Archive for June, 2010


June Blog Tour: ‘Maid to Match’

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

And the second book in the June Blog Tour is…

Maid to Match - Deeanne Gist

Synopsis (from the publisher):

Falling in Love Could Cost Her Everything

From the day she arrives at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled–by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack’s rugged behavior by tutoring him in proper servant etiquette, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie’s efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt’s lady’s maid. After all, the one rule of the house is no romance below stairs.

But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs, their aspirations …and their hearts.

My Thoughts:

Let me tell you… some editor, somewhere (I’m assuming at Bethany House, since they published the book) is getting some angry letters right now. Why? Because Deeanne Gist knows how to create a steamy Christian historical romance — yes, I said STEAMY. Get out those fans, ladies, because this isn’t your typical CBA novel!

There is:

  • very high sexual tension
  • hero & heroine think about each other in emotional AND physical terms
  • dancing (lots of dancing… and it’s not a Regency!)
  • the main character GETS DRUNK

That’s right, folks — the main character, a female, in a CBA publisher’s novel, gets DRUNK. And I don’t consider that a spoiler, I consider that a reason to read this book. In fact, I’m so impressed with Gist’s work here in creating REAL characters with REAL feelings & struggles (yes, that includes heightened physical attraction) that I immediately lent the book to my sister, recommended it to my sister-in-law and cousin, and told a room full of people about it at a recent writer’s convention I attended when we were discussing “unconventional Christian novels”.

This is the kind of book that anyone can read, regardless of their faith background, because it’s a well-crafted story with people who act like real people.

I will say that there’s one subplot I didn’t particularly care for, as I found it a bit underdeveloped and for some reason it just rubbed me the wrong way. Still, it made sense in the context of the story (and it was a tough subject to tackle… maybe my reaction to it had to do with that… it was a bit much to address inside of this one novel), and I can see why Gist chose that subplot as a way to redeem some aspects of the hero’s character.

In Conclusion…

After reading this book, I bought copies of the rest of her books to read & place in our church library. I wish more Christian publishers would accept and print novels like this, and maybe it’s because of Gist’s reputation as an established novelist that her editor let the heat level & the drunken scene slide through. Either way, it made for quite the unexpected read — and just for that unusual quality, I’d recommend it.

The main story’s not half bad, either… but let’s face it, you’d read something like this for the romance, and yes indeedy, you get it! If this is your genre, it’s worth a read.

Interested? Here’s a LINK to an EXCERPT if you want to give it a try! (Want more? Here’s a Q&A with the author!)

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications Inc. Available now at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


June Blog Tour: ‘A Tailor-Made Bride’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog posts to bring you… okay, fine, nothing around here is regularly scheduled. But that’s part of the excitement, right? Er… *cough*… anyway… at least there’s one recurring feature you can count on, and that’s the monthly blog tour brought to you by Graf-Martin, Revell, and Bethany House.

If you’ve never been here before, here’s a recap: the Blog Tour happens every month in the final few days of the month… then we go back to talking about writing and other interesting books. Easy as that!

For June, we have 2 books to look at. I liked them both (surprise!), but we’ll start with the second favorite today and move on to the one I liked best tomorrow.

Here we go…!

A Tailor-Made Bride – Karen Witemeyer (Historical Romance)

Synopsis (from the publisher):

When a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity, the sparks begin to fly!
Jericho “J.T.” Tucker wants nothing to do with Coventry, Texas’s new dressmaker. He’s all too familiar with her kind–shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothing, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.

Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?

When Hannah decides to help Jericho’s sister catch a beau–leading to uproarious consequences for the whole town–will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?

My Thoughts:

I figured this would be yet another hum-drum historical romance, though the concept of a dressmaker as the main character intrigued me. So, I read it… keeping in mind that it’s Witemeyer’s debut novel… and found myself pleasantly surprised by the characters, the story, and the overall feel of the novel.

