Monday, April 30, 2012

COTT -- The Birth of Characters

This week, COTT is featuring a Clash of Leading Ladies. But just how are interesting characters born? Here's one author's experience. Welcome Carol Moncado.

Do you ever wonder how authors come up with their characters? I've heard of authors who fashion their main characters after a barista at their favorite coffee shop or some guy on the bus who looked interesting. The further I get into my writing journey, the more I find my characters often come from real life. For instance:
The weekend before Easter, I was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy - where half your face just stops working. Fun.
Not really, but it's great story fodder. That's me. The story is one I started recently.

She was wearing an eye patch.
At church.
On Easter.
It might have been what drew my attention to her, but it wasn't what kept it. She stood there, singing along with the praise and worship band, her hands raised. Worshiping her Maker with abandon. But only half of her face worked. The whole thing lit up but only half of it moved. The half with the eye patch seemed to be paralyzed, but it didn't bother her.A pink eye patch.
Now, to be fair, the heroine is younger, skinnier, with darker, straighter hair than me, but that's where the idea for her came from.
In February, Travis [one of the shift managers at my favorite Panera] informed me I needed to name a character after him. Travis-with-the-faux-hawk became the hero in a manuscript.

I flopped into the recliner and ran my hands over my face until my fingers furrowed rows in my faux-hawk. The one that made the kids think I was way cooler than I really was.

But Travis won't see his name in print. A week ago, he was in a car accident. At age 22, he left this life - leaving behind the love of his life and two children.
I'm deeply saddened by news of Travis' passing. To me he was more than 'just' a shift manager at the Panera I frequent. He was a nice guy I loved to chat with. Another manuscript I planned to work on is about a widow. That's all I knew until last week. Now, she's a widow with young children a few years after a senseless tragedy.
Twenty-two is too young to be a widow.
Bethany Sheer knew this with absolute certainty.
And even though twenty-two had passed her three years earlier – along with her husband, the love of her life and the father of her two children – she remembered all too clearly what the pain tearing through the heart of the young woman on the news felt like.
Someday, I hope to be able to share Travis-with-the-faux-hawk with his family. To let them know that he touched my life. That he inspired a character in a novel – and so did they.
Because the best inspiration is what we find all around us.

When she's not writing about her imaginary friends,Carol Moncado is hanging out with her husband and four kids in the big yard of her southwest Missouri home, teaching American Government at a community college, reading, or watching NCIS. You can follow her ramblings on her blog .

 **Be sure to head over to Clash of the Titles and cast your vote today!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus by Joyce Magnin

This is the story of Harriet Beamer, a seventy-two year old widow who had been living alone in Philadelphia. After falling while decorating her Christmas tree, her daughter-in-law Prudence tricks Harriet into selling her home and moving in with her and Henry, Harriet's son.

When Harriet realizes what happened, she reluctantly keeps her promise to move, but decides to take her time making the long journey to Grass Valley, California, near Sacramento. Not only does she want to get there on her own terms, she wants to visit some places along the way. Her late husband hadn't liked to travel and so they had never made any trips. Since she was a long-time collector of salt and pepper shakers, one place she wanted to go to in particular was the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Harriet sells her house, says goodbye to her friends, ships her belongings to California. Her dog Humphrey, goes on ahead on the plane. Her plan was to take local buses only to make the trip more interesting and longer. But she soon learns that is not possible. Although she takes a local bus when possible, she travels in a variety of ways including a helicopter, a motorcycle sidecar, and trains. She meets many interesting people along the way, some help her and some she helps, some we can only guess, but hope Harriet has blessed them all in some way. One person, David Prancing Elk, told her about a good place to go to look at the stars. So she went there. She gained some fame along the way. A YouTube video of her stopping a thief was broadcast around the world and, at another time and place she managed to help the police catch a couple who had stolen her credit card.

When Harriet was alone on the trip, she pulled out her journal and wrote to her late husband Max and told him about her day. This gave the reader insights not possible otherwise. Along the way, alone in a hotel room or a B&B, Harriet grieved in a way she probably never did while living at home. She missed her husband in a new way. She probably grieved because of the change happening in her life as well. She had been used to talking to Humphrey and with him already in California, she had another reason to be sad. But it's mostly a fun book, not a sad one.

There are ups and downs, tears and laughter, all the way across the United States. However, there's more. It could have easily turned into a series of episodes  in each town Harriet visited with no depth. But it didn't. A subplot involving Henry and Prudence gave the story deeper meaning and more interest. In addition to that, the way Harriet changes throughout the trip makes it much more than a series of short stories.

I laughed and cried and all the while kept turning pages to see what would happen next. To me, that means Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus is well worth the read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an advance review copy of this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Monday, April 23, 2012

COTT Spotlight on Delia Latham

I love those private moments when He cuddles me to His heart and reassures me that I am His, and that I'm special to Him.
~ Delia Latham

Welcome, Delia! It's a pleasure starting off our day off visiting with you. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Do I have to go directly to jail if I confess to rarely eating breakfast?  I've never been a fan of breakfast foods. To make it even worse, I usually get out of bed and feel my way to the refrigerator (instead of the coffee pot) for my wake-me-up Dr. Pepper. Oh, no! I think I just heard the clang of a slamming jail cell...

