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.

 

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…

Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton

Today we’d like to welcome Firefly Southern fiction author, Claire Fullerton, to the Inspired Prompt blog. Claire has just released her new book, Mourning Dove, a Southern family saga, and we want to know more…

Glad you could join us, Claire! Do you have any interesting writing rituals?

Claire:  I have a salt lamp that I keep on its low setting, which maintains a soft, golden glow.

What are your books about?

Claire:  Mourning Dove is a Southern family saga. It is the story of Finley Crossan, as told in the voice of his younger sister, Millie. The siblings lead an idyllic childhood in the lake area of Wayzata, Minnesota, until their Southern mother, the alluring and dynamic, Posey, leaves their alcoholic father and moves the siblings to her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. As outsiders in this genteel and manicured Southern culture, the siblings mature to find their way to belonging in a society so nuanced, it makes eccentricities look normal. Mourning Dove is a story about siblings who come from the same background, but come to disparate ends.

What is your favorite part of the book?

Claire:  That Mourning Dove is written in the first person voice of Millie Crossan as she ruminates over why her golden, charismatic brother, Finley, whom she thought hung the moon, came to the end that he did.

Is there a message in your book you hope readers will grasp?

Claire:  What happens in one’s family during one’s formative years comes back to haunt, sooner or later, especially when one is raised in a discreet society where everyone seeks to make things look good, at the expense of the glaring truth.

Where can readers find you online?

Claire:   My website  

Facebook

Instagram 

Twitter

Thanks for stopping by and telling us about your book!

Click to tweet:  Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton is a Southern family saga worth the read.  #amreading #Southern


Mourning Dove

The heart has a home when it has an ally. If Millie Crossan doesn’t know anything else, she knows this one truth simply because her brother Finley grew up beside her. Charismatic Finley, eighteen months her senior, becomes Millie’s guide when their mother Posey leaves their father and moves her children from Minnesota to Memphis shortly after Millie’s tenth birthday.

Memphis is a world foreign to Millie and Finley. This is the 1970s Memphis, the genteel world of their mother’s upbringing and vastly different from anything they’ve ever known. Here they are the outsiders. Here, they only have each other. And here, as the years fold over themselves, they mature in a manicured Southern culture where they learn firsthand that much of what glitters isn’t gold. Nuance, tradition, and Southern eccentrics flavor Millie and Finley’s world as they find their way to belonging.

But what hidden variables take their shared history to leave both brother and sister at such disparate ends?



Claire Fullerton
grew up in Memphis, TN and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of contemporary fiction, Dancing to an Irish Reel, set in Connemara, Ireland, where she once lived. Dancing to an Irish Reel is a finalist in the 2016 Kindle Book Review Awards, and a 2016 Readers’ Favorite. Claire is also the author of A Portal in Time, a paranormal mystery that unfolds in two time periods, set on California’s hauntingly beautiful Monterey Peninsula, in a village called Carmel-by-the-Sea. Both of Claire’s novels are published by Vinspire Publishing.

Her third novel, Mourning Dove, is a Southern family saga, to be published in June, 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. She is one of four contributors to the book, The South in All Seasons, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, to be published in October, 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. Claire is represented by Julie Gwinn, of The Seymour Literary Agency, and can be found on WordPress, Twitter Goodreads Instagram as well as her website.

Abide With Me by Shellie Arnold

Today we’d like to welcome author, Shellie Arnold, to the blog. Her latest book in The Barn Church series, Abide With Me, is a great Southern fiction read. But I’ll let her tell you a little more about herself and her book..

Glad you could join us, Shellie. Do you have any interesting writing rituals?

Shellie: For many years I struggled to write anywhere except at home in my office, when my family was gone. I think my “mommy” brain simply wouldn’t let me concentrate except under those conditions. Then I trained myself to use music as a device to create my writing “environment.” Now, I have a sort of Pavlovian reflex to a few different soundtracks—not kidding. A couple of worship albums, the soundtrack from the movie Solaris, and Islands: Essential Einaudi CD by Ludovico Einaudi. (I love Einaudi’s piano music) With my earbuds in, I can write almost anywhere. 🙂 I always start with worship music to get my heart and mind and spirit in the right place, then usually switch after about twenty minutes.

What are your books about?

