Friday, November 30, 2007

One More Day to Enter!




Today is the last day to enter my contest to win all 4 hardcover copies of my Texas Hearts series from Avalon Books. I'll be drawing a name on Sunday, so if you'd like a chance to win a copy of Her Heart for the Asking, His Heart for the Trusting, The More I See and Gypsy Hearts, send an email to me at lisa@lisamondello.com with the word CONTEST in the subject line. Don't despair if you had your heart set on winning and you don't. Cradle of Secrets is still on the shelves of most bookstores and my Texas Hearts series is available from your local library. If they don't have it, you can always get it via inter-library loan.

Thanks so much to everyone who has emailed me after reading Cradle of Secrets. It's been so wonderful to share this first Steeple Hill book with so many readers. I'll have an update on the winner of my contest next week!

Until next time, many blessings to you all!
Lisa

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Finding Father Christmas

I don't often read novellas, because most don't have enough going on to keep me interested. Thanksgiving weekend I read one that I thoroughly enjoyed. However, Robin Jones Gunn crafts a wonderful tale with Finding Father Christmas.

Miranda Carson travels to England one Christmas to find the father she's never known. As this tale begins, she enters the Tea Cosy on Christmas Eve. She's already questioning her decision to leap the Ocean in pursuit of the unknown. All she has as a clue is an old photo.
The story unwraps in the span of two days, with delightful twists and turns. The characters are warm and friendly, and I felt like I was being welcomed into their lives along with Miranda. And Miranda's strong need to answer the questions about her father resonated. And then she considers a decision which goes against her quest in an effort to protect her new friends.

This story is a delightful read, that unravels easily. I thoroughly enjoyed it and think you will, too, if you're looking for a short escape from the Christmas hustle and bustle.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The War of Art

At a conference recently a friend recommend a book, The War of Art, Break through the Blocks and Win your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. I didn't immediately buy it (not another motivatioal book!), but after another friend recommended it, I figured there must be a reason the book keeps coming up. I happened to be at a bookstore about 30 mins from my house and they had one copy so I bought it and promotely read it. I have to say the book was inspiring and motivational and a quick read.
The book is broken up into three sections: Resistence;Defining the Enemy. This section talks about all the various forms that resistence takes that keeps the creative person from doing what God created them from doing. I found it very freeing to be able to label some of the roadblocks that I run into when I'm trying to write.
The next section is titled, Combating Resistence;Turning Pro. Talk about a motivational kick in the rear. The professional doesn't let the resistence win. The professional knocks down her roadblocks and charges through. The professional does her job. She protects the work.
The final section titled, Beyond Resistence;Higher Realm gets a bit metaphyscial and metaphoric which took me some effort to get past but still this section contained insight that I found helpful.
Over all, I would recommend this book for anyone who is struggling with their creativity.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The History of Pam

A few weeks ago, maybe more, I got tagged to remember what I was doing 30/20/10 years ago. At the time, I had many ideas for blogging running through my mind, so I put off the tag. This morning, I have some ideas for blogging, but every time I start, I get 5-7 words and then I stop. Hmmm, I think, maybe this is boring. Does my reader care about my Thanksgiving, too much food, great family; about the tailgate party I went to Saturday, husband's work party at a resort; about my husband's birthday, had to clean the house, ordered pizza?

So, here's what I was doing 30 years ago. I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL! I loved high school socially. Academically, for the first two years I struggled. Then, I developed a crush on a brain (Bob McGargill) sigh and because I didn't want him to think I was STUPID, I started studying. I'm sure glad I developed that crush. I might still be in high school otherwise.

Twenty years ago I was just out of college. I made one of the road less traveled decisions. Instead of heading home to Nebraska, mommy and daddy, and my wonderful high school friends, I still wanted to see the world. I packed up my car and moved to Arizona, where I knew one person (college roommate). I had a degree in journalism and quickly realized I made more money as a waitress than I would writing obituaries (where you started back then). I didn't go to work at the paper (I've always wondered what my life would have been like had I not been so STUPID. Dah, of course I needed to start at the bottom). Still, I liked being a waitress. I always had money in my pocket and it was a very social job.

Ten years ago, I was an elementary teacher by day (I must have really learned to like school since I went back for yet another degree) and taught college at night. I was always writing. Ten years ago, I didn't write inspirational. I was writing paranormal. I wrote a time travel, followed by a vampire, nudged aside by a ghost, and then there was the angel story. Hmmm, the paranormal market was dead ten years ago. I started writing a contemporary. Ten years ago, I was one year away from my first sale.

So, there you have it. The history 30/20/10 of Pam.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Characters...continued

So...how do you come up with believable characters? There are many great references out there on how to develop good characters. Here are just some thoughts...

You need STRONG, interesting main characters. Unique. Interesting--with an unexpected twist. A clich├ęd character has predictable traits....as in a gentle, sweet teacher. An honorable, donut eating cop. A lean, cowboy who knows livestock but wouldn't be at home in New York. What makes your characters fascinating?

What are their greatest weaknesses? Or greatest fears? Dig deep, then deeper. What can you you illustrate again and again in the story about this character, that shows gradual change? At the climax action scene--having him or her face this greatest fear/weakness adds depth, and helps show the overwhelming lengths the character is willing to go.

None of us identify with a weak. Whiny, ineffectual hero or heroine. Well, you might say, I want to show growth! But going too far is a high risk move. How many of us have quit reading a book because the characters were way too unsympathetic, or were too stupid to live?!

