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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Spotlight on Jenny B. Jones and On the Loose

Before I get into the spotlight, now that I'm back from Dallas, I'll be announcing the winners of the past 3 spotlights later tonight. So, come back again this evening and check the comments to see if the winner is you.

I recently met today's spotlight author at the annual ACFW conference in Dallas. Didn't have a chance to interact much, but the most unique part of our conversation was my asking about the chicken on the cover of her book. You'll have to read the book to find out more. :)


Jenny B. Jones is the author of A Katie Parker Production series. Though now an adult, she still relates to the trauma and drama of teen life. She is thrilled to see her writing dreams come true, as her previous claim to fame was singing the "Star-Spangled Banner" at a mule-jumping championship. (The mules were greatly inspired.) She resides in Arkansas, where, as a teacher, she hangs out with teens on a regular basis. You can visit her at and definitely stop by her crazy blog at

By Jenny B. Jones


1. This is book 2 in your Katie Parker Production series, and it takes Katie on a journey of faith, trust and discernment. What gave you the inspiration for this book?

I love this question. I was blessed with the opportunity to start a drama program at a small school some time ago. We saw kids coming into their own, using talents they didn't know they had and just many a-ha! moments. I had a student who found her place through drama—something she discovered she totally rocked at. But then I also had a student, "Maggie," who got "stuck" in the class and though she did her best, it wasn't her cup of tea. I will never forget the night of the play for the community. The kids got a standing ovation, but "Maggie's" family didn't show. I remember thinking, much like if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear…if a kid gets a standing ovation and no one is there to see her… Anyway, that has always stuck with me. "Maggie" was later taken out of her home and placed with a friend's family, where she was thoroughly loved and cared for and received the attention that she had never had before. She became a new person. My character Katie is a combination of both those students I mentioned. Their stories are etched on my heart.

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

Like I mentioned, students I had heavily influenced who Katie was. And I think there are definitely aspects of myself in this girl. We're both a little snarky, clumsy, irreverent, and occasionally love to ham it up. We both had wonderful, sassy grandmothers. And we both look just like Kate Moss. Kidding. :)

Aspects of Katie that were just hers? Hmmm…she's into vintage eighties clothing, and I’m definitely not, since I lived it once already. (though I am REALLY thankful the giant hair didn't come back in with the clothes.) She's definitely at a different place with her faith. Book two is about her deciding whether to trust her life to Christ despite all the junk she's going through. And she isn't too crazy about school. I LOVED high school. It was so much fun.

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

This book is definitely about authentic faith, trusting God when there seems to be no apparent reason to. Bad things happen in life, and often it doesn't make sense. Good people get sick, children go hungry, soldiers don’t come home. It's a choice to put your faith in an invisible god, and it's not an easy one. I loved the opportunity to explore that with Katie Parker. She's very real and calls it how she sees it. No filter. No gloss.

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

I can't reveal too much without um…revealing too much, but the last 1/4 of the book was difficult to write. This is where decisions are made, issues are mostly resolved, etc. There are a number of giant issues in the book that have to come full circle, and I really felt a weight on me to get it just right and make it real. And there is a thread of a romance or two in the book, and this was my first shot at that. So that was a lot of fun on one hand, and challenging on another. Katie's BFF Frances, is a genius at everything—but romance. So it was fun to play with that and show her struggling with the dating world. She is not smooth.

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

The next book in the series, The Big Picture, will hit shelves next spring, around March.

Just as school winds down for the summer, Katie comes home to find the shock of her life on the Scotts' front porch—her mother. Bobbie Ann Parker, newly released from prison, has come back for her daughter. But how can Katie leave In Between when so much is falling apart? There's Maxine's crumbling love life to take care of, a boyfriend to win back, and the town drive-in to save.

As Katie is forced to say goodbye to her old life, she discovers living with her mother isn't all that was promised. Why is God totally detonating her life? Will Katie Parker, queen of stage and life, ever see In Between again?

Book three wraps up a series that was a lot of fun to write. I will definitely miss Katie and her foster grandma, Mad Maxine, a crazy gal I would put into every book I ever write, if I could get away with it.

