Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: The Bishop's Wife

What an absolute delight! I’ve long wanted to read a novel where my LDS (Mormon) faith was a relevant, deep part of the characters and story, in a book that wasn’t didactic and one that was aimed at a national audience, not just for Mormons. HERE IT IS, people!

THE BISHOP’S WIFE, by Mette Ivie Harrison is billed as a mystery, and while the mystery element is crucial to the story, I see it as the hanger on which the rest of the story is draped—the mystery holds up and gives shape to the characters and events. I loved Linda, the title character, with all of her strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. She’s real and flawed, often overwhelmed, but always doing her best, even when she’s hard on herself.

The story has a wonderful cast of varied characters, people that felt real to me—possibly because I know people like them living in my current and past neighborhoods and wards (congregations). I was especially touched by how Linda’s drive to investigate and poke her nose into others’ business is motivated by the loss of her own daughter many years before.

Her husband, the bishop, is just as real: a very much mortal man trying to do his best to care for those under his charge, doing so with blinders he isn’t even aware of. He’s easy to like even when you don’t agree with his ideas or actions because, like Linda, he’s honestly trying.

This is a great book for readers who enjoy women’s fiction and cozy mystery. It’s not a rip-roaring James Bond episode with explosions and car chases; the pace is much gentler as the author weaves the tale, laying down layer upon layer to gradually reveal the full picture.

It’s beautifully written, unpredictable yet satisfying, and a book I hope will find its way into many hands—it deserves to be widely read. I suspect that it would make a fantastic book club selection; so many parts are thought-provoking and would make for fascinating discussion. One element that will stay with me: Who ARE the people around me, really? I can’t know. Everyone has secrets. Most people have secrets that are benign, while others’ secrets are dark and twisted. And we simply can’t know which is which based on appearance.

My only (very minor) complaint: There were a few factual errors regarding the Mormon faith, which surprised me, seeing as the author is Mormon herself. They may well have been simple oversights, and seeing as I read an uncorrected ARC, I’m going to assume that those things will be corrected before the book officially hits shelves. That’s why I won’t list them; they may not be in the final version anyway, and even if they’re not fixed, those things are minor enough that the typical reader, especially one unfamiliar with the LDS faith, wouldn’t even know they’re there. The errors don’t have any negative impact on the story.

 It’s a rare book that I feel I can broadcast far and wide, recommending it to friends. This is one of them. Well done, Mette! THE BISHOP'S WIFE won't be out until December 30. Keep it in mind when you get an Amazon gift certificate for Christmas! Even better, go ahead and pre-order it HERE right now.

**Reminder: I have a standing policy of not accepting review requests from authors or publishers Reviews posted here are few and far between, and are always for books I've read and have personally decided to review here. Please do not contact me with review requests.**

Friday, September 19, 2014

Big Ebook Sale

Don't miss out on this clean ebook sale!

Lots of great deals here, including a 3-book set for 99 cents (that's 33 cents per novel!). My own Portrait for Toni is in that set!

The last day is Saturday, September 20, ending at midnight mountain time. So hurry!

Discern, Katon University Book One

Andrea Pearson
Kindle, Nook, Smashwords

Nicole Williams is an Arete—a fourth child with magical abilities—yet no matter how hard she tries, she can’t Channel her power. In fact, she seems to be the only student at Katon University who fails at magic.

That doesn’t stop magic from finding her. It starts with magical currents and possessed books before moving quickly to cursed spiders and freaky shadows. Nicole turns to her best friend for help, along with fellow student Austin Young, who is considered by all a magical rarity. He also happens to be the hottest guy on campus and just might be interested in her.

Nicole soon finds herself competing to be included on a university-led expedition to Arches National Park. She is determined to show everyone, but mostly herself, that she does belong. Yet, to qualify for the trip, she must produce at least a speck of Wind magic, and that appears to be impossible.

As the competition progresses, Nicole wonders if she’s making the right choice—especially when she learns that the strange fossils they’ll be studying in Arches might not be as dead as everyone thinks.

Prejudice Meets Pride

Rachael Anderson
Kindle, Nook

After years of pinching pennies and struggling to get through art school, Emma Makie’s hard work finally pays off with the offer of a dream job. But when tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to make a cross-country move to Colorado Springs to take temporary custody of her two nieces. She has no money, no job prospects, and no idea how to be a mother to two little girls, but she isn’t about to let that stop her. Nor is she about to accept the help of Kevin Grantham, her handsome neighbor, who seems to think she’s incapable of doing anything on her own.

Prejudice Meets Pride is the story of a guy who thinks he has it all figured out and a girl who isn't afraid to show him that he doesn't. It’s about learning what it means to trust, figuring out how to give and to take, and realizing that not everyone gets to pick the person they fall in love with. Sometimes, love picks them.

