Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Mockingbird Next Door

Generations of readers love Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The movie is one of my all time favorites. I loved Scout in the ham costume, because I was a grape in a play in the fourth grade in Pineland Texas. I felt connected with Scout for the kind of fun, kind of humiliating thrill of it. I didn't get assaulted on the way home that night, but I did fall during my little dance. I ruined my green hose and got a splinter in my knee from the wooden gym floor.

I love the movie because like Jem and Scout, I played all over town in Pineland with no fear of any danger. I'd take off on my bike and be told "Be home before dark." Oh to be skipping among trees as the sun goes down, the wind in my pixie hair, the cool dirt under my bare feet. Of course, those days are gone.

A new book released in July called The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee. Marja Mills, a  former reporter and feature writer for the Chicago Tribune, headed out for Monroeville, Alabama, like so many before her, hoping to get a story, any story, about Harper Lee. Miss Lee chose to separate herself from the notoriety garnered by her Pulizer Prize winning novel in the sixties. To Marja Mills' great astonishment, she was taken into the confidence, friendship, and inner circle of Harper (Nelle) Lee and her sister, Alice. It seems the sisters were ready to set the record straight. They felt that many lies had been told. Nelle particularly had a disdain for journalists, who just made things up when they couldn't get at the truth. Imagine that.

The journalist ended up renting a house right next door to the Lees. Over the course of about two years, Miss Mills learned much about the Lee family, and about Monroeville, the setting called Maycomb where the novel takes place.

I found it very satisfying to hear why Nelle chose to distance herself from the public, what she really thought of Truman Capote, Gregory Peck, and the different movie versions that have been released over the years. I hoped, and thought surely there'd be more about her relationship with Mary Badham (Scout), but maybe there wasn't one. Especially since Scout is on the cover. Regardless, the book was a joy and a delight.

The heartbreaker is that I had to go Google after I read the last page. I wanted to know if Alice still lived, and to see how the book is doing. Unfortunately, it seems that Harper Lee released a statement that she never authorized Marja Mills to write a book about her. Alice has released a counter statement saying that her sister suffered a stroke in 2007,  "can't see and can't hear" and would never have said such a thing. It hurt my heart for everyone involved. Still, I highly recommend the book. I'm glad I read it. The experience with the Lee sisters as outlined by Marja Mills is almost idealic. I want to be friends with Nelle, Alice, Julia, Tom, and all the others in Nelle's circle of friends. Still, so hard not to feel sad for the author of one of the most important and well-loved American novels.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lest We Forget

I saw a friend today in Walmart. She mentioned that her mother's birthday was coming up and that it would be a hard day. Her sweet mother went to heaven. 

It reminded me that those who have lost a loved one continue to hurt long after their friends go on with their lives.

Say a prayer today for someone who has lost a loved one. The Father said, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Phil. 2:4). 

It's sometimes hard to know what to say, but I'm reminded today that we should continue to lift the bereaved up in prayer.

What else can we do to show that we remember?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Dawn Crandall Interview

The Hesitant Heiress is your debut novel. Tell us about your publishing journey.  "Actually, I never wrote a thing until January of 2010. I'd been thinking up my plot and figuring out what kinds of scenes I wanted, but I could not decide whether to write the story in first person POV or third person. I'd heard it was difficult to write first person well—and that kept me from doing it, although it was always how the words seemed to come to mind. Finally, I decided I just needed to do it--and because I was ultimately writing it for myself more than anyone else--I just dove into writing it from first person, because that was how it needed to be told. However, about a year later I was stuck on trying to figure out exactly how to get to the ending I had planned! Considering I'd basically figured out how to write a book from studying how my favorite books were constructed, I realized I needed to find a critique partner and join some kind of writing organization. So I joined ACFW, met my beloved friend/crit-partner Susan Tuttle, figured out my ending and went to the 2011 conference (upon my husband's urging). I met with two agents there, had two partial proposal requests... and then a month later, I had two agent contracts in my email box! Pretty crazy for not even knowing what a proposal was until after they'd been requested. After I chose my wonderful agent, Joyce Hart, I still had to finish revising the ending of my book! So my one and only proposal went out into the hands of editors during the summer of 2012... and then I waited, and waited and waited. Basically two years to the day that I'd been offered my agent contract, I received official word that Whitaker House wanted to publish my series (which I'd been working on finishing while waiting), first as eBooks, and then later, hopefully as paperbacks. 

