Monday, August 30, 2010


Okay. What I'm about to write is not to toot my own horn. It is meant to illustrate the title of this blog post. So bear with me.

Sitting outside on my mother's porch one afternoon, she told me some of the comments she has gotten from her friends that are reading 'Surrender the Wind'. She said, "Inga said she is in love with Seth, and so worried about him and Juleah, that she can't put the book down. Annette said the same thing. She loves Seth too, and is worried about Juleah." She then let out a little giggle. "I know what they mean. I fell in love with him too, and I worried so much about what was going to happen to him in Juleah that I couldn't stop reading."

I replied, "Thanks, mom. That's what I needed to hear."

Why? you ask. Because it should be the goal of every writer to cause the reader to be worried, concerned, and attached to your characters, especially to your hero and heroine. They want to feel these emotions. I know I do when I start a novel. And if I do not, I usually do not finish the book. I must be captured by emotion. I must be drawn in so closely to the problems, the fears, the danger that the characters are in to keep me glued to the pages. I must be worried about the heroine and hero. I must be concerned about what is going to happen next to them.

To sum it up:

Strive to bring the reader to the place where they feel the emotions of your characters. Do this by action. The sweat on your hero's brow, trickling down his neck. The tension your heroine feels as she watches danger approach.

Keep in mind that for most people emotions, such as empathy, are deeply felt and deeply hidden. Do not be afraid as a writer to keep it this way --- in check and in control. If your hero keeps his passion in control, let's say his desire to strike out due to mounting emotions, wait for the right time and the right place to let loose, then you will avoid melodrama.

The greatest way to tap into your readers' empathy is by exposing your characters deep-seated emotions. While writing about the suffering your heroine is going through, perhaps she suffers privately, when she is alone, without others noticing. Something might trigger her hidden pain, either through scene or dialogue, and suddenly she opens up. Or the whole dam breaks.

In the novel I am currently writing, Before the Scarlet Dawn, my heroine, Eliza, longs to be loved for who and what she is on the inside, not for her outward beauty. I take her on a whirlwind of experiences that lead up to a day when she is broken and gives in, surrenders to that longing. At the end of the chapter, when 'he drew her inside and shut the door' the reader is left with the question 'what happened behind that closed door?'. This ending builds worry in the reader. Moving forward it unravels, and when Eliza is faced with the deepest of rejections, her life takes a drastic turn leading to . . . well, you'll have to read the book when it is released in early 2012.

In what way are you building empathy in your work in progress, or in a novel you have written?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An Old Book is a Treasure

Last night I watched 'The Scarlet Letter'. This movie brought me to tears.
On my bookshelf I have an old copy of this novel. It is one in a collection of several editions of famous writers works passed down to my husband from his grandfather's collection of books. It is a hardcover, with a blue jeweled binding. The pages are yellowed. And there is a scent that only old books can have...that musty smell of dust, age, old paper and ink.

There is so much buzz about digital books these days. I think they have their place, but to me they will never replace something I can hold in my hands. Hardcovers are special to me, and I tend to hold on to them longest. I wish publishers would return to the hardcover in trade paperback size, you know the kind your parents and grandparents read.

On my self I have books that belonged to my grandparents, my husband's grandfather, and four novels that my father owned as a boy.
Treasure Island
Battle for the Union
The Washington Boys
Tom Sawyer

These volumes will be passed down to my sons, and hopefully their children. I don't think I can do that with a digital book. I can pass down my print copies of the books I write. But who knows what the future holds? Maybe there will be a way were digital books will be archived. Still they will not be able to replace the original, material, the tangible.

What is your opinion about digital books, old books, print books? Do you have any treasures passed down to you sitting on your bookshelf?

(Image of books by John C. Hulse)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Intensive Writers Workshop

What I am about to present to you is an incredible opportunity for any writer, at any level, both unpublished and published. I wish I had had this chance years ago when I put out my first three manuscripts for publication. How many acquisitions editors of a major publishing house do you know that will spend the entire day with a group of writers in an intense writers workshop? Barbara Scott, acquisitions fiction editor at Abingdon Press is the only one I know of that has stepped out of a cubical to share her invaluable skills.

