Friday, April 30, 2010

My Friend Lena - Interview & Giveaway


Today I'm honored to welcome the amazing and prolific Lena Nelson Dooley to my blog! I know y'all will enjoy getting to know her.

Lena has graciously offered a copy of her latest release, Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico to one lucky reader, so leave your comments below with a way I can reach you!

~*~

About Lena

Lena Nelson Dooley, president of DFW Ready Writers—the local chapter of ACFW, is a multi-published, award-winning author who loves to mentor other authors. With her 25th book release, she has close to 650,000 books in print. Her next release, Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, will be on sale May 1, 2010. Look for it bookstores everywhere.

Lena has spoken at conferences and writers’ meetings in four states. She also speaks at women's retreats and event of all kinds. She lives in Hurst, Texas with her husband of over 45 years.

Lena’s door and heart are always open to those God places in her path. She seriously considers her ministry as a mentor, prayer warrior, even a champion of the downtrodden, her life’s work.

~*~

About Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico

All that glitters is not gold.

It’s 1890, and Golden, New Mexico, is a booming mining town where men far outnumber women. So when an old wealthy miner named Philip Smith finds himself in need of a nursemaid, he places an ad for a mail-order bride—despite the protests of his friend Jeremiah. Hoping to escape a perilous situation back East, young Madeleine Mercer answers the ad and arrives in town under a cloud of suspicion. But just as she begins to win over Philip—and Jeremiah himself—the secrets she left behind threaten to follow her to Golden...and tarnish her reputation beyond redemption.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, from Summerside Press, releases May 1, 2010.

Ah, I love the Love Finds You books! What's your favorite part of the story?

I loved watching the romance develop, but I also love the character of Philip Smith and how he interacted with everyone else.

Nothing beats a fabulous character! What was the hardest part to write?

Because I had to do a lot of research about it, preparing for and completing the train trip from Boston to Golden was the hardest.

Logistical stuff. Fun. ;-) What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

I want them to understand that we don’t forgive someone only when we feel like it. God’s forgiveness is unconditional, and ours must be, too.

So true! Is there a theme to this book?

God’s plans for us are often far different from our own plans, but they’re so much better.

I keep telling myself that, but blockheaded me often forgets, LOL. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I actually like to write both contemporary and historical novels, but I’ve sold more historical books to publishers.

And my reading is eclectic. I don’t like to read just one genre. I don’t want to read horror or war novels that contain mostly the fighting. I love historical and contemporary romances, romantic suspense, suspense, mysteries, even many sci-fi/fantasy or futuristic novels.

A woman with many of the same interests as me! What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

I just finished Rooms by James Rubart and started Beguiled by Deeanne Gist and J Mark Bertrand, both very good books.

I have a large number of books on my shelves that I wan to read, so I’ll just pick one that strikes my fancy when I finish this one.

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

That editors aren’t people to fear. They’re our friends, and they need us just as much as we need them.

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

I have hosted a critique group in my home for over 25 years. God has brought people into that group who have differing giftings. We all help each other.

Oh, it would be so cool if my critters could meet regularly! We're a long distance group. If someone were to give you $5,000 to spend on anything you wanted, what would you buy? (No saving or gifts to charities allowed!)

I would buy one of those electric stovetops that has a smooth surface with the heating elements below, and I’d get a new door to the patio.

Very practical. If you have some leftover, I could use a new door to my porch, too. ;-) Any funny family stories about living with a writer?

One night at dinner, a thought came to me. I told James what a certain person was going to do. He asked who that was. When I told him it was a character in the novel I was writing, he said, “Writers really are weird.” (However, he loves and supports me in my writing. He just didn’t understand having a conversation about a character.)

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Lena! Readers, you will not want to miss Lena's blog--she interviews authors daily and always has a slew of fun giveaways from those authors.

You can purchase Golden, New Mexico at Amazon, ChristianBook, and CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Contest ends 5/6/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book before another winner is selected.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Virginia Smith's Third Time's a Charm is . . .

Melinda!

Congrats! I just sent you an email.

Thoughtful About . . . Discoveries

Two giveaways - Jennifer Hudson Taylor's Highland Blessings and Ginny Smith's Third Time's a Charm (last day!!).

~*~

I love history. Have I mentioned that before? And it's not that I just love learning it for its own sake--I mean, that's cool and fun, but I always have an ulterior motive. Wild guess at what that is? Ding, ding, ding! You got me--I'm always trying to figure out how to weave it into fiction.

But much as I love learning about history in general, I especially love learning about particular history, because inevitably God has given me a story that works perfectly with it. The other day I was sitting there reading a Greek history (as in, written by an ancient Greek historian) and kept entertaining my husband with cries of, "Sweet! This is perfect!!" I thought I was going to have to do some major explaining for a few plot points in Jewel of Persia, but as it happens, my premise actually HAPPENED. How cool is that? I love God! It's all Him, to give me ideas that are actually plausible. Woo hoo!

But that's not the only discovery I'm going to touch on today. Last night I also took a webinar by the good folks at Phenix & Phenix Publicity. It's a prerequisite for one-on-one training they're offering contracted authors at conference this fall, so I took it in case I decide to go that way for appointments.

What did I learn? Well, first, that I'm probably never going to run into some of the situations they touched on. Being called on by Fox News as an expert? Um, not likely. Maybe in some bizarre stretch of the imagination, but I'll be thrilled if I ever make it on television for anything. Even locally, since we don't have much local opportunity, LOL. But I also learned that the things I can do, I pretty much am doing.

Example? They recommend getting your name out in the right circles by reviewing other books in your genre. Um, check, says the founder of the Christian Review of Books. They recommend having a website that provides something to readers, other than just selling your book (like a blog or research stuff). Check, says Roseanna the Blogger who, at her husband's insistence, wrote that charming Encyclopedia Roseannica. They said to never, NEVER create an online platform that you then abandon. Check, says Roseanna the Compulsive Emailer/Facebook updater.

You know what impressed me most about these people, though? When asked if someone should hire a publicist on a limited budget, he said, "No. If you only have a few thousand to spend, spend it on building your presence yourself." I can really respect someone who says not to rush out and hire them, LOL.

And those are my discoveries this week. Hope ya'll are having a good one!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Remember When . . . They Drank the Rivers Dry?

Two giveaways - Jennifer Hudson Taylor's Highland Blessings and Ginny Smith's Third Time's a Charm.

~*~

More today from my good friend Herodotus. =) I'd been concentrating on putting words to the page for a while, but yesterday I got plenty of those down and so took up my gigantic book to read while outside with the kiddos. There were quite a few times when, just as the first time I read it, I went, "Whoa."

Scholars all agree that Xerxes rallied the largest army up to that point in history when he marched against Greece. Scholars today also say, "But surely it wasn't as big as Herodotus says it was. He just wants it to sound that way so that it's more impressive when the Greeks win." That's a reasonable argument, but . . . well, he's really specific. And since I have no better numbers, we're running with them.

Now, picture this. An army so big it takes it seven days to march past any one point. That's (according to my hubby's math last night) a line of soldiers 200 MILES long. See why I was "Whoa"ing? According to Xerxes census of his troops, the land army was 1,700,000 strong when they stepped foot in Greece. They also kept gathering forces as they went (a condition of surrender) so that their numbers kept on growing.

According to Herodotus, this huge force (plus their slaves, concubines, supply crews, and animals) drank dry nearly every river they came across. Um, yeah. I should think so.

