The MacGregor Legacy - From Scotland to the Carolinas

(Book 1 - For Love or Loyalty) (Book 2 - For Love or Country) (Book 3 - For Love or Liberty)

Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Awakened Redemption (Inspirational Regency)

1815 England - A story that pierces the heart and captures the Regency era.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just Signed a Contract on "The MacGregor Quest" Series

I'm so excited to announce that I just signed a 3-book contract with Abingdon Press on The MacGregor Quest series, an historical generational saga of immigration from Scotland to the Carolinas spanning the colonial period through the Revolutionary War birthing the American nation to the War of 1812. 

I'm so thankful to continue writing for Abingdon after the release of my debut novel, Highland Blessings, and the sequel, Highland Sanctuary, in October 2011. While titles and release dates could change, the first is scheduled to release in fall 2013. Below is a brief blurb on each book.

Book 1 - The Forbidden Conquest
Scotland, 1760
One conquest could destroy her, but avenge his family.
The Forbidden Conquest is the story of a highlander seeking revenge, but when the bargaining price becomes too great of a moral sacrifice, he must find a way to reverse his deeds and save the woman he loves.
Book 2 - The War Woman
North Carolina, 1780
One spy. One commission. One love.
He must risk it all to gain everything.
The War Woman is the story of a colonial spy who thwarts the British Captain seeking to uncover her identity, until she is caught, and he must risk everything to save her or forever lose her.
Book 3 - Imperfect Pieces
Lake Erie, Ohio (1813)
She wants to live in the past. He wants to step into the future.
Will either of them recognize the love between them now?
Imperfect Pieces is the story about a family learning to battle the heartache of grief, while growing in their faith, and risking the opportunity to love again.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wild Card Book Tour - "Finding Becky"

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Realms (October 5, 2010)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Martha Rogers is a former schoolteacher and English instructor whose first book in the Winds Across the Prairie series, Becoming Lucy, became an immediate best seller. Morning for Dove (May 2010) is the second book in this series. Her book Not on the Menu is a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Rogers lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616380241
ISBN-13: 978-1616380243

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Oklahoma Territory, June 9, 1905


Rebecca Haynes slammed her book shut. If those children didn’t quiet down soon, she would scream. A mother ought to be able to control her own young ones, but the haggard, worn look of the woman across the aisle told Rebecca that the problem was more than unruly children. She was just the type of woman Rebecca hoped to liberate in her efforts with the women’s suffrage movement. The landscape outside the train window sped by, drawing Rebecca closer to home with each clack of the wheels. To this point the journey had been quite pleasant, but when the mother with her brood of three had joined the travelers, all peace disappeared. Not that she blamed the mother, but the commotion was bothersome. Rebecca turned her attention to the youngsters. They had quieted down some, but the two older ones still roamed the aisles while the baby whimpered in her mother’s arms. She loved children, but she preferred the well-mannered, quiet ones like the cousins she’d met during her stay in Boston. A deep sigh escaped. How she would miss the friends she’d made while in college at Wellesley. Her aunt Clara had made sure she would have the best education possible, and Rebecca had loved every minute of it, but it was now time to go home and see what a difference she could make in the world.

She mused at the similarity of her situation with that of Lucy Starnes, one of her cousins from Boston now living in Barton Creek. Just as Lucy had come to live in Oklahoma Territory to live with her aunt and uncle, Rebecca had traveled to Boston to live with an aunt and uncle there. The difference being that Lucy’s parents had died, forcing her to move out West to live with family. Rebecca had gone back East to further her education and get to know her father’s family.

Now she was headed home to Barton Creek, where she hoped to begin the steps toward a career in journalism. Mr. Lansdowne, her new boss, had balked at first at the idea of having a female reporter working for him, but then he’d relented and hired her. Her father was bound to have had some influence there, but that didn’t matter. She had the job, and if she did it right, she’d be ready for a larger city paper when the opportunity arose.

A hand tugged at her skirt. A blond-haired little boy gripped the fabric with grubby fingers. She glanced over at the weariness in the face of the mother and realized the load carried by the young woman was taking its toll. Instead of scolding the child, Rebecca’s heart softened, and she took matters into her own hands. She grasped the boy’s hand in hers and removed it from her skirt, thankful for the gloves she wore. His bright blue eyes opened wide in surprise. “And what is your name, young master?”

