Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Braving Snakes for Research? Author Interview with Johnnie Alexander Donley

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.

Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow. 

As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

Read Chapter One here! Also take a chance to win this e-book! Read on. :)

Author Johnnie Alexander Donley writes stories of suspense, intrigue, and romance set in World War II. Her debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, won the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest for Historical Fiction in 2011.

A history enthusiast, Johnnie has also edited nonfiction manuscripts and textbooks. She is a founding member and current president of the ACFW Central Florida chapter. A longtime Florida resident, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, stacks of books, and her papillon Rugby.

For more information about Johnnie, check out her website and her "Treasured Moments" blog here. For more about her book, click here. You can also connect with her on social media: Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, LinkedIn or Pinterest.

Johnnie is giving away an ebook copy of Where Treasure Hides! 
Don't miss out. 

Leave a comment below with your e-mail address. The giveaway will end on Wednesday, March 6.

Ten Questions with Johnnie Alexander Donley

What should readers know about your latest release? Does it differ from your past books, offer a new perspective on a familiar topic, or shed light on a unique situation?

Where Treasure Hides takes place in World War II Europe. It’s about a talented Dutch-American artist who risks her life to protect her father’s greatest masterpiece, but learns to place her trust in God instead of her family’s legacy. This is my debut novel, but another manuscript I’ve written is also about the safeguarding of a family’s heritage.

What was the main inspiration for the new book? Had the idea been on your mind for a while or just popped into it one day?

While researching different aspects of WWII for another manuscript, I came across a documentary called The Rape of Europa. Hitler planned to transform his Austrian hometown, an ugly industrialized city, into Europe’s premier cultural center. Art, jewelry, even furniture was stolen from museums and personal collections. Much of it was stored in strange places such as Austrian salt mines.

Fascinated by the extent of the looting, I knew it had to be an element in my novel.

Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?

Who knows?! Seriously, God has given me both the gift and the desire. It’s taken me too many years to believe I could do it, but I humbly thank Him for blessing me with the publication of this novel.

I suppose I write historical fiction because family heritage is interesting to me. I’m always envious of people – like English nobles – who can trace their family trees back into the mists of time. I wish I knew more about my ancestors besides their names.

How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?

How fun it would have been to explore Rotterdam and London and even Germany for this novel. But I had to do my research through books and the internet. Plus, I met a couple from Holland, and it was great fun talking to them and looking at their photos.

My most memorable research experience isn’t anything all that exotic, but it’s an important memory for me. In another manuscript, the main character hid keepsakes inside an abandoned iron furnace on a southern Ohio farm. The iron furnace is a real place – my mom played there as a little girl. I had seen the furnace stack on family reunion trips, but had never been inside. 

The Iron Furnace
A couple summers ago, and despite being warned of snakes, I trekked up the overgrown hill and ducked beneath the brick opening. Then I stood and looked up the stack to the blue sky above. Somehow I felt connected to my mom’s parents, who I never knew, in a very special way. They had walked past this furnace when they were courting, and their first home – gone now – was just up the road.

I told one of my cousins about going inside the furnace, ending with, “I didn’t see any snakes.” He made a strange guffaw sound and exclaimed, “Well, they saw you.”

After being inside the furnace, I had to revise my story since the interior of the stack was different than I had originally described it. I’m glad I braved the snakes.

Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?

As a child, my mom always encouraged my love of reading and my imagination. My family is also very supportive. But I had never finished a novel until an editor I corresponded with after a writers conference read two pages of a story and asked to see the entire manuscript. Even though he didn’t buy that novel, I am so thankful for his encouragement. Now I knew I could finish a story. Then I wrote Where Treasure Hides, and Tyndale bought it!

What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?

Learning as much as possible about the writing craft is so important – through books, workshops, conferences. But I was surprised at how much I learned by finishing that first manuscript. It goes back to the 4-H motto: learning by doing.

