Posted in About the Book

The Making of a Book Cover: Part 3: Finalizing the Cover and Runner-up Gallery

7Over the last two weeks, I broke down the process of a single book cover and shared some special moments behind my photoshoots. Today, I want to fill you in on what happens after the photoshoot.

The first step is to view the pictures. I’ve taken anywhere from 161 pictures to over 300 in a single photoshoot. After thumbing through them all, I sort through them again but this time I pull out anything that jumps out at me.
Then I sort through those pictures and try to narrow them down to one favorite pic per pose. If I can’t choose only one, I don’t stress it yet.
Taking the thinner selection, I thumb through them again and force myself to weed them down.

The Polls are Open: Now that I have a smaller selection, I share these with other people. I’ve shared them openly here on the blog in the past, but have recently moved the voting process to my Street Team as an added perk for them. I ask for their top 3 favorites and the reason why they chose them. It’s always interesting to hear why certain pictures draw people to them. I’ve received some very insightful answers over the years and it always helps me narrow down my search.
From there, I take the top picks and add the cover art to them. I typically have a personal favorite that didn’t get much love during the voting process and I always pass it through this round. It’s been surprising in the past to see what happens. Sometimes the overlooked one makes a great comeback and sometimes it continues to get ignored.
With the cover art (title, name, and series logo) in place, I ask them to vote for their favorite and to tell me why.
I take into consideration which pictures are more popular with the crowd, the reasons why certain pictures are drawing them in, or why some pictures are turning people away, and then which picture speaks the most to me.

Choosing the Winning Picture: I enlarge the photos and stare at them for hours. Lol No, I’m serious!! There’s a constant war of “This one? or That one?” going on in my brain. I keep flipping through them. Often times, I pull aside a close friend and make her thumb through them with me. Together, we pick apart the pros and cons for each and narrow them down even further. By the time I’m sitting with the final 2 or 3, I’m really about to lose my mind. It’s a big decision and I’m the one in charge of pulling the plug. The longer I scroll through them (keeping in mind the voters’ favorite and comments along with my pros and cons), the more obvious the winner becomes. Before you know it, I can’t keep that dumb smile off my face whenever I see my cover. And that’s when I know. Lol
Sometimes the popular vote wins. Sometimes the crowd persuades me to see something special in a picture that wasn’t my original favorite. But sometimes I step out on my own and select a picture that I feel best fits the story even though it didn’t win the popular vote. And you’d think the work would be over, but it’s just beginning . . .

Finalizing Cover Art: Once I have a final picture, the time comes to finalize the cover art. I know that I had mentioned that the cover art was already on the picture. But that was more of a draft. Now it’s time to get picky and make sure every detail is perfect. Unless you’ve done this sort of work, you’d be amazed at how tedious this process can be. Professionals that don’t seek outside opinion may make faster work of it, but since I work with the wise counsel of others it takes a TON of back and forth ideas before the cover art is finalized. Here’s a quick rundown of what it looks like:
Am I using the best font for the title? Or should I choose this one? Or this one? How about this one?
Is the title large enough? Too large?
Is the title in the best position? Or should I move it?
Am I using the right color of font on the title? Do I need a shadow?
Is my name in the right color?
Should I move my name here instead?
Is the series logo large enough? Too large?
How do the fonts look together? If I change this one should I change this one? How about this combination?
Color selections on the series logo: right or wrong? How about this change? Or this one? Does the picture need a filter?
Are there any sections of the picture that are too dark or too light or too blurry? Can it be fixed? Or over fixed?

After asking myself close to 600 questions in a matter of 24 hours, I finally have a cover I can be proud of. Again, this may not be every author’s experience. But this is mine. I hope you have enjoyed the sneak peek.
Was there any part of the process that surprised you?

For a special treat, I’m going to share the runner-ups and the reason each winning photo won. Please remember that ALL photos fall under copyright law and cannot be used for any reason outside of promoting the work of A.M. Heath.

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Where Can I Flee: When it came down to the final two, the question was “Should he look down or up?” One of the other favorites was the shot I took from the other side of the creek. At the end of the day, the “looking up” pose won. There’s a sense of contemplation on Frank’s face and that’s perfect for the story! But I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I flipped back and forth between the up and down pose before selecting it.

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In the Shadow of Thy Wings: The runner-up photos each captured that private moment where Sally is reading a letter from Frank. I didn’t go with the popular vote on this one but stepped out with my own selection based on the unique lighting and the building in the background that sets up the image that Sally had slipped away from her busy life to enjoy this particular letter.

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Out of the Ashes: Again it came down to head up or down. Some of the other favorites included standing poses like this one against the tree. But in the end, the squatting pose best fit the rest of the series and the emotion and angle of the background was a winner. I can’t remember where the popular vote fell with this one.

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His Love Endures Forever: The runner-up on the left was a fast favorite of mine. It was one that I knew would be in the running the moment I took it. One of the perks to the picture on the right was the view of the house. But in the end, I was drawn to the cover shot because the colors seemed to pop more. And this time around, it was also the popular vote.

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Katherine’s Good News: Ahhh the picture of longing. Katherine is someone who had locked herself away but is missing someone. The picture on the left was a favorite of mine. But in the end, the close-up shot held more appeal. Plus, it didn’t require any photoshopping unlike the wedding photo seen in the runner-up shot. 😉

Final Liz

 

If Only It Were Yesterday: Sometimes the hardest shots to pick between are the ones that are nearly identical. That was the problem with WCIF’s cover and that was the problem with this one. While each photo carries a wistful longing in the face of Liz, in the end, I went against the popular votes and selected a picture that I felt captured the moment in an unstaged way. The finished product looked like a private moment which fits the story perfectly.

Mock finished 3

 

Yesterday’s Christmas: On the right was one of the popular votes. And on the left was my personal favorite. Sigh. I still can’t help but love that seemingly private moment between Glenn and Betty. For me, there were so many factors pulling for this one. Even when no one noticed it, I kept it in the running and had nearly selected it as the cover. After sleeping on the decision and praying the whole night, I woke up and selected the winning cover instead. We’ll certainly see this runner-up shot again in the advertisements. But what won me over was the appeal of the close-up shot and the Beauty and the Beast feel of the selected cover. And just in case you missed the memo, Yesterday’s Christmas is inspired by Beauty and the Beast so that factor was a rather important one.

Final Grace

 

The Birth of Grace: There was something just plain right about the picture on the couch. There was a strong coffee shop image here that I loved. I had a couple other poses on this couch up for consideration. And I loved the overhead shot. But in the end, the background was more interesting in the chosen picture versus the couch shot. And I LOVED having the tree in the background since so much of the story revolves around Kaitlin’s ancestors.

It amazes me, looking back at these runner-ups. I can remember being so torn between two pictures. But now, looking at them, I couldn’t imagine choosing anything differently.

