Thursday, September 3, 2015

Meet Award Winning Author, Carole Brown

Carole Brown and I met when I attended an Ohio writers’ retreat with a fellow
Michiganian. I was intrigued by Carole’s ideas as we sat in a brainstorming
session together.

She will be giving away an e-book copy of her latest cozy mystery, Bat Crazy.
Please leave a comment to enter. You MUST leave your email address with
your comment to qualify. Thank you!

TWEET TO SHARE: Why does Carole Brown  like to write cozy mysteries? via @kathleenrouser @browncarole212 #cozymysteries #amwriting 

Welcome, Carole! I’m glad to have you at my blog this week. Please tell us about your latest release, Bat Crazy. That is an intriguing name!

Thanks! Bat Crazy is a fun lighthearted book, as was Hog Insane, and I hope all of them in this series. Upcoming titles include:

  • Ÿ  Daffy’s Duck
  • Ÿ  Mad Dog
  • Ÿ  Kitty’s Mania
  • Ÿ  Horse Senseless

 Who knows if there will be others? J

Here is the blurb for Bat Crazy:

Monster Bats with red eyes that attack humans?

Denton doesn’t think so and Alex hopes not, but who are they to quibble with the local gossip?

Transmission problems and a blown tire land Denton and Alex Davies right in the middle of a dilapidated, unfriendly town that’s welcoming no strangers, least of all nosy ones with a bent toward solving mysteries.

But with support from the town detective--an admirer of the Davies--and their own tenacious personalities, Denton and Alex aren’t easily scared off. Not when warnings in the form of painted bats show up on the porch of their rented cabin, not when the mayor threatens to run them out of town and not even when Denton finds the bones . . .

An ancient story, a bit of a map, a lost jewel and even a bat clan serve to provide the
Davies and their sidekick, Taffy, the dog, their hardest case so far.

I understand this is the second book of a mystery series. What inspired you to write these and to invent these characters?

I’d initially written the first book, Hog Insane, as a short story. Later on, I wanted to develop it into a book and thought their personalities would make great characters for a mystery book.

I suppose I’ve given them many of my own (and hubby’s) loves and traits:
  • Ÿ  Mystery books
  • Ÿ  Traveling
  • Ÿ  A pet: a dog, in this instance
  • Ÿ  Alex has a love of shoes and is a bit headstrong
  • Ÿ  Denton loves fishing, likes his own way, and is intuitive.

I like to give Denton and Alex a bit of dry humor, episodes of dry teasing, and plenty of love. They don’t always agree--in fact, seldom do, but since the first book, they’ve learned to deal with their differences.

I’ve always loved mysteries. Especially cozies. They are so warm, fun and well, COZY! Lots of fun to read. So it made sense that someday I would attempt writing a mystery series along with my suspense novels.

When I decided to do a mystery series, I wanted to use titles with “insane-type” words in them. Hog Insane is the first book introducing the characters Denton and Alex Davies who are early retirees, who travel around the country in their RV solving mysteries with their pet dog, Taffy.

Do you have a theme which runs through your writing? If so, what is it?

In this series, the main plot is the mystery, of course, but I filter in relational threads too.
In the first book, it was the relationship between Alex and Denton. Their personal likes and differences, Denton’s stubbornness and insistence on having his way in a certain instance, and Alex’s independence, caused a rife between them that was both serious and complex. Not only did Denton have to learn what/who is important but that his opinion isn’t what always matters. Alex, on the other hand, needed to learn that life doesn’t always flow in the direction we desire. Happiness can be found in areas for which we hadn’t planned.

Fortunately--for readers!--it resolved satisfactory. 

In Bat Crazy, there are two:
  •   An older couple who had the potential of having it all: success, looks, love, etc., but their own pettiness spoiled it for them. Neither would compromise their desires in the least. They live out their lives seeking and never finding true happiness.Ÿ  
  • The second couple is young, hardworking, and smart. Their love might cause difficulties in the way they handle situations, but that same love covers a multitude of “sins.”

