Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mysteries and Thrillers: Making It Personal with Guest Author Larissa Reinhart

Hey Seekerville! Larissa Reinhart here with giant mugfuls of steaming coffee and a tray of fresh cinnamon rolls oozing with cream cheese icing (because if we’re virtual I’m going for the extra calories.) I’m Debby Guisti’s friend and a humorous mystery writer. I’m also a Seekerville stalker (I read them in my inbox) and occasional poster.

Today we’re talking mystery and suspense. And we’re getting personal. Very personal.

Relax, not TMI personal.

Nor blood and gore personal. Because we don’t need any of that to make a good mystery. What we need is a very personal reason for our heroine/hero to solve this mystery.

But, you may say, if my character is a detective/agent/law enforcement/soldier/superhero/nosy neighbor, isn’t their job or personality enough for solving a crime?


Just because you have a mystery plotted, it’s not enough to keep the reader interested. As in all other kinds of genre fiction, when you write a mystery or thriller, your main character will have their external goal (solve the mystery), but they also need the external motivation (why solve this mystery), and the external conflict.

The personal reason to solve this case is the motivation. And if it’s just their job—snore. Nearly every detective and amateur sleuth faces threat to their life in a story. After all, the killer will want to stop them from solving the murder. That’s the conflict, not the motivation.

How many of you would move to Cabot Cove where Jessica Fletcher lives? Not me.  Fictional Cabot Cove is said to have the worst murder rate in the country. And although we may joke about “Cabot Cove Syndrome,” the reason that series is so popular is not that a small Maine town has countless deaths that need to be solved. Jessica always had a personal reason to act as an amateur sleuth. Her friends are unjustly accused of crimes. Or her friends’ friends are murdered. Or disappears. It’s a small town. She knows a lot of people. You get the picture.


She cares about her friend. Therefore, we care. After all, Jessica’s a writer. She has no business getting involved in murder. And really, with all the crime in Cabot Cove, if Jessica had any sense, she’d lock herself in her house and never leave. But for a friend, she’ll face the killer to solve the crime.

But isn’t the job of law enforcement to solve a crime? Bruce Willis was a New York cop in Die Hard, just visiting his wife in California during the holidays. We don’t know much about his work with the New York police, except that he’s the cowboy type, which helps when his wife’s company building is taken over by German terrorists during their Christmas party. And yeehaw, Bruce Willis has a reason to save the day. As estranged as the married couple’s been, it’s his wife’s building. He must save her. I don’t think he’d walk barefoot over glass to save a Japanese CEO (not in the Eighties, anyway).

So it’s more than a job. What pushes your character to straddle the line of vigilantism? Sure, their backstory is full of motivation to have the personality-type to solve this crime, like Bruce Willis’s cowboy attitude in Die Hard. Something in their childhood has caused them to want to right wrongs. They have a personal sense of justice. That’s why they have this job or are a town busybody in the first place.



That’s not enough for your reader. They need to care about the victim not just your character’s internal motivation. Lethal Weapon begins with Murtagh and Riggs investigating the apparent suicide of the daughter of Murtagh’s friend who might have gotten involved in drugs. A reason for Murtagh to take the case more personally, and therefore for the viewer to do the same.

If your character is a detective/law enforcement/agent/soldier/superhero and the motivation begins with their job, then they need an immediate, real, dire threat to losing their job or better yet, their life, to motivate them.

We don’t read about the cases that private eye Sam Spade takes to pay his electric bill. In The Maltese Falcon, his partner had been killed while on a case. Sam Spade’s been accused of killing his partner’s killer. And then there’s the dame. Sam knows he shouldn’t help her, she could very well be the killer. But he can’t help the attraction. We know Sam shouldn’t help her, yet we want Sam to help her. We’re sucked in.

How can you make your sleuth personally motivated to solve a crime? Even if it’s not an old friend who needs help, you need to make them personally attached to someone involved. Sam Spade had his partner’s death, but he also had his attraction to Miss Wonderly/Brigid O’Shaughnessy.


My Cherry Tucker series has a bit of Cabot Cove Syndrome in Cherry’s small-town of Halo. In my newest series, Maizie Albright Star Detective, Maizie’s just moved back to her hometown. Unlike Cherry Tucker in Halo, Maizie’s an outsider, an ex-teen star who’s been kicked out of Hollywood. Maizie loved playing the role of Julia Pinkerton: Teen Detective and found the family she needed while playing that role. That’s the internal motivation for her to become a private investigator. But that’s not enough to make the reader care about the case. How can I make these cases personal when she doesn’t know anybody but her father?


