Monday, February 27, 2006

A Two-Faced Review: A FAMILY FOREVER

As of March 1st, Brenda Coulter, she of the faboo No Rules, Just Right blog, celebrates the release of her second novel, A FAMILY FOREVER. As with her first novel, the critically praised FINDING HOPE, her second offering flies off the presses of Steeple Hill Love Inspired. What that means is that the novel is an Inspirational Romance.

(For those of you who don't know, Steeple Hill publishes Christian romances, that means they do without sex or any graphic content. Expect kisses and hugs and the occasional prayer along with your story of one man and one woman falling in love or falling in love again.)

I haven't read a straight category romance in a few years. I used to subscribe to Silhouette Romance and Steeple Hill Love Inspired, but those subscriptions are history. I just wandered away from category romance, sort of burned out. I mean, I had read hundreds. After while, the plots were repeating and the characters weren't working for me. I decided a break was in order, or just a moving on. I find I prefer my stories of romance strongly dosed with other factors that contribute to a strong external conflict or a greater sense of wonder: suspense, fantasy, mystery, science fiction, lyrical writing of literary quality...

But I wanted to read Brenda's book. She's a fine specimen of smart and godly womanhood, and I like her. A lot. Plus, she's classy and mature enough to be able to take a really critical review (even a negative one), which satisfied my condition for reviewing a book: I have to be able to be honest and not just serve as a promotional hiney-smoocher. (Yes, you did read that right.)

If I can't be myself, I just don't wanna do it. Brenda gives her reviewers the carte blanche to be genuine and frank. I love that about her.

So prepare for me to say exactly what I think:

This will be a dual personality sort of review. I will review it first from the point of view of The Old Mir, who once read tons of category contemporary romances. Then I will review it as The New Mir, who has moved away from such reads.

This way, whether you are part of one camp (the fan of inspirational contemporary category romances) or the other (the non-lover of ICC romances), you can still get something out of this post to help you decide if this novel is one you would enjoy.

A FAMILY FOREVER is the story of a godly, attractive man, Tucker, and a conflicted Christian woman with a tragic past, Shelby, who also happens to be the fiance of Tucker's late stepbrother, David. David died in a motorcycle crash. Tucker, a talented cycling enthusiast who makes his living selling sporting stuff, feels responsible. Shelby, who is pregnant from a premarital bit of whoopie with David, feels shame and finds herself in a tight spot, what with being alone, pregnant, pretty badly off financially, and uncomforted by a not-very-sympathetic mother with emotional issues of her own.

So, this being a romance novel (and those of you who have read more than a couple dozen category romances know what's coming), a Marriage of Convenience is suggested by Tucker, who feels oodles of guilt and a sense of responsibility, being the honorable man he is. His suggestion is accepted by Shelby, who feels she has no other options and is riddled with guilt at taking advantage of Tucker. But hey, she does anyway. He's insistent.

The novel is basically the two of them working out their guilt issues and their romance. Shelby has to deal with that past that keeps her from being able to fully invest in a relationship. Tucker feels he must prove he's a sensitive male and that they can make the marriage work. Shelby wants not to be a burden; Tucker reassures her she's not. You get it. That kind of general romantic angst abounds.

If you are in Camp Inspy Category Romance Lover:
You will definitely enjoy this novel. It has the internal conflict and hallmarks that will fill your romantic reading needs: the tortured heroine, the rescuing hero, one of the more popular stock premises, the comfy-home-sanctuary, the adorable pooch.

Tucker is a delicious hero. Frankly, he steals the novel right out from under Shelby, who as the one who has to make the largest change, is the real protagonist. Only she didn't grab me. He did. I'd marry him, and that's the biggest compliment you can give a romance hero, right?

There are some truly sweet and moving moments, especially in the latter third of the novel. The kisses carry the requisite impact, and you'll find a very satisfying epilogue. (I remember loving those kinds of epilogues when I was a category buying fiend.)

Shelby, however, annoyed me a lot. I wanted to feel sympathy for her plight, but she was so immature, so non-deep, so "insensitive jerk"-y. I mean, that's the accusation she hurls at Tucker (later repenting of it), but the truth is, he's not at all insensitive, he's not at all a jerk, and she's the one who I want to slap down and say, "Grow fricken up!" And, on top of that, she remains kinda amorphous through most of the novel, not really starting to fill out as a "real" character until the latter chapters.

