Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Character Arc - The Shapers


http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Gandalf
Last time we talked a little about Character Arc in general. Today we’re going to look at the various aspects that shape that character arc. I love chatting about characters because they’re the bedrock of your novel, and one of the aspects that makes for a great story is watching these characters grow, change, and (in HEA books) become better/stronger than they were in the beginning of the book.

I posted a picture of Gandalf the Grey because I absolutely love his character - AND Ian McKellen does a superb job of playing him. 

Again, what is a character arc? Well, it's the growth, or decline, of a character overtime. In most of the novels we read, the character arc is a growth from a lesser developed character to a more developed one. 

I’m focusing my discussion on character growth instead of decline, since most books take this perspective.

Just like "real people", characters are shaped by several different aspects of their environment. We can incorporate one main ‘shaper’ into our novels, or use a variety of them. Here are the primary character ‘shapers’.

1.      Circumstances
Lots of novels use circumstances to shape characters. These can be circumstances from the past (which is a big one) or those happening in the story’s present. For example, in my debut novel, The Thorn Bearer, my heroine struggles with a very deep wound from her past (her father’s abuse), but is also faced with countless circumstances in her present (jilted, Lusitania, war). These circumstances have shaped who she has become and also continue to shape her growth.
 
2.      Other people
Both in the past and present, characters are shaped by those people around them. In A Twist of Faith, my heroine, Dee Roseland, has most of her character arc through her relationships with the people in her present life that contradict the distorted relationships she knew from her past. Circumstances influence her some, but the biggest ‘shapers’ in her character arc are the people in her life.

3.      A character’s own self talk
This may sound weird, but it’s powerfully true – not just for our characters but for ourselves. The voice we hear the most, is the one in our heads. Our own. It has an amazing about of influence on our thought patterns, actions, and growth. That’s why what we tell ourselves has such a lasting impact on us – so filling our minds with Scripture is a mighty weapon against the ‘lies’ that many times sneak into our self-talk. The same thing happens to our characters. What lies are they telling themselves that must be changed in order for them to become who they need to be by the end of the story? In my upcoming novel, Just the Way You Are, my heroine does a whole lot of self-talking, and the reader gets to watch how her insecurity-talk changes as she moves through the story. 

4.     
In fiction from those with the Christian world view, characters are shaped by their faith...which can go along with self-talk, but more than that it’s the Holy Spirit within our characters, guiding and shaping them through all three of the previous ‘shapers’. As in our own lives, God the Spirit has a powerful voice to slice through the lies, the influences, and even the misinterpretation of circumstances, to place our thoughts and hearts into right perspective…and this would be true for our characters too :-)

Remember, shapers are purposefully placed tools in the hands of an author. Usually, they’re not halfhazard designs to add a little pizzazz, but strategically placed plot points to deepen a character’s arc. Just as God “works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose”, as authors, the ‘shapers’ we place in our characters’ lives serve a purpose – a plan.

As a side note: Sometimes the character arcs are very clear for the protagonist, and sometimes the greater character arc happens in different characters than the protagonist, because of the protagonist’s existence. I think Darcy and Lizzie grew a little as characters because of the influence of each other in their lives, right?

So…what are some shapers you’ve noticed in what you’re reading or writing? Do those shapers usually come in the form of people or other things?

Share your thoughts :-)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Finish that Book!

A popular advice columnist on salon.com, Cary Tennis found himself stalled when it came to his literary projects. A glance around showed him he wasn't the only one. Many of his writer friends and colleagues seemed to need the same help in completing their own work. 

As a music critic, Cary had no problem finishing his short work on deadline, yet worked on the same novel fitfully over eighteen years. Co-writer Danielle Morton is a journalist who has written fifteen books as an uncredited ghost writer. Yet she also had a beloved writing project that went unfinished for two years in the background. She could never seem to complete the proposal. 

