Friday, March 29, 2013

Penners Spotlight - Stephanie Landsem - Germany

Pens on a World Map
Penner's Spotlight

Location: Germany

One night in a real German castle 

Last summer, I was able to take my family on a trip to my favorite country: Germany. This was my third trip to Deutschland, but my husband and children’s first foray into the land of majestic castles, soaring cathedrals, and amazing natural beauty.

The kids each have their favorite places from the trip. My daughters loved Cologne, where we climbed to the top of the tallest cathedral in the world.

The boys loved the little town of of Boppard on the Rhein, where we rock-climbed to the top of a mountain for a stunning view of the river valley.

One of my favorite memories was our stay in Stahleck Castle above the tiny town of Bacharach on the Rhein river. As we climbed (are you sensing a theme here?) the 500 steps to the entrance, it was like stepping back into the 12th century.

The kids had a blast storming the castle, while my husband and I relaxed in the courtyard and caught our breath at the view of vineyards and the winding river below. 

Although the outside of the castle was medieval, the inside could only be called utilitarian. Bunk beds, tiny bathrooms, and a modern cafeteria provided the basics for the low price of 20 Euro per person. 
In the evening, we hiked down the hill to the quaint little town of Bacharach for dinner and a sampling of German wines. Breakfast was sturdy German fare of bread, boiled eggs, meat, and cheese—with plenty of strong coffee and hot milk.

When we strapped on our backpacks, the whole family was sad to say goodbye to Stahleck Castle and Bacharach, but our memories of Germany and our (high-climbing) adventures there will stay with us forever

Have you stayed the night at a castle or historic property? Do you have an unique family trip to share about? Please join the conversation below.  

For more travel stories about Germany, click here or here.

Stephanie Landsem writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she's explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. 

Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats. When she's not writing, she's feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure - whether it be in person or on the page. 

For more information about Stephanie, visit her website here.

Mara is a desperate Samaritan girl struggling to keep her family alive in the face of starvation and the threat of exile from their strict village. When a mysterious Jewish teacher transforms her mother at Jacob’s well, Mara hopes for a better life—until her mother’s past sins lead to a brutal stoning.

Only Mara can save her dying mother, but she’ll have the help of an unlikely friend: Shem, a hot-tempered young man on the run from the Romans. Shem risks capture to help Mara search for the man that Samaritans call the Taheb, the Restorer. Together, they travel dangerous roads into the hostile territory of Galilee. Their journey to the Taheb brings them burgeoning faith, unexpected love, and unimaginable heartbreak.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Feeling "writer's flood?" - Author Interview with Lotis Key

The Song of the Tree

Despite promises of eternal joy given by the Tree of Life, a privileged young woman loses everything in a brutal war. Her husband disappears; her family is murdered; her home is burned to the ground. 

Desperate, starving, and burdened with an unwanted child, she now despises and rejects the Tree she once worshiped. Ripped from her land and people, forced into survival immigration, she becomes a lowly refugee, a servant in the homes of the rich. Her unusually gifted child thrives, but is an ever present reminder of ultimate loss and betrayal.

Two women: one broken, the other rooted in bitterness, continue to be drawn towards the song of a Tree that will not let them go. Along roads of degrading poverty and equally destructive wealth, each much wrestle with the siren call of perfect love, and its altar sacrifice of perfect trust. 

The Song of the Tree is an intense, contemporary allegory that moves the God-seeker from fist shaking stance, down to knees before the throne. 

A Thing Devoted chronicles two years in the life of a Christian family devastated by adultery and divorce. Three, adopted, multi-racial children, struggle with the question of God’s seeming indifference to their pain. Ten year old Abster, a tiny spy in the house of loss and confusion, keeps a daily record of her observations. 

“If you attend church weekly, and on time, are attentive in Sunday school, get full immersion baptism, tithe more than ten per cent, volunteer in the nursery, pray for missions, and really, truly believe in God, shouldn’t you be protected?

Shouldn’t He keep terrible things from happening to you? I understand my obligations to Jesus, but what are His, to me?” This intimate story of one family’s journey through fire, considers the purpose of suffering, its defining nature, and ultimately its life giving power.

