Monday, May 31, 2010

Leaning into the Curves Goes on Tour!

That's right ... put on your helmets and get ready for a wild ride around the Internet! Follow the list of blogs to your right. On the posted date, visit that blog and read what the reviewer has to say about "Leaning into the Curves." Join the celebration of this fun new release!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lael reviews Imprints by Rachel Ann Nunes

I’ve always loved paranormal books and have even written some myself, so I was excited when Rachel Ann Nunes announced the publication of her new book, Imprints. She very graciously sent me a pdf and I dived in, reading at breakfast, lunch, in bed, and even at church during a High Councilman’s talk (but only a couple of pages).

I was absorbed by the story of Autumn Rain,who has a gift of being able to pick up emotions or imprints from objects she handles. She even sees scenes of events that have taken place around the object. At the beginning of the story she is asked to help locate Victoria, who has gone missing. When she touches a pendant that had belonged toVictoria, she sees the girl talking with a young man who wears a white T shirt with navy blue lettering proclaiming Only Love Can Overcome Hate, which she recognizes as the standard dress of a nearby commune. She now has a clue as to where to begin looking for Victoria.

Then she becomes involved in a second search, this one for Marcie, the widowed and severely depressed sister of Ethan McConnell, a private eye, who has not had any success in finding her. Autumn senses that Marcie, too, might be with the commune. Attracted to Ethan, as he is to her (a sprinkling of romance is good for almost any story), Autumn agrees to search for Marcie as well as Victoria.

Autumn, child of hippie parents Winter and Summer, has other talents, including being an antiques expert (she runs an antique shop to support herself) and having a wide knowledge of herbal remedies. These interests play into the story, as does hunky, dreadlocked Jake, who runs the herbal shop next door. Jake has been a long time friend, and Autumn is disappointed that apparently friendship is as far as he wants their relationship to go. Oh well. There’s always Ethan . . . .

Using her knowledge of herbs as an entree into the commune, Autumn joins the group at the vast farm they run to support themselves. Jake, good friend that he is, insists on accompanying her. But they must not reveal they know each other or someone might suspect their true purpose in being there.
Now questions begin to arise. Is the commune really the congenial group of lettuce growers they purport to be? Are people free to leave at will as Autumn is told they can? Are the dark underground cellars on the farm merely for the storage of the vegetables and fruit, or could there be a more sinister use for them? And how did a dead body come to be in the woods?

Autumn’s quest to find the missing women, aided by her ability to sense imprints on objects, leads her and Jake deeper and deeper into the life and the secrets of the commune until they find they are in real jeopardy. I told her over and over that she was going to get into trouble if she went to that farm, but did she listen? Of course if she hadn’t gone, there wouldn’t be a story. But I worried about her. I won’t tell my worries because you’ll want to build up your own list when you read this unusual and compelling book.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Finding your Voice

And have they ever! From bottom to top, Keleen Miskin, Keri Anderson Hughes, and Meghann Gavin, Tuesday Divas of the extended Atlanta, Georgia, area each have a voice individually and within the group that is unique and beautiful. Their recent well received concert "With a Song in My Heart" performed May 7 & 8 at the New Dawn Theater in Duluth, Georgia, include old favorites like "Almost Like Being in Love", Lerner & Loewe, and new like "Spark of Creation" from Children of Eden by Stephen.

The amazing thing about Tuesday Divas is that while all three singers are professionally trained vocalists with singular styles of their own, in numbers like the haunting "Lullaby" , Gorben, Mattews, & Van Der Saag, they blend into near perfect harmony. Like their voices, their personalities vary and merge through the loose story line and witty dialogue that holds the program together.

"When I Fall in Love" from Fiorello!, Harnick & Bock, was performed with a sense of wonder and realization by Meghann Gavin that brought the tender song to life. Keri Hughes's poignant rendition of the ballad "I'll be There", from Ordinary Days, Adam Gwon, went straight to the heart. And Keleen Miskin's "Grateful", Jeff Bucchino, brought the house to its feet. The concert was truly about finding the remarkable facets of each individual voice and styling and then bringing them with dedication, polish, and a delicious sense of humor in a well rounded package to an eager audience.

Finding your voice was the topic of after performance conversation as well centered around a former student of two of the vocal coaches who is currently working her way onto the national stage as a singer/song writer. When a nationally known vocal trainer, who had also worked with the singer in question, was asked what her chances were, he answered (and I paraphrase), it all depends on her willingness to do the work it takes to find her authentic voice both on stage and in her compositions. And the only way to do that is to have the discipline to keep on singing and to write, write, write.

