Friday, November 13, 2009

Today's special guests: Sojourners from the Third Crusade in K.M. Weiland's "Behold the Dawn"

Every now and then a story comes along that will not let us go. Characters create such a strong persona and presence that we can't forget them. Behold the Dawn, by author K.M. Weiland, is such a story.

I freely admit that I am particularly drawn to historical novels of epic proportions. That said, Behold the Dawn is my favorite read of 2009 so far. Therefore, I'm thrilled to have had the chance to step a little further into the lives of the characters of Ms. Weiland's book and to get to know them a little better here today.

I invite you to join me in greeting the knight Annan, the Lady Mairead, and another guest who shall remain nameless as a little surprise to the others. But first, here's a synopsis of their story:

Marcus Annan, a tourneyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.
Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

The sins of a bishop.
The vengeance of a monk.
The secrets of a knight.


Hello, and welcome, Master Knight. Thank you for your willingness to talk to readers today about your story.

You held many secrets for years and years. Once situations arose to force you to face them, did it then become easier to consider telling your story to all of us? What was that like? (or) what convinced you to bare your soul and tell your story to Ms. Weiland?

I don’t know that it will ever be easy. I’m not proud of my past. I still don’t enjoy talking about it. But it was a story that needed to be told.

During those agonizing years, what sort of things did you often think about but not say out loud?

Mostly everything. I’ve never been given to small talk. I say what needs to be said and not much more. My actions have always done more of my talking than my mouth.

Tell us more about how you met Marek. What of your past did he know when the story began?

I found Marek about to be thrown into prison for stealing bread. He was a grubby, gringing youth who had never had a guiding hand or a chance to make an honest man of himself. I’ve no doubt someone could have done a better job of that last than me, but I was the only one at hand, so I bought off his debt and took him as indentured servant. Marek knew of me only what he could see. I never talked about the past with him. But he always was a quick lad, with a sharp mind and rabid sense of curiosity, so ‘twouldn’t surprise me if he pieced together more of my story than I ever thought he could know.

You indicate many profound regrets. Is there one that stands out that you are willing to tell us here, (or should readers wait to read the story to find out what that is)?

I regret many things, although, by the grace of God, I’ve surrendered my mistakes to Him and put them behind me. They are no longer the haunting weight I can’t escape. But I suppose if I had to pick only one regret, it would be my disagreement with my elder brother. I suppose I always held anger in my heart against him because he was my father’s favorite and, as is usually the case with the eldest son, his sole heir. We continued to be at odds throughout our youth, until finally our friction culminated in a brawl. His wife, Lucinda, attempted to intervene and was struck down. Both she and the twins with whom she was pregnant were killed. If any one event can be claimed as the catalyst for the mistakes that followed, including the tragedy of St. Dunstan’s Abbey and my eventual descent into the tourney fields, it was that my sister-in-law’s death.

Tell us about Gethin - what he was like before his course was changed and he became known as the Baptist.

It’s strange how pain changes a man. Gethin was always impassioned, always on fire for righteousness and reform—and there was no place that needed both so badly as St. Dunstan’s, where I went to serve penance after my sister-in-law’s death. But before the day when the abbot, Roderic of Devonshire, had him beaten like a dog and thrown out to die in the roadside, Gethin had not yet been touched by the ravaging fire of vengeance. During my stay at the Abbey, he was the one who comforted me in my grief and my guilt. He was the one who led me to search for answers, reading the Holy Texts in the scriptorium. He was the one who introduced me to a personal God. The irony of what he became will always be a wound in my soul. He was my friend; indeed, he was the brother of my heart.

You saw Marek become a man during the Crusade. He seems to have gotten under your skin. Have you heard anything of him lately?

I owe Marek more than he knows. I picked him out of the streets to save his life, but he saved mine more than once—and in more ways than one. He and Dolly live not far over the hills from Mairead and me. Their first little one is on the way, and Marek’s fit to be tied. Much as he’s grown, I’ve sometimes my doubts about the laddie being ready to be a father.

How did you become a tourneyer? Is there anything that would ever call you back to such a life, or to battle?

Battle has always been the fire in my blood, for as long as I can recall. You have to remember that this society of ours is a society of warriors. An educated man is one who can fight and ride. The battlefield was the school of my youth, and I learned its lessons well. I thrived upon them. Indeed, violence has always been my siren. When I left St. Dunstan’s in despair, the tourneys were the obvious choice. Many second sons, void of any fortune, sought to make their living in the melee battles. I disappeared into the gaudy, gory world of the tourneys, hoping deep in my heart, I suppose, that I would find the end of my sorrows in inevitable death. But, thank God, such was not to be.

I admit, even still, the battles call to me. I miss the weight of my mail shirt upon my back, the clench of my fist around a sword, the swell of my destrier’s galloping muscles beneath me. But, nay, I’ll never go back. I have found a better life. I’ve put my violent skills to better use, opening a school to train young men to defend themselves. I live in quietude now. I live in peace.

Thank you, Sir. I congratulate you on your new path.
(Turning to Mairead)
Mairead, I'm honored that you would join us here to discuss your story. First, I have to admit that I'm not certain I'm pronouncing your name correctly. Can you help us with that?

Of course. It’s pronounced MARE-ade—with a little roll of the “r.” It’s a Gaelic name that means “pearl.”

Thank you. When readers first meet you, you are the wife of Lord William, Earl of Keaton. It was a traumatic event that brought that marriage into being. What brought you and Lord William to the Holy Land?

I met William when I visited the royal court (what little of it was left in London with the king in residence in Normandy). I knew from the beginning that he was a fine man—a man in a million. But not until my trouble did I discover how deep his honor went. I was… Let’s put it this way: I was pursued against my will by Lord Hugh, Earl of Guerrant, and compromised beyond recall. William married me both to save me from shame and to protect me from Lord Hugh’s further advances.

I know that it is a tender subject, but perhaps you can tell us how you met Lord Hugh, and how long it was that he had been pursuing you.

I think the first time I saw him was when he and a party of other lords came to hunt with my father at our home in Glen Taet. He showed me marked interest, but not until I met him again in London did his advances become intolerable.

You and Annan found yourselves in a very unexpected circumstance when you were placed in his protection. Did you, in your wildest imagination, ever think that you might desire to remain in that protection indefinitely?

No. All I wanted was to escape to the convent in Orleans. William had already prepared a place for me there, against such a tragic occurrence as his death. He wanted me to be protected, if he were no longer able to do it himself.

Tell us about your feelings when Lord William first placed you in that protection of Annan's.

