Winner of Anita Mae Draper's A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 3&4 Release Party is... Elaine K!

Congratulations to Niki Turner on the release of her first novella, Sadie's Gift!!! Check it out here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Tale of Two Story Forms

We’re celebrating the release of Anita Mae Draper’s short story “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” available as part of Guidepost Books’ A Cup ofChristmas Cheer collection. Despite its compact size, HWCA-W packs two story forms into its pages: the road story (or road trip story) with the cabin (often called “closed circle” in mysteries) story. In honor of Anita’s new story, I thought I’d look at the structure of these two fiction types.
Road stories chronicle a character’s journey from one point to another. It sounds simple enough, but in true story fashion, there are obstacles along the way that impede the journey. Fortunately the character will frequently gather allies who assist him (or her) in overcoming the obstacles. These allies and obstacles cause the main character to grow, so that the character has changed in some fundamental way by the time he reaches his destination.
Take for example, The Wizard of Oz. Protagonist Dorothy  (along with her dog Toto) lives a rather dull and boring life on her aunt and uncle’s Kansas farm. But when she is suddenly whisked away to the magical land of Oz, she needs to figure out how to travel home. The journey is both concrete (Dorothy has to physically walk down the yellow brick road) and symbolic (Dorothy is also on a journey of self-discovery). She makes allies (Lion, Scarecrow, Tin Man) and encounters obstacles (the Wicked Witch of the West and a wizard who isn’t really a wizard). The story ends when Dorothy returns to Kansas, newly appreciative of her life and family.

Some other famous road stories are Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C.S. Lewis), Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne), and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour starred in a series of road story movies, conveniently named Road to ___. (In short, if the book or movie has “voyage,” or “journey,” or “road” in the title, there’s a good chance it’s a road story!)
The cabin or closed circle story seems to be the opposite of a road story. Two or more people find themselves trapped together by circumstances. They may be detained in a hotel during a storm or trapped on a deserted island without a way of returning to civilization. While the setting of a road story is ever-changing, these cabin/closed circle stories take place in a single setting. The fun (or danger) comes from the unlikely combination of characters.
For instance, the famous TV show Gilligan’s Island has seven very different people stuck on an island together: the bossy Skipper, goofy Gilligan, rich and aloof Mr. and Mrs. Howell, elegant Ginger, brainy Professor and girl-next-doorish Mary Ann. Despite their disparate backgrounds and personalities, they have to find ways to work together.

What happens in the cabin (or hotel or country house or train or space ship) depends on who is stranded there. When the story is a closed circle mystery, it’s quite possible one of the characters is a murderer. The other characters need to figure out the identity of the murderer before they, too, fall victim. In a cabin romance, the forced proximity offers an unlikely couple the chance to get to know each other. Many survival movies (and countless Star Trek episodes) also utilize the concept of people (or people and aliens) stranded in a single location where they are forced to work together in order to survive.
For example, Beauty and the Beast is at heart a cabin romance. The beast confines himself to the castle because of his hideous appearance and Belle is trapped because of her promise to remain. Alone with only singing household furnishings for company, a peculiar pair forms a unique bond. Some other examples of this type of story are Murder on the Orient Express (set on a train), Key Largo (set on the island of Key Largo during a hurricane), and Apollo 13 (set in a space ship).

(Since we're beginning our Christmas celebrations early here on Inkwell, I suppose I might as well confess that after years and years of annual It's a Wonderful Life watching, I have trouble picturing Lionel Barrymore as anyone other than the meanest, richest man in Bedford Falls.)
As to how Anita’s story combines elements of both these story forms…well, for that, you’ll have to read it yourself. Just leave a comment with a “safe” version of your email addy (i.e., name at provider dot com/net) by 11:59 Monday, October 20 for your chance to win a free copy.
And be sure to share your favorite road stories, cabin romances, or closed circle mysteries.

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at


Friday, October 17, 2014

New Release Marketing Plan

by Anita Mae Draper

Forgive the lopsided banner on this post, but I used a cropped version of my Facebook Author page since I want to show you all the marketing involved in my new release, A Cup of Christmas Cheer.

I am so very honored that Guideposts Books chose Here We Come A-Wassailing for their 2014 edition of A Cup of Christmas Cheer (CoCC) Volume 4 Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present. Last year if you recall, I made my publishing debut with the short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish which Guideposts published in CoCC Volume 1 Tales of Faith and Family for the Holidays. 

