January 31, 2011

What's A Beta Reader?

I keep hearing about beta beaders and wondered what the difference was between a beta reader and a critique partner. So after much googling, I didn't find a whole lot of difference.

Beta Reader:

A beta reader is someone who agrees to look over a piece of fiction for spelling, grammar, characterization, and continuity errors. Unlike a true editor, a beta reader is typically unpaid, and he or she sees the work at a very rough state. Many authors like to use beta readers to improve the quality of their work before they submit it for professional editing and critique, and betareaders are usually profusely thanked in acknowledgments, in recognition of the time and energy which they invested in the work. (according to http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-beta-reader.htm)

beta reader (also spelled betareader, or shortened to beta) is a person who reads a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described[1] as "a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammarspellingcharacterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public." (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_reader)


Peer critique, a specialized form of critique, is the common practice of writers reviewing and providing constructive criticism of each other's work. Most fiction writers use some form of peer critique as part of their process of writing. (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_critique)

Hhhmmm, sounds like the same thing. So is it? I have no idea. What do you think? Is there a difference?

January 28, 2011

Doing Your Research

Research. Either you love it or you hate it. I kinda like it, even though I am always itching to just start my story and forget about learning more about the era or town or whatever is going to make my story "real" to readers.

I love romance and found early in my twenties that the regency era provided great romance with a closed door policy...for the most part. Of course, that was twenty years ago and regencies are opening that door wide. Now that CBA is selling more of that era, I've been a happy camper, reading a genre I love AND having a spiritual element to it.

So I'm going to write one. I think it will a perfect setting for a story I had originally thought would make a good contemporary.

But first the research. While I have read tons of regencies, I need to research about the time in history. Of course there is the library, but the internet is also a great place to poke around, finding little gems of history.

So tell me, how do YOU research? What are your favorite tools? Favorite books? Favorite places to find the information you need?

January 24, 2011

The Common Trait of Published Writers

The past year has been full of great news for a few on my online novelist friends. Keli Gwyn got an agent and then sold this past week! Jody Hedlund had sold and had her first book release this past fall. Katie Ganshert got an agent and she has exciting news today on her blog! These wonderful ladies are very talented, and I've discovered they all share a similar trait.


Keli is an extremely organized person who can stay on top of two blogs, writing, editing, critiquing, reviewing, and encouraging other writers in their quest for publication. Katie works a full time job as a teacher, has a young toddler to chase after, and yet gets up at 4 a.m. every morning to write her stories. Talk about discipline! And Jody...well, Jody is a mother of five children, whom she home schools. She juggles teaching, an incredible blog, and keeping a home for her family. I've also noticed that these young ladies are slender--another testament to their self-control.

Writing is hard work. It takes super-human effort to not only write a book, but edit it and edit it again...and again. It takes discipline, determination, and perseverance.

This doesn't bode well for me.

I am not a disciplined person. I can be focused, but it is on one thing at a time. I may focus on my blog. I may focus on critiquing. I may focus on Facebook. I may focus on keeping the house straight...well, not really for any length of time. I can focus-but to the exclusion of all else. And when I think something is beyond my ability, then I procrastinate and avoid that something like it was the plague.

And therein lies the problem. I think editing my book is beyond my capability. But I'll never be a writer if I can't edit. I know...just do it, you say. I know, I know. You are right. I should. And I am trying, in that I joined a large crit group. It is just slow going, and having to crit other's work while working on mine (and working full time) is overwhelming.

So I've begun praying 2 Timothy 1:7.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
God's Spirit works inside of us, giving up power. Giving us love. Giving us self-discipline! Yes! There is hope. There is encouragement in those words for those of us who are not naturally wired that way. We can overcome. We can live in that power, that love, that self-discipline. 

Are you one of those lucky people who are naturally blessed with the propensity toward self-discipline or do you find yourself lacking in that area?

January 21, 2011

Stories Dripping Red

I've been critiquing alot this week and find that it is not always easy. Sometimes I don't find much to offer and then other times, there are so many problems, I cannot figure out how to make it better. Usually I love the story and can see the potential it has, but I hate marking someone's story in red.

