Today’s guest is Susan Page Davis. Susan is the author of more than 60 novels and novellas in the historical romance, mystery, and suspense genres. She is the mother of six and grandmother of ten. A Maine native, she now lives in western Kentucky with her husband Jim. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com.
Find Susan at:
Susan is a long-time friend. A decade ago, two one-book wonders became friends on the process of seeking that all-important second book contract. We connected because we’re both from Maine. We both earned spots in Barbour’s short-lived Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! Book club. Our dream of writing together came true with my first historical fiction, Snowbound Colorado Christmas in 2008. We continue working on joint projects; this year we both appeared in the Cowboy’s Bride Collection in March.
Susan has gone on to significant success in longer books and contributions to several Guideposts mystery series. Today she talks about a historical nugget which appears in her book River Rest.
I often run across interesting nuggets while researching for my books. Sometimes they go into the story, sometimes not. Sometimes I am able to use them for other writing projects.
One such tale came to light while I was researching the homefront during World War I. My father brought me an old book written soon after the war, History of the World War, by Francis March, and in it I found the story of Grover Cleveland Bergdoll.
Bergdoll was an infamous draft dodger, or “slacker,” during the First World War. He was arrested, escaped, and hid out in Germany for almost two decades before coming back to the U.S. and turning himself in. People were so outraged at this that for a time he was known as “the most hated man in America.”
The son of a wealthy brewer in Philadelphia, Grover was known as an early aviator, piloting a Wright Brothers plane he bought for $5,000. He and his brother Erwin were also well known in the area as race car drivers.
Grover spent 19 years in Germany after running from the law. Several attempts were made to capture him in Europe and bring him to justice. He finally came back to the U.S. and turned himself in. After several years in jail, he finished out a quiet life on a Pennsylvania farm. Learning more about this man helped me to better understand the attitude on the home front a hundred years ago.
I mentioned Bergdoll in my book River Rest, recently published in paperback and e-book. This month I decided to delve deeper into his story and write about him on the Heroes, Heroines, and History blog, where I post on the 23rd day of each month. You can read my article here: http://www.hhhistory.com/2016/10/grover-cleveland-bergdoll-most-hated.html
About River Rest: Judith Chadbourne gave up her teaching job after her mother’s death to help her father with her five siblings. Her father sinks into deep depression, and her brother Joel is drafted, leaving Judith overwhelmed by the household chores and farm work. Neighbor Ben Thayer offers to buy their farm, shocking Judith and angering her father. An outsider from New York, Ben seems rich and mysterious, but his heart aches from his own loss. When Judith accidentally breaks the antique crystal Christmas ornament her mother loved, the splintering star echoes her family’s shattering. Ben’s efforts to help only make Judith suspicious. When Joel falls critically ill at the army camp, Ben’s concern may bring the beginnings of trust. Can love take Judith beyond the frozen Maine winter?
Links to River Rest:
Buy links for River Rest:
Hello friends! My special guest today is Barbara M. Britton. She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently lives in Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate.
Before we dive into Barbara’s insights about being a business, a few updates:
I handed in the devotions for the book 2018 Daily Devotions for Women (check). Praise the Lord! This is also the last week of my online course with ACFW, Character Wars: Lessons for developing characters from the popular series Cupcake Wars.
- October 26: My monthly marketing blog at Christian Authors Network on the subject of Facebook Party followup: CAN blog
- October 31: Fifth Monday Feature with Susan Page Davis on my blog
- November 1: Official release date of Blue Ribbon Brides: Purchase Link
- November 2: Blog post on historical methods of harvesting honey on Ginger Solomon’s website Ginger’s blog regarding Blue Ribbon Brides (includes giveaway)
- November 7: Interview with the heroine of A Taste of Honey at Shannon Vannatter’s blog: Shannon’s blog (includes giveaway)
Now let’s hear from Barbara:
Be a Business
By Barbara M. Britton
I was at a writing conference recently where a literary agent said writers should consider themselves a business. No problem. Along my writing journey, I have put two items in my writing arsenal to keep me focused and productive, and which would help me with an IRS audit—maybe.
