An interview with YA Author Hope Bolinger

Hope Bolinger Headshot

Hope Bolinger is younger than my children and makes me jealous to see all she’s accomplished in her young life. Now that I’ve confessed it, LOL, on with the interview. Welcome Hope, it’s so fun to have young blood on my blog. It reminds readers we can follow our writing dreams at any age. Tell my readers a little about your writing journey.

I started writing novels in high school. I buried myself in books and wrote just about everything I could.

Fourteen novels later, I found myself at Taylor University’s professional writing program, which offered a student scholarship to attend the Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference. Having just completed Blaze (a modern-day Daniel) over the summer, I decided to pitch it to every editor I could fit a one on one for. Eddie, the editor at LPC, gave me some edits to fix the three-chapter sample but encouraged me to send it to the YA imprint of LPC.

It made it past Pub Board, but had a number of edits needed after they reviewed the full. After I went back and forth several times with the managing editor, it was polished and ready to go.

I remember getting the acceptance email in the college parking lot after my friends and I had seen a rather solemn viewing of Avengers: Infinity War. It was going to be published.

Tell us about Blaze

Blaze is being released in June. It essentially is the first three chapters of Daniel plopped into an American high school. It follows the story of Danny as he, and three of his closest friends, are transferred to their rival after his school mysteriously burns down.

Great story idea. How did you research to create your story?

This one was unique because it involved a lot of research into the time of the Babylonians, commentaries on Daniel, and just about everything in the 500-400 BC range. For this one, I spent a lot of time buried in books in the Old Testament to make sure I included as much symbolism and historical references as possible. Also, having written this from a male’s perspective, I made sure to have some male friends look over the manuscript to make sure Danny walked, talked, and sounded like a high school sophomore.

Yeah, guys gotta sound like guys. Why a retelling of the Book of Daniel?

I was sitting in an Old Testament class in which we blazed (buh dum tssh) through the Old Testament in a semester. On the day we covered the book of Daniel, my professor said something along the lines of, “Daniel and his friends would’ve been about 14 to 16 years old when the Babylonians took them into captivity.”

I sort of jolted in my seat, thinking, “Wait. Fifteen years old?”

Here are these four brave men who stood up to Kings, and they were just teens. Not to mention they were extremely involved in Babylonian culture and had to be adept at just about everything.

Then I thought, “What would that look like today? To get involved in a completely different culture but still stand up for what you believe in . . . as a teen?” Blaze was born.

When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

It’s hard to pinpoint a certain time when I didn’t write. I have copies of three-page stories I made in first grade buried somewhere in my room. But I didn’t actually take it on as a full-time calling until my AP Lit teacher in high school, in a passing remark, noted I wrote well. Granted, she gave me a B on that paper, but it stuck with me. In that moment, I thought, “Wow. I could actually do this.”

Taylor’s professional writing program helped solidify that. We had articles published our first semester (I got a little too into it and had 300 published by the time I graduated), and we walked through just about every aspect of the publishing industry. I’m forever indebted to the instructors there.

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

It used to be Colossians 3:17. I loved the idea to do everything for Christ.

But lately the whole chapter of Psalm 103 has helped. Like Danny, I struggle with anxiety, but those verses have helped keep me calm and at peace, especially during some very dark spiritual episodes this past semester.

I usually ask this question to much older authors. 😊 But I’m curious  about your answer. If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

Learn to accept criticism. It took me a while to realize that writing takes a lot of work. I think I had this idea that I would just write a book, throw it through spell check, and viola! Off to the publisher it went!

. . . not quite. It takes an insane amount of time and dedication, and more often than not, the editor is always right.

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

I always throw it back to my best friend James. I’ve known him for four years, and every time I want to quit, he refuses to let me. He reads just about everything I send him and is my biggest cheerleader.

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

Of course, YA. I think YA writers have way too much fun. I also love diving into the Classics. I love to know why a book stood the test of time.

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Here’s the back cover copy of Blaze

If you can’t stand the heat, don’t walk into the fire.

Danny knew his sophomore year would be stressful . . . but he didn’t expect his school to burn down on the first day.

