Monday, February 28, 2011

Word of the Week - Schadenfreude

Perhaps I ought to start with a pronunciation guide of this one, eh? ;-)

Schadenfreude (SHAHD-en-FROY-de) is something we've all probably felt, and felt the sting of. Loosely defined, it's a noun meaning 'malicious satisfaction taken at the misfortune of others.'

When I discovered this word, I got quite a kick out of it, because a joke between David (then fiance) and my family was "It's funny when it happens to somebody else." Though schadenfreude is on the negative side of that, it was nevertheless a perfect one-word way to say the same thing. =)

There, see, you learned a fun new word today. (Unless you already knew it, but . . .)

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Friend Susan - Interview & Giveaway

Today I'm pleased to welcome Susan Page Davis to  my blog to chat about some of her many new releases. She'll be back this spring with another, but for now we're going to focus on her 3-in-1 collection, Alaska Weddings.

Susan has been generous enough to offer a copy of Alaska Weddings to one lucky reader, so please leave your comment below for a chance to enter, along with an email address where I can reach you if you win. And remember to click "Follow" if you haven't already!

~*~

About Alaska Weddings


Love comes looking for the Holland family of Alaska, but new challenges to their faith lie around every bend.

Secrets from the past and dangers involved in their duties as members of the Coast Guard threaten Caddie Lyle and Aven Holland’s budding romance. Is a longterm relationship possible when they struggle to have faith to get through today?

When Robyn Holland’s sled dog kennel is threatened by financial woes and theft, she turns to veterinarian Rick Baker for help. As she works to organize the Fire and Ice race, some of her best dogs are stolen. Will Robyn and Rick trust God to lead them to the answers they seek?

Widow Cheryl Holland thought she’d never love again—and certainly not someone as different from her as animal scientist Oz Thormond. But when he arrives as the new vet at the clinic where she works, she can’t deny her sudden interest in polar bear studies. But is this just a temporary magnetic attraction?

Will the chance for love be swallowed by wilderness dangers, or will God reveal a bright future in the last great frontier?

~*~

About Susan

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than thirty published novels in the romance, historical, mystery and suspense genres. She’s the mother of six and grandmother of six. A Maine native, she now lives in western Kentucky.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Alaska Weddings and Pieces of the Past both released in January. Alaska Weddings is a 3-book anthology from Barbour, featuring contemporary romances set in Alaska.

Pieces of the Past is a cozy mystery from Guideposts. It’s number 6 in the Patchwork Mysteries series, where each book is written by a different author.

How exciting to have so many releases to celebrate at once! But let's focus on Alaska. =) What's your favorite part of the story?

In Alaska Weddings, I love the part where Cheryl and Oz are off on a snowmobile observing polar bears, and they spot a huge bear closer than they’d realized. Did you know bears like ham sandwiches?
   
Hmm, can't say as I did. Though I think I assumed they like ANY food, LOL. What was the hardest part to write?

The first story, Almost Ready, is about a young woman who is an officer is the Coast Guard. Since I’ve never served in the military, this was a challenge. But my brother, who was a career officer in the Coast Guard, helped me a lot. He also put me in touch with his former captain in Alaska and a friend still on active duty. Both answered a lot of my questions.


Ah, I love it when the connections are in place! Definitely makes that research easier. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

For this book (actually three shorter books) I built quite a library. Over and over I referred to The Civilian’s Guide to the U.S. Military, the latest edition of The Coast Guardsman’s Manual, several books on dog sledding, several others on polar bears, and a multitude of general Alaska resources, including books, Alaska magazine, and my notes from my trip to Alaska. I also kept handy the email addresses and phone numbers of my “experts” who helped me so much on this book.


What are you writing right now?

I’m working on two historicals—

Lady Anne’s Quest is the second in my Prairie Dreams series, for Barbour. In it, an English noblewoman goes West in 1855 (yes, we’re talking wagon train west) in search of her uncle, who doesn’t yet know he’s the new Earl of Stoneford.

Captive Trail is set in north-central Texas. It’s second in the Texas Trails series for Moody. In this series, authors Darlene Franklin, Vickie McDonough and I will take turns on the books. Darlene’s Lone Star Trail and my Captive Trail appear first, in August and September. My book is about a stagecoach driver who finds an unconscious white woman lying on the trail, dressed in Comanche clothing.


They sound so interesting! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

Oh, yes! Love Finds You in Prince Edward Island, Canada comes out April 1. Don’t miss this fun historical romance. Queen Victoria’s son, the Prince of Wales, is a major character.

~*~

That sounds awesome, Susan! And thanks so much for visiting today. Readers, check out her website at www.susanpagedavis.com, and look for Alaska Weddings at Amazon and ChristianBooks.


Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 3/4/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Spots

In the course of writing my Annapolis story, I read through a lot of Poor Richard's Almanack, filled with fun proverbs by Ben Franklin. I had a secondary character who quoted him constantly, and it was a ton of fun to try to weave in my favorites of his adages through the story.

One that I liked best, and which it was tricky to find a place for, was "Clean your finger, before you point at my spots." Love that--such a clever way of saying the "clear the plank from you own eye before you point out the speck in mine" sort of thing.

Not long after I found a way to fit it in, my prayer time brought another scripture to mind that dealt with something similiar--you know the one, it says something about how God doesn't want our sacrifices so long as we bear a grudge against our brother. To go first and settle things with him, then come back to Him.

These two things really got me thinking. How often do we ask God for something, while we're holding a grudge against a brother or sister? How often do we not understand why something isn't working out, yet we refuse to see our own blame? Assuming I'm not alone in the world, the answer is A LOT.

Am I jealous over others' successes, when I ought to be rejoicing with them? If so, why should God give success to me? Am I bitter over a slight or false accusation some made against me or mine? Then why should God iron out the situation? Am I determined to find the flaws in my spouse so that I can better "understand" how I've been injured over the years? Then why should God strengthen my marriage?

