Friday, January 29, 2010

My Friend Margaret - Interview and Giveaway


Today we get to welcome Margaret Brownley to talk about her new historical, A Lady Like Sarah. (Doesn't the title just grab you?)

As usual, leave a comment below between now and next Thursday for a chance to win a copy of this book! (Giveaway available to U.S. addressees only.)

~*~

About A Lady Like Sarah

She’s an outlaw: he’s a preacher. Both are in need of a miracle.

Preacher JUSTIN WELLS leaves Boston in disgrace, heading out alone on the dusty trail to Texas. But when the once-respected clergyman encounters a feisty redhead in handcuffs with a dying U.S. Marshal at her side, his journey takes a dramatic turn. When he promises the injured lawman to take his prisoner to Texas, Justin has no idea the trouble that lies ahead. The slightly-built prisoner turns out to be SARAH PRESCOTT—sister of the notorious Prescott brothers—and she’s determined to miss the hanging party waiting for her in Texas.

But escaping proves to be tougher than she thought. Justin doesn’t own a gun and hasn’t the foggiest idea how to survive the wilderness. How can she leave him alone with the injured marshal?

Nothing is more sacred to Justin than a promise made to a dying man, but how can he turn the blue-eyed beauty over to the hangmen? She’s tough as leather, but there’s something about her that is pure and good.

Justin can’t bear to lose her, but how can a simple preacher fight an entire town? And how can either one of them know that miracles come in many guises—including love?


About Margaret

Thrills, mystery, suspense, romance: Margaret penned it all. Nothing wrong with this—except Margaret happened to be writing for the church newsletter. After making the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, her former pastor took her aside and said, "Maybe God's calling you to write fiction."

So that’s what Margaret did. She now has more than 20 novels to her credit and has been published in 15 languages. In addition, she's written a non-fiction book. Still, it took a long time before Margaret tried her hand at writing inspirational fiction which led to her Rocky Creek series.

"I love writing about characters at different stages of faith," she says of the new direction her writing career has taken, "and I'm here to stay."

Happily married to her real life hero, Margaret and her husband live in Southern California.

~*~
What's your latest book?

A Lady Like Sarah is my latest release and is in bookstores now. The publisher is Thomas Nelson. It takes place in 1879. He’s a preacher; she’s an outlaw—and they’re both in a heap of trouble.

A fabulous hook! Intriguing to say the least. What's your favorite part of the story?

This is a hard question to answer. I like different parts for different reasons. The part I found most surprising was the end. I’m a pantser which means I write by the seat of my pants. I never know where the characters are going to take me until I get there. In this case, I had no idea how the story would end. I didn’t even know what Justin Wells would find on that dusty trail until he found it. Writing is a constant surprise. Of all the heroines I’ve written, Sarah is my favorite. She’s one tough lady and it took a very special man to see into her heart.


Sounds like they took you on quite the adventure. What was the hardest part to write?

Though I’ve published more than 20 books, this was my first inspirational. As I said earlier, Sarah is an outlaw and Justin a preacher. He finds her on the dusty road to Texas handcuffed to a dying marshal. Justin promises the marshal to deliver his prisoner to Texas unaware that there’s a hanging party waiting for her there. Justin is tested in every way a man can be tested. They spend a lot of time alone on that trail and the hardest part was keeping up the sexual tension without crossing the line.

Oh, but tension can go a long way! Sounds fabulous. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?
My hope is that the story touches readers’ hearts. If it succeeds then readers might have a good laugh and maybe even shed a tear or two. hope that one of the themes that readers see is that it’s still possible today as it was more than a hundred years ago for goodness to triumph against all odds. An overt theme that developed during the writing of the book was that God always sends the right people in our lives when we most need them. This certainly has been true in my life.

Yes, and I've forever grateful for that. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I love reading and writing historical romances, especially stories that take place in the nineteenth century. I’m fascinated by the similarities. There were bank failures, recessions and depressions in the 1800s. There was just as much fraud in politics and business as there is today. I just finished reading The Victorian Internetby Tom Standage, which offers a fascinating history of the telegraph and what he calls on-line pioneers. Old movies always show telegrams delivering serious or important news. Never did I imagine until reading this book that telegrams were also used to send advertisements and perpetuate fraud. That Prince whatever his name is from Nigeria who bombards me with emails asking for money apparently comes from a long line of shysters. The telegram also had its own customs, vocabulary and encryptions. Sound familiar?

LOL, indeed it does. Times might change, but humanity sure doesn't. So what are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?
You’ll regret asking this question, I’m sure. I read all over the board—four, five, six books at a time. I’m currently reading Photography and the American Scene for research; Tribes, for business expertise (I have to keep reminding myself that writing isn’t just art, it’s a business), My Heart Remembers Kim Vogel Sawyer for, and Lee Child’s Gone Tomorrow a change of pace. I recently read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because one simply must read a book with a title like that.

Next on my reading list: The Elegance of the Hedgehog. As a child, I was held captive by a hedgehog. A strange animal sat by the door of my playhouse and I was too afraid to venture outside. At the time, I had no idea what it was. Years later, I learned it was a hedgehog. Now I want know what makes a hedgehog elegant.

You are a busy reader! I can only imagine what your shelf looks like. So while we're on the subject . . . What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?
I pretty much have my dream office. It’s not fancy but it’s serviceable and it looks out over my pool and waterfall. I call it my Monet room so naturally it’s painted Monet purple. Purple is a great color for stimulating creativity and Monet is my favorite artist. The room includes floor to ceiling bookshelves stuffed with my favorite research books, and a vertical paper file that practically reaches the ceiling.

Insert Roseanna the Purple Lover going green with envy. Someday, I will have a dream office like that. Maybe after I have twenty books out. =) Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

Ha, ha! I sure do. No drum rolls. No bugles. I was cleaning the bathroom when I got the call. That’s not exactly how I had imagined it.

What, it didn't capture the glam? At least it makes for a great memory. Any other funny family stories about living with a writer?

This question reminds me of the early days of my writing career: I sold an article for $5 and my husband took me out to dinner to celebrate. A short time later, I sold another article, this time for $7, and again, my husband took me out to celebrate. By the third sell my husband announced that we couldn’t afford any more success.

Then there was the time I almost got arrested. My first book was published and I madly dashed from store to store doing fly-by signings. I was in Walmart’s autographing books when two policemen showed up. A customer saw me “defacing“ books and called the cops. Anxious to prove that I was, indeed, the author of the book, I pulled out my driver’s license. The problem was, the book was under a pen name which did not correspond with the name on my ID. We were finally able to track down the manager who saved the day.

I can so see that! (Both of them actually.) So what are you writing right now?

I just finished the 2ndbook in my Rocky Creek series, A Suitor for Jenny. It’s schedule for publication September 2010. I’m now writing the third and final book in the series.

~*~

Thanks for chatting with us, Margaret! Readers, be sure and check out Margaret's website and her blog, Petticoats and Pistols.

You can purchase A Lady Like Sarah from Thomas Nelson, Amazon, and CrossPurposes .

Again, readers with a U.S. address can leave a comment below with contact info for a chance to win a signed copy of A Lady Like Sarah.

(Giveaway ends 2/4/10. Void where prohibited. Winner will have two weeks to claim the book before another winner is selected.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of J. M. Hochstetler's Wind of the Spirit is . . .

Kathleen Maher!

Congrats, Kathleen! I could tell you were pretty excited about this book. =) I'm sending you an email now.
(The winner has two weeks to respond before another winner is selected.)