How do you feel about viewing the runner-ups? Would you have chosen differently? And most importantly: Head up or head down? Lol

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Posted in About the Book

The Making of a Book Cover: Part 2: The Photoshoot

7Last week, I shared with you the early prep work that goes into the cover. Today, I want to share some of the special moments during the photoshoots themselves.
While walking into the shoot knowing that I have to leave with one perfect picture can create a bit of nerves, I try to remind myself that I only need ONE shot. Here’s a glimpse at what happened that day . . .

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Katherine’s Good News:
Before I had published any book, I had planned to release KGN as a novella. It was meant to act as a prequel that would introduce readers to a brand new author. The rest of the series would come in behind it to fill in what happened before KGN. It may sound strange to publish them out of order but it would have worked . . . except that my critique team had seen something bigger for KGN and had challenged me to turn it into a full-sized novel, which I agreed to do. But at the time, KGN was to be my first published work and therefore was my first photoshoot.
Elizabeth Bowman sat for the cover as Katherine Bakeman. My only requirement was that I needed a pregnant model with brown hair and Elizabeth was perfect. We took the picture in her home and chatted about various things . . . including plastic flamingos. Lol To this day, I think of her when I see one.
Her husband Tyler Bowman walked in while we were working and offered to help me with anything else I needed. Little did he know that I had him on my list for models for Frank Harper. I took him up on that offer on the spot!!
Lesser known fact: Elizabeth has never taken off her wedding ring since the day of her wedding. Since the character is pregnant out of wedlock, we hid the ring in each of the poses.

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Where Can I Flee:
As mentioned, Tyler Bowman sat for Frank Harper. We chose a day in Aug, an extremely hot day in Aug I might add. I packed a picnic lunch and met Tyler and a local Civil War reenactor, Joseph Byrd,  on a Saturday morning. The fellas set up two tents for my backdrop and took them down after the shoot.
The letter on the cover was fictionally written by Frank’s sister, Claire. But the handwriting belongs to Christina Gragg.
Memorable Moment: At the end of the shoot, I sat down on the ground and thumbed through some pictures when I felt something on my leg. I looked down and had this gigantic spider crawling on my leg. Needless to say, I screamed and jumped up – or I tried to. My legs were weak from squatting and standing over the past two hours that as soon as I jumped up, I collapsed. Lol But I couldn’t let that spider get me so I crawled away as best as I could. LOL I was a bit embarrassed once things settled down. But if it happened again, I would have done the same thing.

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In the Shadow of Thy Wings:

Taylor Adcock sat for the character Sally Chandler. We had an early morning photoshoot since Taylor was newly engaged at the time and had a second photoshoot scheduled for that same afternoon for her engagement photos. We mostly had the area to ourselves that morning which is always helpful in a public area.
The letter on the cover was fictionally written by Frank Harper, but the handwriting belongs to Steve Flippo.
Lesser Known Fact: In preparation for her engagement photos, Taylor’s fingernails were SUPER red and had to photoshopped for the cover.

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His Love Endures Forever:
Tiffany Hutchings sat on the cover for Allie Redman. This was my first time working with the Potts on Valley Home Farm but if you’ve read my post last week you’d already know that it wasn’t my last. In this cover, Allie is meant to be reading a letter written during the Civil War so not only did we create a letter but we had to age this one as well. The letter was fictionally written by Sally Chandler while the handwriting belongs to Sherry Williams.
Memorable Moment: Tiffany was under attack by bees almost the entire time. It doesn’t show in the picture but she was dodging them in between shots!

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Out of the Ashes:
Zach Cartwright sat on the cover for Ralph Williams. We borrowed the uniform from a Cavalry reenactor, Guy Hill. This was another one of those sweltering shoots. By the end, both of us were red-faced and sweating. Lol We didn’t have to dodge bees during this one but I did have to dodge cars and people. There is a busy road in front of the cemetery. Some of the shots were angled toward the road so I had to keep an eye on traffic and angle the camera so as to miss the poles and wires in the background.
Fun Fact: We borrowed a wide-brimmed hat to go along with the uniform since they were more popular among the cavalrymen but chose not to use it since it made Zach look Amish. Lol Nothing against the Amish look, but it would have been misleading as a cover image. 😉
Try to imagine the cover image with the different hat. It’s amazing how the smallest details can change an entire image. Another hat-related fun fact for you: I had Tyler try some relaxing poses with his hat resting beside him during Where Can I Flee’s cover shoot. But every time he took his hat off, he ceased to be Frank and became Tyler instead. I eventually got the hint and we left the hat one for the remainder of the photos.

Final Liz

If Only It Were Yesterday:
Shelby Bramblett sat on the cover for Liz Cooke. Since I was offered a full tour of Valley Home during my first visit, I recalled seeing two dresses on display. So I knew where to look when I developed a cover that required an antique dress. In fact, the era in the novel was chosen specifically for the sake of using that dress.
While the Potts were overly generous, there was one major stipulation. We couldn’t touch the dress without gloves. Together, Shelby and I put gloves on and moved the dress, then stipped them off to take pictures, and put them back on to reposition the dress again.
Lesser Known Fact: Because we weren’t allowed to touch the dress, Shelby’s hand is actually hovering above it in the picture.

Grace Final 1600x2400

The Birth of Grace:
Veronica Bardoff sat for Kaitlin Jefferson. We met at the coffee shop that morning during the lull for pictures and, for the most part, had the place to ourselves. Just over Veronica’s shoulder on the far wall is an interesting picture of a frog. Lol I took several shots before I noticed him and afterward purposely angled him out of the shot. However, the tree in the background was a pleasant surprise. After the shoot, we sat down and enjoyed mochas and bagels.
Lesser Known Fact: Veronica’s daughter is playing on the floor during the entire photoshoot but you wouldn’t know that just by looking at the picture, would you? 😉

Mock finished 3

Yesterday’s Christmas:
In the fall of 2017, I set out to create these last three covers. Because there are so many factors to weave together to pull off any single shoot, I feel better about getting them done earlier rather than later. When I started the Ancient Words Series, I hadn’t expected to take a break in the publication so in order to pull off the next three releases, I needed three new covers. I knew up front that Yesterday’s Christmas was going to be the biggest challenge. But on the last Saturday in Oct, we set out to bring this image to life.
For the first time, I worked with a couple and I must say it was a wonderful experience. Real-life couple, Colt and Kayla Davis, sat for Betty and Glenn Tanner. These two played off of each other so well. The prep work was strenuous with this one. After searching the closets of our friends, we had Kayla’s skirt special made while the other items were easily collected. I used my own Christmas tree, some of my strands of lights, my mother’s ornaments, borrowed strands of bubble lights which were hugely popular in the 1950s, and bought a .99 pack of tinsel. Also for the first time, I worked with an assistant. Darla Damron tagged along to help me set up and take down the tree. She was a huge blessing, let me tell you!
Lesser Known Fact: We were working in a dim corner on a cloudy day, making the lighting a total nightmare. Majority of the pictures were trashed during my first viewing. But thanks to Amanda Tero and a little sharpening magic, we found an image that more than passed the test.

