Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mistletoe and Murder

I read a lot of Christmas books this year. I didn't like them very much. I think because most of them were the anthologies and were shorter and didn't allow the characters to develop as much. They weren't bad, but it was like having just candy or fluff ~ it tastes okay for a while, but you crave meat and potatoes pretty soon. A person just needs real food.

I won this book in a contest on Craftie Ladies of Suspense. The author, Florence Case, recently passed away. I didn't know her, but I understand she was a mentor and inspiration for many. I just wanted to take a minute to just give tribute to her and thank the other wonderful authors who help other writers through their site.

Now ~ for the book. The back cover reads:

One minute, probation officer Mallory Larsen is handing out hand-knitted Christmas gifts. The next, there's a gun at her head- and a bomb exploding. Fellow probation officer Shamus Burke saves her life, and she'll be sure to thank him for it... once she gets his assistance again. A girl's life depends on Mallory, and no one but Shamus can help her do what needs to be done. As the threats against Mallory escalate, she shows Shamus she won't back down on saving anyone- including him. But now someone's dead set on stopping them both from ever celebrating Christmas together.

My take ~

There are really three aspects I looked at with this book: 1. The mystery & suspense 2. The characters & basic writing 3. The romance.

The mystery and suspense was well done. There were surprises and twists throughout the story you didn't expect. Just when you think you know she pulls something else on you. That was a lot of fun and I though it was masterfully done.

The characters were good as well. Even with the norm of the bad boy and the good girl ~ they had their quirks and surprises. The writing was good and the pacing was nice. All the secondary characters were done well too. I had no trouble picturing anything.

The one area I felt a little let down in was romance. He was certainly a handsome hero and she was a strong leading lady - but I didn't really sense a strong connection or bond between them. It was almost as if they could have been partners and he would have rescued and protected anyone. I know that isn't true in my mind... I just didn't feel that "zing" between them. Then again it might be me not feeling well ~ because everything else about the book was really good.

I did enjoy the book and wouldn't hesitate to look for other books by the same author.

How about you? What were your favorite Christmas reads?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Romance Reading Challenge

This is the second year of the Romance Reading Challenge, but my first year participating. Although this year it will be a little different with more options for those die hard lovers of Romance novels. This challenge includes all sub genres of Romance i.e. paranormal, young adult, historical etc. So this should give you plenty of options.

Challenge Guidelines:
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
--Non-Bloggers: Include your information in the comment section.

2. There are four levels:

-- Curious – Read 3 Romance Fiction novels.

-- Fascinated – Read 6 Romance Fiction novels.

-- Addicted – Read 12 Romance Fiction novels.

-- Obsessed – Read 20 Romance Fiction novels.

3. Any book format counts.

4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.

6. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to the post about the Romance Reading Challenge. Include the URL so that other participants can find join in and read your reviews and post.

I am planning on keeping track of all my books for 2010, romance and otherwise, on my new Shelfari. I'm going to dump all the old books and all new books starting with the ones that count as of the 1st. That way everyone can tell what I've read that year. It may contain re-reads, because I do re-read books, but most of them will be new. I look forward to this new year! :o)

You can follow the link to enter the challenge by clicking on the linked picture on the side of my blog. By the way, I chose the obsessed level of the challenge. :o) Have fun!

What's your favorite genre?

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I'm sorry I didn't wish you one in advance. I haven't been online very much and I have to confess ~ I never got my cards mailed to my friends and family either.

Normally I keep this to either books I've read or writing, but it has been a hard couple of weeks ~ and I share so much with you all that I've come to think of you as friends. It always makes me feel better to share with friends, so I hope you won't mind if I share for a minute.

My oldest son was in a car accident the day before Christmas. He's okay, but he destroyed a sign and so the police gave him a case number. He didn't get any more information than that - but my husband believes that is just like a ticket and he'll be fined - plus our insurance will go up (because he's covered on our policy). Plus the driver's door is dented in and the window is shattered.

My husband leaves this coming weekend for training for a new job. He was laid off last year. His new job isn't making enough to make ends meet so he has been interviewing. He took one of them that has "potential" for making more money - but no salary, benefits... nothing. They consider you a contractor so you have to do your own taxes. We won't make anything the month of January because you don't get paid until a month after you work - and that will be a small check because he will be at training for a week of the month and then still learning... Plus we have to purchase a new phone & fax line for the house and pay for his hotel and travel expenses to the training.

I also broken my toe and I think several other bones in my foot. It hurt so bad I collapsed on the floor and cried. Not a lot makes me cry. My foot is bruised up above my toes in this half moon shape - and it hurts to walk - plus one of the toes. I taped them and that helped a little.

I'm also not sleeping again. I think it's the flu or a cold. My son has it - and my hubby has had a touch too. When I get sick it makes the fibro act up. I've missed church the last two Sundays and I am all messed up with my sleep schedule. The weather doesn't help at all. I laughed at our weather report tonight. The man said it had warmed up to 28 degrees. Isn't that insane? Just the idea that we think 28 is warm shows how cold it has been. I don't think warm and 28 should be in the same sentence, but when temps have been single digits or even below zero - I'll take 28.

Now that I've had my pity party, I actually had a very nice Christmas. I read tons of so-so Christmas themed books and other books as well. I even made time to work on my writing some. I hope you're all staying warm and that you enjoyed your time off.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Lady Trent Mystery Series

A Lady Trent Mystery Series is written by Gilbert Morris and is centered around the main characters of Viscountess Serafina Trent and Dylan Tremayne. I love the covers for these books, especially the second book, A Conspiracy of Ravens.

