Saturday, December 24, 2011

         Okay, I goofed. This was supposed to post on Christmas Day. But I'm a living example of why we need so much advice 
about "how" to do Christmas. Too busy, too busy.

    Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.
AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple form and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.
If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

             Jesus -- The Reason For the Season
                                           By Rachel Hauck
Through the narrow scope of 2000 years, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appears to be one lucky woman. Chosen by God to give birth to His son, the Savior of the world? All right, Mary, way to go.
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” Gabriel said.
How many of us would like a declaration like that? Highly favored. The Lord is with you. But Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Mary’s seems confident and resolved when she responds, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”
She’d just been told the Holy Spirit will come upon her, that God’s power will overshadow her, that she’d become with child even though she wasn’t married, and she said, “I’m the Lord’s servant. Let your words be true.”
I find this amazing! A young woman. Ancient Bethlehem. Unwed mother. They stoned women for such things in her day. But Mary believed in God. And submitted to His will. He gave her the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit given to us. If He gave her confidence, He will give us confidence. Even though, like Mary, our situation seems impossible.
Listen to Mary’s song later on in the first chapter of Luke.
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me Holy is his name…”
Conceiving a child out of wedlock, by Divine intervention. Not a girl’s every day existence. Yet she had a Yes in her heart to God. She rejoiced. She boldly said, “Generations will remember me!”
How we struggle to trust God with our children. Our finances. Our emotional well-being. We worry. We fret. And wonder why we have no peace.
Christmas is the season where words like joy, peace and love are bantered around like Christmas candy. Let’s not take them as just words, but as truth. Let’s be like Mary and embrace God’s favor on our lives. Boldly declare "He’s done great things for me!”
Out of the grit of our own souls, we can reach His heart, and feel Him reaching for ours. No matter the pain of our past, present or future, God is there for us. He is able. Best of all, He is willing. “My soul glorifies the Lord this Christmas!”
Rachel Hauck is an award winning, best selling author who believes God has done great things for her. She lives in Central Florida with her husband and ornery pets. Her next release is Love Lifted Me with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, January 2012. Then in April, look for The Wedding Dress.

Monday, October 31, 2011

New Life for First Novels

Today we have a guest post from writer Lyn Cote, whose historical and contemporary fiction has won many awards, including this year's CAROL from American Christian Fiction Writers. Her books have also been named finalists for romance writing's highest honor, the RITA, and the HOLT Medallion and the National Readers Choice Award. 
Lyn approaches her historical fiction this way:

I prefer to take history and gently fit my characters into the historical setting as if they were a true part of it. Many times when I do my research for a new story, I find that the true events are more wonderful than anything I could have made up. One example of this was in my WWII book, Bette. I read that before WWII, two Nazi agents were walking in NY City and arguing. The argument became so heated that they walked out into traffic and one was hit by a car and killed. The Nazis were being followed at the time and the FBI agent was able to find important papers on the dead Nazi. So I used this scene in my book. I mean--could I think of anything more bizarre?
Recently, Lyn went back to her beginnings. And for anyone toiling on their first book -- especially while taking care of little kids -- Lyn's story should give you hope. Her first novel La Belle Christiane is now available on Amazon and Nook sites for .99 cents. Print copies  are also available.   
Here's a short summary of this historical romance set in the 1770s:

"Can the beautiful daughter of a French courtesan find a love that lasts for a lifetime? Beautiful Christiane Pelletier is next in a line of French courtesans. Her family has been favorites through the reigns of two monarchs. But the winds of change are sweeping Europe, and after her mother's violent murder, Christiane flees France with her renegade father. Leaving wealth and privilege behind, she survives the Canadian wilderness and later finds herself involved in the burgeoning American Revolution. But through all the changes, one man lingers in her memory. Once he was her friend; now he has become her enemy. Will he also become her destiny?"
Also, check out Lyn's website where she offers tips on writing and self-publishing. 

