Friday, May 28, 2010

My Friend Cynthia - Interview & Giveaway


Today we're welcoming the fabulous president of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) to talk about her debut novel, They Almost Always Come Home. Cynthia gives so much of herself to this amazing organization--I'm really excited to give a little back to her!

As usual, leave your comments with an email address for a chance to win a copy of the book!

~*~

About Cynthia

Cynthia Ruchti is the current president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), which she’s served in various volunteer capacities since shortly after she became a member in 2002. In her role as president of ACFW, Cynthia writes a monthly “From the President” column for ACFW’s Afictionado ezine. For two years she was one of four humor columnists for Afictionado’s“Let There Be Lite.” In 2007, she was the recipient of the ACFW Member Service Award. In 2008, Cynthia won second place for Women’s Fiction in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Contest.

~*~

About They Almost Always Come Home

When Libby’s husband Greg fails to return from a two-week canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness, the authorities soon write off his disappearance as an unhappy husband’s escape from an empty marriage and unrewarding career. Their marriage might have survived if their daughter Lacey hadn’t died…and if Greg hadn’t been responsible. Libby enlists the aid of her wilderness savvy father-in-law and her faith-walking best friend to help her search for clues to her husband’s disappearance…if for no other reason than to free her to move on. What the trio discovers in the search upends Libby’s presumptions about her husband and rearranges her faith.

~*~

What's your latest book?

They Almost Always Come Home is my debut novel which released May 1, 2010, with Abingdon Press.

What a compelling cover! What's your favorite part of the story?

I enjoy the interaction between Libby and her friend Jenika, a friendship that could either drown under or surf on waves of adversity. Picking a favorite scene is like picking a favorite child. When I relive the process of creating Libby’s fictional world and her story, each scene tugs at me as a lapful of grandbabies each tug at me. My favorite part of Libby’s story is the one I’m thinking about at the time.

Yeah, let's not make the grandbabies push each other out of your lap. ;-) What was the hardest part to write?

Endings are always challenging to write because of my longing to offer my readers a satisfying, sigh-producing ending but still leave room for pondering. Few of life’s “plots” arrive at neat and tidy conclusions. The resolution of one dilemma often opens the door to new challenges. Finding a balance where readers say, “I want to know more” rather than “Is that all there is?” drove me to invest in both the ending and the possibilities for the characters of They Almost Always Come Home.

That's a really great point, and a challenge for every writer to consider. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

Inexhaustible hope for indescribable pain. Hope that glows in the dark.

They’re taglines, but they’re also promises—not from my words, but from God’s.

They're GREAT taglines! What's one of the oddest or most interesting things someone has ever said about you?

One of the most affirming was, “You wrote what I felt but didn’t know how to say.” That line keeps my fingers on the keyboard.

That was my reaction when I first read A Separate Peace in high school, almost word for word. So yeah, that's fabulous encouragement. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

A cluttered desk. Too few file drawers. Piles of projects needing attention. Mismatched furniture. Threadbare carpeting. Oh, wait. That’s reality…although I do sneak away to a small antique desk and rocking chair in a quiet corner of my family room when I’m in all-out-creative mode. You asked about my dream office. Ahh. A clear cherry desk, hand-rubbed finish, with matching lateral files, bookcases, and hardwood floor (kept clean by a hard-working and devoted maid). Bose speakers in every corner. An excess of storage. A view of the lake through one window and the mountains through another. And a cozy loveseat or chair-and-a-half in which to create more dreams.

Can you send that hard-working maid my way?? =) Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

On my desk (an old hollow-core door, not hand-rubbed cherry) is a treasured photo of my husband in his element—the Canadian wilderness. He’s sitting on a granite outcropping that splits the river in two and forms dual rapids. Tan and weathered, his slouchy hat low over his eyes, he’s looking into the camera…and into my heart. Several years ago, my husband almost didn’t come home from his canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness. When I look at that photo, all the emotions of his trauma (and my own) return in a rush of rock-strewn memories. Although our story and the one told through Libby’s and Greg’s voices are different in many key ways, the picture served as a resource for maintaining emotional authenticity throughout They Almost Always Come Home.

Oh wow, that would be an intense reminder! Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

I missed the call. How can that happen? My flight back to Wisconsin from the West Coast was rerouted due to mechanical trouble. We made an emergency landing in Kansas City. The equipment was repaired while the passengers sat in the plane on the tarmac, waiting to take off again for our original destination—St. Louis—where I would have caught a connecting flight. I’d hoped to hear the yes or no from Abingdon Press that day but couldn’t get home and couldn’t leave the airplane. So before the repair was complete and the flight attendant asked us to “turn off and stow all electronic devices,” I called my daughter and asked her to tap into my email account to see if I had a message from the editor.

“Yes,” she said. “Do you want me to read it to you?”

It was an unconventional way to hear I’d sold my debut novel, but so precious to share the moment with my daughter.

When I arrived home—two days later than expected due to even more flight delays—I found The Call on my answering machine. And accidentally deleted it!

LOL on the delete. And "awwwww" on getting to share it with your daughter! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

In fall 2010, Barbour Publishing releases a Christmas novella collection titled A Door County Christmas. The Heart’s Harbor—is one of four romantic comedies included in the collection. Different from They Almost Always Come Home tone and subject matter, The Heart’s Harbor takes a more lighthearted look at love and loss, and how faith makes both survivable.

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Cynthia! Readers, you can order her book at Amazon or CrossPurposes. And check out her website at www.CynthiaRuchti.com.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest in considered verification of eligibility based on local laws. Contest ends 6/3/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim the book.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . The Idyllic

I'm sitting on my back porch. The clock just flipped to 7 a.m., and the air's still cool and scented with honeysuckle. I'm in exercise gear, though I have no intention of exercising--but my aunt passed along a too-cute tank with built in shelf, and it seemed a good alternative to my flimsy nightgown when I decided to come outside.

My son's playing in a big yellow wagon we use to cart beach toys at the park. Not "with," mind you--in. The boy's a monkey. My daughter's playing with their little toddler bikes in the driveway and peering down to examine ants as they scurry by (as opposed to those days when she runs screaming from any bug, LOL).

I was trying to figure out what to write about this morning and drawing a blank. I'm reach Critical Mass when it comes to parenthood and am hoping for some Me Time soon. Right at this moment I'm feeling just fine, but give me a few hours, and the whining'll get to me, I'm sure, LOL.

So, not sure I have any great insights today, but here are a couple things I've been thinking about this week.

The first comes from Glenn Beck. Whether you agree with his philosophies or not (some I do, some I don't) he made me sit up and take notice the other day when he called--on national television--for revival. He said, for his millions of viewers to hear, that before the nation could get back on track, the people had to get back to God. I honestly didn't think I'd see the day when someone had the guts to say that on any TV station that wasn't strictly religious in nature. So go, Glenn!

The second is from Xoe. Now, she can get an attitude to make a mama want to pull out her hair, but she's also got one of the sweetest hearts I've ever seen. Perfect example: when we were praying last night, she said, "I hope you have a good day tomorrow, God."

Not sure what might make a day good vs. bad for God, but I think it might have to do with the praises of His people.

I hope He has a great one, too. I'm going to be making a concerted effort to do my part and keep a praise on my tongue.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Remember When . . . Facts Got to Be Facts Again?

