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Friday, June 29, 2007

ACFW Conference Tips

Today is my 2nd day of posting as part of the ACFW Blog Tour. If you haven't kept up with the others who have blogged, I recommend you check out that link and visit other members who have shared insights, memories and other details. Because the interest has been so high, they're going to be doing another month in July. I'll post the schedule as soon as it's released.

Now for the tips for anyone attending the ACFW Conference in Dallas this year. All right, so some of these could probably be applied to any writer's conference, but the focus is ACFW, so I'm highlighting that. :)

1. Leave your frowns at home. This conference is full of smiles, hugs, laughter, zany moments, opportunities to broaden your horizons, chances to rub shoulders with your favorite authors, times to meet new people, ability to hang out with others who understand you as a writer, a way to network like you'd never believe, and the presence of God that will astound you!

2. Come with an open mind. Be ready to step through an open door you might not have thought possible when the opportunity presents itself. Although you arrived with certain publishers or editors or agents in mind for your writing, don't discount the impromptu meetings or conversations that could lead you in a different direction that originally planned. This could even mean a chance to work on something that has been sitting on the back burner for years, or even something completely new that you hadn't even considered. If you expect the unexpected, you won't be disappointed.

3. Relax. Take time out to have fun and not be so focused on your agenda. It's when you least expect it that the greatest opportunities cross your path. Also keep in mind that everyone you meet was once where you are or is in the same place you are. They all put on their pants one leg at a time...well almost all of them. *winks*

4. Prepare ahead of time. Read the needs of the faculty represented. Make appointments to see the ones you want and know the others so you can possibly join them for lunch or dinner at the faculty-hosted tables. Study their photos (if available) so you recognize them in case you wind up in a conversation with them. Check the workshop schedule and mark the ones you don't want to miss. Be aware of the timing of everything so you're not caught unaware. Don't be afraid to ask questions of others you find when you're confused or uncertain. Have business cards, one-sheets, pens, pencils, paper, a sample query letter, one copy of a proposal, and your various "pitches" ready. Make sure you can summarize what you're writing in 10-second, 30-second and 2-5 minute "pitch." You might even find a friend or fellow writer to rehearse with you.

5. Be ready for anything. Each year at ACFW, there have been many surprises where the stories have been told months and even years afterward. Memories like these are what make this conference so special. From the kidnapping of Brandilyn Collins' books with a ransom note left in their place, to a revealing workshop led by Randy Ingermanson (the Snowflake Guy) which led to a water shortage at the hotel, and from zany slippers, head gear and costumes to dinosaur masks, boas and men wearing dresses...this conference brings out the wacky side of fiction writers and reaffirms that we are NOT NORMAL. :)

6. Get some sleep. This is a key tip. A lot of times you can ride high on the emotions and adrenaline of a conference such as this. However, you can't deny your body the rest and sleep it needs. With a 4-day conference (sometimes 5-day if you attend the Early Bird session), you'll be in a divetail before the end if you don't allow your body to replenish its own energy. I know I often think I'll "miss something" if I'm not the last to go to bed and the first up, but I also know my limitations. Stay fresh and rested. It'll make the entire conference more enjoyable.

7. Don't be overwhelmed. Last, but not least (as there are many other tips for a successful conference), take everything in stride. Try not to over-extend yourself or rush to make every workshop, late night chat, session and meeting. Remember that just about everything is recorded on CD or MP3 for you to purchase afterward, so if you miss something, you can always go back and mine the nuggets from the recordings. And if a meeting or appointment didn't work out that you had wanted, perhaps it wasn't meant for you at this time. Appreciate what you've received and don't stress on what you might have missed. There's always next year!

So, there you have it. My tips for making the ACFW conference (or almost any writing conference) a success. Again, check out the other blogs listed in this post for more behind-the-scenes reports and tellings from ACFW members. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Spotlight on Merrillee Whren and The Heart's Forgiveness

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Merrillee Whren is an award-winning author who writes for Steeple Hill Books. In 2003 she won the Golden Heart Award presented by Romance Writers of America for best inspirational romance manuscript.

Her first book, THE HEART'S HOMECOMING, was an August 2005 release from Steeple Hill Books and a finalist in the More Than Magic Contest. Her second book, AN UNEXPECTED BLESSING won the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for best Love Inspired of 2006. Her third book, LOVE WALKED IN, was out in December of 2006 and is a finalist in the Beacon Contest. Her fourth book, THE HEART'S FORGIVENESS, is available now from Steeple Hill Books.

Merrillee has visited all fifty states and a dozen foreign countries. She has lived in the cities of Spokane, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, and Chicago and now resides in Florida. When she isn't writing, she works part-time for her husband's recruiting firm or enjoys walking on the beach, playing tennis or doing a little yard work.

THE HEART'S FORGIVENESS
By Merrillee Whren
Steeple Hill / Love Inspired
BUY YOUR COPY TODAY

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

1. You've got a book with a hero who has accused the heroine of things she didn't do and resents her for it. Now, they are forced to work together on a project. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

That is a hard question to answer for this book. I didn't have any particular inspiration for the story. My heroine, Maria, first appears as a very minor character in my book, The Heart's Homecoming, which is set in the same fictional town of Pinecrest, Washington. From the time that she appeared in that book, I always intended to write a story with her as the heroine, but in all my brainstorming I could never come up with a suitable hero. So I wrote the second book set in Pinecrest, Love Walked In. While writing that book, the match for Maria emerged. Grady is the brother of Clay, the hero of Love Walked In.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Maria and Grady? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

The only part of the story that is influenced by my own experience is the fact that Grady has two daughters. I also have two daughters, but, unlike Grady's daughters, mine are only a year apart in age. Other than that these characters have very little to do with my personal experiences. I needed an occupation for my hero that would force him to work with the heroine. I had in mind that he would be a lawyer and work for the same charitable foundation as the heroine. I spoke with a friend of mine who is a lawyer about the scenario I had in mind, and she suggested that he should be the administrator for the assisted living facility run by the charitable foundation in the story. Then I interviewed the administrator of one of the assisted living facilities in our local community. She took me on a complete tour of their facility and explained her job. She gave me a lot of ideas for this book.

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

The title spells out the major theme in the story. Forgiveness has been a theme in all of my stories set in Pinecrest. Another theme is keeping trust in God when all the people around us fail. God never fails. He is always there.

4. What were your favorite parts to write? Your most difficult?

My favorite part of every book is always the beginning. The story is fresh, and I'm getting to know the characters. There is excitement in a new story. The rest of the book is more difficult. I have days when the words fly onto the page and others when every word seems to be pulled, kicking and screaming from my brain.

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

My next book, Four Little Blessings, is coming out in February 2008. It is the story of Cassie Rankin, who is raising her two nieces and two nephews, and the impact they have on the hero, Wade Dalton. He is impressed with her selflessness and beauty but believes they are ill-suited, because she is at least a dozen years younger than he is. Besides, he has a secret that will only make their life harder, so he intends to keep his distance. But those four little blessings won't let him stay away.

