Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Review - Oh Say Can You See? by L.C. Lewis

It's blog tour time for
Set against the War of 1812 and the penning of "The Star Spangled Banner," Oh, Say Can You See?, the latest novel in the FREE MEN AND DREAMERS series by L.C. Lewis, brings this often overlooked period to life.

THREE people will win a copy of Oh, Say Can You See? One GRAND PRIZE WINNER will win this beautiful patriotic necklace!

Blog tour runs from December 13th--December 22nd.

It's easy to enter.
1. Visit the fabulous reviews and leave a comment letting us know why "The Star Spangled Banner" means so much to you. Remember to include your email address.
2. If you tweet about the blog tour, or post about it on your blog or Facebook, leave the link in the comments section and you'll receive an additional entry.

Good Luck! Entries close at midnight (MST) on December 31.

December 13
Braden Bell

December 14
Marsha Ward

December 15
Rachelle Christensen

December 16
Anna Del C. Dye

December 17
Stephanie Abney

December 18
Lynn Parsons

December 20
Susan Dayley
Marilyn Bunderson

December 21
Liz Adair
Valerie Ipson

December 22
Kathi Oram Peterson

Though the capital smolders, the battered Constitution and the presidency have survived. But the British left the struggling government no home. Gone are the symbols of America--the Capitol Building and the President's House, and nearly every relic of the infant nation. Britain's next target is the port city of Baltimore, but has the raid on Washington stiffened the Americans' backs? As the Willows women mourn their absent men - gone to war, or wounded, or captured - they await the birth of a blessed child. Miles away, attorney Francis Scott Key embarks on a diplomatic mission that will leave an everlasting mark on America. Proving that the pen can indeed by more powerful than the sword, Key records the fears and hopes of his embattled people. His epic poem soon set to music and titled "The Star-Spangled Banner," rallies a shattered nation to rise from its knees to claim the dream of "one nation under God" during the closing hours of the War of 1812.  

My review:

I've often heard how Francis Scott Key wrote the words to our national anthem, but I'd never thought about his history before he wrote the famous song that has become part of the fabric of our country. This book does more than give us a peek into his life, it opens up the world of those brave souls who fought in the War of 1812. Lewis gives us much to think about and learn in her new novel, Oh Say Can You See?

Yes, this is the fourth book in her Freeman and Dreamers series, but you really don't need to have read the other books to know exactly what is going on in this novel. Right away you're drawn into the Pearson family and the struggles they are going through because of the war that threatens to rip their family apart. Poor Hannah Pearson is expecting a child and her husband Jed has been captured by the British. Another memorable character is Markus O'Malley, who is fraught with guilt and worry for he promised Jed he'd watch over his wife and his home until he returned. But the country needs Markus to serve on a very important mission--to captain Mr. Key's vessel.

You learn that Francis Scott Key was a religious man who had been drawn into a war he once opposed. He was a man of great bravery and also a tender heart. The scene of him kissing his sleeping children and telling them he loved them, knowing that in a few hours he would leave on a mission he may not return from, will long stay with you. 

And, of course, there's the scene where Key and others were desperate to see the star-spangled banner still waving.

From that famous scene I love this line: "... We have been a foolish people at times, and so suffered our comeuppance in Washington, but our cause is still just. God has reached His hand down from heaven and rescued this land in the past. Let's pray He'll do so once again..." This struck a cord with me as do many other passages. Oh Say Can You See? reminded me of our nation's heritage, of the brave souls who fought to keep our nation free, but it also reminded me to be ever diligent in guarding our precious freedom.

If you love historical fiction that is anchored in facts, you will love L.C. Lewis's new book, Oh Say Can You See? I know I did.

(I received a free copy of this book. I reviewed it because I liked it.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cute Christmas Photo and the Angel Winner

Since there are only five days before Christmas, I thought I'd share one of my favorite Christmas pictures that I received in my email this year.You may have already seen it. I thought it was so cute. The message with the picture told how someone found this cute dog curled up in the manger with the baby Jesus. 

It really struck a cord with me and is symbolic of  how even the lowliest among us can find safe harbor at the feet of our Savior.

Have you received some cute/amazing photos this Christmas?

I promised Friday that I would announce the winner of the 
Angel of Hope ornament.

The winner is:

Olivia J. Herrell.

