11/27/2012

A Hope Springs Christmas by Patricia Davids

A Hope Springs Christmas by Patricia Davids

This book will be released on December 1, 2012. 


This is only the second Amish inspirational romance that I’ve read, and both were by Patricia Davids. I don’t know much about the Amish, but her portrayal is completely convincing, bringing out not only their customs, but snippets of their Pennsylvania Dutch language. 

The seventh book in the series, Brides of Amish Country, this is widow Sarah Wyse and shy Levi Beachy’s love story. Sarah’s a young widow, and Levi was her husband’s best friend. He has also been secretly in love with Sarah since they were children.

When Levi's sister and Sarah’s friend, Grace, leaves home for a while to visit her grandmother, Sarah, whose job in a fabric store has ended temporarily, steps in to take care of the family. 

Grace wants to get married, but she fears she can’t, or who would feed Levi and their twin brothers? Who would help Levi at the buggy shop that Sarah owns, and Levi runs? Before Grace leaves, she gets Sarah to promise to find a wife for Levi.

Levi  would also like to leave the area and move west, but he made a promise to Sarah’s dying husband that he would look after her until she remarries. It’s been five years, plenty long enough to find a husband. But a man of his word, Levi's promise keeps him right where he is, and still loving Sarah from afar.  

Since her husband, sister and parents have all died in the past few years, Sarah feels as though death follows her like a dark shadow, and is reluctant to ever love again.

But she’s not afraid to look for a wife for Levi. After bringing him together with several possibilities, Levi catches on, and decides to turn the tables on Sarah.

Of course, we know what eventually happens. Watching a couple's love develop and unfold is the best part of reading a romance.

Though released during the holiday season, this book wasn’t as Christmas-y as many I’ve read. But that was fine. It was still a quiet, wonderful, heartwarming book.   

Book source: NetGalley     

11/19/2012

TSS: The Sunday Salon

Holy Moly, Sunday came and went, and I forgot to show up at the Sunday Salon. Anyone miss me? Yeah, I thought a few of you might.

It wasn't a heavy reading week for me.

I read one-third of Patricia Davids's Hope Springs Christmas, an Amish Inspirational Romance and a review copy via NetGalley. The writing quality was kinda bumpy at first--I think Ms. Davids rushed through it, probably due to writing deadlines. The material simply wasn't well-integrated enough. But once I got through the clotted beginning, I'm rolling with it.

I liked straight off that the hero is extremely withdrawn. I know romances are sometimes written with heroes like that, however I've seldom read any of them. The last one I recall was a Pamela Morsi romance, a dozen years ago. They're not my favorite kind of hero, which makes me interested to see what Ms. Davids does with him, and how the h/h grow to love each other.

I also read 60% of Elizabeth Eulberg's YA romance, Take a Bow. I bought the book on Saturday, along with nine other YA romances. I wanted to see what viewpoint style YA romance takes. Nine out of ten are written in first person, single viewpoint. Ms. Eulberg's is first person, four viewpoints, about a group of teens in their senior year at a prestigious (fictional) performing arts high school.

This high school is where the characters in my book might be found in their senior year.

That's all the reading I did.

It was an intense work week for me. I finally, on Tuesday, after working on it for a week or two, had fully reorganized my thousands of computer files, and assembled To-Do lists for various categories of work. I now have a map for how I intend(ed) to spend my workdays until the new year. Different tasks, depending on the day.

But then, on Wednesday night, I met with my FABULOUS critique group. These excellent readers and critiquers read the revision of my YA WIP that they had read last January. In January, it was not written as a YA romance, but YA with a romance element. I turned it inside out, on its head, or whatever. They missed the subplots that got squeezed out of it, and so I plan to judiciously tuck some portion of some of them back into it. Right now, it's lean to the bone, and needs more of that subplot meat to fill it out again. 

On Thursday, I signed up for RWA’s Golden Heart contest, which, if you win it, is the most prestigious writing award for unpublished writers in the writing industry. The rationale behind entering and winning, or even finaling, is that it opens doors with agents and editors. If they see “Contest Finalist” on the subject line of your query, they will want to read the manuscript. Winners and finalists often sign book contracts as a result of having entered the GH and other contests. It gets your name out there. 