Your Eyes Don't Lie

Rachel Branton
Kindle, Nook

Sometimes Surviving Isn't Enough . . .

Years of living on the street and fending for herself have made Makay Greyson tough and resourceful, if a bit disillusioned. She's come a long way from sleeping in parks and scavenging for food. Her entire focus is on providing a better life for her young brother, one without fear of loss and

That certainly doesn't leave time for Harrison Matthews, who from their first meeting sends fire through her veins and upsets all her carefully laid plans.

Makay has done things she isn't proud of to survive, and those choices now threaten the small amount of security she's created-and any chance of a future with Harrison. They've been raised in two very different worlds, and the secrets they both hide can only lead to disaster.  There is only one chance to make it right, and one misstep could be fatal.

Your Eyes Don't Lie is a story about facing fears, sacrificing for those you love, and about a girl who thinks she isn't worth loving and a guy who knows she is.

A Fantasy Christmas

Cindy C Bennett, Stephanie Fowers, and Sherry Gammon
Kindle, Nook, Smashwords

Three mystical tales that make for fun reading as the weather turns cold. Enjoy the romance, the magic, and the joy of Christmas and fantasy while you snuggle up in a blanket and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.

Ride to Raton

Marsha Ward
Kindle, Nook, Smashwords

Thinking he's been treated unjustly by his father, James Owen leaves the family homestead to make a new life for himself.

The turbulent world of post-Civil War Colorado Territory is fraught with danger and prejudice that increase his bitter loneliness as personal setbacks threaten to break him. Then James's journey brings him into contact with another wayfarer, beautiful young Amparo Garc├ęs, who has come from Santa Fe to Colorado to marry a stranger. Through a twist of fate, their futures are changed forever when their lives are merged in a marriage of convenience. James and Amparo undertake a hazardous horseback trek over Raton Pass to Santa Fe, battling their personal demons, a challenging language barrier, and winter's raging storms.

"Ride to Raton is a pure western, complete with bad guys and broken hearts and even a dog. The sequel to The Man from Shenandoah features James Owen, the younger brother. Marsha Ward writes a fantastic romance against a vivid southwestern backdrop. James begins this book as a hurt young man, but by the end of the book, I really could see him grow up and become a man. Made tougher by circumstances he has no control over, James realizes that the love he thought he had lost was nothing compared to what Amparo shows him. Amparo is a young Hispanic lady, forced to leave her home in Santa Fe to marry a stranger in Colorado. She bravely faces her uncertain future, relying on her faith to get her through. She is sweet, loving and she provides a great contrast to James's rough exterior. With an ending that surprised even me, Ride to Raton is not your usual romance. However, I do recommend it for western lovers—even the cover is wonderful! Marsha Ward once again shows us her gift for old fashioned storytelling!" ~Jen Hill, Roundtable Reviews

The Husband Maker

Karey White
Kindle, Nook

Charlotte’s a girl with nicknames. She may not love being called Charles or Chuck, but the hardest nickname to take is the one she was given in college, the one that’s followed her now for too many years. They call her “the husband maker” and sadly, it fits. Every guy she's dated since high school has gone on to marry the next girl they date. Not two or three girls down the road. The very next one.
Is she doing something wrong or is she just cursed?

When Kyle Aldsworth enters the picture and sweeps her off her feet, Charlotte begins to hope that maybe she's not destined to be single forever. A senator’s son with political aspirations of his own, Kyle's wealthy, handsome, and in need of a wife. Will Charlotte be disappointed yet again, or will she finally be able to make a husband for herself?

Life, Love, and The Pursuit of  Free Throws

Janette Rallison

Josie loves hottie Ethan Lancaster, the captain of the basketball team, but she never can do or say the right thing in front of him. So how can it be fair that Ethan is only interested in her best friend, Cami, when Cami isn’t even trying for his affection? Or is she?

Cami dreams of winning her basketball team’s coveted MVP award, and earning the chance to take the court during a special halftime demonstration with WNBA star Rebecca Lobo, but her best friend, Josie, is a better player. So how can it be fair that Josie is a shoo-in for the honor if she is barely interested in basketball in the first place and isn’t even trying to be the best? Or is she?

Told from two points of view, this novel of freshman life, love, and the pursuit of free throws displays the same delightful humor as Janette Rallison's other comedies.

