Writing News and Tips: Helen Gray

I’m adding something new to my blog in the coming months. I’ll be hosting short devotionals here every Wednesday with the help of some guests. If you’re interested in signing up to write a devotional, visit http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090b4ea9a92fabf94-devotionals.

I recently did a Book Trailer video and discussed “Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands”. You can watch it here.

“One Lump or Two: 4 novellas of romance over tea (A Teacup Courtship Novella)” is available on Amazon right now for .99 cents. You can grab your copy here…

 

My big news: I’ve completed the rough draft of book #50, Mermaid’s Song. It will be available early in July.

 

Upcoming blog appearances:

May 27th:

http://stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com/

https://kimberlysmusings.wordpress.com/

May 29th:

https://historythrutheages.wordpress.com/

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Now let’s meet Helen…

Helen Brown grew up in a small town and changed colors when she married her pastor and became Helen Gray. They have three grown children and still live in their native Missouri Ozarks. She thanks God for the opportunity to spin Christian fiction, and considers it an added blessing if it should touch others in even a small way.

Visit her at http://helenbrowngray.com/

Choosing a Title

The first thing to consider is what your book is about. The title should reflect that. It can be as simple as the name of a person, place, or thing. Or it can be an event, a line from the story itself, or an association of ideas.

After publishing several romance novels and novellas, I have ventured into a new genre—mystery. While writing the first one, I began tossing around ideas for a title. My heroine is a teacher in a small town high school, a world of familiarity to me, so the words Schooled in Murder came to me. But then I did a search and found another book (in a genre far different from mine), as well as a series, by that title.

Yes, I’ve read that titles are not copyrightable. But I wanted an original title. So I pondered about it and settled on Educated in Murder.

When I started a sequel, I decided to stay with the same pattern, with a new word at the beginning. That story is about a preacher (a praying man) who was preyed upon. I titled it Preyed in Murder. The victim in the third story is a coach, so I titled it Coached in Murder.

At the time, I didn’t know about “trademark” titles, those that follow a pattern unique to their particular series. Some examples of famous writers who have made their titles follow a unique pattern are Janet Evanovich with her numbers; Sue Grafton with letters of the alphabet; James Michener with one-word titles of locations; John D. McDonald with colors; and James Patterson with nursery rhymes.

Have fun with your titles. But make sure they’re not dull, and that they are appropriate and easy to remember. Also, I read somewhere that most titles on bestseller lists are no longer than three words long.

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“Educated In Murder”

Toni Donovan teaches science in a small high school in the Missouri heartland. As a devoted wife and mother of two young sons, she leads a quiet and orderly existence—until she discovers the district’s missing superintendent, a woman she hated, in the body farm kept by her forensics class. The victim was a tyrant and manipulator, and Toni senses there are secrets in the halls of academia that no one suspects.

When, with the instincts of a scientist, Toni delves deeper into the murder investigation, she finds herself facing more problems than just preparing for classes and dealing with unruly students. When her younger son, whose dream prompted her to the location of the body, is threatened, Toni learns that danger and terror do happen in a small town, and that she must not allow hate to overtake her life. Determined to stop a killer, her quest leads her into a series of discoveries that could cost Toni her own life.

 

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Writing News & Reviews: The Pony Express Romance Collection

Here’s the covers to my upcoming releases.

In June, Acadian Hearts will be available.

It’s a classic rich girl and poor boy story–set in the beauty of the future Acadian National Park.

In July, Mermaid’s Song will be released.

Justine Battineux loses her voice when she is shipwrecked on the shores of the English-speaking Maine colony.

Celebrating 50 Books! July 10th on Facebook! Tons of prizes.

 

Check out my column at http://seniornewsandliving.com/featured/special-to-snl-who-is-a-hero/ or http://www.myprimetimenews.com/who-is-a-hero/

Guest blog posts this week:

Both on  May 16th:

http://stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com/

http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com/  ***Exciting opportunity–explaining how my Street Team works to Australasian Christian Writers–an entire continent–or two–please stop by!