Lady Serafina is nobility and doesn't fit the mold very well. She works with her father to do autopsies to find out the cause of death, plus various experiments with him and on her own. She is a widow and many suspect her in his death. She is fiercely protective of her son, David, and generally the backbone of her family. She has a scientific mind and refuses to indulge in anything that she cannot observe or prove. This goes to such an extreme that she doesn't even read fiction and discourages her son from imagination and other wastes of time.

Dylan Tremayne is an actor. In the world of social classes, his would be rated just above robbers and thieves. He is also a strong Christian. He doesn't just attend church, every conversation is peppered with references to God and he seems to rely on and treat God as a friend and guide for life. This baffles and frustrates Lady Serafina. His criminal background can get him in to places and people nobody else can. He is more handsome than any man has a right to be and yet doesn't seem to be aware of it and wants nothing to do with all his female fans.

How do these two opposites even come together? In the first book Lady Serafina's brother finds himself accused of murdering one of the actresses in the theater production. Dylan knew both her brother and the actress. He volunteers his assistance and she realizes she can't prove her brother's innocence without him. They actually end up working well as a team, and he also provides a good role model for her son.

As the two solve mysteries, they get a reputation and are called on to do more work. The whole time you can see the clash between their belief systems, social classes, and prejudices of the people surrounding them. There are funny, tense, and romantic moments. The subplots of the secondary characters are interesting and well done.

Now I have to admit a bit of a con for a "mystery" series. There were surprises and plot twists I hadn't expected, but I was able to guess the killer in the first two books. I guessed the 3rd as well, but the author was able to talk me into doubting of my guess with a red herring. That didn't ruin my enjoyment because the whole idea of how they discovered them and the interplay between the characters was really good.

I also think these series where the characters evolve and grow over a much longer time gives a much more... deeper look into their hearts and minds. I think it allows them to make more realistic changes. In the end, the characters Mr. Morris created were very impressive because they were not stereotypical in the least. The way the related to each other didn't even fall into totally expected norms.

I have a question for you. A friend of mine told me when she reads books she always reads the end to see how it will all work out before she finishes the book. I was shocked. I never read the end first. I asked someone else and they said they do it too. Is that pretty common? Do you read the end of your books before you get there to see how it all turns out? Why do you do that (if you do)? Why not (if you don't)?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Circle of Friends Award

My friend, Susan Holloway, @ Journeys of Love...Inspired by Faith has given me The Circle of Friends Award! The rules are that I am supposed to share 5 things that I love to do and then pass the award on to five other blogs. Here we go:

5 Things I Love To Do

  1. Read ~ I know, big surprise right? Would it surprise you to know that I have a database for books and it has over 3,000 in it right now?
  2. Write ~ This is kind of a love/hate relationship for me. It's more accurate to say I "have" to write. It's like something is in me that must come out.
  3. Computer ~ I left it at just "computer" because I like to do all kinds of things on the computer. I love to research ideas and information, curriculum for homeschool, books, articles... Plus I go to boards, blogs, websites and I play games on my computer too.
  4. Make Jewelry ~ I haven't been doing it very long and it is still a hobby of mine. I don't do it often because my hands will hurt from the fibro, and since I'm writing now, most of my good "finger time" goes to writing, but I love all the different kinds of beads and gemstones. I especially like natural gemstones because they are all different and like little works of art. So like God to do that. I don't wear much jewelry - but I do enjoy making it. The necklace in my new pic is one I made. It is Tourmaline ~ and all the different colors mean it can go with lots of different things. That necklace is long too. I can wear it knotted or doubled... It's very pretty and one of my favorite things I've made (and one of the first).
  5. I volunteer at my church. ~ This includes everything from teaching my kiddos (K-2nd grades ~ which I've done for... at least 7 years now. I also maintain a board for our deployed soldiers and send them cards. I do skits and monologues too. I clean up, set up for potlucks, just help out any which way I can.

Now for the 5 blogs to pass it on to:

  • Lori @ Some of My Favorite Things Thank you for being one of the first people to befriend me in this blogging world and showing me the "ropes" on so many things.
  • Julane @ Inspiration From the Commonplace You were willing to step out in faith and become a critique partner to the least experienced writer on the planet with some strange ideas about writing. You also stood by me and became my friend. Thank you.
  • Renee @ Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot You rolled out the welcome mat right away and have been so nice ever since. You have an awesome sense of humor, great taste (in books and cars), :o) and I'm really glad we met.
  • Angie @ Never a Dull Moment You are always ready with an encouraging comment, a good suggestion, a wonderful picture of your cats... lol Just being you is enough. I have really enjoyed getting to know you.
Now this is the hard part ~ only one more and yet so many others have been good friends to me.

  • Deborah @ Butterfly Journey You have been very supportive of my writing, encouraged me continually, and understood things about me that nobody without chronic illness can. I pray for you and your daughter and I wish you all the best with your writing.
Thank you to all my friends and followers. Have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

You don't have to read my blog for very long before you realize that I am a great fan of regency novels and of Jane Austen... Pride and Prejudice in particular. I was going to add another review today, but since it is her birthday, and I think she is like hot cocoa on a cold winter's day ~ you're stuck with a bit of a tribute post. :o)

Jane Austen didn't write steamy kisses and sex scenes, but her stories were filled with "witty" conversation that made you laugh, palpable tension that sometimes had you willing one or another character to just come out with it and say what they were really feeling, and certainly her characters became flesh and blood. They live on in movies and several "sequels" and adaptations that are varying degrees of successful, depending upon your taste and point of view.