Then there was the fleet. They had 1,207 ships. So factor in crews for them, all the special folks that go along with it, etc., and the total number of fighting men swells to 2,317,610. (See, pretty darn specific.) Factor in all those slaves and supply crews--but NOT counting the concubines they brought and the eunuchs--and Herodotus estimates that the total number of people moving en masse into Greece was . . .

5,283,220. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry, I'm still totally stunned by this. There are probably more interesting things to talk about, but WOW. Am I right?

A funny note about it--Xerxes was so proud of this army (duh, right?) that when they caught spies from Athens and were ready to execute them, he stepped in and said, "No, no. Let's give them the grand tour and send them home. How else will everyone know how awesome we are? Let 'em shake in their shoes and surrender, boys, and we can all go home without lifting a finger!"

He said, similarly, about enemy supply ships they saw, "Let 'em go. They're headed where we are, right? We'll just eat their grain once we get there." I love Xerxes. =)

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I'm off to dethrone a queen.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Story Time . . . HIGHLAND BLESSINGS Interview & Giveaway


Today I'm pleased to welcome Jennifer Taylor, fellow HisWriter, to chat about her upcoming release Highland Blessings, which hits shelves next week. Congrats, Jennifer! As an enthusiast of European-based historicals, I'm just thrilled about this.

Jennifer has graciously offered a copy to one lucky commentor, so as usual, leave your messages below with a way for me to contact you!

~*~

About Jennifer

Jennifer Hudson Taylor writes historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas. Her fiction has won awards in the American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest, and her work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Everton’s Genealogical Publishers, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Journalism. When she isn't writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, genealogy, and reading. She resides with her husband and daughter in the Charlotte area of NC. Highland Blessings is her debut novel. Learn more about Jennifer at www.jenniferhudsontaylor.com.

~*~

About Highland Blessings

Scotland, 1473
Highland warrior Bryce MacPhearson kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. When he forces Akira to wed him, hoping to end a half-century feud between their clans, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment. . .Yet her strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce. But there is a traitor in their midst . . . and murder is the ultimate weapon.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Highland Blessings comes out May 2010 from Abingdon Press

Check out my review here. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

My dream office would be a high balcony with shade overlooking the sea so I can listen to the waves of the ocean and my laptop. A view of a lighthouse would make it complete. My real office is a long bonus room with a glass window in the corner by the window. I have several tables in a long row in the middle of the room and stacks of printed manuscripts around the tables with folders of accompanying research materials. I have a wooden bookcase filled with research books and the top shelves contain my collection of lighthouses. Framed images are on the walls and more lighthouses are on the filing cabinet in the other corner.

Oo, lighthouses. Makes me want to go to the beach! Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

My full-time job—40 hours a week. I dream of spending that time writing and promoting my work. It would be so nice to be relaxed in my own home when writing, not carting my work with me everywhere in case I get some time at lunch, during my allergy shots, on weekend trips, etc.

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

A plane ticket to Scotland, but I would need more than that to take my family and I’d want them to be with me.

More is granted for this wish fulfillment dream. =) What writing goal have you set for yourself that would be the hardest (or unlikeliest) but most rewarding to achieve?

That’s easy, to be successful enough at my writing to quit my day job.

My prayers are with you on that! Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

The Call came on my birthday. I was waiting in line at the drive-through at Arby’s on my lunch break during work. I got so excited I had to pull out of line and park so I could talk to my agent coherently. It was the best birthday present God had ever given me. I knew in my heart that only He could orchestrate something so cool. And it was a personal message that He had not forsaken me, and since I had originally set my birthday as a goal, seven years earlier, He chose that day to give me my gift.

Okay, that rates as one of the coolest Call stories EVER! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

The sequel, Highland Sanctuary, October 2011.

~*~

Thanks for chatting with us, Jennifer! Everyone be sure to check out Jennifer's website. Her book is available at Amazon and CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Contest ends 5/3/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book before another is selected.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Modern . . . Artists

Giveaway - Virginia Smith's Third Time's a Charm

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It's a beautiful spring morning here, by which I mean pouring down the rain. Gotta say, I love a spring or summer rain. When you look out and the light's all soft and green, when morning creeps in slowly through the clouds . . . ah. =) So I'm not going to spend too awful much of it on a long post. Gotta seize the great weather for writing!

So. In the same manuscript from which sprang my Crazy Houses post, I have a character who is an artist. This post's title's actually a little ironic, because "modern artist" usually denotes someone who creates "modern art." Orchid most assuredly does not. Her work is a throwback to some of my favorites--Da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc.

Now, maybe I'm boring for preferring Renaissance masters over the moderns, but there you have it. I do. I like to know what I'm looking at and marvel at realism. I appreciate many other movements, but when I sit down with a pencil and a sketchpad, they aren't the ones I'm thinking of.

So when I created an artist, I naturally made her share my tastes. Mostly because my few classes on art history only covered so much, and what stuck was what I liked, LOL. And I gotta tell you, it's really fun to write about an artist. I can just say that she can do this or that, that people reacted this way to it, without ever having to present said artwork. Handy, eh?

But Orchid isn't so much a Renaissance girl that she loves it all blindly--oh no. Something mentioned once in Love Me Silly but which will be expounded on if ever it gets published and so earns a sequel about Orchid is that she doesn't much care for the Mona Lisa, while an ex thought it was the end-all-be-all.

Is there any great piece of art most of the world deems a masterpiece, but which you don't like?

Friday, April 23, 2010

My Friend Virginia - Interview & Giveaway

Well, it's been a rough week for me (stupid flu) so here's hoping Friday is a good, nausea-free day, eh? And to ensure that it starts off bright, let's welcome the lovely Virginia Smith. I had the pleasure of taking one of Ginny's classes at the ACFW conference in '07, when her Love Inspired novel Murder by Mushroom was coming out, and let me assure you she's a fun lady!

As usual, leave your comments below for a chance to win!

~*~

About Virginia

Virginia Smith recently contracted her twelfth book in four years. Previous books in the Sister-to-Sister series include: Stuck in the Middle and Age before Beauty. In 2008 she was named Writer-of-the-Year at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Stuck in the Middle was a finalist for American Christian Fiction Writers’ 2009 Book of the Year Award. A Taste of Murder was a finalist for the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.

Ginny and husband, Ted, divide their time between Lexington, Kentucky, and Salt Lake City, Utah, escaping as often as possible for diving trips to the Caribbean. Admittedly, her adventurous outings are often as much fun as they are “book research.”

~*~

What's your latest book?

My newest book is Third Time’s a Charm (Revell, January 2010), the funny and heartwarming story of a professional young woman struggling to balance career, church, budding romance, and a personal crisis. As if that weren’t enough, a couple of matchmaking sisters crank up the tension and the fun. This is the third book in the Sister-to-Sister series, following Stuck in the Middle and Age before Beauty, but you don’t have to read those books before this one.

When I created the Sister-to-Sister series, I modeled the characters after my relationship with my own sisters, so the books are very close to my heart. Plus, I drew heavily on personal experience to write this book. Third Time’s a Charm is lighthearted in places, but it confronts some tough issues, too.

Oh, that sounds like fun! What's your favorite part of the story?

