How to grab an editor’s attention in those first three chapters

I just finished book nine of my novel writing journey. Books four and five are coming out this year, and others are still in search of a home. One of the big keys to catching a publisher’s eye is a stellar first three chapters. In fiction, you can only send the first three chapters. You can’t skip to the chapters you feel are the best part of the book. Because if the beginning isn’t a page-turner, the reader will put the book down before they get there. If a pub board isn’t wowed by your writing sample, you will not get a contract no matter how stunning chapter seven is. They don’t have time to read the entire book.

The novella collection featuring Healing Hearts.

Clean chapters

Make sure there are no typos, or grammatical errors in those chapters. Ask a fellow-author or two or three to read through the chapters and red mark those areas. Even sentences that sound funny or word choices that seem weird or off-putting. It is not the publishers’ job to overlook these and just judge the story. These things will distract quicker than quick and paint you as someone who isn’t serious about your craft.

Strong first sentence

Here is the first sentence from my novella Healing Hearts from The Cowboys, a novella collection available on Amazon, (Shameless promo.)

If I only do one good thing in my life, I’m getting my brother home.

Does that make you want to read on and find out why Lonnie thinks this?  The first sentence draws the reader to ask who is this, what is happening and why. The where was established with a tag at the beginning of the chapter Kansas, 1866.  

This pic is what the twins looked like in my imagination.

First paragraph

The first paragraph needs to build that tension as it begins to introduce the characters through dialog and interaction. Setting descriptors should be sprinkled throughout as beats. Lonnie adjusts the blanket over their laps so his twin gets more because they are in an open wagon in a snowstorm. I show through actions rather than tell the reader what is going on..

First page

By now the reader should feel compelled to turn the page. Don’t waste a lot of time describing a building. Healing Hearts opens in a wagon traveling through snow. As the men travel, they shove their gloved hands under their arms, etc., to imply how cold it is. As Lonnie recalls his past failures, the snow makes it hard to see the path in front of them, a metaphor for his lack of hope. And the reader learns that Jed is the more positive of the two.

First chapter

The reader should have a good handle on setting and main characters by the end of the first chapter. In Healing Hearts, Lonnie Holt is traveling with his twin brother Jed to a ranch they inherited from their late uncle. Jed is recovering from ill health after being released from a Civil War prison camp. Lonnie blames himself for the loss of their family and ranch in Texas. Jed is all he has left of his family. The whole first chapter establishes their relationship and their dream of a thriving ranch. The chapter ends with the twins finding a woman in their cabin, the awkward way Lonnie handles the encounter, and the realization that she can’t leave anytime soon.

Lonnie let the fire’s heat chase the chill from his body while his mind fought to find his manners. A glance out the window at the thickening snowfall told him the scared filly would not be leaving anytime soon. It both irritated and intrigued him.

Chapters two and three

These chapters need to be as engaging as the first one. More of the who, what, where and why unfold. We get a better feeling for the setting and characters. By the end of chapter three, the editor has a sense of your writing style and your level of writing craft. It also tells them how engaging the book will be for the reader. Healing Hearts’ Lonnie is instantly attracted to Genny, but his physical and emotional scars build a wall around his heart. He is sharp and obnoxious toward her. But when she steps in to use her nursing skills to help Jed with a wretched cough, Lonnie softens.

Here is the last few lines of Healing Hearts’ chapter three.

He followed her to the door and spoke low. “Forgive me, ma’am, for being ornery and sharp with you earlier.”

“Home is where you hoped your brother would heal.” Her brown eyes lingered until he felt uncomfortable. “I forgive you.” She left the room, taking with her his momentary peace.

FYI: Every chapter ending should be intriguing enough to lead the reader to want to turn the page rather than stop and go on to other things. 

Concluding thought

 The editor has read the summary and knows how the story ends. And after reading the first three chapters, he has determined whether you can deliver your story in an exciting, well-written way.

And if the answer is yes for him, he will pitch it to the pub board. Hopefully, leading to a contract offer.

If you are interested in reading Healing Hearts, here is the link to The Cowboys. The other three authors, Jennifer Ulrich, Sandra Melville Hart, and Linda Yezak have excellent opening lines, too. I guarantee you won’t be able to stop turning the pages.

What is your favorite opening line?

If you haven’t read The Cowboys there is a link under the picture.

Taming the west—one heart at a time.

Healing Heart

Lonnie Holt’s external scars remind him of his failures, his internal scars torment him. Genny Collins seeks safety at the ranch once owned by Lonnie’s uncle. When Lonnie and his brother arrive, sparks fly and distrust abounds. While Lonnie and Genny fight the love growing between them, his past haunts him, and her past pays them a visit.

Becoming Brave

When Coy Whittaker stumbles upon a grisly scene littered with bodies, he wants nothing more than to get his boss’s cattle out of Indian Territory. But when a bloodstained Aimee Kaplan draws down on him, his plans—and his heart—screech to a halt.

Trail’s End

Wade Chadwick has no money until his boss’s cattle sell, so he takes a kitchen job at Abby’s Home Cooking. The beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Abby Cox hires the down-and-out cowboy even though the word cowboy leaves a bad taste in her mouth. Just as she’s ready to trust Wade with her heart, money starts to disappear … and so does her brother.

