Thursday, March 31, 2011

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS A "WATER COOLER" STORY? Ask MARCIA

Marcia Gruver’s southern-comfortable roots lend touches of humor and threads of faith to her writing. Look for both in her Texas Fortunes and Backwoods Brides series. When she’s not perched behind a keyboard, you’ll find her clutching a game system controller or riding shotgun on long drives in the Texas Hill Country. Lifelong Texans, Marcia and her husband Lee have five children, an even dozen grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter—so far.

SKC: Welcome Marcia. I read your bio with great interest. And I've been blessed to have had the opportunity to read a couple of your books. Both so good. What books or project are you hoping to tell us about this week?

MG: Thank you, Shirley! I’m excited to share the release of book one in the Backwoods Brides series. The first installment is Raider’s Heart, and the title describes the plotline. The story’s about a raider hiding out in the backwoods of North Carolina, but Hooper McRae doesn’t steal to line his own pockets. His raiding stems from a tender heart toward his people, the Lumbee Indians, who suffer starvation and persecution in the post Civil War south.

A fiery, passionate man with strong convictions, Hooper is often misunderstood, even by those closest to him. While searching for a mysterious golden lamp, he meets an even more mysterious woman who challenges everything he believes about himself. Dawsey Wilkes questions his methods and even his motives for helping the Lumbee tribe. Not sure why he cares what she thinks, he gambles all he has to try to make her understand.

Yet Dawsey has good reason not to trust a word Hooper says, since he hogtied and threw her from a window, and then whisked her away to the swampland of Scuffletown, North Carolina, against her will.

SKC: Ooh. Sounds intriguing, all right. And I LOVE the cover. What special something inspired you to come up with each of the books you've written?

MG: The idea for Diamond Duo came to me in Jefferson, Texas, while standing over the grave of Diamond Bessie, Jefferson’s infamous unsolved murder victim. I wrote Chasing Charity, set amid the huge oil boom in Humble, Texas, because I’ve lived near Humble and mingled with oil people for most of my life. The idea for Emmy’s Equal was born deep in South Texas while my husband fulfilled a contract job. I fell in love with cactus and mesquite, and the very unique blend of cultures there. As for Raider’s Heart, I watched a documentary on North Carolina legend, Henry Berry Lowry, one of the most interesting figures I’ve come across in my research, and I just had to write a story around his band of backwoods raiders.

SKC: Tell us about some of the authors who have given you insight on how to express your own voice, and have taught you the most about development of style.

MG: I belong to a close-knit “band of sisters,” a collection of wonderful women authors. Some came of age alongside me, and some were veterans of the writing trade who graciously bent to offer me a hand up. Without these women (critique partners past and present: Jessica Ferguson, Linda Kozar, Elizabeth Ludwig, Janelle Mowery, Sandra Robinson, Martha Rogers, Susan Sleeman, Janice Thompson, Kathleen Y’Barbo Turner) I wouldn’t be published today. I highly recommend anything written by these amazing, gifted writers.

SKC: Oh, me too, Marcia. Gifted writers have been quite an inspiration to me also. When you are in the middle of series and deadlines does it cramp your creativity, or enhance it, and why or why not?

MG: I think I can safely say that no author likes the “dreaded deadline,” but we all learn to live within its boundaries. To be honest, I feel it does hamper creativity to know you must produce X-number of words within a certain timeline. Who can schedule the creative urge?

Unfortunately, once you’ve signed a contract, committing yourself to a deadline, you’re expected to trudge faithfully onward, often without benefit of the so-called ‘muse.’ This is where Christian authors have an edge. We can call out to God for help and inspiration. In my case, He’s been faithful to supply. A fact for which I’m grateful.

SKC: Yes, the Lord makes all the difference for us, doesn't HE. What for you is the KEY to writing a good book?

MG: I’m a firm believer in story first. Anyone can learn correct punctuation and the craft of writing, but if you can’t produce stirring plotlines where winsome, multifaceted characters run amok, I’d say. . .well. . .don’t quit your day job. There’s nothing more exciting than a good story, those that keep readers awake and turning pages until the wee hours of the night. These are the novels people talk about around the water cooler the next day. Who doesn’t love a book like that?

I’m still striving for my ‘water cooler’ story. It’s a goal every published writer should aspire to.

SKC: A water cooler story, huh? Yes, that makes sense. After you finish your present project what plans outside of writing do you have?