I remember my first few weeks at college (okay, some of it--it's been a while, LOL). We were reading The Iliad for our seminar class. The first 6 books were assigned over the summer, so we all leisurely flipped our way through it over the course of two months, thinking, "Wow, this is gonna be great." Then we opened our mailboxes the first day at St. John's, got our assignments from our tutors (professors) and went, "Wait--what? You expect us to read the next 6 books in two days? While I'm memorizing the Greek alphabet? And learning all the axioms and three propositions from Euclid? And reading this Theophrastis dude for lab?" Hence began the total immersion into the Johnny life and, that first year, all things Ancient Greek.

Now that you have a glimpse of the rate at which a Freshman at St. John's becomes a Greek-know-it-all, I'll get to my point. =) Or closer to it anyway. See, at St. John's one of the boo-hiss evils are outside authorities. In our classes, all the students are supposed to be on a shared level, so you're not allowed to reference in the conversation (all classes are conversation-based) anything that hasn't been covered at St. John's. So that documentary you watched? Hush up about it. That thing you learned in high school? No one cares. The only facts of import are the ones in that book in front of you, and that ain't no textbook. It's the original (translated, usually. Not always, but usually.)

But still we whisper. Like, when reading The Iliad, a conversation out of class may have gone like this:

"Let's all go to Troy. You can be Agamemnon, and then I'll steal your god-stick and go get people excited so we can kick some Paris-butt."

"Yeah, not possible. Oh wait--they finally discovered it again, right?"

"Discovered . . . again?"

"Yeah, didn't you read about that or see it on the History Channel, back when we had TV [snickers all around--there's no cable at St. John's]? For the longest time they thought the whole Trojan War story was nothing but myth because they couldn't locate any ruins of Troy. But a while back they found it, right where Homer said it should be."

Now, I always laugh and roll my eyes when scientists and historians discover something right where it should be. Like a recent satellite study that said, "Hey, Eden probably was right here . . . look at that!" For me, it goes toward this really weird modern mindset that says, "We know all. No one before us knew anything."

Um . . . why? It's especially funny because 2500 years ago, the Trojan War was still ancient history, but it was known ancient history. When Xerxes was marching to Greece, they stopped at Troy, where "he listened to the story of the war there, then decided he wanted to see where Priam ruled, so the whole troop went up to the site of Ilium . . ."

But a century ago--a century ago it was fiction. Fable. Until, oh wait . . . look at that! Troy showed up!

Sorry, I just find it both baffling and amusing that we doubt so much about what people before us recorded simply because we can't see it with our own eyes. I recognize that we sometimes need independent validation, evidence--but instead of dismissing stories we can't totally validate, can't we just teach our kids we haven't found evidence of it yet rather than telling them something doesn't exist at all?

Seriously. I hate it when facts change. Then you end up with a new generation shaking their heads at their parents going, "Come on, Mom, Pluto isn't a planet. What are you talking about?"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Story Time . . . WILDFLOWERS OF TEREZIN - Interview & Giveaway


A special Story Time Tuesday treat for y'all today—an interview with multi-pubbed author Robert Elmer about his newly released historical novel, Wildflower of Terezin, which looks absolutely amazing.

Robert has graciously offered a giveaway, so as usual, leave your comments below along with how we can reach you if you win. Enjoy!

~*~

About Wildflowers of Terezin

Wildflowers of Terezin
is a sweeping historical novel set against a backdrop of danger. A Danish Lutheran pastor’s complacent faith is stretched to the breaking point during World War II when he meets a young Jewish nurse Hanne Abrahamsen and becomes deeply involved in Resistance efforts to save Denmark’s Jews from the Nazi prison camp at Terezin, Czechoslovakia—also known as Theresienstadt.

Challenged by his activist brother and swayed by his own attraction to Hanne, Pastor Steffen abandons his formerly quiet, uninvolved life and hesitantly volunteers to help smuggle Denmark’s Jews out of the country before a Nazi roundup. Steffen finds that helping his Jewish neighbors is the most decent, spiritual thing he has ever done. As he actually does God’s work, rather than just talking about it, Steffen’s faith deepens and he takes greater risks in his sermons.

When things go terribly wrong and Hanne is sent to Terezin, Steffen finds his heart fully engaged. He undertakes protests and rescues that are more and more dangerous, never imagining where it will lead him, or the ultimate cost of his decision to get directly involved.

~*~

About Robert

Robert Elmer (www.RobertElmerBooks.com) has written more than 50 books for youth and adults, building on his experience as a news editor and reporter, advertising copywriter, teacher, and assistant pastor. When he’s not writing (or sailing) he’s a mentor and editorial board member for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, and has spoken to young audiences across North America. Robert and his wife Ronda live in the Pacific Northwest.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Wildflowers of Terezin came out from Abingdon Press in May 2010.

What's your favorite part of the story?

One of my favorite parts is… uh-oh, if I described it to you I would be giving away one of the most important plot twists. Sorry! It has to do with… oh wow, I really can’t say anything about it. You’ll just have to read the book all the way to the end to find out what my favorite part was. J (Sorry, I really wasn’t trying to be coy. But it’s true. That scene at the end where… oh, never mind.)

LOL. We'll just say “the end,” then. What was the hardest part to write?

The hardest part was one of the scenes in the prison camp, when Hanne is taking care of a sick little girl she met. It reminded me of the quote from Robert Frost, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” Well, I think there were tears with the writer in those scenes, and others.

Take note of this reader—a man, admitting to tears! Okay, so I admit it, I don't think I've ever cried when writing . . . I'm weird. Anyway. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

I want my readers to lose themselves momentarily in the real world where faith matters and God is in control. Outside of my books, faith of course still matters and God is still in control. Problem is, sometimes it can get so foggy out here, it’s tough to really see. In my stories I pull away the fog and show let readers experience the world the way it’s supposed to be, whether that’s in the past, present, or future.

Beautifully put. Is there a theme to this book?

The story is about faith in the face of deadly opposition, about choosing the right thing and making love work when it’s hard. It’s a challenge to complacent faith, and a contrast between those who seek safety and those who just do the right thing, period. Where is the safest place, really? I think we can all relate to that kind of challenge, even if we’re not living in a war zone or a prison camp.


Very true. I'm currently exploring that in a WIP too. It really stretches your own faith to explore that through your characters, doesn't it? But let's keep going—is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

All the months of preparation and writing that went into “The Young Underground” also went into this book. I’ve poured through stacks of old Danish books, looking for the best information from original sources. Good thing I read Danish!

I'll say! I had a professor in college who learned to read Danish solely so he could read Soren Keirkegard's original Fear and Trembling. That earned a big “Wow!”
from me. What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?


I think there are a lot of challenges common to most authors. Dealing with schedules and the business aspect of writing is one of the largest challenges, actually. Keeping our stories fresh. That’s why I’m so excited about Wildflowers of Terezin. This is a story I’ve been dying to tell for a long time. Many writers call it the story “I had to write.”

And those are so rewarding for both writer and reader, once they finally come to reality. Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

I was in the shower when my wife Ronda came running to me that Bethany House wanted to contract my first children’s book, A Way Through the Sea. (The editor had telephoned us.) That was in the early 1990s, and it had the same setting as my newest book! Anyway, everybody started screaming.

I bet!

~*~

Well, thank you so much for visiting with us, Robert! Readers, you'll want to check out Robert's website at www.robertelmerbooks.com.

