Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jennifer Beckstrand's Got a New Release!

Jennifer Beckstrand, author of
1. So, first off, let me say I love the title of your new Amish romance THE MATCHMAKERS OF HUCKLEBERRY HILL. I’m so glad to have this opportunity to interview you, Jennifer, and get a little better acquainted. As Anna sang in The King And I, how about we jump in with 'Getting to know you? Getting to know all about you'? Tell us a little – your family, what you’ve been doing...

          For almost 30 years, I have been married to the same wonderful guy I fell in love with in college. I have six children. The four oldest are girls with two boys at the end. My three oldest daughters are married, and I have two grandsons.
          I have a degree in mathematics, which comes in handy when one of my six children needs help with algebra. After twenty-five years of being a chauffeur, cook, maid, and nurse, I started my writing career. I love writing Amish Inspirational Romance. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and am represented by Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency.

2. Hey, we’re Seymour Sibs! I tell you, that Mary Sue is one special lady. I’m so blessed as I’m certain you are to have her as my agent! When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? I’m sure with six children, it wasn’t a huge consideration for awhile.
          When I was younger, I had no aspirations to be a professional writer. I had an interest in math and statistics before starting a family. As a young mother, amidst diaper changes and soccer games, I discovered my love for writing as I wrote Christmas updates and PTA newsletters. After my fourth daughter was born, I had trouble sleeping at night, so I would lie awake and make up stories. I wrote one of those stories down and loved every minute of it. That’s how my writing career was born.

3. Oh, that is so fun, so it was right in the big middle of rearing all those blessings of yours that the writing bug bit! Tell us about your writing process—are you a plotter or a pantser?
          I am a plotter, but a fairly loose one. I don’t make extensive charts or character sketches, but I do draw up an outline of the story and solidify the characters in my head before starting a book. I try to write 10,000 words a week. A typical writing day involves four to five hours of intense writing segments. I make an hour-by-hour schedule, set the timer for one hour at a time, and write as fast as I can. This keeps me from wandering around the house looking for food or surrendering to a nap. As long as my fingers are busy, I can usually stay awake. Although even on good writing days, my son often comes home to find his mother sprawled on the couch trying to steal a few minutes of sleep. I spend about four hours a day writing, three or four days a week.

4. It must be wonderful to catch a nap during the day. I’ve never been able to nap unless I had a fever. Sounds like you’re pretty dedicated though and focused. Do you ever have writer's block? What do you do about it?
          Even if I am not sure what to write, I get in that chair and start typing. The most important thing every writer must know is that writing is hard work. I tell myself that I must go to work whether I have any inspiration or not.
          The ideas usually flow once I put in the effort to get myself into the chair. I have found that if I ponder and contemplate and stew, ideas will come (if I am awake) and a great plot or character will speak to me. The advantage of being a task-oriented, stay-at-home mother is that many of my daily jobs allow ample time for musing. I ruminate while puffing on the treadmill or running a vacuum over my carpet. I still do a lot of brainstorming right before I fall asleep. My best thinking is done in the shower—I’m notorious for long showers for which I apologize to my dad. (He had six daughters, and long showers were his pet peeve.)
          Food has always been a big distraction for me. If I can’t think of something to write, I get out of my chair to search for a Twinkie. Setting the timer on my writing has helped that problem quite a bit.

5. Wow, I can empathize with your dad as I’m rearing all boys – four grandsons now. And I had three boys myself, but God blessed me with one girl in the bunch. Still lots of testosterone to deal with. So you had five sisters, that’s awesome. Your house must have been so much fun. So how did you meet Mary Sue and land her as your agent? I know you’re blessed to have her represents your work.
First in Jennifer's APPLE LAKE SERIES
I originally wrote a historical Western that I pitched to an agent at a writers’ conference. Since the Western had an inspirational feel to it, the agent referred me to agents representing Christian fiction authors. Mary Sue Seymour took a look at my manuscript and asked me to try my hand at writing Amish. I sent her a few chapters of Kate’s Song, my first Amish novel, and she signed me a couple of weeks later.

6. I know she goes to lots of conferences; I met her at one, too. Seems besides being gifted at spotting talent, she’s great at guiding them(us), too. She told me to write her a historical Christian romance set in the 1800s and she’d sell it, and she sure did. Guess she knows what she wants. What about the editing process with your publisher? How’d that go?
          My first editor at Guideposts Books asked me to rewrite the entire second half of Kate’s Song. I was demoralized because I’d spent so much time on the first draft and had no idea how I was going to remake the ending. But the rewrite turned out to be just what that book needed, and I was extremely grateful to my editor for her feedback and hard work. Different editors have different styles, but I have appreciated every bit of feedback I’ve received.

7. So true, it’s amazing, isn’t it? Any advice you want to offer writers who haven’t landed a contract yet?  
          Read. Good writers are good readers. When I get in a rut with my word choices or characterizations, there is nothing like a good Orson Scott Card or Julie Garwood to inspire me.
          Read about writing. There are lots of great books on writing out there. Story by Robert McKee is one of my favorites. Self-editing for Fiction Writers changed my life. There are thousands of blogs out there about everything from grammar usage to plot development. These can be extremely helpful.
          Get an education. Attend writer’s conferences and writing workshops. This is a great way to meet other writers and learn about the craft.
          My most important piece of advice: Remember that writing is HARD WORK. Writing isn’t like cleaning toilets. Cleaning toilets isn’t fun, but at least you know exactly what you have to do to get the job done. With writing, I might put in three hours and have a paragraph to show for it. That’s the nature of the creative process. Even though it can be painful, it is important to sit in that chair and write even if you can’t think of anything to write. Even if you know that most of what you write is going to get deleted. No writer has a book handed to her on a silver platter by the Muses. Writing is hard. As long as you remember that, you’ll be okay.

