Author * Speaker * Editor

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

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

The Story behind To Dance with Dolphins by Bonnie Leon

Please welcome Bonnie Leon today! I’m so thrilled she’s sharing her story. To Dance with Dolphins is definitely on my to-be-read list!

Copy (1) of To Dance With Dolphins coverTwenty-two-year-old Claire Murray has suffered from a mysterious disease for years. Her social circle has shrunk to a small support group for people with chronic illness and disability. But what if life could be about more than doctors, pain, and medications?

Claire and three others—old grouch Tom, hippy-holdout Willow, and moody Taylor—hatch plans for a cross-country trip to swim with the dolphins in Florida. Only a day into the trip, they unexpectedly need help. And who happens to be hitchhiking along the highway but a young, good-looking loner named Sean Sullivan? However, the last thing he wants is to be harnessed to a bunch of ailing travelers.

Though the journey proves difficult, following God’s plan might be even harder. Will they find the courage to follow their dreams and dare to live again?

 

1.To Dance with Dolphins is the story of five people with disabilities – both mental and physical. Why did you want to write such a story?

 Following an auto accident in 1991, I’ve lived with chronic pain and disability. Every day is hard. Hanging onto joy, hoping for better days, and seeking purpose is difficult.

The months that followed my accident were devastating as life as I knew it slipped away. Physicians prescribed pain medication, told me there was nothing that could be done and advised that I adjust to the new me. I never have completely accepted that directive, though a certain amount of acceptance has been necessary.

Through the years I’ve met many others who live with chronic illness, disability or pain. And most live the same struggle I do. I wrote this book mostly for them, to uplift and encourage. To help the disabled to see there is always hope and life is a gift filed with potential no matter where we stand or sit.

I also wrote this for family and friends of those who fight for their life. Sometimes the ones who stand beside us suffer the most.

 2. What led to your own disability?

In 1991 I was driving up a winding country road when a loaded log truck, coming from the opposite direction, barreled around a corner and tipped over in front of me. The logs spilled down an embankment and the trailer hit the front of my van. I was told by a local sheriff that “someone” was watching out for me. He couldn’t see any way that I should have survived the accident.

Without God’s intervention I likely would have perished that day. But God had other plans for me. And although I was left with a number of injuries and spinal damage that has remained through all the years, I’m grateful for my life, and all that God has done with it. However, I admit that on some of the rough days I do long for heaven.

 3. What did God teach you through your struggles?

There have been, and continue to be, more lessons than I can share here, but there is one that stands out. It is that our sovereign God knows best. And even on my worst day, he loves me and has a plan for my life. I can trust him. I don’t need to know the why’s of how I got here or why some days are all about pain. God knows why, and one day I will stand before my heavenly Father in the Kingdom and see clearly what he had in mind all along. It is my hope that I do not fail in what he has called me to do.

 4. Some would say that such a book is too depressing. How would you answer them?

This is a good question. And I can assure readers that this book is not depressing, though a reader may shed a tear or two.

When I set out to write the story I was determined to give a real and honest account of what living with disability is like. We each have our own unique experiences, but share many of the emotional and physical challenges. And one of those challenges is to not soak and sour.

Depression is a real human emotion – disabled or not, we are all familiar with it. It is worsened by things like chronic pain, which hinder the production of good chemicals like endorphins and increases the chemicals that elevate emotions like unhappiness. So, keeping our moods above ground can sometimes be a challenge.

Unique and fun characters are the key to this story. They are real-to-life and present a genuine picture of what it’s like to live with chronic illness or pain. They grieve and they rejoice. And just like all humanity, they sometimes triumph and other times fail.

I crafted my travelers with rough edges and depth of character. And it is my prayer that the challenges they face will help those who suffer find vision and hope for their own lives.

 5. Have any of your other books been based on real-life people or events?

All of my books have some elements of real life, but not necessarily personal experiences. However, true incidents do creep in from time to time.

In one of my Alaskan books, a character becomes entrapped in heavy mud in Cook Inlet. That scene came straight from an experience my brother had. He became mired in the beach mud so badly that he had to wait for the tide to come in before he could free himself with help from his workmates. He very nearly died.

Another book, A Sacred Place, was based on an experience my grandparents had when they were first married. Just as in the book, they had an arranged marriage, which did not sit well with my grandmother in the beginning. And they also spent their first winter stranded on an Aleutian island. I had a lot of fun creating a fictional account of their true-life story.