First Book, Now Available 
                    by Lyn Cote
When I began writing my first manuscript, I literally ran after my two toddlers with a clipboard in my hand and wrote whenever they paused! I wrote that story without knowing anything about writing or marketing fiction. In fact, I told myself just to write the book and then I'd think about polishing and marketing it. The thought of that was overwhelming at that time. It took me three years of writing to finish my first manuscript-1,000 handwritten pages. Whew!
I found out that while it garnered interest from agents and editors, it never found a publisher. I think that's because there are "unwritten" rules for inspirational fiction and I didn't know them or follow them. I still think it's a good story and I've revised it and improved it once more. And now it's FINALLY available in digital and print. I did this because I didn't want it to sit ignored in my files forever. So now I'll let the readers decide whether it deserved to be published or not. I hope you agree with me and let others know about it. 
                               -- Lyn

                                                        First page excerpt from Chapter One

British Canada, July 1774
Tonight, I’ll lie beside some stranger as his wife. Christiane blinked away the bright morning sunlight but could not blink away the dread. Once again she had embarked on another journey that would change her life. She sat between her Algonquin father Shaw-nee-awk-kee and his son in a birch bark canoe. To the rhythm of the dipping paddles, they were gliding farther down the Ottawa River. In the cramped space, she hugged her knees to herself and pressed her forehead against her tattered skirt. 
She glanced sideways into the remorseless current, wishing for time, for control. But instead, the river, shimmering with molten sunlight, gave her glimmers of the past--candlelight on silver, soft lace against skin, frosting on the tip of the tongue. But she’d fled France with her father, here to Canada and then. . . She thrust all thoughts of the past year aside. She had to face today. Tonight, I’ll be some stranger’s wife
The thought brought fear, a rush of sensation—as if the bottom of the canoe, her protection, parted, and she was plunged into the cool water. She fought her way to the surface of this feeling, gasping for air, pushing down panic. She pressed her face harder against her knees. I will not shame myself. Ever.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A dear friend is expecting her first baby, while writing her first novel.

The baby news filled me with joy, the kind that put tears in my eyes. But the news also led me to think about threading that needle known as Motherhood and Writing.

I want my friend to cherish motherhood, and I want her to finish her novel.

With two kids, six years homeschooling, five published novels, and ten-thousand readings of "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?," I almost feel qualified to offer some advice.

So here's my humble five-point offering to every mom serving in the happy trenches while trying to write.

1. Don't quit writing. 

There will never -- never -- be a good time to write. Never. Ever. Stop thinking the world will someday agree with your compulsion to put words on paper. The world doesn't care. But YOU care and frankly, God cares because God made you a writer.

If that last statement strikes you as pretentious, congratulations. Feel free to pick up your glue-gun and complete all those Martha Stewart projects. You're not a writer.

Meanwhile, we blessed wretches will continue to comb through our minds, searching for meaning and wrestling with words.

Writers need to write. Need, not want. The same way some birds were designed to fly south every winter whether they feel like it or not, writers were designed to translate thoughts into words. You will know if you're among that flock if deep down inside, you feel like you might suffer some kind of death if you don't write. Soul, spirit, emotion. Maybe even physical death. Frank McCourt once said that he wrote "Angela's Ashes" because if he didn't, he would "die howling."

The sooner a writer recognizes this built-in need, the sooner they become a productive person rather than a garden-variety dysfunctional oddity understood by precisely nobody.

2. You're a mom. Make it manageable.

Motherhood comes first.

Scratch that.

Your husband comes first, even after baby arrives. Then baby. Then writing. Break that order and you'll build an idol.

But because of where it stands on the totem pole, mom-writing needs manageable goals. When my kids were toddlers and took naps, I placed a note card over my computer that read "500 words an hour." My daily goal. With a background in newspapers, my five hundred words seemed like a cake walk. Some days I was surprised by 1000 words. Other days I could squeak out six. (Yes, six: "My brain has turned into Jello.")

But on those difficult days -- both in motherhood and writing -- remind yourself that this glorious gift of life will only make you a better writer, eventually. If you don't quit. I guarantee this. With motherhood, a heart grows new chambers of understanding. It only improves your writing.

If you don't quit.

3. If somebody understands your blessing/affliction, cherish them.

My first novel,"The Stones Cry Out," arrived like a thunderclap. The story came complete with a cast of characters, a setting, and a plot.

Unfortunately, the timing couldn't have been worse: I was seven months pregnant with my first child.

But God's timing doesn't resemble man's timing. And the gift seemed perishable. So, despite the gasps of horror from polite ladies who probably had good intentions, I waddled into the FBI's forensic mineralogy department, asking questions about murder and mayhem.

Only a handful of people understood why I was starting a novel when it looked like my water was about to break. My husband. My dad who was battling stage-four throat cancer. My mom who was also a writer. And an elderly uncle who once attempted to write a novel but quit -- he really understood.

The rest of the world treated me as though the novel was a betrayal of the child in my womb.

Fourteen years later, not much has changed. The other day, a homeschool mom asked me in a baffled tone of voice: "Why do you even feel the need to write these books -- I mean, are you making a ton of money or something?"

