Monday, December 17, 2007

Life's Poetry

I heard today about Dan Fogelberg's passing. Now, before someone screams at me for being from the 70s--guilty as charged.

This guy's tunes inhabited my heart, and still do. He was that rarest of people, an artist who was a musician who was a poet. He celebrated life--can you get much more connected than that?

In a way his tunes informed my writing. I sit here listening to my iPod with every DF tune I can load, loaded on it, and playing. I celebrate his genius, his gentle way of telling the truth, his life. Too young--I daresay there was music in him yet to be strummed on the 4700 instruments he played. I'd be ready to bet there were still stories to tell, life to be explored, poetry to set to the notes of a score.

Farewell for a while, Dan. You'll be missed here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Seasonal Changes

Been a while since I've blogged. I proposed SEASONS IN THE MIST to a well-known and lots-of-fun agent. He said it was good stuff, well written (!) but not his thing. What we call a "good rejection."

I'm really happy with the progress I'm making on SEASONS. It's been excerpted on Tina Helmuth's THE INK'S NOT DRY blog, with mixed results and some comments that I truly did not understand. Some of them seemed to indicate the commenter hadn't actually read the excerpt...enough.

I'm also glad to say I've got not only my extra-valuable crit partner brainstorming it with me, I have an editor doing so as well. They're both making great suggestions, stuff I want to do and know I can work into the MS seamlessly. I'm still perking right along, and my target date for finishing the draft was December 1, but it's looking more like I'll complete it after the holidays.

I hate it when I make a change to a book and it messes up the story further along. The additions/deletions these precious ladies are suggesting are totally different...they're going to enrich the story, not mess it up.

Books should grow and morph into something greater than the original concept. They should stretch the reader, too. Ideally SEASONS will do both.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fiction as Fiction

A dear & faithful friend turned me on to this article. Run, do not walk, to see what this Brit author has to say about why we write, how we write, and why mediocre is just not good enough.

Since I can't seem to get the tag to work, google The Book of Morden. He gave a talk in 2005 about this very topic.

He makes the point quite concisely, that if we accept artificial limts on what Christian fiction can address, we might be doomed to fail before typing "Chapter One." Must we also preach the Gospel? Should we? And how does the agenda limit our ability to tell the story?

I can identify with what he says. I have been told "can't" in CBA fiction far more often than I've been told "can."

There is a huge presumption in CBA, which I am attempting to test, that readers go into bookstores and complain about being offended by this book or that book. Who does this? How often? Over what books? If this paradigm exists, those who cite it should be called to account. Where are the stats?

Being told we "can't" write about certain people, in certain ways, strikes me as wrong-headed and short-sighted. Does not Jesus know there is still a vast unredeemed world out there? Is He blind to their ways and habits? Yet our fiction must show our unsaved characters acting exactly like the Christians. What, then, is the point of writing of their redemption?

The article has helped me firm up my ideas for SEASONS IN THE MIST. I have decided to take my own advice and just tell the story. If it's "not Christian enough," whatever that means, too bad. If it doesn't preach the Gospel, too bad. I have a story to tell that will examine some basics in how worldviews change and hopefully improve over time, and how they stay the same, try as we might to climb some cosmic progressive ladder. Oh, sure, there's not slavery anymore, and we don't tie peasants to the land, but human nature doesn't change much in seven centuries. We're still sinful, still stubborn and hard-nosed and wrong-headed.

Even in the CBA when it attempts to limit a Christian's ability to examine anything and everything in fiction.

That's my take at this time, anyway.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Building Something

Two items on the radar scope this day: I've received a release date of 11/9 for my construction manager book, MY SILENT HEART. This is a lot better news than it sounds, so I'll explain.

The book is in many ways the book of my heart. It sat at a Large NY Christian publisher for about a year, including time to do their requested edits, before being declined. Man, was I bummed! but got over it quickly enough. MSH was actually the book I thought would sell first, not fifth. It was my best output to date (this was written before ANGEL WITH A RAY GUN) so I thought if it surpassed the stuff that had already get the drift.

