Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Guest Blog with Jeri Odell

As a writer, the question I'm asked most often is where I get my ideas. The answer is life. Not mine necessarily, but from someone I know, an article I've read, or a friend of a friend. A little snippet of reality that evokes emotion in me and causes me to ask, what if?

Next, I develop a hero and heroine to fit into the situation, characters that both attract and repel the other, and then I weave together a plot to carry my characters to a satisfying ending. After all of that and researching the setting, their jobs, and any other information I might need, I start the actual process of writing.

I don't plan the spiritual thread as much as I plan the other components of fiction. The spiritual part seems to flow naturally out of a struggle I've gone through or one that someone close to me has faced. In Perfect Ways, much of what Adelaide learned about forgiveness, I'd learned only months early--or relearned.

Speaking of Adelaide, my mom asked me why I gave my heroine such an awful name. In all honesty, I didn't care for the name much myself, but somehow it fit her perfectly. She was stuffy, prim and proper, and it was the name that came as I developed her character. The hero calls her Addie and hopes and prays she'll become a more relaxed version of herself.

Do you go by a nickname? Do you like your given name? Would you change it if you could? Answer one, two or all three to be entered in a drawing to win a book at the end of the week.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Guest Blog with Jeri Odell

Just like it did my heroine, Idaho surprised me with its vast wilderness, miles of rivers and raw beauty. When Heartsong awarded me the Idaho contract, the timing had God's hand print all over it. Our plans to visit our daughter and her family in Washington extended to include a few days touring and researching their neighboring state. Believe me when I assure you, Idaho is much more than a giant potato farm!

My next story will be set in the Idaho panhandle, not far from the Canadian border. The third story takes place in the renowned Sun Valley at the ski resort. One of the most exciting things about writing setting driven fiction is the opportunity to get acquainted with other parts of the country. God's imagination went wild when he created North America. The variances are stunning.

How has God surprised you recently? An unexpected phone call or letter, the kindness of a stranger, something in creation?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Perfect Ways by Jeri Odell

Heartsong Presents #906
ISBN 978-1-60260-885-6

Adelaide needs a fresh start.

I can’t do this. Forced to sell all her possessions upon the death of her husband, Adelaide English suddenly finds herself moving cross-country, enrolling in college at forty-five, and landing a job as the new freshman resident director. But starting fresh isn’t easy—especially when Adelaide finds herself in the crossfire of a college scandal. . .and romance.

I will never love again. Dr. Isaiah Shepherd has never looked at another woman since his wife died. . .until Adelaide enters his world. Something about her fragile, caged spirit draws him, even against his better judgment. But as scandal unfolds, Isaiah must make a choice. Fight for the woman he’s falling for, or just let her go?

As rumors fly, will Adelaide find forgiveness, freedom, and even love?
Psalm 18:30 "As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him."

JERI ODELL is a native of Tucson, Arizona. She has been married almost thirty-seven years and has three wonderful adult children and three precious grandchildren and another under construction. Jeri holds family dear to her heart, second only to God. This is Jeri’s eighth novel for Heartsong. She has also written eight novellas, a nonfiction book, and articles on family issues for several Christian publications. She thanks God for the privilege of writing for Him. When not writing or reading, she is busy in her church teaching on marriage and parenting. If you’d like, you can e-mail her at
Last week we shared our favorite states to visit. What is one that you haven't yet visited, but it's on your to do list?

Friday, June 25, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Kelly Freestone who said, "I live in Florida, so I'll say I love to visit my own state. :D It's nice to pack it all up and head to the beach (working on the next time for THAT one! lol)."

Kelly, please email us at heartsongblog at gmail dot com, and you can have your choice of either book featured this week, or if you are a member of the Heartsong Bookclub, you can choose to win 10 Heartpoints toward future shipments.

