Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Remember When . . . The Post Had Wings--er, Hooves?

"Whatever the condition--be it snowing, raining, blazing hot, or dark--they never fail to complete their assigned journey in the fastest possible time."

Post Office motto? Well, not the one you're thinking. That's actually what Herodotus says of the Persian post system. It's actually really cool, and might put you Americana folks in mind of the Pony Express.

See, the kings had had outposts built at precise intervals along major thoroughfares. At these outposts waited fresh horses and riders. Whenever messages or mail was sent, these riders set out as quickly as they could to the next outpost. Handed off their message to the next guy, etc.

The result? "There is nothing mortal faster than the system the Persians have devised for sending messages," says Herodotus.

This comes up at the end of the war. When Xerxes burned Athens, he sent a message of his victory. The folks at home in Susa were so overcome with joy that they strewed myrtle in the streets, burnt perfume, held feasts, and pretty much declared it a holiday. Then, well, just a few days later came the news of defeat at Salamis. Joy turned to mourning, clothes were ripped and weeping and moaning could be heard in the streets. They were especially worried about Xerxes--apparently the news didn't include how he fared, and the people were terrified something had happened to their king.

Goes to show how loved he was, eh?

Anyway. I love that this system of theirs is so renowned for its efficiency that it has influenced our own postal system. Just goes to show ya that it doesn't have to be digital to have virtual wings.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Story Time with Stephanie Morrill - Interview & Giveaway


My best bud and critique partner has a special day coming up this week--the official release of the last book in her debut young adult series, The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt. This final installment, So Over It, follows 18-year-old Skylar away from old friends and to the paradise of Hawaii, where her grandparents live. Skylar's plan is to stay there long enough to forget all about the woes of home--so why doesn't it work?

This is an amazing summation of series. From fabulous Hawaii back to her hometown of Kansas City, Skylar gets to know herself and her heart and comes to grips with where dreams meet reality. The best yet from Stephanie!!

Want a chance to win it? Leave a comment below with how I can reach you.

~*~

About Stephanie

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels a few years ago and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. To check out her blog and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.

~*~

About So Over It

How can Skylar stay true to herself without losing the ones she loves most?

Senior year is over and Skylar Hoyt is ready to forgive and forget. Or at least forget. She wants a fresh start where people don't know about her past or her dysfunctional family. A place where she won't run into her ex-boyfriend every time she leaves the house. When she gets the opportunity to spend the summer in Hawaii with her grandparents, Skylar jumps at the chance to get out of town. But will she truly be able to leave her old life behind? And will she be strong enough to rise above the gossip and live the life God wants?

~*~

What's your latest book?

My latest is So Over It, which is the final book in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. Skylar has graduated high school and she’s ready to forgive and forget. Or at least forget. She wants to leave Kansas City behind and get a fresh start where people don’t know about her partying past. And where she won’t run into her ex every time she leaves the house.

When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Hawaii with her grandparents, Skylar jumps at the chance. But when her sister needs her, Skylar’s faced with a tough decision – cut her ties and live the life she’s been dreaming of, or return home and face the mistakes of her past.


And my totally unbiased (ahem) opinion is that this is the best of the series. I mean, Hawaii. Then there's the emotion! Wow. So what was the hardest part to write?

The first book, Me, Just Different, opens the morning after a traumatic party experience. In this book, we finally see that party for the first time. It would have been really hard to write anyway because of all the emotion and devastation taking place in Skylar’s life, but it was made even more challenging by the fact that I’d alluded to the scene in the previous two books and had to make sure I was 100% consistent with what I’d already said. But I think the scene needed to be in there, so it was worth the extra work.

Oh yeah--challenging, but it made this book fantastic, to finally get to face old demons along with Skylar. Is there a theme to this book?

While writing So Over It, I kept thinking of that phrase, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Skylar has the fantasy that by moving locations, her problems will disappear. It isn’t until she gets to Hawaii that she sees how many of her problems are really her fault, rather than the fault of her setting.

Would you believe I'd never thought of that saying in that way? But yeah--I can totally see where that would apply to Skylar. Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) who you rely on when writing?

YES. My family is insanely supportive. My husband does most of the grunt work now (Lots of, “You can do this,” and, “I believe in you,” kinds of talks), but growing up, my parents always made it clear that they were 100% behind me. I’m sure half the sales from The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt books have come from them. It seems like every time I’m at their house, they're like, “Hey, can you sign a couple books? I want to give one to Shelly, our dry cleaner. And I was talking to the cashier at the grocery store on Thursday and her daughter is a really big reader, so if you could make one out to ‘Jane’ also, that’d be great.”


Um, ahem, Stephanie. You forgot to mention your fabulous critique partner, without whom you could not possibly type another word . . . ;-) Okay, so I doff my hat to those who babysit and buy books for the dry cleaner. My budget does not allow for that, LOL. Okay, fun question time. 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!)

A few months ago I had a book signing at Barnes and Noble that corresponded with a school fundraiser. The school librarian had a hand truck specifically designed for books and she was wandering around the store filling it up. I was practically salivating as I watched.

But of course it’ll be years before I have time to read $5k worth of books, so maybe I’d fill up the hand truck once, and then fulfill my fantasy of chucking everything in my closet and buying all new clothes, shoes, and bags.

I knew we were friends for a reason. Books and new clohtes--ah, sigh. Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

Totally. I was walking out the door to meet my husband and brother-in-law for lunch because it was my husband’s birthday. My agent happened to call on my cell phone, which she’d never done before, so I only had to hold my good news in for five or so minutes before I could blurt it out to my husband in person. The only sad part was that I was way too excited to eat my yummy lunch.

I remember that too! (Being the next phone call. =) And just for the record, this contract was a present from my hubby--his birthday was the week before, when the committee at Revell met to talk about Stephanie's book. David, being the wonderful man he is, said, "She can have my present--it can be a contract." (Last year he chose to have the Penguins win the Stanley Cup, the final game of which was on his birthday. The man seems to have a thing with successful wishes!)

~*~

Thanks, Stephanie!! Guys, this is a great book for the teens it's aimed at, but let me assure you adults will thoroughly enjoy it to. Sooooo . . . get it for you daughter, granddaughter, niece (or grocer's daughter, ha ha) and then read it yourself. ;-)

Be sure and check out Stephanie's website at www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com and click on the blog tab, too, to get a peek into Stephanie's thoughts.

And though she didn't mention it, Stephanie's about to have baby #2 in a few days, so everyone say a prayer for a quick, uneventful labor and delivery and a healthy mom and baby!

Check out her book on Amazon or CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Contest ends 7/5/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Modern . . . Contrast

Last week when my brain was a pile of goo after the stressful weekend prior, I let myself veg and reread the 60,000 words I've written in my contemporary about the Bedouin woman, the ex-SEAL, the pirate, and the black-arms dealer. One of the things that my hero mentions and which struck me as well is the contrast of different worlds within one.

It's something we all come across, right? There's your world, whatever it is. For me, that's a small town, mountains, family nearby. Peaceful for the most part, a relatively slow pace. Though the area has its problems and its trouble-makers that occasionally shock us with the level of depravity humanity is capable of, our crime-rate's darn low compared to, say, a city. But maybe that's where you live--where the buildings stretch toward the sky, the trains rumble under the ground, and everywhere you turn there are people rushing to who-knows-where.

