September 30, 2020

When You’ve Lost Your Publisher

p.m. terrell

Through The Novel Business, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of authors in various stages of their careers and I’ve discovered even New York Times bestselling authors can lose their publisher. Sometimes the publisher has simply decided the title has run its course. Far more often, however, it’s the publisher experiencing problems ranging from personal illness to a lack of capital required to keep the doors open. More than one author has contacted me in a panic; after heavily promoting their books and their author brand, they are left with no product in the marketplace. What do you do when this tragedy strikes?

First, understand your rights. The original publishing contract should spell out what happens if the publisher discontinues your titles. Look specifically for whether all rights revert back to you. Written correspondence between you and your publisher should clarify this issue; do not rely on oral communication. Contact an attorney if necessary to ensure that you own the rights to your titles.

Second, obtain the latest electronic copies. Particularly if your publisher edited your manuscript, you will want the most polished copy—not the rougher version you might have originally submitted. The refined manuscript will give you the best chance at republishing, receiving decent reviews and selling copies.

Third, record your sales or ask the publisher for a detailed report. A track record begins once a title has been published. This means that traditional publishers and literary agents can quickly look up your book’s sales figures if the sales were through traditional outlets. If sales were non-traditional, prepare to disclose how many were sold, when and to whom—individual names are not needed but retailers, organizations and channels are helpful.

Fourth, decide whether you want to sign with another traditional publisher, a hybrid publisher or self-publish. If you want another traditional or hybrid contract, include in your query letter that the book was previously published, when and by whom, how many copies were sold and why the publisher is cancelling your contract. I knew an author whose major publisher cancelled their series because sales had fallen below 150,000 copies in six months, but a mid-sized publisher considered those sales figures as highly profitable. Also include in your query letter how you promoted your titles including links to your website, blog and social media platforms, including the number following or subscribed to you.

Fifth, if you decide to self-publish, rethink your books’ titles. Once a book has been traditionally published, the record remains forever. If you publish with the same title, there could be confusion whether the title is still in circulation because the first publisher’s entry will remain in the databases but flagged as unavailable or discontinued. Consider a completely different name or if you’re committed to the original title, add “2nd Edition”, “Anniversary Edition” or another unique designation.

Sixth, if you have several titles that have been left out in the cold, consider traditional queries on the most successful ones. If self-publishing, contemplate releasing one title at a time. This provides each title a 3-to-6-month window in which you can promote that particular book as a re-release. If you republish the entire backlist, your promotional efforts will be spread out and less focused.

I know several bestselling authors that still maintain relationships with major publishers for some titles, while self-publishing discontinued ones. This has provided them with the best of two worlds: the strong distribution and exposure a large traditional publisher can provide as well as a self-published backlist in which they can earn more money per sale.

p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 21 books in various genres. She is also the founder of The Novel Business dedicated to helping authors navigate the publishing industry, including consulting services and a 52-Step Marketing Plan to catapult sales. For more information, visit and

September 29, 2020

Audra Jennings, PR About Stacey Thacker

Audra Jennings, PR

Life sometimes brings difficult situations or circumstances that can leave us feeling run-down, drained, worn-out, and threadbare. Illness, the death of a family member, the loss of a job, natural disasters, a pandemic. The events of this year have left us struggling in ways we cannot articulate. These are the times we most desperately need prayer, but they can also be the times we simply don’t have the words to form a prayer. How do you pray when you can’t find the words? Let me introduce you to Stacey Thacker and her book that releases in October.

