Friday Feature: Excerpt from The Truth About Hope

Erica here! It’s my pleasure to share an excerpt from Kate James’ new Harlequin Heartwarming title, The Truth About Hope (Erica insert: I love the title already and can’t wait to read this one!). I’ve been a fan of the Heartwarming line since it was revamped, and I hope you’ll enjoy this line of clean reads that pack an emotional one-two punch combo that will have you snot-crying and happy sighing in turn. You can learn more about the line’s author’s here. Now let’s dip a toe into The Truth About Hope!

In the pet store, Hope pushed the shopping cart up and down the aisles and tried to set her negative thoughts aside. But she found it more challenging to put Luke out of her mind.

            “That’s a lot of dog food,” the young clerk behind the counter commented as she rang up the two thirty-pound bags, a box of dog treats and a couple of chew toys.

“Yeah, and you’ll be seeing me back sooner than you’d think,” Hope said as she slipped her credit card and the receipt in her wallet. The clerk was too young to know her. After the encounter with Miranda, it was nice to have a pleasant interaction, free of tension. Hope slid the shopping bag over her arm, then hefted the first of the two large bags of kibble.

“Let me give you a hand with that.” The clerk came around to help just as the phone started ringing.

“Go ahead and answer that. I can manage,” Hope told her.

“You sure?”

Hope nodded.

“Thanks,” the clerk said as she rushed to answer the phone.

Hope pushed the plastic bag farther up her arm and hoisted the other bag of dog food. Weighed down and barely able to see over her load, she was glad her Jeep was only a few steps outside the shop. She maneuvered one of the bags farther up as it began to slide and raised her leg to balance the other one so she could reach for the door.

Just as she was about to open it, the door was pulled out of her grasp. She lurched forward and tumbled out the doorway. She hit the sidewalk hard, landing inelegantly on her hands and knees, her purchases scattered about. One of the bags of dog food had split and kibble was strewn around her.

Hope pushed to her knees and winced as raw skin scraped across the rough cement.

“I’m so sorry. Here, let me help…” A pair of large hands reached toward her. They froze and withdrew abruptly as Hope looked up and, from under the brim of her baseball cap, made eye contact with a pair of gold-flecked amber eyes—Luke Carter’s lion eyes.

The man before her was tall and fit. His face had matured in a rugged, handsome way. He looked the same and yet he didn’t.

Hope’s immediate reaction was excitement, that little thrill she’d always experienced when she’d been with him as a teen.

She lowered her head. “Great. Just great,” she muttered. Those mischievous fates just had to have another go at her today, didn’t they? Of all the people they could’ve thrown in her path, it had to be Luke. Probably served her right for not being able to keep her mind off him.

Erica again. Don’t you just love an awkward meeting? And apparently it’s not the first that Hope has had. I’m already wondering why Luke drew away so abruptly when he realized who Hope was, and why she’s been thinking aobut him. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to read this one!

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

The Truth About Hope
by Kate James
Adult Contemporary Romance
May 1st 2015 by Harlequin Heartwarming

Who is Hope Wilson?

Is she the girl her former hometown thinks she is? Or the girl Luke Carter once loved–and maybe still does?

When Hope returns to Canyon Creek, Texas, to honor her father’s last wishes, there’s only one person on her mind: her high school sweetheart, Luke. The boy she lied to when she had to leave Canyon Creek as a teen, finding it easier to hide what she really felt than deal with the grief of loss. Her father’s fortune could make a big difference to Canyon Creek–but Hope finds that the townspeople have a long memory about his misdeeds. With a plan to make amends on his behalf, Hope learns the truth about herself. And the truth about love.

Kate James spent much of her childhood abroad before attending university in Canada. She built a successful business career, but her passion has always been literature. As a result Kate turned her energy to her love of the written word. Her writing has been recognized with a number of awards, including first place honors for Silver Linings in both the First Coast Romance Writers’ Published Beacon Contest and ACRA’s Heart of Excellence Readers? Choice Award. Her November Harlequin Heartwarming release, A Child’s Christmas, received first-place honors from Southern Magic, the Birmingham Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, for the 2015 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence!

