Monday, November 26, 2007

Love Letters


I love surprises. Especially good news from publishers.

In January, 2007, my novella “Love Letters” released through a new publisher. Since the book was just over 24,000 words, they released it as an ebook—downloadable only.

Then, the other day, they sent an email announcing its release in print! It’s about 109 pages and comes complete with an ISBN number. J

I pulled a bit of real life from my own experience and turned up the tension x 100, threw in some completely fabricated elements and ta-da! A novella!

Here’s a bit about the story:

Randy Ambrose has written scores of love letters to his wife, but she’s never seen them. He’s stressed out with work, trying to make a deadline. Jordan Ambrose wonders why her husband is so distant. She’s searching for a good read when she happens on a box of love letters in her husband’s writing office. They’re written from R to J and she assumes they’re from him. But why hasn’t he ever showed them to her? Randy’s explanation will have to wait, Jordan’s sick with strep throat, which Randy then catches. Their tenth wedding anniversary fast approaches, as does Randy’s deadline for work. He’s got to explain the letters Jordan found. After a lifetime of guarding his heart, can he risk letting Jordan see, through his letters, just exactly how he’s felt all this time?

Come take a peek at reviews from authors like Colleen Reece, Birdie Etchison, Betsy Ann St. Amant, as well as online reviewer Michelle Sutton:

To purchase, click the above link and then click "Buy now" on that page.

If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Guest Author: Cara Putman

During the ACFW conference of 2006, Cara Putman was in for a huge surprise.

As per tradition, some editors will announce first time book contracts for writers who haven't published yet. This time, it was Cara Putman's turn. I'm so pleased to host her today on my blog and feature her book!

"Canteen Dreams" released in October.

Below, she shares an article for writers which will offer a bit of behind the scenes info on her strategies as a historical writer.

Immersing Yourself in History

Three of my first four contracted books involve a step back in time to the days of World War Two. I may have been born in the 70s, but I’ve always held a love for and fascination with the life and times of the 40s, particularly the war years. In many ways, it was completely natural to find my first novel set during that time. And it was a joy to uncover two additional stories from that time period.

But how does someone who was born 30 years after the events weave them into a story in a believable way? Here are a few tricks of the trade I’ve learned.

1) Study the culture and media of the time. I have always LOVED the old black and white movies from the early forties. Bringing Up Baby, It Happened One Night, You Can’t Take It with You, and the Thin Man series are some of my favorite movies of all time. Add in Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers, Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby, starlets like Katherine Hepburn and Myrna Loy and you can begin to get a feel for the styles of the time.

Now you have to be careful. Much as I love Audrey Hepburn, I can’t use her in a book from the early 40s…she wasn’t acting yet. So writers have to pay attention to copyrights on movies…Kate Hepburn wore pants in Bringing Up Baby, which released in 1938. By 1943 that was a well-established style that many attributed to her. And that leads me to my next tip…

2) Buy resources that illustrate the styles and vehicles of the time. As I wrote Sandhill Dreams, I realized I needed help describing the different styles in hats and clothing. I turned to Amazon and found a couple great resources. One was Everyday Fashions of the Forties as pictured in Sears Catalog. It’s perfect…Sears stores and catalogs were available throughout Nebraska, the setting for my World War Two series. Now I had the catalog illustrations and descriptions for the styles. It also gave me the details to back up things I knew, like during the war women couldn’t purchase pantyhose, so they drew lines up the back of their legs to mimic hose. But they also had make-up specifically designed to look like hose. Those are the details that make a book and a time period come alive.

3) Interview people who lived during that time – if you can. My time period is the early 1940s, so I interviewed my grandparents and others who lived then. If you plan to write about an earlier time period, then you’ll need to rely on resources like journals, newspapers, and other written accounts. But if you can, take the time to track down those who lived it. One night I had a delightful conversation with a veteran who had traveled through the North Platte Canteen 5 times as a soldier. Each visit was different, and he gladly shared his impressions and memories with me. His stories reinforced those I had found through other resources.

4) If you can’t interview people, don’t forget to look for sources that did. I found several invaluable resources in published books, Public television broadcasts, and spending a day with the Fort Robinson Museum curator who had interviewed dozens of veterans when they returned to the Fort. While I couldn’t interview these people, others had.

If you are writing or hope to write a historical novel, take the time to get the details right. Your readers will thank you.