Something I realize anew a couple times a year is that I can't change anyone else--but I can, with God, change ME. I can't snap my fingers and have success. But I can pray and rejoice with my friends when they do, and be a good steward of what I'm given. I can't make people treat me fairly. But I can love them when they don't, and work to keep relationships solid so that if a break does come, it's not through fault and blame. I can't make my husband do every little thing I want him to do, and if I look for things to complain about, no doubt I'd find some. But instead I can love him and ask the Lord to change me and my outlook on things. Stop resenting my honey for not getting up early with the kids, for example, and instead ask the Lord to give me the energy to do so and recognize the why of this stuff--that unlike me, my hubby doesn't often sleep well at night.

Get what I'm saying? It's easy to blame others. Very easy. But that's not what God wants us to do. He instead wants us to be aware of our own flaws so that we can seek His strength in our weakness. He wants us to cleanse ourselves until we're blameless--that way, if He does ask us to address the blemishes of others, we do it out of love, not with a filthy finger that will just make things worse when we go poking them in the chest in accusation.

This is perhaps one of the hardest things God regularly asks of me, but I can't deny its importance. Letting Him work on me is an ongoing task . . . but one that has helped me see it's not about what is going on in my life, but about how I react to it. It's not about the spots of others--it's about how clean I am.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Remember When . . . The Town Was a Jail?

Okay, not really. But one of the interesting things from wars of centuries gone by is that officers captured in battle were often sent, not to a prisoner-of-war camp or any other detention center as we think of them, but to a parole town.

A what, you ask? (Or I did, anyway, when I first heard of them, LOL.) A parole town. A town authorized to hold these higher-ranking enemies in semi-freedom until such a time as they were brought to trial, traded for officers held by the other side, or released. Interesting, eh?

The prisoners in these parole towns would have enjoyed a far better life than ones kept in prisons or camps. They were men who were either very high profile, respected, wealthy, or otherwise trustworthy. (Keep in mind this was back in the day when war, on some levels at least, was gentlemanly.) But if they left the town . . . well, then things got bad for them, and they were sent straight to prison.

And what did the townspeople think of all this, you ask? Well, let's just say that there are quite a number of tales of young folk putting pretty girls up to luring the prisoners to a meeting place just past the border they were supposed to honor, and then having the authorities waiting for them. Poor saps. Thought they were getting a kiss and instead got sent straight to jail without collecting their $200. ;-)

Down near Annapolis, there's a portion of town (once its own town) called Parole. I never understood it until some research I did for a college brochure explained the idea of a parole town and that Parole was formed for just this purpose during the Civil War.

It came up again when I was researching where to set a Regency idea I had, and I realized that the town I liked best was in fact a parole town during the war then going on with France. Pretty nifty. =) I fully intend to make my hero tell horror stories of the French soldiers to my heroine, just to make her jumpy. Oh yes. He's that type, LOL.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Story Time Suggestions

After week upon week of telling you about what books I'm reading, it occurs to me that I'd like to know what you're reading too! (And, well, my eyes suffered considerably from a nasty cold/flu thing I had last week, and I couldn't read without pain, so I have nothing else to talk about, LOL.)

So who are your favorite authors? Favorite books in a genre? What new release are you chewing your nails waiting for?

I'm really looking forward to Julie Klassen's Girl in the Gatehouse. Also really looking forward to MaryLu Tyndall's Surrender the Night.

How about you?

Oh, and as a reminder, I'm the featured author over at ACFW this week! There's no giveaway, but it was a fun interview, and it's pretty awesome to see my face on the homepage of this great organization! (Yes, I achieved it by filling out a form and making it into their first-come, first-serve system. What of it? LOL)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Word of the Week - Gus (the mouse from Cinderella, of course)

Okay, so this week's word isn't so much a simple word as the explanation of a name. And maybe I'm the only nerd in the world to get excited about realizing the reason for this one, but just in case . . .

Remember in Disney's Cinderella, when the alert her that a new mouse has been caught, and she picks out some clothes and goes to free him from the trap? She says something like, "Now for a name. I know! Octavius. But for short, we'll call you Gus."

I watched Cinderella so often as a child that I had it memorized. This name never made sense to me but . . . well, whatever.

Then as a Freshman in high school, we were studying ancient history and got to the unit about Ancient Rome. When my teacher, Mr. Harvey, said, "Then there was Octavius, who was called Augustus when he became emperor," I actually went, "Oh!"

The whole class looked at me, probably wondering what the silly smart girl was thinking now. Mr. Harvey was the indulgent sort, so he asked me what got me so excited. I explained, "In Cinderella! She names the mouse Octavius, but then calls him Gus. I always wondered how Gus was short for Octavius--but it's not! It's short for Augustus!"

My classmates all got quite a kick out of that, and Mr. Harvey expressed his appreciation for Disney's joke that no kid would ever get--and said he was impressed I remembered that, LOL.

Is this earth-shattering? No. But if you're like me, you like to find the explanation behind those little details that never made sense, and just in case you haven't watched Cinderella since studying Roman history . . . ;-)

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Friend Laurie Alice

Today I'm thrilled to bring you a special guest. Yeah, it's sort of Laurie Alice Eakes, a friend of mine from an awesome historical loop--but she comes today in the form of her latest heart-throb hero, Dominick Cherett. Get to know him below, and then you'll find some info on Laurie Alice and where to find her wonderful historical romantic suspense, Lady in the Mist. (Click to read my review)


~*~


Hello, Dominick, and thank you so much for talking with me today! To begin, could you just tell us a little bit about yourself?

    I try not to tell anyone too much about myself. That I’m English is impossible to disguise once I open my mouth, which doesn’t go over all that well here in America. They resent us from the last war and are trying to pick a new fight with us, or perhaps it’s the other way around. See, I talk about politics and get away with saying little about me.


