Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We're all grateful for the time we spend with family and friends during Thanksgiving. Mounds of mashed potatoes, golden turkey, succulent ham, sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce. But what about those leftovers? I hear you groaning now. Here's a recipe for you that uses up leftover turkey (or chicken!). Assemble these wontons ahead of time, freeze, then deep fry them for a Christmas or New Years get together. Serve with your favorite sweet and sour sauce.

Fried Wontons


48 ou. canola oil
1 pd. ground turkey, leftover cooked turkey or chicken, chopped fine
1 T minced garlic (less if you're sensitive to the taste)
1 bunch green onions, chopped fine
15 baby carrots, chopped fine
1 8 ou. mushrooms, chopped fine
1 T soy sauce
pinch salt
ground pepper
12 ou. package wonton wraps

In skillet on low, combine all ingredients except oil, meat, and wonton wrappers. Saute until carrots are tender. Turn on high and cook, stirring often, until moisture evaporates. Remove from heat and let cool.

In food processor, pulse cooled mixture until it is fine but not pasty. Fold this mixture into chopped meat.

Begin heating oil while assembling.

Take wonton, wet two adjacent edges. Place teaspoon of filling in center and fold into triangle, press out excess air and seal moistened edges. Deep fry until golden. Serve with sauce of choice.


For quick hor d'oeuvres for later on, do not fry the wontons. Instead, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and flash freeze (about 20 minutes) uncovered. Store in freezer bags. Now you can fry what you need when you need it.

I'll be posting tried and true favs from both Lisa and I over the next few Tuesdays leading up to Christmas. So stay tuned for recipes such as Cranberry Chutney Bread, English Toffee and Challah Bread! Yum!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Angela Breidenbach is Mrs. Montana International 2009, a multi-award winning inspirational speaker and the author of the Gems of Wisdom: For a Treasure-filled Life and the Gems of Wisdom Companion Guide from Journey Press, the Creative Cooking Series including the new release of Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance from Westbow Press.

Other works by Angela include compilation books and devotionals from Guidepost, Group, and articles in magazines, ezines, and newspapers. She connects missions to her work with Hope’s Promise Orphan Ministries and the Jadyn Fred Foundation. Angela also teaches online classes and coaches one-on-one in courageous confidence, personal growth, and powerful living. She’s certified in mentor/peer counseling as a Stephen Minister and life coach. Angela serves as an assisting minister for her congregation in Missoula, MT. She volunteers as the American Christian Fiction Writer's Publicity Officer. Not only did she walk the hard line of deciding to donate her mom's brain, but she is also on the brain donation list at the Brain Bank-Harvard McLean Hospital. She is married, has a combined family of six grown children, two grand children. Gems of Wisdom: For a Treasure-filled Life and the Gems of Wisdom Companion Guide releases May 2011 from Journey Press, a Sheaf House imprint.

Interact with or learn more about Angela Breidenbach at these sites:

www.TheFaithGirls.com on Wednesdays each week

Angela has graciously agreed to kickoff our Christmas celebration with a sneak peek into December. Enjoy this special "treat" and join us next month, where it's "Christmas" every day!

Welcome, Angela! What do you most associate with Christmas where you live?

In Montana, it looks like the pictures on all the Christmas cards. We have deer in our yard, usually snow, gorgeous mountains, and pine trees.

Do you have any special family traditions you do at Christmas time?

We love to have Christmas Tea with all the fun finger foods. I spend a few days in advance creating it, but the looks on my family and guest faces are all worth it every year! Also we make caramel corn. I couldn’t get away without making some for each person as a gift under the tree. We give a lot away too. Friends give back their tins asking for it again the next year. We dutifully keep the tin and return it full. We’ve had to replace some tins because they’ve gotten too old and worn, lol. But they keep giving them back. So I suppose caramel corn became a funny tradition for my family.

Do you have a favorite Christmas Carol and if so do you know why?

Oh I love Christmas carols. They’re filled with joy and rich, rich melody. Each one makes me feel like I’m soaring in worship. My favorites are Silent Night, Breath of Heaven, and Joseph’s Song. I think about what it would have been like to be Mary or Joseph and live in faith and wonder.

If you could spend Christmas any way you could, how would you celebrate?

Exactly how we do. Christmas Tea, midnight candle light service, and family.

Do you have any special memories of Christmas?

Some of my most wonderful memories are singing with my children for Christmas Eve services. They have beautiful voices and it’s such a treasured joy.

What does a typical Christmas Eve and or Christmas Day look like for you?

Usually Christmas Eve morning is a rush of last minute work, shopping, and meal preparation. Then mid-afternoon family starts to show up. We nibble on all the Christmas Tea treats until everyone is there. Then we open presents, laugh, play with the family babies, and nibble more on tea treats. We pack up our family and head to midnight church services that really start about 10:30 p.m. My family usually sings several of the pieces for the service because we’re night owls ;-) After the last hymn of Silent Night and candlelight, we go home and sleep until late morning. Christmas morning is very lazy. I’ve made orange rolls ahead of time. (They’re in the cookbook.) We eat them for breakfast as an old family tradition and just enjoy a very quiet day. No rush, no crazy running around. Simple, quiet, family time.

Do you have any Christmas movies or Christmas books you like to see or read each year?

We often choose a movie to go out to on Christmas Day. It lends to the simplicity and often lots of fun discussion afterwards while we eat the Christmas Tea leftovers. Caramel corn tends to be hiding in pockets when we go to the movies ;-)

Tell us a little about your book:

Creative, gorgeous, elegant recipes to make inexpensive meals by a Weight Watcher Leader/Ambassador. Includes notations for Celiac, IBD (Colitis, Crohn's, IBD), and Weight Loss. Full color photos for each dish including some step-by-step photos. Luscious uses for left overs, special Christmas treats, international flavors mixed with great American style made with easily found ingredients. Food that tastes like it's been handed down for generations (well, some recipes have.) Try Swedish Pancakes, Quick & Easy Eggdrop Soup, Bruchetta Ensalada, Sweet Potato & Apple Streusel, Mexican Lasagna, Blooming Chicken Savories, and Grandma Bigelow's Orange Rolls. Just don't forget to make the Caramel Corn for your Christmas gifts, if you can get it out of the house!

Where did you get the idea for Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance?

The print version came out of many requests because I’d created ebooks and cd books of it first. But the original idea came from two sources, people who wanted to know how to cook simple, elegant, and inexpensive meals and my illness. I desperately wanted to eat the same foods as my family but colitis was a huge hurdle. Over time I began to ferret out the foods we could all eat and how to combine them into fun recipes. These recipes and tips brought joy back to my table and health back to me.

Do you have a Christmas message for my readers?

When you’re eating your Christmas feast, think about how much Jesus enjoyed feasting too. Consider that meal a way of experiencing communion with your family and with Jesus. We use sparkling juice. Get the words to the service of communion. Read them and act out what they mean. Now think about the innocence of baby Jesus and consider how Christmas and Easter are connected. Share and talk about that with your family. Celebrate communion around the Christmas dinner table and end the meal with a birthday cake or petit fours to acknowledge who the day is really about, and what it really means.

Thank you so much for inviting me to be with you today. May your tables be filled with joy!