Even if your hero or heroine are failing at something, they should be sympathetic characters--someone we can identify with and care about. People who are struggling against the odds with courage and intelligence. So consider your characters. Delve deeply into motivations, past sorrows, and personality traits before you ever start your story.

Can these traits change? Absolutely! I love the old movie Romancing the Stone. Did Kathleen Turner remain the same? In the beginning, she only wrote about love and adventure but was afraid to experience them both. In the end, she'd faced adventures beyond her imagination and had become a strong, take-charge woman.

Your hero and heroine aren't the only ones who need to this kind of consideration. Every character is the lead character in his own story, with their own personal goals, conflicts. If you can come up with dynamic, motivated, three dimensional characters who have natural conflict with each other, this will help drive your plot--and makes writing a story a whole lot easier!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Left Brain, Right Brain...

After having a wonderful time with my family over Thanksgiving, eating way too much turkey and pumpkin pie, I'm finding it difficult to get down to business. Yes, I know it will come. It always does. But the route getting back to work went by way of online shopping for Black Friday deals (I got a few bargains) and wasting a fair amount of time taking an online test to ascertain whether I am a left brain or right brain thinker. I've often heard other writer's talking about this and decided I'd check it out.

The results are in, I'm a right brain thinker. Okay, that's sort of anti-climactic except when you look at the full explanation of what a right brain thinker does. Right brain thinkers look at the whole picture. They start at the end and move backward to completion. Hmm, this reminds me of the fact that I am a puzzle writer. I look at the whole picture, piecing it together as I go. I never go in order. That drives me crazy. Right brain thinkers are usually creative and use music to stimulate their creativity. This could explain why I seem to make a sound track for all my books.

Yes, I know. I've probably had too much turkey and sweet potato casserole. My mom makes the best. If you're procrastinating like I was today and are finishing up your holiday shopping, you might want to do a google search on left brain/right brain tests. It's interesting.

Now, back to work for me. I wish you all a very restful holiday weekend! Many blessings, Lisa

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful Hearts

I get the honor of posting on Thanksgiving. All week I've been thinking about various things that I'm thankful for. You can see more of them here.

There's a Veggie Tales song about Thankful Hearts. One of the lines goes something like, "a thankful heart is a happy heart, I'm glad for what I have, that's an easy place to start..."

Let me wax philosophical for a moment here. I am a poli sci major after all. Somewhere along the road, as a nation we've lost the ability to be thankful for what we have. I remember seeing news clips where people on welfare state that cable tv is a staple, a necessity of their lives. It's an American way of life.

How often do we step back and cultivate an attitude of being thankful for what we have? Happy with what we have? Blessed with what God has granted?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines thankful as: Aware and appreciative of a benefit; grateful. The Random House Unabridged Dictionary compares thankful and grateful in the following way: Grateful indicates a warm or deep appreciation of personal kindness as shown to one: grateful for favors; grateful to one's neighbors for help in time of trouble. Thankful indicates a disposition to express gratitude by giving thanks, as to a benefactor or to a merciful Providence; there is often a sense of deliverance as well as of appreciation: thankful that one's life was spared in an accident; thankful for the comfort of one's general situation.

I want to cultivate a life that is grateful for what's been given to me. I drive a nice, dependable vehicle. Why should I covet what somebody else has? God has provided a wonderful job to Eric that in turn provides a great roof over our heads. The home is large, and allows us to host many different groups, something that is important to me. Why should I want for more? My closet is full of stylish clothes that fit. My bookshelves are lined with books I love and movies I enjoy. What more could I ask for.

Yet
it's easy to slip into an attitude that covets the house my friends has on two acres in th ecountry. (Do I really want to live in the country?!?!? Me thinks the yard might be overwhelming). Or I think I need more clothes, more books, more fill in the blank here.

And as I raise my kids, this sense of entitlement to more is placed squarely in front of my face. I want to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in them. A spirit that turns to their heavenly Father to provide all of their needs. A spirit that can distinguish between needs and wants. It's a challenge, but I want to rise to meet it.

So as Thanksgiving approaches here are a few more things I am thankful for:
  • A husband who provides very well for his family.
  • A husband who works hard so that we do not want for anything.
  • A God who provides all of our needs according to His riches and glory.
  • A home that more than adequately shelters us.
  • A home that can be a ministry tool as we open it up to others.
  • Vehicles that are dependable to get us to jobs and ministries.
  • A God who loves me without abandon, and who's mercies are new every morning.
  • A God of second chances.
  • A God who does not waste any experience that I have.
So what do you do in your family to cultivate thankfulness? And what are you thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a short note today to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving! My family is on the way and should arrive soon. The turkey is in the fridge ready to be stuffed tomorrow morning and baked to a golden brown throughout the day. Homemade cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, an assortment of fall veggies and yummy pumpkin pies are waiting to be prepared and enjoyed by all. We'll start the day at church to give thanks to the Lord for the many, many blessings he's showered upon us this year.

I give thanks for all of you, for my wonderful readers, for the Craftie ladies, for those who email me or stop by my website to say hello, for the opportunity to write stories for Steeple Hill, for family and friends, for health and well-being. As always, I'll be praying for YOU, asking that the work of your hands will bear good fruit. Have a joyous holiday!

