The Power of Remembering

We authors like to use symbols to enrich our stories. They work so well because we can all relate to having a memento or song or special place that instantly transports us to another time.

The Christmas ornaments I place on our tree do that for me. My mom started my collection by gifting me a special ornament every year until she died. So…as I put those ornaments on the tree, I remember her and my dad and the many happy Christmases we once shared. 

shameless doting nana pic :)
shameless doting nana pic 🙂

Other ornaments were lovingly crafted by my children, and those transport me to many happy memories of making them together. I even have one my eldest granddaughter made for me! 


Now, one of the most special ornaments my mom gave me was this dove. It became an important symbol in my first novel  Deep Cover (Love Inspired Suspense, September 2011).


The undercover cop hero gave the dove to the heroine with these words:

A soaring dove to remind you God is watching over you when I can’t be.

It hung from her rearview mirror and at the end of the novel, after the heroine’s world crashes around her, and literally, around the dove in the car, the hero sets out to rescue and return the gift as a symbol of God’s protection where he failed.

As I opened my box of Christmas ornaments this year and pulled out that dove, it reminded me once again of the story thread it inspired, and more importantly of the truth behind it–that God is watching over each one of us.

With everything that has happened in our family this past year, (read here and here) the impact of revisiting the symbol’s meaning was particularly intense.    

We may not always feel that God is watching over us, but if we’ve surrendered our hearts to him, He has promised to never leave us.

David repeatedly writes in his psalms that he “meditates” and “remembers,” especially at times when God seems slow in responding to his prayers. For example: “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” (Psalm 143:5)

Remembering times of blessing and remembering how the Lord has carried us through tough times helps to keep our focus where it should be–on the author of our faith. 

This year I certainly experienced the truth of these words: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

My prayer is that each one of you will experience His love in a richer way this Christmas season.

Fun Friday – Book Giveaways!!!

Thank you to everyone who joined our conversations this week.
The winner of the signed copy of Highland Hearts is “Jennifer” (whose husband was injured). 
Please email me your mailing address and I will get the book to you. 
If you’re in the St.Catharines area, Saturday, March 24th, stop by and say hi to Eva and I at Heritage Christian Bookstore in the Grantham Plaza. 
We’ll be signing books between 1 and 3 pm. We have more prizes to giveaway!!
for a chance to win Deep Cover
Friday (today) is the last day!
The following bloggers are generously giving away a copy each of Shades of Truth, stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win, or feel free to pass on the news: 
I wish you all a fabulous weekend! 

Deep Cover Extras are Here!!

Well…not here on this blog…over at my website.

Think DVD extras, only they’re extras for a book instead of a movie.

I’ve been a busy beaver for the past week and a half, working to get them done in time for a December unveiling. I’d love to hear what you think. 

If you hop on over, you’ll find: 
 ~deleted scenes
 ~on location in Miller’s Bay etc.
as well as some items you may have already seen here, such as the recipe book links and character interviews. 

Still to come is Rick and Ginny’s Christmas story. I’m planning to email an exclusive link to my newsletter subscribers in another week or so…when I get my quarterly newsletter written!! Please sign up if you’d like to read it.

Your Turn: What do you think of the extras? Any suggestions for more I might add?

A Change of Heart

Monday we talked about what we’d give up for love.

Because of fear, both Ginny in Deep Cover, and Lindsey in Lakeside Reunion, ask the police officers they love to give up their jobs before they’ll marry them.

Of course, every diehard romance reader longs for the hero to choose love over anything else. But what of the heroine?

She needs a change of heart, too. Right?

Your turn: Can you share an example of how you embraced God instead of clinging to fear? Are you struggling with this very thing, now? How might we pray for you?

GIVEAWAY OF DEEP COVER this week on Noelle Marchand’s new blog Today features an interview of the heroine. 

A Hook is like a Guard Dog

This week I’ve been working on a Christmas bonus story for my Deep Cover readers–a what are Rick and Ginny doing for Christmas kind of story.

Not sure if it will ever see the light of day, because the process has impressed upon me why romances end at “They lived happily ever after.”

Showing the happily ever after is boring. The fun is in the chase!

Of course, I like a challenge so I’m dreaming up ways to stir up some mischief. And the process got me thinking about hooks. 

A hook is like a guard dog. It either lures in the unwitting reader or sends her running.

A guard dog?

Yup, a great suspense is going to have a teeth-baring rottweiler guarding the house. Fierce enough to make you shake in your boots, but impressive enough to make you curious about what’s inside.

A light romance might have a tongue-lolling golden retriever sitting on the porch. Friendly enough to lure you to the step for a little pat and ready to win you over with a wet, sloppy kiss.

Then there’s the quirky, cozy mysteries…I’m picturing a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig as the guard dog.

