Friday, July 30, 2010

My Friends Anita & Janice - Interview & Giveaway


Today I'm happy to welcome co-authors Anita Higman and Janice Thompson to talk about their joint book Ozark Weddings, which is a 3-in-1 collection of their Barbour novellas. I've had the pleasure of reading one of these three--Larkspur Dreams--and can assure you that these two weave a magical story together!

The interview's going to be a little different form my norm--what with two authors answering and all--but the giveaway runs as usual. Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win this fun collection!

~*~

About Janice

Award-winning author Janice Thompson also writes under the pseudonym Janice Hanna. She got her start in the industry writing screenplays and musical comedies for the stage. Janice has published over fifty books for the Christian market, crossing genre lines to write cozy mysteries, historicals, romances, nonfiction books, devotionals, children’s books and more. In addition, she enjoys editing, ghost-writing, public speaking, and mentoring young writers. Janice currently serves as Vice-President of CAN (Christian Authors Network) and was named the 2008 Mentor of the year for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). She was thrilled to be named the 2010 Barbour/Heartsong Author of the Year, with three books on the top ten list for that house. Janice is active in her local writing group, where she regularly teaches on the craft of writing. Her online course, “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer” (www.freelancewritingcourses.com) has been helpful to many who want to earn a living with their writing. Janice is passionate about her faith and does all she can to share the joy of the Lord with others, which is why she particularly enjoys writing. She lives in Spring, Texas, where she leads a rich life with her family, a host of writing friends, and two mischievous dachshunds. She does her best to keep the Lord at the center of it all. You can find out more about Janice at www.janiceathompson.com or www.freelancewritingcourses.com.

About Anita

Award-winning author, Anita Higman, has twenty-four books published (several co-authored) for adults and children, and she has been honored in the past as a Barnes & Noble "Author of the Month" for Houston. Some of Ms. Higman's publishers are Bethany House, Summerside Press, Barbour Publishing, McGraw-Hill, Lillenas Drama, Roman & Littlefield, and Howard Publishing.

A few of Anita's books are Love Finds You in Humble, Texas, Another Stab at Life, Another Hour to Kill, The Celestial Helix, Pokeweed and Mrs. Gasp, and Big Book of Holidays and Holy Days. She also has contributions in ten nonfiction compilations.

One of Ms. Higman's co-authored books entitled, A Tribute to Early Texas, has a foreword by Elmer Kelton and has won a San Antonio Conservation Society Citation as well as a Westerners International Book Award. She was also named a New Favorite Author in the 15th Annual Heartsong Presents Awards.

In addition, Anita has won two awards for her contribution to literacy and has raised thousands of dollars for literacy with her book, I Can Be Anything, while serving on the board of directors of Literacy Advance of Houston.

Anita Higman has also written for radio, television, ezine, and advertising. She has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art from SNU, and she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Anita has lived in Texas for the past twenty-five years, but was born and raised on a wheat and cattle farm in western Oklahoma.

Besides writing, Anita's other interests are reading great books, going to the movies, and cooking brunch for her friends. She lives with her husband near Houston, Texas.

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Your Barbour Heartsong 3-in-1 collection is entitled, Ozark Weddings. Tell us a little bit about the three stories.

Anita: All three stories are set in Arkansas—Eureka Springs, Little Rock, and Hot Springs. Larkspur Dreams and Castles in the Air are romantic comedy, while the middle story, The Love Song, is more dramatic in tone.

Janice: Larkspur Dreams is a lighthearted, whimsical tale that will appeal to inspirational romance readers, particularly those with artistic leanings. The Love Song reaches into the depths of the reader’s soul, dealing with the topic of overcoming past hurts. Castles in the Air provides a humorous look at the way we are perceived by others, and teaches us that our prejudices (comical as they might be) often keep us from the very thing God has planned for us.

Though I've only read one, I can imagine the other two are just as great! Now Anita, you and Janice co-authored the three stories in Ozark Weddings. How do writers go about co-authoring?
Anita: There are a number of ways to co-author a novel. One writer might do the research and the other writer may actually write the story. Or co-authors may each choose a character and write from that character’s POV. In the three novels, I guess you could say I wrote the body and wings of the stories, and Janice helped to make them fly. She has a gift for critiquing.

Janice:
Working with Anita is a breeze because she conceives and fully plots the stories then lets me add my thoughts/tidbits to give them flavor. She is so quirky and fun to work with, and I am very proud of the stories we have co-produced.

Ah, I was wondering about that--I noticed that Anita's Love Finds You book had the same style as Larkspur Dreams. You have a very distinctive way of wordsmithing, Anita! I've enjoyed quite a few of your books too, Janice. Were there times when it was hard to work together?

Anita: Janice is not only talented, but easy to work with. There were a few times in one of the novels that I found myself writing in a way that strayed from the general concept of a Heartsong romance. Janice made some good suggestions, which steered me in the right direction.

Janice: I can honestly say that I’ve never worked with anyone who was so willing to accept critique and/or take suggestions as Anita. She is a precious friend and collaborative partner. I already knew she was talented (even before we began this project) but had no idea how gracious she would be. Since I’ve written for the Heartsong line for years, I was able to “teach her the ropes” (as it were) and she was a ready learner! That’s not to say she hasn’t taught me a thing or two. I’ve learned much from her throughout this process, particularly as it applies to romantic tension. She’s far better at that than I am, and I’m happy to admit it.

Aww--good to see you guys appreciate each other so much! Why did you each choose to be a writer?

Anita: Ever since I was a little girl, I had this need to express myself in some sort of artistic medium. I’ve tried a number of things: piano, painting, decorating, and acting. But I’ve never been very good at any these endeavors, except writing. I guess really then—writing chose me.

Janice: Like Anita, I’ve always been artistic. As a youngster, I sang, danced and played the piano. I was also very involved in theater as a young person. I’ve been writing since childhood. I wrote my first novella in 6th grade, then went on to write musical comedies for the stage before turning to books in the mid-90’s. Like Anita, I can truly say that I didn’t choose writing; it chose me. Or, perhaps I should say that God chose it for me, as a gift.

When did you have your first success as a writer?

Anita:
After several years of writing, I had some gradual success—books for children, books of one-act plays, and nonfiction for women. These successes were enough to keep me going toward my ultimate goal, which was to write novels.

Janice: This may sound a bit silly, but my first real writing “success” happened my senior year in high school, when I was chosen to help write the senior production. I had a blast, and the scene I crafted (a 1930’s/Busby Berkeley-esque “The Show Must Go On” scene) was a huge success. I can’t tell you what fun I had, or how great it felt for people to respond as they did.

Do you have any special methods of getting into the writing zone, such as favorite scents, music, or certain foods?

Anita: In the past I used to go to a French café, order coffee and scrambled eggs, and then write a rough chapter. The noise, music, and bustle always energized me creatively. But now I’m more of a homebody, so I sit for long hours in my office, working on my stories.

Janice: An "ideal" writing situation for me would involve someplace like Starbucks (or otherwise) with a cup of my favorite hot beverage in my hand (to be discussed below). Ironically, when I'm at home, I can't stand having music going. I find it terribly distracting... something about the "beat" drives me nutty. Having the television on is okay, but it's often muted. Crazy, I know. I'm a fanatic about my Diet Dr. Pepper and several flavors of hot tea. I particularly love Earl Grey and Chai Latte, among others. And I'm nuts about hot chocolate in the wintertime. I'm also crazy about my puppies. I have two red mini-dachshunds named Sasha and Copper. They usually settle in next to me on the sofa, Sasha on my right, Copper on my left. When we're all in place (with a cup of tea or a Diet Dr. Pepper on the end table, depending on the season) I'm ready to begin. Of course, I usually have to weed through several emails (clearing a path) before I can actually start writing. Whew! Sounds like quite a process, doesn't it?! It's a wonder I get anything done at all!