There are several scenes I really like in this story, such as the part where Tori meets Ryan’s parents’ farm and gets splattered with ... uh, something disgusting. Or the part where she tracks down her father and receives a huge shock. But the ending of this book is probably my favorite part. I always pay extra close attention the last line of a book, because I want to leave readers with a satisfied feeling. And since this book concluded a series, I wanted that last line to be really special. I prayed about it, and wandered around the house mumbling to myself. The words finally came, and it was one of those moments a writer loves, when you type them and then stare at them on the screen with chills zipping up your spine. I think it wrapped up the series perfectly!

And this is Roseanna resisting the urge to peek ahead to the last page . . . bad, Roseanna! Wait until you get there! LOL. What was the hardest part to write?


The hardest part to write is also one of my favorite scenes. It’s the part where Tori tracks down her father, and discovers that during the years he has ignored her existence and she had no idea where he was, he lived ninety minutes away. She is heartbroken, because she thinks of all the special moments in her life that he could have shared. And then when she decides to confront him, she discovers something that wounds her even more. It’s hard to watch your characters suffer. But it also makes them more real.

Very true. Now, speaking of real . . . and dream . . . what would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?


Actually, I don’t find myself inspired by my surroundings. My office is nice, with a good desk and a curved keyboard and all the ergonomically correct furnishings. The desk is a little cluttered, especially when I’m working on a book because I don’t take the time to clear it off regularly. But the important part of my office is the door! I like silence – no distractions. In fact, in the house we owned before the one we have now, my office window had an incredible view of gorgeous mountains. I had to keep the blinds closed, otherwise I’d just sit and stare out the window all day.

LOL. I think most of my writing has been done in “the cave”--the space between the printers in the little desk space I could chisel out. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

When I’m writing, I have three documents open – the manuscript file, a spreadsheet where I record details like names and descriptions and anything else I have to remember, and a browser window so I can access the Internet. I use Thesaurus.com constantly to find just the right word, and I Google all sorts of information to help me as I’m going along. For Third Time’s a Charm, instance, I Googled D&G jeans to find out how much they cost. And I Googled “Find a Person” to make sure I recorded the steps for tracking down someone correctly. (It’s ridiculously easy, by the way. A little frightening to realize what information is publicly available about a person through the Internet!)

Ever wonder what we did before Google?? I mean SERIOUSLY! But anyway. What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?


I didn’t realize how much influence and weight the marketing department has on the finished product. Things like the title and cover and back cover copy. Actually, I was relieved to discover that, because they certainly have more expertise about those things than I do! I’m happy to leave my “baby” in their capable hands, so they can dress her up to face the public.

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


Let’s see. I’d probably buy all new office equipment. I would love to have a nice color laser printer, and an oversized monitor. On the other hand, I’d also love to splurge and take a trip to Ireland. My husband and I visited Dublin briefly a few years ago, and we fell in love with the city. I’d love to see more of the country.

I'll be generous and extend the gift to be enough for both. ;-) Any funny family stories about living with a writer?


I have a hard taking off my editing hat, and it drives my husband nuts. I critique the plot of every television show or movie we watch. He’ll sit there and listen to me rant about gigantic plot holes, and unrealistic dialogue, and unsatisfactory conclusions. Then he shakes his head and says, “It’s tough living with a writer.”

Oddly, my hubby does that more than me. So what are you writing right now?

I’m working on a romantic suspense novel about a young woman who gets pulled into a deadly game of wits between ten wealthy businessmen. I’m having a lot of fun with it!

Oo, sounds intriguing! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

A Daughter’s Legacy will hit bookstores in May. That’s my first attempt at straight romance, and I had a blast writing that book. It is set in a zoo, and to research the book I worked as a zookeeper for a day! I learned a ton about the inner workings of animal care, and a lot of my research showed in the book.

Oh, what fun! Can't wait.

~*~

Thanks for chatting with us, Ginny!

Readers, you can check Ginny out on the web at www.VirginiaSmith.org. On her Books link, she's got sample chapters and links to multiple places where you can purchase them.

Void where prohibited. Contest ends 4/29/10. Winner will have two weeks to respond before another winner is selected.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of A Distant Melody is . . .

Loretta! (boyetts@ . . .)

Congrats, Loretta! I'm emailing you now.

Thoughtful About . . . Feelin ' It

Giveaway - Last day to enter for Sarah Sundin's A Distant Melody
Giveaway of Stray Drop - at the fabulous Jennifer Taylor's blog

~*~

First, a funny story. Over the weekend we went to the big St. John's vs. Naval Academy Croquet Tournament . . . yeah, only Johnnies or Annapolitans have a clue what that is, LOL. Suffice it to say that the entire front campus is covered with picnic blankets and lawn chairs, people dressed in fun hats and dresses and suits, and a generally fun day.

Anyway. At one point I look over at Xoe, who is standing in the middle of our picnic blanket and facing . . . no one. Nothing. Except an older woman who's standing a few feet away, watching the game. Now, picture my little golden-haired girl here--hip cocked out, hand on it, other hand in that classic "posing" gesture down her leg. And she just stood there, waiting, until the older woman finally looked down at her, smiled, and commented on how pretty she looked. And which point she simpered, grinned, waved, and ran back to me. It was all I could do not to laugh out loud. Amazing how a girl so impatient about everything else can stand so still for so long to await some praise. LOL.

On other topics, I'm happy to report that after a rather nasty relapse of the flu symptoms yesterday (totally blame those spicy green beans I should have known better than to eat on Tuesday!), I'm feeling quite the thing today. Of course, my diet is going to stay bland for the next few days. No question.

In that brief stretch of time when I was feeling well this week, I was debating titles for my new book. A few people mentioned Just Another Wife sounded too modern, which is a thought I'd had before too, though some others thought it perfect. I'm going for 100% "WOW!" here, though, so I've been thinking of new ones.

I came up with quite a few, but the one to lead the way with my critique partners is . . . Jewel of Persia. What's everyone think?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Remember When . . . Day Turned to Night?

Giveaway - Sarah Sundin's fantabulous A Distant Melody!

~*~

In re-reading Herodotus's History (how many of you can say you've done that? LOL.) about the Greco-Persian war, I keep stumbling upon fantastic little tidbits that I don't remember from my first read-through. Perhaps because we had to read so stinkin' much of it for each class that little details didn't really have time to stick. But wow! I'm finding some real gems for this new book!

One thing I'm still trying to figure out how to work in . . . at one point, Xerxes and his massive army are ready to finally, officially launch their campaign against Greece and cross the formidable river, Hellespont. They'd spent years first preparing and then bridging it. A storm collapsed their efforts, which led to Xerxes' infamous command to have the river lashed. They bridge it again and are finally ready to cross, when . . .

Day turns to night. Literally, according to Herodotus. Middle of the day, and POW! No clouds, no eclipse, just DARK. What do y'all make of that?

Now, the Ancient Greeks knew their astronomy--they would have known had it been a predictable phenomenon. And the Persians? They studied this stuff like nobody's business. Remember Daniel in Babylon, excelling at all their maths and sciences? Same empire.

But this . . . this defied explanation. So when Xerxes looked to his magi and said, "Yo, dudes, what's up with this?" they had no natural explanation.

"Obviously," they replied, "it's an omen."

"No, really? Brilliant, guys. Brilliant. How about telling me what it's an omen of?"

Insert the magi scratching their heads. Then one says, "Oo, oo, I know, I know! You know how Greece is represented by the day? And us, we're the night? Well obviously this is an omen of the night overtaking the day and Persia gaining a victory over Greece! Eh? Eh??"

