Picturing your Character: The Dog Hero

The last two post have been about finding pictures to help envision my characters. I posted several pictures to help me create a compost of both Dan and Isabella. There is one more important character I needed to get a clearer picture of his appearance. My hero Dan Sweeney’s service dog. He has a dog to keep his panic attacks away and assist him when he falls. Service dogs detect symptoms before they occur and can be trained to do a number of tasks for their master. My heroine Isabella is afraid of dogs. So this creates an interesting dilemma. I wanted to choose a breed I love that is intelligent and gentle but he needed to be misunderstood. Looking at me as I typed my story was Kreeper, my son’s well-behaved, well-trained gentle Razor Edge bully pit. He is one of 265 breeds of pit bull. When he is trying to persuade you to feed him your popcorn, his pleading looks can melt your heart. But he can be alert and stand between you an impending danger. He thinks he’s a lapdog and often takes up the whole couch to snuggle next to any of the family. But I wanted Brutus to be kind of a mystery breed so I chose his heritage to be 50% German shepherd. They can be service dogs or guard dogs and are often used by the police. I wanted a macho dog for my wounded warrior. Some of you may not care for either breed. This is fine with Brutus because he’ll win you over as he does Isabella. Again I went online to find pictures to create my composite. I found pictures of both breeds.


Pit Bulls

When I googled Shepherd pit mixes I got these adorable creatures.

Brutus has Kreeper’s temperament and like all service dogs had been well-trained to work with his master. He is attentive to him first and foremost. For those who question my choice google the top ten vicious dogs. Dachshunds and Chihuahua are number one and two with larger breeds further down the list. Along with my son’s pit we have a dachshund living here, as well. The little one is more likely to have aggressive behavior toward a stranger entering our home. The large dog may injury you with the enthusiastic wagging of his tail.

When I envisioned Dan’s service dog I saw our pit bull and knew his bred was getting a bad rap so why not go against the norm of a golden retriever or a lab. A well-trained dog no matter the breed is a wonderful pet and companion. By making him a mix breed we concealed his negative identity until after our heroine discovers how loving he is. Fiction heroes need time to woo their readers even the furry variety.

What is your favorite breed of dog to read about?

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Picturing Your Character: The Heroine

Monday I shared a new technique I was exploring to create my characters for the novel I’m working on during Speedbo. I shared a compilation of pictures I found on the internet to create my hero Dan Sweeney.

Now I want to show you a collection of pictures I found to help create my Hispanic heroine.

At the Start of the story Isabella has waist length hair

My character had waist length hair

My character had waist length hair

She is five foot two from Guatemala, adopted as a young girl. Isabella Wilson is starting over after the death of her husband. She gets a make-over cutting her hair short.

She becomes more stylish

Shoe Shopping

She enjoys wearing three inch heels. I am a practical footwear person myself so I went virtual shoe shopping to find what Isabella liked. Fortunately she doesn’t go for too outlandish of a style. Three inch heels help her feel more in control because she is so short.

I found perusing photos on the internet really was an interesting way to get a clearer picture of my characters. Keeping the photos handy as I tell my characters’ stories. References to their appearance chapter by chapter remains the same.

What techniques do you use to help create a character? Do you virtual shop for their clothes?

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Picture Your Character: The Hero


Choosing your characters’ looks is always a challenge. As I work on my Work In Progress (WIP) I want to picture my characters. I tried something this time a few writers use to keep themselves focused on their characters. I searched for pictures on the internet to refer to as I write. The process became a bit of a challenge. There wasn’t one photo that fit the image I’d envisioned. I thought I’d post the three pictures I used to help me create a compilation character. It took a bit for Dan Sweeney to reveal himself to me. Even his name changed once we got acquainted. Dan Sweeney didn’t like the name Joe Martin. I guess Joe was a bit of a cliché name for a soldier. Dan is a wounded warrior with a prosthetic leg. He is blond and blue eyed. Looking through hundreds of photo sites, I found this soldier.

