Wednesday, February 29, 2012

BLOG TOUR: Ruby Dawn by Raquel Byrnes

I got a late start with this book so can't give a review. For some reason the book came later than we originally thought which threw my schedule off when it came to actually reading it. I started it  a day or two ago, and it yanked me right into the story. That's a good thing: you know how I complain when a book doesn't grab me.  Remember the video I posted a few days ago? Didn't it talk about a 9 second attention span? From reading the first few chapters, I don't think my attention span will be a problem. I fell for the hero immediately.
This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Ruby Dawn
White Rose Publishing (January 27, 2012)
Raquel Byrnes

Raquel married her college sweetheart seventeen years ago and you can still find them spending time together chatting over a cup of coffee like when they were first dating.

Her husband is her biggest fan and most ardent supporter. He encourages her to take time for writing as often as he can. He regularly gives her gift cards to her favorite coffee house so that she can go there to write and relax.
He has been known to whip up his famous chicken quesadillas complete with guacamole and brownies for dessert.

Raquel has written books for more than a decade. She loves to do research and has taken private detective courses, gun classes, and underground tours to get every detail right for her novels. She writes romantic suspense with an edge-of-your-seat pace. Stories filled with faith, love, and adventure.

In 2009 she signed with agent, Terry Burns, at Hartline Literary. Terry worked to get her Shades of Hope series sold and in 2010, White Rose Publishing purchased the three-book series.

A painful past. A love returns A desperate plan.

Former street kid, Ruby now reaches out to runaways through her medical clinic in the worst part of the city, but her escalating battle with a gang leader puts that in jeopardy.

Cavalier, a risk-taker, charming… Ruby’s first love is now on the right side of the law and the center of a dangerous DEA sting involving her clinic. Tom’s disappearance ten years ago broke her heart and rattled her faith. As their romance relights, memories of what it costs to love him flood her with fear.

Ruby’s battle with the gang ignites a firestorm of danger, and a pattern of lies from within her own camp emerges. With Tom’s life in the balance and her world cast in shadows, can Ruby trust God as she once did…or has she strayed too far, for too long to ever return?

Watch the book video:

If you would like to read the first chapter of Ruby Dawn, go HERE.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Do you remember the song, Look For A Star? The first stanza is below:

When life doesn't seem worth the living
And you don't really care who you are
When you feel there is no one beside you
Look for a star
If you can’t remember how it sounds, here’s the video:

I can’t think of this song without remembering an old movie I saw back in the 60s at the Arlyne Theater in my home town of Longview, Texas. I loved going to movies when I was a kid; today I don’t go much--I rent from Redbox and watch in the privacy of my own home so I can hide my eyes if I need to or mute if someone is throwing up, or just turn it off and quit watching. Back in the old days, I didn’t have those problems. I didn’t have to worry about four-letter words, graphic violence or barf.

But why in the world I went to see a British horror film called Circus of Horrors, I’ll never know. Circus of Horrors has haunted my memory. No exaggeration there.

In 1947 England, a plastic surgeon must beat a hasty retreat to France when one of his patients has ghastly problems with her surgery. Once there, he operates on a circus owner's daughter, deformed by bombs from the war. Later he becomes the owner of the circus, and ...

I’ve thought of it often and wondered if it was really as intriguing as I remember. So many times, my memory seems like nothing more than jumbled fiction in my head.  

About a year ago, I ordered the DVD. I was determined to find out the truth and perhaps perform a little exorcism of the Circus.  Joined by hubby and daughter, we watched. I don't think they enjoyed it as much as I did. I was surprised at how much I remembered, and of course the song … that beautiful song seemed creepy, sinister.

I'm glad Circus of Horrors was just as fascinating in 2011 as it was in the 60s.  Several Amazon reviewers (about my age, I guess) remarked how the story has haunted them all these years. The suspense is great, there isn’t any graphic violence as compared to today’s thrillers even though, I admit, it’s still a bit gruesome. I think what really bothered me was the lack of transition from scene to scene. You can't blink or you'll find yourself in another country and wonder how you got there.

I won't be forgetting this story any time soon. It just won't let go of me. The concept is too interesting and if you really, really think about it, it's not too far-fetched from things going on in the cosmetic surgery world today. (We can always tell when a star's doc made a boo-boo, can't we?)

One reviewer stated the movie is without a doubt one of the finest British horror films ever made, and while I’m not a real horror buff and can’t agree with any certainty, I can say if you enjoy horror at all, you’ll like Circus of Horrors.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Learn to be Fascinating!

Charisma- Compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.A divinely conferred power or talent.

Charisma is a word and a personality trait that has always fascinated me. I was certain if I had more charisma, I'd be perched up there with best selling authors. In fact, that thought was reinforced when I attended a writers' conference with a woman who exuded charisma. I saw exactly what charisma could do.  Powerful stuff!

