Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tamara Alexander

I’ve recently become a big fan of author Tamara Alexander. In the past few months I have read (I believe) all of her books thus far and I have been very impressed. Her stories are very well fleshed out, the characters are interesting, and very importantly, you don’t feel as though you’re reading the same story over and over again with different characters.

Her most recent novel (I think), the second in her Timber Ridge Reflections series is entitled Beyond This Moment. It is the story of Molly Whitcomb, a former professor who has lost her position at a university and is now teaching school in a small town in Colorado and trying to hide the secret that she’s afraid will cost her her job, again. James McPherson is the sheriff in the town where Molly is going to be teaching. When he saves her life early on, they forge a close friendship that James wants to turn into something more. But if that happens, the secret Molly is hiding could cost her even more than her job.

Tamara Alexander’s books are so well written, they just pull you in. Her history seems to be well researched and you just don’t want to put the books down, and at the end you’re so disappointed that it’s over and you’re reaching for the next one.

One thing that I really appreciate is the way she deals with sexual desire in her books. The topic of sexual desire is a tight rope walk for Christian Fiction writers. We want our stories to be realistic, so we want to include all of the aspect that are involved in romantic relationships. But at the same time, sexual desire is not what these stories are supposed to be about, that is what separates Inspirational Romances from other romance novels. So there needs to be a balance drawn, between these two things. As though this weren’t difficult enough, with the varying beliefs of Christians about what is or is not appropriate, the job becomes even harder.

I feel that Tamara Alexander has found this balance. She is not afraid to address the desire, but has somehow found a way to do it in a way that it isn’t even potentially offensive, but realistic. One such example takes place while Molly is sick and James is taking care of her. “The warmth moving in her eyes made him intensely aware of how alone they were, and of how desirable she was, even with her feeling poorly,” (192). We can see his desire in this passage, but only in the most respectful terms.

Another example is a couple of pages later, “Struck by an uncharacteristic measure of spontaneity, he struggled against the desire to go to her and take her in his arms. His mouth went dry at the thoughts filling his head. Thoughts that were certainly warm, but that weren’t all that ‘friendly,’ not in the sense he and Molly had agreed to be friends,” (194). This passage even deals with some of what is happening to him physically, but not in a way that is graphic or offensive.

I appreciate that she doesn’t ignore aspects as some Christian writers do. Sometimes when reading these books I find them unrealistic because the characters are acting in ways that would spark sexual desire, but there is no evidence of it anywhere in the text, which just comes across as naïve and ridiculous. But Tamara Alexander’s have enough to be realistic, without too much. They’re great.

Alexander, Tamara. Beyond This Moment. Bloomington: Bethany House Publishers, 2009. Pp. 192, 4.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Awesome NaNoWriMo Post

This is an AWESOME NaNoWriMo story that was on their website today that I just had to share. The link to the article's website is: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/node/3294913

For those that aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days (during the month of November). I’m participating for the first time this year, so expect lots of blogs that are my form of procrastination :P To check out NaNoWriMo a little more their website is nanowrimo.org.

Q: Cylithria, you managed to participate in NaNoWriMo while serving in Iraq. What is it like to write a novel while on duty? How did you get your novel validated to win?
A: What is writing while serving in Iraq like? The short answer is: crazy. The long answer, is as vast and various as our world's military forces. During my first NaNoWriMo Iraq Novel, I was embedded in a forward observation team of United States Marines. (OORAH!) I was an experienced NaNoWriMo participant and as is my typical style, by October 31 I had nothing but the goal itself. No plot, no characters, no world - just the goal of 50K in 30 days.

We were still at a Northern Iraqi Base, preparing for forward Ops when November 1 rolled around. For the first week, after 18 hour training days, I went back to my rack and started typing what I hoped would be an ever growing story. By the time we moved out, I had written barely 3,000 words in seven days. I knew it would only get worse as we left the comforts of a base and headed into the northern-most regions of Iraq. I was right. Within 24 hours of our moving out, I realized my laptop was useless. Bright screens at night draw attention. Plus there were no currant bushes staggered in the mountains for me to plug into. Not good. Writing on paper was an option, but it held many, many drawbacks. Most of my "off hours" were at night, thus leaving me with no light. Writing by Night Vision Goggles is difficult, but somehow I wrote onward.

