Archive for April, 2010


April Blog Tour: ‘She Walks in Beauty’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

And here we are on our final stop this month, a book that surprised me in how much I enjoyed it and made me wonder whether I might actually enjoy CBA historical fiction after all (who knew?!)…

She Walks in Beauty – Siri Mitchell

Synopsis (from the publisher):

During New York City’s Gilded Age…
The game is played amid banquets and balls.
The prize is a lifetime of wealth and privilege.
The rules will test friendships and
the desires of a young woman’s heart.
Clara Carter is the social season’s brightest star…
but at what cost?
For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city’s most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work–there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity’s spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling.

Yet Clara soon wonders if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it’s not just her marriage at stake–the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

My Thoughts:

I really, really enjoyed this novel… which came as a rather big surprise. Banquets, balls, and idle social chatter aren’t typical fare for my reading tastes, but I decided to give this one a try anyway… expanding one’s reading horizons and all that. So imagine my surprise when I found myself truly intrigued by the story, the main character, and the unexpected situation she finds herself in!

Since I haven’t read much that’s similar, I can’t compare it to other books out there (though I know there are many set in this time period/similar situation) — but coming from someone who isn’t familiar with the genre, I found it to be a charming introduction. The characters felt realistically portrayed, and there was just the right balance of description and plot… which I mention only because I do know the genre often focuses a lot on things like setting, clothing, and food. There wasn’t too much of this to bore me, but just enough to give the reader the information she needs and provide the right tone to the novel.

I will say this, however… some of what happened in the story reminded me a great deal of Vin & Elend in the first book of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. But that’s a good thing! I found the main character and the ‘hero’ to be likable characters (with flaws! huzzah!) that I honestly developed an affection for, and I thought the subplot with Clara’s best friend was skillfully and very realistically handled… when you read it, you’ll know what I mean, but it’s one of those situations where an author might often force a character to behave differently for the sake of the story (but as a reader, you know that would never happen simply due to that certain circumstance), but Mitchell keeps the character consistent and true to life.

If you’re not familiar with these ball & banquet-type stories, I think this is definitely an excellent introduction to the genre. If you’re nervous about reading a CBA book, I’ll let you know that the ‘Christian’ side of things in this novel is subtle and, in truth, not overtly present. I think one quick conversation mentions God, and there’s a moment of reflection, but there isn’t a drawn-out evangelistic scene, or random changes of heart, or anything that feels out of place or forced. It’s simply comparable to any novel where a character has a moment of reflection about her beliefs, and I commend Mitchell for keeping her novel realistic but still within the boundaries of CBA-approved storytelling.

And I also learned a lot about corsets, pessaries (WOW), and how our image-driven culture is simply a continuation of the obsessions and mistakes of generations before…

In Conclusion…

This is where I often say “it’s good for church libraries” and leave it at that… but in this case, I can tell you that I already have several friends and family members that I plan to recommend this book to, and it’s one that I’ll gladly keep on my shelf and possibly re-read in the future. I can’t speak to its contribution to the genre as a whole — as I’ve said, I’m new to this kind of book — but from a newcomer’s perspective, it was certainly worth the read. And on the strength of this novel’s writing, I plan to pick up more of Mitchell’s work in the future!

P.S. Want to know more about the book? Here’s a FAQ sheet with the author that’s worth a look!

Available now at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House,

a division of Baker Publishing Group.


April Blog Tour: ‘Sixteen Brides’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Yes, it’s that time again! Blog touuuuur!!! Courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, as always. Don’t you just love it when publishers give their authors chances like this, to have their books read by people in the blogosphere and spread the news of their work by word of mouth? I honestly wish I’d gotten into reviewing books a long time ago… I’ve always been a voracious reader, but it’s just so satisfying to share the excitement of a great book with others, or even just discuss the likes/dislikes in a respectful, informed manner…

But, enough reminiscing! You’re here for the blog tour, so we’ll get right to it. There are two books this month, and I’ll start with the one I liked least first, and save the best for last (that’s tomorrow!).

Without further ado, I give you…

Sixteen Brides – Stephanie Grace Whitson

Summary (from the publisher):

In 1872, sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising “prime homesteads” in a “booming community.” Unbeknownst to them, the speculator’s true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledging community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival!

Sparks fly when these unsuspecting widows meet the men who are waiting for them. These women are going to need all the courage and faith they can muster to survive these unwanted circumstances–especially when they begin to discover that none of them is exactly who she appears to be.

