Friday, November 30, 2007

Booksigning Tomorrow!

I am so excited! My first booksigning is tomorrow, Saturday, December 1st. If you're in the area, please join Colleen Coble, Brandt Dodson, Jamie Carie, Denise Hunter and me for the signing. It will be from 1-3 p.m. at Carpenter's Son, 1165 S. Creasy Lane, Lafayette, IN. I'll be sure to post photos, etc. next week.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Kim Sawyer Interview

I am delighted to have my fried Kim Sawyer join us for an interview. She's a talented writer, who quickly pulls readers into her settings.

Kim, you live in Kansas and your books are set there. How do you find your ideas for the books?
To be honest, more often than not, the ideas find me. Inspiration strikes, and the story unfolds...it seems, sometimes...on its own. I just to go along for the ride. :o) And yes, most of my stories are set in Kansas. The reason for this is twofold: 1) I'm familiar with Kansas, having lived here all but one year of my life; and 2) the stories fit in Kansas--it's believable.

I just finished reading Bygones and Beginnings. These books are as richly layered as Waiting for Summer's Return and Where Willows Grow, but are modern. What was the greatest challenge in writing Bygones & Beginnings?
The biggest challenge in these stories involved the Mennonite aspects. There are so many different Mennonite sects, and each fellowship has its own set of guidelines by which they live. They are not a "cookie cutter" type of people! So researching and deciding which particular sect would work best for my little community was the hardest part. I finally just had to decide it wouldn't be an "actual" group but a blending of several.

The other challenge regarding the Mennonite aspects was to avoid perpetrating stereotypes and myths. I wanted to be honest in how they were presented (they live their faith, quite literally, on their shirtsleeves, yet they are human and with failings, just like anyone else) rather than casting a "this is right and this is wrong" shadow.

I find that I usually learn something from my characters. What did you learn from Marie and Beth? How about Henry, Andrew and Sean?
Oh, my, you would not believe how much God used these stories to minister to me! When I was writing Bygones, my family faced a situation that could have divided and devastated us. But because I was writing about a family divided and devastated due to their unwillingness to forgive, it helped me make the choice to forgive rather than hold onto a grudge. So Marie and her father taught me the power of forgiveness. Beth reminded me how important it is to seek GOD's will rather than pursuing my own. Henry's faithfulness, even when he received nothing in return, is a wonderful example of Jesus' love. Sean had his priorities in the right order...eventually :o)...and dear Andrew had to discover selfishness benefits no one. So yes, these characters each provided wonderful opportunities for my own growth.

And those characters are exactly why I found the stories so compelling. They were so real in their struggles and responses. God has opened amazing doors for you in writing...what fresh dream has He laid on your heart? It's interesting you should ask this, because I've been wrestling with a desire and trying to figure out the logistics of making it happen. So many wonderful authors reached out to me and bolstered me along in my writing journey, and I want to be able to do the same for others. As you may know, I was a teacher in my "former life," and I miss the interaction of teaching. I'd like to host events with small groups of new authors, focusing on one aspect of writing--maybe characterization,or weaving in the spiritual thread. I've been praying about it, and I've reached the conclusion that it will probably be a little while before it comes to pass (remember Sean's priorities--family before work? *smile*), but I plan to keep praying, preparing myself, and waiting for God to make the opportunity available.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and who would you take with you?
Oh, this is easy! I would pack up my family and go to Germany and Russia! My mother's family (Mennonites) immigrated from Germany to Russia before coming to the United States; Daddy's family was Russian Lutherans. So I would love to take my family to these two countries to examine our roots. That would be a dream come true for me.

Any advice for aspiring writers?
Heed the Siren's call. If God has laid this desire in your heart, then write. Even when it's hard and you feel as if you're getting no where, continue to write. I firmly believe there is a purpose in every task God sets before us, and there are no wasted steps in a God-directed journey. So listen to His voice, open your heart, and write.

Thanks so much for joining us, Kim!
Thank YOU!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Win Canteen Dreams

Check out Michelle Sutton's Blog for another chance to win. She'll post a review soon, but here are her initial thoughts:

  • If you enjoy historical fiction you will love this book. It's interesting, has great tension between the hero and heroine, and occurs in a fabulous setting. I'm enjoying this story immensely and if I hadn't been working on my own book today I would've finished it. I hope to post a review in the next few days!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Review: Finding Father Christmas

I don't often read novellas, because most don't have enough going on to keep me interested. However, Robin Jones Gunn crafts a wonderful tale with Finding Father Christmas.

Miranda Carson travels to England one Christmas to find the father she's never known. As this tale begins, she enters the Tea Cosy on Christmas Eve. She's already questioning her decision to leap the Ocean in pursuit of the unknown. All she has as a clue is an old photo.
The story unwraps in the span of two days, with delightful twists and turns. The characters are warm and friendly, and I felt like I was being welcomed into their lives along with Miranda. And Miranda's strong need to answer the questions about her father resonated. And then she considers a decision which goes against her quest in an effort to protect her new friends.

This story is a delightful read, that unravels easily. I thoroughly enjoyed it and think you will, too, if you're looking for a short escape from the Christmas hustle and bustle.

Reviews: Bygones & Beginnings by Kim Sawyer

Can I admit that Bygones sat on my shelf for six months. I wanted to read it, but I was afraid I would be unable to get into a story about the collision of old and new with the Mennonite thread. Yet from the moment I picked up this book till I finished it the next day, I could not get away from this story. The characters and plot were amazingly gripping.

Marie Quinn left Sommerfield, Kansas, twenty years ago and will never return. She was disowned by her family when she married a non-Mennonite and has made the best life possible for her daughter. Then her world is turned upside down when an old friend enters the cafe where she works to tell her that her great-aunt died. Later he informs Marie and her daughter Beth that the great-aunt left everything to Beth on one condition -- that she live in Sommerfield for three months. Beth talks Marie into going with her, and Marie steps into a pit of pain.