MG: Your question struck a chord. Nearing the end of two consecutive three-book contracts, it’s one I’ve been asking myself lately. Once I wrap up Hunter’s Prize, the final installment of Backwoods Brides, I plan to find a hilltop somewhere and spend some time finding the answer.

SKC: Sometimes it is important for us to simply get alone, isn't it. As we close please let us know which book you plan to donate to one of our readers, and share a reflection question that deals with reading material, or writing techniques, or whatever else comes to your mind.

MG: I’m pleased to offer a copy of Raider’s Heart to one of your readers. Good luck on the drawing, everyone!

REFLECTION QUESTION:
The reflection question is dedicated to my daughter, Tracy, who buys a book based mostly on the front cover. If the cover art grabs her attention, she reads the blurb on the back, otherwise she passes it by. So the question for your reader is: What piques your interest first, the cover art or the back cover copy?

SKC: Thank you to Tracy and to you, Marcia. We really appreciate your coming here to visit and for being a follower of A Pen for Your Thoughts. How can our readers find you and also locate your books?

MG: Thank you for having me! It’s always a pleasure dropping by for a visit.

Readers, you can write to me on the contact page of my website: http://www.marciagruver.com/. I’d love to hear from you. And you can always find me chatting about something over on Facebook.

My books are available at most retail outlets like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Warehouse, and in bookstores like Family Christian and Barnes and Noble. Also, most online outlets like http://www.amazon.com/, http://www.christainbook.com/, etc.

God’s best to every one of you!

Viewers: Don't forget to check out Marcia's question for you above. We look forward to hearing from you. And if you haven't read Marcia's work yet, be sure to get one of her books. They are a joy to read. HOPE I DRAW YOUR NAME!

Congratulations to Courtney Melone from Moxee, Washington. You have just won Marcia's book. Be watching for it soon in your mail box!
THANKS SO MUCH FOR BEING A PART OF OUR BLOG.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

One Author's Answer to those dragging moments? Just get out a gun. Oh my!

Stephen Bly is a Christy Award finalist and winner for his westerns, The Land Tamers, The Outlaw’s Twin Sister, Picture Rock, and Last of the Texas Camp. He has authored and co-authored with wife, Janet, 105 fiction and nonfiction books for adults, teens and kids. Stephen and Janet live in the mountains of north-central Idaho on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. They are the parents of three married sons, have four grandchildren, and one great-granchild.

SDC: Such an interesting busy life you must have! What book or project would you like to tell us about today?

SB: My newest release on May 1st will beThrow The Devil Off The Train. Sometimes plot ideas seem to fall out of the sky for me. When I recognize one that I like, I pick it up and run with it, to see where it leads.

SDC: I can't wait to hear all about it.

SB: Throw The Devil Off The Train is a road story inside a train headed west. I wanted the reader to view the grandeur of the West from a train window. . .to experience the slow, winding journey fraught with perils, compared to modern transportation. Added to that I envisioned a theme that people are much more complex than first meetings reveal. Cramped in a train and tested by various trials, stories of the passengers emerge. . .hurts and pains, victories and defeats of the past prod the actions and move the plot.

Then, with the main protagonists, Catherine Goodwin and Race Hillyard, I tossed two hostile cats into a burlap bag, then watched to see how they’d survive. . .or not. After a few gouges and bites between, I could see the evolving conflict trail of their story.

SDC: I started reading westerns about two years ago, Stephen. This really does sound exciting. What inspired you to come up writing in the western genre?

SB: Folks often ask me if I always wanted to grow up and write books about cowboys. Nope. Not me. I never wanted to be a writer. But I did grow up on a farm and wanted to be a cowboy. I had Roy Rogers PJs and curtains and a plastic statue of trigger on my dresser.

However, as a lad, I only read a few western novels. My aunt and uncle had a box of dusty dime novels in a room next to their garage. I’d go to sleep reading them when I got a chance.

But what really caught my fancy was history. I liked the nonfiction accounts of life in the Old West. I learned to grab all the University of Oklahoma and University of Nebraska titles that I could find.

After I married and started raising kids of my own, I read lots of western fiction. One birthday my mother gave me some Zane Grey stories. Then, I picked up novels by B. M. Bower, Owen Wister, Will James, Luke Short, Ernest Haycock, Elmer Kelton, Vardis Fisher and, of course, Louis L’Amour. Somewhere in the middle of the 63rd L’Amour book, the idea struck me . . . I can write one of these.

