Tuesday, May 19, 2015

5 Mini Book Reviews for May: L. McMaster Bujold, R. Carr, S. Srock, M. Trapp, A. Wisler

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Here's your monthly installment of the Mini Book Reviews. Enjoy!

THE CURSE OF CHALION Lois McMaster Bujold: Fantasy

Lois McMaster Bujold proves again that she is a master storyteller. The Curse of Chalion is one of the best introductions to a new world I've ever read. Cazarile is a fully realized character whose story will hook you and hold you long after you finish. This is a Must Read! 

 THE HOUSE On OLIVE STREET Robyn Carr: Women's Fiction
 
This story is an amazing  examination of the journeys of five women. After the death of the woman who brought these women, all writers, together, they have to examine her life and theirs. Lovely read.


CALLIE Sharon Srock: Christian Women's Fiction

The deceptively simple style allows the hearts and souls of the characters to shine through and reveals the truth at the center of everything.


THE TRAPP FAMILY SINGERS Maria Augusta Trapp: Biography

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the glorious musical, I reread Maria Augusta Trapp's biography of an amazing family. I first read this in junior high and it is even better now. 


UNDER THE SILK HIBICUS Alice Wisler: Historical Fiction


I found the book to be a deep dive into a setting I had only passing knowledge of. Nathan’s story and the view Alice gives of his Japanese American culture is so vivid, you’ll be captured immediately.  Read this book!

Next Week: Author Interview ;-)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Momma Had Words With Me

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I know what you're going to say...This isn't Tuesday! But once you read the following, you won't care. It is Mother's Day and what would be better than the following essay. ;-)

Me, Momma, My brother, and sister--July 2012
 My Momma Had Words With Me

      I don’t know if it’s true anywhere else, but in the South, to “have words with” someone means to fuss, argue, or reprimand. My momma had another purpose for having words with me, for me, and around me. We didn’t discuss why people read or why it was important. My siblings and I just read. The power, magic, and glory of words surrounded us. No lectures were needed. No punishment was forthcoming to make us read. It was second nature to read. After all, our parents read in front of us every day. Momma focused on fiction while Daddy read the newspaper, biographies, and his professional journals.
      So, it was all Momma’s fault that my father-in-law was shocked when my daddy built bookshelves that covered half the walls in our study from the floor to ten-foot ceiling. With wide eyes, he said, “No one has that many books!”

      My husband shrugged. “She does. Everyone in her family does.” He knew there would be no wasted space in our study.
      It was Momma’s fault that we take delight in words. She gave us no choice in the matter. From the time we were toddlers, we all had library cards and joined the summer reading program at the regional library branch in our home town. Every week, we checked out five books.
All the librarians knew us by name.
      How do you feed a growing reading habit? Momma knew. She made sure there were books to read that challenged us. She made reading more books fun and expected. When our abilities to read outstripped our ages and we needed bigger, more complex books, Momma checked out adult books for us on her own library card. As the school librarian at my elementary school, she found harder and harder books for me to read when I had read everything at the lower levels. I clearly remember reading
Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson in the fifth grade. It was my first adult novel and I’ll never forget holding the large book and being carried away into the Southwest by the words.
      In time, my siblings and I found our own preferred genres. When given a list of three hundred books for college-bound students in the 1960’s, we attacked it from different angles. The fact that the complete works of Shakespeare and the great Greek historians were available in our home, made it easy to get started. My sister loves literature. My brother has a taste for biography, science, history, and true life adventure books. I read history, fiction of all types, and poetry.
      As voracious readers, we are the people who keep bookstores—large, small and online—in business. We are the people who always have up-to-date library cards. Our to-be-read lists of new books and old favorites are extensive. None of us is bored as long as there is something to read. And that isn’t likely to happen if we live a thousand years.
      It’s Momma’s fault that there is a longstanding family joke about the end of civilization. If an asteroid or other near extinction event occurred, our combined libraries would form the basis for restarting science, math, history, and literature. We could quickly raise man’s knowledge back to its former heights.
      The majesty and beauty of the words I grew up with created the desire to shape and form my own stories, to create new adventures, new people to meet, and new places to go. Momma encouraged me. She kept the poetry I wrote as an eight year old. Her simple acceptance made no obstacle insurmountable. Her faith that I could do anything I wanted allowed me to experiment and try different styles. She not only taught me to love words, but the persistence it takes to shape, order, and arrange them in coherent ways. When she gave me the love of words, she gave me the tools to accomplish what I desired to do. She gave me the ability to tell stories that soothes hurts, inspires challenges, and entertains. My mother gave me life—physically, mentally, and emotionally. She gave me dreams and encouraged me to strive to reach for them. My mother gave me words to share and the persistence to achieve the dream of being a writer. She still encourages me to write and inspires me with her own voracious reading.
      Thank you, Momma, for having words with me. I love you.


Next Week: May Mini Book Reviews ;-)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG: Fail Big

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

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

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

The awesome co-hosts for the the May 6 posting of the IWSG will be Eva Solar, Melanie Schulz, Lisa-Buie Collard, and Stephen Tremp!

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It's been said that Michael Jordan counseled his fellow players to play big and screw up big. If they played timidly for fear of the mess-ups, they'd stop playing. 