My Forever: A Triple Treat Romance Box Set

Annette Lyon, Karey White, Cami Checketts
Kindle, Nook

A Portrait for Toni  by Amazon bestselling author Annette Lyon 
Toni has no idea what she’d do without her best friend, Carter. Who else would she be able to vent to about her parents, her job at the dance studio, or her latest relationship woes? That is, until he starts questioning Toni, saying he thinks she has an eating disorder. Then she starts dating Clint, and somehow that puts a deeper wedge between her and Carter. When she’s hospitalized after an on-stage collapse, and Carter stupidly starts in with advice about food and weight, she sends him away. One night after a performance, Toni tries to mend the hurt between them. Instead of finding Carter, she stumbles onto proof that he has feelings for her that go way beyond those of a friend. Toni is left with the very real prospect of losing Carter forever, unless somehow she can return his feelings—but that’s impossible. Isn’t it?

My Own Mr. Darcy by USA Today bestselling author Karey White 
After being dragged to the 2005 movie Pride and Prejudice by her mother, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth’s life changes when Matthew Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy appears on the screen. Lizzie makes a promise to herself that she will settle for nothing less than her own Mr. Darcy. During the six intervening years, she finds all of her suitors lacking—they just aren’t Mr. Darcy enough. Coerced by her roommate, Elizabeth agrees to give the next interested guy ten dates before she dumps him. She starts dating Chad, but she believes her dream comes true in the form of wealthy bookstore owner Matt Dawson, who looks and acts like her Mr. Darcy. But as Elizabeth simultaneously dates a regular guy and the dazzling Mr. Dawson, she’s forced to re-evaluate what it was she loved about Mr. Darcy in the first place.

The Broken Path by Amazon bestselling author Cami Checketts 
Injured in a debilitating accident at age six, Ethan Searle believes women eye him with a mixture of pity and disdain. He’s tried love before. He won’t again. He meets his match in a precocious two-year old who loves him despite his disability, even while her mother seems bothered by everything about Ethan. Autumn Reader escaped her abusive marriage with her beautiful daughter and a stack of fear. She can’t make the mistake of trusting a man again. Autumn’s daughter becomes enraptured by Ethan. Despite Autumn’s best intentions, she finds herself following her daughter’s example. When her ex-husband reappears, threatening everyone she loves if she won’t submit to his demands, Autumn has to learn to trust or lose her chance at real love.

Still Time

Maria Hoagland
Kindle, Nook, Smashwords

Thrust into the chaos of her mother-in-law’s hoarding and forgetfulness, LDS church member Alyssa Johnston wishes she could retreat to a simpler time when her kids were small and almost anything could be fixed with a hug. But reassurance and a quick distraction no longer erase the pain of a missionary son who is struggling, a young teen who is bullied, or a daughter who is distant. As Aly’s own life and relationship with her husband plunge out of control, she wonders if her faith will be enough to keep her family—or herself—from falling apart.

Still Time is a deeply moving story about a woman’s faithful journey into the next phase of her life. You will laugh with Aly, feel her sorrow, and see yourself in Maria Hoagland’s realistic, heartfelt portrayal of a woman’s struggle to keep her family safe and hold back time as long as she can.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

Many years ago, I crossed paths with fellow blogger Kimberly Vanderhorst, who turned out to be a fellow writer outside her awesome blog, and who has since become a dear friend. She's one of those rare people who cheers and celebrates for friends' achievements because she's genuinely thrilled on your behalf, and she's willing to help you out any way she can.

Kim tagged me on a fun and different blog hop that's going around. I'm egregiously late on following through, but better late than never!

Before I get to the meat of the post, be sure to check out her writing blog HERE.

Here's the gist of the hop: 

"We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hash tag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s play list grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook…"

Below are my answers to the same questions other writers who are participating get to answer. I'm excited to see theirs; every person and writers is different, and we can all learn from each other!

What am I currently working on? 
As always, I have a gazillion pots in the fire, but the biggest thing going on right now is continued revisions on Winter's Crucible, my Winter War novel, which is historical women's fiction about a little-known part of World War II. It's also part that factors heavily into my ancestry, so I'm passionate about it. See THIS POST for more about one of the main characters.

The book is fully drafted and pretty shiny, especially certain parts, but a few chapters are sort of yelling at me to come back and fix them again. Every scene deserves to be as shiny as I can get it. I hope to have it all polished very, very soon.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Interesting question in light of the fact that over the years, I've genre hopped to some extent. Not entirely, though; even my romance novels have a solid women's fiction component to them.

At this point, my women's fiction typically has no romantic thread, which seems to not be the norm in the genre. Winter's Crucible breaks that mold a bit, but even it is heavy on the WF and very light on the romantic element. And romance readers can't expect a typical romance arc in it, either.

My women's fiction is definitely driven by flawed characters put into hard circumstances. Sometimes that means external events (like the Winter War), and other times it means looking at hard issues (relationships, addiction, mental disorders, and so on).

