Friday, March 31, 2017

The Light: A Book Review

I admit it. I have a soft spot for novels that explore disasters and the way human beings behave following a cataclysmic event. (Not very well, as if often turns out.) If anyone checked the book list on my iPhone's Kindle app or my Nook, they'd find a good number of conspiracy, thriller, and apocalyptic books scattered among my online Bibles and both non-fiction and fiction Christian titles. It might be that I enjoy reading works I know I couldn't write, but deep down, I think I just enjoy the drama.

Happily, my need for disaster stories led me to The Light by Jacqueline Brown, and I'm glad it did. It tells the story of four college students--Bria, Josh, Blaise, and Sara--and is told from Bria's first person POV. On their way to warmer climates over their college's Thanksgiving break, their trip is cut short one night by "the light," which turns out to be an EMP. The country is under attack. Of course they have no way of knowing this until they're joined by two others, Jonah and his sister East, also stranded along the road, who suspect the worst. Their cars, iPhones, tablets, watches, and all lights are rendered useless. Stranded, helpless, and without any way to summon help, the six of them join forces and begin the grueling trek to Jonah's and East's home. Once there, Bria discovers these people know more about her, her dead mother, and her strangely aloof father back in Washington, D.C., than she knows herself.

Brown does a commendable job of combining the horrors of an attack on our country, the pain of being separated from loved ones during a disaster, a host of problems caused by the country being thrust back into the 1800s in an instant, a sweet love story, strong Christian values demonstrated by Jonah's and East's family, and a simmering rage felt by both Jonah and his family against a murderous neighbor into one exciting, fast-paced thriller. I heartily recommend The Light to anyone who loves an adventurous, well-written book.
******************

More information on author Jacqueline Brown and The Light can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/m78cbtm
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Querying 2017

Is there a need to write or learn how to write and adapt query letters in this day and age of 
anyone can publish anything anytime?

Even if you’re planning to self-publish, a query letter, even to yourself, helps you focus and should contribute to your marketing plan. Those authors who desire to become established with an agent who can net you good contracts with larger publishers, or a publisher you meet at a conference, need to continue to write competitive short queries.

Solving Common Writing Maladies

I spent three years teaching querying techniques at a week-long writer’s camp, Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp and Writer’s Retreat, Inc. I developed workshops in person and online before that. What qualifies me? Successful queries to both major and independent publishers—about eight, counting off the top of my head—and four agents. I’ve turned down a couple contract offers as well. I’ve also been rejected/denied/ignored by a very long list, with maybe half a dozen inviting me to query again.

The first time I taught, very seriously, at Bookcamp, I had just attended a Writer’s Digest day-long workshop on the subject, pitched to a large Chicago agent and received an invitation to submit my manuscript (which had already been optioned, but I didn’t share that). I put myself through this self-torture to get up to speed on the latest techniques to share with the writers at camp. Bottom line: Writer’s Digest is reputable. At NIP Bookcamp, we have literary agents attend our camp every year and offer a “slush pile” read to show the authors how their work is viewed when it crosses an agent’s desk. I thought our authors did a credible job in their practice queries and pitched. Then, on the night of the slush pile read, one of the agents made a disgusted face while reading them and proclaimed how the lessons and examples were all wrong and that Writer’s Digest didn’t know much. Of course I was mortified but I turned it into a teachable moment to show that EVERY AGENT AND PUBLISHER IS DIFFERENT. When I received a teary thank you note after the second year from one of those authors at camp who signed with a major New York literary agent a few months later, I felt justified. The author has since signed a multi-book deal with a large publisher—not a top five, but one that still pays advances and offers large scale promotion.

I share this with you because I recently sat in on a webinar by Reedsy, a website dedicated to helping writers succeed. This webinar featured a panel of five industry professionals with experience at the top five remaining international publishers who shared their preferences for acceptable queries. The webinar was not particularly well-done, but proved the point that each panelist had polar opposite preferences for successful queries. Scott Pack said, “It’s a relief when I find great writing.” Jim Thomas wanted a good hook and the reason the query was sent to him, along with an exceptional first line, but changed his tune later when the other four said a spectacular first line wasn’t as important to them. Katrina Diaz said she liked reading something that wasn’t “boring.” In general, the important point of a successful query is to stand out from the crowd. To some a typo wasn’t a deal breaker; others didn’t care if you only had a hundred Twitter followers.

So what makes a stand-out query? Do I start with my story or with my credentials? The agents all had different preferences. How do we win this game?

Consensus:
  • Show your unique voice in a manner that convinces the specifically targeted agent/publisher why he or she should invest in you.
  • Offer a compelling story in a way that proves you understand good writing.
  • Start your story sample with a clear intense visual.
  • But above all, study the market, become well acquainted with your target, and follow their submission RULES. If you can’t meet them face to face at a conference, meet them online and tailor a query to show that. 