Then there's the other side of the world, where civilization rarely intrudes. Or the parts where the people will say things like, "Why worry? It's just another war." There are the people who have so much that they think everyone in the world is their slave--and those who have so little they think everyone owes them.

Things can get really interesting when these worlds collide. Tons of books do this to great affect, from the simple city-girl-in-the-country idea to the American-girl-caught-in-a-warzone thing. In Seized (the contemporary I'm working on), I thought it would be fun to have a clash of many worlds. There's the Bedouin woman, who grew up in the deserts of Egypt among a tribe that is still fully nomadic. Her people have been largely unchanged by modernity, especially in their thoughts regarding woman. They had vehicles, but she was never allowed to drive one or fiddle with the controls. She's never used a phone. Never turned on a computer. She knows about the outside world, but mostly through a British anthropologist that traveled with them for a while.

Her world changes drastically when she ends up on a yacht in the Med. Again when the yacht is hit by pirates, and she's taken with the other booty. And yet again when the ex-SEAL rescues her and takes her home to his parents' horse farm in Virginia to recuperate. That's what leads him to reflect on the collision of worlds--that in this peaceful place, the one that his parents think of as "the real world," the forces that have shaped the heroine's life don't really exist. But now they will, because he brought it to them.

Ah, conflict. Sometimes contrast can create a lot of it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Friend Vickie - Interview & Series Giveaway


Today I'm happy to welcome Vickie McDonough to talk about her latest release The Anonymous Bride, first in the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series.

Vickie is offering a giveaway to U.S. residents of all three books in her previous Oklahoma Brides series, Sooner or Later, The Bounty Hunter and the Bride, and A Wealth Beyond Riches! Thanks, Vickie! Just leave a comment with an email address to enter!

~*~

About Vickie

Vickie McDonough is an award-winning inspirational romance author, with 18 novels and novellas published. The Anonymous Bride, book one in her debut trade fiction series the Texas Boardinghouse Brides, released in April. Vickie was recently voted 3rd Favorite Author in Heartsong Present’s annual readers’ contest, and her book, Outlaw Heart, placed 2nd in the Favorite Historical Romance category. Vickie is currently the ACFW treasurer, and a founding member of WIN, an ACFW chapter in Tulsa, OK. She is a member of RWA, CAN, Women Writing the West, OKRWA, and OWFI. She is a wife of thirty-four years, mother of four grown sons and grandma to a feisty four-year-old girl. To learn more about Vickie’s books, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com


~*~

About The Anonymous Bride

Three mail-order brides arrive in Lookout, Texas, each expecting to marry the local marshal. But—he didn't order a bride. When a contest ensues to discover which bride will make him the best wife, there is a surprise fourth entry--an anonymous one. Mayhem occurs as the whole town tries to figure out who the anonymous bride is, and the mayor pressures the marshal to pick a bride or lose his job. Will Marshal Davis tuck tail and run for the hills? Or will he lose his heart and his bachelorhood?


~*~

What's your latest book?

The Anonymous Bride
, book one in the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series released April 1.

Fun title! What's your favorite part of the story?

I love the ending, but there are also several other favorites I have. One is the scene where two of the mail-order brides arrive. Another is the one where Luke puts Max (a dog) in one of his jail cells and Jack comes in and talks to him about that.

LOL. Must have been a really rascally mut. ;-) What was the hardest part to write?

Probably the parts where Rachel, the heroine, is suffering guilt about her past and also when she doesn’t feel like she’s a good mother. I doubt there’s a mom alive who hasn’t felt that way at one time or another.

I know I have! Luckily those little tykes occasionally assure me I'm the best. Always makes my day. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

My brand is “An Adventure into Romance.” I hope my stories entertain the reader, take them away from their own world or problems for a time, and give them an adventure and encourage them in their faith walk.


Is there a theme to this book?

Yes, the main theme is “forgiving past hurts” and realizing how clinging to them hurt you more than the person you’re angry at.

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

It’s definitely historical romance. That’s what I mostly read and love to write. My favorite time period is the late 1800s with settings in the American West.


What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

I just finished reading A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer, and it is probably one of the best debut author’s books that I’ve read.

That's the third time TODAY I've seen something about that book! Must be awesome. What's one of the oddest or most interesting things someone has ever said about you?

A lady I used to attend church with saw me at the new church we were attending. She told me that she’d read some of my books, then she blushed big time, and leaned toward me and said, “You’re books are so sensual, you must really have a fabulous love life.” I just stood there thinking, My books aren’t sensual. I wonder if she confused me with another author. Then I nearly laughed as I thought about my very-sweet-but-not-so-romantic husband. I still don’t know if she was talking about my books. I responded with something like, “Uh. . .thanks,” I think.

Also, I just have to share this: My four-year-old granddaughter says the most hilarious things. Yesterday, she was talking about her preschool and I could tell she was struggling to remember something. She looked at me and said, “What was I thinking about?” as if I could see into her mind and tell her what she was trying to think of.


Yeah, that sounds like a four-year-old! How cute. And a big chuckle over that, um, compliment.
~*~

Thanks for stopping by, Vickie! Readers, Vickie will be visiting again in October to talk about the second book in this series, Second Chance Brides, so you'll get to learn more about her and another of her books then!

In the meantime, you can purchase The Anonymous Bride at Amazon or CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Contest ends 7/1/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Sharing and School

A couple weeks ago in one my daughter's Famous Fits of Four-Year-Old Frustration, she tossed out that she hates being alone in her room (and tacked on that I don't care because I'm mean). Which made a strange idea click into me head. Me, the queen of One Child Per Room, thought "Huh. I wonder if it could work to move them into one room."

The other day we did it. Stacked their bunk beds up (not that Xoe will sleep on the top yet--she's been camping on the floor for the past two nights) and turned the nursery into a school room.

And you know, I gotta say--I love it.

See, I'd been kinda panicking at the thought of getting started with home schooling this year, even though I knew it was what I wanted to do. Much of it was apparently rooted in the fact that I had no good place to DO this schooling. But as soon as I considered making the nursery into a school room . . . wow. I was actually excited.

So on Tuesday I put Xoe's new desk together (all by myself), moved a bookshelf in, organized the bedroom into a mish-mash of boy/girl kid stuff (other than the pink curtains, it was fairly neutral anyway--being very Pooh-ish), and Xoe and I had our first day of school.

It was so much fun. I decided to start with the Five in a Row system and got the book that will take us through kindergarten, and which I can also use with Rowyn. FIAR basically guides you through using actual kids books as your basis for subject-learning, by reading the same book each day for a week and looking at different aspects of it. So, for instance, you'd read a book about a panda--Monday you'd then study bears, Tuesday you'd study China, Wednesday you'd look at vocabulary words, etc.

At the pre-school/kindergarten age, it's not so much academic as just looking at different aspects like patterns and rhymes, and then trying to incorporate it into your day. We're also doing some basic letter/number stuff, Bible stories, coloring . . .

My highlight thus far was when we were reading about Adam and Eve eating the apple and sinning, and I explained how that meant they couldn't talk to God like they had before, because they'd disobeyed him. And she piped in with, "But now we can again, because Jesus died and took the punishment." A close second is that the American flag is important "because it reminds us of our country and Jesus, because he and God made the world and gave us our country."

I'm having a blast getting a peek into the mind of my sweet little girl. And my adorable little boy loves being in what was formerly Xoe's room, and also loves the school room, where he plops down on his belly with paper and a pencil and goes to town. Overall, a great solution--and a new adventure.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Remember When . . . The Spirit Dropped In?


