Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Setbacks

This might sound like a strange blog post for someone who's still jigging along one of life's mountaintops, right? And in a way it is. But it's something that's come to mind from various sources this last week, so let's see where it goes . . .

Two of my good friends have cancer--you may remember me mentioning that months ago. Both have been undergoing treatment and seeing results.

Both have just had setbacks.

I find it a little strange that though their stories are very different, Mary and Sandi seem to be coming up against things at nearly identical times. For Mary, whose cancer is in her leg, this latest setback is a broken femur, which has put her in incredible pain. For Sandi, who's trying to get rid of a tumor and cancer in the bone marrow so she can get a bone marrow transplant, the setback was news that the tumor had stopped responding to chemo and had grown.

Not cool. And I can only the imagine the fear when you go into the hospital wondering, "What now? What's wrong this time?" It stinks. It hurts. Because you're already fighting so much, so hard, that to be told something isn't working or went wrong . . . it could be devestating.

On a lesser scale, I've experienced this with my daughter lately. She has always, always, always shown her stress through sleep patterns--and interruptions of them. These past couple weeks, she has been a total monster when we put her to bed, and I had thought we were over that, so it was doubly frustrating. Then after a few nights of improvement, when she started to show signs of a fit again, I nearly banged my head into the wall. And why? She was still way better than she'd been.

But we want forward progress. Always, in everything, we want to stride forward. I think it's probably part of our genetic makeup as humans, so it's no big surprise when those setbacks bring us down. Make us question. Lead to a little hair-pulling. We don't want to go back. Not to bad behavior, not to sad times, and certainly not to worse health.

I think (and this is pure speculation) that faith is probably lost more through the mountain of little things, those "minor" setbacks, than through the big disasters of life. The big things we know we have to handle with faith and grace. So we gather all our courage, all our strength, all our will, and say, "Let's do this, Lord!" We're certain He's with us, even through the awful.

But when a few steps forward only send us slipping back, that's when it's so easy to ask, "I already gave it my all, Lord! Why this? Why more? Why?"

I don't know about you, but I don't often get answers to that question.

Yesterday I read Psalm 46, which is probably best known for verse 10: Be still, and know that I am God. For perhaps the first time, I paid attention to the context of that yesterday. The whole psalm is about how God is always there, God is our refuge. Is trouble thundering around you? He's there. Is there a place of beauty and gladness? He's there. See, look--wars come to an end. Bows and spears are broken. Chariots are burned. All those things with which we fight, where we might think our victory lies . . . He destroys them. Why?

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

The Lord of Hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.

Yesterday, those words said to me, "Stop fighting. Stop thinking you have to. When trouble comes, don't grab your weapon. I am the one who casts those mountains into the sea, and I am the one who tells the battles the halt. I am ruler of this rockface that comes crashing down, and why would you not trust me? Did I not make a refuge for you from the very same rock?"

We question, and questioning can be good. But when the storms around us are louder than our praise, when the nations are raging and our shelter is moved, when forward slips into backward, sometimes we have to remember this from verse 6:

He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

With a single murmur from the Lord, all can change. Our part is to be still, to give it all to him. To trust. It's not easy when we're facing setbacks. But the God of the flood is also the God of the trickling leak. 

We put our hands into His when trouble first strikes. Let's be sure we only grip it the harder when the setbacks come.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Remember When . . . They Called Up the Dead?

I find the idea of mediums totally bizarre. I mean, people who talk to the dead? Who can summon them up? Um . . . weird. And unbelievable. As in, the kind of thing that makes most of us roll our eyes and go "Riiiiiiight." Right? Surely anyone claiming to be a medium is really just a charlatan. A fake. A phony.

So why does God order us not to go to them?To be "defiled by them" as He puts it? Hmm. Why, for instance, in I Samuel 28, does Saul first toss all the mediums out of the land, then seek one out? Do you remember that part of Saul's story? It's crazy. Samuel has just died, but Saul needs his advice. So what does he do? He goes to one of the mediums that Samuel himself had instructed Saul to cast out and has her call up Saul so he can ask him a question.

The really crazy thing? It works. It's right there in the Bible. So obviously this isn't just a hoax (all the time, anyway). Which begs the question of what it is. And since God tells us very clearly not to do it, not to go to the people who do, and not to have anything to do with it, that makes it pretty clear--this stuff is possible, but it's not of the Lord. Which means it's of His enemy.

Let's fast-forward a couple thousand years to Victorian England and America. As you may remember from my intro post on Spiritualism a couple weeks ago, it became rather suddenly fashionable to be into the afterlife and looking for a bridge between it and this life. Enter mediums. There were a few very famous, very notable ones reported to do everything from summon a hand to touch someone to a dead relative to give a few words to call up full-bodied apparitions (like the one in I Samuel). We have no way of knowing today which of these mediums was faking and which weren't. And even in the day when it was happening, folks had a hard time deciding, sometimes, what was real and what was hoax.

There seemed to be a few main categories of how people reacted. There were those willing to believe anything, and who tried to tap into personal abilities to do this stuff too (housewives and servants were apparently especially predisposed to this--perhaps because it brought a little excitement into their lives?), there were those who were willing to entertain the notion and keep an open mind about it. And there were those who thought it all a bunch of nonsense. Those, at least, are the reactions I've seen recorded.

But where, I wonder, were those who believed it could and did happen, but took the Biblical stand and cried out against it because it could and did happen, but was wrong? Well, that's where my fictional heroine comes in, if ever I settle down to write this novel. =) She's not going to take too kindly to folks parading out their young children and using them as mediums, no sirree. Why? Because it's real--and because it's real, it's dangerous. Oh, if only everyone would listen to her . . . ;-)

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Story Time . . . first glimpse of SURRENDER THE NIGHT

I am a HUGE MaryLu Tyndall fan, so when a signed copy of Surrender the Night arrived on my doorstep, I did a little jig. I loved Surrender the Heart and couldn't wait to read the second book in the Surrender to Destiny Series. But alas--it was third at the time in my to-be-read stack.

Then life descended in the form of a 5-year-old who decided bedtime was a good time to move to Tantrum Town. I haven't read at all in the past week, other than a little snippet last Saturday. But last night, when she finally went to bed like a normal kid (which means some "But I'm not tired!" whining, but no fits), I cracked open Surrender the Night again. Ah, bliss.

I'm only four chapters in, but already I'm loving this book. Rose lives on a farm outside of Baltimore, where she does her best to hide from the memories of all the British took from her--her parents, her home, and her innocence. But when British soldiers again invade her world, and she again finds herself at the mercy of a brutal soldier, she prays the Lord will be merciful and let her die.

