Help! My Plot is Twisting

by Ane Mulligan, @AneMulligan, +AneMulligan

I’m working on the plotline for a new novel. It’s the second in a series of Depression era books. While the time period is different, the story has my brand elements of an ensemble cast of strong Southern women helping each other through life.

I’ve been doing character interviews and the backstory for about two weeks now. But today, something happened that I didn’t see coming. The plot is twisting into a mystery.

That in itself is not a bad thing. Almost every family in the South has a mystery in their past or a relative who’s crazy. It’s an intrinsic part of Southern life. Like ghosts. Yes, we love our ghost stories, too.

But I digress. I have a plot point I needed to figure out. As I wrote down questions that needed answering—something Rachel Hauck taught in one of her posts here on Novel Rocket—I stopped and gaped at what I’d written. Staring at the screen, I was completely gobsmacked.

How so, you ask? Well, a character died in a fishing boat accident prior to the book opening.I didn’t think a lot about that when I first I began to work out the plot. But I can’t have that character simply die and not know how it happened. You see, I need that boat for another character. This is during the Great Depression, and there isn’t money to buy a new boat. After all, we’re not talking about a rowboat, but a mid-sized commercial fishing boat. I had to find out what happened to it.

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Remember those questions Rachel said to ask? I started asking. How badly was it damaged? Was it salvageable? Could a man die in the accident but the boat survive? Were there any tale-tell signs of skull duggery?

As I asked these questions, I remembered I once slid a small mystery thread into Home to Chapel Springs, but it wasn’t planned out, it simply happened, and it didn’t require a lot of strategy. I don’t think strategically enough to figure out all the red herrings and misleads of a real mystery. I can’t play chess, either. They both take strategy and I don’t have a lick.

Possessing strategic bones or not, I now find myself now with a mystery on my hands and three people who have a very good motive for murder. I knew a call to my critique partner Elizabeth Ludwig was in order. We’ve been writing pals for twelve years. I knew she’d give me good advice. And she did.

  1. You must have a compelling reason for a character to do what you want them to do. They can’t just do it. I agree. Motivation is everything.
  2. You need an Obi Wan Kenobi character. She suggested a new character I hadn’t thought of and she works perfectly. This new character can be the “conscience” or wise counsel who provides the motivation for another to do what I need her to do.
  3. Work out the clues you need to get then end you want. Once I decide for sure if it was an accident or murder, then I can figure out the clues. If an accident, I can still cast suspicion on people if they have the motive.
  4. The rest will sort itself out as you write. And she was right. I took our brainstorming ideas and wrote them down, as if telling myself the story. They work. The devices all tie together. The motivations tie together.

Now that Lisa talked me off the cliff, I’m excited again about this story. I’ve got the elements, and have some characters that will stretch me as a writer. What more could I ask for?

Critique partners are the greatest!

Life in Chapel Springs

Life in Chapel Springs has turned upside down and inside out.

Is it a midlife pregnancy or … cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure—but it isn’t easy. Between her twins’ double wedding, a nationwide art tour and her health, life is upside down. Shy Lacey Dawson was happily writing murder mysteries for the community theater, but a freak accident results in traumatic injuries. When the bandages come off, Lacey’s world is tuned inside out. Gold has been discovered in Chapel Springs and the ensuing fever is rising.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.


When Scary Things Happen!

by Yvonne Lehman, @YvonneLehman

OCTOBER… when scary things threaten!

A friend sent this to me:



Two brooms were hanging in the closet and after a while they got to know each other so well, they decided to get married.

One broom was, of course, the bride broom, the other the groom broom.

The bride broom looked very beautiful in her white dress. The groom broom was handsome and suave in his tuxedo. The wedding was lovely.

After the wedding, at the wedding dinner, the bride-broom leaned over and said to the groom-broom, “I think I am going to have a little whisk broom!”

“IMPOSSIBLE !” said the groom broom.

Are you ready for this? Brace yourself; this is going to hurt! 


Then my friend sent an email and said she hoped I wasn’t offended by the joke. At first, I couldn’t imagine why she said that. Then it dawned on me on how easily, quickly many people become offended by what another considers harmless or innocent.

I thought of Halloween and the differing views. Churches have Fall Festivals instead of Halloween. Some people fear the occult and dangerous aspects of Halloween past and present. Others see it simply as a time for children to have fun and get candy. Children line the streets in costumes that are fearful like a werewolf, adorable like a little lamb, heroic like an action figure, sweet like a princess, and gory like a sword stuck through the skull. Many perspectives and attitudes.

That brought my thinking to writing. With the many changes and uncertainty about publishing, a writer may very well be fearful of print books going by the wayside. Others see the challenge and fun of ebooks, maybe self-publishing, and their work being available at the click of a button.

