Saturday, July 31, 2010

Made My Goal!

I don't always highlight my own writing life on Net's Book Notes. But today, I'm taking my own advice (from Seriously Write article scheduled for 8/3/10 post) and celebrating. *grin*

In July, I challenged myself to write 35,000 words toward a new project and exceeded that count. (Take a look at the right hand column of this blog to see the counter.)

Wahooo! Thanks to the many ACFW volunteers and fellow Novel Track: Writing trackers who joined me in the challenge. I'm seriously considering taking the challenge in October when it comes around again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Seeds of Summer by Deborah Vogts


I enjoyed Snow Melts in Spring, so when the opportunity presented itself for me to read and review Seeds of Summer, I knew I wanted to get involved.

First, the summary:

A heart-warming contemporary romance set in the Flint Hills of Kansas where a former rodeo queen abandons her dreams in order to care for her deceased father’s ranch and her two half-siblings, only to realize with the help of a young new pastor that God can turn even the most dire circumstances into seeds of hope.

Here’s an interview with the author, Deborah Vogts:

Q: How long have you known you wanted to be an author?

A: Ever since I was in high school. I began writing my Great American Novel as a junior—Splendor of the Sun. That earned me an A++ in Senior English. I studied English and journalism in college, but it wasn’t until 2002 that I began taking serious steps to be published.

Q: Tell us about your journey to getting your books published.

A: There came a time in my life when I felt God prodding me to do more with my writing or risk having the talent taken from me. At that point, I joined a local writer’s group and ACFW, (an online writing organization). I also joined a critique group, started reading writing how-to’s and attended writing conferences. I met my first agent at the ACFW Nashville Conference in 2005. We hit it off at our meeting, and she gave me some tips on making my book series “bigger.” I did that and submitted my idea to her and she took me on. We shopped my Seasons of the Tallgrass series for a year and had a few bites (one of them Zondervan) but no sale. In the end, she released me, which was a real heart breaker. However, we don’t always see the big picture like God does, and six months later I signed with agent, Rachelle Gardner with WordServe Literary, and we had an offer from Zondervan three months after that in May 2008.

Q: How long have you been a published author?

A: My debut book, Snow Melts in Spring, released in July 2009. It is the first book in the Seasons of the Tallgrass series, which are contemporary inspirational romance books published by Zondervan.

Q: Why do you write the kind of books you do?

A: My tag line (and the name of my blog) is Country at Heart. I’ve always enjoyed reading contemporary or historical books with a western, country or small town setting. It’s the life I know and it’s what I enjoy reading. I guess writing about that life is what comes natural to me. I believe my core readers are those who love country life, were raised in the country or who dream of the simple life it offers.

Q: When you held that first book in your hands, what was your first thought?

A: It was really exciting—seeing a dream fulfilled. I laughed, jumped, screamed and giggled. And my family laughed at me. *smile*

Q: How many books are in the Seasons of the Tallgrass series, or how many are you planning?

A: Zondervan contracted me for three books, with options on the fourth. I’m hoping to be able to finish out the seasons with them, and I’m finishing the third book, Blades of Autumn now, which will be released in summer 2011.

Q: What themes exist in Seeds of Summer that you hope the reader sees?

A: When the story begins, Natalie has lost both her parents, so obviously dealing with grief is one theme in the story. What surprised me is that Natalie needed to deal with her mother’s death, which happened when she was a little girl. It surprised me that she’d carried it for so long without coming to terms with it.

Thank you, Deborah, for sharing your work and your heart with us today. *smile*

And now, my review:

Deborah boldly tackles some tough issues in Seeds of Summer—specifically related to family dynamics. The heroine and her half-siblings are orphans. Since she’s older, she must help raise them, which is something she’s been doing for years, as her siblings’ mother isn’t present. I appreciated the heroine’s courage and responsibility to do the tough stuff and rise to the challenge. I appreciated Natalie’s (the heroine’s) wisdom in caring for her siblings, her example of selflessness.

Her hero is a pastor and again, Deborah incorporated a show of wisdom on his part. He tackles human relationships and parishioner’s mistakes with wisdom and readers can learn something from him, though he did not come across as preachy. His interactions with church members themselves were informative.