Within three months both authors were able to complete their projects. Since 2013, Cary has been teaching the FINISHING SCHOOL method. His class meets once a week for two hours. During this time writers "identify tasks related to their overall goal and map out specific times during the week to accomplish those tasks" (xi). They then paired up with partners who they would text as soon as they started to write so they would be accountable to someone for their commitment.

Do you have a project that's been sitting in a drawer that perhaps you need to revisit? Cary and Danelle address six emotional pitfalls that they believe keep most writers from finishing their work. They are: doubt, shame, yearning, fear, judgement, and arrogance. My favorite section was on doubt, so I wanted to share some of my thoughts as I was reading. 

Doubt: 

What writer who has been in process for more than five days hasn't struggled with doubt? Or as Cary calls it "Doubt Masquerading as Self-knowledge." By calling ourselves a terrible writer we are internalizing what cognitive therapists call global labeling or globalizing. He states that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, affecting our moods, feelings and eventually the quality of our work. 

What do I not want to feel?

Rejection can be a struggle in my life most when I am not pressing into who I am in Christ. 

What don't you want to feel? Uncertain whether you will ever be published? Doubt about whether your journey will look the way you expect? Do you struggle with a desire to be understood or appreciated in your writing? Is it the feelings that come up when you are waiting for a response from an editor or agent? The feelings during your writing process itself?

"Real feelings make good writing." (9) Simple but so true. And comforting to think that even those icky feelings I have when I get contest results or a rejection can be used to grow my writing life. Instead of letting doubt short circuit our writing, the authors encourage us to use doubt as a springboard.

He encourages writing about why you feel this doubt. I did this, journaling two specific experiences and found it helpful. (I highly suggest it if you find doubt still plagues you at times). 

Do you ever struggle with I'll never get published thoughts? The authors suggest perspective.

First, anything can happen. This reminds me of a favorite childhood show, where Mr. Rogers told viewers just because we fear something doesn't mean it will happen. When I was a child, I struggled with the thought of losing a parent. By the same token, just because we fear not getting published, doesn't mean that is the end outcome. Surprise successes do happen.

Second, contemplate what if you don't get published? What will you do? How bad will you feel and what will it actually mean?

If you never get published traditionally does that mean your writing life is a failure? He talks about building small successes? Maybe you work at getting published in an anthology first, then in a literary journal...

I think wrestling with some of these questions is a good beginning to finishing that book sitting in your nightstand!


Has doubt been a struggle in your writing life? If so, what has helped?


**Thanks to Penguin for providing a copy of FINISHING SCHOOL for the purpose of a blog post.**


Julia Reffner is a writer, reviewer, blogger, and homeschool mama living in central Virginia.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Friday Five with Melissa Tagg!

Y'all, I am SO excited to be hosting my precious friend Melissa Tagg today! You're going to love this spotlight on her today--she is so fun to hang out with! She's talking swoon-worthy heroes, favorite new fiction, and indie publishing. You don't want to miss a word. Thanks so much for being with us, Melissa! -- Ashley


1) You have an all-expenses paid ticket to go anywhere in the world tomorrow. Where do you choose and why?

I barely even have to think about this one! Lately, I really don’t know why, but I’ve been reading the journal I kept when I studied abroad in London during my junior year of college. It’s fun to read the thoughts of Younger Melissa and even more so to remember the joy and wonder and the sorta self-and-world-discovery that happened during that season of my life. I’ve had the fun of returning a few times, but it’s been a loooong time since my last visit.

So I’d leave for London tomorrow, no holds barred. And then as long as I’m over there, I’d also work in side trips to Ireland and the Continent. J

2) What are you reading lately?

My reading time has been sadly lacking lately, but I have managed to read some fabulous books in the past couple months, including:

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron
A Fine Gentleman by Sarah M. Eden
A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay
The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

I absolutely adored every one of them. Kristy’s for the beautifully-told, enchanting story; Sarah’s for the witty banter and swoony romance; Katherine’s for the gorgeous writing and the personal way it touched me; and Stephanie’s for one of the best writing voices I’ve come across in a long time!

3) Tell is a little bit about your experience indie publishing.