And yet you do! I keep longing to be one of those go-to-a-cafe writers, but alas. Very few cafes around here, and hard to pull off with a kid on each hip. =) What is your best advice for aspiring writers?

Anita: If you feel called to write, don’t let people discourage you. I’m sure they don’t realize the impact of their words, but negative remarks can undermine our courage and joy. Comments similar to: “Maybe you weren’t really meant to be published.” Or, “Are you making any money at this yet?” Perhaps you’ve heard, “Why can’t you write like my favorite author?” Honestly, I could go on and on here. Writing is a great and honorable profession—one that can challenge, inspire, and change people’s lives. If you love words and love arranging them into stories, then don’t let the battering influence of dispiriting comments shatter your dream. Keep pressing on!

Janice: I often say this to young/new writers: Learn the craft, but don’t necessarily write what the publishers/agents/houses tell you to write. Trends change. Stick with the stories God places on your heart and if He intends them to be published, He will find the right publishing house in the right time.

What are your writing plans for the future?

Anita: I’d love to just keep doing what I’m doing. But I think I’d also enjoy writing novels for the young adult market.

Janice: I’m open to whatever God wants (and I really mean that). If He shifts me in a new direction (women’s fiction, for example) I’m following His lead! If He asks me to lay the writing down for a season in order to accomplish a different task, I’m open to that, too.

We’d love for you to visit our websites at www.anitahigman.com and www.janiceathompson.com. If you’re interested in our Heartsong collection, Ozark Weddings, it can be purchased in bookstores or ordered online at www.amazon.com.
Thanks for inviting us to your blog!

~*~

Thanks for visiting, guys! Hope everyone enjoyed getting to know these two lovely ladies, both of whom have a ton of books available for your reading pleasure.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Contest ends 8/5/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Salvation

I remember thinking, sometime between ages 12 and 14, that I could never write a story that took place before Christ. Or which dealt with people after Christ who never heard his message. "I just couldn't do it," I recall thinking. "I'd be wondering about their salvation the whole time."

Well, I stuck by that for a long time. And when I began writing Jewel of Persia, that aspect didn't really occur to me--until my husband, reading along as I wrote, said, "There's just one thing that concerns me--you're targeting Christian readers with a book that isn't going to mention Jesus once."

Too true. Kinda hard to mention someone still 450 years away from being born. But as I studied the books of the Old Testament I was appealing to, it struck me: salvation isn't a theme unique to the New Testament. The people in the OT prayed constantly for salvation--duh, right? Read the Psalms. Yes, most of the time it was for immediate salvation--the saving of life, or even of the nation, so that it be preserved for future generations.

Last night at Bible study (I had recommended this topic months ago, and love that we got to it the week after I finished Jewel of Persia, LOL), the most awesome example we found, though, was how Moses crafts the bronze serpent and holds it up, so that anyone bitten by a poisonous snake can look at it and be saved. Then in John 3, Jesus references that to say (in the Roseanna-paraphrase version) "Just like Moses lifted that snake up, so is the Son of Man being lifted up. The people were already bitten, already dying. They had to have faith to look up and be saved, and it's the faith that saved them. Well, people, you're already bitten. But God loves you so much that he sent his son--and just like that bronze snake, if you believe enough to look toward Me, you'll be saved. I'm not condemning y'all--you're already condemned. Already bitten. But I'm here for your salvation."

Oo, I love that. Love that Jesus himself took this Old Testament idea of salvation and moved it into New Testament, eternal realms. Awesome, isn't it?

In my book, I'm constantly tossing my poor heroine into situations she needs saved from. Each and every time, she cries out to the Lord her God, and Jehovah comes through. Then at the end, the whole people of Israel are calling out for salvation from the scheming of Haman. It's a theme for me--more of one, strangely, than it's been in A.D. books, perhaps because I was so aware of it. And you know, even though they're still looking forward to Jesus, they don't know his name, they don't know when he'll come, it's still a matter of faith. Kasia must have faith that the Lord will preserve her, and that she's where she needs to be. Faith that her God can use her love to move the mountain of a stubborn man. And Esther, of course. Esther must have faith that this is her purpose, and that even if she dies, God will still use her to save her people.

My last sentence has the word "salvation" in it. I end on that note hoping it'll leave people thinking about it and moving naturally in their thoughts to the ultimate salvation, the One who came and updated our definition of the word, who offered it to our souls. "Jesus" is never in my book. But the Spirit is--and just as He speaks to us now, he spoke to my characters. (Maybe not exactly like, but He did.) It's the same spirit, the same God. Which means the same Jesus was there, waiting. Waiting, ready to offer himself for these people.

Some things transcend time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Remember When . . . You Typed "The End"?

Most of you have probably already seen me post this elsewhere--or gathered it from my previous blogs this week--but it's official. I am done-done-diggity-done Jewel of Persia!

Okay, so I finished the story. I'm not exactly done with it. There will yet be tweaking, trimming, and editing. Still. Always a heady feeling to realize you've reached that final point in a book. I did that at 10:45 p.m. last Friday.

Saturday, I proceeded to type up a cast of characters, as recommended by friend and critique partner Dina. My hubby scoffed at this and said, "Oh, it's not hard to keep them all straight." I hope he's right. Especially because as I started making my list, it soon swelled to fifty--50!--characters.

Now, I cannot be blamed for this. It's history's fault. Herodotus--and even the writer of the book of Esther--name so many stinking people. Had they not, I would have clumped several figures into one. I mean, how many brothers does one king need? But alas. In the interest of accuracy . . . my compromise was to not name anyone with whom I could get away with it. So though my heroine had seven servants, we only know the names of three. Though she had nine siblings, we only know the names of four. I tried to keep it reasonable, really I did! LOL

Another kinda grump I've had since finishing it is considering what comes afterward. My hubby (and publisher) wants to know what happened to Esther and the other wives and children after Xerxes is assassinated 8 years after the close of my book (and the Biblical book). A quick perusal online told me one thing, so I sat down with my Bible . . . and quickly decided the online sources were dead wrong. Which is annoying, because I mentioned something in my Author's Note at the end of the book that I'm not sure holds. Grrrr.

Oddly, this again comes back to names. My online source was crediting something to Artaxerxes I that actually belongs to Artaxerxes II. Which wouldn't be an issue if these people used more than three or four names. What's up with royalty anyway? That cast of characters proves there were plenty of names in the ancient world, so why was everyone in the Achamenid dynasty named Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, or Artaxerxes?? I mean really. ;-)

Grumps aside, I'm still floating on the sensation of being finished . . . and actually looking forward to diving into edits and trims next week!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Story Time . . . Here Again?

Okay, I've done it again. I've been so busy finishing up Jewel of Persia that I've barely been reading these past few weeks. I took quite a few books with me on vacation, decided to read the Nora Roberts I got from the library first, and just managed to finish it this Sunday. As in, nearly two weeks after starting it.

Good thing I have a finished manuscript under my belt now, or that would be downright embarrassing!

The point being, I have nothing much to say today about one book in particular. So I'm going to talk about a few.

First, have you all read The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and/or directed your teens to it? It's a super-awesome YA series, the third and final book of which just released. So Over It. They were all awesome, but this one is hands-down the best. I mean, it's set largely in Hawaii. Do I need to say more? I can--I can go on and on. In this one Skylar faces down the demons from her past, and what she learns makes her redefine everything she'd founded the last year of her life on. Forced to reevaluate what it means to be a daughter, a sister, a friend, a girlfriend--and most of all a Christian--Skylar must finally get over her hangups so she can move on with her life.