The story weaves through the broken relationships from Marie's past, the dreams of her daughter's future, and the healing of old hurts. The story is on some levels simple, but also gut-wrenching as Marie searches for the acceptance and love that has been denied to her for twenty years. Just when she begins to make inroads, events begin to happen which cast suspicion on her and Beth.

Even after she returns to her faith, it looks like she won’t get the desire of her heart. I could relate to the uncertainty and fear that plagued Marie. And also to some of the poor choices she makes at the end of the book in an effort to protect her daughter.

This book is real with characters that I could relate to. From Henry who has loved Marie for years, to her father whose stubbornness may undo him, to Beth who can’t wait to get out of town. And the clash of Mennonite expectations with the 21st Century made me long for that simplicity – though I do like my electricity, thank you very much.

This is a book that will touch you long after you’ve stopped reading it, whether you’re the prodigal longing to come home or on the other side waiting to see if the prodigal is truly changed.


Beginnings is book two in Kim Sawyer's Sommerfield Trilogy. Having breezed through Bygones, I fully expected to love Beginnings. Kim did not disappoint.

This book focuses on Beth Quinn and her deep desire to find a place to belong. She wants to be near her mother who has embraced her old life with the Mennonites. Yet, Beth, while a young believer, has no desire to join the Order. As long as she remains in Sommerfield, she feels like an outsider.

This story tells the poignant journey Beth makes as she tries to find herself and establish her business. The stress of starting a successful stained glass shop could push her over the edge. Then there are the two men who are suddenly vying for her attention. Or are they vying for control of the business. Because of what happened in her relationship in the first book, she finds it hard to trust again.

Kim does a magnificent job painting the setting and characters that I care deeply about. When I pick up one of her books I fully expect to be swept into the story and characters' lives. She has never disappointed me.

And the spiritual journeys of the characters are richly worded and woven into the very fabric of the story. I never feel like she's preaching at me, yet the seeds she plants stay with me long after I've closed the book.

Beth's journey is not an easy one, and she makes mistakes along the way. I could so relate to that. Yet at the same time, her epiphany moment is a natural outgrowth of the progression of the book.

This book will join my keeper shelf.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Preparing for Christmas

We made it home late last night from our Thanksgiving trek. We added a weekend away to the trip, and it's really good to be home.

Today we'll put up Christmas trees. It was do it today or not at all...and that just didn't seem right. So as we begin to prepare for Christmas, what are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful Hearts: Day Four

I've spent this week blogging and thinking about the different ways that I have been blessed. So many of them are truly good ways...and yesterday I shared some of the hard things. So here, in no particular order, is the rest of the list until I can think of more LOL...

  • A husband who loves imperfect me...and no one knows better just how unperfect I can be!
  • A husband who supports my writing dream 120%.
  • A first book that has released...I still get chills when I look at that book sitting in my hutch...
  • The fact that I am under deadline...right now!
  • The fact that I worked under two incredibly tight deadlines in August, beat both, and am delighted with both books.
  • Open doors in the writing field...I don't know which ones will come to an actual contract, but open doors are a blessing.
  • Editors who push me to improve a book, and teach me how to be a better writer in the process.
  • An agent who challenges my proposals and pushes me to make them deeper.
  • A mentor who teaches me so much and helps open doors...I hope this last one turns out...It'll be so awesome!
  • A God who loves me with abandon.
  • A God who shelters me under His wings and leads the way into the future.
  • Two children who are absolute delights and who can't wait to be big siblings again.
  • The fact that they'll be big siblings again in May.
  • A God who quiets my fears and sets before me the decision to choose life or death.
  • The fact that life has conquered the power of death if I will just accept it.
  • Critique partners who have become much more than sounding boards.
  • Opportunities to give back to other writers through the ACFW board and Indiana chapter.
  • Opportunities to serve the women in my church
  • The chance to teach business law at Purdue.
  • A future that stretches in front of me...and knowing that God holds it no matter what happens.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving! I'll be back on Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thankful Hearts -- Day Three

A quick aside...I have to tell you that if you're looking for great odds to win my book, go to Sabrina's blog. Right now, if you enter, you'll be the only one who doesn't already have the book. So hie thee to her blog, ASAP! You just might get to give thanks for winning a great book!

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Thankful Through the Storms

If you've followed my blog much this year, you know it's been a very hard year for me.

In January, after a couple years of trying to get pregnant again, I miscarried. I have been blessed that I've never experienced much tragedy in my life. All of my grandparents lived into my adulthood, and one set is still here to bless my children. It also was pretty much unheard of for anyone in my family to miscarry. Never even entered the realm of the possible.

Until January.

It has been a year of walking through shadows and valleys I never imagined. A year of wrestling with God. A year of demanding to know the unanswerable why. A year of fighting to trust Him even when I couldn't see Him.

A year of reaching out as I grieved and learned. A year of yelling to be understood. A year of fighting through pain as I watched friend after friend have their precious babies.

A year of begging God to put the pieces of my fractured heart back together. A year of kisses from heaven as friends and acquaintances prayed for me and let me know I wasn't alone.

A year of learning just how many women live with the pain and grief of a miscarriage. A year of being determined not to let this experience be in vain. A year of begging God to redeem the pain. To turn it into good as only He can.

It's been a year of fighting through until I am seated at His feet. Sometimes with tears pouring down my cheeks. Sometimes with no words at all. Sometimes with my arms thrust wide, head thrown toward heaven . Sometimes bowed to the ground.

