Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Enjoying Florida’s Emerald Coast

I had not stepped on a Florida beach in five years before a few weekends ago. One of my best friends from college moved to Navarre, Florida five months ago after she got married. I could not wait to plan a visit and neither could she.
I must admit I’m not the biggest fan of the beach though. I love walking along the shore, sand squeezing through my toes with gentle waves crossing over my feet. It’s so relaxing. I don’t, however, like laying out in the sun or getting in the water, so I hoped our itinerary would be filled with many other activities—and it sure was!
Me & Mary
The first full day of the extended weekend did include a visit to Navarre Beach, but Mary and her husband know how to handle it. He brought a low tent that’s perfect to put beach chairs in and still feel the breeze on your face and have your feet in the sand while being shielded from the unmerciless sun. Mary did convince me to go out in the water and we all had a blast riding the waves.
Afterward, we ate Thai food and Mary and I readied for our first round of shopping, which was at the Pensacola Mall and included dinner at Red Robin. It was a great first day! The next day we continued shopping, but this time we headed further east to Destin and shopped at the Destin Commons, ate lunch at the fantastic Panera Bread restaurant and visited stores at the Destin Outlet Mall too.
Our dinner was definitely a unique experience at McGuire’s Irish Pub Restaurant in Destin. McGuire’s has been a Florida institution of great cuisine and music since 1977. The Destin location opened in 1996 and features a lengthy menu and live music with over a million one-dollar bills suspended from the ceilings and stuck to the walls. It’s also neat to note that Florida is called the Emerald Coast while Ireland is the Emerald Isle.
We sat outside on the upper deck, enjoyed live music and fare such as one of McGuire’s famous steak burgers with smoked Gouda cheese and Irish Potato Fries and their famous Reuben sandwich made with corned beef, swiss cheese and sauerkraut on rye bread.
Lovely sunset at Navarre
I also tried their delicious homebrewed root beer and their 18-cent Senate Bean Soup, which is made from the same recipe that was served in the U.S. Senate for 18 cents and which has been served at that price at McGuire’s since 1977. We also ordered a starter of Irish Boxtys, which is an old Irish favorite made with garlic mashed potatoes hand rolled in herbed bread crumbs and flash fried. They looked a bit like large hushpuppies and tasted great though they were quite different than the ones I had at the famous Gallagher’s Boxty House in Dublin, Ireland.
I enjoyed the beach and shopping, but Saturday held my favorite activity of the trip – visiting the Blackwater River State Park. The park, which is only about 30 minutes northeast of Navarre, allows for visitors to rent tubes and float down the Blackwater River. And that’s just what we did. It was incredibly relaxing. The scenery was beautiful, especially when it poured down raining several times during our two-hour float. I hadn’t been down a river in a tube since a trip to the Bogue Chitto River in Mississippi when I was a kid, so it was a great experience.
Tubing down Blackwater River!
After a day on the water, we had a nice Mexican meal at the Cactus Flower Café in Navarre and then paid a visit to the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, which is amazing. The pier is the longest one on the Gulf of Mexico at 1,545 feet stretching out in the saltwater.
It’s also one of the most popular spots on Navarre Beach. We paid a dollar to walk out on it just after sunset and it was gorgeous. Later, we listened to some live music at the Navarre Beach Pier Restaurant and enjoyed the lovely gulf breeze on my last night in Florida.
Sunday was my final day and our destination was Pensacola. We had brunch at a fabulous little restaurant called “Another Broken Egg,” and then we made a trip to the National Naval Aviation Museum. This museum is incredible! I wish I had a whole day to explore it and the surrounding area’s historic Fort Barrancas. The museum opens up to a Wright Brothers plane suspended in the entrance. There’s also an IMAX theater and dozens and dozens of aviation displays with massive planes from multiple eras hanging from the ceilings. I’ll definitely be going back there.
Entrance of the National Naval Aviation Museum
The next and final stop of the day was something I was very excited about – going to the top of my first lighthouse. I was anticipating it – that is until we actually had to climb it.
The Pensacola Lighthouse was built in 1859 and gained damage during the Civil War from Union fire across the water at Fort Pickens. It’s also known for being “haunted.” I think the ghastly part though is the climb.
The Pensacola Lighthouse
At first, I scoffed at its mere 177 steps to the top. In the gift shop, there was even a certificate about it being such a feat to climb and I was like “I climbed 300 steps to get to the top of St. Peter’s Church tower in Munich, Germany.” I thought it would be nothing – and boy, was I wrong.
These stairs were not only spiraling forever upward, but they were also made of metal with decorative cutouts in them so you could see how far below you would fall if you tripped. Then, there was the part about how narrow the staircase was and that people were coming down as you were going up and they had the only railing to hold onto. We also had to make the climb barefoot because we were wearing flip-flops. It was all just a bit unnerving to say the least.
Gorgeous view from top of lighthouse
I’m not particularly scared of heights, but this place did a number on me, so I was more than thrilled to make it to the top, walk around the viewing platform and go down again. I can check that off my bucket list and not have to go up one ever again. After that memorable and daunting escapade, it was time for me to head back to Louisiana after a truly great trip of friends, food and fun in sunny Florida! I can’t wait to go back!
Do you have a memorable beach trip to share? How have you fared with climbing lighthouses? Please join the conversation below.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Penner's Spotlight - Gail Pallotta - North Carolina

