How is a Book Conceived?

Ever wonder how an author thinks up stories? It can be anything, really, that becomes what I call the story seed. Yesterday you got some sneak peeks into the inspiration for my novella, At Home with Daffodils. Today’s posts gives the rest of the story.

On that warm summer’s day when my husband, two youngest sons, my dad, and I drove through Camp Gruber, stopping to swim in the creek when I swam as a child, I had no idea a story was about to be seeded into my heart.

It happened after we drove on through the camp, coming out the other side to discover the quaint little building I talked about yesterday. Dad suggested we stop for lunch. (Don’t mind my hair in these pictures. Remember, I’d just enjoyed an unplanned dip in Greenleaf Creek.)

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Located on Qualls Road in Parkhill, Oklahoma, Jincy’s Kitchen is housed in what was once the general store for the old Qualls community. (As I mentioned yesterday, the site was used for the filming of the movie, “Where the Red Fern Grows.”) The old building still has the wooden cubed walls that once held merchandise. Now it contains memorabilia—antique dishes and newspaper clippings of folks important to the area.

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We ordered—and enjoyed—our home-cooked meal.

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Debbie Rucker, the proprietor and cook, left her stove to share the store’s history. The store was opened many years before by her grandmother, a single mom. The building was passed down to Debbie, and she opens the restaurant on weekends to keep the spirit of the Qualls community alive for the next generation.

 

I commented on the french fries. I hadn’t had homemade fries like that since my grandmother made them for me many years before. My husband said, “Yes. The fries were just like Grandma Eunice’s weren’t they?”

Debbie whipped toward me, “You’re Aunt Eunice’s granddaughter?” She explained that she had been married to my grandma’s nephew. Then the stories began in earnest. She said my grandparents were well-loved in the Qualls community; everyone had a story of a time Grandpa or Grandma helped them out. Then Debbie began to tell her special story. It was about her daddy and my grandpa. How I treasure this story!

You’ll read a similar version in chapter one of At Home with Daffodils. I won’t spoil it for you by sharing it here, but I find great joy in honoring my grandpa by creating a fictionalized account of the event.

I dedicated this novella to my grandpa. Maybe you’ll enjoy reading the dedication:

For Grandpa Curtis

Whose grave lies just outside Camp Gruber

Near the old general store at Qualls

You were the master storyteller

No doubt the hours I spent mesmerized by your stories

Influenced my decision to become a writer

I look forward to sitting on a front porch swing

(if they have them in heaven)

With you and Jesus

No doubt He’ll chuckle as Grandma whispers,

“I wouldn’t tell that one if I was you!”

Until next time,

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PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. The contest ended on January 31st, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!

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Just Where is Rock City

Just where is Rock City anyway? Today’s behind the scenes post is about the setting of my latest release.

Rock City, the fictional setting for At Home with Daffodils, my story in A Bouquet of Brides, is a made up town, but in my mind’s eye I saw the rolling hills around Parkhill, Oklahoma as I wrote. These are the same hills I roamed as a girl. I specifically picture the old general store in Qualls, Oklahoma, the same store used in the movie, Where the Red Fern Grows.

I couldn’t resist naming some of my characters and landmarks with the names of real people and places from the area. (For example the old store in the picture below is near Camp Gruber. Recognize the name? My hero, Jace Gruber, came by it honestly.) I hope my friends and family back home will enjoy those nods to the actual location and real people I knew as they read.

This picture shows my two youngest sons, Stephen and Sam, standing with yours truly in front of the country store, now a weekend restaurant called Jincy’s Kitchen.

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The picture below was taken during a drive through Camp Gruber. The boys couldn’t resist a quick dip in the simmin’ hole of my childhood, at “the slab.”

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I watched them for a while then the little girl in me couldn’t resist the opportunity to revisit one of my favorite childhood memories.

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I grabbed my suit and jumped in. I even tried the rope swing off the side of the bluff. When I surfaced, I yelled, “It wasn’t pretty, but it was safe!” (I let go much sooner than intended. It’s been a few years!)

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When I was invited to dream up a story with the heroine named after a flower, an idea immediately surfaced (more tomorrow on that) that would be set in the hills of my childhood. And if I was writing about that area, the flower had to be a daffodil. Thus Daffodil “Dilly” Grace Douglas was conceived in my mind.

