Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tracing an Outlaw's Steps in England

Ever since I can remember there has been one story or legend really that has been my favorite...

Robin Hood.

So when I got a chance to explore part of the infamous outlaw's world in England this past summer I jumped at it and paid a visit to Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve nearby Edwinstowe and not too far from Nottingham.

I visited Sherwood Forest!!
There's the man himself!
One of the lovely walking trails at the reserve
A natural fence line on the trail
There were so many incredibly old & unique trees like this one
Wow!! To think these trees have been here for 100s of years!
I can just see Robin Hood sitting at that big V branch in the trunk. Can't you?
Have you been to someplace steeped in folklore? What is your favorite story or legend? I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stopping at Harry Potter's Home in Edinburgh

There is a specific home place for the famous literary boy wizard Harry Potter - if you didn't know. 

Sure, it's in J.K. Rowling's mind, but the more physical locale of Harry's beginning was at a quaint little cafe and restaurant called The Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

When I was in Edinburgh this summer, I was able to eat dinner there and have a lovely view of the Edinburgh Castle from the back room's windows. I sat at one of the tables that Rowling most likely sat at when she began writing the first manuscripts of her unforgettable series. 

Many think that Edinburgh Castle was in fact an inspiration for Hogwarts Castle. Either way, it was the neatest little place with fantastic views and great food - a place to go to relax and perhaps write the next bestselling novel.

Outside The Elephant House in Edinburgh
The front view of The Elephant House
View of Edinburgh Castle from the back room
The lovely back room with some interesting elephant decor
Have you ever visited a place from a novel or a specific place where an author wrote? I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Indian reservations and "Time"? Interview with Author Catherine Richmond

Sophia has her life all planned out-but her plan didn’t include being jilted or ending up in Dakota Territory.

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, Sophia is stunned. Hoping to flee her humiliation, 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 uncivilized Dakota Territory. She can’t even run away effectively and begins to wonder how on earth she’ll be able to guide others as a missionary. 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.

Catherine 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. The journey to her publication has been long, but full of blessings. She couldn’t have done it without ACFWRWA, and FHL, the inspirational chapter of RWA, and Nebraska Novelists critique group.

She was born in Washington, DC, grew up in northern Virginia, attended Western Michigan University, and moved around a lot for her husband’s aviation career. Her favorite place to write is the porch. Then she rewards herself with reading time in her air chair – and chocolate, of course!
For more information about Catherine, visit her website at and connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Ten Questions for Author Catherine Richmond
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?
When you hear the words "Civil Rights," you probably think of the March on Washington, school integration, Martin Luther King's speeches. What about a courthouse in Omaha, Nebraska?
It was there in 1879 that Ponca Chief Standing Bear successfully argued that Native Americans are people in the eyes of the law. The shocking events leading to the trial - shaking my pride in being an American, but confirming my faith in God and His people - became Through Rushing Water.
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?
My first novel, Spring for Susannah, had taken nineteen years from inspiration to publication. I only had a year until the second novel was due, so I figured I'd better set it in the same time period and close to home.
The most important event in Omaha during the 1870s was the trial of Standing Bear. During research, I found a Russian woman had taught on the Ponca Reservation. A woman with the same name taught French at Vassar, an elite women's college in New York. What if it was the same woman ? Ka-boom - a story was ignited!
Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?
I've got a story to tell!
God made us all unique, with different cultures, values, experiences - not to mention the enormous gulf between men and women. When romance works, it must be a miracle!
And history. How can you understand current events - from the turmoil in Egypt to the vote to allow alcohol on the Pine Ridge reservation - without knowing the context? Making those connections is fascinating!
How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
I don't know how anyone can write about a place without visiting it - and why would you miss the opportunity? Researching Spring for Susannah was an eye-opener for this city girl. I was used to standing-room-only East Coast campgrounds - what fun to have North Dakota parks to ourselves, to be able to see the stars and watch the wildlife!
Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?
My mother is a Virginia history librarian. Her passion for history - understanding the connections between events and people - inspires me. My next story will be set in Virginia - we have so much fun researching together!
What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
The writing journey has gone from horse-and-buggy to supersonic since I started in 1991. Instead of interlibrary loan, we've got Google Books. We don't have to live in Manhattan to meet editors, agents, and critique partners. And readers and writers can connect here at Pens on a World Map! 
If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
Don't go there! Seriously, with a journey as long as mine, I'd tell myself to stress less and enjoy more.
Now to have some fun with travel…
What’s your favorite place you have visited?
Paris! No, wait - New York City! Edinburgh! What about Quito, Ecuador? Falmouth, Jamaica? Camp Highroad, Virginia? 
Morgan, I was thinking the other day about travel. No matter how comfortable I am in another country, when the customs agent stamps my passport and says "Welcome home," I always feel a huge rush of relief, patriotism, and gratitude.
Have you felt that? I'm guessing that's a hint of the feeling we'll get when we arrive in heaven!
I have felt that too when welcomed home, Cathy. And I think that’s a fantastic analogy for Heaven. :)
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?
My daughter just moved to Martinez, California. I'd love to visit her and explore the area - the redwoods, John Muir's house, Ghirardelli chocolate factory - together.
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?
What if there were a place called "Time?" We could explore and research, write and rewrite to our heart's content. Handsome assistants would pop in regularly to assure us our marketing plan is steaming along and provide copious amounts of chocolate to sustain us. 
Editors would call to say our latest check has been deposited and, oh by the way, that last manuscript was brilliant.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Penner's Spotlight - Lisa Harris - China