Uh-oh, lol. I'll give you a place to hide when you go on the lam. So after that can of morning law-breaking, you must then head for the closet to get dressed. Would you consider yourself a skirt, jeans, or sweats kinda gal?

Sweats when I'm home with no company expected and no errands to run. Jeans otherwise. And, although you didn't ask, bare feet.

I'm addicted to socks personally. Preferably fuzzy ones. But besides our feet, we probably look a lot alike in the outfit department. Nice to know I can dress casual if I ever visit your house. Which makes me wonder... If you were having me over for dinner, what would you be serving?

Hmmm...good question, since I'm not the cook in my family. My husband does that, and loves it. (Am I blessed? Oh, yes, I am!) Off the top of my head, I'd say you might be dining on his famous chili verde burritos. They're mmm-mmm good! Dessert would be chocolate Heavenly Hash, which is a scrumptious concoction made of chocolate pudding, cool whip, and...I'm not even sure what else is in there, but you're going to love it! And, since it's you, it would all be served on a silver platter - my contribution to the meal. LOL

Oh Yum! I think I'll bring the whole fam. They might get bored of our book talk though. Can you tell me, of the books you've had published, which is nearest and dearest to your heart?

Come now, darling...surely you wouldn't ask a mother which is her favorite child?  But, for the sake of cooperation, I'll just say that the new baby always gets the most attention. Of my older "children," however, I think Goldeneyes is probably the most "like" me. A vintage romance (set in 1936 and 1959), it is set partially in Weedpatch, the tiny, California farming community where I grew up. How could it not have a little of my own heart and soul written into its pages?

That sounds amazing! Can't wait to read it. =) COTT is lucky to have such a talented writer on staff. How long have you been on staff at Clash of the Titles and what do you envision for its future?

I don't think it's been quite a year yet. Seems like I started about the beginning of August 2011. As for its future, I see COTT becoming a very important cog in the wheel for helping authors get noticed. It's already becoming known within the writing field, and has enjoyed participation by some widely recognized authors. I can't help believing COTT will become one of the places on which authors look forward to claiming a spot, and the Laurel Award could easily become one of the sought-after crowns (ummm...laurels?) of achievement within the industry. I honestly believe we have the potential for that kind of success, because everyone on staff truly cares about our authors and their success. I'm so proud to play a small part behind the scenes!

Sounds like a bright future for COTT and we love you being a part of our family of staff. We love your sweet spirit and the way Jesus shines through you. When do you feel closest to God?

When I'm alone with Him...shut in with God, in a "secret place," as the old hymn goes. Just me and the Lover of my soul. I love those private moments when He cuddles me to His heart and reassures me that I am His, and that I'm special to Him. Even though I know He gives that same assurance to many others, it's absolutely true for each of us. He loves us all the most.

Ah, that is so beautiful. Love it. Thank you, Delia, that was so wonderfully well-put. You have such a way with words. And on that note, tell us about the last book you had the pleasure of seeing reach reader's hands.

That would be Gypsy's Game - Book Three in the Solomon's Gate series...and it reached reader's hands only last Friday, March 16! I'm very excited about Gypsy's story, and can't wait to start hearing what readers think. Here's what it's about:
Gypsy Lovell stands to inherit an enormous amount of money from a father who never gave her anything but a ridiculous name. Even now, he doesn’t make it easy. A stipulation in the man’s will demands that Gypsy be married in order to claim what is hers. Desperate for the monetary windfall that could save her ailing mother’s life, Gypsy visits a Christian dating agency, hoping to find a temporary husband. Someone easy to handle for the required six months, and easy to get rid of when she no longer needs him. Jal Garridan is neither of those things, but he's willing to take on the challenge presented by the beautiful stranger—on his own terms. What Gypsy doesn’t know is that Solomon’s Gate is a dating agency with a Divine connection. What she finds there may save more than her mother’s life. It may save Gypsy’s soul.
I must  admit, there's a certain melancholy that goes along with knowing this book will most likely be the last time I'll swing open the giant portals of Solomon's Gate. But then...only God knows the future...perhaps He hasn't thrown away the key.

The first in that series was one of our summer book club selections and it was a great read! I'm looking forward to continuing the series, and I hope our readers will head over to Amazon to check it out too. They won't be disappointed! 

Thank you so much for chatting with us this morning. Go grab another Dr. Pepper and have a wonderfully productive day. And readers, be sure to visit for the latest Clash and giveaway.  Have a blessed day!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sage and Sweetgrass by LoRee Peery

LoRee Peery

Today, I want to tell you about LoRee Peery's latest book. Sage and Sweetgrass is the third book in the Frivolities Series published by White Rose Publishing February 24, 2012. Book 1 in the series is Moselle's Insurance and Book 2 is  Rainn on My Parade. Book 4 is underway and we'll let you know when it is published.

