Posted in Uncategorized

My Valentine’s Gift to You

Valentines 2020

Happy Early Valentine’s Day.

I couldn’t think of a better gift to give my readers than a free ebook!
You’re probably scratching your head at the fact that I chose a Christmas novel for your Valentine’s gift, but behind the tree and ornaments is a timeless love story.
Inspired by Beauty and the Beast, Yesterday’s Christmas is a dual-timeline novel that follows the love story of Glenn and Betty Tanner. They’ll have you falling in love again and again!

Posted in For Authors

Critique Partners: Part 3

Critique 3This month in the Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic we’re focusing on critique partners. I want to share some things that I’ve gleaned over the years.
Note: I’m using the phrase critique partner but this applies to beta readers or whoever else reads and offers feedback to an unfinished work with the intent on shaping the draft. This does not include grammar or line editors.

The Critique Partner series will be broken into 3 parts.
Part 1: How to find a critique partner and how to be a good critique partner
Part 2: Preparing yourself for feedback and what to do with the feedback once it arrives
Part 3: Dealing with hard to swallow feedback and conflicting feedback


Processing Hard Feedback:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Everyone hears it
~ Do you want to publish just to publish or do you want a great story?
~ Reviews last forever, hard work will only last for a moment
~ Do the hard stuff; it’s going to be great
~ Never expect perfection
~ It’s not personal
~ Your critique partner is on your side

Everyone hears it:
There’s something comforting in realizing that you’re not alone. If the greats are being corrected, then why shouldn’t you be? If your favorite author stares down criticism and pushes her way through to a wonderful story, then why can’t you?
Once you grasp that you’re not alone, that every book you’ve ever enjoyed had been through the wringer, then you can let the pain roll off of you and get back to work. Being distracted by your wounded feelings will only keep you from your goal.

It’s not personal:
Despite how you feel, the comments are not personal. Your critiquer still likes YOU, she just thinks you need to dig deeper or clean up your writing style. So don’t take it to heart.

They’re on your side:
Instead of taking it to heart, side with  your critiquer and view the draft as the “enemy.” Correct the draft. They really do want to see you publish your best story. An honest critiquer is hard to find, so don’t feel bullied when you have one. Listen and learn. They only want to help you. And the story you love so much is worth it.

Do the hard work:
Listen. The simple fact is that a great story IS hard work. If writing is too easy, you’re doing it wrong. I guarantee you that if writing has become too easy, simply switching critique partners will change that for you. You’ll suddenly be challenged and stretched.
Don’t cheat yourself, your beloved characters, or your readers with a story only half done because you rushed the publication process. Put in your best effort. And if that means you sweat a little and take months longer to complete the novel, then so be it. Reviews will last forever, the work will not.

 

What to do with conflicting feedback:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Listen
~ Pray
~ Consider the results of both options
~ Re-examine your story’s purpose
~ Consider the level of expertise offered by the critiquers
~ Just because only 1 person says it, doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
~ It’s ultimately your story and your decision. Never forget that.
~ If a reviewer made the same comment would you be upset?

Listen and pray:
Just like in our other sections, pausing to process, listen, and pray is vital. There’s no need to rush into anything.

Consider the results of both options:
Sometimes there is no “wrong” answer, there are just two different options. So take time to truly consider both options. How would your story change if you did A? How would it change if you did B?

Re-examine your story’s purpose:
After you’ve taken some time to consider how A and B would change your story, you need to take a closer look at your purpose. What is the theme or purpose you really mean to express with this story? Does A or B take you closer to that goal or further away from it? Is your original goal still the goal you want? Maybe after considering one of the options you realize that the change takes you further away from your original goal but closer to what you’ve now discovered you want to express.
It’s okay to change your mind. And it’s okay if you choose not to change your mind. The key is to KNOW without a shadow of a doubt what you mean to do with this story and challenging your ideas is never a bad thing. Weigh your options. Test the ideas. Then make a decision.

It’s your story:
While it’s healthy to challenge your ideas, in the end, it’s your story. As my friend often reminds me, she only has an opinion but it’s my name that has to be on the cover.  YOU had better be pleased with the outcome.  Don’t feel bad if you go in a different direction. Sometimes that happens.
The important thing is that you took the time to weigh your options before brushing an idea aside. Your critique partner should respect that.

If a reviewer made the same comment your critiquer did, would that upset you?
I have personally faced this in my writing. My critique partner said that my plot needed more tension. And she wasn’t wrong. After examining the types of tension I could add, I did add some but kept it fairly light because to add more would have taken me away from my intended goal. I did decide to set her advice aside for the most part and press on. And I have heard from the occasional reviewer who agrees with her. And you know something, it doesn’t bother me. If I hadn’t been challenged beforehand, the reviewer comments might have upset me. But I could agree with their comment and walk away with confidence knowing that, while I saw what they were saying, I did what I meant to do and wouldn’t have chosen differently.
Your critiquer is your first line of defense. So listen closely. The next person to say it just might be a reviewer. How would you feel if it was?