8. I so agree, studying writing is all important. You can learn the craft of penning good creative fiction, but you have to be a story teller. No one can teach you that, it’s a gift. So tell us about your newest book, Jennifer.
Debuts January 7, 2014
My latest Amish romance series, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, follows the escapades of two scheming Amish grandparents who try to help their grandchildren find suitable mates. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite?
          Huckleberry Hill, the first book of the series, comes out on January 7, 2014.
          In Huckleberry Hill, Lia Shetler is helping her pretty, spoiled sister Rachel secure the perfect husband–Moses Zimmerman. But the more Lia sees of Moses’s gently teasing ways and quiet understanding, the more she wishes he could be hers alone.
          Moses knew his grandparents couldn’t resist trying to find him a wife. But he never expected it would be the graceful, sensible Lia–a woman who is tall enough to look him in the eye and honest enough to make him question a promise holding him to his past. Now both will need the kind of miracles only faith and courage can bring to finally reach for a lifetime of happiness.
          RT Book Reviews gave Huckleberry Hill 4½ stars. “Beckstrand has written a sweet romance with a lot of heart…The storyline is feasible, the characters are well written, with both their strengths and weaknesses on display. Readers will treasure this series and put the first outing on their keeper shelf.”

9. Congratulations. That’s got to be so exciting! I’m thinking you might have some experience in falling for a guy that a sister likes, especially with five sisters! But I won’t go there. What did inspire your story?
          My mom is the perfect grandmother: loving, fun, energetic, and convinced that her grandchildren can do no wrong. When I first developed the concept for the Huckleberry Hill series, I was enchanted with the idea of a well-meaning Amish mammi who meddled in her grandchildren’s lives. I have always cherished my strong family ties, and faith and family are core values of the Amish. What a fun topic for a story!

10. Indeed. I have fourteen grandsugars and would love it if they’d let me meddle a bit. I love it that such a godly group of folks have become so popular in novels. Sounds like yours would make a great movie. I can hardly wait to read it, and it’s only TEN DAYS from this interview! How long did it take you to write it? Do you adhere to extensive rewrites?
          Huckleberry Hill took about four months to write. I edit as I go (yes, I realize that this is not a very efficient way to write a book) so I don’t do extensive rewrites once I’m done with the first draft.

11. I’ve heard so often that an author has to market as well. Have you found this true?
          Yes! Marketing is hard work. I have a website and I’m on Facebook. My son is appalled that I have no idea how to tweet.

12. I’m a singer lady, but that tweeting is a talent all its own, isn’t it? I’m trying to learn, and my first historical Christian romance debuts in March, so I have about two months longer to wait. I might pick your brain a little since you’ve gone before… What specific marketing ideas worked best for you?
          Contests have been a great way for me to get my message out there, and I think Facebook is a wonderful vehicle for marketing. I’ll keep you posted on my tweeting experience, if I ever have a tweeting experience.

13. Oh, I’m certain you’ll master it, especially with that son to help you. My ten year old is my go-to when my iPhone confuses me. The younger generation is sure techie-smart! So Jennifer, what is it that you like to do you like to do when you're not writing?
          Most of my spare time revolves around my family. I attend lots of tennis matches, soccer games, and choir concerts. I am an avid reader. If you come to my house and I’m not writing or playing with grandchildren, I’m probably reading or doing a crossword puzzle. I also love to sing, direct musicals, and put on Shakespeare plays with my kids. And believe it or not, I love cleaning my house. (I really appreciate a clean bathroom, especially when mine is dirty.)

14. Hey, this Grami-mom of four boys is right there with you appreciating clean bathrooms. O'Pa at least has taught them to always put the seat down! And you’re a singer? We have that in common, too! So, who is a famous person who has inspired you?
          There are so many! J.K. Rowling is a particular inspiration to me because she embodies persistence and determination. She didn’t let less-than-ideal circumstances get in the way of her writing. She wrote in pubs on napkins—anything she had to do to get her story down. Then she was rejected several times before landing a contract. That kind of perseverance encourages me on the days when it’s not so easy.

15. I can’t even imagine trying to write a book on pub napkins, it’s hard enough on a computer. And to think how all the authors of yesterday had no such machine. Make a mistake at the bottom of the page? Type the whole thing again. Yuck. If you could go back in time, what person would you most like to meet and write their biography?
          Well, I truly dislike research. Would I have to do a lot of research? J Again, very difficult to narrow it down to one person, but one historical figure I would love to meet and spend the day with is Abraham Lincoln. I’ve always had a deep admiration for him.

16. Yes, ma’am, any ‘going back in time’ definitely requires lots of research because we didn’t live there or then, and to make the story realistic, you have to dig into history. What about the people in your life, has your success affected them?
          My husband is my greatest support and cheerleader and checks the reviews and sales numbers way more often than I do. My kids are proud of my success, and they give me feedback on my stories before they are published. I don’t think I will have really made it big in my son’s eyes until I have a Twitter account. It might be a good New Year’s resolution.