Angela is giving away a copy of her book Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My daughter invited a friend to spend the night with us a couple of weeks ago. It seemed like a good idea. . .at the time. The moment this friend stepped foot inside the house, Max went ballistic. He snarled. Every strand of hair on his back stood on end. He barked and snapped until I finally had to pick him up, thump him on the nose, and threaten to put him in his kennel.

Max finally did become acclimated to the girl’s presence. Before her visit was over, she and Max had reached a grudging truce. Afterward, I sat on the couch with Max curled up beside me.

“Gee whiz, Max. You need to learn to be nice.”

Max just stared up at me with his big, dark eyes.

I relented a little and tickled his ears. “Okay. I know you were just trying to protect your people.”

He snuggled closer, burying his cold little nose in the crook of my arm.

“Did you think you had to protect us? Huh?”

Max licked my finger, then laid his head on my arm with a sigh. I laughed, completely won over by this tiny dog’s show of bravado. . .and loyalty.

That’s when it occurred to me. The best friends are the ones who stick by you even when the going is rough. They’re the ones who laugh with you, cry with you, and who’ll stick up for you even when everyone else thinks you’re wrong. They’re quick to forgive, slow to anger, and they love you with all of their heart. Most of all, they’re loyal. They see the best in you, and they’ll defend you to the death. . .or at least, against any little girls who come barging into your home.

I guess that’s why God said a wise man chooses his friends carefully, and why I’m inclined to agree. This week’s passage is a little longer than usual, but it is a beautiful example of true friendship.

1 Samuel 20 (New International Version)

David and Jonathan

1 Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?"

2 "Never!" Jonathan replied. "You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn't do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It's not so!"

3 But David took an oath and said, "Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, 'Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.' Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death."

4 Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you."

5 So David said, "Look, tomorrow is the New Moon festival, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. 6 If your father misses me at all, tell him, 'David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.' 7 If he says, 'Very well,' then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. 8 As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the LORD. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?"

9 "Never!" Jonathan said. "If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn't I tell you?"

10 David asked, "Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?"

11 "Come," Jonathan said, "let's go out into the field." So they went there together.

12 Then Jonathan said to David: "By the LORD, the God of Israel, I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father is inclined to harm you, may the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away safely. May the LORD be with you as he has been with my father. 14 But show me unfailing kindness like that of the LORD as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, 15 and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David's enemies from the face of the earth."

16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the LORD call David's enemies to account." 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

18 Then Jonathan said to David: "Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. 20 I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy and say, 'Go, find the arrows.' If I say to him, 'Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,' then come, because, as surely as the LORD lives, you are safe; there is no danger. 22 But if I say to the boy, 'Look, the arrows are beyond you,' then you must go, because the LORD has sent you away. 23 And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the LORD is witness between you and me forever."

24 So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon festival came, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan, [a] and Abner sat next to Saul, but David's place was empty. 26 Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, "Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean." 27 But the next day, the second day of the month, David's place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, "Why hasn't the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?"

28 Jonathan answered, "David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, 'Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.' That is why he has not come to the king's table."

30 Saul's anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, "You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don't I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!"

32 "Why should he be put to death? What has he done?" Jonathan asked his father. 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.

34 Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father's shameful treatment of David.

35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, 36 and he said to the boy, "Run and find the arrows I shoot." As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan's arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, "Isn't the arrow beyond you?" 38 Then he shouted, "Hurry! Go quickly! Don't stop!" The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 (The boy knew nothing of all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, "Go, carry them back to town."

41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.

42 Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.' " Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's always so much fun to give away great books!! Congratulations to this week's lucky winner:

Carole (cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net) - Advent of a Mystery by Marilyn Leach

Tea Norman - Michigan Brides by Tiffany Amber Stockton

Winners of this week’s books, please use the button in the upper right side of this page to email me with your mailing address so I can forward your information to the authors. Then, sit back and wait for your book to arrive.

Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book and thank you, Marilyn Leach and Tiffany Amber Stockton, for your generosity in providing books!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Entering our weekly drawing is easy:

1. Leave a comment on Fridays or...

2. Sign up to follow The Borrowed Book. Followers will automatically be entered for a chance to win that week's drawing!

This week, The Borrowed Book is giving away:

Advent of a Mystery by Marilyn Leach ~ Retired investigative reporter Berdie Elliott follows her pastor husband to a small English parish. But when a member of the church dies mysteriously at Christmastime, Berdie---with the help of her friend, Lillie---launches an "unofficial investigation." Will she impede the local law, foul up Lillie's chance at romance, and get her husband fired?

Michigan Brides by Tiffany Amber Stockton ~ Relive Michigan’s industrial boom alongside three women who must change their way of viewing the world before they can realize love. Felicity does a very noble deed only to lead her to a romance that would be banned by her wealthy society. Annabelle’s interest in a potato picker is barred by the stigma society has placed on his ruined family. Shannon has seen too much about industry fail, prompting her to reject the suit of one of Henry Ford’s employees. Can each woman find the faith to push through the barriers so they can embrace romance?

Winners will be announced on Saturday, 11/27/10.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

As Jacob Berringer turned the Model-T back toward the Highland Park Plant, another specific destination formed in his mind. It would be the best place to truly test the car and not endanger anyone else. Returning to the busy city streets with its eight-miles-per-hour speed limit wouldn't afford the same guarantee. So, when Jacob reached the next intersection, he pointed the car toward the outlying fields to the northwest.

Once free of the confines of the city, he enjoyed the way the land seemed to spread out before him. A flock of birds took to flight ahead of him, and two horses beyond the fence to his left galloped away from the road. He inhaled the fresh scent of farmland and relished the cool breeze of the evening air. Invigorated, Jacob decided to be bold and raise his foot off the left pedal, setting the car into high gear. Another jolt occurred as the car increased speed.

Jacob's knuckles turned white, and his heart pounded as he prayed for safety. The fields on his left and right zipped by in a blur. A little voice in his head told him to depress the pedal once more or put his other foot on the right pedal and bring the car to a stop. He ignored the voice and instead savored the feeling of freedom.

If only he made enough money to afford one of these cars for his very own. His brother William had just purchased one two months ago for his family, and Father owned one as well. Jacob might only be twenty-six, but seeing his older brother and father driving around the city only fueled his desire to join the league of motor car owners. Perhaps in a few more months, his pay as a supervisor would amount to enough. For now, at least he could pretend.

The crack of a rifle sounded to his left, and Jacob jerked his head toward the echo. It effectively jarred his thoughts from his little pleasure ride and brought his boss' face to mind.

"Mr. Ford! I have to return the car!"

Jacob had no idea how long it had been since dropping off Mrs. Mitchell, but he had no doubt he was expected back long ago. Frantic, he returned his attention to the road. Good. An intersection. He could turn around there and head back to the city. With his attention on the upcoming maneuver, he didn't see the horses and wagon until too late. The team was on a direct collision course with his car.

Jacob tensed and shifted into survival mode. Visions of a crumbled heap of steel and wheels flashed before his eyes. He immediately rammed his foot down on the right pedal and yanked the steering wheel in the same direction.

The driver of the wagon screamed and pulled back on the reins, causing the horses to rear up and paw at the air. If it didn't get into a wreck, the model might end up with hoof prints on the engine instead.

Skidding only a few feet on the dirt-packed road, Jacob released a whoosh of breath when the car came to a complete stop mere inches from the nearest fence. He jumped down from the running board and raced to the front of the car to check the suspension and wheels as well as the engine. Barely giving the wagon driver a passing glance, he groaned.

