Why Should I Read Your Book?

Jul 17th 2014
Posted by Susan

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It was early on a Sunday morning, and the house was quiet. It’s my favorite time to read so I wandered downstairs to my bookshelves to hunt up a book. I have more than 500 books, many I haven’t read. Twenty minutes later, I was still hunting. (It’s not unlike trying to find something to wear!) What was I looking for? Voice, character sympathy, an intriguing plot, and the most important element: WHY.

This is the last—and the most important—trick to writing a suspense.

W – Why – Why should they read your book? So it’s fun? So it’s romantic, so your character has overcome some dangers and saved the world. The key to a great suspense is that it more than just a romance, more than just a thriller. A great book says something about life, about God, about the human experience that the reader can resonate with.

A great book makes us think, long after we put it down. A great book might even change us.

Yes, even a suspense. Why were Tom Clancy books so popular? They posed a “What if?” that made us sit up and panic, our hearts in our throats. Really, was a terrorist attack right around the corner? (Sum of all Fears) Or, did we really narrowly miss WWIII? (The Hunt for Red October)

How about the Vince Flynn thrillers? Or the John Grisham books that make us think about issues in our legal system? A great suspense can confront global issues . . . or personal ones. How about the Harlan Coben books? He’s made a career out of asking scary “what if” questions about everyday people. What if you came home and discovered your wife missing? What if someone from your past showed up to threaten you? Scare questions that can make a person think about how they live their life.

A story that resonates is a story that gets under our skin and asks questions that don’t leave us alone. How do you do this?

Ask yourself, What will my reader learn from this story?

Then ask, What truth am I telling? A great suspense embeds not only a story question but also a universal truth into a reader. For example, Harlan Coben has convinced us that yes, your past will come back to haunt you. Tom Clancy has embedded the idea that there are always evil forces at work in the world. It’s these truths that linger with the reader and keeps us up long after they put the book down.

What is the universal truth of Dante’s Peak? Even in the midst of trauma and trial, two people can find true love. Bird on a Wire? True love is worth waiting—and fighting—for.

In my book Expect the Sunrise, it’s that each day is a new day with God, even when there are terrorists chasing you across Alaska.

Ask WHY.

The answer is the trick that will sell you story.

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Cooking and Fiction

Jul 9th 2014
Posted by Susan

I love cooking shows, and I’ve always wanted to write a story about an everyday Iron Chef (hello, every mother out there who’s opened the fridge and said, “Huh, what can I make with a carrot, a hunk of cheese, two eggs, and a leftover pancake?”). Our family went to Hawaii last year, and the setting captured my heart—I knew I had to put a book there, and even better . . . a cooking book. But vacations also have a way of making you forget your troubles. So, what if a couple met and fell in love on vacation; could they bring the romance home, into real life?

Read When I Fall in Love to find out!

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Happy 4th of July (And an Epic 99-Cent Sale to Celebrate!)

Jul 4th 2014
Posted by Susan

I never realized how patriotic I was until I spent Independence Day in another country. To my shock, July 4th in Russia came without fireworks, hot dogs on a campfire, or any hint of watermelon! We had to decide—did we celebrate our freedom anyway, on our own?

We lived in the middle of a county just experiencing the first taste of freedom from oppression, fear, secrets, and the right to pursue a life of opportunity. Stories of the KGB listening to conversations via “bugs” in the light fixtures, legendary bread lines, and songs of devotion to Father Lenin made us ever aware of how free we were to even think for ourselves in America. Proof of this was the standard—now defunct—propaganda radio affixed to my kitchen wall.

YES. Regardless of where we lived, when the 4th of July rolled around, we donned our red, white, and blue, bought some hot dogs and took a day to say thank you to those who sacrificed and believed in a country where people could pursue life, liberty and happiness. May you have a happy, hot dog, watermelon, and apple pie 4th of July no matter where you live!

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 2.40.24 PMDo you like stories of intrigue from the past, with romantic heroes, set in foreign lands?

Join me on the journey of the Heirs of Anton—three women fighting for freedom and family!