In 15 Minutes, Maizie faces losing a career opportunity, thereby breaking her probation which would send her back to a California jail. That’s not reason enough to face off with a killer. She loses the client’s wife while on her first stakeout. That’s bad, but she could turn the case over to the police. She lost the client’s wife because of her mother, who’s trying to get her back into show business. Personal and humiliating, but not enough to face a killer. The client accuses Maizie’s private eye (and hunky) boss, Wyatt Nash, for his wife’s disappearance. Wyatt Nash didn’t want to mentor an actress in the first place. He’ll lose his business to his ex-wife. Who hates Maizie. Because she can tell Maizie is attracted to Wyatt Nash, and the ex-wife fears it might be reciprocal. Those reasons makes it personal for Maizie and for us. Her screw-up affected others. And not just the client, but someone she’s grown to care about. So we care, too. (I hope.)


Leave a comment to win an ebook of my newly released Cherry Tucker/Maizie Albright Christmas Mystery novella, A VIEW TO A CHILL. Just say hey but if anyone’s interested in writing mysteries/suspense/thrillers, do let me know! How have you created a personal reason for your protagonist to get involved in a case? How many of you are mystery fans? Do your favorite books have the personal motivation for the sleuth to solve the case?

Thanks so much Seekerville for having me on today!


Larissa writes humorous mysteries and romantic comedies including the critically acclaimed Cherry Tucker Mystery and Maizie Albright Star Detective series. Larissa’s a The Wall Street Journal bestselling author, a contributor to the 2017 Silver Falchion Reader’s Choice winner, was the 2015 Georgia Author of the Year finalist, 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, 2012 The Emily finalist, and 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. Larissa’s family and dog, Biscuit, had been living in Japan, but once again call Georgia home. See them on HGTV’s House Hunters International “Living for the Weekend in Nagoya” episode. Visit her website, LarissaReinhart.com, and join her newsletter for a free short story.
Debby here! Larissa writes mysteries that delight! She's delightful too! I'm so glad she can be with us on Seekerville today. If you would like to be entered in the drawing for Larissa's latest, View to a Chill, mention the drawing in your comment. For those who haven't read Larissa before, her stories are PG-13 and contain some adult topics.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Getting to Know You! My Journey to Publication

             
Jan here, and I’m so excited to be one of the new kids on the block at Seekerville!

Since this is my first “official” post, I thought I’d take you on a journey with me: my journey to publication. I hope you’re like me and can’t get enough of these inspiring stories!
My writing career is fairly new. I started writing for publication in 2011, almost exactly seven years ago. I had always wanted to write fiction, but for years God gave me the message, “not yet.” He had other things for me to do.

So, I homeschooled our four children through high school and I was a leader in Bible Study Fellowship for ten years. I’ve taught Sunday School, worked in a library, and we’ve moved eight times since my husband and I were married more than thirty-five years ago, living all over the Midwest.
When God finally said, “now,” I knew exactly what stories I wanted to write: the family histories I had grown up with.


Grandpa Eugene with Orville
and Guy, 1908.

I turned to genealogy for my information, and as I researched, stories formed in my mind, filling in the details that genealogy leaves out. Those stories have become my novels.
You can order these books HERE!

That all sounds pretty cut-and-dried, doesn't it? Like I just sat down at my computer and started spinning out novels, fully formed and ready to publish! We all know better!

*insert the sound of a tape rewinding*

Let’s start again, at the beginning.
In January of 2011, my husband had been away for three months, working at a new job. I stayed behind with our high-school aged boys to sell our house in Kansas. No one was looking for a house to buy in January, and we had no idea when we would be able to move to join my husband in South Dakota. Loneliness engulfed me.

This was when God said, “NOW.”
I knew the stories I wanted to write…needed to write…but I had no idea where to start. We also needed money (paying for two places to live isn’t cheap, even if one of them is a pay-by-the-week off-season motel room!) A friend had heard about writing for Woman’s World magazine, so I started searching the internet for information on how to break into that competitive market…and I stumbled upon a post written by someone named Tina Radcliffe on this blog called Seekerville.
I’d like to say, “the rest is history,” but you are all too smart for that. You know that learning how to write a story takes a LOT of hard work. You all know the time, the dedication, the dead ends, and the mini-victories that are involved.
My favorite "mini-victory" celebration - one
chocolate chip for every 100 words added
to my WIP!

