Friday, February 26, 2010

My Friend Mary - Interview and Giveaway


Today we're welcoming Mary Ellis to come and chat about her latest release, Never Far from Home. For those of you who can't get enough of Amish romances, you're in for a treat!

Mary is offering a book to one lucky reader, so as usual, leave your comments below along with a way I can reach you!

~*~

About Mary

Mary Ellis grew up close to the eastern Ohio Amish community of Geauga County where her parents often took her to farmers’ markets and woodworking fairs. She and her husband now live close to Ohio’s largest population of Amish families where they enjoy the simpler way of life.

~*~

About Never Far from Home

Emma Miller is on the cusp of leaving childhood behind and entering the adult world. She has finished school, started her own wool business, and longs for someone to court. When the object of her affection is a handsome English sheep farmer with a fast truck and modern methods, her deacon father, Simon, knows he has more than the farm alliance to worry about. Emma isn’t the only one with longings in Holmes County. Her mother yearns for relief from a debilitating disease, Aunt Hannah wishes for a baby, and Uncle Seth hopes he’ll reap financial rewards when he undertakes a risk with his harvest. But are these the plans God has for this close-knit Amish family? An engaging story about waiting on God for His perfect timing and discovering that dreams planted close to home can grow a lasting harvest of hope and love.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Never Far from Home from Harvest House Publishers, January 2010.

What's your favorite part of the story?

My favorite part of the story is a scene where my “second” heroine has a tiff with her husband. It’s very hard for an assertive, opinionated woman to keep her mouth shut even when she knows she should. We don’t always get our way in marriage, even when we know we’re right. Since I’m very much like this character in real life, this scene was great fun to write.

I can imagine! I was like that when I was younger then seemed to revert to my father's roots and clam up instead. =) What was the hardest part to write?


Without giving away too much of the story, there is an accident scene in the story that was very difficult to write. I wanted so badly to change the outcome, but I knew then it would no longer reflect real life. However, for other “overly-sensitives” such as myself, I softened the scene. I cry over greeting card commercials, some soft drink ads, and always at weddings, even when I don’t know the bride very well.

LOL--opposite me in that respect, but I can certainly appreciate a softer version of an accident scene. Those are always so tough anyway! So what's your favorite genre to write? To read?


Of course, I love to write Amish romances and I love to read them as well. I also enjoy reading historical romances, cozy mysteries, and romantic suspense.

What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

My dream office would have a view of water—lake, ocean or river—since I find water to be soothing and grounding. In real life, I write in our guest room in front of a window overlooking the backyard. Very nice, but it’s not the beach!

Mmmm, beach. I so dream of retiring to a beach someday. Our family tends toward the Outer Banks of NC. But since I'm not on vacation, back to business. ;-) Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

Since I write Christian fiction, I keep a copy of the Bible on my desk. I use the New Living Translation of The Holy Bible. I also used Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep by Paula Simmons & Carol Ekarius for the writing of Never Far from Home.

What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?


I learned how truly long it takes to write a book! When I’m in the middle of a project I must limit my emailing, web-surfing, and blog-posting type of activities. I’m not even on Twitter or Facebook yet, except for my fan page. Before publishing, I used to start each “writing session” with a few games of Free-cell or Solitaire on the computer. I haven’t planned any games in over a year. I do miss it!

Yes, I'm addicted to email and other online stuff, so I can definitely see your point. What are you writing right now?

I just turned in the third and final installment, The Way to a Man’s Heart, of the Miller Family series. And I’ve started a Christmas novella that will be released in early fall of 2010. What joy it is to write a Christmas story during the season!

I bet! (Readers, I sent her these questions right before Christmas, LOL.) Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

The Way to a Man’s Heart will be released in July of 2010.

Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing?

I would have to say Louisa May Alcott. She wrote Little Women in an environment of poverty with a backdrop of the American Civil War. Even though she was surrounded by sorrow and hardship, she still infused joy and hope into her magnificent story. She wrote when women weren’t allowed to become writers, and submitted her original stories using a male pseudonym. I love all her books, but I treasure my 1906 edition of Little Women.

Oo, I'd treasure that too!

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Mary! Readers, check out Mary's website at www.maryeellis.wordpress.com.

You can purchase Never Far from Home from ChristianBook or CrossPurposes.

Contest ends 3/4/10. Void where prohibited. Winner will have two weeks to claim their book before another winner is selected.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Friends

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for The Big 5-Oh!

~*~

Have you ever paused to take account of your friends? Tried to categorize them? Mentally nudged a particular person from one category to the next? How do you rate them/think of them/judge them? Do you have friends like the ones we see in novels, that gal pal who's always there to shed light on our darkest moments?

Yesterday I spent the day with one of my oldest friends. As our little girls ran around and played, Amber and I chatted about things like growth and development and homeschooling (things that come up often when you put two young mothers together, lol), our families, our husbands, our goals. And throughout this came a few memories--like the roller skating circuses we used to have in my basement, some of the old jokes that would have us laughing for hours. We yet again fielded questions of "Are you two sisters?" and answered, as we always did, with, "Yep," even though we share no blood.

Amber is one of those "always" friends in my mind. Her family was in missions for most of her childhood, so while I was home living my normal life in my normal family, she was off in exotic locales being homeschooled while they ministered to gypsies and the underprivileged. Because of that, we only saw each other a few times a year and never talked on the phone. But when we got together--watch out! We had a ton of fun to make up for! In highschool Amber moved back to our area and attended my school, and our moms would be like, "Why don't you call each other? Get together?" And we'd look at each other and be like, "Oh, I guess we could . . ." but it wasn't the way we worked. Still, we always knew that we were "always" friends. You know?

I have other friends I used to be closer to, but who have drifted apart. A few of those I've had to nudge from the "best" category down to the "passing" category, some all the way into "used-to-be." A few from back in the day I consider "low maintenance," because we can go months at a time without talking and then just pick back up. Those are handy in this busy world.

I have my "highschool" friends. I feared falling into having "college" friends, but those remain "constant" even now. I have those friends I made in Annapolis, but I refuse to call them "Annapolis" friends. We might not see each other often, but they deserve the "constant" title too.

Then I started making "writing" friends. I have a ton of these now, and I'm thankful for each and every one. But the ones that moved from mere "writing" friends to critique partners are the dearest to me, because they've become real, true, genuine friends, above and beyond writing. Some of those writing friends, who were also just internet friends, I now talk to more than my local friends, more than my own mother in some cases (though I talk to my mom a lot!)

At which point I have to mention Stephanie. We started emailing about writing, but we were also both pregnant at the time, so we'd chat about that too. As the months passed and turned into years, our emails increased and we told each other every passing thought, it seemed, so that we realized simultaneously that this "writing" friend, this "internet" friend had become a "best." When we met for the second time in September, we joked that we wouldn't know how to talk without computers between us, but that was no problem. Together with Mary and Carole, our other awesome friends who round out our critique group, we had a fabulous time.

I'm sure I have a point to all this, but I think it's mostly a reflection of the roles friends play in my life, and how grateful I am for each and every one. It seems like each one has a special place, ministers to me in her own way. And after spending the day with Amber, I just wanted to give a nod to friends old and new. No matter where we met or how much time goes by between chats, you're all so dear to me. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Remember When . . . Manners Were King?

Don't forget to enter yesterday's giveaway for The Big 5-Oh!

~*~

One of the most interesting tidbits I've come across thus far in my research for my 1784 story is on manners of the day. The Colonial Williamsburg site has a page on the Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, as transcribed by George Washington at the age of 16 or so.

