Archive for August, 2011

Night Song By Tricia Goyer

It was a very rainy day last Saturday. The house was empty. My youngest son returned to Valparaiso University the Thursday before and my husband had a meeting all day about adjunct work he planned for the fall semester.

Perfect day to snuggle up on our feather cushioned sofa with my cat on my lap, and Daisy on the floor next to me, and enjoy the end of the book I was reading, Night Song by Tricia Goyer.

Set during WWII, the author weaves together the lives of her three main characters around love—love of: music, each other, and the Lord of all creation. As the ever-present evil threatens to destroy their lives the female protagonist, Evie, is forced to return to Austria with her family—leaving her American boyfriend, Nick, just as he is called to serve in the war effort. Halfway around the world a young Jewish musician Jakub, watches as his father is dragged off by the SS men who soon return for Jakub and his mother and brother. They are sent off to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia and separated from each other when they arrive. Their most prized possession, a very valuable violin, was secure in the hands of a friend. Or was it?

In order to live the comfortable life she is accustomed to in Austria, Evie finds herself forced to ignore the evil presence of the Nazis. Her dearest friend has joined the Resistance and loses her life, catapulting Evie into a life underground. After Evie is reported dead, Nick contemplates returning the correspondence sent to him regularly by his pastor’s daughter. Instead he volunteers for service on the front line.

It would break my heart to give any part of this carefully crafted narrative away, so I think I’ll leave the plot there.

The author did a fine job of moving the story along at a pace that kept me turning the pages. I was intrigued throughout the book to see how she would ultimately weave these three lives together around the love of music and the symbol provided by the most valuable violin.

If you have read Night Song, I would love to hear what you think.  If not, I highly recommend it for a quiet snuggle on the sofa!

~Deb

Meet Texas Trails Series Author Vickie McDonough

Hello Fiction Fans,

Our acquisitions Editor Deb Keiser interviewed Texas Trails author Vickie McDonough. She wrote Long Trail Home, book 3 of the 6 book series, and you can look for it in November.

Tell us about yourself. Who is Vickie McDonough?

I’m a wife of almost thirty-six years, mother of four grown sons (one married) and grandma to a smart, feisty five-year-old girl. I’ve lived in Oklahoma all of my life except for a year when I was newly married and my husband and I lived on a kibbutz in Israel. I’ve always been a reader and loved Christian fiction when it came on the scene back in the 1980s. I never dreamed then that I’d one day write a book, especially since English was one of my least favorite classes way back when I was in school.
Besides reading, I love traveling, watching movies (especially romance and adventure ones), and gardening. I am currently serving as the national treasure for the American Christian Fiction Writers group.

You’ve had 23 books published. How do you come up with new and fresh ideas after writing so many books?

Ideas come from everywhere—a line in a movie, something I read in a book, a newspaper article, asking “what if?” question.
Coming up with the initial story idea isn’t usually too hard, but fleshing it out and developing it so that it’s different from my other books can be challenging. That’s where brainstorming with my critique partners is a huge help. Each person sees situations from a different angle and offers a different perspective, which helps me come up with new predicaments for my characters.

How do you balance family with writing?

Fortunately, my boys are all grown, although several still live at home. When I have pressing deadlines, it’s every man for himself. We eat lots of take-out and the house isn’t as clean as normal, but guys don’t care too much about the house, as long as their belly is full. My husband often works long hours too, so it works for us.

What’s a typical writing day like for you?

There is no typical day. I try to start writing or working on edits by ten a.m. but it varies. I’m primary caregiver to my mom and also babysit my granddaughter most weeks, so I have to work around time with them. On days when a deadline is looming, I may work until the wee hours of the morning, taking breaks to read emails, take my puppy outside, and to grab a meal or snack. 

Long Trail Home is the third of six books in the Texas Trails series. Texas Trails is unique in that it features three different authors. How did you connect with fellow authors Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin?

Our agent was the one who thought up the idea of three authors working together on a series and brought the three of us together. Sue and I have worked on several projects together before and were already friends. I knew Darlene online and from a writers’ group that we’re both members of. The three of us got together online and brainstormed different ideas for this series and came up with the generational story of the Morgan family that incorporates tidbits of Texas history.

What were the special challenges of writing a series with other authors?

Each of us had our own ideas for the series, and at one time or another, had to compromise to make it all work. It was a give and take situation, but I think the end product turned out fabulous and that readers will love it.

What did you enjoy most about writing Long Trail Home?

