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,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Football Relates to Fiction

by Gina Welborn

(I originally wrote/shared this blog in December 2010. Considering I'm driving down to ACFW conference in Dallas, probably as you read this, I thought this was the perfect time to revisit my ramblings. At least I needed the reminder. Hope you enjoy!!! xoxoxo g)

I love football. Most of all, I love my football teams: Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys. Through victories, losses, and bad coaches, I've stuck with my teams Now if you aren't a football fan, give me a few paragraphs before you decide to tune me out. Please.

A friend of mine (let's call her Amy) was watching the Big Twelve Championship game with my oldest son and moi. I noticed that Virginia Tech was leading Florida State, so I said, "Go Tech!" Amy immediately responded with "Go Florida State!"

Now this confused me. Why cheer for FSU? She lives in Virginia so naturally one would conclude she would cheer for a state school over some other school four states away. Nope. Not Amy. See, Amy is a HUGE University of Virgina fan. Never mind that neither Amy or any of her family members ever attended UVA. Shoot, I didn't graduate from OU so I understand attendance isn't relevant to fan loyalty.

Anyhoo, I asked Amy why wasn't she cheering for V-Tech because it made more logical sense to me to cheer for a local university. "I don't like Tech" was her answer. Then she told me about the year when UVA was playing Miami. Since UVA didn't qualify for a bowl game, she knew that if Miami won, then V-Tech would lose out on a bowl. Thus, she chose to cheer against her team because their losing would hurt V-Tech.

Being the wise and mature person I am, I smiled and went on my merry way watching the game. Ha!

Instead, I looked at her directly and said, "So your hatred of Tech overrides your love for UVA?"

Obviously she denied hating Tech.

That's when I said, "I just don't understand your reasoning. How can you say you're a fan of UVA yet will choose to root against them if their losing hurts another team's chances for success? Seems to me the motivation at the center of your heart is Hatred...and her twin sister Spite."

Eventually we dropped the discussion and went on our merry way to watch OU beat Nebraska to become the last Big Twelve champion. Boomer Sooner!!!

Later that night as I was going to bed, I got to thinking about the discussion and to mind came a book I was reading. What emotion is the central motivation for my life? Hatred? Jealousy? Am I vindictive? Can I honestly rejoice in the success of another while I bask in defeat? Am I selfish or self-less?

Sometimes I hate heart-examination. Worse is I hate admitting my failings. (Except for my spelling blunders.)

Nevertheless, here I go.

I've wanted since last winter to read the writing of A.W. Tozer. Sometime this fall, a copy of FELLOWSHIP OF THE BURNING HEART: A Collection of Sermons by A.W. Tozer showed up in my house. Qui-winki-dink? Hmm. I started reading it last month. The first sermon is called "How to Pray for Revival."

Some of us are praying like this [for the glory of God to be revealed], but there is a serpent in the garden. It is the serpent of self. It twines itself about the most beautiful trees, and it is there to poison your prayers and destroy your prayers. James 4:3 says: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss , that ye may consume it upon your lusts."

It is possible for me to go to my knees, even miss a meal and fast, and say, "Oh, God, let Thy glory be revealed to men," and at the same time have a sneaking hope that I'll be the one He uses to reveal that glory. Do you know what I'm asking for? I'm asking for a cut of the glory of God, a percentage of the glory of God, and I'll never get my prayer answered.

Now, my brethern, we must elevate our hearts and pray: "O God, honor Thyself, but do it through me or do it without me or do it apart from me." ~A.W. Tozer

I've heard many an author say "I'm writing for God's glory." I've said it. Yet, I can also remember walking along the bookshelves in the Twin Hickory library this past summer, stopping at a best-selling inspirational author's books, and saying, "Someday I'm going to sell more books that you." Oh, I followed it up with "I'm writing for Your glory, Lord. Use me to bring glory and honor and praise to You." After all, it's about Him, not me. Sometimes. Not all the times.

I've rejoiced over the successes of fellow authors, while holding resentment in my heart. "Why not me, Lord? My manuscripts are just as good as hers."

When I say I rejoiced over the successes of fellow authors, I mean actually rejoiced. When Melanie Dickerson announced she'd sold her medieval manuscript to Zondervan, I was beaming like a proud momma at the computer screen. (Great book, btw!) I was so happy for her. Then I walked away..and the serpents of jealousy, resentment, and selfishness buried themselves in my heart. I wanted to sell my medieval too. I wanted to be the next bright inspirational romance star. I wanted to start my journey of selling more books and receiving more awards than That Author in my library.

So last Saturday night as I was mulling over the hatred and strive motivating Amy's anti-Virginia Tech views, I realized I had bad motivations in my heart too. Just like Amy, I denied the truth because I could honestly say I was happy for my fellow authors' successes.

I had to search the hidden corners of my heart, which God aided by shining a spotlight. (God is rather helpful that way, especially when we ask for help.) I questioned if I could I honestly pray,"Lord, honor Yourself through So-and-So's writing. Use So-and-So to reveal Your glory...even if it means me never being published."

Oh, it was certainly easy...umm, easier to pray that if the person was a dear friend. I'd certainly be okay if God chose to bring honor and glory to Himself through my mentor and friend, Laurie Alice Eakes, by allowing her to become the best-selling historical inspirational romance author of all time. I thought of several author friends, like Julie Lessman, Missy Tippens, and Sandi Rog to name a few, who I'd be just as thrilled for their best-selling-of-all-time, multiple-Rita-wins success.

Then I started thinking about other writers I knew. Published. Unpublished. Ones who novels I didn't like. Ones who said things that hurt me or that I found offensive. And I found it harder and harder to say that prayer. I wasn't willing to give up my ever selling a manuscript in exchange for their best-selling-of-all-time staus. That's when I knew the core motivation of my heart was selfishness. I wanted a share of God's glory.


I really want to delete this post. In fact, I don't want to share what I've just written because I feel as if I'm glorifying myself in being this open. So I'm gonna sit here for a few moments and wait for God to tell me it's okay to delete this post. See, I did what He asked me to and, like Abraham, being willing to is enough. Any minute now. Still waiting. And now my makeup is all ruined, which means I'm gonna have to wash my face, which means I won't wake up, look in the mirror, forget I still have makeup on, and think, "Wow, I look better than I remembered."

You must be willing to pray, "O God, answer with me or without me or apart from me. But please answer, God. Glorify Thyself in our midst. Send out missionaries, Lord. But if You want to send out two more from another church than You do from mine, I'm satisfied. Send revival, Lord, but if You want to bless the church across the city and not mine, okay. If You want to use me, all right, but if not, I'll back the man You do use. I'll love him; I won't be jealous; I'll pray for him; and I'll work behind the scenes; and I'll do my deal-level best, unseen to do what I can do.

If it's the glory of God we want to see restored/honored/uplifted, then we won't care if we have any part in it or not.

Maybe my job--maybe your job--isn't to be Moses. Maybe we're to be Joshua or Caleb holding up Moses' arms. Can you honestly be okay with that? Even if that annoying, arrogant, elitist, etc., author in one of your writing groups is God's chosen Moses.

If you really want God to bless and to bring honor to Himself, then you have to be satisfied for God to use somebody else to do it.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: How do you deal with jealousy toward fellow writers or co-workers or classmates?

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