Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Double Threat Christmas in the top ten



This arrived in my inbox on the day I went in for surgery(which was successful-Praise the Lord) so it was waiting for me when I came home. What a nice Christmas present it was!

eHarlequin.com
For women who love to read
Weekly News for December 23, 2008

Top 10 Christmas Corner Books
1. Welcome to Serenity by Sherryl Woods
2. Once Upon a Christmas by Holly Jacobs
3. A Mommy for Christmas by Caroline Anderson
4. Heating Up the Holidays by Jill Shalvis, Jacquie D'Alessandro and Jamie Sobrato
5. Her Best Christmas Ever by Judy Duarte
6. A McKettrick Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
7. Under the Mistletoe by Linda Howard and Stephanie Bond
8. Double Threat Christmas by Terri Reed**
9. A Stone Creek Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
10. Her Baby's First Christmas by Susan Meier


Hey, look here!
From eHarlequin

National Literacy Update
As part of our National Literacy Month special offer in November, over 14,500 books will be donated as part of the 100,000 Book Challenge to the National Center for Family Literacy! We thank all of you who participated in this important cause to help them solve the national literacy problem. Remember to participate in our eHarlequin.com Book Challenge in 2009!
You can sign-up on eHarlequin.com

Wishing many blessings to all of you out there that have been so supportive of The CRAFTIE Ladies of Suspense. Have a very happy and safe New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Top Ten Books of 2008 According to People Magazine and Pam's Thoughts


I'm sitting here with People Magazine's "Tops of 2008". This year's Fan Faves. I'm a minority or maybe I'm just not a fan. Of the top movies, I only saw two. The Indiana Jones movie and Madagascar. LOL, but then again, I think I only saw two theator movies last year. Of the television shows, I only watch one: CSI. Of the popular songs, none, nada, never heard of any of them. But books, ah, the top ten books of the year. Let's see what I (we) think. Here they are, according to People:

1. The Shack
2. The Appeal
3. The Host
4. The Friday Night Knitting Club
5. Water for Elephants
6. The Kite Runner
7. Playing for Pizza
8. Fearless Fourteen
9. The Lucky One
10. 7th Heaven


1. Okay, I purchased The Shack, started it, made it to page ten. Everyone I know adored the book. Now, I have a small child so the taking of a small child is not something I 'want' to read about. Maybe that's why it went back in my pile. The fact that I did not give it away tells me I'll try again, but, unfortunately, it didn't grab me the first time.
2. I'm way behind on my John Grisham's. I will read The Appeal, but I'm still working on The Jury. Blame above small child for my being behind. I don't think I've been disappointed in a John Grisham yet.
3. As for The Host. I recently read Twilight, and fully intend to see the movie this holiday break. I've purchased the second one and it resides in my top ten candidates for To-Be-Read-Next books. I liked Twilight.
4. I have the first installment of the Friday Night Knitting Club. It's in my TBR pile. You need to understand my TBR pile. If I read a book a day for the rest of my life and lived to be 108, I still wouldn't get through. Still, I need to find this one (It's not just in my TBR piles, it's buried in my TBR pile). Good premise.
5. Water for Elephants was probably one of the top three books I read in 2008. I carried it around, could not put it down, and thought to myself "Why didn't I think of this!" I aspire to write this caliber. Oh, I do have one problem with it. I keep trying to say Like Water for Elephants because years ago I read Like Water for Chocolate.
6. I read The Kite Runner years ago, at least two. We were on a Christmas trip to Lake Havasu, and I loved the book so much I was reading in the car (which always gives me headaches). I understand why it's still a bestseller. It's a riveting book. As for me, I'd cut one scene (The Ick Factor). The year I read this, it was in my top three.
7. I don't have Playing for Pizza and it's in the maybe zone. I'm still trying to read his Skipping Christmas.
8. Ah, and now we have Janet Evanovich... There was a time I was a die-hard Stephanie Plum fan. Yup, if you asked me for my must-buy, read-immediately author, it was Evanovich. I will buy Fourteen, in paperback, and it will probably go by my bed, which means it will get read in a timely fashion. Evanovich is one of the best comedic writers. I've read 1 - 13.
9. I'm trying to remember if I've read Nicholas Sparks or just seen his movies. I'm pretty sure I read Message in a Bottle and adored it. His movie about the elderly people with James Garner is a favorite (even though the title escapes me now). I wasn't impressed with Rhodanza [sp?] although I'd take the house by the beach.
10. James Patterson... hmmm, my agent has suggested I read him. Maybe I'll pick up 7th Heaven. This is a writer I've just plain missed, mostly due to time restraints.

Okay, guys, which one's have you read and what do you think?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy New Year


I know I am a few days earlier but I wanted to wish everyone a happy New Year. The possibilities are limitless for us in 2009. The door is wide open and I hope that wonderful things happen to you in the coming year.

My son and his wife are expecting their fourth child in April. I hope to devout myself to my writing. I have six books coming out next year. I've seen the cover for my July Love Inspired and I'm thrilled at it. The dominant colors are red, white and blue so that's appropriate for the Fourth of July. I have two Love Inspired Suspense books I'll be working on for the first months of the new year. But truly, the year is blank--so many of those possibilities enticing me to see what the Lord has in store for me.

What does the Lord have in store for you?

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Century Club

Merry Christmas to everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday filled with love and warmth from family and friends. I know I did.

One thing that people have trouble with after the holidays is getting motivated to get back to writing again. Somehow, those 5-10 pages of writing you did before the holidays seems like a million! Too often writers will avoid having to do their daily pages because it seems like too high a mountain to climb. The problem is that by avoiding your writing, NOTHING is getting done.

To get back into writing again, try making a pledge to join what is known as the Century Club. Instead of writing 1000-2500 words, try writing just 100 words. Tell yourself that every day you have to write at least 100 words. Writing 100 words is easy. It's a paragraph or two. It can be written in a matter of minutes so you can't use the excuse that you don't have time to write. Everyone has a few minutes to spare.

Once you start writing those 100 words, you'll find you're getting into your story and that 100 words will really end up being much more. The good thing about joining the Century Club to get yourself motivated to write is that on those days that you really feel stuck, you're only obligated to write those 100 words. Once you've fulfilled that, you're done for the day. The great thing about the Century Club is that if you are one of those writers who is in avoidance mode, you know that at the end of the week you'll have at least 4-5 pages of writing done, whereas avoiding writing will give you no pages at all! Get motivated and get writing by joining the Century Club!

Until next time, many blessings, Lisa Mondello

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Only Three Days Until Christmas!



Wow, the countdown continues during this most blessed time of year. My family and I had the most wonderful time this past weekend. We rode the Polar Express. Yup, it stopped by our house (Okay, really it's in Williams, Arizona). Mikey got on. You know what, he believes. Here's a photo of my family standing in front of the train. Mikey's jammies are under his coat. My robe is over my coat. Daddy wasn't willing to dress the part.

So, back to three days. How did that happen? Back to my beloved list!



Done this week:
1. Mail the cards (There's usually more than a 100)
Update last week: I need to buy stamps! Hmmm, should I do that this morning or write.
Update this week: Mailed more than 100. Then, discovered left off about ten. Did by hand. All mailed except for the ones who need Polar Express pictures. The pictures are made. I'm mailing them today on the way to taking Mikey to the sitter.
2. Mail gifts (This is no fun. You can't just drop the gifts in a bag and black marker a name. I'm usually running late on this)
Update this week: Done last Thursday. Cost 88.00. Memo to self, next year use Amazon. But, KMart was having such a great sale!
3. Critique group party (My amazing critique group - Cathy McDavid, Connie Flynn, and Libby Banks - usually has dinner at an Olive Garden. I found the perfect presents this year. I really must drop those presents in a gift bag soon.)
Update this week: Gathering was wonderful. I told my husband I'd be home at 7:30. I called him at 8:00, still at the restaurant.
4. Attend Mikey's pre-school Christmas presentation. --- wouldn't you know I have a 9:30 final and his program is at 11:10 a half hour away. I'm going to start my final, and another teacher's going to sub for me for the last 50 minutes. I can't miss his first Christmas program!
Update this week: Zoomed to the program. My son is a show-off. The moment I got there he started talking. "Mommy, can I sit by you?" "Mommy, can I have a cookie?" He didn't sing at all. And, he's the only one the teacher had to reprimand. "Mikey, sing." "Mikey, hold up your fingers." "Mikey, look at me." Boy, do I love that kid.