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Thank you, Merrillee, for being in the spotlight. Readers, feel free to leave a comment for your chance to be entered in the drawing for a FREE, autographed book. This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

Monday, June 25, 2007

15 Weeks Down; 5 to Go!

Almost down to the month of the wedding. I've had so many folks ask me if I'm excited, and the answer is an obvious "YES!" :) Several people have even remarked that I'm glowing. While I'm not a big one for being giddy or having my head in the clouds, my eyes *do* reflect the anticipation. And the big smile on my face is a good indicator as well. LOL!

Now, let's see what happened this past week:

* Received the unity candle for our wedding ceremony. It's absolutely gorgeous, and will make a great centerpiece or focal point on the mantle above the fireplace.
* Bridesmaid gifts will arrive this week. Stuart's groomsmen gifts came in last week, and he was quite impressed. I know those in our wedding party will like these things we purchased for them.
* Spoke with the woman who will be coordinating things at the ceremony. Also found someone for the sound board and the A/V equipment for the ceremony extras.
* Have an appointment tonight with a hair stylist to see if she might be a better option, although I'm not convinced. The other one is a good friend, but we'll see.
* Received 2 quotes/estimates on cost to move my things out to my new home in Colorado. Didn't expect the high weight they both estimated, but I think they're protecting themselves. I know the light weight of my furniture, and I don't have many boxes after clearing out so many things. However, if they under-estimate, they get fined. Otherwise, we get reimbursed once the final paperwork and weight is submitted to the office.
* Looked again into renting a truck and towing our car. It might prove to be more economical with that option rather than paying a company to haul my things, then paying for gas/hotel costs for the 3-day drive out to Colorado on top of it. Will wait and see.
* Scheduled 2 more appointments this week. Will have a decision by Wednesday and whatever our choice is, it'll be booked by Friday.
* Have our 3rd premarital counseling session this coming Wednesday. After this, we'll schedule our 4th one where we'll BOTH be present and in person. Looking forward to that. It's been all right, but not the same when talking to a speaker phone during these things.
* Got a BRAND NEW kitchen floor, courtesy of my wonderful fiance and my soon-to-be brother-in-law. It's a hardwood floor appearance in laminate...I think. Stuart and James labored over that for hours Friday night and most of Saturday as well. But, I saw the pictures, and it looks beautiful. Can't wait to touch my bare feet to it when I get to my new home in a little over a month.

Now, for the biggest thing that happened this week. We bought a new car! :) Well, all right, so it's not "new," but it's new to us. 1998 Nissan Pathfinder -- Cinnamon Brown or Maroon. Well below average mileage at 67,000 for being 10 years old. Interior is very clean, and the rear seats don't even look used. No dents, dings or scratches, and the interior has a blond-shaded wood trim/accent that gives it a unique look. There are a couple fixes that need to be made, but we got them in writing and the sales rep will call me this week about an appointment to get them done.

PICTURES














Also listed my Nissan Altima on cars.com. Parting with one Nissan and getting another. My baby's been good to me, so I have no reason to expect that the Pathfinder will be any different. I pray the Altima sells quickly, so I don't run right up to the week of the wedding with it still in my garage. For those who are inclined, say a prayer for the quick sale as well. Thanks!

That's all for now...I think. If I think of anything else before I get home from work, I'll come back and add it when I add the photos.

Friday, June 22, 2007

ACFW Conference Anecdotes



Earlier this month, I announced the ACFW Conference Blog Tour. Registration for the ACFW Annual Conference began on June 1st and we're already up to over 300 attendees! The conference takes place from September 20th-23rd in at the Marriott Quorum in Dallas, Texas. For a list of faculty and general what's what, visit the web site's conference section.

ACFW is "The Premier Fiction Conference" because it's only about fiction. Editors and agents know that they'll find the best undiscovered new talent in Christian fiction at the ACFW Conference. Christian novelists of all skill levels know that they'll get the best teaching in fiction, and all-around comraderie with other novelists. It's a win-win situation for everyone.

I've been to every one since the first, and oh! the stories I can tell. There isn't time or space to share them all, so I'll go with highlights from each year.

Right from the start, the 100 of us gathered in Kansas City (2002) were told to, "Beware, normals are about." This referred to the average person who wouldn't understand a fiction writer. Since always hold the conference at a hotel, there are bound to be other guests staying there. Our MC, Brandilyn Collins, was right. From the maid who got scared when she encountered 2 women discussing the various methods of "knocking off" a guy because he was getting on her nerves, to the writers who get into knock-down, drag-out fights with their characters over a certain scene, to the general life a novelist leads...normals just don't understand. :)

In Houston (2003), we had an amazing lead-off opening session where our keynote, Robin Lee Hatcher, invited anyone who wanted to turn their writing over to God and would like prayer to come forward. Prayer counselors stood at the front as the majority of attendees filled the area. The ministry that took place there set the tone for the entire conference, and so many writers/authors received a great blessing that year. It opened the doors wide open to endless opportunity as they went forth and left their writing to God's leading. No more worries, no more unnecessary stress about where they were headed. They put their writing in God's hands, and continued to move forward. Since that year, I can count at least 35-40 who have received book contracts, and some whose books have gone on to become top 10 bestsellers!

Denver (2004) was a year that's very near and dear to my heart. My fiance made quite a statement when he replied to the contest for a free book by writing his answer in Saurian, the language he's created for his science fiction series. When Brandilyn opened his paper to read it, she made an honest attempt, but quit and called him up to the stage to read it himself. Everyone there got a rather unique introduction to Stuart Stockton, and not many have forgotten him. :)

Of course, the other BIG memory for me was working with the Jeanonator (my bookstore coordinator buddy) and Connie in the bookstore that year. We had a moment of hilarity that led to Connie falling off the bench and landing on the floor, which sent Jeanne and I into a fit of laughter and caused editors to step inside the bookstore, asking us to keep the noise level down so they could conduct their appointments. Sure wish I had a camera at that moment, but the memory in my mind is crystal clear!

Who can forget Nashville (2005), where our keynote, Karen Ball, talked about "Goldfish moments" and let us all know that "I have a castle!" She likened many writers to goldfish, with short-term memories when they get into the zone of their writing. Everything else seems to fall by the wayside, and we forget what we said 2 minutes ago, let alone what we were supposed to accomplish that day. Just like a goldfish who can swim around a bowl just 9 inches in diameter for an entire life because he doesn't remember anything beyond about 5 seconds. So every time he makes a turn, he gets excited. "Look! I have a castle!"

Last year in Dallas (2006), the prayer room set aside at the end of a long hallway and tucked into the corner saw a lot of activity. So many lives were touched by God's awesome power and working in their lives. I heard story after story of changes that had taken place, both in the hearts of those who asked for prayer and the ones who were praying for others.

