Writing in Times of Adversity

I’ve seen dozens of posts about whether and  how to write during hard times. The answer to “whether” is always yes. Authors see it as an escape, a balm during times of trouble. I have friends who continued writing and producing during times that were far more difficult than what I’m going through right now. They amaze me.

During the hardest, most painful time of my life, from late 2010 through late 2012, I was writing both The Cat Lady’s Secret and The Simulacrum. Brad and I had been working on The Simulacrum together for years. He had the basics of the novel already; he just needed me to flesh it out more.  The Cat Lady’s Secret was all mine, and it was supposed to be a straight-out romantic comedy. But the tone shifted during those years, and what I had originally intended became altered. It’s still a good book. I reread it a few weeks ago and still love it. I’m in awe of how it came together despite the circumstances during which it was written. It was a God-thing. It had to have been.

This time around, with adjusting to Billy being retired and dealing with this breast cancer—even though it’s “little c” cancer and should never again be an issue once I’ve gone through treatment—I couldn’t seem to get myself to write. First of all, with Billy home all the time, I’m having to rearrange my daily schedule to match our new daily schedule, which changes almost on a daily basis. I’m no longer regimented as I was when he was working.

If you subscribe to my newsletter, then you already know that my biggest problem is the “I don’t knows.” For some reason, having so many question marks circling in my head whenever I try to plan for the year has stymied me. It’s hard to plan things when I don’t know when I’ll start the IV treatment and don’t know how it’ll make me feel or whether I’ll be able to travel. Building our new house and moving this year are totally off the table. We simply can’t deal with that and everything else too. But it leaves enough for me to juggle, both emotionally and physically.

Yesterday, I sat down to my manuscript, Kayla’s Challenge, again for the first time in weeks. The last time I sat down to it was the first time in weeks. And the time before that. I haven’t worked on it solidly since before Billy retired in early April. I’ve been able to do my editing jobs for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and my administrative job for ACFW, but I haven’t been able to write. You know what that means? I’ve been totally left-brained. That alone is reason enough to keep writing or doing something that stimulates my creative side. I’ve neglected it.

So, as to the question of whether you should continue writing during times of adversity, I have to go with the others and say yes. And the reason is clear: you must keep your creative side sharp.

Then there’s the second question . . .

How to write during times of adversity

  • The “No Time” Excuse

Not long ago, Pamela Thibodeaux, a writer friend, came to visit, and I cried on her shoulder a bit. Haven’t been able to write. Haven’t had time. Everything is all wonky. Can’t concentrate. Can’t get into it.

Although she was sympathetic through most of my whining, she took a hard line when it came to my work. Should I be writing? Unquestionably. No excuse. You must.

No time to write?

Phooey.

You always have time to write. Take a notebook with you wherever you go. In a waiting room? Write. Driving somewhere? Write. Sitting through a boring TV show with the hubs? Write.

In fact, according to Michael Scott, another friend, the best way to become an author is to be uber busy in other areas of your life. If you really want to write, you’ll find time and you’ll make good use of it.

  • The “Loss of Regiment” Excuse

That’s pretty much covered above: If you can’t write when you always write, write when you can.

But there’s another line of thought too: Set your hours and expect everyone to respect them. I can’t remember exactly what K.M. Weiland, my hero and critique partner, uses to make sure her hours are respected—a flame thrower?—but she’s the first one who made me realize that it is within my power to keep my hours sacrosanct. It may involve some snarling, but you have a right to your time and a right to have your time respected.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you have a right to neglect your family and other duties. But whether it’s for thirty minutes or for a few hours, if you’re serious about being/becoming an author, your work time is important and should be honored.

  • The “Can’t Get Into It” Excuse

That’s the hardest one for me. I can’t get into it for two reasons: I’ve been left-brained for too long, and I’m dealing with emotional stress, which tends to absorb all my energy. But I found the second problem can be helped once the first one is.

  1. Try some warm-up exercises. Yesterday, I thought that going through a couple of chapters of my manuscript would kick the right side of my brain into gear, but instead, I edited. Left-brain activity. I’ve been doing it all year, so I simply fell back into the pattern. I decided to play instead, and here’s my favorite playground: Random Plot Generator. Try it. You’ll see immediately why I love it.
  2. Indulge in some free-flow writing. If you have a work in progress, take your characters out for a spin, driving them away from your manuscript and into a different world of “what if.” What if your novel’s hero got to meet your movie/TV idol? What if you took your villain to church? What if your historical character suddenly found herself in the 21st Century—or your contemporary heroine found herself in Downton Abbey? Just play with it.
  3. Notice your mood vs your manuscript’s tone. My first suggestion is not to work on your manuscript if the two don’t match. As I said about The Cat Lady’s Secret, the tone changed drastically from what I originally intended. But, your mood could enhance your tone. Use whatever you’re going through to make your characters’ emotions more real, more intense. Aside from making your novel better, it can be amazingly therapeutic.

