Thursday, October 31, 2013

Today we're happy to visit with Vannetta Chapman, author of Amish romance and mystery novels. Even though it's Halloween, you'll find nothing scary here. Read on without fear!

So tell us a little about yourself. Have you always wanted to be an author? If not, what made you decide to write, and how long have you been at it? 
I have always been a reader. I was sick a lot as a  child, with asthma and allergies. So I had a lot of bed time and a lot of reading time! I remember in 4th grade, begging my mom to go to the library with me so I could get an ADULT library card. We had two rooms in our small library, and I’d already read everything in the children’s section. I was thrilled when mom agreed. I’m sure my love of writing was born in my love of reading.

Are you a plotter, a pantser, or a combination? 
I sit down at the computer and make it up. I don’t have an outline, and I don’t have any idea where the story is headed. I do have my characters firmly in my mind. When I reach about a quarter of the way through the story, I stop what I’m doing and write the ending. This may be another quarter of the story. Then I go back and fill in the gap. This might not work for anyone else, but it’s definitely worked for me.

Do you write full time, or do you work it in alongside a full-time job? 
For 15 years I taught full time and wrote on the side. Then starting in the fall of 2011 I turned to writing full time. I could have kept doing both, but I was missing out on a lot of family time. I found myself working most weekends and many nights. So I made the decision to tighten the old family belt, and only work ONE job. It’s turned out fine, and I thank God daily that I have work to do.

What do your kids think about your being a writer? 
I went through a lot of rejections before I was published—picture several nails on the wall filled with rejection letters. I remember asking my son to go and get the mail. He was 10 at the time, and we had to walk down our front walk to the mailbox. He said, “Do you mean you want me to pick up your rejection letters?” He laughed and dodged out of my reach. I know he’s very proud of me now, and we can look back on that day and laugh. I hope I taught him to be stubborn and never give up.

How do you get your best ideas? 
From real life. The folks I know, the places we go, the news I read. All of my stories are based in something I’ve experienced or something someone around me has experienced. The current book I’m working on is my Murder, Freshly Baked. It’s an Amish mystery, but I have an Englisch guy in town who is a veteran and is suffering from PTSD. I live near the Ft. Hood Military base, and I see military personnel a lot. They have my abiding respect and gratitude.

What do you do to get past writer’s block? 
I don’t like that word at all. I don’t even SAY that word. Ack! I have a certain number of words to write every day (except Sunday when I rest). I write them no matter what. Even if they’re bad, stupid, impossible scenarios—I write them. What happens to me more often is I start feeling tired and grumpy. When that happens, I know it’s time to take an afternoon off and go for a walk or to the movies. But I do my word count before I go.

Do you like to listen to music when you write? 
Some scenes I want quiet while I’m writing. Other scenes, I need the energy of music. I have a lot of iTunes “lists” – and I’ll click the one that best reflects what I’m writing at the moment. Those lists include everything from gospel to classic rock to c&w to instrumental.

Writing is a sedentary occupation. What do you do for exercise? 
I try to go to the gym for 45 minutes a day, and also take another walk in the evening. I think it’s important to keep moving and take care of ourselves, and it does help keep the ideas coming.

What fun fact would you like your readers to know about you? I’m a little phobic about tall bridges … you know the flyover types? I’ll go FAR out of my way to avoid one. 

Vannetta Chapman is the author of several novels, including A Promise for Miriam and Falling to Pieces. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta won the 2012 Carol award for best mystery. She is also a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She write Amish romance for Harvest House, Amish mysteries for Zondervan and Amish novellas for Abingdon. Vannetta was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. For more information, visit her at

You can also link up with Vannetta on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Youtube.

Don't forget to stop by tomorrow, when you can enter to win a free copy of Vannetta's latest release, The Christmas Quilt!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I thought I’d talk to you today about “taking care of the writer.” 
We talk a lot about formatting, scene and sequence, characterization, plots, even synopsis … but we rarely talk about the writer.

Whether you are a writer or just know someone who is, I think there are certain things that you can do to take care of yourself.