Do you have a Writing Business Plan?
Each January I write down what I hope to accomplish for the year in my writing “business.” I type it up nice and neat on a computer.
The first section is my professional goals. Do I have to finish a book? Contracted or not, this has to get done. Am I submitting to editors? Querying agents? I also include in this section the professional organizations I belong to, and what positions I hold on the board, or whether I judge a chapter contest, or volunteer at an activity.
Conferences and education make up the second section. Where did I go and why? Did I pitch at a conference? Hand out swag? Learn something new? Never stop learning as a writer. On-line classes abound on the internet and some are offered by professional organizations free of charge.
I also include a section on the contests I entered during the year. Now that I have a book published, I have a section to highlight marketing activities.
My Writing Business Plan is the big picture. For my day-to-day writing progress I use a small daily planner that sits next to my computer. I fill in each square with what I did that day to further my writing career. I might scribble, finished chapter 3, wrote blog posts, attended WisRWA meeting. Anything writing related goes on the scheduler to show I am diligent in my writing practices. Use it as a motivator if you see too many blank squares.
With a Writing Business Plan and a daily log of my writing activities, I can show that I am a business.
In ancient Israel, when the cursed daughter of a priest flees home with a sympathetic guard, they are captured by an enemy army commander with a curse all his own. Curing the commander is their only hope for freedom.
Barbara’s Social Media Links:
Today is my monthly unassigned day on the blog, so I’m doing something out of the ordinary. I have started using other people’s prayers as part of my own prayer time. I’m also praying based on scriptures I have memorized and meditated upon. So today, I offer a few of those prayers. Unless otherwise noted, the verses are taken from the New International Version.
In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause. (Psalm 25:1-3)
When we are trusting in You, in right relationship with You, shame is a mirage, an echo of the past. Let us put our trust in You and shut our ears and eyes to the shackles of the past.
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)
I want to dwell in God’s house all the days of my life. Praise the Lord! Prayer answered! God has made my body His temple. I can’t get away from Him if I wanted to. Let me spend my days gazing on the wonder of His presence, His beauty—His holiness.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
What a burden lifted to learn my anxious thoughts aren’t automatically offensive to You. You test them and weigh them, and then show me the better way. May I take your anti-anxiety pill by following the path You have made clear and straight before me, one step at a time.
A present is a precious stone in the eyes of its possessor; Wherever he turns, he prospers. (Proverbs 17:8 NKJV)
Loving Father, may I treasure Your gifts to me, polishing them, sharing them in praise to You. May any increase flow back to You and Your kingdom.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. (Hebrews 13:15)
Loving Father, today and every minute of the next year, teach me the delightful sacrifice of praise.
So close, so close. By the end of the month I should submit thirty days of devotions and my novella, Sunshine in My Heart, as well as leading this month’s lesson on “Character Wars” for ACFW. It will feel great to have it all done.
In the meantime, I will be a guest at Shannon Vannatter’s on October 17th.
WRITING THROUGH ILLNESS
Today I will offer up a few writing tips. At the immediate moment, I don’t feel well physically. I haven’t for about a week. So I am offering some practical suggestions on how to write when you can’t.
Because although I want to climb into bed, I have major deadlines this month. I have two book deadlines, and a writing course to teach for ACFW. I am so close to finishing, I can taste it. And yet so far.
And today is blog day. One more item on my to-do list.
I don’t want you feeling sorry for me. I expect you’ve all been where I’m at now. Short on time, short on health, less than clear-headed. . .and work to be done. So the question is, how do you get it done?
Let’s hope my suggestions make sense.
- Can/should you postpone or cancel the event? Hint: don’t make a habit of that with your book contracts.
- Prioritize: What comes first? Second? And so on. Work in that order.
- On all your projects, if at all possible, plan for extra time. Plan to finish 1-2 weeks ahead of time, in case you have a bad time like this. It’s easier to review a pages than written ten devotionals.
- For this limited time, drop some of your other activities until you catch up. (Don’t make a habit of that, either. That’s how your life gets off-balance.)
