Friday, January 20, 2017

Review: Tomodachi: Yesterday's Enemy

Zillah Williams
During World War II, Japanese prisoners of war broke out of the POW camp at Cowra, New South Wales, Australia. Most of them were killed, which was their intention, but one was captured by a 16-year-old boy who was out hunting rabbits. From this historical incident, Zillah Williams builds an intricately plotted novel of hatreds, haunting memories, poignant family relationships, shock, and forgiveness.

The title may be a bit unusual, but it is totally appropriated for the theme of the novel. "Tomodachi" is the Japanese word for "friend."
The novel's plot is too complex for summary, except to say that it is filled with the unexpected. But the unexpected nature of these events provides only part of the novel's reading pleasure. Zillah Williams wisely adopts a transparent style that lets each situation speak for itself in conveying its emotional content directly to the reader. And the scenes of the novel are loaded with emotional content. The result is an unusually intense reading experience that will leave readers well satisfied at the novel's denouement. I have rarely enjoyed a novel as much as I enjoyed this one, not only for a theme that applies as much today as it did in the historical time of the novel, but also for the author's skill in conveying that theme to readers of all ages. I recommend this novel highly for all serious readers.
Review by Donn Taylor, author of "Lightning on a Quiet Night," "Deadly Additive," etc.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Ruth Weeks, me, Jan Morrill

Over the years, I’ve developed many meaningful relationships with my writer friends. Especially with five of those friends. Over the years our friendship has deepened. We even formed a group called, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pen. We travel together and conduct workshops for writing groups and speak at writers' conferences. Our group of five has now dwindled to three due to health issues and long-distance moves. Even so, Jan Morrill, Ruth Weeks, and I are still traveling helping writers anywhere we can.

However, there is one thing we do for ourselves—we make time during the year for a writing retreat. Marvelous things happen when we do this. We leave refreshed, inspired, encouraged, full of new ideas, and have solutions to things that have stumped us.

We normally spend two nights together at one of our homes, or we rent a cabin somewhere. It doesn’t have to be expensive. That said, we are saving to someday go on a cruise together. WATCH OUT NEW ORLEANS!

Below is what a typical ‘Sisterhood’ retreat consists of:

·      Time spent daydreaming. Have you read Debbie Macomber’s book, Twenty Wishes? In it the characters make a list of twenty things they want to happen no matter how outrageous or impossible it seemed. (This is a fun read, by the way). Well, we sorta do that. At one of our retreats a few years ago we made dream boards. I wrote on mine that I wanted to teach writing in the United Kingdom. That wish actually came true this past August!

·      Writing Exercises. Each of us come prepared with a writing exercise to share. Once Jan had us write a letter from our character to us. But she added a twist. We had to write with the opposite hand than what we normally used. Wow. It really slowed us down and made us listen to our character.

·      Creative Art Projects. We usually do an art project. It doesn’t have to be major. Ruth brought adult coloring books and colored pencils. It was fun! We spent time talking about writerly things and discuss life in general. One year we made collages. Fun!

·      We take long walks in nature and explore. We shoot pictures, write thoughts, observations, poems, and descriptions we might use later.

·      Free time. Of course, there is also time spent alone to do whatever we want. We might write, nap, or read.  I like to take long walks and chat with my Abba Father.

·      Eat gooood food! Oh, how WE EAT! Enough said about that!

·      Laugh out loud. We laugh too. Sometimes till tears spill down our faces. So cathartic and good for the soul.

·      Do a bit of whining. We also share our frustrations. In our circle of three, we are safe. Not only are we each other’s sounding boards, we are also there to speak the truth and offer encouragement and advice.

If you have a couple of writerly friends, why not give this a try?  It is good for the soul and great for your writing!
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Monday, January 16, 2017

Plotting the Course for the Year

Seriously, epic plans are bound to fail, but we have to start somewhere, right?
My mantra: Stay Flexible!