Same song writers everywhere sing. Finding our unique and authentic voice in our stories takes the same discipline and practice. We write until we begin to purge from our writing all the phrases carefully structured to sound like our favorite author, the banalities, the pretty scenes that have nothing to do with moving the plot along, the tired phrasing, and the endless descriptions filled with ly words. Then we write some more. Somewhere along the line, if we're very lucky, our own unique and very personal voice will emerge, an authentic voice that can tell the stories that haunt us in a way no other voice can. Knock on wood and speed the day!

For an example of a unique and engaging voice already out there on the market check out Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella. This book takes a look at family ghosts both figurative and literal in a delicious romp through solving a mystery, finding a missing treasure, and burying one little know and unloved member of the family. Without giving away the twists and turns, let me say it is one of those stories that leaves you feeling as though you've just tasted the perfect chocolate and all you can say is, "Oh, yeah!"

Another one-of-a-kind voice is presented by Leif Enger in Peace Like a River. This remarkable story about family, faith, and the true nature of miracles is told as though a dear friend is handing you the intimate details of his life as a gift. "Make of it what you will," Rueben, the main character, tells us. I finished this book feeling as though I, too, had been given a gift.

Four out of four star recommendations for both books and another four for Tuesday Divas and the gift of their music.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Yippie Ki-u and a Happy Dance too!

Finally, after all the kafuffle of getting releases for our new release, everything is turned in and Leaning into the Curves is on the shelves just waiting to brighten your day and give you a giggle.
Take a peak at our first review and author interview featuring what it means to be a co-author by Kelly Bryson, Atlanta, at

Monday, May 3, 2010

What's Your Twist?

"What's your twist?" is a new phrasing of the old writer's question, "What's your hook?" It's the question many of the presenters at the recent LDS Storymakers conference asked. What makes your story different enough to catch the eye of an agent or editor? Boiling down half a dozen different lectures and discussions resulted in this advice. Find an ordinary experience your target audience can identify with, wrap it in layers of the extraordinary and increase the stakes for your characters.

Examples included Stephenie Meyer's top selling vampire romances. While teenage romances filled with temptation and angst aren't unusual in today's market, even ones where the hero is a vampire, Meyer's hero is a sparkly vegetarian vampire with remarkable self control. That's quite a twist. More than romance is at stake in these stories, lives lie in the balance.

The Harry Potter stories are all about the familiar experience of going to a new school and making new friends set in the unusual frame work of a boarding school and a magic boarding school at that. And the stakes couldn't be any higher. It's not only about keeping Harry alive and out of the clutches of Voldemort but it's all about saving the world.

Laura Rennert (Searching for Harry Potter: Key Elements of YA and Crossover Fiction) brought Monsoon Summer to our attention, a mother/daughter relationship story played out against the background of helping the poor in India. Aprilynne Pike (Faeries & Vampires, Oh My! Writing and Selling Fantasy for the Young Adult Market) mentioned 13 Reasons Why, a coming of age story dealing with death and loss, but told from both the antagonist's and protagonist's point of view.

Bree Despain (Paranormal Fiction: Delving into the Unknown) pointed out a new trend in paranormal fiction, telling the story from the boy's point of view. It's a twist that's beginning to sell.

I applied this criteria to a recent reads and two old favorites. Lovely Bones was easy to break down. It is the story of surviving loss of a loved one, a universal experience we all can relate to, told from the point of view of the murdered child, a poignant twist.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe four siblings struggle to find their places in the family structure during their parents absence, a scenario easy to identify with. The intensity of that conflict evolves into life and death proportion when a simple game of hide and seek leads them into the war torn fantasy world of Narnia.

Even successful picture books meet this standard. Take Cat in the Hat for example. Every child knows how hard it is to resist the temptation to misbehave when left home alone. Throw a giant talking cat in a striped red hat bent on mischief into the mix and the mundane becomes magical and mystifying mixed up with the well recognized fear, what will happen when Mom comes home?

Whether you're writing for children or adults the formula for finding that hook or twist to catch the agent or editors eye is the same. Choose a universal experience that your audience will identify with, wrap it in layers of the extraordinary, and create stakes high enough for your protagonist that your reader will feel compelled to turn the page and find out what happens next.