"Could you not see that I had the right of way?" He folded back the hood. "Why don't you watch where you're guiding that antiquated wagon of yours?"

"I beg your pardon?" came a distinctly incensed feminine voice in reply.

Jacob tilted his head and looked over his shoulder at a woman not too much younger than he standing next to the horses, her fists planted on her hips and reins held loosely in one hand. A bank of gray clouds partially concealed the sun and cast eerie shadows on her face. He couldn't tell if it was the temporary minimal light or his faulty perception that made her look so livid. Then again, considering the circumstances, she might very well be furious.

Before he had a chance to say anything further, she spun away and stepped close to the horses, speaking in low, soothing tones. The horses sidestepped and pranced a bit, snorting and continuing to paw the ground. Under her calming voice, the animals soon ceased their nervous behavior and settled once again.

Jacob observed the young woman in silence. Honeycomb hair fell in a single braid down her back. Her straw hat was tied beneath her chin but now sat askew and partially cupped her right shoulder. A smirk formed on his lips as he allowed his gaze to travel from her head to her feet, taking note of the way the simple material of her dress hugged her trim figure. She certainly didn't appear to be injured in any way. In fact, from her sharp retort and the fire in her eyes, he'd say the exact opposite was the case.

As if divining his thoughts, she whirled to face him again, the fury in her narrowed eyes marring what he considered a rather attractive face.

"Just what do you think you were doing, driving so recklessly? Do you not realize you could have caused any number of accidents or even killed someone with that..."— she gestured wildly toward the Model T— "that...contraption? I think you should be the one who should have been watching where you were going instead of daydreaming or attempting to break some sort of record in speed."

"Me?" Jacob slapped his hand to his chest. "I didn't exactly creep up to the crossroad in silence. In case you haven't noticed, this 'contraption' as you call it makes a rather substantial bit of noise when it's running. If I was the one daydreaming, what exactly were you doing that prevented you from hearing the approaching motor car?"

A flash of guilt appeared on her face before she erased it and tapped into her anger once more. "If you must know, I was minding my own business and making my way toward home when all of a sudden you came out of nowhere and ran me off the road."

Jacob leaned back against the car and folded his arms across his chest, giving her a leisurely perusal as he quirked one eyebrow. "Well, from what I see, you don't appear to be any worse for the wear. Of course, I'm no doctor, so I can't tell if there might be internal injuries. That would require closer inspection."

The young woman dipped her head toward her chest. If more light were available, Jacob was certain there'd be a blush on her cheeks. Maybe she was coming around. A beat later, she raised her head and glared. Then again, maybe not.

"You, sir, are quite bold in your assumptions and your suggestions. I will thank you not to make such audacious statements. We don't even know each other."

Jacob pushed away from the car and stepped toward her. "That can easily be remedied." He stuck out his hand and inclined his head. "Jacob Berringer, at your service."

Tiffany is giving away a copy of her book Michigan Brides. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!
Saturday morning, Berdie arose, exercised, did morning devotion prayers, wrote three thank-you notes for holiday treats, cooked Hugh a full English breakfast, and cleaned up after a leaking dishwasher, all before half eight. By eight thirty-five, she was at Lavender Cottage, Lillie in tow, where she met Constable Goodnight at the front doorstep. He held two electric lanterns, and the yellow crime tape still draped the door.

The policeman unlatched the door and lifted the ribbon. “House is officially cleared but I don’t want any dolts nosing round,” he grunted.

Oh, I’m up a rung on Goodnight’s respect ladder, Berdie thought to herself.

The constable lit the lanterns and handed them over to the women. “Edsel Butz will be by later to fix the electric.” The man stepped toward the garden gate. “I’ll leave you to it then.” He patted his rotund stomach. “I’ll be taking sustenance at the Upland Arms.”

Before Berdie could call out that they would ring him when finished, he was out the gate.
The women gingerly entered the front hall. Though full of tumbled goods, the cottage held a profound emptiness. Both women shivered. Berdie shut the door against the cold, but the moist English morning permeated throughout.

“Where do we start?” Lillie was bewildered.

“Sitting room,” Berdie determined. Several large boxes were stacked high in the hall. The two carefully pulled a couple of them out. Berdie deposited one at the sitting room door. “Rubbish in this one,” she directed, “and undamaged goods in the other one, to start.”

“Maybe things of distinct value we can place on the dining table,” Lillie offered and placed the goods box near the fireplace.

Though Lillie was just helping a friend, Berdie saw every mite as an opportunity to unravel the truths hidden amid the rubble. “Go carefully,” Berdie urged. “If you come upon anything that strikes you odd, give a word.”

Lillie set to and gathered upholstery stuffing strewn across the floor while Berdie went straight to the Advent wreath. Carefully she picked up the large pillar Christ candle; it felt almost wooden.

She examined its sides, top, and bottom then quizzed Lillie. “If you saw this candle, say, sitting on a dining table, would you identify it as a Christ candle for an Advent wreath?”

Lillie glanced at the candle. “No.”


“Obviously, it’s yellow, and Christ candles are snow white.”

“Quite right.” Berdie nodded and placed it in the undamaged goods box. “Does the word Bridgestones mean anything to you?”

“No.” Lillie stopped. “Maybe. We had a Bridgestones Department Store in Timsley, but it went out of business.” She continued to pick up the stuffing. “I think in the late seventies.”

Berdie removed the three weekly Advent candles from the holders. She laid them down across the hearth, bottoms facing her. She nosed closer to them and squinted. “These candles have designs carved on the bottom.”

Lillie looked at them. “Odd.”

“They’re trying to tell us something,” Berdie spoke her thoughts.

Marilyn is giving away a copy of her book, Advent of a Mystery. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood. Today, she is an award-winning author, speaker, online marketing specialist, and a freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a toddler daughter, another baby on the way, and a vivacious Australian shepherd named Roxie. She loves to travel, sing, cook, and study history.

Her writing career began in high school with the publication of her first children’s book, but she didn’t pursue adult fiction until she wrote her first novel in 1999. She joined ACFW in 2002 and attended their annual conferences each year, receiving a request for a proposal in September 2004. Two years later, in December 2006, the request resulted in her first sale. And in January 2008, her debut novel released.

She has since sold eleven books to Barbour Publishing with more on the horizon. Three of her novels have won annual reader’s choice awards and in 2009, she was voted #1 favorite new author for the Heartsong Presents book club. Read more about her at her web site: http://www.amberstockton.com/.

When did you decide to be a writer?

You know, I have been asked this many times, and it’s never easy to answer. One response might be I’ve always been writing, since I was a little girl. But, I suppose the real moment when I decided to pursue writing professionally occurred in 2000 at age 24. I joined ACFW, submitted a manuscript in 2004, and received a contract in 2006 for my first novel.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

After my 3rd book, I began to whittle down my critique partners to just 3 trusted individuals I knew could see my style and would critique my work with honesty as well as remain true to my voice. Prior to that, I struggled with what suggestions to accept and which ones to discard. It wasn’t until my editors at my publisher came back with their critiques that I began seeing the best people who would help me grow as a writer.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

I used to be a disciplined writer…before my first child came along. With the adjustment, my writing sort of took a back burner, although I did manage to write 1-2 days each week. Now, pregnant with baby #2, and a new contract on a 3-book series, I realize I need to carve out time each day again in order to get these new books done.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

I love listening to music, going for walks, or watching old movies. If I really need to take my mind off my deadlines, I get involved in cooking or baking something new. There’s also the Nintendo Wii and Solitaire too.

