Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Next Big Thing

My novelist-buddy Rachel Hauck tagged me for The Next Big Thing blog hop. Ten questions. Then I tag some authors, asking the same ten questions. Then they tag . . . and so on, and so on. 

Since I've got three projects going simultaneously, I'm choosing to talk about the book  flashing in the immediate foreground. And off we go:

What is the working title of your book? "Here Not Here."

Where did the idea come from for the book?  Readers of the Raleigh Harmon mystery series have often asked me to write about her early life, what it was like before her father was murdered. I was considering a prequel to "The Stones Cry Out," the first book in the series, but then my creative husband suggested something better: When did Raleigh get hooked on geology, and what if that hook came at a price?

What genre does your book fall under? Young adult mystery.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? As someone who doesn't watch much TV and whose movie library is still on VHS, I keep picking actresses who are now too old to play Raleigh. But. Still. I like them: Rene Russo in "Lethal Weapon 3" and Janine Turner in "Cliffhanger." 
     If only they could be cryogenically frozen.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When 15-year-old Drew Levinson goes missing, everyone thinks she ran away - except her best friend Raleigh Harmon, who sets out to discover what really happened.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

That question feels like the cart is getting before the horse. Right now, I'm just enjoying the story.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Seven months. I tend to write-and-edit simultaneously, which slows down the sprint to the finish line.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'm inspired by some great mysteries from my youth, such as "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase," and more recent mysteries such as "The Silence of Murder" by Dandi Daley Mackall. 

Who or What inspired you to write this book?  Touch-stones. Road markers. Those elemental moments of youth where our pasts become braided with challenges and blessings and meaning. I'm fascinated by those things that happened to you that now make you, You.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Don't we all remember what it feels like to be fifteen, and nobody understands you? Now throw in a life-and-death situation that's going to define the rest of your days. 

Okay, that's my Ten. 

Now check out the next round of The Next Big Thing with these fabulous authors:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dandi Daley Mackall

Not sure why, but it's become difficult to find great young-adult mysteries. Here's hoping that will change in the future, but right now "The Silence of Murder" fills the gap in a big way.
    Apparently the people bestowing America's highest award in mysteries agree: Dandi Daley Mackall's novel won this year's Edgar Award in the young-adult category.
      "The Silence of Murder" centers on the tough-but-tender Hope Long and her brother Jeremy who has been accused of killing the town's beloved baseball coach. Hope is the only person who believes Jeremy is innocent. But since Jeremy hasn't spoken a word in 9 years, he's unable to defend himself. Hope sets out to find out what happened to the baseball coach, and why.
     I adored this novel. The plucky protagonist wasn't annoyingly snarky. The challenging mystery played fair with the reader. And not once was I pulling back from the page by the depressingly prevalent shock-factor that ruins so many otherwise good YA books.
     Dandi Mackall dropped by Deeper Mysteries for a chat about book, kids, reading and writing. And on writing, she's an esteemed veteran. Over the course of 20-plus years, she's produced dozens of articles for mainstream magazines and around 400 books (yes, really) for children and adults, with sales of over 4 million. A frequent guest on radio and television talk shows, Dandi lives in rural Ohio with her husband, three children, horses, dogs, & cats.

I'm curious, did the idea for "The Silence of Murder" come to you over time, or in one thunderbolt-aha! moment?
And the answer is…YES! I have a habit of playing with words the day after I turn in a big manuscript. I let myself write for fun, being free because I’ll never try to turn it into a novel. So, about 10 years ago, I wrote the entire first chapter of what would eventually become THE SILENCE OF MURDER. I placed it in a file on my computer: “Play.” Every year or so, I’d pull it up and mess with it a bit. But I couldn’t see where it was going, so back into the file it went. Then about 2 years ago, I pulled it up and decided I would write the next chapter, no matter what. The first words I typed were: “Your honor, I object!” And I realized that the whole first chapter was an account by Hope, who occupied the witness box in a courtroom, where her brother was on trial for murder. After that, the story unfolded for me.

Have you written mysteries before? And what kind of research was necessary for "The Silence of Murder"?
I love mysteries. I’ve always read mysteries right before going to bed. I write a lot of teen and pre-teen books, and I do sneak in a mystery whenever I can. Each series I write has at least one mystery: Midnight Mystery in Winnie the Horse Gentler series; Dark Horse inStarlight Animal Rescue. Degrees of Guilt, Degrees of Betrayal. But SILENCE is my first honest-to-goodness murder mystery. I interviewed (read, “hounded”) a local district attorney, a judge, a prosecutor. I observed trials. And because I wanted to recreate courtroom scenes, I read transcripts of murder trials. I had to research Ohio law since the story takes place in Ohio. I don’t think I’ve ever done so much research for a book—but I loved it…most of the time.