Xerxes liked this (I mean, why wouldn't he??) but it still struck fear into a lot of the other people. See, even in 483 A.D., people knew spin when they heard it. And whether or not night was supposed to be them, it was darn scary when it overtook them twelve hours ahead of schedule.

Now, am I mixing this story with other memory, or is there some Old Testament account of something like this happening? I know there was an occasion where one of the prophets commanded the sun reverse, but was there a darkness thing? (Other than the plague?) If so, I'd love a refresher on where that is. If not . . . yeah, then I'm just confusing this one with other thoughts. =)

The real question, though, is how I can use this is my novel. Oh, the endless possibilities. Hmm . . . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Story Time . . . HIGHLAND BLESSINGS by Jennifer Taylor


Don't forget to enter Friday's giveaway for A Distant Melody.

And I'm sure y'all were just so bored yesterday without a post from me (ha ha), but I was too sick to care. Feeling mostly better this morning, though with a headache . . .

Anyway. Today you're getting a sneak peak of a book whose author I'll soon be posting an interview with and which I'll be doing a giveaway of. Enjoy!

Highland Blessings
by Jennifer Taylor

It's supposed to be her wedding day. But first Akira MacKenzie's groom gives his regrets, and then the MacPhearson warriors swoop down on them. Akira knows they've come for her--in spite of the fact that the chief of the MacPhearsons sent a missive breaking their engagement, he has obviously changed his mind and will not let her wed another. Except . . . why is it Evan's younger brother, Bryce, that comes for her instead of The MacPhearson himself?

Bryce is determined to honor his last promise to his dying father--that he would see peace with the MacKenzie's through Evan's engagement with the clan chief's daughter, Akira. His brother may not agree, but Bryce will not let one man's stubborness lead to more war. He steals Akira away and knows within moments of spending time with her that Evan will change his mind once he meets her and wed her as he should. How could he not? This is no ordinary woman, and such fire as she has will surely make a strong marriage and strong sons to bind the two clans together. Now if only he can keep his own thoughts off the woman destined to be The MacPhearson's wife.

Highland Blessings combined the charm of medieval Scotland with intrigue, adventure, and a love that battles the odds. The story takes the readers through twists and turns brought about by treachery, misunderstanding, and the misguided hatred of one clan for another. But through it all is the deep-seated love of family and the soul-deep connection of two people who don't quite understand why they feel these things for each other but cannot long deny them.

I was glad to see a book with this setting and look forward to more from Jennifer!


*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Friend Sarah - Interview & Giveaway

Today I'm super-excited to welcome Sarah Sundin to talk about her fabulous debut novel, A Distant Melody. I just reviewed this book on Tuesday, so feel free to check that out to see how awesome a book it is. =)

Sarah has graciously offered a signed copy, so as usual, leave your comments below with a way I can reach you!

~*~

About Sarah

Sarah Sundin’s first novel, A Distant Melody, was released in March 2010 by Revell. She lives in northern California with her husband and three children. When she isn’t ferrying kids to soccer and karate, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies.

~*~

About A Distant Melody

Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie will do anything to gain her approval—even marry a man she doesn't love. Lt. Walter Novak—fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women—takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives. As letters fly between Walt's muddy bomber base in England and Allie's mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?

~*~

What's your latest book?

A Distant Melody, Revell, March 2010.

Which was soooooooo good. Check out my review. What was the hardest part to write?

For me, the hardest part to write is always the first chapter—you have to do so much in so few pages. One scene that was emotionally difficult to write was late in the book when Walt receives bad news similar to bad news I once received. My first draft of that chapter was short and flat. I realized I didn’t want to delve into his emotions, but I had to—for Walt’s sake and for the story—and for myself.

Well, there was no flatness in those late bad-news scenes, so you obviously dug your toes in, gritted your teeth, and poured those emotions out! Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

I keep my whole bookcase handy when I write. I have three five-inch binders filled with research notes (yes, sick), plus another binder with story notes, character charts, and plot outlines. For this particular book I kept going back to my reference books on Army Air Force uniforms, Eighth Air Force history and procedures, and the B-17 pilot’s manual.

Well, that explains your expertise! I was struck time and again with the knowledge you effortlessly imparted. And speaking of knowledge . . . what lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?


I knew about the editing process and how much publicity needed to be done, but I didn’t know about the random assignments, often with short deadlines: title & cover questionnaires, catalog copy, influencer lists, marketing plans, etc. Also I didn’t realize how much juggling I would do. Currently I’m doing publicity for A Distant Melody, I just finished Revell’s edits for Book 2, I’m polishing Book 3 before I turn it in, and I’m preparing a proposal for another series.

Well, if you decide to branch out as a circus clown, you'll have your juggling act down! (Hmm, a circus of writers. I think we're onto something here! I know some hilarious characters in the writing world, LOL.) Anyway. Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) who you rely on when writing?


So many! First of all, I run my early chapters through my writers group, and then I have several good writer friends who read the whole manuscript. My mother and sister always see an early draft—they’re fantastic at picking out punctuation and grammar issues. I also ran this series through a pilot friend to make sure I didn’t make any major errors in the flying scenes. The first two novels in this series were also read by about two dozen reading friends in three-ring binder format when I’d given up hope of publication. A side benefit of this was I had two dozen friends encouraging me and praying for me, and now they’re wonderful cheerleaders. Love them.

Yep, they're priceless. Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

Driving. My kids are 11, 14, and 17, so I spend lots of time carting them to soccer, baseball, choir, karate, and youth group. And a big, furry demand on my time is our yellow lab. Daisy wants to play. All the time. And if I don’t play with her, she snatches papers, pens, and eating utensils from the counter. With all the chasing I do, I should be a lot skinnier.

I think your dog and my son are on the same wavelength . . . LOL. Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

The second book in the Wings of Glory series, A Memory Between Us, releases in September 2010, and the third book in August 2011.

~*~

Thanks so much for visiting with us, Sarah! Everybody, you gotta check out her blog at http://www.sarahsundin.blogspot.com and her fun website at http://www.sarahsundin.com. You can find A Distant Melody at Amazon, ChristianBook, B&N, Borders, and CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Contest ends 4/22/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book before another is selected.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of To Darkness Fled is . . .

Katie G! katiegalyean@ . . .

Congrats!

Thoughtful About . . . News!

Today's the last day to enter to win Jill Williamson's To Darkness Fled!!

~*~

So it's been an interesting week. As I've considered what would be a good followup to A Stray Drop of Blood, I got an idea for another Biblical Fiction that would be a new twist on the familiar Esther story. I wrote four and a half chapters of it a while back when the idea blossomed, and this past week I hammered out a synopsis and a blurb, polished up the first three chapters.

My thought? I'd run the idea past my agent and see what she thought about the possibility of trying to get a big CBA publisher interested. Meanwhile, my hubby/publisher of Stray Drop read it and loved what I was doing with it. Being the fabulous supporter he is, he told me to go ahead and get my agent's take on the big houses, but that he thought it would be a good title for WhiteFire to do too.

My agent's response was quick--given my proposals that are under consideration at the big houses right now, she didn't think it was a good idea to toss a Bib-Fic out there right now. They're a dubious sell in CBA, and unrelated to what I'm already trying to sell. She advised that I write it--but that I write it for WhiteFire.