Photo one: Interesting. right hair color and eyes.

Find a picture like this for your character.

Find a picture like this for your character.

Looks pretty good.

But Dan has scars and a missing a leg. So I found this photo.

Photo 2: Wounded Warrior wrong hair color though.

Other characteristics from a second photo.

Other characteristics from a second photo.

Which gives me lots of interesting possibilities for my story. Dan has a scar on his jaw and neck so he grew a short beard and longer hair like the character Detective Marty Deeks of NCIS LA.

Photo 3: Eric Christian Olsen has the hair and beard I envision.

Eric Christian Olsen's press photo is the perfect inspiration for my character.

Eric Christian Olsen’s press photo is the perfect inspiration for my character.

Now I imagine a blond haired blue-eyed wounded warrior. He is 6 feet 2 inches and has to-die-for dimples partially hidden by a short trimmed beard. He has two missing fingers on his right hand, the pinkie and ring finger. And of course his prosthetic starts just below the right knee.

Can you envision him too?

I’m sure you have the perfect imagine in your mind based on your own creative imagination. As you read a novel, you’ll have your own image of a character that will carry you through the entire novel. As a writer it is important to keep the image in your head so he doesn’t suddenly grow a few inches or scratch freckles on his nose that weren’t there a few chapters earlier. The characters’ pictures should be posted in a prominent place to refer to as you write both to inspire and speak to you as you create their stories.

On Wednesday I’ll post my heroine’s photos.

How do you find inspiration for your character’s appearance?

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Why You Should Attend Writers Conferences Part 1

Rowena Kuo is one of the wonderful editors full of encouragement for writers that I meet at Write-to-Publish.

Rowena Kuo is one of the wonderful editors full of encouragement for writers that I meet at Write-to-Publish.

Right in the middle of Speedbo I have no time to blog. So today and Wednesday I am reposting two post about Writers Conferences. A subject near and dear to my heart. My first conference changed my whole attitude about myself as a writer. So, here you go. Hope the reminder helps encourage you to attend one.

Serious Writers Attend Conferences

Every time I attend a writing conference I am reminded of why I write. My encouragement to every writer, no matter their age or experience, is to attend conferences. There is never a time in your writing career that you evolve out of writing conferences. It is a place to hone your craft and network with other like-minded people.

Basic reasons for attending

You gain knowledge of the business of writing through workshops and classes which cover a variety of subjects. Basic techniques for writing non-fiction and fiction books are usually offered. Classes are available on subjects ranging from writing articles to creating a stellar proposal. The opportunity to have appointments with publishers, editors and agents to pitch your story or idea is worth the price of the conference. Many of these editors, publishers and agents will not take any unsolicited submissions. But if you meet them at a conference, your pitch may garner you an open invitation to submit.

Arthor Cynthia Ruchti not only was such a wonderful encouragement on my writng journey but she autographed her novel for me.

Arthor Cynthia Ruchti not only was such a wonderful encouragement on my writing journey but she autographed her novel for me.


Conferences are a networking opportunity to meet other writers and be encouraged. One writer might direct you to a particular publisher who is seeking what you are writing. Established writers may give you personal introductions to the professionals you are seeking appointments with. Fledgling writers ask questions of other writers and get the encouragement and direction needed to turn their scribbles into successful submissions. You’ll discover writers who live in your area or a local writer’s group to join.


This is the place where everyone speaks your language. No one rolls their eyes when you say you’ve written a novel. You can practice your pitch with other writers before you pitch it at your appointment. Most conferences have critique groups of your peers to help you improve your writing. Unlike Aunt Sally who loves everything you write, they can tell you of any red flags in your writing that need fixing. That kind of encouragement makes the road to publication easier. The keynote speakers remind writers of their calling. A writer’s revival if you will, that helps each writer refocus. Rekindling the confidence that has been chipped away by editors’ rejections and life happens interruptions.