Kate married her husband, Ken, in an elegant, ocean-front wedding on a tropical island. When they are not traveling, they split their time between their properties in southern and central Ontario in Canada, with their beloved black Labs, Harley and Logan.

Kate?s next novel is the first book in her K-9 Squad Trilogy, and is scheduled for release on October 1, 2015.

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Interview: Historical Inspirational Romance Author Christina Yother

Good morning, readers! In honor of the release of her third book, Reconcile (releasing tomorrow, 3/31), I interviewed inspirational historical romance author Christina Yother about writing the Hollow Hearts series, self-publishing, and what she’s working on now. If you read Reverie or Reliance, you are familiar with the character of Joshua Miller. If you’re like me, you’ve been clamoring for his story since book one. Once I get my hot little hands on a copy, I plan to review Reconcile here. Until then, let’s welcome Ms. Yother!

christina

What drew you to Inspirational Historical Romance?
I’ve always enjoyed reading Inspirational fiction, both historical and contemporary. I like the depth of the stories as well as how faith becomes central to the story.
Why did you choose the time period and setting you chose for the Hollow Hearts Series?
The late 1800’s is my favorite time period to read! The country was expanding at an astounding rate and that sense of adventure and unknown has always appealed to me as a reader. What better period to write about!?
Give the readers a brief description of the previous books in the series. 
Reverie – Orphaned at a young age Hetty is convinced that her circumstances make her unworthy of having a family of her own. When a job opportunity as a housekeeper presents itself Hetty accepts believing that working for Isaac Wheeler and his family is a welcome, if not temporary, surrogate for her own family dreams. As she’s faced with learning to trust she discovers that wanting a family and building a family are two very different things. Will she learn to see herself as worthy of God’s gifts? Or will she return to the solitary existence that defined so much of her life?

Isaac Wheeler, successful furniture maker and dishonorable bachelor, finds Hetty’s presence in his home to be disturbing and a haunting reminder of his past sins. As he struggles with his growing and unwanted feelings, he can’t help but torment himself with mistakes from his past. Can he navigate the family tensions, infidelity, and sudden choices destined to keep them apart? Or can Isaac endure each struggle and seek forgiveness before discovering what truly makes a family?

 
 
Reliance – Two strangers. One clandestine wedding. Many hidden stories.

Discouraged by his limited prospects and tired of trying to find a bride in a traditional manner, Elias Wheeler places an advertisement requesting a mail-order bride and mother for his young daughter. Rebecca Malone, eager to escape an abusive past, travels to Montana to become Elias’s wife despite only exchanging a few letters. Learning to care for one another proves easy; learning to trust proves much more difficult. Elias and Rebecca must navigate the waters of blending families while learning to depend on one another with confidence, loving support, and faith. Together they must learn to rely on each other and what they hope to build while accepting that perfection isn’t the goal; love is.

 
 