Both of these couples play an important secondary part of the mystery, and in that same secondary way, I hope readers get a hint of what true relationships are meant to be. Not perfect, but determined, faithful and compromising as needed. Love isn’t easy at times, but it’s sure worth fighting for!

Is coffee or tea your favorite beverage when facing a deadline? Or something else?

Coffee, of course! And I like mine hot, with a bit of cream. NO flavors. Yeah, I know. In today’s world, that’s a bit odd, but it is what it is.

In my normal writing days, I jump up every so often for a few minutes break. Deadline periods find me so focused on reaching goals that I forget--or don’t have the time--to think about food, drink or much else.

I can “reward” myself later with favorite snacks.

Is there any part of scripture which you feel guides your writing?

I suppose the time I realized I needed to be faithful to what God wanted me to write, was the most freeing, satisfactory period of my writing. Of course, that came with choices.

  • Ÿ  What’s popular in today’s reading world and what type of book(s) did God want me to share with others? 
  • Ÿ  What publishers require/want to sell: is that what God wants ME to write? If so, wonderful! If not, can I be brave and determined enough to follow his leading in my writing journey?

Ÿ  Restrictions on how or what to include in your books. This is a toughie. Not everyone can write/deal with some of the real world’s topics and that‘s okay. But abuse, a loosening of marriage morals, trust and deceit, and many other issues are not going to go away. God’s given me the ability to address some of these topics, and I have to be faithful.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe there are rules and boundaries and suggestions that are good and right. I appreciate that and do my best to accept them. These help make me a better writer.

I love this scripture found in Revelation chapter 17, verse 14b:
. . . For he is the Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called and chosen and faithful.

Beautiful, and meaningful to me.

Please tell us about where your favorite place is to write.

Lol. My huge desk that hubby refurbished for me. Somewhere (don’t ask me where!) hubby found this huge, ugly, black wooden thing. Rounded on one corner, it was far from anything I’d ever desire. UNTIL, he showed me what he wanted to do with it. Ah, it’s beauty was revealed. I have plenty of room and with the bookshelves he built on the wall above it, plenty of nooks and crannies around me, you can find me there in my little corner many hours of many days.

Other than that, I find myself enjoying my writing hours while we’re traveling at times. I not only get writing done, but have a brain-stormer, sounding board, and critique partner all wrapped up in one with my husband beside me. (He can’t escape, see, cause he’s driving! J )

 About Carole: Carole Brown not only has her award winning (Winner of the 2015 Christian Small Publisher Award in General Fiction, nominated for an Epic Award, RWA International Digital Awards finalist in Inspiration, Laurel Award finalist, Selah finalist; Genesis semi-finalist) debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, available for purchase now, but also a companion book called West Virginia Scrapbook: From the Life of Caralynne Hayman, is filled with tidbits of information about West Virginia.

A fun, lighthearted mystery series began with the first book: Hog Insane, introducing Denton and Alex Davies and now her second book in this series, Bat Crazy. Her WWII romantic suspense Spies series began with With Music In Their Hearts, featuring three red-headed sisters, three spies, and three stories.

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Where to find Carole online:

Barn Door Book Loft:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Does LOL Make You Feel Better?

Who hasn’t turned first to “Laughter is the Best Medicine” or “Humor in Uniform” in Reader’s Digest? Well, perhaps not so much the younger generation. Even before research was ever done on humor, we knew that laughter makes us feel good inside.

Research has revealed that a good guffaw increases oxygen intake and blood flow while relieving stress. Watching something humorous may help you better tolerate the pain in your humerus--or pain any other place in your body. A gaggle of giggles may cause the release of endorphins, those brain chemicals that make you feel good. It can even boost your immune system.

The naysayers don’t believe there is necessarily conclusive evidence, since it’s hard not to create a biased study and include all the right parameters. But let’s face it, watching a comedy or reading humorous writing just makes you feel better and can give you a lift for the day.

