Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blog Tour- A Big Apple Christmas

Today, the authors of A Big Apple Christmas are stopping by to talk about their new book.

A BIG APPLE CHRISTMAS

By Vasthi Reyes Acosta, Gail Sattler, Lynette Sowell, and Carrie Turansky

A Big Apple Christmas is a contemporary romance collection that captures the sights and sounds of the Christmas season in New York City in the following four novellas:

Moonlight and Mistletoe by Carrie Turansky -- Christmas plans are set askew when professional organizer Sarah Montgomery meets free-spirited poet Justin Latimer. As they work together on a project for her neighbor, romantic sparks fly - but will new revelations douse them?

Shopping for Love by Gail Sattler – Two tourists try to lose themselves in the holiday shopping crowds. But when Bryan Evans literally knocks Emily Jones off her feet, her heart's secrets are spun even more off balance.

Where the Love Light Gleams by Lynette Sowell -- Christmas in Rockefeller Center puts a widow's spruce tree on center stage. Professor Theophilus Stellakis volunteers to host Gwynn Michaud, and they both find new dreams in the glow of the holiday lights.

Gifts of the Magi by Vasthi Reyes Acosta -- The gift of the Magi comes full circle for two lonely Latinos when Cecilia Montes takes time out of her busy schedule to help an old friend with youth group activities. But can she trust her heart to Elias Perez?



Here’s a chat with Carrie, Gail, Lynette, and Vasthi.

It must have been fun to write a story set during the Christmas season. What Christmas events do your characters enjoy in your novellas?

Vasthi Reyes Acosta - In my novella I included sights and sounds that were more reflected of uptown Manhattan, such as The Cloisters, which is a museum in Fort Tryon Park, The Three King's Day Parade sponsored by El Museo del Barrio, ice skating in Central Park, a concert at Riverside Church, and of course the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Gail Sattler - The lights and ambiance of shopping, during the daytime and after dark. Getting caught in the excitement of the Christmas shopping, even though both Emily and Bryan hate shopping at home.

Lynette Sowell -Gwynn and Theo attend the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center, and they also go to the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall.

Carrie Turansky – Sarah joins Justin’s family for Thanksgiving. Sarah and Justin Visit the Fetes de Noel in Bryant Park which is a wonderful outdoor market with great Christmas shopping. They watch the ice skaters and enjoy live Christmas music. Sarah takes a taxi ride through the city looking at the holiday lights and store decorations. Sarah and Lillian attend a candle light Christmas eve service.

Share a Christmas tradition you enjoy with your family.

Vasthi Reyes Acosta - In my home we celebrate El Dia de los Reyes on January 6th. We put out the water and whatever grass we can find in the winter and in the morning there is a gift waiting. Often we go to parties on that day and eat, sing and enjoy family and friends.

Gail Sattler - I crocheted a nativity scene to keep the true Christmas story alive in my home. Instead of decorating the mantle, we place all the people all over the house. The shepherds and sheep are on the hearth, the wise men and camel are in the eastern most part of my house, the dining room. Mary and Joseph and the donkey cross the living room carpet, we move them a bit each day. The innkeeper waits alone in the inn/stable near the Christmas tree. When the kids were little they used to play with everything, then at night, everyone goes back to their special place in the house. Christmas morning Mary and Joseph arrive at the inn, the angel comes out, Jesus is born, we say a prayer, and only then do we start opening gifts.

Lynette Sowell - A few days before Christmas Eve, we start baking goodies and appetizers. Then on Christmas Eve we invite anyone who wants to come by the house after the Christmas Eve candlelight service. We enjoy time friends and family, everyone eats all the food (so we're not stuck with tons of fudge), and then we collapse in happy heaps when everyone leaves. Then we each open one present. The "main" Christmas gifts don't get put under the tree until the kids are in bed.

Carrie Turansky - We have collected Christmas ornaments from many different places over the years. Our family enjoys unwrapping them each year and decorating our Christmas tree. We talk about the places we have traveled and enjoy sharing these special memories together. Serving popcorn and hot cocoa are part of the tradition too.

What is one of your favorite scenes in the book?


Vasthi Reyes Acosta - I have several favorite scenes. I love all the scenes where Cecilia's family is creating havoc for her. They were so much fun to write with the loudness, chaos and love present and typical of Latino families. But if I had to choose one scene it would be when Elias professes his love for Cecilia.

Gail Sattler - On the subway. I love to feel the motion and watch out the window as everything is zipping by, and of course, Emily had her camera with her.

Lynette Sowell -I loved writing Theo's point of view when he and Gwynn go shopping in Chinatown. He's incredibly aware of how he feels about her now, and he's not quite sure what to do about it just yet. .

Carrie Turansky - Sarah joins Justin's family to celebrate Thanksgiving and she discovers many new qualities about him. The interaction between Justin and Sarah as they wash dishes after dinner was fun to write and very romantic.

We invite you to cruise by our site www.abigapplechristmas.com, where we share recipes, more about our stories, excerpts, and blog tour dates. Each week we’ll post a question from one of the novellas in the anthology. Those answering correctly will have their names entered into our weekly drawing. And for those in the NYC area, we have a very special prize…tickets to Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. So if you live in The City or you’d like to travel there, please read our book, answer the question, and enter the drawing.

