Friday, April 28, 2017

Murder in Sun City---a review

Liz operates a London-style, double-decker bookmobile, which allows her to meet people---and get herself in trouble. When one of her customers in the retirement community of Sun City doesn't come to the bus for the books she ordered, Liz goes looking for her, and finds her dead in a home full of unpacked boxes and clutter.

James lives in the woods behind the community, or in the locker room of the gym, or in the attic of the victim's home. Who knows where he's going to be? The war vet has PTSD and often doesn't know from one day to the next what he's done or where he is. But there are times when he knows exactly what he's doing.

A nosy neighbor, a missing daughter, and a whole lot of stolen church artifacts add to the twists and turns in this novel, where Liz meets James and nothing is as it seems.

I enjoyed Murder in Sun City, although there were a few things that pulled me out of the novel. Early in the book, the author frequently referenced Liz's joy of hugging, a character trait that's endearing, but mentioned far too often. Later in the story, a set of yawns seemed a bit too contrived for my taste. But all in all, this was a great tale that kept me guessing all the way through.

I recommend it!

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017


I'm sooo excited for May 4th! The Oklahoma Writers Federation will hold their annual conference! I look forward to this and other conferences every year. Why? Well, I have four main reasons:

I Always Learn something - I hope none of us ever feel that we have "arrived" as writers. We can always learn something. We can add an interesting skill to our toolbox, polish our prose, and be inspired by new, fresh, ideas. And we can learn from beginning writers as well as veteran writers. 

Networking - This is true for small conferences as well as huge conferences. One of my favorite fall conferences is the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, AR. A few years ago David Morrell was the keynote. A friend of mine, Cara Brookins, had written a novel based on her experience as a victim of spousal abuse and how she and her four children escaped and built a house where they would feel safe again. One evening Cara told David about her novel and he suggested she send it to his agent. The agent liked the novel but asked that Cara write it as a memoir instead. Although Cara was reluctant, after awhile she decided to rewrite her story as the agent suggested. When she sent it back to the agent, she was immediately signed. The agent pitched Cara's book to the big houses in NYC. Three, THREE, of them wanted it and the book went to auction. All offered six-figure advances! Today Cara is busy doing interviews and speaking all over the country about her book, RISE. In fact, she will be speaking at the OWFI conference this year.

Now I know this is a rare happening, but all the same, it did happen! Therefore, it can and probably will happen again. Maybe it will happen for you?

Opportunities - At conferences we meet people who belong to writing groups. When I began speaking almost all of my engagements came from people I spoke with at a conference. Speaking is a fantastic way to build your platform and get the word out about your writing. You may be asked to be a guest on someone's blog or asked to write articles for magazines. There are many writing & speaking opportunities all under one roof!

Friends - I love being with several hundred people who "get" me. Some of my closest friendships were forged through writing. We can talk "writerly speak" all we want without people rolling their eyes and checking their watches. At conferences we all have the same passion, the same drive. In fact, most attendees stay up into the wee hours of the morning. Personally, at home I begin to nod off at 9. But at conferences, heck, I may stay up until 11:30!

So, start saving your money and invest in yourself this year by going to a conference. If you can make it to OWFI, I'd love to meet you!

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Newest News in Grammarland

Grammar Updates
('ll be fun)

 Product Details
Although the Associated Press, or AP style of writing reserved for journalists and other types of news writing such as court reporting and captioning, adapts/adopts new rules at least yearly based on current trends and pop culture, literary style of writing changes more slowly.

How many of you understood rules are different? If you read the news much—used to be paper, by the way/BTW—you see things like numerical references, fewer punctuation marks, even the single quote titles, sometimes even with italics, oh, the horror. (Case in point: the article title referenced below.)

I see people getting the two formats mixed up quite often. Literary style tends to spell more words, almost all numbers and even to the quarter time references. We do not use single quotations for anything, almost always, but for quotes within quotes, and we use the Oxford comma with reverence and respect. We have the space, we don’t have to cram our stories, front loaded with objectivity and precision, into ten inches of column space.

IF YOU ARE A JOURNALIST is a good place to find the latest news, take pop quizzes, join twitterworld, partake of quizzes, converse with other nerds or the clueless, even read blogs.

The newest edition of the AP Stylebook will be released on July 11, 2017 (Grammar Girl say May 31 which may refer to the online version, I'm not sure). It’s available for pre-order on Amazon. Certain people, like the American Society of Copy Editors, got to see the previews and announced some of the changes on March 24. Along with a running header on the AP website, the following awesome sites highlighted the main changes for this year.

Although I mentioned in an earlier column that the American Dialect Society had made “their/them/they” singular in 2015, it was not formally adopted. Well it is now in certain situations—mostly because of the need for more gender neutral terminology, which is also clarified.

As you may guess, the electronic universe has caused some ripples regarding how much of it to use that won’t shorten our lifespan in reference. I don’t know how many of you recall listening painfully to broadcasters say “world wide web,” then, “www-dot” in front of urls. Now we hardly even bother with the www. Anyway, email is officially hyphen-less, as is esports. That one is rather confusing, but I assume those involved get it. It's not a misspelling of exports. You still use the hyphen for everything else e-whatever. I mention this specifically—email—because this spelling and one other have officially been accepted by the Chicago Manual of Style, the Bible for LITERARY WRITERS. Yup—if it’s a book, it’s LITERATURE, not a piece of JOURNALISM. Anyway, lower case “internet” is acceptable too in literary writing.

For those who belong to Scribd, you can access the 2016 AP Style guide here.

