Wednesday, July 4, 2018

When a Friend Writes a Book

This is a new sort of post on my blog, because normally I feature books by writing reviews of them and yet I won't be giving a review of the book until after it releases later this month.

So, what is it like to have a good friend write a book?  Well, first of all, if you're a writer as well, you get to hear the squeal of eagerness as someone comes up with a great new idea for a plot.  All friends can hear that squeal, but not all friends are writers who know firsthand the euphoria of getting to know your new characters (which rarely seen like strangers—only friends newly met, excepting the villains, of course) and of harnessing the words onto paper.

Then comes the revision process.  Conma here, or comma there?  Would it be better to add to a scene or not?  You get to watch your pal wrestle with those decisions that affect how posterity will see their book, and even as you give advice you wonder if the advice you give might hinder their particular author "voice." (I neededn't have worried about Angela's author voice.  It's engaging and energetic and not at all in danger of becoming watered down by a friend's suggested edit.)

After the revision comes the formatting and cover selection process.  Now let me warn you right here: if your sanity hangs by a small thread, formatting will run you the very real risk of landing in the loony bin.  It is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those who have a hard time with attention to detail.  It is a computer screen war zone in black and white!  This is when you as a friend need to be ready to join "sprints" (time frames of generally fifteen to twenty minutes wherein you focus only on your project and see how much you can get done) and to send plenty of virtual chocolate and ice cream! The cover is the fun part; watching cover elements take shape and getting to see previews of color, font, style, placement, and perspective is a great deal of fun and also leaves you feeling somewhat useful.

But then----the best part of all: the day you get to announce to the world that your good friend's book is ready to meet the world.  What a fun feeling that is!  

How can you support your favorite writer friends?  Whether it's just listening in while they ramble about Charater This and Character That, or talking through the expediency of tweaking Plot Point K, or if you're instead the Head of Comfort and provide the shoulder to weep on and the foot rubs and the chocolate, or if you're the one that runs to be first in line to buy the book in print....don't let these fun moments pass you by!

Anyway....here is the graphic for Angela's new novella.  Isn't that a beautiful cover? And the story inside is even better!


And here’s my review!

From the very first line, the atmosphere is gripping and interesting.  “Being a lone wolf in a world full of lone wolves could get as messy as fast as a squirrel could climb a tree.”  If that doesn’t put you in the mood for a good story with a fine dash of authentic country to it, just keep reading and you’ll soon find that mood.  The main characters, Lucy and Ed, are both very individual and equally interesting.  The whole arc of the thief and what he meant to do kept me guessing the entire story, and the impossible situation is masterfully handled.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I’ll just say it is a very good debut and that I am glad to award it four out of five stars!  Well done, Angela.  I loved story and the fun I had finding bits of my friend in the way the story is written.

Here’s a link to her blog with more info on how to get your copy!
https://thepeculiarmessenger.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Story excerpt: Zach and the Hurricane

(Public domain photo from pexels.com)

It's been awhile since I posted an update on my writing.  This month I'm doing NaNo Camp with friends to get my word goal along.  This is the beginning to a short novella featuring Zach, one of the guys from the modern-day spy story I've mentioned here before.  I kept having trouble with the scene not going anywhere, so this month I just started it all over from scratch.

Pretty soon it was obvious what Zach and I were missing: God in his story.  Wow.  What a lesson to me as a writer.  So here's the scene.  Enjoy!  

(All writing copyright 2018, Hannah Gridley)

{-----}

The last thing Zach needed was a hurricane to barrel in and disturb his vacation.  On the other hand, if it caused enough chaos, perhaps it would instead lengthen his time off.  He certainly didn’t feel ready to face more grueling days of work, more time of spending every day looking over his shoulder and wondering which day would be his last.  No morning runs on the beach, no sunning himself in the open and trying to pretend he could live life without fearing to show his nose in public.  The job he signed up for wasn’t known for its safety.

He made a run to a nearby village for some extra supplies.  He wouldn’t need much; he was renting a two-room beach shack from an acquaintance, and it was already equipped with sturdy shutters for the two windows and a strong storm door for the door.  He had arrived there only two days before and had just gotten a little bit of sun and surf before the cloudy skies and heavier surf had alerted him to the changing weather.  When he checked the weather reports, there was a great deal of chatter over how Hurricane Janis had gone overnight from a tropical storm in the Gulf to a churning Cat Three and changed course abruptly, as though a bull’s eye were painted right on Zach’s stretch of beach.
He sighed and picked up his satellite phone.  His boss should know ahead of time that he might be delayed by the storm.  The man answered on the second ring.  “Yes?”

“I’m right in the path of the hurricane now.  I might be delayed a day or two getting back,” Zach said.
“That’s fine.  In fact, you have an easy month coming up.  Go ahead and take another week off, and then you have an assignment in Brazil the third week, followed by one in Belize.  Suppose you get your pal to give you the place for the whole month?”

Zach could hardly believe his ears.  "All month, sir?"

"Yes.  All month.  Just make sure your phone is handy after that second week of vacation in case something comes up."

"Absolutely, sir.  Thanks."

