Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Big Apple Christmas

Just in time for the holidays.

I was in a department store a few weeks ago and spotted a display of books for sale. Much to my delight I saw the romance collection A BIG APPLE CHRISTMAS. It was doubly exciting for me because I am involved in the blog tour for this book. A BIG APPLE CHRISTMAS is a beautiful book, perfect for curling up in front of the fire and enjoying four romances.

Enjoy this interview with the authors and then run out and get a copy for yourself and a few for the readers on your holiday gift list.

By Vasthi Reyes Acosta, Gail Sattler, Lynette Sowell, and Carrie Turansky
A Contemporary romance collection that captures the sights and sounds of the Christmas season in New York City.

How did you come up with the ideas for your novella?

Vasthi: Growing up in New York City, as a small Puerto Rican girl, I loved the fact that Christmas didn't end for me on Christmas day. We still had El Dia de los Reyes (Epiphany or Three Kings Day) to look forward to. We received gifts on that day as well. The night before January 6th, tradition dictates that water and grass be left out for the wise men and their camels. In return the wise men left us a small gift. I always felt special knowing that while my classmates enjoyed their Christmas gifts I still had more gifts coming after the new year. So naturally I wanted to write about our celebration of El Dia de los Reyes.

Gail: The hustle and bustle of New York City at Christmas time is special and unique, and fun! And most of all, crowded. Then I thought of what it would be like to be surrounded by such a crowd, with nothing but a list of fun places to go and fun things to do, and Shopping For Love was born.

Lynette: I think New York is a special place at Christmas time, and I'd always wanted to write a Christmas novella. Then one November, I saw a news clip of how the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is selected. Enter my widowed heroine and her scheming children who surprise her with a trip to see her tree in Rockefeller Center.

Carrie: I love stories that bring characters together who are very different from each other, so the idea of matching a professional organizer and a free-spirited poet intrigued me. New York City is a wonderful place to visit at Christmas time, and I thought setting our story there would be enjoyable for our readers.

It’s often said that writers need to read, read, read! So tell us what you are reading.

Vasthi: I'm always reading more than one book at a time. Master Class in Fiction Writing by Adam Sexton and Courting Trouble by Deanne Gist.

Carrie: I always have a book or two on my nightstand. Recently I’ve read A Bigger Life by Annette Smith, The Restorer by Sharon Hink, In Search of Eden by Linda Nichols, Off the Record by Elizabeth White, and Remembered by Tammy Alexander.

Lynette: I have a couple of Love Inspired Suspense novels on my stack. I just got started on Christine Lynxwiler's latest release, Forever Christmas.

Gail: A book by fellow author and friend, Lena Nelson Dooley.

What's next for you in your writing?

Vasthi: I'm hoping to find a home for my trilogy and write the third novel in the series.

Carrie: I am just finishing Surrendered Hearts for Love Inspired. Next I hope to work on a Civil War story set in Richmond. I also have an international adventure/romance set in Kenya that I am just beginning to brainstorm with my daughter who just returned from working in Africa for several months.

Lynette: I love mysteries, and I love romantic suspense. I'm working on becoming a better writer in both genres.

Gail: I'm working on a chick lit, but it's still in the beginning stages.

Are you a "plotter" or a "seat-of-the-pants" writer?

Vasthi: Both. I like to plot out as much as I can first to feel confident of the story I'm going to tell, but then I start writing and scenes appear that I hadn't planned, and characters show up that I didn't know, so I just flow with it.

Carrie: I am a plotter. I work on my characters and setting first, then I write a running outline that no one sees but me. (Thank goodness!) Then I revise that and write my synopsis. From there I begin writing and sometimes I deviate from the outline a little, but not too much.

Lynette: Both. I think the right amount of planning and plotting are necessary so I don't write myself into a corner. But I also like to keep my brain open for any neat twists that come up with my characters.

Gail: Definitely a plotter. I have to know the ending before I write the first word.

What writing resources do you recommend?

Vasthi: Become a member of American Christian Fiction Writers--it is a fabulous group! Subscribe to Writer's Digest, visit author web sites there is a lot of wonderful writing advice for free. Maybe someday I'll have my own web site too.

Carrie: I agree with Vasthi. Joining ACFW has helped me tremendously. I’ve also gained a lot from attending writers’ conferences. I often consult Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King.

Lynette: Besides finding a good critique group and writing group, read a lot. Pick up some good craft books. I like Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell and Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins.

Gail: Other authors are the biggest resource. Join a writing group, either in person or online, and get involved.

Who has been one of your best encouragers on your writing journey?

Vasthi: My family. They are my cheerleaders.

Carrie: My mother-in-law and my daughters.

Lynette: My husband. He won't let me quit.