Yes, before Janny leaps up and bops me with her ever-lovin' nerf bat, I sold it to a small press. But it will see daylight, and for now that's sufficient for me. Whether it should be sufficient is a debate for another day.

Second thing on the agenda is that I can't go to Dallas this year for the ACFW conference. Sad but already gotten over as well. My husband and I crunched the numbers 'til they screamed for mercy, but with a kid in college, the numbers would not crunch.

Did we despair? No, we did not! Instead, Janny and I are going on a two-woman writer's retreat the same weekend. While everyone at ACFW is schmoozing, pitching, singing, praying, and (hopefully) selling, we will be working on our writing, swimming, eating, singing, praying...

I'm really looking forward to it, particularly since she mentioned chocolate.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Maybe I shouldn't try for serious, large-volume writing output in the summer. There's always some fun activity, or must-do, to distract me.

That said, the time travel story is perking right along. I still "know" this story and there's still fun in writing it. I haven't had this kind of hoot writing away since ANGEL WITH A RAY GUN. That was one fun book to write, I'll tell ya.

There is early interest in my WIP from a small press. I have very mixed feelings about this fact. I'd like SEASONS IN THE MIST to be my breakout book from the small press world. It's been 5 years since I sold my first novel to a small press, and believe me, it's been a learning experience primarily and a success only if you use the term very, VERY loosely.

So my solution is to ignore the whole "where will I sell this?" conundrum for now, and simply write away on SEASONS. Like Scarlett, I'll worry about that tomorrow.

In other small press news, my construction manager love story, MY SILENT HEART, has been picked up by ByGrace Publishing for autumn '07 (I think) release. I'm so tickled that this story will see daylight, since it's always been the book I thought would sell first. My mistake!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Here's some industry news for you. Enspiren Press, with whose principals m I've had some contact with for many years, is about to publish its first releases. As follows:

Tangled Hearts by Rosemary Morris
A historical romance set in Queen Anne era.

Duking Days by Anita Davison
A historical mainstream set in the Stuart Reign.

Eliza's Hope by Vicki Gaia
Historical romance set in New York 1912

Jacqui's Dilemma by Joanna Hunt
Contemporary romance novella set in Australia

The Corpse Whisperer by Chris Redding

Welcome to this new and exciting venture in small press fiction!

My own release for ByGrace happened this past week. BRIDES AND BOUQUETS 2007 contains my novella "Something Borrowed."

And amidst all this, my medieval time travel romance is perking right along. Thanks for asking.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Plan and the Challenge

Good interchange of ideas this week with my dear crit partner. Now this woman is one Horking Fine Writer, but that said--we write differently.

She outlines, plans, plots, and generally knows where she's headed with a story before she types "Chapter 1."

I, on the other hand, get the germ of an idea and charge off into Literary Glory with my pants around my ankles.

Both approaches are good. Both are right. Both lead to their own unique speed bumps and detours.

A case in point: my "Huh?" romance (thus named because it's a Christian medieval time-travel romance) is going along swimmingly, but that's not because I planned it to. It's because it is. Years ago I wrote this story and now I'm writing it a second time (from scratch) with a very different briefcase of skills to write it with (and yes, I know I ended with a preposition). It's probably the easiest thing I've ever written; it's virtually writing itself.

Why? Because it's a Horking Good Story, that's why--oh, never mind. Perhaps it's going well because I'm using the previously written version as an OUTLINE? Because I actually PLANNED something (though I thought it was a manuscript, not an outline, at the time)?

Don't get too worked up about this. I am a Seat of the Pants writer (SOTP in the jargon) and unrepentant. And since I don't have a print copy of that earlier version, the "outline" is all in my head.

But it's nice to know where a story's going, for once.

In other news...look for a book-release entry later this week.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Right Faith, Wrong Trimmings

Rant Warning: the following has some of the characteristics of a diatribe. Discussion, sharing of ideas, or conflict may ensue. You have been warned.

Recently on a lively writing loop, a topic arose about historical fiction. Now, just so we're all on the same page: much of CBA historical fiction consists of the Sweet Prairie Romance with the Bonneted Woman on the Cover. This is a known genre. Do not attempt to argue: it just IS.

