image: header
image: gownflare

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spotlight on Lena Nelson Dooley and Montana Mistletoe

Today's spotlight interviews one author, but there are 4 in this collection:

Lena Nelson Dooley - Christmas Confusion
Lisa Harris
Debby Mayne
Kim Sawyer


Lena Nelson Dooley lives in Texas with her husband James. They are active in several ministries of their church. She speaks at retreats and conferences. Both she and James are interested in missions and have been on several mission trips. A full-time author and editor, Lena holds a BA in Speech and Drama. She has had several novels published by Heartsong Presents as well as many novella collections. Visit her web site. Come by her blog where she interviews authors and gives away free books.

By Lena Nelson Dooley, Lisa Harris, Debby Mayne & Kim Sawyer


1. A cute Christmas anthology releasing near the Christmas season. What gave you the inspiration for your story in the set? Can you tell us a little about the one you wrote?

Actually, my friend Lisa Harris contacted me about doing a Christmas collection. She already had an idea for the theme of the collection. Four friends made a pact when they were in college to be married by the time they were 28. This is the year and no one has any prospects. Since she lives in Africa and sometimes her Internet access is limited, she asked me to contact others to join us. I found Debby Mayne, and Kim Sawyer. My story is about the youngest person ever elected mayor of Mistletoe, Lori Compton. She first looks in the wrong place for a mate, but she has to learn to trust God to do what He wills in her life.

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

Actually, Lori is a complete departure from other heroines I've had. She revealed herself to me as I wrote the synopsis and the book, sometimes surprising me.

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

Not to make your plans before asking God what He wants.

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

I had to write this in the heat of Texas and it was winter in Montana. I had to put on Christmas music and occasionally open the freezer door. I actually loved this story. It's my first Christmas story, and it was fun to write and include all the holiday things in it.

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

I have a Heartsong coming out in October. The title is Who Am I?--about a girl who finds out that most of the things she believed about her life weren't true. As she travels to another state to find out why, someone tries to kill her. She doesn't know who or why.

And there's another book coming out in October to which I was a contributor. It's called One Year Life Verse Devotional. Each devotional was written by authors, many of them big name authors.

* * * * *

Thank you, Lena, for being in the spotlight...especially on such short notice. You're awesome! 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 anyone worldwide.

Monday, August 27, 2007

2nd Wedding Reception

You know, once all this wedding stuff dies down, I have no idea what I'm going to do with my Monday reports. My life isn't exactly sprouting with riveting details that will have you begging for more. :) So, I'll have to sit back and rethink the frequency of my blogging. Of course, having a book deadline also means my time will decrease quite a bit. We'll see.

In the meantime, Stuart and I had our 2nd wedding reception yesterday. It was coordinated and planned by my mother-in-law and several other members of my new family. They did a fantastic job and created a simple affair that all who attended enjoyed. The highlight by far was the wonderful array of fruit, vegetables and sweet treats created and arranged by the caterer. They were the hit of the party!

Aunt Cindy jumped right in and went to town, creating a beautiful storyboard with photos from the various albums and snippets of my posts from this blog, recounting the highlights from the wedding and reception back in Delaware. Grandma Tillerson took one look at the pew bows from the wedding when they arrived and said, "Give me a curling iron, and I'll have these looking like new in no time!" And she did too.

Shauna and Debbie (sister-in-law and cousin) took over some of the decorations and transformed the room into another fairytale room, and Aunt Nancy made the centerpieces float on the clouds of tulle. Oh, and Grandma Tillerson and Debbie added Cinderella's mice to each table (sweets made out of white chocolate-covered cherries and hershey's kisses, with cherry stems for tails). Chad, one of the groomsmen, and Stuart's dad helped hold down the carpet during cleanup, as they sat in chairs along the wall. :) Uncle Mike helped make sure the slideshow (with pictures from Stuart and I growing up, the engagement announcement and pictures from the wedding and reception) ran without a hitch.

We had a few writer friends drive down from Colorado Springs, and the rest were friends from Stuart's parents' church, where the reception was held. All in all, a pleasant day topped off by a bountiful dinner back at the family homestead (box canyon area), where Stuart and I opened the gifts, then loaded the car and hit the road for home.

As soon as I get the pix uploaded from our new camera (just got it this past Friday), I'll post them here.

Up next, another author spotlight this coming Wednesday. Come back in 2 days!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Spotlight on Virginia Smith and Murder by Mushroom

I'm a little late posting today, but that's because I lost this author's interview and had to ask for it again. *blushes* Blame it on being a newlywed. :) Better late than never, right?


