Author * Speaker * Editor

Excellent storytelling, accurate historical reporting, and gritty, persevering characters

June 26, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
0 comments

THE STORY BEHIND SUMMER’S LIST BY ANITA HIGMAN

Please welcome Anita Higman to the story behind the story. Her latest release, Summer’s List, is obviously the perfect summer read.

Summer's List front cover

  1. Who is Laney?

Laney is my daughter-in-law’s beloved Chihuahua mix. Unfortunately, Laney passed away a year and a half ago.

2. Why did you include Laney in your story?

Two reasons really. I knew it would bring a lot of joy to my daughter-in-law, Danielle, to read about her pet in my novel. Laney was special to say the least, since she helped Danielle get through a life-crisis when she was younger. The second reason I included Laney in Summer’s List is because I’ve learned that adding a dog to a story brings readers a great deal of pleasure.

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The real Laney as a puppy

 

3. Were there any challenges you faced in writing about a dog?

None at all. I interviewed Danielle, asking her all kinds of questions about Laney, and then I tried to infuse my dog-character with all of those same traits—like playfulness, attentiveness, mischievousness, and of course, a profound sense of loyalty.

4. Did your editors have any comments one way or the other about including Laney?

They were supportive and excited. By the way, Laney is on the back cover of my novel. It’s not an actual photo of Laney, but I think the designer did a great job!

5. Is this the first time you’ve included an animal in one of your stories?

No, I’ve done it before. I added a dog named Mops to a short novel entitled, Home at Last. But Mops wasn’t based on a real dog.

6. Do you have plans to include other real life pets in future books?

Yes, I do. It would be a pleasure to do so, so look for more pets in my future novels.

7. What are some of your fondest memories of Laney?

I don’t have many memories of Laney, since I wasn’t around her very much before she died, but Danielle did tell me about the little dog’s many fine qualities and how she made such a huge difference in her life when she was going through some rough times. Danielle also loved the way Laney reacted when she walked through the door. Laney would run around in happy circles as fast as she could, and that adorable “welcome home” never failed to brighten Danielle’s day.

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has forty books published. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA in the combined fields of speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, traveling to exotic places, and brunch with her friends.

Please check out Anita’s latest novel, Summer’s List, through Moody Publishers. Feel free to drop by her website at www.anitahigman.com or connect with her on her Facebook Reader Page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnitaHigman. She would love to hear from you!

You can purchase Summer’s List on Amazon and other fine retailers.

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June 20, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
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The Story behind the Amish Heiress by Patrick Craig

Today, please welcome Amish author Patrick Craig to the story behind the story.

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  1. What real Ohio town is the setting for your book?

I set the Apple Creek Dreams series in a real village called Apple Creek in Wayne County, Ohio. It is right in the middle of Ohio Amish Country.

2 . What made you decide to use a real town as opposed to a fictional one?

My editor had asked for an Amish quilting story. When I was doing research on the Amish and quilting, I found out that one of the biggest quilting fairs in the country is held in Dalton, Ohio. As I researched the story, I came across a real event called “The Storm of The Century” that swept into New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio over Thanksgiving week in 1950. The Quilting Fair in Dalton is held that weekend. I looked at the maps of the area around Dalton and found Apple Creek only ten miles away. Right away the name for the series, Apple Creek Dreams, came into my mind. And then step by step the story of Jerusha Springer, the Amish woman who gets caught in a terrible storm on her way to the quilting fair unfolded and A Quilt For Jenna was born. It was too perfect to pass up.

 

  1. Have you visited? What were your impressions of the place?

I have not visited Apple Creek, but I feel like I know the town inside and out. Once, when I was at a writer’s conference, a man walked up to me and introduced himself, just to be friendly. I noticed he was from Ohio so I told him about my book set in Apple Creek. He smiled and said, “I live five miles from there and drive through the village almost every day. He has sent many magazines and newspapers from the area. He dropped me a note one time to let me know that he found A Quilt For Jenna in Der Dutchman restaurant on Kidron Road, one of the main settings for the story. From what I’ve seen from pictures and read about Apple Creek, it is a lovely town. It turns out that my great-great-grandfather, Anthony Rockhill, was born in Independence Ohio, which is less than thirty miles from Apple Creek. So I feel very connected to the area.