Why do I write what I do?
Long-time readers will remember that I went through not all that long ago before finally feeling at home in women's fiction. And that's really the best answer I can give: this is where my heart is. The books that have had the greatest impact on me as a person and as a writer have all been women's fiction. And as much as I enjoy reading other genres, the fact that those books aren't the ones that stay with me, that they aren't the ones inspiring me to write my own stories, is telling.

The vast majority of my colleagues, especially in the very rich Utah writing community, write for Young Adult or Middle Grade audiences, or they write fun, lighthearted romance. I love reading all of that, but somehow, I write darker stuff. And a result, I feel a bit like an oddball at times.

They get to share agents and editors and publishers, and I'm out in the wings doing something totally different. But emotionally intense women's fiction is where my heart is.

How does my writing process work?
It's hard to describe, especially as it's evolved a lot over the years. (That's what happens when you're a mom; you adapt to your kids' ever-changing ages and schedules!)

I do a lot of brainstorming while doing brainless tasks like sorting laundry and putting myself together in the morning. I'll often jot down plot and character ideas in a notebook to refer to later so I won't forget them (or I will forget them; I've learned that the hard way). Often before a writing session, I'll jot down a few bullet points listing the gist of what I want to happen in the scene I'm about to write.

When I'm working on historical fiction, I have to do plenty of research before writing a word, because the plot and characters come from learning about the era, the events, etc. If I ever feel stuck, reading up on research will often slip me right back into the story world.

I often reread what I last wrote, revising and tweaking along the way, to get myself back into the world. I used to be able to write faster than I do now. Today, if I can eke out 1,000-2,000 words in a day, I consider it a success.

That doesn't happen every day, though; I have a ton of hats to wear besides "drafter." Revision takes a lot longer, and I often have to stop working on a project in favor of another one, as deadlines overlap and interrupt. And then I still do a little bit of freelance editing on the side.

(Don't ask to hire me, though; the answer will almost certainly be no. I've backed off a ton because my own work wasn't getting written.)

Now for my tags!

Luisa Perkins is my well-known accountability partner. We first connected online (as I did with Kim), and have since become close friends both in person and long distance. She's a fantastic writer, an excellent editor and critique partner, and one of the best friends a girl could hope for. Find her blog HERE. She's published several books, but my personal favorite (not counting her WIPs) is Dispirited. (Okay, truthfully, I also rely on several recipes from her cookbook.)

Krista Jensen is a pure delight. She began her publishing career with the same regional publisher I did, and she's become not only a good friend but a critique partner as well. She's published several fun contemporary romances, including Of Grace and Chocolate, which I loved because: chocolate and romance. Find her blog HERE.

Jordan McCollum and I first connected when she came to one of my book signings, and we ended up chatting about all kinds of things that would appear random to other people but are near and dear to my heart (like linguistics and the Kalevala. I mean seriously, how awesome?!). She's since published several books, including her Spy Another Day series.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Character Blog Hop

Thanks to Jodi Bowersox for inviting me to be part of the character blog hop!

For the character blog hop, readers get to jump around to discover characters we have recently written about or are currently writing about. You can find Jodi's character post HERE.

First, a little about Jodi:
Jodi Bowersox grew up on a farm in Nebraska and lived on an acreage in N.E. Kansas with a horse and three goats for a number of years. She currently lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Kevin, and four cats. Jodi has worn many hats in her life—actress, seamstress, interior designer, home-school teacher, artist, and writer. In 2006, under the pen name of J. B. Stockings, she published a children's book that she authored and illustrateda fictitious story about two real cats with the title, A Tale of Two Kitties. In 2012, another J.B. Stockings children’s book, The Stubborn Princess was published with Tracy Bowersox as the illustrator. Also in 2012, her first romance novel, Interiors by Design, was published. Jodi is also a watercolor artist specializing in pet portraits. To find out more about her writing, art, and other creative endeavors, check out her website.

Here's where you can find Jodi and her books:
Romance titles: Amazon and Audible
Children's books

And read her character blog post HERE.

Now about me, especially for readers new to my blog:

I've been writing ever since about second grade, when I piled pillows on a chair to reach my mother's typewriter. (Yes, I'm that old.) In the many years since, I've published over a dozen novels, three nonfiction books, several (I think October's will make nine) novellas in an award-winning anthology series. I've published over 130 magazine and newspaper articles. I've done freelance business writing and worked for many years as a senior editor at Precision Editing Group. I'm a Whitney Award winner, a two-time recipient of Utah’s Best of State medal for fiction, and a three-time publication award winner from the League of Utah Writers, most recently, the Silver Quill in 2013. I graduated cum laude with a degree in English from Brigham Young University. When I'm not writing, editing, knitting, or eating chocolate, you can find me mothering and avoiding the spots on the kitchen floor.

