Archive for January, 2010


What to Write?

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

When it comes to this blog, more often than not I find myself struggling with what to write.

Do people want to read writing tips? News of my own work(s) in progress? Silly and random reflections on life, the universe, & everything? More book reviews?

I have no idea, so typically I’ll let the day go by without posting anything at all. Well, that’s got to stop, because traffic has dropped off significantly since the end of last year, which means… I’m probably boring you all to death. Ack! Or, I’m just not posting enough to draw anyone’s interest. That’s fair enough, and I take full responsibility for it.

So, I’m going to make a resolution to post more regularly, even if it just means popping on to say what I’ve done to justify my existence that day. I enjoy reading updates on other writers’ blogs about their progress, as I find it helps to encourage me in my own work (or at least make me feel like I’m not alone with my struggles!), so hopefully I can give back that way.

I guess this all ties back into the question that’s been floating around for the past few weeks now: “Why do you blog?”

Well, I’m not entirely sure. I guess it’s a place to put my word vomit now and again, as gross as that sounds.

That said, here are a couple of topics I hope to comment on/post about in the near future:

  • Critique groups (I’m a new member of one, and it’s been an interesting start… good, mind you, but interesting!)
  • Querying (Something the crit group has been focusing on, and which I’ve noticed a lot of people are struggling with this month)
  • Self-Editing/Revision (I’m taking a revision course with Holly Lisle and I’m also in the midst of a self-editing workshop with Angela James, so I’d like to share some insights that I’ve learned)
  • Dealing with stress as a writer (A constant battle!)
  • Finding short story markets & submitting on deadline
  • Reading like a writer

Are there any topics you’d be interested in hearing about in the coming year? I think with this little brainstorm, I’ve come up with enough to keep me going for awhile, but if anyone comes here and has an idea or a question, I’d be happy to hear it and address it!

(…and yes, I’m still hoping for that blog layout reboot sometime in the near future. The Husband has been incredibly busy lately, so it just hasn’t happened yet… but I haven’t forgotten about it!)

Welcome to Part 2, the final stop of the Baker Publishing Group/Revell Blog Tour for January 2010 (on this blog, anyway)! Yesterday and today, I’ve featured reviews for two books (now available) that I’ve read as part of the tour. I’m providing honest reviews for these books, and would encourage you to ask any questions that come to mind – either about a review or a book itself.

And now… book 2!

50 Ways to Feel Great Today: Keys to Beating Stress, Worry, and the BluesDavid B. Biebel (D.Min), James E. Dill (MD) & Bobbie Dill (RN) (Revell, 2009)


Feeling awful, stressed, or paralyzed by worry? This book contains 50 suggestions to help you break out of that funk and start feeling better today. These ideas are simple, low or no cost, and are backed by scientific and medical advice and anecdotes, based on the authors’ collective experience in each field.


First, the good:

The book contained 50 simple, easy-to-accomplish, low or no cost ideas for getting yourself out of a difficult psychological state and back into enjoying life. Simplicity really is the name of the game in the book — for example, some of the ideas are “lift weights” or “go fly a kite”.

For someone who doesn’t normally do much more than go to work, come home to eat & watch TV, then go to bed and repeat the next day, some of these ideas might challenge & encourage that individual to break out of such a monotonous routine (which is likely the cause of ‘the blues’ or stress in the first place).

Now, the not-so-great:

Wow. “Go to the Y”? “Pamper Yourself”? “Work on Your Scrapbook”? “Go fishing”?

Do you see the problem here? While there are 50 simple suggestions in this book, the issue is that the book itself doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. The suggestions target men, women, younger individuals, older individuals… but not together. It feels as though each chapter is targeted at a different group, making it very difficult to really glean a sense of coherency in the list of suggestions.

Because of this, I found the book to be too simplistic. I’d go so far as to say “complete and utter tripe”, at least for someone with half a brain. Anyone with a lick of common sense would know that having a massage is a great way to beat stress, so does anyone really need a book to suggest it alongside “use the internet creatively”?

Admittedly, there were a few good suggestions scattered amongst the ridiculous ones, but on the whole, I didn’t take away anything of value. And before you accuse me of not being in the target market for the book, let me assure you that I struggle with stress, anxiety, drastic mood swings bordering on depression, and high tension on a daily basis. Based on my own medical history and daily life, I’m 99.9% certain I’m the target market, and I found nothing in this book but frustration, sighs, and annoyance.

