11 Reader Tips for Writers

Aug23

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11 Reader Tips for Writers

For new writers it can be tricky to know what to focus on. In a sea of rules and guidelines, what are the most important elements to perfect first? This week I’m teaching a continuing education session at ACFW, so I asked readers what they would tell new writers if they had the chance. This was a savvy group of responses. I hope you find it helpful! Want to write compelling #fiction? @cara_putman shares 11 tips from readers. #amwriting Click To Tweet Description: One thing that is a drawback for me is if I feel like the writer could say something very simply, but I can tell that they are trying to use more words or fancier words, than are necessary. It is one thing to paint an image or convey an idea with strong vocabulary, but another if you are trying to force something that isn’t really there… don’t try to just fill a page or use complicated vocabulary if that doesn’t come naturally to you. Think about your audience and think about how you would tell the story if you were “telling” it, instead of writing it. Some descriptive detail is good but don’t go overboard with it. The character development is a lot more important than a description of the room where they are. The story and characters need to capture me in the first 20 pages. I love many new authors, as they seem to take the time to really make each word count. The story is incredible. Sometimes the ones that don’t focus on keeping the quality in their stories lose me. Have a picture of the story you want to share to others. Make the words describe it. Dialogue: Authentic conversation style for characters. I have read some very good stories, but when the conversation is too stilted and unnatural, even though it may be good grammar, it just doesn’t feel real. Good dialogue, action in beginning, less flowery language, super plots & believable characters! Editing Matters! That editing is everything! You can have a great story, but if it’s not well-edited I’m going to trip up on mistakes and the flow will be interrupted.  Make sure they are well-edited with no spelling errors, punctuation errors, etc. Have several people who are good proofreaders read it before publishing. If there are multiple errors in a book, it distracts me from the story. Spelling , Spelling, Spelling! I detest reading a decent story when there are so many mispelled words! Characters: Believable characters with believable feelings. Personally, I struggle reading books written in first person. As a result, when I find a book is in first person, I’m loathe to delve into it. Come back next week for more tips. If you’re a reader, what would you add to this list to encourage newer writers about what you love to see in...

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Fiction Friday: When Death Draws Near

Aug20

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Fiction Friday: When Death Draws Near

I love a good suspense. If it has interesting characters, a great career, and a plot that keeps me reading, I’m hooked! That’s exactly what happened with When Death Draws Near. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the Gwen Marcey series, and this one takes it one step further. Her personal life continues to be out of control with the tension of providing for her daughter and keeping her safe when Gwen gets plunged into a new murder. This one dives deep into the wilds of Kentucky where people are dying from what appears to be snake handling. Is there more to it? And what can she do to track down the culprits while fighting back against her nemesis: breast cancer?  Looking for a #suspense to keep you turning pages? @cara_putman recommends When Death Draws Near…. Click To Tweet There are political layers. Spiritual layers. Crime. Tension. Suspense. A race from the first chapter to the end, this book will delight suspense lovers of all types. Plunge into forensic artist Gwen Marcey’s world, full of cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects. Add Carrie Stuart Parks’ new book, When Death Draws Near, to the top of your must-read list. Gwen accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky—a small town facing big-city crime. But before she can finish her first drawing of the serial rapist who is on the loose, the latest witness vanishes. Just like all the others. Can Gwen uncover the truth—and convince anyone to believe her—before she becomes a victim herself? Join Carrie in celebrating the release of When Death Draws Near by entering to win an Undercover Artist Starter Set. One grand prize winner will receive: A copy of When Death Draws Near A $30 Michael’s or Hobby Lobby gift card (winner’s choice) Colored pencils A sharpener A pencil case An eraser A coloring prayer book A coloring notecard set A lap desk Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on August 22. The winner will be announced August 23 on the Litfuse blog. ### {MORE ABOUT WHEN DEATH DRAWS NEAR} When Death Draws Near(Thomas Nelson, August 2016) Death has always been part of Gwen Marcey’s job. But when faced with her own mortality, everything takes on a different hue. Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs and homes when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky. The Eastern Kentucky town, located deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, has been plagued by a serial rapist and a series of unexplained deaths. Before Gwen can develop a composite drawing, the latest witness vanishes, just like all the previous victims. Turning her attention to sketching the face of an unidentified body, she discovers a link between his death and a Pentecostal serpent-handling church. Serpent-handling is illegal in Kentucky, and the churches have gone underground to avoid the authorities and continue to worship as they believe. Gwen is offered a handsome reward to infiltrate the renegade members, a reward she desperately needs as it seems her breast cancer has returned. Joined by her digitally-obsessed, Generation Z daughter, Gwen goes undercover to a nineteenth century revival, planning to draw the faces of the snake handlers so they can be identified and arrested. Instead she uncovers a murderous plot and a festering evil. Learn more and purchase a copy. {MORE ABOUT CARRIE STUART...

