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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Spotlight on Cathy Elliott and A Vase of Mistaken Identity

Ok, ok, I'm late. Chalk it up to recovery from the holiday weekend and real life. At any rate, I'll make up for it this week and next with not 1, but TWO spotlights and TWO chances to win a FREE book. I actually have 3 ready to go, but I'm not sure I'll have time to get all 3 posted. We'll see. If I do, better for all of you. :)

Don't forget to post a comment for your chance to win a FREE book!

And now for spotlight #1:

Cathy Elliott is a Library Information Technician at a community college in northern California. A woman of many interests, Cathy is an antique collector, a quilter, a musician, and ardent reader, and a mom. In her spare time, she loves to write and share chapters with her friends at a local hangout. Cathy is a contributing author to The Upper Room, Stories for the Teen's Heart, Book 3, and A Cup of Comfort for Grandparents. A Vase of Mistaken Identity is her first novel.

1. Amateur sleuths have been a 'hit' for over 20 years in both TV and books. You combine that with an antiques dealer in your main character. Where did you get the inspiration behind this particular story?

When Thea James walked into my head and introduced herself, she made casual mention that she was an antique dealer. I knew we'd like one another because I have been an avid antique collector for the last twenty years or so. If she talked about a copper luster jug or the excitement of the treasure hunt, I knew exactly what she meant. Plus, I knew that she would have an interesting place of work for the reader to observe, and lots of opportunities to talk to folks and visit their homes or estates on business. As I got to know Thea better, I realized that the world of antiques and the world of intrigue could overlap – especially if I began her adventures with a mysterious list found in a vintage vase. That list becomes even more of a mystery when one person listed meets with a freak accident and the next one disappears. Thea is pulled into the puzzle because her name is next.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the character of Thea? What aspects became traits that were hers alone?

Along with the interest in antiques, I gave Thea my love of quilting and she is making her first quilt through the book. (At the end, the quilt pattern has been included so the reader can make it too.) She plays a little guitar, as do I, and my tendency to procrastinate almost explodes in Thea’s world. Like Thea, I also forget to wear my glasses for distance. We do share some traits. But there are those that are Thea’s alone: her nail biting, her obsession with her hair, her clumsiness, and her whacked-out imagination.

3. What themes exist in A Vase of Mistaken Identity that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

Maybe that as Thea stitches on her quilt, reworking this or that, adding more to make it complete, the puzzle unfolds as well. In the end, Thea sews up the mystery and finishes the quilt! A less overt theme was one of light. Thea had switched off her spiritual light from disappointment with God – from anger, even. But her slow return to faith in Him, has her turning up the dimmer switch a little at a time, as He proves Himself again and again, and shows His loving care in the kindness of others. Additionally, there is mention of following the light in the Alaska story told by Buck Salisbury during the church service. Later, Thea walks toward the light when she finds herself helpless and alone, stranded late at night. In the light, she finds comfort.

4. What was your most difficult part to write? Your favorite?

Most difficult? The first chapter! I rewrote that baby more times than I counted. Each time seemed to improve it, yet, no sale. But I listened to everyone (which is a mistake)...made so many changes it no longer sounded like my voice. So I put it back together and tried again. With some wise advice from author Tricia Goyer, I finally found my problem – too many flashbacks were mucking up the pace. Not good in a first chapter. Once I wrote it in real time, the pace picked up nicely and everything else fell into place. I hope I have learned THAT lesson.

My favorite? Maybe the chapter where Thea gets a frantic phone call from her sister, Rosie, and rushes over to see what is wrong. That's the chapter where the Mexican meatloaf was born. (Giggle.) I had a great time writing that scene. It was based on someone’s real experience and she let me borrow it, bless her.

5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

I am working on a sequel to Vase that is not yet contracted, but I hope it will be. Kregel has strong interest in giving Thea another adventure. This season of my life has been a very serious detraction from the writing, but I am seeing that light at the end of the tunnel, at last, ever brightening, ever beckoning. Starting to flash at me! Thea's next adventure is calling. It is all plotted out and I'm polishing the proposal. It has to do with an annual quilt show in Larkindale, a stolen legacy quilt, and a missing quilt expert. Thea, as co-chair of the event, finds herself once again reluctantly enmeshed in the imbroglio. I suspect she'll find herself in plenty of trouble before she figures out just what the trouble is!