 

  1. What were some of the challenges you faced in setting your book in a real town?

The main challenge was making sure that someone who lived there would feel that because of their familiarity with the town, the characters would become real to them and if the reader wanted to, they could go out and visit Jerusha or Bobby or Jenny in their homes. Also, I had to be sure that I didn’t create a character that was too much like a real person who lived in the village, so I had to do a lot of research in that area.

 

  1. Did you fictionalize anything about the town?

I only fictionalized the characters. Everything else, the setting, the street names, the highways, the history of the time I set the story in, all that was very real. I’ve had people write me to say they remember the storm of the century, how much snow fell, and how cold it got.

 

  1. Would you use a real setting again?

I used the town of Paradise, Pennsylvania as a setting for parts of the other tow books in the series and my second series is called, The Paradise Chronicles because it is set there. One of my mentors at a writer’s conference lived in Paradise and gave me some very helpful hints as to what the area really looks like.

 

Where can readers find me online?

www.patrickecraig.com (Webpage)
https://www.facebook.com/PatrickECraig (Facebook)
https://twitter.com/PatrickECraig (Twitter)
http://tinyurl.com/pn5rzf9 (LinkedIn)

Where can readers purchase the Apple Creek Dreams Series?

http://tinyurl.com/n6sfagg (Amazon)
http://tinyurl.com/ou2kb2y (Barnes & Noble)

 

The Amish Heiress will be available in August on Amazon, B&N and GoodReads.

Rachel Hershberger’s life in Paradise, Pennsylvania is far from happy. Her papa struggles with a terrible event from the past, and his emotional instability has created an irreparable breach between them. Rachel’s one desire is to leave the Amish way of life and Paradise forever. Then her prayers are answered. Rachel discovers that the strange, key-shaped birthmark above her heart identifies her as the heir to a vast fortune left by her Englischer grandfather, Robert St. Clair. If Rachel will marry a suitable descendent of the St. Clair family, she will inherit an enormous sum of money. But Rachel does not know that behind the scenes is her long-dead grandfather’s sister-in-law, Augusta St. Clair, a vicious woman who will do anything to keep the fortune in her own hands. As the deceptions and intrigues of the St. Clair family bind her in their web, Rachel realizes that she has made a terrible mistake. But has her change of heart come too late?

photoPatrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next 26 years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor in churches, and at retreats, seminars and conferences all across the western United States. After ministering for a number of years in music and worship to a circuit of small churches, he is now concentrating on writing and publishing both fiction and non-fiction books. Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in northern California and are the parents of two adult children and have five grandchildren.

In 2011 he signed a three-book deal with Harvest House Publishers to publish his Apple Creek Dreams series. The books are historical Amish fiction and the first book, A Quilt for Jenna, was released February 1, 2013. The second book in the series, The Road Home, was released September 1, 2013. Book number three, Jenny’s Choice, came out February 1, 2014. His current series is The Paradise Chronicles and the first book, The Amish Heiress, will be out in August, 2015. Patrick is represented by the Steve Laube Agency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 12, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
0 comments

THE STORY BEHIND LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES BY BETSY ST. AMANT

I am very happy to welcome the author Betsy St. Amant to the story behind the story today.

1. ‘What inspired you to write Love Arrives in Pieces?

Honestly—my own divorce inspired this story. The heroine, Stella, made an appearance in my first book with HarperCollins, All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes, and at the end of that book, I knew Stella had her own story to tell. When I started diving in, I realized hers was a lot like mine, and it snowballed from there! Both Stella and I went through a divorce we didn’t want and didn’t see coming, and both ended up with some of the same self image/self esteem issues afterward. Stella reacted to hers in a different way than I did to mine, but the heart and pain behind the choices were identical. I think women will be able to relate in so many ways, regardless of their specific circumstances.

