Friday, February 29, 2008

Character Profiles

Last time I wrote how my friend Saundra Crum Akers kept meticulous records about her characters. Very smart, Saundra, and something that would probably save a writer lots of heartache down the road.

As I have said before, I am a seat-of-the-pants writer. While I prefer that way of spontaneous writing with editing and fixing after the story is finished, I do like to think I am least a little. This is my new method for tracking characters. I have used this method for my last two projects. I keep these notes in a seperate file. If I find myself going off track, I go to my notes and see if where I'm going is where I want to be.

First your character must have a name. In the example below, I'll use a key character from my current WIP. Tim is a recurring character in the series so I didn't introduce him as thoroughly as you might a character you've just met.

Tim Shelton—Here you intro and describe the character, physically, mentally or whatever works for you. The more details you have, the easier your work will be down the road. Caution: Don't have so many details mapped out before you start writing that you paint yourself into a corner. Notice how I introduced Tim. No physical characteristics, just who he is. I believe it's more important to know who this guy is than what color of hair he has. Other writers would do it much differently. This is just what works for me.

Tim Shelton--Works and lives with his parents on the family farm he couldn’t wait to get away from when he was young. He’s learned a lot in the last year about himself and the worthless pursuit of money that has dominated his life.

The following are questions I ask myself about each key character. The more detailed your answers, the better you will understand your characters.

What does Tim want abstractly? To find the peace he lacked his whole life. To find joy in simple things. To grow closer to God and make up for how he treated his parents.

What does he want concretely? Just getting by is okay for now. He wants to decompress from the last twenty-six years of his life.

What keeps him from reaching his goals? Joyce decides she wants him back when she sees his renewed interest in Noreen Trimble. Feels obligated to his ex-wife and family.

What will he learn?
The pursuit of material gain is never worth the price. Simple pleasures are best. To love again.

Remember what John Gardner said. "Create the best possible characters and make the worst possible things happen to them."

Keep your character motivations close at hand as you put your characters through terrible tragedies and hardships. In the end, you'll know who your characters are and how they will survive the plight you've put upon them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Where do your characters come from?

A few weeks ago I wrote a few installments about creating characters who will pepper your prose with authenticity and flavor. I'd like to explore that again over the next few weeks. Characters have a lot in common, whether you're writing a series or a stand-alone book. There are also a few differences.

First of all, let's talk about the basics regardless of what you write.

Saundra Akers Crum, an author from the Columbus, Ohio area who did a book signing with me said she keeps a careful study about each character she creates. I had never got into such depth with my characters before, but I can see where this would be very helpful. I wrote the first installment of my Jenna's Creek Novels in 2001. I am currently working on Book 4. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm slow.) Anyway, I forgot a lot of stuff. Nothing major. I do remember names and who married whom. The things that give me the most grief is dates and ages.

The first book, STREAMS OF MERCY, takes place in 1973. It involves a 25-year-old disappearance. Naturally I go back and forth a lot between the present day (in this case, 1973, and 25 years earlier, which was 1947. See, I'm already confused. The characters surrounding the disappearance were in their early 20's. By the time the book took place they were in their mid to late 40's.

Book 4 of the series begins in January, 1978. Several characters from the first book who were directly or indirectly related to the disappearance are active in this book too. They are currently in their early 50's. They have children in college and some grandchildren.

See why I should have written all this down?

Saundra keeps a notebook about each character. Not only does she chronicle physical appearance (that's all that many writers and readers care about), she explores each characters motivations and habits. She starts off with birthdays. Boy, would that have made my life easier if I had taken the time to do it back in '01. She includes where they went to school, when they graduated, what they drive, first boy/girlfriend, bad habits, quirks, marriages, divorces...well, you get the picture.

I always thought this was unnecessary. I mean, who cares what a relatively minor character majored in college? You would be amazed at how these small details can come back to haunt you. Not only does knowing John's age when the Hindenburg crashed (even though that event is never mentioned in your book) make your work easier down the road, you can understand more of his personality and motivation if you know some of these details.

We all know women who won't even go to the mailbox without making sure her shoes match her bag. Not to mention what type of bag she carries, and if she bought it on sale. Then there's the friend you run into at the grocery store with baby spit-up on her shoulder who can never find her checkbook. These details mean something.

