Book Review: Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

I love historical fiction, and Deeanne Gist is one of those authors who you know will deliver a great story, wonderful characterization, and the zing of romance. Gist's latest novel, Tiffany Girl, releases today.

Set during the time of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, this book (Gist's third set in that year) takes place in New York City, where Louis Tiffany creates stained glass windows. Check out the synopsis:

SYNOPSIS: From the bestselling author of It Happened at the Fair and Fair Play comes a compelling historical novel about a progressive “New Woman”—the girl behind Tiffany’s chapel—and the love that threatens it all.

As preparations for the 1893 World’s Fair set Chicago and the nation on fire, Louis Tiffany—heir to the exclusive Fifth Avenue jewelry empire—seizes the opportunity to unveil his state-of-the-art, stained glass, mosaic chapel, the likes of which the world has never seen.

But when Louis’s dream is threatened by a glassworkers’ strike months before the Fair opens, he turns to an unforeseen source for help: the female students at the Art Students League of New York. Eager for adventure, the young women pick up their skirts, move to boarding houses, take up steel cutters, and assume new identities as the “Tiffany Girls.”

Tiffany Girl is the heartwarming story of the impetuous Flossie Jayne, a beautiful, budding artist who is handpicked by Louis to help complete the Tiffany chapel. Though excited to live in a boarding house when most women stayed home, she quickly finds the world is less welcoming than anticipated. From a Casanova male, to an unconventional married couple, and a condescending singing master, she takes on a colorful cast of characters to transform the boarding house into a home while racing to complete the Tiffany chapel and make a name for herself in the art world.

As challenges mount, her ambitions become threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart. Who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?

Gist's characters Flossie and Reeve will pull you in and keep you turning pages. I handed the book to my husband the other night and haven't seen him except for meals. You can read more about the characters here.

Through a special arrangement, readers can buy the book at a 30% discount from Givington's. Not only will readers get a great deal, but $1.50 of the purchase will go toward an organization helping kids with dyslexia, which Gist herself suffered from.

If you belong to a book club, Gist has not one, but three different free book club kits available for download. Choose the one that fits your group the best. Also, head over to Gist's site to enter a contest for a great bathtub reading kit.

What was the last book you read? Leave a note in the comments.

Contest Alert: Free Entry and Prizes of over $20,000 in Write to Done Contest

Another contest? You bet.
Free entry? Check.
Huge prizes? Check.

Writers love feedback--and the chance to seek validation. But that usually comes with a price. Twenty and thirty-dollar entry fees really add up when you're not making a lot of money from your writing.

So it's refreshing to see that the Write to Done site is offering a contest with real [read: substantial] prizes, AND no entry fee!

Write to Done's Freeditorial Long-Short Fiction Contest offers a whopping first prize of $15,000. Second place brings $5,000, and third place is $2,000. No small potatoes here.

Write to Done has teamed up with Freeditorial, an online publishing house. What is Freeditorial? Here's a quote from them:
Freeditorial is an online Publishing House and represents a great opportunity for new writers. In our purchases, we give preference to books from new writers and to short stories or articles from established authors.Our goal is to expand the literary world by fostering more writing talent. Here at Freeditorial, we buy digital publishing rights while incorporating innovative methods to the publishing field. While Freeditorial writers get paid for their work to reward their efforts and maintain motivation–just like with any traditional publisher–there is a significant difference: the reader has free access to all books and articles we publish.This is possible due to our innovative business model, which is mainly based on using advertising space on our online platform.

Your story will go on their site, and winners will be selected after June 4th, when the contest closes. Winners are selected depending on literary quality and the number of downloads.

Since the contest is participatory, you'll want to enlist your tribe, your writers groups, your friends, your relatives, and your neighbors (a good reason to shovel their walk!).

Submissions can be 10,000-40,000 words in length. Not many contests allow this kind of latitude.
Free ebook for signing up.
Writers can submit from anywhere in the world, however, the submission must be in English.

When you sign up (even if you don't actually enter), you'll get a free download of the report 10 Vital Self-Editing Tips.

For contest details, see the main contest page and the FAQ page.

There's not much to lose. Check through your files to see if you have a story of the right length, and get it submitted. The sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning readers with your submission. And if you're not interested in submitting, you might want to check out the other contest submissions and make another writer's dream come true.

Question: Have contest entries strengthened your writing?

Note: One reader alerted me to some concerns about Freeditorial. To read them and evaluate for yourself, go to Absolute Write (a great site for writers) and search for Freeditorial. As with any contract, you want to be sure you know what rights you may be relinquishing and for how long. Thanks for the heads up, Bill!

