Tale of a Harpist

By Lynn Mosher

“Take a harp…play skillfully and make sweet melody…that you may be remembered.”

(Is. 23:16 AMP)

Suddenly taken ill, a renowned harpist was rushed to the hospital. While tests were being run to find the cause of his illness, he lay in his hospital bed, reminiscing over his life.

Seeing himself as a young boy, he remembered his dreams of becoming a famous harpist, even though his family was poverty stricken and could not afford even one string of a harp or music lessons.

Each day, after school, on his way to one of his many odd jobs, he stopped at the local music shop to quickly thumb through the catalogs of instruments, envisioning the day of owning a harp from what little money he saved.

He became great friends with the shop owner who took pity on him and allowed him to purchase, piece by piece, all the parts necessary to make a harp. Each new string added a new dimension of hope to his life.

After many years, he had all the parts and the shop owner assembled the beautiful harp for him. The shop owner’s wife, a music teacher, offered him free lessons, and, under her tutelage, he became an accomplished, well-known harpist in a very short time, thus fulfilling the purpose for his life. He was loved and admired by all.

As he laid there thinking about his life, he remembered the many setbacks and hardships he had suffered. His mother and father, as missionaries in a foreign land, were killed by natives. His sister, whom he loved dearly, was killed in a car accident. World War II took the life of his only son. After many years of marriage, his wife left him for someone else. Now, he was fighting for his life – alone.

As each trial took its toll on his life, he laid his harp aside. Yet, after each respite, he resumed his music, playing his beloved harp more beautifully than before. Each occurrence in his life brought more enthusiastic reviews from the critics.

Now, while lying in his hospital bed, depressed and having no desire to live, he asked the Lord why so many trying things had occurred in his life.

The Lord whispered to him, “You constructed your beloved harp from its many pieces with great love. For it to make its beautiful melodies, much effort and practice time was necessary. To keep it in tune, you tightened its strings every now and then.

“This is as your life, for it was put together with great love. Each sorrow, each disappointment, each heartache added a new string to your life. Each event was part of the process to tighten you and transform your life’s music. It was your choice whether it would be played in harmony or in discord. All prepared you to make beautiful melodies, each as a sweet praise to the Great Instrument Maker.”

After the review of his life, the great harpist rested back on his pillow, satisfied and comforted. He closed his eyes, content that he would awaken the next morning to play sweet melodies of praise to his Master – on his harp of many strings.

 

Lynn MosherThrough many hardships, trials, and health issues, I have learned to depend entirely on the Lord for everything. After being diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2000, the Lord whispered to my heart to write for Him. So, now, out of a great passion to reach others, I obey His call. You can find Lynn at http://lynnmosher.blogspot.com/

Breakfast Casserole and Fillers in Novels

By Traci Tyne Hilton

I had a houseful of family today, and I needed to feed them. I went with brunch—the perfect company food, for a million reasons.

  1. Buffet (perfect for a crowd in a small house. Sit wherever you want!)
  2. Donuts! (I mean really, what other meal are you allowed to serve donuts?)
  3. Make ahead main dish. (Mmmm breakfast casserole!)

The variations on breakfast casserole are endless. Every dish starts the same: Bread, milk, eggs. But from there you can do sweets or savories, ham, sausage or bacon, with veggies or with fruit. Basically, whatever you have on hand!

I went with sour cream, sausage and roasted bell pepper (with a dash of Worcestershire and garlic salt.)

Sausage, roasted peppers, eggs and toast would be another great way to serve those same ingredients, but the reason you make a breakfast casserole is because you don’t have enough of those things to feed everybody. Breakfast casserole uses cheap white bread to stretch the yummy ingredients farther. This is a great trick when feeding a crowd, but a terrible way to eat on a daily basis.

And it is a terrible way to create a book.

Once on a writer’s forum someone asked, “What do you all fill those pages between the actions with?” There was sense of panic to the question. The writer desperately wanted to make a whole novel out of a short story. He wanted to make a meal out of a snack. He wanted to know the secret filler we all used to make our novels stretch.

There isn’t one.

You either have enough action for a story, or you don’t.

If you love your story to death, and you don’t want to see it end up as a short story instead of a novel, I have three tricks for you. They aren’t filler. They aren’t for stretching your story the way a loaf of white bread stretches a breakfast casserole. They are good, solid tips for creating a novel length piece of fiction.