 6. Was it difficult to write a book that hits so close to home?

To Dance With Dolphins was more difficult to write than I had expected. Many of the topics did hit close to home, and I was forced to take a closer look at my personal life. And I realized I need to make some changes. I’m working on it.

My characters, though they came from my own mind, had a lot to teach me.

One issue that was especially painful had to do with Claire’s sister who suffers from bi-polar disorder. My sister did also. She died young, in a nursing home, from lupus. While she was alive, I never fully understood her bi-polar condition, and I wasn’t as supportive as I could have been. Now, I long to tell her how sorry I am, but it’s not too late. She’s waiting for me in heaven.

In the end, writing the book was a positive experience. I am better for having written it. And it is my prayer that the experiences of Claire, Sean, Tom, Willow, and Taylor will uplift readers.

Bonnie LeonBonnie Leon is the author of more than twenty novels, including the recently released To Dance With Dolphins and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons.

June 11, 1991 a log truck hit the van she was driving, and her world changed. The accident left her unable to work, and after months of rehabilitation she was told by physicians that she would never return to a normal life. Facing a daunting fight to reclaim her life and in search of personal value, she discovered writing. She has been creating stories ever since.

Bonnie is familiar with the challenges of disability beyond her personal experience. Her sister endured the debilitating illnesses of lupus, MS, and Bi-polar disorder. And her daughter is grappling with the chronic progressive disorder of syringomyelia.

Through chronic pain and disability Bonnie found new purpose. She enjoys speaking for women’s groups, teaching at writing seminars, and mentoring young writers. She also administers an online support group for those living with chronic pain and disability and is a participating member of the Syringomyelia and Chiari Network.

She is married to her teen-age sweetheart, the mother of three grown children, and grandmother of eight. Bonnie and her husband Greg live in the mountains of Southern Oregon.

LINKS

Amazon                       http://amzn.to/1SqHoqK

Website                       http://www.bonnieleon.com

Facebook                     https://www.facebook.com/BonnieLeonAuthor?fref=ts

Twitter                        @Bonnie­_Leon

 

 

August 7, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
3 Comments

The Story behind A Hometown Fourth of July by June Foster

Today, June Foster joins us. She shares the story behind her new release, A Hometown Fourth of July. 

Hometown fourth

My book, A Hometown Fourth of July, released July 1, 2012 with Desert Breeze Publishing, but the summer months are always a good time to talk about it. The story has a July 4th theme and is a romance between a young Hispanic man and the beautiful woman he leads to a relationship with God. In the story, the hero searches for his true identity believing if he finds his birth family, he’ll be a whole person. But I’ll let you read the story to find out what happens. Though the story is fictitious, the premise is based on a my husband’s brother. Here’s the story – the real one, that is.

My husband loves to tell a story about his parents when they were childless. His mom and dad were of the Catholic faith, so after they’d been married for eight years with no babies on the way, they decided adoption would be a good route to begin expanding their family. They paid a visit to the Catholic Charities in Birmingham, Alabama. There they found a darling, four year old boy named Marshall and brought him home to be a part of their family.

For reasons known only to God, after two more years, Mrs. Foster found she was pregnant and delivered her first biological son, Mike. After that came my husband Joe, then Pat, then Helen, and finally Steve. Marshall was thrilled with so many brothers and a sister.

The story goes that Mrs. Foster decided that the two older boys, Mike and Joe, needed to learn that their oldest brother was adopted. She called a formal family meeting and made the solemn announcement about how Marshall came to their family. At the end of the meeting, Joe questioned his mother, “Marshall still gets to be our big brother, doesn’t he?”

Even though my husband left for the army after he grew up, he and Marshall remained in touch. When we moved to Lacey, Washington where he lived, Marshall mentioned to Joe he’d be interested in finding his birth family but had no idea how to go about it. Since Joe had a good knowledge of the computer, he offered to help. Alabama, which had been a closed adoption state, opened their records up in the early 2000’s, and Joe was able to find out some information.

Marshall was sorry to hear his birthmother had passed away ten years before but was encouraged to learn he had a sister. Joe couldn’t find a contact number for Marshall’s sister, but located a number for Marshall’s niece, his sister’s daughter. Marshall was too ill-at-ease to make the call so Joe dialed the number while Marshall looked on clasping his hands tightly in front of him.

