Archive | June, 2012

What Makes a Good Book?

26 Jun

Besides writing and editing, I spend a lot of time reading.

I review novels for Suspense Magazine, and just finished judging books for a contest put on by Oklahoma Romance Writers. I also try to read books that I choose myself, just for enjoyment.

What makes a good book? For me, a good book is one with heart. Many of the books I review are not ones that I would pick up on my own. I recently reviewed Purgatory Chasm by Steve Ulfelder. A theme in this book is auto racing, not anything I know or care about. But the book has heart. It is well-written with enough complexity to keep a reader totally involved. 

Another one I read was The Comet by Miriam Newman. Set in England at the time of the Norman Conquest, this is one I would have grabbed off the shelf, since I love British history. I was not disappointed. Newman tells a romantic story filled with enough historical details to keep the most dedicated history buff happy. And the story has heart. It is not just the romance between the Norman knight and the Saxon woman, but the story pulls you into the heart of a suffering land, and the suffering of a people who have been conquered by invaders.

What do you think makes a good book? What are some authors or titles that have drawn you in?

Sequel to “The Gate House”

23 Jun

I just got the news today that I will be offered a contract for publication of the sequel to “The Gate House,” tentatively titled “Lydia’s Story.”
Nara Blake, the main character from “The Gate House,” moves on to new adventures in the next book, when she is given the diaries that belonged to her great-grandmother Lydia Roberts. Lydia kept the diaries during the early years of World War II, when she was in London and her two children were with their grandparents in Wales.
I am very excited about the release of the second book, and will keep everyone posted on its progress.

My Boring Neighborhood

11 Jun

My neighborhood is boring. I live in a suburb of a major east coast city. We have an excellent school system, low crime, residential streets with nicely manicured lawns, and it’s boring. Our homeowner’s association requires certain standards to keep the appearances uniform — and it’s boring.

I didn’t know the area when we moved here, didn’t realize I would feel frustrated and out of place, but we are stuck here until my husband finds a job in a state about seven hours south of here, where we want to live.

But I am a writer, and I live for creativity and imagination. I have always been very good at pretending. I make it a priority to look for the unusual when I am out. Today when I was out walking I found tiger lilies in bloom, which reminded me of rural southern Illinois where I grew up. We often found tiger lilies in bloom along the roadside where an old farmhouse had once stood. The house was long gone, but the tiger lilies came up year after year in a riot of orange color. I may write a story about tiger lilies.

Anyone can bring creativity and color into their life with a little effort and awareness. I have a friend who is an artist at baking cookies, and makes them for any occasion with her own special touch. Another friend is a librarian and brings her sense of humor and imagination to her job. A third friend was forced to quit her government job for health reasons, and has just created a web site for the new business she is launching.

One of my favorite quotes is from the movie Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams. He tells he students, “Make your lives extraordinary.” I challenge other writers, readers and myself to do just that. Don’t settle for a boring neighborhood.




One Out and One on the Way

5 Jun

Now that “The Gate House” is available again, as both as e-book and in print, I am turning my attention the my next book, tentatively titled “Lydia’s Story.” The manuscript is finished, and I am hoping to have news about a publisher soon.
I describe “Lydia’s Story” as a sequel/prequel to “The Gate House.” It features Nara Blake and her family again, including Alex, her love from the first novel, and her newly found half-sister, Lily. But Lydia is Nara’s great-grandmother, and her story is discovered in her diaries from World War II.
Although I love reading historical fiction, it was a challenge to write about the World War II era. I have visited London several times and visited the Imperial War Museum and Churchill’s War Cabinet Rooms, as well as Dover Castle where the Dunkirk rescue of British troops was planned. But it was still a writer’s stretch to tell Lydia’s story from the setting of wartime London.
People occasionally ask why I set my novels in England, and the answer is — because that is where the stories are! And that is also true of “Lydia’s Story,” set in 1940s London. And imagining her life, her loves, her fears means as much to me as her great-granddaughter Nara, who found her diaries.
I will post more news on both books as events happen.