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Sunday, May 19, 2013

HAVE YOU FINISHED YOUR BOOK and other questions

Many people know I'm a writer.  So the question they ask me (instead of "how are you?") is, "Have you finished your book?"

Hmm . . . in the words of my friend Cindy Hickey . . . "Which one?" Since I arrived in the nursing home last July, I turned in two books in August, one in October, one in December, one in February, one in May, and I'm closing in on my June 1st deadline.  It's been an extremely busy year, God's blessing in spite of my physical ailments.  (For a look inside my internal battle this month, check out, "Why did I quit my day job?" 

I have a box in the right column called "What I'm writing," broken into the four category my friend Janice Thompson pointed out: proposing, writing, editing, marketing. If you ever wonder what is involved in being a full time writer, check it out.

May 2013 is a month to celebrate: I have three new releases.  So I will give the pics, blurbs, and descriptions below.  Check them out, and hopefully buy one. 

Barncastle Memorial is my first venture into self-publishing an ebook. It is novella #7 in the Celebrate Any Time series, begun with Christmas at Barncastle Inn. My co-authors are Lynette Sowell (Springs Comes to Barncastle Inn), Susan Page Davis (Revolution at Barncastle Inn) and Janelle Mowery, who is writing a wild-west themed story for Father's Day.

Barncastle Memorial is, obviously, centered around Memorial Day and a tribute to our veterans, past and present. It's available only in ebook form for purchase for $.99 at  ASIN: B00CKVD5B8  

Hidden Dreams starts a new historical romance series in Maple Notch, Vermont. It is my first book with the new owners of the Heartsong bookclub, Love Inspired.  Hidden Dreams brings the Tuttle family into the early 20th century, when Wallace Tuttle must rescue Mary Anne from an accident--and the mob.
It's available for purchase at ISBN-13: 978-0373486564

Texas Brides is a novella anthology that include nine stories by seven of Christian fiction's best authors. It is a compilation of two earlier anthologies featuring Texas Rangers and a family of outlaws. My story, Angel in Disguise, is a Christian take on the Robin Hood myth. 
It's available for purchase at  ISBN-13: 978-1620294635

Also available for $.99 this month only (electronic format) is Knight Music, my contemporary romance on the Colorado plains where art thief meets artist.  
It's available for purchase at ISBN-13: 978-1616265311

Other highlights of the month: I had a "happily editor after" appointment with Emily Rodmell, editor of Love Inspired Historical, and she wants a complete proposal from me. Kathy Davis at Heartsong asked for a title change on the book I'm writing, so that has become Homefront Dreams. (Yes, it's book 3 in the series starting with Hidden Dreams.) 

Sunday, May 12, 2013


I had decided not to think (overmuch) about how much I miss Mom and Jolene on this day. Yesterday God gave me comfort from the oddest verse in 2 Kings, and I wrote about it at

I intended positive news today until this morning, on GAC, the first time I have seen the video and never associated with country music, they played "Held" by Natalie Grant.  It goes in part "To think that providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling."

In context, the song appears to be about an infant, but it applies just as well in Jolene's case. And with Natalie, I know "this is what it means to be held."  The only thing that got me through those dark early days was the loving arms of God, holding me close.

If you don't know the song, go ahead and listen to it:

Even more poignant--the song was one Jolene's favorites. We played it at her funeral.

I can and do affirm that God held me and delivered me through a "bitter hard time," the words used in 2 Kings. Perhaps that is the key: As a Christian, the time was hard. But with God, it didn't have to make me bitter. I hope I'm not being "proud" to say that I'm not bitter about it. It was "bitter" hard, mentally painful, but I don't believe it has resulted in "deep-seated ill will."

I will leave it there . . . the room where I work is buzzing people setting up for a mother's day party. Too loud for me to come up with something new to say.  :)

For all the mothers out there with empty arms--my heart goes to you.
For all the daughters out there missing their mothers--we never grow too old for our mothers. (I had a lady with dementia come into my room the other night, calling me "mother."  I'm sure she's older than I am.)

But our God, who like a mother hen protects us under his wings, is here, with us, in the present. May you find rest in Him.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


About Eileen:  "Healing words for hurting hearts," is how Eileen Rife describes her books. Whether through
fiction or nonfiction, Eileen wants readers to come away with love that extends beyond themselves, faith that can see the impossible, and hope that endures against all odds.