And of course, you can always check the Chicago Manual of Style website to ask questions in a forum and access abbreviated information from the manual. There is also a list of new Questions and Answers, like we don’t have to use a comma after etc., anymore (except in this case when it’s the closing word of a parenthetical phrase) here.
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Keep At It

The mere habit of writing, of constantly keeping at it, of never giving up, ultimately teaches you how to write. — Gabriel Fielding
That’s one of my favorite quotes about writing. Pretty straightforward. Write.
I find that I spend a great deal of time trying to get the hang of social network/marketing, reading how-to articles and books, and then trying to apply it all to my work in progress.
My dream of becoming a published author has come true, and continues to come true. But sometimes it feels like I’m all about the next hopefully to be published project – the stress of that first sentence, the turn-ability of that first page. Will the publisher deem it worthy?
I remember when it was just about the joy of writing, practicing, rolling words around in my mouth and then translating to the page. I used to journal without the inner editor, wrote reams of letters, played around with how to use a newly learned word.
The more I write, the more these two things meld together – writing to publish and writing for my soul. The more time I spend writing just for practice, the more what I’ve learned leaks over into my submissions.
Just write.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Fast Track to Publication (A Modern-Day Myth)

All writers, particularly those who are published, are asked how they did it. "How'd you find the time?" "Do you have an agent?" "Who's your agent?" "Who's your publishing house?" "Is it a real book?" "Are you rich?" (That one always cracks me up.) Those are the easy ones. Inevitably, we also hear the dreaded, "Can you put in a good word for me with your publisher/agent/ editor?"

Now most times this is a simple, though naive, request by well-meaning writers who don't know where next to turn in their writing journey. I've been there. Believe me, I've been there. But there are others who mean, "Can you put me at the head of the line based on all the hard work you did to get to a place where you can help me skip all that pesky studying, learning, conferencing, actually writing, submitting, receiving rejections and then submitting again, looking for an agent, and taking advice? Please?"

The reason I dread that question is not because I resent the implication that it's a simple matter to get published. It's because there is no simple (or easy) answer, and no matter what I tell them, they won't be happy. But the truth is you can't get from the beginning of the publishing journey to the finish line (and there's never a true finish line) without working at it. Working hard. Working constantly. That's accompanied by learning, reading, studying, but most of all, writing. A lot. A whole lot. And that's not counting the "nots." Not watching television, not going to the movies, not hanging out with friends, nor sleeping, fishing, or whatever else you like to do in your spare time. That's not to say you can never again enjoy your favorite activities. But if you want to be a published writer, and unless you live under a rock with no job or other responsibilities to gobble up your time, you're going to have to make some serious adjustments to your life to accommodate your dream.

This is me being rejected time and time again, and realizing
I'd have to actually work at learning how to write. Wait, that's
not me. That's my granddaughter having a "I don't want to do
something or other" tantrum. Okay, okay. Same thing. 
In other words, there is no magic wand anyone can wave in our direction to assure we achieve success without doing what 99.99% of the rest of us have to do. Yes, there's that .01% of published writers who hit the jackpot the first time out. But for every one of those, there are hundreds, no, thousands upon thousands of others who have to do it the hard way. There's just no fast lane to publication. If there were, it would be an impossibly crowded, road rage-ridden bunch of desperate writers, I can tell you that.

Believe me, I know all this from firsthand experience. When I first started to write seriously, I too thought I could skip a few steps and cut into line. After a few months of absolutely no progress with that method, I realized I'd have to hunker down and do the work. So I did. I read every book I could find on the art of writing. Some were good, some weren't. But I learned to glean every bit of helpful information from even the worst of them and apply it to my journey. I signed up for the writing courses offered by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild--first, the Apprentice, then the Journeyman, and finally the Craftsman class. It wasn't cheap and it wasn't easy. It took me four years to complete them all, but I did it, and I'll be everlastingly grateful to Jerry Jenkins and my mentors for introducing me to the real world of writing.

I wrote until I was blue in the face. Then I wrote some more. I picked my work apart, edited, rewrote, and edited again. I attended conferences, joined a writing group, wrote on my lunch hour, after the kids went to bed, and on weekends. When I felt it was good enough I submitted it, and more often than not, got a rejection letter in return. (In those days, it was done through the mail--and I don't mean email--and it took days or weeks and, in most cases, months before I heard back.) I was one with the mailbox during those years. The mailman fluctuated between being my best friend and my worst enemy. Once in a while, though, I'd receive an acceptance letter, and all the waiting and agonizing and praying paid off.

But there's a bright side to my discouraging answer to that question. Working hard simply works. Yes, it's slower than anyone wants it to be, but it gets the job done. It's harder than anyone expects it to be, but it's doable. Believe me, you won't miss that extra hour of sleep or that television episode, even that occasional evening spent hanging out with your friends when you take stock of your skills and realize your plan is working. I know I didn't. You're doing the hard work, and in return you're reaping the rewards. You will be published.

It might sound discouraging to any as-yet-unpublished writers to hear that my journey (and probably the journeys of many other writers) took twenty years. Yeah, twenty. While I had success with newspaper columns, anthologies, greeting cards, online writing, etc., along the way, my first book wasn't published until I'd written and studied and agonized and submitted for nearly two decades. I don't count those years as a loss, though, as it was through the passage of time that I realized what I truly wanted to do with my writing. It took me that long to become proficient enough and wise enough and to accrue sufficient life experiences to write inspirational, humorous books for both children and adults. God molded me into what He wanted me to be all along. He put the desire to write into my heart and provided me with the raw talent and perseverance to run the course. It wasn't easy, and there were times when I questioned my sanity, but in the end it paid off.