Betsy St. Amant headshot

  1. Was it difficult writing about it?

Yes and no. The writing itself wasn’t difficult—it was actually very therapeutic once I got it out. But the literal process of getting the words on the page was a lot harder, because I’d subconsciously put so much pressure on this story that I psyched myself out. I finally had to let go of trying to make it perfect and just let it come out and let God do what He would with it. And as always, He blew me away!

3. How does this story differ from the other books you’ve written?

This story is raw, and a real, and relatable. It’s a little less light-hearted. It’s not heavy, by any means, and has comedic relief and a happily ever after. But a lot of readers described All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes as a “light read” or “fluffy read”. Not in a negative way, but in a “take this one to the pool for a few hours” kind of way. Yet Love Arrives in Pieces goes a layer deeper. I bled on these pages.

4. Did the writing go faster or slower because the book was based on a true story?

Definitely slower! It took more out of me.

5. Would you write another truth-based story again?

Absolutely! I’m more proud of this story than any other I’ve written. A lot of it was written for me. But my prayer is that it helps encourage other women who have been in my shoes or in a similarly uncomfortable pair.

6. What kind of reaction have you received so far to the book?

I haven’t received a lot of feedback yet, but so far, the bit I’ve gotten has been positive. Several of my author friends who received advance copies said this was my best novel yet. I can only give God the credit for that one! This was an all or nothing book for me, and He saw me through it, and literally accomplished the impossible. I was behind on my deadline because of how tough this story was to write, and the day before it was due to my editor, I wrote over 30,000 turn-in-ready words and completed the book. You can’t get more miraculous than that.

Betsy headshot

A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES

Former pageant queen Stella Varland doesn’t trust beauty anymore after her divorce. Her appearance betrayed her and led to brokenness, so instead of being beautiful, now she tries to make beautiful things, but she always falls short. So she keeps her passion for art to herself and focuses on her interior design work. But if she doesn’t get another job soon, she’ll be stuck living with her parents.

Contractor Chase Taylor is determined to live a life of no regrets after losing his fiancée. Now he lives life at full speed, striving to see how much he can accomplish. He knows if he slows down, he’ll fall apart. So he returns home to Bayou Bend to renovate the town’s old theater and is shocked to discover that the designer for the project is his old flame, Stella.

Forced to work together, Chase and Stella battle their chemistry and past as they struggle to compromise and work together on a vision for the theater. Their wills clash as they attempt to hide their brokenness—and their unresolved feelings for each other—until Chase discovers the hidden parts of Stella, while losing her trust in the process.

A near catastrophe, a fire, and a small-town gossip mill finally force Stella and Chase to realize that they have a choice—to hold on to the shards of their pasts, or surrender their fragmented pieces to the One who makes a beautiful masterpiece from their brokenness.

BIO

Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things – chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God’s grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance via Love Inspired and Harper Collins (Zondervan). When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.

 

 

May 29, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
5 Comments

The Story behind The World without Sound, Amen by Linda Samaritoni

This week, I welcome Linda Samaritoni. Though The World without Sound, Amen is not published yet, I was excited for her to share her story with you. The book is based on her real life experiences growing up with a sister with special needs. As a mom of a child with multiple special needs, this story has touched my heart and blessed me. I pray that it will do the same for you.

  1. Who inspired you to write your story?

I started this story almost thirty years ago! Tricia herself is the inspiration. She had graduated from college, and I wanted to celebrate her accomplishments. Plus, I wanted to write down childhood memories before I got too old and forgot. (Which was a good thing. When I returned to the project decades later, I had those notes to jog my middle-aged memory.)