There's something about taking someone's "baby" and telling them the baby needs work that makes my heart sad...and even a little fearful. Sometimes I think the baby is underdeveloped. It's undernourished. It needs some vitamins to make it stronger. But to tell a parent that, well, it's a frightful thing. I try to mix encouragement with the correction, but so often I fear that I have overdone it.

Don't we want to know what is wrong with our "babies" so we can do everything in our power to help it grow? I think I do, but when I get my baby back all bleeding with red, I wonder. I sometimes feel rejected. Hopeless. I can't be a mother to my story. Why was I thinking I can birth a story?

Then I eat some chocolate and I am alright. I fix my baby and keep praying over it, hoping with God's grace it will fly the coop, finding a new home on someone's bookshelf.

Do you writer's out there have trouble critiquing other's work? How do you balance the good and the bad?

****Winner of Lady In Waiting by Susan Meisnner is MAUREEN! Congratulations!****

January 19, 2011

The Wednesday Review: Rocky Mountain Hero by Audra Harders

I read two books on my anniversary trip and one of them was Rocky Mountain Hero by Audra Harders. And what a delightful read it was! I downloaded it onto my Kindle, and read it in bed with the fire crackling in the fireplace nearby while a gentle rain fell onto the tin roof. Great ambiance for reading this great romance.

Back Cover Copy:

With a broken-down truck, miles to go and little money, single mother Melanie Hunter needs help. It comes in the handsome form of rancher Gabe Davidson. He'll pay for the three-week repair job and provide lodging for her and her boy--if she'll take coordinating the town barbecue off his busy hands. Melanie accepts, figuring she'll soon be on her way to her new life. But as she gets to know the kind townspeople--and the hardworking cowboy her son adores--she realizes she's found home. Now if only her Rocky Mountain hero will ask her to stay.

My Thoughts:

I have to say, I thought Gabe was breathtaking. He is a tough cowboy with a soft underbelly, who has a way with kids. Of course, as a mom, Melanie is drawn to such a handsome, caring guy who takes her son under his wing, spending precious time with him and becoming a hero in his eyes. Or should I say, a hero in her eyes too! There were some great romantic scenes, including one at the kitchen sink, involving a knife and a fish. Very unique and oh-so-sigh-worthy! There is great tension between Gabe and Melanie, and I am so glad I got  to read their story. And...Gabe has two brothers who, I am hoping, need their own story! I am certainly looking forward to more books from this wonderful author! 

January 17, 2011

Digital World

I had such an odd experience yesterday when I powered up my Kindle in church to read my Bible. Earlier, I had downloaded the new 2010 version of the NIV translation (only 9.99 on Amazon) and after spending a little time figuring out how to maneuver through the book, I was able to read along with the pastor. Okay, that sounded weird. He's my husband and I really don't like calling him the pastor. Hey, I live with the guy.

I felt really strange pulling the slim eReader out of its cute little case and clicking through the pages. It almost felt fake. Maybe fake is not the right word. It just felt plain weird...and I was self-conscious. But I've decided I need to get over my feelings, because you know what?

We live in a digital world.

We live in an age where we can check email in the car, read books by flipping our fingers across a screen, and pay our bills on our phones. We are connected to the world by those little WIFI waves in the air.

I stumbled upon a site called Netgalley. You can sign up and request galley books to review for free...if you have an eReader. There are many publishers listed and there are hundreds of books to choose from. True, I can't do giveaways with those digital books, but it is a nice option to have.

Are you ready for this techno age? Are you connected? Are you prepared for the changes to come? I'm sure you've heard all the turmoil and fear regarding the publishing world and its future. What will ebooks do to traditional publishing? Do you care? Does it matter?

January 12, 2011

Lady In Waiting by Susan Meissner: Review & Giveaway

This is my first reading of Susan Meissner's work and it definitely won't be my last. While I don't normally enjoy books written in first person, this book was able to transport me deep into the lives of two very special women, living lives five centuries apart.

Having been left by her husband of twenty-two years, Jane Lindsey focuses on running her aunt's antique shop. Her love of old things sustains her through the twist her life's path has taken. She stumbles upon an old 16th century ring engraved with her name, and immediately feels a kinship with the one who had worn it before. She looks into the ring's past, bringing speculation that stirs her soul.

