Friday, June 24, 2016

The Seed: A True Myth by Erik Guzman | RE:VIEW

The Seed by Erick Guzman is an interesting tale depicting an enhanced and slightly changed version of the Biblical narrative of the Garden of Eden and the fall and redemption of man. Using a total of five characters throughout the story, I feel the term "myth" is accurately applied to this book.

I will agree that Guzman takes liberties to create an interesting story without "theological language or Christian terms", though for any Christian familiar with the Biblical narrative, the story is easily mapped out. I did appreciate the vivid parallels that Guzman was able to convey between a society (not unlike ours) that works to wall ourselves off and thinks we are better than we are. I also enjoyed his depiction of good and evil and the way that, to those without eyes opened to the way of Love (his character name for God), what you see as "good" looks uninteresting and even repulsive.

To be honest though, I didn't enjoy this like I thought I would. I read "Christian fantasy tale" in the description and the comparison of C.S. Lewis by early reviews, and my mind immediately jumped to something along the lines of The Screwtape Letters (my favorite Lewis novel.) Reading The Seed, I didn't personally see those comparisons. I found myself mired in uninteresting and simplistic dialogue, an off putting sense of the world/time spectrum, and an unnecessary use of foul language.

I understand that putting the term "myth" in the subtitle allows for an adjustment of expectations and I would agree this is much more "myth-like" than it is novel or story-like. It's an allegorical journey but not a story in the way Lord of the Rings is allegorical. Go into it realizing this and you may enjoy it if that type of book appeals to you.

Purchase: The Seed

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Young Madeline and Roark are desperately running from the shadow that destroyed their home and is threatening their lives. One day, they encounter Tatus, an older man who has sworn to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the shadow, and they form an alliance with him. Tatus promises that he can keep them safe from the shadow if they will help him build a fortress. So they build.

But as fortress-building consumes their lives, Madeline and Roark are increasingly filled with anger and fear, and an unseen evil threatens to ultimately destroy them. When they finally face the shadow, he presents them with an unthinkable offer that will reveal shocking secrets of the forgotten past, the unseen present, and the unimaginable future.

We've all had the feeling that something's not quite right with our lives. It's bigger than any specific failure or disappointment. It's bigger than any person. No matter what you achieve or how much you drink or sleep, you can't shake it. It haunts you-night and day-and propels you to do something. So you build. You build and build the maze that is your exhausting life. Sound vaguely familiar?

The Seed: A True Myth is a journey into the personal labyrinths we create to protect ourselves and those we love from the pain of living in a broken world. Guzman's "true myth" takes the reader on an unforgettable journey that is, in essence, the grand narrative of God's redemptive work in the world. This page-turning Christian fantasy tale is packed with mystery and drama, and readers will feel the weight and power of redemption as they journey alongside Guzman's characters in their epic battle. The Seed deftly communicates the heart of Trinitarian theology through story-without using theological language or Christian terms-and reinforces biblical themes such as God's character and man's true identity and calling.
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I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Irene Hannon {Writer Wedesday}

A little bit about Irene...

Irene Hannon is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than fifty contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. A seven-time finalist and three-time winner of the RITA award—the “Oscar” of romance fiction—from Romance Writers of America, she is also a member of that organization’s elite Hall of Fame. Her books have been honored with a National Readers’ Choice award, three HOLT medallions, a Daphne du Maurier award, a Retailers’ Choice award, two Booksellers’ Best awards, two Carol awards, and two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. That magazine has also honored her with a Career Achievement award for her entire body of work. In addition, she is a two-time Christy award finalist.

Connect with Irene...

Website: www.irenehannon.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Irene-Hannon-426433004084567/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/IreneHannon?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
Purchase: Sea Rose Lane

Get to know Irene...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about you...
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I like to tell people I made my “professional” debut at the age of 10 when I was one of the honorees in a complete-the-story contest sponsored by a national children’s magazine. I truly believe storytelling is a gift, like any other talent. I’ve always wanted to be able to paint, but if I took art lessons until I was 95, every person I tried to draw would still look like a stick figure. I don’t see with the eyes of an artist. So I paint with words.

Your Writing

Let's talk about your book...

