Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Greetings from. . .

. . .the American Christian Fiction Writers Mentor of the Year. The women in the critique group that meets in my home had all voted for me. Of course, more people did, too, or I wouldn't have received the award. We were mostly sitting together. After we finished eating the banquet, I went out to powder my nose, so to speak. Pam Meyers started reading the announcement, and I wasn't back. My friends were becoming nervous.

Thankfully, Pam read a long list of all who had been nominated. I actually didn't hear that list. When I returned, she was reading e-mails. I started putting on lipstick and trying to figure out who it was. One of the people I thought of wasn't even nominated, but I didn't know that since I didn't hear the list.

When Pam read my name, I dropped everything. On the way to the stage, I couldn't remember if I had finished putting on the lipstick or not.

Here is the trophy.

Thank you, everyone who voted for me. I think at least three-fourths of the attendees found me sometime Saturday night to congratulate me. I was really hoarse from all the talking.

As you can see from the following photo, several of the people who I've helped either finaled in the Genesis contest (Lynne Gentry), won a Genesis category (Cheryl Wyatt), or won in a Book of the Year category. Actually, Pamela Griffin, one of the first people I mentored and a multi-published author for several years, won two Book of the Year categories. I'm very proud of these women.

Just take a good look at the others. They will soon be published, as will the others who didn't stay for the picture.

Check back in a couple of days. I'll have more conference pictures up on the blog.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bonnie Engstrom is the winner of. . .

. . .Windswept Weddings.

Bonnie, please send me your mailing address so we can send it out to you.

By the way:

A great big congratulations to Nikki Arana for taking first place in her category in the Book of the Year Contest at the national American Christian Fiction Writers conference this weekend.

Muncy Chapman

This week we're talking to Muncy Chapman, who has written several books. She's been published by Heartsong Presents, who has published many of my books, too. Leave a comment for a chance to win the featured book.

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

Almost all of my stories are set in my home state of Florida, and I include a lot of real life situations. In my first novel, What Love Remembers, although I didn’t realize it, my three daughters told me the protagonist, Kristen Kelly, was just like me. I’m not so sure about that, but they seem to think so. We once owned a vacation house on one of Florida’s beautiful barrier islands, so lot of the things that happen in that first book actually happened to us or to someone we knew.

We once lived in a condominium, and my book, Condomania, is loaded with events from those years. Of course, all the characters are fictional, but some seem to bear a striking resemblance to people who lived nearby.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Gee, I don’t know. Maybe riding in a hot air balloon race. (We won!)

That's cool. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I’ve been making up stories and poems ever since I learned to hold a pencil. It’s an inborn passion.

That's right. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading. I read every day. My interests are expansive. In addition to daily Bible reading, I like inspirational romance, mystery, historical, just about everything. I don’t like erotic books. I’m not a prude, but I think it’s much more romantic to “keep the bedroom door closed.” I believe a really good story doesn’t need a “crutch” to stand on.

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

My husband and I collaborate to write historical novels set in the early Florida Territory. So far, I’ve had twelve of my books published. My favorite, Search for Samantha, has not been published. It doesn’t really fit a specific genre, and it’s pretty long, so I haven’t been able to market it yet. Maybe I’ll keep trying, but right now I have too much else going on. Blue Glass Candy Jar is under consideration by a major publishing house, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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

I try to keep my priorities straight. God is first, of course, but my family and their needs come way ahead of writing. With a wonderful husband, 4 married children, 11 grandchildren, and one tiny great-granddaughter, I am constantly celebrating birthdays, engagements, weddings, births, etc. My happiest times are spent with my family. Daily prayer and Bible reading helps to keep everything in focus.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Sometimes I use the names of my family members, friends, or someone I know, but sometimes a character almost seems to name him- or herself. I wonder myself where some of the names come from.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I am a member of National League of American Pen Women. In 2003, at their annual state convention, they honored me with their annual Florida Achievement Award. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll have to say that I consider my children my greatest achievement. They’ve all made me very proud.

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

A dolphin. I enjoy watching them roll and play in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re happy, harmless, and lovable creatures who seem to love the Florida sun and sand as much as I do.

What is your favorite food?

I like all Spanish and Italian food. I also like Southern soul-food, like black-eyed peas, cornbread, collard greens, okra, etc. And yes, I like grits with my eggs!

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

I’d like to think the reviewer was right when she said One Small Spark was a book all teenagers should read. It’s an adult book, though, so I think I’d hope all parents and grandparents of teenagers would read it too. This same reviewer said One Small Spark should be on the New York Times bestseller list, and I wouldn’t mind that either, of course! :-) It was a fun book to write, and I hated to let the characters go after I finished it.

Thank you for spending time with us, Muncy. We'll hope for the publication of Blue Glass Candy Jar right along with you.

Readers, remember to leave a comment for a chance to win One Small Spark.

There's still time to leave a comment for a chance to win the two Nikki Arana books. And come back next week to see if you won. We'll have a new interview up then.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Nikki Arana

I first met Nikki through American Christian Fiction Writers. Then I read her first book, Winds of Sonoma. It's wonderful--a book every Christian in the U.S. needs to read, considering the current political climate. The two sequels to Winds of Sonoma have been published. In the Shade of the Jacaranda and The Fragrance of Roses.

I just finished reading the last book. This series deals with cross-culture marriage in a sensitive story, which reveals amazing spiritual depths. The true connection of the loving Father with our everyday lives will grab your heart and increaset your adoration of Him.

We will be giving away a free copy of Winds of Sonoma and In the Shade of the Jacaranda. If you don't win and go out to buy a copy, you need to get all three at once. You'll want to go straight to the next one. What a wonderful family saga that shows the human condition in various situations and graphically depicts the spiritual journeys of all the participants.

Welcome, Nikki, I can hardly wait to meet you face-to-face. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

I would say there is a part of me in every character. Of course The Winds of Sonoma was inspired by the story of how I met and married my husband, so Angelica, the heroine is VERY much like me. In book 2, In the Shade of the Jacaranda, Maclovia’s beliefs about God are very close to my own.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Fly to Guadalajara, Mexico, on faith, to find a one-legged man. Rent a car, drive two hours northwest of the city, go into a rundown open-air restaurant, find him, and interview him. You may be able to guess why I went looking for him if you read In the Shade of the Jacaranda.

I've been to Guadalajara, and I've even ridden with a missionary friend for hours through the Sierra Madres to a small pueblo. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

At the age of 52, when I wrote a magazine article on a lark and sold it. That led to more freelancing and more sales. But to tell you the truth, I still kind of wonder about it.

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

I read a lot more nonfiction than I do fiction. I love Watchman Nee and Jeanne Guyon. In fiction I love the classics, especially the Bronte sisters.

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

The only books I have written are those that Revell has published or will soon publish. Which is the three books of the Regalo Grande series and one stand-alone that I am finishing now to be published next year.

I should have asked you to explain the meaning of Regalo Grande, but I didn't. My understand is that it means "large or great gift." Our blog visitors will have to read the series to find out why that is importatnt to the stories. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

Becoming a writer was way out of my comfort zone. I was a very successful real estate broker for almost thirty years. I find the writing life much less hectic than my previous years selling real estate sixty hours a week. But I find it far more stressful because I must have the faith that God will express His creativity through me each day. Rather than waking in the morning with the attitude I will make things happen, I have to start my day surrendering to Him, listening for His voice and trying to be an empty vessel for the story He wants to tell. I’m still learning.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Some names I choose for their meaning. Like Manuel means God is with us. Other times I choose names that will stick with the reader because a character isn’t going to be mentioned for a few chapters. And of course there are those minor characters that family and friends expect to have as namesakes.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I don’t think proud would be the right word. But the thing I am most grateful for is the deepening of my spiritual walk that God orchestrated by calling me to write. I have never felt more fulfilled or more joyous than I feel right now.

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

A rich old lady’s poodle. The thought of being pampered has real appeal right now.

What is your favorite food?

Mexican!! If it’s on the menu, I’ll love it.

I agree with you. I love Mexican food--Tex Mex, Mexicali, and the actual food from Mexico.

Thank you, Nikki, for spending this time with us. I can hardly wait for the next book. Remember, Readers, leave a comment on this interview for a chance to win a copy of Winds of Sonoma and In the Shade of the Jacaranda. Someone will win; it might as well be you. And there's still time to leave a comment on Lynette's interview for a chance to win a copy of Windswept Weddings, which also contains a book by yours truly.

Ronie is the Winner

of the Ginger Garrett book. Be sure to send me your mailing address.

Readers, I will put up another interview later today. For the next four days, I will be busy getting ready for the American Fiction Writers national conference in Dallas. Woo!!! Hoo!!! It will be a wonderful time of learning, seeing old friends, and meeting new ones.

Don't forget the Public Book Signing next Saturday, September 23, at 4:30 pm at the Addison Marriott Quorum at the Galleria. The hotel is located just north of the Galleria on Dallas North Parkway. Come meet your favorite Christian fiction authors. Be sure to stop by my table and tell me that you read my blog.

Because of the conference, the new winner and interview for the next week will have to happen after I come home on Sunday or Monday.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

My Friend, Lynette Sowell

Readers, you met Lynette when we did the intro blog for the book Windswept Weddings that we did along with Rachel Hauck, President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and multi-published author Pamela Griffin. Now I want you to get to know Lynette better. I've known her for years through our association with ACFW. Since she lives in driving distance from me, we've also socialized away from the writing world. I've known for several years that she would be published. Her writing style is refreshing. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Windswept Weddings.

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

I wouldn't say my characters are autobiographical, but I sometimes try to draw on some of my own experiences, especially through emotions. In Heart's Refuge, my heroine Krista had been betrayed by her hero and discovers she still deals with trust issues. Who hasn't been betrayed by someone we love? I drew on those feelings as I wrote her story. The same for Luke, her once fallen and now restored hero. He battles guilt over how he'd tossed away both his faith and his love for Krista in the past. I truly hope readers can relate to Luke and Krista. Christians fail themselves and others all the time, and I believe there's as much redemption for them as for a brand-new convert.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

On a road trip during college in 198--, some friends and I removed the foot-high letter "U" from a restaurant's light-up menu sign that originally read "TRY OUR NEW MENU."

You naughty girl! When did you first discover that you were a writer?

In fourth grade, I wrote a story and made it into a film titled, The Mystery of the Uranium Cave. Yes, I read lots of Nancy Drew books. The film won the Worcester County Maryland Children's film festival. After that I had a terrific English teacher in fifth grade who encouraged creative writing. I just assumed it was something that everyone could do. In the years that followed, I spent my time trying not to get in trouble while passing stories around class.

That's quite an accomplishment for one so young. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

Range is the right word. C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, (some) Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, Mary Higgins Clark, Robin McKinley, Terri Blackstock, Kristin Billerbeck, Brandilyn Collins, Davis Bunn (his contemporary work), Marilynn Griffith... I could go on and on as I scan the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf near my computer. Mostly a fresh voice and clean tight storytelling captures my attention. To me, the genre isn't as important as the story itself.

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

Heart's Refuge is my first published novella. This month and December, I have two historical novellas releasing in the anthologies Bayou Brides and Brothers of the Outlaw Trail. Then my first novel, A Suspicion of Strawberries, releases in March 2007. I've written four other books and at this point they'll remain unpublished, which is a good thing. There's always a learning curve and I always hope to keep learning.

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

I pray a lot. I'm learning to say no. I'm still working on that because I have good intentions that often fall short. I must force myself to slow down. Besides writing, I work 40+ hours a week at a regular job. I try to keep in mind what truly matters.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I work in medical transcription, a profession where I see hundreds of names every week, so sometimes if a particular first or last name stands out, I'll hang onto it. I like good, sturdy, uncluttered names that the eye can read easily. I also like simple ethnic names. Many modern names are variations on old spellings, and I think it makes the reader's mind do mental acrobatics every time the name pops up on the page, so I tend to stay away from those.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Becoming an "instant mom" just over eleven years ago. My kids by love and marriage are now 16 and 14. I never dreamed what I was getting myself into by marrying a ready-made family, but I think God for His goodness and help every step of the way.

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

A cat, because of those nine lives and the great fur coat, of course.

What is your favorite food?

I can't pick one, so I'll ramble a list: nacho chips smothered with melted cheese and Rotelle tomatoes; Pizza Hut pan pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms; strawberry smoothies in the summertime; an ice cream sandwich made from vanilla bean ice cream squashed between two chocolate chip cookies. A tossed salad to balance things out (just kidding).

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

I enjoyed getting to know Luke and Krista. Many times romance books end with the engagement, or at least a promise of happily ever after, so I loved exploring this couple's story afterward. That's when I think the real work on a relationship starts in, after you make that promise and say, "I do." Of course, if only Luke and Krista can get to the altar before the town goes up in flames!

Thank you, Lynette, for letting us get to know you better.

Readers, remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Luke and Krista's story and three other stories where the wedding is threatened by a storm of some kind.

Jennifer Y.

You are the winner of a copy of Coldwater Revival by Nancy Jo Jenkins. Be sure to get your mailing address to me. You will really enjoy this read.

By the way, readers, the only thing I do with these addresses is have your book sent to you.

Also, there's still time to leave a comment for a chance to win Dark Hour by Ginger Garrett.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Easy Way to Order Signed Copies of My Books

Just click on the Signed by the Author link under my profile in the right column. Many people collect signed books, so they make wonderful gifts. Or fill your shelves with signed copies of books by Christian authors. Many of my friends also have their publications on the site.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Introducing Ginger Garrett

I've been privileged to have a relationship with Glass Roads PR firm in Nashville, Tennessee. They introduced me to the works of this author. I think you will enjoy reading Ginger's new book Dark Hour.

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

I tend to show up more in the narrative, the description of places and the times. It’s very difficult to write the evil characters, so hopefully, less of me is there!

We certainly hope so. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I am a “Method writer” meaning I want to experience what my characters did: I’ll look up ancient recipes to recreate them, I’ve ordered stones from quarries that my characters would have used thousands of years ago, I try to use the same cosmetics the women did, etc.

That's interesting and sounds like fun. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I tried many times to write a novel and failed. I knew I wasn’t a writer the way some people know they are not singers. But a strange event happened: I agreed to write a nonfiction work on Esther, and somehow it wound up being a novel. There is a mystery behind this story, which I discuss in the writer’s notes of the book Chosen.

Esther is one of my favorite Bible characters. I've spent a lot of time studying her, and I also have written and perform a dramatic monologue of Queen Esther. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I read mainly research materials and archeology articles, and classic fiction. I’m working my way through Time Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Novels of all time. Right now, I’m reading a book on ancient foods and cooking (think prehistoric Martha Stewart), and Look Homeward, Angel.

I love the cover of your book. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I divide my time between novels and nonfiction. My new nonfiction is based on Queen Esther (again!) and is the first Christian rite-of-passage for girls coming of age. It lets girls walk through her story over the course of a year, and is pretty cool. Next year I have a book coming out on the ancient beauty secrets women used—they are incredible tips!

I can hardly wait for the book next year. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I run, run, run. I just finished a 10k race and am training for another one. I have my eye on a half-marathon. Running, without music, is my only quiet moment in the day.

I'm impressed. How do you choose your characters’ names?

That’s the toughest! There are no reliable “ancient baby names” books. I work with a world-class expert in this period of history, and he hammers me about using wrong names. Sometimes I have to create them.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Hiring a maid. My little girl screamed when she saw her bedroom after the first maid’s visit. I raced upstairs to see what was going on and then I understood: she had never seen her bed made! It takes a strong woman to admit she can’t keep up her house.

Well, I haven't hired a maid yet, but my dear husband does most of the housecleaning, including cleaning up the kitchen after I cook. His help leaves me free to write more. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A lion. My house is filled with lion art. If there’s a more glorious animal, I don’t know what it is.

What is your favorite food?

Chocolate! Dark, not very sweet, nuts are okay but fruit is forbidden. Don’t ever serve me chocolate with fruit! Aaagh!

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

When the Da Vinci Code whispers that women were always oppressed by the church, don’t fall for it. Two women battled for the fate of the church: it’s because of one woman’s bravery that the lineage of Christ was continued. It’s an amazing, true story that I hope I did justice to.

I'm sure you did. Ginger, thank you for sharing with us today.

Readers, don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Dark Hour. However, if you don't win, be sure to buy this wonderful book.


. . .you are the winner of Gail Sattler's book Kentucky Keepers. Please e-mail me with your mailing address, so we can get the book to you.

Remember, readers, there's still time to leave a comment on Nancy Jo Jenkins' interview for a chance to win Coldwater Revival.