Gail: My husband. He indulges me and takes care of everything he can so I can write.

Please stop by the special new web site we created for this book. You can read excerpts of each novella, learn more about the authors, see some of our favorite Christmas recipes and enjoy photos of New York City. We have some fun giveaways planned for our readers, so pick up a copy of A BIG APPLE CHRISTMAS and get ready to answer the questions and enter the draws starting in October.

You can learn more about the authors at their websites:
Gail Sattler:
Lynette Sowell:
Carrie Turansky:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wasted writing time

So much is keeping me from writing these days, some of it avoidable, most of it not. Today my father-in-law is having knee replacement surgery. Unavoidable. Yesterday some girlfriends and I spent the entire day Christmas shopping at one of those upscale malls. Totally avoidable. I bought my husband a pack of socks and my granddaughter some Hannah Montana memoribilia. That took the entire day. What a waste of writing time.

Yes, I did enjoy the outing with my friends. This is an annual tradition, but I think I'll skip it next year if they are determined to do the malls. My son is older now. You can find Hannah Montana book bags anywhere. So why bother?

The list goes on and on of what is keeping me from writing: Christmas cards--still not done. Holiday baking--not even thinking that far ahead. Christmas lights and tree--not strung or hung. Painting--almost finished. Annual Christmas party--not even finished the guest list.

December has always been my least productive month. This year I am determined this trend will not repeat itself. Early in the fall I gave myself a deadline of having my current novel polished and ready to send to the publisher by the end of 2007. I'm not even halfway through the first draft. I've got to get focused on my writing and treat it like a business. I'm not the only one with Christmas cards to write and gifts to buy and wrap.

Everyone else does it. Why can't I?

Starting today, no more trips to the mall. No more wasting precious writing time by checking email or calling friends to chat. I have a job to do. I need to get at it.

Have a productive and blessed day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Still plugging away

I apologize for not posting to my blog on a more regular basis. I also apologize for not offering any words of wisdom to new and aspiring writers, or writers like me who feel like they'll never know enough or their craft will never be good enough for anyone to actually read.

Even after publishing five novels and writing several others that are in the lineup for publication, I often wonder if I have anything new and different to offer the reading public. I mean, what's the point after all? Aren't there enough books out there to keep readers satisfied until Jesus comes back with all his angels to catch us up in the air?

So I keep struggling with my inner turmoil and hoping I've learned something with each book I've read and especially with each one I've written.

Yesterday my friend called to tell me she had just spoken with a woman at one of the county extension offices where she does business. The woman had seen my friend's name in the acknowledgments of one of my books and asked my friend if she knew me.

She proceeded to tell my friend that she loved my books. She had just finished the last one and couldn't wait for the next. She had read hundreds of books by big name authors and hadn't enjoyed any of them as much as she liked mine. She told my friend to tell me to keep writing and keep the books coming.

My friend said by the end of the conversation her face hurt from smiling in pride so much.

Like my friend told the woman I haven't really had any formal training in writing. My gifts are natural, which to me means God-given. If God gave me this gift, isn't it wrong of me to bury it in the ground like the unfaithful steward for fear of rejection.

I think I'll keep writing, keep growing and learning. My desire is to use my gifts to glorify the Maker and Giver of all good things.

What about you?

Have a blessed Thanksgiving and may we all be truly thankful for what he has given us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What do you want to be when you grow up?

One of the chores I was responsible for while growing up was mowing the yard. Back in the old days--the 1970's, or however you want to look at it--we didn't have a riding lawn mower. We used an old push model, not the self-propelled version either. Our yard wasn't huge but it was pretty good size for a nine-year-old girl to mow. It took most of a perfectly good Saturday afternoon to finish. But I was never bored. I entertained myself with stories. I remember one was about a community, much like the Spartans who killed the weak and rewarded the strong. This story kept me entertained an entire summer while I mowed myself around that yard. Each week, the story got longer and more complex. I drew character sketches and plotlines in my head, though I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time. Alas, the story was never written down and consequently lost forever.

I dreamed of becoming a writer as far back as I can remember. I knew few people made a living writing books so like a dummy, I put my dreams on a back burner and pursued something that would pay the bills.
You know what I've since learned? God is a God of purpose. Whatever it is we've wanted to do since we were small...whatever that dream was back then, is what God purposed us to do. That's why so many people hate their jobs. They are doing something outside of God's will for their lives. They aren't doing what they were designed to do.
What about you? Are you doing the one thing you've always loved? Are you fulfilling the passion God put on your life? God's purpose for your life hasn't changed. He knew you since the foundation of the world. He knew you before you were in your mother's womb and he had a purpose for putting you in this place and time.
Are you fulfilling that purpose? Are you fulfilled?
If you are like me and constantly struggle with "What am I going to be when I grow up?" you might not be listening to God.
Think back to what you loved to do as a child. What were your passions? What made you want to stay up late and finish what you'd started that morning? God put that desire inside you for a reason. To fulfill your purpose and enjoy yourself while doing it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Madonna Stamps

It's that time of year again. The Christmas stamps are now available at your local post office, which bring to mind two things. First, it's time to get out our Christmas card lists and start filling our cards. I receive over a hundred cards every year. Mostly because I send out more than my share on top of the ones I hand out at church.