  1. Let go of the guilt. Many of us feel pulled in a dozen different directions. When we do finally sit down to write, we feel guilty—because we’re not doing something else. Clothes need folding, or dishes need washing, or maybe the lawn needs to be mowed! All those are good things, but when you do sit down to write—just write. Let the guilt go.
  2. Get some sleep. I know we all want to write the book. We have the characters and ideas and plots in our mind. However, our body needs rest. Even when I was teaching full time and writing for multiple houses, I made sure I had 6 hours of sleep during the week and 7-8 on weekends. Your body and your  mind needs that time. In my opinion, you’re better off writing one hour instead of two, if it means you get the sleep you need.
  3. Step away from the computer! Oh my, between blogging, writing, and social media I could sit at my computer for EVER. Because I’m never really done. It’s hard for me to swallow that one. I always thought I could complete any to-do list if I focused. It’s important to realize that you need to step away from the computer. You need to eat, spend time with your family, and take a walk outside. You need to LIVE, and when you do – you’re writing will be much richer.
  4. Say yes to your family. I will confess that when my children were young, and I was writing, there was a note on the door. “Don’t knock unless you’re bleeding – a LOT.” I was serious too. Mom’s time in the cave was important. However, my kids are older now, grown and moved out of the house. And I almost never turn them down if they call and ask me to go see a movie, or eat dinner, or let them come and do laundry. We play board games or watch old movies on tv. We spend time together. They really are more important to me than words on a page.
  5. Take Sunday off. I know. I know. When my pastor first spoke on this, I asked him, “Do you mean like … every Sunday?” He decided I needed an intervention. But the truth is that we all need a day of rest. And it’s sort of – well, a commandment. So take one day off a week, whether it’s Sunday or some other day.
  6. Get moving. When I’m stuck on a word, a get down on the floor and do 10 sit-ups. When I make my word count, I reward myself with a visit to the gym or a 20 minute walk through the neighborhood. Then I come back home and start working on the blogs, marketing, and accounting. We have to take care of ourselves physically, or our writing will suffer.
  7. Eat what your body needs. You body does not need Cheetos or chunky monkey ice cream or a 2 liter of soda. You need fruits, vegetables, and a lot of water. You need a little meat and cheese. It’s pretty easy really. Want to feel good? Want to write well? Eat and when you do, eat the right things.

It probably sounds like I don’t spend any time writing. But I do! Honest! I spend at least 8 hours a day, and when I was working full time I spent 2 hours before work and 2 hours after. I love to write. I love to sit in from of my computer and make it up. I have a set word goal every day, and I write 3-4 books a year. I’m focused—like a laser. But it’s very important to take care of myself. If that means that I don’t have time for Candy Crush, that’s okay. If it means that I have one less post on Facebook, that’s okay. Set your priorities, and then follow them – and make one priority taking care of yourself.

If this list seems impossible, start with one item. Bless yourself in one way for a month. Then go back to the list and choose one more.

May your rest, and your writing, be everything you’ve dreamed it will be.

Vannetta Chapman is the author of several novels, including A Promise for Miriam and Falling to Pieces. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta won the 2012 Carol award for best mystery. She is also a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She write Amish romance for Harvest House, Amish mysteries for Zondervan and Amish novellas for Abingdon. Vannetta was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. For more information, visit her at

facebook --
twitter -- @VannettaChapman
pinterest --
youtube -- check out my youtube page. It's at

Return Friday for a chance to win a copy of Vanetta's new release!

Monday, October 28, 2013

About the Book

"Lisa T. Bergren’s popular Grand Tour series concludes as Cora Kensington journeys farther into Italy, wrestles with a terrible ultimatum from her father, and comes to terms with the Father who will never fail her.