A year of anticipating grief. Each month of what should have been my pregnancy. The week I probably would have given birth. The due date. The events I should have taken a baby, too.

A year of being surprised by grief. Holding a friend's baby that was born around my due date. Being so happy for them, and so incredibly sad for me. Of gritting my teeth and groaning that it wasn't about me. Of holding that baby as a three month old and being socked in the gut all over again by fresh, unadulterated grief.

You see, I can know I have treasure in heaven. But right now, I still long for that treasure to be in my arms.

But through it all, I can see God's hand. And I am thankful. Thankful for the nurses who cried along with me during pre-op and recovery. Thankful for neighbors who held me as I cried. Thankful for a pastor's wife who has walked this road and could point me to the other side -- even before I was ready to hear that there was another side.

Thankful for the real way I have had to walk my faith. Thankful that God is good. All the time. Thankful that God will never leave me or forsake me. Thankful that God collects every tear that I cry. Thankful that Jesus stands at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for me. Thankful that the Holy Spirit knows exactly how to pray when my words are too bound up inside.

Thankful that I can now relate on a gut-level way with an entire group of women. Thankful that God uses everything for His good. Thankful that what the enemy intended for evil will instead be turned into good.

And I am thankful that someday I will see this little Gabriel/Gabriella -- even as I long to hold him/her in my arms now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thankful Hearts: Day Two

First, Camy Tang has a fresh interview with me up on her blog. Camy is a delightful gal who writes great chick lit romances. I LOVED Sushi for One, and am tickled to be over on her site. We're giving away a copy of the book, so be sure to hop on over.
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There's a Veggie Tales song about Thankful Hearts. One of the lines goes something like, "a thankful heart is a happy heart, I'm glad for what I have, that's an easy place to start..."

Let me wax philosophical for a moment here. I am a poli sci major after all. Somewhere along the road, as a nation we've lost the ability to be thankful for what we have. I remember seeing news clips where people on welfare state that cable tv is a staple, a necessity of their lives. It's an American way of life.

How often do we step back and cultivate an attitude of being thankful for what we have? Happy with what we have? Blessed with what God has granted?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines thankful as: Aware and appreciative of a benefit; grateful. The Random House Unabridged Dictionary compares thankful and grateful in the following way: Grateful indicates a warm or deep appreciation of personal kindness as shown to one: grateful for favors; grateful to one's neighbors for help in time of trouble. Thankful indicates a disposition to express gratitude by giving thanks, as to a benefactor or to a merciful Providence; there is often a sense of deliverance as well as of appreciation: thankful that one's life was spared in an accident; thankful for the comfort of one's general situation.

I want to cultivate a life that is grateful for what's been given to me. I drive a nice, dependable vehicle. Why should I covet what somebody else has? God has provided a wonderful job to Eric that in turn provides a great roof over our heads. The home is large, and allows us to host many different groups, something that is important to me. Why should I want for more? My closet is full of stylish clothes that fit. My bookshelves are lined with books I love and movies I enjoy. What more could I ask for.

Yet
it's easy to slip into an attitude that covets the house my friends has on two acres in th ecountry. (Do I really want to live in the country?!?!? Me thinks the yard might be overwhelming). Or I think I need more clothes, more books, more fill in the blank here.

And as I raise my kids, this sense of entitlement to more is placed squarely in front of my face. I want to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in them. A spirit that turns to their heavenly Father to provide all of their needs. A spirit that can distinguish between needs and wants. It's a challenge, but I want to rise to meet it.

So as Thanksgiving approaches here are a few more things I am thankful for:
  • A husband who provides very well for his family.
  • A husband who works hard so that we do not want for anything.
  • A God who provides all of our needs according to His riches and glory.
  • A home that more than adequately shelters us.
  • A home that can be a ministry tool as we open it up to others.
  • Vehicles that are dependable to get us to jobs and ministries.
  • A God who loves me without abandon, and who's mercies are new every morning.
  • A God of second chances.
  • A God who does not waste any experience that I have.
So what do you do in your family to cultivate thankfulness? And what are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Winners are...

The winners of Try Dying are:

Nora St. Laurent
Dawn Thomason and
Nancy.

The winner of Splitting Harriet is:

Janna Ryan.

Congratulations, ladies! Please contact me by November 21st to receive your books.

Things I'm Thankful for Part One

It's that time of year. A time to stop and remember things we are grateful for that have occurred in the last year. This week, I'm going to highlight just a few of the things that I am thankful for. I'd love to hear what you're grateful for, too.

On Wednesdays nights I lead a Ladies’ Bible Study at church. Right now we’re discussing Get Out of that Pit by Beth Moore (great book, by the way!). There’s a fantastic group of women who participate in the study, and I love the intense and vulnerable discussions we have.

As I was sitting there last week, I had to smile. You wouldn’t believe how many times someone would give an illustration for a point and it would include an antidote about kids.

Now this is a room full of mothers – of all ages. Some of us have young kids, some of us are grandmas. Some of us are just now looking at an empty nest. But I think all of us have at least one child.

And frequently when we’re discussing what God does with us – especially related to His loving discipline, we’ll start by saying something like, “now think about what you do with your kids…”

I’m probably the worst offender. As the leader I get to kick off discussions, pull the comments others make into the framework, and keep things moving. So often, I’ll use me as an example. And if I love my kids enough to allow them to experience the consequences of some of their decisions or to yank them back from the edge of danger, how much more God does.

So I am thankful for several things:
  • A God who loves me relentlessly.
  • A God who loves me too much to allow me to stay the way I am, but will always push me to be more like His Son.
  • A God who has placed me in a community of women who chase after Him.
  • A community of women who ask the hard questions and challenge each other as we seek God.
  • Children who remind me, often by the moment, of the great love my heavenly Father has for me.
  • Children who demonstrate how I should live...with qualities of childlike faith and childlike joy.
  • And children who add a richness to my life that I frankly can't imagine my life without them.
So how have your kids revealed part of God’s nature and character to you lately?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Publicity? I can tell about books?