Writing, and rewriting, taught me how to give my characters a personality and then let them live. I learned to write myself out of a corner by asking the right questions. And I learned that sometimes I’m lazy, and how blessed I am to have critique partners who won’t let me get away with it.

Another fun surprise is when characters turn out to be completely different than you imagined them, or do things you totally didn’t expect them to do. I revel in those moments.

If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?

I would rewind all the way back to pre-kid days and say, “Be brave, and do this now.”

Now to have some fun with travel

What’s your favorite place you have visited?

I’ve lived in England for a few months, and my husband and I took a trip to Paris and Belgium several years ago.

But my favorite trips are the road trips I’ve taken with my mom. We once spent an entire day driving the 100 miles of the Skyline in the Shenandoah Valley. The Blue Ridge is another favorite drive.

A couple of summers ago, we stayed in a furnished but unoccupied farmhouse in southern Ohio for about three weeks. No internet, no cell phone service, no television. We loved every moment.

Even the night the coyotes howled.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?

There are so many places. Scotland, Switzerland, Italy. New Zealand and Australia. But strange as it may sound, I’ve dreamed for several years of a continental U.S. road trip that hits every state. Whether or not that will ever happen . . . I doubt it. But it sure would be fun.

And now a fun tidbit—if there was one special travel destination just for writers and you were the founder of it, what would the name be and would it be located?

Definitely in the Appalachians. I love it there. For days, I’ve been trying to come up with a name. Nothing really worked.

But then I read this clue in a crossword puzzle: “light-splitting glass.”


My dream retreat would be a place to Pray, Read, Imagine, Saunter, and Muse.

And of course, to write. We’d shine our prisms on our WIPs, seeking new insights into our characters and plots in a restful, inspiring place.

What words would you choose for Johnnie’s PRISM acrostic? 

Don't forget about the ebook giveaway! :) Leave a comment below with your e-mail address. The giveaway will end on Wednesday, March 6.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Penning Board 2013-8

The Penning Board Items of the Week

Coming up this week...

Wednesday - Interview with Author Johnnie Alexander Donley about her WWII debut novel.

Friday - A visit to China with Author Michelle Ule


Movie: "Roman Holiday” (1953) – Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert

This movie launched Audrey Hepburn into stardom. It was her first film and I must say she was unforgettable in her role as the young princess longing to escape the confides of her royal life.

An incredible setting, legendary actress, hunky leading man...doesn't get much better than that. ;)
There are some fantastic shots of landmarks in the Eternal City as the princess explores Rome. Recognize any?

Or better yet have you been to Rome? I'd love to hear about it. Please leave a comment below this post.
Interesting News: "Free Divorce for Valentine's Day"

I forgot about a news article I discovered around V-Day. It's too interesting to not share even though the holiday has come and gone and so have several marriages...

Attorney Walter H. Bentley III of Southfield, Mich., will be offering a lucky client a Valentine's Day special: a free divorce. Click here to read the article. 

What do you think? Generous offer or mocking gesture on the holiday of love?
Book: "Then There Were None" - Agatha Christie

Fantastic book from the Queen of Mystery! It's not a long read, but it will have your head spinning. Your mind will be formulating all kinds of theories and they will most likely all be wrong.

This book is also known as "Ten Little Indians," so you may know it under that title. If you have not read this work and you love a book that will keep your mind on edge, read it.

Highly recommended.

Ten people who had been complicit in the deaths of others but thus far escaped notice or punishment are tricked into coming to an island. Although they are the only people on the island, the guests begin to die one-by-one and those left realize the killer is one of them.

Bible Verse: "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understandingindeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." - Psalm 2:1-5

Quote: “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” — Lao Tzu

Song: "Holy (Wedding Day)" - The City Harmonic

Wow. I am loving this band--one of my new discoveries. This song and video are incredibly moving. If you haven’t heard it, you must…so please click here

Another great song and video from this group is called "Mountaintop". Check it out here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Penner's Spotlight - Carol McClain - Spain

Pens on a World Map
Penner's Spotlight
Name: Carol McClain of New York
Location: Córdoba, Spain
No trip to Spain would be complete without a trip to Córdoba. In the level land north of the Río Guadalquivir lays the capital of the Córdoba Province. You may crave the fine leather that bears the name of the city here, but better than cordovan leather are two magnificent sites: 
-the Mezquita

The Mezquita—no picture can portray this holy shrine. It was a church in Visigoth times (and you can see some of the original church). Later, the Muslims turned it into a mosque. On Christianity’s return to southern Spain, it became a cathedral. Each era created architecture more beautiful than the last.