When a woman’s voice said hello, Joe said he was phoning on behalf of his brother, Marshall Foster, and that Marshall was looking for his sister. Joe asked if he had the right number. My husband thought the woman had hung up as he heard nothing but silence, then a sob carried over the phone. Finally, the woman said she believed he had the correct number. She was Marshall’s niece and said her mother, Marshall’s sister, had been looking for him for years, always hoping to meet her brother. Joe asked if the mother lived in the same town, and again, the niece let out a sob. She said her mother had died two months before. Marshall was devastated, but his niece’s promise to come to Washington to visit him with her other sister the following July, cheered him, and they made plans. But in June, just two days after Marshall’s birthday, he died of cancer, never getting to meet even his nieces.

This sounds like a sad story, but wait. There’s more. During the process of helping Marshall to find his birth family, my husband and I had occasion to tell Marshall about our awesome and powerful God who sent his son Jesus to the earth to die for our sins. We shared how to have faith in the Savior and about our final home – Heaven. Marshall began going to church with us and gave his life to the Lord at Thanksgiving that year before the following summer. He started coming to Bible study in our home. We were warmed when he told us how he’d always felt empty. He pointed to his heart. He said he was no longer empty inside, and he finally knew who his real Father was.

Joe and I were present on that day in the middle of June when Marshall went to be with the Lord. I’ve never witnessed anyone die before, but I can say, truly, without hesitation, that the experience was beautiful. And I know that someday we’ll see this wonderful man again when we join him in Heaven to be with Jesus forever.

Thank you, June, for sharing such a touching, personal story.

June Foster

An award-winning author, June Foster is also a retired teacher with a BA in Education and a MA in counseling. She is the mother of two and grandmother of ten. June began writing Christian romance in 2010. She penned her first novel on her Toshiba laptop as she and her husband traveled the US in their RV. Her adventures provided a rich source of information for her novels. In 2013, June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and in 2014 a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father won The Clash of the Titles book of the month for January 2014 and was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the 2014 Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s 2014 Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is available from WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and Books One and Two in the Almond Tree Series, For All Eternity and Echoes From the Past, are available from Amazon.com and Smashwords. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find freedom to live godly lives.

July 31, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
1 Comment

The Story behind Island Dreams by Kimberly Johnson

Island Dreams Cover (2)1. Tell us a little about the story behind Island Dreams?

Island Dreams takes place on Wildflower Island in the Southern Puget Sound. It is the second book in my Wildflower B&B Romance Series. Here is the back cover copy.

Piper Hunt arrives on Wildflower Island to develop family property into an upscale resort knowing this may be her last chance to prove her worth to her father. With grandiose ideas, she soon finds herself at odds with adjoining property owner, Chase Grayson. As she begins to appreciate the simplicity of the island, she struggles to maintain balance between her father’s wishes, preserving the natural beauty of the island, and her attraction for Chase.

Chase Grayson values the peace and quiet of Wildflower Island. That serenity is threatened when Piper Hunt discloses her plans to develop an upscale resort that not only butts up to his property, but will turn the island into a busy tourist destination. In fighting her plans, he also finds himself fighting his attraction to her. If he doesn’t stop her plans for the resort, his life will be altered forever. If he succeeds, it means he will never see her again. Can he live with either choice?

2. What made you want to use something true in your story? I like to use actual places as settings, but in this case the island I planned to use wasn’t large enough to fit my story. The first book in the series worked fine, but by the time I got to the second I realized it was too small. So I changed the name to Wildflower Island. If you are familiar with Anderson Island in Washington state you will see a few places that are actually on that island like the general store and golf club in my series. When it was going to be called Anderson Island I did my best to find pictures of the island and read anything I could find about the place.

3. Have you done something similar before? Will you do it again? Yes and no. I set my very first contracted series in Leavenworth, WA. The setting ended up being a character all its own and an important part of the story. The stories would not work if you picked them up and moved them to another small town, that’s how important that setting is to the series.

I visited Leavenworth several times to get a feel for the town, but I did tweak the layout just a bit to fit my stories. J

4. Did it require a lot of research to use real life? Yes. Because I patterned Wildflower Island after an existing one that had been my original setting, I did a decent amount of research on Anderson Island, in Washington State. I finally came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t work for my series. You may see a few similarities between the two, but they are different.

5. How long does it typically take you to write a book? I write books in the 45-50k word count, and on average it takes me three to four months. That being said, I can write much faster if I must and I have. J I’ve also spent longer when I’m not under deadline.