Congrats and enjoy the read.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

From The Vault – A Hero for her Heart

Hs #885
ISBN: 9781602607019

When Allie's brother and sister-in-law die in a car accident, Allie is left with the care of their adopted son, Danny - and enormous debt. Now she's forced to sell part of the farm to make ends meet. Derrick is on a mission. His dying sister's last wish is to know her son is happy with his adopted family, so Derrick hides behind his job as Realtor to investigate Allie and Danny. But soon his reconnaissance mission turns into much more when his feelings grow for Allie and the nephew he's never known.

What is your favorite state to visit and why?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guest Blog with Nancy Toback

I've written Heartsong romances before, but the three books I wrote with Candice Speare was my first time writing a series. It's been a wonderful learning experience. By our third book in the series we knew so much about the characters that they felt like old friends. I also learned much about Washington State. So, I hope there's another series in my future.

Collaborating with Candice was great fun as we both have a quirky sense of humor. We used that humor when we created the totally mismatched hero and heroine in Boxed Into Love. And we still laugh when we read lines from the African American sisters in book three.

As always, the Heartsong editors were amazing. They really made our stories shine. We're looking forward to feedback from our Heartsong readers. We hope you enjoy our Washington States series.

Have you ever visited Washington State?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guest Blog with Candice Speare

Boxed Into Love is a good example of how a story can be revamped and why authors shouldn’t throw any old unused manuscripts or ideas away. Like paper, plastic, glass, and metal, they can be recycled, at least in part.

Many years ago three friends and I brainstormed a novella proposal idea, and I came up with the initial premise for Boxed Into Love. That proposal was never submitted, and my chapters and synopsis languished in my file drawer for at least seven years until Nancy and I began brainstorming our Washington State series. I pulled the Boxed Into Love notes from a manila folder, thinking we might be able to use part of it for the second book.

We kept most of the original story premise, and the main characters and their careers, but we changed their names and fined tuned their personalities. We gave Shannon, our slightly absentminded heroine, some additional quirks, like tie-dye shirts and herbal tea. The hero remained a button down guy, but we gave him quirks to make him more lovable. We introduced a secondary character who is the hero in our third book (to be will be released later this year), and we added some other notable minor characters to round out our cast. What developed was a fun romance with two starring characters we enjoyed writing about.

Boxed Into Love is a love story about two opposites attracting—a premise of which romance readers never seem to tire. Neither do we.

Who in your life is an opposite? Parent, sister, brother, spouse, friend?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Boxed into Love – Candice Speare and Nancy Toback

Heartsong Presents #905
ISBN 978-1-60260-900-6

How can they possibly fall in love?

There is no way Glen Caldwell is falling for Shannon O’Brien! She’s just too unconventional, disorganized, and free-spirited. But she’s also generous and capable of an unconditional kind of love he’s rarely seen. He couldn’t ever be attracted to her. Could he?

Glen is everything Shannon admires—and everything she fears. Organized, button-down, and a little bit uptight. He’s certainly not the kind of man she should fall in love with. She’d drive him crazy! But when Shannon’s junk shop is mistaken for his antique store and a valuable box is wrongfully sold, the two must work together to get it back before the box’s owner brings her lawyers down upon them.

Between the threats, the thieves, and their differences, will Glen and Shannon’s hearts ever connect?

CANDICE SPEARE lives in an old farmhouse in Maryland with Winston the African gray parrot and Jack the dog. You may contact her by visiting her website:

NANCY TOBACK was born and raised in Manhattan and now resides in sunny Florida.
Her passion for writing fiction began way back in grammar school. If there's spare time after being wife, mother, grandmother, writer and avid reader, Nancy is a watercolorist and charcoal artist and enjoys gourmet cooking. You may e-mail her at

Would you call yourself an avid reader? How many books do you normally read at one time?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Yay, Sandy!!

This weeks winner in the random drawing is Sandy who said, "I thoroughly enjoyed ROMANCE RIDES THE RANGE and I'm looking forward to the other two books in the series. Good going, Colleen!"

Sandy, we are glad you enjoyed Colleen's latest. Now is your chance to enjoy her other book, Changing Seasons. Please email us at heartsongblog at gmail dot com, and you can have your choice of either book featured this week, or if you are a member of the Heartsong Bookclub, you can choose to win 10 Heartpoints toward future shipments.

