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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Note from Barbara Warren

I live in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, which right now need rain. It's been a long, dry summer. I read at least 10 books a month, mostly for book reviews in my newsletter. As a Sunday school teacher, I have worked with youth, and now I teach the women's class. Although I read mostly fiction, I also like non-fiction books about religion, history, and politics. This year I was blessed with two brand new great-great nieces and one great-great nephew, all of whom are totally adorable. It's a good thing they don't live closer, because playing with them would seriously cut into my computer time.

Thanks for dropping by.

Spotlight on Barbara Warren

It's that time again. :) This week, I'm talking with freelance editor and author, Barbara Warren, with her first book coming out in a few weeks. She's excited to be able to take it to the annual ACFW conference and have it available in the bookstore. Congratulations, Barbara. That's a fantastic achievement.

For those who comment on this spotlight interview, the winner of the free book will receive it as soon as possible. Barbara will mail it out once she receives her copies, so you might have to wait an extra week or two. However, don't let that stop you from commenting for a chance to win a FREE autographed book by Barbara.

And now, let's get on with the spotlight:

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

Well, I grew up in the area where The Gathering Storm is set, so I'm familiar with the locale. I don't know that my experiences influenced Stephanie, but I believe we put a little of ourselves into each of our characters, even the bad ones. because everything we write is drawn from who we are and what we've experienced.

Stephanie had to deal with difficult problems. Her father deserted her when she was small, then just when it seemed they might build a relationship he was killed and everyone thinks she is the murderer. She's surrounded by strangers, one of whom is her enemy. Stephanie is running from God and the man she's attracted to is an ex-con, disbarred lawyer, who is now a born again Christian. Nothing she wants in her life. Learning how to handle these difficulties on her own, brings out strengths she never realized she had. Also Stephanie grew up more or less protecting her mother and resenting her father, so she's a skeptic, finding it hard to trust, inclined to back off when relationships gets serious. Like all of us, Stephanie is the result of what she has lived through.

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

I suppose the main theme is that even though friends and family members let us down, we have a heavenly Father who is always there. He never forsakes us. As the story developed, and as Stephanie began to fall in love with Brad, another theme evolved. That love doesn't always last, but it's worth taking a chance for. Sometimes you just have to trust.

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

After the body was found in the cistern, it was hard to get Loralee's grief right without giving away the story. As for my favorite part, I enjoyed the give and take between Stephanie and Brad.

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?

My writing space? Are you sure you really want to know? I live on my husband's family farm. We bought it when his father died and his mother moved to town. I converted her chicken house into an office. It is covered with tin roofiing outside, sheet rocked and painted inside. One wall is filled with research books. papers to be filed are stacked on an old kitchen table, the kind with deep rounded bins for drawers. My computer sits on an old oak desk I bought years ago, and my chair is a comfortable Queen Anne reject from the house. My keyboard rests on my lap.
I have an office cat, Rosicat, who was dumped at the church when she was a kitten. What can I say? It's not pretty, but it's mine. And if I doze over my computer, at least I'm comfortable.

As for my writing schedule. I'm also a freelance editor, and I read books to be reviewed in my monthly on-line newsletter, so it all has to be worked in. Most days I'm at my computer at 8:00 a.m. and work for a couple of hours. then I'm back in the office from 1:30 until 7:00 and after dinner, I work at the kitchen table until 10:30, but that's not all spent in writing. I work the writing in around the editing. Because I'm a strong believer in using an outline, when I sit down to write, I know where I'm going and how to get there. On a good day I can write between 2,000 to 5,000 words. Then I get to rewrite, which is my favorite part. However, there are some days when I'm so busy with editing I don't get to write at all.

I guess it sounds boring, but I love writing, reading, and editing, so I like it.

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

I don't have one scheduled yet. I'm working on one now that I love. It's about five women in their sixties. They act like me, they talk like me, and they plan to start a new career solving murders, just as soon as they find one. They run their church, practically run the town, and squabble among themselves, but if you cross one of them, you have to take on all five. They're sarcastically known in as the Sanctified Sisters. Like me, their creator, the Sisters are a real class act. I'm having a lot of fun with it.

* * * * *
Sounds great, Barbara. Thanks for being in the spotlight.

Monday, August 28, 2006

WINNER - Cowboy *or* Lucky

Another week. Another winner.

It's time to close the door on the contest for Staci Stallings' FREE BOOK giveway. And the winner is...


Congratulations, Melissa, for winning a FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY of your choice of either COWBOY or LUCKY. Contact Staci to send your mailing address and book selection so she can get your book out to you.