Common wisdom would dictate that this is probably not the right one to start with, but then, what the hey. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I will also get to judge some contest entries, although not in my category (YA).

The critique group had some suggestions for revision. I started working through them, as well as through a thorough line edit by one of the members, on Saturday. By Sunday at 3:00 PM, I’d worked through all line editing suggestions, and am now set to re-insert subplot scenes removed from the earlier draft, to fill out the story.

There are six weeks until I need to submit the full manuscript to the Golden Heart. I’m also planning to change the viewpoint to dual viewpoint, first person present, which means I will change every single sentence in the manuscript. I’m not sure if I can do that in the next six weeks, but I'll give it a try. If I can’t complete the viewpoint and verb tense conversion, I’ll send the existing revised manuscript (dual viewpoint, third person, past tense) to the contest.

Friday evening, we went to an annual Holiday Dinner put on by one of our local farm co-ops. My husband was on the board of that co-op for nine years, and we have fond memories of annual business trips to Portland, taken with other board members. As well, it was fun to talk with ranchers/neighbors who we see only once a year at these dinners.

Sunday, I met with some friends to see the new Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 2. I confess that I never read Stephenie Myers’s Twilight series, however I’ve seen the movies with my friends. The movies have virtually no depth, but my friends assure me that there is depth in each of the very long books. 

I enjoy the movies for glimpses of Taylor Lautner. The more screen time he's given, the happier I am. At least once in every film, he smiles as he strips off his shirt to show his amazing body. They tantalized us in this movie by taking it a step farther, to reveal his glistening white underwear—very bright against his beautifully tanned skin.This guy is too handsome and perfect to be true! 

Next to his glowing white teeth, everyone else’s teeth looked rather dingy and yellow. 

My favorite scene in all of the movies was when Bella was on a mountaintop, freezing to death, and Edward, her cold-blooded vampire boyfriend, couldn't keep her warm. He hated doing it, but they called in Jacob, the hot-blooded, shape shifter wolf, to warm her. SO CAMPY. SO FUN. SUCH A RIOT! 

I also love those huge, furry wolves in the movies.   

That was my week. How was yours, reading, writing or otherwise?

11/13/2012

A Snowglobe Christmas by Linda Goodnight and Lissa Manley

Two heartwarming Christmas novellas, set in Snowglobe, Montana.

Linda Goodnight contributed Yuletide Homecoming, which is Rafe Westfield and Amy Caldwell's reunion story. He broke her heart five years ago when he left her at the altar to enlist in the Marines. A year ago, and suffering from PTSD, he returned to Snowglobe to run a business with his brother. Now Amy has also returned, to take over her mother's Christmas Village-type store.

This novella is lushly descriptive of the best of Christmastime.

As to the romance, it takes some doing, but Rafe finally melts Amy's heart. And who wouldn't love a man like Rafe, and eventually forgive him for what he did? He's a do-gooder, volunteering at his church and for other organizations in need, including foster children. Plus, he's about to build a new house in a beautiful valley, and he needs Amy's help in planning the layout. These are only a couple of the many ways this handsome man wins back the love of his life.

If you need your spirits lifted, do yourself a favor: download the book to your favorite e-reader, make a cup of steaming hot chocolate, put your feet up, and prepare to feel loved, pampered and protected.  We women need stories like these at Christmastime, when we're running a mile a minute, trying to get everything done and meet everyone's needs but our own.
I will never, ever forget the joy I felt one year at Christmastime, when I was feeling this way, besides being basically snowbound with three small children. A package was delivered to my door in a plain, brown cardboard box. But it held such treasures: Christmas stories from Harlequin!

Now for A Family's Christmas Wish by Lissa Manley: I was sure when I started reading this novella that I couldn't possibly like it as much, or more, than Linda Goodnight's pitch-perfect, spot-on story. Was I ever surprised when I found myself so touched, moved and inspired by it that I cried throughout the last quarter.

