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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ten Things I Learned from doing a Detox Diet

First things first, Diane Craver, you won the drawing again! So choose your shirt. :)

If any of you have seen my posts on fb lately you might be aware that for the past eleven days I've been on a two-week detox diet. My teenage daughter wanted to try it and she "encouraged" me to join in for moral support. The restrictions were no sugar, salt or wheat. No red meat, unless grassfed and then only in very small portions. Initially my daughter and I chose to abstain, but later we added it because I was getting a little loopy from lack of protein. (Lucky for me we raise grassfed cattle and have a freezer full of beef). No chicken -- a rule we also broke at the halfway point b/c another detox diet said it was okay, and b/c of the loopy reason. Only fresh caught fish. Absolutely no dairy. Nothing canned. Frozen or fresh fruits and veggies were okay, but no dressing. No butter. Nuts were allowed if they were unsalted. Absolutely no bread -- this falls in line with the wheat thing, but I feel like I need to stress it. ABSOLUTELY NO BREAD! (I love bread). Nothing with any kind of preservatives. A wee little bit of olive oil could be used for cooking, but nothing else.

Well, adhereing to it has certainly been a challenge -- especially at 2am when I'm up writing and my stomach starts to growl (one night I baked fish at this hour) but I have made some interesting observations regarding food, and a few adjustments to my lifestyle.

1.) You don't need a lot of salt to make food taste good, but you do need a little.
2.) Potatoes NEED butter and cheese (and salt).
3.) Vegetables actually taste good if you're hungry enough. This is probably the biggest change to my lifestyle. I've never hated veggies, I just haven't been that crazy about them. But, since I was forced to get a little creative this week, I actually made up some recipes that were pretty darn good. However, they'll be even better when I can add just a wee little bit of salt.
4.) The egg is a near perfect food and I still don't understand why it's not allowed on these diets, especially if it's farm fresh.
5.) Nuts need either salt or chocolate, preferrably chocolate.
6.) Drinking coffee, for me, is more of a habit than a like, and I can deal with less.
7.) Honey works really well as a sweetner.
8.) Fresh fruit is really yummy, but after several days of eating it with breakfast, lunch and dinner, and in between meals to try and stay full, it gets a little boring. And the fruit acids eat away the lining of your mouth.
10.) Desperation spurs creativity and a willingness to try new things. Case in point, my daughter and I now like diced mushrooms, cooked with diced onions and lots of oregano, and served over raw spinach.
11.) I know the title says ten, but this one is really important. Adequate protein ingestion is essential to brain function. After witnessing me my family will attest to this, but please don't ask them to. It's embarrassing and they enjoy it too much.

So, overall I'm glad I gave this a try. It's made me think twice about what I put in my body, and I do see myself making a few adjustments. I also think it's something to approach with caution. While my daughter suffered no ill affects from the restrictions, fatigue and concentration became a real issue for me about five days in. But, I'm glad to have discovered this. There's a heredity in my family for certain vitamin deficiencies due lack of absorption, and I've never been tested to see if this is a problem for me. But it is something I intend to ask my doctor about in the future since I seemed to have had some adverse reactions.

My last thought on the matter is that at this moment I'm really craving pizza and a Babyruth candy bar.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Author Interview: Michelle Levigne

Today I have the privilege of introducing Michelle Levigne, an author who I only discovered last summer, and whose Tabor Heights series has become one of my favorites in the comtemporary Christian Fiction genre. Michelle is here to tell us more about that series, and about the many other books she's written for us to enjoy.

SW: Michelle, would you please tell us a little about yourself?

ML: First of all, I dread questions like this.

SW: Why?

ML: I consider myself pretty boring, actually. You want the stats? Single, over 40, BA in theater/English, MA in communications, focused on film and writing, freelance editor, living in Northeast Ohio, very close to the geographical anchor for my Tabor Heights, Ohio books.

SW: I don't think that's boring! Sounds pretty impressive, actually. When did you first become interested in writing?

ML: I've always loved stories, and sometimes specific stories – either books or TV episodes – caught my imagination and I had to continue them or rewrite them, sometimes add my own characters, whatever. My friend, Barb, sums this up best: We started out as word addicts, having to read everything we could get our hands on. Then we eventually became "pushers," writing, creating our own characters and worlds and scenarios. And trying desperately to get published.

Daydreams took over my life, sometimes to the detriment of studying and classes! I know I got in trouble for reading in class when I should have been working on my homework. I scribbled stories in junior high, and attempted my first novel maybe in 9th grade. The spring of 10th grade, I started writing seriously, trying to push a story out of my head so I could concentrate on semester exams. I've been writing ever since. It's a disease, but at least it keeps me off the streets!

SW: What genres do you prefer writing/reading? And why do they appeal to you?

ML: I like so many, depending on the type of story that needs to be told. I do like a lot of stories that have a touch of the fantastic in them, some otherness – whether it's futuristics or fantasy, paranormal romances, whatever. I do like sweeter romances, such as Debbie Macomber, and chick-litty/family drama books like Kristen Billerbeck (try the Spa Girls series!) and Camy Tang; and the gritty stuff from JD Robb; and the way-out fantasy of Discworld by Terry Pratchett. I have widely varied tastes. It's all fun. My favorite movies run from "Galaxy Quest" to "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." How's that for eclectic?

So, I write in a lot of areas, too. Why not? Life is too short to limit yourself to one genre or "universe." I have SF with my Commonwealth stories, fantasy/paranormal with my Emerald Necklace and Bainevah stories, Inspirational romance with Tabor Heights, urban fantasy (if I have the definition correct) with my Hunt YA series and my newest "universe," Neighborlee, Ohio. Too much info?

SW: Cool! You've totally inspired me, first because I'm a closet scifi geek and someday I'm going to test my hand at writing it, and second because I have the movie, "Galaxy Quest" nearly memorized word for word. And if I'm ever channel surfing and it's on, I must watch.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?