Give a brief summary of your newest book, Reconcile.
Facing the truth of the past.
Accepting the hope of the future.
Joshua Miller struggles to care for his ailing father, run the town livery, and meet the demands of a spoiled fiancé. When an unexpected woman enters his life and exemplifies true compassion, he begins to question the path his life is taking. When changing his plans means destroying all he has built, Joshua will have to decide what matters most.
Lilly Johnson arrives in her sister’s home in the frontier town of Hollow, Montana hoping she left the shame of divorce behind her. With her sister’s support, Lilly begins to build a new life and gain a sense of independence. After accepting a job as a caregiver for Joshua Miller’s father, she discovers it’s more difficult to keep her heart closed than she imagined. But when her past catches up with her, she must reconcile her beliefs in order to brave an uncertain future with an open heart.
Which came first with Reconcile, the idea or the characters?
Actually the characters came first.  So many people connected with Joshua from the first book, Reverie. I heard numerous times that readers wanted to know what happened to him (Erica’s note: including me!). Over time I knew I needed to give him his own story – he deserves it! And I think it was well worth the wait.
How long did it take you to write Reconcile?
I’d say it took about 8 months to write the story. The revisions and edits too nearly as long! I wish I could say I’m one of those authors that can write quickly, but my family comes first and sometimes that means the writing must be put on hold.
What was the easiest scene to write? The hardest?
The easiest scene to write was the ending.  I knew how the story would end when I started writing. I was so excited by the time I got to that scene that I felt such joy in creating it.  The hardest scene to write was when Lilly is counseling with the minister of the local church. She’s dealing with her own demons and struggling to justify her choices.  I waited quite a while to write that scene because I needed the right scripture to support it.  I prayed quite a bit before I knew how to accomplish it.
Are there any more books coming in the Hollow Hearts series?
I’ll be honest that I planned to end the series at three books.  However, several bouts of insomnia led to the planning of two more books in the series.  I guess we will have to see…
Where can readers find your books? What formats are they available in?
My books are available in paperback and ebook format at the following links:
What advice would you give a young writer trying to break into self-publish, specifically inspirational historical romance?
It is so important to have patience.  Yes, indie publishing runs on a much faster track than traditional publishing, but it shouldn’t be rushed.  Take the time to make the book and the writing the best it can be before putting it out in the world.  Also, find a support network that makes the process a bit easier. Writing can be lonely so having comrades to share ideas with or talk about the art of writing can make such a difference. I don’t know how I would do it without my best critique buddies!
Bonus: Are there any other genres you’re looking to break into?
I am exploring the Women’s Fiction genre right now. I have a great stand alone novel I’m working on that takes place in Georgia during the 1940’s and focuses on multiple generations of women in one very unusual family.
Thanks so much, Christina! Everyone be sure to pick up your copy of Reconcile on March 31st! 
reconcile

Good Bones

DSCF1953 (2)

One of the discarded choices for my book cover. I took this photo at a friends wedding.

You may have missed all of the hoopla about the fact that I received my book cover from the graphic designer this week, but I didn’t want you to miss anything else in this publication process. You are all my writer friends, so I can’t leave you out of the writerly aspects of getting this book baby out there. If you want to read my feels about the process, you can head on over to http://www.aseriousseason.com and see those. But today I want to talk about revising my non-fiction book.

My name is Erica Denise Hearns, and I am a perfectionist. I’ve been a perfectionist for years. I would quit for a while but sooner or later, the old each keeps coming back and I give in. It was bad at the beginning of this week when I tweaked almost every element of my book cover, but now that I’m reading the book after a couple weeks’ hiatus, it has become supercharged.

When I opened the Word document a few days ago, I thought I’d just be finishing the sections that weren’t finished. I was convinced that I’d done all the revision/editing I needed to do for what was written. I would go over the most recent additions, then move on to filling in the missing areas. Not so. I’ve notice some major things out of whack in the beginning. It makes me want to throw my laptop because I already gave the book to beta readers to look over. In the first four sections/chapters, I’ve moved one section up, one down, and extensively revised another. About 75% of what I read has been moved or changed. I’ve removed chunks of useless words, large and small. I’ve nipped, tucked and tightened all over the place. I feel like a plastic surgeon on Botched: this manuscript has been disfigured and now I have to fix it.

It’s not all bad, though. Other than one chapter that needed major revisions (the chapter that everything else flows from, so it has to be perfect), the rest has just been finding the flow and deleting unneccesary words. It’s like the hero’s comments about a run down house in a book I’m reading: the house has good bones; most of the work to be done is cosmetic. I’m adding subheadings and cleaning up copy in most sections. I’m checking and adding references. I’m adding quotes. I’m prettying up the place, so to speak.

How is revising non-fiction different from revising fiction? For me, I spot repetition and junk words a lot easier. I’m good at making sure the paragraphs are organized well and paragraphs are broken in the correct places. It’s easier to spot derivations and asides in my non-fiction voice. I have a better grasp on how to tweak my words to wring out the emotions.

On the more difficult side, I have to make sure that my tone is working well. It’s hard to know how someone will read something. I’m trying to season my words while being clear, which can be hard to balance when you’re taking a stance or position that may be unpopular. I have to check that everything I present as a fact is corroborated, and that I clearly state when something is an opinion. I have to balance how much information I am giving all at once and use things like enumeration, bullet points and subsections to break it up into manageable chunks. It’s like writing a really long college essay.

The hardest part about self-publishing this book, to me, remains the marketing. I think I creating a cover that will draw the eye. What else can I do to build interest in the book? What marketing tips do you guys have for non-fiction Christian books?