Ekaterina

Who are you and where did you come from? Upon receiving an unusual package in the mail, Ekaterina “Kat” Moore boards a plane to Russia, her ancestral home, to seek answers.

Get Ekaterina now for only 99 cents at Amazon!

Marina

What if you, in order to save your family, had to sacrifice yourself? I put the happy ending in Ekaterina, and the epic beginning in Oksana – but the glorious middle story betrays the compelling choice that Marina makes. If you like World War 2 stories, I invite you to journey with me to the Russian Front, to courage, sacrifice, bravery—and the secret that only love can save.

Get Marina now for only 99 cents at Amazon!

Oksana

Who is this woman, and why does the Czar of Russia ask a lowly merchant to take care of her? When Oksana’s secret is discovered, is Anton Klassen the man she needs to save a family’s legacy? The exciting conclusion to the mystery of the Heirs of Anton.

Get Oksana now for only 99 cents at Amazon!

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Passion Versus Publishing

Jul 2nd 2014
Posted by Susan

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I receive a lot of questions from aspiring writers, and this one caught my eye.

Have you ever had a story you wanted to write, a spiritual message you wanted to share, but it won’t let you just yet?

Yes, I have a couple stories sitting in my heart I haven’t had the opportunity or perhaps the divine timing to write yet.

I’m a firm believer that God will work out the story in the right time, so I continue to collect ideas, impressions, do research, and let those ideas soak, waiting for the right timing.

But sometimes I’m not ready—emotionally or even professionally—to write it. Maybe I don’t have the skill level yet. And I certainly don’t want to waste my swan’s song on mediocre writing! Or maybe the market isn’t ready for my brilliant idea. So, in the meantime, I move onto the stories I have the ability to write right now.

This is what happened with my Josey series. The story of my hilarious happenings in Russia simmered in my heart years before God opened the door to write it. And when He did, the timing was perfect. (My first book in that series, Everything’s Coming Up Josey, was a Christy finalist.) The same thing happened with Nothing but Trouble. I cooked up my heroine PJ Sugar four years before I saw it come to publication. And I’m glad I waited; I was able to write a deeper story than the one I had originally envisioned.

I’ve always loved historical fiction, but I had to wait until I had the time to do the research, as well as the ability to pull them off. I envisioned something more literary, so I had to grow into those skills, reading widely and doing a thorough scrutiny of my writing. My first dive into the historical genre was Sons of Thunder (which won the new Inspy Bloggers award!).

I think a lot of writers believe they have to write the stories on their hearts . . . but perhaps they’re also not ready to write that story yet. I think it’s wise to ask God if it’s time or if there is another story that could hone your skills in the meantime, in preparation for that heart story.

So don’t give up on your heart story, but consider that you’re not quite ready to write it yet. Or, maybe the market isn’t ready for it yet. Or both. Wait on Him, and be open to working on something else in the meantime.

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‘When I Fall in Love’ Available Now!

Jun 25th 2014
Posted by Susan

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I’m so happy to announce that my new book, When I Fall in Love, is available NOW everywhere books and ebooks are sold! You can buy the book from Barnes & NobleChristian Book Distributors, and Amazon!

Behind the Pages of ‘When I Fall in Love’

Jun 18th 2014
Posted by Susan

When I Fall in Love cover

For better or worse.  Richer or poorer.  In sickness and in health.  I’ll be celebrating 25 years with my amazing husband this summer, and as I look back it feels like time is but a blink.  Just yesterday, I was walking down the aisle to his smile, wondering how I got so lucky.  And life has been generous to me – four amazing children, a rich landscape of faith-building experiences.

It’s not been without challenges, however.  Many a day, as I lived in Siberia, I thought…what did I get myself in to?  And, we’ve changed, become different people.  Life and romance didn’t always measure up.  Thankfully, we’ve had a long-term view of the game.  But what if I was only promised five years, or less.  Or, what if he had a terrible disease that required me to care for him all our days? Would I have said yes to this adventure?  It’s one thing to pledge yourself to love, and then endure through the unexpected challenges…completely another to look at life knowing the darkness is ahead.

