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Friday, December 22, 2006

Spotlight on Brandt Dodson

To round out this week, here is the #3 spotlight. We haven't had a lot of comments so far, and there are THREE FREE BOOKS to give away. So, tell your friends and spread the word. Encourage them to enter for their chance to win. What a great gift to start off the New Year right. Winners will be announced on January 2nd.

Today's guest has made a name for herself through her encouragement and friendly nature. She is always there for her readers and fellow authors who need a little pick-me-up from time to time. With such a sweet spirit, how could anyone not love her? She's been a dear friend to me, and I'm honored to feature her here today. Of course, I'll also be joining her now as a fellow Heartsong author. :)

Brandt Dodson is the author of the Colton Parker Mystery series from Harvest House, and comes from a long line of police officers. His upcoming novel, "The Root of All Evil" will be released in January, with a fourth in the series, "The Lost Sheep" to be released in July of 2007. Brandt lives in southern Indiana with his wife and their two sons, and serves as an elder at The First Christian Church.

1. This is the third book in the Colton Parker Mystery series, a set that seems to be doing very well for the suspense genre. Where did you get the inspiration behind this particular story?

We seem to live in a culture that is very materialistic. People judge each other on the basis of the car they drive, the house they live in and the school that their kids attend. Unfortunately, none of that matters in the scheme of things and it isn't a problem that is confined to the wealthy. With that in mind, I was reading an article in the paper about a wealthy family in New York that was fighting over an inheritance. Eventually, one of them hired a hit-man to kill the other. The story was so fantastic and unbelievable that I knew the old adage "truth is stranger than fiction" was true. So, I wrote the book.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the character of Colton Parker? What aspects became traits that were his and his alone?

Like Colton, I was employed by the Indianapolis office of the FBI. Unlike Colton, I was never fired for beating a confession out of someone. But beyond that, a good deal of my life experience is used to shape his character. I've thought as he does (prior to giving my life to Christ) but I wasn't raised in foster homes as he was. I think that any character has some of the writer's DNA in them. After all, I thought them up and they come out of my experience as it is filtered through my imagination. But that doesn't mean they are self-portraits. I don't have Colton's temper, for example, and I'm not a single father raising a rebellious daughter – and I thank God for that.

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

I hope, as I do with all my fiction, that the reader comes away with the understanding that the Bible is correct. When God's word says something, or counsels us in a certain way, we need to pay attention. So when we read that the "love of money is the root of all kinds of evil," we can take those words at face value. Of course, that's the theme of the novel. But I also want the reader to know that this problem isn't confined to the wealthy. It is a disease that can afflict all of us, especially when we let ourselves get caught up in the pursuit of things, rather than the pursuit of God. Even the poorest among us, can love money to the exclusion of everything else. One of the unanticipated themes was that "the meek shall inherit the earth." After all of the jockeying and scheming that the characters go through, that theme becomes very clear.

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

I had a hard problem with Pork Chop's daughter. Without giving too much away, I wanted to capture the challenge of Down's Syndrome while also showing the innocence and the open heart that most Down's Syndrome patients have. They are absolute joys to be around. No subterfuge, no ulterior motives. What you see with them is what you get. The most enjoyable part is Pork Chop himself. His character was fun to develop and more fun to put on paper. I had a really good time with him.

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

I have been signed by Harvest House for more in the Colton Parker series and for another series as well. The next Colton Parker novel is titled "The Lost Sheep" and will be released in July of '07. In the book, Callie and Colton's relationship finally come to a head, as she runs off with a charismatic cult leader and ends up in Las Vegas where most of the book is set. The novel will put Colton face-to-face with evil in a way he's never imagined. It will also force him to answer the question of his relationship with Mary, as well as his own spiritual standing. Of all the books, this one was the most challenging - and the most fun!

In March of '08, Harvest House will release the first novel in a new series. The novel is titled, "White Soul" and will be set in Miami. The current plan is to release two novels a year; one in the Colton Parker series and one in another series. Needless to say, I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Thank you, Brandt, for joining us today. Hope everyone enjoys the interview. Don't forget to leave a comment for your chane to win a free copy of The Root of All Evil.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Spotlight on Lena Nelson Dooley and A Daughter's Quest

As promised, here is #2 for the week. The third and final will come on Friday. So, don't miss your chance to win 1 of THREE FREE BOOKS this week!

Today's guest has made a name for herself through her encouragement and friendly nature. She is always there for her readers and fellow authors who need a little pick-me-up from time to time. With such a sweet spirit, how could anyone not love her? She's been a dear friend to me, and I'm honored to feature her here today. Of course, I'll also be joining her now as a fellow Heartsong author. :)

Lena Nelson Dooley has sold 9 Heartsongs and 5 novellas. She loves to write, and she loves to encourage other authors and authors-to-be. Active in American Christian Fiction Writers, she will serve as Vice President of the local DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) chapter in 2007. She has been married to the love of her life for over 42 years. They have two daughters, two sons-in-law, two grandsons, two granddaughters, and one granddaughter-in-law. If you visit her web site, you can find out a lot more about her and even see a slide show of the events of 2006. She'd also like to invite you to her blog where she interviews a different author every week.

1. You have certainly found a niche and a following with your inspirational romances for Heartsong, both historical and contemporary. Where did you get the inspiration behind this particular story?

A Daughter's Quest came about when Lisa Harris contacted me about an idea Laurie Alice Eakes had for a three-book state series to propose to Heartsong. The basic premise deals with a real historical shipment of gold that was headed to the frontier to pay the soldiers. The shipment was stolen, but never recovered. We used the stolen gold as the thread through all three books. Of course as always, I look to the Lord for His inspiration for all my books. As a sidelight to this story, the Lord asked me to make a First Fruit offering to Him. In faith, I promised it to Him, so all my profits for the book are going to Gateway Church for the expansion.

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

At the beginning of the book, she lives in the Ozarks. I lived there until I was about 14. Constance is impetuous, and as a young woman, I was more impetuous than I am now. She was tenacious, and I've been that plenty of times.

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

Constance had been raised in the church, and she believed in God, but she hadn't learned to walk with Him everyday and talk to Him as a friend. I'm hoping some readers who haven't experienced this personal walk with Him will learn the same way Constance did in the book.

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

This is a hard question to answer. I love to write. I enjoy seeing the story develop new depths as I put it on paper. Since I had to write this one in a few short weeks, I had to depend on the Lord a lot. I believe the book is better for it.