6. What else you do have in the works? I’m currently working on a series that takes place in Central Oregon resort town. I’ve been working on it off and on for years, and I’m looking forward to spending quality time on it for a couple of months. Speaking of needing to research for a setting, I’ve been working on this series so long that I’ve had to rewrite scenes because buildings have been demolished, and moved. Included a swimming pool that I’d been to more times than I can remember! I’ve had to go back a few times to take in the new constructions. Even a restaurant I used in one scene was demolished and rebuilt. It’s nothing like my original building I described. Thank goodness for the internet or I never would have realized so much had changed. Beyond that series I need to start writing a novella that will release in June of 2016.

kimberly johnson

Kimberly Rose Johnson holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, and their yellow lab. She writes sweet Christian romance and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She enjoys taking long walks with her husband and dog, reading, dark chocolate and time with friends.
You may contact Kimberly via her website at http://kimberlyrjohnson.com/

Buy link:

Amazon Island Dreams: http://www.amazon.com/Island-Dreams-Wildflower-Romance-Book-ebook/dp/B00XYYRP66/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436895628&sr=8-1&keywords=island+dreams

Amazon Island Refuge: http://amzn.to/1PSwybE

July 22, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
0 comments

The Story behind To Capture Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino

To-Capture-Her-Heart-3D-198x300

 

Once again, I’m excited to welcome another author with a book that is going onto my to be read pile. This week, it’s Rebecca De Marino with the intriguing story about her family that inspired her latest release, To Capture Her Heart. And, if you get here before midnight on July 22nd, scroll all the way down for a link to her giveaway. You could win a copy of To Capture Her Heart (lucky you!)

1. What made you want to write about your 9th great-grandparents?

I grew up hearing stories from my mom about our ancestors who came from England on a little ship called The Swallow. These stories had been handed down from generation to generation, but she never had a clear idea of where the settled in New England. When we found that there was a lighthouse named after him on Long Island, I took her out to see it. What we found there was amazing. My 9th g-grandfather’s grave is covered by a blue slate and the epitaph he is said to have written is still legible. There was so much information about him at the library and the historical society. I discovered he was a widower when he married my 9th g-grandmother with two small boys. In a few short years, they had left family behind and sailed for the New World. He was a baker and became a magistrate of Southold. But there was little known about Mary beyond the date she married Barnabas. I went home and a story began to jumble around in my brain. I knew I wanted to give Mary a voice.

2.  Does your family have an extensive genealogy that they’ve had done?

My brother became interested in genealogy in the 1990’s and that is what led to the discovery of the lighthouse on Long Island. It was commissioned by George Washington in the 1700’s and built in the 1800’s on land that used to belong to Barnabas and Mary Horton. Since then I’ve been able to trace our Horton ancestry back to the 1200’s in England. And recently I’ve traced my father’s side, the Worley’s, to the 1600’s in England. My 7th g-grandfather, Francis Worley, came over in the 1680’s as a young boy on one of the William Penn ships and grew up to be a surveyor in Pennsylvania. Exciting stuff and maybe another series, lol!

3.  The 17th century isn’t a time period that’s written about much. What intrigues you most about that era?

The exploration of the unknown and the harsh conditions people endured to stay true to their beliefs and reach for their dream. They left families behind and put their faith in God. It makes some of the minor inconveniences I endure today seem so small. And yet I’m also intrigued by how we still face some of the same issues in love and life. It is why writing inspirational historical fiction can relate so easily to our lives today. And God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

4. Tell us a little about your heroine, Heather Flower.

She is a strong woman who in the eyes of the European immigrants is a princess because she is the daughter of the Grand Sachem of Montauk. I first discovered information about her when I was researching my first book in the series, A Place in His Heart. I loved what I’d found, and wanted to use her in the first book, but it didn’t fit—it was the wrong decade. So with book #2 I decided to take the Horton’s up a decade. Barnabas’s two little boys are all grown up. The Horton’s and Southold, the town they helped found, is still the backdrop. But Heather Flower is my beautiful heroine!

5. What was the most difficult part about taking a true story and turning it into fiction?

The contradictions I found in my research and the fact that at least half of what I find is unsubstantiated and can’t be. So the hard part is deciding what to use. But it also can be an advantage. I did uncover court documents about one of my characters, Johnny Young, that made such an interesting turn in the story. So I keep the known facts in place, use the legends and lore as I see fit, and fill in the rest with imagination! It’s really quite fun!

6. Spoken like a true history buff! What’s up next for you?

I just turned in book #3 in The Southold Chronicles. It’s called To Follow Her Heart and is Patience’s story, who is one of my fictitious characters from book #1. She came over on the ship with Mary and Barnabas. Right now I’m in the middle of edits and I’m loving this story!