4. You can answer those questions, but it probably won't help.

Any explanation will make you sound like a televangelist who can't afford glittery clothes ("God called me"), or just plain weird ("The day doesn't seem quite real until I write about it.")

Most people won't understand. But writers don't live an either-or existence. They live two lives. Here, and not here. Experiencing life, and imagining it.

Yes, I know. I just described a dual personality.

But as Dorothea Brande writes in her essential little book "Becoming a Writer," the writer's double existence is not a bad thing:

"A dual personality, to the reader who has a number of half-digested notions about the constitution of the mind, is an unlucky fellow who should be in a psychopathic ward; or, at the happiest, a flighty hysterical creature. Nevertheless, every author is a very fortunate sort of dual personality, and it is this very fact that makes him such a bewildering, tantalizing, irritating figure to the plain man of affairs who flatters himself that he, at least, is all of a piece."

5. All interruptions come from God.

As though stating the case for me, my kids just knocked on my office door. They want pancakes. They want to start their school work. They want me.

And I am happy to go.

Very happy to go.

I can always write about it later.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My husband recently met one of his harmonica heroes, Charlie Mussselwhite. That's Musselwhite on the left, and Hunk of Italy on the right. (Cute, aint he?)

If you haven't heard Musselwhite's harmonica, you haven't heard the Blues. I could say the same for my hubby, only he's not as famous. Yet.

Musselwhite is rumored to be the inspiration for Dan Akroyd's "Blues Brothers" character. More than just a musician; Musselwhite's an artist.

You can see that artistry in the simplest things. Take the liner notes on his most recent CD, "The Well."

"This tune," he writes of the title song, "tells my story in a nutshell about what happened when baby Jessica McClure fell into a well in Texas. I was struck by the courage of this child at the bottom of the well with a broken arm, singing nursery rhymes to herself. Suddenly my alcohol problem/addiction seemed very minor in comparison to her life and death struggle. I decided as a prayer for her, I would show some bravery too and not drink until she got out of the well. When she was rescued three days later, I was out of the well, too. I haven't had a drink in 22 years."

The story is amazing all on its own. But check out those undertones, resonating like minor keys. Don't we tend to fall into wells of our own digging? Doesn't God stand ready with the rescue crew, if we'll just admit we messed up and need help? And isn't it telling that Jesus waited for a truly messed up woman at a well in order to tell her about "living water"?

Maybe I'm reading too much into it (hey, I'm a writer). But then again, maybe not.

Here's Musselwhite playing the instrument God put in his hands. The song is "Christo Redemptor" from his very first album.

Wait for the harp to come in. And enjoy.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I wrote the following blog post for Novel Rocket (if you haven't subscribed to that excellent feed, do it now. Especially if you're hoping to learn more about writing fiction). 

       I can still remember the ringing telephone.
 Coming through the door -- beach sand still in my hair -- I lunged for the phone, always certain somebody has just died.
     But it was my editor at Revell.
     "You won!" she exclaimed.
     It will sound disingenuous but the truth often embarrasses: I didn't know what she was talking about. Several significant moments of silence passed. Then an idea dislodged itself from my beach brain. 

     Oh. Christy Awards. This weekend.
     My first novel, "The Stones Cry Out,” was nominated for best first novel.
     "What's wrong?" the editor asked, as the silence stretched on.
     "You’re probably in shock. Isn’t it great news?!"
     And no.
     Despite the nomination, I never expected to win. Given the great novels competing in the same category, I didn't think my book would win.
    Actually, I didn't think it should win. 

     My first novel reminded me of a knock-kneed colt struggling to stand up on its own feet. That it would win an award like the Christy seemed absurd. I wondered if a mistake had been made.
     Ever since, I've felt a certain ambivalence about winning that honor. I figured my problem was pride (I’m human; there is always pride). But four novels later, I can see some sense in my ambivalence. And I can share three important lessons. 

One: Pray that your first book is not your best. 
     Despite the award in my hand, I remained busy grieving my novice abilities. Fortunately, God countered the sackcloth-and-ashes with a spirit of perseverance. I decided the only way to get better was to keep going.
     “Most people won’t realize that writing is a craft,” said Katherine Anne Porter. “You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.”
     Of course, you will find your own ways of enduring the early apprenticeship, but one of my favo
rites was The Tour of First Novels.
     One day, at my most frustrated, I stormed into the library and checked out first novels by my favorite authors. Within hours, relief was humming through my veins. Not that schadenfreude sort of relief, but something productive.
     Most of those first books were bad. Some even stunk. And none matched their author’s later output.
     Like most first novels, those first books read like seed pods yearning to bloom. 
    Or: knock-kneed colts struggling to stand. 