To make matters worse (and they were about to get a lot worse), he — and his three best friends — receive an email in their inboxes from the principal of their rival, King’s Academy, offering full-rides to attend the town’s prestigious boarding school. Danny wants nothing to do with King’s Academy and says no. Of course his mother says yes. So off he goes to be bullied and picked on for not being part of the popular and rich “in crowd.”

From day one at King’s, Danny encounters hazing, mocking insults from girls at the “popular and pretty” table, and cafeteria food that, for such a prestigious school, tastes as if it were purchased from a military surplus supply warehouse. If he survives, Danny will have to overcome his fears of failure, rejection, and loneliness–all while standing strong in his beliefs and walking into the fire.

 

Intriguing . I want it read. 

Who is Hope Bolinger?

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 300 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 2,700+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young’s blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. She is excited for her modern-day Daniel “Blaze” to come out with IlluminateYA (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). She enjoys all things theater, cats, and fire.

 

Contact Info:

Facebook: @therosewoman

Twitter: @hopebolinger

Instagram: @hopebolinger

Website: hopebolinger.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Bolinger/e/B00V0VWFKQ?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_fkmrnull_1&qid=1550020518&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13700140.Hope_Bolinger

 

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Floating Body parts-Oh No!

My title might confuse you. I’m not writing about a grisly crime, rather a common writing mistake. The first time an editor wrote floating body parts or FBP on my manuscript I had to ask for an explanation.

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A floating body part is when an attribute is given to a body part rather than the character.

This is one of the easiest traps to fall into. There are times it is used because it is a common idiom that everyone understands such as eyes rolled. Eyes don’t really roll but we all understand the meaning. We moved our eyes up then down to indicate disbelief or disgust. Often in our desire to create interesting scenes, we disconnect appendages.

An example: His eyes roamed her body. Really, his eyes walked across the room and walked all over her body. Only in a creepy thriller.

Instead: His gaze roamed her body.

You could show him watching her:

The swaying of her hips as she danced to the radio, made washing the dishing look sexy.

Let me give you a few more examples to consider.

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  • Before she realized it, her hand reached up and slapped him.

We know her hand didn’t have a mind of its own. It wasn’t disconnected from her body. We know we use our hands to slap. Unless we are using our foot (martial arts) a board or other object, the word slap indicates the use of our hand.

Instead: She slapped him hard, all her politeness vanished with his foul accusations.

Can you give me another option for slap?

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  • Fingers tapped the table in a nervous cadence. Cool sentence right? Except the fingers are not attached to a body here.

Instead: Andrew tapped a nervous cadence on the table. Again, we can assume it is his fingers unless we want to add an object. Andrew tapped a nervous cadence with his pencil. We visualize the pencil between his fingers.

How would you rewrite the finger reference?

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  • Her foot kicked him.

What else do we kick with?  Kick is a foot action or in the case of a horse, hoof movement.

Instead: She kicked him hard in the chin.

Give me a sentence using kick.

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  • His eyes stared at the scene before him.

Were his eyes working independently of the character’s brain?  The word stare refers to eyes.

The same way tears only come from our eyes and screams from our mouths. You don’t need to refer to the body part with the action. She screamed for help. Tears streamed down her face. (This too is cliché and might need a rewrite as well.)

Instead: He stared at the scene before him.

You could make this line far more interesting.

He stared at the horrific destruction.

Want to try reworking this one using another word for stare?

Floating body parts are an easy habit to fall into. It takes my critique partners pointing out the independent appendages before I catch my error. Best-selling authors may get away with floating body parts that are common clichés such as eyes rolled, arms fly up, and feet flew. But you want to work hard at avoiding them as much as possible. The better you get at description the less likely you will have floating body parts, unless you’re writing a crime drama. 😊

If you want to share with us how you rewrote the sentence examples or share a few of your own, please add them to the comments.

 

12 Fave Writing Craft Books from My Bookshelves

Every new writer is told over and over through conference speakers, blogs, articles and seasoned authors that they need to read craft books. Over the years, I bought several. Today I thought I’d share a portion of them with you. Some I’ve read cover to cover, others I’ve read specific chapters. Some have exercises with each chapter to help hands-on learners. Maybe my list will inspire you to grab one.

