Traveling Tips for the Writer: Part 1

Jun24

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Traveling Tips for the Writer: Part 1

It’s summertime and that means many of us will take vacations of some sort. Maybe we’re staying close to home and exploring places around us. You know you drive past them everyday and never quite make the time to stop. Or maybe you are traveling where the flight takes 10 or 15 hours and you have to deal with jet lag. Maybe you’re on a cruise ship, exploring the world from the deck of a huge vessel. However you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to pack a few things in your suitcase.   Are you a writer? @cara_putman shares 3 tips for a great novel. #amwriting Click To Tweet The same is true when writers are launching into writing a new book. Today I wanted to share some tips for things to make sure you have in your writer’s suitcase before you embark on a new writing adventure. 1) A What If: Most books start with the idea of a what if. My next book is Beyond Justice, and it’s a foray into a new genre for me: legal romantic suspense. From the time an editor asked to see something to the point I had a proposal to shop took over a year. Why? Simple: I needed a what if that would keep my interest for the year of writing and the year of promoting the book. It also had to be a what if that would capture the attention of an editor and hopefully countless readers. So take the time to massage and brainstorm your what if. Work at it until you have a question that captures your attention for the long haul. 2) A Lead Character: When I’m starting a new book I have to know who the lead character is. Sometimes it’s only the hero. Other times it’s the heroine. But once I know the lead character, I can build the contrasting hero/heroine around that one. The supporting cast will often spring pretty organically to life as I write, but getting that hero/heroine identified and nailed down is critical. Take the time to explore books like 45 Master Characters. This book and many others will help you build contrasting characters that will interest your readers. A couple others I like are Please Understand Me II and Getting Into Character. 3) A Setting: Next a book — just like a vacation — needs a setting. Where will the what if and characters interact? I like to write in such a way that the book could not take place anywhere else. In a sense the setting becomes its own character. Readers feel like they’re taking a vacation in a book, with enough details to be transported to the location. Readers who live there or have visited shouldn’t be jarred from the book because they feel like you got the details wrong. One of the highest compliments I received from readers for Shadowed by Grace was that they’d been to Italy and couldn’t believe I hadn’t. They felt transported back to the location. That’s exactly what I wanted to happen. So these are a few of the items I throw in my suitcase when beginning a book. When I have these locked in place, I feel ready to start the journey. Come back next week for a few more items...

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If You Only Knew…

Jun21

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If You Only Knew…

  As a writer I have this quirk…it might be one you have, too. My mind constantly spins with what-ifs. If my husband is late, I wonder what-ifs…and they’re rarely positive. I wonder what-if so and so wins the election. What-if such and such happens when we travel? Did you know I seriously clean the house before we leave so that if something happens on the trip, there is less to do for those who come behind. How morbid is that?!?! What would it be like to take God at His word..If I only knew via @Cara_Putman Click To Tweet But if I can be brutally honest with you? This year I’m on a different sort of what-if journey: What would life be like if I audaciously loved God? If you’ve been on the Grove, then you know that I have loved God my entire life. But the last year or two there’s been this unsettledness inside for more. That I don’t want to settle for a good life…but long for a transformational life. Maybe you can relate. And this journey was spurned by two books by authors I love: Audacious by Beth Moore and If by Mark Batterson. Both authors have had a large impact on my spiritual walk. I’ve intentionally read Audacious slowly and have If primed to read next. One of the principles from Audacious I am forcing myself not to rush past is what Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John…if you only knew the gift God had for you… That is resonating with me on such a deep level right now. There are so many things…If I only knew what God wanted to do if I abided fully in Him…If I only knew how He could bring abundant life to me…If I only understood how much more He has for me and how His plans truly are the best for me…If I only knew… What if I allowed God to have more of me, all of me, the complete total package that is Cara Putman? I’d love to think I’ve done that…but what if there’s more? This is a question I think we all wrestle with. It’s also one my characters wrestle with. In Beyond Justice, the book I’m editing right now, Hayden is wrestling with whether she can ever be enough on her own. We know the simple answer to that. ..it’s impossible to do and be that on our own. But our world sure tells us we should. I have a necklace that reminds me I am only enough because He is. Jesus was enough. He is the all in all, the Alpha and Omega, the God who was, and is, and is to come. And in Him all what-ifs are answered. Does God you have on a journey of whispering to your heart, If you only knew…you would ask...