Loving a Harvey Girl

Eva Knowles can’t imagine why the local preacher doesn’t like Harvey Girls—women who work serving tables instead of finding a husband and falling in love. But if Eva can get the handsome and wayward cowboy Cal Stephens to join her in church, maybe the reverend will accept the girls. Or maybe she’ll forfeit her job for a husband, hearth, and home!

There are twins in Healing Hearts and I wanted to give Jed his own happily-ever-after. Rescuing Her Heart is available for preorder in paperback and e-book. It releases July 6th.

As her husband’s evil deeds haunt a mail-order bride from the grave, can she learn to trust again and open her heart to true love? 

On visitation rounds as a lay preacher, the last thing rancher Jed Holt expects is to be shot at from the barn next to a burned-down homestead. But the soot-covered woman hiding inside needs protecting, and Jed is the man to do it whether she likes it or not. Delilah James’s nightmares began when she came to Kansas as a mail-order bride. Her husband was nothing like his letters. Now that he is dead, she can’t shake his abuse from her heart. Trusting men tops her never-again list and taking a job on the Holt ranch as a housekeeper is a means to save money and bring her parents west. But her attraction to the compassionate former chaplain both angers and confuses her. 

Jed has his own nightmares from a POW camp and understands Delilah better than she knows. Can two broken people form a forever bond?

Denise Weimer shares the funny thing about her newest release Bent Tree Bride

Denise Weimer is a wonderful editor and I dearly love her novels, both contemporary and historical romances. I’m  happy  she’s agreed to return as my guest. My specific question for Denise was what surprised her most during her process of writing Bent Tree Bride? Here is her answer.

If I had to pick only one thing that surprised me in writing Bent Tree Bride, I’d mention the rather shocking fact that this novel was researched and written in about six weeks. Before you rule it out as inferior historical fiction, hear me out!

This project came at a time right after I’d really immersed myself in my editing training and my new job as a managing editor with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. So first of all, my mind was working in efficient editor mode. I found myself cutting the fluff as I went, writing much tighter, and focusing on the romance and action. Because I was working in my favorite trope, Southern American frontier romance, the story fairly poured out.

The time frame did not mean I skimped on research either. I compiled a 45-page timeline crammed with historical events and topics, maps, and paintings. I watched knife-fighting and tomahawk-throwing videos. I even attended a living history at the site of the battle, Horseshoe Bend, which culminated the Red Stick War (part of the War of 1812 in present-day Alabama).

I’m not sure I’ll ever again match the pace I set when churning out Bent Tree Bride, but that’s okay. It’s a labor of love, and I believe it’s my best writing yet. Will you give it a try?

BACK COVER COPY FOR BENT TREE BRIDE:

Susanna Moore can’t get him out of her mind—the learned lieutenant who delivered the commission from Andrew Jackson making her father colonel of the Cherokee Regiment. But the next time she sees Lieutenant Sam Hicks, he’s leading a string of prisoners into a frontier fort, and he’s wearing the garb of a Cherokee scout rather than the suit of a white gentleman.

As both Susanna’s father and Sam’s commanding officer, Colonel Moore couldn’t have made his directive to stay away from his daughter clearer to Sam. He wants a better match for Susanna—like the stuffy doctor who escorted her to Creek Territory. Then a suspected spy forces Moore to rely on Sam for military intelligence and Susanna’s protection, making it impossible for either to guard their heart.

BIO:

Denise Weimer writes historical and contemporary romance and romantic suspense, mostly set in her home state of Georgia. She’s authored a dozen traditionally published novels and a number of novellas. As a managing editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, she also helps others reach their publishing dreams. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses.

Grab a copy of The Witness Tree while it is on sale.

The Witness Tree, on sale April 5-12 for 99 cents in e-book: https://www.amazon.com/Witness-Tree-Denise-Weimer/dp/1645260623/

*The hero of Bent Tree Bride is a boy in the mission school for the children of Cherokee chiefs in The Witness Tree.*

(Cindy here) I’m excited to read my copy of Bent Tree Bride, I loved The Witness Tree and recommend if you haven’t read it first, do so. But Bent Tree Bride can be read as a stand-alone.

An Interview with best selling author Eva Marie Everson

I am beyond thrilled to have Eva Marie Everson as my special guest today. I’ve known this outstanding lady since starting my chapter of Word Weavers here in Illinois. She is the founder and president of Word Weavers International. Word Weavers made a profound effect on my life and I’m honor to have her grace my blog.

Yeah, a bit of a fan. Welcome Eva. I like to start by asking authors to share a little about their writing journey.

  I’ve written as far back as I can remember, and before I could put pen to paper, I made up stories and acted them out in the backyard of my childhood home. In 1996, I began writing for a children’s ministry. Then, in 1997, I began working on my first novel. Somehow, I knew it would be published! And it was; it was my third book published of the forty I’ve published since.

Forty is an impressive number. What is your latest published project?

  Dust

What inspired you to write your book?

