Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Maureen Lang: Why I Write, and Other Thoughts

Maureen Lang joins me this week. Welcome!

She is a reader who figured out at a very young age how to write what she wants to read. She penned her first novel at age ten, and has been writing ever since. In fact, she’d rather be writing or reading than doing just about anything else—but with a family and a dog depending on her for breakfast, lunch and dinner, she feels like she’s in the kitchen more often than at her desk or in her favorite chair with a book. Maureen is the author of a dozen books and has been nominated for a Christy, Rita and Carol. She’s won a Holt Medallion and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, but none of that compare to the day her daughter told her she was a good writer. Ah, recognition at home is rare indeed. Visit Maureen on the web at

I asked her a few questions, starting with "Why do you write what you do?"

About why I write my books…

All of my books were inspired by something specific. My war books go back to my childhood, hearing my dad and uncles “discuss” the war (although that was World War Two and I wrote about the First World War). I was too young to follow most of that, but I knew all that war-talk came with great emotion. With my “disability” books—i.e., a book that includes a child with a disability—those came from my everyday life, being the mom and an aunt to handicapped children. Bees in the Butterfly Garden is the first book that came out of a title. Usually I’m title-challenged, but one day I was looking out at my garden, one I’d planted with the hope of attracting butterflies. All I saw were two huge bees. Feeling sorry for myself, I said “I don’t get butterflies; all I get are bees. Bees in the butterfly garden.” But hey! I stopped what I was doing immediately (writing another book, actually) and wrote that down, because I recognized that it would make a great title. All I needed to do was write a book to go with it. And I did.

1. What’s been a favorite work experience you’ve had so far in life?

Every time I write a book, no matter which one—and some have undoubtedly been easier to write than others—at some point the characters begin to take over. It’s all I can do to keep up with them, recording what would be a natural progression of events as designed by the kind of people populating the story. That, without a doubt, is the best moment I’ve ever had as a writer. I feel like a storyteller then, when I’m as caught up in the story as any reader would be. It’s hard for my typing fingers to keep up!

2. I love that, Maureen. If you could do anything you want, what would it be?

I’m sure I’m not the only writer who’s answered this question by saying I’d write! I guess if I could write anywhere, it would be with mountains in the background, perhaps a lake or ocean not far off . . . a garden full of flowers that never grows a weed, maybe a horse to ride (with a barn taken care of by someone else, of course . . . ).

3. One man's weeds are another man's flowers, you know. I'd like to be fed. What’s the most exotic place you’ve traveled?

I’m not sure it’s exactly exotic, but I went to Belgium to research my Great War Series, and it was absolutely wonderful. I walked the same streets my characters walked, saw the same historic buildings they would have seen. I loved every minute of it, and felt so affirmed by God that I was doing what He’d wired me to do: I’m supposed to make up stories He approved of. That’s my job.

4. I think that's pretty exotic - especially in the name of work. What do you see outside the closest window right now?

While I live in a very nice neighborhood, the scene out my window isn’t very scenic. I see other houses similar to mine, green grass, flourishing trees and bushes. My mailbox. It’s a neat, orderly scene, but not especially inspiring. It’s a good thing I have a vivid imagination, because most of the time I’m not seeing what’s around me anyway. I’m living in another century altogether.

5. A mailbox has so many possibilities! What do you tell people when they ask “and what do you do?”

I actually hope this doesn’t come up, for a variety of reasons. If it does, I say I’m a writer. They always seem both interested and skeptical—maybe a little impressed when I say I’ve had a dozen books published. But then they assume I make a lot of money, which isn’t the case (they sometimes ask how many books I’ve sold, which is the same as asking how much money I’ve made). Many times people admit they’d like to write a book, too, which I encourage, but then they sometimes expect that I can introduce them to an easy track to publication. Unfortunately, there isn’t one.

6. LOL - I hear you on that one. Where’s your favorite place to grocery shop?

Super Target, without a doubt.

7. My youngest daughter in law takes advantage of that store! I'd have to drive an hour, but I think I'd learn to love it too.  How about a new tack: What, to you, is worship?

I love two forms of worship. Although I don’t sing very well, I love my church and I love participating in the worship time. I love the words of worship songs, and they remind me of so many aspects of God’s presence in my life.

