Tuesday, February 9, 2016

From Identity to Essence in the Christian Romance

Myra Johnson
On Wednesday evenings my husband and I attend the pastor’s class at our church, and for the past few weeks the topic has been marriage. (Yes, even after nearly 43 years together, we’re still learning!) The basis for the class is a series of recorded sermons by Timothy Keller. I’ve also been reading Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage, which underscores and expands upon the sermon topics.

The thing about being a writer is that I’m not just reading or listening as a wife. Even as I’m thinking about how to apply the concepts to my real-life marriage, my writer’s brain is also filing everything away for use with my fictional characters and their relationships.

Which brings me to today’s topic: how our approach to character growth from identity to essence sets the Christian romance novel apart.

If the “identity to essence” concept is new to you, it’s borrowed from author and screenwriting consultant Michael Hauge. Simply put, the character’s identity is the persona he/she has adopted as a means of dealing with fear and hiding from a wounded past. As the story develops, the character begins to glimpse how much richer his/her life could be without this self-protective mask. The character arc is the gradual stripping away of the mask and overcoming fear so that the character finally accepts and lives in his/her essence or true self. (For a more detailed explanation, see this article on Hauge’s website.)

Wondering how “identity to essence” relates to a class on marriage? Let me tie them together with a quote from Tim Keller’s book:
“What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us.”
Doesn’t that sound a lot like the journey from identity to essence? 

One of the primary differences between Christian romance novels and many secular romances concerns the characters’ initial attraction to each other. In secular romances, those first encounters tend to focus heavily on the characters’ physical attributes—the heroine’s curvy figure, limpid eyes, and lustrous long hair; the hero’s trim waist, muscled biceps, and broad shoulders. The relationship may then jump quickly to the bedroom, short-circuiting the “getting to know you” phase during which a meaningful friendship should be developing. And according to Tim Keller, friendship—our spouse as our very best friend—is crucial to a solid marriage relationship.

In Christian romance, there’s still some interest in physical attributes—we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t take at least passing note of appearances the first time we meet someone—but even more important are those little glimpses into not only who these characters are at the outset, but who they have the potential of becoming once the masks are tossed aside. This is where friendship begins, when someone else sees not only our flaws and faults but our best selves and is not only willing but committed to sticking it out with us even when that “best self” retreats.

To give you an example of how these concepts play out in a story, I’m going back to one of my earliest published novels (and still one dearest to my heart), Autumn Rains. Here’s ex-con Healy Ferguson’s first meeting with Valerie Bishop, the widow of the friend who had encouraged and supported Healy during his prison years.

Healy’s first glimpse of the slender woman took his breath away. Her gray eyes sparkled with a brightness to rival the summer sunshine. She wore her pale blond hair pulled back from her face in a fancy clip. Long strands shimmered across the shoulders of her blue-flowered dress. 

Obviously, the first thing Healy notices about Valerie is her beauty. However, he already knows a little about her inner beauty as described in his late friend’s letters. Then in this next excerpt, he quickly senses Valerie’s apprehension, an outer sign of the PTSD she struggles with as a result of her husband’s tragic death. This is her identity, her mask of self-protection. Healy’s thoughts also reveal his own identity, his self-doubt, insecurity, and hopelessness about his chances for a happy future.

Her kind, honey-soft voice belied the uncertainty Healy read in her posture and expression. Even with a fresh change of clothes, Healy knew he still must look like a down-and-out drifter. He swallowed and met her gaze. “I don’t need much, ma’am, and I know how to work hard. If you give me a chance, I promise I won’t let you down.” 

And Valerie responds this way, revealing aspects of her true self that Healy will fall in love with all too soon:

She swept him with an appraising glance, and her gray eyes softened. “Pastor Henke seems to think you’re just the man for the job, Mr. Ferguson, and he’s never given me reason to question his judgment.” 

So the interest, if not full-on attraction (on Valerie’s part, anyway), is evident, and it isn’t based so much on appearances as on what each sees in the other’s potential.

As their friendship deepens through the course of the story, Valerie’s belief in Healy will restore his confidence and enable him to find success and fulfillment as a free man. In turn, Healy draws Valerie out of her self-protective shell and helps her to live a full and vibrant life again. Their growing love and concern for each other takes them on a shared journey from identity to essence.