Why do all CBA historicals have a woman wearing a bonnet (often a transparent bonnet, so you sort of wonder-what was the point?) on the cover, you ask? Very well, I will attempt to answer this burning question. They are there so innocent readers will know this is fiction set in an Acceptable Era: the 1800s.

The nineteenth century is the only acceptable time for stories to be set because it meets the criteria for acceptable fiction: the characters must be Protestant. Fiction dealing with Puritans, the Revolutionary War period, etc., should not be written. Worse, we should not write about pre-Reformation Christians: these would of necessity be Catholic.

Now, before you run screaming for the door: if you write or read historical fiction, you must to some extent abandon your current-day prejudices. People in the pre-Reformation centuries did not think of themselves as idolators, Papists, hidebound or any other stereotype we sneer at today. They called themselves CHRISTENDOM, and the reason they referred to themselves this way is that they kept Christian writings, Christian learning, Christian tradition alive during centuries when my ancestors were worshiping Odin and eating foul-tasting lutefisk...

Ahem. I digress.

We authors must not attempt to write stories set in these benighted times. Do you ask why? Because we'd be writing about Catholics.

I say no. We'd be writing about Christians. People of their time, like us. Many, many of them loved their Savior and served Him in the way the current day permitted. So do we. Some of them were "surface" believers. Some of us are. Some of them abandoned family, friends, and a normal medieval life in order to spend 100% of their time in prayer and learning. Some of us are blessed to do that, in this age.

Do not tell me not to write of these people because they were not Christians. You're wrong. If you don't want to read my work, that's fine, and your privilege. But don't use this most specious of reasoning to say that historical fiction must deal only with people who think like we Protestants do. Don't you dare forbid me to write of people in earlier eras and shed some light on their most-interesting lives and times.

Who knows, maybe we'll all learn something.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Clicking Along

And happy about it. See, long ago I wrote a time travel story. No, don't ask--it should never have seen daylight, but at the time I didn't know how bad it was. It went to Simon & Schuster, presented to them by a contact I still treasure. I got a very kind rejection letter, which I suppose motivated me to keep writing. I wince now to think I presented such a piece to a pro, but that's water under the bridge now...

I've decided to re-tell the story. Not edit--start from scratch. This is a story I KNOW, with the characters and plot already full-formed in my head.

And wonder of wonders. It's perking along like it's writing itself. I was in some anxiety over whether a story would ever work so well again. I thought maybe I'd lost the spark.

The fire is on. It's alive. God still has work for me to do, apparently. I'm having such fun writing this, and it's coming so easily.

And even my closest writer-friend likes it! She rarely likes my drafts, but on this one she all but made me cry in joy with her commentary.

Bye for now--I need to go tell some more of this story.

And, as ya know, it's all about STORY, after all....

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Western Perfection

Warning: book recommendation follows -- if you don't read another book in the spring season that everyone says will get here eventually, do read this one. The following comes courtesy of Tammy Barley, who interviewed my ACFW bookseller-bud Jeanne Leach...

One foreword -- Jeanne has waited quite a while for this book to release. Due to life intrusions and other glitches on the publisher's part, its debut has taxed all of our patience...but now it's out, so buy and READ THIS BOOK!

Western romance author, closet humorist and down-to-earth friend, Jeannie Marie Leach good-naturedly let me pepper her with questions over her newest release THE PLIGHT OF MATTIE GORDON. The interview took an unexpected turn, one which left me feeling closer to God.

TB: Tell us a little about yourself, about your home in Colorado.

JML: I've gone past the age of 50 and was surprised and delighted to find that a good part of life still happens past that age. David and I have been married 32 years. We never had kids of our own, so we borrow other people's kids for a while, spoil them rotten and then give them back. We also have a 130 lb. Alaskan Malamute, whom we spoil too.

