Friday, April 24, 2015

Sunshine Makes Everyone Happy

This is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and brighten you day. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Words ~ So Small So Powerful

I work hard to turn a phrase into a thing of beauty. Once in a while, my critique partners will give me a "wow" on one. If it's one I spent a lot of time on, I love it. Now and again, it just happens. That's the joy and the "magic" of writing.

Someone recently said in a blog it's the "whispering beneath the words" ~ not what we say but what we don't.

I love subtext. I'm still learning to do it purposely. Right now, if it happens, it's blind luck or God whispering to my heart.
Isn't that what we strive to do? Nudge the world and change lives.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HGVT's Joanna Gaines

The first time I saw Fixer Upper on HGVT, I was hooked. I loved the stars, Joanna and Chip Gaines. There was something about them that drew me. A few episodes in, they mentioned friends from their church, and I had my answer why they drew me. 

It was their faith. They're believers. Besides being funny, they're family oriented, and great. 

But there's something more. In this video, Joanna mentions something I tell other writers when I teach. There is a lie the enemy sows within a young child.

Listen to Joanna's powerful testimony:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Where Did That Come From? ~ by Paula Mowery

Paula is a pastor’s wife, mom to a college student, author, acquiring editor, and speaker. No matter the hat she wears, she strives to honor God’s plan even if it means going out on a limb and leaving comfort zones. Reviewers have characterized her writing as “thundering with emotion.” Her book, Be The Blessing, won the 2014 Selah Award in the novella category. Paula enjoys reading and reviewing Christian fiction, writing Christian romance and devotionals, and helping other authors realize their dream of publication. You can find Paula on Facebook, her blog, or read her monthly column. 


Have you ever read a fiction book and wondered how in the world the author came up with the idea for the story? Since I read and review lots of books, I will often ask how the author came to write that story. I enjoy finding out the story behind the story.

My story, Forgiven, from the anthology, Brave New Century, has ties to my father’s family. My dad was gathering some information about his ancestors and ran across an interesting story involving his own father. He was able to locate a copy of a newspaper article that appeared after the event. My parents journeyed to the small town to find out even more about these ancestors.

When they returned, my dad asked if I might be interested in their findings. As soon as I glimpsed the headlines to the newspaper article they had found, my ears perked. The headlines read: Three Men Are Shot; Fatal Result of a Pistol Duel In This City Last Night.

It was discovered that my paternal grandfather, Henry, along with his two brothers and his father were involved in a shoot-out in the small town of LaFollette, Tennessee. Henry watched as his father and one brother were gunned down. Their father lay mortally wounded but continued to fire his pistol until the skirmish died down. Literally with his dying words, he made the two remaining brothers promise to avenge the death of their brother.

My heart raced with the possibilities of the story I could concoct. How could I merge this event with a blossoming romance between Henry and Jessie, my grandmother? With a little snooping at a local section of a museum dedicated to some very specific records of Knoxville, Tennessee, I penned Forgiven.

I never had the privilege of meeting my grandfather, Henry Smith. My grandmother, Jessie Lee Smith, his wife, lived long enough for me to meet as a young girl. I could remember her sweet disposition, her Sunday dinners, and her singing nursery rhymes.

Though much of the story is purely fodder from my day-dreaming, Forgiven will remain special to me because its research linked me to a set of grandparents I didn’t know well. It also forced me to delve into the time period in which they grew and made a family, the 1900’s.

Several novels I have read recently have contained a note from the author at the end, often including an explanation of how the story came about. I suppose I’m curious by nature or maybe just nosy, but I receive even more enjoyment discovering the story behind the story.

What about you? Do you enjoy knowing more about the origin and background of the stories you read? Why or why not?

Four young women each brave challenges at the dawn of the 20th century. Will they overcome their hardships and find love?

Three Rings for Alice
Love and respect in 1899 Milwaukee is as close as a phone call.

When Henry and Jessie meet, it seems to be love at first sight until a shocking revelation tears them apart.

The Pocket Watch
Looking for the past, an orphan and a young doctor find love and hope for the future.

Flames of Hope
Love ignites in the midst of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Meet One of My Favorite Authors, Sally John

The short version could likely be similar for a lot of women of a certain age: I’m a wife (41 years and counting), mom (adult son and daughter), mom-in-law, grandmother (two girls, one boy), a former teacher (middle school reading; subbing; tutoring; writing workshops); and now I’m well into that season of life defined by such things as: not concerned about coloring the grey; navigating through the Smart TV is a bit of a challenge; my mom doesn’t always know who I am; and middle age is becoming a tiny dot in the rearview mirror. I was born and raised in Moline, Illinois, and now live in San Diego.

