Fab Four Book Picks

Book reviews by the Fab Four and our Fab Friends

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

INTEVIEW WITH OUR OWN CAMY TANG!!!



Hello all!

As part of her SUSHI FOR ONE Blog Tour.......I am SUPER, DUPER THRILLED to present an interview with my good friend and debut Zondervan author Camy Tang.

Enjoy and PLEASE TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO STOP BY FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF CAMY'S DEBUT NOVEL!

To enter for the book drawing, simply leave a message stating so in the comment section. Leave contact info or check back THIS FRIDAY to see who won.

Also, Camy is having a fantabulous contest on her blog. See the info at the end of this interview for a chance to win baskets of Christian Fiction, AND an iPod Nano!!!

> 1. When did you first know you wanted to write?

When I read Anne McCaffrey's Pern books, especially Dragonsong and
Dragonsinger. It totally made me want to create my own fantasy world
and cool heroine. So I took over the family's Apple IIe computer (am I
dating myself? LOL) and chugged out my 500+ page fantasy manuscript.

> 2. What are your other passions besides writing?

I've really gotten into knitting the past few months. I've discovered
that it helps me to write because I need the tactile stimulation when
I'm in right-brain creative mode. I also really like the challenge of
making things for myself and for others. I just recently finished a
knit skirt edged with hand-knit lace (for me to wear to church).

> 3. If your three current heroines from your Sushi Series could write a blurb
> about you, the author of their stories, what would they each say?

Lex (from Sushi for One): She's an okay volleyball player, and she
gets hit by so many balls it's past coincidence and it's gotten into
scarily freaky, but she's nice.

Trish (from Only Uni): She's cool! She leads a rockin' worship team on Sunday.

Venus (from Single Sashimi): I like her. She's efficient, logical, and
she says what she means.

> 4. What would be the highest compliment a reader could give you regarding
> your writing?

"This book was so fun, I told all my friends to go out and buy a copy!"

> 5. What do you have to have each day before you begin to write...as in
> something you bring to your desk with your hands, or something on your desk,
> and why?

There isn't anything in particular I need each day to write, unless
it's the fact that I've elevated my monitor, keyboard, and trackball
so that I can stand as I write. I alternate sitting and standing at my
desk during the day because it's better for my back.

> 6. Is your writing journey how you envisioned it? Or different? If so, how
> so?

It's funny, but my writing journey is nothing like I envisioned it.
For one, the first book I shopped around was DREK and I'm embarrassed
so many editors and agents saw it. I had always envisioned polishing
my work and sending out a jewel of a manuscript, but my knowledge of
the craft was so poor that what I thought was a jewel wasn't even
close. That's the "Bad Book," which is buried in the depths of my
computer somewhere.

For another, I didn't realize how bad I am at time management until I
started writing full-time. I suck at it! I thought it would be heaven
(and a piece of cake) to spend only an hour at emails and the rest of
the day on writing, but I quickly discovered that wasn't the case. I
have to work really hard to be efficient during the day, and while
some days I do well, other days i don't do so well. I'm ashamed to say
that I had better time management when I was working full-time.
However, thankfully I'm getting better at it.

However, one thing I did envision about my writing journey that's come
true is how much I love what I do. I really enjoy what I'm doing now
and I'd do anything--even going back to work in biology in order to
pay the bills--just to be able to keep writing fiction.

> 7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Keep learning more writing craft. I'll be brutally honest here, what
you think is brilliant is not as great as you think it is (remember I
mentioned the "Bad Book"?). My mistake was in shopping my manuscript
when it wasn't ready. I should have just spent my time working on more
books, learning and improving my writing craft, finding more critique
partners. Some writers sell their first or second book, but most have
to write several manuscripts before they perfect their craft enough or
hit on that really unique story idea that makes an editor sit up and
listen.

> 8. It's unusual for debut authors to contract (especially three books! WOO
> HOO YOU!) with a bigger house such as Zondervan. What advice would you give
> to those targeting bigger houses? Do you think it's easier to break in with
> category romance versus single title? And why?

I certainly don't think it's "easy" to break into category romance. In
fact, it's darn hard. Even though category romances are shorter books,
the editors still require a high standard of writing. Krista Stroever
has the reputation of being one of the best and hardest editors in the
business. I get very frustrated with writers who flippantly dismiss
category romances.

