Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Crazy for Bookmarks Giveaway

A fascinating conversation has been happening on my Facebook page lately, one that started on March 22nd when I posted this simple question:

Considering that most folks who frequent my page are avid readers, I expected to get a fair number of responses. What I didn't expect was that those responses would be so impassioned about the love of bookmarks and the dismay over dog-eared pages.  Who knew so many felt so strongly?  I had no idea!

In case you're curious, the final tally from that post was as follows:

         2 readers said they use neither method but instead just remember where they are 

         4 readers admitted to dog-earing their pages

       75 readers, using a total of 59 exclamation points between them, said they use bookmarks.

The bookmark-only people were so emphatic, in fact, that I have a feeling the above data is a bit skewed as far as the general reading public is concerned. After all, it's hard to admit you fold back pages in the face of anti-dog-earism. :) But it did make for some compelling reading!


As I thought about all these enthusiastic bookmark users, I began to wonder if those who like bookmarks were using actual bookmarks or just whatever's handy to mark their places in their books. So on Monday, I posted this follow-up question:

As of right now, that single question has generated more than 100 comments, and the post has reached nearly 8000 people. Like I said, people who love bookmarks really love bookmarks!

Reading through the many interesting comments, I think the general consensus seems to be that most folks have used both: In a pinch, they'll go for a random scrap of paper (or yarn or ribbon, etc.) but in general they prefer to use a real bookmark. 


Which leads to the final point of my post here today. To honor all this devotion to bookmarks, I've decided to give some away–to everybody! 

Order your set today!

If you'd like a free set of bookmarks, as shown in the photo above, simply click the button below, fill out the simple form, and then watch for yours to arrive in the mail. I love giving stuff away, but especially when I know that it'll be used as part of your reading routine! (Note: If you only want one or a few bookmarks rather than the whole set, you can specify that on the form.)


For even more fun, I'll be doing a drawing on Facebook each Monday for the next 6 weeks, with some really cool bookmarks as prizes for the winners, including one I made myself, three that I brought back from a trip to Hawaii, one from the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., and one from my publisher, as shown:

Be sure to drop by my Facebook page on those dates so you can enter to win–not to mention all the other days, just to say hello or see what's happening.


One final thought, for those of you who use neither bookmarks nor dog-ears but instead depend on your memory alone to find your place in a book... I sure hope you know how very lucky you are! For me, it's a good day if I remember to put on pants in the morning, no WAY could I ever remember my place in a book. If you have that kind of memory, you are truly blessed!

To everyone else, don't forget to order your free bookmarks--and to join me on Facebook for my upcoming bookmark giveaways. 

Happy reading everybody, no matter how you mark your place!  

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Prizes & New Christian Fiction Releases for April 2018

First things first, the winner of my website drawing for a free signed copy of The House That Cleans Itself is:

Pam from Texas

Congrats, Pam. Hope you enjoy the book!

Another Giveaway

A new drawing is already up and rolling on my website's home page, so be sure to check it out. This time, the prize is a free "Read Now, Sleep Later" pillow: 

If you love books that are so compelling they force you to keep reading no matter what, then this just may be your motto too!

To enter the drawing, simply go to my home page, click on the ENTER TO WIN button, and complete the form. Deadline is June 30th, and the winner will be announced on July 3rd. Good luck!

And now, for our regularly scheduled blog...

The Latest in Christian Fiction 

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

Contemporary Romance:

Pelican Point by Irene Hannon -- After inheriting a crumbling lighthouse, ex-Army doctor Ben Garrison wants to sell it. But Hope Harbor Herald editor Marci Weber is determined to save the town landmark. Can these two romance-wary souls finds a meeting of the minds...and hearts? (Contemporary Romance from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing)

An Amish Heirloom by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kelly Irvin, and Beth Wiseman -- From bestselling Amish authors come four novellas about the meaning and tradition found behind every family heirloom. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Historical Romance:

This Wilderness Journey by Misty Beller -- He’s been sent to retrieve the new missionary… But she’s not at all who he expects to find. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy -- Deborah and her sister and two little children survive a wagon train massacre. Trace finds them and takes them home. He finds himself their accidental guardian. He must protect them all and gain justice. When he does, all these friendly visitors--especially Deborah--will leave him forever. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

