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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

After two weeks battling a pesky bug, I'm resurfacing. I've missed you, my blogging buddies, and look forward to catching up on your news.

The hardest part about being sick was that I was unable to attend the Homecoming Festivities at our daughter's university last weekend. I'd looked forward to seeing her and was heartsick when Gwynly headed off for the college without me. Even though my decision to stay home was a good one, I had a hard time making it. Thank goodness for cell phones and text messaging, which allow me to keep in touch with The Fashion Queen. Provided I continue to improve as I have been, I'll get to see her one day this week for a mom-daughter outing.

Despite spending much of my time sprawled on the couch and feeling cloudy-headed from cold meds recently, I managed to work on Violets & Violins in small snatches. I have the first 200 pages polished and ready for my critique partners.

Last week, I received this gorgeous plaque from The Heart of the Rockies contest coordinators, which brightened my day. What a lovely addition it made to the wall above my writing desk.

Yesterday, I received a call from the inspirational category coordinator from The Lone Star Contest, who shared the good news that Violets & Violins took first place.

• • • • •

Since I was laid low these past two weeks and have been unable to make my visits to the blogs and Yahoo! groups I frequent, I'd love to hear how you're doing so I can celebrate your good news and commiserate on your challenges. And to anyone suffering with sickness, you have my sympathy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Revision of Violets & Violins
Status: Nearing Completion

I made great progress on the revision this week, motivated by recent interest in the manuscript. The final edit of the first three chapters is complete, and I've sent them to my two awesome critique partners. The next three chapters will be ready to follow very soon.

I read five chapters for one of my critique partners, CJ Redwine. As always, I'm impressed with her amazing voice and unique story lines.

Saturday evening I received a call from the Heart of the Rockies contest coordinator. Violets & Violins took first place in the inspirational category.

• • • • •

What was the best thing that happened to you this past week?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Sarah, My Beloved

Mail-Order Bride Story with a Twist

When I see the words “mail-order bride” on the back cover of a book, I get excited. These are my favorite reads, followed closely by marriage of convenience stories. I was in for a treat when I discovered Sarah, My Beloved by Sharlene MacLaren, because this story involves the former turning into the latter. A well-written tale with captivating characters I loved from the start, Sarah, My Beloved exceeded my expectations. The ever-increasing emotion and conflict kept me turning pages eager to find out how two strangers could overcome the obstacles MacLaren throws in their path. It’s easy to see why this book has garnered so many great reviews. Like others, I highly recommend the story, confident those who love a historical with heart will enjoy this book from an author who’s delivered a moving inspirational romance.

MacLaren’s rich, spirited heroine, Sarah Woodward, follows the Lord’s leading to leave her life of luxury in Massachusetts and head to Little Hickman Creek in Kentucky. Upon arriving, Sarah discovers her intended has fallen for someone else and was unable to get a message to her in time. When a lifelong friend from home arrives in town pushing a marriage she wants no part of, small-town farmer Rocky Callahan proposes. He needs a mother for the niece and nephew left in his care when his sister died, but what he doesn’t need is a romantic entanglement. Can Sarah win the heart of her reluctant husband, and can Rocky deal with the loss of his first wife and young son and find his way back to the Lord?

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What Do You Think?

Do you enjoy mail-order bride and marriage of convenience stories? If so, what is it you like about them?

Do you prefer action-packed, suspenseful stories, or are you partial to those based upon the characters and their growth as the story progresses?

Do you like to read rich lady of luxury meets working-class man stories?

Attention, Romance Readers

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances as I do, I invite you to let me know. I will be, at random, gifting gently read copies of books I review, motivational bookmarks or other items of my choosing. You can let me know of our mutual interest in the inspirational romance genre or a particular book via a comment in which you include an email address or by sending a message using my email address, which is listed in the sidebar under “Contact Information.”

Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Jarmara Falconer, winner of Dreaming of Home by Glynna Kaye.

(Note: Because I’ve decided to to forgo holding regularly scheduled drawings, this will be my last announcement of a winner.)

Special Note

I purchased my copy of Sarah, My Beloved and am offering this review of my own accord and without remuneration of any kind.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Five on Friday: A Sound Idea

My Maggie Medallion arrived in the mail yesterday, and I've worn this beautiful piece of jewelry ever since. A former Maggie winner said of this impressive silver oval, "I like the way it feels kind of heavy." She said the weight of the handmade disc
serves as a reminder of a special event.

I hung my Medallion on a rope-style necklace because it's so heavy. I wouldn't want to lose my prize, so I didn't trust a delicate link-style chain. As my writer friend noted, I can feel it resting on my chest.

After I clasped the beautiful bit of bling around my neck and went about my day, I heard a faint ringing noise when I moved. It took me a little while to figure out the source: the Medallion sliding along the chain. Each time I hear the soft sound, I'm reminded of the huge blessing bestowed on me last Saturday night and enjoy the thrill all over again.

Sounds, like smells and tastes, can trigger emotional responses. Some sounds, like a babbling brook or the ring of a bell for a touchdown, make us feel good. Others, like the wail of a siren or a child's fearful cry, can elicit the opposite response. Those of us who are writers work to add sounds to our stories, knowing they can being about reactions in our characters as well as enhance our readers' experience.

Here are five sounds that are special to me.

1) The tone telling me I received a text message from our daughter, who is away at college. I hunger for her updates and race for my cell phone when I hear that sound.

2) The hum of our pellet stove in winter. I run cold, and when I wake to that familiar sound I know heat is close at hand.

3) The sound of our cats purring as they come into my office to visit me when I'm writing. The house is mighty quiet in these Empty Nest days, and the visits from my feline friends help ease my loneliness.