Once you get into the flow of it, you’ll discover that you’ve escaped for a while all the things that are hard for you in your real life. You’re likely to emerge from your session more relaxed and refreshed.

Life is what life is—it’s full of ups and downs, and we’re not going to escape that as long as we’re in our clay houses. Part of being a professional is doing your job regardless. One friend of mine plows ahead while in the throes of migraine pain. Another met deadlines after her son died. Still another turned crisis after crisis into devotional books so she could share her lessons, love, and concern with those enduring what she endured.

Curling up in a ball in a dark corner of the room is also an option. But it’s best not to stay there.

Get up and write.

 

 

 

Posted in Personal, write tips, Writing, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

New Releases for July!

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Hometown Hope by Laurel Blount — In the three years since her mother’s death, widower Hoyt Bradley’s daughter, Jess, hasn’t spoken—until she suddenly begs him to save her favorite bookstore from closing. Hoyt is desperate to hear his daughter’s voice again, but he and the bookstore’s pretty owner, Anna Delaney, share a less-than-friendly past. Working together is complicated enough…but can they avoid falling in love? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

A Heart Surrendered by Joy K. Massenburge — Since her teens, pastor’s daughter Sharonda Peterson devoted her life to church service and solitude after the one night she gave Carl Ray Everhart everything. Sobered by a near-death experience, prodigal Carl returns home from an acting and singing career to serve as the worship leader at Sheronda’s church, and she finds that it takes every ounce of her resolve to resist his pursuits … not to mention memories that threaten to overturn the delicate balance she’s created. Can she finally surrender the one thing she’s tried all these years to protect: her heart? (Contemporary Romance from Harambee Press [Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas])

Starting Anew by Melanie D. Snitker — He’s afraid to trust. She has a secret that could change everything between them. Will they let go of their fear, or allow it to rob them of their chance at happiness? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Historical:

Underestimating Miss Cecilia by Carolyn Miller — Can shy, sweet Cecilia overcome her family’s prejudice to see a future with the recently returned prodigal son from next door? (Historical from Kregel Publications)

Benaiah: Might Man of God by PH Thompson — A novel of Biblical, historical fiction about Benaiah, one of King David’s mighty men, examining the premise: What happens when the king’s most obedient soldier is issued a wicked command? (Historical/Biblical from Word Alive Press)

Historical Romance:

Waltz with Destiny by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield — When the men and women of World War II marched off to war, they didn’t know what lay ahead. All they knew was that upon their young and inexperienced shoulders rested the plight of the free world. (Historical Romance from CrossRiver Media Group)

Thimbles and Threads by Mary Davis, Grace Hitchcock, Suzanne Norquist, and Liz Tolsma — Enjoy four historical romances that celebrate the arts of sewing and quilting. When Tilly, a schoolteacher; Alice, a bridal shop owner; Sarah, a seamstress; and Melissa, a rag doll designer, put needle and thread to fabric, will their talents lead to the surprising gift of love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Refiner’s Fire by J.M. Hochstetler
Will the promise their hearts cling to finally find joyful fulfillment, or will war’s refining fire separate them forever? (Historical Romance from Sheaf House Publishers)

Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson — To escape an arranged marriage, Cassie Kendrick enlists in the Union army as a man, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer. Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase past guilt, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships along the way, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding. Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The Express Bride by Kimberly Woodhouse — Jacqueline Rivers manages a Pony Express station in 1860 Utah territory after her father’s death. There are daily stresses placed on her in this unconventional role—and now a government official is asking her to sniff out counterfeiters. When Elijah Johnson passes through on the stage while on an exhausting quest to find his boss’s heir, he doesn’t want to leave the beguiling station manager. In fact, he may never leave when caught in the crossfire of the territory’s criminal activities. Can she remain strong when secrets of the past and present are finally unearthed? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Legacy Rejected by Robin Patchen — She’s not giving up her home, no matter what threats come against her. Realtor Ginny Lamont’s family has abandoned her, leaving her with nothing but a warning that she’s in danger. But Ginny’s built a home in New Hampshire. After a childhood of nomadic living, she’s not running again, certainly not because of some nameless, baseless threat. Real estate developer Kade Powers is thrilled to go out with Nutfield’s beautiful new real estate agent. But the prowler they surprise after their first date offers a glimpse into Ginny’s past and the legacy of lies her parents left her with. She brings a mystery, one he’s determined to help her solve. With Kade’s help, Ginny searches for the truth of her parents’ criminal activity while her enemies close in. When mobsters show up in her quaint New England town, will she find a way to bring them down, or will she lose the home—and the man—she’s come to love? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Suspense:

Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig — Mentioned in the pages of the Old Testament but lost to history, the Book of the Wars has resurfaced, and its pages hold secrets–and dangers–never before seen on earth. Tasked with capturing the ancient text, former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe is once more given command of his own team. But their best efforts are ruined when a notorious Bulgarian operative known as Viorica snatches the volume right out from under them. Iskra “Viorica” Todorova is determined to use the book to secure the thing that matters most–freedom. But a series of strange storms erupts around the globe, and the coming dangers foretold in the text threaten crops, lives, and entire nations. Though both are haunted by secrets of their past and neither trusts the other, Leif and Iskra must form an uneasy alliance to thwart impending disaster. However, the truth hidden in centuries-old words could unleash a storm of their own destruction. (Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Speculative:

The Story Raider by Lindsay A. Franklin — Deceiving an empire is a treacherous game. Tanwen and the Corsyth weavers race to collect the strands of an ancient cure that might save Gryfelle. But Tanwen has a secret–Gryfelle isn’t the only one afflicted by the weaver’s curse. As Queen Braith struggles to assert her rule, a new arrival throws her tenuous claim to the Tirian throne into question. Braith’s heart is turned upside down, and she’s not sure she can trust anyone–least of all herself. The puppet master behind Gareth’s rise to power has designs on Tanwen and the story weavers, and will stop at nothing to reclaim the throne. A plot to incite the angry peasants of Tir takes shape, and those dearest to Tanwen will be caught in the crossfire. As the fight for Tir consumes the realm, no one can remain innocent. (Speculative from Enclave Publishing)

Posted in ACFW Releases | 3 Comments

Pre-Order a Must-Read!


The Cowboys is now available for pre-order! If you prefer print over electronic, you’ll never find a better price than now—$9.99!

 

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A Different Type of Cover Reveal

2019 is not going as planned.

This year, my sweet Billy was supposed to retire, then we were supposed to sell our house here in east Texas and move closer to home in central Texas. By now, we were supposed to be watching our new home becoming a reality, and by late next month, we were supposed to be moving in.

Well, Billy retired April 8, and that’s as far as we got.

In March, my mammogram showed a suspicious lump not bigger than the nail-bed on my pinkie finger, and the biopsy proved it to be cancerous. The pathology report said it was ER positive and HER2 positive. If you’ve had breast cancer before, you might be familiar with these terms. The positive reading on the estrogen receptors isn’t too bad, but the HER2 protein being positive is scary. That’s what makes the type of cancer I have more aggressive. According to the pathology report after the lumpectomy in April, 15% of the cells were reproducing. HER2 positive cancer is invasive and can come back anywhere in the body.

Complication and frustration never-ending

The news wasn’t all bad at first. Good news is, HER2 positive cancer is treatable. And, according to the oncologist, my numbers are good: only an 8-14% chance this could return after radiation and five years on an estrogen blocking drug—meaning there’s a 86-92% chance it won’t return.

I took comfort in those words from my oncologist and thought I’d avoid chemo treatments, until I talked to the radiologist. She managed to scare me silly, reminding me this is the second time I’ve had breast cancer, which illustrates my body’s propensity to produce cancer cells. Oh, goodie. She indicated that chemo is a must for me: it’s either a 100% survival rate now or, within five years or so, talking about how much time I have left.

So now, I want the chemo, but—according to the oncologist—because of the severity of my Crohn’s disease, I can’t have it. Complications from Crohn’s nearly did me in twice already, and the chemo is almost guaranteed to cause a flare-up.

But there’s a med, Herceptin, that targets the HER2 protein. (Actually, there are several meds, but I think Herceptin is the newest.) It’s not a chemo drug, but it is administered along with a chemo, and that protocol—Herceptin + chemo—is approved by the FDC. Question is, will the insurance pay for Herceptin alone? My oncologist is trying to find out. Some insurances will. There’s a chance mine won’t, but we’re going to ask for an exception based on the Crohn’s problem. Trust me. This has been a slow process.

But that’s not all

Radiation is a definite must, along with a drug like Tamoxifen, which targets the hormone receptors (the ER part of the cancer). Neither does anything for any HER2 protein cells that might have escaped the lumpectomy, though, and since my margins weren’t clean afterward, this makes me nervous. But I still need to get the radiation. And, again, there are complications and frustrations.

Like I said, Billy retired in April and got on Medicare, leaving me alone on our insurance policy–which we got through his company, but now are paying for through COBRA. Our joint policy stopped at the end of April, so everything up to that point was covered and the deductible had been met. According to the powers that be, everything was supposed to ride along with me to my own insurance policy. Just a continuation, they said. But I got a new number and am not recognized in their system yet.

That means, #1, those who can find me in the system say that I haven’t paid anything toward the deductible, and #2, I can’t get approved for radiation because my account isn’t recognized.

Granted, the hospital is working with the insurance to fix the problem, but this is June and the cancer was discovered in March. I’m getting a tad antsy to start treatment.

What all this means to you

I’ve debated for months over just how public I wanted to make this news. It’s not like it’s a secret, really. I’ve told my street team and newsletter subscribers along with most of the folks I know personally. I don’t know why I haven’t announced it here, just as I have all the other challenges I’ve faced over the years. But making it public—this public—just didn’t feel right.

