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Monday, June 29, 2009

Motivation for Monday

How would you like a list of 31 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Writing?

I discovered a new site for writers called Write to Done, and the post bearing the title above was written by Leo Babauta. The article is a full of great ideas to get motivated, a kind of Baskin Robbins for writers.

Here are three samples from the post to give you a taste:

9. Friends. Conversations with my friends, in real life, on the phone or via IM, have inspired some of my best posts. They stir up my ideas, contribute ideas of their own, and they fuse into something even more brilliant than either of us could have created.

13. Nature. Stuck for ideas? Go for a walk or a jog. Get away from sidewalks and into grass and trees and fields and hills. Appreciate the beauty around you, and let the inspiration flow through you. Sunsets and sunrises, of course, are two of my favorite uplifting scenes of nature, and anything involving water is also awesome (oceans, rivers, lakes, rain, rivulets, even puddles.)

21. Writing Journal. I highly recommend this for any writer. It doesn't have to be fancy, or something you write in every day. Just a plain notebook will do, although a nice journal can be motivating. Write down thoughts and inspirations and quotes and snippets of good writing you find and pieces of dialog and plot ideas and new characters. Then go back to this journal when you need ideas or inspiration.

Inspiring Me

Babauta's list contains many tempting ideas. I plan to try several of them.

I'm going to put the first two that I spotlighted above into practice today. I'll be walking to town to have lunch with a girlfriend who is supportive of my writing and enjoys hearing about my progress. Talk about inspiration. I'm sure to return home ready to pour words onto the page.

Inspiring You

I hope you find some of the ideas appealing.
If number 21 is something you'd like to try, I've got good news for you . . .

I'm giving away a black leather writing journal. It's 5x7 inches, has 240 ruled pages and a ribbon marker.

The journal will go to one of those who leaves a comment on this post this by Sunday, July 5th.
I'll post the drawing winner's name here the following Monday.

(Be sure to include an email address when prompted if you'd like a chance to win to so I can contact you, should your name be the one I choose. I don't share the information or add it to a mailing list.)

• • • • •

Of all the ideas listed in Babauta's post, which have worked best for you?
What are some he didn't mention that you've found helpful?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 49,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 7,000


I enjoyed my second week in a row in which I made good progress on my story. I attribute this to the new approach I've taken in regards to my writing.

And what might that be?

I had a revelation. When you hear what it is, you may wonder why it took me so long to become enlightened.

I made my writing a priority.

Yup. That's it.

Sounds simple in theory, I know, but I'd struggled to fit my writing in around the many items on my To-do List for so long that tending to tasks first had become a habit. My rationale was that if I got those pesky have-to's done, I wouldn't be distracted by thoughts of the things I should be doing while I was writing.

What I did the past couple of weeks was write before I tackled my To-do's. Sitting down at the computer and opening my manuscript file first felt foreign. My fingers ached to click the icon for my email program or my Web browser, but I remained firm.

Great things took place. First, I've had two weeks with word counts I like to report instead of the measly ones I'd been forced to post previously. Second, I discovered, much to my surprise and delight, that the other tasks still got done.

I was reminded of Parkinson's Law, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion," which Cyril Northcote Parkinson first postulated in an essay for The Economist back in 1955. Because I had less time to accomplish the items I had to do, I worked more efficiently and faster.

I've not yet reached the point where I rush to my computer eager to begin writing with no thoughts of the other things requiring my attention. The pull of projects on my lists is strong, but I will persevere. It takes time for a new behavior to become habit. I'm tenacious and goal-oriented, though, so I have hope that I will become a more disciplined writer who has good progress to post each week.