Down the road from the farmhouse where I lived in northeastern Oklahoma was an old home place. You couldn’t see the building anymore, but you could see a field of daffodils (we called them jonquils) that someone planted years before. The picture below wasn’t actually taken there, but is similar to what I remember.

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Every spring each year I eagerly awaited their arrival, as I did the tiny spring bluets and Virginia spring beauties that also grew in the area. After I moved to Colorado, my grandmother sent me the tiny flowers in February. She wrapped them in a damp paper towel, covered with plastic. She also sent jonquil bulbs, and so I have cheery yellow faces transplanted from Oklahoma that bloom every spring in my yard.

I hope you’ll enjoy At Home with Daffodils, set in the rolling hills of my childhood. The country is beautiful, the culture engaging, and the generous people are salt-of-the-earth. The best thing I received from those years living in the hills of northeastern Oklahoma is a relationship with Jesus. He is indeed the one who removes our shame and finishes the good work He begins in us—no matter how flawed we believe ourselves or our pasts to be.

Blessings,

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PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. Enter the drawing by signing-up for my newsletter or leaving a comment on my blog during the month of January (USA readers only). Each comment on a new post means another chance to win! (If you’re new to me, check out my website, where I have free resources and information about the Free to Flourish writing and speaking ministry.) The contest ends TODAY, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!

The Villain!

royalty free 4When the authors included in A Bouquet of Brides discussed plans for our blog tour, we debated including a set of blogs on the villain. After all, in sweet romance with a short word count, there isn’t always a clear villain like there would be in a suspense story. But the idea won approval, and here I sit.

It’s a good thing. Pondering who the villain in At Home with Daffodils is. It would be easy to pin the title on a character who shows up mid-story, interrupts the romance, and takes advantage of one of the main characters. (I hope that’s vague enough not to spoil the storyline for readers.)

But is that character really the villain? He’s self-centered, messed-up, and causes a lot of problems.

Merriam-Webster defines villain this way:

1: a character in a story or play who opposes the hero

2: a deliberate scoundrel or criminal

3: one blamed for a particular evil or difficulty

It’s that third definition that gets me.

By that definition I’ve been the villain in someone else’s story. Haven’t you?

And that’s why I’ll stop short of calling this character the villain of At Home with Daffodils. Of course there are messed-up people in this world who hurt us. Yes, some of them are deliberately evil, and yes, justice needs to be served.

But here’s the thing. I think the most dangerous villain my characters faced was themselves, at least if you look at the first definition—a character . . . who opposes the hero. By that definition the most dangerous villain I know in real life is me. When it comes right down to it, I’m the only person who can guarantee my own demise. When I believe lies about who I am and how God sees me, then I live from a place of opposition to my own forward progress, my own happy ending.

You can learn more by reading my story, At Home with Daffodils. Watch and see if my characters aren’t a lot like you and me, often held back by things they believe about themselves and God that simply aren’t true.

I hope you enjoy A Bouquet of Brides, where you meet seven American women who were named for various flowers but struggle to bloom where God planted them. Watch how love helps them grow to their full potential!

Blessings,

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PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. Enter the drawing by signing-up for my newsletter or leaving a comment on my blog during the month of January (USA readers only). Each comment on a new post means another chance to win! (If you’re new to me, check out my website, where I have free resources and information about the Free to Flourish writing and speaking ministry.) The contest ends on the 31st, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!

Falling in Love Again (or A Hero and a Heroine)

daffodils (1)I fell in love again.

I mean that in the best sense. I really only have two true loves, Jesus and my hubby, Jerry, but I guess when you’re a romance writer, a little piece of you has to fall in love every time. This time it was with Jace Gruber.

Jace Gruber, the hero of At Home with Daffodils, is back in Rock City, but the adolescent voice is now deep and full of authority, and his broad shoulders and protective stance make him a handsome—and imposing—figure.

For years Jace ignored his own dreams, running from the reputation put upon the family by his absent, drunken father. He kept his head down, provided for his mom and sister, and tried to live out the legacy of the words his childhood sweetheart spoke over him.  Now that his mother is gone and his sister is married, he braves the censure of Rock City, the small town where he lived when his father began drinking. He’d be better off to go somewhere where nobody knew him, and he could start fresh, but he’ll never be able to move on until he knows if Dilly is still waiting for him.