Then, it dawned on me. I have a message to spread. Get tested.

This post is about me and my breast cancer, and I imagine there are a whole lot of women out there ready to give me the secret pink-ribbon handshake into an exclusive club.

But cancer is evil. Any kind of cancer. Prostate cancer is just as deadly as breast cancer—and just as survivable if caught early. So is colon cancer. Ovarian cancer, cervical cancer. Many cancers are treatable now, but the secret is to catch them early. Get tested.

Here’s the deal: As frustrating as everything has been so far, I’m still in pretty good shape because we found the tumor early. It was tiny, and only a miniscule part of the margin showed up “not clear.” I have an 86-92% chance of the cancer not returning if all I do is take the pill and get radiation. That percentage improves considerably if I get some form of a Her2 protein-targeting drug. Herceptin isn’t the only one. If I can’t get that one, maybe I can get another.

Most folks don’t discover their problems while in the midst of doing retirement paperwork. Most folks don’t have to worry about whether their insurance will cover their treatment. Most folks don’t have other medical conditions that affect and complicate their treatment options.

In other words: Most folks aren’t like me and have fewer excuses–especially if they’re insured, because insurance usually pays for cancer screening. Get tested.

If you live in a human body, get tested.

Increase your odds of survival.

Schedule it today.

 

 

Posted in Personal | Tagged , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Cover Reveal!

Woo-hooo!!! I’m excited to announce The Cowboys collection, releasing August 15th from Smitten (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas).

I’ve written very few historical pieces: one that I never published; one, Slider, that won honorable mention in the Saturday Evening Post‘s  “Great American Fiction” contest; and now, this one in The Cowboys collection—Loving a Harvey Girl.

All four authors in this collection were finalists in our genres in the 2019 Selah award (did I ever announce that Ice Melts in Spring took third place?), so you know the stories in this collection have to be good.

Of course, as the name implies, all the stories have to do with the old west. They all include handsome cowboys and feisty women and the occasional American Indian. These historical romances range in tone from drama to comedy, and each story is a guaranteed page-turner.

Mine is lighthearted and fun, with characters I came to love quickly in a short time. I have to admit, I get a kick out of writing novellas. The shorter works require the author to pack a lot into fewer pages, but they don’t have to be as intricate as longer works. They’re just plain fun to write, and I can crank them out fairly quickly. Not like writing my novels; I always sweat over those. But writing a novella is refreshing. It reminds me of why I enjoy my job.

This will be on the market for pre-order soon, so keep an eye out for the announcement. We’ll have a lot of pre-release activities that should be tons of fun for the readers, which I’ll announce here on my blog. I hope you’ll participate!

 

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Great New Releases for June!

June 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

The Art of Rivers by Janet Ferguson — Can a woman whose life has been damaged by addiction trust her heart to a man in recovery? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Cross My Heart by Robin Lee Hatcher — Horse rescue farmer Ashley helps Ben start an equine therapy barn on his great-great grandfather’s farm. When they consider a relationship together, her bitter experience with her opioid addict brother reins in any hope for a future with Ben, who is five years in recovery from alcoholism. Ben knows that with God, all things are possible—but will Ashley find it within herself to give love a chance? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Risking Love by Toni Shiloh — Nikki lives with a perfect trifecta of noes. No guys. No dates. No way. After years of keeping men at bay, Nikki Gordon has it down to a science. No one, not even sweet, hunky Shorty Smalls can change her mind. Period. So if she’s got it all figured out, why does her heart sink to her toes when she sees Shorty with another woman? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)

General:

Uncharted Destiny by Keely Brooke Keith — When Bailey sets out to rescue her lost friend in the Land’s dangerous mountain terrain, she discovers more about the Land—and herself—than she bargained for. (General from Edenbrooke Press)

Six Houses Down by Kari Rimbey — Two days after Sharon Webster’s distant husband returns for a surprise visit, their autistic son slips out of the house and is lost in historic Washington D. C. As they search for their boy, Sharon is forced to rely on the husband she believes no longer loves her. An elderly black couple down the street seems to understand her unspoken hurts. Has God sent them to help her find trust again? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)

Historical:

In the Shadow of the King by Melissa Rosenberger — Beset by doubts and jealousy about prophecies spoken over her brother Yeshua, Hannah struggles to see the truth before her eyes until it is too late…or is it? (Historical from Carpenter’s Son Publishing)

Historical Romance:

This Healing Journey by Misty M. Beller — An adventure-seeking wilderness girl and an ex-cavalryman looking to settle down fall in love while caring for a wounded Indian child that shows up in his barn. Will their differences keep them apart or become their greatest strengths? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Cameo Courtships by Susanne Dietze, Debra E. Marvin, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — In 1851, a special cameo is gifted by Queen Victoria to Letitia Newton, who though considered an old maid, meets the perfect gentleman minutes after donning. Told by the Queen the cameo is to be shared, Letitia gifts the “Victoria Cameo” to a woman in her family, hoping adventure and romance will follow each of its subsequent wearers. Adventure indeed follows two competing journalists, one of whom carries the cameo while looking to expose a smuggler, a trouser-wearing frontierswoman and a reverend who are on a mission to ransom the cameo from a manipulative brothel owner, two Pinkertons who are charged with the care of the cameo but must rely on one another when the cameo is once again stolen, and a young woman who doubts the cameo can help her when a handsome Scottish library administrator ruins her dream of overseeing the new Carnegie Library children’s department and keeps a social chasm between himself and her father. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Mail-Order Refuge by Cindy Regnier — Carly Blair from Baltimore buys a train ticket to Kansas where she will become the wife of a man she’s never met. She must leave Baltimore to escape the evil plans her ex-fiance has for using her artistic talents for a counterfeit operation. Rand Stafford, Kansas cattle rancher is looking after his two orphaned nieces, but knows they need a mother. He’s not interested in love since being left at the altar so he advertises for a mail-order bride, willing to do whatever it takes to give Mary Jo and Jenna a proper home and upbringing. Can Carly and Rand find love where they least expect it, or will the shadows of the past dash their hopes for the future? (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

No Ocean Too Wide by Carrie Turansky — Between the years of 1869 to 1939 more than 100,000 poor British children were sent across the ocean to Canada with the promise of a better life. Those who took them in to work as farm laborers or household servants were told they were orphans—but was that the truth? (Historical Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah [Random House])

Romantic Suspense:

Darkwater Truth by Robin Caroll — Adelaide Fountaine, general manager, is enthusiastically renovating parts of the Darkwater Inn. Her intentions come to a screeching halt when a skeleton is found behind a makeshift wall—an axe beside it. As Adelaide works alongside owner Dimitri Pampalon and Detective Beau Savoie, the two men who have been pursuing her heart, she learns the eerie death has tentacles that reach deep into the seedy past of both the Darkwater Inn and the evil underground of New Orleans. The past and the present collide as the stakes are upped—not only for Adelaide’s heart, but for her very life and her father’s life as well. The threats are deadly, the coils of evil are tightening around everyone involved, and they are more powerful than anyone could have ever imagined. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Over the Line by Kelly Irvin — Gabriela’s brother is missing, he’s a suspect in a murder, and she’s in the cross hairs of a criminal organization. The only person who can help her is the one man she can’t trust. Will Gabby & Eli find her brother before it’s too late? (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Long Walk Home by DiAnn Mills — As an Arab Christian pilot for a relief organization, Paul Farid feels called to bring supplies to his war-torn countrymen in southern Sudan. But with constant attacks from Khartoum’s Islamic government, the villagers have plenty of reasons to distrust Paul, and he wonders if the risks he’s taking are really worth his mission. American doctor Larson Kerr started working with the Sudanese people out of a sense of duty and has grown to love them all, especially Rachel Alier, her young assistant. But despite the years she’s spent caring for them, her life feels unfulfilled. It’s a void noticed both by Paul and by Rachel’s older brother, Colonel Ben Alier of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. When Rachel is abducted, Paul, Ben, and Larson agree to set aside their differences to form an unlikely alliance and execute a daring rescue. Their faith and beliefs tested, each must find the strength to walk the path God has laid before them, to find their way home. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)

The Last Chaplain by Carl M. White — At the request of Pastor John Grant, the last chaplain of the United States Senate, Lisa Smithy embarks on the adventure of a lifetime: find a former Senate staff member and convince him to reveal to a DC reporter the plot that led to Dr. Grant’s removal and the discrediting of his best friend, a United States Senator. From the South, to the West, to the Midwest, evil men are desperate to stop her, and romance surprisingly finds her. Can she bring together the former Senate staffer who knows all and the Washington reporter who can tell all, while eluding the men who would end it all? (Romantic Suspense from Austin Brothers Publishers)

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Messages: A Review

Occasionally, I come across a book that frustrates me to no end, but I still enjoy it. Messages is such a book.

Something or someone–God perhaps?–sends the main character, David Chance, messages by means of words highlighted from various sources. One word from a billboard, another from a newspaper, a third from a coffee cup. String them together, and David receives instruction that can save lives. One of those messages gives him two days to save the president. Great premise.

Although a bit preachy in places (even though I loved and agreed with the “sermons” provided), the story is action packed and fast paced, with convincing bad guys and determined good guys and unusual—though sometimes too convenient—twists.

While the main character was a reluctant hero, being the receiver of both messages and sermons and the occasional actor of heroic deeds, another POV character, a TV newswoman named Karen Watson, often seemed more heroic.

But what frustrated me most? Gimmicky writing. For instance:

The line grew smaller and David had no plan. He scanned the room, letting his eyes bounce off words, but only a string of nonsense appeared. Great! I’m stuck in a stupid coffee shop while right next door a famous Senator is creating a media frenzy! HELLO! The line reduced again. The man in the red shirt was at the counter now, and David was next. He snatched up a menu and bounced his eyes back and forth. Nothing. I followed the man in the shirt! Where are you? What am I supposed to do?