Fortunately, after an annoying bout of Shelby, you are bound to fall into a scene with Tucker. He's a more clearly presented character, and wonderful enough as a he-man-with-heart to make up for Shelby being a brat-twit.

For Christian readers, your spiritual sense ought to be nicely satisfied by the repentance, prayers, forgivings, and conversions that come along in the last third.

I'd give this 3.5 to 4 stars from a Camp One perspective, mostly for the good scenes in the last part of the novel and for the truly wonderful Tucker. Loved him! And the ending scenes gave me the warm fuzzies. That's always good.


Now, if you are in Camp Inspy Category Romances Make Me Yawn:
You will probably yawn a lot during the first third of the novel when not much happens. It really needed some good conflict to propel things, but it wasn't there. A clear hint of real trauma finally shows up one-third in.

The secondary characters are flimsy, flatter than two-dimensional. (Which is not unusual in shorter category novels, so is hardly a huge demerit. It just didn't realy add to the story, especially the gal-buddy.) Some devices are introduced that are never used fully (Tucker's second job, for instance), so I wondered why they were even there.

I wondered the same thing about the scenes with the best friend. One didn't serve any purpose at all that I could figure. The friend was...well...space filler.

Overwriting is also a problem. We're hammered over the head over and over and over about "She's suffered. She's pregnant. Her fiance's dead. Of course she..." It gets old after the fith or fifteenth time I, the reader, am told of her being pregnant/grieving. Yeah, yeah, I know! I almost started wondering if the book fell short and Brenda had to go back and put in filler bits, cause it was really a lot of that sort of thing.

Some of the metaphors struck me oddly. One in particular made me stop reading and go, "huh?" It's about Tucker and he "reversed direction like a ping-pong ball bouncing off a paddle." (p. 128) I actually had this image of Tucker whooshing into the kitchen like a ball. Heh.

And one of my personal pet peeves of romance made an appearance: Overuse of heart descriptors. I actually had to stop and retrace when I found conflicting heart metaphors on one page, then another page with two heart metaphors. Hey, it's me, I hate that. I'm sure there's some metaphoric thing I misuse, but this is my peeve. I once stopped reading a Steeple Hill novel mid-chapter one when I encountered 4 heart metaphors in the span of two pages. FOUR. I thought the heroine was going to need a cardiologist and a very tricky operation to cure her racing, jumping, constricting, thundering problems. This may not bother YOU, though.

There isn't much conflict. There isn't any real external conflict at all. It's all internal. If you need to have a story with a strong external conflict and plot, this ain't it. This is an internal read, an emotional read.

However, if you want to give this novel a try, Camp Two-er, consider that there are some lovely scenes of genuinely sweet affection, of "falling in love", of moving humane consideration for another human being, of a man being what we women want a man to be. Remember how millions of women the world over just about fell out of their beds in a swoon when Mark Darcy says, "I like you just the way you are," to Bridget Jones in the movie? Well, I got something of that sort of feeling when the following happens:

{Shelby} turned on him. "Are you suggesting that I have some kind of problem?"
"Honey, I'm suggesting you have all sorts of problems. But I am absolutely on your side."


Or much later in the story, this:

"Talk to me," he urged in a melting-chocolate voice she had no power to resist. "Tell me the stuff nobody understands."


Sigh.

If that sort of hero and those sort of story moments do it for you, then get A FAMILY FOREVER.

My rating for the Camp Two-ers is 2.5 stars.


So, gentle readers, decide which camp you fall into. If you fall into Camp One, definitely get this novel. If you're in Camp Two, you now know what to expect, so don't say I wasn't fair.

And if you want a taste of A FAMILY FOREVER, you'll find most of the first chapter available for preview at BrendaCoulter.Com.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tossing Out Two Titles To Thrill Ya

I reviewed two books on this blog not too long ago:
FORGIVING SOLOMON LONG by Chris "Nifty Blogger" Well
MADE OF HONOR by Marilynn "M-Nog" Griffith

Well, both of these primo human beings and lovable Christians have new books that are either out already or soon to be out.

First: The Out One

M-Nog's latest novel, found on bookstore shelves everywhere even as you read this, is titled PINK. It's a Christian Chick Lit with a cover bright enough to chase away a minor case of the blues. If you want to read one of the many blog tour posts on the novel, visit my blogging chum, Bonnie "She Who Writes" Calhoun. If you, like me, enjoyed MADE OF HONOR, it behooves you to check out PINK.