Lifelong Friendships

Every time you attend a conference you make new friends and reconnect with old ones. Writer friends add dimension to your life and open doors. Becoming friends with publishers that may not be interested in what you are writing now plants your name in their mind when the publisher’s needs change. Acquisition Editors change publishing houses, agents may open their own company. Having made their acquaintance puts you in a good position to become a client. Writer friends share the link to your new book or article on their blog, website or facebook page. Let’s not forget they are there when you feel stomped on by life and misunderstood in the industry.

Budget attending one conference a year

Serious writers know this is an important business expense. Decide on the conference you plan to attend early and put money aside in your budget for it. If your finances are so tight you can’t fit the cost in a monthly budget, apply for scholarships or grants. Conferences will offer a limited number of scholarships, either full or partial to attendees. Some offer work scholarships for locals who help with the preconference preparation. Do a Google search for writer’s grants or reference the Writer’s Market Guide and the Christian Writer’s Market Guide to pursue grant leads. The e-newsletter Funds for Writers has grant information in every issue.

Locate a conference near you

The Sally Stuart Conference Guide http://stuartmarket.com/Conferences.aspx is a great resource for finding the conference that is right for you.tion in every issue.

Why do you attend conferences?

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Attending a Writers Conference Part 2 Tips On Preparing

Here is another repost this week for preparing to attend a writers conference. Its not to early to start preparing for those coming up this summer. Hope you find these tips helpful.


Before you attend a writers’ conference there are some things you need to do to prepare.

  • Research all the publishers and agents attending the event. Go to their websites and get to know them. Decide which ones you want to have appointments.
  • Have a clean copy of the first chapter of your manuscript or article.
  • Prepare a memorized pitch—a short description of your story idea that can be said in 90 seconds or less. Be brief but concise. Memorize it until it flows smoothly from your tongue.
  • Have written proposal. There are usual guidelines on the individual websites as well as many books available on the subject.
  • Clips—samples of other published work- if you have it. Magazine editors are interested in these.
  • Bring a business card. Minimum content your name and email address. Better with a headshot and website, blog and other links.  These you will exchange with other writes and give to those you pitch too.

Doing these things ahead of time prepares you for whatever the appoint time morphs into. Some pubs want a pitch others want to see a sample of your writing.

Things not to do at a conference


  • Don’t waste the individuals time pitching something their company does not publish. This screams amateur. If the conference offers a panel of editors—attend that session. You will get the latest updates on their needs which could change you initial list of who to have appointments with.
  • Be open to criticism. One meeting may bring you rave reviews another may leave you feeling like the worse writer on the planet.
  • Don’t be late or an appointment and don’t go over you allotted time.
  • Keep your criticisms to yourself. If you are having a bad day don’t rain on others great ones. Your next appointment or workshop maybe the very thing you need to turn your attitude around.

An idea for newbies

I heard a great idea at the last conference I attended. One young lady set appointments with agents and publishers to ask questions. She had nothing to pitch but wanted to know more about how these professions worked. It gave her a feel for how to approach them in the future when she had something to pitch. She made contacts who would not be strangers when she pitched her stuff later making her less nervous.

Do what is required after the conference

Be prepared to return home and work. Work on proposals that were requested. Work on articles, not to mention perfecting those three chapters. Or work on rewriting, reworking and resubmitting based on the things you learned and the input you were given.

I’d love to hear your tips on maximizing your conference experience.

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Mark Twain, Jane Austin and Me: A Lesson in Grace

A memory from earlier writing days came back to me when I read these quotes from Mark Twain someone had recently posted on Facebook.


“Just the omission of Jane Austen’s books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.”
” I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

If you appreciate his humor, you’re laughing. If you adore Jane Austen, you are probably glad the man died ages ago lest you beat him with a shin bone. I found a more interesting lesson here.