Horror Writers: Free Writing Contest

Dark and creepy is your thing? Goosebumps make you smile? Don't mind spine-tingles and skitters up your spine?

If so, then this contest is for you.

Inkitt is an online platform where writers of all genres share their stories (and even fan fiction) with readers, billed as a "platform for writers to write, share, and improve their writing".

To promote the Berlin-based site, Inkitt is hosting a writing contest during the month of February. Here are the details they shared:

What is Inkitt?
Inkitt is a free platform for writers to cultivate ideas and watch their stories grow. On our site, users collaborate with fellow writers and readers to give each other feedback and improve their work. Our vision is to help writers get the exposure they deserve and the publishing deals they covet without having to jump through the fiery hoops of traditional publishing, or wade in the shark-infested waters of self-publishing.

What is the theme of the horror contest?
"You are in the darkest place in the world." (This theme can be interpreted literally or figuratively.) We want writers who will submit their blood-curdlers, spine-tinglers, skin-crawlers, and hair-raisers; writers who will make it their duty to scare and shock their readers; writers who can really take us to the darkest place in the world.

What are the guidelines?
It’s all about fiction: flashes and shorts up to 10,000 words, written from any point of view. Entries must be posted on the Inkitt contest page to be considered eligible. The contest opens on February 2nd and closes on February 28th. The contest is completely free to enter, and authors will retain all rights to any and all work submitted in the contest.

What are the prizes?

All entrants will have the chance to show their work to a growing community of authors and readers hungry for high-quality fiction and win the following prizes:
1st Prize
$25 Amazon gift card, Inkitt custom mug, Inkitt custom notebook, custom cover design for the Inkitt story of their choice (created by Inkitt’s designer).
2nd Prize
$20 Amazon gift card, Inkitt custom mug, Inkitt custom notebook.
3rd Prize

Inkitt custom mug, Inkitt custom notebook.

Even if horror isn't your thing, check out the site. They also accept action, adventure, children's, drama, fantasy, humor, mystery, poetry, romance, sci-fi, and thrillers. Readers can rate stories based on several criteria and leave comments. What a great way to get your writing out there and receive feedback. 

Have you ever posted your writing on an online site? What was your experience?

Sudden Weight Loss: Put your prose on a diet with this free tool

Bing Free Images
Is your manuscript weighing in far over your word count? Has your willpower to cut words weakened? Are you bothered by bloated scenes?

Try this: put your prose on a diet.

WritersDiet is an online tool to evaluate your writing on a scale from 'lean' all the way to 'heart attack territory'. Simply paste a block of writing in the box and click 'run the test'.

In seconds, the site analyzes your sample with an algorithm, grading different areas of efficiency. You'll see an overall grade, then an analysis of your use of five different categories: verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives & adverbs, plus those pesky words like it, this, that, and there.

The score indicates areas you could consider tightening. Here's an example of a score chart. Click the red 'see full diagnosis' for a printable pdf file of your sample, score, and suggestions for changes.

Below the ratings, the site shows your sample passage with individual words highlighted in each of the colors. I was surprised to see that I used the word 'up' three times. I'll definitely make some changes.

If you find you need to cut words, here are two tips to try:

Fantasy author Carol Berg challenges herself by looking at the end of a paragraph. Mine (above) has a 'tail' of four words at the bottom. Carol, who admits to wordy first drafts,  would find enough words to cut in the paragraph to eliminate that tail.

Agent Rachelle Gardner compiled a list of words to watch for. Use the 'find' feature on your word processor to locate and then eliminate excess verbiage.

Keep in mind that the WritersDiet site warns,
The WritersDiet Test is a blunt instrument, not a magic bullet. A stylish passage may score badly on the test, and a dull passage may score well. It is up to you to make intelligent use of the targeted feedback that the test provides.

What kinds of words add inches to your manuscript? Any additional tips for tightening?

Try Your Hand at Flash Fiction

photo credit: mine
Everyone needs a little escape. Lately, I've been stopping at beautiful spots for five to fifteen minutes, and soaking in the scenery. It's amazing what something a little out of the ordinary can do for your outlook--and your creativity.

Flash fiction is one way to enjoy an escape without leaving your desk. You may be in the middle of NaNoWriMo, and unable to invest time in a novel. Maybe small children in your life suck up the hours you used to spend reading. Or your job demands even your off hours.

