Friday, April 18, 2014

Reading, Writing, and Redwoods: The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference

I'm finally unpacked and rested from the 2014 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and I have to say this year was one of the most relaxing conferences I've experienced. In previous years, I've attended in order to learn the business and to pitch to editors and agents. Last year I was desperately trying to meet an editing deadline for my debut novel, Mistaken. This year, I was able to take a deep breath, sit back, and enjoy.

My prayer for the conference? Lord, use me.

With one of my buddies, Pamela Trawick. 
I attended several classes to help me further my career--marketing, craft, publishing trends--but my favorite part was encouraging the aspiring writers who were buzzing around like honeybees in search of publishing nectar. Mount Hermon has a buddy program that matches first-time attendees with conference veterans. I was assigned two fabulous buddies who jumped right in with both feet, making appointments to speak with editors and agents and receiving requests for proposals and manuscript samples. I was also delighted to see two of my buddies from last year returning for a second visit. I experienced joy in cheering them on and celebrating their successes. I was prepared to give comfort, if needed, but everyone seemed to weather minor disappointments with grace and focused instead on the positives.

One of my high points? Seeing MISTAKEN in the bookstore. 

This was my sixth year at the Mount Hermon Conference. The first time I came, I knew no one and I brought huge aspirations of being a published author. I left knowing how much I still had to learn. This year I was able to bring my first published novel and see it in the bookstore alongside the books of the authors I'd come to call close friends. 

Best surprise? Seeing my agent, Rachel Kent, at the Books & Such gathering. 

Since my agent had a baby girl in 2012, she's cut back on travel. I hadn't seen her in person since a retreat in October 2012. We've kept in touch via email, but I was overjoyed with her surprise visit to Mount Hermon. Here is Rachel (center) pictured with a group of her clients (minus Sarah Tipton who was smart and headed to bed at a decent hour). I'm on the far right, if you couldn't tell. Sandwiched between us is one of my first-timer buddies from last year, Ashley Mays. Yes, we're now agent-sisters! On the far left is Sarah Sundin and Sherry Kyle--two women who have been great encouragers to me. In the back is a new client of Rachel's that I was excited to meet, Allison Flexer McGaha. Beside her is Lindsay Franklin, who took home this year's Mount Hermon Most Promising New Fiction Writer award! Woo-hoo! 

Heartfelt moments? Too many to count. 

God has a way of meeting you at the conference, often at times you don't expect. His Spirit seems to whisper through the rustling of the trees. I love seeing conferees bowing their heads in small group prayers. My heart was moved when a faculty member reminded us, "You're not writing about God. You're not even writing for God. You're writing WITH God. He wants to walk this road with you." Another instructor paused his class for prayer every time someone needed to sneak out for a scheduled appointment. I shared a cozy cabin with three other writers, and it was sheer joy to come home in the evening and laugh together. 

Here's a few more photos to show you the fun we had at this year's conference. 

Celebrating MISTAKEN with dear friend, Sarah Sundin.
With fellow Abingdon author, Deborah Raney.

Trying not to go all "fan-girl" over one of my favorite authors, Susan Meissner. 
I love these ladies! Authors Rebecca DeMarino and Sherry Kyle.

Four Abingdon authors, all in one place!

Goodbye until next time, Mount Hermon!

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Friday Book Pick: Songs of the Shenandoah by Michael K. Reynolds

I've just finished the much-anticipated third book of the Heirs of Ireland series by Michael K. Reynolds, Songs of the Shenandoah. This three book saga has followed members of the Hanley family as they traveled from the starving shores of Ireland to New York (Flight of the Earls), across the country into the California Gold Rush (In Golden Splendor) and now finally to the turmoil of the American Civil War. 

Songs of the Shenandoah was a beautiful and adventurous tale. The descriptions are so wonderful, I could picture the sweeping vistas just as if I were watching a movie. Though Reynolds wove a tender romance through the pages, the love story that caught my heart was the love between the siblings, particularly the brothers Davin and Seamus. 

