Santa Cruz, California, October 28th, 2014

Santa Cruz, California, October 28th, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Umm, Malachi or Jamie? Who'll it be? A chat with Laura Frantz, and a seriously fun give-away!

Let's just get something outta the way here, shall we?


So much so that I named my teddy bear Red Shirt and umm...maybe I should NOT have said that...

Anyhoooo, Laura's latest literary feast is the 'can't put it down-didn't even try' wonder known as 'Love's Fortune'. The sweeping story of Rowena Ballantyne's transformation from simple, country luthier's daughter, to an heiress of the Ballantyne Empire.

Now, say that with a hoity-toity British accent..."Em-PIE-YAH".

Poor sweet Wren.

Girl, ya just gonna havta suffer for a while til Laura digs you out and dusts you off.

I had the chance to ask Laura a few questions, so join our chat, will you? And do marvel how intelligent I sounded...and yes, I'm the one asking the hard questions.


1) Ansel was very good at keeping his physical and emotional distance from his family, yet when he came home, he did the same thing to Wren. What was the character framework for him? Did you intend for him to be so aloof, or did he decide to be that way? 

Ansel is a complex character, neither at home with those Ballantynes when he is at home, and a grieving widower and father, to boot. Can you imagine returning to the family you’d cut ties with and finding Andra and Bennett awaiting? I mean, the east coast and business is looking pretty good at that point.

2) Wren is a sweet, clueless angel. Was it hard feeding her to the lions known as Andra and Bennett?

 My hubby almost threw the book across the room, more over Andra than BennettWinking smile. It was fun having na├»ve Wren enter their den and learn to defend herself. Having James alongside didn’t hurt. And in the end, when she’d had enough, she had a blessed escape. I’m sure some of us have longed to do that given the angst of familial relations, past and present!

3) Did you ponder a different end for Silas? Or did you have a little voice in your head whispering, "Jennifer knows where you live!" ? 

I did listen to that little threatening voice in my head, yes. And I did ponder burying Silas in this book. But that would have meant curtains on Wren’s debut and all the social whirl – as well as any heroic advances, thus bringing the plot to a screeching halt!

4) It was sweet seeing that, umm, Jack and Ellie, still, umm, get along well. Do you feel guilty giving that poor woman twelve children? I mean, can't Jack and Ellie just make goo-goo eyes at each other instead of having an army? Or was that one of those "historically accurate" thingies writers do?

 As for all that fertility, yes, that comes from my equally fertile imagination and actually knowing a family of 12 who has 10 boys and 1 girl (I rounded it up with girl #2 in the novel) and from reading many census rolls of equally loving couples during that very fruitful time period...

5) Wren gets brow beaten by Andra the Awful, and decides to take one for the team and do the social season thing. How much of a hunt was it for women of her day to marry money? Do you thing the poorer folks had it better, marrying for love and a roof and maybe some food?

Downtown Abbey immediately springs to mind because I think the American mother was sent to woo and wed an English title? Just backtrack from Edwardian times to 1850 and there was indeed a big push to marry well and beget well for the gentry even in Pittsburgh, all for the sake of business and finance. Personally, I find it much more palatable and romantic to marry for love and little else. Some of these highbrow couples were quite miserable – and those drafty mansions quite cold! I will say Wren’s distaste for excess and the social whirl was my own. Though I did find all those rules and extravagances fascinating!

6) Both Malachi and Jamie are written as (totally not) hideous and repulsive, drooling, one eyed beasts. Did you toy with her final choice, or was it set in stone before you put pen to paper/font to screen? 

This may have missed many readers but James actually made an appearance in book 2, Love’s Awakening, when he announced Jack’s demise on the river to Ansel. He was just a boy, and an apprentice, but he had his eye on Wren even thenWinking smile. Malachi came out of the blue though and begged to be half-Scots. He does look quite fine in a kilt!

7) Why isn't Red Shirt in this book? Not sure, but that sorta screams 'epic fail' to me. Moving along... 

Can you hear me laughing clear over here?! Red Shirt is back in the woods where he belongs. And it may well be in your neck of the woods...

