Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I've never met author/agent/blogger/speaker/teacher Donald Maass in person (though I once lured him to this blog with the mention of chocolate lava cake). But I've found his writing craft books invaluable for honing the craft of fiction writing. Especially his book The Fire in Fiction. Especially Chapter 8 of that book, Tension All The Time. Because tension is what we want to create in our readers. Not only with plot, or high stakes, or cliff-hanger chapter endings. But with every line of every scene of every chapter. That's what Maass calls micro-tension, "the moment-by-moment tension that keeps the reader in a constant state of suspense over what will happen next..."

Here are a few of the tips I learned for creating micro-tension from that Tension All The Time chapter, which alone is worth the price of the book.

Micro-tension is created through emotion. Specifically, conflicting emotions. 

In Dialogue: Look at dialogue between characters as a tug-of-war between two (or more) talkers, either when the conflict is overt and hostile, or when it's more subtle, based on one character's internal tug-of-war emotional conflict. "Find the emotional friction between the speakers.... [it] can be as polite as poison, or as messy as hatchets.... The important thing is to get away from ambling chit-chat and get right to the desire of two speakers to defeat each other."

In Action: Action in and of itself does not necessarily create tension for the reader. It's when the character(s) emotional conflict is added into a scene of action that the reader truly engages, her heart beats harder, her fingers grip those pages (or screen, I suppose). "High action immediately benefits from having torn emotions folded in.... True tension lies inside."

In Exposition: Remember that old scene/sequel pattern once taught to writers? It can still work, as long as the sequel (or reaction scene) isn't merely a rehashing of what was obvious to the reader in the preceding scene of action. "Exposition is a time for what is new: extra questions, fresh anxiety, unforeseen angles.... It's plot turns that play out in the mind."

I've (intentionally) barely scratched the surface of the wealth of tips for creating tension in every line of your writing Maass presents in this chapter. This energizing concept breathed fresh life into my writing when I first read it. I intend to keep reminding myself of it until I'm established in it.

Check out the book!

The Fire in Fiction at Amazon.

At Barnes & Noble.

~ all direct quotes are taken from The Fire in Fiction, Chapter 8 Tension All The Time, by Donald Maass, and are used here with the purpose of promoting this excellent writing craft book.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I'm Readin': The Shadow Catcher's Daughter, by Carla Gade

Shush! I'm readin'....

by Carla Olson Gade
Heartsong Presents 2012

Eliana has secrets

Daring Eliana Van Horn aims to make her mark by joining her father as his photography assistant--disguised as a young man--on a survey expedition to the remote Four Corners

Living in the shadows of his native heritage, trail guide Yiska Wilcox is thrown off course when the shadow catcher's daughter opens up the uncharted territory of his heart.
"Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?" Song of Solomon 6:10
As they travel through dangerous terrain in the mountains and deserts of Colorado and New Mexico, Eliana and Yiska must learn to overcome the barriers of culture, faith, and ideals to discover common ground.

Though they are worlds apart, will they stake a chance on love?

An interview with Carla Olson Gade at Novel PASTtimes

Buy The Shadow Catcher's Daughter at Signed By The Author

 I'm a few chapters in and enjoying this story! Characters bridging the barriers of culture, race, and faith? Definitely my cup of tea.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from the author, for the purpose of review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Closed Doors

With skillful hands He led them. Psalm 78:72
When you are unsure which course to take, totally submit your own judgment to that of the Spirit of God, asking Him to shut every door except the right one. But meanwhile keep moving ahead and consider the absence of a direct indication from God to be the evidence of His will that you are on His path. And as you continue down the long road, you will find that He has gone before you, locking doors you otherwise would have been inclined to enter. Yet you can be sure that somewhere beyond the locked doors is one He has left unlocked. And when you open it and walk through, you will find yourself face to face with a turn in the river of opportunity--one that is broader and deeper than anything you ever dared to imagine, even in your wildest dreams. F. B. Meyer

How my heart leapt to read the above passage in my daily devotional a couple of weeks ago, as I made ready to travel to Colorado to visit my publishing house, still pinching myself that this was really happening, that I had finally found that door left unlocked for me (I knocked on doors for twenty years before I found that 'one He has left unlocked.').

I look back now with thankfulness that the publishing doors I lingered overlong at, and those I occasionally tried to pry open, remained locked to me. For the past several years my prayer has been, "Lord, I'll just keep writing, and knocking, and trust You to shut every door You don't want me to go through. You can see what's on the other side. I can't. You know the right door, and the perfect time for me to reach it. Open and close them as You will."

"Thy will be done." In the words of Father Tim (At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon), that's "The prayer that never fails."

