Samara Is A Real Place

My novella “Big Love” is part of this seven story collection.

Samara, one of the key locations in my novella “Big Love” in the collection Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection (Penwrights Press), is a real place. It’s about an hour and ten minutes north of me in West Lafayette, just off I-65. It is one of the last houses architect Frank Lloyd Wright envisioned and had built in his Usonian style.

And I never knew it existed—until I needed it. In that sense, Samara is rather like J.K. Rowling’s fictional creation, The Room of Requirement, in her Harry Potter series of novels. That room appears, stocked with whatever the magician requires at the moment, just as it is needed. And until it is needed, it cannot be found.

Only, as I said, Samara is real. You can visit it and I highly recommend you do.

In my novella, my architecturally-minded journalist and my as-independent-as-Yankee-Doodle small business woman who builds tiny houses for the homeless, needed a place they could explore together to deepen their relationship—and divide them.

Samara is one of the last examples of Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian period designs.
This is the front approach and garden at Samara. The entrance, which Wright liked to hide in his creations, is just around the corner created by the bank of windows you see.

I knew I had to have this almost magical place where the natural attraction these two feel for each other could be easily intensified. It’s a novella, after all, there wasn’t a lot of time.

As I searched for the right location—I wanted a real one, not something made up—I knew Purdue University had a great school of civil engineering and that south of Indianapolis is the city of Columbus, renown for its architecture. So this got me thinking about what architectural marvels might be found in Indiana. I fully expected to make a road trip or two to Columbus for exploratory purposes.

But when I searched online for architecture in Indiana, I found this 2014 article from Indianapolis Monthly magazine: “Milestones: An Indiana Architecture Road Trip,” by Daniel S. Comiskey. As I read through the piece, the name “Samara” lit up like neon in my mind.

And the location in West Lafayette couldn’t have been more perfect. My journalist, Nathan “Rafe” Rafferty, lives in Chicago. My builder, Timberly “Berly” Charles, lives in Indianapolis. Connecting them is I-65 and almost exactly in the middle is—Samara.

You hear it too, don’t you? When you read “Samara,” doesn’t it sing? Don’t you almost hear Hervé Villechaize’s Tattoo calling out, “The house! The house,” as Ricardo Montalban’s Mr. Roark strolls nonchalantly onto the veranda?

A quick email to Linda Eales, Samara’s associate curator, secured a visit to the home for my wife and I. And yes, until very recently Samara was a home and a museum. The original owner, Purdue University professor John Christian, and his wife Catherine, lived in the home until their deaths. It is now operated by the John E. Christian Family Memorial Trust and is open to the public.

Here’s a bit of a scene from my character’s visit to Samara. In the living room of the house, Berly and Rafe experience the calming effects of the room’s architecture. The scene is in Berly’s point of view:

Wall-sized windows fill an entire side of this amazing great room that was created before the concept of great rooms. A line of cushioned benches underneath a wall of shelves for books and knickknacks extends into and around the corner of the library section of the room.

Linda talks about how the design, the integration of nature—“With a capital N as Wright would say”—and the unity of the lines in the house create a feeling of peace and relaxation today’s homes often don’t have.

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The corner Wright called “the best seat in the house.”

She motions to the library’s distant corner. “Wright would have said that corner bench is the best seat in the house.”

I move into that corner to look at the amazing display of books and other decorative pieces on the shelves.

Rafe follows me. “Don’t you want to sit?”

“Oh, I couldn’t.” To me, this is a museum, and that means Do Not Touch. But Linda confirms Rafe’s invitation.

“No, it’s all right,” she says. “Dr. Christian lived in the home until his death in 2015. The furniture is intended to be used.”

So I do, and Rafe sits next to me. I am sitting on a piece of furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

“I’ll dim the lights,” Linda says. “That will help you feel the peace.”

As we sit there, in the quiet and in the natural light of a sunny Hoosier afternoon, a calm does descend. My breathing evens out, and my body relaxes. It’s the first time I’ve noticed how architecture can be used to create mood—and I love it. How can this be incorporated in our work at La Petite Maison?

Rafe rests his hand protectively over mine on the seat cushion between us. It scares me to even think about it, but I am beginning to wonder about the future with Rafe. Sitting next to him, I swear I hear some pieces of my life fall into place. I try to lean into the peace and enjoy it. I don’t find it often.

“What are you feeling?” he whispers in my ear, his warm breath accentuating his words.

What am I feeling? I can hardly tell him, now can I? I’m not even sure I could tell Bets, were she here. But I am feeling.

Just a short scene or two later, trouble descends in paradise and the comforts of Samara get lost as the characters… well, you’ll just have to read it!