Two: In the modern era of e-books, the first book might not be so final. 

     Some months ago, the copyright to "The Stones Cry Out" returned to me.
     Here came my colt, running for home.
     Unfortunately, temptation was riding with it.
     The rationalization went like this: It won a Christy. Received good reviews. Launched a successful series. You should just put it on Kindle. As-is….
     But we’re called to be workers who need not be ashamed, “rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15). Since I still didn't love my first book, it was m
y responsibility to do something about it.
     With prayers for humility and discernment, I proceeded from Page 1 and continued to the end, rounding out scenes, adding flesh to characters, trying to bring the story closer to what followed in the rest of the Raleigh Harmon series.
     And when "The Stones Cry Out” was put on Kindle, I didn't hesitate to add the Christy Award honor.
    Because it looked different to me now.
     Not only for the new work done, though it played a large part. The difference was lesson three.
      I didn’t write that first book to win an award; I am grateful for it. But I am also grateful that the honor didn’t fill me with (more) pride. The simple fact is, I write because God made me a writer. That's what I’m supposed to do. Any honors, awards, or leading positions on the best-seller list can only be viewed through the lens of grace.
     Completely undeserved: And yet, there it is.
     And the apprenticeship carries on accordingly.

Monday, June 20, 2011

For the Love of Dog

Our family dog, Jesse. Ever protective, she's watching the kids swim in the river.

Here's a short story by Ray Bradbury, posted on  You will never look at dogs the same way again.

Read and reflect.

And rejoice.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Poet as Prophet

Today's news is that Usama Bin Laden is dead.

Today is also Holocaust Remembrance Day.

God's timing is ceaselessly fascinating. While each individual can draw their own comparisons between the two events, I found myself recalling lines from a W.H. Auden poem, "1st September 1939."

September 1, 1939 was the day Hitler invaded Poland. The 20th century was never the same again.

They say history repeats itself. It does. But history also rhymes with itself.

And Auden's poem fits both then, and now.

Here is the poet reading his poem.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Blues

Joe "Blue," bringing down the house
When it comes to music, I prefer long ballads and poetry.

But I married a blues musician. Our first years of wedded bliss included dancing every weekend -- with me thinking, "You're not going to repeat that line again, are you?"

The structure of a blues song is so simple it seems cruel. Usually there's nothing more than three stanzas with two repeating lines, followed by a third line -- that replies to the repeating line!

It's enough to drive a novelist straight into the arms of William Faulkner.

But a funny thing happened on the way to growing up: My appreciation for The Blues has deepened every year.

Rock music can obscure any shallow sentiments with decibels and lightning guitar licks. Folk singers can pirouette on brilliant phrasing, even if there's no feeling involved. Grunge grinds down on despair, proving misery loves company. And rap -- well, let's just say rap doesn't belong in this paragraph about music.

Meanwhile, the simplicity of a Blues song works like an auger for truth. The song's meaning doesn't come from its words or fancy chord progressions. Its meaning comes from the heart, and the repeating lines underscore the sentiment -- sorrow, pain, loss, affliction.

A good novelist can't simply type a book. And a true Blues musician can't just sing a song. The common goal is to reach the heart. Which often requires bleeding in public -- on purpose.

Some religious people describe The Blues as "the devil's music." But I think it's closer to the opposite. It's about those sighs "too deep for words."

Recently The Hunk of Italy and I attended the Washington Blues Society's annual awards show. For the second year running, The Hunk was nominated for best blues harp while his band -- Hot Rod's Blues Review -- was nominated for best band. (By the way, double nominations two consecutive years doesn't means poor supply. Just the opposite. Most states are fortunate to have one blues society. Washington has six -- six! -- grooving the Northwest from the Oregon border up to Canada and across the Cascades into Spokane. From April to October, there's a blues event nearly every weekend.) Although The Hunk lost to the gracious and equally talented Jeff Herzog, it was a lovely night at The Triple Door.

And it reminded me once again why The Blues and the people who play it are so special.

Here's the short list:

Age. Other than the beautiful Stacy Jones, who can belt it out like LouAnn Barton, most blues musicians are pushing 40 or 50. A serious percentage are giving 60 new meaning. And since age generally matures the heart, the older the musician, the better his Blues.
      Take that, MTV.