Today as you enter the cathedral, 850 red and blue columns surround you, a visual forest—too dark and too grand to capture in a photograph.

In the far corner (facing south, which is unusual) is the Mihrab, the mosque equivalent of a high altar, where Muslims faced to pray.  
In the center of the room, sixteen columns were removed to make a chapel, fronted by the Royal Chapel—a burial place for kings—never opened to the public. However, the curators of the Mezquita were kind, and the chapel is not entirely walled off. The dome and the walls can be glimpsed—stunning.

In the Tesoro (Treasury) is a huge monstrance—the Christians wanted something glorious enough to hold the body of Christ. It has a crucifix with the body of Christ carved from a single piece of ivory, and much more. 
Then we come to the Cathedral itself. Glorious in gold and silver and carved mahogany. To me, the Mezquita is a must see, along with Alhambra, the Cathedral of Sevilla, and the Prado.

Spain is a glimpse of paradise.

Have you visited an unique church during your travels? Do you have an interesting story about Spain? We'd love to hear about it. Please join the discussion in the comments.

Carol McClain is a novelist as well as multi-published author in the magazine market. She has taught high school English for over thirty years and has eclectic tastes that run from teaching high ropes, playing bassoon, and painting portraits.

She is also active in ACFW where she coordinates the monthly courses. When she's not traveling, she's writing (aka ignoring her husband) in northern New York. You can follow her blog at

Would you like to be featured on "Penner's Spotlight"? Here's how.

I'd love to see a glimpse of your travels. It doesn't matter if you write a few sentences or the full 300 words. It's about sharing part of our journey with each other. For more on what to do for a "Penner's Spotlight," visit the link below:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing a Western yet fears horses? - Author Interview with Sherri Wilson Johnson

When trusting others only leads to pain and rejection, and loving ends only in loss, what will it take to restore hope again? Shunned by the uncovered truth about her missing husband’s secret life, Cora Buchanan sets out on a road trip for home to mend her broken relationship with her parents. When her car breaks down, she’s stranded in a small Georgia town.

While staying at the struggling Southern Hope Ranch, she meets little Susie O’Reilly, who unexpectedly fills a void in Cora’s heart. But Rex, Susie’s rugged cowboy father who lost his wife a year earlier, seems to go out of his way to either confront or avoid Cora. It doesn’t help her comfort level that the news continues to report missing and murdered women in the area.

Cora has no idea just how close to home the crimes will hit…or how much the sweet sound of the meadowlark’s song at the ranch will impact her future.

Sneak peek at the first chapter!

View the book trailer here.
Sherri Wilson Johnson lives in Georgia with her husband and two children. She is represented by Les Stobbe, is a member of the ACFW, a graduate of the Christian Writers Guild writing course, an active blogger, and a former homeschooling mom.
She loves to dream of romantic places and romance in general–good, clean romance. She is a bird-watcher, loves the ocean, roller coasters, ice cream, her family and her Chihuahua, who faithfully sits by her side every day when she writes. Sherri is the author of To Dance Once More(OakTara) and Song of the Meadowlark (OakTara).
For more information about Sherri, check out her website here or severals blogs here and here. For more about her book, click here. You can also connect with her on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. 
Ten Questions for Sherri Wilson Johnson
What should readers know about your latest release? Does it differ from your past books, offer a new perspective on a familiar topic, or shed light on a unique situation?