For details about the other books and more information about LoRee, go to her website:

Sage and Sweetgrass

Diagnosed with a chronic, debilitating illness, Lanae Petersen vows to pursue life to its fullest. When she discovers mysterious love letters hidden within an antique desk, she begins a quest to discover who the young lovers were. Little does she realize that in trying to bring closure to their lives, hers will be turned upside-down.

After the death of his wife, cowboy Sage Diamond wants to be left alone on his acreage in peace and anonymity. When Lanae approaches him with letters to a family member, she not only threatens to expose his family secrets, but also stirs something inside him that he neither expects, nor welcomes. Sage fights his attraction, determined not to fall for a woman whose health is so fragile. Can Sage trust God's guiding hand, or will his fear of losing another love crush his chance for a future with Lanae?


The sky was clear and enormous where it met the horizon. The whinny of horses carried up from a pasture on the other side of the barn. The acreage represented everything she loved about being outside the city limits. Expanse, horses, a sprinkling of trees in the distance…God’s country.

When she caught sight of the cowboy, the vision was complete.

She sighed. Home. How crazy. She felt like she’d come home.

The cowboy rounded the corner of the wood-sided barn that she guessed to be sixty feet long. He loped in the loose way of a man comfortable on the back of a horse.

And she enjoyed every step as he approached.

He even tipped the brim of his hat. “Mornin’. You Lanae?”

Wow was the only thing she could think to say. But she kept it to herself.

Her mouth went dry.

His nose was bent, just off to the right of center. He had a full bottom lip, thinner upper, all accented by what she supposed was a year-round tan. Myriad facial lines gave testimony to a life lived outdoors.

She cleared her throat, mustered up some moisture for her vocal chords in order to answer, “That I am.”

“Sage Diamond.”

When he drew close enough, Lanae was dumbfounded at the impact of his eyes. They were an unbelievable piercing blue with a hint of lavender.

“Did you have any trouble finding the place?” Sage spoke in an unhurried manner.

Lanae wondered if he felt rushed about anything. She started to open the door.

“You always leave your car running?” A hint of amusement tugged at his mouth.

Oops. She turned the key. Great first impression.

He held the door.

Still caught in the lavender blue of his eyes, shadowed now from his hat, Lanae swallowed what felt like the chaff of an August hayfield.

No more singles ads for me.

Sounds interesting! 
Click on the Amazon ad above 
to order the paperback or Kindle edition
and watch for LoRee Peery's next book.

Monday, April 16, 2012

COTT -- Wnner of the Comparable Cover/ Book Blurb Clash!

Clash of the Titles Congratulates Keven Newsome, author of Winter  and winner of the Comparable Cover/ Book Blurb Clash!One of the commenters at Clash of the Titles said, “Just finished Winter, loved it.”
About Winter: We're all freaks. It's just a matter of perspective. Winter Maessen didn’t ask for the gift of prophecy. She’s happy being a freak – but now everyone thinks she’s crazy. Or evil. Goths aren’t all the same, you know. Some are Christians… Christians to whom God sends visions. Students at her university are being attacked, and Winter knows there’s more than flesh and blood at work. Her gift means she’s the only one who can stop it – but at what price? Keven talks about Winter.Winter is a four book series. As the series progresses, Winter’s ability as a prophetess grows to rival Elijah. She does not just have a gift of prophecy, but is an Old Testament style prophet. I worked very hard to make sure everything she does is theologically and Biblically accurate. Everything she does has a corresponding Biblical example. The story is not necessarily about Winter being a prophetess or her battle with a Satanic priest. It is more about her fall and redemption through Christ. That’s why the story is told in two parts. The flashback story shows how she fell to become unlovable and unwanted. The modern day story shows how God can take the most unlovable and unwanted person and transform them into something amazing.  I want this story to inspire all readers that even though they don’t think they’re good enough for God, God thinks otherwise.
About Keven:Keven Newsome is a graduate student at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is pursuing a Master of Arts in Theology specializing in Supernatural Theology. He writes stories that portray the supernatural and paranormal with a Biblical perspective. He's also the found and administrator of The New Author's Fellowship and produces music and videos through Newsome Creative. When asked about himself, he says, "I am a child of God, husband, father, and friend, in that order. I am a musician, novelist, and sometimes artist. I know the difference between Star Wars, Star Trek, and Firefly, but I prefer Lord of the Rings. My mp3 player contains a mix of Christian rock and movie soundtracks. I am more of a nerd at heart, but I am equally comfortable sleeping under the stars with a log for a pillow, playing Halo with a bunch of guys with cold pizza on standby, or playing intra-mural sports such as tennis or flag-football. In short...I am strange." He currently lives in Louisiana with his wife and their two children. Visit Keven's Web site here Submitted by Clash Hostess: Gail Pallotta Bio: Gail has published several hundred freelance articles and two books. While some of her articles are included in anthologies, two of her historical pieces ended up in museums. In 2004, the year she published her first book, Now Is the Time, the American Christian Writers Association named her a regional writer of the year. Gail’s first Christian romance, Love Turns the Tide, was published by Awe-struck E- books in their inspirational category. Learn more about Gail here Visit her blog here Author LOVE TURNS THE TIDE available from Awe-Struck E-Books Web site: Splickety magazine, issue 1.1

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reviews and Comments – The Good and the Bad

Is Free Bad?