William trusted Annan to protect me, and I trusted William. But all I knew of Annan at that time was that he was a condemned tourneyer, a man with the blood of countless upon his hands. He was so big and so brusque and so… lethal. For all I knew he was another Hugh de Guerrant. I wanted only to keep him at arm’s length for the entirety of our journey.

What was it about the Baptist's teachings that made you and Lord William such ardent followers of him for so long?

The Baptist was zealous; he was inflamed with a passion for reform in the Church. He saw the corruption. Indeed, he had witnessed it firsthand. And when he spoke of the need for reformation, his words burned with truth. His charisma was inescapable. William had known him long before I did, and he seemed to trust him implicitly, even when he didn’t always agree with some of his more violent ideas.

You have been able to come terms with the secrets of your past. But, are there times when they ever haunt you still? Do moments remain when you and Annan still have to bear eachother up?

Absolutely. The nightmares still come—for both of us. But the past is the past. We’ve both put it behind us. What’s done is done. It’s over now, and we want only to look forward to each new day, with thankfulness in our hearts that the Lord God has allowed us to spend them together.

What was it like telling your story to Ms. Weiland? How did you meet her? Are the two of you anything alike?

I don’t know that I really told her my story. She just discovered it. She met me first in the prison camp in Tyre—though at time she envisioned it rather more like a dank English dungeon than a ragged collection of tents. We’re not really very much alike, I don’t think. She’s more cynical than I am. More like Annan than me, really!
Thank you, Lady, for sharing your story, again, here today.

And now I'd like to bring out another guest.


(Marek enters. Annan stands and they clasp arms in greeting.)

Surprise, Annan! You didn't know that we'd invited Marek here today.

(Marek sits, smiling.)

I have a simple question for you, first, Marek. Please tell us all about Maid Dolly, starting with how you met her.

Oh, Dolly! My bonny Dolly. ‘Twas her face that kept me alive during the long, hard years of indentureship. (It’s not easy being responsible for a troll, you know. Wasn’t for me, Annan would be roaming around without a decent meal or a shod horse. He doesn’t even ken how lucky he was to find me three years ago. Who knows where he’d be without me to keep him from getting killed.) Anyway, Dolly—I met my lovely maid in Glasgow when I was yet a pup. She never exactly promised that she’d marry me. But we set that all to rights soon as I got back from that blinking Crusade.

In the course of the story, we see you grow from boy to man. Was there any specific point in which you felt that change happening in yourself?

Oh, when everyone else is running amuck all around you, losing their heads, and getting themselves deep into trouble, somebody’s got to keep his wits about him. I knew going to the Holy Land was a good idea for Annan (had to get him absolved somehow!), but I guess I didn’t expect to grow so much meself. When the day came that Annan trusted me with the only thing in this world that was precious to him—and I failed… I guess that was when I realized that I was facing the greatest challenge of my life.

How are you now? Do you have scars or are you quite recovered from your injuries?

Oh, I’m all right now, mum. My shoulder’s good as new, and it’d take more’n a bang on the head to dent me.

What do you think of Annan, now; after all you've been through together?

Don’t tell him I’m saying this—‘cuz it’d only go to head, you know—but Annan’s the best thing ever happened in me life. I was just a street urchin before. Only bread in my mouth was what I stole from the pockets of someone else. That’s how Annan found me. Some whinging old shopkeeper nabbed me and had every intention of chucking me into the dungeon. But Annan obviously realized that I’d make him a top-rate companion and bodyguard, so he snatched me up. And he changed my life. Taught me to fight, to ride, to live honorably. Aye, in spite of everything—it was Marcus Annan who taught me about honor.

(Addressing the group)

Has anyone heard from Lady Eloise recently? If so, how is she faring? Has she ever gotten used to Annan and who he is to Mairead?

(Annan leaning forward)


We stopped to see Eloise before leaving the Holy Land. Brother Warin is still with her, as well as her faithful servant Ducard. They’re slowly rebuilding the castle—as well as their lives. I think she’s reconciled to Mairead being my wife… though she made a grumbling remark or two to Mairead before we left.

The three of you are an unlikely troupe when you find yourselves together on the Mohammeden desert. In what ways did you each find yourselves adjusting?

(Mairead smiles and glances at the others)

Diverse as the three of us are, we eventually fell into an easy companionship. I think the hardest thing for me was learning to interpret Annan. I didn’t realize at first that his silence and his gruffness were just a mask for the compassionate man within. Thank the saints for Marek! He was the buffer between us until we got ourselves sorted out.


Well, you all have an amazing story, and I'm happy that you have found that peace that your were striving for. Thank you again, for being guests today on THE SECRET LIVES OF CHARACTERS.

K.M. Weiland (http://www.kmweiland.com/) writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She is the author of A Man Called Outlaw (http://www.amazon.com/Man-Called-Outlaw-K-Weiland/dp/0978924606/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253051593&sr=8-1) and the recently released Behold the Dawn (http://www.amazon.com/Behold-Dawn-K-M-Weiland/dp/0978924614/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254172766&sr=8-2). She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors (http://wordplay-kmweiland.blogspot.com/) and AuthorCulture (http://authorculture.blogspot.com/).
Join me for further review of Behold the Dawn, and an investigation into what makes an epic at WRITE REASON: www.naomimusch.com/apps/blog

Friday, October 30, 2009

Introducing Patti Lacy's Cast from "What the Bayou Saw"

Hey everyone! You don't want to miss this line-up! Today my guests have come a long ways to visit with me here in the tip-top of northern Wisconsin. I'm talking about coming from the deep south (and for me that means Illinois. Ha!) But really, most of my guests hale from as far away as Louisiana. I've invited the characters of Patti Lacy's What the Bayou Saw to stop in and talk about their lives. This is one fun and opinionated bunch of folks, and I can hardly wait to get started. Despite their harrowing story, God has really done some amazing things in their lives. Welcome with me Sally, Ella, Shamika, and Willie.



Hello Sally. Let's start with you.
Hi, Naomi! Just LOVE your name! Kinda Swiss, isn’t it?

(Chuckling). Well, not swiss exactly, but thank you. I feel especially privileged to have you and your friends here with us today. We met you before, in Patti's other book, The Irishwoman's Tale, but had no idea of the tragedies and secrets in your past. You spent most of your life burying the past and all its ugly memories. When the tragedy occurred with your student Shamika, did it occur to you that you might be forced to dredge up your own past by becoming involved with her?

Heavens to Betsy, no! It all started with that spark on the first day of school—well, I’d better back up. Have you taught, Naomi? Been a student? You know how that gray matter just swells in some students until it oozes outta their brains? That’s the way it was with Shamika. I just saw the possibilities! And then when that awful thing happened to her, well, I just HAD to go visit her at the hospital, and then when her aunt was so sassy, well I don’t know what happened! I just opened my mouth, and things started spillin’ out!