You can purchase Wildflower of Terezin at Amazon or CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered confirmation of your eligibility based on your local laws. Contest ends 5/31/10. Winner will be given two weeks to respond before a new one is selected.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Modern . . . BIAW

I totally spaced putting a blog together yesterday, and I'm not gonna take a ton of time right now--instead I'll tell you about why I'm not. ;-)

One of my writing groups occasionally does a BIAW challenge. That would be "Book in a Week." Traditionally, the idea is to put down as many words to screen as you possibly can in the course of the week, and you're competing with the other authors participating. She who writes the most words wins. At HisWriters, we modify the rules and make it a goal-challenge. We each set our own goals for each day and strive to meet or surpass them. Some of us will be editing, some will be striving to get back into a story and so setting modest goals, some are nearing a deadline and need a lot of words written.

In the past, BIAW challenges have helped me finish rewriting A Stray Drop of Blood, type "The End" on one manuscript, put down nearly half a book I'd just started, etc. So for the next two weeks, I'm going to use it to get as close to done Jewel of Persia as I possibly can. It would take a miracle for me to actually finish the book in the next fortnight (this historical group I'm in is running it for two weeks . . . and yes, we're all dorky enough to then call it "Book in a Fortnight" with a stuffy British accent, LOL), but I can get pretty darn close, I think.

So, off to work I go. And if you've read Stray Drop and wanna chat, don't forget it's being discussed this week at the ACFW Book Club! It's a public group--all you gotta do is join up and start talking. =)

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Friends Rock

So I realized belatedly that my scheduled interviewee never got back to me with the info I needed for today (though I did try to get in touch a week ago--I'm not totally absent-minded, only half!) So instead of featuring an author and a giveaway, I'll just remind you that you can still enter Tuesday's giveaway and point you to some awesome author friends of mine in general. =)

First, have y'all met Stephanie Morrill?? If not, you so need to check her out and pick up her books. They're YA, so if you've got a teen in your life, they're a must. And if you don't, you'd still enjoy them. Seriously. No other YA has made me remember what it felt like to be a teen like Stephanie's do. Some of the young adult books I've read made me think, "Yeah . . . this is how a mother thinks her daughter thinks." Stephanie's are, "Yeah--this is a real teen." Not only do they hammer home what teens are going through these days, they make you look inside yourself and wonder if maybe Skylar lives somewhere inside. Also, if you know any writers who are teens, direct them to GoTeenWriters for advice on how young feet can get into the door of the publishing/writing world.

Next, are you guys aware of the fabulous blog called Sunnybank Meanderings?? Friend and critter Carol(in)e runs it (the parenthesis are my addition, LOL) and always has such fun, creative interviews and giveaways. Plus she posts some of the cutest/sweetest little reflections you ever did see. Hope over and become a follower if you haven't already!

We can't forget Mary--Mary Proctor is one of the spiritual go-to-gals in my life, one of those women I know I can go to with any concern I may have and receive the blessing of a truly insightful prayer. God has spoken to me more than once through Mary. On her blog, you can read some of her musings, some of her reviews, and get a peek into the award-winning up-and-comer.

And to round out my shout-outs to my critique partners, let's take a minute to wave enthusiastically at Dina Sleiman, fellow client of Benrey Literary Agency and the unofficial president of my fan club (snicker, snicker--I say this because she wrote the first real review of A Stray Drop of Blood, and we discovered through that a lot of shared interests and goals. She takes every possible opportunity to give my book praise, so it's high time I return the favor). Dina runs Awesome Inspirationals and reviews some awesome (ha ha) books there, PLUS she's a contributor at Inkwell Inspirations. A really fun blog--if you haven't visited before, DO THAT! There's always something fun going down.

And oh, the other friends I could mention! But alas, other things to do, so we'll content ourselves with my critters. =) Hope everyone has a fabulous Friday--don't forget to come back next week, when I'll be featuring Cynthia Ruchti and doing a giveaway of her novel.

Oh, oh, oh! (Are you still reading this??) For anyone who's read A Stray Drop of Blood, don't forget that discussion on it at the ACFW Book Club starts TODAY!! It's a public group, so join up and let's chat!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Shannon Vannatter's White Roses is . . .

Molly! (Mollydawn1981@ . . .)

Congrats, Molly! I'm getting in touch with you now. =)

Thoughtful About . . . The Right Thing


This may be rambling, so we'll have to see where I go with it--at the moment, I'm not quite sure.

There are times in life when we know absolutely what we have to do. Times when the Lord speaks so clearly, guides so strongly that we have no doubts. We recognize His hand, His touch, and when we obey, we feel His blessing.

Until we don't. What do we do then?

I've come across a lot of devotions and really beautiful essays by some kick-butt believers on this subject--and none of it really helps when you're actually in the doldrums. Without wind in your sails, you're just paddling along, and having someone spout some lovely lyrics doesn't always help and certainly doesn't keep your muscles from screaming. Right? So what do we do?

Right at this particular moment, I'm not there. But one of my dearest friends just talked to me last night about how her doctor diagnosed her with moderate depression. This didn't totally surprise me; just made a few things click, like, "Oh, guess that's why you said you weren't eating . . . or ever leaving your house . . . or . . ." Still, I'm one of those that thinks often times "depression" is over-diagnosed. Not that people don't have issues, just that drugs aren't the cure-all for them. And this friend feels the same way. She told her doctor, "Thanks. Now that I know this isn't something to brush off, I won't brush it off anymore. I'll pull myself together."

She also realizes she can't do it alone. She was telling me this at Bible study, which marks one of the first times she's gotten out to a church function in months, even though every time I talk to her, she says how she needs it. She's been going out everyday and making sure she's eating a balanced diet. She's praying and talking to her friends.

Will it "fix" her? I don't know. But I know she's doing the right thing.

But what about the problems me and my writing friends face so often? When we have one success followed by score after score of disappointments? When we know God called us to this career, when we followed His open doors, and somehow ended up here--with abysmal sales numbers and no direction for the future?

In those moments, it's hard to believe that we were ever right to begin with. Maybe we shouldn't have followed this path, maybe we made a wrong choice somewhere along the line. We've got these plans that seemed inspired, but is anything really going to help?

I don't know. I really don't. I think maybe sometimes God leads us to these barren places because we're not ready for the bounty. I think sometimes it's to teach us to rely on Him. I think sometimes it just happens because that's the way of the world--and in those times, it's not our part to question his leading to begin with, but to put our hand in His, close our eyes, and say, "If it's your will, let this cup pass from me. I really don't know how to deal with it. But still--not my will, but yours be done."

I'm not sure about the Right way to handle these times. But I know that every time I'm in them and cry out, "God, please! Send me something!" He does. Has it been huge contracts and best-selling numbers? Um, no. But it's been something just as good, if not better. It's been people who let me know I matter, that my words matter.

Time and again we're told that publishing is, when it comes down to it, a business. True. But writing is not. Writing's between the author and God, between the reader and God.

Remembering it--that's the Right Thing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Remember When . . . There Was Just Too Much?

I have a thousand page book I'm reading for research. I have pages and pages of notes. I have 50 half-page sheets of scenes I need to include in my novel. And suddenly (okay, not so suddenly) it hits me: there's just too much.

Sometimes when you're searching for one historical fact, you can't find it to save your life. And sometimes you have so many facts, so much history around a particular event that the novelist has a whole new plight--what should be included, and what has to be shoved aside? What can get a one-line mention later, and what has to be ignore altogether?

This can be an agonizing process, especially for someone like me who genuinely loves history. Reading Herodotus's account of the war between Persia and Greece, I find some cool little tidbit on nearly every page that I'd love to put into my book.