Thank you, Cara, for sharing your insights. Best wishes in your writing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Fire of His Love

This morning, I came down to my writing office (a bedroom on the ground floor of our home) and prepared to get to work. Piano music floated through the air, sunshine streamed in the window and the only missing element? A candle. So, I chose the ones for the day: Wild Orchid and Island Palm. But the wick in Wild Orchid was too long. Missing scissors, I broke the wick off with my fingers and the stub left behind didn't bode well for actually hosting a flame. I held the lit wand over the wick for a while before it would light. Then--viola!! It came to life, albeit shakily and I waited to see if the flame would grow. Sure enough, it burned for hours before I had to put it out. Now my office smells delicious.

I'm like that in prayer sometimes---not the smelling part , but the warming part. Ever come to God and you're feeling cold or burdened, but you press into his presence and hold on. While you're there, Bible open, prayers on your lips, love in your heart, something happens. The longer you linger in His fiery presence, the warmer you become. Pretty soon, you're lit. Ahhhh... the warmth of His love pours into your heart and you bear light to others.

The trick is to expose yourself to the flame, even when you don't think it'll take. Keep coming back and positioning your heart before His light, the fire of His love. Keep beholding His goodness. He'll manifest Himself to you. He's faithful.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Strong Foundation

It happened again.

My computer made a decision to hibernate, without telling me first. Here I am in the middle of an email to a fellow writer when BAM! I'm staring at a blank screen, save that one little window in the middle: Preparing to Hibernate.

Okay, so it's autumn and some days I'd like to hibernate, too, but come on!

So, I head off to get my cord and return to get some juice into this puppy. I plug in, flip open the top and what do you think is the first thing that happens? A beep followed by a pop-up window that reads: Critical Battery---plug in or else!! (or something like that )

Thanks for such a timely warning.

Ya know what, though? Sometimes we don't get a warning before something unnerving happens. That's why we need a strong foundation. Life's little problems and life's bigger problems are less unsettling if we have a strong foundation. Take a look at what Jesus said:

"But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say? "Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: "He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. "But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great." (Lu 6:46-49 NKJV)

How do you react when something serious comes your way? If we have taken the time to develop a deep relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we will have peace--even when life tosses a surprise at us. When Jesus speaks peace over your life, He imparts rest and calm to you, because His words bear the power to calm you on the inside. You'll have peace in circumstances that warrant angst. You'll have peace that passes understanding. With a strong foundation in Jesus, you'll have rest in your heart.

I wish you peace.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Free to Sing

Today I drove over one of our many mountain passes here in the northwest. (It's more formidable than the one pictured here. :0) Not a favorite pastime for me. Large trucks vied for position. Wind blew against the side of our van and as I took the turns one after another I focused only on driving.

Just before the road started climbing toward the pass, I'd been singing along with a Christmas CD -- a jazzy collection with amazing harmonies and rhythm (Avalon: Joy). But, somewhere as we climbed and the road grew darker with so many trees flanking the ribbon of highway, I stopped singing.

After the summit, the road winds back down, curving and narrowing once again. I still wasn't singing. Soon, the road evened out and split into more lanes while light broke overhead as we cleared the trees. Whew. Deep breath. A new song played on the CD and I started singing along again. That's when I realized I'd been quiet for a while.

Fear'll do that to you.

Fear will take the song away and silence your voice. Fear robs us of joy and being carefree. I'm still learning how to give over my concerns fully to the Lord. Can anybody out there relate? What key strategies have helped you? My most recent plan is to remember God has mercy on those who fear Him (a good and holy fear, which causes us to draw near to God) and He takes pleasure in those who hope in his mercy, so I can trust Him. I can run to Him.

And in His protective care, I can sing.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Guest Author: Denise Hunter

This is exciting! I just finished Denise Hunter's "Surrender Bay" which released in October, '07. This book is such a good read and though it's fiction, you'll be fed as if you were reading non-fiction. Yes, the work entertains, but it also encourages a fresh revelation of God's unconditional love.

Before I post the interview, I have to share this funny note with you. Denise and I both served on the ACFW's worship team this year, but when I sat down to read "Surrender Bay," I didn't realize she was the same Denise, even though I recognized her picture from her website. I only knew her as Denise at the conferences (she served last year, too). She plays drums on the worship team at her home church and I'm thankful she's sharing her skills with ACFW, both in writing and in music!

Here's the interview:

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started writing?

I’m a mid-western girl, married to a wonderful man, and I have three terrific boys. When I was a child, my mother took me to the library regularly, and I was introduced to the world of fiction. In my elementary years, I wore out our school library’s Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, and throughout my middle school years and into high school, I always had my nose in a book. (Still do, just ask my husband.)

