Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April Mini Book Reviews: 4 Books to Consider...K. Callihan, J. Clavell, D. Ducharme, C. O'Flynn

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 SOULBOUND Kristen Callihan: Historical-Paranormal-Steampunk Romance

Really! I know you were blown away by the genre designation on Callihan's latest, but if you've read her Darkest London series, you know that's what it is. ;-) Her deep characters and whiplash plot will pull you in and keep you reading. Warning: This is on the erotic side of romance. Reader beware.  

SHOGUN James Clavell: Historical

Clavell's Asian Saga is a periodic reread for me. Here's the book that caused such a stir with it's debut in 1975 and it became a hit mini series as well. The book tells the story of old Japan, replete with samurai, ninja, geisha, and characters who will live forever--Toda Mariko, Yoshi Toranaga, and the English pilot who turns their live upside down-John Blackthorne.

THE OUTER BANKS HOUSE Diann Ducharme: Historical Romance

Ducharme's hypnotic historical will pull into a world you've never visited before--the North Carolina Outer Banks in 1868. And immerse you in an unlikely romance between a planter's daughter and a "banker" fisherman. I dare you to forget this one once you've read it. ;-)


This is a richly detailed coming of age and quest story that draws you into a world of wonder and surprising revelations. I will be looking for part two of this new series. 

Next Week: Author Interview with Alice Wisler

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April Tip: 5 Links for conquering the Sinister Synopsis

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Some of you may know that I've been tackling the Sinister Synopsis lately. Agents need them to prove we have a complete story. They then use synopses to sell our books to publishers. I know you've been told to tell your story in X number of pages. I've had to write a one-page synopsis for the first contest, and, believe me, it's a challenge to sum up a 79,000 word story in one page! Yikes! In order to do it, I've had to investigate a few links for helpful info. Like the Somebody Wanted something, But Something happened, So they did this in the cartoon above. I hope a few of these links help you, too.

Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis Janet Friedman

How to Write a Synopsis--Nathan Bransford

Learning to Love the Synopsis Jael McHenry

The Anatomy of a Short Synopsis Christine Fonesca

How to Write a Synopsis of a Novel Glenn Strathy

Good luck, writers! Do you have a few suggestions to share?
Next Week: The latest of the Mini Book Reviews. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

4 April Snips!

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In honor of Spring--thank God, it's finally here--I wanted to share a few snips that involve nature and a few spring pics of what you'd see if you came to Cherry Hill. ;-)
This is why there is a Cherry Hill. ;-)
Late Spring:

Dappled shade and bright patches of vinca and impatiens along the path gave me the calm I craved. I entered the cool green oasis under magnolia blooms scented heavily with lemon and vanilla. A flock of Canada geese honked at each other as a mother goose, followed by five fluffy goslings, sailed by on the small lake. The little ones were puffs of downy yellow-gray as their legs worked overtime to keep up with their stately mother. Male mockingbirds stretched out their wings in the time-honored ritual to show how big they 
 were in hope of attracting the ladies.

Of course, Laura Grace has azaleas, too

Nearly Summer...

The square was lined with cherry trees in full leaf casting cool shade over the brick sidewalks. I rather missed April’s pink clouds of cherry blossoms drifting over the carpet of rose, white, and pink azaleas at their feet. Though on a hot day in May, shade might be more refreshing.
And daffodils. Hyacinths, too.
Next comes autumn. Besides, weeding is a good use of anger, don't you think? ;-)

Her doubts about my abilities didn’t change the need of the foster children. And yes, Samantha’s pain had given me direction, but I’d help anyone. She would just have to deal with that. Sometimes even best friends had to go different ways. I turned back to the flower bed and grabbed the first weed I saw. Its pale roots gave way to my fury and I threw it at her retreating back.

The iris are putting up new shoots, too.
And then comes winter...

A cold steady rain swaddled Cherry Hill in a gray cocoon of winter. I could only hope that the waterlogged flowerbeds wouldn’t drown my mother’s iris. The painstaking digging I had done at her home place after her passing would have been in vain if it did. Maybe the rain would help them grow fat and healthy to bloom in all their deep purple glory next spring. I hoped so.

I hope you enjoyed the snips. ;-) 

Next Week: The April Tip is about the Sinister Synopsis!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

IWSG: What about that SNI?

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Insecure Writers Support Group
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

My awesome co-hosts for the April 1 posting of the IWSG will be Suzanne Furness, Tonja Drecker, Toi Thomas, Rachna Chhabria, Fundy Blue, and Donna Hole!