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The author, her mother, and her sister

2. How did having a sister with disabilities impact your life?

I believe when these kinds of challenges happen in life, we have the choice to lean on God and make something beautiful out of the situation, or we can whine and wallow in self pity. Our family pulled together and helped Tricia cope with the frustrations of deafness as well as helped her develop her talents.

Because of our struggles to communicate with a deaf child and the sorrow in watching a baby endure pain, I’m more compassionate than I may have been without the lessons from my adolescence. I learned to speak up for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. For example, in one anecdote in World Without Sound, Amen I become infuriated when kids on the school bus torment a boy who is mentally retarded. I call out the lead bully and shame him into silence. (Note: in 1965, it was totally proper to say the boy was mentally retarded. The term was a diagnosis, not a derogatory comment.)

3. Why did you want to write about her?

There was always something special about Tricia, and I don’t say that because we’re sisters. She was bright and funny and sweet-natured from birth. Her brown eyes sparkled at whatever interested her so we enjoyed plenty of sparkles in an average day. She was curious about everything – including black widow spiders!

It’s amazing that a little girl who endured open heart surgery before she was four months old, who was born profoundly deaf and blind in one eye, and who was never able to walk correctly because of cerebral palsy grew up to earn a master’s degree in education and has enjoyed two careers, one in accounting and one as a teacher of the deaf. Those are her worldly accomplishments. Far greater is her solid faith in Christ.

4. What is it you hope young people come away with when they read your story?

A couple of things. Kids wonder how they might handle a sibling who isn’t quite “right.” Would it mess up their family? Could they be happy? I currently have several of my middle grade students taking on the role of alpha readers after I shared the synopsis of the novel. Tricia’s story shows them problems in life may not always be fun, but those problems can’t stop people from loving each other. World Without Sound, Amen is filled with joy.

I also hope my young readers would grow in the virtue of compassion. Children understand what is fair and what is not. I want them to finish the book and have the confidence to champion someone less fortunate than themselves.

5. Tell us a little bit about the plot for your story?

I chose to focus on the first five years of Tricia’s life for those were the hardest. We didn’t yet know which repercussions of rubella we would face. It took two years to diagnose the deafness, and we didn’t know about the CP until it became obvious that she wasn’t simply slow to begin walking. She couldn’t walk. Add the monumental task of teaching a young child language when she has no concept of the spoken word, and you have a great central conflict for the story.

So there is the timeline of her physical development and language development as one thread of the plot, and through Linda’s point of view, a second thread interweaves the feelings and reactions of the various family members with Tricia’s significant challenges. Notice in the above paragraph I say “we” a lot. Every member of the family pitched in to teach Tricia language.

6. Does your sister know about the book? What does she think about it?

Both Tricia and our mom have read the finished draft. Of course, each of us has a different set of memories that stood out, so they were helpful in fleshing out a few scenes that might have been hazy memories for me but far more vivid for one or both of them.

Tricia has never told me what she thinks of the book as a whole. I’m guessing she might feel weird that an entire book has been written about her life and the lives of our family, but I haven’t asked. Instead, she has made suggestions for various scenes and given her opinions on details that she liked or didn’t like.

One thing I found humorous. At the moment I have pseudonyms for all the characters except her. While I may or may not use our real names in the final version, Tricia didn’t want to be the only character with her real name. She wanted to be “Marie.” I told her there was no way I could name her Marie in the book. You see, the entire goal for the main character of Tricia is to say her name properly. T, R, and SH are all difficult to say if you can’t hear. It was a triumph for her when she could say her name. M is easy. A little extra work on the R, and she would have been able to say “Marie” before she ever went to school. No conflict, no book!

Thanks so much for sharing your very personal story with us, Linda. We look forward to reading The World without Sound, Amen in the near future.Summer 2010 trio 011

May 22, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
1 Comment

The Story behind the Story with James Callan and Over My Dead Body

Welcome, James! It’s good to have you with us this week. I’m excited to learn a little bit about your book, Over My Dead Body. Can you tell us what true event inspired this story?

