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     

11/25/2012

TSS: The Sunday Salon


Happy Holiday Season ...

There wasn't much time for reading this week. I'm still reading A Hope Springs Christmas by Patricia Davids, as well as Legacy of Love by Christine Johnson. 

I spent the first part of the week running errands, buying groceries, and cleaning the house. My daughter and her boyfriend came in from Seattle on Wednesday. On Thanksgiving, my two daughters, my daughter-in-law and I put together a feast for the entire family--a dozen of us. It was wonderful. The only thing that went wrong was that our camera wasn't working. No pictures. Oh well. 

Afterwards, we spent a couple hours lounging in the living room, in agony from overeating, but very satisfied! My nine-year-old grandson read us the Story of Thanksgiving, which he had painstakingly handwritten at school. It was an assignment to read aloud to the people with whom he'd spent Thanksgiving, and he took it seriously. He stood up in front of us all, and did a great job. 

After that, each of us stated five reasons to be thankful. This grandson's response pretty much summed up everything: "I'm thankful for my perfect life." 

I am so grateful that my five grandchildren are all living happy, secure lives. Maybe they're not rich in monetary things, but they are richly supported with loving family and friends. 

Over dessert, we had a great time sharing stories, laughing, and etc. Then we went to my father-in-law's house to join yet more family. There were about 20 at his house.

On Friday, I attended a baby shower. 

My eleven-year-old granddaughter visited for an hour or so before the baby shower on Friday. She likes to scrapbook, as I do, so we each spent some time putting together a layout. She and her brother have their own albums, which they keep at my house, and add to them whenever they come to visit. He's a typical boy, and not very interested in scrapbooking, but he's good for an hour or so. 


Speaking of scrapbooking and/or card making, there is a website that I'm fond of, called Color Q. Each week, the blog authors offer up new color challenge. They've been doing this now for 164 weeks. This week's challenge is the picture above. So far, I haven't done any of the challenges, however I have downloaded them all, printed them on 4x6 cards, hole punched and collected them with a big binder ring. 
Color schemes are one of my big creative interests. It's fun to look at the possibilities each week, even if I never do anything with them. Although, I hope that at some point in time, I will actually start scrapbooking in a big way again. 

On Saturday, we drove to Spokane to visit our friend Jeff, who had quadruple bypass surgery. 




We also saw the Lincoln movie with Daniel Day Lewis. It was excellent, although I can see why it was a limited release. It's a very "talky" movie, not a lot of action, and the talk is philosophical, weighty. They did what they could to build suspense, and succeeded in several instances. Daniel Day Lewis brought Lincoln to life so well that he could or should win an academy award for it.

As to writing, I didn't do any yet this week, but I hope to find a few hours today to do some.


How was your Thanksgiving week?

11/19/2012

Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg: YA Romance Review

Told in first person, four character viewpoint, this romance scrolls through the lives of four high school seniors who are attending a prestigious (fictitious) performing arts high school in New York.

By using four viewpoints, Ms. Eulberg was able to highlight four variations on the theme of success. As well, she develops a    
love story between two of the characters that is fraught with teen angst.

The students are preparing to do a Senior Showcase. After that, they'll apply to various performing arts colleges.

Actress Sophie will stop at nothing to further her acting career, even if it means stabbing childhood friend Emme in the back.

Songwriter Emme, who has always been the wind beneath best friend Sophie's wings, is more talented than Sophie, and deserves to go farther, if only she will step out of her comfort zone and perform her own songs on stage. Sophie's actions serve as the catalyst to get selfless Emme moving on her own behalf.

Child star Carter, whose limited talent peaked at ten years old, wants nothing more than to get out of the limelight and study painting, if he can find the courage to pursue it.

Songwriter Ethan is secretly, madly in love with Emme, who hardly knows he exists, and will never know, unless he finds the courage to tell her.

Written in present tense with lots of dialogue, this is a breezy, quick and fun read. I enjoyed it.
It was released by Scholastic Point in April, 2012.
Source: Kindle version, purchased by me.


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.

11/12/2012

First Snow!


I woke up to look out my bedroom window at the first snow of the Winter of 2012 ... and felt crazy, crazy happy about it!

For the first time in a dozen years, I WILL NOT be spending an hour each day on icy, slippery winter roads. No more trudging out into narrow streets at 5:30 or 6:00 PM, my breath making fog, and shivering while I scrape the ice off the car windows, and then sweep fluffy snow off everything else.

Something about the snow made me feel another kind of relief as well--as if I'd been let off the hook about painting the walls in all those rooms in my house. The walls that have been awaiting my hand guiding a paint-filled roller over them since July.

Today had been slated as THE DAY that I would finally select the paint colors (from my spiffy Sherwin & William paint deck) and then drive the 25 miles to Sherwin & Williams to buy paint and supplies.

Whoa. It's not that snowy outside. The roads are, actually, open. The newscasters warned about the highway being slick earlier, but nothing was closed.

Never mind about that. It's now 3:00 PM and I have had a lovely, guilt-free day at my computer, doing what I love best. When Mike comes home from tackling business in town, we're going to have a steamy hot cup of mocha and split a sticky, sweet Costco cinnamon roll and start verbally planning our winter trips.

Orlando is on the docket for January or February. That one's set in stone, as Mike is a convention speaker. But there's also a possibility of flying to Phoenix to see some of our Flying Farmer friends, who conveniently bought a house there last winter. Also, using a free (air miles) airline ticket to visit my brother in St. Louis, before he moves to Denver in May. Lastly, a possible trip to Bermuda a few days prior to Orlando, with the friends we'd visited Hawaii with in 2009.