If you're reading this and you're a not-quite-published writer, please take heart. You will be. The work is hard, but rewarding. The journey is long, but will eventually end. You and I will never be able to stop learning, as no writer, published or not, is ever as good as he or she could be, and will never outgrow his or her need to learn more. Fortunately, there are many ways to learn, and reading is one of the best. I love to read books by the masters--both from the past and in today's world--and hope that a drop or two of their talent might spill out of their books and onto my keyboard. I may never reach their status (few of us do--that's why they're the masters!), but there's joy in knowing you and I are doing what we were created to do.

So what are we waiting for? Let's go do it!
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Monday, April 10, 2017

Scene Writing: Picture It

A couple of months ago, my writers group in The Woodlands, Texas, hosted Carla Hoch, an expert in weapons and self-defense. She was fascinating to watch and listen to, and she definitely knows her stuff. Her blog,, is all about fights and fighting.
One of the things she talked about was how fight scenes are presented in novels---especially novels written by folks who've never been in a fight. She gave us some illustrations of things she'd read in others' manuscripts and asked us if we understood why what they'd written wouldn't work. Sometimes I couldn't see what was wrong until she explained; other times, the gaffs were glaringly obvious.
But with everything she said, she always came back to this: Picture in your mind what you're writing on the page.
Watch your characters act out their battle, moves and counter moves, actions and reactions. Take time through the scene to visualize everything going on. Just because something sounds cool doesn't mean it works.
This idea of visualizing what you write applies to virtually everything you put on the page, and it requires an alertness to what you've already written. If you've made it a point to tell your reader that the characters are standing ten feet apart, you can't afterward illustrate them in hand-to-hand combat or a loving embrace without first having them close the distance.
Picture what your characters are wearing and understand how the garments can limit motion. An example Carla gave was the 17th century barmaid with a knife strapped to her leg. If she has to scrounge through yards of skirt to find that knife, it's not going to be very useful to her.
Picture the setting. If you have your characters in Grand Central Station during rush hour, remember to move all the people out of the way before your characters break out in a polka.
When you're creating a scene, you have more to think about than just the characters. You also have to think about what would be in that scene if it were actually occurring in real life. Life doesn't occur in a vacuum. Remembering this can help you to add detail to a scene and enhance the sense of reality. It can also help prevent logistical problems that make your work an example editors and others use as how not to do things.
So, we have clothes, setting, others populating the scene. What else would you consider while you write? What would affect your character's actions and reactions?
Picture your scene. Watch it in action.
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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

New Christian FictionReleases!

April 2017 New Releases

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

Contemporary Romance:


Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon -- When a police chief and an ex-con join forces to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks fly. Given their backgrounds, it's not a promising match—but in Hope Harbor, anything is possible. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker])


Oh Baby by Delia Latham -- Dawni Manors seeks peace in Angel Falls, Texas. What she finds is a cowboy, an abandoned infant, and emotional chaos. If the Heart's Haven angels really are there, what in the world are they thinking? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])



A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti -- Where does a relationship expert turn when his wife leaves him and carries a tiny heartbeat with her? (General from Abingdon Press)


Waiting for Butterflies by Karen Sargent -- When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother's love never ends--not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her sudden death, she becomes a lingering spirit and returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family's downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing. Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she caused her mother's death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. Although limited by her family's grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and save her family before her second chance runs out. (General from Walrus Publishing [Amphorae Publishing Group])


sunset-in-old-savannahSunset in Old Savannah by Mary Ellis -- When a philandering husband turns up dead, two crack detectives find more suspects than moss-draped oaks in charming old Savannah, including a scheming business partner, a resentful mistress, and a ne'er-do-well brother. (Mystery from Harvest House Publishers)


Above Rubies by Keely Brooke Keith -- In 1863, young teacher Olivia Owens establishes the first school in the remote settlement of Good Springs while finding love. (Historical, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:


A Rose So Fair by Myra Johnson -- Caleb Wieland would give anything to win farm girl Rose Linwood's heart, but Rose's stubborn independence is proving as thorny as the flower for which she's named. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Under the Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer -- In 1854 Illinois, Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents' farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she's ever known and the man she's begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.
Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)

The Pony Express Romance Collection by Barbara Tifft Blakey, Mary Davis, Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Maureen Lang, Debby Lee, Donna Schlachter, Connie Stevens and Pegg Thomas -- Nine historical romances revive the brief era of the Pony Express. Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

plain-targetPlain Target by Dana R. Lynn -- Horse trainer Jess McGrath only wants to clear her disgraced brother's name, but enemies keep coming out of the woodwork and danger only gets closer. Jess soon learns that no place is safe—and no one can be trusted…except for the last white knight she'd ever expect to ride to her rescue. Paramedic Seth Travis was the boy behind her high school humiliation, but he's also the man keeping her alive. When they find sanctuary in the Amish community, can they uncover answers in time to stop a killer—and resolve their past in time to build a future together? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Dangerous Testimony by Dana Mentink -- Four weeks before she's set to testify at a gang murder trial, someone is determined to make sure that Candace Gallagher Andrews never takes the stand. When nowhere is safe for the private investigator or her little girl, Candace turns to the only person she can trust—longtime friend and former navy SEAL Marco Quidel. For Marco, protecting Candace is not just another duty. As the trial date nears and the killer stalks ever closer, Marco knows fear for the first time—the fear of losing Candace and her daughter. But while Marco begins seeing Candace as more than just a friend, her late husband's memory is never far from her mind. So he must keep Candace alive—and not get emotionally involved—long enough to put away a killer. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

deep-extractionDeep Extraction by DiAnn Mills -- Special Agent Tori Templeton is determined to find who killed her best friend's husband. Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan's personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer?and to each other?the more intent someone is on silencing them for good. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)