If she is, will Jace ever be truly at home with daffodils?

daffodils-2162825_960_720Intelligent brown eyes and a smattering of freckles decorate the countenance of Daffodil “Dilly” Grace Douglas, the heroine of At Home with Daffodils, my story in the Bouquet of Brides collection.

I imagine Dilly, dressed in a long black skirt and plain white “shirtwaist,” making change for customers as she runs her mother’s general store in the rolling hills of northeastern Oklahoma, just a few years after statehood. The family store in Rock City also houses the first official post office in the area, so Dilly often serves as the acting postmistress.

When the story opens, Dilly Douglas has finally outgrown her hated nickname, Silly-Dilly. She keeps the books and manages purchasing at her mama’s general store, ever vigilant to prove to the small town of Rock Creek that she is a trustworthy, capable woman. Her mother believes she’s an early bloomer, like her namesake flower that opens to the sun early in spring. She says that from a young age Dilly has been dependable and trustworthy, but Dilly struggles to believe her mother’s words. She still hears the childhood chant ringing in her ears, “Silly Dilly . . . Silly Dilly . . . Silly Dilly . . . ” and often holds back her innate exuberance and joy in her efforts to prove her steadiness.

What happens to help Dilly blossom into the fullness of all she is? Of course it will have something to do with the reappearance of her childhood sweetheart, Jace Gruber, but I won’t spoil the story by telling you about that now.

Today through Friday we are going behind the scenes with At Home with Daffodils. Join me tomorrow as I introduce the villain! Throughout the week we’ll also talk about where my inspiration for the story came from (it’s a very cool, personal God-moment!), what I had in mind when I created the fictional community of Rock City, and what northeastern Oklahoma (also Indian Territory right before statehood) was like in the mid-1800s through statehood. There is a rich history in the land of my childhood that I can’t wait to share with you. You history buff won’t want to miss Friday and that is also when I’ll announce the winner of the drawing!

51OhyGLrtxLBlessing,
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PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here at all this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. Enter the drawing by following this blog, signing-up for my newsletter, or leaving a comment here on blog posts during the month of January (USA readers only). Each comment on a new post means another chance to win! (If you’re new to me, check out my website, where I have free resources and information about the Free to Flourish writing and speaking ministry.) The contest ends on the 31st, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!

PPS Toni Shiloh interviews me today on her blog. If you haven’t checked it out before, I highly recommend that you do, especially if you enjoy inspirational fiction. Everything Toni does is lovely and professional, and on Friday she shares a list of books that are on sale or free. You’ll love Toni’s blog!

In Sheep’s Clothing – the Takeaway Value

Today’s post comes from Pegg Thomas, the author of In Sheep’s Clothing, included in A Bouquet of Brides. It is the last in the series featuring the takeaway values in the novellas of my fellow authors. Join us every day next week for details about my story, At Home with Daffodils! I’ll start by talking about my handsome hero. I just love Jake!

And now–here’s Pegg!

One of the things I love about Christian fiction is the solid moral underpinnings. There is always a takeaway value of some sort within the stories that uplifts and inspires the reader. As I’m writing the story, I have no idea what the takeaway will be. Even though I’m a dyed-in-the-wool plotter as I write, I never try to force a moral conclusion to my stories. Instead, I watch and wait and see what comes out naturally.

My story in the collection, In Sheep’s Clothing, came down to trust. Yarrow Fenn, my heroine, struggles with trusting people for a very good reason … which I will not divulge here. My hero, Peter Maltby, has his own issues with trust. Even Meadowsweet, the cute little orphan lamb who tries to steal the spotlight, has to learn to trust. How all three overcome their hurdles is something you’ll have to read the book to find out.

To celebrate the release of A Bouquet of Brides collection and my story, In Sheep’s Clothing, I’m giving away one of my signature shawls. To enter, subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll be drawing for The Meadowsweet Shawl at the end of January.

Meadowsweet Shawl curled fronts

 

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Pegg Thomas lives on a hobby farm in Northern Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. A life-long history geek, she writes “History with a Touch of Humor.” When not working or writing, Pegg can be found in her barn, her garden, her kitchen, or sitting at her spinning wheel creating yarn to turn into her signature wool shawls.

