Gail's Book Nook

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Looking Out the Window: Welcome Loree Lough

Loree will be giving away a copy of her new book, Beautiful Bandit. To enter to win leave your email address with a comment.I'll put the names on pieces of paper and have my husband draw one on Monday night, July 5th.

Hi Loree, first tell us a little about yourself.
Before I do that, I’d like to take just a moment and thank Gail for inviting me to her blog. It’s an honor and a joy to be here!

A little about me, hmm? Well, I have brown eyes and blondish hair, I’m 5’1” tall, and weigh…. Thank the Lord those tidbits aren’t what you’re looking for!

My dad worked for the Veterans Administration, so the family lived in a slew of cities. I held a myriad of careers to pay my way through school, and all that working and moving is probably responsible for my ability to talk to just about anybody, anywhere.

For the past 20 years, though, I’ve lived in the same house and worked at the same job: Writing. And I love both.

Being a people person is definitely a plus. Were you an avid reader as a child? What did you read?

I read every chance I got! As a really young girl, I read books about animals, and for a long time, thought I’d become a veterinarian. As a pre-teen, mysteries caught my attention and my new ‘job dream’ was “police officer.” By the time I was old enough to hold down a real job, I learned that both of my dream careers required far more muscle than God had blessed me with. So I became a singer!

Why do you write?

I write because if I didn’t, my head would explode! There are so many stories and characters and settings pinging around in my brain that if I didn’t write them down, I’m afraid they’d leak out of my ears.

(LOL) Tell us about your latest book.

I’m working on several projects at the same time, all with back-to-back deadlines. So I’ll try and keep this response in order-of-book-release if I can:

Beautiful Bandit is the first novel in my Lone Star Legends series, and it’ll be released in August, 2010. It’s a western, set in 1888, in Eagle Pass, Texas, and features a heroine, held hostage by a notorious outlaw who uses her as a “front” for a San Antonio bank heist where three men are killed. She escapes the killer only to discover he’s on her trail…and so are the Texas Rangers. So she assumes an alias and heads for Mexico. And on the way, she meets a handsome cowboy who helps show her the the border, and to his heart.

It sounds suspenseful and heart-warming. What inspired you to write this particular book?

I love cowboys and I love history. So this series seemed like a natural blend of both. Plus, with every book, I get to “meet” new people and become better acquainted with “old” friends who’ve read my other novels. Some of these friendships date back to 1994, when my first novel was released, while others began just a few months ago. They share reasons they liked the stories, the characters, the relationship issues. Without exception, they say things like “Never quit writing!” and “When will your next book be out?” and “I can’t wait for #3 in this series!” Now, really…which of us can say no to their friends!

We're glad you didn't say "no." Where do you get ideas for your books?

I guess I’d have to say that my ideas come from living life. Things my friends and family are going through, things they’ve suffered and survived, ways they’ve succeeded and failed, what they’ve learned…or wish they had…usually ends up in a book.

In three words describe your style of writing.

A couple hundred readers have compared my style to Nicholas Sparks, a couple hundred more to Debbie Macomber. Honestly? I don’t see the similarities. I like to write about people who are flawed, and put them through their paces, so that by books’ end, they’ve changed and grown into better, more satisfied individuals.

That's an admirable goal. How do you get to know your characters?

By testing their mettle! I make them endure all the day-to-day stuff that you and I are forced to endure. And the best thing is…in the stories, I get to fix what’s wrong!

What themes do you write about?

Trust, faith, loyalty, family…together with problem-solving.

What is your writing schedule and where do you write?

I get up early, usually by 5:30 a.m., and while the dog is outside, I put out his food and make coffee. Once he’s inside, I exercise for about half an hour, then get dressed, tidy the house and get to work. Most days, I’m at my desk by 7:30 a.m. and that’s where I stay until 5-6:00, when I stop to fix supper for my hubby and me. My office is in the back of the house, on the bottom “tri” of a modest tri-level in the Baltimore suburbs. It has no door, and it’s the “tall” part of an L-shaped space…shared with the laundry room. Suffice it to say that some days the wrinkles are in the load that stays too long in the dryer…and others, they’re in my plots!

Do you have to juggle writing with a job, family responsibilities or other obligations? How do you balance it?

Writing is my job, so I’m blessed not to have to balance this with an out-of-the-house occupation. My hat is off to writers who work full time and write! I do my best not to let my husband, kids, or grandkids feel that I love my work more than I love them. They’ve been very supportive of my career, so really, the least I can do is leave my evenings and weekends open for them!

Are you a plotter or a pantzer?