I've read through about half of the 100+ rules of etiquette, and I gotta say, it's really enriched my understanding of the culture of the time. And explained some things. You know how you get that particular feeling of decorum and elegance from paintings of the time? These rules actually make it pretty clear it wasn't a trick of the artist. I'm going to give y'all a taste of some of their rules and manners. The spelling and capitalization are all George's. =) Enjoy!

~In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.

~Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.

~(One of my favorites) Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.

~Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexteriously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.

~let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.

~Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

~Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.

~Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.

~Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Proffesses; it Savours of arrogancy.

~Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.

There are still a ton more, so maybe I'll treat you to a few other lessons next week. =)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Eleanor Gustafson's The Stones is . . .

Michelle V!

Congrats, Michelle! I've already emailed you.

Story Time . . . THE BIG 5-OH! - Interview and Giveaway!!


For Story Time Tuesday this week we're going to be talking to the hilarious Sandra Bricker about her latest romantic comedy, The Big 5-Oh! Having read her romantic comedies before, I can assure you this is a book you want to hear about!!

Sandie has graciously offered a copy of the novel to one lucky reader, so as usual, leave your comments below with a way to reach you.

~*~

About Sandra

Sandra D. Bricker has been publishing in both the Christian and general market for years with novels for women and teens, magazine articles and short stories. With 11 novels in print and 4 more slated for publication through 2011, Sandie has carved out a niche for herself as an author of laugh-out-loud comedy for the inspirational market. Last year’s Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas garnered three readers’ choice award nods. Sandie was an entertainment publicist in Hollywood for 15+ years and now lives in Tampa, Florida. To keep up with her blog, readers can visit http://sandradbricker.blogspot.com.

About The Big 5-Oh!

Olivia Wallace can’t remember a birthday that wasn’t marked by illness, tragedy or both. And now, as she emerges victorious over cancer and approaches The Big Five-Oh, she is determined to change her course. Better late than never, right? That’s what Liv believes when she leaves a snowy Ohio winter behind and runs away to Florida to regroup. Amidst a crazy cast of characters that include a dog with a lampshade collar, a rogue alligator and a flirtatious octogenarian, Liv finds the biggest birthday surprise of all … A second chance at love.

~*~

What's your latest book?

The Big 5-OH! from Abingdon Press. It was released on the 1st of this month.

What's your favorite part of the story?

The main character’s story begins as she’s coming out of a long battle with ovarian cancer. I’m a survivor myself, and I remember that feeling of “What now?!” … so I love Olivia’s willingness to dive completely out of her box to make a new beginning for herself.

That's got to be challenging. I have several family members who have been through cancer, so I know secondhand what you mean. But back to books. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I love writing romantic comedy. There’s just something really liberating for me as an author when I get to pour my faith and my funny into the same project! As far as reading goes, I’m eclectic … but I really love suspense.

And I love reading your romantic comedies. =) Snowball remains at the top of my "hey, you've GOT to read this!" list. So is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

Every one of my books has a soundtrack. For instance, for The Big 5-OH! it was Michael Buble. His music just gets to me, and I had one of his CDs playing almost the whole time I was writing. It was so inspiring, in fact, that he carried over to the next book with me. =)

Hmm, my soundtrack seems to be Playhouse Disney. I think yours might be more inspiring, LOL. Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) who you rely on when writing?

Absolutely. I have an astounding circle of support for a chick with no family! So as I’m writing, there are two people who read as I go. Neither of them are writers; they’re both avid readers. Jemelle reads for continuity and flow; she’s an eagle-eye when it comes to this kind of thing. And Marian reads for entertainment value. She tells me whether I’m serving my readers by giving them a really fun ride. I seriously wouldn’t be the writer I am without these two women. Girl power!

Go, girls! Nothing beats those readers who are just readers. I've got a couple of them myself. Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

I’m one of the few full-time writers who also works a full-time job. I’m an editor out in Corporate America, so 40+ hours per week belongs to someone else.

You have my awe. Though I guess most of my hours like that go to my kiddos, so maybe I DO know how you feel! Now, here's a fun question. If someone were to give you $5,000 to spend on anything you wanted, what would you buy? (No saving or gifts to charities allowed!)

I am just about to close on my very first home. I’d sail through five grand in a nanosecond buying all new furniture, lighting fixtures and adding on a lanai.

With you on that one! What writing goal have you set for yourself that would be the hardest (or unlikeliest) but most rewarding to achieve?

I started my writing career as a screenwriter. The love I have for the medium has been building since I was a kid. So as unlikely as it seems, I really want to see my books cross over to movie and television screens! And then I’d like to follow in the footsteps of my hero: Nora Ephron.

They could make some laugh-out-loud scripts! What are you writing right now?

I’m writing Love Finds You in Carmel, California for Summerside Press. It should hit bookstores this October, so you can imagine how tight my deadline is!

WOW. That's super-tight. And ooey-gooey and delicious-sounding. =) Any other upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

In September, Abingdon Press will release Always the Baker, Never the Bride, a comedy about a confectionary genius who happens to be diabetic.

And Roseanna will be keeping her eye out for that one! Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing?

Several, actually. I’ll probably get a good laugh when I admit that the first author whose novels made me want to write was Danielle Steel. And I found the inspirational market by reading This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. It was genius, and it lit the fire in my belly to make this my career. These days, I’m influenced by Kristin Billerbeck, Robin Jones Gunn and Colleen Coble.

~*~

Thanks for chatting, Sandie! Readers, Sandie can offer you a really cool extra. You can get a sneak peak at the first three chapters from the publisher!

You can also view the video trailer here.

For those of you not lucky enough to win the drawing, you can purchase the book from Amazon or CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Contest ends 3/1/10. Winner will have two weeks to respond before another winner is selected.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Modern . . . Adages

Today's the last day to enter the drawing for The Stones, so be sure to read the interview and sign up for the giveaway! I got a little off schedule last week, so we'll be having another giveaway tomorrow for Sandra Bricker's fabulous The Big 5-Oh! Sure to be a riot, so check it out!

~*~

Okay, it's 7:40 and I just realized I hadn't written my blog for today--you know, the one I usually schedule to post at 6. I've been a mite distracted, you see, with getting a proposal ready to send to an editor who requested it. And since said proposal is for a historical set in 1784, I've got absolutely nothing modern on my mind. So naturally I'm going to cheat and apply something old to my Modern Monday. =)

In researching how people talked back in that particular day, yesterday I picked up an essay by Ben Franklin. The whole premise is something like, "So authors don't respect me, but you know what? They're stupid. Do you snooty writers have any idea how often the common folks quote my Poor Richard's Almanac? Well let me tell you a story." And he goes on to write out this speech an old dude gives that is comprised almost entirely of Poor Richard quotes.

Which made me realize that 90% of American idioms and adages and cliches come to us from Ben Franklin. Seriously. "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise." Ben Franklin. "Three may keep a secret if two of them be dead." Ben Franklin. "God helps them that help themselves." Ben Franklin.

I could go on, but suffice it to say it got me thinking about things that today we consider cliche. How often do we stop to consider that once they were new--even revolutionary? It can get tricky when writing a historical. I can write something that would be a startling turn of phrase to my characters, but my diligent critters will flag it as cliche.

