Top Ten Tuesday

Today’s list selected by The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten New-to Me Authors I Read for the First Time in 2016.

  1. This first author is not just New-to-Me, but she released her first book in October 2016 — Unblemished. I loved this story and eagerly await the sequel due to release in July 2017! The author is Sara Ella.
  2. Charles Martin is a New-to-Me author, who apparently has been writing for quite a while. I had never heard of him until 2016, with his release of Long Way Gone, which I highly recommend.
  3. Sherry V. Ostroff released her first book in 2016. It’s a memoir of her mother’s life — The Lucky One. It’s an easy read and extremely interesting. Ms. Ostroff is currently working on her first fiction novel, which you can read about on her website.
  4. Robin Sloan is another new author in 2016, which makes him New-to-Me. I really enjoyed his book Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. He is also working on a new novel to be released in the fall of 2017.
  5. Dina L. Sleiman was a New-to-Me author in 2015. I LOVED her Dance from Deep Within and was very disappointed to learn that she is not currently planning a sequel to it because her publisher won’t publish one because Dance from Deep Within didn’t sell as well as they wanted it to, so I don’t think I can really count this one.                However, Dina does have a series that I read the first book of in 2016 — Dauntless. The series is called “The Valiant Hearts Series” and it is historical fiction set in medieval times, and her female characters are strong, bold and courageous.
  6. Debra Clopton is a New-to-Me author in 2016, and I LOVED her book, Kissed by a Cowboy. I highly recommend it for all you romance readers.
  7. So, Shelley Adina is a name I had heard before 2016 and I knew that she wrote steampunk. However, I never got around to reading any of her books until 2016, when I read A Lady of Devices. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and hope to read the rest of the series someday.
  8. Melanie Dickerson is a New-to-Me author in 2016 and I read her book, The Golden Braid. It was an enjoyable read and I hope to read more of her books in the future.
  9. I am currently reading a New-to-Me author in 2016, James M. Dixon. I am reading his book, Things I’ll Never Forget: Memories of a Marine in Vietnam. I am about two thirds of the way through the book, and I don’t usually read these kinds of books. I always expect them to be filled with graphic violence, but Mr. Dixon has done a great job writing this book and allowing the reader to really “see” and “experience” some of what it was like to be a Marine in Vietnam without  being too graphic. He tells some wonderful stories as well as those of the heartbreak that come with war.                           Mr. Dixon also has a children’s short mystery novel available, Secrets of the Warden’s House. You can find both of Mr. Dixon’s books on Amazon.
  10. I’m not a big fan of formula writing, but in 2016 I found that I really enjoyed Her Christmas Hero by Lorraine Beatty. It’s part of her “Home in Dover” series for Love Inspired romance stories. Lorraine created lovable characters who faced difficult life situations and found love despite the fact that neither of them were really looking for it.

Update on My Writing

Yes, I’m skipping Flash Fiction Friday again this week. I’m sorry. I’m struggling with my writing right now, and here’s why:

I entered part of my novel in a contest that I felt was a worthwhile contest with a prestigious organization. I didn’t make it past the first level of judges, but that doesn’t bother me.

So, what does bother you? You may ask.

What bothers me is the fact that one of the judge’s feedback can be completely tossed out the window because the judge micro-focused on one thing that I had my character do that this judge felt was unacceptable without knowing how or if the character’s action would be redeemed by the end of the story,  and this judge ranted about it for most of the feedback and gave me a ridiculously low score because of it.

Now, I am not one who gets my feelings hurt about my writing very easily. I have learned how to be thick-skinned. I have been having people critique my work for two years. No, not this same manuscript. This is my second attempt at writing a novel in two years. The first one became trash when I tried to add 15,000 words to it in 30 days and it became so much of a mess, I felt it was just better to put it away and chalk it up as a learning experience.

The thing is, the other two judges who judged this same piece gave scores that were more closely related, and closer to what I figured I may score. They also offered some constructive criticism and neither of them mentioned the one thing the other judge couldn’t shift his or her focus from. I also had two different critique groups critiquing this WIP for months, and I have been working hard on revising and editing as I continue to work on the story itself, and I know that I have improved. Many of my critique partners have also pointed my improvement out.

However, the two judges who gave me worthwhile feedback made some good points; points that a couple of other people had also mentioned, which is a good thing.

So, you repeat, “What bothers you?”