Wishing you abundant blessings!
Debby

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Traditions

Years ago during a women's Bible study at the church we then attended, a very creative woman brought each of us a tiny pot with a gold bow tied around it. Then she placed a bag full of gold and silver spray painted beans on the table and asked us all to fill our pots with beans. Intrigued, we all did. Then she explained that this was our thankfull pot and the beans represent the blessings we are thankful for. Now each Thanksgiving, I bring out the pot, spread the beans on the table and pass the pot around. Each person then picks up a bean, says what they are thankful for and fills the pot. When the pot is full we place it in the middle of the table. This is one way of keeping the focus of Thanksgiving on the blessings from God.
I used this in my current book, Giving Thanks for Baby. I love incorporating some of my life into my books.
I wish you all a wonderful, happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Batter Up

Had I been male, I'd have wanted to be a serious baseball player. My goal would have been second base for the Atlanta Braves. I'd have played that position during the Bobby Cox heyday. I'd have rubbed elbows with Terry Pendleton, John Smoltz, and Jeff Treadway. Instead, since I'm female, I'm a romance writer. There's lots of similarities.

Most baseball players play the game just for fun while they're kids; some are better than others. I read books for fun while I was a kid; I was a ferocious reader.

These hopefuls go to college (most) and hope that they'll make the team and be soooo good a scout will pick them up. I went to college and majored in journalism. I wrote for college papers and hoped I'd write something so good the Readers Digest would call me and say, "Hey, we need a features writer"'

Memo: I was veeerry young when I was dreaming about the Readers Digest.

If the players get noticed, they go to a farm league, which is like a waiting pen for the players. Here players learn big league techniques, secrets, and play, play, play. Me, I started writing for a publisher called Barbour. Barbour is a wonderful place to learn the craft. My first book did not hit the shelves; it hit the mail. They had a mailing list of over 20,000. I did learn techniques, I learned that there are no secrets except being a published author is harder than one realizes, and I wrote, wrote, wrote.

There needs to be a slot for a farm league player to be called up. A farm league player might find himself filling in for a sick player, or if a trade happened and the new player is not yet in place, that's when the 'hopeful' farm leaguer gets a chance at the show.
They call it the show, when you finally hit the big league.
I thought I'd been called to the show years ago when I sold Kensington, but I wasn't ready. Now, I'm back in the show and playing for the Braves, I mean writing for Harlequin, as has always been my goal.

The thing about the show is you have to keep in mind your batting average: number of books sold. You have to catch/stop the balls that come your way: you have to come up with good ideas, meet deadlines, and grab every opportunity. You need to build a fan base and sign baseballs: market, market, market.

The thing about the show is, there are one hit wonders. There are fires that burn so bright that they soon disappear. There's the midlist, ever reliable. And, then, there are the legends.

Right now, I'm playing my second game. Book number two The Price of Redemption is on the shelves. As a player, I think the coach is still wondering if he made the right choice in putting me in the line-up. The fans, well, they're in the stadium but are they clapping, I don't know.

All I know is that as I tighten my hands around the bat, I am thrilled. I can feel the smooth wood so tangible under my fingers. I can smell the popcorn. My feet are planted on the soil so many other champions trod. And I thank God for this opportunity even as I break out in a sweat from nerves.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Unexpected Notes on a Sunday....

Hi everyone!

I meant to post sooner in the day, now that I'm the Sunday gal. But sometimes, bad things just happen. And this time, I am soooo thankful!

Yesterday afternoon I had lunch with writer friends (published and unpublished) and during our lunch, my son Brian called to say that he'd been meeting his own friends for lunch and suddenly became nauseated, with what he thought were stomach cramps.

When I got home an hour later, he was pale. Had a tight, distracted expression of distress on his face even as he said he was "okay." He was uncomfortable in any position. My husband thought it was just the flu and Brian didn't want to go, but I packed him up anyway and took him to the ER. Within a half-hour they had him on an IV and had started him on morphine. It was appendicitis.

With a young man's determination, he didn't wanted to sound like a wuss over "nothing", but we found that he was actually in quite serious shape and waiting could have meant an entirely different outcome. The surgeon said that by the time of the operation, his appendix was ready to burst at any moment.

God works in such amazing ways. My son travels five states, and isn't often home, or near people he knows well. He said over and over he would have just "toughed it out" if he hadn't been home--he would have taken Tylenol and tried to just go to bed. I just shudder to think what might've happened if he'd been in the middle of nowhere, far from family. But because he happened to be home, he got the care he needed, he is now surrounded by family and friends, and had a great surgeon. Praise the Lord! We even got to bring him home this afternoon! He's tired, and weak, and on pain meds today. But he will be okay!

Have any of you ever had such a situation--where something bad happened--but at the best possible time? Or...have you been in a bad situation in which your prayers brought the most amazing answers, just when you needed them? Such incredible blessings, such power in prayer, will never cease to amaze and humble me.

So today....I'm not writing about writing. I'm writing about an awesome God who has taken such loving care of our son.

And, to offer a reminder to all of you about how something so simple as continuing abdominal pain can be some far, far more serious than simple indigestion!

Take care, and God bless,

Roxanne

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Giving Thanks...

Today was the day that the local schools put together their annual food drive for the holidays. I love community activities and how easy it is to give back to someone in need. As Thanksgiving Day approaches here in the United States, I'm reminded about all that it stands for, not just in history but in my life.

Too many times we look for what is big in our lives and don't cherish the little miracles that count up to so much. It's easy to focus on one negative thing and have that negate a hundred other positive things. So my mission is to focus on the positive and enjoy the blessings that God gave me for which I am thankful.

