Writing Prompts and Novels

By Jennifer Hallmark

In May 2012, three ladies, Betty Thomason Owens, Christina Rich, and myself,  joined together to start a blog.

This one.

Over almost seven years, the blog has evolved and changed for the better. But we’ve always kept one aspect the same: writing prompts. I believe for many writers, prompts can lead to a great story.

My debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, began life as a short story written from three prompts:

  • Faded coveralls
  • Dusty baseball cap
  • Wedding dress designer

I wrote the original short story on November 13, 2008 and it contained only 756 words. When I shared it with others, it evoked strong emotion. Friends wanted to know what happened next. So I turned it first into a novella, then a novel. Eva Marie Everson, the acquisitions and managing editor at Firefly Southern Fiction, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, showed interest at a writer’s conference. I sold Firefly the book in October of 2017 and on June 15th, Jessie’s Hope will release.

All from three writing prompts.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Years ago, an accident robbed Jessie Smith’s mobility. It also stole her mom and alienated her from her father. When Jessie’s high school sweetheart Matt Jansen proposes, her parents’ absence intensifies her worry that she cannot hold on to those she loves.

With a wedding fast approaching, Jessie’s grandfather Homer Smith, has a goal to find the perfect dress for “his Jessie,” one that would allow her to forget, even if for a moment, the boundaries of her wheelchair. But financial setbacks and unexpected sabotage hinder his plans.

Determined to heal from her past, Jessie initiates a search for her father. Can a sliver of hope lead to everlasting love when additional obstacles–including a spurned woman and unpredictable weather–highjack Jessie’s dream wedding?

I love all my characters and the story. I hope you will too. Since I can’t give away a copy of the book during March Madness, I’ll offer a $10 Amazon gift card to one person who leaves a comment. Then, if you’d like, you can purchase some of the books my fellow bloggers are offering this month. 🙂

Click to tweet: Make sure to check out the Inspired Prompt every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in March and win some great books and other prizes. #MarchMadness #giveaway

And on June 15th, take a moment to shop online for my book. I’ll share the links as soon as I receive them.

Thank you from the Inspired Prompt crew for all your encouragement and support!


Jennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction and fantasy, an interesting combination that keep the creative juices flowing. She’s published 200+ internet articles and interviews, short stories in several magazines, and has co-authored three book compilations.

When she isn’t babysitting her six grandkids or gardening, you can find her at her desk writing fiction or working on one of her two blogs. Or even watching American Ninja Warrior.

 

The Basics of Fiction Writing

By Jennifer Hallmark

Hello, friends and fellow writers! February will be the month we dive into the basics. The basics are what makes writing short stories, novellas, or novels truly something unique and special. Each Monday and Friday, we’ll discuss a different aspect of this topic and you’ll either learn something new or brush up on an old favorite.

Most stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. I like what Stephen James says in his book, Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules, “…stories have an origination, an escalation of conflict, and a resolution.”

I like that way of thinking. Something sparks and begins the story, life gets worse, and then the story reaches a resolution, either positive or negative. Think of any action movie. There’s a major something that happens and the hero or heroine needs to save the day. Then things swing back and forth from better to worse ending with the day being saved or lost.

I’ve read lots of books on writing. (If you’d like to see a list of the Inspired Prompt Crew’s favorite writing books, go here) I found two different thoughts when it comes to the basics of fiction writing:

  • Setting
  • Characters
  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

And:

  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Characters
  • POV
  • Theme
  • Symbolism
  • Conflict

I think each of these points is important to a great read. I’m going to look at one aspect and the rest of the Crew will share their thoughts on future posts.

(From literary devices.net) Symbolism-the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense…To develop symbolism in his work, a writer utilizes other figures of speech, like metaphors, similes, and allegory, as tools.

In The Lord of the Rings, the One Ring symbolizes power. In my upcoming debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, the porch swing is a symbol of freedom for Jessie. Why? You’ll have to order my book in June to find out. 😊

So, stick around and enjoy the month here at Inspired Prompt. We’ll learn a lot and have fun doing it…

Click to tweet: The basics of fiction writing. Some say there are five basics and others seven. What do you say? #amwriting #WritersLife

Writing Prompt: Pull out your favorite book and take a moment to think about the basics: Characters, setting, plot, theme, etc. Do they all work? What could be done better? Share your thoughts below (without naming book or author, please)…

What Genre Is This Book, Anyway?