But I'm talking modern. Right. (Grin.) I also ran into this a lot in the book now dubbed Love Me Silly. One of my character's quirks is that she is very, er, talkative. And talkative people say so much that obviously cliches sneak in. But I made an effort to make the adages, idioms, and cliches uniquely her own. One example, from when she deliberately makes the hero jealous with tales of another guy:

Seeing him so green tickled her so pink that . . .

Yes, "tickled pink" is cliche. But juxtaposed with the turning green thing, which is also cliche, is fun and fresh and in keeping with my character's voice.

Ben Franklin got his acclaim because he took sentiments everyone knew and arranged them in clever phrases, catchy rhymes, and punchy deliveries. That, I think, is what all we authors must do if we want people to remember our words. There are no new ideas out there, so we're told. But we can tell about the old ones in new ways.

~*~

In wonderful, random news, A Stray Drop of Blood has been voted in as the May selection for ACFW's book club. Woo hoo! This book club is a Yahoo! group that can be joined by anyone, so if you're interested in reading the novel and then chatting about it with a collection of other readers, sign up at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/acfwbookclub. The first half of May will be when people have time to read it, and the second half it'll be discussed. Then I'll be having a live chat on June 7. Should be fun!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Friend Michelle - Interview


Today I'm thrilled to welcome my friend and fellow HisWriter, Michelle Greip. Michelle's going to talk with us today about her medieval, Gallimore. You're in for a treat! This lady is going to make you laugh.

~*~

About Michelle

Michelle’s been writing since she first discovered Crayolas and blank wall space. She seeks to glorify God by imparting Biblical truths through the medium of fiction…well, except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager.

~*~

About Gallimore

Jessica Neale’s faith is lost the day of her husband’s death, and with it, her belief in love. In a journey to find peace, she encounters a gentle, green-eyed stranger who leads her to the ruins of the medieval castle, Gallimore.

On his way to battle, Colwyn Haukswyrth, knight of Gallimore, comes face to face with a storm the likes of which he’s never seen, and a woman in the midst of it who claims to live centuries in the future. The Lady Jessica of Neale is an irksome, provoking bit of woman to be sure. And she’s about to turn his beliefs on end.

The product of a family rooted in pain and evil, Colwyn has focused on naught but himself—until Jessica. To a mysterious prophecy stitched on a tapestry, through the invasion of Gallimore itself, Colwyn and Jessica are bound together by a lesson in forgiveness and love—a bond that might be strong enough to survive the grave.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Most recent is Gallimore, by Black Lyon Publishing, which released December 2008.

I remember when I got it in the mail to review--my mother stole it before I had a chance to read it, LOL. Such a great cover! I need to remember to get it back from her so I can read it. For now, you can tell me about it. Is there a theme to this book?
Love and forgiveness are choices, not feelings. I don’t think Jesus particularly felt like having his back ripped open or getting nailed to a hunk of wood and left to die. Nevertheless, He chose to do so. Should we do any less?

Okay, OW. And point well taken. =) So what are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

For now my bookmarks are in: The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen, The Raven Saint by Marylu Tyndall, and Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

My to-be-read pile is kind of frightening, actually, but at surfacing at the top is Pirate Latitudes: a Novel by Michael Crichton.

Your reading stack is my to-read stack. =) What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

This is hands-down the slowest business known to mankind. Sheesh. Waiting for a response to a query, then a proposal, followed by a manuscript read, and finally hurdling countless committees…during which at any point in the process you can receive a rejection and have to go back to start.

I hear ya! Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) who you rely on when writing?

I’ve got several critiquers who I trust will not let me out in public with literary toilet paper trailing on my writing shoes. Silverarrows, Y (who shall forever remain a capital letter), and Shannon McNear.

Okay, got a good grin out of that one. Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

Homeschooling and teaching (high school level Creative Writing and Civics). That and cleaning up the continual trail of destruction left behind in the wake of my behaviorally challenged dog.

Oh, I could tell you some stories about the destruction trailing a dog, LOL. What writing goal have you set for yourself that would be the hardest (or unlikeliest) but most rewarding to achieve?

You mean besides hitting number one on the New York Bestsellers list for fifty-two consecutive weeks in a row? Then it would definitely be having one soul (thousands would be preferable) seek after and find the amazing God of the universe because of something I wrote.

I got both a grin AND an "ah" out of that one! Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

Yeah. Good thing I was sitting at my home office desk…I hadn’t wet my pants since second grade.

LOL! What are you writing right now?

Currently I’m half-way through a historical set in 1795 England. The hero is an opium addict and the heroine lives with her brother who is an Anglican priest going mad.

Wow. That's obviously just a stroll-through-the-country romance, right? ;-) Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing?

Several…
Dr. Seuss – for whimsy
Ginger Garrett – killer prose and clever phrases
Charlotte Bronte – haunting settings
Charles Dickens – amazingly descriptive characters

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Michelle! You are such a fun lady to talk to. =) Hope everyone enjoyed getting to know her a little better. Check out her website at www.MMGriep.com

You can purchase Gallimore from the publisher.

Thoughtful About . . . Bartok the Jeep

Again, TWO giveaways to remind you of! First is Friday's of Deliver Us from Evil by Robin Caroll (romantic suspense), and then Tuesday's of The Stones by Eleanor Gustafson (Biblical Fiction).

And while I'm reminding, don't forget to check out giveaways of A Stray Drop of Blood on ICFW, A Fiction-Filled Life, and Mary's Musings.

~*~

Okay, one of my quirks. I name my cars. And not just mine, mind you--I also named my then-boyfriend's Jeep when he first got it back in high school. (Then-boyfriend equals now-husband, for those of you who aren't aware.)

When David got his Jeep, it was only a few years old but had over a hundred thousand miles--it was a guy's business vehicle, and he made a lot of trips with it. All highway miles, and it had been very well maintained. This was round about the time the Anastasia animated movie came out, which I adored. I promptly dubbed his Jeep Bartok, after the little white bat in the movie, which was by far my favorite character. (The Jeep's green, but you know. Who cares about details like that?)

So, Bartok the Jeep underwent more commuting with David's step-father, who drives for a living . . . and then went to college with us. College was 2.5 hours away, just close enough to mean we came home every other weekend or so. Far enough that those miles kept piling up on the odometer.

Bartok now has approximately 370,000 miles. Yes, you read that right. Three hundred seventy THOUSAND miles. (We're doing all we can to get it to a million. Think the Jeep folks will give us some kind of prize for that??)

Well, when a fifteen year-old Jeep has that many miles, you just have to assume it's going to be even quirkier than I am. That weird jingle? Yeah, that's been there for years. The vibration in the dash? Get used to it.

But sometimes Bartok goes beyond quirky and into growl-inducing. Yes, it's to be expected. But when the thing follows up weird noises and fritzed-out dash lights/blinkers/heaters with not restarting? Not. Cool. Luckily, this happened the other day when we were at the library, so had it not started back up, we would have at least been stranded with limitless reading material. =)

For those curious, my hubby managed to jiggle wires in the steering column until the key would turn and we could get home, but still. I had to give Bartok a pat and say something like, "Poor old boy. We'll get you fixed up."

Because you just can't abandon a work horse that will gladly travel over chunks of ice, puddles of slush, barrels of mud, and feet of snow. A machine that keeps going and going as that half-mil mark draws ever closer on its odometer. A member of the family that will probably outlast the more stylish and luxurious Xander, who lives in the garage bay beside it.

So here's to Bartok. You deserve a toast, baby. We'll get you all fixed up with a new relay or whatever in no time. (And will have that rust fixed soon too!) Three cheers to you, ol' boy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Remember When . . . Your Hair Went White?