To begin, the main character seems like a flawless heroine — that is, until she meets the hero, a young liveryman. When you read a book like this, you expect that they’ll hate each other from the beginning (despite the initial physical attraction), so that’s nothing new… but the real gem of this novel was the way the love story played out. Both hero and heroine exchange heated words on more than one occasion, and the heroine goes out of her way to learn the hero’s real name so she can taunt him with it, simply because he hates it.

Yes, it sounds trite when I write it down, but I thought the heroine was pretty darn cruel with some of her insults and how she responded to the hero, and I liked it. It felt real and natural, and the relationship as a whole drew out very well to the expected conclusion.

On the other hand, some of the subplots were a bit weak, especially the subplot featuring the hero’s sister and the man who wants to marry her (but she doesn’t feel the same way). The man’s reactions are violent and severe, but we don’t really see this until more than halfway through the book. It felt as though this subplot was missing some buildup, or like it was inserted after the fact to fill up more space in the story.

I understand what the author was trying to do with it, but it didn’t work for me.

In Conclusion…

Despite the awkward proportions of the people on the front cover (seriously… look at where the man’s knee should be and then where his waist is, then look at the woman… what the HECK?!?!), the story itself is sweet, relatively well-drawn, and more realistic than some historical romances I’ve recently read. We have a main character and supporting cast who are depicted as real people with real flaws, and although some of the subplots weigh down the story, I commend Witemeyer for her realistic historical portrayal of the period and for giving us a love story that doesn’t seem overly ‘set up’, if you will.

It’s the kind of novel you’d pick up on a rainy day if nothing else was around, or that you could pass on to a family member (or your mother) without feeling too awkward about it.

I will say that the Christian element is stronger in this book than in some of the other Blog Tour books I’ve reviewed, so if that’s not your thing, I’m not sure this one would be up your alley. Still, I didn’t find that it overwhelmed the story, so each potential reader will have to make a judgment call based on their level of comfort with Christian content.

If you’re interested in learning more about the author and why she wrote this book, here’s a LINK to a Q & A she did with the publisher — enjoy!

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available now at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


June Boot Camp: Day… Something…

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

So, since I didn’t write during the conference, my numbers aren’t quite where I’d like them to be… but that’s all right!

As of Monday, June 28th, I’ve written 20,884 words on this story this month… and while I won’t make the 35,000 goal I set at the beginning of the month, I still have a few days to improve on that… AND, since I wrote 5k for that other short story, that means I’ve really written 25k this month. So I’m only 10k behind my projected goal.

That’s not so bad! I’m going to look on the bright side — it’s 25k more than I had written at the beginning of the month, so that’s still something. Forget that missing 10k! I didn’t need it anyway. ;)

(Okay, maybe I do need it… but that’s what the next few days are for!)

How are you doing on your projects this month? Any progress, no matter how big or small, is still progress!


And We’re Back…

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

It’s been a week since the conference… wow, time really flies, I feel like I was just there yesterday!… and I have yet to post something I learned. Let me assure you that I learned many things, I just needed time to collect my thoughts.

…and finish writing/editing/submitting something that I’d started a few weeks ago — today’s the deadline, and I sent my short story in last night. Yay! I really loved the story and felt good about it (unusual) so even if it doesn’t get accepted, I’m sure it’ll find a home elsewhere.

As for June Boot Camp… well, I’ve fallen behind on the project I’d intended to work on, but that was because I stopped to finish the short story. I’ve come to a bit of a standstill on the Boot Camp project, but that’s all right, as I never expected it to be much more than a personal indulgence.

This afternoon I’m going to sit outside and read for a bit, coffee in hand. I’m feeling slightly burnt out from scrambling to finish the submission over the last few days, and a bit inundated with other ideas that I’m not sure how to organize in my brain.

So, conference blog posts are forthcoming, and in the meantime… have a wonderful weekend, and may you all get a chance to relax in the sun with a good book!


Write!Canada 2010

   Posted by: Faith    in Write!Canada

Today is Day One of Write!Canada 2010, a writing conference in Guelph Ontario that runs until Saturday evening. I went last year, and had a great time — I learned a lot, met some great people, and talked to a few authors and editors who had excellent advice concerning the questions I asked.