Thoughtful About . . . An E-World

Don't forget that today's the last day to enter the giveaway for Wind of the Spirit!

~*~

It strikes me at least once a week that my world is pretty much wrapped up in the internet. Especially when I get to church and someone says something about talking to strangers that you come across each day in an attempt to let Jesus shine through you.

Um . . . there are many days that go by without me seeing anyone other than my family. We've started doing The Master's Way DVD stuff about evangelizing, and one of the challenges is to talk to 5 people each day. To approach strangers, even to offer them a smile. For someone who doesn't see 5 people a day, this seemed like a monumental challenge.

Then it hit me. I may not see people face-to-face every day, but our world really is online these days. I mean, I've only met my best friend in person twice. We've only spoken on the phone a couple handfuls of times. But we email constantly. I'm talking at least 2, as many as 18 (if I recall our ludicrous record) times a day. And that's just Stephanie. I email many, many other people each day too. I comment on Facebook. On blogs. I answer questions on the ACFW loop. So you know . . . I really do talk to strangers each day and offer them virtual smiles.

The Master's Way is going to be leading us up to witnessing to these total strangers, so naturally one of the first things they ask is, "Do you share your faith regularly?" After the obligatory questions of "What do you mean by 'regularly'? And what do you mean by 'share'?" (I mean, come on. Do you want to know if I do street ministry? If I'm just open to talking about it? What??), I realized that yes, in fact I do share my faith regularly. I blog about my challenges and realizations. I talk to people online about faith and how it fits in my life, how it leads me.

I'm not sure what Kirk Cameron (who put out The Master's Way) was thinking about this type of ministry when he pointed out that we're all called to minister, but I think it's perfectly valid in this day and age. And more, I think it's critical that we acknowledge it. I think it's important that all those other people out there like me, who spend most of their days at home in front of their computers, realize that they're touching people. Reaching people. Talking to people, ministering to people through their keyboards, their typed words. Their blogs, their Facebook posts, the Loop emails.

We're in an E-world . . . and you know what? That's a pretty awesome thing for the Kingdom of God. I may not be pounding the streets every day with Bible in hand, but I'm pounding Cyberspace with BibleGateway.com up in one of my tabs. And that's not just okay--that's really stinking cool.

The Master has a lot of ways of reaching people. Which one of them is the one that works for you?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Remember When . . . You'd Hang a Left at Atlantis?

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Wind of the Spirit!

~*~

I've already dedicated a few Remember When Wednesdays to my 20s historical set in Egypt, I know. But it occurred to me as I sat on the couch last night that I've talked about different aspects of Egypt, of the 20s, of tombs, of my research . . . and I haven't even brushed on one of the driving forces behind The Stars and the Sands. Atlantis!

We all know the popular ideas about a technologically advanced society that existed way back before most histories were recorded, which may or may not have destroyed itself with that technology, and which may or may not be buried somewhere under the waters of the Atlantic. It's the kind of story that captures the imagination. I mean, what's better for adventure than finding a Lost City?

Silly me keeps getting hung up on facts as I research Atlantis, though--the fact that it can't actually be where it's supposed to be leading the way. But the actual legend, which we get from Plato's Critias is really quite intriguing. So putting aside the question of whether it is (or was), let's have a little refresher course. =)

First, this came to us through a Greek, so it naturally starts with their gods. Poseidon, in this case, created an island, on which his descendants reigned. There were ten kings, and the chief of them was from the line of Atlas, Poseidon's oldest son. As the divine blood faded (those pesky humans, sullying it with mortality;-), the powerful Atlanteans grew greedy and lustful and pretty much decided to take over the world.

In typical Olympus fashion, the Gods weren't too keen on all their other little cities getting wiped off the map, so they wiped out the Atlanteans and sank the island-continent into the sea in a single day and night.

Apparently, though, this mystical world contained everything a heart could desire. Animals of all kinds, rich stones in blacks and reds, water and minerals, all kinds of foods, and a rare metal called "orichalum," which sparkles like fire. (I need to get me some of that!)

Interestingly, though this tale comes to us from a reputable source, there were a few centuries when Plato, being Greek and all, was deemed a stupid heathen and all his works were ignored. Stories of Atlantis went the way of other forgotten lore . . . until 1882, when a man named Ignatius Donnelly penned a tome called Atlantis: An Antediluvian World, which claimed that all societies descended from Atlantis, that it was wiped out in the Great Flood, but that "shared" technology on both sides of the world got their knowledge from Atlantis.

Though many of his claims have been disproven in recent years, he still managed to single-handedly resurrect the idea of Atlantis, so literature and Hollywood alike have Donnelly to thank for endless fodder for plotlines. And me! I have him to thank as well. Though I don't intend to make my characters find a city I'm none too sure is out there, they're going to have a lot of fun chasing it . . . and finding some other lost truths along the way.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Story Time . . . INTIMATE CONVERSATIONS by Alicia Britt Chole

Don't forget that you have until Thursday to enter the giveaway for Wind of the Spirit!

~*~

Intimate Conversations:
Devotions to Nurture a Woman's Soul

by Alicia Britt Chole

It's not often I pick up devotionals. I like the idea of them, but I inevitably get started and then either forget or get bored. But when I opened a package from Revell and saw this lovely purple cover, I went, "Ooo. Pretty." It was enough to get my attention, so I put it on my personal shelf, and the next morning I grabbed it, sat down, opened it up, and had a good laugh. Here's the opening to the first chapter:

Good morning, God, I'm so gra--(excuse me, God). "You can have a snack after lunch!"
I'm so grateful for the--(just a second, God). "Your shoes are in the laundry room."
I'm so grateful for this time we ha--(sorry for the interruption, God). "They're there. Moooove things."
I'm so grateful for this time we have together to--(God I think we'll have to continue this lat--). "No, you are not old enough to change baby's poopy diaper. I'M COMING!"

This is so my life, and most of my prayer attempts, that I was hooked. I knew that this would be a devotion by a woman who really understand how pulled apart a lot of modern women are, even those of us blessed to stay home with our ever-demanding children.

Each chapter starts with a little anecdote that perfectly illustrates the deep, emotional points the author makes throughout. The chapters are two pages, with suggestions for thought and journaling opportunities at the end of each. I've gone through about a quarter of them and love how she makes me think, but not in a way that feels like work, if that makes sense.

The book has 52 chapters, each one meant to be thought over for a week. Given that my attention span revolves around a toddler and preschooler, I decided there was no way I could devote a week to each one without forgetting what it was I was doing, so I've been reading a chapter each morning. I've found that the issues she brings up stick with me not only through the day, but weeks afterward.

I'm nowhere near done this devotion yet, and am grateful for that. =) I'm really enjoying sitting down with it each morning and seeing what little nugget of wisdom the author will expound on today. She combines depth with levity in a way that really appeals to me and reaches me on my level. As gorgeous on the inside as it is on the out, I can't recommend Intimate Conversations enough. It's inspired a few of those between me and the Lord over the last few weeks, and I know it'll foster more as I go.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Modern . . . Crossover

Don't forget to enter Friday's giveaway for J. M. Hochstetler's Wind of the Spirit!

~*~

So, I'd been happily plugging away on Seized, my contemporary pirate/black market story. I was really getting into my characters--my noble hero, who is close to the Lord but is having some trouble with all his earthly relationships, and my shattered-inside heroine, born a nomadic Bedouin but who has since been through a life of maritime nightmares.

During a Book-in-a-Week challenge, I got down my goal of 10,000 words on this story, and my critique partners all gave me the thumbs up on the result (aside from some rough patches, obviously, lol).