One of the things my critique partners and I have been discussing as I work through Jewel of Persia is how the Spirit works in the Old Testament world. Under the new covenant, we know how it goes--you are saved by grace, then the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you and (if you let him) will guide you and whisper Truth into your ear any day, any time.

But back in Esther's day . . . ?

I find it really intriguing to look at how the Spirit moved back then. In certain cases we see him moving almost forcefully. Like when King Saul was overcome by the distressing Spirit and prophesied.

I've mostly been looking to Daniel for my examples, since it's the same century and empire as Esther. Most of the mentions of a/the spirit in the book of Daniel is someone noticing the excellent spirit in Daniel. But we also see in Daniel a lot of examples of the physical side of the spiritual--like when Gabriel arrives and says, "Hey, God sent me as soon as you started praying. I know that was three weeks ago, but dude! I got waylaid by some spiritual bad guys and had to wait for backup." Isn't that cool? I mean, not cool for Gabriel. But I was so struck the first time I read that and realized that that is sometimes why an answer to prayer isn't instantaneous--God's messengers travel through space, and they can be held up.

One of my recent scenes in Jewel of Persia is the Spirit coming upon my heroine--she has the impression that she must pray for a certain someone, but she's mad at him. So instead she prays for her family.

Doesn't cut it. The Spirit whips away and leaves her. Today's scene is where she learns why she was to pray that day. Gonna be fun stuff.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Story Time . . . RESURRECTION IN MAY by Lisa Samson


Claudius lives a quiet life on his Kentucky farm. Not much ever changes in his life, and he's okay with that. When a man gets to be in his seventies, well . . . he doesn't need to seek out change. But somehow, when a pretty little blonde crawls in front of his car and he stops to help her, he's okay with the necessary change to his schedule too. In some ways May, who just graduated from college to pursue journalism, is as unlike him as a creature can be. But in other ways, they're more alike than he can explain. She has loving parents, and he's a crusty old bachelor, but it doesn't take but a couple hours for him to think she's the daughter he never realized he needed.

But after a summer on the farm, May's headed for Rwanda. Not as a missionary, mind you, but just to help out a priest in a little village. She just wants to do her part, you know? And since the job she was hoping for fell through, she doesn't have much else to do. And Rwanda . . . who'd have thought a third-world country could enrich her so? The people become family, and Father Isaac helps her see that God still loves her, and Jesus matters.

Until war breaks out.

Oh. My. Goodness. What starts as a really nice, touching story gets churned up into a cauldron of humanity's darkest instincts when May finds herself in the middle of the genocide that took place in Rwanda in the 90s. What she goes through is just beyond reckoning--that it changes her goes without saying. But the how . . .

Had someone told me this book was about an old farmer, a young woman without direction, an African priest, and a death-row convict (I know, I haven't mentioned him yet--consider this your mention, LOL), I would have scratched my head and gone "Huh?" Although if you told me it was by Lisa Samson, I would have added an "Ohhhhhhhhh. Lemme at it." And I would have been right.

This book is good all the way through. Great as you dig into the meat of it. And excels into truly amazing in the latter part of the story, when said death-row convict enters the scene. Resurrection in May is way more than a look into the heart of a woman. It's way more than a story of redemption and renewal. It's a book about the awesome power of a God who brings the dead back to life every day, every year. Sometimes we see it in the blossom of a flower killed by frost a few months earlier . . . and sometimes we see it in a heart unfolding in the sun after life has frozen it to the core.

Humanity is capable of so many atrocities. But our Lord--He's capable of healing them. Resurrection in May is a book that doesn't just make you ask "Why does God let this stuff happen?" It helps you understand how even in the worst of cases, the answer is always, "Because He loves us."

My recommendation? When Resurrection in May hits the shelves this August, get your hands on it. Read it. Be changed. Send me a note thanking me for telling you about it. ;-)

Monday, June 21, 2010

What a Weekend

I'm deviating from the normal post-type today because, well, I'm not sure I have the brain power for creativity, LOL.

So, Saturday was the first stop of the Life & Faith Tour. There was lower-than-expected turnout, and it was HOT. Under the author tent it was probably about 100 degrees, and we were all well-roasted by the end of the day.

But that's not what made my weekend truly awful. See, Friday night Xoe couldn't get to sleep in the hotel bed. She finally did at midnight, at which point Rowyn began waking up coughing every half hour or so. So I didn't get much sleep. Then Saturday morning my poor little boy-o was wheezing and having trouble breathing, clingy and lethargic. We hoped he would get better as the day went on but . . . no. David kept him at the hotel for a few hours, since the heat made it worse, but mid-afternoon he and my Dad ended up taking him to the emergency room.

Now, I'm not usually one to lose my cool, but knowing my baby was headed for the hospital while I sat there sweating behind my book table, with nary a customer? Yeah. Several of the other fabulous authors gathered around while I cried and prayed with me. Thanks Danny, Bernard, and Wanda!

They ended up giving him three breathing treatments and a chest x-ray, which showed a spot of pneumonia. I got to the hospital a little before 9 p.m., at which point we were just waiting for discharge papers. But when the doc realized we were out-of-towners and that the nebulizer we have wasn't handy, our options became admitting him or driving the four hours home.

We drove home. Got here at 2:30 a.m. Didn't get to bed until 4. Rowyn woke me up at 6:30. I was a little tired yesterday, LOL. But the boy-o was happy, playful, talkative, and basically his usual self.

I would appreciate continued prayers for him--hopefully this pneumonia will clear up without trouble, now that we've got him on antibiotics. And really, that's the silver lining. Had this happened at home, I would have just given him the medicine I have on hand for this type of thing, it would have helped the breathing, and I wouldn't have taken him to the doctor. Which means no x-ray, so we wouldn't have known about the pneumonia. The Lord's ways, you know?

So thanks to all who were praying. Today's going to be dedicated to getting things back in order around here (had no energy for that yesterday), and hopefully tomorrow I'll be back on schedule.

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Friend Lyn - Interview

Well, while y'all are enjoying a normal Friday/weekend, I'm going to be in Richmond on the first stop of the Life & Faith Tour! Say a prayer for me, will you? Specifically, that there is a steady line of people at the table. =)

Now, onto what you actually came for! Let's give a hearty welcome to Lyn Cote as she talks about her gorgeously-covered novel, Her Abundant Joy.

~*~

About Lyn

When Lyn Cote became a mother, she gave up teaching, and while raising a son and a daughter, she began working on her first novel. Long years of rejection followed. Finally in 1997, Lyn got "the call." Her first book, Never Alone, was chosen by Steeple Hill for the new Love Inspired romance line. Since then, Lyn has had over twenty-five novels published. In 2006 Lyn's book, Chloe, was a finalist for the RITA, one of the highest awards in the romance genre. Lyn’s brand “Strong Women, Brave Stories,” always includes three elements: a strong heroine who is a passionate participant in her times, authentic historical detail and a multicultural cast of characters. Lyn also features stories of strong women both from real life and true to life fiction on her blog http://strongwomenbravestories.blogspot.com Lyn also can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Drop by and "friend or follow" her. Now living her dream of writing books at her lake cottage in northern Wisconsin, Lyn hopes her books show the power of divine as well as human love.

Her latest release is Her Abundant Joy, the final book in her Texas Star of Destiny series, to purchase drop by her website or blog http://strongwomenbravestories.blogspot.com.