Song of the Meadowlark is a contemporary romance set on a South Georgia ranch with an abandoned young woman and an ornery cowboy. My first novel, To Dance Once More, was a Victorian romance set in Florida. These books may be different when it comes to time period and setting, however, they are similar in many ways. They both deal with purity and waiting for the Lord’s best.

Song of the Meadowlark’s heroine, Cora Buchanan, is a married woman whose husband has abandoned her. She leaves the home they shared and decides to return to her parents who live two states away. They were against her marriage and now she needs to mend their fences, although she knows they will say, “I told you so.”

When she is stranded in a South Georgia town and begins to have feelings for Rex O’Reilly, she deals with a variety of emotions since she is still married. This was my first attempt at dealing with this kind of situation. My prayer is that I have pointed the reader to the Lord, while guiding my characters down the right path.
What was the main inspiration for the new book? Had the idea been on your mind for a while or just popped into it one day?

I had always wanted to write a cowboy story but wasn’t sure I could do it because I’m afraid of horses. I thought it might be kind of foreign to me and that my readers would pick up on it. But after I finished To Dance Once More, Song of the Meadowlark kept knocking at my mind’s door.

I originally set it in Wyoming because that’s where I thought all cowboy books had to be set. But it didn’t flow well because I’ve never been out west. I changed the setting to South Georgia and the rest is history. I wrote this book with the theme of forgiveness and starting over because those are two topics I know all too well.

The story deals with characters who have lost loved ones and who have had to learn to grieve and move on. I’ve lost both my parents and I suppose the emotions of the characters flowed naturally out of my experiences. Maybe I wrote it as a personal way of dealing with the losses and healing from them.

Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?
I love romance! I love to make people feel “googly” inside. I think it’s awesome to be able to slip away in your mind for a bit and escape from one’s daily life. On a more serious note, I write because I want people to know the message God has placed on my heart. I have been married for almost twenty-five years.

In those twenty-five years, we’ve seen many friends experience failed marriages due to infidelity. We have two children who we raised to value their purity and to save it for the spouse God has for them. I’ve worked with youth ministry at church on and off for ten years and seen the devastation that comes when kids choose not to wait. And more recently I’ve become aware of the sex trafficking industry that plagues our world. These young people are trapped and do not have a choice in keeping their purity.

All of these things combined, plus knowing the Lord commands us to value our purity and to stay faithful to the one we marry, makes me passionate about doing whatever I can do to help others see the value in having sexual integrity whether they are single or married. Right now, writing Christian Romance and blogging on marriage is one way I accomplish that mission.

How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
When I started my first novel, To Dance Once More, I knew I wanted it to be set at the beach because the beach is my favorite place to be. It is set in the Victorian era and my mind imagined long flowing gowns and walking on the sand with parasols in hand.

We took a trip to Panama City Beach, Florida that summer and I visited the few historical places I could find there, collected brochures, and really just daydreamed. When I came home and began writing, I could still smell the salt air and feel the surf crashing on my legs and the wind in my hair. It made the book real to me. Although I’ve traveled elsewhere since then, that trip brought me the most memorable research experience.
Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?

Oh, man, how much space do you have? Seriously, I have had so much encouragement throughout this journey it’s so hard to narrow it down. My husband has always been my greatest supporter. Of course, he dreams of the day when we can own a big farm and he can drive around on a tractor all day just for the heck of it, haha, so he wants me to keep writing until I get that best seller.
All of my family and friends have always encouraged me to never give up. Norm Rohrer, who was my writing instructor with the Christian Writers Guild when I took their writing course, encouraged me and corrected my errors but did it lovingly and kept telling me I had what it took to be a published writer. More recently my friend Brenda Lott, aka Maggie Brendan, has been a great encourager to me, as well as my agent, Les Stobbe, Jack Cavanaugh and Julie Lessman.

What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
I think it has all surprised me. Being published has opened many doors but not as many as I would have thought. Being represented by an agent has allowed me to walk through doors I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to. Building a platform is exhausting and no matter what you do, there seems to be something you could have done better or something that was a complete waste of time.

