Friday, June 29, 2007

Blog Spotlight - Suzanne Woods Fisher

What's the best thing about writing?
All of life is material. It's all grit for the oyster.

What's the worst thing about writing?
I still only make a dime an hour.

Taking care of your family, aging parents, training guide dog puppies, and writing a novel must create some hectic times. How do you rely on God to get you through all your activities?
Yesterday provided a perfect example of how to answer that question. Just as I was zooming downtown to deliver my hot-off-the-press novel to a store that had requested copies, the kids left a door open and the dog disappeared to explore the smells of our neighborhood. The next hour was spent dog hunting. I fought an interior battle of frustration: Grrr! I can’t seem to get anything done on my book without needless interruptions! But the Lord reminded me to release that book into His hands, and go find that dog (which we did).

Later that afternoon, when I finally did get to the store, I bumped into a friend. She was meeting with a woman who wasn’t a Christian. This woman saw the book in my hands and bought three copies! Who knows if God might not use the faith angle of that novel to reach her heart? I pray it will! And I realized that God had ordered my day, interruptions and all.

Coming on July 2: Blog Tour Interview with Suzanne Woods Fisher

A contributing editor to Christian Parenting Today magazine, Suzanne has been published in numerous magazines, including Worldwide Challenge, Parent Life, Marriage Partnership, among others, and has contributed to five non-fiction books. She lives with her husband, four kids and a steady stream of puppies that she raises for Guide Dogs for the Blind in the San Francisco Bay Area. Find Suzanne on-line at

Copper Star is a World War II love story set in 1943, as theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer smuggles a young resistance worker, Louisa, out of Nazi Germany. Louisa waits out the war in a dusty copper mining town in Arizona but can’t leave her resistance skills behind. Soon, she turns the town upside down, uncovering a mystery that leads her back to the Nazis and her war-torn country.

Released on June 30, the film rights of Copper Star are under consideration by a major motion picture studio. A contract for the sequel was offered to Fisher before Copper Star released. Pre-release orders have driven the book on Amazon’s sales rankings down into low digits.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Blog Spotlight - Sherri Lewis

* Describe yourself - what do you want people to know about you.
I am a creative soul, and love to create anything that expresses the heart of God. In addition to novels and short stories, I write praise and worship music, and have choreographed dance pieces for church ministries. Next to God, music is my greatest love - especially live music. I enjoy contemporary and neo-Soul music, and LOVE jazz. Especially when I'm writing. Music spurs my creative muse. I love to sing also. I currently work as a physician in a women's prison in Georgia and it has truly been a life changing experience. I look forward to sharing some of the stories from this experience in future novels.

* How do you find time to connect with God?
I MAKE time to connect with God. I'm no good without Him - insane actually. Me and God are an all day thing - I talk to Him from the moment I wake up until I fall asleep at night. I'm just an addict for His presence.

* Tell us about your journey to publication. Seems like it took forever.
My first novel was actually finished in 2001 and the second in 2003. I submitted everywhere I knew to submit and got rejection after rejection. Each time I got rejected, I read craft books and re-edited and re-edited. I think I've read both books at least 100 times. I had gotten discouraged and had pretty much decided to move on to something else when I found out about Urban Christian. In retrospect, I know it was the perfect timing of God. My life was in a turmoil at the time both books were completed and I wouldn't have been able to promote and market them. Now life is great and I can really focus on my career as a writer.

* Tell us about your debut novel.
My Soul Cries Out is the story of a woman who comes home to find her husband, the minister of music at their church, in bed with another man. It is a compassionate look at Christians struggling with the spirit of homosexuality. I pray that it stirs up conversation about an issue that's only whispered and gossipped about in the church. The church needs to be on the front line - offering God's love and compassion for Christians and the unsaved battling the spirit of homosexuality. Unfortunately, the church's approach has been either head in the sand or judgement and condemnation over and above other sins. I hope this book provokes dialogue and solutions in the body of Christ.

* How did you come up with ideas for your current release?
I actually write for therapy, so it started out as me dealing with the pain of a failing marriage and divorce. I need a compelling reason to cause the characters to get divorced, so I dreamed up the idea of him cheating with a man. In the process though, I thought of many dear Christian friends of mine who had struggled with the spirit of homosexuality and decided to highlight their pain as well. I pray that the outcome of the book is in line with the heart of God and I pray that it truly ministers to people who have dealt with the homosexual lifestyle. I have to say though, because it's been asked SOOOOO many times - no, I didn't catch my ex-husband with another man. Even though some of the quirks and habits of every character I write are mine (their obsession with coffee shops, some of their expressions, the thread of worship and intimacy in everything I write), this is truly a work of fiction.