Find a conference or Twitter pitch fest, watch Manuscript Wishlist #mswl. Learn industry demands. Study what’s been sold recently. Be professional. To expect someone to invest thousands of dollars in you, be a worthy risk.

If you choose to publish yourself, follow those same standards. Show readers that you understand what you are offering them and prepare to invest in yourself.


I’m not teaching querying this year at Bookcamp. Another pro will take the heat for that. But there’s still room for two or three more writers at camp. I’m running a writing clinic and I’d love to see you.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS by Isabel Wilkerson


Isabel Wilkerson
Vintage Books
Published 2010


Book Jacket Description:

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Isabel Wilkerson, chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. She interviewed more than a thousand individuals, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country and ourselves.

My Review:

What I liked: Although we cannot go back in time and change the evil ignorance of humankind, it is still valuable to know the atrocities committed against black citizens and the mindset of the persecutors and the persecuted. I've often heard people say, and indeed I have said this myself, "We cannot change history so why go back there. I didn't do anything so why make me feel guilty? Let's move forward!"

I found the answer to that statement in this book. To truly understand the present we must understand the past. Wilkerson chronicles the lives of three people, two who fled north and one who went west. Life was almost impossible for them before they left with their families for the new "promise lands" only to find prejudice and struggles for survival in their new found homes. While they did not have to worry as much about lynching, they still were victims of degrading, low-paying jobs and even worse living conditions than what they had left. However, they at least had the opportunity to speak their minds and to overcome, without fear for their lives, and they eventually prospered. Their children, however, were faced with new evils: gangs and drugs. These would never have been tolerated in the South. 

When I read about the violent protests in Chicago and New York City between the races all through they years of the migration, it occurred to me, nothing really changes. The protests we see today on the television are a mindset resulting decades ago. 

It is important to know the stories of others to understand them. One generation tells the next of their pasts and this trains the mind to react to any perceived injustice. This is true of all races in America. 
So, if you write historical fiction you need to read this book. 

What I didn't like: This book could have been at least 1/3 shorter. Wilkerson repeats A LOT of information, often as many as four times. It made me want to shout, "Okay, I get it!" It is as if she forgot that she'd already given us this information. But shouldn't an editor at Random House have caught that. Also, she switches back and forth between characters, and while that didn't really bother me, it lead her to repeat things she had already written. This made the book plodding and I kept skipping pages. 

All in all, this book is very much worth reading. It opened my eyes and made me less frustrated by the attitudes we see between the races today. I guess you could say it raised my mind to fully seeing an individual and my compassion for him or her. Plus, it is a wealth of information for any person writing a historical novel during that time period. 

 
Isabel Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize winner who devoted 15 years to the research and writing of The Warmth of Other Suns. She has worked as the Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York times, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African-American to win for individual reporting.


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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Four Things I Learned from the San Antonio Spurs

Google Free Images
Four Things I Learned from the San Antonio Spurs
I don't have an athletic bone in my body, but I am inspired by the San Antonio Spurs. They should be next to the word 'team' in the dictionary. Described as "a bunch of guys who have gotten over themselves," they get the work done. I love their determination and heart. Here's what has inspired my writing life by watching the Spurs.
1. Learn the basics. The Spurs have the basics of basketball down to a science, which makes for professional excellence. A writer needs to hone basic skills of grammar, sentence structure, properly formatting a manuscript, and adhering to submission guidelines to name a few. These basic skills separate a novice from a professional.
2.  Practice, practice, practice. The Spurs basic skills are taken to dizzying heights by their level of commitment to preparation. Countless hours of practice frame the beautiful strategy and logistics of their famous teamwork. Writers need to practice as well. Talking about writing, reading about writing, getting organized and joining social writing groups are all important, but that's not writing. Writing is writing. You can't edit or submit a blank page. Write. Just. Do. It.
3. Many counselors. My favorite team has a team – coaches, trainers, advisers, and all kinds of staff that help make them what they are. Writers must be willing to work with critique partners, editors, and agents. A team of prayer partners is essential. We've got to have a teachable spirit to have any kind of successful writing career. It takes the team.
4. Shoot. For basketball, it all comes down to the ball going through the hoop. All the practice and preparation hangs on the moment that ball makes successful contact. It took three attempts at one point in that Sunday game to make the basket, but they doggedly kept after it. A writer desiring publication has to submit. We have to get it out there, learn from our rejections, and submit again and again and again.
Learn the basics, practice, get counsel, and shoot. The Spurs' winning combination will serve a writer well.
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Time Travel with best selling author Deborah Heal

Once Again by Deborah Heal

Rewinding Time series, book 1

Deborah Heal

Paperback: $9.99
Ebook: 2.99

Others in the series:


About the Book:
Professor Merrideth Randall has a tool that other historians can only dream of—computer software that virtually rewinds time!