5. Finish grading finals at work, clean office, lock office door.
UPdate this week: Done grading, office not clean but it's never clean so no one will notice. Office door locked.
6. Urge husband to drive two hours to take whole family to the snow.
Update this week: There was snow in Williams where the Polar Express was. We drove up to Elkridge Ski Resort and tubed down a slope. Then, we stopped and made a snowman. I sacrificed my banana for the nose!

Done last week:
1. Write my Christmas letter (My favorite thing! God has truly blessed me)
It's written, my husband read it. He found two blaring errors (one I called my son a she; the other I had an extra I in there). I fixed them. Left the computer for awhile, came back, and printed 50 copies. Oh, while I went away my computer did updates so automatically turned itself off. I turned it back on. I didn't realize until after I printed 50 of the letters that the mistakes were no longer fixed. I started to just ink out the mistakes and send the letters on their merry way, but the perfectionist in me is insisting I print 50 new one. Oh, and during the update, all my revisions on the second half of chapter one (where I changed a 'she' viewpoint into a 'he' viewpoint)disappeared. (Hmmm, this could be why I referred to my son as a she.
2. Set up the tree (It's fake. I've never had a real one. Think cats.)
Tree is up, lights are on, ornaments are still in the shed.
---Ornaments are out of the shed and onto the tree. It looks great!
3. Make green bean casserole for RWA party (Somebody - think best friend Cathy McDavid - grabbed the chips and dip card before I did!)
Really should have used more than three cans.
4. Buy the book the Polar Express (We're actually going to ride it on the 19th)
Toys-R-Us didn't have it, but BookStar did. Not only that, but the manager took me over to the remainder table and I got the 19.95 book for 9.95, plus it came with a DVD, a casette, and a Xmas tree ornament. I read it to my three-year-old last night, and he listened to every word.
5. Attend church group party (There might be singing around the piano. What fun!)
Attended and have a killer cold. Instead of singing Christmas carols in my alto, I sang them in deep bass. I felt like the kiddie looking in the candy store window. I was there. I so wanted to sing my heart out, but my heart was in the middle of not one, not two, but three coughing spells. I hate being sick.
6. Take Mikey to get picture with Santa Clause (I'll probably do this at Sears.)
Did you know that Santa visits the Bass Pro Shop? I didn't, but my husband did. So, now we have Mikey's picture and there's even a stuffed deer in the background. We got there at 5:00 last night, and the next available time was 7:30. My husband huffed and puffed. We walked around their children's Winter Wonderland (Mikey picked out a truck and boat; husband picked out a new quad; Mommy wished she were at a bookstore) and the head elf came and got us and said someone hadn't showed up. So, we got our picture taken. Then, we went to eat. Then, we went to Walmart. Then, we went to Fry's Grocery store. Then, we went home. Daddy said Mikey needed to behave more; Mommy reminded husband that Mikey is three and that was a lot of errands.

7. Take Mikey to Chaz's birthday party.
A new train park! What a find. And, yes, we had fun.


Done two weeks ago:
1. Put the knick-knacks around the house (Memo to self: time to get rid of some)
I'm pretty sure there's a box of Christmas stuff still in the shed, but I don't think I'll mention that to hubby.
2. Clean house (We're having a kiddie party next Saturday for Mikey's Bible Hour class)
We had the kiddie party. It was great. And, boy was my house clean.
3. Call CWOW members who haven't responded to Christmas invite (CWOW stands for Christian Writers of the West. It's the local ACFW group. We're having our first Christmas party and a few members don't comprehend the meaning of RSVP)
I'm putting this in the done column because we had the party. I never did call the members - got busy. But, we had a great party. I made three new writer friends (that's the best Christmas present!). In the picture, you see Leslie, Lori, Kathleen, Sheri, and me!)
4. Make chips and dip for above party.
Not only did I make chips and dip, but I looked at the sign-up, in time, and realized I'd volunteered dessert. So, I stopped at Safeway and got cheesecake. Plus, I had all these vegetables and dip left from the kiddy party and took that, too.
5. Book a hotel near Williams, Arizona, for the 19th (I would have done this already but Don says we have to stay at a hotel where he can earn points. I don't know which hotel to book.)
Booked hotel. According to Triple A book should have been 40 a night. According to reservationist, we'll be paying 70 a night because of the Christmas season. Me, I'm thinking hotel never honors amount they put in Triple A book.
6. Make sure I have babysitters for all adult events.
Now, if they just don't cancel! --- they didn't cancel.
7. Urge husband to decorate outside.
Didn't need to urge him. He did it on his own. Plus, the next-door neighbor gave us a giant blow-up Santa after watching Don put up our giant blue-up snowmen.

Almost Done:
1. Buy gifts (I buy gifts all year round. About a week before Christmas, I unload the gift closet and I get out my Christmas list. I make little name cards and make a spot around the house for everyone. This is how I find out if I bought too much for one relative or not enough for another relative. My husband shops on Christmas Eve.)
Updated last week: I almost wish this was still on the not done list. See, our neighborhood K-Mart is closing, and I went there last week - twice!. I'm probably down to just four more presents to buy.
Updated this week: I have three left to buy. I'm not doing it. I'm adding the names to my husband's To-Do list. He hasn't even looked at it. He won't know I added to it.

Not Done:
1. Wrap gifts (hubby does paper - he even measures when he cuts! Me, I'm a big believer in decorated bags)
2. Still need to write five pages a day on Fugitive Hearts, due January 15th.
3. Settle back and enjoy the season.
4. Thank God every day for more than twenty-five blessings.

Hey, notice how there are 3 days until Christmas, and I only have 4 things left to do! And two of them, I've really been donig every single day so maybe I should move them to the done list. Now that's a blessing.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas

I sometimes want to shout that from the roof tops. Of course, I would have to actually stand on a roof top and that ain't gonna happen. So I'm shouting it from here:

Robin Caroll sent me this email about Christmas. I was supposed to forward it to others and share a little about myself. But at the time I was in a deadline so I couldn't get to it. Now I have a little breathing room and want to share with you all.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Bags

2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial-my husband has an allergy to pine trees.

3. When do you put up the tree? Thanksgiving weekend

4. When do you take the tree down? Day after New Year’s Day

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes—especially my mother’s homemade eggnog

6. Favorite gift received as a child? My bike—I rode everywhere

7. Hardest person to buy for? My mother-in-law

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Several—one from my childhood

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? None

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Miracle on 34th Street

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Whenever I find something a person I know would like or need

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, I have this fruitcake that has made the rounds--just kidding.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Ham

16. Lights on the tree? All white lights on one tree and multi-colored on another

17. Favorite Christmas song? The Prayer by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay at home—family is all here

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? No, I can’t even remember how many there are.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas day? Christmas morning

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Too commercialized

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Ornament--one the kids made me and from my childhood

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Ham and mashed potatoes (my husband makes great ones)

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Nothing

So what are some of your answers to these questions?

Have a blessed Christmas. Keep safe.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Writing the Short Synopsis

Synopsis writing is one of the most hair-pulling chores novel writers deal with. Whether you are sending a query letter to an agent or editor, or you are submitting a full manuscript, you need a synopsis.

When submitting a query, you'll need a short synopsis, usually about 1-2 pages in length. That's what I'll focus on today. Next week I'll talk about how to write a long synopsis for submitting a full manuscript.

I've made no secret of the fact that my favorite book on writing a synopsis is Pam McCutcheon's Writing the Fiction Synopsis, published by Gryphon Books for Writers. This is a book that is chock full of information and worksheets you can use to write a winning synopsis for your book.

The problem a lot of writers have is that they write their synopsis once the book is finished. I try very hard not to do that. When the book is done, you know so much about your characters, their journey and the little twists and turns that help get them to their happily ever after that it makes it hard to decide what to put into the book and what to leave out. It's very easy to make what should be a quick overview of your story into a mini-novella because you want to tell the reader, i.e. agent or editor, all the wonderful scenes that happen.

When writing the short synopsis, this is a mistake. The only thing the agent or editor needs to know in a short synopsis is who these characters are, what they want, what is standing in their way, what happens that either allows them to get what they want or not get what they want and how the story is resolved to bring a happy ending. It may sound like a tall order and one that can't be done in a 1 to 2 page synopsis, but I assure you, it can be done.

Approach a short synopsis as if you're sitting with a friend and trying to explain what happened in a movie. You don't want to go on for hours. You just want to hit the high points, the things that make the story move forward or in a different direction. There are two different types of scenes to identify. Developmental scenes are those that show the development of characters. They are the "getting to know you" scenes. Turning point scenes are ones where something shifts the story in a different direction, causing action by the hero or heroine. They're the scenes where the dead body is discovered or the heroine is attacked or some other thing that causes action by the main characters. The cute little scenes with a puppy dog or when the hero and heroine go water skiing don't need to be included unless something important happens as a result of the scene to change the story. And even then, the only thing that needs to be mentioned is the turning point.