After several unsuccessful tries, I finally sold a story to Woman’s World! By then we had sold our house and most of the family was together again in South Dakota.
Meanwhile, I had been working on the story of my heart…an Amish story, loosely based on my grandmother’s experience of becoming a widow while she still had children living at home. And through my daily visits to Seekerville, I learned the ins and outs of the publishing world. I learned about grammarly details, how to write a query, why you should enter contests, and how to remain focused on your goals.



In 2012, publishing doors started opening. My Woman’s World story was published, I signed with an agent, and Love Inspired Historical offered me a contract for my first book. When God said “now” the year before, He meant it!
My first book!

None of this would have been possible without the ladies of Seekerville.
I’m serious.
These lovely ladies who had gone ahead of me and my fellow residents on Unpubbed Island had the vision of helping aspiring authors cross the span of waters between the island and the mainland of the publishing world. A hand up, not a hand out. Unending encouragement. An offer of friendship that is always genuine. And the gentle “this is how you do things” tone to the blog posts.
When Ruthy contacted me a few weeks ago asking if I wanted to be part of the new Seekerville team, how could I refuse? My passion is to give to others what has been so freely given to me.
Now is your opportunity to brag on Seekerville! What difference has this blog made in your life? What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received on the blog? Or what is your favorite part of coming to visit Seekerville?
I’m offering a five-page critique to one commenter today. If you’re an aspiring writer, mention in your comment that you’d like your name thrown in the doggy dish.
My writing buddy, Thatcher!
aka Thatchmo McScooterpants

Another commenter will receive a copy of my newest release, “The Amish Nanny’s Sweetheart,” coming out from Love Inspired Historical in March 2018. Or, you can pre-order your own copy here!

As nanny for her nephew, Judith Lapp’s finally part of a vibrant, joyful Amish community instead of living on the outskirts looking in. But teaching her neighbors’ Englischer farmworker to read Pennsylvania Dutch wasn’t part of her plan. And the more time she spends with Guy Hoover, the more he sparks longings for a home and family of Judith’s own.

Guy figured he would never be truly accepted by his Amish employers’ community—even though the Mast family treats him like a son. But Judith’s steadfast caring shows him that true belonging could be within his reach…if he and Judith can reconcile their very different hopes—and hearts.

Connect with Jan:
Twitter: @JanDrexler
           


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Weekend Edition

 
   If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Note our new email address and please send your emails to Seekerville2@gmail.com
Monday: Missy Tippens talked about writing as a vocation and decided to give away two five-page critiques! The winners are Terri Weldon and first-time-visitor Tracy!

Wednesday: Ruth Logan Herne chatted about plotting mysteries, turning them inside out and figuring out the "end" first... and then planning the story backwards from there, saving authors a lot of time re-writing lost threads! Winner of her beautiful new Love Inspired novel "Her Secret Daughter" is Linda Sammaritan! 

Friday: Carrie Schmidt shared a very encouraging post assuring everyone Your Story Matters. Becky Smith shared her favorite encouraging Bible verse and will be receiving a cute mug!
Monday: Jan Drexler wants to  get to know you as she takes you along on her journey to publication and we want to welcome Jan in her new position as a full-time Seekerville blogger! Welcome aboard, Jan!


Wednesday: Debby Giusti invited Southern mystery writer and friend of Seekerville, Larissa Reinhart, to guest blog with us. Larissa will talk about "Mysteries and Thrillers: Making It Personal." Stop by to chat with Larissa and leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for an ebook of her newly released Cherry Tucker/Maizie Albright Christmas Mystery novella, A VIEW TO A CHILL.

Friday: Winnie Griggs takes control of the blog on Friday. Join us as we welcome Winnie aboard as a full-time blogger in Seekerville! Happy dancing!





Pam Hillman is still stuck (happily so) in the 18th century, but will be getting whiplash as she time travels back to the 21st century for the ACFW Board meeting in Nashville.

Audra Harders is off to a quaint mountain town for a very long weekend of WRITER'S RETREAT! She's working on a new series and is determined to return with LOTS of words written.