While researching how to get the most out of Amazon's Free Kindle promotion, I ran across a warning that offering free books increases the possibility for negative reviews. Why? Apparently people take the freebie only to learn it is not the type of book they like. Ergo, the book is bad.

Nearly 20,000 copies of Where Love Once Lived were downloaded during the three-day promotion so I was geared up for a few negative reviews. It still hurt when the first one came in.

My First 2-Star Rating

The day after the free period, this 2-star review was published on Amazon.

Honest Feelings but read like a bad Harlequin without the sex. I understand that the book is a Christian fiction. That said, this book was super-sweet Christian romance with a little bit of all hardships thrown in. Although all the previous reviews really like the book, they also want to save you from reading it by telling you the entire plot, lol, so I will just say this is a book that you will know how you feel by the end of the first chapter. I quite honestly put it down after that first chapter and only finished it because the reviews were so good. I should have saved myself an hour.

The 2-star rating was probably not fair, but I actually liked what the reviewer had to say. Since I had 15 5-star ratings and one 4-star rating, the 2-star one didn't change the average. But with 20,000 possible new readers, I began to worry what could happen.

Another 5-Star Rating

But it was eight days later before the second review came in from lbmollie11, who lives in Pittsburg, and it was a 5-star!

GREAT! I simply loved this book and couldn't put it down. Just when you thought you knew what was going to happen next, something else happened instead!

This brought my average back up to 4.8 for Amazon reviews.

Other Feedback From Readers

Then, yesterday I got this email from a woman in Iowa who had bought both books:

I finished your books. I read the first one earlier in the winter. It was the kind of story I like and hard to put down.

A week or so ago I started the second one, I cried through the first part, of course, then I could hardly put it down. It was exciting, but scary to read before going to bed. I finished it this morning. Great!!

Will be waiting for more books.

Isn't that nice.

You can read my notes about Amazon's Free Kindle Promotions here:

Monday, April 9, 2012

COTT -- A Special 3-Week-Long Clash

Your Clash Hostess:  Gail Pallotta
Clash of the Titles has a great selection of books in our give away this week. Shelley Adina will donate a copy of Lady of Devices, Keven Newsome offers a choice between a signed print copy of Winter OR two e-books, one of Winter and one of Aquasynthesis. James Rubart gives away a copy of The Chair

Wow! Vote in order to enter. You'll find the voting box below. You can also leave a comment on any COTT post or on our Facebook page. Multiple entries encouraged!

Many times we hear a word or phrase and another comes to mind. The two go together so well we can’t think of one without recalling the other. Some easily recognized pairs come from life experiences, others from songs, books or movies. Here are a few to complete just for fun.

1. A  song:  “Love and Marriage.” “Love and marriage, love and marriage go together like a  _____ and _____.”  According to Wikipedia, this tune was introduced by Frank Sinatra in the 1955 television rendition of “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. It aired on Producers Showcase.

2. Something we eat. Hot apple pie and ____ _____. No one eats apple pie without it, do they?

3. Movie stars often cast together: Doris Day and _____ ______. Three of their 1962 movies, “Pillow Talk,” “ Lover Come Back” and “Send Me No Flowers,” are available today in a romance collection.

4. From Books and Television: The Hardy Boys / _____ ______. This series was based on two series published by Edward Stratemeyer.

5. A heroine in a book. Her name is in the title. ______ of Green Gables. This book was published in 1908 by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Originally written for all ages, recently it’s been considered a  children’s book. Since publication it’s sold 50 million copies, and is taught to students  worldwide. It’s been adapted to film, television and stage.

6. The prey in a tale of the sea.  Captain Ahab and the great white_____. Published in 1851 by Herman Melville, this is  one of the great American novels. It tells the story of Ishmael, a sailor on a ship named  Pequod.

7. A character in a novel.  Miss Scarlett in _____ _____ ___ _____. Margaret Mitchell won a Pulitzer prize for the  novel in 1937. The movie, considered a classic epic film today, premiered in 1939.