You don't need to go through this with every walk-on character in your book. But if there is the remotest possibility this character may make another appearance or he may be integral in the life of a major character, take the time to build a background.

Even if your book isn't part of a sequel, take the time to get to know your characters intimately, all the way down to those annoying little details you don't care about.

We'll get more into creating characters next time. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Spread the Spark

There are a few problems about the writing life no one warned me about when I decided this was what I wanted to do with the last half of my life.

First off, no one told me I probably wouldn't get rich or even remotely famous. That would've been nice to know going in. No one told me my family would be the least impressed by my success. Maybe the most important thing I wish someone would've told me before I left the workforce to pursue this dream was that I'd probably pack on a few pounds.

I have always been an active person. I've never had a sedentary job or sedentary lifestyle, that is until I started writing fulltime. Not only do I move around less than I ever have in my life, food is readily available to me. I don't have to wait for a break to stuff my face. I don't have to wait for someone's birthday to have cake. I don't have to worry about fitting into my nice dress pants for that presentation on Friday.

I still exercise almost 6 days a week. I walk my dogs and play with the grandkids, but nothing compares with teaching at a preschool where I was constantly getting up and down from the floor, chasing after 60 screaming kids, and never sat still for more than 2 minutes at a time.

Since coming home to work, and especially over the last year, the pounds have crept on. But I have found a support system that is totally free and available to everyone with internet access. Surely you have it since you are reading this post.

If you don't know about Spark People, let me be the first to enlighten you. Even if you don't need to lose weight, the support and encouragement you get there to live a healthier lifestyle is invaluable. I have been having a great time since I joined and have even lost a few pounds. Check it out. If you decide to join, be sure and tell them you were referred by yours truly. I'll earn these things called Spark Points. I'm not sure what they're good for, but I am hooked on earning more.

Even if you aren't strapped to a computer all day like I am, I guarantee you'll have fun. If not, I'll name my next child after you.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Finishing what you start

"The road to hell is paved with unpaved manuscripts." I recently read this quote from an interview with author Ron Carlson. I don't know if he's the first to ever say it, but it's the first time I heard it. And it really rang true with me. I love anything that affirms writing is hard and not for the meek of heart.

I talked to a young woman the other day who lamented that she could never finish a story. She had started more stories than she could count, but always grew bored or blocked or whatever and abandoned the project for greener pastures.

Oh, how tempting. I butt my head against some kind of resistance every single time I sit down in front of the computer. I'm facing one right now. A young woman in my book is recounting a terrible mistake she made with a man. (Of course, what other kind are there.) She fell in love with this man and gave herself completely to him. He turned out to be after information within her company. Once he got it, he was gone, along with her heart, credibility, and career.

How much of this do I need to draw out for the reader? They already know the situation. They know how wonderful the guy was and how vulnerable the character was. I want the reader to feel Christy's pain, to experience the rejection, betrayal and fear she experienced. But how much is too much? Some things are implied--not every thought and nuance needs to be painstakingly crafted for an intelligent reader who can read between the lines. It's a balancing act that leaves every writer frustrated.

I could close my document and walk away. Start something else. It would be very easy this morning since I'm not feeling too sympathetic toward this character and the poor choices she made.

But I can't leave her hanging. She needs a resolution. She needs to move on with her life. I can't do it to her. I can't even do it to myself. I must see how this story plays out.

How does a writer decide which stories are worth pursuing and which ones are more exercise than craft? There's nothing wrong with writing for fun and practice. We should all do more of it. This journey should be joyful, not frustrating and depressing, though we all know writing has those moments. Even when we are writing to entertain ourselves for an afternoon with something completely banal and silly, we should care about the story and who it is happening to. If we are writing about a dog looking for a fire hydrant or a cloud looking for a patch of earth to shade, we should understand the motivation and care that our subject achieves whatever it started out to achieve.

If we do care--even if no one else ever does--and we can put ourselves inside the cloud or the dog or the woman who always picks the wrong man, it will be much harder to close the document or the notebook and walk away without a backward glance.

Let's face it, some stories are false starts and dead ends. That's all right. The more you do it, the easier it gets to tell the difference before we labor over a story that is destined to languish inside our hard drive. With practice and a little forethought, you'll be finishing every project you start. Even if it has no future on the printed page, you'll know you can finish a story. Nothing does a writer's confidence more good than knowing you can work through the tough spots.