But I also feel very close to God when I’m in the revision phase of writing my books. I often don’t remember certain scenes or lines and sometimes when something seems just right, I think it must be a gift to have the right words fit into a story. I believe anyone who is following the way God wired them to be—musicians with a gift for singing or playing, or an accountant with a flair for numbers, or a teacher with the ability to convey knowledge—must feel that same approval from God. An affirmation that we’re doing what God designed for us to do. A connection to something that seems so right and fitting, accompanied by thankfulness to be able to do what God wants me to do. It’s a form of worship that I absolutely love to experience.

Thank you, Maureen. It's been a joy getting to know you better. Maureen's latest book, Bees in the Butterfly Garden, a light-hearted romance which releases June 13, is available for pre-order from several online book sellers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Healing Grief: Hiking Through book review

Hiking Through

By Paul Stutzman


ISBN: 978-0-8007-2053


May 2012

Inspirational Memoir

Healing grief is different for everyone: some try, some don’t, some make rash decisions or none at all. Paul Stutzman through-hiked the Appalachian Trail one summer two years after his wife’s death from cancer.

Leaving his career as a restaurant manager and taking the hike, Stutzman says he needed a greater purpose than simply making a drastic change in his life. His goals were twofold: “to remind men to appreciate what they have today—don’t take your family and your wife for granted.” Secondly, he wanted to write a book showing “that the Christian life doesn’t have to be boring.”

And boring this book is not. From the prologue where the author states he uses only trail names to identify his trail brothers and sisters so they can claim plausible deniability if ever accused of any of the stunts, to the rain, sleet, festivals, and fear, Hiking Through is a great journey book that’s more than a guide; it’s a quest for peace.

Taking the trail name Apostle, Stutzman begins his journey with a photo op, then hiking north from Georgia to Maine over four and a half months. Starting in April with thirty-five pounds of tent, bear bag, and notebook, Stutzman hoped to walk a thirty-mile leg one day, one of the few goals he never met. I’ve become addicted over the past few years to follow Interstate highways and freeways ever since accidently driving the entire length of I65, and I enjoy hiking, but Stutzman’s pictures helped me decide to continue to enjoy “through drives.” More photos are available on his web site He’s begun a “biking through” adventure as well.

Walk with the author as he meets wonderful and exotic hikers with names like Sailor, Bubbles, Sir Entity, and Litefoot as they walk through fourteen states in all kinds of terrain and weather, beautiful scenery, and dangerous overnight conditions as well as enjoyable ones such as old stagecoach stops and hotels. I’m a sucker for the history and details Stutzman shares about the various places along the trail, such as Civil War sites, and general early Americana. The life-lessons Stutzman shares? Well, I’ll let you discover those as you read.

Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Book Review: Finding Angel

Finding Angel

Kat Heckenbach

 c. 2011

Splashdown Books

ISBN: 9781927154137

$6.99 ebook

Speculative fiction, YA

An Angel appears out of nowhere…a young girl, wandering along a country path in Florida, in her possession, but no memory. When the Masons find the lost girl, they name her “Angel” for the letters on her bracelet and soon she becomes part of the family.

The Mason collect stray children, including a set of twins who are older than Angel, and a younger boy, Zack, who holds onto Angel’s heart and appreciates her fascination with magical creatures and her reading tree. Eight years pass, and at fourteen, Angel has made a new life, albeit one with a gaping hole.

As much as Angel is infatuated with mythical creatures, Zack loves nature and bugs, and shows her a beetle. Promising to help identify it, Angel visits the library and instead discovers that a new boy, Gregor, has come to town. Gregor unlocks the missing pieces of Angel’s life by taking her “home” to a place of myth and mist, like Glockamorra or Brigadoon. Toch Island is “sort of” in Ireland; “hidden” so it can’t be taken over by technological development, a place where the Empowered do not have to hide their Talents. It’s a place where the magical creatures are true, Elves live and make music, and dangers are real, so real that Gregor has lived as an orphan since the age of ten after the evil Dawric killed his family. Angel stays with Gregor while her memories gradually surface and she relearns her Talent. But Gregor harbors secrets. Is she safe with him? Where are her parents? And what about the new murders in the community?

Chapters are interspersed with scenes of concurrent events that build like pieces of a puzzle. Each chapter and segment has a title that hints at what’s to come.

Although the teens seem too young to live on their own, Heckenbach’s deft handling of the characters feels rich and fully alive. Gregor knows his duty and is ready to fulfill his destiny, and Angel reunites Toch as no one else can.