~*~

About Her Abundant Joy

Can a beautiful young widow find peace in the arms of a Texas Ranger?

In 1846, young German widow Mariel Wolfe comes start a new life in the "promised" land of Texas. Texas Ranger Carson Quinn is responsible for leading her party of immigrants through dangerous Comanche-held territory. As he watches Mariel hold her head high, he will stop at nothing to protect her. But war is brewing: Mexico will not accept the U.S. annexation of the young Texas Republic without a fight. Honor bound to fight for Texas, Carson's deepest longing is to lay down his rifle. As Mariel and Carson fall deeply in love, could her painful past or this new war destroy all their hopes?

~*~

What's your latest book?

It's a Historical Romance, the final book in the Texas Star of Destiny series--Her Abundant Joy, from Avon Inspire released 1 June 2010.

That is an absolutely breathtaking cover! What's your favorite part of the story?

I love my ending. I always make my hero and heroine face and conquer their greatest fears. So I always give them a great joyful uplifting finale. They deserve it. I also try to make it seem impossible and I think I did that this time.


Love the "they deserve it"--they really do after all we authors put them through, don't they? =) What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

Hope is always my underlying theme. If we trust God, we should never give up hope.


Roseanna-Optimist agrees! Is there any other theme to this book?

The humble shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace....
Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. Psalm 37: 11, 37

What are you reading right now--and what do you want to read next?

I just finished reading Kim Vogel Sawyer's A Hopeful Heart ( 4 star classic mail order bride with a unique heroine) and next I'l be reading Nancy Mehl's Simple Secrets. Drop by my blog and on the right column is my GoodReads bookshelf. I always blog about books I read. If you haven't read Kathy Herman's suspense books, you should!

What are you writing right now?

Just finishing the 2nd book in my Love Inspired series, New Friends Street. It's titled Daddy in the Making and stars a basset hound. I've enjoyed writing this one!


Awww! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

The first in this series comes out in September, A Shelter of Hope, a story of a single mom and a lost soul hero. I love wounded heroes. Hope my readers to too!

Thanks for having me as a guest, Roseanna!

Thanks for visiting, Lyn!

~*~

Readers, you can purchase Her Abundant Joy directly from Lyn or at CrossPurposes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Jill Elizabeth Nelson's Calculated Revenge is . . .

Michelle Massaro!

Congrats, Michelle! I just sent you an email.

Thoughtful About . . . Wuv, Twue Wuv


Nine years ago today, I pledged my heart, body, and future to David. The man I loved since I we were 15, the man I knew with all that was in me was The One. Sometimes, I think he's much more than that.

It seemed an appropriate day to muse (not for the first time, I know) on Love--and to share some of the awesome pictures from our gorgeous beach wedding. =)



Through my life, I've known a lot of love.

That feeling that Mom and Dad will always be there, always encourage, always believe in my dreams--even when those dreams defy convention (like when I get engaged at 17 and married just before I turn 19).

I'll always have a place on Daddy's knee.





Mom will always be there carry my burdens with me.









That knowledge that for every storm (like the one that raged up the coast the day before The Day) in life, God sends me a rainbow.



That we have friends and family willing to travel hundreds of miles to share our joy. And that after traveling all day, they'll put more hours into decorating the rental house hosting our big day.

Love is looking into David's eyes and knowing, each and every time, that this is the man God planned for me, and for whom I was planned. Knowing we are perfectly matched, perfectly balanced.




Love is that security that comes with resting my head on his shoulder.







Love is laughing over nothing, rejoicing in each moment.






It's dancing barefoot in the sand when you forget your shoes for your own wedding (ahem, David!;-)





It's standing together, beside all those that matter. It's standing together always, through whatever the years bring you.




These days, love is also cuddling warm little bodies with damp curls pressed against your cheek, it's helping put on dress-up costumes and pretend to dash powder onto little noses. It's laughing over toddler knock-knock jokes--and looking over into each other's eyes and thinking, "This is us. These are ours. This is family."

Love is building a life on much more than one day. It's building a life on every day.

Thank you, Lord, for all those you've put in my life. For my family, for my friends. For those who have emailed encouragement, who know how to read my heart in the lines that I write.

Thank you most of all for the man who bends over backwards to make my dreams come true--who not only believes in them with me, but who chases them down for me when my legs begin to fail.

David--you're my everything. Here's to way more than 9 years to come!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Remember When . . . The War Was Over?

I am writing, in the other window up on my computer, the last scene of the war. Whew! It's about time, right? I mean, this thing has been going on for ages, and I've been carefully sifting through all the facts jammed in my little head, searching for those key items that have to be included and skipping the rest.

I covered Thermopylae last week. I wrote about Xerxes burning Athens to the ground yesterday. Today he's about to lose a sea battle at Salamis, a little island near Athens. And then the war is over.

Glory hallelujah, amen!

Okay, so I've enjoyed writing about the Greco-Persian War, actually. For starters, it's one of those things that most people sorta-kinda know happened . . . that was one of the prophecies in Daniel, right? And, er . . . we've heard of that Xerxes fella, and, well, Thermopylae--300 was a cool movie, so sure. Thermopylae. (FYI, I've yet to see all of 300.) But it's all very obscure, and I seriously doubt most of my readers are going to already know what happens at each big event before I tell them.

That's pretty cool.

I get to take a look at historical events through new eyes--which is fun for a nerd like me. Most challenging and interesting is figuring out how to write about it in a way that's still approachable to a love story.

Y'all will have to let me know how I do on that once you rush out to buy it and read it next year. ;-)

But now that the war's over, I'm looking forward to bridging events with a ridiculously scandalous scandal Herodotus recorded and using it to segue brilliantly (ahem) into the book of Esther.

Have I mentioned I'm already up to 104,000 words, and I haven't hit the book of Esther yet? As in, the book that inspired this whole thing?? Sheesh, I see some slicing and dicing in my future. But for now, writing and growing.

And peace--sort of--at last!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Story Time with Marlo Schalesky - Interview on SHADES OF MORNING

Quick note--I'm a guest today at Strong Women, Brave Stories Blog if you want to swing by and get a peek at my heroine.

Now, the real deal--a special Story Time Tuesday treat for y'all today--a chat with Marlo Schalesky about her book Shades of Morning that releases TODAY!!

Now, I have not yet read this book, but I read Beyond the Night last year and so fell in love with Marlo's writing, so I cannot WAIT to get ahold of this new one!

I'm not running a giveaway with this one, but I don't need to--Marlo has a fantabulous sweepstakes up right now on her website that you HAVE to check out!


~*~

About Marlo

Marlo Schalesky is the award winning author of several books, including Shades of Morning, which combines a love story with a surprise ending twist to create a new type of novel that she hopes will impact readers at their deepest levels. Marlo’s other books include the Christy Award winning novel Beyond the Night, and its sequel If Tomorrow Never Comes, as well as her only nonfiction Empty Womb, Aching Heart- Hope and Help for Those Struggling with Infertility.

She’s had nearly 700 articles published in various Christian magazines, including Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, In Touch, and Decision. She has contributed to Dr. Dobson’s Night Light Devotional for Couples, Tyndale’s Book of Devotions for Kids #3, and Discipleship Journal’s 101 Small Group Ideas. She is a speaker and a regular columnist for Power for Living.