Second: The Almost Out One

Chris "Nifty Blogger" Well knocked one of my socks off with FORGIVING SOLOMON LONG. (The other one still dangled from one toe, though.) So, I'm eager to see how he follows up that fly debut. It won't be a long wait. For those of you, like me, who have a serious jones for excerpts (I have been known to web surf JUST to read excerpts), visit INFUZE MAGAZINE's sneak peek, where you can dowload a pdf bit of DELIVER US FROM EVELYN that ought to tide you over until you can get your hands on the whole shebang. If you missed my review of FORGIVING SOLOMON LONG, shame on you. You can find it here.

COMING ATTRACTION!
Tomorrow, I'll be blogging my review of a Steeple Hill romance novel by Brenda Coulter, A FAMILY FOREVER. If you like gentle, sweet, Christian romances, you may want to drop by and see what I thought.




Friday, February 24, 2006

A Dragon, a Knight, and an Angel Walk Into This Tavern, and the Dragon says...

How's that for a set-up?

If I only knew the punchline.

Still, on the subject of Dragons, Knights and Angels...

I know some of you dropping by this blog must enjoy SF/F. Maybe a couple of you (oh, I hope so) enjoy writing it.

Is this you?

Good. Harken unto The Mir:

DRAGONS, KNIGHTS & ANGELS is sponsoring a fiction contest. The theme shouldn't be too hard to figure out. Um, look at the subject heading of this post. Glance at the name of the magazine again.

Got it?

If not, I'll let the DKA managing editor, Selena Thomason, speak:

What we are looking for is…
Innovative and unexpected uses of dragons, knights, and angels - [preferably] all three in one story.”

Contest submissions are being accepted through Sunday, April 30th.

To submit a story for the contest, please read and follow our submissions guidelines.
In addition, please indicate in your cover letter if your submission is for the contest.

Please be aware that while we want to see innovative stories about angels (and dragons, and knights), we do not want to see any stories where angels (or God) are depicted in a way contrary to Christian beliefs, or stories that would be offensive to a Christian audience.


The Mir suggests you check out the DKA Vision Statement if you want a better idea of the type of stuff that rocks their editorial world. Rock their world: good. Bash their worldview: bad.

More from Selena:

There is no entry fee.

Four prizes will be awarded:
First place - $25
Second place - $15
And two honorable mentions at $5 each.

Contest entries will also be considered for publication in DKA, unless the author specifies otherwise in the cover letter. If they are accepted for publication in DKA, the author will also receive the usual $10 payment for the story.

As with our usual submissions, contest entrants can expect some feedback from the editorial staff if their story is declined. Please let us know in your cover if you do not want any comments on your submission.

The usual fine print applies: contest entries must be received by deadline, the judges’ decisions are final, etc.


Let me emphasize one point: No entry fee.

You can win money. You don't have to dish out a fee. And you submit online, so you' don't waste moolah on postage or tyvek envelopes.

People, that's a deal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How would you answer this: "What is the Most Important Thing About Fiction?"

Well, however you'danswer it--and feel free to post your answer in my comments section--here is how Gene Wolfe, venerable science fiction author, answers the question when it is posed to him by the rather adorably pale, attractively disheveled, and unquestionably talented Neil Gaiman (What? I can't have an innocent, wee crush?)in a Locus interview:

NG: “What’s the most important thing about fiction?”
GW: “The most important thing is that it assures the reader that things need not be as they are now. In other words, the most important thing is hope.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Agents and Answers

I seem to have wandered into several articles or discussions on agents this past week. Since it's in the air, I offer two links to agent Q&A's:

Thanks to the ever-lovely Kris B., who linked linked the ACFW peeps (including moi) to the following panel-of-estimable-agents Q&A over at Writer's Market. It's called AGENTS SHARE THEIR SECRETS.

The panel includes Elaine English (Graybill & English), Donald Maass (Donald Maass Literary Agency), Evan Marshall (The Evan Marshall Agency), and Ann Rittenberg (Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency). Among the questions answered are "What do you look for in new/potential clients?" and "Should writers follow trends in publishing?" and "What are the two most important things you look for in the perfect pitch/query letter?"