Congrats and enjoy the read!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

From The Vault Changing Seasons by Colleen Reece

Heartsong Presents #589
ISBN: 9781593100797

For Emily Ann Carr, life has been a series of obligations. Putting aside hopes for love and a family of her own, Emily raised her niece and nephew after the death of her brother. Now, with the children grown and gone, she has time to revisit some of her own dreams. More than twenty years her senior, Emily Carr's spinster aunt Carolyn Sheffield is "terminally single and proud of it. " Sure, she's pleased to know that her favorite niece has found love, but such nonsense has no place in her own life--or does it? When Carolyn finds herself being diligently pursued by a handsome, good-natured widower, will she allow the walls she's built to crumble? Fall in love with this inspiring love story and our entire collection of Christian romance novels from Heartsong Presents!

Do you have a book on your shelf that you read again and again?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Launching Out in the Wrong Direction

Guest Blog with Colleen Reece

After winning the bicycle, I had continued to daydream about my “someday” book but did little writing other than homework. Our family camped extensively throughout the western states. We read everything possible about the Old West. This and my high school preparation for a possible nursing career gave me a solid foundation. Yet it took thirty-six years to fulfill my childhood dream of having a book published . . . and a single-page letter changed my dream to a nightmare.

For years I’d devoured inspirational novels. The nurse romances published by Avalon Books particularly attracted me. One day I told Mom, “I could write a better book than some of these.”
She smiled and said, “Why don’t you?”

“I will, but I’ll play it smart,” I told her. “No way am I going to spend the little free time left over from my day job by writing a novel that may not sell. I’ll submit one chapter and do a few more while waiting for a response.” I grinned. “When Avalon says, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ I’ll be ready to offer my work elsewhere. I’ll also have time to get acquainted with my characters, and think more about the plot.”

All I knew at that point was that my nurse-heroine would flee from an intolerable situation and travel with her aunt in Arizona (Mom and I had taken such a trip the year before).

Chapter One flowed like a river in flood. Mom proofed and edited it. I mailed it from Vancouver, Washington, along with a business-like cover letter. Three days later, my dreams of being published shattered. The New York editor loved the chapter—and wanted the rest of the book.

I panicked. “Dear God, now what? The editor is holding the entire manuscript! Avalon is a secular company but they have high standards. Characters ask a blessing over meals and pray for help in times of trouble. Please forgive my stupidity and if it be Your will, let my book be accepted.”

God heard and answered. I received a contract two days after submitting the manuscript. The editor appreciated the fact that my nurse heroine did more than bandage cuts and asked for more books. The Heritage of Nurse O’Hara was published in 1977. Since then, sales of my 140+ “Books You Can Trust” have reached six million . . . but never again have I launched out in the wrong direction! I have, however, continued to write western-based novels. Frontiers and Frontier Brides collections (four novels each from Barbour Publishing) are among my all-time bestsellers.

Some time ago, a good friend gave me an idea for a historical Christian western. I fell in love with it. My heroine, Sarah Joy, and I escaped from St. Louis, Missouri. Trusting God to protect us, we headed west to a cattle ranch and discovered that Romance Rides the Range near Madera, California. (My second childhood dream was to live on a cattle ranch. I’m still hoping to visit one.)

Book Two, Romance Rides the River, is scheduled for fall 2010. I recently submitted Book Three, Romance at Rainbow’s End. I don’t know what’s next, but God’s timing is perfect. He knows our capabilities, as well as when and where our work can do the most good.

If you dream of writing a book, it is never too late to get started. You may think you don’t have time to make your dream come true. Consider this: if you write only one page per day, five days a week, by this time next year you will have a 260-page novel.

I leave you with my mother’s challenge: “Why don’t you?”

