About angelaruthstrong

I write adventures that end happily forever after. If you like movies like Romancing the Stone or Knight and Day, you'll probably like my stories. Check out the rerelease of my debut novel Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho and my middle-grade series starting with The Water Fight Professional. Or you can visit me on my website www.angelaruthstrong.com. Then I'd love to hear from YOU because everybody has a story to tell.

A Writing Lesson from Clark Griswold

I am Griswold.

Clark Griswold and I both love Christmas, but we can sometimes go too far. This year I actually had our writer’s Christmas party at the beginning of November, and the festivities haven’t stopped.

Christmas Writing Group

So when my writer’s group read the book The Emotional Craft of Fiction by literary agent Donald Maass, and I was struck by the lesson on catalyst and catharsis, I looked to Clark Griswold in the movie Christmas Vacation to be my example.

Here’s Donald’s definition of the idea: Catharsis is a storm followed by a release of something inside.  It is preceded by a catalyst, an event that causes the storm to break.

Here’s Clark in the midst of the storm: Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless…

You get the idea.

Now when I was explaining this term to a writer’s group recently, one woman raised her hand and said, “I don’t buy it.” She doesn’t think we should encourage readers to lose their tempers.

Donald, Clark, and I are not encouraging such an explosion. Clark didn’t want to lose his temper. He tried to keep it all in. But his catalysts did not relent. The one thing that held him together was the belief that all of the hardships of the season would be made up for with the pool he’d planned to buy using his Christmas bonus. When he found out there would be no Christmas bonus, he lost it.

I’ve been there too. It’s not fun. But it’s real.

And that’s what Donald is encouraging. Writing real. In real life, our pent up emotions have to release sometime. I know mine do. In fact, I once bought China dishes from a thrift store just so I could throw them. It was going to be messy, so I went to a recycling station and smashed them into the glass bin. Then my best friend and I laughed like maniacs because it felt soo good to let out the anger.

That’s where we want to take our characters. To a feel good ending. But so often we are afraid of how messy their catharsis will be.

Eureka CoverAfter reading Donald’s book, I went back to my manuscript for Finding Love in Eureka–to the part where life was pressing in on my character from both sides. I’d originally had her sidestep the pressure. But life is never that easy, is it? So I rewrote the scene.

Genevieve stayed. She lost her sanity a little bit. She made a poor choice. But when the smoke cleared, she was able to see things from an objective perspective. Which created a feel-good ending that was more relatable. More genuine. More powerful.

One other tip from Donald: Make the explosion public.

Not only did Clark to blow up, but his cousin kidnapped his boss as a Christmas gift then the S.W.A.T. team swung through the windows of his house. Could Christmas get any messier?

But here’s the thing. Clark’s explosion also changed his boss’s perspective. Because Clark was honest about his feelings, and life was as messy as it could get, this made it safe for others to be honest too. There was nothing left for them to lose at this point.

If you haven’t ever experienced a holiday like this, that’s great. Either way, I’m going to encourage you to look for other examples of catalyst and catharsis in your life as well as your favorite movies. Use them to take your own stories deeper.

In the words of Cousin Eddie: That’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Santa Strong

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good rewrite!

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One Surprising Thing I Learned About Marketing

I recently participated in a marketing class taught by my former WordServe agent, Alice Crider. She gave us the tools needed to take control of our careers and the motivation to create opportunities.

Release Day

There was, however, one thing about the class that shocked me. In fact, if more writers knew about this before they got started, then they might have reconsidered their career choice. Here it is:

To sell your books, you need to be a likable character, and one of the requirements for becoming a likable character is to be polarizing.

Polarizing: to cause (people, opinions, etc.) to separate into opposing groups.

This means that if I am polarizing, then there will be people who don’t agree with me, or they could, gasp, even dislike me.

I hate conflict though. Can’t we all just be friends?

The problem with this wish is that as a writer, if I want anyone to stand with me, I have to first stand for something. I have to know who I am. I have to believe wholeheartedly in what I’m saying. And while this may push some people away, it’s going to draw those who agree with me even closer. They will become my true supporters.

For example, Jen Hatmaker recently claimed that gay marriage can be holy. You can’t get more polarizing than that in the church. She was attacked, and her books have since been banned from certain stores. But here’s the interesting part. She has endeared herself to her audience so completely that her latest book is now in the running for Goodreads Best Book of the Year.

Once I understood this, I decided to not only keep yoga in my next novel, but to use it in promotion. My editor was afraid some Christians would be offended, but I explained why I teach yoga and how it is both permissible and beneficial for me. She accepted with the stipulation that I write a reader letter for the beginning of the book.

beach yoga

I shared that letter yesterday online, and it was definitely polarizing. I received a personal message saying that I’ve been warned, and now they were going to wipe the dust from their feet and leave me behind. But I also got messages from people wanting to review the book. Besides that, one yogi reviewer told me Finding Love in Eureka is one of the best books she’s ever read. I’ve found my audience.

My point here isn’t to argue who is right or wrong. It’s to encourage writers to be strong. Of course, that’s going to include being knowledgeable and respectful. (You’re goal isn’t to tick people off but to say the hard things that you might not want to say for fear of ticking people off.)

You’re the expert. You’ve been given your passions and desires for a reason. Don’t let your message be watered down when trying to please people. You have something unique to offer that won’t resonate with everyone.

In fact, Jesus said, “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” There’s probably never been a more polarizing man in all of history. And His book, you know, is a number one best-seller.

 

Six Hurdles to Becoming an Author

When I attended my first writer’s conference in 2006, I thought I’d pitch an agent or editor and sell my book on the spot. After all, my college professor used my papers as good examples for her class, so these writing professionals were sure to read my work and sing the Hallelujah Chorus, right? Interviews on Good Morning America, Oprah’s Book Club, and a Pulitzer Prize would be sure to follow. Money would rain from the heavens. I was 28.

I’ll be 40 this year. I’m older, wiser, more experienced, and yet I’ve never met Oprah.

So let me step in as your coach and tell you how this really works.

  1. You have to write a book. I started many books before I finished one. And I probably only finished because I’d paid for a conference and needed something to sell to all those editors who I thought would come knocking. Editors or not, this is probably the hardest hurdle to clear. You don’t know you can leap over it until you do. So set that deadline for yourself, make the time, and feel free to write crap. Because this manuscript will likely be considered a false start anyway.I Got Nothin'
  2. Find a critique partner. Now because I’m the kind of person who takes off before the pistol is fired, I did have an editor request my manuscript after this conference and an agent sign me on the basis that I had an editor interested. This story didn’t get published though (thank goodness), and the most valuable thing that came out of my first conference was my critique partner. She got me back on track and trained with me. We moved at about the same pace and agreed to read each other’s manuscript. I not only learned a lot from her, but she ended up starting a publishing company which eventually published my Fun4Hire series. This is one of the coolest things about the writing community. Meeting all those famous authors is exciting, but it’s even more exciting to help your friends succeed.

    20170824_154228

    I named characters Christina and Dave after my first critique partner and her husband.

  3. Enter contests. Christina and I both finaled in contests. This is great encouragement to keep going when it feels like your words will never see the ink of a printing press. It also looks good in a cover letter and can include great feedback. Often these contests are judged by your dream editor. You’ll be scored on exactly what they like or don’t like about your work. And sometimes, if they like your work enough, as in the case of the Harlequin contest I entered, they’ll give you a contract and publish it.

    Book Signing

    Almost all of Team Love on the Run sold manuscripts through a Harlequin contest!

  4. Submit. Now I didn’t include “reading” as one of the six hurdles because normally if you want to be a writer, reading is no hurdle. It’s more like cheering from the stands. That being said, READ and research your favorite books to find out who sold and edited them. That’s probably who you should to submit your work to. Agents and editors know what they want, and you are wasting time if you send them something outside their interests.

    Angela and Editor

    My editor Miralee Ferrell is hard to keep up with.

  5. Get rejected. This is like shin splints. You don’t feel the pain unless you push yourself. Now you can commiserate with the rest of us. Feel free to keep count of your rejection letters or recycle them so your next rejection letter can possibly be written on the same fibers. Whatever you do, be proud. You’re writing isn’t perfect, but that’s okay. It’ll never be perfect. What matters is you’re working hard to beat your last time. Get up and keep going.

    Me and Mark Twain

    Even Mark Twain’s WAR PRAYER was rejected. He said, “I don’t think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.”

  6. Network. To some of you, this hurdle might be even harder than getting rejected. It’s like being interviewed after you lost a race on television. But you have to get in front of an audience to build what editors like to call a platform. It can be through social media, blogs, websites, radio, magazines, or newspaper. You are your own front man. You exude the the passion that pours into each of your stories. People want to read what you have to say because you inspire them.

    Why Christian romance- (2)

    People who know me know I’m passionate about healthy relationships and that I believe love can change lives. Also, it’s fun.

If you continue to improve your performance and don’t give up, you increase your chance of crossing the finish line into publication. All I’m going to say here is that selling your first manuscript won’t be anything like you imagine it to be. It will be better.

There you have it. Though you should also know that on average it takes seven years to win a book contract. And then you face a whole new set of hurdles.

Is it worth it? Only if you can relate to Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire when he says, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.”

He never met Oprah either.

Oprah

Photoshop is probably the closest I’ll ever get.

Should Christians Read Romance?

After my first novel released in 2010, an employee at a Christian bookstore told me, “Christians shouldn’t read romance.” I actually quit writing romance for a while. But then love changed my life, and now there’s nothing else I’d rather write about. So when the subject came up again on facebook, I thought I’d explore the topic more.

Should Christians read/write romance? And why?

My debut novel has been rereleased as the first in the Resort to Love series.

First of all, I can’t answer this for everyone. All things are permissible to us, but not all things are beneficial. That means our relationship with God isn’t about a formula. It’s about what God lays on our hearts and what He knows is best for us. For example, author Deeanne Gist admits that at one point in her life, God asked her to stop reading romance. I would suggest that as a result of her obedience, God has been able to work through her to touch many lives with her award-winning historical romances.

Second, God is love. When the above question was posed to various social media groups, many respond with Biblical examples of romance: Song of Solomon, Ruth, Jacob and Rebecca. Jesus’s first miracle was performed at a wedding. God describes the church as the bride of Christ. Marriage is a Biblical institution. This is important stuff.

Third, in a world where Fifty Shades of Grey has replaced The Bible in at least one hotel chain, it is our moral responsibility to give a healthy example of real love. In the documentary Love Between the Covers, an author is quoted as saying that if a romance novel isn’t inspirational, it has to have sex in it. Love is being confused for lust, codependency, and even abuse. Real love lasts forever, and books about it are going to be a light in the dark. I know at least one woman found the courage to end a dead-end dating relationship after reading the Ashley Stockingdale series by Kristin Billerbeck.

As for my choice to read romance, there have been books that have both empowered me or broken me down in a way that I knew God was using them in my life. I’ve also had fun listening to romance audiobooks with my husband. It’s not something he would normally read, so I get a kick out of his perspective on the story line. Once he was even inspired to take me on a date after listening to a Becky Wade novel. “Let’s go ride the Harley to a pastry shop the way Ty does.” Okay. ❤

We are the rider and the writer. “He rides a Harley, she writes for Harlequin.” I really think we need our own reality show.

If you want another man’s perspective, listen to what literary agent Donald Maass says about the importance of adding a thread of romance to various genres. Love stories create “a heart delight that can warm any story.” He adds, “They cause us to hope. There is a future beyond the final page.”

Personally, I believe hope is what sets apart Christian fiction from secular literature. I even named our local writer’s group IDAhope Writers. This fits nicely with my mission statement for life: To inspire, create, and encourage hope in myself and others.

Part of my writing group.

Of course I’m going to write romance. I’m going to write it because I love it, but even more, I’m going to write it because I love the people reading it.

I incorporated some things I’ve learned (the hard way) about love into my latest suspense novel.

So should Christians read Christian romance? I’d love to say YES and give you a link for my website, but only you can answer that for yourself. Is reading Christian romance beneficial to your life? Does it draw you closer to God? Does it improve your relationships? And does it offer hope? If not, find something else that does.

Has a romance novel ever touched your life?

Celebrating a Book Birthday

Not only is today MY birthday, but my debut novel came out six years ago this month. It’s my book’s birthday!

We could eat cake and ice cream in celebration, I could tell you about all the labor I went through to push this baby out, or we could look at pictures of my baby and coo. But really, what I want to talk about is dedicating my baby.

Go ahead and coo first…

love-finds-you-in-sun-valley

Feel free to grab cake and ice cream, too, if you want.

Now back to the dedication.

I love dedicating my books. They are a little piece of me, but I couldn’t have created them on my own. Seeing them come to life is a humbling experience. And I am so grateful. Unbelievably grateful.

I cry every time I write my acknowledgments. Happy tears. Giggling-all-by-myself-though-I-know-God-must-be-looking-down-and-laughing-too tears. The kind of tears we were created to cry.

My first book I dedicated to an amazing couple in my life. The book was a romance, as you probably guessed from the pic above since the model is wearing a wedding dress. But I was crying lots of sad tears at this time I sold this book because my own marriage was falling apart. I was living in Kevin and Rebecca’s basement with my three children. I learned a lot from them while I lived there. I remember Kevin coming home and Rebecca telling him, “The kitchen drawer is broken.” Kevin said, “Okay, I’ll fix it,” instead of getting angry at her. I was like, “Oh. That’s what love is supposed to look like.”

I was so thankful God let me write a book about love even though I’d obviously failed at it. And I was thankful for Kevin and Rebecca’s love for me. At the time, the only thing I could give them in return was my book dedication. I meant every single heartfelt word.

Since then, I’ve remarried, and I rereleased that first novel.

Here’s my baby all grown up:

sun-valley-cover

This time it’s dedicated to my husband who has also shown me what love is. The first time he told me he loved me, I said, “I don’t know what that means.” He said, “I will show you with everything that I am.” He puts my heroes to shame.

Here I go talking about love again, when I’m supposed to be talking about dedications, but maybe they are one and the same. They are an expression of my affection for the people in my own life story.

I loved writing my children’s series with my kids and dedicating the books to them.

I loved writing the story of a pastor’s daughter (who can’t forgive her dad for running off with the church secretary until she falls for her own pastor) and dedicating it to my parents who are THE most merciful people in the world.

I loved dedicating my Christmas romance to my best friend who was “a gift from heaven” at a time when I felt like I had nothing left. This year she invited me to speak at a Mother’s Day brunch at the old folk’s home where she works as activities director. I got to announce in front of all her residents and coworkers that I was dedicating the book to her.

charla-mothers-day

Sometimes it’s fun to make other people cry happy tears, too.

Most recently I created a new baby with Love Inspired Suspense. This one I couldn’t have finished without the inspiration of my oldest stepdaughter. So I dedicated it to my step-kids. I was hoping to give  a copy to my stepdaughter when she was here for Thanksgiving, but the package missed her by a day. I just had to send them all a photo.

presumed-dead-selfie

I kinda wanted to make them cry happy tears, but I probably cried enough for all of us.

Dedication means both “self-sacrificing devotion” as well as “a name prefixed to a literary production in tribute to a person.” I’m able to prefix all these names to the front of my stories because of their self-sacrificing devotion to me. And there’s nothing else I’d rather celebrate on my birthday.

Though cake is good, too.

book-birthday

 

Debut Novels, Reprint Rights, and Movie Deal Dreams

I didn’t know how blessed I was to get my first book deal. Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho came out in 2010. It was part of the Love Finds You series. And because the books were written by a bunch of different well-known authors and set across the United States, my book got swept along with the marketing current.

album 155

I got to do a television interview.

I had a Costco book-signing.

The novel was featured in the magazines for a Christian bookstore chain.

It was sold in airports.

The hardback edition came out for book clubs.

And now It’s being considered for a MOVIE. When I found this out, I was so excited my husband thought someone had died. Not that I get excited when people die, but I was crying and could barely speak, and he assumed the worst.

Three movies have already been made for the UPtv network. I had a premier party with my writer friends for Love Finds You in Charm, including homemade Amish pastries. Love Finds You in Valentine comes out this month.

I can’t keep from mentally casting actors to play my characters Tracen Lake and Emily Van Arsdale. Especially since Emily Van Arsdale is supposed to be the actress who plays Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman is releasing in the theaters soon.

The idea of having my debut novel considered for a movie made me want to revisit the story. Then it made me want to write sequels like many of my readers requested. So I got my rights back, and I’m rereleasing the book as the first in my new series titled Resort to Love.

Finding Love in Sun Valley Cover

 

Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho comes out this month. I updated a few things—like how the characters now all have smart phones. And I gave it an epilogue that leads into the following books.

Finding Love in Big Sky, Montana comes out in November. I’m currently writing this one and wish I could throw my responsibilities to the wind so I could go write in a cave until it’s done because the ending is going to be so good!

Finding Love in Park City, Utah comes out in the spring of 2017. This one I’ve plotted, but I’m still researching the location. I’m spending the end of January in the mountain town and attending the Sundance Film Festival. Remember how I said my main character in Sun Valley is an actress? It fits.

I didn’t know anything about getting my rights back, but I ran into Miralee Ferrell at the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference last summer, and she’d already done it for a couple of her own Love Finds You books. With her help. I was able to find out that my book had been out of print for a couple years. From there I simply had to make my request. Once I got my PDF files, I not-so-simply converted them to a Word document and edited out about a million exclamation points—among other newbie mistakes.

Miralee had been able to get her cover files, but mine weren’t available, so we hired a designer. When I say we, I mean Miralee. She’s releasing my series through her new publishing company, Mountain Brook Ink. But she let me have creative reign over my cover. I especially like the scrollwork around the Finding Love label. That symbol will go on all her Finding Love titles. Another cool thing is that I’ve remarried since my first book came out, so I get to add the name Strong to this cover.

I’m currently getting ready for my Books and Beverages Blog Tour. Check my website for details and the chance to win a Kindle Fire.

Books and Beverages

Even if my book never makes it to the big screen TV, I’m still glad I get to enjoy my debut novel a little longer. And I’m honored to get to share my dreams with you.

What’s a book you’ve read that you think would make a good movie?