Sally, you don't know this yet, but it was your book, Castles in the Sand, that made me know what kind of stories I wanted to write—stories about relationships. Tell us about your newest releasing book.
Oh wow! Really?! That tickles me to no end – and makes me grateful once more for how the stories touch readers in so many ways. I think your response is a first, though.

Heaven Help Heidi is set in a make-believe San Diego beach community, Seaside Village. It’s another story about women’s friendships at the Casa de Vida, a cozy group of rental cottages we met in Between Us Girls.

When Heidi’s life is turned upside down, she moves in. As a successful real estate agent, she never ever would have chosen this place to live. She struggles to adjust as well as to ask for and to accept help from the other residents.

Piper, a resident, faces her own life-changing decisions. Can she move beyond her grief over her fiancé’s death? Can she let go of a job she adores for something different? Can she let Hud into her heart?

Liv, Casa owner and woman of a certain age, mentors the young ones and deals with a deep hurt from her past.

By the end of the story, all three women are living examples of how God is never finished with healing us and is always creating something new in our lives. They’re in a space of love and acceptance.

Where do you get your ideas for your books? What sparked this story?
The seeds for ideas come from real life. Writers are observers. When something interesting happens, we write notes on paper napkins, palms, and receipts. I have learned to send myself a text message but that’s still not my first thought. The news also provides story ideas (and proves that life is stranger than fiction).

These seeds offer the starting point to ask “what if” questions. Imagining the answers is what develops into stories.

Heidi’s roots came from the idea for the Family of the Heart Series. I wanted to create a safe harbor for people, something we all desire. I’ve done many stories about marriage and family. With these new stories I wanted to explore the power in women’s friendships. (Harvest House suggested “family of the heart” after I had started. It’s a great phrase for the series.) From there I simply began to imagine women. The practical: what did they do for a living? The catalyst: what stumbling blocks might be thrown onto their paths?

I created Casa residents as minor characters, incorporating a variety of life experiences. Piper came along in Between Us Girls, a fashionista who offered exactly what Jasmyn needed when her clothes were stolen. She intrigued me. How was she dealing with her deep grief? (Current news: Iraq and Afghanistan and our great losses.) I chose to make her a major character in the new book.

Heidi came from—I’m not sure! LOL. With the large population here in Southern California, real estate is a huge deal. Every other day an agency ad lands on our doorstep or in the mailbox. (Last week I received a nifty tool from one of them: a flashlight/screwdriver! It’s better than the magnets and notepads.) I decided Heidi could be successful in this work, happy as a lark, good at what she does. What could bring her down? The economy and a physical injury that disrupts her everyday life for months on end.

Did anything strange or funny happen while writing this book?
Roaming several blocks from home one day, I happened upon a walled courtyard. I peered through the locked gate and laughed. It was totally the Casa’s courtyard! The cottages weren’t there (the place is an inn, although it doesn’t look like one), but the ambience enveloped me exactly as I had imagined my characters feeling when they entered the Casa.

That's so cool about that courtyard! Did you always want to be a writer?
Always! Reading fiction kept me sane as I was growing up. More than an escape or entertainment, it remains a source of insight. A favorite quote of mine is “stories give us eyes other than our own with which to see the world.”

The thought of writing fiction was a wild and seemingly unattainable dream. Until I was 35 years old, I believed Carolyn Keene lived in New York City along with every real writer in the U.S. Seriously.

Where do you write, a coffee shop, attic nook, or a cave?
Today I’m actually in the process of moving from a bedroom to a corner in the living room. Last week at a consignment shop I found a “secretary,” a small desk with drawers and nooks and a hutch. Next to it is a narrow window; I can see a slice of the patio surrounded by a low concrete block wall. Between my potted succulents on it, I can see heads and shoulders of people as they walk by. The neighbor’s hot-pink bougainvillea droops into the space. This makes for dappled sunlight.

I’m partial to desks. Okay, I drool over desks. For years I wrote on a huge one that I’d bought at a Salvation Army. I left that in Illinois. At our next house I claimed a bedroom (without a bed) as an office and filled it with a brand new desk and matching bookcase. Three books later, a wildfire claimed that set and the house.

I wrote the next couple of books on a folding table in a bedroom. Eventually I bought an inexpensive, drawer-less desk and enjoyed it. But, seven years later, it’s saggy. The alley outside the window and the bed are totally disrupting the feng shui… So here I am. 

Sally, of all your characters, which was your favorite and why?
As a group, the women in The Beach House hold a special place in my heart. I had never tried to write from four points of view before, but those ladies marched front and center into my imagination before I realized what was happening. Jo, Molly, Char, and Andie carried me to a new writing arena.

Padre Miguel (Ransomed Dreams) is an all-time favorite. He would show up and take over. I never knew what he would do or say. And I didn’t even have a bio on him beyond the basics: he was short, a priest in Mexico, loved God, and had a faith was as big as all outdoors.

Share a few of the techniques you learned that changed the way you write.
Outlining is necessary for me. I learned this early on from a multi-published author. Like her, I could write scenes, but stringing them together into a coherent story took some forethought.

I’ve learned to trust the process. My outlines aren’t as detailed as they were early on. Although I never planned exactly how a story would end, in recent years I’ve seen how organic storytelling can be. Once I have the big picture in place (plot, setting, characters, theme), the story can unfold. I might know Point A and Point B, but situations and characters get me from one to the next when I don’t have a clue.

Now for the fun: Tell us 3 things your readers might not know about you.
  • My all-time favorite movie scene is from Stranger Than Fiction, when an author (played by Emma Thompson) meets her fictional character (played by Will Ferrell), in person.
  • I’m 5’ 7”.
  • During college, I lived for one semester in Grenoble, France, and I love all things French.   

If you were a musical instrument, what would you be and why?
A clarinet. It can be made of wood and uses a reed (both earthy). It has shiny keys (a little “glitter”). The sound is low and smooth, a steady undercurrent that supports other instruments. Alone, it can make beautiful music…when it’s played right. 

Heaven Help Heidi
Young and successful real estate agent Heidi Hathaway is totally in control of her own life. That is, until an accident leaves her injured, unable to work, and questioning the purpose of her life. That’s when she moves to the Casa de Vida, an ocean-side community that becomes so much more than a place to rest and recover.

It’s there she meets Piper Keyes, a young woman reeling from the loss of her fiancé in Afghanistan. Piper knows Jared isn’t coming home, but she struggles to open her heart again.

The two women couldn’t be more different, but they need each other now. In their friendship, they discover God’s grace and mercy, and with that comes hope, healing, and the promise of new love. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Disagreeing with Your Book BFF

I've disagreed with my Book BFFs several times, but never to this degree. Enjoy!

A World Without Writers?

It would be like this:


Thankfully, we have writers who write much better dialogue. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

National Blah Blah Blah Day ~ Really

I'm tickled by the "Days" somebody has come up with. For today's Day, which is Blah Blah Blah Day, I give you this:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It's Rubber Eraser Day

Today is Rubber Eraser Day. Really. Somebody decided rubber erasers need their own day. Who am I to argue? So, I was going to tell you 10 things you can erase with a rubber eraser, except...

We live in a digital world. Who uses erasers anymore? Well, besides kindergartners.

It would be cool if they worked on anything. We could rub one across the TV screen and get rid of a show ending we didn't like. If someone left a nasty comment on Facebook, we could erase it. 

I got a liquid graphite pencil. It's pretty cool. It has an eraser, and it erases what I just wrote. But only if I erase it right away. After it sits a bit, it become permanent. That can be good or bad. Good it I'm writing a note and don't want it to smudge, as graphite can do. But it's not so good on my calendar. Then it's like using ink.

As a writer, I can erase what I've written by using my delete key. It's a favorite feature of my inner editor. I can wipe out a bad sentence, a horrible deed a character committed if it doesn't' suit the story.

If you could use a rubber eraser to wipe out something, what would you erase? Be creative. Pretend you're a book, any genre. And you had this magical rubber eraser that would erase anything you wanted. 

What would it be?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Romantic Suspense Author ~ Annslee Urban

Annslee Urban grew up watching old-time romance movies, which she attributes to her passion for sweet romance, true love and happy endings. A daydreamer at heart, Mary began her writing journey when the youngest of her five children started school. For several years she worked as a freelance writer for newspapers in her community and has written for magazines and online publications. Raised in the foothills of Arizona, she survived temperature shock when she moved to Western Pennsylvania, before setting in North Carolina with her husband and children. Aside from writing, Annslee works part-time as a Registered Nurse in the Behavioral Health field. She is a member of ACFW, and has served as on the board of Carolina Christian Writers. She currently has 4 published novels. Her current book, Broken Silence, Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense, is due out March 1, 2015. When she isn’t writing, Annslee enjoys cooking, traveling to faraway places, playing with grandbabies and all things chocolate!

NR: Leave a comment for Annslee and be entered in a drawing for a book. She's giving away 2: 1 print book (US residents only, please) and an e-book (anyone!).

Tell us about your releasing book.
Broken Silence is my second romantic suspense with Harlequin LIS and is about a heroine whose tragic secret forced her to walk away from the man she loved. A decade later someone is trying to kill her because of what she knows and the person charged to protect her is the fiancé she never forgot.

Where do you get your ideas for your books? What sparked this story?
My creativity is more often than not sparked by my life experiences. Threaded through my books are bits and pieces of my life. Places I’ve been, people I’ve encountered, emotions and memories. I love to explore the unknown, try new foods, travel to new destinations, talk to and enjoy friends and family. All of these things continue to spark my creativity, and sometimes just a phrase that I’ve heard or a situation is enough to start my mind churning. And once that happens, creative thinking kicks in and characters come to life. Getting into the heart of those characters is what drives a story!
Did you always want to be a writer?
I was somewhat of a daydreamer long before a writer. From the time I was young, I was conjuring up stories in my head. I loved Cinderella fairytales, sweet romance and happy endings. It wasn’t until my children were nearly grown that I sat down and tried to write a novel. Although, I’ve never marketed that story, it sparked a passion in me to become an author.

Where do you write, a coffee shop, attic nook, or a cave?
I write in the first floor office of our home. It’s nice and cozy with a comfy chair, a claw foot writing desk and wonderful bright overhead lighting.

Of all your characters, which was your favorite and why? 
That’s so difficult. I think my favorite characters are really the characters in whatever book I’m writing at the time. Being a woman, I relate more to the heroine and love getting to know her. I try to create someone that rises above their circumstances and cares deeply for others. And of course, my heroes are strong and noble, great Godly men who love their heroine beyond measure.

Share a few of the techniques you learned that changed the way you write.

During my journey as a writer there has been several things that I’ve learned that have been invaluable:
  • First of all, pray for God’s guidance.
  • Read what you write. 
  • Whatever you write; suspense, romance, historical, etc, read that genre.
  • Also, read books from the publisher you are targeting.
  • Critique groups are wonderful to bounce ideas off of, point out plot issues, correct grammar, etc.
  • Don’t obsess over a scene if it’s not working. Move on and come back later with a fresh mind. 

Now for the fun: Tell us 3 things your readers might not know about you.
  • I’m an off the beaten track traveler. I enjoy mission trips to third world countries, and when traveling with family after seeing the touristy highlights, I like to check out where the locals eat, shop, etc. to get a true feel for the area and culture.
  • I never watch TV or movies, except an occasional Disney flick with my grandkiddos, but love live theater.
  • I love to cook and collect recipes, so if anyone has a great recipe to share…

If you were a musical instrument, what would you be and why?
I’m so not musical, so I took a quick quiz online and I came out to be a violin, which is: vibrant or mellow depending on the situation. You love nature and can be very chirpy. You are usually talkative and happy in your friendship group. I think I agree.

…and someone wants to make sure Amber Talbot never reveals it. When she becomes the target of a car bomb and a home invasion, she gets the message loud and clear. If she tells anyone her secret, she will die. The person charged with protecting her is police detective Patrick Wiley—the fiancé she walked away from but never forgot. The same man she never wanted to tell about the attack that left her for dead. Back then Patrick couldn't save her. Now he must. Because the attacker has returned to finish what he started. Except this time he's got them both in his sights. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Beginning

My third book in the Chapel Lake series is done. I've edited the first draft and my critique partners are going through it, suggestion ways to their polish it to a high gleam. Then it will go off to my publisher.

It's always at this time, the next story start to perk in
my heart. I've sat on this on for a while. It's going to be hard to write. I tried once before, but the main character (besides Claire) wasn't speaking to me. She's very shy.

Lately, though, she's been giving up bits of herself, as she's become more comfortable with the ladies who meet every day at Dee's 'n' Doughs. I find myself anxious to begin. To learn more about her. To share her story.

There are a lot of stories within the village of Chapel Springs. I'll keep telling them as long as people want to read them. Will Chapel Springs become as beloved as the Mitford series? 

I don't know. 

Only God does.

Who do you want to know more about?