But then that niggling voice started poking at my brain. It said something like, "Um, Roseanna? Why are you still working on this, when you have an editor interested in your unfinished historical?"

I believe I replied with something like, "Uh . . . well . . . I, uh . . . had some problems with the research on my Egypt historical. Didn't I? Yeah, that was it. I, uh, hadn't reconciled some facts in my mind . . ."

The voice said, "You mean these facts, here? The ones very easily handled like this?"

"Oh. Well, yeah. How about that--that's actually pretty clever."

"Yes, Roseanna. Now how about getting back to it so you can get it to the editor sometime this year?"

So Roseanna got down to business. I'm glad I took some time away from it so all those facts had time to simmer and settle, but last week I really enjoyed diving back in. Even though I've been trying not to switch back and forth on stories these past few years, I have a feeling this is the right thing to do. The aforementioned editor said she wasn't accepting submissions for a couple months, so I have some time to work on it, but she also said to send it when it was done. So it would be nice if that could happen at some point, LOL.

What's interesting is how these two stories share some facts and history. The historical is set in Egypt of 1928, on an archaeological dig. At the time, most of the grunt-work was done by Bedouin tribes in the area--you see where this is going, right? I had already done some basic research on Bedouins for the historical. It was enough that I could get started on my contemporary without needing to take a ton of time at the get-go figuring out my heroine's background.

I did some more research as I wrote the contemporary . . . and now I'm finding it's invaluable as I go back to the historical. This is pretty funny, in that the stories have absolutely nothing in common other than that Bedouin thread--but it's really fun to have that little hint of crossover. It doesn't always work that way, when jumping 80 years, but in a culture that is still rooted in the past . . . not only does it work, it's actually incredibly interesting to see what has remained the same and what has changed. (The Bedouins have cars now, for instance, but I'm guessing they don't get real great cell reception out there in the desert.)

So though I'll be spending this week excavating a building in Egypt of '28, I'll be doing it the richer for what I've written thus far of my modern tale of a woman displaced so often that she's left reeling. Fun, huh?

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Friend Joan - Interview and Giveaway


Today we're welcoming Joan, writing as J. M. Hochstetler, to talk about Wind of the Spirit, the third book in The American Patriot Series.

Joan has offered to give away a signed copy of Wind of the Spirit to one lucky reader, so leave your comment between now and next Thursday for a chance to win!

~*~

About Wind of the Spirit

Elizabeth Howard’s assignment to gain crucial intelligence for General Washington leads her into the very maw of war at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, where disaster threatens to end the American rebellion. Yet her heart is fixed on Jonathan Carleton, whose whereabouts remain unknown more than a year after he disappeared into the wilderness. Carleton, now the Shawnee war chief White Eagle, is caught in a bitter war of his own. As unseen forces gather to destroy him, he leads the fight against white settlers encroaching on Shawnee lands—while battling the longing for Elizabeth that will not give him peace. Can her love bridge the miles that separate them—and the savage bonds that threaten to tear him forever from her arms?

About Joan

J. M. Hochstetler writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she graduated from Indiana University a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published four novels. Daughter of Liberty (2004), Native Son(2005), and Wind of the Spirit (March 2009), the first three books of the critically acclaimed American Patriot Series, are set during the American Revolution. One Holy Night, a retelling of the Christmas story set in modern times, is the 2009 Christian Small Publishers Fiction Book of the Year and a finalist for the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Long Contemporary Book of the Year.

Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Nashville Christian Writers Association, and Historical Novels Society. She and her husband live near Nashville, Tennessee.

~*~

What's your latest book?

My latest book is Wind of the Spirit, book 3 of the American Patriot series, which is the only comprehensive historical fiction series about the American Revolution. It was released by Sheaf House in March 2009.

What's your favorite part of the story?

I really love the scene where Elizabeth and Jonathan finally come face to face after more than a year apart, and do so in the midst of a situation that puts both of them in great danger. But I especially like the chapter where Elizabeth is adopted into the Shawnee tribe, which is both touching, sensual, and funny, and then the marriage scene that follows—though I won’t reveal which characters get married! You’ll have to read it to find that out. But the Lord really gave me some deep insights into the beauty and passion of the love that binds one man and one woman together for all their lives.

Ah, I'm such a sucker for passion and love! What was the hardest part to write?

The Battle of Long Island. By necessity I’ve become pretty expert at writing battle scenes since I had to cover the battles of Lexington and Concord, and then the Battle of Bunker Hill in the previous volumes. But this one had a particularly long, involved battle line with hot spots developing at different times and places, and I only had one of my characters to work with since Carleton was away among the Indians. I had to chart the action out, and then figure out how to get Elizabeth from one end of the battlefield to the other in a believable way. Choreographing battle scenes so they’re realistic and intense is very hard, but thoroughly involving. This one turned out to be pretty exciting, and I’ve gotten great feedback on how well it flows, which has been quite gratifying.

I bet! That sounds very intense, which of course makes it awesome when people comment on it. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

A greater understanding of and a renewed appreciation for the great sacrifices our Founding generation made to secure the precious legacy of freedom we enjoy today. And a hair-raising, edge of your seat, thrilling ride with a hot romance that will leave them breathless.

What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

For both, historical fiction, absolutely!

Mm, big surprise. ;-) What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

I’m in the middle of research for book 4 of my series, Crucible of War,so currently I’m reading The Winter Soldiersby Richard M. Ketchum and Washington’s Crossing David Hackett Fischer—both really excellent reads, by the way. ’m hoarding Leaving Carolinaby my MTCW buddy Tamara Leigh to enjoy as soon as I’ve taken all the notes I need from those two. While I’m actively researching one of my historicals, reading something totally different helps to recharge my brain, and Tammy’s stories are always a really fun break.

Oh yes, I love Tamara's books. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

It would be big, and there would be a large U shaped desk, with one wall reserved for bookcases housing all my research books and another lined with file cabinets. And everything would always be impeccably tidy with a place for everything and everything in its place. Um . . . needless to say, I have a small office where everything is crammed in and a lot of files and books end up piled on the floor because every available inch of space on my desk is covered.

Yeah, I have a kitchen table. =) Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

Maps. I can’t function without detailed maps. I’m a map-a-holic. If it’s a fictional location, I draw a map so I can keep track of the lay of the land.

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

The members of my local writers group, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, are a terrific sounding board, plus our meetings are devoted to learning the craft and improving our mastery. I can’t say enough about how helpful and encouraging this group has been.

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

To finish up this series before the end of this decade. Because of the research involved, it’s taking me about 2 years to write each volume, and I’m projecting a total of 7 to 8 volumes to cover the Revolution in the depth it deserves. Including Crucible of War,that leaves at least 4 more to write. Running Sheaf House complicates that too, so I don’t know . . . but my fans are going to kill me if I don’t finally get my storm-tossed lovers together! Considering the cliffhanger Crucible ends on, though, they just might kill me anyway . . . !

Wow, that's such a commitment to story! I can well imagine the journey that's taking you on and the dedication. Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

I sure do! I’d just gotten in to my office at The United Methodist Publishing House, where I worked as an editor, and there was a message from the publisher. I had a really hard time not jumping up and down and screaming my head off, but it would have caused considerable consternation among my co-workers, who knew me as a very calm, collected person, so I restrained myself.

What are you writing right now?

I’m working on Crucible of War. volume is going to cover the very end of 1776, and then pretty much all of 1777, from the battles of Trenton and Princeton through the Battle of Saratoga, but it’s also going to go more deeply into the political situation. And of course, there’s lots of delicious romantic tension between Elizabeth and Jonathan, not to mention between several of the secondary characters as well.

Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

Sheaf House may release new, updated editions of Daughter of Libertyand Native Son, 1 and 2, sometime in 2011. I’m not yet sure whether we’ll be able to squeeze them in before Crucible of Warreleases in Fall 2011. One alternative is to bring them all out together. The new editions release in Kindle format in January 2010, however, so readers who want the electronic version will be able to get them in advance.

Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing?

That would probably be a toss-up between Charlotte Bronte, Betty Smith, Elizabeth Goudge, Rafael Sabatini, James Hilton, and W. Dale Cramer. That covers a pretty wide range of genres and styles, but when it comes to telling a story, they’re my heroes.

~*~

Thanks so much for talking with us, Joan! Readers, you can check out her website and blog for more info about Joan and her books.

You can purchase it from Amazon.

Again, leave a comment with contact info below for a chance to win!

Giveaway ends 1/28/10. Void where prohibited.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Golden Keyes Parsons' A Prisoner of Versailles is . . .

Marissa! (smrogi@ . . .)

I'm emailing you now, Marissa.


And while we're on the subject of winning, I've been awarded this One Lovely Blog Award by Molly. I'm allowed to pass it on to as many others as I wish, not exceeding fifteen. (I've received something like this before and got too lazy to pick other blogs, lol. But you know. I'm bored.)
So, my winners are . . .

1. Stephanie Morrill's Official Blog
2. The newly debuted Go Teen Writers
3. Sandi Rog's Dare to Dream
4. Trish Perry's Reading, Writing, and the Stuff In Between


Thoughtful About . . . Stray Mittens

(Real quick--today's your last day to enter the giveaway for Golden's A Prisoner of Versailles before I draw the winner tonight!)

I know, I know. You look at the title to this post and think I'm going to talk about my kids' propensity to lose one of each and every set of mittens in the house. And they do, I assure you. But that's actually not my point at all. =)

On Tuesdays I take Xoe to Story Time at our library, which she loves. It's the usual setup--the librarian reads to them, they sing some songs, there's a craft or snack. The past few weeks, one of the songs has made use of the felt-board and cutout paper mittens in different colors. When the song calls out the color of then mitten you have, you run up and put it on the board. Simple, right?

I've noticed something these last few weeks. Whenever Miss Liz says, "Put them here" and pats the board, every other child--I'm talking every . . . single . . . one--puts their colored mitten where she points. The first to get there will put it by the edge, the second (there are two of each color, go figure) right beside it.

Except Xoe.

Naturally, my little princess must be different. On Tuesday, she put her white mitten right in the middle of the board, though the first child to get there with with white put it by the edge, under the red ones, just like the librarian indicated.

I watched carefully when it was her turn again. By the time yellow was called, the board was mostly full. Again, another kid got there with yellow before her. Again, started a nice, neat row.

Where, I wondered, would my little deviant put this one? There wasn't much room left, other than beside its match. Would she conform?

Er, no. She put it in the spot still open beside the first white one.

I nearly laughed. There it was, this lovely rainbow of mittens, surprisingly well ordered by a bunch of three-year-olds, and the only oddities in the pattern were those two mittens my daughter put up, one white, one yellow. Two bright, cheerful slaps in the face of conformity.

Now, as a mother of a preschooler, there are a lot of moments when I think, "Can't you just do what you're told? Please? Must you make waves? Must you do things your own way? Don't you see that your outfit looks ridiculous, that you've made your 'art' over top of an actual picture, that you've undone all my cleaning by creating this 'obstacle course' of toys?" Especially in public. Especially around other mothers with their well-behaved children who come to the library appropriately dressed.

But you know . . . on Tuesday, something in me cheered. Something said, "Yeah, go Xoe! Make a new pattern! Color outside the lines! Wear red and black Minnie Mouse shoes with a pink and yellow kitty-cat dress! Be you!"

Now, I would like to note that my daughter is darn good for a 4-year-old. She can color inside the lines, follow precise directions, and pick out a pattern. She can clean up her toys, pick out presentable clothes, and charm the socks off any adult she comes across.

But she can also create. She can go around for a full day, narrating a story in her mind that incorporates everything she's actually doing. She can turn a boring tan rubber band into an intricate bracelet.

She can turn a paper mitten into a bright spot. And this mommy, who sometimes just wishes she would listen, couldn't be more proud.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Remember When . . . We Misplaced Tombs?

One more day to enter the giveaway from Friday's post for Golden's A Prisoner of Versailles!

~*~

This week I've been diving back into my 20s Egypt story, and as I got to work on it and began sorting through my research, I realized I needed some more information. So I went online and basically just dove into a haystack to search out a needle.

My goal: find a rich pharaoh whose tomb is lost.

My purpose: put my antagonist on the trail of it.

My complication: his location has to actually contain clues vital to my hero's search for something else entirely.

In moments like these, I ask myself questions like, "Why do I write historicals? How am I supposed to find this stuff and actually make it make sense? What am I thinking???"

Then I stumble across something that works perfectly, and I have that moment of "Aha! Right! This is why it's so much fun!"

Yesterday I spent a good hour looking up my lost pharaoh who could somehow be linked to my hero's search for Atlantis. A formidable task, given the fact that I'm pretty sure there is no actual link between Egypt and Atlantis. But, you know. Fiction. I just need something to fit my version of facts.

Since my version of facts start with Plato's version of facts, I returned to Critias. According to this fellow, who is quoting his grandfather, who was good friends with Solon (who was in truth Plato's great-grandfather) the story Plato has of Atlantis originated with the priests in Sais, Egypt.

So Roseanna went to Sais (digitally speaking). Found some pharaohs linked to it, looked one up, and voila! Amasis II! Rich dude, would have had quite a burial. Tomb mentioned in Herodotus but has never been found. Score!! My antag can look for it, fruitlessly. My hero can go to his dig at some point and find, not the tomb, but a secret chamber containing writings that detail . . . well, he won't know what they detail, because he can't read them. But still. To a historian, finding a chamber filled with writings at all is super-exciting.

And that's the fruit of my haystack-dive. Oh, the tangled web we historical writers weave when we practice to make up history that is plausible and yet totally untrue . . .

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Story Time . . . FINDING JEENA by Miralee Ferrell

First, don't forget to enter the giveaway from Friday's post for Golden's A Prisoner of Versailles.

~*~

I'll probably post about this book again later when it's closer to its release date and I've actually finished it, lol, but y'all're getting a sneak peek. =)

Right now I'm reading a galley of Finding Jeena by Miralee Ferrell. The sequel to her first book, The Other Daughter, this one follows Jeena Gregory. We met her in the first book as Susanne's friend--the one who was a bad influence and kept encouraging our heroine to do what we, as wise readers, knew she absolutely should NOT do!

Now, I'm always a fan of reforming an antagonist, so I've been looking forward to this. It can be tricky, taking a character that's full of herself, materialistic, and ambitious, and trying to make a heroine out of her. And I gotta say, at about halfway through the book I still don't like Jeena--which is to say, I wouldn't call her up for advice, lol. But Miralee's doing something awesome with her. She's making me cringe at all the right places, making me scream, "No, Jeena, don't do it! Don't be an idiot!" She's letting me see from the get-go in what direction Jeena has room to grow, where she's likely to change. And she's making me hope, and look forward to the dynamics.

At the point I'm at in the story, the floor has dropped out from under Jeena's feet, and she's been plunged into an abyss darker than she thought possible. I can see the light shining through, but she hasn't been able to turn her face away from the consuming darkness yet. I'm at the point where I'm aching.

