6 Dates to Disaster

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6 Dates to Disaster by Cynthia T Toney is a thought-provoking book for high school students. Wendy is coasting through the last weeks of school eager for her family trip to Alaska to see Mrs. V and Sam. Unfortunately, financial struggles threaten that dream. Wendy is determined to figure out a way to get to Alaska. When a job opportunity from a classmate looks like the ideal way, Wendy is forced to consider whether or not it’s too good to be true. There’s also a fun mystery involving a jewelry box, and Wendy’s former best friend has a new boyfriend who is bad news.

Pros: See my comment below about one of the main plot points related to a scandal that arises as a result from Wendy’s tutoring job. The ensuing ethical dilemma was thought-provoking. Cynthia creates strong and fun characters. Her stories are humorous and realistic but are clean and morally uplifting. Wendy’s stepdad looses his job threatening her summer plans. Consequently Wendy pitches in to earn money for her Alaska trip to see Mrs. V. David and Wendy handle coupledom without being too physical or dramatic. Wendy is a big-hearted girl, especially when it comes to her stepsister Alice and her former best friend Jen.

Cons: Not too many. There are a few ethical things that come up. The aforementioned plot point of Wendy’s tutoring job. Also, Jen gets involved with an older boy who is a bad influence. There’s alcohol involved, which is handled very well. It’s clear that underage drinking shouldn’t be condoned and that drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. David and Wendy kiss and physical temptation (at a very PG level) comes up. The two “put on the brakes” fast so the story doesn’t go far with this.

Rating: 5 Stars. I bought a copy of this book and will buy other copies for teens. It’s definitely a book for high school kids, possibly seventh or eighth graders. There’s nothing really inappropriate in the subject matter. However, it’s is a bit too mature for kids any younger than this.

Personal Opinion: I’m a big fan of the Bird Face series and 6 Dates doesn’t disappoint. Wendy is as funny and plucky as ever. Alice is sweet. David, Gail, etc. round out a strong supporting cast. Without spoiling anything, we’re reunited with several characters from 8 Notes to a Nobody (Book 1).

Discussion points for parents & teachers:

  1. Job Loss
  2. Family
  3. Dating/Relationships
  4. Academic Dishonesty
  5. Underage Drinking/Drinking and Driving
  6. Integrity
  7. Priorities

Most of all, Wendy’s dilemma about her tutoring job challenged me. She is concerned that she’s doing too much for the students she’s tutoring.  As an adult, I didn’t see anything wrong with what Wendy did. However, I had to step back and put myself in the shoes of a high school student. While adult writers might hire an editor or someone in another profession might have a peer or senior colleague review their work and mark it up with corrections and suggestions, that isn’t really the role of a tutor. They’re just supposed to help a student understand concepts not heavily correct or even rewrite assignments.

Cynthia T. Toney

Blog:  http://birdfacewendy.wordpress.comFacebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/birdfacewendy

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/CynthiaTToney

Twitter:  @CynthiaTToney

 Instagram:  @CynthiaTToney

Pinterest:  Cynthia T. Toney, YA Author

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Write, Run, Live: My New Adventure 


A couple of my favorite Bible verses are “13Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a]that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV) and one of my favorite books is The Pilgrim’s Progress. This evening I will begin an amazing adventure that is the answer to a prayer I didn’t even officially pray!

Our church offers a 2-year leadership training for the men in our church called Timothy Leadership Training or TLT based off these verses. Two years and my husband was tapped to do it and it was life-changing for us and our marriage.

Now they’re starting one for women. I am so excited about this opportunity and humbled that I was selected. The best part is that we’re doing mostly the same books the men did, weighty books on topics like spiritual discipline and church doctrine.

I was telling someone about the Ladies’ Leadership Training (LLT), and the person made a comment about there being good books for women in leadership. I was kind of irritated and insulted. I get so frustrated that somehow I’m supposed to fit into this nice “church lady” mold. I’m supposed to love playing with babies, sing in the choir, and get “the feels” in Bible study to the point that I need a tissue for something other than seasonal allergies. I don’t want to study something geared for women like some Victorian who can’t handle “the men’s version”. I want to study the authoritative books used in seminaries. And for those of you who went to Steve Laube’s session at Realm Makers 2016, a couple of the titles we’ll be studying are on his recommended reading list. Spiritual disciplines is one of them.

As for being like most women, I don’t like kids until they can read chapter books, I’m painfully tone deaf, and I want to study deep stuff. Dig into God’s word, preferably one that requires using Vine’s Bible dictionary and Strong’s concordance. I want to learn, be challenged, struggle, and ultimately change. The reason Matthew 7:13-14 appeals to me is that I see my daily walk as a quest. One with dragons and sorcerers and dark cloaked in light. Enemies to defeat. Innocents to rescue. And to come through the battle stronger than when I entered.