Flash fiction is the perfect way to step out of your ordinary world for just a few minutes. And if you're a writer, it's the perfect vehicle to express your creativity when your time is limited.

Many online magazines offer homes for flash fiction. Duotrope is one place to search for likely sites. Be sure to check the word count specified, and stick with it. Though it can be challenging, cutting your words is actually a great skill for writers in any genre. And you'll find yourself collecting clips for your writing resume.

I recently submitted a piece of flash fiction to Flatirons Literary Review [read Circus Dreams here]. It's a great magazine for readers and writers. If you're interested in submitting (they also accept essays and poetry), go to their submission site for details.

Where do you find inspiration for flash fiction? One way is to take a few minutes to write based on a writing prompt. Circus Dreams came from a Writer's Digest prompt. They have hundreds gathered on their site.

Another is to take one of your existing stories and cut it to its bare bones (after saving a copy of the original, of course!). Or just free write based on something you observed or felt today.

Whether your piece gets published or not, you'll have exercised your writing muscle. And we can all use an escape like that.

What is the shortest piece you've written?

Book Review: Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits, by Mary Jane Hathaway

Jane Austen fans everywhere can look forward to a new series featuring intrepid Southern heroines. Volume one, Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits, features rising history professor Shelby Roswell as she struggles with her trouble-inducing habit of opening her mouth and inserting her foot. This happens often in the presence of the handsome Ransom Fielding, the man whose book review is currently tanking her attempts at pursuing tenure.

Author Mary Jane Hathaway stays true to the elements readers love in Austen's books, while weaving in a hefty dose of humor, all set against a well-drawn backdrop of a small Southern college. With squeaky clean shades of Bridget Jones' Diary, Hathaway will draw many fans.

The fireworks between Shelby and Ransom are enough to keep the reader turning pages--and snorting a time or two--until the eminently satisfying conclusion.

I really loved the Q&A with the author at the end of the book. Hathaway (the author's pen name) writes novels despite homeschooling six children--a huge feat in itself! The book also contains a book club discussion guide and several 'enhance your book club'
Author Mary Jane Hathaway

For more information on the series, Jane Austen Takes the South, visit the publisher's website or Mary Jane Hathaway's Facebook page.

Are you an Austen fan? Would you enjoy a retelling set in a location other than England? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Smackdown With Your Inner Editor

Do you have trouble keeping your analytical side quiet when it's time to write? Do you struggle to silence your creative side when it's time to edit?

Check out the tips I've gathered. I'm writing over at the Pikes Peak Writers blog today. And check out the spot where I'm actually sitting right now. I'm visiting an old ghost town in Arizona.


Purple Moon Blog Tour with Tessa Emily Hall

It's always fun to meet folks via their blogs. Tessa is one cyber friend that inspires me. She's a teen writer who has worked hard--and her novel, Purple Moon has just published! Don't forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom of the post.

First, here's the back cover copy:

Selena's life isn't turning out to be the fairy tale she imagined as a kid. That hope seemed to vanish long ago when her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. This summer might finally hold the chance of a new beginning for Selena ... but having to live with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab wasn't how Selena was planning on spending her summer. She soon begins to wonder why she committed to give up her "bad habits" for this.

Things don't seem too bad, though. Especially when Selena gains the attention of the cute neighbor next door. But when her best friend back home in Brooklyn desperately needs her, a secret that's been hidden from Selena for years is revealed, and when she becomes a target for one of her cousin's nasty pranks, she finds herself having to face the scars from her past and the memories that come along with them. Will she follow her mom's example in running away, or trust that God still has a fairy tale life written just for her?

Tessa is stopping by today to answer some questions about her journey to publication. Listen in:

DMA: Can you give a brief overview of your path to publication?

Tessa: I’ve always loved writing, ever since I was in preschool. I never really had a doubt I would become published one day either—not necessarily because I thought I was talented, but because I really felt that writing was my calling in life. I didn’t have a desire to do anything else. So once I reached high school, I decided to take an online school so I could have more time to pursue writing. I wasn’t necessarily trying to seek publication—I started off mainly just studying the craft and trying to incorporate writing into my school schedule. I bought several books on the writing craft, took a creative writing class through my online school, and took a course through the Christian Writers Guild as well. I was fifteen when I began to write “Purple Moon”, and I completed it when I was sixteen. It was also during my sophomore year in high school when my parents agreed to let me attend a Christian writer’s conference, which wasn’t too far from where we lived (Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference). It was there that I met Eddie Jones, the acquisitions editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. After showing much interest in “Purple Moon”, Eddie asked for me to email him the rest of the story. Eventually—a few months later—he ended up offering me a contract. =)

DMA: What do you feel were some of the things you did 'right' as a pre-published author? (i.e. critique groups, conferences, contests, etc.)

