Sunday, December 31, 2006

Shelley Bates

You are going to love this interview with my friend, Shelley Bates. And you'll love her books as much as I do.

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Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

The first book in my Elect trilogy, Grounds to Believe, was almost autobiographical because the heroine was struggling with leaving her church, as was I. In fact, I used her as an avatar, the way you would in a computer game, to see what she would do with my thought processes and actions, and to see how her choices would play out given her social community. It was a good way to give myself therapy, because writers certainly can’t afford a psychologist!

That's the truth. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I’ve done some interesting stuff in the pursuit of research for these books. I learned to ride a motorcycle for Grounds to Believe, and in fact still hold a license. I never bought a Harley like my hero’s, though :) For another book, a suspense that has never been published, I learned to sail a small sailboat, including experimenting with what would happen when it capsized. Brr. That water was cold! For A Sounding Brass, whose antagonist is a radio evangelist, I sat with a radio DJ during her show and learned how to work the soundboard in the studio. One of the side effects of research is the way it enriches your life.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I was eight years old and got a rave review on a little composition about a ghost in a graveyard. Very cheery stuff. But I discovered that the written word makes people respond, so I decided that was the path for me. Thirty years, two literature degrees, and many manuscripts later, I was finally published.

We all have varied paths to publication, and differing timetables. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

If I get started, I’ll never stop :) I like women’s fiction by Rosamund Pilcher, Kristin Hannah, and Jenny Crusie. I like science fiction by Connie Willis and Barbara Hambly. I adore Elizabeth George’s fat mysteries (as well as the Inspector Lynley series on TV—who doesn’t love Nate Parker?). Give me Christian fiction by Tracey Bateman or Deb Raney, or romance by Candice Hern or Suzanne Brockmann, and I’m a happy woman.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

The Elect trilogy includes RITA Award winner Grounds to Believe, RITA finalist Pocketful of Pearls, and my new release, A Sounding Brass, which Publisher’s Weekly said contained “spiritual insights coming from unexpected places.” And Warner Faith will be releasing Over Her Head in May 2007. Here’s the teaser: “Laurie Hale has the perfect life—and the perfect family to go with it. But no parenting manual tells you what to do when your teenage daughter is accused of murder.” Heh heh.

And we have to wait until May to read that. What a tease!!! How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

One word: Chickens. Hanging out with them in my garden while I work is my relaxation therapy.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Sometimes a character arrives in my head with a name, such as Julia McNeill in Grounds to Believe. With other characters, such as Dinah Traynell in Pocketful of Pearls, I decide on a major trait or motivation for him or her, and go look it up in my Dictionary of English Surnames. Dinah’s last name is from a root word that means “trapped,” which is what she is until she learns to accept God’s love and free herself from her cage. Cool, huh? Etymology is a hobby of mine, so I like to play with it in my characters’ names.

Sounds like fun. I love word origins and word meanings, too. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

It would have to be winning the RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America last year for Grounds to Believe. That book was rejected by every house in New York for five years, until Steeple Hill gave it a chance. And because it’s the book of my heart and very personal, seeing it get that kind of recognition was a wonderful experience.

I can see how it would be. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

I’d be a Burmese cat, with big golden eyes. My dream vacation involves someone bringing me food and drinks at regular intervals while I lie in the sun. Seems to me a cat would get this kind of treatment every day, right?

It also sounds like a cruise. What is your favorite food?

I like just about everything, but crème brulée and chiles rellenos are at the top of my list.

That's quite a culinary combination. What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

A Sounding Brass is based on true events (believe me, you can’t make this stuff up). A radio evangelist came to the town my cousins live in, and during the course of his "ministry," managed to defraud the entire town to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. When I saw the article in the paper, I cut it out right away, because the pricking of my thumbs told me it would make a great basis for a story. I needed a way to bring the Elect, my fictional toxic church, to the realization that their tendency to glorify their leadership just couldn’t work anymore, and a charming evangelist like this seemed the perfect solution.

Thanks for the opportunity to visit, Lena!

I really enjoyed it, too, Shelley. The insight into your life was interesting. I love your books and can hardly wait for the next one.

Readers, be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of A Sounding Brass.

Announcing Another Winner

Rachelle is the winner of a copy of Rose Kelly by Janet Spaeth. Please e-mail me your mailing address so we can get the book out to you.

There's still time to leave a comment on Tricia Goyer's post for a chance to win a copy of Arms of Deliverance.

I had reader contact me this week, because she didn't get the word that she won a book this year. After a period of time, we choose another winner. If you don't want to risk missing the post telling about you winning a book, sign up in the column on the right to be notified by FeedBlitz when an new post goes up on this site. Then you won't miss anything.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tricia Goyer -- A Very Interesting Author

Tricia is a fellow blogger, a fellow member of ACFW, and a thoroughly nice person. I love a person who writes interesting historical novels with such authenticity. You'd almost think she actually lived during the time period. I know you'll love getting to know her, as much as I have.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

You know, I never really thought about “me” being in my characters, but my close friends and family tell me I do. I have two books, where the main characters are especially “me.” The first is From Dust and Ashes. Helene is a Nazi officer’s wife who is abandoned near the end of the war. She is forced to raise two children alone, and she has many regrets from her past. One of my friends, called after reading it and said, “It was like reading your story only in historical form.” I hadn’t thought about it until then, but as a pregnant teen I was abandoned by the baby’s father, and I suppose a lot of those emotions spilled out.

The other book is Arms of Deliverance, which is just out. In that story, Mary is born to a single mom. She later discovers who her father is, but has a very formal relationship. Through the story she learns about the heart of a father in a special way. Like Mary I was born to a single mom, and I always felt I wasn’t good enough to be worthy of a relationship with my biological dad (who I didn’t meet until I was 26-years-old. Again, those feelings and emotions came out in the story. Of course, real life often doesn’t have the same happy endings.

One of my daughters got pregnant and was abandoned by the father of the child, so I understand many of the emotions, too. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I’m a very stable and predictable person . . . but I am quirky every week during our children’s church program. My husband is a children’s church leader and I volunteer every week, dressing in a variety of costumes, using puppets, acting out Bible Stories and skits. We have a blast, and my three kids are involved too!

How fun, Tricia! I have a drama background and have also done puppets. We have a lot in common. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I first started writing in 1993, when I was pregnant with my third child. A friend at church was writing a novel and something clicked when she told me about it. (Cindy Martinusen now as five novels published!)

Looking back, I realized I had the heart of a writer before that. I LOVED to read. I made up all types of stories in my head. I won a few essay contests in high school, but it took a friend’s encouragement to “click.”

So why haven't I featured Cindy with an interview? Have her contact me. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I love a wide-variety of books. I mostly read research books—memoirs, battle summaries, etc. But I also love Chick-lit, a good suspense, and historical novels, of course.

That's one reason your books ring with authenticity. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

Believe it or not, From Dust and Ashes was the first novel I ever finished . . . and that was only after I had a contract. (Yes, I’m only of those blessed people who sold my work on proposal alone.)

My novels with Moody are: From Dust and Ashes, Night Song, Dawn of a Thousand Nights, and Arms of Deliverance—which I got to hold in my hands just a few days ago!

I’ve also written Mealtime Moments (Focus on the Family), 10 Minutes to Showtime (Tommy Nelson), Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Young Mom (Zondervan), and Generation NeXt Parenting, which released in September.

In the next few years I'll have three more novels hitting the shelves and a marriage book for Gen Xers.

Wow! That's some list. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

There is only one way . . . by turning to God. In the past ten years or so I’ve made a habit of morning quiet time with God. I wake up before anyone else in the house and read my Bible, work through Bible Study books, journal and pray. Alone I can’t go through life with an eternal perspective—it’s impossible. Alone I could never remain sane. So I lean on Christ. In my weakness HIS strength is complete. I still run, run, run . . . but I strive to run after the things He’s calling me to focus on—family, church, writing, mentoring. He helps me to run than race with endurance and keep my eyes on the prize. He shows me what Real Life in Him is all about.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Usually, I have names that seem to pop into my heads the same time as the stories do. I have to be careful though, I have my favorites! In Night Song I have a Daniel. Then Dan popped up in Dawn of a Thousand Nights. I didn’t realize this until I was in the middle of writing Arms of Deliverance, and I realized on of my main characters was Danielle. No joke! I had to change her name, of course.

Overall, I pick names for the “sound” they make. My female characters are very driven and accomplished, but I balance that with gentle-sounding names that evoke an inner softness. Libby, Evie, and Sophie are a few . . .

On the other hand, I like short and powerful names for my male characters: Peter, Nick, Dan, Philip.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Without a doubt my kids. I love how they place God, church, and family in the center of their lives. They are ages 17, 14, and 12 now and I adore hanging out with them. In addition to that, I work very hard at having a strong marriage too. It’s paid off and our home life is full of love and care for each other.

I know what a blessing that can be, since my marriage is very strong and long-lasting. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

What a question! I’d like to say a dog. My little dog is the sweetest thing ever. She follows me everywhere, lies at my feet as I write, enjoys our walks more than anything, and peers up at me with the most adoring eyes. Sometimes I pray that I’ll learn from her, “Lord, make me as devoted to you as this silly dog is to me.” I desire to follow God everywhere, lie at His feet, enjoy our walk more than anything, and peer up at Him with adoring eyes.

What is your favorite food?

That’s easy. My grandma lives with us and she’s a great cook! Coming from a Hispanic background, she makes the best homemade enchiladas and tamales. I beg her often, but since they are both so much work, usually only get them on holidays.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Arms of Deliverance takes place in Europe 1944. Katrine, a Czech Jew, is so successful in her attempt to pass as an Aryan that she finds herself dating a Nazi officer. Having convinced him of her genetic purity, the officer sends her to stay at a Lebensborn home—a Nazi breeding program in which children are raised and indoctrinated by the state.

Meanwhile, rival American reporters Lee and Mary land assignments on the frontlines of war-torn-Europe—Lee joins troops sailing for Normandy, while Mary’s destiny lies in the cramped quarters of a B-17 bearing down on Berlin. Before the presses roll, their lives will be indelibly marked by a caring American navigator, brave French resistors, and a maniacal Nazi officer. Mostly, it’s a story of unexpected redemption.

It’s a page-turner, if I say so myself!

Of course it is. I can hear the scurry of feet heading toward a bookstore to pick up a copy, accompanied by clicking keys as other people order the book online. Of course, one of the readers will win a copy on this blog. Tricia, thank you for visiting with me today.

Readers, be sure and leave a comment for the chance to win a copy. Also, there's still time to leave a comment on Janet Spaeth's interview, too.

Two Holiday Winners

Due to strange circumstances in my life this week, I'm later than usual announcing the winners. Richard Mabry offered to send books to two winners. They are Sherry B and Eileen. Please contact me with your mailing addresses.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Eve at Joe's Diner

I write a Christmas story each year. Here's the one for 2006:

Muriel Stone needlessly wiped the counter while she stared into the tiny parking lot in front of the diner. Whirling snowflakes curtained the inky night beyond the reach of the lights. She turned toward the pass-through window to the kitchen. "Joe, why don’t we just close up and go home before the weather gets too bad?"

The older man with a white cook’s cap on his head leaned close to the opening. "Can’t do that, Muriel. This stretch of road is long and lonely. What if someone who doesn’t know about how really far apart the towns are needs some place to light for a while?"

She tossed the damp white rag onto the shelf under the counter. "I guess you’re right, but we haven’t had a customer for over three hours."

He smiled at her. "You go on home if you want to. I can hold down the fort alone."

Muriel gave her head a swift shake, and one curly lock fell from the bun at the back of her head and tickled her neck. She stuck it back under the knot. "I said I’d work tonight, and I will."

After all, she really needed the extra money Joe paid for the holidays. She still owed the hospital $5,000 on her deceased husband’s final bill. It had taken her over two years to whittle it down that low. With the tips she’d been receiving lately, it might take another couple to finally pay it off. What a dismal forecast for her future.

The brass bell over the door jingled, and she looked up. A middle-aged couple, bundled against the cold, made their way to the farthest booth from the door. Probably to keep from feeling the wintry wind in case someone else came in. Muriel filled two glasses. After sticking menus under one arm, she picked up the water and headed around the counter.

"How can I help you folks?" The smile she painted on her face as fake as a three dollar bill as she handed them the menus.

The woman pulled a cap from her tumbled, white curls and looked up at Muriel. "I need something hot and nourishing. What do you suggest?"

Her companion silently watched the exchange with a half-smile on his face.

"Joe has a delicious pot of stew going, and his cornbread muffins’ll melt in your mouth." Muriel poised her pencil over the small green pad.

A look of deep understanding passed between her customers before the man ordered. "That sounds fine to us. My wife and I would like coffee while we wait for you to bring the food."
Muriel didn’t need to write their order down. She walked to the pass-through where Joe waited expectantly. "These people want some of the stew and cornbread."

He nodded and set to work. The steaming food appeared in the window just as she finished pouring the coffee. After serving the bowls of stew, Muriel returned with the hot bread and butter.

With a twinkle in her eyes, the woman gently touched Muriel’s arm. "Since you’re not too busy with customers, could you sit with us while we eat?"

Muriel glanced from her to her husband, who nodded his agreement. Why not? It had been a boring afternoon and evening. She was good at her job, because she liked talking to people. "Hey Joe, I’m going to visit with these people unless someone else comes in."

He gave a wave from the kitchen, and she knew he didn’t mind.

They talked for over an hour. These people fascinated Muriel, telling her about being retired, the family scattered all over the country, the far-flung places they’d visited in their travels. Jesse and Martin Hamilton expressed an interest in her life, and she found herself telling them more than she had ever shared with anyone, except Paul when he was alive.

Muriel couldn’t remember exactly what led up to it, but eventually they talked about God as if He were their personal friend. She’d never known anyone like them. Since she hadn’t come from a religious family, she’d never heard of the things they shared with her. Somehow, she soon felt her heart yearn for the kind of peace that radiated from this couple. If only it were possible for her to experience it.

As soon as that thought entered Muriel’s mind, Jesse reached toward her and took her hand. "We didn’t just happen to drive by tonight. God told us to come here to this diner to talk to you. He loves you and wants you to know Him the same way we do."

As coincidental as that sounded, Muriel’s heartbeat quickened. She wanted to know this God they spoke about, especially if what they said was true. "So how do I get to know Him?"

Martin reached into the seat beside him and picked up a Bible. She’d seen one before, but had never felt drawn toward it as she was now. He pushed the red leather-bound book across the table toward his wife. Jesse opened it and started reading. The words came alive in Muriel’s heart.

After the woman shared several passages from the book, Martin asked if Muriel wanted to accept Jesus as her Savior. When she nodded, they prayed over her, then helped her know the words to pray for herself.

If anyone had ever told her a simple prayer would change her, Muriel would have thought the person was crazy. She was still a waitress in a small diner in the middle of nowhere. She had debts hanging over her head and missed her husband. But something inside her had come alive. For the first time in her life, she really understood what Christmas was all about.

Muriel looked at her new friends and smiled through her happy tears. "Thank you for coming here and telling me about Jesus."

"We were glad to do it." Martin took his Bible when Jesse handed it to him.

Muriel decided she would have to save the money to buy one for herself. Not a leather one like they had. She knew there were other kinds. If she had to, she’d just get a paperback.

Jesse pulled open the large tote bag she carried. "The Lord told us to bring you a gift, but we don’t want you to open it until we’re gone."

Muriel, who really liked getting presents but didn’t get very many, only gave the gaily wrapped box a cursory glance. "Are you leaving anytime soon?"

Martin scooted out of his side of the booth. "We have to be on our way. We’re going to visit our newest grandson for the first time."

After jumping up from beside Jesse, Muriel looked from one of her new friends to the other. "I hope I haven’t held you up too long."

The smiling gray-haired man took her hand in his. "This was the most important part of our journey."

Muriel clutched the present as she walked them to the front door. When she turned back, Joe stood behind the counter.

"So what happened out here?" His words sounded cheerful.

"The strangest thing." She sat on a stool and told him all about it. "I’ve never felt like this before."

Joe nodded. "I’ve been praying for you a long time."

"You’re a Christian, too?"

"Yeah, but I guess I’m not as good a one as I should be if the Lord had to send someone else to tell you about Himself." Joe poured both of them cups of coffee and settled on the stool next to hers. "So open your present."

Muriel tore off the paper. The box contained a leather Bible with her name on the front in gold. How could that be?

"Did you have anything to do with this?"

Joe shook his head and took another drink from his cup.

When Muriel picked up the book and caressed the smooth navy cover, she noticed that five envelopes lined the box. She opened one and counted out ten $100 bills. Each one contained the same thing. In the last one she opened, there was also a note.

God told us to bring this to you. He even told us your name. This money must seem like a treasure to you, but just remember your greatest treasure is the one we showed you before we gave you this present.

Copyright 2006, Lena Nelson Dooley

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Introducing My Good Friend Janet Spaeth

I've known Janet a long time. We've written for the same publishing company, been online friends, been roommates at national conferences. Today I want you to get to know her.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

There’s always a bit of me in each character—usually I draw their flaws from my own. Fortunately I have a lot to work with, LOL!

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Oh, wow. What a question! I’m either totally quirky or totally boring, and it’s scary that I can’t tell which.

Actually, I find you totally delightful, so maybe I'm totally quirky, too. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

When I was in high school, I wrote songs a lot, and when I began college, that moved nicely into poetry. But then my creative writing teacher told me that poets don’t make much money, and after thinking about that deeply for three seconds, I flung poetry to the winds and decided to try fiction instead, and it was a perfect fit right away. So from the worst of motives, I found my calling. Isn’t God great?

Yes, He certainly is. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I love mysteries, romance, chicklit, and children’s and young adult novels. You can keep me occupied for hours by putting a cookbook in my hands, too.

I love to read cookbooks, too. My husband laughs about that. Even though I used to love to cook a lot, I like things nice and easy now. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I’ve had 3 Heartsong Presents: Rose Kelly, Candy Cane Calaboose, and Angel’s Roost. Plus I’ve had 7 novellas in anthologies.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

My family keeps me together, and prayer is the glue that holds my sanity in place. Of course, it could easily be that I’ve lost this battle already! Eek!

We've all prayed for Janet this year when she lost her beloved husband.

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How do you choose your characters’ names?

Interesting question! Sometimes a character is named in recognition of someone I know, but usually one name just “fits.” With Rose Kelly, I was sitting in church one morning and the name just popped into my mind. I didn’t have a story for it at the time, but that came quickly.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

My family, of course! They mean everything to me. They’re my blood and my breath, and I can’t imagine life without them. God has truly blessed me!

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

I’d be a cat, and I’d be owned by me. She has the best life in the whole world. I feed her, I provide her a nice warm lap, and I tell her how beautiful she is. Sigh…

What is your favorite food?

Oh, a guilty pleasure! Cinnabon, of course! Get me to an airport! Fast!

I love Cinnabon, too. Did you know they have Cinnabon cheesecake at TGI Fridays? Janet, what fun to share this time with you. I look forward to the time we'll be together again.

Remember, Readers, leave a comment on the interview for a chance to win a copy of Rose Kelly. Also, there's still time to leave a comment on Richard Mabry's interview for a chance to win a copy of The Tender Scar.

Announcing Two Winners--Dona Watson and Cynthia Ruchti

Dona, you are the winner of the book by Terry Burns, Shepherd's Son. Please send me your mailing address, so we can get the book out to you.

Since the winner of A Vase of Mistaken Identity by Cathy Elliott hasn't contacted me, I've chosen another winner, Cynthia Ruchti. Please send me your mailing address.

A new interview will go up later today. You'll love meeting Janet Spaeth.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Today We're Talking to a Friend from Dallas

Dr. Richard Mabry has a new non-fiction book out, and we're featuring it today, but he also writes fiction. I met Richard and his lovely wife when they joined the local chapter of ACFW, DFW Ready Writers.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

Of course, in The Tender Scar, everything is about me and my family. It is centered around my journalings, and reveals my emotions and experiences for two years after Cynthia’s death. It was especially hard to include the writing that shows my failures, but that was the only way to truly offer help for people going through the same trials.

In fiction, I guess we write what we know, which is why my protagonist in my novels is a surgeon. I’ve incorporated a bit of my background in baseball in my first novel, and my work in academic medicine in my second. The third begins with a kidnapping--that one doesn’t reflect my experiences.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Conquered my fear of heights long enough to walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, 150 yards long and 230 feet high (that’s 23 stories). Never again!

That's some feat, Richard. I applaud you for it. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I’ve done medical writing for decades: a number of textbooks and over a hundred professional papers. After my first wife died, I used journaling to help me through the grieving process. In 2003, I decided to attend the Glorieta Christian Writers’ Conference, hoping to find direction for using those raw journalings. It was there that I was inspired to take them and turn them into a book that would help others who had suffered a similar loss. That’s when The Tender Scar began to take form.

At the same conference, an editor told me that, although he didn’t have a need for the type of non-fiction book I had in mind, he’d like to see me try my hand at fiction, and invited me to send him a proposal. I did write that novel, and although it didn’t make it past the pub board, by that time I was hooked on writing Christian fiction.

An interesting journey, to say the least. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

Almost all my reading is fiction. I enjoy mysteries, police procedurals, and adventure.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

That first novel, More Than A Game, deals with a young man who fails as a professional baseball player, and goes back to complete his medical studies, only to be brought back into contact with his boyhood idol at a baseball fantasy camp. The second, Caught In The Torrent, takes that same surgeon through tumultuous events including his wife’s stalking, his own professional burnout, and his father’s death. The third novel will be my first venture into suspense.

These sound interesting to me. As with all of us, it usually takes a while to find the right publishing house. I pray that you do soon. Now on a different note, how do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

God has blessed me once more with the love of a wonderful woman, and my wife, Kay, keeps me grounded and sane. We walk (and talk) daily. I play golf once a week with an old friend. And we watch reruns of sitcoms (thanks to TiVo).

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I don’t keep a file. When writing fiction, I usually just sit down and run through the mental list of the hundreds of people I’ve met through life, combine a first and last name that seem to fit, and then figure out who they are and why they act that way.

Sounds like a good plan to me. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I’ve been blessed with so many things, personally and professionally, but I’d have to say that I’m most proud of this: my children (Allen, Brian, and Ann) are fine Christian men and women who continue to display the sense of values that Cynthia and I tried to instill into them.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

Judging from the way they get preferential treatment at the home of my son and daughter-in-law, I’d say a cat. I’m not sure whether people own cats or vice-versa.

What is your favorite food?

At last, an easy question. Tex-Mex food. Specifically, the #4 lunch special at La Calle Doce in Dallas’ Oak Cliff section. Tell Alma I sent you.

Sounds good to me. James and I may just have to venture over there and try it.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

This was a book I felt had to be written. After Cynthia’s death, I read everything I could get my hands on, but nothing spoke to the gut-wrenching emotions and the daily quandaries I faced. In my book, each chapter begins with an excerpt from my own journaling, followed by what I hope are practical words of advice and comfort. Each chapter ends with a scripture and prayer. The reviews have been excellent, and I pray that the book continues to serve a purpose in the area of Christian grief.

If people can read The Tender Scar and see the sufficiency of God’s grace for their needs in the trying times they’re facing, it will just be another proof that He can take even a terrible tragedy and bring something positive out of it.

Thank you, Richard, for this journey into your life.

Readers, be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Tender Scar. Also, there's still time to leave a comment on the interview with Terry Burns.

Rachel Hauck

. . .is the winner of A Rose From the Ashes by J. N. Graham. thank you all for leaving a comment. Rachel, please contact me with your mailing address, and we'll get the book out to you.

a. noel has not contacted me yet with an address. If you know her, please tell her to check out this blog and contact me. I'll give her another week, then I'll choose a different winner.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Another Visit with Terry Burns -- A Good Friend

I know you loved meeting Terry Burns several months ago. We have him back with a new book and new questions. Terry, it's always good to spend time with you, even online. I look forward to seeing you in person again in January at the American Christian Fictions Writers local chapter DFW Ready Writers. We look forward to hearing from you.

Readers, if you are interested in knowing more about that meeting, just e-mail me. The link is to the right.

Terry, why do you write westerns?

I grew up in the era of Saturday matinees with "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke," "Wanted Dead or Alive," and "Have Gun, Will Travel" on the TV. Growing up in the west I've worked a lot on farms and ranches as well, and put on a rodeo for many years. I love the old west and would love to introduce a new generation to this love.

Those titles bring back memories for me, too, Terry. Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?

Christmas Eve at First Baptist Church in Orange, Texas – a candlelight service where I watched both my babies (young teens) get baptized together. No contest.

How has being published changed your life?

It has given me a chance to use my words for the Lord. I've always been a storyteller, always written this and that, but now I get the chance to let my faith show through just a bit in my writing; actually not my faith, but the faith or lack thereof that my characters have. This has led me down paths I hadn't traveled before through being shelved in libraries, through doing workshops, programs and testimonies. Through the places I go to do book signings and the places my books go without me. I think all the time about ways I can spread my words further. The Bible talks about those who sow and those who harvest. Mostly I sow, planting small seeds of faith within what I hope is a good, entertaining story. That's my primary aim, a good fast-moving story that keeps the reader involved. And if a seed gets planted that later may send up a small sprout, well . . .

I completely understand that feeling. What are you reading right now?

Right now Elmer Kelton's Texas Ranger Trilogy, Lone Star Rising. Good book, with a surprising faith element in it that I don't recall seeing in Elmer's work before. Of course by the time this is put online it'll be something else. I read a variety of things, but try to make my primary reading along the lines of what I'm trying to write at the time. I believe what we read has an effect on our thought processes as we write, and if I were reading a bunch of romance for example, as I tried to write a western, I suspect the love interest in the book would end up significantly enhanced.

Romance can be an integral part of every kind of book. I like them better that way. What is your current work in progress?

Surprisingly enough I'm trying my hand at a cozy mystery at present. The jury is still out on that one. I do want to branch out more. I'd also like to write some young adult. Specifically I'd love to write some young adult western to see if I could help introduce some new readers to the genre, but publishers don't seem to warm to that goal right now.

Funny. When I finish writing the currently contracted book, I'm going to work on a cozy mystery proposal. Hang in there about the young adult thing. You know as well as I do that the market is constantly changing. If God has put this on your heart, its time will come. What would be your dream vacation?

Saundra and I would like to take a nice long cruise, with a lot of time built in to write, of course. She's wonderful about seeing that my writing time is protected, but I'd like to have the chance to devote a little time to her, and I think a cruise would be ideal. That's something we've never done.

I hope you get to go soon. James and I have been on two cruises, and I wrote a romance novel based mostly on a cruise ship. It is receiving rave reviews and reader feedback. How do you choose your settings for each book?

I'd have to say they kinda choose me. I've done a couple where the setting was the motivation for the book. In others the characters decided to go to this place or that and I really don't know why they decided to do it. My favorite way is because that is where I happen to be and I'm getting the chance to write on site.

If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?

Laura Bush, and it has nothing to do with politics. She strikes me as a very classy lady in the midst of all the bull that is constantly going on in that environment. She's the world's most famous librarian, and I have a huge respect for librarians. Mostly it would be because she really does a lot for writing and writers. I sent her the first copy of Mysterious Ways as a means of thanks for all she does and was disappointed that I didn't get a little note back, but I suppose she gets enough books that way to populate a small library.

Mrs. Bush is definitely a strong advocate for books and reading, both in adults and children, and I highly respect her, too. What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?

I like to camp out, though going in the RV generally entails writing time as well. Saundra and I both like to see new things and new places, and who knows, down the road might be the type to become full time RV people.

Sounds like fun. Actually, the only camping I like is in an RV. I'm not the tent on the ground type. Tell us about the featured book.

Shepherd's Son is the third book in the Mysterious Ways series. It was born one morning when my stepdaughter came in to tell me about a program she had just heard on the Good Shepherd, drawing links between actual flocks of sheep and the church as a spiritual flock. That immediately conjured up thoughts of such a comparison back in the days when herding sheep was hated and despised in the midst of cow country. Some delightful characters emerged to help me tell the story, and it has the strongest and most unusual conversion scene in it that has ever come about in one of my works. There is also a scene where actual young shepherds hear for the first time the story of David and Goliath that I think will give the reader a fresh look at that story, it sure enough did that for me. It was a fun book to write, and I think will be a fun one to read.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading several of your books, Terry. I highly recommend them whether the reader has ever read a western or not.

Readers, remember to leave a comment on this interview for the chance to win a copy of Shepherd's Son. There's also still time to leave a comment on J.N. Graham's interview. The winner of A Rose From the Ashes will be chosen next weekend.

a. noel

You are the winner of A Vase of Mistaken Identity by Cathy Elliott. Please e-mail me with your snail mail address, so we can get the book out to you.

Reading friends, there's still time to leave a comment on J. N. Graham's interview for a chance to win A Rose From the Ashes.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

J. N. Graham

I met Jesse online through American Christian Fiction Writers. I'm happy to introduce her to you.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

I think a little bit of me goes into every character I write. Truly, it’s unavoidable for me. In that same thread however, sometimes my characters are what I wish I could be. I’m very comfortable infusing novels with characters shaped by my own strengths and weaknesses. That said, I’m constantly surprised that the characters in each book stand on their own and have vastly differing and unique personalities.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

(Chuckling here) For about three years I had bright blue hair that hung down to my waist. On a whim I died it that way one day and liked it so much that it stayed lagoon blue for quite a long time! During that period of my life I had the wonderful opportunity to use this as a witnessing tool, believe it or not. You’d be surprised the doors that this opened for me, allowing me to share God’s love with people on the fringes of society who always started conversations with “Hey, cool hair!”

And that's what we want to do, reach everyone for the Lord, especially the disenfranchised. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

In college. I was really struggling with what God wanted from my life. I remember getting up out of bed late one night, scrambling for paper and a pencil so I could jot down a story that had just come to me. When I put down the last word suddenly I realized that this was it.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I love Christian fiction (of course!), but also enjoy biographies and books on archeological studies. I’ve also been known to enjoy a good Michael Crichton or Nicholas Sparks novel from time to time.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

A Rose from the Ashes, The Prairies Call Your Name, Captainess, Malika’s War, and my first novel, Finding Mann.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

Making a very conscious effort to slow down is key. I know that sometimes this is easier said than done, but you’d be surprised how much you can actually cut out of your schedule if you really wanted to. One way to cut back on being crazy busy is to learn the proper use of the word no.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I keep a file of last and first names that I’ve heard or seen somewhere, and tuck that away for later reference. I also love to find out what their meanings are, because although a reader may never know what the name means and how it relates to the theme of my novel, I will.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

While being a novelist is incredibly rewarding, nothing quite compares to starting every day with your sweetheart! Marrying my husband and having a Christ-centered marriage is my proudest achievement.

Even after forty-two years with mine, I have to agree. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

No animal on earth lives better than our 4-year-old Labrador retriever. I would definitely want to be her!

What is your favorite food?

Have you had the Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana soup with garlic breadsticks? No? Then you have not truly lived, my friend.

Yes, those bread sticks are the best in the world. If I really need a treat, I order a dish of their alfredo sauce to dip them in.

Thank you, Jesse, for giving us a glimpse into your life. Readers, be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win A Rose From the Ashes.

Annette M. Irby

. . .you are the winner of Lost in NashVegas by Rachel Hauck. Please contact me with your mailing address, so we can get the book out to you.

Remember, readers, there's still time to leave comments on Cathy's interview for a chance to win A Vase of Mistaken Identity.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Interviews - Lena Nelson Dooley

I've been blessed to have two new interviews go up online. You might be interested in reading them.

At Beth interviewed Lisa Harris and me about our Heartsong state series that will come out late next year.

I was also featured on at this URL:

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Unveiling Cathy Elliott

Do you like a good mystery? So does Cathy Elliott. That's why she writes them. Follow me as we go inside her world.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

It seems as though there is something of me in every character. I can’t seem to stay out of their lives! But overall, the characters are compilations of traits that work for their role in the story. They are not based on anyone in particular, not even me.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

There are quirky characters in my cozy mystery, so you can imagine I have a few quirky experiences of my own. Once, I left a friend/colleague on hold while I answered another telephone call. (This was before call waiting, etc.) After finishing with the caller, I punched a flashing light and picked up what I thought was my friend’s waiting phone line. I answered using a crazy Swedish accent, “Yah, sure, and kin I help yer?

The voice that answered wasn’t my colleague, but a stranger calling my workplace. I panicked. How could I explain I was just joking at work? So I stayed in character, still speaking with my faux Swedish accent, and completed the call. Somehow, I got away with it, then fell apart laughing at myself.

Still, I should offer my apologies to the Swedes.

As a person from Swedish extraction, I also think it is hilarious. So you're forgiven. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

When my friend and writing mentor, Mary Vaughn Armstrong, told me I had the heart of a writer, I dared to believe her. It was many years before I had my first published piece in my hands, but Mary’s words carried me until then.

I'm glad you listened to her as I'm sure your other readers are, too. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I love the classics and most types of mysteries, though they can’t be too graphic or gory for my Care-Bears heart. Some literary fiction, historical romance, and classic children’s books like The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. I also love to read non-fiction encompassing a variety of subject matter. Lately…pioneer diaries. I enjoy many genres, as long as the writing is good.

We must be sisters under the skin. I love pioneer diaries, too. I get some information for my historicals from them. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I’ve written thirteen children’s books for an educational company; ten titles have been published to date. Most of these books were scientific in nature and I had to do a lot of research so the facts would be correct and the experiments would work. Two of the books were fiction, using a word list. All were challenging to write.

I understand that. I wrote videoscripts for the School of Tomorrow. The scientific experiment ones were tough. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I struggle to slow down, so much to do. But what works for me is to take it day-by-day, chip a little away at my word count, or my unanswered email, or the plethora of projects bearing my name. I have to come back to what really matters – my relationship with Christ and with others. When I focus on this, things come back into perspective.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I love this part! Often, the characters will just come to me already named. I knew Thea James was Thea James when she introduced herself inside my head. I like names to mean something as well, so Thea is short for Dorothea, one of the main characters in George Eliot’s classic work, Middlemarch. There are reasons why Thea has her name, but that’s a wee mystery.

I try to think of several things at once. If I have a common first name, I might choose an uncommon last name. Instead of Bill Miller, I’ll choose Bill Kapolski. Or Winston Miller. For the most part, the names should start with different letters. If I have a Jenny, I don’t want a Janet and a Jason, too. I try and mix it up: some names that sound like the backwoods of hill country, some that sound like the lord and lady of the manor, a nickname or two, and I’ll sprinkle in some that just make me laugh.

Twice, I’ve had to rename characters. Once, the original name looked too much like the heroine’s name on the page, though it sounded different said aloud. But still, that sort of thing confuses me as a reader. The other time, the character never came alive in my head. When I renamed her, she got real spunky!

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I’m not sure how to answer this. Writing my book comes to mind, of course. But I had a lot of support. Raising a wonderful daughter? Hmm, I had so much help. In truth, I think it would be that way with any accomplishment I wanted to name. God has always provided that which is needed to achieve anything good.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

Maybe a Labrador retriever. I love the idea of being useful, like a guide dog or company for someone who is lonely. Labs are beautiful, smart, loyal, and relational. That makes my heart smile.

My favorite dog from childhood was a golden Lab. What is your favorite food?

God forgive me, I’m an ice-cream gal. In my defense, I come from a long line of ice-creamaholics. I didn’t have a chance.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

If I’ve had a roadblock, it was the onset of a care-giving season for my parents. I was afraid that I would have to give up my writing for a time, and would have done so. My folks needed me. But it wasn’t required after all. Instead, God has used my writing to give me joy and to bring healing in a difficult time.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

I’d love to tell you a bit about my first book, a cozy mystery titled, A Vase of Mistaken Identity. It was published in April of 2006 by Kregel Publications, who have been a delight. Here is a brief overview:

Antique dealer, Thea James, acquires a vintage vase with an old list of familiar names tucked inside. At first, she is just curious. But after the first woman on the list has a freak accident and the second goes missing, Thea gets nervous. Then she gets involved, because her name is next!!!

When I first started to write Vase, many people, including some editors, asked, “What is a cozy mystery?” It was a new term for a number of folks. I offered a definition that I especially liked: “Cats and quilts and not a lot of blood.” The murder happens off stage. Since this was my first cozy, I added a quilting theme and my protagonist, Thea, is actually making a quilt for her cat as she lives out the adventure. As a little bonus, the quilt pattern is in the back of the book, so the reader may make Thea’s “Kitty in the Cabin” quilt, as well. Enjoy.

Thanks, Lena, for providing this opportunity to meet your readers in the blogging community. It has been great fun to answer your insightful questions. If anyone else has a question, please feel free to contact me at: - have a great day!

Thank you, Cathy. I know the readers enjoyed getting you a little better. However, I think it's time to come out from behind the book and let us see all of you.

Remember, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of A Vase of Mistaken Identity.

Let's Hear It for Ronie!!!

She's the winner of Robert Elmer's book, The Recital. Contact me with your mailing address, and we'll get that out to you.

There's still a week left to leave a comment on Rachel Hauck's interview for a chance to win Lost in NashVegas.

Also, remember that you can order copies many of my books on The link is on the right hand column of this blog. They make good gifts, and I will sign and personalize them myself.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lost in NashVegas - What an Interesting Title!

We're welcoming Rachel Hauck back to the interview chair. The last time we talked to her was in connection with the novella collection we were both in, along with our friends Pamela Griffin and Lynette Sowell. Today, we'll be featuring her newest book Lost in NashVegas.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

Consciously, I don’t write any of my own traits into my characters. Subconsciously, I’m certain aspects of my heart and mind creep in. Certainly while forming my characters values, dreams, goals, my own values have an effect. While writing Lost In Nashvegas, I did draw heavily on my own battle with fear to help define my heroine, Robin.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Let’s just say I was in a sorority in college and leave it there. (grin)

I'm not sure that's a good thing. It opens the readers imagination to lots of things. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

Fourth grade, I think. I wrote a poem that my parents and teacher loved. Then I started writing a novel about a girl with a horse when I was ten. You can see I grasped originality early on. Ha!

I wonder just how many young girls also started a story or book about a girl with a horse. Probably more than we could count. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I enjoy reading any well-written book. I love a good story whether it’s historical or Sci-Fi. My favorite books right now are by Kristin Billerbeck, Tracey Bateman, Marian Keyes, and other accomplished chick lit authors.

Darn. I didn't make your favorite author list. (Just kidding.) Oh well. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I’ve written five romances, and one other chick lit, Georgia On Her Mind. My first book is the only unpublished book and it’s in a three ring binder in my office. There are some minor structural problems with the book, but it is still one of my favorites.

Incidently, readers, you'll want to read Georgia on Her Mind, too. My second book is my unpublished manuscript that languishes in a drawer. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I only do the things the Lord calls me to do. Several years ago, the Lord loaded up my plate and in the natural, I started stressing. I was working full time as a software project manager, writing my first contracted novel and overseeing a national conference – something I’d never done before. In the midst of this, several pastors in the city were coming together to launch a prayer ministry and my husband a was leading the charge. Naturally, I wanted to be involved. Anything involving prayer, I’m there.

I told the Lord to take something off my plate, I couldn’t handle it. The Lord gave me a dream about my situation and I knew He was stretching me in that season – for His kingdom’s sake. I began to lean heavily on Him for getting all my jobs done, literally saying, “Lord, if you don’t put on this conference, we’re not going to have one.” Peace would wash over me.

I told the Lord to take something off my plate, I couldn’t handle it. The Lord gave me a dream about my situation and I knew He was stretching me in that season – for His kingdom’s sake. I began to lean heavily on Him for getting all my jobs done, literally saying, “Lord, if you don’t put on this conference, we’re not going to have one.” Peace would wash over me.

Actually, it was a wonderful conference, and I'm glad you listened to the Lord. How do you choose your characters’ names?

I pick names I like, or by going through a name generator, waiting for one to feel right. I pay attention to names that might come up in conversation or when I’m introduced to new people.

I do that, too. I mean really noticing the names of new people I meet. I've used some of them in my stories. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I love my writing career and am really proud of recent books, but I’m most proud of the work the Lord has allowed us to do with youth and prayer. It’s an amazing privilege and I’m in awe at how the Lord takes our small effort and bears much fruit.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

I’m glad to NOT be an animal.

What is your favorite food?

French fries.

Rachel, my husband, and I visited over burgers and fries in a small restaurant north of DFW Airport in September. What fun after a trying day! What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Lost In NashVegas is about a young woman, Robin McAfee who overcomes her greatest fear to realize her secret heart’s desire.

Thank you for spending time with us today, Rachel. I pray God's continued blessings on yours and Tony's ministry and your writing.

Readers, first leave a comment on this interview for a chance to win a copy of this book. But if you don't win, rush out and buy a copy. You'll love it. Remember that books make a thoughtful gift for friends at Christmas. Check out for books by many of your favorite Christian authors. The books will be personalized by the author for you.

Deborah, you are the winner

. . .of Blue Moon by Linda Windsor. Send me your mailing address, and we'll get that right out to you.

Readers, there's still time to leave a comment on Robert Elmer's interview for a chance to win The Recital. Someone will win the book. It might as well be you.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Meet Robert Elmer

I have only met Robert online, but I have read some of his books. I believe you will enjoy them as much as I have. Remember, if you leave a comment, you'll have a chance to win a copy of the featured book The Recital.

Robert, welcome to my blog. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

Bits and pieces, here and there. Quite random, actually. I prefer to create distinct characters who are definitely not like myself, although I have to say that the main character in the first series I wrote for children, The Young Underground, was a lot like me as a boy. Also, I tend to identify a lot with the piano teacher in The Duet, Joan Horton.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I used to own and fly a hang glider. No wait, that’s not very quirky. I often wear kids’ t-shirts to work. Is that quirky? Sorry, not very. Next question…

Hang gliding sounds like fun to me. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

In the third grade, when I started writing a family newspaper, and when I found myself writing essays and poems beyond what the teacher asked for.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I still enjoy reading good kids’ books (Lois Johnson is one of my favorites), fiction by some of my favorite authors (Bill Myers, Deb Raney, Alton Gansky), occasional nonfiction if someone recommends it to me.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

Grown-up novels: The Duet, The Celebrity, The Recital, Like It Always Was (written, due out ’07)
Youth fiction: The Wall (Cold War trilogy, due out this summer), Off My Case for Kids (with Lee Strobel), HyperLinkz series (six books), AstroKids series (10 books), Promise of Zion series (six books), Adventures Down Under series (eight books), Young Underground series (eight books), Eat My Martian Dust (co-edited)Nonfiction: Discovering Daily Graces (out now), Practicing God’s Presence

When I was on staff at a church, I started the bookstore and managed it for them. We carried the Adventures Down Under series. They're really good. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I do my best to walk, walk, walk – especially every morning with the dog. I spend relaxing evenings with my wife whenever possible. I sail. Listen to music.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Often from one of those “What Shall We Name the Baby” books, or sometimes from random names I pick up in the news. In my earlier kids’ books I occasionally used relatives’ names, but eventually ran out of relatives to use.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

No question: The best thing I ever did (aside from making a decision to follow Jesus Christ, which I hesitate to call an “accomplishment”) was marrying my wife Ronda.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

Goodness… a dolphin? No, I would get tired of swimming, although that would be fun for the first day or two. A chimp? No, they’d probably make me live in a lab or something. I give up.

What is your favorite food?

Barbecued salmon, they way my wife cooks it, broiled in garlic butter. A close second: Danish salted licorice, which is something like Dutch salted licorice, which sounds weird but you have to read about in The Duet.

All right readers, rush out and buy The Duet. It's not the book we're giving away.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

If you liked The Duet, you’re going to really like the follow-up, The Recital. If you never read The Duet, find a copy and read it first – even though The Recital is written as a stand-alone, you’ll like to know the background leading up to this story. It’s a different kind of love story, a small-town story, a story of opposites that both men and women can relate to. It’s close to my heart, and I pray you’ll be encouraged by the struggle of Joan and Gerrit. Read it!

While you're at it, be sure and get a copy of The Celebrity. I loved this book. I'll have to admit that I don't have The Duet, so maybe I'll see you at the bookstore when we go to buy it. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Recital. And there's still time to leave a comment on Linda Windsor's interview for a chance to win a copy of Blue Moon.

Kiss the Bride Winner

Sheryl is the winner of the book. Please contact me with your mailing address, so Kristy can send it to you.

There's still time to leave comments on Linda Windsor's interview for a chance on a free copy of her book Blue Moon.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Another of my Favorite People - Linda Windsor

Linda and I were longtime, online friends before we ever met. Now we're sisters of the heart. I love her humor and quirky way of looking at things. If you haven't read her any of her Moonstruck series, rush out and buy the first two in the series Paper Moon and Fiesta Moon. Although each book will stand alone, you'll want to read them in order, and when you've read one, you'll have to read them all. Linda is giving away an autographed copy to a winner chosen from the people who leave comments on the interview. You might win a copy of the third book in the series Blue Moon.

Look at this beautiful picture of Linda. I'm afraid it hides her fun, quirky side from you. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters, Linda.

Most of my characters have my sense of humor, knack for misadventure, and my tendency to question God on occasion and/or complain a bit. Sometimes God and I aren’t always in sync on things.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Okay, I looked up quirky in the dictionary to be certain that I answered this correctly. It says a quirk is an abrupt twist or turn. Hmm. Unless it’s following up on an impulse to play joke on or tease someone, I’m not really inclined to make sudden changes in direction. But I do have a quirky sense of humor…look out! You could be next.

Don't I know it? When did you first discover that you were a writer?

Writing was never a challenge in school, but I can’t say I enjoyed it, because I ‘had’ to do it. Yet, I was always making up stories in my mind. They rarely made to pen and paper, unless it was a free assignment where I could choose what I wanted to write about. It wasn’t until I began to read historical romance that I ever entertained any thought about writing a book. Upon reading one that I thought mediocre, I decided I could do that. And I did. Boy, did I write one…185,000 words worth. It was finally published at a pared down 140,000 words.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I enjoy books of all genres, from romance to futuristic to suspense and thrillers. And I like reading non-fiction, especially history, journals or biographies.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I’ve never written anything except romance. I did write sixteen secular romances for Zebra/Kensington and Meteor/Kismet Romances, prior to my first CBA book Hi Honey, I'm Home. That was followed by Not Exactly Eden, Unlikely Angels Anthology, It Had to be You, Along Came Jones for Multnomah Publishers, and my latest Moonstruck romcom trilogy for Thomas Nelson/Westbow Press—Paper Moon. Fiesta Moon, and Blue Moon. I also did an Irish Celtic historical series for Multnomah called The Fires of Gleannmara, which included Maire,Riona, and Dierdre.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I don’t. But by faith I cling to the world’s window like that stuffed Garfield one sees in cars. Somehow life hasn’t shaken me off yet. Tenacity, I think it’s called. God enables my tenacity...or in Garfield’s case, claws.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

My main characters’ names are the hardest. Most of the time I pour through name books until the right one with the right meaning jumps out at me. Sometimes I hear a name in a movie or on TV that suits the character forming in my mind. I honestly can’t begin a book until I have the names of my hero and heroine established. In only one of my twenty-eight books to date have I ever changed a main character name in mid-book. Along Came Jones’ Deanna was originally Dianna, but somehow she turned Italian and more gutsy than glamorous after I met a real Deanna at a party while writing the novel.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

That’s a hard one. I could say my kids or the way God has used my music and writing to touch others. But that’s not really pride. That’s humility...gratitude. I suppose I could say that I’m proud to still be hanging on to life’s window by His Grace. Nothing I’ve ever accomplished has been done without it.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A pampered house cat that doesn’t have to kill and eat living things and doesn’t know what’s in my crystal Fancy Feast bowl. Because of my chemical depression, which is always worse in winter, I’m solar-powered like cats. I love napping in the sun…by the sea. It’s the ultimate muscle relaxer to me. Hmm. Make that a pampered lighthouse keeper’s cat.

What is your favorite food?

Thin slick dumplings. For those of you who are not from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, those are little pasta-like squares cut from a thinly rolled dough of flour, water, and dash of salt; cooked in a well-seasoned chicken (or beef/duck/etc) broth to absorb the flavor; and then the broth is thickened to a gravy. Keep your chocolate, gals. Give me the starch.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

My featured book is Blue Moon, the last of the Moonstruck RomCom series about the Madison siblings. It’s about the baby sister and prodigy Dr. Jeanne Madison. Success and faith have always come easy to the young marine archaeologist, including receiving specific information as to the whereabouts of the sunken galleon Blue Moon. Until she meets Captain Gabe Avery of the Fallen Angel, the only boat her limited budget as a novice will afford. The name of Gabe’s boat says it all, challenging Jeanne to aim at salvaging more than sunken treasure in this adventure of a lifetime. If the incorrigible captain isn’t enough to fray Jeanne’s nerves, her eccentric crew is. Then, just as success is within their reach, Gabe’s dark past comes back to haunt them and Jeanne’s untested faith goes through the fire, as well as Gabe’s barely recovered one.

Writing about untested faith was new for me, but after hearing on the Minirth-Meyer Clinic radio show one day, how those who’ve never had their faith tested are more likely to cave in under life’s challenges, than those who’ve been through the fire time and again, I thought that would make an interesting spiritual conflict for Jeanne and a contrast to Gabe’s spirtual struggle. As in real life, God uses all degrees of faith to accomplish His will, even when it’s not all it should be. I guess one could say that a little faith goes a long way in His hands. Oh, and did I say God has a sense of humor?

And I'm glad He gave you one, Linda. Your posts often fill my office with laughter as I read them. Thank you for spending this time with us. I look forward to being with you again.

Remember readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the featured book. While you're at it, stop by on Kristy's interview and leave a comment there, too.

Todd is the Winner

. . .of Reluctant Burglar by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. Todd, please e-mail me with your mailing address so we can get the autographed copy out to you. A new interview will go up later today.

There's still time to leave a comment on my interview with Kristy Dykes for a chance to win an autographed copy of Kiss the Bride.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Another Member of the ACFW Short Redhead Club

Kristy Dykes is one of the prettiest members. I really missed her at the conference in Dallas this year. I've known Kristy for several years, and am glad to have her as my friend. If you're interested in seeing her other books, you can find them at That's where several of my books are, too. These books make excellent Christmas gifts. Just click on the link in the right hand column.

Kristy, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

Interesting question, Lena. Of all the interviews I've given, I've never been asked that, or at least in that way. Horace said, “Mutato nomine, de te fabula narrator." That's Latin for, "Change the name, and the story is told of yourself." Lots of novels are thinly disguised biographies, and that's okay, if that’s the story the author wants to tell. Sometimes there are disclaimers in the opening pages of novels saying none of the characters represent real people. That said, authors write from their worldview. Things are bound to come out of your heart and find their way onto your pages, such as characters or philosophies or ways of doing things, etc. I'd say a little bit of me is in all of my books so far (nine titles). In my first title, American Dream (Barbour historical 4-in-1), my heroine Corinn in "I Take Thee, A Stranger" relies on Matthew 6:33 to see her through dire circumstances including an arranged marriage. That's one of my life verses that I love and live by. In Wedded Bliss? (Barbour contemporary 4-in-1), my heroine Felicia is married to a sports nut and longs to be swept away by her husband, i.e. more romance and tenderness. Influenced by her feelings and her friend's misguided advice, she asks for a separation. Only when Hebrews 12:1, 3 NLT seeps deep into her heart does she come to know the answer to her dilemma. That, too, is a special verse in my life—and in my marriage!

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Got an hour? Or more? GRIN I'm the queen of quirk, in that I've seen lots of quirkiness (I’m a pastor's wife, remember? I've met all kinds and breeds) and done quirky things. One quickly comes to mind. The B&B Caper. One after, we were passing through the Smoky Mountains coming home from a conference. I had an old issue of Southern Living I'd picked it up for a quarter at the library (think, old). It featured an article about a B&B in Tennessee that had a cave you could explore. I begged Milton (my husband) to stay there that night. It would be interesting, I reasoned. He had in mind a quick in-and-out at a Hampton Inn and said so. We might make some new friends, I cajoled. There are all kinds of interesting people at B&Bs. Or, we could pretend we were Tom and Becky in the cave, I said. No takers. Or, it might provide fodder for my writing (boy, did it ever! a part of the experience is in my novella in Room At the Inn!). Finally, he relented. Excited, I called the number, made the nonrefundable reservation through Master Card, and we set off, our plan being to check in then go to town and get a steak. We got lost myriads of times on those narrow curving roads high up in the mountains (think, irritable husband), but at last we arrived--about 8:30 p.m. We were starved (think, more irritable husband), and the dark two-story house was an apparition under a black, moonless sky (think, haunted house). Long story short, it was a DEFUNCT B&B. No people around anywhere, in the B&B or up or down the dark road (after the proprietor left us). Cob webs streaming from the chandelier in the living room onto the yellowed keys of the grand, (think more haunted house), no lock on the bedroom door, the bathroom down a long eerie hallway, sheets that had been slept on? (horrors, blech). And no nearby restaurant, the proprietor said, unless you went back to the Interstate two hours away. But our stay was paid for so there was no way Milton would leave. So we shared one of those tiny bags of potato chips and went to bed hungry and need I say disgruntled. Oh, and I was scared to death as my writer's mind imagined someone making their way up the dark staircase in the middle of the night and murdering us. I didn't sleep a wink. I declare I heard a wolf baying every time I checked on things out the window. He snored like all get out.

I assume by he, you mean Milton, the disgruntled husband, not the wolf. When did you first discover you were a writer?

These are great questions, Lena! I've always loved to write. Adored writing term papers, though I sometimes included drawings. Wrote newsy family letters and church bulletins. One day in my twenties, the Lord said deep in my heart, "I'm going to use you for My glory in writing." He might as well have said, "You're going to be an astronaut." It seemed that far-fetched to me. At the same time, the Lord said the same thing to Milton plus He said He would use us together in writing. Later, Milton told me about his experience, and I told him. What a confirmation. I didn't go noising it abroad though. I did what Mary, the mother of Jesus did. I pondered it in my heart. A strong desire surfaced in my heart to earn a degree in journalism, but my ministry duties didn't permit me to. So I did my own studies by checking out armloads of library books on how to write, how to get published, where to submit to, etc. Then I started writing articles, and they began to get published, soon by the hundreds. Too, Milton and I have written together, for instance, our article "How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage." Now I've written over 600 published articles and worked for two New York Times subsidiaries. Along the way, one of my dreams was fulfilled. I earned a degree in mass communications/journalism. In the 1990s, I had a strong desire to write and publish Christian fiction. I'd always loved fiction, since elementary school days. Victoria Holt. Willa Cather. Charlotte Bronte. Louisa Mae Alcott. And more. I had scads of favorite authors and books. When my mother put Christy by Catherine Marshall in my hands when I was a teenager, well, it was an epiphany moment, in that it was a gripping story that touched my heart. So in the 1990s, I started studying the craft of fiction diligently, attended a weekly fiction-writing course at the community college for four long years, and got a critique partner. Now I have nine titles with many more in my heart.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

All kinds. Biographies. Fiction. How-tos. Autobiographies. Self-helps. I think a writer needs to be well-rounded in his/her reading.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

Published novellas in: Kiss the Bride, Wedded Bliss? Room At the Inn, Holiday At the Inn, Church in the Wildwood, Sweet Liberty, American Dream. Published novel: The Tender Heart (Heartsong Presents). Contracted novel: Heart of the Matter (Heartsong Presents; pub date April, 2007). "Prepublished:" four long novels--two contemporaries and two historicals. They're women's fiction with a strong romantic element. I also have a few more novels in the works.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

Going to church, church, church. I'm not kidding. In every service I attend, the Lord speaks to me. I go not because I'm the pastor's wife, but because it's a place where God speaks.

I'm with you, Kristy. I love to be in the Lord's house, worshiping Him with other believers, listening to the preacher, but more importantly, listing to the Lord speak to my heart. How do you choose your characters’ names?

They just come to me. I love old-fashioned names for my historicals and keep a list from my extensive reading. For contemporaries, I use contemporary names, of course. For all the names, I love it when the meaning of the name plays a significant part in the story. For instance, in Sweet Liberty (Barbour historical 4-in-1), my heroine Winkie in "Free Indeed" is an embittered former slave in the Civil War era. Trying to help her, her auntie tells her that her full name is Periwinkle, and that it'll be the key to her change of heart. Winkie looks in a lexicon and finds "periwinkle" means "a shrub that's a source of medicine." "It be a riddle," she tells her auntie. Her auntie explains that a medicine relieves pain and cures ills. She says the Good Book says God comforts us so we can comfort others. "Periwinkle," her auntie says, "the day I named you, I looked into your big brown eyes and said, 'One day you going to bring the healing touch of comfort to others.’" She says, "Don’t run from your destiny no longer, child." Later, through her auntie's wise instruction, Winkie comes to know the Lord, and her destiny becomes what her auntie said.

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?

It's not when my novella in Church in the Wildwood won third place in the 2004 ACFW Book of the Year Contest (novella category). It's not when I was voted to the 2004 Favorite New Authors List by Heartsong Presents (Barbour) readers. It's not the other awards I've won. It's the times I received these three letters from readers: 1) "I'm sharing your books with some women in my neighborhood. One just renewed her faith in the Lord Jesus after reading your novella in Sweet Liberty." 2) "Are you black or do you have a special gift of empathy?" 3) Your story in Room At the Inn spoke straight to my heart. I don't generally identify so strongly with stories, nor do they cause me to change the way I do things or think. Yours did. Your writing, and in turn, you, are a blessing to me."

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

I don't know.

What is your favorite food?

I used to write a weekly food column, "Kristy's Kitchen," for a New York Times subsidiary. A better question would be, "What food do you not like?" The answer would be, "Nothing I can think of."

It's fitting that this book comes after that last question. What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Kiss the Bride (Barbour contemporary 4-in-1; which came out in September. Coauthors: Kristy Dykes, Aisha Ford, Vickie McDonough, Carrie Turanksy. It was great fun to write because it was interactive. Four young restaurant owners meet at a restaurant convention and bemoan the lack of romance in their lives. One buys the last apron in a shop that says, "Kiss the Cook," and they agree to pass it around until each finds Mr. Right. The four novellas tell the romance of each couple. The last groom crosses out "Cook" and writes "Bride" on the apron and shows it to the other three couples when they all meet again. As of now, we coauthors are planning to sign Kiss the Bride at the book signing at the ACFW conference in Dallas in September, 2006. We just might have a Kiss the Cook/Bride apron with us!

Your coauthors did wear the apron. I loved it. Thank you for this fun interview, Kristy. I look forward to seeing you in Dallas next year.

Readers, you'll love Kristy's books. Be sure to leave a comment for a change to win a free one. If you don't win that one, you'll want to get one anyway. If you go to, you an get a personally autographed copy. You can still leave comments on Jill Nelson's interview, too.

Winner of Janice Thompson's Book

Sabrina L. Fox is the winner of The Wedding Caper. Please send me your mailing address, so I can forward it to Janice.

There's still time to leave a comment on Jill Nelson's interview for a chance to win Reluctant Burglar. And a new interview will go up later today. Don't you just love knowing about these authors and their books?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Debut Author - Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Jill and I have been online friends for a long time. Of course, we gravitated toward each other because we share one name. Then we met at ACFW conferences. I'm very excited about her debut novel, a romantic suspense Reluctant Burglar.

You have a chance to win a copy of the novel when we choose two winners from those who leave comments in two weeks. However, if you don't win the free book, you'll want to get a copy. It's an excellent read. You can read my review of the novel in the September 2006 newsletter on my website:

Jill, Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

Only bits and pieces, but I think it’s hard to escape putting something of yourself into the fictional characters you create. In Reluctant Burglar, my main female character, Desiree Jacobs, is one of those people so task-oriented and efficient she intimidates the socks off some folks, but she gets things done. Unfortunately, her drive and organizational gifts tend to make her more self-reliant than God-reliant. I like to think of myself as a “recovering Desiree.”

That could probably be said about many of us. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Not sharing that! But this quirky characteristic I have is a Muttley laugh. If anyone out there is from the generation that remembers Dick Dastardly and his dog Muttley from Hanna Barbera cartoons, you might remember that Muttley has this high-pitched, wheezy laugh. My regular laugh is pretty normal, but when I start hooting so hard I can scarcely breathe, I sound just like Dastardly’s dog. When my family hears it coming on, they look at me sideways and say to each other, “Here comes Muttley.” They love it! And I never mind the affectionate teasing because it’s fun to laugh that hard. Good for me, too, the book of Proverbs says.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

Sixth grade. I wrote my first novel—novella-length actually—when I was eleven. It was never published, and the world is grateful. I never quit writing after that. I’ve done everything from journalism to poetry, with quite a bit published. God is good!

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I find novels as thought-provoking, if not more so, than most non-fiction, but that’s just me. I’m an eclectic reader with a particular penchant for mystery, suspense, thriller, fantasy, or romantic adventure. And I don’t turn up my nose at romance, women’s fiction, or more literary ventures either. Get me emotionally involved, my interest piqued, and I won’t put it down.

A woman after my own heart. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

Kingmaker is book one in my fantasy series—not published yet. Sisters of Meribah is contemporary women’s fiction, also not published, but being looked at.

Be sure and let us know when anything happens woith them. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I’m a writer; my sanity’s long gone! My mom and sisters and brother tease me about “voices in my head” ever since I confessed to them that my characters talk to me. I do run, run, run in the course of a day, but like I said earlier, I tend to be organized. The trick for me is to keep my cool when life discombobulates my best-laid plans. I hate that!

I know what you mean. See how much alike we are. How do you choose your characters’ names?

I have no clue. They just come to me, usually as soon as I start to understand their personalities. I’d probably need a shrink to help me understand why I pair certain names with certain personality types.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Most recently, meeting my deadline for turning in the manuscript for Reluctant Runaway, the next installment in the To Catch a Thief series. Most far-reaching, raising four kids—but that’s an on-going project that never reaches official “completion.” Kind of maddening for this goal-oriented person, but I cope. Usually.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A horse. It’s a noble, beautiful beast . . . and useful, too. Horses are social animals with servants’ hearts.

What is your favorite food?

What isn’t? Seriously, that depends on my mood. Something with seafood in it like seafood Alfredo gets my juices flowing. Something Italian or Oriental generally hits the spot. The most zany food I like would probably be dill pickle potato chips.

Wow, I've never had those, but I do like fried dill pickles.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Reluctant Burglar is fun! I hope my readers have a blast reading it and are eager for the sequels. I totally enjoy writing Desi and Tony. Des is as smart and sassy as they come. And Tony is an intense hunk with just enough issues to keep him human. I like to think Burglar is a gourmet blend of intrigue, humor, romance, and pathos. You can read more about the series, including an excerpt from Burglar, at my web site: Go to my To Catch a Thief Books page. I’m also running a contest for a signed copy on my Stealth and Wealth page.

Thank you for spending time with us, Jill. Remember, Readers, to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Reluctant Burglar. (Two will be given away here.) And there's still time to leave a comment on Janice Thompson's interview for a chance to win The Wedding Caper.

I just love announcing winners!

Jennifer Y. is the winner of Barbara Warren's book The Gathering Storm. Please send me your mailing address, so we can get this right out to you.

There's still time to leave a comment on Janice Thompson's interview for a chance to win her book The Wedding Caper.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I want you to meet my friend, Janice Thompson

Janice and I have been writing friends for a long time. Last year, she asked me to be a part of her Writer's A-D-V-A-N-C-E Retreat at Hidden Manna Campground north of Houston. We had a blessed time sharing with other writers. Now Janice's writing has taken another turn. Now we're introducing readers to her first cozy mystery. Her series will introduce the new Heartsong line of cozy mysteries. I'm excited about this new venture for Janice.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

In my latest book (a mystery titled The Wedding Caper) the primary POV (point of view) character, Annie Peterson, is a woman about my age, going through pre-menopause, dealing with the impending marriages of her grown daughters. I’d have to say Annie and I have a lot in common. Two of my daughters married in ’04 within five months of one another. Writing like this isn’t the norm for me. I try to keep my personal life and my characters separate. Every now and again, however, someone I know will slip into one of my books unbeknownst to me.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I recently sang in a karaoke “pop star” contest aboard a cruise ship. That was both terrifying and humorous. I should add that my daughter Megan actually won that contest (a week-long competition much like American Idol).

I would have liked to have seen that, Janice. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

In 6th grade. I ran out of Bobbsey Twins books to read, so I wrote one myself. I didn’t realize that “stealing” someone else’s characters was wrong. Just knew that I loved those characters and wanted to send them on a self-made adventure.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I love fast-paced novels (more lightweight/fun in nature). I also love great teaching books (non-fiction Christian books). I’m on such a learning curve (both as a writer and in my walk with the Lord) and need to glean all I can from those who have walked before me.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

My published works include:
LIAR’S MOON – Hanna Productions/1982 (screenplay)
RE-THREADING THE NEEDLE: Mountainview/2000 (mainstream Christian novel)
A LINE IN THE SAND: Compradore/2001 (mainstream Christian novel)
DUTY TO DIE: Promise Press/2000 (mainstream Christian novel)
A CLASS OF HER OWN: Heartsong Presents/2002 (inspirational romance)
ANGEL INCOGNITO: Heartsong Presents/2004 (inspirational romance)
A CHORUS OF ONE: Heartsong Presents/2004 (inspirational romance)
SWEET CHARITY: Heartsong Presents/2004 (inspirational romance)
HURRICANE: River Oak/Cook/2004 (mainstream Christian novel)
PARENTING TEENS: A Field Guide – non-fiction/Cook/2005 (non-fiction)
BANKING ON LOVE: Heartsong Presents/2005 (inspirational romance)
I MUST DECREASE: Humorous Dieting Devotional - Barbour/2005
THE WEDDING CAPER: SpyGlass Lane Mysteries - Barbour/Fall of 2006
RED LIKE CRIMSON: Heartsong Presents/Spring of 2007
I have several more books contracted, including two non-fiction devotionals (one for brides-to-be and another for moms-to-be). I’m co-authoring these books with my twenty-six year old daughter, Randi, who is happily married about expecting her first baby (my first grandchild).

I remember the fun of anticipating my first grandchild. What fun! How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

There’s really only one way – to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. If I lose my focus (and we all do at times) it shows in everything I try to do. I keep my eyes on Him (and my ears open to His voice) and things run so much smoother!

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I often ask people for help, particular if there are age/regional issues to consider. Sometimes I’ll have a particular name in mind for a character. Other times, I scratch my head for days, trying to figure out which name to assign.

That's a new method--scratching the head. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

My four daughters are (by far) my greatest accomplishment in this life. They are all in their twenties and all love and serve the Lord.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

I’m enamored with my two dachshunds, Sasha and Copper. (In fact, Sasha appears in my book, The Wedding Caper.) These little mongrels have a perfect life – plenty to eat, someone to rub their bellies and scratch behind their ears, and lots of time to play in the yard outside. They get to sleep in a bed, nuzzle up against their owner when lonely, and offer lots of kisses to make “said owner” feel better when down. With that said, I’d take the life of a dachshund any day.

What is your favorite food?

Mmm. Fajitas. Chicken. Corn tortillas, please.

A true Texan answer.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
I'm so excited about the October release of my first-ever romantic mystery, The Wedding Caper (Barbour Publishing). The book's heroine, Annie Peterson, steps into the role of super-sleuth when she suspects her husband of stealing $25,000 from the bank where he works to pay for their daughters' weddings. (Their twins, Brandi and Candy, both receive proposals on the same night and their weddings are scheduled only four and a half months apart). The story is full of ups and downs, humorous moments and plenty of mystery, all with a touch of romance. And of course the faith elements are there as well. It's Annie's faith that gets her through the hard times, to be sure! (I should add that I had plenty of real-life experience to pull from. In 2004, two of my daughters married within five months of each other!) I've never had more fun working on a book, and I believe it really shows in the writing. Readers are bound to enjoy Annie's escapades!
I know I did. As you can see from the picture of the cover, we received a complimentary copy of the book at the American Christian Fiction Writers national conference in Dallas last month. But this is a book that I would have rushed out to buy. If you don't win the copy we're giving away, you'll want to do that. A review of the book is in my October newsletter, which should go up on my website sometime this week.
Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win the book.