The first time I set author goals a few years ago, they were simple:
·         Make 10% more income each year – check, 2014, 2015 – (buzzer) nix 2016
·         Be asked to write something for a publisher – check, 2014
·         Get a contract for fiction on spec – check, 2013, 2014
·         Be on the Amazon bestseller list – check, 2013, 2014
·         Write something that will be featured in Christian Book Distributers – maybe it will happen with my new publisher in 2017

That final one on the list was my last authorial goal – get into CBD. If you’re detecting a pattern, you’re good! In 2015 I took on a private writing project which I thought came out pretty well, and the family was pleased. But it was a private project which didn’t leave time for my personal writing and I fell out of the habit. I didn’t have any other public publications that year, and although I had three releases in 2016, the sales were dreadful. Embarrassing. Even with my promotional practice of “being” somewhere featured on social media and in person at least monthly. It’s a ploy that worked well in the past, so I’m not sure what happened.

Last year I was very lax with my goals to write the two sequels to a mystery series I took back from the publisher, and l let my dedicated writing accountability partner down, besides myself. I took on another private family writing project for which I am being well compensated, and it does leave time for my personal writing, but I also allowed my momentum to crash and burn. Part of it was health struggles, a huge disappointment in my local writing club, personal setbacks in writing recognition, and looking at a huge life change coming up this year.

I am trying again in 2017. I know some of my personal and professional goals. The rest are flexible. How about you? What type of goals do you aim for?

Here are mine for 2017:
·         Get The Writer’s View on a stable track, or shut it down gracefully
·         Make 10% more income (well, I'll keep trying, anyway)
·         Launch my next release, Centrifugal Force, my 24th book, with a good start this fall
·         Do a good job with Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp in May
·         Pack up my house this summer for a move across the state
·         Finish the private family project
·         Finish the novella I’ve been asked to write for a new series launching in 2018
·         Work on the sequels to the mystery series I wanted to write in 2016

                                                                                                             *Image courtesy of
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Friday, January 13, 2017

The Red Door Inn - Book Review

You only have to say "Prince Edward Island" to get my undivided attention, so when I saw The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson, I had to pick it up and read it. I'm glad I did. It's Book 1 in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series.

Marie Carrington is running from a devastating betrayal. She heads for the seclusion of the island, with only a handful of change in her pocket. Widow Jack Sloane pursues renovating an island B&B the way his late wife wanted, but is clueless about colors and furniture. He offers Marie a job for the duration of the renovation. Jack's nephew Seth, still reeling from his own heartache, but hiding from his pain by helping his uncle, does not trust Marie. Tensions run high as Marie tries to do her best to do a good job for Jack, despite Seth's obvious disdain.

Marie and Seth begin to peel back the layers of their pain and find a way to work together as the budget dwindles and the opening day looms. The beautiful island descriptions, the colorful characters in the town, and the developing romance made this a sweet read. I really enjoyed it.

I'm adding this and the sequel, Where Two Hearts Meet, to my list of PEI reading. I get to check a visit to the island off my bucket list this fall, and I'm even more excited after reading The Red Door Inn. Highly recommended.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Inspiration from Poetry

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I found myself browsing through my inspiration notebook and ran across something I'd jotted down about Tolkien. He often relied on verse when he couldn't quite find the words he wanted. He said, "The first version of the song of Strider concerning Luthien, originally appeared in the Leeds University magazine, but the whole tale, as sketched by Aragorn, was written in a poem of great length."

I'm a bit of a poet, and this idea appeals to me. I'm especially fond of Frost, who had an amazing gift for abiding in the present. Stopping by a Wood on a Snowing Evening is so beautiful to me. It simply and elegantly chronicles the miracle and life of a single moment. I decided to try and solve a prose problem by setting the idea, the single moment, in verse. I'd been struggling over a young character sent to bed, in a strange room, while an adult party is going on downstairs. In poetry it is captured this way:

Broken window, shattered glass
Invite these two in as they pass
among the eaves and rooftop snow-
Cold and Wind both spritely go

I pull the covers to my chin
against the brisk and howling wind
In our lonely attic loft,
the cot is hard, the pillow soft

I hear the party down the stairs
where friends and family dance in pairs,
but I've been scooted up to bed-
they gave my room to Uncle Fred

One day I'll be a grown up too
and have the fun of a dance or two,
but now I'm young and so I sleep
but now I'm young, and so I sleep.