At first he said nothing. He tilted his head as though deciding if it would be all right to answer. A grin revealed a space in his bottom row of teeth. “I’m Billy, and I’m six.”

“Hello, Billy. That’s a fine name.”

A little girl wedged her way next to Rebecca. “My name is Sally, and I’m six years old too. What’s your name?”

A smile filled Rebecca’s heart, her previous vexation gone. The two were twins. No wonder the mother had her hands full. Her heart filled with sympathy. “My name is Rebecca.”

The twins looked at each other, then back to Rebecca. As one voice they said, “We like that name. Can you tell us a story?”

“Children, please don’t bother the young lady.” The mother cast an apologetic frown toward Rebecca.

“That’s all right. I’ll tell them a story.” Doing so would give their mother a much-needed break to take care of the baby.

The mother rewarded her with a relieved smile. Rebecca reached down and lifted Sally to her lap while Billy climbed up beside her. Since she planned to be a writer, Rebecca decided to make up her own story for the two. As she wove the tale of two children on a great adventure across the plains in a covered wagon, Sally’s and Billy’s heads began to nod.

The young woman across the aisle laid her now sleeping baby on the seat and came to Rebecca’s side. “I’ll take them now.”

Though almost reluctant to let her go, Rebecca handed Sally to the mother, then picked up Billy. She followed the two back to their seats. The mother laid Sally on the seat facing her own, then picked up the baby. “You can put Billy by his sister.”

“Do you mind if I sit here and hold him? You must have your hands full with the three of them.”

A tentative smile formed. “That would be nice.”

Rebecca settled herself and shifted Billy so that his weight was more evenly distributed. Just as she craved to speak with another woman, the young mother might enjoy the same. “My name is Rebecca Haynes, and I’m going to Barton Creek.”

The weariness left the woman’s eyes, replaced with a sparkle of excitement. “I’m Ruth Dorsett, and I’m headed for Barton Creek myself.”

Rebecca searched her memory for a recollection of a Dorsett family in Barton Creek. Of course, in the four years she’d been gone, many new families had moved to the town. “I grew up there. Are you visiting, or do you live there now?”

A sadness veiled Ruth’s face. “My husband passed on a few months ago, so we’re going there to live with my parents.”

A lump formed in Rebecca’s throat. “I’m so sorry about your husband. Who are your parents? Perhaps I know them.”

“Their name is Weems. Ma owns a dressmaking shop, and Pa works in the telegraph office.”

“Oh, I do know them. I remember when Mrs. Weems opened her business. We were so glad to have someone who could keep us up-to-date on the latest fashions. She does wonderful work.”

“Thank you. They heard about the opportunities in Oklahoma Territory and moved there when Pa learned they would open a new telegraph office in Barton Creek.”

“Business is doing quite well for your mother. Will you be helping her?”

“Most definitely. Ma taught me to sew at an early age, and I’ve been doing it for my family. I was learning to be a nurse when I met my husband, a doctor, and quit to marry him. I helped with his practice until our babies came along, and then gave assistance whenever I could. Henry was killed in an accident with his buggy going out to deliver a baby on a stormy night. After he passed on, I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t have the time or money to finish my nurse’s training. The people in Glasson, Kansas, were so helpful, but they weren’t family. After a few months, Ma insisted that I come live with her. She’s delighted to have her grandchildren so close.”

What a small world. Rebecca marveled at the coincidence. The people in Barton Creek were going to love Ruth and these adorable children who had captured Rebecca’s own heart with their big blue eyes and captivating smiles. Now that Aunt Clara lived in town as Doc Carter’s wife, she would certainly spoil them if Mrs. Weems didn’t, and Ruth couldn’t be much older than Lucy. They would be great friends, and Doc Carter could probably use her nursing skills.

The young woman’s desire to work with her mother in business and her nurse’s training impressed Rebecca. If more women would be willing to take charge and seek careers besides baking, cooking, and taking care of children and husbands, more would be willing to join the movement to secure voting privileges for women. Perhaps she could convince Ruth to join the fight. Women had as much right to have a say in who ran the government as any man.