There's a book out called Fascinate by Sally Hogshead. I checked her out on YouTube. Yep, she's fascinating. Looks like she has charisma to me, but she's taken it to another level. Sally said, "In a competitive environment the most fascinating option always wins. Always." Her interesting video will motivate you to take another look at yourself, your brand and the way you play around with social media. Check it out. And you might want to pick up Fascinate and learn how you can become ...  fascinating. It'll help you sell books. It might even help you get an agent. I've actually seen it happen so do yourself a favor. Become fascinating.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Who's On Your Team?

A boat doesn’t go forward if each one is rowing their own way. ~Swahili proverb

Another sports hero comes out of the blue. Are any of you watching Jeremy Lin play b-ball for the New York Knicks?
When Lin started with the Knicks, things changed. For one, they started winning. Why? Because Jeremy Lin is not a selfish player. He doesn’t hog the ball. He has a great attitude, and respect for his team.  He’s made the whole team better.

It occurred to me that we writers could learn a lesson from Jeremy Lin.

We need a team. And we need to hang together to make it a winning team. An editor’s job is to make us better. Our critique groups should make us better. Our beta readers should be honest with us so we can be better.  And hopefully, we reciprocate. Looks like we’re all here to help each other, doesn’t it?
The other day I heard someone say we should have selective hearing: “Listen to the ones who build you up.” I agree, but we have to be realistic--don't listen to phoney compliments.

Who builds you up? Who makes you feel like a better person, a better writer? What does your ‘writing team’ look like? We all need someone in our corner; more power to us if we have a team.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Light at the End of This Writing Tunnel

When A Bad Guy Forever won the mystery/suspense/thriller category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler contest last week, believe me, it was a badly needed shot of encouragement. Sort of like those B-12 shots my mother used to give my old granny. Those shots kept her kicking for a good number of years. I’m hoping and praying to stay kicking long enough to get this manuscript revised and circulating.

For the past three days, I’ve been working nonstop. The first thirty-six hours, I read with pen in hand making notes where things didn’t make sense or where I needed more dialogue or internal thought. I haven’t read my manuscript in its entirety since I “finished” it the first time. Won’t tell you how long that’s been! My score sheets from the contest are invaluable. Much of what the two finalist judges said helped identify problem areas. It's amazing how different "professional eyes" (should I say an editor's eyes?) are from our own.
I’ve lived in fear that the rewrites I’ve been involved in during the past year were creating an unfixable mess. I’m tickled silly to say that’s not the case at all. I feel more positive and encouraged than ever! The thing didn’t read half bad. Oh, there are glitches and holes and a few problems, but they're all fixable. FIXABLE! Hooraaaay!
Now I’m taking the notes I’ve written on the hard copy and I'm rewriting. The only thing that’s truly scaring me is how much I’m doing away with. Entire scenes are being discarded but they don’t work so they have to be dumped. I’m almost half-way through the book. Once I’m finished, I’ll pass it on to mystery writer Barbara Colley and let her mark it up. She’s excellent at spotting holes and asking questions that have to be answered. After fixing what she says is broken, hopefully, I’ll have a marketable manuscript. Do you think I should have more than one reader? Seriously now, cut me some slack. But do you?

I’m still having a few problems adding description and a sense of setting. Why is that giving me fits? I have to make a conscious effort to do it when it seems, at least to me, a lot of that should just appear naturally, then be tweaked. It dawned on me today that maybe in the future, I should plan my setting in detail before I ever start writing. What do you think?

Teach me something about setting and description and revision. My book is set in Louisiana. Am I just making sense of place difficult because I’m not really from Louisiana? Now that's a thought.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings

I  chose Sixty Acres and a Bride because we’re moving to Oklahoma--Regina Jennings territory. She’s the author, and this is her debut novel. I don’t read or review a lot of historicals. Honestly, I feel intimidated by the amount of research historical authors do so I feel guilty if I don’t fully appreciate their hard work. Can I be honest and say how much I dreaded the day Sixty Acres and a Bride showed up in my mail box? I was so worried: Would I like it? Could I finish it? Would the author have a style I could read with ease? If her first page didn’t yank me in, could I force myself to keep reading? I have a short attention span and I don’t finish books I don’t like. Time is just too precious and short for that.

The first page yanked so hard, I don’t think I put the book down all day. In a rush, I read and then I slowed my reading because I didn’t want to leave those characters. I wanted to savor their delicious predicaments. I liked Rosa, the main character. A lot. I read with a pen in hand so I could underline some of her beautiful thoughts and innocent wisdom: You can sit around and wait for gifts to fall off the tree into your lap, or you can climb the tree and get your gifts yourself. Overtime you’ll find God leaves most of His gifts in the tree.
Rosa doesn't believe in sitting and waiting. She's a do-er.
And this: Rosa didn’t mind the anonymity. She’d rather have gold in her pocket than praise in her ears.

