Hearts Crossing Contest Winner Announced

Congratulations to Marianne Evans!

Her entry has been chosen as the winner of our Hearts Crossing contest. Entrants were given the cover (sans author name) along with a synopsis. As suspected, the entries we received were varied in content and scope while still adhering to the synopsis. Response to the contest was overwhelming, and the competition tough, but Marianne's romance between Collin Edwards and Daveny Montgomery stood out. Stay tuned for more info on the exact 2010 release date. You don't want to miss it!

Thanks to all entrants for making the judges' job a difficult one. We appreciate every one of you.

Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone.

Nicola Martinez, EiC


I’ve long been a fan of American history and the Old West and enjoy reading accounts and memoirs of people from times past. Making history come alive is one of a fiction writer's jobs. Researching is easy with the Internet. Here are a few sites for other aficionados:

http://www.rarenewspapers.com/ - this is a collection of rare vintage newspapers you can buy. Although one cannot see the whole paper - typing in words such as “Mail Order Bride” or “Slave” will bring up any newspapers with those words in them. You can then read the headlines and sometimes part of the leading article. There is a nice “period” feel to the partial articles, you can see, and in fact, many of the newspapers are reasonably priced, if one wants to delve into deeper research.

http://www.nps.gov/archive/whmi/history.htm - The Whitman Mission National Historic Site. Lots of Old West Links, Oregon Trail Links, and information on missionaries who traveled West. Some information on Washington State, its archives and the Native American Indians of the area.

http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moagrp/ - “The Making Of America” site! The digital library of 19th century books and journals, available to read online. You can read religious tracts, temperance papers, short stories, almanacs, foreign trade, birds…it’s all here for the serious student of history. A delightful collection of papers and books.

http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~hornbeck/disease.htm - Roots.web’s list of “old” diseases in alphabetical order, with explanations of their modern symptoms, causes and current names, if applicable. At the bottom of the document is a list of major epidemics and where they took place. Excellent resource for historical writers.

http://www.westernoutlaw.com/ - The Western Outlaw Lawman Association – the site has Adobe Acrobat downloadable .pdf files of some famous Western characters.

http://www.coax.net/people/lwf/WESTERN.HTM - The black experience on the Western frontier. An incredible amount of rare history, all in one place!

www.kstrom.net/isk/stars/starmenu.html - Native American Astronomy – Star Maps with their Lakota names, Lakota spirituality stories, Medicine Wheel studies.

www.ewebtribe.com/NACulture/history.htm - Important dates in Native American history. Specific information on various American Indian tribes and archeology of the Western regions.

www.archives.gov/index.html - The National Archives And Records Administration. You can search for descriptions of NARA’s nationwide holdings and view digital copies of many important documents. Photographs, paintings, documents from Susan B. Anthony’s suffrage criminal case file, files from the Rosenbergs espeionage case file, Eisenhower’s D-Day statement to the Allied Expeditionary Force, a letter from Jackie Robinson, and the authorization giving Francis Gary Powers orders for the last U-2 flight over Russia, just to name a few of the types of historical documents available.

www.lcweb.loc.gov/ - The Library Of Congress website. “Log on, play around, learn something” is their creedo. Lots of historical law documents, information on Presidential libraries, online galleries, history and culture.

lcweb2.loc.gov/wpaintro/wpahome.html - The Works Progress Adminstration’s Manuscripts from the Federal Writers Project, 1936-1940. Type a word such as “slave” or “log cabin” into the search engine on the site, and it will upload whatever journals mention those words. An amazing collection of personal memoirs.

Manuscript formatting tips for MS Word

I see a great many manuscripts come through where some fundamental--and some more advanced--formatting techniques have not been utilized, but would greatly help the manuscript. So, today, I'm going to give a few tips on using Microsoft Word to your advantage. This will not only help you to present a great-looking manuscript to an editor, but will also help to cut down on those edits once you have a contract in hand.