Tone. Not just musically, but conduct. As wild, individualistic, and imaginative as these musicians are, nobody's shouting a blue streak through the microphone or grabbing his crotch or pulling a gun in the parking lot (although those impulses might wind up in a Blues song).

Men in suits. Zoot suits. Double-breasted sharkskin. Suits as green as parrots. Blood-red smoking jackets. Paired with two-tone oxford shoes. And fedoras.
       Man, it's style.

Finally, most importantly, Truth.

These songs of pain and sorrow celebrate life.

Yes, it's a paradox.

Just like another paradox.

A homeless guy was tortured and mutilated and hung on a cross for everybody else's faults -- and we call that day "Good Friday." Scandalous and beautiful, the greatest story ever told reads a lot like a Blues song. A fallen world, the wicked human heart. A fallen world, the wicked human heart. But God came back, He came back.

Now get up and boogie.

Get up and boogie.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Poetry Month

In honor of poetry month -- which, really, deserves to be 12 months long -- I dipped into one of my favorite anthologies.

"Northwest Verse" was published in 1931 by Caxton Press of Caldwell, Idaho.

Most if not all of these early poets from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana have been forgotten. But here is just one of its delicious offerings:

   Notes on a Concert

While scientists debated whether
'Twere wise to publish their decision,
The morning stars sang all together
In gay derision.

They said: "This planet is the greater,
And that the less, of those before us."
The stars lampooned each commentator
In ribald chorus.

Antares, Betelguese and Mira,
The big and little constellations,
Sang "fol-de-rol" and "tira-lira"
With variations.

For stars have little else to do
But chant in praise or sing in revel,
And glorify what things are true,
And shame the devil.

But the astronomers still peer
Through telescopes, and jot down data;
They are too occupied to hear
The great cantata.

And one will wag his beard and say:
"Behold, I've solved a hard enigma;
This star, ten billion miles away,
Shall be called Sigma."

                                              ---Stoddard King

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Thanks again for making the Raleigh Parteigh on Facebook such a wonderful event!

I can't think of better company than a lively group readers. Thanks for the smart and witty comments, beautiful pictures, and funny answers.

I'm grateful to each of you for coming out to play Tuesday night.

And because some of us require closure (your humble scribe included) the trivia answers are posted below.

See you at the next Raleigh Parteigh!

What did I do for work before I was an author? Newspaper and magazine reporter (also worked as a farm hand and bartender)

How many books are there in the Raleigh Harmon series? Five, counting next year's release, "The Stars Shine Bright."

How many daughters do I have? NONE! I have sons.

Do you think I have a subscription to Scientific American? Nope. And if you read the blog, you'll see why....

Now, for those of you who have read The Mountains Bow Down – here’s a few questions about the book:

Geert Van Broek is head of ship security. What country is he from? Holland. Bonus question: What agency trained him in law enforcement? Royal Marechaussee

How does Special Agent Jack Stephanson get to Alaska? He flies his plane.

What is a phillumenist? Someone who collects matchbooks. Bonus: Why does that word have two Ls? Because one root of the word comes from Greek (phila) and one root comes from Latin (luma).

Where does Raleigh's mom always go to find peace for her troubled mind? Church or chapel -- God's house.

What is the name of Aunt Charlotte's New Age store? Seattle Stones.

DeMott Fielding's family has lived on the same Virginia estate since the early 1700s. What is the name of that property? Weyanoke. BONUS: Can you name two of DeMott's family members? MacKenna and Jillian are his sisters. Harrison is his father. And Peery is his mother.

And the winner is ... Was it YOU?

I'm thrilled to announce that

Cathy Wilcox from Texas

will soon be sailing on the high seas because she has won a $500 Vacations To Go gift certificate to put toward the cruise of her choice! Amy from Litfuse Publicity Group will be in touch for your info Cathy - congrats.

And thank you to everyone who entered and helped Spread the Word about The Mountains Bow Down!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On this day, in 1867, the United States paid Russia $7 million for Alaska. Personally, it's my favorite purchase. 

But the anniversary has me thinking about how much the state has changed, particularly in recent years.

My great-grandparents arrived in Juneau in 1885, and my grandmother was born that same year, the youngest of eight children. She was rumored to be the first caucasion baby born in Juneau. At age five, she was kidnapped by Tlingit Indians. Her eldest brother later saved her, toting his best shotgun. 

