Monday, January 31, 2011

New Cover Art! And New Goals!

Today's a day to unveil some new cover art. Both of these books, A Log Cabin Christmas Collection and A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas release in September, 2011. Both are available for preorder on Squee!

Here's the description of A Log Cabin Christmas Collection from the page:

Experience Christmas through the eyes of adventuresome settlers who relied on log cabins built from trees on their own land to see them through the cruel forces of winter. Discover how rough-hewed shelters become a home in which faith, hope, and love can flourish. Marvel in the blessings of Christmas celebrations without the trappings of modern commercialism where the true meaning of the day shines through. And treasure this exclusive collection of nine Christmas romances penned by some of Christian fiction’s best-selling authors.

Penned by an exclusive selection of Christian fiction authors—including Margaret Brownley, Wanda E. Brunstetter, and Jane Kirkpatrick—this collection of nine romances will become an instant treasure. The American pioneer history comes to life within rough-hewn walls where faith, hope, and love flourish, especially at Christmastime.

My story Christmas Service appears in A Log Cabin Christmas Collection. Here's a bit about the story:

Set in the Minnesota North Woods in December, 1875, a blacksmith teaches the preacher’s daughter what it means to serve one another in love.

And here is the product description for A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas from

Quench your craving for good fiction with this wonderfully written Old West adventure. Hoping to leave the shadows of her shady yesteryears behind, Adeline Reid is focusing on her photography career. But when her ex-boyfriend’s compatriot in crime shows up in Dodge City her entire past is threatened by exposure. Can Addie keep her secrets while helping to catch a killer? Deputy Miles Carr’s investigation into a shopkeeper’s murder leads him to Addie’s door. Will his attraction to this female photographer keep him from catching the true culprit? Or will Addie lead him off course in more ways than one?

Deputy Miles Carr has his hands full trying to keep the peace in Dodge City and find a local shopkeeper’s killer. When his inquiries lead him to the door of Addie Reid’s photography studio, he finds himself more than a little distracted. Does this beauty hold the clue to the killer’s identity?

Since it's near the beginning of the month, I thought I'd also post some of my goals for February:

1. Add LOTS of words to Stars in her Eyes. I've got over 10K done on this story. The original deadline was set for 3/15, but because of signing contracts for the two works above, my editor JoAnne was kind enough to extend the deadline for this story until June 1st. But, I do hope to have the story done well before then. I had hoped to be able to finish it by the original due date, but that probably won't happen. My new goal is to have it ready to turn in by April 1st.

2. Research on Sagebrush Knights. Here's where I call on an expert. The ladies in these novellas are all the daughters of a professor of medieval studies. I am NOT fluent in Anglo-Saxon or the Arthurian Legends. So it's CJ to the rescue! My friend CJ was a Medieval Literature major in college, and she's already come to my aid as I start the brainstorming/plotting for this story. Yay, CJ!
3. Whatever edits come my way for upcoming books. Last week I finished the galley proofs for Before the Dawn, due out this April. Copy edits for Light to My Path will be showing up sometime in February or early March.  These always have priority over whatever else I'm working on at the moment.

4. Booksigning February 12th in Sioux Falls, SD at Crossroads Books. Mary Connealy and Rose Ross Zediker will also be there! Good times!!

What about you? Do you have any goals for February?

Oh, and join me over at Shannon Taylor Vannatter's Inkslinger Blog this week. I'm talking about my real life love story and you can win a copy of the now out-of-print The Bartered Bride.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Friday Five

This week's Friday Five is all about the letter X.

Four things I like that start with X and one thing I don't.

1. Xanthophyll. This is one of the words from the spelling bee in Little Town on the Prairie. It's what makes carrots orange.

2. X-rays. These are only cool if you DON'T need one.

3. X-stitch. (Okay, I know this is a cheat, but work with me. X is HARD!) I used to x-stitch all the time. Since I started writing, I don't have nearly the same time to devote to x-stitch.