Final Verdict by Jessica R. Patch -- When Aurora Daniels becomes the target of someone seeking their own twisted justice, Sheriff Beckett Marsh is the only one who can rescue her. As a public defender, Aurora has angered plenty of people in town—and in her past. And while Beckett constantly clashes with the feisty lawyer professionally, it's his duty to protect and serve. Guarding her 24/7 is now his sole assignment. He may not have been able to save his fiancée from a dangerous felon, but he'll do whatever it takes to keep Aurora alive. Even if working with her to catch and convict this ruthless killer puts his heart in the crosshairs. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Guardian by Terri Reed -- When a fellow FBI agent is kidnapped and a protected witness vanishes, Leo Gallagher will stop at nothing to find them both. So when he discovers a link between the case and a single mother in Wyoming, Leo and his trusty K-9 partner rush to question Alicia Duncan. Could she be the key to locating the missing persons? Not if a killer has anything to say about it. Someone is determined to keep Alicia from talking, so Leo and his chocolate Lab must keep her and her little boy safe on their family ranch. With danger lurking around every corner, Leo must work overtime to not lose another person who's important to him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Witch by Denise Weimer -- Having restored Michael Johnson's ancestors' house and apothecary shop and begun applying the lessons of family and forgiveness unearthed from the past, Jennifer Rushmore expects to complete her first preservation job with the simple relocation of a log home. But as her crew reconstructs the 1787 cabin, home to the first Dunham doctor, attacks on those involved throw suspicion on neighbors and friends alike. And while Jennifer has trusted God and Michael with the pain of her past, it appears Michael's been keeping his own secrets. Will she use a dream job offer from Savannah as an escape, or will a haunting tale from a Colonial diary convince her to rely on the faithfulness of his love? (Romantic Suspense from Canterbury House Publishing)

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:


The Fairetellings Series (Books 1 through 3) by Kristen Reed -- Discover a trio of enchanting novellas inspired by three beloved fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)
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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Light: A Book Review

I admit it. I have a soft spot for novels that explore disasters and the way human beings behave following a cataclysmic event. (Not very well, as if often turns out.) If anyone checked the book list on my iPhone's Kindle app or my Nook, they'd find a good number of conspiracy, thriller, and apocalyptic books scattered among my online Bibles and both non-fiction and fiction Christian titles. It might be that I enjoy reading works I know I couldn't write, but deep down, I think I just enjoy the drama.

Happily, my need for disaster stories led me to The Light by Jacqueline Brown, and I'm glad it did. It tells the story of four college students--Bria, Josh, Blaise, and Sara--and is told from Bria's first person POV. On their way to warmer climates over their college's Thanksgiving break, their trip is cut short one night by "the light," which turns out to be an EMP. The country is under attack. Of course they have no way of knowing this until they're joined by two others, Jonah and his sister East, also stranded along the road, who suspect the worst. Their cars, iPhones, tablets, watches, and all lights are rendered useless. Stranded, helpless, and without any way to summon help, the six of them join forces and begin the grueling trek to Jonah's and East's home. Once there, Bria discovers these people know more about her, her dead mother, and her strangely aloof father back in Washington, D.C., than she knows herself.

Brown does a commendable job of combining the horrors of an attack on our country, the pain of being separated from loved ones during a disaster, a host of problems caused by the country being thrust back into the 1800s in an instant, a sweet love story, strong Christian values demonstrated by Jonah's and East's family, and a simmering rage felt by both Jonah and his family against a murderous neighbor into one exciting, fast-paced thriller. I heartily recommend The Light to anyone who loves an adventurous, well-written book.

More information on author Jacqueline Brown and The Light can be found here:
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Querying 2017

Is there a need to write or learn how to write and adapt query letters in this day and age of 
anyone can publish anything anytime?

Even if you’re planning to self-publish, a query letter, even to yourself, helps you focus and should contribute to your marketing plan. Those authors who desire to become established with an agent who can net you good contracts with larger publishers, or a publisher you meet at a conference, need to continue to write competitive short queries.

Solving Common Writing Maladies

I spent three years teaching querying techniques at a week-long writer’s camp, Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp and Writer’s Retreat, Inc. I developed workshops in person and online before that. What qualifies me? Successful queries to both major and independent publishers—about eight, counting off the top of my head—and four agents. I’ve turned down a couple contract offers as well. I’ve also been rejected/denied/ignored by a very long list, with maybe half a dozen inviting me to query again.

The first time I taught, very seriously, at Bookcamp, I had just attended a Writer’s Digest day-long workshop on the subject, pitched to a large Chicago agent and received an invitation to submit my manuscript (which had already been optioned, but I didn’t share that). I put myself through this self-torture to get up to speed on the latest techniques to share with the writers at camp. Bottom line: Writer’s Digest is reputable. At NIP Bookcamp, we have literary agents attend our camp every year and offer a “slush pile” read to show the authors how their work is viewed when it crosses an agent’s desk. I thought our authors did a credible job in their practice queries and pitched. Then, on the night of the slush pile read, one of the agents made a disgusted face while reading them and proclaimed how the lessons and examples were all wrong and that Writer’s Digest didn’t know much. Of course I was mortified but I turned it into a teachable moment to show that EVERY AGENT AND PUBLISHER IS DIFFERENT. When I received a teary thank you note after the second year from one of those authors at camp who signed with a major New York literary agent a few months later, I felt justified. The author has since signed a multi-book deal with a large publisher—not a top five, but one that still pays advances and offers large scale promotion.

