Monday, September 29, 2008

Fireproof


Wow.

Saturday, my husband and I went to see the movie "Fireproof." Have you heard of this one? Our church did an outreach around the movie's release. We packed into the theater to watch a firefighter learn how to love his wife. So used to getting respect on the job, this man demanded the same at home, but without the investment of himself, his heart and his time with his wife. He gave everything he had at work, living as a hero, but at home, the emotional risk of being transparent with his wife was too difficult. He held back, boarding himself up, shutting down and making her feel responsible. She, in return, sought that emotional intimacy elsewhere.

So, what happens when this firefighter takes the dare of his life and learns to love his wife? Letting down his walls with her will be the bravest thing he's ever done and rescuing his marriage? The most heroic act of all.

This is a powerful film. Kirk Cameron, a man very different from the one he played, portrayed this character with depth and realism. He did a phenomenal job. The movie will capture your heart and carry you on a journey. If you're married (or have been married) you might see yourself in the characters and the story line. You'll probably wanna have tissues handy, male or female. Several times the theater filled with sniffling sounds as we watched, but also cheering and applause.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Returning Guest Author: Maureen Lang

I'm excited to welcome Maureen back to the blog. We met recently at the ACFW conference. See below for a picture of us together.

We're highlighting her new release "My Sister Dilly." Here's our latest interview, followed by my review.

We're having a contest, so leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of her book. We'll have the drawing on 9/28 and announce the winner 9/29. See below for other chances to win as well.


Tell us about your book “My Sister Dilly.”


My Sister Dilly is the story of two sisters, one of whom makes a terrible mistake and the other, the older sister Hannah, feels like she let Dilly down by not being there when she was needed most. So Hannah returns to the small town she left behind with the hope of “fixing things.”


She finds her sister changed, and soon suspects her carefully wrought plans might not work—and maybe it isn’t her sister who needs the “fixing.” Hannah realizes the price she was willing to pay because of her own sense of guilt, having left behind the only man she’s ever loved, and fears every decision she made was the wrong one.


This is a book about relationships and forgiveness, second chances and faith. Writing this was challenging in some ways because it’s not only completely contemporary (I’ve usually had at lest some historical element in my books prior to this) but it has a more serious tone than some of my other work. I have to admit, though, the challenges brought a really satisfying sense of accomplishment, and these characters have stayed with me. I hope they will for my readers, too!


I recently had a book trailer done for this book, which you can see at the following link:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5impgRmCNCk


I think the designer really captured the feel of this story!


What inspired the book? Are there any elements from your own life experience included in the story?

This book was inspired by a conversation I had with my sister-in-law. We both have children with disabilities, and although our children are different from each other, we understand some of the byproducts of belonging to the disability community. Some of those factors play a major role in this book—the isolation and fatigue, along with some triumphs and a very special love.


I remember thinking after our discussion that although I wanted to write this book, I knew even then it would be very different from anything I’d done before. I assured myself I’d be able to put a romance into it, and at least that part of it would be familiar. Tackling something really new for me was a little daunting, though. But not only did I thoroughly enjoy the process, it feels like one of those special accomplishments we get to enjoy when we strive for something and succeed.


What are you writing now? Tell us about it.


I’m happy to talk about my current project! I’m writing the first of a three book series, and each book will be set in a different country in Europe during the First World War. But of course all of the angst of war is merely the backdrop for a romance in each book, which is my favorite kind of story.


The series starts in Northern France, in a small village that holds the unfortunate location of what ends up being behind the German lines. It’s soon occupied by German troops, and the villagers discover and hide Allied soldiers who were caught in the chaos of some of the early battles. One of the stragglers, as they were called, is discovered by my heroine and guess what? They fall in love amid all the danger. Great for conflict!

I’m actually blogging about the process of writing this book, which has been huge fun. I’ve noticed that I have a pattern to my writing—things have started to feel familiar now that I’m working on what’s actually my ninth contracted novel. I’ve recognized things like initial enthusiasm followed by insecurities, wondering what my characters are really like, defining the theme, and so forth. It’s a daily journal about things on my mind as I’m working on this book.

The blog address is http://maureenlang.blogspot.com/

So if any of your readers want to stop by, great! I’ll also be holding occasional contests for a free book, so if you don’t win one through Annette’s blog, stop by mine.


Do you have any other books coming out before that one is finished? If so, we’d love to know titles and info about them.


My Sister Dilly is my next release, and this first book of the WWI series will release early next fall, 2009. The second book in the series will be set in Belgium and release nine months after the first book (mid 2010) and the third book will release nine months after that. The third book is just a twinkle in my eye for the time being, but I’m already excited about that one, too. Just about all I know of that story is the setting, and a glimpse into the hero who’s introduced in Book One—a German soldier. I think it’ll be interesting to have two books set from an Allied perspective, then for the denouement switch to the German perspective. I can hardly wait!