 I tend to vacillate about the term "special needs," partly because as a Christian, I think every one of us is considered "special needs" one way or another. But, for the sake of clarity, we can say one of your main characters in this book is truly "special needs," in the physiological sense. Did you consciously choose to write about that subject, or did that character just appear in the process of writing the story? By the way, he's a great character.
Thanks—and I’m glad you asked. I don’t have a problem with the term “special needs,” and we do have a daughter who fits into the category. I didn’t set out to write about a special needs character; I never do. And yet, they keep popping up in my fiction. The first time I realized this, I was doing a school visit, giving an author’s assembly, followed by Q and A. One fifth-grade student asked me why I wrote about special needs characters. I thought she had me mixed up with someone else, but I didn’t want her to feel silly. “Well,” I answered, “I really don’t write about special needs characters, but that’s a great idea. I’ll have to think about it.” She didn’t say a word. But after the workshop, she came up and handed me a sheet of paper with 14 of my books written on it…and the special needs characters that appeared in each book—a little sister, Special Olympics, a friend, a classmate, etc. Our daughter Katy is on my mind a lot. I guess we write what’s on our hearts, even if we don’t intend to.

You're a believer, but your book isn't explicitly Christian, which is one of the book's terrific strengths. The story contains many unstated themes (which, of course, are the best kind of themes) concerning sacrificial love. Can you talk a bit about how your worldview informs your writing -- or doesn't?
I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to write what I want, more or less. I do have books that are more openly Christian. But I love it when those unstated themes are integral to the whole. I guess it’s like writing about special needs characters. If Katy is on my mind, I should expect parts of her to appear in my writing. And if Christ is on my mind, in my heart, I should expect to see evidence pop up in natural ways—a “church lady,” who surprises us by not being judgmental, a moment when characters simply know that God is in the courtroom, a character who makes the right and wise choice to wait until marriage to have sex because she wants it to be fantastic.

What was it like to win the Edgar Award? (Editorial aside: ???!!!! ) 
I LOVE this question! All the clich├ęs work—unbelievable, dreamlike, surreal. When I found out SILENCE was a finalist, I thought it was mistake. I mean, Harlan Coben was a finalist! But my hubby and I got to go to NYC for the big awards banquet, and I knew I’d get to meet all the authors I’ve read for years. I remember sitting at the Random House table, with my Knopf editor, my agent, and everyone at Random who’d worked on the book. And I thought, All these people gussied up and are here…for me. I felt God’s love and grace at that moment as strong as I’ve ever felt it. They actually open an envelope and read the name of the winner. When they read my name, Joe and I just stared at each other…until my agent shoved me to go and get my award. I hadn’t prepared a speech because I never thought I’d win. I’m not sure what I said, but Sandra Brown, the MC, later told me my first two words were “Holy Cow.” Now, whenever I think of that night, I picture God grinning at me because he knew I never thought I’d win, and he knew I was the happiest person there, win or lose.
What are you working on next -- another mystery? Will the vivid characters from "The Silence of Murder" return again?
I think I’m the ADD or writers. I’m working on another mystery, and mostly I’m loving writing it. But the next novel to come out is a coming-of-age novel set in rural Missouri in the sixties. I’m also working on a WWII novel, using my parents’ letters, which they wrote for nearly 2 years during the war (3 times a day for 2 years). My dad was an army Dr., stationed in France and Germany, and Mom was an army nurse in England and France. They met in boot camp, married 8 weeks later, had about a week as husband and wife, and then Mom got shipped out, followed by Dad—but never to the same place. I’m also working on several rhyming children’s books and a Bible story devotional for toddlers and….

What's a typical writing day look like for you, Dandi?
I travel, speaking at conferences and doing school visits. But when I’m home, I get up early, usually by 5 am (I know, I know…my writing friends hate that.). I have a quiet time, then do my fresh writing and first drafts in the morning. In the afternoon, I rewrite and research. Most days, I walk around our lake (5 miles) with my mini-tape recorder and talk in scenes and dialog and ideas. My neighbors often refer to me as “that lady who walks and talks to herself.” They don’t see the recorder.)

Writing for young adults: How is it different from writing for adults? What are the challenges/pitfalls/joys?
I love writing for young adults, and in many ways there are few differences in writing for YA or for adults. The biggest difference is perception and what’s important. For example, when I first wrote MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS (Dutton/Penguin), the climax took place on the main character’s wedding day. But my editor asked me to change it to a prom for YA audiences. I thought she was wrong, so I visited high schools and asked young women which would interest them more—prom or wedding. Wedding won.

Here's your Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card: Talk about whatever you want to say or wherever you want to go on any topic: 
I just want to say thanks—thanks for letting me ramble, Sibella.

 Dandi's book is available for sale at Goodread's website.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Scavenger Hunt Guest Melanie Dickerson!