For the record, Guideposts Books (GB) does not require their authors to promote their books as they have an excellent marketing team for that purpose, so you might be surprised by this post on our marketing efforts, but we're so excited about our stories that we can't help promoting it.

Last year when CoCC Vol 1 & 2 was nearing release, some of us authors banded together on a private Facebook page and decided on a hosting a blog hop. We offered prizes at each stop of the hop, and then a grand prize worth about $120. This was on top of our personal blogging, tweeting and facebooking as we promoted our 2-volume set which for several of us, was our debut publishing credit. We were rewarded when the books sold so well that GB ordered a second printing.

Here we are in Oct 2014 and again, the authors are working together for promotion. Some of us were published in Vol 1&2, but many are new to these sweet little books. Once again we have a private Facebook page where we discuss ideas which one of the authors, Keli Gwyn, works as our liaison with our editor, Jon Woodhams, who in turn checks with the GB marketing team.

From this arrangement, we have developed some great promotional tools including a CoCC blog where each of us has scheduled a day to post about our stories. The blog has been live for over a week and includes posts from editor Jon Woodhams about the inspiration behind the CoCC books, and an interview about how he and his team chose the different stories.

Included with the CoCC blog are the following pages which are being continually updated:
- Stories - describes all 4 CoCC volumes
- Authors - links to online appearances
- Giveaways - some fabulous draws are in the works
- Pinterest - links to the authors' story boards

One final thought on the blog... if you want to keep up with the posts, giveaways, etc, you can Follow the Blog via Email. The details are on the blog's right sidebar.

The following promotional tools allow GB to see us on Twitter and Facebook where they retweet us for greater exposure
- #cupofchristmascheer 
- @GuidepostsBooks 

Just when I thought we were doing everything we could, Keli gave us some more good news in that we now have an official public Facebook page. If you LIKE it, you can choose to receive notifications of giveaways, blogposts, etc. 

Keli has added A Cup of Christmas Cheer to goodreads where GB is giving away 5 sets of CoCC Volume 3&4 in a draw that ends Nov 14, 2014.

GB has donated several more book sets to be given away on the CoCC blog and at our Facebook party which is tentatively scheduled for Nov 6. 

We've been assigned a special link to the ShopGuideposts page which allows GB to keep track of which orders are being made on behalf of the promotional efforts of the authors. Yes, if you're going to order, please use this one:

Or click on this button which I've already linked to the Shop Guideposts page. 

This is so exciting!

Before I close off, I might as well give you the links to my social media hangouts:
Pinterest boards including Christmas and Fall/Thanksgiving
Here We Come A-Wassailing CoCC story board

Don't forget about my Giveaway here at the Inkwell where I'm giving away a copy of A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 3 & 4 to one randomly-chosen commenter. Be sure to leave a comment with a way to contact you to be entered! The drawing ends Monday, Oct 20, 11:59 EDT.

So, have I fired you up enough to click one of the links? I wasn't a fan of Pinterest boards at the beginning, but now they are my go-to place for images and recipes. :)


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East. Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013. She is honored that Guideposts Books has chosen a second short story, Here We Come A-wassailing, for inclusion in the 2014 A Cup of Christmas Cheer Vol 3&4 book set. Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita at

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's a Wassailing Party for Anita Mae Draper...and a Giveaway!

Welcome! Oh, you all look so cheerful and festive in your hats and scarves. (Yes, it is snowing, and yes, you've been out in the cold for a long time. Forget October. It's Christmas at the Inkwell!)

This is what I imagine for the front entrance of Joan's family home.
Come on in! There's a party inside! (don't slip on the snowy stairs...)
We're celebrating the release of Anita Mae Draper's Here We Come A-Wassailing from A Cup of Christmas Cheer, a 2-volume set from Guideposts. Aren't the covers delightful?
A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 3 & 4 is available now as a 2-volume set from @GuidepostsBooks at this special link
Available here!

Now that you're inside, move closer to the fire and warm your hands with a nice cup of wassail (old family recipe). And since we're wassailing, how about a sing-a-long? Click play and sing (lyrics provided) or just enjoy the music while you mill about the party.

Wassail ! - another christmas must.  Ingredients:  •1 gallon apple cider  •1 large can unsweetened pineapple juice  •3/4 cup tea   Place in a cheesecloth sack:  •1 tablespoon whole cloves  •1 tablespoon whole allspice  •2 sticks cinnamon This is great cooked in a crock pot. Let it simmer very slowly for 4 to 6 hours. You can add water if it evaporates too much. Serves 20. Add orange slices, or quartered with cloves, and some cinnamon sticks.
Mmm. You can just taste this clove and cinnamon-scented punch. Have a cookie, too, and admire the tree.