Even though the price of postage has gone up since last year, my list is even longer. I collect addresses all year long at book signing events and try to touch base with each reader through a personalized Christmas card. What better time of year to show my gratitude?

The second thing the new stamps remind me of is to stock up on the Madonna stamps. I try to buy enough to last me well into the new year. I do this for two reasons. First and foremost, the stamps are a witness to recipients and everyone who touches my mail along its route of the saving power of Jesus.

The second reason I buy Madonna stamps is to annoy the ACLU. Every year they launch a campaign to stop the production and sale of the Madonna stamp, stating the old stand-by, seperation of church and state. Give me a break.

They'll do anything to rid us of the real reason behind the holiday. I'm not suggesting anyone honor Christmas. I'm not trying to thrust my beliefs upon anyone else. If you don't want to honor Christmas, than don't. But don't tell me how to celebrate this season. And don't remove Christ from it.

So run out and stock up on those Madonna stamps. Let the post office and the ACLU know we will celebrate Jesus's birth today and everyday of the New Year.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What I learned at the Polls

For a fiction writer, I don't pay much attention to what goes on in my own backyard. Today I served as a poll worker for the first time. No major races going on so attendance was down. I had plenty of time to chat with the other poll workers.

I have lived in this precinct for 16 years--enough time one would think--to learn a little something about one's neighbors. Wrong! I got enough juicy material today to fill more volumes than I will ever have time to write. Which leaves me to wonder, where have I been for the last 16 years? How has all this great dirt gotten past me? Am I not paying attention at all?

I'm a writer, for crying out loud. I'm supposed to be observant. I should notice the little things the non-writing public overlooks. That's what sets writers apart from the rest of the world. We take those little nuances and run with them. Instead I discovered I need to get out of my house once in a while.

I'm not suggesting I write an expose on my neighbors, but it looks like I'm the most clueless person in the county. I have always prided myself on my insatiable curiosity--okay, I'll admit it, I'm nosy. Apparently not nosy enough. I think I need to leave my house more often. I need to write down all the little stories and 20-year-old rumors and scandals I heard today and file them away. The next time I have writer's block or am not sure which direction to take a plot, I can pull out one of those scenarios and see if it fits into the storyline.

To all the writers out there, leave your house now and then. Take time to chat over the back fence with a neighbor as it were. Pay attention to your local politics. It might just be more exciting than any of the mudslinging in Washington.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

THE OTHER DAUGHTER by Miralee Ferrell

I am pleased to be a part of a blog tour for my dear friend, Miralee Ferrell in honor of the release of her debut novel, The Other Daughter. Everyone who leaves a comment here and on the other blog stops along the way will be entered to win a free copy of the book. The more blogs you visit, the better your chances of winning.

Here’s a brief summary of THE OTHER DAUGHTER:

The girl standing at the door took a deep breath, pulling her suitcase a little closer to her trembling legs. "My mama's dead. He's my daddy."

Susanne Carson knew that she could trust the love of her life—her husband, David—until she discovered a strange, unkempt young girl on their doorstep, claiming to be David's daughter.
Not that their marriage had ever been perfect—David's decision to embrace the Christian faith had strained their relationship. Susanne may not have agreed with his beliefs, but at least she trusted him. Had David been hiding this not-so-little secret from his past? He wanted Susanne to believe in his God, but believing hadn't done much to keep David out of another woman's arms.

As David confronts the truth of his past, Susanne must face her own moment of truth as her marriage is taken to the breaking point and the life of one young girl is left in her hands.

TERESA: Welcome Miralee. Can you tell us how you came up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

MIRALEE: An editor friend and I were brainstorming about what I could do for my first book, and she suggested using something I knew, possibly from my own life. That triggered the idea of using an episode from me and my hubby’s personal life—we received a letter from an 18 yr old girl a number of years ago, claiming to be my husband’s daughter. After investigating and meeting Trisha, we accepted her into our lives and hearts, and have continued a relationship with her. The basis for the book came from that episode, but the balance of the book is fiction, other than the setting—I live in the Pacific N.W., in the area where the book takes place.

TERESA: How long did it take from first word to sale? What were some of the steps along the journey?