I hope you’re enjoying this behind the scenes look at the book cover. Did any of these behind the scenes details change the way you viewed the cover?

Join me next week and I’ll fill you in on what happens after the pictures are taken. AND for a special treat, I’ll share the runner-up covers and fill you in on why each particular cover was selected over the other favorites.

Posted in About the Book

The Making of a Book Cover: Part 1: Location and Set-up

7Cover art is the most recognizable factor of any book . . . unless the author’s name is so famous that no one looks beyond the name at the picture. Between today and the next two weeks, I want to take you behind the scenes and show you how these covers are made. Now,  you should know up front that this process will differ in some ways from author to author, especially if we’re comparing a traditionally published author to a self-published author. But many of these factors will be the same clear across the board. I’m not going to show you how others do it. I’ll show you how I do it. The first step is the dream stage . . .

Dreaming: Before I can capture an image, I first need an idea of what I’m looking for. Since I’m a self-published author, I have free reign here. It’s not uncommon for me to see glimpses of possible cover art during the earliest development of the story. Not all my story ideas have mental covers yet. But I can pretty well tell which of my story ideas are the most serious about finding paper based on whether or not I’m starting to visualize the cover.

During this dream stage, I think about the overall image of the cover, from the character I’d most like to see in the picture, to the backdrop, as well as the pose. Once I have a good idea in mind, I start creating my “shopping list.”

Shopping List: I make a list of everything that particular cover needs to come to life. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Things like: models with a particular look, wardrobe, location, and props.
Once I have a list in hand, I begin praying about how to gather these needs. I begin “browsing” for people who I know will fit the image I’m looking for. I also brainstorm location options. And in the case of the historical novels, I’m asking around for people with the proper props and/or wardrobe that I can borrow or rent for the shoot. This stage could take months or even years, pending on how soon I need the cover and what all stands in my way. The majority of this time is spent praying and waiting. But once I feel that I have the green light from God to move forward, I start contacting people and pulling strings together.

The Big Day: Since I do my own photography, there is nothing more thrilling or more nervewracking than the day of the photoshoot. Most of these cases, I have already taken pictures of the locations before the photoshoot to give me ideas on the specific areas I could work in as well as any complications I might encounter during the shoot.
Most of the locations “came ready.” However, Where Can I Flee and Yesterday’s Christmas required additional set-up in order to bring the backdrop to life.
Where Can I Flee, In the Shadow of Thy Wings, and His Love Endures Forever required a handwritten letter to grace the cover. These were crafted beforehand. You can’t view them well enough in the pictures to read them, but they ARE actual letters found in the books. And now they’re keepsakes on my shelf at home.

Location: I like to work on location, so every detail is important. When selecting a place to take Where Can I Flee’s photos, I had to pay close attention to my backdrop. We were fortunate to find a seemingly untouched area to work along the Duck River.
In the Shadow of Thy Wings, The Birth of Grace, and Out of the Ashes were taken in public areas where people were walking about. I had to pay close attention to the angle of my camera every time I moved around to make sure I didn’t pick up cars, people, telephone poles, etc.

Travel Behind the Scenes: Just for fun, I’m going behind the scenes to show you where each of these photos was taken. It’s interesting to see the same shot from a different view point.

 

 

Where Can I Flee was taken on Arrow Head Ranch in Normandy, TN. The Duck River cuts through the property. When I was exploring the area, I found a little creek jutting off of the river. The picture on the left was something I took early that morning before we set up the tents. On the cover, Tyler is sitting along the bank of the creek while I took the picture on the little island visible on the right-hand side of the first picture.

 

 

In the Shadow of Thy Wings was taken at Cannonsburg in Murfreesboro, TN. This particular photo was taken behind the row of buildings you see on the right-hand side of the first picture.

 

 

Out of the Ashes was taken at Stone’s River Battlefield in Murfreesboro, TN. There is a Union cemetery on the property.

 

 

His Love Endures Forever was taken at Valley Home Farm in Wartrace, TN. It’s a family-owned farm where you can pick your own berries in the springtime. They have restored this old home, turning it into a live-in museum.

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Katherine’s Good News was taken inside the home of the cover model. I don’t have a location shot for this one. But I do have an interesting story that I’ll share with you next week. 😉

 

 

If Only It Were Yesterday was taken inside one of the rooms at Valley Home Farm. One of the most important factors on the cover was the dress which has also been restored and displayed at Valley Home Farm.

 

 

Yesterday’s Christmas was also taken at Valley Home Farm. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to the Potts family for being so gracious to me and allowing me to take not one, but three, photoshoots in their home. And I have a feeling we’ll see other corners of their property on future book covers.

 

 

The Birth of Grace was taken at a new coffee shop in Shelbyville, TN called Koffee Beanz. The coffee is as good as the atmosphere is lively!

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek behind the scenes. Next week, I’ll share more info about the models and some stories from the photoshoots.

 

 

 

Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Hardheaded

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I have this character, George Chandler. He is the sweetest, kindest, most willing, and all around loveable person. And yet he is the most hardheaded and difficult character I’ve had the pleasure of working with to date!

For those that have read the Ancient Words Series, this may come as a shocker. George appears so laid back on the page. And he is. In chapter two of Where Can I Flee, Claire Harper describes George as a man who can keep a secret. I didn’t realize at the time that’d he could even keep them from me! I mean, I created him! You’d think I would know all of his secrets. But no.

My fellow authors are likely laughing and thinking of their own favorite hardheaded character while my readers are likely getting a side of writing that they didn’t know even existed. For those new to the idea, let me just fill you in. When you give life to a character, as the quote above suggests, you’re no longer the one in charge. A writer might feel powerful at the keyboard but we all know who really pulls the strings.

So, what did I do with my secret-keeping George Chandler? What didn’t I do is more the question. Lol I knew who George was and I understand parts of his story, but he was guarding a major moment of his life. I was going to expose his great shame and he wouldn’t let me.
I revisited his character profile. I found a song that mirrored his heart. I begged. I pleaded. But I was rewarded with silence.
At one point, I even threw my hands in the air and threatened to write him in the scene wearing a pink bonnet and leading a bunny around town on a leash. Lol I thought surely he’d cave now! What Civil War Vet in his right mind wouldn’t? George. That’s who.