I love theology and Bible study. My mentor and I are wrapping up The Cost of Discipleship right now. A couple of years ago, I read Eric Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, SpyIt’s one of the best biographies I’ve ever read. If I have to face persecution, I want to go down fighting!

What are some of your favorite Bible study books?

 

Interview with S.D. Grimm

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I’m interviewing S.D. Grimm on her debut release Scarlet Moon. Oh my goodness I loved this book. I had it on pre-order and started reading as soon as I ran in from the mailbox. It has perhaps one of the best opening scenes-ever. No spoilers.

I picked it up expecting to like it, I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. The story world sucked me in and pulled me along on Jayden’s quest. The multiple points of view help us see the world from various angles. Ethan is probably my favorite character, but Ryan’s arc may be the most fascinating. I don’t like love triangles and had reservations about the connections between Jayden, Ryan, and Ethan. It’s not exactly a love triangle, so it works.

You can buy Scarlet Moon here:

Scarlet Moon on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Scarlet-Moon-Children-Blood-Book/dp/1683700503/

 

I had the privilege of interviewing S.D. Grimm and found out some interesting things about her. In Scriblerian fashion we ask for a fun picture, usually a “way back picture”. S.D.’s is more recent but features another author from the Scriblerian’s Wall of Fame, Kerry Nietz.

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So when asked, Marvel or DC?

BOTH! (True too! I’ve seen pictures of S.D.’s customized Captain America Converse)

In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?

I think in the same way it impacts the way I approach life. It’s a living part of me, alive in everything I do. And I look at writing as a partnership with God. I hope he’s alive in my stories in a way I could never put him in there. I invite him to make himself a part of them in the only way he can—which is better than I could ever attempt to write him there on my own, I think.

How would you like to be remembered?

Wow. Going deep. I would love to be remembered as someone who showed love and let the light of Christ shine through her. As a writer, I’d like to be remembered as someone whose books—no matter how dark they got—always ended in hope.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

A few. One really good one is Micah 6:8 He has shown you, oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

When did you start writing?

In elementary school. I wasn’t serious about trying to get published until seven years ago, and that’s when I started writing Scarlet Moon.

What has your journey to finding an agent and the road to publication been like?

Hard. Crazy. The thing about this business is it’s not for the faint of heart. You better your craft all the time. You build your social media presence. You try to send the right work at the right time to the right people. You attempt to stay ahead of the curve without knowing where the curve is. You survive getting your heart broken again and again and again. You don’t give up. You make connections. Friends. Partners in writing who help and encourage you. You have fun. You learn a lot about writing and about yourself. And when something good happens and you take another step forward down this path, all those people celebrate with you. You find community. You work your heart out and wear it on the pages of your work. People will crumple it up, step on it, and some will even use it wipe the snot off their own faces. And then there will be those who feel what you’re trying to say. They’ll cherish it, and they’ll recommend that others read it. Some will misunderstand it. Others will get it. And still that journey—probably on the road less traveled—is just beginning.

What was your inspiration for writing Scarlet Moon?

I love animals. The novel I wrote prior to this one (which sits in a proverbial dark, secret drawer) was about animals. All the characters were animals. And one day I decided to get serious about publishing. Then I decided I was going to write about people. I still wanted animals to be a big part of the story so I chose to write about a race of people who can commune with nature. These people basically get certain talents or abilities from animals—and they reciprocate, giving animals certain abilities too. Then I researched some really cool animals, including mythological ones, and the story world really grew from there.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

To never give up. Sometimes things look bleak and impossible. Keep persevering.

What do you hope readers will take away from Scarlet Moon?

Persevere. And real love always protects, no matter the cost.

 

S.D. Grimm’s links and social media contacts

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SDGrimm/

Twitter http://twitter.com/SDGrimmAuthor

Website, blog, and newsletter. http://sdgrimm.com

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/SDGrimmAuthor/

Author Bio

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S. D. Grimm’s first love in writing is young adult speculative fiction. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency and her debut novel, Scarlet Moon, is slated to be published in October 2016. When she’s not writing or editing, Sarah enjoys reading (of course!), making clay dragons for her Grimmlies store on Etsy, practicing kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu, training dogs, and doing anything outdoorsy with the family. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog.

From Rake to Respectable – Review of The Cautious Maiden

 

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Dawn Crandall recently released her fourth novel, the fourth installment in The Everstone Chronicles. It’s one of my favorite historical romance series for several reasons. They can be read in any order, but I recommend reading them in order because you’ll enjoy the cameo appearances by the other characters and enjoy the updates of their stories.