I've been contemplating an interesting concept: Do Less to Do More Better. (Yes, I know the grammar is suspect, but what can you do to something said all the time. <shrug>) So, what does it mean to me as a writer? That's the question that really hits home as I finish the WIP and start to polish it, enter contests, etc.

Writing is challenging enough without loading ourselves down with so many WIPs that we drown. We all know how it happens. When our brains are in a creative mode, we start spinning out SNI--"Shiny New Ideas" at a rapid rate. Our attention gets distracted, splintered, and scattered. Our insecurities are showing. We're so scared we'll forget the SNI, we forget that the first project--the main WIP--needs care and feeding. How many of us have had the old WIP wither and die on the vine because we got distracted by the latest SNI? <waves hand>

So, what to to? I'm trying to give up my insecurities by jotting down the SNI and any bits that spin off it. Then I return to the main WIP and head for the finish line. If I feel the urge to wander, I just jot the latest idea down, and get myself back in line. It's working so far and my main WIP is being polished and entered into contests. 

What about you? What do you do to keep from being drawn in by the SNIs of your world?

Next Week: The latest installment of the Mini Book Reviews!!!  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fifith Tuesday Surprise!

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Since Sunday April 5 is Easter, the most holy of all days for Christians, I thought I'd give you a taste of my Easter poetry from An Easter Walk, copyright 2009. Enjoy!
(Both of my devotionals are available as ebooks at Amazon.com.)

During His Easter Walk

He found
    No kingdom of men,
        But of Heaven.
    No gold for a crown,
        But thorns.
    No bone was broken,
        But a heart.
    He saved other,
        But not himself.
He gave
    Us the solemn sacrifice
    Of Christ,
    Savior of our souls
    Giver of life.


During Your Easter Walk

Have you experienced the Living Lord?
    Seen the Cross?
    Been to the tomb?
    Felt His scars?
    Seen the storm pass?
    Felt the earth tremble?
    Been filled with joy?
    Felt faith take flight?
    Your soul filled with calm assurance?

During your Easter walk,
May you come to the Cross
And see for yourself—
He lives!

May your Easter be blessed and your walk always with Him.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March Author Interview: Susan Meissner

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Susan Meissner's books first came to my attention through an article in the American Christian Fiction Writers Association journal. She was included in a list of Christian literary fiction writers and I had to investigate. I started with A Sound Among the Trees. I've been mesmerized by her lyrical prose, intricate plots, and deep characters ever since.

Here’s my mini book review of my latest Susan Meissner read:
Secrets of a Charmed Life is a lyrical exploration of the effects the choices we make have on our lives. Set in the disruptive time of the Blitz of London and the evacuation of the city's children, the story will hold you mesmerized. A Must Read.

ZM: I’m so thrilled that I get a chance to interview a writer whose writing embodies what I’m reaching for in my own work. This quote from your interview on Women’s Fiction Writers says it all to me: 

“I was a Christian who wrote fiction, so I started out writing Christian fiction thinking that’s where I belonged. But I found that what I was really writing was fiction that fit my worldview, which happened to be Christian. I knew I was more like a baker who is a Christian and who wants to bake amazing bread that people can’t stop talking about rather than a baker who bakes Christian bread.”

Tell us about your journey into publishing.

Susan: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to write. It’s always been an itch that I had to scratch. I started out career-wise in journalism, but after ten years in newspapers, I knew what I really wanted to write was fiction. I quit my job as editor of a little weekly newspaper to write my first novel. It was published, by the goodness and favor of God because I had no idea what I was doing, in 2004. I’ve been writing books ever since. I started out in the inspirational market but moved to the general marketplace in 2014. Secrets of a Charmed Life is my sixteenth novel.

ZM: I love how many of your books weave the past with the present. What was the process that led you to this type of storytelling?

Susan: I’ve always liked mulling over how the past informs the present. History shows us what we value, what we fear, what we are willing to fight for, and what we don’t want to live without. When two separate and perhaps even unrelated story lines revolve around the same theme, we can see that there are aspects about us that don’t change, even though the years change. In The Shape of Mercy, which is the first book I wrote using this kind of past and present construction, I used a diary to link the two stories together. That book seemed to strike a chord in my readers. They wanted more books like that. In Lady in Waiting I used a ring to dovetail the story of Lady Jane Grey with a modern-day Jane. In A Fall of Marigolds the item that bridges both stories is a scarf. With Secrets of A Charmed Life, Thistle House is the constant in every time change as are the paintings of the Umbrella Girls.

