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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Welcome Lena Nelson Dooley and Maggie's Journey


Lena Nelson Dooley is an award-winning author with more than 675,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers-—where she received the Mentor of the Year award in 2006-—and president of the local chapter, DFW Ready Writers. She’s also a member of Christian Authors Network (CAN), CROWN Fiction Marketing, and Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. She lives in Hurst, Texas, with her husband of almost 47 years.

Lena loves James, her children, grandchildren, and great grandson. She loves chocolate, cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, and spending time with friends. Helping other authors become published really floats her boat, with fifteen signing their first book contract after her mentoring. The high point of her day is receiving feedback from her readers, especially people whose lives have been changed by her books. And she loves chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

In addition to her writing, Lena is a frequent speaker at women’s groups, writers groups, and at both regional and national conferences. She has spoken in six states and internationally. Lena has an active web presence on Shoutlife, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and with her internationally-connected blog where she interviews other authors and promotes their books. You can check out her books and find out more about her on her blog by clicking the tabs across the top.

by Lena Nelson Dooley
Published by Realms/Charisma House


Maggie's Journey grabs you on page one with characters and events that reflect real-life joys and heartaches that change the characters forever. Make room on your "keepers" shelf! —Loree Lough, best-selling author of 80 award-winning books, including From Ashes to Honor.

A girl who’s been lied to her whole life...

Near her eighteenth birthday, Margaret Lenora Caine finds a chest hidden in the attic containing proof that she was adopted. The daughter of wealthy merchants in Seattle, she feels betrayed both by her real parents and by the ones who raised her.

Maggie desires a place where she belongs. But her mother’s constant criticism and reminders that she doesn't fit the mold of a young woman of their social standing have already created tension in their home. With the discovery of the family secret, all sense of her identity is lost.

When Maggie asks to visit her grandmother in Arkansas, her father agrees on the condition that she take her Aunt Georgia as a chaperone and his young partner, Charles Stanton, as protection on the journey. Will she discover who she really is and, more importantly, what truly matters most in life?

Readers, buy your copy of Maggie's Journey (McKenna's Daughters) today!


A Day in the Life of an Author

Yes, I write novels, and I’m multi-published, even award-winning, but that often takes a back seat to the here and now. I will give you a peek into my Mondays.

During the extremely hot summer we’ve had in Texas, I got up really early. My laundry is in the garage, and by midday, the heat is stifling. So I’m up early to separate the clothes and put in the first load. If I’m really tired, I set the timer and sit in the recliner and rest (snooze) while that load washes. At the ding, I’m off to the garage, where I set up two large fans and put the first load in the dryer, then start the second load. I always wash the loads with my clothes that need to be hung up from the dryer first.

After the second load is in, I go to the office and read email, answering what needs to be answered. Then I do my first set of physical therapy exercises while watching one of the local channels to see what’s happening where I live.

I finish those exercises in time to go to the garage to hang up the first load. By then, James has awakened. Since he’s now retired, he comes out to put the next load in while I’m hanging up the first one. That’s a great help in getting things done before I’m totally wiped out.

I cook us breakfast.

After that, I’m back in the office for a couple hours, stopping to hang up the second load when it is ready. At least James will completely finish the last two loads.

During all of this, I’m careful not to forget the heart medication and other vitamins and herbs I take in the morning. I’m working on my rewrite of book two in the McKenna’s Daughter series. Soon I will continue writing book three.

James and I eat a late lunch about 2:00 pm. And I work for the rest of the day until suppertime. Right now, we’re watching a lot of the Texas Ranger baseball games in the evening. But when it’s at a slow time, I’ll read part of a book.

Oh, the glamorous life of an author. Of course, some days we go to the movies as we did this week. We saw Seven Days in Utopia. A very good G-rated movie. And recently, we saw The Help.

And of course, by the time you read this, I’ll be just returning from the American Christian Fiction Writers national conference in St. Louis.

James and I are very active in our church and involved with our extended family, but this is a typical day in the life of an author.

So what do you do on a typical day in your life? It might be more glamorous than mine.

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Thank you, Lena, for sharing with us today.

Guest Question: So what do you do on a typical day in your life?

ENTRY RULES Readers, leave your email address (name at domainname dot com/net) along with your answer to the question for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of Christmas Love at Lake Tahoe. If you do not answer the question, and your email address isn't provided, you will not be entered.

This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Mishaps with Mom - Cereal Art & Tired Baby

This week is for those "helpful" older siblings who in their minds are doing what they can to alleviate Mom's burden, only they end up creating more work in the process.