Reading Twain’s quote reminded me of a time in the 90’s when a dear friend introduced me to her daughter. She wanted us to meet because we were both writers. Her daughter had been published in the United Kingdom where she had been living for several years.

When I inquired what she wrote the conversation went something like this.

“I write horror.”

I am sure my face contorted in some offensive fashion. “I never read horror.”

“What do you write?” I’m sure her lips were in a firm thin line.

“I write Christian fiction.”

“Anyone with a crayon can write that.”

Yes she really did say that. And yes my hackles were up.

I assume we managed to have a civil conversation. I vaguely remember she explained to me how she reprogrammed the number pad on her computer for Gaelic accent marks.

I don’t recall her name. Perhaps she was an award winning writer and sold millions of copies. In retrospect it should never have been about who wrote the more noble subject matter. It wasn’t about who was the better writer; it was about preference. Not only what we preferred to write but where our passion was. Our passions were polar opposites.

Passion seasoned with grace

There are readers from all walks of life who enjoy our passion driven words. As writers we do no one any good by threatening to hit another author with a shin bone. We need to exercise grace in regard to our differences. Horror is still not my genre of choice. But I have learned from Stephen King about writing. Having reviewed a few horror books, I have grown to appreciate their value. Ted Dekker never ceases to get his readers to think on a deeper level. The experience has broadened my reading choices to include intriguing stories in science fiction and fantasy.


I am not sure what exactly Mark Twain didn’t like about Jane Austin’s writing style, and his remarks obviously didn’t stop readers from purchasing her books. (FYI: They were not contemporaries. Twain was born twenty years after Austin died. ) Had they been contemporaries his remarks might have put a wedge between them.

Thinking about his words I realized I missed a great opportunity. If I had been less offended by the horror writer’s genre, perhaps that writer and I would have developed a lifelong friendship. Perhaps I might even have learned something about the craft of writing from her. Or she might have discovered writers of Christian fiction who don’t use crayons and opened her own horizons to new possibilities.

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The Single Dad Detour: Tez Brooks shares his Journey and a Book Giveaway

Author Tez Brooks

Author Tez Brooks

I am excited to welcome my friend Tez Brooks to my blog today. He is a fun guy who loves the Lord and has a passion to help single dads navigate life after divorce. He shares from his own experience in his book The Single Dad Detour.

Each chapter is filled with practical advice and travel analogies as an aid to helping divorced father’s pick up the pieces of their lives. There are lots of scriptures, personal examples and other guys’ stories to make each point he shares come to life for the reader.

Thanks for taking time out of your very busy life to make an appearance my friend. Take a seat on my comfy couch and let’s get started. Tez, share with my readers about yourself. You know, the usual stuff, where you live, job, marital status and other things you think my readers should know about you.

My wife and I live in Orlando. I remarried 13 years ago and we have two little girls as well as two grown kids from my first marriage. Christine and I are full-time missionaries with The Jesus Film Project (a ministry of CRU). I write films that help introduce unreached people groups to Christ and disciple them.

Why did you feel the need to write this book?

I really struggled for several years wondering if I should write this book. I didn’t want to go there again, but the Lord started working in my heart and I remembered how there just wasn’t anything out there for me when I was going through my own divorce—especially with a Christian worldview. What was available was too preachy for me.

What do you hope is the take-away for readers?

I’d like them to walk away encouraged to keep going strong. To understand the Lord is on their side. I want to challenge them to step up as a man, yet still offer hope and the grace to be able to laugh at themselves when they aren’t perfect. There’s too much pressure as it is. If dads can celebrate what they’re doing right, while still leaning desperately on the Savior for hope, it will make the road they’re navigating much easier.

 4360 drive final.indd

How is The Single Dad Detour different than any other books out there for single fathers?

I tried to write something that would encourage guys with a little humor and offer some practical advice. There are way too many books for dads written by someone with a PhD. I really wanted something for the Joe Blows out there. Blue collar guys, who aren’t crazy about reading but need some hope.