Now get in there and finish something.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Go light your world

Have you ever needed to punish a child for wrongdoing? Most of us have been in the situation at least once or twice, especially us parents. It isn't too hard when the child has been willfully disobedient. I remember an old Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs was spanking someone under his care. While he's pounding away at whoever it is, he says, "Believe me, this is going to hurt you a lot more than it's going to hurt me."

That always cracked me up. But sadly, sometimes we must punish a child who is genuinely sorry for what they've done. That's when parenting is tough. We know they need to be taught, but seeing their repentance is usually punishment enough.

It's especially tough when they've committed this transgression before and we know they are probably going to do it again. I wonder if that's how God feels about us. We keep making the same mistakes over and over again. He keeps trying to get our attention, and we listen for a while, but then jump right back into the fire.

Tonight at church a young woman sang Chris Rice's "Go Light your world". I think she was singing this song exclusively to me. According to the song, there is a candle burning in every soul. We are to take our candle and run to the darkness to seek the helpless, confused and torn. "Take your candle and go light your world".

While writing for publication, it's easy to focus on getting our books in print; seeing it on the bookstore shelves; making a bestseller list, or just making enough money off our writing to quit our day jobs.

Most writers who write for the Christian market see their writing as a ministry. I certainly do. Yet at the same time, I waste a lot of valuable writing time. I am home all day, every day. You would think someone in my situation would be whipping out books faster than the stores could stock them. I am sure plenty of writers do. Not me. Instead of using my candle to light my world, I hide it under a bushel. Not because I'm ashamed of the calling the Lord has put on my life, but because writing is hard work. Have you reached that stage in your own writing yet? If you've made it past page 2 of anything, you realize writing is hard. It's lonely and frustrating and the pay's lousy.

Many times I don't want to write. I just think about that blinking cursor and that scene I left undone the day before, and I'd rather do anything than go in there and get to work. But it's the candle I've been given. Maybe your candle is something else. Maybe you face a classroom of fourth graders every morning. Maybe you are taking care of an aging parent. Maybe you sat at the station of a harried waitress this evening who wanted someone to smile and tell her they could see she was having a bad night.

In Matt. 4:10, Jesus says to let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.

Before I sit down at my computer and write that first word, I need to ask God to remind me of why I'm writing. It isn't because of bestseller lists or accolades from reviewers. It's because of readers who need a touch from the Master. It's for the weary saint who needs an encouraging word. It's for the sinner who's looking for a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

What's your candle? Where's your influence? God has given us a brand new week. Let's use it to honor him and touch the world around us.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Interview with Delia Latham

Welcome back to Joy in the Journey. Today we'll be continuing my interview with Delia Latham. If you haven't read Delia's books yet, let me suggest that you get your hands on one of them, either at your local bookstore or library. If the book isn't in stock, just ask and they will be happy to get you a copy. This portion will be more personal as Delia describes her personal writing journey.


1. Delia, can you describe your journey to publication?

Rocky and intermittent, to say the least. I’ve always written, but never in serious pursuit of publication until the past few years. I had always promised myself a novel … someday … and finally decided the time had come. I wrote my first novel, sent it off to a publisher I found online, and guess what? It was accepted! Unfortunately, I hadn’t taken time to really check out the publisher, and as it turns out, it was pretty much a POD printer. After my initial devastation, I decided to take what they had given me – a book in print with beautiful cover, and the fact that it was listed on – and run with it. I put in a lot of hard work and a tremendous amount of networking. It paid off in a more than decent internet presence. In addition, I learned more about self-marketing a book than I ever thought I’d know. I picked up lots of absolutely invaluable knowledge that I will treasure forever, along with the generous, kind-hearted author pals who helped me learn!

It was through this networking process that I met the editor/publisher of Vintage Romance Publishing, and they eventually contracted my second novel, Goldeneyes. My mother used to tell me that things happen pretty much in the way they’re meant to happen, and for a reason. How come I never knew how wise my mother was?

2. Do you have an agent? How has your agent helped you in your writing journey, or why did you decide to go it alone?

I’m in the process of finding an agent. Up until now, I’ve gone it alone, but I can certainly see the benefit of having someone to represent me. Many publishing doors are closed to unrepresented writers – and some of those doors are the ones I specifically want to knock on!