There’s so much more about writing the Christian romance that I could tie in to Tim Keller’s teachings on marriage. Instead, I’ll offer you a chance to win your choice of Tim Keller’s book OR an autographed copy of my novel Autumn Rains. Just mention in a comment if you’d like to be included in either or both of the drawings, and I’ll toss your name into the rose petal basket (in honor of Valentine’s Day next Sunday). Winners announced in the Weekend Edition!

Let’s talk! Writers, how do you see the identity-to-essence journey playing out in your work-in-progress? Can you see friendship as part of the equation? Readers, same questions for you, but talk about the characters in a novel you’ve read recently.

Autumn Rains. Healy knows all about prisons, both the physical one he’s been released from and the emotional one he keeps himself trapped in. 

Valerie is caught up in post-traumatic stress disorder. Shadowy moments from a night she can’t fully remember bombard her without warning, keeping her trapped between the painful past and a future that seems hopeless.

But God promises to repay the years that have been lost; for those who trust in Him, He promises refreshing, life-giving rain. Will Val and Healy trust to see God’s perfect plan, or will they choose the chains that hold them back?

Award-winning author Myra Johnson writes emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. Myra is a two-time finalist for the prestigious ACFW Carol Awards, and her Heartsong Presents romance Autumn Rains (November 2009) won RWA’s 2005 Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript.  Myra and her husband are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters who, along with their godly husbands, have huge hearts for ministry. Seven grandchildren take up another big chunk of Myra’s heart. Originally from Texas, the Johnsons moved to the Carolinas in 2011. They love the climate and scenery, but they may never get used to the pulled pork Carolinians call “barbecue”! The Johnsons share their home with two very pampered doggies who don’t always understand the meaning of “Mom’s trying to write.”

Find Myra online here:

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Dos and Don't of Working with Editors and Publishers

By guest blogger, Ericka McIntyre

I have been working as an editor for over 15 years now, much of that time spent working for various publishers, and more recently as a full-time freelancer, for an even broader array of clients.

I get requests all the time for advice—how do I get published? Can’t I just proofread my book myself? Why won’t my publisher just use the title I gave my book? Why is 300k words too long? And over the years I have seen the best and worst examples of what authors can do when working either with an independent editor before being published, or with a publishing house once they have a contract.

So herein are some dos and don’ts, based on the hard-won wisdom of someone who has been in the writing and editing trenches for a while, from manuscript to proposal to published work.

Before you have a book contract—DO:

Hire someone to read your manuscript before you submit to publishers or agents. I cannot stress this enough—if I, who edit and proofread for a living, cannot edit and proof my own writing (and I can’t), neither can you.  It is well worth the expense (which you can even write off, hey!) to have a professional go through your manuscript. Nothing will make the typos and plot holes stand out quicker than a fresh set of eyes on your pages. And you do not want those typos and plot holes in there when you start sending out queries!  (More on that below.)

Put together a professional query/proposal. Manuscript readers and agents are busy, busy, busy. Your book proposal is make or break. You can have the best novel ever, but if you put together a sloppy proposal? In the immortal words of Tony Soprano, Fuhgeddaboutit

It may seem obvious, but you would not believe the messy proposals that have come across my desk over the years! What does a well-done proposal look like? This: A well-crafted cover letter, tailored to the recipient (if I feel like I have gotten a scattershot form letter? I don’t read any further.); A one-paragraph summary/elevator pitch—give your book to me in a very delicious nutshell; Your bio; A full synopsis of the book; The table of contents; the first chapter. (Oh and, I don’t have to tell you that you should have this proofread, too! )


Please do not send your whole manuscript unless you are asked to. I know it’s your baby. I know you have poured your blood and guts into it—but I do not have time to wade through 300+ manuscript pages so I can take your book to an editorial meeting and pitch it for publishing. I just don’t. If you send a proposal and I like what I see? Then I will ask you for the whole book. I promise.
Neglect the details. See above re: editing and proofing. I once got a proposal with Colombia misspelled throughout. Did the house I was working for at the time publish that book? Nope. It could have been a great book, but the minute I see a detail like that missed? It makes me wonder what you’ll be like to work with. And the wondering I am doing is not good. I am not saying that one typo will sink you—but the fact is, it might, so better safe than sorry!