How did you get involved in your profession?  Do you find it difficult? Rewarding?

It’s tiresome. I’d scarcely call it a profession, though my father’s butler would disagree with me. He thinks himself as important as the Lord Chancellor. For my part, the uniform is uncomfortable and the hair powder! I feel like a fool. But the worst part is the menial nature of it. I was raised to be served, not serve. So perhaps this is good for me. Pride, after all, hasn’t gotten me anywhere good. That would be the reward. And then I did get to meet Tabitha. Anything I go through is worth that most important part of my life.


What’s your favorite indulgence?

Spending my free time, what little I can spare or steal, in Tabitha’s company. She might say annoying her, but I don’t think she truly means it. I make her smile, even laugh, and that. . . Well, as you can see, I’m a bit besotted.

Where do you live? Did you grow up there?

I live in Virginia, right along the Atlantic. I certainly did not grow up there. Compared to the organized green fields of Dorset, England, this is untamed and uncivilized, which rather suits me.

Do you like to read? If so, who's your favorite author or book?

I definitely like to read. Master Shakespeare holds considerable entertainment for me, and so does Mr. Tobias Smolett. I used to read my Bible, but now it rather hurts from those points I’d rather not be poking at me right now.

If you could travel anywhere, to any time, where would you go and why?

I’d definitely go back about three years in my life and stop the events of destruction I set in motion then. But then I’d have to figure out another way to get me back here to Virginia and the lady I met on a misty beach.

~*~

You're in love, right? ;-) Well then, you'll want to check out Lady in the Mist on Amazon or CrossPurposes.

About Lady in the Mist

By virtue of her profession as a midwife, Tabitha Eckles is the keeper of many secrets: the names of fathers of illegitimate children, the level of love and harmony within many a marriage, and now the identity of a man who may have caused his wife's death. Dominick Cherrett is a man with his own secret to keep: namely, what he, a British nobleman, is doing on American soil working as a bondsman in the home of Mayor Kendall, a Southern gentleman with his eye on a higher office.

By chance one morning before the dawn has broken, Tabitha and Dominick cross paths on a misty beachhead, leading them on a twisted path through kidnappings, death threats, public disgrace, and . . . love? Can Tabitha trust Dominick? What might he be hiding? And can either of them find true love in a world that seems set against them?

With stirring writing that puts readers directly into the story, Lady in the Mist expertly explores themes of identity, misperception, and love's discovery.
 




About Laurie Alice Eakes


Award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes does not remember a time when books did not play a part in her life; thus, no one was surprised when she decided to be a writer. Her first hardcover was an October, 2006 Regency historical from Avalon Books and won the National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency, as well as being a finalist for Best First Book. She was also a finalist for the ACFW 2010 Carol award in the short historical category. After selling her first book in the inspirational market, she also wrote articles and essays for Christian publications. A brief hiatus in publishing climaxed with her selling thirteen books in thirteen months, to publishers such as Barbour, Avalon, and Baker/Revell.

A graduate of the Seton Hill University Master of Arts Degree in Writing Popular Fiction, And a Bachelor of Arts graduate in English and French from Asbury College, she is an experienced speaker and writing teacher, and has made presentations at local and national RWA conferences, as well as local universities and libraries.

Until recently, she lived in Northern Virginia, then her husband’s law career took them and their dogs and cats, to southern Texas, where she writes full-time and enjoys the beach whenever possible.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Timing

So, we're sick. The kids and I came down with a rather nasty cold/flu thing on Saturday p.m., and we're still wiped from it. Xoe has barely budged from the couch for the last five days, and both the wee ones are coughing to beat the band.

Naturally, things take a different turn in me. Rather than it going into the deep cough they've got going on, mine moves into nasal congestion and a killer sore throat. Then--then--the eyes.

Rowyn had this on Monday evening. Eyes got all puffy and goopy, enough that I thought, "If they're still like this in the morning, I'm taking him to the doctor." But by morning, the eyes were better. And Rowyn's mostly better now in general, back to playing and singing and whatnot. Yesterday about noon, though, the eye-thing hit me. Can I just say that this isn't fun? I can't focus on much because they keep weeping, plus it just hurts.

To make matters worse, I'm supposed to be baking a "Max & Ruby" cake for the kids' birthday party on Saturday, and I couldn't exactly drive to the store yesterday to get the stuff I need. I woke up stressed near to tears. Then, within minutes of whining to all my online buddies about it, asking for prayers, I could feel the swelling start to go down (weird feeling, that). So I think it'll resolve itself in the next few hours. Phew, and praise the Lord!

All that said, I gotta also say this--though there's never a fun time to be sick, this is actually the best possible time for this to have struck. I shudder to think what I would have done had it hit a week or two earlier, when I was trying to finish up a manuscript an editor requested. Yikes!

So while the kids might not get the extravagant cake my mind's eye had wanted to fiddle with, I imagine I'll come up with something. And though I'm not feeling great, I no longer have the urge to break into tears over it. And through it all, I'm determined to stay focused on how great God is for holding this off until now!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Remember When . . . Liberty Reached for the Sky?

One of the best parts about writing my Annapolis story was the necessity to include one of my favorite historical landmarks from the town: the Liberty Tree.

Liberty Trees sprang up all over the country in the years before the Revolution as meeting places for the Sons of Liberty. Annapolis chose a huge Tulip Poplar to serve the role, the very one that Joseph Pilmoor had stood under when delivering the first Methodist sermon in Maryland. This is where the Annapolis chapter of the Sons of Liberty planned out the Annapolis Tea Party and the sinking of the Peggy Stewart.

The Liberty Trees were such a symbol to the patriots that they were marked for destruction by the British. Whenever they entered a city with a Liberty Tree, they chopped or burned it to the ground. But Annapolis was never under British control, and so those Redcoats never got near our Liberty Tree. At the end of the Revolution, it was the last one still standing.