That day as a little girl on your way to school when you encountered Rufus and then the black boy, you seemed to come the conclusion that the adult world couldn't be trusted, isn't that so?

Well, I was soooo confused. I mean, I trusted my parents and my Sunday school teachers, but then Rufus and the mean new teacher just messed with my mind. I really didn’t know WHAT to think!

Is that what made it easy to lie about what happened, rather than to tell someone?

Well…yes! You know, I just couldn’t keep QUIET! That just wouldn’t be ME! So…I kinda fibbed. I mean, I did tell about losing my lunch money and being late, can’t you see? A kinda sorta lie!

Oh, dear. This is what Sam and I have been working on with the counselor.

Can you tell us about the progression of lying in your life, how it took hold, or what you learned from it?

Well, see, it’s kinda hard to explain to a regular person. I lied about Rufus and didn’t have to go the wholly nasty thing again—I mean that incident on the way to school. Then when the President got killed and I got—well, the bayou thing happened, well, I could just NEVER tell anyone about that! It’s just so personal. And it just got easier to avoid personal things and tell little white lies.

Sometimes people really do like it when you giggle and steer away from problems.
I hope that helps you understand, Naomi. I really want us to be friends.

Sure I do. That's sometimes part of human nature. On the other side of things, you love to teach. Where do you think that came from?

Well, Momma and Daddy, of course!

It took so much courage (that you didn't seem to know you had) to finally tell everyone the truth -- your family, your old friends, Shamika and her aunt -- what made you decide to tell the story to Patti so that she could share it with the world?

Oh, Naomi, my son adopted my habit of lying. I just couldn’t let it continue. Kinda like if you sneaked food all the time and then realized your daughter started having issues with food. Uh, well, you know what I mean, don’t you? I mean, that’s just an example. I mean, I don’t have problems with food.

Telling the story to Patti is something I’d rather not talk about. She didn’t get my permission, and I’m really not that happy about it.

I'm sorry to hear that. Can you also tell us how you two met?

Well, we both taught at Heartland, and we met in the Teachers’ Lounge. Then I saw her one day in the coffee bar at Barnes & Noble, and she’s just so—well, you know, kinda pushy and kept bugging me about things, and I was going through counseling and was being encouraged to open up around people, and it all kinda blurted out. Kinda like Mary’s story did with me. But I asked Mary if I could write her story, and Patti didn’t do any such thing!

Hey, Naomi, you’re not gonna mention this to Patti, are you? Hold on. I’ve gotta go get something to eat.

Okay. I’m back. Uh, Naomi, I really need to be getting home. Are you about done? I mean, I want to be helpful and all…

What things do you and Patti have in common; and how are you different from one another?

Well, we both teach and from what I saw in the teachers’ lounge, that woman sure likes to eat. I heard she’s from the South, but she sure doesn’t have much of her accent left. As far as I can tell, that’s about it.

When you and Ella met again in the unsegregated high school, despite your deep friendship, and the horrible secret you shared, you pulled away from her. Now that time, truth, and years have changed you, can you tell us why you think it happened that way at the time?

Naomi, can you BELIEVE that the counselor asked me that VERY QUESTION? I just wanted to fit in. You know, I’d finally gotten to be a part of something, and believe you me, the Bengal Belles were a VERY BIG DEAL down in Monroe, Louisiana, and since I wasn’t old friends with all those gals, I just figured they’d drop me like a hot yeast roll if I made friends with a colored—with a black girl.

At the end of the story, your own daughter Suzi presents you with quite a shock. How are you handling that now?

Oh, Naomi, haven’t you HEARD? Suzi and Joseph are EXPECTING! They are both in grad school and just doing sooo well. Joseph just couldn’t be any better of a hubbie to Suzi Q.

Me and Sam and Ed are flyin’ in Mama, and we’re gonna spend Christmas at their little rent house! And Joseph’s family is SOOO nice, you just wouldn’t believe it! We’ll probably get together and play Apples to Apples. They are that down to earth!

Well that’s wonderful to hear. Thanks so much for dropping by Sally. It’s been wonderful to talk to you.

Bye-bye, Naomi! Now don’t be tellin’ this to Patti, okay?

I’ll try and keep mum.

***

Hello Ella. Thanks for coming from such a long way to talk to us.
Hello, Naomi.

Ella, you are an incredibly brave woman; and you were an incredibly brave little girl. Thank you for being my guest as well. How did you manage to hold your secrets inside for so many years, especially while your brother was in prison?

I had made not only a promise but a blood oath. In the Ward family, a promise is not to be broken. Plus no one would’a believed my word against a white woman’s.

What was there about the new white girl living on the other side of the fence that drew you to want to become friends when you knew how both your families would feel about that? Were there times you ever tried to forget her?

Lawd, you neva seen such a cute face! All freckly and pale. And she had these blue eyes that jus’ danced! At that time books was her best friends—just like me. Course now you might say we’s best friends, the way everything’s worked out. Last year I helped Sally with the decorations for Suzi’s and Joseph’s wedding. (That Sally, you know, she can barely tie a bow.)

The day that changed you and Sally's lives forever -- is there anything about what the two of you did that day or about how you handled it after, that you regret?

Shoot, girl, don’t YOU have regrets? I know I sho’ do. Should’a tole Momma and Daddy, that’s fo sho’. But I don’t know that anything would’a been any different. You know, folks jes’ didn’t listen to blacks back then. Sometimes they don’t listen now.

Can you tell us, personally, about the role that the Holy Spirit has played in your life through that time, and in the years since?

That Spirit always blowin’ fresh wind, fresh fire into my soul ever since I be a little girl. Now sometimes I’ve ignored Him, that’s fo’ sho’, but He always been there helpin’ me along. He counseled me through Willie’s troubles, counseled me through college and nursin’ school. Counselin’ me now on how to be a doctor’s wife and a nurse at the same time!

What an encouraging reminder. Thanks, Ella.

***

Welcome to Secret Lives of Characters, Shamika. Thank you for coming as well.

Well, I got a hair appointment in ten minutes, so you better make ’em quick.

You didn't trust Sally for a long time. What finally made you realize that she genuinely wanted to help you and be your friend?

After what dem cops did to Daddy, there’s always a part of me that don’t trust no whites. But Sally, she kinda prove herself, you know? That woman, she shore is crazy, but she tryin’ to get there. Ain’t that what we all doin’?

How difficult is it, to come here today, or how hard was it for you to tell your part of the story to Patti?

