Did You Know Authors Speak a Different Kind of Language?
Confession. Some authors (and probably linguists) will disagree with me, but hear me out. See, language is the means of communication, right? We use discernible sounds or gestures to indicate what we mean. Some of those languages are written (as in English, French, or Latin).
However, authors speak both in traditional words and in nuances—in subtext. In diction, style, and syntax. Most authors have a unique “voice” that defines them—another kind of “language,” so to speak. Perhaps it’s terse and succinct, as Earnest Hemingway can be. It might be more lyrical as say, Ann Voskamp. Crass and creepy like Stephen King. My natural voice is most like Cassie’s, my character from The Vintage Wren.
But did you know there is a website that you can plug your writing into and see what famous author’s sentence structure, syntax, diction, etc. your writing is most like? I’ve done this several times over the years with different books. I often come up with different authors depending on the book excerpts I choose to analyze.
I’m not familiar with her work, but I Write Like claims my The Vintage Wren reads like Ann Rice. I hope she’s an entertaining writer!
Next up, I had to test out the book I’m almost done with. I’d just had a big scene that I had to test out. #becausereasons. The result? Couldn’t be more pleased. It fits both the scene and happens to compare my writing to one of my literary heroes. It said that I write like Agatha Christie.
I’ll take that—even if it is because I plugged in a villain unmasking scene that fits Christie’s most well-known genre… mystery!
And what book is this one from? Flipping Hearts. This is my third Independence Islands book—the first on Hooper Island. In this book, a home and garden TV series comes to help the islands clean up after a hurricane and… um… well, there’s more to it than that.
The book available to preorder, and maybe in its pages you can tell me how I speak the languages of Rice, Christie, and… (From Bookers on the Rocks) Stephen King!
I’m so confused about that one.
There are two things you should know about me to understand how I’m handling recent events. First, I’m a fixer. If I see a problem, I want to fix it. My mind will dwell on it until I can find some solution. Second, I’m a planner. I enjoy the anticipation of plans and the execution of them. I even like the problem solving that comes along during the process.
As you can imagine, this past year has been rough on me. I can’t fix this. There’s illness, political stress, financial burdens, mental anxiety, vaccines, distance learning, quarantine, lockdowns, masks and a host of other difficulties in the world today – and I can’t fix any of them. I see the problems, but no matter how hard I try to come up with a solution, I can’t. Even if I had a brilliant idea, I’m not in a place of any kind of authority to put it into action.
This year has seen my plans go up in smoke over and over again as well. Those that actually happen are modified so much that they barely look anything like my original idea. I’m hesitant to make plans, because I know that at any moment life could shift once again. Sometimes I feel almost lost, because there should be something I am planning – a vacation or church activities or a gathering. Instead, there’s nothing.
What both of these traits boil down to though, is that I like to be in control. I might say that I trust God, but I cling tightly with both hands to my plans, and I jump in to fix any problems that might be in the lives of my family and friends.
Recently our pastor asked us to think about something that looked good, but in the end produced problems. I told my family that I always think control is good. If I can be the one in charge, then everything will go the way it’s supposed to go. What I end up with is worry, stress, and anxiety. If things don’t go according to my plan, if I can’t fix it, then everything will crumble. It puts pressure on me to be perfect – or at least to project perfection.
Through this situation, God is slowly prying my fingers off of my life, and allowing me to relax in His sovereignty. I can’t fix it, but He can. My plans might fail, but His never do. He can do exceedingly, abundantly beyond anything we can even imagine. He is the sovereign, Almighty God, King of Creation – and I am a flawed, sinful, human (beloved, yes, but still flawed and sinful). How can I not trust Him, yet still trust my own judgement which I know can be faulty?
I’ve still got a long way to go. I try to take the burdens of the world on my own shoulders. God is teaching me to leave it in His more-than-capable hands, and just as importantly, not try to take those burdens back out of His hands after I’ve placed them there. Someday I may look back and wonder why I wasted so much time and energy stressing about things which I had no control over. Then I’ll know that I fully trust God the way I ought.
Have you read some stories that are so realistic, you wonder if they’re based on true events?
Often authors glean from situations they’ve seen or experienced themselves. My first three novels are based on real people. I also add snippets of personal experiences or interest points throughout a story to add layers to the character’s life.
I’m working on the fourth book in my Single Again series and the MC, Melissa Turner is a photographer. I have a diploma in photography and have done a few weddings back in the day. I remember them being a lot of pressure to get the best shots (you can’t reshoot a wedding) and a full twelve-hour day standing on your feet, smiling as much as the subjects. No thanks. I quickly moved on from that career to marketing and used my eye for composition in another field. Of course, I still like to take photos of my children or nature, but only as a hobby.