Sounds to me like you need to schedule an hour with him and get you that Twitter account set up and you tweeting! I’m sure he’s proud of you. And I’m plenty impressed that your children will read your stories. I resorted to tears to get my firstborn son to read an earlier book on a plane flight I dropped him off for. He took it and told me later he really enjoyed it, sounded surprised! Oh the joys!

          Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing this time and your life with me. I’ll be looking forward to getting to know you better and reading THE MATCHMAKERS OF HUCKLEBERRY HILL. I love your title by the way. I send blessings from Northeast Texas and pray that the favor of God will go before you and that your sales and reviews will be even better than you ever expected. And thank you, again.
See more at Jennifer's website! 
Hey, I hope y'all have enjoyed meeting Jennifer. If there's anything I missed that you want to know, just ask her in a comment. And Amish novels are enjoying a huge platform these days, what drew y'all to reading the genre?
Blessings from Texas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A First Day Treat! Meet the Author: Heather Manning

Isn't she beautiful?

Hello my friends!

I've wanted to jump on the bandwagon to promote other authors, and so here I am today to introduce you to a young woman with all the best to come! Meet Heather Manning who’s first novel SWEPT TO SEA debuted last month. I've had a great time visiting with Heather and here's what she had to say!
It’s so exciting to have your first book out. When was its debut and what do you have planned?
            My novel, Swept to Sea, debuted on November 15th. I have a series of guest blog posts and interviews scheduled around the internet, including a post on the USA Today book blog.

I heard about your USA Today news. That’s so awesome. So it’s almost been a whole month. Tell me this, how has it compared to what you thought having your first book out for the world would be like, and what’s been your favorite part?
            Being published is a little different than I expected, I must admit. It's kind of a weird but good feeling. I thought that I would be really nervous and just absolutely not know what to do with myself, and that no one would want to buy my book. But that is not the case, and for that, I am glad. :) I sometimes find myself thinking that someone out there who I've never met could be reading my book right now, and hopefully enjoying it. The thought makes me smile uncontrollably. 
            My favorite part about being published is getting to see strangers reviewing my book on Amazon, and all of the sweet texts and messages my friends have sent me who read my book.

How about we go back to when you first got the idea to write SWEPT TO SEA. I know you’re still in school and am interested in what got you started at such a young age. Can I ask how old you are?
Lovely cover, right?
            I first got the idea to write Swept to Sea in 8th grade. I have always loved inspirational historical romances and pirates, so I decided to write my own. I just turned 17 years old literally two days ago, so everything involved with the publishing of Swept to Sea happened when I was 16 years old.

I’m so impressed, Heather. When I was a little younger that that, a 7th grader (in 1962), an essay on what we’d be doing in the year 2000 was assigned, and I wrote I was an intergallactically famous author (so funny!), but I did not write my first novel until the late ‘80s! It must be exciting to think of what you can accomplish getting started so young! Tell us about SWEPT TO SEA. What’s the story about? 
            That is awesome. I wish I was intergalactically famous! LOL
Swept to Sea is about a young lady who stows away on a pirate ship to escape her abusive fiance. She ends up taking care of the son of the ship's revenge-seeking pirate captain. That's Swept to Sea in a nutshell. :)

Excellent! Many authors find it difficult to boil down their story like that. Good job! SO how about some fun insight to you. I enjoyed Carrie Underwood on that live Sound of Music almost as much as Julie Andrews. I’m wondering, what are a few of your favorite things?
            It's funny that you should ask that, because I really enjoyed that live Sound of Music as well. Musicals are one of my favorite things! Some of my other favorite things are eating donuts, reading, painting my nails, and acting in theater. 

Heather as Millie Owens in Picnic!
Oh yes! I saw your photos of you and the cast of a play. I love y’all’s costumes and I’m with you on Musicals! What about favorite FOOD, COLOR, AUTHOR (I always specify “that I don’t know”), and BOOK? Throw in anymore you think of, too!
            Thank you! My favorite food is...whipped cream, if you count that as a food. :)  My favorite colors are lime green and neon pink. I can't choose my favorite author, but a couple of my favorites are Mary Connealy, MaryLu Tyndall, and Deeanne Gist. My favorite book? Oh my goodness, I don't know if I can choose! I love anything written by the favorite authors I mentioned. 

Why don’t you give us the links where we can get SWEPT TO SEA (I love that alliteration) and your Facebook author page so we can go like it and support you! And I just want to say again congratulations on your success!
            You can find Swept to Sea on amazon, smashwords, and Astraea Press's Website.

Thanks so much, and thanks for having me!

Absolutely, Heather, it's been my pleasure, and thank you! I pray the Lord blesses the works of your hands! I'll be looking forward to seeing many more books from you in the future! Hugs from Texas!

Hey, I'm wondering - if you're an author reading this, how early did you know you wanted to write?