What is your favorite novel and what made it special?

That would be Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Her characters and the themes of love, redemption, and forgiveness resonate with me even to this day, nearly 20 years after I first read the book.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

Seeing how they craft and develop their stories and characters and see their plots through from start to finish helped me realize where my own stories were lacking. I could make notes in their novels, mark up my own manuscripts, and do comparisons. Reading and analyzing what they did right has enabled me to strengthen my own writing and make my plots tighter. I also found the holes a lot more easily than before.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Michigan Brides is a collection of my second series of 3 books. All of them are set in Detroit, with some other locations in Michigan featured. Here is the publisher’s description:

Within the industrial boom during the Turn of the Century, three Michigan women react differently to their rapidly changing worlds. Felicity does a very noble deed only to lead her to a romance that would be banned by her wealthy society. Annabelle’s interest in a potato picker is barred by the stigma society has placed on his ruined family. Shannon has seen too much about industry fail, prompting her to reject the suit of one of Henry Ford’s employees. Can each woman find the faith to push through the barriers so they can embrace love?

Where did you get your inspiration for MICHIGAN BRIDES?

Although this is a compilation book of three other novels, the inspiration for each one came as a result of my editor sending me a list of states for which she needed some proposals. I selected 3 states, did some research on the historical settings and events in each state, then developed some story ideas based on that research. The set in Michigan was the one she liked the best. So, that’s the three books I wrote.

Which character is most like you?

I’d have to say Felicity Chambers, as I can walk the line between various “worlds” in society. I can mingle with those considered part of the working class, and I can hold my own with those of the higher society as well. But my heart lies with those who might be a little down on their luck and need a boost to get them going again.

Who is your favorite character and why?

That would be Shannon Delaney, because of her spunk and sharp wit. And there’s a small part of me that hesitates at the rapidly changing world in which we live, wanting instead for things to remain the same, to remain comfortable, without all the craziness of the “next big thing.”

Did you know how MICHIGAN BRIDES would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?

Well, since I have to provide a detailed synopsis to my editor before each book is contracted, I had a general idea of the progression of each book in this compilation. However, there is still room for the characters to take on a mind of their own. Their verbal responses and actual dialogue almost always comes as a surprise to me. That’s what makes the writing journey so much fun!

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

I’d say the underlying theme in all three books is trusting in God to work out everything according to His perfect plan. He has it all under control, and He notices everything. Not a hair falls from your head without Him knowing. He’s got you covered. You just have to trust Him.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

I have secured several spots on a variety of blogs, I’ve posted to Twitter and Facebook, I’ve announced the book on my web site, and I’ve been sure to list it with new releases on several e-zines, online publications, and email discussion loops. I’ve also run contests and giveaways for free copies. So far, it seems that blog tours and posting on Facebook have merited the greatest results.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

Right now, I am working on a new series for my editor, set in historical Delaware in the Brandywine district. My very first series was set in Delaware during the Colonial times. Now, I get to return to that little state and jump forward 100 years. An antique bookstore, as well as a special book, both factor into each one of the 3 books in the series. I’m looking forward to how each story will play out.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

To all writers, if you truly feel called to this profession, never give up! It’s not an easy journey, and the road is marked with a lot of roadblocks. But don’t let the stumbles keep you down long. Stand up, dust yourself off, learn from what made you fall, and keep going.

To all readers, keep buying the books of the authors you love. You are the reason they can continue to do what they love. Without you, we authors wouldn’t have a venue for our writing. Thank you!
Want more? Stop by The Borrowed Book on Thursday for an excerpt from Michigan Brides by Tiffany Amber Stockton!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I have a friend who tends to write her female characters too harshly. Because of this, her critique group will often express how much they dislike her heroine. It's a problem I also struggled with as I developed characters in my early years of writing (okay, like last year). I can't tell you how many times I would re-write chapter one. Constantly tweaking dialogue and character qualities and. . .well, you get the point. Thankfully I have learned a trick that works to create a better first impression for my characters.

How do you write about a character who has issues in such a way that makes them likeable?

Think of their qualities.

Redeeming qualities, if you will. We all have them. What I have discovered as a writer is that it is possible to put off showing a characters dark side long enough to establish some good traits or tendencies. Instead of showing your shattered-heart heroine's bitter, impatient attitude toward others, because, afterall, that's how she really feels inside, give her a prop. Something that she cares deeply about, whether it be a dog, bird, or a hobby. Or maybe she is devoted to her aging mother. Whatever it is, be sure to show that soft side, then segue gently into showcasing her edginess.

First impressions count. If your reader doesn't like your character or make a connection, then you're sunk. Can you mix both elements? Edginess with redeeming qualities? I'm sure you can, but please be sure to let someone else, preferably more than two people, read your first chapter and give you feed back. If one of the three critiquers doesn't like your character then you might have a problem. But if two of three critters don't like your character, you *know* you have a problem. Of course, if all three unanimously hate your character. . .oh, dear. Back to square one.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

S. Dionne Moore is author of cozy mystery, Polly Dent Loses Grip, a 2010 Carol Award finalist, as well as several historical romances. Visit her at www.sdionnemoore.com.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Marilyn Leach grew up in the Mountain Time Zone. She majored in art at university and has worked as a missionary, graphic artist and teacher of art in cultural diversity. Just recently she became a full time author. She loves to celebrate Advent and the Christmas season which ties in well with her love of all things British. One of her favorite things to do is cuddle up on a cold afternoon with an English mystery and a cup of hot tea.

Welcome, Marilyn! When did you decide to be a writer?

I’m not sure really. I started writing stories as a child and just kept creating them. I wrote poetry and song lyrics, just for fun you see. I think when I began to write for the stage and saw people respond to what was being created that I first entertained the idea of actually being a full time writer. I began attending writing conferences and taking classes to hone my craft. When I heard Barb Nicolosi speak and present the challenge to influence culture through appropriate Christian writing, I started to pray about it in earnest. It went from there.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

Actually, I wrote my first mystery, a play called "The Ghost and Mr. Guiltwallet" at the age of nine. I wrote it with a neighbor and we made it into a play complete with clothespins and blankets, plus popcorn. I’ve enjoyed writing most my life and have had the opportunity to co-write stage plays and screenplays, one of which won a semi-final spot for the Kyros prize in the John Templeton Screenwriting Competition and was chosen to be in Act One: Writing for Hollywood’s repertoire. It’s just recently that I decided to take the plunge and make writing a fulltime career. My first book is the one just out, Advent of a Mystery.

Everyone’s journey to publication is different. Now that you’ve walked that road, what tips can you give to authors still hoping for that first contract?

Study your craft, work on it, internalize the three act setup for writing, join a writer’s group, don’t be afraid of criticism, attend writing conferences, and pray for God’s purposes to be accomplished. Then stick with it.

Was there something about the experience of getting published that was a surprise to you?