 Follow the clues, win prizes --including a Kindle Fire, free books and more!  

Don't you adore gathering clues and solving a mystery? That love of the hunt partially inspired the Raleigh Harmon mystery series. But it's also why I'm over-the-moon about this Fall Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt. It's thrilling to see readers not only find clues but new authors -- and win awesome prizes to boot.

The Scavenger Hunt's starting gun goes off at noon MDT on 10/25. The hunt stays open until midnight MDT on 10/28 —plenty of time to collect all the clues. With 31 stops, you'll be meeting some cool authors. New novels. Soon-to-be-released novels. And at each stop, exclusive content. Is this awesome or what?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to collect all the clues in RED on each blog post, beginning at Stop #1, the home of our hunt's leader, author Lisa Bergeren. Then proceed through to Stop #32 where you'll fill out a Rafflecopter form. Provide the completed clue quote -- all the RED words you gathered from all 31 stops -- and have that ready within 24 hours of email notification of winning, or else another winner will be randomly drawn. Don’t let that happen to you! (Of course, if you’re not notified on 10/29/12, don't email or submit anything else. Just rejoice in the experience of playing. Nobody goes home a loser in this hunt, since each stop offers exclusive content found nowhere else.)

The Grand Prize is a new Kindle Fire, plus 31 new novels!

Second and Third Prizes are $50 Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CBD or gift certificates (And here's the fine print few of us read: Contest is open to international entrants. If the winner lives outside the United States, they shall win the equivalent in gift certificate funds to the prize in US dollars.)

Now, on with our guest! 
Please welcome my friend Melanie Dickerson. Would you look at that smile? The woman should be on a toothpaste commercial. But she's too talented for that. 

Melanie is the author of The Healer's Apprentice and The Merchant's Daughter, both Christy Award finalists. She's also the winner of The National Reader's Choice Award for 2010's Best First Book, and winner of the 2012 Carol Award in Young Adult fiction. 

With all that great talent, she still lives out of a servant's heart. After earning her bachelor's degree in special education from The University of Alabama, Melanie taught special-needs children from Georgia and Tennessee, in addition to teaching English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. These days she spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama. 

Yep. A southern gal. She's got everything.

Melanie's latest release is The Fairest Beauty. In this Snow White fairy tale retelling, a woman arrives in Hagenheim claiming the young woman betrothed to the duke’s son, Valten, is still alive. With Valten injured, his younger brother, Gabe, defies his family to find Sophie himself. Meanwhile, Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother’s jealousy, and plans to escape. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother. This could be Sophie’s one chance at freedom---but can she trust another person to keep her safe?

It's a great premise, and just for you Scavenger Hunters, Melanie's offering this EXCLUSIVE MATERIAL, a scene that was deleted from The Fairest Beauty. First, from the perspective of Sophie. Then from Gabe's viewpoint.
A kind face, and handsome too. Sophie didn’t like to think what would happen to him if Duchess Ermengard disbelieved his story. He wasn’t like anyone she had met before. He was courageous, having stood up to Lorencz, refusing to leave when she warned him about Duchess Ermengard, and yet he didn’t have the swagger and bluster of a fighting man—a knight or guard—or a hunter.
She reclined on the ground, propping her back against a small tree, and watched him do the task. 
“Will you tell me about them? About your mother and father and brothers and sisters?”
A gentle smile edged his lips and he sighed slightly. An unfamiliar feeling of contentment and safety came over Sophie. She nestled on the ground and pillowed her head on her arm as she stared up at him.
~ ~ ~
Gabe could see she was exhausted, but Sophie still had a radiant beauty. He felt her eyes on him as he stuffed the mattress. Her question about his family surprised him. An orphan, she was curious about his family. The thought pricked his heart, and he knew if his mother were here, she’d adopt Sophie on the spot and lavish her with love. Finding out whether she was the daughter of Duke Baldewin would be a lesser priority.
“My mother’s name is Rose. She is very beautiful, with long red-brown hair, brown eyes and a big smile. My father fell in love with her when he wasn’t allowed to marry her. He said she was the most beautiful, sweet, virtuous maiden in the region, and he was determined to marry her, no matter what he had to do . . . ."

Melanie Dickerson's The Fairest Beauty is available at AmazonBarnes and Noble, CBD, or your local bookstore.

But before you leave, write down this STOP #17 clue: LIVING.

Your next stop is Melanie's own blog. Have fun -- and keep reading!

Oh, and if you want a chance to win ANOTHER PRIZE, sign up for my (fun and 100 percent spam-free!) newsletter. You'll be entered to win an audio CD of one of my books, and a copy of my latest release The Stars Shine Bright
    Thanks so much. And I hope YOU win!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dear Readers,

I must confess my sentimental human heart wishes "winner" could be plural in the contest for the Kindle Fire+Raleigh books.