3. What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Don’t give up. Find yourself a room (or a corner) to write in – preferably one with a door you can shut. Enter it at the same time every day and write something … write anything … but write. Don’t come out until you reach a pre-determined, realistic word goal. And remember … the one story that will absolutely, positively never be published is the one you don’t write. The second is the one you don’t submit.

4. If you were starting all over again, what would you do different?

I’d create that writing space much earlier than I did. It does something positive inside you when you have a space – whether it’s a room or a space under the stairwell – that’s yours, specifically there for you to be a writer. And I’d harness the confidence to write that first novel much earlier, as well.

5. How does your writing reflect your faith? Do you consider it a ministry?

It is a ministry. I don’t doubt that for a minute. God gave me the passion for writing and the ability to do it well. Biblically, it’s called a talent. I was taught, and still believe that people with God-given talents are intended to use them for His glory. I also believe the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, so I don’t really have a choice as to whether or not my writing reflects my faith. That’s simply the way I have to write – not that I would wish it any differently. J I pray every day that the words I write will encourage someone in their Christian walk, or point someone in the direction of salvation. If that happens, then my mission is accomplished, and I couldn’t be happier!

6. Can you describe a typical writing day?

I do most of my writing in the wee hours, after the rest of the world is asleep. No phones or doorbells ringing, nobody calling me to get the dog off the street or bring toilet paper – now! (LOL) So during the day I’m just your typical homemaker, mother, wife and grandmother. But sometime around nine p.m., my mind literally starts going into writing mode. By the time my husband starts snoring, I’m deep into whatever project I’m working on at the time, and I don’t usually resurface for at least four or five hours. Which means I have an unusual sleep pattern, I guess, but it works for me. That’s one of the perks of being an empty-nester … I can choose my own schedule. The downside to this is that I can’t seem to shut it off – on vacation or weekend trips, for instance. Come nine or ten o’clock, my mind goes into word play, and I can’t sleep until I pull out a notebook and at least pretend to write something.

7. What would you do if you weren't writing?

I can’t even begin to imagine that! I do quite a bit of editing and proofreading … I suppose I would develop that a bit further. Whatever I did, it would still involve working with words. They never bore me.

8. What projects are next in the lineup?

My current WIP ties together certain characters and situations from two of my other books. This was a surprise to me – I hadn’t planned on the books having any connection whatsoever. After all, one is an historical, and the other a contemporary! Hmmm. I love when these things happen without my knowledge or okay! I’m also putting together ideas for another historical I’d like to propose to a new inspy publisher I just heard about. It will be set in what is now a California ghost town, but once was a booming little place called Last Chance.

9. How do you choose your next project?

They choose me. When the inspiration comes, I go with it. That usually works best for me. This historical I’m “planning” is completely off the charts for me, because I do not plan my books. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool seat-of-the-pants writer. We’ll see how it goes … maybe next time I’m asked this question, I’ll have a different answer.

10. How do you sleep at night with all the voice chattering in your head?

Ha – I gave up and started working at night, since that’s when the voices in my head start yammering the loudest. Now that I let them have their way, they (pretty much) leave me at peace when I do sleep. Well … most of the time they do.

Thanks, Delia, for sharing your writing process with us. Readers, you can learn more about Delia at her website. Don't forget to post a comment to enter to win a GOLDENEYES T-shirt and an electronic version of the book. Follow the links below to keep up with more of Delia's blog tour and for more chances to win.

Feb. 15 – Angela Wilson -

Feb. 18 – Suzanne Woods Fisher –

Feb. 20 – Cindy Bauer –

Feb. 21 – Cindy Bauer –

Feb. 24 – Shelagh Watkins –

Feb. 25 – Rhonda Clark –

Feb. 26 – Cindy Bauer – (Guest Blog)

Feb. 28 – Julie Kornhausl –

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Goldeneyes by Delia Latham

I am excited to be the host of Delia Latham's blog tour on Valentine's Day. Yes, I'm about 4 hours early, but I'm a little anxious to introduce you to this sweet lady. She's a pastor's wife, so let's be gentle, folks. We all know they have enough strife to deal with in their lives.

Please welcome Delia. Tonight we will be discussing Delia's book and her writing. Tomorrow evening, Delia will be back to give us some insight into the writing life and her unique experiences along the way to publication. Don't forget to come back tomorrow while I pick Delia's brain further.