I think the decision to target category versus single title depends on
the writer. Sometimes, you're just a big book writer. Other times,
you're able to write succinctly and emotionally at the same time.

I'm actually a rather succinct writer, but the manuscript that sold
for me happened to be a single title. It's actually a shorter book
than a lot of other novels out there.

There's also the undeniable fact that a lot of category writers
eventually write single title novels. Some of the biggest names in the
business have done that--Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Cathy
Marie Hake.

Whether you target single title or category houses, I think all
writers need an agent. For one, a lot of houses are relying on agents
rather than their slush pile for manuscripts--in fact, many houses
don't even accept unsolicited manuscripts anymore.

However, writers need to be SMART about picking their agent. Spend
time talking with them and with their clients. Figure out their
working style and communication style, and determine if it's a good
fit for you.

> 9. How much emphasis do you think authors should put on promoting themselves
> before they're published? What are some of the things you did?

I always tell writers to only do what you WANT to do. Don't do
anything you don't want to. If you don't like blogging, then don't
feel pressured to do it. If you don't like teaching, then don't do it.
If you don't like booksignings, then don't do it.

If you only do what you like doing, then you actually find you're more
open to occasionally moving outside your comfort zone for promotion. I
don't like doing booksigning, but I'll do one occasionally. The rest
of the time, I do what i enjoy most--blogging.

The only non-negotiable for a writer is a website. It's your business
card on the web, telling people what you're writing and about
yourself. They're very inexpensive and very easy to set up.

Marketing before you're published is helpful but not necessary. I
happened to have an internet presence before I contracted, and that
helped to beef up my marketing plan in my proposal, but the difference
was that I was blogging within my marketing brand. If you blog about
something totally different from your brand, it doesn't help your
career much. If you market yourself before you're contracted, be very
selective about how you do it, what your focus is.

> 10. How much emphasis do you think authors should put on promotion and
> marketing once they're contracted? What are some of the best marketing ideas
> you've heard of? I just loved your homemade cards by the way! I might use
> that idea. LOL! and by the way, Camy's chopsticks are THE coolest marketing
> tool I've seen!

Thanks, Squirly. Again, I think writers should only do what they want
to do, what they can afford to do. I also think writers need to be
SMART about what they choose do spend their money on. The chopsticks
were both cheap and fit in well with my brand.

> 11. How important is your faith to your writing?

God has really impressed on me the importance of being faithful in my
quiet times with Him. I couldn't write without His blessing on it. I
couldn't write without the right attitude in my heart, and that only
comes through vigilant prayer and study of the Word. Francine Rivers
and Debbie Macomber both spend an hour or two with God every morning,
and while I'm not up to a couple hours yet, I do try to emulate their
faithfulness and discipline. I earnestly want that time to become
vital and important to my day, every day, no matter what I have to do.

> 12. What are you working on now, and when can we expect another release from
> you?

I'm working on a new series proposal right now, but my next release is
Only Uni, Trish's story, which comes out in February 2008.

> 13. You are big on networking. How important do you feel networking was to
> your journey to publication? What are some effetive ways to network in your
> opinion?

Networking was one of the most important things I could ever do. After
all, that's how I met you!

Meeting and becoming friends with other writers--both published AND
unpublished--is vital for a writer's journey. I met my prayer partners
and critique partners through online discussion boards and
conferences. I met a few published authors who were able to give me
advice for the journey. I personally think a writer becomes too
arrogant and delusional without other writers for critique, prayer,
and accountability.

> 14. Who has been your favorite character and why?

Venus, whose story is Single Sashimi, releasing in the Fall 2008. I
like how brutally honest she is. She's also as slender and sexy as I
wish I was (sigh).

Thanks for the interview, Squirly!


>You're very welcome, Camy!

Also, Camy has a huge website contest going on right now. She's giving away baskets
of Christian fiction and an iPod Nano! Only her newsletter YahooGroup
subscribers are eligible to enter, so join today!
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Camys_Loft/join


Please visit Camy's web site here:
http://www.camytang.com/

Monday, May 14, 2007

THE RESTORER by Sharon Hinck

The Restorer (The Sword of Lyric, book 1) by Sharon Hinck

Susan Mitchell needed a change--any kind of change. Nearly twenty years of marriage to her college sweetheart, Mark, had given her two teenagers and two grade-schoolers, along with miles of unmatched socks, sticky countertops, and the ever-growing hum of sheer bedlam. When had she become so . . . insignificant? Hadn't God once had a plan for her?

