Developing a Work of Fiction by Author Carrie Stuart Parks

Monday, August 25, 2014

I didn’t think I could write. 
Not fiction at any rate. Over the course of several years, I discovered I could write nonfiction. I’d successfully written and illustrated several how-to drawing books. When I visited the publisher, North Light Media, my editor said I had a great voice. I grinned, thanked her, and asked, “what’s ‘voice’?” 
I decided to write a non-fiction book about signs of deception from a Biblical perspective. As a forensic artist and law enforcement instructor, I experienced and studied deception displayed by certain ‘victims’ of crime. Each chapter started with an illustration from my forensic work: a young man who claims to have been attacked by a ninja, a bank robbery case where the robber was the bank teller, a killer who murdered his wife and said it was two other men. I had great stories. But … I needed to fictionalize them. I discovered it wasn’t that hard.
I pondered the ease of working in fiction. I also thought about my childhood. I grew up, and still live, on a 685 acre ranch in the mountains of North Idaho. We had a lot of horses. Every chance I had, I would gallop madly through the woods on horseback imagining I was a French resistance fighter pursued by Germans, or Velvet Brown about to win the Grand National, or an early pioneer chased by an irate Cheyanne war party. I could be very creative in inventing reasons to roam through the woods on horseback.
So maybe I wasn’t so unimaginative…and I loved to read…I did write poetry in college…so what’s so hard about writing a novel?
Boy howdy, was I in for a learning curve! Show, not tell. Passive language. Plot points. No tension. Thin characters. You name it, I had to learn it. I really believed I was writing well. And I had an awesome mentor: NY Times best-selling author, Frank Peretti. But I was blind to the errors in my writing.  I finally decided to study each writing point I should be doing automatically and study it until it was second nature. This took years. Ten to be exact. In between I suffered discouragement, tears, and occasional moments of above average writing. 
The payoff finally came. Terry Burns of Hartline agency signed me a day after reading my finished manuscript. Thomas Nelson expressed interest twenty-seven minutes after receiving a book proposal. Five out of eight publishers receiving the proposal wanted the full, with two major publishers vying for publication rights in a three book deal at auction. Pretty heady stuff. 
So, let me share some hard-learned advice: keep writing. There are only two types of writers: those who have been discouraged, and those who will be discouraged. Listen to other writers who tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Keep growing and learning. Everyone starts down that long journey to publication the same way. And God Bless.

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning fine artist and internationally known forensic artist. She teaches forensic art courses to law enforcement professionals and is the author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing. Carrie began to write fiction while battling breast cancer and was mentored by New York Times best-selling author Frank Peretti. Now in remission, she continues to encourage other women struggling with cancer. 

The Tale of the Five-Foot Jack Rabbit or. . .What To Do When Your Well-Plotted Novel Veers Off Course

By Elizabeth Ludwig

Anyone who has ever traveled east from the Pacific Ocean, or west from Jacksonville, Florida, has more than likely, at one time or another, driven down Interstate Highway 10, or I10, as we Texans affectionately call it. Officially, it is the southernmost transcontinental highway in the American Interstate Highway System and the fourth longest highway in the United States, with about 1/3 of its length spanning the state of Texas at its breadth.

Unofficially, it is the highway to hell.

Sections of it are perpetually under construction, at which time I10 becomes a concrete death trap upon which Texas drivers compete for the title of Road Warrior.

I happened to be navigating one such section recently. Traffic was unusually heavy, and my coffee cup sat untouched in its holder as I traversed, white-knuckled and tense, with my teeth clenched and heart pounding, west toward Houston. Several time, I contemplated turning around, taking another route even if it added an hour to my trip. I almost did. And then…the most wondrous thing happened.

I saw a kangaroo. On I10. In Texas.

For several seconds, I could do nothing but stare. I ripped my gaze off of the bumper in front of me, slowed down quickly enough to make the driver behind me honk, and watched as an amazingly Australian figment of my imagination hopped across the highway, over the divider, and into oncoming traffic. How the animal managed to avoid becoming flatter than a Qantas runway is inexplicable. What I do know is that for several miles, I drove openmouthed with my eyes fixed to my rearview mirror as my brain struggled to comprehend what I had just seen.

