Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's New in CBA Historical Romance?

by Dina Sleiman

I adore a good historical romance. What could be more fun than exploring a new time and place while falling in love in the process? However, I don’t particularly adore the oh-so-popular prairie romance. So I’ve been very excited to find lots of new CBA historical romances set in time periods I enjoy.

This summer I particularly focused on books set in America from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Note that each of these books are located in civilized areas with well-educated, cultured heroines. Ahh, how’s that for a nice change? I’ll let you in on the basic plot lines as well as some of the strengths and weaknesses of each as we go along.

Heiress by Susan May Warren – This was my personal favorite of the bunch. It’s a story of two sisters, both wealthy heiresses in the early 1900s, who follow very different paths in life. One marries for money, while the other follows her dreams to the West where she starts her own newspaper. Perhaps better described as a historical novel with romantic elements, the book is full of surprises, twists and turns, and emotional depth, as it follows them through several decades. What I loved about it was that it took a very real look at the difficulties women faced at that time in history rather than play on the fallacy of “the good old days.” It was realistic and gritty with a lovely literary touch. I’ve heard some readers complain about an adulterous situation in the book, however I think this is an important issue, and the author handles it well. I wish she had made a clearer connection between the adultery and the abuse the heroine suffered, but nonetheless, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is willing to look at the hard side of high society life.

Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad – I would call this one a perfect vacation read. It’s certainly the funniest of the bunch. Lighthearted and full of life. The story takes place on a resort in 1895. The sassy, spunky heroine is determined to learn to sail, although she can’t swim. She pulls plenty of Lucille-Ball-worthy stunts, and her inner dialogue is hysterical. I suppose my only issue was that, as with many romances, much of the early tension has to do with the heroine's blind stubbornness. However, as the story progresses, real issues arise as the man her father wants her to marry shows his true colors. I can’t say this story really stuck with me, but I certainly had fun while reading it.

Glamorous Illusions by Lisa Bergren – My favorite part of this book is that it follows the heroine on the grand tour through Europe in 1913. I loved that, including the cruise aboard a Titanic style ship and the gorgeous Edwardian fashions. It’s fun seeing it all through the eyes of a simple farm girl, who has only recently discovered that her real father is the local copper baron and questions the excess around her. This book had plenty of emotional depth as well, because she has also learned that she is an illegitimate child, and she struggles to find her place in the world and in her new family. Only her thoughtful tour guide (a.k.a. handsome hero) seems to understand her and be on her side. This book was well-written and enjoyable, but I had two small complaints with it. One, not being a prairie lover, I felt that the beginning on the farm dragged along for too many pages, although I stuck with it for the promise of the grand tour. Two, I was surprised that while one storyline concluded, there was not much resolution at the end. You have to continue reading the series to see how the romance turns out. However, I liked it enough to keep reading if time allows.

The Rose of Winslow Street by Elizabeth Camden – Last but not least, this book set in Massachusetts in 1879 was by far the most unexpected of the bunch. A Romanian family of refugees claims a house based on an old will while the owners are gone for the summer. That’s a lot of originality right there. Add in that the Romanian hero grows flowers for perfume and that the heroine who is the daughter of a professor has a severe reading disability, and I was totally hooked. As I mentioned, I hate reading the same old same old, and this was entirely fresh. Of course I’m sure you figured out that it’s her house he’s taken, and yet this good-hearted, artistic heroine finds herself drawn to him and his entire family. The book deals with plenty of very real and stirring issues like prejudice, a minor character whose life was devastated by soldiers in Romania, and a heroine who is verbally abused by the father she loves. The climax of this story was unusual, in that the true emotional climax most strongly affected a minor character and took place in her point of view. Yet it was so beautiful and spiritually triumphant, I can’t bring myself to think it should have happened any other way (although I would have liked to have seen more of her POV earlier). If you want a book truly off the beaten path that still falls in the romance genre and has a happily-ever-after, this just might be the one for you.

What historical romances have you read lately? What did you like? What didn't you like?

Monday, September 24, 2012

ACFW 2012

    I have to admit that I'm becoming more and more of a hermit as time goes by.  I love books and publishing and talking about everything involved with them.  I love seeing what's coming up and hearing about the books that won this year's awards.  I love actually meeting the people I've only chatted with via e-mail.  But it is so hard for me to get myself out of my little writing cave and actually go to a conference.
    However, I really had no viable excuse for not going to the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference this year.  It was in driving distance.  I needed to meet the wonderful people at Bethany House, my new publisher.  I wanted to meet people from my writers' loops, especially my wonderful Inky Sisters (those who were able to attend).  And I really needed to be around other writers, those who "get" what my life and my passion for words are like.
    So, overcoming all my self-imposed objections to going (most involving NOT wanting to get up at five in the morning), I made my way to the conference bright and really early on Friday morning.  Instead of arriving at DFW Airport at approximately 7:45, time enough to register and get my conference materials before breakfast started at eight, I got there at about five minutes after seven.  Evidently the traffic and construction problems weren't quite as bad as I had expected.