We live in the mountains of Colorado at an elevation of 9,097 feet above sea level. Having grown up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the mountain girl in me couldn't be squelched. Eventually, hubby also decided he was a mountain man, so here we are, surrounded by 13,000 ft. snow covered mountain, beside an icy lake.

TB: Every author has a unique story of how her career began. What led you to write Christian romance? Who or what has most influenced you?

JML: Back in the mid '80s a girlfriend discovered Janette Oke books. We shared them and became hooked. I never told anyone that I'd been "thinking" up stories since I was a teenager. These stories would sometimes take me a year to complete. After reading Ms. Oke's books, my stories took on a Christian romance twist that wasn't there before.

I finally asked my clinical psychologist father-in-law if what I was doing was normal. He asked me a couple questions and soon leaned back in his chair. "The only difference between you and a writer is that a writer writes these stories down."

I started typing at the computer and never looked back.

TB: When did you first envision the storyline for THE PLIGHT OF MATTIE GORDON?

JML: It was over four years ago that I first started working on THE PLIGHT OF MATTIE GORDON. What I like to do is think of a character, then figure out what would be the worst thing that could happen to them.

I'd just seen the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in western Colorado for the first time, and was totally awed by it. The information on the Black Canyon said that outlaws had hidden there back in the early days of the west.

I started to wonder what would happen if ordinary people lived there, and soon I had a picture of Mattie in my mind. Add to that an outlaw son, and the story took on a life of its own.

TB: You wrote many sides to Mattie Gordon's character with which women can identify. What do you like best about Mattie?

JML: My favorite things about Mattie are her tenacity, her single-minded purpose when it came to her son, and the hope she held in her heart that as long as Will had breath, she knew God could save him.

So often, when we don't see the answer to our prayers according to our timetable, we give up and lose hope. We convince ourselves that it will never happen and give up trying. Mattie never gave up!

TB: Other than a bounty hunter, who is Cyrus Braydon?

JML: Cyrus is a tough man on the outside with a tender spot he'd shoved down inside long ago. In order to maintain that rough exterior, he'd nearly forgotten that part of him. Until he met Mattie, he'd been able to keep reigns on his tenderness, fooling most people into thinking he didn't care about anyone or anything. But when faced with the unfailing and unconditional love of a mother for her son, the tenderness came out, and he had quite a time dealing with it.

TB: What inspired you to choose the southern plains states - Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas - as part of the backdrop for this story?

JML: It was a process that took time. First, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is out on the high plains. One could ride right past it within a few hundred feet and not know it was there. I liked that as a hideout for the gang. That would be why they were able to stay hidden for so long.

Then, I also needed a cow town, someplace where cattle shipping was prominent, and when I realized Hayes, Kansas was exactly what I needed, I had to figure out how I can get a hidden canyon close enough to Hayes to be a viable solution to Will's cattle sales, yet far enough away for him to not fall under people's scrutiny. So I set my hidden canyon in the southwestern part of Colorado. While the plains may be flat, they are full of surprises and places to hide.

TB: Different places in your book you hint at the miracles God works in our lives. Has God touched you with a miracle? If so, what meaning did it have for you?

JML: God has touched me with MANY miracles down through the years. In most recent years, they always pointed to hope.

TB: If you could personally share one truth, one bit of Christian wisdom you feel God would have you give, what would it be?

JML: Prov. 13:12 tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick. I've been heartsick before, and it's not a good feeling. When you lose hope, you feel you don't have anything to live for, and your future abounds in bleakness. To lose hope is to forget that God is still on the throne, and that he is still working on your behalf to bring about great things for you.

But Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." The passages that follow that say that if you seek him with your whole heart, he will be found by you.

This message of hope has become the theme of all my books. In fact, one woman who has read my book sent me an e-mail message saying she now had hope for her 16 year-old son because of Will and Mattie. Wow!

So my message to readers is to NEVER GIVE UP! As long as you have breath, you can hope for a bright future, a future led by God.

TB: Many thanks to Jeanne Marie Leach for sharing! If you'd like to know more about the author or her work, feel free to visit her at or

~Interviewed by Tammy Barley, author and reviewer

See what I mean? Now go forth and buy this one.