Thanks to everyone who entered. 
I very much appreciate your help in spreading the word about my little Christmas book.

Last Saturday at my signing the store sold out, which was awesome!

But I'm sure other stores still have copies in stock.

If you've read An Angel on Main Street please let me know if you liked the story.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Grateful for You!

Today is the last day you can enter my contest to win this cute little angel ornament for your Christmas tree. Check out the left sidebar for all the details. She's been sitting on my desk just waiting to go to her new home. I'll announce the winner Monday.

Christmas makes me think about all the blessings in my life. A huge blessing which I'm extremely grateful for are my friends!  

Yes, you! 

Reading a few blogs Thursday, I came across Jody Heyland's post. She was worried that some of her friends might feel unappreciated and this made me wonder if some of my friends felt that way, too.

I love my friends, and if I have done anything that made them feel as if I didn't value what they have done for me, I would be devastated. With the release of my third novel, The Stone Traveler, I have met many wonderful people who have helped to spread the word about my novels. Friends and family have come to my signings, helped with my blog tours, left comments on my blog, and have purchased my books. 

For all of that, I'm extremely grateful.

I'm so grateful that I have some virtual chocolate for you to enjoy. 
Please take a piece or two. 

If chocolate doesn't float your boat, have a virtual ice-cream sundae.

I'll even give you a virtual foot massage.

Please know how very much I appreciate you and all that you have done!!!

What are some of the blessings you're grateful for this Christmas?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Finding Research Material

I'm right in the middle of writing a romantic suspense novel, which is a sequel to my book, River Whispers (scheduled to be released in May 2011). So as you can imagine, I'm deep into the novel and doing research as I go. Yes, I do a lot of research before I start working, but I find as I write more questions pop up. 

As I'm trying to understand how many miles to a gallon of gas a power engine will get on the open seas and how weather would affect this scenario and how long it would take my hero to reach Alaska leaving from Neah Bay Washington, I am amazed by the wealth of information there is on the Internet. 

I know you tech savvy people are saying "no duh." But for this author who started writing back in the stone age before the Internet, I find it extremely cool that I don't have to drive to the library and search for books that would tell me what I need to know. What a pain that was. Don't get me wrong, I love the library! There's something about rows and rows of books that makes my heart race. But to know that with the click of my mouse I can find the information I need right when I need it is soooo totally amazing.

Here are some sites that I find helpful: Google and YouTube.

If I Google a topic many options are mine to choose from. Sometimes it takes a bit of searching, but once in a while I can find a gold mine. In researching for my boat scene, I found a blog of someone who had traveled the route I needed my hero to take. What a find! Of course, I didn't copy the blog, but in that post were key places where they stopped. And they also talked about the troubles they ran into on their journey.

Also by Googling boats I found the one I wanted my hero to have with a diagram of the interior. And I found boating jargon that I could sprinkle in my text. I'm loving it!

It's like being there. In another scene in my book a character flies a bush plane to Alaska. So I asked for clips regarding bush pilots. What a find! I could hear the engine of a deHavilland Beaver roar to life, could see the control panel of the plane, and I had a bird's eye view of the terrain my character would fly over.

I'm sure there are other wonderful sites that would help writers find the information they need for their books. 

Where do you find valuable research information on the Internet? 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cookies and Harps

***Don't forget the contest!***
It ends Friday, December 17th.
All the info is in the left sidebar. 

Alert: This posting is a slice of my life.

With Christmas so close
there's much to do.

There's cookies to make. 
One family tradition we have 
is decorating sugar cookies.

I think I caught some cookies thieves.

Below is my daughter, Kristina. 
She's a much better cookie artist than I am.

Christmas is also a time 
of special church programs.

I serve as the Relief Society President in the Third Branch in our Stake. Our branch members live in an assisted living center. I wanted to give them a special program for Christmas. Something they'd never had before.

So I asked my good friend . . .

 . . .Kathleen . . .

 . . . and her friend, Pam . . .

  . . . to play their harps for our branch. 

Kathleen and Pam are members of 

The Park City Harp Ensemble.

Their Christmas music was heavenly. 

I spoke between numbers. As I was introducing the song, Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella, one of my counselors came over to Pam and started whispering in her ear. I didn't understand what was going on until she pulled a little lady's chair up so she could touch Pam's harp. This lady is deft and couldn't hear the music, but by placing her hand on the harp she was able to enjoy the song along with the rest of us.