- Give yourself permission to take it easy when you don’t feel well. When you do feel well, drop nonessentials and work as long and as hard as you are able.
- Claim the victory in Christ. One word, one line, at a time, you will finish.
If I can do it—you can too.
id you know there were several “tea events” in addition to the Boston tea party? And most of them around Christmastime? They took place in Philadelphia, Edenton, NC, Greenwich, NJ, Charleston, SC and perhaps others. The original Christmas collection didn’t sell, but I got to write the story of New Jersey’s “burning of the tea” when Forget Me Not put together the Teacup Courtships collection. The remaining stories are: A Touch of Sugar by Cynthia Hickey; Gold Dust Tea by Teresa Ives Lily; Tea Shop Folly by Carrie Fancett Pagels; and The Marshall’s Lady by Patty Smith Hall. The stories are tied together by taking place in a tea shop, not the tea parties.
This month’s former release is my three-in-one Christmas collection, Gifts of Christmas. It includes two of my first forays into e-publishing: An Apple for Christmas and Christmas Visitors. It also has Lucy Ames, Sharpshooter, one of my older titles originally published with Barbour. Sit back and enjoy the Christmas stories!
Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Gifts-Christmas-romantic-novellas-ebook/dp/B014DT19DA
Today it is my pleasure to welcome Patrick E. Craig to my blog. He’s a is a former pastor turned writer. Harvest House Publishers published his first series, Apple Creek Dreams. He is self-publishing his current series, The Paradise Chronicles. Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in Idaho Patrick is represented by the Steve Laube Agency.
But first some writing news:
- Today is the release date for Legacy Letters. For more information and to purchase, click here.
- September 27 and September 29 – guest at LeeAnn Betts’ blog featuring Matchmaking Mixup.
- September 28: Marketing blog on Unusual Holidays at Christian Authors Network.
- October 1: The Story Behind the Story at Jodie Wolfe’s blog.
- October 3: National MacIntosh Apple day. Stop by my Facebook page to see what the excitement is about!
Now to learn more about chapter outlines from Patrick. I can’t wait. I’m a pantser.
Using the Chapter Outline
By Patrick E. Craig
Before I start writing a book I do a lot of prep work, including a lot of research on the Internet (thank goodness for Google) and a story timeline. The timeline is especially helpful if I am writing a historical novel. But the most important thing I do, something I use every writing day, is a chapter outline.
A full novel is usually between 80,000 and 100,000 words. If I am doing 2000 to 2200 word chapters that comes out to around forty chapters. So before I start I do a complete outline of all the chapters, including titles, and write a blurb for what is going to happen in this chapter, the time frame, and what the result is. Each day when I start writing I look at the complete outline and compare it to the chapters I’ve written to center myself in the story. Then I copy and paste the blurb to the beginning of the chapter I’m working on to keep it in front of me. Here’s an example.
Joshua traces Williamson to the ill-fated Crawford expedition of 1782. Thinking that Williamson is dead, he abandons the search for Matthew and begins to look for Jonathan. After months of searching he learns that Jonathan has left for the east. Joshua follows him to New York where he has established a farm on Long Island. The meeting is awkward. Jonathan does not want to be reminded of his past. He has never re-married and lives his life grieving for Ruth and Matthew. He feels he can never be forgiven for killing Ruth. Joshua offers Jonathan the peace of the Lord, but Jonathan rejects him and turns away.
P.S. It’s okay to change he order of the chapters as you are writing the book.
About The Amish Princess: Opahtuhwe, The White Deer, is the beautiful daughter of Wingenund, the most powerful chief of the Delaware tribe. When the murderous renegade known as Scar brings three Amish prisoners to the Delaware camp her life changes. Jonathan and Joshua Hershberger are twin brothers.The third prisoner is Jonas Hershberger, who has been made a slave because he would not defend his family against the Indians. White Deer is drawn to Jonathan but his hatred of the Indians makes him push her away. Joshua’s gentle heart leads White Deer to a life-changing decision and rejection by her people.