Once you have a book contract, DO:

Accept changes to your manuscript. Whether they come from a developmental editor, copyeditor, or proofreader—your publisher has hired professionals to make your book the best it can be. If an editor requests a change, wants you to cut down your word count, or points out something you missed? Don’t let your ego overrule your sense. Take  the feedback, mull it over. If you argue over every jot and tittle? Guess what ? You get the label “difficult to work with” and when you want to publish your next book? Hoo buddy! Your first one better have been a best-seller, or you will have given a publishing staff great pause.  A good editor will always maintain your voice, and respect your work. You  can certainly go to the mats for something if you know beyond doubt you’re right. But chances are, you won’t have to. Editors are not here to make your life worse—we are here to make it (and your work) better!

Let go of the packaging. Your publisher has assumed the financial risk of getting your book out to the world, and in publishing, margins can be quite thin. I tell every author I work with: They may not like your title. You may not love your cover. But again, chances are, these decisions have been made based on years of market research. A good publishing house has a staff of people who live and breathe this stuff. They usually know what they are doing when they package your book. And they have just as much interest in your book being a success as you do!

Be ready to market your book yourself. The above said, marketing budgets are always tight, even at the biggest houses. Be prepared to sell your book yourself. Set up signings, write blogs, attend book clubs, go to conferences, Tweet, Facebook…put yourself and your work out there. You want the most people to read (ahem, buy) your book as possible, right? Your marketing folks will help you, but you need to be pushing that boulder, too!
Get discouraged if your first book isn’t the next Harry Potter. Most authors dream of being a huge success, selling millions of books, getting invited over for Sunday brunch at Oprah’s—but it may not happen. In fact, it probably won’t. Aim more for good storytelling, and be ready to work hard. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. If your sales aren’t blockbuster, don’t beat yourself up! If you get a bad review? Don’t take it personally. If you are fortunate enough to be published, it means your work has merit, and your voice is important. Don’t forget that when you get a weaker-than-expected sales report or a snarky review. Dust yourself off and keep going!

Ask me your questions—I am here to help!

Ruthy here! I've worked with Ericka on two books now, the widely celebrated "Refuge of the Heart" and the soon-to-be-released "More Than a Promise", and it's been a wonderful experience! She's open to questions, talking and her goal has been to put the best book forward, a goal we agree on 100%

I've got coffee brewing, and some of the biscotti that Mary Jane Hathaway had over at the Yankee Belle Cafe on the weekend, so come on and be brave enough and bold enough to ask questions. I've got a clean cat dish here... and one person is going to get a pre-sale copy of "More Than a Promise" (when they arrive in upstate!)  

What have you been wanting to ask an editor and didn't quite have the courage to do it, face to face? Here's your chance!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Weekend Edition

This weekend we're gearing up for Valentine's Day with sales of our most romantic collections. And you can't have a swoony read without chocolate, so we've got Lindt Lindor Truffles up for grabs!! Leave a comment to be entered and don't forget to snag these collections on sale, while you can!

We Have Winners

 Giveaway rules can be found here. Please drop us a line to claim your giveaway at seekers@seekerville.net. All prizes not claimed in 8 weeks go back into the prize vault. We wish we could contact all our winners individually, but we'd rather write books! And P.S. - if we forget to send  your prize DO let us know after 8 weeks per our rules.

The three winners of an copy of either A Glimmer of Hope OR Isle of Hope are Elizabeth Van Tassel, Brenda, and Rhonda Starnes.

Monday  Mary Connealy brought us a wonderful post by Victoria Alexander, "Twenty Things I Learned in Twenty Years as an Author." Winner of Same Time, Next Christmas is Natalie Monk. Winners of With This Ring? is Kathryn Barker and Lassoed by Marriage is Kate (kathrynlvoss).

 Debut Love Inspired Suspense author, Meghan Carver was our guest on Tuesday, sharing the spotlight with Punxsutawney Phil. Her post was, "Find Your Genre…The Groundhog Way."  Shecki Grtlyblesd  and Sherida Stewart are winners of Meghan's release, Under Duress.

Wednesday was the February Contest Update. A big high-five to our amazing Contest Diva, Debra Garland. Winners of Godiva are  Rachael Koppendrayer and Cynthia Herron. Winners of 15 page critiques to prepare for the Genesis are J Baugh and Sally Shupe.