I’m mostly a plotter, but as anyone who’s taken my plotting workshop knows, there’s a lot of “pantzing” involved in my kind of plotting!

Does your faith affect your writing? How?

Without my faith, I wouldn’t be a writer. God blessed me with this gift, and every morning as I sit down to write, He guides my fingers. It’s because He tells me which themes to concentrate on that I’m able to develop multi-dimensional characters. He’s keeping me pretty busy these days, and you know what? I’m rarely exhausted, because He makes sure I have the energy I need to do what He instructs as I construct each scene!

Do you put yourself in your books?

I suppose every author is in every book, at least to some degree. But in my case, it’s not a conscious thing. Because really…who wants to read about li’l old me when they can read about a woman hostage who’s used as a shield during a bank robbery in the wild, wild west!

What are you working on right now?

Maverick Heart (#2 in the Lone Star Legends series), is the story of a young woman—one of the first real graduates of nursing school—who follows her husband from Boston to Mexico, where he hopes to open a clinic. Just outside Lubbock, TX, their stagecoach is attacked by bandits…and her husband is killed, leaving her stranded in Eagle Pass. She can’t afford to go home and the town doc can’t afford a nurse, so she takes the only other job available: Teacher. She immediately falls in love with her students, the town, and one quiet sad-eyed Texan who teaches her a thing or two about faith and love. (Several more in that series, but they aren’t fully plotted…yet.)

Then there’s the “First Responders” series. The first novel, From Ashes to Honor, will be released to coordinate with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The after-effects of the tragedy has impacted the characters, and even 10 years later, they’re still healing…. In each of the next books I’ll feature EMTs, firefighters, cops, and search and rescue (with dogs) experts.

Finally, there’s Accidental Family, the 3rd in my “Accidental Blessings” series for Love Inspired.

If you could interview any character in one of your books which one would it be? What shocking thing might that character say? Why?

Bryce Stone, the hero in Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska. This big handsome soldier lost an eye in Afghanistan, trying to protect his men. There are so many elements of his character that I found fascinating. And you know what? I actually did interview him on my blog!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Every published author says the same stuff:
Write what you know.
Write the book of your heart.
Read, read, read…then write, write, write.
Take classes, join critique groups, attend conferences, go to workshops/seminars.
Never give up on your dream.

And it’s all solid, savvy advice. But I’ll add this: Ask yourself if you’re a Wanna-be or a Gonna-be. Wanna-be writers are more focused on writing than on selling. And that’s fine…if you have no desire to see your book on the shelves, if you don’t care whether anyone other than your kids and grandkids read it.

Gonna-be writers make sure “the book of your heart” is one that will sell. That means studying more than the how-to and the elements of fiction. It means knowing your market almost as well as you know your craft.

What would you be doing if you weren’t writing?

That’s easy…I’d be reading!

What is the coolest, wackiest, most risk-taking thing you’ve ever done?

I climbed to the top of a ski lift in Iron Mountain, Michigan with two of the waitresses and two of the bartenders who were employed at the lounge where I was singing that week. I had never met them before. Had never been to that part of Michigan before. Didn’t have a clue that, at the time, this thing was the tallest of its kind in the U.S. Never asked how we’d get back down once we made it to the top. And yet up I climbed. The view was amazing!

What is the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you?

When I was in high school, my eyesight was so awful that my glasses really fit that “Coke bottle lenses” cliché we hear so much about. So there I was, at a school dance, and knowing the boy I had a crush on was there, decided to take off my glasses. Couldn’t see two feet in front of my face without them, and that’s not an exaggeration, so I put my faith in my best girlfriends. Sadly, they didn’t accompany me to the bathroom, and I ended up crashing into the boy I had a crush on…in the BOYS’ ROOM.

(LOL) Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

If God has called you to write, do it! As they say, when He calls you to do something, He makes it possible for you to get it done.

And if you’re someone who’s read one of my books, and you haven’t written to me yet, what are ya waitn’ for! I love to pray with you about your journey into the land of the published!

You can reach me at, or by visiting my web site, or my blog,

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Again, thanks, Gail for inviting me to your blog. You’ve asked some really cool, one-of-a-kind questions, so thanks, too, for making this a new and different experience. Yer a peach, and I hope to meet you in person one day soon! (And that goes for the rest of you, too!)

Thanks so much for spending time with us, Loree.


At last count, best-selling author Loree Lough had 75 books, 63 short stories, and over 2,500 articles in print. Dubbed by reviewers “the writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives”, she has earned dozens of “Readers’ Choice” and industry awards.