Tears came to the little lady's eyes as Pam played.
(Many in the congregation were misty eyed, as well.) 

What a spiritual kick-off of the Christmas season.

I'd love for you to share some of your family traditions or special programs that you enjoy this time of year. Please feel free to leave a comment.  :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

And They Were . . . Kissing!

(As  you can tell by the picture this is not going to be my usual Friday post of a book review or interview with an author. I thought I'd stir things up a little.)

Every Tuesday and Thursday (if the weather cooperates), I walk with a friend. We meet at a little park that is midway between our homes. Yesterday, I arrived early, so I decided to weed out the text messages on my cell phone. I'm horrible about deleting and had well over a 100 messages. I worked on that for a while. When I looked up, I saw that several parking lanes from me there was a couple in a car and they were . . . kissing. And not just a peak on the cheek, but making-out kissing.

Being the writer that I am, my mind started shifting through several scenarios. 

  • Were they newlyweds who couldn't wait to see each other, so they met in the park?
  • Were they co-workers who had to get away from work so no one would see them together?
  • Or were they married to other people and having an affair?

I really didn't want the last one to be right. Coming up with different scenarios made me think of the main character in my book. What would Regi do if she had seen this couple? It was fun getting into her thought process and trying to figure out how she would handle it. 

How about the main character in your book? What would he/she think or do finding a couple madly kissing? 
  • Would she turn away? 
  • Would he immediately think the couple was having an affair? 
  • Would it make her think of a lost love? 
  • Would he wish he could find his soul mate?

And the questions could go on and on.

Please leave a comment and let me know what your main character would think.  :)


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Contest Angel and a Writing Tip

See this cute, cute, cute angel ornament. It's a Willow Tree figurine. I found her yesterday. Her name is "Angel of Hope." When I saw her in the store I knew she was the perfect angel for my contest.

What contest?

Look over there on my sidebar, under my Christmas book, An Angel on Main Street. All the information for the contest is there. Follow the rules I've listed and this little angel ornament might be winging her way to your house.  

I had to be so careful with her as I took her out of the box to take her picture. Here's another photo of her on my dining room table. 

I'd love for her to become part of your Christmas celebration. So quick, become a follower of my blog and post An Angel on Main Street button in your sidebar. And make sure to let me know so I can add your name in the drawing.

Okay, now for my Wednesday writing tip.

During the holiday season our family watches a ton of Christmas movies. All the classics such as White Christmas, The Bishop's Wife, It's a Wonderful Life and so on. Why are those movies so memorable? I think it's because of terrific dialogue. Let's look at a few lines from the movies I've mentioned.

From White Christmas remember the line: "Sargent, take the shortcut." And you know full well that the short cut will not be short.

From The Bishop's Wife how about this line: "I've never before had to fight an angel." Does the bishop fight the angel who has come to make him realize where his priorities should be? Watch the movie. 

And from It's a Wonderful Life this classic: "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings." This line ties the entire story together since you know that now after helping George, Clarence has earned his wings.

Okay, but these lines were in movies, how does this relate to books? 

Dialogue is even more important in books because the reader can go over and over each line as he/she studies and savors them. 

My challenge for you this week--make the dialogue in your book memorable. 

It's a tough job, but I know you're up to the task. ;)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't Forget the Tender Emotions in Character Development

Isn't that an interesting picture? You're probably wondering what it is. I'll tell you in just a minute, and I'll also tie it in to the title of this post.

As many of you may know I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Once a year the First Presidency has a Christmas devotional at the conference center in Salt Lake City. Many years ago when my husband first started working for the church they had this special devotional for the employees. It used to be a Christmas tradition for our family to go down to temple square for the devotional. But as the years have gone by the Church opened the admittance to the public, so getting tickets has become very difficult. In fact, we have been unable to go for the last three or four years.

But Friday Hubby was given two tickets to this year's devotional. I was so excited. I had forgotten how beautiful the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sounded in person. There were times in last night's meeting they sounded angelic. Tears came to my eyes as I listened to them sing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful."

(This is not last night's performance, but it will give you an idea of how angelic they sound.)

The Christmas talks given by President Uchdorf and President Eyring were wonderful. And our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, gave his usual outstanding and inspirational message.