For instance, if the hero and heroine go water skiing and they're having a great time and suddenly they come across the floating body of the witness who is set to testify in court, proving the heroes innocence, this is important. But the detail that is important to put in the short synopsis is not the water skiing scene. It's the floating body. That's your turning point. Whatever happened during the water skiing scene can be a transitional phrase to bring the important point into focus.

Keep it simple. Hit the high points of your story and you'll be able to write a winning synopsis in 1 - 2 pages.

Until next time, have a wonderful holiday and many blessings to you and yours. Lisa Mondello

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Angela Hunt comes for a Visit

This week, I’m delighted to be joined by Angela Hunt. Her full bio is at the end of this interview, but I’ll summarize by saying she has written over one hundred books and sold millions of copies. Angela’s books have won awards like the Christy and one has been made into a Hallmark Movie. She teaches at many writers conferences and her readers have come to expect the unexpected when they pick up one of her books.

You may wonder why I’m interviewing her when I’m focused on novelists who’ve written legal suspense. Well, next year one of her titles is set in the legal environment. I am delighted to welcome Angela today.

Angela, you're known for telling readers to expect the unexpected. Why step into the legal arena?

Several reasons--first, I've never done a legal book, and the subject fascinates me. Second, I found myself involved in a legal situation, and since I was cramming like mad to learn all about it, I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone. Third, the seminal idea lent itself to a courtroom trial. So I suppose it was the conjunction of all those events.

You're stepping into the legal arena with one of your next books. What was the most challenging part of researching and writing that book? What can you tell us about this book?
I can give you the thumbnail synopsis of LET DARKNESS COME: Briley Lester is worried about her first capital trial—the prosecution has an airtight case and her client has no alibi. She plans on a mitigating defense—one that might get her client’s sentence reduced from first-degree murder to manslaughter—until she stumbles onto evidence that could prove her client’s innocence. In her struggle to achieve true justice, Briley must venture outside her self-protective boundaries to defeat an experienced prosecutor and the forces that are determined to destroy her client at any cost.

As to the most challenging part? Learning courtroom procedure; learning that you can't lead on a direct examination, but you're expected to lead on the cross. I had to learn a condensed version of what a trial lawyer would know, and learn it quickly. Fortunately, I had marvelous help from fantastic friends.

You've written over 100 books that are spread over a wonderful array of topics and issues. How do the ideas for your books come to you? How do you find a fresh angle for each?
Ideas just come--usually through things I read. I'll notice something and let it go, but when I notice it again in another source, that's when I latch onto it. I figure the Lord's bringing it to my attention for a good reason. As to the fresh angle--well, every story is different, but every story also has common characteristics. I usually always feature an intelligent woman in an unusual situation with a unique problem.

If you could write any book you wanted and know it would land on the bestsellers list, what would you write?

Talking dreams here, are we? Well . . . if I could KNOW that it'd be read by tens of thousands, I'd want it to be something that reveals the Father's love.

Take a moment to tell us about one of your current novels. What excites you about this one?
THE FACE is my latest release, and it reveals the Father's love . . . in a metaphorical way. I'm excited about this one because it's high concept and it combines a lot of issues that fascinate me--beauty, faces, the CIA, female relationships, computer science, and psychology. And spying. I love spy stuff.

Last question: If you could go anywhere in the world and take anyone, where would you go and who would you take?
I've really been hankering to go on an African safari, and my husband would never forgive me if I didn't take him. :-)

Well, if he won't join you, feel free to invite me :-). Thanks again, Angela.
------
With over three million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the best-selling author of The Tale of Three Trees (sales of over one million), Don’t Bet Against Me, with Deanna Favre (sales of over 195,000), The Note (sales of over 130,000), and The Nativity Story.
Hunt began her writing career in 1983. After five years of honing her craft and writing for magazines, she published her first book in 1988. Since then, she has written over one hundred books in fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults. In 2007, her nonfiction book Don’t Bet Against Me, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Eight of her novels have won Angel Awards from Excellence in Media. Hunt has also won four medals from ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award (for The Novelist, The Justice, The Canopy, and Unspoken), and a Christy Award for By Dawn’s Early Light. Her novel The Note was filmed as a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2007, and her books The Elevator and Uncharted have also been optioned by production companies. Romantic Times Book Club presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

In 2006, Angela completed her Master of Biblical Studies in Theology degree and in 2008 she completed her doctorate in the same field. To keep in touch with her readers, Angela maintains a vibrant web presence through her website and blog.

She and her husband make their home in Florida with mastiffs. In 2001, one of her dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest dog in America. Web page: www.angelahuntbooks.com

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Reflection


If you’re like me, your holiday schedule is full. Cards to send, presents to wrap, a tree to trim and a home to decorate make this, as the song says, “the busiest time of the year.”

In spite of the hustle and bustle and “to do” lists that never seem to end, let’s take a moment to look back over the past year and reflect on what we’ve learned.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

●Writing inspirational stories about God’s love and mercy is a ministry, yet I am always called to do more. The world is hurting, and I must never fail to help those in need.

●Before I begin a new story, I must have a clear picture of how it will unfold. Like a puzzle, the pieces need to fit. At the onset, the characters and plot twists and red herrings and surprise ending are scattered about helter-skelter. But when placed within the framework of the story, the pieces come together as a whole. Only then am I able to start writing.

●Balance is important. As much as I love to write, I also need time away from the writing to renew my spirit so the work remains a joy instead of a burden.

● Work expands to fill the time available. If I have a lot of time to spend on a project, I’ll use lots of time. When I’m under a short deadline, I manage to complete the task quickly.

●Deadlines keep me focused and on task.

●Pausing to celebrate the completion of one project allows me to anticipate the start of the next.

●Category books can be excellent writing tools. The short word count requires me to focus on the important aspects of the story while discarding any tangents that may slow the pace or detract from the main storyline.

●In order to be compelling, characters must be flawed. Readers identify with handicaps and cheer on a hero or heroine who struggles to overcome seemingly overwhelming obstacles.

●I can’t do everything; therefore, I must use my time wisely.

●Being able to say “no” is an important lesson to learn, sometimes more important than saying, “Yes.”

●Marketing takes time, and as stated above, I can’t do everything. The secret is to start with a few manageable tasks, then add new promotional strategies when time permits.

●Set priorities. God and family come fist. Looking back, I realize my “Call” came at the perfect time, after my children had grown when I could focus full time on my writing.

Think back over what you’ve learned this past year and share a tip or two that might help the rest of us.

As we countdown to Christmas let’s take time from our busyness to prepare our hearts as well as our homes. Only then will we be filled with eager anticipation and overwhelming gratitude for the gift of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Live in the moment. Be grateful. Cherish time spent with friends and family. Pause to talk with God daily. And rejoice because a Savior is born.

Wishing you a joyous Christmas and abundant blessings in the New Year,
Debby Giusti
www.DebbyGiusti.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SEASON OF GLORY INTERVIEW

Today we're welcoming SHARON PICKARD the heroine of SEASON OF GLORY, by RON AND JANET BENREY, DECEMBER, 2008. Wow, you've just had quite an adventure.


1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense.


Sharon speaking. This is truly a case of 'no good deed goes unpunished'. I was helping my good friend, Emma Neilson, owner of The Scottish Captian, host an event called “First Annual Christmas in Carolina Getaway.” The Scottish Captain is a bed and breakfast that Emma runs by herself. I normally like my Christmases to be quiet affairs with no fuss, but when Emma asked for my help, I felt I couldn't say no.


2. So, during the book you met ANDREW BALLANTINE. Tell us a bit about him. What was your first impression? When did you know it was love?

What a way to meet a guy – when he's choking on food I helped to prepare. Hardly a way to win a man's heart is it? Emma had insisted I stay for the meal, even though I was a helper. Again I agreed and that's when I got more acquainted with Andrew. He was in town to help our church replace its broken stained-glass window. I thought he was a football player, he looked so fit.

3. What strengths/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness?

Sharon here. I'm a good organizer. That's my strength. And as a nurse, I think I'm compassionate. As for my greatest weakness, well I can be stubborn.

4. What scares you?

Not much. But I was scared of being arrested, let me tell you. And I don't like to be called a liar, either.

5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

This is something I'm working on. I'm trying to be more flexible. I had to be when I met Andrew.

6. Where are you in your faith at the start of your story?

I'd say it was humming along. I wasn't giving it a whole lot of thought, but then I had to look deeply into my heart and realize what I wanted may not be what God wanted for me.