Great question! Having had a foot in both the traditional and indie publishing worlds, I can say very buoyantly that I love and am thankful for both.

For me, indie publishing has meant freedom. It’s given me room to breathe after a few rather frantic and both physically and emotionally taxing years. I have a full-time day job that’s as much a calling for me as writing, so that coupled with deadlines just kicked my tail for awhile there. So now, setting my own deadlines has been a lifesaver. And strangely enough, I’m writing more and faster than I ever have before. Plus, I love getting to have more of a say in my cover art, my release dates, my price points, all of it. In other words, indie publishing is a perfect fit for my lifestyle and personality.

That said, despite my deadline anxiety, I’ve also had such a wonderful experience with traditional publishing! I’ve had the joy of working with some fantastic people. And, in fact, some of those same people—namely, editors—are continuing to work with me on the indie side. 

I’ll tell ya, one of the things I’ve learned in the past year is that readers really don’t care how an author is published. Authors can spend a lot of time handwringing, debating the merits of traditional or indie or hybrid, but to the reader, it’s all about a good story (and a pretty cover and a price they can afford!). There’s a world of readers out there waiting for our stuff, waiting for our powerful stories! And we are blessed to be writing in a time when our options for getting those stories into the hands of readers are more wide open than ever before. It’s really a fabulous time to be a writer!

4) You just released the cover for your upcoming release All This Time (which we are all SO excited about!). Tell us a little about the story.

YAY! I loooove this cover…and I love this story. This is the final book in my Walker Family series and it features Raegan and Bear (*heart flutters!!*) who have shown up multiple past books. My regular readers are familiar with them, but I think they’re probably in for a few surprises as they get to know more about them in this last book. It’s set to release in late August.

To be honest, I have a long way to go on the book so I can’t say a whole lot about the story itself except to say that it’s probably one of the most challenging stories I’ve written just in terms of plot movement and action. The stakes are a little (or a lot) higher this time around and my characters are going to face situations I’ve never delved into before. Plus, even this early on, it’s already deeply personal. I’m very excited about it…and very hopeful that God will help me tell this story exactly how it’s meant to be told.

5) If you could go out with any fictional guy (on the page or screen!) who would you choose?

Oh my word, hands down…Logan in my book, Like Never Before. But I feel like maybe it’s copping out or cheating or something to name someone from one of my own books. I just can’t help it. I will love that character forever.


But just in case it is cheating to name one of my own characters, I will switch it up and say Charlie Lionheart from Joanne Bischof’s The Lady and the Lionheart, which is one of the best books IN THE WORLD. I think Charlie and I would have a pretty hilarious date, considering we’re from different time periods. He’d be all, “What’s an iPhone?” and I’d be all, “Can I please pet your lions?”

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Five with Jennifer Erin Valent!!

Jennifer Erin Valent
Excited to feature Christy-award winning author, Jennifer Erin Valent, on Friday Five. Jennifer and I live in the same hometown, we met a few years ago over coffee and I've really enjoyed getting to know her since. I know you will, too. She has a strong passion for God's word and truth and spreading his message through her fiction.

1) This is probably a bit like asking which child is someone's favorite but do you have a character in one of your books who has taken on a special meaning in your life?
Definitely Miss Cleta! I always say I want to be her some day. She's that amalgamation of tough honesty and empathetic understanding; of boldness and humility; of toughness and affection. One minute she's sitting you down in a rocker on her front porch, feeding you lemonade and pastry; the next minute she's grabbing her shotgun and firing a warning shot. If one of my characters could come to life and I could have a long chat with them, she would be my pick.

(I had a feeling you might say that, judging from reader's responses I think many of your readers would agree...)


2) I always love asking what are writer's writing routines or rituals? Do you write out your stories longhand or on the computer? Do you have a favorite writing spot?

