Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tamera Alexander's Books

Hi Readers, I just finished Tamera's book "Revealed" last night. No wonder it's up as a RITA finalist! Adventure and heart. She handled some difficult themes with grace and care. Very well done.

Okay, leave a comment either with this blog post or the previous one which featured Tamera's latest book (my next read--Remembered) for a chance to win an autographed copy of Remembered. If this one is anything like Rekindled (book 1) or Revealed (book 2), it's going to be great! I'll have a drawing Friday, June 29th for the winner.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Guest Author: Tamera Alexander

I'm excited to welcome Tamera Alexander to share her writing life with us this week as well.

See below for contest info.

TAMERA ALEXANDER is the bestselling author of Rekindled, Revealed, and Remembered, the three-part Fountain Creek Chronicles historical series with Bethany House Publishers. Rekindled, a CBA bestseller, has won critical acclaim and was chosen as one of Library Journal's Top 5 Picks for Christian Fiction 2006. Rekindled and Revealed triple-finaled in the 2007 RITA® Awards sponsored by Romance Writers of America-Rekindled and Revealed for Best Inspirational Novel, and Rekindled for Best First Novel.

Tamera frequently speaks to women's groups, sings on the praise team, enjoys mentoring other writers, and also served as the conference coordinator for the 2004 American Christian Romance Writers National Conference in Denver, Colorado. She and her husband, Joe Alexander, make their home in Tennessee with their two college-age children, and a seven-pound Silky named Jack. Tamera is currently working on her fourth novel, part of another three-book historical series with Bethany House which is set in the Colorado Territory.

Visit Tamera’s website at www.tameraalexander.com

And her blog at www.tameraalexander.blogspot.com

Hey Tamera, thanks for joining us. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing.

I’ve always loved writing and dreamed of being a writer when younger, but never thought I had any talent at it. So I tucked it away…until God unearthed it again a few years back.

The first novel I wrote in 1999 is one I targeted specifically for Bethany House and their historical line. It got to the final review board but then was ultimately “passed over” in early 2002. There were problems in that novel and in my writing that I needed to work on, so they were right to let that one slip through their fingers! After that experience, I realized that if I was going to have a good shot at this publishing thing, I needed to get serious about learning the craft and addressing the weaknesses in my writing.

I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (www.americanchristianfictionwriters.com), and began dissecting novels—books that I’d loved and read multiple times—with the goal of finding out what made them ‘tick’ for me. I prayed that God would bring people into my life who would help me become a better writer by telling me what I needed to change, how I needed to grow. And He did. I’m so thankful for those writing partnerships.

Where do you get your storylines?

I see stories in most everything around me -- news headlines, snatches of conversations I may overhear, scriptures that hit me in a new and fresh way, and in music. Just the other day I heard a new song from a favorite artist of mine (Alison Krauss) and it prompted me to thinking about a subplot that I could write into the book I'm working on now. You just never know where story ideas will spring from!

My motivation behind Remembered was a trip to Paris that my husband and I took in May 2006. I "met" Veronique Girard (figuratively, of course) in a cemetery in northern Paris, and as Joe and I strolled the old cobbled walkway of Cemetery Montmartre, this young woman (the daughter of a French Fur Trapper from the 1840s) came alive for me. And....the first scene in Remembered is set in that very cemetery.

What is the greatest historical novel you’ve ever read and why?

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It changed the way I view God and his love for me. Never before have I ever seen his unconditional love so clearly.

Do you think the market for historicals in CBA will grow? What are some of the trends you’re noticing right now?

There’s a market for historicals in the CBA, there’s no doubt about that. Walk into any CBA bookstore or B&N religious section and a quick look at the shelves will tell you there’s a market. While I can’t predict the future, I do believe it’s bright for historicals.

We’re seeing more ‘chick lit’ type of historicals in this current market. Humorous characters and settings, more lighthearted than perhaps some of the traditional historicals have been. It’s a great time to be writing!

When are you most inspired to write?