I think it's wonderful to think her stories live so many years later, and she is a household name, despite the fact she had trouble getting them published when she was alive and the ones she did publish, were originally published "by an author." I wonder if she's pleased at all the attention and how her stories have been re-worked. Perhaps she isn't paying attention at all. lol

My favorite original Austen work is Pride and Prejudice. I also loved the A&E mini-series done with Colin Firth.
However I also love several of her other books and adaptations. I don't think I could list them all... lol Nobody would finish reading the blog. {wink} Some of the highlights of the newer books (since all of Austen's books are known), were:

  • The Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy by Pamela Aiden ~ It's been a while since I read these, and if I'm remembering correctly, I liked 1 & 3 better than 2 because she took a bunny trail I would have preferred she didn't and I didn't think it was necessary for the story ~ but they are great stories that basically tell the Pride & Prejudice Tale from his point of view. A lot is added and Darcy's character is fleshed out quite a bit, without changing him into another person. I liked them quite a lot.
  • The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James ~ Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could find her diary or letters? This book is written in a fun way, as a story. What I really liked is that unlike a lot of historical novels that have to explain things the reader wouldn't know (or just don't tell us at all) the information is at the bottom of the page. So you can read the story through and not miss the action or pacing of the story and then read the info at the bottom and educate yourself and get more meaning from the section and re-read if needed. Or you can skip the footnotes if you want. It's totally up to you. The book makes sense without them ~ it just gives more info on customs, fashions, etc.
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale ~ This is a short little book that packs an emotional punch. A young woman who can't seem to find a healthy relationship (each chapter highlights one of her failures by number and a brief description), and is obsessed with the Colin Firth version of Darcy. lol I can relate! In any case, her relative dies and gives her a trip to Austenland, where actors play parts and everything is regency England. She could have Darcy ~ but can she cure herself of her obsession? This story was fabulously funny, real and surprising.
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler ~ Can you imagine waking up in someone else's body and it being in another time? Instead of her Los Angeles apartment, Courtney wakes up in Regency England and isn't herself. She has someone else's memories, body and even abilities. If she can't convince anyone of the truth how can she get home? What can she do in the meantime? This book was wonderful! The writing was fabulous, the characters believable and I even was able to forget the whole idea of the switching lives/bodies and just enjoy the story. She pulled the wool all the way over my eyes. The great chemistry and relationships between the characters is just one of the reasons this book also made my top 10 list.
I started with a movie and I'll end with one. This isn't an Oscar winner, but it was fun and had great wit and characters.
After all, part of the purpose of this whole thing is to have fun. This was a "fun" movie and I have to admit, I sure like the idea of Elizabeth coming to visit me, and then I could go meet Mr. Darcy...

Do you have a favorite Austen book? What is your favorite remake or sequel of her work?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

English Doesn't Make Sense!

My son yelled from the kitchen table, "English just doesn't make sense! It doesn't even follow it's own rules and lots of words can be confused with others."

"What's confusing you?" I asked.

"Nothing. Just think about it... bow can be a bow on a present or a bow tie or it can be pronounced like ow and then it means to bend over."

"You forgot that it can also mean part of a musical instrument."

He smacked his forehead and groaned as only a teenager can. "Why do I have to learn this stuff?"

"It's good for your character." I laughed.

He didn't think it was funny. It's true that English is one of the most difficult languages to master. I think it's because we're a melting pot of so many other languages. Context is key when deciding which "bow" is the correct one. I think that might be a good lesson to apply to a lot of things. If we take Bible verses out of context their meanings no longer make sense and they can be used in ways that aren't true to the rest of Scripture. If we try and listen to what people say in context to their situation and personality, maybe we'd be able to have less misunderstandings.

Do you have words you regularly mix up when reading? Do you like to play word games or do they frustrate you?

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I just finished watching Alice, SyFy's latest remake of Alice in Wonderland. It's the second time I watched it. Being a writer and loving classic books, I was prepared NOT to like it. However, I already let you know that I liked it very much ~ because I watched it twice ~ and I would watch it again. :o)

What was it that captivated me so much about this particular version? The classic weaved a world beyond our imagination and filled it with characters that were memorable. They were not like anyone we knew and each individual unique even in their world. That's what I saw in this version as well. The characters weren't confined to their roles in the book however. It was fun spotting who was who from the original book, but as Hatter tells Alice, "Does this look like a children's story to you?"

Indeed, much is different in Wonderland, and it makes the story relevant to viewers today in so many ways. Another time Hatter takes Alice to a hidden library where people are trying to survive away from the Queen's "suits" and system of emotional highs. She asks why all this (the books and people) is hidden away and why the Queen would want to destroy it. Hatter explains that wisdom is her greatest threat. She controls people through quick fixes. That's pretty deep thinking from a "children's" story.

The mini-series also delves into truths such as do the ends justify the means... and it has great romance as well. The characters are multi-dimensional and deal with strengths and weaknesses. They grow and change over the course of the show. I thought it was a lot of fun to watch. Our family had a lot of fun conversation about the show.

I don't know how many more times it will run on TV, or if it will. But if you are at all interested, I suggest checking it out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Top 10 for 2009

It's the end of the year, or nearly so, and people have started to reflect on what they have accomplished. They write those letters to their friends and relatives to stick inside Christmas cards ~ explaining all that has happened over the past year... They wonder what the new year will bring. This has been a tough time for many, so hopes and dreams may center on jobs and making it financially. I know many who struggle with health issues.