Now, many of you here know I'm an author. And that means I have deadlines for completing books. My editors don't like it too much if I'm late. Thankfully, they allow quite a bit of time in between each deadline, but as we all know, life loves to get in the way of our best intentions. The same holds true for attempting to write a book on deadline, and even getting started early. I start out great and establish a somewhat decent routine each day. Then, a doctor's appointment, a sick kid, a teething kid, or a kid who won't sleep, interrupts that routine.

Sometimes the interruption is necessary. Sometimes, it's an imposition. And sometimes, it's downright funny...even though you need to scold the older sibling in the process.

That's what happened this week. My son was in his jumperoo, having a grand old time bouncing and playing with his toys surrounding him or hanging from the cloth bar above his head. It all seemed so peaceful, and the kids were in the playroom, playing nicely.

That should have been my first clue.

I'm in the middle of cleaning up supper when all of a sudden, I hear, "Oh no...Tori! No!" I shut off the water and rushed into the other room, almost colliding with my daughter running away from my husband. It took me a moment or two to figure out what happened. Then, I got a good look at my son. You can see it best in the picture to the right.

Yep. My daughter decided her little brother needed more to eat, so she grabbed the cereal bowl and fed him. Only she didn't get the cereal in his mouth. Instead, she painted with it all over his head and ears. I have to say, it isn't easy scolding and reprimanding one child for doing something she shouldn't be doing, when all you want to do is laugh at the comical sight. But laughing would only encourage her to do it again. So, we had to force stern faces when we spoke to her, then smile and snap pictures behind the wall, out of her view. Let's just say it's a good thing that night was bath night. Our son really needed it.

Oh, and this past weekend, I was at my desk working with my son sitting in my lap. He was playing with my arms or random paper he could reach. But after about 20 minutes, he grew very still. One moment he's content watching my type. The next, his head is down on my desk and he's fast asleep. I guess my schedule is wearing him out too. :)

Tune in next week for the next "Monday Mishap with Mom." See you then!

And you can always look at the labels at the bottom of the right column to find "monday mishaps with mom" and read up on any week you've missed. My goal is to encourage mothers who feel a bit frazzled, and to help brighten your day as you start off your week. You're not alone.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 ACFW Awards Gala - Winners List

This year, ACFW celebrated it's 10th annual national conference, and the awards banquet was just as spectacular as always. A star-studded evening, complete with corresponding graphics and music from the A/V folks running the show when a winner walked the stage.

And to recap, here is a list of all winners:

Mentor of the Year: Bonnie Calhoun
Agent of the Year: Rachelle Gardner
Editor of the Year: Andrea Doering
Lifetime Achievement Award: Tracie Peterson (also the keynote speaker at the conference)

Genesis Contest Winners:

Contemporary Fiction: Katy Pistole for Jubilee
Contemporary Romance: Mary Curry for War of Hearts
Historical Fiction: Johnnie Alexander Donley for Where Treasure Hides
Historical Romance: Sarah Ladd for Heiress of Winterwood
Mystery/Suspense/Thriller: Dianna T. Benson for Illusion of Safety
Romantic Suspense: Renee Ann Smith for The Children's Corner
Speculative Fiction: Matt Jones for Shield
Women's Fiction: Camille Eide for My Father's House
Young Adult: Nicole Quigley for Like Moonlight at Low Tide

Carol Awards:

Novella: A Trusting Heart by Carrie Turansky (Barbour - Rebecca Germany, Editor)
Short Contemporary: A Father for Zach By Irene Hannon (Love Inspired - Melissa Endlich, Editor)
Short Contemporary Suspense: Night Prey by Sharon Dunn (Love Inspired Suspense - Emily Rodmell, Editor)
Short Historical: Her Healing Ways by Lyn Cote (Love Inspired Historical - Tina James, Editor)
Young Adult: Anything But Normal by Melody Carlson (Revell - Lonnie Hull DuPont, Editor)
Long Contemporary: Never say Never by Lisa Wingate (Bethany House - Dave Long, Editor)
Long Contemporary Romance: Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman (Thomas Nelson - Natalie Hanemann, Editor)
Mystery: The Camera Never Lies by Elizabeth Goddard (Barbour - Rebecca Germany, Editor)
Romantic Suspense: The Silent Order by Melanie Dobson (Summerside Press - Rachel Meisel/Susan Downs/Ellen Tarver, Editors)
Speculative Fiction: Predator by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan - Sue Brower/Dave Lambert, Editors)
Long Historical: Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren (Summerside Press - Susan Downs, Editor)
Long Historical Romance: Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa Melanie Dobson (Summerside Press - Rachel Meisel/Connie Troyer, Editors
Speculative: K├Ânig’s Fire by Marc Schooley (Marcher Lord Press - Jeff Gerke/C.L. Dyck, Editor
Women's Fiction: Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett (Tyndale Publishers - Jan Stob/Lorie Popp, Editors)
Debut Author: Crossing Oceans  by Gina Holmes (Tyndale Publishers - Kathryn Olson, Editor)

Congratulations to all winners. It was an amazing event.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Welcome James L. Rubart and The Chair


James (Jim) L. Rubart is a husband, dad, author, and speaker—in that order. He’s the best-selling author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, backpacks, golfs, takes photos, and does the occasional sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his amazing wife and teenage sons and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at

by James L. Rubart
Published by B&H Fiction


What if a chair has survived from the time of Christ— not just any first century chair, but one Jesus crafted. And what if this chair has healing powers? If such an artifact were offered to you, would you believe it? Would you accept it? Because owning that chair not only opens up the chance for physical, emotional and relationship healing, it also throws wide the door to danger. Because inevitably others would seek the power of this supernatural object and stop at nothing to get it.

Readers, buy your copy of The Chair today!


Frequent Questions About This Insane Occupation

Being a novelist garners a fair amount of questions—many of which repeat. Often. Here are three, and my commentary on them:

"What's it like being the wife of a famous novelist?" (Directed to my wife.)

I understand why people ask it. They have a smile on their face when they do, in affect acknowledging my success, but this is somewhat of an unanswerable question.

There are three possible answers: "It's unbearable. His ego is now the size of Manhattan," "He's much nicer now than he was before," or "It's the same." The last answer is the honest answer, and the most boring.

The reality is the majority of the time I don't even think about the fact I've achieved a small bit of success in publishing. It still surprises me when I show up on a blog or a Web site or magazine.

The point isn't me anyway. If we've chosen to follow Jesus the point is making him famous, not me.

"What did you do before you became a novelist?"

Many people think once you start publishing novels you have to buy a fleet of dump trucks to haul all the money to your home. Nope. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but the money ain't quite that big. Two to three percent of novelists make a full-time living writing books. (When the average book sells 5,000 copies and most royalty rates are .80 cents per book it's easy to see why.) So the answer is, "the same thing I did before." Do I dream of writing full-time. Absolutely. I believe most novelists do. Check in with me in a year—or five. I'd love to tell you I'm one of the three percent.

"Your novel(s) would be so great as movies! When are they going to start making them?"

Since a fraction of a fraction of novels are made into movies, the blunt answer would be, "I have no idea, but the realistic answer is never," but that's seems pessimistic, so instead I thank the person (it does make me feel good when people say that) and talk about how cool it would be if one of my books make it to the big screen.

And I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy, so I believe it's going to happen. In fact I'm talking to a Hollywood Producer/Director right now, which begs the question, if it did happen, when would it come out? Most movies take about ten years from deal to screen, so I'm not holding my breath. But yes, it's still fun to dream about! (And yes, you can all be extras if it happens.)

* * * * *

Thank you, Jim, for sharing with us today.

Guest Question: What question do you like to ask novelists? Or what's the funniest answer a novelist has given you to one of your questions?

ENTRY RULES Readers, leave your email address (name at domainname dot com/net) along with your answer to the question for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of the book featured above. If you do not answer the question, and your email address isn't provided, you will not be entered.

This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Mishaps with Mom - Leave the Baby Alone!

This week is for those moms with kids who refuse to leave their younger siblings alone.

See that picture to the left? My daughter looks so peaceful, and her brother seems so content. But wait just 30 seconds after the picture is snapped, and she'll be squeezing him around the neck, grabbing him by his head, dragging him by his arms or legs across the floor, or just rolling him over and over on the floor, even sitting in front of him and pulling him up to a sitting position, then letting go so he falls back.

Every day, I have to tell her to get off his head and stop trying to pick him up by his head. And it's even worse when he's taking his naps. The afternoon nap isn't problematic, as they take that one at the same time. But the morning nap, if I don't keep my eye on her every second, she's down the stairs and into his room, climbing into his crib, dumping stuffed animals on his head, and waking him up.

That makes for a very cranky infant who just wants to be held, and since he won't go back to sleep after being awakened, it's a VERY long morning.

Oh, how I long for when this little guy can crawl and get mobile and start fighting back. Sure, I know that will mean being a referee to a greater degree, but when they can both do for themselves, those blocks of times when they entertain themselves will increase...I hope.

Would that I could watch my daughter during all of her waking moments, but that isn't possible. And I HAVE to work from home to supplement our income. But all of this is sapping my creativity for my writing, and it's making my clients suffer because I don't have enough blocks of time to do the design work necessary.