4) The rich throaty roar of my husband's classic 1968 MGB roadster when it pulls into the garage after his day of work. I look forward to seeing my guy again and hearing how his day went.

5) The rush of hot water into the tub at day's end. I know relaxation, warmth and a good read are soon to come as I partake of my nightly ritual: soaking in my Calgon-scented bath as I enjoy a few chapters of a great story.

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What are some sounds you like to hear, and why?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

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

Words added/rewritten this week: ??

I honestly don't know how many words I added or rewrote this week. I received feedback from a contest and went to work incorporating some of the excellent suggestions from my judges into the first chapters in preparation for another contest entry. I think the tweaking helped and felt good about sending the file to the coordinator, which I did with very few minutes to spare.

Good news rained upon me this week. I'm talking a deluge of delight. On Thursday I learned that Violets & Violins finaled in The Golden Pen.

Last night a kind and generous writer friend at the Georgia Romance Writers' Moonlight & Magnolias conference, Walt Mussell, called me on his cell phone and put it on speaker so I could hear the results of The Unpublished Maggies as they were announced. They started with the honorable mentions and made their way through the placements in reverse order. To my surprise, my name was the last one called in the inspirational category. My story took first place in The Maggies!

Walt held the phone up to the mic, and I got to convey my thanks. My Toastmaster pals would have been disappointed in me, I'm afraid. I don't think what I said made a whole lot of sense because I was in a state of shock. Getting words out was a challenge since my throat was thick and I was attempting to hold back the tears of joy ready to pour forth. I hope I thanked everyone I intended to, but I'm not sure.

I've been writing nearly four years, so this flood of good news feels mighty good. I'm still in "Is this really happening to me?" mode. I fear I'll wake up tomorrow and find myself several shades of purple and blue from pinching myself. :)

• • • • •

When have you been so blessed words failed you?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review of Great Read: Dreaming of Home

Heartwarming Tale of Coming Home

Glynna Kaye’s debut novel, Dreaming of Home, is delightful. From first page to last, I enjoyed every minute I spent reading this tale of love triumphing over trials. Kaye’s endearing characters captured me from the start, and I rushed through the book, eager to see them overcome the challenges keeping them apart and find the future the Lord has in store for them. If you like a sweet, gentle romance with heart, this story is for you.

Widower Joe Diaz returns to his hometown determined to be a great dad to his little boy, whom he’d rarely seen during his Navy days. Still grieving and anxious to provide for his son, he has no time for a relationship with his pretty and pleasant new neighbor. Meg McGuire has come to the same small Arizona mountain community to rebuild her life after disease and a broken relationship shattered her world, only to discover that the handsome father of her Sunday school student is vying for the same teaching position she is. Can she keep herself from falling for the one man who can destroy her dreams?

Special Note

I was privileged to judge Glynna’s story in the 2008 Golden Pen contest. As I read, I knew I’d discovered a gem. My comments to her read, “I fully expect to see your book on the shelves in the near future. You’ve got a winner.”

When the entry finaled, I was happy. When I learned that final judge Melissa Endlich from Steeple Hill had requested the manuscript and bought it, I was elated. This is the first time I’ve seen an entry I judged go on to sell, and it’s both exciting and rewarding. When I received the autographed copy of Dreaming of Home that Glynna sent as a surprise, I moved it to the top of my TBR mountain and savored her story without delay.

If you’d like to hear more about Glynna’s journey to publication, you can read her interview at my other blog, Romance Writers on the Journey. I’ll be publishing the post October 8th.

• • • • •

What Do You Think?

Do you enjoy contemporary romances set in small towns?

Do you like having young children in the stories you read?

Have you ever judged a contest entry you felt was ready for publication?

Have you ever had the thrill of seeing a contest entry you judged in print?


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 Virginia C, winner of Montana Rose by Mary Connealy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Five on Friday: Winds of Change


The word itself can evoke many feelings.

My family of three has undergone a significant change recently. Gwynly and I are experiencing our first exposure to the Empty Nest while the Fashion Queen is adjusting to life as a first-year college student. She's been gone nearly two weeks, and some of the initial excitement is wearing off, leaving me a bit lonely.

When clouds loom on my horizon and showers feel near at hand, I reflect on how well our small town gal is doing at her home away from home. She's got a lovely room, complete with posters from some of her favorite movies and musicals.

The FQ's college has the largest number of bikes per capita of any US city. She learned to ride in order to be able to get around on the large campus, and has made great strides in her cycling skills. She's ventured into town on the bus, sung a solo at her dorm's get-acquainted karaoke event, made great new friends and gone to see a prof about a needed course change.

Growth is taking place at every turn, and I couldn't be prouder.

As I've witnessed the Fashion Queen's progress, I've thought about my characters. Like my daughter, they're experiencing significant change. Their stories begin at a time when life as they knew it has shifted dramatically.

I noticed five similarities between my daughter's move to college and the situations that precipitate change for my characters.

1) Leaving one place and moving to another

2) Leaving former friends and making new ones

3) Being separated from one's family or support system

4) Being forced to learn a new skill in order to survive and thrive

5) Being forced to find solutions to problems never before encountered

As I think of my current story, I see that my heroine was dealing with four of the five at the beginning of the story, along with other changes. No wonder the poor woman felt a bit off kilter.

Forcing my characters to deal with change is what makes their stories interesting. Who wants to read about the boring everyday stuff like laundry, dishes and scrubbing the sink? Yawn! I like stories that show me how a person handles the challenges that come his/her way.

I'm off to put my characters through some more tough times and see how they fare. : )

• • • • •

What are some times in life when you've been forced to deal with a major change?

Can you recall a story you've read recently that began with a character facing a major life-changing event? What was it?

What are some items you would add to my "Situations That Precipitate Change" list?