There are so many things in this world: violence, poverty, illness, and daily tragedies we are bombarded with through the media. If we are alive and breathing we will each face difficulties in our lives—if not today, then someday.

In God’s own word, Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” We can only focus on the sad and seemingly hopeless situations in our lives for so long. The Lord gave us the capacity for humor, for sharing smiles, and for good rollicking laughter with it’s healing touch.

Lilybits says, "I am not amused!"
Sometimes just the irony of a situation is enough to present us with a way to look at it humorously.  Stepping back from our difficulties and looking at the blessings in life can give us that glimpse of hope we desperately need. Seeing the funny side of life helps us look at the world differently. That's why Lilybits and I like to focus on “The good, the cat, and the inspiring.” We would love to know that our blog makes you smile or, perhaps, LOL each time you stop by. And we trust you will forgive us for an occasional overdose of
Tweet to Share: Does LOL Make You Feel Better? via @kathleenrouser #laughterheals 

Thursday, August 13, 2015


  Background photo-Epic Fireworks {CC} Modified
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are not supported by any political party. They aren't necessarily endorsed by the owner of this blog. The views expressed in this article are definitely from a whimsical cat's eye point of view. 

As a feline of some distinction, I am quite upset neither major political party has considered me for a run. A run for president in 2016 that is.

That guy with the big mouth and toupee may be complaining about illegal aliens, but I suggest there’s a more dire threat out there. Our major cities have rats and mice lurking in all the dark places. Why, I could command an army of cats to take care of that problem in no time.

What about those politicians who used to brag they’d put a “chicken in every pot?” I’m suggesting that it would be less expensive and more nutritious to put a can of tuna in every cupboard! Besides, tuna contains all those omega fatty acids, which are good for your brain. Hmm . . . wait a minute . . . we don’t need our humans getting smarter. Perhaps a chicken in every pot for them and leave the tuna in the cupboard to the cats. Yes, this is a much better idea for my platform.

If you’re concerned about the leader of the free world not having opposable thumbs, well, who do you think is typing this? I’m quite clever after all. I have trained my live-in servants well. Without any work, other than being cute, I have obtained a home, two wet food meals a day and free flowing kibble. What have you done to improve your circumstances lately, without working for it, I may add? Hmm?

Purrs and head scratchings are excellent for diplomatic proceedings. (One of our former presidents proved that by giving the German chancellor a back rub.) A slight tilt of the head and my large expressive eyes will get a diplomat from anywhere to cave to my demands quite quickly. 

Now, considering your doubts because of my youth, since I am around nine in human years, I am actually around 45 in cat years. I’ve been around the block. Well, not literally. I'm not allowed outside. (Fleas!) Now that Mom is brushing me regularly and I’m getting that tasty hairball medicine, I’m in pretty good shape, though.

If you’re worried about the defense of our nation, I am very territorial and will protect it this country by fang and claw! And so will my army of FFF (Ferocious Female Felines). We’ll leave the defense on water to the human navy, though. Might I remind you cats don’t like to get wet?

If you find me less silly, cleverer and more startlingly beautiful than the other candidates, then write in Lilybits Rouser for president at your state’s next presidential primary. After all if you're going to vote for a third party you might as well vote for me. A vote is a terrible thing to waste!

Tweet to share: What happens when a cat tries to run for political office? Find out at via @kathleenrouser #silly #cats

Thursday, August 6, 2015

J'nell Ciesielski Shares Tips for Historical Research

J’nell Ciesielski is a fellow client of Linda S. Glaz and the Hartline Literary Agency. She finaled in the Dixie First Chapter contest in 2011, the Launching a Star contest in 2011, and won first place for the Inspy category of the Maggie Award in 2012! Her marvelous attention to detail comes through beautifully in her writing, so I invited J’nell to share some tips for historical research. You will enjoy what she has to share.

J’nell, please tell us something about yourself.