This summer, Beautiful Bandit (#1 in “Lone Star Legends” series from Whitaker) joins Loree’s 2009-10 releases, Love Finds You in Paradise, PA and Love Finds You in North Pole (Summerside), Tales of the Heart and Prevailing Love (Whitaker), and Be Still and Let Your Nail Polish Dry (Summerside). Maverick Heart (Lone Star Legends #2) comes out in January, 2011, while the release of From Ashes to Honor, #1 in her “First Responders’ series (Abingdon), will coordinate with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Accidental Family, #3 in the “Accidental Blessings” series (Love Inspired) and LFY in Folly Beach, SC are slated to hit bookstore shelves May and June, 2011, respectively.

Loree and her husband split their time between a little house in the Baltimore suburbs and a really little cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where they cater to a formerly-abused Pointer whose numerous vet visits inspired the nickname ‘Cash’. She loves to hear from her readers and personally answers every letter sent to

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I put all the names on small pieces of paper and asked my husband to pick one. And he picked...
drum roll...Jan Marie. Congratulations on winning a copy of Texas Roads!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Looking Out the Window: Welcome Cathy Bryant

Today I'm talking with Cathy Bryant. She'll be giving away a free copy of Texas Roads (U.S. entries). Be sure to leave your e-mail address with a comment and use name [at] address [dot] com to keep away spammers. I'll put the names on pieces of paper and draw one on Sunday night.

First, tell us a little about yourself. I’m a wife, mom, Nana, and private music instructor. In between all those rolls, I write. I enjoy walking, bicycling, hiking, canoeing, and gardening—basically anything that gets me outdoors. I live in a century-old Texas farmhouse with my hubby and a phobia-ridden cat.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What did you read? Avid may not be a strong enough word. I learned to read early and read everything I could get my hands on. My favorite book from childhood is Anne of Green Gables.

Why do you write? Call it a calling or a compulsion—either would be accurate. I never would have guessed that writing would be so difficult and so addicting.

Avid may not be a strong enough word. I learned to read early and read everything I could get my hands on. My favorite book from childhood is Anne of Green Gables.

Tell us about your latest book. Texas Roads is a 2009 ACFW Genesis finalist and contemporary love story available at Amazon. It tells the story of a disillusioned widow’s quest for home. Here’s the back cover copy:

Dani Davis longs for a place to call home. With quaint country charm, quirky residents, and loads of business potential, Miller’s Creek, Texas seems like the perfect place to start over…except for the cowboy who gives her a ride into town. Then malicious rumors and a devastating discovery propel her down a road she never expected to travel.

Cowboy mayor Steve Miller is determined to rescue his dying hometown. When vandals jeopardize the Miller’s Creek renovation project he can’t help but suspect Dani, whose strange behavior has become fodder for local gossips. Will Steve and Dani call a truce for a higher cause, and in the process help Dani discover the true meaning of home?

What inspired you to write this particular book? The spiritual theme of the story came from my own longing to put down roots. For several years, my family and I seemed destined to be nomads traveling from one small Texas town to the next. God used this time in my life to teach me that He was my true home. Dani learns this truth during the course of the story.

The idea for the plot came one day when I was out working in my garden. A car passed slowly, the elderly driver staring me down. I immediately got riled up. Then I started playing the “what if?” game. What if a city woman moved to a back roads country town? How would she react to the lack of privacy people sometimes experience in small settings? The story took off from there.

Where do you get ideas for your books? Everywhere. A newspaper article. Snippets of conversation. A humorous anecdote. And often a character will introduce themselves by starting dialogue in my head. (Please don’t lock me in a rubber room…) Once I was taking my daily walk when out of nowhere this prim and proper voice sounded in my head, saying: “Tyler, Dent and Snodgrass. Hold please.” From that came the idea for the book that will be Book Three in the Miller’s Creek, Texas series, which will be entitled The Way of Grace.

In three words describe your style of writing. Touching. Humorous. Riveting.

How do you get to know your characters? I fill out extensive character charts for my major characters and a few minor ones before I ever start the story. But they tend to reveal new things about themselves as I write the book.

What themes do you write about? I intend for every novel I write to be interlaced with spiritual truths I’ve learned. A Path Less Traveled, the second book in the series will deal with the natural human tendency to be independent and self-sufficient, when God calls us to put our trust in Him and depend on Him.

Are you a plotter or a pantzer? I’m a HUGE plotter. Can’t help it—it’s part of my Type-A, obsessive-compulsive genetic makeup. When I go on a trip, I like to know where I’m going, how I’m getting there, which roads to take, where I’m staying, who I’ll be traveling with…well, you get the picture. Writing a book is very much like taking a long trip.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us? I love to connect with people online. I’ve met the most wonderful friends there. You can find me at Facebook and Twitter, at my blog, WordVessel (, and my website,

Thanks so much for allowing me to spend this time at your awesome blog, Gail!