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Now for this month’s Review Feature…

The Pony Express Romance Collection: Historic Express Mail Route Delivers Nine Inspiring Romances

Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials? Find out in this exciting collection of nine historical romances.

Learn more at Amazon

REVIEW SNIPPETS:

The Gambler’s Daughter by Darlene Franklin – 1860…near Fort Kearny, Kansas….Caroline Adams arrives at the Chelan Swing Station where she will finally be reunited with her father, the stationmaster there—or so she thought. Instead she finds stationmaster Martin Green. In the days that follow, Caroline and Martin find themselves unraveling a mystery while searching for her father and in so doing uncover secrets that shed light on the life he had lived—not all pleasant—after he left Caroline and her mother all those years ago. Crushed and heartbroken, Caroline considers what her next steps are, she really has no choice but remain in Fort Kearny. As the days turn into weeks, Caroline settles into her new life, work, an unexpected romance and growing faith, forgiveness and restoration. Surprises are just around the corner, danger, forgiveness, miracles and love. Fun story.

  • Tina

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“There are nine stories in this collection of novellas, but the one by Darlene Franklin was my favorite….

Since I read the one by Darlene, I have read six more novellas and so I cannot remember the names of the characters involved, but what I liked most about Darlene’s is that her protagonist had to fight his demons and wrestle with the Lord to come to the place where he was strong enough for the young lady who had stolen his heart. She described in detail the struggle he encountered in overcoming his temptation, much as Jacob wrestled with the angel of God. I appreciate her ability to put into words, the daily struggles of living the Christian life and yet give hope to one who struggles so.

This is a five star book, with two thumbs up, and a pony express outpost.”

  • Becky

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Authors are always grateful for reviews and I appreciate every review I receive for one of my books. Thank you to these ladies for sharing their thoughts. Happy Reading, everyone!

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Writing News and Tips: Valerie Comer

I’m excited to announce 2 upcoming releases. In June, Acadian Hearts will be available. It’s a classic rich girl and poor boy story–set in the beauty of the future Acadian National Park.

In July, Mermaid’s Song will be released. Justine Battineux loses her voice when she is shipwrecked on the shores of the English-speaking Maine colony.

May is also a busy month for my guest appearances online. Here’s where I’ll be this month visiting with author friends and talking about my latest books.

May 8 – Lena Nelson Dooley’s blog

May 10 – Renee Blare’s blog

May 16 – Amber Schamel’s blog

May 16 – Australasian Christian Writers

May 20 – Amber Schamel’s blog

May 22 – Kim Johnson’s blog

May 29 – Donna Schlacter’s blog

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Now let’s meet Valerie…

Valerie Comer is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner, writing contemporary romance with engaging characters, deep faith, and strong communities. She hopes her imaginary friends enjoy their happily-ever-afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Visit her at http://valeriecomer.com/

Writing Tip: Writing a Multi-Author Series

About a year ago, six Christian contemporary romance authors met in a secret Facebook group to brainstorm an independently published continuity series. Some considerations:

 

  • Setting: we created the fictional town of Arcadia Valley near Twin Falls, Idaho.
  • Series Length: each author agreed to write one novella of about 30K and three novels of 48-55K.
  • Series theme: we agreed on a thriving local food theme, and each chose an aspect for her own mini-series.
  • Timeline: we agreed to publish the six novellas in one volume then release a novel a month for 18 months, rotating through the group.
  • Continuity: we agreed to submit our manuscript to the group 90 days before publication for beta reading and deeper immersion in the story world.
  • Editing: we discussed hiring one editor for all the stories, but agreed that each author could hire her own usual editor. The beta read step will help keep continuity.
  • Covers: we agreed to brand by using one style from one cover designer.
  • Website: we purchased a URL to point readers to at http://arcadiavalleyromance.com
  • Promotion: we agreed to promote our six-novella collection, Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley, via paid advertising, and to promote each other’s novels as they release.
  • Pricing: we agreed upon a standard pricing strategy, with no discount during pre-order, and no sales until/unless the group agreed.
  • Vendors: we agreed to have all books available on Amazon, Kobo, Nook, and iBooks, with each author to upload/control her own books.
  • Paperbacks: we agreed to create paperbacks of every release, including the 6-novella collection.
  • Longevity: we agreed to uphold the above agreement for two years from the onset of publication, which is six months after the last release.

