Guest Blog ~ Mother-Daughter Reads ~ Lisa Bergren

Lisa T. Bergren is the author of over 35 books that have sold over two million copies combined. You can connect with her on Facebook (Lisa Tawn Bergren and River of Time Series), Twitter (@LisaTBergren) and online .

MOTHER – DAUGHTER READS

by Lisa Tawn Bergren

I always thought that mother-daughter reads were a good idea, but when I couldn’t get my daughters to crack a book without begging, bartering or demanding, it became a mission. For years, the only books my girls would read were those they “had” to read for school and maybe one or two others a year. And this from kids who were daughters of a writer, girls who were both in advanced English. I started to wonder just what was going on out there—were we losing the way to find and capture young readers? Or just mine?

I brought home book after book, hoping it’d be the one to draw my teens’ fervor—the one that would open their minds to the power of story and the mind-sharpening work of imagination (with no sweat involved other than reading). Even Harry Potter didn’t meet the mark. Stacks, I’m talking stacks of books came and went at my house. And then came Twilight.

I’d heard it was all the rage. I’d heard it was about vampires, but was a surprisingly moral tale. Most importantly, I heard teenage girls were rabid about it. So I rushed out and got a copy for Olivia. I think I bribed her to read the first twenty pages. And magically, blessedly, she was hooked. She read the whole thing in a week, staying up late at night.

So then I was curious. I wanted to know the formula: XX characters + XX plot = reading bliss for my teen (and later, to some extent, her younger sis). Turns out, it was romance. Romance with a serious obstacle that seems insurmountable. With a lot of action and suspense. And a drool-worthy hero and a heroine that could be any American girl. Ahh, I thought. Okay, I get her reading bent now.

We went on to read the whole series, and went to the first movie together. We talked about things we both loved—the other-worldly aspect of the Cullens (and later the werewolves), the suspense that made our hearts beat fast, the passionate—but largely chaste—romance. We also talked about what I didn’t really care for—principally falling for a man who fights the urge to kill her (“I don’t want you to think that the love of your life, your hero, is the man you fear.”) We talked about what made a man a true hero, what made a man worthy of a woman’s love. They were good, formative conversations.

Since then, we’ve gone on to read a lot of other YA novels together. I buy those I think will likely garner a good Bergren Girl Rating, and pass along those I know they’ll like—if not love. Pre-reading allows me to address anything I’m not really comfortable with—and I’ve begun to write reviews with any red flags for parents and younger readers (you can find them on my web site ). There are a lot of alarming characters and situations in today’s YA fiction—as well as wonderful characters and challenging situations that are great for readers to “try on” and think through via fiction—but it’s best if parents can discuss the Big Stuff when they’ve finished the last page. That’s the beauty of fiction…we get to “experience” difficulties and obstacles in a fictional setting, helping us to be prepared when/if we face those things in real life.

What a lovely portal into a teen’s mind and heart, right? To ignore the opportunity is to miss a significant chance for meaningful connection and development.

Happily, youth fiction has gotten pretty sophisticated. I find a lot of it engaging for my mind and heart, as well as my daughter’s. They say that a teen’s time of life has a lot in common with midlife—reexamining priorities, goals, relationships, identity. Perhaps that’s what makes it such a great genre for mothers and daughters to read together.

I’ve heard from lots of teens—and their moms—since my new YA series, The River of Time (Waterfall, Cascade, Torrent) began to release. And that makes me so happy. But truth be told, I wrote it first and foremost, for my own girls, Olivia and Emma. Which reminds me…I need to discuss a few points with them about it…

2011 Christy Finalists include Novel Journey’s own Gina Holmes!

The 2011 Christy Award finalists:

Contemporary Romance:
Blood Ransom
by Lisa Harris (Zondervan)

Indivisible
by Kristin Heitzmann (WaterBrook Press)

Sworn to Protect
by DiAnn Mills (Tyndale House Publishers)