See all the italics and exclamation points and even the all-capped hello?  In this one paragraph, it isn’t so bad, but page after page of this gets old. The writer is telling me how to read his work, which is both unnecessary and distracting. He also uses double hyphens instead of dashes. Perhaps he doesn’t know how to make a dash, but it’s incredibly distracting, especially when even a dash wouldn’t be appropriate used the way he used them.

Thing is, his writing is strong enough that he doesn’t need to use gimmicks. He uses descriptive nouns and high-impact verbs. A deep POV doesn’t require italics to let us into the character’s head. We’re already there. Exclamation points are fine occasionally, but become diluted in purpose when used so frequently (and I do mean frequently). And all caps? There are few valid reasons to shout at the reader, but he does so often. I admit, seeing this one example would make you think I was being petty. Perhaps I’ve been an editor too long and things like this get to me. But seems to me, the last thing an author would want to do is to yank his reader out of the story with distractions. And that’s exactly what this author did.

But I still liked the book. I still enjoyed the action, still flipped pages with anticipation, wanting to know what would happen next. So, yes, this is a frustrating but good book. I give it three stars.

 

Posted in Reviews of exceptional books | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Simile: A Writer’s Best Tool

I offered a quick review of The Edge of Recall in my post, “Hodgepodge News,” a few weeks ago, but what I didn’t do was quote what is now one of my favorite similes in all of fictiondom:

Petra flicked her fingers through the white front of her hair. “Whatev. I got what I wanted. That’s what counts.” She turned from the mirror, all sharp cheekbones and smooth skin.

It was like talking to a shell, a beautifully polished shell the real creature had left behind.

Isn’t this great? Can you get any better, any more descriptive, than this? That’s the magic of simile. In a few words, Kristen punctuated with beautiful irony what she had spent the past several paragraphs illustrating.

Another of my favorites comes from Lisa Gardner’s The Survivors Club. One of the characters in her novel was brutally raped while her husband was “working late.” Lisa describes all he does to make it up to her, to show his support and his own remorse, buying her flowers and takeout from her favorite restaurants. Then, Lisa summarizes: “Guilt, she decided, smelled like red roses and veal piccata.”

According to Ron Rozelle’s Description and Setting, “a metaphor is an implied resemblance, a simile is a stated one, and an analogy is a detailed one.”

Of the three, analogy is my least favorite. A powerful metaphor or simile can drive a point home with fewer words and higher effect on the senses, making them more memorable. It is so easy for me to picture Kristen’s “beautiful shell” or smell Lisa’s “red roses and veal piccata.” The imagery makes the similes memorable.

But similes are like any other specialty tool. Use too many of them, and they lose their effectiveness. My critique partner finally had to rein me in on my first novel because I was having far too much fun with the similes. They’re perfect for exaggeration, which–me being Texan and all–is a part of my story-teller voice. Although they’re fun for tale-spinning, they tend to get tedious in novels.

If you haven’t tried your had at similes yet, do. With enough practice, you and I can write them with the same razor sharp perfection as Lisa and Kristen.

BookSweeps Giveaway!

You can win my book Skydiving to Love, plus books from authors like Deb Kastner, J.P. Sterling, Beth K. Vogt, and more.

There’s more! You’ll also get a brand new eReader if you win, just for following me and other great Christian & Inspirational authors on BookBub. This giveaway ends soon, so make sure you hurry and enter!

Join the fun here! bit.ly/ChristianInspy-May2019

Good luck!

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Newest Releases by Christian Authors!

May 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

When Love Won’t Wait by Roger E. Bruner — Laugh at Pastor Dan’s impulsive efforts to get out of the ministry and marry a woman of his own choosing by going against his domineering widowed mother’s wishes. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Perfect Amish Match by Vannetta Chapman — After three failed relationships, Amish bachelor Noah Graber would rather disappoint his parents than try again. But when matchmaker Olivia Mae Miller agrees to provide courting lessons, Noah’s perfect match becomes clear—it’s Olivia Mae herself! With ailing grandparents at home, she hadn’t planned on love or marriage. Might a future with Noah be everything she’s been missing? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sing a New Song by Candee Fick — Songbird Gloria Houghton has always needed to be the center of attention, but the spotlight has shifted. Seeking fame and a fresh start, she finds a new stage in Branson, Missouri…only to risk being replaced by a manipulative rival. If Gloria can’t be the star, who is she? Jack-of-all-trades Nick Sherwood is just one leaf on a vast family tree that includes a restaurant chef, hotel owners, and even the headline act at a family-owned theater. He’s seen how fame can blind a person with jealousy and is more than content to stay in the background thank you very much. If only he wasn’t so fascinated–and irritated–by the newest addition to the staff. After a disaster of a first impression and financial difficulties land Gloria in the humblest of jobs—with Nick as her boss—it might be time for her to learn to sing a new song. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Pigtails and a Tool Belt by Janetta Fudge-Messmer — The Christian Romance where circumstances seem impossible. But with God – all things are possible. (Contemporary Romance from Winged Publications)