James: The Keystone Pipeline, meant to carry racover-OverMyDeadBodyw petroleum products from Canada to the Gulf coast of Texas has been in the news frequently over the past three years. In fact, it is still a point of conflict between the Congress and the President.

It became a point of conflict for me several years ago when a Keystone representative informed us that the pipeline would cross our land. Their plan was to clear cut a swath of land one hundred and fifty feet wide and about a third of a mile long across our land. This meant bulldozing down thousands of hundred-foot tall pine trees and forty year-old oak and hickory trees. We argued, fought, resisted. But, the court had issued an eminent domain order giving the private company the right to do just that.

I decided I would write a book touching on the problems of eminent domain usage for private companies. I write murder mysteries for the most part. And as I thought about using the Keystone Pipeline as the backdrop for my novel, several points came to mind. First, I was unaware of any murder associated with the many protests citizens made over Keystone. Second, I did not want to bring in a real company where I might face a legal battle over what I included in the book. And third, I wanted the leeway to put in whatever I wanted to, without casting a shadow over real people and companies.

To my knowledge, Keystone had done nothing illegal. To me, the problem was in the way eminent domain had been subverted over the years. That was a failing of the courts to protect private property rights. I did not want to imply that Keystone had anything to do with that.

 

So, Over My Dead Body had its genesis from the problem eminent domain had visited on me. But the book would not address my particular interaction with it. The book would be a work of complete fiction.

Over My Dead Body released last week in both paper and Kindle editions. It has received many very favorable reviews, as did the first book in the Father Frank Mysteries, Cleansed by Fire. The pipeline has crossed our land. No one was murdered. Except the trees. The loss of the trees was difficult for my wife and I. But, if one looks on the bright side of things, I have gotten a very good book out of it – the silver lining, you might say.

And that’s the story behind the story.

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Liz: Thanks, James! That’s very interesting. With a degree in English, James intended to write. But writing would not support a family. So, he entered a Ph.D. program in the field of mathematics. This led him on a forty-year detour which included serving as a consultant at the Aerospace Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, and the Water Resources Authority for the State of Oklahoma, a fifteen year career at a research center, and twenty years as VP of Technology for a data base company.

Along the way, he received grants from the National Science Foundation, The National Aviation and Space Administration (NASA), and the Data Processing Managers Association. He has been listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science, and Two Thousand Notable Americans.

He has four published non-fiction books and five published mystery/suspense novels. All of his mystery/suspense novels have been released in both print and e-pub editions. Two of those have also been released as audio books. One of the audio books reached number seven on the Books in Motion list. Two of his novels took first place honors in contests.

James and his wife, Earlene, split their time between their home in the middle of a forest in east Texas, and their condo on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

You can contact James at

Callan’s website: www.jamesrcallan.com

Callan’s blog:       www.jamesrcallan.com/blog

Callan’s author page on Amazon:   http://amzn.to/1eeykvG

And you can buy his books here:

Over My Dead Body – Kindle     http://amzn.to/1BmYQ0Q

Over My Dead Body – paperback   http://amzn.to/1c81TFJ

May 15, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
0 comments

The Story behind When Dawn Breaks by Jennifer Slattery

I’m very excited to announce a new feature to my blog. So many of you have been interested in the stories behind my stories, I thought it would be fun to take a peek behind other books and find out what real people, places or events inspired them.

Our very first guest is Jennifer Slattery. Her book, When Dawn Breaks, released in January. She takes us behind the scenes to discover what inspired her to write this book.

 

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  1. What true person inspired When Dawn Breaks?

