3 Questions Wednesday with Jessie Mattis

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday, Jessie Mattis. Jessie is an award-winning writer from Indiana. We’re excited to have her as our guest.

Who is your favorite author?

Jessie:  There are many great authors to choose from, of course, but I would have to say my favorite author is Francine Rivers. Her writing always keeps me coming back for more, whether it’s to snag a new release or reread an old favorite. Rivers has a way of unfolding bits and pieces of the story in an unexpected way as she goes, keeping you on your toes to the very end.

You’ve been chosen to write a biography about your favorite historical person. Who would that be?

Jessie:  This may sound a bit too churchy, but if I were to choose a historical person to write a biography about, it would be the Apostle Paul. While there are many inspiring individuals in our rich history, I always come back to Paul when I need a dose of inspiration. Often Christians think once they follow Jesus, their lives will turn easy. Paul shows us quite the opposite, but also demonstrates how to have unwavering faith in God’s provision and goodness, even when life is hard.

If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Jessie:  If I had the option to spend the day with one of my characters, I would have to choose Miss Kate. Though in the book you only see her in the role of Kids’ Church teacher, she also runs her own bakery and has a sense of humor. I think we would get along well, spending the day making up new bakery creations, laughing, and discussing life together!

Good answers, Jessie. Thanks for giving our readers the opportunity to meet you. Readers, if you’d like a chance to win a copy of her book,  Power Up, leave her a comment below. Keep reading for information about the book. Don’t forget to leave a comment or ask Jessie a question!


Power Up

Eleven-year-old Lexi has learned all there is to know about God … or so she thinks until Miss Kate arrives and shakes up Kids’ Church with her new ideas. As if it’s not enough that Lexi has to get her history grade up or miss out on the class trip with her friends, her new relationship with the Holy Spirit is suddenly put to the test when a family crisis strikes. Can Lexi trust that God is good in the middle of all this pressure?

Available at Amazon or Barnes and Noble


Jessie Mattis is a Jesus-loving wife, homeschooling mom, and award-winning writer. She currently lives in Bloomington, Indiana with her husband and fellow author, Chip Mattis, and their three amazing kids.

Connect with Jessie at www.jessiemattis.com, on Instagram, or Twitter (@JessieMattis)

Click-to-tweet: Award-winning author, Jessie Mattis, is our guest today at 3 Questions Wednesday via @inspiredprompt #children #interview

3 Questions Wednesday with Fay Lamb

Today’s guest is author, Fay Lamb.

Welcome back to 3 Questions Wednesday, Fay. First question:

What inspires you?

Fay: Well, let’s get the truth out there first. Coffee. Have you ever sat down in the morning with your cup of coffee made the way you like it? You drink that coffee, and the caffeine seems to seep into whatever part of your brain provides motivation. You start thinking you can do anything. You make a list. You jot down ideas for a story. You’re invincible.

In my writing, I am inspired by many things. Locations get the creative juices running. My Amazing Grace series is based on a real area in Western North Carolina. Yet, in my novel Better Than Revenge, the heroine wasn’t connecting with me. She stood off to the side, aloof, daring me to get to know her. Then one day, my husband and I were driving around the area, and I was looking for a farmhouse because Issie lived in her grandparents’ old farmhouse she’d renovated. And there it was, this fantastic two-story white-framed farmhouse with a swing in the front yard, a field of corn to the right, and in the backyard between the house and the beautiful red barn were vegetable boxes. I saw them as Issie’s personal garden and the corn as her crop. Then to the side of the barn, there was a field and two cows grazing there. And Issie whispered into my ear, “You found me.”

Actors provide me with all types of ideas. I’ll admit it. Usually, it’s their looks that catch my attention, but then I look into the roles they’ve played. In my novel, Charisse, I have had readers tell me who they see as the hero, Gideon, and they saw him exactly as I saw him. He is one actor, but his character is based on two entirely different roles he played. One was an adventure/comedy where I realized for the first time that the guy could really act and had taken roles beneath his abilities. The other movie was one of the few dramas he has starred in. The subject was intense, and his character was likable but cautious, perfect for a multi-dimensional character.