I tried to add a lot of humor by laughing at myself. I made some pretty dumb decisions as I raised my kids through those single years.

Finally, I think the action points and the suggested prayers at the end of each chapter help dads have something to think about. I even included a few QR codes for younger dads who like to absorb content from several avenues outside the book itself.

What kind of research did you do to sharpen the content?

In addition to hours of internet research on single parenting, I interviewed a lot of single dads from around the world. Not just divorced men, but widowers and never married dads too. I felt it was important to give readers a well-rounded view, rather than just a book full of my own experiences. Although, there’s a lot of my own story in there.

I appreciated this book so much and I am neither male nor divorced. What value do you feel women or married men might get from reading your book?

Well I’m sure more women are picking up this book than men. They are buying it for a guy they know (maybe their son, brother or nephew who is a single dad). Maybe even a few girlfriends are finding it helpful as they begin dating a single dad.

But yes you’re right about married men too. I think any dad will find it useful as they try to navigate through parenting. These issues I address are not exclusive to single fathers. These are common issues that every single dad (no pun intended) will find useful. These things like our health, self-worth, our identity in Christ, how to shepherd our kids, even cooking and house-keeping issues—all are topics we struggle with as parents—married or not.

What makes you the best person to write about this subject?

You know, I’m not. There are guys sitting next to me at traffic lights that I’m sure are more qualified. I could say it’s my experience with being both a custodial and non-custodial dad. I could say it’s because I was a single dad for 7 years or that I survived blending a family when I re-married. While it’s true I have 4 kids and almost 30 years of parenting under my belt. I didn’t approach the book with that in mind. I’m just a regular dad who screws up even today, who wants dads to be encouraged and filled with hope to press on. They need to laugh at themselves and not be scared of failing from time to time. Single dads are under incredible scrutiny and pressure to perform better than the average single mom. The world doesn’t have much grace for guys going it alone, but God does. Dads, he’s in your corner and he’s cheering you on.

Writer’s Patchwork focuses on helping other writers. So I want to ask in your opinion when is the best time for someone to write something of a personal nature? I know you didn’t write this while you were going through the process.

That’s a great question and I think it’s different for everyone. I waited 17 years. Honestly I would not write from anything painful for at least 5 years after the event is resolved. That being said sometimes that resolution takes decades. You need time to process and to see what God’s bigger plan was. You need that bird’s eye view. I’ve read a few books where it was obvious the author had not given himself or herself time to heal. When you’re writing from pain it’s vital to get your work critiqued by other writers who can be honest with you and point out places that may appear too raw. That may mean re-visiting some of those memories and working through some things you thought you’d resolved already. But that’s the great thing about trusting God. He is bigger than all that and he knows often times, our greatest healing comes from writing about and struggling with our past.

I always ask my guests to share the most important thing or two they have learned on their writing journey.

Surround yourself with successful writers and avoid the naysayers. I once spoke to a group of writers about the importance of choosing your friends carefully and being cautious about who they share their dreams with. Joseph, in the Old Testament told the wrong people his dreams and he ended up in some very difficult places. Not everyone is excited or happy about the dreams God places in our hearts. Writing can be a lonely place if you don’t find a community of like-minded creatives who desire to cheer you on and love to see you succeed. Ask the Lord to bring those people into your life while intentionally seeking out those circles.

Here’s some additional help from Tez for single dads

If you’re a single dad who would appreciate helpful tips, encouragement and few laughs, sign-up for Tez’s monthly emails at EverySingleDad.com and he’ll send you the FREE article, “Five Ways Your Church Can Minister to Single Dads.”

Before Tez and I part company here is my last comment on my friend.