  1. Add another point of view. It’s a painless way to give your readers more of your story world and to add dimension to your tale. Dig through your character notes and figure out who you find the most compelling and who has the most at stake in the tale.
  2. Make life harder for your main character. I don’t know what genre you are writing, but if the only hard time your character is having has to do with the main plot line, and then you have plenty of room to explore. Most folks have family life, work life (or finding work life,) school, church, or neighborhood life that intersects and distracts from the main goal. Find ways that these other aspects of your main character’s life can make achieving her main goal harder. Your book will be both longer and more interesting.
  3. Dig into that deep POV! I am pretty sure that anyone writing their fist novel can give “more.” Tell us more about what your main character is thinking, feeling, smelling, tasting, and seeing as she (or he) makes her (or his) way through life. Two or three sentences per page of observation and experience can both deepen, and lengthen a book!

 

Want to know what tortures I put my main character through? Then check out Good, Clean, Murder: A Plain Jane Mystery, available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords!

About Traci

DSC_3217Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery Series, and one of the authors in the The Tangle Saga series of science fiction novellas. She was the Mystery/Suspense Category winner for the 2012 Christian Writers of the West Phoenix Rattler Contest, a finalist for Speculative Fiction in the same contest, and has a Drammy from the Portland Civic Theatre Guild. Traci serves as the Vice President of the Portland chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association.

Traci earned a degree in History from PortlandStateUniversity and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, their two daughters, and their dog, Dr. Watson.

More of Traci’s work can be found at http://www.tracihilton.com

Award Winning Mystery from Best Selling Author Traci Tyne Hilton!

Living on her own for her first time, Bible school student Jane cleans houses to make ends meet. But being independent brings big GoodCleanMurder3trials, like falling for a handsome professor, dealing with an obnoxious roommate, and then there’s the dead bodies…

Who knew being housekeeper to wealthy owners of a Roly Burger franchise would mean sweeping up clues to their death, while ministering to the needs of their heirs?

This is one big mess that Jane is intent on cleaning up before things get even worse.

 

BONUS!

 

My recipe for breakfast casserole.

 

I loaf of cheap white bread

Five eggs

Milk (I don’t know how much…enough to make the bread pretty soupy.)

About two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.

About a teaspoon of salt/garlic salt

Two cups of red peppers

I package of cheap breakfast links

One cup of sour cream

Cut crusts off of bread, and then cut into quarters. Layer in a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Break eggs into bowl. Add sour cream and beat. Add milk.

Cut the tops off of peppers and dice.

Cut sausage links into half inch pieces. Fry them up with the peppers. Add sausage and peppers to egg mixture.

Put half of the bread in the egg mixture. Let it get nice and soppy. Pour this over the remaining bread in the pan.

Cover and refrigerate over night.

Bake at 450 for an hour and a half.

My Monster

Guest Blogs for Mary E. Twomey, author of Saga of the Spheres.

Writing is a strange monster. Gorgeous, unpredictable, terrifying, and precious. One moment you love what you’re into, the next you’re swearing you should scrap it all and declare yourself an illiterate just so expectations can be lowered. Learning to spell your name would become a note-worthy feat. “Wow! You did it yourself? Amazing! Sit down and take a rest. Have a cookie, you smart bunny.” Alas, with an English degree, more is expected of you when the pen hits the paper. If it’s not Shakespeare, and if you don’t use fanciful words like “alas”, then it must simply not be worth anyone’s time, lease of all yours.

This kind of thinking led me to deleted documents, trashed notebooks, abandoned plots and a total tailspin. If it wasn’t completely hatched and grown gracefully into an adult by the end of the page, it was obviously a failure. A plot that wasn’t complete before the first word was scribbled was a waste. Being a notorious math class disappointment led me to the conclusion that if you don’t have the right answer – all the right answers – it’s best to keep your mouth shut and your head down. Mistakes are for people who will never find the solution, and wrong guesses are for people who should find a new calling.

Oh, Mary. Silly Mary.

Oh, you reader. Silly you.