There’s not always power in numbers:
There’s a reason why we hear conflicting advice, and it’s because we have differing strengths. While it’s a must to take note of repeated comments, don’t be so quick to brush aside the lone ranger comment. There’s a reason you’ve asked this person to critique your work. They’re not stupid. And if they’ve worked for you in the past, their opinion should hold even more weight with you. Sometimes only 1 person can see the problem but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. So tread lightly and take time to pray for wisdom and clarity.

Consider the level of expertise:
Let’s say you have 2 conflicting critiquers. It’s possible that both are right. But it’s also possible that one is wrong and one is right. But who? Maybe one says she loves it as is while the other said it was shallow.
Consider the level of expertise being offered here. Again, you asked them on your team for a reason. Could it be that the author is pointing out a problem while the reader is praising it as is? If you find yourself in this position, you’d be wise to side with the author in most cases. And the reason is that they’re qualified. They’ve studied the craft. It stands without reason that they’ll pick up more than the average reader will.

Posted in For Authors

Critique Partners: Part 2

Critique 2This month in the Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic we’re focusing on critique partners. I want to share some things that I’ve gleaned over the years.
Note: I’m using the phrase critique partner but this applies to beta readers or whoever else reads and offers feedback to an unfinished work with the intent on shaping the draft. This does not include grammar or line editors.

The Critique Partner series will be broken into 3 parts.
Part 1: How to find a critique partner and how to be a good critique partner
Part 2: Preparing yourself for feedback and what to do with the feedback once it arrives
Part 3: Dealing with hard to swallow feedback and conflicting feedback


Prepare Yourself for Feedback:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Expect to be challenged
~ Pray for yourself
~ Pray for the critiquer
~ Remember the 1st draft is a jumping-off point
~ Never expect perfection

Never expect perfection:
The biggest mistake authors make is thinking that their story is perfect as is. I admit I’ve been guilty here. The truth is, we work and work and work on that draft. We wouldn’t pass it along to a critique partner unless we knew it was ready (unless, of course, we knew it wasn’t and needed their help finding the problem). Because we brought it to a place where we thought it was ready, we’re prone to believe there will be no corrections to make. And THAT will hurt you when the feedback comes rolling in and you’re proven wrong.

It’s a jumping-off point:
The first draft isn’t meant to be the final draft. It’s meant to be the first solid place for you to launch. If you can establish this mindset now while your draft is out, you’ll be prepared to hear what needs to be changed.

Expect to be challenged:
You should EXPECT your partner to have work for you to do. And if your partners have little to no work for you, it’s a good sign that you’ve outgrown them. The more you grow as an author, the more you’re going to need to be challenged. That’s why it’s vital that you don’t stick with only your momma and favorite readers as critique partners. They don’t have the skill set to help you to improve any more than you already have. You need writers who are also learning and growing in the craft to help you find where you can continue to grow. Don’t make the mistake in thinking that you’ll arrive someday. Every great book, every talented author, is proof that drafts are revised again and again.

Prayer:
Pray for your critiquers to have clarity and to be able to explain to you what the problems are. Pray for a blessing on their time. They’re doing you a big favor! Pray for them to have the courage to speak up and point out what they find. It’s not easy to give painful truth with grace. So pray for them. (Note: If your partner cannot be honest with you, drop them! The #1 goal of a critique partner is to be faithfully honest.)
And don’t forget to pray for yourself! You’re about to have the rug pulled out from underneath you. Feedback is coming that may very well knock you back and make you question your path as a writer. You’re going to need to be protected. You need to know that you can survive this. You need the ability to accept what they’re saying and to truly listen. You need to be able to take sides against your work as if the draft is the enemy and not your critiquer. You’re going to need some thick skin. You’ll need clarity.
There are verses all throughout Proverbs about a wise man accepting advice or rebuke. One of my favorites is Proverbs 12:1 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”
Find and pray over these verses while your draft is out.

 

What to do with feedback:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Read it and set it aside
~ Do NOT touch it
~ Take notes
~ LISTEN
~ Look for common comments
~ Separate minor and major comments, then tackle separately

Read it and set it aside:
Step one is to simply read it. Don’t expect you’ll understand everything or agree with everything. Your first job is to simply read what is written. That’s it.

Do NOT touch it:
Seriously. Walk away. Don’t start dismantling the entire draft. Just set it aside.
How long? That depends. You might come back after a few hours or the next day. Chances are the seeds have been planted since you read it and you’ll begin mulling over the comments, especially anything that confused you or something you didn’t agree with. Let things marinate for a little bit before picking it back up.

Take notes:
Your next step after your break is to read it again. This time take a piece of paper with you and just jot down some notes. Not every note, but some things that stood out to you. Maybe the comments kept pointing out that something was wrong with your heroine. You’re still not ripping it to shreds, but you’re wading through it. You’re still processing what has been said. Jot down questions you have for the critiquer.