But unless I want that book to be 1000 pages like Herodotus's The Histories . . . um, yeah. I gotta get choosy.

That's what I've been doing this past week. I've been reading and checking my notes, I've been underlining and crossing out. I've been staring at the page going, "Can I work this in? Is it worth it?" and sighing a lot as I decide, "No. It has no relevance to my story."

I know this must be done--a novelist cannot include every single historical detail. But at the same time, I feel like I'm cheating. Like if I don't mention this particular thunderstorm that killed 300 men, I'm going to be denying them their due--or that some crusty old history professor is going to get on the news boycotting my book because I neglected this fact. (Actually, that would be some awesome press! Oh crusty professor! Come rail at me!!)

But that leaves Historical Novelist Me with another problem--making sure I don't err on the opposite side and leave out too much. I don't want to overwhelm my readers . . . but I also want to keep them grounded in the setting, the time, and the events. I want them to get a full dose of what was going on. What if I choose the wrong parts, leave out something vital, and my readers go away feeling like something is missing?

Thankfully I have critters to help ensure this doesn't happen, but still. As I'm agonizing over my notes, it's a concern. I don't want my book to be like history--too heavy in some things and totally missing in others. I want it to be a complete story, the thing a novel can be and history never is. Here's praying God keeps whispering in my ear on that score, eh?

In the past, I've done my fair share of head-shaking when TV or novels leave out details I deem crucial, but I officially get where they're coming from. Yes, tidbits can be cool. Yes, they can be important to history. That doesn't make them relevant.

Unless, of course, y'all would like a 1,000 page novel?? ;-)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Story Time . . .YESTERDAY'S PROMISE Interview & Giveaway


Well, I just (literally) scrolled through the last page of a truly delightful e-book, so it is with some serious pleasure that I announce an extra treat for y'all today--a interview with Delia Latham and the chance to win a gift card for White Rose Publishing that you can use to purchase her book (and others)!

Here's the way this one will work--as usual, you leave a comment and email address. But rather than me selecting a winner next week, Delia will be gathering comments all through her blog tour. At the end of the month, she'll select two winners, who will receive $10 gift cards for her e-publisher's site! You're welcome to follow her on her tour and leave a new comment at each location for extra chances to win.

~*~

About Delia

DELIA LATHAM is a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend. While she considers each of these roles important ones, she treasures most of all her role as a child of the King and an heir to the throne.

A former newspaper staff writer, Delia promised herself a novel for years, while raising her four children, working at various jobs and writing the occasional article, poem, or song. In 2008, Vintage Romance Publishing released Goldeneyes, her first novel. A Christian historical romance with a touch of intrigue, Goldeneyes is set in the farm country of her childhood, and therefore close to the author’s heart. Yesterday’s Promise released March 12, 2010, and a children’s book, Adam’s Wings, will be available December 2010.

Delia grew up in Weedpatch, a little agricultural community near Bakersfield, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Currently, she lives with her husband Johnny in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

She is currently at work on a contemporary series.


~*~

About Yesterday's Promise

A whirlwind romance amidst the natural splendor of Yosemite National Park. A spur-of-the-moment wedding at the foot of Bridalveil Fall. A young bride who awakens the morning after to find her new husband gone with the mountain wind.

Songbird Hannah Johns supports the child born of that ill-fated union by singing in a dinner lounge. Her dream of someday owning the elite establishment and turning it into a venue more suited to her Christian values is shattered when an unexpected transaction places it in the hands of Brock Ellis, the handsome biker who abandoned her in their honeymoon suite.

Ensuing sparks fly high, revealing buried secrets and forgotten pasts. Seeking to find peace with her painful past, Hannah returns to Yosemite, only to have Brock show up hard on her heels. Back where it all began, she finds herself in danger of losing her heart yet again to the man who shattered it the first time around.

My Review:

I'm a real sucker for stories about reunions between a one-time couple forced together again--and when you throw a kid into the mix, it's always livens the plot. I knew I was in store for a story like this in Yesterday's Promise. What I didn't expect was part of the hero's story and the reason, on his side, for the years between them. Delia Latham managed to take some tried-and-true plot elements and turn them into something fresh, new, and thoroughly entertaining.

I sat down with my digital copy of this book in the afternoon and finished it after dinner. It's quick, light, and easy in terms of time and effort--but it packs a wallop in those few pages! I love the deep-seated faith of the heroine, I love the rough edges but huge heart of the hero, and I love the sparks that fly between them.

Yesterday's Promise is a wonderful little e-book with a whole lot of heart. This is two hours of your time well invested!

~*~

What's your latest book?

Yesterday’s Promise released March 12, 2010 through White Rose Publishing.

What's your favorite part of the story?

I love the parts that include my heroine’s son, Davey. Children as characters are so much fun, and Davey is an exceptionally charming little boy. I had a ball with him. =)

Oh, and he's a cutie! I'm especially fond of his misunderstanding about the work "Yosemite." My daughter does that with "Eureka," saying "My Reka" instead, LOL. What was the hardest part to write?

Without a doubt, the resolution – where the hero and heroine finally admit their feelings for each other and get together. I can’t share a lot about that particular scene, because so many questions that are raised throughout the storyline are answered there. But I did have a hard time finding an interesting way to break down the obstacles.

And it was both what I wanted/expected and yet handled creatively, with some unexpected twists. Excellent! What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

A recognition that God has it all under control. All of it. Everything. And the determination to trust Him, no matter how dark the night, or how impossible the situation. He knows. He cares. And He has a perfect plan. The trick is learning to trust Him during the various phases between disaster and perfection.

That's definitely a lesson that comes through clearly. I loved hearing your heroine talk things out with God. Great stuff! Now, let's move things along into the personal. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

Oh, how I would love to have an office totally dedicated to writing! It would be fun to have the walls decorated with big posters of the cover art from my books, and inspirational quotes to keep me in the perfect frame of mind. I’d love to have a gorgeous view from a huge window…maybe overlooking a lake. No clutter. Just soft colors, perfect order, and sweet peace.

In reality, my office is housed in an extra bedroom. My desk sits on one end, and my husband's on the other—I think it still does, anyway. I’d have to dig down through all the clutter on top to find it. =) Amazingly enough, he knows exactly where everything is in that mess! My ironing board stays upright most of the time on one side of the room—but I take it down when I clean the place up for company, I promise! The walls are adorned with family pictures and leftover pieces of wall décor that I couldn’t find a spot for anywhere else. It’s a hodgepodge of styles. And then, of course, there are the two stacked-to-overflowing bookshelves… (sigh). I don’t have a lake to look out on either, but my front yard is rather pretty during Springtime. It’s not much, but it’s a far cry from a typewriter on one end of the kitchen table, which is what I had when my four kids were little. =)

Mine's a laptop instead of a typwriter, but it's at the end of the kitchen table, LOL. I have a desk--I just don't get much time at it, given the necessity of watching the munchkins. =) So what lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

1. Learn marketing. It is an author’s responsibility. Some large publishers may take on the lion’s share, but if you’re published through a small publisher, plan on being very active on the marketing end.

2. Having a book accepted for publishing does not guarantee success in the writing field. Nor does it guarantee financial freedom—in fact, depending on the amount of marketing you do, it could cost you.

3. There are disreputable people in this industry, just like any other. Know your publisher. Do your research before you sign a contract.

That's some great wisdom! Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) who you rely on when writing?