You can learn more about the authors at their websites:

Gail Sattler: www.gailsattler.com

Lynette Sowell: www.lynettesowell.com

Carrie Turansky: www.carrieturansky.com



Spotlight on Europe

New feature!! Every Wednesday will bring you news about historical novels set in Europe. I'm going to go through the new ones first, but I know I'll run out and then I'm going to do some of the older ones that are still available.

I write European historicals and I love to read European historicals. There's a group of us ACFWers called His Writers who are all passionate about European historicals. If you're an ACFW member who loves to write Europeans and you're not yet a member, contact Therese Stenzel for an invite to the group.

This week it's Sanctuary by Molly Noble Bull.

Sanctuary is the story of Rachel Levin and Pierre Dupre. Rachel is Jewish and Pierre is a Huguenot. But what is a Huguenot you ask? A French Protestant, a follower of John Calvin. The book takes place in early 1700's France and Scotland. France was still very much a Catholic country at this time and everyone then persecuted Jews and even the Protestants.

The book is currently sold out at ChristianBook.com, so if you want a copy you'll need to go to Amazon or B&N.com.

Sadly, I have not read this book yet. I have read the excerpt posted on Molly's website and this book has shot to the top of my Must Buy list.

Description from Amazon:
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalms 91: 1 By 1740 hatred and persecution that so blackened France in an earlier era has almost vanished from the land. Rachel Levin, a Jewess pretending to be a Christian and secretly engaged, feels safe. But when her fiancée and her parents are murdered by a vicious French army captain, Rachel fears for her life. She flees her village with a young Huguenot, Pierre Dupre, and Rachel and Pierre take refuge in a church. Dressed as a nun and a monk, all goes well until the captain who killed her loved ones arrives.

Captain Vallae is rich and powerful. He wants Rachel as his mistress, or he wants her dead. After the captain leaves, Rachel and Pierre agree to a marriage of convenience and manage to escape. Furious that Rachel refused his advances, Captain Vallae demands revenge.

Will Rachel and Pierre reach Scotland in time? Or will the captain make good on his threat to end their lives on an English countryside?

Monday, October 29, 2007

The fate of historical fiction

There was an interesting interview highlighted on Favorite PASTimes today. Agent extraordinaire Chip McGregor did the interviewing, and the interviewee is Dave Horton, the incoming VP of Fiction at Bethany House.

Bethany House has a reputation for producing stellar historical fiction. A full 3/4's of the books in my house are Bethany books. To me, having grown up with Judith Pella, the Thoene's, Gilbert Morris and Michael Phillips, Bethany is the Holy Grail of the publishing industry. I know that a historical published by Bethany is held to a higher standard of historical accuracy. I know I'm going to LOVE that book. I have never read a Bethany book that I didn't like and they have a truly amazing stable of historical authors. I've learned more about writing good historical fiction from reading Morris and Phillips than I've ever learned from reading books on craft. (and I've also learned not to expand a family tree too much because then you get bogged down in a war and you have to stop the series 60 years before you'd planned!)

So why am I pointing the interview out? Because I find some of Dave's comments about historical fiction in general disturbing. In particular, the second sentence of his first answer. I don't know about you, but I don't read historicals because I'm in a rut. I read them because THAT'S WHAT I WANT!

I do agree with his statement that historical fiction is a broad category, and not easily compared to other genres. He's very right on that point. We are a broad genre and many mainstream genres are covered in historical sub-genres. It's like comparing apples and squash.

I think the falling historical numbers in CBA is more of a reflection on people thinking history is dull and boring. We historical authors and history nuts know it's anything but boring and our passion is to share that with the people who think history is dull and boring. I've always viewed Bethany as the house that shared my own personal goal of breathing Life into history, and focusing on the great Christians who have helped to shape history.

My generation of readers doesn't really read all that much and they've been taught white-washed, made-up, dull, boring history. I saw it every day when I was still at KH. Children who have no idea what makes this country great, what their own history is, and who don't even know their own family legends. How can a readership like that be expected to read historical fiction? They think it's boring because they've been taught that it's boring. The way history is taught in many schools IS boring.

As a historical author, I see part of my mission to be showing people that history is interesting. That it's passionate and full of life. It's not just dates and names, but people and places and stories that are too fantastic to possibly be true. But they are true, and we must remember them.

If we do now know history, we are doomed to repeat it. Yes, it's a cliche. And it's completely true.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

38 Questions

Erica asked for people to play along, so I'll play along!

1.Name one person who made you laugh last night? Uhm..... I think it was my brother

2. What were you doing at 0800? I was asleep!

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago? Shouting for The Munchkin.

4. What happened to you in 2006? Ria came and spent 2 weeks with me! We had a blast and before her trip was even over, we'd started planning my next trip to see her. 30 more days!!!!

5. What was the last thing you said out loud? I asked The Munchkin what she was doing.

6. How many beverages did you have today? 2, a glass of grape juice at breakfast, and a Mt. Dew at lunch. I'm feeling parched though so I need to get me some water...