I think writing is the same way. If you don't try to go for the gold, you'll settle for sand. If you don't try to write a query or a synopsis, for fear that you'll fail, you will most assuredly fail. So instead of trying to protect ourselves from failure, we'll get nothing done, nothing finished.

I know I've looked all the things I need to do to get my MS ready for querying, and I get really discouraged. Look at all the ways I can Fail Big! But I'm going to Play Big. If I crash and burn, I'll have learned what not to do.

Source

  • Finish the story
  • Polish the story
  • Get beta reader input
  • Polish again and again if necessary
  • Write synopses and queries
  • Research agents who might be interested in the story
  • Etc. 
  •  
There's a lot on this list that could be epic fails, but I'm going to Play Big.

So what are you going to do to Play Big? I promise I'm interested in what you have planned. ;-)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April Author Interview: Alice Jay Wisler

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I met Alice Wisler through the American Christian Fiction Writers Association and one of the Facebook groups that I frequent. When she highlighted her latest book Under the Silk Hibiscus, I had to read it. I wasn’t disappointed. Be sure to check out her website. I’d already read her lovely book Still Life in Shadows and it was great getting to meet this wonderful author.


Here’s Amazon’s blurb for Under the Silk Hibicus:

During World War Two, Nathan and his family are sent to Heart Mountain, an internment camp in Wyoming for Japanese-Americans. Nathan's one desire is to protect the family's gold pocket watch, a family heirloom brought over from Japan. He fails; the watch is stolen. Struggling to make sense of his life in a bleak camp as the only responsible man of the household, Nathan discovers truths about his family, God, and the girl he loves.

I found the book to be a deep dive into a setting I had only passing knowledge of. Nathan’s story and the view Alice gives of his Japanese American culture is so vivid, you’ll be captured immediately.  Read this book!

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ZM: Welcome to The Shade, Alice. I love Under the Silk Hibiscus because you let us into Nathan and his family’s life without flinching from the ugliness of the WWII era. How did your knowledge of the Japanese culture aid your depiction of this very real family?

Alice:  Thanks for letting me be your guest, Zan.  It’s good to be here.  Growing up in Japan helped me understand many of the cultural aspects of my fictionalized family in my novel. I know that family, responsibility, and honor are important and highly valued. I wanted to make sure I depicted that with the Mori family.

ZM: How did you start writing? Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.

Alice:  I wanted to write a book ever since I could read books.  I was in first and second grades at Kyoto International School when my teacher, Miss Terwilliger, had me read my stapled-and-stick-figure illustrated stories to my classmates.  She believed in me and that stuck with me over the years.

ZM: What inspires your books? How do you discover the stories?

Alice: People, glimpses of the heart, truths God teaches—those all inspire me. I discover my stories while driving to a conference, while on a walk on a spring morning, when sharing coffee with friends. I keep a little notebook in my purse to jot things down when something strikes me.  Sometimes, the muse hits me during Sunday morning and it looks like I’m taking sermon notes in the church pew, but really, I’m deciding how the sermon topic will fit in with my main character!

ZM: (whispering) I’ve been known to do that, too. It’ll be our secret. ;-)

Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Alice:  I love contemporary fiction the best.  My favorite authors are Amy Tan and Elizabeth Berg for their ability to capture people and scenes that tug at my heart. I like novels that are well-crafted, have a touch of humor, and are realistic.

ZM: What is your next book about and when can we expect to get to read it?

Alice:  We shall see, Zan, we shall see.  I’m working on a number of both fiction and non-fiction manuscripts right now.

ZM: Thank you for dropping by Into the Shade of the Cherry Tree, Alice! I can’t wait to read some more of your stories.



Alice J. Wisler was born and raised in Japan as a missionary kid. She is the author of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning, and five novels. Rain Song and How Sweet It Is were Christy finalists. Ever since the cancer death of her four-year-old son Daniel in 1997, she has found solace in writing from heartache and teaches Writing the Heartache workshops across the country.
She lives in Durham, NC with her husband and children where they have a wood carving business, Carved By Heart. Visit her website at alicewisler.com.

Next Week: IWSG--Fail Big

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

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

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 SOULBOUND Kristen Callihan: Historical-Paranormal-Steampunk Romance

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

SHOGUN James Clavell: Historical

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

THE OUTER BANKS HOUSE Diann Ducharme: Historical Romance

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


THE EXPATRIATES: SONG OF THE SENDING Corinne O'Flynn: YA Fantasy

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

Next Week: Author Interview with Alice Wisler

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April Tip: 5 Links for conquering the Sinister Synopsis

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 http://www.gocomics.com/bignate/2015/03/08

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

Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis Janet Friedman

How to Write a Synopsis--Nathan Bransford

Learning to Love the Synopsis Jael McHenry

The Anatomy of a Short Synopsis Christine Fonesca

How to Write a Synopsis of a Novel Glenn Strathy



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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

4 April Snips!

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

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

Of course, Laura Grace has azaleas, too


Nearly Summer...

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoyed the snips. ;-) 

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

IWSG: What about that SNI?

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

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

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

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


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

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

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

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

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