8) Saying farewell to Silas (and yeah, everyone else, whatever...) is hard enough for us readers. How has it been for you? Or is it true that they live out behind your house in a big estate? Come on, I have satellite photos, I know you're hiding them!

 I was actually horrified not long ago when I googled my own address and our place popped right up, even buried in the woods as it is! But try as I might, I could not see even a brick of New Hope in the trees anywhere. Actually, 3 books is plenty for a series. I found that while writing the Ballantynes taught me many things such as crossing centuries and generations, my heart remains in standalones. Or in Red Shirt’s case, a very latent sequel...

9) What's on the horizon for you now? I heard you're writing something 18th Century? Care to leave us with a teaser? 

No, I cannot, thank you. I’ll just say I’m set for more books through 2019 as of this summer, thankfully. THE END, my friendSmile.

Thank you , Laura!!

And look! A peak at one of Laura's adventures at the cover shoot for Love's Fortune.

OKAY kids!!

Leave your name, and a comment and someone will win a copy of Love's Fortune AND a 10$ Amazon gift card. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A year in the life of a newly agented requested by Lori Benton and Kiersti Plog. *edits and more thank yous.

ACFW 2013 

How I got home alive from that conference, I'll never know.
Yes, I do, God carried me on clouds of joy!!

Speaking of that conference...

Here I am sitting next to Sarah Sundin, and Vicki McCollum. And there's my agent, Mary Keeley, sorta lopped off to the left, talking to Michelle Ule.

SARAH SUNDIN?? Yeah, umm, the famed WW2 historical fiction writer?? 
Yeah, HER.
I was TAH-RY-ING to take in the fact that THEE Sarah Sundin is speaking to me.
It worked. Sorta. The poor glamour-girl had no clue I was utterly beyond it. Or maybe she did and thought, "Mmm hmm, she's one of us. Time to help her take it all in."

I sent the left-over cheesecake home with Sarah Thomas, and was happy to hear that her hubby enjoyed dealing with the problem of too much dessert.

So, I floated home, Indy to Toronto, Toronto to Fredericton and my plan was to take a cab home. I think I did. Well, any way...I got home!

I know, right? Amazing attention to detail!

It took a few days to come down, and get the jet lag/time change sorted. That's what we'll call it, yeah....

A few days after I got home, my husband treated the family to a steak and seafood dinner, which was rather impromptu, to celebrate. That man can grill my steak JUST the way I like it!

The weeks following the conference were a heady mix of adding umm, a hundred or so new writer peeps to my Facebook friends, and marvelling in the fact that I could actually, legally and stuff, add the Books and Such logo, and the "represented by Mary Keeley..." sentence to my blog wall.

I think I cried through that!

When I got the actual agency contracts in the mail, I was terrified to open them. But it was a good terrified, kind of like seeing that diamond ring from the man you love, or getting on the airplane to fly to a place you'd dreamt of for decades, or the moment you hear God whisper "this is from Me, I'm right here, you're ready..."

I remember walking home from the mailbox and holding the envelope in my hand. It had my name on it, so...this was for real. It wasn't just a dream. And yes, later that month, we'd have the cell phone bill to prove it!!

But as I stared at that envelope, I wondered just what God had in store for me, because I knew the story was good enough for Books and Such, but was I
Yes, that fear was real. As was the worry that somebody would find out I was an imposter. It's taken almost an entire year to shake that!!

Another God-thing transpired that floored me into maybe believing this was more than just "I wrote a story"...the chance to accept a standing invitation to New Mexico and do some more research. 

So, off I went to Denver, and thanks to Jeanne Takenaka, I got to Colorado Springs. And from there, Amy Drown took me on an EPIC AND AWESOME road trip to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and Belen. Dinner with Andrew and Barbara, then the next day, I said goodbye to Amy (Oh yeah, not hard at ALL) and Ted and evie Charles took up the tour guide duties. After a few hours of driving and chatting, we made it to Bosque Redondo/Fort Sumner and just about fainted.

The museum was closed. 

Umm, what?

I'd flown and driven for days, and it was CLOSED???

Now, this is where you think I'm crushed, right?


God is SO good! 

I wanted and needed to get beyond the museum grounds , down to the river, to where the people lived and died. And so the fact that the museum was closed? Meant we could, umm, explore. 