Shellie: I write and speak about marriage issues. My passion is sharing everything I’ve learned the hard way about marriage. I want to support and give hope to marriages. My novels are about the “perfect storms” in marriage: what happens when my weaknesses hit yours head-on, and we’re both left wondering if anything can be salvaged.

Abide With Me is the third novel in my Barn Church series. Books one and two are: The Spindle Chair and Sticks and Stones. For this series, I created a fictional town in southern Alabama. In this small town is a church that’s a renovated barn. Each book in the series looks at a different marriage within that church body. I focus on one problem that can be present in a marriage—always an issue I’ve encountered or am still facing—and go deep into why the couple is where they are, and what God is trying to do in them and in their marriage.

Abide With Me is the story of Angelina and Nicholas Rousseau. They’ve been married ten years, they’re both believers, and their marriage is a disaster. Using both points of view, I look at what brought them to this place of unhappiness and discontentment.

What is your favorite part of the book?

Shellie: That’s a tough question! My favorite part of this book…well, without giving away the storyline, I think I have two favorite parts. The first would be the opening scene when Angelina attends a friend’s wedding in Las Vegas. Her heart and emotions have been so suppressed, so controlled, she’s unable to handle so much “happy” around her, even though she’s happy for her friend, the bride. Angie even stuns herself with her reaction, and I really like that image—the idea a wife’s yearnings are such a powerful force.

My second (and equally) favorite part would be when Nicholas is in jail, waiting in an interview room to speak again with his attorney, and he’s just seen Angelina for the first time in months. I take him to a really low place. He “hits bottom,” if you will, which is sometimes what it takes to get our attention, isn’t it? I really enjoyed writing how he begins to see not only the condition of his marriage, but what he contributed to its dysfunction.

Is there a message in your book you hope readers will grasp?

Shellie: Yes! Honestly, I thought this book would be first in the series, but God had other ideas. Abide With Me is the message of my heart, the message I wish I could say to every marriage. That every time we say no to God, we’re saying no to our mate and our marriage. That’s a tough truth. One God has been teaching me for almost thirty-two years now. But I think it’s the bottom line, the litmus test for every action and decision in marriage: Is my behavior righteous? Am I doing what God wants me to do?

In our everyday lives, I think it’s easy to overlook our mate, or demand our own way, to withhold forgiveness, to hold a grudge—even without realizing. I wanted to highlight how easy that is to do, and what the consequences would ultimately be for two people who were extremely in love when they married, but ten years later have almost nothing to show for their marriage. I also wanted to show how God can redeem that marriage, or any marriage. I truly believe God can redeem, heal, and restore anything—I’m living proof of that. I believe any marriage can thrive when both parties listen to God.

Where can readers find you online?

Shellie: My web site: www.shelliearnold.com (find my blog, FREE e-cards gallery, sign up for my newsletter, view my events page, and learn of new products and teachings soon to be available on DVD)

Find me: Facebook, Your Marriage Resources, Twitter, Youtube: Your Marriage resources, Pinterest,

Link to purchase on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yad6j9ak


Abide With Me

After ten years of marriage to the only man she’s ever loved, why is Angelina so unhappy?

Angelina Rousseau pours all her emotions into her paintings. When she meets a handsome stranger at a friend’s wedding in Las Vegas, she believes she’s discovered why she’s so lonely—she simply married the wrong man. 

Nicholas Rousseau is a highly successful industrial engineer and has the Midas touch with his investments. Only in his marriage is he a failure. 

When Nick is arrested for real estate fraud, Angelina is as uncertain of his innocence as she is certain she should end their marriage. But the authorities believe Angelina is as guilty as Nick. To protect her own future, she must return to the opulent home she abandoned and sell her cherished possessions to finance Nick’s defense. Nick desires to reconnect with his estranged wife, but examining their emotionally bankrupt marriage proves more difficult than he imagined. And, even if they discover what went wrong between them, Nick could still spend the rest of his life in prison. 

Could “having it all” cost Nick and Angie more than they ever imagined? 


Shellie Arnold is a writer and speaker on marriage and family. She truly believes—despite baggage, neglect, or mistakes—if a husband and wife listen to God, they can live happily even after. Her passion is sharing how God is helping her do exactly that. She maintains a blog at www.shelliearnold.com and is the founder of YOUR MARRIAGE resources. Shellie is a mother of three and has home schooled for over twenty years. She lives in Ohio with her husband of thirty-one years.