Pens on a World Map
Penner’s Spotlight

Penner: Lisa Harris of Africa
Location: China

 I love to travel. Whether it’s Paris or Rio, Japan or South Africa, my family and I have been blessed to be able to do a lot of traveling together as a family due to our work and ministry.
Learning to use chopsticks
The Great Wall of China
One of the things I love about both traveling and living in different countries is that it has widened my worldview and given me a greater understanding into the lives of other cultures. I’ve met people from all walks of life who have taught me about sacrifice, friendship, endurance, and true giving.
Beautiful architecture
Terracotta Warriors
My latest trip was to the beautiful country of China, and I was able to travel there without ever leaving my living room. How, you ask? Well typically, if I want to visit a place without the expense of traveling, I pick up a book that will transport me there.
This time, it was through the eyes of my husband and son who headed off to China for two weeks this May. (You can read the story behind their trip here:

Hong Kong
Dried Fish Bladders
Because we knew little about this beautiful country before my son left, we spent a lot of time reading about China. We read through thick guidebooks, researched history and culture on the Internet, and read the autobiography of Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China in the 1800’s.
This meant that once they left, I already had an initial picture of the country and its people in my mind. When my husband sent daily updates, I almost felt as if I were there with them. Through their eyes, I visited the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Warriors, acres of stunning gardens, and crowded cities.
Beautiful garden bridge
My boys returned home with hundreds of photos. I looked through each picture, drank sweet tea bought from a local teahouse, and worked on my chopstick skills, allowing me to ‘visit’ China for the first time.
Have you been to China or another location in Asia? What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to through another’s eyes? Please join the conversation below.
LISA HARRIS is a Christy Award finalist and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 from Romantic Times. She has over twenty novels and novella collections in print. She and her family have spent almost ten years living as missionaries in Africa where she homeschools, leads a women’s group, and runs a non-profit organization that works alongside their church-planting ministry called The ECHO Project.
When she’s not working she loves hanging out with her family, cooking different ethnic dishes, photography, and heading into the African bush on safari.  For more information about her books and life in Africa visit her website at or her blog at For more information about The ECHO Project, please visit
Her latest book, Dangerous Passage, exposes a fully-realized and frightening world where every layer peeled back reveals more challenges ahead. Romantic suspense fans will be hooked from the start by Lisa Harris's first installment of the new Southern Crimes series. 
When two Jane Does are killed on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, detective and behavioral specialist Avery North discovers they share something in common--a tattoo of a magnolia on their shoulders.
Suspecting a serial killer, Avery joins forces with medical examiner Jackson Bryant to solve the crimes and prevent another murder. But it doesn't take long for them to realize that there is much more to the case than meets the eye.
As they venture deep into a sinister world of human trafficking, Avery and Jackson are taken to the very edge of their abilities—and their hearts.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Experiencing the 1940s in New Orleans

Book research in New Orleans sounds like an excuse. Doesn’t it? 