And you can! I have five electronic copies to give away. Just leave a comment either here or on the Facebook post for this blog. If you win and read “Big Love,” (and the other six tiny-house related stories), I’d be honored if you left a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Though a review is not required to enter, reviews give books a fighting chance to find an audience. Thanks in advance!


“Big Love” is one of seven novellas written around the theme of tiny houses. It is included in Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection from Penwrights Press. Available in e-book and print . Cover design by Ken Raney.

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Visit my co-authors: Ane Mulligan, Linda Yezak, Pamela S. Meyers, Yvonne Anderson, Chandra Lynn Smith, and Kimberli S. McKay.

Should I “Tiny House” My Garage? Vote!

Watch the video below and vote to be entered into a contest!


The other day I read a fascinating post on the blog “Tiny House Talk” about transforming an out building (not an outhouse!) into a tiny house and renting it on Airbnb.

See that post here: “Before and After: Tiny House Backyard Studio Transformation.”

Here’s one of the photos of the “before.” Yech!

Before-and-After-Tiny-House-Transformation-6JPG-600x450

Contains the novella "Big Love" by Michael Ehret

This cover was designed by Ken Raney of Clash Creative.

I think my character, Berly Charles, in my novella “Big Love,” which is part of the Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection, would absolutely jump at the chance to dig into this project! Berly has a mind of her own, runs her own tiny house construction business, and isn’t afraid of projects. Which is a good thing, since the other character in the story, Nathan “Rafe” Rafferty, is quite a project.

But the blog post linked above got me thinking. And here’s what I thought in a video. Watch it and vote! Out of everyone who votes, I’ll pick one winner to receive a copy of “Coming Home,” which includes my novella — and six others!

What next, you winner?

Winner1It’s an unfortunate truth—if there are writing contests, there will be people who do not win them and most of the time those people will be you and me.

So know going into it that, when it comes to writing contests, the odds are against you winning. Does that mean you shouldn’t enter? Not at all! But what it does mean is you need to enter contests for the right reason—getting that invaluable feedback. If you win, great! In fact, stupendous! But if you don’t, what can you learn from your contest scores?

Read more about contests and writing today in my post over on Novel Rocket!

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Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Mike-9Michael loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Winner of “Firefly” DVDs and writing books!

Firefly_front_coverWe had great participation yesterday. People shared fabulous stories about being edited and about what they hope to learn when they are edited. When you need editing services, I hope you’ll feel more confident in hiring an editor.

I numbered the people who commented and then went to Random.org and generated a random number: 3. The person whose name was on line 3 is Cheri Swalwell! Cheri, send me your mailing address and I’ll get the prizes out to you.

wingsofglassThanks to all who participated!

Coming next: On March 5, Gina Holmes will be here to talk about her editing experiences–as well as about her latest release, Wings of Glass. Hope you’ll join us then.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Mike-9Michael loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Writers on Editing: Ronie Kendig

Ronie_KendigTo launch this new occasional feature of Writing On The Fine Line, my guest, Ronie Kendig, has donated a fantastic prize: The four-DVD set of the entire “Firefly” television show. It includes all 14 episodes, plus three unaired episodes—and more. If you haven’t seen this, it will … Change. Your. Life. Or, at least entertain you.

But, let’s make it even better: I’ll throw in the best self-editing book on the market, Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, as well as How To Write A Book Proposal, by Michael Larsen.

The winner gets it all! To enter, leave a short comment about an unforgettable editing experience you had. If it was a good experience, you can mention the editor’s name. But, if it was a bad experience, discretion is advised.

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Each writer has self-editing checks they always make with their manuscripts. What are yours?

Beyond normal plot checks, I watch for echoes of words. I also watch for “was” “–ing” pairings. I’m not a “was” Nazi, but I do pay attention to them. If I can find a better and natural way of rewriting that sentence, then I change it. If the change draws attention to the sentence, then I leave it. I also make sure each sentence ends strong, especially the last sentence of paragraphs.

When you receive edits back from an editor, whether freelance or with your publisher, what is your first reaction?

I gotta admit—I’m a jellyfish (no rhino skin on this gal), so it’s hard for me to open a document and see the editor has bled all over my baby. I’m aware of how hard this is on me, so I take my time. I read through the changes and the requested revisions, leave it for a day or two (if I can), then come back to it. I get it done and pray myself through it.

How much editing do you get back? How much do you have to “fix”?

TalonThe best example is probably to compare the two books I’ve turned in most recently: Talon: Combat Tracking Team and Beowulf: Explosives Detection Dog. In Talon, I was blessed to have only minor content/macro changes. That story poured out of me as if I’d had an IV attached. Beowulf, on the other hand, had quite a few threads to straighten or fix, and I even went in and wrote an entirely new thread to answer some questions my amazing editor had about the story.