In my early twenties, I began to wonder if I could write a novel. I had two of my children at that time, and when my grandfather became very ill, we were told he was going to pass away soon. I visited him in the hospital, and as I watched him lying on the bed, I recalled the many things he had done for Christ during his long life. I knew he’d lived a full life with few regrets, and I wanted to be able to feel that way when my life drew to a close. On my long drive home, I decided I was going to stop wondering if I could write a book and just do it. I wrote my first novels during my childrens’ nap times.

What was your inspiration for writing Surrender Bay?

My earliest vision of the story was simply about best friends who fall in love. The story evolved as it brewed in my head for almost a year and as I brainstormed with my writing buddies (authors Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, and Kristin Billerbeck). But Surrender Bay truly took on a new dimension when the Westbow staff suggested making the romance in the story a picture of the romance between God and us. The story grew, bit by bit, from there, with lots of brain-wracking, hair-pulling, praying, and re-writing. J

I noticed there is no overt Christianity in the story. Why did you write it as an allegory?

I love the way Jesus told stories. His parables made his listeners think for themselves and draw their own conclusions. In his story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus never said, “Listen folks, the father in the story is God, and the Prodigal Son is you.” The son never had a “come to Jesus” moment, he simply returned to his father and was welcomed home with open arms. Jesus required the listeners to draw the connection for a reason.

An allegory allows us to see the familiar in a fresh and powerful way, and that’s what I hoped to do with Surrender Bay.

What would you like readers to take away from this story?

I hope readers walk away from this story with a fresh view of the way God pursues us. I hope women find comfort in the kind of love He has for them, the kind that never fails, the kind that puts our sins as far as the east is from the west. “He will never leave you nor forsake you”.

Nantucket sounds like a beautiful place to visit. Did you visit there to do research?

Nantucket is a lovely island, a truly unique place. My family went with me for a brief visit so I could do some research as part of our vacation last year. I was so inspired, I sat on the beach and wrote the first pages of the story while my kids and husband frolicked in the water. The quaint town, the history, the cobblestone streets, and the people really make this an ideal setting for novels.

Is Surrender Bay part of a series?

Yes and no. Surrender Bay is the first of four books that will be set on Nantucket, romance novels that will reflect the attributes of God listed in Zephaniah 3:17. The books will feature different characters, though, and stand completely their own. Hopefully, they will necessitate another research trip to Nantucket.

Here's her bio:

Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

You can find out more by visiting her website:
She is also active at

Thanks for visiting us, Denise.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Source

This morning, I noticed my lacy-leafed China Doll tree was looking rather dry. This thing glugs water. My daughter had just watered it extensively the other day. Today, back to desert conditions. I think it's the heat we turn on during our cooler weather. Either way, it needed water.

I turned around to the kitchen bar and found a pitcher half full of water waiting for the next dishwasher load. All that water, so close to the need, and yet the tree was dying of thirst. The dirt was dry and the leaves were less glossy than they need to be. All the poor thing needed was access to the water. I poured the liquid from the pitcher into a smaller container and brought it over to the tree. Glug-glug.

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple tore from top to bottom, allowing access in the very presence of God. Through Jesus, we have access to the living God. And all we have to do is go to the Source.

Is there anything stopping you? My work can get in the way---household chores, toddler care and writing. So what? No excuses. He is the Source and I need Him. I'm headed in to the holiest place. Are you coming?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Pumpkin Spice

Ever noticed how a fragrance can lighten your mood? Odors can make you wince, but lovely aromas can elicit a sigh.

The other night I hosted our writer's critique group in my home and before they arrived, I lit my pumpkin spice candle. It has an amazing fragrance. We laughed and talked about wafting the smell toward your nose, not just inhaling directly over the glass jar.

I was at the drug store today and picked up tealights with a pine fragrance. Not a personal favorite. But, the cinnamon candles? Yum. Right now one of the cinnamon candles influences the atmosphere in my writing office while I pen this post.

Music does the same thing. My husband and I visited a restaurant one afternoon for lunch and the music was so difficult to endure. Most of the songs took us back to a place in our pasts we'd rather not revisit. But right now, as I write this, I'm listening to piano instrumental music--a favorite of mine for writing. There's almost a visible peace in my room. That day in the pizza place? The music chased us out and darkened our experience.

Music and fragrance make a difference. Try this: the next time you prepare for your quiet time with God, when you grab your Bible, also take a moment to light a fragranced candle and turn on worship music. These elements may just bring a new dynamic to your experience. God created your senses. Enjoy.