On the grounds, where the people would have eeked out an existance.

Ted Charles, the grandson of a seven year old prisoner named Tsi'tnaginnie. 

 Yeah, it was QUITE a day...utterly exhausting and truly breath-taking, at the same time. It fueled me in ways I cannot begin to express.

Oy, I'm still dealing with the emotions from that trip and that place. And a place called Canyon de Chelly. Look behind Evie Charles, see those trees? Those are trees, 1000 feet down on the floor of the canyon. Ohhh, what a place! Such beauty and misery. That's where hundreds and thousands of Navajo people lived, and were forced to surrender to the army in the early 1860's.

 That trip shaped the second book, and when I got home, I went into a bit of a frenzy, getting as much feeling down as I could. I wanted to put the suffering on paper, and weave the hope into the words.

And writers know this, but it is impossoble to improve without the feedback from non-writer friends!!  Friends like Monique and Francois Levert, Merry-Lynne Inman, Yvonne Nye, Siva Stephens, Ted Charles, and Rel Mollet, just to name a few. 
These are not in order and I KNOW I've left out a LOT of people.

Annnnnnnnnnnd I forgot to mention my husband! John Major! Sigh, what a guy!

One thing I had not expected, as a writer, was the overwhelming support of fellow writers, whether published yet or not. Women like sarah Thomas, Lori Benton, Laura Frantz, Tamara Leigh, Kiersti Plog, Amber Perry, Cathy West, Amy Drown, Beth Vogt, Bonnie Grove, Jill Buteyn, Jeanne Takenaka, Gwen Gage, Ronie Kendig, and a certain group of women who shall remain nameless.

And as of Monday? Scott Smith, a monuments ranger with New Mexico State Parks.


So...where are we now? I HAD TO put my work on the altar set before God. This was not my story, it was His. I am merely the keeper.

Over the winter I dealt with waaaay more snow that normal, busy kids and their schedules, and then a fall on some ice that gave me a concussion and wrecked my shoulders, neck, jaw and voice. I struggled with losing my singing voice and wondered if God had not taken a string of pearls away so that His gift of turquoise and silver had room to shine. 

The Navajo are renowned for their beautiful turquoise and silver jewelry.

But, I kept on writing, editing, working, editing, and then doing it all again. On more than one occasion, Mary has sweetly reminded me that this is my very first book. As in, I've never done this before. So I need to chill and stop putting deadlines on myself, as well as lofty expectations.

The biggest, hardest lesson in the last year?


Patience with myself, because I am a complete newb. Patience with my agent, because she represents who knows how many people, and actually has a family and a life beyond her job. Patience with the process, with learning what I need to learn to take me from 'meh' to amazing. And patience with building my 'platform' and all the other things expected of a writer that didn't used to be issues.
Brock and Bodie Theone never had to worry about Twitter, just sayin. 

And patience with God's plan. Because I don't know it all yet. And frankly, this last 12 months has been a roller coaster because life gets in the way of our best laid plans.

God's will for us is never what is good enough, what will do for now.

His will is perfect.

I need to work on patiently waiting for that.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What a difference a year makes...a look back at September 15th, 2013.

Ever wake up one day and say to yourself "Today is the day I turn that 'if I don't do this now, this could be a big regret someday' into 'living my dream' ?"

Jump from December 26th, 2011, to last September 12th, when I arrived at the Indianapolis Hyatt and walked into the heady, terrifying, massive crowd of writers, agents, editors and industry people known as the annual American Christian Fction Writers Conference.

I'd flown to Indy and stayed with friends (waves at Ellen and Peter Moore!) then on the 12th, the very hilarious Peter drove the very , very nervous and wound up me downtown to the hotel. I needed to get some lipstick, because you know, Canada was totally out of lipstick, right? Okay, so we find a pharmacy and I asked Peter if he'd go in with me, since the neighbourhood was umm, yes, so yeah. So in we go and I stopped just inside the doorway, to get my bearings.

Annnnnd WHAT does Peter YELL????


As Amber Perry says, OH MY HECK!!!

Actually that is NOT what I thought. I was somewhat more colourful.

I just about DIED. The whole place just froze. And then the laughter kicked into gear. BUT, what had Peter done?