1280x960 Wallpaper christmas, holiday, fireplace, christmas tree, garlands, candles, toys, gifts
One of the Inkies is eyeing the presents. But there's no peeking until Christmas!

Here We Come A-Wassailing has just as much holiday heart as this party. A young woman heads home through rural North Dakota for Christmas, but her solitary trek turns into an adventure as she picks up an assortment of folks. The crazy detours along the way prove to be a Christmas miracle.

I loved the story, and I'm sure you will, too! So heartwarming. So festive. Just what a Christmas story should be.

I'm so excited for Anita! Lift high your cup of wassail and join me in a toast.

To Anita and her new release! To the blessings of friendship! To Christmas miracles, especially the One who came to save us!

Anita Mae is graciously giving away A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 3 & 4 to one randomly-chosen commenter. Be sure to leave a comment with a way to contact you to be entered! The drawing ends Monday, Oct 20, 11:59 EDT.

Feel free to enjoy more treats from the buffet. Goodies will be available all day! Be sure to say hi to Anita in the comments!

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Do Your Favorite Childhood Books Say About You?

By Niki Turner

I recently listened to a recording from an ACFW conference workshop taught by agent Natasha Kern about the influence our favorite childhood books have on our lives as adults, and as writers.

Ms. Kern shared an example of a client who writes suspense/thrillers. His favorite book growing up was "Artie the Smarty." Artie, a little fish, has to use his wits to navigate his way across a pond filled with dangers. Can you see the parallel? He now writes stories where his protagonists have to use their wits to escape the villain's clutches on their way to reaching their goal.

My list of favorites is long. As an only child I was (and am), a voracious reader. Books were my friends. (On a side note, learning that almost every other writer I know shares that same addiction has been such a comfort to the adult me!)

"Gordon the Goat" and "Ballerina Bess" topped my early reader list. (My mother insists I should have had to keep reading Gordon the Goat, which is all about peer pressure, throughout my teen years.)

I have a beautifully illustrated copy of Cinderella that I read and re-read for years, sometimes just to look at the pictures.

I loved "The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes."

Some of my favorite memories involve trips to the bookstore, and frantically searching to see if there was a "new" Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden, or a new Black Stallion book, on the shelves. And the Christmas I got the boxed set of Little House on the Prairie books (still have it) was a fine Christmas, indeed.

There were also the books that "stuck" emotionally, the ones that made me cry: "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," "The Secret Garden," "Black Beauty," "Little Women," "Jane Eyre." Bittersweet stories, to be sure.

As I got older, the books got fatter, and darker: "Sacajawea," Herman Wouk's "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance."

And then I moved on to romance novels, to my mother's chagrin (this was in the '80s, remember romance novels in the '80s?). And this one is mild... wouldn't even need a brown paper cover to take it out in public.

Is there a theme? Possibly. Nothing quite so straightforward as Artie the Smarty, but I can see a connection, not only in what I like to read (and write) as an adult, but in my motivations, my perceptions of the world, and in some of the choices I've made. (The Country Bunny and I have SO much in common...)

How about you? Did you have a particular favorite, or many? 

What was the first book you read that made you cry over the characters? 

What parallels can you draw between your childhood favorites and who you've become?

Have you ever thought about the effect your stories might have on your readers? 

Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and the production manager for the Rio Blanco Herald Times weekly newspaper. Her first completed manuscript earned second place in the Touched By Love 2009 contemporary category romance contest. She won second place for best agriculture story at the 2013 Colorado Press Association annual convention. She also blogs at She is the Colorado Area Coordinator for American Christian Fiction Writers and is involved in establishing an ACFW chapter on Colorado's Western Slope, where she resides. She published “Sadie’s Gift” as one of the Christmas Traditions novella collection in 2014. Her next project, “Santiago Sol,” will be published by Pelican Book Ventures, LLC, as part of the Passport to Romance novella collection.