The author’s word choices are bright and succinct, in voice appropriate to age and magical world. There are instances of danger and murder and resulting emotions that children younger than sixth or seventh grade might find disturbing. Occasional long segments of description and internal thought, months spent relearning Angel’s identity, were sometimes slow but fascinating, and an end that flies up your face shouldn’t disrupt the great pleasure of immersing yourself in the world of Toch, the Empowered, and a future full of bright possibilities and dreams that will come true.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spring Bible Study Expo! Online, Free

Save the Date for the 2012 Spring Bible Study Expo

Women’s Bible Study enthusiasts meet online this May to hear from the authors of 2012’s most popular Women’s Bible Study books. Mark your calendar now and plan to attend the live, free, online event, Thursday, May 17, 2012, from 1-5 PM Central Time, at

Every year, thousands of Bible Study leaders progress from one study to the next by visiting bookstores to check out options, getting suggestions from attendees or friends, and attending the spring Bible Study Expo full of interviews with the authors of the most recently released Bible Study books for women.

The Bible Study Expo features Women’s Bible Study authors Sheila Walsh, Pam Farrel, Cindy Jacobs, Mary Kassian, Renee Swope, Babbie Mason and many more from publishers including Harvest House, Thomas Nelson, Multnomah, Baker, Bethany House, Moody and others.

During the Expo, each author is interviewed for 15 minutes with the opportunity to share the story behind her most recent release. In addition, each will clearly define the target audience for her book and tell a little bit about herself.

“It’s a great way for Bible Study leaders to get to know the authors and to learn more about the newest Bible study books available to them this year,” explains Expo Hostess, Marnie Swedberg.

The Bible Study Expo was founded in 2009 to support Women’s Bible Study leaders.  The Expo itself includes four hours of live-streaming online audio interviews with the authors, including one free book give-away during each segment.

It’s 100% free to attend and anyone is welcome to pre-register now at

“It’s such a fun format, because there is no need to travel, to find childcare or to spend money,” says Swedberg. “It’s just a great time online getting to know the Bible Study book authors as well as other Bible Study leaders from all over the world.”

To register to win free books or to attend the live, online event, visit today!

Bible Study Expo is a subsite of, providing encouragement, practical help and God-focus to women since 1996. In addition to her role as Expo Hostess, Marnie is the online mentor to thousands of leaders from over 30 countries, the manager of the family restaurant and retail store, the author of 12 books and the host of a weekly radio talk show.

For more information about the Bible Study Expo, visit

Monday, May 14, 2012

Meet Valerie Comer

Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie grows much of her own food and is active in the local food movement as well as her church. She only hopes her imaginary friends enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, gardening and geocaching with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters. Check out her website and blog at

1. What’s been a favorite work experience you’ve had so far in life?
I don't have a degree in anything, so work outside the home for me has always been about needing a paycheck. I was thrilled to stay home when our kids were young but have been working retail ever since. A huge blessing for me is the job I've had for the past eleven years. (Wow! That long already?) I work in a small town flooring shop for two guys who've owned the business forever. They do everything outside the building, and I handle just about everything inside. Still, there are hours every day where things are quiet and I can do 'my own thing.' God gave me this job so I would have no excuse not to write, and I'm really thankful for it. Yes, my boss guys know and are fine with how I spend my time when duties aren't calling me. They want (and deserve!) signed book copies, but aren't entirely sure they're up for reading Christian romance.

2. If you could do anything you want, what would it be?
You wouldn't believe how long I stared at that question. I think the older we get, the smaller our dreams become as reality sets in. My first response is something like: renovate our house and farm. Then I thought it would be cool to take our granddaughters somewhere awesome on a vacation, but they're too young, one of them being an infant still. Then I thought of missionary work and other needs around the world. What would I really do, if I could do anything? Food, clean water, and salvation to all. See? I CAN think big!

3. What’s the most exotic place you’ve traveled?
In the early months of 1980, I spent three months in Bolivia with my sister and her family who were missionaries there at the time. They've spent most of the intervening years there as well, coming on home staff just a couple of years ago. Bolivia might not seem exotic to many as it is the poorest country in South America, but for this Canadian girl, it was polar opposite of anything I'd experienced before. Parrots on shoulders, fleas in the beds, bugs and snakes everywhere, multiple foreign languages. Remote tribal stations where clothing was optional (not for the missionaries or their guest!), where UNO was the game of choice until 3 a.m., where small planes landed on short grassy strips in a spray of standing water. Bolivia was a life-changing experience for me.