If I waited for inspiration, I’m not sure I’d be a writer! Life has so many demands that call me away from writing. So I’d have to say that when I have a deadline…that’s quite inspiring! To help set the mood to write, I’ll journal about my characters and their personal lives, brainstorm scenes with other writers and I always have some type of instrumental music on in the background. That helps my thoughts flow.

What do you want readers to remember most about you as a writer?

I’d be fine if they didn’t necessarily remember ‘me’ at all, as long as what I write draws them closer to Christ in some way. I take steps closer to him when I write, and I pray that readers will do the same when they read.

What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?

I love to hike and now that we live in Tennessee there are beautiful rolling, wooded hills all around us. So every chance I have I head out and explore my new surroundings. Just a few nights ago my husband and I happened upon a pre-Civil War family burial place not far from our house, nestled beneath a massive old Oak tree. (I love visiting graveyards!!) I’m eager to research the families that lived in this area in the early 1800s and hopefully write their stories. I also enjoy watching movies, baking, and—of course—reading!

Did you have any experiences that prompted your love of fiction and historical fiction in particular?

As far back as I can remember I’ve loved history. When I was nine years old my family took a trip to Europe. It was a fabulous experience, even though there were eight—yes eight!—of us (four adults and four kids) touring Germany, Holland, and Switzerland in a Volkswagen Bug (I rode in the cubby hole in the back and ‘fake smoked’ bubblegum cigarettes, remember those?). Touring the castles in Germany was a defining moment for me, though I didn’t know it then.

I remember standing in one particular castle on the Rhine River, touching the stone walls, and thinking to myself that I wished I could know the lives and details of the people who had lived there. When I was older I read a ton of Regencies, and when I studied American History in high school, I fell in love with the American Frontier 1840-1880s. And the rest, as they say, is history!

How much time does it take to research your stories – what balance would you say there is between research and actual writing?

I research for four to five months before starting my novel and often start researching my next book (reading at night) while I’m writing the current one. Which isn’t confusing because right now my books are based in Colorado Territory 1860s-1870s. I’ve been told that a writer should research a ton, and then put about 1% of the research in their books. I’m not sure about the accuracy of that percentage but I do know that in a final edit I’ve often removed interesting historical facts (well, I thought they were interesting, LOL) because they didn’t serve to advance the story. And if something doesn’t serve the story, it must go!

Describe for us, if you will, your writing style, as in plotter vs. seat of the pants, and do you put more time into developing characters or plot or are they equal?

I’m more of a seat of the pants gal. I know where I’m starting and the general direction of where I’m going. I most always have the last scene of the book clearly in my mind at the outset, or else very soon thereafter, as well as all the plots and sub-plots. I write historical fiction/romance which is typically more character driven but my love for suspense keeps the plot moving at quick pace too. I love both the external and internal twists and turns.

Was there a person who inspired you to write?

Several people, some of whom I’ve never met (other writers), have inspired me to write. But one person whom I did know and who influenced me in a lasting way was my 7th grade teacher, Miss Debra Ackey of Idlewood Elementary School in Tucker, Georgia. In fact, I dedicated my second book, Revealed, to her with hopes that a copy of that book will some day find its way into her hands. I’ve contacted the school where she taught and I attended, but they have no record of her current whereabouts today.

Debra Ackey encouraged my writing in what proved to be a very difficult time in my life. I was sexually abused as a young girl (my perpetrator was not someone from my immediate family nor a blood relation), and I was dealing with a lot of guilt, doubt, and repressed anger during those years. Writing served as an outlet for me. Looking back the stories and poems I wrote during those years, it’s easy to see that I was obsessed with death, and the source of those feelings isn’t hard to understand.

With God’s strength and mercy, I’ve long forgiven the person who abused me, and I’ve thanked God often for placing Miss Ackey in my life at that time. She read so many (what I’m certain were) horrible poems on death and dying, and yet encouraged me anyway. She reached through the pain I was dealing with, past the ugliness I felt steeped in, and she breathed new life into my dry bones. I pray she’ll one day know just how much she did for me.