7. Where are you in your faith at the end of the story?

A more mature Christian.

8. You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.
Oh this is important to me. We all work hard on things we think are important, but in the end, they count for nothing in God's eyes unless the work we do advances his kingdom on earth.

9. If you could be a dessert what would you be and why?

I'd be a Strathbogie Mist, naturally. It's an usual dessert, and a romantic one. It is sweet, yet substantial. Kind of like me.

Thank you Janet and Ron for sharing Sharon with us today. I love Bed and Breakfasts, they're so romantic. Can't wait to read about Sharon's adventure helping her friend with the inn.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ten Days Until Christmas

Ten Days! How did that happen? Okay, here I sit looking at my list of 25 things, then 17 things, and now 10 things, to do until Christmas. By the way, I'm absolutely loving this. I adore lists.




Done this week:
1. Write my Christmas letter (My favorite thing! God has truly blessed me)
It's written, my husband read it. He found two blaring errors (one I called my son a she; the other I had an extra I in there). I fixed them. Left the computer for awhile, came back, and printed 50 copies. Oh, while I went away my computer did updates so automatically turned itself off. I turned it back on. I didn't realize until after I printed 50 of the letters that the mistakes were no longer fixed. I started to just ink out the mistakes and send the letters on their merry way, but the perfectionist in me is insisting I print 50 new one. Oh, and during the update, all my revisions on the second half of chapter one (where I changed a 'she' viewpoint into a 'he' viewpoint)disappeared. (Hmmm, this could be why I referred to my son as a she.
2. Set up the tree (It's fake. I've never had a real one. Think cats.)
Tree is up, lights are on, ornaments are still in the shed.
---Ornaments are out of the shed and onto the tree. It looks great!
3. Make green bean casserole for RWA party (Somebody - think best friend Cathy McDavid - grabbed the chips and dip card before I did!)
Really should have used more than three cans.
4. Buy the book the Polar Express (We're actually going to ride it on the 19th)
Toys-R-Us didn't have it, but BookStar did. Not only that, but the manager took me over to the remainder table and I got the 19.95 book for 9.95, plus it came with a DVD, a casette, and a Xmas tree ornament. I read it to my three-year-old last night, and he listened to every word.
5. Attend church group party (There might be singing around the piano. What fun!)
Attended and have a killer cold. Instead of singing Christmas carols in my alto, I sang them in deep bass. I felt like the kiddie looking in the candy store window. I was there. I so wanted to sing my heart out, but my heart was in the middle of not one, not two, but three coughing spells. I hate being sick.
6. Take Mikey to get picture with Santa Clause (I'll probably do this at Sears.)
Did you know that Santa visits the Bass Pro Shop? I didn't, but my husband did. So, now we have Mikey's picture and there's even a stuffed deer in the background. We got there at 5:00 last night, and the next available time was 7:30. My husband huffed and puffed. We walked around their children's Winter Wonderland (Mikey picked out a truck and boat; husband picked out a new quad; Mommy wished she were at a bookstore) and the head elf came and got us and said someone hadn't showed up. So, we got our picture taken. Then, we went to eat. Then, we went to Walmart. Then, we went to Fry's Grocery store. Then, we went home. Daddy said Mikey needed to behave more; Mommy reminded husband that Mikey is three and that was a lot of errands.

7. Take Mikey to Chaz's birthday party.
A new train park! What a find. And, yes, we had fun.


Done last week:
1. Put the knick-knacks around the house (Memo to self: time to get rid of some)
I'm pretty sure there's a box of Christmas stuff still in the shed, but I don't think I'll mention that to hubby.
2. Clean house (We're having a kiddie party next Saturday for Mikey's Bible Hour class)
We had the kiddie party. It was great. And, boy was my house clean.
3. Call CWOW members who haven't responded to Christmas invite (CWOW stands for Christian Writers of the West. It's the local ACFW group. We're having our first Christmas party and a few members don't comprehend the meaning of RSVP)
I'm putting this in the done column because we had the party. I never did call the members - got busy. But, we had a great party. I made three new writer friends (that's the best Christmas present!). In the picture, you see Leslie, Lori, Kathleen, Sheri, and me!)
4. Make chips and dip for above party.
Not only did I make chips and dip, but I looked at the sign-up, in time, and realized I'd volunteered dessert. So, I stopped at Safeway and got cheesecake. Plus, I had all these vegetables and dip left from the kiddy party and took that, too.
5. Book a hotel near Williams, Arizona, for the 19th (I would have done this already but Don says we have to stay at a hotel where he can earn points. I don't know which hotel to book.)
Booked hotel. According to Triple A book should have been 40 a night. According to reservationist, we'll be paying 70 a night because of the Christmas season. Me, I'm thinking hotel never honors amount they put in Triple A book.
6. Make sure I have babysitters for all adult events.
Now, if they just don't cancel! --- they didn't cancel.
7. Urge husband to decorate outside.
Didn't need to urge him. He did it on his own. Plus, the next-door neighbor gave us a giant blow-up Santa after watching Don put up our giant blue-up snowmen.

Almost Done:
1. Buy gifts (I buy gifts all year round. About a week before Christmas, I unload the gift closet and I get out my Christmas list. I make little name cards and make a spot around the house for everyone. This is how I find out if I bought too much for one relative or not enough for another relative. My husband shops on Christmas Eve.)
I almost wish this was still on the not done list. See, our neighborhood K-Mart is closing, and I went there last week - twice!. I'm probably down to just four more presents to buy.

Not Done:
1. Mail the cards (There's usually more than a 100)
---I need to buy stamps! Hmmm, should I do that this morning or write?
2. Wrap gifts (hubby does paper - he even measures when he cuts! Me, I'm a big believer in decorated bags)
3. Mail gifts (This is no fun. You can't just drop the gifts in a bag and black marker a name. I'm usually running late on this)
4. Critique group party (My amazing critique group - Cathy McDavid, Connie Flynn, and Libby Banks - usually has dinner at an Olive Garden. I found the perfect presents this year. I really must drop those presents in a gift bag soon.)
5. Attend Mikey's pre-school Christmas presentation. --- wouldn't you know I have a 9:30 final and his program is at 11:10 a half hour away. I'm going to start my final, and another teacher's going to sub for me for the last 50 minutes. I can't miss his first Christmas program!
6. Finish grading finals at work, clean office, lock office door.
7. Still need to write five pages a day on Fugitive Hearts, due January 15th.
8. Urge husband to drive two hours to take whole family to the snow.
9. Settle back and enjoy the season.
10. Thank God every day for more than twenty-five blessings.

Hey, notice how there are 10 days until Christmas, and I only have 10 things left to do! Now that's a blessing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

When Night Falls


I am part of the Love Inspired Suspense continuity series for 2009. What Sarah Saw, coming out next month, is the first book in the series. I was asked to write the prequel to that book when my hero and heroine first met in New Orleans a year before the series starts. Below I have posted the first chapter of the novella (really a long short story) and given you a link to download the whole story from Harlequin Steeple Hill. When Night Falls is in PDF format, and when it comes up, I right clicked to download the pages to my computer (on a Mac it says Save Pages As...). The link to the free download for the novella is HERE.
I hope you enjoy it, and if you want to read more about Sam and Jocelyn, get What Sarah Saw in January.

When Night Falls
Chapter One

In the dead of night darkness, closed in on Dr. Jocelyn Gold as she approached her car, parked in the last row in the large lot, full of vehicles but not people.

Glancing up at the security light, she couldn’t remember it being out when she arrived at the apartment building earlier. She’d been meeting with Sam Pierce to consult with him and interview a teen in an FBI case. She should have waited for Sam and left with him, but she’d wanted to get home. Usually place was teeming with people. She checked her watch. One in the morning. That would explain the emptiness. She’d been here longer than she thought. She hurried her pace, clicking her remote to unlock her car.

She reached for her door handle of her yellow Thunderbird. A sweaty hand clamped over her mouth. The taste of salt gagged her as a large body flattened her against her vehicle. The force of the action knocked the breath from her lungs and her purse from her grasp. A knife pressed into her neck while a musky odor assailed her nostrils.

Terror held her immobile. Her breath trapped in her lungs, she tried to recall her self-defense training. Her mind blanked.

The man leaned into her, the scent of beer chasing away all other smells. “You should have left my daughter alone.”

The gruff, muffled sound of his deep voice pierced the thundering of her heartbeat in her ears. Daughter? Who?