One of the backdrops is emotional grief, rightly so, as the family is mourning the loss of their father. But because of that canvas, I felt a bit of a drag in reading the story. Also, the pace didn’t keep me interested. Her setting is peaceful and readers who enjoy a prairie or ranch setting will appreciate this. Her writing is a good example of using the setting as a character, just as she did in Book One and I'm sure will do in Books Three and possibly Four. I wish Deborah the best in her writing.

~~~~~

Deborah Vogts and her husband have three daughters and make their home in Southeast Kansas where they raise and train American Quarter Horses. As a student at Emporia State University studying English and journalism, Deborah developed a love for the Flint Hills that has never faded. In writing this series, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God’s great beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Lightkeeper's Daughter by Colleen Coble


What's not to love about this cover?? *grin* Here's the back cover copy:

At a lavish estate in Mercy Falls, California, Addie Sullivan finds danger-and quite possibly the love of her life.

Growing up as the lightkeeper's daughter on a remote island at the turn of the century, Addie Sullivan has lived a hardscrabble life. When a long-lost and wealthy relative finds her and enlists her to work as a governess at a lavish estate, she hopes to discover the truth of her heritage. But at Eaton Hall, nothing is as it seems. Not the idyllic family she hoped for, not the child she was hired to help, not even the aloof man she's immediately attracted to. Soon she must turn for help to Lieutenant John North, a man who views her with suspicion.

As Addie edges closer to the truth, danger threatens even as her romance with John blossoms and together they unravel a decades-old mystery. As Addie faces down her enemy, she discovers that faith in her one true Father is all she needs.


And now, my review:

This was my first Colleen Coble read and her first historical, so we’re both trying something new. Her romance thread is highly enjoyable. I liked how the hero and heroine were “allowed” to build their relationship throughout the story, rather than waiting for everything to come together at the end. Of course, she keeps it wholesome, but it’s worth mentioning how she doesn’t remain in a formulaic pattern for this thread. One of my favorite aspects.

Her heroine is very likable. She’s na├»ve and outspoken and I rooted for her, both in her goal to find and belong to her family, as well as sympathizing with her pursuit of acceptance. Well done.

I understand Colleen writes suspense, but I felt the tone of this novel didn’t strike me as a suspense at first, so when the first threatening situation happens, it seemed forced. Even the book’s back cover copy doesn’t mention suspense—you know, right there near the bar code and genre specs. However, this thread doesn’t detract from the overall story, especially when it kicks into high gear later in the story.

I liked the setting and timing of the story: lighthouses and the early Twentieth Century. Lighthouses, in my opinion, are always a great setting for a novel, especially a historical.

One of Colleen’s spiritual themes was trusting God. Her heroine gets into some scrapes, of course, and she chooses to trust God to get her through them. I felt this was handled perhaps a little too simplistically, because of course the situation gets resolved within a few pages. Life isn’t always that simple; God doesn’t always answer with a “yes.” Still, for the sake of a timely story, it worked. And it’s a worthy theme.

Finally, the cover. I know, books aren’t all about covers, but I absolutely love this cover. The colors and setting, the sky and lighthouse. All of those intrigued me enough to give this book a try. Readers who enjoy suspense, romance and historical settings will enjoy this story. Nicely done.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Christian Fiction Releases: July, 2010


Here are the new releases in Christian fiction as compiled by American Christian Fiction Writers. (ACFW.com) This summer, give yourself permission to grab a beach chair and something cold to sip while you dive into a great novel! Enjoy!

1. A Shore Thing; Otter Bay, Book 2 by Julie Carobini-- A Romance from B&H. A fiery, eco-friendly young woman leads the fight against a large development in her beachfront hometown while falling for the architect assigned to the job.

2. Back on Murder; A Roland March Mystery, Book 1 by J. Mark Bertrand -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Bethany House. Homicide cop Roland March attempts a comeback as corruption and a high profile case threaten to sink him.

3. Beautiful Bandit; The Lone Star Legends Series by Loree Lough -- An Historical from Whitaker House. When rancher Josh Neville rescues a terrified woman who calls herself Dinah, she unwittingly leads notorious killers to his door, putting him and everyone at the Lazy N in jeopardy.