He took a deep breath after hanging up.  That was unexpected.  Would he be bored stiff by then?  But the idea of a long rest was delightful.

His pal was quite happy to let him use the place for the rest of the month, and glad someone was watching it during the storm.  For awhile, he kept busy finishing storm prep and making sure he had plenty of clean water ready.  He was prepped for at least two weeks of essentials—very bare ones; he didn't waste time on other things—by early afternoon.  Now what?

The beach grew more and more stormy, more and more lowering.  Heavy clouds swung just above bended tree trunks, and large waves competed with each other in smashing the sand.  It was oddly mesmerizing, entirely absorbing.  Having nothing better to do, Zach lashed his hammock to the cottage's front support beams and settled in to watch. 

**

After a long while, he grew sleepy.  The storm was increasing in power, and even at times bits of spray from the waves splattered the hammock, despite the distance from the beach.  Rain was coming in shortly, but Zach wasn't worried.  He had all the time in the world now.  

He generally spent his vacations in a place in Colorado that he had paid cash for awhile back and had not shared the location of with his boss.  For this vacation, though, he had been told to keep his phone with him in case of emergency; he couldn't very well do that without revealing the location of his secret retreat, half rustic cabin and half bunker, built with his own two hands.  Without building or finishing to do, he was at a loss.  He had enjoyed reading before his days as a secret agent, but those books had been thrillers, and he simply couldn't stomach more war and death and devastation in the realms of fiction.

Perhaps this is a good time to think about God, a thought whispered.  True.  He had neglected God entirely in recent months.  The destruction he saw too often among men had made him withdraw, distancing himself from life and becoming a loner.  Being expected to lie and kill made him feel unworthy to even speak to God.  He still believed in God, still believed in the sacrifice Jesus made and its power to cleanse his sins; but he felt unworthy still—if he intended to quit sinning, he would feel more welcome repenting.  Who could repent with no honest intention of quitting?  But he was owned, body and soul, by the boss he had agreed to work for.  No way out except by death.

Not owned in soul.  No man has the right to another man's soul, whispered the thought in his mind again.  

Did that mean it would be better to turn in his notice and be "eliminated"?  And yet that is a suicide of sorts.

All too long he had been avoiding this inner debate because of the massive ethical questions it raised, questions he had no way of answering.

You have the Bible.

Indeed he did.  But he hadn't read it in years, shrinking from the condemnation he feared he would find there.  Seek Him while He may be found...

The storm crashed hard around him.  The rain splashed over him, wetting him to the skin, and yet he did not pay it mind.  His thoughts were far away, as the whispers of conscience spoke to him and woke his soul once more to his Savior's Voice.

{-----}

So...what do you think?  Will Zach find what he longs for when he turns back to the Bible?  Any guesses as to what caused him to sign up for a job that he can't quit?

Monday, April 9, 2018

Book review: Beneath the Surface by Lynn H. Blackburn


I'm a bit late posting a review of this one (I read it three weeks ago!) but I really enjoyed it!  Here's my review:

Well, it's not what I expected, but it was definitely interesting!  I thought the diving part would play a larger role in the story, but it only is featured at the beginning.  Leigh is drawn into the story when the dive team needs to use her lake access to remove a murder victim from the lake.  But pretty soon the action ramps up when someone makes an attempt on Leigh's life, very nearly succeeding and landing her in the hospital.

So that was twist number one.  This tale takes the cake for twists, which kept me guessing all day long while reading it!  Though I was quite busy, I was able to finish reading it in two sittings simply because I had to know what happened next.

I have to say, I loved having an Asian lady as a main character!  Leigh was adopted from China as a child and raised in North Carolina, and her brother was adopted from Brazil.  I liked this a great deal!  All too often, Christian fiction tends to feature characters that look like they came from Maine, the least racially diverse state!  I'm not one of those that wants every book to force diversity where it doesn't fit, but this was a nice treat.  However, I found myself wishing that Blackburn had described Leigh to us more carefully, because I kept catching myself thinking of her as Vietnamese in feature.

Predictability: Well, very little, other than in the romantic interest!  The killer is a slippery one and hard to think ahead of.

Content: Okay, so this one got really near the edge for me.  If you don't care for really creepy and determined serial killers, make sure to read this one in the daylight!  It's quite intense and the killer does mutilate victims' bodies.

Christian content: a storyline of coming back to God after one's faith has been shaken.

Overall, a solid four star read and a series I will be continuing.  Thanks to the publisher for a free review copy.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Book review: The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron



Not a fancy picture because I read the ebook version!  Pardon it, please.  But still a beautiful cover!


This week, I read Kristy Cambron’s fourth book, one that is more mystery than she normally writes—exactly what I always like to hear, with my love for mysterious doings in stories!  I gave it four stars. Here’s the review I posted on Goodreads:

I tried to start this a couple times a few months ago and never got past the first chapter or two.  Thanks to a group read, I dove in and soon found myself entirely absorbed.  Then I had the opposite problem of being unable to lay the book down at all!