7. What color is your hairbrush? Black and purple

8. What was the last thing you paid for? The stuff I bought at Hobby Lobby last night.

9. Where were you last night? At home, stitching and watching a documentary on Bram Stoker and Dracula.

10. What color is your front door? Purple!! (ETA: Um, it's not purple. I don't know why I typed purple. Maybe I wish it was purple. It's actually a really ugly brown and it's got fake 3D wood grain. Mama actually likes it kind of, but I wish she'd get rid of it! Don't ever to try to knock on it, that's why there's a brass knocker. You'll rip all the skin off your knuckles)

11. Where do you keep your change? In my purse. I live by my Check Card though, so I don't have a whole lot of change.

12. What’s the weather like today? Absolutely beautiful!

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor? You mean there are other flavors besides chocolate?

14. What excites you? Lots of stuff! A new idea for a story, a new piece of conflict, a new revelation about a character, a new Nadia Tate mermaid, a new Mirabilia mermaid, my kitty, finding a new book about Russia. I could keep going on and on and on, but I'll stop now.

15. Do you want to cut your hair? Not at the moment.

16. Are you over the age of 25? I will be next year.

17. Do you talk a lot? Nope.

18. Do you watch the O.C.? Not even once.

19. Do you know anyone named Steven? I used to.

20. Do you make up your own words? Not as often as my sister does.

21. Are you a jealous person? I think everyone is sometimes

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’. Asa


23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’. Kaye.

24. Who’s the first person on your received call list? On my cell phone it's my sister, not sure who on the house phone.

25. What does the last text message you received say? It was from Cingular and I deleted it upon receipt.

26. Do you chew on your straw? No.

27. Do you have curly hair? If out of a box counts, yes I have curly hair.

28. Where’s the next place you’re going to? A baby shower

29. Who’s the rudest person in your life? The Bead Lady.

30. What was the last thing you ate? A Kit Kat.

.31. Will you get married in the future? That's the plan!

32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks? I don't think I've watched a movie in the last 2 weeks...

33. Is there anyone you like right now? Nope, not in the sense of anyone I might be dreaming about marrying. I don't characters count for this question, lol.

34. When was the last time you did the dishes? About 10 minutes ago

35. Are you currently depressed? No, but only because I'm on anti-depressants.

36. Did you cry today? No, but I came close at lunch thinking about the possibility that Mimi won't be alive to come to my wedding.

37. Why did you answer and post this? Because Erica asked if anyone wanted to play.

38. Tag 5 people who would do this survey.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Friday Fact

Gimme Some Sugah!!!


I'm making chocolate chip cookies at the moment, and so my thoughts naturally turned towards sugar. Sugar is the #1 cash crop in Louisiana, followed by cotton, soy beans, rice, feed corn and crawfish.

Sugar-making itself has a fascinating history, but that's not what I'm going to go into today. I'm focusing on the wonderful product called brown sugar. Having worked at a plantation in Louisiana, I learned more about antebellum sugar-making practices than any person should ever have a right to know. Including some very interesting things about brown sugar.

You would be amazed how many think white sugar comes first, and then brown sugar. That is not the case. There are 4 grades of sugar. Raw, dark brown, light brown and refined white sugar. Everyone is familiar with light brown and white, but not so many are familiar with dark brown or raw. Raw is starting to pop up in places outside of Louisiana as the demand for organic foods continues to climb. Dark brown is still not easily found outside of sugar-producing states. Many people think it's too strong.

Back in the olden days, making sugar was a very time consuming process. It starts with the juice. Cane juice looks, feels and smells like slimy water that's been sitting in a bucket for days and days. This juice is turned into sugar, molasses, cane syrup and rum. The main purpose of sugar cane, prior to the late 1700's, was to make rum. Sugar was merely a by-product, and that's why it cost so much and was often called White Gold. 1 ton of sugar cane produces only about 100 pounds of sugar. That same ton produces several hundred gallons of molasses- the main ingredient in good rum.

You cook the juice down over a VERY hot fire. And I do mean VERY hot, fueled with hard woods. It's so hot it can roast a hot dog in about 30 seconds. Which is good, because that's about how long you can stand next to it. And yes, I know that through personal experience, lol. The juice goes through 4 stages of purification and boiling off the excess water before it's ready to be seeded. The kettle had to be seeded with sugar from the previous year's batch. Making sugar was an artform and was not an easy task. Kent House has made sugar 13 years in a row. Sugar was actually produced only 5 times.

The juice had to be heated up to 225 degrees, and then it would begin to crystallize. The juice was removed from the heat, and prior to 1850, poured into wooden troughs. Once in there it was stirred to help it begin to cool off. As it cooled, the sugar granules would form a crust along the top and sides.

The sugar is VERY dark brown. Darker than dark brown sugar, and the granules resemble rock candy in size. This is sugar in its purest form and it's like eating molasses flavored rock candy. But you couldn't sell it that way outside of Louisiana. So it had to be refined. The crystals were removed, and melted again. Then poured into a trough again. The crystals shrank, and there you had dark brown sugar.