 My grandmother's story was later dramatized in a play, "Hootchinoo and Hotcakes." The play was primarily staged for tourists who came to town by cruise ship. But sometime during the 1970s, a bunch of folks moved to Juneau from Outside -- the lower 48 states. They didn't like the play. It was "culturally insensitive." "Politically incorrect."

The play was taken off the stage.

Despite historic fact, we weren't supposed to say that during territorial days the Tlingit Indians behaved like ruthless savages. But they did -- and good for them. The Tlingits were the only Alaska Native tribe the Russians couldn't conquer. And that's saying something: The Russians were plenty ruthless too.

Six years ago I went back to Juneau for my parents' memorial services. At the time my youngest son was five. He wore a coonskin cap and carried a toy rifle wherever he went -- even to bed. Having heard the heroic story of his great-grandmother's rescue by shotgun, he wanted to find a toy replica in Juneau.

But the Juneau toy store owner told us she didn't carry guns -- not even cap guns. She couldn't. "I would like to carry guns, but the parents in town would boycott my store. They'd drive me out of business."

Our son was crushed. So we walked down the block to the bakery, hoping a doughnut would lift his spirits. When we walked into the bakery, a bunch of boys immediately gravitated to the kid with the coonskin cap and toy rifle. Happily, our son let them hold the rifle. He let them pet his hat. And his face beamed. But suddenly women began rushing forward, yanking the boys away.

I didn't understand. Until one of the women stomped up to me and declared: "WE don't play with guns!" 

I wanted to shoot her. 

That afternoon, we went back to the house where we were staying. Our host was a dear old family friend who had lived in Juneau for eighty-five years. Born and raised in Alaska, and a die-hard Democrat, he was instrumental in drafting the state Constitution, and later served as a highly respected judge. He was also a WWII veteran, having served with the 10th Mountain Division. When he saw my son's interest in weaponry, he brought out his old Army .45. What a thrill!

But somebody in the room wasn't happy. She was, in fact, head of Alaska's department of fish and game. Though she didn't grow up in Alaska, she was now in charge of telling Alaskans how to manage their living natural resources. And here's what she told us: We were encouraging "violence" by encouraging our son's appreciation of this historic weapon. (Nevermind how she glared at the toy rifle.)

Back when "Hootchinoo and Hotcakes" got banned, the Outsiders came north in droves to work on the oil rigs. But just as many came to Alaska as environmentalists and lawyers and "activists" of various stripes. As a girl growing up, it seemed like an exciting time. The Alaska Pipeline was going to change everything -- there were even rumors we would get TV reception. 

But I can still remember the day in August, 1974, when I begged my dad to buy me a sweatshirt that showed a picture of the Pipeline. My dad refused. He refused to buy anything heralding the Pipeline. And not because of the oil.

A lifelong Alaskan -- District Attorney during Alaska's territorial days and later a justice on the Alaska Supreme Court -- my dad hated what was happening to his state. Not the jobs. Not the revenue. Those were good, he said.

"But the do-gooders," he said. "They're coming. These are the people who know what's good for you -- better than you know yourself. And they always pave the road to Hell. Someday you'll understand."

At the time, I thought he was wrong. I wanted the sweatshirt. And the Outsiders seemed like very nice people. They just wanted to make things better; they just wanted Alaska to be more like the other states. 

What was wrong with that?

There's a significant rite of passage, and it comes when you realize your parents were right. 

The day after these incidents with the toy rifle, I scattered my dad's ashes in Juneau. My gun-toting five-year-old stood by my side.

I told my dad he was right. 

And then I told him good-bye.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Raleigh is back...and she brought some fun with her.

Are you ready to party? Ring in Spring with fabulous gifts? Grab a getaway aboard the cruise of your choice? Then join me for a month of Raleigh Harmon fun!

I'm celebrating the release of The Mountains Bow Down with a blog tour, a Cruise prize pack worth over $500 and a Facebook Party!

The blog tour (see what people are saying here) and Cruise giveaway kicked off last week. The Facebook Party is scheduled for April 5th at 5:00 PM PST (6 MST, 7CST & 8 EST) and we’re going to party like it's 1999 (appreciative nod to Prince, or Symbol, or whatever he named himself). Come rock out at the Raleigh Harmon Book Club Party on Facebook, where I’ll be announcing the winner of the cruise (could be you – picture it. Go ahead, feel that ocean breeze?). The "official" details and points of entry are below!

New to the Raleigh Harmon series? Start fresh with the first book, The Stones Cry Out! It's available NOW on Kindle or Nook for ONLY $2.99! 

