Wednesday, February 27, 2008

CFBA Book of the Week: Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Stuck in the Middle

Revell (February 1, 2008)


Virginia Smith


Virginia Smith left her job as a corporate director to become a full time writer and speaker with the release of her first novel Just As I Am.

Since then she has contracted eight novels and published numerous articles and short stories. She writes contemporary humorous novels for the Christian market, including Murder by Mushroom (Steeple Hill, August 2007) and her newest release, Stuck in the Middle(Revell, February 2008), book 1 in the Sister-to-Sister Series.

Her short fiction has been anthologized, and her articles have been published in a variety of Christian magazines. An energetic speaker, she loves to exemplify God’s truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, “Biblical Truths in Star Trek.”

Virginia is a speaker, and an avid Scuba diver. She and her husband Ted, divide their times between Kentucky and Utah, and escape as often as they can for diving trips to the Caribbean!


Joan Sanderson's life is stuck. Her older sister, Allie, is starting a family and her younger sister, Tori, has a budding career. Meanwhile, Joan is living at home with Mom and looking after her aging grandmother. Not exactly a recipe for excitement-or romance.

That is, until a hunky young doctor moves in next door. Suddenly Joan has a goal--to catch his eye and get a date. But it won't be easy. Pretty Tori flirts relentlessly with him and Joan is sure that she can't compete. But with a little help from God, Allie, and an enormous mutt with bad manners, maybe Joan can find her way out of this rut and into the life she's been hiding from.

Book 1 of the Sister-to-Sister series, Stuck in the Middle combines budding romance, spiritual searching, and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry that is sure to make you smile.

"A gentle story of one young woman's season of growth, deftly blending the tangle of family relationships with gifts of whimsey and revelation. A joy to read."
~SHARON HINCK, author of Renovating Becky Miller and Symphony of Secrets~

"Virginia Smith has created a charming and humerous novel that celebrates small-town life, generations of women caring for each other, and the value of finding a deeper, more active faith."
~SHARON DUNN, author of the Bargain Hunters mysteries~

Buy it at Amazon!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Take Time to Smell the Flowers

I intended to post a book review today, but plans changed.

Sandi, a woman I've known for a very long time, called this afternoon to tell me her husband died of a sudden heart attack yesterday. I'm still sitting here in shock. Without warning, not a day of sickness. She kissed him goodbye and left the house. A half-hour later a call came saying she needed to go home right away. Within minutes he was gone.

They'd married while they were in their forties. About five or six years ago he retired from teaching and they enjoyed life together, traveling, spending time in their vacation trailer in northern Wisconsin, and cocooning at home.

Sandi's faith in God is strong, and He'll supply her with needed strength right now and will in the days ahead, I'm sure. Even so, this shocking event gives me pause. I firmly believe that every day of my life is written in God's book even before they have happened, just as it states in Psalm 139. But I have to ask if I am doing all that I am supposed to do while I still have my earthly life.

I spend so much time pouring my heart and soul into my writing, but am I doing it at the expense of other things God may want me to do? Am I so single-minded in focus that I'm ignoring other parts of life that God intends for me to be involved in? To enjoy?

Maybe even stop to smell the flowers that He created.

Right now it's snowing outside for the umpteenth time this winter, and it's easy to complain. Yet how often do I stop and consider how each and every snowflake is a unique design, not two alike. How awesome! Only God could make something like that happen. Not only that, He created all the stars and knows them by name. And only He could hang the moon.

Time for me to sign off. I've got some snowflakes to see.

Friday, February 22, 2008

And the Winner of On Sparrow Hill is ....

Linore Birkard!!!

Congratulations, Linore. I've notified Linore of her win and as soon as she contacts me with her mailing address, I'll be notifying Maureen so she can get the book off to her.

Thanks to all who entered the contest. Keep your eyes on this space. Soon I'll be holding a drawing for Susan May Warren's Taming Rafe. I have two signed copies to give away!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What Am I Reading?

My friend and fellow ACFW board member posted a tag game on her blog and invited anyone who has one to consider themselves tagged. Here's the instruction.

The Rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).

2. Open the book to page 123.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the next three sentences.

5. Tag five people.

What's really funny is that Ane and are reading the same book!