Today I write to encourage you to stop judging your imperfections. It’s odd that we are often the first one to cast the stone at ourselves. We’ll be amazingly polite and kind to others, but when it comes to giving grace to the person with the funky morning hair in the mirror, we plum run out of mercy just about every time. You would never tell your husband or your best girl friend, “What a stupid idea. That’ll never work. Look how many things you still have to figure out. Best just watch TV and leave the high heels to the big girls.”

Fortunately for all of us, today is a new day. Today we will be different. We will be kind to ourselves. We will look in the mirror and believe the things our loved ones say about us. We will trust our ridiculous ideas and not shoot them down just because they are ours. Today we take ourselves seriously and give an honest effort to becoming that person who can see the possibilities.

A funny thing dawned on me in the midst of writing and editing the Saga of the Spheres. I allowed the ink to flow for fun. I did not write for other people. I did not plot for the masses. I wrote, laughed, swooned, and bit my lip as an unknown world shifted into focus on the page. I’m very excited to share the keepers, the seers, the spheres and the wombats with you. My hope is that you find your own possibility, take the first step, and then start running.

 

Mary E. Twomey

The Silence of Lir

By Mary Twomey

ASIN: B0087LX826  $2.99

Book One

Genre: young adult fantasy fiction

Behind the scenes of our spinning earth are keepers of the elements who make sure that tornadoes don’t destroy cities, fires don’t ravage forests, earthquakes don’t decimate towns, and floods don’t take out humanity. They wrestle with the natural elements to ensure that the world keeps spinning smoothly on its axis.

Since the beginning of time, the Sun has been fading, and the light that shines on the earth is dimming, causing the elements to be more volatile and impossible for the keepers to control.

Now they must enlist the help of one man, Finn, to help them bring the light back to the Sun. The keepers war, the North Star steals light from the Sun, and the Moon is in disrepute. The end of existence is coming, and all the while the king, the Moon, Lir, remains silent.

About the Author:

Mary E. Twomey lives in Michigan with her husband and two adorable children. She enjoys reading, writing, vegetarian cooking and telling her children fantastic stories about wombats.

Connect with Mary:

www.facebook.com/#!/SagaOfTheSpheres

Twitter @shesleepssoftly

www.SagaOfTheSpheres.com

www.JackandYani.com

The Importance of Reviews

By Susette Williams

While the most common thought of using a review would be to help a customer decide whether or not to buy a product, there are other reasons for leaving a review as well. Believe it or not, writing can be a very discouraging profession. More often than not, people tend to leave reviews when they don’t like a product and are less likely to leave a review letting you know how much they do like your product, or in this case, your book.

You may have heard that musicians are moody. The truth can be said of the authors, but the reason these creative types have the ability to be moody, or have a wide array of emotions is it allows them to connect on an emotional level with the character in their book or song. That also enables them to connect with the reader or listener. For this reason, authors can often use encouragement and one way to give it, is by leaving a review of their book. While it does not take very long to leave a comment, it really does help to encourage the author when you leave a review and tell the author that you enjoyed their story, and what you liked about the story.

But what should you say in the review? It is important not to leave too much information or you may spoil the story for another reader. Tell the author what you liked, if there was a specific scene, or how the story made you feel. You want to leave just enough information that another reader can tell that you actually read the book and the author didn’t ask all of their friends and family to leave glowing 5 star reviews for them.

There has been a lot of controversy lately concerning a few authors unethical practices concerning reviews.  Principals to consider when leaving a review:

  1. You should never write reviews for your own book. Writing a synopsis, blurb, or back copy of your book is different. Reviews are generally endorsements, telling readers what you liked, or did not like, about a book. Reviews are generally left at places your book can be purchased, or in forums where book readers will read about their favorite authors’ books.
  2. You should never leave a bad review because you do not like the person or their beliefs. Also, if you have a problem with downloading a book on Kindle, Nook, etc. do not give the author a bad review. It is best to contact customer services with the place you are purchasing the book from and settle the downloading issue with them. The author has no control over this and it is unfair to rate their hard work based on problems with the distributor.
  3. It is unfair to an author if you downloaded their book as a free promo and have not bothered to check and see if the book is the type of genre you prefer to read or not. Example, if a person downloaded a book that had pornography, religious aspects or content they would find objectionable and would not intentionally set out to pay for that type of story to begin with, should not write a negative review for the book because your mindset is already against that book and its content. This is one of the downsides to offering a free book promotion—because consumers see free and then begin reading the story to only realize this isn’t their normal type of reading material. The author should not suffer because you chose something you would not normally read.
  4. A negative book review should only be left if the writing is poor, there are obvious problems with the plot, the story is inconsistent, the author didn’t check facts, etc.
  5. You should never leave negative reviews for an author because you purposely want their book to do bad. There have been some authors who leave bad reviews for competitors. When the public has found out about this type of practice, it generally will cost the unethical author sales and readers because of their attempts to manipulate consumers and their purchases.