  1. It’s about a wealthy family during the Gilded Age, one of my favorite historical eras.
  2. Much of the series is set in Maine, which is an unusual setting. It’s remote northern climate superimposed over the other scenes set in Boston mansions, it gives the story a western vibe, this is especially true in The Cautious Maiden where there’s a brothel and a fair amount of gambling.
  3. They’re in the first person point-of-view of the heroine rather than alternating hero-heroine point-of-view, this makes them fresh and less formulaic.
  4. And of course, they’re well-written with complex characters, suspenseful plots, and rich details in the settings.

Synopsis from Goodreads

Violet Hawthorne is beyond mortified when her brother Ezra turns their deceased parents’ New England country inn into a brothel to accommodate the nearby lumberjacks; but when Violet’s own reputation is compromised, the inn becomes the least of her worries. In an effort to salvage her good name, Violet is forced into an engagement with a taciturn acquaintance; Vance Everstone. As she prepares for a society wedding, Violet learns that her brother had staked her hand in marriage in a heated poker game with the unsavory Rowen Steele, and Ezra had lost. Now Rowen is determined to cash in on his IOU. With danger stalking her and a new fiance who hides both his emotion and his past, Violet must decide who to trust and who to leave behind.

My Thoughts on The Cautious Maiden

In real life, the bad boy never held much appeal for me. In books, I’m kind of a fan of the rogue especially when we get a taste of his good qualities. Vance’s story is the best of both. He’s the fast-living rake and family black sheep through the first three Everstone books, but by the time we meet him in The Cautious Maiden, he’s a redeemed man of faith.

There’s so much I loved about this story. Violet is a bright and beautiful woman who’s in a horrible situation. After her parents died, she was left under the control of her brother, who is in classic western fashion, a low-down scoundrel. He runs a brothel and is an unscrupulous gambler. The story starts off with him putting Violet in a compromising and degraded position. After the ensuing scandal, Vance Everstone proposes to Violet to save her reputation. I absolutely love both of these characters. Violet wants to be a writer, so that endeared me to her right away, and Vance, he’s so ridiculously handsome and charming, you can’t help but fall in love with him.

Dawn’s stories are historical suspense, and this installment is the most suspenseful of the series. A fun and engaging read.

Connect with Dawn

Blog: www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com

Facebook: facebook.com/DawnCrandallWritesFirst

Book Review Blog: APassionforPages.blogspot.com

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/dawn_crandall

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dawnwritesfirst

Email: dawncrandallwritesfirst@gmail.com

Twitter: @dawnwritesfirst

Amazon: www.amazon.com/Dawn-Crandall/

 Buy Her Books

The Hesitant Heiress

The Bound Heart

The Captive Imposter

The Cautious Maiden

Review of A Time to Rise

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This is a bittersweet blog post. The bitter, A Time to Rise marks the end of Nadine Brandes’ Out of Time series. I will miss this series. The sweet is that the story Parvin Blackwater’s quest to find shalom is complete.

What did I think about the final installment of this trilogy? Pretty much perfect. It was both expected and unexpected. That is, I read the series and have followed Nadine’s blog for the past two years, so I had some ideas of where the story might go. Of course, Nadine being brilliant, made it anything but predictable.

The first part of A Time to Rise was phenomenal. The story picks up right where it left off. Minor spoiler alert. Parvin is alive. I won’t give anymore details than that. Let’s just say how she survived is pretty spectacular.

My concern with picking up right after Skelley Chase tried to kill Parvin was that I’d barely get to breathe before our favorite characters were off running for their lives. I’m the person who skims action scenes to get to the relationship part. My fears were allayed. The first part of the book is well-paced with Parvin, Solomon, and the other characters in Prime regrouping and strategizing. The story is anything but slow because, of course, it doesn’t take long for Skelley Chase and crew to figure out that Parvin is alive.

Our gang is off and running but the pace is steady and not all nail-biting action. There’s a mystery and a mission to find the writings of an inventor from the past. Along the way, there’s rich description of a foreign landscape and travel by boat, plane, train, and…. Yeah, I’m not spoiling that last bit. It’s way too cool.

When Parvin, Solomon, and crew arrive at the location with the inventor’s notes, they discover something quite surprising. Two somethings really, both of which help Parvin in her ultimate goal – shalom. It’s funny, but I think I knew all along how the series would end (at least to some degree), and at the same time, it wasn’t predictable. The ending is satisfying.