My apologies to the authors, but I think the book would have been much more successful if they’d decided on a target group first (ie. men or women), and then wrote the book directed to them — or, even better, broke the book up into two separate books, one targeted at women and another at men. That way, all the suggestions might be applicable/realistic to each particular group who read the book. Because let me tell you… I have my serious doubts that men are going to appreciate the suggestion to “work on your scrapbook” to help beat stress.

I’m just saying.

Available now from your favorite bookseller from Revell,

a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Welcome to Part 1 of the Baker Publishing Group/Revell Blog Tour for January 2010! Today and tomorrow, I’ll feature reviews for two books (now available) that I’ve read as part of the tour. I’ll be providing honest reviews to these books, and please feel free to ask any questions that come to mind – either about the review or each book itself.

So, without further ado, here’s book one!

The Silent Governess – Julie Klassen (Bethany House, 2009)


Olivia Keene is running away from her own secrets, but when she accidentally overhears a dangerous secret belonging to the Lord Bradley, she has little choice but to accept a post at his father’s court — a place where Lord Bradley can ensure Olivia’s silence about his own secret.

As Miss. Keene teaches the children at Brightwell Court, Lord Bradley finds himself both drawn to her and frustrated by her. What is the secret she hides, and why does his heart feel so conflicted?


At first glance, The Silent Governess is an intriguing tale of relationships in nineteenth-century England: familiar characters, social mores, elegant costuming, and people who never quite say what they mean. It’s fairly typical of this style of historical fiction, and fans of Julie Klassen’s previous work will find much to appreciate here.

The characters are well-drawn, and sub-plots arise at every turn — and not only that, but Klassen manages to weave them all together at the end with skill, leading to a relatively satisfying conclusion. However…

My primary issue with the book was the amount of crying/weeping/tears from the main character throughout the first half of the novel. Every ten pages or so, Miss. Keene either cries, holds back tears, or feels teardrops rolling down her cheeks. Yes, admittedly, she goes through quite a bit at the beginning of the book, but do we really need to join her at every moment of her tears? It gets rather tedious, and at one point I actually shouted at the novel, “Listen, just suck it up and deal with it!

At the end of the book, the resolution with Miss. Keene’s father also seemed somewhat contrived. It felt as through Klassen was desperate to tie up all the threads into a neat little bow, and that subplot in particular was resolved far too conveniently and neatly to be believable. It’s eye-roll worthy, to say the least.

That aside, the book held my interest at length — I read the entire thing in one evening. I suspect that, despite its flaws, people who are a fan of this genre and of Klassen’s work will enjoy The Silent Governess. On the whole, I much preferred Klassen’sLady of Milkweed Manor — but, it’s worth giving this one a try.

I’d also recommend it for church libraries, as I think it would find quite a large readership there.

Available now at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House,

a division of Baker Publishing Group.

You have from now until Feb. 7th, 2010 to get your entry in for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest!

Admittedly, I forgot about this contest and so I don’t think I have enough time to get anything in for it (all my manuscripts need serious work before they’re ready for submission), but if you have something that’s ready to go… why not?

The prize they’re offering is publication with Penguin books, plus a $15,000 advance. Not too shabby for a first-time author!

I haven’t read all the material on the website about the contest, so I can’t say for sure whether there’s any ‘fine print’ to be aware of. All I know is that it sure sounds like a fantastic opportunity to get your work out there and directly in front of the eyes of editors from a highly respected publisher.

If you’ve entered this contest before, what was your experience like? If you haven’t entered, what’s keeping you from submitting something this time around?


Q&A with Susan Shapiro Barash!

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Okay, I’ll admit… I didn’t actually have a personal Q&A with the Toxic Friends author, but when I received the book in the mail, I was also sent some promo material that I assume is perfectly fine to share with you all as well!

If you’re a fiction writer, here’s a chance to get a quick look into the processes of a non-fiction writer’s work; if you’re a non-fiction writer, here’s a quick peek at Barash’s research & what she learned.

Without further ado…

A Quick Q & A with Susan Shapiro Barash, author of Toxic Friends

Q. What in your research surprised you?

A. Regardless of age, ethnicity, or location, women are deeply invested in their female friends and hard-pressed to give them up.