I share this with you because I recently sat in on a webinar by Reedsy, a website dedicated to helping writers succeed. This webinar featured a panel of five industry professionals with experience at the top five remaining international publishers who shared their preferences for acceptable queries. The webinar was not particularly well-done, but proved the point that each panelist had polar opposite preferences for successful queries. Scott Pack said, “It’s a relief when I find great writing.” Jim Thomas wanted a good hook and the reason the query was sent to him, along with an exceptional first line, but changed his tune later when the other four said a spectacular first line wasn’t as important to them. Katrina Diaz said she liked reading something that wasn’t “boring.” In general, the important point of a successful query is to stand out from the crowd. To some a typo wasn’t a deal breaker; others didn’t care if you only had a hundred Twitter followers.

So what makes a stand-out query? Do I start with my story or with my credentials? The agents all had different preferences. How do we win this game?

  • Show your unique voice in a manner that convinces the specifically targeted agent/publisher why he or she should invest in you.
  • Offer a compelling story in a way that proves you understand good writing.
  • Start your story sample with a clear intense visual.
  • But above all, study the market, become well acquainted with your target, and follow their submission RULES. If you can’t meet them face to face at a conference, meet them online and tailor a query to show that. 

Find a conference or Twitter pitch fest, watch Manuscript Wishlist #mswl. Learn industry demands. Study what’s been sold recently. Be professional. To expect someone to invest thousands of dollars in you, be a worthy risk.

If you choose to publish yourself, follow those same standards. Show readers that you understand what you are offering them and prepare to invest in yourself.

I’m not teaching querying this year at Bookcamp. Another pro will take the heat for that. But there’s still room for two or three more writers at camp. I’m running a writing clinic and I’d love to see you.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS by Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson
Vintage Books
Published 2010

Book Jacket Description:

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Isabel Wilkerson, chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. She interviewed more than a thousand individuals, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country and ourselves.

My Review:

What I liked: Although we cannot go back in time and change the evil ignorance of humankind, it is still valuable to know the atrocities committed against black citizens and the mindset of the persecutors and the persecuted. I've often heard people say, and indeed I have said this myself, "We cannot change history so why go back there. I didn't do anything so why make me feel guilty? Let's move forward!"

I found the answer to that statement in this book. To truly understand the present we must understand the past. Wilkerson chronicles the lives of three people, two who fled north and one who went west. Life was almost impossible for them before they left with their families for the new "promise lands" only to find prejudice and struggles for survival in their new found homes. While they did not have to worry as much about lynching, they still were victims of degrading, low-paying jobs and even worse living conditions than what they had left. However, they at least had the opportunity to speak their minds and to overcome, without fear for their lives, and they eventually prospered. Their children, however, were faced with new evils: gangs and drugs. These would never have been tolerated in the South. 

When I read about the violent protests in Chicago and New York City between the races all through they years of the migration, it occurred to me, nothing really changes. The protests we see today on the television are a mindset resulting decades ago. 

It is important to know the stories of others to understand them. One generation tells the next of their pasts and this trains the mind to react to any perceived injustice. This is true of all races in America. 
So, if you write historical fiction you need to read this book. 

What I didn't like: This book could have been at least 1/3 shorter. Wilkerson repeats A LOT of information, often as many as four times. It made me want to shout, "Okay, I get it!" It is as if she forgot that she'd already given us this information. But shouldn't an editor at Random House have caught that. Also, she switches back and forth between characters, and while that didn't really bother me, it lead her to repeat things she had already written. This made the book plodding and I kept skipping pages. 

All in all, this book is very much worth reading. It opened my eyes and made me less frustrated by the attitudes we see between the races today. I guess you could say it raised my mind to fully seeing an individual and my compassion for him or her. Plus, it is a wealth of information for any person writing a historical novel during that time period. 

Isabel Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize winner who devoted 15 years to the research and writing of The Warmth of Other Suns. She has worked as the Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York times, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African-American to win for individual reporting.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Four Things I Learned from the San Antonio Spurs

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Four Things I Learned from the San Antonio Spurs
I don't have an athletic bone in my body, but I am inspired by the San Antonio Spurs. They should be next to the word 'team' in the dictionary. Described as "a bunch of guys who have gotten over themselves," they get the work done. I love their determination and heart. Here's what has inspired my writing life by watching the Spurs.
1. Learn the basics. The Spurs have the basics of basketball down to a science, which makes for professional excellence. A writer needs to hone basic skills of grammar, sentence structure, properly formatting a manuscript, and adhering to submission guidelines to name a few. These basic skills separate a novice from a professional.
2.  Practice, practice, practice. The Spurs basic skills are taken to dizzying heights by their level of commitment to preparation. Countless hours of practice frame the beautiful strategy and logistics of their famous teamwork. Writers need to practice as well. Talking about writing, reading about writing, getting organized and joining social writing groups are all important, but that's not writing. Writing is writing. You can't edit or submit a blank page. Write. Just. Do. It.
3. Many counselors. My favorite team has a team – coaches, trainers, advisers, and all kinds of staff that help make them what they are. Writers must be willing to work with critique partners, editors, and agents. A team of prayer partners is essential. We've got to have a teachable spirit to have any kind of successful writing career. It takes the team.
4. Shoot. For basketball, it all comes down to the ball going through the hoop. All the practice and preparation hangs on the moment that ball makes successful contact. It took three attempts at one point in that Sunday game to make the basket, but they doggedly kept after it. A writer desiring publication has to submit. We have to get it out there, learn from our rejections, and submit again and again and again.
Learn the basics, practice, get counsel, and shoot. The Spurs' winning combination will serve a writer well.
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Time Travel with best selling author Deborah Heal

Once Again by Deborah Heal

Rewinding Time series, book 1

Deborah Heal

Paperback: $9.99
Ebook: 2.99

Others in the series:

About the Book:
Professor Merrideth Randall has a tool that other historians can only dream of—computer software that virtually rewinds time!