Contemporary Series, Sequels, and Novellas:
The Reluctant Prophet
by Nancy Rue (David C. Cook)

The Thorn
by Beverly Lewis (Bethany House Publishers,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Waiting
by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell Books,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Contemporary Standalone:
Almost Heaven
by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)

Lady in Waiting
by Susan Meissner (WaterBrook Press)

A Season of Miracles
by Rusty Whitener (Kregel Publications

First Novel:
Crossing Oceans
by Gina Holmes (Tyndale House Publishers)

Heartless
by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

A Season of Miracles
by Rusty Whitener (Kregel Publications)

Historical:
Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther
by Ginger Garrett (David C. Cook)

For Time & Eternity
by Allison Pitman (Tyndale House Publishers)

While We’re Far Apart
by Lynn Austin (Bethany House Publishers,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Historical Romance:
The Girl in the Gatehouse
by Julie Klassen (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

She Walks in Beauty
by Siri Mitchell (Bethany House Publishers,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Within My Heart
by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Suspense:
The Bishop
by Steven James (Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Bride Collector
by Ted Dekker (Center Street)

Predator
by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan)

Visionary:
To Darkness Fled
by Jill Williamson (Marcher Lord Press)

Konig’s Fire
by Marc Schooley (Marcher Lord Press)

The Last Christian
by David Gregory (WaterBrook Press)

Young Adult:
The Charlatan’s Boy
by Jonathan Rogers (WaterBrook Press)

The Healer’s Apprentice
by Melanie Dickerson (Zondervan)

Motorcycles, Sushi, and One
Strange Book
by Nancy Rue (Zondervan)

Congratulations to all the finalists! 
I’ll see you at the Christy Awards! I’ll be the one cheering. 

DiAnn Mills on The Climb

For years I’d sensed a calling that God wanted me to write fiction. But I feared every aspect of the process. I did nothing except dream about writing, conjure stories in my head, and claim that “someday I’m going to write a book.”

How sad to hold onto a dream, know it is from God, and yet have too many fears and doubts to take a leap of faith.

The husband dare
One day my husband said, “Stop telling me you’re going to write a book. Just do it!” I’ve never been one to turn my back on a challenge, so I took him up on his challenge and began gathering the tools needed to learn the art of writing.

No more excuses
This became my new full-time job. I began reading books about the craft and novels by authors I admired in the genre in which I wanted to write. I joined writing groups and participated in discussions and critiques, and I attended writing conferences.

I wrote every day—whether I felt like it or not. I prayed for guidance, wisdom, and to overcome my fears.

I had to do the work (with an understanding that God would work through me). I had to be willing to pay the price. And I would, through the help of God, reach publication.

Success requires determination
In the first year I sold magazine articles, short stories, and devotions while working on my first novel: a historical romance. Two years after my husband’s dare the historical novel was released by Barbour Publishing for their Heartsong Presents line.

Today, I have more than 50 books in print, which have sold more than 1.5 million copies.

Are you ready?
If you’re just beginning your writing ministry, I recommend diligence. Approach writing as a job. The Bible says to work as for the Lord (Colossians 3:23), and that means giving your best.

I remember struggling and needing answers and guidance, so I now have a passion to help others improve. One place I recommend is the Christian Writers Guild, where I am the mentor for the Craftsman students.

But the important thing is, don’t let your fears steal your dream. Take your leap of faith—whatever that means.

Under a Desert Sky (Available in June)

A race from danger…straight into the arms of love.

In 1935, socialite Eva Fortier witnesses her grandfather’s murder and must flee New York to ensure her safety. Leaving behind a life of wealth, she seeks refuge in the secluded high desert area of Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.

Navajo doctor Tahoma Benally has his hands full caring for his people’s medical needs. He certainly doesn’t have time to fall in love. But when Tahoma’s father asks him to help fulfill a vow he’d made to Eva’s father, Tahoma has no choice but to oblige his father’s request. In the process he finds himself drawn to the woman he’s promised to protect.