1. Horse, carriage  
2. Ice cream  
3. Rock Hudson  
4. Nancy Drew  
5. Anne 
6. Whale  
7. Gone with the Wind

That was fun. Now vote for your pick in the cover and book blurb Clash. When we read the blurbs, do the images on the front of the books come to mind and vice versa? If so, which of these go together best? Later when you think of what the book blurb has to say, will you see the cover in your mind’s eye?    Please vote for one.
Cover and Blurb A

We're all freaks. It's just a matter of perspective. 
Winter Maessen didn’t ask for the gift of prophecy. She’s happy being a freak – but now everyone thinks she’s crazy. Or evil. Goths aren’t all the same, you know. Some are Christians…
Christians to whom God sends visions. Students at her university are being attacked, and Winter knows there’s more than flesh and blood at work. Her gift means she’s the only one who can stop it – but at what price?
Cover and Blurb B
London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world. At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. When her father gambles the estate on the combustion engine and loses, Claire finds herself down and out on the mean streets of London. But being a young woman of resources and intellect, she turns fortune on its head. It’s not long before a new leader rises in the underworld, known only as the Lady of Devices . . . When she meets Andrew Malvern, a member of the Royal Society of Engineers, she realizes her talents may encompass more than the invention of explosive devices. They may help her realize her dreams and his . . . if they can both stay alive long enough to see that sometimes the closest friendships can trigger the greatest betrayals . . .
Cover and Blurb C
If someone gave you a chair and said it was made by Jesus Christ, would you believe them?
When an elderly lady shows up in Corin Roscoe's antiques store and gives him a chair she claims was crafted by Jesus, he scoffs. But when a young boy is miraculously healed two days after sitting in the chair, he stops laughing and starts wondering . . . could this chair heal the person whose life Corin destroyed twelve years ago? As word spreads of the boy's healing, a mega-church pastor is determined to manipulate Corin into turning over the chair. And that mysterious woman who gave him the piece flits in and out of his life like a shadow, insinuating it's Corin’s destiny to guard the chair above everything else. But why? Desperate, he turns to the one person he can trust, a college history professor who knows more about the legend of the chair than he'll reveal. Corin's life shatters as he searches for the truth about the artifact and the unexplained phenomena surrounding it. What’s more, he's not the only one willing do almost anything to possess the power seemingly connected to the chair. Please vote below, and don't forget to enter to win one of these great books.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fiction vs. Reality in Writing Novels

View from behind the Roaring Fork in northwest Austin.
Note the rocks from the old quarry above the water line.

Is It Imaginary or Real?

In Where Love Once Lived, there is a scene where Brian takes Karen to a fancy restaurant to say goodbye. Up until this point, he has tried to win her back. Now, after discovering his life has been a lie, he decides to move to Germany. He'd rather lose her than have to tell her the truth about his past.

I knew this scene had to be done in a restaurant so that the characters' reactions to each other would be constrained by common courtesy toward the other diners. My writing instructor, Bonnie Hearn Hill, had told us repeatedly that restaurant scenes were to be avoided because they were so overused. To counter the objection I knew I would hear from her I created an imaginary place that was so unusual it made the scene seem more unique.

The Imaginary Quarry Restaurant

Brian's friend Matt had converted a used up rock pit from a blemished, worthless spot on Earth to a verdant garden full of life. With God's help, Brian's life was in the process of changing from a loveless one to a love-filled one. Here is an excerpt of the scene before dinner:

Matt’s Quarry restaurant overlooked a rock pit that he’d turned into a lush garden by adding a thick layer of arable soil followed by a variety of trees, bushes, cacti, and flowers. People came from around the country to see the garden, making it difficult to get reservations for the restaurant, especially when the flowers were in full bloom. Matt had saved them a table with a view, and the special lighting installed in the garden below made it easier to appreciate the garden’s beauty.

Before their meal arrives, Karen threatens to walk out if Brian doesn't talk, so he placates her and decides to wait until after dinner to tell her he is leaving.

When they reached the end of the ramp and were on a flat surface, he took her hand with fingers laced. Her pulse felt synchronized with his as it traveled up his arm. He searched her eyes to see if she felt it, too. She smiled and pulled him closer. They walked silently until they got to the barren area he’d told her about. White jagged rock told the story of what it was like here when workers cut the limestone blocks from the earth. Several huge blocks stood nearby, serving as examples. The rocks smelled musty.

“This is what the whole area looked like when Matt bought it.”

“Quite a contrast,” she said, not letting go of his hand.

Brian looked at her in the light of the garden. She was so lovely.

“Yes. Think of all the dirt Matt hauled in to cover the rock and prepare for new growth. It’s even prettier here in the spring when the flowers bloom.” He wanted to be the one to show her the flowers. “All this used to be outside the city limits. The quarry was closed for years, the land marred like this, until Matt came up with the idea of building the garden and restaurant.”

“Great idea,” she said. “He reclaimed the land here, brought new purpose to it.”

“Yes. He’s modest about it, though. He said he got the idea while visiting Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada. I haven’t been there myself, but he said they restored the land there and made it into a garden.”

It was cooler in the garden, so Brian pulled her close. Was it to keep her warm or to feel her warmth? Whatever the reason, it felt natural to hold her close once again. The thirty years they were apart seemed like mere days. He held her tighter, knowing this would be the last time they’d be together.

The Real Quarry Restaurant

The imaginary Quarry Restaurant was based on my memory of living near an abandoned quarry near Highway 183. The area has since been engulfed by the city of Austin. Recently I noticed a restaurant sign nearby that mentioned a view of the quarry. Not long after that, Celeste and I went there to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

It is called the Roaring Fork. I looked it up online and found there are two in Austin, one in San Antonio and one in Scottsdale, Arizona. The ad stresses wood-fired cooking and American cuisine.