I never write longhand. My brain goes faster than my hands can, and I wouldn't be able to decipher my own handwriting. So usually I'm at my computer, maybe with a coffee at hand and some sort of noise in the background-music or the TV on low. I have to have something to distract the practical part of my brain so the creative part can take over. And I always write at my desk. There are way too many distractions for me to write in, say, a coffee shop. That's not the kind of noise that helps me focus creatively because there are too many different conversations going on and people to watch.

(Definitely can get that...)


3) So, knowing you are a foodie I have to ask the age old question, what would you pick as a last meal?

Duck confit risotto from The Saltbox Cafe in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. That was hands-down one of the most memorable meals I've ever had, and I've been thinking about it since. Top that off with a cup of good coffee and something chocolatey and gooey, and I'm set.

(You have me at chocolate and coffee...)



4) What's your all-time favorite movie? 

That's a tough one. I'm a huge classic film fan, and I have several favorites in every genre. But overall I'd say my absolute favorite, and the one I've probably seen more times than any other, is Arsenic and Old Lace starring Cary Grant. That movie has a little bit of everything in it, despite the fact that it's mainly screwball comedy. But there's some suspense, some romance, and plenty of laughs. I quote that movie all the time. They simply don't make them like they used to!


5) Can you share a bit about your research process and what that looks like for you? Do you have any good tips for others writing historical? 

One of the main things for me is understanding the time period and how people lived. It isn't so much about specific historical events, because I don't tend to write based on major moments in history. My goal is to know what it would be like to live in that time and place so I can pull readers into the setting. It helps that I'm such a classic film fan, and that I've always been interested in the time period when classic Hollywood was in its heyday. By the time I started writing stories set in the depression era, I had a good idea of what styles people wore, what some of the slang was, the appliances that would be available, etc. Those little details matter! I also read non-fiction books about the time periods I'm writing in, filter through photos and articles online, browse through antique stores and E-bay... whatever will get me more familiar with life in those places and times that I write about. If I can accurately depict the everyday life of my characters, then I can draw readers in by showing them the setting instead of telling them about it.

(I can see how your interest in classic films can stir your research process. Details are so important, thanks for sharing how it works for you...)



Be sure to check out Jennifer's website and like her Facebook author page for more updates.

Also, check out Jen's novella, Magnolia Spring


FRIDAY NEWS and LINKY LOVE:

NOVELLA NEWS: This week LOVE AT FIRST LAUGH released. It includes not one but THREE Alley Cat authors: PEPPER BASHAM, KRISTA PHILLIPS, and LAURIE TOMLINSON. Check it out!

LAURIE TOMLINSON: Don't forget you can preorder WITH NO RESERVATIONS due to release in May...

ANGIE DICKEN: Angie's release THE OUTLAW'S SECOND CHANCE is also available for pre-order. We've been following our fellow cats' releases so its super exciting!

PEPPER BASHAM: Pepper also has a book releasing in April, JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. Check it out, lots of exciting Cat news!


Enjoy your weekend, y'all! Is anyone else having wonky early spring weather? Shorts one day, chance of snow the next! Welcome to March in the South, I guess!






Tuesday, March 7, 2017

When Your Scene Stirs A Reader's Heart







How can we write scenes that stirs a reader's heart?

A story that stirs a reader's heart is so much more than a story

It's more than a signature on a contract with a publisher. 
      more than a name of the cover. 
      more than top billing on Newsweek's list or a mention by Oprah.
      more than copies in a prominent place in a bookstore or online. 
      more than recognition at conferences.
      more than a huge fan base.
      more than a royalty check.
      more than the word count met for the day.

It produces an engaged reader. 

One whose life is potentially changed. The reader might be a hurting heart reaching out for a new way to solve a problem, or a discouraged reader who just needed to see that happy endings really exist, or even a stressed mind that longed for a new world if only for an hour.

To write a scene that stirs a heart we must first ask ourselves: what are the primary reasons we write stories?

I've listed some of the desires above that in truth, we as writers really want. But when these truths become the focus, they water down the stories and drive readers away.

This is not our calling.

When we truly write for the Reader whose heart longs to be stirred instead of ourselves we will begin to reap the benefits listed above.

