Guest Author Leeann Betts – Choosing a Setting

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Today we welcome Leeann Betts to Word Sharpeners. Leeann Betts contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released five titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers, with Hidden Assets releasing the end of June. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published a book on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft. She publishes a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers. You can subscribe at www.LeeannBetts.com or follow Leeann at www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com All books are available on Amazon.com in digital and print.

Choosing a Setting

By Leeann Betts

With so many great places to set a book, how do authors go about selecting that perfect location that is not merely a backdrop to the plot but actually becomes an integral character?

For me, I go about this two ways: I either know the story and choose the setting based on what’s going to happen in the story; or I know the location and want to set a good story there.

For example, in my first book, No Accounting for Murder, since I’m familiar with small East Coast towns (I lived in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia before emigrating to the US), and because the culture in a small East Coast town is completely different than a city, I knew I wanted to set a story in such a place. That culture not only defines what happens in the story, it also defines the characters.

However, when it came to the setting for the next book, There was a Crooked Man, this was borne because my pastor was contemplating buying a property in New Mexico and turning it into a retreat center for pastors.

Having my main character, Carly Turnquist, start out in her town of Bear Cove, Maine, then travel to New Mexico meant I wanted the next book to be set back in Bear Cove, which is why Unbalanced was set around not only that small-town lifestyle and mindset, but also the larger regional city which tends to govern and sometimes bully the smaller towns.

And then we come to Book 4, Five and Twenty Blackbirds, which releases April 30th. In this adventure, Carly and husband Mike visit the area where my dad and step-mother were married. While I prefer setting my books in fictional towns, Raven Valley is fashioned after the town of Cave Creek, Arizona. Both my father and step-mother are now with the Lord, so when I read this story, I feel their presence and influence on my life, for which I am grateful.

Broke, Busted, and Disgusted was set back in Bear Cove, but this time I branched out a little into the surrounding countryside, which was fun. I love creating new worlds, even though I based it on what I knew about Maine.

And my most recent release, Hidden Assets, which comes out June 30th, was set at a B&B in eastern Wyoming and a small town in western Nebraska. We had been there recently, and I love the area, which is why I chose it. We are also choosing to stay at B&B’s booked through an online source because they are generally cheaper and nicer than motels, plus we get to meet some interesting people. One time, we met a man bicycling from Anchorage Alaska to Ohio for his 50th high school reunion. I think I’ll be putting him in a book soon.

Please leave a comment about connections you have with particular settings, whether in books you’ve written or books you’ve read.

Hidden Assets

Carly Turnquist, forensic accountant, responds to a call from her friend, Anne, who is in the middle of a nasty divorce, and travels to Wyoming to help find assets Anne thinks her husband has stolen. But the mystery begins before Carly even arrives when she sees a man thrown off a train. Except there’s no body. Husband Mike uncovers an illegal scam in a computer program he has been asked to upgrade, and then Anne is arrested for her ex’s murder. Can Carly figure out what’s going on, and why a strange couple is digging in Anne’s basement? Or will she disappear along with the artwork, coins, and money?

Putting God in our Writing

by Carole Brownquestion-mark2 free

As an inspirational writer and author, I had to come to the decision whether I would include God in my books?

  • Should I have heavy scenes with definite doses of conviction on the sinner and salvation transformations?
  • Should I go easy with the above things and hint at or subtly include all things pertaining to God?
  • Should I stick with “clean” writing that shows improvement in my characters?

With these three choices that I narrowed down (for me), I compromised.  I chose to go with light or no mentions of God. Does that sound like I went too far “left” in my choice? Let me explain:

 In my Denton and Alex Davies series, I stick with improvements in my characters. I might mention church or meal prayers, but for the most part, I try to show a positive change in couples or people in this series. I like the subplot to focus on the love (relationship) between couples.

  • In the first book (Hog Insane), the two protagonists, who are married and avid mystery book lovers as well as amateur detectives, learned that give and take is one of the best things in a marriage. 
  • In the second book (Bat Crazy), one of the secondary characters had to realize where her loyalties really lay.
  • In the upcoming third one (Daffy’s Duck), I hope to show a distrustful relationship that has greatly improved by listening. 

Now in my WWII series, my Appleton, WV series and my debut, stand alone book, the God scenes are more real. I like to show acknowledgement that characters see the need of reaching out to God for help. These are light scenes, but there, and, hopefully, real to the reader. 

It was a slow process and one that I battled through writing my first few books, but I finally felt peace over how and how much to bring God into my books, when I decided to go with this decision.