The old quarry is now a lake with condos and business offices circling it. There was a high fence at the location of the restaurant blocking the entrance to the trail around the lake and a sign indicating the area was private. Runners and walkers came by, presumably residents of the condos. There was also what looked like a recreational park across from where we looked out. It had a swimming and what appeared to be a boating area. The rock sides rose above the water level as a reminder that it was once a working quarry.

The Food?

The food was exceptional, but so was the price. It was fine for a once a year celebration such as ours, but not a place I would go often.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Plot Thickeners

The term Plot Thickener came to me as I listened to a concert recently. I was with my wife enjoying a benefit concert in a small room in the Georgetown, Texas, public library. As the pianist, violinist and celloist played, I relaxed and before long my mind was totally involved in a new novel I'm working on. I had a good outline and had written the first draft of about a quarter of the book. I would have thought my mind would work on the rest of the book. Instead I came up with a  way to make the entire book more interesting. The idea took the basic plot and made it richer and fuller. That's when the term plot thickener popped up. I thought about the process of making gravy thicker by adding more flour or by cooking it down.

As soon as the ideas came to me I wanted to take notes. But no one in the small group was making a sound or moving. Even the group's photographer had been asked to refrain from taking photos. I couldn't write on the program the way I sometimes jotted notes on the pew bulletin during the sermon. Even if I wanted to risk distracting the people around me, I had no pencil and had purposely left my iPhone in the car, another way I make notes at times. Besides, the information was coming to me so fast I wouldn't have been able to record it in time.

What I did was sit still and replay the ideas in my head over and over again until I felt I would never forget them. As a bonus, the ideas were expanded each time I repeated them. By the time the concert was over, I had additions to the plot in my head that would fit perfectly into existing scene outlines from start to finish. It was an exhilarating feeling. And no one noticed.

When I got home, I typed as fast as I could so I wouldn't forget the details. I ended up with more than 1,500 words which would probably be two or three times as long when written out with all the tags and descriptions. The next day, I copied the ideas into the book, either the part already written or the scene descriptions. When I got to the last scene, I cried. The changes made the story more powerful and the ending more poignant. Although I knew the emotion would eventually come, this was the first time the story had moved me to this degree.

Later, I Googled "Plot Thickener" and came up with a crossword puzzle clue, two songs, two comics, and a slew of other things. Then, I saw what I had in mind. In a 2002 Washington Post article ( Linton Weeks uses the term Plot Thickeners to describe writers hired by well-known authors to flesh out their bare-bones stories. That's what I was doing, fleshing out my bare-bones story.

I intend to try this technique again. The music was by Claude Debussy, Francis Poulenc, and Maurice Ravel, an all French night. I'll try to listen to music again to relax the mind and see what happens. I'll also try working without pen and paper or computer. Refining the ideas in my head allowed me to work faster. Repeating it for memory helped me flesh out the ideas.

What about you. As a writer have you had similar experience?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Announcing Struggles and Triumphs Study Guide by Cynthia L. Simmons

 What’s wrong with our world?

Shouldn’t a God who claims to be all powerful and flawless prevent suffering? How can we continue to believe when storms rage on in our lives? If you’ve ever had tough questions like these, the Struggles and Triumphs Study Guide is the book for you.

Author Cynthia L. Simmons will guide you toward answers with her unique and enlightening approach. Her twelve-week Bible study for ladies comes from stories of real women as told in Struggles and Triumphs. As you study, you’ll come to understand God’s perspective on timeless issues that impact your life. The carefully chosen Scriptures combined with interesting historical information will challenge and encourage you.

Cynthia L. Simmons 

Cynthia L. Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She has taught for more than twenty years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. Active in Christian Authors Guild (CAG), she conducts writing workshops and has served as president, vice president, and conference director. In December 2009 the membership granted her Life Time Membership for her numerous contributions to writers.  

“Cindy” is fond of history and writes both historical fiction and nonfiction. Her writing appeared in CAG publications, NATHHAN NEWS, Chattanooga Regional Historical Magazine, Georgia Right to Life Newsletter, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Catholic Exchange, and Christian Her first book, Struggles and Triumphs, came out in 2008.

While promoting her book, she was interviewed on radio and TV across the nation and nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the year. She also conducts monthly podcasts called CAG Spotlight in which she interviews authors and VIPs in the writing industry. At present she is completing a twelve week Bible study using the stories in Struggles and Triumphs

The Story Behind the Book

My stomach knotted as I gazed at my youngest son, Caleb. I checked on him often, but he hadn’t moved in several hours. He lay on his back turning one toy in rhythm.  Was something wrong? Homeschooling his four older siblings consumed my time, and I thanked God Caleb was sweet and quiet. I never dreamed he was in the autism spectrum. No, he didn’t talk, but he didn’t need to. His adoring brothers and sisters made sure he lacked nothing.