How can we write scenes that stirs a reader's heart?

I recently returned from a drive through the Smokey Mountains. The road ended in Gatlinburg. My focus had been on seeing the sun in nature. When I returned, my friends asked, so how did Gatlinburg look? What damage is still there from the fire in December?

The city proper looked fine. That is what I'd noticed and what I reported. Hardly words from a writer. But I had seen the fire damage in the mountains and hills surrounding the city. Firefighters worked tirelessly to keep flames from destroying the business district. But, during the time, outlying homes burned leaving charred shells. Fallen black timber cluttered the land for acres into the mountains.

I missed an opportunity to show my friends what their hearts wanted to see.

I shall make up for this faux pas with this description of something beautiful out my window to brighten your day:

A male cardinal landed on wood. Sun shone on his feathers creating an explosion of red. This was no ordinary shade of red because deep crimson is different than the saucy strawberry red over vanilla ice cream. He is saucy strawberry.  Behind him, a stand of winter pines mirrored on a lake. The dark colors enhanced his berry reds glowing in the light.

This literally just happened. Do you have the picture in your mind? Quiz me. I put the photo lower in this post.

This is the main point of today's post. As story crafters, our job is not to move the story along, find new ways to keep the words flowing, meet deadlines, or any of a thousand other details we let bog us down. Our job is to show the reader what their heart wants to, longs for, and needs to see.

There are many foundational topics that can help us stir a reader's heart. 

Intellectual passages can stir a reader's heart. Ah, yeah. It's true. I read a fiction story about an African tribal wedding. The ceremony was polar from what we see in America. The writer, who had lived in Africa, took me there. She taught me the rituals and reasons in story format. What an experience to see this in words.

Emotional scenes/passages stir a reader's heart. This comes second nature to us, but here are some things to weed out and thereby enhance our emotional scene:

*After being told a gazillion time, I finally see why cliches are bad bad bad in story writing.

A cliche does not stir a reader. The words did the first time they blackened the page. In fact, the first time the phrase appeared in print it received kudos and ovations. But not the second, third, or any other time. Cliches don't add color, humor, or depth. What actually happens is Reader sees the cliche and is immediately transported AWAY from your story to the last one she read the cliche in. 

She left your story for another! Divorced you. Seriously! Her mind was instantaneously beamed to another venue, far away and she is walking in that setting...not yours.

For example: I love, love these groups of words, which have now become a cliche: "Go ahead, move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me." Isn't that awesome? So clear. It paints a vivid picture. Drips sarcasm. Oh yeah. I laugh each time I--wait for it--visualize the original scene. The longer I think about that scene, the more I think of the rest of the original story. Oh, yeah, baby, my mind is gone from wherever it was supposed to be. This is what happens when a reader sees a cliche in your work. Even in dialogue.

Moral: Writers who use cliches lose readers.

*Instead, create stellar key phrases that transport readers so deep into your story the only way she can get out is to keep reading to the last page...even then, your well written snippets will continue to pinball around in Reader's mind hours and days later. 

These key phrases should be unique. Not original ideas, because those can be really hard to forge. What is needed is new ways of saying a phrase, like the glacial pace one mentioned which is a spin off of "your as slow as a snail." When writing or editing your story look for fresh ways to communicate the words. Yeah, that instruction practically is a cliche. I'm not talking about creating a new language or inventing individual words, although I have done that myself. Simply, create groups of words that keep the reader locked in the scene in every way. Emotionally, intellectually, and if written well--kinesthetically.  



The cardinal photo I mentioned above. How nice of him to pose for me.






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 ********************************************************************************************
Mary Vee -  Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. These activities require lots of traveling, which is also tops on her list. For some crazy reason, the characters in Mary’s young adult mystery/suspense fiction stories don’t always appreciate the dangerous and often scary side of her favorite activities. Unbelievable.