Woman looking at large book

Woman looking at doorway in large book

Will I ever go with the more serious, strong God scenes? Probably not. And, no I’m not ashamed of my God. But I want to reach people who will put up with “some” God in my books and also encourage Christians to read and enjoy my books.

 

Will I ever go with clean, but no God mentions? Maybe. Time will tell on this one. I will definitely have to know the story will hold up for a valuable lesson to do so.

What’s your thought on bringing God into your book? Yes. or No?

Happy Reading!

One Thing Every Writer Needs

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Habakkuk 2:3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

A Christian Writing Site asked the question, “What do you feel is the most difficult aspect of writing?” Although writers answer this question in different way, I believe the most difficult and most important virtue a writer needs is patience. Patience is what makes or breaks a writer. The writing process take years to learn, and if you go the traditional route, the publishing business is so slow, that grass grows faster.

Perfecting Your Writing: The best authors have applied years of patience to perfect their writing. Editing is an ongoing process for a successful writer, and most writers I know have critique groups or editors to help them improve. Studying writing books and blogs and similar books to yours are also important steps writers in a hurry may miss. If you’re going the traditional route, publishable novels and unpublishable novels sometimes only have a fractional difference in quality accomplished by years of perfecting. If you go the self-published route, don’t make the mistake many make of publishing before you are ready. It’s easy to believe you’re ready before you are. The truth is you don’t know what you don’t know. If you’re unsure whether you are ready to be published, have a published author read you book and ask that author to be brutally honest, or enter it into a writing contest. Whichever route you take, authors who have gone through the process of perfecting their writing before being published are the ones who “make” it in the business.

Write More Books: Some writers spend so much time trying to get their first book published, that they never write any other books. They lack the patience needed to start the next book and the next until something happens. A friend of mine wrote seven novels while waiting for a contract. After she was published, they wanted everything she had written. The average traditionally published author writes 3-7 manuscripts before one is accepted. If you self-publish, consider writing a number of books before publishing the first one. Writing more than one books gives valuable experiance and helps you perfect your skill. Another advantage is that agents and publishers like to sign authors who have written more than one book. It shows the author is serious about his career and his craft.

Right Agent/Publisher: If you haven’t given up yet, you’ll earn your patience stripes trying to find the the right agent or publisher – a very slow process. There’s a lot of work involved in this. You have to learn how to write a good proposal and query and research agents taking your type of book. And timing is everything. Many times, it will take three to six months to receive a reply from an agent. And if that reply is no, you have to start all over again. You know you’re making progress when you receive letters from the agent telling you why she didn’t accept it instead of the standard form letter. Then when you do find the right agent, or if you decide to forget the agent and try small publishing companies that accept submissions, you have to wait until you or the agent finds the right publisher. Sometimes, the agent’s contacts won’t work for you, and you’ll have to find another agent.

If an agent or you find a publisher to look at your manuscript, first the publisher will want a full read. You might be elated about this, but pace yourself. Aquisition editors at publishing companies are even slower than agents. Once the editor reads it, she might suggest changes instead of accepting or rejecting the manuscript immediately. Even if she does accept it, in many cases, it will go to committee and might be rejected there because they already have a similar novel or because that type of novel isn’t selling that year. Again timing is everything.

After the First Book is Published: You may think you have it made when your first book is published, but there’s still work that requires patience. Traditional publishers take up to two years to publish a book. Then they expect you to do most of the marketing. Marketing is also a skill that takes time to learn. With each book, you’ll gain more information about what works and what doesn’t. If also takes time to build a fan base. All these require fortitude and constant attention. Once you have this down, your next book might be a flop, and you’ll have to start all over again.

Many give up before all of that happens, but those who wait will reap the reward of becoming a successfully published author.

Do Book Promotions Really Work? Part II

by Carole Brownbook

Yes!

There are two ways to look at promoting books.

  • Discoverability
  • Sales

Both are valuable. Both are necessary to progress as a writer. Only you, as a writer, can determine which you’ll need/want at different times in your promotional periods.

Best ideas to gaining readers and buyers:

  • Capture readers’ attention with your blog posts. Quirky, Eye-catching titles, opening sentences/paragraphs, follow-through information guarantees interest. Some of my posts has experienced the attention, and I do believe the titles have much to do with it. If I follow through with the rest it cinches the interest.
  • Spark interest w/attention-grabbing memes and videos. Nowadays, the attention span of readers wanders if they hit boring information. BUT they love these visual instruments that are well developed and interesting. That draws the eyes. 
  • Well targeted and planned ads that inform and engage with as wide an audience as possible. Always study what marketers are saying. Study others ads. Are they doing well? Sometimes it’s necessary to experiment. Don’t get discouraged if your first one fails to deliver outstanding sales. There’s a learning curve so keep at it until you’ve hit on the right way, the right place, and the best way to ad for YOU.