Blessings, by Kim Vogel Sawyer:

Dad brought his fist down on the dresser top with a resounding thud. "So that's why you wanted to work for him - so you could take his place. Not because you like animals, the way you led me to believe."

Now I'm tagging Winter Peck, Peg Phifer, Sally Bradley, Lena Nelson Dooley, and Margo Carmichael.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Win Maureen Lang's On Sparrow Hill!

Today I'm very excited to have author Maureen Lang stop by for another visit. I've been blessed to get to know Maureen personally as we both live in the Chicago area, and I'm double-blessed to have been able to read her latest book On Sparrow Hill.

"Sparrow" is the second in Maureen's series that focuses on Fragile X Syndrome, a chromosomal genetic disorder. In On Sparrow Hill we meet new characters and reacquaint ourselves with some of the characters from the first book in the series, The Oak Leaves." Like the first book, the story toggles between contemporary times and historical times, the the contemporary set in in modern-day England and the historical in Ireland.

The reader is quickly drawn into the life of Rebecca Seabrooke, commercial manager of the estate that once belonged to Cosima Escott Hamilton, ancestor of the family featured in The Oak Leaves. The storyline also reaches back to the struggles that Berrie Hamilton, Cosima's sister-in-law, faces as she strives to open a school for children with special needs. A daunting task today in spite of all we know, but a very huge challenge in the 1800s.

Maureen has kindly answered the myriad of questions that bubbled to the surface as I read this book. And, the best news of all is that she will send a signed copy of On Sparrow Hill to a lucky winner who leaves a comment with this message! Details about the drawing follow the interview.

Maureen, welcome to A Writer's Journey. I didn't realize when I started reading On Sparrow Hill that the setting would be completely in England. How much research did you have to do about this? Did you travel to England? If not, how does one research a setting without having gone there?

I was in England a number of years ago, so I had some (rather vague!) visual recollections. But, like with writing historicals where the author really can’t visit the exact setting, I think by reading enough books, getting some visuals through photographs and depending on first-hand accounts can give a well-rounded picture for a book’s backdrop. Of course, BEING in England and Ireland while I was writing this would have been wonderful, but not very practical for my family demands.

For the contemporary portion of On Sparrow Hill, I depended on English friends to make sure I had some of the details right, like phrasing and some of the societal differences between here and there. I also contacted the estate manager at one of the historic homes listed on-line for tours and wedding receptions, to see what his job entailed. He was happy to help, and we corresponded for months as more questions came up.

Another question comes to mind, if you haven't traveled to England, did you have resources to double-check your information so you wouldn't have a reader who knows the area writing to say you got it all wrong?

One of my first readers was born in Manchester, and between her and her husband (also born in England) they checked my details. So I was fairly confident there aren’t too many errors.

I worked for many years in special ed in an elementary school district, and I'm well aware of how much of a struggle it is for many parents to have their special needs child labeled. In the story you focus on a school that Berrie starts for children such as Cosima's brother Royboy. Was it difficult having to write about the labels people of that era placed on such children, given your own son has Fragile X Syndrome?

At first it really was difficult, because the terms they used in Victorian times have evolved into such hurtful terms today (lunatic, imbecile, idiot). But it made me realize that language is still evolving today. Even though everyone knows what “mentally retarded” means so it’s the easiest term to describe my son, there have been several phrases to take its place because the word “retarded” or “retard” has joined the ranks of an insult. So we say “mentally challenged” or “cognitively impaired,” when all of the terms, both historic and contemporary mean the same thing. Many words can be misused to hurt someone, which is always painful. But within the context of history, terms like idiot and imbecile took on a different, less painful connotation. One of my contemporary characters mentions the harsh words, so it’s not ignored in the book, just pointed out.

I was amazed at how you write dialogue so well to fit your characters. This book must have been quite a challenge. From the English way of speaking and their particular names for things that we Americans don't use, to Katy's manner of speaking as a lower functioning person, to Quentin's haughty mother, to the precocious American child, Peyton. Whew, it makes my head spin. What special techniques, if any, did you employ to get into the head of everyone and make them sound so authentic?

I’ve always liked accents, and like some people have an ear for music, I have an ear for dialects. I actually never knew this until I heard someone struggle trying emulate others — something I thought everyone could do. So I surrounded myself with the accent, either with real live people like my English first-reader, or movies with English actors, making it easy to fill my head with the proper rhythm. If I can hear it, I can usually get it onto the paper.