I am currently in the smack middle of writing my second novel about World War II, so I needed a bit of a boost to spur me on to completion. Therefore the Big Easy was where I intended to receive this inspiration—and I did

The brand new U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
The designated location was the National WWII Museum located at 945 Magazine Street in the city’s Warehouse District. I had visited the fantastic museum - formerly known as the D-Day Museum - once before about three years ago. 

German Wehrmacht's DKW NZ350 Motorcycle
Founded by historian and author, Stephen Ambrose, and opened in 2000, the museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. 

Main entrance of La Memorial Pavilion
The campus includes the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, showcasing the large artifacts of the war and exhibits on D-Day at Normandy, the Home Front and the Pacific; the Solomon Victory Theater, a 4-D theater showing the exclusive Tom Hanks production, Beyond All Boundaries; the Stage Door Canteen, where the music and entertainment of the “Greatest Generation” comes to life; the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion where staff and volunteers restore artifacts in public view; and the American Sector restaurant and Soda Shop - delicious onsite dining options by Chef John Besh. 

One of the WWII Poster displays
The first stop of my visit was to see the brilliant Beyond All Boundaries 4-D production, which took five years to complete and covers the entire war in under an hour. There are unbelievable graphics and props including a plane cockpit, guard tower, sliding screens that rise from the stage floor, simulated snowflakes and more. The experience is loud and bright, but it captures an essence of the war experience by using the touching and startling images and words of those who were there. It’s definitely a must see.

German gear
I next glanced at the gift shop and then wandered around the museum’s exhibits in the Louisiana pavilion. The entrance holds several U.S. and German weapons, vehicles and planes on display and the second and third floors are filled with artifacts, film clips, audio testimonies and various paraphernalia from the war, specifically of the D-Day landings at Normandy. I wish I had more time to explore. It would probably take two days to see everything.

Since I was running out of time, I made my final stop the museum’s newest and largest pavilion - The U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, which hosts a Sherman tank and six WWII-era aircraft, including the B-17 called “My Gal Sal.” There is also a display of WWII military branch uniforms and an interactive touchscreen display of WWII campaigns.

U.S. Sherman tank
The museum closed at 5 p.m. so I headed to the only place still open on the premises - The American Sector, a 40s style restaurant restaurant founded by acclaimed South Louisiana Chef John Besh. The hostess wearing a 40s ensemble showed me to a seat. The restaurant’s walls are covered with large black and white photos of 30s and 40s movie stars and music from the era wafts across the room. It is quite a fantastic atmosphere and the food is not only affordable but very good.

I ordered a classic Reuben sandwich filled with corned beef and sauerkraut on rye bread served with a side of the Sector’s homemade shoestring fries in a tin cup and a glass of the Apple Honey Sector Soda. It was great - just as it was the first time I ate there a few years ago.

I highly recommend a visit to the National WWII Museum, its facilities, restaurant and soda shop. Every exhibit was so fascinating and moving.

German & U.S. Infantryman gear of 1944
The 1940s is the most compelling era to me. There was so much pain and suffering across the world yet Americans stepped up and did the best they could to take part in the war effort from sending soldiers overseas and women working in place of the men to selling war bonds and rationing.

It was also such a time of great music between Bing Crosby, Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, among so many others. The people of the era seemed to really latch onto the music to keep their hopes up and for some kind of relaxation possible.

The comedic entertainers of the time such as Bob Hope and Red Skeleton played such a large role in remembrance of this era too as they would visit the troops overseas to help keep their morale up. The fashion and movie industry was interesting too with the creations of many of today’s classic styles. I wouldn’t necessarily say I would want to have lived then, but it is a time period I’d like to have seen first hand at least for a day.