Connie also joined Jeanne and me again in the bookstore, and after a Friday night escape to the hotel restaurant where laughed until we drew the attention of the others eating there, we were up until 3am Saturday night/Sunday morning closing down the bookstore. The culmination of this was a middle-of-the-night "float" ride on the luggage cart with me dressed to the 9's in my banquet gown, waving at the unfortunate folks in the foyer as we drove past and loaded the boxes to the conference staff room after locking the bookstore. You had to be there to get the full effect, but trust me when I say it was a moment that resulted from complete exhaustion.

Now, we're just THREE MONTHS away from Dallas this year (2007). I can only imagine the sorts of things that will take place. Of course, one thing I know is Stuart and I will be on the receiving end of all sorts of teasing as we'll be newlyweds and represent the very first ACFW Couple who met at a conference and is now married. I can hardly wait!

Don't forget to check out the rest of the blogs this month and read more stories and information about this fantastic conference. I'll be back next Friday with some tips for conference attendees.

Next up....Monday's countdown to the wedding. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

CFBA Blog Tour -- Reluctant Runaway by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance introduces:

RELUCTANT RUNAWAY

(Multnomah, March 2007)
by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jill Elizabeth Nelson is a member of the CFBA. Her blog, Artistic Blogger, addresses issues about art, art theft, antiquities preservation, and the art of fiction writing. She takes art seriously - when she's not having fun with it, that is. The To Catch a Thief Series combines her love of the written word with her love of other art forms.

The first in the series was Reluctant Burglar , second is Reluctant Runaway. In January 2008, she will reveal the third book, Reluctant Smuggler. Jill is thrilled if the adventures that spill from her imagination can raise awareness about art theft - deemed "a looming criminal enterprise" by the FBI. Jill and her husband, Doug, have four children and live in Minnesota.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Stolen Indian artifacts...A murdered museum guard...A missing woman...A baby in danger...

Only Desiree can unearth the horrifying secret that links them all.

Museum security expert Desiree Jacobs doesn't mean to get in danger's path. Really she doesn't. But when a friend is in trouble you don't just walk away. No matter what your overprotective FBI agent boyfriend says! So when Desi and Tony's date at a presidential ball is interrupted by a frantic Maxine Webb, Desi doesn’t hesitate to jump in.

Soon Desi is neck-deep in a confusing array of villains. Did Max's niece run away or was she taken? Is she still alive or the victim of a perverse ritual? And who wants her infant son–and why?

Then Tony's organized crime case collides with Desi's investigation, throwing them both into the path of something dark and sinister. Something that craves blood...

From the streets of Desi's beloved Boston to the mountain desert of New Mexico, Desi and Tony must rely on God to thwart unseen forces–and save a young woman and her baby from a villain more evil than any of them can imagine.

"A fresh voice, strong heroine, and unique plot make Reluctant Runaway a can't-put-down read. Jill Elizabeth Nelson is an author to watch in the realm of romantic suspense!"
~SUSAN MAY WARREN award-winning author of In Sheep's Clothing

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Don't have a book giveaway for this one, but be sure to check out yesterday's spotlight interview for Tamera Alexander's third book. Post a comment there to be entered into the drawing. Winner announced next Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Spotlight on Tamera Alexander and Remembered

I still remember when this spotlight author received the news that she would be getting a book contract for the first time! And not only her first, but from Bethany House Publishers, the leading publisher of Christian fiction! Tammy and I first met in Kansas City in October 2002, when we manned the book table together during the author booksigning at the first ACFW National Conference (then ACRW). From that point on, we've lovingly referred to each other as "book table buddies."

Now, I have the pleasure of featuring her here on my blog for her THIRD novel, and the book that completes the trilogy begun in 2005 with Rekindled, a book that took her to near the top of the CBA Bestseller list.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tamera was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia but has spent the last sixteen years in Colorado. While she misses her native south, she has developed a love both for the Rocky Mountains and for its colorful history. Before turning to writing, Tamera's professional background was in business management and corporate conference coordination. She's led women's ministries for many years and is currently leading the Women’s Enrichment Ministry at the church where she and her family attend. She’s also active in the music ministry and enjoys facilitating small groups and Bible studies, as well as mentoring other women. She earned a business degree from Harding University and currently lives with her husband in Greeley, Colorado, where they enjoy life with their two college-age children and another important member of their family—a five-pound Silky named Jack. Plans are in motion for a cross-country move to Nashville this summer.

* Rekindled, CBA Bestseller, Library Journal’s Top 5 Picks for Christian Fiction 2006, 2007 RITA® Finalist
* Revealed, 2007 RITA® Finalist
* Remembered, Newest Release, May 2007

REMEMBERED
By Tamera Alexander
Bethany House
BUY YOUR COPY TODAY

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

1. This is book 3 in your Fountain Creek Chronicles series, and it involves a character from Paris, France, who makes her way to Colorado in search of her father but finds love on the journey. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

My motivation behind Remembered was a trip to Paris that my husband and I took in May 2006. I "met" Veronique Girard (figuratively, of course) in a cemetery in northern Paris, and as Joe and I strolled the old cobbled walkway of Cemetery Montmartre, this young woman (the daughter of a French Fur Trapper from the 1840s) came alive for me. And....the first scene in Remembered is set in that very cemetery!

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Veronique and Jack? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

A writer's experiences can't help but influence her characters but we must remember…we're writing fiction. So there's that definite line in each book where experience leaves off and imagination takes flight. That said, I share a fair amount of Véronique's stubborn tenacity though none of her ability to speak fluent French. My two years of high school French left me rather lacking in that area so I called on a good friend to assist me in that. I DO share her love of patisseries!

As for Jack, I fell in love with his character! I admire his outlook on life, his patience (which I wish I possessed a smidgen more of), and his dependence upon and trust in God—areas which the Creator is growing within me daily, and not without pain. But pain is one of the tools God used to shape Jack, now isn't it? Hmmmm…there's a lesson in here somewhere. :)

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

Themes always grow throughout the book for me. I often don't know the exact theme(s) until I'm well into the story. Theme grows out of character motivation and subsequent experiences. In Remembered, a definite theme is that God works all things—both the 'good' and 'bad'—for the ultimate and eternal good of the believer.

A second theme is similar in that God’s ways and thoughts (his plans for my life) are higher than my own. Rarely do I understand them or grasp what he's doing at the time, much less down the road. I don't have his perspective, his wisdom. Part of maturing, part of growing in my faith is learning that His ways are always better than my own. Not sometimes better, not most of the time better, but always—regardless of whether I understand them or not.

4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

One of my favorite scenes to write in Remembered was the 'bathtub scene' and my most difficult was...the ending. I wrote and rewrote that ending so many times.

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

My next book will be out in spring 2008 and it's the first book in a new three-part Colorado Territory historical series with Bethany House. New characters, new town and new plots! Titles are still being decided but we're getting close. You can check my website (www.tameraalexander.com) for titles and copies of the cover as soon as Bethany House has it ready!

* * * * *

Thank you, Tammy, for being in the spotlight, even admist your hectic life at the moment. :) Readers, don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to be entered in the drawing for a FREE, autographed book.

