Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lost and Found

by Ginny L. Yttrup

B&H Publishing Group, 2012
352 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1433671715

Have you ever read a novel that speaks to your soul? One that gives you gut checks as you read? That's exactly what happened as I read Ginny Yttrup's sophomore novel, Lost and Found.

In this story, Jenna Bouvier loses things: watches, diamonds ... her health, beauty, and worst of all, herself. She and her husband, Gerard, live with her mother-in-law, Brigitte, who manipulates everything and everyone around her. She's controlled her son to the point of making him a weak man, one who's afraid to stand up for his wife. All Jenna wants to do is please Brigitte, and she loses herself in the process.

Adding substance to this story is Andee Bell, a powerful businesswoman with a scarred past, someone who refuses to be hurt again, and Matthew MacGregor, a quirky spiritual director who guides Jenna, trying to help her find herself again.

This story explores emotionally destructive relationships and what it means to take up your cross and follow Jesus. When you look at your life, whom do you aim to please? Your husband maybe? How about your father? Maybe a friend? To what extent will you go to try to win their approval? What will you sacrifice? In Jenna's case, she sacrificed who she was. Her desire to please her mother-in-law transcended pleasing God. In effect, she'd made her mother-in-law her idol.

Jenna's journey to finding herself again, with the aid of Matthew, is a beautiful story. I especially enjoyed Matthew's character. I loved his unleashed love of God and his ability to see God in others. His joyous attitude added the perfect touch of levity to an otherwise very serious book.

My one minor complaint has to do with the back cover copy (see Back Cover Copy or Synopsis). It gives away too much information, including a plot point that doesn't happen until near the end of the book. So, if you don't like spoilers, avoid reading the description. Even so, knowing this will not spoil your enjoyment of the book.

Author Ginny Yttrup has proven herself to be a top-notch novelist with Lost and Found, following up last year's phenomenal debut, Words. She not only tells a great story, but she has the gift of changing your heart. Her characters are multi-faceted and very believable. Her prose sings, melding together story and character to create a stirring concerto. I can't wait to read more from Ginny Yttrup.

Ginny L. Yttrup is an accomplished freelance writer, speaker, and life coach who also ministers to women wounded by sexual trauma. She has two grown sons and lives in California.

Jenna Bouvier's blog: http://iluminar.me/

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Christian Writers Conference Conundrum

View from my room at CCWC
I'm facing a small dilemma right now. Every year I attend one writer's conference. I would love to attend more than that, but the budget strains mightily just getting me to one. The big problem I'm having this year is deciding which conference is the best for me at this juncture in my writing career. There are many conferences to choose from, but three are vying for my attendance.

I'll lay out the pros and cons below and maybe you can help me make a decision.

Estes Park, Colorado, May 16 - 19
I've attended this conference three times and it tends to be my favorite. First of all, you can't beat the location. It's at a YMCA in the Rockies so you're surrounded with beauty. The entire atmosphere of the conference is casual which, for me, translates to less stress.

I've taken in some fabulous classes here: I've been Nangied by Nancy Rue and Angela  Hunt, James Scott Bell taught me how to plot, and Tim Shoemaker drove home the basics of POV. I still have his Super-Ocular POV finder as a reminder. One year, I  got to sit in on a question-answer session with Ted Dekker. That was fascinating. The CCWC is also where I met my hawk-eyed critique partner (& friend), Stephanie Prichard.

A big advantage to the conference is the number of editor/agent/author appointments each full-time attendee receives: four! Plus, for $35, you can purchase a paid critique from an industry professional that includes 30 minutes (not 15 minutes that's standard in other conferences) of face time with that professional.

But perhaps the biggest advantage to this conference is cost. When I run the numbers, it's easily $300 less than the other two I'm mentioning here. That's a hefty amount.

CCWC's not fiction specific. While the faculty is very well represented by prominent editors/agents/authors, there aren't as many as at other conferences. The timing of this conference isn't the best--I have a mother-daughter vacation scheduled for May 6 to the 12, so I'd be gone again from May 16 - 20.

Near Asheville, NC, May 20 - 24
I've always wanted to attend this conference. I've heard the scenery alone is worth the trip. But this year, I find more than scenery attractive. To me, it has the faculty of my dreams, agent, editor, and author-wise. But, it's the authors who have me excited. Here are a few names: Steven James, Gina Holmes, Angela Hunt, Ann Tatlock, Jim Rubart, and so many more. I would LOVE to learn from any of them! This conference also offers a  manuscript critique (just $30), but I don't see anything on their site regarding agent/editor meetings.

Cost-wise, this conference would run about $300 more than CCWC, a big consideration for me. The date would be a little better than CCWC. At least I'd have a few more days in between being gone with my daughter and attending conference. A big consideration is whether I'm willing to sacrifice the one-on-one editor/agent meeting time. To learn from these authors, it might be worth it.

How I attended in 2011
Dallas, TX, September 20 - 23
This is widely renowned as the  crème de la crème  of Christian fiction writers conferences. It's only focus is on fiction writing so the education is invaluable. All the best agents / editors attend, and a multitude of of publishing houses are represented. Included in your fees are (2) agent/editor/author meetings, plus you can purchase a paid critique from one of the many authors. The keynote speaker this year is Michael Hyatt, a giant in the publishing industry.

ACFW is also the conference the majority of my friends will attend. It's worth it going just to see them again.

The biggest disadvantage for me is the date. September is typically my busiest month of the year. School begins right after Labor Day. We have (2) family birthdays. But the biggest obstacle is that my husband has (2) conferences in September. One overlaps with ACFW. Another obstacle is cost. While it is worth the price, it is still the most expensive of the three.

As of this moment, I'm still not certain which conference will win out. I'm praying for guidance ...

What conferences have you attended? Which do you prefer and why?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


One of the common complaints I hear about e-readers is that they lack the sensory experience an actual book gives. I would have to agree. There's something special about  holding a book open, turning the pages, and breathing in the scent of ink on paper.

After reading a few novels while holding just the Kindle, I knew I needed to do something to mimic that tactile experience. I checked out the cost of Kindle covers and found them to be outrageously expensive. Then I saw pictures of covers people had created and knew that was my answer.

I chose a hardcover book from a used bookstore, cut out the pages, clued on some felt-backed material and ribbon and voila! I've got a fun cover, and for far cheaper than anything I could buy ready made.

I'm not a crafty person. At all. So if I can create this, so can you.

Anyone else have clever ideas for Kindle covers?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Back Cover Copy or Synopsis

Like most readers, when I'm searching for my next novel, I'll read the back cover copy--the story description--to help me decide if I want to choose that book. What I expect from that description is a teaser, some kind of  hook that will propel me into the story so the journey can surprise me. I do not want the entire story laid out. Still, that's a trend I've noticed in many book descriptions.

I recently read a novel that described five plot points on the back cover copy, points I assumed would be dealt with in the first third of the novel, at the latest. Rather, the first point didn't occur until page 80, and the final one on page 280 in a 328 page book. That description didn't tease the reader, rather it gave a synopsis. I didn't even have to read the book to know what was going to happen. Talk about disappointing.

Now, I actually enjoyed the story. The writing was beautiful and the characters well thought out, but there were no surprises, no twists, because the description revealed them all. The back cover copy could have / should have been written as a teaser, not a tell all. Had that been done, my entire perception of the novel would have changed. Rather than being a so-so book because of it's predictability, it could have been a page-turner with its unique twists.

Needless to say, this trend perplexes and disappoints me.

Has anyone else noticed this trend? Why do you think publishers are writing descriptions this way? Does it bother you?