Why did you write it?
Sea Rose Lane is the second book set in my fictional seaside village of Hope Harbor on the Oregon coast. I knew when I was writing the first one that this little town held many captivating stories, and thankfully my publisher agreed. I mean, how can you not love a town where hearts heal—and love blooms? I should point out, too, that each Hope Harbor book stands completely alone. Stories don’t carry over from book to book.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
I love all my main characters—but I also love a few of the secondary characters who appear in every book: Charley, the ageless taco-making artist who seems to be able to see into everyone’s heart; the two town clergymen, with their friendly rivalry and deep friendship; even Floyd and Gladys, my seagull couple. This is a town filled with fascinating people who are easy to love and hard to forget.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
I hope readers close the last page uplifted—and with a renewed belief that no matter how tough life might get, there’s always the possibility of a happy ending. I also hope they have a better appreciation for the tremendous power of love to transform lives.

What’s the theme? How did you come up with it?
Hope is the theme that resonates in Sea Rose Lane—and in every book set in Hope Harbor, as the name of the town suggests. In this story, my hero and heroine find love and a new beginning, but the theme of hope is front and center in my subplot, too. The two secondary characters in this story touched my heart in a special way.

Did you get to do any fun research for the book?
Yes! I visited the spectacular Oregon coast to research the setting. For many years, I’ve wanted to set a book…or two…or three…or ??? in this beautiful part of the country. I was convinced it would provide the perfect locale for the town I’d already named Hope Harbor. That research trip exceeded all my expectations. In Florence, I found charming storefronts and to-die-for cinnamon rolls. In Bandon, I learned about seagull romance. In Cape Perpetua, I got up close and personal with amazing starfish. In Brookings, I watched the sun set in a secluded cove with a silver-white harbor seal for company. And everywhere I went, I savored the endless, sandy beaches and sea stacks. When I got home, I took all those bits and pieces of real-life coastal Oregon and created Hope Harbor!

Emilie here: You're talking about the places I grew up going on vacation to! In fact, I was JUST in Brookings last week :) I've long decided I would set a series on the Oregon coast because it has fed my imagination since I was a child camping there. Love that you have seen the same beauty there!

Writing

Let's talk about your writing...

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I’ve lost count. Lots and lots, though! And that can be very discouraging—enough to make some people quit. But I’m not the kind of person who likes to admit defeat, and I believed in my stories. So through rejection after rejection, I kept writing. By the time I sold, I had three finished manuscripts…and my first publisher bought them all. Perseverance does pay—as does the willingness to continually learn and grow as a writer. I learn something new with every book I write.

Are you a Panster or Plotter?
I’m a hybrid. I spend a lot of time getting to know my characters before I begin a book, and I have a general story concept, but the action develops chapter by chapter…sometimes line by line!

Emilie here: I feel like I too am a hybrid - I like the "not knowing" part of creating a plot, but I get to a point where I just need to now how it's all going to work out *hehe*. 

What does your writing process look like?
I start every day by reviewing the words I wrote the previous day or two. Once I finish a chapter, I review and revise it until I deem it ready to go into my master document. After I finish my revisions for the day, I write new words. Because of this polish-as-I-go process, I have a final draft at the end. I’ll let the manuscript sit for a few days, then do a full read over a day or two to make any final polishes or tweaks. So I’m not one of those writers who throws the story down as fast as possible and then does a major rewrite. That process does work for a lot of people, though!

Emilie here: Ohhh, that's not something I've heard of before - the polish as you go. I like it! 

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
The upfront thinking phase, where I’m trying to get a handle on the general plot and scope of the book, is my least favorite part. Even though it’s critical to my process, it feels unproductive because no new words are appearing every day. My favorite part is the polishing process—the stuff I do first thing every morning with the words that haven’t yet been moved into my master document. I love playing with words that are already on the page. That’s when the magic happens for me.

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
This is a constant challenge. Writing can easily take over if you let it—and I did earlier in my career, after I left my day job to write full-time. But that’s a recipe for burnout. So now I try to take weekends off from writing. I might still do some business-related chores, or work on promotional items, but I don’t write unless I’ve gotten seriously behind on my page count for the week.

You

What is one thing you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing?
I love to sing, and one of my favorite non-writing activities is performing in community musical theater productions. I’ve been fortunate to play the leading role in many classic musicals, including Brigadoon, South Pacific, The King and I, Oklahoma, Anything Goes, and numerous others. When I’m not singing on stage, I’m a soloist at my church.