And Weston, the hero with his over-active feelings of responsibility--and guilt--came across real, not a wish-crafted hero. I adored how he looked at Rosa, amazed at some of her observations; taken aback by the way she stood up to him.

New author Regina Jennings is already at the top of her game. Her writing is excellent. Her plotting and characterization are the best I’ve read in a long time. Her pacing is comfortable. It dawned on me while reading Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings that this is what we wannabes should aspire to.
This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Sixty Acres and a Bride
Bethany House (February 1, 2012)
Regina Jennings
A Word from Regina:
See me laughing. That’s what I do when someone calls me an author. Yes, it’s always been my dream, but I still can’t keep from giggling over it.
Other things I am – a Christ-follower, a wife, a homeschooling mother of four, a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, and a voracious reader.

Getting reading time isn’t easy. Seems like my family does more than our share of traveling. My husband is an insurance adjuster (I know, save the hate mail) and travels with the catastrophe team often. That’s allowed us to see a lot of the United States. True many times it’s in the middle of a hurricane or blizzard, but after spending three weeks in a hotel room with six people, you’ll brave anything to get out and see the sights – no matter how damaged they might be.

We also serve on the Missions Team at an amazing church, so we break out the passports frequently. Highlights include singing at a leper colony in India, holding church inside a Mexican prison and showing the Jesus film to a tribe in Senegal who’d never heard the gospel.

But I don’t have to go far away for unusual. My family provides plenty of colorful material with their love for practical jokes, pithy observations and strong agricultural roots. Because of the family business, a significant chunk of my life has been spent at sale barns and auctions – often behind the scales where I weigh pigs. I like to think of myself as a “redneck bluestocking” but I brought an entire marketing team’s discussion to a screeching halt when I said those words, so you didn’t hear it from me.

When I have spare time I love to talk books and quirky characters (real and fictional).

With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to Texas and the family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have only three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa can't keep herself from falling in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. Learning the American customs is not easy, however, and this beautiful young widow can't help but catch wandering eyes. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, to what lengths will Rosa go to save her future?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Sixty Acres and a Bride, go HERE.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Am A Winner!

I told you HERE that I was putting my novel, A Bad Guy Forever, aside and working on a couple other projects. I finished ABGF once, twice and starting feeling lost and confused. I needed to get away from it for awhile.

I told you HERE that I entered A Bad Guy Forever in a contest and was one of three finalists.
And I learned last night that I'm a winner in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category.

I'm.  A.  Winner.

I'm always amazed at all the crummy stuff contest judges find. I think I'm entering clean copy with absolutely no typos or left out words or misplaced commas. Dream on, huh? After seeing what they found, I'm stunned to be a finalist, much less winner. Just goes to show how badly we need fresh eyes to look over our work.

But now I'm thinking: should I put my other projects aside and finish this book once and for all? What do you think? Remember, I've finished the book a couple of times. Twice it was written and rewritten as a Christian romantic suspense. Then, I read Lee Child's Killing Floor and thought I should pick up the pace in my own book. I did away with backstory and a lot of introspection. After doing that, I entered A Bad Guy Forever in the Killer Nashville Claymore contest and it came out a top 10 finalist. Taking a couple of suggestions from the editor I talked with, I did some tweaking.

My gut tells me I can sell this book if I just FINISH it--ONE. MORE. TIME.

So, I'm putting aside the NF book I've been working on and will devote time to A Bad Guy Forever and my handwritten novella. Toss in a couple of romantic short stories and you have 2012 in a nutshell -- with a move to Oklahoma. That's still in the works and getting closer every day.

You do think I should fining this book, don't you? One more time?
Sign me ... Walking on Sunshine!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Smart Cookie: Not Just Another Award

My friend Sylvia awarded me the Smart Cookie award. Thanks!

Rules for recipients:

1) Thank and provide a link to the person who awarded you.

2) Share 4 interesting or little known facts about anything.

3) Pass the award on to other "smart cookies".
Interesting, little known facts? Stuff like this can make one seem a little nuts . . . or worse. But here goes:.

1) I smoked for 25 years. I started when I was a senior in high school and quit in 1991. Thank the Lord!

2) I turned down a free ticket to see Elvis perform in Shreveport. Quite a sacrifice for an Elvis fan; I had my reasons.

3) I've been married three times. Some of my friends prefer not to acknowledge or accept that fact. Their choice. The mistakes of my past make me who I am today. No, I don't want my kids to walk in my footsteps. I don't even want them to make their own mistakes. (I guess I should add here that hubby and I celebrate 30 years on Sunday. This one took!)

4) I take everything personally. The following dialogue in You've  Got Mail was written especially for me because I believe EVERYTHING is personal.