* What's next for you?
My second novel, Dance Into Destiny is due for release in 2008. I've got another novel in the works, but after re-editing Dance, the characters are asking for a sequel. I also want to do a series about a Christian doctor working in a prison. I'd love for people to understand the lives and stories of the women I work with everyday. I also want to write Christian non-fiction one day. I love to teach on worship and intimacy with God, and also the present day reality of the Kingdom of God in the earth.

* Where can visitors find you online? and

Friday, June 22, 2007

Coming on June 25: Interview with Author Sherri Lewis

On June 25, Sherri Lewis will share with us her journey to publication as well her motivation for writing My Soul Cries Out.

My Soul Cries Out is a compassionate look at the issues of Christians struggling with homosexuality and the redemptive power of God to bring deliverance.

!!! Released July 2007 !!!

Monica Harris Day's perfect world begins a downward spiral the day she comes home to find her husband in bed…with another man.

After confronting Kevin, her husband of two years, Monica discovers he's had a lifelong struggle with homosexuality that began at the age of ten, when he was molested by a deacon in the church. For years, Kevin has sought deliverance, crying out to God to make him straight. He explains his deceit by saying he truly thought he had been delivered when he married Monica, but was afraid to share his past with her for fear she wouldn't marry him. Kevin begs Monica's forgiveness and wants to save their marriage. He is convinced that God has indeed delivered him from the spirit of homosexuality and that the one time mistake was just his past coming back to haunt him.

Their pastor offers them marital counsel but Monica suspects that his real concern is in maintaining his mega-ministry. The membership has grown to 10,000 since Kevin became the minister of music. When the pastor swears them to secrecy and urges Monica to stay in the marriage, she thinks Bishop Walter isn't willing to risk the potential scandal and church division that would result if the truth is leaked to the congregation.

You can read an excerpt of My Soul Cries Out at

Monday, June 18, 2007

Blog Spotlight - Marlo Schalesky

Where did you birth the idea for this book? When? How did it come about?
People often ask where I get my ideas for my books. My answer? You never know! For Veil of Fire, the idea was birthed at my favorite Mexican restaurant in the mission town of San Juan Bautista. There I was, sitting with my family, nibbling chips and salsa, when a wedding party came by. The bridesmaids were dressed in beautiful turn-of-the-century style gowns. As they passed, my mother-in-law began to tell me of the dresses that her great grandmother, who lived in Hinckley, used to sew for the rich ladies in Minneapolis and St. Paul. From there, came the story of the great Hinckley fire and the rebuilding that this woman, my husband’s great-great-grandmother, was a part of. And finally, I heard the tale of the mystery figure in the hills, a person burned beyond recognition. A person never identified, living as a hermit until one day he just disappeared.

At that moment, the first inklings of the story that would become Veil of Fire were born in my heart. Who was the hermit in the hills? What happened to him? And how would I solve the mystery if I could? As I pondered those questions, I knew that I had to write the hermit’s story. Had to explore what it would be like to lose everything, even your identity. Had to hear the hermit’s voice in my mind, and hear the story for myself.

So, the writing of the book became for me a process of discovery, as I hope it will be for my readers. I hope that as the mystery of the hermit drew me, so too it will draw others to this story of how fire can change you, take from you, and in the end, may just set you free.

Can you explain the research process, since this is such a historical novel?
The research for Veil of Fire was particularly fascinating not only because of its link to my personal family history, but also because of the incredible first-person accounts of the fire that were written by people who were actually there. These stories are compiled into a book written entirely by survivors who recount their personal experience of living through the firestorm that swept through their town. I read about a man whose hat lifted from his head and exploded above him as he ran through wind and fire. I read about another whose horse raced beside the Eastern Minnesota train as fire billowed around him. The horse swerved into the smoke, and the man was never seen again. I read about a boy racing down the tracks, falling, and surviving as the fire roared over him. I read about fire on the surface of the Grindstone River, darkness broken only by bursts of flame, the St. Paul and Duluth engine backing up to Skunk Lake through blinding heat and smoke. I read about a train trestle disintegrating into flame moments after a train passed, about Jane Tew praying on that train, and the brakemen who saved them all.

Those eyewitness accounts, as well as information gathered about the fire from other sources, created the realistic feel of the fire and its aftermath in Veil of Fire. Plus, you can be sure that if something seems almost beyond belief in Veil of Fire, it will be drawn from an actual account that came directly from the research, so amazing were the real stories of the fire on that day!

Today, a number of books about the fire, as well as artifacts, photos, and other articles can be seen at the Hinckley Fire Museum in Hinckley.