Those of us who read and write for the bulk of our time often reflect upon the books in our lives. Which ones touched us the most? Which were utter disappointments? What are we really looking forward to be released in the coming year? I've already seen some people post their list of favorites. Who am I to break with tradition? In alphabetical order, here are the books I most enjoyed reading this past year (notice that some were published in previous years, I just read them this year):

  1. Tamera Alexander's Fountain Creek Chronicles Series
  2. Christina Berry's A Familiar Stranger
  3. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander
  4. Shannon Hale's Austenland
  5. Julie Lessman's Daughters of Boston series
  6. Jane Orcutt's All the Tea in China
  7. Catherine Palmer's The Bachelor's Bargain
  8. Golden Keyes Parson's Darkness to Light Series
  9. Tracie Peterson's Brides of Gallatin County Series
  10. Laurie Viera Rigler's Confession of a Jane Austen Addict
You can find reviews for most of these books on my blog. I just want to thank the authors for making it so difficult to pick only ten that I cheated (just a little) and picked quite a few series instead of just single books. I also want to thank you for coming by here, reading and taking a moment to comment. I know how busy everyone is.

How about you? Do you have a top ten list for 2009 yet? Or do you just have a few favorite books you'd like to share? I'm always up for suggestions on another good book. :o)

The Brides of Gallatin County

Titles: A Promise to Believe In, A Love to Last Forever, & A Dream to Call My Own
Author: Tracie Peterson

The first thing you notice about these books are their covers. All of them are works of art, pure and simple. They are gorgeous. I think a lot about the characters are reflected in them as well, at least the way they start off their particular story. The first book centers primarily on Gwen. She feels cursed and lets that isolate her and almost drive her away from everyone she loves. She's even tempted to leave her sisters in an effort to protect them. All because someone told her she was, and then when bad things happened, she imagined herself the cause. Her trust in God and belief that He was in control was threatened by a fortune teller and her circumstances. So often we lose sight of what we know to be true because of what is going on around us. I thought the way the author dealt with this situation was so honest and it's one of the things many Christians struggle with.

The second book focuses more on Beth. I thought it was kind of ironic because Beth is shown as one who devours romance novels and longs for the adventure she finds in the pages of her books. Sometimes she even envies the leading ladies their witty comebacks and ability to woo all the handsome young men. She then find herself caught between two men who want to court her. One she's known for years. He's trustworthy, helpful, handsome and wants to stay put ~ which is so important to her, but she doesn't know where he stands with God. The other is a fine-looking stranger who claims a relationship to God, but he's just passing through, loves to travel and won't be spending much time with her at all. He also has no qualms about kissing her despite her objections. How will she know who to choose?

The third book is centered on Lacy. Of the three girls, Lacy is the tomboy. I think that may be why shes facing us on the cover while the other two look down. All three harbor guilt about the past, but Lacy believes she can do no right and has always let her family down. After her father died, that guilt turned to anger. She has made it her personal mission to find his murderer, no matter the cost to her personal safety. Lacy can't forgive herself, so unlike her sisters she cannot move on from his death and even consider that it might be an accident. This also causes problems between her and the local deputy, who seems to always find fault with everything she does.

I loved this series. Unlike most books that start a story centered on one set of characters, finish their story and then move on to the next with the same setting and maybe a "walk on" by the characters from the old book, this one followed all of the main characters (with a few additions along the way) through all three books. You watch the Lacy's storyline progress from the first book until the very end. It doesn't just barely touch on her until the last book. I think it was a brilliant move by the author and really endeared you to the characters. I truly enjoyed learning more about the maturing love of Gwen & Beth in their marriages, and I thought Lacy's story was so much better for all the build-up getting to it. Her romance with her beau was out of this world intense. She also learned one of the most important lessons of all of them. For all her bluffing, she didn't love or forgive herself. She couldn't really love anyone else until she learned to do that.

In the middle of their personal struggles, there is plenty of action inherent to the setting. Cold Montana winters cause problems, a criminal element makes things not just unpleasant but dangerous for them, and then the railroad deciding where to come through will change their existence one way or the other. Lots of secondary characters make their own personal journeys and how everyone reacts to surprises is very human and realistic. These are not perfect caricatures of people. The people of Gallatin County lived and breathed thanks to Tracie Peterson.

I need to thank Lori at Some of My Favorite Things for Book Two, A Love to Last Forever. I won it on her blog. I bought the other two so I could have the whole series. If you haven't read these, I think they would make a great Christmas gift to yourself or another book lover.

What's the best series you've read lately?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Darkness to Light

In The Shadow of the Sun King and A Prisoner of Versailles are both written by Golden Keyes Parsons and occur during the period of time when it was dangerous to be a Protestant in France. The Edict of Nantes was supposed to protect them, but more and more the Dragoons are given free reign to destroy, pillage and kill. Children are rounded up and taken to good, Catholic schools to be educated in the proper faith.

The Clavell family is Huguenot and refuses to change their faith despite the growing danger. They believe their distance, lineage and ties to the court will continue to protect them until the dragoons show up at their estate, looking for their sons and burning their books. The royal court is beautiful and deadly. Madeleine Calvell knows this all too well. She grew up there, and had a special friendship with the king. Can that relationship save her family now or will her past with the king be their undoing?

It doesn't take much time on my blog to know I love this time period and these books were so delicious I devoured them. :o) lol The setting was magnificent, and none of the people were one dimensional. I almost expected the villain in this tale to be wholly black and cardboard because of the religious persecution going on ~ but people are just more complicated than that. The author obviously not only researched the history of the time period, but is a faithful student of human nature as well.