The book came as an idea that formed after hearing the song Dust in the Wind by the 1970s rock band KANSAS. I questioned whether the lines in the chorus were true—are we just “dust in the wind” or do our lives really matter? And what about those who seem to be the “ordinary lives” of “ordinary people”? Can they leave extraordinary legacies? The story followed from there.

Wow! You have my attention. I have my copy and can’t wait to dig in. What kind of research was involved with this book?

I didn’t have to do a lot of research for this one. It begins in 1965 and goes to present time, all of which I lived through.

       So did it. 😊

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you? John 6: 68: Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Such a powerful verse.

Here are two questions I love asking authors.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing, what would that be?

 Don’t wait. Do it.

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

 My Word Weavers Page 6 group.

Word Weavers is a wonderful supportive on so many levels.

Writers are told to read. What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

I read a variety for fun and I am hopelessly hooked on anything by Richard Paul Evans. We don’t write alike, but my books are often next to his on bookshelves (Evans/Everson). So, since he is a multi-multi-multi bestseller, that doesn’t hurt me too much! 😊

I’ll have to check him out.

Before you go, I want to know where is your favorite place to write?

 In my office. I seem to slide into another world when I’m here (I’m here now).

Thanks so much for stopping by.

I’m posting the back cover copy of Dust to tantalize my readers.

Can an ordinary life leave an extraordinary legacy?

In 1977, when nineteen-year-old Allison Middleton receives a proposal of marriage from Westley Houser, she eagerly accepts, having no idea the secret Westley carries—a secret that will change Allison’s life forever. But Allison rises to the challenge of raising Westley’s toddling daughter as though she were her own.

Over the course of their lifetime together, Allison, Westley, and Michelle form the strong bond of family. As Allison struggles with infertility and finding her way during a time of great change for women, others—some she knows and others whom she never meets—brush and weave against the fabric of her life, leaving her with more questions than answers.

From teen bride to grandmother, Allison’s life chronicles the ups and downs of an ordinary woman’s life to examine the value of what we all leave behind.

More about Eva Marie Everson

Eva Marie Everson is a multiple award-winning bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction. She is the president of Word Weavers International, the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference, the managing editor of Firefly Southern Fiction, and a wife, mother, and grandmother. She and her husband are owned by a very spoiled cat. They make their home in Central Florida.

Connect with Eva Marie on social media

www.EvaMarieEversonAUTHOR.com

Eva Marie Everson’s Southern Novels on Facebook

Eva Marie Everson on Instagram

Eva Marie Everson on Pinterest

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Tips for doing research for an historical novel

One of my husband’s ancestors. Great resource for period clothes.

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you know I write Historical Romance. And one of the key things any historical writer or fiction writer in general needs to do is research.

When I get a germ of an idea and the plot noodles around in my mind, I do research. It can take days, weeks or months depending on how familiar I am with the time period, setting and other details beforehand.

Let me share how I research my first novel Secrets & Charades

The idea of a female doctor going west as a mail-order bride formed in my mind. I knew nothing about female doctors in the mid-1800s or if they existed. I’d read mail-order bride stories but didn’t understand the process. My thoughts on ranching came from watching Bonanza and Big Valley as a kid. And although I’d lived in Texas for a while as a child, I still needed to research setting.

Google it

First, I used the internet to answer some basic questions. Were there female doctors in that time period? Who were the notable ones? What was the male view of female doctors?

 I looked at historical maps (which are really hard to see online) for setting and railroad lines. And checked out ranching of the period.

Pinterest has boards of wonderful pictures of historical dress.

There are websites with photos of the time period and models in period dress. Those photos helped me describe the clothing. I found some interesting faces that helped me picture my characters.

And there are YouTube videos on a variety of historical subjects, from guns to preparing food in a fireplace.

Books, books, books

Where I really hit the mother lode of research was the library and used books on Amazon. My local library has a wonderful atlas of period maps. I was able to see the geography of Texas more clearly and where the railroad lines traversed the state in 1870.

I found diaries and biographies from women of the period, and books about cowboys and ranching. Large coffee table books with town scenes showed me the architecture of the time, and photos of homesteads and ranches. That’s where I learned about soddies and a dugout homes. I spent way too much timing reading about food preparation and how to cook a roast in a fireplace.

Those same books were great reference material for my last for historical romances.

Reenactments

I went to a Civil War reenactment encampment and ask lots of questions of the man playing the doctor. That information along with the research I did on female doctors helped me shape Evangeline’s backstory.  I used the Civil War reenactors’ insights to create a deeper backstory for Jake.

Living History Display

I purchased a few out-of-print books explaining the customs of the 1800s.

Some writers use historical accounts from their own families as a basis for their novel. I have some miners as minor characters in my recent novel WIP. My Welch ancestors moved to Southern Illinois and open coal mines. Mining was more privatized in the 1800s and that information changed the way I approached my setting.

Makes it feel real

Research is so important for believability. But you only need a sprinkle of details through historical novels to bring the setting and characters to life. Readers want to feel like they are there but not get bogged down with a history lesson.

Lastly

And one last key thought. You need to have a passion for what you are researching. Then the story you create is richer because of your investment in your research.

How do you research and what is your favorite resource?