Not a masterpiece by any means, and certainly not in a league with Tolkien or Frost, but it gives me a handle to write the few paragraphs that I wanted to express.

Is your prose inspired by music, poetry, or art?
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Friday, January 6, 2017

January 2017 New Christian Fiction Releases!

(More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.)

Contemporary Romance:

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley by Valerie Comer, Mary Jane Hathaway, Elizabeth Maddrey, Danica Favorite, Lee Tobin McClain and Annalisa Daughety -- Is love possible for a makeshift mom and a handsome widower? What about a bed and breakfast owner and the farmer next door? A curvy jilted bride and a mysterious, handsome chef? Then there's the real estate consultant and the grandson of her elderly client; a high-powered lawyer and a woman farmer, and a formerly engaged couple. Can love make a difference in their lives? Exploring food, friends, and family in Arcadia Valley, each of these novellas kicks off a three-book series, intertwined with the works of the other authors. This collection is only the beginning of your adventure! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Restoring Love by Jennifer Slattery -- Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. As Mitch struggles to keep his business afloat, and Angela works to correct the mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends discover they have something unexpected in common--a young mom fighting to give her children a better life after her husband's incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back from redemption and true love? (Contemporary Romance from New Hope Publishers)

Historical Mystery:

Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering -- Drew and Madeline Farthering visit the Yorkshire moor to catch a killer and solve a mystery that involves an old feud, a new rivalry and a huge, spectral hound that may or may not be a harbinger of death. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker])

Historical Romance:

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander -- A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to get an audition at the newly-formed Nashville Philharmonic. But the conductor--determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music--bows to public opinion. Women are "far too fragile and frail" for the rigors of an orchestra, he says, and Rebekah's hopes are swiftly dashed. Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville's new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse--and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head--he must finish composing his symphony before the new opera hall opens. But far more pressing, he must finish it for his dying father, who inspired his love of music. Then Tate's ailment worsens. Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman's trust when you've robbed her of her dream? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The American Heiress Brides Collection by Lisa Carter, Mary Eileen Davis, Susanne Dietze, Anita Mae Draper, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Lisa Karon Richardson, Lynette Sowell and Kimberley Woodhouse -- Meet nine young women in America between 1880 and 1911 who have been blessed by fortunes made in gold, silver, industry, ranching, and banking. But when it comes to love, each woman struggles to find true love within a society where "first comes money, second comes marriage." What kind of man can they trust with their greatest treasure—their hearts? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Two Suitors for Anna by Molly Jebber -- In 1903 Ohio, a young Amish woman must choose between the life she has long planned for with her beloved Noah Schwartz, and a new, very different future… But Noah has a surprise for Anna: once they're married, he wants them to travel and live in other communities. Anna, who loves her home and her job at the quilt shop, is distraught when he takes her hesitation as rejection—and leaves. Daniel Bontrager's arrival adds to Anna's confusion. Since taking over his late brother's farm, the handsome roofer has offered friendship and gentle attentions. Yet the pull of first love is strong and deep, especially when Noah returns. Through each revelation, Anna must search her faith for guidance, knowing she is choosing not just a husband, but a life to nurture and to share… (Historical Romance from Kensington)

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas by Erica Vetsch -- Journey to Fort Bliss, Texas, where a battle of emotions versus ideals is about to be waged. When a high-steppin' eastern fashion artist, Priscilla Hutchens, swoops down on the fort to gain custody of her twin niece and nephew she is met with resistance by their uncle, post surgeon Major Elliot Ryder, who thinks he knows what is best for them. Who will win the battle? Or will a truce be called for the sake of love and family? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Dead Run by Jodie Bailey -- Kristin James's morning run turns deadly when she's attacked by a stranger who's after something her deceased soldier brother stole overseas. Her neighbor Sergeant First Class Lucas Murphy steps in to help her and won't let her brush the attack under the rug. He'll do everything he can to keep Kristin alive, but he can't tell her that he's under orders to investigate her link to her brother's misdeeds. Kristin has no idea what the bad guy is after and doesn't want to believe that her brother wasn't on the straight and narrow. But as evidence against him piles up, can they catch the criminals without becoming the next casualties? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley -- It's been eighteen years since TV crime reporter Andi Hollister's sister was murdered. The confessed killer is behind bars, and the execution date is looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned killer didn't actually do it, Detective Will Kincaide of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, the person who confessed to the crime is Will's cousin. They have less than a week to find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But much can be accomplished in one week--including uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and falling in love. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])