Her assailant shoved her head into the soft top of her convertible, his hand no longer over her lips, the sharp weapon no longer at her throat. But before she could scream, he stuffed an oily rag into her mouth. With her body still trapped between her car and him, he tied a gag on her. When he lifted the knife, even in the darkness she could see its glinting steel. She squeezed her eyes closed, anticipating the bite of the knife.

Seconds passed.

The hammering of her heartbeat in her ears proclaimed she was still alive. She stared at the black shroud of night, the apartment building a hundred yards away. He shifted, bearing his full weight on her body.

Then it came--the steel blade sliding across her flesh, nicking her. The sweat running down her neck stung the cut. A cold, clammy feeling washed over her.

“I’m gonna enjoy slicing you up. But not here.” He used the tip of the knife to toy with the shell of her ear.

The threat shoved her survival instincts to the foreground. Snippets of her training finally leaked into her thoughts. She ground her foot into his, and the instant his hold lessened, she jabbed her elbow back into his soft stomach. A whoosh of air blasted from his lips.

The hulking man struggled to breathe. His grip loosened even more. Jocelyn went limp, totally slipping from him. Wrenching away, she swung her arm against his wrist, and the knife flew from his grasp. The clanking noise reverberated in the quiet. She kicked his shin, then whirled and ran toward the building.

The sound of his pounding footsteps filled her ears. Her own breathing shallow and ragged, Jocelyn knew the distance between them was shrinking, but she dared not look back.

Eighty yards.

I can make it. She tore at the gag over her mouth.

Sixty. She spat out the rag. She felt a catch in her side.

A hand grabbed her jacket. She shrugged out of the garment and kept going.

Forty more yards and safety.

But the thud of his footsteps sounded right behind her. She screamed.

He slammed into her, and she crashed to the asphalt, all the air rushing from her. Pain shot up from her knees and palms. A heavy weight pressed her into the cement, constricting the rise and fall of her chest. The grit of the pavement dug into her cheek. Her lungs burned with the effort to draw oxygen into them.

Suddenly the pressure on her back eased. She started to scramble away when he yanked her arm up, hauling her to her feet, facing him. Over six feet tall, he towered in front of her. Through the slits in the black ski mask she felt his gaze boring through her although it was too dark really to tell.

“I’ll make you pay for destroying my family.”

His mumbled threat, a menacing whisper, hung between them. They were only mere inches apart. Squeezing her arm so tight that her fingers were going numb, he yanked her closer until her length mashed into his. Again the smell of beer accosted her. Bile rose into her throat. With one hand fisted in her hair and the other digging into her arm, he began dragging her toward some bushes off to the side. She fought to block the pain and focus on getting away.

She screamed. Her voice barely worked. Swallowing hard, she started to shout again. He locked his arm across her front and braced his fleshy palm against her mouth.

“Stop! FBI.”

Her attacker jerked around, taking her with him. He knocked her to the ground, then fled.

“Jocelyn, you all right?”

She blinked and looked up. Sam Pierce hovered over her, his gun drawn.

“Yeah,” she answered in a raw whisper while the blackness around her threatened to swallow her.

He thrust his cell into her hand. “Call the police. I’m going after him.” Sam raced after the man who had a good minute head start.

* * *

The pounding of his feet ate up the distance. A picture of Jocelyn with her long, blond hair clutched in her assailant’s hand and her blue eyes full of fear and pain spurred him even faster.

He glimpsed the large perpetrator dash into a dark alley. Sam followed. Thoughts of hearing Jocelyn’s scream propelled him into a situation he knew was dangerous. When he got his hands on the man, he would regret messing with Jocelyn. Rage fed Sam until he realized he’d lost sight of the attacker.

Slowing his pace, Sam searched the shadows. He had to stay focused on his target, not on his anger. He saw a movement up ahead and increased his speed. His grip on his weapon tightened, all his instincts sharpened. The only illumination came from the buildings lining the sides of one back alley after another.

When he reached a dead end, a chain link eight-foot fence towered before him. Scaling it, he leaped to the ground and scanned the inky curtain surrounding the abandoned warehouse. He dug into his suit pocket and retrieved his penlight, then made a sweep of the area.

A crashing noise jerked him around to the left.

* * *

Jocelyn picked herself up from the pavement. Her legs wobbled. She stumbled and nearly went down. The trembling started in her hands and quickly spread throughout her. She hugged her arms across her chest and trudged toward the apartment building.

At the double glass doors that led inside, she pulled on one and nearly cried out when it didn’t budge. Yanking on the other produced more frustration. The locked lobby afforded no safety for her. She raised her hands to hammer her fists against the glass when she saw Sam’s cell. Quickly she made a call to the police, then wilted to the pavement before the doors, hoping they arrived soon.

Finally Jocelyn looked down at herself and gasped. Through her torn black pants she could see her bloodied knees. Turning her hands over, she examined her scraped and bleeding palms. She brought her finger up to her neck and felt the sticky wet of her own blood.

What if something happened to Sam because of her? That question renewed all her panic and fear. With everything else going on in her life, how would she forgive herself if it did?

* * *

A white cat darted in front of Sam, and for a few seconds he relaxed his tense body, drawing in a calming breath.

Then he continued his search of the tall weeds and trash littered yard encircling the warehouse. Nothing but a black wall greeted his inspection.

Suddenly he realized where he was. The assailant had doubled back around. The apartment parking lot was nearby. Visions of Jocelyn at knifepoint flashed through his mind.

Sam set out in a jog, skirting the abandoned structure. Lord, protect her.

He rounded a corner when something hard whacked him across the chest. He stumbled and fell to his knees. The grip about his weapon momentarily went slack.

Sucking in gasping breaths, he lifted his head at the same time he strengthened his hold on his gun. A two-by-four came at him, catching him on the side of the head. He collapsed forward. The sight of white tennis shoes was the last thing he saw before darkness rushed in.

* * *

Jocelyn hugged Sam’s cell phone as though that would protect her from her attacker if he reappeared. She continually scanned the parking lot, so tense that her muscles ached.

A movement in the shadows at the edge of a pool of light from the nearest security lamp caught her attention. A figure emerged. She struggled to her feet, praying it was Sam coming back.

In the distance a siren broke the stillness of the night.

The unknown person froze, stared down the street then spun about and ran.

Jocelyn slid down the glass as patrol cars came to a shrieking halt. Two police officers raced toward her. One placed a call while the other homed in on her.

“Jocelyn, I heard the dispatcher and came as quick as I could.”

Relief washed over her. She knew her. Terri Morgan. She quickly explained what happened, finishing with the fact Sam was still gone. Her mounting fear crept into her voice as the other officer joined Terri.

“I called for an ambulance,” the newcomer said.

“Why?” Jocelyn asked, trying to stand, needing to go look for Sam.

“Jocelyn, stay right there until the paramedics can check you out.” Terri placed a hand on her shoulder.

“No! Something’s wrong. I can feel it.” Her voice rose.

“You’re hurt, Jocelyn.”

The patience in her friend’s voice did nothing to alleviate her dread. “I’m okay. Find Sam.”

She took a step forward and sank to the pavement, Terri’s arm about her in support. Her body throbbed in pain.

More sirens disturbed the night.

An ambulance slammed to a stop in front of the building. One paramedic jumped out and hurried toward her while another opened the back of the vehicle.

She shook off Terri’s assistance and shoved to her feet, determined to remain upright. “You don’t understand. I’m not going anywhere until I see Sam. Make sure he’s all right.”

The other policeman murmured something in her friend’s ear, then made a call for backup. Panic surged through her.

Where was Sam?

A paramedic wheeled a gurney to her. A protest welled up inside her, but before she could utter it, a figure staggered out of a dark alley across the street and pitched forward.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting Scared While You Write...

I believe that each writer has their own way of tapping into their creative mind. For some people, words flow freely when they sit down to write and they can put their characters, and themselves, through the twists and turns of their story to the happily ever after with ease.

I love those times, although I must admit that they don't always come when I want them to. What I've found though, is that all too often it's easy to settle back and allow myself to just get comfortable. I could be writing, aimlessly wandering through a scene and the scene might be good. But is it great? Can it be better?

Nine out of tens times when a scene doesn't excite me, it's because I'm resting too much on my comfort zone. As as I write my stories I'm getting to know my characters. I'm getting to like them and even love them. So it's hard to be nasty to them and make them work for their happy ending. It's hard to allow bad things to happen to them. But as writers we have to. We have to allow our characters to get scared, to feel, to suffer and in turn WE have to get scared while we're writing. If we don't, the words will just be "okay".

Now, as a writer, if "okay" is all you're striving for, that's fine. For me, I want my readers to come back to me and tell me they couldn't put the book down. I want them to be as involved in the story as my characters. I want them to get scared, to feel, to suffer along with the hero and heroine. That turns an okay story into a great story.