To get light brown, you repeat the process. To get white, you melt them one more time, then let the granules get almost cool. Now comes the slightly weird part. The granules were poured into a big metal drum and then spun around. This process would extract the last drops of molasses from the crystals, thereby turning the sugar white.

A lot of people would be shocked when I told them this on a tour. They assumed that white sugar came first and brown sugar was made by adding molasses to the white. The reverse is true.

And there you have it. How to make all 4 grades of sugar! If you ever find yourself with 3-4 weeks and nothing to do during those weeks, make some sugar! And next time you have a bowl of oatmeal, try it with some brown sugar on top. Delicious!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thinking, Part 2

Guys this time. Why do I have so many guys running around in my head anyway? I think I may have hit on something that resembles an answer.

It's quite possible that my "mission" as a Christian writer, is to show men who aren't afraid to be a David. And by that I don't mean that they're physically strong or brilliant strategists or great rulers. By that I mean they're not afraid to be manly, and they're not afraid to cry. Cry tears or cry out to God for help.

David was a Manly Man, there is no doubt about that. And yet he was also very in touch with his emotions who went through some bouts of depression. Some of his best Psalms are the ones written when he was at his lowest, crying out to God for help and wondering why God wasn't listening to him. We all go through those moments. In today's society, it's acceptable for a woman to show weakness and cry over things. It seems to me that it's not acceptable for a man to do the same thing, even if he needs to do it. In some ways that is changing though.

So maybe this is why I have so many guys in my head. They're guys who struggle with the concept of Biblical manhood versus what society expects of them as men. That's what their stories are about, that struggle to reconcile the two facets of manhood. Maybe I'm supposed to help change that part of societal expectations.

Nick is a perfect example of this dichotomy. He's a SEAL. That means he's a Manly Man (insert The Toolman's grunt here). He is the Best of the Best, the cream of the crop. He made it through the winter BUD/S class! That class has the highest drop-out rate because of the water temp. He's a sniper for pete's sake, and a doggone good one. He's a tough He-Man. He's a tough He-Man who didn't conquer his fear of the dark until he was nearly finished with BUD/S, and who is terribly afraid of making friends because he doesn't want them to know what happened to him when he was a kid. Who hides the fact that he's Russian because he doesn't want to talk about it and also hides the fact that he's an advanced knitter. (you can only do so much math when you're laid up for 4 months with a badly broken leg, so he learned how to knit) He also hides the fact that he can turn into a real emotional basketcase under the right circumstances. Why? Because he's a SEAL, a Manly Man who doesn't show his emotions to anyone. But he fights with it because God says it shouldn't have to be that way.

Nick's Jonathan is a man named Walt. A fellow SEAL, several years older than him, who takes Nick under his wing and helps guide him through the minefield of life as a SEAL, holds him up and gives him the first real friend (besides his brothers) that he's ever had. Like in the story of David and Jonathan, Nick eventually marries Walt's sister. Even after Nick becomes an officer, Walt remains his closest friend and the only man he works with that he trusts with his past. Walt's already been through his refining fire when they first meet, so he has lots of wisdom to share once Nick reaches the point where he can listen.

And every other guy character and story in my head also follows the David and Jonathan theme, except for the marrying the sister part. It's all about how they struggle with who they're supposed to be, and how that one friend helps them be all they can be.

OK, I'm going to stop now because I'm repeating lines from Army commercials now. And besides, Sergei is starting to shout at me...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Some thoughts

I'm just rambling today. Lots of things have been going through my head this week. And the week's only half over, so there's no telling what other deep thoughts might appear!

The annual Vision Forum catalog arrived yesterday. The ministry was founded 10 years ago by a man named Doug Phillips, and his wife Beall. Doug's a lawyer, and used to be on staff at the Home School Legal Defense Association. Then he left his staff position there to start the Vision Forum. He has a God-given vision of restoring the nuclear family unit with a strong emphasis on Biblical family leadership. He has strong opinions on the role of family in general, what role a father/husband should take in his household, and an amazing heart for restoring daughters to their fathers. He has that heart because he has 6 daughters. I fully and wholeheartedly agree with his vision for raising children and raising daughters in particular.

After Susie's "A Hero Is Like An Onion" class, I mentioned to her that I'd really enjoyed the class because I have a whole bunch of guys living in my head and now I could make them deeper. Yes most of them get married, have girlfriends, etc. But I don't know nearly as much about their girls as I know about them. Susie asked me if I was afraid to write stories with a strong female character. I didn't have an answer, but the comment hasn't left me alone.

So yesterday I was sitting there looking through the catalog, going ga-ga over the new stuff in the Beautiful Girlhood Collection. (and the new stuff in the Boys collection. Pretend hand grenades that have removable pins! How cool is that?) Vision Forum also carries and publishes a large number of books devoted to Biblical womanhood and Biblical manhood.

I have an answer to Susie's question now. I don't have a lot of strong female characters who take center stage because my view of what a Christian woman should be is scorned by much of society. And very sadly, by much of Christian society. The Biblical ideals of what a woman should strive for and how God wants her to be are, for the large part, ignored by the church. And that doesn't set well with me.