Ruth Logan Herne is trapped in her farmhouse in Western New York as approximately two feet of snow fall around her... perfect for making soup and writing books!

Debby Giusti will be chatting about her Publishers Weekly Bestseller, UNDERCOVER AMISH, on Keeping Up With the Amish FB site, this WED, from 8PM - 9PM. Join the group to join in the fun...with giveaways. 



Melanie Dickerson is happy dancing - and we should be, too!! Check out the CBA Bestseller List December 2017 - #2 Fiction Books - Fantasy/Sci-Fi!!!!!


Click Here











4 Reasons Readers Stopped Caring About Your Story by Janice Hardy at Fiction University.

First Lines by Sophie Masson at Writer Unboxed


The 5 Secrets of Good Storytelling (That Writers Forget All the Time) by K.M. Weiland check it out at Helping Writers Become Authors



Thanks for the link love!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Your Story Matters (Or... What a Reader Wants You to Know)



Hi, dear Villagers! *waves*

Let me take a brief moment to introduce myself. I'm Carrie, aka MeezCarrie, of ReadingIsMySuperPower. And I LOVE STORY!! I love short stories. I love epic stories. I love in between sized stories. I love contemporary stories. Historical stories. Mystery stories. Amish stories. Even some speculative and YA stories.

But most of all? I love THE Story. The one that starts with the ultimate 'once upon a time' - "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1) - and ends with the best 'happily ever after' ever (Revelation 21:4)

Because we are all part of that Story.

Yes, we all have a story in progress that is our own life. But everyone we meet does, too. And all those stories-in-progress are part of the Big Story that God is telling. Let me tell you - that is SO exciting to me!

I'm one of the new Seekerville bloggers, but I'm not seeking publication. I'm content to read other people's stories and talk (incessantly) about them. But that up there? What I just said about being part of God's Story?

That means I'm sorta like all the rest of y'all.

In a small way.

Ok.. not at all the same.

BUT... I am part of the greatest Story in the world. And so are you. That's pretty stinkin' incredible. The Author and Finisher of my Faith is telling a Story about me and about you. And He has promised to keep writing it until it's completed - not when I die or when you die, but until the day Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)

Back in November, I had the pinch-me privilege of speaking with Cynthia Ruchti at the Art of Writing Conference just ahead of the 2017 Christy Awards gala. We talked about the darts of author discouragement and how to dodge them. After our session, a woman came up to me in tears. She whispered, "I didn't know anybody else knew how I feel." And then we both were in tears lol!

Author friends - can I encourage you a moment? You're not alone. Writing may be a solitary career but the discouragements are consistent. Fear of rejection. The reality of rejection. Fear of the  possibility of a bad review. The depths of despair over an actual bad review. Your family doesn't take you seriously. Your friends don't take you seriously. It doesn't pay the bills. It barely pays for coffee.

Oh... wait... I was supposed to be encouraging you. LOL.

I really was headed here, I promise.

You're not alone. And you're not left defenseless.

God has given you each other, and He has given you His Word. Community and grace wrapped up in a safe place like Seekerville.

You want to know another secret? YOUR STORY MATTERS.

Yep. I went there: all caps.

Because it's so incredibly true and so incredibly important to understand.

The story you're writing matters.

That story you've agonized over. The one that's kept you up all hours of the night. The one that may or may not currently be taunting you with a blinking cursor of 'I got nothing'. It matters. Even if no one else ever reads it. Even if no agent or publishing house wants it. Even if your beta readers and editors send it back with more tracked changes than you had words to start with.

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

But you know what? The story that God is writing in you and through you matters most of all. He is making you more like Jesus every day. He knew you before He formed you in your mother's womb, and He had already had plans for your life. (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1) He created you as a writer before you even had fully developed hands to hold a pen or tap away on a keyboard. Even better - He knew your role in His Story before you ever made your grand arrival on planet Earth. And that story matters on a scale we can't even begin to imagine.

Maybe you're like me and the only thing you write is a blog post... or a grocery list. Your story matters too. God placed you in His Story at just the right time and in just the right place so that you would come to know Him (Acts 17). He pursued you with an everlasting love and has engraved you on the palm of His hand. (Jeremiah 31, Isaiah 49). Think about that for a second - you matter so much to the God of the Universe that those nail-scarred Hands have your name on them.