Emilie here: How fun! I love musicals! And I sing as well. I think having those extra hobbies are the best - they can be relaxing and fun.

Thinking of Fathers Day, is there a story you’d like to share with the readers about your father?
My dad was born in rural Ireland, where he lived until his late twenties in a small cottage without electricity or running water. After he came to America and married, he worked hard to support his family, at one point holding three jobs. Through the years, he’s always been in my corner—and he’s a shining example of what a father should be. In recent years, he’s devoted himself to caring for my mom, who’s had health issues and needs a lot of help. I think the dedication in the third book in Men of Valor suspense book (Tangled Webs, 10/16) says it all:

To my father, James Hannon—
he most unselfish man I’ve ever met.

As I conclude my Men of Valor series,
thank you for reminding me by example
that valor isn’t found only in grand, sweeping gestures,
but in quietly doing—day after day, with
kindness, grace, humility and love—
what needs to be done.

You will always be my hero.

What are you currently reading?
 Becky Wade’s Her One and Only.

Emilie here: What a great interview Irene! Thank you so much for being my guest and for sharing your sweet dedication to your father. My heart melted! Love it :) 

Readers - make sure you pick up her novel Sea Rose Lane!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Free Clubhouse Magazine Trial | Adventures in Odyssey

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Deborah Raney & V. Joy Palmer | New Novel News

Close to Home
by Deborah Raney

Published: June 7, 2016
From: Abingdon Press 
Purchase: Close to Home

Bree Cordel Whitman is a Whitman by marriage, but sometimes she forgets she wasn’t born into Grant and Audrey’s family. Her late husband, Timothy Whitman, gave his life for his country on a windblown hill in Afghanistan. Bree has let the love of Tim’s family keep her ties to him strong—in the same way she keeps Tim’s memory alive for them. But it’s been almost five years, and she can’t hang onto the past forever.

Get to know Deborah...

What's your favorite chore?
Watering, pruning, and fertilizing the plants. I have a ton of houseplants—and in the summer, lots of flower pots—and I just find it so relaxing and inspiring to take care of them. The rewards they give back in beauty, fresh air, movement, and green are such a blessing!

What are the names of your pets?
After three catless years, we adopted one of our daughter’s cats. She and her husband can’t resist a rescue and they had two dogs, two cats, and a baby on the way. We offered to take the baby, but they weren’t too fond of that idea, so we took Melvin instead. He’s 8 years old, 2 pounds overweight, but the best cat ever. We just love him.

Favorite place you’ve traveled to?
I would love to travel more widely, and especially in Europe where my great-great-grandparents hail from. But so far, my out-of-country excursions have been limited to ports of call on a cruise (Jamaica and Grand Cayman) and a quick trip over the California border into Old Mexico. But of all the places in the U.S. I’ve traveled to, I would love to return to the Riverwalk in San Antonio. It’s the city of my birth, but I was only five months old when my parents moved away (my dad was stationed at Lackland AFB there) so returning for the first time in my forties, was a pleasant surprise. My husband and I were there on business and stayed in a charming B&B along the Riverwalk. It was February, so the warm Texas days were extra delightful knowing it was cold and blustery back home!

Connect with Deborah: http://www.deborahraney.com/ 

Love, Lace, & Minor Alterations 
by V. Joy Palmer

Published: June 15, 2016
From: WhiteFire Publishing
Purchase: Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations

Isabel “Izze” Vez, bridal consultant extraordinaire, has been helping brides find The Dress for years. She loves nothing more than helping make wedding dreams come true…but sometimes the happy endings grate on her. How many times can a girl discover someone else’s gown without dreaming of the day it’ll be her turn to wear one?

When James Miles Clayton walks into her life, he represents everything Izze can’t handle: change. He’s determined to bring the Ever After Bridal Boutique into the black…and to prove to Izze that she should give him a chance.

But if there’s anything Izze handles worse than change, it’s trust. She may have a few issues—fine, she knows she does. But will they keep getting in the way of any chance of her own Happily Ever After? She wants to trust God to give her those dreams of love and lace, but that’s going to require some…minor alterations.

Get to know V. Joy...

What prank would you want to play on your main character? 
My mom enjoys playing practical jokes and I loved playing them on co-workers, so I actually wrote a scene where my main character, Izze, tried to convince another girl that there was stick-on lace – kind of like a lace sticker for wedding dresses. However, Izze fell for this same prank when she first started working at the bridal boutique, too. It’s a rite of passage.

