What Have I Been Reading Lately?

I suppose some of you may be missing my book reviews.  I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve done one because I have been reading books in the genre I am trying to write in hopes to help me with my scene setting.

Therefore, I have been reading a lot of Love Inspired Historical Fiction books and other Historical books about the old west.  Some of the titles I recently finished are:

The Love Inspireds:
Wagon Train Reunion by Linda Ford
The Runaway Bride by Moelle Marchand
Hill Country Cattleman by Laurie Kingery

Other Historical Fiction:
Heart of Gold by Robin Lee Hatcher

I enjoyed each of these stories and if you like romance stories of cowboys in the old west, you would enjoy them as well.

I’m not sure when I will get back to doing book reviews because my main focus is writing my novel, and now I have begun to read the Love Comes Softly and Prairie Legacy series by Janette Oke.  These are older books but are still great stories of the old west as well, and so I continue to read for help with my writing.

Do you like old west stories involving romance with cowboys?

Top Ten Tuesday

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday suggestion, as per The Broke and Bookish, is “Ten Reasons I Love X” and you can place whatever you like in the spot of “X”.  Therefore, I am going to do “Ten Reasons I Love Janette Oke”.

  1.  When I first gave my heart to the Lord and became a Christian, the first Christian fiction books I read were books written by Janette Oke.
  2. I love every book that I have ever read by Janette Oke, although, unfortunately, I have not read them all. Her characters capture my heart.
  3. I love that many of Janette’s stories are Christian historical romantic fiction.  Maybe that’s why I decided that clean historical romantic fiction is what I want to write.
  4. Although I have only read five of the twelve books in Janette’s “Women of the West” series, A Gown of Spanish Lace and Drums of Change are two of my favorite Janette Oke stories. Drums of Change is a special favorite because it is about an Indian girl, and I have always had a fondness and fascination for the Indians.  My great-great-grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian woman.  Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of meeting her.
  5. One of my favorite series of all time is one written by Janette Oke, and that is the Love Comes Softly series.  In that series, Janette created two characters that all of her readers fell in love with, Marty and Clark Davis.
  6. Janette Oke cares about her readers and their opinions.  She originally wrote Love Comes Softly as a single book, but many of her readers wanted more, and so with the encouragement of an editor at Bethany House publishing, she wrote a second book, and the series eventually turned into an eight novel series. When readers still wanted more, Janette wrote four more novels, The Prairie Legacy series, where the series of Clark and Marty Davis and their family finally ended because at the end of twelve novels, Clark and Marty had reached their final years together and Janette nor her readers wanted to mourn their deaths.  So finally, the readers were satisfied, and Janette had cared enough about her readers to change one novel into a series of twelve novels, and that remains, maybe, the best loved series Janette has written.
  7.  Some of Janette Oke’s stories have been made into movies.  The Love Comes Softly series was made into movies, and I LOVE them!  (Well, the ones I have seen) I have the complete book and movie series of Love Comes Softly, including the Prairie Legacy series, although I have not read the Prairie Legacy series.  I plan to read all of these twelve novels very soon, and then sit down and watch the movies!
  8. I recently found a book at a bargain book store that is a book about Janette Oke written by her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan, and I can’t wait to read it and learn more about one of my favorite authors!
  9. Janette Oke also wrote another of my favorite book series and that is her Seasons of the Heart series.  It is a four book series.
  10. The biggest reason I love Janette Oke is because not only does she care about her readers, she also cares about future writers and those who write letters to her.  I wrote a letter to her back in 1996, when I was hoping to soon become a published author.  I sent her a letter expressing my love for her writing and I sent her a short story of my own and asked for feedback and advice on becoming a published author.  Now, you and I both know that successful writers don’t usually answer their own fan mail.  They don’t have time, and they don’t read stories fans send them asking for writing advice.  Well, I want you to know that Janette Oke did just that.  She read my letter and the story I sent and she sent me a two page letter responding with answers to some of my questions about publishing at the time!  She offered me some tips on my writing and encouraged me to keep writing!  This busy, successful writer took the time to personally respond to my letter!  What a sweet, caring woman Janette Oke is!  I am so glad that I was bold in writing to her.  I still have the letter she sent me in the original envelope it was sent in, and it still means a lot to me today!I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Janette Oke in person or having any other contact or correspondence with her, but she will always remain special to me for taking the time to encourage me in my writing, even if it did take me considerably longer to really get serious about my writing.

My Writing Life

Okay, so I am working on an historical romance story that takes place in the old west.  I have ideas for at least two more books, possibly three, to create a series.

I’m part of several writing groups that offer critiques or are strictly critique groups.  Also, a couple of weeks ago I attended a writers’ conference where I had two appointments for one-on-one conferences with published authors to get input on part of my story.  Of course, I have things I need to work on and am very grateful for the two writers who were kind enough to give me advice.

Being a visual learner, one of the writers, my friend, Mike Dellosso, gave me some great advice that he worded in a way that created a picture in my mind, which I know I will not forget and will be able to apply to my writing.  You see, I am struggling with setting the scenes because I’ve been told not to write too much description.  Therefore I had swung to the opposite extreme and wasn’t writing enough description.  Mike told me to put myself in my character’s shoes and use my five senses and describe what my character is seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. as he walks down the street in that old, dusty western town.  He also gave me some examples which made this advice come alive for me.