Sunday, November 24, 2013


           “Hey, Auntie, what is ya doing on your knees? Ya hurt?” Sue turned and held an arm out. Little Levi walked into her embrace and wrapped around her as far as he could reach.
She kissed the top of his head. “No, sweetheart, I’m praying.”
“Oh.” He grinned. “We eating dinner on the bed today?”
She picked him up, carried him to the rocker, then eased down. “No, sweetie, I talk to God all the time, not just before meals.”
He snuggled tight. “Oh.”
For a good while, she rocked her nephew with his head resting on her shoulder, then as though he’d had enough mothering, he slipped out of her lap. Smiling as only a five-year-old could, he rubbed her tummy. “He don’t like me squishing him.”
“Could you feel the baby kicking?”
She tousled his hair. “Remember you manners, please.”
“Yes, ma’am. He kicked me to make me get up.”
She nodded toward the door. “You can go play for a bit. The beans need to boil a while longer.”
He nodded then touched her belly again. “Hurry up cookin’ my brother, will ya?” He spun whinnying for his imaginary horse then galloped out the door.
That night after she finally got Levi to sleep, she returned to her knees beside her bed. “Oh, Lord, help us. Send someone to buy the sawmill, please. I don’t want to sell any land. And Father, You know the beans are about gone. The turnips are coming on, but the boy needs meat, and we’re running real low on powder and shot. A milk cow would sure be great, too.”
She closed her eyes and pressed her forehead into the quilt. “Ease my heart, Lord, and heal it. Sometimes I miss Andy so bad, but You know. You know everything. Tell him I’m sorry, and that we’re making it.” She raised her head and looked to the ceiling. “I love you, Lord, and thank you for your many blessings. Not my will but Yours Father. Help me know what you want me to do. In Jesus name, amen.”
As most nights, Levi slipped into her bed. Poor little thing; haunted too long by nightmares of that most horrible day. Terrible for a little boy to see his father killed right before his eyes. Not much better for her, and she was twenty years old. Would she ever forget seeing the awful accident that took the lives of her husband and his brother?
That next day started like most, cold cornbread with a slop of molasses. Too soon, it’d be cornbread only. Next, she and the boy worked the ground, except mostly he rode the mule while she guided the plow.
So far, she’d only managed to break barely over two acres. Even though she had enough seed for three, if she didn’t get the plowing done before the rains set in… And with her belly swelling by the day, she wasn’t sure she’d even be able to get any cotton planted come spring.
Levi sat taller on the mule and pointed east. “Auntie, look.”
She stopped the mule, tied off the reins and shaded her eyes, but couldn’t make out the driver or recognize the team. “Run get the rifle.”
He slid off Mabel, and she stepped away from the fresh plowed ground. Before the boy got back, the teamster stood waved his hat then sat back down. Seemed friendly, but that didn’t stop her pulse quickening or her breath coming harder.
“Here, Auntie Sue.”
She took the long gun, cradled it across her chest, then went out to meet the man. Levi ran off galloping and whinnying. “Don’t go far, young man.”
Shortly, her visitor stopped the team. “Morning, ma’am. I heard tell about your man and his brother getting themselves kilt. Right bad shame I’s plenty sorry to hear. You got my condolences.”
“Thank you, sir.” He looked familiar, but she couldn’t figure out why. “Do I know you?”
“Well, yes’em, leastwise I was here back in the spring. Took a load of saw boards off your hands to San Antonio.”
Of course, she nodded. “Yes, that’s right. It’s so good of you to stop by, and I certainly appreciate your kind words.”
He locked the break then climbed down. “Ma’am, Mister Jacob wanted surety, and I give him my pap’s gold watch. I gots the coin now for them saw boards and come after Pap’s timepiece.”
“Yes, I remember that.” She closed her eyes and searched her memory. Where had her bother in law put it? She could see the thing plain as day, but couldn’t put her mind’s finger on exactly where. “But to tell you true, I’m not sure where it is. Let me go look.”
“Well, while you’re findin’ it, don’t suppose you’d mind me workin’ your mule while I’s stretch my legs breaking a bit of this fine black land.” He smiled.

“Why, no. not at all, and you’ll surely let me heat up some dinner after I find the watch. The least I can do is feed you after you coming all this way.”
He tipped his hat then wrapped the harness straps over his shoulder. “I’d be much obliged, ma’am.”        
She hurried inside and between searching and cooking, praised the Lord with every step. The teamster had brought coin. How much was it?
Shortly she had a pan of cornbread a nice mess of turnip greens with yesterday’s beans hot, but she hadn’t located the man’s watch. She’d looked everywhere, could it have been lost during the accident?
For sure, watch or not, dinner needed eating. Once around the treeline guarding her home, the man turned the far corner, and she waved him in. He’d turned two right smart rows and a good start on a third. How could he have plowed that much in such a short time?
She watched him tie off the mule, then hollered up her nephew. “Levi, come eat.”
Grace offered, she ladled her visitor’s and Levi’s bowls full of beans then stood. “Sir, I’ve not been able to find your watch. I hope you won’t mind staying a little longer. I intend to keep looking through your meal.”
“Hey.” Levi dug into his pocket. “This here what’chur lookin’ for, Auntie?” He held the chained watch out in his little dirty hand. “I got it.”
“Levi!” Horrified, she took the timepiece then passed it to the teamster. “I’m so sorry, sir. I don’t know what to say. I had no idea –”

The man’s hearty laugh cut her off. “Naw, no problem at all.” He looked to the boy. “Thank you, son, for taking good care of it for me.”
Levi beamed. The man promptly handed over four gold coins, at least a year’s worth of hard money. She enjoyed his company at dinner, catching up on the news. Hadn’t realized how she’d missed having an adult to converse with and promised herself a visit to the Dawsons soon. How long since she’d seen Elaine?
Time came for him to get himself gone, and she thanked him profusely on his way out the door. Like he’d saved the best for last, he told her of a man over DeKalb way name of Phillips looking to buy himself a steam powered saw mill.
Sue waved goodbye as grateful to the Lord as she’d been since Andy’s passin’. Once the man got his rig turned around and on his way, she turned to Levi. “We are blessed, nephew, God has provided for us just like He promised.”
“Yes, ma’am! Can we buy us a cow now?”
“I think that’s a grand idea.”
“Good, ‘cause my brother needs plenty of milk.”
She smiled, nowhere near ready to explain about nursing mothers. “What’s if the baby is a girl?”
He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. “Then she can’t be my brother.”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Man's Best Friend