As a child, Eileen loved writing and telling stories. Walking to school every morning, she created characters, then talked to them as she ambled down the road, which was often her way of dealing with grief and loss. After the death of her brother, Eileen learned to empathize with the underdog. Many of Eileen's stories revolve around issues that many find difficult to talk about--death, homosexuality, sex trafficking. Through her characters, she offers readers an opportunity to draw close, peel back the layers of their own hearts, and examine what lies within.

And added to the mix--romance, always a romance around one corner or another!

About the book:   One brother's dark secret. Another brother's scorn.
Newlyweds Gavin and Maggie Munsfield return to care for the sick and wounded at The Oasis Compound in Chennai, India, which is still suffering from the recent tsunami. Gavin's brother, Tim, a successful landscape architect, joins them for the clean-up and rebuilding of the Compound. But Tim harbors a dark past that threatens to destroy his relationship with his brother...and a promising new love. Will family ties be strong enough to bind two wounded hearts, once the secret is revealed

Author's links:

And now . . . Behind the book:
I’ve often wondered what secrets lay in the heart of the person sitting in the pew next to me. Is she grieving a lost love? Is he mourning the death of a spouse? Has she recently endured a serious illness or a divorce?
When my counselor husband asked me to write a pamphlet on homosexuality for his office several years ago, I reluctantly agreed. However, after I delved into research I realized I couldn’t do it. What I learned was simply too upsetting and depressing to continue. I wanted to help since five percent of his client case load struggled with this issue, but I couldn’t. So I dropped the project and wished him the best.
A few years passed and I endured some struggles of my own in which God had to reach deep within my heart and rescue me.  When I began brainstorming characters and plot line for book two, Restored Hearts, in the Born for India trilogy, seemingly out of nowhere the idea struck me that a character I’d introduced at the end of book one, Journey to Judah, would resurface in Restored Hearts as a young man who struggled with homosexuality.
I wondered why God would create a desire in me to tackle this topic. Intrigued, I jumped into research, but this time I didn’t give up, even when I thought I couldn’t go on. Even when I worried that my writing would not do justice to the topic.
The more I wrote, the more I began to identify with my central character Tim who desperately wanted to flee homosexuality once and for all. While I have not struggled with this issue, I have been held captive by other equally-destructive habits. My heart softened for this young man. I found myself rooting for him, praying for him, agonizing for him.
By the end of the novel, I celebrated with him. And my life was changed. I began to wonder if someone in the pew next to me suffered in silence with this sin.
Since writing this novel, God has allowed me to encourage several who’ve either struggled themselves or watched a family member struggle. I no longer view one sin as worse than another. I no longer laugh at homosexual jokes. I no longer wince when I’m in the presence of a homosexual.
Instead, I offer the love of Jesus, praying that the same God who redeemed me from all my sin will do the same for this individual.     

Sunday, May 5, 2013


As an author, I put a lot of thought into choosing my characters' names. So recently I decided to compile all the "top name" lists into a single document for each decade from 1800 through today. Not the top 10 names, mind you, but the top 200. So far I have made it through all the men's names.

Along the way, I made a few interesting discoveries: A core of names, maybe about 50 (not sure. I haven't finished my counting yet) of both men and women's names, have remained consistently popular over 200 years. In fact, the top three men's names remained the same from 1800-1910 (well, Charles snuck in as name #3 for a couple of decades): John, William, James.  

Another was how many of the men's names also are used as last names.  John William James is an example--it works as a perfectly fine first, middle, and last name. Here are few other names taken at random from the list: 
  • Herbert Matthew Willis
  • Philip Ira Harvey
  • Tom Herman Martin
  • Francis Daniel Lee
  • Kenneth Jesse Russell
So I don't need to look further than this list for my characters' last names as well. Although I have recently found a great list of the most common last names.

We have all met families where all the children share the same initial. "J" is a favorite of mine: Jesse, Jamie, Julie, Jennifer, John, Josiah. . . Jaran . . . Jolene

I haven't met too many families that choose all their names using vowels. But in Colonial times, "A" and "E" were the letters of choice. A lot of the names are biblical: Abraham, Absalom, Abner, Emmanuel, Elijah, Ezekiel. Then there is one "characteristic" name, Experience. And I have never heard the name Ammiras. 

A few names show the influence of famous people of the time. Roosevelt appears in the decade 1900-1909, when Theodore Roosevelt was president. Ulysses appears in the 1860s, when U.S. Grant led the Union army to victory. "Lincoln" also was popular in the 1860s. Grover Cleveland's influence was felt in the 1980s.  Washington was a popular name for several decades.