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Fiction Friday: Fading Starlight

Jun17

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Fiction Friday: Fading Starlight

I have a secret weakness for stories that weave in pieces of Old Hollywood. In her latest novel, Kathryn Cushman does that as she tells a story of unexpected friendship. Lauren Summers has her dream internship and a dress she worked on walking the red carpet. Then it all derails and she’s left desperate for a job and place to stay. Next door is a reclusive woman who used to move in Hollywood’s vaulted air. This book is a sweet story of two women — separated by generations and experience, but united by the ostracizing they’ve experienced. Lauren simply wants to be her friend, but Charlotte doesn’t know how to respond. Add in a tabloid reporter, a host of secondary characters, and a serious fixer-upper, and it’s the making of a story I enjoyed. There’s very little romance. Instead, this is a story about figuring out how to move forward when events try to slap the life from us. It’s a story about how even the most unlikely can form genuine friendships. And it’s about setting aside our fears to be willing to embrace what God has in front of us. Love novels rich in relationship? @Cara_Putman recommends Fading Starlight. #FictionFriday Click To Tweet This story is perfect for those who are looking for a contemporary story rich in relationships, without a focused romance. A Tale of Unexpected Friendship and Old Hollywood Glamour Lauren Summers is hiding. Her fashion house internship should have launched her career, but a red carpet accident has left her blackballed. The only job she finds is unpaid, but comes with free lodging–a run-down cottage in the shadow of a cliff-side mansion. Unsure of what comes next, she’s surprised to be contacted by a reporter researching a reclusive former Hollywood innue who lives in the nearby mansion. Kendall Joiner wants Lauren’s help uncovering the old woman’s secrets. In return, she’ll prove the red carpet accident was a publicity stunt so Lauren can regain her former job. With all her dreams in front of her, Lauren’s tempted by the offer, but as she and the old woman get to know each other, Lauren realizes nothing is quite as it...

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The Moments that Matter

Jun14

Posted by in Parenting | 0 comments

Life is busy in the best possible way. Truly. But maybe you feel it, too. It’s flying so fast. We’re already two weeks into June. What? How on earth did that happen? Overwhelmed by the pace of life? @cara_putman urges capture moments. Click To Tweet In the race of days, I find it easy to get to the end of the day and wonder where it went. Where did all my good intentions go? You know the ones…the time with God that’s more than a fleeting prayer muttered several times a day. The focused attention with each child just because they are growing so fast. The time to feel creative. The time to fellow focused on my home. The time with my husband. All of these needs and times pull and drag and feel like I’ve disappointed so many. Sometimes in the clutter of life, I feel like God gets lost. Not that He’s gone anywhere. But in the busyness and distractions of life and deadlines, the quiet time with Him evaporates. It’s one of those paradoxes. I know that I need Him. Desperately. Like the air I breathe. That without Him, I am and can accomplish nothing. Without Him my words merely take up air or hard drive space. My actions are worthless and improperly motivated. My relationships become a chore rather than a pleasure. And I hate that. I want to hold loosely to things, and tightly to God. To step back and inhale the scent of His Presence. To be filled to overflowing with Him. It’s only then that everything else will fall into place. So this morning, while a friend watches the kids so I can write, I think I’ll start with time in my Bible. And maybe then this frantic feeling will begin to lift. Because when I focus on Him, He schedules my day. He helps me find and capture the moments that matter. And somehow He makes space for everything that needs to happen and the rest can slip away. How do you capture the moments that...