It comes in handy for historical research and for her sideline genealogy business. When her colleague physics professor Brett Garrison asks for help with his family tree she can’t resist, even though he’s far too attractive for her peace of mind. And amazingly, he seems to be pursuing her, despite the fact that everyone knows dating a co-worker is career suicide.

Using her software, Merrideth gets a first-hand look at Brett’s ancestors, the courageous pioneers of the Illinois Country who withstood Indian attacks, hardship, and loneliness to settle there in the 1780s. One of the settlers is James Garretson, who risked his life to take the Gospel to the very tribe that wreaked havoc on his family. Merrideth is amazed that he could forgive a crime so huge.

She would love to tell Brett that he is descended from heroes, and that he inherited his black hair and green eyes from James Garretson. But she is determined to safeguard her program, and discretion is not Brett’s strong suit. She also has secrets about herself that she’d just as soon he didn’t find out either.

One virtue Brett does have is patience, and he’s quite willing to wait for Merrideth to figure things out.

Lisa's Review:
Little Merri Randall is all grown up in this new series from inspirational time master Deborah Heal. She’s followed her dream of becoming a young PhD history professor at a southern Illinois college. It’s been years since her childhood encounters with a dangerous and mysterious software program called Beautiful Houses. When she accidentally? rediscovers the program not only still exists and is just as active as ever, curiosity overcomes her good sense and she is once again drawn back to explore time.

Merredith uses the program to help her in both her work and private side business, researching family history. She has grown up reluctant to share herself with others, a definite lack of trust in others and even to a certain extent her own abilities and gifts. When the physics professor sets his sights on her, Merri has a lot to overcome, especially her teaching mentor, to believe anyone might be personally interested in her.

Told from Merredith’s viewpoint throughout, this story and series is a history lover’s dream. Because the character is a professor, her lectures that include blocks of rote history are a natural part of the story, as are the fascinating dialog sharing dates and people. Merri’s trips through time provide a virtual visit to experience life in the late eighteenth century literally through those people’s heads.

Just a fascinating series with excellent research. While science is not discounted, the details of the software’s ability to provide virtual time travel experience for the user doesn’t hinder the reader. The books are part of a series, and while a reader can pick up any story and read it with enough information from the past books to make sense of the particular story arc, you’ll want to read the whole series. I know I will. Recommended for those who love plucky wounded females with a side of romance while reading their history.

Note: Time and Again, the first book in the History Mystery trilogy sert before this series, is available free from Amazon Kindle
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Researching Beyond the Internet

One of my new favorite authors, Cindy Huff, offers some tips on research:

When I started research for my historical romance, Secrets and Charades, I discovered although the internet has lots of information it's never enough. I knew my heroine was a doctor who goes west as a mail-order bride. Her destination needed research. The library had far more information than the internet.  There were atlases from the period showing the train routes were in 1872. I knew Evangeline would marry a rancher, so the maps helped me visualize the route for the cattle drive scenes.

A variety of books on female doctors in the 1800s were available. These women endured prejudice and the abusive attitude of society toward career women. Especially those in what was considered a man’s role. Female doctors had to be strong-willed and determined. Otherwise, society squelched their dreams for success. Men hesitated an often avoided being treated by a female doctor. And many wives were uncomfortable with a single woman examining their husband.   These facts helped build Evangeline’s back story.

A dear family friend is a lover of all books historical and is a Civil War Reenactor. Chris shared some of his extensive library with me. Biographies of pioneer women. Diaries and journals of the time. He also explained in great detail the various guns of the period. I learned a bullet travels faster than the speed of sound. Which meant you saw a victim fall before you heard the gunfire. The scene I created around a gunshot was edited to hearing the gunfire first. After I shared my knowledge with the editor the passage was left as I wrote it.

I visited a few Civil War Reenactments. Thus, my heroine formulated her desire to become a doctor while serving as a nurse during the War between the States. My hero, Jake was a confederate soldier. Backstories for my characters evolved from what I learned from the reenactors I spoke with.
 Soldier's Heart was a common malady veterans suffered. PTSD is the term used today. The symptoms can encompass depression, anger, fear, and hallucinations. Many of the cowhands on the Double M ranch are veterans from both sides of the conflict. Jake struggled to put the war behind him.

I interviewed the Reenactor posing as the doctor. The medical instruments look gruesome. He told a story of a doctor who cut his finger while tending a patient. He amputated his finger to keep from getting gangrene.  The dressing wasn’t always changed or wounds cleaned properly. Infection was the biggest enemy a doctor fought. Hand-washing as a medical practice was scoffed at by established doctors. Female doctors were more willing to embrace the new discovery regarding germs and antiseptics.