Stacey Thacker In Threadbare Prayer: Prayers for Hearts that Feel Hidden, Hurt, or Hopeless,  presents 100 simple yet heartfelt devotions to guide readers on the days they don’t know what to pray. Each entry in this attractive, gift-worthy devotional contains a Bible verse, a brief thought, and a simple, concise prayer to encourage the reader’s heart.
“I actually found the word ‘threadbare’ in a book I was reading. As I read it, the word stuck in my heart, and I looked down and noticed my jeans had become threadbare and worn at the knee. Little by little with daily wear and tear, the hole got bigger,” Thacker explains. “Isn’t that a picture of how little things can wear on us and we find ourselves hanging by a thread just trying to get the laundry finished or the groceries put away?”
Thacker started writing her own threadbare prayers in her journal during her Bible study time. The prayers were very personal, but as she began to share them on her blog and social media, her friends and readers encouraged her to turn them into her next book. Throughout the pages, readers will see glimpses of some of the authors most threadbare moments. In a period of three years, Thacker’s father passed away, her almost 9-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a severe and relentless chronic illness, and her husband suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Thacker found herself alone, fearful, weeping, and wondering what God was doing.
“During each of these times, I would describe my prayers as desperate and simple. I didn’t have fine or fancy words. I couldn’t remember long passages of Scripture. I just had small breath prayers that I repeated over and over. ‘Lord, you are my shepherd, and I lack nothing’ from Psalm 23:1 was one that I prayed when Mike was in ICU and later in rehab. I knew, Jesus was enough. He wasn’t threadbare, He was holding on to me,” shares Thacker.
She continues, “Jesus is powerfully drawn to your threadbare heart. His invitation in Matthew 11:28 is to ‘come to him and he will give you rest.’ He is a comforter. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He is not far off. When you are hanging on by a thread, pray. Be honest. Pour out your heart. Take one Scripture and tell your heart the truth about who He is. Praise him. And let him do a beautiful thing in that broken place. He will. I’ve seen him do that in my own life.”

Stacey Thacker is an author, blogger, speaker, and believer who loves God’s Word and connecting with women. Her passion is to encourage women in their walks with God and equip them to study the Bible. She created the blog community Mothers of Daughters and now blogs on her site,
Thacker is the author of seven books including Hope for the Weary Mom: Let God Meet You in the Mess and has written a series of Bible studies, The Girlfriends’ Guide to the Bible. Her latest book is Threadbare Prayer: Prayers for Hearts that Feel Hidden, Hurt, or Hopeless.
She worked with Campus Crusade for Christ for five years before becoming a full-time mom to four daughters. Her family lives on the Orlando, FL area.
Visit Stacey Thacker online at She can also be found on Facebook (@OfficialStaceyThacker), Twitter (@staceythacker), and Instagram (@staceythacker).

September 28, 2020

Readers and Characters

Susan Reichert

Do you know your characters in your story? Do you really know your characters–everything about them? Would your answer be, “Well, sure, I created them, I know each character”?

Perhaps you might be surprised to learn you do not know the characters as well as you think.

Do you remember reading a book, and found yourself wondering about things pertaining to the character/characters?

You see readers are interested in the who more than the what. To a reader the character becomes more real than fiction. That is why we hate for the story to end; we are saying goodbye to someone we came to know. We walked alongside; the ups and the downs, we were right there with them and experienced the same emotions.

If the writer does a good job in knowing their character/characters, the reader will walk into the story

One of the best ways to write good characters of course is to interview them! As I have written before. when you can step outside of the role as creator/writer and step into the role of the reader you will ask yourself what would the reader want to know?

This is one of the reasons a writer can write a series. Steve Bradshaw, forensic Mystery/Thriller author, wrote Bluff City Butcher (the first book in his Bell Trilogy.) He had a character in that book, which carried over to the second and third books. One of the characters in the first book, absolutely captured me. There was just something about the character that made you pull for him. I read all three and wanted more books with that character. I told Steve I wish he would write more books with that character.

The Grapes of Wrath written by John Steinbeck is a book a reader feels what Tom Joad felt coming home and finding his home disserted, family moved out. Who wouldn’t be able to relate to Ma Joad, trying to hold the family together; Pa Joad becoming a broken man losing his home and livelihood?

Steinbeck was able to create fictional characters that became real people to the readers who could feel what the characters were going through. He said, "I've done my damnedest to rip a reader's nerves to rags."

Susan Reichert, editor of Southern Author Services, Suite T and retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine.

Author of God's Prayer Power and Storms in Life.

Collierville Christian Writers Group (CCWriters) facilitator/president.

Susan lives in Tennessee with her husband Greg. They have four children.

September 25, 2020

He Writes A Perfect Spy Thriller!

Ted Bell

I’ve been asked about inspirations for my new Alex Hawke Spy Thriller from Random House. To go back to the beginning, a few years ago I was elected a Visiting Scholar and Writer-in-Residence at Cambridge University. It was quite an honor, to be honest, and I was terribly excited about spending a year in the UK in the presence of such an ancient bastion of Wisdom, Knowledge, and superior Brainpower. I was not to be disappointed.

I rented a ridiculously large Adams house in the countryside outside of Cambridge. I had sheep in my meadows and colorful birds strutting about on my lawns. It was me and my housekeeper for company. I read. A lot.