Other popular presidents aren't reflected in the name pool: FDR, JFK, Ronald Reagan. 

I have decided this much: I need to start using my favorite names for my characters. I only have a limited number of books left to write; I may never use them all!

So Julia and Eleanor, Michael and Craig, here I come. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


 About Amanda: From the time that she was seven, Amanda Cabot dreamed of becoming a published author, but it was only when she set herself the goal of selling a book by her thirtieth birthday that the dream came true.  A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  She’s delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian historical romances.  Her Texas Dreams trilogy received critical acclaim; Christmas Roses was a CBA bestseller; and Waiting for Spring, the second in her Westward Winds series, was released in January.

About the book: 

A new identity may protect her family—but can it protect her heart?

After the loss of her husband and the birth of her baby, Charlotte has had a long, hard year. But she can find no rest from the ghosts of the past and flees to Cheyenne to put the pieces of her life back together.
Wealthy cattle baron and political hopeful Barrett Landry must make a sensible match if he is to be elected senator of the soon-to-be state of Wyoming. He needs someone with connections. Someone without a past. Yet he can’t shake the feeling that Charlotte holds the key to his heart and his future.
Will Charlotte and Barrett find the courage to look love in the face? Or will their fears blot out any chance for happiness?

And now, behind the book: 

“Write what you know.”  I don’t think there’s a writer alive who hasn’t heard that advice.  It’s good advice – no doubt about that – but it isn’t the answer for every writer or every book.  Sometimes it’s important to go beyond your comfort zone and write about what you don’t know.  That’s what I did in Waiting for Spring

I’ve always been intrigued by family dynamics, which is one of the reasons the heroines of the three Westward Winds books are sisters.  Each of them, because of her birth order and her individual personality, views the world differently.  Abigail, the heroine of Summer of Promise, and With Autumn’s Return’s Elizabeth were relatively easy to write, since they’re single professional women.  

Even though I’ve been married for many years, I could identify with them.  Charlotte was a different story.  As Waiting for Spring begins, Charlotte is a young widow with a child.  I’ve never been widowed, and I have no children.  So why on earth did I choose to write about Charlotte?  The answer is simple: I wanted to know what her life was like.  I was writing not about something that I knew, but about something that intrigued me, something I wanted to learn more about.

I started asking myself questions and then searching for answers.  We all know that some women have the strong maternal instincts we associate with mama grizzlies, while others neglect or even abuse their children.  Why are they so different?  And what makes a good mother?  I had to create my own definition before I could proceed.

You won’t be surprised that Charlotte is one of the good mothers, the ones who’d do anything to protect their children.  If I left her at that, the story wouldn’t be interesting, and I wouldn’t have learned too much.  So, I complicated the situation.  Not only did I make Charlotte a single mother, but I made her the single mother of a special needs child in an era when those children were routinely sent to live in an asylum. 

I considered a number of different disabilities and did a lot of research (much of it heart-wrenching, I might add) into mental disabilities before I finally decided that Charlotte’s son David would be blind.  One of the reasons I ultimately chose blindness was that I knew something about it.  Yes, I was listening to those mentors who told me to write what I knew, although I was still stepping out of my comfort zone. 

My maternal grandmother, whose glaucoma resulted in blindness when she was in her seventies, lived with my family for four years when I was a child.  Seeing how Grandma reacted to her changed circumstances made an indelible impression on me, but of course life would have been very different for David, who was blind from birth.  More research was required.  I needed to learn how quickly blind children progressed, how their childhood milestones varied from children who were not visually impaired.  I needed to learn how blind children would have been taught in the late nineteenth century.  And, most of all, I needed to put myself into Charlotte’s shoes, feeling the pain that mingled with her love for her son.

Poor Charlotte.  Her life wasn’t easy.  As if being widowed and dealing with David’s blindness weren’t bad enough, she’s being pursued by an evil man, one who’ll do anything – even harming her son – to find the money he believes she has.  How will she keep David safe at the same time that she supports them both? 

I had to delve deep inside myself to learn the answers to those questions.  There were times when I shuddered, other times when I cried, and still others when I laughed as I created Charlotte and her life.  The process wasn’t always easy, but the result was that I see the world – and ‘see’ is a deliberate word choice – differently than I did before I wrote Waiting for Spring

So I say to those writers who are reading this, consider writing about what you don’t know.  The rewards may surprise you.

Amen, Amanda!  As a writer of historical fiction who has never lived on a farm, I often say, "write what you would like to know about, because you can always research."