Saturday, April 25, 2015

We Interrupt This Program . . .

Mr. Weather threatened to mess with our plans last week. Forecast called for rough storms and flooded roads. Janice wisely decided to cancel the meeting in advance. Granted, the threat turned out to be an idle one, but if she'd waited until Saturday, and the threat had been real, she would've had a hard time catching those of us who have a long drive to inform us about the cancellation. So, if you're ever in doubt about our meeting, or need information about it, you can check here or on our Facebook page and catch all the latest news. 

This time, Janice wanted to be certain she caught us all with the weather alert, so she even sent an email. Then, bless her amazingly generous heart, she sent another to all 157 members containing the .pdf of her book,Writing and Selling the Great American Novel. If you didn't get it, check your spam or check in with us and update your information and email address. (Same deal if you didn't get the cancellation notice.)

This month, our featured classic author is Laura Ingalls Wilder, without whom we would've never met Melissa Gilbert--but that's another story. 

The Little House series would be classified as YA today, but I didn't read it until I was deep into my twenties, and I loved the entire series. I must've been twenty-four when I realized what an anachronism I am. Just let me have my washing machine and indoor plumbing, and send me back to the ol' soddy. Among other little known and totally irrelevant facts about Laura: she died the day before I was born, the same day my paternal grandfather died, February 10, 1957.

Any other little known facts about the author, you'll have to discover on your own. Warning: you will be tested at the next meeting.

Which reminds me--and let me see if I can get this big enough and bold enough so it won't be missed: 


Does that do it?

In case you're wondering who our speaker is--and you haven't looked at the side bar--it's our own Kathrese McKee. 

More about Kathrese next week, so stay tuned!

Till next time, God bless all our Storm Writers!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dancing with the Words

NOTICE: the April 18 meeting has been canceled due to inclement weather. 


I love Dancing with the Stars. It's one of my guilty pleasures. The couples elegantly dip and sway, spin and turn, and glide across the floor--or gyrate across the floor, doing things I couldn't do even when I was young enough to do them. It makes me wistful with the longing to dance like they do.
But it isn't just the beautiful, effortless dancing that draws me in. It's the behind-the-scenes clips of the work involved in making the dance beautiful and effortless.
In some room somewhere, with windows along one wall, and a barre mounted to a mirror along the other, these men and women sweat, fall, curse, cry, get up, and start all over again. They're dressed in their scrubbiest clothes, sometimes in their dance shoes, sometimes in street shoes. The women don't have makeup on and their hair is usually pulled carelessly out of the way.
And they work. Do the same steps over and over until they get them right. String the steps together into the components of the choreography, stream those components into the dance itself, and practice. And practice, and practice.
Often, sixty hours a week go in to making one three-minute performance look easy, like anyone can jump from the sofa and dip and sway and gyrate, just like they do on TV.
But of course, they can't.
Any form of art takes work and practice, which is why it always strikes me as funny when someone says they're going to sit down and write a book and "become a famous author!"
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes. In some room somewhere, with or without windows, with or without a mirror, authors study and write and edit and rewrite. All so the book the reader holds in his hands can seem like an effortless flow of words into a gripping story--like anyone can jump up from the sofa and write a story just like it.
The more I've learned about what goes in to "good" writing, the harder it has become. Whenever I feel I've mastered some aspect, I'm challenged with another. What goes in to writing a novel is no easier than what goes in to that Monday night performance. They both take work.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Amazing Janice Thompson, Author Extraordinaire!

In case you missed the email, let me fill you in: Janice is our guest speaker for the 18th! Squeal!

She is going to teach even us pantsers how to plot a novel, so bring pen and paper, because if you're like me, you'll want to take notes.

For those of you not familiar with our 2015 WOTS President, I stole this from her Amazon page to help you get acquainted:

Inspirational author Janice Thompson also writes under the name Janice Hanna. She got her start in the industry writing screenplays and musical comedies for the stage. Janice has published over 100 books for the Christian market, crossing genre lines to write cozy mysteries, historicals, romances, nonfiction books, devotionals, children's books and more. In addition, she enjoys editing, ghost-writing, public speaking, and mentoring young writers. She was thrilled to be named the 2010 Barbour/Heartsong Author of the Year, with three books on the top ten list for that house. Janice is active in her local writing group, where she regularly teaches on the craft of writing. Her online course, "Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer" ( has been helpful to many who want to earn a living with their writing. Janice is passionate about her faith and does all she can to share the joy of the Lord with others, which is why she particularly enjoys writing. She lives in Spring, Texas, where she leads a rich life with her family, a host of writing friends, and two mischievous dachshunds. She does her best to keep the Lord at the center of it all. You can find out more about Janice at or Her Facebook page can be located here:

Janice says she'll be bringing plenty of copies of her new release, Every Bride Needs a Groom, so be ready. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it!