Thanks so much, Tiff, for introducing me to your readers. I am honored to be here and enjoyed answering your insightful questions.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

CFBA Blog Tour: Calm, Cool & Adjusted by Kristen Billerbeck

Hmm, no comments yesterday. Looks like everyone is busy preparing for the holiday. Well, I have a bonus today. Now you have not one, but TWO chances to win a FREE book this week. Leave your comments on either spotlight post to be entered into the drawing.


Kristin Billerbeck was born in Redwood City, California. She went to San Jose State University and majored in Advertising, then worked at the Fairmont Hotel in PR, a small ad agency as an account exec, and then,
she was thrust into the exciting world of shopping mall marketing. She got married, had four kids, and started writing romance novels until she found her passion: Chick Lit.


Calm, Cool, and Adjusted is the third book in the Spa Girls Novels.

Billerbeck did a great job with the characterization of Poppy, a quirky Christian chiropractor who is a health nut. I'm talking real NUT. She is so obsessed with health that she forgets about living. When she finally realizes that she is over the edge obsessed, she doesn't know how to stop herself.

Best friends since Johnny Depp wore scissors for hands, "The Spa Girls" live very separate lives, but stay in touch with routine visits to California's Spa Del Mar.
The third novel in the Spa Girls Series focuses on Silicon Valley chiropractor Poppy Clayton, who is as calm, cool and adjusted as they come. Or is she? Known for her bad fashion sense, a love for all things natural and the inability to get a second date, Poppy is beginning to wonder if she might be misaligned herself. Her route to self discovery will be an unnatural one - a plastic surgeon, a dilapidated house in Santa Cruz, a flirtatious client, and a blind date from the dark side.

It's all enough to send a girl - and her gal pals - running for the comfort zone of their spa.

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With a book that will have you wanting to schedule an appointment at your own spa, Kristen delivers once again. Post a comment for your chance to win this book FREE! Winner to be announced next week.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Spotlight on....Rachel Hauck who's Lost in NashVegas!

This week's author is more like a big sister to me, encouraging and checking up on me and offering Godly wisdom when I need it. She's served as president of ACFW off and on several times over the past four years and brought amazing worship experiences as well as memorable comical moments to our conferences. Now, you can sample some of that humor in her chic lit novels. Join me in welcoming Rachel Hauck to the spotlight!

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Hi everyone! Just want to say thanks to Tiff for having me stop by her blog today. I've known Tiff for several years now and she's a favorite face to see when we meet up at writer's conferences.

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Ditto goes for me, Rachel. :) Thanks for dropping by as part of your blog tour. It's winding down now as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States, but I hope it was fun!

And now on to the interview:

1. Nashville and Country music. The two go hand-in hand, and you've crafted a new book that combines them both into one story. Where did you get the inspiration behind this particular story?

The inspiration came out of a conversation with my agent, really. She suggested a country girl chick lit and a songwriter. I had a lot of learning to do, but it was fun.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the character of Robin Rae? What aspects became traits that were hers and hers alone?

Since I lead worship at my church, I could relate to Robin as a singer, and have in my past struggled with irrational fear and anxiety. Unlike Robin, I never ran, but I knew the feeling.

Unlike me, Robin is a true songwriter and musician. I made up the songs for her, of course, but I think she was way better than my limited writer ability. I wanted the reader to believe poetry and songwriting lives in her soul.

3. What themes exist in Lost in NashVegas that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

The main theme is go for your dream. Don't let fear, odds, tradition or obligation stop you. Be wise, be responsible, but get a plan and go with God toward your drea.

I think one theme that wasn't too overt was how God's perfect love cast out all fear.

4. What was your most difficult part to write? Your favorite?

The hardest part was getting the songwriting industry in Nashville written with authenticiy. The easiest was just Robin herself. Once I figured her out, she was a fun character to hang out with.

5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

My next book is Diva NashVegas due out in early May. This is the story of a country superstar and how she finds her way back to her gospel roots. I loved the character of Aubrey James. The book was incredibly hard to write, since I've never been a country diva, but Aubrey turned out to be a true friend.

The cover is up on Amazon if you want to check it out.

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Hope everyone in the States has a fantastic Thanksgiving. Don't eat too much. :) I'll be back next week to announce the winner of the free book.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

CFBA Blog Tour -- Rene Gutteridge's SCOOP!

Post a comment for your chance to win a FREE copy of Scoop.


Rene Gutteridge is the author of several novels, including Ghost Writer (Bethany House Publishers) The Boo Series (WaterBrook Press) and the Storm Series, (Tyndale House Publishers. She has released three novels in 2006: Storm Surge (Tyndale) My Life as a Doormat (WestBow Press, Women of Faith) and Occupational Hazards Book #1: Scoop (WaterBrook Press).

She has also been published over thirty times as a playwright, best known for her Christian comedy sketches. She studied screenwriting under a Mass Communications degree, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Oklahoma City University, and earned the "Excellence in Mass Communication" award. She served as the full-time Director of Drama for First United Methodist Church for five years before leaving to stay home and write. She enjoys instructing at writer's conferences and in college classrooms. She lives with her husband, Sean, a musician, and their children in Oklahoma City.


The Occupational Hazards Books are a series of books about seven homeschooled siblings whose last name is Hazard. The parents died in a freak accident leaving the kids ages 16-26 with a lucrative clown business but the kids realize that God has other plans which doesn't include being a family of clowns for the rest of their lives.

Scoop, is the first of the series and centers around Hayden, who was age 20 when her parents died. If you haven't yet guessed by the series title, this book is packed with many laugh out loud moments and great one liners.

Hayden is a strong Christian who, having been homeschooled, lacks some of the politically correct social not praying in front of everyone during a crisis. She finds herself in an internship at a television news station with a boss that takes stress pills, an aging news anchor that everyone wishes Botox on, a weatherman who wants to predict love for himself and Hayden, and a reporter struggling with his own politically correctness of being a good reporter and being a Christian.

Old School meets New School meets Homeschool. A smart and funny read.

Blog Spotlight Delayed

We're actually be having not one, but TWO spotlight features this week, but since Blogger wasn't cooperating last night, today's is going to be a a little late. I'll have it posted tonight when I get home from work. The winner from last week will be posted in the comments of that spotlight. Look there from now on for the winning announcement.

As always, thanks for your support.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Spotlight on Jedd & Todd Hafer

This week, we're going to have a special bonus of not one, but TWO spotlight features and author interviews. Thanks to the folks at GlassRoad PR, I can provide the extra book giveaway and bring this interview to you.

Jedd Hafer's work with severely troubled teens at Children's ARK for the past twelve years gave him the material and voice needed to write a book hurting teens won't put down. The average kid at Children's ARK has been kicked out of five places for bad behavior. He has broken up gang fights, saved kids from dying of overdoses and prayed all night with kids who were suicidal. He understands the driving forces and the pain behind young people's behavior so well that he is in high demand as a trainer and presenter on crisis intervention and de-escalating angry, aggresive youth.

Todd Hafer is a veteran writer with over 30 books to his credit. He recently worked on Battlefield of the Mind for Teens with Joyce Meyer which is currently on the best-seller list. Todd is an editorial director at Hallmark and has overseen many of Hallmark's most successful projects.

And now, let's hear from them. Don't forget to post a comment for your chance at an FREE copy of BAD IDEA.

1. You've tackled a difficult topic, but a message that, like rape, is needed for today. What led you to write about this subject matter? Where did you get the inspiration for this book?

Jedd: To me, it's kind of a 2-part answer. I work with (and Todd has counseled with -even when he was a teen) some pretty self-destructive kids.

We both have personal stories that have touched us in these areas that would fall under 'inspiration'. However, we never set out to write a story "about self-harming" or "about divorce" or "about hidden drug abuse". We just set out to write a good story that was real. Griffin is a complicated guy who happens to have quite a few problems despite looking pretty good on the surface. That seems to strike a chord with most everyone.

Todd: In addition to what Jedd has said, my journals from my teen and early 20-something years also informed the book. Sometimes, time and distance give you the perspective you need to write about something. It was intriguing to go back and read chronicles from those challenging years, but then be able to write about old wounds, rather than fresh ones. And, I was able to add what I have learned about life since then.

2. What themes exist in Bad Idea that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

Jedd: Again, the messages were probably less overt than people might guess. To me, the principle mesage for adults is PAY ATTENTION! Don't assume everything is okay. Get engaged with the young person. Dig. Check it out. Pay attention! The message to young people may be the same, but with more of a "be real" slant. Griffin plays lots of mind games and he doesn't see the harm until pretty late - especially the harm he causes others when he hurts himself.

Todd: Something that kept striking me as we wrote this book was that it's not just where you are going in life -- it's who you have beside you on the way.

I hope, too, that readers get the sense that no one is as together as he or she might seem. We're all fragile, flawed creatures who need mercy and grace.

3. What was your most difficult part to write? Your favorite?

Jedd: My favorite was the smart-Alecky comments Griffin makes. They came pretty naturally. The tough parts were the scenes in which people deal with tragedy. That's tough to portray and it's different for everybody.

Todd: Two difficult scenes come to mind. The first is when Griffin truly encounters death for the first time. Working on that scene took me back to the death of my best friend a few years ago. To take readers to that place, I had to go there again myself, and that really never gets any easier. The second scene is when Griffin learns that Amanda Mac, his longtime secret love, has found a boyfriend at college. Again, if you've been there, you know the pain. The challenge in our book, though, was to convey the sense of pain and betrayal without slipping into MTV's Real World manufactured drama. ("MTV's Real World," by the way, is one of our favorite oxymorons, right up there with "Republican Party" and "head-butt.")

As for favorites, I like Griffin's imaginary conversations, with everyone from Robin the Boy Wonder, to distance-running legend Jim Ryun, to God.

It's always a kick to unleash your imagination and let it run buck-wild for a while. As we work on the follow-up to "Bad Idea," we're having a lot of fun with Kansas Miyagi, who counsels Griffin-san during his continued adventures.

4. How did the two of you become writing partners? Who contributed what to the book?

Jedd: Todd was already a successful writer when he offered his little brother a chance to work on a church humor book (Snickers from the Front Pew) with him. We have similar senses of humor and both really have a heart for young people. Todd wrote all the nouns and I wrote all the verbs.:) Actually, Todd provided the great overall idea, the plot, the structure, the characters and the layered intracacies. I put my name on the cover. Seriously, I contributed many the immature, snide comments from Griffin and Todd did the rest.

Todd: Jedd and I have always been close, and I have long admired his creativity and sense of humor. Another key element Jedd brings to the creative process is a truly good heart -- which is reflected in the modesty of his answer above. In a lot of ways, he is a moral compass for our books.

I dread to think how darkly cynical the books would be without him. And who needs darkly cynical books? For that matter, who needs rhetorical questions, such as "Who needs darkly cynical books?"?

Anyway, when I started writing books, I kept telling myself, "You've gotta come up with some ideas that will give you and Jedd a chance to write together." Fortunately for me, we've been writing together for about eight years now.

5. When is/are your next book(s) coming out and what is/are the story(ies)?

Jedd: After 'Bad Idea' will be a sequel called 'From Bad to Worse' a novel with Girls. We also worked on a teen devotional called The Road Ahead - a collaboration with Hayley DiMarco.

Todd: Uh, yeah. Pretty much what Jedd just wrote. Although, I also have an eight-book sports fiction series called "The Spirit of the Game," which has been out for a little while now. Toby Mac wrote the foreword for it, which might be the best part of the whole series. The publisher, Zondervan, is going to repackage and re-release this series in a year or so. I am going to go back and do some rewriting on these books -- developing the lead female character, Robyn Hart, a little more. I am grateful for this opportunity, as I wanted Robyn to be more prominent in the first place. But the series was originally marketed as an "Especially for Guys" thing, so some of Robyn's best stuff is still lurking on my hard drive and in various notebooks. But soon all will be revealed.

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Thanks, guys, for joining me on my blog. And thanks to everyone for reading.