Lotis Melisande Key has lived a life of wide travel and curious variety. She’s raised horses in the Australian outback, skied the Alps, run tours through a tropical jungle, bought and sold antiquities. She’s been a restaurateur, a breeder of show cats, a third world church planter. She’s worked in an orphanage and run a ministry that puts children through school.

After a professional theater début at the age of twelve, she subsequently starred in over 75 feature films for the Asian market. She’s also hosted numerous television and radio shows. Upon settling in the U.S., her work expanded American on-camera and voice over narration, industrial videos, trade shows, professional theater, television, and radio commercials. 

She is the founder of MESSENGERS, a Christian theater arts group based at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis ( As artistic director, she toured the company throughout the US, Canada, and Asia. Vice-president of the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild, Lotis is a passionate storyteller. Her work focuses on the mystery of God, and His incomprehensible love for the unattractive, wayward parts, of His otherwise perfect, creation. For infor about Lotis, check out her website,

Ten Questions with Author Lotis Key

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?

The Song of the Tree, and A Thing Devoted, are my first two novels, and although unrelated, they released together.

The Song of the Tree is a story of bitter loss, and the pain of desperation that drives us away from the God we love. I wrote it for the thousands upon thousands of people, who have lost everything, through disasters of every kind. For people whose only choice, is to start over, or lie down and die. Where is God for them in that kind of recovery? Can they still hang on to a belief, that He is infinitely good?

A Thing Devoted is the story of a Christian family going through a divorce. Again, the premise is the purposes of God in pain, this time, through the eyes of an adopted child. She questions God’s responsibility to keep us from sin.

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 have known a lot of people from war torn countries, trying to pull their lives back together, and seen that the American church has little to say to them about their loss. Immigrants struggle with the question of God’s faithfulness. Does He care about people who aren’t white? Is what happens to people in war … His goodness? How does that work?

The same question applies with Christian divorce. Where is God in crisis like that? Does God love, or hate His people? Is He punishing them? If this can happen to a Christian family … is there even really a God?

It seems to me that it is often easier for people to connect with a story, than a Bible tract, or a sermon. So I write stories for people seeking Biblically based answers they can understand.

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

I’m am evangelist at heart. I burn with a desire to communicate the loveliness, and perfect goodness of God. He makes me restless … always whispering, use the time use the time use the time. There will be nothing left of us, after our temporary existence on this planet, nothing left to mark our passage here, except, what we did to magnify Him.

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

I don’t think I’ve ever consciously researched a story. I guess … I’ve had an eventful life, and the things I’ve seen, and done, have parked themselves in the rooms of my head. As a trained actor, I have a prodigious memory, so that probably helps. I’m a rabid reader, yet, prior to writing these two novels, I never considered becoming a writer, or telling anyone outside dinner guests, any of my stories.

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

While everyone you’ve ever passed on the life road can’t help but be a part of your personal story, I suppose the writing aspect of mine, has been most influenced by Dr. John Piper. He has been my friend, and Pastor, for over twenty years, and, although I was already in love with God, Piper expanded, and inflamed my desire to proclaim Him. 

Piper, is a great theologian, and reading his books has shaped me. I have also been shaped by the writing of Jonathan Edwards. Yet, I recognize, that not everyone is equipped for that magnitude of exposition. So, not being myself, on that level, I wanted to write stories that would be more accessible to ordinary people, looking for answers.

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

The fact, that writing, is so pleasurable. It’s really astonishing to me, because I’ve never thought of myself as having much to say. I don’t, in fact, talk much, unless I’m paid to. I laugh when I hear the term, “writer’s block”, because I have “writers flood”. I can just go on and on…. Most of my time is actually spent cutting out half of what I write.

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

I am who I am. I do want people to read my books, in fact, I pray they will! However, I cannot remake myself, to fit my writing, into what will “sell.”
I write stories that interest me. I write about people, and situations, that interest me. It’s really too bad, because as a former, professional actor, I’m skilled in the fine art of turning myself into whatever is needed at the moment. Yet, somehow, in writing, I’ve found it impossible.

Perhaps … writing is not paint you can wash off at the end of the day, or a borrowed dress you put on for the shoot. It’s extremely personal.