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner — After four years of dating Will, Cadie questions his love for her and sends him packing. Their breakup only makes Will more determined to become the man Cadie wants him to be. With the help of his work buddies and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, he devises a “foolproof” plan. What could possibly go wrong? (Contemporary Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing)

General Contemporary:

Over the Waters by Deborah Raney — As “Dr. Botox” to the bored rich women of Chicago, plastic surgeon Max Jordan was shocked by the decision of his son, Joshua, to focus his medical talent on Haitian orphans. Embittered by Joshua’s death, Max searches for resolution in the very place his son called home. The selfless labor of Joshua’s coworkers stuns Max. He is particularly taken by American volunteer Valerie Austin, whose dream of a honeymoon on a tropical beach were crushed, replaced by a stint working in the impoverished orphanage. But Valerie’s view of Joshua’s sacrifice challenges everything Max has lived for. Now Max wonders if he can ever return to his “Max-a-Million” lifestyle, or if the doors to his gilded cage have finally opened. (General Contemporary from Raney Day Press)

Historical:

True Freedom by Carol Ashby — When a Roman slave rescues his master’s daughter from the kidnapping arranged by her own brother, will his sacrificial service earn the freedom and love he never dreamed possible, or will it only end in death? (Historical from Cerrillo Press)

Historical Romance:

The Daughter’s Predicament by Mary Eileen Davis — Can a patient love win her heart? As Isabelle Atwood’s romance prospects are turning in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams. While making a quilt for her own hope chest, Isabelle’s half-sister becomes pregnant out of wedlock and Isabelle–always the unfavored daughter–becomes the family sacrifice to save face. Isabelle loves her sister, but with three suitors interested, will she really allow herself to be manipulated into a marriage without love? Or will the man leaving her secret love poems sweep her off her feet? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Mail-Order Mishaps by Susan Page Davis, Linda Ford, Vickie McDonough, and Erica Vetsch — In The Bride’s Dilemma by Susan Page Davis, Eve Martin arrives in Cheyenne to learn that man she came to marry is in jail, accused of a violent murder. But has God brought her here to help save Caleb Blair’s life? In Romancing the Rancher by Linda Ford, Amelia expects a safe home for herself and her niece in Montana as mail-order bride to Zach Taggerty. Only Zach has never heard of her. In The Marriage Sham by Vickie McDonough, Texas mail-order bride Zola Bryant is a widowed newlywed. Worse, they were never truly wed because the officiant was an outlaw not a preacher. What will she do now that her life and reputation are in tatters? In The Galway Girl by Erica Vetsch, a mail-order mix-up sends Irish lass Maeve O’Reilly to the Swedish community of Lindsborg, Kansas. Will Kaspar Sandberg consider it a happy accident or a disaster to be rectified as soon as possible? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Lord of Her Heart by Sherrinda Ketchersid — Lady Jocelyn Ashburne suspects something is amiss at her family’s castle because her father ceases to write to her. When she overhears a plot to force her into vows—either to the church or a husband—she disguises herself and flees the convent in desperation to discover the truth. Malcolm Castillon of Berkham is determined to win the next tournament and be granted a manor of his own. After years of proving his worth on the jousting field, he yearns for a life of peace. Rescuing a scrawny lad who turns out to be a beautiful woman is not what he bargained for. Still, he cannot deny that she stirs his heart like no other, in spite of her conniving ways. Chaos, deception, and treachery threaten their goals, but both are determined to succeed. Learning to trust each other might be the only way either of them survives. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Love’s Belief by Linda Shenton Matchett — When the Third Reich implements mandates that require Jewish babies and other “undesirables” to be killed as part of The Final Solution, is midewife Pia Hertz’s new faith in Christ strong enough to defy the laws of man? Dieter Fertig is relieved he’s no longer part of Hitler’s army, despite the reason–a battle that cost his arm. After he returns to Berlin, only to discover the Nuremburg Laws require his best friend’s baby girl to be killed, he must find a way to spirit the child out of Germany before the Nazis discover her existence. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

Shelter Bay by Pamela S. Meyers — Adventure girl, Maureen Quinn, knows she isn’t cut out to be a bookkeeper for the town’s undertaker. Wearing her new bloomers, she suffers a bicycle accident and her long-time crush, Preston Stevens, comes to her rescue.. It isn’t long before they become inseparable and she’s sure he’s the man God has for her.
Preston yearns to see the world. What better person to do that with than Maureen? After being expelled from Yale, because of a prank, his dad has issued an ultimatum: Enlist in the military or work at the family business. He joins the U.S. Life Saving Service, reasoning the time spent on the shores of Lake Michigan, keeping people safe, is far better than the alternative. After his two-year stint, he intends to travel the world before settling down. But it isn’t long before life-altering events occur affecting both his and Maureen’s lives forever (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing).