One such blessing is going to the bookstore and seeing my book, Cradle of Secrets, for sale on the shelf. As I stood in the bookstore and signed copies of my book, one reader saw what I was doing and although she'd never read a Steeple Hill book, she came up to me and asked if I could sign a copy for her. She loved reading in the evening because her husband works nights and she wanted something special to read to keep her from missing him while he was gone. My book was it. I was flattered and signed a book for her. It was nice to see her face and know, that like her, a book represents a source of pleasure, relaxation and inspiration. And I love autographed books. They become my keepers.

For those of you who do not have a copy of Cradle of Secrets yet and would like a signed copy, I'll be doing a virtual signing right on this blog. Simply send $8.00 (cost of the book plus shipping) to LisaMondello@aol.com through Paypal along with your address and who you want the book signed to and I will get the book right out to you. Signed books are wonderful to give away as gifts to friends, to use as stocking stuffers or for a grab bag gift for your office party.

If you've already read Cradle of Secrets, drop me a line and let me know what you thought of the book. I've heard from so many wonderful readers who enjoyed the book and desperately wanted to know if there was a sequel. As I've said before, yes there is! Her Only Protector will be in stores August 2008!

I look forward to "seeing" you at the virtual signing. Many Blessings, Lisa

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Interview with James Scott Bell

I'm delighted to have James Scott Bell join me for an interview. If you like legal suspense, then you will like his books. I was delighted to finally get to meet him and hear him speak at the 2007 ACFW conference. Now on to the important thing -- the interview....

Your main characters tend to be people who have life going their way and then life intervenes in a dramatic way and they are stripped of the things that matter to them. Did you follow that in Try Dying? Why? What do you hope people will see as your characters walk through those valleys?

I've always been taken by the story of the innocent man who, through no fault of his own, gets caught up in life threatening trouble. One of my favorite movie directors is Alfred Hitchcock, and he repeats that theme over and over.

It does seem to mirror how we have to handle life sometimes. Not necessarily life threatening things, but various challenges. Suspense writing gives me a chance to explore this, and perhaps give people hope.

I think the best fiction does that. The kind of fiction I like to read and write, at least.

How did you create the what if/main idea for Try Dying?

It started with a news item I read one day. A bizarre thing. A man shot his wife, then drove to a freeway overpass in L.A. and got out and shot himself. His body fell 100 feet to the freeway below, and hit a car, killing the driver.

For some reason this incident wouldn't leave me alone. I started to ask what would happen if the person in the car did not die from the fall, but was killed by someone else at the scene? Why would such a thing happen?

Then I asked, who might this driver be? I made it a woman, the fiance of a hot young lawyer. That lawyer became my Lead character, and that's how the whole thing started.

One thing I'm learning is that I learn something with each story I craft. What did you learn from Ty Buchanan as you were writing his story?

I think I learned to trust what was happening inside the character more. There was a temptation to tone it down, but I think his inner life wouldn't have been as real if I did. He is going through hell in this book. That affects him. But it also makes him stronger.

I understand that Try Dying is targeted at filling a hole in the secular bookstores for good, clean legal thrillers. How did you get a vision for addressing that niche? And what has you most excited about this new market?

I do think that secular thrillers, many of them, have taken a very dark turn. I don't find that necessary. I think back on the film noirs of the 1940s, my favorite period, and the crime novels of the 50s. They didn't need to be explicit to set a mood and hook the readers.

I think there is a huge audience out there looking for this kind of book now. That's what I hope to provide.

Time for a fun question. If you could pack up your family and go anywhere in the world, where would you head? Why?
England. We love it there. My wife would like to rent a country cottage. My daughter would want a flat in London. My son would be happy visiting historical sites. I'd be happy anywhere, writing.

Any parting advice or thoughts?

Robert Heinlein, the noted Science Fiction author, had two rules for writers.

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.

Do this over and over again, and you are a writer.

Great advice. Thanks so much for joining us!

My pleasure.
---------

I also have three copies of this book to giveaway. Be sure to leave a comment on my blog or here to be entered for the chance to receive one of these books!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Examined Life

Greek philopher Socrates is credited with saying, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Food for thought, eh? Of course, I prefer to rework the quote into a positive statement . . . an examined life IS worth living.

Self-examination helps us understand who we are and why we react in certain ways. It allows us to identify what "pushes our button," or drives us forward or makes us run in the opposite direction. Through reflection, we recognize how the past plays into the present and gives meaning to the future, and when we understand the influences that shape our lives we see ourselves with a clearer lens. That clarity allows us to turn weaknesses into strengths and failure into success.

My suggestion? Spend time in reflection this week so that Thanksgiving will be a day of gratitude for the Lord’s blessings, for the people who have touched our lives, and for a future filled with promise.

Wishing you abundant blessings!
Debby

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Great High School Hunt

Whew! I didn't know looking for a high school could be so hard. Back when I was a teen there weren't any choices. You went to the local high school along with everyone else. But now, there are options. My daughter is very artistic and not sports oriented at all, so we're looking for a school that will strength her talents and give her a well rounded education so when its time to choose colleges, she has more choices. These teen years are so crucial in my mind. This is the time when teens are faced with the biggest issues including but not limited to drugs and sex. The choices and judgements they make over the next four to five years will have an impact on the rest of their lives. If anyone has some good advice on how to balance guiding a teen and giving them freedom to make mistakes, I'd really appreciate it.
ON another note, my November release GIVING THANKS FOR BABY has hit the shelves. The book recieved a 4 star rating from Romantic Times Magazine.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day

It's Veteran's Day. My dad was a veteran. His name was Albert Hammonds Tracy. Hammonds after the doc who birthed him. It was a tradition back then (At least in 1920s Georgia) to name a child after the doc. Dad served in Korea, and he was in WWII. I remember him saying that when he got out of the service the first time, he joined the reserves and when the second war broke out, he was one of the first called back. Seemed he had lots of certifications. He died three years ago. Nine months before his first grandchild was born. Most of his friends were already gone. Even the preacher who did the service didn't know him like the preachers of his prime. I wound up giving the eulogy. I miss him.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Characters....do they come to life?