Do you consider writing a calling or more of a season of your life for right now?

I’ve have to say a bit of both. I’m certain God invited me to write fiction for now and yet I’m not certain how long he plans for me to do that. Right now I’m contracted for three more books with Bethany House (another historical series) but who knows beyond that. One thing I’ve learned in my walk with God is that there’s nothing better than being centered in the middle of his will for my life—whatever that brings—and nothing more miserable than being outside of it.

What do you do when you find yourself overwhelmed with all the stuff that goes along with publishing?

I have a background in marketing and management so I actually love the business side of writing. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t get overwhelmed. I most certainly do at times. Learning to say no to ‘really good things’ has been freeing, although not without an occasional twinge guilt.

I’ve led women’s ministry for the past fifteen years but recently stepped down. My juggling skills just aren’t what they used to be and my writing time was suffering. My last book was turned in horribly late and that about killed me. It wounded my pride, which in the long run, was a very good thing personally (sure didn’t feel good though). I’ve always “prided myself” on being on time, on having everything organized and “slotted.” I don’t think God wants me to take pride in myself about anything, so that was a good lesson for me.

Writing this last book also came during a time when I had some personal challenges, and I hit the wall creatively speaking. Wasn’t pretty. But God brought me through it. His faithfulness constantly amazes me. He’s so lavish with his grace! My editors at Bethany were wonderful and understanding about the delay (and I kept them abreast of my progress each step of the way so that it wasn’t a surprise to them—HUGELY important to do if you’re ever going to be late).

Do you have a life verse or a mission statement that guides your writing? If so, will you share it with us?

A verse that God is etching on my heart these days is found in II Corinthians 4:7 – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

God has given us this treasure—a relationship with him, a promise of an eternity with him—in jars of clay, in broken, marred vessels in order to show that the transcendent power comes from him. It may flow through us, praise his name!, but it originates in the heart of the Giver. Not in the one gifted.

Our gifts, however imperfect and weak, are given to reflect his glory and are made “perfect” when we give ourselves and those gifts over to him. There’s no end to what God can do with someone who makes themselves totally available to him—something that’s easier written than done.

This is actually a theme from my next book (Remembered, Book 3 in Fountain Creek Chronicles with Bethany House) that’s releasing now.

Here’s a sneak peek at the back cover copy:

Though loss is often marked in a single moment, letting go of someone you love can take a lifetime...

The threat of war—and a final request—send Véronique Girard from France to a distant and uninviting country. In the Colorado Territory, she searches for the man who has held her heart since childhood—her father. Pierre Girard left Paris for the Americas to seek his fortune in fur trading, vowing to send for his wife and daughter. But twenty-five years have passed and his vow remains unfulfilled. Sifting through shards of broken promises, Véronique embarks on a dangerous search for a man she scarcely remembers.

His grief finally healed, Jack Brennan is moving on with life. After years of guiding families west, he is now working as a freighter to the mining towns surrounding Willow Springs. What he doesn't count on is an unexpected traveling companion on his trips up into the mountains, and how one woman's search will cause havoc with his plans... and his life.

Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of "Remembered." I'll draw a name on Friday, June 29th (I added an extension). Check back to see if you've won so you can contact me and we'll get that out to you.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Guest Author: Maureen Lang

Today we're in for a treat with guest author Maureen Lang. Don't miss the contest news at the bottom of our interview.

Hi Maureen, thank you for visiting. Let’s start with how long you’ve been writing. What got you started?

Passion for reading and storytelling! I can’t remember a time I didn’t want to sit down and either read a book or write one. When I was young (9 or 10) I’d ask my best friend if we could just sit down and write stories together instead of playing games like “normal” kids do. She was my best friend and so she’d often say yes, but I guess it was never the same for her since she gave it up. When recalling this memory recently she laughed about it and told me she never could get what I was doing and why I liked it so much.

Do you feel that your writing is a ministry?