When none of my tactics would work, I went to my friend, Dana, for advice. She suggested a couple techniques for finding your character’s voice. Or in this case, reconnecting with your character. Writing a journal and writing an obituary. Sounds weird, huh? Here’s how it works…

The obituary is probably the strangest idea I’ve heard but the purpose is to learn more about your character. Who is this person? What would others say about them? What are their quirky habits? Or dislikes that their family teased them over? Writing an obituary for your character is more than just rewriting the facts that we put together during the character profile. It’s a free-hand writing exercise to discover more about your character that you might not have considered before. For me, writing free handed tends to free up my creative thinking and new details come to life.

For George, this particular exercise didn’t work. He really is pretty tight lipped, even on the page, so I probably should have seen this coming.
The next idea was to write a journal for the character. I sat down to do this and George came to life. His journal turned into an interview, which works much the same. Journal writing is another free handed exercise that allows you to ONLY dig into your character’s voice and personality until hearing from them becomes pretty natural.  The obituary is written from someone else’s point of view while the journal is written by the character.
My interview with George is pretty eye-opening and I’ll share part of it with you further down.

From the author, I’d love to know if you’ve had any experiences with hardheaded characters? Have you tried either of these writing exercises or do you plan to in the future? Follow the link to read other character development exercises.

For the fan, I hope you enjoy this peek at George’s interview. He’s certainly a remarkable person. If you’re looking for more behind the scenes details about your favorite characters, follow the link.

People often think that I’m cold and unfeeling, but I’m not. You think so too. I’ve heard you trying to coax me out. Threatening me with bonnets and bunny rabbits. Haha You do have a mischievous imagination. I admire that, but I’m afraid that I won’t succumb to it.
I’m not easy to bully, you see. I grew up with Eddie if you’d remember. And I’ll not bend unless it is my desire to do so.

– What do you desire?

To do what is right. Honor and nobility is not a dead thing that passed away with the age of the knights.

-So when you decide a plan of course to be right and good, you pursue it without end?

Precisely!

-Is it ever difficult?

Of course. Doing what’s right usually is. It’s often fairly easy to decide on the right course, but staying on is where the real difficulties lie. Sometimes…standing firm in one’s predetermined conviction is the hardest test of all. But a conviction that is easily swayed, is no conviction at all, but simply a mirror of the thoughts surrounding you.

-You speak so nobly of conviction, and yet you speak with experience of its difficulties. Are you thinking of something in particular right now?

You ask because you already know that I am. You wish for me to bare my secrets. Those secret thoughts that I’ve kept from you all these months. You forget that you made me wise to the conduct of others. You’ve created me to be a silent observer. A person capable of reading another as naturally as I read my own thoughts. I see by the shade of your cheeks and the curious lift of your brow that you wish to know how I knew your question was more loaded than the words appeared. The increase of color and smile has proven me right.
Well, I knew what you wanted because I could see your eagerness building with each question. Plus you’ve asked me some rather pointed questions in the past and I have ignored them till now, so I knew what you were after.
Very well! I will tell you what you wish to know. Lead the way.

-I know you have misgivings about the war. Explain…

Because the rest of the interview contains some spoilers, I’m not able to post it in full. However, I offer it for free to any of my fans that wish to read it. You’ll want to have read both Where Can I Flee and In the Shadow of Thy Wings first.
For the full interview, simply comment below with your email address or email me privately.
If you’re a fan, you’ll enjoy digging into this quiet character. I was able to find out about his true feelings about the war as well as his real feelings for Claire. Until this interview, even I wasn’t sure how deep his feelings for Claire ran.

Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Withdrawn

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If you’re finding this post for the first time, you’ve entered into the middle of blog series on character development. My purpose for this series is to laugh along with fellow authors at the antics of our characters as well as pass along some proven tips. For the reader, I hope to entertain them with tidbits about their favorite characters that they most likely didn’t know simply by reading the book.

Fictional characters, you see, have a personality on and off the page. They are as real as any one of us. And like us, they aren’t always easy to work with. Some characters are naturally open and willing to talk. Others need more encouragement. You can read the previous posts on Easy Going Characters and Underdeveloped Characters if you like.

Today I want to talk about those Withdrawn characters. These are the characters that are fully developed, have a story to tell, but just aren’t so open to telling it. They need some coaching. How would you draw out a shy person in the workplace or at school? You’d find something that interested them and talk to them about it. You’d make a point to sit down and conversate with them.

Rose Forrister is one of my newest heroines that you’ll meet on the pages of Out of the Ashes. Rose has a wonderful story to tell and an amazing, spit-fire of a personality. But for some reason, she didn’t want to open up to me. I thought to, quite literally, bake her favorite orange scones and sit at the table with her to chat when something unexpected happened. She sang.

I was listening to a Kelly Clarkson cd when I found Rose’s voice. Her motivation. Her story. Her personality. They were all wrapped up in this one song. Suddenly scenes and dialog were coming to light. This beautiful character that had so perfectly hidden from me was suddenly revealing herself and all I had to do was play the song.

I soon discovered other songs to associate with other characters and their storylines. This became a wonderful tool as I plotted out the novel and even as I wrote key scenes.

Authors: Have you used music in developing any of your characters?
Readers: Interested in hearing some of the characters’ favorite songs? Keep reading. 🙂 

Rose’s song is Because of You by Kelly Clarkson. She seemed to really like Kelly and agreed with nearly the entire cd. When we first meet Rose, she’s recovering from a broken heart. Someone she loved most of her life has tossed her aside, leaving her feeling vulnerable and a little bitter. Well, a lot bitter. If Rose were to call into her favorite radio station tonight, she would dedicate this song to Archie Dunnaway.

 

Without stirring up any comments or spoilers, here’s a song that Eddie Chandler dedicated to Claire. And what a beauty!! This was one of the first songs that a character spoke out on.

 

There are two songs that remind me of Frank Harper. The first one always makes me cry.  It’s the story of his salvation. The second song shares the struggle he battles in the upcoming release. Enjoy them both!!

 

George Chandler is more of a quiet man. I’ll share about my difficulties with this particular character next week, but suffice it to say that I’m not the only one he withholds from. He’s a sweetheart through and through, but he’s not so open about his feelings. That’s where this next song comes into play. When I heard If I Let You Go it had George’s name all over it. The second song, More Than That, shows his tender side. He’s willing to love and love greatly. Now if only he can convince a certain gal of this. 😉
I listened to both of these songs countless times while working with George’s scenes. It helped me keep in touch with who he is and his storyline.

 

Melissa Lowe is another new heroine that I’ll introduce you to in the pages of Out of the Ashes. I’m not ready to say too much about my dear Melissa but I will let you know that she’s in love with someone that doesn’t love her in return. She’s such a patient thing and Anytime by Kelly Clarkson comes from her heart.

 

When fan favorite, Ralph Williams, finds himself in the dog house there is no other song that showcases the heart of this broken man quite like this one does.

