Sandra Orchard
Attention Aspiring Love Inspired Writers!

The Love Inspired Editors have just announced a new fast-track pitch opportunity. You can find all the details here:

You will need to sign in to the Harlequin community to see the info and take part in the discussion with editors/ask questions.

Here’s the Timeline copied from their post:
March 16 – SHOW US YOUR STUFF. Submit the 100 words or less blurb and first page of your inspirational romance, romantic suspense or historical romance manuscript to starting today.
April 3 – All entries must be in house. The editors will review the entries over the next ten days and choose the teams.

April 13 – REEL US IN. Editors will announce which entries will be joining a team and which editors will be mentoring each team. The authors on the teams will be invited to submit their proposal by May 1 to the email box.
May 1 – All proposals must be in house. Editors will review the submissions from their team over the next 2 weeks and narrow down the ones that seem most promising to move on to the next stage.

May 15 – SEAL THE DEAL. Editors will announce which team members will be going on to the final round. Qualifying authors will be invited to submit their complete manuscript. Authors who are not moving on will privately receive personalized feedback. Authors who are moving on will have until July 15 to submit their full manuscripts.
July 15 – All entries must be in house. Editors will review the submissions from their team and decide next steps (reject, request a revision, or offer a contract). By the end of 75 days, decisions will be made to contract, send a revision letter or reject each of the stories. All authors who submit full manuscripts will receive notification of our decision within this time frame.

Final Results!

August 30 – We will announce the results in a blog post that wraps up the pitch, shares our thoughts on the highs and lows, highlights any sales and gives stats on the results for the full manuscript submissions.

Sound exciting? If you think you could rock this pitch, get ready to show us your stuff. Read our team bios, the info on formatting guidelines, the inspirational success stories and the blogs on what each line is looking for and how to write an amazing blurb and first page, then start those books. Be sure to follow the guidelines for Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical. Only one entry per author, please. Deadlines are tight, so keep writing while you’re waiting to hear back. And if your book is complete now, don’t forget to tell us in your email. You never know. We might want to pounce on your book right away. Ready, set, GO!

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The More Things Change…

The crazier I get! How’s that for a twist on the old axiom?

ID-100218357- Crazy Woman

Okay, I apparently turn blonde and beautiful, too. ;)

In our house, if the kids don’t clean their room, they have to live with the mess, dust bunnies and all.

How about in your house?

Well, most of us keep a lot more clutter hanging around on our computers and Facebook has decided to be a merciful parent and clean our rooms for us–at least the cyber room holding all the pages we’ve liked.

Now, if we don’t regularly interact with a page we’ve liked, not only will they remove it from our news feed, they’ll remove us as a fan of the page. :-(

[Update: Now, I’m not sure what to believe, but contrary to the explanation that circulated over the weekend, today I read that Facebook’s purge was only of deactivated accounts, which makes perfect sense, and doesn’t feel nearly so Big Brother. Although the reality about news feeds I address below still applies.]

All that to say that once I got over the sinking feeling that a crowd of readers suddenly decided they didn’t like me and then learned about Facebook’s new policy, the implications to unwitting fans started to sink in.

If the reason you liked my Facebook page was to ensure you don’t miss news of new releases, or to hear about giveaways, or specials, or freebies I come across from time to time, please occasionally pop by and like a post so that you’ll be sure to see the most popular posts in your news feeds. ID-10088174-sign posts

If you liked my page for the more personal updates or to interact about current writing projects, such as helping me flesh out characters, pick names and titles, that kind of thing, you probably won’t notice any change if you post the occasional comment or like the occasional post. (And my apologies that you might’ve already seen a version of this explanation on FB)

By the way, those comments have been incredibly helpful and inspiring. Thank you!!!

If Facebook gives you hives, and you don’t want to miss reminders about new releases, please subscribe to my Sandra Orchard newsletter, which I put out for new releases or big news (3-4 times/year at the most). The bonus bribe,  uh deal, with that is I will send you a link to a couple of free novellas I’ve written exclusively for my subscribers, and I always give a book away to a randomly drawn subscriber in each newsletter.

Of course…you may need to keep an eye on your spam folder or, in the case of gmail, that folder they regulate a lot of mass emails to. :-?


Crazy woman image courtesy of stockimages at

Signposts image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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Reading & Writing Romantic Suspense

For the next two weeks, Harlequin is hosting a Romantic Suspense Event.