Plural, as in "everyone."

But Jennifer Lucas of Ohio -- come on down!  YOU won that Kindle Fire and all five Raleigh Harmon novels. We would say you're a lucky girl, but it would offend our intrepid forensic geologist who says luck doesn't exist (and I agree with her).

My sincerest thanks to everyone who entered this contest. We'll have more -- name the next Raleigh book? Name some characters? With prizes, of course.

Thank you for being the best readers a writer-girl could hope for. 

Your humble scribe,

-- Sibella

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reading Out Loud

Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled when Oasis Audio converted the Raleigh Harmon books into CD-format. I'm a huge fan of listening to books being read out loud -- either in person or recorded.

But it took me several months to listen to my own audio books. Call me chicken (although, like Raleigh, I prefer beef), I didn't want to be disappointed.

"Give it ten minutes," my husband said, dangling his keys. He kept the Raleigh CDs in his car on rotation. He loved them. "Ten minutes," he repeated, like someone trying to encourage a coward to jump off a diving board. "If you don't like it after ten minutes, shut it off."

I grabbed his keys, stomped out the door and ten minutes later realized my exit had just whipped past. Twenty minutes later I was circling my destination instead of parking because I didn't want to get out of the car.

An hour later my cell phone rang. I was parked in front of Starbucks, not getting out.

"Did you listen?" my husband asked.

"Sorry, I can't talk right now."

I hung up and continued my vigil, wondering whether I'd have the strength to leave this vehicle within the next six hours. Actress and veteran audio book reader Cassandra Campbell was bringing all sorts of imaginary friends to life in "The Clouds Roll Away"-- and nailing every accent, from white-southern-plantation to black-southern-urban.

I could've cried.

But I was too busy trying to figure out what's gonna happen next! Yes, I'd forgotten my own story but more significantly, Ms. Campbell was reading it with those just-right touches of suspense and drama and humor. I didn't like this reading because I wrote it -- I loved it because it was done so well, from production quality to vocal intonations.

This week, Christmas came early. Oasis Audio released "The Rivers Run Dry" and the most recent Raleigh Harmon installment,"The Stars Shine Bright".  Treat yourself to a listen -- Cassandra Campbell reads the first chapter of "Rivers" on YouTube.  

The woman obviously loves words; you can hear it in her voice.

But don't blame me if you miss an appointment. 

And don't call me. 

I'm heading out the door -- CDs in hand -- for a really long road trip.

P.S. Oasis Audio maintains a large catalog of great books told from a redeemed viewpoint, including such luminaries as Max Lucado and Colleen Coble. Find out more and sign up for promotional giveaways on their Facebook page.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Wanna Win a Kindle?

So many times I've been slogging away on some Raleigh Harmon scene while muttering, "This is NOT working!" when suddenly that pleasant little "bing!"chimes from my email.

Oh, dear reader. That sound always reminds me of "It's a Wonderful Life" -- the part about how every time a bell rings, an angel earns his wings.

You, dear readers, seem like angels to me.

Through the years, you've kept the Raleigh Harmon series going with your heart-felt notes and happy posts to Facebook and Twitter. I may never find the proper words to thank you.

So I'm spreading some literary bling -- please enter the contest!

I'll be giving away a Kindle Fire and ALL five Raleigh Harmon books. That's Stones to Stars --- with Rivers, Clouds and Mountains in between.

The contest runs until August 27, when I'll announce the winner right here on the Deeper Mysteries blog. And if you post a link to the contest on Twitter and Facebook, you'll increase your chances of winning.

To enter the contest via Facebook, CLICK HERE.
For Twitter, click HERE.

And if you're a blogger, consider signing up through the clickin' cool hens at LitFuse publicity HERE. You'll find lots of great authors there, and more contests. (You also might develop an irrational desire to raise chickens. Don't blame me.)

Have fun!

And may the best reader win!

Saturday, July 14, 2012


    Among summer's most delicious moments are mountain hikes.
     This week, I was blessed by the company of four young guys who offered to climb to the ridiculously named Poo Poo Point.
    Eight miles, up and back.
    It turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year. 87-degrees. For the Pacific Northwest, that's scorching.
    I used to run this same hike after completing my weekly word-quota for the Raleigh Harmon books. It was a badge of sorts. But time is proving it marches with even greater determination: Now the boys left me in their dust.
     Left me with my thoughts.
     I wish I could say some brilliant insights hit me. The paltry truth is cliches came, unbidden yet with the stubbornness of stupidity.
     How the deep forest reminds me of growth, eternity. How climbing a mountain is like meeting life's challenges.
    Nothing revelatory, I know.
    But when we reached the top, I took this photo.
     Years from now, I hope these guys understand its greater meaning.
     Each one of them is on the cusp of manhood.
    And just past their feet, the mountainside disappears as though sliced by a guillotine. Most summer days, hang-gliders are launching themselves from that spot, flying into thin air, giving a whoop, and trusting God as if they were nothing more, and nothing less, than birds.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Have You Seen Your City?