Was this story truly a tearjerker, or did it simply find and pluck deep chords within me? Maybe it was the Snowglobe that played The Impossible Dream, my all-time favorite song, and Owen's Christmas gift to Sara.

Maybe it was Ms. Manley's expert choice of scenic material in the final quarter, situations which enabled these stubborn characters to trust God's plan for them and, eventually, their love for each other. I don't know what it was, but it moved me powerfully.

Summary: Sara Kincaid's father left her when she was a child, and then was later abandoned by her husband during her eighth month of pregnancy. As you might guess, she doesn't trust men. When she hires builder Owen Larsen to do some carpentry work on her Bed-and-Breakfast, she's pretty sure her heart is safe. After all, Owen's moving away in a week. Besides that, Owen himself is afraid to love again, after his beloved wife's death a year ago. Their small children help bring them together, and as the week rolls on, Owen and Sara fall in love. But it takes some doing on God's part to finally pull them back into each other's arms forever.

Review source: NetGalley.

11/01/2012

Market Research for Love Inspired Historicals


I spent a lot of time this week on Market Research for Love Inspired Historicals. If you're interested in writing for LIH, read on. I'll share what I found. 

My goal was to get a feel for where my interests and their needs intersect. I looked at every book published in the line by examining the title, the back cover copy, the time period and geographical setting, as well as character types and character issues. 

As a relatively new, and newly expanded line, only 166 books have been published. Compare that to Harlequin Historicals, where almost 800 books have been published over the years.

LIH claims to be open to any time period, any place, up to 1950 however, not surprisingly, the Regency and the West, post-Civil war until 1880, are the most strongly represented. The same holds true for Harlequin Historicals, although the series has a markedly different flavor. 

I was excited to see a good number of books set between 1890-1945, including a number of Depression Era books (Linda Ford), and a couple of books set during World War II (Renee Ryan). Hopefully, there’s a growing interest in the events that happened during these years. I certainly find them interesting. Americana, World War I, Newport Heiresses ...  

There is very little interest in this line in areas other than America and England, and in times prior to the French Revolution. 

The French Revolution is represented by one only book, which disappoints me, because it's a place and time that I have researched extensively and indeed, have a 650+page manuscript sitting in a drawer, ripe for re-envisioning and re-slanting. 

Naomi Rawlings, who wrote Sanctuary for a Lady, wrote the only French Revolution book for the line. It was her debut novel. She has since been contracted by Love Inspired Historicals to write another book—but not a sequel to her first book. Regrettably, I suspect it wasn’t as popular with readers as many people had hoped, and so the plug got pulled for a sequel. [If Naomi reads this, she can set me straight if I'm wrong.] I certainly thought it was a wonderful book.
  
Because the line is inspirational, without sensuality, the female characters tend to be school marms, librarians, governesses, nurses, doctors, ranchers, abolitionists, and suffragists. It’s true that these were largely the only options open to women in earlier times, however (by contrast) Harlequin Historicals focuses on women who are, across the board, more free spirited and less constrained by deeply held religious values. Thus you get far more sensuality, far more emphasis on the art of seduction. 

Not surprisingly, Love Inspired is more popular with conservative, religious types, although it is not a religious press such as Barbour, Bethany House, Thomas Nelson, Waterbrook, Tyndale, and Abingdon. The faith thread is present in all Love Inspired Historicals, but it is, by contrast, a light one.

The male characters in Love Inspired Historicals are preachers, doctors, cowboys, teachers, sheriffs, farmers, and military men returned broken from war. Otherwise known as Beta males. No rakes, no warriors or ruthless men who are out for conquest, and very few characters of either sex who are motivated by revenge. 

In most cases, either the heroine or the hero is a widow or widower and already a parent. Or they are charged with taking care of orphans, nieces or nephews. A small town or community feel is important. 

Anyhew, that is what my Market Research revealed to me. LIH feels like a playground that I would have much fun playing in. 

I just need to work out a series strategy that illuminates a time and place I find interesting, which isn’t already over-represented, and which would also be popular in readers’ imaginations. 

If you're interested in writing for LIH, what have you found in your Market Research? Anything else? Sharing is encouraged and very welcome. Thank you. 

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