Don't you just love a book that makes you ache?

Last week was crazy-busy for me, so I didn't get a whole lot of time to read. It wasn't until yesterday that I really had the chance to sit down with it, and I got so involved that when my husband told me about something that came up in his business, I found myself projecting Jeena's troubles onto it and turning it into something totally different in my mind. It took concerted effort to get out of the story and back to reality, LOL.

Finding Jeena doesn't come out until April, but anyone interested in an intense women's fiction should make a note to check it out this spring (I'll undoubtedly remind you closer to release;-)

Miralee's a lovely writer, a lovely woman, and this is yet another story from her that will take you to places you didn't expect . . . and show you a little something about yourself along the way.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Modern . . . Success

Reminder: Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Golden Keyes Parsons' A Prisoner of Versailles from Friday's post.

~*~

I've been giving a lot of thought these last few days to success. It started when someone commented on a guest blog last week, "Congratulations on the success of your book!" To which I thought something along the lines of, "Huh? Can a book really be called a success when you've given away more copies than you've sold?" LOL. But I know what she meant--that all the reviews so far have been raving, that people respond to it with excitement. The comment made me smile . . . and think.

In one of my books, Yesterday's Tides, I have a main character who gave up her dreams to raise twins after getting pregnant at 16. She helps her mother run their oceanfront inn, does handywork, cleans the church--and grapples with the idea of success.

When I first wrote this book, it had 30 pages of story from when she was 16, when she and the hero were talking about her goals and dreams. Though all that stuff has been cut from the book, it still exists in the characters' backstory, so I still remember Louisa saying, "I don't know exactly what I want to do, but I want to be a success. I want the people of the world I choose to look at me in awe and say I'm the best at what I do." And given her quick mind, the hero was sure she'd do just that in whatever field she chose.

Nine years later when Rem (hero) comes back on the scene and points out she gave up absolutely everything, though she'd had so much potential, she says something along the lines of, "What are you talking about? I am a success in the world I chose. My kids know they come first. Their friends all look at me with awe and think I'm the coolest mom on the block. That's what matters."

In a work in progress I really need to finish one of these days (again--it's a rewrite), I have a character who has already enjoyed tremendous success in the music industry, but when everyone pushes her to branch out in another direction, she refuses because she's afraid she'll be successful at that too, and it'll take her away from her family.

Thinking of my heroines, of my own situation, of issues in my husband's companies lately, it really makes me wonder. We live in a world--and I work in an industry--where everything goes back to numbers. Success is measured in sales, and heaven help us if we don't meet projected expectations. We as Christians will often examine this and remind each other that true success is answering God's call and doing what He wants us to do, honoring Him while doing it.

I firmly believe that, but I also know that there's something to the numbers. Yes, I'm thrilled that my book has touched people . . . but my husband/publisher is still a loooooong way from breaking even on it, and until he does, he doesn't have the capital to invest in more books. Does that mean it needs to hit the Bestseller lists to be a success? No. (Not that I'd mind if it did, mind you. LOL)

Sitting here typing this up, it occurs to me that the best definition of success might come from II Corinthians 13:11. Be complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

So that's how I'm going to measure it. If I'm complete, I'm lacking nothing and don't have an excess of anything, which creates a balance that fosters comfort, unity, and peace. Can it really get any better than that?

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Friend Golden - Interview and Giveaway


Today we're welcoming the lovely Golden Keyes Parsons to talk about her second historical novel in the Darkness to Light Trilogy, A Prisoner of Versailles. I've talked about her book before, and even talked about how sweet a lady Golden is, but today we get some answers from the wonderful woman herself.

Golden has offered a signed copy of her book to one lucky reader, so leave a comment between now and next Thursday for your chance to win!

~*~

About A Prisoner of Versailles

The second book of the A DARKNESS TO LIGHT series, A Prisoner of Versailles continues following the life of Madeleine Clavell and her turbulent relationship with Louis XIV, and the harrowing consequences thereof, first chronicled in Parsons’ In the Shadow of the Sun King. Versailles, replete with splendor and beauty, is the last place that Madeline wants to be as she deals with the death of her beloved husband. In the midst of deep and grievous loss, Madeline’s past catches up to her and she becomes a captive in the palace of Louis XIV. Will she ever escape? What will the unpredictable Sun King do? Madeline cannot and will not deny Christ, yet it will take all the hope and faith she can muster to outmaneuver the king. Does she have the courage to try?

About Golden

Golden Keyes Parsons is an author and a popular conference and retreat leader. Her first novel, the highly acclaimed In the Shadow of the Sun King, was a finalist for Book of the Year in the debut author category of the American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband live in Waco, Texas.

~*~

What's your latest book?

A Prisoner of Versailles from Thomas Nelson Publishing, Sept 2009

(Yes, I knew that already. And for the record, it's fabulous.) What's your favorite part of the story?

Well, one of my favorite scenes is when Pierre, one of Louis XIV’s trusted courtiers, is being interrogated by the king about the whereabouts of Madeleine Clavell. Louis had sent the courtier to southern France to find out what had happened to Madeleine, his former lover, and her husband who had been sentenced to the galleys. Pierre had found her and fallen in love with her, so he was not only trying to protect her, but without directly lying. His new-found faith would no longer allow him to lie with the polished deceit that he had developed living in the decadent atmosphere of the court. The verbal posturing in the scene raises the tension level as Pierre tiptoes around being discovered. In my humble opinion, I think it’s a good, tight scene with lots of tension.

Definitely one of my favorites! Loved the internal tension. What was the hardest part to write?

Probably Francois’ death scene – getting all the nuances of emotions that are employed in the characters, the sense of loss, the expression of true faith. It’s hard to write a scene like that without coming across shallow or hokey.

What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

That God is faithful to us and will see us through, even when we are unfaithful and doubt his goodness.

Something Madeleine definitely learns in this one. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

Historical. Same …

I assumed as much, lol. (I know Golden through a historical group. ;-) What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

I’m reading Lisa Samson’s Quaker Summer. Want to read some of Diana Galbadon’s books.

Oo, haven't read Quaker Summer yet, but I loved her Passion of Mary-Margaret. It's on my short-list of favorite modern books. Next question: Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

Since I have never been to Versailles, I kept a picture guide by my side – you know kind that you buy as a tourist -- that I used almost daily in writing the book.

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

That the quote “There is no such thing a good writing, just good rewriting” is soooo true. (Harry Shaw, in Errors in English and Ways to Correct Them, HarperCollins ) A manuscript almost seems to be a living, breathing organism. It’s a growing and changing entity. There are always changes, additions, tweaks that can be applied to it. Quite a challenge.

So true! And knowing when to stop with those tweaks is a challenge too. Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

Family. We have three grown daughters, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. We go to lots of ballgames, plays and band concerts!

Aw, fun days. What writing goal have you set for yourself that would be the hardest (or unlikeliest) but most rewarding to achieve?

To win a Christy. To be on the NY Times bestseller list.

You're off to a great start on those, Golden, with some fabulous books! Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

Yes. I was in my office at our church when my agent called and told me that we had a contract for a four book series.

What are you writing right now?

I’m fixing to start edits on Book Three in the series, Where Hearts Are Free.

Can't wait to read it! It's your next release, right? When will it hit shelves?

Fall of 2010.

~*~

Thanks so much, Golden, for chatting with us! Check out her website for more info on Golden and her ministry.

You can purchase the book from Thomas Nelson, Amazon, or CrossPurposes.

Again, leave a comment with contact info for a chance to win this wonderful book!