Thursday  the gals from the Yankee Belle Cafe (Mary Jane Hathaway, Jan Drexler, Mindy Obenhaus, Cate Nolan, Ruthy Logan Herne and Missy Tippens) stopped by to talk about integrating our real selves with our author status while having fun in the kitchen. Winner of Ruthy's prize package is Kathryn Barker, Jan's is BonTon, Mary Jane's is Natalie Monk, Missy's is Barbara Fox, Mindy's is Marianne and Cate's is Leanne Bristow!

With This Kiss Contemporary $.99
Next Week in Seekerville

Monday: Have you been wondering about hiring editorial services? Do you question what's good and bad about your work, your manuscript, your amazingly beautiful creation??? Join us today when free-lance editor and writer Ericka McIntyre will be here talking about the "Do's and Don'ts of Working with Editors and Publishers!" Ericka was the editor on Ruthy's acclaimed Refuge of the Heart and her upcoming delightful romance "More Than a Promise" (Franciscan Media). Leave a comment to be one of the first people to read More Than a Promise!

Tuesday: Myra Johnson takes us "From Identity to Essence in the Christian romance." We'll compare Michael Hauge's character arc concept with Timothy Keller's teachings on marriage from his book The Meaning of Marriage. Join the discussion for a chance at one of two giveaways: a copy of Keller's book OR an autographed copy of Myra's contemporary romance Autumn Rains.

Wednesday: KISSES, KISSES, KISSES ... and we aren't talkin' chocolate, so swing by to see what Julie Lessman (who some people call "The Kissing Queen") has to say on the subject in honor of Valentine's Week, including a "sweet" giveaway! 

Thursday: Ruthy Logan Herne comes galloping in today to talk about the character development of three heroes, the Stafford brothers, and yes, sure, they're smokin' hot, and they're all cowboys, but given that, and the fact that you're using the SAME SETTING and people, how in the world do you differentiate them to please the reader and yourself? Stop in, chat it up and there just might be some copies of  Back in the Saddle up for grabs in the old chuck wagon!

Friday: Best of the Archives featuring Debby Giusti with her post, “Archive Friday:"How I Built My Latest Story.” Comments are closed so we can write, but be sure to stop by and see what building blocks Debby used back in 2012 to create her Love Inspired Suspense story,The Soldier's Sister.

With This Kiss Historical Collection $.99
Seeker Sightings

Twelve Brides of Summer is on sale for $.99 in February. Novella Collection 2 features Mary Connealy. Novella Collection 3 features Pam Hillman!

Mary Connealy's Trouble in Texas 3 Book series is on sale. Pick up the books you need to complete this series today!

Today,  through February 12, you can find Tina Radcliffe at the lovely blog home of Everyone's Story, talking about "What's Your Plan B?" Stop by to chat and of course there is a giveaway!

Starting on Monday, February 8, and running throughout the week, Love Inspired Suspense Author Debby Giusti will be featured on THE SUSPENSE ZONE, along with a giveaway of her February release, PLAIN DANGER.  

Preorder Sale for New Release!
A prequel novella to Isle of Hope?? Yes, it’s true, A GLIMMER OF HOPE is on sale for only 99 cents until it’s release date of March 1st, 66% off of the release-day price, so take advantage!

She’s a wounded girl 
serving up trouble.
He’s a pastor’s kid 
bent on serving God.
But can they find a glimmer of hope
 for a future together?

Blog Birthday Giveaway/Contest!
Come help Julie Lessman celebrate blogger Jasmine Augustine’s birthday with a giveaway of A CHARACTER NAMED AFTER YOU IN Her NEXT BOOK and your choice of an ecopy of Isle of Hope or A Glimmer of Hope! Contest starts today, February 5 through February 11, so come on by! Here’s the link:

Two Giveaways!
Here’s your chance to win a Kindle Fire, Amazon gift cards, gift baskets, a character named after you in Julie's next book, twelve books by top CBA authors, more free books, and a whole lot more!! How?

1.)    BOOK LOVER’S GIVEAWAY — February 7-13, 2016:

Win TWELVE signed paperback books by TOP CBA authors such as: Hannah Alexander, Tamera Alexander, Colleen Coble, Robin Lee Hatcher, Rachel Hauck, Denise Hunter, Cara Putman, Deborah Raney, Beth Vogt, Becky Wade, and Susan May Warren, as well as our own Julie Lessman.

Just click on the link below anytime during February 7-13 and Good Luck!