I want to say here: some will say they have no money for advertising. That’s okay. I’ve been there. But I’ve also learned that if I can’t catch the fish (so to speak) in one way, then I’m determined to do what I CAN do. Remember YOU and your book needs to be discoverable.

  1. Join writing groups. No I don’t participate all the time, and sometimes no time. But they can be valuable to keep your name and your books in front of readers’ eyes. Don’t scorn at the thought. Being discoverable is very important to your books sale-ability.
  2. Participate in Facebook author parties. I’ve been on at least two so far this year and planning one more this month with six other author friends to promote my WWII Spies series book one: With Music in Their Hearts. Remember, you don’t always have to giveaway tons of books. Other items that pertain to your book are fabulous gifts that readers love. For With Music in Their Hearts’ first promotion, I used an older “diamond” studded pin, puzzles, sweetheart chests, etc. as gifts. I had a lot of people attend and lots of interest going around! Also, plan ahead what you’re going to say. I like to have a prepared document w/many items ready to copy and paste. Toward the end share your social and book information too.
  3. website freeOn your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., share tidbits of your book, your progress in writing it, why you wrote it, a recipe or pattern or something else that will catch attention. Offer small rewards off and on. Don’t throw “buy my book” comments outward too often. Let them get a feel of your book, show them what they’re missing, and they won’t be able to resist! 

More on how to make your books discoverable on the next point. 

  • Invest the time in making your books discoverable on book retailer sites. Play around with keywords, descriptions and price for your books on Amazon and other retail sites. What words are used with other books in your genre? What makes them stand out? Make sure you have a beautiful (and I don’t mean just romantically) and interesting cover. That’s the first thing readers will see. Some check the back covers to read the book blurb. Write the best you can, get help, critics to look over yours before it goes to print. The first chapter needs to draw in your reader, so hone that baby till it’s as perfect as you can make it. Add videos. Encourage people to follow you so they will be notified when you have a new book out. 
  • Invest money in online promotion. (Again, even inexpensive ones give you some exposure).  
  1. Keep track of what works for you and what doesn’t, and remember, that sometimes you might have to try a certain promotion or ad more than once to see results or realize it’s not working at this time. 
  2. Hopefully, before your book’s published, you will be a member of your chosennewsletter free social media sites. Start your newsletter, decide how often you’ll put it out, and even though your book may not be out yet, give subscribers a glimpse of your writing life, how the writing is going, tidbits of your book, and when the cover is ready, a preview of it. Ask for opinions, offer rewards for being a subscriber, and encourage them to stay with you by keeping them up-to-date on your progress.
  3. Find what avenues of advertising that you can afford and use as many as you can. I suggest once a month do something special for your book, or if you have many, alternate between books. It’s ALWAYS profitable! In different ways, but still profitable. 
  4. Study and keep track of what others use as promotional means. Sometimes, many of them will offer promotions at a discount. Even if you can’t use it now, and it’s allowed, sign up and plan on the date when you can use it. Good author stewardship.

Okay, Now I’m going to share a few places I’ve used and maybe a very few I haven’t tried yet, but plan to in the future. Remember, it’s not always easy to get accepted into their promotional services, so follow their rules and be as pliable as you can. Here goes:

  1. Bookbub. Yes, it’s VERY expensive. Most writers I’ve heard, say they get their investment back and profit from it, lots of downloads, and good results. But do your homework. Realize the costs. Calculate all you need to do to try to get accepted by Bookbub.
  2. Ryan Zee. I definitely plan to use this soon.
  3. ENT. That’s E-Reader News Today. They are great and considerably cheaper. But, again, you don’t always get accepted. 
  4. Ask David is a Twitter service that’s fairly cheap, but seems to produce good results. Check it out.
  5. I’ve heard good things about Book Funnel, but haven’t tried them or even checked them out yet.
  6. Amazon ads and promotion. Supposedly a good thing. Again, I haven’t used them yet, but plan to in the near future as soon as I have time.
  7. Keiki Hendrix (Vessel Project), Paige Boggs (google) and Celebrate Lit (Check out Facebook) are good avenues to use for advertising and promotions. 
  8. Free Kindle Books and Tips (Michael Gallagher) is a good one to try. He has some requirements so check them out.
  9. Books Butterfly, Books Daily (but keep your eye on it to make sure it’s what you want and that you realize additional costs for extra items), Robin Reads. There are tons more, some that give more results. 
  10. Don’t ignore your fellow writers. They can be valuable sources of spreading the word about your book(s). Interviews, blog posts, and simple promotional times help. Endorsements from those YOU’ve helped give an extra touch of sale-ability to them too.