The sun burned bright; kind of scorcher makes a feller want to bury up in a muddy hog waller. But Blue Dog stayed on the gray’s flank, even though he didn’t care much for horses or this place up ahead, he’d go with this man anywhere.
            Once there, he turned three tight circles, then lay on the cool boards in the roof’s shade for a little snooze while his man tended to his business on the inside. Sure smelled good in there, but him and his kind were not allowed. A familiar stench pulled his near eye open. He rose, backed to the door, and threw Henry a little soft growl.
            His man joined him.
            “Hey, mister, that’s my dog ya got there.”
            Blue’s neck hairs bristled.
            “That so?”
            “Yes, sir. That’s him alright. Best varmint dog I ever had, paid good money for the mutt, too, and I aim to take him home.”
            “Well, then, guess you best come on and get him if you can.”
            Blue pressed into Henry’s leg and bared his teeth at the man. He wasn’t going anywhere. He growled a stay away warning.
            “Easy boy, don’t you ’member me?”
            Henry laughed. “Seems like he does. Sounds to me he’s decided he’s not your dog after all.”
            The old guy stepped closer. The hackles along Blue’s back bone stood up with the neck hairs, his legs tightened ready to spring, but his man gave him the stay sign. He sat on his haunches and hushed, but his guard hairs remained on the alert.
            “I’m telling you that is my dog.” The man lifted his hat, rubbed his sweat back into his hair, then placed it back down. “I’m getting’ my rope, and Rocky’s coming with me.”
            “No. Sir, Blue Dog’s a friend of mine. And not you or anyone else is taking him anywhere he don’t want to go.”
            For the longest, his old master stared at his Henry. The scoundrel spat a brown steam out to the side, wiped his mouth with his sleeve, then curled his upper lip. “You’ll be sorry.”

            Blue kept his nose open and his ears perked until that no count was long gone—out of sight, out of hearin’, and out of smellin’. He’d chosen his man, and far as he’s concerned nothing would ever separate them. He loved Henry and to him only would Blue belong so long as he lived. 
Nothing like a loyal, smart friend-dog!
In VOW UNBROKEN, his name is Blue Dog; at the McAdoos' home, he's Franklin Doganor Roosevelt, a.k.a. Roo!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dear Daddy,

How would she ever do it? How could she? Alone and pregnant with an orphaned four-year-old. How would she provide for herself and the boy? Deliver a baby out on the prairie with no doctors for a hundred miles?
      Oh, God, I’m so scared. I’m so tired. I need Your help. You have to guide me.
      She let her head fall into her hands and wept, didn’t know how long, but then she stood, wiped her face, and fetched Jacob’s ink well, paper, and quill.
            Dear Daddy,
                  I don’t know where to begin except to say that I’m sorry, and I love you. Andrew and I made the trip out to Tejas just fine, and he and his brother – they were really doing great. The business was growing, and there’s been plenty of money coming in. We were so happy, so in love. But then there was an accident. It was raining, barely at first. There was a creek, and the wagon was loaded full. The oxen slipped, Daddy, and the wagon and logs and oxen and men rolled down the creek bank all together. It was horrible… so awful. Andy… and Jacob… They’re gone, both of them.

      The tears flooded her eyes again and refused to be contained. It was all her fault. Andrew dying, Jacob, poor little Levi not having his mama and now no daddy. She never should have come. She should have obeyed her father, listened to him instead of thinking she knew everything.

      I’m sorry, Lord, so sorry. But how can I fix it now? What can I do?
      She sniffed and wiped her nose on her sleeve then dipped the quill again.

                   Please forgive me, Daddy. You have to. I need to know that you forgive me. I promise you this—and I promise God, too, Daddy—I will never marry again without your blessing. I vow before my Holy God. I’m so sorry that Andrew had to die and his brother, all because I didn’t honor you like I should.
                  I don’t know what I’ll do, but I can’t walk away and leave everything the Baylor brothers worked so hard for, gave their lives for. It’s the children’s inheritance. I can’t steal it from them. Yes, children; I’m pregnant. You’re going to be a grandfather. Andrew didn’t know before he passed. It’ll be sometime next summer, the early part.
                  Maybe you could come, Daddy, for a visit? Andy promised we could come back to Memphis next year, but I don’t know how I possibly could by myself with two little ones. I was so wrong when I told you that I was as mature as I’d ever get… I was wrong, and I know you were right now.
                  I love you, Daddy, and I am sorry. Please write me back. I pray I find someone soon headed east and that this letter finds its way to you. May God bless   you until we once again see each other.
                                                                                      Your daughter, Susannah
       She blew on the paper and waved it in the air trying to bring an image of her father to mind, but she could only hear him telling her to not to go. Hopefully, he could find it in his heart to forgive her, but how could she know? If he didn’t come or write back, would she ever?