And starting at 12:01 PM EST today, if you hop over to their Facebook page, you can take their quiz to find out which series is your perfect read for a chance to win a full year’s subscription!
Of course, I hope you’ll choose the series I write for:
Love Inspired Suspense.
LIS Books Collage

Then join us next week at the Love Inspired Suspense forum at for a variety of discussions:

      Mon will be the continuity and favorite dogs/hero dogs.
Wed will be characters you’d like to see/character name suggestions.
      Fri will be suspenseful settings/settings you’d like to see.
[I’ll add links here once their live]


Read on…
First of all, if you aspire to write a romantic suspense, it’s important to understand that it is not simply a romance with a suspense thread. Romantic suspense readers want both a satisfying romance, and a suspense plot that is complicated enough that she won’t easily figure it out or, worse, become annoyed with your characters when they don’t.

So make it your goal to write a novel that is 100% suspense AND 100% romance–two strands of a rope inseparably intertwined throughout the story.

My editors want the danger to be evident from the start, ideally from the first line, or paragraph, definitely before the end of the first page.

For Love Inspired Suspense, both the hero and heroine need to be introduced and connected to the suspense within the first chapter. In single title romantic suspense, depending on chapter lengths, you might introduce the heroine and suspense plot in the first chapter, the hero and his connection in the second, each with clear goals, and bring them together in the third, perhaps clashing over opposing goals or opposing means of reaching the same goal.

I personally prefer to see both the hero and heroine introduced, and if possible to meet, in the first chapter. But either way, jumping right into the suspense is key. If you spend the beginning writing set-up or only writing about the romance, you will lose your reader before the suspense starts.

Although not essential, I also personally like to keep the bad guy a mystery to both my reader and my hero and heroine. That means, I tend not to include scenes in the villain’s pov (point of view)  unless they are anonymous or ambiguous and invite more questions than they answer. To me, keeping the villain a mystery adds more interest and tension to the plot, since the reader will only see things unfold from the hero and heroine’s viewpoint, and therefore share their emotional reactions to what’s happening on the page. Moreover, it keeps the romantic tension center stage, instead of detouring to a few pages where the hero and heroine might not even be on the page.

What is essential, however, is that the heroine be in jeopardy throughout the novel, and that both the hero and heroine have a stake in the outcome.

Let me repeat that another way.

The suspense plot shouldn’t simply be something the hero and heroine stumble into, which thereby puts them in danger, until they find a way out. It shouldn’t be a situation with which they have no personal connection other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Not that that can’t make a compelling story. My Daphne DuMaurier Award winning manuscript was a compelling read to the readers, agents and editors who gave it high scores. However, publishers turned it down precisely because the hero and heroine had no personal stake in the outcome of the jeopardy they’d happened into…well, besides getting out alive.  :-D

There was tons of romance. There was lots of suspense of the “oh, no, what’s going to happen next?” variety, and the two were tightly intertwined. But aside from survival, the outcome of the suspense plot had no personal consequences to either of them.

Do you understand the difference?

Another important thing to keep in mind as you devise your suspense plot is to play fair with your reader. You can’t pull a convenient explanation or twist out of the blue; you have to set it up first.

Details are the key to setting up suspense and having fun with the reader. As a writer you leave all kinds of toys on the floor in a scene, use them.

But keep in mind that you can’t slow down for many home and apple pie romance scenes or deep spiritual introspection or discussions in the middle of a fast-paced suspense. They’re fine in a straight romance. But need to be utilized sparingly in romantic suspense.

Lastly, don’t wrap up your suspense too early and leave the reader with only the romance to support the end of the book. Or vice versa.

Remember the image of the rope. Romantic suspense readers want both romance and suspense all the way through the novel. And… inspy readers want to also see a satisfying spiritual growth or realization in the characters.

Being forced together via the suspense plot, forges a positive change in the hero’s and heroine’s characters; growth that must take place before the romance can culminate in a happy ending.

Read that last paragraph again.

It is the bare bones blueprint of how the essential elements of a romantic suspense are inextricably connected.

Your Turn: I hope this brief overview has provided a better grasp of areas of your story that might need some attention. Feel free to ask questions. I’ll be happy to try to answer them.