“The twins told me they are six, but how old is the baby?”

Ruth eyed the sleeping child. “Emma is fifteen months old and just started walking without falling every few steps.”

“They’re all beautiful children.” Talking with Ruth reminded her of the story she wanted to write for the editor of the Barton Creek Chronicle. If she were going to be a success at the newspaper, she must show her capabilities right away. “Ruth, if you will excuse me, I have some work I must do before our destination. We’ll talk again later, and I’m happy to already find a new friend in Barton Creek.”

“So am I. It’ll be nice to have someone I can visit with and talk to on occasion.”

Rebecca placed the still sleeping Billy beside Sally. “I look forward to it.” Someday in the distant future she might have such a family, but at the moment her mission was to become the best reporter in Oklahoma Territory and then on to bigger and better opportunities in a larger city.

A grin spread across her face. No matter that she’d won the traditional Hoop Race at Wellesley. After her dunk in the fountain, she’d declared she would break the tradition and not be the first in the class to marry. Hoots and hollers from her fellow classmates told her they didn’t believe that. Let them laugh. She’d prove there was more to life for a woman than being a wife and mother. Although nothing was wrong with that, she simply wanted to see what the world had to offer before settling down, if she ever did.

Geoff Kensington studied the attractive young woman in the seat across from him. She had amazed him several times during this trip. First she’d been reading a book by Sarah Orne Jewett, then she befriended the children who had made enough noise to be heard across the prairie, and then she sat and spoke with their mother. Remarkable! None of the young women he’d known in Chicago would have had anything to with the children, much less their mother. Now the young lady furrowed her brow and stared at a tablet while she tapped a pencil against her cheek.

The stylish cut of her light brown gored skirt and braid-trimmed jacket was of a fashion he’d seen worn by women in the upper classes in Chicago, and it fit her form quite nicely. Her straw hat trimmed in matching ribbon and braid sat at a rakish angle on her upswept hair. He stroked his chin, trying to decide on the color of her hair. Finally he decided that it reminded him of the fine cherry furniture in his mother’s dining room.

In the conversation with the young mother, he had overheard her name, Rebecca Haynes. What a stroke of luck. She had to be kin to one of the men he hoped to meet on this trip. Ben Haynes, Sam Morris, and Jake Starnes were three of the most successful ranchers in the state, and he needed their support for the project he’d been assigned. Perhaps Miss Haynes was Ben’s daughter.

Geoff pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time. He had two hours to charm the lovely Miss Haynes before their arrival in Barton Creek. If his good fortune held out, the children would sleep until then, and he could have an uninterrupted conversation with her.

He stood and bowed. “Pardon me, Miss Haynes. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Geoffrey Kensington, spelled with a G, and I overheard you tell Mrs. Dorsett that you are going to Barton Creek. That is my destination also.”

Miss Haynes’s cheeks blushed pink. “Yes, Barton Creek is my home.” She smiled and indicated the seat next to her. “Please, Mr. Kensington, would you join me?”

“Thank you, I’d be honored. I do have many questions about the town.”

She laughed. “Ask away, but I haven’t been home for four years. I’ve been at college. Wellesley to be exact.”

So, Miss Haynes was not only pretty but well educated too. What a stroke of good fortune to have chosen the same train for the final leg of his journey. “That is a fine school for young women. What are your plans now?”

Her smile only served to accent her beauty. “I’m going to be a reporter for the Barton Creek Chronicle. It’s a weekly newspaper now, but Mr. Lansdowne hopes to publish it more often in the coming year.”

“How interesting. I’ve heard that more women are going into the field of journalism these days. Are you a supporter of the suffrage movement?”

Her eyes, more green than brown, opened wide with excitement. “Oh, yes, I am. I’ve read everything I can about Susan Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Carrie Chapman Catt. Did you know Mrs. Catt has been in Oklahoma, and that women here almost had voting rights granted to them in 1899? And she worked for a newspaper for awhile too. She’s wonderful.”

“Those are all fascinating women.” The animation now in her expressive hands and eyes beguiled him and reminded him of his sister, who was near Rebecca’s age. Even if he didn’t support the movement, he could appreciate her enthusiasm. It might even be a help to him in the business he had in Barton Creek. “Are you related to Ben Haynes, the cattle rancher?”

