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.