Love and Cowboys: An Interview with Author Gloria Doty

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Gloria Doty, Author

If you’re into cowboys and romance, you’re going to love Gloria Doty and her new romance novels! What’s not to like about a title and cover like this? Bring a cowboy home? Don’t mind if I do…

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I fell in love with the book as soon as I saw it. And I pretty much fell in love with Gloria that way, too. She is a jewel. A people person and mother of a live-in adult daughter with autism, Gloria is a fascinating human being. She has a magnetic personality and we clicked immediately. Besides being an all-around great gal, her grit and work ethic are traits I highly admire.

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Her newest book is a winner, too:

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Below is an interview I did with Gloria. What a lovely woman and what a great author! You’re going to love her and her books!

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Writer Wednesday with Award-Winning Author, Bob Hostetler

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I met Bob Hostetler at a recent ACFW-Indiana meeting. I had no idea how much I admired his work until I saw his book table. And there it was. A book that had a huge influence on my life as a youth minister and teen Sunday School teacher:

I raised my kids and a whole passel of other kids on this book. It’s an excellent apologetic in layman’s terms. I think I’ve quoted most of it for the past 20 years over and over again. The title itself is one of my favorite phrases.

I was fortunate enough to visit with Bob during our luncheon that day and he was nice enough to agree to an interview!

Grab your cuppa (I’ve got my iced tea ready!) and get ready to glean wisdom from an award-winning, best-selling author. 

Thanks for agreeing to the interview Bob! I’m really looking forward to your next book! And I don’t care if I am gushing like a giddy schoolgirl. Its delicious purple cover (purple is my FAVE) and delectable content has me salivating already!

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Bob says, “Don’t check your brains at the door!”

My Interview on the Wealthy Wednesday Radio Show!

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Everything you wanted to know about me but were afraid to ask.

I hope you’ll take the time to listen to my interview on the Wealthy Wednesday Show and leave your comments and questions. I love interacting with you!

Thank you to Luci McMonagle for inviting me to be on her show. I had a blast.

Enjoy!

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Don’t hate me because I’m doing NaNoWriMo

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I owe my current writing career to NaNoWriMo. I latched onto this November madness like it was a precious diamond in 2003 and I have yet to let go. I am quoted in the founder’s book, No Plot No Problem. As I’ve said before, I blame Chris Baty for the madness I experience now as a struggling writer.

no-plot-no-problem-baty-chris-9780811845052Way back then, I even had to borrow a lap top from Chris to participate. That’s when I learned I really could power through 50K words and not die. And once I did, I had the bug. There was no way I could live the rest of my life and not write stories. Up to that point, I thought I could only write non-fiction. I had no idea what an art fiction was.

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I’m a tough customer. Fiction has to be deep and I have to learn something from it in order to read it. I have many more nonfiction books in my library than I do fiction. I’m an insatiable life-long student. My kids say they can’t remember a time I wasn’t going to school and learning something new.

nanowrimoA lot of novelists think that NaNoWriMo is for beginners, but I’m here to tell you that writing 50K words in 30 days is nothing to sneeze at. And to think I did it the first time without a thought as to an outline or destination. I’m impressed with the person I was back then. I just sat down and wrote by the seat of my pants. I think the thing that separates me from a lot of people is that I’m not afraid to try and fail.

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This year I’m taking some college students with me on this crazy journey. We’re getting together tonight for a pep talk and will get together each week between now and 50K words. I’m excited because I love mentoring young writers.

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Why don’t you do NaNoWriMo? And if you are doing it, what drives you to participate? Let me know in the comments below!

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The 10 scariest things about writing

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Okay, so I don’t believe I’m driven by demons to write. Hopefully it’s the Holy Spirit Who inspires me. But I must write just as ducks must swim. I’m compelled to torture myself with the literary arts. And while I love this gift, and the places it takes me, there are days when I agree with Dorothy Parker who said, “I hate writing, I love having written.”

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Here are 10 things I find the most frightening about writing:

  • Fear of being inept and amateurish. What if my writing is really bad? What if I can’t play with the big kids in this writing thing? What if I’m too shallow? Too glib or cliche? Fact is, I probably am, but I’m the only writer who can write like me, and that’s something I have to offer that no one else does.