From one Book Addict to Another- Book Reviews

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while has probably heard me mention I’m addicted to book. Here are a few I’ve read over the past few weeks that I’d like to share with you. I picked five from five different genres. I have read many more than these but it would make this post way too long and reveal just how addicted I am.

Historical Romance

Setting Two Hearts Free Book# 3 in Janet Grunst series is available for preorder. It releases November 6th. Reading the two previous books adds to the story. Those are A Heart Set Free and A Heart for Freedom.

I enjoyed my ARC copy of Setting Two Hearts Free it deals with rebuilding lives after traumas. Janet isn’t afraid to tackle the hard subjects. PTSD is not a new thing and Donald Duncan has to deal with it after returning home from the Revolutionary War. Well-researched, well-written, and very engaging. Once I read A Heart Set Free I’ve been a follower of this series. Buy link

Would their love survive the invisible wounds of war?

Donald Duncan joined the Patriot cause for noble reasons, battling the British while enduring deprivation and hardship on every side. The war has changed him, and now the battle is internal. Returning home to Virginia is in sight where a new life and his Mary wait for him.

Mary Stewart spends the war years with her family at Stewarts’ Green, helping them operate their ordinary. Daily, she prays for Donald’s safe return, eagerly waiting for him … until that day the evil side of war touches her.

Two hearts changed by a war that dragged on for six years. Two hearts left hurting and struggling to find the love and trust they once knew. Is there a path for them to rekindle what was lost; Setting Two Hearts Free?

 

Literary Fiction-Time Slip Genre

White by Denise Weimer book#1 of The Restoration Trilogy

This time-slip book uncovers a mystery in a family’s history. The author seamlessly takes us from modern time to the 1920s and back again.  I found this story both intriguing and educational. Denise takes the time to paint the setting and architecture of the restoration project in detail. There is no way a reader can’t feel like they are working alongside the preservationist. Can’t wait to read Book # 2 Buy link

In White: The Restoration Trilogy, Book One, as historic preservationist Jennifer and brooding bachelor Michael restore his ancestors’ historic doctor’s residence in a rural Georgia community, they uncover the 1920s-era prejudice and secrets that caused Michael’s branch to fall off the family tree. Jennifer is determined to fulfill her first professional position with integrity even if her employer lacks a proper appreciation of history. Far more challenging — and sinister — than the social landscape of Hermon are the strange accidents hinting that someone doesn’t want them on the Dunham property. Yet Michael’s and Jennifer’s pasts pose the biggest obstacles to laying a fresh foundation of family and community.

Time Travel Romance

I am a sucker for Time Travel stories and this one is unique. In Book 1 Cowboy Out of Time, a cowboy shows up in 1985 from 1885. He rescues Rose, the damsel who doesn’t know she’s in distress then they get engaged and disappear into time. I enjoyed their story and when the sequel came out I wanted to know where Hunt and Rose went. I wasn’t disappointed. The author has done a lot of research to make their rescue mission in Nazi-occupied France exciting. I love the author’s choice to break the rules a bit regarding what Time Travelers can and can not do. After all Time Travel is fictitious so why not make things more interesting by bending those rules. At times I thought the cowboy Hunt sounded a bit dumb. But he is a believable hero. Cowboys don’t back down from a fight. Rose manages to adjust to their plight and once the mission is complete they disappear into time again. Such a fun read. Buy link

Cowboy Ambushed in Time: A Time Travel Romance  Book 2 in the Rose Roamer Series by J. l Salter

Rose Roamer didn’t set out to become a time traveler. She and her brand new fiancé, Hunt Weston, just left 1985 south Alabama a moment ago. Now they’re huddled against a stone wall in a dark town somewhere else. Soon enough, they’re able to figure out their general location, but a lot depends on what year this is.

All Rose knows about Vector’s time travel assignments is that he’d sent a bewildered cowboy stranger 100 years into the future to save her life. In that process, they’d also fallen hopelessly in love. Now that they’re engaged, she assumes they are both being assigned to save somebody else — but who? Why? Where? And, importantly, when?

They’re about to realize how little they know about their new assignment from the mysterious Mr. Vector because he’s provided no explanations: just a torn poker card with a name, a place, and a date. Not much to go on when you zoom across time in the darkness.

A few things Rose knows for certain: it will be a lot different, quite difficult, and almost certainly dangerous. Something else on Rose’s troubled mind: who will they encounter in this different time and place?

Contemporary Second Chance Romance

I loved this realistic storyline of pain and restoration. There is a clear redemption message and we see the characters grow personally as well as being drawn together. Place the two troubled souls in a gossipy small town and you have a formula for a pot full of conflict. Well-developed and believable characters. I’ll be picking up the next book in the series when it comes out. Buy link

Matching Points (Driftwood Cover Series Book #1) by Nancy Farrier

Fresh out of prison, Asia Jessup wishes she could change her past and maybe her future. She has no family and no one to turn to, except for a newfound faith. She returns to the town where she spent a couple of idyllic summers to find the family she didn’t know she had. Her devastating secret won’t bring a joyful reunion. Will it destroy her last hope?

Ian Kittridge has his own thriving restaurant, is a respected business owner, and is active in his community. Thanks to a teenage Asia’s empathy one summer he’d been pulled back from the brink of ruining his life and ending up like his father-a murderer. He is working hard to eradicate the past and rise above the murmurs of “like father, like son.”