All of these things have surprised me. Something else that has surprised me is the reaction from so many non-writer friends that now that I have “achieved my goals” I should be happy and ready to move on to another “dream”. If you’re a writer, you know that you’re never finished. You’re never satisfied. You’re always on the quest to write the next great novel.
What has surprised me about the writing itself is that it always grows as I grow. Just when I think I can’t find a new way to express an emotion, God allows me to walk through a journey that brings a fresh perspective and gives me just the right thing to say.

If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself to work hard on the query and proposal process as much as on writing the novel. Naiveté and a lack of knowledge about the industry can halt all of your efforts and cause you to want to give up. You can get lost in the writing and never get around to the marketing and you need to do both simultaneously or at least in short recurring cycles.

Now to have some fun with travel
What’s your favorite place you have visited?
As you know by now, I love the beach. I’m not really a sun-bunny though. I love to sit out in the mornings or evenings and drool over the ocean and the breezes. I do love to jump and play in the waves but my children say I’m too old and “mature” for that now.

This past summer my husband and I took our first ever week-long trip without the kids. We went to a place called Cedar Key, Florida. It was a quiet little town where everybody knows everybody and visitors are considered as residents. There wasn’t much to do there but for me to write and Dan to fish. We loved it!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?
I would love to go to Italy. I have seen it on travel shows and on HGTV relocation shows and would love to visit there. It looks so romantic! Of course, it may be a while before we can go somewhere that far away so I would cherish returning to Cedar Key or to Panama City Beach.

And now a fun tidbit—if there was one special travel destination just for writers and you were the founder of it, what would the name be and would it be located?
I think you may have guessed it would be at the beach…  :)

Let’s see, I can’t use Catch the Wave because that title already belongs to the Christian Authors Guild conference they hold in Atlanta each year. Maybe something like “Writing with the Tides”?

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Penning Board 2013-7

The Penning Board Items of the Week

Movie: "What a Girl Wants” – Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth and Oliver James
I had to write about this movie. Sure, it’s not a groundbreaking, award winning film, but it is one of my favorite movies. At moments, this film is hilarious and a bit silly but at others it is sweet and endearing, especially the moments between the main character and her father. 
Plus, I just bought my plane ticket for a return trip to England this spring and many future movies I watch will definitely involve London (like this one does) and other U.K. locales. 
If you need a pick-me-up and want to see a bit of London, check out this film. It will make you smile.
Interesting News: “Take in a City’s Sights and Cuisine at the Same Time”

Get a taste of the next big thing in sightseeing tours—Gourmet Bus by Grupo Julia/Gray Line Spain. Enjoy one of Barcelona’s newest and most innovative tours, combining a panoramic sightseeing tour of one of the world’s most elegant cities with an on-board, haute-cuisine dinner.

Travelers to Barcelona have been lining up to experience this revolutionary new concept combining world-class haute cuisine prepared by a Michelin-starred chef and the unbeatable views of a new city. 
The state-of-the-art Gourmet Bus coaches boast an innovative design combining the aesthetics of a fine restaurant with the panoramic views of a comfortable tour bus. Each customer is treated to a personal iPad for the duration of the tour, highlighting the famous sights surrounding them while they experience the city with all five senses. Visit the Gourmet Bus tour page for more information.
What do you think? Would you like to do a gourmet bus tour? Or do you think this tour might feel a bit overwhelming?

I really enjoyed this book from Susan Meissner. I love books that flow back and forth from present day to past…and I should since this style is how I write. :)
Meissner is a fantastic writer and the story line and depth of the history, along with her superb writing, held me captivated well up until the ending, which came quite as a surprise. I can’t wait to pick up another of Meissner’s novels. “Lady in Waiting” is her next one on my list. 

For more information about Meissner, check out her website here and this book here.

Leaving a life of privilege to strike out on her own, Lauren Durough breaks with convention and her family’s expectations by choosing a state college over Stanford and earning her own income over accepting her ample monthly allowance. She takes a part-time job from 83-year-old librarian Abigail Boyles, who asks Lauren to transcribe the journal entries of her ancestor Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials.

