Thursday, May 29, 2014

Research: The Importance of Knowing Your Setting

I got back from Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference excited and invigorated to get started on my next novel. The general idea for the story had been culminating in my brain for months, and I was ready to begin last weekend.
But I had one very important step to do first: Research.

It all began with the general feel I wanted to portray. And I wanted to be able to travel to the town, so it had to be pretty close to home. When I went on the Internet, I knew right away where the location should be set. It was evident that Staunton, Virginia had everything I needed to create the world in my novel.

Our first stop was the Woodrow Wilson Museum and birthplace. I wanted to get the feel for museum life in a busy town. This museum covered a span of time from the 1850's to the 1920's, all of Presidents Wilson's life.  Our 28th president led a very interesting life. I was privileged to talk to the curator after our tour, and he was very resourceful. Note to you writers, talk to all the professional people you can when researching. They love to share.

Staunton has a lot of old world charm with its beautiful churches scattered virtually on every corner of the older part of town. The houses loomed on hills and plazas because of the surrounding mountains. And, they echoed of bygone times where architects cared about the uniqueness of each house.

Downtown, we visited West Beverly Street with all its art and antiques and fantastic architectural ingenuity. The Wharf, around the train depot, beckoned us to its air of chicness.

And of course I had to explore Thornrose Cemetery. Who knew such beautiful yet eerie bridges and mausoleums could grace such a cold and dark rainy day as today. I can just imagine something sinister happening under the craggy trees and marble head stones of this location in my current WIP.

We concluded the day with the looming Western State Hospital, a lunatic asylum. It is now closed, but a great location to set a thriller in motion. We couldn't get too close because it's restricted, but it was so fun to try to get pictures of the foreboding boarded up building.

We had a blast on this research trip. I can't wait to go back. This trip created a three dimensional setting in my mind that will help my story seem more real to my readers when it translates onto paper. I'm so glad I could take this trip to enhance my work. If at all possible, take little trips and find cool locations to help you visualize your book's location. You'll be glad you did.

Where have you been for your research?


Monday, May 19, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to a dear writing friend, Kate Hodges, I have the opportunity to share in a world blog tour to talk about my writing process. Check out her blog at htttp:// when you get a chance. It's full of amazing stories in the perspective of those touched by Jesus' miracles. Her book, The Other Side of Miracles, opened my eyes to the reality of life for those handicapped physically and emotionally during Jesus' day.

We were asked to answer a few questions so here goes:

What am I working on?

I'm in the middle of rewriting a manuscript I started about four years ago. It sat on my shelf for quite a long time until I couldn't ignore the call of God's voice to pick it up and fix it. I believe that no manuscript of mine should languish on a shelf, never to see light. For this reason, I buckled down and pulled from the depths of my soul and all the knowledge I'd gained over the years to redo this story. Why else would God have given it to me to begin with? So the journey began. I cried, I pleaded for mercy, even hid in every way possible before I broke out my trusty computer for the rewrite (You should see the massive restraint that kept me in my seat so I'd accomplish this monumental task!). And now, it's oh so close to being completed with the help of an editor.

How does my work differ from others in the same genre?

I love to make characters who are unsure of themselves, a little bumbly, yet capable of learning to grow into wonderful people who can stand on their own two feet once they've overcome major obstacles. This gives my novels a bit of quirkiness in a fun-loving way. But sometimes I do manage to write serious works too.

Why do I write what I do?

When God wants you to do something, it's best to do it. Don't think I haven't questioned Him the whole way through this writing journey. Sometimes it's a daily task. But, I know I'm on the right track for my Savior. I hope to encourage my readers to let go of past hurts and sins, and move forward to the wonderful plan God has for them.

How does my writing process work?

I'm one of those plotters who has to make extensive outlines. I have outlines for characters, places, the plot, and anything else pertinent to the storyline. As I work I fill in the plot outline with specific page numbers and details. This has served me well over the years when I have to go back and make changes.

I read Writing the Breakout Novel workbook, by Donald Maass, which has been instrumental in transforming my writing. I plan to use it on every novel I write to pick it apart and develop my story to its fullest potential.

Thanks for stopping by. Catch Nancy Bolton next Monday, May 19, as this world blog tour continues. She's an amazing critique partner of mine that I've come to appreciate beyond measure.

Nancy BoltonNancy Bolton is a Christian writer who loves the Lord. Her portfolio includes poetry, song lyrics, short stories, non-fiction and fiction works. Women's fiction is her latest endeavor, and she writes quite the variety from contemporary and historical romance to fantasy. Above all, she strives to show how God changes human lives in both the huge and tiny ways. Soon to be published in September, The Right Ingredients by Prism Book Group! View her blog at .

  Amryn Cross is another one of my critique partners who's allowed me to cross reference her week for the blog tour. Amryn Cross (Amory Cannon) is a writer of Christian romance and suspense as well as young adult. With a blend of dust and shadows, all of her books contain the message of grace and the love of God. Her debut novel, Learning to Die will be released in September 2014 by Desert Breeze Publishing. See what she has to say about her writing process at

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Blog Tour Date Set

I'm going to be doing The Writing Process Blog Tour on Monday, May 19. Stay tuned to see what my writing process is next week.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Secret Garden

Even though I'm a winter lover, there's nothing like the spring when flowers start to climb out of the earth and bushes bloom. It's been so exciting to see my yard come to life this year since it is my first spring at my new house. I didn't know what to expect, and wondered if there would even be any flowers at all. I should've known God had something special for me. He took the desires of my heart and gave me the secret garden, hidden in the back corner of my property, I always wanted. He remembered how I longed for one to match the  book I read during those glorious days of my youth.

It's been just like The Secret Garden, discovering what lays hidden under a thick undergrowth of ground coverage. I'm discovering a brick path. I haven't found the end of it yet. I wonder where it leads. Then there are the Greek style planters here and there. These too have ivy draped over and around them. You can make out the shapes, but can't quite see them. And, I uncovered a white azalea bush just this evening. It'd been covered with some type of climbing weed that almost covered the entire thing. It seemed to sigh with relief once I was finished pulling out the weeds. There are three huge trees that shade almost the entire area. Lily leaves and hostas poke up everywhere, too. Daffodils and hyacinths already bloomed in beautiful colors on the edge the garden.

This wonderful place reminds me of my walk with God. The brick trail shows me where to step, but just enough that I have to lean on Him to go in the right direction. The covered planters are the areas of my life I need to clean out and refill with His Word. And the cool shade of the trees reminds me of the shelter He provides in the heat of life.

But, the best part to me is discovering all the flowers that have been hidden by winter and are getting ready to bloom. This is the perfect symbol of God's plan for me. I might not always know what He has in mind, but He'll be there to surprise me with something beautiful like the color of the lilies that I can't wait to see, or the new purple flowers that started blooming the other week.

I bet He has something wonderful and surprising for you too.