For me to achieve that, I need to get scared too. Sometime that involves me taking my characters down a path that is foreign to me. When I wrote The More I See, a story about a blind Cutting Horse Trainer, I had to feel what it was like to suddenly lose something precious. It wasn't just the heroes eyesight that he was mourning, but the job that he loved that he thought he could no longer do. I couldn't put myself in his shoes, but I could dig as deep as I could and explore what would affect me just as profoundly. How would that make me feel?

Sometimes getting scared means feeling your character's pain. Sometimes it means digging deep into yourself to feel your own pain and then transferring that pain onto the page. I imagine it is much like an actor who is rehearsing for a difficult scene. Emotion needs to come from somewhere. To make a good story great, a writer needs to dig deep and allow him or herself to get scared.

Until next time, many blessings, Lisa Mondello

Thursday, December 11, 2008

James Scott Bell Comes to Visit

I’m delighted to have James Scott Bell join me today. Currently, he writes legal suspense for Zondervan and Center Street. He’s also a great guy who loves to share what he’s learned about writing through his craft books and teaching at writing conferences. He also doesn’t mind giving career advice to a novice like moi.

So when I thought about interviewing some of my favorite suspense authors, he was at the top of the list. Fortunately, he was gracious enough to volunteer before I could beg him to visit. So here we go…

You're known for writing legal suspense. This latest series dives into the ABA waters. What prompted that?

Circumstances just sort of presented the opportunity. Besides, I've been thinking for years that there's been a turn toward too much darkness in general market suspense, and I think the readers are looking for alternatives. That's what I'm providing. I wanted to write a suspense novel that could have been published in 1947. That's my favorite era for movies, by the way. Film noir. Suspenseful without being offensive. In a way, that's what I've always written.

The scenes are short -- often very short -- in Try Darkness. Was that a conscious decision or did it simply flow better that way?

I wanted to create a bit of a movie feel, where you can cut here and there without being constrained by certain lengths. It's a style I've developed over the years. Readers today are much more cinematic in expectation, and this style fits that.

You've written close to twenty books. How do you find a fresh angle for each?

The secret is the characters. That's where writers should look for their originality. One way some secular fiction has gone off the rails is trying to be original by being ever more violent or sexual or descriptive of evil. So how far do you push those envelopes? It's not even necessary. More fascinating is the inner life of a character, and here the possibilities are limitless. So I want to present situations that are every bit as suspenseful as the best in the genre, yet also show how it affects a deep, dynamic character.

For example, there is more tension in "Double Indemnity" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (the Lana Turner - John Garfield version, NOT the Jessica Lange - Jack Nicholson version!) without being explicit than in any ten "show everything" movies you could randomly name today.

Why do you think people are so fascinated with all things legal? And what keeps you writing them?

There's natural drama in the law, in conflict. Especially in the courtroom. It's the modern form of jousting--which, by the way, is where the whole trial system came from. I keep writing them because it's what I know, and there are fresh plots all over the place. For example, in Try Darkness I wrote about an illegal practice I found out about called "the twenty-eight day shuffle." That just sounded interesting. I researched it and it became the basis of the plot.

If you could write any book you wanted and know it would land on the bestsellers list, what would you write?

I think I'd write something in the Speculative Fiction genre. Maybe time traveling aliens who snatch someone they think represents the whole earth, like Oprah. Zany hijinx ensue. I love the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so it would probably be along those lines. But then I'd go right back to my suspense fiction, which I also love.

As an attorney, I know I sometimes find myself analyzing legal thrillers for accuracy. What's your pet peeve legal mistake in novels?

When the writer doesn't know the rules of evidence, and all sorts of improper questions get asked in a trial--or, worse, a lawyer asks dumb questions a good trial lawyer never would. Like, on cross-examination, asking the witness, "Why did you do that, Ms. Smith?" On TV, the witness breaks down. In real life, such a question leaves the witness a wide swath to explain away the damaging admission you're looking for. You almost NEVER ask an open ended question on cross.

A trial lawyer needs to have these rules and tactics as part of his bone and sinew, and it takes years to develop. Of course, this is from a specialist. The readers don't know the rules, so most of this stuff probably slides by.

Ty Buchanan is an agnostic living in an abbey with a priest and a sister. How did they step into your imagination?

I wanted Buchanan to be a work in progress, like most people are.

Events in the first book force him to think more deeply about big questions. I came up with Father Bob, an African American priest, and Sister Mary, a basketball playing nun, to present him with ideas he's unfamiliar with. I also came up with, on the other side, "Pick" McNitt, a former college philosophy professor who went crazy, and now runs a coffee house. He's an atheist, but friends with Father Bob. Ty is in the middle, and keeps hearing things that make him think. But mostly, Ty is going after the bad guys, as well he should.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Jim. Can’t wait to read that next novel!

Here’s more info on Jim:

JAMES SCOTT BELL is the bestselling author of Try Dying, Try Darkness, No Legal Grounds, Presumed Guilty, Glimpses of Paradise, Breach of Promise and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence (Suspense category), and has also been a finalist for the award in the Historical category. He has served as the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and has written two bestselling craft books in the Writers Digest series Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing.

Jim has taught writing at Pepperdine University and numerous writers conferences. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied writing with Raymond Carver. A former trial lawyer, he now writes and speaks full time. He lives in L.A. with his wife, Cindy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Week 26: Let’s Breakout Again


As many of you recall, earlier in the year, we spent time working our way through the first twenty-five sections of Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK. Let’s pick up where we left off and look at lesson 26, Moments in Time.

Maass uses one of my all-time favorite humorous reads, JULIE AND ROMEO, by Jeanne Ray, as an example. It’s a modern day slant on Shakespeare’s classic but with two feuding florist families and a sixty-something hero and heroine who fall in love behind their warring children’s backs. If you’re looking for a heart-warming and tickle-your-funny-bone read this holiday season, ask Santa to place it under your tree.

Pulling an excerpt from Ray’s book, Maass illustrates the importance of incorporating what he calls Moments in Time into our stories. He explains when writers allow their protagonists to capture the feel, the flavor, the special “something” that spotlights and clarifies a particular moment in the story, be it a kiss, a flash of time in history, a pause in war before the storm of the next battle, the reader is pulled more deeply into the story. In Maass’s words, the writer “heightens the reality of the tale” and “aids in the reader’s suspension of disbelief.”

The writing guru encourages us to pick six places within our manuscripts to “freeze” the moment through the keen awareness of our lead character's point of view. When our protagonist takes a closer look at his/her surrounding world, our readers do as well.

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti
www.DebbyGiusti.com
www.seekerville.blogspot.com

PS: In this hectic holiday time, may we find peace, joy and love as we prepare for the birth of the Christ Child.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

DEADLY HOMECOMING INTERVIEW

Today, we’re welcoming Peta Donald, the heroine of Deadly Homecoming by Barbara Phinney a December 2008 release. Wow, you’ve had quite an adventure!

1.Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense.

I really didn’t want to be in the middle of this story. In fact, I didn’t want to come home at all. But my old friend, Danny, wanted me to come home and I thought it was God’s way of offering me a chance to minister to him. But as soon as I got there, I found him dead, and myself accused of the murder. And everyone on the island remembered the way I was, and assumed I’d kill my friend.

2.So, during the book you met Lawson Mills. Tell us about him. What was your first impression? When did you know it was love?

I thought that Lawson Mills was just too mysterious. He seemed to be a little too kind to me. But then, he seemed to be interested in something else, especially about Danny. But I think I knew I was in love with him only toward the end of the story. I watched him face his greatest fear and I knew I couldn’t let him do it alone, so I had to set aside my own fears. It wasn’t hard but I love Lawson, and needed to do it.

3.What strength/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness?

Let me tell you my weakness first. I knew it even before Danny called me. I didn’t want to face my hometown, and was ashamed of what I’d done years ago. It ended up weakening me. And yet, my strength was my faith. I knew that I’d been forgiven by the Lord. It just took me a while to figure it out. I also have to add that because I was in trouble with the law so much, I’d developed a tough skin when dealing with police matters.

4.What scares you?

I’m most terrified that my antics from years ago would hurt a person.

5.If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Oh, that’s easy. My past. Some people say they wouldn’t change a thing, but honestly, my youth was bad! I’d be crazy not to want that.

6.Where was your faith at the start of your story?

I think my faith was strong, just a bit confused. I couldn’t forgive myself and I didn’t realize that God could, so I should.

7.Where was your faith at the end of the story?