I've said it before: I love a good hunt.

     Today The G-Men and I went on a scavenger hunt through Seattle. Sponsored by City Solve, the clues proved challenging, mind-bending and demanding of some good hard walking. We saw our city with fresh eyes and discovered previously unexplored parts of this hip, smart and frequently odd town.
     We also deciphered nearly all ten of our designated stops -- with one kick-me exception.
Westlake area. A bonus clue. Find a drink with ice cubes.
And for once, Seattle needed cooling off.
Temps hit almost 80 today.
      The clue was to combine the name of a Mediterranean toy dog with a bird of prey. We decided on "Maltese Falcon." The second part of the clue said that the designated stop was on 2nd Avenue "in the north end of Pioneer Square."
     We saved this clue for the end, since it was on our route back to the race's finish -- at 88 Keys, a dueling piano bar (not kidding). But by the time we got to 2nd Ave, we'd already spent nearly four hours hiking Seattle's notorious hills, and now, as we wandered up and down 2nd Ave, our spirits flagged.
    Finally, we stopped a cop on horseback.
    "We're looking for The Maltese Falcon."
    He scratched his head. "Only thing that comes to mind is a statue," he said. "It's of some predatory bird."
    It was possible. After all, Seattle has a statue of Vladamir Lenin. Why not the the bird of Bogart fame.
    But the tatue wasn't in Pioneer Square.
   "And," the cop added, "I don't think that bird is a falcon."
One of the funnier clues.
Spoofing the Tom Cruise divorce: Find L.Ron Hubbard's
book, Dianetics. The guy in the Scientology Center
was NOT amused. 
    My husband continued to grill the cop, picking his brain for anything named Maltese or Falcon -- a restaurant, bar, antique store -- anything!
     Meanwhile I gazed longingly down a side street. Heaven was right there -- down Cherry Street. Seattle Mystery Bookshop.
     If only we had time for tangents! Go browse, lose myself in the stacks . . . .
      But the clock was ticking, and we were losing.       After wandering 2nd Avenue some more, we finally decided to this stop would be one of our allowable "skips" that the rules allow.
    Heading down to 88 Keys, I started banking the good memories. My kids saw -- really saw -- their city. From crowds and tourists and street musicians to sweet and helpful city residents joyfully helping us whenever we got turned around to chain-smoking addicts outside recovery clinics. All of them intriguing characters, providing teachable moments.  And we probably walked a good five miles, from Pioneer Square and the waterfront to Belltown, Capitol Hill, south Lake Union, through downtown and Pike Place Market and back to Pioneer Square.
     Yet despite all that, I felt haunted.
     Somewhere -- right under our noses-- that blasted Maltese Falcon was mocking us.
    At the finish, a girl checked our photos, making sure we actually found each clue and that all four of us were in every picture.
       I glanced over her shoulder, reading the answer sheet.
      Maltese Falcon, it read. Seattle Mystery Book Store.
      "What?" I cried. "It was the book store?!"
      She nodded. "Not a lot of people got that one."
      Fine, I wanted to say, but I'm a mystery writer. If there was one clue we should've gotten, that was it! And my heart had been pulling me to go there-- and I ignored it.
      I could get all philosophical here -- about following your heart, thinking less literally, not watching the clock -- but I'm frankly too tired.
    I want to put my feet up and celebrate with the G-Men.
    Because next year, we'll be out there again.
     And beware, mystery clues. I'm coming for you.
     City Solve holds races around the country. Check to see if there's on in your your area. 

We were SUPPOSED to find a sign with the word "love."
We finally resorted to changing Move to Love.  The guy painting this sign took our picture.
You can see an incomplete green blob, on the right, which we interrupted.
Nice guy -- nice city.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Terrific Trish Perry

Trish Perry's novels are cherished for their grace, tender insights, great writing . . . and humor.          

       Lots of humor.

      "I sat down and picked up The Guy I'm Not Dating, not really intending to read it," wrote one reviewer of Trish's first book, "just thinking I'd glance over a few pages. Two hours later I'm still 'glancing over' those pages and laughing enough to make my husband ask, 'What's so funny?' Later the same night, I turned to the last page and had to declare, 'Loved it! Loved, loved, loved it!"