Virginia Smith is a writer of humorous novels, a speaker, singer, snow skier, motorcycle enthusiast, and an avid scuba diver. Someday she insists she's going to find a way to do all those things at once without killing herself or her long-suffering husband. She launched her career as a novelist with the release of her debut, Just As I Am in March of 2006, and has been cranking out God-honoring fiction ever since. An energetic speaker, she loves to exemplify God's truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, "Biblical Truth in Star Trek." She attributes the popularity of that talk primarily to the Star Trek uniform.

By Virginia Smith


1. This is your first book with Love Inspired Suspense, and it's already won 4 stars from Romantic Times. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

I was sitting at dinner at the 2005 ACFW conference beside Krista Stroever, a senior editor at Steeple Hill. She mentioned that she had just given a contract to someone for a cozy mystery series, and was interested in seeing more. Well, several years before, I'd considered writing a mystery set in a small church but hadn’t done much beyond thinking about the setting and a couple of characters. As I ate dinner, I wracked my brain and came up with the idea of using a potluck casserole to kill someone. And it just so happens I was eating chicken in mushroom sauce. One of my friends is a wild mushroom hunter, and a couple of weeks before had been called to the hospital ER to consult when someone had gotten hold of poisonous mushrooms. By the time dinner was over, I had the crime pretty much sketched out. I pitched it to Krista right then and received an invitation to send her a query.

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

When I’m creating characters, I don't think in terms of, "Which of my experiences shall I use to make Jackie come alive?" In fact, unlike my first novel, the story of Murder by Mushroom started out with an idea, not with a character. I liked the idea of using poisonous mushrooms to kill someone (okay, that sounds really bad, but you know what I mean!), and then I tried to come up with a character whose reaction would be the funniest. So I created a socially inept girl who places a lot of emphasis on what others think of her. But as she developed, I realized I needed to understand why she felt that way. When I worked backward into her past, some of my own feelings of insecurity and separateness during my school years surfaced. I've reacted differently to them as I matured, though, so though Jackie and I share some of the same past experiences, our personalities are completely different.

Dennis is his own man entirely. The only characteristic I share with Dennis is ambition, the desire to move forward. Actually, I sort of think of Dennis as a son. I confess that I've occasionally tried my hand at matchmaking with my own son, though not nearly so blatantly as Dennis' mother. The loose role model for Dennis is my stepson, also named Dennis, who is a police officer in Lexington, Kentucky, where part of this story takes place.

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

Well, the obvious one is that gossip hurts people. And that it can be disguised, but it's still gossip and it's still wrong. Nothing infuriates me more than gossip that is disguised in the form of prayer requests. 

Another message I hope people take away from Murder by Mushroom is that Christians don't always act in ways that honor Christ. We make mistakes. We hurt people. We are forgiven by our Lord, but we need to understand how those mistakes affect others. We're His body, His emissaries to the world. Our actions reflect on Him.

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

The difficult part came after I'd turned in the first draft and my editor sent the revision letter. She told me that Jackie's character was not as likable as Margaret (the pastor's wife), and I needed to fix that. In the original version, about a third of the book was told from Margaret's viewpoint. The main relationship in the book was that of Jackie and Margaret, not Jackie and Dennis. And Margaret was such a great character in my mind, she had sort of hijacked the story. So I had to rewrite all but 3 scenes from Margaret's POV to Jackie's. My editor was totally right – the revised version worked much better. But it wasn't easy.

My favorite part had to be the confrontation scene in the restaurant at the end. I laughed out loud several times as I wrote. Jackie was so nervous, so bumbling! And Dennis was so irritated with her!

Another favorite was the restaurant scene at Shaker Village. That's a real place just outside of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and I've been there several times. As I was writing this book, my sisters and my mother went to lunch there, so that setting was really vivid in my mind.

Gosh, I like the restaurant scenes. And I poisoned someone with mushrooms in this book. What does that tell you about me?

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

Bluegrass Peril will be released from Steeple Hill in December. That one isn't cozy. My editor says it reads like a Christian Dick Francis novel, which sounds good to me! Here's the back cover summary:

"When the director of a retirement farm for thoroughbred champions is murdered, Becky Dennison teams up with the handsome manager of a neighboring horse farm to find her boss's killer. The amateur sleuths uncover a trail of clues that lead them into the intricate society of Kentucky's elite thoroughbred breeding industry. They soon find themselves surrounded by the mint julep set - jealous southern belles and intensely competitive horse breeders - in a high-stakes game of danger, money, and that famous southern pride."