Contest will end 1/21/10. Void where prohibited.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Stephanie Morrill's Out with the In Crowd is . . .

Mary Frances!

Congrats! I'm sending an email now. Now everybody get ready to enter the next one tomorrow. =)

Thoughtful About . . . Organizing

Hello, my name is Roseanna, and I am disorganized.

That's right, I confess it. The dishes sometimes sit on the counter for a day or so. The toys lay scattered on the floor. And I flip out every day at four o'clock when I realize that yet again I have to make dinner, and I have no idea what to cook.

Now, that's not to say I can't be organized, in fits and starts. This week, for instance, my historical group is doing a book-in-a-week challenge, where we set writing goals and try to meet or surpass them. When we do that, I get down to business. Make sure the house is clean. Plan out the menu for the week. Make a schedule of things that must be done.

But when BIAW is over . . . yeah. It's pretty much back to mess around here.

Not that I haven't tried to keep it up. I have--really, truly! It's lasted all of two, two and a half weeks before I just forget to do something or put off something else and then, poof! Two seconds later, chaos reigns. Seriously. It takes an amazing amount of diligence to keep up with all that junk, and if I falter, my kids are quick to pull out every toy, empty the cabinets of all pots and pans, and generally wreak havoc.

Generally speaking, I don't mind this about myself, even if I am surrounded by super-organized women who love to cook and put me to shame with their neat, tidy houses (and I love you guys!!). But you know what? It's a personality type. I'm laid back with more than my housekeeping. I'm not a worrier, I'm easygoing about people butting into my business (usually, lol). I give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

When I'm hunting down something that I've lost, I have been known to utter phrases like, "Why can't I just be better organized?!" But I know my limitations, lol. I'm never going to be the type to regularly make lists, to pick up every crumb, every day. And while I might occasionally wish I did, I'll leave that to those with the Gift of Organizing.

Me, I'll just have to be content with pulling it off when necessary and otherwise not fretting about it. =)

~*~

GIVEAWAY REMINDER!

First, mine of Stephanie's book from Friday--today's the final day to enter!! Tomorrow I'll be hosting Golden Keyes Parsons and A Prisoner of Versailles.

And for those interested in a giveaway of my A Stray Drop of Blood, there are currently three: Sandi's, Trish's, and Melanie's.

Plus today I'm guest-blogging at Inkwell Inspirations about The Middle Testament. (Didn't know there was one of those, did you?)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Remember When . . . The Reviews Came Flooding In?

Okay, I'm cheating today and just linking to a bunch of awesome stuff that's up this week. =) Totally allowed, though, right? We're allowed to be excited about the buzz on our first release.

So, obviously, first is a reminder to enter my giveaway for Stephanie's Out with the In Crowd.

Next, is Sandi Rog's blog. There's a giveaway and and a little something I wrote, as well as Sandi's observations: "Passion shows. When a reader picks up a book written from the heart, they see, hear, feel, touch and taste the believability of the characters, the intricacies of the setting, the depth of the story. What the writer puts down on the page becomes an intimate part of the reader. And that's how Roseanna writes!"

Moving along to Trish Perry's blog, where there's another giveaway and an interview. She asks some tough questions that really made me think, so hop over there for some fun answers.

I did a guest blog spot with Lauralee Bliss on finding a character's voice. "Voice is always a huge marker for me of a good writer versus a so-so one. When the words of a character flow, when they not only tell me what they’re saying, thinking, and doing, but how–and even whose head I’m in without being told–then I know it’s a strong voice. I’ve read a lot of opinions on how to “find your voice,” on dialogue, on deep POV. But for me, nothing helps me find each character’s voice like sitting back and listening . . ."

Tomorrow another guest spot will be up on Inkwell Inspirations, which I'll link to again then. The theme over there this week is "A Million Missing Facts," and I wrote about all the research I put into Stray Drop and how I was struck by the move from Greek mythology to Old Testament Law and Prophets to Roman literature and then into New Testament writings. It's called "The Middle Testament" and will hopefully be interesting to everyone. =)

Now, some super fabulous reviews!! First (in the order in which I've received them) is Dina Sleiman. "A Stray Drop of Blood by Roseanna White is a novel of epic proportions that blew me away. It beautifully wove together rich history, complex characters, deep spiritual content, romance, and a mesmerizing story all in an edgy and artistic package . . ." Dina goes on to hit on most of the major issues raised by the book, and this review left me in total awe of the fact that people actually get it! LOL. Her review will be linked to the Inkwell post tomorrow, too.

After that I was treated to the words of Susanne Deitz: "An epic tale of salvation, passion and love, this inspirational story is rich in historical detail and intriguing characters, providing a tantalizing glimpse into the Jerusalem and Rome of Jesus’ day."

Next is Edwina Cowgill. "One cannot improve on a perfectly woven plot, characters that come to life as the reader gets to know them and the Biblical setting of the three years of Jesus’ teaching, His crucifixion and resurrection . . . I have read many books - both Christian and secular - in my life. Some of these books have been heralded as 'the best book since the Bible,' and other larger-than-life accolades. I have been moved by these books. But none of them have come close to the effect A Stray Drop of Blood has had on me." Edwina said lots more that was worthy of quoting, but you know. Space. =) Check out her full review at the link, and the comments are flattering too. ;-)

Christine Lindsay made my day with this: " . . .The author has woven a story that not only glistens with historical detail, but draws the reader into a very human drama." (There's also a piece written by me in this post.)

My fabulous crit partner Mary writes: "Strong, multi-layered characters, rich spiritual insights, well-depicted historical events, and moving romance are powerfully combined in an edgy yet tastefully crafted and fast-paced classic . . ."

Cindy Loven says: "A beautiful story of love, redemption and how their lives are changed by Jesus, the story of the Visibullis household is a story that will captivate you from beginning to the end. A story that will have you weeping in sorrow, and gritting your teeth at injustice at its peak."

And the latest is from Michelle V., who begins with "A Stray Drop of Blood by Roseanna M. White is by far one of the best books that I have ever read! There is no way I will ever be able to adequately describe to you just how wonderful this book is. It's not just a book, it is an experience, and it's one that you must have for yourself. The writing, the story, the Gospel message, are all outstanding" and goes on from there with more wonderful stuff. =)

I have a feeling I've missed some . . . And there's more pending, which I'll alert everyone to as they come up, because I get too excited to keep them to myself. =) But suffice it to say that I have been both humbled and flattered, encouraged and edified at all these lovely words about my words. I have been told it's a book to savor, to reread, one epic in its influence as well as its story. I've brought people to tears (who knew that would be good thing? LOL) and been compared more than once to Francine Rivers--who has always rated as Best Author Ever in my mind.

So thank you, readers, reviewers, and influencers! You guys make my day regularly. =)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Story Time . . . LOVE FINDS YOU IN NORTH POLE, ALASKA

First, the usual updates. Don't forget to enter Friday's giveaway for Stephanie's young adult novel.

Giveaways and interviews up for Stray Drop right now can be found at Sandi Rog's blog and Trish Perry's blog. I'm up talking about finding a character's voice at Lauralee Bliss's blog, and more is coming!

~*~

Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska

by Loree Lough

I had a couple holiday books come in the week before Christmas, and I spent my Christmas week delving into them. I know most people get their reviews of holiday-themed book up in, oh, November, but hey. I didn't have the books then, and there's something about reading a holiday book actually on the holiday. =)

This past holiday, I let myself become buried in my friend Loree Lough's Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska. I'm a big fan of the Love Finds You books (which only has a small something to do with the fact that their editor loves my manuscript I sent her;-), and this one was a real treat.