      Short-listed for the Romance Writer's of America Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, The Guy I'm Not Dating was followed by ten more books (and more awards), from the Tea for Two series to devotionals to co-authoring with the likes of Debby Mayne, Jane Kirkpatrick, Kristin Billerbeck and Dian Hunt.
    Trish's latest release is The Midwife's Legacy. A generational story, told through the imaginations of four different authors, the story begins in 1800s Midwest before moving to the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Trish's story, Labor of Love, is linked to the others by a journal whose entries illuminate the calling of midwifery. As each story unfolds, the journal provides encouragement to each woman navigating her own path as a midwife. The women also discover each nugget of wisdom is also speaking into their personal lives.
    I caught up with the utterly lovely Trish to ask her a few questions about her books and her writing life. I hope you enjoy her company as much as I did. Be sure to visit her website,, and soak up the writerly atmosphere.
Some writers have a direct path to publication, but others follow circuitous routes which eventually deposit them at their intended destination. Which method describes your journey to becoming an author? And would you choose that path again?
My route was definitely circuitous! I didn't even start writing until I was in my early forties, well after I had dipped my toes in a number of different ponds, professionally. But I brought those years of experience with me when I began to write, so I hesitate to say I would change the path if I could. Still, I do envy those young writers who figure it out well in advance and aim for education and experience that will enhance their writing abilities and chances for publication. The idea of having started publishing 20 years earlier than I did? Sigh.

Yes, "everything in its time" is much easier said than endured. But you weren't idle because while your imagination percolated with story ideas, you went and got a degree in psychology. Does that degree help you write fiction? Can you give us an example from your latest release?

Yes, my degree is a huge help. I don't sit down and create characters who fit a textbook definition or diagnosis in any fashion, but I've benefitted from studying counseling and the types of dysfunction many of us experience in our lives and families. When it comes to designing internal conflict, it helps to have been absorbed by psychology in the past.

As far as an example from Labor of Love is concernedmy heroine, Kendra, loves being a midwife and switched quite a few years ago from the pre-med path her sister took. Kendra's father, now deceased, was a noted cardiologist, just as Kendra's sister is now. Kendra knows her father regarded midwives with a degree of disdain. So now she feels a residual lack of respect from her father, which is mirrored by events that develop with a local doctor in the story. That local doctor's criticism of Kendra hits her at a deeper level than it might, had her father been more appreciative of the profession. In other words, Kendra has daddy issues, and they're being played out with this doctor.

Yes, I see the psych degree in there! Excellent. What drew you writing about midwives? 

My agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, asked me if I had any interest in writing about a contemporary midwife. I loved the idea and wanted to dispel some of the stereotypes that still linger about how midwives present themselves and operate today. The first three novellas in the collection involve midwives from times gone by, when the profession wasn't considered an unusual practice. Today many people still think of midwifery as it was when it resurged in the 60s--rather fringe-like. The kind of thing practiced by hippy chicks living in communes. I enjoyed demystifying that misconception.

On your website, you always ask writers to name Five Random Things about themselves. Turning the tables here! Tell us Five Random Things about Trish Perry.
  • I can't swim. Not a bit. I'm like a big bag of rocks in the water.
  • When I was a kid, my sisters and I performed regularly at a nursing home, singing old British songs our mother taught us.
  • I have a black belt in TaeKwonDo. I don't remember much of that today, though. That was about a decade and fifteen pounds ago.
  • I used to sing lead in a rock/R&B band. Loved that.  
  • I'm an oddly good shot, which I learned while living in a rural setting filled with a plethora of "varmints." 
Girls who can shoot straight are extra-cool. What can readers expect next from Trish Perry? 
I'm about to write a Christmas novella for a collection with Martha Rogers and Debby Mayne, for B&H's Bloomfield series. That won't release until 2014, I believe. I'm deep into a day job right now, so I've had to pull back on contracts for  a while. I miss writing regularly, and I can't wait to get cracking on this new project!
 In the meantime, head to Trish's page on Facebook and give her a big ol' LIKE.

Friday, April 13, 2012

National Poetry ... Month?

It's become personal tradition to recognize National Poetry Month only when half of April is already over. Nothing subversive on my part, although that would be a nice pun.

The lack -- half-lack? -- of recognition comes from a very busy life.

Busy in a way that feels as unbound as free verse, lush as a sonnet, and metered by the rhythms of growing boys.

While I still think setting aside one month for heralding poetry is ridiculous, thirty days is more honor than love's one-day in February. Perhaps the time allotted speaks volumes about our culture.

But today, as National Poetry Month dawned on me once again, I pulled out one of my favorite poets. W.H. Auden first crossed my path in college, in particular, "As I Went Out One Evening." The words hit me like granite. I was a geology major, and Auden was weaving into his verse elements such as stones, tectonics, and glaciers. Better: he was using those elements correctly, even from a scientific perspective.

When I became a Christian, his verse expanded even further. That reverential Catholic perspective of his, dyed by profound personal trials, reached into every twisted chamber of my heart.

Here's the great poet reading the words which today still feel like a death-to-life blow.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Is Cara Putman for Real??