• • • • •

Do you struggle, as I do, to make writing a priority? Or are you one of those writers who remains focused and isn't distracted by all that needs to be done? If so, what are your secrets? I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Critical Care

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

Critical Care by Candace Calvert

A Riveting Medical Drama

There’s been a fire at a daycare center. Dr. Logan Caldwell and his staff scramble to treat the tiny burn victims, so many they’ve overflowed into the hallways. He has no time for Claire Avery, who's been sent from the education department to offer stress counseling to his overtaxed colleagues. Sparks fly from the moment the former ER nurse meets the ER director, or McSnarly as those who’ve dealt with his brusque treatment have dubbed him. He has no time for “touchy-feely” counseling or “weak links” on his watch.

Claire vowed never to set foot in ER again after losing her brother on her shift following an explosion that cost him and six fellow firefighters their lives. However, Sierra Mercy’s ER is short staffed after one of Logan’s nurses quits, and Claire is pulled in to work Urgent Care next door, throwing her into the path of the very man she wants to avoid. If Logan Caldwell discovers she crumbled following her brother’s death at her former hospital, her hopes of landing her safe job as clinical educator at Sierra Mercy could be dashed.

Critical Care, Candace Calvert’s first inspirational medical drama, is an action-packed look into the lives of two hurting healers who have done the best they can to cope. Having turned from the Lord, they’re trying to make it on their own, Claire with her detailed career spreadsheets and Logan with his “tough is what we do” attitude.

A former ER nurse, Calvert infuses her story with realism that reeled me in from the first page. Coupled with her well-developed, sympathetic characters, snappy dialogue and tightly woven plot, she has a riveting novel, one I couldn’t put down. It’s been years since I’ve read a book through the night, but I didn’t stop until I literally fell asleep over the pages as the sun rose.

Calvert has a real winner in Critical Care. If you like a fast-paced story that grabs you and doesn’t let go, this is it. I laughed, cried and sighed as I spent time with Logan and Claire. And the ending is all I hoped for. Both characters learn lessons in love and faith. Other than a sleepless night, my only complaint is that I have to wait for the release of the next book in Calvert’s Mercy Hospital series.

Special note: Critical Care is set in my hometown of Placerville, California. Calvert used to live in the area and did a nice job capturing the feel of the Sierra Foothills. I enjoyed the mention of places that are part of my world.

• • • • •

Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my once-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 list the winner's name the following Saturday.

Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Amy De Trempe, winner of a copy of Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot. (This is actually a new copy since I added mine to my shelf of keepers.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Five on Friday: A New Twist on Old Words

My daughter, the Fashion Queen, will head to college in the fall. In preparation for this monumental event, we added text messaging to our cell phone plan because my friends said that's the way young people stay in touch these days.

I fought the idea at first. Who would text when they could talk? A verbal conversation is so much faster than typing on a micro keyboard, which I have trouble even seeing with my aging eyes, let along using. I'm of the old school that thumbs are for tapping the space bar not Chicklets-sized keys. (Do they still make Chicklets gum, or have I really dated myself?)

Despite my protests, those wise souls who've sent children to college insisted texting is how everyone keeps in touch these day. So, when our cell contract came up for renewal, I convinced my equally reluctant hubby we needed to add this feature to our plan and get phones with Qwerty keyboards.

Within a few hours, I saw the truth in the counsel I'd received. The Fashion Queen was texting with lightening speed and sending more messages in one day than I send in one month. She's great about checking in with us via text, even better than she was by phone.

In addition to being unaware of the prevalence of texting today, I also didn't get the need for the whole new lingo that goes along with it. However, as soon as I began composing messages myself, I saw why the cute abbreviations have come into play. TTYL is lots faster to type than "talk to you later."

Another fun aspect of texting and IMing (which I did on Facebook for the first time a few months back under supervision from my daughter) is the fun new ways of using old words. Sometimes a word is abbreviated. Other times a more playful alternative spelling is used. In addition, I've seen new words and spellings appear in blog posts, tweets on Twitter and messages on loops.

Here are five examples I've seen and enjoyed recently:

1) kewl - cool

hawt - hot

3) shweet - sweet

4) deets - details

5) indie - independent (often in reference to independent bookstores.)

Technology is definitely having an effect on language. I've already seen some of these fun new twists on old words appear in contemporary novels. I wonder how long it will be before some of them even end up in the dictionary.

• • • • •

Has texting become a normal part of your communication? What are some new spellings and abbreviations you've seen recently? What are your favorites?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Motivation for Monday

Do you ever struggle to stay interested in your work-in-progress? What writer doesn't?

I found a site called eSSORTMENT with a post titled "Motivation and inspiration for struggling writers." The subtitle gives a better idea what you can expect: "Inspiration and some nonconventional ideas, to motivate and inspire writers who are struggling to stay interested in their long-term writing project."

The author of the piece lists ten ideas. One is to keep a journal of your triumphs and pitfalls. Another is to design a dust jacket for your book. My favorite is to reward yourself when you meet a goal.

Wonder if my hubby would agree that a Coach bag is a suitable reward for completing my manuscript. Maybe not, but I can enjoy a trip to Taco Bell when I meet my weekly word count goal
. Yum!

• • • • •

What are some ways you motivate yourself when you've lost interest in your story and things aren't moving along the way you'd like?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 42,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 7,000


I've reached the point where I'm able to begin using some of the material from my earlier rewrite of this story. I'd hoped I might find scenes or even entire chapters I could just drop in.

Alas, that is not the case.

I performed the first rewrite of this story 18 months ago, before I'd crawled out of my cave, met other writers, joined writing groups and attended conferences. I'd read a handful of books on craft, but I had so much to learn. (And am still learning.)

I'm having to cut much of what I'd written before and just use the ideas. When I can salvage a line, I have to rewrite it.

Back then, I didn't have a very good idea of what was meant by showing versus telling. There was little in the way of sensory detail, so I'm adding that. And I have to be careful to remove those portions that no longer jive with the new beginning and much-improved goals and motivations.

I've heard it's easier to write a book than to rewrite one, and I've come to understand why. However, I love the characters in this book. With the new beginning my hubby helped me devise, the story is far better than it was.

And I like revising and editing almost as much as writing a first draft, so I'm having lots of fun.

• • • • •

Have you ever rewritten a book from start to finish or added a totally new beginning that forced you to make major changes throughout the story? If so, how did you go about the task?

What do you think of the counsel often given newer writers to start a new story rather than rewriting a previous one?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Paper Roses

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

Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot

Mail-order bride Sarah Dobbs treasures her “Paper Roses,” which is what she calls the letters she received from her husband-to-be after she answered his matrimonial advertisement. She leaves Philadelphia in 1856 and arrives in Texas to be met by her groom’s brother, Clay Canfield, and the news that her fiancĂ© is dead. Sarah can’t go back east and determines to make a life for herself and her young sister out west. Clay offers her the cabin his brother had built for them, which is on the Canfield ranch.

While Sarah seeks to make a living in the German-French settlement, Clay searches in vain for his brother’s murderer. Although focused on his self-appointed task, he can’t escape sweet, plucky Sarah, who invades his world and his thoughts. Sarah fights the prejudice that pervades the town—and her growing feelings for Clay. He struggles to balance the needs of the community with his desire to return to his life back east. Both have difficulty trusting God, Whom their friends assure them can meet their needs if only they’d turn to Him. Can these two hurting souls overcome their differences and find peace, faith and love?

Amanda Cabot’s tender tale drew me in from the first chapter. Clay and Sarah are likable characters whose hurts and heartaches touched me, and yet both are strong, resilient people who have the fortitude to forge ahead despite the trials they face.

The story is cleverly woven, and I was drawn from one scene to the next as I waited for Sarah to discover her place in the small town and for Clay to find the murderer. The conclusion is surprising and satisfying. I enjoyed Paper Roses because of Cabot’s characters and story-telling ability and look forward to reading more of her work.

• • • • •

Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my once-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 list the winner's name the following Saturday.

Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Elizabeth Pina, winner of my once-read copy of Diamond Duo by Marcia Gruver.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Five on Friday: Top Tools for Staying on Track

My life is a veritable feast with many wonderful things on my plate: family activities; church; writing; running two blogs; reading and reviewing books as an influencer; editing a newsletter for a writers' group; Toastmasters; and more. Keeping track of the tasks involved in each area is vital.

I've come up with a system that works for me. It involves five tools, which live at my computer desk within arm's reach.



Here are my top tools for staying on track:

1) Pen

I used to be a ballpoint kinda gal, but when my age and reading glasses prescription increased, I switched to a marker with dark, easy-to-read ink. Being a bit OC, I'm particular about the pen I use: a Pilot Razor Point Extra Fine marker in black. I've been known to moan when I'm down to my last one and Office Max is out.

Desk Calendar

My family uses a wall calendar, but I have a number of appointments and activities that don't involve them, such as the dates of my blog guests at Romance Writers on the Journey, contest deadlines and Toastmasters meetings. I searched for a calendar that worked for me. Because I like things neat and because my reading vision isn't what it used to be, I wanted large squares with lines.

At long last I discovered a calendar from DayMinder that fit the bill. Model SK2 is taller and thinner than a normal 8-1/2 x 11 version, which allows for five good-sized rows. Each day has a full square, even Saturday and Sunday. This calendar is spiral-bound, so it lies flat when open. It's just what I was looking for, and I'm a happy camper.


3) "Blog Guests" Binder

I generally have two guests a week at Romance Writers on the Journey. Each interview involves a number of steps. In order to keep tabs on which ones I've completed for each of my guests, I created a checklist. I file these by date in a half-size black leather binder. With the flip of a page, I can see what tasks I've completed for each guest and which remain to be done.

4) Small Sticky Notes

I have stacks of 1-3/8 x 1-7/8 inch sticky notes. I use them to record my to-do items, one per note.

5) "To-Do List" Binder

The sticky notes filled with tasks are filed in my To-Do List binder. I'm one of those people who keeps an on-going list. Because I like things neat, I found myself copying my list quite often. I knew there had to be a better way.

Recently, I came up with a unique way to keep a To-Do List, one that can be easily updated. I use a full-size black leather binder with colored plastic dividers. I have three banks of eight. The first has a daily tab and one for each day of the week. The second and third banks list different tasks related to my areas of involvement, i.e. Interviews to Write, Contests and Household.

I file the stickies in the appropriate sections and move them around as needed. There's no more writing and rewriting of To-Do Lists. It's just peel, flip and stick. Quick!

It's taken months for my system to evolve and to find the tools that work well for me, but I persisted. I'm glad I did, because I'm better able to keep my plate balanced and insure that everything gets done in a timely manner.

• • • • •

As writers who also have jobs, families, hobbies, club memberships and more, we have lots on our To-Do Lists. How do you keep track of all you need to get done? What are your favorite tools for keeping tabs on your tasks?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Motivation for Monday

I'm often motivated by what I read. I'm also motivated by things my husband says. This past week I was moved by something Gwynly read and shared with me.

His men's Bible study group is reading a book called Seeing What Is Sacred by Ken Gire. A passage from the first chapter caught my guy's eye:

Books in a way are sacraments that make the communion between an author and a reader possible. The white paper and black ink are the means through which one heart is revealed to another. But the paper and the words are merely the elements of the sacrament. What is sacred is the heart that writes the book and the heart that sits in silent communion to take and read what has been written.
I love the idea of a book connecting the heart of the writer with the heart of a reader. That's what I hope my stories will achieve.

• • • • •

Do you sometimes feel connected to a writer when you're reading his/her work?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 35,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 4,000

I've had to make some major adjustments this week. My daughter got not one, but two part-time jobs. She's an office assistant and a cashier. I'm excited about all she's learning, and she's happy to be earning some money for college.

I'm adjusting to having the Fashion Queen away from home even more hours a day than she was during high school. I think this transition will help me prepare for her being away at college come September.

Since her college doesn't let freshman living on campus have a car, she hasn't bought one. Instead, we're sharing my Sport Trac this summer. I haven't had to share my truck before.

These changes have had an effect on my writing. It's very quiet around the house for hours on end, and without wheels, I'm at home for long stretches. Both of these facts have enabled me to make good progress on my story this week.

• • • • •

What major transitions have you faced in your life recently? How have they affected your writing?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Diamond Duo

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

Diamond Duo by Marcia Gruver

Marcia Gruver transports the reader to Jefferson, Texas in the year 1877, a real town with a rich history—and an attention-grabbing murder. Using the facts from the actual events leading up to the dastardly deed, Gruver brings to life a fictionalized account in a gem of a story resplendent with well-developed characters and emotion.

The story begins with the appearance of the mysterious, elegantly attired and bejeweled “Diamond Bessie” and the menacing man who holds a tight leash on her. Enter the heroine of Diamond Duo, a young woman of faith, Bertha Biddie, who wants nothing more than to attract the attention of Thaddeus Bloom. Certain the gorgeous, self-assured “Bessie,” “Annie,” or whomever she is knows the secret to catching a gentleman’s eye, Bertha befriends her. Thaddeus, equally captivated by Bertha, must put duty before love. He heads off to military school to satisfy his domineering father, leaving his beloved behind, much to his dismay. She pines for him and yet is worried about her new-found friend, whom she fears is in serious trouble.

With a rich cast of memorable secondary characters, Gruver sweeps the reader into a story that moves her quickly from one engaging scene to the next. Sarah King, a black farmer’s wife dealing with lingering attitudes resulting from the Civil War, is beautifully portrayed. She plays a significant role in the story, which we see from her perspective on numerous occasions. A powerful transformation takes place in the lives of Bertha’s parents. I loved the addition of these people as well as the others who populate the town and the story. The book is definitely a romance, but it’s also a wonderfully told tale of the life-changing effects the events leading up to the heinous crime have on a close-knit community and how seemingly disparate individuals overcome their differences. The growth of the major players is wonderful to witness.

When I pick up a book from a new author, I never know what to expect. In some cases, I feel a sense of disappointment. In others, I come away satisfied. Every now and then, though, I’m so mightily impressed that I add that author to my “must read” list, which is the case with Marcia Gruver. She’s an artist whose canvas is the page and whose medium is carefully chosen words. The cover includes a quotation from author Kathleen Y’Barbo, “ A masterpiece waiting to be found.” I agree.

I heartily recommend Diamond Duo to any reader who enjoys a historical inspirational. And the good news is that if, like me, you’re left wanting more, the sequel, Chasing Charity, book two in the Texas Fortunes series, is already out as well.

• • • • •

Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my once-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 list the winner's name the following Saturday.

Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Laura Frantz, winner of my once-read copy of Stand-in Groom by Kaye Dacus.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Five on Friday: Sources of Inspiration

When I interview guests for my other blog, Romance Writers on the Journey, one question I often ask is what led them to write their first story. It's interesting hearing what or whom served as inspiration.

I just returned from a walk with my husband. As we strolled along historical Highway 49 in our Gold Rush era town, I reflected on what infuses me with new ideas and a desire to spend time with my characters.

Here are my top five sources of inspiration:

1) Taking Walks

Getting away from the computer and venturing outdoors clears my head. The pressure from the many tasks on my To-do Lists and the ever-present reminders of household chores I should take care off no longer plague me. Instead, I find myself living in the moment, and a delicious sense of peace envelops me. Often scenes begin to play out in my mind, and I return home eager to capture them.

1) Visiting Historic Settings

Because I write Historicals set in Gold Rush towns nestled in the oak-studded Sierra Foothills of California where I live, I don't have to go far to view stately Victorian homes, red brick buildings and rock-faced structures, some dating as far back as the 1850s. On my walks to town or drives through neighboring communities, the past mingles with the present. With very little effort, I can envision my characters carrying on their daily lives on the very streets and alleys I travel.

3) Plotting with my Hubby

I'm a character-driven writer. Gwynly, however, sees the big picture. He's come up with great ideas for my stories. When I'm stumped or just need to bounce an idea off someone, he's the first person I seek. When I get published, he'll deserve a good deal of the credit because I've used his wonderful ideas throughout my stories.

4) Listening to Classical Music

When I write, I open iTunes, click on my writing music file and fill my little office with the works of Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, Beethoven and other classical composers. The historic pieces transport me back in time, and words flow freely, fueled by the amazing artistry of the arrangements.

5) Reading My Story

One sure way for me to be swept up in my story is simply to read a portion of it. Often, I'll peruse the scene I worked on the last time I wrote and find myself drawn right back into the action, ready to move forward.

This afternoon I was so inspired by the walk I took with my hubby/plotting partner though our historic town that I'm having a hard time forcing myself to tend to paperwork and other projects I'd put off. I'm motivated to get the must-do items done as quickly as possible so I can immerse myself in my imaginary world and commune with my characters.

• • • • •

What serves to inspire you and creates a desire to write?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Motivation for Monday

What motivates you?

For me words, sayings and quotations serve as inspiration. The walls in my home office are covered with them. Here's a sampling:

Dream big.
Believe in all you do.
The journey is everything.

I was cruising Cyberspace and found Laurel Amberdine's site. One section is called
Quotes for Writers, and it offers the following categories:

just beginning
conquering fear
conquering procrastination
facing rejection
editing and revising
dealing with criticism
writing, life, and art

I chose two of the quotations I found there to share with you today:

"Write what you care about and understand. Writers should never try to outguess the marketplace in search of a salable idea; the simple truth is that all good books will eventually find a publisher if the writer tries hard enough, and a central secret to writing a good book is to write one that people like you will enjoy."
~ Richard North Patterson

"Writing has made me rich--not in money but in a couple hundred characters out there, whose pursuits and anguish and triumphs I've shared. I am unspeakably grateful at the life I have come to lead." ~ Wright Morris

• • • • •

What words, sayings or quotations have served to motivate or encourage you?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 31,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 2,500

When I wrote my first five books, I hadn't discovered the wonderful world of Cyberspace. I didn't know a single writer. My days were spent in isolation, crafting stories as fast as I could type them. I could pour forth a 100,000 word manuscript in six to eight weeks.

Since that time, I've crawled out of my cave and welcomed many awesome friends into my life. I now manage a Web site and two blogs, edit for my awesome critique partners, visit blogs, keep up on several loops, reply to email, spend time on Facebook, tweet on Twitter
and more.


All of these additions to my life are great, but they take time. Time I used to spend writing.

When I watch my word count grow far slower than it used to, I can get discouraged. But then I remind myself that my life is rich and full these days.

And I look at all I did accomplish.

I don't list everything in my review on a regular basis, but this week I did lots more than work on my story. I . . .

wrote two sets of blog interview questions,
published six blog posts,
packaged several blog drawing prizes,
lined up seven new blog guests,
did a complete makeover of my Web site,
attended my weekly Toastmasters meeting,
read two books as an influencer,
wrote a book review
connected with tonz of terrific people.

I've prayed for balance in my life. I don't feel like I can say I've achieved it, but I'm making progress.

• • • • •

Do you struggle to add to your word count but find other things taking your time? How do you maintain balance? I'd love to hear your thoughts?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Stand-in Groom

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. Check back on Saturdays when I share my reviews of some books I've enjoyed recently, both historical and contemporary.

The Review

Stand-in Groom by Kaye Dacus

Professional wedding planner Anne Hawthorne has built her business by being the best. She fills her days making her clients’ dreams come true and waiting for the day when she’ll be the one standing at the altar. Her first interaction with elegant Englishman George Laurence has her wondering if he’s the man God has for her, a man she could really trust. But then George shows up in her office—as one of her grooms. How can she keep her feelings under control while orchestrating the most elaborate wedding she’s planned yet, for him and his young fiancĂ©e?

George agrees to pose as the groom so his wealthy employer can keep his engagement a secret. Even though it goes against his Christian principles, George needs to keep his position as personal assistant so he can remain in the U.S. When the wedding planner turns out to be the first woman to capture his attention—and his heart—he feels horrible about deceiving her. Will he give up his job and his desire for citizenship in order to gain the woman he loves?

Stand-in Groom is Kaye Dacus’ debut novel, and what a debut. She’s crafted a wonderful story with engaging characters I liked from the start. Dacus brings to life the Louisiana setting and pulls the reader into Anne and George’s lives with the skill of a long-time author. The story moves along seamlessly, evoking emotion at every turn. I laughed, cried and sighed as I witnessed the hills and valleys of Anne and George’s journeys. Dacus has joined my list of must-read authors. I’m looking forward to her next book, Menu for Romance, featuring one of the secondary characters from Stand-in-Groom.

• • • • •

Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my once-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 list the winner's name the following Saturday.

Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Mez, winner of my once-read copy of A Promise for Spring by Kim Vogel Sawyer.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Five on Friday: My Favorite Reference Books

I have two shelves filled with books on the writing craft. Because I write Historicals, I have another three shelves with books on the Victorian Era, the railroad and the history of the California Mother Lode. I've kept Amazon busy the past two years.

Of all those reference books, though, there are five I reach for more often than the others.

1) Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

This helps with spelling, sure, but I use it mostly for checking word origins. I don't want to use words that weren't used in the time period of my stories. I check even common ones such as hello, which dates back to 1877. That's after my stories take place, so out it went in favor of Good Morning, Good Afternoon, etc.

2) Roget's International Thesaurus, 6th Edition

If I want to explore the many nuances of a word, this is my resource. My computer has a thesaurus, yes, but this book goes into much greater detail. For the word cut, for example, there are 32 entries for the noun form, 42 for verbs and 11 for adjectives. Each one takes me to a list of even more possibilities, so I'm able to locate the word with the precise meaning I'm after.

3) The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer

When I want to know if a certain saying had come into use by my period, this is the first place I look. I'll often coin my own sayings to keep my stories fresh and free of cliches, but when I have a particular character who uses them as part of his speech, such as a secondary character in my current story, I want to be sure he's not using idioms before their time. For example, if Abe were to say there was "never a dull moment" around his barbershop, I'd be guilty of an anachronism, since the first recorded use of that expression didn't occur until 1889, nearly two decades after my story takes place.

4) The Describer's Dictionary: A Treasury of Terms & Literary Quotations by David Grambs

When I want to find just the right word to describe something, this resource comes in handy. From descriptions of facial features to ways of walking, I can find lists covering many subjects. These appear on the right hand pages. On the left, the author includes examples of wonderful descriptions from literature.

5) Merriam-Webster's Pocket Guide to Punctuation, Second Edition

This little book is one I keep handy and reach for all the time. Having been an assistant editor for a small textbook company several years ago, I learned the importance of using proper punctuation. It was from this little guide that I finally learned how to use an ellipsis and an em dash correctly. This 4x5 inch book solves many of my comma dilemmas too. It's not a substitute for the Chicago Manual of Style, but it weighs a whole lot less.

Every profession has essential equipment. For me as a writer, my reference books are the tools of my trade. It's taken three years to build my library and represents an significant investment in my career, but it's one I feel is well worth the money.

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What reference books do you consider essential? What are some useful ones you've discovered that you'd recommend to others?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Motivation for Monday

Romance novels offer comfort in down economy

That's the headline of a recent article.

In the video clip from the Today show accompanying the article, you'll hear how romance sales are up. In some cases way up. According to the reporter, Harlequin reports an increase of 32% over last year.

So, my romance writing friends, that is good news for us!
Keep on writing!

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Have you changed your book buying habits lately?
Are you purchasing more or fewer romance novels than you did last year?