“I am his daughter. His aunt Clara is the one who insisted that I go back East to go to college. Both of my parents are originally from Boston.”

“I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting that city. I’ve spent most of my time in Chicago and St. Louis. But at the moment I’m more interested in Barton Creek.” And the attractive young woman seated with him.

“Then I shall be happy to share my town with you.”

Her voice had a musical quality that enchanted Geoff. This assignment would be the best one yet in his career. “I have business with your father regarding a cattle purchase. Perchance you will be able to introduce me to him when we arrive.”

“Oh, yes, I’d be delighted to do just that. Father has some of the best cattle to be found in the Territory.”

“Then I shall look forward to our meeting.” He grinned and sat back to enjoy her description of the people in Barton Creek.


Rob Frankston paced the platform at the train station. He flipped open his watch and read the numbers. Two minutes since he last looked. The train was supposed to be on time, but he could neither see nor hear any indication of it coming on the tracks.

The Haynes clan and several friends milled about as a group near the depot, as anxious to see Becky as he was. Of course their reasons were far different from his. He’d waited four years for Becky to return to Barton Creek. He’d loved her since they were thirteen, but she never gave any indication of her feelings one way or the other in those last years of school. Her correspondence with him while he attended the University of Oklahoma indicated nothing more than friendship, and even those letters declined the past year.

When she had up and proclaimed her plans to go off to college in the East, he had to bite back his own disappointment. Aunt Clara spotted his hurt. She took him aside one day and, without naming Becky, told him that if he loved someone more than life itself and let her go her own way, true love would bring her back. He prayed that would be true with Becky’s return to Barton Creek.

The newspaper had announced her arrival with bold headlines in the weekly edition. Rob read of her accomplishments and shook his head. Becky had certainly grown up and made her contribution to activities at the college. After reading the account, even his mother had been impressed, and that was no easy task.

He raked a hand through his dark hair and resumed his pacing.

Matt Haynes, Becky’s brother, made his way toward Rob. The tall, lanky cowboy had captured his sister Caroline’s heart, but he seemed in no hurry to court her.

Matt stretched out his hand in greeting. “I see you’ve decided to join us in welcoming Becky. She’ll be glad to see you.”

“I hope so, but she hasn’t written to me much this past year, so perhaps she’s forgotten her friends here.”

Matt laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. She was probably busy with all those things the paper said she did at Wellesley. You know our Becky. When she’s involved in something, she gives it all she’s got.”

Yes, he did know, and that was one of the things Rob loved about her. Back in their school days here, she had always been a leader and one to speak her mind and do things her own way. She could ride and herd cattle as well as any man on the ranch, but then could appear as a beautiful young lady on Sundays at church.

“She is really someone special.” He sighed. “I hope your father thinks I’m good enough for her.”

With hands on his hips, Matt chuckled. “You won’t have any problem there. You’re gaining a fine reputation in the law firm.”

Rob couldn’t be so sure about that. What with all the run-ins his mother had with Becky’s mother, the Haynes family might not be so interested in letting him become a member, good reputation or not. As the mayor’s wife, his mother may think it her duty to set high social standards and be particular about the people with whom her children associated, but he didn’t intend to let her run his life.

In the distance a train whistle sounded, and Matt nodded toward his family. “Come on over and join us. Be a part of our welcoming party.”
Rob grinned. “Think I’d like that.” He followed Matt back to the group. In the next half hour he’d know whether he still had a chance with Becky. If not, then he’d spend day and night winning her love no matter what anyone may say or do.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top 10 Blog Posts for 2010 - Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The year 2010 will always be special to me since my debut novel, Highland Blessings, was released. Many of you celebrated with me, encouraged me, and even bought it and read it, and some of you reviewed it. THANK YOU!!! 

At the beginning of the year, I only had that one book contracted. Now, at the end of the year, I have four contract offers on new books. I held my first book signing, gave my first workshop and attended my first writing conference as a published author. Many of my prayers were answered and some of my dreams came true in 2010. If you are still waiting on your prayers and dreams, be encouraged, it will happen when the right year comes along. Perhaps, 2011 is YOUR year for whatever it is you want to achieve or try for the first time.