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Finding Inspiration

For the past week, I’ve been in dream-up-a-new-story mode. This one is for the Love Inspired Suspense line. Since people often ask me how I come up with ideas, I thought I’d share some recent examples with you.

Ideas for snippets of scenes come from anywhere and everywhere; from a conversation at the dinner table; an interesting character I see while out and about; an intriguing news article or this gorgeous sight outside my office window this morning:

Sunrise on SnowThis particular image got me thinking that my heroine should see this the morning after a particularly traumatic evening to renew her hope. Then again…

You know what they say about red sky in the morning?

Shepherds heed warning.

That goes double for characters in my books. ;-)

The original idea for the story I’m fleshing out right now actually started in 2011, while visiting a critically ill friend when her male nurse paid a visit. He was pretty handsome and so we had fun dreaming up a story featuring him.

His role has changed over the years, as the story ruminated in the recesses of my computer (ur mind). But that was the seed.

Story ideas often spring from what-if questions, too.

In this case, we asked: What if the bad guys go after the wrong woman?

It makes for lots of potential dicey situations, which my editor always loves to see. :-D

And…from the beginning, we planned to include a dog in a key role in the story.

That idea came about during a creative exercise I did for writer’s block, in which you choose three random words then write a few sentence vignette that incorporates them.

I liked the vignette so much, that at this point, it is still part of my opening scene.

Since I had so much fun with Rusty, Zach’s son’s dog in Identity Withheld, I’m looking forward to discovering this new dog’s personality. The inspiration for Rusty came from a newsletter subscriber who told me about the crazy things her childhood dog used to do and from an adorable Golden Doodle I met while out walking.

I haven’t settled on the particulars for my newest dog character. I’m thinking Ranger sounds like a fun name and I’m thinking a Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle dog) might fit the bill.

They’re courageous, watchful, protective of family, distrustful of strangers, high energy. Sounds perfect for a suspense don’t you think.

Of course, my Bella thinks she should be the model for the character:

BellaAwardShe is after all an award-winning actor. Even it was only in my daughter’s film for schdue southool.  ;-)

I personally think she’s been watching too much Due South and has illusions of grandeur. 8-)

Your Turn: Any suggestions?

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A Romance Story for your Valentine’s Day



For the past two weeks on the Craftie Ladies of Love Inspired blog, we’ve been sharing a collaborative, seat-of-our-pants serial historical romance for our readers. You can begin reading by clicking here.

And then click on “newer posts” beneath the post to see subsequent installments in the story, which culminates with today’s post…I think. ;-)

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Interview with Nancy Mehl, author of Deadly Echoes

I’m delighted to be joined today by popular romantic suspense and mystery author, Nancy Deadly EchoesMehl, to talk about her newest release, Deadly Echoes, and a special contest she has going on to celebrate its release.

What inspired you to write this particular novel?


Actually, I’d been thinking about jealousy and competitiveness. Why sometimes we feel threatened by someone else’s success, looks, or possessions. I was wondering what causes us to compare ourselves to others in the first place. Jealousy is like a slow poison that can work its way into every area of our lives if we open the door to it. It weakens us and steals our joy. I believe a lack of knowing who we are in Christ makes us susceptible to the green-eyed monster. Addressing this problem inspired Deadly Echoes.


My main character, Sarah Miller, was orphaned at a young age. Her sister, Hannah, was adopted, but Sarah wasn’t. Even though her life has turned out well, She’s never lost her belief that Hannah was adopted because she was prettier and more worthy of love. Sarah would never admit to being jealous of Hannah. She truly loves her sister, yet she lives under Hannah’s shadow, accepting a false reality based on her own feelings of inadequacy. As my story unfolds, Sarah will not only have to deal with threats from the outside, she will have to look inward and deal with her own demons.

Very intriguing. Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?

I started writing when I was 45. I’d thought about it off and on, but one day I finally decided to give it a try. It didn’t take long for me to discover I loved writing novels. After a few years, I went before the Lord and asked Him if this was something He actually wanted me to do. I didn’t want to spend years doing something that wasn’t His will for me. He answered me in the affirmative, and I’ve been writing ever since. When things get tough, I fall back on my belief that I’m called to write.

Inspiring! Do you have a favorite or “life” verse? Why that one?