Thank you for visiting again. How can readers contact you?


Readers can visit my website at www.maureenlang.com or stop by my blog at http://maureenlang.blogspot.com/. I love hearing from my readers!


My review of My Sister Dilly:


I’ve had the privilege of reading and reviewing Maureen’s novels since On Sparrow Hill came out a couple of years ago. One thing you can always count on with Maureen’s work is she puts a lot of heart into her stories. Her storytelling has a way of digging deep into the reader’s own heart to find what’s buried there. My Sister Dilly is set in the Midwest. I grew up in the Midwest, and I can vouch for her descriptions and skill at immersing the reader into that setting. Her descriptions were so realistic, down to the personalities of some folks there—people working hard throughout their lives and finding the help God offers, but not always understanding His heart. (Which can happen anywhere.) I also really appreciate her ability to infuse her stories with life-changing messages without leaving room for defensiveness from the reader. She writes real stories, seemingly about real people, and the reader is left pondering those characters long after the book has been placed on the shelf or into the hands of the next reader, or friend.


Don't forget the contest. Leave a message for a chance to win a copy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

ACFW Conference 2008

Oh, what a fantastic time!!! So much great fellowship with fellow authors and getting the opportunity to meet authors I've influenced for. Saturday morning, Megan DiMaria "just happened" (don't you love knowing God is orchestrating our steps?) to sit at the only seat left at our table for breakfast. Wahooo! You can see her picture of us together at her blog. I'll get pics up soon. I've got some follow-up to work on first.

We had a spectacular time at the Mall of America for the biggest Christian author gathering ever in one place as we had our booksigning. What a blast! Jennifer and Steven, it was a blast standing between you at our table!

Dear new friends and previous ones, thanks for all you contributed to one of my favorite conferences of all time. Wasn't Harp and Bowl great?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Live in Hope

That's what Jesus offers us--a life of hope.

The other morning, I turned on the Early Show on CBS and discovered Stephen Curtis Chapman was to appear. Like many other people, I was torn apart inside when the news of their beautiful adopted daughter's tragic death reached us in May. My heart broke for Stephen and his wife, but also for their son and other children.

I cried through the tender interview and footage of little Maria's memorial service and then through Stephen and Caleb's performance of Cinderella. Amazing. You can watch it here: Stephen Curtis Chapman's CBS visit.

Stephen said something so fitting. He said, as he tried to hold himself together after watching the footage of the service, "This is what it looks like to live with broken, but very hope-filled hearts."

Indeed. I thank God for hope.

We will keep praying for their family.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Guest Author: Patti Lacy

I'm excited today to welcome a new author, Patti Lacy, to the blog to promote her new release: An Irishwoman's Tale. Welcome, Patti!

Hi, Annette! Thanks so much for inviting me over.

How long have you been writing fiction?

All my life, starting when I opened my ears and listened to Eeyore grumble, the Little Red Hen cackle. Then my mother taught me to read, and I absorbed books like a dry sponge absorbs a Kool-Aid spill. As far as putting the figurative pen to paper (aren’t computers great?) that happened in 2005, when the Small, Still Voice kept telling me to write Mary’s story.

Tell us about "An Irishwoman's Tale"

Mary Freeman’s earliest memory has haunted her since childhood. Now she’s far removed from not one, but two families that didn’t want her, and separated from her beloved Ireland. Living in the Midwest, Mary seeks—and finds—fulfilling roles as businesswoman, wife, Christian, mother, and volunteer—but her loneliness and torment remain as acute as ever. A crisis in her youngest daughter’s life, and the encouragement of Sally, a plucky Southern transplant, propels Mary back to the rock cliffs of her first home in County Clare. A harrowing journey unveils her tragic past and forces her into a face-to-face encounter with God.

What inspired the story? I read that this was based on a woman's actual life story. Is that correct?

In an uncommon encounter, Mary, a woman who was at that time more of an acquaintance than a close friend, yanked me from chatter about my kids following a book discussion club meeting at my house.

“What is your first memory?” she asked, her eyes boring into my heart.

“I don’t know,” I stammered. “I never had to think about it.”

“How pretty, not to think about it. My story stabbed me so, I’ll never forget it. A scarred oak table, moon-shaped faces guzzling tea. Saying, ‘the little eejit’s got to go.’”

“And did you…” I managed, “have to go?”

“Yes.”

“How awful.”

“Not as awful as what happened next.”

Two shaky women made their way to the front porch, where Mary spilled out her story. Even though I didn’t begin to write it until ten years later, I knew I’d been gifted with something extraordinary.