Next, I have sitting in my bag Cara Putman's Stars in the Night. The cover is gorgeous, and the book sounds soooooo good. It's about movie stars touring the country on a train in the 40s to sell war bonds--and the sister of one late starlet, determined to find her sister's murderer, no matter the danger. I really hoped to start this one on vacation, but alas. I kept writing instead. =)

I've recently picked up Sandi Patty's The Edge of the Divine, which releases next week. I'll be posting an interview with Sandi soon, which is pretty exciting for me. I think she might be the most famous person I've ever interviewed, LOL. This book is about how through a year of weight loss brought on a surgical procedure, she grew in faith and came to some great epiphanies about living life on a spiritual edge, hand-in-hand with the Lord. Though I've never shared her particular struggled, the insights she pulls from them are right-on and relevant for anyone, especially women. I'm especially loving the scripture she uses.

I'm also going to start tonight (or re-start, rather, on my hubby's new tablet) Wounded Spirits by April Gardner, which is due out this fall. I opened this one up and gave a blissful sigh. Native Americans! I looooooove these amazing people and their cultures, but it's been many years since I've read a book about them--I suspect that's a genre that kinda burned itself out in the 90s, and now it's going to have to climb slowly out of the ashes. April Gardner is a solid writer, and I can't wait to see what she does with her very intriguing premise!

And enough from me. Stuff to do. =)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Winner!

The winner of Margaret Daley's Heart of a Cowboy is . . .

Katie G! (katiegalyean@ . . .)

Congrats, Katie! I just sent you an email.

Modern . . . Technology

Nice title, eh? Given that "modern technology" is a thing in itself. Oh yes. I'm brilliant this morning before my coffee. =)

Anyhoo. Here in the White household, my hubby just ordered a tablet (kinda like a Kindle but capable of internet access), and we're super excited to receive it. For the last two months he's been spitting out phrases like, "If I had a tablet, I'd do this right now." And given that "do this" often includes helping me with my stuff, I was all in favor of ordering one. And now I'm thinking, "When David gets his tablet, I can borrow it to . . ." =)

Which got me thinking about the roles technology plays in my books. As a rule, I don't mention any specifics because I don't want to date my manuscripts. But sometimes I have characters who are so interested in it that it can't go without mention. In Yesterday's Tides my hero, Rem(ington) is a techno-guru at the CIA. So he's one of those guys that travels with two bags. His laptop case, and the one for everything else.

In Seized, my hero is the dude on the ship that monitors radar and other computer feedback (it has a name. I can't think of it right this second. Pre-coffee, as I already warned y'all), so he's pretty handy with the machines too. Will get interesting when he's trying to teach the basics of 21st century technology to the heroine, who has never even dialed a phone.

I've noted in recent years that one way I can tell older books by some favorite authors versus current ones is the technology present in the stories. Picked one up a while back and laughed when the character was attacked somewhere away from her home, and she had no way to communicate with the hero. This day and age, a cell phone would be whipped out in about half a second--or else the author would have to make it clear why she couldn't.

Technology does indeed shape our lives--how does it shape our stories? Any funny or just brilliant examples of how you've seen it utilized in a book you've read or one you're writing?

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Friend Cathy - Interview & Giveaway

Today I'm pleased to welcome Cathy Bryant to my blog. Cathy hosted me over at WordVessel when my novel debuted, and I received such a warm welcome that I hope y'all show her an awesome welcome here too!

As usual, please leave your comments below with an email address for a chance to win a copy of Cathy's book!

~*~

About Cathy

Cathy Bryant’s debut novel, Texas Roads, was a 2009 finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis competition and is available wherever books are sold. A Texas gal by birth, Cathy lives with her husband in a century-old Texas farmhouse, complete with picket fence, flowers, butterflies, and late summer mosquitoes the size of your fist.

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About Texas Roads

Dani Davis longs for a place to call home. With quaint country charm, quirky residents, and loads of business potential, Miller’s Creek, Texas seems like the perfect place to start over…except for the cowboy who gives a ride into town. Then malicious rumors and a devastating secret propel her down a road she never expected to travel.

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What's your latest book?

My latest book is TEXAS ROADS (published under my imprint, WordVessel Press, March 2010).

What was the hardest part to write?

The scene where Dani uncovers an age-old secret was very emotional. I can only speak for myself, but emotional scenes are exhausting to write. Sports writer Red Smith said: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” That’s what writing emotional scenes feels like to me.

LOL. What a fabulous analogy. I just nearly killed my heroine today (again--this chick has some bad luck!), so yeah. I get it. =) What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

First of all, I hope they glimpse God’s goodness and sovereignty even in the midst of trying circumstances. I also hope as they visit Miller’s Creek, Texas, they feel they’ve arrived in a place that is both charming and vaguely familiar.

Oh, I love it when a setting becomes a friend. Is there a theme to this book?

Yes. The theme of the book is finding home, and comes from my own spiritual journey. For years it seemed my family and I were destined to be Texas nomads. Just about the time we’d start to put down roots, God yanked us up and transplanted us to yet another small Texas town. I longed for a place we could make home, but God had a lesson He wanted me to learn. No place on earth will ever truly be home for believers. Only God can fill that home-sized hole in each of our hearts. Only He was intended to.

This verse from John 14:23 became the theme verse for the novel: If anyone loves Me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and We will make Our home with him. Dani Davis, one of the main characters, takes the same spiritual journey I did a few years ago.

"Texas nomad"--I love it. And a fabulous lesson. Any funny family stories about living with a writer?

My hubby and I recently took a “Texas Roads” trip to see the beautiful bluebonnet display in the Texas Hill Country. We stopped at a convenience store in one small town. I stayed in the car while my husband went in. When he came out, he found me eyeing an older gentleman standing nearby. I nudged him and said, “That’s Bo Miller.” (Bo is one of the minor characters in the story.) A few minutes later, we stopped at the town’s library. As we were walking in, we passed a lady dressed in pioneer attire. She sent us a sunny smile and a “hello.” We looked at each other and both said at the same time: “Mama Beth.” (Mama Beth is one of the main characters in the story, a wise old woman who serves as a mother figure for Miller’s Creek.) I love running into people that remind me of my characters!

And two in the same trip? Jackpot! LOL. What are you writing right now?

I’m currently working on book two in the Miller’s Creek, Texas series, tentatively titled A Path Less Traveled (and hopefully available in the Fall of 2010). Here’s the basic storyline:

Trish James is tired of being rescued. When a spooked horse claims her husband's life, she determines to make a life for herself and her son without outside help. But will that entail leaving the place that's etched on her heart?

Andy Tyler has had to struggle for everything, and starting a new law practice in Miller's Creek, Texas is no different. Though prepared for business challenges, he's not prepared for falling in love--especially with yet another woman who will probably abandon him for her career.

Will Andy and Trish be able to see beyond the obvious to take the path less traveled?

The story will feature Andy and Trish, but will also include the old friends from Miller’s Creek.

Sounds great! Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing?

I would have to credit Francine Rivers for first drawing me into the world of Christian fiction. I remember sobbing (on more than one occasion!) as I read Redeeming Love. I knew then I wanted to touch people and make a difference in their lives through the stories I wrote.

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Cathy! Readers, don't forget to check out WordVessel. You can purchase Texas Roads at Amazon.

Void w
here prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Contest ends 7/29/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm on Kindle!


Finally figured out the goof, and the Kindle version of A Stray Drop of Blood is now available! Priced to move at $2.99 too. ;-) Check it out!

Thoughtful About . . . Whatever

For the past month or so, I have been in the "Whatever" stage when it comes to publishing. This isn't a negative place, though it might sound like it, given the name. But that's an abbreviation. Really, it's the "Whatever You Want for Me, Lord" stage.