Yes, a little pot-bellied pig sitting on someone’s porch is going to make you curious about what kind of character could possibly think the wee-little thing would scare anyone off the property. 

You’ll step closer.

It’ll puff itself up, taking it’s guarding duties very seriously. Snort. Snort.

Pot-belly pigs are intelligent. They’ll wait until you’re only a few feet away, laughing at them. And then…

Two-hundred-pound, Papa pig will lumber around the corner!
Gotcha ya.

Your turn: What kind of openings hook you into a story?

An International Feast

I was recently invited to join the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. Written by authors of Christian fiction representing a variety of rich cultural traditions from Canada to the UK to Tasmania to Brazil to Mozambique, it’s goal is to promote international Christian fiction.

In celebration of our second year of blogging, we’ve collaborated to create an International Recipe Ebook which we’re giving away as a free download to our readers.

Travel with us around the world as we sample delicacies that uniquely represent our home countries or the settings of our books.

Try our exciting selection of entrees, sides, mains, desserts and snacks:

• Peanut soup from Bolivia.
• Chicken croquettes from Brazil.
• Cornbread from Tennessee, USA.
• Cranberry salad from Australia.
• Bobotie and Cape Lamb Pie from South Africa.
• Mennonite stew from Canada.
• Passionfruit and coconut cake from Mozambique.
• Pavlova from New Zealand.
• Scones from England.

And many more! Over 40 recipes in all. 

Don’t miss… the hero of Deep Cover, Rick Gray’s delicious and oh-so-easy chili that he teaches the heroine’s little sister how to make. Click here to download the book. You can choose from a variety of formats that can be read online or on popular Ereaders, or as a pdf for printing. 

Your turn: What’s your favorite international food and why? 

P.S. Please take a moment to stop by the International Christian Fiction Writers blog and meet the authors. 

P.S.S. I’ll soon be giving away free downloads to another cool cookbook called Novel Morsels, which will feature favorite recipes of characters from books. Subscribe to my newsletter and/or Facebook page (links on the side bar) to be sure you don’t miss the announcement.

Interviewing a Villain

Since we talked about villains on Monday, I wanted to share here the interview Emile Laud did with blogger Suzanne Hartzman at the end of September. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed playing him. 
Visiting with us today is Emile Laud a character from Sandra Orchard’s debut novel Deep Cover. To help you better follow my interview with Emile, allow me to first share a brief description of the other main characters.

            Rick Gray (aka Duke Black) ~ Undercover cop working as a construction foreman on Emile Laud’s newest development—a group home for his mentally-challenged niece
            Ginny Bryson ~ A web copywriter and the PR person for her Uncle Emile’s construction project. When not trying to raise funds for the project, or writing copy for her uncle or other clients, she cares for her dying mother and coaches a T-ball team of special needs players, including her sister.
            Lori Bryson ~ Ginny’s eighteen year old sister who has a mental age of three to four and works in a supervised work placement during the day.
Suzanne: Your foreman Rick Gray, uh, I mean Duke, would have us believe you’re the villain of this story so I thought it only fair to give you a chance to defend yourself against these accusations. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Emile: I’d be happy to. I appreciate you having me here. I honestly have no idea why Duke would think such a thing of me, especially after I gave him a job. I’m a developer. I’ve done quite well over the years. I left Miller’s Bay almost twenty years ago, following the tragic death of my wife in a house fire. I simply couldn’t bear the reminders the town held of our happy years together. But I returned a few months back to re-establish my business in the community and to give back to the town that helped launch my career by building a group home for special needs adults.
Suzanne: Tell us a little more about the group home you’re building.
Emile: Foremost, the home is for my niece Lori. With her mother dying, it’s the least I can do to ensure she has a stable home in the future.
Suzanne: Tell us what your niece Ginny is doing to help with the group home.
Emile: Her assistance has been invaluable. Thanks to her tenacious fundraising efforts and government lobbying, grants and donations toward the construction are pouring in. She is such a lovely girl, always helpful, never questions my decisions. I try to help her out however I can. She has a lot on her plate holding the family together. Her mother, my dear departed wife’s sister, was an alcoholic you know. She’s quit now, they say. I suppose with the cancer making her so sick, she had no choice.
Suzanne: Oh, I didn’t know that. No wonder Ginny thinks the world of you. In fact, most people in Miller’s Bay seem to think highly of you. Why is that?
Emile: Why because money talks my dear. Show compassion to the less fortunate, donate to a worthy cause, build a home for the needy, and everyone thinks you’re honorable. If only the insurance company was so easily persuaded. If they paid the settlement on the townhouse fire instead of dragging on a fruitless investigation, I’d be able to move forward with construction much more quickly.
Suzanne: I’ve noticed you always dress in expensive three-piece suits and eat at the best restaurants and even own a yacht. Appearances seem very important to you. Why is that?
Emile: I was poor once. Bullied by kids at school. Mocked for my secondhand clothes. Ignored by the girls. I never intend to go back to that life.
Suzanne: I see. And why doesn’t Ginny’s mother, your sister-in-law, like you?
Emile: She blames me for her sister’s death I’m afraid. It’s understandable. I blame myself. If I’d been there that night instead of working late at the office, I might’ve been able to save her.
Suzanne: What evidence does Ri—uh Duke have to make him suspect that you torch some of your buildings to collect the insurance money?
Emile: Come now, you look like a woman of the world. You know how these rumors get started. I was working late the night my wife died. And yes, so was my secretary. But that didn’t mean I was having an affair. And yes, perhaps my business endeavors have been victimized by arson attacks more than most. But any evidence he believes he has is pure conjecture I’m sure. 
Suzanne: What threats are being leveled at Ginny?
Emile: < squirms, looking suddenly uncomfortable> There have been…shall we say, incidents. One nasty note she received said I know. And one way or the other, HE WILL PAY. Obviously, I’m concerned for her. Although it has occurred to me that Duke, not I, is the “he” to whom the note refers.
Suzanne: But—
Emile: I admit that a man doesn’t get to my position without creating a few enemies. That’s why I asked Duke to use his criminal connections to try to find out who’s behind the attacks on my dear niece and put a stop to them. Now, I ask you, if I were trying to hurt my niece, why would I ask Duke to protect her?
Suzanne: Hmm, good question. I guess I’ll have to read Deep Cover to find out who’s really telling the truth. 
Your turn: If you read Deep Cover, were you surprised at the end to discover who was trying to hurt Ginny?