Pens on a World Map
Penner’s Spotlight

Penner: Gail Pallotta of Georgia

Location: Western North Carolina Mountains

The Mountains in the Teen Novel, Stopped Cold

The atmosphere of Mistville, the fictitious setting in Stopped Cold, resembles that of the small town where I grew up. But the teen novel takes its landscape of steep peaks towering over valleys, lakes and streams from the nearby Western North Carolina Mountains, which include Mount Mitchell. It reaches skyward 6, 684 feet as the highest point east of the Mississippi River.

In this land of early morning fog, mist hovers low over the trees until the sun burns it off. In the winter, snow and ice cripple the roads. But in the spring, summer and fall sightseers clog the highways.

The summer brings cool breezes; and the fall, gold, red and orange leaves bursting across the hills. When apples, a plentiful crop, are in season, local farmers sell them in reed or wicker baskets and wooden boxes from roadside stands. When the population swells with tourists, artists travel across the countryside to Craft Fairs in cities and rural towns.

Damp fresh air lingers around the Nantahala River, which flows level with the road. This haven for trout fishermen and white water rafters springs from the outpost in the far Western part of the state and winds to River’s End Restaurant in Nantahala Gorge. It takes its name, “Land of the Noonday Sun,” from the Cherokee Indians. 

Many attend the Cherokee outdoor drama, “Unto These Hills,” and step back in time to the ways of Native Americans. Others prefer to kick back and relax in an exclusive resort in Highlands or taste a bit of mountain city life in Asheville. Some venture to the theater at Flat Rock Playhouse and musical performances in Brevard, or sightsee in Hendersonville.

The first tourists chugged up the steep grade by train from the lowlands of North and South Carolina and Georgia to escape the intense summer heat and humidity. Now they come from all over the United States as well as many foreign countries to soak in the strength and grandeur of the unchanging hills. One visitor said, “I’ve traveled all over the world, and I’ve never seen a place any more beautiful than the Western North Carolina Mountains.”
The lay of the land made the ideal backdrop for Stopped Cold.

Do you have a special trip memory from visiting the Carolinas? Which mountains have you visited and what did you do there? Please join in the conversation below.

Gail Pallotta
Award-winning author Gail Pallotta is a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. She’s been a Sunday school teacher, a swim-team coordinator and an after-school literary instructor.

A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association (ACFA), she won Clash of the Titles in 2010. Her new teen book, Stopped Cold, is a best-seller on All Romance eBooks. Some of her published articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums.

Readers can find her on the Internet on the staff of Clash of the Titles,, at her blog,, and on her website, Her Facebook Authors and More page is She’s on Twitter at Also find out more at Front Porch Romance -
Margaret McWhorter enjoys a laid-back Freshman year in high school flirting with Jimmy Willmore, swimming and hanging out with friends—until that day. Her brother, Sean, suffers a stroke from taking a steroid. Now he’s lying unconscious in a hospital. Margaret’s angry at her dad for pushing Sean to be a great quarterback, but a fire of hatred burns inside her to make the criminals pay.