It was a jack rabbit, my dazed conscious attempted to interject. Everything is bigger in Texas.

Still, a five-foot high jack rabbit was a bit much for this non-native to accept. I drove on in silence for several miles. When I got to Houston, I conducted my business and went on home, one eye ever watchful for a flash of furry figment. I saw nothing—not a pocket or ear, nor bit of hairy hide.

I didn’t speak of the five-foot jack rabbit. To. Anyone. Over time, memory of it faded. What did stick with me was how this completely unexpected diversion impacted me. I thought of it for days. I dreamed of it for nights. And I knew…someday…that the retelling of the five-foot jack rabbit would appear in a story.

You see, writers, often the very best tales are the ones that come at us unexpectedly. Not with careful plotting and hours upon hours of meticulous storyboarding. That’s what I learned on I10 that day. Sometimes, it’s okay to follow a rabbit trail (so to speak).

Don’t get me wrong. Having written myself into a corner on more than one occasion, I am a firm believer in plotting. No writer’s block for me, thank you very much. No sagging middles or unresolved red herrings. Plotting a story from start to finish has helped me avoid many a writerly pitfall. But what to do when a secondary character or story arc takes on a life of its own? As creators of our fictional realms, we wield the power to nip these offshoots before they have a chance to blossom, but should we?

A notable author told me once to write seven possible resolutions to my story. Toss out the first six. Those are scenarios that your reader will expect, the ones they came up with in their head as they watched your story unfold. The seventh one—the one you racked your brain trying to think up, the one that seems most implausible and takes the longest to fully develop, that is the storyline no one will see coming. Kinda like a five-foot jack rabbit on I10.

I eventually told my husband about the animal I saw crossing the highway. When he finally stopped laughing he said, “You didn’t really thing it was a jack rabbit, did you?”

“Well,” I replied weakly, “everything is bigger in Texas.”

“Baby,” my husband said, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, “the Barnum & Bailey Circus was crossing from Lake Charles to Houston. One of their truck trailers tipped over and a couple of animals got out. You didn’t see a five-foot jack rabbit crossing I10. It was a kangaroo.”

Oh. That explains it. And now, The Tale of the Five-Foot Jack Rabbit.

Chapter One…

Elizabeth Ludwig is the award-winning author of No Safe Harbor and Dark Road Home, Books one and two in the Edge of Freedom series. Book three in the series, Tide and Tempest, was recently named a Top 10 Pick of 2014. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoys a wide readership. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Good morning, BB fans! Thanks to everyone who participated in our "puzzling" Friday giveaway! Keep all those facebook and Twitter notifications, coming!

This week's winner is:  - Home to Chicory Lane by Deb Raney.

Congratulations! Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book.

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 72: The Reign of Peace

As so often of late, the plight of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in Iraq but other places as well, has been heavy on my heart. We watch from afar and feel helpless to affect the situation. We cry out for God to intervene. We might rail at the current state of affairs and the lack of action or even proper direction from our leaders. All the while, people are suffering ... people are dying.

Psalm 72 (NKJV) ~ A Psalm of Solomon.

The end notation tells us that this psalm was composed by David, so I surmise that this might also be called a psalm for Solomon, the son David had just handed the throne he knew was given by covenant with God. His words are full of the hope that Solomon, as his name implies (derived from the Hebrew word shalom, or peace) would bring about the peace that David was never able to achieve.

Give the king Your judgments, O God,
And Your righteousness to the king’s Son.
He will judge Your people with righteousness,
And Your poor with justice.
The mountains will bring peace to the people,
And the little hills, by righteousness.
He will bring justice to the poor of the people;
He will save the children of the needy,
And will break in pieces the oppressor.

How we long for a ruler who will administer true peace and justice! Who will not just serve his own needs or some hidden agenda, but save the innocent and then punish those who deserve it, and who will point us to worship in the One True God ...