When Ian runs into Asia he can’t believe she’s returned to their coastal California town. Although he’s eager to reconnect, he isn’t looking for a serious relationship-he can’t take the chance of becoming his father. Asia can’t get close to Ian because of her shameful past and the sins of her mother and father. As Asia’s secrets quake the family she hoped to find, can she and Ian find their way through the storm, find a peaceful resolution, and look toward the future?

 

Christian Mystery and Suspense

This was a creative, fun read. I’m a fan of Leverage, a TV show about a group of con-artists who righted wrongs for the underdog. The Mischief Thief has the same mixture of intrigue and compassion. Most of the background was well-researched and the scenes were believable. The blood transfusion scene not so much. (I spent years working in a blood center which makes me a bit picky over details.) Despite that one scene I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. Watching Chaney change and Adam stretch beyond the boundaries of his comfort zone made this mystery so intriguing. Buy Link

The Mischief Thief (The Mosiac Collection) Rose and Thorne Book 1 by Johnnie Alexander

Two wrongs don’t make a right . . . except when they do.

For con artist Chaney Rose, life hasn’t been easy. In desperate need of cash, she readily agrees to find Mischief, a stolen racehorse. Hunting for clues, she breaks into the suspected horse thief’s home only to be caught—with a few pilfered items in her pockets—by the police detective who’s tailing her.

By-the-book Adam Thorne was fired from his church because of his father’s involvement with the valuable thoroughbred. In a burst of Les Miserables-inspired grace, Adam tells the detective that he gave Chaney the stolen items.

Adam wants Chaney to find his missing father. When Chaney learns that Mischief’s owner intends to kill the racehorse, she needs Adam’s help to expose the cruel plan before it’s too late.

Will a con artist with a conscience and a minister without a ministry risk imprisonment to do the wrong thing for the right reason?

What are some great books you’ve read recently? Please share and feed my addiction.

Great Summer Reads to add to your TBR pile

As always I’m feeding my reading addiction. Last week I mentioned closing books that were poorly written. Let me share some that kept me engaged from page one and did it all right IMHO. Here are a few new books I recommend you add to your TBR pile.

This first one is a historical romance set in WWI. I loved it because the author captured the cultural and historical time period so well. Loosely based on her own grandparents’ love story Patti Stockwell made Three Little Things feel oh so warm and inviting while at the same time giving the reader a realistic view of what wartime both at home and abroad was like.

Wartime Romance

Three Little Things  buy link 

One forbidden love. Two broken hearts. Three little things.

Hattie Waltz should forget the troubled neighbor leaving for boot camp in 1917. He forgot about her ages ago. It had always been the Waltzs verses the Kregers, his family pitted against hers. When she hands him a farewell gift, a chemistry lesson unfolds. The good kind.

Arno Kreger can’t leave Iowa or his old man fast enough. He’s eager to prove his worth on the battlefield and stop blaming himself for his brother’s death. Before entering the train, he bumps into Hattie. He’s loved her forever, always from the sidelines, because nobody crosses Hattie’s pa.

One innocent letter soon morphs into many. Arno and Hattie share three little secrets in each letter and grow closer together. But he’s on his way to a war across the ocean, and she’s still in her father’s house. Their newfound love will need to survive dangers on both fronts.

A Crime Suspense

Tom Threadgill is a new author to me. I had a chance to grab a ARC copy Collision of Lies and was totally engaged. The twists in the plot were so unique to any other crime suspense I have read in the past. I’m always impressed when a man can write a female character that doesn’t act and sound like a man. Maya is a clever, ambitious Hispanic female. I also appreciate that there is no swearing. Yep, a cop drama where the police are tough without tossing out unnecessary curse words. They still come across as tough guys.

Collision of Lies buy link

Three years ago, a collision between a fast-moving freight train and a school bus full of kids led to devastation and grief on an unimaginable scale. But a fresh clue leads San Antonio police detective Amara Alvarez to the unlikely conclusion that one of the children may still be alive. If she’s correct, everything law enforcement believes about the accident is a lie.

With time running out, Amara must convince others–and herself–that despite all evidence to the contrary, the boy lives. And she will do everything in her power to bring him home.

A fresh voice in suspense, Tom Threadgill will have you questioning everything as you fly through the pages of this enthralling story.

Novella Collection

Courting Calamity  buy link

My last recommendation is a historical romance novella collection Courting Calamity. Some novellas feel incomplete when you reach the end of the required word count. But not these four. There is so much realism and history in each story. And the focus of each is different.  They are in chronological order by time period spanning thirty years.

Lady and the Tramps by Jennifer Uhlarik has a lot of suspense as a Wells Fargo Agents helps a lovely woman who is the guardian of eight orphan children while he pursues the men who robbed the train. All the clues that were carefully laid out to get the reader to the end of the story are mixed with well-research historical accuracy. The epilogue is sigh worthy.

The Second Hand Bride of Polecat Creek by Kathleen Y’Barbo was a fun read. Again the story is historically accurate and full of interesting characters.  By the time Zeke and Lizzy get together the small town of Polecat Creek has warmed your heart.