So You Think You Can Write?…I Did!

You guys, sorry for the LONG hiatus, but I’ve been busying doing a few writer things I think you should know about. First, I’ve been writing reviews over at HarlequinJunkie.com. I have loved Harlequin romance novels since I was a teenager, and I jumped at the chance to review their books on a site. I get at least nine books a month to review, which means my plate is always full of exciting new books to read and review. You can find my reviews by looking for reviews with a tag of “Erica.” My latest review is of A Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence. I will be establishing a page where I will provide links to my reviews, etc.

Secondly, I did something slightly spur of the moment and submitted my 2011 Camp NaNoWriMo romance to Harlequin Mills Boon’s So You Think You Can Write Competition. There are over six hundred entries, and only 50 full manuscripts will be requested, so I don’t know how far I will get, especially since I didn’t let myself think too much before I wrote the pitch and hit submit on the last possible day, but I really believe in this story. If it doesn’t win and I don’t hear anything back from editors by the time they have followed up after the contest, I will publish it here. If you want to read the pitch and first 5000 words (and leave me some comments!), you can read it here. Stay and check out some other first chapters; I’ve read a few really good ones myself.

Lastly, I have been trying to finish my final edit for the book before I pass it to an editor for the final FINAL edit. It’s hard letting go, but I can see that the parts I’ve finished have been polished as much as they can be before I cross the line into over editing. I am hoping to have it turned over in another week or two.

Between all of this and increased work responsibilities, I’ve been neglecting my blogs, but I wanted to let you all know what’s going on with me and pledge to be a much better blogger. I will return at least once a week for Writer Wednesdays, to share progress, ponder writer issues, and just hear all about what’s going on with all of you. Promise.

XOXO

Erica

New Book Club Book

For the months of May & June, my book club gave us the option of reading one of two books (or both): Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen or I Heart Paris by Lindsey Kelk. Since I’ve been up to my ears in Lindsey Kelk (the first two selections were Lindsey Kelk’s first two books in the series) and I have had Water for Elephants on my shelf and to be read list a while, I chose Water for Elephants.

I just started to read the book on my lunch break today, and so far, I love it. Jacob’s narration is cantankerous and funny. Even though Gruen is building a world, you don’t see any of the heavy lifting in the language. The introspective and wisened speech fits an older person perfectly, whereas in another book with another narrator, she couldn’t get away with imparing such wisdom and reflection without any real catalyst.  Suffice it to say I like the narrator.

There are so many little vignettes in the first few pages, jaggedly put together pieces like watching footage from a shaky camera, you’re just as disoriented as the narrator. It’s been a while since I’ve read something that employed its structure to convey feeling along with its words. Kudos to you, Gruen.

The characterization is believable and done with flair. In the first few sentences introducing a character, you instantly get a feel for who he or she is: the retired barrister, the old ladies, the nurses, the tease, the police superintendent–all distinct and clearly drawn by their introductions. It’s hard to say how the characterization will go as characters continue to be introduced, but so far, I like how this is shaping up.

In short, I was hooked from the first page. I can’t wait to crawl back under the big top! 

***

Needless to say, The Help has been moved down a space or two in the two be read list. I’m thinking of posting my reading list so you can read along with me. Research reading for the Marriage Kit project has been slow going lately. I don’t know if the book I am reading is going to help me along any, anyway. Our church has an upcoming gospel meeting/marriage seminar that may prove to be more indispensable.

***

I’ve been asked by a woman at church to help her with English. We tutor the children on the second and fourth Saturdays in their school work right now, and have extended the offer to anyone interested. She wants help with business writing, vocabulary building, grammar. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. I rarely have anyone to talk to about writing, let alone grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. I’ve been mentally going through what resources I have at hand and what resources I still need to get.

The other day, I was talking to my boyfriend and used a word he didn’t know. I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but I always feel a little…embarrassed when this happens, as if I’m not supposed to know words that other people don’t know. Certainly, the last thing I want to do is beat people over the head with my vocabulary. I try to keep my conversational vocabulary toned down to everyday words, but I have a hard time with this when I know a better word for something. Sometimes I use words that people don’t know even without trying. Odd predicament to have, I’m sure.

