Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Calling on the Info Crew

God is in the details, or so the saying goes, and never is that more true than when writing a novel. Not even a great plot and wonderful characters can make up for shoddy research, which is why diligent writers must always go the extra mile to get things right.

One of the details I always try to pay attention to is the type of cars my characters drive. It may sound silly given that these people—shhh, don’t let them hear me say this—aren’t real. But it is a fact that most of us choose vehicles that reflect not just our needs and economic status but also our personalities and our values.  The right car in a novel can convey all sorts of information about a character, while the wrong one can give off a totally inaccurate impression. 

You probably know what I mean. The sort of person who owns a Jeep Wrangler will be quite different from the one who owns a Volvo station wagon or the one who owns a Porsche 911. Most people buy cars that reflect who they are—or at least who they wish they were—whether that’s an adventurer, a safety-conscious parent, a successful executive, or something else.


Cars in My Daughter’s Legacy

Cars come up several times in My Daughter's Legacy, including in this exchange between the protagonist, Nicole, and her sister, Maddee, as they greet each other with a hug when Nicole gets home from college for the summer.


“Where’d this come from?” Maddee asked as we pulled apart, eying my new vehicle.
“One guess.” Suddenly I felt embarrassed that I’d been the beneficiary of such generosity. But before I could say anything else, my sister flashed a knowing grin. “Ah, yes. The Nana graduation car.”
My embarrassment turned to relief. “You got one too?”
“Oh yeah. And Renee and Danielle when they graduated. Looks like yours came early, probably because she’s so proud of how well you’ve been doing.”
I shrugged, but on the inside I was beaming. “I always wondered why you drove a Mustang.”
Maddee laughed. “I know, right? She tries to choose something appropriate, and I guess because I’m so into fashion she thought I’d want something sleek and sporty, but that car wasn’t me at all. I was so happy when I finally got to trade it in for the Prius, which is so much more—”
“Boring?”
She raised an eyebrow. “I was going to say sensible.”







It’s not an important scene in the overall scheme of things, but it comes along early in the book and helps to establish these characters—both how they see themselves and how others see them.  Of course, before I could write the scene, I had to know what car best fit Maddee’s personality. And that meant calling on a member of my “info crew.”


Help Wanted

What’s an info crew? That’s my term for the people behind the scenes who help me out with my writing whenever I have a book question that requires some particular area of expertise. At any given time, my group might include a fashionista (for my more fashion-conscious characters’ clothing), an antiques expert (for the furniture in my wealthier characters’ homes), a cop (for procedural accuracy), a equine expert (for horse-related questions), and so on. Were you to read through the acknowledgements in my various books, you’d see certain names pop up repeatedly. That probably means they’re in my info crew and somehow came to my aid during the writing of that book.

In this particular case, I called on my brother-in-law, David Clark, who happens to be my expert in all things automotive.  Here’s a screen shot of our exchange about this particular scene:



As you can see, it takes a certain type of person to be in an info crew. They have to be available/interruptible without warning, they have to be able to play “what if” with your story, and they have to be kind and patient enough to answer all manner of questions without making you feel stupid. I’m lucky to have David in my life for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with my writing. But I’m also deeply grateful for his invaluable ability to help choose the cars for my casts of characters. 

If God is in the details, then surely He blesses those who help us writers get our details right!

******

If one of your favorite literary character’s stories was taking place in 2017, what car would best suit their personality?  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Kneeling Rail That Tells a Story




There’s much to love inside the Manakin Episcopal Church in Powhatan, Virginia, from the stately organ pipes in the back of the sanctuary to the beautiful stained glass window up front. But my favorite feature, by far, is the kneeling rail at the altar. That’s because it’s upholstered with a wonderful tapestry mural that depicts the history of the church.

Though the current building was erected in 1954, the congregation was founded in 1701 by Huguenots who came to America in search of religious freedom. The tapestry that lines the kneeling benches tells their story in pictures.  When Leslie Gould and I were in Virginia researching our Cousins of the Dove series, we happened upon this little gem by accident—and we were both thoroughly enchanted.

In a way, the mural could depict the stories in our own series as well, starting with My Sister's Prayer as Berta and Celeste Talbot sail to the New World…



…and face the challenge of starting over in the Colony of Virginia along the James River.



They and their brother Emmanuel, who later follows, would have worshipped in the octagonal log structure shown in the next panel. It features the Manakintown congregation’s first church, built in 1701.


Though I’m playing with history here, I like to imagine that the following panel brings us to the next book in the series, My Daughter's Legacy. To my mind, it could easily depict the home of Talbot descendants in the Civil War era, working side by side out in the fields themselves because they refused to own slaves.



The final panel, which shows the church as it is today, brings us to the modern part of the story, where four young Talbot descendants work together to solve a mystery that traces back to their childhood.  Every time Maddee and Nicole go to church with their beloved Nana, this is where they’re going. J



See the small structure to the far right? Here's a photo of Leslie and me standing inside that very structure on the grounds of the church:


         

My apologies to the creators of the tapestry, who had no idea that their artwork would end up correlating with a modern-day series of novels. But when reality becomes art becomes fiction, that's when the imagination soars!