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Fiction Friday: The River of Time Series

Aug12

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Fiction Friday: The River of Time Series

You might mistakenly believe that our trip to Italy was all about seeing new to us places and exploring a country rich in culture and history. All true, but really it was about this young lady and God smiling on her. My daughter’s favorite book series is Lisa Bergren’s River of Time time travel series. I’ve read it twice as well — partly to share something with this young lady, and partly because it’s that good. So when my boss asked me if we wanted to spend a month in Siena, she said yes. Immediately. Without taking a breath. Or looking at me. Or asking her dad. She was all in to explore the city Gabriella and Evangelina loved. When books birth love for #history. @lisatbergren River of Time series. #YA #Amreading Click To Tweet In the  River of Time series, readers become deeply embedded in an action, time-travel, romance. Yes, all of that is packed into one series. It’s based on the idea that these American teenagers find a time portal back to medieval Italy. The guys are…hot…like need their own calendar hot. (Think teenage girls — my daughter kept looking for a calendar to take back to a friend, but there weren’t any). The action is intense. The relationships complicated. And the setting real. The spiritual threads are real and flow naturally with the plot. And the romance is enough to engage teens without going to a place this momma is not willing to let her girl go. Abigail had the thrill of reading scenes set at the Campo in Siena while sitting on the stones of the Campo. She took us through the Etruscan exhibit at the Vatican Museum because of learning about the Etruscans in this series. As a mother, I love how much this series turned on her love of history. She has voluntarily studied medieval Italy and explored it further. She has literally inhaled books that highlight that time period. It’s also a delight to hear her laugh out loud as she rereads these books over and over. Warning, the final book does require a box of tissues — even for my non-crier. If you have a young adult in your life who loves to read, you have to introduce them to the River of Time series. And if you love well written books that flow in a tight series, you must try the River of Time series for yourself. You’ll be glad you...

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Writing in Community

Aug09

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Writing in Community

You may have noticed that I’m all about community. Community with you. Community with each other. Life can be pretty dull without other people. As I’ve seen the posts from my friends who had a brainstorming retreat a couple weekends ago, I had to smile. They were living in the community they created years ago, and we are all the beneficiaries as we read the fantastic books they brainstorm and develop in that home year after year. Writing isn’t something to do alone says @cara_putman. It’s for #community. #amwriting Click To Tweet In a couple weeks, I’ll be in Nashville for ACFW, another place where I find writing community. But a couple nights ago I got to experience the benefits of community when I wasn’t necessarily looking for it. You see Tricia Goyer are collaborating on our third novel and first novella for a Guidepost cozy mystery series, Sugarcreek Amish Mysteries. Tricia and I have known each other for years, and we’ve worked on different projects — whether it was me completing surveys for some of her non-fiction books, brainstorming, collaborating on Where Treetops Glisten with the amazing Sarah Sundin, or these books, we’ve had a lot of fun. I called last night just to touchbase with her and see how she was doing. It was the middle of dinner on a Wednesday night in her crazy, busy household. She’d just gotten home from five days at the aforementioned retreat. As we chatted, I mentioned I didn’t more than a shadow of a hero for my next book. The legal suspense that’s due to my publisher in January. I hadn’t panicked yet, but I was getting close. Tricia said, “I’ll call you back in five minutes and we’ll brainstorm.” I smiled. “That would be awesome.” But she’s busy. I know how crazy, insane she is. She makes me look downright unproductive! Five minutes later my phone rang. Thirty minutes later I had the hero fleshed out, plot layers, and passion for the story! I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. When Beyond Justice reaches readers, you might need ten minutes to read the acknowledgments section. Moving into legal romantic suspense was a big stretch — a natural stretch — but it was a crazy, hard process. But I didn’t walk it alone. I had help at key moments from so many people, I pray I don’t forget anyone! Life is meant to be lived that way. One moment I’m helping someone. The next minute I’m accepting help from someone else. This is how God created us to live. So while it might be early to say I’ve written great books, I do know that almost all truly great books have a story of community behind them....