Marlo is also a California native, a small business owner, and a graduate of Stanford University (with a B.S. in Chemistry!). In addition, she has earned her Masters in Theology, with an emphasis in Biblical Studies, from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Marlo lives with her husband and five young children in a log home in Central California.
When she’s not changing diapers, doing laundry, or writing books, Marlo loves sipping Starbucks white mochas, reading the New Testament in Greek, and talking about finding the deep places of God in the disappointments of life.

Roseanna piping in to say, "The New Testament in Greek! We are obviously kindred spirits, Marlo!!"

~*~

About Shades of Morning

Marnie Wittier has life just where she wants it. Quiet. Peaceful. No drama. A long way away from her past. In the privacy of her home, she fills a box with slips of paper, scribbled with her regrets, sins, and sorrows. But that’s nobody else’s business. Her bookstore/coffee shop patrons, her employees, her friends from church - they all think she’s the very model of compassion and kindness.

Then Marnie’s past creeps into her present when her estranged sister dies and makes Marnie guardian of her fifteen-year-old son—a boy Marnie never knew existed. And when Emmit arrives, she discovers he has Down syndrome - and that she’s woefully unprepared to care for him. What’s worse, she has to deal with Taylor Cole, her sister’s attorney, a man Marnie once loved—and abandoned.

As Emmit—and Taylor—work their way into her heart, Marnie begins to heal. But when pieces of her dismal past surface again, she must at last face the scripts of paper in her box, all the regrets and sorrows. Can she do it? Or will she run again?

~*~

What's your latest book?


Shades of Morning releases today from Waterbrook-Multnomah Publishing Group.

Oh, cool--we get you on your release date! That's exciting!! What's your favorite part of the story?

I loved writing the scenes with Emmit, the 15-year-old Down syndrome boy. He was so much fun with his frustrating stubbornness, simple worldview, and honest, uncomplicated love. It was a fun, funny, and profound to watch him drive Marnie crazy and yet heal her broken heart. I think readers will fall in love with Emmit, just like I did!

How could we not?? What inspired this story?

This story was a gift from Andy on one ordinary Sunday morning at church. I went not expecting to see anything different, or special, or extraordinary. But God had other plans. And so did Andy. In the middle of the third song, a noise came from the far side of the church. A loud noise. Strange, awkward, and off-key. Then, it grew louder. I furrowed my brow. Was that someone singing . . . badly?

I stood on tiptoes and peeked toward the sound. And there was Andy. His arms were raised, his eyes closed. And he was singing to his God for all he was worth. Andy, in his middle teens, with blond hair, thick glasses, and small ears. Andy, with Down syndrome and a grin on his face big enough for the angels to see. Andy, shout-singing with all his might through that radiant smile.

That moment changed me. It showed me that beauty is found in unexpected places, and that God’s gifts in our lives are often wrapped in awkward, off-key packages. I witnessed something beautiful, something wondrous that day, and it made me see that so often the hard things in life, the things we want to hide away, to forget, to cover up, can be transformed into things of beauty in the hands of God.

And that’s how Shades of Morning was born – in those moments while Andy worshipped and I was left breathless by the wonder of it.


You're leaving me breathless with amazement at God and His workings already. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

I hope reader will see that God’s gifts in our lives don’t always come in pretty packages. Often they come wrapped in ways we don’t like and don’t want. But God uses these unwanted gifts to free us from sin, regret, and to transform our lives and make us new.

A big "wow" right there. Very true, and something I've read in a few different sources just today. Hmm, maybe He's trying to tell me something? LOL. Is there a theme to this book?

Always! Because there are things in every person’s life that don’t go as expected or hoped. We all have regrets. We all have those moments when the very thing we’ve been hoping for becomes something difficult and unexpected.

So, I wrote Shades of Morning to explore those moments in life – when hopes are dashed, expectations crushed, and everything seems as it should not be. The story delves into those experiences to discover how the very things that we regret, that we dread, can be transformed into the things that bring exquisite beauty and wonder into our lives.

In the very places where our hopes are dashed, we can find hope. Where our expectations are crushed, we can learn to expect insights and wonder. Where we first see ugliness, we can find beauty unlike anything we’ve ever encountered before.


A gorgeous theme! Now--when I read Beyond the Night last year, you totally blew me away with that last chapter. It made me cry, which is an achievement few books can boast, and that rocketed you to the top of my Favorites list. But inquiring minds want to know--why do you write stories with surprise endings?

My hope is that readers will catch their breath in wonder and say, “Ooo, that’s cool. That changes everything!” Personally, I love stories with surprise twists that tie into the overall theme of the book. So, for my books, my goal is to have a twist that reveals a deeper meaning in the story. I want to surprise and delight readers not just with something they didn’t see coming, but with something that allows them to see and experience the characters’ journeys in deep ways.

In the end, my real prayer is that when readers catch their breath at the ending, they’ll also catch their breath in wonder at the mystery and beauty of our vivid God. I hope the vision of Him will take their breath away. At its heart, that’s what the surprise twist is all about. That’s what Shades of Morning is all about.


You pulled it off perfectly before! I can't wait to read this one and see what you do with it. (Picture Roseanna rubbing her hands together.) What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

This is going to sound strange, but the most important lesson for me was learning to finally let go of the desire to be published. God had to pry my fingers off my dream born when I was 13-years-old, but when He did, everything changed. I had bought in to mindset of “pursue our dreams, reach for the sky, dream big, nothing’s impossible if only you try hard enough.” It sounded good. But for me, that philosophy was deadly. I needed to completely surrender my dreams in order to live God’s. It was like ripping out part of my soul. But it was worth it. Now, when I write, it can be an act of worship and obedience, instead of something that’s all about me and my dreams. And I tell you, that’s made all the difference in my writing, and has became a good part of the theme in all my books.

I've heard that from several sources--it's all about making His dreams our dreams . . . then finding how He leads us to places we couldn't have imagined. Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) who you rely on when writing?

Absolutely! My husband has been wonderful with support and encouragement. He’s my first reader for everything I write, watches the kids regularly to give me writing time, and continues to believe that God has asked me to do this writing thing, even when everything doesn’t go as I hope.

Other than that, my editor, Julee Schwarzburg, has been wonderful. And my agent, Steve Laube, has been a great source of encouragement and support as well.

In addition, I relied heavily on my friends, Diane and Rick Pate, the parents of Andy, the Down syndrome boy on whom I based my character, Emmit. They were a wonderful source of details, funny stories, anecdotes, and everything I needed to bring Emmit to life.


Sounds like you have an awesome support system! Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

I have five children – ages 1, 4, 4, 7, and 10. Need I say more?


No--that says it all. =) Mine are 2 and 4, and they keep me plenty busy. Good thing your hubby watches them to give you writing time! Finally, tell us why you love Christian fiction.

I love Christian fiction because I love a powerfully told story with deep meaning. I love characters who show what truth looks like through lives lived and struggles fought. I love to see through another’s eyes, feel what they feel, experience life in a new and different way. I think we all do. That’s why movies and TV dramas are so popular. Fiction is great entertainment.

But it’s also more. It has the power to change lives, make a difference. By seeing through the eyes of another, by living vicariously through the lives of characters, by encountering the true God even in a made-up plot, I am touched, challenged, changed. I see God in new ways. My vision is broadened, deepened. And I discover truth with new clarity. Fiction lays bare the imperfections of my soul, stirs my doubts and questions, and drives me into the throne room of God.

~*~

Thanks so much for visiting, Marlo! It's a true honor and pleasure.