  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into Print by Renni Brown and Dave King

This book explains every area of fiction writing and includes exercises to complete. Doing the work after each chapter helps the reader gain a deeper understanding of writing fiction as they correct and rewrite the samples.

  • Write with Excellence 202: A light-hearted guide to the serious matter of writing well for Christian authors, editors and students by Joyce K. Ellis

I was so excited to hear Joyce was writing this book. I’d been following her grammar column in Christian Communicator for years.  This comprehensive easy to understand guide to grammar, punctuation, usage, style and so much more includes lessons to complete with the answer key in the back. Love it.

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  • Writing Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin

Step-by-step instruction and examples from successful Christian Romance writers. Lots of practical tests to use when analyzing your own work.

  • Writing a Break Out Novel: Inside advice for taking your fiction to the next level by Donald Maass

Maass is a master at digging deep and taking readers with him to gain a better understanding of novel writing. He is the guru of novel writing.

  • How to Write When Everything goes Wrong: A Practical Guide to Writing through tough times by Allie Pleiter

The title says it all. I found it to be a life saver during a difficult time.

  • The Chunky Method Handbook: Your step-by-step plan to Write that book even when life gets in the way by Allie Pleiter

The author developed a series of helpful worksheets. I was able to find out my writing chunk as in how many words I can write in the shortest amount of time. Then I was free to write in the bits of time at odd moments to get my novel finished. Everyone is different. This workbook can get you moving and remove the guilt that you don’t produce huge numbers of words like that other author.

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  • The Dance of Character & Plot by DiAnn Mills

An award-winning author shows you how to balance these two elements in your story. Practical and easy to understand.

  • Revising and Self-Editing for Publication: Techniques for transforming your first draft into a Novel that sells by James Scott Bell

My hubby has this book tagged with sticky notes.  Anything by James Scott Bell on craft is awesome. The heart of the book is to make the reader a better writer. Turn your good work into great work.

  • The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers and Set Up Your Novel for Success by Jeff Gerke

Jeff teaches you how to engage readers from word one and why the first fifty pages are the key to not only grabbing publisher’s attention but keeping the reader engaged.

 

  1. Fiction Writing Demystified: Techniques that will make you a more successful writer by Thomas B. Sawyer

He teaches novel writing from the prospective a screenwriter. Good stuff.

  1. The Everything Guide to Writing a Book Proposal: Inside advice on how to get your work published by Meg Schneider & Barbara Doyen

This is an older book, but the concepts shared are priceless. I have a few other proposal writing books in my library.  Tip: Always check the submission guidelines of the publisher you wish to submit to, then tailor your proposal accordingly.

  1. Connections Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers by Edie Melson

It explains things about social media I didn’t know I needed to know. There’s great stuff on building and writing a blog. You do know you need to start marketing before your book comes out? This is a great guide to get started.

Below are some bonus books that I love by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglist.

The Emotional Thesaurus Second Edition. These ladies have put together a comprehensive guide to writing various emotions. There are lots of additional writing tips sprinkled throughout the entries. When you’re stuck trying to figure out how to show an emotion these wonderful lists give you eternal, internal and synonyms of the emotions you are looking for. I also have The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus.

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I love them so much I purchased the Second Edition of The Emotional Thesaurus and will be having a drawing for my copy of the first edition. It’s in fairly good shape. I don’t write in books or bend pages. If you’d like to be in the drawing, post a comment about a favorite craft book. If you’ve never read a craft book, then let me know in the comments and check out some of my suggestions. I’ll be talking about craft books on my shelves I’ve not-yet-read on Thursday and give you another opportunity to enter to win by commenting.  Yes, you can enter twice.

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So, tell me what is your favorite writing craft book?

A Peek into the Writing life of Author Susan G. Mathis

Susan G. Mathis is my guest today. Her journey from journalist writing to historical fiction is an encouragement to all writers that there is a season for everything. And she has had many seasons. Welcome Susan, let’s get started with one of my favorite question.

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When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

I can’t remember not writing. I’ve taught Language Arts for nine years to 4-8 graders, had my own newspaper column, wrote missions curriculum, and have written just about anything God put in my path.