Like many authors, writing is not Tez’s career. He and his wife are actually Christian workers. As full-time missionaries with The Jesus Film, Tez and Christine rely on the generous and faithful giving of financial supporters. Cru holds no central funds to pay their missionaries. If you’d like to learn more about how you can help the Brooks’ to continue creating and using films to share the message of Jesus to millions around the world, log onto www.BrooksCru.com or email Tez at tezwritesgmail.com

If you would like a chance to win a copy of The Single Dad Detour leave a comment with your email address. This is a great gift for the single dad in your life.

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How Beta Readers Help Polish a Maunscript

woman reading book

Another invitation to be a Beta reader came in my email. Because of this Speedbo challenge I had to pass on it. *sigh* This is something I love to do. So I’ll take a few minutes to share with you what it is all about.

What is a Beta Reader

I’ve had the privilege of being a Beta Reader a few times. Before my experience I had no idea what a Beta reader did or why they were important. Beta Readers are the final line of defense against typos and grammar fopas. The last opportunity to question flow and any other oddity in your manuscript.

As a Beta Reader I received a PDF file in my email of a completed manuscript ready to go to press. It’s the Beta Readers job to find misspelled words, duplicate words, punctuation, wrong character names, duplicate sentences and paragraphs. Examples of these are John said when it should be Joel. Tom sat nearby when it should be Tim.

How it works

A Beta Reader examines every word from the title, the acknowledgement, the body of work to The End. Anything that seems odd or unclear, forgotten words, incorrect punctuation or grammar is noted on a separate sheet- a copy correction template. Each correction starts with a page #, paragraph and line #   followed by specific verbiage.

I’ll use an example from earlier.

Page 142 paragraph 3 line 6

It reads: John said.

Should read: Joel said.

In this case the character John is Joel’s missing brother and he is not in this scene at all. So obviously he would not be speaking. Characters with similar names or same first letters are easy to confuse and often missed in initial edits.

What it’s not

A Beta Reader does not rewrite or delete sections. They are not the critiquer. Rather they are the polishers. Critiquers and editors sand and resurface the words and beta readers produce the high shine to take the imperfections out of the varnish.

Beta reading eyes

After my experience as a Beta Reader I have caught glaring mistakes in printed books. One recent example. “I agree.” He agreed. It drew me out of the book and I pondered the redundancy of those words for a few seconds. No author wants a reader drawn out of his story.

One novel had a page with the list of characters at the end of the book. The Korean-American was listed as a Japanese –American. Where were the Beta Readers on that one? Duplicate words are a constant bother to readers such as: with with or she with went with. Probably occurred during editing. The editor or author deletes part of a sentence but not all of it and in the rewrite adds extra words. This is another place that will draw a reader out of a book. Enough of these and the reader may stop reading and consider the author a hack.

How many Beta Readers is enough

Most books have several Beta Readers. I was one of 30 on my projects. Those small errors are usually caught by having multiple Beta Readers. In my case there were two groups. Fifteen read first and the second group went over the manuscript after corrections were made. This creates the cleanest copy possible. The words shine with the natural beauty minus most of the flaws. I say most because there can still be after all those readers a comma or misspelled word that got slipped through the cracks. But hopefully no one or very few readers will ever notice it.

Why be a Beta Reader

It builds your network of contacts. You slowly read through a ready to publish book and your mind absorbs what makes the book publication worthy. You catch mistakes you may be making in your own manuscript and you learn to do line edits.

If you are asked to be a Beta Reader go for it. If you really love the book offer to do a book review when it is available. My experience has shown me I want beta readers on my projects. Any Indie authors out there can only benefit from those extra set of eyes.

Have any of you had experiences with beta readers either as one or using them. I would love to hear about it.

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Mercy’s Rain: An Insightful Interview with Cindy Sproles

Cindy Sproles

Today I want welcome Cindy Sproles to my blog. Cindy is an author and speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is a conference teacher and speaker, working conferences all across the country. Her devotions are found in newspapers all over the eastern seaboard. Cindy is the executive Editor of ChristianDevotions.us and InspireAFire.com. She is the author of four devotionals and compilations and her first fiction novel, Mercy’s Rain is now available.