See, the industry has always been tough. Right now it's nearly impossible. Yes, there are still successes, and I rejoice with every single one of them. But they never seem to come my way. I'm still getting those "this is solid, she writes well, but . . ." rejections. Or, more often, nothing at all. My agent is understandably frustrated with the lack of responses. There are projects we submitted nearly a year ago upon request that we've still hear nothing on.

And I'm okay with that. The optimist in me still thinks, "Something's going to click with one of those. I feel it." And the realist says, "But if it doesn't, then whatever, Lord. Whatever."

Because I'm promoting a book I love. A Stray Drop of Blood is such a huge part of me that I love dedicating myself to it, to getting it out in the world. And I'm working on a book I love. Not since Stray Drop has a book demanded so much of my mind as Jewel of Persia, perhaps because it's on the same epic scale. I'm loving what I'm doing, which is something I couldn't do for a major publishing house.

With my agent's go-ahead, I'm going to focus on my projects for WhiteFire while we wait for the incredibly slow wheels of the major publishers to turn toward the proposals and manuscripts I submitted to them. And I've got this incredible peace and excitement about that. This feeling that "Whatever, Lord," has led us to a place where WhiteFire can grow and expand and start helping others' dreams come true.

Writers, you might want to check out WFP's new and improved site. There's some fun news on the Submissions page. We also just started a blog with one whole post, LOL. For news as we have it, you can check out that or subscribe to the newsletter on the main site.

Because "Whatever, Lord" is leading to new things these days. Though in some ways the changes in the publishing industry are terrifying for unestablished authors, in other ways they're freeing and fun. I, for one, am going to focus on that side of things.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Remember When . . . The Pieces Clicked?

Sometimes when we're just reading through a short-ish book of the Bible like Esther, we tend to ignore little things like "and in the third year of the reign of Xerxes" verses "in the seventh year . . ." right? I know I do. But now that I'm concluding Jewel of Persia and am hence digging into Esther, I'm reminded again of all this fun stuff.

Though incredibly short, this book of the Bible spans quite a few years. First of all, the time between Vashti being deposed and Esther arriving at the palace is three years. Three years! You wouldn't really think that when you read it, unless you pay attention to those "year of the reign" things. It reads like "So Xerxes got mad, took care of business. When his temper had cooled, he remembered Vashti and all his dudes said, 'Hey, kingy, time to find a new queen.'"

Apparently it took his temper three years to cool. Which actually makes so much sense if you accept that the king mentioned in Esther is in fact Xerxes I, who was away preparing for war with Greece for those exact years of his reign. Cool stuff, eh? Especially since non-Biblical history then records that he "returned to Persia and dedicated himself to the intrigues of the harem." !!!

I've probably shared bits and pieces of this before, but given that last night I just typed "The seventh year of the reign of Xerxes" under my next chapter's heading, it hit home anew. And now I'm going to get writing.

Hope y'all have an awesome day!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Amanda Flower's Maid of Murder is . . .

Brenda! (kittycrochettwo@. . .)

Congrats, Brenda! I just sent you an email.

Story Time . . . with Sandi Rog


I'm gonna do that thing again--talk about a book you can't buy yet. ;-) This isn't my official review (which is written and will post in November when the book releases), but it's a sneak peek to whet your appetite.

For a while now, I've been hearing my friend Sandi Rog talk about her Biblical fiction, which, unlike Stray Drop which integrates events of the Bible, is set in first century Rome with early Christians. I've always loved this time period, getting glimpses into Roman life, and putting myself in the sandals of some of the first members of the church. So I very eagerly raised my hand with an excited "Oo, oo! Me, me!" when Sandi asked for endorsers.

I'm going to unabashedly say that if you liked my book, you'll love Sandi's too. They're nothing alike in plot, but I'd say they share the same spirit.

The Master's Wall is about David, a Hebrew in Rome whose parents are killed for their Christian faith. He is badly hurt and then sold into slavery to a wealthy villa. From the first moment he realizes he's bound to this place, he wants to escape, to run back to Rome and see what became of his little sister. But he's not only bound by his word and the law--he's also bound by invisible strings to his master's young, fiery granddaughter Alethea.

Alethea has lost her father to this new faith called Christianity, watched him die for it, and it is too much for her young heart. She at once longs to know more about the God he served and wants those she cares about to stay far away from Him, lest they be killed too.

Tempted constantly by escape and something even more dangerous, David grows into a warrior and a strong Christian. But what will it take to right the wrongs that rule at the villa?

And seriously, put this book on your list NOW. In fact, ask for it for Christmas. It's a small press book with an enormous spirit--one of those rare books that pulled me from my writing to keep turning those pages. Sandi is a fantastic writer, and the story . . . the story simply won't let you go.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Modern . . . Professions

One of the hardest thing for me sometimes in a contemporary is deciding what in the world my characters should do for a living. Sometimes it's so much a part of their character that it's no decision at all--but other times . . . I find myself watching TV just to remember what jobs people have, LOL.

In one of my humorous contemporaries, the heroine is an advice columnist, which is where the inspiration for the book came from. The hero is an insurance agent. I don't know that I've read a book with an insurance agent hero, but I worked in an insurance office for three years, so I knew how funny one could actually be. And it was a blast to have him react to everything in terms of deductibles and claims and underwriting. Trust me--it's how you start to think, LOL. I wasn't an agent, but even I started viewing life through that lens after a while. Like, I see a fabulous necklace on someone and think, "I sure hope they have an Inland Marine policy on that--it's too much to be covered under Homeowners . . ."

In my more suspenseful contemp, the hero is by necessity an ex-SEAL. Again, it's where the inspiration came from. But the heroine is from a culture where women were wives and mothers and nothing more. All well and good until she arrives on U.S. soil, sees women moving about with their male counterparts in the working world, and has this moment of, "I'm not suited for this world. I can't drive, I've never used a computer, I have no skills. Now what?" She'll find her place, of course, but it's a driving force of the book.

There's a big difference to me when reading between a character who must have whatever profession they do and one who happens to. Even when I have to take some time to figure out what a character ought to do, I want to make it so organic to who they are--or even make the not-knowing so integral a part--that you don't put down the book and forget what so-and-so did for a living.

Winner!

And the winner of Deborah Vogts' Seeds of Summer is . . .

Merry! (worthy2bpraised@ . . .)

Congrats, Merry! I just sent you an email.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Friend Margaret Daley - Interview and Giveaway


Today you're in for a treat as Margaret Daley joins us to talk about her latest Love Inspired novel, Heart of a Cowboy. I have ready many, many a LI book by Margaret, and they rank among my favorites. So pull up a stool and sit a spell and get to know this lovely lady and her new inspirational romance.

Margaret has graciously offered a copy of the book to one lucky winner, so leave your comments below with a way for me to reach you.

~*~

About Margaret

Margaret Daley is an award winning, multi-published author in the romance genre. One of her romantic suspense books, Hearts on the Line, won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Contest. Recently she has won the Golden Quill Contest, FHL’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest, Winter Rose Contest, Holt Medallion and the Barclay Gold Contest. She wrote for various secular publishers before the Lord led her to the Christian romance market. She currently writes inspirational romance and romantic suspense books for the Steeple Hill Love Inspired lines. She has sold seventy-four books to date.

Margaret is currently the Volunteer Officer for ACFW. She was one of the founding members of the first ACFW local chapter, WIN in Oklahoma. She served as vice-president for two years in WIN-ACFW and is still on its board as an advisor. She has taught numerous classes for online groups, ACFW and RWA chapters. She enjoys mentoring other authors.

Until she retired last year, she was a teacher of students with special needs for twenty-seven years and volunteered with Special Olympics as a coach. She currently is on the Outreach committee at her church, working on several projects in her community.