It comes in handy for historical research and for her sideline genealogy business. When her colleague physics professor Brett Garrison asks for help with his family tree she can’t resist, even though he’s far too attractive for her peace of mind. And amazingly, he seems to be pursuing her, despite the fact that everyone knows dating a co-worker is career suicide.

Using her software, Merrideth gets a first-hand look at Brett’s ancestors, the courageous pioneers of the Illinois Country who withstood Indian attacks, hardship, and loneliness to settle there in the 1780s. One of the settlers is James Garretson, who risked his life to take the Gospel to the very tribe that wreaked havoc on his family. Merrideth is amazed that he could forgive a crime so huge.

She would love to tell Brett that he is descended from heroes, and that he inherited his black hair and green eyes from James Garretson. But she is determined to safeguard her program, and discretion is not Brett’s strong suit. She also has secrets about herself that she’d just as soon he didn’t find out either.

One virtue Brett does have is patience, and he’s quite willing to wait for Merrideth to figure things out.

Lisa's Review:
Little Merri Randall is all grown up in this new series from inspirational time master Deborah Heal. She’s followed her dream of becoming a young PhD history professor at a southern Illinois college. It’s been years since her childhood encounters with a dangerous and mysterious software program called Beautiful Houses. When she accidentally? rediscovers the program not only still exists and is just as active as ever, curiosity overcomes her good sense and she is once again drawn back to explore time.

Merredith uses the program to help her in both her work and private side business, researching family history. She has grown up reluctant to share herself with others, a definite lack of trust in others and even to a certain extent her own abilities and gifts. When the physics professor sets his sights on her, Merri has a lot to overcome, especially her teaching mentor, to believe anyone might be personally interested in her.

Told from Merredith’s viewpoint throughout, this story and series is a history lover’s dream. Because the character is a professor, her lectures that include blocks of rote history are a natural part of the story, as are the fascinating dialog sharing dates and people. Merri’s trips through time provide a virtual visit to experience life in the late eighteenth century literally through those people’s heads.

Just a fascinating series with excellent research. While science is not discounted, the details of the software’s ability to provide virtual time travel experience for the user doesn’t hinder the reader. The books are part of a series, and while a reader can pick up any story and read it with enough information from the past books to make sense of the particular story arc, you’ll want to read the whole series. I know I will. Recommended for those who love plucky wounded females with a side of romance while reading their history.


Note: Time and Again, the first book in the History Mystery trilogy sert before this series, is available free from Amazon Kindle
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Researching Beyond the Internet

One of my new favorite authors, Cindy Huff, offers some tips on research:

When I started research for my historical romance, Secrets and Charades, I discovered although the internet has lots of information it's never enough. I knew my heroine was a doctor who goes west as a mail-order bride. Her destination needed research. The library had far more information than the internet.  There were atlases from the period showing the train routes were in 1872. I knew Evangeline would marry a rancher, so the maps helped me visualize the route for the cattle drive scenes.

A variety of books on female doctors in the 1800s were available. These women endured prejudice and the abusive attitude of society toward career women. Especially those in what was considered a man’s role. Female doctors had to be strong-willed and determined. Otherwise, society squelched their dreams for success. Men hesitated an often avoided being treated by a female doctor. And many wives were uncomfortable with a single woman examining their husband.   These facts helped build Evangeline’s back story.

A dear family friend is a lover of all books historical and is a Civil War Reenactor. Chris shared some of his extensive library with me. Biographies of pioneer women. Diaries and journals of the time. He also explained in great detail the various guns of the period. I learned a bullet travels faster than the speed of sound. Which meant you saw a victim fall before you heard the gunfire. The scene I created around a gunshot was edited to hearing the gunfire first. After I shared my knowledge with the editor the passage was left as I wrote it.

I visited a few Civil War Reenactments. Thus, my heroine formulated her desire to become a doctor while serving as a nurse during the War between the States. My hero, Jake was a confederate soldier. Backstories for my characters evolved from what I learned from the reenactors I spoke with.
 Soldier's Heart was a common malady veterans suffered. PTSD is the term used today. The symptoms can encompass depression, anger, fear, and hallucinations. Many of the cowhands on the Double M ranch are veterans from both sides of the conflict. Jake struggled to put the war behind him.