Last year, I also brought in a one-sheet, business cards, a binder full of work for the display table… it was my first writing conference, and I wanted to be prepared.

This year, I’m going in a little differently. I’ll bring the business cards left over from last year, but I’m leaving the one-sheet and the binder at home. They advertise my web content writing, something which I’m not actively seeking out more contracts for (I’m just taking the work that carries over from my husband’s business).

I also don’t have any meetings scheduled with the authors/editors/agents who are going to be there. Last year there was space for me to sign up when I arrived, which I did at the urging of other attendees who’d been there before. I got some great advice, but I had really specific questions to ask.

This year, no questions immediately spring to mind, and though I had time to schedule meetings beforehand, I didn’t. Is that a waste of resources? I’m not sure. I don’t think any of the agents there are particularly interested in what I write — I believe they all represent clients who write CBA fiction/non-fiction, with perhaps one or two exceptions, and even those exceptions don’t take my kind of work.

I’ve heard people say “just make an appointment and use it as a practice pitch run!” to which I say, isn’t that just wasting the agent’s time? What if someone has a book to pitch that might seriously fit the agent/editor’s list, and I’ve filled the spot with my “rehearsal” pitch?

So this year, I’m going in without anything ready. I don’t even have an elevator pitch to stand on (which is bad, I know) but most people here are writing CBA stuff. I know I’ll learn TONS from the workshops and plenaries, but in the end, this is going to be a learning conference and not a ‘doing’ conference. I realized too late that perhaps I should have signed up for the RWA conference instead… since there’ll be lots of people there writing in my genre(s)… but I think that’s what I’ll do next year.

Write!Canada has a lot to offer, and I hope to share some of what I’ve learned on the blog over the next few weeks. But ultimately, I plan to take it easy and just absorb & learn from others. Maybe that’s crazy — maybe I should be running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to get ready to pitch or creating synopses, or whatever — but I’m trying to take the path of least stress this year.

Next year? I can go nuts.

How do you approach writing conferences? Have you ever been to one, and if you have, did you take advantage of all the appointments/meetings/critiques available, or did you allow yourself some breathing room?


Book Review: “The Devil and Sherlock Holmes”

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Looking for a good non-fiction read for the summer? David Grann’s newest offering is a fantastic choice… and yes, this is going to be a slightly gushy review, because I honestly loved the book. I had no idea what to think when I picked it up, but I’m very glad I did. Read on!

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession – David Grann

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Acclaimed New Yorker writer and author of the breakout debut bestseller The Lost City of Z, David Grann offers a collection of spellbinding narrative journalism.

Whether he’s reporting on the infiltration of the murderous Aryan Brotherhood into the U.S. prison system, tracking down a chameleon con artist in Europe, or riding in a cyclone- tossed skiff with a scientist hunting the elusive giant squid, David Grann revels in telling stories that explore the nature of obsession and that piece together true and unforgettable mysteries.

Each of the dozen stories in this collection reveals a hidden and often dangerous world and, like Into Thin Air and The Orchid Thief, pivots around the gravitational pull of obsession and the captivating personalities of those caught in its grip. There is the world’s foremost expert on Sherlock Holmes who is found dead in mysterious circumstances; an arson sleuth trying to prove that a man about to be executed is innocent; and sandhogs racing to complete the brutally dangerous job of building New York City’s water tunnels before the old system collapses. Throughout, Grann’s hypnotic accounts display the power—and often the willful perversity—of the human spirit.

Compulsively readable, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant mosaic of ambition, madness, passion, and folly.

My Thoughts:

This book is one to be read slowly… savored, piece by piece, story by story, until you find yourself so in awe of the discoveries Grann made during the course of his research that you truly wonder where the line between fiction and real life begins.

There are twelve tales in this book, all true stories. The narrative is clear and readable, but the subject matter is what will really have your jaw dropping: Hunting the giant squid; investigation into the thousands of miles long network of underground tunnels in New York that really exist and which may literally collapse at any moment; the infiltration of the Aryan Brotherhood into the U.S. prison system; and more.