Since the books focus on different family members you could read the novels separately, but I strongly encourage you to begin with book one and read the series in order. By the time you reach Songs of the Shenandoah, the depth of the story will be much more meaningful if you're already familiar with the Hanleys' history. I had to go in search of tissues a few times while reading, because by the mid-point I felt like part of the family. I've enjoyed each of the three books making up the Heirs of Ireland series, but Songs of the Shenandoah was the best of the bunch.

I can't wait to see what Michael Reynolds writes next. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from B&H Fiction for the purpose of review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Overflowing News in Book-land!

It's been a crazy-exciting week here in bookland! Here are some of the wonderful happenings . . .

Kindle Big Deal Sale

Amazon decided to run a special $2.99 sale on the Kindle versions of nine different Abingdon Press books, including Mistaken. I *think* the sale runs through March 30, so grab it while it lasts.

We're #1!!! 

Due to the sale, Mistaken rocketed up the Kindle best-seller lists for two different genres: Christian historical romance and Christian romantic suspense. I was excited when it showed up at #22, almost fainted when it climbed to #9, and actually cried when it claimed #1 on both lists. That was beyond my wildest dreams ("immeasurably MORE," Ephesians 3:20).

Out of the Ruins Pre-orders

Out of the Ruins, Book 1 of the Golden Gate Chronicles, is now available for pre-order pretty much everywhere! It releases on May 6. Now, I make NO guarantees, but usually the readers who pre-order are the first to actually receive the book. In the case of my debut, Mistaken, it shipped almost three weeks before the release date. (Of course, now that I've said that . . . )

Book 2, Golden Gate Chronicles

The team at Abingdon chose a tentative title for Book 2 in the Golden Gate Chronicles, Beyond the Ashes (releasing May 2015). I love it!!! I think it's funny how I can write 90k words, but I struggle to write a four-word title. Thankfully, the staff at Abingdon are masters. I don't think the title is written in stone yet, so it could still change. I also got to see sample photos of a cover model they're considering for this book. She is beautiful, and almost exactly how I pictured Ruby King Marshall, the heroine of this book. I wish I could show you! I can't wait to see the cover art. Abingdon does the most stunning covers.

Free Books!

In one last bit of good news, today I learned that Abingdon is doing some spring cleaning over in their offices. Every time a book is released, they produce a number of advance reader copies (ARCs). These are sent out to reviewers and media sources for promotional use. What happens to the extras? Well, this time, they're giving them away! More than 650 books are being listed on Goodreads for a giant giveaway, including 15 ARC copies of MISTAKEN and 10 of OUT OF THE RUINS. Lots of other great books, too! Check it out at

Coming Attractions . . .

Can you believe I'm already hard at work on the third (and final) book of the Golden Gate Chronicles? I'm SO excited about this story. Working with a new plot and introducing new characters feels a lot like breaking open a new box of crayons. So many colors, so many choices--it's invigorating! And bringing back familiar friends from Out of the Ruins and Beyond the Ashes just makes it all the sweeter. 

I hope you're having a great week! What books are you looking forward to in the upcoming year?

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Kindle Sale--Buy MISTAKEN for $2.99

I woke up this morning to a pleasant surprise. Amazon has the ebook version of my debut novel, MISTAKEN, on sale for $2.99. What a great deal! And just in time for you to read it before Out of the Ruins: The Golden Gate Chronicles, Book 1 releases in May. I have no idea how long this promotion will last, so don't wait too long.

Several other Abingdon Press novels are on sale as well. I love working with Abingdon, and the company takes pride in producing high quality Christian fiction. So, check out these great titles by my fellow Abingdon authors. If you click on any of the covers below, it will take you straight to the Kindle store for more information.

Happy reading!

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Book Pick: MY HOPE IS FOUND by Joanne Bischof

There are times when we consume novels like potato chips. We gobble them down and go looking for more. This is especially true of series fiction.

Then there are novels that within the first few paragraphs, you realize you've discovered something special, like a fine dark chocolate. You slow down and savor the words, the emotion, and the depth of the story. Today's book pick is one of those treasures. My Hope Is Found is the third and final novel in Joanne Bischof's Cadence of Grace series. A tender historical romance set in Appalachia, these characters will steal your heart.