What bothers me is how HARD writing is! So, if you are a newbie, be sure you understand WRITING IS HARD WORK — at least good writing; writing that readers will want to read; writing that you put your blood, sweat and tears into because YOU WANT TO BE THE BEST WRITER YOU CAN BE, not just a writer who writes a story and self-publishes without having anyone edit or critique the story just because they can. No, I WANT TO BE THE BEST WRITER I CAN BE, so I’ll be rewriting chapter one A-GAIN, and probably making a lot of changes throughout as I strive to complete this manuscript; to make it a story that READERS WILL WANT TO READ.

So, that means that this story will take me much longer than a year to complete. Yeah, NaNoWriMo may say you complete a novel in a month, but I got news for you, that’s just the ROUGH DRAFT! Then come the critiques and edits, at least one of the edits should be a “self edit”, and the critiques should be done by people you know and trust who know about writing. Then you should have an actual editor edit it and this all leads to MULTIPLE REWRITES! Then, if you really want your manuscript to be the best it can be, you send it to Beta Readers for feedback, and then revise and rewrite one more time! And then, if you’re lucky, it will finally be the best it can be and you can then publish it.

And, no, I did not participate in NaNoWriMo. Maybe some day I will, but right now, I have enough hard work to do on my writing without having to meet daily writing goals to finish a novel, that won’t be publishable in a month anyway.

How about you? Have you learned that WRITING IS HARD? Do you keep writing anyway? Have you done NaNoWriMo and what was that experience like?

Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror

I apologize for not posting a poem here today for those of you who like my poetry, but I haven’t been feeling very poetical lately. Therefore, since I finished reading this book on Tuesday night, I wanted to write my review.

Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror (Records of the Ohanzee Book 1) by [Smith, Rachel R.]

Book Blurb: An Heiress, an ancient prophecy, and a masquerade…

Nerissa, the Heiress of Chiyo, prepares for the masquerade celebrating the twentieth anniversary of a thwarted assassination attempt on her family. Longing to be admired for herself and not her title, she arranges to switch costumes and enjoy the ball in blissful anonymity. But, when the fateful night finally comes, a prophetic warning of a second attack arrives too late, and the evening turns from revelry and romance to violence. After being pulled from the chaos by an enigmatic guardian, Nerissa learns that the Royal Family has been concealing a formidable secret for generations—and it is only one of many that are about to be revealed.

My Review: Nerissa is a very interesting character, who captured my attention from the beginning. There are many characters in this story who add dimension and intrigue to the story. Rachel R. Smith does an excellent job at creating characters that make you care about them, cheer for them and draw you in to the story. Although, due to the somewhat complicated plot, some of the characters that seem to be important to the story are not developed as much as I would like to see. This could happen in the next book, however.

This story was filled with intrigue, danger and a touch of romance. Sadly, the romance may have ended before it really began, but there may be another romance beginning. The plot is strong and holds the readers’ interest, though it does tend to slow down a little too much at places.

Nerissa changes a lot from the beginning of this book to the end due to circumstances caused by the violence that erupted at the masquerade ball, another sign of a good author. An author who writes a story in which the main character shows growth and change of some sort from the beginning to the end of the story has done a good job.

Now Nerissa has difficult decisions to make. Will the decisions she makes lead to success or failure? Will the romance that seemed to bud during the masquerade be able to bloom, or will rules and regulations forbid it? What will happen to Chiyo and the people Nerissa cares about?

If you are a fan of YA fantasy or YA historical, you will probably be drawn into this story too.

I can’t say that I am a fan of the style in which the story is written. It is written in a serialized style with a story line that flows continuously through the books, and there are four books in the series. I have read series books before, but they usually have a fairly strong conclusion even though the story continues in the rest of the books in the series. This, however, ends right as a decision is made and they are planning their action, so the reader is left completely hanging and MUST read the next book to find out what will happen next. It’s an effective marketing ploy, but I still don’t like it. I am only thankful that with this particular book, the next two are already written and available and Ms. Smith is working on completing the final book of the series to be released in early 2017. However, if I had read this book and would have had to wait six months to a year for the next installment, I’m not sure I would bother. I don’t like to be kept waiting to see where a story will go next. Yes, all series do that to an extent, but not in the middle part of the major plot as this story does.

However, since the series is nearly finished and I do like Nerissa and a couple of other characters and want to see how things turn out for them in the end, I will most likely finish reading this series, but if Ms. Smith plans another series like this one, I don’t think I’ll pick up the first one. I have many books I want to read, and don’t want to have to be tied to one author’s work as I wait for another installment.