Tell you the truth, I only came ’cause Ruby say I have to. Say it’ll be good practice for my student teaching.

What was it like, working with Patti?

That woman be one royal pain. She just won’t let up. Aunt Ruby say kinda like me.

Things happened to you that set your life on course; things you had no control over. If another tragedy came your way, how might the things you've gone through make you respond differently now?

Me and lyin’ have parted ways. It jes’ ain’t no good for me. Detective Price done convinced me of that.

Are you and Sally still friends? Have you had the chance to become acquainted her family?

Well, prob’ly not friends, but she like my great-aunt or something. She even invite me to her daughter’s weddin’. Boy, you should’a seen them folks try and dance. Look like chickens out there flappin’ around on the dance floor!

Sally was your teacher, but do you think she might have learned anything from you?

Oh, I think prob’ly everyone learns something from me.


You're probably right about that. Thank you, again Shamika. I hope you're not late for your appointment.

***

Willie, I'm sure you, as much as anyone, would like to leave the past behind you. You spent many years in prison, an innocent man; you laid down your life, in essence for those you cared about and loved. What kept you from becoming bitter, or did you struggle with that?

Naomi, you been on crack? Yep, that’s what I thought. Since that Spirit conked me in de head, I ain’t struggled with no bitterness, I just so grateful to be free. And I ain’t talkin’ those cell bars. I’m talking about mind and body and soul free. No dope. No nuttin’! Ain’t nuttin’ like it!

What were your dreams and hopes as a young man before events took hold and changed the course of your life?

Ain’t never wanna do nothin’ but toot that silly horn.

What kinds of things did you often think about during those turbulent days, but not say?

How unfair it was that they think I’d mess with those girls just cause my skin be darker than theirs. How dey hated me though they didn’t know the first thing ’bout me.

If you could have one wish or one prayer answered right now, what would it be?

That I find a nice woman who love the Lord.

(Smiling) Well, I'll be praying for you on that score then. I have a couple of more questions that anyone can feel free to answer.

Well, Sally and Shamika have skipped outta here, jes’ leavin’ me and Willie. I guess we’ll take turns.

I'd like to ask either of you, what do you (or did you at that time in the past) believe in so strongly, that it might (or did) affect your actions?

Ella here. Lovin’ someone through their pain. I jes’ never give up on my Willie.

What are your dreams today?

Willie on board. Pretty much that nice godly woman.

Do any of you think that you'll work with Patti again sometime, or do you know anyone who might be willing to share their stories with her?

Uh, I think I can speak for my brother and me. She ’bout wore the both of us out. Always pushin’ and pryin’. But I hear she found some woman down in N’Awlins and she’s done written a book about her! Some woman named Sheba. Can you believe that? And Sally tole me she’s plannin’ to go to all the way to China to get some woman’s story. Now don’t that jes’ beat all?

Do either of you have anything else you'd like to share or comment upon?

Naomi, you ’bout wore us out as well.

Thank you all for coming. Thank you, Patti, for taking down their stories so wonderfully.
Patti Lacy's novels explore the secrets women keep and why they keep them. Her first novel, An Irishwoman's Tale, visits the captivating cliffs of Ireland, where God helps a woman pick up the broken pieces of her past to find healing and the power to forgive in the present.
She's just completed book #3, My Name is Sheba, and is currently at work on a 4th project titled Reclaiming Lily.

Visit Patti and watch the trailers for her books at www.pattilacy.com
For further review & a writers' exam of What the Bayou Saw visit: http://www.naomimusch.com/apps/blog/show/1122866-book-exam-what-the-bayou-saw-by-patti-lacy

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Introducing Special Guests: Characters from Deborah Kinnard's "Angel With a Back Hoe"

Welcome back, friends! I'm very excited to bring to you an interview with the characters of Deborah Kinnard's new book Angel With a Back Hoe, which is releasing tomorrow, 10/1/09 from Desert Breeze Publishing. If you enjoyed Deb's Angel With a Ray Gun, then you know you can expect a great read. So, allow me to introduce to you the two main characters of this modern day romance, Diane Marshall, and Paul Cameron.

Hi, Diane. It's great to meet you in person. I'm so glad you decided to share your story with Deborah. Before your story starts, you are trying to overcome a broken heart. Would you say that that was the most important event in your life up to that time? Why or why not?

It sure was traumatic. It even shook my faith to some extent. See, I figured God had answered prayer. I just didn't know He was saying "no". Maybe I was too stubborn or set on my own way, to see that at the time.

What did your parents think about you choosing the line of work you are in? Was going against convention this way difficult for your family to accept?

Mom was all for it, probably because she had a conventional "woman's" job her entire working life. By now she's bored by it and can't wait to retire. My dad left when I was small, and as far as my brother Connor--I never cared what he thought one way or another. Connor's a jerk.

My first impression after reading your story, is that you struggle with a fair amount of insecurity. Would you agree; and, how did you, with that disposition, ever decide to become a lady building contractor?

In high school I was good at math and the science courses that dealt with physical things. Sometimes I was better than the guys! They'd tease me and call me a wonk and suggest I get glasses so I'd look the part. I suppose I learned to develop a thick skin early. I also learned to hide how it hurt, sometimes, and get secure in myself in a different way than some other girls do. Prayer helped a lot! In college, the counselors looked at my grades and test scores, and asked if I'd ever considered engineering. I said, "I sure have!" and the rest, I guess, is history.

Prior to coming to DeBrett and facing up to your insecurities and the chance for a new life, is there anyplace you habitually felt uneasy, or least at home?

I can't think of anywhere--except anywhere Connor is. Did I mention he's a jerk?

Many of us would like to know how you were first introduced to Deborah Kinnard? Was it a fast friendship right away?

Not at first. I met her at church. She's a little older than me and has a big laugh and a bit of a loud mouth. We shared a table at a Christmas event the year before Paul and I met, and I got a chance to talk with her. She's a kind lady though most people don't realize that at first.

What made you decide to share your story with her?

I didn't, not consciously. But she talked about how a woman can feel powerless, and can become resentful of God, whose timing is always exactly right. She told me she'd had a similar experience to mine with Nick, and it really deepened our friendship. Once Paul and I were engaged, I confessed the whole thing .

Are the two of you very much alike? If so, in what way? How are your personalities different?

She thinks we're similar, but we're not. She's spent her entire career in a mundane sort of job. She wanted to be a doctor but was held back and held herself back, I think. I saw what I could be good at, and went for it.

Might you ever work with her again in the future? (Maybe give us a sequel?)

It's possible--you never know! Maybe she'll settle right here in DeBrett once she retires!