Texas Roads is available on Smashwords and Amazon

Friday, June 4, 2010

Looking Out the Window: Welcome Shawna Williams

Shawna's new book, NO OTHER, is the
for September.

Shawna will give away a PDF file of No Other and a fresh water pearl bracelet to one person who leaves a comment, so be sure to leave your email as name [at] address [dot] com or [dot] net to keep away spammers, and Shawna will draw a name next week and contact the winner.

Hi Shawna, First, tell us a little about yourself.

I'm pretty ordinary. I'm a mom of three wonderful kids, and I've been married to their dad for 18 and a half yrs. We live on a ranch in Mena, AR, where we raise cattle, horses, goats and rabbits. My interests vary a bit. Apart from writing I also design jewelry, review books, try to keep up with a blog, homeschool, and look after my family. I'm nerdy in that I think it's fun to study geology and ancient cultures. I'm sentimental in that I can never pass up an abandoned ruin of a house without snapping a picture, and at least trying to convince my family that I'll only be a minute in exploring if they want to wait in the car. My sense of adventure is motivated by curiosity as opposed to the adrenaline rush. I'm also a dog lover. LOVE DOGS!

Tell us about your latest book.

No Other is a 20th Century Historical, Inspirational Romance. It’s set in a coastal Texas town during 1947, a couple of years after WWII. I really enjoyed writing a story set in this time period because, instead of focusing on how the nation recovered in broad terms, I was able to focus on how individuals set about recovering emotionally from such an event.
Jakob is trying to resume life and deal with his anger over the events of the past five years. His parents are German immigrants who were interned at a camp known as Crystal City during the war. As an American born child he feels betrayed and angry, not just at his community, but at himself because of an incident that he was involved in which he feels may have contributed to their arrest.
Jakob was forced to quit school in order to care for his younger sibling during the war. With the war ended and life beginning to settle, he decides to go back to school and get his diploma so he can move on to bigger and better dreams. It’s immediately awkward though because one of his teachers is a girl he previously went to high school with.
Meri comes from an affluent and socially elite family. She’s a dutiful daughter but also conflicted. On the one hand she desperately wants her parents approval — that’s the only time they offer her their love — on the other hand, she wants to be free of the control they exert over her life.
As friendship blooms and feelings develop Meri begins to understand what real love is supposed to be, and Jakob, seeing the pain her family has caused her, wants to shelter her from more. Of course, the first big obstacle is that because of the nature of their situation (her being his teacher) any type of romantic relationship is unethical, and then there’s also the social issues to consider. Meri and Jakob decide to pursue a secret romance, in which lies lead them to trouble in more ways than one. And I’ll leave the rest as a mystery.
But I do want to add, No Other is an inspirational story about getting up after you fall. About how Christians don't just struggle, sometimes we blow it, but God doesn't abandon us. Even when our efforts to right things fail, He's still in control. Him, and No Other.

Here's a link to the blurb and excerpt on my publisher's site.

What inspired you to write this particular book?

I almost don't feel like I really chose to write this book. It was more like I was compelled to. I honestly feel the story was given to me more than it was a result of my imagination. I had never considered even being a writer, but then I had this dream. It was bizarre, like watching the stages of someone's life. The setting, the characters – including their names, the circumstance with Meri being a teacher and Jakob going back to school, and Jakob's family having endured hardship all originated with that dream -- though I didn't know about the internment camp. I discovered that through research later on. Very interesting! I thought about this dream obsessively for about six months trying to fill in details, and finally it became so complicated I had to start writing. No Other, and its sequel, In All Things, are based on that dream.

In three words describe your style of writing.

Down to earth. (That's not to imply that others write like snobs. Not at all! I'm a character writer, and spend a lot of time on their development. The result is characters that people have an easy time relating to. If you read my work this description makes sense)

How do you get to know your characters?

Figure out their history, and I don't just mean the 'born in', 'grew up here' kind of stuff. What happened to them as a child, and not just them, their family? What's their personality like? I actually went so far as to study Carl Jung's personality theory and even formulated my characters around a MBTI type. This helps to keep them consistent by giving me an idea of how they process information and emotions, react in a crowd and so forth. This also is great for creating conflict by knowing how character's personalities are likely to interpret each other's actions.

Do you have to juggle writing with a job, family responsibilities or other obligations? How do you balance it?