Readers, be sure and check out Marlo's site at www.marloschalesky.com. You can purchase Shades of Morning at Amazon or CrossPurposes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Modern . . . Memory V. Meeting

Backstory--one of the thing we authors are taught is that backstory can be a major drag. All that history between your characters? Their shady pasts? Yeah . . . don't dump it all in during the first three chapters. Spread it out, space it out, drop the readers into the middle. Right?

As a rule, this is a fabulous rule. (Duh.) But it can be tricky with characters who've known each other forever. On one of my loops we've been discussing which is more interesting, a hero and a heroine who have known each other for years, or ones who meet in the first chapter or so.

Me, I like both, but I admit there's something I adore about an H&H that already have a relationship that gets newly nudged into love. Maybe it's because I've known my hubby since we were in middle school. Maybe because it eliminates the concern of "Wow, I just had people meet, fall in love, and get engaged in the course of a few months. That's so a bad idea in the real world!"

In the contemporaries I'm shopping right now, I've got various forms of this. I've got the two who had summer fling nine years before and are tossed together again after that near-decade of silence--she's loved him all along, he's about to embark on his second marriage since then.

I've got the friends-from-the-cradle that have been in love which each other all their lives but managed to screw it up until they both came to the Lord. Then the hero more or less hunts her down in rural Missouri and determines not to leave until she gives him one last chance.

I've got the colleagues who have sat beside each other for years, but the hero never noticed the heroine until one rainy day when she finally got his attention by being her usual sweet, helpful self.

Of course, then there's the ones who actually meet--he rescues her, she chooses to trust him when she'd never trusted a man before, and I'm having a lot of fun (I say as if I've taken the time to work on this lately) developing a solid relationship that has no history at all.

So what's your favorite? The stories of sparks flying between two people who meet for the first time within the pages, or the ones where there's a rich tapestry of history behind them that you get to watch burst into flames? =)

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Friend Jill Elizabeth Nelson - Interview & Giveaway

Today I'm excited to welcome Jill Elizabeth Nelson to my blog! I got to know Jill way-back-when (in like 2006) after reading her debut novel Reluctant Burglar. She helped me launch a series of promotional games that entertained us all for a while, and now I'm excited to promote her latest novel, Calculated Revenge!

Jill has offered a copy of Calculated Revenge to one lucky reader, so as usual, leave your comment and an email address below!

~*~

About Jill

My first and only marriage is still going strong after 27 years. We have four kids who've pretty much flown the coop. Yet the chickadees keep coming back to roost. Puzzling phenomenon. We must not give them enough incentive to stay away.

By day I masquerade as secretary to the CEO of a health care corporation and as housing manager for a senior apartment complex. By night I throw off my mask of conformity and turn into a wild and crazy writer who can hardly wait to jot down all the cool things my characters are telling me, so I can share them with my readers.

Did I say I hear voices? Alas, I've been like this most of my life. At least since sixth grade, when I penned—er, penciled—my first mystery novel. No trace of that youthful manuscript exists today, and the world is grateful.

My writer's journey has taken me in many different directions. I’ve walked the roads of journalist, columnist, essayist, poet, story teller and book reviewer. My current path is the one I've coveted all along—novelist. My Guide and Mentor in all my travels is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory!


~*~

What's your latest book?

Calculated Revenge released in April from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Here’s a teaser:

It’s been eighteen years since Laney Thompson’s sister was abducted and killed, but Laney’s pain and haunting guilt has never faded. Now the murderer is back, taunting Laney with mementos of her sister and threatening Laney’s young daughter. School principal Noah Ryder is her best hope for protecting her daughter—if she can convince the former investigator to take the case. As the threats escalate and clues lead to shocking secrets from the past, Laney’s survival—and that of her daughter—depends on the rusty gifts and skills Noah wants only to forget.

Oo! Sounds so good! And I can't even win it--shucks. ;-) What's your favorite part of the story?

I love when Noah finally realizes that Laney’s in love with him and Laney realizes at the same time that Noah loves her. They’ve both spent a great deal of time and effort to hide their feelings from one another, and now at a highly inopportune time, they have to deal with the stunning revelation of mutual devotion where they thought their feelings were unrequited.

Ah, the big Reveal. Siiiiiggggghhhhh. Is there a theme to this book?

I hope the reader sees the theme of forgiveness front and center. The depth of forgiveness required from my characters is cavernous, but not nearly the scope of what Jesus did for us. I hope the reader grasps that comparison and is helped to come to terms with the need to forgive others in their own life. The corrupting power of hatred and bitterness is the flip side to that forgiveness coin. I hope the reader takes the example played out in the story as a jolt of awareness--a spear to the gut, if you will, as to what could happen in their own soul if they don't let go of hurts and grudges, even those that seem just and deserved. If God gave us what was just and deserved, instead of His unmerited grace and favor, we'd all just be greasy spots on the road. His example must be our lifestyle if we are to enjoy peace and freedom in our hearts.


Amen! What novel have you read and enjoyed recently?

I recently read a book called Murder in the Choir by Joel B. Reed that thoroughly entertained me and dealt well with racism. I wouldn’t necessarily categorize the book among “inspirational fiction,” but it was a decent PG-13, which is pretty wholesome for what’s out there in the secular mystery/suspense category. Amazingly enough, Reed is a self-published author from a small town near my own. I was thoroughly impressed by this man’s writing skills. This is not usually the case with self-published novels, so he’s the rare bird. Readers can look him at http://www.whiteturtlebooks.com.

I love finding those unexpectedly awesome writers! Do you remember where you were when you got your first call about a book contract?

I was at the Christian Writers Group conference in Ohio in 2005. Before I left for the conference my agent had let me know that my proposal for Reluctant Burglar would be going before the publication board, and that I should hear one way or another by the end of the week. Needless to say, I was a tad distracted during the conference, and I was naughty. I took my cell phone everywhere with me—turned on! Finally, just at dessert time during the awards banquet it went off. Talk about someone’s heart leaping into their throat! (I can now testify this can truly happen.) I zipped out of the banquet room and into the hallway to hear the news. My agent was very deadpan and recommended that I sit down. Now my heart was in my toes. Then she yelled in my ear, “They’re offering you a three book contract!” My heart went into orbit around the moon! When I shared the news with my fellow conferees, there was mighty shouting and rejoicing. Many unpublished writers at the conference said that being a part of my “moment” gave them hope that theirs would truly come. What a sweet side-effect of that first Big Call.

Awwww! That is such an awesome story! (And anyone who hasn't read Jill's To Catch a Thief Series, DO THAT!) Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

Legacy of Lies releases from Steeple Hill in October. It’s about a cop’s widow who moves to a small town to help her grandmother run her sewing business. All plans are sidetracked when she discovers the bones of an infant buried in her grandparent’s back yard. Is her legacy one of murder and lies? In order to discover the truth that will either condemn or redeem her family name, she must team up with the last man on the planet she’d care to feel attraction for—another cop.

And readers, Jill will be back with us in October to talk about this one! Where else can readers find you or your writing online?

My web site contains excerpts, links to buy, my speaking schedule, a monthly contest to win an autographed copy of my latest release, and an opportunity to sign up for my quarterly newsletter. Pop on by at http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com. I also have a readers’ group on Facebook. We chat about all sorts of things, book-wise. I’m also on Twitter and Shoutlife. Oh, and I have a blog on my web site, too. I give away lots of books there that are not my own. Here are links to these spots:

Blog: http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com/artisticblogger.html

Jill Elizabeth Nelson Reader’s Group on Facebook

Twitter

Shoutlife: http://www.shoutlife.com/jillelizabethnelson

~*~

Thanks so much for visiting, Jill! Readers, you can purchase her book on Amazon or CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Contest ends 6/17/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . The Spirit

I'm writing a book right now that's way more spiritually charged, spiritually involved than I imagined it would be. There are a lot of beyond-your-vision battles raging, and that means a lot of Roseanna praying before writing--I so don't want to get this stuff wrong!