Had a lot of lonely bachelor dinners in the bevy of available pubs in my area. My daughter, who was a Ford model at the time, had frequent gigs in both London and Paris and it was my fondest wish that she train herself on down to the Bridge on the Cam and spend some quality time with her old man. Which she did, upon occasion.

I was to spend my year at POLIS, a prestigious wing of the university. Political Science and International Relations, to be precise. So, between lectures there and up in London frequently at the Royal Naval College, and digging in on my then new Hawke novel, WARLORD, I kept pretty busy. I lived on the outskirts of a little town called Somersham. The restaurant situation could be right dubbed as paltry. There was one, a crowded fish and chips eatery. Not good.

But, to POLIS. Cambridge is mobbed with presidents of countries, CEOs studying for a higher degree, Royalty from Europe and Scandinavia, and, last but not least, spies. Including one very tall and attractive one who seemed to be always inviting me to drinks, lunch, dinner, etc. I mentioned this woman to my sponsor at university. I can’t use his name here because he is much in the news these days regarding the Russian collusion nonsense. He said,

“Look here, Ted. You cannot continue to labor under the illusion that this woman is actually interested in you.”

       “Why not? It’s fun.”

       “Because she’s not. Interested in you, I mean. She’s interested in me. Because she knows that Sir Richard Dearlove, your other sponsor and the former Chief of MI6 is a close friend of mine. She’s what Richard calls a “honeytrap waiting to be sprung”. Stay away from her. She knows that we all know that she’s a spy for the Chinese Communist Party, and we all know that she knows we know. Got it?”

       Anyway, China was all the rage at Cambridge that year. It’s all we talked about at POLIS. The more I knew the more interested I was in China. And, I thought I might use the Chinese Spy woman as a character in a future book that’s all things Chinese…including the 400 year old Tang Dynasty that lies at the heart of the book and is Hawke’s nemesis, along with the truly evil Mr. S. Smith who’s trying to kidnap his son for Putin.

       And that’s the genesis of DRAGONFIRE.

       The Chinese woman metamorphosed into a Chinese Secret Police officer. And Cambridge did not figure in the book. But the Tang family does, including the beauteous Zhang Tang who has her claws out for Alex Hawke. And another beauty, China Moon, long a character in the series, is vying with Zhang for Alex’s affections.

       I never plot out or outline these books. I just sit back and watch them happen. Much more fun for the author that way because you know your days are going to be chockful of surprises.

       Like, when I first sat down to write the thing, I had no idea that I’d end up with two parallel plotlines! None of it! But suddenly I was writing half the book taking place in Washington, D.C. with our Alex’s grandfather becoming newly minted Chinese Ambassador to the US, Tiger Tang. And, Tiger, becomes FDR’s most trusted advisor and friend.

       Present day Alex is once more down in the Bahamas on a mission of grave importance. The Queen’s most favorite grandson has gone missing at an extremely exclusive Chinese resort called The Dragon Fire Club.

Hawke, Stoke, and Harry Brock are once more into the fray, no surprise. And the reaction to multiple storylines from fans has been extremely positive. There’s a ton of WWII history in the book. I still recall novels that I truly loved because I’d learned a lot!

Ted Bell fills his very cinematic thrillers with realistic details and infuses his characters with a panache and humor. His extensive global travels have given him a perspective that he alone can provide readers. In 2011, He was elected a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University, UK, completing his studies at Cambridge's Department of political science and International Studies (POLIS). I was also elected to the position of Writer-In-Residence, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University--a setting known for its connections to Intelligence community, including my sponsor, Sir Richard Dearlove, Master at Pembroke College and former Chief of Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6.

In addition to my time in the UK, I have spent time in Russia researching my novels; despite almost being "disappeared" while waiting for a flight in the first-class lounge in the Moscow airport. But setting and characterization aren't the only strengths of the Hawke series--I am exhaustive in my research and goal to provide realistic military details for my readers.

Photo credit: Ted Gushue


September 24, 2020

Using Emotional Depth in Creating your Protagonist.

 Susan Reichert

Do you create your protagonist with an emotional depth?

In other words, do they have the capacity to interpret feelings and sensitivity and respond to the feelings that arise both in themselves and others?

Perhaps the question is do you create in your character (protagonist) empathy? The ability to understand and share the feelings of another?

If their emotional dept is low, it most likely will prevent your character to give support to others in the stories; perhaps they will not be able to develop a strong intimacy with others or resolve conflicts. The characters we create need to be able to steer major crises.  By having low emotional depth your character (protagonist) has a good chance turning out to be shallow and your reader will lose interest and not be a fan of the character.