Honestly, this is a real struggle and I haven't figured out that balance. My family is most important, and we have teens and an active 12 year old that are always on the go. Sometimes I can't do everything they want and I feel guilty for that. Just now my youngest ran in and squealed, "The Lum and Abner Festival is going on at the park," but of course, I'm working with super tight deadlines and really need to get some work done tonight.

My house is never as clean as I'd like, and that bugs me. I worry if the kids are learning everything they need to know before heading out into the world (we homeschool). I'm so entrenched in writing two books at the moment that I forget to check on my friends who are going through rough times. I feel like my dog doesn't get petted enough, and I really need to shave her heavy coat for summer. I forget to appreciate the beauty of where we live, and I wonder when I'm going to get around to all of those other projects that have nothing to do with writing. I'm definitely not the person to ask advice from on this question. I just do the best I can, and usually end the day thinking, "Tomorrow I'll try to do better."

Are you a plotter or a pantzer?

A little of both. I have to have an idea of the story, including its conclusion. I write out a summary just to get an idea of the story's framework. Then I write my first draft, which is horrible. I'm a character writer, so my stories focus a great deal on the hero and heroine's internal journey. My first drafts tend to ramble and meander with all sorts of emotional pondering, not unlike a therapy session. This helps me to nail down what my character's struggles are. It gives me an idea of what they need, and how to get them there.

Once I've done this I go back and start the rewrite. I take this on a chapter by chapter basis, writing out the goals I need to achieve to keep the story progressing. Then I go back and edit. During this process I try to weave everything together as tight as possible, and also look for any missed opportunities to strengthen the overall theme.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on In All Things, and working on Orphaned Hearts. Both of these books are under contract with Desert Breeze. I also have a new idea that I've laid out some basic framework for. I don't know how, or if, the story will pan out quite yet, so I'll wait to say anything more. And of course, if it does turn into something worthwhile, I'll still need to find a publisher for it.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Be true to yourself. You need to learn the craft, but don't lose your voice in the process. There's a balance between what you can take away from critique groups and books in order to hone your skills, and trying to heed so much advice that you end up losing what makes you unique. Writing rules are good, but in the words of Captain Jack Sparrow, "They're more like guidelines anyway."

What is the coolest, wackiest, most risk-taking thing you’ve ever done?
I'd have to say leaving the security of a job in the city to move to a ranch in a little town in Arkansas, without knowing anything about ranching. My husband and I aren't generally ones to jump into something without investigating first, and we did research before moving, but not from the standpoint of whether or not it made sense to do it. On that, our minds were already made up. We just had to find the place best suited for our goals and dreams.

Long story short, we'd lost several close – and young – friends to cancer in a relatively short period of time, and it made us realize just how uncertain a person's future is. We'd talked often about how neat it would be to raise the kids on a ranch with plenty of elbow room, in the relaxed environment of a small town. Neither of us ever wanted to catch ourselves saying, "Wish we'd done that," so we decided to just go for it.

It's been five years, and there have been bumps in the road from time to time, but the rewards far outweigh any inconveniences. And we're quick studies. Hubby's still a financial planner by day, but he's a bonafide cattleman come evening, and we run a small business raising all natural grass-fed beef. As for me, I even learned how to deliver baby horses and goats.

Now that I think about it, the first time I had to do this might classify as a wacky moment. We had the veterinarian on the phone, and I believe my words were something like, "I have to stick my arm where?"

What is the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you?

Oh man... Hmm. This might be a good question to ask my kids. According to them I should be embarrassed far more often than I actually am.

Well, I don't know that this is embarrassing but it is a good "bad date" story. When I was in college, this guy invited me out to his family's ranch for the day. They had four wheelers and all kinds of outdoor stuff to do. He quickly deduced that I'm not too coordinated speeding through trails and dodging cactus on a four wheeler, when I near collided with a mesquite tree. (I prefer the leisure approach to four wheeling. Nice and slow with plenty of time to react.) So, after that he suggested we do a little skeet shooting. I was up for that. It was something new and I thought it sounded fun.

His dad was outside with us, and my date showed me how to hold the rifle. I called out that I was ready and his dad, who was standing a little ways in front of me, threw the skeet into the air. I wanted to impress my date by not missing, so I took my time and carefully aimed by following the skeet as it fell...and fell...and kept falling... Just as I was about to pull the trigger my date yelled and grabbed the gun out of my hand. Then I looked in front of me and his dad was crouched down to the ground, with this kind of wild-eyed crazy look. Seems I followed that skeet until it was right about eye level with his my date's dad.

I guess that is somewhat embarrassing. I'm much better with guns now though, I think.

To keep up with me, here's links to my website and blog.