The hero in “No Filter” is a single dad and videographer, Chance McMillan. At first, he comes across as prideful, thinking he has better skills and ideas than Melissa. I will make him have some likable traits to balance it out. He is a dedicated father to his little boy. I’ll use some of my stories to make him more relatable.
My little boy has a white scar on his forehead from when his older brother chased him around the house causing the younger one to bang into a door frame. A rush to the hospital had his split forehead glued back together. Ouch. Who has some stories about broken bones or cracked heads? Probably most parents can relate on some level or may have their own childhood stories. Three of my sons have cut their heads on something and one daughter broke her wrist from playing on monkey-bars. How many visits to the hospital have you had?
I thought you’d like a glimpse into how authors come up with their ideas. Last month I mentioned how in book one, More Than a Second Chance, the women the story is based on had her happy ever after in real life. In book four, it will be based on the young woman Cassie helped to keep her baby. Melissa gets her own story. If you haven’t read the first books in the series, they’re now in a boxset and on Kindle Unlimited.
Here’s the blurb for “No Filter” now on pre-order.
When San Diego videographer, Chance McMillan discovers a food photographer will shoot his friend’s wedding, he’s outraged.
Australian, Melissa Turner isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Her fire and spunk surprise Chance, and now he doesn’t want her to leave the US. He offers Melissa a documentary project to extend her stay, but as single parents, could two nations, two broken families build a bridge to a safe middle ground?
I have a confession to make.
Until about three years ago, I’d never read a Christian romance novel. Honestly, I didn’t even know that this category of books existed.
I’d read widely across many genres, but romance? Too risqué.
Then I went through a tough time in my personal life, and I started looking for books that would leave me feeling uplifted. I ran a search for “Christian fiction” at my local library and discovered Kathryn Cushman’s novels. After reading through her backlist, I stumbled across the Love Inspired line, and I was hooked.
These stories weren’t about sex—they were about love. They were about people who were doing their best to honor God while also dealing with difficult circumstances. They were about people like me.
Aside from a copyeditor, my husband was the first person who read my debut novel, Falling for the Innkeeper. He’d never read a romance novel before, and he was a bit baffled by the whole experience. When he reads fiction, he usually reads sci-fi, and he thought it was “obvious” from the beginning of my book that the two main characters would end up together. I had to tell him that that was a good thing—romance readers would be furious if the hero and heroine didn’t end up together!
Life can be unpredictable, and when we’re facing challenges, it’s sometimes difficult to see a way out. There’s comfort that comes in reading a book where you know the main characters will work together to solve their problems and live happily ever after.
Reading about how others have overcome hardship is a hopeful reminder that—no matter how dark things in our own lives might seem at the moment—we, too, shall overcome!
I released another book in February called Heart Pressed. It is the second book to the Independence Island Elnora Series and the main them throughout the book is family. Broken family, happy family; small family, big family; new family, old family—all types are represented in full island display. Now, the two main families are vineyard owners, but both families are steeped in tradition and carrying on the family legacy that spans generations. So, when Sandra Barela asked what I wanted the author hop to consist of, my own family tradition came to mind—Cookies!
There are very few foods that can warm your heart and take your cares away, even for a moment. More so, if they are made with someone you love like a grandparent or your children. The laughter, the lessons in baking, the conversations—it all works together to weave the bonds of family. The joy that fills the air seals itself into your memory and even when those you spent those moments with are gone, you associate the act of baking with them as love. Hence the term, “made with love”.
I have several memories that involve cookies and loved ones. For instance, my grandpa Apsey (mom’s dad) was a cookie thief and would eat what ever cookie he could get his hands on. My grandpa McKay (dad’s dad) liked the windmill ginger cookies. My grandma Apsey would make several kinds of cookies and each had their own jars—chocolate chip had the biggest jar, Oatmeal raisin had a brown jar, and molasses or ginger snaps had a smaller jar. Grandma McKay would buy Nabisco’s vanilla wafers and make banana pudding dessert with them (Oh, I can taste that one already. Might have to add the ingredients to the grocery list this week).
Now that all my grandparents are gone, it is up to me to pass on the tradition of “cookie love”. I know it sounds silly, but we all will eat a cookie before we would grab a pice of pie or cake. Every Christmas, I ask the kids if they want special cookies and they ask for my great-aunt’s cookies (I won’t give that one away) or my mother-in-law’s Christmas cookies and we bake them together. I get to see a glimpse of the little children they once were as we split the jobs in our tight little kitchen, but I also witness how mature they have become. We talk about what things where like when my husband and I were dating or school stress or even faith. For a brief moment, they let me into the deepest parts of their secluded teen-aged world and I realize they still need me.