Two days before Thanksgiving it was the Commanding Officer who inquired as to what I was doing. He'd caught me crying. (I'd just killed off my main character; it was a heavy moment okay?) I will never forget the look on his face.

"You're doing what? National book writing month?"

"National Novel Writing Month Sir....it's NaNoWriMo, I can't miss it. I haven't missed one yet!"

I lost two hours of precious writing time that evening as I explained what in the world NaNoWriMo was and why I kept after the goal. It was another Marine who asked how I "won". When I extracted the massive sheets of paper from my pack and explained I had to transcribe all I'd written into digital txt file and upload it to the NaNoWriMo validater, they all looked ... well mad! We didn't have wi-fi access where we were and while they may not have understood the point of NaNoWriMo, they could look at a calendar and where we were and know the final validation would never be done from our local. I think that one thing, being unable to officially win because we were so far from home bothered us all. I know it hung like an albatross in the cool night air. But still, I wrote on.

Three days later I am sitting down, finishing my final page of my draft. I am at 50,279 words, most hand written. I still had more of the story to write, but once I tallied my word count, I announced it to our unit. My Commanding Officer addressed my small victory for all of them. Extending his hand towards me, he gave me my orders for the night along with a CD.

"We've transcribed everything except todays batch. It's all here. We changed nothing and you spell awful. Sit down and finish transcribing the rest. We meet a supply bird at zero three hundred hours. You get it done, we send it back to your liaison at HQ - That's the best shot we can give you Dubois."

I stared at the CD and struggled with tears. "Sir, yes Sir" was my only reply. I sat and did as ordered. In a moving vehicle, I transcribed the last of my words and then burned it all to the CD. We stuffed it, along with my user name and password, into one of the many courier bags addressed to my unit in the United States. At zero three hundred hours, at a mobile Landing Zone I watched as my Commanding Officer asked, not ordered, the pilot and crew to try and get that CD to where it needed to be, and get it there in time.

As the helicopter lifted off, my Commanding Officer placed a hand on my shoulder. "That's a win Dubois. If these Nano's don't agree, you send 'em to me. I'll set 'em straight even if that CD gets lost."

Time isn't something easily found when you are on duty in a combat zone. There was nothing more for me then those words and that Oorah, and as quickly as we could we moved on once more. While I figured I'd never be ale to legally claim that year as a victory, I knew it was in my heart. It was almost midnight of November 30th, on the east coast of the United States of America when my Commanding Officer came running to find me. In his hand he waved a small, handheld computer. "Dubois, hot damn! Ya did it!" He held the screen to my face.

There, in an email from my Liaison in the United States was a screenshot image of the validation of my novel. 32 minutes before midnight. The message from my Liaison was this: "Ma'am your novel flew on three helicopters, three transport planes, rode one ship and was driven via hummer to my office where I used your login to validate it. Be advised, you are a winner! Congrats! Now, can you please forward the reports you *should* have been writing?"

As I read those words to my fellow Marines, OORAH rang out. My Commanding Officer was as thrilled as any of us. With a great many fist pumps and hand gestures he shouted out, "That's right, That's right.... she a wrimo from the region of Iraq::Northern Province::OORAH"

Being the National Novel Writing Month enthusiast I am, I did the only thing I knew to do to celebrate my victory. Using the sound system of one of our vehicles I blasted the song "Time Warp", and danced. Writing while actively serving your country in the military is a very difficult thing. Time, climates, duties and orders often get in the way. But there are no finer win's in National Novel Writing Month then winning the challenge while serving your country. OORAH!