America’s newest heiress must decide if her potential fortune is rationale enough to give up her freedom and all that God is leading her toward. And when her newly-discovered siblings are threatened with ruin, her quandary deepens. Then as Cora nears Rome, more journalists are tracking the news story of the decade—“Copper Cora,” the rags-to-riches girl—and want to know more about her family and the men vying for her attention. Meanwhile, a charming Italian countess decides that if Cora isn’t going to claim Will’s heart, she might just try…"

Amber's Review

The conclusion to the "Grand Tour" series promised to be full of drama - and that promise did not go unfulfilled! From health issues to job woes...from travel dangers to numerous threats to the heart...Glittering Promises is engaging and, overall, satisfying.

This third leg of the journey finds Cora and her group in Italy, spending a lot of time in the countryside, away from the press and those who wish to exploit them. I confess that, while I enjoyed the descriptions of Italy, I did miss the broader variety of adventures and traveling descriptions found in the previous two books. But there were still plenty of twists in this book to keep me interested.

The honest struggles of the characters endeared me to them, especially those of Cora, Will, and Vivian. There are some tough choices to be made, and a lot of startling and saddening happenings and revelations. This is certainly an interesting ending to their tour, let me tell you!

Glittering Promises concludes this series full of romance, glimpses into the past, and tough questions. I loved the insights and new perspectives Cora gained, and I loved the tender moments. And might I add that Cora's big brother is wonderful? (Go Felix!) If you like historical romance, don't miss the Grand Tour!

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the Litfuse Publicity blog tour.*

  • This review was posted at Seasons of Humility a few days ago for the Litfuse Publicity blog tour. Click HERE to read that post and view the author bio, related links, and giveaway information. (The tour-wide giveaway featured at the end of that post ends in a couple of days, so don't miss it!)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Good morning, BB fans! Thanks to everyone who participated in our "puzzling" Friday giveaway! Keep all those facebook and Twitter notifications, coming!

This week's winner is: 

Melanie (frequentreader19 (at) gmail (dot) com ) - Dark Biology by Bonnie Doran.

Congratulations, Melanie! Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book.

“... don’t sever what you are for what you couldn’t be ...”

This line from the Demon Hunter song “Thorns” has been haunting me for a couple of days.

Who am I, really? And who is it I want to be? What could I be in danger of abandoning in my grasping for the unattainable?

I am ...

... spun into being by the Creator of the universe, not by chance but deliberately, despite the questionable circumstances of my conception.

...redeemed by the priceless blood of the Son of God, despite my being completely without worth on my own.

...complete in Christ, despite my being very much a work in progress.

...seated in the heavenlies with Christ, despite the fact that my feet walk this earth.

... a daughter of the Most High God, despite my stumbling and doubts.

... equipped as a warrior, capable of skill and strength, despite my flaws and weakness.

...given access to the very Spirit of God, who lives inside me, despite my being a fragile, temporal being of flesh.

Why would I want to trade these for anything?

And yet I am tempted to, every day. I find myself angry, or at least annoyed, with my circumstances.  Envious of someone else’s success. Longing for the supposed validation of approval—or even just understanding—from others.

What do I think I want, that I don’t already have?

If it were easy to walk in what God has created us to be, there would be no references to fighting the good fight, or the need to stand firm in Christ. But so many times, when the battle is particularly intense, or relentless, I also find myself utterly depleted, emotionally and spiritually.

And yet ... He is still there. He is still enough. He is still the One who pursued me and called me to be His while I remained entrenched in rebellion. Who extends me grace, even when I lash out at those I love. Who coaxes me with His love, and sends the good, soaking downpour of His presence, when my heart is hard and my spirit is dry. His timing remains a mystery to me, but He has never failed to show up when I come to the end of myself and cry out to Him.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world ...

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

11 Therefore remember... 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2)

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2, all NKJV)

Friday, October 25, 2013

It's Fun Friday at The Borrowed Book!

To enter:

Leave the time it took you to complete the puzzles in the comments section as well as your email address for notifying you if you've won. Winners will be drawn from ALL of the times, so the person with the fastest time may not be the actual winner, but by leaving your time, you double your chances.

Want another entry? Tweet your puzzle time and mention The Borrowed Book, get another entry. RETWEET our Tweet, get two entries!

Post your puzzle time on BB's Facebook wall guessed it...get another entry!

Post it on your OWN Facebook wall and you could get as many as FIVE entries.