Absolutely. I’m sure you’ve heard other writers remind people that it was through parables—stories—that Jesus taught people. That’s so true. Actually, I’m just trying to learn what God has to teach me through putting characters into situations and figuring out the most God-honoring way out of their dilemmas, or how God would grow someone through a dilemma. Faith always plays some role in my characters’ lives, but it’s part of the story so I’m hoping my books will appeal to people who go to church as well as those who don’t.

Reading your book has changed my life. Here’s the thing—I read a LOT of books a year and rarely run into one that so profoundly changes a paradigm of mine. Thank you for sharing this story. What one message do you hope people glean from “The Oak Leaves?”

When my son was first diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome (the disorder that’s the main challenge for the characters in Oak Leaves, a form of genetic mental retardation) two of the things I questioned were: is God really good, and does He really love me. I needed to explore those emotions, which is what I did through my characters. I think it worked because by the end of writing The Oak Leaves I honestly did feel loved by God, and convinced He loves my son just as much, just as he is. I do look forward to Heaven a little more now than before knowing I’d be dealing with Fragile X the rest of my life, but is that a bad thing? I still believe in God’s goodness, because I’ve learned and grown in so many ways (not the least of which is in my faith) that it’s hard not to see some of the benefits once I started looking. So…most of all I want readers to feel loved by their Creator, to know He is still sovereign no matter what, and maybe to entertain a little bit, too. I’m all for escapist reading so long as it’s wholesome and God honoring.

Please tell us about the sequel (name, characters, release timing, etc.).

I’m working on the sequel right now. It’s titled “On Sparrow Hill” and I’m sooo excited about it. I’ll once again have two story lines, one contemporary and one historical. The contemporary story follows a descendant of Peter Hamilton’s, his great-great-great-grandson, who is the current owner of the family’s country estate. He falls in love with his commercial manager, who is a descendent of servants who’ve been employed by the family for 12 generations. There are class clashes and a rather unwelcoming mother-in-law-to-be, but suffice it to say it’ll have a happy ending (all my stories do!). The historical segment revolves around Peter Hamilton’s sister, Beryl. I was eager to get into her character because I liked her so much in Oak Leaves. She goes to Ireland to open the school Cosima once envisioned, to teach the “feebleminded.” Berrie, as she’s called in the book, has a lot to learn about servanthood and where God really wants her to serve. Though she lives in 1850’s Ireland, she faces the modern-day dilemma of whether or not she can have both a career and marriage. She believes not—until a handsome Irishman steals her reluctant heart.

I’ll also bring back Dana from The Oak Leaves, and a visit from Talie toward the end, which was huge fun—like seeing old friends again. :)

On Sparrow Hill will release through Tyndale in February of ’08 (next Feb.).

I know this story came from your experience in as much as Fragile X syndrome is a family fact for you. I appreciate your courage and openness. I believe God is going to use it in people’s lives, even those who haven’t faced these kinds of issues. Thank for writing it.

Well, thank you for saying that. I have to admit that writing it was good for me, that I wrote it for myself first as a Fragile X mom wanting to make some sense of things, and then for others (selfish, I know!). I’m just grateful God placed the story with Tyndale, which has been so great about getting it out there.

Please tell us about other topics or themes you see yourself writing about one day (when this series is wrapped up). Will you remain in women’s fiction as a genre?

I love writing women’s fiction because that’s one of my favorite genres to read—and really, don’t writers just write what they want to be reading? I know I do. I also love historical romance so it was huge fun to mix the two genres. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that again, but I’d love to be able to write in both genres, maybe switching back and forth with one book then another. I also have a couple of books out from Kregel that are set during the First World War (Pieces of Silver and its sequel, Remember Me). I love the First World War time setting and I’d like to revisit that again someday, too. To me that period seems to hold a sort of nostalgia about it, a little bit historical with a touch of contemporary. “Pieces of Silver” was recently named a finalist for a Christy, so I’m excited about that and hope it means it’ll be a little easier to market another novel set during that time period.

What is your biggest dream?