Todays Question: What is a dream you dared to pursue or are still dreaming?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Guest Blog with Colleen Reece

A Desire and a Dream

The joyous chime of church bells floated over the river, through the forest, and across the meadows to my home near the little logging town of Darrington, Washington. Dressed in our best, Dad, Mom, my two brothers and I climbed into our old car and followed the summons. One of my favorite hymns was “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.” I sang at the top of my lungs and meant it—but secretly hoped God would call me serve at home, not as a missionary in some distant land!

The desire to some day write a book started when I learned to read by kerosene lamplight in a home furnished with love but without electricity or running water. My first “sale” came from writing to a radio program. Even at age eleven, I was in love with cowboys and the Old West—note the word pronto in my letter. (I knew from reading Zane Grey’s exciting books it meant immediately!)

Darrington, Wash.
June 3, 1947

Dear Free For All,

I’ve heard of the “Gang,” as you call them, and if they can’t guess this something is wrong. Because, it’s easy as pie.

Most of the children around here have bicycles but I don’t have. Daddy goes up every day to fall timber (as we live in the heart of the timber country) and by the time he gets home, the store is closed. But, if I had a bicycle, I could go to town and bring thing [sic] home in the day-time. Although there are lots of trees around here, money doesn’t grow on trees and neither do bicycles.

I’ve written before and so, Free For All, if you don’t send me a bicycle pronto, I’m going to spend more money in postage writing to you than the bicycle costs.

If I won it, I would be the happiest girl in the Universe. There is one chance in a million and I’m taking it.

I wrote in on a Quiz once and I won some money [$1.00 from a Sunday School paper] so I’m signing myself the Lucky Girl, Colleen Reece.

They read my letter on the air and sent me a gorgeous cream and blue bicycle! Decades later I sold an article containing the actual letter to Writer’s Digest magazine. They titled it “Writing a Bike.” The letter is now included in my Writing Smarter, not Harder, The Workbook Way under the caption: Persistent 11-year-old Wins Bike.

* * *

Time passed. My longing to write a “someday” book grew. However, people from Darrington didn’t become authors. In high school I planned to become a nurse but discovered my heart was too tender. Instead I became a school secretary, then a government secretary. I won honors and praise. I wrote and sold some manuscripts. Then, on an August morning in 1977, I cried, "Lord, why am I spending my time and energy as a secretary when I can make a difference with my writing?”

A daring thought followed: What if I simply walk off my good-paying government job? There was no guarantee I could make even a modest living writing. Yet I felt as called as surely as the disciples who left all to follow Jesus.

That afternoon I gave notice.

Question of the day: Have you ever won anything?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Romance Rides the Range by Colleen L. Reece

Heartsong Presents #904
ISBN 978-1-60260-895-5

Sarah doesn’t dare look back . . .

Sarah Anderson refuses to become a drudge for her stepfather and his unruly children after her mother dies in 1882. Neither will she become a pawn for his indebtedness to a riverboat gambler. Sarah escapes from her Missouri home and heads for California to find her brother Seth, trusting God to keep her safe on the perilous journey west.

Matt Sterling rescued Seth from danger and taught him to become a top hand on the Sterling ranch near Madera. Betrayed by one selfish girl, Matt has vowed the San Joaquin River will run dry before he ever gets involved with another woman. He’s better off fighting cattle rustlers, floods and drought to make his spread one of the finest in the valley.

Is love's long lasso strong enough to overcome obstacles and rope in the runaway girl and the once-bitten, twice-shy rancher?


“I'll bet he isn't like Gus,” she [Sarah] whispered. “Matthew Sterling looks kind and good. According to Seth, he's as strong and true as his name.”

She closed her eyes and imagined the stranger riding up to rescue her from the unspeakable future Gus and Tice planned. The next instant Sarah shook her head. “Appearances are just that—appearances. Seth might be mistaken about his friend. Even though Matthew means gift of the Lord, he might be no better than Gus or Tice.”

Sarah sighed. If all men were like those two, she would never marry. Better to live alone than to live married to someone she didn't love—or worse, who would never really love her the way God meant a husband to love his wife.