Paula here:

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know my fellow authors and their stories as much as I have. Pop in each day next week to learn more about my story and leave a comment for a chance to win the book.

On Friday, I’ll announce who won January’s drawing for A Bouquet of Brides. Looking forward to interacting with each of you. Remember, the drawing ends on the the 31st and each comment on the blog means another chance to win! (So does following this blog or signing up for my newsletter!)

Blessings,

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Takeaway from A Prickly Affair

Today’s post is from Donna Schlachter, the author of A Prickly Affair, included in A Bouquet of Brides.

51OhyGLrtxLWhen I decided on the takeaway value for my Bouquet of Brides story, “A Prickly Affair”, I wanted the message to be buried beneath the romance story. I write stories of second—and third—and fourth chances from a God who is bigger than our mistakes, so that message is in this story. I also wanted to have a character demonstrate the agape love of God, which I managed to include.

To celebrate the release of A Bouquet of Brides collection and my story, A Prickly Affair, I’m giving away a free print copy (US only) of the book. To enter, subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll be drawing for the book at the end of January. If you’re already subscribed, follow my blog . And if you’ve already done both of those, feel free to follow me on Twitter or Facebook (see the links below)

Schlachter DSCF1330_DonnaDonna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid author who has published a number of books under her pen name and under her own name. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Sisters In Crime; facilitates a local critique group, and teaches writing classes and courses. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.

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www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DonnaschlachterAuthor

Twitter: www.Twitter.com/DonnaSchlachter

Books: Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ci5Xqq and Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2gZATjm

Paula here: Remember that I’m giving a way a copy of A Bouquet of Brides here on this blog! There are three ways to have your name put in the hat. 1) sign up to follow me here! 2) Sign up for my newsletter 3) Comment on this blog. Each comment is another chance to win!

A Song for Rose’s Takeaway

Today’s post comes from Suzanne Norquist, the author of A Song for Rose, included in A Bouquet of Brides.

Hi everyone.  I’m Suzanne Norquist, author of A Song for Rose in the Bouquet of Brides collection.  If you haven’t heard of me, it is because I’m a new author.  I’m honored to be in a collection with so many talented multi-published authors.

In my opinion, the goal of any novella in a collection is to take the reader on a mini-vacation. I want the reader to live in the historical setting for a little while and enjoy the journey with the characters.  I try to keep the tone of my stories light with fun characters, because . . . I like reading light, fun stories.

If I focus too much on takeaway value and theme, the story becomes preachy and boring.  Again, my opinion.

That said, every story has conflict and a takeaway value can hide in the resolution of that conflict.  The character may learn a lesson or be reminded of a truth.  I like that inspirational fiction can carry both a fun story and truth.

In my story, Rose Miller feels overlooked in her large family and can’t imagine God, who has the whole world to manage, cares about the details of her life.  The reader may take some value in walking with her through this journey. I won’t say too much here.  Don’t want to give away the ending.

The hero, Patrick O’Donnell, has his own issues.  If he can’t earn his father’s approval, how is he supposed to earn the approval of an all-powerful God?

Walk with Rose and Patrick through their story in A Song for Rose in a Bouquet of Brides Collection.

22687986_145284136090242_4805319986973616734_nSuzanne Norquist explores past and present through story.

Everything fascinates her, so she never settled on a career. She has worked as a sales clerk, chemist, professor, financial analyst, and even earned a doctorate in economics. As an author, she experiences different worlds without starting a new career every time. Research feeds her curiosity, and she shares the adventure with her readers.

She lives in Colorado with her mining engineer husband and has two grown children. When not writing, she explores the mountains, hikes, and attends kickboxing class.

She authors a blog entitled, Ponderings of a BBQ P.h.D. Sign up to receive her blog and receive a free five-day devotion.

Learn more at suzannenorquist.com.

Or visit her Facebook Page.

Paula here. I hope you’re enjoying learning more about my co-authors and their stories! If you’d like to learn more about the heroine of my story, you’ll enjoy visiting Kathy Kovach’s blog today, where I guest-blog about Daffodil “Dilly” Grace Douglas.