Authors need positive reviews for encouragement and to sell books. An honest review allows readers to see what other people thought of a book and may help sway them in their decision to also purchase the book.

If an author does a book promotion, especially the free book promotions, many of the promotion sites will not carry the author’s books unless they have a set amount of reviews, and usually they must have at least a four star average rank in reviews.

The most natural place for an author to seek reviews is through customers who have purchased their books. Previous customers who have reviewed books can also be a great resource for future book reviews. Build a rapport with readers and offer them a free copy of a future book in exchange for an honest review. As a reader, you can also contact an author and offer to write a review if they will provide you with an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy).

Another place an author can solicit reviews are through Facebook groups for reviewers; or groups that connect readers, reviewers, bloggers and/or authors. Also, if you are looking for more reviews and do a special book promotion or free book promotion, whenever you post about the promotion, ask people to share the information and ask them if they would please consider leaving a review.

Always be polite and considerate, whether or not you are an author, reader, or reviewer. Consider other people’s feelings, and when leaving criticism, try to make it constructive. It also helps if you can find something positive to say, because it will help to take the edge off of negative comments.

Please take the time to show your favorite authors some appreciation by leaving them an encouraging review. It will inspire them to continue writing and sharing their stories with loyal readers like yourself!

Books by Susette Williams:

 

falling in loveMaid for Murder: Deadly Business http://ow.ly/hJKp2

Accidental Meeting http://ow.ly/fR7ft

Falling in Love (Seasons of the Heart) http://ow.ly/fR717

Winter Chill (Seasons of the Heart) http://ow.ly/fR75F

The Quakers of New Garden (New Garden’s Conversion) http://ow.ly/fR7bB

 

Books for Children:

The ‘In’ Crowd (Life With Stef) http://ow.ly/fGsul

On My Own (Life With Stef) http://ow.ly/fR7GG

 

Author Website: www.susettewilliams.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Susette-Williams/182094681851446?ref=ts&fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusetteWilliams

 

The Write Faith

At the end of November I was face to face with a big question. Do I have enough faith to spend my time writing books that logic says won’t sell? As you may come face to face with this same question in your life as a writer, I thought I’d share my story with you.

Can I be totally frank with you?

I don’t write literary fiction. My books aren’t deep, there isn’t a lot of internal monologue, and…here’s the part I hesitate to mention…they tend to average about 3rd-4th grade reading level. For comparison, the NIV Bible is translated into 6th grade English.

My books are full of fun action and snappy dialogue. And they have an ease of read factor that some readers really like.

Nonetheless, many grown up readers find them juvenile, and my reviews at Amazon reflect that. My writing income has been tracking upward since I began in this business a couple of years ago, so I figured my work ain’t perfect, but it’s workin’.

However, several friends have asked if I would consider writing middle grade books, as it seemed like it would suit my natural style.

My two middle grade reading daughters asked me if I would please write kids books for them..

And this spring, I ended up at the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators conference for a day. It felt like the mothership had called me home….And yet I went home and plotted another murder mystery.

You see, I just didn’t want to write “chapter books.”

So far, “chapter books” just don’t sell well at Amazon, and Amazon sales have always been my bread and butter. Why would I step away from something successful to enter into something that looks, for all purposes, like it could only fail?

Put another way: Did I have enough faith to invest my talents, or was I going to keep them buried under the convenient midlist mysteries I have been writing?

At my November critique group our fearless leader said, “Listen, you just need to write to your strengths. Don’t try to do what doesn’t come naturally.” I left that meeting still torn. Was it fair to my family for me to spend my time writing books that might not sell? I posed the question to a publisher friend of mind. I didn’t mention the issue being about children’s books though; I just voiced my concerns over struggling with my writing style in general. She said the same thing. Don’t torture your style to make it match the wrong genre.

They were both right, these mentors of mine. But what if I failed?