My Thoughts…

Well! I thought this certainly sounded like an intriguing premise… and I looked forward to a lot of strong-willed women trying to duke it out amongst themselves in the wild West. And for the most part, that’s what happened, so I was rather pleased: the women were strong, emotional, capable, but flawed. Yes, that’s right — they were realistically portrayed, and for the amount of women that Whitson had to focus on over the course of the story, it was extremely well done!

From a writer’s perspective, telling the story from the perspective of FIVE main characters is an extremely risky and difficult move, but Whitson pulled it off with skill. They each had their own very strong but distinct voice, and if I ever meet Whitson in person, I’d love to congratulate her on handling it so well.

However… and I hate to say this because the author managed her material so well… the story really did seem to drag during the final third of the book. After several hundred pages of getting the women there, having the love stories get set up and the problems progress, I was ready to resolve everything and be done with it. I think several of the sub-plots simply dragged on too long, and she could have ended the book about a hundred pages earlier without losing anything.

That said, this is the kind of historical fiction that you’ll enjoy if you like this kind of historical — a bit predictable, but entertaining along the journey. For me, I found the inclusion of flaws for each woman to be very refreshing — especially since so many women in the Christian fiction I’ve read recently have been so nearly perfect that I’ve wanted to scream (as you know if you’ve read my previous reviews).

Again, this is one for the church library — but you might as well read it first! You may not love it, and you may find the story drags a bit, but you have to at least admire the skill with which Whitson follows FIVE main characters through the whole novel. Why not give it a try?

Available now at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House,

a division of Baker Publishing Group


Submission Update

   Posted by: Faith    in Fiction on Foccacia

Happiness! The short story I worked on like mad a few weeks back, Firebird’s Embrace, has been accepted by Emerald Tales for their June issue, themed ‘Midsummer’s Eve’.

I believe it releases on June 15th; you can purchase the print edition from the website, or read it for free online (a change from previous editions).

It seems to me that I work much better on a strict deadline (big surprise)… and I had felt quite unsure about this one, so it’s a happy surprise!

Anyone else have some good news to share? Or bad news… sometimes it’s cathartic to share that too. :)


Thinking About Business

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

Writing, for many of us, isn’t just the hobby we sometimes make it out to be: It’s a business, and in many cases we need to treat it like one. We send in resumes and proposals (ie. queries) and wait for our interview (ie. partials or fulls) and hope to get “hired”. It’s joyful and exciting when we succeed, and sad when we don’t — but giving up isn’t an option. We keep pushing forward, with the knowledge that if we continue searching and putting ourselves and our work out there, eventually (providing we also concentrate on upgrading our skills) we’ll find the success or measure of acceptance that we hoped for.

In that sense, it’s a business.

But what about the people on the other end?

This topic comes to mind as I struggle with a conflict at a particular place of employment, which I won’t name for the sake of making sure this doesn’t come back to bite me later…

As many of you know, I’m heavily involved in a local subset of the dance community, and I also teach classes at various locations. One day while at a studio (which I shall refer to as “StudioAwesome” for the sake of this post), the owner asked some people whether they could recommend anyone who would be appropriate to come in and teach an appreciation night for StudioAwesome’s instructors. She wanted to hold a private event, at StudioAwesome, offering a fun little dance routine in a style none of us know… it just so happened that I knew a few people who taught the particular dance style, so I recommended a few names.

One of the names I recommended works for a studio that I shall refer to as “StudioExclusive” for the sake of this post. I mentioned that Instructor X would be an excellent choice for StudioAwesome’s appreciation night, as Instructor X had the experience and knowledge necessary to teach the dance style and work with experienced dancers. I also mentioned that since Instructor X was currently employed with StudioExclusive, hiring might need to be done through StudioExclusive. Sounds reasonable, right?

From my point of view, I…

  • gave a personal recommendation for an instructor at a non-competing studio
  • promoted StudioExclusive through recommending their instructor
  • mentioned the instructor’s potential prior obligation to StudioExclusive

I did nothing but PROMOTE StudioExclusive through my recommendation.

The owner of StudioAwesome proceeded to contact the instructors I recommended, just as a business owner is expected to, in order to find the best fit for her appreciation event. She wanted to find the right person for the job, to put it bluntly.

A few days later, the owner of StudioAwesome received an angry email from the owner of StudioExclusive, accusing the StudioAwesome owner of “going behind her back” and trying to “steal her instructors”, etc etc. Naturally, the StudioAwesome owner was beyond shocked… these two studios are non-competing, and have cross-promoted each other for some time… and rather than the instructor writing back with a simple “hey, I’m under a specific exclusivity contract, would you mind contacting my boss instead?”, the instructor notified the owner who took a defensive and possessive stance, immediately throwing out accusations.