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Fiction Friday: A Beauty Refined

Aug05

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Fiction Friday: A Beauty Refined

I love a good historical novel. One that sweeps me into a location that is enriched by a time I don’t know and a place that is new. Tracie Peterson has created such a place in her latest novel A Beauty Refined. This story is one of finding the truth in a forest of lies, discerning the truth when deception has been a regular occurrence. Many of us won’t battle through to the truth…and the risks of that are highlighted in this engrossing story. Looking for a new historical #novel? @cara_putman recommends A Beauty Refined. #amreading Click To Tweet The hero and heroine are real people from different cultures and experiences, and the attraction between them is real and strong. Ian is a renowned lapidary who finds himself caught with a secret and asked to do things he’s uncomfortable with. He knows there’s more to Phoebe from the moment he meets her, but he doesn’t expect the layers of complication. Phoebe comes to Montana thinking it will be a safe foray into the American West, but is not expecting the utter chaos that comes to her personal life when she arrives. I love that the backdrop of the story is the sapphire mines of Montana. I didn’t realize that these jewels were mined in that state at the turn of the century. One of my favorite parts of historicals is learning something new, and this novel definitely delivered. This book will delight lovers of historical fiction, with sweet threads of romance, history, and mystery artfully intertwined. A Beauty Refined (Bethany House, July 2016) What does it take to reveal the true beauty of a hidden gem? Phoebe Von Bergen, the daughter of a German count, is excited to visit America for the first time while her father purchases sapphires in Helena, Montana. Little does she know, however, that her father’s intentions—both for her and the gemstones—are not what she thinks. Ian Harper, a lapidary working in Helena, finds the dignified young woman staying at the Broadwater Hotel more than a little intriguing. Yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes that her family story is based on a lie–a lie she has no knowledge of. And Ian believes he knows the only path that will lead her to freedom. Meeting Ian has changed everything for Phoebe, and she begins to consider staying in America, regardless of her father’s plans. But she may not be prepared for the unexpected danger that results when her family’s deception begins to unravel. Learn more and purchase a...

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Regensburg: A German city in its Medieval Splendor

Aug02

Posted by in Germany, Monuments Men, World War II | 0 comments

As we’re back from Italy, it has brought back so many memories of our two months in Germany. As that country has experienced terrorist attacks in the last few weeks, I’ve been praying for this country that is dear to my heart. Here are some of the photos from that time…they only begin to capture the amazing beauty of an amazing country. Pray with those under attack. @Cara_Putman shares photos of Germany. Click To Tweet One town we visited while we were in Germany was Regensburg. Down in Bavaria, it is a medieval city that was largely left untouched by World War II. Some believe this is because the royal family in that town has connections with the British royal family. All I know is that this town along the Danube is beautiful with an amazing cathedral. We enjoyed our day there so much, that we returned toward the end of our trip rather than go somewhere else. (The friends we were seeing again had something to do with that!) It was a rare place in Germany when you consider the absolute devastation so many cities and towns experienced. There wasn’t much for the Monuments Men to do with the cathedral because it was left in tact and beautiful in all its Gothic glory. D all tuckered out Susi’s “tiny home” — a wonderful place to stay J and Eric enjoying the view The kids in a church graveyard Entrance to the Princess’ castle Outside of the cathedral Roses at the...

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When You Can’t Go

Aug02

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When You Can’t Go

ACFW is about three weeks away — Gack! That means there’s a lot of excited chatter…including yours truly. For me, it’s like a once a year family reunion with my writer peeps — including so many of the Writer Alley pals and Grove girl sisters. These folks understand a big piece of my life. This year I’m coleading a continuing education session, so I’ll be pretty busy preparing for that. Today though my heart is turned toward those who won’t be able to attend. What if you can’t attend ACFW? Or another writers conference? What if this year your heart is crying, what about me? That’s a hard place to be. So today I want to speak to you… What if God has something big for you…at home? What if He wants to unlock a part of a plot that just hasn’t been coming and this is the quiet you need to hear Him whispered suggestions? What if He wants to fill you up with Him in a way that can’t happen in the busyness of a conference? You won’t be exhausted by the non-stop running that comes with a conference. What if He wants to use you right where you are during the timeframe of the conference? What if He has holy appointments for you where you are? What if He has a book He wants you to read that you couldn’t if you were distracted by the conference? What if He has something you can’t even imagine…a piece of Him that He plans to reveal during that time? What if during those days you need to serve your family? Your community? Your boss? God has a plan for you and I know it is a good one. Today I’m praying that He will reveal it to you in a way that you can hear and understand. And I’m praying that while you’re home during ACFW or another conference that you love to attend, that you will sense His heartbeat in a real, strong way. And that by hearing His heartbeat, you won’t feel forgotten…instead you’ll feel incredibly...