 

And for one last song! Completely, has become the theme song for Out of the Ashes. I’m not sure I ever hear this song anymore where I don’t hear Ralph, Frank, and George’s voices ringing out. The broken spirit and need of God’s healing touch is the very core of the story.

 

I’d love to hear back from you! Did you find yourself connecting with one of the songs from my characters? Are you more intrigued by one of the characters based on their chosen song?

 

Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Underdeveloped

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I’m doing a 4-month blog series on character development. I want this series to be both for the writer and the reader. I hope to fellowship with other authors and pass along some tips while also entertaining the readers by showing you a side of your favorite characters that you’ve never seen before.
If you’re finding this series for the first time, you’ve entered in on the 2nd post. I’ll post the next installment on the first Monday of May. Here’s a link to last month’s post if you missed it.

I’m a learn as you go sort of gal. When I started writing, I hadn’t planned on it. Meaning, I didn’t attend college with the thought of writing fiction. In fact, I hadn’t even picked up my first book on writing until I had written my first novel. So there were several things that I learned later in my journey that might have made things easier to have known up front. Character development is one of those things.

If you read last month’s post you would have read a list of easy to work with characters. I truly had a writer’s dream cast in my first novel and didn’t even know it! With characters ready and willing to spill their guts and allow me into the dark corners of their minds, it’s little wonder that I was confused when I came across a character that wouldn’t speak to me. After working with Claire, Frank, Olen, and Ralph in Where Can I Flee, I wasn’t prepared for the withdrawn Sally Chandler in In the Shadow of Thy Wings. So why wouldn’t this sweet gal talk to me?

So why wouldn’t this sweet gal talk to me?

I sought the advice of a dear friend of mine, Dana Kamstra. Dana, along with being my writing buddy, is a gold mine for writing advice. She approaches writing the way any serious student should: she studies it. So she’s my go-to gal when I need a new technique. She helped me to understand that an underdeveloped character won’t speak. She also passed on one of her favorite (and now one of my favorite) writing books, Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke.

Plot vs Character helped me to understand which questions to ask and how to layer the many details of any character together until you have someone that looks and feels real. One of the focal points is understanding the character’s Briggs Personality. And this is where the fun begins… 🙂

For those that have never heard of Briggs, let me explain. He basically narrowed down 16 foundational personality types. By answering a series of questions, they’ll determine your personality type. If you’ve never done this for yourself, try it out! It’s fun and enlightening. Take the test for free here.

And then enjoy my favorite site for gathering extensive information about the personality types.

As an author, this is now one of my first stops to character development. Once I have a personality type determined, I’m able to see how this person may react to different situations and it helps me understand them.

Now for some fun, let’s talk personality types. I had taken the test and learned that I am ISFP – The Artist
Once I began exploring the personality type, I found that it made a lot of sense. Suddenly I understood why I found beauty in random objects like a plate of food. Other oddities suddenly made sense, like how I can’t stand to be locked into a schedule. I like the freedom to decide what I want to do and when I want to do it. I seriously have never been able to resist rebelling against my own schedules. Lol
I hate conflict but am a great listener and peacemaker. I pick up on the feelings of other people and am a good judge of character. A perfectionist and fiercely loyal.
It’s been helpful to me as I dug deeper into my personality type and began to understand the whys behind the things that I never noticed about myself before. I stopped trying to schedule myself and embraced my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mentality.

How about your favorite characters from the Ancient Words Series
Claire Harper: ESFP The Performer
Claire is at home being the center of attention. She’s fun-loving and chatty.
Frank Harper: INFJ The Protector
Frank tends to stick to things until they’re finished. He’s sensitive and quietly forceful.
Eddie Chandler: ESTP A Doer
Eddie is spontaneous and compulsive. He’s a man of action and not words.
George Chandler: ISFJ The Nurturer
George is very responsible with a deep desire to serve others. He’s gifted at observing other people.
Sally Chandler: ISFP The Artist
Sally is very quiet and kind. She’s sensitive to the feelings of others and she HATES conflict.
Ralph Williams: ENTJ The Executive
Ralph is a take-charge kind of person. He’s a natural leader and a long term planner.

Now it’s your turn! What is your personality type and how does it fit?

Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Easy

80Have you ever enjoyed a movie or tv show and been so caught up in the chemistry between the characters on screen, only to be shocked to learn in an interview that behind the scenes the actors hated each other? The hero in your favorite show is actually a jerk when the camera isn’t on. He shows up late, he brings his nasty attitude, or he’s so drugged up that it’s a wonder they were able to film at all. Or the leading lady known for stealing hearts on screen is the most difficult diva on the face of the earth.

Well, let me let you in on a little secret we authors know all too well: the same can be said for literary characters. You’d think that with the written word, the author was the one in charge. But, Nooooooooooo. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You see, there’s a reason why readers often comment on how real the character felt. Or how the characters just came to life. It’s because they ARE real. And like real people, they have different attitudes and different work ethics. The author’s job then is learning how to connect with each character so that they can find their story and share it with everyone else.

I’ve worked with some diverse characters recently and I want to share my experiences with you. I want this to be a fun and encouraging experience for everyone.
For the reader, I want to show you some insider information about some of your favorite characters. I’m going to show you which ones were easy to work with and which ones I had to coax out of their shell.
For the fellow author, I want to laugh along and share the common experiences together as well as share some techniques that have been successful for me.
I intend to share these fun details in a new blog series that I’ve titled, Behind the Scenes: Character Development. You’ll find a new installment to the series on the first Monday of every month. Today, we’ll kick it off with those Easy-Peasy Characters.

An easy to work with character would be a character that needs no coaxing. Someone who is always ready to share the details with me. Someone whose voice appeared in my head so naturally that I knew them from the first moment.

If you’ve read my series, it should not surprise you that Claire Harper would top the list of easy characters. Claire is known for being a chatty person and she’s exactly the same off the page. I never had to beg her to reveal scenes to me; she was always ready to talk. Her brother Frank is just like her, although he’s less chatty on page. From day one, Frank was willing to sit down and tell his story.
Their father, Olen, is known for being extremely quiet so it might surprise you to know that he’s extremely easy-going. Olen is most known for being laid back and delivering a timely one-liner. He’s often seen sitting quietly as everyone, mostly Claire, commands the entire scene with her chatter, but then seemingly out of nowhere, he speaks. And in that moment, he says so much more than anyone else in the room. And behind the scenes, Olen is the exact same way. He’s quiet by nature, but there’s an openness about him that makes him easy to work with.
Ralph Williams was another easy character for me to work with. He’s not as chatty as Claire by any means, but then few are. But there’s such an openness about him. He doesn’t feel the need to hold back or hide from me. The beautiful thing is when you get two very open and willing characters together they simply write the scenes themselves.
Eddie and Rachel Chandler, Danny-Ray Coffer, and Jimmy Allen were all easy characters to work with. Their roles were smaller but I didn’t have to find them. When it was time to step onto the page, they were ready and willing to do their part. No questions asked.