Photos and reproductions of mail-order catalogs are a great research tool. They tell a different story of the 1800s than movies. I am always sad to see the movie costumes less than accurate. A long dress and shoulder length doesn’t cut it for me. Most women wore their hair pinned up or braided. Loose falling hair was considered inappropriate in public.

Women’s fashions in the 1870s were different from the Civil War period. Hoop skirts had been replaced with bustles. Corsets, however, continued to torture women. Patterned flour sacks were the material of choice for the poor to make clothes. Flour companies produced a variety of patterns for their sacks. Most women made their own clothes. Others wove their own yarn.  Mercantiles carried catalogs for customers to order things not available in their store. And it was common for customers to establish credit and pay after crops or cattle were sold.

Portions of these historical tidbits found a place in my story, creating a believable setting for my character-driven story.

About Cindy:
cindy-2016Cindy Ervin Huff is the winner of the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributor to Splickety Publishing Group’s anthology and has been featured on Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog,, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois. Visit Cindy on Facebook at, follow her on, or connect with her at

cindys-bookJake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.
Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she travels west to become Jake’s wife.
Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage?

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Off to the The Land of the Midnight Sun

It's official. As soon as we're able to find a home to rent, my daughter Darice, granddaughter Molly, and I will be returning to Alaska. I say returning because prior to moving to Tennessee, we lived on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage for four years. So we're familiar with the area and will be returning to our old stomping grounds. Although she has no recollection of it, Molly was born there and lived the first eleven months of her life in Alaska. Darice is a licensed veterinary technician and was offered a wonderful job in Anchorage, so we'll be moving in about six weeks. What does this mean and why is it important enough to use valuable blog post space talking about it? Because it's just one more example of life stepping in to mess up our schedules.

Here I am, looking about five years old,
getting ready to drive to Alaska. Wait!
That's not right. We're flying, not driving,
to Alaska. Silly me. (And that's not me,
by the way, but that's not important.)
Last month I talked about life getting in the way of our plans and how frustrating it can be for a writer (although this applies to anyone) to be interrupted by life when we least expect it. And yes, a move to Alaska from Tennessee could be called an interruption without stretching the imagination even the teeniest bit. Although we had talked about a move back to the Last Frontier at some future date, it was always just a pipe dream until the job was offered. But despite having foreknowledge of our eventual intent, when it really happened it took us by surprise.

I immediately wondered how this huge move would affect my writing. It didn't take long to realize it wouldn't, at least not after the frustrations of the move itself. Years ago, it would've been a problem. Let's face it, Alaska isn't the center of the writing world (with apologies to Alaskan writers, one of which I'm about to become), most huge national conferences aren't held there, and it wouldn't have been as easy to send out manuscripts with the long distances involved. But these days it poses no problem whatsoever.

Granted, a lot of conferences aren't held in Alaska, but that also can be said about Hawaii or any other difficult to reach area. Most writers, presenters, publishers, editors, and agents have to travel some distance to get to one. With the means of travel available these days, it's only a matter of hours before one can reach just about anywhere in the country. Submissions are a breeze with email whether it's to a publishing house or an agent. Even writing groups can remain intact while members live hundreds or even thousands of miles apart with Skype and emails. My point is that writers will write, no matter the circumstances, location, time zone, or distance from other writers. In today's technologically advanced world (and believe me, I'm the first one to criticize the very thing I'm praising), we can do so much more no matter where we live and work than we could even ten years ago.

The only downside I can see about this move to Alaska, aside from the obvious one of not being able to see my family and friends as often, is that I can't use it to complain about not having the time to write. 

Time to step up to the plate, Deb, and stop bellyaching. 

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Friday, March 10, 2017

The Newest of Christian Titles!

March 2017 New Releases

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

Contemporary Romance:reunion-at-crane-lake
Reunion at Crane Lake
by Robin Bayne -- Colt's memory is returning after the accident that ended his career. Now he wants to take over his family's inn, but he'll have to partner with his former fiancée to be able to afford it. He'll need forgiveness to make that happen. Tia's goal is clear: to return the inn to its former grandeur. And she'll even work with Colt to do so. But like the inn, their relationship needs a lot of work. He broke her heart...can she ever trust him again? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

by Fay Lamb -- She's a starving artist facing a serious illness; he's the doctor who's her only hope of survival. If only she hadn't caused his sister to die. (Contemporary Romance from Write Integrity Press)

Muffins & Moonbeams
by Elizabeth Maddrey -- Malachi Baxter is happy to hide in the background and manage the business-end of the family bakery. He'd much rather live in the online world of computer games where he can explore the galaxy and no one has to know he's deaf. Ursula Franks designs websites during the day and spends her evenings battling alien races online where relationships are easy and uncomplicated. When she agrees to design a website for the local Community Supported Bakery, she has no idea that Malachi is the real man behind her online persona's best friend and her own secret crush.As the two work together on the website, they uncover an attraction, but will they be able to put aside past hurt and insecurity to find love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Then Came You: A Bradford Sisters Novella
by Becky Wade -- Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn't know much about babies. But he's going to have to learn fast because he's just become a single father to his newborn daughter. Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can't seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart.... (Romance Novella, Independently Published)

When the Bough Breaks
by Ane Mulligan -- Her dream job has a Catch 22—and time's running outRookie lobbyist Sienna O'Shea is determined to make a name for herself in New York's capitol city and use that influence to gain easier access to her birth records. For years she's searched for her birth mother, but when she's handed her first assignment—to lobby support for the permanent sealing of all adoption records—her worlds collide. Swept up into the intrigue of backroom politics, falling in love was not on Sienna's agenda, but the candidate for Lt. Governor runs a formidable campaign to make her his first lady. When an investigative reporter discovers foreign money infiltrating political campaigns, the trail leads to Sienna's inner circle. (General, Independently Published)