I'll remember 2010 for other things, such as my daughter starting middle school. I was a nervous wreck and so worried about how well she would adjust. For those of you who don't know, my daughter has some minor special needs and delayed development. God even tried to ease my fears and concerns through a dream of encouragement. She did so much better than I anticipated.

God stretched me in my walk with Him through my marriage, being a mother, my writing career, my day job, and helped me gain wisdom in some key areas of my life where I don't have control and cannot initiate change at this time. Sometimes, it's all about one's perspective on things. Since I've stopped dwelling on those issues, the situation is more bearable. 

My Writing Blog went through several phases, and I finally got the bright idea to merge them, thereby easing my burden of maintaining it and freeing up some valuable time. I've made the decision to be real to my readers, not a perfect author who has a "Leave to Beaver" lifestyle, because it would be a lie. In sharing my journey with you, I hope you'll know you aren't alone, we can pray, support and encourage one another, that my struggles, achievements, and faith can be a witness and inspiration to you, and your comments and words of encouragement will inspire me as well. 

My Blog in Review
I never know which posts are going to be interesting to people. Do you only want to read about writing related things and the publishing industry? Inspiring devotions? Facts and tidbits on historical references? New releases and author interviews? Or a mix of these things? So I thought it would be interesting to pull out the top ten posts that people visited in 2010. In case you missed them, I've posted them below. Please note, some of these were written in 2008 and 2009, but were in the top ten visited posts in 2010. 

Do you remember reading any of these posts? Any of them strike you as interesting?

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's Your Favorite Christmas Song?

My favorite Christmas song is O' Holy Night. Doesn't the sound of that go along with my burning candle? My dad loves The Little Drummer Boy. What's your favorite?

This year we are struggling to get into the Christmas spirit, which is quite unusual for me. A few years ago, I'd be singing and playing Christmas songs in October and driving everyone in my family nuts by Christmas. This year I haven't felt that joy and neither has my husband. I think it may be because we know we're losing a loved one. While we are thankful to have one more Christmas with him, it doesn't take away the sadness that it is the last. 

If you haven't seen one of my previous posts, my father-in-law is dying of stage 4 lung cancer. He has a PET scan next week to see if it has spread. He's now coughing up a lot of blood and we are told this is normal, but he's starting to have quite a bit of pain that is concerning us. 


After my husband told me about their doctor visit yesterday, it made me wonder about how such a thing was diagnosed in the past. Before all the CT and PET scans and MRI's, how was cancer diagnosed or was it? With him coughing up so much blood, would they have misdiagnosed him as having TB? I wonder how many people were thought to have TB, but really had lung cancer or something else?


All this wondering brings me to another question. (Can you tell I'm an analyzer?) Is it better to know you only have 3-6 months to die, or not know? People in the 18th and 19th centuries didn't always know. They might have noticed failing health, but they didn't know how long they could go on feeling like so weak and different. Or perhaps, it's worse to know you aren't feeling well, but NOT why. Sometimes it's the NOT KNOWING that can drive us as bonkers as THE KNOWING. 


Forgive me for the sporadic blog posts this week. I wasn't sure what to write about and my thoughts weren't always on the focus of this blog. In spite of our recent news, and the news that my father must have some minor upcoming surgeries, I HAVE been writing as it is often my therapy. However, I've been experiencing a lack of energy, which I'm hoping to overcome after the holidays. My husband and I plan to put ourselves on a new healthy diet, and get back on an exercise schedule. I do believe that will help. 


We appreciate everyone's prayers. So many have written to say that you are praying for our family and we are so thankful. Bless you!


Don't forget to tell which Christmas song is your favorite! Today I'm focusing on HAPPY thoughts and Christmas parties and spending time with friends.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Preserve Great Ideas on Mobile Technology

Remember those old movies where a writer might be sitting in a restaurant somewhere and a brilliant story idea or marketing concept would come to mind? This is before laptops, iphones, ipads, etc. The writer looks around for something to write on, s/he might use a napkin, the back of a fortune cookie slip or something else.

Over the holidays you will probably be surrounded by family and friends at Christmas parties, going last minute shopping, opening gifts, viewing light displays, at church services, Christmas dramas, special dinners--and all of these events will likely inspire ideas and your writing muse.