Undercover Protector by Elizabeth Goddard -- Undercover at a tiger sanctuary, Special Agent Grayson Wilde is convinced the owner's involved in a wildlife trafficking ring--until someone tries to kill her. Gemma's determined to rebuild the tiger oasis she lost when her family died, but someone wants her out of the way, and she's starting to wonder if her parents' and uncle's deaths were really accidental. Grayson says he'll do anything to protect Gemma, but she can't shake the feeling that her alluring new volunteer might not be all that he seems. With a vicious criminal closing in, though, she has to trust Grayson…because she won't survive without him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Buried Memories by Carol J. Post -- A soldier hero suffering from PTSD and a young woman struggling to overcome a traumatic childhood fight for their lives and find healing together. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Still Life by Dani Pettrey -- Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright--and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart. Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead--and the photographer insists he didn't take the shot. Worse, her friend can't be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Supernatural Thriller:

Fatal Accusation by Rachel Dylan -- Attorney Olivia Murray hopes her life in Windy Ridge will get back to normal after a hard-fought trial. But she soon finds out that the forces of evil have not given up. An embezzling scandal rocks the community church to its core. The New Age groups are ready to declare victory when a high-profile prosecutor files criminal charges against the local pastor. However, Olivia is not willing to give up on the community she's come to love. She takes on the defense pro bono knowing it could destroy her career, but it's a case she is called to defend. The battle will be fierce, but she's not fighting it alone. Her friend and fellow attorney Grant Baxter is by her side. Olivia must use all the tools in her arsenal to combat those who seek to destroy the believers in the community. If Olivia can't prove the pastor's innocence, more than her career is on the line. The entire community of Windy Ridge could fall to the forces of darkness. (Supernatural Thriller, Independently Published)
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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Farewell to 2016, Hello to Great Writing!

Here I am thinking about the past twelve
months and ways I can use those experiences
to improve my writing this year.  Wait! That's not me.
That's a camel chewing her (his?) cud,
and probably NOT thinking about her next novel.
Oh well, honest mistake.
Well, it's 2017 and I just grew accustomed to writing 2011 on my checks. I think my brainpower might be slipping a bit. At least all I have to do this year is make a tiny little mark on the last "1" rather than scribbling it all out and having the teller ask me to initial the date (after I've already sent it inside to her via the sucky-money thingie) for the 417th time this year.

A lot of things changed over the past year--my father moved in with us, my son-in-law moved out. The daughter with whom I live graduated from Veterinary Technical school, passed her boards, and is now employed as a vet tech. My granddaughter is growing by leaps and bounds and learning new things (like reading!) every single day. My other grandchildren (all boys) are also growing up faster than I'd like, and of course, I don't see them nearly as often as I'd prefer. My other two children, a daughter and son, are doing well and (gulp!) getting older themselves.

What's all this have to do with writing? Nothing--unless I use my past experiences during the coming year to flesh out characters, use places I've visited to describe my locations, or recall snippets of dialogue I've heard (or better yet, have written them down in the first place) and incorporate them into my characters' conversations. In my experience, 90% of what I write is done ahead of time, and by that I mean seeing, smelling, hearing, experiencing, and then mentally cataloging it all to reuse when the need arises. Grandchildren are a treasure trove of humor, wonder, and hilarious dialogue. My grown children are amazingly wise (considering who raised them), and oftentimes a memory of something they've said rises to the surface just when I need it.