2.)  IT’S TIME TO FALL IN LOVE TREASURE HUNT — February 10-29, 2016:
Join Debbie Lynne Costello, MaryLu Tyndall, and Julie Lessman as they celebrate the release of our latest books with some fabulous prizes, including 2 Kindles, Amazon gift cards, gift baskets, and books galore! 

Visit each of the blogs on the scheduled dates above for the rules and Treasure Hunt clues..and good luck.

With This Spark  & Coffee Shop Romances on sale $.99 each!

Random News & Information

Thanks to everyone who sent links!

Please not our posts are now PRINT FRIENDLY! Share but give Seekerville credit. Thanks!

Serious Writer Voice (Kristine Kathryn Rusch) ***A Must Read Post***

Jealousy (Marie Force Blog)

98 Book Marketing Ideas That Can Help Authors Increase Sales (BookBub Partners)

How Authors Can Promote Their Books with Memes (Huffington Post)

About that Million Seller... (Chip MacGregor Blog)

Query Tracker -Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Endings of Famous Love Stories: INFOGRAPHIC (GalleyCat)

The Importance of Keywords to Ranking Your Book on Amazon (The Book Designer)

The Singular They is Now Officially Correct (WGB)

Play Nice in the Inbox: 7 Tips for a Well-Designed Newsletter (Vertical Response)

Pinterest as a Writing Tool: 5 Tips for Creative Writers (DIY Author)

Share the Love This February with a Free Love Inspired Gift (Harlequin Blog)

Sign up and details on February 20th!

That's it. Enjoy National Day of Writing Sunday, or if you choose...Superbowl 50!

P.S. You can watch the Superbowl at your computer and write during the commercials! Check it out here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

BEST OF THE ARCHIVES: The Perfect Pickup Line (Or How to Hook a Reader!)

Best of the Archives. 
First posted in 2010. 
Comments are closed today. 

Hey, beautiful, is it hot in here,
or is it just you?

Hello, gorgeous—you must be tired
‘cause you've been running through my mind all day.

Ouch, babe—did it hurt? You know,
when you fell from heaven?

Okay, I don’t know about you, but if I were young and single and a guy approached me with one of the lines above, they would be dead in the water. And let’s face it—“dead in the water” is not where you want to be, whether you’re a guy looking to hook up with a girl … OR an author looking to hook up with a reader.
A guy has only one chance to make a first impression on a girl … and a writer has only one chance to hook a reader or an editor into the story of their heart. Now, honestly, do you really want to blow it on a lackluster first line?
When I walk into a bookstore to buy a book, I am drawn first by the title, the cover, the jacket blurb and then finally the first line or paragraph. If the first line or paragraph doesn’t reel me in, I put the book back on the shelf. Why? Because I am a first-line freak who wants to be wooed into the book by a “pickup line” that grabs me by the throat and says, “Hey, baby, take me home.”
But, don’t take my word for it—Joan Marlow Golan, Executive Editor of Steeple Hill said this in her Seeker guest blog two months ago Joan Marlow Golan Guest Blog: “What grabs me in a proposal is a great opening line—I find dialogue especially effective, or a sentence that propels me into the middle of some drama. ‘Setup’ openings and descriptions of the setting do not grab my attention.” Joan went on to say that one of the major reasons manuscripts are rejected by editors are because “the opening wasn’t compelling, so we didn’t read any further.”
So … what exactly makes for a great opening line? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it’s any number of the following things for which I have many examples, courtesy of the Seekers and a few of my own favorites. Keep in mind that I have broken them down into categories, but many of the following first lines incorporate a number of the categories, which, in my opinion, strengthens the line all the more:
1.) BREVITY: Yeah, yeah, I know I write 500-page books, so brevity is not exactly something Ruthy and I know a lot about, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love it—especially in other people! Here are some examples of brief first lines from the “100 Best First Lines of Novels” 100 Best First Lines of Novels as chosen by the editors of American Book Review. Notice that they are short and sweet and sold a ton of books:
Elmer Gantry was drunk.
Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis, 1927

It was a pleasure to burn.
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953

Mother died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know."
The Stranger, Albert Camus, 1942

And now a few fun examples from modern-day authors:

This was not the smartest way to die.
A Soldier’s Family, Cheryl Wyatt, March 2008

I would rather boil in oil than marry Noah Brenin.
Surrender the Heart, MaryLu Tyndall, August 2010

The sharks were circling.
Bobby Patterson had been at the party a total of three minutes.
But half that time was all it took for the smell of fresh blood
to circulate among the single women.
Love Remains, Kaye Dacus, August 2010