Wow, TWO giveaways to remind you of! First is Friday's of Deliver Us from Evil by Robin Caroll (romantic suspense), and then yesterday's of The Stones by Eleanor Gustafson (Biblical Fiction).

And while I'm reminding, don't forget to check out giveaways of A Stray Drop of Blood on ICFW, A Fiction-Filled Life, and Mary's Musings.

~*~

So, those of you who have been reading this blog for months may recall my mention over the summer over of a story idea that would take place in post-Revolution Annapolis, Maryland. I got the go-ahead to put together a proposal for it, so now I have all these 1780s tidbits floating around my head. Hope y'all are interested, cuz you're about to get some of them!

One of things I'm coming across for my particular stretch of time--late 1783 through early 1784--is that fashion was drastically changing for the first time in a couple decades. For quite a while, the hairstyles had gotten larger, more extravagant, and were either powdered or covered with powdered wigs. Then all of a sudden hats got more extravagant, and hair was all of a sudden worn in loose curls, totally down, in a natural color.

For decades dresses had been large, hooped, bustled (though that wasn't the word for it at the time) and frilled--especially formal wear. Then in the mid 1780s Marie Antoinette all of a sudden introduced the "chemise gown." So named because instead of volume, it was a simple swath, sashes, a precursor to the empire styles we know and love from Regency days. When it first appeared on the scene, to most it looked like nothing more than an undergarment, hence the name "chemise."

Interesting, huh? I'm always so intrigued by how fashion can change subtly, subtly, and the WHAM! All of sudden hemlines rise (in the case of the 1920s), necklines plunge, volume decreases, undergarments change, hair goes from up-to-the-ceiling to totally down . . . and why, I ask, do my settings always seem to be in those transition years?? I don't plan it that way, but every time I look up the fashion for my particular year, I find it to be in transition, not what I associate with the "typical" for an era. Sheesh. ;-)

Another thing that struck me yet again is the corset. They were called stays at the time, but still. It was a corset. Corset were worn by all women for centuries and centuries, even well into ours. They made a brief exit in the early 1920s, but women didn't like the bulges that emerged without them, so they quickly came back in, though in a more comfortable form. What happened to that?? I mean, I'm all for comfort, but seriously. I find it strange.

And that sums up my musings on fashion for now. I got a few books out of the library I'm going to be looking at tomorrow, so who knows what weird little factoids I'll have for you next week. ;-) Hope everyone has a fun Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Story Time . . . THE STONES by Eleanor Gustafson - Interview and Giveaway

There are so many fabulous authors with releases right now that I had to double up in a lot of upcoming weeks. So this is our first Story Time Tuesday where we're doing an interview and giveaway, but it won't be the last! Let's give a big welcome to today to Eleanor Gustafson, author of The Stones, Biblical fiction about the life of King David. Don't forget to enter Friday's giveaway for Deliver Us from Evil too!

Eleanor has gracious offered to give one lucky reader a copy of her book, so as always, leave your comments below along with a way to reach you!

~*~

About Eleanor

Eleanor K. Gustafson has been publishing both fiction and nonfiction since 1978. Her short stories and articles appeared in a number of national and local magazines. The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David is her fourth novel. In many of her stories, Eleanor explores the cosmic struggle between good and evil in light of God’s overarching work of redemption. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, Sunday school teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. She has enjoyed a variety of experiences, from riding horses to building houses, all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. She and her husband live in Massachusetts, where he teaches Philosophy and World Religions. They travel extensively, spend time with their three children and eight grandchildren, and enjoy working and camping at the family forest in Chester, Vermont.

About The Stones

With comprehensive detail and flowing prose, Eleanor Gustafson crafts the retelling of King David’s life—from his teenaged anointing to his death—as seen through the eyes of Asaph, a Levite musician.

Fictional in scope, yet with amazing scriptural accuracy, The Stones provides a revealing, behind-the-scenes glimpse into biblical history with all the twists, turns, thrills, and romance of the world’s great drama.

The Stones is an epic adventure of man’s innate need to worship God and rely on Him for strength—and how badly it can go when he fails to do so.

~*~

What's your latest book?

The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David, published by Whitaker House, January 2009. A companion Study Guide is also available.


What's your favorite part of the story?

Although the David story is rich on many levels, I like the prophet Nathan’s confrontation of David after the Bathsheba affair. It put the fear of God into David, and it does the same for me. The scene starts on p. 373 and heats up 373ff.

Always love striking the fear of God into my characters. =) What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

I want readers to take away fear of God, the grace of God, and the love of God—in that order.

Ah, and the order makes it so beautiful! It's a great representation of a spiritual walk. Now let's get personal, so the readers can get to know you a little. What's one of the oddest or most interesting things someone has ever said about you?

Long before I ever wrote anything, I was making up stories in my head. This diversion continued until college, marriage and babies shifted my focus, but once past diapers, the old urge returned. However, my first efforts at writing fiction prompted at least two people to advise me to stick to music. Fortunately, I didn’t pay attention.

LOL. Some people just don't know what they're talking about! We're all glad you kept with the dream. Now, speaking of the dream—what would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

My dream office would be a lot neater than the real one (and my husband’s half of the room would also be neat or possibly in another room). My office would have a wrap-around counter wide enough for a large-screen computer (Mac, of course). I would have shelves close at hand for Bible, reference books, printer paper, phone, Kleenex; drawers for odds and ends; a comfortable chair on wheels; a pewter saucer for a cup of tea; and a monthly and yearly calendar in easy view. A woodstove would be just outside the door, lending its heat to an otherwise chilly room.

Except for the neat-husband part, that is my real office. I’m blessed to have a supportive husband who loves me, makes me laugh, and is my best friend. What’s a little mess next to that?

As someone who is messy, I agree with the sentiment. =) What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

Four published novels have taught me that an author must be willing to get out there and hustle. But in the year since my current book, The Stones, was published, I find that I have hustled myself almost into the ground. Hard work, yes, but a unique and effective ministry has surfaced in the form of group discussions and formal presentations. Authors normally promote their books by talking about characters, and whatever point they’re trying to get across—all without giving away the story line. But with David, most people already know the story line, and I can talk freely about every aspect of it. In addition, this story carries a message far deeper than my other novels, and I can address issues ranging from blood and sex to cherem and the fear of God. This helps people understand who David was as a key player in Israel's holy destiny, and I often see a look on faces that says, "Yeah—I GET it!" Even though worn to a nub, I'd love to do more of this type of ministry, but getting invitations—in homes, in churches, wherever—requires a certain amount of chutzpah. I would appreciate prayer for this, as it obviously has to be a God thing. While selling books would of course lengthen the shelf life of The Stones, my deeper concern is to make David come alive and accessible to the average reader.

A nobel goal, to be sure. I'll keep you in my prayers. Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) who you rely on when writing?

With my David book, I have relied heavily on a special group of friends that I asked to pray for me. They have stood by me through this past strenuous year of promotion.

I also choose assorted people to be first readers and find their input invaluable. I may not agree with everything they say, but I pay close attention. I’ve learned not to assume any reader’s intelligence. With the book I am currently working on, I recruited two non-Christian readers, among others, and was pleased that they both got the point of the story.

If someone were to give you $5,000 to spend on anything you wanted, what would you buy? (No saving allowed!)