Instead, 2nd Lieutenant Alexander Reed stands against his superior, risking a court martial when his conscience forbids the attack on one more innocent woman. Perhaps he saves her life, but he knows well his own is forfeit. For if the British Navy doesn't punish him, the Americans surely will when the fair damsel he rescued turns him in.

Rose hides the man in the barn as long as she can so she can nurse him back to health, but when a fever sets in, she fears this man will yet be her ruin. Her only goal is to get him back on his feet and away from her . . . but of course, the back of the book cover promises love intervenes. =)

That's as far as I've gotten, but golly. I'm already in love. A tomboy beauty who prefers the company of pigs to men . . . a handsome hero who chose nobility over the war that wasn't his own . . . perfect. I am seriously looking forward to reading more when peace and quiet (or at least the absence of fits) permits! You can be sure I'll post a full review after I've finished. =)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Word of the Week - Adorable

My best friend Stephanie put in a word of the week request, so today's dedicated to her. ;-) Today's word of the week is . . .

Adorable.

And Stephanie brings it up for a good reason. As modern parents, we use the word adorable a lot. And usually for our cute little kids. If I were to define "adorable" off the top of my head, it would mean something like "cute, a delight." But when you look at the word . . . "adore"? Hmm . . . so maybe add "lovable" to the definition?

I looked this one up in three different sources to try to get an idea of how it's evolved. Here's what I found. At its origins, "adorable" meant "worthy of divine worship" just like one might think. So really, only God was called adorable. But as time went on, it became applied to others and took on the meaning of "worthy of passionate attachment." From there it softened still more to "very attractive or delightful; charming."

So there you have it. From only applied to God to mostly applied to kids and puppies (do a Google image search for the word, LOL), adorable has softened over the years from something divine to something delightful. Not a total change of meaning, but definitely a noteworthy shift. Thanks, Stephanie, for bringing it up. =)

Anybody else have a word you'd like me to look into for ya? Leave a comment and I'll add it to the roster. =)

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Friend Cathy West - Interview and Giveaway

Today I'm happy to welcome Cathy West to the blog to tell you about her debut novel, Yesterday's Tomorrow (isn't that just an AWESOME title??).

Cathy has generously offered a copy in giveaway, so please leave your comments below with an email address to be entered.

~*~

About Yesterday's Tomorrow

She's after the story that might get her the Pulitzer. He's determined to keep his secrets to himself. Vietnam, 1967. Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he's hiding something. Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they're forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

~*~

About Cathy


Educated in Bermuda, England and Canada, Catherine holds a degree in English from the University of Toronto. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. Catherine and her husband live on the beautiful island of Bermuda, with their two college-aged children. Catherine is a member of Romance Writers of America, and American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a founding member of International Christian Fiction Writers. Catherine’s debut novel Yesterday’s Tomorrow, will release in 2011, through Oak Tara Publishers.
Website: http://www.catherinejwest.com Oak Tara Website: http://www.oaktara.com 

~*~ 

What's your latest book?

My latest release is called Yesterday’s Tomorrow, due March 2011, through Oak Tara Publishers.

I've heard such great things about it! What's your favorite part of the story?

Yesterday’s Tomorrow is a love story. And since I absolutely adore happy endings, without giving too much away, I’d have to say the ending!

=) Happy endings are a MUST!  What was the hardest part to write?

The story takes place during the Vietnam War. I did a lot of research for the book, and I think the hardest parts for me, were the scenes where Kristin had to deal with what was going on around her—death, destruction and the devastating results of a war on a nation, both in Vietnam and back in the US.

I’m not really old enough to remember that time, not even American, so I basically just had to try really hard to put myself in Kristin’s shoes and hope I got it right!

Yeah, I know that feeling, LOL. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

So many things. Even though a lot of the story takes place within a warzone, I wanted to show that there is hope to be found in even the darkest of places. I think one can see the frailties of human nature, the need for forgiveness and the ultimate victory that is found in redemption.


Lovely. Is there a theme to this book?

It struck me while I was writing this story, that truly, ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ John 15:13 NLT That’s the spiritual theme of the book—remembering what countless brave men and women on the frontlines have done, and a reminder of what Christ did for us.


Wow--so touching! What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

Romance all the way! I love a good romance from beginning to end, with plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing. Of course we know it’ll turn out the way we hope, but there’s nothing like a little anticipation to keep a reader turning those pages! I also enjoy reading literary fiction, and big sweeping family sagas that span generations.

I tend to stick to writing contemporary romance, although I have written a women’s fiction novel.


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

I can’t say enough about American Christian Fiction Writers. Honestly, had I not joined this group six years ago, I seriously doubt I’d be sitting here looking at my first published novel. From the comraderie that takes place between writers, to the teaching, the critique groups and the annual conference, this group is amazing, and I’d be utterly lost without them! I also have a few wonderful critique partners and friends who keep me going when I’m ready to chuck it all out the window, and of course my fabulous agent, Rachelle Gardner. She’s always there to bounce ideas off, and ready to give me a swift kick in the derriere when I need one!


That would be where I "know" you from. =) Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

I love to garden – I grow roses and orchids. I also keep active with my two year old Border Collie, as well as weekly volunteering with Bermuda Riding for the Disabled. And I try to read as much as I can.



I would love your garden. =) Roses and orchids are two of my favorites. What are you writing right now?

Right now I’m working on two manuscripts. The first is called Reprisal – a family saga, heavy on the romance of course, that I hope to have finished in the next few months. The second story is a straight romance, First Harvest, about a young woman who travels to Sonoma to help convince her grandfather to sell his winery and move back east, and soon realizes, once she meets her grandfather’s vintner, that she’s in for quite a fight!


Oo, they sound great! Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing?

Yes, there are several. Deborah Raney was probably the first Christian author I read. After I finished A Vow to Cherish, I thought, I’d really love to write like that! Imagine my surprise to find Deb was a member of ACFW. As it turns out, she was one of the first people to show interest in Yesterday’s Tomorrow, and gave me some great insight into the story. Her valuable input, advice and encouragement has meant so much to me over the years. She is a great mentor to many writers.


~*~
Thanks for visiting, Cathy! You can find Cathy's novel on  Amazon. And don't forget to check out her website at http://www.catherinejwest.com.

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 4/1/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . The Psalms

I've been reading through the Psalms lately, which is my go-to place in the Bible when I've finished up another book and am not sure where I want to head next. I know they're a go-to for many other people too, and the one I read today hammered home why.

David (and the other psalmists too, I'm sure, though I've been in his lately) is so real in the psalms. You can feel his heartache. You can hear the tremor of pain in his voice. You can smell the incense he sends wafting up in prayer. But more, you can taste the hope on his tongue.

Here's a bit from Psalm 41, which I just read. (starting at verse 9)

Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.

But You, O Lord, be merciful to me, and raise me up,
That I may repay them.
By this I know that You are well pleased with me,
Because my enemy does not triumph over me.
As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
And set me before Your face forever.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel
From everlasting to everlasting!
Amen and Amen.

This is but one of many examples of what appeals to me about these songs. David had real, honest-to-goodness problems he's dealing with here. A best friend that has turned against him. People trying to sully his name. In the verses above these, he says how his enemies want him to die and his name be blotted out forever--which gave me a big "Ha!" since he's one of the most well-known men of all times!

David isn't afraid to let loose those negative feelings, to cry out to God with the hurt and pain he feels. He utters words that could be considered whining, complaining, and bellyaching. I mean, yeah, sure, people were actually trying to kill him, LOL, but just looking at the words above--who hasn't been in a position where a friend has turned against him? Who hasn't felt as though his heart has been totally crushed by it?

It's okay to share those feelings with God. He knows, He's been there, and He cares. Go ahead, pour out all your aching complaints to Him! He won't call you a whiner. ;-)

But what I love about this psalmist is that he always, always, always goes back to the hope that's to be found in the Lord. Always. He knew that no matter how bleak things seemed, God had his back. God blazed the path before him. God protected his flank. Sometimes the battle probably looked pretty dire, with the enemy closing in, but David knew that victory didn't lie in telling his adversaries off--it lay in embracing the Lord.

He upholds our integrity. He sets us before His face. Who cares what the backstabbers are doing when the glory of the Lord's before us?

I'm an eternal optimist, forever hopeful that good will come from bad. This is why I kept writing, writing, writing even when I kept getting rejection after rejection. I have twenty finished manuscripts in my computer. Twenty. Trust me, I came across some nay-sayers over the years. I heard from people who said it should only take so many years, or so many finished books . . . I even heard that the industry was in lockdown, and I simply wouldn't sell, not because I wasn't good enough, but because it just wasn't going to happen.

But I hope in the Lord, trusting in him. And now I have a new contract that should be arriving any day, as well as a small company of our own that's suddenly growing in amazing ways. Have I "made it"? Um . . . do you ever? LOL. But it's reassurance that I am indeed on the right path. Right where He wants me to be.

God is good. He has set me before His face. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and amen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sorry . . .

One of those crazy mornings (both kids had their check-ups this morning), following one of those crazy days yesterday when I was too sleep deprived to do something as logical as schedule a post. So you can Remember When with me next week. =) For now, I'm going to get tomorrow's post ready so I don't make y'all wonder if I'm alive again. ;-)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Story Time . . . SHADOWED IN SILK by Christine Lindsay

For those who pay lots of attention, you know that Shadowed in Silk is the next title due out from our publishing company, WhiteFire Publishing. I've probably even shared a bit about it. But now that we're about five or six weeks away from digital release and have the full cover in our possession, I'm thrilled to get to talk about it in more depth.

She was invisible to those who should have loved her.

After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women . . . but Nick has become a cruel stranger. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.

Major Geoff Richards, broken over the loss of so many of his men in the trenches of France, returns to his cavalry post in Amritsar. But his faith does little to help him understand the ruthlessness of his British peers toward the Indian people he loves. Nor does it explain how he is to protect Abby Fraser and her child from the husband who mistreats them.

 Amid political unrest, inhospitable deserts, and Russian spies, tensions rise in India as the people cry for the freedom espoused by Gandhi. Caught between their own ideals and duty, Geoff and Abby stumble into sinister secrets . . . secrets that will thrust them out of the shadows and straight into the fire of revolution.

~*~

Usually I share my own summary of the story rather than back cover copy, but given that Christine and I wrote the back cover copy . . . =)

This isn't going to be a typical review, but I'm going to share with y'all what caught our attention about this book, and why I'm loving it more, the more times I read it.

First and foremost, Christine researched the Indian culture for years, and that comes through brilliantly. Within the first few pages, the reader is plunged directly into the India of the British Raj. She describes in amazing (but never overwhelming) detail the sights, the smells, the feel of this land that she and her characters adore. You can feel the pain of the Indian people, the disdain of the British memsahibs, the hope and dread of the officer and American/British heroine who only want fairness for the people of their hearts. You can smell the bazaar, feel the brassy sun upon your head, and taste the fear when your realize there's a Russian spy underfoot.

It's brilliant.

I'm nearly done edits on it, and many of my last few comments have been "This scene is amazing." "Another perfect scene." "My favorite line in the whole book."

And how did she achieve it? By being passionate about her subject. I know Christine through a historical list, and I know that she has a special place in her heart for India, where her own British forefathers served in the cavalry. This story is, in its abstract anyway, her family's story. And that connection comes through and excites the reader. As does Christine's love for the Christian ministry trying to win over the souls of the great sub-continent.

Plenty of experts have written about how setting can be a character--that's definitely the case in Shadowed in Silk, and through this book I have fallen in love with India as surely I have with plucky Abby and honorable Geoff. I am so, so thrilled to get to help bring this amazing book to life and get it into the hands of readers, and so, so thrilled to be a fellow-author with Christine on WhiteFire's list.

The digital version of Shadowed in Silk will be out May 1, and the print September 1. Rest assured I'll remind everyone when it's available! =)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Word of the Week - Giddy

Can't say as I've ever looked up the etymology of "giddy" before, but since I've been using it to describe my emotional state all week, I decided it would be an appropriate Word today. =) (For any who haven't yet heard why I'm giddy, check out my "Woo Hoo!" post.)

In Old English, the word that's very close to giddy meant "insane, mad, stupid, possessed by a spirit." But for whatever reason, that questionable madness, by the 1540s, had come to describe the happy, elated feeling we associate with the word today. I suppose those who are insane can demonstrate it, which would account for the move of meaning, but I sure hope my behavior this past week didn't make anyone think "Is she possessed?" LOL.

Honestly, I find it pretty surprising that a bunch of other meanings haven't sprung up in that amount of time, but I consider this one of those words that gets to keep its nearly-original meaning because it sounds like it means. Giddy--doesn't it just perfectly convey the happy, bubbling euphoria of its meaning with those quick syllables? (Contrast with "quagmire," which is so long and sluggish in sound, much like the marshy mire of its meaning . . .)

Here's to continued giddiness all week!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Woo hoo!!!!!!

Special announcement bringing me out in the evening! I wanted so badly to share this yesterday, but I had to wait until things were official. And official they are!

That Annapolis story I've been working on? Summerside Press bought it! Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland will be coming out this December, and I am honored and thrilled to be joining the illustrious ranks of Summerside authors.

So here's the dish on getting the Call. My kids had spent Monday night at their grandmother's, and she brought them home just in time for me to pack them up for Story Time at the library. I had them buckled in and realized I'd forgotten my car keys. Ran down to the house . . . where the door was locked. So I ran back up, grabbed my house keys, and ran back down. Just as I grabbed the keys, the phone rang. My husband had heard me trying to get back in and emerged from his office to unlock the door, so he grabbed the phone. "It's Janet," he said.

Now, my agent doesn't call me just to talk about the weather, but I was standing there with keys in hand and kids in the car, and my thoughts were a little scattered. So I answered, my heart thudding, but not with the single-minded clarity I would have expected.

"Are you sitting down?" she asked.

My mind flashed the kids in the car, who were hopefully not screaming, LOL. "No," I said. "Should I be?"

She chuckled. "Yes. Sit down." Once I was--on the step stool, mind you--she said, "We've got a sale! Summerside is buying Annapolis."

Me: "Oh, glory hallelujah!"

David made some positive kind of gesture--I couldn't tell you what--and hugged me. Janet's going on to talk deal points, I'm trying to crane to see if the kids have killed each other in the car, and David's going, "What do you want me to do?"

So I send him out with the kids--one worry down--and then sink back down onto my step-stool to try to take it all in. Advance numbers. Royalty rates. Publication dates, dates the manuscript is due . . .

And inside, the Hallelujah Chorus is still gaining in volume. After getting the gist of the offer, I promise to talk to my agent later and squeal my way out the door. The kiddos--who don't quite grasp the importance of a book deal with a big house--think Mommy has lost her mind as I sing and steering-wheel-thump my way to the library. My mom was going to be there with my niece, so I knew I'd get to tell her in person. So I called my best friend and crit partner, Stephanie, totally not caring that it wasn't even 9:00 in her time zone. Gave her a good start to her morning!

Now, let me just say that it's hard to sit still through kids' St. Patrick's Day books when you're buzzing with this kind of news. I managed it--barely--and then while they were chowing down on green cupcakes, Mom and I and the librarian let the glow shine and indulged in a few squeals and bounces.

Naturally I had to share with my friends right away, but it wasn't until Friday that I was given leave to share with the world. So share I am!

It's hard to believe that after a year of waiting for an answer, this is going to happen so fast! Nine months, in December, and my book will be out. On shelves. In stores. EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! (Still a little giddy, LOL.) And this release date is just perfect for the story, which is set in the winter, from November through February. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

I've done a lot of praising over here these last few days. It was a twisty, turning path a lot of the way, but the Lord has brought me right here, right now, leading me firmly each step of the way. I'm so thrilled to be able to join the Summerside family, and to add this story of early American history to my roster list of books--a departure from the Biblical, but a fun one.

Now, here's a little one-paragraph blurb about Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland:

In 1784 peace has been declared, but war still rages in the heart of Lark Benton. Never did she think she’d want to escape Emerson Fielding, the man she’s loved all her life, but then he betrays her with her cousin. She
flees to Annapolis, Maryland, the country’s capital, and throws herself into a new social circle with new friends–-ones that force her to examine all she believes. Emerson follows, determined to reclaim his bride. But he soon comes to realize that in this new country he calls his own, duty is no longer enough. He must learn to open his heart and soul to something greater . . . before he loses all he should have been fighting to hold.

My Friend Connie - Interview & Giveaway

Today I'm happy to welcome Connie Stevens to my blog to chat about her romances from Heartsong Presents. She had one just release in January, and its sequel coming in the next month!

Connie has generously offered a copy of Revealing Fire to one lucky winner, to be sent once she gets her author copies (should be very soon). To enter, just leave a comment below with an email address!

~*~

About Revealing Fire

Pearl Dunnigan is in her September years, well beyond the age when most women fall in love.

She married her childhood sweetheart years ago. Now as a widow, she operates Willow Creek’s only boardinghouse and is content with her life. . .until Hubert dares to convince her to dream again.

During Hubert Behr’s youth, blind ambition and careless actions destroyed his family and his marriage. Have the lessons he’s learned since then made him worthy of a second chance, or has his past made him unsuitable for love? Hubert is willing to try again, but what will Pearl say when she learns his secrets? When Hubert’s estranged son arrives in town, his anger and scorn threaten to undo Hubert’s and Pearl’s plans.

Torn between what her heart knows and what she’d been told, Pearl is faced with a heart-rending decision. Is her love strong enough to do what is best, and will God give her the strength to endure what she must for the man she loves? When all the truth is revealed, will their love be destroyed or refined by fire?

~*~

About Connie

Connie Stevens lives in north Georgia with her husband of 37 years, John. One cantankerous kitty—misnamed Sweet Pea—allows them to live in her home. (John calls her Crabby Tabby.) When Connie isn’t writing, she loves reading, sewing, browsing antique shops, collecting teddy bears, and gardening. She also enjoys making quilts to send to the Cancer Treatment Centers Of America. Visit Connie’s Web site and blog at www.conniestevenswrites.com.

~*~

What's your latest book?

The first book in the Willow Creek series was LEAVE ME NEVER, which was released in January. The latest book is the second in the series, REVEALING FIRE, which comes out in April with Heartsong Presents, division of Barbour Publishing.


Congrats on the releases! What was the hardest part to write? 

The hardest scene for me to write was when Hubert asked the doctor when his son would recover, and the doctor had to give Hubert an answer he didn’t want to hear. I had to call on some painful memories and relive some brutal emotions in order to give those same emotions to my character.


Oh, that WOULD be hard to write! What do you hope your readers will get out of the story? 

I would hope a reader would realize their worth comes from who they are in Christ, and their value in His eyes doesn’t depend on how important or how wealthy they are or how the world views them.


Beautiful lesson. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I love to write and read historical romance.

Hey, your answer's the same as mine! ;-) Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

Primarily I keep pictures of my son around me. I can almost him cheering me on. When I wrote REVEALING FIRE, I kept a small silver music box that belonged to my mother on my desk. A silver music box plays an important part in the story.

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

 I couldn’t write without The Posse. Not only are they the best critique group on the planet, they are some of my dearest friends and prayer partners. We bounce everything off each other, writing-related or otherwise.
 

Well, I won't get into an argument about who has the best critiquers, but . . . ;-) Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract? 

Goodness yes!!  I was sitting with The Posse at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference (2009). They have a tradition on the first night of the conference. Two Barbour editors take the stage and announce the awarding of first-time contracts. When JoAnne Simmons announced the title of my first book (LEAVE ME NEVER) my first thought was I would have to come up with another title because someone else had the same title. My second thought was I wondered why The Posse was screaming. After that I vaguely remember hugging a bunch of people as I made my way to the front to accept the letter of intent from Barbour Publishing. It didn’t occur to me to scream myself until after the session was over. The expression “in a daze” has a whole new meaning for me now.


Oh, hey! I was there! I remember that, LOL. Any funny stories about being a writer? 

I once started to buy a Christmas present for Tessa Langford…until I remembered Tessa is one of my characters.


LOL. Sounds about right. What are you writing right now?

A generational historical series set in north Georgia. It begins in 1838 around the time of the Trail Of Tears.


Oh, cool. Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

The third book in the Willow Creek series, SCARS OF MERCY, will release with Heartsong Presents in August.


Fun stuff. Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing? 

Kim Sawyer and DiAnn Mills. Both of these ladies taught me how reach deeply into myself and give the emotions I have experienced to my characters, thus creating people on the page who aren’t just fictional characters—they’re friends.

 ~*~

Thanks so much for visiting, Connie! Readers, be sure to check out her website at www.conniestevenswrites.com. You can find her books at http://www.heartsongpresents.com.

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 3/25/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Growing

It's been an awesome week and a half. I can't share everything that has made it so (yet), but really, it started last week when I got to tell Dina Sleiman that WhiteFire will be publishing her medieval novel, Dance of the Dandelion. We've had a blast diving into plans for that, including getting the cover design ready to roll. My awesome friend Karlene has volunteered to be our costume designer, and I just know this is going to be awesome.

And since WhiteFire will be in the 2012 edition of the Christian Writer's Market Guide, I dedicated much of last week to preparing our information and catalog for that too. Of course, that required the covers of the above-mentioned Dandelion and Christine Lindsay's Shadowed in Silk, neither of which are finalized yet. So I also had a blast playing with some unofficial cover designs. =)



(Special thanks to Michael of ArmStreet and Vitaliy Mirgorodskiy for giving me permission to use the photo of their model and costume for this temporary design of Dina's book!)

We're also pleased to welcome Dina onto the staff of WhiteFire as an acquisitions editor--which makes me the Senior Acquisitions Editor (how heady is THAT? LOL). Dina was one of the first to get excited about the vision of our company, so we're really excited about the energy and insight she brings. And also excited to announce that she'll be representing us at the Blue Ridge conference this May! Then I'll be at the Oregon Christian Writers conference this August.

Tuesday night I also got the heads-up that official cover design of Shadowed in Silk is underway, and I know Tekeme Studios will be coming up with something astounding. Can't wait to see it.

And I'm going to shut up now.

Some Winners!

I've totally spaced drawing my winners lately. But without further ado . . .

The winner of Shellie Neumeier's Driven is . . .

Rubynreba! (pbclark@ . . .)

And the winner of the Read and Share Bible is . . .

Wanda! (wandaelaine@ . . .)

I'm emailing you both now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remember When . . . Dolls Brought Us Our Fashion?

For reasons I will be sharing soon, my 1784 story is back on my mind. And as I lay in bed last night unable to get back to sleep, I remembered a fun little factoid I'd yet to share with y'all. =)

Ever wonder how people kept up on fashion back in the day? I mean, in the 18th century fashion was EVERYTHING. Even here in the colonies--in fact, a London man described our balls and gowns as far more fashion-forward than anything to be seen in London. (Not his exact words, but that's the gist, LOL.) But it wasn't exactly the age of full-color magazines . . . nor of Fashion Weeks. They didn't have Style or E! and certainly couldn't browse Ideeli daily for awesome bargains on designers.

So they looked at dolls. Yep, that's right. Marie Antoinette was more than a leader of France in the late 18th century, she was the unanimously agreed upon leader of fashion the world over. And whenever Marie Antoinette appeared in a new style, her peeps would make miniature versions of it for dolls and send those dolls to every major port.

It may have taken two months, but those "fashion babies" arrived on our doorsteps and brought detailed examples from the Queen of Fashion into our lives. And so, though it moved at a snail's pace compared to our changes from season to season now, styles changed far more quickly than they had in centuries prior.

All thanks to prettily made up baby dolls. =)

Happy Wednesday, everybody! I know mine will be!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Story Time . . . GIRL IN THE GATEHOUSE by Julie Klassen

The Girl in the GatehouseBy Julie Klassen

Thanks to one poor decision, Mariah Aubrey has been sent into exile. She finds herself taking up residence in the abandoned gatehouse of a distant relative's estate, where secrets abound as numerous as her own. But when her tight finances force her to resort to publishing the novels she writes in secret, Mariah cannot be certain who is friend and who is foe among her new acquaintances--who will judge her harshly, and who will accept her for who she is, stained by ink and shame though she may be?

Captain Matthew Bryant has made a fortune in the war, but can it buy his way into polite society? Determined to win the hand of the only woman he has ever loved, the woman who spurned him for his inferiority not so long ago, he leases Windrush Court with one goal in mind--prove to the world that he is worthy. But the longer he is master of the estate, the closer he gets to his goal, the more he finds himself drawn to the mysteries of his lovely tenant-neighbor. Is getting to know her worth risking the scandal that follows her? Worth his dreams?

The Girl in the Gatehouse is the newest Regency by Julie Klassen, full of intrigue and intricate plot details that had me guessing up to the very end. Her characters were immensely lovable--Matthew Bryant is at once a swashbuckling naval hero and a man grasping desperately at the chance to be, for once, accepted. What better combination to make a reader's heart thud? Mariah is a young woman whose good heart contrasts so brilliantly with her shamed reputation that I was propelled through the story with the need to learn every one of her secrets, so that I might love her anyway.

Though The Girl in the Gatehouse didn't start as quickly for me as Klassen's The Silent Governess did, I loved how intricate were the mysteries woven through the plot. Each time I figured one aspect out, another twist was thrown in to keep the anticipation and intrigue strong. I found the suspenseful elements to be oh-so-interesting and compelling without venturing toward nail-biting; and the book as a whole was fabulous and satisfying. I could put it down--but I was eager to pick it back up.

Overall, The Girl in the Gatehouse is another amazing period novel from Klassen that leaves me thirsting for her next release. I adore the Regency as brought to life by this talented author and the way love burrows deep into the heart through her characters. A definite must-read for those historical romance readers out there! (And if we're judging books by their covers, this ranks as one of my favorites!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Word of the Week - Handsome

I don't often pause to examine the etymology of words like "handsome," which have meant what they mean for centuries, and so I can use freely in all my manuscripts.

But once in a while, it's fun to see how it came to mean what we know all those hundreds of years ago. =) "Handsome" is a good example. When we break it down, it's "hand" and "some." Now how in the world did that come to mean "good looking"??

Well, first it meant "ready at hand or easy to handle" in the 1400s. Literally hand + some. By the mid/late 1500s the meaning had been extended to mean "considerable, of fair size." And then within ten years, that became "of fine form," which easily becomes "good-looking." Then it extended further to mean "generous" (i.e. a handsome reward) a hundred years after that, in 1680.

Fun, eh? Who knew?

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Friend Liz - Interview & Giveaway

Today I'm happy to welcome Liz Johnson to the blog to talk about her release from Love Inspired Suspence, Code of Justice. I'm sure you'll enjoy the peek into Liz's world!

Liz has been gracious enough to offer a copy of Code of Justice to one lucky reader, so please leave a comment below for a chance to win!

~*~

About Code of Justice

"Follow the drugs."

Her sister's last words shake FBI agent Heather Sloan to the core. They also convince her that the helicopter crash only Heather survived wasn't an accident. Sheriff's deputy Jeremy Latham is assigned the case—he's the one who can help Heather find the person responsible…once she convinces him they should work together. As they dig for the truth, they learn to trust and care for each other. Will they lose it all when the killer targets Heather? She's willing to risk her life to find her sister's killer—but her code of justice could cost her the chance to win Jeremy's love.

~*~

About Liz

 Liz Johnson grew up reading Christian fiction, and always dreamed of being part of the publishing industry. In 2006 she got her wish when she accepted a publicity position at a major trade book publisher. While working as a publicist in the industry, she decided to pursue her other dream-becoming an author. Liz makes her home in Nashville, TN , where she enjoys theater, exploring the local music scene, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her two nephews and three nieces. She loves stories of true love with happy endings.


~*~

What's your latest book?

Code of Justice, from Love Inspired Suspense, just released March 1, 2011

It sounds great! What's your favorite part of the story?

Code of Justice is a story about sisters, and I loved getting to explore what one sister would do to find justice when the other is killed. Writing it helped me really think through how I show affection and love for my sister and sister-in-law. I think it’ll be one of my favorites for a long time.


Funny how novels can make us better understand ourselves, isn't it? =) Other than the Bible, what's your favorite of all the books you've ever read?

My favorite novel of all time is The Witch of Blackbird Pond Elizabeth George Speare. It’s a Newberry Award winner from the 1950s and tells the story of Kit, a young woman who must move in with her only relatives, Puritans in New England. I love the way this book make history come alive for me and how I would reread it over and over again as a child. I fell in love with Nat Eaton (probably my first literary crush), the sailor who not only rescues Hannah, the Quaker woman called a witch, but also wins the heart of Kit.


Oooo, I read that back in 6th grade and LOVED it!! Such an awesome book, for sure. But back to YOUR books. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

I’m never far from a thesaurus no matter what I’m working on. While I was writing Code of Justice, I kept several aircraft/helicopter websites open at all times, learning what I could about their anatomy and what might actually bring one down. 


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

When I turned 29 last summer, I wrote a 30 by 30 list. On there is to sign a 3-book series contract before my 30thbirthday. I thought it was really achievable when I wrote it, but I’ve discovered it’s not as easy as I thought. I can’t seem to get my proposal together. But I would really love to sign a 3-book deal this year.


He he, you've got a year on me. ;-) And I'd love to achieve that as well! Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

I know exactly where I was when I got the call on my first book. It was July 15, 2008, and I was at the International Christian Retail Show in Orlando, FL. I was working as a publicist for a Christian publisher at the time, and I had an entire day of escorting one of my favorite authors from interview to interview. He had to stop to take a phone call, so I checked my phone as well, discovering that I’d missed a call from the 212 area code. The message was from the editor who I’d been going back and forth with on my manuscript for nearly 9 months. She asked me to call her back as soon as possible. Of course, I was busy working, so I had the rest of the day to talk myself into believing she was calling to let me down gently. In fact I was in such upheaval by the end of that day that I had to call my dad to calm myself down before I could call my editor back. Sitting on the floor outside my company’s hospitality suite, I got the best news of my life. Love Inspired Suspense offered me my very first contract for The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn.


That's so cool!! But let's delve toward the personal now. Have you ever taken someone in your family on a vacation? Where did you go?


My mom introduced me to Anne of Green Gables when I was a girl, and I fell instantly in love. So when I started writing seriously, I told my mom I would take her to Prince Edward Island when I sold my first book. Of course, no one tells first-time authors that they won’t make much money on the first book. So I told my mom we’d have to go after I sold my second. Sure enough, just a month after my second novel released, we flew to PEI and spent almost a week exploring the most beautiful island I’ve ever seen. It was incredible to walk where L.M. Montgomery had walked and stand on the beaches that inspired her words. We had an amazing time, and I can’t wait to go back again. 


Liz, we are kindred spirits! I've never been to PE Island, but L.M. Montgomery remains one of my all-time favorite authors. Oh, the Emily series!! But, again, back to you, LOL. Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

I’m really excited about A Star in the Night, a Christmas novella that I wrote as part of A Log Cabin Christmas collection, which comes out in September. I had so much fun researching the late Civil War era story set about 20 miles from my home in Nashville in historic Franklin, Tennessee.

~*~

Thanks so much for visiting, Liz! Readers, be sure to check out her website at www.lizjohnsonbooks.com. You can find Code of Justice at Amazon.

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 3/18/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Waiting and Fear

As many of you know, about four weeks ago I pressed "send" on a manuscript submission. Exhaling a major sigh of relief, I then focused on my son's birthday. Went to church the next day. Got sick that evening. For the next three weeks, I battled infection and flu and who knows what else, throat blazing with pain and nose a veritable facet. Fun stuff.

But you know, it kept my mind off things, LOL.

This week I've felt so great that I'm daily praising the Lord for renewed health. Sure, the nose still has a little gunk, but I can breathe through it. I can taste and smell again. My stomach isn't revolting, I have no fever. My eyes are back to full strength after the bizarre swelling, so I can read. I can edit.

I can check my email every five minutes to see if there's anything from a certain editor yet . . . ;-)

See, this is going to be a relatively quick turnaround one way or another. I'll have a yes or no pretty soon. I think. (Unless, my imagination points out, I just never hear and they let me assume a no . . . aaaaggghhhh!) Which means that every single day, I'm praying and praying and praying, giving God not only my fears but my hopes. Turning the whole thing over to him, to his will, his dreams for me, because my little brain is stuck between "It's finally going to happen" and "It's never going to happen."

I'm an optimist--this is no secret, LOL. But there's still that niggling Doubt Monster who whispers, "Every time you hope about something like this, you're disappointed. Your hope jinxes you." Stupid Doubt Monster! But what are my choices? To not hope? I can't do that. It's not in my nature. So instead, I hope, but give it to God. I trust him with it.

Last Friday I had a great moment. I was sitting at my desk, glanced over at my email, and thought, "If an email came in from the editor right now, I would be terrified to open it. Terrified. Lord, I'm so stinking afraid about all of this!"

My Bible lay open on the corner of my desk, still at the Psalms where I'd left off the day before. I pulled it over and glanced down at the next chapter. Here's what it said:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid? . . .
One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I see:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.

I had a real "Wow" moment from that. Literally two seconds after whispering the words, "I'm afraid," God directed my gaze toward those verses. And reminded me that my goal in life is not a contract with a major publisher. It's dwelling in the house of the Lord. It's beholding his beauty. It's being his, doing his will.

God is so cool. =) Sure, waiting still stinks. But I'm waiting with the Lord. I'm doing his work while I do so.

In other awesome news (which is some of that work I've been doing), our publishing company, WhiteFire Publishing, is tickled to welcome Dina Sleiman to the family. Her medieval love story, Dance of the Dandelion, will make its debut this summer, right on the heels of Christine Lindsay's romance during the British Raj in India, Shadowed in Silk. I'm so excited to be working with these awesome ladies! =) (And not just because it keeps me busy while waiting to hear from another editor myself, LOL.)

Thanks to all who prayed for me while I was sick. You guys are the best!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Remember When . . . Science and Religion Started Fighting?

It was about a hundred and fifty years ago. Society was still Victorian, complete with strict morals, expectations, and a rising influence of middle class prosperity and individualism. Younger sons of gentry were still expected to go into the church whether they felt a call or not, and scientists had made such amazing leaps and bounds in understanding the invisible forces of the world that in consequence, that world was changing.

People still cried out for faith in something. They still wanted to believe. But science told them they must have proof. Fashionable people were making a whole culture around questioning one's faith. And the church . . . well, it was still more about lip-service in a lot of places. How can lip-service possibly fight against scientific evidence?

And so Spiritualism was born, along with two types of people involved in it--the spiritualists, who were masters at suspending their disbelief in the face of even the most outlandish claims, and the psychical researchers, who approached this new quasi-science-faith with what they told themselves were scientific principles, though often they thoroughly messed them up.

The goal of Spiritualism? To prove scientifically that there is life after death, and so a God. They wanted to prove faith. They wanted to communicate and ask questions of those who had gone before them. They wanted to question, and to find answers.

I've undoubtedly mentioned this movement on here before at some point, because I have a story idea that revolves around this bizarre, oh-so-popular Victorian trend. Strangely, I keep thinking of this story as something that exists--something I ought to be able to talk to people about. Yet all I've written in it is 10 pages, LOL.

So I broke out a rather intimidating tome I bought three years ago to research Spiritualism and figure I'll do my homework on the story while finishing up a few other projects. I have a feeling I'm going to be coming across some really interesting things to share with y'all, and thought I'd first remind everyone of what in the world this strange movement was all about.

So brace yourself--the war between science and religion is underway in research world, and it spawned some truly bizarre little battles. Careful of flying shrapnel--in this particular war it was reputed to take the form of moving chairs and knocking on walls. ;-)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Story Time . . . The Read and Share Bible - Full Review & Giveaway

A while back, I posted about a great book of Bible stories for kids, but I'd only read the first few stories in it. Well, we have since finished the book and start ed over, so I though I'd share my full review. =)

The Read and Share Bible is a collection of over 200 stories from both Old and New Testaments, each one broken down into short snippets with brightly colored pictures to hold your little one's attention. So the story of Joseph, for instance, is actually 13 stories starting with the coat of many colors and stretching through when Jacob brings the whole family to Egypt.

Here's what I adore about this book--my kids adore it. Each night I let each child pick which book they want me to read, and each night my five-year-old daughter says, "The Bible stories." She loves discovering these stories, loves when she already knows one, loves asking questions about them . . . and loves that when she asks, "Really? That happened for real?" Mommy answers, "Yes, it really did." (Unlike with all the other books and TV shows she watches that aren't 'real.')

I also love that this book has so many stories in it, the familiar ones along with some of the more obscure. Most of the bloody or violent ones have been left out (or seriously) downplayed, but they still get a full view of the hand of God through many generations. The stories are accurate if abridged, and when we finished it up, I knew my kids had just gotten a great foundation--one we could talk about and build on. And best of all, when we read the last story, my daughter said, "Yay! Now we get to start over tomorrow night!" Is there any better recommendation for a children's book??

Here's what I don't love about it--in an effort to make the stories child-friendly, some facts I deemed key were left out. I'm not a big fan of dumbing down language to the degree they did (like only calling Pharaoh "the king." Teach them a new word, it's okay.), and the biggest complaint I have is that it tells about Moses getting the Ten Commandments but doesn't tell us what they were. I was looking forward to a kid-friendly list and was seriously disappointed when it wasn't there. My kids wanted to know them, too--so I explained them in my own words, as I did in several places where the explanation stopped just a bit too short for her.

But complaints aside, this is by far the best collection of kids' Bible stories I've found. It's engaging, it's compelling, it has lead-in/follow-up questions for each story that are natural and fun, and it's now a part of our nightly ritual. It's also a semi-regular part of our Children's Church, and the other kids  love it too.

And because our family loves it so much, I'm thrilled to be able to offer a copy for giveaway. This contest will run both here and at the Christian Review of Books, and you can enter both places for two chances to win. To enter, please leave a comment below with an email address.