Now to have some fun with travel...

What’s your favorite place you have visited?

This is an impossible question for me. I’ve been on the road since I was three. I’m easy going, and pretty happy just about anywhere I am. I can’t remember a place where there wasn’t something to love … or laugh at!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?
Lately, I’ve been thinking I should further explore Turkey. I went there once and loved it. Planned to go back and visit Goreme, in Cappadocia, and the ruins of Ani, near the Armenian border. 

Then war broke out … war was everywhere. I felt uneasy with the thought of traveling in certain places. It’s never left my heart though, so I must still be considering it.

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 would build a city and fill it with people who want to know more about God. Then I would ask Christian writers to set up camp, and make themselves useful. I’d called the city, Askersville.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Penning Board 2013-12

The Penning Board
Items of the Week

Movie: “Cool Runnings” (1993) – John Candy, Leon and Doug E. Doug,
Growing up, I loved this movie and I still do. For one thing, it’s hilarious and for another, it is a unique true story of a seemingly impossible dream and a tale of not giving up.
The acting is superb—whether serious or comical and it’s a quite unforgettable film. There are also lovely glimpses of Jamaica in the film’s early parts.
Based on the true story of the First Jamaican bobsled team trying to make it to the Winter Olympics.
Highly Recommended.
News: “Library books at your fingertips on the roadside?”
I had never heard of the fascinating thing called a “little library” until I spotted it on the cover of our newspaper’s American Profile last week. These enlarged birdhouse-like structures are popping up all across the country and promoting reading.
What it entails is people placing little enclosed structures on posts outside their houses—most near their mailboxes—and placing books inside them. This miniature “library” allows passersby to take a book and perhaps return or replace it with another one. There are different rules for each person and place.
Read more about these libraries at the official website here.
Have you actually seen one of these libraries? Would you consider having one?
I really enjoyed this suspenseful four stories in one book. Goddard has a way of thrusting the reader right into the action and the romance. I have already added her other books to my To-Read list. :)
The harsh, yet peaceful Oregon Outback molds the lives of four rugged brothers who stumble into love. FBI agent Jonas Love has brought trouble back home, endangering his life and that of an old flame. Cattle rancher Carver Love finds himself falling for the sheriff in the midst of chasing down modern-day rustlers.
Thrill-seeker Lucas Love fears nothing—until he meets a beautiful bookkeeper. Justin Love is trailing a fugitive who’s heading too close to home—and one particular lodge keeper.
How will God protect these men as they risk their lives to defend the ones they love?

For more about the book, click here. For more about the author, click here.
Bible Verse: “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” - Hebrews 13:14
Quote: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” — Oscar Wilde
Song: “All Your Life” by The Band Perry
This is a really sweet song and the video is really interesting—portraying an early 20th century traveling gypsy caravan carnival of sorts. Check it out here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Found WWII love letters? Interview with Joi Copeland