Born in Florida, I spent a happy childhood splashing on the sugar white beaches only known to the Sunshine Stare. While in middle school, my dad got a job transfer to Texas where I graduated from Texas A&M with a B.S. in Psychology. Not knowing what else to do with my life and seeing as how writing wasn’t paying the bills yet, I joined the Air Force. Stationed in Germany I was privileged to travel to France, Austria, the Netherlands, England, and my favorite, Scotland. I also met my awesome husband over there. Finding him was worth wearing camouflage and combat boots every day. After serving our four years, we now live in Virginia where I’m a stay at home mom to a busy one and a half year old and a very lazy beagle.

Want to learn about random history facts or things that time has forgotten? My blog is for you! I like talking about famous women spies, pirate foods, FANY ambulance drivers, and how to properly wear a filleadh mhor (that’s great kilt to you and me). It’s the perfect place to expound upon little details I uncover during research and that doesn’t get more than a passing reference in my books. Things like why Pekinese dog hair was used to make blankets for burned victims in WWI. 

A recommended resource.
What do you consider the best resources for historical research? 

Start with movies. No, Hollywood isn’t the most accurate when it comes to historical details (Pearl Harbor anyone?), but they’ll give you a sense and feel for the era. Get you in the mood, so to speak. Once you’ve mastered sitting in front of the flickering screen for hours, give your eyes a break and go listen to music from that time. If your story is in 1941 France then try Edith Piaf. If you’re galloping in the Highlands, go for some bagpipes, and for the Revolutionary War try a drum and fife march in your living room. Kidding. Unless it helps, and then I say no holds barred. You’ll find out not just the type of rhythms they liked, but the messages in there. What was important to people of that time? Were they hopeful, were they sad or angry, did they just want to get back home to their girls? It’s amazing how much history is written into those little tunes.

One of J'nell's favorite writing places, with her dog, Daisy, for company.

Now it’s time to stretch your legs! Go to museums, get in touch with professionals, interview those who lived during that time (if possible), or attend reenactments. Just don’t let your search stop at Wikipedia. And of course, read. Read everything you can get your hot, greedy hands on. Biographies, diaries, fashion magazines, newspapers, and anything else that will give you insight into the daily lives and extraordinary events going on.

Research notes!

Those sound like excellent suggestions, J'nell. What period of history do you find most fascinating? And is there a specific location related to that which you like to study?

I may have to cheat on this one, but since no one is here to stop me I’ll do it anyways. My mood determines which time period I find fascinating, and the mood is often dependent on watching certain movies. Like everyone else on the planet, Sunday nights spent at Downton Abbey give me a longing for Edwardian England. If a sense of daring adventure strikes, I’ll write about pirates and sailing the high seas. For bravery that defies society’s rules and honor that risks it all for love I dive into a world war. And if I need warriors and their fiery ladies amidst a backdrop of breathtaking beauty I head to Scotland.

J'nell at Eilean Donan Castle.
Even though I switch around the century that my stories occupy, I tend to keep them based on the British Isles and the western half of the Continent. Why? Because I’m an Anglophile and love writing men with Scottish accents. Seriously though, there’s such a rich history that is passed down from generation to generation that affected how they dressed, ate, social circles, what they said and how they said it. I’m so proud to be an American, but there’s something so exciting about places different from my own. Castles, moors of heather, centuries old buildings, driving on the wrong side of the road, moody weather, what’s not to love? And of course, the accents hehe J

The one thread that ties these centuries and places together is the characters that inhabit them. Characters who dare to risk it all, including their own lives, for the one they love. Clothes, countries, and politics may change, but love never does.

How true!

Are you the kind of person who searches for answers to particular questions? Or do you completely immerse yourself in your historical research?

J'nell on more of her world travels.
Both! I’ve always loved history. I was the nerd in school who put together historical research papers and read them to the class for fun. So I have a pretty fair knowledge of what happened when and the general essence of different eras. Starting with that broad scope, I then narrow my focus to what was happening during the time frame I set my story in. What were the politics, who wasn’t getting along with whom, what kind of transportation did they have and how long did it take them to get from place to place. Most exciting of all were the kinds of fashion for the day. Once I have a big overview of the year, I then go back to look up specific questions which often lead me down more than one rabbit hole, but sometimes those holes hold the most fascinating tidbits that end up in the story.