The immediate temptation would be to give it all away, but if I HAD to buy something for myself… Hmm. I’m sitting here, scratching my head, unable to think in terms of spending that much money on myself. A trip, perhaps, to visit friends in Scotland, or to someplace WARM in winter, or maybe Iceland, preferably in summer. P.S. I have a pile of socks waiting for me to darn. Does that tell you anything about my spending habits? =)

That you really need that trip to someplace warm! I'd be happy to meet you there--Hawaii sound good? LOL. Okay, back on topic. Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

Vividly. My husband and I were traveling in Florida, staying overnight with a distant cousin who was on the brink of Alzheimer’s. Our son called us from Massachusetts with the news that Zondervan had accepted my first novel, Appalachian Spring. Good—and memorable—news, indeed!


Any funny family stories about living with a writer?

At an airport en route to a TV interview, I woke to the sudden realization that I had forgotten to remove my indispensable penknife from my jeans pocket. I had learned from multiple sad experiences that security folks really don’t like knives. This one was relatively new, as the previous one had been confiscated at some other airport. Didn’t want to lose this neat little guy. What to do? I looked around, spotted a large, potted plant near the door. Went over, looked around surreptitiously, and “planted” the knife by one of the stems, leaving just its head above the dirt. Went through the line smiling. Returned the following day, retrieved the knife—a bit damp and dirty—and left the airport—smiling. Cathy of Whitaker House said, “Thank God we didn’t get a call from the county jail having to post bail for you!”

LOL--a trick worthy of a novel, to be sure! What are you writing right now?

I am finishing my fifth novel, Dynamo,a story in which a five-gaited horse serves as a metaphor for a man’s passion for God and his fear of God.

~*~

Thanks, Eleanor, for livening up Story Time Tuesday with talk of The Stones! Sounds like a remarkable book!

Readers, be sure to check out Eleanor's website. The book can be purchased from Amazon, as can the Study Guide. Be sure to read all the wonderful reviews!


(Giveaway ends 2/23/10. Void where prohibited. The winner will have two weeks to get their address to me before a new winner is selected.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Modern . . . Valentine's Day


So, since yesterday was a day designed for romance (in today's society, anyway), let's take a break from me boring you with all my oh-so-insightful looks into topics you may or may not find interesting and turn the tables around.

Does anyone have a story for us to sigh over of how your special someone made yesterday a dream? A little thing that will always stick in your memory? A big thing you have to shout about??

My day revolved more around my kids than me and my husband. I gave them each a little bag with a taste of candy and a card. My daughter then said, "Oh, but Mommy, I didn't get you anything! Oh no!" I assured her a hug was all I needed, but that's never enough for Xoe. She went over, colored a pretty picture on the inside of the card, wrote her name, put stickers on the little plastic heart her candy had come in and then gave it to me. Is she not the sweetest thing??

How about you, O Lovely Readers of Mine? Care to share?

Now--important links. First, if you're looking for a romantic suspense that looks really fabulous, you'll want to check out my giveaway from Friday of Robin Caroll's Deliver Us from Evil. This is going to be a two-for week, too--doing another giveaway tomorrow of a different book, so be sure and swing by for that!

And if you're just dying to get your hands on a copy of A Stray Drop of Blood (I mean, who isn't, right? Snicker, snicker), then go buy it. Er (another snicker, snicker), I mean, check out one of these fabulous giveaways.

Sunnybank Meanderings ~ this is a Giveaway Plus, featuring the book, Companion Guide, recipe cards, chamomile, and lip balm.

International Christian Fiction Writers ~ a giveaway much like above, minus the chamomile (since most of their readers are non-U.S. and shipping tea can be a pain with customs)

A Fiction Filled Life ~ signed book

Book Reviews by Buuklvr81 ~ Today's the last day to enter her Valentine's Giveaway, where mine is one of several books being bestowed upon TWO lucky winners.

Be sure and swing by 'em all--and tomorrow I'll be up at my crit partner Mary's blog too, with another giveaway and some really, really insightful interview questions. Check that out tomorrow!

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Friend Robin - Interview and Giveaway


Today we're welcoming Robin Caroll, who writes romantic suspense, to celebrate the release of her novel, Deliver Us from Evil. Robin has graciously offered an autographed copy of her book to one lucky reader, so as usual, leave your comments below with an email address!

~*~

About Robin

Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin Caroll is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin’s mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist who instilled in Robin the deep love of family and pride of heritage—two aspects Robin weaves into each of her books. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty years, her three beautiful daughters, and their four character-filled pets at home—in the South, where else? She gives back to the writing community by serving as Conference Director for ACFW. Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice, Bookseller's Best, and Book of the Year. An avid reader herself, Robin loves hearing from and chatting with other readers. Although her favorite genre to read is mystery/suspense, of course, she’ll read just about any good story. Except historicals!

(For which Roseanna will graciously forgive her. ;-)


~*~

What's your latest book?

DELIVER US FROM EVIL released from B&H Publishing February 2010. It’s the story of a beautiful yet tough woman working in a beautiful yet tough setting, Brannon Callahan is a search and rescue helicopter pilot for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Strong faith and a decorated history of service have kept her one step ahead of on-the-job dangers, but there’s no precedent for what’s about to happen. After a blizzard takes down a small plane carrying U.S. Marshal Roark Holland (already haunted by a recent tragedy), Brannon must save him in more ways than one and safeguard the donor heart he’s transporting to a government witness on the edge of death. Otherwise the largest child trafficking ring in history—with shocking links from Thailand to Tennessee—will slip further away into darkness along the Appalachian Trail.

Wow, that sounds awesome! I can only imagine how challenging and intense a book that was to work on. What was the hardest part to write?

I watched a television special on child trafficking with my husband. As a mother of three daughters, I couldn’t stop the ache in my heart long after the show was over. I couldn’t get the image of these poor girls’ faces out of my mind. The horrors these children endure in their own poverty-stricken country is horrible enough, but to be brought to America and be further exploited and abused is appalling. When my outrage settled deep inside me, I knew I had to write a story about this most serious issue.

That's definitely a tough, important issue. I can see where it ignited your passion. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I love to read romantic suspense, suspense, thrillers, mysteries….action/adventure. I found that preference to read in these genres is what sparks my passion to write romantic suspense.

What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

How HARD it is. LOL Seriously. I think most people are surprised when they actually start writing with a goal of publication. It’s much, much harder than I’d ever dreamed. But it’s more rewarding as well.

Don't I know it! Thank heavens for wonderful support groups and loving families. Are there any people who you rely on when writing?

My husband is my sounding board for most of my stories. He’ll help brainstorm and plot and work in twists. The next group of people I truly rely on are my crit partners—Dineen Miller and Ronie Kendig. Both are amazing and love me enough to tell me when the story isn’t working for them. And I have three “readers” who read my manuscript just as readers (they aren’t writers)—Tracey, Lisa, and Krystina. They don’t miss much! LOL And there are a lot of author friends who are great supporters—Cheryl Wyatt, Camy Tang, Cara Putman, Sara Mills, and my mentor, Colleen Coble.

That's an impressive list of supporters! Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

My family. When I’m at my computer so much of the day, I make it a point to have family time. I love to scrapbook, which is time consuming, but my children love to make their albums when I’m doing so. I love to read and cook, so I try to balance out those things that make me happy.

Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

I remember all calls! LOL The one that sticks out most in mind is the official contract offer for a 3-book contract, beginning with DELIVER US FROM EVIL. My agent at the time had been in communication with Karen Ball at B&H. They met at conference and the official offer came. Of course, my agent hunted me down and I accepted. But what was so cool was Karen Ball announcing I was joining the B&H family from the podium at the ACFW conference.