The mystery of Peale and his double death soon morphs into a bigger mystery of who is calling the shots in a very literal sense.  I enjoyed the atmosphere of the Prohibition years and the unique character Wren is.  Add to that Elliot and his fascination with Wren and her art of illusion, and we have all the elements for a good tale.  The story has several shocker twists that left my mouth ajar.

I didn't care for the lack of specification about what a seance could do (for those who don't know, it is a summons of demons)...it was rather chuckled as a materialistic fraud, but the portion of the story that dealt with actual spiritualism was somewhat dismissed as being unreal.  Spiritualism as a sort of religion wasn't mentioned or defined beyond using the word to describe characters and to mention seances to contact the dead as a mainstay of their philosophy.  Wren and Elliot speak of faith and prayer and make a few comments about "only one man ever rose" as an oblique reference to Christ (which isn't truth anyway, since they are talking of people being summoned from death—Jesus was different because He had the power to raise up from the dead without being summoned—He Himself restored many, including Lazarus, Jairus's daughter, the widow's son, and the saints at His death).  In a story so full of spiritual cloak-and-dagger, I missed Jesus.  I needed to see that clear ending conclusion that the Jesus way was the ultimate answer to the claims of the spiritualists.

Also, several phrases were too modern for the twenties...most notably "gone missing," a 1990s term used more than once.  "Alright" used for "all right" also bugged me.

But, overall, a beautifully written book that is worth a read and very hard to put down!

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free copy for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Book review: The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin


I must say, I have read every Sarah Sundin book to date and was eagerly awaiting this release.  The only downside?  Now I have to wait until next year for Adler's story!  Here's the glowing five-star review I posted on Goodreads.

Oh, what a delightful read!  I won't deny that I didn't wish to slap Dorothy a few times for her na├»ve attitude toward the guy who had too many women in his life, but even then the character roused some caring attitude in me.  She believed his words because she wanted to believe them, and she didn't want to believe the opposite.  And, given that she had staked every hope in her battered life on what he said was true, I can even forgive her the willful blindness.  Not saying it was right to accept his kisses when she knew she wasn't the only girl getting them, though!

I did love her work and found it very interesting.  The whole idea of making a map for the invasion based on pictures was something I wasn't aware of and was fascinating.  

Wyatt was a neat hero.  His good humor and his strong faith put me on his side right away, and it was a delight to watch him encourage all the best qualities in Dorothy.  He's determined to be a man of honor, and when Dorothy challenges him on things like his decision not to contact family, he's humble about it.  

The plot...oh, my!  There were a couple of epic twists that had me on the edge of my seat.  Who knew a little poking after an embezzler could lead to such a discovery?  Whew!  

Highly recommended, especially to lovers of WW2.

Thanks to Revell for a free review copy.  A positive review was not required.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book review: Beneath a Prairie Moon by Kim Vogel Sawyer



Ah, happy sigh!  This is one of the books that I have to digest before I can manage to review it.  The cover is gorgeous, but the story inside just as much so.  I knew I would love it, since it's Kim Vogel Sawyer, and each phase of the story was like unfolding a new leaf of enjoyment.

It's impossible to be tempted to peek ahead because the plot twists around on itself so many times, which is right up my alley.  I love having books surprise me with unexpected occurrences! No great predictability in this story, excepting only that the hero and heroine are going to end up being interested in each other.  

I loved the original twist on the matchmaker story!  A bride who's been returned to the agency more than once and gets reassigned to assistant and etiquette coach.  But do we see a prissy etiquette story?  Ah, no!  That's not all there is to it, because...Twists.  Indeed.  All the way from sunburn to kidnapping.  

One of my favorite things was the deep spiritual lessons.  I've heard the topic as naseum in other CF books, but this approach is fresh and engaging and feels authentic.  

Content/language: Nothing objectionable.  Could be given safely to ages 14/15 

Thanks to Blogging for Books for a free review copy.  A positive review was not required.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I Survived NaNo...plus doggie pics


Well, I made it for another year of National Novel Writing Month madness!  In case you don't know what that is, it's when novelists around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in only thirty days each November.  

Of course, I was nuts enough to adopt puppies the same month!  This definitely reduced my writing time.  But puppy cuddles are so therapeutic!  And just look at those faces.  Forgive me while I show off my dog family.  :)
This is Chester.  He loves to play with leaves and is going to be a big pup when he is grown!  The breeder says 60-75 pounds.  He's a standard size golden doodle, a "breed" I have been wanting for awhile now.  Don't you love those golden eyebrows?

This is Bernie.  It's hard to snap a picture of his face, since he prefers to eat the phone!  He has the cutest little white chin as though he dipped it in milk.  I didn't plan to pick another pup, but when I went to meet Chester and saw some of the other pups, he stole my heart.  He is a medium size Bernedoodle (Bernese mountain dog and poodle) and is very intelligent.  Yes, he is sitting in his toy box; he loves to knock the toys out and crawl in!


Mia is my senior rescue dog and the biggest cuddler you could imagine.  This is her pose of choice when I sit on my sofa to read or write!  She does hate to be away from people, so when I am home she is right there by my side.  She's been great with the puppies.

So, there is my November recap!  Stay tuned for some snippets of my writing progress, which will post tomorrow.