Before I jumped into the fiction world, I served as the Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine and the former Editor/Editorial Director of 12 Focus on the Family publications. My first two published books were nonfiction, co-authored with my husband, Dale. I also authored two picture books and am published in various book compilations including five Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Ready to Wed, Supporting Families Through Meaningful Ministry, The Christian Leadership Experience, and Spiritual Mentoring of Teens. 

I swore I’d never write fiction, but never say never! My hubby and I went to a book talk/signing, and after we left, I jokingly said, “I could write a story about a quilt!” I then proceeded to tell him the entire story, and he said, “Well, write it!” Thus, began my journey of writing historical fiction. I currently have two published historicals, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy and Christmas Charity.

I love hearing the diversity of your writing journey. What is your latest published project?

Katelyn’s Choice is the first in the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series releases March 15, 2019 with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Katelyn's Choice by Susan G Mathis cover

Katelyn Kavanagh’s mother dreamed her daughter would one day escape the oppressive environment of their Upstate New York farm for service in the enchanting Thousand Islands, home to Gilded Age millionaires. But when her wish comes true, Katelyn finds herself in the service of none other than the famous George Pullman, and the transition proves anything but easy.

Thomas O’Neill, brother of her best friend, is all grown up and also working on Pullman Island. Despite Thomas’ efforts to help the irresistible Katelyn adjust to the intricacies of her new world, she just can’t seem to tame her gossiping tongue—even when the information she’s privy to could endanger her job, the 1872 re-election of Pullman guest President Ulysses S. Grant, and the love of the man of her dreams.

Sounds very interesting. I love the idea of adding actual historical characters to your work.

How do you research for your book?

A few years ago, my husband and I visited Wolfe Island, Pullman Island, and Singer Castle on Dark Island. We met some wonderful people who kept the intriguing Thousand Island history deep in their hearts, and I gleaned all kinds of valuable information and made special friends in the process. My historical editor is the president of the Thousand Islands Historical Association and a Thousand Islands author herself. Seeing and experiencing the area as I wrote made my writing come to life, and my historical editor keeps the history accurate.

I love hearing you have a fact checker for you historical details. This is so important for any writer. Even contemporary genres need those go to people to be sure the descriptions are accuate.

What inspired you to write your book?

I grew up in the Thousand Islands and there are so many wonderful stories to tell. The Thousand Islands Gilded Age is full of wonderful islands and characters like George Pullman, Frederick Bourne, and hundred of famous people like J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt and others. So, I aim to tell at least some of them.

Sounds so interesting. I’ve read about some of these historical celebrities so it will be interesting to visit them in the pages of your books.

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

Jeremiah 29: 11, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Quite an inspirational verse for writers. Thanks for sharing.

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

My husband, Dale, is so supportive, loving, and patient. He encourages me, puts up with me spending hours on the computer, and listens to all my crazy creative thoughts. He’s a saint!

Where is your favorite place to write?

I write at my kitchen table overlooking the beautiful Rocky Mountain Front Range. I usually have a scented candle and cup of tea keeping me company.

Sounds wonderful, I’m envious of your view.

Tell us about your next project.

Book two of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series comes to life in Devyn’s Dilemma. It’ll release in April 2020. Here’s the summary of the story: Twenty-year-old Devyn McKenna is nervous about working on Dark Island in the imposing Castle called the Towers, a 28-room structure complete with dungeons, underground passageways, and castle secrets. Devyn struggles to find the self-confidence she needs to carry out her duties as a housemaid in the summer home of the wealthy president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Frederick Bourne. As she serves the likes of Brig. Gen. Cornelius Vanderbuilt III and others, her curiosity for learning grows. But when she is accused of stealing his plans for expanding the NYC subway and learns her brother ‘borrowed’ the plans and the man she loves believes she was the culprit, her faith is tested like never before.

Wow! I’m definitely interested. Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself and your books with my readers. And readers grab a copy of Katelyn’s Choice and if you have a moment post a review for Susan.

