Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Wedding Journey by Cheryl St. John: Irish Brides Series: Inspy Historical Romance Book Review

Back of the Book

The mysterious inheritance is the answer to a prayer. Now Irish lass Maeve Murphy and her sisters can come to America! She's sure happiness awaits her, even if it won't--can't--come from widowed ship doctor Flynn Gallagher. Yes, he made her his assistant, but she's not foolish enough to fall for the man all the eligible, wealthy female passengers admire.

Flynn Gallagher may have his pick of ladies, but only one cares as he does for the sick and poor. Flynn vowed never to marry another woman who could break his heart. With Maeve, has his heart found safe harbor at last?

This one makes me want to say, "Ah." An old fashioned love story. A very old fashioned love story, and I LOVED it.

This is the first book (of three) in the Irish Brides series, a continuity series about three sisters, written by three different authors. I don’t know the exact details about continuity series, but my understanding is that the Love Inspired editors think up the series, creating a series bible, and then ask different authors if they would like to write the different books. It sounds like a lot of fun to me!  

Cheryl St. John kicked it off with The Wedding Journey. I found it intriguing, and also very cool, that this was a “road trip” story that took place pretty much entirely from the time the sisters boarded a ship in Castleville, Ireland (in 1850) until disembarking in America. It’s the time of the Irish potato famine, and these very strong, very brave young women are destitute. The inheritance, a house, is their only hope for survival. 

This one is Maeve’s story. When the ship’s physician sees her expertly helping an injured person, he asks her if she would be his assistant on board the ship. Though reluctant, she finally recognizes that God is calling her to do so. While on board, Maeve meets many people, some of whom are friendly towards her and her sisters, and others who believe they are superior because the sisters are poor and they are rich.

It’s partly because Flynn, the doctor, comes from this class of people that Maeve feels she would never be his type, although he never behaves in a superior fashion toward her or anyone. Flynn has his own reasons for not wanting to be in a relationship with Maeve, but they are not at all what she thinks.

This is a romance, and so the destination--love, marriage, and happily-ever-after--is never a surprise. But the journey of falling in love is unique with every romance written.

I never give star ratings to books I review, but I will say that this was one of my favorite Love Inspireds, from a line that is full of wonderful, wonderful books.    

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Six Reasons to Love Throughline (Interactive Index Card Software)

While revising my manuscript over the past two weeks, I was chugging along, no problems, following my notes about what needs to be added/changed/deleted from each scene as I revise it. I had already dumped all scenes that do not fit into the revised concept for my story.

But then, on Monday, when I was four scenes away from the big turning point at half, I discovered I needed a way to see, in a highly abbreviated form, what's been happening in each scene, in each of the story's four throughlines. That way I will know if, emotionally speaking, I have adequately set up the big thing that happens at half. You might be a gifted writer who can keep all of this in your head. Unfortunately, I am not.

How to do that easily? I had originally thought that yWriter would do the trick for me. It has a story boarding component to it, but working with it, I felt boxed in. I had long since pulled everything out of it and gone back to using Microsoft Word.

So, what was I to do? I could use the painstaking, time-consuming process of writing it out on scene cards. Ugh. Are you as tired of that process as I am?

Then I poked around the web and discovered Throughline by the Wright Brothers, who also developed Dramatica Pro, which I love. Here's six reasons why I love "The Deck," as it's called, and you might too:

  1. You are working from your computer to create and arrange the index cards. No writing them in pencil until you fingers cramp, and then standing on your head, arranging all those cards on the carpet. The carpet, which you suddenly become all too aware that you haven't vacuumed for two weeks. Maybe more.  
  2. You can add and delete cards with a single click. If you want only the scene title to show up on your card, you can do that, and then double-click for scene contents. I like having it all up front, and so I write everything on the front of the card. Oh, the glory of having a bird's eye view of my manuscript, from my computer screen! 
  3. Editing content is SO EASY, compared to index cards. Add, subtract, cut, paste, change font, text color, size--if you want to get that fancy with it. 
  4. To rearrange, just drag and drop.
  5. You can have as many cards as you want in a row by re-sizing all from the lower right of the screen. Because I am now ordering my manuscript by Dramatica Pro's Signposts and Journeys, and every story is comprised of four throughlines, each with a total of four signposts and three journeys, I've set my cards (see above), according to that. (Note on image above: you are not looking at the complete manuscript, but only to the halfway point.) I've given each throughline a different colored card, so I am aware at a glance of what's happening in each one, and where the characters are emotionally in each. By Dramatica "rules," if you are working in Signpost 2, for example, then each of the four throughline Signpost 2 scenes need to be completed before moving on to Journey 2, although they do not need to be completed in the same order each time. The colored cards show me this at a glance. 
  6. You can also export this information and print it up.