Did you ever keep a journal while your were enamoured of Nick? And if you did, what sort of things would Paul find if he looked in it?

I did keep one for a short while. When Nick linked up with Lauren, I got very upset one night and I burned it. So that's one thing I don't have to worry about Paul reading!

What's going on with you these days, if you can tell us without spoiling the story?

Paul and I are hoping to start a family. That hasn't happened yet. He's fine with that so far, but I'm feeling a little anxious about it. Meantime, I'm establishing RCS-South, and we've already got several renovation jobs lined up for next season. I work from home, and I love it.

How are all the folks in DeBrett? Anything exciting going on there since the story?

Actually, yes. Joe Texidor and...well, he told me not to tell anybody. Trouble is, in this small a community, everyone I'm not supposed to tell has already heard!

Is there anything about Paul that you would change if you could?

He's too careless sometimes. I'd change that, maybe...although this impulsive nature is part of what I love most. He's in love with life, and it shows. This is how God made him to live, and the reckless ways are all part of that. I try to get his back and keep him as safe as a wife can.

Have Nick and Paul ever met?

No, and I hope they don't. I'm not sure what Paul would say to him. See reckless nature above.

What's the most romantic date you've been on lately?

We drove up to Oakwood to see Pam, Mom and his parents. Paul took me back to my favorite Polynesian restaurant, the one we went to the night he proposed. That place will always have great memories. Plus, they serve very tasty fish!

Thanks, Diane.

Well, Paul. You've been listening patiently while Diane has told us a few things about the two of you. What about you? How do you feel about sharing your story with thousands of people? Can you tell us anything about the process of sharing your story with Deborah?

It was all my wife's idea. Kind of a woman thing. I don't see why women are always making fairy tales out of everything, but Diane wanted to do it, so... I'm a bit more private than my wife is. I'm the one who made Mrs. Kinnard change our names and the name of our town, though. I don't want a fan club!
I can tell you're a ladies' man. Have you ever known to write love letters? To whom? Diane, or your former wife? Anybody else?

I stick to e-mail. And I don't get soppy. If I like you, I'll tell you to your face.

Were you as much of a romantic before you became a believer?

I barely remember the time before I became a believer...nah, that's not quite true. I don't really like to dwell on the past much. Before I believed, I guess I got around quite a bit with women. I like women. But I didn't treat them like people, maybe. I had fun dating, and I'm, like, a normal guy. Do we HAVE to talk about this?

Well, how about one more question on that. Does Diane ever get jealous?

I don't know yet. I don't pay much attention to other ladies, if that's what you mean. If a guy gets married, he oughta pay attention to the lady he's got. If he wants to run around, he should stay single.

How about you?
Well, there was this guy who hurt her pretty bad, before me. If I ever run into him, I'm going to take him apart and put him back together inside out. But no, I'm not jealous of a git like that.

Have you and Diane disagreed about anything recently? Are you willing to tell us what about, if so?

All our disagreements are based on her doing stuff she shouldn't do. Mostly on the job sites. She's not very big. I tell her when she's overdoing it, and she knows I'm usually right. So she stops doing that stuff. I think.

If you can tell us, would you be willing to share what some of your current hopes are for the future, now that so much has changed in your life?

Like, do I want kids and stuff? Sure. Most of that stuff is private, though. I want Diane's business to grow and all that, so she has a bunch of trusty employees by the time God sees fit to give us kids. My own gig is doing all right just like it is. And I think I'd like to go on missions trips in Central America, if the Lord allows. I haven't talked about that with her, so don't mention it, okay?

Well, I can see that you guys know how to keep things hopping in your relationship. I bet readers will want to know all about it from the beginning. I believe they can check your lives out further by visiting Deb's site: http://www.debkinnard.com/ or by hopping over to Desert Breeze Publishing and downloading the Angel With a Back Hoe for their Kindle. http://www.desertbreezepublishing.com/
Deborah Kinnard likes writing "Sassy Fiction for Today's Christian Woman". She is the author of Angel With a Ray Gun which has recieved a Coffee Time Romance award, and she is slated to release Seasons in the Mist, a medievel time-travel romance with Sheaf House in the spring of 2010.
You can read a book exam/review of Angel With a Back Hoe over at the Write Reason Blog http://www.naomimusch.com/apps/blog/show/1846280-book-exam-angel-with-a-back-hoe-by-deborah-kinnard

Friday, September 11, 2009

Introducing Special Guests: Characters from Cindy Woodsmall's "The Hope of Refuge"

Today I’m pleased to introduce to readers a few of the residents of Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, the community created in Cindy Woodsmall newest novel “The Hope of Refuge”, published by Waterbrook Press. Cindy will be sitting in on the interview as well. Here’s the jacket synopsis:

Raised in foster care and now a widowed single parent, New Yorker Cara Moore struggles against poverty, fear, and a relentless stalker. When a trail of memories leads Cara and her daughter, Lori, away from the city toward an Amish community, she follows every lead, eager for answers to mysteries from her past and a fresh start. She quickly discovers that Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, is no place for an outsider. But one Amish man, Ephraim Mast, dares to fulfill the command he believes that he received from God —“Be me to her”—even though doing so threatens his way of life.
Fearful of the strange Englischer woman causing turmoil for her family, Ephraim’s sister Deborah tries to focus on the marriage and home she longs to begin with Mahlon Stolzfus. Her dreams are threatened when her fiancĂ© begins behaving oddly, withdrawing, causing concern for both Deborah and Mahlon’s mother, Ada. Will Ada’s vision for transforming a run-down house unite them all in a common purpose—or push Mahlon away forever?
Torn between the requirements of his community and trying to do what he believes is right, Ephraim risks losing everything, including a developing friendship with the guarded single mother. And only he knows that long-held secrets about her family history ripple beneath the surface of Dry Lake—secrets with the power to tear apart the home Cara is desperately trying to create.



I’m going to start with Cara, who’s shown a remarkable amount of bravery, though not by choice, I’m sure. Cara, you’ve struggled with a lot of fear and mistrust in your life. What made you willing to share your story with Cindy? And what was it like working with her?

“It was difficult at first to open up to anyone, but through my friendships with Ephraim, Ada, and Deborah I’m starting to understand that some people are trustworthy. Since people I’ve learned to trust told Cindy about me before we met, I found it easier to talk to her than I would have otherwise. She seems to put a lot of effort into truly hearing the story behind the simplicity of the words I share, and rather than judge me, she’s awed at what I’ve lived through—although it’s clear that she can’t truly know what it’s like to be jaded and streetwise from an early age.”

How were you and Cindy introduced to each other?