Well, at least Mark had a plan: for an attic hideaway free of iPods and science projects and cookie crumbs. But before Susan can finish her first journal entry, she finds herself pulled through a portal into a world grappling for its soul and waiting for a promised Restorer.

Someone does have a plan for her--one she never would have imagined.

While she struggles to adapt to a foreign culture full of unfamiliar technologies and taboos, she faces unexpected battles, mind-poisoning enemies, and a profound spiritual journey. Her adventure will forever change her family, her faith, and how she experiences love--from the One.

Camy here:

I really enjoyed this book. Once I started reading it, I couldn't stop--I finished it in two days.

I like the fact that the heroine is a soccer mom--it's such an unusual story premise and it made it easy for me to relate to Susan. There were a few times I didn't quite sympathize with her emotions or actions, but on the whole, I enjoyed following her through her story.

She's an ordinary woman whose faith enables her to do extraordinary things. She's not perfect, but she keeps trying. She picks herself up after her mistakes and keeps going. It's inspiring for any Christian woman struggling with purpose and worth.

The plot takes a lot of neat twists that I didn't see coming. I enjoyed the minor characters--they each seemed to have specific roles, and their differing personalities made for interesting dynamics.

The world itself isn't like your typical high fantasy world. It's a mixture of various types of technology, but nothing too high-tech, nothing too esoteric for the reader to grasp.

Unlike Karen Hancock's Arena, The Restorer is not allegorical. The world of the Restorer is unique in itself, and exciting to journey through.

Christians as young as junior high school age would enjoy this book, although younger readers might not relate to the older mom protagonist as much as their parents.

The great thing about this book is that it's a story both parents and kids can read and enjoy. Kids who read fantasy and speculative fiction will like the new world, and parents who don't usually read speculative fiction will like the everywoman protagonist, Susan, and relate to her all-too-familiar personal struggles.

I intend to hand this book to the kids in my youth group to see how they like it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR DEBBY GIUSTI




1. Squirrel: Welcome to Fab Four, Deb! Nowhere to Hide is your debut release novel. CONGRATULATIONS! Is it the first book you'd written, and can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?




Hi Cheryl! Thanks for inviting me to your blog and for your interest in NOWHERE TO HIDE. Yes, it's my debut novel, but I've been writing for a number of years and have other completed manuscripts. Actually, I started doing articles for magazines years ago, then put everything on hold to raise my children. When they were in high school, I wrote for a medical laboratory magazine and a number of women's publications while I was also working on full-length fiction. Now, I'm spending all my time writing inspirational romantic suspense for Steeple Hill.






2. I just loved Matt Lawson, the hero of this book. How did you manage to pin down the male point of view so well?
Since I grew up as an Army brat, married a guy in the Army and now have a son who's followed in his dad's footsteps, the take-charge type of guy seems to come naturally to me. Matt is a former cop from Miami who's seen it all, but he's got a big heart and a tender side, especially where Lydia and Tyler are concerned.




3. Do you plot your stories? Or fly by the seat of your pants when writing?


Because my books are suspense, I like to have a detailed outline before I begin to write. Of course, inspiration often takes over and new plot ideas sometimes appear. Usually, I keep any of the "surprises" in place until I finish the first draft. Then I decide it they need to be cut. More often than not, those jewels that seem to come from out of the blue provide new facets that enrich the story.




4. How do you get to know your characters? What is that process like?


I jot down a list of traits and have a good idea about my characters' back story, motivation, goals and conflict. Then my critique partners quiz me by asking all sorts of unusual questions about my hero and heroine. I end up learning even more about what makes them tick during the Q&A.




5. What is a typical writing day for you?


I try to start everyday with prayer and scripture, then settle in at my computer mid-morning and work until late afternoon. After dinner, I often return to my office to catch up on emails.




6. How do you manage your writing time, with family time and church committments, etc?When my children were young, they always came first. That's probably why it took me so long to write anything in those days. Now that they're grown, I have the luxury of a full workweek. Saturdays are usually filled with meetings, shopping trips or errands. Sunday morning is church, and the afternoon is spent relaxing and getting ready for the upcoming week.