By then, I had a dozen nonfiction books to my published credit, so I knew I could fill the pages. But I didn’t know if I could spin a tale people would want to read.

One summer wife Janet and I and our youngest son camped in the Beartooth mountains, south of Red Lodge, Montana. I took along an old typewriter and wrote my first western novel, called The Land Tamers. Since I had no idea if I’d ever have the chance to write another, I tied to pack every scene I ever wanted to write in that one book. An editor commented that it moved about as fast as the movie, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. She meant it as a critique. I took it as a compliment.

As it turned out, that was just one of many tales I was allowed to write. I haven’t run out of ideas yet.

SDC: I have a feeling you'll never run out either. What do you think it takes to write a good book? Do you have any secrets?

SB: Though Janet and I have written a couple cozy mystery series, I mainly know about westerns. Every western’s got cowboys and every cowboy’s a storyteller. It goes with the culture. And cowboys don’t need campfires to tell their tales. A sidekick or a good horse who listens will do. That’s one reason why horses were so important for a cowboy. Years later, autos didn’t quite do it—to draw out a windy tale. All I have to do is get each of my characters telling their own oral stories that will captivate the reader’s attention and I’ve got a novel ready to roll.

If the story drags, I’ve got a ready-made solution: shoot someone. You may think that’s a play at humor, but I am dead serious. I do something, anything, that makes my reader jump up and shout, “he can’t do that!” To keep a story alive, you have to produce compelling action and crisp, fast dialogue. I often write an entire chapter of dialogue without any narration, without any identifiers at all. No “he said, she said”. . . .nada. Then, I tweak the words to draw emotion or subtle undertones. Once the dialogue zings, I can elaborate with scenery, narration and other literary delights to pump it up, to increase the vitality.

SDC: Great way to toss in that immediate conflict! Do you read other books besides inspirational? If so, how do they help you in your craft? If not, why not?

SB: I’ve always been a history buff, like my dad, so I read a lot of books about different eras and cultures and peoples. This has helped frame a context and reference to my understanding of the over-arching human story. Of course, I major on the events and times in the Old West, especially between 1870 and 1910 or so. This background informs my research and resources for accuracy of tone and details for my novels.

One of my favorite western fiction authors is Elmer Kelton. I had the privilege of meeting him while he was alive and listening to his talk, “Fiction Writers Are Liars & Thieves.” He stayed with the code for classic westerns. Another is Luke Short. Library Journal and others have compared my writings to theirs.

My favorite authors before I began writing westerns were Fyodor Dostoevsky, John Steinbeck and William Saroyan. These guys caught my imagination, captured me with their believable characters and thought provoking themes.

SDC: I'm going to have to look into some of those authors myself. I love to discover others and how they write or have written. We learn so much from others. Please include a short excerpt of your book. And tell us why you selected it for us.

SB: Here’s a sample of what I consider a romantic scene from my coming release, Throw The Devil Off The Train. The couple seems amiable enough, but there’s hints of sparks. No telling how the fire will settle.

The muddy North Platte River paralleled the train tracks and scattered buildings at Patterson's Siding. Mountains of firewood blocked Catherine Goodwin's view of the river, but as she and Race Hillyard strolled west, the rolling waters and bluffs appeared.

To the south, dry, brown tufts of grass sprawled for miles across treeless, rolling prairie. Occasional wagon ruts recorded the direction of an intrepid pioneer. The morning sky flashed a deep, royal blue with high streaks of white clouds that looked like thick paint slung across the sky. A slight breeze drifted towards them.

Catherine's high, lace up brown leather shoe slipped off the gravel. She grabbed Race's arm. "Excuse me. I hope I didn't twist my ankle." She stretched her foot.

"You're just trying to butter me up for a loan."

She poked him in the ribs, then pulled her arm away. "You better be teasing me."

He slipped her arm back into his. "As long as the good Mr. Phillip Draper of Paradise, California, won't mind, I'm happy to assist a pretty lady on a walk."

"Hmmm. . .a compliment from Mr. Race Hillyard. Should I be suspicious?"

"I'd be disappointed if you weren't."

Catherine studied the faces in the train car beside them. "You know, just yesterday I held you in deep disgust."

"Has that changed?"

"Yes, today I hold you in mediocre disdain."

SDC: Thank you very much, Stephen. I know as others read this, it will spark their interest too. What question would you ask of a reader that might help you in the writing of a book and that might help me to select a winner of your new book coming out?