“A couple of times a year, Cindy visits Dry Lake—or rather she visits the place her book refers to as Dry Lake—and mutual friends shared my story with her.”

To Cindy:

Some people have strong memories of their childhood years. Why do you think Cara has so few and fleeting?

“I read that when children are traumatized, their bodies’ first response is to become overwhelmingly sleepy. A child’s emotions are on overload during and after a trauma and they, by design, escape through falling asleep. Many times memories have a similar response to trauma.

“Children only remember snapshots of life from when they were young, and memories have a way of hiding if they only bring confusion and pain to the person involved. Sometimes after a serious trauma takes place, a child will gradually forget more and more of their life before the trauma took place. Parents and siblings and photos often help a child recall events by adding word triggers (“Remember when…?”). But if the child doesn’t have anyone who remembers any part of his or her past, those memories can fade into nothingness.”

Back to Cara:

Do you ever worry about Mike showing up in Dry Lake or Hope Crossing someday?

“You know, there’s not much chance of him finding me. He has no way of knowing which direction I headed when I disappeared. I don’t have the sort of job where he could track me. I don’t use my social security number, don’t own a phone, don’t use credit cards or even rent a house in my name. Still, the fear of Mike seeps into my dreams from time to time and it makes me wonder if I’ve left some clue I’m unaware of. I guess only time will tell.”

Have you thought about continuing the journal that your mother left for you?

“It’s full.” (She smiles.) “I will always treasure my journal and the connection to the past and the pathway to my future that it opened for me. But looking at it from a different perspective, I have a chance to live my own life now, and I have to do that rather than dwelling in a past that can’t be changed.”

To Ephraim:

You seem to be quite a ladies’ man, if you don’t mind my saying. What was it about all those girls you courted in the past that made you know that they weren’t the ones for you? And was it a little weird dating Anna Mary after you’d already dated her sister?

(Ephraim chuckles.) “A ladies’ man? Can’t say I ever saw myself that way, and I’m pretty sure an Amish man couldn’t be a “ladies’ man” in the way Englischers use the term. Most of the girls I’ve courted were great people, just not who I wanted to build a life with. There was an emptiness inside me that no one ever came close to filling until … well, you know. And you’re right, it was very uncomfortable courting Susanna and then her younger sister Anna Mary. I never wanted it to work out that way, and I avoided Anna Mary for a long time because of that. But then I realized that Susanna was married and happy, so why should she care? And I couldn’t ignore someone who might be the right one simply because I’d courted her sister years earlier.”

What sort of things did Cara find when she organized the closet in the bedroom of your house?

“Junk mostly. You know, old screwdrivers, door handles, strips of leather from when I had to rework a harness, suspenders with no elasticity left in them. Old clothes I never threw out but are too worn to actually wear” (He smiles.) “And then Cara discovered a box of stuff I hadn’t looked at in years—photos from my rumschpringe days both in Dry Lake and among the Englischers. Stuffed inside that box were letters my mother had written to friends of hers. Some of her friends gave them to me after she passed.”

Being Amish, how comfortable were you sharing your story, especially with an Englischer like Cindy?

“My Daed is the one who started telling her the story, so at first I was uncomfortable. As you know, Daed tends to say things he probably shouldn’t. So after Cindy sat in my hiddy and talked with me for a while, I went from just answering her questions to telling her my side of the story.”

How does Deborah seem to be doing these days, if I may ask?

“Just about the time I think she’s doing pretty good, she takes another dip into heartache. There’s something inside her that can’t seem to let go of what’s happened. But I don’t think I can be the one to help her—maybe Cara or Lena, but not me.”

To Deborah, Anna Mary, Lena, Rachel, Linda, Nancy, Lydia, Frieda, and Esther:

Do any of you wish that Cara had not told her story? If so, can you tell us why? Feel free to share any of your thoughts about Cara doing this . . . or about Ephraim telling his side of the story.


“I’m Rachel, and it’s a little hard to be completely open about that with Cara in the room with us at Ada’s House.”

(Cara straightens her shoulders.) “You think you can say something about me and how tough this has been for all of you that I don’t already know?”

(Rachel offers a lopsided smile.) “I guess you’re right.” (She draws a deep breath.) “We all talked about it one night, and Cara telling the story was the least of our frustrations. The hard part was when she showed up in Dry Lake. Her presence shifted and altered all of our lives as well as the lives of people we love. Most of us are still not sure how we feel about her, but she’s here now. Some of us dread how the next few years might play out.” (She glances to Anna Mary.)” And some of us believe we have already seen the worst that will happen.”

Are any of you considering sharing your own stories with Cindy?

“My name is Lena. A lot of readers will remember me as the one with a birthmark on her cheek. None of the other girls want to speak up, so I will. I think it’s time for my life to change. I’m twenty-three years old and I’ve never been asked out. Until now I haven’t minded. I chose to believe what my mother promised me before she died—that I’d find the right man, and when I did he’d see beyond my mark and into my heart. I know I can’t choose for it to be my time, but I’m sure ready to step forward and see what . . . and who . . . is out there for me.”

Have you played any hilarious pranks on one another lately?

(Cara looks to Deborah and shrugs.) “We played one on Lena, but she doesn’t know it yet. Not sure how that will end up going.”

(Lena laughs.) “On me? When? Where?”

“Last week,” Deborah says. “In your own home.”

(Lena’s brows furrow.) “Great. Now I’m afraid to go home.”

(They all giggle.)

Would anyone like to share the most important event that happened in your life before the story starts?

(Ada tilts her head.) “The most important events that have happened to me were marrying Mahlon’s father and giving birth to Mahlon. Those things changed who I was, but as it’s turned out, those events faded like chimney smoke on a winter’s day, and all I can do now is hope that contentment isn’t found in what was, but in what will be.”

To all the characters:

Do any of you have any final words or thoughts you’d like to share about what you’ve been through, your lives right now, your hopes for the future, and so on?

Deborah says, “I feel lost. Still, I know I’m blessed to have so many people who love me and want to help. I just hope I can get my feet under me one day so I can be there for them when the need arises.”

(Cara puts her arm around Deborah and squeezes, whispering something in her ear before turning to the rest of the group.) “As a girl who wasn’t raised Amish, my desire is to survive a culture that is so different from anything I’ve ever known. If I’d grown up believing in God, maybe the adjustment would be easier, but seeing Deborah’s family and friends rally around her gives me glimpses into the good parts of living Amish.”


Thank you for coming, everyone. We can hardly wait to hear the rest of your stories in the Ada’s House series. Perhaps as they’re told, you can all stop by The Secret Lives of Characters again, and share with us.