Almost immediately, Lauren finds herself drawn to this girl who lived and died four centuries ago. As the fervor around the witch accusations increases, Mercy becomes trapped in the worldview of the day, unable to fight the overwhelming influence of snap judgments and superstition, and Lauren realizes that the secrets of Mercy’s story extend beyond the pages of her diary, living on in the mysterious, embittered Abigail.

The strength of her affinity with Mercy forces Lauren to take a startling new look at her own life, including her relationships with Abigail, her college roommate, and a young man named Raul. But on the way to the truth, will Lauren find herself playing the helpless defendant or the misguided judge? Can she break free from her own perceptions and see who she really is?

Bible Verse: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

Quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Song: “I Won't Give Up” by Jason Mraz

I enjoy many of Jason Mraz’s songs, but this one takes the cake. Gorgeous, gorgeous song! My friends just got married this past weekend and this was their first dance song. If you haven’t heard it, you must…so click here. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Folk Tale Inspired Suspense - Author Interview with James R. Callan

A contemporary mystery / suspense novel
Can long forgotten, old folk tales affect the lives of people today? In A Ton of Gold, one certainly affected young, brilliant Crystal Moore.

Two people are killed, others threatened, a house burned and an office fire-bombed – all because of an old folk tale, greed and ignorance.
On top of that, the man who nearly destroyed Crystal emotionally is coming back.This time he can destroy her career.She’ll need all the help she can get from a former bull rider, her streetwise housemate and her feisty 76 year-old grandmother.

James R. Callan took a degree in English, intent on writing. But when that did not support a family, he returned to graduate school in the field of mathematics. Upon graduation, he worked as a research mathematician, segueing into computer science, and a thirty year detour from writing.

Along the way, he has received grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Data Processing Management Association. He has been listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science, and Two Thousand Notable Americans.

Then one day, he realized his children were grown, self-supporting, and he could return to his original love—writing. For two years, Callan wrote a monthly column for a national magazine. For six months, he wrote a weekly column that appeared in newspapers in four states. Callan has published seven books: three non-fiction books, plus four mystery/suspense novels, one of which appeared in both print and audio. The audio version (by Books in Motion) rose as high as number seven on the publisher’s list. He has had shorter works published in four anthologies.

Callan belongs to writers’ groups in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He and his wife split their time between homes in east Texas and Puerto Vallarta. They have four children and six grandchildren.
You can find James at his website, blog or social media - Facebook and Twitter.
For more information about his book, click here or here.
Ten Questions with Author James R. Callan

What should readers know about your latest release?
First, let me thank you, Morgan, for inviting me. I appreciate this opportunity to visit with your audience. My latest book is titled A Ton of Gold. As with my previous fictions releases, this is a mystery/suspense. It’s a little different in that the initial idea came from an old folk tale.

What was the main inspiration for the new book?
For some time, I had wanted to use an information retrieval expert as the heroine in a mystery and let IR be a crucial component. Then, I read this Texas folk take and I began to wonder, could a folk tale seriously affect the lives of people today. The more I thought about it, I realized that information retrieval could supply the link, and A Ton of Gold was born.

Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?
I do feel compelled. I had planned to write after I got out of college, but could not support a family on it. So, I took a 35 year detour in mathematics and computer science. Now, I’m back to my first love: writing. I have written both non-fiction and fiction. But, mystery/suspense is my favorite genre.

How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
The sequel to A Ton of Gold required a reasonable knowledge of parts of Mexico, including the jungles. I’d say that was, to date, the most memorable research.

Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?
Fellow writers, such as Jory Sherman, Caleb Pirtle, Stephen Woodfin, Galand Nuchols and many others, have played a large part. Also, I find writing conferences a great source of inspiration.

What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
Platform building. No question. I wasn’t prepared for that.