A Bible verse or a Bible story has been an inspiration for me in a couple of novels. One is Libby. If anyone knows me, they know I tend to joke about my looks and about breaking cameras, and I see myself as great fodder for comedy, but God says in Psalm 139:14 that I’m fearfully and wondrously made, and that was the lesson Libby has to learn—in between a lot of hilarious matchmaking and some sad moments of truth. And my upcoming novel, set to release in March, is the biblical retelling of the aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba.

And lastly, a moment in time can be an inspiration. My novel Hope deals with serious matters from healing to forgiveness, but from the very start, one backdrop was set for that story: the Central Florida fair, and more particularly the carousel. I’ll admit that the moment in time was not on a carousel, and it was not as poignant for me, but my friend was there, and that is an important part of that storyline. In fact, the moment that brought to mind the carousel, as embarrassing as it was is still considered the most horrifying moment of my life as well as the one that can still bring me to laughter that causes tears to run down my face.

There’s inspiration in many forms here. I especially love the “moment in time.” This is so true. Sometimes we miss those moments, or don’t really appreciate them.

I almost hesitate to ask this one: You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Fay: Interesting question, and more interesting that I didn’t have to think much about it.

I’d be turquoise because it goes well with black. Turquoise alone doesn’t ever stand out for me, but when you wear it with something black, it pops. And I know you want a better explanation than that, so here goes. I consider myself pretty bland when I’m just going through life, everything is okay. I don’t naturally look for the humor around me. I’m turquoise. But when I am sad, there is a darkness inside. When I use that term, I don’t mean it as evil. It’s just that my thoughts could turn to the morose. Depression doesn’t suit my brain, so it automatically begins to look for humor. Let’s take the moment I alluded to above—the Hope inspiration.

I was with my friend at the Central Florida Fair. We decided to go into the fun house. However, at the end of the fun house was a turning cylinder. My friend, an agile, gymnast and later a Disney dancer made her way easily across. Me, the clumsy person who fell off the inch-high balance beam in gym, hesitated. I was challenged by the ride’s operator to hurry across. So, the proverbial light bulb shined above my dim head. I’d hold on to the side and make my way over.

And you can imagine what happened next. My hand against the rotating cylinder began to pull me downward. I found myself on the ground, the cylinder taking me up and down, up and down, and the crowd growing outside and the laughter turning into a roar. I could see my friend laughing for all she was worth (and she’s worth a lot to me). And behind her stood my aunt and uncle who took us to the fair—laughing at their beloved niece. Finally, I guess after he stopped laughing, the ride’s operator climbed in and helped me out.

Now, I could cover the turquoise with black and mutter that I’m a clumsy idiot and hate the recall of the memory, or I could layer the outfit with turquoise and make a funny story out of my ability to be a carnival sideshow act without any effort. Life is easy when I’m wearing turquoise, but it is more interesting when I combine it with the black.

Lol! I’m not sure at this point, whether to laugh or be embarrassed for you–never mind–I’m laughing too hard to write sensibly. About that color turquoise–“Complex, imaginative and original, Turquoise people drive themselves hard and may be in a state of turmoil under their outwardly cool exterior.”–according to my favorite color website. Um…I think it may be fairly accurate, what say you?

Now, one last question:

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Fay: This is going to be the shortest answer you’ll get from me. From the time I remember thinking, I was a storyteller. I never wanted to be anything but a writer, and after taking my high school aptitude test, I was informed that my best track for my life would be either as a librarian or a writer. I answered back that there was only one choice. I would be a writer. While I took a series of detours that proved the aptitude test wrong, I still wrote. Each detour added to the growing collection of stories I have carried with me since I began as a storyteller all those years ago.

I’m not at all surprised by that answer! I love your stories and look forward to many more. Thanks so much for participating in 3 Questions Wednesday.

Readers! You can win a copy of Fay’s latest release, Frozen Notes. Read more about the book below, then leave a comment in the comment section. Feel free to ask Fay a question, or let us know you’d love a chance to win the book. Thanks for joining us at 3 Questions Wednesday.