You can visit her web site at http://www.margaretdaley.com and read excerpts from her books and learn about the ones recently released and soon to be released.

~*~

About Heart of a Cowboy

Ten years ago Jordan Masterson left her hometown heartbroken—and pregnant. Now, yearning for connection with her family, the single mother returns to Tallgrass, Oklahoma. But she's shocked to find her son's father—unaware he has a child—a vital part of the community. Zachary Rutgers owns the ranch that the local homeschoolers use for riding and recreation. Which means little Nicholas, Jordan and Zachary will be spending a lot of time together. Jordan must tell Zachary the truth about their son—and ask for answers herself. Hoping the heart of her cowboy will still be hers for the taking.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Heart of a Cowboy is out this July. It is the second book in my Helping Hands Homeschooling Series for Love Inspired, Steeple Hill. The first book in the series is Love Lessons, Love Inspired April 2010, and the third book will be out in November called A Daughter for Christmas.

Oh, cool! I've just begun homeschooling, so I'm intrigued already. ;-) What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

The power of forgiving a person—it is freeing when a person does it.

Amen to that. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

My favorite to write is romantic suspense. My favorite to read is suspense and adventure.

Romantic suspense is one of my favorites to read, so I'm grateful you love to write it, LOL. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

I would have an office with a large picture window overlooking a lake with a mountain in the background.

Reality: I have an office that overlooks my front yard and the flower beds. I watch butterflies land on the butterfly bush—also hummingbirds like butterfly bushes, too. My walls are hot pink with white trimming. I have a lot of flamingoes in my office as well as book shelves full of lots of books—thousands.

I could use some of those shelves--and I just relocated my office, so I get to look at our butterfly bush too. =) What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

I thought when I sold my first book I had it made. Selling the second book was as hard as selling that first one.

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

I have a critique group I belong to, and we’ve been together for years. I also have several writer friends I brainstorm with, go to conferences together and discuss the publishing business.


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

My church, family and friends. I have four granddaughters who are wonderful. I love going to lunch and a movie with a friend.

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!)

Taking my granddaughters to Disney World. I’m a kid at heart and would have so much fun with them.

Awww. I bet they would like that too! What are you writing right now?

I am writing the second book in my female bodyguard series (Guardians, Inc.) for Love Inspired Suspense. It is called Protecting Her Own and will be out next June.

Love the idea of that series! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

I have several coming up:
A Daughter for Christmas, Love Inspired, November 2010
Christmas Bodyguard, Love Inspired Suspense, December 2010
Trail of Lies, Love Inspired Suspense, April 2011
Protecting Her Own, Love Inspired Suspense, June 2011

~*~

You're a busy woman, Margaret! And we readers are grateful. Everyone, be sure and check out Margaret's website at www.MargaretDaley.com and her blog at MargaretDaley.blogspot.com.

You can purchase Heart of a Cowboy from Amazon.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Contest ends 7/22/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Special Posts - Genre Definitions, Part II

What Am I Writing, Anyway?
Part II

This is a two-part post I worked up for Go Teen Writers, where it's also up today.

Yesterday I introduced genre breakdowns and talked about those for young adults and younger and historicals. Today I'm covering contemporaries and few of the big categories.

A contemporary novel is anything set after World War II through the present. Futuristic, science fiction, and fantasy are grouped under the title of “speculative”–I imagine we all know what those are.

The most widely read genre is Romance. And yet many of us (myself included) have no idea when we set out that Romance has a few musts. First, the love story between hero and heroine must be center stage. If it shares equal billing with another element, it is most likely a cross-over genre like Romantic Suspense or the like. Hero and heroine need to be apparent from the get-go, and usually they must meet within the first few chapters. Hero and heroine must have some issues, must work through them, and must find a happily ever after (a.k.a. HEA) by the last page. Usually this means either marriage or the promise of marriage.

Now, having a book where you don't know who the heroine will end up with can be an excellent story—but it's mostly likely not a strict romance. Having a book where the heroine doesn't meet the hero until the last ten chapters—the same. A book where it ends with the hero and heroine not together—not a romance. These can be love stories, they can be women's fiction, they can be some other genre. But romance readers have expectations, and if you don't meet them, an editor is most likely not going to touch you. And you know, that's for a purpose. When I picked up a book by an author I knew wrote great romances and discovered that she killed the heroine two-thirds of the way through the book, I didn't finish reading it to figure out how the hero picked up the pieces and raised their baby. I wanted a happy ending, and I wasn't interested in a “satisfying” ending at the time. Had I been, I would have picked up a different type of book, one that did NOT say “Romance” on the back.

I mentioned women's fiction, which is what many books are that have love stories but don't fit the strict Romance definition. Authors like Nora Roberts are billed as women's fiction writers, even though most of her books are romance. Some defy the conventional definition, so there you go. Other women's fiction includes the books about a group of four friends who each come into their own, the story about a woman finding a second chance after a divorce, the wife dealing with infertility, with unfaithfulness, the woman whose mother has Alzhiemers, etc. These are books geared at women, which are dealing with women's issues. They can have romance, but don't require it. I have a manuscript right now that has a love story, but just as key is the facing-her-past story. I could take the romance out and still have a book. This is women's fiction, not romance.

There's a thing called Love Story, which is what Nicholas Sparks says he writes. It's again not something a publisher will use a label, but it's something readers and writers toss around. Basically, it's a story where the romance cannot be removed, but which does not promise to follow Romance guidelines. Maybe it stretches all the way until death, like Sparks' The Notebook. Maybe the hero dies saving the heroine. That sort of thing.

Other contemporaries include:

Mystery—a whodunnit. Usually murder, but there are “cozy mysteries” that are often about a less gruesome crime. A mystery has an amateur crime-solver as the main character.

Suspense—one of those stories with high stakes, danger, intrigue, and a professional as a main character. Think 24. Jack's a federal agent, not an amateur. Military stories are usually suspense. The ones about police officers tracking down a serial killer. That sort of thing. (A Romantic Suspense is a story where the romance and the suspense are equal.)

Chick Lit—light and comedic, generally but not always in first person, may or may not have romance. Chick Lit is currently out of fashion. I suspect it'll make a resurgence under a different name soon.

I'm sure I'm overlooking some, and feel free to chime in with other examples or questions about how to break these things down! They're tricky—published authors can sit and debate this stuff to no end. But subtleties aside, you have to know what it is you're pitching to an agent or editor. And most of them will roll their eyes if you say, “It's a historical mysterious romance that takes place in 1980.” What they'll take from that is that you haven't done your homework and don't know where your story fits.

So—anyone need help figuring out what it is they're writing? =)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Special Posts - Genre Definitions, Part I

So my fabulous friend and young adult writer Stephanie Morrill is on maternity leave, and I'm filling in for her this week on her site aimed at young writers, called Go Teen Writers. I'm doing posts on genre breakdowns, and thought I'd post here too.

To see the original post from yesterday, check out www.GoTeenWriters.com. Part two will post there tomorrow, as well as here.

These are aimed at teens, which is more obvious in today's post than tomorrow's, but the definitions might be of interest to many!

What Am I Writing, Anyway?
Part I

When I first began writing novels, I had all these big goals—among them, to provide that ever-elusive Something Different. I wanted to write a romance where you don't know from the start who ended up with whom. I wanted to write a suspense where the main character dies. I wanted to shock your socks off with the ending of this could-be-romance—and then I couldn't figure out why no agent or editor would buy them.

As it turns out, by breaking the mold of a genre, all you do is put yourself in another. And in order to sell it, you've got to know what it is you've written. So, I'm going to lay out some basic genre definitions so you can start figuring out what that work-in-progress is.

