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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Violets & Violins
Status: 101,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 0


Life changed dramatically the past two weeks. Gwynly and I moved the Fashion Queen to college.

Our first-year student is doing quite well, and we're immensely proud of her. Meanwhile, we're adjusting to our Empty Nest. The house is quieter. There is far less laundry. The coffee table, where our daughter preferred to do her homework, isn't piled with textbooks, empty Dr. Pepper cans and an assortment of jewelry.

We writers hear the oft-repeated advice to begin a story at a character's moment of profound change. I can see why. At those times, emotion runs rampant. I felt drained during the days following our separation. I wept my way through the supermarket where items on every aisle reminded me of my gal. When she faced a challenge with a course change and overcame it, I rejoiced. Upon receiving an email with photos of her sporting her first henna tattoo, I laughed.

Life as I knew it will never be the same. I'll never be the same. The experience of launching my daughter into adulthood has ended the hands-on mom period of my life. The Fashion Queen is fast becoming an independent young woman I'm happy to call my friend. While she'll always be my little girl at heart, she no longer needs me in the same ways she once did. She's growing and changing, and so am I.

Now that the move is behind us, I'm eager to return to my writing. Before I could, I had some contest entries to judge. I was blessed with two stellar stories to score. Both of these writers have amazing voices. I'll be a better writer for having had the privilege of reading their work.

Moving forward with Violets & Violins is my goal now. I'm eager to finish the revision so I can preform an edit and move on to my next story. I feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm as I anticipate spending time with my characters.

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For those of you with an Empty Nest, I'd love to hear how you weathered the emotional upheaval.

For those of you who aren't parents or who haven't launched your children into the world yet, what major transitions have you experienced, and how have you dealt with them?

For those of you who are writers, have you used a major change from your life in one of your stories?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Montana Rose

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.

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The Review

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Montana Rose Moved Me


If the name Mary Connealy is on the cover of a book, I know I’m in for a good read. Having cracked up as I hightailed it through Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon, I was fully prepared to chuckle my way though Montana Rose as well. To my surprise, I found this historical to be delightfully different. While some scenes launched me into laughter, Montana Rose offers more than mere entertainment. Connealy has crafted a story with an important message, but she conveys it with such skill and finesse that I was swept into this heartwarming tale and enjoyed every moment with her engaging characters.


Cassie Griffin loses her husband one day, and at his burial the next, the many bachelors in her tiny Montana territory town vie for the opportunity to wed the silk-clad, seemingly spoiled woman they refer to as the China Doll. When the ruthless rancher with the largest spread claims the right to marry her, god-fearing Red Dawson feels led to protect her and proposes, despite the fact that she’s not a believer. Pregnant and penniless, Cassie chooses the lesser of two evils and accepts. While Red attempts to live his life as a testimony of his faith, Cassie seeks to mold herself into the wife she thinks he wants, just as she did with her controlling, abusive first husband. Scenes when Cassie attempts to learn new skills showcase Connealy’s trademark humor, but others moved me at a deep level as Red exhibits the patience of Job while dealing with his attraction to his beautiful, bungling bride.


Of the Connealy books I’ve read so far, Montana Rose stands out as my favorite. I love Red’s godly character, his devotion to Cassie, and witnessing her journey to wholeness and healing as she learns to accept the love of the Lord and her new husband. I heartily recommend this book.

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What Do You Think?

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Do you enjoy stories in which the heroine learns a valuable life lesson?

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Do you enjoy stories that blend humor with an important message?

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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.

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Last Week's Winner


Congrats to Terri Tiffany, winner of No Place for a Lady by Maggie Brendan.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Review of a Great Read: No Place for a Lady

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.

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The Review

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A Lady and a Cowboy Clash


Maggie Brendan’s debut novel, No Place for a Lady, combines many elements that make for a great historical read: a pampered Southern belle, an ambitious cowboy on her aunt’s cattle ranch, love interests who come between them, tragedy, conflicts and surprises. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Colorado Rockies, the story begins when Crystal Clark arrives at her Aunt Kate’s spread following the death of her father. Thrust into the rigors of life in the West, Crystal struggles to discover God’s plan for her future. Does she embrace this new adventure and admit her attraction to her aunt’s rugged, hardworking ranch foreman, Luke Weber, or return to Georgia where she knows what to expect and what’s expected of her?


Luke wants a ranch of his own, and marrying the local cattle baron’s daughter will give him that. But first, he has to get the cattle to market with the so-called help of Crystal, Kate’s seemingly fragile and yet feisty niece who’s captured his attention. Torn between following his dream and heeding the call of his heart, he struggles to find answers. Only when he looks to the Lord for them is peace possible.


Discovering a new writer whose work I enjoy is a treat. Brendan has earned a place on my Sure-to-please Authors’ list. I like her characters, her heartwarming tale and her storytelling ability. I’m looking forward to the second book in her Heart of the West series when readers will discover what the future holds for a secondary character who was dealt a blow in No Place for a Lady.

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What Do You Think?

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Are you a fan of cowboy stories? If so, what is it about these rugged men that makes them such appealing characters?

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Do you enjoy stories in which the hero and heroine are kept apart because one or both are committed to another character?

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Do you enjoy stories that take place in the Wild West? If so, which states are your favorites settings?

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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.

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Last Week's Winner


Congrats to Kristen Torres-Toro, winner of Protector's Honor by Kit Wilkinson.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Violets & Violins
Status: 101,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 3,000


I'm coming up on the end of the rewrite. I still have a few chapters from the previous version to revise and add to this one, but then I'll be ready to move to editing and cutting.

I received feedback from one of the contests I entered. As usual, I found the comments helpful. Two judges pointed out a weak point in my synopsis, and one shared an idea that will make the story much stronger. Wow! I'm eager to incorporate the suggestion that judge gave, which will overcome the problem. Contests help me in many ways, and I'm grateful for generous judges willing to share their expertise as well as their time.

One week from today, Gwynly and I will move our one and only into her dorm. The Fashion Queen and I have much to do in preparation for her move, so she's my priority this week. All too soon I'll have more time to myself than I'm used to. For now, helping my daughter begin a new chapter of her life takes priority. This milestone only comes once.

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Have you gone through any major transitions in life? How did you deal with them?

Have you received helpful contest feedback? How did you incorporate it in your story?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Protector'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.

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The Review


Award-winning Suspense Scores


Each year the Romance Writers of America® holds a contest called the Golden Heart® to discover the best romance manuscripts available in the U.S. and abroad. In 2008, Kit Wilkinson’s story took the top award in the inspirational category and sold two months later. I waited a year for the release of Protector’s Honor, knowing the book would be a winner, and my wait was rewarded with an action-packed read that kept me turning the pages until two in the morning.


When Tabitha Beaumont screams, NCIS agent Rory Farrell comes to her rescue, averting an abduction attempt. The handsome hero with a big heart that’s gone out to Tabitha learns shortly thereafter about a connection between her and his latest murder investigation. Soon it becomes clear her life is in danger due to vital information she doesn’t even know she possesses, and Rory steps in to protect her. Evidence points to possible involvement of someone dear to Tabitha, and in a moment of weakness, she gives in to her growing feelings for Rory and divulges a secret. In order to ensure her safety, he’s forced to choose between betraying her trust and following his heart.


Wilkinson’s story takes off at a fast clip and hurtles from one scene to the next. Each time I thought things might settle down, another twist or turn transpired, keeping me off balance and racing for the end to find out how these two likable people deal with impending disaster. If you enjoy a riveting romance with a heaping helping of suspense and strong characters who entrust their uncertain futures to the Lord, I recommend Protector’s Honor.


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What Do You Think?


Do you enjoy romantic suspense? If so, what is it about these riveting reads that captivates you?


What qualities do you like to see in the main characters of a romantic suspense?

When was the last time a book kept you up until the wee hours?



Your Chance to Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win a brand new 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 Marissa, winner of an elegant apple green metal bookmark that reads: faith ~ now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Five on Friday: Getting Wordy

Words. I love 'em.

I really like to write so very much that at times I just exceed my word count and end up with a story headed for the chopping block.

My current rewrite of Violets & Violins is nearing completion, but I've been too wordy. I'll wield the scalpel soon. Naw. Better make that the meat cleaver.

I'll seek unnecessary scenes or even entire chapters that don't move the story forward and slice them. Will the process hurt? Some, yes. After all, those words flowed from my fingertips.

However, one thing I've learned about myself over the three and a half years I've been writing fiction is that I can produce more and even better work the second, third or seventeenth time I revise a portion of a story. Knowing that has eased the pain of pruning my prose.

In addition to removing large portions of text, I'll seek words that add nothing to my story. Although small, they add to my word count. Out they go.

And what are some of my most overused words? Here are five:

1) so

2) just

3) very

4) really

5) headed

I can generally eliminate the first four without altering the sentence. The last word may not be on your list, but my characters head everywhere. Why, I don't know. It just happens. I replace many of the occurrences with more descriptive words.

In my opening, I used all five words on my list in one l-o-n-g sentence. Here's how it reads post pruning: I like to write but at times exceed my word count and end up with a story destined for the chopping block.

Words and motivational sayings cover my office walls. One phrase I could use but haven't yet found is "Write Tight."

Perhaps after culling words I carefully crafted, I'll learn that less is often more. I'd really like that so very much. Er. That is to say, I'd like that.

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My fellow writers, do you tend exceed your word count or come up short? Why do you think that is?

What unnecessary words worm their way into your work?

Readers, have you ever read a book in which certain scenes seemed to slow the story and could have easily been cut? Do you notice when a writer has gotten wordy?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Violets & Violins
Status: 98,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 8,000


Even though the status bar indicates I'm nearly finished with the rewrite, I still have several chapters to go. As I've mentioned before, the book is going to be long and require some cutting. I'm prepared to wield the scalpel and even to pull out the meat cleaver if necessary, knowing that tightening the story will only serve to improve it.

I received a call from the coordinator of The Heart of the Rockies contest this week. Violets & Violins finaled in the inspirational category. I'm pleased to see this story doing so well and earning me the right to have it seen by the top-notch agents and editors who have so generously offered to serve as the final judges.

Because I appreciate the opportunity to get feedback on my story and the chance to have it seen by industry professionals should it final, I prepared and sent three more contest submissions this week.

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How was your writing week? Do you have good news to share?


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Review of a Great Read: The Frontiersman's Daughter

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.

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The Review

The Frontiersman’s Daughter

by Laura Frantz

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An Epic Tale of Life and Love in Early Kentucke

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Debut author Laura Franz writes like a seasoned professional. The Frontiersman’s Daughter melds powerful characters, artistic description and a captivating storyline into a feast sure to satisfy readers who crave stories with heart. Told through the eyes of the strong, determined, courageous daughter of one of the first white men to settle in Kentucke, the story follows Lael Click’s journey from a girl of thirteen to a woman of twenty as she deals with loss, love and the need of the Lord in her life.

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The tale takes place during the time of the American Revolution when tensions between the settlers and Indians were high. Lael’s past is stained by the sins of her pioneer parents, and she must overcome bitterness and vengeful longings as she seeks to find her own place in the world. Her biggest choice concerns matters of the heart. Three men have laid claim to her affections: her childhood sweetheart, a mysterious white man captured and raised by the Shawnee, and a Scottish doctor whose firm faith forces her to face her past and choose the course for her future. Through her friendships with Simon, Captain Jack and Doctor Ian Justus, Lael learns of life, love and the saving grace of the Lord. But which man will ultimately capture her heart?

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As I began The Frontiersman’s Daughter, it became clear this story wasn’t exactly what I expected. It’s so much more. While there is a satisfying romance with a hero I fell hard for, the epic tale is deeper and richer than many stories I’ve read. The reader is taken on a journey as Lael lives life in a period rarely featured in a romance. Because of Frantz’s meticulous research, I learned a great deal about what life was like for those brave souls who ventured into the frontier. With words as her medium, she paints pictures so vivid I felt I was right there with Lael. If you like emotional depth to your stories, you’ll be rewarded as you laugh, cry and sigh with the rich cast of characters. And the romance is as sweet as the bee gum honey Lael loves. I highly recommend this book and look forward to Frantz’s next release, Courting Morrow Little.

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What Do You Think?

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Do you enjoy stories set in Colonial America?

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Do you like romances where you don’t know who the lead female character will choose until the very end?

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Are you drawn to bad boys, adventurers or gentlemanly male leads, (all three types you’ll encounter in Laura’s great story, btw)?

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Your Chance to Win a Prize

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Normally, I give away my gently read copy of the book I reviewed, but not this week. The Frontiersman’s Daughter is going on my keeper’s shelf. I want to study this book and explore the artistry, characterization and great chapter endings as I discover some of Laura’s secrets for creating a captivating story.

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In lieu of a book this week, I’m giving away an elegant metal bookmark that reads: faith ~ now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1”.


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Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

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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.

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Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Carla Gade, winner of my gently read copy of Love Finds You in Bethlehem, New Hampshire by Lauralee Bliss.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Five on Friday: Writer Movies

Tears welled when I watched a scene in the recent release Julie and Julia when Julie returns home to find not one, but many calls on her answering machine, calls every wanna-be-published writer would love to hear. My daughter shifted in her seat, putting distance between us, when I pulled out a tissue and did mop-up.

The Fashion Queen loves to sing but doesn't like to write. She didn't get this poignant moment the way I did. I'm sure there were few in the theater who did. Most focus on the fine French fare or Meryl Streep's spot-on portrayal of Julia Child.

To me, the movie is about two writers, and I related to their highs and lows. I laughed, cried and sighed with Julia as she spent eight years of her life endeavoring to get her famous cookbook published and with Julie as she blogged about her experience cooking Julia's dishes decades later.

Another aspect of the movie that touched me deeply was the supportive husbands who stood behind these two women. My Gwynly is such a man, and I'm grateful beyond words.

If you want to see a movies that is sure to please, I recommend Julie and Julia. Even if you're not a writer, it's still a great show.

Five Writer Movies that Have Moved Me

1) Julie and Julia

2) Miss Potter - about Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit and his pals

3) Little Women - about Josephine March, a character modeled on the book's Victorian author Louisa May Alcott

4) Finding Neverland - about J.M. Berrie, creator of Peter Pan

5) Becoming Jane - about Jane Austen

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I'd love to hear about other writer movies. Which have you enjoyed and what was it you liked about them?