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 3/22/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Word of the Week - Cheat

First of all, I'd like to say I think about this phrase for my books ONLY. ;-) It recently came up in a manuscript I'd read, where a character says, "He cheated on me." Obviously, we all know what she meant. "Cheat," is in fact the most common way these days to say someone was unfaithful to a spouse or significant other.

But you know what? That phrase wasn't recorded until 1934. So all those historicals that have a character accusing another of cheating . . . well, they must mean at cards, right? ;-)

There have been a few occasions in my own books where I had this situation too, and my gut told me to look up the usage of the word. When I discovered it was so very modern, that obviously forced me to find the alternate ways of saying this. "Be unfaithful to" was a little wordy, but "betray" always worked well.

I know, I know, what a note to start the week on! LOL. But it's one of those surprisingly-modern things, so I thought I'd share. Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Friend Shellie - Interview & Giveaway

Today I'm happy to welcome Shellie Neumeier to my blog to chat about her debut novel, a YA book entitled Driven. I've got this book sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, and it looks great.

Shellie has been generous enough to offer a copy to one lucky reader, so please leave your comments below with an email address where you can be reached--and be sure to click "follow" if you haven't already! ;-)

~*~

About Driven

Robyn can’t help but notice the handsome new guy at her school. She ignores, however, the arrival of another being at Brookfield Central High School—a demon assigned to destroy her…

Robyn loves her friends, enjoys her youth group, and looks forward to meeting cute Caleb Montague. But when a caustic news reporter challenges her school’s prayer team, Robyn must choose: defend their right to meet on campus and pray for whomever they wish or back down at the principal’s request.
Now she must learn what God wants her to do. And she had better learn fast, because there’s a supernatural enemy in town whose sole mission is to stop her—no matter the cost.

~*~

About Shellie

Shellie Neumeier holds a degree in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a minor in Psychology, Sociology and Social Studies. A devoted mother of four, Shellie previously worked on staff with Northbrook Church as the King’s Kids ministry assistant (serving children in grades 2nd through 5th), developing and writing curriculum, involving families and volunteers in King’s Kids programs and encouraging the spiritual growth in school-aged children. Shellie’s YA novel, Driven, is now available in electronic form and is scheduled for print release March 1, 2011 from Risen Fiction. She is an active member of SCBWI and ACFW as well as a contributing author at various blogs including Samiesisters.com, thebarndoor.net, and ya_noveling.com.

~*~

What's your latest book?

My debut novel, Driven, was released for the holidays in its kindle version and will be released everywhere else on March 1, 2011 by Risen Books.

I love the cover! But I suppose we should look beneath it. ;-) What was the hardest part to write?

The fight scene. I’ve never been in one or watched one and I rarely read about them. It took quite a bit of research, editing, and imagination to get it to work.

Where's a fight-picking friend when you need one, anyway? =) What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

Hopefully my readers will come away with a renewed sense of power. A sense of I-can-do-that, whatever “that” may be in their lives. And of course I hope they come away having enjoyed a great ride from the story.

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

I love writing YA because the readers are so passionate about what they consume. And they give you latitude with creative moments, but keep you accountable with unrealistic moments too. It’s a challenge, but I’ve always loved challenges.

I have a huge appreciation for the YA genre--you definitely have a challenging, but oh-so-rewarding job! What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

I’m finishing the Hunger Games trilogy and I have Brandilyn Collins’ novel, Deceit, on my kindle just waiting to be read next.
 
Oo, don't forget to breathe. (Tee hee hee) Okay, let's change directions a bit. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

I would love one of those warehouse loft offices with super high ceilings and tons of workspace, oh and a huge wall of windows overlooking a river, but in the real world I work at the kitchen counter once my children have been sent off to school. It’s crowded and usually sticky, but it works.

LOL on the sticky. Glad I'm not the only one with a sticky table. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

Google—it’s open all the time and a thesaurus/dictionary. Those pesky words slip my mind from time to time and I can’t find them without that thesaurus.

If you could take your family on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Disney cruise. Hands down. We live in Wisconsin and its January. I think that says it all =).

You bet it does! And we are SO with you.

~*~

Thanks so much for visiting, Shellie, and giving my readers a glimpse into your fun book! Readers, be sure to check out her website at http://shellieneumeier.com in addition to the blogs she listed in her bio. You can find Driven at Amazon.

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 3/11/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Some Random Stuff

For those who haven't already seen elsewhere, I have the flu. On top of the sinus/ear infection (which has mostly cleared up). That makes 3 weeks of straight sickness. Fun stuff.

Needless to say, a few things have slipped. Housework primarily (ha ha), but blogging too. Sorry about that. I'll have an interview/giveaway posted tomorrow, and next week I'll hopefully be back to my usual schedule. 

In the meantime, I thought I'd let you know that this week I'm featured on Shannon Vannatter's blog. Monday she posted my wedding story, complete with our gorgeous beach pictures, yesterday was an interview about the romance of Kasia and Xerxes from Jewel of Persia, and tomorrow will be an excerpt from the book. You can comment on any of the posts to be entered for a chance to win a copy.

Also, I just started a Yahoo! group for writers of Biblical and Ancient World fiction. If any of you write or are interested in writing in these oh-so-awesome genres, let me know and I'll send you an invite!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Story Time . . . LOVE AMID THE ASHES by Mesu Andrews

I'm a little late posting today thanks to another round of sickness, but I figure y'all will enjoy hearing about this book, so I'll offer a very informal review. =)

Love Amid the Ashes is the story of Job like you've never heard it before. In a wonderful glimpse at the true time line of the Old Testament and some logical deduction and a little imagination, Mesu weaves this story of trial and tribulation and faithfulness with that of another Biblical character we hear only a little about--Dinah, the violated daughter of Jacob, whose brothers slaughter a whole city on her behalf. 

After the death of her beloved Grandfather Isaac, Dinah, always the outcast, finds herself promised in marriage to Job's eldest son. But when Job's world comes crashing down the very day they reach Uz, she finds herself drawn to the faith and compassion of this great man brought low--and caught in the web of desperate deceit of his wife, Sitis.

I'm not quite done yet, but I can tell you now that this is a book of amazing faith, unexpected love, and tender emotions that result in characters that feel incredibly realistic. Mesu does an expert job of painting a vivid setting, and the Old Testament comes to life under her expert hand.

I could go on--and probably will once I'm done, and well again (grrr, sickness!)--but for now let it suffice to say that this is Biblical novel I'm ecstatic to add to my shelf and an author I'm going to be watching closely. =)