The Memory of You
by Catherine West -- Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her? (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Cozy Mystery:murder-is-no-accident
Murder Is No Accident
by A. H. Gabhart -- When murder comes to call at a stately Victorian house, the town of Hidden Springs looks to Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane to solve the crime before anyone else dies. (Cozy Mystery from Revell [Baker])

Historical Romance:a-rocky-mountain-romance
A Rocky Mountain Romance
by Misty M. Beller -- When Zeche takes shelter from a blizzard in a remote cabin, he doesn't expect to find a beautiful woman and her father, a disturbed Civil War veteran. Zeche's instincts tell him Greta is endangered and he should stay and protect her, but his own presence aggravates her father's condition. With a dangerous snowstorm outside and growing hostilities inside, can he find a way to keep them all safe from harm? Or will it be to the detriment of his heart? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

A Stolen Heart
by Amanda Cabot -- From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners--like her. Lydia won't let that get her down, though. All will be well when she's reunited with her fiancé. But when she discovers he has disappeared--and that he left behind a pregnant wife--Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmela's Quandary by Susan Page Davis -- Experience the Wild West as Carmela seeks freedom of body and soul. Forced for years by her uncle to pose as a survivor of an Indian kidnapping so he can profit on the speaker circuit, she longs to end the lies. On a stagecoach in Arizona Territory, Carmela and her uncle are fellow passengers with a deputy US marshal and his handcuffed prisoner. When the stage is attacked, will Carmela's wish come true, or will she forever be branded by her past? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Desert Moon & Honor Bound
by Susan Page Davis and Colleen L. Reece -- Enjoy an Old West romance adventure from author Susan Page Davis. Julia Newman looked forward to moving home to Arizona, then she got word that her mother has died and Julie's stagecoach is robbed. If that wasn't enough, the first person she sees in town is Adam Scott—the man she always loved but could never have—and now he is accusing her brother of criminal activity. Also includes a bonus historical romance, Honor Bound by Colleen L. Reece. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Her Motherhood Wish
by Keli Gwyn -- En route to the Double T Orphanage to work on its expansion, carpenter Chip Evans and Caroline Hunt discover two orphaned children—and become their caregivers. But Chip's determined not to let himself get too attached to the children who just lost their widowed father…or to the lovely woman helping him care for them. Especially since Callie and the little ones just don't fit into his detailed plans for the future. Callie can't help but fall in love with the orphans, and despite her better judgment, she's falling for Chip, too. Her dreams of being a wife and mother were not quite like this. But Callie believes a plan bigger than Chip's brought them all together…and now she just has to help him see it, too. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Planter's Daughter
by Michelle Shocklee -- When her father's Texas cotton plantation faces bankruptcy, Adella must choose between the man who can her family's land and the man who can save her! (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

When Tides Turn
by Sarah Sundin -- When Quintessa Beaumont learns the US Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, eager to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. Lt. Dan Avery employs his skills in antisubmarine warfare to fight U-boats at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, but the last thing he wants to see on his radar is fun-loving Tess. As Dan and Tess work together in Boston, the changes in Tess challenge his notions--and his heart. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

Medical Suspense:agent-in-training
Doctor's Dilemma
by Richard L. Mabry M.D. -- Young surgeon Tyler Gentry thought the offer to join the Hall Group of surgeons offered the answer to his problems, but things changed when he received a 3 AM phone call that told him such a move would be hazardous to his health. (Medical Suspense, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:her-baby's-protector
Her Baby's Protector
by Margaret Daley and Susan Sleeman -- Saved by the Lawman by Margaret Daley: As an unknown assailant attempts to kidnap family-court judge Kate Forster's infant son, police officer Chase Walker thwarts the attack—and vows to keep the pair safe. But who will protect the ex-marine's heart when the widowed mother and her little boy make him long for a permanent spot in their family? Saved by the SEAL by Susan Sleeman: The tragedy that killed Bree Hatfield's best friends--and left her with custody of their young daughter--has been ruled an accident. But Bree knows it was murder. Scared and alone, she turns to her ex-boyfriend, navy SEAL Clint Reed, who'll risk everything to protect baby Ella and the woman he never stopped loving. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

by Terri Reed -- FBI intern Zara Fielding and her K-9 partner, Radar, stumble across a robbery gone wrong and put themselves in the criminals' crosshairs. Her childhood friend FBI computer guru Dylan O'Leary works for the secretive FBI unit she longs to join, and he vows not to let anything happen to her. As they work to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, new feelings ignite. When she goes missing, it's only Dylan--and Radar--who can track her down. Will they arrive in time to save her and the future she and Dylan have started dreaming about? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:ingrid's-engagement
Ingrid's Engagement
by Kristen Reed -- When King Viggo marches through the kingdom of Schlagefilde in a relentless quest for retribution against its wicked king, the Count of Anselm attempts to make peace with him. As the two strike a deal that will protect the people of Anselm, the King of Villriket becomes enthralled with a portrait of the Count's oldest daughter, Ingrid. The vengeful king vows that he will leave Edmund's county in peace if he will allow him to marry Ingrid. To prevent her father from incurring the sovereign's wrath, the young lady hastily agrees and enters into an unforeseen engagement with the grim ruler. Ingrid's Engagement tells the enchanting tale of a beautiful young woman who softens the hardened heart of a beastly king with nothing more than her quiet wisdom and gentle spirit. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)
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