First Love Forever Romance Collection by Susanne Dietze, Marcia Gruver, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancette Pagels, Martha Rogers, Lorna Seilstad, Connie Stevens, Erica Vetsch, and Jennifer Uhlarik -- Coming face to face with a lost love can be awkward when the heartstrings are still holding on to the “what ifs.” In settings from 1865 to 1910, nine couples are thrown back on the same path by life’s changes and challenges. Can love rekindle despite the separation of time and space? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

All Things Beautiful by Keely Brooke Keith -- It’s 1868 in the settlement of Good Springs, and Hannah Vestal is passionate about writing fiction and keeping her stories to herself. When her father asks to read her work, she decides to have it printed secretly for his 50th birthday. Hannah tries to arrange the printing with the settlement’s pressman, but the witty and dapper Henry Roberts has better things to do with his ink. In order to secure settlement support for his printing press, the elder council says Henry must print an error-free copy of the New Testament before the settlement’s 8th anniversary celebration. He is determined to meet their challenge, but when the enigmatic Hannah proves to be a beguiling distraction, Henry longs for something more than a life at the letterpress. (Historical Romance from Edenbrooke Press)

Adoration by Olivia Rae -- Sir Darrin de Longue is desperate to get his lands back from Lady Faith de Sainte-Marie, the woman who betrayed him and may have had a hand in his father's murder. But King Richard discloses on his deathbed that Lady Faith is the king's daughter and then issues an ultimatum Darrin must obey. In order to reclaim his lands, he must marry Lady Faith and get her with child in a year's time. Lady Faith has loved the rowdy and bold Sir Darrin since childhood, but cannot be a true wife to the bitter, angry man whom she has wed. In order to gain his trust and love, she vows to find the truth about his father's murder. But when she stumbles upon deadly secrets, will she be able to prove her innocence--and his--to erase the past and win Darrin's heart? (Historical Romance from HopeKnight Press)

Under Prairie Skies by Cynthia Roemer -- Illinois prairie, 1855. Unsettled by the news that her estranged cousin and uncle are returning home after a year away, Charlotte Stanton goes to ready their cabin and finds a handsome stranger has taken up residence. Convinced he’s a squatter, she throws him off the property before learning his full identity. Little does she know, their paths are destined to cross again. Quiet and ruggedly handsome, Chad Avery’s uncanny ability to see through Charlotte’s feisty exterior and expose her inner weaknesses both infuriates and intrigues her. When a tragic accident incites her family to move east, Charlotte stays behind in hopes of becoming better acquainted with the elusive cattleman. Yet Chad’s unwillingness to divulge his hidden past, along with his vow not to love again, threatens to keep them apart forever. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)

The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo -- The last time New Orleans attorney Jean-Luc Valmont saw Maribel Cordoba, a Spanish nobleman’s daughter, she was an eleven-year-old orphan perched in the riggings of his privateering vessel proving herself as the best lookout on his crew. Until the day his infamy caught up with them all and innocent lives were lost. Unsure why he survived but vowing to make something of the chance he was given, Jean-Luc has buried his past life so deep that no living person will ever find it—until a very much alive and very grown up Maribel Cordoba arrives on his doorstep and threatens all he now holds dear. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

General Contemporary:

Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels -- Crisis pregnancy worker Marissa Moreau suspects her husband is cheating, but little does she know how close to home her husband’s infidelity hits. College student Kaitlyn Farrows is floundering after a relationship with her professor leaves her pregnant. Soon she lands a job and a support system at the local pregnancy resource center and things seem to be turning around. But when Marissa and Kaitlyn become friends, neither one knows they share a connection—Colin, Marissa’s husband and Kaitlyn’s former professor. When their private lives collide, the two women must face the ultimate test of their faith and choose how to move forward as they live in the shadows of hope. (General Contemporary from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Secret Past by Sharee Stover -- With gunmen at her doorstep, Katie Tribani learns her true identity. She’s been in witness protection since childhood, and now her crime-lord father has found her. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Young Adult:

Chase by Glenn Haggerty -- Tyler, a middle school newbie, shadows drug runners to rat out the methamphetamine dealer before his friend turns into a brain-dead druggie. (Young Adult, Independently Published)  

Which of these books are you excited about? Let us know in the comments below!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Mind Warp of Writing and Weather

My dog, Belle, coming in from the snow
Last week marked the first day of Spring—but try telling that to the foot of snow that fell here in Eastern Pennsylvania! Considering that I’m currently working on a novel that’s set in the sweltering heat of a Louisiana summer, it takes more than a little imagination to write a story set there while there’s a veritable blizzard going on just outside the window here. But it can be done, through sheer force of will, a couple of tricks, and lots of imagination.