Robin's Writing World recently featured a terrific Interview with Judson Knight of The Knight Agency Find out what his agency is seeking, his submission pet peeves, his idea of a dream submission, and his answer to whether or not contest wins snag his attention.

I liked this nugget from his answer on a question regarding the (dread) synopsis:

"...we all know how hard it is write a synopsis—indeed, it usually proves to be much harder than writing the book itself. Still, a writer needs to put her best effort into the synopsis, because a good summation illustrates mastery of the larger work, and because writing a synopsis often helps the writer to detect flaws in the book itself."


I think he's right about that last bit.

For your browsing pleasure, I offer links to books written by two of the agents mentioned in this post:



Thursday, February 16, 2006

Posting Potpourri : Genesis Booboo/Redirecting Christian Fiction /INFUZE Comics Calling/ Cartoons to Kill For/Buy Danish/F is for Fuchsia

~First potpourri ingredients: Last-Minute Perspiration Spiked With Chocolate

Been a few days since I posted. I was prepping my entry for the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Allegory section of the GENESIS CONTEST. It's out of here. Its on the way to Arkansas, to Robin Miller, coordinator for my particular genre. If we don't get 15 entries minimum for SF/F/A, then our entries are combined into the General Fiction category, which I do not want to happen.

No, I want a category of our own, so that we have a shot at being judged by Kathy Tyers, author of THE FIREBIRD TRILOGY and of THE SHIVERING WORLD.

As will happen according to La Ley Murphy, the printer got all spastic the instant I chose to print out my contest copies. Hubby, the brilliant and muchly cute, fixed it, though that took a while, during which time I was stomping around the house going, "OMIGOSHOMIGOSHOMIGOSH," or something maybe less polite and postable. I proofed this baby like five times and left printing the five copies for next morning, so that I could do the last proof with a rested brain. I got to bed at 4 in the morning.

Three hours later, inspiration struck. I decided that I HAD TO CHANGE THE LAST SCENE'S ENDING. I spent five hours doing that. I then printed it out, proofing really fast afterwards cause I was running out of time! I got to the post office 2 hours before it closed on the very day of deadline, cause, hey, that's me. I have to do the last minute thing or life is just not exciting enough, right? So, after I mailed it off, I did the whole smoochie-woochie out and about thing on Valentine's Day with the handsomest engineer on God's earth (yes, yes, he is!), came home, relaxed, decided to reread a copy of my entry and---BLAMMO!--I spotted four typos.

FOUR, count em, FOUR typos.

Sigh.

I will be praying that whoever judges my entry suffers minute episodes of typo blindness at the appropriate times. Feel free to join me in petitioning the Almighty . . . after you pray for all the really important stuff.

2:05 P.M., 02/16/06 UPDATE: The SF/F/Allegory Category will stand alone. Watch the Mir do the happy-happy-joy-joy dance to a salsa beat! Thanks for the announcement, Miz "Rocking" Robin Miller.

~Next scent to hit your olfactory system: Vanilla

If you read or write Christian fiction, you will want to read this article: New Direction for Christian Publishing? You'll find it over at Faith Online. Here's a quote from the article that's sure to tick someone off:

As Christian publishing has evolved away from the mainstream, says Allen Arnold, it has developed a distinctive set of rules for the content and character of its fiction. “Much of it took on a ‘precious moments’ worldview that wasn't comfortable with the mystery of God or with many other things,” says Arnold. “Christian fiction has become a genre with a long list of things that each story should include and a longer list of what each story cannot include. It's often comfort food for the saved. It's billed as safe, as if ‘safe’ is a Christian virtue. But it's rarely culturally relevant or well-written.”


Allen Arnold, according to the article, is publisher of WESTBOW PRESS.

~And now you catch the mind-boggling scents of: Fresh Ink and Superhero Antiperspirant

The really super-hip-a-dip INFUZE MAGAZINE has put out a call for creative types who want to create comic books. If you've read this blog since its early days way back in, oh, October of last year, you know that I enjoy reading some comics--and am totally taken and in awe of the SANDMAN series, the ASTONISHING X-MEN series, and WATCHMEN--and that my hubby and I visit the local comic book store with regularity. In fact, I need to go catch up with SHAOLIN COWBOY. So, I'm very pleased that the cool folks at INFUZE are seeking to make new and nifty comics come to life under their auspices.