One more thing before we get started, anyone who leaves a comment to this blog and any of the other blogs on Delia's tour will be entered to win a GOLDENEYES T-shirt and an electronic version of the book.

Now let's get started.

Q. Who is Delia Latham?
A: I’m a Christian wife, married to a Pentecostal minister. My husband is the assistant pastor at our church, and I’m involved in the music ministry. I play piano and sing. I have four grown children and four beautiful, absolutely perfect granchildren – no, really, they are! We all live in Bakersfield, California. I was born here and have resided in or around this desert town my entire life.

Q: What books are on your nightstand right now?

A: Too many. I write reviews, so there’s always plenty of reading material in my room. Right now, I’m looking at Rainbow’s End by Irene Hannon, Veil of Fire by Marlo Schalesky, Abandoned Identity by Tamara Tilley – that’s just a few of the unread books. I just finished Loving Liza Jane by Sharlene MacLaren and – a little detour from the usual – The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz.

Q: Your novel, Goldeneyes, is scheduled for release in March. What is it about?
A: It’s an historical romance about a depression-era man who does something horrible to satisy his alcohol addiction, and the ripple effect his action causes in the lives of two families over twenty years later.

Q: What inspired you to write Goldeneyes?
A: I grew up in Weedpatch, the little farming community where Part One of Goldeneyes is set. I’ve always wanted to write something using that location as a backdrop. This story has been brewing in my mind for several years, but it was hard for me to get past the reality of Weedpatch in my own life and get on with turning it into a fictional tale. I prayed a lot! Once God gave me the go-ahead, He also gave me the inspiration, and I’m very pleased with the completed product.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: Ahhh … the question every writer gets asked most often - and for me, quite possibly the hardest, because I’m not always sure. Sometimes I get ideas from little snippets of history; a few of my stories are major exaggerations of tiny occurrences in my own life or the lives of people I know; and sometimes I sit down to write with absolutely no idea what I’m going to write about. Oddly enough, those are the times I usually wind up being happiest with the results, maybe because I’m most open for God to take my writing wherever He wants to.

Q: So you don’t always plot or outline your book before you write?
A: How’d you guess? No, I write like I do most other things in my life – totally off the cuff. I’m what the writing community refers to as a SOTP: Seat-of-the-pants writer.

Q: Which authors have most influenced your own writing?
A: Too many to possibly mention here! As a child, I devoured just about every book I could get my hands on: Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, the Bobbsey Twins – even the Hardy Boys; I wasn’t gender specific as to reading material. As I got older, I graduated to romance and found Grace Livingston Hill, Barbara Cartland, Emilie Loring, and oh, yes – I discovered Harlequin Romance (oh, my!). Now some of my favorite writers are Joy Fielding, Lori Wick, Lori Copeland … the list goes on for miles. My favorite book of all time is Swan Song, by Robert McCammon – rather surprising for an inspirational author, I know, but it’s a beautifully written epic account of good vs. evil. Unforgettable!

Delia welcomes visitors to her website:
You can also keep up to date by reading her blog:
Follow the links below to follow along on the rest of Delia's blog. The more blogs you read and the more comments you leave, the better your chances are of winning. Most importantly, spread the word about Delia and her fabulous book GOLDENEYES.

Feb. 15 – Angela Wilson -

Feb. 18 – Suzanne Woods Fisher –

Feb. 20 & 21 – Cindy Bauer –

Feb. 24 – Shelagh Watkins –

Feb. 25 – Rhonda Clark –

Feb. 26 – Cindy Bauer – (Guest Blog)

Feb. 28 – Julie Kornhausl –

Mar. 2 – Mary Connealy –

Mar. 4 – Dee Owen –

Mar. 5 – Tabitha Robin –

Mar. 7 – Tori Close –

Mar. 10 – Jennifer Hudson Taylor –

Mar. 12 – Debra Ullrick -

Mar. 17 – Miralee Ferrell –

Mar. 19 – Bonnie Winters -

Mar. 20 – Cynthia Hickey –

Mar. 24 – Pamela James -

Mar. 24 – 28 – Tracy Ruckman –

Mar. 25 – Christa Allen -

Mar. 31 – Gina Conroy –

April 20 – Marian Merritt –

April 27 – Margaret Daley –

Throughout February and March – David G. Boggs –

Monday, February 11, 2008

Loving your characters--even the unlovable ones

Yesterday in Sunday school I taught the preschoolers about loving our enemies. It's pretty easy to explain love to preschoolers. They love Mommy and Daddy and Grandma and pretty much everyone else. When I asked who they didn't love, they couldn't think of a single person. I expected them to say they didn't love strangers or bad guys or mean people, but their little faces were totally blank when presented with the question of who they didn't love.