As the story goes on, I find myself looking for very specific things. What color chairs did Hitler have in the Berghof? What brand of lipstick was available in 1941 England? How would a sailor get tar out of his hair on board a ship? What song would a Tommy sing hunkered down in a trench on the Somme? For A Rolls Royce in No Man’s Land it took me a whole week of reading and watching youtube videos to learn how to change a tire on a vintage Rolls Royce. No detail is too small for me because I believe it’s these little things that bring the story to life. And yes, I’ve been known to look up weather records for certain days in history.

I have looked up weather record as well. I guess I'm not alone in that.

Another recommended book.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share for effective historical research?

Never stop reading! Books are our gateway to the world. That’s a little heavy I know, but it’s true. You’ll never know the kinds of things you’ll learn each time you open a book and let the pages take you away. And if not a book, the Internet is a boundless source of information. For pretty much anything you could possibly want to know about, and even the things you don’t, there’s a website out there.

If you can, visit the places you’re writing about. I was privileged to live in Europe for three years and we took as many opportunities as we could to visit different places. I remember the unique smell of Paris streets, the feel of the wind whipping through my hair as I stood on a cliff in Skye, the bullet holes still in the stone walls of Kaiserslautern, Germany as we walked to get a pretzel, the beautiful green richness of Bavaria, and the clanging of Big Ben on a gloomy afternoon. I can feel these places each time I write about them, and hopefully my stories are richer for the experiences.

Just remember to always double check your facts! You don’t want your Scots running around in clan tartans ala Braveheart when the ‘clan tartan’ wasn’t really invented until the nineteenth century.

You are indeed blessed to have been able to visit all those places, J'nell. 

Thank you for taking the time to be a guest on my blog, J’nell! You've shared very
helpful information. 

You’re welcome! I loved sharing with you!

We'd love your comments. What do you find difficult about
historical research? Do you love it? Or does it bog you
down? Do you have a question for J'nell? 

Tweet and share:
Need tips for smarter historical research? Learn from award winning writer, @JnellCiesielski.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Meet Karen Campbell Prough and Ella Dessa!

Award winning author, Karen Campbell Prough, writes historical fiction and a broad range of short stories. She knows her life-long desire to write comes from God. The love of books and the heartfelt urge to be a storyteller has been with her since childhood. Seven of her short stories were published in a variety of magazines. She has won awards at the 2014 BRMCWC and the 2015  FCWC. Her first book, The Girl Called Ella Dessa, came out April 2015.

 Welcome to my blog, Karen! Please tell us about your debut novel, The Girl Called Ella Dessa.

The Girl Called Ella Dessa, is the beginning of a young girl’s journey through grief, the reality of awful scars, and young love. The story takes place in the rolling mountains above Dahlonega, Georgia. It was a time when gold mining in the surrounding hills had put its mark on the lives of many local men. Ella Dessa loses everything close to her. But a widow, with five children, is happy to take her in and give her a home. Through the friendship of a teen named Samuel, Ella Dessa realizes the hint of love does live in her bleak world. But she does not desire Samuel’s loyal attention. It is his older brother who captures Ella Dessa’s thoughts.

         Is there anything about yourself you see coming through your main character?

Her stubbornness? J Ella Dessa is quite independent, and she knows when to accept her role in life and try to accomplish the things that matter.

     What compelled you to write this story?

Imagination is a driving force in me. I never outline or know where my stories are going when I start writing. I sometimes feel as if the characters compel me to put their story on paper—just so glimpses into their past will be saved and shared. Life is never easy, and life in the hills and mountains during 1836 was not a joyous vacation. And I love to vacation in those mountains!

      You cover some difficult issues very carefully in your book. What prompted you to deal with them in your story?