Definitely my editors—both of them have been amazing. Their suggestions are always valid and valuable. Also, my critique buddies, Sally Laity and Saundra Randolph. I can’t imagine sending in a manuscript without their input. Then, too, it helps that my husband is so supportive of my addiction to writing, and doesn’t complain when I lock myself away for hours and days on end. Plus, he cooks—yay! I’m fortunate not to have to worry about turning my characters off to get food on the table. Sometimes it’s hard enough to leave them alone long enough to eat what’s waiting on the table. lol

I'm sending my hubby to yours for a few lessons . . . he at least springs for takeout when I'm really absorbed though, LOL. Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?


Well, I work full-time, so…between that and just keeping a house running properly—or at least passably, lol—I do have to schedule writing time and be disciplined about using that time for its intended purpose.

And now I'm sending my house your way for some help in that "at least passably" department. ;-) What are you writing right now?


I’m working on the second book in a 3-part series called Solomon’s Gate, based around a Christian dating agency by that name. The first book is finished, and I’m busily pitching it to editors. I could use a bunch of prayer pals in that regard….

Praying! Sounds like a fun premise! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

Actually, I have a children’s book, Adam’s Wings, which will be available December 2010. Hopefully the next release after that will be the first book in the Solomon’s Gate series.

I sure hope so! Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing?

I’ve been an avid reader ever since I first learned to read. Over the years, I’ve read a great number of authors, and found things to admire (or not…) about many of them. But I think probably the greatest influence on my own writing style was Grace Livingston Hill. I devoured her books as a teenager, and while she probably wasn’t the greatest writer in terms of technique and style, her storylines were captivating, clean and inspiring to young Christian women. Occasionally when I’m deep into a story, I’ll realize that something I’ve just written rings of Hill’s influence. It makes me smile. =)

~*~

Thanks so much for stopping by, Delia! Readers, check her out on the web at www.delialatham.net

You can purchase Yesterday's Promise at Amazon or White Rose Publishing.

The drawing will be done by Delia on June 1--I'll be posting this to the Christian Review of Books, and the next stops on the tour are A Minute with Marianne and A Merciful Heart. Check them out tomorrow and Wednesday!

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered a confirmation of eligibility based on your local laws.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Modern . . . Music


Don't ask me why this topic just popped into my head--I've got no clue, LOL. But it should be interesting. =)

Confession: I don't listen to much modern music. My radio stays tuned to the classical station--which on Friday nights plays Big Band music. My family refers to Fridays from 6-9 as Music Night, and we all gather in the living room to read, talk, and dance to Glen Miller and Benny Goodman and the like.

Other than these two styles of music, I tend to go around singing (anyone wanna take a wild guess here?) songs from the kids' shows. We're especially fond of Phineas and Ferb, which has a truly inspired repertoire of music. (Not kidding--they've got a fantastic music writer!)

Now, in life in general, I have no problems with my musical choices. It only gets a little difficult when I'm writing a contemporary and have my characters listening to music. They can't all like classical and swing, and they certainly can't all go around singing the theme song to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

This is where friends are so awesome. When I need a character to be listening to modern musicians, they are my go-to source for what my characters might like. Although in Note to Self, I cheated and had her singing an oldie--I'm fairly coherent when it comes to talking anything prior to the 90s. =)

What is my point in this? I have no idea. Perhaps that I adore my critique partners, who can help me round out my characters even in these seemingly-small ways. Perhaps that I do appreciate music, even if I'm embarrassingly out-of-date. Or perhaps that it's Monday, which means modern, and I'm so stuck in Ancient Persia right now that I've got nothing else of import to share, LOL.

Hope everyone's week is off to a fabulous start! And for reference, check out my new "Current Giveaway" gadget in the sidebar--a handy way to link without having to take up space in my current blog. Cool, huh? And for reference, there'll be a second giveaway tomorrow, for Delia Latham's Yesterday's Promise. Don't miss it!

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Friend Shannon - Interview & Giveaway


Today we're welcoming Heartsong Presents author Shannon Vannatter to chat about her romance White Roses. She's putting together a really fun new blog that will be launching the end of this month--details at the end!

As usual, leave a comment with how to reach you to be entered for a chance to win a copy of the book!

~*~

About Shannon

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/writer. When not writing, she runs circles in the care and feeding of her husband Grant, their eight-year-old son, and their church congregation. Home is a central Arkansas zoo with two charcoal gray cats, a chocolate lab, a dragonfish, and three dachshunds in weenie dog heaven. If given the chance to clean house or write, she’d rather write. Her goal is to hire Alice from the Brady Bunch.

~*~

About White Roses

Pastor Grayson Sterling loves his wife. The problem is, Sara was killed by a hit-and-run driver two years ago. Grayson knows he needs to move on, that the continuing depth of his grief is not healthy for him or his young son. Desperate, he convinces his church to hire Mark Welch as associate pastor to relieve him of some of his load. When Adrea Welch arrives at his church with her brother, Grayson cannot deny his attraction to her.

For years, florist Adrea Welch has been artfully arranging white roses for Sara Sterling. Now those flowers are carried to the cemetery by a faithful, grieving husband. How can Adrea be so attracted to a man still devoted to his dead wife? When secrets from Adrea’s past collide with their budding relationship, both she and Grayson must learn to lean on
God’s abiding wisdom.

~*~

What's your latest book?

White Roses - Heartsong Presents - May 2010

What was the hardest part to write?

The black moment. I hate being mean to my characters.

LOL--I'm with you there. Unless it's a mean character, of course. ;-) What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

A closer walk with Jesus and I pray they’ll loan my books to friends who are non-believers.

Is there a theme to this book?

Don’t let fear of the future rule your life. Turn it over to God and live.

Ah, very important lesson. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

Romance on both counts. I love worrying how the couple will get past the horrible things the author throws at them, but knowing everything will turn out happily-ever-after. I hate sadly-ever-afters.

I know! What's the point of escaping if you're glad to get back to reality? Happily is a must. =) What's one of the oddest or most interesting things someone has ever said about you?

A writer friend recently said that I have Southern charm. I didn’t realize that and still don’t really know what it means.

It means you're a true pleasure to be around! =) What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

I actually have my dream office, though if it were truly a dream office, it would be neater and more organized. The walls are my favorite mauve color, it’s furnished in white whicker, with pastel seashell curtains, cushions, and wallpaper border. I have real seashells on display and a few writing awards with family pictures. My two charcoal gray cats usually sit in the window sill. The room inspires me and I do my best writing there.

Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

I keep old magazines and catalogs. For each book, I find a picture to represent each character. I put it all on a piece of paper and hang it on the bulletin board next to my computer.

A visual like that would be cool! Making a mental note . . . Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) who you rely on when writing?

My awesome critique group and my content editor. They help me whip things into a readable, cohesive book.

Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

An eight year-old, all-boy, energetic son, a pastor husband, and our church. And I’m starting a new blog. Inkslinger will launch May 31 and will share real life love stories, author interviews, and first meetings of fictional characters, all geared toward romance. It’s taking more time than I ever dreamed.

I know that is! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

White Doves releases in Oct 2010 and White Pearls releases in Jan 2011.

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Shannon! Readers, her new blog is going to be SO COOL--make a note to check it out. Yours truly will be a guest this summer. =)

Now, you can find Shannon online at www.shannonvannatter.com, www.inkspirationalmessages.com, and the new love story blog, www.inkslingerblog.com

White Roses is available for purchase from Heartsong Presents. It'll be available from other retailers in a few months.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered a confirmation of eligibility based on your local laws. Contest ends 5/20/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim the book before another is selected.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Deb Raney's Almost Forever is . . .