Oh yeah, that would be exciting! So what are you writing right now?

I just turned in the final book in this trilogy, tentatively titled IN THE SHADOW OF EVIL and releasing next February. Right now, I’m taking a couple of weeks off until I have to begin the revision process.

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Robin! Be sure and check out her website, her blog, and check her out on Facebook and Twitter.

You can purchase her book from Amazon or CrossPurposes.

(Giveaway ends 2/18/10. Void where prohibited. The winner will have two weeks to get their address to me before a new winner is selected.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Christa Allen's Walking on Broken Glass is . . .

jemscout425! (pksanddancer@ . . .)

Congrats! You've got two weeks to claim your prize--I'm emailing now!

Thoughtful About . . . Silence--and Birthdays

First, the announcements. Don't forget my giveaway of Christa's Walking on Broken Glass, and swing over to Sunnybank Meanderings for a really neat giveaway of A Stray Drop of Blood Plus. (The plus includes Companion Guide, bookmark, chamomile, lip balm, and recipe cards). There's a similar one up today at International Christian Fiction Writers, so check it out too!

~*~

I've always been a girl who appreciates her silence. Back when I was a teenager, I would go through what I called "quiet phases." They weren't moods, exactly--my emotions were on keel, and I've never been prone to swings in the usual sense--but I would go a day or two without speaking but when necessary. My lips would literally start to stick together, and prying them apart just didn't seem worth it when I had so many interesting thoughts going on inside my head, LOL. They never lasted long, and my friends and family generally just rolled their eyes and gave me my space.

I always thought I'd marry a man who respected my silences. That I'd raise a family that treasured those golden moments of quiet. Um . . . no. Now, don't get me wrong--David understands me like no other. Which means that he knows that the only way to get at those deep thoughts I'm thinking is to pry them out of me with pokes, prods, and the occasional incessant, "Whatcha thinking? Huh? What? Talk to me. Talk to me!"

And our kids? Um, yeah. Neither 4-year-olds nor 2-year-olds really care too much if Mommy would like some quiet. Heaven knows they never do!

But sometimes I still need those times of perfect silence. Of peace. Of solitude. I had to explain this in detail to my family about a year ago and make it clear that it wasn't that I didn't want to spend time with them, but that I wouldn't enjoy it when I did if I didn't get some nice, quiet "me" time.

I've learned to take it where I can get it--and I'm thinking about it now because I'm currently upstairs with my laptop while my husband's down watching hockey, and the kids are in bed. I can hear the bubble of the water through the pipes. The whistle of the wind outside. The TV is only a faint echo downstairs, and the kids' even breathing barely reaches my ears.

And my soul gives a happy sigh. This is how the Lord ministers to me, through these moments of simplicity. And though I may wish I had more of them, I know that whatever He gives me, it's enough. It's so easy to wish for more--more quiet, more work time, more help, more sales, more success, more, period. But more is never enough, so I pray that we see how He makes it all sufficient. Then we can truly treasure these stolen moments.

But because they'll soon end and the squealing of exuberant little ones will fill my ears again by the time this post goes up, I'm also smiling and thinking, "Awww" because on February 11 my baby boy turns TWO! Wow. Amazing to think that this time two years ago, I was in labor. It's been so awesome to get to know my adventurous little guy, even if he is sure to give me gray hair any day now. (You should see this kid climb out of his high chair. And up to the light switch over the chair in the living room. And onto the bathroom sink, which REALLY gives me a heart attack!)

So happy birthday to Rowyn! I treasure you way more than silence and am so, so thankful to the Lord for your every dimpled grin! Isn't he just the cutest thing??

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Remember When . . . Time Stood Still?

First, the announcements. Don't forget my giveaway of Christa's Walking on Broken Glass, and swing over to Sunnybank Meanderings for a really neat giveaway of A Stray Drop of Blood Plus. (The plus includes Companion Guide, bookmark, chamomile, lip balm, and recipe cards).

~*~

You know what one of toughest parts of writing a historical is for me? Getting my mind out of this world of instantaneous-everything. I'm used to travel taking, oh, a day. To get from anywhere to anywhere. Maybe a week, if you're going cross-country by car. I'm used to messages being conveyed by computer or phone. Which means you can find information out in about a wink.

Recently, I've run into the issue of how to plot out scenes and take into account that nothing happened that fast back in the day. The movement of both people and information took time. Often lots of it. So when I have a scene with a bad guy asking one of his minions to find out something from the hero . . . I can't have the answer coming back anytime soon. It's gonna take him a goodly little while to get a message to the hero's camp. Then to get an answer back.

In the Esther story I mentioned last week, I'm going to have to take into account travel times of an army of a million from Persia to Greece. That's going to be fun. Thankfully, I think Herodotus helps me out here and gives me an account of time.

The trick is making use of all that time things take. In Stray Drop, I put to use the time traveling from Jerusalem to Rome to build a relationship and establish what Rome's response to Abigail would be. I didn't detail much of the journey--a couple scenes, that was all. But hopefully it made readers aware not only of the passage of time, but of the shift in the characters themselves.

Now I've just got to figure out how to make the passage of time play into the suspenseful aspects of my 20s Egyptian one. Half the problem is simply realizing I must do it, so hopefully it'll come easily now--now that I realize that, no, time doesn't stand still while we're waiting for something to happen. It keeps on ticking, things keep on happening. We've just got to make sure the things happening and the ones we're waiting for meet up at that crucial moment. =)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Day

I haven't actually read anything new lately to write a Story Time Tuesday about (still reading The Country House Courtship that I wrote about last week--very good, but I've been too tired to read. Grr, exercising!) so I'm being lazy and blaming it on the three feet of snow outside.

Okay, so, two feet. But we're supposed to get another 6-12 inches between today and tomorrow. Siiiiggghhh. For those of you who haven't seen my posts on Facebook, the two feet we got over the weekend brought our front porch roof crashing down and buckling in half (it was aluminum).

So. A few updates. Don't forget to enter the giveaway from Friday for Christa Allen's Walking on Broken Glass.

Next, I'll be on two different blogs this week, and in three different giveaways. You can check out Molly the Reviewer's blog for a special Valentine's giveaway that includes Stray Drop.

On Wednesday, my wonderful crit partner Carole is hosting me at Sunnybank Meanderings and doing a very special giveaway complete with recipes from the novel, a box of chamomile (favorite drink of my heroine's mistress), and lip balm much like they used back in Biblical times. I also talk about how the cover design came to be, and answer some fun interview questions.

Thursday I'm going around the world with International Christian Fiction Writers (figuratively speaking, LOL), and answering some more fun questions--I get into some info about WhiteFire Publishing that you writers might be interested in! That giveaway includes more than just a book too, so check it out!

I think that pretty much covers this week . . . and almost makes up for my laziness in the Story Time category. Can't even take my daughter to Story Time at the library today, thanks to the snow. It was supposed to be the Valentine's party, so she's pretty bummed about that. =(

Hope everyone's having a great Tuesday!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Modern . . . Dreams

Don't forget to enter Friday's giveaway for Christa Allen's debut novel, Walking on Broken Glass!