Here are some other places you can find me online:

Now to share my character with you:

What is the name of your character? 
This book has two women who feature prominently, so it was tough to decide which to mention here. I decided to pick Sini Toivonen. Loosely translated from Finnish, her names means "blue hope." It totally fits. 

When and where is the story set?
Mostly in Finland between December 1939 and March 1940, in Finland during the Winter War, when Stalin decided to use the empty excuse of needing Finnish land to defend against Hitler to take over the neighboring country. The hugely outnumbered Finns dug in their heels and fought hard, giving the Soviets a fight they didn't expect and, quite frankly, weren't prepared for. 

What should we know about your character?
Sini has long held a torch for Marko, the young doctor who lives upstairs, but he has his heart set on another woman. When the war turns the country upside down and Marko leaves for military duty, Sini enlists as part of the female volunteer corps. She's assigned to the same field hospital as Leila, a nurse and young widow who has sent her three-year-old son to Sweden for safety. 

What is the main conflict?
From the outside, the main conflicts for Sini and Laila are all about where they are and what they're doing: personal survival in the middle of a brutal war and an equally brutal arctic winter, plus trying to keep the wounded—and themselves—alive.

What is your character's personal goal?
The personal conflicts are more internal: Sini has no family. All she wants is for someone to love her, but Marko sees her as nothing more than a chum. Shortly after arriving at camp, she befriends Leila and realizes that she's the very woman Marko has always talked about. But that small-world connection is minor compared to how the war changes the two women. Sini may have a chance for love, if at a heavy price, while Leila just wants to go home and raise her young son. But nothing is quite so simple; the war may well eliminate any chance either of them has of finding happiness in the places they're looking for it.

Is there a working title, and where can we find out more about it?
The current working title is Winter's Crucible

When can we expect the book to be published?
No news yet on a publication date, but I'll be sure to share that news with my readers as soon as I have any. Be sure to like my Facebook author page if you want to be one of the first to know.

In the meantime, I've published another story about the Winter War. Readers interested in it can find my novella in the Timeless Romance Anthology: EUROPEAN COLLECTION. That story, "War of Hearts," is a romance set during a single sudden but important battle in December 1939, dubbed "The Sausage War." 

To find some of my other publications, visit my Amazon Author Page.


Now a bit about the authors you'll get to hear from next Monday!

Rachael Anderson
Rachael Anderson is the author of five novels and two novellas. She's the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can't sing, doesn't dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.

She'll be talking about a character in Prejudice Meets Pride, which you can get at the following links:

Heather Tullis
Heather Tullis has been reading romance for as long as she can remember and has been publishing in the genre since 2009. When she’s not dreaming up new stories to write, she works in her community garden, plays with her dog and cat, chases her ducks, decorates cakes and works with her husband.

Hello Again, the first book in her In The Garden romance series, is slated for release in October closely followed by her final book in the DiCarlo Brides series, Getting Her Groom.

Learn more about her at her website and sign up for her newsletter HERE or her Facebook fan page


I'll be posting for another blog hop next week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Christmas in July Winners

Congrats to Angela, Judy, and Sherri, the three commenters whose names were drawn! They will each receive a Kindle copy of the SILVER BELLS COLLECTION shortly before its official release in October.

Monday, August 04, 2014

On Romance, Women's Fiction, & Making a Dude Care

I’ve written before about how writers are sadists.

We enjoy hearing that a reader got only an hour or two of sleep because they couldn’t stop reading our book.

We love hearing that we made people cry (especially, truth be told, people who don’t typically cry; that’s a total coup) (and calls for a fist pump/high five/celebratory dance).

I personally also love to hear that I made people laugh. Humor isn’t typically my wheelhouse, although I do try to have lighter moments in my stories, and I love it when humor works. I need help with it, though. An early draft of a humorous scene from Band of Sisters garnered the following comment from critique friend Robison Wells: “This isn’t just not funny; it’s egregiously unfunny.”

In that case, fortunately, the fix was easy. It was a pacing issue, and when Rob pointed out where things were off and how the focus had shifted from where it needed to be, I was able to do a pretty painless revision and make a truly funny scene. (As evidenced by the fact that I’ve had readers tell me they laughed until they cried reading it. Score! Fist pump!)

As I’ve moved along my writing journey, I’ve found myself often touching on romantic themes in my work, something that seems natural, as the majority of books sold in the world are Romances.

Contrary to some people’s belief, Romances aren’t about the kissing and/or bedroom; they’re about the relationship. Proof from my career, although I could cite a bunch of other evidence: I’m part of a very successful anthology series made up entirely of Romance novellas that are all PG-rated. 