As my husband and I compared notes, a pattern emerged.  Caleb didn’t behave like a four year old, and a professional confirmed developmental delay. He advised me to teach Caleb kindergarten material. Right away I encountered trouble. Caleb couldn’t pay attention—not even a few seconds. I had to hold his face in my hand and almost touch his nose to instruct him. If he made a mistake, which he often did, he threw himself to the floor and screamed. Ear-splitting shrieks! The task appeared insurmountable, so I took classes, researched and studied.

Finally a doctor did extensive testing and gave us a diagnosis. It almost plunged me into depression. His numerous labels took half a page.  Rather than use therapists on a consulting basis, I hired one full time. But that created another problem. The new therapist disliked me because I had the arrogance to educate a child so troubled. She treated me with disdain.  Within a few months, I was sick.  I saw my doctor and his concern alarmed me. I worried I’d have to stop homeschooling.

In desperation, I cried out to God. His response took me by surprise. I became interested in a prominent individual from the past and began historical research. Stories of faithfulness I unearthed delighted me. I gleaned courage and perseverance from believers who lived before me. My outlook changed, and my health returned. Despite the challenges, I continued to teach Caleb alongside professionals, and he improved. God gave me grace through each struggle. Today my son’s a gracious young man who’s ready for vocational training.

God comforted me, and I felt a responsibility to pass it to others. So, in 2004, I joined a Christian Authors Guild. The group offered education, encouragement, and critiques. I achieved success in publishing with newspapers and magazines as well as group publications.

After a little research, I discovered much of the uplifting material I loved hadn’t found its way into print. In Struggles and Triumphs: Women in History Who Overcame, I told anecdotes of prominent women whom I’d grown to care for like Katie Luther and Susannah Spurgeon. The twelve week Bible study guide pulled issues from each story. For instance, Henry VIII of Britain planned to arrest his wife, Kateryn, because she advised him on spiritual matters.  The Bible study sent the student to Scripture to examine Kateryn’s choices and discover the meaning of biblical submission. I hope to encourage women toward a deeper understanding of their faith while also demonstrating God’s ability to use difficult circumstances for our good. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Four Websites to Help You Choose Character Names

I use this site when looking for a name for a character. You can see what the most popular male and female names were by year.

What does your character's name mean? This site also provides the history of a name. It includes names from many languages.

This website is fun to play with. All you have to do is click on the male or female button to get a name, first and last. Here are two examples: Trevin Wostfoot and Scarlet Frelfly. It is great for people who want a fictional sounding name.

This site is loaded with useful information that will help you find the perfect name. And, it is easy to read. There are eight short tips plus comments from readers.

What would you add to the list? 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Giving Away Books -- Making Amazon's Free Kindle Days Successful

I finished my first Amazon Free Kindle event Saturday, March 31, 2012, at midnight. I'm not sure how to evaluate the results, but if the goal is to give away as many books as possible, I think it was a sensational success. Here's the final tally: gave away 19,248 copies of Where Love Once Lived. Buyers in the United Kingdom picked up 75 copies while buyers in Germany grabbed three and buyers in France took two. The grand total was 19,328 copies.

What to Do Prior to the Start of Your Free Days

Some of what you do to maximize the number of books you give away must be done ahead of time. Other activities can be done beforehand to give you more time for what must be done after the free days period begins.

Here's what you should do early.

If you haven't already, pick an Amazon category for your book. This can take several days, so do it now. If you don't know how to do this, buy this How to Launch a Christian Best-Seller Book, The John 316 Marketing Network Manual by Lorilyn Roberts: It contains additional information about book marketing as well.

I advertised in ACFW Journal and the Wordsmith Journal. This may or may not have helped. I like to think it did. Sales were up some prior to the free days.

Arrange to be a guest on other blogs.

This is what I wrote in the body of the emails:

Where Love Once Lived will be free 3/29, 3/30, 3/31

The Vengeance Squad will be free 4/13, 4/14, 4/15

Sidney W. Frost

You can also use an input form for Frugal Freebies:

Another page that allows for you to enter your free day information online is: This is a great site. You can sign up to receive information about free Kindles by email. It is a very professional looking site, but keep in mind there are non-Christian books included as well. In fact, many of the resources noted in this report are not restricted to Christian. In addition, the categories they use many not fit the categories we are used to. Many of them do have ways to limit what you see and get in email to Christian only. However, some include some racy book covers in places.

Pixel of Ink – Free and Bargain Kindle Books: Go to  and fill out the form.

Ereader News Today -- Tips, Tricks, And Free Ebooks For Your Kindle. Go to and fill out the form.

Books on the Knob: I didn't see a way to get listed, but this one looks like a possible resource. If you can figure it out let me know.

For independent publishers, go to Indie Book List:

Author Marketing Club. Here is another one I like. Very professional with many ways to reach people. Go to to enter your information. As implied, you'll need to sign up for a membership. It's free.

Inspired Reads – Christian Kindle Books On A Budget: to submit your book. You may want to subscribe to this one, too.