I'll confess--my initial reaction was a rather long, "Oooohhhhhhhh. Siiiiiiggggghhhh." But then what this meant began to sink in. It means I can write this story in its full scope, without concern for keeping it under 100K. I'll keep a lot of control over it. And I don't have to wait who-knows-how-long to gain an editor's eye. Instead, my husband and I sat down and soon had a plan of attack.

Which means that my second novel, Just Another Wife, will be releasing in summer 2011 from WhiteFire Publishing! My editor's a real slave-driver, so I have to have the manuscript finished in the next few months (that's a joke--I decided on this deadline, LOL). And boy-howdy, it feels good to have something I now HAVE to get done! I love direction!

For those of you who might now be wondering what this story's all about, here's the blurb I was working on earlier this week:

Kasia thinks she’ll lose herself when she is taken to the palace to wed Xerxes–instead she finds an unexpected love with the king who is regarded as a god by his people. She, of all his wives, is the only one who loves him for the man beneath the crown. She, of all his wives, is the only one to threaten the careful balance of the world’s largest empire. When the king’s advisers realize how much sway this mere Jewish girl has over Xerxes, an intrigue springs up to rival the war with Greece. Kasia knows she will never take the place of the dethroned Amestris, but when she discovers that her best friend from childhood has arrived at the House of Women, she determines to use her influence to work for God’s people. Esther will be crowned–and though Kasia inadvertently turned Persia against the Jews, she knows Esther can save them.

In a combination of the familiar story of Esther told in the Bible and the history of Xerxes as told by Herodotus, Just Another Wife is a story of a love that nearly tears an empire apart, and the friendship that knits it back together.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Remember When . . . The Moths Ate History?

Giveaway - To Darkness Fled, a young adult fantasy by Jill Williamson.

~*~

How's that for a weird title? LOL. Had I not wanted to use my "Remember When" opener, it would have been "The Holes History Left."

So. I'm researching for a new Biblical-fiction, which I have mentioned briefly on here before. (I'll have an official announcement about it soon-ish.) It's going to be combining the book of Esther in the Bible with the history of Xerxes (what the rest of the world called King Ahasa-whatever in the Bible) as told by Herodotus in his chronicles of the war between Persia and Greece.

Here's the thing, though. Reading them, trying to put them together, leaves a lot of questions. Stupid ones like "When was his oldest son born?" that should have ready answers. But don't. We have very few records of the Persians outside these two sources I'm already using, so if they don't tell me, nothing does.

In a way, it's frustrating. I just want to know how old the kid was!! But I'm going to focus on how freeing it is, too. Because the more holes, the more illogical stuff that's recorded, the more I get to spin my way for my story, the more I get to make up.

Scholars today also agree that Herodotus, who gives us most of what we know about Xerxes, was rather biased against him, given that X was leading a massive army against H's people and all. So in all likelihood he doctored the truth a little to reflect his own beliefs and make Xerxes look as terrible as possible in the eyes of the Greeks. I'm totally taking that into account and assuming Herodotus wasn't a mind reader so didn't actually know all the thoughts he attributes to Xerxes. I'll be attributing my own thoughts to him, thank you very much. ;-) (I mean, not mine. But my interpretation, LOL.) For instance, some of the wackier things he did are going to be explained by a sense of humor. History doesn't record one, but you know. History rarely does.

Some of my best story ideas arise when I read something in history and am left going, "Yeah, but what about . . .?" Like in Esther--how, exactly, did no one know she was Jewish when everyone knew Mordecai was and they obviously had some kind of association?? Well, I have my theory, and it revolves around my main character. =)

Does the Esther story as told in the Bible leave you with any unanswered questions for me to work in?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Story Time . . . A DISTANT MELODY by Sarah Sundin


Giveaway - To Darkness Fled, a young adult fantasy by Jill Williamson.

~*~

I've been hearing a lot about A Distant Melody from my writing/reviewing friends, and they've all said the same thing: this isn't a book you should read too much about before you crack it open. Just read it--you'll love it. Given that when I picked up the book and read the back I thought, "Well this sounds okay . . ." I decided they must be on to something. And within the first chapter I knew why they were all saying it. This is a story made magical by the writing and tone, something a back cover blurb just can't adequately portray.

Allie Miller has always been a disappointment to her mother, has always been spoiled by her father. But as she was away at college it didn't strike her as it does now. Now, every evening is spent in the same way--her soon-to-be-fiance eats dinner with them, and they all sit on the porch. She can't help but feel that something is missing in this chord, something that would make her life's melody sweet. She can't imagine what note she needs, until a week spent with a college friend who's getting married introduces her to harmony that can fill one's soul when in the company of people who actually understand you--and like you anyway.

Walt Novak is a pilot who can't wait to get his orders and head over to show Hitler who's boss. Flying is one thing he can do without getting tongue tied or feeling the sting of his father's disapproval. Plus, there are no eligible women up in the air to make him trip over himself. His bad luck with unattached females is legendary--until he meets Allie. Allie . . . wow. Allie's everything. Unfortunately, she isn't as unattached as he at first assumes. So why can't he shake the desire to make her his girl?

As war ravages the world, these two less-than-perfect characters have fights on their hands that have nothing to do with the Axis. Allie must figure out where to draw the line between obedience and sacrifice. Walt must learn what damage lies and temper can cause. Together, though an ocean apart, they discover what can be when the Lord is let to work in the hearts that are His.

A Distant Melody is a beautiful story, but more, it's told in such a beautiful way that it will become a song in your mind as you're reading it. Each character is part of the greater movement, each scene a composition that builds toward the crescendo. And like any great composer, Sundin will have you wincing at every dissonance . . . because that makes the resolving chords so much sweeter.

Though this is her debut novel, Sarah Sundin has proven herself a master. It takes skill and vision to make a romance heart-thudding when the characters are so far from each other through most of the story, but she not only pulls it off, she makes it sing. This book gets my highest recommendation. It's perfect for lovers of romance, lovers of history (especially the WWII era), and lovers of good stories in general. I can't wait for the sequel!

Quick note--Sarah will be my feature author this Friday with an interview and giveaway, so don't forget to stop back over!!

(Oh yeah--and I got this book free from the publisher for review purposes.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Modern . . . Crazy Houses

Don't forget to enter Friday's giveaway for Jill Williamson's fabulous YA fantasy!!

~*~

Last week one of the books we got for my kids from the library is called Rotten Teeth. It's about a shy little girl who never takes anything into Show and Tell because she thinks there's nothing interesting enough in her house. And yet, as you turn the pages and look at her house, it's truly crazy. We're talking pet alligators on the lawn, aliens coming to her father's dental office, turtle chairs . . . she ends up taking a jar of rotten teeth, hence the title, but that's not my point here, LOL.

As I read this to Xoe the first time, I nearly started laughing at how this house resembled one in one of my books. The story now known as Love Me Silly features a house owned by the heroine's best friend's aunt. It's one of those houses where you notice something new (and bizarre) every time you look around. When my critique partners were reading this, they got continual chuckles from the things that showed up, too.

But the really funny thing is that nearly every bizarre item in that house came from my personal experience. The plastic pig that oinks every time you open the fridge? That would be a yard sale find that my grandfather thought so hilarious he installed it at his house. It took about a week for my grandmother to decide it was unbearably insulting and ban it to the downstairs fridge, which she didn't have to get into very often.