Chapters 5 and 15 are both very popular scenes from In the Shadow of Thy Wings. Both are between Claire and Ralph and go down as the absolute easiest scenes I’ve ever written. These two know how to play off of each other so naturally. If only all scenes were written so effortlessly. Lol
Speaking of playing well off of each other, Claire and Frank have a natural talent for smooth scenes together. Being close friends and twins may have helped. 😉 My favorite and most effortless scene between the two is found at the end of chapter 13 of In the Shadow of Thy Wings.

I may have given you the illusion that all characters are simple and my job is pretty easy peasy. And for that, I’m sorry. Lol My job is anything but. I started you off with the easy guys first. But next month, I’ll introduce you to one of my more difficult characters. You’re gonna love it, I promise!

I’d love to hear back from my readers. Were you surprised to see some of these characters on my list for easy to work with characters or had you imagined them this way all along? Are you confused about not seeing someone on there that you thought would have made it? 

Posted in About the Book

Sally’s Wardrobe

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The only thing that makes the movie better than the book is getting to see the clothes!

Lol Men may not agree, but it’s hard on most ladies when they’re left to their imagination where the clothing is concerned. Especially in historical novels. So I’m going to do you a favor and let you peek inside Sally Chandler’s wardrobe. Some of the following pictures were real pictures that I had in mind as I wrote a scene and others are just great examples of what I imagined her wearing.

If you missed Claire Harper’s wardrobe, you can view it here.


 

I want to show you two of the dresses used in the novels. The first is a dark blue dress mentioned in chapter 3 of In the Shadow of Thy Wings. And the ruffled gown is featured in chapter 16 in Where Can I Flee only Sally’s dress is pink.


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Another favorite from the novel is Sally’s peach ball gown featured in both novels. I had mentally designed a peach gown with white embroidery and sadly was unable to find a likeness for it. The close up embroidery work was the best that I could find to help us imagine what her gown might have looked like.

As lovely as the ball gowns are, most days Sally wears something much simpler. While she would wear day dresses from time to time, I actually pictured her wearing a skirt and blouse combo most often. Here are some examples of common everyday wear.


And just for the fun of it, I took Sally Pinterest shopping. Here are some things she selected. Sally tends to be drawn to layers of lace and delicate ruffles. Her color palate is all over, but she prefers light colored formal wear.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into Sally’s wardrobe. Did you find anything here that you’d love to borrow?

 

Posted in About the Book

Ralph and Frank’s Interview

It’s been over a year since I sat down with my characters and interviewed them. You can read the first interview here. I had a load of fun interviewing Claire and Frank Harper, stars of the Ancient Words Series, so I wanted to bring them back out to answer some more questions. But I wanted to bring you something different. So this time, I’m interviewing Frank Haper and Ralph Williams side by side. For those of you that haven’t read my series yet, Frank serves in the Confederacy while Ralph serves in the Union. Bringing these two men together to answer some questions about life during the Civil War wasn’t so easy. Keep reading to find out what these men had to say about war, hardships, and each other. 😉
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I’m sitting down with Frank Harper, who has served the Confederacy since June of ’61. In his world, it’s January 1863 and the war has not been concluded. I’ve got my work cut out for me at keeping him far away from the internet…as if he could figure out how to work it. Lol I’ve hidden my Appomattox pictures. So mums the word. 😉

Me: We’re still waiting on two more guests, but please, Frank, have a seat and enjoy the snacks we’ve laid out.

Frank: Thank you. Don’t mind if I do. Is Claire still here?

His twin sister, Claire, enters the room at the mention of her name.

Claire: Yes, I’m still here. Looks like we’ve finished just in time.

Frank stuffs a molasses cookie in his mouth and Claire giggles at his eagerness. He probably hasn’t had a cookie in several months if not more than a year at this point.

Me: Thanks, Claire, for visiting and helping me bake today. I hope you’ll be able to visit again soon.

Claire claps excitedly, a bright smile spreading across her cheeks.

Claire: Oh, I’d love that! I can’t recall the last time I was allowed to bake with abandon. Oh, do try the cranberry scones, Frank. You’ll like them, I think. If you’ve half the time, you should wander off into her kitchen. The modern appliances alone make it worth the trip! Then there’s the stockpile of flour and sugar and black tea!! Oh and the coffee!! Frank, she has real coffee here!! Here, let me pour you a nice cup. There now, you’ll enjoy that. I just know you will!

Frank’s happily eating and drinking, content to let his sister do all the talking. Lol I now wish I had laid out some more food. He does look like he could use a solid meal.

Oh, great! Another guest is here.

Their father, Olen Harper, just walked in and he stops for a kiss on the cheek from Claire before he sits on the chair beside Frank and reaches for the coffee cup Claire hands him.

Frank: Claire, are you staying this time?

Claire frowns, but her frowns will not work on me. In fact, I need to get her out the door.

Claire: No, I’ve been asked to leave before y’all begin. In fact…

She’s looking to me for confirmation, which I gladly give. My final guest will be here soon and I really should get her out of here before it’s too late.

Claire: Yes, yes, there is my cue. See, I really must go now.

She frowns again, but I know she’ll be a good sort of gal and head out. She stops to hug and kiss her father and brother goodbye. She hugs me as well before turning to leave.

Me: You’ll come again, I hope?

Claire: I’d love to!

Good, she’s going out the door now…only the moment she steps through, she runs into a wall of Union blue. Ralph Williams is here.

They recognize each other, but both are trying to downplay the moment. Thankfully for her, she blushes pretty. Now, as much as I want to give them this moment, I really must get her out of here. Frank’s up refilling his coffee cup and hasn’t spotted our guest yet. It sounds like both he and Olen are exploring my humble kitchen.

We’ll have our hands full enough with Frank. There’s no need in starting trouble early by letting him see the sparks flying between these two.

I clear my throat and that sends the pair moving, Ralph to one side with a silent bow and Claire shooting out the door. 🙂 No one else is in the room to see Ralph watching her leave except me. How sweet. He ducks his head when he catches me grinning at him.

Me: I’m glad you could make it, Ralph. Please have a seat and help yourself. I didn’t have a recipe for your mother’s cranberry cake, but I did bake a couple batches of my famous cranberry scones. I know you’ll enjoy this substitute.

Ralph: Thank you. That was mighty thoughtful of you.

He sits down and glances back at the door Claire just left from.

Me: We’ll get you a cup of coffee in just a moment. Ahh, there it is. Olen’s bringing it in for you. Please, help yourself to any cream and sugar if you want it.

Olen enters with two cups of coffee and Frank follows behind him, grinning, with cookie crumbs dusted in his beard.