Two men fighting for their country.
Two women dealing with tragedy alone.
Two different stories, two different eras, one common thread.
Sophia Philips, a wife and mom, finds herself missing the two most important people in her life. One ripped from her because of war, the other by death.
Sophia's grandmother, Lucia Snell, gives her an early inheritance; letters written to her by her husband while stationed in China during World War II. Lucia believes these letters will help her granddaughter heal from the heart-wrenching tragedy she faces.
Will Sophia carry the anger, bitterness, and guilt within her or go to the only One who can heal her from the pain? Will she find the strength to carry on and the will to survive through her grandparents' Letters of Love?
Joi Copeland is married to a wonderful man, Chris, and has three amazing boys, Garrison, Gage, and Gavin. She is living the dream in beautiful Denver, Colorado. Joi loves being a wife and mom! She enjoys spending time with her sister Steffanne, and loves to sit and have a cup of coffee or tea with friends!
She's been a Christian for over twenty years. Following Jesus has been the best decision she has ever made. Joi's other books are Hope for Tomorrow, Hope for the Journey, Christmas Rayne, and Sheriff Bride Rob's Story.
For more information about Joi, visit her website here and connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.
Interview with Author Joi Copeland
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?
Letters of Love is based on my grandparents. This book differs from my other novels in that I wrote it with them in mind. It doesn't really shed new light on a topic, but gives a different perspective on how to deal with loss.
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?
The day I read my grandfather's letters to my sweet grandma I knew I would write a book about it.
Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?
I find fiction books can help draw others to a closer relationship with Jesus. I write to encourage and bring hope to believers who pick up my books.
How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
I haven't traveled for a book yet, but plan to make a trip to England for a future book I'll be writing. My most memorable experience is reading these letters.
Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?
My husband, my sister, and my brother-in-law. Without these three, I wouldn't be writing today. But my main inspiration is truly Jesus Himself.
What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
Marketing! It's tough!
If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself not to rewrite my novel. Make it better. And to get in a critique group as soon as possible!
Now to have some fun with travel…
What’s your favorite place you have visited?
Caracas, Venezuela on a mission's trip when I was 16.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?
I'd go to a few different places. I would go to Montana because I've never been! And I would go to England, Scotland, Ireland. I'm fascinated with these countries!
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?
It would be called Mountain of Joy and of course, be in the mountains. The beauty of the mountains still astounds me, and I would love to have a getaway for writers there.
Thank you for having me, Morgan!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Penner's Spotlight - Sandra D. Moore - U.S. - Maryland

Pens on a World Map
Penner's Spotlight

Penner: Sandra D. Moore of Pennsylvania

Location: Sharpsburg, Maryland
United States

One of the reasons I write historical romance is that I love conducting the research. For my May 2013 release, A Heartbeat Away, I traveled to Sharpsburg, Maryland, the setting for the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg, for you southerners). 

Sharpsburg is a very small town, unscathed by commercial development, a true gem of history frozen in time by the town's refusal to allow commercialism to mar what they have worked so hard to preserve. 

I was taken on a private tour by Bob Murphy of RCM History Tours (RCM Twitter). His prices are very reasonable and he accommodated my desire to walk some of the tour. I stayed at the snug and very clean Mary Hill House.  

Now for the pics...

Outside of the church. This is the church that Gerta Bumgartner would have attended if not for the battle raging on the top of South Mountain that Sunday.
The inside of the famous Dunker Church
Piper Farm was the model for the house neighboring Gerta’s fictional home. This farm became the headquarters for Confederates Longstreet and Hill during the battle.
Mumma Farm was the only farm burned up during the battle. The springhouse didn't burn and was my inspiration for Gerta’s spring house where the reader first encounters the injured Joe.
Roulette Farm--in my story, the Roulette's are escaping to the caves along the Potomac. Caves that are real, I might add.
Bloody Lane, called Hog Trough Lane before the battle
Burnside Bridge from the Confederate side. With only 300-400 soldiers holding off over 2K because they held the higher ground.
Antietam National Cemetery
Grove House, Lee's Headquarters in Sharpsburg during Confederate occupation
Do you see the shell stuck in the side of this house? Every house in Sharpsburg was used to shelter the wounded.
McClellan's command was centered at Pry House. Not open for tour at the time of my trip. :(
Uh, this wasn't part of the tour, but was part of the recovery. Nutter's Ice-Cream. 4 scoops for $2.95. I was sold!
 Have you visited a Civil War battlefield or historic site? If you could visit one historic site anywhere in the world, where would it be? Please join the conversation below in the comment section.

Sandra D. Moore resides in the rolling hills of Cumberland Valley, PA – a transplanted city girl and glad of it! She enjoys ferreting out little-known historical details and crafting a story around them.
Her new releases include Promise Brides (3-in-1 historical romances set in PA) of which two stories are ACFW Carol Award Finalists. In May 2013, A Heartbeat Away, Book 7 in Abingdon Press’s Quilts of Love series, releases.
Murder on the Ol’ Bunions released from Smashwords as an ebook in March 2012 followed by Polly Dent Loses Grip and for the first time ever, Your Goose is Cooked, the third and final book in the LaTisha Barnhart Mystery series.

To learn more about Sandra and her cozy mysteries and historical romances, visit her website here, Twitter or Pinterest. 