And then, I went to a toy store.

It’s a fabulous local place that keeps Girl Scout uniforms in stock. I had to go two days in a row, one to get the vest I needed, and the next to get the stuff to go on the vest. That second day the store owner remembered me. We got to chatting and my books came up. The store owner took one of my cards and asked if my books could be ordered from Ingrams. (The wholesale distributor.)

Do you see what just happened there? A local toy store that stocks books for kids asked if I had anything they could order. And I didn’t but someday I could!

God didn’t hit me over the head with a log and tell me to write children’s books. But I think after the week I’ve had it would be almost disobedient not to try!

Despite middle grade novels being new territory for me, despite them also being new territory for e-readers, I am finally ready to take the plunge. I will step out in faith—with TONS of prayer—into uncharted waters.

And you should too.

I don’t mean that you should write kids books. But you should listen carefully at your critique groups. How do your peers define your strengths? When you write, what part of your book gives you the most satisfaction? In your non-writing life, what gets your heart pumping? Is there a place where these all intersect? Is there an uncharted territory God could be using you in, if you only had the faith to step out?

Obviously, I don’t have a contract in hand right now, or any other BIG sign to close this post with. I just have the faith to try. And that, at least from this side of the monitor, seems like a very big thing, to me.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I recently finished the first of a three book mystery series that I plan to complete. Funnily enough, when I read the completed story I thought it sounded an awful lot like a Young Adult novel.)

Traci Tyne Hilton is an award winning playwright from Portland, Oregon, the author of the Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery Series, and one of the authors in the The Tangle Saga series of science fiction novellas.

Traci earned a degree in History from PortlandStateUniversity and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, their two daughters, and their dog, Dr. Watson.

More of Traci’s work can be found at http://www.tracihilton.com

Capture the Memories

By Mary Anne Benedetto

It seems as though we were just in the midst of the heat of summer with its tornado and hurricane warnings, floods, and humidity so thick it sometimes felt like you could chop it with a machete. Now here we are rapidly approaching the holiday season!

Whether you are celebrating by devouring luscious Thanksgiving turkey, accompanied by all of the requisite trimmings, or perhaps seated around a Christmas ham and trying to keep the little ones quiet long enough to say grace, this is a time of year when we hope to enjoy some quality family time with loved ones. From the presence of senior citizens to the smiles of sleeping newborns, memories are being made at these events. And stories are being told. The seniors sometimes like to reminisce about holiday events back when they were growing up, but do we really listen? And do we actually capture and preserve the stories they are telling?

Lauren and Clara Greene

Some grandparents and great-grandparents may sit back and remain fairly silent, shell-shocked by the chaotic activity surrounding them. Perhaps they need coaxing to join in and share some of their recollections. What we must remember is to take the time to make them feel special. Let them know that you value hearing what life was like for them when they were growing up. Some of them are under the distinct impression that no one is interested. Are they correct?

The sad truth is that once they are no longer here to sit at that holiday dining table, unless their stories have been preserved, they are forever lost.  During this holiday season, why not attempt to engage the elder family members in conversation about their lives? A few tips are:

  • Ask questions about the paths that brought them from there to here.
  • Have a small, inexpensive hand-held recorder handy to capture the priceless memories.
  • Recruit a family member or friend to transcribe the recordings, producing a document that can be shared with future generations.

When I was working with a senior group a few years ago, their limitations prohibited them from  producing full blown memoirs. I devised a form, which I call the Mini-Memoir. It is a fill-in-the-blank one pager that will generate discussion about favorite aspects of life and can be utilized by the older folks, as well as the younger generation. Make it a family holiday tradition! This form is a free download at my Web site http://www.awriterspresence.com. Click on the page called “Write About Your Life,” scroll down and print a PDF copy of the Mini-Memoir. Print as many copies as you’d like because it is my gift to you to help preserve some of those family memories which may erupt.

Ask the kids to tuck away their iPods, iPads and cell phones for a little while and participate. Everyone has a story, and involving the children in listening to the tales told by the older folks equates to creating lasting memories. Encourage them to ask questions and engage in meaningful conversation with Grandma, Grandpa or Uncle Joe.

