Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Can't Believe It's Over...Almost

I began my series on Jonah in the summer of 2002 on a business trip to the Washington, DC area. I finished it this afternoon on a business trip to the Washington, DC area. I discovered I wasn't ready for that.

The minute I typed the last line of the last scene, I looked down at it...wondered if I wanted to finish that way...reread the scene segment...decided that was the way I'd end it...and my eyes immediately watered up and I got all chokey. (What??)

Yeah, I know: I've been slow-roasting my guy card for awhile now, but it's finally burst into flames. Jonah has uttered his last line in my story and I'm a mess. Now, how does that happen?

Oh, we'll meet again (see my last Quote of the Week), that's for sure. The really tedious part now begins of going back over the manuscript and editing...and re-editing...and re-editing. I edited the second volume of the series a full eight times--and who knows how many partial edits?--before I got smart and sent it off to a professional editor to shred. When I got it back, I edited it two more times before I submitted it. I wonder how many times I'll edit this one before I send it to my editor. It's kind of like cleaning up before the maid service arrives.

Ben Amittai: First Call was a 39,000-word novella. A Prophet's Tale: The Journey Begun ended up at about 89,500 words (closer to where Ben Amittai should have been...). The final volume (first draft) is sitting at around 109,000 words. The editing will trim it back, but it'll still end up being longer than either of its predecessors.

But, you know, I really like every one of those 109,000 words. It's a good story. I just hope someone else will like it as much as I do; that is, as much as I do before I start editing...and re-editing...and...oh, well.

Quote of the Week

Editing your manuscript is the revenge your characters get on you for thinking you were running their lives. - Bruce Judisch (whoever he is...)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Love Finds You in Last Chance California, by Miralee Ferrell (Summerside)

(Click cover for more information)

You’ll recall I reviewed a contemporary novel by Miralee Ferrell not too long ago. In that book, her desire to write from the heart, to encourage, to edify, all came through loud and clear. They just did again, only 130 years earlier.

What, you ask? Let me ‘splain.

Love Finds You in Last Chance California—yes, yes, I know; enough about my guy card, okay?—is a recent addition to Summerside’s “Love Finds You” collection, and the first contribution by Ms. Ferrell. Great debut in the genre!

In it, she takes us back to 1877 California, where she’s crafted a well-researched and tightly written novel inspired by a real person of that era and venue. Our heroine, Alexia “Alex” Travers, has unexpectedly inherited her father’s horse ranch at his untimely death. She strives to keep the ranch solvent, encountering along the way all the resistance and bias you might expect of that period regarding a woman running a ranch full of male wranglers. Add to the mix the romantic interest the community’s now most eligible bachelorette draws—including those more ambitious for her land than smitten by her charm—and a hidden conspiracy to drive her into ruin, and you’ve got a fast-paced story that rarely lets up.

Ms. Ferrell celebrates the grit and determination of an independent woman who is determined to make a success of her father’s legacy. However, along the way she discovers independence is not all it’s cracked up to be. For Alex learns true independence includes dependence upon God, family and good friends—not to mention a very special friend; one who enters her story and her life in a rather inauspicious, but singularly intriguing, way.

If you like stories of the Old West where you can hear the creak of well worn saddle leather, smell pungent sage and aromatic fir, and feel the sweat and satisfaction of taming a wild land at every page turn, this is a good bet.

Oh, did I mention there’s romance? Umm, well, yes, there’s that. But take heart, guys. Somebody gets shot at, too.

Presumed Guilty, by James Scott Bell (Zondervan)

(Click cover for more information)

An author like James Scott Bell has little need for a review from the likes of me—but then again, neither did Cec Murphey, or TL Hines, or Joe Hilley, or…well, you get the picture. But I’m gonna do it anyway just as a way of saying thanks for a really good read.

And Presumed Guilty was just that: a really good read.

Mr. Bell tackles several delicate subjects in this legal thriller: pornography, post traumatic stress disorder, marital infidelity, physical abuse, and—perhaps worst of all—presumption of grace. Sprinkle in shady politics and corruption in the legal system and you have all the ingredients for a hard-hitting, thought-provoking novel that balances all these evils with dogged faith and unrelenting loyalty by those who are hurt the most.

What I appreciated most about Presumed Guilty was Mr. Bell’s ability to deliver realism without abandoning hope. There seems to be a line of demarcation in Christian literature today (or fiction that presumes to be Christian; or perhaps spiritual is a better word—no matter). Off to one side of the line is the story that supports itself on theologically correct platitudes that do little to comfort the afflicted—indeed, that leave the afflicted worse off by feeling guilty that the platitudes do not satisfy, believing that somehow they should. At the other extreme is the story that, in striving to be “real,” denies (or marginalizes) faith and perseverance that are very real, through which people can and do overcome. I’ve read both types over the past few months. I’ve reviewed neither.

I thank Mr. Bell for straddling the line so well; one foot planted firmly in the reality of faith, one foot just as firmly in the reality of the mortal. And even more importantly, he then sees them through to reconciliation.

In Presumed Guilty, you feel the gut-wrenching tearing of the soul, the spirit, and the faith in the victimized. You cry, slam the wall with your mental fist, and agonize with the character whose soul is tormented beyond his desire or ability to pray it away. At the same time, you also put your emotional shoulder alongside the beleaguered heroine and strain and sweat for all you’re worth in lifting the burden you know she can’t share, carrying the load you know is hers alone. And you lay exhausted with both of them as they fall prostrate before the Almighty not because they choose to, but because they have to, because the weight of the world crushes them there. But the faith that kept them flat on their faces, when the world’s heroes tell them to get back up and fight, lifts them to a greater level than they could have ever achieved playing the stoic.

The synopsis? No, read the book. There's no risk in ordering this one.

So, thanks, Mr. Bell, for…well, for a really good—and honest—read.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Quote of the Week

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment. - Josh Billings