Q. What is the #1 complaint of women about their friendships?

A. Time and availability are big issues for friendships; women of all ages complain that their friends are “not there” for them. Thus the biggest problem is expectations. Women expect so much of their friends, rather than accepting what their friends’ limitations are.

Q. Why do women have close female friends, but most men say that their best friend is their wife?

A. Women appreciate the company of other women and this satisfies needs that the husband can’t satisfy. Men, who give less energy to their male friends and expect less in return, are loners. Thus, they find that their wives suit them when they want companionship.

Q. Can you change how your friends (or Frenemies) treat you?

A. In many cases you can’t actually change how your friends treat you but you can change your behavior in the relationship. If a woman can establish better boundaries and communicate her needs and frustrations – women don’t often do this because they are fearful of losing the friend if they speak their mind – the friendship can take on another hue. This requires self-esteem and confidence to take a stand with a friend in a suboptimal relationship.

Q. Can you really change your role in friendships, such as Doormat to Leader?

A. I interviewed several women who did change their roles as friends. For example, a Leader who lost her group and realized she didn’t want the responsibility and instead sought out a Trophy Friend who would organize events for her. I interviewed a Doormat who decided she’d had enough and became so strong and independent that she became a Leader. A Frenemy rarely changes her tune, nor does the Misery Lover, and the Authentic Friend can remain that, but sometimes even she loses patience with her friends. The Sacrificer also hits her threshold, and can ditch her pattern, becoming a Sharer instead.


Sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it? Thanks to St. Martin’s press for the Q & A material, and thanks to you for reading! And just a little teaser… I may have a copy of this to give away sometime in the near future, so stay tuned!


Book Review: ‘Toxic Friends’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Relationships

By Susan Shapiro Barash (St. Martin’s Press; 2009.)

From childhood to the golden years, friendship is both one of the most important and the most complicated aspects of a woman’s life. What is it that makes female friendship so complex, so rewarding, and yet also so often  a source of pain?

In Toxic Friends, Barash profiles 10 different types of female friends: The Leader; The Doormat; The Sacrificer; The Misery Lover; The Frenemy; and 5 others (which you’ll have to read the book to discover!).

Personally, I was shocked to realize that I could finally verbalize the actions of certain friends in the past – it wasn’t just me, and it wasn’t just them. They were acting in ways that were typical of certain types of women, and Barash’s categories actually helped me to understand them better. If I ever reconnect with those women – doubtful, but you never know – I believe that I’ll be better prepared to communicate with and relate to them than I was in the past.

Above all, I think this book will help to identify those types of women if they appear in my life in the future. That doesn’t mean I’ll be psychoanalyzing every person I meet… rather, it means that I’ll have a better awareness of my relationship to certain people (for example, which women to politely and gently excuse myself from spending time with). That’s something I honestly can say I wish I knew a long time ago… I could have avoided a lot of heartache that way, and I suspect the majority of women would feel the same way about some of their own friendships/ex-friendships.

I highly recommend Barash’s book to women with friends. Yes, that’s a broad recommendation – but I honestly believe the book is helpful, not just in terms of understanding and identifying the friendships you have, but also in gaining insight into the kind of friend you are to other people.

(This book was graciously provided for review by St. Martin’s Press.)


New Year, Old Blog…

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

I’d hoped to have a new version of this blog up and running by now, which is why I hadn’t posted yet… I wanted the first post of the year to be NEW and SPECTACULAR and EXCITING…

Well, sometimes life gets in the way and things don’t quite work out the way you expect. But that’s alright. I’ll get back into the swing of posting sooner or later, but for now I just wanted to say “hello, blog readers” and “no, I’m not gone, I just had an extended holiday from blogging”!

I have several outstanding book reviews from 2009 to post over the next few days (not outstanding as in quality, though I’d like to think my reviews are half decent… I mean outstanding in terms of time), so there’s something to look forward to!

I’ve also neglected to post my thoughts on the Holly Lisle courses I’m taking, so hopefully I’ll get to that sometime this month. I’m taking both her ‘How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers’ and ‘How to Revise Your Novel’, and they’ve been invaluable thus far… and I’d like to share why :)

Until then… happy writing, reading, and revising (there seem to be a lot of us doing that these days), and I’ll see you soon.