I bought both books at the same time and read them straight through. The romance and the adventure stories in this series are so wonderful that I suggest the same thing for other readers. I wouldn't want anyone biting fingernails while waiting for the next book to arrive. {wink} Or am I the only one who does that? lol

There is no cliffhanger at the end of the first book, just loose ends and a desire for more of the story and... well I won't give that part away. lol

These are a couple of the books I enjoyed in my feast. I apologize for my famine from posting new blogs. I've been trying to catch up on my writing, housework, and I haven't been sleeping well, which means I'm oversleeping/napping in the morning and have less time to do everything.

Let me ask you this ~ When you read a book, how much attention do you pay to who publishes it? Is it as important as the author/cover?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Love Finds You in Holiday Florida

Title: Love Finds You in Holiday Florida
Author: Sandra D. Bricker
ISBN: 978-1-935416-25-8

From the back cover:

Cassie Constantine has no plans to stay in Florida. She's just here long enough to sell the house she shared with her late husband, and then she'll hightail it back to her gracious Boston brownstone. But Cassie gets more than she bargained for with house renovations and wacky neighbors who manage to sidetrack her mission at every turn. Then there's Richard Dillon, the stuffed shirt she's paired with on the dance floor, who seems involved in a mystery... and who makes her heart beat faster than the rhythm of the quickstep. But the biggest surprise of all? The has-it-all-together Cassie finds herself in the midst of a personal overhaul. Will she let loose long enough to find new love in Holiday?

My take:

I got more than I bargained for with this book. I read the reviews and they were all good and talked about how funny the book was. I expected a good, lighthearted read. Don't get me wrong, it is funny... it is well-written. It is also so... thought-provoking. Maybe it's because I've recently started a new journey in my life (with writing) and I can relate to that. Cassie is going through a period in her life where she evaluates who she really is ~ from her perspective and how others see her as well.

This journey she takes sets us up for some of the funny and touching moments in the book. The best part about the book (in my opinion) is that I believed not only in Cassie as a person but in the choice she had to make. It's the same choice we all have. Do we listen to that voice and step out in faith ~ willing to go wherever He leads us and willing to be who we are created to be (and that includes growth and change ~ ouch) ~ or do we stay where we feel safe and comfortable?

That's not to say the book is at all preachy. You won't read that in these pages. I think Sandra did an excellent job and I really enjoyed the book. It is also an excellent one to read for Christmas. Although the cover doesn't scream "Merry Christmas," the book is set during the holidays. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I need to mention that I won this book in a contest Renee hosted on her blog Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot. This review was not done for compensation (or request) by the author, publisher or anyone else. I also did not promise anyone to write a positive review.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Feast or Famine?

“How’s it coming, Mom?”

“Not too bad actually. It’s going a lot faster than it was a couple weeks ago.”

“I know, you told me. Are you done yet?” I turned to look at him.“I mean how many chapters have you finished?”

I think he was trying to encourage me. :o) It got better as the conversation went on, but it made me think of this concept of feast or famine ~ and the way I look at writing, authors and books in general.

Do you like to watch dancing or figure skating? I do. The grace and beauty they exhibit is amazing. When done well, it looks effortless and pulls you in to this whole different world. I think the same goes for writing. A proficient author doesn’t draw attention to themselves or their methods ~ they disappear into the story.

If you listen to people talk about writing, it doesn’t take long before you start hearing contradictions and extreme statements. Sometimes it’s about one aspect of writing. I used one about editing: my love/hate relationship. Sometimes people will talk about the process of getting published and sometimes it’s about writing in general. Feelings about this particular craft are very strong. Most of the time things aren’t going "okay". Either words are flowing and ideas are gelling really well or you're stuck and can’t seem to make a certain scene/idea/character work.

I think the passion comes from a number of reasons. One is that so much of yourself gets poured into a novel. Then after you have worked long (sometimes several years) on a novel and managed to get it published, you have to watch as the public rates how well you did. How many jobs have that fringe benefit? It can be soul-wrenching. I skipped over the whole path before you get published. That's when you have to face the scrutiny and rejection from publishers. It's not hard to understand how it can wound deeply.

It’s also difficult to do (herding cats and then bathing them is easier). Just like those figure skaters make it look easy but few of us would be able to get on the ice and do anywhere close to what they do, good writing isn't simple either. I haven’t listened to a writer yet who talks about just spitting out book after book with no effort or stress. Most have points where the computer screen seems to mock them, the characters refuse to bend to their will, and the story just seems as if it will never be written. Many want to and some do quit ~ at least for a time. The problem is there is a passion deep inside a writer; a yearning to share the stories inside them. Denying that drive inside you is about as easy as refusing to breathe.

I still have a hard time looking at myself as an author. I’m a reader who writes. :o) Later in that conversation with my son he told me I looked like an author. His idea of an author fit a college student pretty well, but I wasn’t going to argue. At that moment I felt like an author. I’ve been writing (or editing) good amounts every day and new ideas for the book are coming to me pretty consistently. I hope it doesn’t stop.

I think the times of famine, the moments where I struggled, argued with myself and couldn’t seem to move forward… Those were all part of preparing me (and the manuscript) for this time of feast. This blog is named Butterfly Blessings. I love butterflies and consider them a symbol of the new life we have in Christ. I home school and we raised monarchs as part of a science project when the boys were younger. One of the butterflies didn’t come out of the chrysalis with the others. It partially opened, and wiggled, so we knew the butterfly was alive. After a day or two with no change, we carefully opened the chrysalis. It didn’t help. That butterfly’s wings never opened. They stayed shriveled up and it couldn’t fly away. Whether it injured itself when it fell, or something else, we messed up the natural process. It needed the work of opening the chrysalis itself in order to be successful.

