Friday, April 18, 2014

Family Sagas Rich in Conflict ~ Meet author Sydney Avey

Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non-profits and corporations. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.

Sydney blogs at on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life. Her novel, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, was released from HopeSprings Books in December 2013.
Ane invited me to answer some questions about my writing journey. We all struggle to make sense of our beautiful, terrible world, to reframe damaging experiences and identify what brings lasting joy. I believe that faith is a process of discovery, and that when we share our stories with open, honest hearts, we practice our faith. Writing is the way I work out my faith, with the requisite fear and trembling!
I call my writing Christian Lit with grit. I write for people who experience dark nights of the soul and are looking for light. My own journey from daughter and granddaughter to mother, grandmother and finally family matriarch has equipped me with an endless supply of stories: tension in the interplay between generations; legendary characters held up as good or bad examples; festering secrets that threaten to undo us; bonds of affection that nurture us; These are the experiences I dig into for what they reveal about God.
My own story is not unique; a family secret about my heritage; curiosity about family legends; dismay over past events. When my mother passed away shortly after revealing the secret she had kept, I sat down and wrote a book about what we lose when family ties unravel and how the best of what we inherit from the people we came from is a legacy to cherish.
My debut novel The Sheep Walker’s Daughter was released by HopeSprings Books in December 2013. I drafted it in NaNoWriMo in 2010. It won runner up in Page Turner contest in 2011. I work-shopped sections of the manuscript in a course at Stanford University called Gripping Reads, made numerous revisions, had it professionally edited, and submitted it to a small publisher listed on American Christian Fiction Writers’ website. That led to a contract and valuable collaboration with Lynellen Perry to bring the book to market, an experience I thank God for.
What’s next? I’m putting the finishing touches on the sequel, The Lyre and the Lambs. This book moves Dee and Valerie, mother and daughter, from the idyllic Fifties to the turbulent Sixties, where they re-define family. And, I’m delving into the book that a set aside four years ago after deciding I’d better learn how to write a novel before I tackled the complex theme in On Edge. My third novel is about a young man born into poverty who has a genius IQ. The story explores the motivations of those who help him become successful and the mentor who causes the young man to stumble at every turn.
All writers are readers. Some read for entertainment, some to experience, learn and grow. I like books that take me to places I love or want to go, like Edward Rutherford’s Paris. I like authors who reference the classics and address spiritual, moral and ethical issues—writing that makes me think,like John Updike and C.S. Lewis. I admire authors who write about complex, flawed characters with love and respect: Elizabeth Berg, Jeannette Walls, Tobias Wolff, and many others.
Ane asked about writing instruments. I have an antique Smith Corona typewriter I used to bang on that belonged to my grandmother and a fond remembrance for the Olivetti portable typewriter that got me through college. I doubt I will remember any of my computers as fondly, even though they helped me be incredibly productive. Why is that? I have a passion for pens. I have traded jewelry to waitresses so I could keep quirky pens they gave me to sign the tab. I almost always have a pen in my hand. If you lend me a pen, you probably won’t get it back.   
Ane, thanks for the fun of being your guest.
The Sheep Walker’s Daughter

A Korean War widow's difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of her daughter's father and his cultural heritage. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency? Why is her own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that he isn't telling? All this head-spinning breaks a long, dry period in Dee's life. She might just as well lose her job and see where the counsel of her new spiritual adviser and the attentions of an enigmatic ex-coworker lead her.

The Sheep Walker's Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with one woman's search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment. Dee's journey takes her through the Northern and Central California valleys of the 1950s and reaches across the world to the obscure Basque region of Spain. She will begin to discover who she is and why family history matters.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Meet Award-winning Author Shannon Vannatter

Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author, and #1 Contemporary Award.

She has nine titles with Heartsong Presents and is contracted for six more through June 2016. Her books are available at,,,, and Learn more about Shannon and her books on her website and check out her real life romance blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. 

Ane: Leave a comment for Shannon and be entered in a drawing for Rodeo Song

Tell us about your releasing book.

Rodeo Song is the 6th title in my Texas rodeo series. The series isn’t all about the rodeo, but the Fort Worth Stockyards is the backdrop and many of the characters work the rodeo or have a Stockyards connected job. Each book stands alone, but the characters are connected. In Rodeo Song, the heroine owns an interior design business in the Stockyards and the hero is a famous Country singer who signs a short term contract to be the opening act at the rodeo.

What sparked this story?

Back in Michael Bolton’s heydey, I attended one of his concerts. I loved his raspy voice and he could sing the daylights out of a love song. That night, I had a dream that I was in the lobby when he made his famous lobby run. He took my hand and pulled me onstage, then sang Georgia on My Mind to me. I used to live in Georgia and I thought the dream was funny, so I shared it with friends and family.

After I started writing, I decided it could be a book. But fiction has to make more sense than dreams, so in the book, he pulls his high school sweetheart he hasn’t seen in nine years onstage and sings a love song to her. To fit the rodeo theme, I transformed him into a Country singer.

What's the one book or writing project you haven't yet written but still hope to?

I have a longer length romance that’s been in my head for years, but I haven’t had enough time in between contracts to complete it. A nice problem to have, but since all of my published titles are shorter length, publishers aren’t interested in a longer work from me unless it’s complete. With my current contract, I have a bit more time in between deadlines, so I’m planning to complete it.

If you had one entire day in which to do nothing but read, what book would you start with?

I don’t have it yet—but I plan on making a run to the Christian book store this weekend and get Denise Hunter’s latest, Dancing with Fireflies.

How many books do you read in a month?

I pretty much don’t read while I’m working on my first draft of each book, which usually takes two months. Then I have a free month before I start editing. During my free month, I read 3 or 4 books. Not as many as I’d like, but I have a husband, a twelve year old son, and a church since I’m a pastor’s wife, so reading often sadly gets pushed to my backburner. I usually have 4 months in between deadlines, but with this contract, I have five months between deadlines, so I’m hoping to get some extra reading in.

What was your first writing "instrument" (besides pen and paper)?

A dinosaur computer. It was huge with an ginormous monitor back in 1999. It was a five year old hand-me-down from my father-in-law. But I loved it and I wrote five books on it before it died.

What's your favorite writing "instrument or machine" you've ever owned?

My laptop. My husband got me my first one in 2005 for Christmas. I cried. I love sitting outside on the porch to write and being able to take it with me on business and pleasure road trips. I finally had to replace that first one last year.

What's your favorite genre in which to read?

Inspirational Contemporary Romance. My first several writing attempts were inspy Romantic Suspense. But then I heard a speaker at a writing conference say that whatever you most enjoy reading is what you should probably write. It was an Aha moment for me. I switched to writing Contemporaries and the words flowed, but some of my books have suspense elements to them.

What's the one book you remember most clearly from your youth (childhood or teens)?

Old Yeller. Our teacher read it to us in the fifth grade. I remember having a huge lump in my throat and trying not to cry in front of everyone.

What's next for you?

I get to continue my Texas rodeo series with three more books. The other three books in my contract aren’t set in stone. I’m thinking about setting them in Arkansas—my home state and the setting for my first three published titles.

Rodeo Song


But when silken-voiced Garrett Steele set out for stardom, he left Jenna—and his cowboy past—far behind. A chance encounter at one of his concerts propels him back into Jenna's life. But, once burned by love, Jenna must guard her heart against the captivating singer. 

Once upon a time, Garrett vowed he'd be a success, no matter what. But that path shattered his soul. His reunion with Jenna makes him long for things he once took for granted. Now he must show her that he's found what he was looking for all along…right here in his hometown.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Memories Are Made of This ...

One day on the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) loop, someone asked if anyone had any sweet snow memories. Since I grew up in SoCal, I didn't have many, other than spending a day at Big Bear and a rock-hard snowball hitting me in the face when I was nine. That certainly doesn't qualify as sweet.

No, my first tickle-my-ribs-funny memory is from my first winter in Atlanta, Georgia. Most people don't think of snow when they think of Hotlanta. I know I didn't.

We moved into our house on April Fool's Day, 1990. That probably should have been my first clue. The following winter, we had our first snowfall. I was delirious with delight. I'd never seen snow actually falling.

My son wanted to go sledding on a 3'x3' piece of leftover cardboard in the quarter inch of snow that blanketed the yard. I decided it would be an excellent object lesson for him.

I'd been after him to clean up the dog's uh ... business piles for three days. I'm sure you don't need any more explanation. Suffice it to say the sledding didn't live up to his expectations. However, the yard remained clear of landmines after that.

My point to this is my memory of the event is much funnier than my son's. Okay, this may not have been the best example, but humor is subjective, like books. Right? 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Emily Wierenga ~ A Promise in Pieces

by Ane Mulligan

Emily Wierenga is wife to a math-teacher husband; mother and foster mother to four boys; an artist, columnist and the debut author of A Promise in Pieces. For more info, please visit her website or find her on Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook.

Emily, this is your debut novel. What sparked the story?

My Grandma Dow was very close to a brother who was killed in combat during World War II. Also, my grandfather served in the Second World War; I’ve always had a fascination with the time period, and being a pastor’s daughter who’s not only battled disillusionment with the church but miscarriage, the story about how God redeems broken hearts and sets the lonely in families just wove together.

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?

I write with my sons on my lap in our office at home, or in a comfortable chair in the living room, but with two young boys ages 2 and 4, I don’t get much alone time. My best writing times happen during the kids’ nap, or in the evenings.

What would you do if you didn't write?

I would paint more frequently; I am a commissioned artist.

A Promise in Pieces

Following World War II, Clara Kirkpatrick returns from the Women’s Army Corp to deliver a dying soldier’s last wishes: convey his love to his young widow, Mattie, with apologies for the missed life they had planned to share.

Struggling with her own post-war trauma, Clara does not feel prepared to handle the grief of this broken family. Yet upon meeting Mattie, and receiving a baby quilt that will never hold the soldier’s baby, Clara vows to honor the sacrifices that family made.

Now a labor and delivery nurse in her rural hometown, Clara wraps each new babe in the gifted quilt and later stitches the child’s name into the cloth. As each new child is welcomed by the quilt, Clara begins to wonder whatever happened to Mattie—and if her own life would ever experience the love of a newborn. Little does she know that she will have the opportunity to re-gift the special quilt—years later and carrying even greater significance than when it was first bestowed.

This book, A Promise in Pieces, grabbed hold of my heart and didn't let go until I read "The End," and even then, the characters have lingered in my mind. Well-written, this touching story will leave you wanting more from this talented new author. Novel Rocket and I give it our highest recommendation. It's a 5-star must read. ~ Ane Mulligan, President, Novel Rocket