Looking for justice, she takes Jimmy and her best friend, Emily, through a twisted, drug-filled sub-culture. A clue sends them deep into the woods behind the school where they overhear drug dealers discuss Sean.

Time and time again they walk a treacherous path and come face to face with danger. Even the cop on the case can’t stop them from investigating. All the while Margaret really wants to cure Sean, heal the hate inside, and open her heart to love.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

150 years since Vicksburg’s surrender

Imagine dirt crumbling down upon your head, smothering you, as bombs scream overhead and you wonder where your next meal will be or who will be dead by morning. And you are not a soldier - yet you’re in the middle of war.
Old Courthouse in downtown Vicksburg
This was a taste of what life was like for a civilian in Vicksburg, Miss. during the city’s 47-day siege before its fall to Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863. There were no supplies going into Confederate lines and the civilians could not get out.
Union forces held the river and surrounding area, but the Confederates fought on and eventually were overcome by disease, fatigue and had to resort to eating mules, rats and leather to survive. The women, children and slaves were forced to leave their homes and bunker in roughly constructed caves out of the hillsides.
In an interview about Vicksburg, bestselling historical novelist Jeff Shaara said that: “one of the tragedies of Vicksburg is that the civilians who typically during the Civil War are allowed to get out of the way, at Vicksburg, they’re not. At Vicksburg, they’re right there. And so the citizens of the town suffer the same privations as their soldiers.”
The Surrender Ceremony (I'm in background) (NPS Photo)
Shaara continued: “And they can’t live in their homes, because the Union army is shelling the town constantly, and so they have to go out and dig holes in the ground, and they’re living literally in caves. They’re trying to make something of home of that. They take dishes with them and linens, and so forth. But it’s still living in a hole in the ground. They run out of food, and so they’re starving as badly as their soldiers are starving. But then you have Lucy Spence, this 19-year-old girl, naïve, proper, as are most young girls during this era. By the end of this story, she is neither naïve nor proper. She’s had her hands in the worst filth imaginable in caring, volunteering as a nurse at the makeshift hospital. And it’s a story that rarely is told, but it’s a big part of the Vicksburg story.”

I had the unique opportunity to portray one of these women, who were stranded in Vicksburg during the siege. I, along with a few other ladies, dressed in period 1863 dress and spoke to tourists at the Vicksburg National Military Park about life in the caves as well as in general during the era. I was there as part of the Company A 19th Louisiana Vance Guards Volunteer C.S.A. Infantry Re-Enactment Unit (out of Shreveport, Alexandria and Baton Rouge).
A friend and me during living history
There were visitors from across the world in town for the 150th anniversary of Vicksburg’s siege and surrender. We spoke to citizens of Norway, Italy, England and Germany and fellow U.S. citizens from Maryland to Illinois to Texas to California and everywhere in between. It was quite a fascinating and memorable experience as a whole - especially what I got to do on the Fourth of July.
The Living History Section at VNMP (NPS Photo)
On July 4th, I was part of the 150th anniversary Surrender Ceremony at the Old Courthouse Museum in downtown Vicksburg. The steps of this courthouse were the exact location that 150 years ago Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton finalized the surrender to Grant marking a major victory for the Union with nearly full control of the Mississippi River. (They would have full control days later after the fall of Port Hudson.)
Two cute visitors who asked us questions about the 1860s
The program included the Confederate “First National” flag lowered from the cupola of the Courthouse just as it was on that day in 1863 and the current U.S. flag raised. The victory at Vicksburg marked the tearing of the South in two and was a huge turning point of the war along with the simultaneous campaign at Gettysburg failing for the Confederacy as well on that same day.
President Abraham Lincoln famously stated regarding Vicksburg’s fall: “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.” Lincoln even stated years earlier that: “See what a lot of land those fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key…The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.” He knew that Vicksburg had to fall and some historians even argue that Vicksburg’s surrender was more vital to the outcome of the Civil War than Gettysburg.
The rest of my re-enacting weekend held living history activities outside at the fortification by the visitor’s center of the Vicksburg National Military Park, including the re-enactment of Confederate troops being patrolled. One day, I even got patrolled as a nurse. The whole weekend provided an unforgettable experience and one that has also now placed me in history as well.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Penner's Spotlight - Catherine Richmond - France