Review: "The Plight of Mattie Gordon" by Jeanne Marie Leach

This is one of the rare books that has made me laugh, cry, and lifted me to greater hope in the Lord.

Mattie Gordon, a widow, is mother to Will and his men, a group of cattle drivers who bunk at the Gordon ranch between jobs. Or at least, she believes her son drives cattle…until bounty hunter Cyrus Braydon shows up with a poster that reads "Wanted: Cattle rustling, horse theft, murder. William Gordon. Dead or alive."

Afraid for her son's faithless soul should he be captured and convicted of murder, Mattie quickly rides out, desperate to find Will and convince him of God's salvation before Cyrus tracks him down.

In Boise City, Oklahoma Mattie meets Cyrus again. Her heart is pulled to the good man he is, leaving her conflicted since he is dutybound to stop her son. When Mattie discovers she is being followed, she has no choice but to share information that will enable her and Cyrus to find her son together, no choice but to trust the bounty hunter to protect her and to take Will alive.

"The Plight of Mattie Gordon", a novella, is Jeanne Marie Leach's second Christian Western romance. I laughed over comical one-liners, enjoyed the unique storyline and a few pleasant twists. I personally prefer to see the visuals in more detail, but the plot and Mattie's character - one I strongly identify with as a mom - drew me. The theme of entrusting our children's faith to the Lord is powerful, not one I'll soon forget. If you enjoy Western romances or women's fiction that speaks to your heart, this is for you.

Leach's next book, Shadow of Danger, will debut late this spring. I'll be watching for it.

~Reviewed by Tammy Barley, author and reviewer

Friday, March 23, 2007

Keeping On

Been involved in heavy-duty discussions with a writing associate about craft, expectations, haste, tardiness, and other issues. When I say heavy-duty, it means examining the core issues: why we write; what would happen if we stopped; can we stop; what it means to grasp for the highest pinnacle of excellence that's within our grasp.

Like I say, heavy. We two have very different writing styles, emotional wiring, approaches to life -- almost the whole smash. So what keeps us writing-friends?

I think it's that we understand each other. While her path is not mine, and mine not hers, we can empathize. She spots -- and elicits -- the very best writer I can be. Whether I can bring out her most excellent ways, I don't know. I'd be honored to try.

We talk about writing from the heart, the things that tickle us most. We talk about writing to the market. For some fortunate writers, these two paths intersect.

So far, it hasn't been true for us. Though both of us are published, it hasn't led to bigger contracts or higher profiles. So we're left with examining why we write, how we must write if we want to stay sane...

More later, once I figure it out.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Abandoning Subtlety

Subtle, as most of you blogophiles already know, I don't do. Gentle hinting is not my greatest strength.

That said: READ THIS BOOK! Its title is A VALLEY OF BETRAYAL. Tricia Goyer wrote it. I almost resent this book for being so good--it takes me away from my slow-going WIP, which we won't talk about right now because I think y'all should Read This Book!

Tricia kindly asked me to participate in her blog tour. While reading (did I mention you should do the same?) I got curious: how does a 21st century lady get interested in the Spanish Civil War, of all things?

Here are my curiosity-bits and her answers:

1. What was the toughest piece of research you did for A VALLEY OF BETRAYAL?

The most difficult parts are those dealing with the political climates of that time. One of my characters, Deion, is part of the Communist party. Today's reader has one view of what that means, but in the 1930s there was hope found there. In a country that was still segregated, the idea of "equality of men" was a huge draw, especially for African Americans.

2. How did you get into the mindset of the early Hitlerites?

Good question! My "research" into the mind of Hitler's soldiers started with my first novel, From Dust and Ashes. Starting with that novel, I've always included the point-of-view of the "bad guys." I suppose I wanted to figure out what made them tick. Research REALLY got involved in my second novel, NIGHT SONG. It was then I saw the Nazi beliefs as a religion. They saw Hitler as their savior and were determined to follow him ... no matter the cost. And, if they didn't, they lost their lives, and the lives of their families. That's a pretty good motivator!