I'm a homebody. I went through the whole career phase when I was a young teenager and had decided I was going to go to nursing school. For the entire three years that I was pursuing that goal, I was absolutely miserable. I hated myself and I hated a lot of the people around me. God finally got ahold of me though, and ripped the dream away. Once that happened, the change in me was amazing.

My vision of the ideal Christian woman is a strong woman who stands behind and beside her husband in his decisions, and makes their home a quiet retreat and a safe place. I want to be the wife who turns the home into a place where the husband wants to be at the end of his day, a place where he can think, rest and regroup. My vision doesn't work outside the home, and that meets a lot of resistance and I get told over and over and over that "you can't afford to stay home in this day and age, you have to have two incomes". That's not true. It's a matter of budgeting and setting financial priorities. I think daycare is a bad idea, I don't approve of age segregated church services and I don't agree at all with the idea of public school. I don't even like private schools, whether they're run by a church or not. This means I take a lot of flak from people, and the worst of it, sadly, comes from Christians.

My female characters reflect my view of Christian, Biblical womanhood. They don't work outside the home. Every single family in my head homeschools their kids. Every single one of them. They take care of the home so that when my man comes home, he steps into an oasis from the world he's been in. This is especially important for my guys who are in the military.

A lot of people highly disapprove of that. A female character should have a job, should want to be doing something with her life. She shouldn't be staying home and taking care of a family (Michelle and Brooke), or even desiring to stay at home and take care of a family (Ti, who is anxiously awaiting her wedding day so she can quit her job and stay home). That just doesn't sit well with me at all. I think that's a big part of why I like writing and reading historicals so very much. The mindset that I have, in the minds of many people today, is very old-fashioned and Victorian. That's who I am, that is who God made me to be. That's a big part of why I love the Victorian era so much. Women who raised families were respected and cherished, just as they should be today.

I fully believe that the highest calling a woman can have is to be a wife, a mother and a homemaker. That is the calling my female characters have. That calling gets them called doormats and unfulfilled. That calling gets me called a doormat and not reaching my full potential and scads of other things that I would never repeat. Sometimes, the very same people who stand up and preach "tolerance" in a pulpit or a Sunday School class never extend that tolerance to people who refuse to live in the mold the world has made for us. That almost makes me cry.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

And the crown goes to...

BOBBY JINDAL!!!!!!!!!!

What crown you ask? It's a reference to a really below-the-belt campaign ad that the Democrats were running. Bobby Jindal is a committed Christian, a godly man and exactly what this state needs to make forward progress after Katrina and Rita. He has a plan that'll work and isn't afraid to do the dirty work, and that scared the a lot of people in Baton Rouge.

Election was yesterday. Yes, we're weird and elect governors and sheriff's and state offices in odd-numbered years. Bobby got 53% of the vote, almost 3/4 of a million votes. That's staggering numbers for Louisiana, where most people don't bother to go vote in the governor's race.

The most amazing part though, is that Bobby is not white. His parents are Indian immigrants. Less than 20 years ago we nearly voted in a KKK Grand Wizard. This state has come so far, and now with Bobby's leadership, we can go even further.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Friday Fact

I forgot last week. 10 lashes with a wet noodle for me! I worked 8 hours Friday and Saturday last week is my excuse. I remembered Saturday at lunch, when I naturally didn't have access to a computer.

This week, some of racing's greatest. I won't go into a lot of detail, you can Google the names if you want more.

Seasbiscuit: After the movie starring Tobey Maguire, Seabiscuit fever swept across the nation like wildfire. Again. Yes, he was a great horse. Made even greater by the fact that he just wouldn't quit. The movie is excellent, but the book, as usual, is a bazillion times better. His story is amazing, as is the story of the people that went with him. A true Great American Tale.

War Admiral: Yes, Seabiscuit's arch-nemesis was a great horse. As was his father, Man-O-War. He won the Triple Crown in 1937.

Man-O-War: He was a fierce horse with a bad temper. And practically unbeatable. He sired and grand-sired some of the greatest horses of the 20's and 30's, including Seabiscuit.

Northern Dancer: A lovely gray colt and he dominated the racing scene in the mid-60's. Almost every single champion horse since 1969 has contained Northern Dancer blood. He's one of a few stallions who consistently produced top-notch offspring. He also holds the Derby speed record of 2 minutes flat.

Secretariat: No list of Great Horses is complete without Secretariat's name. He won the Triple Crown in 1973, and won the mile-and-a-half long Belmont Stakes by 33 lengths. That's over a quarter of a mile, just to put it in perspective for ya. No horse has ever achieved that kind of victory since, and I don't think any horse ever will. He had a larger heart than most horses, now believed to have been genetic and inherited from his dam. Sadly, that very same large heart also caused his death at the young age of 14.

Seattle Slew: Purchased for a measly $17,500, he went on to become the only Triple Crown champion to remain undefeated throughout his entire post-TC racing career. He's produced some very good offspring and has an excellent broodmare line. His total earnings topped $1.2 million, an astronomical sum in the 70's. I believe he was one of the first horses to top the million mark in lifetime earnings.

Affirmed: Another great horse, often overlooked. He was the last horse to win the Triple Crown in 1978. This next year will mark a 30-year drought in winning. This has prompted speculation that the races should be spread out over more time or shortened. I beg to differ and believe that it's a reflection of some of the shoddy breeding practices that have developed in this country that have led to weak boned horses.

