The Story Behind My Blog's Title

The Story Behind My Blog's Title
Why is my blog named "My Father's Oldsmobile"? Click on the car and find out.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Author Interview: PI Barrington

What many of you may not know is that the Desert Breeze group is like a big family. We're constantly chatting it up and supporting each other through our authors network online. So I'm always delighted when I get to host another DB author on my blog. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to P.I. Barrington.

Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

Let’s see, where can I start? When I saw the Beatles for the first time on Ed Sullivan (yes, I am THAT old, lol!) I was about seven and I decided right then and there that I would meet Paul McCartney when I grew up (but not as a fan). That’s exactly what I did—I directed all my energy toward working in the entertainment—actually the music--industry and tried like heck to stay away from writing! Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, my first job was as a newspaper reporter! After that I worked in radio (air talent) and at record labels. When I finally left the industry, my family nagged me to return to writing. I submitted a few short stories and they got published. By the time I was confident (and experienced) enough to submit a novel, Desert Breeze had just opened its doors and put out the submission call. I responded and that led to Future Imperfect.

When did you first become interested in writing?

Like most other authors, since I could string letters together to make a word. It was something I just took for granted, which was incredibly stupid. Once I learned to read, that was it. It was like an absorption thing, the more I read the more I wrote, mainly just to amuse myself. I never really thought of it as a profession; it was just for fun, just something to satisfy the urge to put words on paper. I thought my true calling was music and that was all I ever cared about. It’s still a pretty big part of my life but once you see the inside, you look at it differently, not necessarily bad, but differently. Now I just concentrate on enjoying it.

Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?

As I said, I ran away from it. But it just kept coming back no matter what! In college, I was the Editor of school newspaper; I was hired by my local newspaper; and even when I went into radio I started as the News Director! Ai yi yi! One of the most idiotic things I ever did (and I’ve done a lot) was when an author I’d just done a feature story on offered to recommend me to her publisher (a BIGGIE) should I ever want to submit a novel! I shrugged it off, thinking “I don’t want to be a writer! I want to work in music!” Can you imagine the stupidity? I kick myself every time I think of it! I’ve been very blessed that I’ve been allowed to return and still be accepted as a writer after all this time and all my struggling against it.

How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?

Usually I have a general idea and many times the last line or scene and go back and work the story toward it but many times the story will come about because I have several components that happen to fit together. What I’m talking about is characters or images of characters that I have personalities for or a location, situation, or even a theme. I’ve actually had a couple of stories that really did come together because I had the parts for them, lol! As for research, it’s a weird thing. I’ll have an element in a story that I think I’ll need to delve into and verify or learn about and I’ll go into deep research. The bad thing is, once I’ve done all the exhaustive study, the story ends up barely needing that element at all! So what I’ve learned to do is write the story and if I need the research to go back and do it but that’s rare too.

I'm currently going through this. I had myself all freaked out over the research. I hate not having answers, but I'm discovering that it's not as overwhelming as I thought.

Now, Crucifying Angel has received some really fantastic reviews. Tell us about your latest release?

I’m super excited about this book! Its Book Two Future Imperfect: Miraculous Deception and it picks up where (Book One) Crucifying Angel left off. There’s more intrigue and betrayal in this book and I hope people will like it and be surprised by a few things!

What inspired you to write this story?

Since it’s the second book in the trilogy, it was easy to pick up the story for continuation. But I wanted it to be a little different than the sped up pace of Book One. I think I subconsciously set up a few things in Crucifying Angel that enabled surprises that happen in Miraculous Deception. I did know that I wanted to twist things up a little and while it’s not breakneck speed, I’m happy with the interaction between characters aside from the two main characters. Of course, there are a few things that surprised even me!

That's the fun part! It's a great feeling too when things fit together in a clever way. Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them, and what endears them to you?

Payce and Gavin, most especially Payce, evolved from a picture I’d found and the way it was shot, it looked like her to me. I’d already had the photo but did not develop a character for it until Future Imperfect came about and I knew it was her. I like Payce because she’s not a super hero type. She’s short and not at all the tall athletic type. Gavin, well, I still can’t get a complete lock on him visually. But he’s tall, dark and British and I love the fact that he’s out of his element in Las Vegas, especially weather wise and also that he gets himself into situations that he can’t explain himself out of easily. The other characters are elemental to the story as well, Georgene Channing, the Coroner-cum- hospital Medical Director, is kind of the chorus (if you know Greek plays, lol!) in that she links them all together and gives information that moves the story along.
Nick is obviously the rival for Payce’s affections. I wanted to hate Nick, but I kinda’ like his smart*ss personality. I have pictures of them all and of course I cast them with actors as well.

Really interesting! What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?

If I can entertain people for a while, get them out of their daily stress and show them a good time, I’ll be happy. My dream is that they’ll remember my books fondly and maybe a line or two will stick in their heads that was funny or impressed them in some small way. I’ve done that with my favorite authors. Long term? I’d be happy if I could be the casting agent if any of my books were optioned successfully to the film stage. I used to want to direct; now I just want to cast my books.

I know what you mean. My niece posted a line from my book as her facebook status once. That was cool! Any ideas for future projects?

Um, yeah I have several that I’m working on in various stages of development. But I’m very, very superstitious and don’t like to talk about projects before they happen. That’s a hangover from my Hollywood days.

Makes sense. Okay, time for trivia. What's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? Also, any other hobbies?

I’m a comedy freak. Airplane, Naked Gun, Scary Movie(s) anything by the Wayans, Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Laurel & Hardy! And I absolutely adore old black and white movies from the 1920’s to 1950’s. I love the clothing women wore back then. They knew how to dress women (and men in tuxedos—I faint) back then in my opinion though I do love Lady Gaga’s stuff too! I’m also a sucker for Gone with the Wind.
My favorite food of all time is Thai. I love it so much I learned to cook it! I’m pretty good at it too! Second is Mexican.
My favorite place to vacation? Well, I love Britain—just amazing. I love New England, that’s my favorite place to go. If I could only stand the cold, I’d be living there right now. We vacationed there for a decade, pretty much the nineties. We always visit in the fall, immediately after Labor Day when everyone else has gone home from their vacation. Something about it calls to me and it really is the only other place outside of California that feels like home.
Hobbies? Well, I’m a gardening fanatic indoors and out. I dabble in art whenever my sister bugs me to make something for her—currently she wants me to draw freehand on a shirt and then embroider it—I do that by hand but it’s not really a hobby. Music is still my life and I keep up with it, who are the current artists, who’s upcoming, I love all styles of music from classical to rap (Tupac!) and when I have extra time (right) I will concentrate on listening to music. I’ll never stop loving music. I can’t.

Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?

Any of the Desert Breeze authors and I mean that. Every one of them is a high caliber writer. And what’s best is that there are so many genre’ to choose from; it’s a well rounded roster as well as a talented one.
It’s hard to recommend any particular author, DBP or not because peoples’ tastes are so different and now there are additional and sometimes doubled up genre’. Paranormal historical is an example of that. Also, my personal tastes may not be everyone’s. I have not read On Writing by Stephen King, though people talk highly about it, but that’s King for you. I do recommend him to any contemporary authors since he’s the true maestro of that genre’ whether you read his horror or not. Yeah, I guess Stephen King would be my recommendation.
Thanks so much Shawna!