Last week, I chatted about finding the right setting for a story, and about how some authors start with characters, some with an exciting situation or a conflict. Since I usually start with a setting, my next big question is:

What characters can I bring into this setting for good, automatic conflict within that setting--and with each other?

Real life is hardly the stuff of compelling fiction. For those of you are writing, you've probably had people ask if you base your characters on your friends or relatives. Do you? It's not as easy as simply plucking personalities from your daily life, is it!

You need strong characters with strong inner conflicts. Emotional baggage that makes it difficult for them to overcome all of the troubles in the story--whether there's a villain, or the threat of terrible weather, or foreclosure, or "the end of the world as we know it." And also, there need to be inner conflicts in your main characters that keep them apart---so they can't easily fall in love with Mr. Right, and live happily ever after. Without strong, believable conflict, the story will end in Chapter Two!

To make these conflicts stronger, these emotional wounds and barriers existed long before this story; but our characters have somehow managed to continue on in life...until this situation and this hero (or heroine!) upsets their status quo. Tossing your characters into a situation with strong, believable external conflicts gives them a forge on which they must begin to change and grow, and then finally overcome the inner barriers that have been holding them back.

So...if you are a writer, how do you come up with all of this? Do you have any tried and true techniques? And readers---can you name some of your all-time, favorite characters in novel? What made them so special? Were they perfect, admirable people who did everything right---or did they have flaws and weaknesses?

I look forward to pursuing this further next week!

By the way---on November 12th, my FREE "Online Read" will begin! Go to www.steeplehill.com, look down the right-hand column, and click "READ". It's an inspirational suspense titled Dangerous Redemption, and it will be starting Monday, with short, quick chapters posted every day. Hope you will stop by!

Roxanne Rustand

Friday, November 9, 2007

Lisa Mondello Interview!

Hi Everyone, I was invited to be interviewed by Margaret Daley for her blog this week. If you want to check it out, go to http://www.margaretdaley.blogspot.com . If you happen to check it out, let me know!

This has been an exciting week for me with the release of Cradle of Secrets. Yes, I admit it. I am one of those goofy authors who go to the bookstore and take pictures of my books on the shelves. But I also signed the copies that were there and left some Craftie Ladies of Suspense pens for people who wanted to bring home a little treat along with the book. If you happen to be in the Western Massachusetts area, you may just find one of the stores I've hit.

I'm still putting together information on a virtual booksigning for those of you who might want a signed copy of Cradle of Secrets either for yourself or to give away as a gift for Christmas. More on that later.

I'm giving away Craftie Ladies of Suspense pens/hightlighters. I had no idea these things where going to be so popular. My husband has been taking them to work and passing them around to the guys who tell him their wives/girlfriends read romance (or maybe it's the guys who read but just don't want to admit it.) and my kids have been passing them around to their teachers and friends. Everyone loves that there is a pen on one end an a nice highlighter on the other. If you'd like one for yourself, post a comment and let me know. I'll be giving away Craftie Ladies of Suspense pens all week.

Until next time, many blessings to you! Lisa

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Interview with Brandilyn Collins

Brandilyn Collins is one of my all time favorite suspense writers. She's also become a friend through ACFW. As Crimson Eve was hitting bookstores, she graciously agreed to an interview. I hope you enjoy it, and don't forget to run out and buy the book! It's fantastic.

1. Crimson Eve is book three in the Kanner Lake series, and it races to the end from the very first page. How did you get the idea for this book?

I sort of backed into it. When you’re writing a series, you have more to consider than just the current book. I knew Crimson Eve would be book three of a four-book series. I already knew what I’d be doing in the fourth book, Amber Morn. That story is a culmination of all my Java Joint characters—an ensemble cast. In the first two Kanner Lake books, Violet Dawn and Coral Moon, I featured Paige and Leslie, respectively as the main characters. What happened to each of them involved the whole town.

Kanner Lake’s a small, idyllic place. It used to be quiet until I got hold of it.

Wait a minute. I created it.

Well, anyway. (This fact-and-fiction thing can be quite mind-bending.) I figured with the havoc I’d already wreaked upon the town in books one and two, to be surpassed only by the havoc I planned to wreak in book four, I needed to give the poor town a break in Crimson Eve. So I focus on the character of Carla and take her out of Kanner Lake proper into the surrounding countryside. Only thing is, in giving the town a break, I then had to unleash all my havoc upon Carla herself.

Poor thing.

2. This book, like the rest of the Kanner Lake series, blends the past and the present, but this time it collides on the very last page. Were there extra challenges to writing a book that is so closely woven in time?

The challenges I faced in writing the book focused more on the present-day events than in weaving the present with the past. In fact the dichotomy between how the past scenes and present ones play out allowed me to use the jumping back and forth in time to increase tension in an interesting way. The suspense action of the present-day story takes place in a mere 27-28 hours. The past story spreads out over about 10-11 months. Placing scenes from the wider-spread past story at key “hook” points in the current continuous-action story made those present-day chapter hooks all the more effective. Then, to keep readers interested in the past story, I tried to end those chapters also with strong hooks. In this way, the reader has questions and tension about both times in the main character’s life—and wants desperately to see how it all comes together in the end.