LISTEN:
This is so vital. Don’t throw it away. Don’t fistfight your critiquer. Just listen. Hear what they’re saying. Take sides against your draft and see if they’re actually right. A lot of times they are. But you’re not going to think they’re right the first time you hear what they’ve said. It’ll be later when you begin to see things differently. That’s why taking a break is so vital.

Look for common comments:
Ideally, you’re working with more than 1 critiquer. Look for those common threads. If everyone points to your heroine in some way or another, you know you have a problem. They may say something different but if your attention is drawn again and again to something, it’s a clear trouble area.

Separate minor and major comments:
Minor comments would be something that can be cleared up in a single line or single paragraph. It might be missing a detail or confusing line. Maybe a telling line that can be shown instead.
Major comments will require larger widespread rewrites. You’ll have to dig deeper into your character development and weave more detail throughout the story. You might have to cut or add chapters. You might be adjusting your plot and outline.
After you’ve read it a couple times, read through it again and start separating the comments. Make a list for major and minor revisions. Pending on the major revisions, you might want to start there if you have a lot of rewriting to do. But sometimes getting the quicker list done is a confidence boost. There’s no wrong way. Both need to be done, so whatever works best for you and your draft is acceptable.
Personally, when critiquing I like to highlight and comment directly on the draft. This is a great way to pinpoint exactly where the problem is. Consider the difference in getting only a summary letting you know that you need more tension compared to finding notes inside the story pointing out various places where tension was lacking.
But when I’m finished reading, the big picture problems are standing out to me, so while I have some notes on the subject sprinkled throughout the draft, I’ll also summarize the problems and praise in an email as I send it back. I’ll let them know that there’s a tension problem and add more detailed information if it isn’t already in one of the comments in the document. I also take the time to leave praises throughout the document as I come it and I’ll summarize some of their strengths in the email too.
My critique partners follow the same pattern. That’s a freebie for anyone who isn’t sure what to expect from a great critique partner or who is attempting to be a critique partner for the first time and aren’t sure how best to help out.

Posted in For Authors

Critique Partners: Part 1

Critique 1This month in the Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic we’re focusing on critique partners. I want to share some things that I’ve gleaned over the years.
Note: I’m using the phrase critique partner but this applies to beta readers or whoever else reads and offers feedback to an unfinished work with the intent on shaping the draft. This does not include grammar or line editors.

The Critique Partner series will be broken into 3 parts.
Part 1: How to find a critique partner and how to be a good critique partner
Part 2: Preparing yourself for feedback and what to do with the feedback once it arrives
Part 3: Dealing with hard to swallow feedback and conflicting feedback


How to Find the Right Partner:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Look within your genre for readers
~ Look within reader groups online
~ Work with a mix of readers and writers
~ Don’t work with people who are easily offended
~ When working with a writer, preview their writing first
~ If your critique partners are not challenging you, find someone new!

Work with a mix of readers and writers:
I think it’s normal to start out on the writing journey and have your mom, granny, or other close friend or relative read your work and offer feedback. And that’s not a bad place to start! But it’s not the best place to end. It doesn’t matter how blunt honest your momma can be, unless she’s an author, she’s not going to know the finer details of the craft, and you’re going to need the experience of other authors picking and prodding at your work.
Any author who has had their work brutally revised will become sensitive to the very things they correct in their own work. It’s why authors struggle to simply read a book once they begin revising their own. Once you’ve been taught that something is wrong, you can’t help but trip over it when you see it again later. So when you consult with another author, they bring to you their previous lessons to bear down on your work. They’ll call out what they would correct in themselves.
But a mixture of authors and readers can come in handy. The avid reader is still a devoted reader and will have something to offer. It’s a great first test for your novel to see how it’s connected with readers.

When working with a writer, preview their writing first:
Because we can’t help but point out our own flaws in someone else’s writing, it’s a good idea to make sure you like the author’s work before asking them to look at your draft. Even if you don’t like their writing, they may still have something to teach you, so don’t turn your nose up at them just yet, but it stands to reason that you’ll learn best from authors who write what you’d like to read.
Again, this advice is contradictory because we should be challenged outside of our comfort zone. It’s how we learn to write better. BUT if their style grates against you when you read it, you wouldn’t want to mimic their style. And chances are their feedback in some way or another will steer you in that direction.

Don’t work with easily offended people:
There’s a strange balance with critique partners. They offer their best, honest advice but you’re not required to follow it. It’s best when both the author and the critiquer understands that you’re not obligated to blindly follow their advice. And if the critiquer finds it offensive that you ignored their advice, it’s best not to work with them again in the future.
That being said, if you have a critique partner who you ignore large portions of their advice, you should stop and consider why that is. Do you have an unteachable spirit? If so, look for tips on this in Part 2 of the series. If the critiquer is constantly offering you advice that moves your story away from where you had envisioned it, you’ll have to ask yourself why. There are likely 2 reasons: 1) Their vision is not your vision and you’ll need to drop them. 2) You need to strongly consider some solid changes in your story. They may be pointing out major flaws that you’re unwilling to listen to.  Part 2 and 3 of this series will address these areas.