4. XX chromosome. I like being a girl. I like my girl friends.

One thing I don't like that starts with X.

5. Xenophobia.

How about you? Anything you like that starts with X...anything you don't??

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Finding an Expert

Professional Makeupphoto © 2010 Amie Fedora | more info (via: Wylio)

Quite often I write about things I've no experience with. Not only have I never lived in the 19th century, but I've never been a professional photographer, a mining engineer, or a ship captain.

That's where research comes in.

I love to do research, and it was a hard lesson when I learned that research for a novel is like an iceberg.

Only 10% of the cool stuff you learn actually makes it into the novel. 90% stays under the water line.

Nothing will stop a reader quicker than an "I'm so smart, lookit all my research, isn't it shiny?" info dump.

And yet, the reader expects you to do research, not to put anything in the story that isn't plausible for the time period and situation.

So where does a writer get information? Lots of places, but some are more reliable than others.

1. The Internet. We've become a Google generation. The Internet is my first source for a broad overview and to see what the possibilities are. It's for pedestrian information like who was the US President in 1885 or When was Hawaii made a state? But you do have to be careful. Anyone can slap something up on a website, but that doesn't make it true.

2. Books. I love research books, esp. those published by university presses or state historical societies. Books tend to carry more credibility than just Internet research, but you have to be careful here, too. If you read an historical fact in a book, find at least one more source, but preferably two to corroborate. You might not always be able to find backup sources, but try. And a helpful tip: keep a list of your research materials just in case one of your editors queries something. It's always good to keep a bibliography.

3. Original documents. Diaries, letters, census information, newspapers, etc. This past week, I got to peruse a book of life insurance policies from 1905. Medical histories, family histories, occupations, incomes. A cornucopia of cool information. One man's sister was murdered in Africa, another man had Charlie Mayo as his personal physician. More than half the applicants had suffered from pneumonia or typhoid, and it seems a lot of dentist and bankers wanted life insurance. The annual income of a farmer in 1905 was about $600.

4. An Expert. A musuem curator, a professor, a person who has experience in the field you're exploring. Just this week, my daughter's college roommate Siri Thofson, who is a theatre major at Northwestern College, was kind enough to help me with some theatre terms, procedures, and makeup tips. With Siri's help, Willow Starr will be an authentic character, a stage actress.

Thank you, Siri!!!

So, what is your favorite source of information?

Monday, January 24, 2011


I'm so excited to be able to (FINALLY) announce that my friend, Katie Ganshert, has signed her first book contract!


I told Katie I would bring cupcakes, streamers, and fizzy punch to the party.
Katie has worked so hard. I've never met anyone so enthusiastic about learning. She reminds me so much of Jacob wrestling with The Angel of the Lord, refusing to let go until He gave Jacob a blessing. Katie attacks her writing with the same determination to learn everything she can as quickly as possible, and she won't let go until she's certain she's wrung everything she can out of a new concept.

It's always so much fun to share in the excitement of a first sale. Katie's been waiting for weeks and months to be able to announce the two-book contract she was offered.

I hope you'll head on over to: and get all the details and wish her your congratulations.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Friday Five

Stroke Letter photo © 2010 Open Exhibits | more info (via: Wylio)

This week's Friday Five is brought to you by the letter W.

Four things I like that start with W and one thing I don't.

1. Watermelon. The fruit, the gum, the candy. Love it!

2. The WILD. The Minnesota Wild.

3. Wandering. My parents called it 'dilly-dallying' and I was GREAT at it.

4. Whales, especially Beluga Whales. Who could resist those melon-headed, squeaking, snowman-resembling, blubber-coated darlings?

And one thing I don't like that starts with W:

5. Waiting. I am NOT a good waiter.

How about you? Got any W's?  Ooooo! I just remembered. I LOVE George W. Bush, too! :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Romanian Stamps Postcardphoto © 2008 | more info (via: Wylio)
One thing writers talk about often is how to make our characters realistic. How do we make our characters leap off the page, well-rounded, and unique?