Silver Charm: Not exactly a great, but a great to me. He is my most favorite racehorse of all time and won the Kentucky Derby in 1997. He's a gorgeous dapple gray. Or well, he was until his coat started fading. That's the nature of grays though, when he dies he'll be pure white. His offspring have done ok, Preachinatthebar is the most notable one. He won the Louisiana Derby in 2003. It was Charm who got me hooked on racing. If anyone has ever right-clicked on the pictures I post here, they've noticed that my Photobucket user name is Silver Charm. It's a handle I use quite frequently on the 'Net. It's always available!

Unbridled: A true unsung champion! He won the Derby in 1990 and has gone on to sire dozens of Grade 2 and Grade 1 stakes winners. His most famous offspring is Unbridled's Song, a filly. She was amazing and is having a very successful career as a broodmare.

Now some people will say, "What about Smarty Jones and Funny Cide?". I do have an answer. Funny Cide is a good horse. His performance has not been very steady since his Derby run. Being a gelding (which means he can't make babies) limits his future. Great means being consistent, turning in the amazing performance time after time after time. Funny Cide just doesn't have that.

And Smarty Jones.... He was just a good horse. Considering the lackluster crop he was running against, a good argument can be made that he was just a mediocre horse that hit the right set of circumstances so that he looked better than he really was. He did not go on to prove that he was a great horse and he should NOT have won Horse of the Year in 2004. He would have earned the right to be called great IF he had run in the Breeder's Cup Classic against the older boys and won. Since he didn't, he's not a great horse. Why yes, I do have a strong opinion on the matter. However did you guess?

Much of the country recently mourned the loss of another great horse. Barbaro, last year's Derby winner. I sat on the couch and cried when he broke down at the Belmont. I was thrilled to pieces that Birdstone won, but heart-broken over Barbaro. I fully believe had that not happened, he would have ended the Triple Crown drought and gone down on the list of champions right next to Secretariat. I cried when I learned that he'd been put down back in the spring.

So why I am posting all this horse stuff? The ultimate day in racing is just around the corner. Next weekend is The Breeder's Cup, where the Best of the Best from around the world will gather at Monmouth Park in New Jersey and duke it out to see who's the best in each category. And I sincerely hope somebody besides Ouija Board wins the Filly/Mare Turf. 3 years in a row is a little ridiculous IMO. :D

The Importance of Pronunciation

I've finally started the actual transcription part of my course. *cue happy dance* The first section is called the Warm-Up. The dictater is one of the school's instructors.

At this particular point in time, she has skewered so many medical words that it's unreal! She puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable ALL THE TIME. I didn't know it was possible to say "palmento" when you're supposed to say "palmetto". And cervical sounds really weird when the emphasis is on the "vi" instead of the "cer" as it's supposed to be.

And the way she said "prostatism" made it sound like prostitution. I am extremely glad that I'm already intimately familiar with most medical terms.

The good news is that I only have 3 sections left to finish the warm-up, and I should be able to complete most of those tomorrow afternoon. I'm also developing a dislike of my laptop keyboard now that I have my big one back. The laptop keyboard is just too small for me to hit my maximum speed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

10-20-30

I've been tagged not once, but twice! By Kaye and Erica. And even though I'm not 30 yet, I'll play. And then pass it on to at least one other person who also isn't 30 yet.

10 Years Ago: I was 14 and we had just moved from an itty-bitty Mississippi Delta town to the bustling metropolis of Alexandria. When you move from 5 stoplights and no Super Wal-Mart to the town with Sam's and TWO movie theaters, that's a big change! I was missing my best friend something awful and things weren't going the way we had thought they were going to go. Truth be told it was a rotten year. The next 6 were pretty rotten too.

I was also chewing on the idea that has now morphed into The Epic. This was the year when writing really started to play a big role in my life. It was a great escape to retreat into my own little world where I controlled the outcome of every little thing. In a world where we had no control over what happened, I fully believe it helped me hold onto my sanity. I was more aware of what was going on than my other siblings were.

20 Years Ago: I was 4. Yes, 4! Had already learned how to read, and Mama was pregnant with my youngest brother. The previous year holds my very first movie memory. We went to see The Fox and The Hound when it finally made it to the Natchez, MS movie theater. I have a very vivid memory of the bear rearing up on the cliff with Tod cowering underneath, and Copper running to the rescue.

30 Years Ago: My parents had just met. Aww!

I hereby and forthwith tag

My Mother
SIL Kati
Christina Berry
Michelle Sutton
Margo Carmichael
Mary Connealy

Sunday, October 14, 2007

So Sorry...

Uhm, yeah, I forgot... The Friday Fact that is. I worked 8 hours Friday and 8 hours Saturday, and Saturday on my lunch break realized I hadn't done it. Oops! I'm only working a half day this Friday, so hopefully I will remember.

And now for a little update on life in general!