If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
Start to build your platform early. Do not wait until you have a book out. 
Now to have some fun with travel...
What’s your favorite place you have visited?
Tasmania. While I have found many places very interesting, Tasmania was not only interesting, but an absolute delight. I need to go back.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?
I’m always eager to visit places I’ve never been. I’ve visited all 50 states. Asia would give me six continents. So, I guess I’d pick Asia. And maybe a side trip to Tasmania.
And now a fun tidbit—if there was one special travel destination just for writers and you were the founder of it, what would the name be and would it be located?
Fun? This is tough. I think I’d pick the mountains, far from major cities, the only noise the wind soughing in the trees. Perhaps I’d call it Shangri-La.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Penner's Spotlight - Christine Lindsay - India

Pens on a World Map
Penner’s Spotlight

: Christine Lindsay of Canada

Location: Chennai, India

There is one of me with a group of Indian students in Chennai (southern India) when I visited there in Jan. 2010. I was on a writing mission for Christian Camps International at the time.

The big building here is of the Red Mosque in Delhi. This photo became the backdrop for the front cover of my debut novel Shadowed in Silk.

 This was taken from inside that same building looking at the arches, the Red Mosque in Delhi. This picture became the backdrop for the front cover of my book
Shadowed in Silk.

These beautiful Indian children praying are why I went to India. I was there to observing the Children's Camps International at work. These precious little Indian kids are learning about Christ in a fun camp setting.

This gorgeous turquoise and glass beaded silk is the sari material I purchased in Chennai India. I brought it home and had a sari made up from it, and the model for the front cover of Shadowed in Silk wore this.

Here is the front cover for Shadowed in Silk

What souvenir do you cherish most from your travels? Have you traveled to India? If so, where? We'd love to hear about it. Please join the travel discussion below in the comment section.

For a few facts . . .

Christine Lindsay writes historical inspirational novels with strong love stories such as her debut novel SHADOWED IN SILK which is set in India during a turbulent era. Christine's long-time fascination with the British Raj was seeded from stories of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India.

SHADOWED IN SILK is currently the recipient of two awards and a finalist in a third. SiS won the 2009 ACFW Genesis for Christian Historical, and the 2011 Grace Award. In June 2012 SiS became a finalist in the Reader's Favorite Award. Adding to Christine's Irish pride is the fact that her great-grandfather and her grandfather both worked as riveters in the Belfast shipyard and one of the ships they built was the Titanic.

An interesting note about the front cover of SiS, is that the model is Christine's daughter, Sarah, whom she relinquished to adoption and was reunited with 20 years later.

The Pacific coast of Canada is Christine's home. It's a special time in her life as she and her husband enjoy the empty nest, but also the noise and fun when the kids and grandkids come home. Like a lot of writers, her cat is her chief editor.
For more about Christine, visit her website or connect with her through social media - Facebook and Twitter. For more information about Christine's new release, "Captured By Moonlight," click here. See the book trailer here.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Get to a Reader’s Heart: What to Do with First Readers

First of all…Happy Valentine’s Day Eve, Penners!

I so did not want to hear “It was good” or even “It was great.” I needed specifics and I had to figure out how to get them.

What I needed was to get to a reader’s heart and past the fact that the first readers of my manuscript were people who love me and may sugarcoat the truth, which is exactly what I wanted, right?

What do your first readers really think?
That is not what a writer needs. We need the truth, so we can learn our weaknesses and polish our manuscripts until they gleam.

When I completed my first manuscript, I was concerned about this exact issue—gaining valuable reader feedback. Several of my readers were family members and close friends and I did not want to receive the standard “You did a nice job.”

I had to find a way to gain constructive feedback and determine if readers “really” liked my book. After much thought, I put my journalism training to work and wrote down questions to ask them.

These questions turned into a simple questionnaire for readers to fill out after they read my book. I feel it was exactly what I needed.

I asked questions such as “What stands out in your mind about the book?” and “Was the ending satisfying? If not, why?” plus more.