I enjoyed writing Annie’s spunky character, but I think I liked even more seeing Riley heal from his internal wounds and find love. I have a son who is a soldier in Egypt, so I suppose that’s why I enjoyed seeing my fictional soldier make peace with God and find love.

Your heroine lived at the Wilcox School for the Blind. Was that a real facility?

No, it was strictly fictional. Originally, I’d planned to use the actual Asylum for the Blind in Austin for my story, but when doing additional research I discovered the school closed during the Civil War and didn’t reopen until several years later. In fact, George Custer used that building for his headquarters when he was stationed in Austin. 

Riley Morgan faced several big losses and was angry with God for a time, but renewed faith in God helped him to move on. Has there ever been a time in your life where you had to cling to your faith?

Yes, there have been several times. During the past three years, my husband has been laid off four times and has gone months without a job. I could have gotten upset and worried all the time, but I chose to trust that God would take care of us and open another door. Even though my husband was off work so much, we never got behind on our bills or went without the things we needed. PLT! Sometimes trusting God comes down to making a choice to just do it, and then to keep doing it.

What’s next for the Morgan family?

A Ranger’s Trail by Darlene Franklin is the fourth book in the Texas Trails series. Here’s the blurb: When Leta Denning’s husband is killed by the German mob at the beginning of the Hoo Doo War, she vows to seek vengeance on his behalf. William Meino “Buck” Morgan, one of the Texas Rangers called in to quell the violence, has ties to one of the German families. Will Leta’s quest for vengeance keep her from discovering love the second time around?

Well, now that you have met all three of the authors for the Texas Trails Series, pick up books 1 and 2, Lone Star Trail, and Captive Trail, and keep an eye out for number 3, Long Trail Home in November.

A Tale and A Treat When Plans Fail and Other Acts of God’s Love (part 2)

My wonderful husband is still unemployed. That has not changed. We did not plan for him to be jobless. Who does?  But it is an astonishingly frequent event in the lives of those around us today.

 When we talked last year about Jeff going back to school again, the agreement was that his quest for a PhD had to run alongside the other things that we were doing, like working fulltime. However, the doors of the university continue to open as the doors for employment shut. He has been accepted into the program he desired and it even includes a teaching assistant position. If he goes to school part-time and continues to look for a full-time position, it just might work.

Right now we are paying close attention to the movement of the Spirit, reading scripture, praying and praying and praying . . . for His will for our lives.

And now we wait. Wait to see what incredible, or even ordinary, things that God has for us as we step out in faith.

Riley Morgan, in Long Trail Home has lost more than his faith. After returning from war he lost his parents and his fiancé. His dreams did not work out as he planned either.

But how could God have allowed him to lose so much?

Annie Sheffield was many things: a thief, an orphan, a child looking for a home, but she was definitely not blind. Miss Laura Wilcox knew all these things about Annie but she chose to accept her into the Wilcox School for Blind Children anyway. Laura needed the help and Annie needed a home. The only catch was: Annie had to make everyone around her believe she was blind.

Annie became a young woman by the time Riley Morgan came to work at the school, and he grew to admire Annie for her bravery in the face of her disability. His crusty façade began to wear as Riley came to care for the children living there. With little warning, Otis Ramsey swooped into town to announce that the benefactor of the school, Mr. Henry Morrow, has died—and he, Otis Ramsey, was going to shut down the school. They have 30 days to vacate the property he has inherited.

Laura, Annie, Riley and all the children are going to lose their home. They’re devastated.

This situation caused a unique conflict for Annie, after dedicating her heart to God at a tent meeting. Annie feels she must tell the truth. Will the town reject her once the truth is out? What about Riley? Where will she go once the school is closed?

Our plans are often interrupted; they often fail. But, God always has plans and they are often far better than we can imagine. Read how Laura, Annie and Riley live out His plan in Long Trail Home, due out this fall.

A Treat:

I took a poll around the office and many agreed that nothing screams Texas louder than a barbecue recipe. Well, I am going to do you one better with a smoked brisket recipe. I love brisket, it is my favorite cut of meat and when it is prepared properly it is a game changer. I like brisket so much that I consider myself a snob about it. With the help of this website I was able to find a great recipe that seems foolproof.