Tessa: I’ll start off by saying what I did wrong, and that was the fact that I didn’t enter any contests or join a critique group. I did, however, attend Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. Obviously, that paid off very well. =) I’ve attended five more conferences since then, have learned so much at every single one of them, and have met some incredible people there as well. I’m also very glad that I decided to start studying the craft of writing when I was fifteen. I started my blog when I was sixteen which was great—because not only did I force myself to write on it three times a week, but I also met other writers from around the world (including you!). I was also able to build a following and a brand, both of which have paid off tremendously. 

DMA: Did your young age factor into publication in a negative or positive way? Or was it a non-issue?

Tessa: Oh, it definitely did! I’ve had a few people (professionals in the industry) who had advised that I waited until I was “more experienced” and in my late twenties before pursuing publication. One of them also said that she wouldn’t advise that I pursue writing at all, only because it involves so much work and is not as glamorous as it appears. I understand why people are so against teenagers pursuing publication—it’s because they believe that teens’ writing isn’t quite developed enough. They also don’t think it’s fair that a teenager might find publication way sooner than an adult would, simply because of their age. One author even told me that many teens who do find success in the publishing world eventually fade from the spotlight as they become older—therefore, being published as a teen eventually becomes negative for that person rather than positive. I don’t think a person’s age should be a factor at all, but instead the person’s talent and experience. Besides, there are many teens whose writing is actually far beyond their age.

My mom has attended every writing conference with me that I’ve been to. And at almost every one of them, I’ve been the only teenager there—so naturally, people would think that my mom was the writer and I was only with her for support. But when they realized that it was the other way around, almost all of them would treat me with respect rather than looking down on me. That has always been really nice to witness, especially since there are so many adults who try to discourage teens from pursuing publication.  

DMA: Give us an idea of what Purple Moon is about.

Tessa: “Purple Moon” is about a 16-year-old girl who is forced to stay at her snobby cousin’s lake house for the summer while her mom gets treatment in rehab. It’s a character-driven book, following Selena’s journey throughout that summer. I’m hoping it’ll become the first in a three book series.

DMA: How did you come up with your main character?

Tessa: Selena was sort of based on a combination of people that I know. I’m not saying that I wrote her with certain people in mind, but that I have witnessed so many people in my own life who have started out as a “good person”, but eventually started falling away from the Lord when they became a teenager. It’s always been difficult for me to witness these people start making bad decisions, only because I know how good of a person that they really are. They just might not know how to deal with the issues that they’re facing. I wanted Selena to represent those kind of people, and to show them that there is hope—that God still loves them, despite the mistakes that they’ve made, and that He has the power to turn things around. I’ve also given Selena many of my own qualities as well. For instance, she’s a dreamer, introvert, an artist, coffee-drinker, wears the same style of clothing as I do, etc.  

DMA: Describe your writing process, and how you balance writing and school.

Tessa: I am now a sophomore in college and am taking a semester off school in order to promote “Purple Moon”. But when I did an online school my first three years of high school, I would usually wake up early and get my writing done first, then begin my schooling. (I always feel most inspired in the mornings. Plus, I almost always have to drink coffee while I write. =) When I attended school my senior year of high school, I would wake up very early to write for an hour. I’ve been doing the same in college as well.

DMA: Thank you so much for coming by! It's so encouraging to see a writer achieving success.

If you'd like to check out Purple Moon, you can find the book through these links. I'd love to encourage this new young author! If you'd like to congratulate her, please leave a comment below.

Tessa Emily Hall is a 19-year-old author of Purple Moon, her YA Christian fiction novel to be published September 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also the editor over the faith department for Temperance Magazine, a column writer for Whole Magazine, a contributing writer for More To Be, as well as the PR for God of Moses Entertainment. Other than writing, Tessa enjoys acting, music, Starbucks, and her Teacup Shih Tzu—who is named Brewer after a character in her book, as well as her love for coffee.

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The Road to Publication: Backroads vs. Superhighway

Hi there! Summertime has invaded life, and kept me busy (plus a new job). But today I'm blogging over at Writing from the Peak. We're talking about whether it's a good thing to enjoy a rapid path to publication, or if there's some benefit to the process being dragged out (many times far longer than we'd like!). Stop by and say hi.


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