I am with a small publishing house. I appreciate them because they were willing to take a chance with a first time novelist. What took me by surprise was all the marketing that you have to do and all the time and energy it takes to get your writing out there. With the plays, all the marketing was done by another person. Also, I’ve had a maddening time trying to get my web site to function properly. But it’s rapture to see your book in print.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

I’m really just working out how to structure my time now that I’m writing full time, as a career. I love to write and I work at the discipline to be consistent. I write every day, only occasionally do I miss. Even if it’s only 20 minutes, due to a grinding schedule of other events, I get it in. While on other days I’m at my laptop 2 to 4 hours, more hours for deadlines of course. Right now, though I’m working on my second book and several articles, it seems most my time is spent in marketing the first book.

What kind of activities do you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

I relish British mysteries and comedies and have volumes of DVDs. While I take a quick lunch, I’ll watch Keeping Up Appearances, a British comedy about a woman who’s keen to impress others that she is quite posh but her colorful family turns things the opposite way. Nothing refreshes like a good laugh. Or I’ll watch an episode of Rosemary and Thyme, a British mystery series about two detective gardeners. Or, since I live on a lake, sometimes just taking a quick walk outside can buoy the senses. I’ve also been known to put on a CD and dance about a bit, whatever feeds the soul and refreshes so that you can go back to pouring yourself out again on the page.

What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?

Different books impact you at different points of time in your life. How often I re-read is a measuring stick for me and currently I’d have to say, the Bless Me Father Series written by Neil Boyd (a pen name) is at the top. I had to scrounge around used bookstores in England as it’s out of print, but when I first read it, I was visiting my sister. I would read a section and laugh out loud, it was so funny. My sister would ask, “What?” I’d read the portion to her, and she’d have a good laugh. It went on and on, so she eventually she found it at the library and read it herself. All three books in the collection are infectious like that. Funny to the bone.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

I love to read other’s work always keeping an eye to how they develop their character arcs, the twists and turns in the plots, using visuals to reflect what’s happening both on and off ‘the radar’, and of course, how they keep the energy flowing from chapter to chapter. I read one of Agatha Christie’s short stories that really intrigued me. It set my mind in motion and I thought, “What if this was done here and instead of this means, another means was used? And what if…”. By the time I restructured the whole affair and put it on its head, it was the seed for my second book, Resurrection of a Mystery.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Advent of a Mystery is a who-done-it that takes place during Advent at Christmastide. The setting is a small English village. The sleuth in the story is Berdie Elliott, the vicar’s wife. She’s not exactly what the parish expects; she’s a former investigative reporter who has attended her husband, a former military officer and now churchman, to Saint Aidan of the Wood Parish Church. When someone dies under calamitous circumstances, Berdie swings into action and before long the entire village is involved in finding the culprit. Of course, in the end, the village celebrates Berdie’s abilities and Christmas is celebrated jubilantly.

Where did you get your inspiration for Advent of a Mystery?

I love to read about and watch Miss Marple in action. Also, the Hetty Wainthropp series influenced me greatly. Both are women of high moral character and an observable faith, who display a special gift to analyze and solve puzzles. The fact that they’re both wise women of age is appealing too. My nephew challenged me to “just have fun creating a British cozy” and I followed his advice. Now, here it is, published.

Which character is most like you?

I like to think that I share the quality of seeking truth just as my main character, Berdie Elliott does. I also believe, sadly, that I share her bend to be quite stubborn at times. But really, I have no specific character that I can say, “that’s me”.

Who is your favorite character and why?

I like almost all my characters. In Advent of a Mystery, Berdie and Lillie are the most fun to write for; they carry the heart of the story and have a brilliant friendship. Although writing Albert Goodnight, the surly village constable, was a hoot too. He’s just so brash and talks such flannel.

Did you know how Advent of a Mystery would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?

I plot carefully, first a loose sketch of ideas, then a type of graphic organizer, start to conclusion. But along the way as I’m writing, I also get ideas that add a glint to a red herring or give a tweak to enhance the primary plot line. I can’t say I’ve been surprised in any major way, and in the same breath a scene may turn out somewhat differently, as I write, than I perceived it.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

I think different readers may remember different things, but overall I should hope that people remember how much fun it was to go along with Berdie, her friends, the whole village really, to make discoveries, right the wrong, and to see a glimpse of the eternal in the everyday.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

I’ve done most things writers do. I’ve also donated the book to public libraries; a good read can often result in Christmas gifts to friends. One reader is giving the book to a circle of friends for Christmas. Inside each book, she’s including an invitation to tea following the holiday season with the note to read the book by tea time. She’s asked me to come lead a discussion of the book at the tea. Right up my holiday alley. It’s a fun idea and others are interested in doing the same. I did a city wide radio interview and that really boosted sales. Plus, it was fun. I’m currently mailing a notice of availability for signings to every tea shoppe in Colorado. So far, I have four tea shoppe signings scheduled.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I’m currently working on Resurrection of a Mystery; follow up to Advent of a Mystery. I’m keeping the setting and cast of characters as I’ve had several people comment that they want more of Berdie and Aidan Kirkwood. On the drawing board, I have Ascension of a Mystery. I’m following the liturgical calendar of the church and creating a mystery to accompany the different celebrations.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

I should think, follow your passion. If you’ve established a right relationship with God, you’ve got the ground work established. Whether your passion is restoring old cars, volunteering in the hospital natal unit, spotless kitchen windows, or writing, follow your passion.
Want more? Stop by The Borrowed Book on Thursday for an excerpt from Advent of a Mystery by Marilyn Leach.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

’Tis the season. . .for showing appreciation.

Max never fails to let me know how happy he is with a new toy, or when I fill his bowl with fresh water, or when I give him a doggie treat. He jumps up, tail wagging furiously until I think he’ll knock himself down he’s shaking so hard. All of these things seem so minor, so insignificant, and yet he never fails to show me how much he appreciates me.

God, on the other hand, takes care of the big things—like food, clothing, and shelter. He gives me health and happiness. He provides for my every need and most of my wants. He showers me with love and mercy. Most of all, this time of year I remember how He gave me the greatest gift of all. . .eternal life through the precious gift of His Son. How can I fail to show appreciation to the One who gave me so much?

Easy, so it seems.

I get wrapped up in the holidays (pun intended) and let my love for the Savior fall to the wayside. I busy myself with musicals and Christmas cards. I worry about gifts and presents and baked goods, and only briefly remember to pause long enough to show my appreciation for Jesus.

So this holiday, I’ve decided to do things a little differently. I’m listening more and worrying less. I’m keeping my eyes open for signs of Christ this Christmas. More importantly. . .I’m stopping to say thanks.

Luke 17:11-19 (New King James Version)

Ten Lepers Cleansed

11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.

17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?

18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's always so much fun to give away great books!! Congratulations to this week's lucky winner:

Lisa Nelson - Christmas Bodyguard by Margaret Daley

Joy Tamsin David - A Daughter for Christmas by Margaret Daley

Amber S. - I'll Be Home for Christmas by Julie Cannon

Winners of this week’s books, please use the button in the upper right side of this page to email me with your mailing address so I can forward your information to the authors. Then, sit back and wait for your book to arrive.

Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book and thank you, Margaret Daley and Julie Cannon, for your generosity in providing books!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Entering our weekly drawing is easy:

1. Leave a comment on Fridays or...

2. Sign up to follow The Borrowed Book. Followers will automatically be entered for a chance to win that week's drawing!

This week, The Borrowed Book is giving away:

Christmas Bodyguard by Margaret Daley ~ Someone's after wealthy Texan Slade Caulder's daughter. Desperate to keep her safe while he determines the motive, the widowed father hires a bodyguard for Abbey. A female bodyguard, with the training to protect the girl—and an understanding of a willful teenager who keeps trying to outsmart her. Elizabeth Walker is the perfect combination of caring and toughness for her job. But as the holidays approach, the stalker's threats escalate. And Slade finds himself willing to risk everything to keep his Christmas bodyguard by his side…forever.