Connect with Niki on Facebook, or on Twitter

Friday, October 10, 2014

Rules with a Reason #1 - Show Don't Tell

 by Author/Editor Dina Sleiman

Most authors get tired of hearing about “the rules” of good fiction writing. In fact, based on some of the submissions I receive as a WhiteFire Publishing editor, I’ve come to realize that a number of agents ignore them as well. I’ve even had an agent say to me, “But they do it in secular fiction all the time.” Maybe that's so, but some of the stricter standards applied to Christian fiction developed because we had to be even better than our secular counterparts in order to play on the same field.

Now I am not a person to observe rules for the sake of rules. And I'll be quick to say that some writers cling to them too closely. But most of these rules serve a greater purpose. One of the rules I am strictest about when I content edit novels is the “show don’t tell" rule. At its heart, this rule is all about making your writing sizzle, pop, and jump off the page. In fact, when reading a book as an editor OR for pleasure, if I become bored and give up on it, excessive telling is often the reason. Maybe two decades ago when readers had to fork out another $10 or run to the local library to get a new book, boring telling might have cut it, but not today when we all have thirty more books cued up on our kindles.  

To keep things interesting, you want to draw your reader into a sort of 3D, multi-sensory experience, similar to a dream state. Think some of the newer rides at Disney World complete with smells, puffs of wind, and rattling seats. You want your reader to feel like they have entered into your story world, and that they are living the experience with your point of view character. That is what show don’t tell really means. Thus, it is a highly important rule, but it is also often misunderstood. To help explain it better, I am going to break this rule into two components.

Micro Showing vs. Telling
At this level I’m talking about writing each sentence in a way that engages the reader and draws them into that dreamlike experience. This closely relates to other rules like avoiding "to be" verbs and using strong action verbs instead. You want your sentences to be vivid, active, and brimming with life. Does this mean you should never simply “tell” the reader anything? Not at all. If it takes a paragraph full of convoluted, boring showing to replace one simple, effective telling sentence, then choose telling. Just don’t overdo it. I would recommend that you keep the telling to 10% or less. And avoid telling as much as humanly possible in that all important first chapter. Also remember that there are both interesting and boring ways of telling information. So take that into consideration when making decisions about showing vs. telling.

Macro Showing vs. Telling
New writers often understand “show don’t tell” in the micro context, but not in this bigger context which closely relates to proper scene development. Another, more precise name for telling on a macro level would be narrative summary. I don't want to read a summary about a story; I want to read a story. Going back again to the dreamlike experience, in narrative summary we stop the dream so that someone can stand there and narrate the back story of the dream or the connection between two scenes in the dream. Or worst yet, they just stand there talking instead of showing the dream at all. (Sadly, I have received these submissions.)

Again, that is not to say there is never a time for a sparing amount of narrative summary. But if I get more than about a straight paragraph or two of it in the first two chapters, you’re losing me. Even deep into the book, if this continues for a page or two, I’m often out of there. And again, there are interesting and boring ways to deliver your narrative summary. If you have an exciting, first person, present tense narrator with a unique take on the situation who seems to be talking straight to the reader, you can get away with more narrative summary than if you have a very basic, third person, past tense narrator.

In my recent obsessive reading of YA dystopian novels, I noticed that I would often let the authors get away with narrative summary for several pages at a time without blinking an eye because they did it so well. However in book 2 of the Delirium series, the author pushed me too far with long passages of narrative summary that just weren't all that interesting and that contained very little tension. Snooze fest! If I hadn't promised my daughter I would read through to the end, the author would have lost me for sure. And that would have been a shame, because the series picked up in the second half of book 2 and book 3 was great.

Generally I advise authors to give clear cuts between scenes rather than trying to summarize what happens in the interim. Summarizing a chunk of time really only works if you can create an interesting, movie montage-like experience for your reader, which is super hard to do, especially without a catchy tune in the background. And as for back story, pepper it lightly throughout. Link it to current action. Weave it into dialogue. As much as possible, save it for later in the book. And if it continues for more than a page or two, consider a separate flashback scene.
So remember, the “show don’t tell” rule has a good reason behind it. Editors want your book to be engaging and exciting. If you send a book to a Christian publisher with a lot of telling, chances are about 98% that we’ll turn you down. And of the two percent that make the cut, chances are still high that we’ll make you remove the telling in edits. Focus on that dreamlike experience for your readers, and you’re likely to get this rule right.

Which books have completely drawn you into a dreamlike state? Have you ever been so wrapped up in a story world that you dreamed about it while you slept?


Dina Sleiman writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. She also serves as an acquisitions and content editor for WhiteFire Publishing. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter Time.  For more info visit her at