You're welcome P.I. just so happens that I have "On Writing" on my Kindle. It's a great read. Some of the personal stories about when Stephen was growing up are just classic. The poison ivey one, and the super magnet -- if you've read the book you know what I'm referring to. Hilarious! Well, now anyway. I doubt they were too funny at the time.

For more about P.I. Barrington and her books:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Author Interview: Linda S. Clare

I'd like to welcome Linda S. Clare to my blog today. Linda's new book, The Fence My Father Built, has outsold all other Abingdon (the book's publisher) titles on paid Kindle downloads. (I got a copy) So congratulations to Linda! Now let's hear about you and your book.

For starters, would you please tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in the desert of Arizona, but secretly loved the lush green of the British Isles. I read every English author I could find—even did my senior class project on John Donne. Now I live in the lush green of Oregon (which is similar in climate to UK, they tell me) and I write about life in the desert of Central Oregon. Along the way, I’ve had a career as a public school art teacher, directed a preschool and operated a daycare from my home. Oh, and don’t forget the four children, including twins, a patient husband and too many cats, dogs, hamsters, mice and lizards to remember.

You're an animal lover like me, I see. When did you first become interested in writing?

Since I was a sickly kid who had to miss a lot of school, I amused myself by one-handedly typing out (I am a polio survivor who can use only one arm) stories on a huge black Underwood typewriter given to me by a great-aunt. Mom and my teachers encouraged me by submitting some of the stuff to children’s magazines. I didn’t publish until I was 16, though—I sold a poem to a national publication and got three dollars for it.

That's really inspiring! Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?

After that first sale, I didn’t get so lucky again for a long time. You know that 10,000 hours of practice we hear about? I’ve done mine. After high school, where I was an editor of the newspaper, I stopped writing for years, too busy teaching and too sensitive to critical college professors. Then, when my twins were about 5 years old, I started the daycare because child care was too expensive to pay on 4 kids. I had up to 8 young ‘uns, and I’d get them all down for a 90 minute midday rest in the living room, zip around the corner to the kitchen and type standing up. By now, I had an electric Royal typewriter, which I set upon my stove top. I stood up because it helped me peek around the corner in case a tot was stripped naked and running around. Which happened frequently. Fast forward several years and I finally published nonfiction books with some friends. Then, finally in 2009, my first novel, The Fence My Father Built, was published by Abingdon Press. Whew. My wonderful editor, Barbara Scott believed in my story, and I’d finally learned enough to write with skill. I am a perfect example of how the three Ps: Practice, Patience and Persistence pay off. Or maybe I should call one of the ps Prayer.

Lol! Or just make it four P's. That'll work. How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?

I’m pretty much a seat-of-pants writer, although I know the general arc of the story. I often begin with a question. What would happen if character A had this problem and wanted X? Sometimes I stumble upon a story by thinking about someone I’ve observed and wondering how they got that way. Kind of a reverse plot.

People are interesting though, so you have to wonder. Tell us about your latest release?

The Fence My Father Built was released in October 2009. It’s about Muri Pond, who’s always longed to know her biological father. But she’s too late—Joseph Pond, a half Nez Perce Indian, has died and left her property in the high desert of Central Oregon. She’s shocked to find that’s a ramshackle trailer surrounded by a fence made out of old oven doors. Since Muri has lost her librarian’s job and her husband has left her, she must rely on her father’s sister, Aunt Lutie and her dad’s journal to find out who he was and why their conniving neighbor is trying to take over. With help from Aunt Lutie and the Red Rock Tabernacle Ladies, Muri rediscovers the faith her alcoholic father somehow never abandoned. Although it’s been out awhile, they tell me it’s doing incredibly well for an old title. I recently had a free Kindle promotion on Amazon and it resulted in more than 20,000 downloads. I got to be number one on Amazon, which was fun.

That's a lot of downloads! I was one of them. I feel a little guilty and think maybe I should send you a few bucks.

I have to say, word of mouth can be really powerful promotion, which is the idea behind the free Kindle downloads. But it also puts the book in the "hands" of people who may not normally read the genre, and sometimes this can result in an onslaught of negative reviews. The Kindle group are voracious readers and can be harsh critics, but I noticed that The Fence My Father Built is bringing in some great reviews from this crowd. Congratulations on that too.

What inspired you to write this story?

I was adopted by a step father early in life, but never stopped trying to find out who my bio dad was. When my adoptive father passed away, I felt free to pursue this longing. Like Muri, I just had to know. Unlike Muri, my bio dad is alive and lives in Arizona. But bio dad is also part Cherokee, which I only learned when I located him in midlife. It feels good to know my roots. Sure, there are things I wish I didn’t know, but I could never stop looking.

Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them , and what endears them to you?

Teenaged Nova, Muri’s daughter, is based upon a girl my eldest son once dated. She died tragically of a drug overdose, but she was smart, funny and prone to having multi-colored hair, just like my character. Aunt Lutie’s appearance is based upon a neighbor of mine, but her personality is similar to my adoptive grandmother Gypsy, a devout Southern Baptist. Muri is a librarian because I come from a family of educators, and my aunt retired as head librarian of a large Phoenix-area school district. I take the things I love (or not) about people and I strongly believe in writing composite characters. If you lift your characters too much from life, they tend to limit what you can write. What “really happened” pins you down.

Plus it might come back to haunt you if someone figures out one of the characters is based on them, and they don't like how they're portrayed. That's not to imply any malicious intent. Everyone has flaws, but we'd rather not read about them. Though, it's funny, because our flaws are often the very thing that endears us to others, and them to us. It helps us to relate. Even more-so to characters in a story, because no one's perfect and reading about the things that make us human is comforting -- let's us know our struggles are normal, and not beyond God's Grace.

Sorry, I went off on a mild tangent there. Back to you. What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?

(Muffled laughter) I want to write a bridge, a story bridge that connects me to you the reader. If you set foot on this bridge of story, I will try my best to meet you more than halfway. I hope readers who cross this bridge will see the love of God in every step.

My long-term goals are always about the next book, the next challenge. Right now I have finished an edgy novel called Hiding From Floyd. It’s edgy because it deals with grief after the accidental death of a child. It’s about the strange younger brother who survived but who refuses to speak about his possible part in the tragedy. It’s about how we grieve, how we heal, how God can redeem even awful things like losing a child.

Wow! That's a tough topic. Any ideas for future projects?

I’m about a third through an historical “western” that’s set in the 1880s. Right now it’s called From Where the Sun Now Stands, and it’s about a young woman, Dinah Clark, who is sent to the Presbyterian Mission to the Nez Perce Indians in Idaho. There, Dinah meets the colorful McBeth sisters, real life missionaries who bicker over everything and yet have hearts for the souls of the “heathen.” Dinah has a penchant for falling in love with the wrong man. This is a love story about survival, redemption and listening to God’s still small voice.

