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.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Happy Birthday to TBCN (An interview with Nora St. Laurent)

Nora Stlaurent’s Bio: Nora is the CEO of The Book Club Network Incorporated. Nora and her husband run The Book Club Network She runs two book clubs near Atlanta, Ga., Former ACFW On-Line Book Club. Nora currently writes a Book Club column for the Christian Fiction OnLine Magazine and is a Book Club Talk Columnist for Novel Rocket. You can read author interviews on her Finding Hope Through Fiction blog, located at, and reviews around the web at The Christian Pulse Mag, Title Trakk, Novel Reviews, and Suspense Zone.

What inspired you start TBCN?
The Book Club Network was born out of a desire to share Christian Fiction authors with other book clubs, share book club ideas with other leaders and to encourage the authors who are writing such amazing books. The economy has been really tough for a few years and people are not parting with money like they used to. Through TBCN they can take their time and find the right book or win it. We have give away opportunities each month. ALL of our contests are from the 19th – 21st of the month.

I run two face to face book clubs one at the Christian Book Store I work at and the other at the church I attend. It’s a position I never imagined I’d be in since I didn’t read for pleasure much before I started working in a Christian book store 11 years ago.

But since I love talking with people and the main thing to talk about in a book store is books I started reading Christian Fiction (publishers sent ARC copies to our store and I started checking them out) The first book that rocked my world and got me hooked in Christian Fiction was a book by Linda Nichols called Not a Sparrow Falls her next book did me in and I couldn’t stop talking about it, At the Scent of Water was her next book that prompted me to contact the author and let her know how much her book touched my spirit.

After reading these two books and telling customers about these reads I had a reason to read.  These books spoke to me because I wasn’t expecting it. It reminded me of the stories in the bible. Jesus is the greatest story teller and He knew a story could change a life or prick our spirit and move us in a direction we never thought we’d be in.

I tell you all that to say I’m dyslexic and I have not been a fan of reading. Movies were more my thing. I could watch a movie of a book and have a lot more fun. Reading Christian Fiction changed my life in more ways than one.  I wanted to tell everyone about the greatest book I read, and I’d do that at the book store.  It was possible to talk about the new book I read and loved for about a month or more but when At the Scent of Water and Not a Sparrow Falls were not on the shelf anymore, I had to find some other books to talk about at work.  I’m not a very fast reader so; discovering the next new book was a challenge. Would I get the book read before it disappeared from the shelf?  How long do books live on a book shelf? The shelf life of a book was a mystery to me and still is.

I was whining to my husband Fred about my problem. How can I get the word out about great books for a very long period of time??? Being a man who likes to face challenges head we began to talk about how we could do this and the fact that I can’t read books fast enough to keep up with its shelf life at the store.

I also told him as a book club leader I wanted to promote great books and share them with other groups. Not everyone has the advantage of working at a book store and see what new books hit the shelves each week. Another struggle I had was if I had an author speaking at my book club I wanted to share them with other book clubs in the area. How could I do that? Where are book clubs meeting?

Our answer to many of these questions and more was the birth of The Book Club Network - TBCN. Connecting authors to book clubs and readers to their books; it’s also a network of book clubs as they post what they’ve read and how the meeting turned out.
It’s a place to find where a book club is located. We have a member map where you can find a book club near you. Message them and see if they are accepting new members. I envision it to be similar to be similar to the Weight Watchers program (don’t laugh Grin) you can go to a meeting anywhere in the country right? All you have to do is look on line and get connected. This is my hope for the future of TBCN.

Have there been any surprises for you @TBCN? What benefits have you seen by bringing readers and authors together?
I’ve been encouraged and fascinated by our growth. I can see there were other people out there like me wanting to connect with other book club members.

I’ll tell you what has surprised me is the author/reader interaction each month. This is something I didn’t foresee as I’ve watch the authors are having a blast interacting with the readers and visa/versa. The beauty of this discussion is it’s there forever for all to read no matter when you join TBCN.