       She glanced across the one room cabin and the little sleeping hump in her bed. Precious little boy. Well, she was all he had, he belonged to her now. With God’s help, she’d see to it that no further harm would ever come to him. Her hand went to her abdomen and she rubbed it. Maybe he’d have a little brother come summer. She smiled. Or a little sister-cousin. She’d have to think about names for both, but there was plenty of time for that. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Sue studied his new wagon. It looked a lot different than any she’d ever seen.
“Isn’t she grand? Heavy and well built?" He walked around the latest purchase he and his brother bought from the sale of their father's estate. He looked so proud. "Yessiree, it'll haul all the timber me and Jacob could cut in a month.”
His unbridled exuberance caused a smile to blossom in her heart and bloom on her face. “It looks like a fine wagon, Andrew. I'm happy for you.”
“For us! It's our future, Susannah. Oh, it needs another coat of oil, and I’m going to stretch the canvas, but it’ll do. She’ll get us there.” He turned from what she was sure was the most expensive belonging he’d ever owned and faced her. “Did you talk with him?”
Her rose wilted then died, only thorns left to pierce. She examined the ground a moment before meeting his eye again. “I did. Last night right after supper.”
“Well? What did he say?”
She shook her head. “My father's pigheaded and doesn’t understand. Says we’re too young." Andy's hand reached toward her face, and he wiped a tear away. "Daddy said no. He will not give us his blessing.”
Her love slipped his hand over hers, his fingertip still wet. “Sue, we’re both of age. We don’t have to have his permission.”
She closed her eyes. Why was this happening? Why did she have to choose between the two men she loved the most in the whole world? It wasn’t fair. “Andy, can’t we wait? Maybe in the spring…”
“No, I just cannot. I gave my brother my word. Once the wagon’s finished, I’m leaving. I have to. Everything has fallen into place, Sue. We’ll be full partners.”

“Your brother… He’d understand, wouldn't he? What’s six months?”
“Exactly. The Judge isn’t going to change his mind. He wants you to stay right there in that big ol’ house cooking and cleaning like it’s always been since your mom passed. He can’t stand the thought of his little girl getting married and going west. Besides, there's no way for me to get word to Jacob. I've got to go. Please.” He lifted her chin. "Come."
What could she say? Of course he was right. Her father would be all alone. Him not wanting things to change... She understood, but couldn’t he see she was grown? He wanted her to stay twelve, but at eighteen, she was as mature as she was ever going to get. Most of her friends had already started a family. But could she leave him?
She looked skyward. Change his mind, Lord. Make him see.
She smiled again at Andrew. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. So what's it to be? Will you go west with me? Start our new life?”
She hated the look in his eyes. The same fear lurked in her heart. She couldn’t let him go, not again. “Can we come back to visit?”
“Of course! In a year or two, we’ll return, introduce him to his grandbabies. You’ll see. He won’t stay mad.”
“You promise we’ll come back?”
“You have my word. Three years at the most.”
She took both of his hands in hers and searched his eyes. He loved her, she was certain. “Yes. A thousand times, yes. I will marry you, Andrew Baylor.”

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dinner with Frank Peretti

So, I’m at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis. It’s the end of a fabulous Saturday full of friends, teachings, appointments, and encouraging news. I’m on my way down to the lobby from my room on the fourteenth floor to meet my fellow Howard Books’ authors and editors for dinner at a nearby pizza place. If you’ve been following my posts, you may have heard me mention that my editors are also Frank Peretti’s and the Duck Dynasty fellows, too—Phil and Willie. I’m tickled with that and consider it an honor to be in such company. God’s blessed me so!
Frank Peretti, fabulous Christian author and me!
            So I step onto the elevator and who’s already aboard but the man himself. I say, “You’re Frank Peretti.”
            He nodded a little and smiled. “I know.”
            “Are you going to dinner with me?”
            He looked a bit puzzled at my question. “Well, I’m headed to the lobby to meet someone who texted and said be down there at 5:45 for pizza.”
            “Then you are! I’m a Howard author, too.”
            I started telling him about my historical Christian romance VOW UNBROKEN coming out next March. We walked through the lobby together and found our group. I’m pretty sure I sang the new song the Lord had just given me—well finished, He started it on the flight to Indiana—that day to sing for Kim Childress, the Zonderkidz editor I had an appointment with.
            I’m uncertain how we got off on tornadoes, probably speaking of Texas being in ‘Tornado Alley’ but I had the chance to witness that we are to tell a tornado coming at us to go “up”. Back up into the clouds. There’s a whole funny story about that. I also testified as to how I once prayed around a McDonald’s parking lot I had to pave telling the dark clouds—as I walked its perimeters—that they could rain on the other side of the highway, or there in the woods, but they could not rain on that parking lot. I rejoined the other contractors I’d been meeting with when one said, “Would you look at that!”
            It was raining across the highway, and in the woods, but my parking lot stayed dry and I was able to get it paved in time for the grand opening. I so love to give God glory and tell of His excellent greatness, how much He loves me!
Pizza dinner with Frank Peretti and Howard Books authors and editors!
            Anyway, once we’d all gathered, we headed for the pizza place and had delicious pizza. It was a wonderful evening and I so enjoyed speaking with an author I’ve loved since first reading his books PIERCING THE DARKNESS and THIS PRESENT DARKNESS. He has over FIFTEEN MILLION BOOKS in print now. The living Word tells us that God is no respecter of persons. What He’s done for my brother Frank, He can do for me! Heavy sigh! Now THAT IS an encouraging word!
           Father, continue to bless Your servant Frank and give him more wonderful stories to write for the advancement of Your Kingdom on earth! And give me a few as well because I want to bring You glory! Bless Howard Books and Simon and Schuster, the American Christian Fiction Writers, and all those in the publishing industry that seek to glorify You! In the name of Your beloved Son, I ask, and thank You, Abba! Amen!   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

MY FIRST ACFW Conference - W*O*W!!