My struggle with this manuscript has taught me many things about myself, my friends, writing, and God. I look at the book I’m writing now and know it’s not the same thing I started out with all those months ago. The times of famine were a part of that. I can’t honestly say I would look forward to them again, but if I need it to grow into a better writer, then I’ll be grateful for what they produce in me.

Oh, my feast has been in other areas too. I’ve been so busy with school, writing, home and a cold bug that I haven’t as much lately. This past week I made up for it. I read: Love Finds You in Holiday Florida by Sandra Bricker, In the Shadow of the Sun King & A Prisoner of Versailles by Golden Keyes Parson, and Abomination by Colleen Coble. I have about 8 pages left of Characters, Emotions & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress and I just started The Shack by WM. Paul Young. I look forward to sharing about at least some of those books with you.

May your feasts be long and enjoyable ~


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Standing Stones

It's that time again. Since it is, many blogs will be filled with people sharing what they're thankful for. I can't claim to be witty or original. I believe there is a good reason we do this. In Joshua Chapter four, God asked the people to gather stones and set them in place. That way when their children came along and asked why the stones were there ~ they could tell them the story of how God had led them across the Jordon on dry ground.

God knows we forget. We don't always remember how good He has been to us ~ sometimes because our current circumstances may not be what we would like. We need "standing stones" to remind us of what He has done in our lives, what He has promised, and what we are thankful for. Holidays like Thanksgiving can help with that ~ especially if you build special moments into it.

My family is so bad at it - but we do have this Blessing Box. We took a small to medium sized box, cut a small hole in the top, and covered it with pictures of everything we considered a blessing. It features family members, pets, friends, the American flag, a Bible or two, a picture of a church, animals, plants, a picture of earth, our favorite foods, doctors... the list goes on... We covered the whole thing with contact paper and all year long we slip in small notes with the date, our name and what we considered a blessing. After we finish eating our Thanksgiving meal, we take turns passing the box around and reach in in and randomly pick out and read from what is inside. It usually ends up with several of us crying as we realize we have blessed others in our family without knowing it. Plus - we remember in this hectic season, how very blessed we have been.

This has been a difficult year for our family. My husband was laid off and when he did find a new job it was for a very deep pay cut. My health hasn't been that great either. Yet, I can see so many good things that have happened too. Doors have opened for me to write - which I was too afraid to do ever before. I have been able to cut my meds down and lose weight. I met so many wonderful people online in my writer's group and the blogging community who have helped me grow as a writer and person. That doesn't even scratch the surface of my blessing list.

I don't know where you are this Thanksgiving and what your joys and struggles might be. I encourage you to find a way to establish your own "standing stones" to help you remember the blessings and not just the trials. I also want to thank you for being part of how God has blessed me this past year.

P.S. Don't forget the Christmas Giveaway post ~ I announce the winners on the 30th, so your last chance to enter is the 29th.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Love\Hate Relationship with Revisions

I hate doing revisions. It's true. You know why? I wrote my entire manuscript from start to finish in about two and a half months. I have been revising it for... six months? Maybe more than that. I've lost track. Let me be very clear on this ~ I don't despise editing because I think it's not needed or a waste of my time. On the contrary, I'm a perfectionist and I keep seeing more and more that needs to be fixed and feel as if I will never be finished fixing it. It's like doing laundry one load a day for a family of sixteen. You just know you'll never catch up and you sense yourself falling behind a little more each day.

I feel like that sometimes with my relationship to God too. Will I ever be good enough? I seem to constantly fail and falter when I want to be good, pure and strong. Other people don't always understand what a struggle it is to remain positive when you're in pain nearly every minute of the day. I've had lectures on how if only I had enough faith, if only I would pray longer, harder, in the right way... God would heal me.

It hurts when people say that to me. I don't think they realize how it hurts or how many times I've prayed to be healed ~ how much time I spent on my knees begging for Him to take away the fibro (and other things that harass me) only to be encouraged to continue on because my problems pale in comparison with those facing cancer and heart disease. I know I can handle this burden with His help.

Revisions won't kill me either. As a matter of fact, I've been so inspired the last couple days. I'd been mired and muddled in my thinking and wasn't making any progress. Suddenly a clear vision of what I needed to do with the book came to me (I also got another idea for a whole different manuscript). I've been working steadily on my revisions since then. I get ideas about the book and characters all the time now. Maybe I had to run into a brick wall to open up the floodgate of ideas, I don't know. I just wish it happened sooner. :o)

I also want to share something else. I may not jump up and down with joy about doing revisions myself, but I can't wait to get back my manuscript from my editor with her edits - or comments from my critique partner. Those are the highlights of my day. I love to get them because I know they are going to help make the story better if I take their suggestions. It is so nice to have someone else look at it from another point of view. They see things I miss because I picture the story in my head and assume everyone else can as well. I may get frustrated at myself for making the same mistakes over and over again, but that doesn't stop me from wanting their fixes.

So I enjoy their edits. The importance of good editing has been discussed a lot lately on various blogs and writing groups. I agree wholeheartedly. I don't know what kind of book I'd have without my editor and critique partner. I also had readers give me comments as well. I think that kind of feedback is invaluable.