And as always, thank you everyone for reading and visiting. Up next, Barbara Warren.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Reviews: Cowboy and Lucky by Staci Stallings

All right, so I didn't get to my reviews Tuesday or Wednesday like I said. This week just flew right by. Sometimes, I wonder where life goes at such a breakneck speed. Whew! There goes another minute.

Now, I don't do reviews very often because I second-guess myself on whether my comments and word usage are "good enough." I've written a handful for and other sites featuring the sale of books. This is one of the first ones here on my blog. Usually, I let the author talk about the books. :)

But, here goes:

The unique presentation in this story using telephone conversations to comprise the majority of the dialogue between the hero and heroine made the reading flow in smooth succession and kept me turning the pages (figuratively speaking of course since I read it electronically). Featuring a country music star immediately piqued my interest, and the story drew me from the start. To read how the heroine got involved in the hero's life and how their relationship developed made for enjoyable entertainment. Both the hero's and heroine's plights were presented in a way that made me sympathize with the characters and want to see them succeed.

My hat's off to you, Staci.

This story begins with the presentation of an idea or preconceived notion and takes a decided twist to end where you don't expect. From the moment the *real* hero was introduced, I couldn't stop reading. Again, the use of country music as a backdrop for the story appealed to me, but with this one focusing on a hero who hadn't yet made it big and exploring his journey toward that ultimate goal, I felt more attached than in Cowboy. By the end, I had a smile on my face and a feeling of success for both the hero and heroine at finding and reaching their dreams.

Another good read. These have inspired me to perhaps pen something highlighting my own brushes with the celebrity world. Certainly something to ponder. :)

Books for Sale!

I've posted a permanent announcement at the top of this page, but I'm also going to post one here for those who regularly read this blog and to allow for comments or questions. A link to this post will also be added to the announcement at the top of the main page.

My annual conference is looming, and I am faced with a decision to raise some money so I can afford to attend without going into debt. No matter how much it hurts me to part with books, I realize they're taking up shelf space and collecting dust. It would make me feel so much better to know they're going to a new home where they'll be enjoyed and read and perhaps passed on to someone else.

So, I listed 173 titles on Amazon.Com's Marketplace. A few have already sold. These are items from all across the board. Fiction and nonfiction. Children and adult. You can view my complete list here.

I also have a small stack of others and a WHOLE LOT of Heartsong Presents books from being in the book club for 14 years. That's another 200+. If you would like to see that list...some titles have sold me or post a comment here requesting the list and providing your email, and I'll send it to you.


If you will be attending the ACFW Dallas conference, I will bring your books with me so you can save on shipping. You can come find me in the bookstore, as co-coordinator with Jeanne Leach.

And if you know of someone else who might be interested in seeing this list, feel free to request it for them, send them to this site, or direct them to the listing page of my books for sale.

Please take a look and help me find new homes for my books. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Spotlight on Staci Stallings

This week, I have the distinct pleasure of shining the spotlight on a dear friend whose marketing prowess and web site promotional skills have helped more people than I can count. Her selfless assistance for others puts her at the top of the list, and we've even talked about working together to make anyone into a top-notch web guru of marketing and design. :) We'll see if it ever develops.

For now, it's her turn in the spotlight, and I hope you enjoy learning more about her. Don't forget to comment on this post or her personal one below this for a chance at an autographed copy of your choice of her 2 books being featured.

If you'd like to read the first 3 chapters of both books, you can do that here. I'll be sharing a brief review either later tonight or tomorrow.

You have 2 recent novels available. Cowboy and Lucky.

Cowboy veers from the formulaic presentation of a typical romance story. How did you decide to write so much of your story using phone conversations as opposed to in-person interactions?

To be really honest, I don't decide very much about my stories at all. I pretty much have an idea (often coming in dreams as both "Cowboy" and "Lucky" did), and I go where the story leads me. The phone conversation thing happened naturally because with Ashton being the country superstar he is, he is of course on the road doing shows. That, to me, was one of the message hooks of this story. We all have this idealized vision of what the life of a rich, famous singer would be like; however, even with crowds of adoring fans around, if you're life is a mess, you're not happy. Further complicating the story is that Beth is such a homebody. She is not the kind who would just pick up to follow him everywhere (even if she knew the details of his real life, which she doesn't).

She wants to help. He needs help. And the only way they can connect is over the phone lines. I think a lot of this aspect of the story can be traced to my dating relationship with my (now) husband. We spent the eight years we went together living at minimum 60 miles apart, so we got very good at the phone thing.