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

I have four books slated for release in 2007. The Spinster and the Cowboy in the novella anthology The Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner coming out in April. In June, Can You Help Me? in Carolina Carpenter Brides. A Christmas novella collection will release in September--Montana Mistletoe, and my story is Christmas Confusion. My only Heartsong in 2007 will be Who Am I? In October. The first two books are historical, and the last two are contemporary.

Thank you, Lena, for joining us today. Hope everyone enjoys the interview. Don't forget to leave a comment for your chane to win a free copy of A Daughter's Quest.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Spotlight on ... Meredith Efken - @ Home for the Holidays

All right, we're back in business again with the spotlight authors. Since we missed last week, I'm not only doubling up...I'm tripling up with three--that's right---THREE spotlight guests this week. That's three times the chances to win a FREE autographed book. Won't make it in time for Christmas, but you'll have one for the new year.

Just post a comment on an interview to be entered for a chance to win.

Now, it's my pleasure and honor to introduce a great friend of mine. One of the first writers I met after joining ACFW, Meredith and I quickly found a lot common laughter ground to keep our spirits light. She's managed to help me keep things in perspective on many occasions and offered sound advice when my life seemed out of control. And when you read her'll see the evidence of this.

MEREDITH EFKEN has experienced much of what she describes in her new book, @ Home For The Holidays, sequel to her debut novel, SAHM I Am. From surviving temper tantrums to being covered in slobbery toddler kisses, Meredith enjoys the life of a stay-at-home mom – despite the challenges. In addition to writing, freelance editing, and home schooling, Meredith is a graduate of the Vineyard Leadership Institute as well as a member of her church worship team at the Omaha Vineyard. She also co-founded a local writers group, WordSowers, and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

She's been declared by fellow author Randy Ingermanson to be "funnier than Erma Bombeck" which she often questions, but hey, it's a great quote. You can decide for yourselves if it's true. Check out her website at for fun extras about her books and to participate on her interactive blog, Violet Voices.

1. Meredith, you speak to thousands of women everywhere, SAHM's or not, with your issue of balancing the hectic pace of the holidays and real life. As a SAHM yourself, you bring a lot of personal background to your books, but where did you get the inspiration behind this particular story?

Well, the main Christmas story line has to do with a group of women that have decided to boycott Christmas, in order to punish their local retailers for not saying "Merry Christmas" the year before. It's satire on the whole "war on Christmas" flap that we seem to get caught up in every year. The inspiration for it came from a forwarded email I got from a certain religious organization last year, suggesting a similar boycott. When Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and reconciliation, and when there are so many people who will face serious difficulties during the holiday season, worrying about what greeting retailers use seems to be a waste of energy and resources. I wanted to show the absurdity in a way that would make people laugh--even if it's at ourselves.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Rosalyn and the other SAHM loop ladies? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

Rosalyn, the antagonist of the story, was created largely from my own sense of inferiority and guilt about not being a good enough mom. I took all those things I kept telling myself I "should be" and made them into an actual person. And she irritated me so much by her own perfection that I just HAD to take her down a few pegs. It was really therapeutic, and it helped me be a little less hard on myself.

The other moms all have bits and pieces of me--Dulcie's general personality is probably closest to my own. But they really did take on their own character traits, and I can't say any of them are supposed to be "me." I stick in little things that have happened to me or other people I know, though. There's a part of @Home in which one of the moms gets chewed out by a guy in the grocery store for not keeping her toddler away from the sliding automatic doors. She has a baby and an armful of groceries, and instead of help, she gets a lecture about how irresponsible she is. That actually happened to me! At Wild Oats. So I dubbed him the "Wild Oats Guy" and determined that he would be immortalized in my next book. So I include as many real-life experiences as I can, but I usually end up adjusting them somewhat to fit the shape and flow of the story. Rarely are all the details exactly as it really happened.

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

One theme that was important to me is the idea that a mom does NOT have to stay at home in order to be a good mom. Dulcie and Tom end up in a role reversal in this book, where she has to go back to work and he ends up staying home. I didn't go as deep with that storyline as I could have or would have liked to, because of needing to give time to other aspects of the story. But sometimes our Christian community, in an effort to affirm and encourage moms who are staying at home, ends up making moms who work outside the home feel as if they've made a wrong choice or are second-best moms. And we tend not to know what to do with the dads who end up at home! I hope that @Home challenges that idea. We need to support ALL moms and dads, whether they stay home or go off to work. Parenting is a tough job, and when we pressure families to do things one certain way, we make that tough job just that much harder.

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

Ironically, the hardest part of this story also became one of my favorite aspects--the holiday storyline. At first, when my editor suggested that I write a Christmas book, I was a bit reluctant because I'm not the type of person who enjoys a sentimental, warm-fuzzy holiday story. I've never read a Christmas story that wasn't nostalgic and feel-good. My editor assured me that they wanted something different from me--a sequel that would match the tone of my first book, SAHM I Am. So I decided to give it a try. Coming up with a Christmas story line that would be in the tone of my first book was really hard. But the "boycott Christmas" idea ended up fitting perfectly, and it strengthened Rosalyn's storyline and gave me a chance to really explore her character some more. Considering that she seems to be people's favorite character (the one they love to hate), I was really pleased by how it turned out. I think readers will have a lot of fun with her shenanigans.

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

Um, I wish I could say that it's some big secret--like the seventh Harry Potter book! But the truth is, I'm working on a new story utilizing our family's experience of adopting from China. But it's not under contract yet, so I can't really say much more. I'm really excited about it, though, as this is a story I've wanted to write for several years. So as soon as that moves forward, I'll be letting everyone know. Check my blog and website.

* * Thanks, Meredith, for stopping by. Hope y'all enjoyed the interview.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

SOLD! First Book Sale Celebration -- It's Party Time!

That's right. After 3 long years (from the first conversation with editor Jim Peterson in Houston), I have sold a Delaware historical to Barbour for their Heartsong Presents line. They're interested in the other 2 books in the series for a full repackaged state series, but those 2 are still under consideration. This first one is slated for a Jan. 2008 release and my contract will be here in Feb. 2007.

It's been a long-time dream of mine to join the Heartsong Presents team, so I'm thrilled to bits to have this news right before Christmas.

So, forgive the delay in this week's spotlight guest. I'll double-up next week with 2 special guests...possibly make up for it. The winner from last week has been posted in the comments of that spotlight interview.

Thank you to everyone who has visited, read my blog, read my stories, or supported me in any way. Don't discount the role you've played in this sale--no matter how small you think it was. I owe so much to each and every one of you. Stay tuned for a revised web site after the first of the year to reflect this exciting news.

And one more thing!