Are you an artist with a yen to sketch comics? Are you a writer with a rousing idea for a comic book series? Well, rush over to check out the beginnings of INFUZE COMICS. They want to do this:

We'll pair up great writers with great artists, and help guide your creative collaborations together.

The comics created through this program will be branded with the "Infuze Comics" logo and published in the Original Comic Books section of Infuze Magazine.


~And our next tantalizing aroma: Embassy Ash

Perhaps your local paper turned yellow-bellied recently regarding the Danish Cartoons--and do we blame them when neck-carving is the preferred sport of some of those fellas?--even though they printed those yucky Abu Ghraib nudie shots for a couple weeks straight without any care of what the repercussions might be to our troops or our digestive systems.

There you are, wondering what Cartoons Worth Killing Over look like. Wonder no more. Go here.

I wish the same folks burning embassies and fatwa-ing artists and marching loudly down streets would put some of that effort into stopping the genital mutilations of their own very young women, or the tribal-elders gang rapes on the sisters of boys who did something they didn't like, or the honor murders of girls who kiss a boy on the sly and tick off Daddy or brother-dear, or the whipping to death of teens for minor delinquencies. And, if they can spare a march or two, can they organize a few to pressure Islamists to quit maiming, torturing, and murdering my fellow Christians all over the fricken globe? Maybe y'all could march so that Muslim governments would stop confiscating Bibles and prohibiting churches from doing needed repairs. And could you stop raping Christian gals so they're forced to marry and convert to Islam? You know, as a personal favor to the whole of Christendom. It would mean soooo much. Just put off that embassy arson until you LET MY PEOPLE GO, dagnabbit!

After all, in the West, we let y'all have Qu'rans and build spanking new mosques and go out in the street and gather converts. And we don't kill you for it or even put a kitchen knife to your throat after.

Whoa, I ask too much, I know. Never mind. Keep marching and threatening folks over pretty mild depictions of a bearded man who was, as even Muslims will admit, merely human and not divine, not the Almighty One, and who, as it seems, had been depicted by Muslims in previous centuries without, you know, assorted folks being put on a death and dismemberment list for it.

(Shoot, why ain't we Christians burning stuff down after that DRAWN TOGETHER episode showing Jesus as a peeping tom that aired recently? We could have had a major barbecue of that museum after the Serrano crucifix-in-urine display. Man, we could learn a thing or two from wild-eyed pyromaniacs overseas...oh, never mind. I'm a winter. I don't look good in ash gray.)

~Your nostrils now pick up the yummy scent of: Butter Cookies

If you think the radical Islamists burning down Danish property and boycotting the Danes are superwhack, stick it to them in a peaceful, civilized, 21st century manner: Go out and BUY SOMETHING DANISH. I purposely shopped this past week for items I never add to my shopping list: Denmark's Finest brand of Havarti cheese (yum) and Royal Dansk butter cookies (also yum, as I discovered, to my diet's dismay). I told my husband, "Go buy some Lego!" Being a Lego fanatic, that particular instruction only made him smile. Here's a peaceful, non-maiming way to stick it to the loons asking for the death of cartoonists. Enjoy your Havarti!


~And, finally, you're greeted by the delicate perfume of: Fuchsias

Fuchsia is a word I have to stop and think about, cause I am ALWAYS tempted to misspell it as fuschia.

Here are a couple of easier ways to remember how to spell this very weird little name for a plant or color (purplish red, says the dictionary).

1. Don't make a scene over a plant. It's a bit much.(Don't "sc";it's "ch")

2. Remember the person after whom the fuchsia is named: Fuchs.

From the dictionary: Fuchsia, genus name, after Leonhard Fuchs (1501–1566), German botanist.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Mission, Contrition, Attrition, and the Human Condition

All those who know me well also know that I can procrastinate and dip into unadulterated sloth like nobody's business. If you've been following my blog, you know I set myself some resolutions this year. Those resolutions encompass most of The Mission for 2006.