As the publicity officer for ACFW and an avid reader, I love spreading the word about Christian fiction that I love. A challenge is often coming up with new and creative ways to let people know about great books that they might not normally pick up. Reviews and blogs are great, but not everyone is on-line. So what’s a girl to do?

Over the last couple years, I've developed a great relationship with the book manager at our local Parables. I literally would not be writing if not for a booksigning they hosted 2.5 years ago with Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter. Vicky, the book manager, has been one of my biggest cheerleaders.

This bookstore has little tags for recommended books. On that tag there's a place to write a sentence or two about why you like the book and put your name. Usually, just employees complete those, but Vicky has started handing them to my husband Eric and me. We read so much more than Vicky has time to, and it's a great way to point out books that we love and the reasons why.

The fun thing is those little tags (wish I knew a better name for them) sell books. Vicky calls it as good as hand-selling. People will grab a book and look at it and hopefully buy it based on that simple recommendation. So if you have a relationship with someone at your local Christian bookstore, you might see if they have the same sort of thing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a book and flipped to the backcover simply because of that little note. I want to know what the reader saw in the book. And I love the fact that I can go cross-genres. One review might be on a Landon Snow children's book while others tag Reluctant Burglar, The Restorer and Waiting for Summer’s Return.

It’s a simple way to publicize great books.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sabrina's Interview with me

My writing bud, fabulous first reader, and all around great friend, Sabrina Fox has a fun interview up with me. Click here to read it. She's also giving away a copy of Canteen Dreams, so be sure to check out her blog and the post. Sabrina's fun personality comes through loud and clear in the interview, so I hope you enjoy it. :-)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

James Scott Bell Interview & Giveaway

I'm delighted to have James Scott Bell join me for an interview. If you like legal suspense, then you will like his books. I was delighted to finally get to meet him and hear him speak at the 2007 ACFW conference. Now on to the important thing -- the interview....

Your main characters tend to be people who have life going their way and then life intervenes in a dramatic way and they are stripped of the things that matter to them. Did you follow that in Try Dying? Why? What do you hope people will see as your characters walk through those valleys?

I've always been taken by the story of the innocent man who, through no fault of his own, gets caught up in life threatening trouble. One of my favorite movie directors is Alfred Hitchcock, and he repeats that theme over and over.

It does seem to mirror how we have to handle life sometimes. Not necessarily life threatening things, but various challenges. Suspense writing gives me a chance to explore this, and perhaps give people hope.

I think the best fiction does that. The kind of fiction I like to read and write, at least.

How did you create the what if/main idea for Try Dying?

It started with a news item I read one day. A bizarre thing. A man shot his wife, then drove to a freeway overpass in L.A. and got out and shot himself. His body fell 100 feet to the freeway below, and hit a car, killing the driver.

For some reason this incident wouldn't leave me alone. I started to ask what would happen if the person in the car did not die from the fall, but was killed by someone else at the scene? Why would such a thing happen?

Then I asked, who might this driver be? I made it a woman, the fiance of a hot young lawyer. That lawyer became my Lead character, and that's how the whole thing started.

One thing I'm learning is that I learn something with each story I craft. What did you learn from Ty Buchanan as you were writing his story?

I think I learned to trust what was happening inside the character more. There was a temptation to tone it down, but I think his inner life wouldn't have been as real if I did. He is going through hell in this book. That affects him. But it also makes him stronger.

I understand that Try Dying is targeted at filling a hole in the secular bookstores for good, clean legal thrillers. How did you get a vision for addressing that niche? And what has you most excited about this new market?

I do think that secular thrillers, many of them, have taken a very dark turn. I don't find that necessary. I think back on the film noirs of the 1940s, my favorite period, and the crime novels of the 50s. They didn't need to be explicit to set a mood and hook the readers.

I think there is a huge audience out there looking for this kind of book now. That's what I hope to provide.

Time for a fun question. If you could pack up your family and go anywhere in the world, where would you head? Why?
England. We love it there. My wife would like to rent a country cottage. My daughter would want a flat in London. My son would be happy visiting historical sites. I'd be happy anywhere, writing.

Any parting advice or thoughts?

Robert Heinlein, the noted Science Fiction author, had two rules for writers.

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.

Do this over and over again, and you are a writer.

Great advice. Thanks so much for joining us!

My pleasure.
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I also have three copies of this book to giveaway. Be sure to leave a comment to be entered to receive one of these books!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Carpenter's Son has Canteen Dreams!!!!!

Yesterday I stopped at Carpenter's Son to touchbase with Vicky, the book manager, about the booksigning they are hosting for me and my writing buds on December 1st. (Sidenote, if you're in Lafayette on Saturday the first, from 1-3, please stop by and say hi!). Anyway, I was so excited when Vicky showed me the shelf of Canteen Dreams they had in stock!!!!

You can go to Carpenter's Son's website and order the book there.

Have I mentioned lately how amazing God is!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Review: Splitting Harriet & a Giveaway

I love to read Chick Lit and Tamara Leigh has become a favorite, right up there with Kristin Billerbeck in her ability to create characters that impact me. Harriet Bisset is no exception. In fact, there are many points from this book that I am still pondering after the reading.

Harriet Bisset is a reformed rebel. The only thing worse than being a rebel is being one when you were a preacher's kid. While she knows (in her head) she's forgiven, she's been unable to truly accept it and is living a tightly constructed life eight years later.