The pet tarantula? My MIL had one for years. (Shudder.) Her house was actually my inspiration for Aunt Willow's, though the character's is a bit more extreme in some cases. (Only some, LOL.) I still look around and find bizarre things stationed around my MIL's house regularly. Aside from the complete vintage wardrobe, she has shoes hanging on the walls, confederate soldier uniforms, a random wagon wheel hanging next to an old saddle, parasols, chain mail, manikins, and a talking monster butler that still freaks my daughter out every time she goes out into what we call The Peacock Room. Need I go on?

In my book, this house is in part just a fun backdrop, but it also nudges my heroine into letting loose and getting in touch with her fun side. I mean, how serious you can be when you're sitting at a table that looks like a hay bale on a chair made out of a saddle? =)

So here's a question for you--what's the craziest thing you've ever spotted in someone else's house?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Winner!

The winner of Ann Shorey's The Promise of Morning is . . .

Patsy! plhouston@ . . .

Emailing you now, Patsy.

My Friend Jill - Interview & Giveaway


Today I'm thrilled to welcome Jill Williamson to come and chat about her Young Adult fantasy series, particularly the newest release, To Darkness Fled. Jill has graciously offered one lucky winner a choice of either this book, or the first in the series, By Darkness Hid. So as always, leave your comments below for a chance to win!

~*~

About Jill

Jill Williamson is a novelist, dreamer, and believer. She grew up in Alaska with no electricity, an outhouse, and a lot of mosquitoes. Thankfully it was the land of the midnight sun, and she could stay up and read by the summer daylight that wouldn’t go away. But in the winter, there was nothing better to do than daydream. Both hobbies set her up to be a writer. VOYA magazine named By Darkness Hid as one of the Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror novels of 2010. Jill has served alongside her youth pastor husband for the past twelve years and loves working with teenagers, especially to encourage young writers. She gives writing workshops at churches and schools. You can learn more about Jill on her Web site at www.jillwilliamson.com.

~*~

About To Darkness Fled

They have no choice. Chased by an evil prince, Achan, Vrell, and the Kingsguard knights flee into Darkness. They head north, for Tsaftown and Ice Island, where they must free an army that can help them fight for Er’Rets.

Darkness sickens Vrell. How long can she keep her secret without being caught? Achan already suspects her of lying. If she is not careful, he will suspect her of treason as well. She hopes he will let his suspicions go until they reach her home.

Achan wanted freedom, but this new journey has bound him more than ever. Sir Gavin’s claims are so far fetched. First, that there might only be one God, and second, that this God chose Achan to push back Darkness, the magnificent curse of Er’Rets. Him. Achan. Barely a man himself.

Each setback Darkness brings seems minor compared to the one choice only Achan can make. What will he choose?

~*~

What's your latest book?

To Darkness Fled is the second book in the Blood of Kings trilogy. It released April 1, 2010 from Marcher Lord Press. To Darkness Fled is about Achan, a young man who wants to become a knight, and Vrell, a girl who is dressed as a boy to hide from the man who wants to marry her. Book two picks up where By Darkness Hid left off.

What's your favorite part of the story?

My favorite part is the scene when Achan finds out that Vrell is a girl. J Yes, it will happen in book two!


LOL—I can definitely see the potential in that scene! What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I am happiest writing speculative fiction. That’s anything weird. Fantasy, science fiction, time travel, supernatural stories—anything like that. I love to write it. It’s also probably my favorite genre to read, though I also really like suspense novels…and Jane Austen…and historical romances…and anything written by Jenny B. Jones, which is funny stuff.


I've only read one Jenny B. Jones, but it was FABULOUS! Can't wait to get my hands on more! And for the record, my hubby's favorite author ever is Orson Scott Card, so I've read quite a lot of spec-fic too. =) (Though I gave your book to my best friend when she BEGGED me.) What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

I’m reading Nicole O’Dell’s Scenarios for Girls series. These are quick, fun reads for young teens, similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books. In each of these, a story is told about halfway though, then the reader has to choose what to do. There are two endings based on each choice. They are pretty cool books. I’m excited to read Tosca Lee’s novels. I bought both a few months ago and can’t manage to find time to squeeze them in.


I just got both of Tosca's too. I've already read Havah, am looking forward to Demon. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

I keep my Er’Rets binder close at hand. This is a three-ring binder filled with all my storyworld notes including my character charts, maps, sketches of castles, sketches of characters, crests for each town, pretend languages, lists of knights that serve which lord, a timeline of Er’Rets, lists of herbs and their medicinal uses, and things like that. I am lost without that binder because it keeps me organized.

I also use two online sources all the time. www.dictionary.coman online dictionary and thesaurus.

And www.etymonline.comis an online etymology dictionary that allows you to type in a word and find its origins. This is really helpful for historical writers. This way you can use words that people would use during a certain time period. I use this to help me find out whether a word goes back far enough to be medieval.


Dictionary.com is my homepage. =) And Etymonline I use so much that it comes up whenever I type 'e' in my browser, LOL. And I am thoroughly impressed with that binder! I just can't imagine the time that went into that. Speaking of which . . . aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

Taking care of my children, ages eight and six, and working with the youth group. My husband is a youth pastor and we spend five nights a week doing church activities.


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

I was sitting at my computer and Jeff Gerke emailed me asking if he could call me. I ran and told my husband to keep an eye on our daughter, then emailed him back and he called right away.


What are you writing right now?

I am working on book three in the Blood of Kings series. From Darkness Won should come out next April.


Where can we find you on the web and where can we buy your books?

I’m everywhere! My website is www.jillwilliamson.com. I’m also on Facebook, MySpace, Shoutlife, Shelfari, GoodReads, Twitter, Amazon…

On top of that, I run two blogs. The first is Novel Teen Book Reviews at www.novelteen.com. It’s a website that reviews clean teen fiction. This is a great resource to see what books are available in the Christian market for teens. The other blog is for teen authors, though adult authors may find some useful tips too. www.teenageauthor.com.

And if you are looking to buy one of my books, online go to Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or MarcherLordPress.com. You can also buy an autographed copy from me through my website. Many libraries have the first book and if they don’t they would likely order it if you ask. And you can request your local bookstore order my books too.

~*~

Thanks, Jill, for taking time out of that crazy-busy schedule to chat with us!

Void where prohibited. Contest ends 4/15/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim the book before another winner is selected.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . My Guys

Don't forget the giveaway of Ann Shorey's The Promise of Morning!

~*~

Today's a pretty cool day in my history. It's my husband's and mine dating anniversary--twelve years that we've been together! Woo hoo! I was 15 when he became my boyfriend, and we've been going strong ever since, never so much as a passing breakup to mar our record. =) David's the only guy I've ever kissed, the only guy I ever loved, and I'm so blessed to have found him so early in life.

We got some raised eyebrows when we became a couple. I was the epitome of a good girl--top of the class, never got in a whiff of trouble. David . . . in a conventional sense, he wasn't a rebel. But he just didn't care to bend to the (seriously) over-inflated power-grabbing of our school's then-principal, so he came off as one to the rest of us. Didn't take long for people to lose interest in us--until we got engaged during senior year, which just isn't done these days without incentive, if you know what I mean. ;-)

All these years later, people are finally willing to grant that, yes, we knew what we were doing. Yes, sometimes these days teens are responsible enough to handle a serious relationship. Sometimes it really is the Lord's will to defy convention. (And don't get me started on how new that no-teen-romances-last thing really is.)