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

I know good stories. I'm surrounded by them, à la the Dr. Seuss method of decorating. All the crannies, all the nooks, etc. This Big Story that God is telling is a good story. It's the best story. It's the standard by which all other stories are measured (whether they realize it or not). It's also a true story. This fairy-tale to beat all fairy-tales - a prince on a white horse come to vanquish the enemy and rescue his bride - that's OUR story (Revelation 19).

So when you're tempted to throw in the towel and give up on your story - the one you're writing or the one you're living - remember this:

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

Leave a comment and let me know your favorite Bible verse for when discouragement hits! I'll toss your name in the proverbial hat (US only) for a chance to win this cute mug that reminds us that God isn't a pantser in this story He's telling. He's got a plan, and He's sticking to it! Check back Saturday for the Weekend Edition to see if you're the winner! (If for some reason the item is no longer available on Etsy when the winner's name is drawn, a comparable substitute will be made with winner's approval.)


Carrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot She can be found lurking at various blogs and websites (because she can't stop talking about books) but her main home is the blog she started in 2015 - ReadingIsMySuperPower.org. You can also connect with Carrie on Facebook and everywhere else social at @meezcarrie.




Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Backwards Mystery Plotting for Amateurs


I'm not calling names, here.



I'm not saying you're an amateur, but hey... if the shoe fits, don't just wear it. Grab that leather loafer, pull on your Sherlock Holmes' hat and lets get down to it, because I used to be flamboozled by the very thought of plotting a mystery.

How do you come up with a culprit? How do you set up a crime? (Really, I had six kids, I should be totally golden at setting up crimes, right????) How do you plant clues, red herrings, shuffle things around and have any of it make sense?

In this case, this ONE case of writing (because I am a linear writer/storyteller, meaning I begin at the beginning and go through to the end...) I don't begin at the beginning. I begin at the end. With the perpetrator, the culprit, the crime.... And then I spin my way backwards by figuring out who might have an interest in the outcome.

Who might dislike another person?

Who's short on money? People in tight circumstances become prime suspects because they are in need. A reader will see that "need" and realize that person has a great reason to be a suspect... even if they're not the culprit.

Who's got a grudge to bear against another? Who has a history they don't want revealed? Who's uncle/aunt/cousin has dirty laundry?

Probably all of them. And that's what's different about a mystery/thriller/suspense story.

As an investigation deepens, more is revealed. Hidden pasts take on onerous overtures... because can a zebra change its stripes?

Not as a rule, so a bad youth leads to an evil adulthood...

But not always, and there's a red herring for you... because people do change, they get redeemed, they strike out on new paths and that makes them less a suspect and more a person to respect.

So here's the skinny:

1. Begin with the crime. Who did it? Why? (Money, Sex, Power are the three big players)

2. Who is hurt by the crime?

3. Who in town/city/neighborhood would want to hurt that person?

4. Add an odd character or two to the playlist

5. Animals work well in cozy or humorous mysteries. Not necessarily so much in thrillers. (The poor rabbit in "Fatal Attraction" is a prime and horrible example!!!!)

6. Setting varies from cozy mystery (small towns like my Martha's Vineyard mystery series with Guideposts) to straight mystery (Agatha Christie's books, pure classics) to amateur sleuth mysteries (Nancy Drew style) and on...

But the main trick in plotting these is to start at the end and work your way back mentally... at least that works for me. 

In a straight story, I'm absolutely linear. I don't quilt a story together and build in patches. Lots of folks do that successfully! 

But not me, and if you've tried and failed (like crashed and burned, utterly) then it might not be YOU failing... it could be the strategy you're employing.

Shake it up a little! Pretend it's a Christmas tree, a stately blue spruce or a scrawny white pine and then begin at the peak, the summit.... with the crime...

Then work your way down to the ever-growing branches, building several as you go.

If this is a romance, then you need to thread the romance into the story as well, and that's not always easy. Clever writing and quick timing/pacing come to mind there.

But if there's no romance, or just hinted romance, then you've got room to play. And who doesn't want room to play???

My second mystery "Swept Away" releases soon. I had so much fun returning to Martha's Vineyard and all the great characters we've got there... and seeing what my friend Priscilla is up to!