Cindy Woodsmall is the author of When the Heart Cries, When the Morning Comes, and When the Soul Mends. Her ability to authentically capture the heart of her characters comes from her real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families. A mother of three sons and two daughters-in-law, Cindy lives in Georgia with her husband or more than thirty years.


Visit her and read excerpts of her books at http://www.cindywoodsmall.com

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Next Up


On Friday 9/11/09 I'll have special guests from Cindy Woodsmall's Pennsylvania Amish community in her book The Hope of Refuge. If you've wondered how Cara and Ephraim felt about sharing their stories with Cindy or what they're doing now, then stop on by. And remember some of the other characters who live in Dry Lake or Hope Crossing, like Lena and Deborah? Well, they'll be there too, to share a little bit about what's going on in their lives, and some of their secret thoughts may be revealed.

Stop on by tomorrow, for an enlightening visit from my next guests!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Special Guests: Characters from the new novel "Rocky Mountain Oasis"


Rocky Mountain Oasis
By
Lynnette Bonner

(Leave a comment after the post, and you will be entered to win a free e-copy of the book!)

Today, I’m fortunate to have as guests on the blog, several characters from the novel Rocky Mountain Oasis, author Lynnette Bonner’s debut release from OakTara Publishing. First, here’s a hint at what the story is all about:

Brooke Marie Baker, eighteen, has been sent west as a mail-order bride. As the stage nears Greer's Ferry, where she is to meet the man she's pledged to marry, she tries to swallow the lump of nervousness in her throat. Can it be any worse than living with Uncle Jackson...or Hank? She wonders. All men are the same, aren't they? But with her parents and sister dead, she has no choice.
Sky Jordan, a rancher, holds a single yellow daisy in his hand as he watches the ferry cross the river. Ever since he'd found out his surly cousin, Jason, had sent for a mail-order bride, his mind and heart had been ill at ease. No woman deserves to be left with the likes of Jason. But now he questions his own plans to claim the bride for himself. Why am I drawn to this woman I don't even know?

Brooke, Sky, Jason, and the rest of you; welcome to The Secret Lives of Characters. If you gents don’t mind, I’ll begin with the lady first.

Hello, Brooke; and welcome. Your story sounds amazing; fraught with peril, adventure and romance.

We are first introduced to you in the story as you are traveling to Idaho Territory (and about to make a dangerous river crossing on the stage). Up until the moment you found yourself heading west as a mail-order bride, what was your most profound regret?

The loss of my daughter. There were other regrets, but I’d have to say that was the biggest one.

Why did you feel compelled to go west as a mail order bride? I mean, even though your Uncle Jackson sent you away, didn’t you ever consider just running off and making a life for yourself on your own?

Yes, I thought of that often, just never followed through on it. I guess I was so used to being told what to do that it was just easier to stay with the wagon train. Now, I’m ever so glad I did. I’d never have met Sky if I had left to settle somewhere else.

Based on your experience with your father, Uncle Jackson, and Hank, you said, “all men are the same”, yet you cared about your first impression on the man who'd be waiting for you at the end of the stage line, and you seemed resigned to your fate. Why is that?

Well, I wouldn’t say before I met him that I cared what he would be like other than to wonder what kind of abuse I would have to put up with. And I was nervous to meet him. I suppose I was resigned to my fate because I didn’t know what else to do. There really aren’t a lot of safe options for a single woman out west.

What made you decide to tell your story? Is there anything you hope to accomplish by telling it?

I hope that other women will discover the hope that I discovered. A relationship with Jesus changed my life and I know it can change other’s lives too.

May we ask how you and Lynnette are alike or how you are different?

Lynnette and I are not much alike. Lynnette has never experienced abuse in her life. But she knew what the answer for women like me was, and she wanted to point us all in that direction.

Now it’s your turn, Sky. First, I like to note that you and your cousin Jason seem about as different as two cousins could be. Can you tell us a little about your background – how each of you grew up? (I see you’ve been in the area about 5 years. Where were you before that?)

Jason and I are a lot more alike than it would first appear. Jason’s parents both died when he was young. He was the one who found his mother’s body when he was just 8 years old. Our grandmother Jordan raised him and his sister after that. We both grew up in a little town called Shiloh, Oregon. But when Jason moved back to Idaho, I knew he needed some family near him to remind him what his roots were, so I followed.

I have kind of a three part question. Part one: have you always been so impetuous? I mean, jumping in to try and rescue—and marry!--a woman you don’t even know from your surly cousin. That’s pretty extreme.

No, I’m not generally an impetuous guy. But it was the thought of my childhood girl, Victoria, marrying someone like Jason was at the time, that put me into action. That and a rather large nudge from my friend Jed. At first, I didn’t intend on marrying her, but Jed was the one who made me see there were no other good options for her.

I see. Well, it’ll be interesting to find out more about Jed’s nudging and your own past in the story. Part two of this question is this: can you tell us about any other times in your life that you might have done anything even half so impetuous and heroic? And part 3 of this question: what about you makes you act this way?

Ahh, well, working in law enforcement, there were a few times when I had to do some quick thinking to resolve a situation without too many people getting hurt.

I honestly have no idea why I acted the way I did, other than I just didn’t want to see any woman stepping into a relationship with Jason at that time. Of course things are different now.

Brooke has had her trust broken a lot. Do you think she can overcome that stigma?

Yeah, I think she can. But once trust has been broken, it’s a hard thing to restore. But I thank God for bringing her into my life. I can’t imagine it without her.

What do you consider to be the most important event in your life leading up to the day you heard Jason talking about getting a mail-order sweetheart?

I guess I’d have to say the day that Jason and I sat together at Gram’s table and gave our hearts to the Lord.

We have several other guest characters here, enjoying Sky’s and Brooke’s interview. Have any of you considered sharing more of your own stories with Lynnette?

(A man on the side raises a finger.)

Jason here, I guess I can take that one. Lynnette and I just finished up writing a little more of my life. You’ll be able to read my story in early 2010.

LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A FREE E-COPY OF ROCKY MOUNTAIN OASIS!

Order your copy of Rocky Mountain Oasis at your favorite bookstore or online!
http://www.christianbook.com/


Read an excerpt from the story at http://www.lynnettebonner.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tomorrow's First Guests

Welcome to The Secret Lives of Characters, where we'll delve deeper into what's behind the lying eyes, the daring dreams, and the promising romances of characters as they live both in great fiction and in the minds of their authors.

It's time to get this new adventure up and running! I hope you'll stop in tomorrow, September 3rd, to help me welcome some special guests from Lynette Bonner's new historical romance: Rocky Mountain Oasis. Three of the characters from Lynette's book have agreed to stop by and tell us a little more about themselves and what made them tell their stories. If you've ever enjoyed an interview with actors on the Tonight Show, then you'll enjoy meeting characters from some of the newest books being released in Christian fiction.