“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper . . . This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD” (Isaiah 54:17).

COLLEEN L. REECE was born and raised in a small western Washington logging town. She learned to read by kerosene lamplight and dreamed of someday writing a book. God has multiplied Colleen's “someday” book into more than 140 titles that have sold six million copies. Colleen was twice voted Heartsong Presents' Favorite Author and later inducted into Heartsong's Hall of Fame. Several of her books have appeared on the CBA Bestseller list.

Do you have a garden? What do you grow?

Friday, June 11, 2010

This Week's Winner Is...

Guess who?

You've got it! Our very own CatMom who said, "I am a true "cat person" LOL! I have seven cats and love them dearly. My son has a rabbit and bird, but they stay in his bedroom so the cats cannot bother them. ~ I cannot imagine my life without my kitties! :) Blessings, Patti Jo
P.S. Enjoyed reading the excerpt of this book!"

Patti Jo, we are glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Now is your chance to enjoy the whole book or Paige's other book, Treasure in the Hills. Please email us at heartsongblog at gmail dot com, and you can have your choice of either book featured this week, or if you are a member of the Heartsong Bookclub, you can choose to win 10 Heartpoints toward future shipments.

Congratulations and enjoy the read!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

From The Vault--Treasure in the Hills

by Paige Winship Dooly
Heartsong Presents #775
ISBN: 9781597896566

Emma Delaney is mortified when her precocious daughter leaps into a stranger's arms and loudly proclaims that God has sent her new papa to their door. Emma's not looking for a new husbands, and this angry stranger certainly wouldn't qualify if she were. Josiah Andrews is amused by the child's announcement, but he's here on business - looking for the man responsible for his brother's death. Marriage hasn't even appeared on the horizon of his plans for life. But Emma and Josiah find themselves drawn together by circumstances beyond their control. Can the hurt of the past and the confusion of the moment be overcome? Can either of them move beyond their own expectations to see the bigger picture God has planned?

We talked about our favorite season this week. What is your favorite holiday?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Guest Blog with Paige Winship Dooly

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter is the first book in my historical Georgia Belles series. It’ll be followed by The Displaced Belle and The Reluctant Outlaw. I’ve had so much fun writing about this state! I love Georgia and all the beauty the state contains. The three stories will cover the coastal region, the outskirts of Atlanta and the mountains in the northern part of the state.

I think we all struggle with trust issues at various times throughout life, yet the ability to trust is so important! We trust that our basic needs will be met. We trust those around us to protect and care for us. And we trust the Lord to watch over us and walk beside us as we make choices—both good and bad—that affect our future.

In the story, Hollan is thrown into a position where she has to trust her ex-fiancé—the man who walked out on her the night her mother died and Hollan lost her eyesight. Jacob didn’t know he’d left her under those circumstances, he only knew his father and brothers had wreaked havoc on their small town and he wanted to bring them to justice.

After three years on the trail, Jacob comes home to the one man who has always been there for him, Hollan’s uncle, and agrees to go out to the island to help with the lighthouse after Hollan’s father disappears during a storm. He feels unredeemable due to his family’s rough past. He’s seeking solitude and peace on the island. Instead, he and Hollan are faced with the need to trust each other as they face storms and privateers and continue the search for her father.

When circumstances bring the couple back together, each has to work through their issues and find a way to trust again.

God has showed me many times over that He’s there for me and that my trust is safe in Him, but I seem to need that reminder on a regular basis! I hope you enjoy the journey as Hollan and Jacob also learn to trust.

