Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Newsletter Contest

My Spring Newsletter offered a drawing for $15 gift certificate. Readers of The Promise of Morning were asked to use this link on my website: to write and tell me which character in the story was their favorite, and why.
The contest ended today, with no winner. I heard from dozens of readers with their compliments on the story. Some asked questions about the writing process, others simply said how much they enjoyed The Promise of Morning. But not one reader named a favorite character.
It's all good. I love hearing from my readers, especially those with compliments! In a later issue, I'll run another contest, so if you're not currently signed up for the e-mail version of the newsletter, please go to and sign up under the "Get the Newsletter" heading.
Maybe the next one will pose a question that's not so difficult!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

WINTER HAVEN, by Athol Dickson

Winter Haven has all the ingredients for a suspenseful read--an isolated setting, a woman alone, and strange happenings--apparently supernatural. The characters are as rock-ribbed as the island they inhabit. Only one person shows the protagonist, Vera Gamble, any kindness, but she's been warned away from him by all of the villagers. Is he who he says he is, or part of a conspiracy to prevent her from learning what happened to her long-missing brother?
I have to admit the first third of Winter Haven pushed my limits for scary. I don’t like to be so frightened by a plot that my sleep is disturbed, as some of Stephen King’s books have done. The factor that kept me reading was the knowledge that Athol Dickson writes for Bethany House, an inspirational publisher, so he wasn't going to go too far afield. Or was he?
The plot concerns Vera Gamble, who goes to an island off the coast of Maine to claim the body of her brother, Siggy, whom she hasn't seen for thirteen years. When she’s shown the body, she's stunned to find Siggy unchanged from the boy he was when he ran away from home all those years ago. Dickson weaves one mysterious happening after another to thwart Vera from discovering the truth about her brother’s death.
As Winter Haven speeds to a conclusion, Dickson neatly explains each of the phenomena in ways I'd never have guessed. I loved the ending, and recommend this story. Just don't start it late at night.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

So Brave, Young, and Handsome, by Leif Enger

Leif Enger's novel, Peace Like a River, is one of my top five favorite books of all time. So when I saw So Brave, Young, and Handsome in my Christian bookstore the other day, I snapped it up.
The timing was perfect. I'd just quit reading a much-touted general market bestseller about halfway through the book. The story was too dark for my taste, and I didn't want to imprint those images on my brain.
When I opened So Brave, Young, and Handsome I felt like someone was sitting across from me telling me a story. So I settled in to listen. The novel is the tale of an aging train robber, an even older former Pinkerton detective, and the humble writer who is swept up in their adventures. The time frame is shortly after the turn of the last century, when the wild west was fading into legend.
The humble writer, Monte Becket, is the story’s narrator. He becomes intrigued with a neighbor, Glendon, who lives down the river from Monte’s home. Eventually Glendon comes to share meals with Monte’s family, and beguiles Monte into traveling with him while he tries to right an old wrong.
Enger excels at description, using metaphors and similes I wouldn't be able to come up with in a million years. For example, page 64 begins with these sentences:
"We struck no town that night and laid up at dawn on a sandy shore under a cottonwood tree. The tree would’ve provided superior shade, but by noon the sky turned to funeral wool and November came hissing through the grass. There are people who 'predict' the weather, but on the Great Plains these are a fragile and disappointed little group."
So Brave, Young, and Handsome reminded me of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" in the way Enger mixed lightheartedness into a story with its fair share of old West grittiness. When you’re in the mood to have someone tell you a yarn about some memorable experiences, sit down and read what Monte Becket has to say. I highly recommend this novel.