And then this weekend, we had the honor of hosting visitors (a couple and a good friend of theirs) from Ohio who offered to do a faith building and healing service at our church. These people . . . they are so genuine. So humble. They just want to teach what they've learned and be the instruments of the Lord. And boy, did I need a good dose of the Spirit.

Ever since a revival swept through our town two years ago, I've been keenly aware of how different I am when in touch with the Spirit versus when I let life get in the way. And lately . . . life has been seriously in the way. Which made me not really enjoy the details of my life. My kids were getting on my nerves, I was constantly exhausted, and I couldn't seem to find the quiet time I needed with God. So I went to this service knowing exactly what I needed from it.

After a while my wonderful hubby took the kids down to the nursery, which let me really listen, really feel. The teaching time ended, and the prayer began. I wasn't sure how it was going to work. Should I just charge to the front and say, "Pray with me please so I can get the kids home to bed?" No, they asked for someone with a specific issue . . . so I just closed my eyes, prayed, privately and determined to soak up the Spirit--not too hard, since he was saturating the room. And, I'll admit it, thought, "Well, Lord, you might just have to send one of them back to me if this isn't enough."

Then the husband of the couple came over to me. He'd walked by several times, but this time he crouched down and asked, "Can I pray with you? I'm sensing you're not here for healing but that you have something you need prayer for."

!!!! I nodded as tears surged (I'm not a cry-er, FYI) and asked if he would pray for rejuvenation. That's all I said--rejuvenation. But you could see the light go on inside him. He took my hands and prayed for rejuvenation, for rest, for exactly what I needed. And told me I needed to take the time to pray for that every morning, and pray every night for my rest to be sufficient.

Um, yes teacher.

Seriously, ever since then . . . there's a calm inside where irritation had been. There's joy again. And I am so, so grateful that the Spirit always knows exactly what we need and meets us there. There have been times over the years when he swept over me in my dreams and I wake up like this. This time, he came while his servants were here and used them to bless me.

Now I'm praying that my words (mostly thinking of those spiritually-charged chapters I'm writing) can somehow be used to bless others. There is so much to all this stuff, so much I can never quite get a hold on.

How awesome to know I don't have to get a hold of it all--I just have to hold his hand. He'll show me how to handle the rest.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Remember When . . . Winning Wasn't Everything?

We've all heard that saying, right? "Winning isn't everything." All well and good when you're talking about a contest or a game of kickball, but . . . in war? Um, I kinda thought it was. So Xerxes, what were you thinking?

Here's the setup. Ol' Kingy burned Athens to the ground--easy to do since no one was left in the city to defend it--after finally winning at Thermopylae. Sent word of victory home to Susa, where everyone was so excited they strew myrtle in the streets and declared a holiday. This was the set-out goal of the war, you see. Burn Athens.

Check.

Then some brilliant adviser said, "Let's pursue these cowards to their hiding place. Look, we've got it on good authority they're in a weakly held spot. If we go over here like our informant said . . ."

Um, their "informant" was actually one of the leading voices of Athens. A very tricky one apparently, whose "intel" was followed by the Persians. Yeah. Brilliant. Xerxes and his army headed to the island of Salamas, where all the Greeks had fled. Put it under siege. Had a battle.

Lost.

Now. Everyone, the Greeks included thought, "Aw, crap, there's his fleet, finally showing up--he's going to take a few days, regroup, and give us a pounding like we've never had before."

Instead, Xerxes says, "Yeah, I'm going home. Cousin, keep some men here and keep fighting, but I'm out of here."

There was some logic behind this. Winter was coming, and Xerxes didn't want his army stuck in Europe for it--they'd likely have starved. Moreover, those wily Greeks may have snuck around and destroyed the bridge he'd used to get into Europe to begin with, and if the army was stuck there, they could be routed and defeated. So yeah, retreat may have been the logistically sound option, and since he'd done what he came to do with Athens . . .

Of course, I have my own theories about what really propelled him home, but you'll just have to read Jewel of Persia to get them. ;-)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Story Time . . . with Lisa Samson


I have a book, sitting ready and waiting for me to read. It's right beside me. Cover taunting me with its promise. The title--Resurrection in May. The author--Lisa Samson.

It's gonna be good. Stellar. Fabulantastic. I know this, because (a) it's by Lisa Samson and (b) my mother's already read it and said it was every inch as good as The Passion of Mary-Margaret, which ranks as one of the Best Ever Books I've read.

I so want to read this. Want to tell y'all how awesome it is. But since it's unlikely I'll be into it enough by Tuesday morning to speak with any knowledge about it (I'm typing this on Monday afternoon) I'm instead going to make sure each and every one of you know exactly how spectacular an author Lisa Samson is.

I was hooked when I read the blurb of The Passion of Mary-Margaret, the first book I'd seen by this author, though certainly not her first book. And the book itself--oh my. I'm putting my review below, but first--oh my.

It's with me still, over a year after I first read it. It comes up nearly every time I talk to one of my friends who also read it. My mother claims no book has ever moved her, touched her on a level like this one. It's that amazing. So yes, I'm itching, breath bated, to pick up Resurrection in May, and you can bet your buttons I'll be telling you all about it next week. For now, I give you my official review of The Passion of Mary-Margaret, as posted at the Christian Review of Books.

~*~

Mary-Margaret Fischer was born in disgrace and spent a lot of years haunted by it. More or less raised in a convent school, she knew all her life that she’d follow in her mother’s footsteps and enter the religious order. That determination, her soul-deep longing to dedicate herself to Christ, was always what stood between her and Jude Keller, the lighthouse keeper’s son. He was a wild boy, always seeking out trouble . . . and when he left their hometown on the Eastern Shore and headed for Baltimore, he found it in spades.

Though apart for years as Mary-Margaret follows her calling and Jude follows his lusts, when she sees him again, her heart cries out at his pain. Jude has done things that horrify her, has walked a path she’d rather turn her eyes away from . . . so why is Jesus telling her to make him her life’s work? He wouldn’t seriously ask her to give up her dreams to follow Him for the sake of this broken, diseased man . . . would He?

The Passion of Mary-Margaret is a book that will shake you to your core. Written as a memoir of an aging religious sister, it combines Mary-Margaret’s present story with a circuitous, shocking past. Visions of Jesus, a quest for the father that had raped her mother, trouble from the KKK . . . these elements and more weave a story that will open your eyes and burrow deep into your heart.

It took me a few chapters to get into the way the story’s told, but once the present events started getting interesting, I stopped wanting to flip to the parts that were memory and read both parts with equal intrigue. I picked up this book because it’s not very often you see a book in the Christian market with Catholics—Catholic religious sisters, no less—as the main characters, and I wanted to see how Lisa Samson pulled it off. The answer? Masterfully written, fully involving, and one of the richest, most complex books I’ve ever read. It kept me up at night and redefined my thinking, but what’s more, it helped me better understand my own relationship with Christ.

