxes, and Uncle Sam really likes it when we send in quarterly estimates to avoid penalties and interest come tax day.

So there you have it. Death and taxes from this writer’s perspective. Anyone else care to elaborate?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Country Mouse in the Big City

Wow, was last week ever amazing! Romance Writers of America's annual conference is always an exciting time, but the conference in New York City last week topped them all, in my opinion. New York lived up to its reputation for being the brightest, glitziest, busiest, and loudest city in the country.

Not that I haven't been to the city before--and many other cities as well. But from the moment the shuttle bus rounded the corner and Broadway spread out ahead of us, I was hooked. I happened to ride into the city from the airport with a family of German tourists who were on their first holiday in the US, and their reaction of awe and amazement just made my even better.

The conference was held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, and it was busy, busy, busy, with the publishing companies who have their homes in the city eager to show their authors a good time and scout the many unpublished writers for the next talent.

For me, the best part was the chance to see all the writing buddies I see only once a year at the national conference. Squeals punctuated the air in the lobby, and hugs were the order of the day. If you haven't heard two thousand excited women all talking at the same time, you might still have your hearing intact!

The Booksigning for Literacy topped all expectations, as authors and fans jammed the ballroom, raising over $47,000 in two hours for literacy programs. But I must confess, by the time I'd signed books and then gone out to dinner with one of my editors, I was more than ready to crash. I'm far more used to hearing the call of birds than the wail of sirens!

After four days, lots of meeting and greeting, workshops, lunches with editors, booksignings, brainstorming, bull sessions, and a couple of glitzy parties, I was ready to come home. This country mouse had had her fill of excitement--until next year, of course!


Camy here! I have to confess that although I have been a member of Goodreads for a couple years, I never really used it much until recently. And I love it!

I’ve found a couple Christian fiction groups that are really active and very fun. There are two Love Inspired Goodreads groups:

Love Inspired Books
Love Inspired Historicals

And I also found a Nook lovers group that gives great advice on technical support, info on the new devices, etc. I also belong to groups run by my favorite authors, but I don’t always read those unless there’s an announcement of a new book or something.

And then I took the plunge and started my own group! Check it out:
Q&A with Camy Tang

Please join my group! (Yes, I’m begging!) And feel free to start a new discussion thread or anything like that.

I also love that Goodreads lists so many books, including their different editions AND if they belong to a series or not. And some of them have the character names listed, too! That’s so awesome! (I told this to my husband and he just stared at me blankly. I guess a database of book covers, blurbs, series, and character names is only neat to fiction readers. Sigh.)

I had the .jpgs of covers that weren’t on the book listings, so I was able to edit the book listings and add the covers and sometimes the back cover blurbs, too. I love that readers can do that!

Are you on Goodreads? Friend me:

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, 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 newsletter for giveways!

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, July 4, 2011

Oh Brother!

Hello, Susan Sleeman here. Happy 4th of July to all the Love Inspired readers. Today I want to talk about brothers. I have one, only one, so I’ve often wondered about the dynamics between brothers, and I wanted to explore how they would interact with each other as adults. So I penned a romantic suspense miniseries about the Morgan brothers for Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin’s inspirational line. As those of you who are parents know, no sibling in a family is exactly like the others so I made sure the brothers were very different from each other and their approach to life was different as well.

In the first book, High-Stakes Inheritance that released in September of 2010, I featured Ryan Morgan, the youngest brother, the helper, and nurturer in the family and the only one who doesn’t carry a gun. He’s a counselor who runs a wilderness-counseling program for wayward teens, and of course, he can’t help but fall in love with his opposite, a strong-willed, opinionated woman.

In Behind the Badge releasing this month, I feature Russ Morgan the local police chief who’s opinionated, powerful, and closed off, keeping his feelings to himself. He often comes across as brusque and harsh, but inside beats a heart filled with softness. I paired him up with a rookie deputy who understands the rigors of Russ’s job and can look beyond the tough-guy exterior and see the hurting man behind the badge.

The final book, The Christmas Witness, will release in December and features the third brother, Reid Morgan. He believes in honor above all else and sees himself as a knight in shining armor, needing to protect those who he feels are weak or are the underdogs. I paired him with a woman who has been hurt many times and is unwilling to accept help for fear of being hurt even more. Reid is the perfect man for her as he won’t back down when she gets all prickly, but he’ll stand by her side no matter what.

The men are all different but they’re all the same in that they embody the heroic tendencies that I love to see in a romantic suspense book—brave, courageous, determined, dedicated, and persevering even in the face of death. What more could a woman in peril ask for?

So tell me, what do you like to see in a hero!

SUSAN SLEEMAN is a best-selling author of inspirational romantic suspense and mystery novels. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she spent her summers reading Nancy Drew and developing a love of mystery and suspense books. Today, she channels this enthusiasm into writing romantic suspense and mystery novels and hosting the popular internet website Susan currently lives in Florida, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law and an adorable grandson. To learn more about Susan visit her Facebook page , website or follow her on Twitter