Many other details were discussed as well, but this serves as a decent summary. What about you? Would you ever consider being a part of a project like this? What additional parameters would you want in place?

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Sprouts of Love: An Arcadia Valley Romance 5

Single mom Evelyn Felton takes on a third part-time job managing a greenhouse and garden project for Grace Fellowship. Formerly homeless, she’s thrilled to offer truckloads of fresh produce to the Arcadia Valley food bank.

If only Ben Kujak weren’t running Corinna’s Cupboard singlehandedly, he’d be delighted to be on the receiving end. But Evelyn and her dynamo daughter, Maisie, won’t take no for an answer, even if it means restructuring Ben’s charity.

Soon Ben finds himself wishing they’d transform his personal life, too, but can true love sprout when their pasts collide with the present?

 

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May Books and Writing News

Congratulations to JAYNE NOBLE and FRANKIE JONES, winners of Pony Express Romance Collection and To Riches Again from last month’s drawing.

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May is only month two in my seven month run of novellas!

Cinderella’s Boot is part of the Runaway Brides Collection. Years ago I saw a worn boot on the street. My writing antennae went on alert, demanding an explanation for its presence. People suggested various scenarios—a murder! A kidnapping! Alien abduction!

The boot also reminded me of Harry Potter, but as a romance writer, my thoughts flew to the story of Cinderella. When my publisher put out a call for runaway bride stories, I knew exactly what I wanted to write. Cynthia Ellen “Cinderella” Cooper ran away from her wedding, leaving only a boot on the ground.

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For my second book, I’d like to draw your attention to the new editions of my Colorado Melodies series, which includes my first ever book, Romanian Rhapsody.

Visit colorful Colorado through the stories of three couples longing for love’s sweet song. One couple’s compassion for orphans will either draw them closer or tear them apart. A young woman in survival mode will be swept off her feet by a true “knight.” And two people needing to rebuild their lives will find their hearts need renovated, too. Watch as these three couples’ stories intertwine with friendship, faith, and love in the presence of the majestic Rocky Mountains.

 

Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win this month’s book giveaway. The winner can choose either Romanian Rhapsody, Plainsong or Knight Music—or the collection, if it’s in print by then.

Next month, come back for Acadian Hearts, a national park romance.

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Writing News and Tips: Tiffany Amber Stockton

 

Happy Monday, everyone!

Before I introduce you all to Tiffany, I have a new book release to announce.

“Cinderella’s Boot” is a contemporary novella from the Runaway Brides collection and references the classic fairy tale.

Read more about this story by following the link below.

Available on Amazon here

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Now let’s meet Tiffany…

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having an overactive imagination and talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning best-selling author & speaker who has partnered with Nerium International in the health & wellness industry. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and a son, and a retriever mix named Roxie. She has sold 20 books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. Read more about her at her web site: www.amberstockton.com.

Keeping Your Focus Amid Distractions

We are all susceptible to distractions. It might be dirty dishes in the sink, a favorite hobby, or a social activity. It could be children, the telephone, or social media. It could be other commitments, friends, or bills to pay. It could be home repairs or friends asking to come over. But if you’re going to succeed in writing, accomplish your goals, and meet your deadlines, you MUST learn to overcome distractions.

Here are five (5) tricks you might use to stay focused:

1. Set aside (and honor) a specific time for your writing — This will be different for every person, but you need to find the time that works best for you and stick to it.

2. Learn your craft — You’re not successful if you’re not teachable. Attend conferences, read books on writing, dissect the books you love and figure out why they work so well, and spend time in the company of other writers. As iron sharpens iron, so one writer sharpens another.

3. Make judicious use of timers — They can help you stay on track and build your creative endurance. Don’t jump right to the starting line and take off running. Start with shorter periods and build your endurance skills.