Susan’s bio:

Susan G Mathis is a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in Upstate New York. Katelyn’s Choice, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, and Christmas Charity will transport you to a time and place few have visited. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs, enjoys traveling globally with her husband, Dale, and relishes time with her four adorable granddaughters. Find out more at www.SusanGMathis.com.

Buying links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Katelyns-Choice-Susan-G-Mathis/dp/1946016721/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1548078303&sr=1-1

 Barnes & Nobles: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130536525?ean=9781946016720

Lighthouse Publishing: https://www.shoplpc.com/product/katelyns-choice

 

Connect with Susan at:

 

Website: www.SusanGMathis.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanGMathis

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@SusanGMathis

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/susangmathis

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/susangmathisaut

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6044608.Susan_G_Mathis

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/108568340293012416399

 

 

 

 

Katelyn's Choice by Susan G Mathis cover

 

A tip for keeping character details straight

 

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Keeping the details of your characters straight is easy wiht a character list

 

This past week I read a friend’s blog, and she mentioned whiles going through her story she found she’d changed the eye color of her character. I laughed. Then I found I’d changed a secondary character’s name after the first few chapters of my own WIP.  It’s easy to do when you’re a panster. Your writing is more organic, and you can forget some details in the creative moment.  I’ve started writing out character lists in a notebook and recently, after this recent name faux pas I rewrote it in Excel. Because there are times my notebook is on my desk and I’m writing sitting at the kitchen table.

Making the list

I know some of you out their chewing your nails at the thought of using Excel.

It’s so simple.

Open the template and add headings at the top.

Then fill in the column.

 

character list

Here is my list for my current WIP Note minor characters have less details.  This work has lots of minor characters because the story evolves around building a town.

 

My columns headings:

Name

Occupation

Hair hair and eye color

distinguishing physical feature

Their relationship to other characters i.e.. Someone’s mother or love interest.

A few friends keep more extensive lists based on backstory such as education and habits.

Make the list as detailed as you need to keep everything straight as you write.

I keep the excel sheet open on my laptop when I’m writing for easy reference.

If the idea of Excel still sounds too geeky for you organic types, you can create your own Word doc and categorize the characters to your liking.

If you prefer, create a hand-written page for your character that sits beside your computer or for those who are into retro—your typewriter.

Keep it handy

However you choose to create your character list keep it handy. You don’t want to kill off Jared in chapter 15 and he returns to deliver a message in chapter 32. (Unless of course it’s a ghost story.)  You want to be sure Serena’s blue eyes that glisten like sapphires when Juan first meets her don’t transform into chocolate orbs after he kisses her.

Note the different hair colors of my beautiful daughter. Make sure there is a reason your character has a hair color change.

If Juan has a scar, check your notes to be sure it doesn’t switch sides of his face.  Having the list handy will keep Serena’s waist length raven hair from morphing to blond for no logical reason by the books end.

Be professional

I’ve found these very errors in published work. A character named John was Joel. It was only one time, but it took me out of the story and nettled me for the rest of it. For the sake of future readers and to make your editor’s life easier and show the publisher you’re a professional keep a character sheet.

 

Do you have a character list? What do you put on it?

Entitled to Sell Part 2

Today is  the second half of Lynne Pleau’s blog post that gives tips on writng great titles. Part 1 showed us the various types of titles. Part 2 is the how-to portion. Take it away Lynne.

Entitled to Sell, Part 2

By Lynne Pleau

Originally published in the Christian Communicator, May 2006

and on the ACFW Blog, February 20-21, 2019.

Getting Creative

In Entitled to Sell, Part 1, I showed you some different ways titles become memorable. Now let’s look at how do you create them.

Start by defining your theme. In one sentence, capture what your piece is about.

Next, define what you want your title to say about your piece. Jot down anything that comes to mind. This is a right-brained activity, so turn off your inner critic. One idea will spark another.

For example, when I worked on the title for my short story about a middle-aged woman who reflects on the emotional cost of having stolen a gold-toned ring, I wrote down the phrases, “guilt is no bargain,” “guilt is too expensive,” and “paying the cost.” These three phrases led me to “ring of guilt,” which eventually became the story’s title, Ring of Gilt.