I have to mention two different verses. Of course, all the words in the Bible are special to me, but Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that conveys a truth I try to build into every story I write. (For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.) It’s so important for people to realize that God is interested in them – that He has a wonderful plan for their lives. The devil would love for us to feel as if we have nothing special to offer, but that just isn’t true. God has filled each one of us with gifts and callings. We are unique in the Kingdom, and no one else can take our place.


The other scripture that means a lot to me is Psalm 37:5. (“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will bring it to pass.”) God has used this verse in my life to encourage me to quit worrying about my career, my finances, the future, etc. I used to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, but now, I’m learning to cast my care on God and trust that He will take care of every situation. I believe He will work everything out in His timing and in His way. What a relief! I’m still learning, and sometimes He has to remind me again when I start to slip, but thanks to Him, I’m making progress!

That’s great, and so reassuring. Can you tell us about your next book?


The next book in my Finding Sanctuary series is Rising Darkness. This is a special story to me because I’m actually bringing back a character from my Road to Kingdom series. Sophie Wittenbauer was a troubled teenager back in Kingdom, Kansas. I always felt that her story needed to be finished, and I’m happy I can finally do that for her.


After Sophie left Kingdom she worked hard to make something out of her life. Now she’s a newspaper reporter. She recently stumbled across some information that could lead to an incredible story. The kind of story that could launch her career as an investigative reporter. However, to uncover the truth she must travel to Sanctuary, Missouri. When she discovers there is a Conservative Mennonite community living there, she almost scraps her plans. Being around people that remind her of her past in Kingdom is the last thing she wants. But the desire for fame and fortune drive her to ignore her fears and go to Sanctuary.

Once there she runs into a face from the past. Jonathon Wiese is the pastor of a nondenominational church in the small town. Sophie is mortified at seeing him again. She’s thought about him almost every day, and her feelings for him are just as strong as they ever were. Thankfully, he doesn’t make the connection between the sophisticated woman she’s become and the dirty uneducated teenager she used to be. As she tries to deal with seeing him again, she begins to uncover clues that could lead to finding a notorious criminal who vanished years ago. But before she can find him, he seems to have found her. Sophie will not only have to face her love for Jonathon, but also the very real fear that she will never leave Sanctuary alive.

Oh, that’s cool. I loved the book covers for that series. They were the inspiration for my Port Aster Secrets series.

Readers you can learn more about Nancy Mehl’s contest by clicking the book image above or the link here.

Nancy Mehl

Nancy Mehl lives in Festus, Missouri, with her husband, Norman, and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored twenty books and just finished a new series for Bethany House Publishing. The first book in her Finding Sanctuary series, “Gathering Shadows” was released in May of 2014. The second book, “Deadly Echoes” became available in February. The third book, “Rising Darkness will release late in 2015.

You can learn more about Nancy through her Web site: She is part of The Suspense Sisters:, along with several other popular suspense authors. She is also very active on Facebook.

Have a great week everyone! I’ll be back on Valentine’s Day to share a special serial read.

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Taking God at His Word

This week I’d like to share with you a devotional I wrote for Novel Crossing, a wonderful online community for Christian fiction readers.

It opens with a quote from Tom’s beloved father in Deadly Devotion: Sooner or later almost every one of us come up against a side of God that’s hard for us to accept.

You can read the full post here: Taking God at His Word with Sandra Orchard

I hope you have a wonderful week. I hope to write “The End” on the manuscript for the first book in my next series by the end of it. Your prayers would be most appreciated!   :-)

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My Favorite Essential Oils

A post on essential oils probably seems like an off-the-wall topic for a fiction author, but I’ve decided to make my newest heroine a fan of them so it is related.  ;-)

For years I avoided essential oils, because I’m very sensitive to fragrances, particularly floral scents. Many give me an instant migraine.

But I’ve become a huge fan of several essential oils in the past few months, particularly, orange essential oil, which is purported to increase energy and creativity. I’ve been diffusing it in my office for weeks now and the writing has been humming along nicely.

 image of woman happily writing

Sure, I have a suspicion that my loyalty to it is kind of like a hockey or football player’s tendency (at least in the movies) to stick to the same ritual that has kept them on their current winning streak, but…hey, I love the smell and the extra humidity (I use a cool mist diffuser) is a welcome bonus.