With an elusive killer stalking Eva, and barriers of race and culture standing between her and Tahoma, does love stand a chance of blooming in the desert?

DiAnn Mills is an award-winning author and the Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. Her website is http://www.diannmills.com/. Her book, Pursuit of Justice, is out now and her next project, Under a Desert Sky, will release in June.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Awards from 2003 to 2008. DiAnn was also an ACFW Carol Award finalist in 2010. She received the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award in 2005, 2007, and 2010, and was a Christy Award finalist in 2008 and a RITA Award finalist in 2010. In 2010, she won the Christy Award for Breach of Trust, the first book in her Call of Duty series.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive; Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love chapter; and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

To Thine Own Self Be True ~ Mary Ellis

Mary Ellis is the author of A Widow’s Hope, Never Far from Home, The Way to a Man’s Heart, and Sarah’s Christmas Miracle. She and her husband live in central Ohio, where they try to live a simpler style of life.

I’ve been thinking about the famous quote by William Shakespeare lately. There’s been much talk in the writers’ loops about rules that new writers must follow if they hope ever to be published. I jotted some of the rules down, but I still have my original list from my early days as a beginning writer: Reduce adverbs; never use –ly words. Never use passive verbs. Eliminate multiple prepositions in a row. Remove dialogue tags. And of course, let’s have no redundancies, euphemisms, petty modifiers, clichés, or hyperbole. I won’t even get into the rules regarding punctuation. Many writers of various levels can benefit from looking over the list prior to a final edit of their work. I, myself, was once guilty of walking slowly instead of staggering and eating hungrily instead of devouring my fried chicken. Now I use stronger verbs to convey my meaning, and I wouldn’t think to writing something like whispered softly. But let’s be honest, sometimes a good old –ly word is just the ticket. Fellow writer, Mary Johnson, offered this marvelous example from Dick Francis’ best-selling novel, Hot Money: “I intensely disliked my father’s fifth wife, but not to the point of murder.” A lovely sentence…ly word and all, don’t you agree? To leave out the dastardly adverb would have sacrificed much. Does anyone remember the first line of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield? “I was born” is the epitome of passivity. Now I don’t put myself in Dick Francis’ league, and certainly not in Mr. Dickens’, but Ms. Johnson said it well, “In the end, the craft is there to serve the art, not vice versa.”

Another rule I read on the loop is “never use more than two POV’s in a romance.” I was midway through a short romance containing one main plot, advanced by four POV characters. I sat up straight and asked, “huh?” and then called my editor. She replied that she’d never heard of such a rule and wondered who made these things up. Before you fire off an email to me, insisting that fledging novelists need guidelines to hone their skills…I agree with you. But the list of rules should be guidelines to improve a manuscript; not laws never to be broken.

Writers who rely too much on critique partners’ or contest judges’ suggestion also scare me. I once read the comments from a contest I had entered with confusion. One judge felt “I should have better developed my hero/heroine to create empathy,” while another judge felt that “I’d spent too much time sketching characters to the detriment of the plot.” What did I learn from the two opposing viewpoints? Not too much. After I dried my tears that I hadn’t finaled in the contest, I learned that judges have subjective opinions.

I also read in the loop about one writer who presents her work to her critique group at the end of each chapter. Her fellow writers probably offer good advice on how to improve the pacing, etc., but when she finishes the manuscript, will the book still have her voice? I’m not so sure. A writer’s voice is the only thing that sets her/him apart from the thousands of other writers in the same genre. A writer gets an idea, creates a story in her mind, and sits down to tell the tale. Any advice on how to improve should come after the first draft in finished. The book might have the same theme or plot twists that have already been rehashed to death. But in a new voice, this story can come alive for a reader. Contest judges, critique partners, editors who are kind enough to offer suggestions—these people can offer great advice for improvement. But remember, they have subjective opinions. You’ll never please everyone, so you should first please yourself with the work you create.