The Bride of Basswood Hill by Gabrielle Meyer

The author decided to write the story of Alex, the one who didn’t get the girl, from The Tale of Two Hearts novella in the Of Rags to Riches novella collection. This is a marriage of convenience story matching a wealthy man with a poor Italian immigrant. Taking places in 1900 Minnesota the setting is beautiful and the characters are compelling. Add a few surprises twists and continuous page-turning is inevitable.

Echoes of the Heart by Amanda Barrett takes place in New York City in 1909. This is a tale of poor immigrant factory workers who find love in the midst of union riots and unbelievable circumstances. This is not your typical romantic setting. The twists in the plot are based on actual historical accounts while Aileen and Lorenzo are fictitious.  After reading the final word I had mixed emotions. I was happy for the couple but the historical events made me sad.

Heroes Needed for Four Damsels in Distress

Despite determination to be strong and independent, four women of bygone days are in need of a hero.
 
Lady and the Tramps by Jennifer Uhlarik
California, 1874
When outlaws steal a deed from Mattie Welling, her dreams for her eight orphan charges from New York City are dashed. Can Wells Fargo detective Jake Hickens be trusted to pick up the pieces?

The Secondhand Bride of Polecat Creek by Kathleen Y’Barbo
Texas, 1890
When Zeke Wyatt returns home to Polecat Creek intent on making good on his promise to marry his childhood sweetheart, he finds she’s run off in his absence, leaving her kid sister to care for her aging parents and the mercantile. Can Zeke finally settle down, or will he leave another sister with a broken heart?

The Bride of Basswood Hill by Gabrielle Meyer
Minnesota, 1900
When wealthy lumber baron, Charles Alexander, unexpectedly finds himself married to an Italian immigrant, Sofia Bellini, he must do all he can to protect her from the society she’s ill-prepared to navigate. But when he falls in love with his pretty bride, he will have to make a difficult choice: will he go through with the annulment they had planned?

Echoes of the Heart by Amanda Barratt
New York City, 1911
Irish immigrant Aileen O’Connor is willing to work to survive in the land of opportunity. But when her sister is accosted on the streets, she’s forced to accept the help of policeman Sean Doyle, a widower with a young son. When tragedy engulfs the city, will Sean and Aileen’s newfound love survive the raging flames?

Sex in Inspirational and Clean Romance

I know I am opening a can of worms here, but It’s my blog and I’ll say what I want too. 😊

As a romance writer whose audience prefers a clean read the question authors have is how to define it. Clean or cozy romance general means all the steamy stuff happens behind closed doors. The details are left to the readers’ imagination. But the attraction, the warm fuzzies, and sexual tension are part of what the reader sees on the page. Hugs, kisses that grow in intensity, cuddling close, and pressing close fully clothed are all acceptable in this definition. Lots of sparks and tingly sensations and a head full of thoughts of the love interest. Keeping the bedroom door closed is the basic definition of a clean romance. Inspirational romance falls in that same category. There may be intense moments and a suggestion of sex, but the shades are drawn for the reader.

Marriage bed

Now we come to the burning question, what about married sex?  That is an interesting question. I recently read a series of inspirational historical romance where among the scripture references and prayer the reader watches the main characters have sex for the first time. The author I suppose did it tastefully, but it still mentioned body parts and what the couple was doing including groans. Not something I’d want my middle-school granddaughter to read. And that is the key. Most people who read clean romance, especially of the inspirational kind will share the book with the younger generation. The characters are an example of the kind of successful relationship I would want my granddaughters to experience. Although we live in a very liberal society I find it discomforting to think she might stumble across something explicit on my bookshelf.

In the middle ages when royalty wed there were witnesses on their wedding night. A priest and perhaps another man would watch the couple consummate their marriage. Then there was no doubt that the two were truly married in every way. I’m sorry—but EWWW! I wouldn’t be married today if someone had been permitted to watch.

But it’s make-believe

Yes, I know, romance novels aren’t about real people. But explicit descriptions stir things in a reader that may make them uncomfortable. When they pick up what they expect to be clean and find more than they bargained for they will either throw it across the room or give the author a terrible review or both.

Because the scripture is my guidebook and every reference to sex in the Bible leaves the details to the imagination I use that as my guide as I write my stories. Sex in the confines of marriage is to be celebrated. Even if we have characters who struggle with the issues of intimacy the writer can show how they overcame it without giving graphic details.

Let’s define graphic

Graphic details have a different meaning from one person to another. Some readers don’t even want the name of body parts mentioned i.e. breasts would become upper torso. (I know that is extreme.)  For others, the steam can get intense but at that key moment the door is shut for the reader and we rejoin the couple the next morning.

Most publishers have their definition of what is acceptable in the pages of their novels based on their audience. Before you begin to craft those scenes, read books from their romance line, and learn what they expect. If it makes you feel uncomfortable then find a different publisher who fits your preferences.

A well-written romance will sell even without sex scenes. The story arc, the characters’ inner struggles, and eventually victories of the hero and heroine are what these readers want. A truly happily-ever-after ending leaves them giddy.

This whole post is about clean romance only. Now I’m going to ask you: –

What are your thoughts on the subject?  