In what areas do you struggle with trust?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An Excerpt from The Lightkeeper's Daughter

"I marry Jacob, or I leave the island." The whispered words blew away on the breeze. "I can't leave my island. It's all Samson and I have left. It's our home."
"Then you agree to the marriage?"
She thought hard, but no better solution came to her. "Yes, Uncle Edward. Prepare the way for my wedding. I guess I'll marry the outlaw."
"You'll marry a gentleman. I'll have you see it no other way."
“Perhaps you should re-introduce me to my groom.” She folded her arms at her chest and refused to turn around to see if Jacob stood nearby. “Is he still standing on the hill, listening?”
Her uncle chuckled. “No, he fled just after your original shriek of horror and the foot stomp. He’s down the beach a bit with Samson.”
“With Samson? The traitor.”
They fell into step together and headed in that direction. The sound of the surf rose in volume as they neared the shore. Hollan’s bare feet sank into the soft sand and an impetuous thought made her smile. What would her new husband think of her perpetually shoeless state? Perhaps he’d never know. But with the loss of her sight, she needed to use each and every sense she could. She loved to feel the textures of the ground around her. And she found the sensation of sand beneath her toes to be her favorite sensation of all. She wouldn’t have that pleasure in town.. She’d made the right decision, even if it was scary and hard.
She stopped momentarily to breathe in the always-present, reassuring scent of her surroundings. Marriage couldn’t be worse than losing the island. She’d come through this and be just fine on the other side. She was not her mother.
Her uncle’s voice broke into her musings. “Samson seems content. He’s retrieving sticks thrown into the water by Jacob. Maybe the animal sees the merit of the situation better than you do.”
“Samson doesn’t make up with anyone, Uncle Edward. You know that. All the changes of late must be muddling his little doggy brain.”
“That dog has more brain than most men I know, your fiancé not included.”
“My fiancé..” She groaned.
"Your fiancé only for a short while.” Her uncle’s voice held a hint of laughter. “Before you have a chance to get used to the idea, your fiancé will be your spouse.”
“Maybe I could have a bit more time to get used to the fiancé angle before we jump into marriage?” she asked hopefully.
“Take all the time you need. After re-introductions, which are about fifteen feet ahead of you, you’ll have the better part of the next hour to get used to the spouse part of the idea. You’ll get through this just fine.”
“Fifteen feet?” Hollan stopped, and Samson ran to her side. She ran a clammy hand self-consciously through her wind-tossed hair. The hot sun beat down on her back. What must her husband-to-be think of her? Did he, too, see the ceremony as “something to get through?” Would he someday mourn his loss of choice in hand-picking a bride in the future? He’d already turned his back on her once. Would he spend the rest of his life regretting her?
She squared her shoulders and moved forward. She wouldn’t be pathetic. Her husband would meet the independent woman who was his future wife.

And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Do you have a pet?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Lightkeeper's Daughter - Paige Winship Dooly

HP 903
ISBN 978-1-60260-883-2

Hollan doesn’t have much choice.

When her father disappears after a hurricane, Hollan scrambles to prove she can manage an island and care for a lighthouse on her own. That would be difficult enough for any woman, but Hollan is partially blind. When family members insist she either marry the man who once deserted her or move back to town, Hollan agrees to the marriage against her better judgment.

Jacob isn’t sure what to expect from Hollan, knowing the tragic circumstances that caused her blindness and sent him on a three-year quest for justice. But he knows he still loves her, and if she’ll have him, he’ll care for her from now on.

When danger threatens again, Hollan won’t just wait around for protection this time. Can Jacob prove that he didn’t desert her—and that he is worthy of her love and trust?

PAIGE WINSHIP DOOLY enjoys living in the warm panhandle of Florida with her family, after having grown up in the sometimes extremely cold Midwest. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart, Troy, and they have six home schooled children. Their oldest son, Josh, now lives in Colorado, while the newest blessing, Jetty, rounds out the family in a wonderful way. The whole family is active in Village Baptist Church. Paige has always loved to write. She feels her love of writing is a blessing from God, and she hopes that readers will walk away with a spiritual impact on their life and a smile on their face.

What is your favorite season of the year?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Drum Roll Please...

This week's winner is Linda, who said, "I'd like to have an Alice!" Amen to that sister!

Please email us at heartsongblog at gmail dot com, and you can have your choice of Shannon's debut work of fiction, or Carole's from the vault, or, if you are a member of the Heartsong Bookclub, you can choose to win 10 Heartpoints toward future shipments.