Once my actual contract arrives, and I begin this journey toward my book release, I'll be shifting gears slightly on this blog. Spotlight interviews will move to Wednesdays. Mondays and Fridays will be reserved for me sharing details of my experiences and insight as I prepare my first book for release. I'll also begin sharing about submissions to other publishers and agents for my other books. If this proves successful, I might even get creative with the characters in my book and let them talk to you as well. We'll see what happens next year.

Coming next week...spotlights with Brandt Dodson, Lena Nelson Dooley and Meredith Efken. Don't disappear for Christmas yet! The last 3 chances to win FREE books before 2006 comes to a close. Come back and visit again.

Friday, December 15, 2006

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Spotlight on...Wanda Brunstetter

Today, I have the distinct pleasure to introduce an author who has quickly risen high on the favorite author list for many who enjoy the slower-paced lifestyle. Her stories have struck a chord in many readers' hearts, creating a desire for her books that sees them flying off the shelves. Now, she's here and ready to talk to you.

Wanda E. Brunstetter is a best-selling, award-winning author of over 20 novels. She's also had hundreds of stories, articles, poems, word puzzles, devotionals, monologues, and puppet plays published with a variety of publishers. Wanda resides in the state of Washington with her husband, Richard who is a minister. She especially enjoys writing about the Amish because they live a peaceful, simple life, which is something she feels everyone needs in this day and age.

1. You have recently launched a strong genre niche in the Amish stories you've penned. In the pattern of Beverly Lewis, you have reached high acclaim for these stories. Most recently, you've had 4 revised and expanded stories from the Heartsong Presents line re-released, one each month for the past 3 months with the 4th releasing this week. What made you decide to pursue this opportunity and more specifically this focus?

By readers' request, my publisher asked me to revise and expand the four books originally published as smaller Heartsong Presents novels, then later released in the now out-of-print LANCASTER BRIDES collection. My focus on the Amish way of life comes about because of my interest in and respect for the special Amish people I've come to know and love.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of these 4 books?

In Book 1, "A Merry Heart," I drew from my unhappy childhood experiences that resulted in my being unable to smile and then later, learning how to have a merry heart. In Book 2, "Looking for a Miracle," I used my love for plants and flowers as a focus and a job for my main character to have. In Book 3, "Plain and Fancy," I used my experience with one of my friend's "special" child to show how my main character dealt with learning that her baby had Down Syndrome. In Book 4, "The Hope Chest," I remembered the expectant, joyful feelings I had when I filled my own hope chest over 40 years ago. I used my imagination and the what-if questions to create most of the characters' traits, and especially had fun when I wrote "Plain and Fancy" and asked myself what it would be like for someone who had been raised in the modern English world but decided to join the Amish faith.

3. What themes exist in these 4 books that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

The main theme in "A Merry Heart" revolves around Miriam learning how to give her bitter spirit and pain from the past over to God and eventually develops a merry heart. One thing that developed as the story progressed in the revised version was Amos Hilty, the widower's point of view, where we learn why he was willing to court someone like Miriam, who had a bitter spirit and needed a merry heart. The main theme in "Looking for a Miracle," evolves around Rebekah, a young Amish woman confined to a wheelchair and looking for a way to support herself, knowing it would require a miracle. As the story progressed, I decided to show how Rebekah's sister, Nadine, coped with Rebekah's handicap and came to grips with the jealousy she felt because of the attention Rebekah got from their family. In "Plain and Fancy" my main theme centered around Laura, a fancy English woman learning to do without modern things and coming to realize the importance of a relationship to God and her family. A secondary theme came about in the revised version when I focused on Pauline, Eli's ex-girlfriend and showed how she felt about Eli's interest in an outsider. The main theme in "The Hope Chest" revolves around Rachel, a young Amish woman hoping for something she can't have--namely her sister's boyfriend. The secondary theme involves Rachel's sister, Anna, who decides to leave the Amish faith and then has to cope with the rejection of her family.

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

"Plain and Fancy" was probably the most difficult, but it was also my favorite story, as I described the way Laura felt during her transition from fancy to plain. My friendship with several Amish people has helped me understand the Amish way of life better, but it was still a challenge to get into Laura's head, since I have not become Amish myself. Like most of my readers, I long for a slower-paced, simpler way of life, where family values and an emphasis on God takes priority over worldly things. So, I had fun pretending to be Amish as I portrayed Laura in my story.

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

My next Amish novel is the first in a 3-book series set in Holmes County, Ohio. It's titled "A Sister's Secret," and involves a mystery.

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Now that you've learned a bit more about Wanda, enter for a chance to win a FREE COPY of YOUR CHOICE of the four books. Post a comment now, and you're automatically entered. Winner gets to choose which book you desire as your prize.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Spotlight on....Laurie Alice Eakes

Today, as promised, is the second spotlight interview. The guest is one who has become more than a fellow author, but also a client...and she has a brand new redesigned web site that I invite you to visit.

Laurie Alice Eakes graduated from Asbury College, spent many years in misadventures (including teaching high school English), moving about the country (including four years in Iowa), and throwing herself into more research than writing. Just when she thought she was settled in the Shenandoah Valley, she fell in love with a guy from Chicago and moved there. After freezing for two years in Illinois, and getting her Master of Arts degree in writing from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, she and her new husband moved back to Virginia, but to the DC area instead. She wrote Family Guardian, then work turned her life insane, and she got paragraphs rather than pages written. Now she is almost back on track and writing nearly full-time, but not fast enough for the many novels she needs to finish.

Now, we can hear from her:

1. You used to be known primarily as a Regency author, even though you have recently branched out into other genres. However, Family Guardian falls into the Regency category. Where did you get the inspiration behind this particular story?

Fragrance. I love scents--nice ones that is. One day I heard a woman talking about aromatherapy, so bought a couple of books she recommended and ran across a book on the history of perfume called Fragrance. It was out of print, so I tracked down the author and bought my copy right from him. It gave mea nice twist to a genre where about everything seems to have been done already.

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

Rowena, being the heroine's older sister, is the lovely and outgoing one who always got the attention. I'd say I probably subconsciously took this from my shy teenage years when my sister could steal one of my boyfriends, or guys in whom I was interested, without even trying.

The rest is pure fabrication. I was never in love with any of my sister's boyfriends. Tristan is a bit of a dreamer, and I think I am, too. Are not all writers?

Clarissant is definitely her own person­an overboard nurturer, yet that serves her well and is part of the secret of her success. She and Tristan share the same trait of loyalty, which is something Rowena lacks.

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

I don't think I start out writing to a theme, that all my themes develop from the story that comes into my head first. In Family Guardian, I'd have to say the themes developed center around life perspective. Although dreams can get us through rough parts in our lives, we reach a point where we have to let go of them to grasp the reality right in front of us that is actually far, far better.