You can learn more about the church at their website, which is where I found this lovely quote: 

While only a few of the original families are still represented on the church rolls, the strong sense of a community sharing its faith in God and its love for one another is as much a part of Manakin Church today as it was when it was founded over 300 years ago. A unique blend of past and present, the church looks forward to the future with the same strength and conviction its Huguenot founders displayed.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Christian Fiction Releases for June 2017

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Engaged by Julie Arduini -- Trish Maxwell returns to Speculator Falls with egg on her face and apologies to make as she tries to determine what's next, especially when around paramedic Wayne Peterson. (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media)

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter -- When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down. But when Josephine drives out to Noah's North Georgia cottage to deliver the corrected papers, they are trapped there during a snowstorm. Things couldn't get worse…until they are forced out into the storm and must rely on one another to survive. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Zondervan])

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac -- Would you give up everything for a life you hate with the person you love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

An Encore for Estelle (Melodies of Love) (Volume 2) by Kimberly Rose Johnson -- A former A-list actress seeks to redeem herself in the most unlikely of places—a children's theater. The writer/director didn't anticipate a famous actress would ever show interest in his musical much less him. Will their pasts pull them apart or join them together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Cowboy's Baby Blessing by Deb Kastner -- When Ex-soldier Seth Howell suddenly becomes guardian of a two-year-old, he needs Rachel Perez's help. Though she is gun-shy about relationships, this handsome cowboy and his adorable son break through. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Finding Love by Toni Shiloh -- Delaney Jones is putting her life back together after widowhood when in walks Army soldier, Luke Robinson. Luke had a part in the death of Delaney's husband--will his secrets widen the gulf in their relationship or will he finally find absolution? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)


Cozy Mystery:

The Copper Box by Suzanne Bratcher -- When antiques expert Marty Greenlaw comes to Jerome, Arizona to search for a copper box she believes will unlock the secrets of her past, deadly accidents begin to happen: someone else wants the copper box, someone willing to kill for it. (Cozy Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)





General Contemporary:

Coming Home ~ A Tiny House Collection by Yvonne Anderson, Michael Ehret, Kimberli S. McKay, Pamela S. Meyers, Ane Mulligan, Chandra Lynn Smith, Linda W. Yezak -- Tiny houses are all the rage these days, but what can you do with something so small? Here are seven stories about people chasing their dreams, making fresh starts, finding love, stumbling upon forgiveness, and embarking upon new adventures in tiny houses. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)

Katie's Quest by Lee Carver -- Katie Dennis hopes for fulfillment as a single missionary nurse after the death of her fiancé. She trusts God for a new direction, but she'll never fall for a pilot again. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)


Historical Romance:

A Sweetwater River Romance by Misty M. Beller -- Rocky Ridge Stage Stop Manager Ezra Reid is put in a difficult situation when two ladies show up on his remote doorstep seeking refuge, one of them being Tori Boyd, the mysterious correspondence partner writing him letters for over a year now. Tori refuses the most proper solution to their circumstance—marriage. But when danger follows, it will take a lot more than luck to ensure Ezra's heart is the sole casualty. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin -- In German-occupied Brussels, a WWI nurse struggles to keep two life-threatening secrets. She's in league with the British Secret Service, and she's harboring a wounded British pilot. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands Romance Collection by Susan Page Davis, Susanne Dietze, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Gina Welborn -- Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas', finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn't return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Captain's Daughter by Jennifer Delamere -- When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater that is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage. A hand injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he's glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can't wait to leave behind. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)


Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson -- Set in WWII, an Irish woman must choose between her heart and her freedom when she finds a downed combatant pilot. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press)


Mail Order Sweetheart by Christine Johnson -- Singer Fiona O'Keefe must make a wealthy match to support her orphaned niece. Musically talented Sawyer Evans is a self-made, but not wealthy, sawmill-manager. Unwilling to live off his father's railroad fortune, can Sawyer prove to Fiona he's the man she needs when she's already determined to mail-order a rich husband? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Freedom's Price by Christine Johnson -- On a quest to find her mother's family in Louisiana, Englishwoman Catherine Haynes enlists a dashing Key West man seeking revenge for his own family. When an incredible secret comes to light, she and Tom will face a choice. Can they relinquish their dreams to step forward in faith? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

Sutter's Landing by Betty Thomason Owens -- Still reeling from tragic losses, Connie and Annabelle Cross face life with their signature humor and grace, until fresh hope arrives on their doorstep. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)



Romantic Suspense:

Hidden Legacy by Lynn Huggins Blackburn -- When someone threatens the baby she's adopting, Caroline Harrison must rely on Detective Jason Drake, the man who once broke her heart, to figure out why. If Jason wants a chance at a future with with Caroline and her son, he'll first have to help them outrun a hit man. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Weaver's Needle by Robin Caroll -- Pitted against each other to recover a map to the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, two recovery specialists follow the trail to Arizona. But someone doesn't want them to find the map. . .or the mine. They must work together despite their mistrust and growing attraction, to save themselves. (Romantic Suspense from Barbour Publishing)


Speculative:

The Revisionary by Kristen Hogrefe -- Revisionary or Rogue? To rescue her brother, Portia might have to break every rule in the book she set out to rewrite. (Speculative from Write Integrity Press)






Women's Contemporary:

Redemption's Whisper by Kathleen Friesen -- Desperate to escape her past, a suicidal young woman flies from Toronto to a Saskatoon pastor's home, the only people who may be able to help her. If only someone could love her, in spite of all she's done. On the flight, she meets a young man torn between seeking affirmation in the big city and helping his parents in Saskatoon. Can these two troubled souls gain the peace they need—and in the process, find love? (Women's Contemporary from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])


Young Adult:

All Things Now Living by Rondi Bauer Olson -- Her whole life Amy has been taught the people of New Lithisle deserve to die, but when she falls for Daniel, she determines to save him. (Young Adult from Written World Communications)