ZM: I’ve classified your books as literary fiction, but I want to include them as women’s fiction, too. Would you agree? Do you think women’s fiction is limiting for writers? Do you favor a specific genre? 

Susan: “Women’s Fiction” is really just a way of describing a novel’s intended audience rather than how to find that book by genre in a bookstore or online. Men read literary fiction, but would not necessarily read what is classified as Women’s Fiction. WF can have a decided literary feel, but it’s not targeted to male readers. It can also have a definite comedic slant, which I don’t think of as being literary in tone.  I have heard my kind of book called an “upmarket novel,” which Writers Digest defines as literary fiction with commercial appeal – my favorite genre.  I don’t think classifying my books as Women’s Fiction has any kind of limiting effect if we understand it’s just a way of describing who the books are primarily for.

ZM: Ha! I like the sound of "commercial appeal", too. Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Susan: I have a number of favorite authors whose storytelling skills just amaze me. Two of those writers are Geraldine Brooks and Kate Morton. I like books that deal with historical events and multiple time periods, and that are peopled with memorable characters. I can usually tell by the first two or three chapters if a book is going to completely woo and wow me. What I am usually carried away by is voice. Every novelist I love has the ability to give their characters a believable voice. The books I like best are the ones where I forget the author even exists and that I am reading stuff she pulled out of her imagination.

ZM: Finally, what question do you wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?

Susan: What a fun question! And a hard one… I suppose I wish interviewers would ask if writing novels gets easier the more I write so that I could answer with an emphatic “No!” I used to be under the impression that when you do something long enough it becomes second-nature to you. But that’s not the case with writing novels; at least it’s not that way for me. Even though I’ve written sixteen books, I still approach every blank page with a healthy dose of apprehension and trepidation. I raise the bar higher with every book I write but I still start out the same way when I begin a new one – with a whole lot of nothing. That part thrills me, but it also scares me to death. Starting a new book always feels like I am writing one for the first time and haven’t a clue as to what I am doing!

ZM: It terrifies me, too! Thanks, Susan, for taking the time to let me "grill" you. ;-)

Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include A Fall of Marigolds, named by Booklist’s Top Ten women’s fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not working on a novel, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. Visit Susan at her website: www.susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at www.facebook.com/susan.meissner

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Four Books: March Mini Book Reviews: S. Bradley, L. M. Bujold, B. Freethy, S. Meissner

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I have some lovely reads for you this month. Enjoy!

KEPT Sally Bradley: Christian Romance

Deeply drawn characters carry this romance to a suspenseful conclusion. The discussion of Christianity ties directly into the characters' lives and is not an after thought or add-in. Good Read.

MEMORY Lois McMaster Bujold: Science Fiction (of the very best kind)

In Memory, Bujold takes her iconic Miles Vorkosigan on a whirlwind ride and shows what a coming of adult status really means. You must read all of this series. I promise even those who don't usually like SF will fall in love with Miles. 

SUMMER SECRETS Barbara Feethy: Women's Fiction with elements of Romance

The secrets that bind the McKenna sisters have also strangled their lives. Then, a dashing stranger, bent on the discovery of their past, throws a twist into their stories. Wonderful Read. You won't put it down. 

SECRETS OF A CHARMED LIFE Susan Meissner: Women's Fiction

This is a lyrical exploration of the effects the choices we make have on our lives. Set in the disruptive  time of the Blitz of London and the evacuation of the city's children, the story will hold you mesmerized. Must Read.

Mother's Day Update: It was a last minute rush, but I made the deadline for the first contest I plan to enter this year. Whew! Now, I have 45 days to get twenty more pages polished and the synopsis expanded to two to three pages. Yikes!

Next week: Author Interview of Susan Meissner. You don't want to miss this one. ;-) 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March Tip: Five Helpful Links on Queries

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Querying is always a daunting task for writers. Here's some of the latest posts I've seen about them.

What No to Do When Querying K. Whipkey has a great list of dos and don'ts.

The Hunt is On: How to Find an Agent Janice Hardy has six steps in the process.

And some oldies from the Books and Writer's Forum. If you've ever been curious about a writing forum, this is the place to be. The Research and Craft and Writers Exercises folders are golden. (Can you tell I'm a member? ;-)

Advice Please! Dig around in this one. Though is specific to Fantasy writer Julie, there's a lot of general info, too.

Query Help Dig in this one, too. Check out the query checklist for some lovely advice.

Query Based on First Twenty Pages This is a great resource, too.

Next Week: I'll have four more lovely reads to review. See you then! ;-)