Family Fiction: This is a slick site, and I don't know if they did anything with the information I submitted. I suspect you may have to pay for advertising.

Here's an interesting site that may not help get the word out about your free Kindle days, but it can be used anytime to help track your Amazon bestseller status. It requires a free membership and they offer other services, some for payment. The tracker service is free. I used it for Where Love Once Lived and found my best standing was #8 in the Free Kindle Bestseller list. It shows the high and low by day and the price of the book. However, it does not show standings by category. Where Love Once Lived hit #1 for Christian Romance on the second day of my three-day free period and stayed there until sometime the next day.  One thing nice about this tracker is that it keeps up with your ranking when you can't.

Prepare Tweets

Before your free period begins you should have all your tweets written and posted for a particular date and time. I use TweetDeck ( ) for this, but there are other ways to accomplish this. My tweets are set to automatically go to my Facebook page so I can take care of both at the same time. My fear is that I send too many tweets, but I know as a receiver, I don't always get to see every tweet and Facebook posting my friends do. So, hopefully, no one will get bombarded. For the Where Love Once Lived Kindle Free days, I posted seven tweets the first day (every two hours between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm), seven tweets on the second day (every three hours between 6:00 am and 11:00 pm), and 17 times on the third day (every hour from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm plus an extra).

Since my friend base is limited and I wanted to reach as many people as possible, I included #FreeKindleBook #freebook #free with each tweet as long as I have could fit it into the 140 character limit. TweetDeck automatically compresses links so that gave me more space to work with. I prepared my tweets in Word using a two-column table. The first column was for date and time and the second for the tweet. As I copied each one into TweetDeck, I marked it with a yellow highlight. Here are some examples of tweets I used:

Where Love Once Lived Tell your friends to get a copy FREE today.  #FreeKindleBook #freebook #free

Where Love Once Lived FREE! Much of the action takes place on a bookmobile. #FreeKindleBook #freebook #free

Where Love Once Lived  " I especially liked the way you handled the racial relationships." FREE KINDLE ED. TODAY. #FreeKindleBook #freebook #free

Where Love Once Lived LAST DAY FREE KINDLE:  " Woven throughout the story is God's grace and mercy." #FreeKindleBook

Where Love Once Lived FREE!!!  "I commend your sensitivity to a woman's feelings and perspective. -- a quality rare in men!"

The parts in quotes were taken from reviews and other comments I received from readers.

What to Do On Free Days

Go to your Amazon page and add tags: Free ebook, Kindle Freebie, and Kindle Free. Make a note on your calendar to delete these tags after your free days.

Visit these Facebook pages and leave messages about your free Kindle book:

Free Kindle Books and Tips --

Look for other Facebook pages where people would enjoy reading your book.

Send tweets to @kindlenews and any others you may find with followers who are potential readers of your book.


The benefits of giving away nearly 20,000 books eludes me at this time. However, if that's what you want to do it, I hope you will find this information useful. Please let me know.

I understand one benefit is to advertise your book and your name. However, what if everyone who would have bought the book now already has a copy? Friends have said they sold more of their other books while one was being offered for free. I noticed that with my other book, The Vengeance Squad, but not to the level where I would say it made a huge difference. I went from selling one book a day to selling an average of three books a day. If this continues, it will become more important. Also, if people decide to buy Where Love Once Lived after hearing about it even though it is no longer free, then I'll see some benefit. One writer friend lowered the price to ninety-nine cents after the free period and then gradually got it back to the regular price going up one dollar at a time. That could work, too. Especially for those buyers who got to Amazon late. I had 32 refunds on the day after the last free day. I suspect these are people who clicked the buy button before they realized the book was no longer free. There could be more of those. I hope not.

How Many Free Days Are Best?

This article assumes you know how to set up your book in KDP Select for your free days. However, if you're like me you will want to know how many of your five free days to use. One of my friends said to use more than one day at a time because you need to allow time for the word to get out. I didn't record "sales" around the clock, but I can say there were about 8,000 the first day, 6,000 the second day, and the remaining 6,000 the third day. Even though the most "sales" were on the first day, it took the Amazon engines time to digest it all. I didn't hit No. 1 bestselling status until late afternoon the second day. An old Dee Henderson book was second then, but her book overcame mine the next day. It's not bad getting knocked out of first place by one of your favorite authors.

Which Days of the Week Are Best?

After I selected three days, I wanted to know if the day of week would matter. No one had experience in that area, but I heard there is a lot of activity on weekends. For Where Love Once Lived, I decided on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and for The Vengeance Squad, I picked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I have offered you the results of my experience, but much of the how-to was given to me by others. Especially, Shelley Hitz, Bob Saffrin, Martin Roth, Lorilyn Roberts, the John 3:16 Marketing Network, and My special thanks to you all.

The information outlined in this article is not static. More than a few of the resources I learned from my friends were no longer available when I did my preparation.  If you run into one like that then go to the next one.

The Vengeance Squad Kindle edition will be free April 13, 14, and 15. Grab you a copy.