Thank you so very much for this fun interview! I loved your questions!

And we enjoyed having you, Rebecca! Here’s the link for the giveaway:

http://www.rebeccademarino.com/lets-celebrate-to-capture-her-heart-with-a-giveaway/

A little more about her:

RebeccDemarino-291a DeMarino writes love, legends and lore as a historical romance author and lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She inherited her love of baking and gardening from her mother, a love of horses, reading and writing from her dad, and the wanderlust gene from both parents. Her travels have taken her from Alaska to Nebraska and Florida, from Long Island to England and Italy, and from Washington DC to Texas, California and Guam. But usually you can find her at home, enjoying her grandchildren and baking crisp little ginger cakes. From Publisher’s Weekly ~ DeMarino’s … strong suit is recreating history and relating it to readers.

July 17, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
0 comments

The Story behind See No Evil by Mary Hamilton

This week, welcome Mary Hamilton to The Story behind the Story. She shares the story of the real-life Bible camp that was the inspiration for her YA series, Rustic Knoll Bible Camp.

SeeNoEvilFrontDropCrop copy

Rustic Knoll Bible Camp—where kids bring their baggage to camp and learn how to carry it.

I didn’t have a lot of baggage growing up at a youth camp. In fact, for me, it was a bit like living at Disneyland. Every summer brought swimming, boating, campfires, and new opportunities for friendship. Since my dad was director of a Bible camp in southeastern Wisconsin, we lived there year round for the first twenty years of my life.

So when the urge to write a novel struck, I knew I wanted to set it at a camp similar to the home of my youth. The camp itself is still operating, but a lot of things—like food preparation and clean up–have changed in thirty-five years. In my day, the kitchen was open to the staff and often served as a gathering place. Campers were responsible for KP duty, which meant washing 200+ plates, bowls, and glasses by hand, not to mention the silverware, which tripled that number for each camper! Nowadays, only the cook staff is allowed in the food preparation area, and clean up is done by an automatic dishwasher.

The setting wasn’t the only inspiration for my Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Cooks, nurses, maintenance men, the director and even a few campers provided seeds for my characters. For example, Zeke, the camp director in the series, combines my dad’s patient wisdom with another pastor’s talent for drawing pictures to illustrate the stories he told during evening chapel. Those drawings held our attention during his message, and became prized possessions when he gave them away at the end of each evening session. A nurse’s love for fishing became a characteristic of Nurse Willie in the series. And a blind camper inspired the character featured in the most recent release, See No Evil.

Though the ideas for my characters often began with real people, their struggles are entirely fictional. The characters’ problems grew out of real life, things kids struggle with each day—divorce and remarriage, parental expectations, peer pressure, envy, grief and even sexuality. Sound like modern day issues? I can tell you that forty years ago, kids faced the same temptations and trials, asked the same questions, and carried similar burdens when they went to camp. Maybe that’s why adults seem to enjoy the Rustic Knoll series as much as kids. Because going to Rustic Knoll Bible Camp with these young characters brings back a lot of memories. And maybe it reminds them of their own stories behind the story.

Mary Hamilton

Bio: In her first job out of college, Mary L. Hamilton wrote an organizational newsletter that people actually enjoyed reading. So when she became a stay-at-home mom, she pursued writing for wider publication. Her articles appeared in several magazines and she also wrote “Homespun Angel,” a Christmas play. When her youngest child started school, she went to work on writing the novel that began the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. The recent release of the third book, See No Evil, completes the series. All three books are available in paperback or e-book format.

Mary’s writing has reached the semi-finals in the Genesis contest, and the Selah Award finals.

Having grown up at a camp, it’s no wonder she enjoys the outdoors and nature. Her other interests include reading and knitting. Mary and her husband raised three terrific kids and make their home in Texas with a rescued Golden Retriever.

Connect with Mary:

Website/blog: http://www.maryhamiltonbooks.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/maryhamiltonbooks

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mhamiltonbooks

Twitter: http://twitter.com/@MHamiltonAuthor

Book link:

Hear No Evil, Book 1 http://tinyurl.com/kl5bovo

Speak No Evil, Book 2 http://tinyurl.com/oaleqya

See No Evil, Book 3 http://amzn.to/1MtOkMj

 

June 26, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
2 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
1 Comment

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.)

Summer 2010 trio 011

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.

jim-color-formal

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