Now for some fun stuff. What's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? And also, any interesting hobbies to share?

My favorite movie(s) are kind of silly: I love Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, The Goonies, and Far and Away. More recently I really liked Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino and Avatar. I love Mexican food and vanilla wafers (not at the same time!) and for a vacation it has to be the ocean, especially the Southern California coast and Baja. My husband was born and raised in San Diego. Hobbies include reading (natch!) gardening and walking, preferably the beach.

Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?

I recommend anything by Tom Davis, and I simply loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett. My only other recommendation in general is if you want to write, read everything you can and write as often and as much as you can. Don’t try to write well. Just “junk it through” as the famous Ken Kesey once said, and go back later and fix it.

I post writing tips on my blog, Linda Clare’s Writing Tips, ( and I’m happy to answer any writing questions you may have. Or you may contact me on Facebook, Twitter (@Lindasclare) or by email: Thanks, Shawna, for having me on.

You're most welcome Linda. Love to have you back in the future!

BIOGRAPHY: Linda S. Clare grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and taught art as well as elementary school in public and private schools. She has published four books, including her debut novel The Fence My Father Built (Abingdon Press 2099). She has won several fiction awards, teaches college writing classes and works as a mentor and editor. Her husband of thirty-two years and their four adult children, including a set of twins, live in Eugene, Oregon, along with five wayward cats, Oliver, Xena Warrior Kitty Paladine, Melchior and Mamma Mia!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review of Download N Go "Whale Tales"

Download N Go "Whale Tales" is a well organized unit study that I found to be enjoyable and engaging. The objective is to put together a lap-book during the week about the topic of study. A comprehensive suggested-reading list is provided, along with links to help the parent find the books. There are also multiple links to help familiarize the parent with the concept of lap-booking.

The study itself was most impressive, making use of multiple forms of media, such as video and links to educational sources which help the child answer questions. The study also includes Bible stories involving the topic -- in this case, Jonah and the Whale – and lessons on creation.

The art activities, interactive media, and comprehension questions are varied in their order to keep the lesson engaging. Each day ends with a fun activity and vocabulary words.

This curriculum is targeted for 4th grade and younger. We have been homeschooling for nine years, and my youngest is in 6th grade, so I was asked to evaluate it from the perspective of teaching an older child. I feel that they got this about right as to the ages they're targeting. While the concept behind this curriculum would work very well with older children, 5th grade and up, the content in this particular lesson is most certainly geared toward the younger ages.

I would definitely recommend this to parents with children in the 4th grade and younger. Not only will the child enjoy learning, the organization and ease of flow will relieve much stress from the parent. I think this would be a great blessing in homes with multiple children close in age.

DNG is offering a coupon code for 20% off multiple packs of these unit studies. The code is: DNG20PKS.

AND... Here's a great contest


The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and Amanda Bennett Unit Studies have teamed up to celebrate the successful launch of Download N Go™ with a Sweet Treat Prize Package in The Adventure Begins ... Giveaway!

They're offering one lucky winner the SWEET chance to go EXPLORING this FALL!

The entire FALL curriculum lineup of Download N Go™ (Wow! That's 19 studies!).
A $25 gift certificate to Baskin-Robbins (yummy ice cream).
A $25 gift certificate to (for those back-to-school supplies).
A $15 gift certificate to Starbucks Coffee (a special treat just for the teacher).
A full year's subscription to The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine (encouragement and resources all year long).
A "sweet" blue and brown Homeschooling With Heart tote bag (THE must-have accessory for FALL!).

For more information just click on the icon above! Contest will run May 24 and through June 12!

share this contest on your blog! post this button by using this code:The Adventure Begins Giveaway!

Please follow along on the blog tour and meet some fellow homeschool moms! Make some new friends! Follow the reviews here!

And don't forget to join the Facebook Fan page to stay in touch with other homeschool moms just like you and keep up on the latest contests and announcements!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Author Interview: Jen Stephens

One of the biggest blessings I've encountered as a writer has been the opportunity to come into contact with many wonderful, kind-hearted people. Jen Stephens is such a person. She and I are both debut authors, and we met by agreeing to review each others books. I was not only touched by Jen's talent, but also by her thoughtfulness and sweet spirit. It's my pleasure to introduce her here.

SW. Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

JS. I grew up in a small Ohio town where I developed a passion for writing at an early age. I participated in Young Authors contests in grade school, wrote my first novel in junior high school, and wrote dozens of poems and short stories in between. I majored in elementary education with a concentration in English and the humanities at the University of Toledo.

Now, I live in the Nashville, Tennessee, area with my husband and two beautiful daughters. I teach third grade at a Christian school and is very active with the youth in my church. A member of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Nashville Christian Writers Association, I write in my “spare” time. My debut novel, The Heart’s Journey Home, released in February 2010. The Heart’s Lullaby, the second book in The Harvest Bay Series, is scheduled for release in March 2011

SW. When did you first become interested in writing?

JS. Since I can remember, I’ve always loved stories, but was (and still am) a slow reader with an active imagination so I’d make up my own stories. My first “published” story (Actually, it was handwritten in a blank hardback booklet.) was when I was about ten years old and was about a boy who befriends an Indian chief and together they capture a burglar who breaks into the boy’s house. I wrote my first novel when I was in junior high and another one in tenth grade. I took a break from it while I was in college and gradually returned to it after I got married eleven and a half years ago. I’ve been writing—and working on honing my craft—ever since.

SW. Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?

JS. Well, I’m not a very patient person. Add that to the fact that I’m severely lacking in spare time and the result is a pretty wild roller coaster! Of course, my career as a teacher and spending time with my girls didn’t allow me the time I wanted and needed to spend on this manuscript. As much as I love being a mama and a teacher, it was (and still is) frustrating. Then there were times when the story was flowing beyond my control and I had no choice but to keep writing, even if it was 2 a.m. and I had to get up for school at 5 a.m. That’s a good problem to have. Then there were several times when I queried an agent or editor before I was really ready (the patience thing) which, of course, led to disappointments. But it only takes one “yes” for that roller coaster to propel you into the clouds!

SW. How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?

JS. I wish I was a better planner, but I’m not. When I start a new project, I have the basic skeleton of an idea. I print out a blank calendar in the year that this story takes place and pencil in events that I know will be happening, but other than that I kind of let it take me where it goes, and research as I go along. I think that’s the way God wants me to write because I do A LOT of praying that way!

SW. Tell us about your latest release?

JS. The Heart’s Journey Home is a story about life, love, loss, and finding love again. It’s a story about how faith can lead you home . . . though it may not be on the path that you expect. Here is a brief synopsis:
Three years after Kate Sterling's heart was shattered by the unexpected death of her husband, she packs up what is left of her life and moves back to Harvest Bay, Ohio, with her young daughter. She soon discovers that her sleepy hometown has changed—and that she has been given a second chance at love. But, is God leading her to a love linked to the past . . . or to one who will walk with her into the future? Which road will Kate take on The Heart's Journey Home?
The Heart’s Journey Home is very special to me, and I hope and pray that whoever reads it will be as touched as I was writing it. I believe that many of the scenes were Spirit-led because of the way it flowed and the way I felt as I wrote them. This is NOT my biography, but I come from a blended family and my Daddy went home to be with the Lord nine years ago, so in many ways writing this book was an emotional release for me. I pray that my readers can sense even a fraction of that emotion.

SW. What inspired you to write this story?

JS. This is the hardest question on the list, Shawna, and it’s because, as strange as it sounds, THE STORY inspired me. As I said earlier, I’ve experience some heartache and this story helped me to heal. I didn’t plan for that to happen. I thought I was just going to write the stories of these three people searching for themselves and where they belong in this “after heartache” world. Through writing this story I drew closer to the Lord than I’ve ever been and I felt, I mean, really felt my daddy with me. When he died there was just an emptiness there, you know? While I was writing this story, especially the parts including Grandpa Clayton, he was near me. I’m sorry, I don’t think that answers your question, but that’s the truth of it.

SW. Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them , and what endears them to you?

JS. Let’s see, Kate Sterling is a young widow who decides to move back “home” to be close to her family, especially her Grandpa Clayton. Kate is very strong and independent, almost to a fault. In the beginning of the story she’s very, very weak in her faith, but even in that area she grows a lot. She’s also a very organized teacher and an involved, loving, nurturing mother to her active seven-year-old. I think Kate evolved by me taking every quality that I liked about me (teacher and pretty decent mama) and added all of the qualities I wish I had (everything else). Adam Sullivan is like every gals dream guy on the outside – blonde, nice physique, friendly – but he has deep, emotional wounds and lots of questions that he searching for. I relate to Adam because he has a real fear of failure. Nathan Sterling, the brother of Kate’s deceased husband, was originally Nathan Walker, her husband’s best friend. I had the feeling that he needed to have more invested in Kate and Maddie to even consider relocating, which is a notion he fought. I relate to Nathan because he is trying, good heavens, he’s trying to follow God’s plan for his life but it doesn’t go where HE expected it to which throws him all off. My other character that I love is Grandpa Clayton who I did not know when I started this really ended up having a lot of the qualities of my daddy. He’s wise in a non-threatening, non-judgmental sort of way. He’s just a wonderful, special old man. Of course I love Madeline, too. She’s just a little bundle of energy! People think she’s my girls, but she’s really me when I was a kid.

SW. What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?

JS. Simply put, I hope to have my readers experience what I did writing it. I hope if they’ve experienced heartache they can find a certain measure of healing and I hope more than anything they grow in their relationship with the Lord. As for long term goals for myself and my family, I’d like to one day be able to write full time, but I’m not in a hurry. I’m pretty content right where I am, and that’s a really cool place to be!

SW. Any ideas for future projects?

JS. The Heart’s Lullaby, the second book in The Harvest Bay Series, is scheduled for release with Sheaf House Publishers in March 2011 and is about two things I care deeply about – children and our United States military. Third installment, The Heart’s Hostage, will most likely release sometime in 2012 and is about marriage.

SW. Now for some trivia. What's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? Also, any other hobbies?

JS. Favorite Movie – Forrest Gump, hands down. The Miracle Worker is second place with Dirty Dancing coming in third. Favorite food – my Grandma Dominick’s spaghetti and meatballs. She was married for somewhere around 50 years to a 100% pure Italian so, I mean, it’s really the best there is. Second place would be my husband’s barbeque. Oh, great! Now my mouth is watering! Favorite vacation place – well, since we’re both from North Central Ohio, we usually vacation up there to see our family and friends, but this past December we were fortunate enough to go to Disney World, which is truly a magical place and now my very favorite. We can’t wait to go back! Besides writing, I love to cook and I dabble a little in photography.

SW. Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?

JS. Well, Shawna, of course I’d recommend No Other to anyone that loves REAL Christian fiction with a splash of nostalgia, being set in the 1940’s. It is really a beautiful story. Also, right now I’m reading, The Weight of Shadows by Alison Strobel, and, oh, my! Is it ever a powerful story! It had me completely enthralled within the first 30 pages and invested emotionally in these characters, and that’s not easy for me as I said earlier I’m a slow reader.

Jen is giving away a copy of her book, The Heart's Journey Home. And if we can rack up more than 40 comments, she'll give away two!

Here's my review of The Heart's Journey Home.

There was so much I loved about this book I'm not sure where to begin. It's a beautifully told story about second chances. Jen Stephens creates relatable characters with real life struggles. The story had so many levels too; healing from loss, returning to your roots, finding love again -- but the heart of the story was in rediscovering Faith.

Along with being such a great story, The Heart's Journey Home has tremendous cultural relevance. There's something for everyone, but as a thirty-something y/o woman, I understood the characters' phase in life, balancing kids and career. While I recommend this book for everyone, I think single parents would find it exceptionally interesting -- not just for its entertainment value, but for the hopeful message and it's realistic portrayal of life as a single Christian parent. And I wouldn't do the book justice if I didn't mention that it's beautifully romantic as well.

For more about Jen Stephens:

Purchase The Heart's Journey Home.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Author Interview: Jill Williamson

I have both of Jill Williamson's books, By Darkness Hid and To Darkness Fled on my Kindle, and based on the reviews I think I'm in for a real treat. So needless to say, I'm delighted to have Jill on my blog today to share more about her books, herself, and what she has in store for the future.

SW. Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

JW. I grew up in Alaska. We didn’t have electricity, so it was an interesting childhood. I went to college for fashion design and worked a few years in that industry until I was fed up with it all. I stayed home with my kids for a few years before I started writing. My husband is a youth pastor, so we’ve worked with teens for twelve years now. We have two kids and live in Oregon.

SW. No kidding! My major was fashion merchandising. Funny how we end up where we do.
When did you first become interested in writing?

JW. During those two years when I was home with the kids, I spent some time speaking to teens, teaching classes at church. I thought it would be fun to be a full-time speaker. I heard that articles in magazines and newspapers can help a speaker, so I started writing articles. One of the Harry Potter books came out and a new barrage of debates within the Christian community flared up as to whether or not these books should be read by Christians. It inspired me to write my own novel for teens.

SW. Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?

JW. I attended my first writer’s conference in 2005. It was an American Christian Writer’s one-day conference in Anaheim, California. I talked my senior pastor into attending with me. Steve Laube was one of the speakers, and I totally bombed my pitch to him. People at that conference were saying that the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference was the best conference in the southwest, so I set my sights on that one and started saving.

I knew I had to finish my book and find a critique group and learn how to pitch! I worked hard to learn all that stuff. I read every writing-related book I could find. I did Randy Ingermanson’s Fiction 101 and Fiction 201 classes. I found a critique group, which turned out to be a bad fit, but I met a girl in that group and we started our own group that we are still in today. I was asked to submit partials to two agents at Mount Hermon that turned into requests for fulls. But both were eventually rejected. I saw no reason to keep poring over my first book, so I set it aside and wrote some more stories. I’d written six books by the time I got a book contract.

SW. How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?

JW. I brainstorm quite a bit. I need to have a premise and a three-act structure. I also need to know who my main characters are and what will happen to them over the course of the story. This often changes as I write the story, but I need a place to start and a logical direction before I can write.

SW. Tell us about your latest release?

JW. To Darkness Fled is the second book in the Blood of Kings trilogy. This is a medieval fantasy trilogy that I wrote for teens but was published as a book for all ages. Here is the back cover copy:

They have no choice. Chased by an evil prince, Achan, Vrell, and the Kingsguard knights flee into Darkness. They head north, for Tsaftown and Ice Island, where they must free an army that can help them fight for Er’Rets.

Darkness sickens Vrell. How long can she keep her secret without being caught? Achan already suspects her of lying. If she is not careful, he will suspect her of treason as well. She hopes he will let his suspicions go until they reach her home.
Achan wanted freedom, but this new journey has bound him more than ever. Sir Gavin’s claims are so far fetched. First, that there might only be one God, and second, that this God chose Achan to push back Darkness, the magnificent curse of Er’Rets. Him. Achan. Barely a man himself.

Each setback Darkness brings seems minor compared to the one choice only Achan can make. What will he choose?

SW. What inspired you to write this story?

JW. My son and I were walking past house that had burned down. There was a tree in the yard that was half charred and half leafy green. I thought it was so cool. So I ran home and Photoshopped the tree. It’s the same tree that is the header on my website.

I also had a weird dream about a woman soldier who was on a mission to rescue the heir to the land. His transport had been in an accident and he was taken to a hospital on the wrong side of the city, the dangerous side. He was in a coma. But there was another guy in the hospital room who had amnesia. And only I knew that the coma guy was an impostor. Amnesia guy was the real heir. And the soldier woman was going to be the one to figure it all out.

SW. Oh yes...dreams. They are wonderful inspiration. That's what got my last guest, Sarah Sundin, started, and it's also what plunged me into this journey. I love to hear that other authors are inspired by them too.

Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them, and what endears them to you?

JW. Achan and Vrell both came from that dream. Achan is the amnesia guy and Vrell is the soldier girl. I always knew I wanted Achan to be a lowly slave-type character, who was strong, but never really thought of trying to escape his situation.

I got the idea to make Vrell disguised as a boy from a book I was reading. There was a male character who was so skinny, who blushed and couldn’t fight—I was certain he was a girl in disguise. He wasn’t. But when I finished that book I felt that he should have been. Then it occurred to me that might be a neat thing to do in my story. So Vrell became a noblewoman in disguise rather than the female soldier. It fit better for a medieval tale, anyway.

I love that Achan is sarcastic and brave. I love that he calls Vrell by her last name, Sparrow. I enjoy writing his struggle to find his place in all he experiences.

I like that Vrell, a spoiled noblewoman, is thrust into the wilderness to travel with men. Her dose of reality is fun. I like how she interacts with Achan and how her best intentions often get her in trouble.

SW. What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?

JW. I want to write books for teens that entertain and give them some of the answers they are looking for in life. And if they don’t give the answers, at least point them in the right direction. I would love to write books for the rest of my life.

SW. Any ideas for future projects?

JW. I have one more book to finish in the Blood of Kings trilogy. I’m also polishing up some of my other books to submit to publishers. And I have lots of new book ideas, but only so many hours in each day.

SW. All right, how about some fun stuff. What's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? Also, any other hobbies?

JW. The original Star Wars trilogy changed the way my imagination works. We didn’t have electricity, so on my ninth birthday, my parents rented a TV/VCR and all three original Star Wars movies. It was awesome.

My favorite food is fettuccine alfredo. Anything Italian makes me happy.

My favorite vacation place is Disneyland with my family.

I like to read, read to my kids, do kickboxing class, scrapbook, and I used to sew wedding gowns, but sewing isn’t my favorite activity. I also play the guitar.

SW. Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?

JW. Yes. Depends what you are looking for. If you love fantasy and science fiction, check out all the Marcher Lord Press titles at

If you like funny teen books, read Jenny B. Jones’s Katie Parker series or A Charmed Life series. She makes me laugh so hard I cry, which just feels good sometimes, you know?

You can find all kinds of teen fiction on my blog You can search by genre or age group. It’s a pretty extensive database of what’s out there for teens to read.

Thank you so much, Jill. It's been a pleasure to host you. Jill is giving away one of her books, which ever the winner of the drawing chooses. All you have to do is leave a comment with your email.

For more about Jill and her books:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Learning About History Through Historical Fiction

The winner of Sarah Sundin's Historical Romance, A Distant Melody, is Julia Reffner. Congratulations!

Below is a recent post I wrote for another blog about what I learned while researching "No Other." I wanted to share it here too.

Learning About History through Historical Fiction.

"No Other," my new release, is a 20thCentury historical romance. The story actually came to me in a dream, so in many ways I feel like it was given to me, more so than made up. There are certain things I've always know about this story because of the dream. I always knew my characters' names – though I played with variations on the spelling. I always knew that Meri was a little bit older than Jakob, and was his teacher by some odd circumstance. I also always knew the time period when the story took place, and that Jakob's family had endured hardship due to their heritage. What I didn't know was how all of these details fit together to form a complete story.

As I began to research the time period, many of these details found their place in the puzzle fairly quickly. For example, I discovered that a fair number of GI's quit school to serve in the war. Some turned eighteen early in their senior year. Some had been held back and were a year behind, and some lied about their age to join. When they returned there was the occasional circumstance of a school giving them a diploma for serving, but many had to finish the old-fashioned way. It made sense that if Jakob's life was somehow interrupted by the war, this would be the case for him too.

One aspect I wasn't satisfied with from the early draft was that discrimination alone counted for the hardship endured by Jakob's family. Whatever happened to them had to be extreme enough to necessitate his need to quit school, and since people of German decent are common in American society, discrimination from this alone didn't seem enough.

One night my husband and I were watching a documentary on the Japanese internment, and it hit me. Had citizens from other cultures associated with the Axis Powers during WWII faced anything similar? My answer was one Google search away. Yes.

Italian Americans and German Americans were both singled out. Because their ethnic appearance blended easily into American society , their discrimination was less frequent than that of Japanese Americans. But if they did find themselves under suspicion, it was harsher.

The internment process was different in that it was treated more like an arrest, complete with a trail. Though evidence in these trials often consisted of things like, a postcard from a relative still in Germany, speaking German where others could hear, or belonging to a German social club (these were clubs where the German culture – music, holidays and food, were the primary focus). These trials rarely resulted in a person being released. Once arrested, the citizen, and often their entire family, was taken to an internment camp. Some of these camps had facilities such as schools and hospitals, but they were surrounded by fifteen foot barbed wire fences, with guard towers stationed every fifty feet or so, and search lights roaming the area at night.

Also, the property of internees was confiscated and sold at auction, bank accounts frozen, and even upon release these things were not returned. The internees were made to sign papers of secrecy, with threat of imprisonment if they spoke of their experience. Many were also harassed for years after the war, with phone calls made from the FBI to employers and landlords.

One of the most disturbing things I learned while researching this topic was about a program called Repatriation. The offer was for volunteers to be released and returned to Germany in exchange for American citizens held abroad. Since many internees had no desire to return to Germany, and in fact feared it, this volunteer was unsuccessful, and soon coercion through various means was necessary to make Repatriation work. Sadly, those that were repatriated were often killed shortly upon return.

This is a dark time in American history, of that there is no doubt. And it's not my wish to make any political statement in conveying this knowledge. But what has surprised me, was that I never knew of any of this until I was 37 years old and took it upon myself to discover it. And as I've promoted my book, I've come across many other Americans, older than me – and some even alive during WWII -- that had no knowledge of this either.

I have many hopes for my book – to encourage, entertain, and hopefully move the reader emotionally in some way. But I also want it to educate. This is a piece of history that should not be lost. If you're curious about individual stories, this is the best place to look.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Author Interview: Sarah Sundin

Today I get to welcome Sarah Sundin to my blog. Sarah writes WWII Inspirational/Romance, and recently released her debut novel, A Distant Melody. I've heard many good things about this book! But not only is Sarah is talented writer, she's a super nice person, and it's my pleasure to have her here today.

SW. Would you please tell us a little about yourself, Sarah.

SS. My first novel, A Distant Melody, historical fiction set during World War II, was published by Revell in March. I live in northern California with my husband and three children, a skittish cat named Janie, and a yellow lab named Daisy who is determined to destroy my writing career by distracting me and eating my manuscripts. When I’m not ferrying kids to soccer and karate, I work on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teach Sunday school and women’s Bible studies.

SW. I have a collie named Daisey. Great name!
When did you first become interested in writing?

SS. January 6, 2000. How’s that for exact? Although I always read voraciously, I didn’t consider a writing career. Instead I chose a practical career in pharmacy which allowed me to work on-call and stay home with our three children. Then in 2000, I had a dream with such intriguing characters that I felt compelled to write their story. That first novel will never be published, nor should it, but it got me started.

SW. Okay, not only do we both have dogs named Daisy, my writing career began with a dream too. Weird, huh?
Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?

SS. When I first started writing, I churned out two awful contemporary romances. I learned through this process, and began attending a critique group and writers’ conferences and reading books on writing craft. In 2003 my critique partners said the first novel in my World War II trilogy was ready, so I submitted A Distant Melody at Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. I received good feedback from published authors, editors, and agents—and began accumulating a stack of “good” rejection letters. They liked my writing, my story, and my characters—however, historicals weren’t selling. Over the years, I often felt discouraged, but the Lord made it obvious that He wanted me to finish the trilogy, so I kept plugging away. Then at Mount Hermon in March 2008, I heard, “We need historicals.” And there I was with my trilogy close to complete. I submitted to Vicki Crumpton at Revell, and in September I was offered a three-book contract.

SW. So it was a matter of God's timing, and waiting for trends to change. That's really encouraging.
How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?

SS. I’m definitely an outline-oriented writer. That’s the science nerd in me. First of all, since I write historicals, I do lots of research beforehand. Secondly, I follow a loose version of Randy Ingermanson’s “Snowflake Method.” ( I start with one-line descriptions of story and main characters, expand to one-paragraph summaries, then write a one-page synopsis. Then I fill out character charts and a plot chart. Then come scene lists with everything from the date, the weather, what characters are wearing, goals and conflict, what’s happening historically, and a rough outline of the scene. Finally I get to my rough draft.

SW. Tell us about your latest release?

SS. In A Distant Melody, Lt. Walter Novak flies a B-17 bomber in battles over Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, while Allie Miller serves in the Red Cross against the wishes of her wealthy parents and controlling fiancé in California. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and begin a correspondence. As letters fly between Walt's muddy bomber base in England and Allie's mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?

SW. Very cool! What inspired you to write this story?

SS. It came out of a “what if” question—what if a man and woman met at an event, truly clicked, and parted before exchanging contact info? Wouldn’t it be romantic if he went through great effort to track her down? It wouldn’t work in a contemporary setting—he’d “Google” her—but it made a sweet premise for a historical. My husband and I watched a History Channel special on the US Eighth Air Force based in England which flew over Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, and I was hooked. My great-uncle was a B-17 bomber pilot with the Eighth, so I had access to family stories plus his personal letters. My research fascinated me so much, the story expanded to become a trilogy, with each book focusing on one of three brothers.

SW. Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them , and what endears them to you?

SS. My inspiration for Allie Miller came when I visited a particularly gorgeous friend after her daughter was born. The first words I heard the mom say were, “Thank goodness she’s pretty.” My thought? What if she wasn’t pretty? What would happen to a plain-looking daughter of a woman who thought beauty was a virtue? Would she think she could never find true love? Lt. Walter Novak came about primarily as Allie’s counterpart. I gave him two brothers and no sisters so he’d be clueless about women.
What endears Walt & Allie to me is that they’re not perfect—they’re not gorgeous and confident like most romance heroes and heroines. But they grow due to their friendship, their experiences, and their walk with the Lord.

SW. What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?

SS. I hope my readers will learn through my characters’ mistakes and walk more closely with the Lord. My long-term goals are to keep writing, and eventually get into teaching. My primary spiritual gift is teaching, and I love helping people understand concepts to improve their own writing.

SW. Any ideas for future projects?

SS. Oh yes. A Distant Melody is the first book in the Wings of Glory series. The second book, A Memory Between Us, comes out in September 2010, and the third book in August 2011. Right now I’m preparing a proposal for another series, also set during World War II.

SW. Okay, off topic now. What's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? Also, any other hobbies?

SS. My favorite movie has to be the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. It never gets tiresome. Favorite food is Chinese. Favorite place to vacation is England—so much history, so many gorgeous sites—and the accents!
As for hobbies…our three children are 11, 14, and 17, so I ferry them to soccer, karate, baseball, choir, and youth group. I work one day a week as a hospital pharmacist, and I teach Sunday school to fourth- and fifth-graders. At this point, I have no time for hobbies, but writing relaxes and fulfills me.

SW. Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?

SS. I wouldn’t know where to begin! There’s so much great Christian fiction out there in every possible genre. A great place to find novels you might enjoy is, which was established by American Christian Fiction Writers, and lists by author, genre, topic, era, etc. Very helpful.

Sarah, this was great! Thank you so much for being here.
And Sarah is giving away a copy of her book, so leave a comment, with your email, to enter the drawing. I'll announce the winner on Wednesday.

For more about Sarah Sundin and her books, check out her website.
Purchase A Distant Melody.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Shameless Promoting on My Blog!

Well, it is my blog, so I suppose I'm allowed to promote my own book here. I just got a new review by Michelle Sutton, and I'm so thrilled with it I have to share. However, before I post it let me say, "Congratulations!" to Holly Heisey for winning the drawing for Steve Rzasa's book, The Word Unleashed.

And here's No Other's latest review.

"There is "no other" story like it. Seriously.

This debut novel by author Shawna Williams took my breath away. It sounds cliche, but I don't know how else to describe the emotions that moved through me as I read this book. My heart was engaged and fully invested in the outcome.

I read most of this book in one sitting. It's a perfect historical romance in that the tension kept building and it made me want them to work things out and find a way to be together. I fell in love with the characters and empathized with their situations. I also felt firmly grounded in the time period.

The author's use of dialog was masterful. I could hear the characters speaking and their inner thoughts and dialog were consistent with that era. My favorite scene was toward the end when Jakob tries to do the right thing. The emotion was intense and so realistic I nearly cried myself. That's great writing because I felt something.

I loved how true to life this story seemed and it was edgy enough to make me want to cheer Shawna on. This story felt real to me because the characters were complex and three dimentional. There were a few shifts in plot that were delightful as well. I love it when the author does something you aren't expecting. Nice job! I can't wait for the next book. This is making my "favorites" list for fiction for this year - 2010."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Author Interview:Steve Rzasa

I'd like to welcome Steve Rzasa to my blog today. Steve has two Christian-Scifi books published through Marcher Lord Press, and he's here to tell us about those, and a little about himself.

SW. Welcome Steve, tell us about you.

SR. I was born and raised in South Jersey – an important fact. I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communications in 2000, and then spent seven years as a reporter and assistant editor at weekly newspapers in Maine. In 2007 my family moved out to my wife Carrie’s home state of Wyoming so I could work as the editor of a weekly newspaper. Today I work at the local library in Buffalo, where we live with our two sons.

SW. When did you first become interested in writing?

SR. I’ve always loved writing, even in grade school. It wasn’t until high school and college I started writing for my own enjoyment. There are many notebooks full of ideas that sit gathering dust under my desk. Every so often, I pull them out for fresh inspiration.

SW. Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?
SR. It took me about six years to write the first one-third of a long manuscript entitled Commissioned. Then around 2008, I finished the remaining two-thirds. I was blessed with a very short wait after that – within about four months after I started submitting my manuscript, I received several rejections. However, Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press decided to publish my work as two books – hence the birth of The Word Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed.
SW. That's wonderful! It's nice to meet someone else who's work took awhile to rippen. How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?

SR. I usually come up with a general idea, and then try to do a bare-bones outline. I also work on character profiles – though I’m not always consistent in how far I develop each one. With The Word Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed, I wanted the fictional galaxy to feel lived-in and realistic, so I did a lot of legwork on different languages to include. I also spent a lot of time reading up on futuristic spaceship engines, the physics of acceleration and future weapons, and the like. Plus, reading about history helped me develop a future society.

SW. Very interesting! Tell us about your latest release.

SR. In April, Marcher Lord Press, an independent publisher of Christian science-fiction and fantasy, published my second novel, The Word Unleashed. It’s the sequel to The Word Reclaimed (MLP, October 2009), and is an epic space opera tale of a young man who finds a book amidst the wreckage of a starship. It follows him on the adventure that ensues as he avoids the galactic religious police, who are adamant the book be destroyed. In The Word Unleashed, this young man must decide what he’s going to do with this book and teams up with a group of elite soldiers working to safeguard their king.

SW. What inspired you to write this story?

SR. It started with one idea: what happens if, in a future where Christianity is banned, a kid on a starship finds a Bible? Who would want him to succeed? And who would want him to fail? The idea of writing an epic space opera has always appealed to me, and the chance to do so in a way that would bring attention to the Christian message is a great opportunity.

SW. Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them , and what endears them to you?

SR. The characters developed over several years. Some of them – like the main character, Baden Haczyk – were simple to come up with. Others required more thought, more time figuring out how they would react, etc. I didn’t have a method, really. I just kind of daydreamed and took notes.
I’m particularly fond of Baden and his father, Simon, because their relationship is one of the key ones in the story. But I also thoroughly enjoyed writing the main villain, Detective Chief Inspector Nikolaas Ryke. His motivations and conflicting emotions were a treat to explore.

SW. What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?

SR. The Word of God is powerful – sharper than a sword, as the Scriptures say. Through my writing, I hope to show people how it impacts a person’s life, and how it can give rise to faith. Without it, Christianity is a drab shadow of the full glory of Christ.
I also hope to give people a great adventure.

SW. Any ideas for future projects?

SR. I am working on a third novel that involves a new main character plus some of the secondary characters from The Word Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed. I also have several short story ideas percolating. As always, the difficulty is finding time to write them down!

SW. Now for some fun, irrelevant stuff. What's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? Also, any other hobbies?

SR. My favorite movie is and always will be Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Beautiful. As for food, well, I have many favorites, but the top ranked is the chicken-fried steak sandwich offered by the Hotel Wolf in Saratoga, Wyoming. If you haven’t eaten there, you haven’t eaten at all.
My other hobbies besides reading and writing include drawing/sketching, which I mostly do to illustrate my sci-fi worlds. I also enjoy playing with my grade school-age boys, and going on walks with my family.

SW. We love Star Wars! Every other year we have a family movie marathon. The off years we watch The Lord of the Rings.
Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?

SR. Lots! Try out any of the Marcher Lord Press titles – they are varied but very good! I personally enjoyed A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz and Eternity Falls by Kirk Outerbridge. I love Kathy Tyers’ excellent Firebird series that offers a different take on familiar Old Testament prophecies, and Chris Walley’s Lamb Among the Stars series that shows a distant future in which sin returns to a galaxy that has largely been at peace. But my all-time favorite sci-fi book is Merchanter’s Luck by C.H. Cherryh.

Steve, thank you so much! This has been a real pleasure. Just so you know, I have both your books on my Kindle, and plan to pass the word about them around. I come from a whole family of scifi-lovers, so it's my duty. There's so much to explore in the world of science fiction, and it's really exciting to see a Christian line of books in this genre.
Steve is giving away an autographed copy of The Word Reclaimed. Leave a comment with your email to enter.

For more about Steve Rzasa

An Apology

I recently hosted fellow DBP author, Stephanie Burkhart, in an interview on my blog, making the assumption that my followers knew that I occasionally interview writers in the secular market, as I have done this for quite some time. What I didn't account for was the sudden increase I've had in followers due to the promotion efforts of my new release. Today, a one star review was written for Stephanie's book saying that it was too explicit for an Inspirational Romance. I'd like to clarify that Stephanie's book, The Hungarian, is not an Inspirational Romance. It is a Paranormal Romance, written for the secular market.

Desert Breeze Publishing, my publisher, has a wonderful Inspirational line, with over a dozen authors affiliated with the ACFW, but they also publish books in other genres. The genre they omit is Erotica. They differentiate themselves through tasteful books covers, and they rate their books so that these mixups can be avoided. However, I'm uncertain if these ratings are viewable on Amazon.

I don't know if the review was a direct result of Stephanie's interview on my blog, but I'd like to apologize to both Ms. Burkhart, and my followers for not making the genre of her book clear.

Stephanie, you are one of the kindest people I've met through my writing experience, and a talented author, I am truly sorry if my oversight has brought damage to you. Likewise, to my followers, I understand and respect the importance of minding what we read, and am deeply sorry if the wrong impression was given of Stephanie's book because of her interview being featured on my blog.

In the future I will be certain to include in my interviews the market the book was intended for.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Author Interview: Stephanie Burkhart

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming fellow DBP author, Stephanie Burkhart, to my blog so she can tell us about her newest release, The Hungarian, a paranormal romance set in 1901 Europe. How romanctic is that!

SW. Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
SB. Gosh, Shawna, I've gotten around! Haha. Travel-wise, that is! I entered the military in 1986 fresh out of high school. I joined the army and became an MP. I spent 7 years in Germany while in the military and loved every minute of it. I've been to Poland to Italy and I was married in Denmark. I left the military in 1997 and settled in California with my husband. Both of us are currently in law enforcement. He's a police officer and I'm a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. I have two young sons, 8 and 3. My first novel, "Destination: Berlin" is a "sweet" military romance that I self published in 2001. I've been writing every since.

SW. When did you first become interested in writing?
SB. I remember writing Spiderman comic books when I was six inspired by the 1970's show, the Electric Company! *grin* Seriously, I didn't start until I got out of the Army in 1997. That's when I first began writing Destination: Berlin.

SW. Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?

SB. I really wanted to go with a small press for "The Hungarian," but it took a while to get there. The story's first draft was probably best left in the closet, but after constructive feedback I tackled a second draft. The first draft was good in that it allowed me to get used to the characters. I reworked the plot and wrote it in the first person from Katherine's perspective. I showed Gail Delaney at Desert Breeze who said, "I like it, but can you write it in the third person?" "Sure," I said. In that regard, my words of wisdom are – have patience. Be open to constructive feedback, and learn your craft as much as you can.

SW. Every excerpt I've read from the Hungarian is absolutely captivating! How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?

SB. A new project? I plot a rough outline and I keep it rough because I never know where the characters are going to take me. I know the beginning and the end. I do research my projects because I want to be accurate. I find researching fun. I'd been to Budapest while in the military so I very familiar with it. Most of my research is online unless I've been there in my international travels.

SW. Tell us about your latest release?

SB. "The Hungarian" is a paranormal romance involving a werewolf. It takes place in 1901 in England and Budapest, Hungary. Count Matthias Duma harbors a dark secret but when he meets a young British noblewoman, Katherine, he risks everything for her love.
In the first half of the story, Matthias is stuck in England because his late wife's parents are asking the courts to give them custody of his daughter, claiming he keeps a household of gypsies. Matthias meets Katherine and courts her despite this challenge. In the second half of the book, Matthias takes Katherine to Hungary where she has to adjust to a whole new life.

SW. I have it on my Kindle, and can't wait to read it. I have a feeling that I won't get anything else done while reading. What inspired you to write this story?

SB. It was inspired by a prompt on – write a story about a werewolf that falls in love. The story was about Matthias who hires a British nanny, Katherine, and falls in love with her. I submitted it to the Writer's Digest Popular Fiction Contest and out of 3,000 entries, it was an honorable mention in the romance category. From there, I decided to flesh out a novel.

SW. Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them , and what endears them to you?

SB. Matthias is my tormented werewolf. He's an Omega Male. He has an inner circle of friends that he trusts and that's it. Katherine loves books and longs for a great adventure. That's how I was like in high school – longing for that great adventure. What endears me to Matthias is that he's my ultimate man. (I suppose he's a bit like my husband! *grin*) and Katherine is very much like me.

SW. What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?

SB. I would hope that after reading a novel of mine it would leave the reader instilled with a smile, hope, a good feeling. That's what it's about with me. Long term goals – to be Anne Rice mega famous. *grin*

SW. Any ideas for future projects?

SB. Yes, I'm working on the sequel to "The Hungarian" called "The Count's Lair" about Katherine's friend, Amelia and Matthias's rival, Anton Varga. I'm also working on a short story for the Desert Breeze Borealis Anthology and I'm working a "darker" werewolf story which I call my "Moldavia" Series. Prince Mihai Sigmaringen is the heir apparent to Moldavia's throne, but when his best friend, Viktor, is bitten by a werewolf, everything that Mihai knew and believes changes, challenging his way of life.

SW. What's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? Also, any other hobbies?

SB. My favorite movie? The Sound of Music. Simply because I've been to Salzburg , Austria and the Sound of Music brings the romance of Salzburg alive. Food – Shrimp Pizza. I loved eating it in Germany. I also liked Gyros, German style and cheese brotchen. My vacation spot? Right now it's to take the family to Catalina Island off the coast of California for the 4th of July.
I love playing racquetball but I have yet to find a racquetball partner.

SW. Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?

SB. Ties that Bind by Keena Kincaid,One Snowy Knight by Deborah MacGillivray, and the Mists of Time Series by Tami Dee, "Under a Viking Moon" and "Dawn of a Viking Sunrise."

Stephanie, thank you so much! I'd definitely like to have you back to talk more about your future books. It sounds like you have quite an adventure in store for us all!
For more about Stephanie and her books:

Purchase The Hungarian here or at Amazon Kindle.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why I Like Freshwater Pearls

Some of you may have noticed that next to my name, Shawna K. Williams, I have the brand, Author of Grace-Inspired Fiction. My reason for choosing this was that I want to write stories that portray God's Grace in the lives of imperfect people. This is important to me!

I'm doing a lot of giveaways during the blog tour for "No Other". I have details for the month long contest posted on this blog, but on the individual blogs I've been giving stuff away too. Since "No Other" is an ebook, I thought something tangible might be a nice addition, so I've made these bracelets, and there's a story behind them that relates to why I chose to describe my stories as "Grace-Inspired."

A pearl starts as an irritant within the shell of an oyster. It's shape is determined by the way the oyster coats it so that it will be easier to live with -- not unlike people, and how our experiences -- good and bad -- mold us. Freshwater pearls are imperfect, but each is unique; and when they're strung together by an artist they form something beautiful. I like to think that God takes each of us and uses the experiences of our lives to do the same thing. We are transformed through His Grace into a one-of-a-kind work of art. Imperfect, but lovely just the same. So I plan to keep making these bracelets to go with my book, because as people read I want them to remember this, not just for the characters in the story, but for themselves.

God bless and happy reading.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Jen Stephen's Review of "No Other."

Here's the lovely locket that the winner of the Grand Prize giveaway will receive along with the book, a bracelet like the one pictured with the contest rules, goatsmilk lotion and soap, $10 Amazon gift certificate and other goodies.

And here's the lovely review Jen Stephen's, author of The Heart's Journey Home, wrote.

No Other is indeed a story like no other. Shawna K. Williams has succeeded in telling a heart-warming, and often heart-wrenching, story of love, compassion, acceptance and redemption. This well-written story dates back to 1947 when World War II was still fresh in everyone's mind the lines between social classes and ethnic groups were clearly drawn. A modern day Romeo and Juliet in many ways, No Other beautifully illustrates the promise we have that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

1970 Olds 442


If you're curious about the story behind the name of my blog, click on the car. :)