With these things already in mind, I looked into the motives behind the earliest pilots who flew over Spain. I read books written by some of the pilots and tried to figure out what made them, personally, tick. I discovered that it was a great honor not only to fly, but to serve in the military. As you may know, after World War I, Germany was not allowed to have a military. So, in Spain this was their way of once again gaining respect after feeling as if their country had been disrespected for so long. There were also individual motives, but mainly these men felt they bore the worth and strength of Germany on their shoulders.

3. Did you travel to Spain to research there?

No, I wish I could have! Instead I dove into the books. I was also blessed to interview men who were there, and get the help/insight from a missionary friend who currently lives in Spain. When I was researching for my novel, ARMS OF DELIVERANCE, one of the autobiographies I read was from a man who was a B-17 bomber pilot over Europe--but before that, he was an American volunteer for the Spanish Civil War. I had never heard of this war before, which happened right before WWII in Spain. I started researching and I was soon fascinated. Some people call it "the first battle of WWII" because it's where that Nazis first tried their hand at modern warfare.

For this series I dove into the lives of an American artist, a few international volunteers, a Basque priest, and a German pilot. I research the real people first, and then the plot for my novel builds. Soon, I have to make myself stop researching to start writing. Research can be addictive!

4. What aspects of the politics of 1939 seemed most foreign to you?

All of the politics! Things were VERY confusing in Spain in the late 1930s. There were a group of people (the rich, the military, the state church) who liked how things were. Then there was a group that didn't ... everyone else. These others searched for answers in democracy, communism, and numerous other political systems. It took a LOT of research and study to get everything straight in my head who was on whose side, and why.

5. Do you plan on telling more of Sophie's story?

Yes, my second novel A SHADOF OF TREASON comes out this fall. In fact, book #2 picks up the very day where book #1 left off. It continues on in Spain in the lives of these characters, and ... well, soon they discover that more is at stake than what any of them originally thought. It's also published by Moody and it will hit store shelves September 1, 2007.

Generation NeXt Marriage will be released in January of 2008 and My Life unScripted, a teen devotional for girls, this summer. And, of course, I've got several other projects in the works, including A Whisper of Freedom, which is the next novel I have to write.

Those are Tricia's answers. The aspect of the book that gets my highest thumbs-up is her marvelous flair for description. You can almost sense yourself walking down the street of the French/Spanish border town, taking in the flavor of the breeze, sensing the fears of the people.

If I ever write a historical, which at this point doesn't seem terribly likely since I'm bogged down with my contemp, this is the flavor I'll be shooting for.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oh, the Humanity!

Status: Wednesday, off-duty at the ADJ (Annoying Day Job) and coping with cyberspace.

Issue: blogging and photographs. They are NOT compatible.

Alternatives: I should be writing. I suppose this cyber-coping is writing related, but I'd rather be untangling mystery plot twists in TOUCH AND GO than working with uploads, downloads, and mysterious blog instructions written in Finnish.

They say if I want a human-friendly system, I should trash the PC and go get a Mac, but doesn't the 'Net show up similarly confusing on both?

Not human-friendly. I rest my case. If this doesn't work the first time, I'm going back to my mystery.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Weird title? I suppose. It's because I'm writing this afternoon on TOUCH AND GO, my mystery/suspense work-in-progress. As I write, the soundtrack to "Rob Roy" is playing on the CD player (breathes there a soul who doesn't write to music?). The music naturally reminds me of the movie. In it, the title character makes certain choices, based on his best instincts--some of them work out well, some of them lead to disaster. But once he's made his choices, events progress that are out of his control. There's a slow buildup of the consequences and his subsequent actions/reactions to them, creating a sense of destiny. Was Rob doomed? What other choices could he have made, and remain himself?

That's what I'm aiming for in this next book--that linkage of action/situation building on action, leading to that same sense of inevitability in the storyline and particularly in the resolution of the story problem(s).

You find it in the best-written books, the most immortal of music. Can you think of any piece by Beethovn in which the progression of theme and note can possibly result any other way than it does?

Aim high, they say. I'm aiming high with this one.