Sadly it's much easier for adults to come up with a long list. As Christians we say we love everyone; hopefully we even believe it. But let's face it, there are some people who are easier to love than others. I can think of a person or two in my life this very minute who I have a very hard time loving, or even caring about. Some people are just plain hard. Regardless, we are commanded to love them as Christ loves them. Ouch! That's tough.

How can we relay this to our characters?

Have we explored our characters that deeply? I enjoy creating antagonists. I have a lot of fun with them. Making a grouchy or hateful or spiteful or bitter character isn't hard for me. I use characteristics of people I know; I even pour my personal grievances into this character---making them say the things I wish I had the nerve to say or do the things I've thought about doing in the darkest recesses of my mind. These characters are a lot of fun and can easily infuse a book with emotion and tension, not to mention humor.

But do we explore these characters deeply enough to love them unconditionally as Jesus would? I think if we delve into these characters to fully understand them, our writing will be much richer for it.

Why is this person the way she is? What happened to make her so bitter? What has given him such a negative outlook on life? Why is his heart so bruised, he takes it out on those around him?

Not only will exploring our characters this way enrich our writing projects, it may also help us better understand the real people around us that we have a hard time loving unconditionally. There is a certain person in my life who is very hard for me to love the way Jesus wants. She brings contention into my life. I never talk back to her. I always forgive and turn the other cheek even though she would love an all out brawl. But I'm a Christian and won't give way to the devil. I control my tongue when it comes to this person because I know speaking out will only make matters worse. I tell myself I'm bigger than her. I even feel sorry for her. Unfortunately I have a much harder time controlling my heart. It wouldn't hurt my feelings if I never saw this person again even though she is a close family member. I need to turn this person over to God and allow Him to reveal her to me the way God sees her.

Open your mind and allow God to show you your characters the way He would see them if they were real. Where is the good in them? If they were flesh and bone people, how would God see them no matter what they've done or how they've hurt others?

Rework a scene today while looking at your most unlovable character the way God would. See if it doesn't breaths new life into your work.

Have a blessed writing week.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear

I read an article in THE WRITER magazine not long ago that said it was a bad idea to read while you were working on your own book. The writer of the article had some valid arguments: Your work will be unintentionally influenced by what you're reading; You will be constantly dragged out of your own setting; You will place unrealistic goals on your writing that it is not meant to achieve.

I agree with all that, but I can't imagine going 3-6 months without reading a good book. Since I am always working on my own project, that means I can never read again. Sorry, ain't gonna happen, my friend.

In fact I just finished a delightful mystery by Sharon Dunn that I would like to share here with you. I'm probably a little biased since I love a good cozy, (I think a book must include a cat in peril to qualify as a cozy.) I couldn't resist the premise of the Bargain Hunters Series, and I love characters whom I can relate to. Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear has it all: murder, humor, red herrings, and surprises at every turn.

If you haven't read Death of a Garage Sale Newbie, the first installment in the Bargain Hunters mysteries, you'll have no trouble catching up with the characters. If you are a fan of series mysteries, you must add the Bargain Hunters books to your reading lists. I look forward to plenty more by this author.

For brevity's sake, I am posting the synopsis and reviews from a major bookselling site. Hope no one minds. Read and enjoy, then rush out and find the book. I'm sure you'll love it.

Another murder mystery for the Bargain Hunters Network–only this time, one of them is a suspect!

Ginger and her husband, Earl, are in for a wild ride in Calamity, Nevada, along with the other BHN ladies–college student Kindra, mother-of-four Suzanne, and sassy senior Arleta. They came to town for the Invention Expo and some outlet shopping, but instead they endure lost luggage, broken air conditioning, and a long line of people angry at hotel owner Dustin Clydell. With the Invention Expo and the Squirrel Lovers’ convention both in town, the Wind-Up Hotel has somehow overbooked.