How do you create someone like Hercule Poirot or Jack Ryan, Agent Pendergast or Hannibal Lecter?

While there is no formula or list to follow for creating memorable characters, here is something for you to consider:

Have one of your characters collect something. And give them a reason for doing so.

I think I first came across this on Deb Raney's website over a year ago.

This resonated with me because at various times in my life I've collected different things. Breyer Horses, Cherry Ames books, Memories of Yesterday figurines... My husband has collected baseball cards, coins, John Wayne movies...

When working on the character sketches recently, I remembered this little gem and decided to employ it.

In my current WIP, Stars in Her Eyes, my hero Silas collects and polishes rocks. His mother used to take him for walks along the shores of Lake Erie, and she used to pick up rocks and wonder about where they had come from, how they had arrived on the beach, and remind him how God created the world and that rock had been around since before the pyramids.

When Silas collects rocks, he remembers his mother, he remembers God is the Creator, Eternal, and Omniscient. He is reminded that God is big enough to take care of his problems, and that he is so small in comparison to God.

When I put this facet on his character, he gained depth and became more interesting to me.

Do you collect anything? have you ever had a character who collected something?

Monday, January 17, 2011

SHOWERS of blessing!

Heavy Rain Showerphoto © 2007 AlmazUK | more info (via: Wylio)

Showers of Blessing!

Wow, last week was AMAZINGLY positive. It seemed as if I could barely catch my breath from one blessing to another. I commented to a friend that it was like trying to get a sip of water from a fire hose, the blessings were coming along so fast.

1. Monday: Turned in A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas. I can't tell you how good this felt. I hit a wall a few weeks ago with this story, and it took some book surgery to get it all done. (This involved printing out the 90% I had finished and going through it scene-by-scene out loud with my brilliant and patient daughter until I arrived at the major problem in the ms. Once I resolved that issue--an issue I had discussed with a friend before that, then talked myself out of the solution later...sigh...I'm so dense sometimes--all the ducks got their bills and feathers in line and I finished the last 8K words in two days.)

I also learned that Mary Connealy, Rose Ross Zediker and I are going to have a book signing at Crossroads Books in Sioux Falls on February 12th from 1-3 pm. Rose is signing her debut novel Lily of the Field, and Mary will be signing Sharpshooter in Petticoats, while I'll be signing copies of Maggie and the Maverick. If you'd like a signed copy of any of these books and you can't make it to the book signing, Crossroads will arrange to have a book signed and shipped to you. Just give them a call at: 605.338.5951

2. Tuesday: I spent the day working on a novella collection idea. Actually, since Thanksgiving-time when Barbour announced they were going to publish 20+ novella collections in 2012, I had been trying on ideas for a novella collection and discarding them. I thought I would have to let this opportunity to pitch something pass me by, because I wasn't finding a story idea that intrigued me.

In a last-ditch effort, I went to the history books on my research bookshelf. I picked up Hearts West by Chris Enns. True stories of mail-order brides. I love mail-order bride stories. There's just something beautiful about people taking the ultimate risk, reaching out for what they hope will be a better life, that will bring them the thing they have been lacking. But, I digress. I glommed onto one tidbit of information from this book. In the 1870-90's a newspaper called The Matrimonial News published mail-order bride classifieds, hoping to unite brides and grooms. My mind kicked into gear.

And so was born the idea for Sagebrush Knights. Four sisters who venture westward hoping to meet their Knights in Shining Armor. I spent Tuesday polishing the storylines and brainstorming titles and character names with my daughter via IM. Late Tuesday night, I emailed it to my agent, Rachelle Gardner and went to bed.

3. Wednesday: By the time I got to my computer Wednesday morning, Rachelle had responded (she's kinda awesome that way--her communication is terrific!) The upshot of the email was that she would send the pitch for SK along to Barbour.