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Visiting D.C. Part Two

Jun07

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Visiting D.C. Part Two

Last week I barely scratched the surface of wonderful things to do while you’re in D.C. Here are a few more…some of these take some advance planning unlike last week’s recommendations. Others are great to do anytime. So here goes… The Monuments: The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Veteran’s Wall, National WWII Memorial, and Korean War Memorial are all worth seeing. My recommendation — to maximize your time — is to walk this end of the mall at night. The Korean Memorial in particular is HAUNTING at night. We stumbled on it the first time at night, and it’s still my preferred way to introduce folks to it. Al the others are pretty stunning that way as well. Think all the white marble against the dark sky. And they are lit and staffed into the night, where the Smithsonians and other buildings usually close at 5. Are you headed to #Washington DC for #Vacation? Check out @cara_putman tips. Click To Tweet If the kids are joining you, then go to the National Zoo — you can get there from downtown on the metro — the subway will be your friend anyway, so you might as well ride it to the zoo. The zoo is very well done. We loved going there. And a tour of the Capitol is pretty neat, too. To book a tour, you need to work through your congressman or senator’s office. You can access the visitor’s center without a ticket, but will need a ticket for a tour. It’s best not to wait and hope to get one on the day you hope to tour. The White House tour is amazing, but again, you need some lead time to arrange – but it never hurts to call and see if you can squeeze on a tour. The link takes you to information on that. Wow! That’s a lot to see and do — and all of those things are FREE! Well, your tax dollars at work. So be sure to take advantage of them — and there are at least a dozen free options I didn’t mention. These are simply the must do’s on my list. The one place I haven’t been that I’d love to go is the Spy Museum. Imagine that! There is an entry free (it’s not cheap– $18 for adults), but I’ve heard it’s...

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The glamorous writing life: Editing & Giveaway

Jun06

Posted by in book news, writing life | 39 comments

The glamorous writing life: Editing & Giveaway

      I thought I’d give you a quick look into one of the places I hide while I edit. It’s not always here. Other times it might be Panera or Starbucks. Maybe the library. But often I need to break away and find a place with fewer distractions. I hope you enjoy this look behind the pages! And don’t forget to enter the huge giveaway below. It’s summer time, which means books! I’m celebrating with the following basket of goodies: Shadowed by Grace Mason Jar Mayhem: co-authored with Tricia Goyer in the Guidepost Sugarcreek Mysteries series Rome Amore lotion and body wash So you thought writing was glamorous? Author @Cara_Putman pulls back the curtain. #giveaway… Click To Tweet a Rafflecopter...

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Fiction Friday: Dawn at Emberwilde

Jun03

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Fiction Friday: Dawn at Emberwilde

Sarah Ladd is a brilliant Regency author with plots that sing, characters you won’t forget, and a setting so real I feel like I’ve traveled to England without the long flight. Dawn at Emberwilde is her latest, and I think my favorite to date. Be sure to read to the end, because I’m giving a copy away. You’ll want to read this one for yourself. Isabel Creston finds herself swept into her relatives’ home unexpectedly, and it seems her life has taken a turn for the much better. Only problem is there tension between her aunt and uncle, incredible pressure to marry a man she can’t quite trust, and concerns for her younger sister. Colin is on the trail of smugglers and danger seems to be invading his small corner of Surrey. Isabel doesn’t know who to trust, and Colin doesn’t feel free to pursue a relationship. Dawn at Emberwilde is a delightful retreat to old England and has an almost gothic feel with the woods becoming a character in themselves. The intrigue is deep and the mystery enjoyable. The romance was beautiful, and there are several supporting characters I’d love to see in their own books. All in all I inhaled Dawn at Emberwilde as fast as I could find the time. It will delight Jane Austen readers. Love #JaneAusten? Then read @sarahladdauthor latest – @cara_Putman #giveaway now -… Click To Tweet   As beautiful and free-spirited Isabel Creston navigates her new life as a teacher, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty when a new stranger arrives in town. Don’t miss Sarah Ladd’s new book, Dawn at Emberwilde , a story of intrigue and hidden motives. {MORE ABOUT Dawn at Emberwilde} Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty. For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would enable her to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death. The unexpected arrival of a stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives. At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. Perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart. At Emberwilde Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest. Learn more and purchase a copy. a Rafflecopter...