4. What do you see outside the closest window right now?
I'm answering these questions while at work, and only a sliver of a (large) window is visible to me from here. It is filled with a parked vehicle and the building across the street. Looks like some sunshine out there, which is awesome after a steady and cold downpour yesterday. I should have answered this from home, where I could have talked about plum trees, gardens, or cows in the pasture.

5. What do you tell people when they ask “and what do you do?”
I tell people I'm a flooring salesperson, an author, a wife, mom, and grandmother (yay!), a farmer, gardener, beekeeper, and local food advocate. Then I take a deep breath and tell them I'm a child of the King. I wear a lot of hats, but my favorite is my princess crown, followed by my Grandma hat, then my authorial--what do authors wear on their heads?

6. Where’s your favorite place to grocery shop?
My very favorite place to get food is from our own beehives, freezer, fridge, and pantry loaded with canning. In summer, I often come home from work and head out to the garden to see what's for supper. My next most favorite place to get groceries is our local farmers' market, where my daughter-in-law is the manager. It runs from the beginning of May to just before Christmas, and I can buy just about anything there. Doesn't keep me out of the supermarket, of course, but it's a good effort.

7. What, to you, is worship?
Doesn't Psalm 46:10 sum it up well? "Be still, and know that I am God."

8. When you take all of the things that make you unique, how does that come out in your writing?
I'm not good at urban-environment stories. Give me small towns, farms, and gardens any day of the week. For my first novella, out May 1 from Barbour in a 4-in-1 collection called Rainbow's End, my co-authors and I created a geocaching outreach event for our characters to participate in. Geocaching is simply using GPS (global positioning system) units found on smart phones or specialized instruments to locate specific spots out-of-doors, where the cache's creator has hidden a small treasure chest. Barbour Publishing describes our novella anthology like this: "Join a geocaching adventure in the spectacular Lake of the Ozarks wilderness, with Lyssa, the reluctant volunteer whose former nemesis is now her chief sponsor; Madison, a city girl paired with an outdoorsy guy who gets on her very last nerve; cautious Reagan, who meets an equally cautious guy; and Hadley, who doesn’t know enough about guys to realize she’s met a womanizer. Will they find the treasure they’re looking for … or something else entirely?"

My novella is Topaz Treasure, first of the four: Closet believer Lyssa Quinn steps out of her comfort zone to help coordinate the Rainbow’s End geocaching hunt her church is using as an outreach event. She’s not expecting her former humanities prof–young, handsome, anti-Christian Kirk Kennedy–to be at the Lake of the Ozarks at all, let along in a position to provide sponsorship to the treasure hunt. How can she trust someone who once shredded her best friend’s faith? Kirk’s treasure hunt takes him down a path he hadn’t intended as he searches for opportunities to connect with Lyssa and her intriguing sparkle. How can he convince Lyssa there is more than one kind of treasure? And can she remind him of the greatest prize of all?

Thank you, Valerie, that sounds fascinating!

Buy Rainbow's End: (various links)
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Monday, May 7, 2012

It's HERE! The Great Blog Hop - chance to win a Kindle!

Join Our Mailing List (Blog Hoppers, sign up here, check the John 3:16 Readership Box)
Email: (for Kindle drawing, May 7-May 14)
For Email Newsletters you can trust

Welcome to the 1st John 3:16 Giveaway Blog Hop! As one of the members of this great network of Christian Authors, I am excited to participate in this event! We have come together this week to showcase our books and to give you, our readers, a chance to win some great prizes as you "hop" from blog to blog. A different prize is offered at each blog site (no purchase necessary), however if you want to have a chance to win one of two Kindles the network is giving away, the only requirement is that you sign up for the John 3:16 ezine newsletter. (Located ABOVE and at the top right side column of the John 3:16 blog site.)

(See official rules here.)

At the other blogs, each author will require that you leave a comment (and a valid email address) so they may contact you if you win a prize offered on their blog site. May I also suggest that you show your love and appreciation to each blog host by either following them on Twitter, or "liking" them on Facebook or even subscribing to their blog. It won't help your odds of winning a prize but I know each author would be thrilled and very encouraged!