My daughter loves it when I sprinkle a few drops of lemon on the furnace filter, too, probably because it gives the entire house a nice just-cleaned scent. This, of course, might be wishful thinking on her part, because between the aforementioned humming-along writing and a strained hip muscle that makes it painful for me to bend, the housecleaning isn’t happening unless she does it.  ;-)

My son loves having a mix of lemon and peppermint diffused in his bedroom at night. He says that it has really helped his sinuses. The rest of the family loves the much more pleasant, non-locker-room smell emanating from his room.  :lol:

I’m also experimenting with using rosemary essential oil in my bath water. Now if you can get past smelling like you’re marinating as you soak in the tub, rosemary is supposed to be good for a wide variety of things that ail you, from constipation or diarrhea, to menstrual pain, to regulating oils in skin whether dry or oily, to…hair loss–stopping it.

That last one was of particular interest to me, since multiple deadlines last year contributed to my hair coming out in droves. Yeah, okay, it probably doesn’t count when you pull it out in frustration, buy hey, it was worth a try.  :-D

Your Turn: How about you? Have you ever used essential oils? Do you have a favorite?


(image courtesy of adamr at )

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Introducing Hidden Agenda by Lisa Harris + A Giveaway

I’m very excited to introduce you to Hidden Agenda, the third book in Lisa Harris‘ Southern Crimes romantic suspense series from Revell Publishing.

Hidden Agenda

Michael Hunt is alive–and on the run. Presumed dead by friends and family, the undercover assignment he’s been working for the past eight months has just been blown. With a hit out on his life and corruption inside the Atlanta police department, Michael finds himself hunted by both the cartel and the law. His only hope is the daughter of the man who wants him dead.

I had the privilege of endorsing the first book in the series, Dangerous Passages, which went on to win the Christy Award. Book 2, Fatal Exchange, also did not disappoint.

Fatal ExchangeDangerous-Passage-662x1024

Romantic Times Review called it “a thrill ride from start to finish.”

So I’m eager to read this final installment in the series!

I asked Lisa what inspired the series and what she’s working on now. Here’s what she had to say:

The whole Southern Crimes Series was inspired by my desire to write a romantic suspense series based around a close-knit family of cops. For this story in particular, I loved the idea of an undercover cop having to be saved by the daughter of the man who wants him dead. It brought up lots of trust issues and conflict that I had a lot of fun working with. If you haven’t read books one and two in the series, I don’t want to give too much away, but Michael’s story just had to be told!

While Hidden Agenda will be the last in this series, I just turned in a book to my editor that will kick off my next series with Revell, and I’ve just started writing book two. While I can’t say much yet, it’s another fast paced romantic suspense series that deals with a missing person task force and a heroine (and romance) that I can’t wait to reveal!  The first book will release in October!

Great to hear! For those who are “meeting” Lisa for the first time, here is a little more about her, then be sure to answer the blog question for a chance to receive a copy of Hidden Agenda. Lisa Photo

LISA HARRIS is a Christy Award finalist for Blood Ransom, Christy Award winner for Dangerous Passage, and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 from Romantic Times. She has over thirty novels and novella collections in print. She and her family have spent over a decade living as missionaries in Africa where she leads a women’s group, and runs a non-profit organization that works alongside their church-planting ministry.  When she’s not working she loves hanging out with her family, cooking different ethnic dishes, photography, and heading into the African bush on safari. For more information about her books and life in Africa visit her website at

Your Turn: What books are you eagerly awaiting to read in 2015?

(The recipient of a complimentary copy of Hidden Agenda will be randomly chosen from comments made before midnight EST Saturday, January 17th)

Desperate MeasuresP.S. The preorder price for Desperate Measures, the final book in my Port Aster Secrets mystery series is still under $5 at Amazon (but I’m not sure how much longer it will last)

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Last Day to Get Deadly Devotion & Blind Trust & Desperate Measures for a Steal!

All the E-retailers have price-matched or beat the 99 cent deal on Deadly Devotion!

And…have slashed the price on Blind Trust.

Some…such as Amazon and CBD (epub)…have even slashed the Ebook preorder price for Desperate Measures!!!

Here are some links for Deadly Devotion:

Kindle US
Kindle Canada
EPub Version from CBD

Koorong (Australia)

Ipad (ITunes Store)

If you know anyone who enjoys fast-paced mysteries, I’d appreciate you letting them know. Thanks so much!

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Sandra Orchard
Sandra Orchard
Sandra Orchard

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