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Visiting D.C.

May31

Posted by in d.c. | 3 comments

Visiting D.C.

We lived in DC for eight years after college. I LOVE that city. In fact, we’re talking about getting back this year for a visit since the kids have been learning American history this year. DC is like one big history experience. Every once in awhile a friend will ask for advice on what to see or do while they visit there. Since it’s vacation planning season, here’s my hit list. Today I’ll talk about my absolute must-sees — and the great thing is most of it is free! Must dos: Holocaust Museum. Fabulous. Thought provoking. Horrifying. All at the same time. One key…make sure you stay at the end of the ticketed exhibit to watch the survivor stories at the end to end on a hope note. It’s been several years, but I believe they still operate on timed-entry tickets. So my advice is to show up first thing in the morning to get your ticket, then go see something else and return based on your entry time. The exhibit will take at least an hour. If you don’t have a timed entry pass, there is a children’s exhibit that I believe does not require the ticket. Are you headed to #Washington DC for #Vacation? Check out @cara_putman tips. Click To Tweet National Gallery of Art: take one of the one hour tours for a quick overview of the gallery and introduction to the key paintings like the only Leonardo DaVinci in the western hemisphere. I prefer the West Gallery because it has art from the 13th century to early 2oth century. The East Gallery has the modern art — but does have awesome temporary exhibits from time to time. And it has a wonderful impressionist collection…that’s my favorite part… The American History Museum (Smithsonian): has great exhibits, but a really fun one is the first ladies’ inaugural gowns. All three of these things are on the Mall — so right downtown. And you can do these in a day. It’ll feel a bit rushed but is doable. Next on the list is the Air and Space Museum. The first time I went, we had one hour. My sister and I stepped foot in each exhibit…but I can’t say I learned much. You could literally spend three or four hours there. I have not been to the expansion at Dulles Airport, but I’ve heard it’s great, too. I’m referring to the one on the mall — basically across from the National Art Gallery and near the Capital. While not inexpensive, the Air and Space Museum has a food court in it, so it’s a good place to land when you’re hungry. It also has an IMAX theater. Hmm, I think that’s enough for today. All of these places are great for kids and adults alike. Come back next week for the rest of our tour of the wonderful free experiences in Washington,...

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Fiction Friday: Book Extravaganza & Giveaway