Where should you find a critique partner:
You’ve decided that you need more than your granny, but you don’t know where to look. Here are some ideas.
Writer or critique groups. You may find a local group or an online group.
Mingle online in reader groups. You’ll find authors and readers there.
The key is to look within your genre. If you find a suspense author to read your women’s fiction, she may have some things to teach you but she’ll have some expectations that your story should not live up to. So it’s important to work with someone who understands the expectations of that genre.
Goodreads and Facebook have active reader groups where you can find someone.

How to fish for critiquers:
It’s best if you’re already mingling in these groups and chatting up books that you love that have nothing to do with your own work. This will create a friendly image. Someone the people in the group already recognize and maybe even relate to.
When it’s time to ask for readers, simply throw a line out there! Make sure it’s within the group’s laws to seek critiquers in the group. Each group has different rules. You can ask the admins if you’re unsure.
Start a post. Let people know what you’re needing. Something similar to:
I have a Christian Suspense novel that I’d love some feedback on. It is 78,000 words long. It’s about a mouse outrunning a cat. And a cat who is outrunning a fox. …
And when people start responding, check them out!! Make sure they actually read suspense. Check to find out how many books they typically read in a month. Some people just want a free story. If the person reads 4 or more books a month, they’re likely fast readers and will get to it and get back to you. If they read 1 book every other month, they’re not fast readers and may not get back to you at all.
Be sure to let them know when you’d hope to hear back from them. And then go check up on them! Generally, you should probably give them a month to read and get back to you.
But understand that readers are looking for a good time. So while they can be a help, you’re likely to hear vague feedback from them. While an author is most likely to offer detailed feedback. They’ll likely tell you which technique you’re not applying in your work.

Personally, I work with a variety of critiquers and I do it in 2 stages.
Stage 1: My toughest critic. I start off holding nothing back. I have a writing partner who can analyze the draft in great detail. She’ll help me see my plot holes or other inconsistencies.
Stage 2: I use a mix of readers and writers. If there were any conflicting ideas from stage 1, now is the time to test them out. These readers help clean the story up even further, but the biggest part of the work is behind me.
Once I’ve revised the draft based on their feedback, I send it off to grammar/line editing. My critique partners might point out a few grammar errors but it’s not their main focus.
Note: It’s not recommended to spend a lot of time on grammar while the bulk of the story is still subject to change. Correct things as you find them, but NEVER pay for a grammar editor until you’ve made all the changes you intend to make. This process is meant to cut out or add in new scenes and characters. You may be rewriting an entire section of your story. So focus on the big stuff here then focus on the little stuff later.

 

How to be a good critique partner:

Fast and Free Tips:
~ Begin with praise, offer feedback, and end with praise
~ Keep in mind the genre you’re reading
~ Be as detailed as possible
~ Don’t be easily offended
~ Be available to troubleshoot or further explain
~ Don’t work with someone who argues or is easily offended

The Key:
Remember that you’re also an author! Treat people how you would want to be treated! If you can stick to this guideline, you’ll be just fine.

Sandwiching Criticism:
Feedback is going to hurt. It’s just part of the process. But you don’t have to make it hurt any more than necessary. So drop compliments throughout the draft. If you like a line, TELL THE AUTHOR! The same way you’d highlight a remark and tell them it stunk, tell them you loved it! Those compliments will go a long way when they hear your feedback and question whether they should continue writing.
When offering feedback in paragraph form, compliment them first, then offer the hard facts, then follow up with another compliment. And don’t lie to them, either! Take time to examine what they did do right. Maybe their characters are weak but they have a good handle on the setting or description. Be sure to tell them that.

Keep in mind the genre you’re reading:
We’re not experts in all genres, so keep that in mind. If you’re reading slightly out of your norm, consider what the norm is for that genre. YA is different from Historical fiction. If you’re not certain, be honest. Don’t make your comment sound like an unbreakable rule.

Be as detailed as possible:
Sometimes we don’t know what to say or how to say it. But other times we know exactly what the problem is, we just don’t take the time to embellish it. Don’t just tell them that this line is weak, tell them WHY it’s weak. How could they change it to make it stronger? If they have a reoccurring problem, stop and talk to them about how to fix it. YOU might know what to do, but they likely don’t or they wouldn’t have written it that way.

Be available:
Again, how would you want to be treated? If someone gave you vague feedback and you needed to hash some things out with them, wouldn’t you appreciate being able to talk with them? Don’t drop your feedback in their lap then disappear. Be willing to talk or just let them talk. Sometimes they have to verbalize some things before coming to a conclusion.

Don’t be offended:
You’ve offered your advice but it’s their name on the cover. If they choose to ignore you, don’t take it to heart. Hopefully, they thought long and hard about that decision before making it, but either way, it’s not on you. You’ve done your duty.