A Daughter for Christmas by Margaret Daley ~ Dr. Max Connors had no idea he'd fathered a child thirteen years ago. Or that his baby girl had been given up for adoption. He locates his daughter in a small Oklahoma town and moves there, hoping to become a part of her life. But when he meets her widowed mother, Max is unsure how to reveal his identity. As he helps Rachel Howard with her plans to homeschool the girl, he's welcomed into the family. But with the holidays approaching, Max must tell Rachel who he really is. Can he make his dreams of family come true by Christmas?

I'll Be Home for Christmas by Julie Cannon ~ With Bing Crosby's "I'll Be Home for Christmas" playing in the background, Maggie Culpepper and William Byrd proclaim their undying love to one another. But with the U.S. at war and Maggie's personal home front under attack, the Southern belle impetuously joins the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service).

When Christmas draws near and Maggie finds herself miles and miles away from her Georgia hometown...and her beloved William...will she realize that, no matter where she spends Christmas, home is where her heart is?

Winners will be announced on Saturday, 11/20/10.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Watch out!" Slade Caulder said through clenched teeth, gripping the door handle on his SUV. Why had he allowed a sixteen-year-old with a permit to drive? Only a few more miles to the ranch—thankfully.

"Dad, I saw him coming out. I've got everything under control."

When he noticed Abbey sliding a glance toward him, his heart rate shot up even further. "Keep your eyes on the road."

"I'm gonna ask Gram to take me driving next time."

"No." Although he wished he could let his mother-in-law take over teaching his daughter to drive around Dallas, he wouldn't. It was his job.

The car gained speed. "Don't go over sixty."

"I'm not. I have to practice going highway speed. Quit worrying about me."

Yeah, sure. She might as well ask him to quit breathing. It wasn't going to happen. Abbey was all he had. At least this was an almost-deserted stretch of road.

Thud! Bam!

A blowout?

Suddenly the car swerved to the right toward the ditch along the highway. He lurched around and glimpsed the color leaching from Abbey's face. Her knuckles whitened as she fought the shimmying steering wheel.

"Daddy!" she screamed above the thumping sound followed by a whomp. "I can't control…"

"Take your foot off the gas. Put the brakes on. Get off the road." He schooled his voice into the calmest level he could manage. He desperately wanted to change places with his daughter, but knew he couldn't.

The rougher terrain along the shoulder alerted him right before the car plunged into the ditch, heading toward a tree growing in it. Slade twisted toward Abbey, but the seatbelt retracted, immobilizing him like a prisoner. The air bags exploded outward, slamming into him. His breath whooshed from his lungs.

Blackness swirled before him. He fought to stay conscious, but his eyelids slid closed as the darkness rushed at him.

Pain jolted Slade back from the void. He opened his eyes to a fine powder dancing in the air about him, choking him. He coughed but his body protested the sudden movement— a deep, throbbing ache spread out from his chest. As he raised his hand to his head, a hissing filled the air, vying with the sound of the engine running. Pushing the deflated air bag back, he tried to straighten but couldn't. The seat belt trapped him. His heartbeat thundered in his ears.

Suddenly, a thought drove the daze from his mind. "Abbey!" he called out, but she didn't answer.

Adrenaline pumped through him. He jerked his head toward his daughter. The action sent the world before him spinning and forced him to close his eyes for a few seconds. But the need to make sure his daughter was all right overrode everything. Alert, totally focused on Abbey, he squashed his own pain.

A tree limb, having smashed through her side window, pinned her against her seat. Her head tilted to the side, blood streaming down her face from multiple cuts. Panic battled to take over Slade. He tried to thrust the limb out the hole in the window so he could get to his daughter better. The branch refused to dislodge.

Think! He couldn't lose his daughter, too.

His hand shaking, he reached across and felt for her pulse at the side of her neck. Strong. But she hadn't moved. He quickly dug into his pocket for his cell and called 911. Once he knew help was on the way, he allowed a second of relief to flutter through him.

The vibration and sound of the motor grabbed his attention. He snaked his hand through the limb's small branches and managed to turn his SUV off. Then he rummaged in the compartment between the driver's seat and the front passenger seat for the first aid kit, tore into it and unwound some gauze. He needed to get closer to her to bandage her head. When he tried to unclasp his seatbelt, it wouldn't budge. Panic attacked him from all sides. He clawed at the strap as though he could pry loose the metal clamp that held him captive.

He looked over at his daughter, her eyes still closed, her blood soaking her. "I won't let anything happen to you," he whispered.

Taking in a deep breath, he composed himself. He couldn't lose control. Another fortifying gulp of air, then he pulled on the strap and finally disconnected it. Able to move more freely, he braced himself with one foot against the door and the other under the dashboard to compensate for the way the car leaned forward in the ditch. He angled toward his daughter and wrapped the gauze around the worst of her cuts to stem the blood flow. But when he drew his fingers away they were sticky and covered in Abbey's blood. The sight sent terror straight to his heart.

Abbey moaned and stirred. Her eyes popped open, wide with fear as they linked with his. "Daddy?" She licked her lips, her face screwing up into a panicky look as her tongue ran over some blood. "I'm bleeding."

"Help is coming, honey."

He wanted to go around to her side to take a closer look at her injuries. When he shoved at the door, it creaked open, water gushing inside from the ditch. An earthy stench accosted him.

"Don't leave me, Daddy." Hysteria coated each word.

He twisted back toward his daughter, the cold water swirling about his feet. A shudder shivered up his body. "I won't." In the distance, the sound of the sirens blared. "It won't be long now," he said as calmly as possible, while inside the same helplessness he'd experienced when his wife had died five years ago washed over him. Suddenly, a sense of foreboding dominated all senses. Sweat popped out on his forehead. His hands shook.

Why did he feel like someone was watching?

Elizabeth Walker parked her red Trans Am in a space next to the Dallas office building where Guardians, Inc. was located. She'd hoped her boss, Kyra Morgan, wouldn't have anything for her yet. Although Elizabeth had been home almost a week since her last assignment, she could use another few days for rest and relaxation. Her last job in Phoenix had been a long one—ten weeks. But the call that morning asking her to come in to the office could only mean one thing.

She loved working as a bodyguard with the all-female agency, but some assignments required longer to bounce back from. The job demanded a lot of mental energy, and sometimes physical energy, too. The stress from always being on guard, always scanning the perimeter for trouble and never getting to enjoy the beauty of the moment heightened the importance of her downtime between missions. Kyra knew that well. So the fact that her boss called her in a little early meant this job was important—not something she would want to turn down.

Entering the suite on the second floor, Elizabeth greeted Kyra's secretary with a smile. "Is she in there?" Elizabeth tossed her head toward the closed door.

Carrie, her expression solemn, nodded. "She has a client with her, but she wanted you to go on in when you arrived."

"Who's the new client?"

"I gather someone Kyra knows."

That might explain why she was here earlier than usual after a taxing assignment. Her specialty was guarding children. She couldn't see Kyra turning down a friend, and from what her boss had said a couple of days ago, the other four employees who specialized in children were all still on assignments.