As I mentioned before, I don’t outline or plan what I’ll write. It just happens along the way, as the story grows. But I believe people don’t always know what is behind the misbehavior of all children. This world is not ideal, and no story written true to life is perfect. Children suffer things they shouldn’t have to in this world.

In the past, I worked with children, as a volunteer, through Guardian Ad Litem. I have seen the way teens and little kids deal with issues thrown at them by the adults in their lives—the ones who are suppose to love and protect them. I started writing this book and realized the period in history doesn’t matter. Bad things happened in the past. I had created a mean, unseen character who left his children and wife for the love of gold. Hurt is the same in 1836 as it is in our day and time. Children act out because of the pain and are sometimes misunderstood. I wanted to present some indications of behavior problems that might leave clues, which should raise awareness.

      Will there be a sequel? If so, would you like to tell us more about it?

There is a second book in the editing process right now. We will visit the mountains above Dahlonega, Georgia and Ella Dessa’s life once more! And love is a key factor in book two, but that’s not to say there won’t be trials and pain along the way. Have to keep an eye out for a minor character. He returns and causes major problems for Ella Dessa. Anyone want to guess who the man might be?

Have you seen any good movies lately, which you would recommend to other writers to watch for the quality of the story?

I wish I could say that I have watched a good movie, but the truth is … I rarely watch movies anymore. I find myself too busy with life and writing.

Thank you for joining me this week, Karen, and sharing about your writing journey. 
Easily enter the drawing for Karen's excellent novel, A Girl Called Ella Dessa,
through the Rafflecopter giveaway below by midnight August 6th. (The contest
will start at midnight tonight.) 

Please Tweet this:  Karen Campbell Prough shows her love of the
mountains in Georgia in A Girl Called Ella Dessa.  #historicalfiction

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Meet Jayme Mansfield--Writer, Artist and Educator

Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator. She provides vivid imagery as she melds her inspiring writing and artistic talents. Her debut novel, Chasing the Butterfly, released in late summer 2014, by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Recently, she was awarded the 2015 Christian Small Publishers Association Book of the Year in Historical Fiction. Her passion for weaving stories about women who find their strength in the Lord continues in her upcoming novel, Rush, a historically compelling tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush in the late 1800’s. Jayme owns, paints, and shares the joy of creating visual art with children and adults at the Piggy Toes Art Studio in Lakewood, Colorado for the past twenty years. After a career in both the business and creative sides of advertising, Jayme received her teaching and Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and Creative Arts. For many years in elementary education, she has shared a passion for literacy and the writing process with her students. She teaches at Aspen Academy in Greenwood Village, Colorado. She is married to James and has three teenage boys. Visit Jayme at

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

The first time I found myself in “the zone” was when I knew I had found my passion to write. Hours and hours went unnoticed and turned into full days in front of the computer. Ironically, for being an extravert, I discovered a wonderful place—to be by myself, creating new stories.

What inspired Chasing the Butterfly?

The initial seeds for the story grew out of writing assignments for the Christian Writers Guild and my personal passions for painting and traveling to France numerous times. But after that, I was inspired to persevere and complete the novel as a personal journey and challenge. At some (often many) junctures of our lives, we have to contend with forgiveness. Writing the book was my way of navigating pain, communing with the Lord, and ultimately realizing the freedom and joy that come with forgiving. I promised God I would finish the story, and when I did, I wasn’t sure if it would remain for His eyes and mine only. But His ways are surprising—that’s when the doors began to fly open.

Tell us where do your story and character ideas come from.

My characters come from bits and pieces of family members, friends, and myself. I don’t recall ever concocting all of the characters—instead, they seem to invite themselves into the story because they have something important to say or do. As for the story idea, I am fascinated by strong women who eventually figure out how to survive life’s difficulties, and ultimately find hope in the blessings. I have always been intrigued with history so weaving that with an artistic element motivates me to create story.

You are one of the busiest writers I have met. How do you manage to balance writing time with teaching school and being mom to three active boys?