Bring a friend, y'all! This promises to be good!

Kathleen Y'Barbo on Characterization

Pinkerton Agents, Inventions, and the Charming Villain:
Three Essential Ingredients of a Good Bad Guy

Will Tucker is a handsome fellow with enough charm and drop-dead good looks to gain more than one wealthy fiancĂ©. And he does. Not exactly hero material, is he? That’s because Will Tucker, the subject of my new Southern-with-a-dash-of-Steampunk historical series The Secret Lives of Will Tucker is not the hero. He’s the villain.

Writing a series with a villain at its center is a departure for me. Thus, taking on the telling of the story of Will Tucker, the charming and smooth-talking chameleon with the dubious intentions was new territory. In order to write heroines who would be fooled by this fellow and yet not appear to be less than worthy of their stories, I had to find that combination of good intentions and strong will. I also had to create a villain who these women would be willing to marry. Thus, the bad guy had to be good, at least in part. What a conundrum.

In the process of creating Will Tucker, I came up with a general list of requirements for any good (and by that I mean bad) villain. For the sake of clarity, I refer to the villain as a male, but rest assured that these tips can just as easily apply to women.

  • A villain must have a good reason for his actions. This can be past history, current circumstances, or something altogether different. However, the reason must make sense to him. For example, if he feels compelled to kick old ladies, he’d best have an elderly female in his past that was a source of pain or fear.
  • A villain must have at least one redeeming quality. He may murder people, but he adores his mother. Or maybe he treats his pets with loving care or donates half of his paycheck each week to charity. Whatever it is, let there be something about this guy that is likeable.
  • A villain must not be one-dimensional. Avoid clichĂ© bad guys who have nothing else in life except the evil they commit. Make them members of a community or perhaps give them hobbies or family. Ground a bad guy in a real world scenario that makes him seem more relatable.

Using these three elements, I created a handsome and charming swindler whose penchant for entering into engagements with society women is eclipsed only by the ease with which he bestows his attention upon them. Will Tucker’s education and background gives him the skills to pass himself as a member of their social strata while those same elements provide his excuse for scheming against them. Because he has a family, a history, and a reason for his actions, Will Tucker holds his own against the Southern belles and Pinkertons who populate his world.

So what becomes of a villain who is so likeable that women fall for him and men don’t mind calling themselves his friend? As I wrote the tales of Flora Brimm, and Millie Cope , and even as I began Sadie Callum’s story, I wasn’t sure how I could pull off an ending worthy of such a fellow. In the end, Will himself determined his fate. Without giving anything away, I will say that the villain can sometimes switch hats and play the hero, too.


Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of more than fifty novels with almost two million copies in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan, she has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and Book of the Year by Romantic Times magazine.

Kathleen is a paralegal, a proud military wife, and an expatriate Texan cheering on her beloved Texas Aggies from north of the Red River. Connect with her through social media at

Sadie’s Secret, a Secret Life of Will Tucker historical romantic suspense novel, is in stores now:

Watch for Firefly Summer, the first in the contemporary Pies, Books & Jesus Book Club series coming this summer from Redbud Press! 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

LoRee Peery on Characterization

“Every character you create is partly you.” ~ Stephen King in On Writing

By accepting the invitation to appear here on Writers on the Storm, I agreed to write on the assigned topic of characterization. I was reminded of the Mission Impossible phrase, “Should you agree to accept this assignment”… the first thing I did was pray.

Author LoRee Peery
Do I know anything about character that writers haven’t read or heard before? Though I have several publications to my credit, I will always have more to learn.

My file on characterization, used to begin a new project, was once an eleven-page template. I struggled through those details for each of my stories, based on what works for successful authors. Two novellas ago, I trimmed that down to six pages. It’s a lot of work to brainstorm, fill in the grids and worksheets, and play “what if?” I often think I make it too hard.

Some authors conduct interviews to get to know their made-up people more intimately. I have notebooks and paper files on how to write deep, memorable characters. Their wounds, names, jobs, places in the family, emotions, flaws, phobias, heroism. You get the idea. The list goes on.

People have problems. In order to face those problems and ultimately rise above them, the creator of character needs to know these fictitious people in order to tell their stories.

