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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Spotlight on Jeanne Marie Leach and Plight of Mattie Gordon

Today's spotlight is not only a beautiful person inside and out, but she's a great friend too. I look forward to living just 2 hours from her once I'm married and living in Colorado Springs. :)


Jeanne Marie Leach is a published author and freelance editor, who lives in the mountains of Colorado with her husband of over 30 years and their two Alaskan Malamutes, Nakiska and Sitka. She enjoys coaching beginning writers and speaking on a variety of topics to women's groups.

By Jeanne Marie Leach


1. A woman who encounters a bounty hunter in search of her son, then realizes the bounty hunter might be the safer of the two. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

I first got the idea while watching an old John Wayne movie, Rooster Cogburn (...and the lady). I loved the banter between the old, washed-up sheriff and the lady who hired him to find the man who killed her preacher father. I had the character of Cyrus in my mind first. I wanted him to not be washed-up like Rooster, but have a successful career as a bounty hunter. I knew the heroine of the story needed to be sweet and naïve, yet spunky. Whenever I come up with a character, I take my time and try to come up with the worst possible situation in which that character could find themselves. A couple weeks of deliberation, and I knew that to make Mattie's only son an outlaw being chased by the bounty hunter would be the worst thing that could happen to her. It would also be a way to get the two together and give them a chance to engage in some of that wonderful banter I saw in the John Wayne movie.

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

Mattie was exactly the same age as me when I first wrote the book. Because of that, I could inject some of my own thought patterns, habits, and ideology of a middle-aged woman into Mattie. I had fun giving her some of my traits, such as her spunk, determination, and naivety.

Cyrus had traits from my younger brother. He is a man's man, but has always had a tender heart, which he despises because he thinks it's unmanly. It didn't take me long to realize my brother's internal conflict would be perfect for my bounty hunter. Cyrus had always avoided meeting the outlaws' kin because he didn't like the tender, compassionate side of himself to emerge. He hadn't counted on meeting Mattie at the canyon hideout, and he immediately puts up this hard exterior in order to keep the gentler side from showing up. After being with Mattie, his internal conflict keeps coming to the forefront and he has to confront his own emotions.

Mattie's strong mothering instincts were hers alone, as I never had children of my own. Her apparent fearlessness in the face of some very difficult times is completely opposite of the way I face hardships, and I found myself admiring her for it.

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

As long as we have breath, we can have hope for a bright future. Holding on to hope will see us through the most difficult of times.

Yes. There was a lesson I hadn't planned on. That none of us were meant to be "lone wolves." We are here on earth to touch the lives of other people, and for Christians it is especially important that we show other people who Christ is and what he did for all of us on the cross.

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

While there were parts of this book that required a lot of extra research, there weren't any difficult parts to write. I am a seat-of-the-pants (intuitive) writer, and these characters were delightful to work with. Whenever I wasn't certain how to proceed with a particular scene, they took over and their personalities showed me what they would do in that situation. Don't laugh, but I believe if an author knows her characters well, the characters become like real people and will often write the story when the author isn't sure of what to write.

My favorite part to write was the last chapter. Until then, I couldn't choose between two endings. But Will himself took over and pretty much dictated how it would pan out, and I couldn't be more pleased. I cried, smiled, cheered and rooted for Mattie, Will and Cyrus, and I've heard the same from many readers.

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

My next book, SHADOW OF DANGER, will be released in September by Mountain View Publishing.

Rachel Ringhold is roused from her bed in the middle of the night and sent away from the orphanage, where she'd grown up and now works. Dazed and confused, she flees from an undisclosed danger. With a prayer in her heart, and little money in her satchel, she sets out to find Seb Jameson, the man who used to work for the orphanage as blacksmith and handy man, and who'd captured her heart as a youth.

Tired, dirty, and malnourished, Rachel finally reaches Leadville, Colorado and discovers Seb engaged to be married. Unaware of the turbulence in Seb and Myra's relationship, Rachel enjoys her new life and grows to a fresh awareness of what Jesus Christ accomplished for her on the cross.

The danger suddenly catches up to her. Her renewed faith is shattered. All she'd ever wanted was for someone to love her and a home of her own, but now her dreams have been stripped from her. Who can save her now? Is there anyone who would want to?

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Thank you, Jeanne, for being in the spotlight. Readers, feel free to leave a comment for your chance to be entered in the drawing for a FREE, autographed book. If you don't wish to be entered but only leave your comment, say so when you post. This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

Monday, July 23, 2007

19 Weeks Down; 1 to Go!

It's finally here. The last week! Today is the day I see my beloved fiance after 10 weeks of being apart. I don't know how military spouses do it. These past few weeks have been beyond difficult. So many people I know have remarked about what a "blase" bride I am, or marveling at how calm I seem. Well, when you don't have your bridesmaids or fiance around to help spark the excitement and anticipation, emotions tend to slant toward a tamer side.

But enough of that. He's arriving today, and it's all going to change. So many who have given *him* advice have warned him, "don't tick her off." LOL! They either know him a little too well or don't know me well enough. Growing up in a large family with 3 brothers and assorted friends, it takes quite a bit to make me angry or put out. I'm believing it will work out and praying for peace/assurance throughout the entire week and our married life afterward.

With that said, here's the final recap of updates:

* packed up all of my belongings and hauled them to the garage for the movers coming today at noon!
* pulled out a small selection of clothing and other essentials for the next 3 weeks and have them set aside in my now empty bedroom.
* emailed directions to all RSVP's for the reception so they'll know where to go come Saturday. :)
* followed up on the status of our Pathfinder and learned it should be ready for pick up today.
* cleared out my "to do" list for my web site clients so I can go on vacation with a clear conscience and have everyone current.
* put the final touches of stain and finish on the stripped furniture and stuffed the drawers for moving.
* created the seating chart for the reception and got everyone in their places.
* took the slideshow for the wedding to the A/V operator for testing; going to test again on Wednesday in full sound and display.
* meeting with the coordinator at the church and the pastor this Wednesday for our final counseling session and a final review of the wedding ceremony.
* heading out tomorrow to file for the marriage license; will pick up the license on Wednesday.
* coordinated final travel arrangements for 2 people arriving from out of town and confirmed arrival/departure dates and times.
* modified the Friday schedule for ease of transition from one place to another to maximize our time and reduce our travel time between locations.
* set up an appointment with the DJ for this week for a final review of songs and playlists and overall reception order/flow.
* will call the rehearsal dinner location this week with a confirmed final count and entree selections.
* will also make arrangements for online bills to pay while on vacation.
* went through the "to do" list for the wedding and checked off everything we've done so we have an accurate depiction of what's left to do this week.
* made a tentative schedule for this week and got everyone on board for how busy it will be!

I'm sure I've forgotten something, but can you blame me? My mind is going in 100 different directions right now, and my heart is jumping at the anticipation of being with Stuart again today. So, I'll end here to finish preparations before heading to the airport.

Starting next week, there will be no more posts for 2 weeks. We'll see what happens after that and what my new schedule is like. Might only have time for spotlights and updates on my book coming out in January, as well as my deadline for book 2 in October.

Thank you to everyone who has stayed with me through this journey. There will be 1, maybe 2 more posts this week. Then, it's vacation time!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Spotlight on Robin Lee Hatcher and Return to Me

This week, we have not one, but TWO spotlights on two fantastic authors. Don't miss out on Donita's spotlight right below this one from Wednesday. You can leave comments on any spotlights to be entered in the drawings for free books OR state that you'd rather not be included. Either way, feel free to show your support to these authors and their latest releases.

Now, for today's feature:


The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie (Tyndale), named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal. Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home in Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon.

By Robin Lee Hatcher


1. A smalltown girl who set off for stardom and winds up back where she
started, among the people she tried to leave behind. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

Roxy Burke introduced herself to me while I was on a promotional tour for another book. I was in my hotel room, waiting to be picked up and driven to the TV station, when these lines came into my head:

There exists a strange moment between sleep and wakefulness when dreams cease and realism remains at bay. That was when Roxy's heart spoke to her.

It's time to go home.

Roxanne Burke had given Nashville seven years to discover her. She'd offered her voice, her face, her fortune—and eventually, her body—but despite her desperate grasps at the brass ring, country music and stardom didn't want her.

Roxy was worse than a has-been. She was a never-was.

I was immediately captivated by Roxy and knew I had to discover the rest of her story. I can't say for sure how soon I knew that this was a story of the prodigal and her family, but it wasn't very long.

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

There are pieces of me in all of my characters, but I don't have any specific experiences that influenced my main characters in Return to Me. This was very much their story as they told it to me, and they are very much their own people.

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

I knew early on that this was a modern day telling of the biblical parable of the prodigal son. I had Roxy, the reckless, headstrong prodigal, and I had her "perfect" sister, Elena, the daughter who works for their father in the family firm. I read the parable in several different versions and somewhere along the way knew that the real theme of the book was about grace and how richly it is poured out upon us.

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

For me, the openings of books always come fairly easy. Everything after that is hard. But my favorite part is writing the ending. I love the sense that I have found the perfect way to draw a novel to a close. This all held true for Return to Me.

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

In November, I have a Christmas novella coming from Steeple Hill, Hearts Evergreen.

My next full length novel is The Perfect Life, a Women of Faith novel from Thomas Nelson, due to release in March 2008. Katherine Clarkson believes she has the perfect life—a wonderful husband who is head of a charitable foundation, two wonderful daughters who are both expecting, a lovely home, a terrific church. And then her husband is accused of both mismanaging the funds of the foundation and of having an affair. Perhaps the life she's led is a perfect lie instead.

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spotlight on Donita K. Paul and DragonFire


Donita K. Paul is the author of DragonSpell, DragonQuest, DragonKnight, and DragonFire. She's written five novels, four novellas, and numerous short stories since 1999. Dragonspell won a finalist medal in the 2005 CBA Christy Awards. This best-selling, award-winning author claims she is just a grandma disguised as a fantasy writer. She writes in her studio apartment labeled "The Hobbit Hole." Visit her web site at

By Donita K. Paul


1. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

Actually, I had an inspiration for another story, and that didn't work out. So this one rose from the ashes of disaster. Everyone has matured. The fainting dragon has outgrown his timidity, Kale and Bardon are facing challenges and they are prepared to do that together. Circumstances put them in different arenas, and they must function as separate entities instead of the team they are comfortable with.

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

I think situations that we identify with in the fiction we read are common to all. Confusing signals from the people we love, lack of direction as we seek to solve everyday problems, low self-esteem, hopes that don’t pan out, people being unkind when, of course, we deserve better treatment. Your best protagonist is a bit of "Everyman" from the old morality plays.

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

I don't go into a story with themes I want to develop. I throw my characters into a situation and find out what they learn from the adversity. So you might say all the themes developed as the story progressed. Being flexible is certainly one that both Kale and Bardon had to deal with. Also persisting in the face of adversity. I hope the reader takes to heart that even when things don't go as planned, that obstacle need not end their personal journeys.

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

I can't say there was a most difficult part. I toil over many passages, but none of them are insurmountable. I am very interested in the reader being able to identify with the motivation of the characters. My favorite parts are the humorous ones, and those just fall into place. Sometimes, I'm very serious about the next scene, but the characters are not. Those are fun.

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

DragonLight comes out next summer. It is the last in this series. The quest is a bit different and the adversary is more subtle. And I'm hoping it has a more comic turn. But, as I said before, I don't really have all these things nailed down before I begin, so we will just have to see what lessons and laughter are learned along the way.

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

Monday, July 16, 2007

18 Weeks Down; 2 to Go!

Can I say I am praying for a time warp for the next 2 weeks, so it can be done and in the past? All I want is for Stuart and I to get on with our lives and move forward. These days are supposed to be the happiest of our lives, but I think someone forgot to tell that to the various people who are performing a service to help this wedding go successfully. They all offer assurances, but no follow-through. Meanwhile, you're left behind the proverbial "eight ball" with nowhere to go.

I've been joking that I did NOT want to turn into a "bridezilla," but a couple of these people might make me do just that. :) On the flip side, I know God's got it all under control, and there has never been anything that's happened in the history of time that He couldn't handle. That doesn't mean I don't allow my humanness to cause some minor panic. And this past Friday? It was a true "Friday the 13th" for me!

So, let's recap:

* Made several calls to the movers and finally got our move "on the books" but had to wait for scheduling. Heard back from them Friday morning with the word that the movers are coming THIS WEEK! I don't know the exact day yet, but they will pick up by the 20th and have delivery sometime between the 30th and August 10th. Once they get the items on the truck, we'll have a closer delivery date. We're praying the 6th-10th so someone will be there to meet the truck. :) This means, I now have to shuffle my schedule and get all of the boxes repacked and labeled and sorted a week earlier than planned. I have to figure out what will stay and what will go; what I will need for the honeymoon and drive home to Colorado; what can go in the Pathfinder; where I'm going to keep everything that's staying since I won't have any furniture; etc.
* Received sofa, chair, mattress & box spring that we ordered, and they're all sitting in the garage, ready to be shipped.
* Stripped all the bedroom furniture from Wednesday to Saturday, and applied the stain and varnish yesterday. It's now fully restored to its original beauty. Why anyone would want to paint such beautiful wood is beyond me, but it's back to the chestnut shade with a smooth finish. Looks good...even if I do say so myself. :)
* Finally got a drop-off date for the Pathfinder to have a few service repairs done on it. I've been waiting 2 weeks to hear from the dealer who sold me the car, since they guaranteed anything wrong would be fixed before the bill of sale was final. Got that in writing, but it was quite a feat to get them to return phone calls. It was supposed to go on Friday, but when I called that day, they told me not until Monday.
* Had to cancel my bridal portrait photo shoot from Thursday because the woman doing the alterations to my gown didn't have the gown finished. She had promised me it would be done in a couple of days, but then she went AWOL and no one could reach her. I left several messages, and her mother tried to contact her, all to no avail. Finally, this past Friday, we heard from her and learned she had gone on vacation with her son and wasn't answering the phone. I still haven't heard from her, personally, only through her mother. However, I was told Friday that it would be done by Saturday. Here it is Monday, and again no word. (sigh)
Now, I'm faced with a bridal portrait photo shoot that is postponed until I get the gown, and we're coming down to the wire. If I don't hear anything today, I'm only paying 50% of the charges. She didn't deliver what she promised, and she's caused a LOT of unnecessary stress, not to mention schedule shifting because she didn't get it done. What's worse is she had the gall to ask her mother why I was getting upset...that it would be done in time. Yeah, for the wedding, I'm sure! But what about my needs beforehand? Needs I clearly communicated to her when I went for my fitting 2 weeks ago.
* Received the cake toppers for the wedding cake and put the finishing touches on them so they're ready for the cake decorator to pick up this week.
* Had to reorder the bows for the center aisle at the church because the original ones got lost somewhere between here and Williamsburg. The postal service can't find them. The new ones will be here this week.
* Visited the reception hall to make the final payment and do a general walkthrough with the caterer and a family friend who's helped a lot with decorations. We mapped out a floorplan for everything so when we get to the actual setup, we'll be a bit more organized. :) The hall has also put up their window treatments, so they won't be bare windows. Casts a nice ambience on the whole room. And with lights on dimmer plus 6-8 chandeliers, we'll be able to provide appropriate lighting.
* Visited the florist to make the final payment and provide last-minute details. We have 2 candelabras and 2 altar displays, as well as the bouquets, boutinnieres and corsages for the wedding party. Also picked up a brochure for a bouquet preservation service so I can have mine preserved in a shadowbox. Might even add Stuart's boutinniere for a memorable keepsake.
* Did follow-ups on everyone invited who hadn't yet responded. Heard from the last ones yesterday, and the total (including family and vendors) is 104. We were expecting around 100, so this is perfect.
* Settled on a hairstylist for the wedding after repeated and unsuccessful attempts to have another one make it to the house. Finally had to cancel and go with my first choice, which is who I wanted in the first place.
* Submitted the announcement for my church bulletin so the wedding is a church-wide invite. Reception is still private, but I wanted to allow anyone else who wanted to say "goodbye" to me the chance to do that. It appeared yesterday and will be there again this coming last day there.
* Heard from everyone on this end regarding their menu choices for the rehearsal dinner and finalized the count. Will hear from Stuart's mom this week on the family out there. Then, I'll call the restaurant with the count and can check that off the list.
* Received the last itineraries for those flying in from out of town and made plans for someone to greet them when they arrive.
* Stuart worked hard on the slideshow for the wedding and finished the photo portion of it Saturday. Still have to set it to music and add the flash part, which he'll do today, but it's shaping up nicely! That collage is sure to gain a few chuckles from the guests in attendance.
* James (Stuart's brother-in-law) finished the cover for our wedding program, and I completed the text for the inside. Now, we just have to put it all together and get the files to the printer for the copies to be made.
* Still haven't sold my Altima yet, but praying I hear something this week. Have 2 potentials, but they weren't sure.
* Stuart got the Pathfinder (and me!) added to his insurance beginning next week, so if my car sells this week, I can cancel mine and save 65% on the cost!
* Altered the schedule for the day before the wedding to allow for more time and less running around. Everyone else is able to make it, so we'll be less "frantic" that day and be putting less miles on the cars transporting us from place to place. We were at the reception hall going over things when God put that idea in my head. How awesome!

And I think that's it. NOW do you see why you have "bridezillas"? LOL! I'm still calm, all things considered, but I've had my moments this past doubt about that! This week will be a busy one. It's also my final week at work, so that cuts down on my free time. The only reason I didn't submit my last day to be earlier is because of annual inventory and I'm the inventory control supervisor. I kinda had to be there and need to be present this week for reconciliation. Thankfully, 10 hours was yesterday, so I only have another 26 this week. Phew!

Those of you who are praying, keep going. I'll check back next week with the excitement of so many things completed this week and the anticipation of seeing Stuart again. He'll be here 1 week from today, and then we'll never again be apart.

Until next week...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Spotlight on Brandt Dodson and The Lost Sheep


Brandt Dodson comes from a long line of police officers and was formerly employed by the FBI. He is the author of the Colton Parker Mystery series from Harvest House Publishers and lives in southern Indiana with his wife and their two sons.

By Brandt Dodson


1. This is the 4th book in your Colton Parker mystery series, one that's been highly recommended. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

The plot for The Lost Sheep has been lingering in the back of my mind since I began the series. Colton has struggled with his inadequacies as a father since the untimely death of his wife, and given his stubbornness, I knew I was going to need a big canvas on which to portray his story. There wasn't any one thing that inspired this particular book, other than I knew I would need to set this book in a city known for its larger-than-life reputation. Las Vegas filled the bill.

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

I was employed with the very office of the FBI that Colton was employed at and I rely heavily on that for his background. I understand how the FBI works, the mindset of the many good men and women who make up the bureau, and I have an appreciation for the value that any law enforcement officer has for the rule of law. It (the law) isn't a concept for them. It is a real, breathing thing that keeps society together. You'd have to have that kind of belief if you were going to agree to lay down your life to defend it. I've tried to portray that part of a cop's sense of duty, especially when I'm writing about Mary and Colton. This particular aspect becomes especially poignant in The Lost Sheep.

On the other hand, Colton tends to rely on Mary as much as Mary relies on Colton. The two have developed a bond that can often exist between to cops who work together as closely as Mary and Colton. That is where they differ from me. I tend to be a loaner. I may work closely with my coworkers, but I tend to keep my thoughts to myself and act on them when I think it's appropriate. With Mary and Colton, we often see them talking things out, and often disagreeing. But when a decision is made, they usually support each other and then move ahead.

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

I tend to write from the base of a theme. In fact, I had developed the theme of "Original Sin" before I had the characters, setting or anything else. In The Lost Sheep, I want the reader to overtly see how much God loves them and how far He will go to redeem them. In a sense, Colton's pursuit of his lost daughter takes him on a paralleled journey which gives him a better understanding of what Jesus did for him. But on a more subtle level, I hope that the reader understands (and this has been the overarching theme of the entire series) that you can't wander so far away that God can't reach you. In The Lost Sheep, Callie falls into a pretty dark hole. But Colton doesn't care where she is, he'd going to save her regardless of the cost to himself.

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

The first chapter is absolutely critical for me. If I can't hook the reader with that, I've lost them. Usually, I don't have much of a problem with the opening scene, but in The Lost Sheep, I had an extremely difficult time. My problem was in getting the reader to care about Colton's situation. I wrote and re-wrote that chapter a dozen times before I got it right. The next hardest, was the last chapter. After all, if you hook the reader with the first, you have to let them off the hook with the last.

My favorite parts? That would have to be Marty. I saw him fully conceptualized before I wrote him. His sense of being fully comfortable in his own skin intrigued me from the outset.

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

My next book will be out in March of 2008 and will be my first stand-alone. It is titled "White Soul" and will feature Ron Ortega, an undercover DEA agent who penetrates the Cuban "mafia" in Miami. This book was far more difficult than any I've written. Part of the problem was in keeping the names of my protagonist straight. Since he's undercover, he has two names; his real one, and his undercover identity. But I love the story and I've tried to capture the detached brutality with which organized crime operates, and the risk that undercover work can entail.

* * * * *

Thank you, Brandt, for being in the spotlight. Readers, feel free to leave a comment for your chance to be entered in the drawing for a FREE, autographed book. This week, the contest is open anyone worldwide.

Monday, July 09, 2007

17 Weeks Down; 3 to Go!

And just 2 until Stuart's here. I have to admit as the days draw closer, it's getting increasingly more difficult being apart. I feel the frustration the most when one of us has a long or tiring day. So much of me wants to reach through the phone and bridge the gap of miles to give him a hug...or have him do the same for me. When we can't physically be there for each other to help ease the tensions of the day, it makes the distance seem that much farther.

Only 2 more weeks though! We can do it. We've lasted this long. God will bring us through the home stretch as well. And 5 days after he arrives, we'll be married. It's been a long-time coming, but more than worth the wait.

So, let's recap what happened last week:

* Stuart finished scanning photos for our slideshow and will start assembling them to music for our ceremony.
* We selected our favorite photo from the engagement photo shoot and mapped out the cover of our wedding program, then got the disc and information to Stuart's brother-in-law, James, who will be designing the program for us.
* Inquired about procedure and materials for stripping my bedroom furniture set that's going with me and will begin working on that this week. Each piece should take about 2-3 days (with the "sit" time after the stripping, but before the varnish) and I have 3 pieces.
* Found a mattress/boxspring set and a matching sofa + chair for quite a bargain. It's amazing what folks won't buy because of a small mark somewhere on the item. Order goes in today to be delivered before the wedding.
* Decided on a moving company and put in the move request with them. Waiting on the pickup date notification once they schedule us into their deliveries.
* Had a second decorating party and finished all of the centerpieces. They turned out even more beautiful than I had imagined. All that's left for decorations are the bows lining the center aisle at the church and figuring out how we'll decorate the reception hall. Meeting this Friday to take a look at the hall with 3 others.
* Ordered a set of candleabras and dripless candles for the ceremony to go with the altar flowers.
* Went for my gown fitting for final alterations.
* Spoke with the photographer about a bridal portrait photo shoot which we'll do later this week. Still have to reach someone at the church where we'd like to take the pictures.
* Sent out rehearsal dinner menu selections to the 10 not on Stuart's side of the family (his mom's handling that end) so we can compile a final count for the restaurant.
* Attended a "farewell" party at both church and work (Saturday and Sunday evenings) so my worship and work teams could say goodbye. It was great to stand at the one at church and receive prayer and blessings from those gathered. Couldn't help but want Stuart by my side, but he was there in my heart as I stood in proxy for both of us. :)
* Shared details on my car for sale with a handful of others who might know someone. Still praying it sells in the next 2 weeks. For those praying, PLEASE add or keep that at the top of your list.
* Dropped off the list of music selections for the DJ so he can begin setting up his playlist and the order of the reception.
* Received itineraries from out-of-town family/friends so I can start planning who will be here when and work out any necessary transportation or scheduling for the pre-wedding "work."
* Drafted a rough outline of the day before the wedding, but praying we can make one change to get into the reception hall earlier, which will cut our back-and-forth-driving down. Will check on that this Friday.

And I think that's all for now. We're down to the all the logistics and minor details now. I pray I can remain calm, cool and collected in these final 3 weeks. Already told Stuart he'll have a BIG job of keeping me calm the week he's here. LOL! I know he's the perfect man for the job!

Until next week...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Spotlight on Allie Pleiter and The Perfect Blend


Enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and non-reformed chocoholic, she spends her days writing books, doing laundry, running carpools, and finding new ways to avoid housework. Allie grew up in Connecticut, holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University, spent 15 years in the field of professional fundraising, and currently lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. The "dare from a friend" to begin writing eight years ago has blossomed into a career that includes numerous public speaking engagements, two books on parenting; BECOMING A CHIEF HOME OFFICER and FACING EVERY MOM'S FEARS, and five novels: BAD HEIRESS DAY and QUEEN ESTHER AND THE SECOND GRADERS OF DOOM, the Rita-nominated MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE, THE PERFECT BLEND out now, and MASKED BY MOONLIGHT due out in June of 2008.

By Allie Pleiter


1. First-person wit and humor, plus a coffeehouse owner facing off against a "stuffy" banker. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

I get asked this question all the time, and I must confess I have NO IDEA where my stories come from. God seems to toss huge pieces of them into my head at odd moments, though; they never come all at once. The Perfect Blend started as the concept of insurmountable odds—opening yet another coffeehouse in Seattle, which is brimming with coffeehouses. The coffeehouse element probably came from my own personal obsession with coffee. Then came to elements of opposites—coffee and tea, artistic and corporate, and all the other fun character traits that make William and Maggie such a pair.

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

The process of character building is so organic for me that I'm never really sure where my characters get their traits. I have lots of William's planning and structure, but I'm definitely a free spirit risk-taker like Maggie. And, as I said earlier, I do take my coffee very seriously. I always visit the city where my books are set, so I hope that comes through in my writing. While I did have the great fun of interviewing rugby players, I've never played the game (nor do I think I'd survive if I did, even if I am six feet tall). But the dynamics of risk vs. faith, or planning vs. leaping—all these are things I've always wrestled with over and over.

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

I think the book is about God taking us where we don't expect. About where our personal dreams meet God's higher plan. Sometimes that is a wonderful meshing, a launching pad. Other times it feels like a dead end. It's easy to know what to do at the launching pad. The dead end, on the other hand, presents a bigger challenge. As a writer, I was most intrigued by how the Freemont Troll figured into the story. I could not understand why I was so drawn to him (he's a lifesize concrete troll in an artsy neighborhood of Seattle), and it didn't surface until near the end of the book. I won't tell you more than that because I'd ruin it for you, but he became a wonderful metaphor. That sort of thing is the wonder of writing for me. I hope that wonder transfers itself to my readers.

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

There is a scene where Maggie demonstrates the various types of coffee drinks that is a personal favorite. William gets his rebuttal (again, don't want to give away too many details here) that also was great fun to write. Humor is a natural language for me. I crack myself up all the time while writing, which is kind of odd—it shouldn't work, it's like tickling yourself, but I chuckle all the time and my family thinks I'm rather odd that way. The book's darker moments are always challenging for me because it is so important to me to get them exactly right. They go through draft after draft until I'm satisfied that they feel authentic. The first kiss in this book was particularly delicate and hard to get right—but I'm very pleased with how it worked out.

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

Every author's favorite question! I have a historical coming out from Love Inspired Historicals in June 2008 called MASKED BY MOONLIGHT. This is a great, almost swashbuckling adventure of dual identity in 1880's San Francisco. I had a fantastic time researching and writing this one, especially creating the Black Bandit—our hero's alter ego. It carries, I hope, the same Allie Pleiter wit (lemon cake, repartee, swordfights, drugged chickens, unscrupulous newspaper editors, masked balls, and exploding crates of pajamas—how could anyone resist?) in an historical setting with one of my all-time favorite heroines.

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

Monday, July 02, 2007

16 Weeks Down; 4 to Go!

We have entered the month of the wedding, and I'm starting to feel the crunch just a bit. For the past 2 weeks, the biggest "stress" factor has been the moving options and how we were going to decide on the best way to get my things to Colorado. Since a lot of the major details for the wedding had already been checked off the list, the moving aspect occupied the majority of my thoughts.

Today, I can say that's done, and we've made a selection. Let's go with the other things that happened last week first, though:

* Held a decorating party at my house and invited 6-7 ladies who had offered to help, but only 1 came. My matron of honor got rained out the day before so got called into work. Another was at the beach for the weekend, one had a work deadline, one had family things, one wasn't able to make the drive, and one never returned the phone calls. So many say "that's what your bridesmaids do" when I ask for help. Well, unfortunately, my bridesmaids are scattered all about the country, so it's rather difficult for them to be involved in things like this. Thankfully, our choices have been somewhat simple, so Mom and I were able to get a lot done.
* Scheduled an additional decorating day for this coming Saturday. Hoping those who couldn't come last week will be able to make it this week. We'll see.
* Visited with 3 moving company interstate agents and received quotes on the cost, then entertained the thought of renting a truck and moving everything ourselves. We even considered towing a trailer, but didn't want to put that added strain on the Pathfinder.
* Had our 3rd counseling session where most of it was sitting and listening to Pastor Chris share common pitfalls and areas to avoid in marriage. We didn't have a lot of interaction time, but that's no doubt due to the phone conferencing we have to do and Stuart not being physically in the office....yet. :) It's no doubt difficult to engage a couple in dialogue when one is just a voice on the speaker phone.
* Scheduled our final session for the week Stuart's here and learned we'll also do a quick run-through of the ceremony order as well as test the sound and A/V equipment to make sure it's all in order before the rehearsal.
* Gave the song list to the DJ so he can start planning the reception order and getting things in line.
* Came up with a few extra creative touches for the reception as well as a new idea for the ceremony that I have to explore further. Will need to speak with the florist on that one, but not sharing it here. :)
* Selected a moving company that ended up being the best option for the cost. We'll no doubt tote some of the boxes in the Pathfinder with us to lighten the load and leave the furniture (plus other incidentals) on the moving truck. Also going to reduce the number of boxes and bring only what I need. The rest can come later when we have a house or be shipped at a later date.
* Scheduled an appointment for a gown fitting with my seamstress. Alterations will be completed by this Friday.
* Spoke with the photographer about a bridal photo shoot and selected a location. Now, just need my gown finished and a date to have the shoot.

All right, that's all for now. And since last week, I blew it initially by neglecting the BIG contribution Stuart made (although I went back and added it), I wanted to highlight what he did this past week. *winks*

Stuart scanned in photos of me from birth to adult so he could begin assembling the photo slideshow we'll be using at the wedding in conjunction with the engagement announcement we created a few months ago. Although separated by distance, he's doing everything he can from where he is. The biggest contribution is helping keep me calm when we chat online or brightening a stressful day with the sound of his voice. This past Saturday, I received a music card from him that spoke of me being the only woman for him. I think I've played the song at least 10 times so far and read the card just as much. :)

Only 3 more weeks until he's here, and then we'll be together forever. (sigh)

Until next week...