An hour later, positive news from Barbour. They were interested in the novella collection. Can you believe that? Color me giddy! I was squeeee-ing all over the house and even called my husband at work to tell him. (My son will testify that I pulled him away from his algebra in order to let me hug him.)

And later on Wednesday afternoon I got word that my historical Minnesota series would be coming out as a repack 3-in-1 collection in the Fall of 2012 under the title North Star Brides.

4. I thought the week couldn't possibly get better, but along came Thursday: Thursday morning, Rachelle called to tell me that the contract for SK had arrived already! AMAZING!

Rachelle even tweeted the news, which brought a flood of congrats and new twitter friends. :)

Then, the full list of the 18th Annual Heartsong Awards was posted at The Edit Cafe. Squee, squee, and more squee-ing! Yay, Heartsong Readers! I HEART you!!!

5. Enter Friday: I had the contract for Sagebrush Knights all signed and dropped it into the mail. And I had the day to myself because the boy was working with his dad at the shop. I packed up the laptop and headed to Caribou Coffee. Over a Black Thai Latte and slice of lemon poppyseed bread, I worked out the chapter-by-chapter synopsis for my next Heartsong, Stars in Her Eyes.

And as if that wasn't enough, I got an email from one of my editors. He's got Light to my Path in his inbox and will have it edited and back to me around 3/1. He also shared the news with me that A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas AND A Log Cabin Christmas are both available for pre-order on

To top it all off, I got to go out on a date with my favorite husband. He cheered me on, celebrated with him by sharing his carrot cake, and reminded me again that he is my best friend. I told him he is my 'patron of the arts' by supporting me in pursuing this publishing dream.

I am so very thankful. I keep praising God and praying. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for positive affirmation, for showers of blessing, for these opportunities. Thank you for supportive friends and family who celebrate the good times and commiserate the bad times. Who know what it is like to wait on You for an answer to prayer and how to praise You through the time of waiting.

Weeks like this last one are so wonderful. They serve to sustain me when things aren't so rosy. I think that's one of the reasons I keep a scrapbook of my writing journey. When I hit walls in manuscripts or the writing is hard, when I get a bad review or reader feedback sheet, or when someone denigrates me for writing romance--which is after all only for stay-at-home soccer moms who have nothing better to do than fill up their heads with trash--when any of that stuff happens and more, I can look back and remember these affirming events.

I hope you'll hop on over to Keli Gwyn has promised that she has BIG NEWS to report over there.

What's the BEST news you've ever gotten regarding your writing, your artwork, etc. An award, an affirming word, an offer of representation, a request for a partial or a full ms, a contest final or win? Share your affirming news!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Friday Five

✌ peace ✌ mšvidoba ✌ мир ✌ שָׁלוֹם ✌ سلاphoto © 2006 ion-bogdan dumitrescu | more info (via: Wylio)

Today's Friday Five is brought to you by the letter V.

Four things I like that start with the letter V and one thing I don't.

1. Vetsch. Peter Vetsch to be specific. He's my bestest friend. :)

2. Vikings. I'm hoping they get their hands on Tim Tebow for next season. If we do, then look out! Skol, Vikings!

3. Victuals. :)

4. Valentines. Not the social obligations and froo-froo stuff, but a genuine I love you from my best guy, that's Aces!

and one thing I don't like that starts with V...

5. Vipers. I am terrified of snakes.

How about you? What do you like and not like that starts with V?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The New Project

I'd like to introduce you to Willow Starr, actress, singer, and entertainer. Darling of the Colorado mining towns.

Willow is the heroine of my next book, Stars in Her Eyes. Actually, the photograph is of actress Maude Adams. Isn't she beautiful? So striking. I knew the moment I saw this picture, she was the heroine I'd been looking for.

And this is my hero, Silas Hamilton, who in real life is country music singer Josh Turner.  Silas is well-used to dodging matchmaking mamas and matrimony-minded maidens, but he won't know what hit him when he crosses paths with Willow Starr.