May27

Posted by in Fiction Friday | 7 comments

Fiction Friday: Book Extravaganza & Giveaway

While I love to write, I’m always reading, too. I was a reader first. And I’ll always be a reader. So today I wanted to share with you several books I’ve read in the last couple weeks that I really enjoyed. Be sure to go to the end and enter the giveaway. I have a copy of each of these books to share with you! I’ve also tried to select books that will appeal to all of my readers Time for a #Chrisfic #Giveaway. @Cara_Putman has @Melissa_Tagg @SarahSundin @BeckyWadeWriter books. Click To Tweet First up is Sarah Sundin’s Anchor in the Storm. I love Sarah’s WWII fiction. It’s one of the reasons I wanted her on the Where Treetops Glisten novella team. She is such a strong story-teller and researcher that her books sing. This book is no different because she has created such memorable characters, and both so broken that I couldn’t help but cheer for them from the first page to the last. Lillian is a heroine with a broken body, but even more important, a broken spirit. She believes she is cold, heartless, and unlovable, because that is what important people have communicated to her at crucial moments. Art believes no one will ever love him for more than his silver spoon. When you put these two together in the middle of a mystery that could get them killed, it’s a plot that wouldn’t let me go, while the romance, mystery and history built. I loved this novel, and it’s perfect for others who love a good historical romance — especially one set on the homefront during WWII. Next up is Becky Wade’s latest novel Her One & Only. (BTW the paperback is under $8.00 everywhere I checked online) I LOVED this addition to her Porter family series. Dru is the kind of young woman I’d like to be: tough, beautiful, and passionately protective of those she cares for. Gray is a professional football player — can I just say he had me at football ;-). These two need each other: Gray to stay alive, and Dru to find someone who can see who she is — not just someone chasing after and wanting to be included by her brothers. The romance and mystery between Gray and Dru is perfect and tension filled. But the novel also gives us some sweet and tension-filled glimpses into what’s happened for the rest of the family. We get to see the progression in the relationships among the rest of the Porter siblings. The romance sizzles, the suspense thread is a great twist, and the family dynamics are so satisfying after reading the other books in the series. If you haven’t read the earlier three books, you’ll be fine. But you’ll want to read them after being introduced to the couples. This is a great romance for lovers of contemporary novels with a couple layers complicating the romance and turning those pages. Finally, I’m saving a goodie for last. Melissa Tagg is one of my delightful writer friends. Her joy is contagious. Absolutely contagious. And her books reflect that. Like Never Before so fits in that vein. It is a warm embrace from the Walkers with the added sweetness of a heroine who feels like your best friend. Amelia just wants a...

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Writers, Words, and a Thick Skin

May24

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Writers, Words, and a Thick Skin

A week ago I had an uncomfortable conversation — who with doesn’t matter. But words were said to me that inflicted great pain. Words that accused me of being someone I’m not — someone I know I’m not. Even with that knowledge they hurt. This quote seems to appropriate in light of that situation: I tried to track down the source for this image and quote, but the link went nowhere. Don’t worry, I’ve forgiven this person. But I still have to tell myself that the words are lies and aren’t the truth about me a dozen times a day when they resurface. And eventually I will drown them out. And maybe I will forget. Be careful with your words…and get a thick skin. #amwriting #words Click To Tweet Maybe. Why do I mention this here? On a blog that is for writers? I mention it because writers are going to hear a lot of criticism. Some of it will feel extremely unfair and unfounded. I still remember the way I felt when I read feedback on the one unpublished author contest that I entered. I wanted to stop writing but my wonderful mentor Colleen Coble wouldn’t let me. She helped me filter through the comments to find the couple nuggets of gold, and then aided me as I tossed the rest overboard. Then there’s feedback from editors. Just last week I learned I made the shortlist for a novella collection, but not the short enough list. It happens. I learned a long time ago to be grateful that I got that close. Others didn’t. Then there’s editorial feedback on the books I’ve written. It takes a stiff upper lip to dive into those with the ability to smile at the partnership. A good editor will point out what isn’t working or needs to be improved while also letting you know what does sing. I’ve been blessed to work with amazing editors. And the partnership has been a joy even as it takes a day or so to process the editorial letters. Add in reviews. Yes, I periodically read my reviews. Why? Because I want to be told how wonderful I am? Or how terrible my books are? I’ve learned that not every reader will love my books, and that’s okay. Christian fiction is big enough that I can help that reader find authors they will love. I read the reviews to see if there are common themes. In those, I can see where there are areas in my story telling and characters that may continue to need improvement. Many reviews are written by readers, and I need to know how they’re connecting with my books. But even as I say that, I just looked at a few of mine, and the words can hurt. They can be hard to dislodge from my mind…and my heart. Writers need a thick skin. They need to be able to sort through criticism for the constructive pieces that will help them improve. We need to find the beauty in the cracks the words can make. We work with words, so we should know this. But just as the words spoken to me in anger continue to echo in my mind, so these other words — even the helpful one — can bruise....

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