Julia Reffner!

Congrats! I just sent you an email.

Thoughtful About . . . Confidence and Humility

Giveaway here - Deb Raney's Almost Forever

Giveaway of A Stray Drop of Blood - a special Mother's Day contest at Sunnybank Meandering includes my book and many other awesome prizes. Also, there's a really awesome interview and giveaway to correspond with the ACFW book club this month, by the book club coordinator Nora St. Laurent. Check it out at Finding Hope Through Fiction!

~*~

So last week I read my first not-glowing feedback on A Stray Drop of Blood. It got me thinking.

A while ago I made the comment to my best friend that I was looking forward to my first negative review because it would make me a "real" author. It would mean my book was really getting out there, into hands other than my friends and acquaintances. Now, granted, this was a deliberately optimistic take on something I was obviously NOT really looking forward to.

And now I know why I wasn't looking forward to it. It's not fun to realize that someone doesn't like your book. It's hard to separate it from people not liking you.

The optimist in me still sees the bright side, which includes that this wasn't a full review and hasn't yet appeared but one place. The optimist also remembers all the glowing reviews I've gotten, all the encouragement, and the readers who disagreed with this mediocre rating where it was rated.

It's also a valuable lesson in both confidence and humility. We're told, as authors, not to believe our reviews, either the good or the bad, entirely. But to take criticism constructively and always strive to be better. Can we address that thing someone complained about in our next book? Can we do better on that score?

There's always room for improvement. No one book will be loved by all. I have to come to grips with the fact that even those in my target readership aren't necessarily going to love it. But I can't let that get me down. I have to take it and grow and be better.

The question is always how. And the answer is always Him. If I have any talent, it's from God. If I have any stories, they came from Him. If anyone is touched by my books, it's because He chose to speak to them.

Who am I to get upset because God has other ways of talking to some people? I'm just so, so grateful that He has blessed me with the commission to offer my hands, offer my words at all. Through my writing I've made friends, I've had epiphanies, I've grown closer to my God and my Savior. That in itself is reason enough to risk the negative.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Remember When . . . Historians Were Mindreaders?

Giveaway here - Deb Raney's Almost Forever

Giveaway of A Stray Drop of Blood - a special Mother's Day contest at Sunnybank Meandering includes my book and many other awesome prizes. Also, there's a really awesome interview and giveaway to correspond with the ACFW book club this month, by the book club coordinator Nora St. Laurent. Check it out at Finding Hope Through Fiction!

~*~

It finally occurred to me why reading Herodotus's The Histories is so much more interesting than reading a history textbook from my high school days. It reads like a novel! I mean, modern writing rules would hate it, but seriously.

The thing that makes Herodotus fun to read is that he gets into the heads of the historical figures. He not only reports the actions, he tells you why they did them. He tells us who was jealous, who was arrogant, who was vindictive, who was earnest, who was noble. And when one's reading, one totally buys it (mostly).

But as I was writing a scene yesterday, wondering why I couldn't get past a certain part, it struck me. Herodotus, while trustworthy enough with the facts, didn't know some things any better than I do. So I have ever right to ignore him sometimes (Duh, I know--I'm writing fiction, right?).

I'd already decided to ignore the motivations he states when they don't suit me. There's a rather scandalous affair he tells us about, and the only rationale given for it is "He fell in love with her. Then he fell in love with her daughter." Um . . . that's boring. And waaaaaay too simple, given the "her" and the "daughter." So Roseanna's gonna take a few liberties. =)

Yesterday's realization actually came when I had to ignore an underlying image. He never physically describes this one person, but the way he writes him gave me an immediate image of a sniveling little monkey of a man. As I introduced this guy, though, my fingers got a mind of their own and gave him a strong physical appearance. The sniveling became respect. The cowardice he shows later will become good common sense and a touch of divine inspiration. And suddenly I could write the scene!

It was one of those odd moments, when I realized that the very thing that makes me like a book is also the thing that means I don't have to follow it to a T. Freeing, neh?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Story Time . . . FINDING JEENA

Giveaway here - Deb Raney's Almost Forever

Giveaway of A Stray Drop of Blood - a special Mother's Day contest at Sunnybank Meandering includes my book and many other awesome prizes. Also, there's a really awesome interview and giveaway to correspond with the ACFW book club this month, by the book club coordinator Nora St. Laurent. Check it out at Finding Hope Through Fiction!

~*~

A while back I talked about a novel I was still in the process of reading, Finding Jeena by Miralee Ferrell. Today, now that the book is released, I'm giving y'all the full review. =)

Finding Jeena
by Miralee Ferrell

Jeena Gregory had it all--the job she'd always dreamed of, a new townhouse in the right part of town, a car to make people drool, the finest clothes a fashionista businesswoman could want . . . she was heading exactly where she wanted to go. Until she wasn't.

In a series of hard hits, some beyond her control and some her own doing, Jeena's life spirals out of control. Everything she had worked so hard for is in jeopardy, and everything she thought she knew she has to doubt.

Jeena isn't a character you necessarily like right away--but she's one that you know is going to grow and whose promised dynamics keep you turning those pages. She pulls emotions out of you. Frustration, frantic hopes, sorrow, and finally a joy from deep within when you get to glimpse with her the light at the end of her tunnel.

This isn't a light, easy read, but for lovers of women's fiction who value a journey from mountain to valley, this is the book for you. A story of growth, realization, and learning lessons the hard way, Finding Jeena is a deep look into the heart of one woman who knows exactly what she wants . . . until it betrays her. Miralee Ferrell delivers a beautifully written book that will invite you to gaze long into your own soul to see if there's a bit of Jeena inside you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Modern . . . Mothers

Giveaway here - Deb Raney's Almost Forever

Giveaway of A Stray Drop of Blood - a special Mother's Day contest at Sunnybank Meandering includes my book and many other awesome prizes. Also, there's a really awesome interview and giveaway to correspond with the ACFW book club this month, by the book club coordinator Nora St. Laurent. Check it out at Finding Hope Through Fiction!

~*~

Since we're coming off Mother's Day and all, I figured I'd take a moment to reflect on my fictional mothers. My real mother is, quite simply, awesome. But naturally I can't have every fictional mother reflect my flesh-and-blood Super Mom. So they run the gamut. =) Here are a few snippets from my contemporaries about the heroines' moms.

From Yesterday's Tides we have Serena, who ended up raising her daughter only with the help of her mother-in-law after her husband died when said daughter was 8. She's an innkeeper who can't understand where her daughter's fashion sense went awry. =) A snippet:

"Why in the world did you never tell her?”

"She’d have stormed across three states to strangle him.”

Picturing the tidy blonde who always greeted him with a smile and a hug, Garret could well imagine it. She was a Southern mama, which just said it all.

[The strangling would have been well deserved, LOL.]

From Note to Self we have Josie, a.k.a. the best-selling advice columnist Mama Josie. She has five kids but only one daughter, and she and Melrose are super-close. Snippet:

Mom blinked–and boy could she pack a wallop in a blink. Melrose and her brothers always joked that if their mother still did live counseling instead of an advice column, she’d never need to open her mouth. Who needed words when they could communicate an entire lifetime of reminders in a single swoop of the eyelashes?