It is important we create a protagonist our readers will love, and sometimes in that relationship between the reader and the protagonist, you will find there is also hate. Yes, sometimes the reader may hate the protagonist for something he does or does not do. That is okay, they are vested in the character.

What drives our protagonist? Internal motivation. It always must come from within the character to make the character push through to achieve what is important to them. It can be a want, hope or fear, but it must be defined clearly to the character. This is what spurs the character on when he/she is at a low point.

A protagonist is not passive he/she is active. This is one of the reasons we love the James Bond books by Ian Fleming.

Be sure you stack some odds against your protagonist and throw in some mistreatment…think of Cinderella, written by Charles Perrault how she was mistreated by her step-mother and step-sisters and the odds against her to even get near the prince to try the shoe on.


Happy Writing.

Susan Reichert is  the director of Southern Author Services and and Suite T. She is also the retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine.

She is the author of God's Prayer Power and Storms In Life.

She and her husband Greg live in Tennessee.

September 23, 2020

The Price of Valor

Susan May Warren

What would you do for your country? Or for an ideal that you believe in? Five years ago, when my son came to me and said, “I’d like to join the Navy,” I had to take a hard look at what I believed in. Yes, it was his decision, but I wondered if I loved my country enough to willingly give my son to it.


Yes. Yes, I do. And I say that after living overseas for ten years, seeing how other countries live and knowing our ideals of freedom of thought, speech and the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness have come at a great cost, both past and current.

September 22, 2020

Sharing the Limelight in Box Sets

Marcia King-Gamble

Growing up, I never wanted to be a writer. Writing is something that grew on me. I was an educator’s daughter and so read at an early age. Reading fed an active imagination. Like Calgon (now I’m showing my age,) reading, transported me to another time and place.  Reading carried me away.

Then I became a freelance reader. By reader, I mean, I read for a publisher. Often, unsolicited manuscripts are sent in, more than an editor can keep up with. Laypeople are hired to read through these submissions and make recommendations to the editors.  It took me seven years and hundreds of manuscripts before the light bulb went on. I submitted my own story. While my first submission was not accepted, I was encouraged to submit something else, and of course, I did.  That second effort yielded a two-book contract.

Twenty plus years later, here I am, the author of forty-plus books, blogging steadily on two blogs, and stepping in as a guest blogger whenever I’m asked.

That’s actually how my latest release, One Last Shot came about. One of my blogging groups, The Romance Gems has 23 authors.  Each member blogs on a specific day of the month. There is usually a monthly theme to follow, although at times we veer off topic.

The Gems planned to release several box sets. For those of you who don’t know what a box set is, it’s a compilation of stories, individually written, and packaged together. Our group is spearheaded by some experienced, and incredibly talented authors, and NY Times/USA Bestseller Joan Reeves came up with the idea for Last Chance Beach: Summer’s End and the legend.


The legend goes something like this:

 Poor boy begs passage on wealthy tycoon’s ship and falls in love with owner’s daughter. Dad frowns on the romance and banishes the poor man to the ship’s hold. The man escapes and swims to shore where he is rescued by a minister and his wife. The daughter goes in search of him, runs out of money, and is taken in by the same minister and his wife. The couple reunites. Unfortunately, he is lame.

The idea of One Last Shot came about from a what if?  Those who know me know I’m a firm believer of what ifs.

So, I thought, what if an up and coming sitcom star’s alleged sex tape goes viral, and she hides out on Last Chance Beach.  Turns out, the guy next door just happens to be a disgraced celebrity photographer in need of One Last Shot. Will he accept tabloid money for pictures of her? Or will he choose love over jumpstarting his career?

There’s even a free companion cocktail recipe book that comes with the story and can be downloaded.

Given the summer we’re having, we all deserve a cocktail on Last Chance Beach. So, pull up a chair and join me, albeit from a distance. Let 14 authors carry you away with stories of hopes, dreams, and true romance.

Link to down load companion cocktail recipe book.

Romance writer, Marcia King-Gamble originally hails from a sunny Caribbean island where the sky and ocean are the same mesmerizing shade of blue. 

This former travel industry executive and current world traveler has spent most of life in the United States. 

A National Bestselling author, Marcia has penned over 34 books and 8 novellas. 