A lot of teens might be writing for their peers, which means you're working on a Young Adult, or YA novel. YA novels are geared at people in high school, so ages 13-18 usually. Your hero or heroine ought to be about two years older than your specific target readership—so don't write about 13-year-olds and expect that 16-year-olds are going to eat it up. Um, no. If you want it to reach 16-year-olds, make the protagonist 17 or 18.

There's the Tween books, also called Middle Grade or Juvenile (not in a derogatory way, ha ha). These are books for the 8-12 crowd and should again have main characters at the upper edge of that age spectrum. Anything aimed at lower ages are grouped together under the title of Children's, though there are certainly breakdowns within it.

All these books can run the gamut when it comes to subject matter—they can be romantic, they can be adventure, mystery, suspense, you name it. Historical or contemporary, they still fall under the general headings of, say, YA. (You can certainly call it a YA Historical.)

Keep in mind that not all stories with teen main characters are Young Adult—the genre is decided by the readership in this case. I've read many a Coming of Age story that has characters anywhere from 9 on up but which are not appropriate for young people to read due to the subject matter. These are adult books.

Now, onto a few other generals. First, historical. Historical is any book that takes place from the dawn of time until the end of World War II. Don't ask me why that's the cut-off, and it will likely change in the next decade to include the 50s and possibly 60s. For now, though those are called contemporary.Within the historical genre we have . . .

Historical Romance—this is a historical of any time period, where the romantic thread cannot be removed without the story failing. If the story can stand without the hero and heroine getting together in the last chapter, then it's . . .

Historical Fiction—a very broad genre that covers everything, pretty much.

Biblical Fiction—a historical that takes place during the time when the Bible was written, including New Testament times after Christ and into the Roman Empire. These stories may or may not revolve around the historical events in the Bible—they may just deal with issues of early Christianity or Judaism.

Medieval—a story that takes place in the Middle Ages. Regency—technically a story that takes place while the Regent ruled in England, but more broadly, anything from 1800-1830 in England. Victorian—from above through turn of the century, usually British. When we hop over to the U.S. we get our Americana novels, including . . .

Western—um, what it sounds like. Cowboys, ranches, gun-toting hotties wearing holsters and Stetsons. Prairie—also what it sounds like. Think bonnets and rag dolls, wheat fields and cabins. The Wars, such as Revolutionary and Civil, are usually just called historical. Turn-of-the-Century—not sure this is a proper term, but it's a description used a lot. It leads up to . . .

World War I—pretty self explanatory. Twenties—yep. Depression Era—my, we're getting creative. And we end our historicals with World War II.

Again, with historicals you can have romance (which earns the Historical Romance heading) within any of these eras, adventure, intrigue, suspense, mystery, etc. We occasionally use terms such as Romantic Historical Suspense to describe books, but that's not something a publisher will usually put on the back cover as a label.

On Thursday we're going to cover some contemporaries and huge genres like Romance, Mystery and Suspense, so check back in to figure out if you're writing one of these!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Story Time with Amanda Flower - Interview and Giveaway



Today I'm happy to welcome Amanda Flower to the blog to talk about her debut novel Maid of Murder, a cozy mystery just out in June.

Amanda's offering a $10 Borders gift card to one lucky winner, so leave your comment below with an email address for a chance to win!

~*~

About Amanda

Author Amanda Flower, a native of Akron, Ohio, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Like her main character India Hayes, Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland. When she is not at the library or writing her next mystery, she is an avid traveler who has been to seventeen countries, forty-eight U.S. states, and counting. Maid of Murder is her debut novel and the first in a series featuring amateur sleuth India Hayes. Amanda is also currently seeking a publisher for her middle-grade children’s mystery, The Mystery of the First Andora. She lives and writes near Akron.

~*~

About Maid of Murder

India Hayes is a lot of things . . . starving artist who pays the rent as a college librarian, daughter of liberal activists, sister of an emotional mathematician, tenant of a landlady who has kissed the Blarney Stone one too many times, and a bridesmaid six times over. But she’s about to step into the most challenging role of her life: amateur sleuth.

Childhood friend and now knockout beauty, Olivia Blocken is back in town to wed her bodybuilder fiancé with India a reluctant attendant . . . not just because the bridesmaid’s dress is a hideous mess, but because she’s betraying her brother. Mark still carries a torch for the bride who once broke his heart and sent his life into a tailspin.

When Olivia turns up dead in the Martin College fountain and the evidence points to Mark, India must unmask the real culprit while juggling a furious and grieving Mother of the Bride, an annoyingly beautiful Maid of Honor, a set of hippie-generation parents, the police detective who once dated her sister and is showing a marked liking for her, and a provost itching to fire someone, anyone—maybe even a smart-mouthed librarian.

India’s investigation leads her on a journey through childhood memories that she’d much rather have left in the schoolyard, but to avoid becoming the next victim, it is a path she must follow.
Maid of Murder is a fast-paced, laugh-out-loud mystery set in an amusing world of academia. Readers will fall in love with India Hayes’s fierce loyalty and wit.


~*~

What's your latest book?

My latest book is my debut cozy mystery called Maid of Murder. It’s the first in the India Hayes Mystery series. The novel was just released on June 16, 2010 by Five Star Mystery, Gale Cengage Learning.

In Maid of Murder, India Hayes, a college librarian and reluctant bridesmaid, is thrown into the role of amateur sleuth as she hunts down the person who murdered her childhood friend and framed her brother for the crime.

Oo, sounds good! And love the title. And the heroine's name! What's your favorite part of the story?

I have several favorite scenes from the novel. One of my favorites is early on when India tries on her bridesmaid dress for the first time. India has a fair complexion and the dress is gold. Consequently, it looks awful on her, and of course, it is about two sizes too small for her. She is horrified. I think any woman who has been in a bridesmaid before can relate to this scene.

The worst story I can tell from personal experience is ending up with two lavender dresses, worn a week apart. Always said I was going to dye one navy, but never got around to it, LOL. (And at least they were both pretty!) What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I was a kid in the 1980s and early 1990s at the height of the Baby-sitters Club craze. I too was a huge fan of the series, and my dad would always buy the latest book for me when he was out grocery shopping. At some point, the author Ann M. Martin decided to start a companion series called the Baby-sitters Club Mysteries. The spinoff series had the characters I loved, but they were crime solvers. They found lost dogs, jewelry, and money. It was the mysteries I loved the most, and they started my love of the mystery genre. As a teen and then adult, I gravitated to the mystery section in my local library. When I decided to write my first novel, I knew it would be a mystery because it’s my favorite genre.

I read a few of those too! Though I don't have that mystery-mindset. I'm always in awe of those of you who do! Let's shift gears, though. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

I live in a condo and don’t have room for a real office per se. Right now, I have a corner cubby of my bedroom dedicated to the cause. However when I was a child, my dream house was a Victorian Queen Anne with a tower, and I always dreamed that I’d write sitting on the window seat in the turret of the house. Now as an adult having a big old house like that doesn’t appeal to me anymore. That’s way too much house to take care of, but if I could get the turret added to my condo, I’d love that. The condo association, not so much.

LOL. I always wanted a turret too. Though in the middle of this heat-wave, I consider it and go, "Ugh! No way! It would be sweltering up there." Next question. If someone were to give you $5,000 to spend on anything you wanted, what would you buy? (No saving or gifts to charities allowed!)

If I was given $5000 to spend on anything, I’d spend it on travel. I love to travel and have been to seventeen countries and forty-eight U.S. states. One of the places I’ve always wanted to visit is India. I’ve been fascinated by the country since I was a child. In fact, I named my main character in Maid of Murder India after the country because I’m so interested in it. I’d also use the money to take my friend, Mariellyn Dunlap, who is a community church worker for the United Methodist Church, along with me. Robin Jones Gunn, one of my favorite authors, could write about it. The trip definitely has Sisterchicks potential.