3. This is the first book of yours that my husband has read (I know, about time!), and he read it even faster than I did. Do you plan on cross-over appeal?

The majority of my audience is women, but many men read and enjoy my books. One of the ways I work to keep men interested is to feature a strong supporting male character. Now in Crimson Eve that’s not so much the case. For instance Chief Edwards doesn’t show up much in this story. Yet men do seem to be really enjoying this book. A bit surprising to me, because the issues covered are so female-oriented.

But—there’s always the suspense story itself, which men tend to like. And this is a chase story, which men also tend to enjoy. In addition the “bad guy” hit man gets to show a good side of himself, while a supposedly “good” and powerful man shows a very bad side. So perhaps it’s the multi-layering of the male characters that makes it all interesting.

Also, maybe it’s something else—an emotional impact at a level that a male reader may not even think he’d like in a book. But the dilemma that the teenage Carla gets herself into is so heart-rending. A slow play-out of certain tragedy—but you don’t know the final outcome. So even though that part of the story focuses on a teenage girl—I don’t know, maybe men feel a protectiveness toward her. For whatever reason, they’re getting caught up in her story.

4. The pages of this book are filled with the consequences of past decisions. What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

That the decisions we make in our present will form our past—which directly affects our future. We are what we have been. The terrible, wrong-headed decisions we can get caught up in may hurt us in unforeseen ways down the road—and even worse, hurt those we love.

For those yet to make the wrong decisions—I hope to steer them clear, make them think twice. For those who have long ago made the decisions—I hope to steer them toward God. He is the Great Healer.

5. What did you learn while writing this book?

Actually, I’m learning more now—with the release of Crimson Eve. I’ve been blessed to see all my books well-received. But the response to Crimson Eve has been way above and beyond what I expected. This book is resonating with people at a whole new level. Reader after reader says it’s my best, or at least their favorite of the Kanner Lake series. I’ve tried to study on what exactly that’s all about.

Perhaps it’s the blend of suspense with Carla’s characterization. Or perhaps the trauma in her life—caused by her own poor choices, and yet we can understand how she got there. Maybe it’s an ending that’s true to life in which not everything is neatly tied up. In fact I almost think we leave the story of Crimson Eve with more trauma than when we began. But that’s life, isn’t it. Tidying up our past isn’t a wave of the wand. Even when we ask God’s forgiveness. Even forgiven and washed clean spiritually—we can face an awful lot of baggage because of our choices.

As a wise woman once told me, “God will forgive you, but nature won’t.”

6. One thing I love about your writing style is that not one word is wasted. How many times do you scour a manuscript to achieve that tightness?

Thanks for that. Great feedback. Tightness in writing is something I really strive for.

Unfortunately I never get it right the right time. My typical MO is to overwrite in the first draft. Once I receive the editorial letter, I’ve had at least a month to be away from the story. During that time I regain my “fresh eyes” for the writing. When I go back to rewrite, all the extra words I would have sworn I deleted the first time just jump out at me. I cut, cut, cut. Never scenes—I don’t write a scene unless it’s needed. But a word from this line, two words from that one. Or three sentences from a paragraph. I may lose as much as 20 manuscript pages in this process. What’s left when I’m done is a swiftly-moving story. I’ve cut out the fat and left the meat.

Now if I could only manage to do that the first time around.

7. Amber Moon is the final installment in the Kanner Lake series. Can you give us a sneak peek?

Shouldn’t that be “Sneak Pique?” J

Okay. How about the draft back cover copy:

Bailey hung on to the counter, dazed. If she let go, she’d collapse—and the twitching fingers of one of the gunmen would pull a trigger. The rest of her group huddled in frozen shock.

The shooter’s teeth clenched. “You seen enough to tell you we mean business? Anybody who moves is dead.”

On a beautiful Saturday morning the nationally read “Scenes and Beans” bloggers gather at Java Joint for a celebration. Chaos erupts when three gunmen burst in—and shoot to kill.

Police Chief Vince Edwards must negotiate with the desperate trio. The gunmen insist on communicating through the “comments” section of the blog—so all the world can hear their story. What they demand, Vince can’t possibly provide. But if he doesn’t, over a dozen beloved Kanner Lake citizens will die …

8. Final question, what advice do you have for aspiring writers?

If you want to be published in fiction, understand that you have a long, hard journey ahead of you. You must keep at it. Learn the craft, learn how to deal with the rejections. Kick a cabinet when the rejections come, then get back to work. Most of all, keep God at the center of your life.

And know that you’re not alone. I’ve been there myself—on a ten-year journey to be published in fiction. You can read that long, frustrating, trudging, miserable, rejection-filled, grit-teethed, kicking-cabinets, ultimately victorious story—titled “How I Got Here”—in the archives on my blog, Forensics and Faith.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My House Luncheon and Fund Raiser

A number of years ago, my friend Joan Rorabaugh was watching The Oprah Winfrey Show on TV and happened to see Donna Carson, a social worker for the neonatal ICU at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, GA, talk about the home she was providing for medically fragile babies. Donna saw too many infants left to linger in the hospital nursery when their mother's couldn't or wouldn't raise them. Sadly, many of the moms were drug addicts who returned to the streets with little thought about the babies they left behind.

Donna knew the infants needed love and attention and a home where they could thrive. Using grant money, private donations and a check for $100,000 from Oprah's "Use Your Life" award, Donna soon had an inner-city Victorian house furnished with baby items and ready to accept seven children.