It's all a way to spread the word about the great giveaways on BB. So c'mon! Help us spread the word, and have a little fun at the same time. Enter all weekend long! Winners will be announced Sunday night at midnight.

This week's puzzle feature is brought to you by Bonnie Doran and her newest release, Dark Biology.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Everyone has their own story about the road to publication. Here’s mine:

I wrote devotions beginning in 1972 and continuing through 2009. At that point, I lost contact with the editor who had been giving me annual assignments. I took that as God’s hint to concentrate on fiction. Prior to 2002, I had been working on a YA science fiction novel but was still struggling to beat it into shape.

Sometime later, maybe 2006, several of my critique partners suggested—kicked me in the rear—to switch to adult science fiction. That’s when I started Dark Biology.

I had been attending writers conferences beginning in 1996 with Colorado Christian Writers Conference and 2003 with American Christian Writers Conference. I kept learning, kept pitching, and kept getting rejected. For sixteen long years. No one took the bait until 2010 when Terry Burns, an agent with Hartline Literary, asked for a proposal and later for a full manuscript.

One problem: I hadn’t finished the novel. Word to the wise: Don’t do that.

In May 2012, one day before Colorado Christian Writers Conference, I submitted the manuscript for Dark Biology to Terry. I didn’t sign with him, but only because another agent offered me a contract first. Terry encouraged me a lot over the years, and having his request hanging over my head helped me finish the novel.

At that year’s conference, I met Steve Hutson of WordWise Media who offered me a contract in August. Later, I learned that Steve had been a client of Terry’s before Steve went into the agenting business.

The ink was barely dry when Pelican Book Group offered me a contract. I became a Pelican author two days before the ACFW Conference. I attended the conference in a daze.

Pelican put me to work. My first assignment was to eliminate three POVs, which was a condition of the contract. Then I got the first round of edits, which cut whole chapters and macro-edited the novel.

Next came round two. For this round, I worked on a more detailed edit while incorporating comments from a former astronaut candidate. That edit seemed brutal because I was juggling so much. The Pelican people were kind enough, but I had to re-work whole scenes. The result was a much better book.

A line editor then checked the work. I read through the galleys for any typos that had somehow escaped. We completed this phase in January.

Pelican scheduled the release date for October 25. However, I got a huge surprise when my sister emailed me that she’d received her order from Amazon. My baby was six weeks early! I called her. “What do you mean, you have my book? I don’t have my book!” My shipment arrived the next day. The print version is available now. The e-book version releases October 25.

I’ve barely started the marketing process. That’s another side to writing that I’m learning about: appearing on this blog and others as part of a month-long blog tour, handing out bookmarks and pens, talking about the book on social media. I haven’t even touched book signings and (shudder) speaking.  

The gestation period for Dark Biology was at least six years and probably more. I didn’t keep good records back then.

The road to publication for my debut novel involved conferences for seventeen years, several writing and critique groups, loads of shorter pieces that I wrote, pitches, rejections, tears, and heartache. Sometimes I wondered why I continued. I won the Perseverance Award in 2006 from CCWC, but it was another six long years before I signed a contract.  

Every author has a road to travel. Thankfully, most are shorter than mine. I’m convinced, however, that
my journey concluded in God’s timing with the agent, publisher, publicist, and influencers He handpicked for me.

Don't forget to stop by tomorrow, when you can enter to win a free copy of Bonnie's debut novel, Dark Biology!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On October 27, 1948, a deadly smog began amassing in the working town of Donora, Pennsylvania. By the following day, residents suffered signs of respiratory distress, which was attributed to asthma. People attending a football game couldn’t see the players on the field. Driving home was like driving in dense fog. The smog kept growing, and over the next week, twenty people died. The smog continued until rain fell on October 31. Afterward, fifty more people died and hundreds suffered health problems for the rest of their lives. Even ten years after the incident, mortality rates in Donora were higher than those in other nearby communities.
The culprit? An atmospheric inversion layer plus hydrogen fluoride and sulfur dioxide emissions from U.S. Steel's Donora Zinc Works and its American Steel & Wire plant. 