The big deal lately is self and vanity publishing. I think the business of publishing is changing. So many small, independent houses are opening up... lots of writers are turning to self publishing when their books don't fit the guidelines of the traditional publishers... All I can say is authors who are considering self or vanity publishing should contemplate what is being offered very carefully and weigh that against whether or not they are willing to pay extra for competent and complete editorial assistance because I think it's so necessary for a good book.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas Giveaway

I love Christmas. It is getting to be about that time and in the true spirit of the season, I wanted to give away not just one book, but a couple books. In that spirit, I will give you all a little while to share the word and gather up names before I announce a winner, but not too long, because Christmas isn't too far away. :o) These are the books I am giving away:

  1. Saturdays with Stella by Allison Pittman ~ This book is subtitled How my Dog Taught me to Sit, Stay, and Come When God Calls. This isn't a novel - but more of a quirky, inspirational book. I think it sounds like such a neat book, especially for animal lovers.
  2. A Leap of Faith by Lenora Worth ~ Big City gal Autumn Clancy comes home to take the reins of her Dad's company only to find someone else already doing that job. A very annoying and yet handsome someone. Campbell Dupree tries to charm her, but doesn't really know if God will deem him worthy enough to win her heart...
  3. A Texas Legacy Christmas by DiAnn Mills ~ Zack Kahler is going home to Texas when he becomes the victim of one of twin orphaned pickpockets. He decides to take them with him, but can he manage them and the paper, plus recover from his broken heart? Chloe Weaver has always been the outcast. Only Zack ever treated her with any compassion. Now he's back and boarding at the house where she works. Can she hope to capture his heart or is it safer to look for romance with someone else? Maybe they all need a Christmas miracle.
  4. A Carol for Christmas by Robin Lee Hatcher (hardcover) ~ What would you give up for love? Carol sacrifices her dream to sing. But was it worth it now that her marriage is crumbling?
None of these books have been read, they are all brand new, but one has a tiny bit of white on the cover where it looks like it was rubbed during shipping or on the shelf and very corners of two of the books are slightly bent from when they shipped to me - and it moved around in the box. You can see the tiny white line in the pic, and you can see all the books bottom corners - so you know they aren't in bad shape. I really hope you'll enjoy them.

So, there you go. If you want to enter, please leave a valid email address, but disguise it so the spammers don't bug you. If you become a follower, you get two entries, my existing followers get three, and extra one if you share about the contest on your blog and link back to me. Tell me all of this in your entry. I will announce the winners on the 30th of November.

I also want to let you all know about my friend Lori's giveaway. Hers is truly unique. You get to pick which book you want! You can read all about it on her blog, Some of My Favorite Things.

Have a wonderful weekend and good luck on these giveaways!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

I want to thank Hannah at Project Journal for giving me this award. The rules are that I have to share 10 honest things about myself and then pass it on to 10 other bloggers. Let's see...

  1. I love just about all carbs.
  2. I love cats.
  3. I love to write.
  4. I love to read.
  5. I like to watch mystery/crime shows.
  6. I'm short.
  7. I used to be in the Army.
  8. I hate having my picture taken.
  9. I wasn't saved until after I had my second child.
  10. I graduated from high school in Germany.

As for the ten bloggers, that's a lot harder for me to come up with. Most of you I've already been bugging and I see that you already have this award. Since I'm supposed to come up with so many, let me just say this. Anyone who happens reads my blog and is a follower, or is willing to become a follower... take up the challenge and this award; share with us ten honest things and then pass it on to others.

In the meantime - be true to who you are and whatever He has called you to do.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Win a Kindle!

Win a brand new Kindle! Noobie has a contest where all you have to do is enter your email to enter to win a Kindle. That would be a nice Christmas present for you or someone you love. :o)

It's easy ~ Just go here: Noobie Contest

Good luck!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Remembered by Tamera Alexander

Title: Remembered
Author: Tamera Alexander
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0110-3

From the back cover:

The threat of war ~ and a final request ~ send Veronique Girard from France to a distant and uninviting country. In the Colorado Territory, she searches for the man who has held her heart since childhood ~ her father. Pierre Girard left Paris for the Americas to seek his fortune in fur trading, vowing to send for his wife and daughter. But twenty-five years have passed and his vow remains unfulfilled. Sifting through shards of broken promises, Veronique embarks on a dangerous search for a man she scarcely remembers.

His grief finally healed, Jack Brennan is moving on with life. After years of guiding families west, he is now working as a freighter to the mining towns surrounding Willow Springs. What he doesn't count on is an unexpected traveling companion on his trips up into the mountains, and how one woman's search will cause havoc with his plans... and his life.

Tamera Alexander is one of my very favorite authors. This book is a perfect example of all the things I love about her writing. There are no stiff characters here. Veronique, Jack, Mr. Colby, Miss Maudie... they all stepped off the page ~ living and breathing. I could picture them in my mind, I could hear their voices and believed their personalities.

She does a beautiful job of creating relationship and chemistry between the main characters, but she doesn't limit her talents to them. Nearly everyone you meet in the book gets treated with the same ample paintbrush. I feel as if I traveled to Willow Springs and met the fine people there myself. ;o)

Veronique is a wonderful heroine. She is the perfect mix of naive, feisty, stubborn and good-hearted. I loved the way her character changed in a multitude of ways over the course of the book. It would have been easy to label her as the "city" girl and then have her learn to fit in and make herself useful in her new surroundings ~ but Tamera went the extra mile.

Jack is a great character. He's an unusual hero in that most of his stress and trial happens before the book starts. We learn about it as he shares the story. His sense of humor (and sometimes being the butt of someone else's) often made me smile. That's the real test of a great book for me. If I find myself moved to laugh, cry, or think about the book even when I'm not reading it, then I know it has to be a winner. This one did all of the above.