BLOG PARTICIPANTS : (If you leave a comment here and please join my blogger network if you'd like, I'll enter you in a drawing for a $10 Starbucks card. I only need a follow-up e-mail ( 

So tell your friends about the John 3:16 Giveaway Blog Hop! It's going to be a great week of fun! Just click on the links below to go from blog to blog! Happy hoppin'! Blog Hop Participants:

Blog Hop Participants:
  1. Lorilyn Roberts (John 3:16 Blog)
  2. Lynn DoveWord Salt (Host blog) -
  3. Laura J. Davis -
  4. Paulette Harper -
  5. Carol A. Brown -
  6. April Gardner -
  7. Sue Russell
  8. Thomas Blubaugh -
  9. Susan F. Craft
  10. Heather Bixler
  11. Joy Hannabass
  12. Deborah Bateman -
  13. Kimberley Payne -
  14. Rose McCauley
  15. Lisa Lickel -
  16. Alice J. Wisler -
  17. Amanda Stephan -
  18. Saundra Dalton
  19. Tracy Krauss -
  20. Ashley Wintters -
  21. Deborah McCarragher -
  22. Lorilyn Roberts -
  23. Anita Estes -
  24. Martin Roth
  25. Kenneth Winters
  26. Eddie Snipes
  27. Diane Tatum -
  28. Janalyn Voigt -
  29. Alberta Sequeira
  30. Tammy Hill –
  31. Marcia Laycock
  32. Nike Chillemi -
  33. Elaine Marie Cooper -
  34. Sidney W. Frost -
  35. Jairus B. King
  36. Bill Burt -
  37. Kathy Eberly -
  38. Bob Saffrin -
  39. Theresa Franklin -
  40. Ray Lincoln -
  41. Lilly Maytree -
  42. Yvonne Pat Wright -
  43. Pauline Creeden -
  44. Katherine Harms -
  45. Brenda Wood -
  46. Deborah Malone -
  47. Melissa Main
  48. Kevin Main -
  49. Sandy Humphrey -
  50. Felice Gerwitz -
  51. Hallee Bridgeman -
  52. Lisa Mills -

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's New At AllWriters'?

Want to write fiction? Want to write memoir? Want to write poetry? Learn how at AllWriters’ – in one day! WAUKESHA – Amazing author and teacher Jesse Lee Kercheval comes to AllWriters’ and does the impossible! Kercheval herself writes it all – fiction, memoir, poetry – and in one day, she’s going to teach you how as well! In Miniature Madness: A One Day Workshop in Three Genres, Kercheval encourages writers to do it all! This workshop uses in-class exercises to write miniature, but whole short-short stories, memoir pieces and poems. Designed to be supportive, productive and helpful for every level of writer, beginner to advanced, this one-day class is especially suited to writers who want to explore a new genre or to shake up and revitalize their writing by taking on new challenges. A one-page writing assignment (along with a helpful set of examples to read and inspire) will be sent in advance so students can hit the ground running (and writing). Be prepared to have your writing take off! Miniature Madness will take place on May 12, 2012, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This event has a fee of $85, which includes lunch, catered by CafĂ© de Art! You can register by calling 262-446-0284, or going online at, click on Celebrity Saturdays. AllWriters’ is located at 234 Brook St., Unit 2, in Waukesha. JESSE LEE KERCHEVAL is the author of eleven books of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Her most recent books include the short novel Brazil, winner of the Ruthanne Wiley Novella Memorial Contest; the poetry collection Cinema Muto, winner of a Crab Orchard Open Selection Award; and The Alice Stories, winner of the the Prairie Schooner Fiction Book Prize. Her first story collection The Dogeater won the Associated Writing Programs Award in Short Fiction. Space, her memoir about growing up near Cape Kennedy during the moon race, won an Alex Award from the American Library Association. Her other books include The Museum of Happiness, Dog Angel, World as Dictionary and the writing textbook Building Fiction,. She is the Sally Mead Hands Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she was the founding director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing. AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop offers on-site and online writing courses in all genres and abilities of creative writing, as well as coaching, editing, and marketing services. Kathie Giorgio Director, AllWriters' Workplace & Workshop LLC Author, "The Home For Wayward Clocks" 234 Brook St., Unit 2 Waukesha WI 53188 Phone: (262) 446-0284 AllWriters' Website: Kathie's Website: