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Friday, July 31, 2009

Five on Friday: Character Traits

What a character!

We've all heard the phrase. Sometimes it's accompanied by a shake of the head, a roll of the eyes or a laugh. The person to whom the speaker is referring has made a real impression, albeit not always a favorable one.

As a writer, however, I would take the phrase as a compliment if someone were to say that about a person in one of my stories. I'd know I did a good job creating a distinctive character, one who has made an impression on the reader.

There are many ways to make a character jump off the page: appearance, dialogue, mannerisms, unique hobbies or interests, attire. For a major character, writers employ many of these. However, a single aspect used well can make even a minor character come to life. One of my CPs likes the stagecoach driver in my wip. He doesn't get much page time, but his speech patterns make him fun and memorable.

We're all characters. Our families and friends who know us well are aware when we're acting out of character. Our job as writers is for our readers to know our characters so well they can spot those times when one is (intentionally, of course) acting out of character.

Just for fun, here are five facts about me that go into making me the unique character I am.

1) I'm addicted to Taco Bell. I could eat there every day. In fact, when I was in my twenties, working full time and going to college, I often ate there twice a day. My hubby asked me just this week if I wanted to stop at Taco Bell for lunch. I laughed and said, "Do I even need to answer?" If I were to turn down Taco Bell, Gwynly would know I was seriously ill.

2) I love Coach bags. I began carrying them in the early eighties before they were even a blip on the fashion radar. If my family walks through a mall and my head suddenly jerks to the side and I cease to participate in conversation, they know I've just made a Coach store sighting. I don't always indulge my desire to go inside, but my heart races nonetheless. Sometimes I resist the urge to splurge, thereby sparing the store's staff the need to mop up the trail of drool behind me as well as sparing Gwynly the need to confiscate my credit card.

3) I'm organized–or I like to think I am anyhow. My canned goods are lined up military fashion in neat rows, right side up with labels facing front. My spices are alphabetized. My clothes are hung facing the same direction in color groups arranged by sleeve length. (My office, however, is often a disaster area. Somehow, I'm able to glue myself to the screen and ignore the growing piles surrounding me.)

4) I like puns. They're one form of humor I understand. I'm a bit slow when it comes to getting jokes, often laughing moments after everyone else. I can't tell them well either. If I don't blow it by laughing at my own joke before I'm even done telling it, I'm apt to muff the punchline. I enjoy Toastmasters, where we assume many roles in addition to giving speeches, but I dread the days when I'm Joke Master. If I can find a joke that incorporates a pun, though, I can usually limp through the experience without totally embarrassing myself.

5) I like to make up words. Often I do this by adding syllables to an existing word. For example, when I've thoroughly embarrassed myself, I might say I'm mortificated. Sometimes though, I mangle a word completely. When Gwynly or the Fashion Queen have done something nice for me, I've been known to say I apparici-illiate that. I credit my mom for nurturing my tendency to create new words. Growing up, when we made spaghetti sauce, we started by jibbling the ground beef. It wasn't until I made the sauce with a friend years later and asked her to jibble the ground beef that I learned my mom had made up the word.

So, there you have it. Proof that I'm quite a character. :-)

• • • • •

What are some of your unique character traits?

What are some unusual or memorable traits you've given characters in your stories?

Who is a memorable character from a story you read, and what made him/her unique?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 64,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 2,000


Even though I didn't make as much progress on my story this week as I would have liked, I accomplished a great deal. I wrote an article for my local RWA chapter's newsletter, read and reviewed two books and spent more time working on my blogs than usual.

I was blessed to be able to go out to eat with girlfriends twice during the week. Taking time to maintain my friendships is important to me. These dear ladies have supported me in each step of my writing journey. During the two years I spent drafting stories before I met my writing buddies, these women were there for me. When I sell, they'll be the first to get signed copies of my debut novel after my husband and daughter have theirs.

Summer vacation is drawing to a close, so I spent extra time with my teacher hubby. I'm going to miss him when he returns to school a week from now for staff meetings and prep days.

During one of our times together, Gwynly helped me plot the book I'll work on when I complete the current rewrite. Not only does he have wonderful ideas, but he helps me with the male perspective. I'm grateful to have such a supportive hubby and best friend.

• • • • •

Do you have a special plotting partner?

Are you able to spend time to with your local friends on a regular basis?

How much time do you spend on writing-related activities, such as blogging, each week?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Love's Rescue

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's Rescue by Tammy Barley

An Action-packed Western Romance

Jessica Hale’s family heads out West to avoid the escalating tensions between North and South and moves to Nevada Territory, but trouble finds her there. Her beloved brother returns to the States to protect the family’s Kentucky homestead, and Union sympathizers burn their Carson City home, killing her parents and little sister and leaving her alone and at risk. To make matters worse, she’s injured in the blaze and whisked away to cattleman Jake Bennett’s ranch deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, far from civilization.

Realizing the danger Jess is in, Jake takes it upon himself to protect her, which is no easy task considering the fact that she can’t stomach the sight of him, blames him for her father’s death and tries to escape at the first opportunity. But that’s fine by Jake. He doesn’t intend to lose his heart to a firebrand like Jess when he’s got his own set of troubles--just keep her safe. Both struggle to deal with their emotional scars independently until they trust the Lord with their hurts and heartaches and allow Him to bring healing.

Tammy Barley has crafted an action-packed adventure that pulled me in and kept me entertained from first page to last. Plot twists aplenty, nice touches of humor and deep emotion kept me turning the pages eager to see what would happen next. Jess, a spirited heroine who hides her softer side, wound her way into my heart. Jake is the consummate hero, with a caring nature beneath his sun-bronzed, take-charge exterior, whom I fell for--hard. Barley sprinkles the story with a liberal helping of secondary characters who people the ranch and add a nice blend of sweetness and spice.

Love’s Rescue, Barley’s debut novel, is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes inspirational Western historicals. I look forward to the sequel, Hope’s Promise, and the opportunity to spend more time with Jake and Jess.
• • • • •

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. (I'm keeping my copy of this book.) 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 Lori, winner of my gently-read copy of Chasing Charity by Marcia Gruver.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Five on Friday: Favorite Reads

My favorite reads? That's easy. Romances.

The romance genre encompasses many sub-genres, and, like most readers, I have my preferences.

1) Mail-Order Bride Stories - These are by far my all-time favorites. There's something about a man and woman who are so needy that they'll risk everything to marry a stranger. I love the emotional challenges as they get to know one another.

2) Marriage of Convenience Stories - Closely related to mail-order bride stories, these have some of the same emotional tensions, although they can be even greater if the couple knows each other beforehand, has past issues standing in their way and are forced to wed against their will. While most of the mail-order bride stories I've read are historicals, I've read some contemporary marriage of convenience stories I really enjoyed. One that stands out is Morning Comes Softly by Debbie Macomber.

3) Western-set Historicals - Perhaps because I'm a native Californian, I enjoy stories set in the western United States. Men and women of the time faced day-to-day challenges and exhibited tremendous courage and strength of character.

4) American-set Historials - Stories set in the U.S. in the 1800s are next on my list. I enjoy learning about other parts of the country and what life was like for them a century ago.

5) Sweet Traditional Contemporary Romances - I enjoy reading the Steeple Hill Love Inspired line. Which stories I choose depends entirely upon the back cover copy. Before I began writing, I'd read many of the Love Inspired books. However, now that my time is more limited, I'm forced to be more selective.

My biggest challenge is that there are far too many great books available, thanks to the awesome authors producing them, and not nearly enough hours in the day to whittle away at my To Be Read mountain.

• • • • •

What are your favorite reads, and why?

How many books do you have time to read in a month?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 62,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 7,000


I continue to make progress on my rewrite. I found more material from the earlier version I could use this week. However, I also encountered an entire chapter that didn't work, one I liked but that no longer fit due to the new beginning.

Cutting material used to pierce my very soul. There were times I came close to shedding tears when a mere paragraph had to go. Now, I can chop several chapters with one swift tap of the delete key and not feel the whoosh of my heart falling into my shoes.

When I first began writing, I felt a strong attachment to my words. A part of me went into each one. Doing away with them sent me into the early stages of grief. In addition to mourning the loss, I also experienced doubt. Would I be able to come up with new material as good as what I'd written before?

Now that I've been writing for three and a half years, I've grow to trust my ability to produce scenes, chapters and even entire acts that are better than those I removed. My current project is proof. What I whacked was weak writing. The new story is a definite improvement.

An unexpected but pleasant aspect of wielding the knife is that pruning poor portions of a story gives me the opportunity to rewrite them. I get to spend more time with characters I've grown to love and showcase them in a better light.

I've had a good time this week bringing out more of my characters' motivations and deepening the emotion in several scenes. I got to write a new chapter to replace the one I removed, and it's far better than what went by the wayside. Writing a first draft is fun, but I've learned rewriting can be just as enjoyable.

• • • • •

Have you ever felt the ache that accompanies cutting a portion of your story? How do you deal with it?

How do you determine what stays and what goes?

Have you ever read a book with a scene that didn't move things along, one you thought the author could have removed and actually strengthened the story?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Chasing Charity

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

Chasing Charity by Marcia Gruver

It’s the year 1905 in Humble, Texas, one Charity Bloom will never forget. Being left at the altar when her fiancé, Daniel Clark, flees in full view of the town is bad enough, but seeing her life-long best friend, Emily Dane, dashing after him is almost more than she can bear.

Humble is overrun with fortune seekers eager to cash in on the oil boom, and Charity vows to have nothing to do with them. However, when oilman Buddy Pierce arrives and hits a gusher on Charity’s mother’s land, she can’t deny her attraction. But Daniel, who’s quickly tired of Emmy, regrets leaving Charity and refuses to lose her to Buddy. Which man will convince independent Charity he’s the one for her–repentant and rich Daniel or handsome and honorable Buddy?

Chasing Charity, book two in Gruver’s Texas Fortunes Series, is every bit as delightful as her debut novel, Diamond Duo. I enjoyed spending time with a couple of characters we’d met before as well as being introduced to a wonderful new cast. Gruver brings every one to life with consummate skill. Not only are Charity and Buddy delightful, but the secondary characters shine, too, from traitorous Emmy to the devoted hound dog that befriends Charity. I loved seeing both Charity and Emmy learn to surrender their situations to the Lord.

The story takes off from page one and builds with each scene, providing for a fast, fun read. Gruver tosses in wonderful twists that keep things interesting. I blasted through this book. I was so eager to see how the story ended that I stayed up late to finish it. Those yawns in church the next day were Gruver’s fault.

I heartily recommend Chasing Charity to any reader who enjoys an inspirational historical romance. If you haven’t read Diamond Duo, it’s another great book. And the third in the series, Emmy’s Equal, is coming this fall. It’s on my must-read list, that’s for sure.
• • • • •

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 Linda W., winner of my gently-read copy of Snow Melts in Spring by Deborah Vogts.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Five on Friday: The People in My Worlds

Today is a special day in my life, my birthday.
And not just any birthday. I’m 50!

Birthdays are special to me, ranking right up there with Christmas. My family took me to Taco Bell for lunch (my favorite fast food), to see Harry Potter 6 in the afternoon and to dinner at Olive Garden (my favorite sit-down restaurant).

On my birthday, I generally find myself in a reflective mood. However, this year I’m focused on the present and am looking forward to the future.

My forties were good, and I anticipate great things in my fifties. As I told a friend this morning, I'm young enough and healthy enough to do 'most anything I want and old enough to have the benefit of experience. The hands-on aspects of raising our daughter are ending, so I'll be able to enjoy her in a whole new way. Gwynly and I will have more time for one another. And I'll be able to devote more time for my own pursuits. If the Lord wills, I may even realize my dream of being a published novelist.

I’m feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude today, and here are five of things I’m most thankful for:

1) My faith - I know Whose I am.

2) My family - I have an awesome husband, who’s my best friend, and an amazing daughter, both of whom are very supportive of me.

3) My church family - We’ve attended the same church for over fourteen years and are blessed to be part of such a caring body of believers.

4) My many friends - I've known some of my friends for years and others I’ve met recently. Whether they live in the area and I see them often or whether they’re Cyber buddies with whom I exchange emails, Facebook messages or tweets on Twitter, each is special to me.

5) My writing - I dreamed of being a writer since I was a young girl, and I’ve finally turned that dream into reality. I love what I’m doing and am enjoying my journey.
As I compiled my list, I realized people are a large part of my life. Even though I’m a stereotypical introverted writer, I enjoy connecting with others. My life is enriched not by the things I have, but the company I keep.

The same is true of my characters. Their situations change because of the challenges I throw at them, but their interactions with other characters are what change them and help them become stronger, wiser and happier. I endeavor to create characters with depth who realize the value of those whom God has brought into their lives, even though it often takes time for them to come to that realization.

• • • • •

What are some of the things you’re most grateful for?

What’s a memorable story you’ve read where one character has been shaped or influenced by another? How did the author show the transformation?

If you’re a writer, how do you deepen the connections between your characters?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Motivation for Monday

A Harvard grad writing romance?
An ivy league college holding a scholarly conference featuring a romance writer?

Julia Quinn is the Harvard grad.
Princeton is the university hosting Eloisa James.

The romance genre is gaining respectability and acceptance, and for good reason. While total book sales were down 4% from 2008, according to the Association of American Publishers, Harlequin's revenue rose 13.5% in the first quarter of 2009.

These facts were taken from an encouraging article published recently in USA Today,
"Scholarly writers empower the romance genre."

Be sure to read the entire article. Why? Because you won't believe who organized that Princeton conference. I was surprised and think you may be as well.

• • • • •

Do you think the romance genre has overcome much of the stigma it's battled for decades?

Do you find yourself having to defend your choice to read and/or write romance?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 55,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 6,000


I'm tired but excited. I had a great week. First, I completed the critique I started last week, editing twenty more chapters. Not only do I get the satisfaction of helping a fellow writer and the enjoyment of a good story, but I also learn through the process. When I return to my work-in-progress, I see things I'd overlooked and am able to improve my story.

And return to my story, I did, rewriting 6,000 words. Yay for me.

However, I must 'fess up. I didn't add much new material. I've finally reached the point in the story where the scenes from the first version fit into to the new one. To my surprise and delight, I was able to use most of what I'd written in the two chapters I added this week. Talk about a good feeling.

Part of the reason I was able to focus on the editing and my writing this week was that our daughter was away at her college orientation. She was gone three days, giving Gwynly and me a sneak peek at what life will be like come September. At this point, I think I'm going to handle the transition well. I didn't shed a tear during the Fashion Queen's absence. Of course, I may find myself wishing I'd never made such a bold statement once she's been gone for a few weeks.

• • • • •

How much time are you able to devote to writing in a normal week?

How do you react when you return to your story and realize it's better than you remembered?

For those of you who are already Empty Nesters, what advice do you have on making the transition as painless as possible?


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Snow Melts in Spring

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

Snow Melts in Spring by Deborah Vogts

Country Gal + City Guy = Conflict

Mattie Evans, a dedicated veterinarian, loves animals, her independence and her beloved Flint Hills of Kansas. Gil McCray, rodeo hero turned football star, headed to California after the death of his brother and has no desire to return to a place filled with painful memories.

When Gil’s favorite horse is injured, he grudgingly makes a visit to his father’s ranch. Sparks fly between Gil and his dad, who’ve been sparring for years, but another kind of spark flares when he meets the spunky vet caring for his four-legged friend. He’s drawn to Mattie as she is to him, but Gil harbors a secret that could change everything. Can he make peace with his past, accept the Lord’s forgiveness and overcome Mattie’s resistance? Can she forgive Gil when she learns the truth and put love of the man before love of the land?

Deborah Vogts has crafted a heartwarming tale in her debut novel, Snow Melts in Spring. I warmed to Mattie from the beginning, grew to like Gil soon after and found myself eager to see them work out their differences. There’s plenty of conflict to move the well-written story along, but it’s tempered by touching scenes that create a pleasing balance. Vogts seamlessly weaves the faith element into her story as both characters endeavor to turn their struggles over to the Lord. I enjoyed my time with Vogts’ characters and look forward to reading the next book in her Seasons of the Tallgrass series.

• • • • •

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 Susan Hollaway, winner of my gently-read copy of The Reluctant Cowgirl by Christine Lynxwiler.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Five On Friday: Turning Points

What a wonderful day I've had. Gwynly and I picked up our daughter from U.C. Davis, where she attended her freshman orientation. She had a great time and is already signed up for her classes, which will begin the last week of September.

I'm excited for her. The next few years are likely to be some of her best. She'll learn a great deal in the classroom, true, but she'll also learn about herself and her capabilities.

Watching the Fashion Queen embark on the next chapter of her life reminded me of the journeys my characters take. My stories begin when my hero and heroine reach a major turning point in their lives, one that will forever alter their futures.

Those times in life when we're forced out of our comfort zones and have to adjust to new circumstances often bring about the greatest growth. This is certainly true of my characters.

Who wants to read a work of fiction that merely details day-to-day life? Can you say boring? Readers want to see conflict and challenges. So, we writers do our best to give it to them. That's our job.

Because I'm feeling nostalgic today, I looked back over my life and identified five turning points that have helped mature me and shape me into the person I am today. I'll list them chronologically.

1) Marrying Gwynly - Being half of our partnership has taught me a great deal about compromise and commitment. About love and loyalty. About friendship and fun. I'm a better person for knowing the wonderful man I married.

2) Finishing College - The day I crossed the stage at what was then Cal State Hayward, I couldn't contain my joy. After eleven long years of working and going to school, I finally earned my degree in Mass Communication with the Print Journalism option. So many times I'd been tempted to give up as I struggled to balance my job and my studies, but I persisted. I learned that hard work is rewarded and that discouragement and doubt can be overcome.

3) Living Abroad - A year after Gwynly and I married, we were blessed with the opportunity to spend four and a half years in Germany where he taught U.S. Army dependents at Nürnberg American High School. Living abroad away from family, friends and the familiar taught me so much about myself and my capabilities. Although the experience was challenging at times, I discovered inner strength I didn't know I possessed.

4) Having our Daughter - Any of you who are parents know the trepedation and thrill that accompany the news that a little one is to join your family. Like many first-time moms, I felt that mix of emotions. The day our daughter was born was definitely a turning point. Parenting is an on-going education. I've taught the Fashion Queen many things, but I've learned from her as well.

5) Embarking on my Writing Journey - Turning my long-held dream of being a writer into reality took a great deal of courage. With my background as an assistant editor at a small textbook publishing company, I knew many writers want to be published and are vying for limited contracts. However, the joy and personal satisfaction I've experienced are amazing.

There have been highs: my first contest placement, the first request for a full, my Golden Heart finals. There have, however, been disappointing days when I remind myself that publication isn't everything. The wonderful people I'm meeting are a blessing beyond measure. I continue to learn from each of you as you share your lives with me. Thanks for being partners on my journey.

• • • • •

What are some of the turning points your characters have faced?
What are some memorable turning points you've read and enjoyed in others' stories?

What are some turning points in your life, and what have you learned from them?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Motivation for Monday

Courage. It's something we writers need.

"Motivational Quotes to Bring You Courage" is a short slide show from beliefnet.

Here's a quotation I like from slide #7:

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, "I'll try again tomorrow."

Mary Anne Radmacher-Hershey

Last week I wasn't able to write because I chose to spend my time on other things. I don't know about you, but when I'm away from my manuscript for several days, returning can be a bit daunting.

Questions run through my head:

Will I remember where I was heading?

Will I be able to get back in my creative zone?

Will I look at what I wrote before taking my break and ask myself, "What was I thinking?"

At times like these, I do my best to remember that a big part of being courageous is facing our doubts and fears. The quotes in the beliefnet slide show gave me motivation to move forward.

• • • • •

What do you do when fear rears its ugly head and you need a helping of courage?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

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

Words added/rewritten this week: 0


Zero words added?

Yes, it's true.

After two weeks in which I made significant progress, it's hard to admit that I added not one word to my story this week.

However, rather than focus on what I didn't do, I'm choosing to focus on what I accomplished.

I gave a speech at Toastmasters. Since I put a great deal of time into writing and rehearsing each of my speeches, I have less time for working on my story the weeks I'm scheduled to deliver a speech.

The experience I gained and feedback I received served me well. My speech was from the storytelling manual. My evaluator noted several strengths, and yet he mentioned some areas for improvement. He suggested I clarify my theme and add more description. Sound familiar? Yes, those same elements are important to my stories.

Working every element I need into a 100K story can be challenging. Trying to fit them into a 6-8 minute speech, however, is more so. This served as a great lesson in writing tight, so my time was well spent.

I took some time out for my family too. Our daughter starts college in mid-September. She's working two part-time jobs this summer, so she's not around much. When she is, we're doing things as a family. I'll have plenty of time for writing once the nest is empty. While she's still here, being with her is a priority.

My third major use of time this week was to work on an edit of a full manuscript for a writer friend. I was honored to be asked and had wanted to read this particular story, so even though this is a major time commitment, I set aside my own writing to help another. And I'm happy with that decision. I've been blessed by so many generous writers that I welcome opportunities to give back.

So, yes. My word count was zero this week. By choice.

Am I eager to return to my story? Definitely. But I have no regrets about how I spent my week.

• • • • •

Do you have weeks when other things take priority over your writing?
How do you feel when that happens?

When you've had to be away from your story and your characters,
do you find yourself eager to spend time with them again?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Review of a Good Read: The Reluctant Cowgirl

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 Reluctant Cowgirl by Christine Lynxwiler

City Girl Returns to Her Country Roots

Crystal McCord grew up surrounded by seven siblings in Arkansas cattle country, but when tragedy struck on the day she graduated high school, she left home and painful memories behind. Eager to live the dream she and her twin sister had shared, Crystal heads to New York City determined to land a role on Broadway. Seven years into her journey, Crystal catches her boyfriend with another woman and heads home to regroup. What she doesn’t count on is meeting her family’s new neighbor, a handsome cowboy with troubles of his own and a winning smile.

Jeremy Buchanan struggles to make it through each day. When his ex-wife snatched their little girl for whom he has custody and disappeared with her, his world was shaken. His sole purpose for months has been searching for his daughter. He doesn’t have time for distractions, but when he meets Crystal, he can’t deny his attraction. However, he’s not about to lose his heart to a woman who’s made it clear that nothing is going to keep her from returning to NYC for her shot at a Broadway lead.

The Reluctant Cowgirl by Christine Lynxwiler is a sweet tale of two hurting people who need to find their way back to the Lord and surrender their problems to Him. Her characters are well developed, and I found myself drawn to Crystal and Jeremy from the start. Lynxwiler pulled me in with her lively dialogue and well-structured plot. The story moves along at a nice pace with the emotional tension building to a satisfying conclusion. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a heartwarming contemporary inspirational romance.

• • • • •

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 Jessica, winner of a copy of Critical Care by Candace Calvert. (This is actually a new copy since I received an autographed copy from Candace.)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Five on Friday: Sensory Details

"Stop, Keli!"

I came to an abrupt halt and turned to my husband with what must have been a startled look on my face. We'd just returned home from a walk to town this morning and were in the driveway in front of our house. Was something wrong?

"Listen," Gwynly said.

I did and smiled. We stood next to the grove of Aspens he planted several years ago, and they were quaking.

OK. Grove is a bit of an exaggeration, but those three threes are special to us.

Every summer for years, we took our daughter camping at Calaveras Big Trees state park, which is home to some of California's largest redwoods. Much as I love standing at the base of the massive trees and peering at their crowns several stories above, one of my fondest memories is walking around the meadow at the center of the campground. We would pause by a good-sized grove of Aspen and listen as the breeze rustled their heart-shaped leaves.

As I listened to the leaves dance in the breeze today, I was reminded of the importance of adding sounds to our stories.

Have you ever had a contest judge or critique partner say your manuscript would benefit from the inclusion of more sensory detail?

I remember the first time a judge made such a comment on one of my early manuscripts. After reading her remark, I was puzzled. In my newbie writer innocence, I recall turning to my husband, my brow creased. "Does she mean I'm supposed to put in smells, tastes and sounds?"

After doing a bit of research, I had my answer. A resounding yes.

I went back through some of the wonderful romances I'd read searching for sensory details. Voilà! There they were, adding richness to a great read and bringing the author's story to life.

At first I felt a bit silly. Why hadn't I noticed them before?

After further examination, I figured out the reason. Because they were so well woven into the stories, they didn't draw attention to themselves but blended into a pleasing whole.

I tend to be a visual writer. By that I mean my strength is painting the picture for the eye to behold. While that's a large part of setting a scene, I was missing other elements that add depth.

I began asking questions as I wrote. What is my character smelling? Tasting? Feeling, in the tactile sense? Hearing, other than dialogue, of course.

By adding smells, sounds, tastes, etc. I give my readers a more complete picture, which engages their senses and enriches their experience.

Here are five sensory stimuli I enjoy:

1) Listening to Aspen leaves quake

Inhaling the dusty, musty smell after the first rain of the season

3) Tasting sweetened sun tea on a hot summer's day

4) The feel of satin between my fingers

5) Bending over the lilacs in our yard and taking a big whiff of their perfume

• • • • •

Does adding sensory details to your stories come naturally, or do you have to go back and add them during the editing phase?

What are some sounds, smells, tastes and textures you enjoy?