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  • Fear of not being smart enough. This relates to the first fear. I think great writers are geniuses. Seriously. I envy successful writers because they are extremely clever and smart. Will I ever be as smart and knowledgeable? Do I even have the aptitude? The answer is that there are a lot of writers much, much smarter than I am or ever will be. And maybe, just maybe, there are writers I’m smarter than. But if I’m called to write, then there’s a reason. There must be someone who needs to hear what I have to say. And if I can influence or encourage even one life–isn’t that reason enough to obey the call?

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  • Fear of making mistakes. Last I checked, Jesus Christ was the only perfect human Who walked the earth. And I certainly don’t have the qualifications to be the Messiah, so this fear is absolutely unreasonable. Then again, I never claimed to be reasonable.

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  • Fear of being unoriginal. This fear is based in a lie. God’s Word tells me that “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9. Basically there are only seven major plots: 1) Overcoming the Monster, 2) Rags to Riches, 3) The Quest, 4) Voyage and Return, 5) Comedy, 6) Tragedy, 7) Rebirth. There are no original ideas, just variations.

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  • Fear of not selling the story.  What if my idea is so stupid and the writing so bad that even my agent won’t look at it? Yes, this poltergeist taunts me on my dark days when the words won’t flow.

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  • Fear of not creating the story that’s in my head. That’s when I freeze and don’t know how to put the words on the page and procrastinate by playing online marbles. The only way to work through this fear is to vomit up on the page. Words, not actual body fluids. That might ruin the laptop.

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  • Fear of rejection. I hate rejection. I have issues with rejection as an abandoned child and the thought of being rejected is horrifying. But to go through life thinking everything I do will be liked by everyone is unrealistic. The fact is, I will be rejected. I must learn to accept it and learn to take it like a big girl. To fight this fear I often have more than one project I’m working on so I can put my focus on something other than the rejection.

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  • Fear I’m too old and irrelevant. I didn’t get started early enough in writing seriously–or so I tell myself when this writing gig isn’t going smoothly. But then I remember that Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book at age 65, and Frank McCourt (Ashley’s Ashes) when he was 66. And I’m a decade and some years younger than they, so maybe there’s hope.

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  • Fear I’ll give up.  Ironic isn’t it? I’m afraid of quitting because I won’t have the strength to keep writing through all the rejections and failures. Sometimes I wonder about Harper Lee–why didn’t she write another book? Was she too afraid? Like me? And will I be too afraid to keep putting myself out there? What if I quit right before the moment when everything works and a masterpiece is created? The thought makes me shudder.

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  • Fear of failure on all fronts. Fear of failure is at the root of all the other fears, isn’t it? To think I’ll never fail is a lie. Lies and fears are bedfellows. I will fail. I will not always succeed. If you’re going to write, you’ve got to be at peace with that.

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It takes prayer, tenacity and courage to be a writer. I can only face this art I love with prayer and the grace of God. His gift of tenacity keeps me writing on the hard days. And courage keeps me submitting work after countless rejections.

KarlaAkins.com (2)I’m not the best writer. I may never win a Pulitzer or Newberry or Christie. But if I obey and use my gift to the glory of God, that’s all He asks of me. If I quit striving to shine the brightest in the history of the world, and just shine my brightest, the fear and stress will be much more manageable and I won’t be tempted to believe the lies that fear spouts.

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One day I hope to be able to rest 100% in the grace He provides without all this wrestling. But that’s the nature of living on this earth. Until heaven, I’ll keep praying to keep up the good fight and remember that His Love conquers fear and His Strength will see me through.

One. Word. At. A. Time.

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Why do I write?

111steampunktypewriterThis past summer someone put my feet to the fire and asked me why I spent so much time writing: “So what if you write. All you have left after spending on all that time are words on a page. Who cares? There are other things to do besides sit and write all day.”

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When I told some of my writers friends I was being criticized for being a writer, I got some fabulous feedback. Things that I believed but couldn’t think to say at the time. (I tend to freeze up when I’m confronted and only think of answers later.) I’ve kept these answers and pondered them in my heart. Writing is a solitary experience, and when someone is critical, it makes me feel even more alone.