     The 2013 American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference rocked. I was honored that the Lord made a way for me to go to Indianapolis.
      Next year is in St. Louis, Missouri, and I’d encourage all to start planning to go now. The link is then click 'Conference' and sign up! I promise, if you love being in God's presence with 600-700 Christian writers, you will not be disappointed!
     ACFW's ‘First Timer’s Email Loop’ blew me away, all the information astounding. Everything posted by two board members Brandilyn and Cara proved so helpful to make all us first-time attendees feel comfortable—from traveling to what it would be like once we arrived. Plus it let us newbies make friends with others before we went, too.
Holly Michael from Kansas City MO
My Roomie, Mimi Conteur from N. Carolina
 These are my new sister- writer-friends who were all First timers like me : ) There was an immediate bond! And we're starting an online critique group.
Tanara frm Phoenix AZ


The ACFW ladies introduced many First-Timers to One-Pages—a tool to have your novel idea/synopsis and biography on one page to hand to an editor or agent; they went over the ‘elevator pitches’ and even took the time to critique and help make those the best they could be. All this made interviewing with an agent or editor so much less intimidating.

Mary Sue McAdoo Seymour and me : )
The Seympour Agency Ladies
 Blessed to already have Mary Sue, a New York agent who hosted a dinner at P.F. Changs for all her authors on Friday night, I didn’t need any agent appointments! It was great meeting all her ‘Seymour Ladies’, my fellow agency scribes.
Beth Adams, Amanda Demastus and me
       And I already have my editors for historical Christian romances in Beth Adams and Amanda Demastus with my VOW UNBROKEN debuting from Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, next March. It’s available now for pre-order so you don’t have to remember! My editor said it would really be great if there were a thousand pre-orders waiting to be shipped on March 4th! You can go to any number of sites, but here’s two: or

       They hosted a Saturday dinner at a great pizza place for the Howard authors. This photo is taken at the ACFW gala Sunday night. Anyway, they’ve got first option on my romances, so I didn’t need to meet with another editor for those.   
      So, I took STARFISH PRIME, book one of The King’s Highway trilogy to pitch to a mid-grade Christian editor. I pre-chose Kim Childress with Zonderkidz; I figured with her raising four kids almost the same age as the four grandsugars I’ve got, on top of our love for the Lord, we’d hit it off. She flabbergasted me when she told me the manuscript was already on her desk in the short pile! She’d already taken it to her editorial board and they had a couple of questions which I was able to answer. I believe it was another divine encounter!
     And here's another miracle. I’ve gone to schools all over Texas with the mid-grade River Bottom Ranch Stories as a visiting author, teaching creative writing for grades K-5. I use the new songs God gives me that go with the stories to reel in the student’s attention if it starts to stray. So, I’d asked the Lord for a new song to go with STARFISH PRIME. I got the beginnings on the plane in route. Then in a class—thirty minutes before my appointment with Kim—He gave me the entire song which I sang to her! It’s a sweet tune titled Angels Unaware. I’ll post the lyrics sometime, but this is already getting long. Kim promised to get back with my agent within the month! Can you say exciting? :)

      What I looked forward to most was the corporate praise and worship, and it did not disappoint! God’s manifest presence came down and Holy Spirit walked among His people! I sang. I went to His throne. I even danced before Him a bit! It was absolutely Heavenly to be there and love on Him with so many fellow writers!
      I’m praying He makes a way for me to attend every ACFW Conference until He comes again! What a wonderful experience it was!     

Monday, August 26, 2013

Rebecca's Prayer

Rebecca looked out her window at the star filled night sky. She loved all the tiny twinkling little points of light. There must be millions. The moon shone bright on the cotton field and looked so beautiful. But something weighed heavy, troubled, her little heart. It had been for a while, and she’d been thinking hard on it. She tiptoed back to her bed, knelt on the braided rag rug, and pressing her hands together beneath her chin, bowed her head.
            “Dear God, I know you’re my daddy since I don’t have one, Mama said. But that’s what I want to talk to you about. All my friends have a daddy who lives with them, and I want one of those, too. I want a daddy to carry me on his shoulders, and you can’t do that. And I really want a daddy to take me fishing. Oh, and to help Mama, too, because she has to do everything all by herself, and she needs lots of help. She really does then maybe she won’t get so mad and be so tired all the time.
          "Oh, yes, thank You for her, she’s the best mother and I love her very much. Thank You for our house and Ol’ Betsy and her new baby. He’s very cute, and I wish we didn’t have to eat him when he gets big. And thank you for the rain, too. That made Mama very glad and happy. Thank you for my friends Sophia Belle and Sassy and let me play with them again real soon. And I guess thank you for Levi, too, even if I don’t like him always trying to be the boss of me.” She opened one eye and peeked up at the ceiling. “And You know he ain’t.”
            “And that’s another reason I need a daddy so bad; on account of Levi always telling me what to do. Now I’d mind a daddy, God. So that’s what I want more than anything else in the whole world. If you will please send me a one, I promise I’ll be very good. I’ll always do my chores and eat all my peas and never hit Levi anymore. In Jesus name, amen.”
            She jumped up, climbed in between her sheets, and snuggled into her feather pillow looking out the window. The breeze blew the curtain into her room. Oh no! She forgot something! Back onto her knees in one smooth motion, she touched her chin with her fingertips again. “Forgot something, God. I want him to be very nice and smile and laugh all the time and not to holler and to buy me candy. And a real doll, I’d like a real doll like Sassy’s. That’s all. Thanks, Lord.”
            Cuddled into her bed, she couldn’t quit smiling. Her Daddy would be coming soon, any day now. Mama was going to be so surprised. She closed her eyes and a sweet peace swaddled her as she took a little trip to Sleepy Town, but she never stopped smiling.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

HALLELUJAH! It's a book!