The authors have done a great job coming up with questions for reader to answer that give them a peek into their book – create interest and then the discussion helps book club leaders connect with the author. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the amount of authors that want to be featured @The Book Club Network. It’s been a great thing.

The interaction with the authors is almost like having a book club meeting on line. It’s a huge benefit for both the authors who’ve wanted to ask clubs questions and readers who want to get to know authors. The authors are catching on. Our sponsors have loved the interaction as well. Members have told me that they love the author interaction from the 19th-21st as much as having a chance to win all these books. It’s hard to know if a book will be a fit for your group so these interaction times are helpful for that and so much more. Another thing I love about TBCN members is the fact they are not afraid to share what they think in a good way. I’ve learned so much and laughed out loud in some discussion where the questions lead to sharing funny moments.

My hope is that book club leaders and/or members participate in the discussions and make that book connection with the author and their book. I want TBCN to be a tool for them in picking out their books. Maybe invite the author to speak to their book club on the phone. It’s my hope. The discussion will be there forever. No worries about a books shelf live here @TBCN. So, everyone has time to get to know each other!! It’s a beautiful thing!

How can readers join in the anniversary celebrations?
It’s easy to sign up to be a member of TBCN.  We ask a few questions for you to answer and for other information that helps us keep spammers and other information seekers out of the network. It’s also FREE. You have opportunities to win lots of books. For our BIRTHDAY BASH we are giving away 10 books a day and announcing winners once a week. You’ll have all week to enter the daily featured contests. 

Do you have any other comments for my readers?
 If you are avid reader this is the place for you to learn about the latest in Christian Fiction and interact with the author each month.

Are you a book club leader? Well this is the place for you to find your next book club pick. We’d also love for you to set up your Book club page at our site for others to see. It’s a place to share your latest featured book. Post pictures of your club and the field trips you’ve taken. The authors you’ve met and the book fun you’ve had. Learn from other book clubs that have already set up their pages.

Want to start a book club but felt it was too overwhelming? You can learn from other experienced book club leaders, and you can start right away making your book club list!
Do you like to win books? This is the place for you. You’ll have a chance to get to know the authors and their books and read genre’s you normally wouldn’t. We’ve been giving away about 100 books a month and for our birthday bash it’s going to be 10 books every day; starting August first. Winners are picked weekly and announced each weekly.

THANK YOU! You’ve been a grand host to have me here and let me talk about The Book Club Network and our Birthday Bash!! I hope to see you there @TBCN

You are a Blessing!!

Nora :o)
The Book Club Network CEO

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sneak a Peek -- A Hand to Hold

Here's a glimpse at the first chapter of my next book, A Hand to Hold. It's the sequel to Orphaned Hearts. Orphaned Hearts is a very special story to me because of the inspiration behind it (my grandparents), and it has probably been my most popular book (toss up between it and No Other). This is unedited and subject to tweaking once the book is in edits, but I thought I'd post an excerpt and whet some appetites. Orphaned Hearts was about finding Caleb a Home when he was a boy. A Hand to Hold is about Caleb saving his home, now that he's a man. Enjoy. It releases Dec. 1st.

 This is the Morning Star zinc mine in Rush, Arkansas (now a ghost town). I took a little liberty with Morning Star's history and expanded their mine operation into my fictional town of Brady Hill. The mine that operated in my imagination is similar to this, but a slightly different landscape.


Caleb stopped telling himself the impending gloom he experienced as he rounded the base of Brady Mountain was just his taking notice of the difference between the fast pace of his life in St. Louis and the small town leisure here at home. Over the years he'd even developed a level of comfort with the brooding feeling. There was no denying that Brady Hill had seen better days.
Today was different. This visit different. For so many reasons. He’d come to bid farewell to the woman who’d been his adopted grandmother from the moment he came to Brady Hill as an orphaned six year old boy.
Knowing she was gone, and that her smile and comforting presence -- a presence capable of easing the heaviest of burdens -- wouldn’t greet him once he arrived, only highlighted the glaring state of his home town.
The subtle sinking sensation that usually filled his gut, the almost imperceptible ache from the hollow in his heart, ramped up into full despair as the scene unfolded before him. Four for sale signs on just the first block. Who were they kidding? There’d be no buyers. No one was moving to Brady Hill.
His dad slowed to obey the speed even though there were no other cars on the road. The drive through town became like a slow motion tour, Caleb’s mind remembering what was and trying to reconcile it with what he now saw.
The theater, closed... Dixie’s CafĂ©, closed... The building that housed the local paper was all boarded up. The shoe shine chairs in front of the barber shop sat empty and no ladies anxiously lingered in front of the bakery for first dibs on Matilda's sour dough straight from the oven. Even essentials like the clinic and pharmacy were shut down.
Caleb scanned the empty sidewalks through the passenger side window of his father's Oldsmobile. Awnings cast shadows, providing shade from the sun, but only birds took refuge there.
In his mind he heard the echo of once-upon-a-time voices and laughter -- residents stopping to greet and chat, taking time to enjoy one another’s company. Brady Hill’s walkways had knitted the town together house by house, business by business. A person could always count on bumping into a familiar face when out for a stroll.
He'd loved this as a boy, because it usually ended with an invitation to join someone for a piece of pie or cup of hot cocoa, depending upon the weather. He always felt safe, accepted. Able to simply be himself. The fact that he'd come here orphaned and maimed, having lost his arm, hadn't mattered. To the people of Brady Hill, he was just Caleb.
He sighed and exchanged glances with his father, and then turned his attention to the road ahead.
"The quiet is hardest to get used to," his dad said and left it at that.
Caleb only nodded.
Indeed. Of all the signs of decay around him, the silence pressed upon Caleb the hardest. Brady Hill was founded as a mining town. Throughout her life the zinc mine had been her heartbeat -- the single force that gave her existence meaning. The roar and idle of truck engines making their haul through town was a constant and soothing strum.
Caleb strained his ears if only to hear a distant echo, but all was quiet. The mine was closed, the heartbeat stilled.
This town who had raised him, this town he loved; she was dying.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sharon Leaf Visits. Lady and the Sea: A novel based on a true story

Lady and the Sea by Sharon Leaf
A novel based on a true story

I was born in sultry South Carolina and raised in sunny Southern California.  I’ve always loved to write, but when I caught the ‘running fever’ in the late ‘70’s and finished my first half-marathon, I thought I could do anything!  Suddenly, all those endorphins kicked in and within six months I completed two full-blown manuscripts on my Smith-Corona typewriter  (not counting the editing, of course).  Due to some unexpected events—death and divorce--I never took my writing to the next level of publishing.  However, I can still hear those manuscripts beckoning me, “Take me off the shelf!  I deserve to be heard too!”

Since turning forty, I have traveled to over fifteen countries, including living in Sweden with my husband, Rob, while attending Bible college, traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, trekking through Israel in 1992, and volunteering on a World War II ship for fourteen months in 1994.  I received a degree in theology at sixty, proving that it’s never too late to fulfill another dream.  I returned to my southern roots six years ago and now live in South Carolina with Rob and my malte-poo, Popcorn.   I consider myself a late bloomer as a published author.  Lady and the Sea is my debut novel.

“You cannot discover new oceans until you are willing to lose sight of the shore”

When I read this quote from a poster hanging in an old secondhand shop in 1994, I bought it and hung it in my home office.  The message stirred something deep within me that I couldn’t explain.  Little did I know that this fifteen-word quote would literally come alive in a matter of months when I came across a flyer with a haunting photo of another aging lady, a rusty, old World War II vessel.  The flyer’s message challenged me because, after two failed marriages, I was living the comfortable life with my prince charming.  Then I remembered the quote.  How could I pass up this dangerous assignment to transport Russian Jews from Sochi, Russia, to Haifa, Israel?  So in spite of my fear of water and the unknown condition of the ship, I said yes to that inner voice that was saying GO, and I left my comfortable shore and dived into a new ocean.

After living on the Restoration—the ship of miracles—for fourteen months, I was inspired to tell her story, but it was after several influential people in my life heard about our journey, looked me in the eyes and said, “You must write this story for the world!”  I rolled my eyes and thought, easy for you to say, thou person who has never written a letter, much less a book.  But they were right.  Thus, Lady and the Sea was birthed.

When I was soliciting Lady and the Sea, two traditional publishing houses challenged me on two fronts: They didn’t want the World War II ship to have a voice, and they didn’t want the backstory of Rosie and Resti (Rosie’s nickname for the old ship).  I wanted both, so after much prayer and research, I decided to become an indie-author to keep control of my story (and of my time—I can be as busy or as laid-back as I choose with no pressure).   Those who have read Lady and the Sea loved Resti’s convincing voice in the beginning of each chapter, and they loved traveling through five decades with Rosie and Resti up until the time that the two ladies meet.  Yay!   I’m so glad I listened to that inner voice.

Perhaps, like me, you will relate to Resti’s story.  After World War II, the old vessel sat in mothballs for almost fifty years, thinking her glory days were over.  She had her fifteen minutes of fame on the China Sea.  But at the right moment in time, she was restored to her natural beauty and was christened MS Restoration.  She wore her name well.  She restored faith in the crew and the volunteers who poured their hearts into her mission, and she restored hundreds of Russian Jews to Israel.  Now I ask you, if God can do that for a mere ship, how much more does he want to do for each one of us?

After you read Lady and the Sea, I hope you will find faith for your forgotten dreams.  Whether you are a reader, a writer, or both, I encourage you to follow that inner voice that says GO.

I wish you smooth sailing and oceans of blessings!

Lady and the Sea, Chapter One ~ July 1995

Within minutes of the MS Restoration entering the Haifa harbor, an Israeli gunboat sped from the port and circled the World War II vessel.  As two soldiers aimed their deck-mounted machine guns at the ship, another shouted instructions in Hebrew through a loudspeaker.
            The captain of the MS Restoration responded over the ship’s radio, “Please, speak to us in English!”
            Rosie grabbed the rail.  “Do they think we’re terrorists?”
            Jesse touched her arm.  “Rosie, calm down.”
            “Do they think we’re pirates?”
            “Just calm down,” her husband repeated, holding out his hand.
            “Will they make us jump overboard?  I don’t have my life jacket,” she spoke, fighting back her fear of water that was trying to surface once more.
            “Rosie, you must get hold of yourself.”
            Her mind raced as she gazed up at the man who had brought her on this unpredictable journey.  Jesse’s right; what’s come over me? Rosie asked herself, all the time wishing she didn’t have to go to the bathroom.  She didn’t dare leave his side.
            The ship, her fellow crewmembers, and their special passengers—the Russian Jews—had finally reached their destination.  No more troubled waters.  No more hurricanes.  No more delays.  On this hot July morning, they were home free—or so they thought.
            Rosie looked at the crew, poised as if they were ready to hit the deck.  “Isn’t this ironic?  We’ve traveled halfway around the world, and this is the welcome we get.”
            “Stop your engine!” the soldier shouted.
            Within seconds, they were dead in the water.
            Rosie’s stomach churned.  She hung her head over the side of the ship and let it rip.  After wiping her mouth with a hankie, she grabbed hold of Jesse’s arm.  She’d heard stories about people who had experienced close calls.  Her seventy-year-old father once told her about the time his ship almost went down in the China Sea during the war.  “At that moment, my whole life passed before me,” Talmage said.
            Now feeling lightheaded as the Israeli soldiers glared at the Restoration through their binoculars, Rosie knew that this was her moment.

TO READ MORE, download the Kindle sample for free or purchase the Kindle edition for only $3.03.For the print edition click here.

Want to know more about Sharon Leaf ? Visit her blog at


1970 Olds 442


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