What takeaway points do you hope your readers pull from this book?
Once, when we were children, we believed in miracles. The impossible was only a prayer away. Fairy tales were real, and dreams were free. Where did we lose the ability to trust? When did we stop daring to believe? What happened to us?

Life happened. Failure, discouragement, pain, loss. Somewhere, somehow, life burns us all. And we realize that this life we live is not the one we once dreamed. The realities of life scar us. Doubts rise. Fear whispers that hope is gone. And what was once a simple faith can fail in the face of that fear.

In the midst of life’s disillusionment, choices appear. Do we retreat? Hide our hurts far from probing eyes? Do we embrace bitterness and cynicism? Do we use deceit to try to obtain our goals? Do we give up, give in, forget that we ever dared to dream?

Or is it possible to reach the high places of faith in the low valleys of life’s reality? Can we still live a life of bold faith, of fierce hope, when fairy tales don’t come true? How do we live this life that God has given us when it’s not the life we dreamed?

These are the questions I wanted to explore in Veil of Fire. These are the questions which underlie each character’s journey in the aftermath of the great fire of 1894.

So, for those burned by life, for those who carry scars that cannot be seen, for those who have retreated for fear of more pain, this story is for you, this journey from the hidden places of pain to a new hope in the unhidden truth of Christ’s love.

Can you share with your readers something God has been teaching you lately?
Through some recent tragedies and through writing Veil of Fire, God is showing me that I cannot measure his love by my successes and failures, or even by my happiness. Who I am on the inside, how I am being shaped into the likeness of Christ, the character of my life – the color and beauty of it – are what are important to God. And to create that color and beauty, sorrow is necessary. Hurtful things happen.

So, I’m starting to understand that my life, too, is a story that God is writing. And since the best stories have conflict, disappointments, and plenty of action, I shouldn’t be surprised when my life takes a turn and my faith is challenged once again.

And yet, my sorrow matters to God, my tears are counted by him as precious. He does not leave me alone in my hurt. He touches me, he heals me, he creates beauty from the ashes of my pain.

So I’m learning to walk through the fires in my own life. And to dig deeper – not to answer the question of why but the question of who – who is God really, who am I, and who is he making me to be? Those are the questions that matter. Those are the things that help me to face my own fires, accept my own scars.

What book are you currently reading?
Why, the New Testament, of course . . . in Greek! Now, before you start thinking that loving Greek makes me too scholarly to write a decent novel, you should know that even though I just completed my Masters at Fuller (that’s a Masters in Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary – so cool!), it wasn’t my desire for an “A” that made me fall in love with New Testament Greek. After all, most students get through Greek class as fast as they can and then forget it. I might have too.

But one day, as I was sitting there in class, learning forms and tenses, my professor happened to mention something interesting. “Did you realize,” he said, “that the Greek word for truth and the word for unhidden share the same root.”

Ah, in that moment an idea came to me, a little whisper from the heart of God. Truth. Unhidden. Truth. And I began to see the connection between truth and what it means for those who hide in their pain.

That idea became the basis for the theme in Veil of Fire. So you see, I can’t help loving the Greek. I can’t help wanting to read the New Testament that way. After all, who knows what I might discover next.

Which character in Veil of Fire do you most relate to, and why?
Even though I base no character on myself, they all reflect a little of me – my questions, my struggles, the issues that have shaped and molded me. In Veil of Fire, this is particularly true for the hermit in the hills. Just as the hermit questions God’s love, believes “I am Esau, unchosen, unloved,” so I too have struggled with those same feelings, doubts, and questions. I, too, have cried out to God, “Why don’t you love me?” For the hermit, it was a question born out of fire, abuse, and disfigurement. For me, it was a question that came out of failure, infertility, and miscarriage. So, in many ways, the hermit’s questions were my own, the answers mine, the external scars reflections of my internal ones, and in turn, I think, symbols of the scars of us all.

When writing Veil of Fire, did you plan the plot before sitting down to write the story, or did the plot develop as the story progressed?
I am a “headlights” writer, which means I can see the chapter I’m writing and a few chapters ahead. I may also glimpse a few “signposts” in the distance. The funny thing about Veil of Fire is that I wrote three quarters of the book thinking the hermit in the hills was one character only to find out as I neared the end that I was wrong! And the impact of that discovery was both a shock and a delight. Suddenly, I understood what God was getting at through the theme and nuances of character in the book.

And truly, while I may complain that it would be easier to write a book if it were all mapped out (it certainly would be quicker!), this sense of surprise and delight is one of things that I love about the writing process. I love when the story and characters take on a life of their own. I love to discover what God has been planning for a story all along. And I love to be surprised by a sudden turn of events. And I know if I’m surprised and delighted, my readers will be too.