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Kathy Rouser’s answer was one I absolutely identify with:

“I think of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, when he said that when he ran he felt God’s pleasure.

Writing’s a calling, it’s a release. Words on a page make up a story that could change a life–or save
one. Just like brushstrokes of paint on a canvas make a painting, if you don’t keep adding to
the story and finishing it, you’ll never know what a difference could make–even just for you.

And if you’re being obedient to the Lord, that’s the most important thing of all.”

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This is so true. I feel alive when I’m writing. If there was one thing I was born to do, it is to put words on a page. Words and letters are as much a part of me as the nose on my face. I can’t imagine a life without them.

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Author Rick Barry wrote:

“To belittle words on a page is to belittle God. The Almighty saw fit to record much history, much revelation, and much emotion and inspiration in the form of written words. Anyone who takes the position that words on a page are pointless… I can’t begin to express the ignorance that suggests. And true, our words are not God’s divine inspired Word, but we are created in God’s image, and I believe it pleases Him when we try to be like Him, to follow His example, and to touch others with words.

…Every Sunday pastors step into pulpits the world over. They deliver sermons that are nothing more than words they wrote on a page, either in outline form or in full paragraphs. God uses words to touch human beings for the better!

…I can’t count the times that I have been contacted by people who have read my piddly words on a page and told me that those words worked powerfully in them, helping them to overcome problems or to become a better person.”

 

111womanwriting2My agent, Linda Glaz wrote:

 “‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.…John 1:1′
 
I guess now we know just exactly how important a word can be…”
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“…writing, like the other arts is a form of God’s divine expression though us; we each are called to gifts from the Spirit. A former atheist found conversion after reading the beauty of a poem when he realized that in order to feel such an emotional response to mere words, he must be more than the animals around him. He must have a soul. Even Jesus taught us with stories, using parables, because He knew we would listen and understand.”
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What a blessing to have writer friends! They propped me up when I was feeling a bit discouraged.
But what about my own thoughts on why I write? Next week I’ll write more about my feelings on the subject. Stay tuned! (I blog about writing on Tuesdays.)
What about you? Do you write? If so, why?

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Would C. S. Lewis be too distracted to write today?

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C.S. Lewis hard at work

I love reading about the writing habits of great writers. Maybe it’s because I’m looking for that one secret element that made them great.

I guess there is one secret that’s consistent with all of them: they worked hard. So much harder than we do today. I’ll explain in a bit.

But first, let’s look at what C.S. Lewis had to say about an ideal writing day in his book, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of my Early Life.

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“[I] settled into a routine which has ever since served in my mind as an archetype, so that what I still mean when I speak of a “normal” day (and lament that normal days are so rare) is a day of the Bookham pattern. For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better. A step or so out of doors for a pint of beer would not do quite so well; for a man does not want to drink alone and if you meet a friend in the taproom the break is likely to be extended beyond its ten minutes. At one precisely lunch should be on the table…”

This “Bookham pattern” he speaks of developed after his father withdrew him from public school and brought him home to be tutored. It was then that a daily routine he grew to love developed.

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And what writer wouldn’t love to have someone bring them coffee or tea, and have a lunch ready for us at 1:00 PM? It sounds heavenly to me, if not to you.

But I suppose that there are things about my writing life that would appeal to Lewis as well–a microwave or Keurig for making tea for example. We may not have housekeepers but we have gadgets that serve us well. Or we serve them. Either way, I think Lewis would have enjoyed them. (PS I don’t have a Keurig but I’m accepting donations…)

Keurig Special Edition (B60)After his lunch, Lewis enjoyed a walk. This is something that I have yet to work into my day consistently. But I know I do feel better and have much more energy when I  exercise. And scientists claim that it makes us smarter:

“Walking 40 minutes four times a week changed the size and organization of participants’ brains in one year, resulting in the formation of new neurons and larger memory centers, according to a study from the University of Illinois.”  (Source: Want to boost your brain power?)