How do you feel about winter? If I'd written this post last year, it sure would've been different from what I was able to say today. So if you're envying that I get to stay at home, your time will come as well.

Or something like that. May you get what you want out of winter. In the meantime, Vive, Winter!

 

 

11/10/2012

TSS: The Sunday Salon

What is the Sunday Salon? It’s a virtual meeting of people who like to read, and enjoy blogging about what they are reading. It’s also a place to update your friends about other things going on in your life. 



I started a book by Christine Johnson called Legacy of Love, which takes place in Michigan shortly after WWI. The setting feels like the town where my mother grew up, in Lake Forest, Ill, along the North shore of Lake Michigan. The story also reminds me of old romantic movies I used to watch on TV from time-to-time, which I always enjoyed so much. I'll review it soon.









I completed a Novella by Linda Goodnight, called Yuletide Homecoming, which I plan to review on Tuesday, along with the novella by Lissa Manley called A Family's Christmas Wish.

If you like hot fudge sundaes, and you want to have a hot fudge sundae reading experience, Yuletide Homecoming is for you--it's so very warm and sweet.  




Saturday evening, Mike and I saw Skyfall, the new 007 movie. It was long--about 2  1/2 hours--but it grabbed my attention and didn't once let it go. It was so good, I cannot imagine how they could ever top it. 

It's the 50th anniversary of Bond movies, and Bond fans of my generation, including my husband and I, have seen them all. I was 12 years old when I went to see the very first one--Goldfinger, at a theater in Tacoma, Washington. 

In Skyfall, when a garage door was opened to reveal an antique Austin Healey, the audience uttered a collective gasp, as this movie reached back in remembrance of earlier ones. 


It was a good week for entertainment. As to my writing, there was none. Instead, I spent hours organizing files and reading information that I'll need to begin to act upon, soon. When I'm done reading and reorganizing, I'll have a clearer idea of what lies ahead, each task's priority, and a rough timeline for achievement. There is so much more to writing for publication than simply writing books. If only that were all there is to it.  

How was your week, reading, writing, or otherwise?

11/06/2012

No Book Review this Week, Alas

I set up a commitment to review a book each week, but I am unable to do it this week. I haven't read a new book! Plus, I returned exhausted and sick from my trip to Seattle that took place over Friday-Monday. My apologies if you were eagerly awaiting a new review. I commit to reviewing a book next week.

One thing that struck home for me from the communication, The Power to Create course I took over the long weekend was that people--just about everybody--live in a world of unexpressed hurt.

If you take something away from this post, consider this: Why am I on this planet? We are all on the planet to serve others, and in a way that is unique to us, that fulfills us while helping others to become fulfilled in ways that are true to who they are.

This is true and full self-expression. If you are a writer, are you writing for the correct age group? Are you in the correct genre for you? Are you writing stories that are true to who you are? That share your values, your concerns? If you feel majorly, or even slightly, at odds with the answers you give to these questions, then you may not yet be on the correct path for you.

And if you are on the correct path, then let absolutely nothing stop you from doing what you were put on this earth to do.



11/04/2012

TSS: The Sunday Salon



What a week this was for so many people in our beloved country. Living where I do, I am far removed from damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, but I watched hours’ worth of news coverage with mouth open in horror, and tears in my eyes, for the many people who lost everything. My prayers continue for them.

Additionally, we’re on the eve of something of great import: a presidential election. We vote by mail in our county, and so Mike and I mailed our completed ballots on Monday, October 29. Washington had a lot of initiatives on the ballot. I voted against most of them. One in particular that will probably pass, but I wish wouldn't, is the legalization of marijauna. We are such a liberal state (west of the Cascades); it's disgusting. 

As a result of a recent election, we now have hard liquor in all of our grocery stores. Fortunately, it's highly taxed. The only nice thing I can say about it is that the differently shaped, colored bottles do look very pretty when lined up against store windows. When the sun shines through them, making them glisten and sparkle. I wonder if the sun is also spoiling the alcohol? One can hope. It just doesn't feel right to see hard liquor in the only grocery store in our very small town.  

I'm not opposed to drinking in moderation. I only wish that hard booze was not so in-my-face when I buy apples and milk. 

On the Reading Front: It wasn’t a big reading week for me, fiction-wise. After all the reading, and line editing, I did last week, I took a different path this week. Last spring, while studying Dramatica and The 90-Day Novel, I plotted out a Historical Inspirational Romance. I am still very interested in the idea, however because writing a book is so time consuming, I want to be sure it’s the correct next book to write. So I did some Market Research, which I posted about on Thursday.

Socially, for the first time in three months, since retiring from the library, I went back and visited with my old coworkers. Ahhhh. It was so very good to see them all again. I spent three hours talking with them. My former boss treated me to lunch at Applebees. (Thanks again, Anne, if you’re reading this.)

I miss them, but I do not miss my old job. I was ripe for moving on, and moving into, the next stage of my life.

This weekend, I am currently in Seattle, attending a communication course with Landmark Education. It’s the second of a two-course series. The first was Communication: Access to Power. This one’s Communication: the Power to Create. The course runs from 9:00 am – 11:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday, along with a wrap-up on Thursday evening from 6:30-10:30 pm. 

While packing for the trip, I perceived how off-the-grid I've become, which is so odd for me. I think it's only temporary. I saw that there were laundry baskets of summer clothes I hadn't put away in my closet and drawers. Generally by this time of year, I've not only put them away, but done a trade-out, replacing fall and winter clothes for summer. 

I think I'm still relishing my less insane schedule. But I do need to get on the ball again and start painting some interior rooms in my house before Thanksgiving.  

How was your week, reading, writing or otherwise?


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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