She pushed open the door to her employer's office and stepped into the room. A large man, over six feet, was pacing before Kyra's desk. As Elizabeth entered, he came to a stop and swiveled toward her. The most piercing gray gaze she'd ever seen homed in on her. For a second she glimpsed surprise in his expression from the slight widening of his eyes to the flare of his nostrils.

"This is Elizabeth Walker." Kyra came around from behind her desk and gestured toward a seating arrangement consisting of a couch and two wing chairs. "Elizabeth, this is Slade Caulder." Kyra, long legged and nearly six feet in height, moved toward the seats and took a chair.

Slade tipped his head toward Elizabeth and fit his tall frame into the other wing chair, leaving Elizabeth to take the couch. The intensity pouring off the man charged the air. The hair on her arms stood up.

Poised and professional, Kyra set a pad on her lap and wrote something down on it. "Slade has a problem that needs your expertise. His sixteen-year-old daughter has been threatened, and he needs the services of a bodyguard to protect her. I'll let him tell you what he's looking for."

His body held rigidly, he gripped the arms of the chair and turned his assessing gaze on her. Silence ruled for a long moment as Elizabeth felt catalogued and evaluated. A flicker in his eyes gave her the impression that she fell short. She lifted her chin a notch and focused her attention totally on him. Some people took her petite stature to mean she wasn't capable of defending someone. They were mistaken.

That sharp gaze switched to her employer. "Kyra, she can't be more than a few years or so out of high school herself. How can she guard my daughter effectively?"

Elizabeth stiffened and, before Kyra could answer said, "I'm flattered you think I look so young, but I'm nearly thirty." She bit back the words. "And I can show you my birth certificate if you need proof."

This time he didn't try to disguise his surprise as his look locked on hers.

"I assure you, Slade, Elizabeth is highly qualified and has been working for me for three years. She usually handles cases where a child is involved and has been successful in all her assignments. You wanted someone who could blend in with your daughter and her friends, especially at school. As you can see, she'll be able to."

"What kind of skills do you have?"

Elizabeth relaxed back on the couch, smoothing her straight black skirt as she crossed her legs. Slade's glance flicked to her four-inch heels, and she could imagine what he was thinking. She only indulged in wearing heels when she wasn't working and when she met prospective clients. It added to her height, giving the illusion she was taller than five feet three inches.
Margaret is giving away TWO of her books, Christmas Bodyguard and A Daughter for Christmas. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Margaret Daley is an award winning, multi-published author in the romance genre. One of her romantic suspense books, Hearts on the Line, won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Contest. Recently she has won the Golden Quill Contest, FHL’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest, Winter Rose Contest, Holt Medallion and the Barclay Gold Contest. She wrote for various secular publishers before the Lord led her to the Christian romance market. She currently writes inspirational romance and romantic suspense books for the Steeple Hill Love Inspired lines, romantic suspense for Abingdon Press and historical romance for Summerside Press. She has sold seventy-five books to date.

Margaret is currently the Volunteer Officer for ACFW. She was one of the founding members of the first ACFW local chapter, WIN in Oklahoma. She served as vice-president for two years in WIN-ACFW and is still on its board as an advisor. She has taught numerous classes for online groups, ACFW and RWA chapters. She enjoys mentoring other authors.

You can visit her web site at http://www.margaretdaley.com/ and read excerpts from her books and learn about the ones recently released and soon to be released.

Margaret has two books releasing soon, both with Christmas themes. In keeping with that, I've geared my questions toward everything Christmas. Enjoy!

Hello, Margaret! Welcome to The Borrowed Book. What do you most associate with Christmas where you live?

Lately bad weather. The last few years at Christmas time we have had snow storms and ice storms. This is unusual for Oklahoma. But what I really associate with Christmas is the houses that put up lights in our area. It is beautiful to drive around and view all of them.

Do you have any special family traditions you do at Christmas time?

Going to Christmas Eve service with the family. Another thing we do is go around and look at all the Christmas lights as a family with Christmas music playing on the radio. Decorating the Christmas tree as a family and remembering all of the places we got the ornaments.

Do you have a favorite Christmas Carol and if so do you know why?

I love Christmas music. I often listen to it at times other than Christmas. There are a lot of songs I really enjoyed hearing. But my favorite is The Prayer that Celine Dion sings.

If you could spend Christmas any way you could how would you celebrate?

That’s an easy one—with as much family around me as possible.

Do you have any special memories of Christmas?

I have a lot of fond memories of Christmas. Staying up late and putting together my son’s toys for the next day with my husband. Driving down to Biloxi to see my family. The open houses my parents had when I was little girl on Christmas Eve. Going to my grandparents’ house for Christmas dinner.

What does a typical Christmas Eve and or Christmas Day look like for you?

A typical Christmas Eve is spent going to church with my family and having a quiet time listening to Christmas music. Christmas Day is usually spent with my son and his family as well as my mother-in-law.

Do you have any Christmas movies or Christmas books you like to see or read each year?

I love The Christmas Story. It is hilarious and I usually watch it every year.

Tell us a little about your book:

A Daughter for Christmas, Love Inspired, November 2010 ~ Dr. Max Connors had no idea he'd fathered a child thirteen years ago. Or that his baby girl had been given up for adoption. He locates his daughter in a small Oklahoma town and moves there, hoping to become a part of her life. But when he meets her widowed mother, Max is unsure how to reveal his identity. As he helps Rachel Howard with her plans to homeschool the girl, he's welcomed into the family. But with the holidays approaching, Max must tell Rachel who he really is. Can he make his dreams of family come true by Christmas?

I also have a Christmas book coming out in December called Christmas Bodyguard. It is a Love Inspired Suspense book. It is the first story in my new series called The Guardians, Inc. about female bodyguards.

Both sound fascinating! Where did you get the idea for A Daughter for Christmas?

I wanted to do a secret baby story with a twist. This is my last book in my home schooling series.

Do you have a Christmas message for my readers?

I wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year. May the Lord be with you each day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It is not hard to build good characters if we have the right tools and approach things logically. A list of what to consider:

1) The backstory of each character
2) MLR
3) Form of speech (according to education level)
4) How they are perceived by others (first impressions)
5) Genre
6) Character conflicts
7) Goal
8) Motivation

Since we have previously taught about the role of backstory and MLR we won't go there. Number 3 on our list is a very important tool to use while forming your characters. Afterall, you don't want your characters to all sound alike. The trick? Pay attention to your characters education level and backstory. Do they make use of pet phrases? Is there speech always informal? Do they tend to use more slang during times of stress or become more formal in their speech at those times?

What you don't want is two characters that sound alike. If possible, you can establish speech patterns for each character to such a degree that even without reader tags (he said, she said), the reader knows simply by the way the character is talking who is speaking. Think of Yoda from Star Wars. His speech was distinctive based on the kind of creature he was, and when reading the book, you would automatically know, just by Yoda's speech pattern, to whom the dialogue belonged. Does each character require that degree of variation? No. A few well-placed pet phrases or commonly used slang words can fit the bill.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Julie L. Cannon is the author of the award-winning Homegrown Series, published by Simon & Schuster and described as ‘Southern-Fried Soul Food.’ Her latest release, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, published by Summerside Press, was chose as a Top Pick for Fall 2010 Releases by CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) Retailers & Resources magazine. It was also included in Nielson’s Top 50 Inspirational Releases this month. In addition to writing, Julie teaches creative writing workshops. She lives in Watkinsville, Georgia, with her husband, Tom, and their youngest son, Sam. Visit Julie at her website: www.juliecannon.info.