Before the night is over, a man has been found dead in a teddy bear costume, the Invention Expo has been canceled, Binky the water-skiing squirrel has gone missing…and the authorities want to talk to one of the BHN ladies! What else could possibly go wrong?

Once again, the Bargain Hunters Network swings into sleuth mode to solve the murder–and this time, clear one of their own. Along the way, Ginger discovers something even better than a bargain.

Kirkus Reviews
When a mixed bag of bargain-hunting friends head for Calamity, Nev., they don't expect murder as an added attraction. Ginger Salinski plans on shopping and helping her husband Earl at the Invention Expo, which is being held in the Wind-Up Hotel, along with the Squirrel Lovers' convention. When she arrives with friends Arleta, Kindra and Suzanne, they find no air conditioning, only one of their two reserved rooms and Dustin Clydell, a greedy hotelier who's sold Earl's convention booth to a higher bidder. Dustin's charm has somehow failed to impress his ex-wives or his son Xabier, an actor dismayed to find the job his father promised him involves walking around in a teddy bear costume. Someone steals the hotel guests' jewelry, and Ginger loses her cat, who'd been stalking Binky, the water-skiing squirrel. When Clydell is found dead in the teddy bear costume, the ladies are forced to help Ginger, whose fight with Clydell over Earl's booth has made her a suspect along with two of Clydell's ex-wives. The gals chase the jewel thief and try to figure which of Clydell's many enemies did him in. Their shopping skills and faith in God lead them to the answer. The ladies of the Bargain Hunters Network (Death of a Garage-Sale Newbie, 2007, etc.) are a pleasant bunch of do-gooders stranded in a mystery that would benefit from divine intervention.

Sharon Dunn is the author of Death of a Garage Sale Newbie, book one in the Bargain Hunters Mysteries, and the Ruby Taylor mystery novels including Sassy Cinderella, which was voted Book of the Year by American Christian Fiction Writers. She earned a BA in television production and a master’s in history. Sharon lives with her husband of twenty years, three children, two cats, and lots of dust bunnies.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What I learned about writing while watching the Super Bowl

I live in Ohio in the middle of farm country, far removed from Ground Zero where the battle of the gridiron was fought. I don't know anyone from New York and I've only met one couple from Boston when I was at a convention in Denver. Most everyone here in my neck of the woods (ever heard that phrase before?) is in the same boat. Our beloved Bengals had a losing season. Sigh. We're used to that. The Cleveland Browns did well, but they didn't make the play-offs. So after Pittsburg got trounced, (thank goodness--we root for any team that plays Pittsburg) we had no vested interest in the game.

Yet still, emotions ran high. We had our favorites. You gotta wonder why do we even care? I've been thinking about that and it occurred to me that in football, just as in writing, it's all about the characters.

Whether based on emotionalism or personal preference, most people will always root for the underdog. I know I do. It's human nature to root for the little guy. It this case the little guy was, oddly enough, the New York Giants. Six games down on the perfect Patriots, they went into the game with something to prove.

That's how it is with writing. Our characters must have something to prove. They must face insurmountable odds to reach their goals. Things can't come easily to our characters or the reader is going to feel cheated. It must look like their dreams could shatter on every page. Readers want a champion, but they don't want a champion with an I'll-kill-anyone-who-gets-in-my-way attitude. Remember he's the underdog.

Underdog isn't the same as lapdog. Our hero must be strong, honest, courageous, and capable of not taking himself too seriously. We don't want a hero who achieves his goals by running over his opposition. He must have a human side. I think that's why we tend to root for the underdog. We can empathize with him. He has displayed his weakness, but also shown he has the fortitude to overcome the obstacles we put in his way.

That's what makes a hero we can fall in love with. I think too many writers, especially romance writers, spend too much time making their heros gorgeous and bigger than life. I'm not suggesting your hero must be the geek with nothing interesting to say. We have to care about him, remember? I think more effort should be made to make me care about this guy than worry about how thick his hair is and how his green eyes snap indignantly at the slightest provocation.

Give us characters we can root for. Characters we'll love as much as the heroines they sweep off their feet. A character like Eli Manning: reserved, strong, the unsung little brother with his own Goliath to face. Or maybe like Tom Brady: the golden boy who must come back after having his hopes and dreams dashed.

Talk about drama.