I think love stories connect with a huge portion of readers because all of us can relate to loving someone else. Consider other genres: few of us will ever be a spy like 007, or live in a dystopian world, or learn magic, or solve a murder mystery, but all of us will experience love of some kind during our lives, whether it’s romantic, platonic, familial, or even for a pet. We all know what it means to love, and love is an emotion that’s hardwired into us; it’s something we naturally seek.

Yet in addition to writing PG-rated love stories, I’ve found myself moving more and more in the direction of a genre that many people have a hard time defining: Women’s Fiction, often abbreviated as WF.

I wrote about this some time ago, about when I finally recognized where my literary home is. It sounds odd now to say that settling happily in WF was hard, but someone who isn’t a writer in Utah probably won’t get that here, among some of the bestselling young adult and middle grade novelists in the country, that NOT choosing to write for kids is tantamount to abandoning your religion. (I call it the YA cult mentality, and I’m only half kidding; children and youth are the one true and living market to a lot of writers here.) But back to Women’s Fiction.

Some people think WF is another name for Romance novels, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. A WF novel may have a romantic element (think Olivia and Athena from The Newport Ladies Book Club series), but at their core, Women’s Fiction stories are about the lives women lead (and trust me, we have more going on than the man in our lives—he’s important, but not the whole picture).

So what is Women’s Fiction?

Often you’ll find WF books about a group of women (think Band of Sisters or The Help—not that I’m putting myself in Kathryn Stockett’s league!).

For that matter, a lot of WF has one or two male characters who are central to plot and who have a point of view shown in the story (such as most Jodi Picoult books, even though she argues the label, and The Time Traveler’s Wife).

The important thing about WF is that the storyline deals with issues and problems that affect women specifically, and which are told through a feminine lens.

My favorite WF novelist of all time is Barbara Kingsolver. When I put down The Poisonwood Bible, my first thought: I’m not worthy. I’ll never be that good. (Not that I won’t keep trying to get better all the time. But wow. She’s in another ballpark altogether.)

Other WF writers I enjoy are Kristin Hannah and Erin Lindsay McCabe (a new discovery!). I could list many more.

Some men have countered that hey, why isn’t there a Men’s Fiction genre?

My answer: because men prefer to read thrillers, spy novels, epic fantasies, horror, and a ton of other stuff, and many of those genres are already marketed specifically toward men.

Plus, men typically aren’t nearly as touchy feely or interested in someone else’s introspection as women tend to be. Women love to think and analyze and feel. And they like to read about other women doing the same thing.

I think many men would get bored with that kind of thing. Sort of a “Nothing’s happening! Blow something up already!”

Yes, I’m making a broad generalization; plenty of men read WF, and plenty of women read supposedly “male” genres. But Women’s Fiction is at least something to hang a label on; it’s a handy way to categorize books by women, about women, and largely for women.

(Note: WF is often what you’ll find read and discussed at female book clubs. Not always, but often. Another term for many novels found in book clubs is upmarket fiction. WF and Upmarket have some overlap, but they aren’t the same thing.)

In some respects, I think of my first Women’s Fiction title as being Band of Sisters, and pretty much every novel I’ve published since then, except for Toni, has been solidly WF. BofS most certainly was my first novel without any romantic thread of any kind. All of my main characters were already married, albeit separated from their spouses due to deployment.

But when I look back, I can see that even my first published novel, Lost Without You, is largely WF masquerading as a Romance. When LWY first came out in 2002, I hesitated telling people that it was a Romance. Part of that was because, back then, I felt there was more of a stigma to the term than there is now. I didn’t want people thinking I was writing fluffy bodice rippers.

Yet the story really is about two people who wind their way to finally being together, even though the road is bumpy and there doesn’t seem to be a way to make it work. So yeah. That’s sort of a classic definition of Romance. It just so happens to also deal with mental illness, becoming widowed, second marriages, and other issues that feel more like WF.

Move to my second published novel, At the Water’s Edge, and you get more issue-driven elements. That one has domestic abuse, a near-rape, stalking, drunk driving, a car crash, and death. And, oh, yes, a romantic story, too.

Even my most recent Romance, A Portrait for Toni, which I like to think of as a light Romance, is also largely issue-driven (think eating disorders, family dysfunction, and death) even though the story at its heart is probably the most clean-cut Romance I’ve ever written and has a lot of lighter parts. (I still get a happy sigh every time I read the final scene. I love that book . . .)

When you add the fact that I love to explore hard topics (most recently, prescription drug abuse in Ilana’s Wish), and I love writing about relationships, I suppose it’s no surprise that I ended up feeling most at home in the Women’s Fiction world.