By Nike N. Chillemi

Blood Speaks, Cover

All you have to do is look at the cover and it’s plain to see that BLOOD SPEAKS is a Christmas mystery. The title screams mystery novel and there’s a Christmas wreath on a Christmas red cover. Well, that still begs the question, is it a Christmas novel or a mystery novel?

This conundrum has been cleared up somewhat by calling these types of novels Mixed-Genre, or Cross-Genre, or Blended-Genre. 

The old adage was that genre fiction had to fit neatly into an easily recognizable single category: romance, mystery, historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc. Today, the lines are fading and elements of one genre are blending into one another.

In the past brick-and-mortar world, staying within a specific genre was necessary because the bookstore needed to know on what shelf to place the novel. And shelves were labeled by genre. Pretty much, they still are. However, today a novel can be listed in one blog’s mystery favorites and another’s paranormal favs. books-2596809_1280

So, what genre is BLOOD SPEAKS? First of all, it’s Christian fiction. It took the first two novels in the series for Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels to become comfortable in her relationship with the Lord. Now that she is, BLOOD SPEAKS opens with Ronnie and her BFFs on a bridal shopping trip to that one special bridal shop in the snow-covered Maryland mountains. Ronnie and Taylor County, Texas sheriff’s deputy, Lt. Dawson Hughes, have a wedding date set.

Then, that begs the question with all this bridal shopping going on, is this a mystery or a romantic suspense? Ronnie is a private detective and Dawson is a sworn detective. So, is this a detective novel? I tend to think of the series as three detective stories, but that’s a mystery sub-genre. I also think the series has a strong love story element. Not only are Ronnie and Dawson falling in love, but Ronnie’s best friend and Christian mentor, Bertha, has fallen in love with a Gabby Hayes look-alike. Bertha is the sweetest fifty-plus, plus-size Christian lady. Many fans of the series instantly fall in love with her.

Then again, since this novel is set in a quaint holiday decorated village in December, is it a Christmas story? Well, the answer is BLOOD SPEAKS falls squarely into the mystery category. The story is driven by the need the heroine and hero have to find the killer. It also fits neatly into the detective story sub-genre and it has strong romance elements. Then it veers outside of the box with a strong secondary character who is a lovely plus-size widow who falls into her own fifty-plus love story. And, yes, it is also a Christmas mystery.

I guess we have to say BLOOD SPEAKS is mixed, crossed, and blended.

Click to Tweet:  Today, the lines are fading and elements of one genre are blending into one another. #Mystery #amreading #Mixed-Genre 

Writing prompt:  This time there would be no witnesses.


Moi 2017 Ponte Vedre LibraryNike N. Chillemi writes contemporary detective and/or suspense novels with a touch of wry humor, and there’s often a national security twist to them. She likes her bad guys really bad, her good guys smarter and better, and a touch of the comedic. Her newest endeavor is COURTING DANGER.

Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and its Chair, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She has been a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories; and an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series (out of print), set in the mid-1940s has finaled, won an award, and garnered critical acclaim. The first novel in the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes series HARMRUL INTENT won in the Grace Awards 2014 Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller/Historical Suspense category. She has written book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and John 3:16 Marketing Network.

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Genre Month: True Southern Fiction

By Jennifer Hallmark

The woods are full of regional writers, and it is the great horror of every serious Southern writer that he will become one of them.” Flannery O’Connor

The Deep South: South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and of course, Alabama. That’s the definition I found online. Some added in Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, and Florida—but everyone knows Florida isn’t too Southern since its population is from everywhere.

Why is this information important on a genre-based post? Look at Flannery O’Connor’s quote again. Anyone can write a book and throw some Southern lingo and sweet tea into it and call the work Southern fiction. To me, fiction of that sort is more of what O’Connor calls a regional book.

