I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, March 2, 2015

How to Write a Book Review, with Guest Dina Sleiman!

Welcome Dina Sleiman to Tea and a Good Book!

 Dina is a friend of mine, and I'm thrilled for her newest release: Dauntless, a YA, medieval-set novel. More on it in a minute. But first, I asked Dina to share with us her tips on writing book reviews, which can be tricky! Thanks for joining us, Dina!

I’m sure there are a lot of readers and authors out there who love to support good books through reviews. But if you are like some of my friends, you might find the task a bit intimidating. Here are some tips that I gave my “Dauntless Launch Team” on how to write a book review and post it online. I hope they will help!

How to Post a Review

1)      First I would suggest writing your review somewhere like Microsoft word so that you can check and edit it. Mention a few things you liked about the book, but be careful not to give away any secrets. Some reviewers write a summary of the book, which is nice for a blog post, but not particularly helpful on a website that already includes the book info. The main point should be: I liked this book because…and if you like those things you will enjoy the book too. A few sentences up to a few paragraphs is a good length. These don’t have to be works of art. People like to see reviews by normal readers.

2)      Remember that a 4 to 5 star rating is helpful. A kind and thoughtful 3 star rating can also be helpful in the long run. But if you cannot give it at least a 3 star rating, please realize that you are likely hurting the sale of the book. In that case, unless you would like to speak out against the book for some reason, it is better to stay quiet.

3)      You can post reviews on a blog, or even straight to a facebook post, but posting them on review sites is probably the most helpful. The main sites are amazon, goodreads, barnesandnoble, booksamillion, and cbd, (Christian book), but there are others as well. For most of these sites, you will need to “log in”, “sign in”, or “register” to begin the process. If you don’t have a log in, you will need to create one. It is not only fine, but actually typical, to post the exact same review on multiple sites.

4)      Once you are logged into a bookseller site, search for the book and find the page where it is featured. Go to the review section of the page. Usually somewhere near the top of the review section you will see a link inviting you to write a review, but sometimes it will be hiding in a weird spot, especially on mobile devices. Click on it. It will open a place to leave a star review and a text box. Choose your stars and copy and paste your review into the text box. You will then have to preview and submit your review. These can then take a day or two to show up on the website.

5)      Goodreads is a little more tricky if you aren’t used to it. Once you search for the book and find the page, you should see a “Want to Read” button. Don’t push that if you want to review! LOL. To the right side of the button is a little bookshelf looking part of the button. Hover over that. It will give you the option to click that you’ve “Read” the book. Once you click that you’ve read the book, it should open a review screen with star rating and text box. There are other ways to get to the review screen, but that is the simplest. If you’ve pushed “Want to read” or “Currently reading” previously, you will have to go into your review of the book and edit it. Hopefully if you use the site regularly, that won’t be hard for you.  Goodreads is a really fun site for booklovers, by the way, so if you aren’t a member, I recommend joining.

6)      It is most helpful to the author if you post the reviews within a month of the book’s release. However, any positive review at any time is always helpful.

Have fun and happy reviewing!

Do you have any other tips for reviewing? What sort of review makes you want to buy a book?

More about Dina:

Dina Sleiman writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Also look for her novels, Love in Three-Quarter TimeDance from Deep Within, and her Valiant Hearts series with Bethany House Publishers. Dina serves as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing as well, and she loves to teach at writers conferences throughout the US. For more info visit her at her primary website.

More about Dauntless:

Where Legend and History Collide, 
One Young Woman Will Fight for the Innocent
Born a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father's failed assassination attempt upon the king. Bold and uniquely skilled, she is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village--a group that becomes known as "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest." Merry finds her charge more difficult as their growing notoriety brings increasing trouble their way.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, he's forced to reexamine everything he's known.

Print Books Now Available online!
Ebooks release February 24th.
In stores March 3rd.

Monday, February 16, 2015

For Whom the Bluebell Tolls~A Fresh Cozy Mystery!

I loved the first Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery by Beverly Allen, Bloom and Doom, so I've eagerly awaited the second book in the series, For Whom the Bluebell Tolls. (What would happen between our heroine sleuth, Audrey, and Brad the baker? Who in this quaint, fun town would die next?) It was worth the wait! Plot twists, sneaky clues, and delightful characters make for a rich bouquet of reading pleasure.
Find it here!
Here's the back cover blurb:

Deadly thorns lurk among the roses in this Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery

Florist Audrey Bloom, co-owner of the Rose in Bloom, creates fragrant bouquets for brides. But when a wedding goes fatally wrong, it’s up to Audrey to sniff out a killer . . .

Everything is coming up roses for Audrey when her dazzling creations are picked to be featured on a wedding reality show. The hot series is filming an episode about a bride who’s bonkers for bells, and Audrey’s bouquets of campanulas, calla lilies, and Bells-of-Ireland are perfect for the bridal theme.

But Audrey’s debut quickly becomes a hothouse of trouble. Her ex, Brad, shows up as a crew member on the show, threatening her blossoming relationship with Nick the baker. To make matters worse, when one of the show’s hosts is found dead in the bell tower of a historic church, all the evidence points toward Brad.

Now Audrey needs to weed out the real killer before someone else’s chance at stardom is permanently nipped in the bud . . .


I recommend this mystery series to anyone who loves cozy mysteries. It's clean, fresh, and well-written. Looking forward to book #3 in the series!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Victorian Valentines

Happy Valentine's Day (or Galentine's Day, or Singles Awareness Day...whichever you like)!

In the spirit of the holiday and in keeping with all the research I'm doing into my latest Victorian-set romance, I thought I'd share a few Victorian Valentines I've found online. And boy, did the Victorians like their Valentines. Just google it and you will find zillions.