This, my friends, is no way to run a business. In a case of a potential misunderstanding, you don’t throw out accusations of trying to undermine the other person’s business — you need to clarify the situation first, then discuss things in a civilized manner. Beyond that, StudioExclusive claims that anyone who had ever taught that dance style for her, regardless of whether they were employed with her now, and anyone who had ever taken a class in that dance style at her studio cannot teach that style anywhere else, for the rest of eternity, according to an exclusivity contract they sign when they attend the class/are hired.

(I can tell you right now, I took that class ONCE about five years ago, and I certainly didn’t sign any contract like that. I put my signature down under the understanding that it was a health/safety waiver, like all other studios have.)

It made me think about all the places we submit to, and the way we get our writing out there… when we submit our work and it’s published in Magazine A, magazine A retains rights to that particular story for some time… but that doesn’t mean we can’t submit more of our work elsewhere. In fact, if we have a bio line in magazine B, we’ll probably mention that our work was previously published in magazine A, therefore promoting that other magazine to anyone who liked our work. Then, what will the reader do? Likely, search out our work in both magazine A *and* magazine B. It’s cross-promotion at its finest.

So, why would someone demand that their CONTRACT EMPLOYEES work exclusively for them, if they have the time to teach elsewhere in a non-competing capacity (ie. an appreciation night, a magazine with a different audience) if it’s only going to benefit both businesses?

To me, that’s an issue of control that takes things way too far. That only makes the second business (ie. StudioExclusive) look bad, and reflects poorly on them in the long run… and it loses money for them, because they lose out on the potential new customers that would arise from the cross-promotional work.

Needless to say, StudioExclusive will not be receiving my recommendations in the future, and I plan to cut ties with them as soon as my own contract is up. Not only is the control issue extremely bad business on their end, but the accusations thrown around without even an attempt to clarify the situation is unacceptable.

Yes, I know this post wasn’t entirely about writing… but sometimes it’s good to think about the business side of things too, as a situation perhaps not dissimilar to this one might come up for you someday in the writing world (or even in your day job). We can’t always separate business from our writing, but we always need to be aware of good business practices, and how to communicate effectively with one another in delicate situations.


Book Review: “Heartless”

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Heartless – Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Available July 1st, 2010)

From the Back Cover…

The Dragon King Seeks His Princess– Who Dares to Stop Him? Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon marry. She dreams of a charming prince, but when her first suitor arrives, he’s not what she’d hoped. Prince Aethelbald of mysterious Farthestshore has travelled a great distance to prove his love–and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be on the hunt and blazing a path of terror.

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald’s offer–and ignores his cautions with dire consequences. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in his sights. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

My Thoughts…

After reading the rather cliched back cover copy, I approached this book with skepticism… I hoped it wouldn’t be that bad, but I kept putting off reading it because I didn’t want to start yet another mediocre fantasy and have to write a lukewarm review on another ER book.

Honestly, it didn’t start well… it was a bit slow, the writing style was in that vague, flow-y fantasy vein that tends to annoy me to no end (why can’t the author just SPEAK PLAINLY?!), and the plot seemed rather generic.

So, imagine my surprise when, in the second half of the book, I became extremely invested in the characters, the plot, and the world that Stengl created. In fact, I read the entire book in one sitting… I think I got up once to refill my tea mug.

The book has its weaknesses: the heroine is a bit underdeveloped, and the love story feels somewhat contrived. But it also has its strengths: the way dragons are born was unexpected and unique, and the hero (and his rival) are rather interesting on their own terms.

One thing to note is, I spent the first two thirds of the book waiting for the ‘Christian’ part of the book to happen… it’s published as a CBA book, which usually means some form of evangelism will appear at least for a few pages (even in the rare CBA fantasy novels), and imagine my delight when I realized that… it wasn’t coming. There wasn’t going to be a forced ‘Christianese’ aspect to the world, rather, the book simply reflected a Christian worldview and let the story stand on its own as a well written, interesting fantasy novel.

I will say that I don’t think the book will be for everyone. I’m also not entirely sure how this is going to develop as a series, which is clearly the author’s intent — I think it does well as a stand-alone.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through’s ER program.


You Know You’re a Writer When…

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

…you spend your entire day in your pjs, haven’t showered for 3 days, sit at the computer hitting “refresh” on your email (or Twitter, or Facebook) every 5 minutes, and subsisting on nothing but coffee, pre-packaged rice, and lip gloss.