The only problem is that life is getting ready to change. The church her dad founded has hired a church consultant, and he's shaking things up. And Harriet, when she's honest with herself.

Harriet is a character who is trying so hard to do all the right things in her own strength. She lives with the reality of the depths she fell to eight years earlier, and is determined not to get one millimeter close to that line again.

The problem is she wants to. Who can't relate to that?!?! The knowing where we should be, but the longing to explore while crippled by fear that if we start, we won't be able to stop!

Tamara Leigh does a masterful job of walking her character through the needed evolution without becoming preachy. And the book is made more powerful for it. Now don't get me wrong, she works in a church and her life revolves around God. But she's fully human with quirks and foilables I loved.

The supporting cast of characters is rich and varied. And the first person POV is fantastic. There's enough self-deprecating humor to keep it light and fun. And enough challenges for Harriet to keep it real.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think you will, too. Leave a comment and you will be entered in a giveaway for this book. I'll draw the winner at the end of this week! Good luck!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day: Don't Let the Stories Die

By my friend Tricia Goyer:



Veteran's Day is a time to remember:

In 2000, I got my idea for what came to be my first historical novel, From Dust and Ashes. Wanting to know more about the 23 men who liberated Mauthausen concentration camp, I contacted the 11th Armored Division who put me in touch with six of the veterans. These men then invited me to attend the 59th reunion of their division. I wasn't expecting that at all. I thought they'd point me to a good research book or allow me to interview them over the phone.

I felt SO unworthy to meet with these men. I knew very little about WWII, and I didn't want my inexperience to show. Not to mention the $1000+ for airfare, hotels, rental car for a book I didn't have a contract to write.

I urged a friend to go with me, and I've been so thankful we went. The men were caring and opened their hearts to me. They shared stories with me that they hadn't shared with anyone before. They laughed. They cried. They took my hands and thanked me for caring about their story. They hugged me and kissed my cheeks.

When it came to writing my novel, I wasn't writing about fictional characters. I was writing pieces of Charlie's story, bits of Arthur's experiences. The memories that made LeRoy cry made it into my book. The snapshots that Tarmo carried around in his mind for 60 years transformed into scenes in my novel (and the novels to follow!).

I get many letters from readers who say that my novels come to life on the pages--that's because the men's experiences came to life to me as I looked into their eyes and saw glimpses of young heroes. Also, the following year I went to Europe and walked the streets of the SS housing with a man who'd been nine-years-old when the camp opened near his home. Again, I "saw" the story in his eyes as he shared--this time from someone on the outside.

There was an added benefit to this diligent research that I didn't expect. After my second novel Night Song came out I received a letter from a veteran. He made a list of twenty minor research points that I'd gotten right, and then he asked, "One thing I didn't understand was the faith element of this story. Can you tell me more about your faith in God?"

YES!

Because I had done the research, I'd was able to share about my Jesus with a veteran who has since passed away.

One more fun thing I didn't expect. One of the men I met at the reunion was Pete. Pete was a medic--the one medic I met. Years later I received a letter from a reader who had read From Dust and Ashes. She was a survivor of Mauthausen--actually, she was born there. When she was 3-weeks-old she was close to death. When the gates were open a medic spent a full day lancing and cleaning infected boils on her skin, saving her life. She asked me if I knew any medics. I knew one, and I passed on his phone number. It turns out Pete was the one who saved her life! They have since met on numerous occasions.

If I hadn't gone to that reunion I wouldn't have met Pete, and I wouldn't have been able to connect him with Hana--what a God thing!

Of course, I do have regrets concerning research, too. In my most recent series on the Spanish Civil War I received a letter from a SCW veteran who said he was willing to help me with research. The letter got put into my "very important" pile on my desk and weeks and months passed. I pulled it out again, and I planned on calling him when I heard from someone else that this man had passed away. That has happened more than once with men who offered to be interviewed, and I'm always regretful of the "one more story" I missed. After all, once gone they are gone for good.

If you have a veteran in your life ... today is the perfect day to reach out--to listen to his or her story. Don't let the stories die, when you have a chance to make a difference.

Below are photos of a few of the men I've interviewed.

To read some of their stories, go to:

To see more photos (including real photos from the liberation of Mauthausen) go to:

To watch my NEW video about my WWII Liberators Series, go click here.



















Friday, November 09, 2007

Please Pray

The proposal I've worked on since coming back from the ACFW conference at the end of September is sitting on the editor's desk as of yesterday afternoon. I am so excited that it's even under consideration. And signs are good. However, please pray that God would bless this. That He would make this the right proposal for me and for the publisher. I don't want to do something that won't be successful for them. And PLEASE pray that I would have the creativity and energy to write Captive Dreams in the next six weeks. I need to get it done ahead of deadline, so I can start writing this new book. If the publisher buys it, I'll be under a very tight, but very doable deadline.

I can't wait to share the whole story someday, but the lawyer in me is keeping me cautious until there's a contract. But you won't believe what God is doing. Regardless of whether this book is purchased He is absolutely, mind-blowingly amazing, and I continue to hang on for the ride. Have an awesome weekend!

Priceless

My friend Denise Hunter posted this week over at Girls Write Out about things that are priceless to her. Then she challenged all of us to think about the things that are priceless to us. Here's my list:
  • Family: I'm blessed that my immediate family growing up was much bigger.
  • A husband who loves me, foilables and all
  • Children who bless me every day with their wit, love and ability to challenge me.
  • A husband and kids who are absolutely my biggest cheerleaders on this writing journey.
  • Friends like Rachel who at a moment's notice will help me get somewhere to pick up a car
  • Snow...love the clean feeling the world gets.
  • Mountains...only God could create such beauty.
  • A community of women at church who are pushing each other deeper into God.
  • A great book with a cup of tea on a cold evening.
  • A session of fantastic brainstorming with writer buds; there's nothing like the free-flowing ideas and creativity.
  • A writing time where the words flow and I'm partnering with the God of creativity to write.
  • My favorite grapefruit lotion.
  • A pair of pants that fit well.
  • Finding a store that carries my size without requiring me to look like I'm trying to be 16.
  • Seeing Vicky at Carpenter's Son.
  • Having friends who get as excited about what God's doing as I do.
  • A phone call with Joy or Janna
  • My flowers in full bloom
  • Planting flowers in the spring with only an idea of what the final product will look like.
  • A bouquet of fresh-cut flowers from my garden.
  • A great school day with Abigail.
  • Watching Abigail grab a concept in the first go-round
  • Working with Jonathan on reading and watching his enjoyment
  • Reading books I loved as a kid to my children
  • Listening to a great praise and worship CD
  • Discovering a new song that ushers me straight into the throne room.
  • A gorgeous sunset
  • Holding that first book :-)
  • A weekend away with Eric.
  • Time back home.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Interview with Robert Liparulo

DEADFALL is classic Robert Liparulo, starting with an amazing bang that pulls the reader in to the story. And I've decided the author never sleeps. He sent this interview to me at 4:30 this morning! He's in the middle of a booktour, but found the time to join us for a few questions. Don't forget all the fantastic giveaways he has running at his site right now. Now for the interview:

Each of your three books is very different. What is the common thread or theme that readers can expect when they pick up one of your books?

All of my books explore the quality of character: who are you when no one is looking? I believe true character comes out in extreme circumstances. You can say you’d stop a mugging or stand up for what’s right, but would you really do it when the rubber meets the road, when you’re there and you can be hurt or even killed doing what you said you would? Also, I like exploring the quality and depth of family bonds and friendship.

How did you get the idea for DEADFALL? What caused the What If... to start playing in your mind?

Unlike my other novels, DEADFALL is less about plot than it is about the characters: who they are, how they behave in extreme situations, why they do the things they do. That’s where it all started for me. I was thinking about a few people I know, some with excellent character, some with corrupt spirits (back to that examination of character). I wondered what made them either strong and good or self-serving and mean. I wondered what would happen if you tossed the two personalities into a somewhat restrictive environment, where they had no choice but to battle it out. Who would win? Why? I wanted to know what it would take to drive the good guy to a point where he had to reach deep within and see if all that goodness was enough to survive when the forces of evil are trying to take him out. That curiosity made me build a story around the characters.

And from the few chapters I've read so far, I can tell you've set up quite the contrast in characterization. The book is gripping! I've found that as I write, I usually learn something from the characters or story. What did you learn from DEADFALL?

That I don’t want to become as complacent as Hutch was at the beginning of DEADFALL. He was taking some awful things in his life—divorce, losing his children—sitting down. I don’t want to be that way, but I think it’s an easy place to get to. I also grew to appreciate my children even more than I had, and I’ve always loved and cherished them. Hutch was losing his, and it made me want to hug mine more closely.

This book has four men who are going through some pretty intense circumstances escaping for two weeks of guy time in the wilderness. But they don't get the relaxation they expected. Do you have a group of guys that you hang out with? If so, what do you like to do as a group?
I have a revolving group of four or five men, with whom I meet regularly, either each individually or, rarely, all together. We enjoy eating out, playing poker, smoking cigars, talking about books and movies, camping, watching TV, if something special is on, or a show we all like, such as 24 or Heroes. We like to barbeque.

My husband enjoys both those shows, too. Now for the final question. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and who would you take with you?

Big Beach, Maui, with my family. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Thanks so much for joining us, Bob!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

CFBA Tour: Deadfall by Robert Liparulo

Deadfall is this week's CFBA tour. I thoroughly enjoyed the high-pitched suspense of GERM, so couldn't wait for Deadfall to arrive. The only problem: Eric grabbed it before I could. Now that's a good problem. We both love great fiction, but it means I'm starting it tonight. Good news: That means a review next week. Even better news, Robert is going to stop by with an interview later this week. Stay tuned!

Also, be sure to read to the bottom for some great chances to win autographed books and more from Robert Liparulo.
Deadfall: Deep in the isolated Northwest Territories, four friends are on the trip of a lifetime. Dropped by helicopter into the Canadian wilderness, Hutch, Terry, Phil, and David are looking to escape the events of a tumultuous year for two weeks of hunting, fishing, and camping.

Armed with only a bow and arrow and the basics for survival, they've chosen a place far from civilization, a retreat from their turbulent lives. But they quickly discover that another group has targeted the remote region and the secluded hamlet of Fiddler Falls for a more menacing purpose: to field test the ultimate weapon.

With more than a week before the helicopter rendezvous and no satellite phone, Hutch, a skilled bow-hunter and outdoor-survivalist must help his friend elude their seemingly inescapable foes, as well as decide whether to run for their lives...or risk everything to help the townspeople who are being held hostage and terrorized.

An intense novel of character forged in the midst of struggle, survival, and sacrifice. Deadfall is highly-aclaimed author Robert Liparulo's latest rivetingly smart thriller.

Get Downloads and EXCERPTS at www.LIPARULO.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robert is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Robert's first novel painted a scenario so frighteningly real that six Hollywood producers were bidding on movie rights before the novel was completed. His acclaimed debut novel, Comes A Horseman, is being made into a major motion picture by producer Mace Neufeld and his short story "Kill Zone" was featured in the anthology Thriller, edited by James Patterson.

Bob has sold the film rights to his second book, GERM. And he is writing the screenplay for a yet-to-be-written political thriller, which sold to Phoenix Pictures, for Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, The Guardian) to direct!

He is currently working on his fourth novel.

I’d like to give away five signed copies of Deadfall to readers of CFBA blogs during my tour. All they have to do is sign up for my e-mailing list (they won’t be inundated!) by going to his website and going to the “Mailing List” page. Or email him with “CFBA giveaway” in the subject line.

He also wanted to let people know that he is holding a contest on his site:

**one winner a week till the end of the year for a signed Deadfall
**one winner a week till the end of the year for an unabridged audio MP3-CD of Deadfall
***and on Dec. 31, I’m giving away an iPod Nano, pre-loaded with an unabridged audio recording of Deadfall

Winners are selected from my e-mailing list—sign up at my site. If a winner has already purchased what he/she wins, I will reimburse them for the purchase price (or give them another—whichever they choose), so they don’t need to wait to see if they win before buying Deadfall.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Just Thinking by Jolene Catlett (AKA my mom)

Today, I'm going to post something a bit different. From time to time you'll read me thinking about my parents and what they did right. Often, if I ask them point blank for parenting advice, they kind of shrug and move the conversation on. This weekend my mom sent me an article that will run in the North Plate Grapevine, the local homeschool newsletter.

It's about a topic that I think is critical: teaching our kids to dream. This is something my mom and dad did very well. They RARELY pooh-poohed our dreams. When I decided I wanted to go to college at 16, they never said that was impossible. Instead, when I turned 16 and still wanted to do it, my mom marched me down to the local community college's counselor to see how we could make it happen. That guy didn't know what hit him :-) Crazy homeschoolers!

When I finaled for the Harry Truman scholarship my junior year, I ran into a blizzard driving from Lincoln to Denver. Called my parents absolutely hysterical because I knew if I did not get to the interview the next day, my chance at the scholarship -- and the rest of my life (grin) -- was over. Once my parents were assured my friend and I were still in one piece, they moved into plan mode. My Dad was going to drive to Grand Island (in the blizzard) and then drive us the six hours (in good weather) to Denver if that's what it took. Instead, they bought us two plane tickets on the very last flight out of Grand Island. It was snowing so hard, Jocelyn and I had our windows rolled down trying to stay on the road.

That's what my life growing up was like. So here's Mom's take on teaching our children to dream. And Mom and Dad...if I haven't said thanks lately, THANKS. I wouldn't be the woman I am without you two pouring into me.

Just Thinking
By Jolene Catlett

I went to a Women’s Retreat last month. The speaker was very good and I was challenged in my own life on some issues.

One thing she shared was that her children did not know how to dream. This family never had extra money for anything-she never took her children into the toy area of Wal-Mart because they couldn’t get anything anyway. So when these children could basically ask for anything they wanted they had (or couldn’t verbalize) any dreams. How sad!

This got me to thinking about my own children-were they dreamers-did they have goals and aspirations? Did they reach beyond what they could see? Fortunately, my answer was YES!! Then I thought what as a mother did I do or not do to make this happen?

As many of you know, our oldest daughter, Cara, just had her first novel published. This has been very exciting for our whole family. We are her biggest cheerleaders and proof-readers!! But this dream didn’t happen overnight. She has been journaling since she was in 3rd grade. Who bought her those journals? She would write letters to everyone-including authors she was reading at the time. Who bought the stamps and helped with spelling? Having a book published didn’t happen overnight-it has been a dream for a long time.

My other children are dreamers too-Janna had dreams of going to a Christian Arts School and then on to Broadway. The Christian Performing Arts School happened, Broadway didn’t-because she choose marriage and family for this time in her life. But she was active in Community Playhouse and now ministers to many children weekly through music and dance. And God isn’t done helping her dream big things.

Josh wanted to be a NBA star. Someone took him to lots of practices and games and cheered and shot hoops with him. God even put Godly hoop-shooting men in his life when his Dad was in the Gulf War. At some point we had to tell him he had a couple things against him in his dream for the NBA-he was short and white. So he switched to soccer, in which he excelled, later was a coach and was able to touch many young people, and I don’t believe his days of coaching and dreaming are over.

Joel perhaps could be the next Steven Curtis Chapman-he tried it, made a CD (I have extra copies if anyone wants!). Entertainment didn’t work out at that time, but he is able with his voice and guitar to lead others to praise and worship our God. And he isn’t done dreaming.

I’m not a dreamer-I’m a realist. I don’t want to see my children or grandchildren hurt because they set goals so high they can’t be achieved-BUT we need to let our children dream and dream BIG.

I heard a mom say recently, she couldn’t stand to see her children disappointed, so she only let them try things she was sure they would excel in. I’m not sure this is wise.

There is a difference between dreaming and being discontent. We need to teach them to dream with God. God will give dreams and desires. What does God want for me? Where is God opening doors for me? God has a plan for my life-am I preparing myself for what he has for me? Our dreams will never be disappointments, if we dream with God.

-------------------
And Tina Forkner has an interview up with me on her blog She Plants a Vineyard. Yep, you guessed it, another opportunity to win a copy of Canteen Dreams.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Writing Even When...

I teach at Purdue today...awesome, but pray for me if you can. I've had a nasty cough and scratchy voice which always makes teaching more ...um... fun.

Cross-posted at Writer Interrupted...

It's one of those early fall nights. I'm sure you've had them, too. You've run all over creation during the day. All you want to do is crawl into bed and pull the cover over your head. Your throats scratchy. Your ears are plugged, and man that throat is sure scratchy. Even warm tea isn't helping.

The only problem...a deadline is looming. One from your editor and one from yourself. So instead of going to bed, you plop down at the computer to review a synopsis. Write a chapter. Twist a plot. Whatever it takes to get words on paper.

You see, writing with a contract is an honor and a privilege. It's also a job. That means regardless of how I feel, there are times that I just have to sit down and type.