Monday, June 18, 2007

14 Weeks Down; 6 to Go!

Hmm, the freshest item on my mind is wedding invitations. We had a slight delay in getting them out last week due to a blunder in counting on my part in regard to our split reception situation with family & friends here and in Colorado. It's all good now, though, and everything is stuffed, stamped and sealed with the official wax 'M' seal.

We even had to recall one invitation from my brother because it didn't bear the "king's seal." :) Stuart joked last night about his list and how the ones he sends out won't have the seal or the insignia, so they'll get turned away at the door. I just said as long as they're on the invite list, they'll be fine. If not...Guards! Take 'em to the tower! LOL!

Anyway, six weeks left and they're in the mail today. So, we're still all right. Announcements will go out in about 3-4 weeks.

Now, for everything else:

* Received confirmation that the Colorado family have all booked their hotel rooms from our block.
* Ordered the rest of the decorations and favors for the ceremony and reception; the centerpieces arrived Thursday, and we're waiting on the bows. Might still have to pick up a few more favor items, but for now, we're in good shape.
* Set a date of June 30th for the "decorations party" involving a handful of friends who want to be involved and have offered their 'crafty' talents. More power to them, since that's NOT one of my gifts. :)
* Came up with a creative idea (thanks to a friend) for the bridesmaids and their bouquets. Will have to call the florist to see if it's possible.
* Paid a deposit to secure a special bonus of releasing doves after the ceremony at the church. Had to check with the photographer about logistics and ability to capture them, but we're all set.
* Made final calls to all the moving companies in the area and scheduled 2 appointments for representatives to come and look at what's going, so we can get an estimate. Several companies had a 3000-lb. minimum, so we ruled them out. The PODS or storage bin companies all quoted us between $2-3000, so they're off the list. We're down to professional moving companies and who can offer the best options. Should know by the end of the week and have them booked. It's taken a bit longer than expected to check this one off the list
* Took pictures and measured the boxes and other items at the storage shed that are going with me, so we can add those to what's at the house that's also going and give the movers a more accurate idea of the total amount.
* Packed up my office with the exception of final items in the desk drawers and breakable decorative items on the various surfaces. Everything else is empty.
* Packed up bridal shower gifts and organized the list for thank-you notes this week.
* Packed the remainder of my books from the shelf in the alcove. All that's left is photo albums and scrapbooks from that area.
* Arranged for a friend to come and help me clear out my closet so I can get rid of old clothing and prepare to build my "trousseau" for the first year of marriage. :)
* Called the bookstore where I'll be working out there and got a status update on the position I'll be taking in August. Some slight uncertainty, but it's all working out.
* Left messages with the seamstress and hair stylist on my availability so they can call back to arrange times for a fitting (minor adjustments on the gown) and styling samples (so I can make a final determination on who I'll be hiring).

Phew! Less than 6 weeks to the wedding, and these lists will no doubt be getting longer and longer. I pray I remain sane! LOL!

Only 5 weeks until I see Stuart again. Just 35 days. I can make it! I'm sure he can too. :)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Spotlight on Robert (Bob) Elmer and Like Always

Robert Elmer has 26 years of experience as a news editor and reporter, freelance writer and advertising copywriter, assistant pastor, workshop leader and novelist. During this time he has written, co-written, edited and collaborated on everything from trade articles and corporate brochures to radio scripts, biographies, appeal letters, and full-length novels. He has written more than 45 popular novels under his own name, including youth series like "The Wall" (for Zondervan/HarperCollins), "The Young Underground," "Adventures Down Under," "Promise of Zion," "AstroKids" (all for Bethany House/Baker) and "HyperLinkz" (for WaterBrook/Random House) along with several novels for adults, including The Duet, The Celebrity, The Recital and Like Always (all for WaterBrook/Random House).

Robert also recently updated the devotional classic Practicing God's Presence (NavPress) and co-authored Off My Case for Kids (Zondervan/HarperCollins) with national speaker and Christian apologist Lee Strobel. He is a graduate of Simpson College and St. Mary's College in California, with a B.A. degree in communications and Bible, as well as an elementary teaching credential. When he's not writing (or sailing), he often speaks to young audiences across North America, encouraging them to develop their own writing skills. He's a mentor and board member for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild in Colorado Springs. Robert and his wife Ronda are the parents of three young adults and live in the Pacific Northwest.

Like Always
By Robert Elmer
Waterbrook/Random House
BUY YOUR COPY TODAY

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

1. You've got an amazing story of love, commitment and sacrifice rolled into this book. What gave you the inspiration for your story?

Like Always was inspired by the true story of a 41-year-old Italian woman named Rita Fedrizzi, who made headlines a couple of years ago when she refused treatment for cancer that was discovered after she was pregnant. Her primary interest was in protecting the life of her unborn child, and she was both praised and scorned for her courageous stand. I expect that kind of gut reaction to the book's plot, as well. In any case, I saved a news clipping on Mrs. Fedrizzi's story, and over the months started wondering how I could transplant the gripping nature of that account to an American setting. The result was Like Always, set near a lake in beautiful north Idaho.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Will and Merit? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

Like many writers, I mix and match personal insights and perspectives as I create new characters. Will and Merit have a young adult son, for instance, and my wife and I have two (along with a daughter). Their relationship in the book is strong, and I can relate to that, as well. But I always seek to create new and unique characters that, in the end, are really not like me. That's especially true as I create female characters -- since I'm not a female! But I love the challenge of understanding different perspectives, imagining how people might react under extreme circumstances or trials. That makes the characters come alive for me.

3. What themes exist in Like Always that you hope the reader sees?

I started out with one main theme, and that was basically: "Whom do we live for?" And I placed my characters in a situation where they were forced to make the toughest choice anyone would have to make. But as the story progressed, I found the relationships between the characters deepening, and other themes bubbled to the surface, as well. The theme of reconciliation between sisters came up, and what it takes to overcome estrangement and hurt. And in the end another interesting theme came out, as well. A question, really: Can we ever really put things right, again? Can we ever go back to the way things were? Like they always were? Like always? That's where the title of the book comes from.

4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

I don't cry that easily, but the toughest scenes to write in this book brought tears to my eyes. The scene where Will and Merit are driving home from the hospital was really tough to get through. So was the scene where they're camping next to the lake in a thunderstorm. The Easter Sunday scene had me weeping. Obviously I don't want to give away the storyline to someone who hasn't yet read Like Always, but the emotions in this book really hit me deeply as I imagined myself in those situations. It brought home the Robert Frost quote I have posted next to my computer: "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader."

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

Right now I'm working on something entirely different, a sci-fi/tantasy trilogy for young teens called "Shadowside." Obviously it's nothing like Like Always, but it's been a challenge -- and a lot of fun -- to write. Meanwhile I also have several proposals out there, as well, so stay tuned. I try to keep readers updated on my website, www.robertelmerbooks.com.

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Thanks, Bob, for being in the spotlight today. Readers, leave your comment for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of this book. This week, the drawing is open to US/Canada residents only. Check back here next week for the winner.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Spotlight on Vickie McDonough and A Wealth Beyond Riches

Vickie McDonough is an award-winning inspirational romance author. She has written four Heartsong Present novels and five novellas. Her stories have
continually placed in prestigious contests, such as the ACFW Book of the Year and Noble Theme contests, the Inspirational Readers Choice Contest, and the Texas Gold contest. She is active in local and online writers' groups, critique groups, and enjoys mentoring new writers. She has served as the ACFW Critique Group Coordinator and is a founding member and Treasurer of WIN, the Tulsa, OK, ACFW chapter. Vickie has been married to her wonderful husband, Robert, for over 30 years. They have four terrific sons and have finally evened the odds with a sweet daughter-in-law, a new grand-daughter and two female Yorkies.

A Wealth Beyond Riches
By Vickie McDonough
Heartsong Presents

A Wealth Beyond Riches is the third book is Vickie's historical Oklahoma series. The first two books are Sooner or Later and The Bounty Hunter and the Bride. These books are available from me, Heartsong Presents, or Christianbook.com

The current book will be available on the Heartsong Presents web site soon. Until then, you can purchase an autographed copy from Vickie for $6, which includes shipping to the US/Canada.

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

1. A New York socialite's daughter and the untamed oil fields of Oklahoma. What gave you the inspiration for your story?

I wanted to write a story set during the Oklahoma oil boom days and tried to think of a heroine who'd be a fish out of water in such a setting. I thought the New York theater world would be about as far as you could get from Indian Territory. I remember seeing a movie a long time ago about a women with Indian heritage who tried to hide it. That's what my heroine's mother does. The heroine doesn't know she has Indian blood until she finds a letter from her uncle.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Sasha and Jim? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

I don't know that any of my experiences influenced the hero and heroine in this story. I was born and raised in Oklahoma (the part that was Indian Territory just a hundred years ago). I'm familiar with the area and history but Sasha's and Jim's stories are pretty much theirs alone. I had great parents, so I can't really relate to Sasha and Jim both having a parent who abandoned them.

Though fearful of what she'd find in Indian Territory, Sasha's aching desire for family and a home pushes her into the scary unknown. Jim was raised by a loving aunt and uncle, but knowing his father abandoned him left Jim with many issues he had to overcome. It took him a while, but when he gave his heart to Christ, things got easier and he was able to let go of many feelings that had kept him bound before.

3. What themes exist in A Wealth Beyond Riches that you hope the reader sees?

Many people became overnight millionaires during the oil boom. Not ever having had such wealth, they didn't know how to handle money and often lost it quickly. I've even heard stories of people who'd buy a new car and when it ran out of gas they'd go buy another car. What I wanted to show was that money doesn't buy happiness. There are things in life like a home, family, and most importantly, the Lord, which have far more value than money. That's what I hope readers will take away from this book.

4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

I'll tell you the hardest part of this book for me to write, but it's a huge spoiler, so if you haven't read this book, you may not want to read the rest of this question. The hardest part was killing off Uncle Dewey. I tried not to but just couldn't see Sasha growing the way she needed to without his death. He was such a sweet man--kind of reminded me of my dad--and I hated to have to kill him off. My favorite parts were how Sasha reached out to help the oil widows, and the end, where Sasha and Jim finally get together after their struggles.

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

My next book is a re-packaging of three books set in historical Virginia. The three books were written by different authors and will include my second Heartsong book, Spinning Out of Control. That is due out next spring. I don't know yet what it will be titled.

Also, I've just gotten a verbal commitment for a new Heartsong. It will be set in North Dakota and is the story of a female dime novel writer who goes west to research the area when a rancher challenges her accuracy on some issues. The problem is the hero didn't realize he'd invited a citified female to his ranch. Needless to say, there are some humorous scenes as he tries to teach this greenhorn the ways of the west.

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Thanks, Vickie, for being in the spotlight today. Readers, leave your comment for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of this book. This week, the drawing is open to US/Canada residents only. Check back here next week for the winner.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

CFBA Blog Tour - Diva NashVegas

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

DIVA NASHVEGAS

(Thomas Nelson May, 2007)
by Rachel Hauck

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rachel is the author of many books. Her current release, Diva NashVegas is the second in a series which began with Lost in NashVegas. She is also a Blogger, a past president of ACFW and a CFBA member! She lives in Florida with her husband. Visit her great profile and learn more.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Even if you are not a lover of country music, you can enjoy this fun look at the Nashville entertainment industry.

What do you do when the past you've been skirting shows up at your door with cameras rolling?

Aubrey James ruled the charts as the queen of country for over a decade. She'd rocketed to fame in the shadow of her parents' death-both of them pioneers in Gospel music. But while her public life, high profile romances, and fights with Music Row execs made for juicy tabloid headlines, the real and private Aubrey has remained a media mystery.

When a former band member betrays Aubrey's trust and sells an "exclusive" to a tabloid, the star knows she must go public with her story. But Aubrey's private world is rocked when the Inside NashVegas interviewer is someone from her past-someone she'd hoped to forget.

All the moxie in the world won't let this Diva run any longer.

"Hauck once again takes us into the country music world, this time through the experiences of mega-star Aubrey James. Aubrey's life journey is filled with flaws, as well as a great deal of joy, and real life locales makes this highly original story authentic. The extra tidbits - from Aubrey's liner notes to quotes from the "media" at the beginning of the chapters - add extra sparkle to the plot."
**** 4 Stars, Melissa Parcel, Romantic Times Book Club

Monday, June 11, 2007

13 Weeks Down; 7 to Go!

Here I am again, posting an update about what's happened the past week. I admit that having this to do each Monday makes the weeks pass faster, which is a good thing! One week gone and another one closer to when Stuart arrives....which is, by the way, only 6 more!

Many ask me how I'm coping or doing, and my answer is almost always the same. Taking it one day at a time and tackling each obstacle or situation as they come. Once in a while, they pile up, but nothing has become insurmountable. It's coming to the time of some of the final plans items. Once they're checked off, I know I'll breath yet another big sigh of relief.

So, let's see what happened last week:

* Monday night, we headed over to the caterer's home for a sample dinner featuring all of the food she'll be preparing for the Reception. Only had one substitution for the pasta salad, but everything else was delicious. I would provide the menu here, but I think it would be fun for it to be a surprise. :) The small cake she baked was the perfect compliment to the meal. Light and airy with a butter-cream frosting that didn't leave you with the sugar shell shock.
* Got the # of the lady who will be doing my gown alterations and have to call her today to set up a time this week to do my fitting. Thankfully, the gown only needs a slight hem and to be bustled. Everything else fits great!
* Tuesday, my make-up lady came over and did a sample on me to show her ideas for the wedding combination. Amazing! I might have to consult with her on some less dramatic tricks for everyday wear.
* Made a final decision on the bows that will decorate the rows and center aisle at the church. Mom is ordering everything else today.
* Placed the order for the customized unity candle, which we'll light about the time we also take Communion together. The best part about the candle is the little tealight in the top that allows the candle to remain preserved for years to come.
* Stopped by a used car lot and took a Jeep Cherokee for a test drive. A bit older than what I had in mind. Going to sell my Nissan Altima and buy a used SUV for that Rocky Mountain driving. :) The lot owner only had 2 that day, but he's going shopping tomorrow with SUV's in mind and said he'd keep an eye out for me. Going to let me know what he finds and send me digital pictures of anything that sounds good. Also said he'd cut us a deal since we have a referral from an old business partner of his and my dad's been a loyal customer for a few years.
* Had our 2nd premarital counseling session on Friday, which went quite well. Pastor shared some insights from his own marriage, and we had some good dialogue. I'll be glad when we can have our final session with Stuart physically here instead of on speaker phone.
* A friend came over afterward and helped address envelopes for wedding invitations. What we have done will go in the mail tomorrow, but because I goofed and left more with Stuart in Colorado than he needed, we have to wait until they are shipped back this week to mail the rest of them out. Whoops! :)
* Had our weekly date night and watched a great movie on TV together, via phone. (sigh)
* Stuart met with his mom to go over the Colorado folks and family who would be getting invitations, then worked on the announcement design and text for those only coming to the Colorado Reception in August.
* Did a 2nd check on the hotel where everyone booked their reservations and made a last-minute switch because that one was under renovations and didn't look good. So, we moved across the street, reserved a block of rooms for a discounted rate, and everyone will be switching their reservations this week. Phew!
* Settled on the computer desk I'll be using and left it up to Stuart for when they'll get it moved into office at home.
* Went to look at another SUV, Ford Explorer, fully loaded Eddie Bauer edition. Had some signs of wear from being 10 years old, but in good shape. Two things will need to be replaced, and if it's still available this week, I'll check with the owner about a deal we can strike for the cost of those repairs.
* Made final decisions on table centerpieces at the Reception and will be ordering the rest of the components today.
* Sold 29 books from the marriage fund collection and got them shipped off at the post office.
* Purchased the special "wedding" stamps for the invitations and got the response envelopes stamped then stuffed everything we had, addressed the outer envelopes and sealed them. Also have a special wax sealer to give it a unique touch on the outside. Still works the old-fashioned way of holding the wax stick over a flame, dripping the wax on the envelope and letting it cool, then pressing the seal into it.
* Burned the songs for our wedding soloists onto a CD for them to sample and choose. They're talented and gifted musicians, singers and songwriters, so I'm leaving that decision in their capable hands.

And that was my week. Still feels surreal, even now. Like I'm planning someone else's wedding. Even with all of the aspects on which I'm making decisions, because Stuart's not here, it's not becoming real to me to the full extent.

One day at a time though. Just have to keep telling myself that. Until next week...

Friday, June 08, 2007

Spotlight on Janice Thompson and Gone with the Groom

To connect with my Monday wedding countdown theme, here's a spotlight feature that's great for the summer wedding craze. It's the fun sequel from Janice A. Thompson's Bridal Mayhem Mystery Series, called Gone with the Groom. I promise you, though, that MY groom will not go missing. *winks*

But, before we get rolling into the interview, I have some tips for brides and mothers-of-the-bride as well as 2 wise quotes to share. These all appear in Janice's book, Happily Ever After, a devotional for brides-to-be that releases in 2008.

For the FREE book giveaway, post a comment leaving your own tip or advice or personal wedding mayhem anecdote. A winner will be announced her next week.

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TOP FIVE TIPS FOR THE BRIDE-TO-BE:

1). Look at the process of preparing for both your wedding and your married life as a gift, not a chore. Keeping this joyful mindset will help when challenges arise.

2). Make time for your husband-to-be. Don't allow the busyness of your plans to cause your relationship to suffer. As much as you can, involve him in the process. His opinions matter! Let your imaginations run wild...together!

3). Sadly, the average bride inadvertently spends more time preparing for her wedding day than her marriage. Make sure YOU adequately plan for your life together. Discuss financial issues, purity issues, financial matters, housing, jobs, potential children, etc. well in advance of the ceremony. And take the time to pray together, even if it's awkward at first.

4). Be willing to let go...and trust others to do most of the work. Yes, it's your plan. Yes, you have ideas for how you want everything to go. But, you're not super-human. Trust God, and the people he has placed in your life. They can take care of the details as you get closer to the big day. Relax. Take a deep breath. Enjoy your time as the bride!

5). Keep God at the very center of your union - both before and after the big day. A three-fold-cord is not quickly broken.


TOP FIVE TIPS FOR THE MOTHER-OF-THE BRIDE:

1). Praise God every day for answering your prayers for your daughter. He has brought the perfect complement, her "ideal." And if you're struggling to see your future son-in-law as "ideal" for her, then release this to the Lord.

2). Remember, this is your daughter's wedding, not your own. When differences arise, graciously bow to the bride-to-be. On the other hand, when she looks to you for advice/instruction, be ready and available.

3). Be careful not to allow your daughter to "vent" about her future husband. Surely by the next day she will have forgiven him (and you will likely still be holding a grudge)

4). When things get sticky, remember the twelve words that will save every relationship: I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.

5). Mother-of-the-Bride, I know you've heard this before, but it's really true. You are not losing a daughter. You are gaining a son. Praise God for this new addition to your family! And praise Him for the grandbabies that will one day arrive while you're at it!

QUOTES:
A man without a wife is like a vase without flowers.
~African Proverb

To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the wedding cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it; Whenever you're right, shut up.
~Ogden Nash

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author Janice A. Thompson lives in the Houston area. In 2004, her two oldest daughters both received proposals within weeks of each other. The weddings came off without a hitch! Janice has since coordinated weddings for friends and is thrilled to incorporate many of her adventures into her novels.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Annie Peterson, mother of the bride-to-be, works to solve the riddle of the missing fiancé in Gone with the Groom, a fun and riveting romantic mystery.

The best laid plans of brides and men go awry when Annie Peterson's future son-in-law Scott disappears. Have pre-wedding jitters caused Brandi's fiancé to take flight, or are more sinister forces at work? Annie puts her super-sleuth powers to work and sets about to solve the riddle. Who could be behind this apparent kidnapping caper? Maybe the drug company Scott works for has hidden motives. Perhaps it's the handiwork of Otis, Scott's sneaky dad. But then again it could be the shady wedding photographer or even have something to do with the political campaign of Scott's mother. Maybe her opponent is somehow involved in this. Will Annie solve the mystery and recover the missing groom in time for the couple to say their wedding vows?

INTERVIEW

1. Where did you birth the idea for this book (and the series)? When? How did it come about? Did any of the experiences in the story happen to you personally?

I have four daughters in their 20's. Two of them got married in 2004 within four and a half months of each other. It was a stressful time, but I always knew I'd eventually be able to use the information in a story. Just about the time I thought I could rest, my third daughter got engaged. Her wedding just took place six weeks ago. Three down, one to go! As for how I decided to turn these books into mysteries (instead of traditional romances)... I asked myself the question, "What would you do if you had to pay for two weddings and didn't have the money to do so?" Out of that, the first book (THE WEDDING CAPER) was born. After that, I got to thinking, "What would you do if the groom disappeared just before the wedding?) Out of that, GONE WITH THE GROOM was born. And so on, and so forth.

2. If your book was turned into a movie, who would play the main characters?

Wow. Never thought about that before. Who would play Annie Peterson? If she were still alive, I might pick someone funny like Madeline Kahn. If she were younger, maybe Carol Burnett? Diane Keaton might work, (though, Annie is really only turning 50, so even Diane might be a bit too old). As for the twin daughters, I think it would be fun to have someone like Jennifer Garner play dual roles. Or, hey...what about the Olsen twins? They could split the workload, and they're about the right age. As for the husband (Warren) I wouldn't want to go for anyone terribly famous, because I wouldn't want him to outshine Annie. For Sheila? Someone quirky like Bette Midler or even Kathy Bates would do - in flamboyant colors, of course.

3. Which one of your characters is most like you, and why do you say that?

I'm a lot like Annie Peterson, truth be told. I find myself "in over my head" a lot, and I tend to think I can solve most any problem. She's going through some empty nest issues, and I can certainly relate to that. Like Annie I also find myself turning to God for the real answers. I'd like to say I'm funny like Sheila, but I patterned that character after my best friend Kay, who always keeps me laughing. Kay is always coming up with funny sayings, and all-the-more, now that she knows I need material for Sheila to use.

4. What book is coming next?

There will be three more Annie Peterson mysteries after this one: PUSHING UP DAISIES, THE PERFECT MATCH, and CATERING TO DISASTER. They will all be released as part of the new mystery line at Barbour Publishing (Heartsong Presents Mysteries).

5. What book are you working on now?

I just turned in a Heartsong romance titled WHITE AS SNOW - about a young woman who can't stand football. She lives in the Pittsburgh area, and eventually (of course!) falls in love with a professional football player. I had a lot of fun writing this one. Why, you ask? Because I'm not a football fan! Figure skating, yes! Gymnastics, of course! Football. . .are you kidding?

6. What book are you reading now?

I just read a really funny book by Ray Blackston call FLABBERGASTED. It was kind of like chick lit for guys. I ear-marked all of the pages that made me laugh out loud. By the time I got to the end, I think I'd ear-marked over forty pages! I also just read a really great non-fiction book by Lee Ezell called FINDING GOD WHEN LIFE'S NOT FAIR. In it, she talks about the death of her husband, and her bout with cancer, ten weeks later. I could relate to so much of what she was going through (refer to next question below).

7. How do you deal with your other obligations (family, church, etc.) when it's crunch time near deadlines?

This has been a tough year for me. During the writing of GONE WITH THE GROOM, I lost my father to bone marrow cancer. It was an awful time for our family. Then, the week before the book was due, my married daughter (Randi) became very ill during her 33rd week of pregnancy and the baby (Madysen) had to be delivered early. She was only four and a half pounds, but (thank God!) is just fine now. Then, about the time the book went to the edit stage, my sister passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. This week, as I began marketing the book, one of my best friends suddenly passed away. It seems like every time a tragedy strikes, I'm on some sort of deadline. I don't resent that fact, (though at times it's tough to keep going). I find the writing to be a blessing, particularly in light of the fact that I "need" the humor of light-weight stories like GONE WITH THE GROOM to bring a smile to my face. God always helps me with the obligations/deadlines part. I'm totally dependent on Him for those things. Wouldn't have it any other way.

8. What's your favorite worship song, and why?

If you had asked me this question one year ago, I would have answered "Amazing Love." It's been my favorite for years. But this year, I'm very drawn to a song called "Praise You in this Storm" (by Casting Crowns). The lyrics are so true of my life right now. (Praise You in This Storm, words by Mark Hall/music by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms)

Trust me when I say that it is possible for believers to go on praising, even when the storms are blowing out of control around you.

9. What do you crave (beverage or food) when you have writer's stress?

I am addicted to Diet Dr. Pepper. And when I'm really needing a treat, I turn to Earl Grey tea (like Annie Peterson) or even Chai Latte. When all else fails, I reach for a piece of cheesecake.

10. What do you want your readers to know about you?

I love God with my whole heart, and no matter what troubles come my way, (no matter what mysteries I need to solve) I will never ever give up on my faith. Never. I will keep on keeping on, no matter what!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Selling Books for Wedding Fund! *grins*

So, I've got the announcement right there at the top of my page. I'm getting married on July 28th. Exciting times, but also frantic as I begin reorganizing and sorting and figuring out what's going with me, and what's staying behind or getting sold/donated.

I'm hoping posting here will enable the word to be spread to many others my direct line won't reach. Feel free to post a link to this announcement or even share a snippet of it on your own blog or web site, or even in email. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated.

As much as it pains me to do this -- I have to cut moving costs by both reducing what I'm shipping across the country and raising money to reduce shipping costs. Besides, I'd rather know these books are going into another loving home where they'll be treasured than sitting in a box in my new home waiting to be given to someone who will be blessed by them.

So, I've put 154 titles (books, VHS, DVD, CDs) on Amazon.com's Marketplace. Unfortunately, they've changed their format, so you can no longer search by merchant unless it's a power seller. So, I've made a list of all the titles and ISBN's in alphabetical order. You can find it here:

Amazon Seller Book List

The list will be updated as items sell, so will remain current on a daily basis. I also have it linked from my web site on the main page.

My seller name is Tiffany Amber Miller.

If you purchase 3 titles or more, leave a note for me on one of the purchases to let me know, and I'll refund some of your shipping costs, PLUS combine your books into one shipment via Priority mail, rather than media rate.

Anything that is not sold by July 25th will be given to the Cancer Federation or donated to Goodwill. Either way, they're not going with me to Colorado, so I'd love to see them go to some of you.

If you have any questions, drop me a line. The more items sold, the less expensive this cross-country move will be. Thank you, in advance!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Spotlight on Lena Nelson Dooley and Can You Help Me?

Lena Nelson Dooley is a multi-published, award-winning author, who really likes to tell a good story. She also enjoys mentoring other authors and rejoices when one of the ones she's helping gets an agent or a contract. She's been married to the love of her life for over 42 years, and they're soon to become great-grandparents. To learn more about her, please visit her website or her blog.

Order your copy of Carolina Carpenter Brides today!

Carolina Carpenter Brides
By Janet Benrey, Ron Benrey, Lena Nelson Dooley, Yvonne Lehman
Barbour Publishing
Contemporary Novella Collection

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

1. This book features some rather unique situations where the characters find love. What gave you the inspiration for your story?

I rather like mistaken identity stories, and I thought it would work with this type of book. And that point opened up all kinds of other issues.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced your two characters? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

I've always been pretty independent, and so is my heroine. Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew, and so did the heroine. Of course, there were many other traits that the characters showed me while the story developed.

3. What themes exist in Can You Help Me? that you hope the reader sees?

The importance of developing trust through honesty. Woven into that is the need for forgiveness when a person makes an honest mistake.

4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

This was a very fun book to write. I can't really remember any difficult parts. I especially liked the opening scene, and the development of the romance thread.

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

I'm excited about the next book Montana Mistletoe. It is my first Christmas book. My heroine is the youngest person elected mayor of Mistle, Montana, the year around Christmas town. The town depends on tourist traffic and that has dropped during the last few years. Another thing I liked about this book is the way the four authors had to coordinate their stories. They really intertwine.

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Thanks, Lena, for being in the spotlight today. Readers, leave your comment for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of this book sure to offer a unique perspective on your local home improvement store. Check back here next week for the winner.

Monday, June 04, 2007

12 Weeks Down; 8 to Go!

Just 54 days left until the BIG DAY. Only 49 until I see my beloved again. Each day that passes brings us that much closer. Some days find me in a bit of a funk, unmotivated and missing him something fierce. Those days he seems to have a 6th sense about him and know, so he'll call me out of the blue or say something in our conversations that brightens my day and changes my outlook. Amazing how God speaks to him during my difficult times. Glad he's listening. :)

Now, for this past week, I have a humorous story to share. Remember how I mentioned Stuart and I had homework for our 2nd premarital counseling session? Well, I was there at the scheduled time, and Stuart was home waiting for the phone call. The problem? Pastor Chris forgot! I looked in all the offices and rooms of the church. No Chris. Finally had to find a member of the dance team call his house. When I got on the phone with him, he spent most of the conversation apologizing. I almost told him that once is enough. It's all good. Let's reschedule. And I did that. So, our meeting is this coming Friday instead. At least we're done our homework!

The other big event was my bridal shower this past Saturday. Had about 30 people attend, and my matron of honor did a fantastic job with decorations, planning, organizing, preparation, etc., with my mom's help. Even had 1 other of my bridesmaids from out-of-town make it, along with my college roommate, both of whom had to travel a bit to get there. Left with a good amount of "booty" and started to feel like I was actually getting married, although a "disconnected" feeling still lingers a bit. For Stuart too. I pray that changes soon.

For everything else:

* Received engagement photo shoot pictures and narrowed them down to 20 so far. Have to narrow down again to determine which ones we'll be using for what in the ceremony components.
* Discussed wedding day transportation with everyone coming in from out of town, determining if we would need to rent additional cars, or if everyone would have their own.
* Confirmed pre-wedding times for the two people doing hair and makeup for the bridal party to come over and experiment with samples and ideas. They'll be coming over on Tuesday. One is my younger brother's girlfriend and the other is a lady who works with her.
* Switched the original friend doing hair, due to extenuating circumstances, so she's helping with invitations, packing, organizing, clearing out, etc. Works great for me, as I needed some extra assistance in that area!
* Learned from a coworker and family friend that Stuart and I would be getting a special gift that I had planned to buy for us myself. It's a personalized frame with a scripture verse and the names of the bride, groom and names/attributes of God interwoven as the border. A picture is worth 1000 words. Going to love hanging that in our new home.
* Discovered some sketchy details about my bachelorette party and my mischievous bridesmaids. Who knows what they're scheming, but I know I'm in for it! LOL!
* Determined centerpiece decorations for the reception and will order the remaining items this week.
* Ordered the unity candle set with the Fairytale theme.
* Decided on a pre-decoration party for the wedding favors, centerpieces, decorations, and anything else that can be done beforehand. That's June 23rd. Several people have volunteered to help, so we'll have some drinks and snacks, maybe finger sandwiches and get everything done.
* Narrowed down moving options for hauling my stuff from here to Colorado and have to make phone calls this week to select the one that will work best.
* Will be selling my car and getting an SUV for us, so will be heading to the dealer this week to ask questions and determine options. Since I'll have to have an immediate replacement, the timing is crucial.
* Received good news regarding wedding budget, so no more concern over that. Praise God!
* Out-of-town family booked their hotel, so I can check that off my list. :)
* All bridesmaids have their dresses, and 2 of them need no alterations. That's a blessing in and of itself!
* Updated wedding registries after the bridal shower, so everything left is current from what we've received.

And I think that's all. If I remember anything else, or if Stuart reminds me of something I've missed, I'll come back to add it or put it with next week's update. Until then...

Friday, June 01, 2007

ACFW Registration Opens Today!

It's SO exciting! ACFW, the writer's organization that has helped me become a published author hosts an annual conference in September every year. And today, registration is open to anyone who wishes to attend!

WHEN: Thursday-Sunday, September 20-23, 2007
WHERE: Dallas, Texas (Marriott Quorum)
WEB SITE: ACFW Conference Site

I will be serving again as part of the conference staff with my pal, Jeanne Leach, in the conference bookstore, so we're already registered. Today though, my fiance, Stuart, can register, which is doubly exciting. :) Of course, this year we'll be sharing a room as a married couple. That alone is going to make this conference better than the rest! Considering this conference is where he and I met, it's a special time for us. We'll get to celebrate an 'anniversary' of sorts. The president of the organization last year remarked, "We might have to change our name back to ACRW (American Christian Romance Writers), complete with a new slogan -- 'Join ACFW and find a future mate." LOL!

Anyway, I can't say enough about ACFW and the lasting benefits it brings to anyone pursuing the craft of writing fiction. Whether it be for a career or part-time work at home to supplement what you already have, this organization is the best one out there. It's been hailed as "the premier Christian fiction organization" with notoriety among the publishers rivaling RWA (Romance Writers of America), what could be considered the secular counterpart.

To help generate the excitement, several members of ACFW, are participating in a blog tour this month. You can read stories, anecdotes, experiences and much more. If you're interested in hearing from other authors and conference attendees from members who are an active part of this organization, visit these blogs all this month:

1 DiAnn Mills
1 Chip MacGregor
2 Michelle Sutton
3 Ane Mulligan
4 Susan Downs
4 Pamela James
4 Girls Write Out
5 Tricia Goyer
6 Becky Germany
7 Novel Journey
8 JoAnne Simmons
9 Cara Putman
10 Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll
11 Gail Gaymer Martin
11 Pamela James
12 Rachel Hauck
13 Brandilyn Collins
13 Mary Demuth
14 Carrie Turanksy
15 Susan Meissner
16 Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll
17 Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll
18 Pamela James
19 Katy McKenna
20 Pam Myers
21 Susan May Warren
22 Tiffany Amber Miller
23 Margaret Daley
24 Ron Estrada
25 Pamela James
26 Cheryl Wyatt
27 Dineen Miller
28 Tamera Alexander
28 Deeanne Gist
29 Tiffany Amber Miller
30 Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll
July 1 Robin Jones Gunn