CLICK TO TWEET: #3QuestionsWednesday provides readers with inside information on author Fay Lamb #amreading


More about today’s guest:

Fay Lamb

Fay Lamb writes emotionally charged stories with a Romans 8:28 attitude, reminding readers that God is always in the details. Fay donates 100% of her royalties to Christian charities. Currently, Fay will be donating her royalties from the second quarter of 2017 through December 31 (royalties paid March 31), to Samaritan’s Purse Relief Fund to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey and Irma and any other relief the organization feels necessary.

Fay’s fourth book in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, Frozen Notes brings to a close stories of intrigue and suspense and reveals to her readers the secrets of one of the series reoccurring characters from the first three novels, Stalking Willow, Better than Revenge, and Everybody’s Broken.

Fay is also the author of The Ties that Bind Series, which includes Charisse, Libby, and Hope. The fourth story in the series, Delilah, will be coming soon.

Fay’s adventurous spirit has also taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Readers of Fay Lamb’s fiction can look forward to her Serenity Key series, with her epic novel Storms in Serenity set for release in March 2018.


Frozen Notes by Fay Lamb

Lyric Carter’s dreams of fame and fortune in a rock band ended the day Balaam Carter left to pursue their dreams without her. When Balaam’s brother promised to love and protect Lyric and to love her son, Cade—his brother, Balaam’s child—as his own, she believed him. But Braedon turned her dreams into a nightmare by killing Balaam’s best friend, turning the gun on himself, and placing Lyric in the middle of a criminal investigation that could leave her and Cade dead.

Balaam Carter’s every dream has come true, but he’s living in a nightmare of addiction and regret. The famous rock star would give everything he has to return to the girl he once held in his arms—back when his only crime was running moonshine for his father. Now, he’s seeking redemption for all the destruction his dreams have brought to the people he loves.

No one said the road to recovery would be easy, but Balaam is also desperate to protect Lyric and the little boy he left behind from a state full of drug lords who believe Lyric has the evidence that will tumble their lucrative cartels. Balaam’s continued sobriety, his natural ability for finding his way out of trouble, and his prayers to God above for the strength to never let them down again are all that he has to protect Lyric and his son, and still, he doesn’t know if he’s up for the task.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

“Hooking Your Readers”

Brook_trout_swims_in_native_stream_underwater_fish_image

Is your hook sharp enough to snag and reel in your readers?

By Don White

The needle-sharp point snagged the flesh and a shiny barb burst through the scaly cheek with a firm tug. Secure on the hook, his fate was sealed. Fresh fish shall sizzle on the stove tonight, sprinkled with pepper, glistening with butter.

That is what we call a “hook.”

However clever your plot, however unusual, no matter the ingenious twists and surprises, readers will never experience your story if you do not set the hook. Below you will find four types of effective hooks: drama, description, character, and curiosity. There are variations in each category, and good story hooks (like fishing hooks) may be created from tying together two or more types of hooks, but so long as they are sharp and securely set, your hook can keep your readers hopelessly snagged from your first sentence through the entire chapter, until your next hook is firmly set.

1. THE DRAMA HOOK.

Begin with the story unfolding so that readers will feel they’ve jumped in the midst of it from the very first line. Ideally, they cannot back out of the story because they are already in it.

Carefully compare and study the way TV shows begin. Newer shows often forgo opening themesongs or character introductions and go right to the story action, subtly displaying the opening credits as the story unfolds, all this to hook their viewers from the start and persuade them to remove their thumb from the remote control button. This is called a “cold open,” and once the viewer is hooked the network will cut away to the commercials, confident the audience will remain as their sponsors sell their floor cleaners and doggy snacks.

A drama hook may be the very event that drives the entire story (what we call the “inciting incident”), the first domino to fall which begins the entire sequence, pushing the reader forward all the way through to the last page. It may involve danger, inner conflict, personal challenge, conflict between characters, or a host of other dramatic actions. Whatever it is, the drama hook must put the reader in the middle of a story they care about. Give them something to worry about so they will read down the page and turn to the next and the next.

Stopped at a red light on a rainy, windy morning last December, fire battalion chief Mark DeBruyckere looked up to see a large truck barreling toward the intersection, heading right for him.

From: “Bringing Down a Bank Robber,” by Caitlin O’Connnell, Reader’s Digest, Oct. 2013.