I interviewed the Reenactor posing as the doctor. The medical instruments look gruesome. He told a story of a doctor who cut his finger while tending a patient. He amputated his finger to keep from getting gangrene.  The dressing wasn’t always changed or wounds cleaned properly. Infection was the biggest enemy a doctor fought. Hand-washing as a medical practice was scoffed at by established doctors. Female doctors were more willing to embrace the new discovery regarding germs and antiseptics.

Photos and reproductions of mail-order catalogs are a great research tool. They tell a different story of the 1800s than movies. I am always sad to see the movie costumes less than accurate. A long dress and shoulder length doesn’t cut it for me. Most women wore their hair pinned up or braided. Loose falling hair was considered inappropriate in public.

Women’s fashions in the 1870s were different from the Civil War period. Hoop skirts had been replaced with bustles. Corsets, however, continued to torture women. Patterned flour sacks were the material of choice for the poor to make clothes. Flour companies produced a variety of patterns for their sacks. Most women made their own clothes. Others wove their own yarn.  Mercantiles carried catalogs for customers to order things not available in their store. And it was common for customers to establish credit and pay after crops or cattle were sold.

Portions of these historical tidbits found a place in my story, creating a believable setting for my character-driven story.

About Cindy:
cindy-2016Cindy Ervin Huff is the winner of the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributor to Splickety Publishing Group’s anthology and has been featured on Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog, ChristianDevotions.us, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois. Visit Cindy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyehuff, follow her on www.twitter.com/CindyErvinHuff, or connect with her at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com.

cindys-bookJake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.
Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she travels west to become Jake’s wife.
Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage?



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Monday, March 13, 2017

Off to the The Land of the Midnight Sun

It's official. As soon as we're able to find a home to rent, my daughter Darice, granddaughter Molly, and I will be returning to Alaska. I say returning because prior to moving to Tennessee, we lived on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage for four years. So we're familiar with the area and will be returning to our old stomping grounds. Although she has no recollection of it, Molly was born there and lived the first eleven months of her life in Alaska. Darice is a licensed veterinary technician and was offered a wonderful job in Anchorage, so we'll be moving in about six weeks. What does this mean and why is it important enough to use valuable blog post space talking about it? Because it's just one more example of life stepping in to mess up our schedules.

Here I am, looking about five years old,
getting ready to drive to Alaska. Wait!
That's not right. We're flying, not driving,
to Alaska. Silly me. (And that's not me,
by the way, but that's not important.)
Last month I talked about life getting in the way of our plans and how frustrating it can be for a writer (although this applies to anyone) to be interrupted by life when we least expect it. And yes, a move to Alaska from Tennessee could be called an interruption without stretching the imagination even the teeniest bit. Although we had talked about a move back to the Last Frontier at some future date, it was always just a pipe dream until the job was offered. But despite having foreknowledge of our eventual intent, when it really happened it took us by surprise.

I immediately wondered how this huge move would affect my writing. It didn't take long to realize it wouldn't, at least not after the frustrations of the move itself. Years ago, it would've been a problem. Let's face it, Alaska isn't the center of the writing world (with apologies to Alaskan writers, one of which I'm about to become), most huge national conferences aren't held there, and it wouldn't have been as easy to send out manuscripts with the long distances involved. But these days it poses no problem whatsoever.

Granted, a lot of conferences aren't held in Alaska, but that also can be said about Hawaii or any other difficult to reach area. Most writers, presenters, publishers, editors, and agents have to travel some distance to get to one. With the means of travel available these days, it's only a matter of hours before one can reach just about anywhere in the country. Submissions are a breeze with email whether it's to a publishing house or an agent. Even writing groups can remain intact while members live hundreds or even thousands of miles apart with Skype and emails. My point is that writers will write, no matter the circumstances, location, time zone, or distance from other writers. In today's technologically advanced world (and believe me, I'm the first one to criticize the very thing I'm praising), we can do so much more no matter where we live and work than we could even ten years ago.

The only downside I can see about this move to Alaska, aside from the obvious one of not being able to see my family and friends as often, is that I can't use it to complain about not having the time to write. 

Time to step up to the plate, Deb, and stop bellyaching. 


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Friday, March 10, 2017

The Newest of Christian Titles!