7. This plot was really intriguing. What kinds of things spark story ideas? And when do you know that an idea is a keeper...ie, will turn into a full fledge book?


An idea usually perks around my brain for a few months while I'm working on another story. When I'm ready to get serious about the idea, I do a modified version of Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Priniciple by starting with a one-liner, then building to a one-page outline, then chapter outlines, then finally a fairly detailed outline of the book. By getting the main points on paper, I'm able to see the holes that need to be filled. All that prep work makes writing the book so much easier.




8. This book was both riveting, and moving. What is your secret for evoking emotion in readers with a scene?


I'm going to get a big head, Cheryl, with all your compliments! No secret formula for emotion, but I think that making the characters take risks increases the emotion, whether they're emotional risks or physical.




9. Given a choice between riding a roller coaster, or feeding ducks at a park, which would you choose? Why? What about your heroine, Lydia? Which would she choose and why?


Lydia and I are both afraid of roller coasters and would prefer to sit at the park and feed the ducks. However, if Lydia's son were in danger, she'd do anything to protect him--even ride the big coasters!




10. I loved this story so much, I'm wondering what else you have in the works? When is your next release? Title? Publisher/line? When and where can we pick it up?


SCARED TO DEATH, my second Inspirational Romantic Suspense from Steeple Hill, will be in bookstores in August. It's set in a small fictional town in Georgia, called Mercy, where bad things are happening to good people. My third book from Steeple Hill will be out in March 2008.




11. Do you have a website you'd like to share with readers of this blog, so they can come visit?


I hope everyone will stop by my web site at http://www.debbygiusti.com/. Sign my guest book and learn the details of the Cross My Heart contest I'm running from now until the end of May.Thanks so much, Cheryl, for this great interview. Your readers might like to know that we met at the Romance Writers of America conference in 2005 when we were both unpublished and hoping an editor would be interested in our work. Now, we're both Steeple Hill authors. Congratulations on all your success! And thanks for letting me visit.






Yes, Deb! I still get giddy thinking about it. And also, for those of you attending Nationals (RWA this year) Debby will be presenting a workshop and I hear she's a FABULOUS speaker. I plan to be there. Debby and I and hope to see some of you there.
Warmly,
Cheryl (Squirrel of the Fab Four)




While you're at the store, pick up a copy of Nowhere to Hide IN STORES NOW!!! These characters stuck with me weeks after finishing the book. Very strong characterization and moving plot. Excellent read! And I'm NOT just saying that because I know Deb. This book is FABULOUS...as is her writing. No wonder Steeple Hill nabbed her right up.




Be on the lookout for Deb's upcoming releases too because I'm fairly certain we'll be hearing news on a release date for book three SOON! Wink. Wink.




Squirrel

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Reliance


by M. L. Tyndall


I dasn't be havin' th' aft co'er copy o' this here log.


Pammer here: I like th' first book. This, book two o' th' Legacy o' th' King`s Pirates, be e'en better! Th' characters be havin' grown an' changed. In this here log they be faced wi' e'en bigger obstacles such as a presumed Davy Jones' locker an' losin' touch wi' God an' His will.
I jus' be havin' t' remark on how real th' characters be. I love these characters. (I be really tryin' nay t' give anythin' away here.) This here log at one point had me cryin' so bad I couldna be seein' th' page anymore. An' sea dogs an' land lubbers in me house has picked 't up an' started readin' 't. Me husband caught me readin' 't an' asked me if I`d gotten t' a certain part. I spake Nay. He smiled an' nodded an' spake, "Ye`re gonna love 't." Me husband`s matey asked me exactly what an ARC be. He confessed that he`d been readin' 't too. So know that th' story goes o'er pretty good wi' men too.
I love well written novels that happen on ships an' this one fits th' bill. Good job. Waitin' fer Book Three.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Continued. . .



Lawyer Rachael Flynn has only been at her new job in the Ramsey County attorney's office for four months when she recieves an unsigned letter with the startling message.
Two days later the predicted body is found, but to everyone's astonishment, the remains have been buried for at least 20 years. When the body is identified as that of a 15-year-old boy, the police begin to dig for clues. Rachael continues to receive anonymous notes. . .adn the questions keep coming. . .
Was it really and accident or was it murder? Why has it taken so many years for this story to come to light? And why did the young man "deserve" to die?
As Rachael searches out the identity of the writer, she finds herself drawn to the neighborhood where the body was found--and to an abandoned house that no longer exists, but seems to call out to her nonetheless. . .