I was so much more comfortable with myself. I wish I hadn’t done all the bad things I did, but was able to accept them all now, because my faith is clear and I understand Grace better.

8.You’ve got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant?

“Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse.” The Apostle Paul knew that people like me would struggle with people who accuse a person based on their pasts. The islanders did that. They assumed the worst about me and let me know. That scripture reminds me that I shouldn’t get back.

9.If you could be a dessert what would you be and why?

I haven’t thought of dessert for so long, I can’t remember when. I think it would be fruit salad, with cream. Something with tropical fruit in it. Papaya and guava. I used to buy them occasionally in Toronto.

Thank you, Barbara for sharing Peta with us. This sounds like an exciting Holiday read. Can't wait!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Seventeen Days until Christmas

Last Monday I made my list of 25 things to do until Christmas. At that time there were 25 days until Christmas. Now, there's only 17! So, I have to look at my list.


Done:
1. Put the knick-knacks around the house (Memo to self: time to get rid of some)
I'm pretty sure there's a box of Christmas stuff still in the shed, but I don't think I'll mention that to hubby.
2. Clean house (We're having a kiddie party next Saturday for Mikey's Bible Hour class)
We had the kiddie party. It was great. And, boy was my house clean.
3. Call CWOW members who haven't responded to Christmas invite (CWOW stands for Christian Writers of the West. It's the local ACFW group. We're having our first Christmas party and a few members don't comprehend the meaning of RSVP)
I'm putting this in the done column because we had the party. I never did call the members - got busy. But, we had a great party. I made three new writer friends (that's the best Christmas present!). In the picture, you see Leslie, Lori, Kathleen, Sheri, and me!)
4. Make chips and dip for above party.
Not only did I make chips and dip, but I looked at the sign-up, in time, and realized I'd volunteered dessert. So, I stopped at Safeway and got cheesecake. Plus, I had all these vegetables and dip left from the kiddy party and took that, too.
5. Book a hotel near Williams, Arizona, for the 19th (I would have done this already but Don says we have to stay at a hotel where he can earn points. I don't know which hotel to book.)
Booked hotel. According to Triple A book should have been 40 a night. According to reservationist, we'll be paying 70 a night because of the Christmas season. Me, I'm thinking hotel never honors amount they put in Triple A book.
6. Make sure I have babysitters for all adult events.
Now, if they just don't cancel!
7. Urge husband to decorate outside.
Didn't need to urge him. He did it on his own. Plus, the next-door neighbor gave us a giant blow-up Santa after watching Don put up our giant blue-up snowmen.

Almost Done:
1. Set up the tree (It's fake. I've never had a real one. Think cats.)
Tree is up, lights are on, ornaments are still in the shed.
2. Buy gifts (I buy gifts all year round. About a week before Christmas, I unload the gift closet and I get out my Christmas list. I make little name cards and make a spot around the house for everyone. This is how I find out if I bought too much for one relative or not enough for another relative. My husband shops on Christmas Eve.)
I almost wish this was still on the not done list. See, our neighborhood K-Mart is closing, and I went there last week - twice!. I'm probably down to just four more presents to buy.

Not Done:
1. Write my Christmas letter (My favorite thing! God has truly blessed me)
2. Mail the cards (There's usually more than a 100)
3. Wrap gifts (hubby does paper - he even measures when he cuts! Me, I'm a big believer in decorated bags)
4. Mail gifts (This is no fun. You can't just drop the gifts in a bag and black marker a name. I'm usually running late on this)
5. Make green bean casserole for RWA party (Somebody - think best friend Cathy McDavid - grabbed the chips and dip card before I did!)
6. Buy the book the Polar Express (We're actually going to ride it on the 19th)
7. Attend church group party (There might be singing around the piano. What fun!)
8. Critique group party (My amazing critique group - Cathy McDavid, Connie Flynn, and Libby Banks - usually has dinner at an Olive Garden. I found the perfect presents this year. I really must drop those presents in a gift bag soon.)
9. Attend Mikey's pre-school Christmas presentation.
10. Take Mikey to get picture with Santa Clause (I'll probably do this at Sears.)
11. Finish grading finals at work, clean office, lock office door.
12. Still need to write five pages a day on Fugitive Hearts, due January 15th.
13. Urge husband to drive two hours to take whole family to the snow.
14. Take Mikey to Chaz's birthday party.
15. Settle back and enjoy the season.
16. Thank God every day for more than twenty-five blessings.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas is coming fast!

Posted by: Terri Reed
Currently working on: My December 2009 release titled (for now) Chasing Shadows
Mood: fair, I have a sore throat compliments of my son who had a sore throat earlier in the week.

By now you should have your travel plans made and confirmed for the Holiday. We were going to head to Seattle but alas, I'll be having surgery on the 23rd with atleast one overnight stay possibly two.
So because I have to be completely ready for Christmas by the 22nd, I've started making lists. Lists of presents bought and yet to be bought, lists of food items for the big day as well as the weeks (yes, weeks) after and lists of who to call when I'm out of surgery (or atleast for my husband to call).
Thankfully, though I do alot of my gift shopping throughout the year as I find something that I think would be liked and appreciated. My kids are the hardest to find things for. They're at the ages where everything they want is very expensive or they just want gift cards so they can pick out their own items. Not much fun in that. But I have a few ideas up my sleeve. If I can find them. My huband's also difficult to buy for except this year the kids and I found the perfect thing.
So really I'm feeling pretty prepared but I know the time will go by fast and I will need to power through as much of this current book as possible before the 23rd. But thankfully the book isn't due until March.
Lists are good things. They keep me focused and on track when I can so easily be distracted by, say a sale rack and oh, if I see a clearance rack, I'm done for.
Anyone else make lists and find them helpful?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I'm finished!

I have finished my rough draft of my book! Yay! I want to get it in the mail by Dec. 15th and I should. After that I have a proposal for the new Love Inspired continuity for 2010. My book, Cowboy Protector, will be the third one in the series. What will be interesting about this series is it concerns the Witness Protection Program. I can't imagine having to walk away from my life and leave my friends and family who can't come with you behind.

If you had to start your life over, what would you do? What occupation would you do? I understand you shouldn't do the same thing you did in your old life. Since I'm doing what I love to do, that would be a tough dilemma for me. Maybe I would be a librarian since I love books. I guess that would be different than a writer (retired teacher).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Reaching out to old friends...

Recently I was going through a box of my "keeper" books and came across some books from an old friend I'd met online way back in 1996 or so on what used to be known as the AOL Series Romance Message Board. That board has now closed, but many of the people who were part of that group up and moved to their own email loop we now affectionately call the Series Mafia Loop.

I picked up this book by Anne Eames, an author who used to write for Silhouette Desires, and I wondered what had happened to her. Was she still writing? Was she still a part of Romance Writers of America? I decided to Google her name and found a blog post that talked about how Anne and her husband, Bill, had heard a calling to help the people of South Africa after visiting the area. They took their life savings, packed their bags and moved to South Africa where they work with the poor and people afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

I was struck by how wonderful it was for them to hear their calling to let God work through their hands. I questioned whether I should contact Anne through her website. It had been nearly 10 years since we'd connected. Would she remember me? We'd never met face to face, only interacted through email. I took the next step and decided that reaching out to an old friend was the way to go. I'm so glad I did.

I'd like to dedicate this blog to the project Anne runs with her husband, Bill. The work they do in South Africa is much needed and goes a long way toward making life a little easier for those who are sick and don't have much. It reminds me of how truly blessed I am here in the United States.

Please visit the African Hope Crafts project at http://www.africanhopecrafts.org/. I've discovered some beautiful crafts that I'm looking into purchasing as Christmas presents. Maybe you will too. And it will go a long way toward helping a wonderful cause.

On another note, our very own CRAFTIE LADY, Pamela Tracy, is blogging over at the CRAFTIE LADIES OF ROMANCE blog today at http://www.craftieladiesofromance.blogspot.com/. Please go on over and visit the CRAFTIE LADIES OF ROMANCE website and introduce yourself to some new authors.

Many blessings, Lisa Mondello

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dark Pursuit Review

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a fan of Brandilyn Collin's books. I discovered her with the Hidden Faces series, wrote a character on the first year of the character blog for Kanner Lake, and just read Dark Pursuits last week. I LOVED it. The premise: what if suspense writer Darell Brooke has lost the ability to write due to an accident. But now, he has to do something because his granddaughter is targeted. Darell had kicked Kaitlan out of his home years earlier, but now she's come to him for help. Can he give it and can he give it in time?