Olen quickly sets both cups down and steps to the side, his eyes on the two men. The smile slides from Frank’s face and he stops dead in his tracks. Ralph tosses down what’s left of the scone and stands up, eying Frank warily. Both look on the verge of charging, chests heaving.

Me: I’ve asked you both here because Frank, like yourself, Ralph has been in service since the start of the war. He’s served in the Union Cavalry while you’ve served in the Confederate Infantry, and my readers want to ask some questions concerning your experiences. I just want to make it clear that I’m not here to squeeze anyone for information. I’m not going to ask you anything that you can’t answer without giving up army positions or strengths.

Both men silently nod their heads and cut their eyes back at each other. Lol Oh, dear! This will make for an interesting hour!

Me: I’ve asked your readers to send in some questions. The first thing they want to know is what it feels like before a battle compared to what it feels like afterward?

Both sit quietly. Frank runs a hand through his hair and Ralph rubs his beard while Olen sits between them and sips his coffee.

Both seem a little tight-lipped. Maybe I should try again.

Me: Frank, do you normally know when a battle is coming?

Frank: Most of the time, but not always. It’s normal to engage in skirmishes and they tend to be a little more unplanned. I mean, we’re always looking for those lowdown Bluebellies, so we’ll engage them every chance we get.

Ralph’s head whips to his right and he leans forward so he can see past Olen.

Ralph: Always engage us? It didn’t seem much like engagement when your backs were turned and you were running from Murfreesboro.

Frank jumps out of his seat, snorting like a bull. His father calmly grips him by the arm and Ralph just stares back at him, looking a bit too cocky. Olen gives a gentle tug on Frank’s arm and after a long pause, he plants himself back in his chair none too gently.

Me: So, Ralph, what would you say the difference is before and after a battle?

He gives Frank another hard stare before turning his attention to me.

Ralph: Before a battle there are the usual jitters.

Frank: Of course they have the jitters. Everyone knows that Yankees are afraid of steel.

His shoulders shake under his own laughter. Ralph doesn’t even spare him a glance but his jaw is tightly bound.

Ralph: If you give a Johnny enough ammunition, he’ll eventually hit someone. We’re grateful they haven’t better aim.

Frank just rolls his eyes.

Me: And after battle?

Both grow quiet again and their eyes have dropped to their laps. It’s funny to watch them because neither are aware at how they mirror each other. We may soon find that these enemies are more alike than they first thought.

Ralph: Before a battle, you think of death. Could I die? Will I die? But after…you see the reality of it. You stare into the lifeless faces of both friend and foe. Suddenly, your fears become your reality. You cross the field and find someone you ate breakfast with that morning, another who you swapped newspapers with. The one you always pass on the way to the latrine is crying out from a bullet hole and you’re just left wondering how you made it. You’d think one might feel elation at having survived, but it’s like you died even though you lived. There’s something inside of you that breaks down at the destruction you have to see, the same destruction the dead are now spared from.

Olen is silently watching Ralph, but Ralph is talking without making eye contact with anyone. He seems to be standing on a bloody field somewhere. Frank’s face is pulled down in a tight frown and he’s rubbing both sides of his head now.

Me: Frank, can you share the thoughts that run through your mind during the battle?

He blinks back his own memories and gives his head a quick shake as if to clear it once and for all.

Frank: It’s something you’d have to experience to really understand. It hardly makes any sense even now. At the start of a battle, once you’re engaged in it, you wrestle with thoughts and fears of death, but soon the activity takes over and it’s like you can’t think of anything anymore. It’s like walking through a daze. I’m alive, I can tell it. But I’m so caught up in the motions that I don’t even recognize it.

Ralph’s nodding his head and mumbling his agreement.

Frank: I’m not sure how the field generals manage to make decisions during a battle. I can hardly think. Everything’s happening so fast and yet so slowly. You can hear the whizzing of bullets. Hear them striking trees and men alike. They hit the ground in front of you, tossing up grass and dirt, and your heart just dips at how close they came to taking your leg instead. The field seems to be in pure chaos and yet there’s normally an order to it if you know how to look for it. Behind the screams, battle cries, cannon thunder, and screeching bullets, you’ll hear the bugle and drums that give each regiment their orders. It’s not always easy to tell one call from the other, but you learn real quick to tune your ear to the right sounds. The regimental flags help keep some order on the field. But I guess it’s the kind of chaos that you reluctantly get used to.

Me: Do either of you plan to make a career out of the military when the war is over?

Both of them adamantly shake their heads.

Me: If you knew then what you know now, would you still have enlisted?

Both sit still again, deep in thought.

Frank: Tyrants should always be dealt with…

Ralph is grumbling and shifting in his seat, but Frank starts speaking louder to drown him out.

Frank:and while I would have preferred to stay at home, I’ll gladly defend my country against the likes of them! It’s a shame that not all of our Southern men felt the same. They’ve lost their senses, I’d say. I pity them, really.

Frank cuts his eyes over again, leaning just slightly so he can see past his father. Frank’s last remark was meant especially for Ralph. I haven’t brought it up, and you can’t hear him, but Ralph talks with a thick Southern drawl, having been born and raised in Tennessee. Clearly, the familiar accent didn’t get past Frank. Ralph is working his jaw and shaking his head.

Ralph: I haven’t the stomach for foolishness is more like it. These hot-heads will destroy the South, not save it.

Frank: Oh, and you think your fancy army aims to keep it intact?!

Frank has left his seat again and Ralph jumps up to join him, both shouting at each other. Olen looks at me and blinks back his annoyance. Resting his coffee cup on the table, the ever-calm, always-silent man stands between them and settles a strong hand on both shoulders. They both start to shake it away, but I can see him squeezing them both.

Olen: Mind your manners, the both of you. You weren’t asked here to demonstrate war, but to answer a few questions about it.

He eyes them both. Thankfully, they’ve quieted again.

Olen: Now sit.

Just like that, the younger men swallow their pride, suck in a deep breath and settle back down in their chairs. Olen gives me a nod and reaches for his cup again.

Me: So are we to assume then that both of you feel that your cause is worthy enough to endure the horrors of war?

They both nod their heads.

Ralph: I would have preferred to have been spared it, but seeing as how there’s no way around it, Rebels will be rebels after all, I’ll endure what I must to see our country set to rights.

Frank is putting a hole through my wall with his menacing stare, but he’s otherwise silent.

Me: Besides the battlefield, what is the hardest thing to endure?

Frank snorts.

Frank: I hope you’re not expecting only one answer.

Ralph laughs along with him.

Me: Okay then, let’s hear your lists.

Frank: Well for starters, the food.

Ralph groans.

Frank: The only thing worse than not having any food is when they actually bring us food!

Ralph laughs out loud, and then leans forward to see Frank.