 Pens on a World Map
Penner’s Spotlight
Name: Catherine Richmond of Nebraska
Location: France, Switzerland & the Netherlands

Two summers ago, my husband taught a class in France. The only French word he knows is "fromage," and since man does not live by cheese alone, I had to go along. When the class finished, we visited friends in Switzerland and the Netherlands, and toured the house of impressionist painter Claude Monet - such beautiful gardens!

This Swiss garden has a view of the Alps.

The hedge protects this Netherlands garden from North Sea winds.

Monet painted his water lilies series here.

My husband says "fromage," but I say "chocolat!" Profiteroles from Paris.
Have you had your own experience in France, Switzerland or the Netherlands? Have you traveled overseas with a spouse or for work? Please share one of your experiences. We'd love to hear it. Join the conversation below.

Catherine Richmond was busy raising a family, working as an occupational therapist, and trying to remember where she hid the chocolate, when a song sparked a story within her. That story became Spring for Susannah and was shortly followed by Through Rushing Water

Catherine loves to hear from readers - and eat chocolate - at the Richmond Rabbit Ranch in Nebraska. For more about Richmond, visit her website at and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Sophia Makinoff is certain that 1876 is the year that she’ll become the wife of a certain US Congressman, and happily plans her debut into the Capitol city. But when he proposes to her roommate instead, she signs up with the Board of Foreign Missions.
With dreams of a romantic posting to the Far East, Sophia is dismayed to find she’s being sent to the Ponca Indian Agency in remote Dakota Territory. How can she accomplish anything for God in this wilderness? But teaching the Ponca children provides her with a joy she has never known - and never expected - and ignites in her a passion for the people she’s sent to serve.
It’s a passion shared by the Agency carpenter, Willoughby Dunn, a man whose integrity and selflessness are unmatched. The Poncas are barely surviving. When U.S. policy decrees that they be uprooted from their homeland and marched hundreds of miles to bleak Indian Territory, Sophia and Will wade into rushing waters to fight for their friends, their love, and their destiny.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Roses and surfing? Interview with Author Tina Ann Forkner

A vivid story of a private grief, a secret painting and one woman’s search for hope.

Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms.

She returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can’t quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.

What kind of artist would dare to intrude on such a personal scene, and how did he happen to witness Lillian’s pain? As the mystery surrounding the portrait becomes entangled with the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children, Lillian is forced to rethink her assumptions about what really happened that day.

A captivating novel rich with detail, Rose House explores how the brushstrokes of pain can illuminate the true beauty of life.
Tina Ann Forkner is the author of the novels Ruby Among Us and Rose House (Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House). Her debut novel, Ruby Among Us, was chosen as a book club selection for Books-a-Million and her second novel, Rose House, was described by as “a lovely rendering of working through grief and learning to live fully again, despite the abiding wounds of loss.”

Tina has a passion for libraries and has served on the Laramie County Library Foundation Board of Directors in Cheyenne, Wyoming for five years and is currently serving in the role of Immediate Past President. Tina has been a featured author at the Crested Butte Writing Conference in Colorado and presented at writing conferences for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Front Range Fiction Writers, the Wyoming Book Festival, and her local library. She speaks to public schools, women’s groups, and book clubs about the writing journey, blended families, and themes related to her novels.   

Tina is also a poet and her work has appeared under the pen name Tina Linde in the Sacramento Poetry Center’s literary journal, Poetry Now, and previously in various small literary journals. She graduated with honors from CSU Sacramento in 1998 with a B.A. in English and an emphasis on creative writing.

In addition to creative writing, Tina is a freelance writer and her stories and essays have appeared in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and the gospel music print publication, Homecoming Magazine, among others.