Don’t work with someone who argues:
Now, every author is prone to getting their feelings hurt at some time or another. I admit that I cling to certain ideas more than I should and have to be talked down step by step. But there’s a difference in someone who is willing to learn and just needs time to process and someone who will fight you over offending their precious messy baby. You can’t work with someone who doesn’t want to learn. It’s sad but true. Some people only want to be told that they’re right and never wrong. They aren’t willing to wrestle with plot points in the trenches. They just want to rush through their story and see it printed.
So step out of their way! It’s hard and it hurts to watch them ruin themselves but it’s not worth it to try to change them. If they have an argumentative spirit, let them go.
For the most part, people will be wounded but willing to grow. They will accept 90% of your feedback but cling to that one thing. There’s still hope for a working relationship there as long as they aren’t lashing out at you for your comments. And that’s really the key. If they’re lashing out, it’s not worth your time.

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White

pro_pbid_4412389All of England thinks Phillip Camden a monster–a man who deliberately caused the deaths of his squadron. But as nurse Arabelle Denler watches the so-dubbed “Black Heart” every day, she sees something far different: a hurting man desperate for mercy. And when their paths twist together and he declares himself her new protector, she realizes she has her own role to play in his healing.

Phillip Camden would have preferred to die that day with his squadron rather than be recruited to the Admiralty’s codebreaking division. The threats he receives daily are no great surprise and, in his opinion, well deserved. What comes as a shock is the reborn desire to truly live that Arabelle inspires in him.

But when an old acquaintance shows up and seems set on using him in a plot that has the codebreakers of Room 40 in a frenzy, new affections are put to the test.

What I Loved: Just when I think the series can’t get any better … White publishes another book! Seriously. The Codebreakers, and Shadows Over London (which ties into this series), is chockful of memorable characters and page-turner action. The war is happening in the background, but the story is taking place at home with a nurse and a codebreaker … or rather a humble woman with insecurities and a bitter man practically on death row.
Camden and Arabelle had great chemistry from the moment the two stepped onto the page together. I couldn’t get enough of these two. You could feel the underlying tension slowly coiling around the characters with every turn of the page.
Fans of the previous books will be treated to small cameos. It’s not anything that would ruin the other books if you haven’t read them, but it’s just enough to bring a smile to your face if you’d already met them.
I loved every minute I had spent in London with them and I can’t wait until the next book.

Rating and Recommendation: I recommend On Wings of Devotion to anyone who enjoys Christian historical, WWI fiction, and spy fiction. I’m giving it 5 stars.

~ I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Blizzard Bride by Susanne Dietze

46295161A Blizzard Changes Everything

Abigail Bracey arrives in Nebraska in January 1888 to teach school…and to execute a task for the government: to identify a student as the hidden son of a murderous counterfeiter—the man who killed her father.

Agent Dashiell Lassiter doesn’t want his childhood sweetheart Abby on this dangerous job, especially when he learns the counterfeiter is now searching for his son, too, and he’ll destroy anyone in his way. Now Dash must follow Abby to Nebraska to protect her…if she’ll let him within two feet of her. She’s still angry he didn’t fight to marry her six years ago, and he never told her the real reason he left her.

All Dash wants is to protect Abby, but when a horrifying blizzard sweeps over them, can Abby and Dash set aside the pain from their pasts and work together to catch a counterfeiter and protect his son—if they survive the storm?

Join the adventure as the Daughters of the Mayflower series continues with The Blizzard Bride by Susanne Dietze.

More in the Daughters of the Mayflower series:
The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1620 Atlantic Ocean (February 2018)
The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – set 1725 New Orleans (April 2018)
The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep – set 1760 during the French and Indian War (June 2018)
The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1774 Philadelphia (August 2018)
The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear – set 1794 on the Wilderness Road (October 2018)
The Liberty Bride by MaryLu Tyndall – set 1814 Baltimore (December 2018)
The Alamo Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – set 1836 Texas (February 2019)
The Golden Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1849 San Francisco (April 2019)
The Express Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1860 Utah (July 2019)
The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear – set 1863 Tennessee (December 2019)
The Blizzard Bride by Susanne Dietze – set 1888 Nebraska (February 2020)
The Chisholm Trail Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – (April 2020)

What I Loved: Everything! The Blizzard Bride was a highlight of the series for me. The romance was spot on with a steady cup of tension. Dietze has a smooth and enjoyable writing style. I love getting lost in one of her stories.
The setting and era came to life. And I especially appreciated the authentic details concerning the blizzard. There was a town’s worth of endearing characters here.
I love a good mystery, especially when the author can keep me guessing which isn’t easy to do. While I did have an idea as to who the guilty party was, I wasn’t also so sure of myself until closer to the end.

Rating and Recommendation: I give it 5 stars and recommend it to those who enjoy Christian historical fiction.

~ I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.

Posted in About the Book

Snuggle Up and Read-a-thon Sale

Mega Sale Banner

There’s a mega sale in progress this week!