Her free time is spent at the gym, traveling to exotic locales, caring for her animal family, and 

trying to keep sane.

Her newest release is By Heart.

Instagram * Amazon * Website * Facebook * Twitter


September 21, 2020

Write Your Book

 Kim M. Clark

The pixels on my computer screen taunted me. Looking over my manuscript that needed to be rewritten, again, I cried out to God. “This is too hard. You’ve called the wrong person to write this book. I don’t even know what a passive verb is!” Tears streamed down my cheeks. The task of writing, re-writing, and editing my soon-to-be-published book brought me to an ugly place. I had no idea how time-consuming, emotionally taxing, and exhausting it would be to write a book when I had first agreed to be God’s scribe.


 My shoulders slumped. I whimpered, “God, what if these words of comfort you’ve given me are only for me and my family and they’re not meant to be published? Maybe they were meant to console and help us lift our gaze to you as we walked through our trial? What if I heard you wrong, and I’m not meant to record your words in a book?”

The response from God: deeper stillness.

 I exhaled a loud, weary-laden sigh.

 Since first grade, I struggled with the task of putting together a string of words that made sense, let alone enticing the reader into my world with some sort of grammatical accuracy. The entire act of authoring a book was beyond my level of gifting and God seemed to be taking his time developing this skill in me.

 My spiritual tantrum continued. I dropped to my knees. “Okay, God, if you want me to finish this book, I NEED A SIGN, LIKE RIGHT NOW!” The thud of my fist pounding on the floor echoed my desperation.

 I heard the ding of an incoming email from my desk as an answer to my meltdown. Groaning, I lifted myself out of my emotional puddle and I looked at my screen in irritation. An email preview popped up.

 Tilting my head to one side, I read the blinking message.

 Wait, what did it say? That can’t be right… Disbelief flooded me.

 The subject line mocked me: “WRITE YOUR BOOK!”

 I burst out laughing. Somehow, for some reason beyond me, God was calling me to finish writing my book, despite how arduous the task.

 That day, I committed to become a published author, no matter the difficulty, strain, or work involved.  That day, I decided to truly be God’s scribe, no matter the physical, emotional, or spiritual drain or cost. That day, I fully submitted my writing to God.

 Since receiving that email, I finished and published my first book, Deep Waters: Lift Your Gaze, which is now a multiple-award-winning Amazon bestseller. My second book, Deep Waters: Lift Your Gaze 30-Day Devotional, came out in the spring of 2020, right along with COVID-19.

 In between the release of those two books, in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I created a non-profit, Lift Your Gaze, where I share my message of hope with the incarcerated. Now thousands of both of my books (neither of which I thought I could write) are in prisons and jails across the U.S., proclaiming the Gospel and Hope of Jesus Christ.

 You might be wondering who sent that email that God used to convict and motivate me to finish my book. A life insurance company sent that email to encourage former brokers (like my husband and me) to “write their book of business.” It’s funny how God can use anything or anyone to accomplish his will even through his most unwilling and tearful servants.

 Permit me to implore you with the same message I received on that day: “WRITE YOUR BOOK.” You never know what God is going to do through it and through you.

Kim M. Clark is a multiple-award-winning author, publisher, and public speaker. She is also the founder of Lift Your Gaze ( where she openly and unabashedly shares her message of hope with the incarcerated. She and her family live in the sunshine from the perpetual summer climate of Florida. Kim has run two marathons (with respectable times) despite the angry protest from her middle-aged knees. You can reach her directly at


September 18, 2020

Facing the Challenges of the Writer’s Life

DiAnn Mills @diannmills

A writer’s life doesn’t fit the 9-5 workday mold for most of the world. Challenges smack us in the face, and we must be ready to evaluate what we are doing right and what we are doing not-so-right. Sometimes we need to evaluate our habits and if necessary, make changes that will help us be successful in our writing career.

A writer determines if his/her work process is a hindrance.

Do any of these apply?

1. My desk is covered with to-do notes that need to be completed then tossed.

2. My stack of papers is duplicated electronically. Where is the shredder?

3. My to-be-read stack is taller than I am. Time to prioritize and give away.

4. My pile of magazines is ten years old. Do I honestly need them? Can I subscribe to them online?

5. My laptop needs replaced. Time to explore and research a replacement.

Other times, the process is difficult when a bad decision has the potential to create havoc.