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Homeschooling Curriculum Choices

Jul26

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Homeschooling Curriculum Choices

We’re back from the mother of all field trips (a month in Italy) and ready or not…here comes August and school. I’ve spent the last week evaluating where my kids are and which curriculum will work best for them. Let’s be real. It can be daunting. Overwhelming. Make you want to suck your thumb in a corner. And I don’t attend curriculum fairs for this very reason. It’s simply too much. So how do I reach a decision that I pray will work for each child this year? I answer the following questions: Picking #homeschool #curriculum intimidating? @Cara_Putman shares tips. Click To Tweet Where is this child excelling? For one child it may be math, for another it may be handwriting. I need to honestly assess where the child is. If they are doing well, then I will stay the course with the curriculum that is working. For example, I adore history and minored in it in college. It is easy and a joy for me, so the kids and I are taking the slow road through American history as a group. My daughter who will be a junior (Gulp) has never been a huge fan until we discovered the Mystery of History. Then she discovered a text she would willing read on her own without any prompting from me. This year, while we wrap up American history in August or September, she will launch into the final volume in the Mystery of History and also read Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Renaissance World. My daughter has really loved these. My younger daughter (3rd grade) has discovered and inhales the Who Was? books.  It is not unusual for us to walk out of Barnes & Noble with 2 or 3 of these. I’m all in if it ignites her love for learning about important people. And I love how much she takes from them. While we will do traditional texts to make sure she understands how history fits together, these books are what turned her on to biographies. Where is this child struggling or has the potential to struggle? If you’ve followed my homeschooling journey at all, you know that spelling was a struggle for us until we discovered the All About Spelling curriculum. Then the light bulbs began to pop for my kids. And it’s a program I don’t hate. I had to hunt and ask a lot of people before I found this curriculum. It also means this is where we have to supplement to make up ground with the older two from the years I didn’t know what I was doing with spelling — fortunately, this program makes it easy. Higher math is another point of transition where I have to really evaluate where my child is and what they need to help them most. I am terrible about grading on a consistent basis. I don’t enjoy it and there are other things that demand my time, so Teaching Textbooks has been a God-send for us. It has a teacher on the interactive CD that walks the students through the lesson, and when the student answers problems, they get immediate feedback, a chance to try again, and then a step-by-step tutorial on how to solve the problem correctly. It’s made a difference for my teenager. Now that I have...

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Fiction Friday: History Meets Fiction in Shadowed By Grace Video

Jul22

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Fiction Friday: History Meets Fiction in Shadowed By Grace Video

This summer I got the privilege and joy of teaching 29 undergrads in Italy. Yes…I just typed that magical word…Italy. My family was based in Siena while I taught every day for two weeks. Then we had some flexibility as we split time between students and seeing a bit more of Italy…particularly Rome. This was an incredible trip…dream come true really. Photos like these say it all. When #fiction intersects with #history – @cara_putman shares in video. #amreading #MonumentsMen Click To Tweet But what I loved most of all was getting to see so many of the places I researched and wrote about while working on Shadowed by Grace. I love knowing what’s real in the novels I read, and I have a feeling some of you do as well. So here’s one of the videos I made. And then scroll below for a few more...

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What if Our Dreams Came True

Jul20

Posted by in Dreams | 0 comments

I’m just back from living a dream — spending a month in Italy. Hard work, but a dream. For ten years, I worked toward the dream of writing for one editor at one house. I’ve had the great privilege of writing many books for many wonderful editors, but there was a special click when I met this particular editor at our first ACFW. Last week I turned in the macro edits for the book we are working on together. You can get a sneak peek at the cover here. Dreams? @Cara_Putman asks if you have the courage to pursue yours? Click To Tweet That’s the beauty of dreams. Dreams can inspire you to work hard. In fact I think a dream isn’t truly a dream until you’re willing to sacrifice and do hard things to give it a chance to breath and grow. Dreams also require courage. It takes courage to let a dream you’ve harbored in your heart come to light and risk defeat or lack of support from those around you. That’s one of the things I love about ACFW. Theconference is coming up next month, and I can’t wait. The place is ripe with expectancy. Everywhere I look, I see someone with the dream of writing, the dream of one day seeing their name on the cover of a book. That was me in 2005. This year I’ll be co-teaching with Deborah Raney — an unbelievable thrill. It’s an opportunity to breath life into some tightly held dreams. Dreams can take so many shapes and sizes. The rose in the photo above? It’s at a home I walked by at least once a day as I hiked down the hill to catch the bus into Siena. It was another dream. One that while I was headed in to teach, I kept looking at the skyline, the architecture, the landscape, and thanking God for the crazy chance to work hard to get the experience. What’s the dream in your heart? Do you have the courage to chase it? What do you need to give it a...

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