Here's another great reason: It costs only $9.95, and you have it forever, for every manuscript you write. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Goal Update Monday, and a treat from George Winston

Hubby and I saw the incomparable George Winston in concert this past Tuesday evening. Like any artist at the top of his form, he is a good example of the virtuosity one can achieve after countless hours of practice. He adapts some pieces and writes others. His season suites are so evocative that I can hear, for example, the individual colors of leaves blowing in an autumn breeze. Or raindrops coalescing and then finally dropping.

As for my goal update:

Writing: Once again, I didn't come very close to reaching my 32-hour goal. I wrote for 25 hours. Almost every day during the week, hubby needed me to help move trucks, tractors and combines! It's my new, part-time job, which I have taken over for my 88-year-old father-in-law, and am happy to do so. On Friday, machinery moving took four hours, alas.

But I met my word goal, which is the important one: I have now revised 24,600 words. If I can keep up this pace, I will be finished in a month, which will give me another month to do a line edit. I'm planning to enter this manuscript in the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart contest, Young Adult category. The GH opens for enrollment on Wednesday; the full manuscript must be submitted early in December.

Blogging: No goal, except to keep it at or below eight hours each week. I spent 8.5--not too bad of an overage.

Jogging: Goal is 16 miles, no more, no less. I met that goal, although I'm going to change the program in my Polar F60 beginning tomorrow. I currently have it set for weight loss, but I now want to work on increasing my cardiovascular fitness instead. I'll be changing it to a more demanding program. I won't be jogging any more than 16 miles, but will be pushing myself harder to reduce my minutes-per-mile.

Reading: I finished Mistaken Bride by Renee Ryan and started Lady Outlaw by Stacie Henrie. This line from Lady Outlaw made me chuckle:
"Through the blue twilight smearing the western sky, Jennie spotted the familiar outline of the corral fence. Home."
This is an action-packed adventure romance, and so I wasn't looking for poetic prose. But this appears to be   the extent of her nod to literary description. Again, I'm not saying this as a criticism, but merely as an observation.

Life in General: Hubbie still hasn't had time to finish painting the outside of the house, and I haven't given a thought to the rooms inside that still need painting. Nor will we be able to fly down to Utah, as we'd hoped before fall planting season. We have run out of time for the time being.

How was your week? I hope you met all of  your goals, writing or otherwise. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Who are You Writing To?

When we’re working on a manuscript, it’s helpful to have a visual in mind of our audience. Charlotte Rains Dixon wrote a post on it recently, which I mentioned in last Friday’s link roundup.

I don’t have much trouble visualizing the teenage girls that I’m writing to as I revise my Young Adult manuscript. It's a contemporary romance about two teens, one with a very big dream and the other who, it would appear, is okay with “ordinary.” It takes place in think "Music Man" small town America.

I have seen plenty of girls (and their mothers) in the library where I used to work, who would enjoy this book, or one like it. 

They’re probably not the girls who frequent the library sporting shades of hair from blue to orange, and wear short, skin-tight skirts and army boots with four-inch heels. I have nothing against these girls, but they are probably not my target audience. 

The purple haired girls are the hip and trendy girls, or the geeky, maybe wanabe hip and trendy girls. It's possible that they might go for the type of book I write. My heroines are not Buffy. They are not Bella. They may not single-handedly save the world, but they're not passive wimps either. Their world is smaller in scope, school and community-sized, actually, but certainly important to them and the people sharing it. They are also girls who want and need a great boyfriend!

Mostly, I envision my audience to be the other girls, and there are just as many, possibly more, of them as the blue-haired girls. They are the popular girls and the girls who are being homeschooled, and/or are from strongly conservative backgrounds. They're the girls whose mothers try to exert some control over what their daughters are reading. 