They say it takes a miracle to survive a 2-year-old, and I can see "they" are right. Of course, it will be a miracle if I *and* my infant son survive. Praise God we pretty much have our daytime living on one floor or I'm sure she'd be dumping him down the stairs as soon as I turned my back. It's enough to make a mom pull out her hair or scream, only I can't do either. (sigh)

Tune in next week for the next "Monday Mishap with Mom." See you then!

And you can always look at the labels at the bottom of the right column to find "monday mishaps with mom" and read up on any week you've missed. My goal is to encourage mothers who feel a bit frazzled, and to help brighten your day as you start off your week. You're not alone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welcome Doc Richard Mabry and Lethal Remedy


Richard L. Mabry, MD, is a retired physician and medical school professor who achieved worldwide recognition as a clinician, researcher and teacher before turning his talents to non-medical writing after his retirement.

Richard’s book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, has ministered to multiple thousands of grieving individuals. His meditations and short pieces have appeared in The Upper Room, In Touch, and other periodicals.

He is the author of three published novels of medical suspense. One of them, Medical Error, is a finalist for this year’s Carol Award of the American Christian Fiction Writers. His fourth novel, Lethal Remedy, is scheduled for publication in October.

Richard and his wife live in North Texas, where, when he’s not writing or trying to improve his golf game, he tries to be the world’s best grandfather. His website is

by Richard (Doc) Mabry
Published by Abingdon Press


This “miracle drug could kill more than bacteria.

Dr. Sara Miles’ patient is on the threshold of death from an overwhelming, highly resistant infection with Staphylococcus luciferus, known to doctors as “the killer.” Only an experimental antibiotic, developed and administered by Sara’s ex-husband, Dr. Jack Ingersoll, can save the girl's life.

Dr. John Ramsey is seeking to put his life together after the death of his wife by joining the medical school faculty. But his decision could prove to be costly, even fatal. Potentially lethal late effects from the “wonder drug” send Sara and her colleague, Dr. Rip Pearson, on a hunt for hidden critical data that will let them reverse the changes before it’s too late. What is the missing puzzle piece? And who is hiding it?

Readers, buy your copy of Lethal Remedy today!



I’ve been a published author long enough now to realize that people are more curious about the writing life than I ever thought possible. I’m asked these questions when I meet with book clubs, when I do signings, at parties, at church, even at family gatherings. So I thought it might be fun to share a few with you, along with my answers.

I want to write a book. How do I go about it? What I want to say is, “Do you realize you’re asking me to distill what took me four years to learn into a few sentences?” But I don’t. Never antagonize a potential reader, the little voice inside me says. Instead, I tell them something like this:

-Learn the craft. Attend a writer’s conference. Study a half dozen of the most basic books. Read the work of others, and learn from what they do (and don’t do).

-Practice the craft. Write, get someone knowledgeable to critique your work, revise, write some more. Lather, rinse, repeat.

-Mainly you get your work in front of editors via an agent. Get an agent. Identify the ones you want to represent you, learn what they want in a query, revise your query letter until it shines like gold and cuts like a diamond, and be prepared to wait…and be rejected.

I’m thinking of self-publication. With e-books, it seems so easy. Like most things that seem easy, it isn’t. Either of these routes begins with hiring a professional editor to polish your work and put it into the proper format. Then you’ll want a professional to do the cover graphics. After that, you’ll need to work very hard to market your book—twice as hard as if it were conventionally published, because, even though authors grouse about how little their publisher does to market their work, it’s still nice not to be alone in the efforts.

Can you make money as a writer? You can if your name is James Patterson (who will gross an estimated $100 million this year) or Stephen King. Otherwise, don’t quit your day job.

But don’t writers get paid for books? A writer gets an advance against royalties for each book under contract. This is usually paid in increments, divided into several payments (varies with the publisher). This isn’t money for free, it’s an advance on royalties, and if your book doesn’t “earn out,” that’s all you’ll get. The author doesn’t have to repay any royalty not earned out, but by the same token they don’t get any more money for it. And all that assumes a contract in the first place.

Once you’re published, you don’t have problems getting a contract for other books. Right? Wrong. Oh, so wrong. And whereas it’s tough for an unpublished writer to get a contract, sometimes it’s even tougher if you’ve had one or more books published and they don’t sell well. You think writers hate the term “platform?” Even more, we hate poor sales numbers. The other factor to keep an established author from getting a contract is that what you write might no longer be in fashion. You might be able to avoid that if you pitch an Amish vampire missionary nurse romance.

Now, imagine you’re at a dinner, seated next to your favorite author. Which author would that be, and what question would you ask him/her?

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Thank you, Doc, for sharing with us today.

Guest Question: Imagine you’re at a dinner, seated next to your favorite author. Which author would that be, and what question would you ask him/her?

ENTRY RULES Readers, leave your email address (name at domainname dot com/net) along with your answer to the question for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of any one of Doc's 4 novels (Code Blue, Medical Error, Diagnosis Death or Lethal Remedy.). If you do not answer the question, and your email address isn't provided, you will not be entered.

This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Welcome Pam Hillman and Stealing Jake


PAM HILLMAN is an award-winning author who writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her debut book, Stealing Jake, won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest and was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family.

Pam on the web:
My website:
My personal blog:
My group blog:

by Pam Hillman
Published by Tyndale House


When Livy O'Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she's helping to run an orphanage. Now she'll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff's deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy--literally--while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town--as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off--Jake doesn't have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can't seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn't willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

Interwoven throughout is a group of street kids arrested in Chicago and sold as child labor. Leading this band of ragamuffins is young Luke, a scared, determined orphan intent on rescuing his little brother at any cost.

Readers, buy your copy of Stealing Jake today!


Write Smarter, Not Harder

As a teenager, I made up stories. I had my favorite about a girl name Sylvia. Every night when I went to bed, I started at the beginning and let the scenes play out in my head. All these years later, I could probably write the opening scenes of that story easily. But there was one problem….I always fell asleep…oh…around chapter three or so.

And that’s what my readers will do if I don’t plan ahead. (Okay, I know there are plotters and pantsters. Plotters are the ones who plan everything out ahead of time, and pantsters write “by the seat of their pants”. There is no right way or wrong way. I’ve done it both ways and am still not sure what my natural inclination is. But I have found that plotting seems to work better with my limited writing time.)

When I do have an hour or two to write, I’ve found that I need to have a very detailed plot in place so I can get started quickly. I thought I was doing pretty good, but then I discovered that either I had mapped out the external thread of the story or the internal for some scenes, but hadn’t fully developed both areas.

By internal and external threads, I mean, "What needs to happen in this scene?" Sometimes my paragraph for a scene might be two or three sentences that focus on the internal. For other scenes they might focus on the when I start to write the scene, I have to think about the one I didn't flesh out. And I discovered I really needed that information ahead of time. I can get discouraged and/or bogged down if it takes thirty minutes to work out the logistics of a scene and I only have an hour to write.

For instance, let’s say I have a scene ¾ of the way through the book where the hero finds out that the heroine is a crook and a swindler. Sounds pretty good, huh? So I sit down to write my scene, and I’m at a loss. What are the “stage props”? Where are they? Whose POV is the scene in? Is it cold, hot, raining? Is it day or night? Are there secondary characters in the scene?

In a plot driven scene, the external "stage props" are key, so I would develop that first, then develop the internal to go with in. But in the above scene, the internal thread is what will move the story forward (or rather in this case, drive a wedge between the hero & heroine). I could just as easily set the scene in a bank, a restaurant, or in a hotel lobby....or anywhere, I guess. What I'm saying is that their physical location wasn't as important in this scene as what they're thinking and saying. I would go so far to say that in a character driven book, the backbone of most scenes will be the internal thread, and in an action adventure, the external thread the most critical. Not that the other isn’t important, but one has to lead.

So, I’m making a concerted effort to plot more deeply, to know where my scenes are going ahead of time, internally and externally. Hopefully, I’ll be able to churn out twice as many words when I do have time to write.

I’d love to hear other people’s methods for writing smarter...not harder!

* * * * *

Thank you, Pam, for sharing with us today.

Guest Question: If you write in any way, what are some tips you employ for writing smarter...not harder? If you don't write, what tips do you have for *working* smarter, not harder, in order to accomplish your goals?

GIVEAWAY In lieu of a free book, Pam is instead giving away a FREE KINDLE. Check out the details here:

This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Welcome Erica Vetsch and A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas


ERICA VETSCH is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and reading, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical fiction set in the American West. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two terrific teens, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

Facebook Page:

by Erica Vetsch
Published by Barbour


Even as a female businesswoman in a world that expects men to be in charge, photographer Addie Reid believes she can succeed in Dodge City, Kansas—if she can outwit a grasping banker and keep her own past hidden. Love is the last thing Addie thinks she needs, but Deputy Miles Carr, a man with his own secrets, begins to change her mind until a smooth gambler who knows them both arrives in Dodge. Will revealed secrets disrupt the attraction between Addie and Miles and jettison the career opportunities of both Addie and Miles?

Readers, buy your copy of A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas today!


My debut trade-length novel, A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas, takes place in my home state in the ‘The Wickedest City in the West’ during the height of the cattle-drive era. As a Kansas native, I was familiar with the basics of Kansas history and its cow towns, but I knew I would need to delve deeper into the factual accounts of life in Dodge City if I was to portray a setting more realistic but hopefully as entertaining as Gunsmoke. I found the research fascinating, and I hope I’ve given readers a real taste of the sights, sounds, and action of Dodge.

Kansas cow towns played a key role in the cattle drive era, being the terminus of those longs treks north. Longhorn cattle from Texas were rounded up, branded, and driven in massive herds into Kansas to the railroad for the trip to the meat-packing plants of Chicago. Between the years of 1866 and 1886 an estimated 20 million longhorns walked from Texas to Kansas, first to Abilene, then Ellsworth, Newton, Wichita, Caldwell, and finally to Dodge City.

The expansion of the railroad westward across Kansas accounted for some of the changing destinations for the cattle herds, but settlers, lawmen, and the Kansas legislature accounted for the main reasons that Dodge City became the Queen of the Cattle Towns. The state legislature moved the cattle drives further and further west in the state, claiming that Tick Fever brought up by Texas cattle were infecting the livestock of the farmers and settlers living in Kansas. In reality, as the towns of Abilene and Ellsworth and Wichita became more civilized, the residents were less and less willing to put up with the vice and violence that accompanied the Texas cowboys’ arrival each summer.

Eventually, Dodge City, in the far southwest corner of Kansas, became the last place cattle and cowboys were welcome, and boy howdy, did Dodge roll out the red carpet for those Texas wranglers. The law in Dodge was instructed by the city leaders to go easy on the cowboys, allowing them pretty much a free rein in the town as long as no citizens were endangered. This wide-open reception caused saloons, dance halls, and ‘houses of negotiable affection’ to spring up all along Front Street.

In the midst of all this vice, another faction in town comprised of lawyers, doctors, and the clergy, lobbied for stricter enforcement of laws and putting the safety of the citizens ahead of the fleecing of the cowboys. This led to tensions in the town and among the law enforcement officers, most of whom had invested in saloons and dance halls in Dodge City.

I tried to weave this underlying tension into the story, forcing my characters to choose sides in the debate. I had a great deal of fun researching Dodge City and her more famous residents (some of whom make an appearance in the book,) and I hope you’ll catch a glimpse of that when you read A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas.

As a bonus, here’s a little recipe I found for some real chuck wagon food. This dish was served as a treat for the cowboys to break up the monotony of a steady diet of beef and beans.

3 cups water
1 cups sugar
2 pinches cinnamon or nutmeg
1 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons of flour

First, mix water and vinegar and bring to a boil. Mix sugar and flour together and stir into the boiling liquid until thoroughly dissolved. Cook for 15 mins, then add the spice. Mix up a batch of biscuit dough and drop by spoonsful into the simmering liquid. Serve hot.

* * * * *

Thank you, Erica, for sharing with us today.

Guest Question: Most folks know of Dodge City only through the TV show Gunsmoke, so my question for you is: Did you watch Gunsmoke growing up, and did you have a favorite character? If not, another western, another character? I’ll go first and say, Yes, I did watch Gunsmoke, and my favorite character was Festus’s mule Ruth. :)

ENTRY RULES Readers, leave your email address (name at domainname dot com/net) along with your answer to the question for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of the book above. If you do not answer the question, and your email address isn't provided, you will not be entered.

This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Monday Mishaps with Mom - Potty Training

This week is for those moms with kids who refuse to go potty or cause trouble with the whole ordeal.

I tell you, I'm at my wit's end with this mess. We have been attempting to potty train our daughter for nearly a year now. She showed her first signs at 17 months and even successfully went potty (#1 and #2) several times during that first month. Then, around 19 months, she regressed. Came back to trying it again around 21 months and seemed to be well on her way toward success when her little brother was born.

Wanting the attention we were giving her baby brother by changing his diaper, she reverted to making messes in her pull-ups and refusing to go in the potty. She even climbed up onto his changing table and asked to be changed there.

We put a stop to that right away, and for the past month, we've tried her in big-girl panties, using pull-ups only at night and naptime. She's 2 years and 5 months old.

Have to admit, she's had some fantastic days, and we give her big rewards as well as praise when that happens. But for the most part, she adamantly refuses to go in the potty. Instead, she will tell us she doesn't have to go, then 5 minutes later, stand there and pee in her pants or on the floor. There are times when she takes off her panties and pees where she's sitting or standing.

Nothing seems to work. We've tried rewards with candy, stickers, little trinkets, clapping and tons of praise or hugs and celebrating, and even singing a silly song I made up for success. We've read books, watched videos, and talked about it. She's been put in time out, smacked once or twice on a bare bottom, scolded, and even had the trinkets/stickers taken away when she's had accidents. I've tried getting her to clean up her own mess, but she actually has fun taking the towels and patting the puddles. She thinks it's a game. And she especially loves the Spot Shot or carpet foam cleaner, so I don't do that when she's looking anymore.

This past week, she even started taking off her panties and hiding them from me, so I wouldn't see the evidence. And she's gone in more out-of-the-way locations, like right up against the couch or chair, or over by the wall in the play room. When I see she's without panties, I ask her where she went and what she did with her panties. She then walks right to where she hid them and points. Then, I go on a scouting mission to find the wet spot.

It was easier to train our dog than it's been to train our daughter!

She can say the words, get her potty seat and stool all by herself, and even turn on the light in the bathroom.

Praise God she doesn't mess her pants with a BM anymore. If I had to clean THAT up, I'd *really* be ready for the insane asylum.

Would that I could watch her during all of her waking moments, but that isn't possible with an infant who needs more of my attention. And I HAVE to work from home to supplement our income. But all of this is sapping my creativity for my writing, and it's making my clients suffer because I don't have enough blocks of time to do the design work necessary.

Of course, family comes first, so I make sure to spend a lot of quality time with my daughter, and I even engage her when playing with her brother. We read, we play toys and puzzles, we dance, and we run around. In fact, she probably gets more of my attention than her brother. So,I know this isn't an attention-getter.

I truly am out of ideas. Do YOU have any suggestions? In hindsight and further down the road, this will make for humorous stories. But for now, it's merely aggravating, exhausting, frustrating, and obvious defiance.

How about you? What potty-training struggles did you or someone you know have? And what worked for you? I'm open to just about anything at this point.

Tune in next week for the next "Monday Mishap with Mom." See you then!

And you can always look at the labels at the bottom of the right column to find "monday mishaps with mom" and read up on any week you've missed. My goal is to encourage mothers who feel a bit frazzled, and to help brighten your day as you start off your week. You're not alone.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Books for Sale! Fantastic Fiction at Bargain Prices

I shared here on this blog about a month ago about the Heartsong Presents book club closing at the end of this year. This has meant a big loss of expected income for me and our family between now and Christmas.

We're also enrolled in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University right now, so we can attack our debt and get out from under this burden. Our goal is 3-5 years, and we'll be done with this. Sooner, if possible. And then, we can pass on a debt-free legacy to our two children. Show them the freedom of living financially responsible and without worry of debt.

One way to start doing that is to sell things. So, we've started with books. And since we'd love to see them go to a good home, we're promoting the list of items to those who read Christian fiction.

If you'd like to see the list, you can view it here. (

All purchases will help us pay off our debt faster. Thank you in advance.

If you purchase more than 1 book, we'll refund part of your shipping, since we can save by packaging books together.

Please forward this post or the link to anyone you know who might be interested in buying some brand new books at a great price!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

September New Releases from ACFW

September brings a feast for fiction fans. Survey this buffet and choose what tempts you. There are a number of Christmas-themed novella collections which are always popular for gifting and getting yourself into the spirit. They might even help cool you down from this late summer heat! Enjoy!

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW FictionFinder website.

A Biltmore Christmas by Diane Ashley and Rhonda Gibson -- A Historical Romance from Barbour; Explore the luxuries of America’s largest home through the eyes of the fictional Bradford sisters

A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas by Erica Vetsch -- A Romance from Barbour. Hoping to leave the shadows of her shady yesteryears behind, Adeline Reid is focusing on her photography career. But when her ex-boyfriend’s compatriot in crime shows up in Dodge City her entire past is threatened by exposure.

A Harvest of Hearts by Laura V. Hilton -- Shanna Stoltzfus thought nothing could make her return home to her Amish family. She was wrong. But can anything make her give up her dreams and stay?

A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman -- A Historical Romance from Revell. Her heart is tied to a youthful vow . . . but can true love set it free?

A Log Cabin Christmas Collection by Margaret Brownley, Wanda Brunstetter, Jane Kirkpatrick, Kelly Eileen Hake, Liz Johnson, Liz Tolsma, Michelle Ule, Debra Ullrick, and Erica Vetsch-- General Fiction Historical from Revell. In a time of peril, can they find the courage to confront their fears and embrace a love that lasts?

A Marriage for Meghan by Mary Ellis -- Romance from Harvest House; An engaging story of one girl’s quest for independence and true love as social prejudice tests a community’s faith in a simpler world.

A Quaker Christmas by Laura Lee Bliss, Rachael Phillips Ramona Cecil, and Claire Sanders -- Romance from Barbour. Christmas is a simple matter among the Quakers of the historic Ohio River Valley, but can it be a a special time to welcome love into four households?

A Whisper of Peace by Kim Vogel Sawyer -- Historical Romance from Bethany House. Will Clay Selby be forced to choose between his desire to minister to the natives and the quiet nudging of his heart to spend his life with a quiet, independent Indian woman who is not a part of the tribe?

Ashes to Honor by Loree Lough -- General Fiction from Abingdon. If only he'd answered that last call from the World Trade Center....

Belonging; Where the Heart Lives Series by Robin Lee Hatcher -- Historical Romance from Zondervan; Can two bitter pasts make one sweet future?.

Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis-- Historical General Fiction from Moody Publishers; A girl has become a woman while in captivity, and a stagecoach driver longs to take her to the home she barely remembers.

Christmas at Barncastle Inn by Lynette Sowell, Susan Page Davis, Darlene Franklin, and Janelle Mowery -- Romance from Barbour; Each Christmas the Barncastle family transforms its sprawling Victorian bed and breakfast into a fantasy world through time. Will its guests also discover that forgiveness is timeless?

Deadly Pursuit by Irene Hannon-- Thriller/Suspense from Revell; A woman who protects children. An ex-Navy SEAL turned police detective. A stalker with deadly intent.

Deep Cover by Sandra Orchard-- Romance from Love Inspired; Undercover Cops: Fighting for justice puts their lives--and hearts--on the line.

Dry As Rain by Gina Holmes-- General Fiction from Tyndale; Undercover Cops: Behind every broken vow lies a broken heart. A richly engaging story of betrayal and redemption, Dry as Rain illuminates with striking emotional intensity the surprising truth of what it means to forgive.

Falling to Pieces; A Quilt Shop Murder by Vanetta Chapman-- A Cozy Mystery from Zondervan; Not your usual Amish buggy ride!

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach-- Speculative Fiction from Splashdown Books; Angel doesn’t remember her magical heritage…but it remembers her.

From This Day Forward; American Tapestries by Margaret Daley-- Historical Romance from Summerside Press; Following the War of 1812, an Englishwoman, stranded in South Carolina, pregnant and recently widowed, struggles to make a life for herself. Can a disenchanted American physician heal her wounded heart?

Hailee by Penny Zeller-- Historical Romance from Whitaker House; Can this unlikely pair come to terms with their pasts and face the future together?

Hidden in the Everglades by Margaret Daley-- A Thriller/Suspense from Love Inspired; Michael Hunt needs Kyra Morgan's help to keep his sister safe. It will take everything they have to escape the Everglades alive.

Love Finds You on Christmas Morning by Debby Mayne and Trish Perry -- Romance from Summerside Press; Two women receive marriage proposals in the same house— 85 years apart. Love finds a home on Christmas morning in two heartwarming holiday stories.

Love Finds You in Sundance, Wyoming by Miralee Ferrell-- Romance from Summerside Press; While war rages in Europe, Rebekah Hendricks dreams of life far beyond the family farm in Oklahoma. And when a telegram arrives in October of 1918, she believes God has provided her way of escape.

Naomi’s Gift-An Amish Christmas Story by Amy Clipston-- Romance from Zondervan; Take a trip to Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, where you'll meet the women of the Kauffman Amish Bakery in Lancaster County.

Pirate of My Heart by Jamie Carie-- Historical Fiction from B and H Publishing; Forced to flee the only home she's ever known, Lady Kendra Townsend risks everything for a chance at finding true love in the wilds of a new America.

Remembering Christmas: A Novel by Dan Walsh-- General Fiction from Revell; Can one Christmas change a person's life forever?

Shadowed in Silk by Christine Lindsay-- Historical Romance from Whitefire Publishing; Neglected by family, Abby travels to India after WWI with her small son, only to be abandoned by her husband, a cruel stranger, and to fall in love with a man who can never return her love without offending God.

Surrender the Dawn by Mary Lu Tyndall-- Historical Romance from Barbour; You’ll be swept away in this seafaring romance between a plucky damsel-in-distress and a nefarious rake who’s selling out his country amid the War of 1812.

The Aristocrat’s Lady by Mary Moore -- Historical from Love Inspired; She was resigned to a life without love-until she met him...

The Christmas Belles of Georgia by Debra Ullrick, Jeanie Smith Cash, Rose Allen McCauley, and Jeri Odell -- Romance from Barbour; They were sisters once—identical quadruplets—given up for adoption at birth. Now each receives a letter advising her to claim her inheritance and the family she never knew. . .at Christmas