I hope you’re enjoying your 2020 so far. I don’t know about you, but I’m already itching for Springtime. It doesn’t hurt that our winter in TN so far has been rather mild. You can’t help but be fooled into believing that spring is just around the corner.
The reality is, we’ll find our winter before too much longer. It might show up late, but it’ll show up eventually. But I thought there isn’t a better way to spend the cold winter months than with a fuzzy blanket, a warm drink, and a good book. Correction. A STACK of good books. So to help you with your winter reading stack, I’ve marked down every last one of my titles. Both ebook and paperback are being marked down for the first time ever.
If you’re an ebook reader, you’ll find all 8 books discounted on Amazon. You’ll even find 2 of them for FREE! And don’t forget, they’re also available on KU.
But if you prefer to read paperback, I have a sale running for those too. You’ll have to email me with your order and be able to pay through PayPal. It’s a great way to grab signed copies. And I just happen to have limited copies of If Only It Were Yesterday and Dance With Me in my scratch and dent pile going for 1/2 off. If you’re interested in one of those, just ask for details!  *There is a shipping charge not listed for paperback copies.

Mega Sale Ebook

Mega Sale paperback

Happy Reading!

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Homefront Heroines: 4 Young Women Dream of Victory and Love During WWII

45180407Patriotic Service Leads to Victories in Romance

Relive life on the American homefront as four women of the WWII era join the workforce and discover romance in surprising ways.

Moonlight Serenade by Rita Gerlach
1941 Washington D.C.
When Lucy St. Claire takes over a sailor’s job at the Naval Yard in Washington, DC, she is thrown into a romance she never expected.

Only Forever by Lauralee Bliss
1942
Marilyn and Arthur learn the hard way that it’s not the outside that matters, but the inward working of the heart that is precious to God and each other.

Blue Moon by Johnnie Alexander
August 1943, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
After humiliating each other, a WOOPs officer and an Army Intelligence agent team up to protect a top-secret atom bomb facility from sabotage.

Dream a Little Dream by Amanda M Barratt
January 1945, Palm Springs, California
When a widowed nurse and a former film star are reunited at a wartime hospital, can they move beyond their past and into a future together?

My Thoughts: The collection as a whole is a historical goldmine. I loved how each story took a drastically different look at life during the war. There are nurses, secret agents, soldiers, gardeners, and factory workers. The concept behind each story was a hit with me, but I thought that the majority of them needed to be fleshed out a bit more in one way or another.

Moonlight Serenade was very well researched. There were several little nuggets weaved into each scene. Sadly I struggled to feel fully connected to the characters.

Only Forever showed one of the ways people were taken advantage of during the war which was an interesting side to the war that I never considered before.

Blue Moon had the strongest start of the entire set, but the mystery would have benefitted from a little more room, so it could truly marinate and deepen.

Dream a Little Dream was my favorite of the set. It took me back to Old Hollywood and gave me a tender romance.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving the set 4 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction.

~ I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.

Posted in For Authors

Author Branding and Yearly Cleanout Checklist

Over in the Facebook group, Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic, we’re looking at cleaning up our author branding. You can join us in the group and catch the Facebook Live when we chat about this very subject. You can also join in with the group during the weekly challenges to help keep yourself accountable. FB Live: Tues 1/7/20 @ 1pm central

There’s a slew of information out there about how to brand yourself as an author, and while I’ve taken some courses on this and am prepared to help in a small degree, the bulk of this post isn’t about how to help you find yourself as an author but is a checklist of areas that you may need to comb over to make certain that the author you’re representing is still the author you are today.

Author Branding Overview: 

Since author branding is a hot topic for many, let’s pause and consider what it is and how you might improve upon it before we look at our checklist.
I’ve heard of 2 basic ways to brand the author: brand the book or brand the person. Here’s the quick of it:

Branding the Books: 
This works really well if you’re a single genre brand. Think Sarah Sundin who writes only WWII fiction. She’s able to share historical tidbits related to her era. Her fonts are typically the same (or similar) because they work well for her style of writing. And since her style and era never change, there are certain visual things pertaining to her brand that never need to change.

Branding the Author:
This can work for either the single sub-genre or the multi-genre author. For myself, it’s essential because I write both contemporary and historical. But what does it look like to brand the person instead of the work?
It’s a matter of showcasing who YOU are and what your interests are (in writing and outside of writing). It’s a matter of establishing what it is that you offer the world through your books and making that known. Even when you’re a multi-genre author, there are certain elements that will always stay the same because each work is written by the same person. I’ll admit, it’s harder to determine what you have to offer when you write for various eras/genres. But the key is to remember that you’re still you and you’ll have to dig WAY deep to figure it out.
For an author like Mrs. Sundin who writes in one era only, they may not have to dig very far to figure out what they mean to offer.