In using the questionnaire, I found that when you ask specific questions people are more apt to tell you the pros and cons of your work. When they are not blindsided with your enthusiastic “don’t you think my baby’s beautiful?” approach, the readers have space to step back and analyze the work.

What did they like? What did they not like? If they liked it, what did they like about it? It’s simple enough, right? You just have to know which questions you want to ask.

Do you have a favorite method of gaining constructive feedback? Please share.

As a Valentine’s Day gift, I have posted my reader questionnaire below. Use it as is or tweak it for your needs. I hope it helps you on your writing journey as much as it helped me.

For more information about first readers or beta readers, check out  literary agent Rachelle Gardner's post - "Who Should Read Your Unpublished Work?"

Reader Questionnaire

Your Name:

Date Completed:

Rate the Book: Loved it – Really Liked It – Liked It – It was Okay – Did Not Like It

1) What stands out in your mind about the book? A certain scene, characters, theme, etc.?

2) What were the book’s strongest moments?

3) What were the book’s weakest moments?

4) Were you confused about any part of the book? If so, which one/s?

5) What surprised you the most in the book? Did you guess anything correctly?

6) Was the ending satisfying? If not, why?

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Penning Board 2013-6

The Penning Board Items of the Week

Vlog: On Saturday, I participated in the Mardi Gras 5K Color Run in New Orleans. It's supposed to be the most fun 5K in the world...and it is! Check out the Web site here and see if there is one coming near you! :)

Before The Color Run...

After The Color Run... :) 

Coming up this week...

Friday, February 15 - Penner's Spotlight visits India with author Christine Lindsay.

Movie: “Emma” (1996) with Gywneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam

I have been on a Jane Austen kick ever since the recent 200th anniversary of "Pride and Prejudice." What am I saying...I am always in the mood for some Jane Austen, whether by film or book. I especially love this version of Austen's witty novel.

To see my Valentine's Day card to all you lovely Penners, click here. All Jane Austen fans are sure to like it. :) It was made by the talented Vanilla Joy. She's so creative! You should go check out her how-to tutorials!

Interesting News: "Birth Mom Found Through Viral Post"

A young woman was in search of her birth parents, so she turned to social media--and it has worked. Through posting her search over Facebook, she has located her birth mom and now she is planning to help others find their birth parents too.

I think it's great that social media has been used to find someone for good intentions instead of the usual perpertrators looking for easy prey.

What do you think? Does it surprise you to see social media use take a positive turn?

Book: "Shattered" by Dani Pettrey

I could not put down this latest release from Dani Pettrey! I waited way too long to read her superb debut, Submerged, but it was nice to have Shattered already in my possession.

Not only are Pettrey's writing and storylines fantastic, but the characters are so real. I feel like I know them and I wish they were real people, so I could go to Alaska and meet them. :)

If you haven't checked out Dani Pettrey's two releases, they are must reads. Also her Web site is quite awesome! Click here to see it. Read about Shattered below or click here for more info.

Piper McKenna couldn’t be more thrilled that her prodigal brother, Reef, has returned to Yancey, Alaska, after five years. But her happiness is short-lived when Reef appears at her house covered in blood. A fellow snowboarder has been killed. Despite the evidence, Reef swears he’s innocent. And Piper believes him.

Deputy Landon Grainger loves the McKennas like family, but he’s also sworn to find the truth, and he knows those closest to you have the power to deceive you the most. With the sheriff pushing for a quick conviction, pursuing the truth in this case could mean the end of Landon’s career.

As Piper wages her own search, the two head deep into Canada’s rugged backcountry–and unexpected complications. Not only does their long friendship seem to be turning into something more, but the search for answers is becoming deadlier with each step.

Bible Verse: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." - 1 Corinthians 13: 4-5 (NIV)

Quote: “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy

Song: "Long Time Traveler" by The Wailin' Jennys

I quite enjoy folk/celtic music and this group is one of the best new ones I have discovered in the genre. It is quite amazing to me that this song is acapella, but I didn't really take notice at first that there were no other instruments besides their voices.
Check out the song here