What book project can we expect from you after Veil of Fire? Can you give us a sneak peak of the storyline?
After Veil of Fire, I’m writing 3 contemporary novels for Waterbrook-Multnomah. All of them are “Love Stories with a Twist!,” a new type of story that I think will knock readers’ socks off.

The first, Beyond the Night, releases in May 2008. With groovy 70’s trivia and a whopper of an ending twist, this one was as fun to write as it will be to read. Here’s a blurb about it:

They say love is blind. This time, they’re right.
A poignant love story . . .
A shocking twist . . .
Come, experience a love that will not die.

Nicolas Sparks (The Notebook) meets M. Night Shymalan (The Sixth Sense) in this moving story of two people trying to find love in the dark. A woman going blind, a man who loves her but can’t tell her so, a car crash, a hospital room, and an ending that has to be experienced to be believed. Watch for it next May!

*** Leave Marlo a comment to be entered in a drawing for a FREE copy of Veil of Fire. ***

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Coming on June 18: Blog Tour Interview with Marlo Schalesky, Author of VEIL OF FIRE

Marlo Schalesky Paints Compelling Word Picture in VEIL OF FIRE

Schalesky is the author of four books and a regular columnist for Power for Living. She has been published in Focus on the Family, Decision, Moody Magazine, Today’s Christian Woman, Discipleship Journal, and others. In addition, she was named 2001 Writer of the Year at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers' Conference.

Cook Communications will be launching the “Sizzling Summer of Fiction” reading campaign with VEIL OF FIRE and other summer releases. Fiction book clubs and reader groups may contact Schalesky and schedule a time and date to interact via Internet or conference call. Downloadable reader’s guides are available at A separate “Bring an Author to Your Book Club” Internet page, is also available.

(NASHVILLE, TENN.) Hinckley, Minnesota is going up in flames and a mysterious “being” sets up camp at the edge of town in Marlo Schalesky’s May 2007 release, VEIL OF FIRE. Coping with the loss of loved ones and belongings is hard enough, but Hinckley citizens are also encountering a monster. Or is it a ghost? Something didn’t burn up in the fire and Hinckley folks aren’t quite sure if that’s a good thing or bad.

Marlo Schalesky uses the facts from the worst firestorm in Minnesota history—the fire of 1894— as the backdrop for VEIL OF FIRE. Her lyrical prose is woven deftly into the harsh reality of a fire that consumed 400 square miles and killed 418 people in just four hours. Hinckley of today still isn’t sure what or who the monster was that the fire left behind. Perhaps, though, Schalesky’s story can solve that mystery once and for all.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Blog Spotlight - Louise M. Gouge

1) When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer? Was there anything in your childhood that influenced you to become a writer?
Like most children, I always had my own imaginary little world. Then, when I was ten years old, Mary Martin appeared on black and white television playing Peter Pan. If you’ll forgive the pun, that’s when my fantasies really took flight because it was such a happy tale. I wanted to make up stories like that, too. I loved to write in school, often turning ordinary term papers into fiction that incorporated my research. There was always a story simmering in my imagination. But my children were all in school when I finally began to write seriously.

2) Although you have written several novels, what inspired you to specifically write a historical trilogy of the post Civil War era?
The Civil War was such an important turning point in United States history because it defined what we would become as a nation. In this series, I wanted to explore why Reconstruction failed and why we still suffer the consequences of that failure. As with my school term papers, I show my historical perspective and research best through fiction.

3) Knowing that you have several writing awards to your credit, please share with us which novelists and other writers have influenced your writing and in what ways?
Charlotte Brontë was my first strong influence. In my opinion, her Jane Eyre is not only a perfect romance novel but also an eloquent social and spiritual commentary. DiAnn Mills is a prolific and talented author whose “expect an adventure” style has shown me how to use just the right amount of research rather than doing an “information dump” on my readers. Francine Rivers has one of the most powerful spiritual voices in today’s Christian fiction. Every one of her novels deeply moves me and brings me closer to God. I hope to emulate these three authors so that God’s message can be clear, deep, and exciting in my stories.

4) Why did you write Then Came Hope rather than some other story?
In this trilogy, I wanted to tell the stories of three very different men who returned home after fighting in the Civil War. The first man is a southern naval officer. The second one is Ezra Johns, an educated Negro man from Boston who volunteered to fight in the first black Union regiment, the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Negro Regiment. The third story will be about a northern white man. Each had his own reasons for fighting in the war.