But the British weren’t the only enemy to this tree. At one point it was struck by lightning and caught fire—and was saved by the quick-acting Annapolitans. But then disease struck. It was being eaten away from the inside out. Enter a couple of mischievous school boys, who thought it would be a good idea to set off fire crackers in a hole in the trunk. I can only imagine the trouble they got in for that one! But as it happens, it was a good idea. The blast killed the fungus and saved the tree.

The Annapolis Liberty Tree stood on the lawn of Bladen’s Folly, an abandoned governor’s mansion that was then turned into the primary building of St. John’s College–where I went to school. =) When I visited St. John’s as a junior scouting out colleges, I got to see the Liberty Tree, to put my hand on it and marvel at the history of this place (I was always a history geek, LOL).

My senior year of high school, a hurricane so injured the tree that it was deemed a safety risk, and they had to take it down. I just about cried when my English teacher brought in the newspaper that morning, where the Liberty Tree’s death was front page news.

So by the time I entered St. John’s as a Freshman, the Liberty Tree existed only in its clone across the green from it, in memories, and in some high-priced instruments and chairs. I was a tour guide for the school, so I was always keenly aware of its absence. And as I walked up to get my diploma at graduation, I did it knowing that six years earlier, it would have been under the shade of the Liberty Tree’s limbs.

Call me silly, but I loved being able to incorporate this piece of history into my book, to give it special significance to my characters. Because in so many ways, that old tree represented an entire nation, and the ideals that made us rise up and fight for freedom. And it was honor to give it life again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Story Time . . . LADY IN THE MIST by Laurie Alice Eakes

As a midwife, Tabitha Eckles is privy to a lot of the town's secrets. But never before has anyone threatened her life--until one misty morning, right after her patient died from a fall that brought the labor pains on her early. Right after she met a mysterious Englishman on the beach. And Englishman . . . in a town where the young sailors have been disappearing, no doubt pressed into the British navy? How can she help but be suspicious of the charming man?

Dominick Cherrett is everything that a British gentleman should be--quick of tongue, well educated, with just a touch of the rebel. But when his shame and circumstances bring him to America as an indentured servant, he finds he was not prepared to be the one who serves, rather than who is served. The mayor may like having an English butler, but Dominick can't adjust to the rules forced upon him . . . and can't get that unmarried midwife out of his mind. She may be the perfect person to help him with his mission. If only he can charm her into cooperating.

Lady in the Mist is one of those fabulous reads that combines two totally different worlds into one explosive setting. What could possibly be better than a Regency hero out of his element in a place and time where the English are hated? Or a heroine whose life's work and passion thrusts her into a dangerous situation? Which each scene, the mystery and suspense mount as Tabitha tried to figure out who is stealing her neighbor's sons . . . and whether Dominick is at the heart of it.

Laurie Alice Eakes has a beautiful style that will draw the reader in and keep the pages turning. Her knowledge of both Dominick's world and Tabitha's highlights every clash and chafe between the two, and never for a moment can you doubt the reality of this amazing story.

Lovers of American history, of Regencies, of midwifery, or just of some fabulous historical suspense will all adore Lady in the Mist. It's the best of adventure and romance, of mystery and faith. This is one of those books that sticks with you.
***
And if this whets your appetite, don't miss Friday's interview! We're doing something different this time, and it's the dashing hero Dominick who will be answering some questions for us. ;-)

*This book was provided to me from the publisher for review purposes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Couple Lucky Winners on Valentine's Day!

Anyone out there have oh-so-romantic plans for Valentine's Day?? I sure hope so--any plans we may have come up just got put on hold thanks to three out of the four of us being sick. (Hubby's the only healthy one.) So my V-Day will be spent sipping fluids, trying to get the kids to do the same, and otherwise cuddling on the couch.

But today seems like a fine day to give away a romance and a book about marriage! So without further ado, the winner of JoAnn Durgin's Awakening is . . .


Ann Lee Miller!

And the winner of Dr. Emerson Eggerich's Love and Respect for a Lifetime is . . .

Annette W.!

You should both be getting emails asking for your mailing addresses.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Friend Michelle Is Hosting Me Today

I had a whole in interview schedule today, so rather than rush to fill it, I'm just giving you a link to a guest blog and giveaway I put together for Michelle V's Blog. Here's a preview--follow the link to read more!

O Hero, Where Art Thou?


What makes a good hero? Six pack abs? Bulging biceps? Rippling pectorals? Well, always a plus, but we expect a bit more from our men in Christian novels. A loving heart? Sure, but he still shouldn’t be a pushover, right? We like strength. Be he an Alpha Male or a Beta Male, we like our heroes to have a spine, but compassion. To love the Lord (by the end at least), and to adore our heroines. We want them to be good, godly men. Real men.

I love crafting a good hero, and my critique partners have been known to sigh dreamily over a few. But with Jewel of Persia I couldn’t just create my leading man as I wanted. Given that the whole point of the story was to integrate Herodotus’s HISTORIES with the book of Esther, I kinda had to stick to the Xerxes we learn about in those two books. And boy, howdy, he had his moments where he left me banging my head against the table going, “Really? This? This is what I have to work with? This is supposed to be my hero??”

Read More (and enter to win!)

And happy birthday to my baby, today! Still not sure how he came to be 3 . . . ;-)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Opportunities and Blue Cake

I've got a lot to do today to meet my self-appointed deadline and get a manuscript ready to submit to a requesting editor by tomorrow. A task which would have been easy, had my critique partners not all agreed the ending needed work. I knew it needed work--but it turned into more than expected.
And, yes, for a minute yesterday I thumped my head against my desk and whined, "This book stinks and I'm a lousy writer to have made it stink. God, help me out here!!" And then I shook it off, finished the edits I was already doing, and let the right-on advice from my critters simmer.

Why I was doing this flitted through my mind throughout the afternoon. There may have been a few moments of pride when the me from a few years ago reared its ugly head and said, "What do they know? Do it your way." But I told that voice to shut up, because I knew better. And because God has given me a beautiful opportunity here, and it's my responsibility not to squander it.

I've been thinking a lot lately about being worthy of the calling He's given me, of being a good steward of what He's blessed me with. That means doing my best to make this manuscript not just passable, but good. Why? Because this is my chance to get it published. This, right here. Time is an issue, yes, but it's not one of those things where I expect an editor might say, "Well, I don't want it now, but maybe in a few months . . ." It's going to be yes or no. And I have to do my part to ensure that "yes." Still doesn't guarantee it, because much of the decision is out of my hands. But my book, my story--that's mine, in my hands. And I'm putting it into God's, trusting Him to show me, often through the amazing friends and critique partners He's given me, how to make it not only better, but the best it can be.

I'm hoping and praying I get 95% of the remaining work on it done today. Because, you see, tomorrow is Rowyn's birthday. Can we believe this kid is turning 3?? How did THAT happen? LOL. But oh my, what a fun year's it's been with him. He's grown into a little boy who makes me laugh regularly, who cuddles a lot, "vroom"s a lot, and, yes, hits his sister a lot too, LOL. I find it hilarious that though he plays with girls 99% of the time--which means tea sets and baby dolls and aprons, yes--he's such a boy while he does it. On Tuesday he had a blue apron on and was walking around with such a cowboy-saunter that he made it look like a pair of chaps with a gun holstered to his waist. He takes care of the baby dolls . . . which means putting them in a stroller and hurtling them through the house like there's a rocket strapped to their backsides.
For his birthday, Rowyn requested one thing--a blue cake (everything MUST be blue with him, LOL). So today Mama has to go get a cake mix, toss in some food coloring, and make my little buddy's dreams come true. =) Happy Birthday, Ro-boy! We love you like crazy and can't wait to see what 3 brings for you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Special Valentine's Giveaway! - Love and Respect for a Lifetime

From bestselling author Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, Thomas Nelson Publishing brings couples a new, beautiful way to approach the Love and Respect method of communication--Love and Respect for a Lifetime.

Love and Respect for a Lifetime is a small gift book filled with beautiful, uplifting stories, tips, and advice on how to make a marriage sound. Charming and touching pictures fill some of the pages to make it a treat for the eyes, and the wisdom within is in short segments to make it easy to flip through. I sat down with it for an hour and read the whole thing, smiling at some of the nuggets of insight and nodding at others.

As Dr. Eggerichs has taught in his previous books on the Love and Respect method, in this lovely little book he quickly defines the Biblical principle that helped him develop this system--that men crave respect above all, and women crave love. That the two genders view the world through these glasses, and that when we make an effort to fulfill our spouse's need for that, then we are not only in a better place to receive what we need in turn, but we're also doing it unto Christ and strengthening our relationship with Him first and foremost.

I found the principles espoused in this to be sound and practical, and I loved the easy to handle format of this book--absolutely anyone could sit down and flip through it for even a few minutes and come away the richer.

And so, I'm happy to be able to offer a special giveaway! On Valentine's Day I'll draw a winner for a copy of this beautiful hardback gift book. Those who have already read Dr. Eggerich's Love and Respect books will appreciate the quick reminders this one gives, and those who haven't will get a quick, cute introduction to what could help them enrich and smooth out their marriage.

To enter, please leave a comment below with an email address. Drawing will be held at noon EST on Valentine's Day. For another chance to win, please also leave a comment at the Christian Review of Books.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 2/14/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Word of the Week - Cleave

I maintain that "cleave" is one of the most bizarre words in the English language. Why? Because it means two exactly opposite things.

Cleave, definition 1 - to stick, cling, adhere to something closely.

Cleave, definition 2 - to divide, to split, to cut

Um . . . riiiiiiight. Isn't that just bizarre? Yes, they're listed as separate entries. But still. When I realized that "to cleave to someone" and "to cleave something" were so very, well, opposite, I sat and stared at these words for a good long while and laughed.

See, my hubby had a game back in school. He would open a digital thesaurus and click on synonyms for words until they led him to an antonym for the original word. (Oh yes, he's a nerd after my own heart!) Sometimes he could manage it with one or two transition words. But this one . . . sheesh, no clicking is even required to find its antonym!

This dichotomy brought to you by the glories of Monday morning, and a writer who needs to get seriously into revision mode on her Annapolis story, which has just been officially moved from the Work in Progress folder to the Completes Manuscripts folder. =)

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Friend JoAnn - Interview & Giveaway

Today’ I’m pleased to welcome new author JoAnn Durgin to my blog to chat about her new book, Awakening. JoAnn has been generous in offering a copy to one reader, so please leave a comment below with an email address for a chance to win.

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About JoAnn

JoAnn is a member of ACFW and its Indiana chapter. Awakening is her debut novel. She was a finalist in the long contemporary romance category of the 2010 RWA/FHL Touched by Love contest, and is a regular blog contributor with Hoosier Ink and Reflections in Hindsight. JoAnn is also an active member of the My Book Therapy Voices and has won or placed in several of their quarterly Flash Fiction contests. She loves to share her passion for the redeeming love of Christ through her stories.

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About Awakening

Lexa Clarke signs up for a short-term summer mission in San Antonio with TeamWork Missions, hoping to make a difference in the world. TeamWork director Sam Lewis has a job to do and can't afford to be distracted by the petite, feisty blonde. But when she tumbles into his arms from the top of a house they’re rebuilding, Sam suspects his life will never be the same. A God-fearing man. A God-seeking woman. It’s a combustible combination.



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What's your latest book?

My debut novel, Awakening, was published by Canadian publisher, Torn Veil Books, in late 2010. This particular story is precious to me because it was written more than a decade ago and is loosely based on my own love story with my husband, Jim. Sam and Lexa are uniquely special to me and become my core characters and mentors in a continuing series as they minister and interact with volunteers in Sam’s TeamWork Missions organization. A lot of the strength of character, unwavering faith and goodness in Sam Lewis is based on my Jim. Some of the feistiness and stubbornness in Lexa Clarke (yes, Lewis and Clarke – they are adventures, after all) is based on yours truly, but I choose to believe I also share my heroine’s resourcefulness and resilience.

Awakening was also the last story I wrote before putting my writing aside for a decade to raise my children. When I unearthed it (literally from beneath the bed and blew off the dust bunnies) in late 2008, I only found half the story. It was like someone else had written it, but as I read it again with fresh eyes, I felt this was the story the Lord wanted me to pursue getting published. Jim and I prayed about it, and I knew He’d give the story back to me if it was, in fact, in His will. Not only did He give it back to me in a dramatic way, but the Lord confirmed it was the one. I hope you’ll read all about my writing journey on my website at www.joanndurgin.com. 

What a fabulous story, JoAnn! So now we know how you came back to it—would you tell us how you knew you wanted to write fiction, and romance in particular, to begin with?

I’ve been an avid reader my entire life, and ideas for novels simmered in my imagination for years. However, it wasn’t until I was a young, stay-at-home mom in Philly that I tried my hand at penning one. I love creating characters and their stories, and making them so real they jump off the page and into the hearts and minds of readers. I write what I call contemporary romantic adventures. Romance is my first love, but as both a reader and an author, I also need more than romance for a novel to be fully-developed and emotionally satisfying. Throw in humor and some witty banter, dramatic conflict, a moving plotline with adventure and a hint of intrigue, and you’ve got my kind of book. That’s what you get with Awakening! It may be a cliché, but I write what I like to read. Following your passion as a writer does make a better book. One of the most precious things in life is that first blush of love, that rush of adrenaline at a glance, a touch, a kiss… I love the hope and joy to be discovered in an uplifting romance.

We are, as Anne Shirley would say, kindred spirits. =) How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?

Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. God first loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins, and it’s through His boundless love that I write. My stories depict people who often stumble and fall but they find grace, forgiveness, love, redemption and hope when they seek to follow the Lord’s will for their lives. The Lord has been so faithful to me in this writing journey, and I know He’ll continue to open the doors of His choosing in the proper time. He’s truly my Partner. Matthew 5:16 is my personal theme verse, and it’s my prayer that my light will shine through the words in my books, giving light and hope to a hurting world. It’s my high honor and privilege to share the stories the Lord has laid on my heart to share with others.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

I’ve been told I have a fresh, unique voice. I try to infuse my sense of humor and unique way of phrasing and expression into every book. I especially love getting into the male psyche, and I’ve been told (by those of the male persuasion) that I do it quite well. That’s high praise! I don’t necessarily follow the “three kiss rule” or formula pathway to romance. But that doesn’t mean there’s not conflict and roadblocks along the way to lasting love. I personally feel it’s a greater test of faith and bonds a couple more when they work through issues and confront problems together instead of keeping them apart until the very end where they share a kiss, proclaim their love and ride off into the sunset. That’s a very simplistic way of putting it, but I’m sure you get my point. I am a firm believer in happy endings, and tying up loose ends of a story, although sometimes I carry storylines over from one book to another in the series. But each book can certainly stand alone.


I don’t kill major characters. I just can’t do it. Peripheral characters sometimes die (and a few are maimed along the way), but I just can’t kill ‘em. Although I realize life isn’t always rosy and can seem downright hard and unfair at times, I don’t believe killing beloved characters is something romance readers respond to positively. From a personal perspective, I don’t like it. At least at this early point in my writing career, I want readers to weep tears of joy or because I’ve struck an emotional chord deep inside, but I don’t want them to cry because they’re grieving the loss of a beloved character. You can have drama and realism without all the killing. Christians can laugh as easily as they can cry.

Very true! (Says the girl who, yes, killed off two main, beloved characters in her Biblical fiction . . . but hey, it was part of my premise! I had to! ;-) That doesn’t mean I like it when other people do it, LOL) Okay, back to you. What's one of the oddest or most interesting things someone has ever said about you?

When I once told someone about all the places I’ve lived and visited, she made the comment, “Wow, you’ve certainly been around.” Given the connotation of that statement, I wasn’t pleased, until I realized that yes, I have been around, but in the nicest sense of the word. Now, it’s actually one of my catch phrases when describing myself. By way of explanation – I was born in IN, moved to TX after college, met my husband (a student at Dallas Theological Seminary – he’s from RI), moved to CA, married in KY, honeymooned in HI, had our first child, moved to PA, had two more children and then moved to MA, then took my (thankfully highly-adaptable) family back to IN in late 2005. While I have a great appreciation for each place we’ve lived, Kentuckiana (where southern Indiana meets Louisville, KY at the Ohio River) is truly “home in my heart.” Jim and I have always followed where the Lord leads, but in our case, He made it abundantly clear in each instance where He wanted us, and we tried to bloom where we were planted. So, in another important sense, “home in your heart” is so much more than simple geography.

I feel so un-traveled. ;-) What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

Especially working with a new, small, Canadian publisher, I’ve learned that a large part of the post-publication marketing process rests squarely on my shoulders. I understand that’s often the case now even with the big, major CBA publishers. Although I understood I’d need to do certain things to promote the book – establish a website, write guest blogs, do interviews, book signings and speaking engagements – I never guessed the amount of time it takes. But it helps that I’m a born marketer. I always said I missed my calling in my daytime job, even though I’ve always loved working in the legal field. But the Lord knew the best marketing job for my heart – telling others about my characters and my books.

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

It’s a dream to be able to stay home full-time and make a living writing. Very few writers have the opportunity and the ability to do that. But, dreams do come true, and I’m living proof. I honored the Lord and my family by putting aside my passion for writing for years, and in turn, I feel that He has honored me by opening the proper doors on this writing journey – and closed a few doors along the way, as well. Ironically enough, I credit being published to rejection (twice!) by a major Christian literary agent and being told by an award-winning, multi-published author to leave Sam and Lexa on the proverbial cutting room floor. Then a layoff from one paralegal job for four months was a gift from the Lord in giving me the time I needed to make the necessary contacts in the Christian publishing market. The agent and author only looked at those first few chapters, which I believe are the hardest to nail down and get just right. I knew that if that one entity of God’s choosing could review the entire manuscript, they’d certainly see the value of the work as a whole. Plus, it helps that I’m tough and don’t like being told I can’t do something. So, I’ll keep plugging away toward my goal of making my writing a full-time, paying occupation.

Gotta be tough in this industry for sure! Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

On Saturday, May 1, 2010, I indulged in a rarity – sleeping in! It was glorious. When I awoke, I did the usual – brewed coffee, started a load of laundry – the normal stuff of life before settling in front of the computer. As usual, I checked my e-mail. When I saw the e-mail from Torn Veil Books, I stared, and my heart rate increased tenfold. If I’d been fully awake and really paying attention, I would have noticed the paper clip indicating an attachment. Holding my breath, I clicked on the e-mail and read the words that changed my life, “We have decided to publish your book, Awakening. Your contract is attached.” So, long story short, I was in my nightgown, still half asleep and then…I gasped and ran to get my husband and family and tell them the news. It was a banner day. Getting my first contract truly was one of the most important days of my life. It was the culmination of years of reading, writing, editing and studying journalism and English in school…and a dream come true. I am so thankful.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from? 

I write because it’s my passion. It’s what I love, and what I feel called by the Lord to do. Put it this way: I can’t not write, although I put my writing aside for a decade for something more pressing – raising my children. But the ideas were always formulating, simmering beneath the surface. Maybe that’s why I’ve never had writer’s block, and hopefully never will. Most of my story ideas are inspired from newspapers, magazines, television or radio programs, my kids, church sermons or Sunday school lessons, snippets of conversations in the grocery store…you name it. Practically anything is fodder for my fertile imagination.

Kindred spirits indeed. =) What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?

No question – finding the time to write is my biggest challenge, especially with a full-time job, a part-time job, and a busy family. The only way I can write is generally to do it between the hours of 11 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. It helps that I’ve always been a night owl. I was literally one of those girls under the sheets with the flashlight, devouring the latest Nancy Drew mystery (my $5 weekly allowance would buy three hardback books – it was the highlight of my week!). So, it’s not so much a question of balancing as whether or not I’m feeling creative during those hours. If I can’t sleep and feel the inspiration, I’ll crawl out of bed at 4:00 a.m. to write. Writing keeps me sane. Seriously. It’s my solace, my peace and my time to connect with the Lord. Thankfully, the words just flow. The slogan, “I’d Rather Be Writing” was made for someone like me.

And there the “kindred” ends—my brain shuts off at 9 p.m., LOL.  If you could take your family on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I’ve been blessed enough to travel to Europe several times. Of all the countries I’ve visited, Italy was my favorite. My husband has visited the Holy Land and several countries I’ve never seen, but he’s never been to Italy. As a college student, I studied in London for ten weeks before touring the Continent for three weeks and then returning home (with much of an appreciation of our country and the freedoms we often take for granted). Italy impressed me so much with the incredible art work, sculptures, the history of the city with the Roman Coliseum, the Forum, the Spanish Steps and the Vatican, the gorgeous landscape of the Italian Riviera and the simple joy of living so apparent in the Italian people.

My day spent in Venice was one of the most idyllic days you can ever imagine, in every possible way. In Venice, there was not a cloud in the sky – sunny, about 70 degrees, a balmy breeze, absolutely picture perfect. American music has always been such an influence there, and I’ll never forget the handsome gondoliers cleaning their gondolas to the tune of Rod Stewart’s, Do You Think I’m Sexy? That’s an image I’ll never forget. I developed an appreciation of the gorgeous Murano glass and still wear the necklace I purchased there. During the afternoon siesta, we bought fruit in the fresh air market, and sat around a centuries-old fountain eating strawberries (until an enterprising shop owner invited us into his shop sensing we were Americans and figured we probably liked to shop – Earth, Wind & Fire was playing on the radio there).

My oldest daughter has had the opportunity to visit Italy, but I’d like to take the rest of my family there so they can perhaps better understand why I always speak so fondly of my visit there. And my younger children might understand and also gain more of an appreciation for everything with which we’ve been blessed here in the United States.

Would you believe that just this week we were considering a trip to Sicily? My former-foreign-exchange-brother has just moved there from Germany and is campaigning to get our family over for a visit. =) We would LOVE to go . . . our bank account isn’t so sure though, LOL. Anyway. What are you writing right now?

I’m two-thirds of the way through the seventh (yes, seventh!) book in the second series, but have been stalled since March when the contest season began, and then with the contract from Torn Veil, the editing process began. I miss the creativity of writing. About two months ago, I started something totally new (and a stand-alone) simply because I had to write. No matter how I work it, this one is a romantic suspense. I have intrigue in my other novels, but this one is different. It’s good to stretch as a writer and try different things. It might work, it might not, but I’m following the Lord’s leading and my instincts. I’m hoping I can continue with it, but I really need to finish the seventh book first. Normally, I write chronologically, but this one, it’s the first time I’ve already written the ending and need to go back and fill in the blanks. I know where it’s going, but it’s been so long since I’ve worked on it that I have to read it from the beginning again to get into the story again so all the details work and it’s cohesive.

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Thanks so much for visiting, JoAnn! Readers, check out her website at http://www.joanndurgin.com, and you can find her book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 2/11/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Comparisons

So, the other day, when my kids were with a grandmother for the first half of it, I achieved some amazing results in the realm of word count. When I'm actively working on a novel, my goal for every day is to write 2,000 words. Now, some days this is like pulling teeth. But on a good day, I far surpass that. When I was writing pivotal scenes in Jewel of Persia, I was putting down 5,000 words a day and feeling darn good about it. On Monday, I managed just over 6,500 words in my Annapolis story. 

Is this a record for me? No, but it certainly is since I had kids! And it left me feeling great. Like I accomplished something. Like I was ready to tackle the rest of the manuscript and bring it home.

Then Tuesday came along, and I only wrote 2,400 words. Only--did you catch that? That's still above my daily goal, but it felt disappointing after that amazing 6.5K. And then yesterday, I didn't even bother doing a word count. There was no point, I only wrote two pages. And I was grumpy and grumbling all afternoon because of it, taking most of that frustration out on the five loads of laundry I so did not want to fold but had to. (Yes, the socks got flung into the basket a little harder than necessary, LOL.) But then after I put the kids to bed,  I did manage to get through the scene I was having trouble ending, and into the next, so I'm at a good starting point today. I then jotted down my ideas for the next several scenes, leading up to the climax.

Here's my point in sharing all this--if the rest of you are anything like me, we like to judge ourselves, and we have little to judge on but comparisons. We tend to think "I didn't do as well today as yesterday" or "I'll never be that again." And maybe, in a way, that's true.

But what I need to remember is that today is not yesterday. Yesterday was not Monday. None of those are tomorrow. Goals of one day, season, year, whatever, are not necessarily what we need to be shooting for the next day, season, year, whatever. For instance, I only have another 6,000 words to work with before this manuscript is supposed to be finished (though I might overshoot and have to go back and trim. Big surprise for me, right?). So my goal for today shouldn't be "Write 6K in words." It should be to write the next scenes as succinctly as possible, leaving myself as many words as I can for the conclusion.

It's the same with anything else in life. Sometimes our goals have to be revised for the point of our story we're in right now. Sometimes it's enough to shoot for quantity. But sometimes it's not about more, it's about better-fitting.

This lovely insight brought to you by my inability to think of anything but finishing this book right now, LOL.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Remember When . . . The Snow Wouldn't Stop?

Weather. Always a bother, right? We've had a fair amount of the inclement variety lately, but frankly, it's nothing like last year, when we didn't see bare ground from Thanksgiving until March--and here in our part of Maryland, that's unusual.

So when writing my story of 1783-84 Annapolis (which takes place in the months of November through March), I drew on my 6 years of experience in said city to come up with my weather. So, you know. Cold wind. Nasty cold wind, actually. The occasional just-above-freezing rain, a few days of ice. Snow once a year or so. Overcast aplenty, but some days of nice sunshine too.

Seems perfectly reasonable, and so far as I'd found in the sources I'd read on the months in question--and I had many sources--there was no reason to think my standard incorrect.

Until Sunday, that is. I was trying to find exactly which delegates signed to ratify the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784. And I came across an article that finally explained why they had such trouble getting enough of them there to begin with (something everyone mentioned, but no one gave the reasoning for). Wanna take a bet?

Yeah. The worst winter in recorded history. AAAAAGGGGGHHHH! What? What of all those mild days I'd mentioned? What about the fact that my characters travel to Annapolis, yet the delegates couldn't get there because the city was locked in snow? AAAAGGGHHHH! Needless to say, Monday morning was spent in revisions, and now my manuscript is covered in snow and ice (fictionally speaking).

But aside from the hour and a half of additions and deletions, this was a really fabulous fact to FINALLY come across. First, it explained the facts I'd wondered about. Second, it's the kind of distinctive thing that really brings a story to life. Third, it's just cool (no pun intended) because the writer of the article was quoting Jefferson and Franklin's opinions on this "long winter of 1783-84" which the former called "severe beyond all memory."

Yes, I'm geeky enough to find weather patterns cool, but here's why it's really neat. This winter not only ravaged the eastern seaboard of the U.S., but it also hit Europe just as severely. And Franklin, who was in Paris awaiting the return of the aforementioned Treaty that he and his compatriots had penned, hypothesized that this great winter was a result of a series of volcanic eruptions in Iceland. It was the first time anyone had thought to associate volcanic activity with weather patterns, but modern scientists are now very certain that he was right, and that Mt. Laki's continuous eruptions had led to gases being trapped in the upper atmosphere, which in turn resulted in this awful, seemingly-endless winter. (There were also toxic fogs recorded in Northern Europe. Awful . . . but cool that I get to mention it, mwa ha ha ha.)

So while I sit here in my snowy, icy Maryland of today, it's kind of nice to be able to commiserate with my characters of yesteryear, who are experiencing the worst winter in the memory of even the oldest man alive at the time. I can pity them . . . but you can bet I'm also reveling in it. =)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Story Time . . . under construction

My Story Time day itself isn't under construction, mind you. There are books I've read and have yet to talk about. But I can't really concentrate on those right this minute, because I'm caught up in my own story. (The fictional one I'm working on, I mean.)

I had an editor ask to see something ASAP, and so I'm putting all else on hold for the next week or two so I can get this manuscript finished. Hope y'all understand. Moreover, I hope y'all will say a prayer for me, that I finish this thing off quickly but well, and that, if this is the next step the Lord has in mind for me, it finds favor with the publishing house.

I'll have a usual post tomorrow, though, as I discovered some cool (and kind of frustrating, ha ha) history that made me spend and hour and a half revising yesterday, so come back then. ;-)