The Passion of Mary-Margaret is a book to be talked about, and Lisa Samson is an author to follow.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Modern . . . Smooches

Last week on my historical loop, we got on the topic of kissing in novels--where it should come in, how it should come in, if it should come in. Obviously historicals have different issues here. You must deal with the fact that propriety was different in various eras, so if your characters kiss, it carries meaning/consequences that it wouldn't today.

But in contemporaries? Yeah . . . kinda free rein here. While there are those admirable people who don't kiss until engagement or marriage even now, most of the citizenry of the world kiss pretty freely. On the above-mentioned email loop, it came up because someone commented on how half the time kissing in a modern novel didn't seem to have any purpose other than "and I ought to throw in a kiss now, because readers expect it." Yeah, not a great reason. =) Even in a modern setting, it's still a plot. A kiss must have purpose, people! (And not just to curl your toes;-)

It made me consider kissing in my contemporaries. In Yesterday's Tides there's a kiss early on that serves to hammer home what has changed in my characters' lives since they were involved nine years earlier. The second kiss, late in the book, is filled with temper and completely destroys the friendship the hero and heroine have built. The third and final kiss comes at the end, when all is repaired and the truth finally acknowledged. You'll note that each serves a very specific purpose.

In my contemporary work-in-progress, my heroine has a really traumatic past that involves being used badly by men. Though she's attracted to the hero from the get-go and he's slammed with it all of a sudden on day, the sparks are banked because of outside conflict for a good while. When they finally kiss before the big show-down, it's going to be soft and full of promise rather than sizzling with passion. Now, those who read my books know I'm a fan of sizzling, LOL. But there's something about going for what isn't expected in this realm. The kiss that stands out in my memory from all the books I've read is one where the H&H rush at each other on horseback, about to be torn apart for who-knows-how-long. They meet, grip each other's arms, lean in . . . and barely touch lips in a kiss that's chaste, sweet, and a promise to meet again. Not the storm-tossed embrace I expected, but so perfect . . . that's the kind of thing I'm going for in this one.

So where do you come down on kissing in novels?

Friday, June 4, 2010

My Friend Deb - Interview & E-book Giveaway

Today I'm tickled to welcome Deb Kinnard to the blog to talk about her e-book, Damages. I reviewed her awesome time travel a while back, so I can vouch for what a great author she is. =)

Damages is digital only, and Deb has graciously offered an e-copy to one lucky commentor. As usual, comment with an email address.

~*~

About Deb

Deb Kinnard started writing at age ten, because there was no preteen girl with a horse on Bonanza. From there she progressed to short stories and dreadful poetry. In college, she gained two degrees in health care and spent time observing hippies, basketball stars, el-ed majors and other strange species. While raising two active girls and cherishing her husband, she’s enjoyed a career that encompasses Spanish translation, volunteer work at a crisis line, years in assorted ERs, and a day job at a big Chicago teaching hospital. Deb keeps busy with reading, needlework, guitar-playing, and travel whenever possible. She prefers warm places with plenty of ocean and tall, cool fruit juice drinks.

Deb is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and serves as Zone Director for the Midwest. Her previously published novels include POWERLINE and OAKWOOD (Treble Heart Books). ANGEL WITH A RAY GUN, ANGEL WITH A BACKHOE and DAMAGES are published as e-books by Desert Breeze Publishing. Current books include SEASONS IN THE MIST, which released in April 2010 from Sheaf House. Upcoming titles include the novella ALOHA, MY LOVE, which will appear in Desert Breeze’s Christmas 2010 anthology. She’s currently working on a sequel to SEASONS IN THE MIST.

~*~

About Damages

What do you do when you fall for a guy and God says, “No”?

Cassidy Amberg has known but one love in her life: the irrepressible, charming Brian Hayward. Though she’s coped well enough since he married another woman and moved away, she’s never forgotten. He returns home after an accident robs him of both mobility and wife.

Though Brian isn’t quite back on his feet, he buys a home too big to manage from a wheelchair. Cassidy sees her old friend needs help, and offers as much as she can. When Brian proposes a marriage-of-convenience, she must dig deep within for the grace to accept.

At first they manage well enough as friends, but gradually Brian recognizes he loves his in-name-only wife. Cassidy struggles with realizing she never fell out of love with him. Only when Brian dares push their platonic marriage beyond the boundaries, do they find a chance at permanent happiness together.

~*~

What's your latest book?

April of this year, Desert Breeze Publishing released DAMAGES. It’s an e-book, a “second chances” romance written with the idea that any relationship can be redeemed and rehabbed through God’s grace, no matter how damaged.

Ah, I'm a sucker for a good second chances story. =) What was the hardest part to write?

The chapter where their celibate marriage becomes regularized. It was tough to write without showing what Christian readers usually don’t want to see...but I had to make it quite clear that the relationship had changed radically. I hope I did it right, LOL.

The famous "closed door." =) I'm sure you pulled it off. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

Laughs and a renewed sense of hope. Brian’s kind of clueless sometimes, so I hope my female writers will chuckle over him.

What? Women, laughing over a clueless man?? Never! ;-) What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

One time I’d have said contemporary romance, but I’m getting more interested in historicals. Nothing American and 19thcentury, though. Popular, yes, but not my thing. As far as writing, I’m pretty securely caught by the middle ages in England, and expect to stay there for a while.

Three cheers for European historical! What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

Just finished a five part fantasy tale I’d read before. Next up is Lisa Wingate’s upcoming release BEYOND SUMMER for review. I love reading her books; it’s so easy to say good things about a superb writer.

Oh so true. What's one of the oddest or most interesting things someone has ever said about you?

I was “a help and a blessing.” I never expected anything positive again from that person. Evidence that any relationship can be refreshed and renewed. God is a creative healer.

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

Didn’t do much research. Merck’s MANUAL OF DIAGNOSIS AND THERAPY comes in handy for any writer who can dig through medical jargon. I recommend it if you plan to smash or bash your characters at all. A super resource.

LOL. I'll keep that in mind next time I need to beat someone up. Plot-ologically speaking, of course. What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

When a publisher says, “You’re responsible for the promo/marketing,” they MEAN it.

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

My historical projects, I rely on the Historical Fiction yahoo group of ACFW. In a general sense, I depend on Janny Butler, my super crit partner, who praises when I get it right and pulls no punches when I get it wrong. I couldn’t do without her.

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!)

New CPU for the computer. It’s old and clecky. Probably a new pair of cute sandals, since I’m a shoe-a-holic. The rest of it would go for books. I’m a bookstore addict.

Oh, I would so love a shopping spree in a bookstore! What writing goal have you set for yourself that would be the hardest (or unlikeliest) but most rewarding to achieve?

I’d like to sell to a bigger house than I’ve done to date. I don’t think that’s likely to happen, but it’d sure be gratifying. I don’t think I write what they seem to want, though, and that’s okay with me. I have no complaints!

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

I’ve never gotten THE CALL, though I’ve signed 8 contracts. It was all done via e-mail. I did, of course, scream fit to raise the house rafters. My children thought I’d sliced my arm off.

LOL--a contract's a much better alternative. What are you writing right now?

A follow up to SEASONS IN THE MIST, my April release with Sheaf House, and revisions to a reissue of POWERLINE for Desert Breeze.

Oo, can't wait for the sequel to SEASONS. Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

In December, a novella called ALOHA, MY LOVE will come out as part of Desert Breeze’s Christmas anthology. As far as next year, who can say?

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Deb! Readers, check out her website at www.debkinnard.com.

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