MIRALEE: It took me five weeks to write the first draft, then the next six months of revising, editing and polishing before it was presentable. This was such new territory for me. I’d written several non-fiction short stories that were published in magazines just prior to starting off in fiction, but I had no clue what I was doing when I began to write this novel. I’d never read a book on writing, had no teaching on structure, plot, POV, characterization, dialogue, or anything else. It wasn’t until three months before Kregel made their offer that I discovered ACFW and joined. My sister, who has done some professional editing, and a friend who is an editor and author, both helped tremendously, mentoring and supporting me through the first two drafts, or I wouldn’t have made it this far.

The Lord brought Tamela (my agent) into my life in a series of miraculous events that only He could have orchestrated, and seven months later I received the offer from Kregel. When the book is released, it will be two years since writing the first draft, and nine months since signing my contract. Kregel graciously put The Other Daughter on the fast track to publication, beating the usual 12-16 months for publication by quite a bit.

TERESA: Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

MIRALEE: Yes, in the final ¼ of my second book, Past Shadows, I stared at a blank screen more than once when I sat down to write. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I skip ahead and start writing what I DO know, then I’ll come back and link the old and new together. I’ve found that if I can just get writing again, even if it’s several chapters ahead, the rest will come in time. Sometimes I simply need to step away for awhile and not push too hard. Prayer is also a key…ask the Lord to unlock the block and stir up a new creativity in your heart and mind.
TERESA: What else are you working on?

MIRALEE: I’m working on Past Shadows (might also be called “Sheltered”), the sequel to The Other Daughter, and hope to have it ready to turn in to my editor in early November. I’ve also started something new for me, an 1880’s novel set in Washington state…I’m hesitating to say it’s a romance, but it looks like it might be heading that direction. I’m playing around with another idea for a stand-alone women’s contemporary with an unusual twist. I’m hoping to start it as soon as Past Shadows is finished. There could also be a #3 in this series, and if so, we’ll return to Brianna, the 13 yr old girl who arrives at the Carson’s door…at the age of 23.

Thanks, Miralee for stopping by. May God continue to bless you and your writing ministry.

To the readers: Don't forget to visit the other blogs in Miralee's tour for a chance to win a copy of THE OTHER DAUGHTER. Happy Reading!!!!!!!!!!!

Nov. 5th Pam Meyers---A Writer’s Journey

6th Betsy St. Amant---Betsy Ann's Blog

7th Megan DiMaria---A Prisoner of Hope

8th Christa Allan---CBAllan WordPress

9th Susan Marlow---Suzy Scribbles---Homeschool Blogger

10th Jamie Driggers---Surviving the Chaos

11th Cindy Bauer----Christian Fiction Author & Speaker

12th Angie Breidenbach---God Uses Broken Vessels

13th Patricia Carroll---Patricia PacJac Carroll

14th Toni V. Lee---Spreading Truth Through Fiction

15th Camille Eide---Faith Inspiring Fiction

16th Lisa Jordan---Musings

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Miralee Ferrell Blog Tour

The last two weeks have been spent painting and general home improvement chores, getting ready for the holiday season. With little more I can do myself, I'm anxious to get back to writing and book promotion.

Isn't this the best time of year for it? I happen to have a wonderful gift idea for the book lover on your list. My friend and fellow writer, Miralee Ferrell has just released her first book from Kregel Publishing. In honor of the big event, Miralee will be here Sunday to talk about her book, The Other Daughter.

Read the entire opening scene at Miralee's web site:

The Other Daughter is releasing Nov. 5th, look for it in stores near you, or order from or

One lucky reader will win an autographed copy of her book so follow the tour and post here and on other blogs along the way. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. To learn more about the books and begin entering the drawing now, you will find Miralee today visiting writer Bonnie Leon. Save this list and follow Miralee throughout her tour.

November 1st Bonnie Leon---Bonnie's Blog

2nd Jan Parrish---Bold and Free

3rd Tina Helmuth---The Ink's Not Dry

4th Teresa Slack---ShoutLife Blog

5th Pam Meyers---A Writer’s Journey

6th Betsy St. Amant---Betsy Ann's Blog

7th Megan DiMaria---A Prisoner of Hope

8th Christa Allan---CBAllan WordPress

9th Susan Marlow---Suzy Scribbles---Homeschool Blogger

10th Jamie Driggers---Surviving the Chaos

11th Cindy Bauer----Christian Fiction Author & Speaker

12th Angie Breidenbach---God Uses Broken Vessels

13th Patricia Carroll---Patricia PacJac Carroll

14th Toni V. Lee---Spreading Truth Through Fiction

15th Camille Eide---Faith Inspiring Fiction

16th Lisa Jordan---Musings