I am so excited to have Cindy here to talk to her about her debut novel Mercy’s Rain. When I read it I remember thinking this is so well-crafted it reminds me of someone’s tenth rather than their first. I loved this sad hopeful story. So we are all on the same page (no pun intended) here is the book blurb.

Mercy Roller was raised by a twisted father who wore the collar of a Pastor, and chose to be Jesus, judge, and jury, by his own appointment. Abused, broken and bitter, Mercy lifts the hand that takes the Pastor’s life. In one swift action, she becomes what she despises most about the Pastor. Now she seeks redemption. Can the unconditional love of a mountain preacher and his friends, guide Mercy to find peace?

Mercy Rains

Cindy, thanks for being with us today. I am so looking forward to learning more about the process you went through writing Mercy’s Rain.

Why did you chose this subject? In your acknowledgement you say this is not your life experience. How did you ever capture the essence of Mercy’s broken heart and life without ever experiencing it? I went to bed one night and couldn’t sleep. At 3 in the morning, I flipped the television and found a documentary on child abuse under the age of seven. It broke my heart. So when I began to write this story, I tried to take my head into the place of these children. I wanted to find their hurt, brokenness, and anger. I wasn’t a hard story to write, but definitely a story that wore at my heart. I wondered, if this were me, how would I feel? If this were me, what would I do? Given my own personality, how would I handle this?

I am a mountain girl and we are taught to toss things over our shoulders and move ahead. As we know, that doesn’t always work. It eventually comes back to bite us. So in my head, I became Mercy. I applied my own self-reliance, honesty, and personal determination to Mercy. If that were me?

My ministry partner once said, “To write real emotion, you have to find your own scab, then scratch it. Scratch it until it bleeds. And when that happens, you can write the emotion as it bleeds onto the page.” All of us have hurt in our lives. I simply found the one that broke me, and I scratched the scab.

Being in only Mercy’s head gave me interesting insights into her past and her reactions to her present. How difficult is it to write from only her POV? It wasn’t hard to write in Mercy’s POV. First person seems to come natural to me. It’s human nature to talk about ourselves, to share our own personal experiences…it was no different for Mercy. She could easily talk about her past and she could tell you about her anger and frustration.

For me, I’m a storyteller. I can easily speak a story. Writing it was no different. I find great fun in embellishing the facts of a story so first person was not hard for me. In fact, being in Mercy’s head was much easier than telling her story from 3rd person. By telling it from her POV, we could see her reactions to the things that boiled in her past.

Mercy is a complicated character. When did she introduce herself to you and share her secret? How did you decide which secrets to tell your readers? Mercy started out as MaryBeth. By the time I finished the first chapter, MaryBeth wasn’t a strong enough character. This character needed to have a name that would haunt her. One that would drive her. I knew I wanted the story to be about redemption and mercy. What a better name? She introduced her real self to me at the end of chapter one. I went back and renamed MaryBeth to Mercy.

To me, and I know this sounds crazy, but there are letters of the alphabet that have a heavy sound. A strong sound. Names that begin with the letter M generally have a heavy sound, a hard beat. I liked MaryBeth, and even though the M is a heavy beat, having Beth added to the name softened the strength of the name. Mary is to cliché and overused. Since we are constantly saying “Lordy mercy,” in the mountains, the M on Mercy struck a chord. It fit perfectly.