If ever there was proof that truth is stranger than fiction, this collection is it.

I’ll admit that I enjoyed the stories in the first half of the book more than the second, but I think that might have been personal preference. I’ve gone on to recommend this to numerous people since reading it, and I plan to re-read it sometime soon simply because the stories were so fascinating that I bet I’ll get even more out of it on a second run through.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I received this book… but if this is indicative of Grann’s journalistic abilities, I hope he has a long and very lucrative career! He definitely knows how to chase down a story… and how to tell it, too.

I know I don’t often put a rating on my books these days, but this one is a solid 5 out of 5.

(Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Doubleday. I was not required to write a positive review.)


June Boot Camp: Day 8

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Hit 10k on the “novella” today, only to realize that… this isn’t going to be a novella, because I haven’t even introduced the Major Plot Point (er… something to work on in the edits), and there’s no way I can feasibly do that and wrap it all up on another 25k. Nope, this is going to be just what I didn’t want: a full-fledged novel. Ack, writing short is HARD!!!

But onto another thing — I’ve printed out what I have so far and I’m going to let my hubby read through it, or maybe just for fun, read what I’ve written to him each night as a “bedtime story”. LOL. My question is, do you print out and read over your work as you’ve written it? Have you ever shared what you’ve written with someone close, as it comes out? And are they the kind of person you could trust feedback from?

I’m curious! I know we all handle rough drafts differently, and I’ve never printed & shared before (until the whole thing was done), so this is a new thing. It never hurts to try new things, right?

(Er, unless the new things happen to be poisonous or deadly… so, uh, maybe forget that sentiment…)


June Boot Camp: Day 4

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

Three days have come and gone… I’m sitting at 4203/35,000.

I’m planning for this to be a novella that sits on the hard drive — one of those projects you write for the sake of self-indulgence — but it’s been fun so far, and I love having an excuse to turn off the inner editor and just write (I know, that should be all the time… but easier said than done!).

Here on Day 4, the team I’m on — The Preternaturals — sits in 8th place out of 17, so not too shabby! And that’s based on yesterday’s totals.

Today, I plan to research a little bit more about:

  • cleaning a neck wound
  • varieties of wolfsbane (there are over 250!)
  • immune systems — ie. purging toxins and fighting viruses
Ah, yes… can you tell what genre I’m in? Only 27 days to go!
How about you, anything interesting you’re planning to research or write over the weekend?

June Boot Camp

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to check out the site Savvy Authors yet, but it’s a by-writers-for-writers website with plenty of resources, community, and encouragement for writers at all levels of their careers.

Admittedly, the website isn’t as user-friendly as it could be (I’m still trying to find my way around) but with a bit of patience, there’s a lot there. This month, Savvy Authors is holding a ‘June Boot Camp’ competition, a great way to kick your writing into high-gear if you’ve been stagnant or moving slowly for awhile…

Writers are broken into teams of five, based on genre or interest, and basically… you write! Or edit. Totals are posted at the end of the day (looks like it’s an honors system), and at the end of the month, the winning team gets up to $125 in credit for the website’s workshops — that’s $25 per person, or one free workshop (or two, if you choose a few cheaper ones).

I just remembered about it this morning, and I think you have just a few more days to get in on it. I’d head over there now if I were you!

Personally, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep the momentum up — as much as I love NaNoWriMo in November, that’s something I prep for well in advance — but it’s worth trying!

See you over there… and may the most prolific team win! Then again, if it jumpstarts creativity? We’ve all won!

***06/02/10 — EDITED TO ADD: Sorry!!!! I just realized that in order to be a part of the June Boot Camp, you need a paid membership to the site. I should have posted that first, and I apologize. I wasn’t trying to dupe anyone into heading over and signing up and then realizing it costs $$$… If you’re interested, a premium membership is $30/year, and there are events like this and occasionally free workshops to take that make it worthwhile (earlier this year there was a month-long free workshop event for members). If you’re not able to sign up for a paid membership, I still encourage you to head over there, as there are plenty of things for you to do and take advantage of in the meantime!