4. Beyond Summer; Blue Sky Hills Series, Book 3 by Lisa Wingate -- Women's Fiction from Peguin Group/NAL. Tam Williams discovers the blessings of community when her father is jailed, and the family moves to downscale Blue Sky Hill where her new friend, Shasta might lose her home to her father's shady mortgage company.

5. Bride in Training; Man's Best Friend Series by Gail Gaymer Martin -- A Romance from Love Inspired. Troubled lives lead to loneliness, Emily and Martin learn, until the Lord teaches them he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.

6. Cattleman's Courtship by Carolyn Aarsen -- A Romance from Love Inspired. Cara Morrison has to fix the past before she can face the future.

7. Doctor in Petticoats; Sophie's Daughters Series, Book #1 by Mary Connealy -- A Romance from Barbour. A burned out doctor is called in because he's a man, while the town's lady doctor does all the work and keeps the doctor from cracking up.

8. Driftwood Lane; 3rd in Series of Stand Alones by Denise Hunter -- A Romance from Thomas Nelson. A love story set on Nantucket Island.

9. Firestorm by Kelly Ann Riley -- A Romance from Steeple Hill. A firefighter falls in love while trying to find her father's killer.

10. Flash Point; Emerald Coast 911 by Stephanie Newtonr -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Love Inspired Suspense. Courage Under Fire.

11. Heart of a Cowboy; 2nd book in the Helping Hands Homeschooling by Margaret Daley -- A Romance from Love Inspired. Zachary Rutgers is perfectly happy with being a loner until he discovers he has a son and must deal with buried feelings concerning Jordan Masterson.

12. Love Finds You in Calico, California by Elizabeth Ludwig -- An Historical from Summerside Press. A young seamstress struggling to survive in a booming mining town is pressed into a marriage of convenience with the local livery owner.

13. Minnesota Moonlight 3-in-1 Collection by Becky Melby & Cathy Wienke -- Romance from Barbour. An ex-con, a storm chaser, and a footloose musician˜three unlikely heroes for three women learning to trust God...and the men He's brought into their lives.

14. Nightshade; Book #1 of the Discarded Heroes series by Ronie Kendig -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Barbour. This Former Navy SEAL is fighting a new battle--the home front!

15. Prodigal Patriot; Vermont #1 by Darlene Franklin -- A Romance from Barbour Heartsong. How can Sally and Josiah battle through the barriers separating Tory and Patriot to find love and forgiveness?

16. Ransome's Crossing; The Ransome Trilogy, Book 2 by Kaye Dacus -- A Romance from Harvest House. Disguising herself as a midshipman to get to her secret fiance, Charlotte Ransome faces danger--and love--crossing the Atlantic.

17. Rodeo Redemption; The Rodeo Royalty Series, Book 1 by Teri Wilson -- A Romance from White Rose Publishing. Josie Turner would rather forget she was ever crowned Rodeo Queen. Can former rodeo cowboy Luke Anderson mend Josie's heart and can one rodeo weekend help them both find redemption?

18. Seeds of Summer; Seasons of the Tallgrass - Book #2 by Deborah Vogts -- A Romance from Zondervan. When a former Miss Rodeo Kansas queen returns home after her father's death to care for the family ranch and her two younger siblings, what follows is a summer full of change, life-lessons and an unexpected romance with the new minister in Diamond Falls.

19. So Over It; Book 3 in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series by Stephanie Morrill -- General Fiction from Revell. Senior year is over and Skylar Hoyt is ready to forgive and forget. Or at least forget.

20. Song of Solomon by Kendra Norman Bellamy -- A Romance from Urban Books. How can he convince her that she's his God-given mate when she's already wearing a wedding ring?

21. Stars in the Night by Cara Putman -- An Historical from Summerside Press. Step back to 1942 Hollywood as Audra Schaeffer tries to find her sister and a killer before it is too late.

22. The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis -- An Historical from Summerside Press. When Emma's father is murdered, she's hired to do the job he could have had--helping track them down by breaking their ciphers.

23. The Engineered Engagement; Book Three in the Kennebrae Brides Series by Erica Vetsch -- An Historical from Barbour Heartsong. Sparks fly when a shipbuilder finds himself engaged to the wrong girl.

24. The Seeker; The Shaker Series # 3 by Ann H. Gabhart -- An Historical from Revell. The story brings alive the strikingly different worlds of the Southern gentry, the simple Shakers and the ravages of war in 1860s Kentucky.

25. The Way to a Man's Heart; The Miller Family Series, Book 3 by Mary Ellis -- A Romance from Harvest House. When all the men beat a path to Leah's diner, her parents don't breathe a sigh of relief until she narrows her suitors from half a dozen down to one.

26. Where the Dogwoods Bloom by Myra Johnson -- A Romance from Barbour Heartsong. Jilly Gardner left Blossom Hills ten years ago, determined never to return, but when Cam Lane calls to ask for her help, she finds she can't say no.