When Writers Research

An author whose meticulous research makes her stories ring with truth is Sarah Sundin, a novelist who writes about life during World War II. Conducting research is necessary for any novel—historical or contemporary—but Sundin weaves in details like fine spice. She sprinkles her characters’ lives with pieces of history that flavor the storyline like an orchestral score provides background for an epic movie. Though the characters are fictional, they live and breathe in an authentic setting.

I first wrote about Sundin in 2013 when her Wings of Glory series released: (http://authorpatricialee.net/book-pick-auth…f-glory-series/) . Those stories were about the three Novak brothers who served as B-17 bomber pilots in the US Eighth Air Force based in England, each one living a different journey. Sundin’s storyline traced the horrors as well as the mysteries of the war, while heaping on a good serving of romance.

Sundin-With-Every-Lettter-194x300This past week I finished the first in her Wings of the Nightingales series, With Every Letter which portrays the challenges flight nurses faced as they entered a field dominated by men, especially those senior officers who believed women had no place near the battlefield. Her main characters, flight nurse Mellie and engineer Tom, write anonymous military pen pals, each sharing their faith to the recipient. When they are attracted to each other in their lines of duty, their true surprise comes when they learn the pen pal they love is the officer they admire in real life.

What made this story especially endearing was the use of references to The Shop Around the Corner, a 1940 movie starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, about two people who write letters to strangers, only to learn the stranger is someone they thought they couldn’t stand at work. The movie was remade in 1998 as You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, a personal favorite.

Sundin’s latest series, Waves of Freedom, released this month from Revell with Through Waters Deep. During World War II, the Avery family finds adventure on the high seas, intrigue on the Home Front, and love where least expected. I’m anticipating this new read, which will take me to another branch of the military. I know I’m in for a delightful look into history because Sundin’s research brings each story alive.Sundin023

Sundin’s books are available at most Christian booksellers, online at Christian Book Distributors and at Amazon.com.

When Writers Speak


One of the benefits of attending a writer’s conference like the venue I wrote about last week is hearing from special speakers—usually writers—who have ventured down the path of publishing ahead of you and offer insights into the journey. Last week was no exception.

Ed Underwood, senior pastor of the historic Church of the Open Door in southern California, delivered three keynote addresses during the Oregon Christian Writers conference, speaking from the book of Romans. He challenged us to write as a cherished child, as one under grace and from a life offered to God.

Ed did not grow up in a Christian home which marked him with a deep appreciation of the Lord’s power to transform lives, families and cultures. He believes when Jesus Christ steps in, nothing should be the same. Ed’s messages brought tears to a lot of conferees as his words reached into our hearts and left us changed as well.

Ed is the author of When God Breaks Your Heart and Reborn to be Wild (David C. Cook), and his latest, The Trail: A Tale about Discovering God’s Will (Tyndale). He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and as a younger man also served as an officer in the US Army and a firefighter for the US Forest Service. Fifteen years ago he was struck with a diagnosis that amounted to a death sentence—chronic leukemia—which began a journey of despair that led to deeper prayer and hope—and eventually to his first book.

Janes-bio-photoJane Kirkpatrick joined Ed as the keynoter for the final day of the conference. Jane is a New York Times and CBA bestselling author of 28 books, which includes 23 historical novels based on real women. She is internationally recognized for her well-researched novels about people who actually lived. Conferees were treated to an opportunity to buy her newest book which releases in  September.

In her address, Jane spoke of believing as God would have us believe in order to weave both salt and light into our writing tapestries. “Always follow the thread through your story,” Jane said, “and you will never get lost. Never let go of the thread.”

Now that I’ve returned home I find myself poring over the notes I took, trying to emulate what I was taught. As a fellow writer posted earlier this week, writing is a continuing education, a never ending learning curve. Another said success is not measured in published works, but in the question, did you write what God had you write? If you did, then you have succeeded.

Colossians 3:23-24 instructs us: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. .

Your turn:

What conference speakers have spoken to you?

Why Writers Need Conferences

I attended a writers conference this week. Truth be told, I lacked enthusiasm before I drove there. I’d attended three conferences last year and they left me drained—physically, financially, and emotionally. The thought of attending another one held as much appeal as facing an appendectomy.

But I went.

Like the act of writing itself, conferences can be solitary affairs. Often attendees feel invisible—one alone in a crush of humanity—all there seeking affirmation of their craft, hoping to stand out in the crowd. In an ever changing publishing world, more and more writers compete for fewer and fewer publishing spots. Many have turned to self-publishing, promotion, or e-books. Doing so can be fortunate for some, disaster for others. Some become discouraged and wonder why they should continue.

I didn’t know where I’d be at week’s end.

Ed Underwood inspired us all to continue writing in the Lord.

Ed Underwood inspired us all to continue writing in the Lord.

I’d prayed about this conference, asking God to show me what He wanted me to learn. Doing so left me without expectations. I would find what God intended me to experience.

In Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) we are told: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understandings, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

God went before me.

I had dinner with two different literary agents. Both were positive and helpful. Even though I wasn’t her client, one offered me good advice and encouragement, taking an active interest in what I was writing. Grateful, I thanked her.

The Awards ceremony that recognized writing efforts by many conferees.

The Awards ceremony that recognized writing efforts by many conferees.

I attended several workshops and classes, sitting under the tutelage of one of my favorite authors. Her teaching and writing techniques restored my enthusiasm, much as a gas station fuels a car driving on fumes. As though I were a fire that has burned to embers, I could feel her words fanning the flames inside me back to life.

Jane Kirkpatrick taught writing techniques to eager listeners.

Jane Kirkpatrick taught writing techniques to eager listeners.

And finally, I had lunch with a circle of friends—people who were each at different stages of their writing careers—but all who were hopeful for the future. Being with them lifted my spirit. I returned home enthused, energized, and excited to return to my computer.

And that’s why writers need conferences.


Your turn: Do you attend conferences of any kind?   How do they make you feel?