We are given a glimpse into the life of Lady Jane Grey through the eyes of her dress maker, Lucy Day. Faced with a life amid political and religious turmoil, Lady Jane struggles with the wants of her heart and duty to her parents. Eventually, she faces the heavy mantel of duty to the crown.

I was drawn into the lives of these women and loved the theme of choices. Each felt they had no choices in life, and yet, as they struggled through the trials of their lives, they both learned about themselves and the choices they had made in the past, as well as the choices facing them.

This was truly a beautifully crafted book, full of lovely prose, and interwoven with interesting history. It's a must read for any historical fiction lover.

Back Cover:

Content in her comfortable marriage of twenty-two years, Jane Lindsay had never expected to watch her husband, Brad, pack his belongings and walk out the door of their Manhattan home. But when it happens, she feels powerless to stop him, and the course of events that follow Brad's departure.

Jane finds an old ring in a box of relics from a British jumble sale and discovers a Latin inscription in the band along with just one recognizable word: Jane. Feeling an instant connection to the mysterious ring bearing her namesake, Jane begins a journey to learn more about the ring--and perhaps about herself.

In the sixteenth-century, Lucy Day becomes the dressmaker to Lady Jane Grey, an innocent young woman whose fate seems to be controlled by a dangerous political and religious climate, one threatening to deny her true love and pursuit of her own interests.

As the stories of both Janes dovetail through the journey of one ring, it becomes clear that each woman has far more influence over her life than she once imagined. It all comes down to the choices each makes despite the realities they face.

For a sneak peak look at the first chapter of Lady in Waiting, go HERE.

You can purchase this book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com.


To rank my review at Blogging for Books, go HERE.

*** I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

***For a chance to win a copy of this book, please leave a comment along with your email address. U.S. citizens only. Chances of winning are based on the number of entries and winner is draw from a non-biased third party- Random.org. I am not responsible for any lost or damaged items for said prize.

Thanks for stopping by. Drawing for Lady in Waiting will be  held on January 21st.

Anniversary Trip

 I've been away on an anniversary trip to Fredericksburg, a small German town in the middle of the big state of Texas. It's my 26th anniversary, and it was nice to get away. We left the kids home alone--no grandparent to cook for them and make sure they get home before curfew. Were we brave? Or just stupid?

My kids did fine... from what they've told me. They ate all the food I cooked up and spent all the money we left. The house was even clean when we got home. Amazing, I know!

So while they were home alone (and let me just tell you, they are 20, 18, and 15--not little ones in diapers), we had fun walking the streets, shopping, eating, and napping. Yes, it was a good mixture of fun and rest. Just what I was needing!

View from balcony
We stayed in an old livery stable that had been converted into a bed and breakfast. It was rustic, but nice. Big bathroom with a jacuzzi tub, small kitchen, double fireplace...it was nice!

So that's why I've been away. Now I'm back and will have some book reviews to put up. (I read two books on the trip!) Hhhhmm, maybe I'll even do another giveaway.

I love dart guns!
Has anyone been to an interesting place? Stayed in unique lodgings?

January 03, 2011

The Great Edit Race

Okay, so it's not really a race, but it sounded like a catchy title. Editing is going to be one of my passions for this month...and the next, I'm afraid. Passionate is My One Word for the new year (see my post on it HERE) and I am jumping in with both feet, or maybe head first, tackling the thing I have feared and procrastinated about in 2010.

It's rather embarrassing to admit that I let a whole year go by without finishing editing my novel, my first book, the book that won first place in a contest. Completely embarrassing. So why am I sharing this shameful tidbit? Because I am conquering my fear and passionately moving forward into what God has allowed me love. (No, NOT editing, but writing!)

I am writing a new story and keeping the creative juices flowing there, but am now going to edit my heart out on my first story. In order to do this, I have signed up for the Critique Pool at ACFW. Hopefully, I can gain some help and get my story whipped into shape. I have a wonderful friend who is critiquing it now, but we are both so busy, it is too much to ask her to do more. (She is the best at crits, taking my story deeper and adding such texture to it!) I pray that the help I receive from others will be as beneficial.

This is my main goal for the year: to edit my novel and get it into shape by the time ACFW Conference rolls around. Yes, I am planning on attending this year, Lord willing.

What are your goals for your writing this year?

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