My latest release was inspired by a person and an event. When we lived in Kansas City (we have since moved), there was a woman at our church who, though single and older, felt God call her to foster care. Rather than focus on her fears, insecurities, or all the reasons she shouldn’t answer God’s call, she said yes, and the results have been beautiful. I was so inspired by this woman, I wanted to pattern a character after her, only I wanted to take things a step further. I wondered, what if my heroine was not only single and older but was a new believer and had major regrets from her past? Could God use her, a woman who felt as if she’d failed her own child, to bring hope to someone else’s?

2. What intrigued you enough about this event and person to write about it?

As to the event, in When Dawn Breaks, a hurricane is the catalyst for action, and thrusts Jacqueline into a chaotic and need-filled environment. She’s forced to woman up, in a sense, and be Christ to storm refugees, an act that at times is frightening and uncomfortable. This portion of the novel stemmed from our family’s encounters with Katrina victims. We lived in Louisiana when Katrina hit, and though we were far enough from the touch down to remain unaffected personally, many who were affected flooded our community. It was a crazy, chaotic time with everyone scrambling to help. Churches were hosting people in their basements, people thronged our local library, stores sent boxes of non-perishables to churches and other places. Our church even put five families up in mobile homes.

At the time, watching the chaos, seeing the brokenness all around me, a story began to form of a family forced to reconcile while seeking shelter from a hurricane. Though I didn’t write that story until years later, When Dawn Breaks came from that initial niggling.

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The author with the woman who inspired When Dawn Breaks

3. Wow, that’s so amazing. Why incorporate a true event and person into your story?

I think everything writers write have some mingling of truth, for as the cliché goes, we write what we know. And this event really impacted me—to see so many believers sacrificially serve and give, for months! To see so many churches come together to help their fellow man. Though it was a devastating time, it was also a beautiful time because it was such a clear picture of God’s love and grace, poured out through His children.

4. What was the most difficult part of writing a story based in fact?

The hardest part about writing this novel was the portions relating to foster care, because rules and procedures in the foster care industry change from state to state. And there were so many technical details I wasn’t aware of until I began writing. Luckily, my sister has worked in the foster care industry for quite a while, in numerous states, and helped me with all that.

5. Did you get any helpful advice?

Initially, I wanted to leave out a specific location, because of what I mentioned in the previous question, but my editor felt readers needed to be better grounded in setting, and that naming at least the state would help them in that regard. So, that’s what I did, centering the story on sections of Texas and Louisiana I lived in during Katrina.

6. Can you give us a little synopsis of the story?

How about if I give you the text from the back cover of the book?

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution propel her north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with own issues, including a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. Then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently on sale at Amazon for under $4 (print and kindle version)! You can get that here: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-I-Do-Jennifer-Slattery-ebook/dp/B00MMRRCZU/

Read a free, 36-page excerpt of When Dawn Breaks here: http://issuu.com/newhopedigital/docs/slattery_sampler/1

You can buy a copy here:

On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/When-Dawn-Breaks-A-Novel/dp/1596694238/

On Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-dawn-breaks-a-novel-jennifer-slattery/1120694122?ean=9781596694231

On CBD: http://www.christianbook.com/when-dawn-breaks-a-novel/jennifer-slattery/9781596694231/pd/694231

Thanks for stopping by!  Have you ever been inspired by someone in your church? Tell us about it!

 

 

 

 

April 27, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
1 Comment

April 27, 1945 in Berlin, Germany

From my novel Daisies Are Forever:
April 27
From the cellar, Mitch and the other residents listened to the rounds of gunfire outside the window. Across the room, Frau Mueller’s lips moved in silent petition. Gisela sat next to him on the bench. He squeezed her hand.

He hadn’t been this frightened in Belgium or France. Perhaps wanting a future with this woman changed his outlook. Or being responsible for nine others, all of them helpless.

Yes, helpless. God would have to save them.     More Stalinorgels. Only God could save them.

They picked at their food, though they now had a few supplies. No one spoke much. Hour after hour, they sat in the dank semidarkness of the lower level, wondering if they would die in the next instant.

Renate had never sucked her thumb so vigorously.