2.) DIALOGUE: Dialogue is always a winner because it automatically demands attention … you know, the old E. F. Hutton commercial that “when E. F. Hutton speaks, people listen”? Well, it’s the same with dialogue in the first line or paragraph—I instantly engage when I see quotes indicating somebody is talking to me, such as in the following examples of great first lines:
“Broken! It can’t be broken.”
Jilly Gardner squinted toward the light box where three X-rays
of her left ankle glowed in haunting shades of gray. “Take another look, Doc.
Maybe it’s just a smudge on your glasses.”
Where the Dogwood Blooms, Myra Johnson, July 2010

“You look awful.”
Will Sullivan shoved his hands into the back pockets of his Wranglers
and continued his intense scrutiny.
The Rancher’s Reunion, Tina Radcliffe, January 2011

3.) THOUGHTS: Ah … now THIS is my favorite, and many other writers as well, apparently, because when I polled the Seekers, the majority of them kick off their books with a thought, including me. That’s because a character’s thoughts are like a window into their soul and into the story. Not only do they carry the drama and appeal of dialogue, but they are usually both dramatic and practical, not only hooking a reader, but imparting insight into the character(s) or foreshadowing the problems ahead for that character. Here are some great Seeker examples:
Drop down and pretend to be dead.
Yeah, right. Samantha Reynolds took a tentative step backwards,
aware that tall sandstone buttes towering behind could trap her.
New Horizons, Sandra Leesmith.

Eat and leave. That’s all she had to do.
If Grandma didn’t kill her first for being late.
Sushi for One?, Camy Tang, September 2007

Cowboys ain’t nothing but trouble.
Second Chance Courtship, Glynna Kaye, February 2011

Ironically, I begin every one of my novels with the heroine’s thought. I guess this is because when I sit down and write a book, I become that character in my mind, so I just naturally pop out a thought. Somehow for me, this not only captures the essence of my character, but foreshadows the trouble ahead for her, such as in the following:
Sisters are overrated, she decided.
Not all of them, of course, only the beautiful ones who never let you forget it.
A Passion Most Pure, Julie Lessman, January 2008

Poor, unsuspecting Mitch.
The dear boy—well, hardly a boy—doesn’t stand a chance.
A Passion Redeemed, Julie Lessman, September 2008
Sweet Thunderation—deliver me from pretty men!
Love at Any Cost, Julie Lessman, April 2013
I hope you’re hungry, Mr. Caldwell, because I’m serving up crow.
Surprised by Love, Julie Lessman, October 2014
When it comes to burning bridges, I am the Queen of Kerosene.
Isle of Hope, Julie Lessman, November 2015
4.) HUMOR: Now, when we talk humor in the Christian historical romance genre, for me, Mary Connealy is the queen, although Missy Tippens’ sweet, Southern style gives Mary a run for her money with her killer first line below in her contemporary novel, as does Betsy St. Amant. A reader automatically engages when an author makes him or her smile in the first line or paragraph, so if you have the knack … go for it!

The five horsemen of the Apocalypse rode in. Late as usual.
Calico Canyon, Mary Connealy, July 2008

If there was one thing Josie knew, it was the smell of a rich man.
And whoever had just walked into the diner smelled like Fort Knox.
Her Unlikely Family, Missy Tippens, January 2008

Unemployed. Single. And out of brownie mix.
A Valentine’s Wish, Betsy St. Amant, February 2010

It is a truth universally acknowledged that
a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

5.) SHOCK: As a romance writer, shock is not exactly my thing, but there’s no denying its power in a first line as evident in the following examples.
Don't die, little girl.
Critical Care, Candace Calvert, May 2009

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie.
I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold, September 2009

I was six years old the first time I disappeared.

Vanishing Acts, Jodi Picoult, November 2005

6.) SUSPENSE: I always contend that it takes a smarter person to write romantic mystery or suspense because over and above the research, romance and engaging plot, you have the extra task of keeping your reader on pins and needles and surprising them at the end—not an easy thing to do. Here is an example from Seeker Debby Giusti who does this really well:
“Kate. I need your help.”
The urgency in the caller’s voice made Kate Murphy’s heart race.
“Who… Who is this?”
MIA: Missing in Atlanta, Debby Giusti, March 2008

7.) ACTION: Without question, action is a bona fide way to jerk your reader right into the story because it’s almost as if they are no longer just reading about someone else—they are actually experiencing the same thing too. For some reason, I didn’t have a lot of examples for action, so in addition to Seeker Pam Hillman’s action-packed first lines, I included one of my own from a prologue, which is a little long, but then what’s new?
Amanda Malone slammed into something hard and unforgiving.
The collision sent her cane flying. Strong arms wrapped around her,
keeping her from falling on her backside.
Eyes of the Heart, Pam Hillman.