The Fictive Dream

When reading, have you ever been so transported into a story that you’re a little startled when you come back out of it again? For just a brief second, you’re actually surprised to realize that the heroine isn’t real and right there with you, the setting doesn’t exist, and you’re not in peril or in trouble or in the midst of exchanging witty banter with someone. Instead, you’re simply…you, you’re probably in your bed, and you need to get on to sleep now or you’ll never wake up in the morning!

That trance-like state from which you’ve emerged is what’s called the “fictive dream,” and it’s a wonderful thing, for sure. It’s what makes reading so magical.

It’s also what makes writing so possible, because for an author to transport you to a whole other place, she first has to transport herself there—and then build it up, make it work, and pave the way for others to get there as well. 

I like this quote about achieving the fictive dream, from John Gardner in The Art of Fiction:

"This and nothing else is the desperately sought and tragically fragile writer's process: in his imagination, he sees made-up people doing things—sees them clearly—and in the act of wondering what they will do next he sees what they will do next, and all this he writes down in the best, most accurate words he can find..."

When It Works

Once you get the hang of it, achieving the fictive dream as a writer is usually not all that hard to do. It just takes a quiet and comfortable space, some deep breathing, and a little mind play. As Gardner says, “…when the dream flags [the author] can reread what he’s written and find the dream starting up again.”

That’s how it works for me. When I settle down to get started for the day, I’ll usually pause and reflect on my story and characters, then I’ll just back up a few pages and start reading, to get into the flow.

After that, I’m off again, far away in some distant land or time, somehow actually feeling that splintery wood under my bare feet, tasting that delicious bite of peach cobbler, or smelling that gently blowing grass in that meadow as I write. 

When It Doesn’t Work

Sometimes, however, it’s not that simple. For some reason, it occasionally takes a far greater effort just to get back in the flow. I wouldn’t exactly call it writer’s block, it’s more like a sensory deficit, where your mind is willing to churn along with the story, but your imagination for some reason refuses to join in.

This can happen thanks to a variety of issues, such as personal matters that are tugging at your mind, some sort of physical pain that keeps bringing you back to reality, or even just constant interruptions by the world around you. Sometimes it's as simple as a bad night’s sleep, which can wreak havoc with a writer’s ability to enter the fictive dream the next day.

For me personally, the biggest barrier I face is weather—or seasons, rather, as in when it’s summer in one world but winter in the other. This can be so confusing to my psyche, in fact, that I have to go to all sorts of lengths to overcome my actual situation and fully immerse in my imagination.

Here’s a short video I made last week when it was snowing, just to elaborate a bit on this phenomenon…

Sensing the Problem

As you can imagine, my solution to this issue involves tricking my senses. For example, if I’m writing about summer in the midst of winter, I may do one or all of the following…

• Put on some music that evokes the fictional location, such as steel drums and reggae for the Caribbean or Zydeco for Louisiana.

• Make myself a location-related snack—such as a pineapple-mango smoothie or some boiled peanuts and an RC cola—to nibble on as I work.

• Surround myself with photos of the location. 

Once I’ve done all of the above, I just try to relax and let my senses lead the way. I may go back a little further than usual with my reading, perhaps by a whole chapter or two, and then get started. Usually by the time I reach the end of the words I’ve written thus far, my fingers are ready to fly. I’m back in that magical place in my brain, the one where the real world goes away and I'm moving around in a reality all my own.

Hopefully, by achieving the writer's fictive dream on my end, I'm able to send you into the reader's fictive dream on your end. That's always the goal, anyway, to send you to  a place in your mind that actually feels more real than the world around you.

Happy reading!