The youngest and only daughter of a huge family, Sam Sinclair has a major something to prove--that she can make a go of life on her own, far away from Baltimore. She strikes out in an old RV, with a yearning for a tourist town she saw on TV and a promise in her pocket for a job as chef in a hotel in that oh-so-perfect town. Just think--North Pole, Alaska, where it's Christmas Every Day of the Year! Could anything be better? But when she shows up, she finds her job's been pulled out from under her. Still, she knows this is where God led so. So . . . now what?

Bryce Stone doesn't hate Christmas. He just hates being surrounded by it. Every day. Constantly. With the same music playing all . . . day . . . long. Every day. Constantly. Is that such a crime? But after a war injury leaves him sightless in one eye and his aunt says she needs his help at the shop that was once his parents', this ex-Marine has little choice but to settle back into his hometown. His goal? Unload the unprofitable souvenir store, open a woodworking shop, and invest in some earplugs. Oh--and find someone else to run the store in the meantime. He isn't thrilled with his aunt's choice of the newly-arrived elf with the too-attractive face, but he isn't going to argue. Not when she proves herself capable . . . and more fun to be around than he'd like to admit.

When you pit a Scrooge against an elfin optimist, you're bound to have a few hoots and plenty of chuckles. I had a genuine good time reading this book and enjoyed every page. It wasn't just a story of Christmas--it was a story about finding that peace and surety that can make the holidays so special and integrating it into you life, your very spirit. Through trial, heartache, discovery, and determination, Loree paints a picture about love that just doesn't give up. It sticks. All day. Every day. Constantly.

No matter the time of year, this is a delightful story that you're going to enjoy burying yourself in. (FYI, most of it takes place during an Alaskan summer . . . even if they do run a Christmas store;-)

*I received this book as a complementary review copy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Modern . . . Nicknames

First, don't forget to enter Friday's giveaway before this Thursday for a chance to win Stephanie Morrill's amazing Out with the In Crowd!

Oh, and several features and giveaways of A Stray Drop of Blood this week. First up is Sandi Rog's blog, where she flatters me by saying how my passion shows up in my writing, and next is Trish Perry's blog, where there's an interview that actually made me THINK--the nerve! LOL I'll be appearing a few other places this week too and will let everyone know when the links are up. =)

~*~

Have you ever stopped to think about our nicknames for each other? I'm not talking about things that are just shortened versions, or standard nicknames (even if they don't always make sense, lol) for a name. I'm talking the weirder ones. You know why I love them? Because they tell a story about the characters.

In my stories, I tend to stumble into them. I don't generally think anything of them, but one of my critique partners will inevitably pick up on each and every one and comment on how fun they are. (Hi, Mary!) Her attention has turned my attention to it and made me wonder why they're so important.

A few examples, for the fun of it. In my work-in-progress, I have a friend of my hero's who's ridiculously tall. My hero says, off the cuff, "Maybe to you, Jolly Green, but the rest of us . . ." My critter got a kick out of that one, simply because it shows an ease between the guys, the fact that they find fun where they can. From the same story, the hero's sister's called Peaches, and my Arab heroine isn't sure when she first hears it if this is an American term of endearment or any actual name. In reality (can we say that when talking about fiction??) she got the name by taking a bite of every single peach from a bushel her mother bought when she was two. (Aheming at MY sister, who did this same thing, though never got a nickname out of it.) It's going to give an impression of someone all soft and sweet and fun, which will disguise the shrewd woman underneath.

In my beach series, characters that are supporting in book one and later take the limelight call each other Beanpole and Bulldozer. Now, it's obvious why the 6'6" Garret gets the Beanpole appellation, right? The kids in school called him that when he was young, and Celeste, who hasn't seen him since they were eleven, only remembers him by that name. She, as it happens, is the one called Bulldozer--for reasons also obvious when you get to know her. This woman knows what she wants and will proudly push anyone or anything out of her way.

I think part of the reason I do this is probably Orson Scott Card's Lost Boys. Has anybody read that?? It's a really good, really terrifying book about a family that moves to North Carolina and--well, I don't actually know how to describe it without giving it away. Let's just say infestations of insects, some lost little boys that the family's son befriends, a baby who they discover has some issues, a job that isn't working out right . . . yeah. It's heavy, yet a light read.

But anyway. One of the things that I loved most was that the father (who was the main character) had fun nicknames for all his kids, names that wouldn't have made sense to an outsider. His wife was constantly saying, "Don't call them that!" but even she objected with humor. They knit the family together. And then at the end, he stops with the nicknames. That was when I--I, Roseanna the Impenetrable, Roseanna the Dry-Eyed--cried.

In a lot of ways, our names are who we are. And when the ones our parents gave us at birth become too small to define us, our loved ones tack on a few others. My critters call me RO, not because it's the first two letters of my name, but because we have a joke that I'm Roseanna-Optimist. My grandmother calls me Boat, which no one in their right mind would get until I say, "You know . . . Roseanna Banana became Banana, and Banana became Banana Boat, and that just became Boat." My sister calls me Pooky because in high school she discovered that "pooky" means "a small, cute creature" and decided that fit her baby sis. (My nieces now call out "Aunt Pooookyyyyyy!" which is adorable.) And let me just say, I've gotten a lot of questions on that one. =)

In writing and life, we need to take care of what we call people and what people call us--you just never know when that might be the one thing others remember.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winner!

Of Linore's The Country House Courtship is Karen! Congrats! Now everybody go enter the new giveaway below for the fabulous Stephanie Morrill's Out with the In Crowd.

My Friend Stephanie - Interview and Giveaway

Today we're welcoming Young Adult author extraordinaire and my bestest bud, Stephanie Morrill. Stephanie's second book, Out with the In Crowd, just released from Revell on January 1, the second title in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt trilogy.

Stephanie is offering a signed copy to one lucky person, so leave your comments between now and next Thursday for a chance to win!

~*~

About Out with the In Crowd

Skylar Hoyt may have vowed to change her partying ways, but it’s not so easy to change her friends. She’s trying hard to live a new life, but her old one is constantly staring her in the face. Add to that two parents battling for her loyalty, a younger sister struggling with a crisis pregnancy, and a new boyfriend wishing for more of her time, and Skylar feels like she can’t win. After all, how do you choose favorites among the people you love most?

About Stephanie

Stephanie Morrill is a twentysomething living in Kansas with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their daughter. She loves writing for teens because her high school years greatly impacted her adult life. That, and it's an excuse to keep playing her music really, really loud.

~*~


What's your latest book?

My latest book is Out with the In Crowd, which released from Revell on January 1st. It’s the second book in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, which follows Skylar through her tumultuous senior year. In Out with the In Crowd, Skylar finds that while she vowed to change her partying ways, it’s not so easy to change her friends. She’s trying hard to live a new life, but her old one is constantly staring her in the face. Add to that two parents battling for her loyalty, a younger sister struggling with a crisis pregnancy, and a new boyfriend wishing for more of her time, and Skylar feels like she can’t win.

What's your favorite part of the story?

One of my favorite aspects of this story is Skylar wrestling with how much she should be willing to give up for her high school boyfriend, with whom she believes she has a future. My husband and I met and fell in love our freshman year of high school, so it’s an issue really close to my heart.

Mine too! (One of the things that helped Stephanie and me bond. I married my high school sweetheart too. =) Okay, on with the questions. What was the hardest part to write?