Shot me in the nerves and had me laughing so hard I felt way better. WAY better.

I got to the hotel, got to the room I was sharing with the very sweet Loraine Kemp (Canadian!) but she wouldn't be arriving til very late. I ditched my stuff and then headed for the lobby.
And saw Beth Vogt, upon whence I completely lost it and cried like a baby. And was utterly speechless.

Yup. Speechless. ME.

I cried and hugged, and got my ribs re-arranged by this amazing and profoundly generous woman who took me under her wing and helped me when I was frazzled and clueless.

And frankly, I wish I could say I was done with being clueless, but umm, yeah.

And at some point, I met up with Cynthia Herron, and we enjoyed a dinner together, that woman is so witty and SWEET! So from that evening, until the next day when I switched rooms and finally met my weekend room-mate, and one of my favourite people, Sarah Thomas, who was another unexpected blessing along my writer path, and long into the very sleep deprived weekend...did I mention the insane amount of caffiene I injested just to get myself going?

And keep myself going?

I pitched and chatted and listened and learned and got worn out and escaped and dove back in and hugged friends and generally tried to soak as much in as I could.


I had a pre-scheduled meeting with an agent on Sunday morning at 9:30.  This meeting was something I was looking forward to and dreading, all at the same time.

I'd had a series of rejections through the spring and summer and when I got the email, a week or so prior to the conference, I wasn't feeling like I was strong enough to handle this particular meeting. I thought, "I don't want to go...okay, fine, I'll go, but what good will it do? Nah, maybe I won't go..." Then my two very close writing friends, Heather Gilbert and Becky Doughty, basically smacked me upside the clueless (see, there's that word again) and told me if an agent asked for an HOUR LONG appointment, I would be beyond all levels of measurable cluelessness to say 'no thanks'.

So, on Sunday morning, September the 15th, Mary Keeley and I met at Starbucks, got our flaming hot beverages of choice (which is a nice way of saying 'I had tea, but I can't remember what she had') and made our way to the mezzanine.

I remember how nervous I was, and yet how calm I felt. I had many people praying me through this meeting, as I was already extremely overwhelmed by all that had happened over the weekend.
Just. So. Much. WOW.

We chatted for a few minutes, then before I knew what was happening, Mary offered representation.

That dream moment for every writer? The Phone Call that every writer ponders and daydreams about?
There was no phone call, no email offering representation.

I actually enjoyed (nearly passed out during? Cried like a baby? Breathed into a paper bag?) the blessed rarity of being offered representation from my dream agent, in person.


Did I mention in person?

Yes, I had Kleenex in my briefcase, which in and of itself, is hilarious. Because, *I* have a briefcase.


I'm a suburban, over 50 hockey mom who yells in Spanish at the refs, who doesn't have a day job, who keeps house like a toddler...and I have a briefcase with business cards in it.

So, ahem, once I stopped crying, I said to Mary "I don't want to give you an answer until I pray about it."

Because that's what all the properly behaved, totally-in-tune-with-God, spiritual people do, right?

And because I NEEDED to commit this to Him.

So, we prayed. And about, ohhhhh, 15 micro-seconds later, I could hear my husband's voice whispering from thousands of miles away "SAY YES NOW!".

So I did.

And cried some more. My brain was swirling with fireworks and words I'd only begged God to let me say, some day..."Mary Keeley offered and I said yes!  I am with Books and Such! I am a Bookie!!!"

God is good, and I am thankful beyond words.
I know I am blessed, and that many writer friends still do not have their dream agent. I know that.

But for me? This is a very, VERY special day!!

Happy Author-Agent Anniversary, Mary.

I could not do this without you, thank you.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wisdom, and a winner.

Wisdom from a dear friend for a weary writer…

"I’m convinced that unrealistic expectations breed impatience. 

They can suck the life out of you, and leave your fingers limp over the keys.

There’s a time to walk away from the story for rest and perspective. 

But there’s also a time to stab Resistance with the sharp point of determination."

Jenni Brummet, September 11, 2014


The winner of the bling is Janice Rawlyk!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

September Vlog and a GIVE-AWAY!!!!

At first, I appear to be asleep....

but I am not.

Although maybe I should be.