ML: It's been a long, frustrating struggle, in many ways. Especially when you keep running into these people who say essentially, "I've always loved to read, and when my kids finally headed off to school I had some free time, so I sat down and in half an hour every day, I wrote a novel, spent a year polishing it, went to a conference and met an agent, who got me a five-book contract." Are they really for real?

I started seriously writing in 10th grade. Took creative writing classes in high school and college. Took the Institute for Children's Literature 2-year correspondence course. Read Writer's Digest. Bought writing books. Studied theater, in the hopes of being able to adapt my novels into screenplays someday (getting there!). I submitted, mostly to magazines like Fantasy & Science Fiction or Analog – mostly got those photocopied rejection letters that don't tell you WHY you were rejected. Then I started entering contests. I entered the Writers of the Future contest 12 times, got 3 Honorable Mentions, and finally won 1st place in 1990. I got a publishing contract for the short story, as well as the prize money … and that thrill of finally getting recognition carried me through until my first book contract in 2000. Yeah, 10 MORE years of struggling and writing, sending out submissions, slowly getting better and better rejection letters, until editors actually told me WHY they couldn't use my book. The ones where the title of your book and your name are actually in the letter, and not writing in a blank space provided in the form.

With that first book contract, with an e-publisher, I stumbled headlong into e-publishing. Discovered EPIC. Got onto loops that talked about e-publishers, made contact with more editors and publishers, proposed more books … and the rest is history. But it took me a dang long time between the first book written on legal pads to now, with my second EPIC win. Maybe I'm a slow learner, or maybe I just took a lot of side trips and routes other people didn't. Maybe I just write stories that people weren't ready to read until now. Who knows?

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?

ML: I get an idea, sometimes just a single sentence, sometimes a full-blow idea that comes from reading a book or seeing a movie and thinking, "I can do better than that!" Usually if the story is pushing at me really hard, I start writing it down. The first draft is always lousy, but I have the bare bones there. Then I put it away – sometimes unfinished – and let it sort of stew in the back of my imagination. Sometimes for years, while I'm working on other things. I use OneNote, which lets me organize my projects and find them and keep them separate, and I can file notes and snippets of ideas whenever I need them. Eventually, I have enough ideas and the story is clear enough in my mind – and the problems that stopped the first draft have been resolved – that I can sit down and actually write the whole thing. Or revise what was there before. Sometimes it takes several sessions of revise-put aside-wait-revise-put aside-wait-revise until the book is ready to be submitted. Often what happens is that along the way, I realize that several books belong together in a series or a community – which is what happened with the Tabor Heights books. I had a bunch of stand-alone stories, and I realized that if I changed names and borrowed characters and settings from one to another, I had a town. All those little details that are consistent from one book to another make it richer, more real. It's fun. I even have a map of the town on the wall of my office, and I have calendars printed out with notes of what happens in each book on that particular day – when events/books do overlap – to make sure that someone isn't doing something in one place, when they should have been somewhere else!

SW: One of my favorite things about the Tabor Heights series is bumping into other characters from previous books. Makes me feel like I live there. Tell us more about this series, and your latest release, A Quiet Place?

ML: Tabor Heights is geographically based on a town here in Northeast Ohio, with characteristics of several towns I've been in, including my college in Iowa. All the main characters go to the same church, and people visit from one story to the next, and sometimes situations that are hinted at or discussed in one book become the impetus or focus for another book.

A Quiet Place is the story of Jeannette, who grew up in Tabor and met a guy who came to town to continue his education after military service. They fell in love, got married, and went to his hometown, eventually planning to go to seminary. Then he died, and his vicious family basically drove her out of town – pregnant. Jeannette returned to Tabor Heights to have her baby and make her life, and planned on a quiet life. Her in-laws had other plans, when they found out she didn't lie and had a baby. The story is about her struggle for peace and to trust in God when her in-laws try to take her son away. And of course there's a romance, with the boy she loved all her life and never even realized she loved him until it was almost too late.

SW: What inspired you to write this series?

ML: I never set out to write a series. I just had all these people and situations in my head. As I kept hitting these "ah ha!" moments, and the town grew more solid and interconnected, I found more stories and more people, who had more stories and conflicts. It's kind of taken on a life of its own. Which, if you think about it, is what a writer is trying to do – create something so real that it writes itself. Or at least create characters who bang on your door at 2a.m., demanding that you tell their stories.

SW: How did you develope Tabor Heights, the town?

ML: It's based on several – Troy, Ohio; Orange City, Iowa; and Berea, Ohio. Geographically, Berea is the base. I took a lot of the actual streets and renamed them, and copied over most of the map of Berea. A lot of buildings belonging to Baldwin-Wallace College are Butler-Williams University. There are a few stores, municipal buildings, churches, etc. that are parallel between the two. But Tabor Heights and the people are totally mine – any similarity between the heroes and villains of Tabor and the actual people in Troy, Orange City and Berea is totally coincidental. Or at least unconscious. That’s my story, and I'm sticking to it. If you see someone in Tabor who resembles someone in any of those towns, that's your choice/imagination. I'm not confirming anything!

SW: I had to have this exact conversation with my family so they'd stop trying to figure out who was who in my novels. I was like, "They're no one! They're who they are because that's how they evolved in my mind."

Can you give us a little history on the characters in A Quiet Place, and how you developed them , and what endears them to you? I'd also love to hear about how the different stories grew out of each other?

ML: Aauugghh! A Quiet Place and The Family Way have their genesis, their germinal moments, from a time when the drugstore messed up my hormone prescription. I swear, I was in chemical depression until I realized what happened. I had 2 very strong images in my head from dreams. One was of a widow standing at a casket, and her husband's family driving her out of town, not even letting her attend the funeral of her husband. The second image was of a young wife telling her husband she was pregnant … and he asks if the baby is his.