I made a 97 on my Terminology final!!!!!!!! I am still so excited and thrilled over it. Yes, I did have my papers and notes handy and had to pull my trusty dictionary out a couple times, but that's why I have these tools. To use them and make sure I get things right. That is the purpose of a Medical Speller and a medical dictionary. An MT that won't use those tools isn't worth her salt IMO.

So, that leaves me raring to go with the actual transcription portion of my course. I spent Thursday afternoon setting all of that up, downloading my software, making sure my foot pedal works, making sure my keyboard is at the right height, etc. All of these things are very important, particularly the keyboard.

Then to top off the day with a cherry and whipped cream, 1100 words came pouring out on A Time For War, a new antagonist popped up and Sergei revealed another layer of himself. Whoohoo! However, I'm still struggling with exactly where to introduce Tatiana's POV. Right now I've got her a scene in Chapter 2, but I'm not sure that it needs to stay there. I know I need to get her introduced within the first 25 pages, but I'm not totally sold that I've done it in the right place.

I'm still having hour problems at work. I typed up a note to give to the boss, that way he couldn't misread handwriting. Laid out my case, made it VERY clear that I can only work a set amount of hours. This next week is under that limit, but we shall see what happens after that. I've got an application in for two positions at the hospital, so I'm just waiting to see what happens on that front. Where I'm at is fine, but I'm not going to turn down something better, or not seek out something better. One of the positions is an MT position, the other is a Unit secretary. Not something I've ever done before in this particular way, but it is all things that I've done before. If that makes any sense, lol.

The Munchkin is currently doing an excellent imitation of a slowly drying half-drowned rat. She must have fallen in the pool earlier this evening. She got the cover of my Writer's Digest wet...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

You know you write historical fiction when...

You know you write historical fiction when:

You see someone mention calla lilies as part of their wedding flowers and you cringe inside because The Language of Flowers says calla lilies mean death and are harbingers of doom (and you're very glad that your SIL changed her mind about wanting calla lilies in her flowers and went with roses instead)

You get excited over a mundane little piece of information that can make or break your plot

You can spend hours in the non-fiction section of Barnes & Noble or the library and still not find what you're looking for

You get terribly excited over finding a non-fiction book that will help you flesh out your conflict

You're watching a documentary on the History Channel, and a new plot idea lands in your brain. You then have to stop watching the documentary and go work on your idea


Feel free to add to the list! I love lists like this.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Research, oh how I love thee!

Yeah, I love research. I write historical fiction, and you have to love research to write good historical fiction. At least that's my take on it.

You don't just have to research for historical fiction though. A good writer does research on anything they write, whether it be a contemporary romance or a suspense. While historical is my main love, I do write contemporary as well.

I've got this whole other world in my head, populated by a full cast of characters and I even have a made-up town complete with small-town politics and a feud. In this little town lives a family by the name of O'Connor. And they adopted two boys from Russia. They're brothers, and I know their entire history, even their extended family still in Russia that they don't know about. The younger of the two is in love with Broadway and has a voice somewhere between Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. He's a crooner and a ham.

The older boy is Nick, I think I've talked about him before. He joins the Navy and becomes a SEAL. (enlists, then becomes an officer through Seaman to Admiral and I know most of his men and their backgrounds) He and his wife can't have kids. The reason for that is a whole 'nother story in itself that I do plan to write someday. So I've been doing some adoption research the last couple of days and discovered to my pleasant surprise that he could adopt internationally! I can feel the second part of his story settling into place. All I want to do is stay here and work on it, brainstorm some, do some What If-ing and see what happens.

This part of his story will force him to confront things that he refuses to face and will cause external conflict with his wife, and internal conflict within himself as he faces these things from his past. The conflict potential is amazing.

But I can't work on it in depth like I want to. I have to go to work!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Storykeeper

It turns out there was a very good reason for why I was unable to order The Storykeeper Cameo last month. Besides the fact that there was a fire in Selina's apartment complex and much of her stock was destroyed.

Her supplier for the cameo mounts has temporarily run out of silver mounts. Silver is nice, but I'm a gold girl. They shipper her some GOLD mounts to tide her over until the silver mounts arrived. Oh yeah!!

So naturally I fire off an email to see if I can get The Storykeeper that way. I can. So I did. It'll ship tomorrow.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Just hit me...

It just hit me. About 20 minutes ago.

In 44 days, I will be boarding a plane to start my 5-airport trip to NYC!!!!! Some days it feels like forever since I saw Ria last, and some days it feels like her visit was last week. And in 44 days we get to see each other again.

Yeah, 4 cities, 5 airports. My airport, Memphis, Baltimore, Philly, Long Island. Gonna be a LONG day. But totally worth it.

Sometimes having your best friend living on the other side of the country really sucks.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Friday Fact


Thoroughbred Horse Racing


I've been puzzling all day over what to post and coming up with nothing. So I'm falling back on my sporting passion- Thoroughbred horse racing! Today will be a brief look at how the sport is organized. The picture is of my favorite race horse Silver Charm, he's the gray, and his arch rival Wild Rush. Wild Rush is the bay in the background.

Horse racing is one of the oldest sports still in existence. It dates back to at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. Every continent on the Earth has a racing association of some sort. Here in the US there are two major ones. The Jockey Club and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. The NTRA is the governing body as far as rules go and covers harness racing, steeplechase and dirt.