Are you a plotter or a pantser when it comes to writing? I do outline pretty extensively concerning chapters, character development, motivations and goals and especially the ending, but there are ALWAYS surprises along the way!! Sometimes I'm totally surprised by some of the things the characters end up doing!!  

How do you find time to write with a newborn baby? Um, before I got pregnant last year I used to start writing at 8-10am on my writing days, and I would get lost in my story world until my husband came home, most times forgetting to even eat lunch. On those days, I could sit there for up to ten hours, a few days a week. I'm not a very fast writer because it takes so long for me to get back into the story after days away—I would usually pre-write, write and edit one chapter per week... My baby is only a few months old right now, so I'm still trying to figure out how exactly I'm going to keep writing as efficiently as I had before I was pregnant. Prayers appreciated!!! 

When is your next book due out and what can you tell us about it? The second book in the series, The Bound Heart, comes out this November. It's about one of the minor characters, Meredyth Summercourt as she deals with her own issues a few months after the first book concludes. The prologue to this second book is previewed at the end of The Hesitant Heiress. 

Comment below for a chance at weekly and grand prizes!

 Where can readers find out more about you and your writing?
 twitter - @dawnwritesfirst

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Daily Faithfulness

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“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

What in the world did Jesus do for thirty years before he started his ministry? Fully 10/11ths of His life on earth was spent in Nazareth. Possibly Joseph died when Jesus was young. He was not mentioned in the accounts of Jesus’ ministry or crucifixion. First-born Jews took care of their families. Jesus had a mother and siblings to look after and he was a carpenter. He knew the daily details of business, of working with customers, of supporting his family. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and God said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”, Jesus had not yet done the first miracle. He had simply been faithful to his family and to God – for thirty years! What a tremendous motivation for us to persevere in our daily duties; to carry out with faithfulness and love those invisible tasks that make a life for those under our care.

We look forward to the day when He says to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Father, when I don’t want to go to work or do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and bills, help me to remember the Lord Jesus laboring over a piece of wood, or seeing to the needs of his mother and siblings. Give me grace to work faithfully, diligently, and with love and grace. In the Name of the One who is Faithful and True, Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Hesitant Heiress

 The Hesitant Heiress, a brand new historical romance,  releases today from Whitaker House. I am pleased to post a review of the book here. Next Monday we have the treat of an interview with Dawn.

"After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy in her hometown of Seattle, Washington, disappearing before her very eyes. Now, the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: Marry within the year to inherit the immense fortune of her estranged grandmother. Amaryllis reluctantly moves in to her aunt's Boston home and rubs shoulders with fashionable society. Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself quickly falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, the envy of every eligible female, whose father has haunted her dreams for the decade following her mother's tragic death. However, Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems...and everything she never knew she wanted. But can she ever really trust an Everstone man?"

From the very beginning, the conflict tugged at my heart and kept me turning pages. Amaryllis Brigham meets her troubles head on with an inspiring faith. But this girl doesn't know how beautiful she is, nor what's in store for her in the person of Nathan Everstone. The characters are richly drawn and engaging. Dawn Crandall's historical research is impeccable, but so expertly woven in that you don't even notice, you're just there. Each chapter is headed with a spot on quote from classic literature.

Her dream of a establishing a music conservatory is attached to her having to marry, something she'd never really considered. A mysterious event in Amaryllis past, one that she doesn't understand and has plagued her much of her youth, threatens to thwart her growing romantic interest. The truth is revealed after much conflict and soul searching. The satisfying ending left me wanting more of these fascinating characters and the storytelling of Dawn Crandall.

I highly recommend this new book. Congratulations, Dawn!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave

The state of our country and the conflict in Israel reminded me of a post from several years ago. Thought I would repost it today.

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord..." Psalm 33:12

I don't have a Bucket List, but I do have a list of dreams.  One of them came true several years ago  when I was asked to sing the National Anthem at the Permian Basin Fire Convention.  (I almost got to sing at a Maverick's game once, but that's another story, and I'm a SPURS fan anyway, lol.)

It was a tremendous honor to sing The Star Spangled Banner.  Normally, only the first verse of Francis Scott Key's masterpiece (which is a bear to sing by the way) is performed at
public events.  I wish we could also sing the last verse:

Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave! 