 

Sandra Melville Hart shares a bit of History about Abilene, Kansas

In case you missed my previous posts my latest release is part of Smitten Historical Romance Collection: The Cowboys. I’m one of four authors in this collection that releases August 15th. Today I’ve asked Sandra Melville Hart, another author from the collection to give us a peek into her story Trail’s End setting.

Trail’s End set in Abilene

by Sandra Merville Hart

My brother married a Kansas girl and moved to that beautiful state soon after their marriage. On a family vacation to Kansas, we visited Abilene.

The town had been a wild Cowtown in its early days. Wild Bill Hickok was the marshal of Abilene in 1871. My sister-in-law had ancestors who lived there. One of them was friends with Wild Bill—what a surprise!

I learned a little history of the wild western town and wanted to learn more. Who knew that a family vacation would spark an idea for a future book? I had put aside my dream of writing years before. When my editor asked me to write a cowboy story set in the West, my imagination flew to Abilene.

Research held many surprises. The town was so wild that it had a hard time keeping a marshal. Some hired at breakfast left by suppertime.

When town leaders offered the position to Tom Smith, the lawman rode the streets. He then accepted the job on one condition—the cowboys had to be disarmed.

In 1870, Marshal Smith asked storekeepers, saloon-keepers, and hotel owners to post signs and collect their customers’ guns. His rule made the town a safer place.

This strong man so inspired me that I set my story in 1870 and gave him a small part in it. I love using actual historical characters in my stories. It brings them to life for me—and hopefully for my readers.

Sandra’s bio:

Award-winning and Amazon bestselling author Sandra Merville Hart loves to uncover little-known yet fascinating facts about our American history to include in her stories A Musket in My Hands, a Civil War romance where two sisters join the Confederate army with the men they love, is 2019 Serious Writer Medal Fiction Winner and a 2019 Selah Award Finalist. A Rebel in My House, set during the historic Battle of Gettysburg, won the 2018 Silver Illumination Award and second place in 2018 Faith, Hope and Love Readers’ Choice Award. Her debut Civil War Romance, A Stranger On My Land, was IRCA Finalist 2015. Her novella, Surprised by Love in “From the Lake to the River” is set during the 1913 flood in Troy, Ohio. Trail’s End, in “Smitten Novella Collection: The Cowboys” released August 15, 2019.

Find her on her blog, https://sandramervillehart.wordpress.com/.

Trail’s End Blurb

Wade Chadwick has no money until his boss’s cattle sell, so he takes a kitchen job at Abby’s Home Cooking. The beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Abby Cox hires the down-and-out cowboy even though the word cowboy leaves a bad taste in her mouth. Just as she’s ready to trust Wade with her heart, money starts to disappear … and so does her brother. Buy link

Don’t forget I’m having a giveaway of $10 Amazon Card from one lucky commenter. Answer my question who’s your favorite cowboy or make any comment about cowboys you would like. The comment has to appear on the blog to qualify. You can go back to my blog post and Jennifer’s and post and read more about The Cowboys and have two more chances to enter. Thursday is release day Yahoo!! and I’ll have a repost from Award -winning author Linda W. Yezak the fourth contributor to our collection. That will give you one more chance to enter my giveaway.

 

Who Doesn’t Love Cowboys? And a Giveaway?

It’s coming! Tomorrow will be August. On the 15th The Cowboys will be released. I’m so excited. In this post I thought I’d share the WHAT IF moment behind my novella Healing Hearts that appears in this collection.

Don’t you just want to ride off into the sunset with hm?

My editor Pegg Thomas, from Smitten Historical Romance (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) asked me if I’d be interested in being in a collection where the main character is a cowboy. Who doesn’t love a good cowboy story? Three other wonderful authors joined me in the adventure: Jennifer Uhlarik, Sandra Melville Hart and Linda W. Yezak, all wonderful, award-winning authors.

In romance the female character is the first character you met. The book starts by introducing her. But The Cowboy starts with scenes of the male lead. So that was an interesting challenge. Kansas was chosen as the setting for all the stories in the collection. After some emails circulating between the four authors we each chose our main characters setting, time period and dilemma. Cowboys rescue damsels in distress. 😊

A cabin in a blizzard Pixabay

My setting

I decided Healing Hearts would be set on an isolated ranch. The year 1866 sets me up for wonderful possibilities with the Civil War barely over.

Lonnie Holt and Jed Holt are identical twins. so this pic serves for both.

 

My Cowboy

I decided I wanted to introduce two cowboys. Identical twins Lonnie and Jed head to the Kansas ranch they inherited from their late uncle. Both brothers are pacifists. When the war broke out Jed chose a chaplaincy in the Union army. Lonnie chose to stay on the family Texas ranch and not take up arms. Both paid a price for their stand. They only have each other and the hope of a new start.

Lonnie is physically scarred and full of guilt and regret. Jed still has strong faith even with his physical weakness due to time in a confederate POW camp. My hero, Lonnie’s focus is helping his brother get well and keeping him safe.  He has no time or patience for anything else. He’s a bit of a grump, and very protective of his remaining family member.