Sure, I’ll still write Romances, especially novellas for the Timeless Romance Anthology series. I love doing those; they are so much fun.

But if pressed to pick a favorite genre to write, I have to go with Women’s Fiction. That’s where I get to explore romantic relationships as well as harder, deeper stuff that makes people think and feel (and maybe cry) and maybe even look at the world in a different way.

So I found it delightful recently when I sent some of my WIP to Robison to read for feedback, and his response was, “Please tell me this is a Romance. Because I like these characters, and I want everything to work out for them.”

This is a dude. A masculine, manly man who wanted my story to be a Romance so he’d know in advance that it would end happily ever after.

When I said that sorry, no, it’s Women’s Fiction, he came back with, “Ah, crap. Someone’s going to die or something bad is going to happen. I just want them to be happy.”

He cared about my characters enough to want them to have a happy ending.

I consider that a huge accomplishment: I’ve made a dude care about my WF WIP.

*Fist pump*

*High five*

*Happy dance*

(Oh, and considering that this book is about an ugly war, it’s safe to say that some bad stuff happens . . . Sorry, Rob. I hope the ending will be satisfying to you!)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

WNW: Pioneer Day Edition

Hooray for Word Nerd Wednesday! It’s back this week, and as I debated what topic to cover, I remembered that last week, Utahns celebrated a somewhat Mormon holiday: Pioneer Day.

It’s marks the day when the first Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley back in 1847. 

Except that we tend to gloss over the fact that the first pioneers actually arrived two days earlier, and that the 24th is when Brigham Young first showed up. By then, men were already plowing fields and building shelters.

The 24th was the day that Brigham, who was very ill, was driven in a wagon. It was backed up to the valley so he could raise himself up on his elbow. He’d seen the valley in a vision, so when he looked out, he confirmed, “This is the right place. Drive on.”

The real story is a bit contrary to the image we tend to have of him standing there, pounding his walking stick into the ground and declaring (as the park is named), “This is the place.” 

(Adding the word right sort of messes with the rhythm of the phrase anyway, right?) 

(And the fact that dozens of people were already there, making it their home, sort of showed that they knew they’d arrived in the right place, but still…)

Hey, he was their leader, so he got to pick the date for the holiday.

On Pioneer Day, Salt Lake City puts on a huge parade, but few people get off work (my husband is one of the lucky ones). In honor of the day (I’m not quite a week late; give me a break), I thought I’d list some words and phrases for WNW that tend to be Mormon-isms and, to a lesser extent, Utah-isms.

My fellow Utah and/or Mormon readers (and friends of Utahns and Mormons) are welcome to add more to the comments!

You’ll find this word all over Utah, particularly in names of businesses, and you’ll find it in the history books. Where you won’t find it is in the dictionary. (I checked my favorite, the Oxford English Dictionary, as well as and Merriam Webster.) The word comes from The Book of Mormon and refers to honeybees. Utah was also original called Deseret, and the term is sometimes found in poems and hymns to refer to the Church as a group. More on that below.

Another word you’ll find all over Utah, which is fitting, as Utah is known as The Beehive State. The Beehive emblem is found on all state highway signs and elsewhere. Early pioneers viewed the honeybee as an industrious, never-lazy worker laboring for the benefit of the hive. In pioneer terms, that meant a person working tirelessly for the community. The Mormon pioneers viewed the honeybee as an example of what they should strive to be like. You start to see why Utah was first named after the honeybee.

But there’s more. Youth programs in the Church are split by gender, and the boys and girls are further split into three groups by age. The youngest group for girls, ages twelve and thirteen, are called (yep) Beehives. I think meaning of the name (and hence the message to strive to work hard for the common good) is a bit lost on today’s generation. But then, the types of goals 21st century girls are expected to reach are totally different from the girls who lived in the late 1800s: they no longer have milk cows or plow fields to earn their medallion.

Mia Maid
This term doesn’t even make sense outside the Church. The closest thing you can find in a dictionary is the acronym for Missing in Action, which is not what this means. It’s the name for the fourteen- and fifteen-year-old young women class.

If I understand correctly, the first part of term, used to be in all caps: MIA Maid. This is because it was an acronym. MIA stood for Mutual Improvement Association, what the youth programs were called collectively. When young men and young women had activities and cultural events together, which was at least weekly, they said they were going to MIA or simply to mutual.

Today, some people still refer to the weekday youth activities as mutual, but I’m betting most of today’s youth have no idea why.

Moving up to the oldest group of young women, ages sixteen and seventeen. (At eighteen, or a bit later, typically after high school graduation, young women start attending Relief Society, the women’s organization.)