I'm always amazed at the detail in your stories. I guess this goes back to research, but how did you come to gather so many details of that historical period. Where does one begin?

Being in the disability community myself, because of my handicapped child, I was interested in seeing how services have changed through the years. I think that’s the first ingredient we need when we research something: passion. If the author is excited about the subject, it’s easier to search harder to find more details and have more to pick and choose from that’ll best fit our stories.

This is the second book in your series that focuses on Fragile-X syndrome. Have you had a large response from people who deal with Fragile-X in their lives after "The Oak Leaves" came out?

I’ve had a number of notes (mostly emails) from other moms who are dealing every day with Fragile X Syndrome, who’ve faced the same diagnosis I faced and is described in The Oak Leaves. I have to admit those are my favorite notes, because we share the connection of one or more family members who struggle in many of the same ways. I’m an author, but I’m a reader first and foremost, and one of the reasons I love books so much is sharing some measure of the human experience. When someone contacts me to thank me for putting into words all the emotions they went through themselves…well, there’s nothing like it.

Can we look forward to another book about this most interesting of families?

At this point, these two books are the whole series. But I never say never, at least as far as potential books in the future! If I do revisit these characters, though, it’ll be a while before I can get back to them. Next winter I have another contemporary with Tyndale coming out, tentatively titled “My Sister Dilly.” It’s about a woman who leaves her small Midwestern town behind for the faster paced, trendier lifestyle of LA. But when her sister makes a horrible mistake and ends up in prison, she returns home to take care of her. She learns she can’t really go back, all she can do is accept forgiveness. This book revisits the disability community, too, but it’s not related to Oak Leaves or On Sparrow Hill — although, like those two, it DOES have a romance!

After that I’ll be revisiting the First World War for another romantic historical series (also with Tyndale), so I’m excited to say I have my next few books lined up.

Thanks for having me, Pam! Your questions were a pleasure.

To win a copy of On Sparrow Hill, please leave a comment with this posting. The drawing will take place next Friday, February 22nd.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Journey Progresses!!

God is faithful.
God is good.
God is never too early or too late.
God is always on time!

I've been in the search for an agent ever since the agent who had been representing me decided she needed to close shop. It's been a long couple of years, but God, of course, is always right on time.

These days, outside of making contacts with editors at writing conferences, a novelist needs an agent to get her foot in the door of publishers. Over a year ago, I attended the ACFW conference with one agenda item: To connect with as many agents as possible in the hopes of finding a good fit. One by one, God seemed to close doors of opportunity. First, the agent I had an appointment with couldn't make the conference at the last minute due to an accident. By that time all the appointment slots were filled so I approached several in the hopes of snagging some time. Each time, those doors seemed to shut . Then God spoke to me during prayer and laid it on my heart that this was not the time to seek an agent. Of course, God was right. I had no manuscript ready to sell.

Fast forward to today after a year of fits and starts. God has led me to the person I know He has chosen to represent me. So many things so quickly fell into place since I was offered representation, that I know this is from God. I just signed the contract and got it in the mail on Monday. I am excited and relieved to have a good agent to present the manuscript to the editor who requested it at last September's ACFW conference, and I don't have to do it myself.

Having an agent isn't a guarantee that the work will be sold, but it sure does help in getting me to that point should God will it to happen.

Jeremiah 29:11 says that His thoughts are always toward me and that He has a plan for me. He doesn't intend harm, but only wants success. It is He who gets the glory, not me, should the manuscript sell. After all, He's the one that laid the desire in my heart to write and gave me the ability!

Monday, February 11, 2008

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Healing Stones

(Thomas Nelson January 1, 2008)


Stephen Arterburn & Nancy Rue

This week we have another two-in-one week for CFBA and I am right in the middle of reading Healing Stones. So far it is a great, deep story on human flaws that occur even with Christians. Perhaps even with Christians because the temptations become greater once we belong to God.

I met Nancy Rue last May when I attended the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and she and Angie Hunt held a writing clinic they dub "Nangie." I can tell you that not only can Nancy spin a good story, she's a very nice lady.

I highly recommend this book, and I haven't even finished it yet!


Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries—the nation’s largest faith-based broadcast, counseling and treatment ministry—and is the host of the nationally syndicated “New Life Live!” daily radio...

By 1996 Nancy was a full-time writer. The Christian Heritage Series made that possible. She was writing those books from the early 1990's until 2000.

And then a new opportunity came along--the Lily series. If she ever doubted that she was going to make it as a writer, man, that little red-head put those fears to rest! And, of course, Sophie followed Lily, with some teen and grown-up books in between -- plus the non-fiction books designed just for you.

Nancy and her husband live in Tennessee now, overlooking a beautiful lake, lots of sycamore trees, and the rocky Tennessee hills. They have a bright yellow power boat named BANANA SPLIT which you can find us on no matter what the weather. Marijean and her husband live nearby with my three grand-dogs and three grand-cats (and two grand-snakes . . .)


With one flash of a camera, Demi's private life becomes public news. She doesn't know it yet, but her healing has just begun.

Christian college professor Demitria Costanas had vowed to end her affair with a colleague. But she gives into temptation one last time...and a lurking photographer captures her weakness for all to see. Quite literally, she's the woman caught in adultery. And almost everyone--herself included--has a stone to throw.

Enter Sullivan Crisp, a decidedly unorthodox psychologist with his own baggage. He's well-known for his quirky sense of humor and incorporation of "game show" theology into his counseling sessions. And yet there's something more he offers...hope for a fresh start.

Reluctantly the two of them begin an uplifting, uneven journey filled with healing and grace. By turns funny and touching, this story explores the ways humans hurt each other and deceive themselves. And it shows the endlessly creative means God uses to turn stones of accusation and shame into works of beauty that lead us onto the path of healing.

An auspicious debut for a candid yet tender series about pain, healing, and God's invitation for second chances.

Buy it at Amazon!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

CFBA Book of the Week: Sisters Ink by Rebeca Seitz

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Sister's Ink

Broadman & Holman Books (February 1, 2008)


Rebeca Seitz


Rebeca Seitz is Founder and President of Glass Road Public Relations. An author for several years, PRINTS CHARMING was her first novel. Rebeca cut her publicity teeth as the first dedicated publicist for the fiction division of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In 2005, Rebeca resigned from WestBow and opened the doors of GRPR, the only publicity firm of its kind in the country dedicated solely to representing novelists writing from a Christian worldview. Rebeca makes her home in Kentucky with her husband, Charles, and their son, Anderson.


Sisters, Ink marks the first in a series of novels written by, for, and about scrapbookers. At the center of the creativity and humor are four unlikely young adult sisters, each separately adopted during early childhood into the loving home of Marilyn and Jack Sinclair.

Ten years after their mother Marilyn has died, the multi-racial Sinclair sisters (Meg, Kendra, Tandy, and Joy) still return to her converted attic scrapping studio in the small town of Stars Hill, Tennessee, to encourage each other through life’s highs and lows.

Book one spotlights headstrong Tandy, a successful yet haunted attorney now living back in Orlando where she spent the first eight years of her life on the streets as a junkie’s kid. When a suddenly enforced leave of absence at work leads her to an extended visit with her sisters in Stars Hill, a business oppor­tunity, rekindled romance, and fresh understanding of God’s will soon follow.


"What more can any woman want? Sisters, Ink weaves the love of sisters, the fun of scrapbooking, and a romance as sugary and tingling as Sweet Home Alabama. A must read for those who love southern fiction." --DiAnn Mills, author of Leather and Lace and When the Nile Runs Red

"Fun . . . funny . . . fantastic! Rebeca Seitz has brought together scrapbooking and sisterhood in a lively romp, with a love for going home again."--Eva Marie Everson, coauthor of The Potluck Club series

Buy it at Amazon!

Monday, February 04, 2008

And The Winner of A Passion Most Pure is . . . .


Congrats, Lucie.

I've already contacted Lucie privately and Julie will soon get a book on the way to her.

Thanks to all who participated in the contest this week. It was a blast!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

In Just Two Days, Someone Will Win a Free Book!

That's right!

Monday, February 4th is just around the corner. If you want a free, autographed copy, brand new, from Julie Lessman of A Passion Most Pure, leave a comment below on the January 3oth post.

Watch this space on Monday for the announcement of the winner! Get your name in. It just might be you!