You may not be in a place or situation where you can take advantage of writing it down, but you still don't have to let the brilliant idea fly out the window of your memory. Use your phone. Text or email it to yourself. That way when you finally are at home with time to concentrate on expanding the idea into a finished product, you have something to reference. 

Mobile technology is more than just a way to communicate with others and connect to the Internet, it's also a back up plan for inspiring ideas when you're on the go!

Have you tried using your iphone, Blackberry or Droid as a back-up for info when you're on the go? If not, why not, please share!


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Share Your Christmas Prayer

Today I want to open my blog up to those who may be struggling to get through the holidays, hoping for improved health, or grieving over the last Christmas with a loved one. Perhaps you are facing your first Christmas without your loved one.

Let us pray and lift each other up.

I'll begin,

1) My father-in-law has been given 3-6 months. He has stage 4 lung cancer. Pray for our family, my mother-in-law, my husband, his siblings, and our daughter. We hope to make special memories this Christmas.

2) My father is having cataract surgery 2 days before Christmas and he's already trying to convince my mom to cancel it. He's been laid off for over a year and his Cobra ins runs out Dec. 31st. He says they can't afford the new rates in Jan and he has 13 weeks of follow-up after surgery. We need prayer for wisdom and affordable, reasonable solutions. He's too young to retire, but caught in the older age group that many no longer want to hire.

3) They believe my mother has glaucoma. We have no family history of it that we know of and she isn't near-sighted. This is surprising as she doesn't fit into the general statistics for this. While I know there is no cure, I do know that the process can be slowed down with treatment such as eye drops and surgery. She has already lost some peripheral vision. Please pray that she won't lose more and they can get this under control and she will not go blind. 

Now, it's your turn, what are your Christmas prayers?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

CFBA Book Tour - "Grace" by Shelley Shepard Gray


The
 
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
 
Grace
Avon Inspire; Original edition (October 26, 2010)
 
by
Shelley Shepard Gray




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Shelley Shepard Gray is the beloved author of the Sisters of the Heart series, including Hidden, Wanted, and Forgiven. Before writing, she was a teacher in both Texas and Colorado. She now writes full time and lives in southern Ohio with her husband and two children. When not writing, Shelley volunteers at church, reads, and enjoys walking her miniature dachshund on her town's scenic bike trail.



ABOUT THE BOOK:
It's Christmastime at the Brenneman Bed & Breakfast, and everyone is excited about closing down for the holiday.

Anna and Henry will be celebrating their first Christmas as a married couple, and for Katie and Jonathan Lundy, it's their first Christmas with baby Stefan. Winnie and Samuel Miller plan to stop by as well for a wonderful two weeks of family and rest.

But when two unexpected visitors show up, hoping to stay for Christmas, the family must test their commitment to hospitality. Levi is a widower who lost his wife four years ago and can't bear the thought of another Christmas alone. And Melody is a young pregnant woman who won't open up about how she ended up on her own at Christmas at almost nine months pregnant.

Anna, who knows a thing or two about keeping secrets, doesn't trust her, and strives to find out the truth about these two strangers who have disrupted their holiday. But as the Christmas spirit descends on them all, as well as snow that traps them in the inn, a healing and hopefulness takes over, allowing new relationships to be built, and the boundaries of family to be extended.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Grace, go HERE.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Blessing of Christian Music

This morning as I was driving my daughter to school and listening to the Christian music station we often enjoy, I was reminded of how things have changed from my childhood compared to today. When I was 13, there were no Christian music stations unless it was gospel music or talk shows with preaching. What was available definitely didn't encourage a 13 year old to listen to it. 

I remember listening to pop rock and feeling a little guilty that it wasn't anything that glorified God. Even as a teen I had this desire, but I didn't want to be bored to death with the only stations that were available. I remember telling God that if He would create a Christian rock station that I would change over to that and listen to it for the rest of my life. Now we have three local Christian rock stations, and as I travel from city to city, I can generally find a Christian rock station somewhere on the radio wherever I go. Isn't it just like God to go over and beyond what we ask for?