We'll send Robin a note if ever you get to do that. ;-) I'm fascinated by India too, and have a historical idea that starts there. =) Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

I remember exactly where I was. I was in my office at work. I’m a college librarian. I didn’t receive a call, I got an email. I was so excited and surprised, I yelped. I’m sure the students who were studying nearby wondered what was wrong with the quirky librarian. One of the reasons, I was so shocked was Five Star had previously rejected Maid of Murder a little over a year before, but somehow, a different acquisitions editor for the publisher got hold of my manuscript and liked it. I know how blessed I am to have my novel acquired after being rejected by the same publisher. I don’t know of any other author this has happened to. I’m so grateful!

How cool is that! I've gotten two rejections on the same manuscript at the same publisher, but your version's much better, LOL. What are you writing right now?

Currently, I am revising the sequel to Maid of Murder. In the second book, India, much to her chagrin, is working at a folk art festival as a face painter. She does it as a favor for her older sister, Carmen, and gets tangled up in a murder investigation as a result. At the same time, I have started writing a new cozy mystery series. I’m in the very early stages and am just getting to know my characters. After spending so much time with India and her cohorts, it’s a little strange to be thinking about a new main character, a new setting, and a new supporting cast. However, the idea for this new series just won’t let me go, and I have to write it.

~*~

Thanks for visiting and telling us about your book, Amanda! It sounds great!!

Readers, check out Amanda online at www.amandaflower.com and her blog at amandaflower.wordpress.com.

You can purchase her book directly from her or at Amazon.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Contest ends 7/19/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Modern . . . Obsessions

And no, I don't mean the Twilight Saga. (Though I did just go see Eclipse . . .)

I'm thinking more things our characters are obsessed with that give them little personality quirks to make things fun. In Driftwood Lane the heroine is a safety inspector, and she's more than a little obsessed with things being super-safe and up to code. Things many of us wouldn't notice. It can be a ton of fun to have those things in our own characters too.

For instance, I have a heroine, Davina, who grew up in a very stodgy family. She's breaking out of that shell and going a little crazy with interesting fashions, but her major obsession is tea. Though she'll talk your ear off any other time, when she has a cup of tea in her hands, she goes totally silent. Before she came to Christ, she used it as a time of reflection. Now, it's her prayer time. And she's so well known for it that whenever her friends or family need some quiet, they just shove a cup of tea at her.

In another of my contemporaries, my heroine is the sole daughter sandwiches between two sets of sons. Her thing, when it comes to those four brothers, is to greet everything they do with either "Worst brother ever!" or "Best brother ever!" which always makes her siblings laugh. Especially since the smallest thing might get them either the blessing or the curse.

Have you come across any fun characters quirks or obsessions lately, either in a published book or one of your own manuscripts? Share!

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Friend Deborah Vogts - Interview & Giveaway


I'm happy to welcome Deborah Vogts to the blog today, to talk about her latest release, Seeds of Summer.

Deborah has offered a copy to one lucky winner, so leave your comments below with an email address for a chance to win!

~*~

About Deborah

Deborah Vogts and her husband have three daughters and make their home in Southeast Kansas where they raise and train American Quarter Horses. As a student at Emporia State University studying English and journalism, Deborah developed a love for the Flint Hills that has never faded. In writing this series, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God’s great beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

~*~

About Seeds of Summer

A heart-warming contemporary romance set in the Flint Hills of Kansas where a former rodeo queen abandons her dreams in order to care for her deceased father’s ranch and her two half-siblings, only to realize with the help of a young new pastor that God can turn even the most dire circumstances into seeds of hope.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Seeds of Summer released late May 2010 from Zondervan.


What's your favorite part of the story?

There were many. I always enjoy writing the outdoor scenes in my books, so in Seeds of Summer, I especially enjoyed the fishing and horse-riding scenes. I love trying to find a fresh new way to describe the Flint Hills to my readers, and I hope I’ve done that for them. I also enjoyed writing the ending, which brought tears to my eyes.


Sounds like a great summer read! What was the hardest part to write?

For the longest time, I didn’t know how to end my story. Then about a month before my deadline, it came to me like a clanging cymbal. Also, there were a few plot twists created by my secondary characters—Libby and Tom—who never wanted to go in the direction I’d outlined for them.

Gotta love those willful characters--and those bolts of inspiration. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

I’d like readers to remember how important family relations are and that we can get through our difficulties if we remember to love and forgive each other. I also hope to give my readers a taste of the Flint Hills and of how God’s beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

Is there a theme to this book?

When the story begins, Natalie has lost both her parents, so obviously dealing with grief is one theme in the story. What surprised me is that Natalie needed to deal with her mother’s death, which happened when she was a little girl. It surprised me that she’d carried it for so long without coming to terms with it.

Sounds like she's deeper than you first expected her to be--I love it when characters do that to me, too! What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

I used to write in my kitchen but in recent years, I moved my office to our bedroom where I can shut the door on noise. I have allotted 1/3 of this room to my office with a comfy chair as well as a desk and shelves, file cabinet, etc. All I need for working.

As for my dream office, I actually have a house plan that I keep at my desk (as a means of hope & motivation.) It includes an office with lots of windows, space enough for a love seat, chair and coffee table, as well as a large desk and a wall of shelves. The office door is glass so I will always be aware of what’s going on outside that room. Some day, maybe…

Hey, build me one of those too! ;-) Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

I always have my leather notebook (made by my husband) with all my story notes inside; a favorite pen; a story board on a bulletin directly above my desk with pictures of my characters, their homes, a map of Diamond Falls, and many other visual references; a candle; a few research books within arms’ reach. I tend to use a Merriam-Webster dictionary on my computer, but also have the hard cover books on a shelf next to my desk. Another writing prompt that I use is movie soundtracks. For the Seasons of the Tallgrass series, I’ve especially enjoyed Open Range, The Horse Whisperer, and Legends of the Fall.

Your husband made you a leather notebook?? What a guy! What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

I’ve been surprised at how much time marketing takes. As aspiring authors, we’re told that you have to market, and yes, that it takes a lot of your time, but oh my goodness . . . I never quite expected it to take so much time from my writing schedule. I had always thought that I was good at multi-tasking, but when it comes to marketing and writing, I have to do one or the other—I haven’t figured out a good way to do them both. Maybe the best idea is to set aside one or two days a week to do “only marketing.” I’m not sure…I’m still working on that one.

So aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

Marketing and promoting the series, updating social networks & my blog, and of course, our family and home. We live in the country and have a large garden and yard as well as animals to care for. And then of course there is the daily work involved with being self-employed.

What are you writing right now?

I’m currently finishing up the third book in the series, Blades of Autumn, which is the story about Clara, the owner of Clara’s Café.

Here's a blurb for Book #3: With a café to run and three children to raise, Clara Lambert doesn’t have time for men or loneliness, despite what her heart might tell her. When two handsome cowboys vie for her attention, one of the brothers proves to be her soul mate, but at what cost? Will it tear the brothers’ relationship apart or is blood really thicker than water?

After that, I’m hoping for another contract—on the fourth book in this series (Winters Frosty Path), or possibly another series.

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Deborah! Readers, check out her website at www.DeborahVogts.com and her blog at www.deborahvogts.blogspot.com.

You can purchase Seeds of Summer at Amazon or CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Contest ends 7/15/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim book.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Cara Putman's Stars in the Night is . . .

Michelle V!

Congrats, Michelle! I just sent you an email.

Thoughtful About . . . Getting Away

Don't forget you have a chance to win Stray Drop at www.ShannonVannatter.com!