So far, this year has been a refreshing challenge and change for me:

~~I'm writing consistently. I've even returned to writing poetry, a form I hadn't really worked in for years and years.
~~I'm editing daily.
~~I'm almost exercising consistently, which is great progress from the Marathon Ultimate and Extreme Sport of Couch Slouching and Snacking, the event where I have garnered several gold medals, numerous national championships, and a bronzed collection of blocks of human blubber.
~~I'm gradually adjusting to a much, much lower calorie limit than usual--okay, previously, there was NO limit, but you know what I mean. Just imagine if you cut your daily food intake BY MORE THAN HALF, and you'll get a rough idea of how tough this is for The Mir.
~~I'm having good chats with the Lord. He's amazingly cool. I adore Him...er, literally.
~~I've made it a point to encourage someone daily as a spiritual exercise. I also have put myself out there to assist other fellow unpubbed writers. Isolation comes easily to me. This blog is part of getting "out there" and being human. And helpful. I do hope I'm helpful to some of you going through the same messes I am.
~~I'm working daily on that whole judgmental thing. I have a mini-Pharisee who lives under my skin. I have to slap him down daily or, on bad days, just use a bat with spikes. I have very good days, okay days, and bad days. This year, I've had a lot of good days. It's a shame I still have to resort to figurative violence, but there you go. Pharisees die hard.

(And, in case you're following The Mir's decline-of-the-good-sort, I'm down 13 pounds since January 1 and my ankles are starting to show. Oh, and gee, only about 122 lbs to go. There's no limit on sarcasm like there are on calories, right?)

So, I pat myself on the back. There, I enjoyed that.

On to the Contrition portion of our post:

I'm totally slacking off on the Bible Challenge. I'm so behind, that to try and get caught up will surely send me into a cheese-and-chocolate binge. In the interest of the Overall Mission, I will simply restart the challenge as of February 15. I can't tackle another massive thing until AFTER I SEND OFF MY GENESIS ENTRY.

I know my limitations.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. God is good and forgiving. Amen.

Attrition: My team over at the eDiets "New You Challenge" has pretty much dropped down to three of us from an initial count of ten. (Hey, lifestyle change is tough. See my previous comment on the Bible Challenge.) But we're soldiering on.

That does say something about the Human Condition, though, doesn't it? We start off so eagerly on our resolutions, but soon realize change is hard, so most of us drop out of this or that race.

I admire the super-disciplined, who just say, "I'm going to do this," and then do it.

That's not me. This is me: "Ooh, that patch of roses smells so good, I'm going to lie here a while and sniff, and, oh, that book of poetry is so yummy, let me read a few pages, and, wow, I feel like singing, lalalalalalalaaaaa, and now I'm getting sleepy, ZZZzzzzZZZZzzzzzzzzz."

So, to all of you uberbeings who "Just do it!"--God bless y'all.

To those of you who, like me, struggle to reach goals and fight against oodles of distractions: Let's just pray for each other, support each other, say kind words to one another, and, ooooh, did you read that latest Ted Dekker?

Oh, sorry, I mean: Did you get your Bible Challenge chapters read and your 30 cardio minutes done?

Later...

Monday, February 06, 2006

GENESIS CONTEST--Does Your First Chapter Have What It Takes?

Takes to what, you ask?

A: To be one of the top five finalists in the contest and, by virtue of such high scores, land smack dab in the midst of the WARNER FAITH editorial board for consideration, that's what. Oh, and if you're numero uno in the scores department, you get FIVE HUNDRED SMACKEROOS.

Hey, one can dream, can't one?
(And one can use high-falutin' pronouns in one's blog post, yes, one can.)

If you doubt my word--and shame on you if you do!--take a gander at this straight from the ACFW-horse's mouth:

Prizes – Highest scoring entry overall, GRAND PRIZE WINNER, receives $500. Top five (5) scoring entries overall, TOP FIVE FINALISTS, go to the Warner Faith editorial board for consideration. CATEGORY WINNERS, first place entries in each category, receive $50 off their 2007 ACFW National Conference registration fee and 1st choice for editor/agent appointments at the 2007 ACFW National Conference. CATEGORY WINNERS, TOP FIVE FINALISTS, and the GRAND PRIZE WINNER will be announced at the ACFW 2006 Conference.



Here's the rub: You can't enter unless you're a member of ACFW

The good news: You can add your membership dues and application to the contest entry fee and that takes care of matters.

If you're not familiar with Warner Faith, they publish fiction by Lisa Samson, Deborah Bedford, Shelley Bates, Robert L. Wise, Karen Kingsbury, Patricia Hickman, Tracey Bateman, and others. If curiosity is splooshing over you like a monster wave, then google any of those names for blogs and book information or click on the link I provided to the Warner Faith site.