The day wore on. Gisela dozed on his shoulder. He stared out of the window.

A wild screech, almost like the American Indian calls Mitch had seen in the motion pictures, pierced the air. The style of boots remained the same, though now the pants were greener. A few feet were wrapped in nothing but rags.     Gisela sat up straight at the yelling.

A tank rolled past the window, down the narrow street.

Mitch pushed to his feet and gazed out the small, dirty pane of glass. The faces of the men in the tank were not German. Their greasy hair was black and stuck straight out of their fur ushanka hats. Their dark, slanted eyes gave away their ethnic origin.

He had difficulty drawing a breath. He clenched his jaw.     Gisela stepped behind him. “Mongols,” she whispered, shuddering.

They watched the foreign troops process down the road. For the people on this street, the war had ended. They were now in Russian-occupied territory.

March 24, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
0 comments

Trip to Georgia

I’ve been home for over two weeks now, and I’m just getting to posting my pictures from our trip to Georgia. Sorry about that. Life has been crazy. I’m sure I don’t have to tell any of you that.

Anyway, it was an amazing trip. Alyssa wasn’t feeling well before we went. I’m afraid she was kind of miserable the first couple of days. Still, it was great having her as a traveling companion. She kept me company and held my hand on take off. That’s why I can’t fly alone!

My friend picked me up in Jacksonville. It was 84! She laughed when I stopped, opened the front flap of my suitcase, and pulled out my sandals. Wow, it felt good to slip them on! Our flight from Atlanta to Jacksonville was delayed, so we were about 1 1/2 hours later than we thought. Since they don’t feed you on the plane anymore, we stopped at a restaurant along the way. It was true Southern cooking! We enjoyed fish, and I had hushpuppies again for the first time in many, many years. I know, they’re not gluten-free, but it was worth it all. They were delicious.

One thing we discovered, is that in the South, you get two sides with all of your meals. We ate well while we were down there. Probably too well. It was all delicious. Anyway, after we ate, we made our way to our hotel. The other woman who was putting the speech together met us at the hotel with a great big welcome basket. By big, I mean big. It was loaded with chips, and chocolate, and granola bars, and socks, and hand sanitizer, and I could go on and on. What a great welcome! Pure Southern hospitality!

The next day, I went to speak at their homeschool group. They had a great crew there. The kids were enthusiastic, and I really enjoyed speaking to them. There were several who were rather interested in writing, so I was able to share some tips with them. I love it when I get to meet young authors. It’s great to be able to encourage them.

That afternoon, we went out to lunch with several families from the group. There is a whole bunch of us, but we felt so welcomed and included. It was really a great time.

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After a bit of rest, they took us out for dinner again. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in my entire life. But it was so good, I couldn’t help myself. This time I had steak, with two sides, it was all delicious.

Saturday was the day I was really looking forward to. I wanted to let Alyssa sleep as long as she could, hoping that would help her to feel better. I sat in the breakfast room doing some research, and waiting for my cousin’s daughter. I hadn’t seen her since we were little girls. Never you mind how long ago that was. Anyway, she peeked around the corner, and I was so excited to see her. We hugged and cried and sat down and started to talk as if we had seen each other last week. We have so much in common, and it was just great to reconnect after so many years. I wish we lived closer together. We definitely won’t go another 40 years without seeing each other.

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A little bit after that, my cousin and his wife arrived. I had seen him about five years ago, but his wife I never remember meeting. We all sat and talked and shared funny stories about her family. Alyssa came. I told her she could text my friends daughter and they could hang out if they wanted to, but she wanted to stay with us and hear the old family stories. Warms the mother’s heart to hear that. I love talking to my cousin because he remembers my grandparents much better than I do. He told some stories I had never heard before. He also told about Penny the dog. Everyone in my family tells that story. We’ve heard it about 1000 times. It still hilarious though.