An inversion layer happens when the air near the ground stays cooler than the air above. It doesn’t expand and can’t rise. Whatever is released into the air near the ground stays there. During this deadly week, the factories kept pumping out industrial pollutants, and the people of Donora were slowly poisoned by the cloud that settled over them. Their lungs were burned with sulfur and their red blood cells destroyed by carbon monoxide.

Unfortunately, both U.S. Steel and other companies in Donora conspired with the U.S. Public Health Service to keep the facts from the public. Their part in the incident wasn’t revealed until the 1990s.

On November 1, 2008, the New York Times described the incident as “one of the worst air pollution disasters in the nation’s history.  The Donora Smog Museum was opened on October 20, 2008. It’s located in an old storefront at 595 McKean Avenue near Sixth Street.

Writer’s block. Some say it doesn’t exist. I beg to differ. 
It’s true that some writers keep on writing in spite of lack of inspiration, family woes, or depression. I’m not one of them. 
Here are a few suggestions I’ve found helpful: 

  1. Pray. Okay, this seems obvious, but I can’t tell you the number of times I haven’t taken my writing problems to God. He cares about our problems, even the ones that aren’t shake-up-my-life ones.
  2. Recognize that it’s okay not to write for a while. Life happens. I’ve been sick, watched my mother decline in the last stages of her life, and experienced the winter curse of Seasonal Affective Disorder. God doesn’t expect His children to be automatons. When my mother lived in a nursing home for over six years, sometimes the best I could manage was a blog post. 
  3. Fear is a big component of writer’s block. It can dominate your thinking. I can’t face a blank page. I have nothing to say. The story is going nowhere, and so am I. Open that Word document and congratulate yourself for “showing up at the page.” Sometimes that’s as far as I can get before my fingers wander to my favorite computer game.  
  4. Write ten words. Ten words. You can handle that. It seems lame, but it can get those juices flowing.  
  5. When I’m in the rough-draft phase of a novel, I hate what I’m writing. The story’s lousy. Here’s some good news: It’s supposed to be lousy. The first draft may be as rough as an unpaved road, but get it down on paper. You can’t revise something that stays in your head. 
  6. Got creativity? No? God is the ultimate Creator. Look at a giraffe compared to a panda or a sunset compared to a thunderstorm. Trust God to instill a little of His creativity in you.
  7. One reason for writer’s block is that we’ve run dry. Fill up the well. Take two hours, just you and yourself. Visit a museum, read in a park, or take a walk. And be deliberately present in the moment. The purpose is to drink in the beauty, not to worry about your writer’s block. 
  8. Journal. Write whatever comes to mind, whether you’re worried about the plot of your WIP or whether you’re certain that the perennials in your garden won’t come back next year. Admit your worries in written form and get them out of the way.  
  9. Read. Read writing books but inspirational ones, not how-tos. The Artist’s Way is excellent and one I’ve re-read several times. Be prepared to work through I-don’t-want-be-honest-with-myself questions over a twelve-week period. Other resources include Bird by Bird by Ann Lamont and Madeleine L’Engle Herself compiled by Carole F. Chase. And by all means read fiction, both inside and outside your preferred genre. 
  10. Play with a Slinky. Seriously. A former editor with Writer’s Digest claimed that a Slinky break helped. 
I wrote my debut novel, Dark Biology, with various amounts of Velcro stuck to my back. I didn’t always rip it free quickly. But by God’s grace, I finished the book.
Writer’s block isn’t forever. Be patient with yourself, take a deep breath, and wrench yourself from the Velcro, one hook at a time.

Bonnie Doran’s heart is in science fiction. She enjoys reading,
cooking, solving Sudoku puzzles, and telling groan-producing puns. Her husband of thirty years is an electrical engineer. They live in Denver with two Siamese cats. 

Media Links:

Website: Where Faith and Science Fiction Collide:
Twitter: @bonniedoran
Twitter hashtag: #DarkBiology 

Come back Friday for a chance to win a copy of Bonnie's book!

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