Top Ten Tuesday

Today’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is a Holiday Gift Guide Freebie, which means you create a list of ten books that would be great gifts for Dads, YA lovers, etc. So my TTT is Top Ten Books to buy for your Middle Grade Reader, and every one of these books is Book 1 of a series.

  1. Adventures in the Northwoods Vol. 1: The Disappearing Stranger - By: Lois Walfrid Johnson

Kate O’Connell and her mother are left to struggle in 1906 Minneapolis after her father dies in a construction accident. Praying for a new husband for her mother, when God actually answers her prayers in the affirmative, Kate dreads what will happen next. Becoming part of a Swedish family in Wisconsin, Kate begins to get into conflicts with her step-brother Anders. When she notices some strange things happening around the farm, will she and Anders learn to work together to solve the mystery?

2. Adventures in Odyssey The Imagination Station ® #1: Voyage with the Vikings - By: Marianne Hering, Paul McCusker

Join cousins Beth and Patrick as they travel back in time to Greenland circa 1000 to find a Viking sunstone! While visiting Whit’s Soda Shoppe, the cousins find a mysterious, old letter in Imagination Station asking for Viking sunstone; if the sunstone isn’t found then someone named Albert will be imprisoned. Beth and Patrick race through time, meet the Vikings Erik the Red and Leif Eriksson, and locate the sunstone.but when they return to the Soda Shoppe another note is waiting for them requesting a silver goblet.

3. The Swamp Robber, Sugar Creek Gang Series #1 - By: Paul Hutchens

The Sugar Creek Gang series chronicles the faith-building adventures of a group of fun-loving, courageous Christian boys. These classic stories have been inspiring children to grow in their faith for more than five decades. Children continue to grow up relating to members of the gang as they struggle with the application of their Christian faith to the adventure of life.

The Sugar Creek Gang discovers a “disguise” hidden in a sycamore hollow. Does it belong to the bank robber hiding in the swamp? A mysterious map hidden near the tree proves to be even more exciting then the disguise. Before the adventure ends, the gang encounters the robber, helps Bill Collins welcome a new baby sister, and saves the victim of a black widow spider bite. Join Bill and the rest of the Sugar Creek Gang as they learn the lesson of “sowing” and “reaping.”

4. Viking Quest Series #1: Raiders from the Sea - By: Lois Walfrid Johnson

In one harrowing day, Viking raiders capture Bree and her brother Devon and take them from their home in Ireland. After the young Viking prince Mikkel sets Devon free on the Irish coast far from home, Bree and Devin embark on separate journeys to courage. Readers will be captivated by the unfolding drama as Bree sails to Norway on the Viking ship and Devin travels the dangerous road home.

5. The Ark, the Reed, and the Fire Cloud (The Amazing Tales of Max & Liz Book 1) by [Cote, Jenny]

Max, a Scottish terrier, takes his usual morning trot down to the loch where he hears a mysterious Voice humming in the reeds saying, “Come to Me…follow the fire cloud.” He embarks on an unknown journey from Scotland, meeting other animals along the way including Liz, a brilliant, petite black cat from France. Max and Liz become the brave leaders for their group, and eventually, for the entire ark. The mysterious journey, filled with danger, humor, trials, and triumphs, leads them across Europe to the Middle East. The moment of arrival for these animals is spectacular as the ark is miraculously transformed into the animals’ natural habitats.

Throughout the previous one hundred years, Noah and family have endured ridicule from villagers while building the ark. Now this family must painfully witness the loss of lives and total destruction of the earth through the mighty flood.

After the journey to the ark, the voyage in the ark begins. Liz finds ways to keep the animals occupied, including daily exercise led by the flamingos and a talent night where the animals entertain each other with their natural abilities. But a sinister plot develops Someone is out to kill Noah and his family. Liz follows clues that lead her to discover a stowaway who has deceived them all. Max and Liz foil the plot, but at a high price. The end climaxes with unexpected twists and turns, taking the reader from despair to hope.