Thanks to each of you for all the great banter this week. Shannon, thanks for such great participation. The Lord bless and keep all of you.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

From The Vault

Beguiling Masquerade
Heartsong Presents #570
ISBN: 9781593100766

When quiet graduate student Becky Chandler dresses up as an elderly woman to research her thesis, she finds herself more outgoing and talkative, especially with her newfound friend, Myrtle Watson. But when she meets Myrtle's grandson, Becky is stunned to learn it's Rand Cameron, her sociology professor - on whom she has a secret crush. While Rand gets to know "eighty-year-old Rebecca," Becky is falling deeply in love with him. Can love have a chance when "Rebecca's" truth is revealed? Will Rand believe it was a terrible fraud or a beguiling masquerade? Fall in love with this inspiring love story and our entire collection of Christian romance novels from Heartsong Presents!

Is your favorite read normally a contemporary or historical book?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Romance and Rose Bud, Arkansas

My debut novel, White Roses, is set in two tiny Arkansas towns seven miles apart: Romance (population 1400) and Rose Bud (population 1800). The church I used in all three books is in Rose Bud. I never even sent a picture of it to the cover artist and was amazed at how close she came to the real thing. I did add more stained-glass windows in my fictionalized version.

My fictional floral shop is in Romance, which is known for the post office re-mailing program and weddings. Romantics send stamped, addressed Valentine's cards and wedding invitations in manila envelopes which are re-mailed from Romance, AR with a hand-stamped postmark.

I wove this setting and local flavor into each book in the series and visited the area on several research trips.

Fun facts:

• Each year, a unique postmark is designed for use from Feb. 1-15.
• Some brides request an invitation postmarked and mailed to her on her wedding day for a keepsake. The Post Office is happy to comply unless the date falls on a Federal holiday.
• People from as far away as Japan, China, Canada, Australia, Germany and Great Britain have sent wedding invitations, valentines and other mail to Romance for the special postmark.
• The 25-cent Love postage stamp was issued on January 18, 1990, in Romance, Arkansas. The stamp features two blue lovebirds over a deep pink heart and a decorative green garland. Designed by Jayne Hertko, this issue was the ninth edition in the popular Love Series.

According to Postmaster Angie Davis, they have three or four weddings a year on Valentine’s Day at the post office. Couples exchange vows in the lobby and outside the office. Someone carved a heart in the parking lot declaring it the Heart of Romance.

Angie gave me directions to The Romance Waterfalls. James (Buck) Weatherly has given me two tours of his privately owned property, which he and his wife rent to the public for weddings and events. Wisteria drapes over an archway leading to the landscaped garden with numerous flowers and bushes. A wooden walkway leads down to the waterfalls, surrounded by jutting rock/steps.

You can hear the waterfall long before you get there. Mr. Weatherly built two gazebos and balconies overlooking the waterfalls and he opens his home for receptions and family reunions. When real flowers are out of season, silk blossoms add beauty to heart-shaped flowerbeds and archways, along with numerous planters.

I couldn’t help incorporating the falls into all three of my books, including a proposal and a wedding at the site. Mr. and Mrs. Weatherly agreed to let me have my book launch party there.

So, if you’re ever looking for a beautiful outdoor place for a wedding in a town with the perfect name for romance, check out The Romance Waterfalls. There are at least three churches there also.

If you’re interested in the re-mailing program, here’s a list of post offices across the United States that provide this service:

Heart Butte, MT
Juliette, GA
Loveland, CO
Loveville, MD
Loving, NM
Romance, AR
Romeo, MI
Sugar City, CO
Valentine, NE
Valentine, TX
Valentines, VA

A teaser to wet your whistle:

Mark plopped on the couch. “So you’d met Grayson Sterling before?”
Just the sound of his name made her pulse flutter.
“At the shop a few weeks ago and then we sort of ran into each other at the park.” Adrea chose her favorite paring knife and sliced a tomato. The sharp blade cut clean lines through the soft pulp. “He’s had a standing order for his wife for six years.”
Until a hit-and-run driver carved his heart apart, just like the tender fruit in her hands.
“He still buys the flowers even though she died?”
A knot formed in her throat. “He takes them to the cemetery.”
“Sad.” Mark looked at the floor.
“He always comes to sign the card personally.” She arranged the slices on a saucer. “The salesclerks call him Prince Sterling, and his four annual appearances are the highlights of every year.”