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

This story was not in the least difficult to write. It flowed out as we wished all stories would. I think the chapter that took me the longest was the one where Tristan learns the truth about Rowena and Clarissant, what they have concealed from him. I wanted to get across his sense of betrayal and anger, but not anger for the reasons the reader might expect. That took much tweaking.

Favorite part? The part that is excerpted on my Web Site. The by-play between Tristan and Clarissant. For some reason, when I wrote that part, I knew the book would sell, even though a highly respected crit partner told me to change it. I knew it was right, and I am usually pretty quick to change something if someone objects to it.

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

The next thing I have coming out is an essay in a nonfiction anthology called Scripture to Live By. Working full-time with a horrendous commute curtailed my writing, and I am just now catching up from that live-draining experience and some other disruptions in my life. I'll keep people posted on dates when I get that far in my blog.

* * * * *

Did you enjoy this interview? Want to enter for a chance to win a FREE copy of FAMILY GUARDIAN? Post a comment now, and you're automatically entered.

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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Spotlight on Terry Burns -- Westerns King

In a world where the 'lit' books and mystery/suspense seem to be grabbing hold of the general readership at large, today's spotlight author manages to maintain a stronghold in what some might consider a "bygone" genre. However, just like the "good old days" when a handshake was all you needed to seal a deal, Terry Burns' books take you into a world of adventure that makes it difficult to break away and return to real life.

Terry is a 5th generation Irish storyteller who is a 4th generation Texas bullshipper. His Mysterious Ways Series from River Oak Publishing began with the book that bears that name. The second, Brothers Keeper came out Feb 1 and Shepherd's Son just came out. That gives him 24 books in print counting the nonfiction and short story collections plus Mysterious Ways which was just published in Russian. Other fiction includes Trails of the Dime Novel, a trade paperback from Echelon Press and in audio from JBS Publishing. To Keep a Promise and, Don't I Know You? trade paperbacks from The Fiction Works are both scheduled for audio books this year. He has published over 200 articles and short stories, is in a short story collection Coastal Villages Press entitled "Straight from the heart - stories of love and friendship," the second volume entitled "More stories of love and friendship", one entitled "Living by Faith" from Obidiah Press, in Heartwarming Christmas Stories from River Oak in November as is Cup of Comfort for Weddings, and he has a story in Soul Matters for Men from Thomas Nelson. Terry has published four nonfiction books and has a small book of cowboy poetry entitled Cowboys Don't Read Poetry. His available works as well as a daily blog can be found at

Make sure you comment on this post for a chance to win a FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY of Terry's latest book, SHEPHERD'S SON.

1. Book three in your Mysterious Ways series successfully captures the essence of the cowboy life. An age-old dilemma of a shepherd clashing with cattle ranchers, and you pull it off with wit, wisdom, adventure and a dose of reality. Where did you get the inspiration for this particular story?

My daughter came in from a women's retreat and she was really enthused about a message comparing sheep to a spiritual flock. She knew the Bible did that a lot but she had never really grasped the full impact of it, that sheep are one of the few animals who are completely helpless without their shepherd. Even a rabbit has some defense, but not a sheep. I caught her enthusiasm and wanted to use it, but it also occurred to me what a totally different story being a shepherd was in the late 1800's when sheep were introduced to cow country. Mixing the themes produced quite an interesting story.

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

I know all of my characters come from deep inside of me and embody much of what I think and feel, but once they start becoming real they take on lives of their own. I often have characters think and know things that I did not know before I started thinking with their head. They fight me for control of the story and generally win. I never write my faith into my stories, the characters have or don't have faith and just as God works in the lives of living beings causing them to interact and serve his purposes, I know he is causing interaction between the characters, and that interaction is what brings any faith content to my stories.

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

A theme that no one is beyond redemption. The part that developed as the story went along is the fact that I thought the redemption was going to occur to somebody else. The person I intended it to happen to proved to be completely unreachable. I had no idea it was going to happen as it did, but it seemed the Lord began to work on one of the least likely people in the book with amazing results.

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

This story flowed so easily and so naturally that I hardly seemed to have any control over it at all so I would be hard pressed to pick a difficult part. My favorite part is when Jay gets the opportunity to tell the story of David as the shepherd boy who took on Goliath to some very young mexican shepherd boys who had never heard it, and the completely different way they looked at the story. It was delightful the way I watched that story unfold.

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

I'm writing a mystery now. I thought it was a cozy, but it appears the concensus is that it isn't. I've got the first draft done and I'm ready to go back and work on it. It's the story of a missing person, a woman, and a rather unorthodox love triangle that develops around it. I haven't been working on it as much as I should. Joyce Hart recruited me to work with her as an agent at Hartline Literary, and I've been spending time getting up to speed in that capacity. I still intend to keep writing too, of course. Next out is actually a short story collection that I contributed to, A Cup of Comfort for Weddings, if you can believe an old cowboy would have something to contribute to that.

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Actually, Terry, I think a "cowboy" would have a lot to contribute. Thank you for being in the spotlight.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Spotlight on...Judith McCoy Miller

I first "met" this week's spotlight author through one of my favorite authors, Tracie Peterson, and discovered yet another talented writer with the ability to portray characters that stayed with you long after you finished the book. Now, it's my distinct pleasure to feature her here.

Let's hear more from her:

Thanks so much for inviting me to be your spotlight author today, Amber. I am an author of historical fiction and live in Topeka, Kansas. My husband and I are the parents of four children, but we're now empty-nesters. I'm the author of fifteen novels, several novellas and one book for children. I began my writing career with Heartsong Presents. I co-authored both the Bells of Lowell and Lights of Lowell series with Tracie Peterson before writing the Freedom's Path series. I'm currently working on a new series, Postcards from Pullman, and Tracie and I have another series we are co-authoring with the first book due to release next year. If you've visited my website, you know that scrapbooking is my hobby of choice, but I do enjoy crafts of all sorts when time permits. I love the Lord, my family, hazelnut coffee, chocolate, and cranberry tea—in that order.

Don't forget to post a comment for your chance to win a FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY of DAYLIGHT COMES.

1. Daylight Comes is the 3rd book in your Freedom's Path series. Where did you get the inspiration behind this particular story? How is this one connected to the other 2?

Part of the inspiration came through researching the elected Kansas officials during that time period. Truth's husband, Moses Wyman, is loosely based upon E. P. McCabe, who lived in Nicodemus, Kansas, and was elected to the position of Kansas State Auditor. He was the highest-ranking African-American official in the West during the early 1880's. I was both pleased and surprised to discover the state had elected an African-American to a high-ranking office at that point in time. After learning about Mr. McCabe, I wondered about the difficulties his wife might have faced as she attempted to adjust to the changes his election would cause in their lives.

The Freedom's Path series is a continuing saga of two families, the Harbans of Nicodemus and the Boyles of Hill City. These two towns are approximately eighteen miles apart and were settled by the same town company: Nicodemus for the African-Americans and Hill City for Caucasians. The families are fictional, but the setting is historical. Nicodemus is the only remaining community that was settled by African-Americans in the west. There are many people who have never heard of these pioneers and I wanted to incorporate some of their history into this series.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Truth, Macia and Jeb? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

I'm old, but not quite old enough to have experienced some of the trials and tribulations my characters experienced. :) On the other hand, characteristics and flaws do span generations. I married and moved away from my family many years ago, and I still remember the transition and difficulties I faced not having the immediate support of my parents and siblings. Some of those memories played into Truth's fear of leaving home.

Both Truth and Macia must come to grips with bouts of selfishness and self pity. Unfortunately, I was able to draw upon some of my own actions and reactions to challenges I've faced in my past. However, like Macia and Truth, I think I've managed to outgrow some of those character flaws—at least most of the time. :) Having his parents die has caused Jeb to become protective of both his own feelings and his little sister. He doesn't want to experience further emotional pain so he's built a wall of protection. I think many of us do that very thing in our own lives, but unless we're willing to knock down that wall, we can't experience the pleasure of genuine love and relationship.

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

Trust is the primary theme throughout the entire series. Of course, I also want the reader to experience the intestinal fortitude and faith these settlers exhibited in order to settle their land and begin new lives in a very harsh environment. Some of the characters exhibit that same tenacity in their personal trials. Nowadays, many of us give up too easily, we don't commit for the long haul. You see both types in the series: Those who had the resolve to fight the elements and trust in God and those who turned back.

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

Macia's character was the most difficult. She's not a very likable character in the beginning of the series. She needed to be very selfish and yet have enough endearing qualities that the reader would be willing to follow her throughout the series. My favorite character changed as the series progressed. Other than my protagonists, I truly enjoy having a feisty secondary character. In First Dawn I enjoyed writing Miss Hattie. In Morning Sky and Daylight Comes, I enjoyed writing Lilly's character.

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

My next book will release in April 2007 and is titled In the Company of Secrets. It is the first book in the Postcards from Pullman series. This series is set in the town of Pullman, Illinois, a company town built by George M. Pullman, the man who made an empire out of his Pullman railroad cars. The story is about two young women who flee England in 1892—one of noble birth, the other a scullery maid. The story deals with the lies and deceit they create as their lives intersect and they settle in the town of Pullman.

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Judy, thank you for joining us in the spotlight. Everyone else, hope you enjoyed the interview.

Monday, October 23, 2006

WINNERS -- Feather & Then Came Faith

All right, 2 more winners to announce! I might just take to announcing these on the actual thread rather than making a post because it's getting repetitive. If anyone has a more creative way of doing this, by all means, let me know.

The winner of an autographed copy of Susan Page Davis' Feather is....

Cherie Japp

The winner of an autographed copy of Louise Gouge's Then Came Faith is....


Congratulations, Cheri and Shauna! Email me privately with your contact information, so I can notify the authors. Thank you to everyone for your support.

Up next...Judith McCoy Miller with her historical fiction, Daylight Comes.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Spotlight on Louise Gouge

Thank you to everyone for your patience while waiting for this postponed spotlight feature. For those who asked, life for me hasn't really settled, but I'm working through it one day at a time. It'll make a great inclusion in one of my books some day. :) If you want to know what happened, read the post right before this one.

Anyway, enough about me. Today is all about our spotlight guest...Louise Gouge. She splashed onto the CBA scene with a riveting novel entitled, Ahab's Bride, which went on to win awards and become highly recommended. Now, she's back with a new book that is sure to have as much impact in today's world as the historical time period in which its written.

Louise M. Gouge is the author of seven novels. She earned her master of liberal studies degree from Rollins College and earned her bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Central Florida. Married to David H. Gouge for 41 years, the mother of four grown children, and grandmother of five, Louise has made her home in Central Florida for twenty-seven years. Currently, she teaches writing, literature, and humanities at Valencia Community College in Kissimmee, Florida.

Let's hear more from her, but don't forget to post a comment for your chance to win a FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY of THEN CAME FAITH.

1. You seem to have tackled an issue that was not only key during the Civil War, but one that can be quite applicable today. Where did you get the inspiration behind this particular story?

Because I was a child in the Civil Rights era, I've always wondered why things did not turn out better for this nation after the Civil War and why the Civil Rights movement was even necessary. I have come to understand that national identities are formed through the choices that individual people make. In this country, the generation after the Civil War failed to take up the torch and "fix" the racial divide, failed to bring African-Americans fully into American society, so that all of us could work together to build the greatest nation this world has ever known. We are still suffering because of that. We had a chance to become a beacon to a world where tribal and ethnic identities often wreak havoc and destruction. But we failed. By placing my characters in the post-Civil War, I show that many Americans had great hope for a better world, and there is still a chance we can overcome that failure.

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

I can't really say that Juliana and André came from my own experiences or anyone I know personally. I was not old enough or brave enough to participate in the Civil Right movement, and by the time it came about, I didn't even live in the South. My characters come from studies that I have done about the pre-Civil War attitudes among dedicated abolitionists who risked their lives to end slavery and slave-holders who believed slavery was God's will. Juliana's and André's actions are simply characteristic of the passionate people on both sides of the issue. But any time you have an issue this controversial, you will find complicated people on both sides. These two characters are complex and realistic.

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

André Beauchamp, a Christian who deeply believes in the southern cause, has fought valiantly in the Confederate Navy. At war's end, he wonders why God abandoned His people. André also has lost personal property, all of his slaves, and most of his family, causing him to question his faith and surrender to bitterness. Then he meets Juliana Harris, a do-gooder Yankee woman, who not only has been a staunch abolitionist, but who also believes God has punished the South for perpetuating the evil institution of slavery. They both fight their mutual attraction, but ultimately cannot resist God’s clear direction.

When I first conceived this story idea, it was pretty clear-cut and simple: the southern cause versus the northern cause, with my hero and heroine exemplifying the extremes of each one. That's what passion is all about.

However, my research brought about one heartbreaking fact: Southerners were so determined that Reconstruction should fail that they "culled out" the leaders among the Negro communities and murdered many of them. Sadly, this kind of ignorance and hatred still exists today, and countless communities, large and small, across the country suffer both from those overt actions and the reactionary response from those whose ancestors were persecuted.

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

The part I enjoyed most was the irresistible attraction that Juliana and André felt. As the old saying goes, "Something's gotta give" when two such opposites are attracted to each other. As for the most difficult part, I would have to give away some important plot points to answer that!

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

My next book is entitled Then Came Hope, Book Two in my post-Civil War series. It will be published in the early spring 2007. In keeping with my series theme of men returning from the war, Then Came Hope tells the story of Ezra Johns, a corporal in the 54th Massachusetts Negro Regiment, and Delia Young, a South Carolina slave girl who finally finds the courage to escape her bonds just days before the war ends. When these two travelers join a band of former slaves, they meet many obstacles as they head North to find better lives.

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Thank you, Louise, for joining us in the spotlight. Hope sales for this book soar!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Spotlight Delay -- Personal Theft

Sorry to do this, but this week's spotlight will be featured on Thursday instead of Tuesday. The spotlight author is on a deadline, and I've been swamped today dealing with my wallet and cell phone getting stolen.

Thankfully, only minimal items were in there, but it's still a hassle to backtrack and file a police report, then follow-up with places where the card was used checking for security cameras, etc.

Needless to say, my time has been otherwise usurped...which works out good for the author being featured. I'll be back on Thursday with the winner from last week's spotlight and the new interview.

If you haven't posted a comment from last week, now's your chance. You have 2 extra days!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Spotlight on....Susan Page Davis (Feather)

Before we begin, I wanted to share that our spotlight guest has recently lost a loved one, but our Heavenly Father has given her the strength to still be with us here this week. Prayers are definitely with Susan Page Davis.

The last time she was with us, we highlighted her historical romances. This week, we are spotlighting her brand new children's fantasy, Feather. It releases later this month, but you can read a sneak summary here.

Don't forget to leave a comment for the chance to win a FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY from the author. Whether you enjoy fantasy or know a young reader who will, this is the perfect opportunity to get a unique gift.

Now, on with the interview:

1. You've established yourself as an historical romance author with Heartsong Presents. Now, you shift into children's fantasy. What inspired you to take on this project and where do you feel it will take your career?

This was a story that had been on my heart for some time. It developed in my mind, and I felt I should write it.

2. Feather releases later this month. Tell us more about the book and the story.

Feather is a 12-year-old girl who is captured by a hostile tribe and forced to work for them. When the Blens discover she is skilled at making arrows, they put her to work doing that, but Feather soon learns her arrows will be used against her own people. She and her new friend, Tag, plan to escape from the Blens and try to warn her people.

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

The most difficult parts were those where Feather is threatened and injured. My favorite was the battle scene near the end.

4. The fantasy genre seems to be 'taboo' in certain circles of the Christian world. How do you feel your reception has been or will be for this book?

The publisher (JourneyForth) has committed itself to developing a fantasy line for children that does not include magic. I hope this book is unobjectionable to all Christians, and I think it will make a wonderful addition to any home, school, or public library.

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

My next Heartsong is also coming out in late November. In it, a young woman in 1858 Virginia is caught up in a lie that she detests.

My next children’s book will come out in 2007 with JourneyForth, and it is the story of Sarah Piper, who loves long-distance horse riding. When her mother dies, she goes to live on her uncle’s ranch. Will Sarah be able to continue competing in the sport she loves?

Thank you, Susan, for being in the spotlight again.

Monday, October 09, 2006

WINNER - Wishing on Dandelions

You'd think I could find a more creative way of announcing this each week. Using the same words is getting boring. Maybe I should hold a contest for most creative winner post idea. :)

Hmm, let me think on that.

In the meantime, I have another winner to announce. The winner of an autographed copy of Mary DeMuth's Wishing on Dandelions is....

Shannon McNear

Congratulations, Shannon! You'll be hearing from me and Mary shortly. Thank you to everyone for your support.

Up next? Susan Page Davis with her premiere release of a children's fantasy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Spotlight on....Mary DeMuth

This week's spotlight author was a recent "hit" at the national ACFW Conference in Dallas. Everyone who attended her continuing session came out inspired and encouraged. I'm honored to feature her here so you can learn more about her and her latest book too.

And as always, post a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of Mary's latest release...Wishing on Dandelions. Please also tell your friends and other fiction readers about this blog. The more the merrier! :)

From Mary: I'm so thankful to be a part of Amber's blog today. Thanks to all of you who've stopped by. I am a nonfiction and fiction author, writing from the south of France where my family and three other families are endeavoring to plant a church. My books include Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, 2006). When I'm not writing or church planting or cooking or helping my kids with homework, I enjoy hiking, running, making small-scale art projects, and leading worship. My life's message is that God's redemption shines brighter in impossible situations.

1. You once again crafted a moving tale and emotional follow-up to your previous book, Watching the Tree Limbs. In Wishing on Dandelions, Maranatha's longing for the reassurance of God's love--while she sorts through her understanding of other kinds of love--resonated from page 1 to the last. Were there any of your experiences which helped craft Natha's character? What aspects of Natha became traits that were hers and hers alone?

I have struggled my life through trying to understand and feel God's love, so in that sense, I have walked this same path with Natha. Having grown up in a difficult home, I often felt like I deserved what came my way, as did Maranatha. That bred in me a keen need to understand (and often to disbelieve) God’s love for me. What's different about Natha is that she had more folks in her life really trying to help her see God's love. She had a posse of people who made it their aim to help her.

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

Shame and guilt evolved over the manuscript. Initially, Uncle Zane did NOT have a stroke, but adding that helped solidify Maranatha's struggle with overwhelming guilt, feeling like the stroke was her fault. So that one evolved. I also want the reader to see how fear prevents us from really living life, how it keeps us living half-dead. And of course, I want readers to see God's relentless pursuit of love for His children and how He often uses unlikely characters to show us that love in surprising ways.

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

The most difficult was Georgeanne. I wanted to make her really heinous, but as I kept writing her, she started endearing herself to me. Isn't that how our "enemies" are? We try to make them out to be villains, only to see spots and pieces of redemption sticking out from their prickly facades. My favorite part was writing the love story. I have always shied away from writing romance, but I found I really enjoyed setting Maranatha's love story to words.

4. Describe your writing space and schedule. How many words per day do you write? Do you have a minimum goal you hope to reach before you push away your keyboard?

I'm attaching a picture here. I write in my bedroom. We live in this little three story villa, with our bedroom tucked under the eaves of the third story. There is a five foot by five foot nook in one corner where I have my desk crammed, along with lots of pictures, a filing cabinet and a printer. It's pretty cramped, and I long for my own office someday.

When I'm on fiction deadline, I write about 2000 words a day. On non-fiction, about 1500 words. I tend to see my goals in weekly increments, though, so for fiction, by the end of the week I will have made myself type 10,000 words.

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

The next book coming out is tentatively titled Postmodern Parenting. It releases next July. It's a book for parents who are trying to raise their kids in this postmodern world. In a sense, it's a response to so many of those do-these-ten-steps-to-raise-godly-kids books. Sometimes formulas fall short. My main premise in that book is that what is inside us as parents (our hearts) is what we will duplicate in our children. We go full-bent superimposing methods upon ourselves, but we neglect to let Jesus change our hearts.

I also have a novel releasing sometime in 2008, but it's not written yet so I can't tell the story.

Thank you, Mary, for joining me in the spotlight.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Winners -- 2 Weeks' Worth

Sorry for not posting the winners from the past 2 spotlight interviews. I have an excellent excuse though -- the annual ACFW conference. Needless to say, I was might bit preoccupied before *and* during. :)

But, now I'm getting caught up again and before tomorrow's spotlight, I'm announcing the winners to date:

Kiss the Bride
Winner: Lillian A. Byrd

The Gathering Storm
Winner: Shauna

If you both can contact me with your mailing addresses, I'll make sure the authors get your autographed books out to you.

The winner of Violet Dawn will wait until the end of the week to give others a chance to read and respond.

Friday, September 29, 2006

CFBA Tour -- Violet Dawn

For my regular readers, and any others who missed me, I'm back from Dallas and one of the best writer's conference experiences thus far. But, I'll save the details for another post. Right now, I'm thrilled to shine the spotlight on an author who's become very special to me recently.

By the title of this post, you've probably deduced the book being featured. That's right. It's Violet Dawn, a brand new release from "Seatbelt Suspense" author, Brandilyn Collins.

I have an extra autographed copy that I'll be awarding to one lucky winner. Just leave a comment on this post for your chance to win.

Violet Dawn, which released in August of this year, is published by Zondervan and is part of Brandilyn's new Kanner Lake series. There are two other books to come...Coral Moon, releasing in March of '07, and Crimson Eve, releasing in September of '07.

You must also stop by and visit Scenes and Beans, the REAL blog for the fictional Java Joint coffehouse in Kanner Lake. This is a unique marketing tool for the series, involving about 30 other
writers and eventually involving readers of the series who want to audition posts.

A lot of my friends are featured on the book's blog site, but a great friend of mine is actually featured *in* the book. That's right. Brandilyn calls him "Ted Dawson." If you read the book or frequent Java Joint through Scenes & Beans, you'll also discover him to be "S-Man." He even has his own web site and blog where you can learn more about him and his writing.

What an honor. To be chosen as the prototype for an author's character. And not only that, but to be given the privilege of portraying that character on a book blog. You either have to have the "right stuff"...or be really strange. It's a toss-up. :)

Now, I confess. I would say this book is suspense at it's finest. However, Brandilyn has a group of friends that she affectionately calls the "Big Honkin' Chickens Club," because the women in the group are unnerved by Brandilyn's writing...and I'm a proud member. *grins*

I've read the beginning, and from what I've heard, this book is classic Brandilyn Collins "Seatbelt Suspense." It grabs you from the very beginning...

Something sinuous brushed against Paige's knee. She jerked her leg away.

What was that? She rose to a sitting position, groped around with her left hand.

Fine wisps wound themselves around her fingers.


She yanked backward, but the tendrils clung. something solid bumped her wrist. Paige gasped. With one frantic motion she shook her arm free, grabbed the side of the hot tub, and heaved herself out.

Paige Williams slips into her hot tub in the blackness of night...and finds herself face to face with death. Alone, terrified, fleeing a dark past, Paige must make an unthinkable choice.

In Violet Dawn, hurtling events and richly drawn characters collide in a breathless story of murder, the need to belong, and faith's first glimmer. One woman's secrets unleash an entire town's pursuit, and the truth proves as elusive as the killer in their midst.

You can go HERE to read a first chapter excerpt. But using Brandilyn's famous tagline....."Don't forget to b r e a t h e."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Contest & Another FREE Book Giveaway

You read right. I have another contest to announce. This one is for my parallel blog that I cohost with 5 other historical fiction authors. I announced it here when it first launched, but I haven't done a good job in promoting it much. :(

However, to help drive traffic there and increase awareness of this fantastic blog for historical fiction writers or readers, I've announced a contest this morning. All you have to do is comment and send as many people as you can over there to comment on the post with the contest details.

The question: Why do you like historical fiction over the other genres? If you don't like it, why not and what genres are your favorite?

We're looking to attract both fans and non-fans of the genre to get a broad spectrum of answers. So, be sure to invite everyone you know.

The prize: Your choice of any historical fiction book on the bookshevles today. And if the author will be at the national ACFW conference next week, I'll even get it autographed!

Contest ends Sunday night at midnight EST. Winner will be announced on the Favorite Past Times blog.

Check it out!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kiss the Cook...uh...BRIDE!

Yes, I know. I missed the author spotlight last week. Chalk it up to a long weekend for the holiday, a lot of real life happening, and an overly hectic week that didn't allow much time to post even a quick note much less interview anyone. However, I'm back this week and am more than making up for the lapse last week with not one, but *four* authors standing together in the spotlight.

That's right. You read correctly. This week, I'm featuring a brand-new anthology entitled, Kiss the Bride. For those unfamiliar with this type of book, it included four novellas written by four different authors all centered around a similar theme. Sometimes, the characters overlap and have other similarities, but it's the theme that generally ties together the stories into the anthology.

As for the prize for this week, the FREE BOOK will be autographed by at least THREE of the authors, possibly four, if we can arrange it. To enter, simply comment on this post or the author comment post below. The winner will be announced Monday evening, the 18th.

And off we go.....


Synopsis: Four young women meet at a restaurant owner's conference-Angel from Florida, Monica from Missouri, Haley from Oklahoma, and Allison from New Jersey-and discover they share the same faiths, fears, and hopes, including a lack of a love story in their lives. They vow to keep in touch, pray for one another, and meet again at next year's conference. What happens in between is an absolute smorgasbord of changed lives, challenged faiths, new dedications and directions, and romantic twists that turn next year's conference reunion plans into reservations for eight.

1. How did you come up with the idea for this anthology?

KRISTY DYKES: I was bred on Jesus and Nana's layer cakes in the Deep South (and not always in that order! WINK). I also love to cook and entertain. As a pastor's wife, I've often felt like I've run a B&B with all the people I've hosted, such as missionaries, evangelists, singing groups, etc. When I worked for a New York Times subsidiary, the editor said one day they needed a story about cooking. I casually commented, "I've cooked for 100 people in my home and love to cook. Last week, I had a dinner party for 22 people and had a ball." The editor said, "Write me a story. By tomorrow." So I did, and a weekly column entitled "Kristy's Kitchen" was born.

When I dreamed up Kiss the Bride, I envisioned four young women in the food business who love to cook. They all own restaurants, they meet at a restaurant convention, and they bemoan the lack of Mr. Right in their lives. Then, each novella tells their love stories. A fun addition to Kiss the Bride: they pass around an apron with the words "Kiss the Cook" on it. The last groom crosses out "Cook" and writes "Bride" because the girls have all become brides by the end of the book. Also, there's a recipe at the end of each novella.

2. It's often encouraged for writers to "write what you know." Your own location played an important role in the setting of your story. What aspects of where you live influenced your story? What is one unique thing about your location that added a unique flavor?

KRISTY: I'm a native Floridian and proud of it. We're rare birds these days, what with the tens of thousands moving into The Sunshine State each year. I love to set my stories in Florida. We have beautiful beaches and lakes and sunsets and sunrises and... :) In my novella, "Angel Food," the hero and heroine enjoy walks on the beach. And, he proposes there... kneeling in the sand...under a full romantic moon...ah...

AISHA FORD: Most of the books I've written are set in the city where I currently live or in a place I have previously lived. I didn't really get too much of an opportunity to focus on the location in Just Desserts…with a novella, the word limit is so tight that I didn't really get to use a lot of specific St. Louis flavor.

As I wrote, I set the story in my own neighborhood, so Monica and Gil drive down the same streets I drive and visit the same stores I visit. But because I wanted the focus to be on the plot, I tried to stay away from actual names of places and locations, and used generic names for as much as I could.

VICKIE MCDONOUGH I placed my fictional cafe on a real street in Tulsa and tried to give it the same look and feel as that part of town. I mentioned that that area of town was being revitalized in my story, and it is in real life too. I also had my characters visit the Pedestrian Bridge, which is a real place, and got the idea of using a soldier for the hero from my son, who was in the National Guard and was stationed in Iraq for a year.

CARRIE TURANSKY My novella is titled "Tea for Two" and is set in Princeton, New Jersey which is very close to where I live. Princeton is the home of Ivy League Princeton University, and it has a lovely downtown area centered on Nassau Street with many historic building and also great shopping and restaurants. I mention several romantic spots on campus, in Princeton, and the surrounding area in my story. The Sweet Something Tea Shop owned by the heroine in "Tea for Two" is fictional, but there was a lovely tea shop on Nassau Street that inspired the heroine's shop in my story. These characters and this type of restaurant fit this just wouldn't be the same if it took place anywhere else.

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

KRISTY: There weren't any difficult parts. It was a joy to write, all of it. I love putting in quirky characters in my stories, maybe because I run across so many in my life as a pastor's wife! :) Sister Wilkins was fun to write about. But my favorite parts to write were the romantic scenes. I'm a nostalgic romanticist. Or is that a romantic nostalgist? For inspiration, I always pull from my life with my husband Milton!

AISHA: The most difficult part was the moment when Monica and Gil first see each other again after so many years of not speaking. It wasn't a reunion where both parties were planning to see each other, and already knew what they would say to each other. Even though their families had this big rift years earlier, I wanted to let the genuine excitement of seeing each other overrule the apprehension about what their parents would say later.

My favorite part was when Monica went on the television show to demonstrate her wonderful pie recipe while Gil watches from his house. (There's a little surprise I don’t want to give away, but I hope it makes people laugh out loud!)

VICKIE: The emails from Scott(hero) were probably the hardest thing to write. I've never communicated much with a guy via email, and I wanted them to sound realistic and not like they were written by a female.

CARRIE: Here's a quick summary first: Tea for Two tells the story of Allison Bennett, owner of a financially strapped tea shop, who receives an anonymous check that saves her business. She suspects her secret benefactor is Peter Hillinger, a wealthy businessman, who has been pursuing her for several months. But then Tyler Lawrence, her old boyfriend, returns to town claiming a renewed faith and a changed life. Seeking her forgiveness, he offers to use his promotion skills to help her business. Allison doesn't know whom to trust. Should she follow her head or her heart?

The most challenging part to write was the interaction between Allison and her sister Tessa (the heroine of "Wherever Love Takes Us" in WEDDED BLISS). I wanted them to be close, but I wanted Tessa to place doubts in Allison's mind about Tyler's character, making Allison’s decisions more difficult. Finding that balance and making their dialogue realistic took a lot of rewriting.

The most enjoyable part to write was the cozy scene at Allison's house when Tyler came by to show her the designs he had created to help her promote her tea shop. There was a lot going on under the surface, and I wanted to show that and create some enjoyable romantic tension.

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

KRISTY: The scriptural theme of my novella is, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal...If I give all I possess to the poor...but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1,3). Angel, my heroine, had a "me mentality" but didn't know it. She even donated her time to help rebuild an impoverished family's house. But she found out that wasn't enough--in God's eyes. I hope readers will clearly see this, and I hope it will affect their own lives.

AISHA: The main theme is forgiveness, of course. The secondary theme is trust, or in this case, re-trusting. Forgiveness can be tough, but once you get that part taken care of, it's an entirely new challenge to trust them again.

In some cases, you have the opportunity to truly forgive a person and walk away from them. In all honestly, it's much easier to forgive someone you don't have to see on a daily basis. In "Just Desserts," Monica and Gil had to exercise forgiveness, and then found themselves in circumstances where forgiveness itself wasn’t enough; they had to trust each other as well.

VICKIE: The theme is that sometimes we have to give our hopes and dreams to God before they become reality.

CARRIE: The theme verse for "Tea for Two" is "Love keeps no record of wrongs...It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." I Corinthians 13: 5, 7.

This theme of discovering the true meaning of love is shown in the conflict between the hero and heroine. She must decide if she can let go of past hurts, forgive, and believe the changes the hero has made in his life are really going to last. She has very strong romantic feelings for the hero...but does she truly love him? The hero’s love for the heroine is also tested, and he has decisions to make as well.

The importance of Putting God first in our life is another theme that emerged as I was writing "Tea for Two". The heroine realizes she has invested so much time and effort into her business that she has let her relationship with the Lord slide way down the list of importance. Renewing her commitment to the Lord prepares her to face the other challenges in the story.

Author comments in the following post.