6. The Prophet, the Shepherd, and the Star (Epic Order of the Seven) by [Cote, Jenny L.]

The Prophet, the Shepherd, and the Star launches the Epic Order of the Seven series, picking up where The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz left off. The Maker has been building a team of animal friends for thousands of years to be his envoys for pivotal points of history.
With this new, critical mission, the team will finally be completed by Messiah and known forevermore as the Order of the Seven. A talking, musical scroll, a pigeon-flying-and-camel-driving mouse, a writing cat, a courageous lamb, and two lion-fighting dogs provide non-stop action in this adventure that brings the Christmas story to life as never before. You will be astounded at the accuracy and perfection of the prophecies and God’s unfolding plan to bring Jesus into the world.
The seven hundred–year mission begins long before the Nativity, as animal friends Max, Liz, Al, Kate, and Nigel work with Isaiah, who prophesies about the coming Messiah. The team intervenes with the Assyrians that threaten to take Jerusalem and prove Isaiah’s prophecies false. They go with faithful Daniel and friends into the Babylonian captivity for the heart-pounding thrills of the fiery furnace and the lions’ den. They meet Gabriel as he appears to Daniel, and hide a secret scroll of prophecy for the wise men to someday discover as they study the Star. The book climaxes with the unfolding Christmas story as the animals once again see Gabriel with Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.
Experience the hardships of Mary and Joseph as they obediently accept their calling to parent Messiah. Joyfully watch God provide for their every need through a lovable Jewish rabbi who dares to believe them and an unlikely Roman soldier who protects them. The shepherds and the wise men never know their steps are guided by these small animals that lead them to baby Jesus. Relentless in his pursuit is the evil lion, who seeks to devour them and stop the unfolding events leading to Messiah’s birth.

7. 

My name is Michael Vey, and the story I’m about to tell you is strange. Very strange. It’s my story.

To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary. Michael has special powers. Electric powers.

Michael thinks he’s unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers, and friends if he’s to survive.

8. Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione (The Knights of Arrethtrae) by [Black, Chuck]

A dangerous new order threatens the mission of the Knights of Arrethtrae. Only loyalty to the King can bring victory!

As the Knights of the Prince await His triumphant return, they are steadfast in their mission to take His story into the kingdom and recruit as many as are willing. But when a new and dangerous threat is revealed, their mission is jeopardized.

Sir Kendrick and his young charge, the impetuous Sir Duncan, are sent on a mission to discover the identity and origin of a secretive new order known as the Conquistero Knights. They travel to the city of Bel Lione where Lord Ra has been enticing young people in the kingdom to join his festivals, after which many choose not to return home. Their families keep quiet for fear of repercussion.

When Sir Duncan disappears while trying to discover the truth of Lord Ra’s castle, Sir Kendrick attempts to find and enlist the help of a mysterious warrior. Time is short for he must save Duncan and call upon the knights of Chessington to join in the battle against the evil Lord Ra.

Journey to Arrethtrae, where these knights of noble heart live and die in loyal service to the King and the Prince. These knights are mighty, for they serve a mighty King. They are…the Knights of Arrethtrae!

9. Eye of the Oracle, Oracles of Fire Series #1 - By: Bryan Davis

What ancient mysteries lurk behind the amazing stories in the Dragons in Our Midst series? Reading this prequel, you’ll journey back in time to learn how dragons survived the flood and about the ancient evil force that led to their demise in the days of King Arthur. Discover the mysteries that led to the bestselling fantasy adventure that began with Raising Dragons. With heart-stopping fantasy action and clear spiritual insights, Eye of the Oracle will captivate young and old alike, and it will challenge every reader to search deep within for answers to the mysteries in their own hearts.

10. Raising Dragons (Dragons in our Midst Book 1) by [Davis, Bryan]

Raising Dragons is a contemporary fantasy novel that inspires young people to dig deep within to find their God-given strengths and use them to overcome any obstacle. It is both a hair-raising, modern-day adventure and a glimpse into another world-a world of knights, dragons, and fair maidens.

A boy learns of his dragon past; a girl has known of hers for years. They combine their faith, courage, and love to overcome evil, a slayer who seeks to bring an end to dragon heritage, forever.

Cyber Monday Holiday Shopping

If you’re looking for a gift that keeps on giving, why not consider today’s Cyber Monday deal from Cross River Media? You can choose three of their publications for 20% off OR sign up for their newsletter and receive a 40% discount! And this offer doesn’t end at midnight; it’s available until December 24th!

Also, why not make Abba’s Promise that includes one of my short stories as one of your three choices?

Simply go to Cross River Media for more information and shop in their bookstore.

Autumn’s Song

Autumn’s Song
by Kelly F. Barr

My feet crunch through the fallen leaves
As my eyes marvel at the colors of those clinging yet.
My hair blows softly in the gentle breeze
And the sky turns red and orange as the sun begins to set.

I love the air so fresh and crisp;
The taste of fresh pumpkin and apple treats.
From out of a neighbor’s chimney escapes a wisp.
Autumn gives my heart pleasure beats.