I remember back in the early to mid 80's how so many Christians were afraid that rock n'roll and pop music, especially heavy metal, was a deception by the devil. They would play the records backwards and you would hear some of those evil, subliminal messages. I realize that some of it really was and still is evil, planting strongholds in people's minds and that is why I longed for Christian rock. 

Then as the birth of Christian rock began to emerge, the fears of it being another deception by the devil to steal our children and teens built a huge resistance to it by the Christian community. In fact, if it wasn't for this fear, my generation may have had a chance at experiencing the blessing of Christian rock music and radio stations sooner. But God heard the prayers of those of us who were praying for it, and He delivered!

My daughter doesn't know what it is like not to have these Christian stations. She has grown up with them. I recognize them as the blessing they are, but does her generation realize this blessing or do they take it for granted? One thing I do know is that she skips through all the other stations and only wants to listen to the stations she has grown up listening to. It's like second-nature to her. Anything else feels foreign to her--and I'm so thankful.

Also, I've noticed her listening to more of the stories and ministry opportunities that are shared on Christian radio. While it isn't a sermon, she's still learning about God's word, His biblical principles, caring and giving to others such as the Christmas Shoe Box, how the radio stations survive by donations, local concerts coming to our area, testimonies that she has asked me to explain. She is learning from our Christian station and God is planting seeds in her, and I feel so blessed as this was my prayer years ago and I get to see the fruits of it. 

How has Christian radio/music blessed you? How has it changed your life?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Surviving by Writing Multiple Sub-Genres

I've attended all the writing workshops and endured the lectures about developing an author brand and sticking with it. Yes, I see the value in doing this. When readers hear your name, it's a wonderful idea that they have a particular thought or idea in mind of who you are. J.K. Rowling brings to mind Harry Potter books. Nora Roberts makes one think of contemporary romance. Stephen King screams horror. Stephanie Meyer provokes images of vampires. 

Then there are the arguments that an author's readers need to know what to expect from their books. To keep from confusing readers' expectations, some publishers insist on an author writing under various pen names for different subgenres. Nora Roberts also writes as J.D. Robb for her mysteries. Jayne Ann Krentz writes contemporary romance, and as Amanda Quick she writes historical romance. This is the traditional method of managing authors who write multiple subgenres. 
Are these methods antiquated with all the multi-faceted changes taking place in the publishing industry? 
Consider this, Nora Roberts has become so huge and popular that some of her J.D. Robb books are also being promoted as Nora Roberts books. What's the point in having both names? I'm not convinced there ever was one, or maybe there was when she first started out a couple of decades ago, but now it no longer matters. When people go to an author's website, the biggest promotional item for authors these days, readers learn all the pen names they write under. As soon as you land on Jayne Ann Krentz website, you see, "Jayne Ann Krentz is Amanda Quick is Jayne Castle." It's called cross-platforming, and with today's technology, cross-promotion, cross-platforming, cross-publication, and joining all the social media networks--are all methods of building an author's platform and identity--and they are all expected. 
Therefore, it is MY humble opinion that crossing subgenres that actually compliment each other may be a benefit to an author's career and platform. For instance, if an author writes romance and mysteries, it will not be a huge leap to write romantic suspense. An historical author who writes medieval romances may not lose readers if she writes Victorian romances, because historical readers often read more than one time period, even if they like one era best. Amish readers may also like Mennonite and Quaker novels. Granted, an author wouldn't want to write Christian fiction and paranormal. I'm referring to subgenres that compliment each other and where readers are most likely to cross over.

Are readers confused by multiple subgenres written by one author? I'm not, are you? When I pick up a Liz Curtis Higgs' novel, judging by the package, the cover, and the back cover copy, I know whether it is one of her historical fiction novels set in Scotland or the Bad Girls of the Bible series. They are completely different, but written by the same author, and I am never confused. It wouldn't upset me to pick up a Robin Lee Hatcher book that is a contemporary or a different novel by the same author that was set in WWII. Have you?