Tina grew up in Oklahoma before moving to England and eventually to Sacramento. After attending college, Tina moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming where she now lives with her husband, three bright children, and two loveable dogs. She loves to travel, cook, and garden. Her novels center around family relationships, the ties that break and bind, and the hope that makes the unimaginable bearable.
For more information about Tina Ann, visit her website at and connect with her on Facebook or Pinterest. To find out more about Rose House, click here.
Ten Questions with Tina Ann Forkner

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?
I have found that a lot of people still haven’t heard about my second novel, ROSE HOUSE, so I’m thrilled to share more about it with readers of Pens on a World Map. As for how it differs from my debut novel, RUBY AMONG US, which was about intergenerational relationships between mothers, grandmothers, and granddaughters, this novel, set in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, deals with friendship and sisterhood and even has a touch of mystery and romance to spice it up just a bit.

Let’s be honest, what is an adventure without a little romance to go with it? On the serious side, ROSE HOUSE also deals with grief and regret. We all have regrets and must move on, and sometimes packing our bags and traveling to a new place can help us do that.
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 idea for ROSE HOUSE had definitely been on my mind for awhile. After RUBY AMONG US, I knew people would want to know what else happened to Kitty and the other characters, but I also wanted to explore some brand new characters and a completely different story. I asked myself how my characters could be connected to the rose house itself, which was a house covered in roses from my first novel, and still have their own story in a standalone novel.

The solution came with an attractive and adventuresome artist, named Truman, who unwittingly observes Lillian during a secret moment as she spills out her grief in front of the ROSE HOUSE. Lillian has spontaneously packed her bags and traveled to La Rosaleda where she hopes she will be able to feel safe and put tragedy behind her, but what follows is a string of misunderstandings, serendipitous events and accidents that help her deal with her past. Readers of my first novel can also revisit the fictional town of La Rosaleda, as well as the adorable and eccentric Kitty.
Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?

Hope. I want to write stories that challenge and inspire our preconceived ideas about people, faith, and life. I want my readers to turn the last page and feel glad for having traveled the road with my characters and to feel more hopeful about their own lives and circumstances.

How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
When I travel I take lots of pictures and collect magazines, newspapers, and take notes, but mostly I just absorb. All of it comes out later in my stories, although I almost always fictionalize it in order to capture all of the best elements of where I have been.

Both of my novels are based on the Sonoma Valley where I’ve traveled extensively over the years. The fictional town of La Rosaleda, which means rose garden, is modeled after a smaller and quainter Sonoma. I lived in Sacramento for five years and during that time visited some friends and relatives in Santa Rosa just about every other weekend. In order to get there you have to drive through wine country and I fell in love with the beauty and lifestyle of the area.
The people in the Sonoma Valley are so gracious and friendly. They don’t just love the wine produced in the area, but their love of the land, food, and art is apparent on just about every corner. I wanted to capture the area’s vibe in my new novel, so when I was ready to write ROSE HOUSE, I went back to the Sonoma Valley with my husband and on to Bodega Bay, which is also captured in a smaller way in the novel.

It was still as beautiful as I remembered, but being a little bit older this time around (not telling you my age!), I could afford some finer dining and good wine, and that experience came out in my novel as my main character’s passion for cooking.

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

Back when I first started this journey as a published author, I had a different answer, but this time I have to say my husband. He is the one that let me choose the vacation back to the Sonoma Valley instead of somewhere else and he is the one who keeps calling me a writer no matter how long I go between books.

What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
Probably the need to be out doing interviews and blog posts. As a fiction author, we are encouraged to build a platform although technically we don’t really have platforms, unless you count lying to people for a living! All of that aside, I did jump right on the blogging and social networking thing as soon as I had a contract even though it didn’t feel very natural to me at the time.

Over the years I’m learning to adapt and be more authentic with my readers. I enjoy getting to know them, but I want to be honest and not just do something to push my books to readers. I of course want readers to buy my books, but more importantly I want them to be interested in doing so.
If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?

Not to take myself so seriously. I would tell myself to take it easy, don’t be so nervous, and most importantly, just be yourself.