Enjoy your 2012 holiday season, and please honor those beloved senior citizen family members by capturing some of their stories. You’ll be glad that you took the time because we can’t rewind! We can’t go back once they are no longer with us. God bless you, your family and your dear friends as you celebrate His love and grace during the holidays and begin a new tradition that will benefit future generations!

Mary Anne Benedetto is a speaker, ghostwriter,  blogger, Certified Lifewriting Instructor and author of 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time! and two novels.  Her passions include helping people preserve their life stories, creating Christian fiction, world travel and walking the spectacular South Carolina beaches.  Visit her at www.awriterspresence.com, www.maryannebenedetto.blogspot.com and www.4womenwholove2travel.blogspot.com

                                                                                             http://bit.ly/OiDxsk

An Ode to the Hopeless Romantic

By Suzanne Williams

I am becoming a hopeless romantic, and I thought that’d never happen to me. You see, I am the girl who watches all the guy movies, the ones with car chases and explosions, gory battle scenes where heads get lopped off. I’m the one who says, “I love that!” when at the end of the movie the good guy decimates the bad guy entirely.

Chick flick? Puh-lease. You can’t get me to watch them. What’s the purpose of a movie where the entire plot is “Will he get with her or not?” No, I need action. I want to be on the edge of my seat, gripping the couch cushion. Well, to a point. There was this one movie where the good guy just couldn’t get his act together until the last scene. I didn’t care for that so much. But I think you get my point.

Yet here I am a year into writing fiction and I, lover of suspense and action, am writing romance novels. Whodathunkit? It’s funny really because it fell in my lap all at once, and I truthfully didn’t see it coming. I had this idea for a novel with a war theme. I ran it by a friend who said, “Write it.” Trouble was it had a distinctly romance theme, and I didn’t know beans about writing romance. For that matter, I didn’t know beans about writing fiction. Two chapters into the story that became painfully evident.

So I did what I always do when up against a wall, I began to study. Now, there are two forms of study a writer does. The first is reading articles on how to write. I’ve read tons of those and have bookmarked them all for future reference. The second form is reading. Reading is by far one of the most important things any writer can do to learn their craft. And not simply reading the good novels, but also the bad ones. Of course, you don’t know until you begin to read it if it’s good or bad, but it’s in the reading you start to see story structure, plot  lines, and all the nuances of what works or fails more clearly.

One of the worst books I read taught me the most about what not to do. The further into it I got the more I knew what I wanted to avoid in my own writing. Another book I read more recently partially succeeded. It had a great storyline and believable characters. However, the author made some minor mistakes that if corrected would have greatly improved the story. I learned from that book as well. But I think the best thing about reading is when I find a real gem. That’s the book I would never have read except I wanted to know if the author could pull it off.

My most recent gem is “Descended” by Dana Pratola. I’ve never been a paranormal romance fan. There’s something weird about semi-human/supernatural beings falling in love when I still struggle with the “falling in love” part in humans alone. Yet she did something in this novel that I was not expecting. She made me believe. I was sucked in from page one and believed every word she’d written. This despite my brain’s need for facts and truth (I’m a history nut). Somehow through her words, I threw out all my concrete knowledge of life and said, “Yeah, this could happen. I can see it.”

I asked myself afterward why that was. What did she do that other authors had failed to do? And the answer came down to two things. One, she made paranormal romance Christian, clean, and morally right. I didn’t think that was possible. Two, the attraction between the characters was as much physical as it was in their heart. I have a distinct problem with romance novels where “he” is looking for a “wife” as if she’s a vase of flowers.

And while I’m on the subject, I also have a problem with a romance novel where the physical overtakes what’s in the heart. Now, I’m sorry folks, but sex (yes, I said the “s” word) is not the end all in a relationship. As a Christian, love and marriage, commitment and the uniting of two hearts, comes first. There isn’t any other way to write a good romance novel because the physical soon fades away, and then you’re left with what?

I’m enjoying my foray into fiction – loving it, in fact – and I like to think it’s making me a more well-rounded writer because I know now what I like to write about and how I like to write it. I can write it better, and I understand what I’m doing more often than not. I’ve also made great writer friends, met some wonderful, supportive readers, and expanded my bookshelves incredibly. But most of all, I’ve become a hopeless romantic. I see now the value of, “Will he get with her?” And to me that’s worth more than words.

But don’t expect me to give up my action movies.

MISSING. The story of three generations of one family tied together through love, loss, and war.