March 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:reunion-at-crane-lake
Reunion at Crane Lake
by Robin Bayne -- Colt's memory is returning after the accident that ended his career. Now he wants to take over his family's inn, but he'll have to partner with his former fiancée to be able to afford it. He'll need forgiveness to make that happen. Tia's goal is clear: to return the inn to its former grandeur. And she'll even work with Colt to do so. But like the inn, their relationship needs a lot of work. He broke her heart...can she ever trust him again? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

hope
Hope
by Fay Lamb -- She's a starving artist facing a serious illness; he's the doctor who's her only hope of survival. If only she hadn't caused his sister to die. (Contemporary Romance from Write Integrity Press)

muffins-&-moonbeams
Muffins & Moonbeams
by Elizabeth Maddrey -- Malachi Baxter is happy to hide in the background and manage the business-end of the family bakery. He'd much rather live in the online world of computer games where he can explore the galaxy and no one has to know he's deaf. Ursula Franks designs websites during the day and spends her evenings battling alien races online where relationships are easy and uncomplicated. When she agrees to design a website for the local Community Supported Bakery, she has no idea that Malachi is the real man behind her online persona's best friend and her own secret crush.As the two work together on the website, they uncover an attraction, but will they be able to put aside past hurt and insecurity to find love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

hope
Then Came You: A Bradford Sisters Novella
by Becky Wade -- Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn't know much about babies. But he's going to have to learn fast because he's just become a single father to his newborn daughter. Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can't seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart.... (Romance Novella, Independently Published)

General:when-the-bough-breaks
When the Bough Breaks
by Ane Mulligan -- Her dream job has a Catch 22—and time's running outRookie lobbyist Sienna O'Shea is determined to make a name for herself in New York's capitol city and use that influence to gain easier access to her birth records. For years she's searched for her birth mother, but when she's handed her first assignment—to lobby support for the permanent sealing of all adoption records—her worlds collide. Swept up into the intrigue of backroom politics, falling in love was not on Sienna's agenda, but the candidate for Lt. Governor runs a formidable campaign to make her his first lady. When an investigative reporter discovers foreign money infiltrating political campaigns, the trail leads to Sienna's inner circle. (General, Independently Published)

the-memory-of-you
The Memory of You
by Catherine West -- Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her? (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Cozy Mystery:murder-is-no-accident
Murder Is No Accident
by A. H. Gabhart -- When murder comes to call at a stately Victorian house, the town of Hidden Springs looks to Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane to solve the crime before anyone else dies. (Cozy Mystery from Revell [Baker])

Historical Romance:a-rocky-mountain-romance
A Rocky Mountain Romance
by Misty M. Beller -- When Zeche takes shelter from a blizzard in a remote cabin, he doesn't expect to find a beautiful woman and her father, a disturbed Civil War veteran. Zeche's instincts tell him Greta is endangered and he should stay and protect her, but his own presence aggravates her father's condition. With a dangerous snowstorm outside and growing hostilities inside, can he find a way to keep them all safe from harm? Or will it be to the detriment of his heart? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

a-stolen-heart
A Stolen Heart
by Amanda Cabot -- From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners--like her. Lydia won't let that get her down, though. All will be well when she's reunited with her fiancé. But when she discovers he has disappeared--and that he left behind a pregnant wife--Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

carmela's-quandary
My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmela's Quandary by Susan Page Davis -- Experience the Wild West as Carmela seeks freedom of body and soul. Forced for years by her uncle to pose as a survivor of an Indian kidnapping so he can profit on the speaker circuit, she longs to end the lies. On a stagecoach in Arizona Territory, Carmela and her uncle are fellow passengers with a deputy US marshal and his handcuffed prisoner. When the stage is attacked, will Carmela's wish come true, or will she forever be branded by her past? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

desert-moon-and-honor-bound
Desert Moon & Honor Bound
by Susan Page Davis and Colleen L. Reece -- Enjoy an Old West romance adventure from author Susan Page Davis. Julia Newman looked forward to moving home to Arizona, then she got word that her mother has died and Julie's stagecoach is robbed. If that wasn't enough, the first person she sees in town is Adam Scott—the man she always loved but could never have—and now he is accusing her brother of criminal activity. Also includes a bonus historical romance, Honor Bound by Colleen L. Reece. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

her-motherhood-wish
Her Motherhood Wish
by Keli Gwyn -- En route to the Double T Orphanage to work on its expansion, carpenter Chip Evans and Caroline Hunt discover two orphaned children—and become their caregivers. But Chip's determined not to let himself get too attached to the children who just lost their widowed father…or to the lovely woman helping him care for them. Especially since Callie and the little ones just don't fit into his detailed plans for the future. Callie can't help but fall in love with the orphans, and despite her better judgment, she's falling for Chip, too. Her dreams of being a wife and mother were not quite like this. But Callie believes a plan bigger than Chip's brought them all together…and now she just has to help him see it, too. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

the-planter's-daughter
The Planter's Daughter
by Michelle Shocklee -- When her father's Texas cotton plantation faces bankruptcy, Adella must choose between the man who can her family's land and the man who can save her! (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

when-tides-turn
When Tides Turn
by Sarah Sundin -- When Quintessa Beaumont learns the US Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, eager to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. Lt. Dan Avery employs his skills in antisubmarine warfare to fight U-boats at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, but the last thing he wants to see on his radar is fun-loving Tess. As Dan and Tess work together in Boston, the changes in Tess challenge his notions--and his heart. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