        It doesn’t matter when in the development of your story or article you start this process. Sometimes examining the theme of your story or article while you’re writing it can help you focus your ideas. I started the titling process early in the draft phase of Ring of Gilt, and, as a result, came up with an idea that made the ending of the story much more powerful.

And don’t worry if the right title doesn’t come to you right away. Keep your ideas handy. Sometimes when you come back to the list later you’ll see something you didn’t before. For an article with the theme of “how life experience affects how a character speaks,” I came up with the following phrases: “What are they thinking?” “Saying it the way they see it.” “Voicing through experience.” Several days later, I came back to the list, and with a little tweaking, came up with the title “The Voice of Experience.”

Tools of the Trade

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From your expanded list of title ideas, pick out key phrases and look up their synonyms. using a hard-bound thesaurus for this process can give you more options, and scrolling from page to page may give you ideas you wouldn’t catch on-line. Keep an eye out for words that are alliterative or rhyme, and for combinations that echo well-known phrases.51l4qdV0vEL._SX303_BO1,204,203,200_

Define your key words using the dictionary. You may discover something about a word’s meaning you hadn’t thought of, something that will lead you to another idea.

Next, try the rhyming dictionary. This time, look for alliterative possibilities by scanning words that start with the same letter as your key words.

Here’s how I used these tools for the title of this article. The theme is “How to create catchy titles.” Since this is an informative, non-fiction article, I knew I wanted to include the word “title.” I started a list of theme ideas. “Searching for titles.” “Creative titles.” “Creating titles.” “Finding the right title.” “How to create titles.”

Then I worked with the thesaurus, looking for the words related to “title” and “search” and came up with the synonyms: bestselling, signature, query, quest, seek. This lead to a few ideas I hadn’t thought of: Title Search, Bestselling Titles, Creating Killer Titles, Title Quest. Any of these would have worked, but I kept going.

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Next, I used the rhyming dictionary for title: Idol, tidal, idle, vital. Hmm. Not very helpful. Then I went to the dictionary for alliterative possibilities: Tang: Title Tang. Trap: The Title Trap. Tell: The Telling Title. Talent: Title Talent. Terrible: The Terrible TitleTopsy-Turvy Titles, Taming the Title, Down the Toilet Title, Title Bomb. Okay. Got a little punchy.

When I came back to the list later, I had just seen a commercial about a video store, and the idea for Blockbuster Titles came to me.

But I still wasn’t satisfied. I went back to the dictionary and looked up the definition of the word “title,” and under the verb form of that word, I found the definition “to entitle.” Entitle, I read, means both “to give a title to” and “to give a right to demand or receive.” Entitled to what? To sell! I knew I’d found what I was looking for.

The goal is to spark ideas. Write your ideas down. Keep them handy. And always be on the lookout for other writers’ successful titles.

Finding the right title for your writing takes creative effort, but it’s worth it.

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Lynne Pleau Bio:

Lynne Pleau has published over 60 articles, reviews, poetry, and flash fiction in publications like Marriage Partnership Magazine, War Cry, Christian Communicator, Havok, Splickety, and Spark. She is a multiple flash fiction award winner.

I loved her process for creating titles. Thank you Lynn for your expertise. Let’s have a little fun. Share any titles from your recent works. I’d love to hear them. I’ll start.

My upcoming novella that releases in August as part of Smitten Historical Romance Collection:The Cowboy  is entitled Healing Hearts. Now it’s your turn.

 

Sand Creek Serenade author Jennifer Uhlarik shares her writing journey

I had the pleasure of meeting today’s blog guest, in person, last week at the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. She’s one of my online critique partners. It was such a delight to spend time with her and hug her neck. Welcome, Jennifer. Could you tell my readers a little about your writing journey?juhlarik-HR-3(1)

How far back do you want me to go? LOL I truly believe that I had the writing bug from the time I was a toddler on. There are pictures of me, still in diapers, scribbling on a pad of paper with the most thoughtful look on my face. By the age of twelve, I really realized I wanted to write when “playing pretend” with my friends was no longer cool. I loved to make up stories and act them out, and once I realized I could make up those stories and write them down instead, then the writing bug really hit me. I wrote all through high school, majored in writing in college, but then my writing life hiccupped when I jumped into adulthood. I married, worked various jobs, had a child…and generally lost track of my writing for a while. It was when my first husband and I separated/divorced, and I became a single mom that I threw myself into my writing again to escape the stress at the end of each day. I published a few things during a 5-year span between 1999-2004, but due to circumstances from my lack of money to promote my work to the publishers folding, none of my projects met with any success.