Here is a re-post of Barbara's post, from her blog 'The Roving Editor', about why you should attend this workshop.

A sign used to hang in my mother-in-law Betty's kitchen that read, "Life is short. Eat dessert first." The older I grow, the more I understand this axiom. Rather than worrying about things that might never happen and wasting our lives cleaning the refrigerator more than once a year, we should spend more of our time living our lives for God.

Has God called you to be a writer? What are you doing about it? Do you attend a conference once a year, get fired up, and then put writing at the bottom of your "to do" list when you arrive back home? If writing is God's calling, shouldn't it be near the top of your list of priorities? To help you in your quest, here are my top 5 reasons to attend a day-long writing intensive workshop with me:

1) You deserve to spend time working on your craft with people who share your passion and can help you grow as a writer.

2) As an editor, I can rend the veil between writing as a hobby and succeeding in the Christian publishing business. It's a chance to ask me every question that's ever plagued you about how to break in.

3) We'll spend time working on your individual project so that you have a solid writing plan when you leave.

4) I'll teach you what kills an editor's interest in the first paragraph of your sample chapters, and how to write a proposal that sparks my interest.

5) I'll help you discover your unique voice, refresh your knowledge of the basics of fiction writing, teach you how to self-edit your work, and hopefully, make writing fun again for you.

Doesn't this sound great? The cost for the all-day workshop is only $159. If you are interested in hosting a workshop, or you are looking for one in your area, contact Barbara at

Barbara's blog is full of insightful information about publishing.

I am planning to hold one in May in central Maryland. If you are in the area and are interested in attending, let me know.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Writers Write Day

Writers Write Day ~ Wednesday, August 11

Writers, there is a tug-o-war going on for your attention. It mostly comes in the guise of the Internet. Next Wednesday, August 11 is Writers Write Day. The goal of this all day event is to immerse writers in their manuscripts without the distractions of blogs, Facebook, social networking sites, news sources, etc.. Let's admit it, they do pull us away, and sometimes hours go by and we have lost valuable writing time.

Here is what to do.

1. Put a 'do not disturb' sign on your door.
2. Write for at least three hours in the morning. If you start at 9am that will bring you up to the noon hour.
3. Take a lunch break.
4. Write for four hours in the afternoon.
5. That evening post on your blog, Facebook, etc. how it went. How much work did you get done?

Here is what you CANNOT do.

1. Do not peruse the Internet. That includes Facebook and other social networking sites.
2. Do not make phone calls unless absolutely necessary, and make them during your break.
3. No text messaging.
4. No television or radio, but by all means listen to inspirational music that helps the creative juices flow.

Let your family and friends know that you will be going into a day of seclusion to work on your manuscript. Hope you have an incredible time writing.

Note: If you work and can't write most of the day, then try to schedule an evening of writing with no distractions from the Internet, Facebook, emails, etc.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

1 Year Anniversary

It's been one year since the official release of Surrender the Wind.

Cokesbury's online bookstore has a fantastic deal going on. They've discounted the cover price by 71%!

It's true. Readers can purchase copies for only $4.00.

What could you do with a copy besides read it yourself, if you already haven't?

1. Buy a copy for a friend, your mom, mother in law, sister, etc. etc.

2. Stock up early for Christmas gifts.

3. Buy a few copies for your church library.

( My mother Rose and her copy.)

Recently a reader in the UK sent me this message.

Hello Rita, just finished reading your book Surrender the Wind , what can I say it was absolutely amazing the best book I've read for a long long time , intrigue suspense, passion love. I've never ridden so fast on a horse as i did with Seth. God certainly gave you a gift keep using it. From Deborah (England)

I want to send my thanks to everyone that has read 'Surrender the Wind', to those who were gracious to host me on their blogs, and those that wrote reviews. It's been a great year!
Watch for the new series due out early in 2012...Daughters of the Potomac.

Book 1 Before the Scarlet Dawn
Book 2 Beside Two Rivers
Book 3 Beyond the Valley

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