The most prevalent issue I see is not using a manual page break to begin a new page. As you all know, Word automatically creates a new page when you get to the bottom of one. However, if you finish a chapter in the middle of a page, you do not need to "enter" down until a new page appears. In fact, this is the wrong way to create a new page because then, when you edit, any addition or deletion of a line here or there, will cause your new chapter to either be on a different page or to be further down/up the page than you intend. When you need to create a new page use the CTRL+enter command. This creates a manual page break--and the kind that publishers need when properly formatting. So, let's say you end chapter five and you're in the middle of a page, just hit CTRL+enter, and you'll have a fresh page ready for chapter six. If you later end up removing fourteen paragraphs from chapter five, chapter six will still begin on a separate page.

Next, the backwards apostrophe. "Go get 'em," he said. That leading apostrophe automatically wants to curl towards the E in em, but we need it to go the other direction. Instead of typing just the apostrophe and then the em, type CTRL+apostrophe+apostrophe (yes, that's the apostrophe key twice) CTRL+' ' will turn your apostrophe the other way 'round.

Finally, make sure you use em-dashes for speech cut-offs and phrase offsets. That's the long dash, not a hyphen and not the shorter en-dash. I see a goodly number of mss where an en-dash or single hyphen is used in these instances. Many Word versions will have the autocorrect set so that if you type two hyphens (--) it will automatically changed to an em-dash. If you don't have the autocorrect feature set, and either don't want to or don't know how, at the very least, type two hyphens where you want an em-dash. However, I suggest using the autocorrect feature, at least on the first draft.

Happy writing!

Conflict development: ensuring proper progression

Lately, I’ve been seeing a goodly number of manuscripts where there are conflict discrepancies. For example (Not from a ms. submitted to White Rose): Jane Heroine works for XYZ church. She’s enjoying her job and spending time with Joe Hero, another employee of the church. Then, one day—several chapters into the story—Joe Hero asks her to help him prepare a special prayer service, and Jane Heroine thinks, “I can’t do that. I had a really bad experience with church-going folks being mean to me when I was a child. Church-folk are hypocrites, God never listened to my prayers for deliverance from these people, and I quit praying a long time ago.” (Of course, if she’s painting all church-goers with the hypocrite brush, caution needs to be taken [see the previous post about heroines being heroic])

Anyway…now, you may be wondering what’s wrong with that. It makes for good conflict, the fact that a non-praying heroine has to organize a prayer meeting—and it does. This is an excellent vehicle to help her rebuild her relationship with Christ. However, there’s a major flaw here—not in the conflict, but in how the conflict has been developed. We’ve been in this story for several chapters and we’ve never heard before that the heroine doesn’t pray. In fact, the logical assumption is that she does. After all, she works for XYZ church. She doesn’t seem to have any issues with faith, so when we hear she’s had a bad experience in her backstory and mean church-goers are the catalyst for her move away from faith, we wonder, “Hmm, why is she even working for a church?” Realistically, people tend to shy away from those things that have hurt them in the past. If Jane Heroine’s experience was so bad that it caused her to make the decision not to pray, why would she take a job where she has to deal with church-folk on a regular basis?

What needs to happen here is a set-up before the “non-pray” conflict is revealed. Early in the story, we need to know that Jane Heroine took the job at the church because she lost her previous job (for example) and had to take the only thing available, and now she struggles with trying not to be judgmental towards the current church-folk, whom she logically knows are not the same people who were mean to her in her backstory. If the information is just dropped in several chapters into the story, it reads as though the author just made up the conflict on-the-fly as she was writing the scene where the hero asks for help with the prayer service—which for authors who are “pantsers” can happen. But if it does happen, be sure to go back through the early parts of the manuscript and weave in the set-up for the newly-developed conflict.

Conflict cannot be something just thrown in at any given moment. It has to be constructed in a logical sequence, hinted at, melded with character development and plot progressions. If it isn’t, it throws the reader out of the story, and then we’re sunk.