Pammer here: These two book are what I hope are only the beginning of the Rachael Flynn mysteries. Wonderful!!! Susan has the most wonderful way of telling story that draws you in from page one. You forget you are reading even.
As always the plot is spectacular, spine-tingling action and adventure and the characters are so likeable, so real.
I definately recommend these two great reads, or any of Susan's books to date. You will not be disappointed by her work.
Keep rolling them out. :) (I just have to add on a personal note, since I've met Susan Meissner, I have to admit she is just as delightful in person as she her writing is.)

The Amazing Susan Meissner



Widows & Orphans




When attorney Rachael Flynn's mother calls her with the news that her ministry-minded brother has been arrested, Rachael at first takes it in stride.


After all, Josh has been arrested before for blocking entry to abortion clinics, resisting arrest, obstructing the legal process, interfering with police procedure, trespassing, breaking and entering, loitering, making false statements to the police.


But this time the charge is murder, and Joshua has confessed to the crime. Rachael, certain that her brother can't be guilty, begs him to let her represent him. . .but Joshua refuses her offer of counsel.


As Rachael works the case on her own, she begins to suspect that Josh knows who the real killer is, but she's unable to get him to cooperate with his defense.


Why won't he talk to her? What is Josh hiding?


When Rachael asks her husband Trace, and his fellow artists to sketch the scene of the crime as they see it, a new piece of the puzzle become apparent. . .a piece that ultimately leads to the truth that has eluded the police. . .and Rachael.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

So Dark the Night


by Margaret Daley


A lonely cabin. Deadly secrets. Danger in the woods.
On a tragic night, photographer Emma St. James lost not only her vision, but her memory. The police believed She'd witnessed her beloved brother's murder, but her mind refused to remember. She was lost and alone, until a stranger reached out with a touch she couldn't see.

Rev. Colin Fitzpatrick would never forget the moment he saw Emma's lovely face just seconds before she ran out in front of his car. She'd been fleeing something--or someone--but she was his responsibility now. But with the killers desperate to find Emma, it would take divine intervention to keep them both alive.

Pammer here: LOVED this book. LOVED. I couldn't stay away from it. I started it on a Saturday (thankfully else I might have had to take off work, LOL) and finished it in the afternoon. I barely did anything but read that book.
The suspense is spine tingling and the story is perfectly woven with the thread of faith. It brings to mind things you would never think of, until you imagine losing your own sight.
I recommend this book to everyone.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Susan May Warren's Reclaiming Nick


Nick Noble hadn’t planned on being the prodigal son.
But when his father dies and leaves half of Silver Buckle—the Noble family ranch—to Nick’s former best friend, he must return home to face those he left behind. And to make sure that the Silver Buckle stays in the Noble family. Award-winning journalist Piper Sullivan believes Nick framed her brother for murder, and she’s determined to find justice. But following Nick to the Silver Buckle and posing as a ranch cook proves more challenging than she first anticipated. So does resisting his charming smile. As Nick seeks to overturn his father’s will—and Piper digs for answers—family secrets surface that send Nick’s life into a tailspin. But there’s someone who wants to see the Silver Buckle leave Noble hands, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, even if it means taking a life.

******

I have been a Susan May Warren fan from way back when…you know, when no one knew who she was. She burst on to the scene with her first book Happily Ever After…which okay to be honest the only reason I bought this book from an unknown author was because there was a endorsement on the cover from Dee Henderson. I have followed her career ever since.

Susan’s books never disappoint me. She has a voice that is so uniquely her own.
Her characters are awesome… especially in her new book “Reclaiming Nick”. Now let me tell you… I would LOVE to claim Nick! Have you seen the cover of this book??? Swoon. I’ve even asked Susie if I could have Nick, unfortunately she doesn’t know if the real Nick is single. Sigh.

Reclaiming Nick I think is my new favorite from Susie by far. Reclaiming Nick has everything you’ve come to expect from a Susan May Warren book. Page turning suspense and romance. But she went deep with this book than any of the others. I love how she wove in Psalm 103. Particularly the part about how far the Lord has taken our sins from us… Farther than the distance from east to west! That’s just too cool to me.

This book is well worth the read!


******

Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia , was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia , Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.