Here's the blurb on this delightful book 9 of the Mysteries of Martha's Vineyard: 


The arrival of a Hollywood film crew revives memories of three dramatic events in Martha’s Vineyard’s history: a little girl’s unsolved disappearance, a daring heist, and a major hurricane. When Priscilla learns that all three events occurred over the course of the same weekend, she is convinced that they were connected. But how? With her daughter, Rachel, visiting, Priscilla dives into the mystery, but she isn’t alone. The son of the detective who oversaw the case of the missing girl tells Priscilla he is seeking answers to put his ailing father’s mind to rest. But is his story true, or is he just interested in recovering the missing money from the heist? 

As Priscilla pieces together the clues, a smaller—but no less vexing—mystery hits closer to home. When her newly painted lemon-yellow door ruffles feathers in her neighborhood, someone begins leaving ugly scratches in the paint. Who is behind this disturbing vandalism—and can Priscilla catch the culprit to put a stop to it?



Our deep freeze has broken here in Western New York and I suspect there will be snowmen showing up soon, now that the snow is growing "heavier"... you can't build a snowman with dry, super-cold snow! While we're making snowmen up here, tell me what it is about mysteries that attracts you... The fun of figuring out the clues before the end of the book? Or the engaging characters? And do you like murder mysteries or prefer your cozies without a body necessarily attached?

Leave a comment and I'll tuck your name into a drawing for my absolutely beautiful soon-to-be-released Love Inspired "Her Secret Daughter"... a poignant story of sacrificial love and God's perfect timing... which sometimes doesn't seem all that perfect, does it? 





Multi-published and bestselling inspirational author Ruthy Logan Herne has over 40 published novels and novellas and she's living her dream of touching hearts... and souls...  from a VERY COLD AND SNOWY farm in Western New York! Thanks for visiting with her here in Seekerville... and you can friend her on facebook, follow her on Twitter and her editors really, really love it when you follow or like her on Amazon and Bookbub! And she loves  making editors happy! 


Monday, January 8, 2018

Responding to God's Voice

Missy Tippens

I’ve been afraid to write this post. I’ve toyed with the idea for a couple of years now. And, honestly, I chickened out.

A couple of years ago, in the comments after one of my posts (I can’t even remember what the post was about), we had some pretty spirited discussion about whether writing was a calling. I had some thoughts about it that I kind of wanted to share. But there were strong feelings on both sides, and I decided the topic was apparently a bit controversial. I also figured I didn’t know enough to fill a future blog post. So I avoided the topic.

And then every few months as I would look at blog ideas, I would think about it again, feeling like maybe it was time to talk about it. But no, I would choose something more fun or more educational to write about (bwok bwok).

But then when we looked at re-launching the blog this month, God waved that topic in front of me one more time. I decided that discussing the idea of vocation would be a perfect post for the new year.

It’s time.

Depositphotos_113388428_s-2015 by DolfinVik2

Several years ago, my husband preached a sermon about God calling us each to a vocation. He wanted to make the point that it’s not only clergy who are called. Every person is called to something. That’s when I really started thinking that maybe my writing was a vocation.

You see, up until that point, writing for publication had been a dream. This crazy, nebulous, looong-term goal (often thwarted!). It had been something I enjoyed, so it felt like a reward. It had been something I thought would be the perfect job to have while staying home with my children that would add some financial support to my family. But a vocation? No.

Once I made my first sale and had been at the job of writing for a while, I found that I wanted to write because I loved it, because I loved the community I had become a part of (y’all included!), and because I had started getting wonderful emails and letters from readers who had been touched by the stories.

I was blown away. I had no idea my words could do that.

It started to sink in that maybe my writing could be a ministry. And if so, could that possibly mean God had called me to writing?

I questioned this because during college, while on a retreat and praying for direction in my life (and deciding between two possible career paths), I had felt God’s leading to pursue a career in microbiology. Out in a grassy field by myself, praying more earnestly than I had ever prayed, I felt this clear thought/voice in my head telling me to do whichever I would enjoy. Do what I enjoy? That felt rather anticlimactic. Honestly, I had expected the heavens to open and have God tell me if I went into physical therapy I would heal people and change lives. But what I wanted to do?? Well, I was fascinated by all things microscopic. I had loved bacteria and identifying them ever since a unit I’d had in high school Advanced Biology class. I LOVED microbiology and loved being behind a microscope—but had feared that I needed to be working directly with people to make a difference. But through further prayer, I felt God assuring me that I would work with people in the lab: my co-workers. And I would help sick people through identifying what organism was making them sick, even if they never knew who was behind that microscope. So I made my choice—the one I had wanted to make all along, and had a wonderful career until I had my first child…and felt called to be a stay-at-home mom.