Mary studies marketing and writing skills, and pens missionary and retellings of Bible stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has been a finalist in several writing contests.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter



Mary has a new release. A Virtual Tour of Italy. If you have ever gone to Italy, plan to go, or wish you could, this virtual tour will take you there. Color photos. Videos. And more! Click here to learn more



All subscribers to Mary's newsletter will receive her novella, an intriguing suspense/mystery. Come, read a good story. To get your free gift, sign up for the newsletter at Mary's website  Never Give Up Stories. Join the adventure!

Friday, March 3, 2017

How to Survive the Contest Season/Writing Deadlines Casey Style

**I hereby apologize to everyone having to read this blog today. Blame it on it’s-two-weeks-from-the-end-of-the-Carol-Awards-and-Casey-is-sleep-deprived, ok? If you do, you’ll be my new best friend.**

In case you’re new around here, or just didn’t realize, I’m the ACFW Carol Awards coordinator.

The job is not as glamorous as the title may appear.


It really just involves a lot of begging. And sleep deprivation. And books.

Lots.

And.

Lots.

Of.

Books.

Which is part of the reason I like the job. Because who can have too many books?

Well, this girl actually, during the Carol Awards contest season. ;-)

So what does the Carol Award Coordinator do when she’s the one in charge of the weekly Friday post and forgot until it was too late to interview someone, but remembered in enough time to not be a total slacker?

She comes up with a great and oh-so-witty end of the week post filled with 5 tips for how to keep going during the haze of surviving the end of a contest.

And if you’re not the one in a million people coordinating a contest, I have a feeling these tips are still good for your deadline haze. Because really, what ill is there that can’t be solved with peanut M&M’s?

1: Buy stock in Peanut M&M’s. Keep a bag at your desk. Close at hand for when you need to make a quick last minute grab. Stash them throughout your house so you never have to go far to get a bit of an energy and chocolate jolt. Because, people, chocolate never lies. And it truly, truly makes all things better.

2: Don’t underestimate the power of a good snarky comment. Because, really, who can blame you when you’ve been awake all hours pounding out email after email after email after email after email after email after email after email after email after email after email…

3: Invest in a good therapist. Because truly, the couch time will be the only time you’ll be laying down and away from the computer screen. This might even be the only opportunity you have to close your eyes, because really, who wants to stare at a watch on a chain dangling in front of your face??

4: Set aside all unrealistic expectations you may have for a clean house and empty sink free of dishes. Because really people, dust bunnies canNOT judge you. Your mother in law might, but the bunnies won’t. They would actually like to continue procreating, so why stop their progress? You have my permission.

5: In the midst of the stress, don’t forget to set it all aside. Take a deep breath, close down the laptop and spend some time with a good book. Good family. And your good, good Father. Oh, and how about a little bit of laughter? Because, well, it just wouldn’t do to cry off all your makeup (if you wear makeup).

So there you have it. Casey’s Top 5 Must Do tips for surviving life as a contest coordinator in the final throes of being on deadline. Which also translate well to be on an actual writing deadline.


So share something happy with me! What is one good thing that happened this week for you?? Share in the comments below!

CLICK TO TWEET: 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends {Novella Lessons + Sneak Peek}



Less than a week to go before the Love at First Laugh collection releases, and it's getting real, y'all. I've learned so much in this process, like:
  • Just because a novella is smaller doesn't mean it's easier to write. 
  • When you've spent seven years marketing books full-time as your job and three getting to market your favorite author friends, it's strange and exciting being on the other end of it and promoting your own books.
  • Getting the first positive feedback from someone who isn't your critique partner or family member is an indescribable experience. (I'm not crying. You're crying!)
  • Things rarely ever go as planned in creative projects.
  • It's okay to put your work out there even if you're afraid it's not perfect. Because it will never be perfect.
  • Only in the writing community -- in the inspirational writing community, to be exact -- are other authors not seen as competition, but as co-workers in the holy responsibility to point readers to Christ. 
Can I make a confession right now? As much as it agonized my reformed-people-pleaser-heart, I almost dropped out of the collection. Twice. I know -- so unlike me! But my first draft was rushed and flat and uninspired due to an unexpected death in the family and The Tomlinson Household Quarantine of 2016. I spent the time designated in my detailed, color-coded plan for professional edits on rewriting the entire thing. I didn't want to publish it because I knew that it wouldn't be absolutely perfect.