The current trend is for authors and publishers to produce series in which each book focuses on a new main character, so readers can jump into the story stream with any of the novels. I had to admire Bischof for bravely (and skillfully) tackling a 3-book romance that continues the saga of the same two individuals as they struggle through love and life. Lonnie and Gideon's story deserved three books. All three novels have satisfying conclusions, so you could read them individually, but taken together--they will knock your socks off.
I savored this last installment of the Cadence of Grace series, knowing how much I'd miss these characters when I reached "The End." I forced myself to read only a chapter or two at each sitting. A few times I found myself reading a line out loud. (Am I the only odd person who does that?) And a few times I found myself whispering a prayer for the characters. Yes, I know...

I can't wait to see what Joanne Bischof writes next.

You can take a sneak peek at the first chapter of My Hope is Found here: My Hope is Found by Joanne Bishof (Sneak Peek). 

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Friday, February 14, 2014

A 1920s Valentine

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd post a teaser from my 1920s romantic suspense novel, MISTAKEN. As expected with any romance novel, there are many sweet moments from which to choose. My favorites are often found in the early days of a relationship--those awkward moments when a man and woman are circling about each other--so nervous they trip over their own feet in a weak attempt to impress. In this scene, pharmacist Daniel Shepherd struggles to come up with intelligent conversation when faced with a beautiful, and rather mysterious, young woman.

This scene is found on pages 40-42 of MISTAKEN. Enjoy!

The Show Globe 

Daniel hefted the teardrop-shaped show globe into place by the drugstore window, suspending it from the silver chains connected to a bracket on the wall. The brilliant blue liquid sloshed gently in the glass casing, the morning sunlight setting it sparkling like a deep tropical sea. Tropical seas sounded pretty good about now. Anywhere but Port Angeles sounded pretty good, in fact. His eyes watered from the mill stench drifting in the early morning air.

He wiped the glass with a damp cloth and stood back to admire the look. 

The owner of the pharmacy in Seattle had scoffed at such old-fashioned symbols. Now, seeing it hanging in his Granddad’s window, a swell of pride rose in Daniel’s chest. He still remembered leaning against the counter as a small child watching as his grandfather mixed the chemicals, magically turning the liquid into a dark blood red or a dazzling emerald green. He loved guessing which mixtures of chemicals would create each hue. By his twelfth birthday, he’d mastered all the recipes.

A flash of blue outside drew Daniel’s eye. His pulse quickened as he recognized Laurie Burke, her blue dress a perfect complement to the freshly mixed globe. 

Does your grandfather know what you are? Her words haunted him. He deserved an explanation. Daniel rapped on the window, catching her attention. He gave the show globe one final wipe with the polishing cloth before stepping down from the window display and hurrying through the front door. 

Laurie’s cool gaze sent goosebumps climbing his arms. He gestured to the window. “What do you think?” 

She darted a look at the blue globe. “It’s lovely. My favorite color.”

He couldn’t help staring as her eyes mirrored the exact shade of sapphire he’d spent the morning concocting. “It looks good on you.” The words slipped out before Daniel could stop them. 

The young woman took a quick breath, her hand fluttering to her chest.  

Daniel scrambled for words. “Your dress—and, and…” he swallowed, “…and your eyes.” 

She glanced down as if she had forgotten what she was wearing. “Oh, yes.” A pink glow touched her cheeks. “Well, thank you… Mr. Shepherd.” 

Change the subject, you idiot. “I mixed it myself—the show globe. It’s copper sulphate, water and ammonia.” Chemicals, really? Is that going to impress the lady?

She gazed back at the window. “It’s perfect—like the Straits on a warm summer day.” 

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen it during the summer. My Grandfather used to take me sailing when I was a boy. And my mother and I would picnic at Crescent Beach…” his voice trailed off, the memory of standing on the bluff with a mysterious young woman scattering his childhood recollections. He cleared his throat. “Yes, well. Maybe sometime we can—” 

She broke in. “Excuse me, Mr. Shepherd, but I really must get to work.” 

His heart sank as she walked away. “All right, have a nice day.” He lifted a hand in farewell and stood and watched until she disappeared into the switchboard office, two blocks away. 