SB: What interests you most about historical novels and why?

SDC: Oh, now, that's a great question. Thank you so much for joining us at A Pen for Your Thoughts! I can't wait till your book comes up. I guarantee I'll be one of your buyers!


VISITORS! Please take a moment to consider Stephen's question above. Write in your thoughts. I, too, would love to know what interests you most about historical novels and why. I HOPE I DRAW YOUR NAME!

Congratulations to Charity Lyman of Nauvoo, IL. Be watching for Stephen's book as soon as it releases!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Edgy, Brow-Lifting, and Maybe with a Twist of Authenticity ... Hold the Sugar Please

Meet Tracy Krauss, folks. You'll be glad you did.

Tracy Krauss is an author, artist, playwright, director, worship leader, and high school teacher of Art, Drama and English. Originally from a small prairie town, she received her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. She and her husband have lived and worked in many remote communities in Canada’s far north, pastoring for part of that time while raising their four children They currently live in Tumbler Ridge, BC.

SDC: A few things about you interested me before we even made plans to do this interview, Tracy. Your love for drama, your style of book writing, and how you might find the time to write, since you are also busy teaching classes at a high school.

Tracy: At the moment I am still ‘recovering’ from my latest drama production which opened March 9 called ‘A Midterm Eve’s Phantasm’. My troupe of young actors has grown to 34 members this year and we just finished four shows to record crowds and rave reviews. I usually write, direct and produce my own material for the troupe, which is a huge commitment in terms of time and energy – this show was six months in the making. Sometimes I wonder if I’m digging an early grave with so much going on in my life, but I love, LOVE, LOVE working with teens and believe that their involvement in theater has such lasting value that I can’t imagine giving it up.

As for my writing style, which has been termed ‘Edgy Christian’, I suppose I just try to be authentic. I know there is a place for sweet romantic safe novels, but that is not what appeals to me and I don’t feel it is what I have been called to write. I prefer a good twist and I don’t mind delving into topics that might be slightly more risquĂ© than the usual Christian fare. This is not to say that my work is graphic or contains gratuitously explicit content. It is probably just not what most people would expect coming from a pastor’s wife. (But then I never did fit that mold very well.  I hate baking and entertaining, I enjoy a good rock concert, and I’m perfectly fine with body art like tattoos and piercings if tastefully done.)

How do I fit it all in? I’m not sure exactly! Now that my children are grown I have more time for my writing than I used to. I guess I’m just a compulsive ‘doer’. I don’t sit around much. When I am passionate about something, I just do it.

SDC: Tell us about the influence your books and witness have been on your readers and your students.

Tracy: Since I work in a public school, I am not free to share my faith with students in the regular setting. However, my writing is a way to witness to people about God’s faithfulness in a non-threatening way. I think it also helps people realize that being a Christian does not mean you have to be some kind of ‘faker’ or ‘goody-two-shoes’. Christians are people just like anyone else. A lot of people are turned off by what comes across as hypocritical piousness. Part of what my writing does (I hope) is de-mystify faith in God. My characters are real, flawed human beings who find redemption despite themselves. Hopefully, the stories are intriguing enough that readers will enjoy them for what they are – fiction. However, I can’t help including the ‘faith’ element because that is who I am. I have to be authentic. My first book AND THE BEAT GOES ON brings up a lot of evidence for creation, so that has had a pretty big impact in terms of getting people to question their own beliefs about evolution and the origins of the universe.

SDC: How do you weave faith into your stories?

Tracy: So far, redemption has been a very strong and recurring theme in my novels. I suppose you could say it is the central theme.

SDC: How has your publisher helped you with your writing experience?

Tracy: I have had nothing but good experiences with my publisher, Strategic Publishing Group. They have remained in constant communication with me from the moment I signed my first contract until now and walked me through every phase. I am currently in the production phase of my third novel with them.

SDC: How do you receive strength from Christ in a way that greatly intensifies your writing experience?

Tracy: One of the things that I do is play the piano and sing worship songs. I am the worship coordinator at our church and also lead worship quite a bit, but I enjoy just sitting down when I am alone and playing and singing to the Lord. I also do a lot of prayer journaling. I find that when I ‘write’ my prayers I am more focused on the Lord and His voice, although they are often almost impossible to read afterwards because sometimes I get going so fast! Lastly, I have purposed to say a prayer – even just a quick one – each and every time I sit down at the computer to write.

SDC: Do you attend or teach women’s bible studies of any kind? And does your interaction with others give you creativity with your writing imagination? And also what books do you read that have helped you that you would suggest for others?

Tracy: For many years, especially when my children were younger, women’s Bible Studies were my life line. Right now I am enjoying a mixed group. I guess we all go through different seasons and this is where I’m at right now. The group that feeds my creativity the most at the moment is a local artist’s group that I attend that also just happens to be mostly made up of Christians. I’m finding that same sense of kinship and camaraderie that I used to enjoy at women’s Bible studies, only this time it is more like an evangelistic group. Because so many of us are Christians, we are able to witness through our lives and some wonderful opportunities have arisen because of it.

As far as books go, I think variety is the spice of life. Good writers also read and take note of stylistic differences etc. I love classics like Jane Austen and George Orwell, and I also enjoy the bizarre with a good twist - Sci-Fi, fantasy, mystery, thrillers … and maybe even some romance. (Nothing too sweet )

SDC: Tell us a little about this book that you are hoping to share with us today and that you want to offer up to one of our readers. And if you could ask our viewers anything what would it be?

Tracy: MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER is the story of a forty-something ‘cougar’ out to find fulfillment through – you guessed it – men. Her life gets very complicated when she tries to juggle too many prospects at one time, exacerbated by the fact that she has five grown daughters, who, unknown to any of them, end up getting involved with said ‘prospects’ as well. Meanwhile, her ex husband, a mafia con-man, is out of prison and looking for revenge. The mix ups add up to lots of humor, but there is also a dark side to the story when we finally are allowed to see into Joleen’s past. Add to that drug deals, kidnapping, murder and you’ve got an action packed story full of surprises. I’m happy to report that MAN-EATER hit the best seller lists on amazon.ca in the ‘romance-contemporary’ category a couple of weeks ago. Not bad for a Christian novel.

My question: What is one of the most awkward situations you have ever found yourself in? (I’ve been in lots of awkward situations!)

SDC: Interesting question that should bring some intriguing answers. Thank you so much for being with us here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Tracy.

READERS: Be sure to answer Tracy's reflective question. I'll be selecting the winner's name at random later in the week.

Congratulations to  Linda Strawn of Manton, CA. I know you'll enjoy that book!

Monday, March 14, 2011

IF YOU LOVE TO READ, WE NEED YOU!

Fiction Readers WE NEED YOU to Judge Contest

Faith, Hope & Love, a chapter of Romance Writers of America, is looking for additional judges for its Inspirational Readers Choice Award contest. THAT COULD BE YOU!

If you enjoy reading Contemporary Romance, are a reader, not a writer, you are perfect for this job!
For this contest, judges must not be writers or aspiring writers of romance fiction. They are looking only for people who love to read.
Read below to learn what it's all about:
The Faith, Hope, and Love Inspirational Chapter of Romance Writers of America® sponsors an award for excellence in inspirational romance fiction for published authors. If you have been a judge for us in the past, you will receive an invitation to judge again in late February. If you have not read for us before and would like to judge for the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award contest, please read the qualifications listed below.

Our judges must read and rank three or four inspirational romance novels in six weeks between April 1st and May 15th. If you would like your name added as a possible judge, and you meet the qualifications, please click on the link below. If we have our limit of judges, your name will be held for the following year and you will be contacted to see if you are interested in reading for us.

To read the list of rules a judge agrees to, visit their web site, and if interested, contact the coordinator whose email link is at the bottom of the page.

To read the list of rules a judge agrees to, visit their web site, and if interested, contact the coordinator whose email link is at the bottom of the page.I hope you'll check it out.

If you've never done it before, you'll discover what a joy it is. http://www.faithhopelove-rwa.org/irc_judges.html

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

To write about BEYOND EVER AFTER can really tell a story. Just check it out.

Carie Lawson makes her home outside Nashville, TN. She has four busy kids, a wonderful husband and a long-suffering Labrador. Most of her time is spent homeschooling the kids and driving the SUV to and from various practices. When there’s a spare moment, she sneaks away to her computer to work on her next book.

SDC: Hi, Carie. I’m excited to be able to share you with the world in the next few days. Tell us about what brought you to the place you are in today as a writer.

CL: Thanks for having me! It’s so fun to be here. I have ALWAYS been a reader. One day I wondered if writing could be as much fun as reading. I started my first novel, which eventually became Beyond Africa, in 2002. I finished three books before I sold my first novel, which actually was Beyond Ever After. Since Desert Breeze contracted the Twisted Roots Series, I have been rewriting and editing furiously.

SDC: Most people go through a lot to find that perfect publisher for them. What made you believe so strongly that you had a story worth picking up?

CL: Like most writers, the list of rejections for my writing was long and at times discouraging. But I knew that each time there was a no in my inbox, I learned something. There was a time when I was so discouraged, I asked the Lord if He wanted me to give it up. And if He did want me to, please just let me know. Later that weekend I found out that I had finaled in the Heart of the Rockies Contest. I took that as a “no.”

SDC: That's a great, positive way to look at things. What audience do you enjoy writing the most for, and why?

CL: I want my stories to connect with people who love the Lord and know that they are imperfect. The characters in my stories are FAR from angelic. On my website, http://www.carielawsonbooks.com/ , I have the statement “Messy Middles, Blessed Ever Endings” because I know I get things wrong… a lot… but my heavenly father continues to bless my life, despite my mistakes.

SDC: How realistic is your kind of writing? And what was the key to getting started and staying with it?

CL: Beyond Ever After looks at the relationship of a couple who made lots of mistakes in their dating and married life, and come to the place where they know they can’t make it right. So they begin to look to the Lord for help. Now, if that isn’t a realistic situation, I don’t know what is.

As far as staying with writing, I continue to do it because I love to write. If it ended up that just me and three of my closest friends enjoyed it, I would continue just for the fun.

SDC: A true writer at heart, that's you. How did you select your favorite characters in this story? How would you do so in any story?

CL: I really love the characters who appear in the story fully formed, the way two little girls in Beyond Summer did. It was as if they sat on my shoulder and whispered in my ear what they would do while I wrote. The characters in Beyond Ever After appeared in the first two books. First Haven, as she became a friend to the heroine, Lilly, in Beyond Africa. Then Brody, who appeared as a rival to Zane, in Beyond Summer. I thought, “ooh, who is he and why do they hate each other?” And away we went on another adventure.

SDC: You write strictly for the Christian Market. Why do you think it’s so important to write for a Christian Market only? And do you believe your book would be well read by a secular audience as well?

CL: It would be too hard for me to set aside what I believe to write for the secular market, so I’ve never tried. I really hope that a secular audience reads it though, because my stories are full of the blessings we receive when we are willing to go with God’s plans instead of our own. In Beyond Ever After, Brody is not a Christian in the beginning of the book and when he goes on a mission trip with Haven, his beliefs are stretched.

SDC: What kind of reading material do you look to that you believe helps you with your style of writing?

CL: I still read continuously. I’m constantly asking myself, “What makes this book so great…or not so great.” I try to learn as much as I can from both.

SDC: We are always learning, aren't we, Carie. We are thrilled that you are willing to donate a copy of one of your books to one of our readers. Will you give us a short excerpt from your book to entice our interest?

CL: I’d love to!

That night, as Haven and Brody lay side by side on their narrow mattress, Haven rolled over to face her husband, propping her head up on her hand. "It looks like you got a lot done today."


"Hmm." Brody's lashed fluttered down on his cheeks. "Yeah. The only problem is I'm not able to work on the hospital repairs while we turn the school into a shelter."

She put a hand on his arm. "I guess it's just prioritizing. I know you'll do as much as you can on the hospital before we go home."

Brody looked away from her. Something dark and akin to fear slid into her chest, but what should she fear? She wouldn't look for something to go wrong when everything was finally going right.

He opened his eyes. "I was hoping to make some progress this week."

"You are, Brody, just different progress than you'd planned on."

He rolled on his side to face her. "I think we'll probably finish up the school house tomorrow. That'll give us a little time to get the people moved in there."

His face was just inches from her. It would be easy to steal a kiss, but she didn't move. "There won't be much room for anything other than the people."

Brody's eyes traveled her face. "No. We're going to move the benches out to make more room. I guess their stuff isn't that important, just keeping people dry and safe."

She flopped on her back and stared at the ceiling. "Sorry to keep you up. I know you need some sleep."

Brody's voice rough voice said, "Come here, Haven."

When she complied, closing the few inches in between them, Brody tucked her up in his arms and let his hand pillow her face. Haven didn't move for fear of breaking the moment. The feel of her husband's arms around her, his scent and warmth embracing her, was a bandage to her bruised, but healing heart. Brody took a deep breath with his face buried in her hair. Happiness surrounded her as surely as his arms. She was married to the love of her life and, wonder of all wonders, it seemed he was in love with her, too.

SDC: Sounds very good! After you tell the readers where they can find your books and look you up, what question you would like one of our visitors to answer to help me select a winner?

CL: You can find me at http://www.carielawsonbooks.com/  or on Facebook, I have a fan page, Carie Lawson Books – that’s probably what I keep up most with as far as updating and adding information. My books are available at http://www.desertbreezepublishing.com/ , http://www.amazon.com/ , http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ , http://www.allromanceebooks.com/ , and http://www.christianbooks.com/.

(CARIE'S QUESTION FOR YOU?) What is the best book you’ve read in the last year and why?

READERS: Be sure to answer Carie's question above to try to win a copy of her book!

Congratulations to Pegg Thomas of Ossineke, MI. You just won a copy of Carie's books!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

FROM ONE ENCOURAGER TO ANOTHER ...

As a homeschooling mom, her aim is to surprise and entertain readers while she tells stories about imperfect people searching for hope and faith to overcome their struggles. What better could you ask for?
Naomi Musch loves stories rich in American history, but writes in several other genres as well. She also enjoys sharing true accounts of changed lives for the Midwestern Christian newspaper, Living Stones News, and encouraging homeschooling families and young writers in other non-fiction venues.

Together, she and husband Jeff are celebrating thirty years of romance, and they continue to enjoy epic adventures around their home in the Wisconsin woods with their five young adults. She invites readers to say hello and find out more about her stories, passions, and other writing venues at http://www.naomimusch.com/ or look her up on Facebook and Twitter (NMusch).

SDC: Welcome to A Pen for Your Thoughts, Naomi. Three or four things about you interested me before we even made plans to do this interview. The type of books you write; How you were given your lovely name; Your favorite scripture and why it is that; And what exactly makes you tick.

Naomi: Thank you so much! I can't take any credit for my name. I was three days old before my parents made that choice. Apparently they were pretty stumped when my mom began reading Ruth's story in a hospital Bible and they picked Naomi. (I guess that means stories of great romance have been with me since birth. Hey, I like that idea!)

My passion is historical fiction. As a kid, I didn't like history until some historical novelists and biographers made it come alive for me. I've lately been enjoying some contemporary romance as well -- women's fiction mostly.

What makes me tick? Annoying things. Oh -- wait a minute -- wrong kind of tick... No, really, I am passionate about the family with which God has blessed me, and about faith. Everything that comes our way in life, I believe, is designed to draw us closer to Christ or to introduce Him for the first time if we don't know Him. My family trains me and daily helps me see His great love.

I'm also passionate about homeschooling and encouraging individuals to develop their gifts and talents as extensions of the ministries God intends for us individually.

My favorite Scripture is a reflection of God's work in my life and of the changes that take place in some of my stories. It's Psalm 40. It begins by saying, "I waited patiently for the LORD, he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock."

SDC: Tell us about the influence your books and witness have been on your readers.

Naomi: One reader once commented, "I appreciate the way it addressed the fact that human relationships won't satisfy. We need Christ."
I've also been told that some of my stories (The Green Veil in particular) made a reader think about something in a way they never had before. If a story can do that without being preachy or patronizing -- and be entertaining -- then that, to me, is a story that has holding power. That's the kind of story I want to write, one that clings to thoughts and moves hearts.

SDC: That's great. How do you make faith, love, and hope work together in your stories, Naomi?

Naomi: My aim is to surprise and entertain readers while telling stories about imperfect people who are finding hope and faith to overcome their struggles, whether the setting is past, contemporary, or even fantastic. Love is always a factor. The Bible is a magnificent love story, don't you think? Romantic love, too, is a gift from God.

SDC: I sure do believe that, Naomi. And God is the best author of romance, no doubt.  If you have more than one publisher, tell us about that and who you work with now. How has your publisher helped you with your writing experience?

Naomi: In December 2010, my contemporary novella "Heart Not Taken" was released from Black Lyon Publishing. In the story, high school teacher Sean Heart is haunted by a lapse in judgment from his past as well as his mentor's betrayal. Faith is slipping fast. Then he meets Jordyn Delaney. A beautiful, talented landscaper, Jordyn has been hired to improve the Heart family property, but soon discovers a renovation of the heart and spirit might be the most complicated job of all.

At present, I'm still reeling with excitement over my January 2011 release of "The Green Veil" book one of the Empire in Pine historical romance series published by Desert Breeze Publishing. Book 2, The Red Fury will release in October, and Book 3, The Black Rose, is coming in 2012.

"The Green Veil" tells the story of Colette Palmer who falls in love with Manason Kade as a young girl. But moving away with her family to Wisconsin's virgin pine country where lumber barons rule private empires, she makes her vow is to his enemy. Then one day Manason and Colette meet again. Now, she will have to choose between her first love and her commitment to her marriage vows, while her faith and an empire in pine hang in the balance.

I've been blessed with a wonderful publishing family at Desert Breeze. The editors are sticklers in the best sense -- and have you looked at the beautiful cover designs? Wow! I'm thrilled with the advent of e-books as a whole. E-publishing has thrown the door wide open to talent which may otherwise languish for years in slush piles on the floor behind editors' desks.

SDC: It sure has. Besides your scripture about the strength you receive from Christ, what else would you say sustains you each day?

Naomi: My husband and children are my encouragers. They always give me space, time, and the pats on the back I need when the going gets tough. Prayers sustain me. And I have had a group of church friends who cheer me on.

SDC: To be an encourager makes for a very special character trait for all of us to strive for.When you are not writing, where is your favorite place to go and why? Does it often play any part in your later story writing?

Naomi: That's actually a really tough question. Libraries are my happy place, but I love to be outdoors, just meandering. I live on a ramshackle farm with great strolls and views. There are lots of lakes in my area, including Lake Superior, and so much woodland beauty too that I can't help but be inspired. And in the winter, I get on a basketball court whenever I can. My bones complain later.

SDC: Have you ever considered writing about a character who leaves the United States and goes elsewhere to find his or her loved one? (Or do you already have a book like that that I have missed?)

Naomi: I have a novel idea brewing which will take my characters into the fringes of Canada. I hope to write a romance series involving the Great Lakes Voyageurs and fur trading posts of the early 1700s.

SDC: Now, that sounds interesting! When I am not writing, I am usually preparing for a Bible Study I teach to women each week, or else I’m working back and forth with critique partners, along with other things. Do you attend women’s bible studies of any kind? And does your interaction with others give you creativity with your writing imagination? And also what books do you read that have helped you that you would suggest for others?

Naomi: At the moment I'm not involved in a Bible study with anyone, though I'm going through the MONVEE program along with a large contingent of my church family to find the studying means, methods, and materials that work best for my learning and growing curve. It's pretty cool. I do miss being part of a small group right now, and hope to get into another soon.

I'm part of that vast online writing world that finds support and encouragement through one another. I've built some great relationships with writers at Christian Writers dot com. One of them turned into my editorial position at Port Yonder Press.

As far as books, for those who long to develop their writing talents further, I suggest "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King, "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass, "The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction" by Jeff Gerke, and for enduring pleasure, a subscription to "The Writer" magazine.
SDC: Thanks for the details, even when my questions don't always make the best sense. (smile) You let me know that you would like to share with one of our readers. That’s awesome. Please tell us it, Naomi. And then we would like you to think of a question that the readers can reflect upon to answer. It could be about writing, reading, the Lord, or whatever.

Naomi: I would love to give away a copy of one of my books to a blog participant, either the historical The Green Veil, or my contemporary novella Heart Not Taken -- winner's choice! The descriptions are up there under question number 4, but you can read more about them and sample an excerpt on my site (below). But first, here's a question to ponder:

I believe that God gives us our passions, whether for writing, art, cooking, nurturing, or even cleaning! He longs to see us develop those passions and gifts for His larger purpose and to bring us joy and fulfillment. What is the longing of your heart -- what is something that you are gifted in or have longing to learn about? I'd love to hear about it.

SDC: Thank you so much for being with us here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Naomi. By the way, I love your blog. Be sure to include your URLs for the readers, if you will.

Naomi: http://www.naomimusch.com/apps/blog  or stop by the home page and learn more: http://www.naomimusch.com/  

READERS: Be sure to answer Naomi's thoughtful question above to try to win a copy of her books! We will be selecting the winner in a few days. Here is a reminder of what she's asking you to respond to. What is the longing of your heart -- what is something that you are gifted in or have longing to learn about?

CONGRATULATIONS TO DIANA FLOWERS OF W. COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA. YOU SHOULD HEAR FROM NAOMI SOON!