And then, suddenly, my rewrite plunged from a long, dark tunnel to daylight. My characters had dimension! Chemistry, even, which is kind of important for a romance! I was chatting with my friend Jessica Patch about a scene in which my characters break down on the side of the road and accidentally stumble upon a high school Revolutionary War dance, of all things. As we went back and forth, she illuminated a sequence of events that would be more dynamic in real-time instead of glossed over in the narrative as I'd done. 

Moral of the story: Things don't always turn out the way you plan in story world, but many times, it ends up better -- especially with a little help from your friends. Trusted members of your writing community can help you see your story in a new light and learn valuable information about your characters. (Like maybe your baseball playing hero was also an academic bowl nerd. *Swoon*) And author-friends remind you that God doesn't need a flawless manuscript to whisper messages through your words. 

Here's a tiny snippet from the scene I mentioned above:

---

“Are you a history buff yourself?”

Nick grinned. “I wasn’t captain of the Westmoore High quiz bowl for nothing.”

Shirley clasped her hands. “Oh, you should join us if the truck’s going to be a while.” She bent and started digging through a trunk. “There are also some British sea service pistols and Charleville muskets floating around here.”

“Oh, that’s all right.” Nick searched for an excuse. “Really, we wouldn’t want to—”

Shirley held up a ruffled, pink-gray gown as the door opened, and he looked from the dress to Chelsea. From Chelsea to the dress. With the hint of a smile on her face, she looked so relieved. So unsuspecting.  

“You know what?” He stifled a laugh. “On second thought, I think we can stay for a while.” Chelsea in that dress would make the blown water pump worth its weight in gunpowder and chests of Boston Harbor tea.

She reached them, her smile shifting to confusion at Nick’s face and disappearing completely when she saw the dress. “What’s this?”

“How we’re going to pass the next thirty minutes.”

Shirley handed him a white, curly wig.

“Nick.”

“C’mon, Scotty.” He pulled the wig on.

“Absolutely not.” 

Two minutes later, the smell of mothballs and baby powder assaulted him from the top of his head, and he could barely move his arms in a blue militia jacket. Yet somehow he suspected Chelsea had it worse based on the thumps coming from behind the wall.

“Were you able to reach my dad?”

Nick turned to face the helpful colonial nurse, who was now bookended by friends with grins full of braces. “Yes. Thank you so much.” He gave her the phone and pulled on the hem of his jacket. “You guys are seriously awesome.”

And to top it all off, they’d let him keep his own pants.

“Would you like us to teach you the Cornwallis Country Dance until your lady comes back?”

Her friend on the left snickered. “Or perhaps the Congress Minuet? That will really impress her.”

The sound of wood cracking on wood saved him from answering.

Wow. Nick swallowed hard as Chelsea appeared in the doorway, her yoga tights and tunic replaced with the ruffled gown, which pulled in tightly at the waist, accentuating every curve. Its champagne color set off her milky skin and coppery hair. Her eyes met his, utterly unimpressed, and he smiled. Suddenly that Congress Minuet didn’t sound so bad.

“Well, look at you.” Nick nudged a petal-pink ruffle on her shoulder. “Scotty in a dress.”

“A tiny dress.” She pulled at it, lips parting at the popping noise that resulted. “I definitely don’t have the body of a fifteen-year-old girl.”

For the love of all that is good in this world, thank you, Jesus.




From That's When I Knew, part of the Love at First Laugh inspirational romance collection. Get all 8 novellas (including fabulous new work from Pepper and Krista) for 99 cents on Kindle for a limited time!

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Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God's love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. 

Previously a full-time book publicist, Laurie now serves as a virtual assistant and runs a freelance editing and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She lives with her husband and two small children in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they are eagerly awaiting the release of her debut contemporary romance novel in May 2017 from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter