Friday, July 31, 2009

Night of Fury - birth of a suspense author - Carol Steward

Today is an anniversary that I'll never forget. Thirty-three years ago today, my parents took my little sister and I on our first camping trip. I was 15 years old. It had been one of the best summers ever – the nation's bi-centennial, and August 1 was Colorado's Centennial. We met up with friends from Wyoming on Friday afternoon, and settled on a place to camp, outside another friend's cabin in Rist Canyon – a decision that saved our lives.

Saturday, we hiked to the peak and watched storm clouds roll in. I attended church camp in the Estes Park area every summer, and afternoon showers were normal so I wasn't concerned. We got back to camp and started cooking supper over the campfire, but the rain put the fire out. When they left, the friends who owned the cabin had left us with the keys in case we needed to get inside for anything. We finished supper and went out to our pickup-camper to call it a night. There was a small creek about 10 feet from our camper, and I recalled my dad checking it often, but he never said anything to alarm us girls. I loved the sound of rain on the roof, but this was more intense than I'd heard before. Even after we went to bed, I remember dad going back outside, but I thought he was going out to smoke a cigarette. We were used to thunder and lightning, so even that wasn't enough to keep us awake. But at one point, everyone in the camper awakened. We weren't sure why. My dad, again, went outside with the flashlight, and said the creek was slightly fuller, but we were fine. My mother didn't seem concerned, and served brownies and a glass of milk and went back to sleep. At least my little sister and I did.

The next morning, the parents all decided we'd best get an early start, "to beat the tourists down the canyon." Mom, Dad, and my little sister rode in the pickup, and I rode with our friends from Wyoming for one last visit. As we drove down the canyon, we saw more and more people sitting along the banks on the other side of the river. Bridges were washed-away, and traffic was heavy for a Sunday morning. My friend's dad turned on the radio, but it was almost half an hour before we could get a station to come in. And when it did, we found out how blessed we had been to have chosen the campsite we had. A mere mountain top stood between us and The Big Thompson flood, a once-in-a-lifetime flood which literally washed the canyon, and 145 lives away. (Now 144, as I just learned one of those listed as dead, was found alive in Oklahoma in 2008.)

We realized then why we'd woken during the middle of the night, it was the rumble of house-size boulders crashing down the other side of the mountain. I found out just a few years ago that one of my coworkers was one of the victims stranded on the mountain that deadly night. I'm amazed that even before we knew one another, only 11 miles of rugged mountain peaks stood between us, though we share our memories of that horrible night. Each year, I remember that night. I remember the state patrolman whose son had been my brother's good friend, who lost his life that night trying to warn tourists to get to higher ground. I remember what the canyon had looked like each summer as my parents drove me up to church camp. And I remember the year after the historic flood, after the canyon had been rebuilt. On our way home from church camp, my dad was able to get a friend to give us a police-escort down the canyon the day before it was officially re-opened to the public. The lush willows and pine trees were gone, the scarps where boulders had scraped each other looked as if they'd just happened. Everything beautiful had been stripped away.

As we drove down the barren canyon I realized God's tremendous power to move mountains and change lives. As I stared at where the river-side highway had been, I thought of the campers who'd climbed the canyon walls to safety and I realized we could have been one of the lives lost that night. The canyon is beautiful again, but it will never be the same beauty that I remember as a child. And still, the memories of that night are fresh to all who share that experience.

The Big Thompson Flood, July 31-August 1, 1976

Left, the storm growing from my view a the top of the mountain the afternoon before the flood,

Middle, My dad and little sister packing up the camper the morning after the flood.
Right, the aftermath of the flood in Big Thompson Canyon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What I learned at RWA 2009!

by Debby Giusti
This year’s Romance Writers of America National Conference, held in Washington, DC, offered more than 150 workshops. Here are some of the tips I picked up as I enjoyed three days focused on writing.

Janet Evanovich opened the conference and talked about her ten-year journey to publication. Before the "Call," she analyzed romance novels and made lists of how the authors told their stories. Now Janet’s at her desk by 5:15 AM. She calls herself a “reduction sauce writer” because she reduces descriptions into three or four sentences that are easy for the reader to ingest. (Photo above shows Debby chatting with Janet Evanovich)

Analyze your writing, Janet suggested. What works? What do readers like? Asked about stumbling blocks, she said transitions are hard, but if well written, they make the book a page turner.

Toward the end of her talk, she provided a tidbit that hit home with me. She said an editor once told her, “Never save anything.” When as idea floats into her brain, she uses it for the work in progress. New ideas will come when needed so Janet says, “Don’t hold anything back!”

Best-selling author Brenda Novak talked about Emotion as the Heart of the Novel. Her tips? Keep the reader in the action. Start in the present and move forward in real time. Show don’t tell. Don’t repeat the obvious. Use specific details that create a picture.

Brenda suggested layering conversations with subtext to add richness. Blend the narrative with the dialogue. Show the reverse side to the extreme to make interesting characters, especially villains.

Sharon Sala, in her workshop From the Basement to the Penthouse: the ABCs of Building Suspense, said internal conflict is the character’s Achilles heel. The hero has to face his personal conflict and grow because of it. Sharon suggests having a story come full circle so it ends where it began. (Remember the opening beach scene in the movie Sweet Home Alabama? The movie ended with a concluding scene on that same beach years later.)

Sharon Page and Jessica Faust created an excellent handout for their workshop, The 15Minute Synopsis: How to Create a Selling Synopsis Fast. Their advice is to start with conflict. What’s keeping the hero and heroine apart? Make the problem clear and specific. Detail how they grow, and why they fall in love. Start with a sentence, expand it into a paragraph and finally a one-page synopsis.

As a guide for developing a quick synopsis, Sharon and Jessica suggested focusing on the set up of the hero and heroine and their conflict, the black moment and climax and what the characters have learned as well as their declaration of love.

Another keeper from Sharon: The synopsis is to sell the book, not summarize the story. Just as in your actual manuscript, use plot points to build romance. Open with a story question and end with a rich emotional conclusion that will stand out in the editor’s mind.

Donald Maass, the author of WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL and THE FIRE IN FICTION, encouraged writers to get their heroes down to earth. What’s the hero's weakness? Give him a funny quirk or a flaw he can’t correct. (L to R: Darlene Buchholz, Donald Maass, Debby and Missy Tippens)

Once again, Maass challenged writers to make the villain multi-dimensional. Allow him to get what he wants in the beginning, but later, he confronts the protagonist and should lose but not easily. A Maass tip: Have the villain on the page interacting with the protagonist at least five times within the story.

Revitalize dead scenes by increasing the emotion. Up the character’s anger to fury, delight to euphoria, loneliness to desolation. Weave your own personal experiences into the story to make them ring true.

Best-selling suspense author Andrew Gross was up bright and early on Saturday morning for an 8:30 AM, “He Said, She Said” workshop with Carla Neggers. He empowers his heroines and creates smart women who are pretty, but not beautiful. They overcome serious life obstacles, which make them stronger. Think iron fist inside a velvet glove for the gutsy heroine Gross does so well. He also gives the gals a hidden talent and lets them outcompete the male character. He added, while the female protagonist beats the guy, she never shows him up. (Above left, Debby with Andrew Gross)

The last workshop I attended was given by Grammar Divas Darlene Buchholz and Annie Oortman. Sporting neon pink hardhats, the Divas talked about the nuts and bolts of constructing a story with emphasis on grammar and word choice. These girls know their stuff, provide excellent handouts and are getting ready to launch a website. Visit them soon at

The best part of the conference was visiting with friends old and new. Thanks to everyone who made the conference so special. (Steeple Hill authors with Executive Editor Joan Marlow Golan)

Please leave a comment and share any new writing tip you’ve recently learned. When we pool our resources, we all benefit.

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer Heat

It is HOT here in Oregon this week. Temperatures up into the high 90's. Though yesterday it tipped over 100! For some places around the country, that's not high, but for us its awful. Most days in Oregon are temperate, in the 50-60 range. Colder in the winter months but still manageable. This heat however is doing us in. We don't have air conditioning because we only need that for a week or so in the summer and we didn't want to go to the expense of putting on in for such a short amount of use. But today I sure wish we had air conditioning. We did buy two standing units that help cool the rooms they are in. Unfortunately, my office is not one of them. Ugh!
So yesterday to get out of the heat, I took the kids to the movies but even there it wasn't that cool. We will probably head to the gym today. They keep the place very cool.
What do you do when its hot out? Any tips would be appreciated!

Monday, July 27, 2009

When White-Collar Husbands Go To Jail...

Caught your eye, didn't it? No, I don't have a white-collar husband. His collar is definitely blue. Mine is more white. And, he's not going to jail. Not many plumbers fall into the "I cheated clients out of millions of dollars" in fraud category. So, why am I blogging about this? Because, a month ago on the AOL news board, this title appeared: When White-Collar Husbands Go To Jail...

I confess, the story - written by Lauren Greenfield, in Marie Claire magazine, fascinated me, and I'm always looking for story ideas, and so I read all the stories, stopping at the one story about Karen Weinrub.
Here's the paragraph that hooked me:
"Weinreb, a former editor, began writing a novel to help make sense of it all. The Summer Kitchen, about a Bedford woman whose privileged life comes undone when her husband is arrested for fraud, is loosely based on her experience. The main character locates a secret safe full of cash behind a plastered wall -- her sole source of funds after her husband is incarcerated. Weinreb had no such hidden stash, she insists, but is tight-lipped about how she got by financially while her husband was in jail."

They say, "Write what you know?" (I'm really not sure who 'they' are, but they're right). Ms. Weinreb probably unleashed a lot of reality in her novel.

Here's the bit, in the article, that stopped me next:
"But, she [Weinreb] says, writing the novel helped her reclaim her confidence and autonomy. She defiantly squirreled away the six-figure advance in her own personal bank account. "I'll never place my financial well-being in another's hands again," she declares, adding that she's already at work on a second novel. "

Gulp... six-figures? Me, I'm full-figured, but that's my body.
Six figures?
I have that dream... a six figured book deal (Oh, come on, quit laughing!) I really do. Of course, I haven't written it on my dry erase board. Nope, right now that board says:
1. Publish 2 - 3 books a year.
2. Get asked to be in a continuity.
3. Get invited (without soliciting) to speak at an out-of-state conference.
4. Win the RITA.
Makes ya think, doesn't it, ladies and gentlemen?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Witness to Murder Interview

Today we're welcoming Hallie Berglund, the heroine of Witness to Murder by Jill Elizabeth Nelson, released July 2009. 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.

Currently, I’m a television news reporter for a station in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’ve had a rather dramatic past. I was born in Nigeria to a Norwegian American missionary and his native Nigerian wife. When I was only eight years old, my parents were killed in an airplane crash. Then I was shipped to the United States and grew up in my uncle and aunt’s household. I threw myself into becoming an All-American girl and blanking out the trauma of my loss, as well as some frightening and mysterious incidents related to my parents’ deaths. As the story unfolds, I must face my scary memories and figure out what they mean in order to solve a murder in the present.

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

Brody Jordan is the sportscaster for the television station where I work. He and I detest each other at the beginning of the story, mostly because of false assumptions from our personal backgrounds. It took quite a little time for us to realize we were judging wrongly.

I was particularly upset when he horned in on my investigation of a murder I witnessed—or at least, I caught the killer with the murder weapon in hand. The ornery man insisted the guy was innocent! Can you believe that?

But I started to realize Brody wasn’t so bad when he put himself between me and danger in a rough neighborhood. I started to love him as I got to know the real him, not the wrong ideas I had about him.

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

I’m tenacious, if nothing else, and sometimes a little too gutsy for a cause. And I do like my independence. These are valuable assets for a television reporter. I tend to be opinionated, but a girl’s got to stick to her guns to make it in this competitive business. One day, I’d like an anchor spot on the news.

4. What scares you?

My confusing childhood memories from the time my parents were killed. Finding out what really happened. I’m afraid I won’t like the answers.
5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d like to be at peace with myself and my unusual heritage. Knowing who I am will allow me to form a lasting relationship with a loving man.
6. Where are you in your faith at the start of your story?

Faith has been a constant in my life. My parents were missionaries, and the uncle who raised me is a pastor. I’ve never questioned my belief in God and trust in Jesus as my Savior, but I’ve kept Him at arm’s length in certain areas of my life because of fears from my childhood.

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

I’ve learned that facing fears with my hand in the Lord’s is the best way to defeat fears.
8. You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

For a long time, I was afraid to find out the truth about my parents’ deaths, so I spent a lot of time denying my Nigerian heritage and trying to be the All-American girl. Discovering the truth helped me to become my whole self, grow closer to God, and commit to a man I love.

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

Coconut ice cream in strawberry sauce—a nice mix of Nigerian and American flavors.

Thank you Jill for sharing Hallie with us today. This sounds like an exciting read. Can't wait.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Poised for an interview, TV reporter Hallie Berglund walks into a murder scene instead. The victim's boyfriend stands over the body, murder weapon in hand. Hallie couldn't stop the crime, but as the star witness, she'll see the man brought to justice…right? Not according to her colleague Brody Jordan, who is convinced the police—and Hallie—are targeting the wrong man. To prove it, he'll need Hallie's help. The victim was wearing a bracelet handcrafted by Hallie's long-dead mother. Now Hallie is the only one who can unearth the secrets of the past—and bring the sinister truth to light.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A whole lot of fun...

I'm finally recovered from my trip to DC last week where I attended the Romance Writers of America National conference. I met a lot of wonderful people, including people on this blog. I know I'm posting at the end of the week and you've probably read all the juicy details from some of the other CRAFTIE Ladies this week so I'll just touch on a few things.

First, I loved meeting all the Love Inspired authors on the opening night of the conference. The LI ladies took over a back room of Harry's Pub and had dinner. (Thank you Janet Tronstad for arranging all of that!) I think there were about 25 LI authors there and it was nice meeting everyone and just getting a chance to chat before the conference went into full swing. I know Lenora Worth took some pictures, so keep checking the blog and the Love Inspired Authors website for more pics.

One of the highlights of the week was doing a wonderful workshop with Lenora Worth and Renee Ryan about the inspirational market. It was very well attended and everyone asked a lot of questions, which shows there is great interest from authors who want to write inspirational stories!

Another highlight was the Harlequin Party. Here are a few pics. I took them on my cell phone so I hope they came out okay.

I finally had a chance to meet my editor, Elizabeth Mazer. Harlequin was celebrati
ng 60 years of romance at this party and here we are standing in front of a beautiful collage of old Harlequin book covers.

I came home very jazzed to get writing. That can be good and bad because while I wanted to write, write, write when I got home, I had been gone for FIVE whole days and while the house didn't look like a bomb had exploded, you could tell I'd been gone. So I spent the week doing a bit of housework, writing and reading some of those books that weighed down my suitcase on the train coming home.
Until next time, many blessings, Lisa Mondello

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Praise and Thanksgiving

I love awards season. Over the past few weeks, I've watched dozens of my fellow writers step to the podium (literally or in absentia)and take home Christies and reader's choices and . . . they all make me cheer. These are people I admire and adore, and I rejoice that they've won.

And praise God as well. When my friends ask if I'm jealous, I have to admit, yeah, a little. But the truth is that it's the kind of jealousy that makes me work harder, listen closer, and try to serve Him with a more devout heart. Unlike some writers' groups, Christian writers tend to support, encourage, and uplift each other - not snipe because "she won an award I deserved."

I think this is because we all walk the same path. We all want to serve Him. We have this glorious gift He's bequeathed to us - words and the ability to spin a good story - and when we do it with a Christian world view, it opens up our spirits and our hearts in a way little else does. Because, like everything else we do, it's for Him. Not for us.

My life gets a little out of order when I forget here's to the awards that raise up a worldly reminder of a heavenly goal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I’m a little late in posting today. That’s because I just got home late last night from RWA in Washington DC. And then of course, my old ornery computer wouldn't behave. Always something for technically challenged me. We visited the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Washington DC for the Romance Writers of America conference and then on to Biltmore House in NC and then spent our last night on the road in crowded Gatlinburg TN. I have lots of book fodder from seeing all of these beautiful places. We had no internet up on the mountain in our rustic cottage the second night out. But we sure had fun hiking to some beautiful falls--a serious one mile hike! We saw a black bear right off the trail but my hero husband stood between the bear and me. Actually, I pushed him in front of me and told the bear my husband had more meat on him than I did! The bear was not impressed and he wandered away without looking back. We saw deer everywhere and took lots of pictures. My legs are sore and my back hurts from traveling (it was not happy and I was in a lot of pain at times) but it’s been so much fun. We went to the National Cathedral in Washington. So beautiful and so peaceful. I sat for a while in the tiny private prayer room. I enjoyed the workshops at RWA and seeing some of you there, too. Now it's back to work on the next books (I have great ideas from the mountains and the great city of Washington). I hope this makes it through okay. I love long road trips across our country but it is sure good to be home again. We have such a lovely land to frolic around in with the bears and deer and other creatures. Oh, yeah. We also saw a skunk. We did not stick around to get a picture of him.

Lenora 

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Romantic Suspense Author

I got to know Kit Wilkinson through RWA and ACFW conferences. Before that I judged her in a contest and knew she was very talented. I began corresponding with her and encouraging her. A week ago she sent me her first Love Inspired Suspense due out in September 2009 called Protector's Honor (love the title). This was the book I judged in a contest and loved. What a feeling to finally be able to read the rest of the story and know that what you felt when you read the beginning was right. An excellent story. I hope you'll pick up Tabitha and Rory's story in September and see what I felt.

The action starts fast and furious. Kit pens a roller coaster ride to a great finish with an intriguing suspense thread that draws you immediately into the story.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Someone To Trust

Today we're welcoming Catelyn Caldwell, the heroine of SOMEONE TO TRUST by Ginny Aiken, being released July 2009. 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.

My father is the Fire Department chief, and when he was nearly killed in the line of duty, I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. I had to find the guilty party, especially since the authorities were moving too slowly for me.

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

Actually, I’ve known Rand most of my life. He was my father’s protégé during his high school years, and was the most irritatingly perfect person I knew! When I saw him again, at the scene of the blaze that injured my father, I realized he’d only become more attractive over the years. And even more irritating, since he seemed to remember me only as the teen with purple or green or pink hair I once was—he gave no credence to my having grown up. But then, when he was willing to spend a free evening helping me with my three monsters—my niece and twin nephews—I began to suspect there was more to him…and to my feelings for him.

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

I’m very determined, which is my greatest strength. I never give up. But some might call that stubbornness, and it becomes a weakness in that regard. You know. When I know that I know I have to do something, and someone else insists I’m only being stubborn.

4. What scares you?

The continuing spread of drug abuse among kids. I can’t stand the thought of my three falling into that snare, and I’ll do whatever it takes, with the Father’s help, to keep them from that kind of harm.
5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
You know, I went through a rotten period as a teen, and I hurt my family in the most devastating way, but I also learned from my experience in a way I know the Lord is using for good these days. I especially wish I could change the outcome of my teen stupidity, since that means my sister and her husband would still be alive, but I wouldn’t change the lessons I learned as a result of facing the consequences of my actions.
6. Where are you in your faith at the start of your story?

As a result of the consequences I faced years ago, I rebuilt my relationship with the Lord, and have been walking with Him ever since. I want to serve Him by helping teens avoid the losses I experienced.

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

I’m walking closer with the Lord every day, and building my relationship with Rand on the Rock of Ages and His truths.

8. You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.
This life is all about trust. The fathers of the faith knew that to overcome troubles in life one has to place one’s complete trust in the Almighty. He always comes through, He always delivers, even if it’s not in the way we want or would ever imagine. His way is always best.

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

A dessert? Hm…I suppose it would have to be a blueberry pie. It’s sweet enough to please the sweetest tooth, but it’s tart and sassy enough to stand on its own!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


So what if she's the fire chief's daughter? Arson investigator Rand Mason doesn't trust Catelyn Caldwell. Seven years ago, he was on the scene when Cate's drunken boyfriend ran her sister and brother-in-law off the road. But the purple-haired brat he remembers sitting in the passenger seat has become a poised, confident woman. With Cate's father critically injured in a meth lab fire, she's determined to find the person responsible. She needs Rand's help…and he needs to keep Cate close. Time to see if she's truly someone he can trust—and love.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bugged by the Ladies

Consider the humble ladybug, my friends.Less than a quarter inch long, silent and stoic and more than likely unnoticed in your yard. Let's take a moment to look at some powerful lessons that writers can learn from these tiny ladies.

Number One: Be productive. Oh I know. You've only got two hands to juggle your job, children, marriage, pets, mortgage, et cetera and you're running as fast as you can. There's simply no time for writing in your life. But think about that tiny insect, no larger than your finger tip, that can crank out 1000 eggs in its short two year life span. How do they do that while scaring up aphids, perparing to hibernate and avoiding hungry birds? Ladybugs are very focused (and not at all distracted by Facebook, Twittering and texting.) Take an hour and crank out 1000 words a day. You can do it. It's GOT to be easier than laying 1000 eggs.

Number Two: Grow and change. If only we hatched out of the womb with the genius of DaVinci and Wordworth's perfect prose. Alas. We start out as rough little buggers, cranking out the beginning products of a writing career that must grow and change over time. That beautiful red bug grew out of something much less attractive, let me tell you. In writing, as in life, there is a metaphorphosis, a process (one I hope my dear readers understand when they go back and read my first few books!)

Number Three: Small creatures can accomplish fantastic things. God made us small and weak but He also gave us each a gift to change our part of the world. With your words, you can touch people far away, with only black print on white pages. I'll bet you'd never think the lowly ladybug would be part of a space shuttle mission. That's exactly what happened in 1999 when ladybugs John, Paul, Ringo and George zoomed into space along with a boatload of aphids on a NASA shuttle mission. Know what? The ladybugs did what they were made to do and ate those aphids without the aid of gravity!

Did God give you the talent and drive to use words to change the world? Then go ahead ladies (and gentlemen.) Show the world what you've got!

When you're done hatching those thousand words, check out this stunning video. Power to the Ladies!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I love July. I celebrate my birthday in July along with my father, my daughter, and my husband. My daughter’s, my husband’s and my birthday all fall within four days of each other. It’s usually a big blow out. When my daughter was younger, her birthday was the main celebration.

July 4 is also America’s birthday which is celebrated with a big blowout. And although it is celebrated with parades, barbeques, and fireworks, it is much more. It’s a time when we stop and think of those brave men and women who came before us and built this nation with their blood and sacrifice. I just watched the musical 1776, again. It is one of my favorites. There are really no tunes in it that you can hum or have become a hit apart from the movie, i.e. The Egg. It’s a great song about whether our national bird should be an eagle, a dove or a turkey? Ben Franklin thought the national bird should be a turkey. Maybe that kite thing had a bit more of an effect than was originally thought.

But to think what those men and women did is amazing. And although our forefathers didn’t get it completely right, they were so far beyond their time, they deserve our respect and admiration.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

summer heat and sticky conventions

I'm on a deadline. I've got to get through a manuscript and make it readable in less than five days.

I've got my son playing catch up in his school work.

I've got two wedding to attend, one to help cater, a garden to weed, and a church meeting to see to.

And I'm going to Washington DC for my first ever romance writers' conference. By the time you read this, I'll be there, sweating bullets in fear.

You wouldn't believe it, but I'm wondering how I'm going to get any sleep. My roomies are partiers and the schedule looks brutal as I am without a good night's sleep.

There's the Death By Chocolate party, something a few veterans has warned me is a dangerous affair should I get in the way of 100 romance writers with a hankering for brownies.

And the Harlequin party. I have yet to receive the invitation, so maybe my editor has decided that the manuscript I turned in last month wasn't worth an invite to the party!!!

And the workshops. Everything from how to murder someone to how to hide the body. Femme Fatales up there in stilettoes and linen business suits, scaring the heck out of me with their intimate knowledge of handling murder plots.

Yup, I'm what my kids call a 'Newb'. Newbie. Wet behind the ears, a babe in arms when it comes to conferences.

But some of the ladies on this very blog have volunteered to take good care of me. I'm sure they will, as long as they don't attend those Femme Fatale workshops.

What if ?

Hello. It's Lenora. It's hot down in Louisiana. My pool beckons but I've been working a lot so I only allow myself a good twenty or thirty minutes to splash around and get a little exercise in the water. I'd love to have you all over for a pool party. Actually, a few weeks ago a group of writer friends and I had a "virtual" pool party. We all told what we'd bring and all day long, between writing and life, we'd e-mail each other with imaginery fun. It was almost as good as the real thing.

That just goes to show what a writer's imagination can do. We created a nice party, complete with food, splashing each other, what we where wearing (some opted out of wearing a bathing suit) and chitchat for the day. I have to say I needed that since I was having a stressful day. It was refreshing.

That got me to thinking about setting stories in exotic locations. It seems these type of locations lend themselves to suspense and intrigue. While most of our books are set in the United States, sometimes we get to venture into other countries. But for now, let's play with this a bit. What if? (My two favorite words in the world besides "Shoe Sale"), what if you were on vacation on a tropical island (or at a writer's conference as I am now) and you were sitting at the pool minding your own business, reading a good book (hopefully one of ours) and you looked up into the high rise hotel and ... you spot somthing going on in one of the rooms? What if you think you've witnessed a murder? It would be like "Rear Window" meets "Gidget" or "Where The Boys Are"meets "Cape Fear." What would you do? Would you go to hotel security and report what you think you saw? Would you hurry to your own room and lock the door? Or would you, in true romance heroine fashion, decide to investigate on your own? I know what I'd do. What would you do? C'mon, but on your sunglasses and let's have some fun!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What works and what doesn't by Linda Hall

I'm always surprised at how many ideas come to me as I write. I'm one of those writers who finds it a challenge to write from an outline and synopsis. My ideas only seem to come as I write - not when I'm brainstorming or thinking about it. Although, those are important - for me it's more important to put pen to paper and write. (And I do mean pen to paper rather than hands to keyboard.) I always liken it to driving - I can't steer a parked car.

Some writers are brilliant with outlines, some are not. So, I guess my advice today is to find what works for you and do it!

If you attend the RWA National convention, you'll learn many ways on 'how' to write a romance - (including a session from me on Thursday.) My advice is to listen. Take notes. Go home and try various methods until you find what rings true for you.

Today my husband and I are driving to Wash. DC where I'll be going to my first National. I'm quite looking forward to it. I'll keep this short as I pack. But if you are at National, please do stop and say hello. I would love to meet you all.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Beauty of God

Our pastor talked about the beauty of God Sunday morning. It was incredibly interesting to listen to him talk about why we’re attracted to beauty. He said one of the things that separates us from every other created thing is that we have the ability to appreciate beauty. We crave beauty and are disappointed when we don't see it when we want to see it.

A second grade teacher asked her students if they had but one wish, what would they wish for. She got a lot of different answers. Money, to be a pop star, to be famous, to have beautiful clothes and so on. All related to beauty in some way or another.

And King David's wish was this: Psalm 27:4 – “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” He wished to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

The beauty of the Lord is everywhere. We just have to seek it, to ask God to infuse it into our circumstances, because no matter what we face in life, God's beauty will drive away despair.

I think writing books is a beautiful thing. God has gifted so many of his people with the ability to create and craft a thing of beauty. These books are read and admired by many. I must admit that while I consider my writing a ministry, a way of expressing my faith and worshipping God, I still get warm fuzzies when people tell me how much they liked the book. I have a sense of pride and accomplishment in my work. And that’s not a prideful thing (as in negative way), but it’s something I can turn around and give credit to God for.

Today, I just want to encourage you to look around and really SEE your world today. The little spot on earth where God has placed you to make a difference for Him. Look around and notice the beauty then tell God what a great job He did. I bet He gets a few warm fuzzies, too. 

Anyway, do you seek God's beauty wherever you are? And if you had but one wish, what would you wish for?

Have a wonderful Monday!!


Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn

Today we're welcoming KENZIE THORN, the heroine of THE KIDNAPPING OF KENZIE THORN, LIZ JOHNSON, JULY 2009. 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 really enjoy teaching the GED prep course at a state prison complex in Oregon. Even though my grandfather is the governor and he wants me to teach kindergarten in a safe school, I can’t help but think I’m helping these inmates find hope and a future after their release. But one day as I was leaving the prison, one of my students kidnapped me! He said he was an undercover FBI agent, placed in the prison to protect me. I just wasn’t sure I could believe him or his claim that someone wanted me dead.

2. So, during the book you met MYLES BORDEN. Tell us a bit about him. What was your first impression? When did you know it was love?
When I first met Myles, he was an inmate in my class and unlike any other student I’d ever had. He was tall and broad and handsome and absolutely intimidated me. But I wasn’t going to let him make me look weak in front of the other inmates. But I didn’t have those other eyes on us when he kidnapped me in my very own car as I left the prison just a couple days later. It was a lot of little things that he did that made me fall in love with him—like celebrating my birthday with me and protecting me at every turn. But I didn’t know I was in love until he proved that he had never lied to me about the man who wanted me killed.

3. What strengths/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness?
I’m a good teacher and a lot stronger than I thought I was. I didn’t know I could handle chasing down the man who forced Myles to kidnap me. But God brought me through. One of my weaknesses is definitely getting emotional at the worst possible moments. I try so hard to keep my emotions under control so they don’t get in the way of what needs to be done, but sometimes I just can’t keep it together any longer.

4. What scares you?
The thought of not being able to help my students terrifies me. Oh, and I’m not very fond of roaches either.

5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wouldn’t babble when I’m nervous. I have a terrible habit of chattering uncontrollably when I’m scared and uncertain. Inevitably I make a fool of myself and stick my foot in my mouth.

6. Where are you in your faith at the start of your story?
At the beginning of the story, I was definitely a Christian. My faith was strong, but a little bit stagnant. I spend a lot of time relying on my grandpa and nana and not very much time really seeking God’s will.

7. Where are you in your faith at the end of the story?
After everything that God brought me to, I’ve learned to really rely on Him all the time. And I know that He can be counted on to walk with me through everything. I’ve even learned to lean on Him in the area of my love life.

8. You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.
The verse is Psalm 33:18, 20 and it talks about how the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him and He is our help and shield. After all that I went through with Myles, I knew that God was my protector and

9. If you could be a dessert what would you be and why?
Myles always calls me his sweet and spicy Kenzie, so I would definitely have to be a Sweet and Spicy Brownies made with Tabasco sauce.

Thank you Liz for sharing Kenzie with us today. We've enjoyed hearing from her and this sounds like an exciting read.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Myles Parsons is just another inmate in Kenzie Thorn's GED course…until his abduction plan succeeds. Terrified, Kenzie doesn't want to believe his explanation. That he's Myles Borden, FBI agent—placed under cover because someone wants her dead.Now that Myles has got her out of harm's way, his plans start to fall apart. He attempts to take Kenzie to a safe house—but the stubborn woman won't go! He struggles to protect her even as she takes care of him. He tries to keep his distance…and finds himself falling in love.

Now that Myles has got her out of harm's way, his plans start to fall apart. He attempts to take Kenzie to a safe house—but the stubborn woman won't go! He struggles to protect her even as she takes care of him. He tries to keep his distance…and finds himself falling in love.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Interview with debut novelist Adam Blumler

This week I want to introduce you to debut novelist, Adam Blumler, the author of the new suspense release Fatal Illusions. I've just started it and so far am enjoying it.

Adam, this is your debut novel. How did the what-if for the book come to you?

Frank Peretti’s earliest supernatural thrillers taught me that Christian novels can do more than entertain. I wanted to write something not only suspenseful but also meaningful. My prayer is that the message will resonate with readers and maybe even challenge their spiritual thinking.

The novels of Mary Higgins Clark also inspired me. I studied the organization and plot lines of her novels and wondered if I could write something as good. I also like her shifting points of view and her short, numerous chapters. (Readers might notice a resemblance.) Her novel You Belong to Me especially inspired me to try my own hand at a serial killer “female in jeopardy” suspense tale. Because most Christian readers are women, I decided to make my main protagonist female—in fact, a pastor’s wife, a protagonist you don’t read about very often. Add to that my love of true crime and forensic science, and I was on my way. Christian suspense novels by Brandilyn Collins and Terri Blackstock have also been a big influence.

A past experience also provided a creative springboard. A church voted to remove from membership a believer who was sincerely repentant of immorality. I began to play the “what if” game in my mind. What if the person who was disciplined got really ticked? What if he or she became mad enough to kill? I thought a church discipline scenario created an unusual motive for murder—hence one of the subplots in Fatal Illusions. I also read Ruth Brandon’s The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini. This biography of the famous illusionist fascinated me and helped me develop the characterization of my serial killer. In fact, readers will discover an important plot clue connected to Houdini.

Oh, Mary Higgins Clark has been an inspiration for me, too! I wanted to write like her before the Christian market opened up. I’m so glad there’s now a place for books like ours! Tell us a bit about your journey to publication...

I loved writing imaginative tales when I was a kid, but I didn’t start taking my writing seriously until I won a state high school creative writing contest. That’s when I realized that my writing was better than average and that perhaps God wanted me to do something with it. Because I loved writing and got good grades in English, I decided to get a journalism degree in college; it seemed like a smart vocational decision fitted to my skills. By then, it was pretty much a given in my mind that God wanted me to write. Exactly what I was supposed to write I didn’t know yet. For fourteen years I served as a staff editor for two ministries, but I always preferred writing stories.

I began Fatal Illusions in 2002 in conjunction with a Writer’s Digest correspondence course on novel writing. I finished the first draft in the fall of 2005 and began contacting literary agents. In January 2006, agent Steve Laube, a well-known and respected voice in Christian fiction, asked to see the full manuscript. Though he ultimately declined to represent me, he sent me a two-page letter, pointing out how few manuscripts reach the stage that mine did, and gave me eight pointers on how to make the novel publishable. Energized, I followed his advice and got to work, but I still couldn’t find an agent or publisher.

A year later, I contacted Kregel Publications about opportunities to edit books from home (my day job is as a freelance editor). The managing editor noticed on my resume that I had written several unpublished novels and asked to see my latest project. Kregel liked what they saw in Fatal Illusions and accepted it for publication. God opened a door I never could have opened for myself!

How exciting! God is definitely our best agent and career coach. What one thing do you wish you'd known before you started this journey?

How much time and work go into a novel between the contract signing and the finished product. I honestly thought an editor just made a few tweaks, and then the novel was ready for publication. Ha! I also never realized how airtight the timeline and plot need to be, especially in suspense. One of my editors actually checked flight times to be sure one of my characters could plausibly be at a certain location at a certain time. My eyes were opened to the importance of checking details, and I’ll never write another novel the same way again.

I find I'm always learning as I write books. What did your characters teach you?

As a writer, this project stretched me more than anything else I've ever worked on. Many of the novel's themes are also areas I've had to work through in my own thinking. When life doesn't seem to make sense, how do I respond? Do I trust God, even when His ways are difficult to understand from a human standpoint? Do I try to keep secrets from God or from others? Do I try to hide who I really am inside? What happens if I try to live a lie?

What else would you like to tell us about this book?

I did a lot of research for this project. Calligraphy didn’t require much research because I had dabbled in it in high school and won a few awards. Information about magicians wasn’t tough to find either because I had already been researching Houdini on the Internet after reading a biography about him. For serial killers, I watched a lot of Forensic Files and Body of Evidence on TV and read Mary Higgins Clark and other crime/suspense authors. One big area I had to research was police procedure since a retired homicide detective helps the Thayers catch the Magician Murderer. I researched crime scene investigation, forensic science, computer crimes (since my villain is a cyber-stalker), and other related areas. But these have always been areas of interest, so I hardly thought of the research as work. Because Gillian is a professional calligrapher of famous quotations, Bible verses, and love poems, I also had to research her literary side since that’s her lens for viewing the world.

What's coming next for you?

A sequel called Plagues. The main characters from Fatal Illusions are reunited, this time at a Christian conference center in Michigan’s north woods, which is where all novels in my hoped-for series will be set. Marc and Gillian Thayer think they are getting away for some much-needed R&R, but protestors with placards and bullhorns shatter the otherwise-peaceful surroundings. A Bible translation committee is holding its regional meeting, and a mob is protesting the committee’s efforts to create a controversial parallel Bible.

While the protestors call down God’s wrath, an apparent plague of blood strikes the facility. Is God displeased with the committee? Are the protestors somehow to blame? When a committee member turns up dead, Marc and Gillian put their vacation on hold, enlist the help of retired homicide detective Chuck Riley, and take a closer look at the bizarre plagues as they escalate in intensity. Throw in a fictionalized account of a true mine disaster and an autistic boy who can apparently see the future, and you get the gist. I’m having a blast planning and writing the twists and turns.


Adam Blumer lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife, Kim, and his daughters, Laura and Julia.

He works full-time as a freelance writer and editor. A print journalism graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC), he served in editorial roles for fourteen years at Northland Baptist Bible College (Dunbar, WI) and Awana Clubs International Headquarters (Streamwood, IL).

He has published numerous short stories and articles. Fatal Illusions released by Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI) is his first novel.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Conference Prep ~ RWA 2009!!!

by Debby Giusti

The Romance Writers of America National Conference runs from July 15 to July 19 and will be held in Washington, D.C. this year. I'm flying in on Sunday so yesterday I tried on clothes and decided what to take. The new airline baggage restrictions mean tightening my wardrobe and cutting back on non-essentials. (I noticed fewer ball gowns for the Awards Ceremony on Saturday night last year with more ladies opting for short dresses, which are easier to pack and take up less room in the suitcase.)

The photo above left shows Janet Dean, Missy Tippens and Debby Giusti ready to party! Debby's signing at the Literacy Book Fair above right. Below Steeple Hill authors gather to congratulate Linda Goodnight for her RITA win!

I'm packing mainly black and white items so I can mix and match. Two pair of comfy sandals and one pair of heels should get me through the week--a change from years past when I'd pack at least five pairs of shoes.

Black slacks should work with casual jackets for the workshops and transition with a trendy top for evening dinners out. If there's room, I'll pack a little black dress and evening pants with dressy tops for nighttime fun.

Although D.C. will be hot and humid, the hotel might be chilly so a sweater and shawl are a must. I might throw in a long sleeve shell for under my jackets just in case the hotel temp is really frigid.

I sometimes send books home via the mail so I'll tuck a small pair of scissors and strapping tape into my suitcase. Yes, the hotel should have a shipping office, but the lines can be long and having the box ready to mail speeds the process.

Since I like to read in bed, I'll include a reading light as well as extra hangars, sugar substitute and perhaps extra coffee packets for the in-room coffee maker. Sometimes I include small boxes of milk that don't need refrigeration. I wrap them in zip-lock plastic bags and pray they don't leak while in flight.

Although the RWA registration packets are loaded with goodies, sometimes they don't include notepaper so a couple of spiral ring notebooks and a handful of pens and pencils are a must. I ordered a new batch of The Writer's Prayer and postcards, featuring my latest book cover for the Goodie Room as well as candy and other giveaways.

Tomorrow I'll head to the bank and get a wad of dollar bills for tips. Even though I rely primarily on plastic, cash is necessary for the airport shuttle, taxi fares and for splitting checks with other writer friends.

Remember to buy small 3-ounce toilette articles if you're including them in your carry-on luggage. I usually double zip-lock bag them and place them in the suitcase I check. Often I'll discard them at the hotel instead of bringing them back on the return flight, and the small size is perfect for a week long conference.

In the days ahead, I'll probably pack and unpack my suitcase a number of times until I get it just right. Can you think of something I've forgotten? What's the most valuable item you always include in your suitcase? Be sure to share your packing tips and any other information that would make this RWA Conference the best ever!!!

Hope to see you in D.C!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


As a wife and mother, I'm always on the look out for non-fiction books that can help me in my walk with Christ and also help me in my family roles. I recently discovered the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge.
I enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it for anyone wanting to dig deeper into knowing yourself and God's plan for your life.

Also available: Captivating - A Guided Journal

Every little girl has dreams of being swept up into a great adventure, of being the beautiful princess. Sadly, when women grow up, they are often swept up into a life filled merely with duty and demands. Many Christian women are tired, struggling under the weight of the pressure to be a "good servant," a nurturing caregiver, or a capable home manager.
What Wild at Heart did for men, Captivating can do for women.

This groundbreaking book shows readers the glorious design of women before the fall, describes how the feminine heart can be restored, and casts a vision for the power, freedom, and beauty of a woman released to be all she was meant to be. By revealing the core desires every woman shares-to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a grand adventure, and to unveil beauty-John and Stasi Eldredge invite women to recover their feminine hearts, created in the image of an intimate and passionate God. Further, they encourage men to discover the secret of a woman's soul and to delight in the beauty and strength women were created to offer.

To learn more about John and Stasi Eldredge and Ransom Hearts Ministries here's a link to their website.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lunch with Colleen Coble

Last week some of the members of CWOW (Christian Writers of the West) and I met author Colleen Coble for lunch.

How cool is that!
I took my camera (Honest I did). I remembered I had it (Honest I did). A pose was made (Me, Colleen, Ann, Jen, Dianne). This morning, my camera has no proof of this event. Hmmm, since I write suspense I'm trying to figure out who took my picture (Lol, obviously nobody - then or now.)

Luckily, in the digital age, I'll be able to Google Colleen's name and find a photo. What? You want me to tell you about the lunch (Wow, even my Blog readers want me to tighten. I get the hint). I first met Colleen online over a decade ago. We were part of an online group. This was before ACFW, before blogs, and even, really, before websites. A decade ago, I was also lucky enough to meet Colleen here in AZ when she came to visit family members who live nearby (a group of authors met: Darlene Mindrup, Dianne Cristner, Marilou Flinkman, me, and Colleen. Yes, I have a picture - somewhere). Luckily for me, she has lots of family members who live in AZ.

Last week's lunch was fun! From the olden days, there sat Dianne Cristner and I. We get along great. We let too much time pass between getting together, but every time we do, we pick right up where we left off. From the CWOW group, there's Ann. She just finaled in the Faith, Hope, and Love's TBL contest! Also, there was Jen Cary. She's CWOW's vice-president. This lunch also came with men! Colleen's husband and Terry Doyle. Terry's one of the newest CWOW members. I always get excited when I'm with new writers. This lunch was no exception because I got to sit back and listen as they picked Colleen's brain. I learned about layering. I learned about extensive research. And, I learned about building an author/house relationship. Three hours flew by.

What are you doing for lunch today?

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Today we're welcoming Dr. Devon Knightley, the hero of DEADLY INTENT by Camy Tang (July 2009). 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.

It started off with my sister getting married and wanting to wear our mother’s Tiffany necklace. Mom had lent it to my wife when we got married, but Jessica never returned it, even after we got divorced. She wouldn’t return my calls so I tracked her down to the Joy Luck Life spa in Sonoma, California, to get her to return the necklace. The day I turned up asking to speak to Jessica, the spa’s owner, Naomi Grant, found Jessica dying in her massage therapy room. Things didn’t look good for me.

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

I actually already knew Naomi—our families both support ZOE International, a charity that works to save children in Asia from child trafficking. Every year, ZOE International hosts a charity dinner, and we’ve sat next to each other for the past 2-3 years. I enjoy talking to her, but the timing is never right for me—at first, I was going through the divorce, then I was trying to salvage my finances after Jessica took me to the cleaners.

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

I love my job—I’m an orthopedic surgeon. I’m also the official orthopedic surgeon for the Oakland Raiders football team. Healing injuries (even my non-football patients) gives me a lot of satisfaction, and my job with the Raiders is just plain fun.

My parents are both atheists, and I’ve grown up the same. It’s fostered a certain level of distrust and cynicism in my nature—I admit it—and sometimes, Naomi’s spiritual outlook on life makes me uncomfortable. The entire Grant family is very welcoming and friendly—vastly different from my own family—which makes me wonder if I’m missing something in my life.

4. What scares you?

Being out of control of a situation, especially when it involves someone I care about.

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

I wish I’d taken a chance and pursued a relationship with Naomi after the last ZOE International charity dinner. I had been too gunshy after the divorce and her family’s faith made me uncomfortable, and I hadn’t wanted to jump into something I didn’t understand. But I was just being overly cautious—I should have taken the risk.

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

Faith? What faith can a man have when raised by a staunch atheist like my opinionated father? But actually, I was more open to God when the story opened because of my brief encounters with the Grant family.

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

Naomi’s aunt, Becca Itoh, is a strong woman of God, and she helped me understand what it means to trust in something I can’t see or understand.
8. You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.
It’s Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV): The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.
One thing that has pursued both of us through these events is the truth that God is greater than anything happening to us, and that if we trust Him, He won’t let us down.
9. If you could be a dessert what would you be and why?

My favorite is tiramisu, mostly because it’s got both coffee and chocolate flavors, and it’s not too sweet. I consider myself a bit bittersweet.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Deadly Intent


The Grant family’s exclusive Sonoma spa is a place for rest and relaxation—not murder! Then Naomi Grant finds her client Jessica Ortiz bleeding to death in her massage room, and everything falls apart. The salon’s reputation is at stake...and so is Naomi’s freedom when she discovers that she is one of the main suspects! Her only solace is found with the other suspect—Dr. Devon Knightley, the victim’s ex-husband. But Devon is hiding secrets of his own. When they come to light, where can Naomi turn...and whom can she trust?

Friday, July 3, 2009

A little research...a little fireworks...

Writers are known for going to great lengths to research their books. Some join the police academy to learn about law and order. Some go to school to learn about law. Some take classes in...(fill in the blank)...

My husband is a part time police officer, so for my upcoming book, I grilled him a lot about the plot of my story. I never dreamed my research would give me the opportunity to get a little more in-depth experience the way it had recently.

You see, I was recently initiated into the pepper spray accident. Picture me sitting at my desk concentrating on my work. My attention is taken away from my manuscript by the sound of a sudden crash! I then hear an unfamiliar hiss that has me getting up from my seat to investigate what crashed. My eyes were immediately drawn to the bureau next to the desk and the missing photo that used to sit there.

Unbeknownst to me, there was a small can of pepper spray behind the picture and when the picture fell over, the can went with it, setting it off. Of course, I had no clue and as I bent down to retrieve the picture (all the while knowing there was something funny about the hiss and the sudden fumes I was smelling) I was hit by the spray. My throat immediately started to close up, I lost my voice and I did what all police officers are told not to do. I panicked!

In retrospect, my run around the bedroom screaming (with no voice) for my husband was probably funny to watch. Thank goodness he'd been taking a nap or I'd have gotten an ear full of laughter. I finally managed to wake him and after one whiff he said. "What are you playing with the pepper spray for?"

Yeah, playing. He then told me not to panic. Too late. I was already well past the state of panic.

"Relax. You're going to be fine." Fine? I felt like I was a suffocating? Now I understand why some police officers going through the academy rush to the bathroom and dunk their heads in the toilet if there are no available sinks to get the pepper spray off their faces. I didn't need a toilet and never got a face full of spray. But my lungs felt as though they'd collapsed.

My eyes are now watering. I'm standing on the deck trying to get some air and coughing like I have a bad case of pneumonia. My husband (calm as can be in his sleepy state) appears in front of me and thrusts a glass of water into my hand. "Drink," he says. "You'll live."

When I'm finally able to make noise, I ready to ask him how on earth a can of pepper spray got behind the picture frame when it dawns on me that I'd seen that can of spray when I'd been dusting and alas, I had been the one to place it there and forget about it. Instead I screamed, "The cat!"

I realized my beloved cat, Keturah, was still in the room and was probably breathing in those nasty fumes. I put a towel over my face (BTW, that doesn't work) and rushed into the room. In one moment, I scooped up my 15 year old cat (who didn't seem effected at all) and brought her out for a breath of fresh air.

It is now 3 hours later and my room is free of pepper spray fumes. I know what my husband went through in the academy when he had to do his pepper spray test. The panic is still very fresh and raw in my mind and I'm convinced I'll use this experience one day in a book. What we writers do for research. Even unwilling...

Until next time, many blessings, Lisa Mondello

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Finding the Path Home

Last week, I had a bit of a career crisis. I began to doubt that I could make it as a writer, and that turned my world sideways, dumping all my beliefs in a puddle at my feet.

In April, my day job went away, and I’m now trying to support myself and my daughter as a freelancer. The finances are dicey, and I don’t quite have a handle on the new schedule. But I do have a plan, which involves selling at least two more books this year. But last week, something happened that made my doubts soar and my confidence sink like a stone. I just wanted to curl up and quit.

Yet I have always been a storyteller, even before I could write down the elaborate adventures I made up as a kid. Once upon a time, my imaginary friends lived in our front yard and only my mother worried how real they were to me. Now they live on my computer, blogs, and Facebook pages and annoy my friends, who sometimes gently ask, “You know they’re not real, right?” (Click here if you'd like to help me make up the next hero.)

On my website, I claim to come from a long line of storytellers, which I do. What I don’t point out is that I also come from a long line of horse thieves and highwaymen, including some who once plagued the travelers of the Natchez Trace.

This is a picture I took of the Trace a few years ago, to remind me that the paths we take, sometimes the paths we have to take, are seldom safe or easy. They are filled with ups and downs, darkness and light, adventures made easier or more dangerous by the choices we make. Do we become highwaymen (and take the easy way)—or do we sell stories about them instead?

In my doubts, I turned to other writers as well as my friends. They reminded me that being a writer is never easy, especially if you have to pay the bills with your talent. Then again, following God’s path for your life isn’t always easy either, even when you know it’s the right way, sometimes the only way, Home.

The secret is in the choices. Do we choose the right but rocky way, or do we take an easier way, but perhaps one that leads us away from God’s guidance? How do we find the strength and will to trust Him?

Since April, and all the events leading up to the change in my job, I believe that I am where God wants me. So I need to work with Him and what He guides me through. So last week, I buried my ego, girded my talent, and tackled a challenge. Now, I’m sending up prayers that it was the choice He wanted me make, and listening closely for the answer. Trusting.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

a sad week

We've lost a few good people this week, haven't we? Ed McMann, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mayes, and for us in Canada, The Right Honourable Romeo LeBlanc.
M. LeBlanc was our twenty-fifth Govenor General. To those who don't live in Canada, this position is the highest rank in Canada, the Queen's Representative, and the only person who can dissolve Parliament, sign bills into law, and represent our Queen and our country.
He was a well loved man, someone who opened the doors of his official residence in our capital city of Ottawa, to allow the public in. He pushed for Aboriginal Day, and was called The Friend of Fishermen for his work in the fisheries industy.
Like those famous Americans who have passed away this week, M. LeBlanc will be remembered for all the good things he did. Here is more info on him.
Some of these deaths this past week are sudden, but some are not. M. LeBlanc was not a young man, and had health issues. But it doesn't make his passing any easier.
To all those who have lost someone special this week, I keep you in my prayers.