Photo credit: Canva
                                                   
That calling was much clearer. I never doubted. Plus, my husband felt that calling for our family as well. So down the road, when I began pursuing publication, I still had small children at home. I was still involved in following the call to be a stay-at-home mom.

Had God called me to writing, too? Or was I just enjoying something fun that was adding income to the family while being a homemaker?

And then came that sermon. (Yes, the pastor’s wife really does listen and learn!) :)

My husband mentioned the Latin word voce:
Voce = voice

At first when I heard this, I thought of MY voice—as in using my voice. Sharing my faith through my voice—my writing. And I was thinking of writing a blog post about how God allows me to use my voice.

But that’s not what my husband was talking about. He was talking about responding to God’s voice.

I don’t know a thing about Latin. But it’s interesting to also note the Latin word vocare:
vocare = to call

All those words are connected. Vocation, voice, to call. Like I said, God calls each and every one of us to a vocation. Our vocation (what we do with our lives) is our response to God’s voice calling us.

I have to tell you, that sort of blew my mind. You mean God has called me to this cool career? It’s not only a dream/joy/paying job? My love of writing is actually a calling?

I think I was afraid to admit that maybe God had called me to write. If I admitted that, then I would have to go all in. Might He hold me accountable? What if I failed? What if my writing wasn’t good enough? What if my writing was okay, but I didn’t have my own theology figured out enough to write a legit message into my stories? What if I put a message in my story and I got it WRONG?

photo credit: Canva
 Just got your book in the mail yesterday & read it through fromcover to cover. You are a wonderful writer and I found it easy to relate to all the characters. You see, I lost my mate just a few months ago & we loved each other dearly. Now, I'm trying to go on with my life & put things back together with the Lord's guidance. Reading your book has been a big help. – Reader email 2009

Praise God from Whom all Blessing Flow!     I am genuinely enjoying "His Forever Love." I'll be finished with it soon but I had to stop and tell you about this incident.     Saturday I couldn't remember where the scripture about "God knowing the good plans....could be found in the Bible. I started looking for it in Jeremiah but I started reading the book and put the verse out of my mind.     Sunday morning my Pastor made reference to that same verse and at home when I started reading "His Forever Love" there it was again Jeremiah 29:11. I felt like God is trying to tell me something. – Reader email 2009

I just read "His Forever Love" Fantastic book! I cried a lot through this and did a lot of soul searching regarding my walk with the Lord. Thank you so much for being such a wonderful writer.—Reader email 2010

I am writing to say Thank-you for writing your book His Forever Love. Words can not say how wonderful and spiritually connecting it is. It reached me like no other ever has and because of that i am truly grateful. The Lord has given you a gift and speaking for many readers (i am sure) and my self, we are very glad that you have gone ahead with his and your ministry through your books. I hope you continue writing. God's Blessings always. Yours in Christ. – Reader email 2009


So many beautiful letters from generous people who’ve taken the time to write to me and lead me to realize that, yes, God was using my writing to touch lives.

For me, yes, it is a job. I do want to make money from it. And yes, I do enjoy doing it. I get unfathomable joy from creating something from ideas in my head that fly out of my fingers onto the keyboard. But it’s also a ministry. Whether you like the term “calling” or not, writing is my way to follow God’s voice.

I realized it didn’t matter anymore what crazy fears were knocking around in my head. I knew: God had called me to write. And it taught me that God can use me in different ways. And maybe He never has just one specific way. Maybe God wants us to do what makes us happy while showing His love to others in whatever way we can.

What about you? Do you think God is calling you to write (or teach, or crunch numbers, or wait tables, or change diapers, or support your family in any way you can at the moment)? Do you hear God’s voice? Or, like I was, are you afraid to acknowledge God’s voice?

I’ve had a favorite quote for many years. I want to share it with you. It’s funny how long I loved this quote before I really thought about how it could touch my own life. Maybe it can help you find your vocation, too.

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
~Frederick Buechner--originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words



Think on that for a while, and let’s chat (she says, with her knees knocking)! :) Today I'd like to offer to one commenter a critique of the first five pages of a manuscript—those very important pages that hook the reader! Be sure to let me know in the comments if you’d like to be entered.







Amen and amen.

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After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com, https://twitter.com/MissyTippens and http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.