Adele Davis’ husband, John, went missing in action in Vietnam. Five years later, she meets Stephen Sanders and falls in love. Yet should love again? Or does she dishonor her husband’s memory?

Amos and Elizabeth Sanders’ son, Andrew, left home to fight with the Union Army in the Civil War. But he never returned. A strange series of events returns him to them along with something far greater.

Doug and Molly Sanders both have secrets. What happened to him when he parachuted into France on D-Day? And what happened to her? Will their secrets destroy them both?

Where Wild Flowers Bloom

By Ann Shorey

You’d think by the title that this book would be an easy-read romance, but you’ll be surprised at the mayhem that can surround a mercantile and the young lady who manages the store for her ailing grandfather.

In the first place Faith Lindberg doesn’t want to spend her life stocking shelves, waiting on customers and trying to balance ledgers that are in chaos. She wants to make enough money to pay passage to Oregon and perhaps marry Royal Baxter when he returns from the war.

Yet, it seems every day something happens. Grandpa gets lost on his way to the store. Good thing Curt Saxon, the stableman, comes to the rescue.

It seems Curt, who carries a long jagged scar on his neck from the war is always there when crises occur.

Could Faith, with her grand goals and drams fall for a scarred stableman? Or is he responsible for some of the crimes occurring in town?

This book is not only entertaining, but has enough suspense it kept me reading into the night. I recommend it.

Note: I was given a review copy of the book by the publisher and author.

— Ada Brownell, author of Swallowed by LIFE

About Ada

Sold 200 articles and stories to 40 religion magazines; Author of Swallowed by LIFE: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal (Amazon, 2011) and Confessions of a Pentecostal (Gospeal Publishing House 1978). Marketing teen novel, Terror Blasters, and just starting to market historical romance, The Belle of Peachville. Her writing is included in “Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers” and “Cup of Comfort for Christians” (Adams Media 2008 and 2006); “What I Learned from God While Cooking,” (edited by Cristine Bolley; Barbour Publishing, 2006); and “50 Tough Questions”, (Pentecostal Evangel Books). Retired as a medical and general assignments reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain (Colorado).

How to Write a Book Review the Author Will Love

By Mary C. Findley

I am a big classics fan. I have, however, recently begun reviewing book by modern authors, and especially Indie writers, some of whom I’ve become friends and acquaintances with through author and reader sites I have joined.

I have gotten good responses from the authors so far, even if I gave them the dreaded “three out of five stars.” One who was at first very unhappy with her three stars admitted that it was a very good review, she liked it, and she quotes from it as she promotes. Another author said she loved my review so much it made her cry. It’s the only five star I’ve given so far, and she really deserved it.

I’m going to use Tale of Two Cities as an example of how to write a book review by reviewing it. Mr. Dickens won’t mind.

First, an author wants you to find out the solution of his book’s mystery by reading it, not by the reviewer giving it away. In Tale of Two Cities, why in the world does that drunken lowlife Sidney Carton get to hang around sweet Lucie the whole book, almost?

The author does want the reviewer make readers interested, though. So I will just mention that Sidney has a much bigger part to play than just standing up in court looking remarkably like Charles Darnay, thus saving his life.

Second, the author wants the reviewer to get readers to like the people in the story. For this example, let me introduce you to Mr. Lorry. Mr. Lorry represents an ancient, trustworthy, boring bank, but Mr. Lorry is hardly boring. He’s vain about his fine calves, though he’s past sixty. He rescues a parentless child although he says he is “merely a man of business.” He warns off a most unsuitable suitor, protecting a young lady from an arrogant and disgusting predator. He goes along with an unknown plot for an impossible rescue. This can hardly be a service to the bank he has served his whole life, but is an extraordinary example of compassion and courage.

Third, the author knows his book isn’t perfect, though he loves it as his own child. He doesn’t mind if you tell people imperfections, as long as you are honest and have good reasons. Tale of Two Cities, like most of Dickens’ works, is very wordy. I don’t care how many people say he wasn’t paid by the word, he was. He wrote serials. He had to pad out the work to fill a certain amount space in a magazine and make a cliffhanger out of every installment to get people to keep reading. That’s a guaranteed recipe for wordiness. Some of Dickens’ books are much longer than this one, but a modern editor would certainly be chafing to trim it down. I know as a former editor I would.