 

The woman who tames him

Now I needed to have a strong female character to become Lonnie’s love interest. Genny Collins grew up in wealth only to live in poverty because of her father’s gambling addiction. Her past is full of secrets and helpful experiences that play into the plot.  She is weary of men and afraid for her future.  The twins come upon her in their cabin and you’ll have to read the story to discover how she got there.

Genny Collins my heroine

 

Add plot twists

Once they met I had to keep the two stubborn characters together long enough to get to know each other. Voila, a blizzard. Now they can’t send her packing.  Then I added illness, a bit of mayhem and personality clashes to create a good start to a sweet romance. Throw in a few twists that tear at their hearts and Lonnie and Genny find their happily-ever-after. I love these characters. They were so fun to write.

 

A few historical tidbits I’ll mention that you’ll find in the book.

  • Beef was growing as a food staple back east since the railroad made it easier to transport cattle from the west. Ranching would become a very profitable business in the nineteenth century.
  • Marriage Licenses did not exist until 1867. This is a year after the setting of my novella. Until that time writing the name and date in the family Bible might be the only record of a marriage.
  • Without refrigeration many ways were discovered to preserve eggs. The best method recommended and still used by those who prefer a pioneer lifestyle today is slat lye. Unwashed eggs were placed in a slat lye water mixture in a crock. It preserved them through the winter.
  • Sourdough starter was the most common leaven for baking. It was easy to create and could be substituted for baking powder and soda as well as baker’s yeast.

If I have your interest:

Links:

Here is a link to the first chapter of Healing Hearts. The Cowboys is available for preorder. If you want to order an autographed copy from me here is a link to that page. You can order autograph copies of any of my books at this same link.

Over the next two weeks I’ll be posting guest blogs from my three co-authors. If you’ve not subsribed do it now so you don’t miss those posts.

Giveaway: Everytime you post a comment and share the posts about The Cowboys on social media over the next two weeks you’ll be put in a drawing for a $10 Amazon e-card. Today I’ll give you something to comment about to get you started. (All comments mjust be in this blog site to qualify.)

Tell me in the comments whose you’re favorite cowboy. I’ll start. Sam Elliot. His look and voice are the epitome of the imagine in my mind of the American cowboy.  If you know a real life cowboy share a bit about him too.

You’ll have three more chances to enter when Jennifer, Linda and Sandy stop by for a visit.

 

 

 

 

 

Donna Schlachter newest novella and a Giveaway

MissAdventure Brides Cover(1)

Today I welcome back Donna Schlachter to talk about her newest release Detours of the Heart part of  The MissAdventure Brides Collection. Welcome Donna, let’s dive in. Tell us  a little bit about the collection.

The MissAdventure Brides from Barbour Publishing is a a novella collection that features seven young women who don’t let romance get in the way of their adventures—and vice versa.

How did you research for story?  I travel a lot, so when I visit a location, I take lots of pictures, visit museums, walk the streets, and try to get a feel for what story this place wants to tell. For The MissAdventure Brides, I also visited the Denver Public Library Archives for information on Fred Harvey and his endeavours to stop native jewelry counterfeiting, which I’d read about in another book. That became the main suspense plot in my romance. I also watched several movies and documentaries even remotely connected to the topic, the time period, and the place.

How interesting. I had no idea people were counterfeiting native jewelry back then. I’d only heard the history of the Harvey House Girls. Why did you choose this setting?

I love the era of the Harvey House Girls, and I love the area near Albuquerque, New Mexico where the Acoma (pronounced a’-coe-ma) people live, so when the opportunity came up to write an historical novella, that location jumped to mind.

Donna, I lived in New Mexico for a few years as a child. It’s a beautiful place. The white sands are spectacular.

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?  Jeremiah 29:11 is my life verse, and was many years before it became so popular. I constantly remind myself to pass everything through that verse. Some days I’m more successful than other days.

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?  I have so many stories in my head, but I still get lazy and want to do other things. I keep going back to this question: am I making the best use of my time for the Lord?

About Detours of the Heart in The MissAdventure Brides Collection:

Millie Watkins, a tour guide for the Harvey House Detours in Albuquerque, enjoys pretending she is a star in the brand new silver screen industry. Peter Duncan, son of itinerant farmers, wants to settle down and have a family. He dates lots of girls, but Millie is his favorite. However, she sees a playboy, which is fine—she has no intentions of staying in Albuquerque. Will they discover that sometimes life offers a completely different detour, or will they go their own way and settle for second-best?

To win a free print copy (US Only, please) of missAdventure Brides Romance Collection, leave a comment, and we will randomly select one person to receive the book.

aaaSchlachter DSCF1330_Donna

About Donna:

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 25 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, and Sisters In Crime; facilitates a critique group, and teaches writing classes. Donna ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.

Follow Donna at:

www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com

www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DonnaschlachterAuthor

Twitter: www.Twitter.com/DonnaSchlachter

Purchases her books:

Books: Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ci5Xqq and Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2gZATjm

  Don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a copy  of The MissAdventure Brides Collection. I’m sure you’ll not only love Donna’s offering Detours of the Heart but the other six as well. I love these Barbour collections. They are historically accurate and so fun to read. Come on now, make a comment for a chance to win.