Family news first: My youngest grandchild and only boy, Isaiah, turned six on September 9th. The cutest part was visiting the next night—while the children were out—and watching my “boy” play with his son’s new train track. The goofy teenager has turned into an almost too serious adult, so I had as much fun as he did playing.
Watching Isaiah and Jordan later running around the room-sized track was even better. “Watch, Grandma!” never grows old.
I have a variety of writing news to share:
It’s official! I have a contract for His Golden Treasure as part of the 9-author collection Captive Brides to be released October 2017. That’s why I’m studying about San Francisco’s Barbary Coast. A girl raised in a bordello seeks to escape. My fellow authors are Cynthia Hickey, Angela Breidenbach, Patty Smith Hall, Gina Marie Welborn, Lucy Thompson, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Jennifer AlLee and Susan Davis.
Blue Ribbon Brides will be released in November (buy here). Our group is getting excited! Here are the memes Gina Welborn made for me to use with my novella, A Taste of Honey.
Between Barbour and Forget Me Not, I’ve got lots of collections coming out next year. Here’s a few for a glimpse:
7 Brides for 7 Mail Order Grooms
Pony Express Romance Collection
Romance Below the Stairs
Fall’N For You
Plus several other fascinating ideas without titles yet. Pray that I can speed up writing just a little bit. J
In addition to my monthly column in Book Fun Magazine, I’m aiming to write monthly articles for Pastor Resources. (available here) Book Fun is now available on Amazon, free for five days each month. I’m also writing a monthly marketing blog for CAN the 4th Wednesday of every month (Here).
These last few months of the year we get to enjoy some special holidays including special Facebook celebrations – keep a lookout for things like National MacIntosh Apple Day and National Chocolate-Covered-Anything Day.
When I’m not writing, I’m busy using my colored pencils. Addictive!
Happy fall and happy reading.
Today we welcome Ralene Burke, a writer who’s new to me as well. Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to make it SHINE! Her first novel, Bellanok, is published as a 4-part serial! You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.
I finished the rough draft of Sunshine of My Heart, part of the 7 Brides for 7 Mail Order Grooms. Now I’m working on my “state flower” story, Colorado Columbine.
This week I am a guest on Lena Nelson Dooley’s blog with an interview about Matchmaker Mixup with a giveaway of the collection, Merry Matchmakers: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/
Friday, September 23 – guest with Preslaysa Williams with an interview and giveaway of Merry Matchmakers at http://www.preslaysa.com/
Now for some wisdom from Preslaysa about planning your writing—those word count goals.
What’s Your Word Count Goal?
By Ralene Burke
Writers tend to groan when we’re asked about our word count goals. They seem to be a source of stress and guilt. But that isn’t the intent behind goals at all! Word counts are goals for our writing, not commandments set in stone.
People often mistake goals for being unmovable. If you don’t achieve exactly what you set out to do, you have failed. Not so. Goals are guidelines that provide encouragement and motivation to keep us going.
My daily writing goal is to write 1,500 words between seven and nine in the morning, Monday-Friday. It’s when I’m most alert and creative. Plus, my mind has had all night to subconsciously work through plot and character stuff.
Don’t have the time yet for a daily word count goal? Shoot for a weekly goal! Sometimes life just doesn’t allow us to write every day. It’s okay. Any goal will get you started.
Benefits of a word count goal:
- It gives you something to work for. Don’t make it so easy that you’ll hit it all the time with tons of time to spare. Let it challenge you without being overwhelming.
- It’s encouraging to see the word count climb at a steady pace. This way, you have measurable proof that progress is being made!
- Routine can actually be good for writers and the creative process. Muses are great, but they aren’t as necessary as we think they are.
- Challenge and competition: Did you make your word count last week? Up the count this time! Do word sprints with your writer friends. Write nonstop for 20 minutes just to see how far you get.
In the end, word counts will help us become better writers, and writers that churn out stories!
Do you have a word count goal?
My answer: Yes, I do. I have for years, including catchup days like today in case I miss a few words. Good advice!
My new release this month is Legacy Letters. It’s special to me in several ways. To start with, it’s women’s fiction, which is an entirely new genre to me. But let’s go back to the beginning.