Of course, the laurel plant was commonly used long ago to create a crown or wreath with which to honor a victor of a competition. (Think the little guy on the Little Caesar’s box.) I think the idea here is for young women to strive to be the best they can be, to earn that laurel wreath. And again, of course, modern girls don’t always know what the term means, and they have very different goals that mark what it means to be an accomplished young woman.

Today, a young woman heading off to college on scholarship may be considered to be accomplished, when that term might have once meant someone who can darn a mean sock.

This one is specific to Utah. Outside the state, Dixie refers to the southern states of the U.S., the ones involved in the U.S. Civil War. And that’s actually where the name came from.

After being driven out of their homes, with family members killed, and otherwise being persecuted, the Mormons in Utah wanted to separate themselves from other groups and be as self-sufficient as possible. When the Civil War broke out, they needed an alternate source of cotton. Brigham Young sent scouts south to see if growing cotton might be viable down there. It was. (The area was also a miserable place to live. Some early settlers quipped that the devil himself would be quite comfortable there.) And thus the hot, sunny area was named Utah’s Dixie. There’s even a Dixie State College in the area.

I could go on and on, but I’ll end with a phrase that has become so common in prayer that it rolls right off the tongue and therefore has become a bit of a joke: the request when saying grace at a meal to bless the food to “nourish and strengthen our bodies.” Some people then add, “and do us the good that we need.”

This prayer is often uttered right before teens at mutual snarf down cookies or donuts.

Therefore, I’ve enjoyed the twist The Cultural Hall podcast (er, show—right, Richie?) has put on it, something you’ll hear at the end of many episodes: “Please bless the sugar out of this crap.”

If this kind of thing interests you, check out THIS WORD NERD WEDNESDAY POST as well as THIS ONE, in which we look more deeply at Mormon words and phrases.

And be sure to check out the WNW post about how Utahns (and, frankly, a lot of people) pronounce mountain, and this other one about another Utah quirk: pronouncing a short E sound (as in well) when the vowel is technically a long A followed by the letter L (as in whale, which often sounds like well in Utah).

And for even more word nerdiness, be sure to subscribe to the GUMshoes podcast on iTunes. I co-host with Luisa Perkins, where we delve into what we call GUM issues: ones involving GRAMMAR, USAGE, and MECHANICS.

Live today: An episode all about how Seinfeld has influenced the vernacular! This episode is SO MUCH FUN, people!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Christmas in July Hop!

ETA: The giveaway is closed as of Friday, August 1. 
Winners will be announced Monday, August 4!

Thanks to everyone who participated!


Beginning July 22 (Tuesday) and running through the end of the month, I'm part of the Christmas in July blog hop sponsored by the hugely popular I Am a Reader blog!

I got to meet Kathy, who is behind the blog, at a recent writing conference. Kind of a fun fan girl moment for me. Here we are:

The blog hop is filled with a ton of great prizes: CHRISTMAS-THEMED BOOKS!

Here at The Lyon's Tale, I'll be giving away THREE copies of the upcoming Timeless Romance Anthologies Christmas collection, which will be called Silver Bells! Here's the gorgeous cover:

As always with the Timeless Romance Anthologies, I'll have a novella in the collection, as will Heather B. Moore and Sarah M. Eden. This collection's guest contributors are Lucinda Brant, Lu Ann Brobst Staheli, and Becca Wilhite. That's SIX clean romance novellas, all with historical settings.

The Timeless Romance Anthologies have become Amazon bestsellers, and our fans love how they can finish a whole story in one session, or, if they have time, they can read all six at once.

I'm excited about this collection; it's going to be awesome! And the winners will get to read it about a week before it's available to the public!

To enter for a chance to win a copy of the SILVER BELLS collection:

Simply leave a comment on this post where you include these TWO things: 
-A family Christmas tradition (from your childhood or one you have today).
-Your first name and e-mail address so I can contact you if you're selected as the winner.

Other Important Information: 
NO entries will be accepted until Tuesday, July 22, and all hop entries must be received by 11:59 PM, MDT, on July 31, 2014. So

DON'T leave your comment until Tuesday, July 22 or after July 31, or it won't count!

Winners will receive an electronic copy of the anthology, in Kindle (MOBI) or EPUB format, or, if desired, as a PDF file.

After I've e-mailed the winners, if I haven't heard back from them with their choice of file type within 24 hours, their prize is void, and another winner may be chosen in their place.

Winners' first names will be posted here on or before Monday, August 3, 2014, and the book files will be sent to the winners in early OCTOBER, prior to the official release on October 20, 2014.

Be sure to hop around the other blogs for chances to win other Christmas-themed books!



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