What kind of research was needed to bring this story to life? I always research my cultural facts. It didn’t take much. I was raised here. My grandmother lived the hard life in the mountains and she trained my mother, and my mother trained me, in the skills of survival. I have a strong work ethic, something that is tried and true to the real mountain folks. I knew how to can, raise tobacco, garden, cook, sew. And I knew from the stories my grandmother told me of her life in the mountains, how the culture progressed. I did research the dialect, even though what you hear in Mercy’s Rain is how we talk, I know there are more modern versions of our slang. I made sure the dialect rang true. I made sure the life style in the 1800s rang true. In fact, even into the mid-1900s, life had really not modernized. Truth be known, when you get into the true mountain folks today, many still do things the old way. They may own a truck or car, but they still set tobacco with a horse and tobacco setter. They still warm their homes with hickory wood, and cook on the iron stove . . . even if they have an electric stove. Mountain life is simple. People don’t covet the modern desires of life. They love the smell of hickory smoke, the taste of home canned green beans, and sweet butter.

Was there such a man as The Pastor in the 1890s Tennessee? Or is he a figment of your imagination? This character is a figment of my imagination. But the weight of his authority is not. Circuit riding preachers were fairly knowledgeable men. They were also strong salesmen. They had to be in order to teach the love of Christ to a rather closed community of people. Most could read very well and had some portion of education as opposed to the mountain folks who could barely read and write. You’ve heard of people putting their X on the line? This is because they couldn’t write, much less read. An X was easy to make. The mountain folks, once they accepted the facts of Christ, were very faithful people. Since many had no reading skills, they relied on the Pastor to read and teach. Like any profession, there were evil men who hid behind the cloak of the ministry. They could live for free on the generosity of the mountain people and if they wanted to twist the truth to benefit their own agendas, they could. The people trusted. They were, by all intense purposes, ignorant. Ignorance is not an insult – it’s uneducated. And because of the lack of education, ignorance was a fact of life in the mountains. For every ten wonderful, good-hearted, and genuine Pastors that traveled the circuit, there was one just like Pastor Roller. But this is not only in the ministry, it’s in any profession. It could have just as easily been a medicine man, a farmer, or a sheriff. Evil does not exempt itself from a profession. It finds the weak and preys on them.

I loved how each of Mercy’s new friends represented some aspect of Christ. Were any of the characters patterned after people you know? No, not really. These folks were just good people. I wrote Mercy’s Rain to the general market. I didn’t set out to sell this to the Christian market. I wanted it to be prevalent in the secular world and therefore, I wanted people to see that in a world of horrible things, there are still good people. There are people who have scruples, faith, and true love. They have honesty and they have a love for Christ even in a world who says religion is unimportant. I know there are tons of wonderful people like my characters, the Johnsons. I’ve met them through the years. I didn’t base these characters on anyone person, rather I chose the nature of goodness and the face of Christ to develop them.

Cindy, are we going to see more of Mercy Roller in future books? I’m not sure. Mercy’s story is pretty much complete. But I’m still pondering bringing her and Samuel into a second story as secondary characters. I think their lives together could be great examples. So we’ll see. If the story lends itself toward them, I’ll add them.

What are your plans for future novels? There are three more books in this series. All Momma’s Children, Coal Black Lies, and Cobb Hill. All are part of the Appalachian cultural historical fiction stories. Each a standalone. And like I said, some of the characters from Mercy’s Rain may find their way into these stories. It is regional so we’ll see.

I always like to end my interviews with the author giving my readers a piece of writing advice. So, if you would give us one thing you’ve learned on your writing journey.

My best advice is not to marry your words. There are always better words. It goes back to my momma teaching me humility. “Cindy, if you are first place in a race, remember – there is always someone else out there better. Strive to reach better.”

I would apply this to your writing. There are always better words. Strive for better.

Thank you Cindy, for me our time together as been more than so inspiring.

We are giving away a copy of Mercy’s Rain to a lucky winner. Cindy has  also brought along a copy of her devotional New Sheets- Thirty Days to Refine You to the Woman You can Be. Just leave a comment with your email if you’d like your name place in the drawing.

new sheetMercy Rains

Links to:

Mercy’s Rain

Mercy’s Rain: An Appalachian Novel (Kregel Publishing)

New Sheets

New Sheets: Thirty Days to Refine You to the Woman You can Be

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