That pattern of work-by-day/write-by-night went on until I took a job teaching school for several years starting in 2006. That was another one of those hiccups in my writing life. I was far too exhausted to write during those three years, but God had made it abundantly clear to me that, for that season, I was to be a teacher. When the teaching season ended, a lot had changed for me. I’d married my real-life hero Dave in 2007, and our financial situation was such that we no longer needed my income to stay afloat. So, my sweetheart gave me the opportunity to stay home and chase my dream. Starting in 2009, I wrote a novel (still unpublished), found an agent, and plotted out and began writing other projects. During this time, I attended writing conferences and entered writing contests. In 2013, I had the great pleasure of winning my category in five contests! My agent was shopping my completed western novel. Surely I was on my way! And I was…but the journey looked far different than I thought it would.

In late 2013 or early 2014, a call for submissions came across my path for a few different novella collections with Barbour Publishing, so I put in a couple of ideas. To my great surprise, both proposals were accepted—one just a few days before my birthday in June 2014, and the second a month later. Both collections came out in 2015. I still hadn’t gotten any serious interest on my novel. So, I whipped out my first two novellas and went back to work on other (novel-length) projects. Since my first two novella contracts came in, I’ve had at least one novella contract per year, and in between times, I’ve worked on a bunch of other projects. There have been a lot of rejections of those longer projects, but I’ve been bolstered by the smaller successes with the Barbour novella collections. And finally, in March of 2018, I received a contract for my first full-length project! It took nearly a decade from the time I was able to come home and write full time to finally see a novel with my name on the cover out in print. It wasn’t an easy road, nor was it a fast road—but it was all worth it!

All those projects made you the stellar writer you are today.

Tell us about your latest published project.

Today is the official release day for Sand Creek Serenade—my first full-length novel. It is a historical romance set in 1864 Colorado Territory. My heroine, Sadie Hoppner, is a female doctor who practices medicine at Fort Lyon. The hero, Five Kills, is a half-Cheyenne brave who, along with the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, has camped beside the fort while awaiting word of a peace treaty promised to them by the Army and Colorado Governor. But not everything is as it appears, and Sadie and Five Kills’ new friendship and burgeoning love is put to the test when the ultimate act of betrayal is committed against the Native tribes.

Sand Creek Serenade(1)

 

What kind of research was needed for Sand Creek Serenade?

This particular story required a lot of research in several different areas. The most obvious is to know the history of the Sand Creek Massacre—the historic events before, during and immediately after the tragedy. I found a couple of great resources that dealt specifically with that—particularly two books. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, and Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek by Louis Kraft. Both were hugely helpful in learning the ins and outs of this historical event.

The second area I needed to research was life among the Cheyenne. What they ate, how they dressed. Details of their camps, their tents, and so forth. Again, I found some wonderful resource books. The main one I used was The Mystic Warriors of the Plains by Thomas E. Mails. This book was invaluable for knowing the fine details of Cheyenne and Arapaho culture.

And the third area where I had to do a lot of research was in the medical details that Sadie might have used. I have any number of great books on my bookshelves on Civil War era medicine, but so much of what I needed to know for this story was when a particular procedure came into practice. For that, I used the internet, learning of the origins of the procedures. Then, when it came to depicting my woman doctor doing a particular procedure, I watched YouTube videos to get a feel for how things would be done. (Thank goodness I’m not the squeamish sort!) LOL

Seeing it all written out like this, it sounds like a LOT of work, but the truth is, I loved delving into these areas as I was writing!

I had no idea there were Youtube videos of medical procedures. Ewwww.

On to something less squeamish, I hope. What inspired you to write your book?