1. Is my reader’s blog unique, interesting, or do I need more content that is reader focused?

2. How do I determine the number of writer conferences to attend in 2020-2021?

3. How many writer conferences or speaking engagements should I accept in 2020-2021?

4. Am I spending enough quality time with my spouse and family?

5. Am I spending enough quality time with my friends?

6. Am I keeping God first place in my spiritual, mental, and physical life?

7. Is my quiet time taking me spiritually deeper?

8. My latest book is completed. Do I send it to my editor or read it through one more time?

9. How many fiction and nonfiction books should I be reading per month?

10. Is too much of my time unproductive?

11. Are the blog posts I’m reading adding value to my professional career?

12. Is there anything I can change to better honor my God-given calling?

How does a writer gauge if a challenge is productive or destructive?

Will the challenge help me be a better writer?

Our skills need to grow as though we are in a perpetual state of learning. Nothing of value is free, either time or a financial investment. Some of the items that strengthen our skills are reading the how-to books, reading bestsellers, attending physical and online conferences, editing our work, mentoring a serious writer, and taking advantage of online blogs, podcasts, and webinars.

Will the challenge help me grow spiritually?

Many writers believe their work is a form of worship. Is a Christian writer strong enough to stand up for his/her beliefs?

Will the challenge help my readers?

Successful writers don’t create for themselves but for readers. Reaching readers is an effort. Sometimes it’s frustrating and mistakes are made. But when writers explore what readers need and where they hang out on social media, we can join the conversation and provide what they are looking for.

Perhaps our obstacles are in reality ladder steps to professionalism. How do you approach the challenges in your writing life?

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure? Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. 
Visit DiAnn Mills at

September 17, 2020

The Story Spark ~ Part 2

Tari Faris

Part 2

. . .What was the reason Libby came to town?

I live in the Phoenix area now, but I grew up in a small town in Michigan, and I make it a priority to visit my hometown every summer. Part of it is because I love to escape the summer heat, and part of it is because I love the pace and rhythm of small-town life.


When I was considering what Heritage needed in town, my mind traveled back to some of my favorite memories as a child when I would go to reading hour at the local library. Back then, the local library of our small town was actually in the town hall, just like in Heritage—although it wasn’t in the basement. However, years ago, it was moved from the town hall to the old firehouse that had been updated to a larger location.


I hadn’t mentioned a library in Heritage in You Belong with Me but adding a library with part of the grant money made sense so that gave me a reason for Libby to come to town to be the Librarian.


As I was beginning to write Until I Met You, I attended a community picnic in my town park where  they have situated an old one room schoolhouse in one corner. It is picturesque and as I stood there, taking in the park and schoolhouse, I knew it was exactly what Heritage needed. A library in the one-room schoolhouse. And if I dropped the one-room schoolhouse in the middle of the square that Austin was supposed to design, we would have instant conflict.


There is the long and the short of how I got the story spark for Until I Met You. So, dive in and see how all these pieces come together in a little town named Heritage.

Tari Faris is the author of You Belong with Me. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers and My Book Therapy, she is the projects manager for My Book Therapy, writes for, and is a 2017 Genesis Award winner. She has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and lives in the Phoenix, Arizona, area with her husband and their three children. Although she lives in the Southwest now, she lived in a small town in Michigan for twenty-five years..



September 16, 2020

The Story Spark

Tari Faris

After meeting Nate in my first novel, You Belong with Me, I knew there was a story to tell there, and I couldn’t wait to tell it. But as I interviewed Nate, I began to ask not just what his wild past had cost him, but also what had it cost those around him. It was then that I realized that the real story lay with the older brother, Austin. Just like in the biblical narrative of The Prodigal Son, Nate had moved on from his past, but the older brother had not.


In fact, just like the “older brother” in the Bible, I needed Austin’s livelihood to have been affected. And since the town was in the market to landscape the new square with the newly acquired grant money, his vocation was born. He could come to town to landscape the new square.


As I took the time to get to know Austin, I couldn’t help but love him and hurt with him. But that became a huge challenge in writing it. How do I write two characters I love who are in such conflict? And that is when I remembered that it was the love of their father that united them.


I hadn’t originally planned for the father to be suffering with early onset Alzheimer’s, but when I started writing this, both my parents and my in-laws were dealing with ageing parents, one of whom had Alzheimer’s and it just seemed to come out of my experience.


So, after I had the hero figured out, I had to decide who would be the perfect fit with him and why. I fell in love with Libby in the first book as well, so she was the logical choice, but I just needed a reason to move her to town.