4. Keep a notepad nearby — When those niggling thoughts interrupt your writing flow, jot them down on your notepad to deal with later. That way you won’t forget them, but they also won’t derail you.

5. Look After Your Health — Writing takes its toll on your mind and body, and staring at a computer screen or black & white pages for hours on end can wear us down faster than we think. When our brains and bodies are nourished, we perform at higher more productive levels, and that translates into greater success overall.

Writing can be a very rewarding career. Not everyone can write well. So, get out there and do it.

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ABOUT “Front Page Love” in THE BLUE RIBBON BRIDES COLLECTION

Paige Callahan has never lived anywhere but Douglas, Wyoming. She’s even worked the same job at the state fair for the past six years. Now, she’s considering marriage to a man her family loves, preparing to settle for a predictable life. Then, she meets Andy Lawrence, a journalist covering all the rodeos in the region and working out of Denver. He had always dreamed of riding a bull in a rodeo, but he settled for being a reporter instead. She had always dreamed of singing on stage, but never took the chance. Andy can offer Paige so much, but he’s not sure he can settle down into one place after all those years traveling. Will either one of them realize their dreams? And what will it take for Andy to see Paige might not be as predictable as he thought?

Available on Amazon here

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Reviews for “Infusion of Love”

Infusion of Love – A Teacup Courtship Novella

Kindle Edition

When Mahala Kent’s tea party honoring her brother’s marriage turns into a brawl over tea, she’s forced out of her wealthy neutrality. A public debate on the subject pushes her even closer to her childhood friend and hoped-for suitor, Jothan Stout. Will the arrival of a tea shipment in Greenwich push Jothan and Mahala further apart—or give them a common taste for herbal infusions?

Learn more at Amazon

 

 

REVIEW SNIPPETS:

A wonderful look at life in 1774 America. Tempers run hot over the issue of a tea tax imposed on the colonies by England. The women even have their own opinions. A tea party shows how hot things are getting. How will the issues be resolved??? Read and find out for yourselves. Highly recommend.

  • ROBIN

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This is a pre-revolutionary war story dealing with the tea party. Jonathan and Mahala have been friends since their early school years. Will their dealings regarding the tea party force them apart or bring them closer? This was a short, quick read that I really enjoyed.

  • BECKY

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“Mahala Kent’s tea celebrating her brothers bride does not go as she had envisioned—it was a disaster…over tea. Will this conflict over tea between America and England divide the town and families as well? Mahala certainly has her own opinions on things, she is spirited—which I love, caring and has a secret. I really liked her childhood friend Jothan Stout, his courage, strength and integrity. I enjoyed watching Mahala and Jothan as they discovered something new in their relationship. I love the historical aspects of the story which infuses more than tea with charming characters and romance. I especially like Darlene Franklin’s dedication to her ancestress. ”

  • TINA

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Authors are always grateful for reviews and I appreciate every review I receive for one of my books. Thank you to these ladies for sharing their thoughts. Happy Reading, everyone!

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Writing News and Tips: Tanya Stowe

Before I introduce you all to Tanya, I want to let you know where else you’ll be able to find me this month online. I’ll be visiting the following sites to talk about my books.

April 17 – Kim Johnson’s blog

April 26 – CAN Marketing blog

April 28 – Shannon Vannatter’s blog

April 30 – Jo Huddleston’s blog

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Now let’s meet Tanya…

Tanya Stowe is an author of Christian Fiction with an unexpected edge. She fills her stories with the unusual…gifts of the spirit and miracles, mysteries and exotic travel, even an angel or two. No matter where Tanya takes you…on a journey to the Old West or to contemporary adventures in foreign lands…be prepared for the extraordinary. Website, Facebook, Blog

Beginning Hooks and Saggy Middles

Hooks are little teasers—single statements or questions posed at the beginning of a book to catch the reader’s attention. But they are so much more than that. Beginning hooks can create the setting, showcase a character, and hint at the central conflict. Hooks with strong verbs, dialogue or action can set the tone and demonstrate voice. Chapter hooks, those surprising last sentences at the end of a chapter, can compel a reader to flip the page when they should flip off the light and go to sleep. Hooks can create tension and propel the story in a new direction. They can even make a saggy middle bounce again. In fact, good hooks should do all of those things!