Characters are Story People

The oldest character book I have on my bookshelf is Fiction is Folks by Robert Newton Peck. According to Peck, character makes your story glisten. What matters is the inner man, the mind, the soul. And as an author, you need to know that person.

Mind and soul takes me right to what God has to say about character. Character is the inner person. You all have the smarts to search out what God has to say about character in the Bible. In Writing the Christian Romance, Gail Gaymer Martin sums it up this way:

By allowing characters to ignore God’s command [on biblical attributes], the hero and heroine will falter in their faith and pay the consequences of sorrow and sin. These make excellent conflicts because they are real-life issues with which all Christians must struggle.

Character is Plot

Dynamic Characters, by Nancy Kress, begins with a quote by novelist Henry James, “Character is plot.” [Romance author, LoRee Peery, could quit this post and let all you writers take it from here.] Kress claims the first step with an interesting story idea is to turn whatever that is into character. Who, what, why, how, where – all pointing to what can go wrong.

Orson Scott Card says in Characters and Viewpoint, “Effective characterization requires careful attention at every stage in the writing of fiction.” He also reminds us people are what they have done, and what has been done to them. Does that sound like plot to you?

Character Equals Fiction

Larry Brooks devotes fifty pages to character in Story Engineering. To sum up Brooks on characterization, it is the vehicle that delivers theme, it is the window that allows killer concept to expand and thrive. Characters are the focus of scene creation and the lyrics of your writing voice.

Character is Also Structure.

In Techniques of the Selling Writer, Dwight V. Swain—anyone heard of him?—titles a chapter “The people in your story.” He says, “Your character’s need to control destiny, to feel adequate to each developing situation, is what gives him his strength, his drive, his motive force: in a word, his direction.”

Characters have Emotions

In Creating Character Emotions, Ann Hood demonstrates good and bad examples, by using thirty-six common emotions. The rippling effect of emotions in fiction—the way they help to create character, setting, theme, and plot—are meant to be threaded throughout story.

Some authors make it sound easy. Rachel Hauck posted a blog on Novel Rocket, where she explains how she designs her internal character with five elements:

  • Dark wound of the past.
  • The Lie he believes.
  • The greatest fear.
  • The secret desire.
  • What can they do in the end they couldn't do in the beginning?

Then she works on developing their story. Which brings me to the latest book on writing I’ve dug into.

Master the Subtleties of Characterization

Steven James, in Story Trumps Structure, has made me reconsider that six-page character file I mentioned earlier. I quote: “Filling out those detailed character histories and personality profiles is most often simply a waste of time.” He advises writers to break the rules.

Ask yourself what your character wants and what goes wrong, and go from there. His section on characters is called “Subtleties of Characterization.” Characters have attitude—they have quirks and idiosyncrasies—just like us. Imagine that.

Thank you for reading this far. I will leave you with what I’ve learned.

No matter how many charts and forms I’ve filled out, story is not story until I’ve worked through whose story I’m telling.

As Stephen King says, if you do your job, your characters will come to life.

We grow as Christians. We make these story people memorable by putting ourselves into each and every one as they grow through their struggles in the context of story. After all, we grow through our struggles, or God would be finished with us.

Grow those story people until they overcome their struggles. Finish their stories.

We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. ~~ Romans 5:3-5 (NASB)


A Nebraska country girl, LoRee Peery attempts to see God’s presence every day. Often that gift comes from nature, and she is most relaxed in the outdoors. The call of a cardinal draws her to look for the distinctive flash of crimson. A meadowlark’s melody always transports her to the farm where she grew up. A rainbow holds special significance, since one appeared the day of her father’s funeral and means the promise of the Lord’s presence in her life. She clings to I John 5:4 and prays her family sees that faith. You can find her at or the Pelican Book Group site

Paisley and Rob love each other, but neither is willing to correct what needs to be fixed in their relationship, so Paisley relocates out of state. When she discovers a secret that may repair Rob’s view of his past, she reaches out. Rob is still bitter over Paisley’s inability to commit and her habit of running, but he believes she sincerely cares for him, so he investigates her claim to have found his unknown heritage. After the emotional turmoil of meeting a family he knew nothing about, Rob’s love for Paisley convinces him to reconcile their differences. His world is incomplete without Paisley. However, she is reluctant to move forward, and has an opportunity to flee again. Will Rob help convince Paisley the answer is not to move again, but lies with the Lord, or will Rob lose Paisley forever?

Find Paisley's Pattern on sale on the Pelican Book Group site!