Now tonight, for me, that means writing this post, conducting some ACFW business, reviewing a synopsis. Not the actual work of creating. Once I'm into the world of 1944 central Nebraska, I'll be able to write the story regardless of how I feel. Tonight, I'm at the beginning of writing. As in haven't touched the story since sending in the synopsis and proposal months ago. We're talking March!

So last night I watched documentaries of William Powell and Myrna Loy, two great movie stars from the 30s and 40s -- one of their Thin Man movies will probably play a cameo in the book if the years work out. All in the effort to remind myself of the styles of the time. I cradled one of my research books while watching, I'm sure that counts...right?!?!?

But tomorrow, I pray I feel better and can dive into the story. Then the fun... work ... of creating another book can begin in earnest.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Congrats!

Janet is the winner of a copy of my book from the bloggy giveaway. Thanks to everyone who stopped by. I loved checking out your blogs and reading your comments. Janet, I've emailed you.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Review: The Restorer's Son

While I was at the ACFW conference, I haunted the bookstore, cautiously hopeful that Sharon Hinck’s latest release would show up. After extra diligence on her part chasing down the book from the bowels of the hotel’s backrooms, it appeared. And I promptly snapped up one of the few remaining copies.

I have been waiting to read The Restorer’s Son since the very last page of The Restorer. This book did not disappoint…unless the fact that the book ended is a disappointment. And the book leads straight into book three, which of course I now have to wait MONTHS to read. I’m thinking about bribing Sharon with chocolate to get an early copy of The Restorer’s Journey.

In The Restorer’s Son Kieran fights with the One over his selection as the next Restorer. He’s an outcast among his people, and can’t imagine how he will serve as their rescuer. Then the One tells him to take the message of the One to the people of Hazor. This does not seem like a job for a Restorer. Susan and Mark are back; this time hunting for their son who slipped through the portal. There are hints of themes from the Old Testament, yet the story is fresh and completely enjoyable.

The book is told in first person from Kieran and Susan’s points of view. Each character has a distinctive voice – no chance of mixing them up.

I could easily relate to Kieran’s struggle with God…Does God love me? Why would He love me and care about me? This can’t really be His call on my life. He must have the wrong person…but wouldn’t He know that!

Sharon paints powerful word pictures of these other worlds. I felt like I was returning to an exotic location I’d visited long ago. And yet the descriptions were rich enough to easily carry the uninitiated straight into Lyric, Braide Wood and Hazor. The author’s creativity in constructing an entirely new world that is unique yet easy to picture is amazing to me.

Kieran’s growth as a character is real and believable. The subplot related to Susan and Mark’s son Jacob adds to the underlying story and launches us into book three. This book lived up to every one of my very high expectations.

If you like fantasy or want to try something new by an author who has quickly become one of my favorites, race out to buy this book now! I loved, loved, loved this book!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

November New Releases and News

Here is the November 2007 line-up of new Christian fiction releases! Time to add a few books to your Christmas wish list or find a great gift for a loved one. Also this month, Jill Eileen Smith has a new Spotlight interview with award-winning author Nancy Moser author of the newly released Just Jane. Be sure to stop by and read Nancy's interview and visit the websites of the following authors. Enjoy!

1. A Christmas to Die For Book 2 in The Three Sisters Inn series by Marta Perry from Love Inspired Suspense. A holiday season among the Plain People swarms with hidden danger when an inn owner finds herself the target of a killer.

2. A Matter of Trust by Lisa Harris, from Heartsong Presents. With Ty back in her life, will Kayla be able to trust him when a dark secret comes to light and all evidence of the crime points to him?

3. Faith Awakened by Grace Bridges from Lulu Press and Waitemata Books. In virtual stasis to escape a deadly virus, an ex-slave in Ireland finds far more than just survival.

4. Just Jane by Nancy Moser from Bethany House. Historical novel about the life of author Jane Austen.

5. Standing Strong, Fourth and final book in the Homeland Heroes Series by Donna Fleisher from Zondervan. Four warriors. Two rival gangs. Is faith enough to win peace on the streets of Kimberley Square?

6. The Love of His Brother by Jennifer AlLee from Five Star, a division of Thomson Gale. A young, pregnant widow finds more than just support when her black-sheep brother-in-law comes home.

7. Within This Circle (mass market size) Sequel to A Vow to Cherish by Deborah Raney from Steeple Hill Books. After her mother’s death from Alzheimer’s disease, Jana McFarlane struggles to cope with her roles as wife and mother.

Happy reading~
-------

And for the update, I get to fill in for a couple classes at Purdue next week. I love to teach and was thrilled to get the opportunity. I bug my contact there for slots in the fall and spring. I don't have a permanent one yet, but am excited about getting back into the classroom for at least a week...maybe longer. Never a dull moment as we like to say around here. Or as Eric said, there goes my margin. It's so big to start with :-)

And my Heartsong Presents Editor loved my revisions to Sandhill Dreams. I sent them in LATE last night, early this morning, and she was back to me this morning with comments on how much she liked them. Yeah! And I get to change the hero in book three. There was a supporting character in book two who wants some attention. A couple first readers noticed him, too, and kept asking if he could be the hero for book three. JoAnne agreed. Another big Yeah!

Love Inspired Suspense should have received a proposal for book 2/3 today. Pray that God's will will be done on that. I'm truly okay either way. I'd love to write the books, but if Krista says no, I know that means these other possibilities will perk up. I have a feeling I'll be busy either way.

I covet your prayers as I navigate teaching, writing a new book, and working on two more proposals over the next month. Oh and don't forget home-making, homeschooling, teaching Sunday School and a Ladies Bible study, etc. Margin? What's that!

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