Joe Fox: It wasn't... personal.
Kathleen Kelly: What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's *personal* to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal, anyway?
Joe Fox: Uh, nothing.
Kathleen Kelly: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

Okay, I'm awarding the Smart Cookie award to all my readers and followers. I love your comments when you leave them. You give me much needed encouragement. You're all Smart Cookies! Thanks for being followers.

Have a GREAT weekend!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Updated - Outdated

Awhile back I took a class from an editor who explained the ins and outs of digital publishing, compared digital to traditional, and explained the advantages and disadvantages of both. It was a great course--very informative and encouraging.  I learned a lot and I’m still mulling over things she told us.

This instructor/editor who is also an author said we should use every publishing option available to us. She said that the most "successful" author is the one who understands how to make his writing work to his advantage. She did not say to throw traditional publishing by the wayside and pursue digital; she advised us to use both.
She said, “I highly recommend that while you're writing stories for the Big 6 to consider, that you schedule a block of time to write something you can digitally publish. Shoot for a novella. Why? Because you aren't sitting and waiting, letting perfectly viable opportunities slip past you.”

When I asked her for a career plan for me, she said:
So Jess, my advice in a nutshell:  Get yourself in a small, respectable e-house, and continue to work the traditional end. Keep fresh titles out in the e-house, but don't shrug off traditional in favor of digital. You need them both. There may come a time when that's not true, but today, you need the marketing that traditional printing does for an author, simply by nature of the beast.

Do you purchase digital books? Do you read their reviews? I do and today I came across a reviewer who complained that a character in the book I was purchasing was packing lots of film and flashbulbs into a bag. The reviewer said, “I can remember them from way back but then I'm not that young ... This must be a VERY old story. Just hope she doesn't pull out a cell phone.”

Do you think old novels should be updated before digitally publishing? If a character ducks into a phone booth, are you yanked out of the story?  Should authors label with a specific year or can your imagination transport you to pre-cell phone/pre-digital camera days? I have to admit I’m a little hesitant about putting my 1996 Silhouette Romance out there when it was a little out-dated in 1996 since it’s about Elvis look-alikes and fanatics. The reader will absolutely have to let her imagination shake, rattle and roll with the story.

Teach me something about updated/outdated books.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Self-Promotion: An Interview with Me

A quick note: My friend Sylvia interviewed me for the BWG blog. I usually shy away from interviews and guest blogging and very seldom promote myself. I feel more comfortable here in my own little corner of the world--at Praise, Prayers and Observations. But, if there’s one thing Southern Writer’s Magazine has drummed into my head, it’s self-promotion. So, You can read my short interview here. I met Sylvia when she took my Nonfiction Bootcamp course a few years ago when I taught for Lamar University Continuing Ed. She’s a good writer and I’m thrilled that she took over the BWG Newsletter and blog. She’s doing a great job. Check out her personal Writing In Wonderland blog here.

Have a great weekend. See you next week.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why? Why? Why?

The question WHY is important to us when we start plotting, planning and writing. It’s probably the most difficult question for me to answer. And I’m the one who always spouts to my family--“There’s a reason for everything.”

I guess that’s why I love movies. Easy to actually SEE and understand the WHY of things, the motivations of each character. Take one of my favorite old movies: Teacher’s Pet, 1958. It stars Doris Day, Clark Gable and my personal heart throb, Gig Young.
Clark Gable is James Gannon who’s the city editor of a newspaper. He’s from the old school--the School of Hard Knocks. He has no respect for journalism classes or college grads entering the newspaper business, so he’s not at all pleased when he’s told by his boss to speak to Erica Stone’s (Doris Day) journalism class. Of course, what happens? He’s attracted to her so he pretends to be a student. And that’s where the deception begins. Of course, he can’t hide his writing talent (his pride won’t let him) so he quickly becomes her prize student, one she’s determined to see find his rightful place in the newspaper industry. Remember, because of his deception, she doesn’t know he’s already found his rightful place.

Her friend, Dr Hugo Pine (Gig Young) is a wonderful ‘world-renowned egg-head’ and does an excellent job of explaining the WHY when Erica/Doris asks WHY Jim/Gable deceives her:
 Dr. Pine/Gig Young says:
Here’s a man in a responsible position who feels inferior because he has no formal education ...
He meets a teacher, a symbol of academic achievement . . .
By deceiving, dominating and outwitting the teacher, he receives an exhilarating feeling of superiority. . .
His battered and cringing ego emerges, victorious!

Without watching the movie, we know how quickly that victorious feeling will end when he looks into those tearful blue eyes, don’t we?
It’s so important to know where our characters come from to understand the reasons behind their actions. How well do you know your characters? Do you know their parents, how they were raised, where they went to school, their first loves, best friends,  their fears, their religion? Why? Why? Why? We even ask WHY our story needs to be told?
Come on! Teach me something about WHY.