That was in 1999. Since then, a steady stream of little ones has lived at My House where a full-time staff and over 250 volunteers give the children round-the-clock care. My friend Joan became one of those dedicated volunteers. After hearing her talk about the miracles she'd seen when babies who weren't supposed to survive grew healthy and strong, I wanted to get involved. In 2002, I wrote an article about My House for Southern Lady magazine, and soon after that I joined the Sponsor-a-Baby program.

Today Joan and I will join more than 200 My House friends for a luncheon and silent auction to raise more money so that the work Donna started in 1999 can continue into the future. If you'd like to help, go to www.myhouseweb.org or contact Donna Carson, P.O. Box 55127, Atlanta, GA 30308.

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Season is upon us!

I couldn't believe it. On November 1st, the radio stations started playing Christmas music. Now I love Christmas music but really! Can't we at least wait until after Thanksgiving?
And the stores are decked out in red and green cheer and the television is advertising the latest and greatest new...whatever. The malls are crowded already with people wanting to 'get their shopping over with'. I'm tried already of the hype.
My husband and I tried one year to not do gifts in an attempt to bring the focus of the holiday back to the reality of what it means, but the kids and the extended family about had a cow. So we do gifts and a tree and the decorations and the music and all the other things that are supposed to make the holiday season bright.
And it does, but there's so much more to Christmas and I wanted to share with you this wonderful book I found that has helped me to keep our family unit focused on the true meaning of Christmas. The title is The 25 Days of Christmas by Rebecca Hayford Bauer. The book provides a enjoyable and user friendly way to count down the days proceeding December 25, the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every page of the book gives practical advice on the more mundane aspect of the season, such as, when to mail out Christmas cards, when to mail packages, recipes for cookies, tips on decorating the tree and the house, etc... But what I love the most about this book is every day also reforces why we celebrate the coming event with songs and scripture and family connectedness. From this book I discovered the beauty of advent (I'd heard the term before but had no idea what it was).
From the time my children were old enough to understand, I have told them that we give gifts to others as an expression of love just as God gave us the enormous gift of His son. And now I have a tool to help us remember the true meaning of this season.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Tears


I almost cried yesterday morning during church services. No, not the SOB kind of tears but the pringly watering eyes of JOY kind of tears. You see, I went down to the two-year-old Bible class, retrieved my son, and escorted him to the nursery. I went in; he didn't. He stood in the hall with tears in his eyes. "Come on, Mikey," I urged.

"No, Mommy."

For the last month, my husband and I have been retrieving him early trying to train him for the main service. It hasn't been much of a success. Usually, it involves me getting Mikey, me talking to him about 'inside voice/no voice' in the foyer, and then the minute I enter the auditorium, Mikey yells, "Daddy!" Then, back to the nursery we go.

So, yesterday, when I had this little guy standing in the hallway with tears in his eyes because he wanted to stay with us, I made a decision: Let's try it.
My husband eyes us with worry as we entered the auditorium. I explained quickly, and Don said, "He'll last five minutes."

"Honnnneeeyyyyy."
Secretly, I agreed.

Our little guy made it 25 minutes!

I'm a Mommy-Come-Lately. I found that term on the Internet before Mikey was born. See, I was 43 when the rabbit died and 44 when this little perfect being was put in my arms. I spend a good deal of my time worrying about whether I'm too lenient, too hard, too- well, too everything. I've been convinced lately that Mikey might be twenty before he's calm enough to sit during service - if then.

Yesterday, sitting there in church, with my son in the middle, my husband on the end, I got tears in my eyes. No, not the SOB kind of tears but the pringly watering eyes of JOY kind of tears. You see, I went down to the two-year-old Bible class, retrieved my son, and we joined my husband in worship.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Settings....intriguing, or not..

Hi, Everyone!

First of all, I need to apologize for not being here last Saturday. I was with my family up on the north shore of Lake Superior-- at the beautiful, rustic resort that my parents visited every October from 1943 until the year before my father died, in 1999. I grew up enjoying the brilliant fall colors and deep sapphire blue of the lake on our annual fall trips, and now my own children love it, too... but another big reason to go is to take my mother, so she can continue to enjoy that magnificent place.

That area of Lake Superior-- though not that specific resort-- became the setting of my first book back in 1999. The drama of the storms up there, the wild beauty of the rocky cliffs and waterfalls and incredible vistas seemed like the perfect setting for a romantic suspense. Imagine a lake so powerful that in 1905, there were twenty shipwrecks on that side of the lake in a single day!

Since then, I've set all of my books in places where I felt the landscape and the history of the land would lend themselves to the kind of stories I wanted to tell. I was speaking at a conference back in September, and when someone asked about settings for novels, I listed the ones that have really called to me so far--the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana. The vastness of Texas. The beautiful lake country of northern Minnesota or Wisconsin. The Enchanted Circle. I jokingly said that I would never succumb to my husband's request that I set a novel in our rural Midwestern state. It has been a wonderful place to raise our family, but I figured it might not hold the romantic and suspenseful allure of other places.

I then learned that a couple of the other speakers had written highly successful books set in my state, and remembered that there are several suspense writers who have set entire series here. One of these days, I will need to give it a try!

So... to those of you who are writing, whether this is your first book or your 15th, what do you start with when you began a story? With the setting, or characters, or a specific conflict? There's no one right or wrong way, believe me.