Lucky starts off with a wedding and the presentation that the heroine will travel a certain path. However, by the end, that path is drastically changed. What was your most difficult part to write? Your favorite?

Wow. Actually, there wasn't much about "Lucky" that was hard to write. That story was like a bolt of lightning. I had the dream about "Lucky" on November 23. At the time I was writing something else (what else is new?), and I was determined to keep writing the other one. However, the storyline and characters of "Lucky" wouldn't let me be. I did a little fleshing out of the story by November 26, and by November 28 "Lucky" was the story I was working on. At the time I had a 1-½ year old son, Christmas, two older kids having their Christmas parties and getting out of school. They were out over break. We had the normal round of family parties, church, and then New Year's. Then back to school.

I have no idea where I found time to write, but I finished "Lucky" on January 20. It really feel like it wrote itself. In fact, I learned a great deal from that book about listening to your heart and the path God has given you rather than trying to be what the world says you have to be.

The most difficult part about writing "Lucky" would have to be the emails. During the first of the book, Kalin and Danae communicate almost exclusively through emails. That was difficult to write because rather than writing the email when the character wrote it, I chose to compose the email when the receiving character read it. Often that was "days" or even "months" after the sending character wrote it. So that had me going back to figure out where they were when they wrote it so I could figure out what it might say. That was a challenge.

The easiest part to write was the part when Kalin and Danae first connect emotionally and spiritually by the car tire. They both had such an emotional connection to what was going on, and it was cool finding out some of each of their backstories. Plus, I got to find out who they were on a deeper level than I knew prior to writing that part. That and the "list" Kalin makes Danae tell him were my two favorite parts.

What themes exist in Cowboy and Lucky that you hope the reader sees?

In "Cowboy" the theme I hope the reader sees is that too often we assume others are having this wonderful life, and we overlook how much pain they are really in. I thought it was awesome how Beth’s simple act of kindness toward Timothy in the beginning changed her whole life. Too often we are so caught up in our own worlds that we fail to take the opportunity just to be kind to one another. Those missed opportunities represent who we are and thus the doors to our true paths are never opened because we don’t have time, or we don’t want to be bothered by someone else’s problems.

In "Lucky" the theme I hope the reader catches is do not let the world determine what is right for you. God knows the blueprint of how He designed your life, but instead of listening to His callings and guidance in our lives, we listen to the world. "Lucky" so showed me how we twist ourselves into someone we don't even recognize in order to be accepted (or at least not rejected) by the world. How tragic that we are living according to what the world says will work and totally ignoring what God says will work for us.

Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the stories progressed?

One of the hardest things about writing (at least the way I do it) is to get your characters to be honest with you. Kalin in "Lucky" was what I call very closed. I understood where he was at any given moment, but he wouldn't tell me how he got there. Finally at almost the very end, I said, "Okay, Kalin, you've hinted at this the whole time. You now have to trust me enough to tell me everything." That's when he finally opened up. However, one thread that runs through this particular strand of the entire tapestry is Kalin's willingness to trust even when he doesn't fully understand where this step will lead.

Unlike how most of us live, he didn't look down the road and say, "That's where I want to be, and here's how I'm going to get there." Instead, he lived "That's where I want to be, and I trust that God gave me that desire and if I just take each step He asks me to take, He will lead me to the desires of my heart." It was totally awesome how each step led him to the desires of his heart although no one of those steps looked particularly brilliant or logical. That was so inspirational to me because for many years I was the "set the goal and figure out how to get there" kind. Through my writing I have learned to let that go and begin trusting that since God gave me this gift of writing, He has a plan for it, all I have to do is take the step He puts in front of me today. He will take care of where that ends up taking me.

Do you have any connection to the music industry in Nashville which influenced your stories?

I grew up listening to country music. Alabama and Steve Wariner, Garth and George. I began taking guitar lessons when I was 11 and writing songs when I was about 13. Music has always been one of the loves of my life, and country music had a special place there. In the last few years I have had the chance to watch many interviews with country stars via the Internet and satellite TV.

This has given me is a chance to watch the stars closely—their stage performances, their interview demeanor, reading their words, listening to the songs they write, reading their words in print. All of those go into understanding a character on a deeper level. So it is not that I have a worldly connection to Nashville. It is more that I have a spiritual connection to the love of music and the desire to use the gifts God gave me that mirrors that of the country music stars.

I think that gives the stories spiritual authenticity that comes through as an actual worldly connection.

How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Beth and Danae?