Are the prospects for publication fearful or fun for you?

Fear writing something others may think happened to you?

Fear failure?

Fear success?

Take off those fearful costumes, masks, and let go of those bags of little sugary treats.

Go for the big ones!

Consume a full meal of learning the craft

Have a purpose

Strive toward publication

The Bible, Jesus himself, tells us over and over, “Fear not,” about many things.

That isn’t always easy, whether it applies to writing or other parts of our lives. But I try to keep in mind one of my favorite passages in the Bible that instructs me about what my personal and writing life should be like. Upon where I should take my fears and upon whom I am dependent for all things and what my attitude should be.

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLT).




Oh, Those Nosy Sleuths

Now, these will scare you!

To go with October 25 blog: When Scary Things Threaten

Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include Have Dress Will Marry (Heart of a Cowboy collection, Mountainbrook Ink), Better Latte Than Never (Winged Publications), Stupid Moments and Additional Christmas Moments in the non-fiction Divine Moments series (Grace Publishing). Her popular 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC, which she signs periodically at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge TN.


By Cynthia Ruchti

“Welcome back to the show Rudy’s Reflections. I’m your host, Rudy Rudman. We’re speaking with our guest, noted mystery writer, Claire Logenthall. Have you read her latest offering, Don’t Answer the Phone After Dark, listeners? You won’t want to miss this one. Or maybe you will.”

“Excuse me?”

“Ah, Ms. Logenthall. Your book has been said to have the most intensely unsatisfying ending, according to reviews and those who have posted comments on our program website.”

“I worked very hard on that ending.”

“You must admit that a reader has certain expectations.”

“Yes. And a good author will stretch the limit of those expectations.” 

“Would you not admit, Ms. Logenthall, that when a person picks up a mystery novel, it is expected that the mystery will be solved by the end of the story? Isn’t that the whole point? What made you think you could pull off a mystery novel in which the mystery is not eventually resolved? The attraction of a mystery lies in the hope of its resolution. How could you not tell us whodunit?”

“It got me a spot on your show, didn’t it, Rudy? My plan worked, then.”

“This was a plot? A gimmick? You intended to disappoint your readers?”

“I intended to shock them, not disappoint them.”

“As a publicity stunt?”

“As a calculated risk. An opportunity-maker. A conversation-starter. Conversation about God.”


“It was a gimmick, if you want to call it that. I hoped readers would react the way they did. it enables me to talk about the mysteries of God. How unsatisfying would it be if God left His mysteries unresolved?”

“I’m not what you’d call a person of faith. But aren’t there always things we humans don’t understand about God and how He acts?”

“That’s because of our ignorance. Not because He failed to tell us the answers They’re all there.”


“In the Bible. No true, devoted reader will reach the end of His book and wonder whodunit or what’s next or what the Author wants in a response.”

“Even I know the word mystery is mentioned more than a few times in the Bible.”

“As a mystery writer, I was intrigued by how the Author of one of the consistent best selling books of all time deals with the subject. I found to my surprise that most of the verses addressing the idea of Gods’ mysteries are immediately followed by verses that reveal the mystery’s answer.”

“Time for a word from one of our sponsors. Right after this commercial, we’ll return with…with another topic for your consideration. This is Rudy of Rudy’s Reflections. Stay tuned.”


God’s mysteries are not forever hidden. They have clear answers. He entrusts His mysteries to those who love and follow Him.

Matthew 13:11 (TLB)–Jesus (speaking to His followers) said, “You have been permitted to under the (mysteries) of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others have not. To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge.”

Ephesians 1:9 (TNLB)–“God’s secret plan has now been revealed to us: it is a plan centered on Christ, designed long ago according to His good pleasure.”

God’s very purpose–and ours too–is laid out clearly in Colossians 2:2-3 (NIV). “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

The answer to the great mystery of life. Christ.

Mystery solved.

Cover Art Development for the Indie Author

by: Heather Day Gilbert

Heather Day
enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Seventeen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective,
as well as ten years spent homeschooling. Heather is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and she’s committed to bringing relevant and helpful information to indie authors.
You can
find Heather at her website, Heather
Day Gilbert–Author
, and at her Facebook
Author Page
, as well as Twitter,
Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads.
Her Viking novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and
Her upcoming mystery, Miranda Warning, releases June 20,