~*~

Who among us hasn't ever soothed a frantic child--or even ourselves--with the phrase, "It's only a dream." ? I know I've chanted that to myself a time or two after waking up from a nightmare, and I've said it to my daughter too. I've even had one of my characters repeat the phrase to herself time and again after a series of nightmares. But isn't it kind of interesting? Dreams can have a profound impact on us . . . and yet we try to dismiss them in this day and age, write them off as Freudian wish-fulfillment or random firings of synapses.

I always find it interesting how important a role dreams play in the Bible, for instance. In the Old Testament especially, we see God speaking to people quite a bit through dreams, or raising His children to power through the ability to interpret them. I think most of assume that's just something that happened "back then." Sure, we're willing to grant that dreams can mean something. Sometimes. In a way.

Even if we dismiss any prophetic qualities they could have, though, dreams shouldn't be dismissed so easily, should they? I like to make use of the normal, everyday variety of dream in my contemporaries as ways for the characters to see something about themselves. Who hasn't had a dream about a person they hadn't yet admitted to themselves they were interested in? Kinda hard to deny it after that, though, right? Or how about those times we dream something bad about our spouse and wake up angry with them, even though they haven't done something wrong? That affects us throughout our whole day and can often force us to examine our own hearts and fears to get over it.

And I'd love to see a poll of how many authors came up with story ideas based on dreams. Lots, I know!

But the fact is, dreams can still be the whisper of God too. Let's remember that He doesn't change--if He spoke through dreams Back Then, why would He stop doing it now? More likely, I think, is that we don't listen to them so much anymore. My friend Dina shared a story on her blog a few weeks ago about how, when they were trapped in a war-zone, her young son had a dream that, as it turns out, thousands of people had around the world that week, and it guided them to safety. (Oo, shivers up my spine just writing that.) She also shared with me that thousands of Muslims have converted to Christianity in the last few years because they had dreams about Jesus.

We can't discount those amazing stories, though all too often we do--or we say, "Wow, that's awesome. It would never happen to me, but it's awesome." And maybe it wouldn't happen to us. But maybe it would. In my stories, and in my life, I like to keep an open mind. I don't like to "resort to" these "tactics" when writing--but I also want to write reality. And reality is that our dream world has a profound effect on our "real" world.

Have you encountered that?

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Friend Christa - Interview and Giveaway


Our fabulous feature author for this Friday is Christa Allen, whose debut novel Walking on Broken Glass just released February 1! Congrats, Christa! (And that title just makes me say, "Owie!" LOL)

Christa has graciously offered a copy of her book to one lucky reader, so as usual, leave your comments below with an email address!

~*~

About
Walking on Broken Glass

Leah Thornton’s life, like her Southern Living home, has great curb appeal. But a paralyzing encounter with a can of frozen apple juice in the supermarket shatters the fa├žade, forcing her to admit that all is not as it appears. When her best friend gets in Leah’s face about her reliance on alcohol to avoid dealing with her life, Leah must make an agonizing choice. Seek help against her husband’s wishes? Or—put herself first for once? Joy and sadness converge and unwelcome insights intrude, testing Leah’s commitment to sobriety, her marriage, her motherhood, and her faith.

~*~
About Christa

With the exception of having spent some years in Texas, I’ve been a lifelong Louisiana girl. After college I started teaching high school until the mommy years. I have five children, who are now 32, 29, 26, 26, and 24, a son-in-law, and two precious grandgirls ages 4 and 2. Twenty plus years ago I returned to teaching high school. I received my National Board Certification in 2007, and this school year moved to a new high school that opened in our parish. My husband Ken and I have been married for almost nineteen years. We spend our time with our three neurotic cats, play golf, dodge hurricanes, and look forward to retiring one day.


~*~

What's your latest book?

Walking on Broken Glass from Abingdon Press. It just released February 1, 2010.

What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

Hmm…possibly in Maui, overlooking the ocean, with a wide porch, tall windows. I’m a horizontal organizer, so I’d love a long shelf wrapping two walls. A desk that’s adjustable so I could sit and type, but when my knees start locking, I could lower a section of it and lean back with my legs stretched out.

A refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker…

My real writing environment is a wing-back chair in the family room or my kitchen table!

How do you feel about a really close neighbor at that Maui one? Roseanna could sooooo see that! Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

1. my Bible

2. Rodale’s Synonym Finder

3. a collection of catalogs/magazines to use as resources for descriptions: Williams-Sonoma, Southern Living, Pottery Barn, J.Jill, and others depending on characters and setting.

4. Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel and James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure.

What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

I’m amazed by the number of people involved in bringing a book from manuscript to novel on the shelf in a bookstore. My agent, my editor, sales team, copy editor, cover people, marketing, publicity….It’s humbling to know that many people are hard are work to help your dreams come true.

Yep, it's definitely a team effort. Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) who you rely on when writing?

My older son used to be a medical corpsman in the Navy and worked in ER, so he’s a great help with questions like, “How long does it take a person to die if. . . ” One of my daughters is my fashionista resource for everything designer and expensive. Without her, I would have thought Tory Burch was a tree. My other daughter is my organizer and eagle-eyed reality-checker. She’s the one who spots that on page 182 the character’s eye color or name changes or something equally horrific.

And then there’s my husband. The man, God bless him, becomes absolutely invisible when I write. He takes care of cooking, washing, cleaning, making my coffee, and slips out for golf games…whatever it takes.

Now THAT is a valuable husband! Mine did that a lot more before the kids came along and his business moved to a home office. =) So aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

Grading papers!! I teach high school English [on a good day…] plus an online class with 46 students, so I’m constantly drowning in a sea of papers.

My English teachers remain some of the most influential people in my life. Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

Absolutely! It was on Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 11:43 in the morning, two minutes before my lunch ended and my fifth period 10th graders would walk through the door. Rachelle Gardner, my agent called to tell me the news that she’d heard from Barbara Scott that Abingdon Press had made an offer.

Two of my friends were eating with me, so when my students walked in and saw me sobbing, they made sure to tell them the news was good! My students applauded, I called my husband and children, and then it was almost business as usual. I do remember telling them that I hoped one thing they took from that day was that anyone’s dreams can come true if you’re persistent and don’t let people steal them from you. I told them I hoped they just didn’t wait as long as I did to believe in themselves.

Awww. I bet that was a great inspiration to those students! Any funny family stories about living with a writer?

We talk about things like different ways people would be murdered or what would happen if you walked to your mailbox and never came back. . .I threaten my children with naming a rabid dog in a book after one of them if they get cranky…

LOL. When they're REALLY cranky, you can threaten to name the villain after them (unless they'd think that was cool. ;-)

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Christa! Readers, be sure and check out her website.

You can purchase Walking on Broken Glass from Amazon, Cokesbury, or CrossPurposes.

(Giveaway ends 2/11/10. Void where prohibited. The winner will have two weeks to get their address to me before a new winner is selected.)

Winner!

And the winner of Margaret Brownley's A Lady Like Sarah is . . .

inthehammockblog@ . . .

Congrats! I'll be sending you an email in just a minute.
(Winners have two weeks to reply before a new one is selected.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Rejections

Today's the last day to enter the giveaway for A Lady Like Sarah, so hop down and leave a comment!

~*~

Yesterday morning, I received what every author dreads: a rejection. And this isn't your run-of-the-mill, "Thanks, but after reading the proposal, it's not what we're looking for." This comes after a year of encouragement, of high praise, and of a statement that they wanted it and would have a letter of intent to me "soon."

"Soon" somehow became, "sorry." Which makes Roseanna go "sigh" and "sniffle" and even a short "sob" before I get a grip on myself.