These are a few of my favorites.

This post card is sort of what you'd expect Victorians to exchange. Flowers. A dove. A clean, proper sentiment: "I ask this boon in friendship's name. Will you be My Valentine?"
Sure thing, friend!

But I was surprised to see a few Victorian Valentines that get right to the heart of the matter: sex. This Valentine is pretty racy with its nighttime setting and almost-but-not-quite smooch.
Vintage Victorian Valentine Couple in heart ~ "I am tired, Beloved,  of chafing my heart against  the want of you;  of squeezing it into little inkdrops,  And posting it."  ~Amy Lowell, "The Letter"
Watch those hands, mister!
This one from 1915 has the same idea.
To My Valentine, c.1915
found here

For the less, er, married Victorian, there were far more genteel purchase options. Courtly love. Courting love. Flashes back to the past. This Valentine may be Victorian, but the clothes the folks are wearing are Regency-era. It seems then, as now, the past was considered romantic.
With Love Victorian Couple Postcard ~ Silk Fabric
Mr. Darcy had charm then and now.

Another nostalgia piece? Looks like it. The hair and dress are definitely not Victorian. His hat and dress remind me of the Quaker Oats Man, but he is far too suave and young.
Victorian Valentine Cards
This one is romantic in its text, but very properly-so, and the image of a child definitely removes one from a romantic frame of mind. It's the sort of thing one's mother would have approved of your receiving from a suitor. Winsome ways and manners fine, indeed!
4284863571 f882d48e60 1880s Victorian Valentines Day Card O
found here

You didn't have to be in love with somebody to send a Valentine. There's nothing gooshy about this one.
Victorian Woman Valentine
Greetings, indeed. If I got this from my husband, I'd say, Greeting back atcha, babe.
Children figured prominently in Valentines. I'm guessing from the bicycle that this one was made in the 1890s-through the Edwardian era. I love the boy's socks.
Pretty valentine cards
And the border! Wow!

Nothing says Victorian-era Valentines like Cherubs. Although this 1912 cherub is a bit creepy. I mean, he's crafted a spider web? To trap you? In a web of love?
Victorian Valentine
Found here

I suppose then, as now, the most important thing was telling someone they're important to you. That you're thinking of them. That they are in your heart. That they're worth the extravagance of flowers and cards and tokens of affection.
Victorian Valentine
found here
So here's my greeting to you, friend to friend.

Happy Valentine's Day Greetings!
Clapsaddle Valentine card O

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Oh My Goodness, I Wrote That?

This week I received the galley edits for my first publication, novella Love's Reward in The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection. The galley is a pdf file of the book as it will appear in print, and these edits are the last chance I have to look for any little typos, tweaks, etc before the book is published.

Exciting times. Seeing the story like this, like a REAL BOOK, is enough to make me cry. It's gorgeous. It's real. It's big time.

And it's also a bit daunting. Because ugh, did I really write that awkward sentence? And oh dear, can I rewrite the whole thing?

The answer to that last question, by the way, is NO. This is the time to find missing apostrophes, not to rewrite anything.

Oh man. All the What If questions are flooding in. What If my story is as bad as I suddenly think it is? I am the worst writer ever. I shouldn't even be allowed to write checks. Blah blah blah.

Time to get a grip, Self. If one of my friends came to me with these sorts of jitter-induced blatherings, I'd tell her this:
  • This story was critiqued by capable people.
  • This story was edited by professional people.
  • You need to take a deep breath, honey. You've got a good case of Pre-Publication Panic.
The bottom line is, no book outside the Bible is perfect. (Well, Pride & Prejudice is pretty close, but you know what I mean.) I have made mistakes in this story, and I will make mistakes again in every story I ever write. That isn't the point. The point is, God saw fit to allow this story to go out into the world.

Which reminds me of what I wanted in the first place:

To write the stories God put on my heart, with the hope that someone out there is blessed, comforted, or encouraged by it. Just one person.

Because I've been that person before whose heart was blessed, comforted, encouraged, and, yep, even changed by a romance novel.

So there you have it. My imperfect offering.

I should note that I received the galley of the entire book and oh my goodness,you all are in for a treat, should you decide to pick up this book. The eight other stories in the collection look fantastic. I haven't read them all because I've been spending time with Daniel and Josie, my characters, but I've peeked at them. And WOW!


Do you have an offering you're hesitant to give because it's not perfect?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy New Year!

I hope your holiday season was festive, bright, and blessed.

I had a lovely Christmas and time with my family while the kids were on break. Saw "The Hobbit", took a nap or two, cooked a lot, cleaned a lot, and enjoyed lots of cocoa and board games, including The Downton Abbey Board Game. Love it!

I'm back now and ready to SIT. And TYPE. No excuses. Gotta get this manuscript finished!

What's on your plate as you start 2015?

Monday, December 22, 2014

O Great Mystery!

This is one of my very favorite pieces: Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium. It speaks "Christmas Eve" to me. It pierces my soul and brings me to the manger.

In the busyness of these days, I hope you can take a few minutes to experience His peace. Set aside time with your Bible. Pray. Reflect on what it means that the God of the Universe took on flesh and was born for your sake. That He loves you.

That's something this song helps me remember.

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.

Praying you and yours enjoy a blessed Christmas.

I'll be taking a break until January 5. See you in the New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

We've got a Winner!

Congratulations to Caryl! She's the winner of A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 3, thanks to author Debbie Lynne Costello!

Caryl, I'll be in touch for your address.

Thanks for the giveaway, Debbie Lynne, and thanks to all who entered!