I suppose I’m one of those people who have never understood the meaning of boredom. I find that I am driven by my passions to create in many forms. Sometimes, I wish I could lay aside a thing or two, but then I feel something’s incomplete. It’s probably a good thing I have three boys and a husband who are active and have so many personal interests. But I admit, there have been many days that I jump on and hold on tight!

Tell us how you came up with the lovely cover of your book.

My long-time friend, Kelly Berger, is an accomplished professional artist in Colorado. When I received word from the publisher that they would consider an original piece of art for the cover, I went straight to Kelly. She read the manuscript and fell in love with the story. I had pulled at least thirty different images and photographs of Provence, laid them out randomly in my art studio, and asked her to take a look. From those and our shared travels to Provence, we envisioned the low vantage point—poppy field with the butterfly in the distance and the sunset backdrop. Off to work she went…when the final painting was unveiled, I was stunned. Truly, it was exactly how I had imagined the cover! Our friendship has been blessed by the opportunity to share in the creation of the novel.

How did you research your setting in France? Do you have any anecdotes or interesting experiences arising from your research which you would like to share with our readers? Have any of these found their way into your book?

I’ve been to France, particulary Paris and Provence, several times. On each visit, hundreds of photographs captured the beauty and history—those images became ingrained in my mind and served as the visual memory when I wrote many of the scenes. I find World War II fascinating to read about, both in other novels and in non-fiction. Eventually, I needed to pull myself away from researching and get on with the story. On a fun sidenote, whenever I mentioned paint colors, I had to make sure the specific names of the paints existed at that time. I had a wonderful time delving into the history of art materials—it’s amazing where those unique names originated—but, that’s another story.

How do you see the importance of Christian fiction?

The presence of Christian fiction is imperative—it’s a venue for biblical truth to be woven into story in an appealing, inspirational, and fresh manner. I can’t tell you how many readers have appreciated enjoying a story without the offenses that are prevalent in much of today’s writing. Whether a reader has been a Christian or not, the discussions that have ensued from the story always contain elements of faith, hope, love, and God.

What are three things that have had the most influence on your writing process?

Belief--I have a story to create that is intended to touch the lives of others.

Gratitude and Humility – this writing journey is not merely about me, and I couldn’t do it by myself.

Challenge – writing is difficult in every way imaginable—but the process, nuances, and craft is exhilarating (even when I’m exhausted!).

Do you plot your stories out ahead of time, or just sit down and write from the seat of your pants?

Give me a horse to ride, and I’m on it! That’s my way of saying, “I love to write seat of the pants!” I get a rush from letting the story take off and run.

What events in your personal life have most impacted your writing, and how?

I write from plenty of emotion. I have discovered that I write scenes and dialogue based largely on what is currently on my mind and what themes are coursing through my heart and soul at the time.

What was the most emotional scene for you to write in your novel?

The scene at the pond ripped my heart out. Each time I reread that portion, I wept. Somewhere hidden in my greatest fears and deepest emotions, the descriptions evolved for those events.

Would you share the opening scenes of your novel with us?