It's a BOOK!!!

I awoke late this morning for not being able to go to sleep last night, so got a not-so-early start on the day. I went to work with several projects on my list. For those of you who don't know, we've been moving to about 5 miles south of Clarksville in our new home name The Peaceable. SO I have many projects going on.
     Around four, the dogs barking drew my attention to the front window, and I looked just in time to see the UPS man get back in his truck. Working in the kitchen, I figured I'd go get what he brought in just a minute, but of course, I got busy finishing that project and forgot.
     After dinner, Ron and I went out to the front yard to visit and bounce landscaping ideas around. He got bit twice right away by the Texas mosquitoes and insisted that I join him in the living room (no TV there) if I wanted to talk. On the way back in, I noticed the box and brought it inside to open.
     Ron asked who it was from, but I didn't have my reading glasses on and couldn't tell, but I figured it was the new business and post cards I'd ordered from Vista Print to have at the upcoming ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in September. I got a case cutter and slit the top tape, pulled back the cardboard, then gasped.

     It was Susannah Baylor staring out at me. I said, "It's the book! It's a book! It's here!" We both got a copy from the box and had so much fun looking it over. It's an advance copy produced before the last round of  edits, and not for sale, but I'm pretty sure I can GIVE one away! Sign up to follow my blog, share this blog on your facebook page, and leave a comment here, there, and everywhere or a tweet, and you'll get an entry for each!
Be sure and tag me so I'll know! Winners announced in one week on Saturday, the 24th. That should give y'all plenty of time to talk up VOW UNBROKEN, new historical Christian romance debuting March 4, 2014!

    This photo is our shelf of FIRSTS! The books to the left of VOW UNBROKEN are all the first printed copy of our books that we ever put our hands on - a very special collection representing about twenty years of studying, writing, reading, getting critique, then rewriting! The first nine titles I co-authored with my husband, but VOW UNBROKEN is my baby : ) The China doll was a souvenir gift from my husband's trip to China, and the egg, a souvenir gift when my son went to Moldavia on a mission trip. Also very special! 
      This is more shelves, the book beneath the special FIRSTS shelf, the books are all from authors who are my friends. These books represent so many dear relationships God gave me and many enjoyable hours of reading!
     I hope you will rejoice with me! The box of books came on my grandson Seth's 22nd birthday! August 14th! What a great day! Y'all be blessed and know that when you trust on the Lord, your dreams do come true! He is such a loving Father and has blessed me BIG this day!! I praise Him and give Him G*L*O*R*Y! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

GOSSIP MONGERS of Red River Valley

Wednesday, Early Spring 182
       During the late afternoon, bi-weekly quilting bee at the Sulphur Fork Prairie Methodist Brush Arbor, just prior to the evening prayer meeting.

Log Cabin Pattern
            Mabel pulled her needle through the material high into the air. “Such a disgrace! Can you believe it?”
            She looked over her friend’s shoulder. The children played tag while the men pitched horseshoes. Greta frowned. “How sad for his poor mother. Are you sure that it’s true, Mabel?”
            “Yes, ma’am, I am. Positive, because Hortense, that’s my neighbor Bea’s sister, was there, in person I tell you. She saw him with her own eyes.”
            At the far end of the quilt, Vera shook her head. “I heard the man was soaked, so drunk he couldn’t walk. Why, he passed out right there where he was under the wagon. And in public!”
            Thelma sat at the corner to Vera’s right. “According to a very reliable source, he’d been sharing a jug with a slave, too. Drinking right after him. They said he didn’t even bother to wipe it off.” She shook her head with a disgusted expression. “Put his arm around that darkie and acted like it were nothing to be drinking with a colored man.”
            “Tsk, tsk, tsk.” Mabel chided. “I had such high hopes for Henry Buckmeyer, him being a veteran and all.”
            “Well, I heard that him and ‘Lizbeth Akins were sparking.”
            “Who told you that?”
            “Can’t say, but it’s the Lord’s truth.”
            “Well I never, she’s only a child.”
            “And him a grown man. That’s awful.”
            “And a lay about drunk!”
            “Does Brother William know? Or Martha?”
            ‘Heard he’s the one caught ‘em. Heard Martha whipped the girl ’til she could barely sit down.”
            “Well then, ladies, we have a duty to pay Sister Buckmeyer a visit. She needs to know.”
            “I agree.”
            “After all, she’s his mother, she has a right to know.”
            “Perhaps with the Lord’s help, she can do something with that no-count son of hers.”
            “I do hope so. And before it’s too late.”
            Thelma shook her head. “Bless her heart. Might just be the undoing of a fine woman. Henry’s all she’s got.”
            “Yes.” Vera gave a sideways glance to her left, her right, then all the way to the other end of the quilt. “Because she certainly has no husband.” She hiked her brows at the other women and nodded with her lips pursed.