The first thing that always comes to my mind if someone asks me what I could wish for is seeing a cure or treatment for Fragile X Syndrome. Wow! That would be something, to actually have a conversation with my son and not worry about his future (guess I need to write about a character struggling to trust God with the future!).

As far as writing goes, I’m pretty much living that dream, but I never feel like my writing career is a done deal. All I want to do is sit down and write stories, or talk about writing. That’s been my dream since I was a kid. If the stories I write can continue to reach an audience through publication…well, keeping that dream going is pretty big, too.

Thank you for sharing your life and writing story with us today, Maureen. You are a blessing.

Thanks so much for having me, Annette! This was fun!

Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of her book. I'll choose a winner on June 20th. Check back here to see if you've won.

Read my new comment to find the winner. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Fantastic Book

Hey readers, I just finished a great book. Maureen Lang's "The Oak Leaves" is fantastic. She'll be visiting later this week. But, to whet your appetite, here's my review of her book:

“The Oak Leaves” is a fantastic read. I wasn’t sure what to expect reading this book and have to admit, I generally read Christian romance. However, this book carried so many layers and elements, I was blessed beyond what I predicted when I picked it up for the first time. The cover is unassuming, and for those of us who judge a book by its cover, you might be fooled. This book has a way of reaching beyond our preconceptions into our paradigms and unraveling what we thought we knew. Ms. Lang helps the reader see the value in every life, no matter the level of productivity of the person involved. She helps us see, as parents, that love is more important than any anomaly. I was moved by her story very deeply, especially the aspect of God overcoming what some had called “the curse” with His blessing. I highly recommend this book to every reader. You’ll be surprised how it will touch you. I read a lot of fiction and rarely finish a book with this kind of transformation having taken place. Hats off to Maureen Lang for her transparency and willingness to share this story with us.

Hope you can pick up a copy.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Baby's Ministry

I thought I was the only one.

I love holding babies. I always have. I remember having a desire to help in the nursery when I was a small child because then I could be around the babies.

This morning at church, I had the opportunity to hold an infant as she fell asleep. This one is a snuggler. She is warm and precious and even turned toward me, pushing off the tummy of someone else so I could have the honor of snuggling her. She seemed tired so I sang to her and rocked her to sleep. What a privilege!

Later, after I'd put the little one in the crib, I noticed our pastor was praying for people out in the sanctuary. With enough coverage in the nursery, I stepped out into the main room. A friend of mine stood at the back, holding someone's baby to give her a break. This little one was tiny--weeks old. And my friend was loving the experience.

She tried to describe it but could barely find the words as her eyes teared. Holding a sleeping baby against her, hearing her breathe. She said something to the effect that the experience touched her heart deeply. I sensed the Lord saying (and so I shared this with her) that this was His ministry to her. He wanted her to see that His love is like that. He loves to hold us and we don't have to do anything to earn it. That little girl wasn't doing anything to earn my friend's loving response. And my friend didn't need to worry about earning her Father's love.

Amazing. Individual. Personal. Unmerited. Unconditional. Undeserved. Comforting. Deeply moving love. That is His affection for you.

Monday, June 4, 2007


We're in the middle of a 40-day fast, initiated by Lou Engle. I've also been following the International House of Prayer and their participation in "The Call's" fast as well. We're praying for our nation.

How important is it for me to pray?

Matthew 7:7---
Ask and it will be given to you;
Seek and you shall find;
Knock and it will be opened to you.

There's a secret word created by the beginning of those phrases--ASK (take the first letter of each word: ask, seek, knock)

James 4:2 states (in part): you have not because you ask not.

Prayer is extremely important. And one voice in prayer can make a world of difference.

Ever read "Horton Hears a Who"? Well, you may not believe this, but today I read it for the first time. Amazing. Someone (Horton, an elephant) who is big and capable of helping the small ones, does. One person willing to help matters. Then, the smallest of the endangered community steps up and speaks up and makes the difference for their survival. One small voice matters!

Your voice matters in prayer. What would you like to see for our nation? for your family? for your health or the health of someone you know? The needs are endless. There is one solution--prayer.