Cara Putman is smart, pretty, and a second-generation homeschooler. She's also written fourteen books and is a practicing attorney.

If she wasn't so kind, we could hate her.

While running full speed, I caught up with Cara long enough to ask her some questions about her life and her latest release, A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island.

Quickly, here's an overview of the novel: Attorney Alanna Stone vowed long ago to avoid her hometown of Mackinac Island. Too many painful memories. But after an exhausting high-profile case and an urgent plea from her parents, Alanna heads home and winds up living next door to Jonathan Covington -- her first love, and her first lesson in betrayal. Alanna is trying protect her privacy and her heart but secrets intersect with a murder, and sudden controversy turns public opinion against her, and possibly her family. Jonathan, meanwhile, has stubbornly refused dating advice from his family and friends, believing he’s already found the perfect woman. But with Alanna’s return, he starts wondering if he’s waited for someone who isn’t the right one after all . . . .

Cara, certain places bite writers and infect them with curiosity. Did that happen to you with Mackinac Island? 

Mackinac Island is a magical place. It’s one of those rare places where you can step back in time without leaving this century. The first time we visited the island I wondered if the long drive could possibly be worth the destination. It’s a long 11 hours from where I live. But once we stepped on the ferry, leaving our car behind, I knew we were headed somewhere special. Boy, was I right. At that time I hadn’t started writing but when we returned in 2009 I was well on the way to writing with several books out. So this time I walked around looking for story ideas. I found them…so much so, I’m surprised the police chief let me leave after asking him how his department would handle a murder.

What kind of story -- mystery, romance -- is"A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island"? 

Definitely contemporary romance. But this book also includes strong mystery threads with a teeny touch of suspense. The heroine is an attorney who grew up on the island but left as soon as she could after high school and never returned. Now she’s forced to go home to help her family and confronts the questions from her past…and then someone’s murdered and the past collides with the present.

 You're a lawyer. A homeschooling mom of four kids. And you've just published your fourteenth book in seven years. Will you place one hand on a Bible and swear you are not dashing into phone booths and emerging with the giant S on your shirt?

 You know, some of my closest friends have threatened to find some Wonder Woman bracelets. I think her plane would be even more fun. I like the idea of an S though – flying without a plane would rock! In reality I’m just a mom who doesn’t get a lot of sleep at certain seasons of the writing cycle. I’ve been blessed to weave together a life that allows me to keep my fingers in law and teaching, but focus on my kids and writing for this period of my life. It’s a lot of work, but worth it. Maybe those bracelets would help!

 What key elements have you learned in balancing writing, law and life? 

 One key has been to learn to ask for help. My husband and I have had to have a few periods where we talked about the need to have people come help with the kids when I’m under deadline. It helps keep some of the midnight hours not quite so long. But there are great seasons where I don’t have consistent help. I’ve also gotten better at trying to schedule moments of rest. When I don’t, God has a habit of building them in for me. I tend to wind up like the Energizer Bunny and forget how to slow down. 

What's your favorite reader comment? 

 My favorite reader comments have come with my World War II novels. With Stars in the Night several readers wrote blog posts letting me know which classic movie stars they would pick for different characters. That was such fun. But I also treasure the comments where a reader says I have hope now that I’ve read your book and your heroine lived through a trauma like one I experienced. Bottomline, I want people to close one of my books with a sense of hope that God is always with us no matter what we’re going through.

Because I'm a homeschool mom and novelist, people often ask what our days are like. But I've found no day is typical -- which is one reason writing, and homeschooling, is so enjoyable. How about you, are the atypical days typical?

 Atypical-as-typical is the order of business. Schooling happens first. But even that has fluid weeks. For example the last week of March many of the local schools were having spring break so we did school in the morning and then the kids had friends over most afternoons. I try to build in those times with friends. But like you, I love the chaos of writing.

 To get your writing done, you've limited yourself to one TV show a week. Which show did you pick, and why?

 Right now it’s CASTLE. I love the interplay of the characters. And even though I know it’s not realistic I love the idea of a crime writer helping the police. Who can’t admit that Beckett and Castle have great chemistry, too. As a fan of the classic movies that focused on pairing leads with great chemistry, I love that aspect.

 What's up next for Cara Putman?

 This summer my family is going on an adventure while I teach a class for Purdue. I am so excited to have this extended excursion…and I have the feeling book ideas will jump out at me as we’re traveling. I can’t visit a new place without wondering what books are waiting to be written.

 Cara C. Putman lives in Indiana with her husband and four children. She’s an attorney and a teacher at her church as well as lecturer at Purdue. She has loved reading and writing from a young age and now realizes it was all training for writing books. She loves bringing history and romance to life.
An honors graduate of the University of Nebraska and George Mason University School of Law, Cara left small town Nebraska and headed to Washington, D.C., to launch her career in public policy.  