                                                                                         Run, 1931

I learned to run that day, really run. I gathered my scattered papers, knocking over the glass holding my new paintbrush. The blue-tinted water pooled around my knees and soaked the hem of my dress as it filled crevices between the stones on our front porch. I ran across the lawn and on to the gravel road leading to the center of town. It didn’t matter that the bottoms of my bare feet stung from the jagged stones.
            I couldn’t stop. If I did, I’d never find her—she’d be gone. My long hair tangled
and caught in the tears streaming down my face. Pushing it out of my eyes, it flew out behind me like a windstorm. My pale yellow sundress twisted between my legs and threw me to the ground. I lay there trying to breathe, then pushed myself up, hiked my dress to my waist, and ran full stride down the center of the road. My head was down, determined—running for my life.           
             I raised my head in time to see Papa’s car swerve onto the soft shoulder and skid to a halt. Except for the strained car engine, there was silence. I froze, gripping the hem of my dirty dress with one hand and my crumpled paintings in the other. Silhouetted by the setting sun, Papa leapt out of the car and ran to me. I tried to focus but my eyes were drowning.  
            “Ella! What are you doing? I almost ran you down.” Papa wrapped me in his arms. “Your feet are bleeding. Oh, dear God, what happened?”
             My lips quivered, and my entire body began to shake.
             Papa held me tighter. He sat cross-legged in the road and gathered me into his lap. He breathed hard against my neck. “Did someone hurt you? Tell me, Ella.”
            He took my face in his large hands and pushed the tangles of hair from my eyes. My breathing slowed and I felt a momentary calm like the sea before a storm.
            “She’s ... I know she’s gone.”
            I shook my head slowly from side to side. “Mama.” I stared into his soft, brown eyes. “She didn’t come back,” I whispered the vicious words. “She said she was going to the market after you left for Marseilles. She was dressed up, Papa, wearing her pretty blue dress and red lipstick.” I ran my tongue over my lips, tasting the dust and tears. “I said, ‘Mama, why are you dressed up?’”
            "Bet she just wanted to look pretty.” Papa winked an eye and forced a smile.
            “That’s what she said. She said, ‘Ella, I want to be pretty again.’"
            "Again?" Papa's smile faded.
            I nodded. “I told her she’s always pretty."
            Papa tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “Yes, she’s a pretty girl, just like you.”
            “But I waited for her on the porch all day.” I lowered my eyes. “And I heard you and Mama yelling last night.”
            “Your mother and I had a little disagreement. That’s all. It’s fine now.”
            “No. She had her travel case. I was coming up the path from the pond and saw her put it in the front seat.”
            “Did she tell you where she was going?” Papa stared hard at me.           
            “I tried to ask but she didn’t stop. I ran after the car as she drove away.” I breathed in deeply and stared back at Papa’s widening eyes. “I tried. I ran fast but I couldn’t catch her.”
             Papa squeezed me. “Oh, Lord, she didn’t.” I watched his eyes fill with tears. He pressed his mouth into my hair and whispered her name as though wishing her back home. “Marie.”
            But his voice confirmed the truth. I wrapped my arms tightly around his neck and felt a damp spot forming on his shirt as the tears rushed from my eyes.
             Finally, he gathered me up and stood to his full height. He turned towards the sun as it cast its final light on the hills. Like many evenings, we watched the color of the hills intensify to a deep crimson. Tonight they looked as if they were bleeding hearts. Then slowly, the color darkened and the hills beat their last bit of life.
            Papa carried me back to the car. My body was limp like the injured baby bird I tried to rescue last spring after a windstorm had knocked its nest out of a tree. Opening the passenger door with one hand, Papa placed me gently on the front seat.                        
            “We’re going home, Ella.”
            “Back to New York?”
            “New York?” Papa’s forehead wrinkled. “Of course not. Why would you ask that?”
            “Mama says this isn’t our home.” I whispered.
            Papa sighed. “Ella, the farmhouse is our home. Roussillon is our home.”
            “But, you told Mama she’d be happy here.”  I waited for him to say something, but his open mouth was silent. “Remember, you said we’d live happily ever after in the sweet smelling vineyards and...”
            “I know. And the far-reaching lavender fields in the south of France.” Papa’s eyes filled with tears, but he quickly wiped them away with the back of his hand.
            As we pulled back into the center of the road, I looked out the dust-tinted window in time to see my paintings spiraling on the side of the road as a gentle wind lifted them in unison. They chased in circles as if trying to catch and hold on to one another. I don’t know when I set them free. Perhaps I let them go the moment Papa also realized she was gone—I knew then my gifts for her would never be received. 
            As Papa drove slowly down the road, I turned and knelt on the seat so I could watch my papers through the rear window. My paintings danced—beckoning me to return and play some day. As they floated to the ground, they waved a final time, fluttered a last breath, and then lay scattered and lifeless, like the pieces of my seven year-old heart.

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