A few days after that, I shared a piece of this same story with the critique group I recently joined.  I was extremely nervous and afraid of what might happen in this group.  I was pleasantly surprised that there were many positive things said (One lady really likes my main character) and they also offered some great advice.

Therefore, on Thursday night when I met with my weekly writers’ group, I was feeling overwhelmed about how to go about sorting through all of the advice and applying the needed changes to my story.  I just didn’t know where to begin.  My friend, Laura, who just finished edits on her first novel had great words to help me.  She suggested that I get rid of any advice that I didn’t believe was helpful, which I had already done.  Then she said to go through the ones who offered the least amount of changes and work toward the one who offered the greatest amount of changes.  She said that by the time I get to the one with the greatest amount of changes, I probably will be surprised to find that I’ve already taken care of many of those changes from things the others suggested.  Ahh, thank you, Laura, you gave me a workable plan that I can handle.

I am so thankful to have met and made connections with writers who have gone before me who are willing to help me on my journey.  As writers, we spend a lot of time alone working on our craft, but we need each other.  We need the help and encouragement of others and then we need to pass that on to those who come behind us.

How about you?  Who’s been helping you on your writing journey?

 

Top Ten Tuesday

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday’s list as suggested by The Broke and the Bookish is: Ten of my Most Recent 5 Star Reads.

I have written reviews of all of these books on Amazon.com.  However, I wouldn’t say that all of these are “recent” as I do not give out “5 Star” reviews easily.  To me, 5 stars are for books that are outstanding, in their story line, in having well developed characters that I love and care about and hate to say goodbye to and in the quality of the writing.

The last book on this list, I read and reviewed in September of 2013, #9 I read and reviewed in December 2014, #’s 1-3 are the most recent – I read and reviewed those in 2016, all the rest I read and reviewed in 2015.

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Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

Dauntless is the first book in the “Valiant Hearts” series by Dina L. Sleiman.  It is an historical fiction novel that includes adventure, danger and romance.

Born a Baron’s daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father’s failed assassination attempt upon the king.  Merry will go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children in her care.  The group becomes known as “The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest.”

Merry’s life becomes more challenging when an old friend finds her after thinking her dead for two years.

Ms. Sleiman did an excellent job creating characters that wind your care and your heart quickly.  Merry appears as a female Robin Hood, but her and her group are quite different.  As danger lurked around every corner, I found myself routing for Merry and her group.  Another situation arises that caused a dilemma for my heart and mind as I read and found it difficult to know who to route for in the romance department.

Ms. Sleiman did an excellent job of resolving the story line at the end without causing my heart to break for any one of my beloved characters.  I finished the book feeling happy for Merry and her group and satisfied that I had read a good book worthy of my time.

I recommend this story for anyone who loves to read about strong women, adventure, history and romance.  I look forward to digging into Book Two of the series, Chivalrous.

 

The Evolution of a Writer

It’s been a little over three years since I re-entered the writing world.  The first year, I simply studied — reading books and magazine articles and blogs about the writing craft and what’s been happening in the writing world, as well as attending as many affordable, one-day writers’ conferences I could, and I joined a local writers’ group that meets once a month and I have been attending faithfully, for the most part, for these three plus years.

The second year, I began to write again, but I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be writing.  I couldn’t decide on a genre.  I prayed for God to reveal his will for my writing.  Then, I got an idea and I started writing, but I wasn’t excited about it.  However, I wrote a bit, received some critiques, and then spoke with a writer and marketer at a conference, who offered me some great ideas/advice.  That gave me some excitement.  Unfortunately, the excitement was fleeting, and then I thought I’d finish the story and enter it into a contest.  Long story short, due to technical difficulties, I missed the contest deadline.  Being frustrated about missing the deadline and really just feeling “done” with the story, I let it sit for a month before picking it up and doing a read-through.  Ugh!  So glad I missed that deadline!  The ending is rushed.  The ending isn’t at all what I wanted it to be, and my timeline is a mess!  Some friends have/are read/reading it and offering me feedback, which I will read through carefully and make notes of the things they suggest that I think should be changed.  I will eventually edit, rework, and revise this story to create a, hopefully, better-than-good story.  I may even publish it someday.

However, I have evolved!  What do I mean by that? you may ask.  Well, I have finally found my genre — historical romantic fiction!  I’ve had a story brewing in my brain, even while working on the above-mentioned story, and I recently sat down to begin working on it.  What I first knew I must do, was to research the time period and the place.  I researched to choose appropriate names for my main characters, and as my plot line began to form in my brain, I researched a few other important details.  What do you think I found, in addition to what I was looking for, in all of this researching?  More great circumstances to add to my plot line!  I have completely fallen in love with this genre!

I know what you’re thinking, “So does this mean you’re not a pantser anymore?”  Well, let me just say, “I’m not a plotter, but I’m not a pantser either.”  I now fall somewhere in between, but I have found that while researching and building my plot line, then by creating my characters and their backstories, I have found a place that will allow me to plan enough for historical romantic fiction that gives me the historical facts I need but doesn’t require so much time and drudgery that it kills my creativity and my desire to write the story.  As a matter of fact, it has simply fueled my excitement and eagerness to write the story, and I am sure with the bit of research and planning I put in before beginning the actual story, I will write a much better first draft than the last one.

How about you?  How long have you been writing and how has what you have learned helped you to evolve into a better writer?  I’d love for you to leave a comment and share your story.