If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters?

I would cast Alexis Bledel for Izze partly because she can talk fast, but mostly because you will never meet a bigger Gilmore Girls groupie than me. :)
I would pick Chris Pratt for Miles because I think he’s hilarious.

Favorite dessert?
I eat any and all chocolate like it’s going out of style, but my absolute favorite dessert is chocolate cheesecake so sweet that it makes other people sick. LOL.

Connect with V. Joy: http://vjoypalmer.blogspot.com/ 

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Friday, June 17, 2016

The Progeny by Tosca Lee | RE:View

The Progeny by Tosca Lee delivers question after unanswered question through shocking twists and turns with answers that dance just out of reach. 

One girl is the center of mystery, she just doesn't know it yet. Emily Porter is the descendant of a serial killer. She's smart, intuitive, and gifted, and she would do anything to save the ones she loves.

I loved this book! I mean...I didn't expect anything less from Tosca because anything she writes is fabulous, but I wasn't sure what I would find hiding in the pages of The Progeny. Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. From the start the reader is kept guessing as we're dropped into the mind of Emily. I liked Tosca's use of first person present tense - it's a popular POV right now and I think she did a great job with it. Emily isn't whiny, annoying, or trivial like so many main characters can become. I enjoy how fresh, focused, and smart she is.

@createexploreread
I also loved the setting and infusion of history! It's set in modern day just slightly in the future (close enough to be realistic in my opinion) but the flavor of the 1600s is present with a fun, modern type flair. I also personally love anything that has to do with history affecting present day in a mysterious, slightly supernatural type way. So much YES!

Do I recommend it? Absolutely! I think fans of Tosca's other writing will love it despite the fact that it is different than anything else she's written thus far. I also think YA readers will enjoy the fast paced plot, historical fans will like the interwoven backstory, and readers of thrillers and suspense will get their action kick to. Oh, did I mention there's romance too??? So, I guess I'm saying that say pretty much any reader who likes a good book will enjoy The Progeny.

I will caution you readers that there is a slight bit of language for some of you who aren't expecting it, just know it's there.

But really, you'll love this and the end will leave you satisfied but begging for book 2.

Buckle up for this wild ride!

My rating: 4.5*
Purchase: The Progeny

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Emily Porter is the descendant of a serial killer. Now, she’s become the hunted.

She’s on a quest that will take her to the secret underground of Europe and the inner circles of three ancient orders—one determined to kill her, one devoted to keeping her alive, and one she must ultimately save.

Filled with adrenaline, romance, and reversals, The Progeny is the present-day saga of a 400-year-old war between the uncanny descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, the most prolific female serial killer of all time, and a secret society dedicated to erasing every one of her descendants. A story about the search for self amidst centuries-old intrigues and Europe’s underground scene…and one woman’s mission to survive.
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I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Make Your Children World Explorers

worldexplorers 

Give your family summer vacation a makeover this year and turn it into a "staycation." Have your kids forget their summer boredom, turn off their screens, and instead circle the globe with Focus on the Family's "World Explorers" summer adventure kit!

Throughout the next two months, travel our colorful, diverse world, visiting 27 different countries on six continents. Part of the fun will be figuring out where the next stop is, using five clues that reveal interesting facts about the next country. Once you've determined where you're going, use the games, activities and faith lessons to give your kids a glimpse into that country's unique culture.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Alexis Goring {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Alexis...

Alexis A. Goring is a writer at heart and a journalist by profession. She loves the art of storytelling and is especially delighted to have released her first book, an inspirational romance novella called Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, in Sept. 2013. When Alexis is not working on her next book or chasing down the next big story for the newspaper where she works as a freelance reporter, she can be found listening to songs by her most admired musicians, enjoying the food in cafes/restaurants, shopping at her favorite malls and spending quality time with loved ones (family and friends).

Connect with Alexis...

Author page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAlexisAGoring
Blog, “God is Love” - http://capturingtheidea.blogspot.com
Twitter handle, @pennedbyalex
Purchase:
--> Amazon.com, http://amzn.to/1PGpOZl
BarnesandNoble.com, http://bit.ly/1Tm5T4P
 

Get to know Alexis...