Ask most authors, and they'll tell you that they have a consistent starting point. Some start with plot. Some with a great crisis situation. Some with an intriguing character. Some with a specific setting. I usually start with setting. Why? Because I'll essentially be living there for the months it takes to write a book. I want to use areas that interest me. Places that might intrigue readers.

Readers--do you have a setting that you love to read about? Or does it make any difference at all? If you were to pick up a book and read the blurb on the back, are there settings that would keep you from reading the book?

Next week...I'd like to talk about intriguing characters. Hope you'll be back!

Blessings,
Roxanne Rustand

PS: Starting on November 12th, I'll have a FREE online read at www.eharlequin.com called Dangerous Redemption.

The twenty short chapters will run Mondays-Fridays for four weeks. It's a romantic suspense set in the Wyoming Rockies, and I hope you'll join me !

Friday, November 2, 2007

Countdown and Contest Winner!

The COUNTDOWN begins to the official release date of Cradle of Secrets. In 6 days it will be hitting store shelves and I couldn't be more thrilled! If you're in New England, you'll probably be seeing me stuffing books with bookmarkes and signing at Walmart and wherever else Steeple Hill Books are sold. I'm making November my get out and sign month.

I'd like to ask a favor of all of you. If in your travels to the bookstore or bookracks you see Cradle of Secrets on the shelf, post here on the blog that you've seen the book and where you've seen it! We authors never know exactly where our books will end up, so it'll be kind of cool for me to mark the map every time someone lets me know the book has been received.

I'll be setting up a virtual booksigning for those of you who would like to receive an autographed copy of Cradle of Secrets and don't happen to find one of my signed books on the shelves. More on that next week when I have more details.

Now, for contest news. I received an overwhelming number of entries in my Texas Hearts series contest, many from bookclub subscribers and some from people who've read my blogs. Thank you so much for all your support and excitement about Cradle of Secrets. I couldn't be happier. I'm thrilled to announce that I've pulled the name of one lucky winner out of a hat and that winner is bookclub member Carol Griese. She will be receiving the entire Texas Hearts series from Avalon Books which will include Her Heart for the Asking, His Heart for the Trusting, The More I See and Gypsy Hearts.

If you didn't win, don't be disappointed. You can still read these books by checking them out of your local library. If you're library doesn't have a copy, you could always ask them to order the book or get it through inter-library loan.

Thank you again. I'm so blessed to have all this support for my new book. Until next week, many blessings!

Lisa Mondello

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Interview with Author Denise Hunter

My friend and fellow Indianan Denise Hunter has a new book that released a couple weeks ago. Surrender Bay is her first book with Thomas Nelson, and you should hear the buzz. I just bought the book yesterday and can't wait to get started reading it. Here's some of the feedback:

"I've always thought Denise Hunter was an amazing writer but this wonderful story sets her firmly at the forefront of compelling love stories. How Landon breaks down Samantha's determination that she is unworthy of love kept me glued to the pages. An amazing story!"

--Colleen Coble, author of Fire Dancer (Smoke Jumper Seri


While Denise does not write suspense, she is an amazing writer. With her first trade novel, Mending Places, she created an amazing story that showcased forgiveness. I kept thinking she can't be going where I think she's going, and she went even further. It was an amazing, gripping story. Denise has kindly agreed to an interview. Her sweet spirit and commitment to craft comes through in her answers. Enjoy!

1) Surrender Bay is the start of a new series for you. What is the inspiration behind this story and series?


Surrender Bay was born out of my desire to tell a unique love story. After three women's fiction books, I realized my main passion is romance, yet I didn't want to write a trite romance novel. I wanted to write something that showed God's love in real way, something that stayed with the reader for days afterward. I hope I managed to accomplish that.

The fiction team at Thomas Nelson really helped me hone this series into something unique. On the surface, they are stories of couples falling in love. At the heart, these stories are parables, with the hero of each story representing some quality about God's love. Surrender Bay focuses on the theme that God will never leave us. Hence, Landon never leaves the Samantha . . . regardless of what she does to chase him away.

2) This series is set in Nantucket. How did you decide on that location for the setting?


I was looking for something unique. Well, romantic too. :-) I tried to think about what settings appealed to me as a reader and yet haven't been overdone. Once I settled on Nantucket, my family visited the island, and I fell in love with the place!

3) Your prior series had a strong women's fiction bent. This one is different. In what ways?


Well, first of all, this one is pure romance. My last women's fiction novel, Finding Faith, had a subplot that was a romantic thread, and I noticed when I was writing that book that I enjoyed writing the subplot more than the main plot, even though it was only a simple romance plot. I also noticed as a reader I was having trouble finding love stories that were clean, well-written, serious, and emotional. I figured if I liked that kind of story, surely there were other readers wanting them too.

The other difference is something I alluded to above. The women's fiction novels had an overt faith threat in the plot. The characters talk about God and their faith--nothing wrong with that! With the Nantucket series, I decided to try the parable approach. I think parables have a unique way of showing us the familiar in a very fresh way. That is my hope with Surrender Bay.

4) As you wrote Surrender Bay, what did you learn from the characters?

I learned they had minds of their own! Just when I thought I knew what they were doing next, they went and changed things up on me.

5) Time for a fun question...if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and who would you take with you?

Alaska! I've never been before, but I'd love to find a quaint little town to set a story or series in. I'd take my family. We love trekking around together, and I'd want to cover as much of as Alaska as possible, taking in the gorgeous scenery and wildlife. The boys are 15, 12, and 9--great ages for traveling!

Thanks so much for joining me, Denise. If you haven't read any of Denise's books, I encourage you to give them a try. She's a gifted writer.