The last time my family took a vacation was September '08, when Rowyn was 7 months old. Last summer we just couldn't take the time--and this summer we expected to be crammed full of travel for book promotion.

But since the Life & Faith Tour was canceled because of the extreme weather this summer, my hubby looked at me two weeks ago and said, "So when are we going to the beach?" In an act of semi-spontaneity, we scheduled a vacation 10 days before said vacation would start. Which is now only two days away. Woo hoo!

Of course, I've yet to start packing, though I've started making lists. And I've been trying to get done all the stuff I need to (including blog posts for next week, since I already had two interviews scheduled). Plus, I've been getting back on the writing horse. Yesterday I managed 4,800 words, and I feel like I'm finally in that place where finishing the book's going to be like falling down the stairs--a series of boom, bang, booms, all downhill from here. There's still a lot of story to get through, don't get me wrong, but it's all action. Yay!

I'm one of those nuts who hopes for lots of writing time on vacation (the beach is just so inspiring!). Granted, I also want lots of nothing-time, lots of beach-time, some shopping-time, walking-time . . .

Naturally, it's calling for rain all week. Isolated, so it could totally miss us. And even if it doesn't . . . well, it's true what they say. "A bad day at the beach beats a good day anywhere else." =)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Remember When . . . You Weren't the Only Wife?

(Note: I'm telling our wedding story today at Shannon Vannatter's blog, and will be sharing a romantic excerpt from A Stray Drop of Blood on Friday. Comment on either day for a chance to win a copy of my book!)

One of the most interesting aspects of my work in progress is the fact that my heroine is a member of a harem. She's the favorite wife, and in many respects that makes her relationship with her husband much like any monogamous marriage.

But in other ways--wow. A lot different.

I have no firsthand experience with this sort of thing (thank the good Lord!), but trying to put myself into her shoes, into her mind and heart . . . it's really intriguing.

For instance, she's a concubine. Now, so far as I can dig up, historians aren't totally sure what the legal differences were between a full wife and concubine, but they think it has to do with the provisions included in the marriage contract and would be decided by whether or not a woman brings a dowry to the marraige. If so, you're a wife. If not, only a concubine. I'm taking a wild guess (okay, an educated guess) and stating in my book that what you're given either at divorce or your husband's death is determined by whether you're a wife or concubine.

Kasia arrives at the palace poor and doesn't much care whether she leaves it in the same state--she loves Xerxes, that's all. And since when she arrives there's already a slew of other wives and concubines well above her in seniority and rank, she adopts a place of humility, even though her husband would have raised her up. It takes a lot of prayer, but she manages to avoid jealousy for years . . . until the part I'm about to write.

See, she's cool with the other wives. (Mostly.) But when her husband continues his habit of seducing other men's wives, she loses it. Makes sense to us, right? But she's married to a king, and kings do this all the time.

So how to strike the balance between realism and romance? How to lead her through the hardships and into forgiveness without making her a doormat?

And some people might think writing novels is easy. ;-)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Stephanie Morrill's So Over It is . . .

Carman! (booklovercb@ . . .)

Congrats, Carman. Just sent you an email.

Story Time . . . DRIFTWOOD LANE by Denise Hunter


I have now read two books by Denise Hunter (the first being Seaside Letters) and I can now safely say that I love this author. When Driftwood Lane arrived and I saw it was another Nantucket Love Story, I slid this one onto my personal to-read shelf rather than the shelf for other reviewers--and I'm so glad I did!

Meredith Ward has a carefully ordered life in St. Louis--job as safety inspector, fiance who's an accountant, excellently laid out five-year-plan. After a chaotic childhood, she doesn't need any surprises. But the phone call she gets from her estranged-father's lawyer--well, that's certainly a surprise. She hasn't seen her father since she was a child . . . so why did he leave her guardianship of his other three children?

Meredith heads to Nantucket to meet her half-siblings, determined to wrap up this whole mess as quickly as possible. The minute their other living relative, an uncle, returns from motorcycling around the South, she'll hand them over and be done with this. But in the meantime, she has little choice but to bring their family's B&B up to code. If only money weren't tight, she could afford a contractor other than the dangerously-appealing Jake to make the repairs.

The longer the uncle stays away, the more she wonders if she can really leave these precious, emotionally-fragile children in his hands . . . and the more she knows she needs to get away from this place before she forgets why love is too chaotic to be worth the risk.

Within the first chapter of Driftwood Lane, I was hooked. It was one of those cases where I'd read plenty of books with similar plots, but Denise Hunter managed to breath life into with a charming setting and the perfect cast of characters. Her heroine is so rules-oriented that you just gotta love the slant she puts on everything. Most of us would walk through an oceanside bed and breakfast and note the lovely features. She walks through and notes every safety violation and loose board. It lends an unexpected perspective to the story and makes such perfect sense with the character herself that you can't help but admire the author for thinking of it.

And the hero! Jake is in many ways the alpha-male romances are famous for, but one about-face in the beginning of the book sets him up to be crafted into the kind of hero this book needs--a Christian man who messes up and then fixes his mistakes, who judges and then regrets it, who loves with all his heart and sets out to prove it--just as originally he was trying to prove something else altogether. Toss him into the same room as tight-laced Meredith, and it's no wonder the sparks fly! (Which, let it be noted, is a safety hazard.)

Denise Hunter weaves a story with a touch of maritime magic, a dose of Nantucket charm, and a cast of characters you'll fall in love with. I couldn't put this book down, couldn't wait to see what mess, either emotional or literal, would pop up next for the characters to deal with. Driftwood Lane tugged at my heart, soothed my soul, and spurred me to scratch another name onto my Favorite Authors list. I can't wait to see what Denise Hunter has in store for us next!

This book was provided by a publisher or publicist for review purposes; no other compensation was received.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Modern . . . Independence Day

You know, I'm not sure, in thinking upon my contemporary stories, that I've ever included a July 4th Celebration. I've got on in my 20s historical . . . and it was a lot of fun. In Chicago's Little Italy, it was a party filled with those who had chosen this country as their own and built families here. They played bocce ball and enjoyed a huge, neighborhood-wide picnic in the park.

I love seeing the traditions that have developed in different areas over time, though. Had my contemporary that takes place in Annapolis have stretched into July, I could imagine my characters braving the Historical Downtown area to perch on the seawall and watch the fireworks over the bay. Had I mentioned the holiday in my Outer Banks story, they would have braved the mosquitos to watch them over the sound.

As for me and my family? We braved the late night and took the kids to my parents', where we can sit in their yard and see the city's fireworks put off across the river at the park.

Now, I've been doing this for years. But this year was different. First because it's only the second time we've done it since having kids (given that the things start so long after bedtime . . .), but also because this year we were totally surrounded by fireworks, which thrilled my kiddos to no end. I wasn't sure how they'd do with the loud noises, but Xoe kept bouncing up and down, and Rowyn would just yell, "Boom! Pop! Lookee, lookee! Pink one! Green one!"

There were the main fireworks in front of us, yes. But also some on the mountain to our left. The neighbors put on a show to rival the park's to our left. And another neighbor behind us had some pretty impressive ones too. Half the time we kept swiveling our heads one way and then the other, totally surrounded by those beautiful bursting lights.

On Saturday, my church enjoyed a sermon tied into the holiday, and in Sabbath School we talked about the national spirit that accompanies a nation founded on faith. Sure, we also mentioned how the country as a whole has gotten away from that. But you know what? It's still there in our families. We still pray blessing upon the U.S. of A. And we still obey the word of one our founding fathers and celebrate our land's independence with bonfires and guns, with fireworks and feasting.

Hope everyone had an inspiring Fourth of July!