    Fortunately, I didn't get lost or diverted or confused and found the hotel without any problem.  I was pleased to find that ACFW was actually expecting me and, better than that, some of my fellow Inkies had saved me a place at breakfast!  It was so great meeting them.  I was sorry all of the group wasn't able to make it this time, but I hope by the next time the conference is in Dallas, in 2015, we'll all be there.
    After a gourmet breakfast and lots of hugs and chatting with Inky peeps, I headed off to the conference bookstore.  So many great books.  And what deals they were offering.  Many were buy one get one free or even buy one get two free!  And I so much wanted to buy some, but I couldn't remember what I already had and didn't have, so I didn't buy anything.  And, wouldn't you know it, I didn't already have any of the books I wanted to buy.  Sorry Mary Connealy and Karen Witemeyer!  I'll be getting those books soon though, I promise.
    After the bookstore, I went to my first continuing education class.  Davis Bunn taught a class on craft and, especially, tying the hero's internal and external goals into the novel's climax.  I was sorry to find out that this class was to be continued the next day (when I wouldn't be there), because I found his comparison of the heroic and the post-modern journey fascinating.  Who knew the post-modern model was thousands of years old?
    Following a delicious (and very ample) lunch, during which there was more Inky fellowship, I went to hear Allen Arnold and Jim Rubart talk about how to write and live in freedom.  The thing that I loved most about that talk was the idea that we do have time to do everything God calls us to do.  He doesn't give us more than we can handle.  We just have to learn to say no to the extraneous things that weigh us down.  It was something I knew but truly needed to have brought to my attention.  Forcefully.
    After that, I had another trip to the bookstore (still wondering which books I already had and which I didn't) and then went to hear Michael Hyatt talk about social marketing.  Man, so much to do, so many avenues available to get information out to readers.  It's overwhelming!    Once the session was over, I had to say goodbye to my Inky friends and head off to dinner with the Bethany House editors and authors.  That was amazing!  Not only were they all wonderfully nice, they had all kinds of interesting things to say about writing and publishing.  I've always been fascinated with things like cover design and photo shoots and book trailers, about how books are marketed and the mysterious workings of WalMart and Amazon.
    By the end of the day, almost eighteen hours after my alarm went off, I was happily exhausted.  I had talked shop all day to people who loved books and writing and publishing.  Even though my new book won't be out until next summer, I felt like a real author.  I'm looking forward to when ACFW will again be in Dallas.
    See you all in 2015!

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic and The Key in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries will debut in the Summer of 2013 with Rules of Murder from Bethany House.  A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Left Behind...from ACFW

by Susanne Dietze

A version of this blog appeared a year ago. I found I needed to read it again, so I re-vamped it. Please forgive the re-post!

If you’re reading this, I can guess you’re not in Dallas for the 2012 American Christian Fiction Writers Conference which starts today. Me neither. We all have our reasons for staying home, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t a little sad or jealous—and maybe more than a bit curious about what we’re missing.

While some of our favorite inspirational authors (both published and soon-to-be published) are networking, we’re working day jobs. While they’re marinating in the teaching of notable speakers, we’re marinating tonight’s chicken dinner. Which we’ll be eating while they’re celebrating achievement in inspirational writing with a big ol’ banquet.

But this is not the time to have a pity party! Those of us who are left behind from Conference can accomplish some big things weekend. Here’s what I plan to do:

Be present in the moment and trust in God. Rejoice in wherever you are this weekend, because the Lord most probably wanted you there, whether it’s a family wedding or a kid’s soccer game. God’s faithfulness and love for you is the same as it ever was. Trust in His timing and provision, and pray to be able to discern His will for your future attendance.

Validate my emotions but not allow them to take over. I admit it: I wish I were at ACFW. It’s easy to feel left out or like I’m going to miss a major opportunity. I’d love to sit down with other Inkies, my agent, and new friends alike. Those emotions are ok. What isn’t ok is if I let them stew, so I’m going to turn them over to the Lord.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30

Write. Networking is only part of our job as writers. If we don’t have proposals / manuscripts in hand, then there’s nothing to publish. Plan to get some work accomplished toward that end. As for me, I’ll be writing a synopsis.
© Kornilovdream | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Do research—for your story or your craft. Since I’m writing a synopsis this weekend (one of my least favorite things to do), I’m going to search online for articles to help me do it well.

Attend the At Home Conference:

Party. We can join in the celebration for the Genesis and Carol Awards! Participate in the Live Blog, which will occur during the awards ceremony tomorrow, September 22, at 6:00 PM CDT. Click here to take part.

© Sergiu | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

 Do one thing to pamper yourself. Paint your toenails, take a nap, order a zillion-calorie drink at Starbuck’s (mine will be a Pumpkin Spice Latte!)—whatever makes you feel special and nurtured.

I’ll be praying for conference, and for those of us left behind. Perhaps one of these days—maybe even next year—we’ll be there together.

What are you doing this weekend?


Susanne Dietze has written love stories since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. She won first place in the Historical category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler, and her work has finaled in the Genesis, Gotcha!, and Touched By Love Contests. Susanne is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. You can visit her on her website,

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