Here's an interesting side note about Bluegrass Peril. The heroine, Becky, is actually one of the suspects in Murder by Mushroom. My intention was to write a sequel using the same characters and setting, but a different hero and heroine. But my editor didn't like that idea, and asked me to change it to be completely stand-alone. I started by changing the characters' names, and I removed all reference to the name of the town. It's funny, but once the characters were given new names, their personalities started morphing, too.

By the way – Jackie and Dennis and even the annoying Detective Conner also put in appearances in Bluegrass Peril. When you get the book in December, you'll have to see if you recognize them.

* * * * *

Thank you, Ginny, 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, August 20, 2007

Wedding Pix, Wedding Pix and More Wedding Pix

As promised on Friday, when I posted my "wedding story," I'm including 2 links to more wedding/honeymoon pictures. This time, I have another set from one of my bridesmaids plus a set of formal shots and a set from Stuart's and my honeymoon as well as our drive home. This last set also includes our visit to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs.

Now, in keeping with the tradition of my Monday updates, I'll share what we've been doing since the wedding. That way, you're all caught up on our lives. :) Who knows how often I'll continue this. All depends on how "interesting" our lives get and if anything worthy of announcing occurs in any given week.

For now, though:

* Got married on July 28th and left for the honeymoon immediately following the ceremony.

* Honeymooned in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia at a timeshare my family owns. It only rained once where it affected us, and we were able to get out to take a 2-hour hike, plus spend about 5 hours down at the brand new Water Park that was completed last Fall. This was its first official season, and you'll see pictures from that time. There are a few from our hike as well. Those would be the scenic shots. One day we spent in "downtown" Harrisonburg, doing a little shopping, going to a movie, enjoying a meal at Hank's Smokehouse and touring the town. Every year, it grows and expands more and more. I don't know when I'll get back there, but I can't help but wonder if I'll even recognize it then. :)

* Honeymoon ended on August 4th and we drove up to Harper's Ferry to meet my family for lunch and a few hours of saying "goodbye." None of us wanted to do that at the reception, so we planned this time together instead. We walked through the historical town, peeked into the bookstore, walked down where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet and flow together toward the Chesapeake Bay, and even put our toes in the somewhat warm water. Levels were too shallow to avoid the hot sun.

* Our drive home began around 5pm that night and we headed in the direction of Nashville. Made it as far as Bristol, VA (and TN) and crashed for the night, then completed our drive the next day.

* Sunday, after gaining an hour moving from the Eastern to the Central time zone and arriving around 11:30am, we spent the day in Nashville, met one of our bridesmaids after lunch for about 30 minutes at the mall, then headed to another friend's where we would be staying that night. Chatted with her for a couple of hours before heading to dinner to meet fellow ACFW friends. I don't remember what we did after dinner, but I know we went to bed early because we wanted to get an early start the next day.

* Monday, the 6th, we were up at 7 and out the door by 7:45am. After a nice, filling breakfast, we hit the road toward St. Louis. Stuart and I changed drivers every time we filled up for gas so neither of us got overly tired. Unfortunately, we didn't get too many pictures during the drive that were "marked" but we did cross the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers, so you'll see those in the pictures. We also drove right by the St. Louis Arch and made our way through Kansas City, which brought back memories of the very first ACFW conference in 2002. The day ended about 3/4 of the way across Kansas, which you'll see from the pictures as being very flat! :)

* Tuesday morning, we were up early again and on the road by 8:30 with just a 5-hour drive ahead of us. However, just before we crossed into Colorado, we hit the Mountain Time Zone, so gained another hour and got home around noon. Took us about 30 minutes to unpack the car and get everything upstairs, where my new home greeted me, complete with the gorgeous new kitchen floor--that I saw for the first time--and some flowers, small gifts, and starter food in the refrigerator, courtesy of my new sister-in-law and Stuart's cousin who recently moved from Dallas. Funny thing was that while we were unloading, UPS delivered my first "official" package at my new home. Shame I couldn't save the label off the box. Ha! Just kidding. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and recovering from the past 2 weeks with some much-needed rest.

* Wednesday, we awaited the arrival of the moving truck. He had called just about the time we passed into Colorado on Tuesday to say he'd deliver on Wednesday. It took about 2 hours for everything to get into the condo, and we sat at the kitchen table with a checklist, checking off items as the movers brought them into the house. We ended up with 2-3 missing boxes, which I now know were found and will be arriving this week. After the movers left, we began the task of unpacking and reorganizing as we sought to blend our two separate lives into one. Thankfully, we had 5 days in which to do this. By the end of the day, we had gotten the living room pretty much done, but we also made sure to get the bedroom furniture set up as well.

* Thursday, we worked on the kitchen and bedroom, with a break mid-day to go spend a few hours with Stuart's sister and my new niece and nephew (who were the ringbearer and flowergirl in our wedding). They had invited us to the community pool to get away from the heat of the August sun in a home with no air-conditioning on the 3rd floor. What a welcome relief! By the end of the day, we had the bedroom and kitchen finished, with just a few minor touches needing to be added.

* Friday, we had plans to work on the office, but ended up running a few errands and taking care of other business. And since it was date night for Stuart and me, we went out to eat and caught a showing of Stardust at the movie theatre. Fantastic movie, if you love fantasy tales, humor, and great characters. It's a lot like Princess Bride with a few more plot twists. Great movie for the entire family.

* Saturday, we finished a few more errands and headed down to visit with Stuart's parents and family, where we enjoyed a nice dinner and opened the gifts that had been shipped out to Colorado before the wedding. We also brought down a car load of items from our reorganization for them, if anyone wanted anything. At least it was out of our house.

* Sunday was church and a trip to the zoo, of which you'll see a lot of pictures in the 3rd set. Looking forward to next summer when they open a new Rocky Mountain section for some new animals.

* Monday, it was back to work for Stuart, and I spent the day organizing my desk and waiting for UPS to deliver my computer. They had come Friday when we were out, again Saturday while we were down in Canon City, and I missed them again today. Also shipped back a package of items to my parents that had been loaned to us for the honeymoon and drive to Colorado.

* Tuesday, my computer finally arrived, so I was able to get it all hooked up and almost working. Met Stuart at work for dinner, then we headed to our weekly critique group for writing and arrived amidst a downpour of rain, so after dashing across soggy and puddle-filled grass, we made quite an entrance. :) Everyone was so happy to see us and to meet me, and I look forward to working with them as I strive toward my book deadline in October. On the way home, we picked up an ethernet cable and got my computer connected online.

* Wednesday, I was back at work at the local Christian bookstore with an introduction to the store and orientation. I made a lateral transfer from Delaware, but will be 100% on the sales floor and overseeing the Sunday School curriculum orders. I'll be there part-time so I can get out of the house a bit and stay connected with the book market and what's selling. Met Stuart for lunch where a handful of his coworkers expressed their delight at meeting me (some again after meeting in May), and I got a quick tour of his work space.

* Thursday and Friday passed quickly, with another day of work and receiving my schedule from that point out. It'll be nice during the week to be there while Stuart's at work and break up the day a bit. I'll still have my nights and weekends free, which is a bonus. For date night this past week, we stayed in and watched 2 movies, one on DVD and one on TV, with the premiere of High School Musical 2 on the Disney Channel. Just as good as the first one from last summer, and another round of fantastic songs. I can see another album going "platinum."

* This past weekend, we went out shopping and used up a few gift cards to get some additional small items from our registries then saw the Bourne Ultimatum at the theatre. We also started going through pictures to make selections on what we'll be keeping and what needs enlargements for our wedding album. Unfortunately, it won't be ready for display at the Colorado reception this coming weekend, but we'll have a slideshow to share. Sunday, we also took a drive around town and did a little sightseeing then finished clearing out boxes in the office, plus hung our pictures. Jazzed up our home quite a lot and solidified things for me even more.

That brings us up to date, where I'm writing this post. Hope I haven't bored you too much. :) I tried to only hit the highlights. And now for the rest of the pictures that I have. There might be more next week, but we'll see what happens.

Photo Gallery 1 -- formal shots
Photo Gallery 2 -- honeymoon & after

Happy viewing!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wedding Day Story

For anyone who hasn't seen the announcement it is:

Engagement Announcement Slideshow

The day began quite early. I was up at 6am for an 11am wedding. My hairstylists would be at the church at 8am. Since I was also moving to Colorado right after the wedding, I had to pack my few remaining bags and boxes into what would become the "getaway car," before going to the church. No time once I left home to come back for anything.

To say things were frantic would be an understatement, but we made it by just a few minutes after 8. I and one of my bridesmaids sat down to have our hair done. The rest of the bridal party would be arriving around 9.

But let me backtrack just slightly to the day before.

I had told everyone to bring their rollerblades because we'd be running all day. That wasn't far from the truth. At 10am, the women were at the church to decorate while the men went to do their final tux fittings and pick up their tuxes. They met us at the church around 11:30 for a 12:00noon rehearsal. However, that morning, I ended up locking my keys in the car just as we were pulling out of the drive. Mom called for me to get some ice, and since the power locks lock when you start the car, I got out and promptly shut the door. ACK!

So, we spent the next 20 minutes finding a tool to sneak between the door and the bodyframe that was long enough to hit the power switch. We made it to the church by 10:30, late enough that everyone else gathered had time to swap "stories" about me and get to know one another. :) With my husband-to-be and his family coming from Colorado and North Carolina, and 2 other of my bridesmaids coming from Nashville and Illinois, it was quite an experience getting everyone together.

Thankfully, the church decorating didn't take long, and once everyone was assembled, the rehearsal began right on time. We ran through everything twice, with the only hitch being that I hadn't heard from the rehearsal dinner location to finalize our menu choices. That call came just at the end of the second walk-through, so I left my "groom" standing at the back of the church to take the call. :) At least I didn't leave him standing at the altar!

With the rehearsal done and a confirmation from the restaurant received, we all got in our cars and headed to the reception site to decorate the hall. However, there was a lane closure on a bridge on the route there, so I spent 20 minutes calling everyone and redirecting them down another road. For the locals, it was easy, but for Stuart's family, it was a challenge. En route, I got a call from the events coordinator at the hall asking when we would be there. I explained the situation, and she graciously extended our 2-hour time slot to 5pm since we would be an hour late.

So, around 3, we arrived, but plans to grab a bite to eat had been skipped, so we sent 2 people on a food run while everyone else got to work. The hall began as an empty room and made a beautiful transformation to a fairytale setting. And we finished by 5pm. That's when everyone changed for the rehearsal dinner, and we were soon on our way. After the hectic pace up to that point, sitting down for a few hours to talk, share, laugh and rest was a welcome relief. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere couldn't have been more perfect.

Around 8pm, we started to disperse with the promise that we'd see each other tomorrow at the church. My bridesmaids had decided to throw me a bachelorette party that night (since this was the only time they'd all been together), but they needed some time to set up. So, I took Stuart back to the hotel and waited for their call. Our parting was easier than I thought it would be, considering the next time we saw each other would be at the altar. We both couldn't believe the day had finally arrived.

After some fun with my bridesmaids (the details of which will remain a mystery), I arrived home around midnight and crashed for 6 hours. That brings me to the day of the wedding!

As I stated above, I was up at 6am, at the church at 8, and the rest of the bridesmaids were there by 9am. Dad brought us some breakfast, and everyone made sure I ate something. They were all fussing over me, and I began to feel like a true princess. Of course, if you ask my flower girl, that's just what I was...tiara and all. :) She was enamored of me the entire day and hardly left my side.

I wish I remembered more of the ceremony, but as I was locked in the bridal room, there isn't much to tell. Perhaps some of my family and friends who were there will share comments and add to what I'm sharing. (To those of you who fall into that category reading this....HINT, HINT!)

Anyway, the time came for us to line-up and prepare for our entrance. A couple final pictures beforehand, and the ceremony began. Obviously, I can't tell you about the processional other than when Dad led me from the room down the hall to the sanctuary doors. It all seemed so much like a dream. I felt like I was floating on a cloud when the trumpet fanfare from the piece called "Danielle's Wings" from the movie, Ever After, sounded and I made my entrance. Everyone stood and turned and I paused under the floral archway at the back of the church. Then, the soft strains of violins and piano sounded as I took my first step down to the aisle.

After a few seconds, I caught sight of my groom, resplendent in a black tux and looking every bit the part of the handsome prince. My gaze didn't waver from that point to the end of the aisle. He had a slight grin on his face as the pastor began the ceremony, and I waited for the time when Dad would give me away. After the opening prayer and welcome, that time had come. Dad lifted my veil and placed a kiss on my cheek. That's when Stuart stepped forward and accepted my hand from Dad. As Dad took his seat next to Mom, the pastor led Stuart and me along with the matron of honor (Angie, one of my best friends) and best man (Sam, Stuart's brother) up the stairs to the stage.

This is where it gets really foggy...and I know I won't do this part of the "fairytale" justice. Thankfully, I have the rehearsal in my mind to help. I stood facing Stuart as the ceremony continued. We said so much with our eyes and nonverbal communication and hardly looked away from each other. Somehow, we managed to get through our vows, which we had written (both of us ad-libbed from what we had planned), then came the exchange of the rings, a charge from the pastor for each of us individually and us as a couple, and pronouncement of us as husband and wife. Then came our first kiss as a married couple. Stuart lifted my veil and I could see the glimmer of tears shining in his eyes. Mine teared up too, but they were tears of joy that this day had finally come.

Our first act as husband and wife was to take holy communion together, so we moved to the back of the stage to do that while my worship leader sang a solo. It's an awesome thing to thank God for our marriage and make a pledge through Communion that we'll commit our marriage and lives to Him. Marriage is difficult enough. How couples make it without God in the center, I'll never know.

From there, we moved to another table where two candle tapers were lit. We each took one and together lit the center "unity" candle. We then each took a small vial of "dirt" from our homes (mine was sand from a Delaware beach and Stuart's was red dirt from the Colorado soil) and poured it into a slightly larger glass container. The symbolism of both the candles and dirt is that our lives our now forever entwined and as difficult to separate as the blended dirt or the flame that burned from the two tapers lighting it.

Now, we'd reached the time for a surprise. Two white roses had been placed on that same table, so we each took one and walked down the steps to present them to our mothers. With a kiss and hug, we both thanked them for their support, love and time invested raising us and bringing us to this point. Then, we made our way back to the stage and stood with joined hands as the soloist finished.

The pastor once again prayed over us, then introduced us for the first time as "Mr. & Mrs. Stuart Stockton"! We waited for the recessional music to begin, then led the way amidst cheers and clapping to the back of the church. Because we had decided to skip the receiving line, we waited for the wedding party to enter the foyer, then Stuart and I returned with Angie and Sam to dismiss everyone by row. It took less time and moved things along at a nicer pace. The wedding party waited with bottles of bubbles in the foyer and directed the guests outside. Once everyone was gone, Stuart and I came outside under a shower of bubbles and headed toward a small box and a larger basket holding a total of 14 doves.

Wedding Pictures

After listening to instructions by the dove owner, Stuart and I took the string and pulled. Two doves flew out and into the air over our heads. Next, the larger basket was placed on the ground in front of us. This time, a thicker rope cord held down the lid. So, again, Stuart and I grabbed the cord and pulled. The remaining 12 doves (in pairs) flew out. One pair needed a little coaxing, but finally joined the rest in the air, circling above us. This release symbolizes another promise of hope and forever. Doves have long been a symbol of promise, and they mate for life, so their partnership symbolizes the lifelong commitment Stuart and I make to each other. I saw the idea at a bridal show earlier this year and knew we had to include it.

With that done, the ceremony had come to a close. We mingled a little with the guests, but before long, everyone headed toward their cars to go to the reception, and the wedding party went back inside for pictures. Our photographer was great, and we were ready to head to the reception by just before 1pm, which was when it began. So, we made sure we had everything cleaned up from the church that we needed, then all got in our cars for the drive to the reception. Stuart's parents drove us in their silver luxury rental car.

Like yesterday, the bridge lane was still closed, so Dad called to tell us to go the same way we did the day before. Everyone else had gone the original way. As it turns out, we should have too...because when we reached the major road heading south, traffic was at a standstill due to a fatal accident on the highway and cars were coming back up the on-ramp to go another way. So, on to plan C, only that road was backed up too. We saw my parents ahead of us, so moved into the other lane to follow them. Using my mother-in-law's cell phone, I reached them to find out we were trying one of the local roads. It started looking good, but before long, we came to a stop again.

Worried as I watched the minutes pass on the clock and wondering who else was stuck in this traffic delay, I tried to make the best of things. There wasn't much I could about the situation anyway, so I snuggled against my new husband and sat back for the ride. Turned out only my parents and older brother had gotten stuck. Everyone else went the original way and got there fine. So, they waited for us for over an hour. We finally arrived around 2:30pm after hearing that our DJ had kept everyone entertained with contests, music, jokes, and fun. Praise God for that DJ! Despite the delay, everyone was having a great time.

Although everyone had already eaten, the wedding party gathered and lined up for our introductions. With humor and candid remarks, the DJ announced each pair as we all made our way to the front of the hall. Once seated, the reception continued as planned. We all took time to eat as music continued to play. The clinking of the glasses commenced as Stuart and I shared kisses in the celebration, and we had several guests come up to chat.

A little after 3pm, Stuart and I had our first dance, followed by my dance with my father and Stuart's dance with his mother. Then, the entire wedding party came onto the floor, followed by a general invitation for the guests. Some had to leave early, so we bid them goodbye, but most were still there when it came time for the cutting of the cake. Stuart and I also had a tradition passed from my parents of drinking from the "bridal cup." It was a silver cup in the shape of a woman with a flared skirt and arms upraised holding a small bucket over her head. When turned upside down, the skirt (inlaid with bronze and copper) became the cup for the groom. The small bucket was on hinges that allowed it to swing. It became the cup for the bride. History has it that the bride and groom drink from this cup simultaneously, but the bride cannot touch the cup with her hands, only her mouth. However many drops that fall is how many children the couple will have.

I only dropped two. :)

Now for the cake. The DJ took a verbal poll on who wanted "mean" and who wanted "nice." It was about an even split. Stuart and I had decided beforehand that we'd be making a mess, so taking the knife together we cut two slices, then each took a good-sized piece and held them up. After getting some into each other's mouths, we then had fun. I smeared and decorated his nose and forehead. Stuart smushed and got some up my nose. We had a lot of fun, and so did our guests. Made for some great pictures too!

After cleaning each other of the cake mess, we continued with the rest of the reception. This included a solo dance by my husband (surprising to me!) to some 70's disco music. I believe it was Uncle Jim who put the DJ up to it. Either that or his sister, Shauna. Regardless, he did a great job. Next came the tossing of the bouquet. After the single ladies gathered, I turned my back and let the bouquet fly. Onc it was caught, the DJ came to say that toss didn't count, because he hadn't gone over the rules. So, I had to do it all again. This time, 2 more ladies joined the small group and the DJ had me do a fake toss. The ladies who went for it were moved to the back for the official toss. The real one went high and long and was caught by my older brother's girlfriend.

This set the stage for the garter removal, where Stuart wasn't quite as "devilish" as he hinted he might be. Still, he had some fun. :) Now, it was his turn to throw the garter to the single men. Because my older brother's girlfriend had caught the bouquet, the men were holding him back from catching the garter, since whoever caught it would have to place the garter on the leg of the lady who caught the bouquet. After some scrambling, it was actually another groomsmen (Stuart's best friend) who caught it. With my brother standing close by, arms crossed, Chad kneeled in front of Tina and slid the garter as high up as she would let him. With appropriate music, it made for an entertaining experience.

By now, it was a little after 4pm. One-third of the guests had gone, and the reception became more of a low-key celebration. Some fun dances, candid photos and all-in-all fun commenced. The DJ kept things going, and Stuart and I made plans to leave. But first, we had to allow the appearance of my "infamous" Tiki-bird slippers and Stuart's dinosaur mask. So, I got rid of my heels (and my feet thanked me) and replaced them with the slippers. Stuart put on his mask and we posed for a few pictures. We even got one where I'm kissing the mask. :) The princess kissed the dragon, and he turned into a handsome prince!

Like all good things, the reception started to wind down. Stuart and I had Uncle Jim round up our change of clothes and bring them to a spare room. Since we weren't supposed to go outside until we were leaving, Stuart kept me there until we were sure we had everything while the family and wedding party made sure our "getaway car" was appropriately decorated and all of our final belongings stowed inside. Thankfully, because the SUV was full, they couldn't do much to the interior. But the groomsmen had fun with the exterior!

With hugs and final goodbyes (since most of them, I wouldn't be seeing for who knows how long), Stuart and I headed for the car and left...tin cans and balloons dragging behind us. With a 4-hour drive ahead of us to the honeymoon resort, we settled in for a peaceful ride, complete with music, munchies and the joy of our love putting smiles on our faces.

The rest of the story will come on Monday with a few more pictures. Hope you've enjoyed this tale. And for those of you family and friends who were there, feel free to fill in the blanks of special memories you had in the comments.

Go to the rest of the story...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Spotlight on Bonnie Leon and To Love Anew

Well, I'm back! I had every intention of posting on Monday to update everyone from the past 3 weeks, but my computer was delayed getting here. So, I'll post this coming Friday instead.

For now, here is this week's spotlight.


Bonnie Leon is the author of fifteen novels, including the popular "Queensland Chronicles" and the "Sydney Cove series" and the bestselling Journey of Eleven Moons. She also stays busy speaking for women's groups and teaching at writing seminars and conventions. Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in southern Oregon. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.

By Bonnie Leon


1. You have stepped to the edge with the issues such as rape, miscarriage and betrayal in this book. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

I've been involved in church ministry for many years and have met with, cried with, and prayed with many who have dealt with these and similar issues. My family is included among those who have suffered from the exploitation and abuse of others. Too often the church doesn't know how to approach or to help those who are hurting or living with the scars left behind.

The obvious traumas are more easily seen and less complicated to deal with. There is often need for healing and for forgiveness and generally we know better how to help in these areas. But it's the "stuff" that's hidden inside of individuals that we either don't see or don't know how to mend, especially the wounds we, as individuals, keep hidden inside. It's sometimes easier to forgive others offenses than our own. And too often we look at ourselves with contempt.

There are no easy answers and I certainly don't have them, but I wanted to explore the issue. I have never forgotten the heartache and self-loathing I saw in a close friend many years ago when she told me she’d had two abortions. "Every time I think about it I want to scream," she said. I've always wished I had the power to soothe away the agony she carried. But of course that's not up to me, only The Father can erase those kinds of hurts.

So many of us carry heavy burdens, unable to release them to God and accept His forgiveness and love. Just like Hannah we live in torment.

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

Bits and pieces of me and my personal experiences end up in my books and in some of my characters. This story hits very close to home. Like Hannah, I have had a miscarriage, I experienced rape, and betrayal. Life is filled with mishaps and injustice. And like Hannah and so many others I have carried shame and guilt.

I met Christ when I was twenty-three and for many years I saw myself as repulsive and unlovable. But Christ changed all of that—in a moment. The day I met Him I became a new creation and understood that He loves me, just as I am. I realized I was worth loving for I had been created by God. My joy had no limits. I probably should have been tied down for my first six months as a believer—I was intoxicated with joy.

To answer the second part of your question, John and Hannah, of course, are not me. John is much more adventurous than I am and I am not inclined to hang onto wrongs done to me.

John, though a believer, relished his hatred of his cousin. Of course Henry betrayed John in appalling ways, but that doesn't make John's reaction acceptable. He is only human, though, and so he has my sympathy. Only through God’s grace did he relinquish his resentment.

After what she's done, Hannah has difficulty believing God can love her. From the first moment I believed I've never doubted God's love for me, even though I've acquired a long list of sins since that day. Hannah is stronger than me. Although she has her moments of despair when she's pushed to the edge, she doesn't give up. And when Lottie comes into her life she has someone else to care about.

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

The obvious message is that God forgives all sins. There is no sin, no suffering, no heartache too great for Him. We can trust Him for He knows the plans He has for us—He knows the beginning and the end. And He loves us no matter what we might do.

A theme that emerged as I wrote the series is that God's ways are not out ways. And that we can trust Him far more than our own unreliable perspectives. And I was a bit surprised at John's depth of hatred for Henry. And his response to finally achieving retribution—vengeance does not satisfy.

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

The prison scenes in London were difficult because I didn't want them to look like every other prison scene we've read in books or watched in movies. Yet, they had to be real. As a writer it's my job to take readers into the scenes in such a way that they can see it, feel it, even smell it. I tried to focus on the characters, making them and their responses to the circumstances the point of interest.

Toward the end of the book there is a scene where John goes after Henry. It was difficult for me to write because I had no idea what the area north of Port Jackson (Sydney) looked like at that time. In order to help readers see the terrain that the characters were traveling through I had to see it. If not for my friend, Jayne Collins, an Australian and fabulous researcher, I'd have gotten it all wrong. In the end, I think the descriptions turned out well.

As far as a favorite scene—I always love writing high drama and in this book we have a lot of that.

However, one of my favorite scenes is when the ship sails into Sydney Cove. It is a fabulously beautiful place and for months the prisoners have spent most of their time locked beneath decks in the horrid hold. When they sail into Sydney Cove Hannah and John are on deck and are enraptured at what they see. Hope is reborn and they wonder if this new land might offer them a future.

I'm big on never giving up and hanging on to optimism. God can do more than we can imagine or even hope for and often does the extraordinary when all looks lost.

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

Book two in the "Sydney Cove Series" should release in the Spring. The story continues with John and Hannah, the familiar cast of characters, plus a few new faces as they continue the adventure in New South Wales. It's a story of deception and the consequences paid when we try to hide the truth. Hannah still struggles to accept God's will for her life and we'll get a glimpse at what that is. Readers will be cheering for some of the characters and wishing they could bash others.

* * * * *

Thank you, Bonnie, 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.