True Southern fiction has to be lived. One must mingle with the people of the Deep South, taste black-eyed peas, embrace the aroma of jambalaya, the texture of freshly picked cotton, the humidity, the Bible belt, and the redneck. Southern fiction is about family, not just one generation but how our ancestors shape each and every character.

You must be able to write in such a way where it’s not like reading about a foreign country, for those who’ve never set a foot below Kentucky. It must have its own flavor but be relatable. One must be able to feel the emotions and live the story as if it could happen to them. Readers need to feel the sweat, swat the mosquitos, and relish the fried okra right along with the characters.


Only then do you have a story that is immersed in the culture. That’s the kind of Southern fiction I read.

 

New to Southern fiction? Classic writers include:

And some of my favorites are authors I call friends:

Check out any and all of these to put an overall face and voice to the South. And don’t miss my debut Southern fiction release, Jessie’s Hope, releasing on June 15, 2019, published by Firefly Southern Fiction.

Click to Tweet:  Southern fiction is about family, not just one generation but how our ancestors shape each and every character. #South #amreading

Writing prompt: Dixie grabbed a red solo cup and filled it with sweet tea. She made her way through the church fellowship hall toward…

What’s the Best Way for an Indie Author to Promote Their Book?

By Jennifer Hallmark

Maybe we should start with why authors want to sell their books.

Don’t give me that blank stare. I know it seems like a given but many writers go to all the trouble to put a book together then only do a little marketing. Either they are fearful of what people will think or they lack the skills to market, or maybe they wonder if they even should laud the praises of their own work.

Authors should not skimp on marketing.

If a person goes to the trouble of completing a book and then publishing it, whether traditional or Indie, it seems they should get it in front of readers. And at least that gives people a chance to decide whether they want to read it or not.  

Now that the why is settled, let’s look at what ways are best. Here are some positive steps to take in the promotion of your work:

  • Start by building a blog or website or having one built for you. You need a landing page for your readers to find you. Yes, it’s good to create an author page on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and other places but make sure if a reader Googles your name, they can find you.
  • Email list. You need to have an email list of your readers and potential readers so you can reach them with news. Not spam them with constant bombardment. My favorite way to accomplish this is with my email newsletter. And people love presents so be sure to include a gift for the sign-up: a recipe, chapter of a book, short story, etc.  (You can subscribe to mine here for an example plus get a gift of ten of my favorite recipes. 😊Just look for the pop-up.)
  • Social media. There are all kinds of social media you can market your book through. I’d pick two or three and build a presence. Remember to build relationships with people and your books will sell. I use Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as my main three. Experiement and find what works for you.
  • Speaking/book signings. You’ll want to have a few events to allow the people in your area or areas you’re visiting to meet with the author. You can arrange to speak at a church, social club, library, or school. Make sure to set up a book table and sign books. Also have something set up to show people how to order the e-book if they’d rather read on the Kindle or Nook. Book stores are great places to have a book signing since your potential readers are already there.

Here’s our own Betty Thomason Owens at a book signing.

I also have four tips to speed up marketing:

    1. Be reliable and ready. Set up a pattern in the beginning and keep your name out there. You want people to know that you’re serious.
    2. Book links. Make sure you have book links on your blog/website, all social media, your signature in emails, and any guest posting you may do. If someone is curious, you want them to have a link to click on.
    3. Everyone loves a sale. I once bought a mystery e-book for 99 cents and liked it so much that I paid regular price for the next five just to see what happened. It really works.
    4. And finally, the most important tip of all: The Golden Rule. “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NLT) Be good to people. Sow seeds of kindness and I believe at some point you will reap a return. Build a network with other authors and promote them the way you would like to be promoted. It will bring a positive investment before it’s all over and you’re sure to make some lifelong friends.

Start today to put some of these principles in practice. Find what works best for you, then be consistent. The readers are out there and waiting for the next author to follow.

Show them where you are.


Writing Prompt: Jillian reached into the mail box and snatched the book-shaped package, clutching it tightly as she ran toward the house. She’d finally get to see…

Click to tweet: What’s the best way for an Indie author to promote their book? You might be surprised. #marketing #IndieAuthors