Julie has written a book with my favorite theme of all--Christmas. Today, she is sharing with us what she loves about Christmas and what inspired her book.

Welcome, Julie! What do you most associate with Christmas where you live?

I live off of Hog Mountain Road in a little town called Watkinsville, Georgia, where herds of cows and fields of hay are beautiful scenery. Along Main Street, we already have dec
orative Christmas lights in shapes of wreaths and holly and bells fastened to the power poles. Lots of churches dot our landscape, and soon they’ll have nativity scenes (both live and peopled with statues) in their front yards.

A Christmas parade winds its way through town the first Saturday of December, complete with lines of tractors and septic-tank cleaning trucks, with majorettes and baton twirlers, and a float from the 4-H club, the FFA Club, and the high school glee club. Every church will sponsor a float, tossing peppermint drops and Tootsie Rolls along with invitations to join them for worship.

White Christmases? Hah! I’ve had seventy-degree Christmas days and ones we think of as bitterly cold in the 30’s. Family is the word around here for Christmas. The first question neighbors ask after “How are you?” is “When are y’all getting together?” meaning when is the family assembling to celebrate the holiday. For the most part, Jesus is still the reason for the season in my community, though we do enjoy our holiday feasts and exchanging gifts.

Do you have any special family traditions you do at Christmas time?

We hang the stockings, hunt down, cut, and decorate the tree, shop for gifts and cook special foods like pecan pies and sweet potato soufflĂ© . When the entire family convenes at my folks’ house (siblings and in-laws and their children) my 75-year-old father reads the Christmas story from the first chapter of Luke’s gospel and he says a blessing over the meal it’s taken weeks to prepare. My mother makes sure she has a crèche scene or two out for display, along with plenty of angels blowing trumpets, and she usually buys paper products emblazoned with Bible verses – probably to get a little of the Gospel into some unnamed family members.

Every year we are blessed to participate in a mission-outreach called Operation Christmas Child, sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse. You fill shoeboxes with hard candy, clothes, toys, school supplies, etc… and these are distributed to many impoverished children the world over. In fact, today, November 15th, is the first day of the National Collection Week for participating in Operation Christmas Child! On-line you can find instructions as well as places to take your shoeboxes for distribution.

One year when my youngest was about six years old we were buying some toys to fill a shoebox and for a number of reasons, I wasn’t letting him choose toys for himself. Standing in the checkout lane, his voice rose up loud and furious as he proclaimed, “I HATE the kids in Afghanistan!” I’m sure we’ll be embarrassing him with this memory for years to come.

Do you have a favorite Christmas Carol and if so do you know why?

Hmmmm… I love them all, but thinking about it, I guess it’s “Silent Night.” I say this because I just realized it’s the one I chose to feature in a very touching scene in “I’ll Be Home fo
r Christmas.” It’s being played in a chapel at war time and people are mourning for soldiers. “Silent Night” is timeless. It never fails to lift me up and transport me someplace where I am infused with hope and peace and awe.

If you could spend Christmas any way you could how would you celebrate?

Well, it would have to have two ingredients: some sort of spiritual aspect – either gathering at a chapel to worship or being in God’s presence somehow, and family. I mean, what else is there? But, if I had limitless funds, and time to do anything, I would pick a Carribean cruise or a lavish ski trip somewhere so scenic it takes your breath away.

Do you have any special memories of Christmas?

When I was 13, my Dad smiled at me and said, “Get in the car, gal.” It was one of those sout
hern Christmas days, not too cold and not too humid. We drove out into the country and pulled down a long dirt drive. My Dad parked the car, hopped out, opened the trunk, and there was a leather saddle. We were at a horse farm. My father had purchased a horse for me! My teenaged heart’s dream! Her name was Molly, she was blind in one eye, and unbeknownst to us, pregnant.

What does a typical Christmas Eve and or Christmas Day look like for you?

Christmas Eve we have a special meal, stand in awe looking at the tree lit up and anticipating the next day and opening the gifts. There’s a Christmas Eve service at our church and we go to that. I make sure I have cinnamon rolls or blueberry muffins, and lots of bacon for breakfast. I only have one child who is still the age to be called a “kid,” but generally all three of my children will be saying, “Can’t we just open one gift tonigh
t? Please?” My husband makes sure the camera is ready for the next a.m. and maybe we’ll watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” or “Charlie Brown’s Christmas,” and then we’ll jump in our beds to try and sleep…

Christmas Day usually starts a little earlier than this 48-year-old woman wants. Sam, the 12-year-old, will most likely be up before the sun, poking around at the gifts under the tree (which we’ve sternly admonished him about, saying “Don’t you open anything Santa brought before your parents are up). He is allowed to get into his stocking. The older two, 19 and 21, will probably need to be roused by us old people. When all are up, and sufficiently awake, we open gifts, and eat the candy and nuts and fruit in our stockings, as well as the bacon and bread I set out. The day is kind of lazy after that; playing with the new toys, calling friends and relatives and visiting.

Do you have any Christmas movies or Christmas books you like to see or read each year?

I like to read
Truman Capote’s short story, “A Christmas Memory,” which is a very southern tale of reminiscence about his Aunt Sook and how they made fruitcake together when he was a young boy. I also enjoy hearing or reading the poem/story “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Since I was born with a book in my hand, I’ve usually got one eye on a book while my family watches “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or “A Christmas Story.”

Tell us a little about your book:

It’s 1944 and Maggie Culpepper is furious at God because of her mother’s untimely death. She stumbles into a recruiting center and enlists in the U.S. Navy WAVES, leaving Watkinsville, Georgia to serve at a naval base in New Jersey. The proverbial boy-next-door, William Dove, whose battle with polio has left him 4-F, or physically unfit for military service, wages a war of his own for Maggie’s heart from the family Christmas tree farm. William learns a priceless lesson in surrendering to God from the farm’s aging caretaker, Tyronious Byrd, who’s been through some deep, dark valleys of his own.

What a gorgeous cover! Where did you get the idea for I’ll Be Home for Christmas?

Summerside Press gave me the title, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, the name of the song Bing Crosby made famous. They told me it was the very first book in a series called ‘When I Fell in Love.’ I began to think and think about the 1940’s and what would be interesting to me – a new twist on a love-story. Somehow I stumbled onto a website about the U.S. Navy WAVES, Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service, and I had my idea. It would be the exact opposite of the usual WWII love story - where the man goes off to fight, leaving the woman behind. My heroine joins the WAVES, leaves Georgia for a naval base in New Jersey, and her beloved is 4-F, or physically unfit for military service because of his battle with polio.

Do you have a Christmas message for my readers?

Yes. God gave us a gift - himself in human form. Jesus is truly the gift that keeps on giving. There will be a day in the future when Believers are with God and Jesus forever, and there will be no more wars, no more casualties of war, no more grief and no more tears.

But down here on earth, having Jesus in a person’s life does not make them immune from war or its ensuing heartache. But, though we will go through dark valleys here, God is with us through His Son, and will lead us through safely, and if we surrender to Him, He will use the suffering in our lives for good.

Julie is giving away a copy of her book, I'll Be Home for Christmas. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!

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