One Grand Prize winner will receive:
  • A $500 gift certificate toward the cruise of their choice from Vacations To Go.
  • The entire set of the Raleigh Harmon series.
To enter click one of the icons below. Then tell your friends. And enter soon - the giveaway ends on 4/1! The winner will be announced at Sibella’s Raleigh Harmon Book Club Party on FB April 5th, 2011! Don’t miss the fun – prizes, books and gab!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

About the Facebook Party: Join me and fans of the Raleigh Harmon series on April 5th at 5:00 pm PST (6 MST, 7 CST & 8 EST) for a Facebook Book Club Party. I'll be giving away some fun prizes, testing your trivia skills and hosting a book chat about the Raleigh Harmon books. Have questions you'd like to chat about - leave them on the Event page.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

By Kate Beaton
Unless you're running drug rehab centers for Hollywood actors, you've probably had enough leisure time to notice a massive paradigm shift taking place in book publishing.

Brick and mortar stores closing. Borders declaring bankruptcy. Kindles and Nooks and E-Readers. Self-published authors climbing the New York Times Bestseller lists.

Old ideas are passing away.

But nobody knows what will grow from this scorched earth. Current theories range from Amazon ruling the universe -- after fighting Apple for the heavyweight title -- to every writer becoming his own publisher.

When theories cover that much range, the only certainty is uncertainty: Literally, nobody knows.

On that note, a friend passed along this darkly humorous yet telling perspective from author Margaret Atwood. Poet, novelist, literary lioness, Atwood has been writing longer than I've been alive.

Her question was simple: what about the writer?

By modern standards, her presentation isn't short. It's about 30 minutes long -- or 29 minutes forty-five seconds beyond the modern attention span. And the delivery isn't "snappy." But I would encourage writers to watch it for the same reason Atwood's books are worth reading.

I don't always agree with her perspective, but Margaret Atwood comes at things from singular angles. She's one of those writers -- a dying breed -- who will cogitate until some elemental truth appears. Then she applies the rapier word.

When I first stumbled upon her books, I was a teenager who had never heard of her. But she had written a poem that described winter dawn in the far north. The imagery was so clear, so haunting, that to this day I can close my eyes and still see the blushing hues on the frozen tundra. It's as easy as recalling a melody to a favorite song.

Since then I've come to appreciate her as an intellectual who isn't effete. For example, check out the image in her presentation borrowed from the butcher shop.

Morbidly funny, terribly true.

Poetic in its own way.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

For the first time in more than a decade, I stayed awake until midnight on New Year's Eve.

I wanted to see 2010 go away.

A year of strife. Family died, friends died. Cancers, brain tumors, strokes, heart attacks. Financial ruin for even the hardest workers. Jobs evaporated. What seemed like good marriages got struck down. Close relationships fractured, past drug addictions roared back to life.

There were days last year when I felt like I was tiptoeing through a field of tall grass embedded with land mines. More often than usual, my family huddled, forming a tight knot of human hope, praying for hearts and minds and help.

God is sovereign; everything flows into his larger plan, even the bad stuff. Especially the bad stuff. During his time on earth, God's own son repeated this truth over and again -- and then was mocked, scourged, nailed to a cross, and killed by religious people.

And I'm weary from one tough year?

I am human. Sometimes that walk from here to eternity feels like the longest path ever taken. But I'm also a writer and it seems as if writers -- those who choose to take up this difficult calling --- get issued a sort of dual citizenship. The worst circumstances in the world provide the best material for the imagination: It's the really rotten childhood that gives us Angela's Ashes. 

But only eventually.

Wordsworth said that poetry came from "emotion recalled in tranquility." I think most really good books come from writers who gaze into the rear view mirror and describe what they see, while still moving forward.

But every writer faces certain battles. The first battle is sitting down to work. And the biggest battle might be finding quiet time to think, to work through the land mine detonations in order to figure out what you're really trying to say.

"If you cannot express yourself on any subject, struggle until you can," writes the great Oswald Chambers. "The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance."

Writers conquer their particular battles in any number of ways; I've been helped by an army. Without my family, particularly my husband the Italian Stallion, none of it would happen. And in a previous post I mentioned my agent, Brian Peterson.

But I've also been blessed by my editor at Thomas Nelson publishing.

Amanda Bostic holds the stopwatch -- and cattle prod -- for all my deadlines. By the grace of God I've managed to make every deadline.

Until this year.