Yes, there’s a deadline for a magazine tomorrow, and I’m trying my darnedest to get this story done so I can send it in. I don’t even think I’ll have time to send it to my crit buddies first… o_O

Oh well. If I don’t make it, I don’t make it… and at least I’ve spent a day feeling like a writer. A dirty, half-starved writer.

Ah, yes… this is the life we live for, my friends. Write on.


Book Review: ‘Kaleidoscope’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Kaleidoscope - Patsy Clairmont

Clairmont’s newest book is a devotional-style offering, presenting short chapters (ideal for busy women) that reflect on specific passages in Proverbs. The chapters address everything from fear to friendship to anxiety, using Clairmont’s trademark lighthearted approach to subjects that might normally bog down a book like this.

It’s certainly an easy read, and the kind of book that I would recommend as a gift to a female Christian friend or relative — particularly someone who’s having difficulty seeing the lighter side of life and needs some reassurance that God is in control. However, be forewarned that it doesn’t contain the same amount of humor that many of us have some to expect from Clairmont — but then, the book isn’t really meant to be funny, so from that angle it makes sense.

Above all, it’s an easy read and Clairmont’s anecdotes give the book a friendly, earthy tone — like you’re meeting a girlfriend for coffee and chatting about life and how God fits into it.

No, it’s not the best book available on the topic, but it does what it sets out to do, and it does it well. Like I said, it would make an excellent gift — but buy it early so you have a chance to read it first. :)

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


A Fun YA/MG Contest!

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

Have a completed YA or MG manuscript that you’ve been itching to do something with?

This morning I learned about the “Dear Lucky Agents” contest being held by Writer’s Digest, open until April 14th… full details are HERE.

Here’s a few of the details to pique your curiosity:


The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, book-length work of middle grade or young adult fiction. You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with your entry.


Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of 10 pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to

…and the best part is… no entry fee! Just a couple of required mentions on social networking. I might even manage to enter this one!

Head over, read the rest of the details, and submit something! After all… why not? :)


Intelligent Failure

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Just a couple words of encouragement this Monday morning:

“All research is 99 percent failure, and if you succeed once you are in. If we are going to progress in any line, we must learn to fail intelligently, so we won’t become discouraged at the 99 percent failures.” — Charles Kettering.

Fail intelligently… I like the sound of that. Doesn’t make it seem quite so bad, when you put it that way.

So, I say… go forth and fail! But be smart about it. We could all learn something from this approach.


March Blog Tour: “Pistachio”

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Who doesn’t love VeggieTales? It’s been a long time since I sat down and watched a whole VeggieTales DVD from start to finish… and after watching this new installment — Pistachio: The Little Boy That Woodn’t – I’m sorry it took me this long to start watching them again!

Synopsis (from publisher):

Once upon a time in the small Italian town of Bologna-Salami, there lived a lonely toymaker named Gelato and his assistant Cricket. Gelato had no children he could call his own, so one day he decided to carve a little boy out of wood. Imagine Gelato’s surprise when he learned that this little toy boy could walk… and talk… and definitely had a mind of his own!

Like the little lost sheep who strays from the fold, Pistachio decides to try things his way and lands in a “whale” of a situation! Will Pistachio learn that obeying the wisdom of a loving father will help him find what he really needs and could be the key to saving his whole family from becoming fish food? Find out in this all new VeggieTales adventure with a lesson about the importance of family and listening to your parents.

My Thoughts:

With the series’ trademark humor that spans generations, this latest installment in the VeggieTales franchise does what it sets out to do: entertain while teaching an important life truth.

The animation is as good as always, and I particularly liked the sidekick characters: Cricket (not a cricket) and the three ducklings. Mind you, the ducklings seemed pretty random — why did the toymaker care for ducks? and how did that add to the story? it didn’t… — but they added some laughs and upped the ‘cute’ factor in general.

Admittedly, I’m not sure how successful the story was at conveying its message, but I think that part is really up to the parents or caretakers afterward… this is the kind of thing I would gladly show to my friends’ kids and discuss with them afterward, in order to emphasize and reinforce the message about the importance of listening to your parents.

In Conclusion…

If it’s been awhile since you watched a VeggieTales, how come? Although this particular story didn’t have as many laughs as some of the earlier tales (we’re talking 6+ years since I watched one, here…), the quality of the films certainly hasn’t suffered, if this one was any indication, and I am determined to track down the DVDs I’ve missed over the years and watch them… purely for my own enjoyment :)

Whether it’s for your church library, your own family, the children of friends or relatives, or even for yourself, Pistachio is a well-crafted addition to the VeggieTales library. And with a good message to boot!

DVD has been provided courtesy of David C Cook and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available now at your local Christian retailer.