How do you create a good hook? Craft your first few sentences carefully. Start with dialogue, action or a unique situation, something to catch the reader’s interest. Give a hint of the conflict, either the romantic or the central conflict…or both if possible. Use strong action words like stride not walked. Punched the door open not pushed. Use descriptive words like blood red instead of red. Or blossomed instead of unfold.

Choosing where to place your chapter hooks is as important as your first few sentences. Break an action scene at the pivotal moment and end the chapter. Finish the scene in the next chapter. Look for your four main plot points and create chapter hooks, ending one plot point with a finely crafted hook. Begin the next chapter the same way. Last but not least, search for your scene and sequels. Break them up. Create high-tension points throughout your story, points that will buoy a saggy middle and compel the reader to keep turning the page.

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ABOUT That Doggone Baby

Everyone thinks they can push Jaci Meadows around: her family, her boss, even her full-grown Malamute, Baby. The dog reaches Jaci’s shoulders, weighs more than the petite event planner, and has decided Jaci’s designer shoes are a favorite toy. Justin Blakely understands dogs better than most people. It’s clear to him Jaci Meadows can’t handle her own life, let alone a two-hundred-pound Malamute ready to take on the world. Can one oversized Malamute and one very discerning dog whisperer help guide Jaci back to her true path? Can she learn to say no or is she just too addicted to the need to be needed?

Available on AMAZON here

 

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April Books and Writing News

April has brought me showers of news!

You can win a copy of my three new releases this month by leaving a comment on my blog. You can also sign up at the following blot visits:

Tuesday, April 4th: Discussing Pony Express on http://liztolsma.com/

Wednesday, April 5th: Discussing To Riches Again on http://bit.ly/2oqEAjS

Thursday, April 6th:

Discussing Pony Express on https://lmckeeediting.blogspot.com/

Friday, April 7th: Discussing Love’s Compass at http://www.preslaysa.com/

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The two new books published this month came about from different sources.

Barbour invited me to submit a proposal for the Pony Express collection. I decided my heroine was looking for the father who had abandoned her as a child. Why, I asked myself? Because he had a gambling addiction. He kept promising himself he would return once he had that one big win, which never came. Caroline chases her father to his last known job, with the Pony Express—only he isn’t there.

To Riches Again grew from a Bible verse. In The Message Isaiah 32:18-20:

My people will live in a peaceful neighborhood—in safe houses, in quiet gardens. The forest of your pride will be clear-cut, the city showing off your power leveled. But you will enjoy a blessed life, planting well-watered fields and gardens, with your farm animals grazing freely.

As I meditated on those verses, I imagined a rich young woman who lost everything in the stock market crash in 1929 and headed west to discover the joys of farm life. When I was asked to write a novella for the Spinster Orphan Train series, I decided it was the perfect fit. The orphan trains ended in early 1930, which made the story even more appropriate.

Both Pride’s Fall and Love’s Compass are in set the Four Corners region. Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet at the same latitude and longitude point. Today at Four Corners National Monument a person can stand in all four states at the same time! Our stories touch on the history of the future landmark.

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And here’s a peek at the cover of my May novella—a contemporary romance called Cinderella’s Boot.

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Writing News and Tips: Patti Shene

Before I introduce Patti, I want to share my latest writing news with you all.

New Release! 

To Riches Again (Spinster Orphan Train novella #4) is available for purchase at http://amzn.to/2o6GS4H

Facebook Party!

Texas Trails Launch Party: Thursday night March 30, 6:30-9:00 PM CDT. Lots of fun and prizes! Every half hour one of the four books in the series will be given away. At the end of the night a grand prize with books from five different authors and runners up prizes from Texas Trails authors Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin. Sign up at http://bit.ly/2nfw9Uj

Blog post and giveaway of To Riches Again on March 31st at Sandra Robbins’ blog.