They shall fear You
As long as the sun and moon endure,
Throughout all generations.
He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
Like showers that water the earth.
In His days the righteous shall flourish,
And abundance of peace,
Until the moon is no more.

None knew the limitations of earthy kingship better than David. Did he really believe Solomon’s reign would last until the moon was no more? Of course not ... and so what we see here is a shift in David’s focus from Solomon’s reign to that of the One who would be the ultimate successor to his throne, the Messiah Himself.

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him,
And His enemies will lick the dust.
10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles
Will bring presents;
The kings of Sheba and Seba
Will offer gifts.
11 Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him;
All nations shall serve Him.

There was a taste of all this in Solomon’s kingdom, true, but only the Messiah could deliver on it all that is promised, to fully redeem others’ lives.

12 For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper.
13 He will spare the poor and needy,
And will save the souls of the needy.
14 He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
And precious shall be their blood in His sight.

15 And He shall live;
And the gold of Sheba will be given to Him;
Prayer also will be made for Him continually,
And daily He shall be praised.

16 There will be an abundance of grain in the earth,
On the top of the mountains;
Its fruit shall wave like Lebanon;
And those of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.

17 His name shall endure forever;
His name shall continue as long as the sun.
And men shall be blessed in Him;
All nations shall call Him blessed.

Solomon, yes, was counted blessed among the nations—the one who in his youth chose wisdom above all else, and was granted riches and fame along with it. There truly was peace in the kingdom during that time, such as no other time—but it was just a foretaste. The peace of Solomon’s reign would not, could not last forever.

18 Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,
Who only does wondrous things!
19 And blessed be His glorious name forever!
And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen and Amen.

20 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

David’s prayers, ended? How could that be, when God inscribed this man’s prayers in a book that has lasted for millennia, that provides the inspiration for countless other prayers and songs throughout time?

But it’s true, David was aged and dying. He knew it. And so he expended the last of his creative energy on a prayer that not only served as a benediction on his son’s reign, but on that of the eventual, ultimate King of kings. We hear it in that ending stanza, a glorious burst of praise to the Creator of all, “who only does wondrous things!”

Go back and read it. Linger over it. Regardless of the horrors one human inflicts on another, regardless of the idiocy and apathy and idolatry that might blind us to the good we can and should do, the glorious name of the Lord God is forever blessed. The earth will be filled with His glory, and He will put an end to oppression. He will redeem the needy.

He is coming.

The final and true King is coming!

Weekly Drawing ~ Deb Raney

Friday, August 22, 2014

It's Fun Friday at The Borrowed Book! This week's prize is available to residents inside the continental US only.

To enter:

Leave the time it took you to complete the puzzles in the comments section as well as your email address for notifying you if you've won. Winners will be drawn from ALL of the times, so the person with the fastest time may not be the actual winner, but by leaving your time, you double your chances.

Want another entry? Tweet your puzzle time and mention The Borrowed Book, get another entry. RETWEET our Tweet, get two entries!

Post your puzzle time on BB's Facebook wall guessed it...get another entry!

Post it on your OWN Facebook wall and you could get as many as FIVE entries.

It's all a way to spread the word about the great giveaways on BB. So c'mon! Help us spread the word, and have a little fun at the same time. Enter all weekend long! Winners will be announced Sunday night at midnight.

This week's puzzle feature is brought to you by Deb Raney and her newest release, Home to Chicory Lane.

Click to Mix and Solve

When a Review Makes You Cry, by Deborah Raney

Thursday, August 21, 2014

One of the most difficult things a published writer must learn is to toughen up where reviews are concerned. I hate negative reviews, whether from professional critics or ordinary readers. I especially hate them when they aren’t as much about the book, as they are about demeaning an author’s beliefs, faith, or personality. But bad reviews are a fact of the writing life, and there aren’t many multi-published authors who haven’t had at least one or two.