Back to the author cookie hop.
To celebrate my book release, all the authors shared a cookie recipe from their own cards. Well, below you will find a compilation of those recipes for you to print and enjoy. I encourage you to make them with those you love and make some memories. Fell free to reach out to the author whose cookies you bake and tell them how yummy you found them. We like hearing from you all.
So You Want to Write a Book
This past month I have received a larger than usual stack of questions, messages, and emails about writing. Usually, the emails and social media messages I receive are focused on my books …this number one question recently has been “When is Book 3 coming out???” The answer is THIS SUMMER!!! YAY!
Not this month. This month has been very writing centered. Lots of people have reached out with questions about how to write a book, where to start, what does the process look like. Honestly, I love those questions. We need more books in the world! I am a writer because I am a reader. I love to read. I love stories. I love books. And I will shout it loudly from the rooftops every day of my life that we need more books! The world needs stories, especially Christian stories. We need to be reminded of the love of God in the midst of this broken world. We need to read stories that share the beauty of redemption and grace and healing. We even need stories that point out the darkness and terror in the world. We need to see what we are up against so that we can understand the true power of God’s ultimate victory.
So, if you have been thinking about writing a book…DO IT! The world needs your words. Here’s Michelle’s quick advice on where to start.
1) What kinds of stories do you like to read? The books you are passionate about reading are probably the types of books you will be passionate about writing. And trust me, you will need passion to carry you through the times when writing is challenging and frustrating and hard. Do you love romance books (like me)? Do you devour fantasy books? Pick your favorite genre. The genre you read the most will be the one you are most familiar with and that will give you a head start on your writing because you know what readers expect and what makes them angry….and no author wants angry readers.
2) Start brainstorming. Maybe start with a question. Mission Hollywood started when I asked myself this question, “What would happen if a bad boy movie star who didn’t believe in God met a woman who loved Jesus?” It all started there. Play around with questions and when you find one that intrigues you, one that makes you start imaging scenes and possibilities and characters, that might be your book.
3) Write down the most important parts of the story. Now, I must confess, I am not a planner. I like to jump in and write by the seat of my pants and see where the story goes. BUT, even a pantser like me needs a little bit of direction. So, I recommend at least planning the beginning scene, two scenes in the middle, and the end. For example, when I started Mission Hollywood, I had planned the meeting at the airport (the beginning), Noah blackmailing Ben to help at the church, the movie premiere, the **** at the ****** (spoiler alert…something bad happens), and the happily ever after ending. It wasn’t much of an outline, but it gave me a direction. I knew where I was going and I knew a few of the stops I had to reach along the way. Even the smallest plan can help keep you pointed in the right direction when you hit a “what comes next?” moment.
4) Write! There is no shortcut, no quick fix, no way around it. Writers write. It is literally our job description. In order to share your book with the world, you first have to get it on paper. Books are written one word at a time. Even the greatest, most amazing bestseller started out that way…one word at a time. You can have the best story, incredible characters, a compelling and emotional plot, but if you don’t put it on paper, no one will ever see it. One word at a time, that is the simple and hard answer.
So, friends. If you have a story in your heart, if you have something you want to say, if you have words that want to break free…now is the time! My email is always open if you have questions!
I have a habit of always looking for the next big thing.
Next marketing project.
Next story to tell.
Big is a relative term, of course.
I forget to stop and appreciate all that I have, here and now.
If you’ve read some of my past articles, you know I have a problem with patience…especially if I don’t know what I’m waiting for.
Remember how Moses wandered in the wilderness for forty years? Yeah, I’m not comparing myself to Moses, but I’m saying I get his frustration.
Sometimes, instead of looking up toward God, I’m looking down at my feet, curious where they’ll lead me next.
I decided to confront this issue head on in my fourth book for the Independence Islands series. It’s said that an author’s life shows up in their work, and the goal is not for their life to be recognized but for their experiences to be relatable and help the reader experience the full potential of the story. To write for God and let Him work through the pages as only He can. And boy is He working on me as I write this book.
Cooper is finally getting his story! For those who don’t know, Cooper first showed up in Mishaps off the Mainland as Mel’s brother.
To set up the plot, I took both sides of the content/discontent issue and gave two characters extremely opposite points of view.
Cooper is content to the point he wants nothing. Absolutely nothing. But is being content with everything really a good thing? What if you’re so content you stop wanting more of God?
Bree is the total opposite. She never stops moving, searching for something she can’t name and never finds. She has no idea what she truly needs, only that it always seems just out of reach and perhaps she’ll find it on the distant shore.
They will have to find a balance, each of them changing and growing.
It has done my faith good to be stretched in this way.