I came upon the idea for When I Fall in Love a few ways. First, I had a friend who married her sweetheart, knowing he had incurable brain cancer.  He died three years later, and she said it was the best three years of her life.

Then, I had another friend who married young, and just a few years into her marriage, her husband came down with early onset Alzheimer’s.  She nursed him until she couldn’t care for him any longer, then fell in love with someone else and, although it was painful, divorced her first husband and married the other man.  It haunted her.

I wonder if it was the perspective of knowing what lay ahead that helped the first rejoice, while the second felt robbed.  Knowing her days might be few…my first friend feasted on every moment and ended well nourished, the taste of hope in her heart.

Read more about the inspiration behind the story here.

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The Writer Inside

Jun 11th 2014
Posted by Susan

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I think a true writer can’t stop writing. They love words, and stories, and the way they sing together. I have been a story teller since my early days (just as my mother!) and have always loved a great tale. But I have also loved to read, and not just novels, but poetry. I love to weave a passage together to evoke a mood in a narrative piece, to write songs and poems, and I love how language can make us laugh out loud or even cry when used correctly. I have to write stories like a singer needs to sing and a chef needs to cook. I can’t NOT write, and even if I’m not writing . . . I’m writing. Or at least working on a story.  And when I saw my daughter and son do the same thing, I realized, for the first time . . . I’m not weird!  (OK, maybe a little, but I’m OK with that!)

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New Books Coming Your Way!

Jun 4th 2014
Posted by Susan

Just thought I’d give you a quick update about some new books coming your way! First up?

WhenIFallInLove

When I Fall in Love: A fun story about a wanna-be Iron Chef who goes to Hawaii and gets involved in a cooking contest! She’s paired with an unlikely chef, hockey star Maxwell Sharpe, and discovers that they can create something delicious—in the kitchen, and out. But when she discovers a terrible secret about him, she’ll have to choose between her happily after ever and the only man she’ll ever love. It’s out in July 2014.

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Evergreen: I just finished a novella for next Christmas, and it’s about John and Ingrid Christiansen who are in the empty-nest years of their lives . . . until they get an unexpected Christmas gift. Suddenly, they discover old wounds and fears resurfacing—the kind that could destroy their marriage. How do they keep their love Evergreen in the winter of their lives?

I loved this story because it resembled something that happened to my husband and me . . . and I loved sharing the truth that we discovered in it. I am very much like Ingrid Christiansen. Evergreen is out in September 2014.

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Wedding Fun!

May 28th 2014
Posted by Susan

This morning I sat outside, listening to the birds, nursing a cup of coffee, thinking through all the amazing moments of last weekend’s wedding. Thank you to all who worked so hard to create a beautiful day for Sarah May and hubby Neil Erredge! Here are some snaps from the celebrations:

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Behind the Scenes of ‘Reclaiming Nick’

May 21st 2014
Posted by Susan

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In honor of Throwback Thursday tomorrow, I thought it’d be fun to take a trip back in time to . . . Reclaiming Nick! I grew up attending rodeos, and WANTING to ride horses, but I had to do quite a bit of research for this story. I did read a lot of westerns and modern day, non-fiction books about ranching to prepare my voice for this book, as well as to create the ranching world.

I actually went out west and stayed on a ranch for a week, getting my hands dirty and asking lots and lots of stupid questions. But I loved it, and the beauty of the Montana land is etched in my mind.

Here’s a bit about the characters in Reclaiming Nick:

Nick – I love his inner protector, the fact that he so wants to keep Piper out of trouble and help her, and yet not let her into his life. He’s passionate, and longs to be a good man, and I love the fact he can stay one step ahead of Piper and her craziness.
Piper – I love her guts. She isn’t afraid to tackle something unknown, and to go out on a limb for what she believes in.
Maggy – she is a woman who faithfully works the land and the life God has given her. She is a noble woman in every sense of the word.
Cole – He’s my quiet hero who picks up the pieces, who is dependable, who loves his family so much he’d sacrifice himself for them. He’s the kind of guy every woman wants to have standing behind her.

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Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference

August 4-7, 2014
Portland, OR

ACFW Conference

September 25-28, 2014
St. Louis, MN
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