Fighting the Villain Inside

I love writing villains. 
Not the mustache-twirling villains of old that modern readers find laughable. Multi-faceted characters that I can exploit for good and evil, and in the process, surprise the reader. At his best, a villain will make the hero stop and take stock. 
If the reader does too, all the better.
One trick writing books suggest for humanizing villains is to look at them through the eyes of someone who loves them.
In Deep Cover, the reader sees Emile Laud through the hero’s eyes as someone who would torch buildings for the insurance money without concern for who might be hurt as a result. We also see Laud through his niece’s eyes as someone who is generous and supportive.
The reader, of course, is left wondering who is right.
Laud is driven by ambition. He wants people to believe he’s wealthy and altruistic so they’ll admire him, because as a child he was scoffed at for being poor and unpopular.
By the end of the book, we see the consequences of his obsession. (no spoiler!)
Witnessing firsthand the villain that lurks inside each of us, the hero finds himself evaluating his own decisions.
Your turn: Is ambition a bad thing? Why or why not?
Food for Thought: Do you unconsciously try to fill a deep-rooted need in ways that might lead to unwelcome consequences?

Why Don’t You Like Me?

Which character in the book do you most relate to and why?
A heroine you’d like?
That’s question number two at the back of Deep Cover, and it led to an interesting discussion recently among my writing friends.
We were trying to discern if there is a connection between our own personality types and the heroines in the books we enjoy most. Or if the heroines we admire have personalities we aspire to, but don’t necessarily have.
As a child of British parents, I learned that one should keep their emotions under wraps. I learned to esteem a stoic outlook of circumstances, and see crying as a weakness. Not necessarily healthy, and certainly not taught consciously, but that’s the way it was.
As a result, I don’t have much patience for weepy heroines.
That’s not to say, I don’t like women-in-jeopardy stories. I do. I love to read about a protective hero, rescuing and cherishing the woman he loves.
A Likable Heroine?
Similarly, I’m a highly task-oriented, type A personality. When I read the list of characteristics of that kind of personality, I see them as positive qualities. Others read those same characteristics and see many of them as negatives.
Likewise, when they see those characteristics in a heroine, they’ll see her as unlikable while other readers may admire her. 
Then, of course, there’s the influence of our first impression based on the cover are picture.
Interesting, isn’t it?
Your turn: What kind of hero or heroine do you most relate to and why? Do they share the same kind of personality as you, or attributes you aspire to have?

Where Does Your Strength Come From?

With the ACFW hoopla behind me, I’m finally returning to the primary focus of this blog—conversations about characters.

At the end of Deep Cover, the hero realizes that he’s been trusting in his own strength to protect the heroine, rather than God’s. 
Believers often seek God’s help or guidance as a last resort, don’t we?
Or, like me, we go to Him, but… sometimes we don’t stay still long enough to hear His answer.
With so many things vying for our time and attention, oftentimes, it’s difficult to shut out the clatter and just rest in Him.
But how sweet the experience of that rest. 
Your turn: Do you find yourself going to God first, or as a last resort?