From Love Me Silly we have the prim and proper Catherine Wilder whose daughter calls her "Mims" just because it suits her so poorly. ;-) Snippet:

“Aaaagggghhh! That woman drives me nuts. Nuts, I tell you! Cashews, almonds, pistachios, pecans . . . . ” Heading for the kitchen, she strode away. “Tell me Willow has wine. I need wine.”

“Now Vee, you promised you wouldn’t blur your mother’s edges with alcohol anymore.”

“But they’re razor sharp.”

~*~

Hope all you readers who are moms were given a spectacular Mother's Day yesterday. And I hope all you readers with moms did your part in making that day spectacular for the nurturer in your life!

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Friend Deborah - Interview & Giveaway


Today I'm super-excited to welcome Deb Raney to the blog to chat about her latest book, Almost Forever, first in a new series. Hope everyone enjoys getting to know her!

As usual, leave your comments below with how I can reach you for a chance to win a copy!

~*~

About Deb

DEBORAH RANEY dreamed of writing a book since the summer she read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books and discovered that a little Kansas farm girl could, indeed, grow up to be a writer. After a happy twenty-year detour as a stay-at-home wife and mom, Deb began her writing career. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, was awarded a Silver Angel from Excellence in Media and inspired the acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Since then, her books have won the RITA Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Readers’ Choice Award, as well as being a two-time Christy Award finalist. Deb enjoys speaking and teaching at writers’ conferences across the country. She and her husband, artist Ken Raney, make their home in their native Kansas and love the small-town life that is the setting for many of Deb’s novels. The Raneys enjoy gardening, antiquing, art museums, movies, and traveling to visit four grown children and small grandchildren who live much too far away.

Deborah loves hearing from her readers. To e-mail her or to learn more about her books, please visit www.deborahraney.com

~*~

About Almost Forever

Almost Forever, first in the new Hanover Falls series from
award winning, best-selling author Deborah Raney.
After five heroic firefighters die in a horrific fire, their spouses band together
to cope with the tragedy and try to make sense of their lives––
while unraveling the mystery surrounding the deadly fire.

Bryn Hennesey harbors a terrible secret. Her husband was only on duty the night of the fire because of her deceit—and he died in the line of duty. Now she’s paying a terrible price.

Garrett Edmonds has no shoulder to cry on, no one who really understands. His wife was the only female firefighter to perish in the blaze. His conscience tells him that he was supposed to protect the woman he loved, but instead she’s the one who died a hero.

Inevitably, Bryn and Garrett find themselves drawn together—and the relationship becomes more than just friendship. But Bryn’s secrets may be powerful enough to drive them apart: She may have, herself, been responsible for the fire that killed their spouses.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Almost Forever is the first in my new Hanover Falls. The book releases in May 2010 from Howard/Simon & Schuster.

I can't wait to read it, knowing how great your previous books are!! What was the hardest part to write?

The scenes set at the location of the fire and in the firehouse required the most research because that is a world I was not familiar with. Fortunately my niece is married to a second-generation firefighter. They were able to help me so much with the details and research material that gave it a more authentic flavor.

Hey, now that's handy! Family's so helpful. =) What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

With a couple of exceptions, I’ve always written women’s fiction. I love writing character-driven stories that deal with various social and human interest issues. One of the most fun books I ever wrote though, was Playing by Heart, which I term a romantic comedy. I’m not a funny person, but that book just came out funny. I was as surprised as the next guy at the lines that came out of my characters’ mouths.

As for reading, I have pretty eclectic tastes. Women’s fiction is probably always my first choice in reading, too, but I also love legal novels (nothing too scary!), mysteries, historical novels, even science fiction and fantasy occasionally.

What are you reading right now—and what are your favorite recent reads?

I read so much non-fiction for research that I almost always choose fiction for pleasure reading. Recent favorite reads have been Randy Singer’s By Reason of Insanity, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and Rooms by Jim Rubart.

I've heard great things about all those. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

I wrote my first novel at the kitchen table (our ONLY table at the time, so I had to move everything off the table twice a day!) The next few were written at a makeshift desk in the corner of our bedroom, and later our living room. But when we moved to our current home almost five years ago, I got my dream office. I wouldn’t mind adding a wall of bookshelves to it someday, but it serves me very well and I feel very blessed to have such a great place to write. My desk gets a little messy when I’m in the middle of a project or on deadline, but I tend to be a neatnik so usually my office is tidy if not clean. Here's a picture.

Jealous! *grins* Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

My nephew-in-law loaned me all his firefighter training manuals and they were an invaluable reference for all three books. Even though most of the book revolves around the relationships of the surviving spouses of my firefighters, for key scenes I needed specific information on the firefighting world, and these were great books to have!

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

Oh, my goodness! There are so many people! My writing critique partner, Tammy Alexander, is wonderful and tough on me. My editors are invaluable. I often say they should share the byline on my books’ covers. My supportive husband gets huge credit. My kids are my sounding board because many times I’m writing heroes and heroines who are closer to their ages than mine! My sisters and close friends are great encouragers. I have a brainstorming group I meet with every January here in Kansas, and they are fabulous. I could go on and on. No book is written in a vacuum and I could not do what I do if I had to do it alone!

Wow, that sounds like one of the legendary "power" crit groups! You and Tamera Alexander?? Sigh. ;-) If someone were to give you $5,000 to spend on anything you wanted, what would you buy? (No saving or gifts to charity allowed!)

What a fun question! And I’m sure glad you put those stipulations on it. My dad gave each of his daughters a nice sum of money on a shopping trip once and his only stipulation was that we had to spend it on ourselves. I think he knew that we would all feel a little guilty doing that unless it was his specific wish. To answer your question, the first thing I’d do is buy a new Mac laptop with the 7-hour battery life! The rest would pay for a trip to Europe. It’s been a dream of mine for many years to spend an extended time in Europe visiting the English village where my maternal great grandparents hailed from, and writing a book set in Europe while I’m there to do the research. Now that I have a niece living in the UK with her English husband, my desire to visit has grown even stronger––plus I have a place to stay and a wonderful tour guide!

Awesome trip! And let me assure you that 7-hour battery is sweet, LOL. I have an Acer I chose for that very reason. Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing?

My first influence was Laura Ingalls Wilder. Later Eugenia Price and Catherine Marshall became favorites––writers who managed to combine a compelling story with deep characterization. Contemporary author heroes for me are Angela Hunt, Robin Lee Hatcher, Ann Tatlock, Lisa Samson…Oh! There are so many…the list goes on and on.

~*~

Thanks so much for visiting, Deb! Readers, you'll want to check out her website at http://www.deborahraney.com and her blog at http://novelgarden.blogspot.com.

Her book is available from ChristianBook or CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Contest ends 5/13/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book before another winner is selected.

Winner!

And the winner of Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico is . . .

Renee (SteelerGirl83)!

Congrats, Renee! I just sent you an email.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Plotting (No, Not World Domination--Yet. Mwa ha ha ha)

Giveaway - last day to enter for a chance to win Lena Nelson Dooley's Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico!

~*~

So, I've been having a fabulous writing streak. I'm talking super-fab. The last few days I've been managing a chapter a day, which is just awesome. And while those chapters need some tweaking, the overall stuff is good. Cuz see, I had these things planned out to a T. I knew exactly what had to happen, and I knew I was pushing toward a break of sorts, so I had that extra "umph" going on. All I had to do was get my characters to this certain point, and then I have to skip a couple years and pick back up when things get interesting again.

And I did it. I got there, yesterday evening.

Now what?