There is a tiny candle burning inside of me that rebels at the thought of only writing in one subgenre and as I'm seeing the face of the publishing industry forever changing, I'm wondering if my instincts are correct in this--or perhaps it's the Holy Spirit leading me on my author journey? Authors are in the business of surviving and/or thriving at their craft. The bottom line is sales, or we don't get to keep writing for publication. 
With so many publishers merging and buying up all the mid-sized publishers, mom and pop bookstores going out of business, mega-chain bookstores limiting their physical locations to well-populated areas, and online book sales surpassing hardcover book sales, publishing contracts with authors are changing. New authors aren't getting their debut novels published unless they can demonstrate an online presence and a platform that will promote sales. Some publishers won't even offer a contract to a published author unless they can demonstrate previous sales of 20,000 or more per book. Authors are having to hire their own publicists or do the promotional work themselves in addition to writing. The days of writing and letting the publisher's publicist come up with creative ideas and campaigns to promote an author's book are long gone. 
In short, the midlist authors are shrinking to an hour-glass image. Those that are on top with the best sales and rankings are thriving and get the free publicity from their publishers, because publishers can only afford to invest where profits are a sure thing. Other midlist authors are sliding down the tightening belt around the middle to one or two available publishers or to small local publishers with fewer distribution strategies and print-runs. This also means smaller advances, lower royalty percentage rates. 
For these midlist authors, those who want to do more than merely survive, may have to consider writing multiple subgenres to increase their platform and income level. Some supplement their income from speaking engagements and workshops, but midlist authors aren't able to command huge fees so the supplement is often inconsistent, varied, and is never a guarantee. It's the same with articles and short stories, but these are usually one-time payments and a higher quantity is necessary to make a dent in the bills that need to be paid. 

Writing for various subgenres in a book platform can continue bringing in royalty sales--especially e-books which have no limit on shelf life space. Different publishers have different reading audiences and marketing and sales platforms and distributions. An author will find a group of readers writing for one publisher that may be different writing for another publisher, but that author may gather loyal readers that will follow that author through the author's website, blog, and social media platforms regardless of where the author goes for publication. This is author platform--a bit of stability--in a publishing industry where things are so volatile.

If you still want to write under two different pen names, consider the fact that you will have to pay the costs of additional marketing online features and promotional items such as bookmarks, post cards, business cards, magnets, book plates, ads, graphic design, branding, website, etc. 

If you would like more information on writing for multiple subgenres, here is a great article entitled, Genre-Hopping Your Way Out of the Midlist

Please share your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Book Review - "The Master's Wall" by Sandi Rog

Once I started reading The Master's Wall, I was hooked and frustrated when I had to lay it down to take care of real daily life. I loved how this book begins with the hero and heroine as children and how they grow up knowing each other as best friends and then their relationship transitions into the attraction of adulthood. It takes place in biblical Rome, a time when children were expected to grow up as young as twelve, thirteen and fourteen. By the end of the book, the heroine is only fourteen and considered grown. When I think of my own thirteen year old, it makes my mind spin. 

The hero is thrust into the role of the protector, but at one point in the book he feels betrayed by the heroine--and rightly so. It's a beautiful story of love, redemption, forgiveness and great sacrifice--the ultimate sacrifice. The hero shares his faith in spite of all the odds against him, knowing he could lose his life in a world of pagan gods. When it seems like there is no hope for escape, a realistic solution and deliverance happens to bring the story 360 degrees to a happy and satisfying ending. Yet, you'll remain on the edge of your seat, flipping the pages until the very last page. 

The Master's Wall has become one of my all-time favorite books. I think it is right up there with Redeeming Love--and that is saying a lot since Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is my favorite book. 

I did read one review that criticized the book for some minor historical errors. I am not an expert on biblical history and Rome, and therefore, was not bothered by the things this one reviewer pointed out. My advice is to read The Master's Wall and enjoy this great story!

Back Cover Description

He fights for his freedom. She fights for her life. Together, they fight for each other. 
After watching Roman soldiers drag his parents away to their death, David, a young Hebrew, is sold and enslaved to serve at a villa outside of Rome. As David trains to become a skilled fighter, he works hard to please his master and hopes to earn his freedom. However, an opportunity to escape tempts him with its whispering call. Freedom beckons, but invisible chains hold him captive to the master's granddaughter, an innocent girl with a fiery spirit. David vows to protect Alethea from his master, the murderous patriarch, and contrives a daring plan—sacrifice his own life to save hers.