Jeannette and Brody and Nathan sort of wrote themselves, just by sitting down and thinking about the kind of heroine I needed to go through the situation, to be in the situation in the first place, and the hero who would rescue her – whether she wanted to be rescued or not. You have to answer these questions, even if unconsciously. When I knew it was a Tabor Heights story, a lot of the "supporting cast" was already there. I made Jeannette and Nathan orphans who teamed up as children, because this made them lean on each other more, and gave Jeannette's friends even more value in her life – she had no one but her friends and church family. I made Nathan a National Guardsman who met Brody in Afghanistan to give Brody a reason to come specifically to Tabor – and give Nathan a good reason for not interfering when he realized Brody and Jeannette were falling in love, even though it broke his heart. A lot of decisions in writing the book were organic and logical – they had to go the way they did for the sake of the story, because the characters were the way they were and wouldn't act "outside the lines" of the way I had already rough drafted them. Does that make any sense?

SW: Sure does! At least to me. I'm writing a sequel at the moment, so I'm actually experiencing a bit of what you're talking about with my characters.

Do you have a favorite in the series, both story and character?

ML: I don't know. Ask any parent which child is her favorite – can she say? I guess the one I'm getting ready to write, the new idea begging to be fleshed out on the screen, that's the current favorite or at least the focus of my imagination. I'm looking forward to Year Two of my Tabor Heights books, when I can revise a novel I call "The Teddy Bear Dancer." It's based on a script I wrote for the Nick Mancuso/USA Network, short-lived TV series "Matrix," that I never got to propose. Other than that … it's hard to answer a question like that!

SW: You write some pretty diabolical bad guys, for lack of a better word. May I ask what inspired them? I don't mean a single person, but is there something you've witnessed in life that you hope to address through these characters?

ML: Okay, big bad confession time: I do take people who've really hacked me off, who have perpetrated injustice and gotten away with it, and I use them as the central core of my villains.

SW: Hey! I think I may know some of these people!

ML: It's catharsis.

SW: I should try that!

ML: You ought to see what I'm going to do with the stories set at the Tabor Picayune, the local newspaper – I worked at a local newspaper for 10 years, and ran into a lot of loonies and just plain nasty people who thought the world revolved around them, and threatened my life because their 50-cent newspaper was 10 minutes late. I get to work off my frustration and some really strange things that happened at the paper while I was working there. And just like with creating my heroes and heroines, I build the villains to fit the situation, the needs of the story. You can't point to one specific person and say, "He's the real Judge Foggerty." Or "He's the White Rose Killer." Etc. I take elements from a lot of nasty people, from a lot of real situations around me, and layer them, disguising people, rewriting them. And they act and talk to fit the story – they don't stay true to the core/germinal character.

SW: What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing?

ML: Okay, I can take the high, idealistic road and say that all I want is to share my private playgrounds with other readers and pass along the same enjoyment I have gained from reading other authors whom I have loved. I can be totally mercenary and say I want to get thousands of fans who can't wait until my books come out – and I can make a comfortable living off the royalties. It's a combination of both. I want to write stories people love, and be able to make a decent living so I can keep writing more stories.

And I decided a long time ago that I would stop writing when it stopped being fun, when I could no longer gain some spiritual, emotional, mental nourishment or refreshment or energy from the whole process. A lot of times, when the stories write themselves, it's like I'm going on an adventure just like the reader. That's when it's the most fun.

In a totally spiritual level, it's about stewardship. I want and need to use the talents God gave me, and develop them to their fullest potential, and create something beautiful that will satisfy people's souls and minds, give them something to think about and cheer about and laugh at and cry over. It's been a long, crooked road, and I've taken some stupid detours, but eventually I'm getting to where I should be. And at the end of time, I can proudly point to what I did and be sure of being told "Well done."

SW: Any ideas for future projects?

ML: Finish Year One of Tabor Heights -- roughed books include Detours, Behind the Scenes, Firesong, Forgiven, White Roses (yes, you'll finally learn who the White Rose Killer is) – and two books waiting to be roughed and revised are The Mission and one that keeps changing titles but deals with a woman pilot, a theater director, and some kidnapped kids. Then there's Year Two, with Max and Tony's wedding, The Teddy Bear Dancer, and other events that couldn't be covered in Year One.

Then there's my new fantasy series/town, Neighborlee, Ohio. I describe it as a combination of Roswell, Buffy, and Eureka, but without the weird science and the vampires. My humorous fantasy romances from All's Fae in Love and Chocolate sort of tie into Neighborlee – there are some Fae who visit the town, along with characters from The Hunt series and … well, you'll see!

SW: You make me feel like a slacker. That's okay.

Other than your book, and the rest in the series, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?

ML: That sort of depends on what people want to read. Fantasy – The Emerald Necklace Books. Science fiction – my Commonwealth books, with a YA series called Sunsinger, as well as some stand-alones, adventures and romances. Paranormal romance – the Bainevah series. Inspirational romance – Tabor Heights. I have a genres listing on my web site, where my book titles are listed under several different headings, and readers can investigate whatever appeals to them.

That's a starting place, at least. I also provide a sampler CD with the first chapter of all my books in PDF format. I give those away in contests or at booksignings, and if someone emails me I can send it to them as an email attachment. I'm always willing to give taste of my books – someone might get hooked just like I was when I first discovered my favorite authors!

SW: Your book, "The Second Time Around," was my first ebook purchase. I loved it and I've been hooked on TH series ever sense. I haven't read, "Common Ground," yet though, so I'm a little out of order, but it's on my list.

Michelle is running a fundraiser through the end of March. Half the proceeds from her Tabor Heights novels are going to the Salvation Army, earmarked for Haiti.