The pacing in this book is intense. It races from page one to the last with a timeframe of about 24 hours. Personally, I love that kind of pacing in the suspense I read. I don't want time to breathe as a reader, and the characters certainly shouldn't have any.

There were times I was convinced Darell would pull it off and other times I knew he'd get everybody killed. The characters did unexpected things that kept me guessing. In a twist, this book sets out from almost the first page with the bad guy revealed, which in many ways intensifies the suspense.

Pride laces the plot together. The pride Darell used to have in his life when he was adored as the King of Suspense. The self-hate that arises from the death of that adulation. Pride twists and turns the motives and actions of the characters. And it's handled with Brandilyn's light touch.
Get this book if you love suspense. You won't regret it!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Brandilyn Collins is known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. She is currently working on her 20th book. For chances to win free copies of her work, join her Fan Club on Facebook. Here’s what Brandilyn has to say about why she wrote Dark Pursuit:

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost Satan’s followers, kicked out of heaven, boast about storming the gates and reclaiming their territory. Beelzebub scoffs at their boasting as merely “hatching vain empires” and suggests a different revengeful scheme: seduce mankind away from God. So Satan visits the Garden of Eden to teach humans the very thing he and his cohorts have learned to be futile—the dark pursuit of hatching their own vain empires instead of following God. He presented man with this “gift” of death, disguised as life. And man fell for it.

Upon this theme of man’s fall and spiritual blindness, I created the characters and events in Dark P
ursuit. The story clips along at a fast pace, with much symbolism running underneath.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Dark Pursuit—A twisting story of murder, betrayal, and eternal choices

Novelist Darell Brooke lived for his title as King of Suspense—until an auto accident left him unable to concentrate. Two years later, reclusive and bitter, he wants one thing: to plot a new novel and regain his reputation.

Kaitlan Sering, his twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, once lived for drugs. After she stole from Darell, he cut her off. Now she’s rebuilding her life. But in Kaitlan’s town two women have been murdered, and she’s about to discover a third. She’s even more shocked to realize the culprit—her boyfriend, Craig, the police chief’s son.

Desperate, Kaitlan flees to her estranged grandfather. For over forty years, Darell Brooke has lived suspense. Surely he’ll devise a plan to trap the cunning Craig.

But can Darell’s muddled mind do it? And—if he tries—with what motivation? For Kaitlan’s plight may be the stunning answer to the elusive plot he seeks...

Read the first chapter of Dark Pursuit, HERE.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Good News!!!


Steeple Hill asked me to take part in a Love Inspired Suspense continuity series for 2010. I’m writing book 2, which will come out in FEB. Of course, I’m thrilled and honored to work with the other authors.

My dear mentors and wonderful friends Margaret Daley and Lenora Worth are part of the group. (The above photo of me with Lenora (L) and Margaret (R) was taken shortly after I made my first sale. Margaret and Lenora held my hands through those first months on the job, and they’re still the gals I turn to when I have a question or need advice.)

Marta Perry, Shirlee McCoy and Barbara Phinney are in the continuity lineup as well. Who could ask for a better and more talented group of authors?

I’ll share more details when the stories are firmed up and the editors give us the go-ahead to start promoting the series.

More good news! Margaret and I will have a two-in-one book that will come out in DEC 2009. The stories will both be Love Inspired Suspense reads sure to put a chill in your Christmas eggnog! Again, more details will follow.

As you can imagine, I'm filled with gratitude and giving thanks for all God's blessings!

Happy writing! Happy reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti
www.DebbyGiusti.com
www.Seekerville.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

DOUBLE THREAT CHRISTMAS INTERVIEW

Today we're welcoming MEGAN MCCLAIN from DOUBLE THREAT CHRISTMAS, released December 2008 by TERRI REED. Wow, you've just had quite an adventure.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense.

I grew up smothered by love and affection from my three brothers, my mother and the majority of the Boston Police Department. My fahter was a BPD officer killed in the line of duty when I was a child. The trauma from his death affected all of us in different ways. I’m slowly learning to cope with how it affected me but it’s been a long struggle.
So when I found two dead men in the gallery one snowy night, I thought for sure I wouldn’t have the strength to cope any longer.

2. So, during the book you met PAUL WALLACE. Tell us a bit about him. What was your first impression? When did you know it was love?

Paul was the homicide detective assigned to investigate the double murders in the gallery. Tall, blond and handsome. Certainly every girls dream, at least he made my heart flutter, but when he looked at me with suspicion in his eyes, I knew he thought I was capable of the crime. As hard as I knew it would be I wanted to prove my innocence to him. Though why I cared what he thought was a mystery until I thought I was going to die and then I realized that I loved him. Knowing I wouldn’t get a chance to tell him how I felt was nearly as horrific as facing death.

3. What strengths/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness?
Well, I’m observant and orderly to the point of obsession. Sometimes my need for control pushes people away.

4. What scares you?
People finding out my secret. If people knew the real me, they wouldn’t want to be around me.

5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d be braver. Though Paul tells me all the time I’m brave, but I don’t feel brave.

6. Where are you in your faith at the start of your story?

I believe but question God and His love for me.

7. Where are you in your faith at the end of the story?

Through Paul I’ve come to understand that God made me the way I am and of course He loves me. Knowing that has given me a peace I didn’t realize I lacked.

8. You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.

Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadows. James 1:17

This verse is such a good reminder that everything good in life comes from God and He is faithful and trustworthy.

9. If you could be a dessert what would you be and why?

Oh, my. Anything chocolate. But if I had to choose, I’d say Mississippi Mud Pie because it’s layered with chocolate brownie and marshmallow and more creamy chocolate on top. Gooey and yummy.

DOUBLE THREAT CHRISTMAS IS ON SALE NOW IN A STORE NEAR YOU
OR YOU CAN ORDER ONLINE AT www.eharlequin.com click on the Steeple Hill tab then click on Love Inspired Suspense

Monday, December 1, 2008

Twenty-Five Days Until Christmas: Twenty-five Things to Do!


You know, I'm really happy about how the cards landed. I mean, I get to post on December first. I love Christmas! Yesterday was busy, busy, busy. My husband, a plumber, worked over the Thanksgiving holiday. Go figure, holidays are a busy time for plumbers because businesses shut down, employees have the long weekend, and what better time to turn off the water. This left me alone with my three year old. I didn't get a good start on Christmas, but I did get a pinkie-hold.
I figure I have at least twenty-five more things to do!

1. Set up the tree (It's fake. I've never had a real one. Think cats.)
2. Put the knick-knacks around the house (Memo to self: time to get rid of some)
3. Write my Christmas letter (My favorite thing! God has truly blessed me)
4. Mail the cards (There's usually more than a 100)
5. Buy gifts (I buy gifts all year round. About a week before Christmas, I unload the gift closet and I get out my Christmas list. I make little name cards and make a spot around the house for everyone. This is how I find out if I bought too much for one relative or not enough for another relative. My husband shops on Christmas Eve.)
6. Wrap gifts (hubby does paper - he even measures when he cuts! Me, I'm a big believer in decorated bags)
7. Mail gifts (This is no fun. You can't just drop the gifts in a bag and black marker a name. I'm usually running late on this)
8. Clean house (We're having a kiddie party next Saturday for Mikey's Bible Hour class)
9. Call CWOW members who haven't responded to Christmas invite (CWOW stands for Christian Writers of the West. It's the local ACFW group. We're having our first Christmas party and a few members don't comprehend the meaning of RSVP)
10. Make chips and dip for above party.
11. Make green bean casserole for RWA party (Somebody - think best friend Cathy McDavid - grabbed the chips and dip card before I did!)
12. Buy the book the Polar Express (We're actually going to ride it on the 19th)
13. Book a hotel near Williams, Arizona, for the 19th (I would have done this already but Don says we have to stay at a hotel where he can earn points. I don't know which hotel to book.)
14. Attend church group party (There might be singing around the piano. What fun!)
15. Critique group party (My amazing critique group - Cathy McDavid, Connie Flynn, and Libby Banks - usually has dinner at an Olive Garden. I found the perfect presents this year. I really must drop those presents in a gift bag soon.)
16. Attend Mikey's pre-school Christmas presentation.
17. Make sure I have babysitters for all adult events.
18. Take Mikey to get picture with Santa Clause (I'll probably do this at Sears.)
19. Finish grading finals at work, clean office, lock office door.
20. Still need to write five pages a day on Fugitive Hearts, due January 15th.21. Urge husband to decorate outside.
22. Urge husband to drive two hours to take whole family to the snow.
23. Take Mikey to Chaz's birthday party.
24. Settle back and enjoy the season.
25. Thank God every day for more than twenty-five blessings.