I was supposed to be plotting a novella for a collection with the theme of “women doing male-dominated jobs.” Thus, my heroine was a doctor at a time in history when very few women practiced medicine in any formal setting. But I needed some kind of an event that would allow her a big platform to use her medical skills. It was late one evening when I stumbled on a brief mention of the Sand Creek Massacre and thought it would make the perfect setting. Immediately, the hero, Five Kills, began to take shape in my mind. But in the days after that, I dug further into the research of the Sand Creek Massacre and realized just how much history there was to cover. It was not the topic for a novella! And I wondered if it was even a good topic for a novel. But the story called to me, and after praying through the idea, I knew it must be written. So—Sand Creek Serenade was born.

When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

As I said above, I think I was called to write from the womb! LOL I have always loved stories and books, and I’ve long been fascinated with paper pads and writing utensils. I have memories of sneaking out of my bed late at night when I was four or five years old and “writing books” about earthworms and other creatures. (The “books” were not so much stories and pictures with some scribbly lines underneath—but I was young and hadn’t learned to write yet!). But it was that 7th grade year when the writing bug really grabbed hold of me. I had a friend named Holly who I’d often spend time with after school. We’d spend the night at each other’s homes, and we were always together at school. During one overnight stay at Holly’s house, she showed me a spiral notebook and announced that she was writing a book. My competitive streak came out then, and I thought to myself that if she could write one, so could I! And so, I began writing down those wonderful imagined worlds and characters. When I showed my English teacher what I was working on sometime later, I got such praise and encouragement to keep going! Thankfully, that encouragement egged me to keep on in my pursuit, and by the time I reached high school, I’d been so bitten by the writing bug that I couldn’t wait to share my words and stories with people.

Jennifer, do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

Luke 1:45—Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.

This verse, originally spoken by the angel to Mary when he told her she would bear the Son of God, always speaks so strongly to me about keeping faith in the things God says. There have been times that God has promised me things—but then the promise tarries, and my faith begins to wane some. That’s when I go back to Luke 1:45 and refresh my faith. God never goes back on a promise. It’s my job to hold fast to faith and wait it out.

What an inspirational thought for all writers. Thanks, Jen.

Now on to one of my favorite questions. If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

I think I would tell myself just to be prepared for the wait. The writing industry moves about as fast as a hibernating snail—or it seems so when you’re waiting to hear their answers on a submission. LOL If I could, I’d tell my younger self not to expect anything to happen quickly, but to keep the faith that I would eventually realize my dream of seeing stories I’d written get published. Don’t let the hiccups in my writing life worry me but put on a smile and know that writing is my true calling, and I’ll always return to it, even if a particular season takes me away from it. These are the mindsets a career as a writer requires, and I wish I’d understood that aspect earlier, so I could’ve handled it with more grace at times.

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

Oh, goodness. There are many! But to name the closest ones—my wonderful husband, Dave, who gave me the best opportunity to be a full-time writer and to chase my dream. A friend, Shannon, who I’ve known since my son was just a toddler, and who reads almost everything I write, usually when I’m bleary-eyed from a late-night writing session and mired in self-doubt. She is always full of great encouragement and fantastic constructive criticism. And my critique group, a set of gals who have read at least some of every published story I’ve put out so far (and a bunch of unpublished ones too) and helped me hone and shape the stories into something other people would want to read! I couldn’t do what I do without these handfuls of people. I love them all!

I’d like to ask, what is your favorite genre to read for fun?

Give me a Louis L’Amour western, and I’m a happy girl!

I am not surprised. LOL

Where is your favorite place to write?

One of the things my husband did to bless me when I finally got to come home and write was to help me turn one of our bedrooms into my personal writing space. I’ve got a small desk and office chair for my writing stints, two large bookcases with my myriad of research books close at hand, and a futon for when I want to get more comfortable for reading, researching, or even editing.

I am so jealous. Sounds wonderful. Thank you for joining me today. I am so excited about your novel and it’s next up on my to-read list. Readers grab a copy of her newest release Sand Creek Serenade the link is below the bio of my awesome friend.

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.

Social Media Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferUhlarikAuthor/

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Website: www.jenniferuhlarik.com

Buy Link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946016853/ref=nav_timeline_asin?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

If yoou have any questions for Jennifer post them in the comments.