AND...check out Michelle's blog for the rules to enter a contest for a motif bag full of goodies, like candles, notepads, soap, coasters, lots of fun stuff. more thing! Michelle is giving away a tee-shirt with the cover art from one of her Tabor Heights novels. the winner gets to choose. So leave a comment to enter the drawing, and I'll announce the winner Thursday morning. In the mean time, take a good look at Michelle's book covers so you can be thinking about what you want.

Have a great week all! And Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Winner! And My Thoughts One Year After Mena's Tornado

Well, the winner of those cute earrings I never posted a picture of is Ruth Ann Nordin. Ruth Ann, I guarantee they're cute.

My Thoughts, One Year After Mena's Tornado
It's been almost a year since our town was struck by an F3-4 tornado. In the days after it hit its rating was in dispute, having measured wind strength 1 mile below the rating of an F4, but causing damage that clearly ranked in the F4 category. I think it was officially designated F3 having caused some F4 damage.

I remember before the tornado being somewhat dismayed at the town having so many wonderful old homes in various states of disrepair. It seemed a shame to watch our heritage crumble due to age and neglect.

Then, in the days after the tornado, I was furthered disheartened to discover that the hardest struck area was a residential historic district, where many of the old homes had been restored to their former glory. It had been beautiful and quaint! Each house a preserved testament to the artist who built it. Wrought iron and picket fences framed many of the lots, and flowers adorned the yards. After the tornado, many of these houses lay in rumble, some even moved off their foundations into neighboring yards. Chimneys stood as a lone monument to a house that no longer existed. Homes that had witnessed more than a century of Mena's history, wiped away in the mere seconds it took for the tornado to pass through. It does give one pause as to how fleeting anything in life can be.

But...the other evening as I drove my kids to their youth group meeting, I turned the corner around Jansen Park and took note of this little house I love. My husband and I had commonly referred to it as the "cat house". It was amongst those "once upon a time" charming homes that had fallen by the wayside over the years. While it hadn't been a victim of last spring's tornado, a different one ten years earlier had swooped down and snatched the back wall. The house was boarded up and left alone, becoming residence to a hoard of cats for awhile.

Not anymore. Now the house boasted a new roof, a fresh coat of white paint, new windows and a wooden front door with an oval-shaped, leaded-glass window in the center. Its cute wrought iron fence had been straighted and painted black. It made me so happy to see that, once again, someone would call this house home.

And as I drove further down the road, I noticed a number of houses that had been in need of repair were getting a face lift. It seemed that some of the folks who'd lost their cherished piece of history in the tornado felt compelled to rescue another. Our little town is healing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Author Interview: Deborah Kinnard

Today I have the privilege of hosting Deborah Kinnard. Deborah is a multipublished author, writing Christian fiction in several genres. She has two books soon to be released, so she's here to talk about those and herself, among other things today.

SW: Deb, would you please tell us a little about yourself?

DK: Not much of great note to tell. I’m a soccer mom, a loud singer at church (mostly on-key), wife of 23 years and mom of two practically perfect daughters. I speak Spanish well, German poorly and I’m trying to learn Italian but it’s been quite a slog.

SW: When did you first become interested in writing?

DK: I was ten. “Bonanza” was on and the total testosterone overload really hacked me off. Of course, I didn’t call it that at the time...I took a pencil and some notebook paper and wrote an episode about Vanessa, the long-lost Cartwright daughter. She had her own pony (natch) and had plenty of adventures on the Ponderosa. From there I wrote more episodes, moved on to dreadful poetry and teenage love stories, then novels.

SW: What genres do you prefer writing/reading?

DK: I like most of the romance sub-genres save for paranormal. Those just don’t speak to me at all. Historicals are fine with me as long as they’re not set in the U.S., or in Europe after about 1500. Every romance reader has her “pet” time frames and specialties, and these are just mine. I also read science fiction when I get the chance.

SW: I like scifi too. It usually surprises people since I write historical. Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?

DK: In the late 90s Time-Warner started a short-lived venture called iPublish. The short version is that it became a writers’ online community, and I made lots of cyber-friends and some good contacts. From there I found out about Treble Heart Books. I was so green, I sent the poor editor a query for nine different books! She was gracious and kind, said “How about we just deal with one at a time?”

Since that first e-book she published, I’ve had six others. Regarding most of these at one time or another, I’ve heard, “This will simply not sell.”

I’m not only exceedingly stubborn but willing to look at smaller presses than some of the large CBA type houses. So when I repeatedly heard “No”, particularly on ANGEL WITH A RAY GUN, I just kept sending it out. Finally Desert Breeze said “Whoa! Yes, we want it!”

I think a writer must strike a balance between writing “to the market” and writing the story that’s on our heart NOW. Mind you, I haven’t sold everything I’ve ever completed, but so far I’ve got a pretty fair track record, by God’s grace, at selling those unsellable books.

SW: I have Angel with a Ray Gun on my Kindle right now! I haven't read it yet, but it's there and waiting, and I'm getting closer on my list.

How do you balance writing and family?

DK: I’m still learning. There are times when a book insists on skarfing up most of my time. If it’s going along really well, sometimes it’s hard to break away and do the laundry or cook the supper or what have you. Thank God my kids like carry out pizza.

SW: That makes me feel so much better! I can't tell you how many times I've scrambled eggs for dinner, since I forgot to thaw anything to cook.

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?

DK: I am an unrepentant seat-of-the-pants writer. Sometimes I get a character, sometimes a narrative scene, sometimes a dialogue-bit that’ll start me off. I don’t write outlines or synopses beforehand. So my writing is kind of a “hope this works” sort of thing until I get the first draft done. I invariably research during the writing of the first draft and as often thereafter as necessary.

SW: You have several books coming out. Care to tell us a little about them?

DK: Sure! SEASONS IN THE MIST will be out April 1. This is a time-travel romance (unsellable, of course) set in Cornwall, England in 1353. I drew the setting from a place I stayed on a memorable vacation some years back. The other unsellable book that’s coming out, also April 1, is called DAMAGES. It’s a contemporary “second chance at love” story where two old flames re-unite in what’s intended to be a platonic relationship. But love takes a hand...

SW: So April is a big month for you! Congratulations! Was there a specific inspiration behind each story?

DK: For SEASONS, it was a story I “knew”, since I’d written it in very rough draft in the 80s. Its inspiration was my decades-long fascination with the middle ages in England, and a scene I imagined where a couple commits to one another alongside a holy well. Really.

SW: Wow, it must feel great to see that story come to fruition. In your book, DAMAGES, can you tell us a little about the characters, and what you as a writer find endearing about them?

DK: I like both of these people a lot. One of them was modeled a little bit after a longtime friend. The hero, Brian, can be a bit of a freight train once he catches an idea. Cassidy, the heroine, serves as the brakes on the train. Together they complement one other, since each has strengths the other lacks. What could make for a cooler love story?

SW: Definitely sounds like a great love story, and also a good example for young couples as to what a healthy relationship should look like. What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?

DK: I’d like to look back when I’m in my 90s and be able to say that my writing influenced at least one reader toward faith in my Lord Jesus Christ. That will be enough for me.

SW: Any ideas for future projects?

DK: I have a sequel in the works to SEASONS IN THE MIST. Its working title in SEASONS OF RECKONING, and so far it’s being a balky brat to write. But I’ll whip it into shape. Sheaf House has expressed interest in a three-book continuity. The third book is percolating in my brain. For Desert Breeze, I have a novella called ALOHA, MY LOVE coming out in next December’s Christmas anthology. After that, who can say?

SW: Congratulations on those! You'll have to visit again and tell us about them when they release. What about other hobbies?

DK: I read a lot, LOL. I do needlework when I have time, which isn’t often nowadays.

SW: I think most writers consider writing to be as much of a hobby as a career. It's just too fun -- most of the time. But it's good to have something to do that also lets your mind wonder. My mom does needlework too. I make jewelry, which is why I use it as giveaways. Otherwise I'd have no place to put it, and I certainly can't wear it all!

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

DK: You bet! I just finished Lisa Wingate’s superb NEVER SAY NEVER. It’s a terrific read and true-funny in a way Wingate handles very, very well. For nonfic, I’m reading 1066, a history of the Norman conquest of England. Very informative, somewhat revisionist, and well written.
Thanks for asking!

SW: Deb, thank you so much for stopping by. Best of luck with your current and future books. God bless!

For more on Deborah Kinnard and her books:
OH! Almost forgot. I have a really cute pair of silver, faceted onyx and clear quartz dangle earrings to give away. I'd don't have a pic available at the moment, but I try to get one tomorrow -- assuming I can find the camera. Leave a comment for Deb, and I'll enter you in the drawing. Good luck, and have a great week!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Free Ebooks

Here's a heads-up about some free ebooks currently offered by Amazon Kindle. If you don't own a Kindle, there are Kindle Apps available for PC, iPhone/iPod Touch, Blackberry, and coming soon, Mac. These apps are free, and take only seconds to download. If you're reading off a computer, it makes the contrast easier on your eyes, pages turn with a click, and saves to the last page read. I have a Kindle, but still downloaded the Kindle for PC. Once you own a book, you can download to extra devices at no charge, even if the book was free.

Inspirational Fiction:

Take One (Above the Line series, book #1) by Karen Kingsbury.
4.5 stars
Could they change the world---before the world changes them? Filmmakers Chase Ryan and Keith Ellison left the mission field of Indonesia for the mission field of Hollywood with a dream bigger than both of them. Now they have done the impossible: raised enough money to produce a feature film with a message that could change the world. But as Chase and Keith begin shooting, their well-laid plans begin to unravel. With millions of dollars on the line, they make a desperate attempt to keep the film from falling apart---even as a temperamental actress, a botched production schedule, and their own insecurities leave little room for the creative and spiritual passion that once motivated them. Was God really behind this movie after all? A chance meeting and friendship with John Baxter could bring the encouragement they need to stay on mission and produce a movie that will actually change people's lives. In the midst of the questions and the cameras, is it possible to keep things above the line and make a movie unlike anything done before---or is the risk too great for everyone?

A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist
4 stars
When Lady Constance Morrow finds herself held against her will aboard a ship bound for the American colonies?a ship filled with "tobacco brides" and felons she is quite sure that as soon as she arrives she will find a reasonable man who will believe her father is an earl and send her back on the next ship to England. Instead she meets Drew O'Connor, a determined Colonial farmer who is nearly as headstrong as she is. Drew wins Constance as his bride but soon realizes he has taken on much more than he bargained for

The Someday List by (Jubilant Soul series, book #1) by Stacy Hawkins Adams
4.5 stars
Rachelle Covington has it all. A fabulous home, a handsome and prestigious husband, two beautiful children, and a place in the upper crust that's quite comfortable. But her life is not all it's cracked up to be. When her husband goes away on business trip and the kids are sent off to the grandparents for a month, Rachelle takes up the challenge of a dying friend to start a list of things to do before she dies. She heads back to Jubilant, Texas, to reconnect with her past, her purpose, and herself. But when her ex shows up in town looking very fine and very single, Rachelle must confront feelings she thought she'd long buried. Will she give up everything to recover the past? Or will she find a reason to plan for the future? The Someday List is an honest look at what makes us who we are and what can throw us off track. Author Stacy Hawkins Adams writes with a voice that is fresh, sincere, and completely real. Her characters jump off the page and into her readers' hearts.

Sushi for One by Cami Tang
4.5 stars
Lex Sakai is a 30-year-old single Asian-American volleyball coach whose control-freak grandmother is determined to fix her up with a man. Lex is more passionate about making a prestigious volleyball team than dating one of her grandmother's candidates. Although a secret in Lex's past makes romance difficult, she has a six-point list from the biblical book of Ephesians detailing the godly man she wants. Disaster, of course, is right around the corner.

Historical Fiction:

Booth's Sister by Jane Singer
3.5 stars
"My brother killed Abraham Lincoln. That is my weight, my shame. While he remained at large, I was held captive in my home. I should have told the soldiers who came with guns drawn and bayonets at the ready this true thing: I might have stopped him, for I harbored him and kept his secrets. I was a pie safe locked tight and guilty as he." Asia Booth Clarke was twenty-nine years old and pregnant when Union soldiers and Federal detectives stormed her Philadelphia home in search of her assassin-brother. John Wilkes Booth's older sister had grown up in one of America's most notoriously troubled but spectacularly acclaimed acting families. "Johnny" and Edwin, her handsome brothers, were the matinee idols of the era. When John Wilkes Booth's crime left the nation in furious mourning and the Booth family under a dark cloud of accusation, it was Asia who bore the brunt. Booth's Sister was inspired by Asia Booth Clarke's personal memoirs. Author, Civil War scholar and storyteller Jane Singer has masterfully imagined the family dynamics and intimate dilemmas that led to one of America's most fateful crimes and left a sister's life in shambles.

Hide in Plain Sight by Marta Perry
3.5 stars
"Please God, if you're listening, keep Rachel safe." She couldn't turn her back on her family in their time of need. So when her sister was injured, financial expert Andrea Hampton traded the big city for Amish country to help turn her grandmother's house into an inn. But life with the Plain People took a treacherous turn when a string of accidents and pranks threatened her family. Someone didn't want the secrets the old house harbored to come to light. Trusting anyone-even the handsome carpenter who seemed so genuine-was a battle for Andrea, but her life depended on her ability to find the truth.


Primitive byMark Nykanen
3.5 stars
A neo-primitive cult, possessing secret government documents filled with terrifying information about global warming, kidnaps a famous fashion model and holds her hostage, forcing her to act as their spokesperson. As time runs out, her estranged daughter allies with a dangerous activist group to rescue her, while battling dark agendas from the government and Big Oil.

This is a small sampling of books being offered for free. The list is constantly changing, and most classics are always available for free. The best way to find free books on Kindle is to look through the Bestsellers list. The is actually a list of the most downloaded books, and offering a book for free is quite an incentive for bumping up the number of downloads, usually resulting in the book ending up on this list.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Winner of Beyond Africa

Congratulations to Nora! Enjoy Carie's book! And thanks to all of you who left a comment. The response was great. What a way to congratulate Carie on her debut novel!

Okay, now I know I said I was going start posting all my meandering thoughts again, but I swear, my brain is bone dry these days. So how about this instead. Here's my cover art! I love it! I also want to congratulate the Cover Artist, Jenifer Ranieri, on her recent Quasar award for a book by Vijaya Scharts (fantastic author too) called White Tiger.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Author Interview: Carie Lawson

Today Carie Lawson is visiting to talk about herself and her new book, Beyond Africa – the first in the series, Twisted Roots. Carie is a fellow DBP author, a homeschooling mom like me, and I also discovered that she and I both graduated from Abilene Christian University. I'm a little older, so we missed each other by a few years. How's all that for coincidence though!

SW: Welcome Carie. To begin with would you mind telling us a little about yourself?

CL: I am the stereotypical soccer mom. There's always camp chairs, blankets and an embarrassing amount of trash in the back of my van. When we're not at soccer games or practices with my three boys, I'm taking our little girl to gymnastics/cheerleading practices. I homeschool the kids which allows us to have more family time than we would otherwise have with all of the sports stuff going on. And I rigidly enforce an hour rest time during the week so that I can carve time to write.

SW: You're a busy lady. When did you first become interested in writing?

CL: I started a story in a notebook once when I was in high school and threw it away when I went off to college--where I got a degree in finance and accounting. But all my life I've been an avid reader. I still read at least a book a week--it's almost like a little security blanket. One day I just wanted to see if I could write...turns out I love writing just as much as reading.

SW: What genres do you prefer writing and reading?

CL: Contemporary romances for both. It's just a little escape. I don't mind a few tears in the middle, but I want a happy ending.

SW: What influences you as a writer?

CL: As a writer, I can't write without incorporating elements of faith. I don't think anybody really can write without expressing what they believe.

SW: I agree with that. Even though the characters we write aren't us, they exist in a world that is framed by our views.

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

CL: Ups and downs is certainly a good description. When I first started writing, I didn't realize how much I didn't know about writing. I enjoyed it and wanted to keep writing, but it's taken five years to figure out how to be a good writer. I think the best thing I did for myself was become a member of a local Christian writer's group, MTCW.

SW: So true! Support from others with similar goals is so important. And also finding opinions you respect and trust for guidance.

I have to ask, because this is a struggle for me, but how do you balance writing and motherhood?

CL: When things are level at home, it's pretty easy...I just keep enforcing naptime and walk away from the dishes in the sink or the floor that should be swept. It gets a little hairy when the kids are sick, or a friend needs help. I've learned it's important not to over commit my free time. Enough things will "come up" to fill any extra time I might have.

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?

CL: Usually when the idea is in my head, I have to get it on paper...or a's almost a compulsion. Then when I get stuck, I start researching and go back and add details or change parts.

SW: Tell us about both series you're writing, and your latest release?

CL: The series is about the McCord Family and is called Twisted Roots Series. It's the story of the four siblings in the McCord family. What makes them so strong as individuals and able to change is the connection to their family. Beyond Africa is Case's story. The oldest brother who falls in love with a missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lilly is vulnerable and he wants to protect her, but has to realize that she's stronger than either of them believe.

SW: What inspired you to write this?

CL: Before I started homeschooling the kids, I taught Geography in a small Christian school. As we studied Africa, I thought it would be a cool place to set a story.

SW: That's really interesting! Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them , and what endears them to you?

CL: The McCord siblings have always been very clear in my head. Case is the oldest son, serious, good hearted, always looking out for everyone else. Zane is stubborn, hot-headed but has a soft-heart he only reveals to his family. Haven, the only girl, she's learned to stand up to anybody...maybe too well. And Jude, the baby, charming and fun. Who'd ever guess he was so hard headed under the smile? Then I had to give them someone who'd balance them. I believe in the opposites attract thing.

SW: It's funny that you say that, about the McCords being clear in your head. I feel the same way about the family in my upcoming books. Yesterday morning my husband made the comment that he hasn't read fiction in years, and I said, "what about my book?" And he said, "Well, I've lived with those characters for so long through you that they're practically real."

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

CL: I'll just be honest here...I'm tickled pink to have found someone who'll let me say my favorite thing to do is a "job." I can even occasionally give it priority because "I have a deadline." I just LOVE that.

SW: No Kidding! Any ideas for future projects?

CL: Right now, I have to get the rest of the McCord stories finished. If I tried to start something else, I'd still have them whispering in my ear all the things they want to do and say.

SW: Any other hobbies or interests to share?

CL: Not really. I truly ENJOY being the mom right now. The kids are at fun ages and keep me plenty busy.

SW: Well, since you're an avid reader, what book, other than yours -- which sounds wonderful btw -- do you recommend?

CL: The Heart's Journey Home by Jen Stephens is a good one I've read recently.

SW: Thank you, Carie, and best of luck to you. I enjoyed our interview very much, and look forward to reading your book.

Carie has offered a copy of her book, Beyond Africa, as a prize for my weekly drawing. Usual rules. Just leave Carie a comment or question and you're entered. I'll announce Thursday morning.

Have a nice week!

To purchase, Beyond Africa:
Also available at Amazon Kindle, Allromance ebooks, and Books on Board. Soon to be available at Barnes and Noble and Sony Reader Store.

For more about Carie Lawson and the Twisted Roots series:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

WINNER and a ramble

So, the lucky winner of those amber earrings is...
Lena Nelson Dooley! Congratulations!

It has occurred to me that I've neglected my occasional pointless posts in which I ramble on about nothing in particular in hopes of discovering greater meanings to life. Well, I'll try to start that up again.

My lack of pondering is mostly due to my involvement in this next book I'm writing, which seems to be exhausting my brain of the neccessary energy to explore other tangents. Writing this book is a totally different process than No Other. With it, I felt like I was sitting down to a feast each night, picking and choosing from a bounty of gourmet cuisine. In All Things is more complex; a little harder to tie down in its theme. And since I've complicated it by making the main character a 1950's movie star, the research is a nightmare -- interesting, but overwhelming. Each night when I sit to write, I feel like I'm scraping, trying to fill a tablespoon in hopes that one day I will have a healthy plateful. But...I'm confident in this story, and that God will deliver it through my words as the timing is long as it's before my deadline.;)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Author Interview: Nicole Zoltak

Today I get to introduce you to Nicole Zoltack. Nicole is the author of the Kingdom of Arnhem series, through Desert Breeze Publishing. I've read one of the books in this series and am hooked. I love the adventure, characters, intricate plot; but what I love most is that this series has such a broad appeal, I can share with my daughters, my neice -- possibly even my son! It's a rare and special thing to come across a story that not only entertains, but also gives you something to bond with your family through.

Please welcome, Nicole Zoltack. And be sure to check out the details of the giveaway at the end of the interview.

SW: Hi Nicole, since this is your first visit to my blog would you please start by telling us a little about yourself?

NZ: I’m a mother, a writer, a wife to a wonderful and growing family. I have the most adorable son, he’s almost 17 months now. I’m also pregnant, in the second trimester with baby #2. And no, we aren’t going to find out the sex. We like being surprised.

SW: You have more patience than me! I'm the world's worst at waiting. Anything else...perhaps what you do in your free time, or interesting hobbies?

NZ: Let’s see… what else? I spend my free time with my husband, watching TV shows or movies. I’m also close with my family. Family is important to me.

And for a most interesting detail, my husband and I collect swords. Many are movie replicas (especially LOTR ones) and the rest are designed after the Middle Ages. Sometimes I use them as inspiration in my stories, when I need to describe a sword. And sometimes I’ll pretend to fight an imaginary foe, to be better able to picture an action scene. I would love to one day take fencing lessons. And archery.

SW: I bet that would be an interesting one to explain to someone who didn't know what you were doing, if they were to stumble upon you. When did you first become interested in writing?

NZ: When I first learned how to write. Seriously. My mom used to sit my sister and I down with some paper and pencils and told us to write. It’s no wonder that we both grew up wanting to be authors!

SW: Do you have a particular genre you prefer writing/reading?

NZ: I read everything I can get my hands on: fantasy, historical, young adult, mysteries, true crime, science fiction, romances, some horror. And I write the same way… in lots of different genres. I don’t like to be tied down to just one genre. I don’t think my muse would let me! I haven’t tried to write a mystery yet but I have a wonderful detective in mind for a potential series. His name is Tex Bullet.

If I had to pick just one genre, it would be medieval fantasy. *laughs* And even that’s two! And even if I don’t intend to, there’s almost always a romantic aspect to all of my novels and short stories. Even the horror novella I’m working on has some romance in it.

SW: Why does medieval fantasy appeal to you?

NZ: Why medieval fantasy? I’ve always been obsessed with the Middle Ages. Every year my husband and I go to the Pa Renaissance Faire and I always dress up in garb. The mindset of the medieval people leads me to believe that they thought a great many things were paranormal in nature so it’s only natural to add fire-breathing dragons and other magical things to that time period. Plus it leaves me such much room to create another world beyond just the historical aspects of the time period.

SW: And you do that very well. Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?

NZ: The first novel that I started to write, back in the sixth grade (literally, I started it during class), a fantasy YA, took me over ten years to finish, during college. I took some time off and let it sit for a long time during certain stretches but that story is my ‘baby’.

It’s funny, that story meant and still means so much to me but I haven’t sent it out to any publishers yet.

Instead, what first got me on the road to publication was a call for submission for short sweet romance stories. I thought, hey, I can do that. So I wrote a story and submitted. Was rejected but invited to send another before the deadline. I did, and this time I was accepted! Little Cowgirl (under the pen name Nicolette Zamora) was published in November 2008.

Since then, I have sold my Kingdom of Arnhem series to Desert Breeze Publishing. The first two books, Woman of Honor and Knight of Glory are available for purchase. I’ve also sold a few more short stories for anthologies, some under my name, one more under Nicolette Zamora.

Back to that fantasy YA novel, I’ve sent queries to many agents. Had some partial requests and one full but so far, all rejections. I’m planning on reworking the beginning before submitting to more agents. I really want this book, my ‘baby’ to be in NY publishing.

SW: How do you approach a new project? Research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea, pick your characters and see where it leads?

NZ: General idea and just see where the characters take it from there. I have so many WIPs that I figured out the ending to, and haven’t been able to work on them anymore. The surprise is gone for me and so the motivation to write has disappeared.

When writing my medieval stories, I just write and if I need to research something, I’ll stop writing and then plug in the necessary information once I learn it. I sometimes even have to do research with the fantasy aspects. I love researching unique mythological creatures and incorporating them into my stories.

SW: Tell us about the series you're writing, and your latest release?

NZ: Woman of Honor is Book I in the Kingdom of Arnhem series and is the tale of Aislinn, a young girl who wants to become a knight. She faces many difficulties on her journey but still has time to fall in love.

Knight of Glory picks up immediately after Woman of Honor and is about Geoffrey, one of Aislinn’s friends from knight training. This book delves more deeply into the fantasy world and introduces several other races including dwarves and trolls (neither are exactly like other fantasy novels). For one thing, female trolls are beautiful creatures, tall and noble. And there’s even mention of dwarven women, a rarity in most books about that race.

Aislinn asked Geoffrey to go on a dangerous mission that leads him into peril, deceit, and lies. When he uncovers a sinister plot by the Speicans, it seems like all may be lost in the war between Speica and Arnhem. Plus Geoffrey finds himself torn between two very different women, both of whom have secrets. Will Geoffrey survive the war in order to determine which woman he truly loves?

SW: What inspired you to write this series?

I was inspired to write Woman of Honor from my medieval research when I discovered that there actually were a few female knights. Aislinn cites these brave women when she petitions the king for the chance to train.

Woman of Honor is definitely more focused on the history, with her training. Knight of Glory expands into fantasy, since most of the novel takes part away from Arnhem castle and throughout the entire continent of Alethereia.

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

NZ: Aislinn has to be one of my favorite characters. She knows what she wants and when she makes up her mind, there’s no changing it. No matter the consequences, she will succeed. Loyal to a fault, I like to think that Aislinn is in some ways based on me. When her older brother, a knight, dies, Aislinn wants to carry on with tradition and become a knight in his place. And this sets into motion Woman of Honor.

Caelan is the prince of Arnhem and also trains to be a knight. I wanted to make Caelan a strong hero, one that female readers would fall in love with. Handsome, brave, loyal and true, Caelan has all the qualities of a knightly hero.

Geoffrey, on the other hand, has a nickname of ‘Bard’. He always has his head in the clouds and has a rather unrealistic view of love, one that gets him into trouble with the two women that he is torn between in his story.

The first woman, Celestia, is beautiful and mysterious. She truly loves Geoffrey but keeps many secrets from him, ones that could prove deadly.

Jenanna can at most be called ‘fair’. She has a quick tongue and a sharp tongue. Her exile has caused her to be bitter and she has a hard time trusting people. She is one character that I would like to develop even more, possibly with a short story that predates her time in Knight of Glory.

All of the characters have their roles to play in my stories but they all mean a great deal to me. There’s a piece of me in each of them (some have my husband as well). They’re all dear friends.

SW: What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing?

NZ: I write for myself and for my readers. I want to entertain people with my stories. I hope that when people finish one of my stories, they’re happy with the time spent on it and are eager for the next one.

SW: Well, for this reader, you did just that! Any ideas for future projects?

NZ: Too many ideas. That’s never a problem with me! There’s Book III in the Kingdom of Arnhem series, Champion of Valor. Plus I’ve been cultivating the idea for a new paranormal YA series that I would like to gear for NY. But first, there’s the fantasy YA that I want to redo the beginning few chapters of.

SW: Other than your books, which I'm certainly looking forward to reading, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?

NZ: If you want to read a series that is also about a female knights, I highly recommend the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. She is a fantastic author although I love her Tortall books much better than her Circle of Magic ones.

For a good romance series that mixes in time travel and history as well as other genres, there’s the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Huge books but well worth investing the time in reading.

SW: Thank you Nicole! This was great.

NZ: Thanks so much for interviewing me, Shawna! I had a wonderful time!

SW: It will be great to have you visit again when the third book comes out. I'd love to have a chat with other readers who have enjoyed your book as much as I did too.

There is one more treat. We have a drawing for a pair of amber earrings, pictured here. To enter, simply leave a comment. I'll annouce the winner Friday morning.

For more about Nicole and her books, please visit:

For purchase:

1970 Olds 442


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