You and Writing
 
How did you start writing? 
I started writing at age 9 after an impromptu storytelling activity between my grandfather, my brother and I. My grandfather created the activity to entertain us while he and my grandma were babysitting us. I do not think that he knew it would spark my dreams to be a writer.

What has kept you writing? 
My desire to write is as strong as my need to breathe.

What or who is the biggest influence in your writing? 
My faith in God. He keeps me creative and diligent.

Why do you write? 
Writing is like breathing for me. I love it that much. I want to create and publish stories that bring hope to people’s hearts and point them to Jesus Christ.

Your Writing

Why did you write it? 
I wrote my first book because I wanted to infuse hope into people’s hearts and let them know that no matter how dire a situation looks, there is always hope when God is in the picture…and God is ALWAYS in the picture!

What was a challenge you faced while writing it? 
Honestly, I didn’t have any challenges while writing it because it just flowed. However the challenge was to apply all of the content edits that my editor advised. The red marks on my manuscript (track changes on Microsoft Word) were so overwhelming that I did not even try to edit my manuscript for months. But when I finally decided to tackle it, I finished the edits in only three days. I have to admit that my editor knew what she was talking about because after the content edits were applied, my story read much better!

Were your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?
My characters were easy to pin down. The story just flowed. There were no surprises this time though I have written stories before that turned out differently (and better) than I envisioned as digging deep into the Goals/Motivation/Conflict (GMC) of my characters created quite the unexpected adventure for me as the author.

What made you choose the setting for the book? 
I wanted to write a book with a local setting so I chose the DMV (Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia) area that I love.

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story? 
Apart from baby names (for my characters)? Maybe language translations for the Italian restaurant scene in “Love Unexpected” which is the first story in my novella.

What’s your favorite snack while writing? 
Chocolate, black cake (it’s a Caribbean dessert), ginger ale and fried chicken.

Writing

Let’s talk about your writing life...

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? 
It helps to study writing. I joined the Newspaper and Yearbook staff when I was a high school student. I majored in Print Journalism as a college student. Currently, I’m pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing. Studying the craft of writing has helped me to grow by leaps and bounds as a professional writer. I’d also tell young writers to apply for a mentorship with a seasoned book editor. I recently did that and have learned so much from my editor! She’s taught me the value of knowing the GMC of your main characters before you start to write the fictional story and she’s taught me so much more such as building tension with every scene. The lessons I’ve learned over the years of studying writing and learning new skills from my mentor are priceless and key to my success.

Are you a Panster or Plotter? 
I’m a little bit of both but partial to the pantser process. It’s much more fun. I feel bogged down after I plot a story out from start to finish. Plotting out every detail tends to drain me and deter me from wanting to go back and actually write the story using all of those details.

What does your writing process look like? 
I start with creating character sketches (profiles) that detail their name, age, ethnicity, background, family history, flaws, strengths and other details. Next, I fill out a GMC chart for each character. Then I turn on my favorite music playlist via Pandora or YouTube and start writing!

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?

My favorite part is writing the story. My least favorite part is applying content edits.

What did you learn along the path to publishing that you’d care to share as encouragement? 
I learned to not rush the process. It’s important to make sure that your final product is a good, solid story with no flaws and achieving that goal takes time.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? 
Everywhere! Music, movies, restaurants, the mall, family, friends, books and my imagination.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share? 
I do have several playlists. My favorite songs on YouTube include (but are not limited to): “St. Elmo’s Fire LOVE Theme Instrumental” from the movie St. Elmo’s Fire, “Through the Eyes of Love” performed by Britt Nicole from the movie Ice Castles (2010), “What A Feeling” by Irene Cara from the movie Flashdance and “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Crocker and Jennifer Warnes. I listen to a wide variety of artists on Pandora and have several playlists, too many to mention.

Are there any books or resources you could recommend to younger writers looking to grow in their craft? 
Yes! I have quite the list! Are you ready? Here is it is:
You

What is one thing you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing?

I like to read. I have a stack of books from my favorite authors that I received for free in exchange for my honest review on Amazon.com so that keeps me busy! I love it.

What are you currently reading?
The Woman Code: 20 Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life by Sophia A. Nelson. We’re reading it for the women’s book club that I co-lead with friends from my church. It’s a great read! Sophia is one of my favorite authors.


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