I won Remembered in a contest (Not from the author- and I wasn't paid in any way to review it, nor was I expected to. Consider this my disclaimer.). So, I read it out of order (I know- bad Lee). But I will be picking up the rest of these. If you haven't discovered this series yet, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award

Thank you so much to Gofita over at Gofita's Pages who gave me this award. I need to apologize to her because I am way overdue putting it up and thanking her. I haven't been feeling well and things have been really busy at home. I really do appreciate it so much. Thanks!

Here are the rules of the "One Lovely Blog Award": Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I'm new to this whole blogging world, I won't be able to come up with 15 newly discovered blogs, but I certainly pass on that challenge to those who get the award. :o)

1. Deborah at Butterfly Journey

2. Deborah at Country at Heart~ Deborah Vogts Blog

3. Julie at One Rainy Afternoon

4. Tina at The Homestead Heart

5. Beth at Weavings

I want to thank all of you for hanging in there with me. I have to tell you that I have had some interesting things happening with my writing lately. I'm starting to feel inspired in a way I haven't since I first started writing the manuscript. I'm also totally terrified. lol

It's kind of the way you feel when you're on the way up the chain lift of a really tall roller coaster. That dread builds inside you and you think perhaps this wasn't such a brilliant plan after all... And yet ~ you're excited, anticipating the thrill, the wind rushing by, the g-forces, waving your arms like a crazy person and feeling young again.

I don't think this is the kind of fear that tells me I'm going the wrong direction or about to make a terrible mistake. I think it's the type that reveals the ride ahead is going to be exciting and it just might take my breath away. I hoping for that anyway. :o)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Unfinished Business

First~ an apology. Though I have tried to make time to drop in on some of you over the last week or so, I have been rather absent in the blogging arena, and haven't caught up with my own blog. I haven't been feeling well, and things at home have been rather hectic and stressed.

Having said that, I have a few things to get done. :o)

The winner of The Vanishing Sculptor is hmsgofita! I'm sorry I didn't post this earlier.

Next up ~ Kreativ Blogger AwardWow! I'm floored. I just received this blog award from Beth at Weavings.
I am to list 7 of my favorite things and send it on to 7 other bloggers, so here goes...

My Favorite Things:
1. My family/Homeschooling
2. Books, books, books
3. Browsing the internet
4. Writing
5. Watching TV
6. Playing word games
7. Making Jewelry

7 Bloggers:
1. Christy at Southern Sassy Things
2. Renee at Black and Gold Girl's Book Spot
3. Lori at Some of My Favorite Books
4. Michelle at Edgy Inspirational Author Blog
5. Angie at Never a Dull Moment
6. Camy at Camy's Loft
7. Julane at Inspiration From the Commonplace

Monday, November 2, 2009

Feline Felicitations

My friend Angie over at Never a Dull Moment has inspired me to share my cats with you. She has more than I do and has been more generous with her pictures too. So, without further ado, here are my cats...
This is the old lady of the bunch. She is Siamese and was the only one of our pets (not just cats) we didn't "rescue" by either adopting them from a shelter or a rescue organization. She was one of my mom's cats and had just had her first litter when I came to visit - quite round with my first baby. Since there were bunches of other animals around (including very large dogs), she was keeping them in a kennel. She kept putting her paws out of the holes as if she badly wanted out and I kept thinking... It was hot, humid, my ankles had disappeared about a month ago, and my back never quit hurting... I wanted away from my baby too. lol We bonded. :o)

Her kittens were old enough to wean and Mom gave me her and one of her kittens as a present for my birthday. She's the sweetest thing - but so tiny. She is not like most Siamese I have known (and I grew up with a lot of them). She is sweet, loves to cuddle and is quiet. She isn't really happy unless she's curled up on one of us. For the longest time it used to be my feet - but that started hurting I had to get up too often. Now she picks my son's back as he lies on the couch and watches TV or reads his schoolwork.

This diva is Miss Faith. She is 100% cat. She acts like she owns the world and everyone in it. lol She is so pretty that I almost let her. :o) She is the first cat I ever owned who loves the sink. It's like her own personal spa tub. She also enjoys bird watching from the window (you should see her mouth move and hear her teeth smack together)... She watches TV and also seems to have conversations with us. We'll talk to her and she'll meow back and then we say something and she'll meow and it'll keep up for quite a while. She's a smart kitty.

Now she's also a clown. Unlike most graceful cats, this one will be grooming herself and roll right off a piece of furniture and land sprawled on the ground. It's funny to watch, but she'll catch us laughing and then glare at us as if she knows what we're laughing at and we should surely know better. :o)

She's so pretty. She's a lady to the core. She has the pinkest skin and toe pads. I love her green eyes. I was born with black hair ~ if only I'd had pretty green eyes like hers. I think that would make a nice combo for a character - male or female. ;o)

This teddy bear is Thomas. He is the cuddliest, most laid back and relaxed cat I have ever had. His picture should be next to the definition for mellow in the dictionary. He just doesn't get ruffled by much of anything. He takes most things in stride. We try to get him upset and he usually just winks those yellow-green eyes of his, purrs and licks our hands - then goes back to sleep. lol

He likes to perch next to me on the couch and reach down one of those fluffy paws of his and rest it on my arm. It's as if he wants to make sure he can touch me - without having to bother with leaving his comfy spot. He weighs about 18 pounds - but I think about 1/3 must be fur. He seems to be made of it. The only non-soft thing about him is his tongue - which I think could be used in home improvement projects.

We give him all sorts of nicknames. Sir Fluffs a lot is the most used one right now - Fluffy... When he walks around, his tail (which is very.... "fluffy" all by itself) is held straight up like a flagpole trailing behind him.

I love all my pets ~ especially my cats. They teach me so much. I hope you enjoyed meeting them.