Have any of your read any good books lately? What are your book clubs reading? Anyone want to read Water for Elephants with me?

My Favorite Redhead

Anne of Green Gables (1985 film)

My Favorite Redhead!

Many of you fell in love with the same redhead that I fell in love with in the fourth grade. For many years now, little girls everywhere have read their way through the life of a truly unique character.

When I was in the fourth grade, my Christmas present from my grandmother (my stepfather’s mother, although he was like a natural/biological dad to me) was a set of books about a little girl named Anne Shirley. I’d always loved to read, and she’d always given me books for Christmas. I have no idea why she chose these books this particular year, but I’ve always been glad she did.

I devoured Anne of Green Gables. I gorged myself on the story of an orphan girl so full of imagination and spunk. She was supposed to be a boy; at least, the Cuthbert’s believed they were to receive a boy. But even Marilla couldn’t resist Anne.

I believe I really fell in love with Anne’s story when they introduced Gilbert Blythe. From the moment she hit him over the head with her writing tablet because he called her carrots, I felt that if there was any justice in the (book) world, they would end up living happily ever after.

Through several books (and locations), Anne never lost her spirit. She was always creative and determined, always imaginative and a little starry-eyed. I loved watching her grow before my very eyes. I cried with her and sighed with her; I held my breath with her as we crossed the brook; I felt her disappointment when she thought the Cuthbert’s would send her back.

The most special relationship in Anne of Green Gables, my love for Gilbert not withstanding, was the relationship between Anne and Marilla’s husband, Matthew Cuthbert. It reminded me so much of my relationship with my stepfather. He just seemed to get it, even when my mother didn’t.

I would love to hear some of your favorite things about Anne of Green Gables…or Avonlea, or any of the other places/books. Feel free to share quotes or moments and reminisce with me.

Note: I officially declare today Anne Shirley day! I can totally do that; it’s my blog. 😀

P.S. Who spelled reminisce right on the first try? That’s right! 😀

The Secret History

My copy does not look like this

Image by MatHampson via Flickr

I’ve just finished reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I must admit that I read it under pretentious and self-serving pretenses: she was given an obscenely large advance for it, it was critically acclaimed and a New York Times bestseller, and she was hailed by all of the literary world. Then she disappeared for ten years before she published her next book–and that was a success as well. I had to see for myself if she was really that good, and whether I could learn anything from reading her works.

The best thing about the book is that Tartt chose the best way to tell the story, which can make or break a book. Also, though she follows many genre rules/restrictions, she completely ignores others. She weaves so much of Greek culture and the structure of a Greek tragedy into the story, that you can almost forget it’s taking place in modern day America.

The Secret History is the story of a group of five Greek scholars at Hampden University (a ficticious school in Vermont) who kill their classmate. You know from the opening pages who gets killed and who did it, yet Tartt manages to make this the least important aspect of the story. What you come to find is that, like the best epic Greek stories, this one has begun in medius reas, in the beginning, not at the ending, as it seems.  

The story is told by Richard Papen, the newest student in the Greek class. He is, in effect, an outsider to the story; he only knows slightly more than the reader at the time of the events. Told from the perspective of some years after the events in Richard’s first person narration, the reader has the best view of the story–the slow unfolding of some of its biggest horrors and the complete blindsiding of others, as well as the suspense and tension of the moment.

The story was, by necessity, slow to start. The location and major characters had to be established. However, it took me quite a few pages to begin to distinguish Francis from Henry. There were also some things she borrowed from the Greek culture that didn’t seem to fit in overmuch with the story–not that they were interesting angles, but they weren’t necessary or particularly enlightening when all was said and done. The Greek teacher himself, though he figured quite a bit in the story, seemed superfluous and forgetable. I never drew any conclusions about him, mostly because I didn’t care after a while.

Overall, it was a well-written book that told an interesting story. The climax felt appropriate for the story, the only way I could be satisfied with the story ending, but the actually ending of the book was…well, a letdown. The fact that this was a debut novel is astounding. It’s rare to find a beginning author with this defined a voice and making POV and narration choices that are this perfect.