When we came out of the meeting, I looked up and stopped in my tracks. I'd never seen such a stunning sight. The Salt Lake Temple was shrouded in a blanket of misty fog. For a moment, I felt as though I'd stepped into a Dickens novel in old England. But as we walked beneath this holy structure the awe factor kicked in and words can not express the stirring in my soul. The picture at the beginning of this post is of the temple from across the street. The one below was taken as we walked through temple square. We took several shots, but they just don't do the scene justice. 

As I thought about the evening and how it stirred many emotions within me, I thought about character development in my new book. Characters need to have a belief system that stirs them. Listening to the talks and songs of the evening, I was inspired and filled with the Christmas spirit. It's important for our characters to have similar emotions in their lives. This can apply to any religion or belief system. We, as authors, need to show our characters' feelings developing from experiences they have during the story. Layer by layer these feelings should accumulate and help build to the climax of the book.

Just imagine writing a scene where your character was touched by something emotional and then seal those emotions in your character with a striking sight that confirms to their heart everything they have heard or felt. Your character development will be off the charts.

How about you? Have you added scenes that reflect your characters' emotions on many levels? If so, I'd love to hear about them.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Review - The Widow's Mite

During the blog tour for The Stone Traveler I met some wonderful people on the journey. One such person was Christina Dymock. She asked me to review her new Christmas story. Since I love stories about Christmas, I told her I would.

Usually I give you the back cover blurb, but in this case I'm not going to. This story is only thirteen pages long, and I don't want to give any of it away. But what I will do is give you the opening sentence:

Here I am, three weeks before Christmas, on a rare shopping trip without the kids, and I can't decide between the pirate ship and the racecars for Kaleb.

So she had me hooked at "rare shopping trip without the kids." Busy mothers can certainly identify with that statement.

This is a touching story about a young widow named Carol, trying to provide Christmas for her children and also trying to do the right thing for those less fortunate than her own family. There's a little romance thrown in, but this is mainly the story of the struggle many of us go through as we try to decide: do I leave giving to the poor to the rich or do I also give, even if it means my family may go without. This is the meat of the story and the question the reader will think about long after the story has been read and put away until next Christmas. 

Even though The Widow's Mite is very short, Dymock has given us a well-developed character in Carol. She has worries and feelings most everyone can identify with and follow. In fact, my biggest criticism of this story is I wanted more. 

Does Carol give away the money she needs for her family? 

Or does she keep it?

I'm not going to tell you. But know this, The Widow's Mite is a great read that will stay with you throughout the year.

(I received a free copy of this story. I reviewed it because I liked it.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Road Trips and Writing

Hubby and I went on a road trip yesterday. I enjoy spending time with him and watching the scenery go by my window. There's a lot you need to plan for before starting on a trip: checking the car, taking reading material, and, of course, packing treats to enjoy on the way.

Bruce always checks the car, he tests the tires, looks at the engine and makes sure we have fuel. He also takes a few tools in case we need them and we always have a small first aid kit in the car, just in case. 

Taking reading material on a road trip helps pass the time. On this trip I took one of my novels to read that I want to send to my editor. I was able to read about thirty-six pages out loud before my voice gave out. 

Since we're both trying to lose weight, the treats we took were healthy: apples, oranges, and granola bars. Did we eat them? Well . . . I'll tell you later.

As we traveled I thought how writing a novel is like going on a road trip.

First  you check out your vehicle--this could be as fundamental as making sure your computer works, that you have the right software, and even enough ink in the printer to something more along the lines of plotting and character development, but it all boils down to--are you prepared to embark on the wonderful adventure of writing a novel?

Second, you need to read your novel, not once or twice but as many times as it takes to make your story shine. And reading out loud is a must for me. A writer can sometimes develop writer's blindness (seeing words in your manuscript that aren't there) and reading out loud will many times help me catch the mistake.

Third, packing treats for the trip. I don't know about you, but as I write I love to nibble. Sometimes it's healthy (celery sticks and carrots) sometimes it's not (jelly beans and chocolate chips). 

What do you do to prepare for the road trip of writing a book? I'd love to add your thoughts to my list.

(By the way, we didn't touch the health treats, but that doesn't mean we didn't stick to our diets. Bruce bought donuts at a rest stop, but we didn't even open the package. How good is that?)


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