2. THE DESCRIPTIVE HOOK.

Any description must be engaging description, the kind that draws readers to hold your book in sweaty hands, eyes fixed and unblinking, pulse quickening, nerves twitching, almost forgetting to breath, transfixed by your carefully crafted sentences and well-chosen words, oblivious to the world about them.

You may describe a setting, an event, or even an object, but your words must stir emotions and draw readers in like mesmerized mosquitos to a bug zapper on a balmy summer night. Like an effective stage setting, your descriptive hook will set the mood, creating the atmosphere for your story as soon as the curtains rise and the lights come on.

A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool.

From: Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck.

3. THE CHARACTER HOOK.

Fish hooks.

Countless variations of hooks.

A young boy with tousled hair and dirty socks recedes into his darkened room, away from the yelling outside the door, cloistered in his corner, surrounded by piles of books, joyfully escaping his cold reality, all because you’ve created a character he cares about.

Open with characters that readers will care about, and they want to see what happens next. Use description, setting, action, and mystery to create an emotional and mental bond between the reader and the person in your book. Your readers want to worry, so give them some people to worry about. When readers care about your characters from the very beginning, they will keep reading

Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids.

From: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.

4. THE CURIOSITY HOOK.

This type of hook reminds me of the time that my wife and I went camping, and just after we settled down for the night, far away from all the other campers, we heard a faint scratching noise at our cabin door. It wouldn’t stop. True story, but I’ll tell you more later.

The familiar riddle asks, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Forget about the why. We couldn’t care less. What we want to know is if he made it all the way across the busy road alive, unharmed, with all his feathers intact.

Questions, contradictions, dilemmas and mysteries, puzzles and clues are all proven ways to capture the curiosity of your readers and keep it throughout the opening chapter.

I was not there, yet I was there. No, I did not go to the trial, I did not hear the verdict, because I knew all the time what it would be.

From: A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines.


VARIATIONS AND COMBINATIONS:

There are different variations of all the above hooks. For example, all of these can be used in a dialogue form:

Narrative style:

She stood at the cliff, sobbing and shaking, watching as pebbles bounced against the boulders below, disappearing into the frothy surf.

Dialogue style:

“Karen! Please, get away from the cliff! We can work this out together.”

Though one is dialogue and the other is narrative, both these openings rely on mystery, danger, and the powerful emotion of fear to snag the reader’s attention, keeping her eyes glued to the page in order to discover what is happening, why it is happening, and how it will all end.


EXAMPLES OF STORY HOOKS:

What types (or combination of types) do you see in the following examples?

Put your answers in a comment below this blog, and see if others agree with you.

  1. “Late on a full-mooned Sunday night, the two figures in work clothes appeared on Highway 27, just outside the small college town of Ashton. They were tall, at least seven feet, strongly built, perfectly proportioned.” (From: This Present Darkness, by Frank E. Peretti.)
  2. “Death was driving an emerald-green Lexus.” (From: Winter Moon, by Dean Koontz.)
  3. “The last drops of the thundershower had hardly ceased falling when the Pedestrian stuffed his map into his pocket, settled his pack more comfortably on his tired shoulders, and stepped out from the shelter of a large chestnut-tree into the middle of the road.” (From: Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis.)
  4. “I have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since I saw a tractor tire blow up and throw Newt Hardbine’s father over the top of the Standard Oil sign.” (From: The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver.)
  5. “The sun was already sinking into the deep green of the hills to the west of the valley, the red and gray-pink of its shadows touching the corners of the land, when Flick Ohmsford began his descent.” (From: The Sword of Shannara, by Terry Brooks.)
  6. “The office had no windows, only electric lanterns to light the hundreds of spines standing in their cherry wood bookcases.” (From: Thr3e, by Ted Dekker.)
  7. “I was born in 1904, so that when I was pregnant in 1943 I was near enough to be past the rightful age to bear children.” (From: Jewel, by Bret Lott.)

Hook them early, hook them securely, and keep them on the line, reeling them in all the way through to the end of the story.

Oh — that scratching at our cabin door? I never did find out what it was. Probably a chipmunk. But my wife and I eventually slept soundly and safely through the night at that church camp near Yakima, Washington.