Cara is an author chasing hard after God as she lives a crazy life. She invites you to join her on that journey.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Look closely. One word. Toward the bottom. 
My husband's birthday is today. He turns nineteen. You think I'm kidding.

But the Hunk of Italy is a genetic freak who never seems to age. He recently went to the eye doctor for a checkup and was told him that somehow, in middle age, his eyesight is actually improving. Near-sighted in his thirties and forties, he now sees almost 20-20.

As Adrian Monk would say: It's a blessing, and a curse.

I hope the age-defying mean he'll be around a long time; but it's going to be like living with Dorian Gray.

His 19th birthday --- a High Holy Day in this house -- prompts me to share some thoughts about Spouses of Writers.

When we married, imaginary friends were already part of my life. So you could say my husband knew what he was getting into. But that's not fair, or true. Even writers don't know what they're getting into because each project comes like a fresh slice of heaven -- inspiration, enthusiasm, love -- and Hell -- failure, despair, hate.

Over the years, I've concluded that a supportive spouse is as much a gift to the writer as talent. Even when that support varies. Some spouses tolerate imaginary friends the same way they deal with meddling inlaws at Thanksgiving. Others might say that the vows about "in sickness and in health, for better or worse," doesn't mean listening to you whine about characters who won't behave.

 If that's the case, be grateful. Write in solitary confinement. God gives us our crucibles. And writers sometimes need cocoons to give birth to all the words begging from within.

Always: Be grateful.

I've had some difficult writing seasons both before and after marriage. Each challenge has taught me that wrestling agasint God's sovereignity --  protesting because I'm unsatisfied with what He's given -- only worsens the problem. In fact, ingratitude blocks the very road that all good stories must travel in order to reach the writer.

No doubt that I've been blessed with an uber-supportive spouse. He also came equipped with instant recall of every plot device in the universe. Whenever I will toss out a story idea, the response is always the same variation on a theme: "George Raft already did that in 1939. The movie was called Each Dawn I Die..." Or: "Jimmy Cagney, Sinner's Holiday, 1930. He played a tough guy who...."

This used to annoy me. Really annoy me.

Then I realized my pride was responding.

Once I stopped struggling against God's sovereign choice, I saw that my husband's instantaneous recollection of every story seen/heard/read was forcing me to get more creative with the Raleigh Harmon series.

The guy deserves a medal.

But I would contend that all Spouses of Writers deserve some kind of medal.

There's an terrible fact waiting to ambush every writer before she even begins.  And the fact is this: The world doesn't need your words.

 You might think it does. You might think the world would be immeasurably better if only your book was out there, in people's hands, filling their mind with your excellent thoughts. You can probably find a self-help book that will agree with you.

 But here in Realityville, the world already has plenty of stories. The Bible alone gives us enough drama and narrative to occupy our imaginations from birth to death -- and that book was written thousands of years ago.

This is why Spouses of Writers are so special. Each time they grant you time to write, or help you find a place to write, or listen to Your Next Great Idea, they are implicitly defying the world. By their actions, they are saying: Yes, it's all been done before, but you haven't told your story. And your story matters.

 If you're a writer with a supportive spouse, kiss them.

 Kiss them -- a lot.

 Even if they are the picture of Dorian Gray.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Some moments on earth are so wonderful, they feel like glimpses of heaven.

For me, those moments revolve around people. Sharing time with them. Enjoying their great company. Laughing.

But that beyond-the-veil feeling also comes from nature. In particular snow. I can never thank God enough for letting me grow up in Alaska.

Yesterday, the Seattle area got enough to blanket the world in white. After sledding with the kids and baking good food, I strapped on my running shoes and took off.

I'm plotting the next Raleigh Harmon mystery, and there is no better way to dream and create inside my head than running. Especially in snow. There are so few distractions -- for the eyes and the ears. Normally I just listen to steps. Cold breath. The rare bird that sings through ice.

But yesterday I decided to listen to my own soundtrack, which I'm calling Winter Wonderland. Maybe someone can add a few ideas here.

Winter Snow   Chris Tomlinson featuring Audrey Assad
It's True   Sara Groves
Peaches and Diesel   Eric Clapton
100 Years   Five for Fighting
When It's All Said and Done   Robin Mark
Carol of the Bells   George Winston
Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring   Celtic Woman (although any version seems excellent)
Forgiven and Loved    Jeremy Needham
Song for a Winter's Night   Sarah McLaughlin (Maybe even better than Gordon Lightfoot's own)    
Galveston   Glenn Campbell (What can I say? I love this song)
These Days in an Open Book   Nanci Griffith
Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head   George Winston
 And finally
This Guy's in Love With You   Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass

If that last tune doesn't sense now, it will when The Stars Shine Bright comes out this summer.