Two things come to mind. One is any scene that involved Skylar’s 15-year-old sister, Abbie, who’s pregnant and trying to figure out if she should keep the baby or not. The scenes were fun to write because of all the conflict, but stepping inside Abbie’s shoes was always emotionally draining.

The other is a specific scene where Skylar’s mom is breaking the news to her that she intends to leave Skylar’s farther. Skylar and I both cried as I wrote that one.

And for the record, they're incredibly emotional to read too. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

Young adult fiction is by far my favorite to write. By that, I mean books for teens. Some people think I mean books for 20-somethings, but that’s actually called New Adult fiction.

I used to say that young adult fiction was also my favorite to read. Now I’ve discovered that I like any story that’s good. A year ago I would have told you that I’d never be interested in a book about vampires, and I’ve now read The Twilight Saga twice in the last six months. A genre I find myself drawn to is historical fiction. They have some of the prettiest covers!

(She has to say that about historicals because her crit buddy [me] writes them, mwa ha ha.) What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

Right now I’m reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. My husband has been harassing me to read it for about a year now, and I finally made it a priority. I’m a few chapters in and really enjoying it.

(Roseanna butting in to say that I seconded her hubby on the necessity to read Ender's Game and she can't fight both of us. ;-)

Next up is either The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen, Nothing but Trouble by Susan May Warren, or Anything but Normal by Melody Carlson. They’re all high up on the stack so it’ll just depend on my mood.

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

That getting published is really only the beginning. I worked toward getting published for years. I dreamed about it, prayed about it, educated myself. When I signed my contract, I had that sense of, “Ah … I made it!” It lasted about five seconds, and then I was like, “Oh my gosh, marketing! Blogging! Getting a web site up! Writing new projects! Keeping up with everything else being published!”

I quickly discovered that I knew the ins and outs of being an aspiring author, but I knew nothingabout building a career. And there’s not much of a learning curve, either. Fortunately, I’ve been able to reach out to other fab young adult authors like Shelley Adina and Jenny B. Jones. They’ve been sweet enough to lend a helping hand, and I hope to pay it forward someday!

And as someone who could offer her a tidbit here and there that I picked up through reviewing, as well as someone who gets to soak up all she's learning, I can tell you that this author is one who puts her all into her books, both during the writing process and once they're on the shelves. Not that I'm biased. =)

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Thanks, Stephanie, for chatting! Everyone should check out her beautiful website, where she also has a blog that alternately makes me laugh and touches me.

For those of you who don't win the giveaway, you can purchase this fabulous book at Amazon. But by all means, try to get the signed copy here first! Just leave a comment and where I can reach you if you're the lucky duck.

Contest will end 1/15/10. Void where prohibited and all that jazz.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Book Lovers

I will never forget my shock. There I sat, an innocent, in the admissions office at my college. All around me were the usual people that made up my day--the admissions counselors, the office manager, the director and associate director. We were minding our own business, recruiting future students for St. John's College, a.k.a. the Great Books School. When out of nowhere, it happened. The new data manager (not an alum, let it be noted, unlike most of the employees) showed her true colors. "Tim and I are spring cleaning, and I threw out three boxes of books."

Gasp! The horror . . . The sacrilege . . . Oh, let it not be so, let not this blasphemer be sitting two feet away from me . . .

We just stared at her in shock until she started laughing at the matching expressions on the faces of the four of us in the room. "What?" she finally asked.

I wrapped my tongue around it first. "You threw away books? And you dare to admit it here?"

Now, it's no secret that we Johnnies are book-lovers. We make a four-year career out of collecting obscure literature, reading it, and discussing it in class. It's what we do. In a lot of ways, it's who we are. We are Book Lovers. We unite to sing the praises of all things bound in card stock with hotmelt and trimmed to size.

But there are those in the world who oppose our Creed. There are those who value Space and Organization above the wonder of typeset ideas. Some compromise by donating their unneeded books to good homes or libraries, which is an understandable decision. But some . . . some toss them carelessly to the side. As if they are . . . nothing! (Sob, gasp!)

Well, I am here as a safehouse. Just last night my husband erected four new four-foot shelves to hold the overflow. Now, most of these books that I so carefully placed in alphabetic order last night will not be with me forever. I am but a steward of them, seeing to their well-being until I find a good home for them, readers to devour their pages and write reviews for me. But oh, how I long to adopt them all!

In my quest to provide an island of safety for books of all kinds, I have developed several identities. I will answer to The Reviewer. The Librarian. The Bookworm. My keen ears can hear the phrase, "I need a new book to read" from a mile away, and my deft fingers will quickly pluck a selection from my shelves and deliver it to the friend or family member in need. It is not always an easy calling, but it is one I cannot ignore.

And we are training up another generation to take over our operations even now. As my itchy fingers dove into the box of books-awaiting-shelves the moment plywood touched brackets, my son and daughter were there beside me. Believing, hoping. And asking, "Mommy, do we get to keep all these books, or do we give them away?"

I caressed the spine of a novel just begging to be read. "These, sweetie, we'll have to give away."

A definite pout entered her tone. "But why, Mommy? Why can't we keep them all?"

A question to bring tears to this Bookworm's eyes. "Because, sweetie, other people need to read too. But don't you worry. Though we send these out, new books will come in to take their places."

I felt a little hand press against my leg. "I'll help you Mommy. I'll help you divide them. You just hand the non-fishing to me." And she picked up a book with a cover that declared it non-fiction and put it in the pile for the lower shelf.

My chest swelled with pride. They'll learn . . . and they'll carry on. It's what we do. It's who we are.

We are Book Lovers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Remember When . . . The Magi Arrived?

Happy Epiphany, everyone! (Okay, I don't know if that's the traditional greeting, but it'll work. ;-) The twelve days of Christmas are officially over, and today's the day when traditionally the decorations come down. Literally "manifestation," the Epiphany is about commemorating the importance of God being made man through Christ. It's also the celebration for when the Wise Men arrived on the scene.

Much of our Christmas tradition actually comes from the Magi. We give gifts because they gave gifts. And ah, how well we know them. Right? Gold--a traditional gift to give to royalty, arguably the most valuable commodity on earth at the time of Jesus. Frankincense--an aromatic resin used in perfume and also a traditional gift for a king, which is considered symbolic because of Christ's divine authority. And myrrh--an incense used in burials, which is generally considered prophetic of the sacrifice of our Savior.

But did you ever stop to wonder about the Magi themselves? Their identities are greatly disputed, but their importance is well recognized. Because they were obviously not Jewish, their part in Jesus’ arrival points to the salvation offered to the Gentiles. They’re also generally thought to be scholars or astronomers, the only ones who would have taken enough note of the star to follow it. To me, that also indicates that Christ truly came to complete the Law as representing reason and logic; He calls us to faith, but also to understanding.

The traditional names of the Magi are Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar; these are in a Greek manuscript found in Alexandria in the sixth century. Given this and references to them as “kings,” historians think that Caspar may have been Rustaham-Gondofarr Suren-Pahlav, king of modern day Iran from 10 BC to 17 AD. As his name means “master of the treasury,” he is the one thought to deliver gold to our Lord.

One more interesting tidbit. On the Twelfth Day of Christmas (yesterday), observers would always scratch C+M+B onto their doorposts. Many mistake this as standing for the names of the Wise Men, but really it's an abbreviation of the Latin phrase Christ Mansionem Benedictat, which means “Christ Bless this Home.”

In this coming year, may Christ dwell with you, giving you His blessings and filling you and yours with His Spirit. May today, and every day, bring you an Epiphany of the reality of His sovereignty.


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Reminder--you only have until tomorrow to enter the giveaway on The Country House Courtship!