In Ezra’s case, he had a great deal to prove because the prevailing view of the day was that Negro men would not make good soldiers or good fighters. Ezra and his real-life counterparts put an end to such uninformed speculation. If not for their courageous service all over the South, the Union might not have been preserved. It is my goal to honor their remarkable legacy.

5) Your characters are distinctive, multi-faceted, and even endearing at times. What inspired the development of the plot and characters in your story? Are they based upon themes and people you already know?
Addressing the question of themes: because I was a child in the Civil Rights era, I’ve always wondered why things did not turn out better for this nation after the Civil War and why the Civil Rights movement was even necessary. I have come to understand that national identities are formed through the choices that individual people make. In this country, the generation after the Civil War failed to take up the torch and “fix” the racial divide, failed to bring African-Americans fully into American society, so that all of us could work together to build the greatest nation this world has ever known. We are still suffering because of that. We had a chance to become a beacon to a world where tribal and ethnic identities often wreak havoc and destruction. But we failed. By placing my characters in the post-Civil War, I show that many Americans had great hope for a better world, and there is still a chance we can overcome that failure.
With that in mind, I created a cast of characters for Then Came Hope that included a variety of southern former slaves and one northern freeman. Their interactions with white people and with other blacks, along with their ultimate decisions about where to begin their futures in freedom, propel this story forward through a hostile South and a not-so-perfect North.

6) You have a way of taking the reader right into your literary landscape – in this case the post Civil War era. How much research did you use to set the mood and ambiance of your story?
Once upon a time, before television, radio, and movies, people enjoyed novels that were filled with great historical and scenic details. They would sit around the hearth listening to the family patriarch reading a great novel such as Moby Dick or A Tale of Two Cities, from which they learned about a world they did not know. Today, we know all that stuff just by watching the Discovery or History channels. In today’s novels, we readers want an author to throw in just a few details of setting and history to give us the picture. Then tell us all about the people: their struggles, their hopes, their triumphs and tragedies. That’s what we’re concerned with because that’s what touches the core of our unchanging humanity. So I go to the heart of the human issues involved in my story and intersperse the history around it.

7) How would you describe your writing style – not your literary style – but the actual writing itself? What kind of techniques do you use?
I park myself in front of my computer and start putting words on the page. Sometimes I delete, and sometimes I save. But all of this comes after first imagining my characters, my basic plot line, and my themes, and then researching the novel’s time period extensively. Actually, the research continues as I write and all through the editing process.

8) Many novelists say ending the novel is the most difficult part of writing. Why do you think that is and how do you know when you have reached the end of your story?
I think this is all about feelings. If I’ve solved all the problems and my characters look forward to happily-ever-after, how do I end with a nice little punch line? I want my readers to feel satisfied, so once those two problems are solved, I usually put in a sweet little kiss to seal the romance. Or, in one case, I had my hero and heroine merely reaching out to hold hands. It just felt right. In the novel I just completed, I have three couples getting married, a celebration of life returning to “normal” at the end of the war.

9) There’s obviously more to a novel than just an entertaining read. What do you want readers to take away from Then Came Hope?
I believe God speaks to every believer’s heart about His truth. My prayer is that my readers will listen to God rather than to their all-too-human “conscience” or to whatever is popular or expedient in their time or their social group. I pray that they will be Christ’s representative in their sphere of influence, however large or small that may be. And I pray that they will look beyond race, politics, and religion to see the humanity of every person they meet. If I have created characters who live by these ideals, perhaps my readers will gain the courage to “go forth and do likewise.”

10) We’ve talked about the novelists that most influenced you as a writer, so now let us make the question a little more personal. Who is the one person most influential in your life today?
At the risk of sounding predictable or corny, I would say that my husband of 42 years is the most influential person in my life. He has worked very hard to make it possible for me to write. He comes home every day and asks to read what I’ve written, which means he holds me accountable. And he cooks! Not only when I have a deadline, but most of the time. What a guy! He sets me free to indulge in my art and fulfill my soul’s desires.

Coming on June 11: Blog Tour Interview with Award Winning Author, Louise M. Gouge, Debuting Then Came Hope

I'm honored to announce that I will be spotlighting my writing mentor and award winning, multi-published author Louise M. Gouge on June 11, 2007.

Louise will share with us the driving force behind her historical trilogy on the post Civil War era and Then Came Hope in particular.

Then Came Hope is the second novel in Louise's historical trilogy on the post Civil War era.

Delia was born into bondage and battered for 17 years. But in the wake of the Civil War, she joins a ragtag band headed North through a bitter and defeated South. Can handsome Ezra Johns help Delia realize her true value to God? Will he gain the respect his war service deserves?