I enjoy finding photographs to help me visualize my characters. It's one of the reasons I like book covers with people on them. I am really looking forward to getting a gander at some new book covers soon.

Are you a visual person? Do you prefer book covers with people on them? Is there a style of cover you like the best?

Monday, January 10, 2011


Smiley detailphoto © 2006 Ged Carroll | more info (via: Wylio)
Every year, Heartsong readers vote on their favorite books, authors, and cover art from the books released to the book club in the past year. I'm so thrilled to post the winners here, and thank you to the Heartsong readers for voting. So many of my friends are listed here, it's an honor to be among them.

Heartsong Presents 18th Annual Award Winners


1. Susan Page Davis

2. Erica Vetsch

3. Jennifer Johnson


1. Erica Vetsch

2. Myra Johnson

3. Shannon Taylor Vannatter


1. The Lightkeeper's Daughter #903

2. The Bartered Bride #875 YAY!

3. Lily and the Lawman #916 YAYAY!


1. The Lightkeeper's Daugthter #903

2. Romance Rides the River #923

3. Lily and the Lawman #916 Thank you so much, Kendal, for designing such a great book cover!


1. White Roses #902

2. Maid to Love #922

3. Pure Serendipity #917


1. White Doves #921

2. White Roses #902

3. Where the Dogwoods Bloom #910


1. Family Oriented

2. Romance Suspense

3. Western

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Finish Line!

Checkered Flagphoto © 2009 Steve Snodgrass | more info (via: Wylio)
Woohoo! Happy, happy, happy me!

On Saturday, I finished my current WIP, A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas.

Yayayayay! I've been in the writing cave pretty much constantly over the last little while, and it's been pretty intense as I raced to the finish.

On Tuesday, my daughter and I did some book surgery. There was something wrong with the story, something I knew, but couldn't put my finger on. So I printed out everything I had written and went through it out loud. My daughter listened to it, and she didn't even need to say anything. When I got to the part that was wrong, it popped right out at me. When I took out those four paragraphs, voila! All the snags I was running into straightened out.

The problem? One of my characters acted completely out of character and shared some information that he wouldn't have shared because it wasn't in his best interest, and he only did things that benefitted himself.

Instinctively, I knew this. I had written and rewritten that passage several times, trying to make him act the way I wanted, not the way that was true to his character.

Have you ever known something was wrong with a project, but you couldn't put your finger on it?

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Friday Five

Old Lucky Horseshoe on Ranch Gatephoto © 2009 D. Sharon Pruitt | more info (via: Wylio)

This week's Friday Five is brought to you by the letter U.

Four things I like that start with the letter U and one thing I don't.

1. Unwrapping Gifts. :D Timely considering the great gifts I got to unwrap and the great gifts I got to see other folks unwrap in the last couple of weeks.

2. Ugly Fruit. It makes me laugh.

3. Unicorns, I love them, unicorns, I love them....

4. Up. The movie. Balloons, talking dogs, merit badges, giant rainbow-colored birds...what's not to love?

And one thing I don't like that starts with U...

5. Unkindness.

How about you? What do you like and not like that starts with the letter U?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

After more than 40" of snow in December and below-zero wind chills to start the New Year...I found this video to be hilarious.

Monday, January 03, 2011


Box cameraphoto © 2010 Patrick Dinnen | more info (via: Wylio)
So, everyone and their pet cat Charlie is posting about their New Year's Resolutions and goals. There are posts about how to arrive at reasonable resolutions, posts about how to chart your progress in reaching reasonable resolutions, and even a few posts on how unreasonable it is to make resolutions and set goals and the writer isn't going to do it, so there!

I don't feel that I have anything to add to the resolution discussion, so I'm just going to goal is to finish my WIP in the next two weeks and get it turned in.

So, since most blog posts this week are focusing on resolutions and goals and asking you what yours might be, I'm going to ask:

What was one of your favorite Christmas presents you received?

For me: Season 2 of Castle on DVD, a gift from my beloved husband. :D