For more information about the WWII Museum, visit their website at

Have you visited this museum or another great war museum? What is your favorite historical era and why? Please join the conversation below.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Getting my kicks on Route 66 - Shamrock, TX

The quintessential road trip in the U.S. would be none other than down the historic Route 66, which is exactly where a friend and I headed for a whirlwind five-day road trip that we would never forget.

Living in Louisiana, we set northern Texas as our starting point to hit Route 66. This point was at a little historic town called Shamrock, which is the first official stop of the Texas Route 66 portion coming from the east.

We cheered as we saw the signs lining the street toward our first tourist attraction at the famous U-Drop Inn and Tower Service Station. This building, which was used as a model in the Pixar movie, “Cars,” has been a landmark since 1936.

Builder and owner J.M. Tindall used a design drawn up by a friend with a nail in the dirt to create the Art Deco tower intended to lure the Route 66 traveler in for a great home cooked meal. (Unfortunately, the café is currently closed though.)

We took pictures and visited the gift shop to buy t-shirts, postcards and magnets. The building was so fascinating, especially the café. I could just envision it in its heyday—busy waitresses serving the food to road weary customers heading west or going back east on the well-used road. I’m sure it was a sight to behold.

 Have you been down Route 66? Where has your best road trip ever been?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pharmacists & Jane Austen's "Penberley"? Interview with Author Sarah Sundin

Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A comfortable boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie's cozy life gets decidedly more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson.
Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart.
Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they've made?

Sarah Sundin is the author of On Distant Shores and With Every Letter, the first two books in the Wings of the Nightingale series from Revell, and also the Wings of Glory series (A Distant Melody, A Memory Between Us, and Blue Skies Tomorrow). In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children. When she isn’t ferrying kids to tennis and karate, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school. Please visit her at and you can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Ten Questions with Sarah Sundin
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?
On Distant Shores is the second book in the Wings of the Nightingale series, so it follows characters familiar from With Every Letter—although each book stands alone. In this series, I’m enjoying tracing the flight nurses’ journey as they followed the US forces in World War II from North Africa to Sicily to Italy to Southern France.
This is a combat theater rarely covered in fiction. And although I’m a pharmacist myself, this is my first novel with a pharmacist hero. I was fascinated learning about the practice of pharmacy during the war.
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 already decided to write a three-book series about WWII flight nurses. These women intrigue me. They were complete pioneers. But while researching medical care, I was surprised not to read about pharmacists. More digging revealed that Army pharmacies were primarily manned by technicians with three months’ training, and less commonly with graduate pharmacists.
The Army rated pharmacists as noncommissioned officers—even though most of them had college degrees at this time. And noncommissioned officers were not allowed to fraternize with commissioned officers—like nurses. Of course the concept of a forbidden romance grabbed my interest, especially since the woman outranks the man. Plenty of inherent conflict!
Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?
The stories won’t leave me alone. The characters won’t leave me alone. I can’t not write.
How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
I was blessed to visit Italy and Southern France while researching this series (suffering for my art). The series was plotted enough that I knew where my characters would be stationed and what I needed to visit. So we visited all the tourist spots like Rome and Pisa and Florence and Pompeii, some of which worked their way into the novels. But we also visited Anzio and Paestum (where the US landed at Salerno Bay).
One memorable experience was finding an itty-bitty museum dedicated to the Anzio landings, a museum not listed in any of my guidebooks! The curator was a darling, effusive man whose knowledge of English was as limited as my knowledge of Italian. We managed to converse—although the results were hysterical. He gave me a fabulous tour, showed me everything I needed to see, and was thrilled to know I was writing about the hospitals based at Anzio.
Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?
Oh, so many people. My mother read to me, took me to the library, edited my essays in school, and taught me a love of story. The entire faculty at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference has taught me, encouraged me, and helped me grow as a writer and a person.
And then there’s Marcy. Marcy Weydemuller led the first writers group I joined in 2001, and she’s become one of my dearest friends. She’s a first-rate content editor and shows me when I’ve neglected the forest for the trees. She has full “slap me upside the head” privileges, and I can always count on her to tell it to me straight, both the positive and the negative. I need that so much.
What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
The whole thing is baffling for someone coming out of the cut-and-dried health care field, where everything works by formula.  My most recent surprise has been as a published author. I’d been told that authors spend about half their time doing non-writing activities, primarily publicity. I was shocked, but I’ve found it’s true. Lots of little things to do, often with very short deadlines.
If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
Relax, take your time, and enjoy the journey. God’s timing is always best. My five years of rejection letters were difficult, but looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t get my first contract even six months earlier. Not only would it have been hard to meet my deadlines, but my children were younger—and I wasn’t prepared, even though I thought I was.
Now to have some fun with travel…
What’s your favorite place you have visited?
It’s so hard to choose, but I’ll have to pick London. I’ve been blessed to visit three times now, and I just love the combination of beauty and history.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?
Thanks to my husband’s frequent flyer miles, I’ve been able to see Scotland, England, Germany, France, Italy, and Australia—such a gift. Although I would love another trip to London and the English countryside, I think I’d like to spend more time in the Alpine area—Bavaria and Switzerland and Austria. We saw just enough to be enchanted, but I’d love to soak it in. (Note: I loved Bavaria and Austria too, Sarah!)
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?
How about at an English country estate, with plenty of gardens and grounds for exploring and dreaming? Perhaps I’ve read Jane Austen too many times, but this setting would definitely inspire me. As for the name—prepare yourself for a bad pun—how about Pen-berley?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Penner's Spotlight - Dani Pettrey - Hawaii