Now onto my other guy, the 2-year-old one. =) Anyone who saw yesterday's blog or my Facebook stuff knows he was having some breathing issues, wheezing--probably RSV. He's doing much better now, no wheezing thus far today.

Gotta say, though, dealing with this on Tuesday really took me back--and not in a good way. When Rowyn was born, he had pneumo-thorax--gas outside the lung that kept the lungs from fully expanding, which means fast, shallow respirations. He spend the first day of his life under an oxygen hood in the NICU, while Mommy prayed they wouldn't have to get rid of the gas manually as the oxygen would work. (It did.) Hearing him breathing fast and shallow again on Tuesday catapulted me back to that NICU, even though I knew this couldn't be related. This time, at least, his blood-oxygen levels were fine.

Yesterday he was still wheezing a bit in the morning, but he was happy as a clam all day long and high-energy. Unlike me, who was sleep deprived and showing it before my two-hour nap. =) He's even better today, so I've got no qualms with pawning him and Xoe off on a grandparent this evening so David and I can go out to dinner. =)

Hope everyone has a great April 8th!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Just reminders

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Ann Shorey's The Promise of Morning from Friday. And if you're still waiting for a copy of A Stray Drop of Blood, try the giveaway on Lena Nelson Dooley's blog or the new one up at Krista Phillip's blog.

~*~

I've got a sick boy-o on my hands (and in my lap), so I'm tossing up my hands on trying to get anything else done today. Doctor thinks it's RSV--he's wheezing and breathing faster than normal. Otherwise he's fighting it off admirably, so we're not particularly worried, but we do have to do breathing treatments. Fun stuff.

So Roseanna is both sleep-deprived and occupied with a rather cranky and clingy 2-year-old. Blogging just doesn't rate today. =) Prayers appreciated!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Story Time . . . SCATTERED PETALS by Amanda Cabot

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Ann Shorey's The Promise of Morning from Friday. And if you're still waiting for a copy of A Stray Drop of Blood, try the giveaway on Lena Nelson Dooley's blog or the new one up at Krista Phillip's blog.

~*~

Priscilla Morton craves adventure--which is part of the reason why she convinces her parents that they must travel to Texas so that they might attend Clay's second wedding. Though he may not technically be family after he lost his first wife, Priscilla's sister, he's still like a son to her parents. But when their stagecoach is robbed and the villains do the unthinkable, Priscilla begins to wonder if her thirst for adventure is a curse she'll pay for the rest of her life.

When Zach Webster sees the pretty strawberry-blond arrive on the back of a Ranger's horse, he knows something is wrong. And when he hears her story, he feels a nudge saying the Lord expects him to do something to help right it. But pretty Miss Morton is obviously terrified of him, due to his resemblance to the men who held up her stage. Necessity draws them together . . . but will Zach's past interfere in any hope they have of overcoming hers?

Scattered Petals is a book that manages the unexpected. Though one might think it's just another Texas-set historical, it isn't. It somehow combines the cutting edge of tragedy with the soft petals of beauty, all in a lovely, well-written tale. I was impressed with the way Cabot makes her characters question their faith time and again without ever falling into a funk that would have made me roll my eyes and declare it typical--they question, but the Lord is always quick to wrap His arms around the characters and pull them back up.

Scattered Petals is the second in the Texas Dreams series, a followup to Paper Roses. I read (and loved) the first book, so I was really looking forward to this one. And I loved it just as much. Though the author catches the reader up to speed on events in book 1, I would still recommend reading Paper Roses first--there were times I wished I'd read it a little more recently, so I could better remember what was being alluded to, so I can only imagine that would be magnified if you haven't read it at all. But hey, picking up both of them would be a great way to pass a few days anyway!

Amanda Cabot is a writer who joins the sweet and lovely with the nitty-gritty, and she does it in a way that will keep the pages turning. I'm looking forward to the next book in Texas Dreams!

I received this book as a free review copy from the publisher.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Modern . . . Villains vs. Antagonists

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Ann Shorey's The Promise of Morning from Friday. And if you're still waiting for a copy of A Stray Drop of Blood, try the giveaway on Lena Nelson Dooley's blog or the new one up at Krista Phillip's blog. She asks some hilarious questions, so you'll definitely want to read that one for a good laugh. =) There's also a review and interview at April Gardner's you ought to check out!

~*~

Now, let's talk bad guys. Those of us who grew up adoring fairy tales are probably well acquainted with the Villain--a bad guy who's out to destroy our hero/heroine at any cost, to stop them from doing good, who often openly seeks evil. The kind that earns a dun-dun-dun-duuuuunnnnnn every time they enter the screen or page, right?

Then there are antagonists--people who might be doing something wrong and who are set against our good guys, but who aren't necessarily evil. They can (and sometimes are) redeemed later in the story. Maybe it's just a snotty snob in a high school story, out to steal the protagonist's boyfriend. A crooked cop out to foil the hero from solving a crime that will point his way--a crime he did to protect his own family. That sort of thing. Antagonists tend to come with reasons and excuses and a lot of depth.

Villains . . . I like to think that they're distinctive because they come with Evil.

In most of the contemporary stories I read, villains have gone out of style. I'm cool with that, usually, because I enjoy the deep characterization necessary to make an antagonist really stand out. We're even taught that our villains or antagonists need to have some good qualities too, to make them human.

The thing is, in my contemporary Seized, I have a bad guy that I see absolutely no good in. Now, I'm not saying something couldn't develop--I write my characters as they come and don't always plan for the depths that emerge. But this morning I was pondering whether I could and what I would give him to add a hint of good to the bad.

I got nothing.

The thing is, I've got two bad guys in this story. One is an antagonist--he's mean as all get out and certainly out to thwart the good guys. But he has a heart (however shadowed) and will end up saving the day, ironically. Because he's also pitted against a villain. I'm talking a true, black-hearted villain. And Mr. Villain . . . he's so dark that even the good things he does are for bad reasons, to control those around him.

So I guess I'm wondering what we as readers like. It depends on the story, obviously, but what say you, O Readers who haven't read this story and probably have no clue what I'm talking about, LOL. Do I need to try to find some redeeming quality in this guy I don't actually intend to redeem, or is it okay, on occasion, to make a character pure evil?

Friday, April 2, 2010

My Friend Ann - Interview & Giveaway

A couple announcements before we welcome our guest author for the day. First, I have two guest posts up today. At Laurie Alice Eakes's Seize the Chance, I'm talking about the power of the blood in honor of Good Friday, and how it inspired A Stray Drop of Blood. And at Peg Phifer's Go Ahead and Wear the Purple, I'm talking about the genre of Biblical Fiction with fictional characters. And don't forget the giveaways of my book on Margaret Daley's blog and Lena Nelson Dooley's!

Now, onto the real highlight of the day! =) Today we're chatting with Ann Shorey, author of the At Home in Beldon Grove series. Her second book just released, and I have a feeling you're going to love hearing about The Promise of Morning!

Ann has graciously offered a copy of the book to U.S. and Canada residents. If you'd like to be entered, please leave a comment below with an email address where I can contact you.

~*~

About Ann

ANN SHOREY has been a story collector for most of her life. Her writing has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Grandma’s Soul, and in the Adams Media Cup of Comfort series. She made her fiction debut with The Edge of Light, released in January 2009. When she’s not writing, she teaches classes on historical research, story arc, and other fiction fundamentals at regional conferences. Ann lives with her husband in Sutherlin, Oregon. The Promise of Morning the second book in her At Home in Beldon Grove series.