Medical Suspense:agent-in-training
Doctor's Dilemma
by Richard L. Mabry M.D. -- Young surgeon Tyler Gentry thought the offer to join the Hall Group of surgeons offered the answer to his problems, but things changed when he received a 3 AM phone call that told him such a move would be hazardous to his health. (Medical Suspense, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:her-baby's-protector
Her Baby's Protector
by Margaret Daley and Susan Sleeman -- Saved by the Lawman by Margaret Daley: As an unknown assailant attempts to kidnap family-court judge Kate Forster's infant son, police officer Chase Walker thwarts the attack—and vows to keep the pair safe. But who will protect the ex-marine's heart when the widowed mother and her little boy make him long for a permanent spot in their family? Saved by the SEAL by Susan Sleeman: The tragedy that killed Bree Hatfield's best friends--and left her with custody of their young daughter--has been ruled an accident. But Bree knows it was murder. Scared and alone, she turns to her ex-boyfriend, navy SEAL Clint Reed, who'll risk everything to protect baby Ella and the woman he never stopped loving. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

agent-in-training
Agent-in-Training
by Terri Reed -- FBI intern Zara Fielding and her K-9 partner, Radar, stumble across a robbery gone wrong and put themselves in the criminals' crosshairs. Her childhood friend FBI computer guru Dylan O'Leary works for the secretive FBI unit she longs to join, and he vows not to let anything happen to her. As they work to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, new feelings ignite. When she goes missing, it's only Dylan--and Radar--who can track her down. Will they arrive in time to save her and the future she and Dylan have started dreaming about? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:ingrid's-engagement
Ingrid's Engagement
by Kristen Reed -- When King Viggo marches through the kingdom of Schlagefilde in a relentless quest for retribution against its wicked king, the Count of Anselm attempts to make peace with him. As the two strike a deal that will protect the people of Anselm, the King of Villriket becomes enthralled with a portrait of the Count's oldest daughter, Ingrid. The vengeful king vows that he will leave Edmund's county in peace if he will allow him to marry Ingrid. To prevent her father from incurring the sovereign's wrath, the young lady hastily agrees and enters into an unforeseen engagement with the grim ruler. Ingrid's Engagement tells the enchanting tale of a beautiful young woman who softens the hardened heart of a beastly king with nothing more than her quiet wisdom and gentle spirit. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

CHARACTERIZATION: THE ELEMENT EDGE


Before my first novel debuted the publisher sent it to several beta readers. One was a gentleman whose comment I'll never forget. He said to the editor, "The author is spot on with the dialogue. She did a phenomenal job of giving all the characters different voices to where the reader could distinguis them easily." He went on to say that he didn't know if I took extra care with that aspect or if I were a natural, but that either way, I nailed it. 

Wow, that was really nice to hear! And he was right, I did take extra care while developing my characters—four women friends who were too old to be young, but way to young to be old! The method I use when creating a character is personality profiles. 

If you are not familiar with these profiles, they are simply a tool to identify the strengths and challenges of a person's temperament. All of them are basically the same, but some are more understandable than others. My first introduction to this study was through Tim Lahaye's Spirit Controlled Temperament where he tells of Hippocrates' belief that people can be categorized into four groups based on dominant body fluids. I found this fascinating. I could easily identify myself and everyone in my family after reading this book and it helped me to more readily accept them. It also helped me to work on my challenges and develop my strengths. A few years later Florence Littauer wrote Personality Plus. I liked this book because it was written from a woman's point of view. She also used Hippocrates' theory. Then Pastor Gary Smalley used animals to identify the four personality types: A lion, Golden Retriever, beaver, and otter. However, the profile identification I like best is the one Laurie Beth Jones's book, The Four Elements of Success, uses the elements: fire, water, wind, and earth. (Not the Zodiac signs by the way. She just uses what we can identify by observation) My only regret about this book is its focus on team building on a corporate level, but it still gives a great visual and shows how each element interacts with the other. 

All teach that people have all four elements but usually two are dominate. For instance, my dominate trait is water and wind. Like water, I'm reflective. I carry the heavy loads of others, lacking the ability to say, "Oh well, he will just have learn from that mistake." Oh no, I want to fix it and make people feel better. Other people's problems keep me up at night. I flow with most any situation and I can conform to any group. If something gets in my way, I go around it. Like wind I'm playful. I like to lift people up, scatter idea seeds, give breath to the weary. I'm also very scattered. My office looks like a tornado blew through! 