. . . see what Tari does in Part 2 tomorrow, the 17th.


Tari Faris is the author of You Belong with Me. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers and My Book Therapy, she is the projects manager for My Book Therapy, writes for, and is a 2017 Genesis Award winner. She has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and lives in the Phoenix, Arizona, area with her husband and their three children. Although she lives in the Southwest now, she lived in a small town in Michigan for twenty-five years.

September 15, 2020

Storing Up Trouble - Part 2

Jen Turano

Part 2

In order to keep everything straight with a series, I use character sheets and jot down information like physical appearance, what drives a character, and even what quirks they may possess. Unfortunately, in Beatrix’s case, I had no idea who she was other than the fact she was a young lady who balked at the restrictions placed on heiresses at that time, and that she always seemed to find herself in unexpected and unusual situations.

It was not much to work with, especially since Isadora had told me (and yes, characters do speak to me. I’m not crazy, though, it’s just how this writing thing works for me) that Beatrix was her best friend and was going to help her flee from New York City and the dastardly duke. That meant Beatrix was going to show up far sooner than I expected because Isadora leaves New York within the first few chapters. With that in mind, I just began writing Beatrix into a scene with Isadora, and thankfully, her personality took off from there. She wanted to be a no-nonsense lady, prone to taking charge of situations, even if doing so occasionally meant she landed herself in all sorts of trouble. Trouble and Beatrix seemed to work well, and from there, I began to get an inkling of just where her story was going to go.

 By the time I reached book three, “Storing Up Trouble,” I knew exactly who Beatrix was, what drove her, and why she was going to have to leave New York City and travel to Chicago – being arrested, not once, but twice, was the perfect reason to have her depart on an adventure, and once I got into her book, everything fell into place and she didn’t give me a hint of trouble. The same cannot be said about Norman Nesbit, the hero in “Storing Up Trouble,” who couldn’t decide who he wanted to be and insisted I rewrite him at least a dozen times. He finally settled down, which then, in turn, allowed me to finish the book and meet my deadline, something that does seem to keep me on track most days.

 One thing that has made writing series easier for me over the years, though, is that I have begun writing my books so that they can stand alone. Isadora, from “Flights of Fancy,” does not make an appearance in the second book, “Diamond in the Rough,” and only shows up at the end of “Storing Up Trouble.” It’s the same with Poppy, who, after her story is told, only shows up at the end of Beatrix’s story. That allows readers a glimpse of these characters if they’ve enjoyed them in the previous books but does not make it difficult for a reader to follow the last book in the series if they’ve not read the previous two books. That strategy seems to be working for me at the moment, but one never knows, I could very well return to a series where all the characters are woven in with every book. Time will tell with that.

Thanks so much for visiting with me today. I hope you learned a little bit about my process, and here’s hoping you’ll enjoy Beatrix’s story if you get a chance to read it.

All the best,



Named One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist.  

When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO. Readers may find her at - , or on Twitter at JenTurano@JenTurano.


September 14, 2020

Storing Up Trouble

 Jen Turano

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is where I find inspiration for my stories. In most cases, I find them through the many research avenues I have available to me, whether it be books about the Gilded Age, data bases I access through my local library, or old newspapers I peruse when I’m looking for unusual names. In the case of my latest series, the American Heiress series, I was inspired years ago after reading the true-life story of Consuelo Vanderbilt.

Poor Consuelo was a member of one of the richest families in the world, daughter to William K and Alva Vanderbilt. Unfortunately, Alva was a bit of a social climber, and had decided to use her daughter as a tool to climb that social ladder through an advantageous marriage to a duke. Unfortunately, Consuelo didn’t care for this duke as she was in love with another gentleman, but she married the duke, and suffered through quite a few years of an unhappy marriage before she finally sought a divorce.

Like most of my series, this one started off with the question “What if?” “What if Consuelo had balked at marrying this duke?” That’s all it took for the American Heiress series to take shape. I knew from the start that I was going to need three distinct heiresses in order to keep the stories fresh. Isadora Delafield was the heiress inspired by Consuelo, so she was first with “Flights of Fancy.” Then I was intending on writing Beatrix Waterbury’s story next, who was going to be my unconventional heiress, ending with Miss Poppy Garrison’s story, who was going to be an unexpected heiress, and clueless about how to navigate her way around the New York Four Hundred.