When it comes out in March, I know readers will enjoy "The Mountains Bow Down." And they'll enjoy the next book, coming in 2012, "The Stars Shine Bright." But they'll probably never realize what went on behind the scenes to get these books out on schedule, and still offer this writer time to wrestle with words, to struggle with what she really wants to say.

The constraints of publishing don't allow for such words to appear inside a book's cover, but I'd like to post a Public Service Announcement.

It goes like this:

"These novels are brought to you by a gracious and word-loving editor who adjusted her tight schedule so that you could read a better book. It's a thankless job."


Amanda Bostic, Thomas Nelson: Thank you for the time.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

This is my agent, Brian Peterson.

When we first met, I was a stay-at-home mom writing for magazines. I also had a first novel stored on a floppy disk.

Yeah, it was awhile ago.

But let me back up. Before I met Brian, a highly respected writer who runs with America's best literary crowd, offered to send my novel to her agent in New York City.

Her literary agent was a woman known as Dr. No. The woman could make or break a writer's career with one word. Usually that word was. . . No.

But the word that came back to me was Maybe.

We like the book. We think it has potential. But you'll need to change the main character from a Christian to an alcoholic. 

I smacked myself on the forehead -- why didn't I think of that?!  Faith in God. Self-destruction. Yes! They are totally equivalent!

The literary agent went on to say that I needed to remove every passage in which Raleigh Harmon, forensic geologist and Christian, reveals her belief that the Earth was created by God and that the people who live here didn't evolve from pond scum. (Well, most of them didn't. I had serious questions about the literary agent.)

After reading the agent's letter, several friends begged me to keep my mouth shut. "Just do what the agent asks," they told me. "You need people like this to get published."

My reply was succinct.

"Thank you for your time," I wrote. "You should get out of New York City. Fast."

There was no further correspondence.

Writer Lee Knapp heard of my travails. She had just published her terrific book of essays, "Grace in the First Person." I didn't know Lee well but she said to me, "I have an agent. He's a super nice guy. His mission statement is to help other people reach their goals. Do you want to send your manuscript to him?"

Several weeks later Brian Peterson and I had dinner. We laughed -- a lot-- and talked about writing and later I sent him the manuscript. He sold it to Baker publishing. "The Stones Cry Out" went on to win a Christy Award for best first novel. The rest, as they say, is hard work.

To this day Brian Peterson remains my great friend. He's among the most honest people I've ever met. And this picture of him seems particularly appropriate.

Over the years, without goading, he made sure I didn't stop or stand still. He opened doors to new opportunities, new vistas. And he never lost his cool, even during turbulence.

Okay, once.

Once, during a really nasty battle over a manuscript, Brian called somebody "a manipulator." That's about as low as the guy can go.

When people ask me what to look for in an agent, I say, Look for somebody you can really talk to. Somebody who will hold you accountable. Somebody honest.

But don't forget to look for somebody who stays in your corner, cheering you on -- making sure you never stop or stand still.

And then all you'll want to say to them is, Thank you.

Thank you.

Hello, and welcome to 2011!

One week into the new year and already the days have gotten away from me. (Are you finding that to be true, too?)

I'm writing to let you know that I gave away a KINDLE last month. Yep. It's true. For those of you who knew this, you're probably wondering if I'm planning on announcing the winner. Or maybe you're thinking I was giving away the KINDLE to myself (sadly tempting). Well, I'm not keeping it and I am going to announce the winner.

But first I want to congratulate all of you who entered! You were smart enough to choose a contest that didn't cost you a dime -- proving yourselves smarter than all those dupes coining into their state lotteries.

Way to go, people!

Final congratulations, however, go to Norman Jackson of Delaware who was chosen by to win the Kindle and $25 gift card. Norman, savor every inkless word! 

As great as this contest was, it's only an appetizer. The next Raleigh Harmon novel, The Mountains Bow Down, releases March 1st (check out the cover in the sidebar --->). Since it takes place on a cruise to Alaska, we're giving away the big kahuna. That's right: A FREE CRUISE!  Once again, skip that state lottery and stay tuned for details -- coming soon. You do NOT want to miss this contest. And no, I won't keep the ticket for myself, though it's way more tempting than the KINDLE.

Thank you all for coming out to play, and thank you for supporting the Raleigh Harmon novels.

As a small gift of thanks, I'll be posting an excerpt of The Mountains Bow Down. It's not quite ready yet, but if you'd like to be the first to read it, be sure to click the LIKE button on my  Facebook Author Page.

Thanks again, and happy reading,