Thanks, Tiffany. Congrats on your wedding. It was great meeting you at ACFW last week.

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Thank you, Jenny, for being in the spotlight. Readers, 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, say so when you post. This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Off to Dallas!

All right, so this is a smidgeon late, but I never had the chance to compose and post this in the AM, so I'm posting it now.

There won't be an author spotlight this week because most of the fiction authors I know are going to be in Dallas with me at the ACFW annual conference. There are slated to be somewhere near 500 fiction authors, writers, editors, agents and staff in attendance. It's going to be a fantastic time as we celebrate our 6th annual conference that grows bigger each year.

If we keep growing like this, we're going to need a convention center or coliseum to hold us before we reach 10 years! Praise God!

I'll be back next week with a report from the conference and pictures as well of all the fun. Stay cool while I'm gone and look for the author spotlights to resume next week. The winners from this month's drawings will also be announced.

Until next week....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spotlight on Cindy Woodsmall and When the Morning Comes

Today's spotlight author is releasing her 2nd book in her Sisters of the Quilt series, but she is also my adopted "big sis," so I'm tickled pink to host her here on my blog.


Cindy Woodsmall is an author, wife, and mother of three sons. Her first novel, When the Heart Cries, released in 2006 to much acclaim, including receiving a Reviewer's Choice Award from the Road to Romance Web site, being an ECPA Christian Book of the Year finalist, and becoming a CBA best seller. Her real-life connections with Plain Mennonite and Old Order Amish families enrich her novels with authenticity. Cindy lives in Georgia with her husband of twenty-nine years and the youngest of their three sons. Click on her picture to visit her web site.

By Cindy Woodsmall


1. This is book 2 in your Sisters of the Quilt series, and it takes Hannah out of her Old Order Amish world from book 1 into the world of the Englischers. What gave you the inspiration for this book?

The idea of leaving the Plain lifestyle for the Englischer world was never far from my mind and heart throughout my childhood. I had a Plain friend who was Beachy Amish. Even before her parents removed her from our public school to begin a one-room school of their own, I was aware of how different her life was from mine. Her roots were deep, mine were transient. Her values were something her family had passed down for generations. Our family values were based on the norms around us. She knew her family tree and who had what trait when they were her age. I knew how to climb a tree. Her family surrounded her in protection while mine felt that to survive in this world, I had to make my own decisions and live with them—even as an elementary-aged child. Her family believed in keeping peace with others. My family believed that standing up for yourself, even if that meant being expelled from school, was more important than getting along with others or walking in peace with others.

If you contrast those two, my family sounds rough. But if you compare my family's conservative ways with many other non-Plain homes, you'll find mine to be very rooted and caring. It's all a matter of relativity.

I knew what I would do and how I would feel if I'd had to leave my family behind as a teenager. But how would a Plain girl experience it?

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Hannah, Paul and Martin?

Hannah is a mixture of my Plain friend and me. My friend was deeply respectful and wanted to please her parents in every way. Many times as I grew up with her, I wondered, What if you wanted to please them, but your heart wanted freedom from their ways? So Hannah is my Plain friend in roots, heart, and morals, but she's like me in the area of daring to push the boundaries and only being willing to take so much before she strikes out on her own.

Paul has much more of my Plain friend's personality than Hannah does. He's extremely patient, has a heart to help others, is honest with himself and others, and is willing to pay whatever price necessary to make amends for his wrongs.

Martin is a silver-spooned Englischer who was raised by a shunned Old Order Amish woman. He has a good heart, but with his attitudes as a former bad boy mixed with his executive personality, he is constantly challenged when he comes in contact with the woman who raised him as well as her young niece, a former Old Order Amish girl whose heart wants both the Englischer life and the Plain life. Martin has two lives inside him, Englischer and Plain, and he's comfortable with that duality.

What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

Hannah has more backbone and guts than I ever intended. She seems to stumble into chaos by her own making and is then surprised to find herself there. But if I ever doubt who she is in certain circumstances, she stands up and straightens me out—in a very nonresistant, Plain-girl kind of way.

Paul's love of mankind keeps his mind open to embrace people for who and where they are in life in spite of the ultraconservative ways he's been taught as a Plain man. I thought that I would fashioned him to react differently than he does in the story. Clearly he too is his own man.

Martin is much deeper than I'd planned. He tends to react with arrogance before he's sure the person deserves it, yet his ethics are deep.

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

I think the themes are two-fold: Nothing is so bad that God can't help us find our way out, but our lives may never find their original course after certain tragedies. Nevertheless, we have a life to live and successes to find.

I think the underlying theme that developed as the story moved forward is that we can leave our family and roots behind, but we're never completely free of who we once were; we can't will that away. It has to be acknowledged and accepted or we'll never find our heart.

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

The toughest character to write was Martin's sister, Faye. She wanted to take over parts of the story, causing Hannah or Martin to be there for her purposes. I think that happened because of who Faye is. She swoops in, uses, sucks the life out of things, and leaves her responsibility with others. Most of us have dealt with people like that. If you let them, they will run over you, decide how you will spend your time, and then dump their responsibilities on you. With the help of my editor, we hog-tied the woman and had her take a backseat to Hannah and Martin.

My favorite part was the respect and character growth that naturally took place for Martin. I think it's subtle, but he’s not the same man at the end of book two as he was at the beginning.

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

The third book, which I call When the Silence Whispers, is the conclusion of Hannah's story. A final title hasn't been agreed upon yet, but the publisher and I are hopeful to have it out sooner than the original September '08 date. It's almost completed and is due in to the publisher by September 19, 2007.

In book three, Hannah is twenty. She has to face her past and her present, and choose her future. Silent whispers inside herself are calling to her, but she doesn't want to listen. She wants to choose her own path.

In all three books Hannah fights her own will, trying to bend it to her ideals and logic. As with most of us, there's always the question of which will win out: her will or her idealistic mind-set?

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Thank you, Cindy, for being in the spotlight. You're awesome! Readers, 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, say so when you post. This week, the contest is open to anyone worldwide.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Book Deadline and Photo Album Time!

All right, I have a confession. My life is jam-packed these days with several time crunches falling on me all at once. The #1 BIGGIE is my book deadline for October 1st. I'm humming along on word count and won't have a problem getting it done, but it's taking up just about ALL of my spare time. Thankfully, I'm still able to take special moments out and share them with my husband. Can't neglect him, after all. :)

What is keeping it fun is racing with a fellow author and friend who is also on the same book deadline with the same publisher. Each night we report our word count and tally up our total. I surpassed her last night and she set her goal to be whatever I write today PLUS the number of words that I am ahead of her right now. LOL! Gives me a goal each day and helps lighten the stress.

Ahh...the life of an author and the periodic stress phases that hit.

The other time crunch is the annual writer's conference coming up next week in Dallas. I am co-coordinator of the bookstore, so there are a lot of tasks to be completed before the conference even begins. Praise God I have another coordinator to share the load and she runs the show! However, Stuart and I have to prepare and pack and pay bills and clear out the refrigerator so nothing is left unattended while we're away.

Phew! I get tired just thinking about it.

On a brighter note, I have 2 photo albums to share with you. One is from a scenic mountain drive Stuart and I took on our way down to the family land in Canon City and the weekend of our reception here in Colorado.

Colorado Scenic Drive

The other is of the reception itself.

Colorado Reception

Hope you enjoy viewing them.

Come back Wednesday for the next author spotlight and book the winner from last week's!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Spotlight on Camy Tang and Sushi for One

I am absolutely thrilled to feature today's spotlight author and highlight her very first novel! This is the first of several first-time novelists and their breakthrough books that I'll be featuring in the coming months up through Christmas. So, look for some exciting NEW reads from NEW authors.

Today, this spotlight is also part of the CFBA BLOG TOUR, and one stop for Camy along the blog trail for the entire month of September. For a complete listing of the other places where Camy will be stopping this month, visit her blog. She posts daily about each stop along the way.


Camy Tang is the loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick lit. She used to be a biologist, but now she is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind. Visit her website.

By Camy Tang


1. This is your first book, and you've already got a bit of buzz stirring im the industry about your unique characters and setting. You've also chosen to link the 4 books in this Sushi series by having your main heroines be cousins. What gave you the inspiration for this book?

I actually thought up all the cousins' personalities at the same time, so I "knew" all of them before I even wrote Sushi for One. I made Lex as good at volleyball as I wished I was. :) Then I went into her family situation and her personality and thought, "What would be the best and worst things that could happen to her?"

Then I applied Donald Maass' WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK and asked, "How can I make things worse?" I'm so evil. :)

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

Their personalities aren't like mine. I try not to base my characters off of anyone I know, but I do include some minor traits of my friends/family in my characters. For example, Lex's interest in volleyball is like mine, although she's a great player while I'm only mediocre. Aiden's running is like my dad's love of running.

However, the core personalities of each are not like anyone I know. When I take the whole of their characters, they're unique in themselves, with traits and interests I might have cannibalized from people I know.

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

Lex learns over the course of the book that there are no easy answers, as much as we'd like there to be. God just doesn't work that way sometimes. Ultimately, we have to stop striving so hard on our own and submit to whatever He decides for us, resting in the fact that He does love us fiercely, no matter what happens.

Oh, and the theme that family can be both a joy and a major pain in the rear end. :)

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

The deeper emotional parts were hardest to write because I dig up my own emotional "memory" in order to write them (Brandilyn Collins talks about this technique in her book GETTING INTO CHARACTER). Digging up emotional aspects of my past is never a fun thing.

My favorite scenes were the ones involving food. LOL! Asian American families tend to be very food-oriented--there's always lots of it at gatherings, at meetings, etc. I was able to include my favorites in the book.

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

The next book in the series is Only Uni, releasing February 2008. Here's the blurb:

Will Trish Sakai be able to follow her three simple rules and hold out against two gorgeous guys?

Trish Sakai is ready for a change from her wild, flirtatious behavior. And her three cousins are anxious for her to change, too. Trish is always knocking something over, knocking herself out, and taking hard knocks in her perpetual confusion about men.

When Trish's ex-boyfriend, Kazuo the artist, keeps popping up at all the wrong moments, Trish decides to be firm with herself. She creates three simple rules from First and Second Corinthians and plans to follow them to the letter. No more looking at men! No more dating non-Christians! She will persevere in hardship by relying on God.

Except now Kazuo is claiming Trish is his muse, and he can't complete his major work of art without her. And a gorgeous coworker is reassigned, bringing him in daily contact with Trish. But her cousins are determined to hold her accountable to her plan. She thought three rules would be a cinch, but suddenly Trish's simple rules don't seem so simple after all.

Thanks for letting me chat here with you, Amber! I also want to mention that I have a huge website contest going on right now, where I'm giving away baskets of books and an iPod Nano! It's exclusively for my newsletter YahooGroup subscribers, so join today!

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Thank you, Camy, for being in the spotlight. 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, September 03, 2007

Random musings on this Labor Day

Ok, I confess. I don't have anything new to share this week. Stuart and I had an enjoyable weekend, celebrating our shared birthday this past Friday and spending time together on Saturday, relaxing and watching movies. I have begun the countdown to the deadline for my next book, so each day includes 3-4 hours of time spent in front of this computer screen tapping on the keys and adding words to the story.

As is often with many authors I know, the feeling that what I'm writing is pure junk and not worthy of appearing on the printed page niggles me constantly. Then, I'm reminded that no author is an island. No book in its finished form is the result of a single person. There is a team that works together to make the book the best it can be. God reminds me that my efforts when paired with the talents of my critique partners, copy editors, content editors, proof-readers, graphic cover artists, marketing whizzes and so many just what it needs to be in order to get the book written.

So, here I am, taking a short break from my writing goal and penning this post. As I stated last week, I don't know what I will do on these Mondays once all the wedding hoopla has died down. We have one final reception in Dallas at the annual ACFW conference in 2-1/2 weeks. After that, it's back to life as normal, and unless something exciting happens, I won't have much to share.

For now, though, I'll leave it open and allow room for....whatever might strike my fancy when it comes time to write each week.

One thing that won't change is the weekly author spotlights. I have another one ready for this coming Wednesday. It's a brand new author with a unique tagline and excellent skill at marketing herself with her first book. You won't want to miss it. Come back again on Wednesday.