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Time flew by. We went out to lunch (yes, I had two sides), and before we knew it, it was time for my cousin to leave. I’ll tell you, I didn’t want that day to end. We were having so much fun, time got away from us, and I didn’t have too much of a chance to get ready for my speech. Fortunately I had everything just about ready. We went to the church and got set up. My friend and her friend did such a magnificent job. The social hall was beautiful, and they put together a great program. There was a praise band, and they had so many door prizes.
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My speech went very well. I pray that it was uplifting and beneficial to the hearers. I was so glad that my cousin’s daughter was able to stay and hear the speech, since these are her family stories, too. We were pretty exhausted but also very happy by the time he got back to the hotel.
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I was able to have breakfast with my cousin’s daughter before she had to be on her way home. What a sweet, sad parting. We enjoy church with our friends, and a pizza party afterwards. Even managed to get me a gluten-free, dairy free pizza. After my friend and her daughters packed up, we headed back to Jacksonville.

Along the way, we stopped at Jekyll Island. It’s just off the coast of Georgia. It’s so beautiful. They took us to a beach where there is lots of driftwood. Alyssa Knight even put our feet in the Atlantic Ocean. It was chilly, but still not as cold as Lake Michigan. She wants to have her senior pictures taken there. We may have to arrange a summer vacation there in a couple of years.

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Leaving that place and as people is very hard. I think we may have found the place where we want to be snowbirds when we get older. Alyssa and I enjoyed their hospitality so very much. They were so kind and warm to us. We really appreciated it.

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I hope this hasn’t gone on too long. It must be like sitting through somebody’s vacations pictures. Actually, it is sitting through my vacation pictures. Anyway, I wanted to share with you the very special weekend that I had. I honestly think it will go down as one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken.

February 19, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
0 comments

Answers to the Trivia Questions from Tonight’s Party

Thank you to all who stopped by my Facebook party tonight. What a fun time! Hope you enjoyed it as well. To those of you who missed it, I’m sorry you did! Please join us next time!

Caitlin from Litfuse, who did such a wonderful job putting together the party and handling everything on the technical end, asked me to post the answers to the trivia questions. So, here they are. How did you do?

Is Irene’s aunt named Lisa? False

Is the Santo Tomas internment camp in Hong Kong? False

Was Rand a nightclub owner? True

Was Rand a member of the military? False

Was “Chattanooga Choo Choo” a popular song at the time? True

Is pizza my favorite food? False (that would be chocolate!)

Do I own a dog? True

Do I have five children? False

Do I like gardening? True.

Thanks so much for playing along! Congratulations to the winners!

 

February 10, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
2 Comments

Walking the Straight and Narrow

I love going to our cabin in the winter, because I walk my dog in the woods then. In the summer, there are too many bugs and ticks.

I like to be able to let her walk off leash. She does well. She loves to romp ahead of me and stays on the path most of the time. She wags her tail and has a grand time. When we come to a fork in the road, she stops and looks at me as if to say, “Which way, Mom?”
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Sometimes she runs ahead of me a little too far, but if I tell her to stop, she waits for me,  always looking back at me. Every now and again, she decides to go her own way. There are too many other interesting things to see that aren’t on the path. Even when I call to her, she ignores me. She is too busy doing her own exploring to listen. At those times, I have to go and bring her back.

Our walks have made me think. Often, I am much like my dog. I obey my Master’s call most of the time. I frequently stop, and look back, and ask the way.

Other times, however, I am stubborn. I run too far ahead. The Master needs to tell me to stop and wait for Him. Sometimes I listen. Sometimes I don’t.

And all too frequently, I go my own way. It’s difficult to stay on the right path. Temptations lure me from the way I know I should follow – too many bright and shiny things in the world. Even when my Master calls me, I ignore His voice. He has to come and lead me back to the right path.

My prayer is that I will learn to walk alongside my Master and to heed his voice. I am so thankful that He is not willing to let me wander far from the way I should go.

How has the Lord led you?