When a band of runaway slaves brings Union-loyal Elizabeth "Beth" Bumgartner a wounded Confederate soldier named "Joe", it is the catalyst that pushes her to defy her pacifist parents and become a nurse during the Battle of Antietam.

Her mother's mysterious good-bye gift is filled with quilt blocks that bring comfort to Beth during the hard days and lonely nights, but as she sews each block, she realizes there is a hidden message of faith within the pattern that encourages and sustains her. 

Reunited with Joe, Beth learns his secret and puts the quilt's message to its greatest test--but can betrayal be forgiven?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How to Write a Travel Article

I feel like I’ve been there” is the single best compliment I’ve received in regard to travel writing. For the past few years, I’ve written several travel articles for my local newspaper where I serve as a reporter-photographer. (It’s a small paper, so we wear many hats.)

Scuba diving in Puerto Rico (Looks like a fish is kissing me)
On the occasion that I’ve been on a trip and written about it, countless people have complimented me on these articles and said they felt as if I’d taken them along on the journey.

After profusely thanking them, I started thinking about why they felt this way. I mean…I know I’m a decent writer, even a good writer, but honestly to pen something that evokes such a connection must be great writing. The more I thought about it, the more I narrowed it down to two things—the first being voice.

For writers in nearly any situation, voice is what sets us apart and helps to create this connection between the words and the reader. The topic of voice is widely discussed among the non-fiction and fiction community alike and it’s no different in travel writing whether it be for an article or a book.

Writing a travel piece all begins with the place and the experience you had there. You might write an overview of a whole country or focus on a specific city. Take your pick. Though for the purpose of learning, it may be easier to choose a particular restaurant, museum, event, etc.

Okay…now that the locale is selected, you must figure out how to give the reader a sense of place by using the second thing—details.

Close your eyes.

What sticks out in your mind about the place?

Do you recall a specific scent? See unique colors, crowded streets, empty cobblestone lanes?

Do you hear music, loud noises, different languages?

Feel the soft tablecloth beneath your fingers or the coarse fur of a camel’s neck? Taste salt, sugar, exotic spices in the food?

Fellow Tourists in Cairo, Egypt
For additional help, look over your pictures, videos or souvenirs from the place. I always do and it’s another tool to help me be in the place again so I can take readers there too.

After re-familiarizing yourself with the place, hone in on one specific aspect of it (perhaps the answer to the question about what sticks out in your mind) and start writing. Don’t worry about writing it perfectly to sound like a travel guide or TV travel script.

Write about what comes to mind about the place—what you liked, were surprised about, activities you did, etc. Just write until you find a stopping point.

Read your writing (out loud is best) and circle or just take note of the details. Make sure several (if not all) senses have been represented.

Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg, Austria
For the opening of the article, look back over it and pick out the most interesting, shocking or funny detail or fact noted. The article must catch the reader’s attention right off the bat.

In my article about camping in an Arkansas teepee, I started with “This writer nearly shot an arrow through a peacock... ” I know…it’s an odd opener, but I felt it was a quirky happening of the trip. (To read more about the near peacock homicide, click

Whether your article is short or long, about somewhere nearby or far off, travel writing that connects with readers is about thinking back on the experience and its details, picking a starting point, being yourself and just writing it. Try it.

Have you wanted to write about your travels? Do you have any additional tips for writing about travel? Please share below and feel free to ask questions too. :)


Monday, March 18, 2013

The Penning Board 2013-11

The Penning Board
Items of the Week
MovieLeap Year (2010) – Amy Adams, Matthew Goode and John Lithgow
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I had to choose a bit o’ the Irish! This movie is just “grand” (if you’ve seen it you understand the quote).

This romantic comedy is cute, at times funny and serious, with tons of gorgeous footage of lovely Ireland. Honestly, you should watch it just for the scenery.
You’ll want to book a ticket to the Land o’ the Leprechauns stat.  

Interesting News: Tim Allen, Jonathan Taylor Thomas unite on “Last Man Standing”

Oh, how I loved JTT! All through elementary and junior high, he was the reason I bought scores of Tiger Beat and BOP magazines to find his pictures and pin them on my bedroom wall.
This week’s news may not be ground breaking or life-saving, but it’s a blast from the past for me that I thought I’d share. J  It’s good to know “Randy Taylor” is back on the small screen!
So it’s time to fess up…

Who was your celebrity crush when you were growing up? Please share. I think it’ll be fun!