The sudden realization hit him like a rock between the eyes. He’d meant to confront her about her callous accusation the other day. Instead he had complimented her dress and her eyes and nearly asked her out on a date. He pressed his fingers against his eyelids. This woman had a strange effect on him. 

(pages 40-42, MISTAKEN by Karen Barnett).

I hope you enjoyed your 1920s Valentine's treat. What stage of romance is your favorite? Those initial lingering glances? The first kiss? The proposal? Other? Please, keep it clean--no blushing. :)

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Writer's Life: Juggling

Have you ever been curious about the day-to-day life of a writer? I've compiled a quick list of what my working life entails right now. I've also included a prayer request with each section. I've been feeling led to pray more earnestly about my career--I hope you will join me.

1. Writing the second book in the Golden Gate Chronicles. Actually I'm in the re-writing and polishing stage of this. The manuscript is due at my publisher in March, and I'm in the process of sanding down the rough spots, decorating the bland sections, and chopping the unnecessary bits. Kind of like woodcarving, right? You cut out the basic shape (rough draft), and then you sand and polish until it's finished. Since the deadline is approaching so quickly, this is my #1 priority. It also means that I'm drinking copious amounts of caffeine and staying up too late at night. 

Please pray with me that this book contains the words He has planned, and a story that will touch readers' lives. 

But while that's happening, I'm also keeping these other balls in the air . . . 

2. Working with my publisher on cover art and title for Book 2 of the Golden Gate Series. The gorgeous covers you see on Mistaken and Out of the Ruins (Golden Gate Chronicles, Book 1) are thanks to my amazing publisher, Abingdon Press. It takes time to get that all in motion, so even though book two doesn't release until 2015, the cover process begins now. For the most part, authors do not choose their covers, but we do help the cover designers get a good understanding of the story and characters they are portraying. Right now I'm assembling that info for Book 2. In addition to character sketches and plot outlines, it also includes sample photographs/drawings of characters, fashion, and locations. 
Please pray that the designer gets not only the "look" of the story, but also finds a way to incorporate the deeper spiritual content in a way that will encourage readers to pick it up and dive in. 

3. Marketing the current book, MISTAKEN. Marketing is a never-ending task, but I'm finding it fun as well. This week, I had an interview posted on Christian Bookshelf Review and we're doing a book giveaway. You can read lots of fun behind-the-scenes stuff, and enter to win a copy of Mistaken (contest runs through 2/14/2014). I also visited with a book club last week via FaceTime. Technically, that's marketing--but sometimes it seems like play. (See my blog post about book clubs.) 
Please join me in prayers of thanksgiving for how well this book has been received. God has poured out His blessings, and I'm eternally grateful. 

4. Setting marketing/publicity in motion for the next release, OUT OF THE RUINS (coming May 2014). I'm working with a publicist this time, so it's been fun sending emails back and forth about press releases and Facebook parties. I'm also working with a web designer on a major overhaul on this website. I've been a control-freak do-it-yourselfer up until now, but I'm really enjoying sitting back and watching as she comes up with these spectacular ideas. I feel a bit like Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek fame, "Make it so." 
Please pray that the marketing opens readers' eyes to God's message and is not just trumpeting me and my own agenda. That's a constant fear of mine.

5. Looking ahead to the third book in the Golden Gate series. Yes, my deadline for this book is a year away, but historical research sometimes eats up a lot of time. Right now I'm in the "simmer"stage. The ideas are beginning to churn. I'll keep feeding ingredients into the pot until it bubbles over. Then the actual writing begins.
Pray with me that this story, which deals with some darker topics (prostitution and slavery in 1900s-era Chinatown, San Francisco), will open people's eyes to the ongoing problem in today's world. Also pray I can write it in a sensitive manner, particularly the cross-cultural aspects of the story.

6. Learning and perfecting the craft. I'm making plans to attend several conferences this year (Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and Oregon Christian Writers summer conference for certain). Conferences are where I can work with writing coaches and instructors to refine my skills. I also get tidbits of information on current trends and changes in the publishing world. 
Please pray I will follow His leading as to which conferences to attend and that my family will be safe as I travel. 

Thank you for praying with me. I'm hoping God will allow me to write more books in the future--but I'm doing my best to leave it in His capable hands. 

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