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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Violets & Violins
Status: 90,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 14,000


Yes. I added 14,000 words to the rewrite.

No. Those are not original words.

I experienced a pleasant surprise this week, as well as a not-so-pleasant one.

I reached a point in the earlier revision of Violets & Violins where little needed to be changed before I added it to the current rewrite. Not only that, but I also had the discovery that the final quarter of the previous version was better than the first three-quarters. To my delight, I seemed to have matured as a writer during the previous rewrite. There's far less telling in the final chapters, more action and plenty of conflict.

On the downside, I realized the story is going to end up longer than the 100,000 words I predicted. I'm not surprised, since I tend to write a loose first draft. What this means, though, is that I'll have to cut and tighten. While not what I planned, I've learned from experience that doing so makes my stories stronger.

For now, I'm focused on adding the final chapters and getting to The End. I want a complete version before I put Violets & Violins on a diet. The day is fast approaching when I'll reach that point, and I'm excited.

• • • • •
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Do you write flowing first drafts that need to be trimmed, or are your early attempts skeletons in need of fleshing out?
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Have you ever read a manuscript you wrote over a long period of time and noticed your writing had improved as you went along?
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When reading stories, do you like those that are concise with focus on action or those that paint a period and setting using the bold brush strokes of description?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Review of a Good Read: Love Finds You in Bethlehem, New Hampshire

Long before I began writing, I was a voracious reader of romances. I still love a great story, and there are many wonderful authors writing them. I invite you to check back on Saturdays when I share my reviews of some books I've enjoyed recently, both historical and contemporary.


The Review

Love Finds You in Bethlehem, New Hampshire

by Lauralee Bliss


My absolute favorite read is a mail-order bride story, so when I discovered Love Finds You in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, I was eager to get a copy. I read the back cover blurb and was even more intrigued. The artist who placed the advertisement, Thomas Haskins, takes one look at Sara McGee and realizes he can’t marry the penniless, uneducated and unkempt woman who steps off the train in his posh resort town. Being a man of honor, he befriends Sara, who, under his chaperone sister's tutelage, learns how to be a lady. However, Tom’s caught the eye of a cultured and determined socialite who wants him as her husband and entices him with a promised trip to study art in Italy, an offer that sorely tempts him.


Lauralee Bliss has created two characters I liked, although at times I was none too pleased with Thomas’s choices. A kindhearted man who’s decided it would serve his career to marry--and ease his lonely heart--his initial prejudice and aloofness toward Sara troubled me. However, I loved watching the change the Lord worked in his heart. Sara is a sympathetic character. I felt for this young woman who’d lost everything and everyone, forcing her to live on the streets of New York City. She shows inner strength and a strong faith, which come to her aid as she deals with those who’ve misjudged her. Can two people from such different worlds ever find happiness?


Bliss turned the tables on the traditional mail-order bride story, and I like what she did. There’s plenty of emotion and tension between Thomas and Sara. I enjoyed getting a look at the affluent Gilded Age through the eyes of characters from such diverse backgrounds. Bliss brought the setting to life. And I liked the fact that Thomas is an artist, a profession I’ve rarely encountered in a romance but works so well in this one. If you’re looking for a sweet, traditional romance or a mail-order bride story with a twist, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Love Finds You in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.

• • • • •


Question for You


Do you enjoy mail-order bride stories? Why or why not?


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Your Chance to Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my gently-read copy of the title I just reviewed. Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

I'll choose a winner from all those who leave a comment by the Friday after the post and will post the winners' names this coming Saturday.

Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Cindy and Edna, winners of my two copies of Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Five on Friday: Fear ~ Friend or Foe?

I'm almost afraid to tell you this, but I'm a writer who falls prey to fear.

Ever happen to you?

In spite of the fact that my stories have finaled and placed in contests and that I've received positive feedback from contest judges and critique partners, the Voice haunts me. You know the one. The Voice that whispers in your ear, filling your head with uncertainty and causing you to wonder what in the world you're doing calling yourself a writer.

Five Things the Voice Wants Me to Believe

1) My main characters aren't likable or heroic enough.

2) My dialogue is weak and my character's voices indistinct.

3) The conflict isn't clearly stated or strong enough.

4) The plot isn't fresh or big enough to carry the story.

5) The beginning isn't catchy enough or chapter endings captivating enough.

I wrote for two years in isolation. I used the Internet for research, but I'd yet to discover the wonders of cyberspace or the bounty awaiting me in the blogosphere. During that time, I faced fears on a daily basis.

When I finaled in the Golden Heart in March 2008, a whole new world greeted me. I met other writers as well as published authors. Certain they had it all together, I kept my fears to myself.

As time went on, though, some writers and authors alluded to their fears in blog posts and on chat loops. I realized I wasn't alone.

Just this week, I was privileged to have lunch with two new author friends. I brought up the subject of fear. As I suspected, they aren't immune. One, a debut author with her first book recently released, fears being a victim of Second Book Syndrome, asking herself if she'll be able to produce another story her editor will buy. The other, a multi-published author with over seventy books to her credit, fears her stories will start sounding alike.

No. I'm not alone. But what do I do with the fears I face? Are they friend or foe?

When my fears serve me, prompting me to examine my story and make it stronger, they're my friend. However, when I allow them to take hold, squelch my creativity and stall my writing, they're a foe.

I know the Voice is there, but I can choose when I use what it's saying to inspire me to and when I silence it by reminding myself of truth.


Writing takes a great deal of courage. We continually put our creations out there to be critiqued, criticized and rejected. However, we must believe in ourselves and continue to produce the best stories we're capable of, given our training and talents. Courage, perseverance and passion are our allies.

• • • • •
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Is fear a factor in your life?
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What types of things does the Voice like to whisper in your ear?
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How do you face your fears and silence the Voice when it shifts from friend to foe?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Violets & Violins
Status: 76,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 4,000


The biggest news this week is that Violets & Violins finaled in its second contest.

Thursday morning I received a call from the inspirational category coordinator for
Northwest Houston RWA's Lone Star contest. Elizabeth Pina was a guest at my other blog, Romance Writers on the Journey. Hearing the good news from a writer friend made my excitement even greater.

I shared the news on Facebook and Twitter and was overwhelmed by the number of comments I received. So many wonderful people joined in my happy dance that I was overwhelmed. My thanks go out to each one who celebrated with me.

Writing can be a challenging undertaking. We deal with doubt, discouragement and disappointment. When good news arrives, I experience a surge of confidence.

With two finals, I feel pressure to complete the rewrite as quickly as possible in the event that a final judge makes a request. I'm a person who works well with deadlines, so I'll be busy making my writing meter move.

• • • • •

What good things have been happening for you?
Please share so I can squee with you.

Please don't limit yourself to first sales, agent signings or contest finals.
I want to hear about pages added, helpful critique partner feedback, a scene that came together and put a smile on your face . . .
The little victories are just as important as the big ones.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Ransome's Honor

Long before I began writing, I was a voracious reader of romances. I still love a great story, and there are many wonderful authors writing them. I invite you to check back on Saturdays when I share my reviews of some books I've enjoyed recently, both historical and contemporary.


The Review

Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus

Dacus Delivers a Riveting Regency


Wow! Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus is a winner. From first page to last, I was swept into the world of Regency England, brought to life through her vivid descriptions. I could visualize the bustling town of Portsmouth, smell the salty sea air and hear the lap of waves against the hulls of the Royal Navy's magnificent sailing ships.


Amidst the spectacular setting, we encounter a wonderful cast of characters. I liked both Captain William Ransome, the epitome of a distinguished naval officer, and Julia Witherington, a bright, determined, resourceful admiral's daughter. The secondary characters, from Julia's garrulous best friend to William's unrefined but well-intentioned steward-cum-valet, are engaging, although Dacus crafted a set of scheming scoundrels sure to raise your hackles, especially the blackguard Sir Drake Pembroke.


Rejected by Lieutenant Ransome, seventeen-year-old Julia vowed never to forgive him for not proposing to her, as all believed he would. When circumstances bring them together twelve years later, they must face one another--and their long-denied feelings. Now a captain complete with fame and fortune, William is pressed into service as Julia's protector. When deceitful relatives unveil a plan to rob her of her sizable dowry and force her to marry a cousin she reviles, she turns to the man her father loves as a son, the same man who shattered her heart. To keep her from harm, William agrees to the business arrangement she offers him--a one-year marriage in name only--in exchange for her legacy. But can they deny their reemerging feelings for one another?


Dacus is a talented author. I read her contemporaries, Stand-in Groom and Menu for Romance, and enjoyed both. I wondered, however, if her voice would lend itself to historical romance. Indeed, it does. Her research and attention to detail are remarkable, as are her command of the fashions, furnishings and dialogue of the period. She does a fine job incorporating the faith element into Ransome's Honor and has produced an inspirational Regency I enthusiastically recommend.


• • • • •


Questions for You


Do you enjoy Regency romances? If so, what aspects are most important to you? Historical details? Period-appropriate dialogue?


If you've enjoyed an author's story in one genre, will you generally read her work in another?

• • • • •

Your Chance to Win a Book


If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my gently-read copy of the title I just reviewed. Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

I'll choose two winners from all those who leave a comment by the Friday after the post and will post the winners' names this coming Saturday.

Last Week's Winner


Congrats to Diane and Mez, winners of my two copies of Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Five on Friday: Conflicted and Convicted

Ever feel overwhelmed by an abundance of advice?
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As I blazed a trail through the blogosphere the past few weeks, I encountered numerous insightful posts offering information aimed at helping writers achieve their goal of being published. While I'm eager to learn from these knowledgeable bloggers, choosing which counsel to heed became increasingly difficult.
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Why?
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Because of the conflicts.
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As writers we embrace the concept of conflict. However, when faced with conflicting choices in my own life, I don't always react well. When opposing sides of issues are being advocated, I can sometimes find myself uncertain how to proceed. How do I decide what works for me and what doesn't?
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Much as I'd like to avoid the discomfort I face when confronted with opposing viewpoints, I can't. This past week I've felt convicted about my tendency to ignore tough topics.
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So, what areas of my writing life did I feel a need to address? Here are five with which I wrestled . . .
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1) Do I heed the market trends and write what is selling, or do I write the stories of my heart, those that bring me enjoyment?
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2) Do I adhere to the rules or allow myself freedom to break them on occasion when I have good reason?
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3) Do I write with a goal of creating a breakout novel that will take the literary world by storm or write the best break-in novel I can and be content with that?
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4) Do I continue to work on building a Web presence and name recognition prior to publication or pull back in order to spend more time writing my stories?
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5) Do I utilize social networking sites primarily as a forum for self-promotion, or do I focus on developing relationships first?
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I've wrestled with each of these issues and come up with answers. Although I was hesitant to do so, I'm seeing the benefits. Now, when I read posts promoting one viewpoint over another, I don't spend time feeling conflicted. Because I've taken time to think through each issue, I no longer find myself convicted.
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And what are my answers?
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1) I write the stories I feel I've been called to create. Although I await the sale of my first book, I'm not going to sell myself short by writing with the single goal of publication. I put my heart into my stories and have fun doing so. I don't want to chase market trends and lose the joy.
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2) I keep the rules and guidelines in mind as I write, but I no longer adhere to them slavishly, which isn't easy for someone with OC tendencies. Forcing myself to follow every rule I learned about stifled my creativity and made my writing dull at times. I've given myself permission to stray from the straight and narrow on occasion, but only when I feel doing so is best for my story. As a result, I'm experiencing the thrill of finding my voice.
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3) Getting a book published is challenging enough without the added pressure of producing a bestseller my first time out. Therefore, I'm focused on writing a break-in novel. Since a breakout novel depends upon reader reaction, something I can't predict or control, this decision has taken some of the pressure off. I will still produce the best stories I'm capable of given the education, experience and talent I currently possess, and I will take the market into consideration, but I'm content to build a career over time.
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4) Because I've spent a year learning to navigate in Cyberspace, I will continue to work on my blogs, maintain my Web site, participate in Yahoo! groups, etc. However, I strive to streamline my marketing so I have more time for writing. For me, balance is the key.
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5) I endeavor to establish friendships first. I love to meet others, hear what's going on in their lives, happy dance with them when they receive good news and offer encouragement in tough times. I share news when I have it, but that is by no means my primary goal. I've been given so much by so many generous people and want to give back in as many ways as I can.
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• • • • •
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Do you feel conflicted at times as you encounter discussions such as these I've spotlighted?
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Do you feel convicted to answer the questions for yourself?
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For those of you who have wrestled with one of more of these issues, what conclusions did you reach? How did you come to them?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Violets & Violins
Status: 72,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 1,000


The status bar scarcely moved this week because I focused on editing the first three chapters of V&V and the synopsis in preparation for entering them in contests. I polished the opening of the book until it shone so brightly I had to don sunglasses.

Going back to the beginning of the manuscript after nearing the three-quarter mark proved interesting. My characters have grown, which is as it should be. If they hadn't, they'd never be able to face the hardships coming their way in the final quarter of the book.

I had a pleasant surprise. My writing has improved. This version of the story is far better than the two previous, and I'm happy. Having invested three and a half years in my writing, I'm finally beginning to see real progress.

In addition to prepping the contest entry, I got ahead on some tasks. If all goes according to plan, I'll be able to add several thousand words to V&V this week. I'm ready to reach The End and begin another project. I love my characters and enjoy spending time with them, but those from other stories are vying for my attention.

• • • • •

Do you rejoice at the growth of your characters as I do?

Are there times you return to a work you've not seen for some time and experience the joy of realizing it's better than you remembered?

Have you ever tired of a project and been ready to move on? How do you maintain your momentum when you feel the pull to start something else?


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Menu for Romance

Long before I began writing, I was a voracious reader of romances. I still love a great story, and there are many wonderful authors writing them. I invite you to check back on Saturdays when I share my reviews of some books I've enjoyed recently, both historical and contemporary.

The Review

Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus

A Sweet Story to Savor


Kaye Dacus has done it again! I had such fun revisiting the fictional town of Bonneterre, Louisiana and spending time with her great cast of characters. The biggest thrill was that party planner Meredith Guidry and executive chef Major O’hara, whom readers met briefly in Dacus’s delightful debut novel, Stand-in Groom, get a story all their own.

Meredith has been secretly in love with Major for eight l-o-n-g years. Both work for her parents’ mega firm, which puts them in the other’s path on a daily basis. She’s his boss, so she has to keep things professional and accept the fact that they’re just friends. Her heart protests regularly, making for an intense struggle. In an act borne of desperation, she asks God to help her get over Major and find the man of her dreams.

Unbeknownst to Meredith, Major is crazy about her and wishes he could make her his wife. However, he harbors a secret he’s afraid would ruin everything. Not only that, but he’s been offered the chance to open his own restaurant and feels it would be unfair to ask her to be his when he’d be working more hours than ever. When Mere meets a handsome contractor who’s not only remodeling her house but building a relationship with the woman Major loves, he’s forced to make a choice. Will he fulfill his lifelong dream, or will he take a risk, trust Mere with the truth and concoct a Menu for Romance?

Dacus tells a wonderful story, one I thoroughly enjoyed from first page to last. Her characters are captivating. I fell hard for Major and admired Meredith’s dedication and determination. And yet I hurt for these two who so obviously want to be together but are kept apart by circumstances they must overcome. Only when they deal with their difficulties and look to God for the answer to their dilemma, can they find peace in His plan for their lives. I heartily recommend Menu for Romance, the second in the Bride of Bonneterre Series, as a story that is sure to satisfy your appetite for a good read.

• • • • •

Two Chances to Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win one of two copies of the title I just reviewed. Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

I'll choose two winners from all those who leave a comment by the Friday after the post and will post the winners' names this coming Saturday.

Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Jessica, winner of my gently-read copy of Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio by Lisa Harris.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Brief Blog Update

Another name change?

Yes. When I changed my blog template a few months ago, I chose a new name as well, On the Path to Publication. What I didn't know was that one of my writer pals, Jody Hedlund, has an established blog called On the Path, where she publishes great posts.

I never meant to snitch Jody's blog name and planned to switch mine as soon as I thought of another. I was inspired on my walk today. I've used Joy on the Journey as my complimentary close on email and note cards for many months. A Google search revealed no other romance writers using it, so I'm adopting it.

Five on Friday: All Ears

Do you remember when your grade school teachers read stories to the class?

If you're like me, those days are long past. Even so, I can recall Mrs. Hesse, my beloved Kindergarten teacher, reading The Little House, Make Way for Ducklings or Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. I loved listening to her voice. She put such feeling into her readings.

Some time ago, I heard a recommendation to read a story aloud as part of the editing process. I tried it on a day when Gwynly and the Fashion Queen were at school and was quickly convinced of the value in this exercise.

By the time I've read my words on the page a few times, I begin to see what I think is there. When I read aloud, my ears catch things my eyes may have missed.

This week I set out to polish the first three chapters of my work-in-progress, Violets & Violins, until they shone so brightly I needed sunglasses. I made multiple editing passes looking for anything and everything I could find that would take my story from good to great, or as my super supportive critique partner says, "from great to stellar."

One of the steps I took was to conduct an audible edit. Gwynly started back to school this week and our daughter is at work much of the time, so our two cats and I had the house to ourselves. For me, this task works best with a hard copy, so I printed the first three chapters. I donned my reading glasses, draped myself over my favorite armchair and began.
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Five Things I Notice when I Read Text Aloud

1) Repetition - Repeated words jump out at me. Some I noticed were prepositions and the words hand and looked.

2) Overuse of Names - If my characters call one another by name more than once or twice in a scene, I become aware of that when I keep repeating their names. I also notice when I use proper names to refer to a character when a pronoun would do.

3) Missing Words - While my eye fills these in, I notice what's not there when I'm saying each word I see.

4) Wrong Words - I had a character with drooped shoulders, or so I thought. When I read the scene aloud, I realized what was actually on the page was dropped shoulders. I'd read that same sentence dozens of times, but my eyes kept correcting it whereas my mouth read what was really there.

5) Overly Long Sentences - If I have to take a breath before reaching the end punctuation mark, I know a sentence needs some work. I look for a place to break it into two or more.


When I first began the practice of reading my manuscripts aloud, I felt funny. It's not like I'm in love with the sound of my own voice, although there are days my daughter would disagree. In time, though, I got over some of my self-consciousness.

I remind myself that one day when I sell a book, I might be invited to read portions of my story in front of groups. It helps if I look upon this is practice.

• • • • •

Do you ever read your work aloud? If so, what kinds of things do you notice?

If you haven't tried audible editing, does the idea appeal to you or freak you out, and why?

Do you know someone who likes to read aloud and would do so while you follow on screen or printed page?


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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Violets & Violins
Status: 71,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 3,000


Did you notice a change?

My work-in-progress has a name.

Violets & Violins made its debut in cyberspace this week. I received a call from Georgia Romance Writers with the good news that V&V is a finalist in The Maggies. My story is one of six inspirational finalists listed on the GRW Web site. The bottoms of my shoes haven't seen much wear the past few days.

If you read my Five on Friday post this week, you know I had a rough year following my Golden Heart finals during which I battled doubt, discouragement and a few of their cousins. This final goes a long way in restoring my confidence.

I'm excited about writing again, and I think that's coming through in my work. I like to think the rewrite is taking a good story to a new level.

I've read many blog posts advising new writers not to rewrite. Instead, we're encouraged to begin a new story. I can see why. Rewriting takes courage. We have to admit that our stories need work and be willing to make the necessary changes.

The new beginning I added to the story forced me to rewrite the first 50,000 words of V&V. There was little of the previous version I could use. However, I knew my characters and felt they were strong enough to carry the story. However, the plot was weak and the conflict not big enough to sustain the story. I attacked those problems head on.

Since I'd written five books (six if you count the one I shelved) and have been steadily improving my craft, I chose to return to what was originally called Playing on Heartstrings. I think, in my case, this was a good decision. I'm having fun and am happy with my story. That's every bit as important as any contest finals in my book.

• • • • •

What do you think of the advice given new writers that it's better to move on and start a new story than to revise/rewrite an old one?

Have you rewritten a story? If so, do you think it's harder or easier than creating a first draft?

When do you think it's time to set a story aside and move on to something new?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Review of a Good Read: Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio

Long before I began writing, I was a voracious reader of romances. I still love a great story, and there are many wonderful authors writing them. I invite you to check back on Saturdays when I share my reviews of some books I've enjoyed recently, both historical and contemporary.

The Review

Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio by Lisa Harris

Responsibility, Regrets and Romance in Revenge, Ohio

The year is 1884, and Catherine Morgan spends her days running the family's general store while doing her best not to dwell on the fact that she's a twice-jilted spinster. Ever since her father left to seek his fortune in the gold fields of Alaska ten years before and her mother's death three years later, Catharine has denied herself any hope of marrying after losing the one man she truly loved. Instead, she's determined to see her three younger sisters happily married.

A new sheriff arrives to investigate a string of bank robberies, none other than Corbin Hunter, the man who left Catherine with a broken engagement--and a broken heart. She refuses to allow him to rekindle old feelings, which suits him just fine. Corbin has one goal: to find the man who killed his father and avenge his death. Can Catherine, who's angry with her father for abandoning his family, and Corbin, a man bent on revenge, renew their faith in the Lord and one another and find a love they thought was lost?

Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio by Lisa Harris has a nice blend of conflict, likable characters, plot twists, faith and a surprise ending. My heart went out to Catherine in her struggle to be the responsible oldest sister despite her regrets at having let go of her dreams. I felt for Corbin, who's consumed by his need to bring his father's murderer to justice while protecting the stubborn woman who broke his heart all those years ago. I recommend Harris's book for those who enjoy an inspirational historical with a side of suspense.

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• • • • •

Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my gently-read copy of the title I just reviewed. Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

I'll choose the winner from all those who leave a comment by the Friday after the post and will post the winner's name the following Saturday.


Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Jody, winner of my gently-read copy of The House in Grosvenor by Linore Rose Burkard.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Five on Friday: Dealing with Downers

"You? Make it as a writer? Who do you think you're fooling?"
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. Ever had thoughts like these bombard you after receiving a rejection or less than stellar contest results? Or perhaps you've returned to your manuscript only to realize that what looked brilliant when it flowed from your fingertips the day before wasn't. At times like these, we can fall prey to negativity.

Here are five Deadly Downers I've dealt with:


1) Doubt

2) Disappointment

3) Dispiritedness

4) Discouragement

5) Depression

Some of you know I received a life-changing phone call on March 25, 2008. Romance Writers of America® board member Terri Reed was on the line telling me that not one, but two of my four entries in the Golden Heart® had finaled. As you can imagine, I lived among the clouds for weeks.

I've shared before the many blessings I received as a result of my final, but there's another side to my story. The down side.

Although I was elated to have finaled, I felt like a fraud. I'd written five inspirational historicals during two years of isolation. I didn't know even one other writer. What I did know was that my stories were lacking. I'd had some contest success, but an honest assessment of the judges' comments revealed some weaknesses, which I had no idea how to overcome at that point in my journey.

Doubt crept in. Despite the accolades, I began to wonder if I had what it took to write something publishable.

Although I knew in my gut the stories weren't ready for prime time, I went to RWA® Nationals and pitched one of them. I'd never had an agent or editor appointment before, and I was terrified. No. I wasn't afraid of them. I was afraid I'd waste their time, afraid I'd make a fool of myself, afraid I'd make such a poor impression they'd never want to see me again.

One and a half minutes into each of those two pitch sessions, I received confirmation; the story didn't interest them. Both professionals were kind as they told me the truth and took time to educate me on what they wanted to see. (With eight and a half minutes left of a pitch session, I was glad I'd read posts suggesting the "What are you looking for then?" question. It saved me the humiliation of leaving my two sessions before my chair was even warm.)

Even though I expected to be rejected, I was disappointed. I knew the agent and editor were right, and I have utmost respect for them. They were just doing their job. I was disappointed in myself. I'd gone ahead with the sessions even though I knew my stories weren't ready.

I returned from Nationals with mixed feelings. I had a wonderful time meeting my fellow Golden Heart finalist friends, talking with authors who were incredibly generous and being treated like royalty by RWA. However, I was dispirited. My enthusiasm for my writing had waned.

Before my Golden Heart final, one story after another had gushed from my fingertips onto the page. And I had a blast. Once my eyes were opened, though, and I saw how much I had yet to learn, the joy evaporated and writing became a laborious process.

For six months following that phone call from RWA, I stopped writing. I used the time to create a Web site, launch two blogs, get involved on Facebook, etc. But I didn't add a word to a story. I was discouraged. I'd lost my confidence.

Knowing the best way to work through a slump is to write, I began a contemporary. I loved my characters and their story and entered a couple of contests. I didn't final. Not only that, but I faced the hard truth that my voice at this point in my journey doesn't lend itself to contemporaries. My young hero and heroine sounded old. I felt old. I shelved the story at 50K words. Discouragement threatened to develop into a full-fledged depression.

However, I hadn't lost hope. With the help of my incredibly supportive husband and awesome critique partner, I moved forward. I'd enjoyed writing my historicals, so I returned to my first love. The thrill was back.

I'd dealt with downers for over a year, but I'm having fun writing again and have experienced some success. Even though the process I went through was painful, I learned a great deal during my down time. One important lesson is not to listen to those voices muttering dark things but to turn to those who will speak the truth in love, who believe in me and who will push me to keep on keeping on.

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Have you ever fallen prey to the Deadly Downers?

How do you deal with doubt, disappointment or discouragement?

Who are the people in your life upholding you when things look dark?


Monday, August 3, 2009

Motivation for Monday

I've decided not to post something every Monday unless something profound catches my eye.
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I found a post worth mentioning today from Kristi Holl's blog, Writer's First Aid: a Medicine Chest of Hope, one titled "What Motivates You?"
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Here's the link: http://institutechildrenslit.net/Writers-First-Aid-blog/2009/08/03/what-motivates-you/
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In her article, Kristi talks about internal versus external motivation. For those of us who haven't landed that long-awaited first contract, most of of our writing is internally motivated.
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There are times when I'm preparing a contest entry and have a deadline to meet, but most of the time I don't have external deadlines.
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To remedy this, I joined a Writing Goal in a Month loop where we post our weekly progress. Knowing I'll be reporting my progress, or lack of progress, helps. I'm also posting my progress here on this blog now. While these actions inspire me, I know that no one will boo and hiss if I don't move forward.
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So, how do I remain motivated? I employ what Kristi calls "future motivation." I think of how exciting it will be to see my book on the shelf between Robin Jones Gunn's and Cathy Marie Hake's. Someday I want to be in their excellent company.
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Another reason I keep writing is that I envision the day my husband opens my first book and reads the dedication, which will be to him, my staunchest supporter.
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What motivates you to keep writing?
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How do you stoke the creative fire when the flames have died down?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 68,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 4,000

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I had a wonderful time working on my story this week. I deleted an entire chapter and rewrote it, and the result is far better than what I had written before.

Something clicked. I examined the old version of the chapter objectively and realized it lacked tension. Things were going too well for my hero and heroine, so I threw more obstacles in their path. They're not happy with me, but my readers will be.

When I began writing, I balked at the idea of causing my characters pain. When they suffered, I suffered. Now, I realize that in order to take them on their journeys of self-discovery and change, I must be tough on them. They'll be stronger for it and better suited to one another.

I'm looking forward to writing this coming week. I have plans to make life even more difficult for my poor characters and am eager to see how they react.

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Do you like adding tension to your stories?

Have you ever felt sorry for your characters when you're tough on them?

As a reader, do you want tension in every chapter, or do you like to see characters get a breather once in a while?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Review of a Great Read: The House in Grovenor Square

Long before I began writing, I was a voracious reader of romances. I still love a great story, and there are many wonderful authors writing them. I invite you to check back on Saturdays when I share my reviews of some books I've enjoyed recently, both historical and contemporary.

The Review

The House in Grosvenor Square by Linore Rose Burkard

A Faith-full Regency Romance

I met the charming Ariana Forsythe and her handsome fiancĂ©, Mr. Philip Mornay, aka The Paragon, in Linore Rose Burkard’s debut novel, Before the Season Ends. I was drawn to these characters, enjoyed the bumpy journey they traveled in that book and looked forward to the sequel, The House in Grosvenor Square.

The story picks up with their wedding two weeks away. After all they’ve been through together, Ariana and Mornay hope for time to pass quickly without further incident so they can marry and begin their life together, but troubles plague them. Items from his lovely home go missing--after Ariana’s visits. When she’s taken in an attempted abduction, Mornay vows to find the culprits behind the troubling deeds. He shocks the ton by moving her into his guest room in order to keep her from harm, but he refuses to let the gossipmongers deter his need to protect his beloved.

The House in Grosvenor Square is full of surprises. Burkard kept me reading as I hurried to see Ariana free from danger. However, just as I’d think things were going to improve, along came another hurdle. By the time I neared the end, I stopped looking at the clock or worrying about how tired I’d be the next day because I was eager to see how things worked out.

Once again, Burkard has captured the rich dialogue of the Regency period in an inspirational tale where faith plays a vital role in the characters’ lives. Her attention to detail and historical research enable her to do a wonderful job of depicting the period. The House in Grosvenor Square delivered all it promised. I had a good time visiting my old friends Ariana and Mornay and enjoyed this fast-paced tale of trials overcome and mysteries resolved.

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Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my gently-read copy of the title I just reviewed. Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

I'll choose the winner from all those who leave a comment by the Friday after the post and will post the winner's name the following Saturday.


Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Sherrinda, winner of a new copy of Love's Rescue by Tammy Barley.