While I figure my first chapter has a teeny-tiny snowball's chance in a furnace of being a top-five scorer, I nevertheless wildly, bright-eyed-ly, idealistically, breaking-out-into-song-and-dance-at-the-idea-ly fantasize thereon.

Hmmm, I think this pink grapefruit green tea I'm drinking does more than scientists yet know, chemically speaking.

Gotta go write now. And then drink some more tea. And polish my dance routine.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rocking Sites for Writers AKA Everything You Need To Outline, Format, Start, Finish, and Submit Your Novel

My previous post covered helpful blogs I patronize. This one covers non-blog sites that I think will help you (and me) make this the year we write a knock-their-socks-off novel. I offer them in the spirit of writerly kindness:

Holly Lisle is a well-known SF/F writer. Her website, Forward Motion, serves up lots of articles for writers on both the craft and the business of writing. Inspirational. Useful. She also has a peek-in-the-life-of-a-fulltime-writer blog that I visit regularly called POCKET FULL OF WORDS.

Alicia Rasley's Writing Corner is not a fancy, eye-catching site, but the content more than makes up for that. Make sure to check out OUTLINE YOUR NOVEL IN 30 MINUTES, which can be found in the treasure trove that is her archive of articles.

Brenda Coulter is a first-class soul-sis whose bright mind and restful garden (when she posts pics) make my day.I recommend both her website and her blog to anyone interested in popular fiction, especially romance, especially Inspirational/Christian romance. Go here to find her insider tips on how to do all sorts of useful stuff, such as writing a synopsis or a query letter, or formatting a manuscript. If you've ever wondered exactly what happens when an editor rings up a writer to say, "We want to buy your book," then read "What's it Like to Get the Call" and find out.

The official site of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is fully loaded with goodies. Even if you don't write SF/F, you can get great tips there. Please don't skip the why-doesn't-every-writing-site-have-this-kind-of-thing pdf file by award-winning Vonda N. McIntyre that SHOWS YOU exactly how your manuscript should be formatted. For all novices, this is key. Sometimes, the rules just go, phoof, right over our heads. SEEING is not just believing, it's understanding. You'll want to browse and bookmark this site.

If you're one of those delightful, asset-to-humanity type people who want to write spiritually relevant stories of the Christian sort, then hurry over to the site of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Sorry, but if you want to reap the goodies at ACFW, you gotta join. It's not a helpful site to non-members. Once you learn the secret handshake and hula dance (oh, it's easy!), however, you gain access to some keen minds and kind hearts, as well as workshops, fora, newsletters...well, the goodies abound. ACFW is worth the not-steep-at-all investment of its membership dues for the chance at being mentored, critiqued, and encouraged by bestselling pros, midlist pros, nouveau pros, and unpublished non-pros. A wonderful organization for Christian scribes of both genders and various denominations.

Okay, I'm about to mention the H word, and no one is allowed to sneer, snicker or otherwise behave in an unseemly or judgmental manner. You have been forewarned, and I've got my eye on you. Good. Keep that decorum for the rest of this paragraph. Harlequin, the megapublisher of women's fiction, has a site that brims over with concise articles for anyone interested in writing books aimed at a female audience (ie, romance, Chick Lit, female-lead fantasy, suspense, Christian romance and women's fiction, etc). Drop by their LEARN TO WRITE section and scout around for grammatical help, writing classes, the critique service, message boards (I've been known to pop into the Steeple Hill boards), writing guidelines, submissions guides, and a page that offers links to samples of a query letter, a synopsis, a manuscript page, and even a list of proofreading marks.

The Desert Rose Writer's Guide is a great resource for anyone who's beginning their journey in writing romance. Just go see if I'm fibbing.

Best-selling suspense author, Lisa Gardner, has a web page full of links dedicated to TRICKS OF THE TRADE You'll find the Seven Secrets of Romantic Suspense and The Villain: Developing the Diabolical Prima Donna, plus an in-depth guide on plotting your novel. Delve and delight thy mind.

And if you want to discover some site I haven't recommended here, or perhaps even visited, feel free to browse the "Best Websites for Writers for 2005" in the category of writing tips as compiled by Writer's Digest

Now, if you will excuse me, I must take some of these tips and APPLY them to AGE'S END before my online writing pals gather round and group-bop me on the noggin for procrastinating.

Happy Creating!