How, or WHERE, do we brand ourselves? 
The answer is everywhere in everything. What I’ve come to learn is that true branding happens in the day to day process.
Take a minute and take a look at what you post on your social media platforms. Pause and scroll through your pages.
If you only ever post about your upcoming novel, then you aren’t branding yourself or your work. You’ve become a billboard.
If you’re posting about your personal life, writing process, books you read, and other interests, then you are in fact branding yourself. The question then is what part of you are you showing the world? One of the quick ways to answer that is to ask your friends and followers (especially followers since it’s our social media accounts that are in question here) what they think of when they think of you. If any of your followers have ever tagged you in something because they thought it would interest you, take note because they’re secretly telling you that they believe this is part of your brand.

Fast and Free Tips for Establishing Your Brand: 
Create a vision or Pinterest board of things that interest you.
Ask your followers what they think of when they hear your name.
Scroll your page (personal and professional) and write down the topics you see yourself posting.
Has anyone ever tagged you in a post? Write that down and put a star beside it.
Look at font and color combos. Which style grabs you the most? (If you’re branding off of your genre, you’d want to work within the realm of what works for your genre. But if you’re branding the person, you get to decide what represents you.)
Talk with your faithful readers and street team and ask them to help you understand which elements are always present in your work.
Scan reviews of your books and look for reoccurring comments. Ex: Is it always uplifting? Always a page-turner? Always swoon-worthy? Etc.
Ask yourself some questions. What message do you most want to share? What is your goal for your writing?

NOTE: After you quiz yourself over what you mean for your brand to be, double-check it against what others are picking up. It may be that you think you offer family-friendly fiction but your readers keep commenting on how edgy it feels. Don’t be ashamed if you’re slightly off on what you meant for your brand to be. Sometimes we think we’re putting one version of ourselves out there but our audience is seeing something different.
If your idea of your brand is different than your audience’s idea then you’ll need to make some changes. Consider if you’re simply not putting your brand to practice? Are you posting regularly about the things that make up your brand? If not, get started.
Consider if their idea of you is more accurate? It may be time to rethink who you are as an author.
Or consider if there’s room to marry the two ideas together.

Fast and Free Tips for Putting Your Brand to Work: 
Remember your brand is where you are!
Post about things other than your release.
When making graphics stick to a style of fonts and color schemes.
When sharing quotes, consider your brand. If you’re the swoon-worthy author, posting the kiss scene makes more sense than the inspirational quote that another author might use.
When designing your website, blog, and newsletter be sure it matches your social media side of your brand. Look for the same color and font schemes.
Consider a posting schedule to keep your brand even. (see tip below)

Showcasing Your Brand Through a Posting Schedule:
This is probably my biggest tip for putting the brand into practice. We all want to stay away from the trap of becoming a billboard. But how do we do that?
The key is to understand that you’re more than the mother of that book you keep talking about. So ask yourself, WHO … Are … YOU? (Am I the only one who heard the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland in my head?) So grab a piece of paper and ask yourself this question, and we’ll use little ole me as an example.
I am an author.
I am a Christian.
I am a history lover.
I am an avid reader.
I am a wife and mother.
I have other interests: tea, Jane Austen, the color pink, etc.

With my list in hand, I sat down and considered how often I want to post. When I blogged regularly, I posted on Mondays. When working on Facebook, I’m posting Mon-Fri. So now that I know what categories I can place myself in and how often I want to post, I assign a different category to a different day.

My blog schedule was:
1st Mon: About my Books (NEVER leave this out! Just don’t make it the only thing you post)
2nd Mon: Spiritual post
3rd Mon: Miscellaneous. It was always personal. Maybe my reading list or favorite books. Or a new recipe I was trying.
4th Mon: Historical post.
5th Mon: Either a day to catch up or skip completely.

My Facebook schedule looks a little different:
Mon: #MondayMorningMugs I share the fun mug I’m drinking out of, give a recap of my life or current project, and ask my followers about something going on in their life.
Tues: Fun day! I share a fun game or silly meme. We see a lot of Austen posts on Tuesdays.
Wed: Spiritual day. Either scripture, quote, or song.
Thur: #ThrowbackThursday For a history lover this is like a holiday every week. Sometimes the posts are connected to my research and sometimes they’re not.
Fri: #FictionFriday I share what I’m reading, spotlight other authors, first-line Fridays, etc.

Keeping a schedule in hand helps me to space out my content. Granted, when there’s a release, things are uneven and I’m posting more about the new book. That’s normal. When there’s a sale or giveaway, we’re going to see an increase in those posts. But generally speaking, I wanted to keep my page interactive and featuring more than my personal novel.
What happens if you can’t keep up with your schedule? Either make adjustments so your schedule matches your posting abilities or pick up where you left off. I’m not always able to post daily on Facebook. But when I sit down on a Thursday morning, hoping to post, I’m not searching my brain for a topic because I already have one. And that narrows down my options and helps me not to waste so much time considering what to post. And because there’s so much of my personal life mingled in, I’m slowing establishing my brand.

Branding Cleanout: 

Because the Writers’ Clinic focuses primarily on content revisions, I wanted to focus on cleaning up our branding content. I broke the tasks down over 4 weeks through the month of Jan. Feel free to work ahead, out of order, or to skip whatever you desire.