What is your favorite flower and do you prefer a florist or home grown?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Excerpt from White Roses

“Whoa!” Adrea Welch teetered on top of the rickety three-step utility ladder. With both arms flung out, surfing style, she regained her balance and pressed a hand to her pounding heart.
“Let me hold that for you,” a deep voice echoed from the back of the sanctuary.
The man hurried toward her. Emerald green eyes, windswept sable hair, and an irresistible cleft in his chin. Late-twenties, maybe thirty. Probably the groom. All the impossibly handsome men, especially the nice, mannerly ones who hung out in church, were taken.
Especially in tiny Romance, Arkansas.
But looks weren’t everything and he might never have been in a church before, just here for the wedding. Underneath that heart-tilting smile, he might be a jerk.
“Thanks.” She glanced down, making sure he wasn’t helping as an excuse to check her out. He wasn’t. Instead, he studied her work.
“I’m almost done.” Adrea looped yellow roses through the white latticework archway.
“The church should invest in a better ladder.”
“Actually, it’s mine.” She weaved ivy through the roses and climbed down. He was tall, at least six foot three. The top of her head came just about nose level on him.
“Are you in the wedding party?” He slung his jacket over one shoulder. Shirtsleeves, rolled up almost to the elbow, revealed muscled forearms.
“I’m the florist.” Always the florist; never the bride. “Adrea Welch.”
She nodded at the correct pronunciation. “Very good, but I’ve been known to answer to Adrian and Andrea.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Adrea.” He offered his hand. “I’m the pastor at Palisade over in Rose Bud. Grayson Sterling. Most folks call me Pastor Grayson.”
She suppressed a gasp and shook his hand. Warmth spread over her at his firm, yet gentle grip.
“I’m sorry, have we met?”
“Um, I usually do the white roses.”
The light in his eyes snuffed out.
Six years of standing orders for his wife’s birthday, their son’s birthday, and their anniversary. For the last two, he hand-delivered the flowers to the cemetery. And added Valentine’s Day to mark the date of her death.
“Sara always treasured them and thought it so romantic to get flowers from Romance.” His voice sounded forced. “Even though mine is always the same order, you make each one unique.”
“I actually enjoy the challenge of making each array distinctive.” How lame. Might as well tell him I take pleasure in arranging flowers for his dead wife. “She must have been a very special lady.”
“Yes.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets. “How long have you been at Floral Designs?”
“Seven years.”
“I’ve been a patron and pastored the church almost that long.” He frowned. “Odd that we’ve never met before.”
“I hardly ever go out to the showroom, and only started decorating wedding sites in the last few months.” She fluffed the swirl of tulle at the base of each brass candelabra to catch the rainbow of light reflecting through the lone stained-glass window.
“This is the first wedding I’ve agreed to officiate since Sara. . . So, you attend here at Mountain Grove?”
“From the time I can remember, and my sister’s husband is the preacher.” She cocked her head to the side, surveying the archway. Yellow roses were her favorite. Once upon a time, she’d planned to use them for her own special day.
She checked her watch. Almost time for the round of afternoon weddings to start. “I better get out of your way.”
“Nice meeting you. I’ll pick up Sara’s arrangement later.”
“It’ll be ready.” She hurried out of the church, slipping on her jacket. Preachers really shouldn’t look so good. How could any self-respecting Christian female concentrate on the sermon? He definitely lived up to the romantic hero her employees mooned over every time he came to pick up the roses. No wonder the salesclerks called him Prince Sterling.

“For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”
—Isaiah 41:13

Do you prefer a large church or a smaller one?