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Now let’s meet Patti…

Patti enjoys reading and writing, but most of all, she feels called to encourage others. She promotes the work of published and unpublished writers on her two blogs Patti’s Porch (http://www.pattishene.com/pattisporch) and The Over 50 Writer (http://www.pattishene.com/theover50writer), found on her website (www.pattishene.com).

She hosts a weekly radio show, Step Into the Light, on Blog Talk Radio, where she interviews guests who share their stories of ways they inspire others to make the journey from a dark time in their lives back to light.

“Friend” Patti on her personal Facebook page at http://ow.ly/ZAu730afIqf

“Like” her Step Into the Light page at http://ow.ly/AlxD30afIuX

and “follow” her on Twitter at http://ow.ly/9JY9308q8Iv

In the Beginning

It is your job as a writer to take your readers out of the world they live in and transport them into the world you have created. One of the most crucial tools you can use is your beginning.

Who is your character?

Give your character an identity. Don’t overwhelm with physical description, but do give some indication of gender and age. Is your reader peering into the life of a fifteen year-old boy or a female octogenarian?

Where is your character?

Simple details of what your character’s senses experience can identify setting without naming a specific year, season, or location. Vehicle horns blaring evoke a different setting than the crow of a rooster in early morning.

What is your character doing?

A character who awakens and slogs through his morning routine doesn’t spark much interest. A character who races through the door of a neighbor’s burning home to save a child keeps the reader glued to the page.

Why is your character doing what he is doing?

Dumping information about your character’s motivations destroys the momentum. Sprinkle your character’s past history and personality traits throughout your work.

What is your character feeling?

Emotion sets the tone. A character who taps out a beat to the music in his car evokes a much different response than the character who wraps white-knuckled fingers around the steering wheel.

How does your character interact?

Is the businesswoman comfortable and confident when addressing her boss, or do her hands tremble at the thought of a confrontation? A character’s interaction with his or her environment can also reveal a great deal.

Don’t ease your readers into the center of your world like a driver who crawls across the Golden Gate Bridge in heavy traffic.

Hurl them into the middle of it like a child who scurries across a brook in a breathless rush to get to what lies ahead – the world you have created that awaits!

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Reviews for “The Legacy Letters”

The Legacy Letters

Kindle Edition

Seven pink envelopes, addressed in Wanda Taylor’s spiky handwriting, represented her legacy to seven people she held dear. Legacy letters—that’s what they were. A last gift, though some might call it interference. People often sought her advice and her God-given gift of discernment. But not these seven, and her heart ached for them. They were good people who loved God and their families, but she saw patterns in their lives that could harm them in the future if left unchecked. Monica was the lynch pin to the entire project. The mantle of the matriarch fit her, and everyone in the family recognized it. But she needed to learn how to let go before she could take charge.

Monica would receive the first letter, one month after Wanda’s death. The others—to friends, siblings, children and grandchildren—would receive their letters in the six months following.

Wanda sealed the last letter and whispered a prayer. “Lord, use my words a final time to do Your work in the lives of those I leave behind.”

Learn more at Amazon

REVIEW SNIPPETS:

“..I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories each author wrote! I loved seeing how the lives of seven people changed and how they grew from it. It even challenged me in a couple of areas of my own life! I also liked how the authors collaborated to make a seamlessly smooth story that didn’t feel disconnected in any way. The characters were real in their struggles, seeing the relationships develop in each one was heartwarming. The faith theme was refreshing; this is why I love reading Christian fiction. How each author portrayed their own faith walk in their stories. And I loved reading the conclusion at the end, it gave hope for a brighter future for each character! A great set of stories I think anyone would enjoy reading…”

  • TRIXI

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This is a very different kind of book. Seven different women each receive a letter from Wanda Taylor after her death. I was engaged from the beginning and couldn’t stop reading until I had finished it. What wonderful advice was in each letter. Well done.

  • ROBIN

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Authors are always grateful for reviews and I appreciate every review I receive for one of my books. Thank you to these ladies for sharing their thoughts. Happy Reading, everyone!

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