Book: Highland Legacy by Tracey Bateman, Tamela Hancock Murray, Pamela Griffin and Jill Stengl
I love these four stories-in-one books. They’re so fun! This one is particular is a favorite of mine. I love the connection between the four stories about four woman of different generations with ties to Scotland. Enjoyed it.

Raised in the U.S. foster care system, Audrey MacMurray is driven to learn the truth of who she is and where she came from.

Her search leads to her ancestral home, the romantic Kennerith Castle in Scotland, and the stories of women - her ancestors - who defied the conventions of the day.

These four unique "novels within a novel" provide a rich, multi-generational story of God's love.
Bible Verse: "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake." - Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV)

Quote: “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton
Song: Danny Boy by Celtic Woman
I had to feature this classic song. It’s definitely one that brings Ireland to my mind when I hear it, especially sung so beautifully by Celtic Woman.

Listen to it here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Living with Children Overseas - Diane Dean White

Living with Children Overseas
By Diane Dean White of Florida

When our children were out of college, married and grandchildren started to arrive; I thought how nice to have everyone together for Sunday dinners. Our daughter and oldest, settled with her hubby in our home town, in Michigan. We moved to South Carolina for my husband’s work. Our oldest son followed, and our youngest son decided to leave the world of finance and get his Masters in Bible/Ministerial Studies in Chicago.

Diane's son and his wife who now live in Russia
A few years later he married, and before his marriage and then together with his wife he/they traveled to: Germany, Italy, Ukraine, Thailand, Japan, France, and fourteen other countries. They chose to go to Moscow to serve for three years. That was a long first three years for my husband and me. We were grateful for SKYPE and also the fact that our oldest son was living nearby at that time. 

In front of the Black Sea
Our daughter and family made frequent visits…and then their lives changed. Our son-in-law was given a three year work assignment in Shanghai, China over a year ago. We had moved to Florida and everyone got together for Christmas before they left. (I’ll admit I didn’t see that move coming). Due to severe back problems I’m unable to travel, or we’d really enjoy visiting around the globe.

Skiing near a 2014 Olympics site
When our son and his wife came home for their visa renewal from Russia and some vacation time, it was wonderful, but we also knew they’d be returning. They live in Sochi, Russia now, on the beautiful Black Sea. There may have been times I felt we prayed too hard, thus they were taken too far away? I had to deal with the fact that when we give our children to the Lord, He is in control. He’s their protector.

Preparation for the 2014 Olympics in Russia
Right now they are participating in Bible studies, English Clubs, sharing God’s love to those who never hear it, and are preparing for an outreach during the future 2014 Winter Olympics near Sochi. 

Much building is going on and this area is so exciting…people from all over will be part of this beautiful area and wonderful event. We pray those who don’t know the Word of God when they come, will be open to hear it, as many are available to share His love. 

Gorgeous sunset over the Black Sea
Have you made a trip to Russia or the Olympics? Do you have a relative living overseas and can relate to Diane's story? Please join in the discussion in comments.

Diane is the author of Beach Walks and Carolina in the Morning. A former newspaper reporter, and weekly magazine columnist whose stories have appeared in a number of books, magazines and other publications and anthologies. 

She is a member of ACFW, and resides in Florida with her husband of forty years where she's working on her next book. 

You can read more of Diane's writing on her website,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Parents stolen by cult? Author Interview with A.B. Brownell

Enter an area where people are missing and radicals want to obliterate Christianity from the earth.

After Joe Baker’s parents mysteriously disappear, he finds himself with a vicious man after him. Joe and an unusual gang team up to find his mom and dad. The gang is dedicated to preventing and solving crimes with ordinary harmless things such as noise, water, and a pet skunk instead of blades and bullets.

Joe reads the Bible hoping to discover whether God will answer prayer and bring his parents home. In his dreams, Joe slips into the skin of Bible characters and what happened to them, happens to him—the peril and the victories. Yet, crying out in his sleep causes him to end up in a mental hospital’s juvenile unit.