Cylithria Dubois has been participating in National Novel Writing Month since she first heard of it over nine years ago. This year she will attempt to complete her tenth National Novel Writing Month Novel from the Michigan :: Flint Region. Three of her nine NaNo-novels have been written from various hot spots around the world. Although not currently stationed with her Marines, they actively email her for novel updates when duty allows. She still does the Time Warp after every win - no matter where she is! She can be found telling stories of her life at www.whynotright.com, on Twitter, and via email or by NaNoMail at eensybeensyspider.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Love's First Light

Jamie Carie’s Love’s First Light tells a story of the horrors of the French Revolution from the perspectives of a young French Aristocrat and a young widow whose husband died for the Revolutionary cause. These two people meet in a cemetery where Scarlett has gone to mourn her lost husband. Christophé, the only member of his family to escape the Guillotine has gone into hiding, only daring to go out in the dark of the evening or early morning.

As they grow to care for one another, they realize that they need to confront their pasts in Paris. For Christophé, he must confront the past of the man that killed his family. For Scarlett, it is her husband’s uncle, the man who holds the power over her family’s livelihood and survival. Unfortunately, they must both confront the same man. Will their love survive their differences?

This novel has a way of grabbing your heart with her descriptions of the way Christophé and his sister respond to the deaths of their families. You can feel their reactions to the sounds of the Guillotine and the screams of their family members. It really made it real and demonstrated that visceral reaction that a good writer wants their readers to feel. In a business where the first one hundred words are what you have to pull the reader in, these scenes are great examples of novel beginnings that suck your reader into the story and into the characters, and refuse to let go.

I’ve recently been reading about Regency period in England (see The Secret History of the Pink Carnation), and the war of espionage that ensued between France and England after the Revolution, and I thought this book really offered a different perspective on the war and the horrors of the revolution for the people who lived through it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

God has a sense of humor

God certainly has a sense of humor.

Last night, at prayer meeting, I prayed that either God would send a guy into my life (romantically speaking) or he would help me be satisfied being single.

Then the pastor started talking and he directed us to a promise in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:37 in the NASB says: “Thus says the LORD GOD ‘This also will I let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: I will increase their men like a flock.’”

Now I know that it’s not literal but it’s slightly amusing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Deadly Intent

One of the things that was emphasized in one of my classes was the importance of a strong beginning to a novel. I’d heard it before, but they really drilled it home in that class. They shared that you, as a writer, have 100 words to hook your reader. It really helped drill home how important that opening moment can be.

One book that I think demonstrates great use of these opening moments is Camy Tang’s recent Love Inspired Suspense book entitled Deadly Intent.

Deadly Intent is the story of a young woman who must fight to save her family business and prove she’s not a murderer, and work to stay alive. As she searches for the murderer and tries to prove her innocence she starts to fall in love with the victim’s ex-husband, a man also interested in solving the crime.

There are strong opening lines throughout this whole novel, not just at the opening. Many great first lines are at the beginning of other chapters and sometimes just after line breaks. These great lines serve to pull the reader even farther into the novel.

A few examples of the great opening lines are:

“The man who walked into Naomi’s father’s day spa was striking enough to start a female riot,” (7) – The first line of the novel
“Naomi had never seen someone die before,” (20) – The opening of chapter 3
“Naomi knocked on the hotel room door of a possible murderer, while Devon stood at her side,” (84) – First line after a line break
“How she wanted normal,” (131) – First line after a line break. This one was also a great line because the line before the break was: “’This might be the lead the police have been waiting for… Then my life can go back to normal’”
“’None of this adds up.’ Naomi bit into a slice of cheese as she surveyed the wonderful view,” (151) – The opening to chapter 14. How wonderfully discordant is that? They contrast between the wonderful view and trying to solve a murder.
“Devon held Naomi as if his arms were the only thing keeping her from shattering. Maybe it was true,” (154) – First line after a line break. It’s two sentences, but I think it counts as just one line
“Naomi fell asleep over the background checks, and woke up just as the sun cascaded through her window into her bedroom,” (179) – The first line of chapter 17. This is another great discordant line, the contrast between the warm sun in the bedroom and the background checks.

These are not the only good lines, first lines or otherwise, but these were some of my favorite examples. And the great first lines are not the only reason to read this book, because it also has a great plot and interesting characters.

Because Love Inspired Suspense books are only published for a short time, you might not be able to find this book in your local bookstore for long, but you probably can find it on Paperback Swap.

Happy Reading!

Tang, Camy. Deadly Intent. New York: Steeple Hill Books, 2009.