When I was a children's librarian, these mothers frequently came and counseled with me about appropriate titles for their daughters, and  became irate when they discovered their daughters had stuffed books for an older, or more worldly-wise, YA audience into their checkout bags.

As authors, we need to be true to ourselves and write books that reflect who we are, our values, what we like to read and, what we want to offer our audience. We write to an audience that shares similar tastes and values.

Who is your audience? Who are you writing to?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lilac Wedding in Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad

Back of the book:

When she ran away from the juvenile home she was raised in, Cat Barker left more than an unstable childhood behind. She also left her first love, Jake Stone. The two had more in common than anyone understood, but neither knew how to trust. Now Cat needs help, and there's only one person she can turn to—Jake, her daughter's secret father. Though Cat can see the tender man she once cared for, she still fears love and marriage. Until a daunting challenge renews her faith—and teaches them all a lesson about trust.

This book was an exceptionally tender-hearted read, as well as a page-turner. Jake Stone and Cat Barker met when they were teenagers living in a home run by the state. There, they fell in love, but Cat didn't have enough self esteem to believe that he could truly love her, and so she ran away at 18. He was pretty sure he wasn’t good husband and father material anyway, as he was raised by an abusive father.

Years go by. Jake becomes a wealthy gambler in Las Vegas, sending Cat some money every year. When illness threatens her life, and there is no one to take care of Jake’s secret child, Cat takes their little girl to meet her daddy. Jake persuades Cat to travel with him to Dry Creek to attend his brother’s wedding. As Cat’s health worsens, Jake’s love and fears for her and their daughter grow.    

This is a prodigal son story, which seems to be a staple to inspirational romance, and I can understand why. In this story, Jake not only finds his way home to the small town of Dry Creek and his family, but to God as well.

Apparently this is the 20th book Janet Tronstad has written in the Dry Creek series, some contemporary and some historical. I will definitely be reading more. Wildflower Bride in Dry Creek is already sitting on a shelf, waiting to be read ... 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Goal Update Monday

Do you like to hold yourself accountable for how you spend your time? I do too. I'm planning to use my blog today, and if I decide I like doing it, every Monday, as a place for personal and public accountability. My goal is to spend 32 hours each week on my manuscript.

If you're interested in doing the same on your blog, or if you already do, drop in a comment. I'll visit you and give you praise or encouragement!

Writing: I did not meet my goal. I wrote for 23.25 hours and revised 12,000 words.

Blogging: I don't have a goal for this, but I love to read blogs. I am currently subscribed to 606 blogs. I am social and nosy, and I prefer reading blog posts to Facebook.

But I dumped a hundred or more blogs this past week (my total subscriptions had numbered 700+); they were fabulous blogs, but all of the category I had labeled as "Artful." When I was working full time, I didn't even try to keep up on the 250-500 new posts that show up in Google Reader each day, but now I have more time; I can actually do it, although I needed to dump the artful blogs (scrapbooking, home decorating, food, knitting, etc). Time spent blogging: 7.75 hours.

Jogging: Goal is 16 miles/week. I met my goal. In my Brooks Ghost Runners, shown at left. These shoes are wonderful.

Reading: I need to set up a reading goal. Currently, it's "catch-as-catch-can." I read some pages in The Mistaken Bride by Renee Ryan. It's book two in a continuity series (of three books) in the Love Inspired line. I'm enjoying it very much. Don't let the sleeping dog fool you. I'll be reviewing the series soon.

Life in General: Don't you just love the new name for yellow?

  • Saw all five of my grandkids on Saturday. 
  • Spent a couple of hours at the County Fair on Saturday. 
  • Went out to dinner with friends in celebration of Mike's and my 38th wedding anniversary. 
The big time consumer this week, and it's not done yet: Mike and I started painting our house, which will always be yellow. The part that is still unpainted (gray primer color), we cannot reach with ladders due to the slope of the land. Mike needs to rent a man lift to do that, as well as to paint the trim, the fascia, and to put up new rain gutters. Not sure if that will get done in the coming week; he'll probably be harvesting garbanzo beans instead.

Best wishes on the coming week, and may you meet all of your goals.

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