BeowulfI admit I was discouraged that I hadn’t turned in a perfect manuscript (can you say unrealistic expectations?), but I attribute the state of that manuscript to having only 2.5 months to write because of other writing commitments, a major move across the U.S. with my family, and a conference. That edit was a bit rough.

Do the edits make you feel like you’ve failed or that you’ve been empowered? Or, do you just sigh and make them?

Initially, they always make me feel like a failure. In fact, the very first edit on my debut novel was a bloodbath—because the editor ran out of time and had to combine her macro edit with her line edit. I totally crashed and burned when I saw that.

Edits are still rough on me because I am very sensitive. But being sensitive does not equate to not succeeding. You’ve heard the phrase, “If you’re going to make it in this business, you must have a rhino skin,” right? Well, I don’t believe that. What you do need to succeed is determination. And I’m a thick-headed Irish girl, so I have that by the boatloads. For the most part, I just get the edits done. Then go eat a dozen glazed donuts.

What have you learned, as a writer, from having your books edited?

That each editor has his or her own quirks, just as writers do—and I think it’s imperative a writer is paired with the right editor. The most empowering thing that has ever been said to me is, “it’s your story,” meaning when an editor and I disagree, that’s okay. It is perfectly fine to ask the editor to leave something as you wrote it. So, when I feel strongly about things, then I do push back. But I’ve also learned that it’s important not to “waste capital” on piddly things. The relationship with your editor is so important. She or he is not against you. They want your book to be the best. You want the same thing.

When you write a series of books, do you have the same editor throughout the whole series? What’s your normal editorial process?

For my first three books, I had three different editors (and was published at two different houses). Halfway through the Discarded Heroes series, a highly respected editor and I agreed we wanted to work together. So, I put in the request to work with this amazing woman—and she has edited all my books since. She gets me. She gets what I’m writing. I’ve now done five books with this editor and it’s my prayer that I never write a book without her again.

Since I write for a smaller publisher, my books sometimes do not get a massive content edit separate from the rest of the book. The process for a single book begins with me turning in the manuscript. From there, it goes to my editor who will read for content and continuity of the characters, the main plot, the subplots, etc., and then she sends it back to me so I can address her questions and concerns. But, contained within that edit is a line edit as well.

Once I’ve made all the changes I feel are necessary, I return it to the editor. She cleans up the document and processes what I’ve changed. She might have a question or two more, and then she returns it to my publisher. The next time I see my book it’s in galley form. This is where I do a read-thru of the manuscript to catch any last-minute typos and other changes that have affected the manuscript.

What would you say to unpublished writers about freelance editing of their manuscripts?

The most critical thing is to be sure you’re getting what you’re looking for. If an editor is only going to hunt down passives or the like, make sure that’s what you want. If you’re looking for story content and flow, make sure the editor is doing that. Paired with that, make sure this editor is someone who finds the kind of stuff you’re looking for.

I’ve hired an editor before that I thought was perfect. I was wrong—but it was also partly my fault. Not until I got the edit back did I realize my mistake. Slapping a couple hundred bucks on the table for an edit does not a perfect manuscript guarantee.

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RonieKendigAn Army brat, Ronie Kendig grew up in the classic military family, with her father often TDY and her mother holding down the proverbial fort. Their family moved often, which left Ronie attending six schools by the time she’d entered fourth grade. Her only respite and “friends” during this time were the characters she created.

It was no surprise when she married a military veteran—Brian, her real-life hero—in June 1990. They have four children and live with three dogs in Dallas TX.

Since her first publication in 2010, Ronie and her books have been gained critical acclaim and national attention, including a Christy Award for contemporary romance in 2012 for Wolfsbane. Visit her online.

Read more about Ronie in this article by Diana Prusik in the ACFW Journal. Share your unforgettable editing experience to enter!

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

New Contest for Unpublished Authors

First Impressions, a new contest for unpublished authors from the American Christian Fiction Writers, is now accepting entries!

With First Impressions, you submit only the first five pages of your manuscript to have them evaluated by experienced judges and industry professionals. Agents and editors agree the first five pages are crucial in getting them to bite on a manuscript. But how can you know whether you’re on the right track? The feedback you receive from this contest should give you the information you need.

The first round of the contest will be judged by 3 published authors or experienced writers. The final round will be judged by 2 agents per category.

For complete rules, guidelines, FAQs, eligible genres, and other information, visit the First Impressions page.

Entry deadline is November 15th, 2012.

A second contest for unpublished authors

If you have a completed manuscript, you may be interested in ACFW’s Genesis Contest–also for unpublished authors. This year, entries in the Genesis must by complete manuscripts. This contest will open for entries January 2, 2013.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line