* * *

~ photo by Exothermic courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It's here! Love's Reckoning

Shush! I'm readin'!

Love's Reckoning
by Laura Frantz

From the book cover:

On a bitter December day in 1784, Silas Ballantyne arrives at the door of blacksmith Liege Lee in York County, Pennsylvania. Silas is determined to finish his apprenticeship quickly and move west. But because he is a fast worker and a superb craftsman, Liege endeavors to keep him in Lancaster by appealing to an old tradition: the apprentice shall marry one of his master's beautiful daughters.

Eden is as gentle and fresh as Elspeth is high-spirited and cunning. But are they truly who they appear to be? In a house laced with secrets, each sister seeks to secure her future. Which one will claim Silas's heart--and will he agree to Liege's arrangement?

In this sweeping family saga, one man's choices in love and work, in friends and enemies, set the stage for generations to come. This is the Ballantyne Legacy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

WaterBrook Author Retreat 2012

photo by Joanne Bischof (my camera wasn't working)
I'm back from the WaterBrook Author Retreat.

It was intense, educational, motivational:

The authors who gathered for this retreat (Joanne Bischof, Katie Ganshert, Mona Hodgson, Meg Moseley, Cindy Woodsmall, Mindy Starns Clark, Kim Vogel Sawyer and me) were given a crash course in social media and on-line marketing by Rusty Shelton of Shelton Interactive."Plant a bigger flag, Lori."

Website time for me.

It was yummy, beautiful, and breathless:

We were treated well, from accommodations to meals to the marvelous view from the Inn at Palmer Divide. Below is the view, with the authors and our senior marketing manager Amy Haddock (left) and my editor Shannon Marchese (second from left).

photo by Chris Sigfrids, Senior Online Marketing Manager, WBM

The Inn sits at around 7000 ft, I was told, and simply walking up a flight of stairs is enough to leave you breathless in that thinly oxygenated air.

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who's the Newbiest of all?

That would be me! A highlight of this retreat was meeting my fellow authors, who couldn't have been more encouraging and willing to share from their experiences.

Another highlight was our tour of the WaterBrook offices and meeting the staff, including a room full of lovely enthusiastic sales and marketing folk. I got to meet the artist who's designing my book cover. I never expected to have the opportunity to brainstorm a few cover ideas with him.

We were also interviewed individually. On camera. A first for me.

You'd think I'd have embraced the fact that my novel is going to be published, but a number of times over this retreat I sat there feeling half in a dream as people I'd just met talked about my characters with enthusiasm and interest. I left with a stack of business cards, another stack of books, incredible memories, lots to process, and the sense of just how many people are involved in creating this book, and how much of their creativity, passion, and energy goes into it.

Thank you for exceeding all my expectations, WaterBrook!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A Not To Be Missed Post: Interviews

I read a lot of blogs. Many are helpful to me as a writer, or entertaining to me as a reader. Sometimes, though, I find a gem. I've got one of those for you today. It's a two-parter on the subject of interviews (primarily but not exclusively for writers), by author Bonnie Grove, at Novel Matters.

Do not miss these posts. They are the best posts on the subject of giving good interview I've ever read.

The Anatomy of the Interview, Part 1

"Your job is not to feed into the culture of celebrity, but to swat it away like the pesky fly it is, and focus instead on the intriguing questions that arise from being alive on the planet." ~ Bonnie Grove

The Anatomy of the Interview, Part 2

"In an interview, you bring parts of your true self to light that are relevant to the purpose of the interview (see part 1). You must choose the truths about yourself that are the most compelling, interesting, relevant, and endearing (or iconoclastic if that’s what fits)." ~ Bonnie Grove

Friday, August 03, 2012

A Gathering of Fiction Authors

If a gathering of horses is a herd, a gathering of fish is a school, a gathering of wolves is a pack, and a gathering of crows is a murder, what is a gathering of novelists called?

I'm traveling most of next week, heading to Colorado to visit my publisher for an author retreat. I'll meet with my editor (I have done briefly, some years before she became my editor), and tour the publishing offices.

As part of that, we'll meet the design team (and other teams, too, which are all a part of getting a book into the hands of readers, but the design team is sort of my Olympic Dream Team... just can't get this fine arts major to stop geeking out over the whole process and end result of cover design).

There will be an expert in the field to talk to us about marketing and social media.

Six other authors, none of whom I've yet met in person, will be attending. This is a big part of the excitement for me, getting to meet them!

And I'm sure there will be lovely food.

I'll take pics as I can and look forward to sharing here on the blog when I get back.
Sometimes I tell myself, "This is not my beautiful stapler." Sometimes I tell myself, "This is not my beautiful chair!" ~ Weird Al