Early this year my local writers group, OKC Christian Fiction Writers (OCFW), approached me with a proposition. They wanted me to involve me in a greater way with the group, and their first idea was for me to lead this collaborative novella.
It sounded like fun—I had no idea how much work would be involved!
With this kind of novella, often one person writes the first chapter, another takes up where the first ends, and they continue until the end of the story. The one time I tried it, I found it difficult to keep all the story strands straight. I suggested a slightly more structured approach.
We all started with the same basic premise: elderly Christian Wanda Taylor writes letters to people close to her, giving them each a month-long challenge (which she paid for) upon her death. Each author could choose their character’s problem and relationship to Wanda. The plan allowed the chapters to be loosely connected, while allowing the authors to showcase their individual voices and preferred genre. Easy peasy, or so I thought.
I was right about the stories. From addiction to bullying to romance and following your dreams, each one is unique and has a special message for all of us.
Of course we had our share of problems, but in the end, we have a good novella that will earn money for OCFW.
I couldn’t have down it without my helpers from OCFW’s leadership, Jeremy Johnson and Sharon Srock. And Lacy Williams took time off from maternity leave to design out cover.
So with a big thanks and hurrah to my fellow authors – Jessica Ferguson, Ruth Collins, Martha Fouts, J.J. Johnson, Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Chris Tarpley—we present Legacy Letters.
Here is the back cover blurb, adapted from the Prologue:
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.”
What does a writer read? is a question I am often asked. This month I am sharing the highlights of my reading so far in 2016 by genre:
- Science Fiction: Provoke Not the Children by Michael W. Anderson
I was drawn to this book by the title, assuming it came from the biblical instruction to parents: provoke not your children to wrath. That verse is never mentioned, but the story grows out of a terrifying scenario where that is exactly what happens.
The scariest thing about this book, to me, is that I can imagine something like this happening. Humanity has gone from raising children at home to childcare to raising children by proxies, with only a week or two visits every year. I can’t quite imagine a world where parents would give birth with no intention of having part in their children’s lives. (Otherwise, why bother? Just to maintain the human species?)
A well told story, with a complex character in search of redemption.
- Mystery: The Only Witness by Pamela Beason.
Mystery/thriller is my favorite genre and I read many books, varying from adequate to excellent. I chose The Only Witness because the only eye-witness to a child abduction is a gorilla with the sign-language vocabulary of a five-year-old human. The most unique mystery of the lot, with a good plot, interesting characters, and the issues regarding the gorilla “project” adding depth to the story.
- Biblical fiction: Mine Is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs.
Also the only Biblical fiction I’ve read this year so far. I love the way Higgs retells a biblical story (Ruth, Naomi and Boaz) in 17th Century Scotland. I’ve read most of her biblical fiction books and enjoyed them all.
- Other: Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Start with this fact: I made it through this 900 page book with pleasure. It’s about Chinese culture, yes, the culture of the courtesan especially, but like The Joy Luck Club it’s about mothers and daughters and the ties that bind.
- Historical Romance: Soiled Dove Series bundle by Sarah Foster
I read many good historical romances but this one surprised me. They’re by a new author to me. The possibility of redeeming “soiled doves” is a subject I’ve addressed myself and this was well done. Also the second book managed to surprise me. I didn’t see how the couple could have a happily ever after, but of course they did.
- Christian Nonfiction: Experiencing God’s Presence: Learning to Listen While You Pray by Linda Evans Shepherd.
A year ago, God laid on my heart to “Be still and know that I am God.” This title drew me in right away. The fact the author is a good friend helped. I took my time, interacting with each chapter section and concentrating on each prayer—and found myself more transformed than from several of the other excellent books on prayer I’ve read this year.
- Political/Thriller: The Justice by Angela Elwell Hunt
The first female president in United States history nominates her college boyfriend to the Supreme Court, expecting him to support her aggressive feminist agenda. Only God changes his heart. This contemporary retelling of the story of Thomas More and Henry VIII of England (A Man for All Seasons) kept me glued to the page.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year? (One of mine, lol?)