Pens on a World Map

Penner’s Spotlight

Dani Pettrey of Washington D.C.

Location: Hawaii

United States of America

Hawaiian Adventure

My family and I recently visited Hawaii—specifically the Big Island and Maui. Our hope was some relaxation time combined with a lot of outdoor adventure. I’m happy to report we found both, but adventure definitely topped the list.

We started off with snorkeling and loved seeing the abundant sea life swimming all around our resort…

We went sea kayaking…

Cliff jumping…

Visited a volcano, lava tubes and steam vents…

We swam with dolphins…

Stood in shark-infested waters (okay, we just got our feet in, but that was enough). Apparently this little bay is home to sixteen different species of sharks.

My favorite adventure was taking off for the day and circling each island we visited. We grabbed a local map, packed a picnic, and set off.

Doing so gave us a much better feel for the islands and all the treasure they had waiting to be explored. The Big Island and Maui were so vastly different from one another. The Big Island was rugged and exotic, full of waterfalls and lava fields, while Maui was lush and tropical with many more shops, restaurants and people.

During our drive we saw waterfalls and breathtaking vistas. We traveled on roads barely wide enough for our Jeep and at one point, met up with surfers on the side of a steep cliff, our cars passing each other so closely we nearly exchanged paint.

One thing I didn’t expect to see was a billy goat, but there he was posing for the camera on the side of the road.
Needless to say, none of us wanted to leave the tropical paradise of Hawaii to return to the mainland. If you ever get the chance to visit, I highly recommend it. Hawaii is a land of fragrant flowers, crystal blue water and vivid sunsets. You can lie on the beach, soak up the sun, swim with sea-life, hike a mountain, or take in the local culture. We did a combination of all the above and it was magical. 

Where is someplace you’ve always wanted to visit? What is one adventure that’s on your bucket list? Have you ever been to Hawaii or to a tropical island?

Dani Pettrey is a wife, home-schooling mom, and the author of the bestselling romantic suspense novels Submerged and Shattered. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves--the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of her characters' faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in the D.C. metro area with their two teenage daughters. To find out more about Dani, check out her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

When Her Friend Goes Missing,
Every Minute Counts

Darcy St. James returns to Alaska to join a journalist friend undercover on the trail of a big story. But when Darcy arrives, she finds her friend has disappeared. Troubled by the cruise ship's vague explanation, Darcy uses her cover as a travel reporter to investigate further.

The last person Gage McKenna expects to see during his summer aboard a cruise ship leading adventure excursions is Darcy. And in typical Darcy fashion, she's digging up more trouble.

He'd love to just forget her—but something won't let him. And he can't help but worry about her as they are heading into more remote regions of Alaska and eventually into foreign waters. 

Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they push, the more Gage fears they've only discovered the tip of the iceberg.