The Three Other ‘R’s of Writing

montesa_alteredvibrance_square

John Brewer

They say the three ‘R’s of good writing are revision, revision, revision. While I agree with that to a large degree, and have practiced it faithfully, there are three other ‘R’s that are, at least to me, just as important. From the standpoint of writing, they are one of the things that I like the best, which is definitely reflected in the books I write.

One of my favorite things to do as a young person would be to curl up with a book on history or science and let it take me to new worlds and places. As much as I liked fiction, the thing that would always arouse my curiosity the most was learning about things that had actually happened that I knew nothing about.

LifeScienceLibraryMy parents supported this thirst, or maybe had a lot to do with creating it, as we always had a lot of books around. I remember one of my favorite sets was Time Life Books, Life Science Library published in 1969. I still vividly recall some of the titles, The Body, The Cell, The Sea, Machines, EcologySpace. Every page was full of new wonders that expanded my growing mind like a balloon.

MathematicsThe book titled Mathematics always seemed really boring to me, though. That is, until I picked it up in the summer following my freshman year in high school, after having sat spellbound through Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on television. As I read through it then, I recall being filled with wonder as I learned about how mathematics can be used to describe alternate dimensions, time travel, topology, and all manner of things that can’t even be imagined by a creature bound to sensing and living in three dimensions. Not only did I learn a lot about mathematics, I also learned that mathematics was not what I thought – which goes to show you, context is everything.

NatGeoNational Geographic was another favorite of mine, taking me to the core of Earth, the edge of the Universe, inside the ancient Kingdom of Babylon, or to the top of an icy mountain. One picture I recall was of explorers entering one of the Great Pyramids as Giza. The chills went all the way to my toes! The places I have ‘been!’ The things I have ‘seen!’

It is this thrill that I most hope to capture when I write. The “Oh my gosh!” of reality. The things we don’t know. The truth’s yet undiscovered. The stuff I write is called fiction, but the fictional settings are just ways to reveal the little known gems of our world to an audience that perhaps doesn’t crave research the way that I do. And a lot of this stuff is important.

Take The Silla Project, for example. I spent six years studying North Korea because what is happening there is too important for people to not know about: the world’s greatest hostage crisis mixed in with crazy people trying to build nuclear weapons. It truly is unbelievable how strange that place is. Every single person who has read The Silla Project who I have spoken to says it has fundamentally altered their view of North Korea and most of them thank me for it. Now just to get that international award…

For my second book, The Green Hajj, (unpublished) I researched Antarctica for a year and a half before writing it. Why? For one, it is a fascinating place that’s just too cool to not share. And two, it lies at the center of the world’s greatest controversy – Global Warming… or not. I hope to have time to finish it one day.

MultiplayerCoverMultiplayer was no different, requiring research into social media, virtual reality, and surprisingly enough, Alanya, Turkey. My work-in-progress continues this theme in an entirely different way – in fact in an entirely different place and time – that required yet more research of exotic, little known, places and cultures. Thank God for the internet and Google Earth.

So, the three other ‘R’s of writing? You’ve no doubt guessed them by now, research, research, research. It is what allows the writer to create a real place in the mind of the reader. Until the author is completely comfortable with his subject it will not come across as genuine. The only way to do this: research!

Today’s Writing Prompt: In the course of my research for The Silla Project I came across many, many wonderful tidbits that could be the basis for entire new novels. Here is one: One of the first Christian Missions to Korea was beset upon by indigenous people who thought they were being invaded. One of the missionaries was beheaded as he struggled to shore. His killer took the Bible he’d been carrying and used it’s pages to paper over the walls in his house. In time, he read them, was convicted by their message, and turned to God. Today South Korea is the most heavily Christian nations on Earth, in part due to this true story. Do a little research, find the story, and write a short synopsis for a novel that somehow connects to this story.

John C. Brewer is a novelist, physicist, rocket scientist, lifelong soccer player, motorcycle rider, husband, father, and the author of Multiplayer, an adventure for young adults, and The Silla Project, a North Korean nuclear romance. Find out more about what he is doing at johncbrewer.com.

– John C. Brewer