And it's not just the happy or funny things that can touch our future writing. Sadness can also give us that little boost toward penning poignancy. Unfortunate events like a flat tire when you're running late, a broken windshield (or window or mirror or favorite vase), or that unexpected trip to the ER with expensive follow-up tests or therapy all lend realism to our words and layers to our characters' personalities and dialogue.

I've said it before, and I'll no doubt say it again--everything in our lives can help us create more realistic, fanciful, touching, inspirational, humorous, entertaining, and wondrous work for our readers to enjoy.

Let's all enjoy 2017 with an eye toward using each of our experiences--good, bad, or in-between--to add that little bit of sparkle to our future writing.
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Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Writer Resolutions

This is it, the second day of a new year. Some of us are already back at work, some have the day off. Either way, we're entering another year full of promise, full of change and improvement over last year's habits. We take what we learned in 2016 and apply it to this year, so by the eve of 2018, we can look back and see what great strides we've made. (Definitely better to concentrate on the successes than the failures.) 

I'm dragging some habits with me from 2016 to 2017---like dedicated work time, for instance. I've managed to finally get my family to respect my work hours. Also, I want to get better at marketing, promotions, and pricing strategies. I'm learning, and did pretty well in 2016 compared to 2015. We'll see how it goes in the new year.

Here's a list of my other resolutions, some of which may actually prove successful:

  • Read more. Not just fiction, of which I read a variety, but non-fiction. Craft books, marketing books, publishing industry news. Things I need to submerse myself better into this business. There's so much to learn. I spent most of my early years learning writing techniques, so now I feel like I know nothing about the "business" end of this business. I wish I'd learned that much sooner.
  • Keep better records.  I stink at this. Truly stink. Come tax time, I'm scrambling around to find receipts and sales records. I have to recount my stock and remember what I sold and what I used as a promo giveaway.
  • Analyze what works. I can't believe this didn't dawn on me earlier. I've been buying ads with magazine and email services, but haven't been keeping a close eye on how they do. One of the email services I thought would be best doesn't do as well as one I thought wouldn't have a high return. Doesn't do any good to blow money on ads if there isn't a decent return on investment.
  • Write more. Last year, I released one full-length novel and one novella in a collection. That's pretty good for me, but I'd like to do better. I've heard of authors who can write a novel a month. I'm not sure that'll ever happen for me, but I'd like to write and release two novels and two novellas a year. This year, I got two novellas written, but only one released. Aside from fiction, I'd love to write some nonfiction. Craft books, devotionals.
  • Increase my product line. By this, I don't necessarily mean "write more," although adding nonfiction to my line would be nice. But I'd also like to have audio books made, perhaps some large print books, maybe---and I got this idea at a conference last year---Braille books.
  • Sell more. Which means learning marketing and promotions, but it also means increasing my distributorship. True, I may not get my self-pubbed books in bookstores, but there are other outlets. Since I'm a Texan who writes books set in Texas, virtually any novelty "Texas" store may carry my line. I'll never know if I don't try. Most of my books are centered around rodeo and ranching, so there's another group of specialty stores that may carry them. My books are intended for a Christian audience---another group of specialty stores.
  • Get my books into more libraries. Gaining a wider readership means gaining a larger fan base. Word of mouth is one of the best possible sales tools out there, but it relies on the availability of my books.
  • Improve my own visibility. This idea is the one I'll have the most problem with, because its success doesn't depend on me. I would love to have more speaking engagements, but for the most part, that relies on invitations. I'll just have to promote myself as a speaker as often as I promote myself as a writer. 

Anything in this list that sparks your interest? Anything you hadn't considered before? If you're a new writer, you may want to concentrate on your craft, but don't neglect building your platform. Put some thought into your product launch. Consider how to best maximize visibility once you get published. Have some record-keeping ideas ready. Do all this now. Don't do as I did and start learning after you've got five novels under your belt. My backside is so sore from kicking myself! 

Also, keep in mind that whether you self-publish or publish traditionally, much of the business end of publishing lands on your shoulders. Some of it is eased if you have a publisher, but that publisher isn't as invested in your success as you are. Learn everything you can now, so you'll be a better entrepreneur later.

Welcome to the new year, y'all. Hope God blesses it for you.
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