She heard it before she felt it.
Harsh air sucking through clenched teeth, the grunt
of an arm raised, the soft swish of a hand slicing the air. “I want the truth—”
And then she felt it. The crack of knuckles when her jaw met
the back of his hand,  the thud of her head against the wall,
the putrid rise of nausea as it climbed in her throat.
“Did you sleep with him?”
“No, I swear—”
A Heart Revealed, Julie Lessman, September 2011

8.) INSIGHT INTO THE CHARACTER/STORY: To me, this is actually a lot like “thoughts” because it gives the reader a glimpse into the hero or heroine, but it’s done through action or the author’s description of the character. Anytime an author imparts insight into their character, it revs me for the story, such as in these excellent examples.
Elizabeth Manning had examined every option open to her.
But in the end, she had only one. Her heart lurched. She had to run.
The Substitute Bride, Janet Dean, February 2010

Charlotte Hale’s legs, hidden beneath her long serge skirt,
wobbled like a newborn colt’s.
Love on Assignment, Cara Lynn James, January 2011

Returning to Hawk Ridge pasted Zac Davidson smack in the middle
of a Hallmark movie, complete with endless commercials and burned popcorn.
Unfortunately, he'd never had use for idealized propaganda
and the notion of happy ever after.
Well, not in this lifetime.
Take Two, Audra Harders

He stood hard and unyielding,
one arm stretched across the entry as if to block Kayla’s approach.
Light spilled from the angled door of the old farmhouse,
warming the mold-hashed porch with a splash of gold,
backlighting his rugged frame.
Winter’s End, Ruth Logan Herne, March 2010

Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful,
but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm
as the Tarleton twins were."
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
The Bible, God, 1384 AD

Okay, there you have it—my suggestions for coming up with great “pickup lines.” And remember … “pickup lines” are not just a handy tool for a guy who wants to hit on a girl in a bar … they’re a must for the writer who wants to hit on the hot button of an editor or reader … an editor or reader who, if you get lucky, just may take you home.

GIVEAWAY: Unfortunately, since this is an archive post with comments turned off, I can’t do a giveaway, but I can TELL you about giveaways going on right now, along with a preorder sale on my novella prequel, A Glimmer of Hope, so be sure to check out the graphics below for a chance to win a KINDLE FIRE, GIFT BASKETS, GIFT CARDS, FREE BOOKS, AND A CHARACTER NAMED AFTER YOU IN MY NEXT BOOK! Hope to see you there!

 February 10-29, 2016:

Join Debbie Lynne Costello, MaryLu Tyndall, and me as we celebrate the release of our latest books with some fabulous prizes, including 2 Kindles, Amazon gift cards, gift baskets, and books galore! 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Friday, February 12, 2016
Friday, February 19, 2016
Friday, February 26, 2016
Monday, February 29, 2016

Friday, March 4, 2016 — Winner’s Announced

A prequel novella to Isle of Hope?? Yes, it’s true, A GLIMMER OF HOPE is on sale for only 99 cents until it’s release date of March 1st, 66% off of the release-day price, so take advantage!

She’s a wounded girl serving up trouble.
He’s a pastor’s kid bent on serving God.
But can they find a glimmer of hope for a future together?

Come help me celebrate reader friend/blogger Jasmine Augustine’s birthday with a giveaway of A CHARACTER NAMED AFTER YOU IN MY NEXT BOOK and your choice of an ecopy of Isle of Hope or A Glimmer of Hope! Contest starts today, February 5 through February 11, so come on by! Here’s the link:

February 7-13, 2016:

Win TWELVE signed paperback books by TOP CBA authors such as:

Hannah Alexander, Tamera Alexander, Colleen Coble, Robin Lee Hatcher, Rachel Hauck, Denise Hunter, Julie Lessman, Cara Putman, Deborah Raney, Beth Vogt, Becky Wade, Susan May Warren