I'm an old friend with rejection. I've been submitting manuscripts since I was fourteen years old, so I've obviously gotten my fair share. Everything from the boiler-plate "thanks but no thanks" letters to some very personal, very encouraging apologies. That's what this one was. The editor loved the story and wants to work with me, but their line's going in a different direction. I understand that. Really I do. And I appreciate that she offered to talk with me about coming up with another idea.

But that doesn't make it any easier, you know? For a year, my hopes have been so high on this project. I really, truly believed that this was my "given," that the encouragement meant I could count on it. But when an optimist like me gets news like this . . . well, there's some deflation. There's a headache. There's some glumness in a royal shade of blue.

And there's a question of, "What was the point of this, Lord? I know You have a purpose for me, for every bump, for every bruise. I know there's a reason this was dragged out so long only to end in a disheartening 'no.' So if You could just let me know what that is . . . ?"

There's no magic cure for disappointment, no Band-aid you can put on it, no steps you can follow to put it neatly behind you and keep plugging away. But still, I woke up today feeling okay. Happy, even. Because yesterday I saw the true mettle of the people I love. My friends not only rallied around me with cheer and encouragement and lots of, "You're too talented not to get picked up soon by a big house!" they had me laughing. They had the optimist in me quickly resurging.

My hubby and I ended up going out for a much-needed date last night, too, and talking to him is always a balm on my soul. I ended my day yesterday knowing that even if life makes us cry now and then, we serve a God who dries our tears. So thank you, Lord, for wrapping your arms around me. And thank you, my awesome friends, for being those arms.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Remember When . . . They Wintered in Susa?

You've got two more days to enter the giveaway for A Lady Like Sarah!

~*~

So last week I had one of those sudden ideas that not only pops into my head with surprising clarity, it develops super fast. I spent last week getting some basic research out of the way, taking notes, and writing the opening so that the characters solidified in my mind. What, you wonder, was this one, when I was supposed to be working on my '20s Egypt story?? Well, I'll tell you--now that I'm back in Egypt and so no longer feeling guilty about my detour into Ancient Persia.

Pick up on that hint? That's right, Ancient Persia. My idea is for another Biblical fiction, and with that hint it's pretty easy to guess that it's Esther. Only this is me--I prefer heroines who are totally fictional, so Esther is only a secondary character. The main focus will be Esther's best friend, another wife to the king, whom I have named Kasia.

In my research, I learned some interesting facts. For instance, did you know that Susa (a.k.a. Shushan, which is what it's called in the book of Esther) is halfway between the mountains and coast of Iran, where it receives both monsoon rains and dry desert air, depending on the season? Their winters are temperate and warm, but their summers get to a scorching 140 degrees Fahrenheit. There are accounts of the year-round inhabitants roasting barley seeds on the ground instead of in the oven. Can somebody say, "Sizzle!"?

This would be why the king's house wintered there. Their summer home was Persepolis, where the summers weren't so daunting. I found it surprisingly difficult to find information about the ancient cities online, though--I'll be scouring the library when I get down to business on this one. I did, however, find a great site with the British Museum that paints a good picture.

But anyway. It's going to be interesting to combine the events from Esther with history as recorded by Herodotus and the like. They mesh well, but there are always holes--holes that Roseanna gets to fill in with Kasia. =) Betcha didn't know that she was the reason the king was sleepless that night that he remembered what Mordecai had done for him, did you?

So with four pages of notes, half a dozen new sites bookmarked, and fifty pages of novel under my belt, I'm quite happy to let these new characters winter in Susa while I get down to business in Egypt. But I expect that by the time summer comes, they'll be leaving their vacation home and paying me a visit. I'm definitely looking forward to it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Story Time . . . THE COUNTRY HOUSE COURTSHIP by Linore Rose Burkard

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for A Lady Like Sarah!

~*~

I'd been expecting The Country House Courtship to arrive in a week or so--so you can imagine my surprise when I opened up a package and held this beautiful book well before I thought I would. My first thought, before I read the title, was "Oh, how pretty this is!" Then I realized what I was holding and got a definite jolt of excitement. Linore has a distinct, Austen-esque voice, and I couldn't wait to see what she did with this story I'd been waiting for so eagerly.

Beatrice Forsythe knows exactly what her lot in life will be: to marry up, just like her sister Ariana did, and find a gentleman of means to love forever. It's inevitable--she feels so at home at her sister's exquisite estate, and with the connexions she has now! Why, after a Season in London, she shouldn't have any problem finding a husband. And even now, visit Ariana in the country, she has already met an eligible gentleman! Now if only she could avoid distractions by the alluring--but decided not wealthy--Mr. O'Brien, who has come inquiring after a vicarage . . .

Linore Rose Burkard takes readers once again into the charms and intricacies of the Regency, with an approachable voice, lovable characters, and a hint of intrigue. I love how she captures the feel of true Regency novels, but with the friendly, approachable manner of a modern writer. She has a true gift for capturing the era.

I'm not yet finished this lovely story, but I am thoroughly caught up (and eager to finish writing this blog so I can get back to reading it!). And what I love thus far is that when I think I know exactly what's going on, something new crops up that leaves me going, "Oh! Really?"

This is a fabulous book both for those who like to read the classics and those who like the modern take on the era, as Linore manages to combine the authenticity of the one with the approachability of the other. And now Roseanna is going to say bye-bye so she can go keep reading it. =)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Modern . . . Romances

Don't forget to enter Friday's giveaway for Margaret Brownley's A Lady Like Sarah!

~*~

In casting around for what in the world I might be able to write about today, I turned my mind toward a manuscript oh-so-patiently waiting for a contract it was promised. We'll refer to it as Peculiar, since the whole title is a bit long, and that's what I always call it. =) In Peculiar, my heroine Davina is trying desperately to scare off Keaton, the love of her life, before he can break her heart again. And she goes about it in some . . . well, peculiar ways.

One of the most laugh-inducing--and the one that earned praise and a shake of the head from the editor when I spoke to her at conference in September--is Davina's use of some over-the-top romance novels she's reading.

Now, I'm allowed to poke fun at romances because I adore them. Most of what I read are lovely Christian romances that deal with the juxtaposition of passion and conviction--but I confess. Sometimes I just need a good dose of Nora Roberts or whatever Harlequin book I've recently gotten in the mail. I consider these books vacation from my "real" reading, the books I read for review and endorsement.

But I digress. One of the things that I had a lot of fun with in Peculiar is coming up with some of the most ludicrous romances imaginable. The idea is that the aunt in the story keeps starting manuscripts and never finishing them; Davina is undeterred by the lack of endings and keeps reading these partial manuscripts she finds around the house. In typical Davina-fashion she takes to talking about the stories as if they're real, which is what leads Keaton to ask who in the world these people are. Impish Davina decides to let him think these larger-than-life romantic heroes are her new love interests.

But I mean, what romance-lover wouldn't swoon at the thought of injured-soul Admiral Apollo Radcliff?? Or his good friend the spy, Roland Garheart?? And need I even mention the allure of the Italian heartthrob, Machiavelli Barbagelata? (For that one I looked up "weird Italian surnames" and found this, which means "frozen beard." Oh yeah. That's what I'm talking about!)

Now, I fully realize that, as in anything, there are some truly awesome romances--and some truly silly ones. I'll roll my eyes at the silly ones, but (when I have the time) I'll still read them. So in Peculiar I'm essentially rolling my eyes at myself through my characters. And I had a ton of fun poking fun. =)