Ironically, my first scathing reader review was for one of my most award-winning, bestselling novels, Beneath a Southern Sky. (That vicious review is still up on, along with several others, if you care to weep along with me!) That review nearly paralyzed me for a few days. It didn’t hurt so much that someone didn’t like my book (okay, HATED my book). I’m well aware that the type of book I write isn’t for everyone, and there are many different tastes in genre and style. What hurt was that it sounded like the reviewer didn’t much like ME!

When I go back and read that review now, I can be much more objective. I realize now that the reviewer probably had never met me. I don’t think he/she meant the words as a personal affront. But I can also still, after more than a dozen years, remember the deep pain I experienced when I first discovered that review. I actually broke out in a sweat and started shaking—and I’m not one who usually gets my feelings hurt easily. But this was so public. So very personal. I shed some tears over that person’s words, and I have a feeling he/she would be surprised to know that.

But I did something else after receiving that review. I removed an review that I had written months earlier for a book that made me angry. No, it wasn’t wrong of me to post a review respectfully outlining why I disliked this book. But I had made the same mistake I think my negative reviewer made—I made my review personal, commenting on the author’s personality and motives, not just his writing. I didn’t even know the man, but like my reviewer, I failed to acknowledge that this author was human and had feelings.

My terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad review (and there have been plenty of others since) gave me two important things: a thicker skin for the inevitable bad reviews to come in my future; and a softer heart for other writers, who are real, imperfect people. Just like me.


Deborah Raney accomplished something very few authors are able to do with their first book. Her debut novel, A Vow to Cherish (originally published in 1996), inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Since then, her books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists.

Raney’s newest novel, Home to Chicory Lane, releases in August as the first book in the Chicory Inn Novels series for Abingdon Press Fiction. 

For more information about Raney and her books, visit her online home at, become a fan on Facebook (deborah.raney) or follow her on Twitter (@authordebraney). 

And don't forget to stop by tomorrow, when you can enter to win a copy of Deborah's newest release, Home to Chicory Lane!

How I Stay Inspired and Motivated by Author Deborah Raney

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Everybody seems to have a Top 5, Top 10, or Top 20 list these days, so I came up with a few lists of things this writer loves.  

I’ve learned that one of the best ways to spark creativity, break writer’s block, and most importantly, avoid carpal tunnel, back issues, and other writer’s woes, is to not confine myself to my desk. In fact, I rarely sit at my desk to write. Instead, these are some of my favorite writing spots:

1. The table on my back deck under an umbrella
2. Mead’s Corner, a favorite coffee shop
3. My cozy office chair beside my Keurig
4. The living room sofa in front of the fire
5. In the passenger seat on a road trip to visit grandkids

Music is another great way to tap into new levels of creativity, and to capture the mood of the scene I’m working on. Movie soundtracks provide the perfect music to write by because they’ve been designed to set a mood, yet they are mostly nonintrusive. Some of my favorites are:


1. Band of Brothers  
2. Braveheart
3. Charlotte Gray
4. Finding Neverland
5. The Tourist 

One of a writer’s biggest downfalls is the fact that it’s a very sedentary lifestyle. And the temptation to eat while we ponder the next scene is great. I try to use my writing snacks as a reward for reaching certain goals. For instance, for every 500 words I write, I might allow myself 5 M&Ms. Oh, the games we play to keep our seats in the seat till the book is complete. Here are my favorite snacks to write with:


1. Gobstoppers (mini jawbreakers)
2. Coffee Nips
3. Peanut M&Ms
4. Pistachios 
5. Potato Chips (I didn’t say the 5 healthiest!)

How about you (as a reader or writer)? What are some of your favorites to read and write by?

Deborah Raney accomplished something very few authors are able to do with their first book. Her debut novel, A Vow to Cherish (originally published in 1996), inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Since then, her books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. 

Raney’s newest novel, Home to Chicory Lane, releases in August as the first book in the Chicory Inn Novels series for Abingdon Press Fiction.  

For more information about Raney and her books, visit her online home at, become a fan on Facebook (deborah.raney) or follow her on Twitter (@authordebraney).