Contact Ann through her website at www.annshorey.com .

~*~

About The Promise of Morning

Ellie Craig believed her marriage to Matthew, the pastor of Beldon Grove’s church, would flow from blessing to blessing. He’s always been the leader in their household, giving her a comfortable life.

Then they lose three children in infancy and her world reels, leaving her vulnerable to the attentions of the recently returned son of Beldon Grove’s founder. When Matthew suddenly makes a decision that leaves Ellie alone with their older children, she realizes her actions have driven him away.

Now Ellie must search within herself for the answers to her problems. Will she be able to open her heart to her husband? Or did her actions destroy any chance they had at happiness?

~*~

What's your latest book?

My latest book, The Promise of Morning, released from Revell on the first of March. The Promise of Morning is Book 2 in the At Home in Beldon Grove series.

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

I hope the importance of keeping promises, and the often unforeseen consequences when we fail to do so, will impress readers. Several of the characters in The Promise of Morning are faced with whether or not to fulfill a commitment—some do, some don’t. The wrong choices have far-reaching effects on the other characters.


A great lesson! That's not your typical take-away—I like it. =) Is that also the theme? If so, did you plan it that way from the start?

The theme of keeping promises emerged as I went through the first draft of the story. It was serendipitous that Revell chose to title the book The Promise of Morning.


Definitely! Those Revell folks sure know what they're doing. =) What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I really enjoy writing historical fiction. The process of discovery during the research process keeps me inspired. I’m always learning a tidbit or two that I can use, and wouldn’t have known about were it not for the research.

When I read, I enjoy many genres—it all depends on what mood I’m in at the time. I always have a stack of unread books to chose from. It’s almost like my own little library.


Hmm, I see we have much in common, Ann. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

My dream office would look like a page out of the Pottery Barn catalog. I love their furniture and the way they style the rooms for the catalog.

Now my real environment is another story! My writing has grown from articles and opinion pieces to novels, and my office has failed to keep pace. I really need to get rid of the old tables, etc., on which I pile stuff, and get a nice wall of shelving. Words fail me when it comes to describing how this room looks, although “cluttered” comes close.


Sounds like my whole house! Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

My most-used reference tool is English Through the Ages by William Brohaugh. It’s tricky making sure the wording in my historical novels fits the time period, so this book is invaluable.

For The Promise of Morning two of my most valuable reference books were Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, which is where I got my background for the life of an itinerant preacher in the early 1800’s. The other book was Sugar Creek: Life on the Illinois Prairie, by John Mack Faragher. Great resource for the same time period, since Illinois is where the fictional town of Beldon Grove is located.


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

The biggest lesson I’ve learned, and am still learning, is how much time is involved in marketing once a book is released. I didn’t anticipate how busy I’d be just keeping up with everything.


Tell me about it! I've barely written a fictional word in weeks. I get to the point where I go mad if I don't get back to my novels. Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

I recently finished the first round of edits for Book 3 in the Beldon Grove series. The working title right now is The Dawn of a Dream. The story’s protagonist is Luellen McGarvie, Molly McGarive’s oldest daughter, now a young woman. Luellen was a fun character to write, as she’s so spunky. The book will be released sometime next year—I don’t have the date yet.

Readers can purchase my books from all major brick and mortar booksellers, as well as online through Amazon.com, Christianbook.com, and several other sources. Clicking http://www.annshorey.com/novels.html and following the Buy This Book link, you’ll be directed to five different online sources, plus a search box to find a Christian bookstore near your home.

While you’re on the internet, clicking on http://www.annshorey.com or http://www.annshorey.blogspot.com/ will take you to my website or my blog, respectively. Please stop by and send me a message. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Roseanna!

Thanks for stopping by, Ann! It was great to get to know you a little better.

~*~

Contest ends 4/8/10. (And when did it become April, anyway???) Void where prohibited by law. Chances depend on number of entry. Winner will have two weeks to claim the book before another is selected.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Light of the World

We're heavy on the promo-opps this week, given the fact that, you know, this is the week when Stray Drop's pivotal scenes take place. So, a couple new giveaways up today with Lena Nelson Dooley and Margaret Daley. Tomorrow I'll have two guest blogs up (no giveaways attached), so I'll give you the links to those before the interview that'll be up here.

~*~

One of the most poetic passages I've ever found in the Bible is the beginning of John. Verses 4 & 5 of chapter 1, he says, "In him was life, and that life was the light of the world. And the light appears in the darkness, but the darkness apprehends it not." (That's the Roseanna translation, as I look at the very gorgeous Greek.)

Isn't that the perfect way of stating what, who Jesus is? The light. Throughout his ministry, that's what he does--he shines into the darkness.

Have you ever noticed that when you have one little flickering candle, or maybe one little battery-powered flashlight in the middle of a pitch-black, outdoor area, that beam of light doesn't do much good. It casts it little circle of light, shines on maybe one object. But otherwise, the darkness consumes the world. And sometimes, it feels like the darkness even consumes your light. It seized it, it holds it down, it keeps it from piercing through the depths.

But Jesus . . . he wasn't that kind of light. The darkness apprehends it not. Most translations use "comprehend," which makes plenty of sense but lacks that feeling of aggression that the Greek katelaben contains. If it's "comprehend," then it's in the way of "to take or embrace; to include; to comprise." Not our typical "to understand."

It's no wonder so many people were against him, right? Who likes to have a flashlight shone in their eyes? Who wants their darkest to be exposed? It hurts. Ever read Plato's Republic? There's this great image in there: everyone's living in a cave. Some, philosophers, find their way out of the cave and into the light, where all of truth and beauty resides. But stepping out is so blinding that some just can't take it and turn and run back into the cave. Others wait for their eyes to adjust, and suddenly they can see clearly--see what's around them and see the truth of where they came from. After learning for a while, they're supposed to go back into the cave to tell others what lies just outside, if only they'll follow.

We see why the monks preserved Plato, right? This is a beautiful analogy for Christianity too. Seeing the truth about the world, about ourselves, hurts. But you have to cleanse the wound in order for it to heal.

In A Stray Drop of Blood, Abigail takes several steps on that first Good Friday that lead to recognition of Jesus of Christ. First was what I pasted in here on Tuesday, where she realizes that clinging to bitterness leaves her empty. Then when first sees Jesus coming near on the path to Golgotha, she experiences the fear that comes when that beam of light first pierces the darkness.

She had never seen the man in person before, certainly never so close. The stories she had heard, the image she had drawn was a far cry from this reality before her. What she saw was a man broken, battered, abused. What she had expected was someone with shoulders thrown back in strength, laughing in the face of the world. From what she could see as he stumbled nearer to her, he was weak–but still, a breath at the back of her neck told her there was more than merely what she could see. Even as he was half dragged along, there was a power in him. A strength that she saw in his silence, something that went deeper than anything she had within herself.

He was close now, only a step away, and Abigail had a horrible fear that he would look at her. Quite suddenly, that thought struck her as unbearable. She knew, knew with every portion of her being, that if he looked at her, he would see her in her completeness. He would see how black her soul had become with sin and hatred and bitterness. He would see all she had done and thought to do and wished herself capable of. He would see that though she wished him spared, it was only so that another could die in his place.


Something within her drew back the closer he got, pulled at her until she wanted to turn and flee to escape his approaching presence. But Jairus was still at her side, gazing silently now at the man before him.