Highlights of my Cover Art Process for MIRANDA WARNING

by: Heather Day Gilbert

Today, I want to take you “behind the scenes” tour of how cover art develops for the indie author. I’m using visuals from my upcoming
mystery, Miranda Warning, releasing in just a few days (June 20th). 
Before I start, I’d just like to say that if you don’t love the final cover as much as the other ones, please don’t tell me. I know most of you wouldn’t THINK of doing that. But when authors open up and share about how they choose their cover art (a very subjective thing), they have put hours into it and really don’t want to hear “Oh, I liked that ________ picture/font/whatever MUCH better than the one you finally went with!”
Most indies can’t afford to hire models and rent costumes that
fit their book specifications. Therefore, we have to spend hours trolling through stock photo sites such as istock or shutterstock for
just the right look. We might not know WHAT look we’re going for until we see
In my case, I started with several pictures that embodied
different elements of my storyline. I pinned these pics to a secret Pinterest
board for my brother-slash-cover designer, Jon
(who, as an aside, is also one of the most patient guys in the world, and the designer of my God’s Daughter cover art, as well). Here are a few
initial pics I pinned and thoughts on why we didn’t use them. I’ll link to each of their sites if you click them:

My initial direction with the cover was to go for a retro, Nancy Drew feel. However, there was only one stock image of this chick and I knew this was going to be a series. Also, it’s hard NOT to make this girl look bodiless…

Since the title character, Miranda, is in a wheelchair in an assisted living home, I thought this pic could be made to look ominous. However, we veered away from objects on the covers of this series, since I’m personally drawn to people’s faces on the covers. I figured my reader demographic would think much as I do.

Also toyed with adding these poisonous plants to the bottom of the cover. However…some things just give too much of the book away. That’s all I’ll say on that…

SO…I loved this pic, YEA–ADORED it. However…my bro and I both agreed it was waaaaay too reminiscent of the TWILIGHT cover pic:

So…we continued looking. And then I found this:
And I knew we were heading the right direction. PART of a woman’s face would make it possible for us to change models on future covers. However, we couldn’t seem to get this part of the face to work with the rest. At this point, we’d kind of decided to incorporate a face at the top, title in the middle, and mountains at the bottom (since this entire series is set in the mountains and it’s a key element in all of them–thus, A Murder in the Mountains series title). The setup was a bit like this:
Somewhere around this time, I got cold feet. This is the juncture your cover artist probably wants to pull his/her hair out and you yourself feel like a small raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The thing is, most MYSTERY covers in the ABA world have an object or words…people on the cover–not so much. So I thought maybe we should retrench and go for a more recognizable mystery “look.” Something more like this:
Those were some tough days for the author and her intrepid cover designer brother. And THEN! One night, while trolling endlessly through pictures of women and flowers, I found THIS!
Just like that, we both agreed we had a winner. Jon knows what will show up in a thumbnail on Amazon, and this girl would show up. However, my main character, Tess, has blue eyes, and a red rose is a sign of love. I wanted a symbol of death. So we changed Tess’ eyes to blue and the rose to white, as you’ll see in the finished cover.
NOW we moved on to the problem of font. After finding a mountain image to use at the bottom, we needed to find the perfect font to capture the mood of the book. Here are a few early tries:
Here, we had too much going on: foxglove around the words, curliques, and the font just didn’t strike me right.

We both really liked this “Motor Oil” retro font, but with Tess’ bob, it might indicate the book was set in the twenties, which it’s not. So we continued moving along (note how the mountains are changing!).
I finally found this Optimus Princeps font (which I affectionately refer to as “Optimus Prime” font). THIS, we agreed, was THE BOMB. As you can see we tried some funky color combos on the words, trying to land on something that would show up in thumbnail images of the book.

Possibly three months after we started all our cover art machinations, my brother and I decided on the final cover art. I couldn’t be happier with it and when I saw it in softcover, I was blown away. 
(For a higher-resolution pic of this cover, please check it out on my website here:

Me with my first proof of Miranda Warning! We decided to go with this matte cover versus the glossy. We’ve since lightened the background behind Tess’ head.
And that, my friends, is just a bit of our brainstorming/cover art process. This doesn’t really begin to cover what went into it. I know each indie author has a different process, be it going with a pre-made cover, making your own cover, or hiring someone to do it for you.
(Jon, I promise I am going to pay you back someday for all this…I OWE YOU!)

Miranda Warning (A Murder in the Mountains, Book #1):

Child of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her. 
But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox—a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting—Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer…or the next victim might be Tess herself.
Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains’ lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series. You can find it here on Goodreads. 

You can also read a four-chapter sample of Miranda Warning here on Scribd. Enjoy!

****Share your cover art thoughts here! Have you ever contributed to a cover art process? What are aspects you think you’d enjoy/dislike? And I’d love it if you put Miranda Warning on your To-Read list if it looks like something you’d enjoy!****