Ralph: Oh, I don’t know. I’ve grown kind of fond of the weevil castles.

Frank bursts out laughing.

Frank: Yeah, well you can keep them! I’ve enough weevils in my cornmeal; I don’t need to soak the bread to get to those. We took hold of one of your supply wagons and I can’t say we were grateful for the experience. The coffee was a nice treat and all, but what the devil are you supposed to do with that hardtack?

Ralph chuckles.

Ralph: Serves you right. Not that we were given much of a treat when we stole your wagons. How many peanuts do you think you’ve eaten by now, anyways?

Frank: Don’t speak ill of the goober peas now. Those just might be the best thing they hand out. Not that I ain’t tired of seeing them. But back to that hardtack…

Ralph: There’s not much that can be done with it, I suppose. Thump it against a rock to knock the weevils out of their holes.

Me: Holes?

Ralph: Yeah, they bore holes into the hardtack where they live and eat. That’s why we call them weevil castles. Anyways, if you’re new to the hardtack, you try to get the bugs out. If you’re not, you try to ignore them. We’ve tried a little of everything. Crumbling it up and putting it in some broth. Soaking it in the coffee. Soaking it in water. Soaking it then frying it in bacon fat. We’ve tried a little of everything, but nothing really helps the taste.

Frank: Then there are the long marches, heavy knapsacks, thinning supplies. Although, pretty boy here gets to stay off his feet and rest most of the day.

Ralph: REST?! Are you out of your mind?

Frank chuckles at him.

Frank: Nope, but you’re off your feet. That much I know. Why, I bet those are the same pair of boots you entered the war wearing.

Ralph: I’ll have you know that a cavalryman is worth two infantrymen!

Frank chokes on his coffee and shakes his head.

Frank: To your mother, maybe. Let’s see you climb off that horse of yours and we’ll see how far you get. I don’t have anyone carrying me from place to place. I have to carry myself and my stuff. I’m both mule and man.

Ralph: Well, you’ve got the mule part right.

Me: Are there any other hardships?

Ralph: The lack of privacy, the hard ground for your bed, bedding down in a small tent with unwashed men…

Frank: The diseases, endless hours of training…

Ralph: Really there’s little good to be had. I’m afraid it’s a necessary evil, but an evil all the way around.

Me: Frank, how does the reality compare to the expectations you once had about war?

Frank snorts and shakes his head. He pauses a moment to stuff another cookie in his mouth.

Frank: Unless a man had some sort of military training, their expectations are more in line with a dream. A rosy-colored, all-glorious dream. In that dream, the hardships were at a minimum and you came home before you were ever truly missed with a grand medal pinned to your lapel. The realities are anything but. I joined at the start of the war, when the excitement was high and so was the necessary equipment. Things are very different now. Surviving in the winter camps is hard enough, but add to that the lack of food and supplies and you suddenly have a whole other kind of hardship on your hands. The act of war itself is a far cry from what one might have thought about before he enlisted. Pulling the trigger gets harder and harder, and yet you dare not ever stop, lest you lie in the dirt below your feet. It’s bad business really. I’d like nothing more than for the Yanks to put an end to all of this and leave so I can return home where I’m wanted.

Ralph has been silently nodding his head until Frank mentions the part about the Union army leaving. Now he’s cutting his eyes at Frank, his jaw clamped shut.

Me: Ralph, how do you keep your spirits up under these sorts of conditions?

His hard stare lingers on Frank’s profile a moment longer before he turns his eyes back to me. He takes a deep breath and thinks it over.

Ralph: Any way a man possibly can, I’m afraid. And that, ma’am, can lead to a whole lot of mischief. If a man has any sense left in him, he turns first and fully to Christ alone. Holding to God’s promises is the only sturdy foundation in a world where everything is constantly changing and everyone is aware of the fact that tomorrow just might not come at all. Other healthy pursuits are writing letters or visiting family if you’re fortunate enough to have a leave. Getting a pass into town offers a wide variety of entertainment. Baseball is a popular sport and a great way to pass the time. The bands relieve some of the strain with their daily concerts. Then there are more wicked pursuits that men turn to in order to pass the time and keep what little joy they can. Drinking and gambling are two of the… cleaner of the wicked entertainments. You’ll have to forgive me, ma’am, I’ll not speak of some of the others.

Me: We’re out of time, but I want to ask one last question to you both. What do you most look forward to when the war is over, besides seeing your family again?

Both sit solemnly for a moment. Olen looks from one man to the other. Ralph is staring at something over my shoulder and Frank is running a hand through his hair. Frank cuts his eyes over to Ralph.

Frank: I’m ready to live at peace again. I’m tired of fighting.

Ralph nods his head and turns toward Frank, leaning forward slightly to see past Olen.

Frank: I’ll not forfeit my rights for peace. I’ll do my duty first, make no mistake about that. But I do… ever so long for quieter days again.

Ralph is working his jaw again and settles back into his chair.

Ralph: I reckon I can give up shooting Rebels.

Ralph gives a long sigh and slowly nods his head again.

Ralph: But most of all, I want rest. I’m ready to put this aside and move on with my life. Maybe settle down.

Frank is grinning like a fox. I’m sure we can all imagine where his thoughts have wandered.

Me: I can’t thank y’all enough for taking time out to come and answer a few questions. I know this isn’t the easiest subject line to venture upon, especially in mixed company. I thank you for not tearing down my house.

Frank: And I thank you for the coffee!

Ralph mumbles his agreement, with his mouth full and the other half of his scone raised in a toast.

Me: This war will come to an end soon. I wish you both well until we meet again!

You’ll find these characters and their full stories in the Ancient Words Series. You can pick up your copy of Where Can I Flee here. In the Shadow of Thy Wings goes on sale on Amazon on December 8th. 

 

Posted in About the Book, Fiction Friday

Fiction Friday: The Love Song Game Results

I had so much fun playing the Love Song Game with my readers on Facebook! The rules were simple: Dedicate a love song to one of my couples from Where Can I Flee. If your song inspired me to create a meme, you received bragging rights and the first two chapters of In the Shadow of Thy Wings. If you’ve already won the first two chapters, then I’ll send over chapters three and four. There are TONS of great new changes awaiting our friends from Maple Grove, and some readers will get the chance to look into these things before the book is released.
Since I’m a fun-loving gal, I’ve decided to extend the game until Oct 20th. Have fun. Dedicate as many songs as you like to either Claire and Ralph or Frank and Sally. You can send me a song title, lyrics, or youtube video either here in the comments below or on my Facebook wall. Just don’t forget to tell me which couple you’re dedicating the song to.
I have two winners today! Please feel free to share, pin, and tweet these memes!

Can’t Fight This Feeling dedicated by Kimberly Francisco to Frank and Sally.

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Love’s Enchantment dedicated by Kathleen Anderson to Claire and Ralph

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