Mystery:

Fallen Leaf by Julie B. Cosgrove — When a DNA kit reveals blond, blue-eyed Jessica Warren is half Cherokee, she confronts her adoptive parents and learns her birth father is in prison…for murder! Now he wants her help in exonerating him. Can Jessica trust the handsome, young Tulsa district attorney to help, or does he have an agenda of his own? (Cozy Mystery from Write Integrity Press)

Bitter Pill by Richard L. Mabry, MD — Things were going along just fine until the miracle fouled them up. (Medical Mystery, Independently Published)

Latter-day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott — Kirsten Young, a well-known and rebellious Utah heiress, is found murdered in Provo Canyon. The strange markings carved into her flesh and the note written in 19th century code seem to cast a shadow on ancient Mormon laws. Journalist Selonnah Zee is assigned to cover the story– and it quickly grows out of control. (Historical Mystery from Moody)

Romantic Suspense:

Running Target by Elizabeth Goddard — A routine patrol turns deadly when marine deputy Bree Carrington’s boat is sunk by men carrying illegal weapons. Fleeing a barrage of bullets, she’s suddenly rescued by DEA agent Quinn Strand—her ex-boyfriend. Quinn’s return threatens more than Bree’s heart…because he’s the one the men are really after. As criminals hunt her to get to him, can Quinn and Bree take down a drug ring? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative:

The Pages of Her Life by James L. Rubart — Allison Moore’s dad was living a secret life and left her mom in massive debt. As she scrambles to help her mom find a way out, she’s given a journal, anonymously, during a visit to her favorite coffee shop. The pressure to rescue her mom mounts, and Allison pours her fears and heartache into the journal. But then the unexplainable happens. The words in the journal, her words, begin to disappear. And new ones fill the empty spaces—words that force her to look at everything she knows about herself in a new light. Ignoring those words could cost her everything…but so could embracing them. (Speculative from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

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Hodgepodge News

Book Sale!

Coming Home–a fun, eclectic collection. Seven different authors, seven different stories, four different genres, all centered around tiny houses and the people who live in them. All the novellas, whether written by multi-published authors or first-time published, are page-turners and engaging. Not a loser in the lot!

My story, Kayla’s Challenge, introduces Kayla Mullins, the heroine of the Challenge series I’m currently working on. Kayla is one “I do” away from marrying the man her parents chose for her. In the nick of time, she escapes marital ties and heads west, leaving from Savannah, Georgia, in search of someplace that suits her fancy. That place turns out to be the Hill Country of Texas. Rugged, rustic living, perfect for a horse-loving woman like her. But so not in her budget. What’s a girl to do?

The novella ends with a hint of the romance to come and continue in Kayla’s Winner, the first in the Challenge series–and the one book I hope to return to the world of traditional publishing with.

Grab the collection this week while it’s on sale for $1.99–a $4.00 savings!!!

What Kayla’s Challenge taught me

I learned a hard lesson about myself with this novella. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and it’s totally worth the read, but I made a big boo-boo.

My thought was that Kayla’s Challenge would be the prequel for the “releasing in 2019” Kayla’s Winner, so instead of bringing the novella to a satisfying close, I left it open-ended with a hint toward the romance to come.

Actually, that would’ve been a great idea, if I had finished the novel in time for a 2019 release. I didn’t. At this point, I’m only halfway finished. Then, my decision to try the traditional route again will delay the release even longer. Finish writing (takes time), find an agent (takes time), wait for the agent to find a publisher (takes time), let the publisher’s in-house editor scour it (takes time), revise it per instruction (takes time)–and then go through the rest of the process that the publisher goes through to get a book on the market (takes time). If I’m lucky, the book will release around 2022.

So, the lesson I learned is that I’m not as fast or as disciplined a writer as I’d like to believe, so I should never make promises about release dates, and I should not have ended the novella with a romance novel’s version of a cliff-hanger.

Funny what you can discover about yourself after you’ve already goofed.

Book Recommendation

Do you love Romantic Mystery/Suspense? Have I found a book for you!

New to me author, Kristen Heitzmann, is now on my must-read list. Folks–this lady knows how to tell a tale!

In The Edge of Recall, landscape architect and labyrinth expert Tessa Young has a memory she’s keeping from herself. She’s forced it so far down, it’s no longer accessible to her, not even with the help of her psychiatrist. The only thing the doctor has been able to do is to help her cope with monsters that haunt her dreams.

Architect Smith Chandler, a one-time love, is reconstructing a pre-Revolutionary War abbey for wealthy clients. Among its remarkable features is an overgrown labyrinth. Unable to resist, Tessa accepts his offer to work with him.

But Smith betrayed her once. Can she trust him again? As events evoke memories and monsters surface, she might not have a choice.

A definite must-read!

 

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