Week 1: Bios

If you’re like me, you probably have multiple bios circulating. I have a “serious” one for my Amazon page. There’s a fun one for Goodreads and other sites. And a short serious one for the back cover of my books.
The goal this week is to pull out all of your existing bios. Make sure they currently describe you. Look for typos. Let your critique partners read it to ensure it still sounds good. Or scrap it and write something fresh.
Here are some areas to look for bios:
Amazon
Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest
Back of your book
Goodreads
BookBub

Week 2: Meat and Potatoes of Your Brand

This week we’re looking at areas that regularly promote who we are. Check to make sure your image is current. Look for areas where you can create something fresh.

Author Tagline or Mission Statement – I was challenged to create a mission statement in one of the branding classes I had taken last year. It was hard work, I won’t lie. But it was so essential. It helped me to see my purpose in my writing and weeks later when I was struggling with one of my drafts, a dear friend pointed me back to my own statement and said that I was lacking the very thing I said I wanted to provide. WOW! It honestly helped to bring me back on track.
What is a tagline or mission statement? Some authors may use these differently but I’ll share how I’m using them.
My tagline is the short and sweet sum of my writing. It’s found on my banner on Facebook and here on the page as well. It reads: Read. Write. Live. And glorify Christ. (preview other authors to see what their short, and typically 3 word statement is about themselves to get more ideas.)
The mission statement is 1-2 longer sentences. It basically blankets all that I mean to say about my writing. Start by asking what you write and why, then keep narrowing that down, being as specific as possible, until you find exactly what you offer and why you offer it.
I recommend taking the time to write your tagline or mission statement, or both! It’s great practice for discovering who you are as a writer. But the key this week is to make sure that whatever you do have posted is STILL accurate.

Take a look at your branding graphics. Check your banners on Facebook and social media sites. Look at your email signature. These are great places to showcase your tagline. If you have one, make sure you’re using it! Also look at the graphic itself. Do you need to create something fresh? Does it match the fonts and color scheme that you said would represent your brand? Does the image itself represent your first novel or all of your novels as a whole?

Look for other areas where a mission statement could go. Is it posted on your blog or page? Did you know that Facebook has a new feature just perfect for a mission statement? Look in the About Page section if you haven’t used yours already. It’s a block on the right side of your page that contains a bonus picture and some room to talk about your page.

Remember the key this week is to make sure what you have visible represents the author you currently are and not the author you started out to be because sometimes those are two different people. I started off writing Civil War fiction but have evolved since then and my plantation-style fence picture isn’t an accurate representation of my writing anymore.

Week 3: Website Details

This week we’re going to take the time to look at the various details on our website (although you may need to do this on other platforms as well). Here are some suggestions of what to look for. Feel free to add to your list.

Double-check your list of Available Publications.
Check your list of WIP if you have those posted anywhere.
Check all of your links. Do you need to add any? Has anything changed?

Week 4: Author Picture

This week is easy peasy. Sorta. 😉

Take a look at your author picture. Is it time for something fresh? Or maybe something taken within the last 4 years?

It may take more than a week to get this one done but if you know you need an upgrade, start brainstorming locations, poses, or your wardrobe. Make an appointment. Or set a personal deadline for yourself.

I hope the overview on Author Branding and the Cleanout Checklist was helpful to you.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Review: The Bridge to Belle Island by Julie Klassen

43887304After a humiliating mistake, lawyer Benjamin Booker resolves to never again trust a beautiful woman. When an old friend is killed, the senior partner isn’t satisfied with Bow Street’s efforts and asks Benjamin to investigate. Eager to leave London for a while, Benjamin agrees. Evidence takes him to a remote island on the Thames, a world unto itself, shrouded in mist and mystery. Soon he finds himself falling for the main suspect—a woman who claims not to have left the island in ten years. But should he trust her?

On Belle Island, Isabelle feels safe and leads a productive life, but fear keeps her trapped there. When Mr. Booker arrives with news of her trustee’s murder in London, Isabelle is stunned. She has not left the island, yet she has a recurring dream about the man’s death. Or is it a memory? She had been furious with him, but she never intended…this.

When a second person dies, and evidence shockingly points to her, Isabelle doesn’t know who to trust: the attractive lawyer or the admirer and friends who assemble on the island, each with grudges against the victim. Can she even trust her own mind? While they search for the truth, secrets come to light and danger comes calling.

What I Loved: What a treat! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a new Klassen novel and I found exactly what I was looking for.
From the moment the story began, I was emersed in the Regency lifestyle and a most intriguing mystery.
The romance was tender and sweet. I enjoy a story where the romantic relationship tenderly unfolds … although I’ll be honest and say that the last couple of chapters were suddenly dragging for my tastes.
The mystery was by far the greatest factor. I was blown away by the many clues and details woven into the story. There was no shortage of solid suspects. It was hard to narrow them down until the end was in sight.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending to those who enjoy Christian Regency or a historical cozy mystery.

~ I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.