I won't take the time here to teach the elements, (which I do at conferences) but I will give a short explanation of how my characters are unique from each other according to the personality I assigned them. 

Avalee is earth/water. Like earth she is solid and supportive, grounded and nurturing, she is productive and goal-oriented. And as earth is the source of materials, she can be materialistic. 
Like water she carries heavy loads, is reflective and has deep feelings. 

Jema is water/earth, but she is very different from Avalee because her dominate element is water and you will see her acting more like water than earth. In addition to the water characteristics of Avalee, Jema is refreshing and sparkles. She easily conforms to any situation and has a tendency to give in. She doesn't seek the spotlight, rather is more comfortable seeking the lowest level. As in earth she is nurturing and supportive.

Lexi is fire/wind. She blazes paths no one else will try. She wants to shed the light on every situation. Her temper easily flares and she is impulsive. And just like fire draws everyone's attention, so does she. Her wind makes her funny and playful. She can be her own firestorm.

Molly Kate is earth/fire. She is supportive, grounded, productive and nurturing. But you better believe she will shine the light of truth and set you straight.

As I write scenes with all four women, I know how they will act, react, and interact. I know what their body language will be like, how they will phrase their words and what they will be thinking. This method has served me well. So if you want to give it a try, read about the personalities. Don't worry about reading all the books I mentioned. Below shows how each is grouped:

Earth/Beaver/Melancholy
Water/Golden Retriever/Phlegmatic
Wind/Otter/Sanguine
Fire/Lion/Choleric

Have fun with this!










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Monday, March 6, 2017

Perspicacious Prepositions



Image result for preposition

by Lisa Lickel

Preposition—one of those words you hear all the time, but when asked point blank to define, you stutter, right? About the only thing you remember about a preposition is that we’re not supposed to end a sentence with one. Of course, that depends on knowing for sure what it is and how you’re using it.

One of my new favorite grammar guides, the Blue Book of Grammar, defines a preposition as a word or brief phrase that defines a relationship between words in a sentence. They may be words of location (near, on, toward, past) which requires an object. They may indicate direction (to, along, upon), or placement (amid, next to, in front of); they will generally be placed in front of a noun or pronoun. They will answer how? (with, regardless, in spite of) or where? (inside, behind, down) or when? (at, on, in).

If you’re not having fun yet, Grammar Revolution offers a list prepositions organized by—yes! song! Or 70 of them just alphabetically.



The English Grammar Club lists 150 prepositions which you can memorize and pat yourself {preposition alert} (on) the back. 

Problems occur most often when our lovely English mutt language fails us in precision. We have many words that have multiple functions and meanings. “Like” is one of the most common. It can be a verb (I like you, you like me…) which is an action, or it can be preposition of comparison used to relate two words which are noun/pronoun/object, but not noun/verb. (Your glasses look like mine. NOT Your glasses look like mine do. [Which makes us want to ask, do what?]) “Onto” is also often misused for a similar reason. In its verb form, into is a verb of motion. Grammar Girl says if you can’t jump onto whatever you’re describing, then don’t use onto. I’ll go a step further to point out if you can eliminate on or to or both, go ahead.

“Hold onto the rail!” is so wrong… Hold on to the rail. “Hold the rail” is the simplest form but can be misleading since “hold” is a word with multiple meanings. “Hold” and “Hold on!” is the shortest version of the sentence, with “on” an adverb that describes the way to hold and “to” joins the verb to the noun “rail.” “Here, hold my purse.” is a sentence which needs no preposition. Generally, sentences describing motion do not need a preposition.

Problem two is colloquialism. You might hear someone mouthing off at the local tap something like, “You should of done it, Hank.” No, Hank would never of done that when he should have done this. Of is a preposition which if necessary would show a relationship between Hank and the object of the sentence, “it.” "Have" is an adverb that attaches to the verb “done.” Prepositions attach to nouns.

Capital Community College Foundation has a great page with particular examples and quizzes about prepositions here.

Image courtesy of K5 Learnng https://goo.gl/images/6UqLNb
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Friday, March 3, 2017

Insight by Deborah Raney

Olivia Cline loses her husband in a tragic accident, just as they are trying to start over in a new town and recover from his affair. This leaves her in a strange town with financial stress heaped upon her grief. 

Reed Vincent is an accomplished artist who has a health issue that threatens his career. He fears not only losing his ability to paint but also not getting to watch his niece and nephew grow up. 

Their paths cross when Reed hires Olivia as his assistant. A match seemingly made in heaven seems imminent, but Olivia not only discovers a shocking event that will change her future, as well as a "chilling" connection between Reed and her dead husband.

I enjoyed this well-written book. The sweet romance laced with unexpected plot twists make it interesting.  The very hard decisions that Olivia must make are heart-wrenching, and Reed's overwhelming care for her is touching. Highly recommended.

About the Author

DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years and more than thirty books later, she’s still creating stories that touch hearts and lives. Her novels have won the RITA Award, the Carol Award, the HOLT Medallion, National Readers’ Choice Award, and have three times been Christy Award finalists. She and husband, Ken Raney, traded small-town life in Kansas for life in the city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away.
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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Value of Story Songs

I love a good story.

I mean, I wouldn't be an author if I didn't, right?

But I also love music. And while I like love songs and instrumentals as much as the next person, I find something special in a good story song.

If you're not familiar with what I'm talking about, the contrast is pretty obvious if you look at the progression of a non-story song versus one with a story woven into its lyrics.

Take, for instance, the old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers dance number, The Continental:

Beautiful music, dangerous rhythm
It's something daring, the continental
A way of dancing, that's really ultra-new
It's very subtle, the continental
Because it does what you want it to do

It has a passion, the continental
An invitation to moonlight and romance
It's quite the fashion, the continental
Because you tell of your love while you dance

Your lips whisper so tenderly
Her eyes answer your song
Two bodies swing, the continental
And you are saying just what you're thinking of
So keep on dancing, the continental
For it's the song of romance and of love

You kiss while you're dancing
It's continental, it's continental
You sing while you're dancing
Your voice is gentle and sentimental

You'll know before the dance is through
That you're in love with her and she's in love with you
And you'll find while you're dancing
That there's a rhythm in your heart and soul
A certain rhythm that you can't control
And you will do the continental all the time

Beautiful music, dangerous rhythm
Beautiful music, dangerous rhythm
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/fred-astaire/the-continental-lyrics/#lbOm7ZETP6uwh887.99

Then, you have Slim Jim and the Seven Eleven Girl by one of my favorite Celtic artists, Gaelic Storm:
He saw her every day she was working at the 7-Eleven,
He would buy two hot dogs or some nachos or a Slim Jim
so that he could see her pretty face then he
got up the nerve to ask her out one day
and she replied flat out, "no chance, no way"
but in my mind this is what he heard her say

Will you meet me on the corner
I'll be wearing something pretty just for you
you can hold my hand, kiss my cheek; we'll be together forever
you may be the very best thing that ever happened to me

Well she must have forgotten or dog got sick or something like that
'cause he waited on that corner, hour after hour
then he went back to his flat by himself and watched TV
but the very next day he tried again, and she replied
"not if every other man on this earth were dead" but I swear
this is what he thought she said

Will you meet me on the corner
I'll be wearing something pretty just for you
you can hold my hand, kiss my cheek: we'll be together forever
you may be the very best thing that ever happened to me

Well, he could not help himself, so he begged her just to listen
to what he had to say, he said that beauty is only skin deep
it's what's inside that counts, she said "alright" so he told her
all about how he likes to take long walks in the park, sunsets,
riding motorcycles, watching foreign movies, reading books about
lands that are far far away, and how one day he's gonna travel round the world
singing songs about people and places and finally
she said the words that he heard in his head, she said "Okay, shut up!

I will you meet you on the corner
I'll be wearing something pretty just for you
you can hold my hand, kiss my cheek; we'll be together forever
you may be the very best thing that ever happened to me"
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/gaelic-storm/slim-jim-and-the-seven-eleven-girl-lyrics/#THaXH6SkpsOXzfK3.99
The contrast is clear. In The Continental, they're singing about a dance. There's really not a rise and fall to a story, although the singer describes the feelings as they are dancing.

In Slim Jim, it's a clear progression: Boy meets girl, asks girl out, girl finds boy disgusting, but he doesn't let that stop him. He convinces her to go out with him, and she finally relents, and you end with the hope of a promising future between Slim Jim and his Seven Eleven girl. If you follow K.M. Weiland's story arc series over on her blog, this kind of song follows a clear progression in a story arc. It may not hit the same timing points as in a novel, but in under four minutes, you have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Country music as well as Celtic artists seem to be especially adept at weaving stories into their songs, but they're not the only ones.

Here are some additional examples of story songs:

 Mack the Knife -- Bobby Darin (this may seem like an odd example, but read into the words. There's definitely a story here.)
Human to a God -- Gaelic Storm (a sad story song)
El Paso -- Marty Robins

Tell me, what are some of your favorite story songs? Do find story songs more engaging than other types of songs? What's something you've learned about writing from story songs?
Copyright notice: Slim Jim and the Seven Eleven Girl is copyright 2008 from Gaelic Storm's "What's The Rumpus?" album. The author of this post uses the lyrics for illustration purposes only. 
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