Fourth, a reviewer needs to warn readers if there is material not suitable for certain ages or groups. Dickens describes people in grinding poverty virtually starving to death before our eyes. He has a careless nobleman run his cart over a small child. The noble gentleman cares nothing about it except to try to throw a coin at the father and ask why he makes such an infernal noise. People are beaten and beheaded and described as blood-covered and murderously enraged. Sometimes just the sheer callousness and indifference toward death is hard to take. However jaded young readers might be today, it’s still not the best thing for very young readers. There is no real sex. Reference is made to breasts but only for nursing children.

In conclusion, I give Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities a four out of five, because I think he could have written a better story without so many words. Otherwise, it’s probably my favorite fictional work of all time.

About Mary C. Findley

I grew up in rural NY and met my husband at college in South Carolina. We taught school in AZ, MO and PA, homeschooled, and created curriculum and videos for church and commercial productions. We have three 20-something children, and now travel the 48 states together in a tractor trailer.

Romance and a Cup of Tea

by Suzanne D. Williams

So there I was, Kindle in hand, ready to read, and my thoughts went something like this:

Ah, a romance story. This should be good. Chapter one, enter main male character. Rugged cowboy who used to live here. Gotcha.

I clicked. Next page. Enter female character. Oh, I like her. She has a bit of a past to overcome. That’ll keep it interesting.

Chapter two. Male character stumbles across female character. Chemistry. Yes. I see where this is going.

Chapter three. Wait! He has a past too, and his traumatizes him. Fun. Will he overcome it? Will it drive them apart? (Of course not. It’s a romance novel. They’ll get together.)

Click. Chapter four. Chapter five. Chapter six. Yawn. Wait. I’m bored? What happened? Click. Chapter seven. All is resolved between them.The family thinks he’s great. He’s overcoming his obstacles. I glance down at the percentage meter. Thirty percent? What happens in the rest of this book?

Chapter eight. Stop. Why am I reading from her brother’s point of view?

Chapter nine. I don’t care he’s eating catfish.

Chapter ten. Hold up. She does charity work? You’re just now telling me this? What does that have to do with him and her?

Chapter eleven. Big cataclysmic event. I rub my hands in glee. Maybe the author will drive them apart. Make this more interesting. No? What? The streets of the town lay which direction? The little old lady had what happen to her? Volunteer fire department? And who’s the blonde girl?

WHERE’S THE COUPLE AT?

Oh, that’s right. They’re great. We fixed them by chapter seven.

That’s when it hit me. Writing plot in a romance novel is like brewing a good cup of tea. (You say, “How about coffee?” But I don’t drink coffee and I’m writing this, so I say “tea.”) A good plot boils the story down to the perfect concentration. Too weak and the reader becomes lost. The story rambles. It’s no longer a romance. It’s a … story about an entire town. It’s not him and her fixing what lies between them. It’s “and then we went here, and then we went there, and then this happened.”

My favorite plot advice uses the words “but” or “therefore” to determine what happens next. Never slip into “and then” or the story will fall flat. The biggest “and then” problem in a plot is usually spanning time. If the story covers many months, it’s not necessary to fill in all the gaps. Often, it can be done subtly. They met in the spring, but aren’t married for a year. If nothing happens during the summer, I don’t need an entire chapter that serves no purpose. Instead, concentrate the flavor.

Where the characters are in the plot, should tie to where they were and where they are going. In a romance, each scene needs to be about them or to affect them. Leave all the little stuff, what other characters may be doing, to the reader’s imagination. After all, people don’t read a romance to know how the family is or what the town looks like.

Use each event to condense their relationship to its finest level and forget the other stuff. Put me in his head and in hers. Make me love them individually, then bring them together, overcoming the odds stacked against them. That, my friend, makes for one tasty cup of tea, and one I’ll long remember.

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother. She writes a monthly column on digital photography for the Steve’s Digicams website. She is an author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She also works in graphic design and is a professional proofreader.

Book Title: MISSING

Author’s Blog: http://suzanne-williams-photography.blogspot.com/

Amazon site for the book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008DFT1VS or http://www.amazon.com/Missing-The-Sanders-Saga-Volume/dp/1475294913/

Create Space site for the book: https://www.createspace.com/3867174

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSYgV1vWLYY

 

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