I’vbook notes lists etce done a lot of promoting and studying on the different methods of promoting and haven’t touched some avenues yet. I’ve mentioned only a small portion of possibilities. I’ve tried to keep lists of every method I’ve heard of. It’s a good way to pick and choose what you want to try. You’ll soon find what works best for you and your books.

Do Book Promotions work? Yes,

Why? Because once you have these ideas set up, you can count on them to work 24/7 for you, without you doing much else.

Happy Promoting!

Guest Author Michelle Levigne – History Can Be Fun – Especially When It Takes Over! (Book Giveaway Contest)

Today we are welcoming guest author Michelle Levigne. Michelle is giving away a copy of her novel, Odessa Fremont. Details for the contest are at the end of her post.

History can be fun — especially when it takes over!

by Michelle Levigne

Show of hands:  how many authors have experienced the headaches and fun of characters taking over? The fun: when characters are so real the book writes itself. The headache: when characters are so real they dig their heels in and refuse to cooperate with the plot.

“I would never do that! I would only do that if I were TOO STUPID TO LIVE!”

Ever have that happen?

Sometimes my characters become so real they demand I tell their stories that happened BEFORE the book I’m currently writing. *sigh*

This month’s release is The Blue Lotus Society, from Desert Breeze Publishing. It starts with my heroine, Odessa, a Pinkerton agent, perched in the rafters of a museum’s warehouse, guarding a shipment of Egyptian artifacts. Later in the book she remembers how she became a Pinkerton. Then she runs into people who know more about her history than she does — so I need to explain why Odessa has been living by her wits since she was fourteen, and why people who wanted to help her couldn’t find her. I ended up with a fully detailed backstory that demanded — loudly, painfully — to be told.

Characters’ histories explain why they act the way they do, how they got to the story’s opening, and give them baggage to deal with. Exploring that history helps us as writers make these characters three-dimensional. It can also lead to some problems with plot in the current work-in-progress. In writing Odessa’s back story, Odessa Fremont (today’s book giveaway) I set up events that contradicted things she was supposed to learn, or tell people in BLUE LOTUS. *sigh* Tip: Keep a detailed notebook. It saves time later when you need to look up something and make sure you don’t contradict yourself.

Moral of the story: when writing Book 1, and you realize it’s actually Book 2 because your characters have such interesting back stories, put it aside so you can write the new Book 1. Don’t touch the new Book 2 until Book 1 is polished, then revise Book 2. Look ahead to Book 3, so you don’t write yourself into a corner, as I did in writing the next book after BLUE LOTUS, called SANCTUARY, coming out in April 2017. Oy …

Giveaway Rules: Michelle is giving away one copy of Odessa Fremont to someone within the US. The winner will be notified next Thursday, and a comment will be left on this post. To enter, answer the giveaway question in a comment.

Giveaway question: Look at the covers for Odessa Fremont and Blue Lotus Society and tell me what genre you think this is. Hint: It’s a hot genre right now that keeps expanding, and can be considered both science fiction and fantasy.

odessafremontcoverart72dpithebluelotussocietycoverart72dpi

Desert Breeze Author Page

Amazon

michelle-levigne-hr-3Michelle Levigne has been a story addict for as long as she can remember, starting with The Cat in the Hat and Weekly Reader Book Club. She discovered Narnia and Star Trek in elementary school, and was a familiar face in the school library, especially when she became addicted to Greek mythology. She fell into fandom in college, and published many short stories and poems in various universes, all while sending out original stories to magazines and publishing houses, eventually receiving rejections that weren’t the standard photocopied photocopy of a form letter.

She has a BA in theater/English from Northwestern College and a MA in communication, focused on film and writing from Regent University. In 1990, her writing career finally broke into the public market when she won 1st place in the 4th quarter of the Writers of the Future contest, which included publication in that year’s winners anthology. Her first published novel Heir of Faxinor came out in 2000. Since then, Michelle has published 70+ books and novellas with multiple small presses, in SF and fantasy, YA, women’s fiction, and romance. She makes her living as a freelance editor and proofreader.

You can contact Michelle online:

Guest Author Michelle Griep – Everybody Wants Something – Your Characters Better Too

EVERYBODY WANTS SOMETHING ~ YOUR CHARACTERS BETTER TOO

by Michelle Griep

what is your story question in vintage wooden letterpress printing blocks, stained by color inks, isolated on white

See that chick over there? She wants a bacon double cheeseburger but she’s worried if she honks one down that she won’t be able to hike up her skinny jeans over her bloated thighs.

Or how about that dude on the corner? He wants to be a lion tamer but he’s allergic to cat dander.

What about you? What do you want? Currently I’d like a pumpkin spice latte because there’s a chill in the air and red and orange are everywhere. Even my dog wants something, preferably the leftover tuna hotdish sitting on the back bottom shelf of the frig with a slight green haze growing over the top.

Are you noticing a trend here?

Humans are needy little creatures, all wanty and feed-me feed-me. If you want your readers to feel a strong connection to your characters, here’s a sweet little tip: give your characters a desire for something, anything, and make that clear from the get-go. Sure, those wants can and should change by the end of the story, but don’t ever take their needy nature away or you’ll lose your reader.

In my latest release, The Captive Heart, my heroine wants nothing more than her freedom. Too bad she’s forced into a lifelong marriage commitment. The hero simply wants a wife to care for his young daughter—and he gets way more than he bargained for in the process.

It’s the wants and desires of your characters that creates conflict when they don’t get what they want. And if you want to make your story really memorable, have those desires change by the end of the story.

Now then, I think I want a slab of chocolate chip banana bread to go with my latte . . . which is a great snack for you as you’re reading The Captive Heart.

captive-heart-cover-jpeg-copyTHE CAPTIVE HEART

The wild American wilderness is no place for an elegant English governess.

On the run from a cruel British aristocratic employer, Eleanor Morgan escapes to America, the land of the free, for the opportunity to serve an upstanding Charles Town family. But freedom is hard to come by as an indentured servant, and downright impossible when she’s forced to agree to an even harsher contract—marriage to a man she’s never met.

Backwoodsman Samuel Heath doesn’t care what others think of him—but his young daughter’s upbringing matters very much. The life of a trapper in the Carolina backcountry is no life for a small girl, but neither is abandoning his child to another family. He decides it’s time to marry again, but that proves to be an impossible task. Who wants to wed a murderer?

Both Samuel and Eleanor are survivors, facing down the threat of war, betrayal, and divided loyalties that could cost them everything, but this time they must face their biggest challenge ever . . . Love.

View More: http://bethanyaleshire.pass.us/michellekellyMICHELLE GRIEP’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: THE CAPTIVE HEART, BRENTWOOD’S WARD, A HEART DECEIVED, UNDERCURRENT and GALLIMORE, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery OUT OF THE FRYING PAN. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or www.writerofftheleash.blogspot.com or stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

10 Tips for Researching Historical Fiction

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

HistoryReaders of Historicals are pickier than other genre readers. If they find a mistake in an historical fact, they will stop reading.

Be thorough.  Don’t do a halfway job when it comes to research. Dig deeper.

Think outside the box. Think of ways you can research your fiction in ways that aren’t traditional.

Don’t take shortcuts. If there is an area you haven’t researched, somebody will know the info you’re fudging on.

what is your story questionThe more accurate the historical details, the better the story becomes. The effect you want is for the reader to feel like she’s been transported in time. Inaccurate research will pull the reader out of your story time period.

Every decision you make will affect what you need to research and how the story will evolve: location, time period, season, social station, career. For instance, if you plan for your characters to ride a train in a certain year but the train didn’t come to town until a year later, you will have to have them get other transportation or change the timeline of your story.

Let the history and research drive the story, not the other way around.
We’ve all read historical stories where the events in history are almost another character. The story revolves around the historical events. We’ve also read stories where it could have happened any time in history. The stories that use the history as a main character are more compelling.

blank sheet in a typewriterWord Choice: Make sure you don’t sound too modern in your word choices. Merriman Webster Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition is a great resource. It has listed the year when every word came into normal usage.

Name Choice: Use names that go with the period you’re writing about. Ancestry.com is a great way to find names that go with your time period.

What to do when you can’t find the research: There are some facts in history that we simply don’t know. If you’ve done thorough research and the information is not available, make something up. But whatever you make up, make sure it seems believable based on the research you have found.