Will he escape or will he be harmed? Will he find his parents? Does God answer prayer?

Ada Brownell has been writing for Christian publications since age 15 and spent much of her life as a daily newspaper reporter. She has a BS degree in Mass Communications and worked most of her career at The Pueblo Chieftain in Colo., where she spent the last seven years as a medical writer. After moving to Springfield, MO in her retirement, she continues to free lance for Christian publications and write non-fiction and fiction books.

To connect with Brownell on social media and other publications, click the following links - Facebook, Twitter, Confessions of a Pentecostal and Swallowed by LIFE.

For more information about the author, click here. For the book, click here.

Ten Questions with Author A.B. Brownell

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?

Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult is a new genre for me. Although I’ve written fiction for teens for Sunday school papers, this is my first published novel. My first book, Confessions of a Pentecostal, non-fiction, was published by the Assemblies of God’s Gospel Publishing House. My second, Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal, is an Indie book that came out in 2012.

Joe the Dreamer draws on some of my experiences as a newspaper reporter, especially the years as a medical writer. I’ve been in a juvenile unit of a state mental institution similar to where Joe lands. I learned about seizures from neurologists I interviewed. I also wrote about teen crime and gangs.
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 started the book while teaching at our church day care in an after-school and summers program for upper-elementary and middle-school youth after I retired. The kids needed something exciting and relaxing after lunch so I wrote a chapter one day and read it in class the next. The students were so excited about it they didn’t want to wait until the next day to continue the story.

My goal, however, with this type of story where Joe’s parents disappear and the kid is trying to believe God will answer his prayers and bring them back, was to interest the teens in reading the Bible themselves. In his dreams, Joe slips into the skin of Bible characters and experiences the fear, disappointments and triumphs of Joseph, the breath of lions on his neck while not being harmed, fire licking at his body without being burned, and walking on water with Jesus. 

The dreams which help him experience what he reads about the night before cause him to shout out in the night and that what makes his uncle think he needs psychiatric help. The psychiatrist is delighted to mess with Joe’s brain and put him in the institution because he’s the leader of the radical bunch that enslaves Joe’s parents.
Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?

I think much of the teen fiction today leads youth away from God instead of to Him.
How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?

Visiting a Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona. I stopped there doing research for a series of stories, “Showdown with the Hopi Gods.” I sold the series to a Sunday school paper.
Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?

My first two editors of Christian magazines were wonderful. When an article wasn’t quite there, they told me what I needed to do—shorten it, include an illustration, etc. I took a couple of correspondence courses, and the instructors inspired me also.

I wrote and was published for years, however, before I met another writer personally except for one reporter I met briefly when I was a correspondent in a little Utah town. Most of the time, I was inspired because I had something burning in my heart and wanted to share it. I believe that was the Holy Spirit and He is the Best Teacher.
What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?

I was almost offended when it dawned on me that money is the bottom line in traditional Christian publishing. If you have a readily recognized name or you have a following such as a preaching or teaching ministry your chances of being published rise to the top no matter how you write.

I’m still amazed that so many well-known people use ghost writers. I’ve done some of that for ministers, making articles out of their sermons so I do understand—and I also have grown in my knowledge enough to know publishers can’t survive unless they make money.

Writers also need to make money. I went back to work in the newspaper business in order to send our children to college, although I enjoyed free lance writing. Now the name of the game for me is marketing.
If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?

To write every day. Read more biographies because they are full of great illustrations and quotes. Never stop until I complete a project, then polish, polish, polish.
Now to have some fun with travel

What’s your favorite place you have visited?

I’ve loved all the wonderful scenic places my husband and I have visited, as well as the tourist attractions. But I think my favorite place is where I grew up in Fruita, Colo--fruit country near the Colorado National Monument and Grand Junction, Colo. I do love the springs and falls in Missouri, where we live now.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?

I’d go to Hawaii and perhaps the Holy Land. Well, I’d like to take a cruise to Alaska, too.
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’d choose Glenwood, Colo. Beautiful mountains, an Olympic-size hot springs pool, in a small-town atmosphere. I’d call it Dunamis Wordsmithing Workshop.