Normally, I’m not a fan of a story with a strong Christian theme. I prefer subtlety. A Time to Rise is not subtle. Parvin hears from God, and it works. The story may be overt in its message but it’s never preachy or self-righteous. It’s honest, gut-wrenching dialogue that just works. In each book, this aspect grows stronger. In A Time to Rise, I have to say it’s what makes the book and the entire series so absolutely fantastic!

Parvin isn’t your typical dystopian heroine. She’s more Moses than Katniss. It’s not an eighteen year-old-girl saving the world. It’s an eighteen year-old-girl taking up the mantle of the patriarchs and setting her people free. That may sound like the same thing, but it’s not. This is what makes the Out of Time series one that I want to read again.

The book doesn’t release until October 14, but if you pre-order, you can get some really cool swag.

Click this link to find out more.

Pre-order swag – http://nadinebrandes.com/2016/07/20/a-time-to-rise-pre-order-swag/

To Order A Time to Rise

AmazonBN-iconlogo goodreads icon

If you want to hang out with Nadine as well as debut authors Sarah Ella and S.D. Grimm, there’s a Facebook party.

Facebook Party – https://www.facebook.com/events/183601465406699/

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Follow Nadine

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Getting There

photo by Gretchen. E.K. Engel Redington Pass Road near Redington Pass

Write, Run, Live – Embrace the Challenge

On Monday, I wrote on New Authors’ Fellowship about the struggles I’m having in the writing journey right now. Read: mailbox full of rejection letters. Because this is Write, run, live – this post focuses more on goals and encouragement. The first is what I need to do. The second is how others have blessed me.

It’s the first of the month. That means two things things. Stay away from Walmart and the monthly Scriblerians Google Hangouts call. These guys (more specifically gals and guy) serve multiple purposes in my life. Encouragement, accountability, and inspiration.

So what am I supposed to do?

1. Set Goals

Right after our call last night, up went a post listing our September goals and where we were with them.

My September goal is to finish (or come close) to finishing this re-write. I want to be done no later than mid-October so I can plot my NaNoWriMo project.

 

2. Enjoy the Journey

 

While I’m going through a rough time in my writing, I’m also enjoying other aspects. Growing my social media presence including figuring out the coolness of Instagram. I can see why this is where the cool kids hang out. Short posts that can go to Facebook and Twitter (triple threat) and there are pictures! Snapchat is a bit trickier but even this old dog has figured it out (sort of).

Writing is a big part of my life but not the only part (good and bad). My day job is going really well, and I’m busy being a football mom. It’s my son’s first season, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m also training for my second half marathon this year.

3. Encouragement

It seems like every time I’ve been frustrated or discouraged, someone else posts about a new contract, signing with an agent, or receives compliments and requests for full manuscripts from a publisher. That sounds like this would be the last thing I’d want to read about. It’s quite the opposite, each one has described how long it’s taken them to get to this place or they’ve had multiple rejections or they’re really good friends and I can’t help being happy for them. Knowing that I’m not the only one is very encouraging.

4. Praying for pavement

photo by Gretchen E.K. Engel Redington Pass Road near Tucson

 

Putting the journey to publication into perspective helps. I know that God has a purpose for the path I’m on and the pace I’m going. Also, I’ve renewed praying about my writing. This is something that’s honestly been lacking lately.

How to Come Down from a Conference High

Tim, Lisa, Kathrese, & I just returned from Realm Makers. Next month a couple of others will be attending the ACFW conference. ‘Tis the (conference) season. So what do you do when you get home to come down from the conference high?

If you’re lucky, your firstborn will start football and junior high while your second born starts the “big kids'” elementary school. Bonus if it’s the junction of first of the month (status reports) and critical project milestones. Nothing like the outside world to pierce your enthusiasm like an arrow through a hot air balloon.

Even if your week is a bit nuts and especially if you have time to ease back in, do a few things to keep the spirit alive.

1. Post pictures on social media

You get to see the conference all over again. Also it allows you to tag people while your memory is fresh. This helps keep you in the loop.

2. Post highlights on social media

Same reason and purpose as above. If time is limited, set specific times or do this when you have down time.

3. Blog about it

Yes, everyone and their mascots will be writing them too. You may not get many views but then again you might. If nothing else, you have a record of your time there.

4. Make a to do list

Did you have appointments? If so, follow up with the materials each person requested. If the person you met with wasn’t interested, send a thank you anyway. They took their time to meet with you. It never hurts to be gracious.

Gather the business cards you received and enter them into your contacts list. Correspond with anyone who might not have your information. Organize your class notes.

You’re all rejuvenated and ready to write. Set goals and get to work. That’s why you spent the money to go.

Now I’m off to fill out permission slips and emergency contact forms.