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People knew that walking was good for them long before studies proved it. C. S. Lewis enjoyed walking every afternoon. And unbeknownst to him, it’s probably what got him through the afternoon blahs some full-time writers experience:

“By two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one … who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.”

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Oh how I love this quote! I tire too easily at ceaseless chatter. There are times when a soul needs time to contemplate, and writers and artists tend to crave silence more than most. I’ve been accused of being anti-social because of my lack of need to share every one of my thoughts. Perhaps it’s because I write them that I feel no need to express them verbally. But I also find it a wearying task to explain them to others. I simply don’t desire to.

Besides walking alone, Lewis also preferred to take his tea alone soon after his walk:

“The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude…”

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The man loved his solitude! Proof positive that there are those of us who simply must have it.

It’s tempting to accuse Lewis of being persnickety, but before we make that mistake, we must remember that he is describing an ideal day. And how often does one have those?

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Like us, Lewis had distractions, one of them being mail. He had a love-hate relationship with mail because he was compelled to answer every letter he received. I can imagine he’d have the same attitude towards email that we do today!

“But when is a man to write his letters? You forget that I am describing the happy life I led with Kirk or the ideal life I would live now if I could. And it is essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail and never dread the postman’s knock.”

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Writers today complain about time being eaten up with social networking, but I would guess that Lewis spent just as much time writing letters. He was a prolific letter writer and was extremely generous with advice. Also keep in mind, he wrote his letters and manuscripts by hand. How much easier we have it today than writers did even twenty years ago. I’m old enough to have written many a story on a typewriter with gallons of white-out at my side.

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One of the letters he wrote to a young fan, Joan Lancaster, is good advice for writers still today. Notice how he doesn’t patronize or talk down to her:

“1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

 

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

 

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

 

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

 

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

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One of C.S. Lewis’s Desks

After his tea on a “normal” day, Lewis went back to work:

“At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes the time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading; and unless you are making a night of it with your cronies (and at Bookham I had none) there is no reason why you should ever be in bed later than eleven.”

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C.S. Lewis hard at work

It sounds like a lovely ideal day. But Lewis didn’t have children to care for, chores to do (I’ve read he was an abysmal housekeeper as was his wife whom he married late in life but she was also ill), and focused mostly on the work at hand. Still, he probably had interruptions as we do.

My ideal day would include hours alone, too. But alas, I work mostly in my home office where my family ignores the “Writer at Work Do Not Disturb” signs. To them it’s not a writer at work, but a Mom at home, ready to answer questions, rescue the cat from the dog, and break up an argument between twins.

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However, I have technology the likes of which Lewis couldn’t have imagined. I have word processors that correct my spelling, and search engines for my research. I have over a thousand books in my ereaders and can type 95 or more WPM. I don’t have to invest in paper to send a letter or even a stamp. Perhaps this makes up for the solitude Lewis had.

Just imagine what things he could have created had he lived in our time. Or would he have been too distracted?

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What do you think? Let me know what your ideal day would look like. I’d love to discuss this with you!

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Live Blogging Realm Makers Conference: Keynote Speaker Tosca Lee

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What an amazing day I’ve had at Realm Maker’s conference today!

This morning’s Keynote Speaker was best-selling author, Tosca Lee. If you’ve never read any of her books, I highly recommend you do. Her style and voice are unique and powerful. As I wrote before, she has a voice akin to liquid velvet. I can’t get enough of her.

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Did you know that she cut her eyeteeth in the writing realm with online gaming? Who’d have thunk it? But it makes sense to me now. She spent hours and hours creating a character and a world playing a role playing game. In fact, the character she developed and eventually “killed” has a fandom! People to this day write poems and tributes to this character.

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Now, I’m not into role playing games. I’ve never “got” that lifestyle. In fact, I’ve protected myself from that sort of fantasy life because I didn’t understand it, feared it, and was concerned that with my personality I’d become addicted to it.

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But as it turns out, lovely Tosca was once the Overlord of a gaming community that still holds tournaments in her character’s honor. Talk about creating a powerful character! This character was so real to those playing this game that they mourned her and continue to this day to honor her. Wow. Can I create characters like that? Can you?