As A Woman Thinketh

Lately I’ve seen a recurring theme in some of the manuscripts I am reading. I have written about it before in the general terms, but specifics might be more helpful. Let us first start with a definition. The following description is taken from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/heroine


1. A woman noted for courage and daring action.
2. A woman noted for special achievement in a particular field.
3. The principal female character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation.
4. A woman possessing heroic qualities
5. A woman idealized for possessing superior qualities
6. The main female character in a novel, play, film, etc.

Romance novels take a small aspect of a person's life - the developing relationship between a man and a woman, and preserve a snapshot for others to read about.

By their nature, heroes and heroines must act with morality and ethics. This is because the reader must be endeared towards them, to identify with them, to think that in the same circumstances, the reader will act with the same character...courage, heroism and with a tough, inner sense of fair play.

Presenting your heroine in a good light is essential to that goal. The heroine can have negative emotions, but only for the right reasons. She cannot come across as holier-than-thou, prissy, or uppity. Although actions speak louder than words, much of the building of character takes place in the heroine's point-of-view - her thinking.

If she thinks the hero is rude, crude and undignified, this speaks more about her assumptions than it does about the hero. She is judging, usually without basis, in the manuscripts I've been reading. I've read about heroines who think the hero is disgusting (author's word), who thinks the hero needs a lesson with a 2 X 4 board (author's words), and who think the hero should have some form of physical punishment (again, author's words). These are not the thoughts of a heroine. They are judgments, and demeaning ones, at that. Physical violence in a Christian novel is not acceptable, even in thought, unless it happens to be in the villian's POV, and then it needs to be handled delicately, too.

Another thing I am seeing pertaining to the heroine is smirking, glaring, hissing, and so on, directed at the hero. Using negative verb action to imply conflict isn't heroic. Conflict is not simply acting mad at the hero. There should be a deep emotional context in which it is used, a life-changing instance in which all the heroine thought was right is turned upside down. Smirking at a less-than-stellar hero isn't conflict - it smacks of making fun of him. The subliminal connotation then becomes different - a hero who can be made fun of comes across as a weak in some way, and not deserving of respect.

Use positive verbs, feelings and emotions to show your heroine's moral and ethical dilemmas. She can act negatively, but it must be for a serious reason and there must be consequences to her actions. She can be a poor, lonely orphan forced to steal...but only because she has to feed younger siblings. She can be a glamorous movie star, faced with the horror of war, and being grossed out at the loss of life and limb, but she has to overcome to be an angel of mercy. A weak stomach and terrifying thoughts are okay, but with it needs to come strength of character and a resolve to change her situation in a proactive way. Do not use negative connotations carelessly. Craft your heroine with care.

Covert Emotion/Building Character

I am a character-driven editor – give me a good, solid character and you will grab my attention from the beginning of your novel.

How can you build character with covert emotions?

By allowing the hero/heroine to respond without consciously thinking about what is happening around them. When people think on purpose, it means they are conscious of the end goal. But the thoughts that come unbidden reveal a truer character.

Jim saw the accident and screeched to a halt, shaken from the resounding crash in front of him as two cars collided.

The sentence is too long. Too much information is loaded and it loses impact. Also, note that Jim is shaken. There is nothing wrong with being shaken, but in this case, the subliminal message is that Jim is weak. When crafting a hero, you do not want him to appear weak. Heroes can cry, they can be shaken up, but you have to use the context carefully to allow them to remain courageous, strong and prepared for any situation.

Screeching to a halt, Jim jumped out of his car and ran to the smoking wreck. Look for survivors!

Here is the almost identical sentence, using some of the same words. However, now we’ve implied a man who takes immediate action. The emotion is covert. Jim is responding. Not only that, he is subconsciously thinking about what to do. He is trying to solve the problem (look for/save the survivors).

As yet, Jim hasn’t spoken a word, yet his character is being built in the second instance. A man who takes action. A man who thinks of others…qualities a hero can have. The reader is now engaged. They want to know more about this man. Is this the hero? Curiosity is making them turn the page.

Consider your hero/heroine’s actions and his/her subliminal clues that impart knowledge of their character. Work your words to imply covert emotions, actions and intent. The result will be strong, likeable people who jump from the page and feel real to your readers.