I hope you'll stop back tomorrow, and listen to a few things that these characters have to say which you won't hear them say directly in the book.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Writing Isn't An All or Nothing Deal

I just finished reading Scott Hamilton's new book, The Great Eight, and was inspired in several ways. While the book is mainly about how we make or break finding happiness (or better said, contentment) it wasn't the eight ways that inspired me so much as one individual story. Hamilton was discussing his desire to make a return to skating after hitting age fifty. In the telling, he described how he learned to accept the fact that everything doesn't always turn out precisely as you want it to, even if you're doing everything right, and even if you feel God's nudging you to continue on. What may be your picture of success, might not exactly be what God pictures.

He told about a friend, a successful song writer, who was writing a book and felt a bit insecure about it. So,the friend gave what he'd poured his heart and soul into to a well respected friend in the literary world for feedback. But he didn't get the feedback he'd expected. He was basically told that it could be edited back from 250 pages to about 50! At first, his heart was broken.
But then he thought about it more and realized that his joy had come in the process of writing! He decided, why should he let anyone take that away, just because they might be looking at it from a different point of view? Hamilton's friend would keep writing because he enjoyed it. Whether someone else wanted to read it or publish it, fine. But if not, that was going to be okay with him, too.

What a great reminder. We don't have to always live up to other people's expectations of what we should be writing about, or how we should be going about it. And, IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT PUBLISHING!

Writing is simply not an all or nothing deal.

It's about following through on our God-given promptings. Enjoying the process. Baring our souls.

So press on, my writing friends. Don't fear for their faces! Don't cringe at critique! Love the words. Express your hearts, your stories, your dreams, your rantings. Continue to commit to the process. And let all your hard work and effort leave you happy and fulfilled in what it is, and not in what it is not.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Which Comes First: the Conflict or the Character?

This posting regards a comment made on the previous post, which asked the question: when I write, which do I determine first, the conflict or the character?

Writers might all answer that question differently, and it may even vary from one project to another, as it has for me. I'll show you what I mean.

In my story The Casket Girl, the title came first. Wait, that wasn't one of the choices, was it? I was researching the French and Indian Wars when I accidentally discovered the history of the casket girls who came from France to New Orleans and parts of Canada to help settle ?New France?. I was so intrigued by the reference that a story began to grow in my brain. From there I would have to say it was the conflict which came first. What if one of these girls came to marry a certain man and he was dead when she arrived, and she was inadvertantly indentured to someone, and then ran away and was kidnapped by a courier-du-bois, and then a frontiersman rescued her, and then the Indian wars began and...? You get the picture. Conflict galore.

The same could be said of The Green Veil and its sequel The Red Fury, my current work in progress. In book 1, wanted to write about the logging era of my home state. I also wanted to write about a girl who lost a childhood love and wound up marrying an older man, only to have her childhood love return to find her when it was too late. In book 2, I wanted to continue the story of those I call the Lumber Kings, while investigating the devastating effects of America's worst fire: The Peshtigo Fire. In each of these books I've thought of the history, the conflict, and then set characters in the situation and watched them grow. One of my biggest hurdles as a writer is to allow my characters to flesh out and grow before I pop them in the story which is spriraling along like an old film in my mind.

However, all that said, I don't always start with the history/conflict model.
Book 3 of the same series, which I hope to begin yet this year and title The Black Rose, is growing almost totally from the dispositions of two characters I have in mind. Beyond them the setting and conflict will arise. My short story Not For Love fits that same bill.

In the final analysis, I'd say that most of my stories arise from their historical settings before anything else. I love to investigate the events and places of history that all our personal stories arise from. I am Naomi Musch, that tomboy turned writer/farmer/homeschooling mom because of where and how I grew up and live today. My personal story will be vastly different from the ladies I'll be rooming with at the ACFW conference, for instance, whose lives are rooted in different regions than mine.

And that's another cool thing about telling stories. Maybe they've all been told. Maybe their themes and plots have similar threads. But they're all written on the hearts of individuals as different as God's own snowflakes. For that reason alone, we'll never run out of characters, conflict, or setting to write about.

Praise Him!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Speak, Write, Now, (or) Speak Right Now

In the quest for writing excellence, we constantly train. We never "finish our degree" because we always seek to improve. We pore over self-editing books. We practice staying glued to our chairs. We participate in workshops on plot development. On the bookshelf within arm's reach, our Sally Stuart's Christian Writers Guide is dog-earred and filled with post-its. Our favorite novels are strewn with passages that are high-lighted, noted, and dissected in notebooks. And we speak.
What was that? Wait a minute. Did I say, speak? As in, publicly? Or more like talking out loud to the characters in our heads?
I meant publicly.
I mention this with trepidation, because I have few qualifications as a public speaker. I have little background. My resume of past speaking engagements is extremely minor. I have no calendar of bookings. But, yet, speaking is part of what I do, or rather, what I am learningto do by practicing in any small way I can.
To distance ourselves from speaking is to shortchange our publication and marketing efforts. We can blog all day, but we must also be willing to get out there with our voices and talk, not only about our books and articles, but about all the issues which with they are connected.
Speaking is all about inspiration and promotion. So I encourage you to get over your shyness, and put yourself out there.
This doesn't mean you have to start signing up for conferences. Who are you anyway? Especially if your like me, without much of a background to go on. But you have an audience. You have family and friends, and your church body. You have your child's school organizations. You can lead a Bible study, or teach a Sunday school class. You can develop a book club or guide a critique group. You can read at a nursing home. You can speak on behalf of others.
I once found myself working as a volunteer at a conference. My only job was to introduce a guest speaker. That doesn't sound very difficult, until you find yourself standing in front of 400 people with about 30 seconds to spit out some basic information in a clear, concise way (and, okay, with a little wit hopefully). It's a bit nerve-wracking.
But even that little opportunity helped me to develop my speaking skills.
I encourage you, as a writer, to speak whenever, wherever you can. Act in a play; take part in a reading; don't back down from opportunities to share your work with anyone who asks.
I would also like to recommend a great book. Speaking with Spirit: A Guide for Christian Public Speakers by Dr. Wanda Vassallo should go on every writer's (speaker's, pastor's, etc.) bookshelf. Using Jesus as her primary example, Dr. Vassallo engagingly helps us discover how to build self-confidence, how to engage the audience, how to stay on track, how to WRITE a speech as well as deliver it, and how to speak spontaneously. Get this book and start speaking out!