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Following Tosca’s keynote address, I attended a workshop entitled “Touching Evil: Reflections on Writing Villains and their Villainy.” The take-away for me was when he said that the villain is the measuring stick for the hero. Excellent stuff!

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This afternoon Steve Laube spoke about the ins and outs of being represented by an agent.

SteveLaube2Jeff Gerke presented a workshop on “The So-Called Rules of So-Called Fiction and what to So-Called do with Them.” As always Jeff was engaging and funny.

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Lisa Walker England taught on Steampunk, which is the reason I’m here as I have several steampunk novels running through my head. Doesn’t she look great in her costume? (She’s pictured below with Ben Wolf.)

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 The last presenter before the evening awards banquet was Kat Heckenbach who spoke on writing YA.

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The banquet tonight was attended by various unique and special guests:

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The Clive Staples Award for the best in Christian Speculative Fiction this past year went to Patrick W. Carr for A Cast of Stones!

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The Parable Award for best-designed cover on a speculative fiction book directed to the Christian or family-friendly market went to Numb by John W. Otte.

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The food was delicious and my brain is just as full as my stomach. I’ve learned a lot today and can hardly wait until tomorrow morning to start all over again!

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Live blogging from Realm Makers Conference with BREAKING NEWS!

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I’m in Radnor, PA for the Realm Makers Conference! I am a slightly surprised to find myself here but there’s a nagging in my heart to learn how to write compelling YA, specifically in the Steampunk vein.

I’m not really sure what to expect, but so far things are good. On my drive to Pennsylvania there was a rainbow! That’s a good sign, right?

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It took me two days to drive here from Indiana. Today before I checked into the conference I stopped at a mall in King of Prussia, PA, and had lunch at Ruby’s Diner. The clam chowder was so scrumptious I was tempted to order another cup!

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I sat in the diner and worked on my work in progress. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I can write pretty well in a diner environment. I need to try it again. Although, there aren’t any diners in my neck of the woods. Certainly not ones that have such great decor.

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I was wishing my guys were with me to enjoy such pretty bikes!

The conference is on Villanova University’s campus. The college has beautiful old stone buildings and we’re staying in dorms. The dorm I’m in is actually an apartment. I have the entire thing to myself but there’s enough room for 4 people.

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Tonight as I type this I’m at the Splickety Magazine Critique Party. On the panel critiquing the first few pages of novels submitted and chosen before the conference are Tosca Lee, Jeff Gerke, Steve Laube and Avily Jerome.

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I’m so excited to hear Tosca Lee speak in the morning! I love her books. She has the sort of writing voice I love. Like liquid velvet.

I’ll post again tomorrow (hopefully I’ll have some time to sneak in here to share with you) and let you know all I’m learning. Tonight the panel seems to be in unison regarding that first hook in the first few pages of a book. Lovely writing might be beautiful, but will it keep a reader’s attention? If you want to be published, you need to learn to write what sells.

But if you want to write for your own pleasure, then write what you want!

Tonight Steve Laube announced the new name of his publishing company (formerly Marcher Lord Press): Enclave Publishing! You heard it here first!

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Steve Laube making the announcement:

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Tons of excitement tonight! I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

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Character Mapping

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The first book I bought when I got serious about writing novels was Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. (I highly recommend both the book and the workbook together.) It was this book that taught me how to create a character map. If you’re new to creating characters and story lines, I highly recommend this. You’ll be surprised how many different ways you can connect your characters and it makes their back stories come to life almost on their own.

When I used this method for my book, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots, it revealed a twist and surprise at the end. Here’s an example of a character map based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

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And here’s one for Shakespeare’s Othello:

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Sometimes your characters may not have very many interactions or relationships with one another. In my book, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots, the setting was a small, close-knit community. A lot of the people were related and had grown up together for years. So the map looked like a maze much like the one for Pride and Prejudice. But in my current work in progress, the characters come together on a steamboat from different parts of the country and interact with passengers on the boat who are strangers to them. So there aren’t as many mysterious cousin-type relationships.

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If you’re stuck on a story, try using the character map. I promise it will get you unstuck and spark some exciting new ideas.

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