I do believe that the success and freedom of our nation will be determined by God, and the extent upon which we trust Him.  I'm not going to start waxing political, but I'm just sayin'.  May we be heav'n rescued, and blest with victory and peace.   We praise you, Father, the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.  
For the record, I will always stand with Israel, pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and pray that the United States will always support Israel. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

World Blog Tour

 I"m so honored to be invited by a fellow Pelican author, LoRee Perry, to participate in a World Blog Tour! Check out her page:

For those that don't know me, I'm a Pelican Book Group author. My debut novel, Washout Express, released last summer from Harbourlight Books. I can't believe it's been a year! I write inspirational romance, devotionals, poems, and articles that encourage folks to look at life through love colored glasses, the love of Christ. I'm proud to be represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency. I live in West Texas where I work at our public library. My husband and I have eleven grandchildren and love every minute of it.

This blog tour answers four questions:
Washout Express

1) What am I working on? My main focus currently is a sequel to my debut novel, Washout Express. The working title is Wedding Express. It's fun to continue the story and delve even deeper into the characters that I love. Sequel writing turns out to be full of challenges, but I love the process. There is a third installment in the Washout Express series in draft form, waiting for my attention. I'm collecting research for a historical based on the West Texas area where I live. Another project I'm drafting is a Contemporary Fiction story for baby boomers.
 2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Washout Express was released as Inspirational Romance. I love the word "inspire". My goal in the book was to inspire women to know who they are in Christ and the romance was the vehicle by which Bailey Brown discovered this. I'm not really sure how it's different from other inspirational romances, accept possibly that the characters are somewhat older than in a traditional romance.

3) Why do I write what I do?Again, that word inspiration comes into play. I'm always inspired to provide a positive spiritual influence to my readers. It's a ministry of sorts for me, and I've been blessed by the feedback I've received. One reader wrote that the book caused her to "really rethink some of my choices". That's why I write what I do.

  4) How does my writing process work? I still have a full time job so my writing time is in the early morning. I'm usually up by 5:30 typing away. I just don't have anything left when I get home from work, so that's my reading time. I get an idea, start taking notes and researching. My usual process is to pound out a rough draft in about a month, and then dive into the rewrites and editing. I guess being involved in National Novel Writer's Month for years has conditioned me to that no holds barred, pressing forward with a draft mentality. My first published book released last summer. I realized a few months later that I was spending way more time than I wanted with social network marketing, and all the other things that go along with publishing. I've scaled that back, allotting one day a week to schedule tweets and blog posts, and whatever else is pressing in that regard.  I'm back to a committed writing time. 

I'm tagging the following authors to continue the tour. They'll be posting their writing process on July 15th: I'm happy to introduce to you:

Diane Dean White 

 Diane started her writing career at an early age when she asked for a typewriter for Christmas. She pounded the keys writing poetry and short stories during her school years on an old black Royal manual. It wasn't until her husband's work took them to the county seat of a southern town, she had her first column, "Yankee Viewpoint's" for a local newspaper. She covered hard news and feature stories in the area. Upon returning to their home-state of Michigan, she did stringer work, ancestral history, and donor appeal letters for non-profit organizations; while doing her favorite job ever, as a stay-at-home Mom. She is the author of Beach Walks and Carolina in the Morning. Diane was a columnist for a weekly magazine, for four years, and her stories have appeared in a number of magazines and books. She is the author of over three-hundred short stories. Her book, newly released in October, On a Summer Night, is a story of suspense and romance. Diane's newest ebook, Stories From a Porch Swing, shares sweet stories you'll enjoy from over the years. Just released April 2014. She and hubby, Stephen, have been married for almost forty-two years, and they are the parents of three grown children and three grand-gals. Diane thanks the Lord daily for her loving husband, three great kids and for giving her the desires of her heart. She'll be posting her writing process next week on the 15th.

Linda Smith LaRoque 

 Linda LaRoque is a Texas girl, but the first time she got on a horse, it tossed her in the road dislocating her right shoulder. Forty years passed before she got on another, but it was older, slower, and she was wiser. Plus, her students looked on and it was important to save face. A retired teacher who loves West Texas, its flora and fauna, and its people, Linda’s stories paint pictures of life, love, and learning set against the raw landscape of ranches and rural communities in Texas and the Midwest. She is a member of RWA, her local chapter of HOTRWA, NTRWA and Texas Mountain Trail Writers. Linda writes contemporary and historical westerns, time travels and futuristic romances. Her publishing achievements include nine novels and four novellas. She lives in Central Texas with her husband and a spoiled dog named Molly.  You do not want to miss her pictures from her Ireland trip on her blog  She'll be posting her writing process next week on the 15th.