The Jockey Club is where all Thoroughbred race horses are registered. There is a limit of 18 characters to the horse's name, and this does include spaces. It's a big part of the reason that run-on names are so popular. The Jockey Club also keeps the stud book and compiles the annual breeding statistics.

There are three age/sex divisions in dirt racing. Juvenile, Filly/Mare and what's generally known as Classic. Juvenile horses are the two-year-olds. Fillies and mares don't normally race against the boys, because they're usually smaller and not quite as fast. There are noteable exceptions though, such as Ashado, Azeri and Rags to Riches. Rags to Riches was the FIRST filly to EVER win at a mile and a half in the United States. She's one amazing little horse, won the Belmont Stakes back in June.

Classic is three years old and up. Usually it's the boys against the boys and the girls against the girls. Every once in awhile there will be a mare that can put the boys in their place and it's awesome to watch.

The races themselves are also divided into three categories. A horse's first race is called their Maiden. They break their Maiden whenever they have their first win. Most horses race in a maiden more than once. Once the maiden is broken, they'll move into one of three categories. Those are Claiming, Allowance and Stakes. Claiming is the lowest tier. Anyone who's watched Seabiscuit has a general idea of what a claiming race is. Basically the horse runs, and depending on how he finishes, you can "claim" him for xx amount of money. Next up is Allowance. No big purses, but the horse also won't change ownership three times in one day. (yes, that can happen in claiming races) Then the graded Stakes races. The Stakes are where the money is. Grade 3 Stakes have decent horses in them. Grade 2 Stakes have a mix of decent and good horses and Grade 1 is where the outstanding, amazing horses are. Every single race horse name you're thinking of is a Grade 1 winner.

The Triple Crown races are Grade 1 Stakes, and most of the Derby prep races are Grade 2 Stakes. Running in the Derby is every trainer's dream. Only a handful of them make it. The truly great trainers like Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher go dozens of times, though they don't always win.

Next week- the GREATS of TB racing. By that I mean jockeys, horses and trainers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Interview with Tiffany Colter

Today I have an interview with Tiffany Colter. She's known in ACFW as the Writing Career Coach. She's recently launched a new blog with the purpose of helping writers hone their careers.


What exactly is a Writing Career Coach? What set you on this path of ministry to other writers?

That is a common question. I can't speak for all writing career coaches [unless, of course, I'm the only one] but what I do is teach business principles to writers. Some people may think it's cheesy but I sincerely have a passion to mentor writers so they can become the most productive writers they can be. I also hate the idea of Authors barely getting by after publication. I want them to thrive. There is no reason why anyone should barely get by on what they earn. With planning people can earn a living as a writer/author but it won't just happen.

This all started two years ago when my husband picked up two books: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T.Harv Eker. What I read in those books changed the way I looked at myself, success, and the path to abundance. I realized that most of my battle was between my ears [in my mind].

So I ran out and started trying to apply everything I'd learned. At the time my husband had just been diagnosed with Cancer [Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma]. He knew that his life as a Firefighter/Paramedic was probably over so he began to devour books on business and marketing. I did the same. But the two small business plans I wrote up and tried to apply fell apart.

In September 2006 I came to ACFW's Writer's conference in Dallas, TX and suddenly God brought together all I'd learned in business with my passion for writing. I realized that most writers look at writing as an art, a ministry of a passion. While that is necessary, without a plan they will never be as productive as they could me. Some may never reach success at all.

So I started sharing with people how to use the business principles I'd learned to combine with God's call to write. People loved it. They raved about how my ideas changed how they looked at writing. They told me they were more productive, happier, and felt focus after doing what I'd showed them.

I also saw immediate results with my system. I wrote two full novels, 26,000 words of a full, got two requests for a full Manuscript, and submitted five places-all in under 9 months.

That's when I knew I was on to something. I took my notes, put them in to lesson form, and began to market what I called my Writing Career Coach Course. I coach people to build a plan to advance their writing career. They can buy the course at www.WritingCareerCoach.com. That has also spun off to a monthly E-zine available on that website and now I also have a blog at www.WritingCareerCoach.blogspot.com.



Do you have a specific verse of Scripture that guides you?

Yes, Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21. Just kidding.

This question is really like asking me which of my girls is my favorite. I have to be honest I devour scripture. I don't mean that in a "churchy" way. But when I was dating my husband and he lived an hour away he'd write me letters. He talked about our future together and how much he loved me. I read them over and over. Each time they'd reinforce in my mind his love for me. It is the same way with God. In scripture God uses romantic references in places to describe His love for the Church.

When there is something, good or bad, in my life I run to the Word of God and find a scripture that talks about it and meditate on it. I have four daughters, when one of them was two she battled a number of health problems and was hospitalized twice in 4 months. I went to Psalms 41:3. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer in his right distal femur [inside the bone marrow] I meditated on Psalm 34:18-20.

But for my writing it would have to be Ps 20:4-5 "May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will life up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests."

It's about making a plan in prayer, doing the work necessary to execute that plan, and giving God the glory when you succeed. That's what being a Christian writer is all about.