I loved your book trailer. (http://www.pattilacy.com/trailer.php)

How much say did you have in creating it? Was fresh footage shot for the sake of the trailer?

My wonderful publisher Kregel paid the bill and gave me free rein in designing it, just asked that it “be good.” Mark Lockett, my website designer extraordinaire, put on his Irish thinking cap and sailed across the Atlantic to the “Land o’ a Thousand Greens.” Then God took over, in His usual amazing way. A casual writing acquaintance, Grace Bridges, who I’d met on the ACFW loop, volunteered to drive to the rocky west coast of County Clare to shoot live footage. The e-mail attachments she forwarded rendered me—and Mark—speechless with their mystical beauty.

“Now we need some Irish accents,” Mark informed me. “Male and female.”

Great. I know two Irish women here in Normal. Still, half being better than none, I called Paula.

“Dear Patti,” she replied, “yes, I think I might do it for you.” A naturally melodic tone and brogue made a beautiful symphony. “It’ll be a bit hard to work in, as my dear, dear nephew Kenneth is here from Ireland…”

Jubilation took over as I screamed my thanks, hung up, then called Mark. “That’s great. Does Paula have red hair?”

“Huh-uh.”

“Won’t work for the video, then. Just the voice.”

“Oh. So…what all do you need now?”

“Well…”

Had the line gone dead? I stared at the phone.

“I saw this girl in the mall department store,” he finally managed. “At the make-up counter…And we need a young girl, too. Maybe six, seven?”

A few hours later, after a cautious young woman confirmed things by checking my website, I had my red-haired young woman. She’d even gone to school with my son!

Now for the young girl…

On a whim, I accompanied a friend (who’d just happened to be bunking with us for two months) to an Open House. We walked through a beautiful 1920s entryway into a sunny kitchen. There, on the wall, was a smiling family photo—of a former Sunday school student, Genesis. Yep. Red hair. Irish pale. Double yep. My friend bought the house!

All the little pieces had formed a puzzle. We met at a local park, and within an hour, Mark had the footage he needed. A relative smoothed the way for permission rights on Eden Bridge’s great Celtic music, and we had our book trailer!

Tell us your publishing journey--how did you find the right publisher and what was the process like (ups and downs), etc.?

So many unselfish writers—Dennis Hensley, Camy Tang, Julie Dearyan, Lynn Austin (just a few of them) encouraged me to write for an Audience of One. I toiled and sweated until An Irishwoman’s Tale was the best that it could be, then sent a copy to The Writer’s Edge.

Dennis Hillman, publisher at Kregel, somehow got ahold of it. (I think he loves Ireland.) He e-mailed me, asking for a proposal. Three weeks later, I lugged my heavy baby to the post office, stuck a bunch of stamps on her, and sent her to Michigan. In December of 2006, Dennis offered me a contract. Even though my incubation period was shorter than some writers, I certainly was not spared the litany of rejection letters, some a bit curt and jarring.

What is your next project about? When can we expect it?

Bubbly Sally clamors to tell her story. But hidden under that cheerleader fa├žade is a middle-aged woman about to explode from the pressure of secrets buried beneath the murky waters of a Louisiana bayou.

I wondered about Sally’s own secrets as I read. It’ll be good to delve into her story. Anything else you'd like to share with readers? And how can they contact you or learn more?

Dear readers, the fragments of your life are lying around you, just waiting for you—and God—to design a beautiful work of art. Write your stories, even if God’s the only publisher that awards you a contract.

I’d love to hear from y’all at www.pattilacy.com! Thanks so much for stopping by. And thank YOU, Annette, for thought-provoking, original questions!

Here's my review:

Let's do a book giveaway

It is not often that you run across a novel with the kind of depth I found in An Irishwoman’s Tale. I believe part of that is because this book was based on an actual woman’s story. And what a story it is. Mary’s tale is full of pain and rejection, poor decisions and regret. But her story is also full of hope and forgiveness. Patti adeptly tackles all the various elements of this multi-generational story. She isn’t afraid to delve deeply into human nature. I especially appreciated her ability to portray hope and salvation, as well as redemption of past pain into ministry. I believe the thread of repeated rejection will ring true with many readers. Patti paired the ache of rejection with hope of God’s never-failing love. Patti’s novel can even help readers who may relate with the elements of mental illness detect hope in the midst of torment. This story carries you across continents and seas. It’s a saga I believe readers of many ages will appreciate as they’re transported to Ireland again and again.

We're having a contest! Leave a comment here for a chance to win a copy of An Irishwoman's Tale as well as some organic Irish teabags! We'll have the drawing on September 12th. Please leave your email address like this annette [at] annetteirby [dot] com with your comment so we can contact you.