With Beth, I think my desire to help those who are hurting comes through. In the past four years (since writing "Cowboy") I have become even more willing to put myself out there to help. I think that recognizing in Beth how a simple kindness extended can change another's life for the better has helped me to put aside my fear and offer to help more.

As for Danae, I have seen how in the past I have gone for what the world told me would bring me a sense of peace and happiness, of being "right with myself." Like Kalin and Danae, I listened to what the world said I needed to do in order to have that. And like Kalin and Danae, I met up with a lot of misery because of it. Danae taught me that God gave me my gifts and my desires for a reason and that the world will always try to talk me out of those by sounding very logical about why they won’t work. I am learning to listen to what God says whether the world thinks that will work or not.

What aspects of Beth and Danae became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

The loneliness Beth felt because of her circumstances is hers. She is a single mom because of the death of her husband. That is not an experience I've ever been through, and so that was hers alone. The working all hours and the stress of having to do it all yourself were also her rather than me. I think the complete responsibility she felt for everything in her life and her daughter's life was a part of her that I don't have to cope with in my life.

With Danae it would have to be her love of medicine. Blood totally freaks me out. Further, I cannot imagine studying the stuff Danae does. Just understanding it enough to include it in the story was a challenge for me. So that part is definitely Danae’s and not mine.

Describe your writing space and schedule.

Oh, boy. If you are looking for the textbook way to write, this is NOT it. My writing space is completely chaotic. My desk is stacked with papers, CDs, notebooks, books, bills, and an assortment of other things. My office itself is stacked with stuff I'm supposed to get to at some point. However, my mind has a way of blocking this chaos out and focusing on the writing. I, personally, don't mind the mess so long as it doesn't avalanche on me (which it has been known to in the past). However, it does annoy everyone else. No one can believe I can get anything meaningful done in here. But for me, reading and writing are far more important than cleaning ever will be. If I have time to be in my office, you can bet I'll be writing and not cleaning.

My schedule is just as chaotic although that's not really my fault. With two children in school and one at home, a husband who owns his own business (for which I keep the books), my own website and newsletter, marketing, publishing, writing, as well as trying to keep up with my house, my church, and my family and friends—scheduling anything is impossible. I used to fight it, trying to schedule my way to freedom. Now I give myself permission to have the freedom of doing whatever God puts in front of me to do at this moment. I've come to the understanding that He'll take care of everything else.

How many words per day do you write? Do you have a minimum goal you hope to reach before you push away your keyboard?

To those of you who have been taught to set goals and strive to meet them, this is going to sound sacrilegious, but I do not set any goals for myself or my writing. I used to. I was the queen of goal setting. Lesson by lesson, however, God has shown me that MY trying to do it on my timeframe, with my resources, and my ability is a one-way ticket to heartache and feeling like an utter failure. So, now I don't have goals. I write what He gives me to write when He gives it to me to write.

For example, right now I have six books "open" to write. They all have at least a few pages written but none are yet finished. Some are stand-alone or first books, some are the books in a trilogy. I am also reading at least four different books that I haven't yet finished. I don't worry about that much (if at all) anymore. I just know that's how I operate the best.

I have 18 books finished at the present time (19 if you count my non-fiction book). Each one has a different story as to how it was written and why. Take the last 3 for example. "Lucky" was #16. It was written in 2 months, stroke of lightning style. Then I finished #17 which I had literally been working on for over 5 years. God finally dropped the last pieces I needed into place, and it came together. Then I started on its sequel. However, in the middle of writing that one (when I was on about page 250), I had a dream for another book. That one was written in a month and became #18. I'm now back to writing the sequel to #17, which I think at this point will be #19, but that's only if I don’t have a dream book between now and then that takes off like wildfire.

What I have learned through all of this is to let go of trying to do it myself, and to let God do it through me—whether the method makes any sense to anyone else or not.

Further, through the publishing world, I have learned to be true to who I am and the stories God gave me. My first published book is a great, awesome story, but the editor edited the life right out of it so that it doesn't even sound or feel like my writing. It is, as you so aptly called it in question #1, formulaic. It took a lot of lessons and a lot of praying for me to let go of listening to how the world says you have to do it to be a successful author. I have ended up taking some very unconventional routes—publishing cyberserials through my site and going the non-traditional in publishing. However, although looked down upon by the world, I know this is right where God would have me be, and therefore, I'm at peace no matter what it looks like to the outside world.

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

The next book is called "Dreams by Starlight." It is one that I ran as a cyberserial on my site. I've had several requests that it be put out in print, and so it will be out in May '07.

Dreams by Starlight (coming May '07) by Staci Stallings

If the world is a stage and each of us plays a part, then Camille Wright is the high school wallflower that nobody remembers and only the bullies ever knew was there. However, her headlong dash to Princeton’s Aerospace Engineering program comes to a crashing halt when in order to "round out all those math classes," she is unwillingly signed up for drama class. Awkward, shy, and quiet, Camille struggles to stay part of the wall even under the glaringly bright lights. But sometimes where you want to be isn't where you were destined to be at all...

Jaylon Patrick Quinn has been the star so long, not even he remembers when he wasn't. Confident to the point of obnoxious, smooth to the point of disgusting, Jaylon has his high school peers enthralled. However, the fool's gold of stardom and the glare of being one-half of the school's star couple have made Jaylon begin to question if this is really how life is best lived. Now he must decide which direction his future is headed and more importantly, if he really wants to go there at all.

And that's all, folks. Hope you enjoyed this interview. Staci, thank you for being in the spotlight.

God is Awesome! (by Staci Stallings)

I just want to state for the record that "God is SO awesome!" I am coming day by day to a much deeper understanding of just how awesome and faithful He is to each of us. For me, writing is not as much my ministry so as God’s ministry to me and my spirit and my understanding. Getting to share these stories with others is just a bonus. I have learned through writing how much God loves us—even in our darkest moments, how much He wants us to live in peace, and to what lengths He will go to bring us to Him.

In learning to navigate the publishing waters, God has put many friends in my path—both readers and other authors. Their insights into life have freed me to live in the wholeness that God had envisioned from the very beginning, and I' so grateful for that.

Most of all, I am grateful for the love of God which truly surpasses all understanding! I want to share His abiding, faithful love with everyone because it makes such a vast difference if you live in fear and dread or in the peace, love, and hope God meant for you to live.

You can read the first three chapters of each book here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

WINNER - The Guy I'm *Not* Dating

Let's give a rousing round of applause to this week's FREE BOOK WINNER...

Kristy Dykes!

Congratulations, Kristy, for winning a FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY of THE GUY I'M NOT DATING. Contact me privately to send your mailing address and information so Trish can get your book out to you.

And as always, thank you everyone for reading and visiting. Up next, Staci Stallings.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Word from Trish Perry

I experienced something fascinating the other day. I received a copy of my first published novel. But what I found fascinating was the accompanying emotion. It was a strange sense of anticlimax; maybe even depression. Odd?

Not really. I "heard" that same depression in a writer friend's email the next day. But her depression seemed based upon a recent rejection and her resultant uncertainty about whether she was truly meant to be an author.

Now, her depression might sound more reasonable, but I'm telling you, we both felt down for the same reason. We were both listening to the wrong voice. The voice I heard said, "You know, the book's really not very good. That's what everyone's going to think, especially your family and friends, who have their hopes so high." And the voice my friend heard said, "What, are you kidding? You're never going to make it. Stop wasting everyone’s time."

I ask you: Would the Lord ever talk like that to one of His children? To anyone seeking to serve Him through the gifts with which He blessed them? No. If the Lord doesn't want you writing, He's going to take the fun out of it. He'll draw you to something else. He'll gently guide you elsewhere. He won’t kick you down the stairs you’re climbing for Him.

My spirits lifted when I changed my focus and thanked Him for my success. And He blessed me with even more happiness when I dismissed that dark voice for what it was. There is amazing power in recognizing who's speaking to you. That recognition will decrease your fears and increase your joy in amazing ways.

Spotlight on...The Guy I'm NOT Dating -- Trish Perry

No, this is not a feature on my lack of romance or a love life. :) True as that might be. However, it is a spotlight on this week's special guest. And you'll be hearing from her shortly in a follow-up personal post right after this one.

For now, enjoy this invitation into the exciting world of romantic comedy and chic lit with a fresh voice and engaging characters. Even better, it's her debut novel! If the first chapter is any indication, this book is going to a real winner. And it hits bookstores nationwide today!

Don't forget to post a comment on this post or the one above for a chance at a FREE AUTOGRAPHED BOOK by TRISH.

Now, let's get to the spotlight...

1. First, I love that you wrote in third person instead of first, as they tend to allow a broader scope of exploration inside the heads of your characters.

That third person POV turned out to be a more far-reaching decision than I expected, Tiff! I really only used third because I had a couple of chapters that I wanted to take place independent of Kara, my heroine. So I just wrote the whole shebang in third.

Since then, though, I've had to go back and rewrite the follow-up book (Too Good to Be True), which I originally wrote in first person, just so the two would conform in POV. That's a lot of consequence from a relatively minor decision; I didn't quite think that one through. I'm choosing to consider the rewriting a God thing, so I'm glad to hear you liked the POV!

1a. Now, from the first chapter excerpt, your debut novel features a humorous and somewhat sassy heroine who seems to suffer from an incurable case of foot-in-mouth disease. How much of your own experiences influenced the character of Kara? What aspects of Kara became traits that were hers and hers alone?

You're right, Tiff. Kara's plenty confident when helping other people, but she does experience her share of verbal and physical stumbling when she's around our hero, Gabe. I wouldn’t say Kara's self-conscious klutziness is autobiographical, but I do remember, during my single days, worrying that I might do or say something awkward whenever I was around a hot guy. I think many people are like that. Kara misspeaks. My solution was to clam up. These days my hubby would laugh to hear I used to clam up. Ever.

But Kara's very own personal traits? She's a seat-of-the-pants kind of gal, for the most part, usually going with the flow. Honey, that ain't me. And while Kara might have to work at being patient with high-maintenance people, she tends to be successful. Also not one of my strengths. Are you seeing the pattern here? I like Kara's foibles because so many of us can identify with them. But I like her fine qualities as well, because I'd like to share them. That's why she's my hero!

2. What themes exist in in The Guy I'm Not Dating that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

The overriding theme is that it's noble to make the choice to lean on the Lord for a specific need, but making the choice and living the choice are two very separate things. Personally, when I was Kara's age, I was an unsaved, clueless young woman. I have deep admiration for anyone who chooses not only purity but the no-dating approach to the opposite sex. I can understand how very difficult it would be to give something like one's love life to God and not try to snatch it back again when the "right" guy came along.

And certainly other themes showed up in the process of writing Kara's story. One of my favorites was the value of developing relationships with members of other generations. Older women traditionally offer worldly wisdom to the younger. But in this story the younger women (who knew the Lord) were able to share spiritual wisdom with their elder friends. No one should discount another for what she might offer.

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

The Guy I'm Not Dating involves a road trip. Most of us have heard that quote from Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler: "Life's a journey, not a destination." But if you think about it, most road-trip stories barely touch upon the physical journey part of the story. Why? Because transportation is boring, unless you're hurtling through a subway tunnel plastered across the front of the train, a lá Spiderman or Mission Impossible's Ethan Hunt. So when an author takes on a road trip, she'd better be ready to get everyone in and out of that car as often as possible—to provide plenty of minor destinations along the journey. That's not as easy as it might sound, because you want to avoid the "episode" pitfall of stories that involve travel. You want your characters to carry the story with them; you don't want them forever leaning on the kooky people they meet along the way.

My favorite part (or parts, really) to write was any moment involving Kara's awkwardness. When I read a story or watch a film that makes me cringe in embarrassment for the main character, I care so much about the character's getting past that moment. I feel the same way when I write a character into that kind of emotional corner. Makes me just love her.

4. You mention on your web site that a writing instructor told you to write the books you love to read. Another piece of advice is "write what you know." The setting of The Guy I'm Not Dating begins in northern Virginia, where you live. Where did you get the inspiration for this particular book?

A few years ago my daughter invited me to her church’s annual women’s conference. While there I met one of her friends, who was a relatively new Christian—we’ll call her Jen for this story. Jen and her boyfriend used to live together. But he became a believer, broke off their relationship, and moved out, which devastated and angered Jen. She couldn’t believe he’d leave her “for all those other people.” In time, though, “those other people” were there for Jen and helped her realize that her boyfriend had left for Christ, not for them. She eventually accepted Him, as well, and she and her old lover became platonic friends—no dating, just friendship. In time, he asked her if she’d allow him to court her, with marriage in mind. Now, I’m not an activist about the dating/non-dating issue; my other books are pro-dating. But I was intrigued with the conflict and humor possibilities inherent in a Christian woman’s attempt at not dating. Especially if she made that decision as a promise to God and then met the guy who seemed perfect for her.

5. 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?

Imagine the Tasmanian Devil character from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. Now imagine what his office would look like. There ya go—you're in my office (without the pot for boiling the bunny; I don't do that).

I don't actually have a per-day word goal. On a practical level, I'm driven by deadline, more than anything else. People who know me well would call me a pretty retentive person. I love to organize and to schedule right down to 15-minute allotments. But all that organizing and scheduling is so enjoyable to me, I'd never get around to actually writing if I allowed myself to plan everything I'd like to plan. So I look at my writing commitments, I look at when they're due, and then I wail away at the keys until they're done. I always make my deadlines, and I break away to spend evenings with my family. I'm just less accessible when I'm under a deadline. And sometimes there are no clean undies left in the house, and I have to schedule just a little laundry break in there.

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

My next book, Too Good to Be True, is scheduled for release on March 1, 2007. It's the follow-up book to The Guy I'm Not Dating. This is the kind of series I enjoy. Whereas Kara, our non-dating heroine, is the focus of the first book, her best friend, Ren, is the focus of Too Good to Be True. So there's a little something there for readers who weren't ready to say goodbye to Kara. But for readers who prefer an entirely new story and new heroine, there's that, as well.

Ren's nonbelieving husband (we don't like him) left her before Kara's book began, so now it's the one-year anniversary of Ren's divorce. She had held out hope all along that her husband might come back, so the anniversary is a tough one for her. She has also just received bad news about an adoption proceeding she and her husband had started before the marriage failed. Combine those issues with a few other items in Ren's day, and she ends up fainting, face first, smack in the middle of her local Wal-Mart. Tru is the charming man who comes to her rescue, and any fool can tell he's just too wonderful to dismiss with a simple thank you. The two of them eventually become a very romantic item, but they both have nutty families and messy histories, which threaten a love that seems...well, too good to be true.

These characters are all such fun that I'm working on a third in the set, focusing on two other characters who play pivotal roles in the first two books. We'll see what sparks fly between them!

Thanks, Trish, for being in the spotlight. Hope everyone enjoyed the interview.

Monday, August 14, 2006

WINNERS -- Two Weeks' Worth

All right, I'm hanging my head in shame that I didn't announce the winner from last week's drawing here. But, I have an excuse! I promise. Had to wait to hear from the author on the autographed copy. Finally did today. Since tomorrow we'll see another author spotlight, I'm clearing the board and announcing the winner from Ginger Garrett's spotlight two weeks ago *and* from Diann Hunt's spotlight last week.

So, without further ado...drumroll.......

WINNER of DARK HOUR -- Alison Strobel Morrow (a multi-published author herself!)

WINNER of RV THERE YET? -- Cherie Japp

Congratulations to both winners. Contact me privately through the contact form on this site to send me your mailing address information, so I can let the authors know where to send your FREE AUTOGRAPHED books.

Thank you to everyone who faithfully reads these spotlights and to the authors who agree to be on stage. When life slows down a bit, I'll get back to my random musings and insight into a writer's life.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Journey (by Diann Hunt)

Life is a journey, and lately, a little more hectic than I could ever have imagined! Colleen Coble and I have been traveling to Women of Faith Conferences (we've attended three and have three more to go) to sign our books (Alaska Twilight and RV There Yet?). It's been an incredible experience to travel together and meet the wonderful speakers and singers who create such an incredible conference. Just everyday people with a passion to serve God with the gifts He's given them.

Enjoying the journey isn't always easy. Sometimes life gets hard, or busy, or complicated. It was June, I blinked, and it's now August. I turned a year older, sprouted new wrinkles and haven't found my dog since the tour.

Still, I'm confident things will get better. They always do. The loose paperwork will get filed. One day I'll clean the diseases that are lurking beneath my bed and meet my upcoming deadline—well, once I dig out my laptop.

And if I find myself coming up short in that enjoying the journey thing? There's always chocolate. :)

Spotlight on Diann Hunt!

It's Tuesday, and you know what that means. Another Tuesday, another author in the spotlight, and another FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST.

This week, I have the distinct pleasure of featuring one of my web design clients and fun friends. Thanks to fellow author, Colleen Coble, Diann and I connected and have had fun working together. Now, I have a chance to shine the light on her.

Don't forget to comment on this post or the one above to be entered into the contest for an autographed copy of the spotlight book.

A BONUS CONTEST can be found on Diann's web site, where she is holding a "Name that Book" contest. Check out details here.

And without further ado, here we go....

1. Your second 'lit' novel, RV There Yet?, is full of as much romp-roaring laughter as Hot Flashes and Cold Cream. How much of your own experiences influenced the main characters in this one?

Okay, I admit it. I'm a chocoholic. I probably put on five pounds researching for DeDe (how rude of her to put me through that). And I have a teensy bit of her attitude, but only a teensy bit, mind you. Lydia and Millie did not come from my experiences. I have never played the trumpet, but if I did, I'm pretty sure it would sound the same as Millie.

1a. What was your most difficult part to write? Your favorite?

I guess organizing the trip was the tricky part, making sure it worked time-wise and all that. I bought a map program and my husband helped me map it out.

My favorite part to write was probably the scene where DeDe breaks into the RV. :)

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

The obvious theme: Life is a trip, and we need to enjoy the journey. Another that developed: "'Starting over."

3. You and fellow author Colleen Coble recently completed an RV Booksigning Tour which included a spotlight of your novels being part of the Women of Faith collection. Can you share some of the highlights?

Colleen and I had a blast on our RV tour! Her husband drove and my husband avigated, leaving us free to sit in the back and gab. :) We visited over 65 bookstores and met many of the wonderful people who sell our books. It was great!

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

Have I mentioned that I hate to file? I have a writing room but currently it would take a bulldozer to get in there. I'm a little behind in my, um, filing. So most of the time I end up sitting in a recliner in our family room or I go to a nearby Christian bookstore and write in their coffee shop. It energizes me to be around people.

I try to write a chapter a day, around 10 to 12 pages (emails don't count).

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

My next book is Hot Tropics & Cold Feet. It's the sequel to Hot Flashes & Cold Cream. The release date is January 2007. Maggie and Lily are back and Lily is engaged! BUT she's having second thoughts. Maggie and the girls take Lily to Siesta Key where they have a girlfriends' getaway, but things get crazy and it's anybody's guess if the wedding bells will ring.

Thank you, Diann, for being in the spotlight. We hope everyone enjoyed the interview.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Spotlight on...Ginger Garrett

Ginger Garrett Illuminates Stories of Strong Ancient Women

This August, Ginger Garrett's Dark Hour--the novel that delves into the biblical account of Jezebel's daughter and her attempt to end the line of David--hits the shelves. Take a look at this interview with the author and post a comment for your chance to win a FREE copy of this book.

1. First, tell us a bit about Dark Hour.

I was praying about what book to write after Chosen, and accidentally left my open Bible on the kitchen table. (A dangerous thing, since in my house, small children and large dogs routinely scavenge with dirty hands and noses for snacks!) As I walked past it, I saw a caption about someone named Athaliah and a mass murder. I stopped cold. I knew it was my story.

Athaliah was the daughter of Jezebel--a real woman in history--who tried to destroy all the descendents of King David in a massacre. God made a promise that a descendent of King David would always sit on the throne, and one day a Messiah would come from this line. If Athaliah succeeded, she would break the promise between God and the people, and destroy all hope for a Messiah.

One woman, her step-daughter, Jehoshebeth, defied her. She stole a baby during the massacre and hid him. Between them, the two women literally fought for the fate of the world.

2. What drew you to write biblical fiction?

The similarities between the lives of ancient women and our lives. We get distracted by their "packaging," the way they dressed and lived, but at heart, our stories are parallel.

3. How much time is spent researching the novel versus writing the novel?

Equal amounts, and I don't stop researching while I write. I have a historical expert, probably the best in the world in his field, review the manuscript and point out errors. The tough part is deciding when to ignore his advice. He pointed out that most everyone rode donkeys if they weren't in the military, but a key scene in the novel involves riding a horse to the rescue. It would have been anti-climatic to charge in on a donkey! :) So I ignored his advice on that one.

4. Dark Hour takes its reader deep into the heart of palace intrigue and betrayals. Were parts of this book difficult to write?

I left out much of the darkest material I uncovered in research. It was important to show how violent and treacherous these times and this woman (Athaliah) could be, but I tried to be cautious about how to do it. The story was so powerful and hopeful--how one woman's courage in the face of evil saved the world--but the evil was depressing. I tried to move quickly past it. I wanted balance. Our heroine suffers and some wounds are not completely healed in her lifetime. That's true for us, too.

5.) What would modern readers find surprising about ancient women?

They had a powerful sense of the community of women. They also wore make-up: blush, glitter eyeshadow, lipstick, powder, and perfume! They drank beer with straws, and enjoyed "Fritos": ground grains, fried and salted. Many of our foods are the same today, but they loved to serve pate made from dried locusts, finely ground. Ugh!

Thank you to Ginger for being in the spotlight. Hope everyone enjoyed the interview.

WINNER -- Arms of Deliverance FREE copy

Thank you to everyone who read last week's interview. A very special thanks to those who posted comments. Your names went into a "hat" and a winner was drawn for a FREE copy of Tricia's Arms of Deliverance.

And the winner is....

((drumroll please))


Please get in touch with me via email so I can have Tricia send you your free book. Everyone else, take a look at this week's spotlight and comment to enter for your chance at a free book.