Now to have some fun with travel…

What’s your favorite place you have visited?
Switzerland, hands down. I’ve been twice back in the nineties. Once was on a more corporate trip during which everything was scheduled and you’d better not be thirty seconds late or the bus would leave you at the foot of Mount Titlis, but the second time was best. I went to Lauterbrunen with a small group of Christian friends I lived near in England (I lived in the UK for three years at an Air Force base in my past life, but that’s another story!).

We all stayed in a youth hostel, which was really a loft in a barn. I am not kidding. It had running water and a stove, everything we needed and we literally took Peanut Butter and Jelly we bought in the UK all the way to Switzerland to save money. In the mornings we awoke to the clanging bells that hung around the necks of cattle as they were leisurely driven out to pasture at the foot of the mountains. We didn’t need anything fancy. We cooked our own food and walked everywhere. We didn’t even miss the luxuries of a fancy hotel at all.
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 back to Lanai, Hawaii. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a tiny little island that used to produce pineapples for Dole. It has a couple of luxury resorts, but they really don’t ruin the beauty of the island at all. If anything, they provide jobs for local residents. The best part is getting away from the resorts and into the village to peruse local art, shops, and eat at their tasty diners.
My husband and I were on our honeymoon during an off season and were invited to attend a local luau held at the resort where we were staying. It wasn’t the coconut and grass skirt variety and seeing the older women in the community dancing in modest traditional outfits to tell the island’s story to the younger generation was amazing.

And my husband really got a kick out of all the little kids running around calling him uncle, which is apparently a sign of respect to adult men. The island has since been bought and so I don’t know if it would be the same as it used to be.

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?
Of course it would be an island that only writers could live on. We would naturally call it Writer’s Gap after the Gap Year, which Wikipedia defines as “…time out to travel between life stages.” You would have to get there by boat and you couldn’t leave until you had written a full novel, but in your spare time there would be massages, healthy food, and you would be required to learn how to surf. I think mastering the surf board would be a good metaphor for getting over writer’s block.

Thanks so much, Tina Ann. I hope you had as much fun answering these questions as I had writing them! J Thanks for being my guest!
I enjoyed the interview so much, Morgan. Great questions! Thanks to you and the readers at Pens on a World Map. Happy Writing and Happy Travels!!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Faith and murder? Interview with Author Lillian Duncan

Witness Protection Program claims they can keep anyone safe if only they follow the rules so Maria follows the rules--every rule. She's given up everything--her friends, her family, her past, even her name to ensure her daughter has a future.
Reborn as Veronica Minor in the sleepy little town of Sunberry, Ohio, she struggles to rebuild their life amid the beauty of her flower shop. A life where her daughter can have a happy normal childhood. A life where her daughter will never know that her father was a monster.
When a child disappears, Veronica prays it has nothing to do with her past, but what if she's wrong? Not knowing who to trust, she trusts no one...and that's her first mistake.

Stories of faith mingled…with murder & mayhem.
Lillian is a multi-published writer who writes the type of books she loves to read—suspense with a touch of romance. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.
To learn more about Lillian and her books, visit: She also has a devotional blog at as well as her personal blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at
Interview with Lillian Duncan

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?
BETRAYED is the second in my Sisters By Choice series—my first published series. So, that makes it different right there. Writing a series is definitely different from writing a single stand-alone novel and I’m not sure I like the differences.
But for BETRAYED, I love the story and it was worth the extra effort!
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?
In DECEPTION (the first in the series), there is a terrorist. I kept wondering what kind of woman could be married to a terrorist and not know it. BETRAYED is the answer to that question and continues her story as she struggles to put her life back together.

Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?
The stories are in my head. If I don’t write them, I can’t get them out of my head. So, I write so I can sleep at night!  And because I love to tell stories.
How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
I don’t travel a whole lot any more for lots of reasons, but when I was younger I did. I’ve been to 48 states, 3 continents, and many countries. All that travel allows me to pick a good location for my stories.
My stories usually start out in Ohio, but rarely do they stay there because my characters are either running for their lives or chasing down the bad guys!
Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?
Books! Books! And more books!
What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
Writing books is fun!  Becoming a writer isn’t as much fun. Becoming a published writer is even harder and takes a lot of hard work, time, and commitment.
Now that I’m on my fourth contracted book with three more to come at a later date, I consider writing my career. And as such, it includes so much more than just the writing aspect.
But I love it!
If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
Find other writers!  As far as I’m concerned, joining critique groups is what finally brought my writing to a level that it became publishable. I think I could have saved myself several years of frustration if I’d found organizations, such as American Christian Fiction Writers earlier.
Now to have some fun with travel…
What’s your favorite place you have visited?
Oh, my goodness!  That’s such a hard question for me since I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel to so many different places. I definitely loved my two trips to Europe—the food—the museums—walking through history—like Notre Dame, Greece, and the Vatican but….
The Grand Canyon is one of my favorite places to visit!  A few years ago, I finally did what I always wanted to do there—yep, it was on my bucket list!
I made it to the bottom of the canyon by way of a helicopter ride. At the bottom, we took a boat ride and spent time exploring the area. It was one of my most memorable travel experiences.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?
Well, the impractical side of me has ALWAYS wanted to go to Antarctica and walk around the world in 24 steps!  I’m not seeing that one happen!
The practical side of me would love to visit China, Thailand, and other Far East 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?
Mmmm…It would be called WRITER’S WORLD and it would be in the middle of nowhere. That way the writers would have nothing to focus on except their writing.
But here’s the fun part.  There would be a virtual world inside that could transport you to any location you needed. So, your story’s set in San Francisco like mine was in DECEPTION, then you can visit it (virtually, of course). You could walk around, smell and see the sights.
Imagine how much more detail we could put into our stories if we could do that!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Old Glory warms the Heart

The Fourth of July holiday has always meant several things to me. It has been a time to wish my cousin, who is six days younger, a “Happy Birthday,” a time to eat watermelon with family after swimming at our local lake and a time to spend my allotted amount for fireworks to pop Blackjacks, shoot roman candles and fire screaming missiles into the night by the light of a bonfire.

But my Fourth of July a few years ago held a different importance.

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It was still about family - but also about community togetherness and a time of remembrance. A time to remember all the people who have not only given their lives and have fought and are fighting for our freedom but to remember the loved ones we have lost and those still with us today.

Even looking at our national flag brings a new perspective for me. I have always been patriotic, not only of our country but also of my state of Louisiana as well, so the flag has been significant before I ever waved one at my father’s return from overseas military service during the Persian Gulf War.

Old Glory brought a new image to my mind when I caught my first sight of her outside our nation. I suppose my feelings can be compared to the opening ceremony of the Olympics, when we watch Team USA carry our emblem and the days that follow see our flag and hear our anthem played with each gold medal. It’s national pride. I know we have not forgotten the feeling.

I feel this pride even more when I leave this country and become its unofficial representative abroad. I carry a miniature Stars & Stripes with me when I travel internationally—a reminder of home.

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Our country’s flag has always been an important physical representation of the freedom we experience, but it means so much more when viewed outside our borders. Catching sight of its red, white and blue touches the heart. We see them everywhere here, but in a foreign place it’s that glimpse of home that warms us. Its image may not be a pleasant representation in certain countries, but it is one none-the-less.

I am quite aware of the opposition to Americans from many people of foreign lands and cultures. I expect it. Overseas I have experienced this opposition through opinions on my country, the majority of people’s comments though have not been hostile or even rude. We seemed to see eye to eye for a moment, past our government’s decisions and cultural differences.

That moment is when I become a voluntary diplomat and I hope that one positive glance at our country made a difference. Though I am sure some of the time - and even the  majority of the time - we will not all agree with decisions officials ruling our country make, but we still must hold to our foundation of faith, courage and sacrifice.

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The tradition of patriotism must not die. I am glad there are still Americans today who want to uphold the tradition of honesty, integrity, loyalty and strong moral value, which our country’s foundation was built upon, while we celebrate with family reunions, firework displays, cookouts, picnics and church services. 

I am glad tradition still lives on in my community, my state and in this country. I wish all an enjoyable Fourth of July tomorrow and truly God Bless the USA.