Interesting fact here is that before I begin writing a series, I turn a synopsis over to my editing team, outlining each book and storyline. They then take that synopsis/proposal to the pub board, and that board deliberates over whether it’s a good idea. Thankfully, they gave the American Heiress the green light, so I was off and running – except that my editors and I decided that I had the books in the wrong order. Clearly, “Flights of Fancy” was to go first, but we thought it would break up the series better if we stuck Poppy Garrison into the middle since she was not familiar with New York City and all the rules, whereas Beatrix Waterbury was. Now, that might not seem too problematic, but I didn’t really know who Beatrix was at that point, but by switching the stories around, she was going to turn into the character who would make an appearance in all three books.

In order to keep everything straight with a series, I use . . . ( see part 2 tomorrow–September 15 . . . don't miss it to see what Jen Turano uses to keep everything straight!)

Named One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age.

Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. 

She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist.  

When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO. 

Readers may find her at - , or on Twitter at JenTurano@JenTurano.


September 10, 2020

When Research Becomes a Novel: Under the Tulip Tree – Part 2

Michelle Shocklee

After I wrote my Texas novels, I continued to keep that little research book close by. It sat on my desk or my nightstand, and it even went on vacation with me. About five years after I’d purchased it, I was tossing around ideas for my next writing project. I didn’t want to write another plantation novel, yet I felt so strongly about the importance of the slave narratives that I didn’t want to venture too far away from the topic. What to do, what to do? My eyes drifted to that little orange book on my nightstand. Sam Jones Washington’s familiar smiling face met my gaze . . . and suddenly I knew. I would write that story! The story of an FWP writer going to interview a former slave and the unlikely friendship that develops between them.

Writing Under the Tulip Tree was a labor of love. In many ways, this is the book I’ve waited my entire life to write. The characters became real people in my heart and mind, especially Frankie. I can never know what it was truly like to live in bondage or to be a black person in the world today, but writing Frankie’s story opened my eyes to the struggles, the prejudices, and the oppression people of color have been forced to deal with for generations. Like the slave narratives, Frankie’s story doesn’t wallow in the difficulties, but simply tells the tale of her life as a slave and as a free woman.

Research trips are a must when writing historical fiction. Thankfully, my husband of thirty-three years is a willing field trip buddy, so we set out to visit many of the places around Nashville where Frankie and Rena would have gone. The neighborhood of Hell’s Half Acre was demolished in the 1950s, but as I stood on Capitol Hill, I could envision what it might have looked like in 1936. When we visited the ruins of Fort Negley, I stood in reverent silence, looking down to the area where the contraband camp was once located. To the north is downtown Nashville, with the Cumberland River barely visible these days because of high-rise buildings. When I closed my eyes, I could almost hear the roar of Union gunships. How frightening that must have been for former slaves like Frankie as they awaited the outcome of the Battle of Nashville. Our last stop was City Cemetery where many former slaves are buried. There, I sat under a tulip tree, its yellow blossoms bright in the afternoon sunshine, and I wondered if any of the people buried there had once told their story to a Federal Writers’ Project employee.

Frankie and Rena are products of my imagination, but my hope is that they bring honor to the real people whose lives they represent.

Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs.

 Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about.

 Visit her online at

September 9, 2020

When Research Becomes a Novel: Under the Tulip Tree –Part 1

Michelle Shocklee

As an author of historical fiction, I know that solid research breathes life into my books. What I didn’t know was how it could change the trajectory of my life. In May 2013, I purchased a research book on slavery that would do just that. I Was Born in Slavery: Personal Accounts of Slavery in Texas is a small, unremarkable-looking book, with a black-and-white photograph of a smiling, older black gentleman gracing the cover. Yet the pages of this little, unassuming book are filled with the captivating, often heart-wrenching word-for-word narratives of life in bondage, told by twenty-nine brave individuals to interviewers employed by the government.

September 8, 2020

The Edge of Belonging

Amanda Cox

I’m the type of person who craves quiet—stretches of time where my thoughts have room to roam, whether in creative ventures or just to process the events and emotions of the day. Being a homeschool mom of three elementary-aged kids, finding time where I can follow a stream of thought wherever it leads are…umm… in short supply.

When it came to the idea for my debut novel, The Edge of Belonging I had recently finished writing my first novel. I didn’t have any exciting new ideas begging to be written, so I wondered if I’d reached the end of my “Can I Write A Book” adventure— one little story for my eyes only. I hoped this wasn’t the case. I’d fallen head over heels in love with writing.