LOL. It's one of those crazy things. I know what needs to happen later. I even know the big events that need to happen next. But I was so focused on working out the details of this first section that I totally neglected brainstorming the details of the next part. Okay, not neglected so much as just haven't had the time yet.

Today, my writing time is going to be spent going through my notes and hashing out a time line for the events of the rest of the book. It's full of huge historical stuff, so I need to map those out and then figure out the character plots that are going to propel the story to those biggies.

Plus I still have some important questions to answer--God's gonna have to whisper in my ear about those, I think.

In short, I'm having fun and am looking forward to some good plotting today. And I'm riding high, knowing I am 1/3 of the way done this book. If I can keep up this chapter a day rate, I'll be finished in another month! Woo hoo!

Next step: world domination. Mwa ha ha ha! (Okay, so I'll be content if I can convince my daughter that bugs are not the root of all evil. Anybody got any tips for that??)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Remember When . . . Modern Was Ancient?

Giveaway - Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley

~*~

In the past week as I immerse myself in all things Ancient Persian, I discovered a few key things about the culture.

1.) Persia was crazy wealthy. I'm talking C-R-A-Z-Y. Jewels embedded in the ceilings. Stone pillars polished so highly they shone like mirrors. Gold this, silver that, everything all bling-bling. There was not an inch of the king's palaces that weren't decorated, painted, bedecked, bejeweled, or otherwise designed to impress. And it wasn't just a palace. Each capital city had a compound with multiple palaces, and there were four--count 'em, four--capital cities.

2.) They were surprisingly modern in their thoughts about women. Not only were there professional women, they earned MORE for the same work than men did. They got a year's paid maternity leave. And one of Xerxes' most trusted naval commanders was a woman. Cool, eh?

3.) Religious tolerance was not an invention of the United States. It was also the policy in Persia--which shouldn't be all that surprising, given how often the generosity of the kings of Babylon, Persia, and Media are mentioned in the Bible when the Jews were their subjects. Though Persia actually had a monotheistic society, they let all their subject nations keep their own systems of belief.

4.) It is impossible to listen to Iranian dance music without dancing. Seriously--try it. I turned some on just for ambiance. First some slower stuff like what they played in the documentaries I was watching, then a faster one that had me bopping around my chair, much to the amusement of my hubby and daughter.

Hope everyone has a happy Wednesday! Back I go to Jewel of Persia . . .

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Story Time . . . SEASONS IN THE MIST by Deborah Kinnard


Giveaway - Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley

~*~

Seasons in the Mist
by Deborah Kinnard

It's been a long time since I've read a time-travel romance--long enough that I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed them. And a Christian time-travel? Not sure I've ever read one of those. But when I sat down with Deb Kinnard's Seasons in the Mist it only took a few pages for me to know that this was going to be an amazing book.

Bethany Lindstrom is a graduate student who has planned her whole life down to the last detail, all revolving around her studies of the medieval period. She's read all the literature, studied all the languages, and when a new plague pit is discovered in England, she knows it's the perfect opportunity to validate her theories and write her thesis. But when a visit to one of the oldest houses in England ends up sucking her back to 1353 Cornwall, knowing her history isn't all that much help. Why couldn't the textbooks have told her how to deal with this?

Though her faith had been only nominal at home, this simpler time, which leaves her with so many questions, brings her quickly back to the Lord. Then the Lord leads her to Baron Michael Veryan, and new questions spring up. He doesn't hesitate to offer her his protection and to entrust her with all that is his . . . but can it really be the will of God that she entrust Michael with her heart?

Seasons in the Mist is, simply put, phenomenal. Deb Kinnard has written a smart, fun story that combines what I love most about history with what I love most about contemporaries. We still get the voice of a modern woman, and hearing her describe medieval things in modern terms is sometimes hilarious and always eye-opening. What both Bethany and the reader quickly come to see is that, no matter the year you're walking in, people are still people. Some will trust you quickly, some will betray you. Some will make your skin crawl, others will endear you to them with a single smile. And through it all, God is in control.

This is a book that will teach you about the period, make you wonder how you would respond if God chose to toy with time on your behalf, and make you fall in love, too. First with the heroine who tells the entirety of the story, and then with the baron who makes is worth reading.

I'm excited to recommend this book to romance lovers in general and history lovers in particular. You're going to get a blast out of this trip through time and be amazed at the conclusion that comes out of the mist. Bravo, Deb! Can't wait for more!

Winner!

And the winner of Jennifer Hudson Taylor's Highland Blessings is . . .

debp (twoofakind12@ . . .)

Congrats! I'm sending you an email now.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Modern . . . Names

Giveaways - Today's the last day for Jennifer Hudson Taylor's Highland Blessings, and we also have Lena Nelson Dooley's Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico.

~*~

Ever wonder where authors get some of the names they use for characters? I was asked this recently in an interview, and it made me consider how different the process is for a contemporary novel versus a historical one.

For a historical, I have to make sure the name I'm using is historically accurate. That means coming up with a list of possibilities and checking them against census records, the Social Security Administration's database, or, if going really far back in history before those two online resources are helpful, historical documents. It can be constrictive, but it can also be really fun to discover what names were popular back in 1784. And I can still end up with unique-sounding character names that are perfectly acceptable--like Lark and Emerson, for example.

For contemporaries, we have the freedom to use whatever name we please, but we still have to be careful. They have to appeal to the eye. They have to sound good. Be easily pronounced. We can't have more than one (usually) character's name that begins with a given letter. We need to be aware of meaning. The name needs to fit their personality. All that fun stuff.

I have several ways of coming up with my contemporary names. I do searches in online baby naming databases, sometimes based on ethnicity, sometimes on meaning. I watch credits on TV and movies and jot down the names I like. And my longest list exists from my days of data entry in college, when I sat with a Post-It note by my side and wrote down all the names I entered into our computers that I liked. Male, Female, and Surnames.

And I love names. I love how creative I can get. I now have these characters in my contemps.: Davina, Keaton, Orchid, Willow. Cantara, Smith, Peaches. One of my critters got a kick out of my family of five siblings named Logan, Phineas, Melrose, Julian, and Taylor--from the same book as Sawyer and Riley. I've got my Giovanni, who goes by Vanni. I've got my Garret and Celeste and Alton. I've got my Remington. And I've got my . . . Louisa?

Sometimes I look at a story and have no idea where this nice, common name has come from. I mean, seriously. Where did I come up with Louisa? There's nothing wrong with the name, don't get me wrong. I like the name. It's just not like my usual choices. And looking back on when I started this story . . . I really have no idea how I chose it.

This is the book titled Yesterday's Tides that I've mentioned on here a few times, the one whose idea kept me up one night, and then over the next three days I wrote 150 pages. I couldn't have spared too awful much time for naming when I got started, given that 50-pages-a-day rate. I think I just picked a name and ran with it, telling myself I could always change it later.

Only I can't. Know why? Louisa is Louisa. Authors will tell you about this all the time--when a character really fits their name, there's just no messing with it. Louisa is one of those. She's a Southern girl who can tackle the world and has. One who would give up anything for her family and has. The name means "warrior" and that's what Louisa is--but she chooses her fights. She doesn't fight for herself, she fights for those she loves. And she comes out of it completely unaware of how strong she's come to be.

Readers, have you ever read a book where the character names just seemed wrong? Or one where it was so perfect you actually still remember them (LOL)? Writers, do you have a trick for naming, or a story about one you got so wrong or so right . . . or were so surprised by? Share, share!