Texas Smoked Brisket Recipe

1 large untrimmed brisket
1/4 cup paprika
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
2 Tsp ground coriander
2 Tsp oregano
3 or 4 mesquite wood chunks

Mix the spices, salt, and sugar well, then coat the mixture onto the brisket. Plastic wrap it and let it rest in the fridge overnight if you have time… if not, try to give it at least a couple of hours. And remember, to get that dry rub flavor into the meat on both sides, score the fat on the fatty side. Cut down into the fat far enough to just expose the meat, in a pattern of one inch squares.  Smoke the meat with the mesquite chunks. If you don’t care for mesquite, oak will do a great job. When the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees, take the meat off, cover it, and let it rest for thirty minutes to an hour before slicing it across the grain. This final step is very important. It allows the meat to absorb its own juices and will leave you with an extremely tender and flavorful cut of smoky meat. Unfortunately, a smoker is necessary for this delightful dish, so either invest in one or head over to a friend’s house where there is a smoker and offer to make them dinner.

~Brittany

Free Ebook from Moody Publishers

Hello and Happy Monday to ya!

Please check out this facebook page and you can enter to win a free ebook. Your choice of:

Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Got Married
Pearl in the Sand
All In
How to Study the Bible
When Helping Hurts
Oneness Embraced
Lies Women Believe
The Bare Facts

Because we love fiction here and the only title listed above that is fiction is Pearl in the Sand, that is our top recommendation, but we can safely say that all of the books listed above are worth your time and energy!

We look forward to hearing from you and hearing your opinion!

Thanks,

Brittany

A Little Online Love

Check out the love that River North Fiction is getting from Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times! A Marriage Carol is our Christmas novella that was written by Chris Fabry and Gary Chapman that will be released in September. Just in time to get a head start on your stocking-stuffers or small gift ideas.

 

A Marriage Carol
Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman. Moody/River North, $14.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8024-0264-6 
Christmas Eve marks Jacob and Marlee Ebenezer’s wedding anniversary and, 20 years later, the official dissolution of their marriage. Their journey to sign the divorce papers, however, turns into much more when a blizzard and an accident threaten lives. Marlee finds safety in a farmhouse where “Jay” helps her see her past, present, and future and offers a new way of seeing herself, husband, and marriage. The authors seamlessly blend the cleansing qualities of snow (“Melting snow exposes. Each flake is like a choice we make”) with transparent reference to Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to create a challenging yet heartwarming tale that will touch readers long beyond the holiday season. This novella—combining the storytelling prowess of Fabry (Almost Heaven) and the marriage expertise of Chapman (The Five Love Languages series)—will change lives with its message “that there is great power in small choices.” Chapman’s afterword and discussion questions deepen the impact. This is a tiny book with a huge message. (Sept.)
Check out http://amarriagecarol.com/ for more information and a cool interactive site.
 
Romantic Times gave Lone Star Trail, the first book of the Texas Trails Series, a nice review!
“The first book in Franklin’s Texas Trail series, is both uplifting and heartwrenching. It is a story that is filled with tragedy, heartache, compassion, understanding and touching romance.”
You all know that there are six books in the series and they were written by the fantastic team of Darlene Franklin, Susan Page Davis, and Vickie McDonough. Check out our “Reviews” tab for more information on the love that our newest River North Titles are getting. We couldn’t be happier. Enjoy your weekend!!

A Tale and a Treat When Plans Fail and Other Acts of God’s Love (Part 1)

Just this morning my husband remanded me that last Christmas I gave him a note which read:

 Now you can THINK about going back to school for your PhD.

XOXO, Me

This is one of those life-goals Jeff has had for himself—something that he has always wanted. You will find it right at the top of his Bucket List.

After we were married and had children we both returned to school for more education. Each of us took turns supporting the other. Working more than full-time with two children was a challenge. We tried to keep our priorities straight and we made it through. The PhD continued to be his goal—allowing him to teach more than just adjunct classes at the university. However, this time there seemed to always be a “but.” But we just bought a house. But we are saving for the boy’s education. But your mother is ill. But I’m unemployed . . . and the years marched on. It has taken me more than 10 years to get to this point: the point where I felt I could handle the necessary schedule that I knew it would take. Now we are virtually empty-nesters, I have a job I love, it calls for a demanding schedule anyway and an hour and a half commute every day. No time like the present.

I think Jeff was on the Web December 26th checking out programs. Since both of us were employed and our youngest son was almost finished with his undergraduate degree, it seemed like things were lighting up enough for Jeff to start making some plans to finish his own education. So we continued to pray for God’s blessings on our plans.

That is where I think we went wrong.

Life started to fall apart. The poor economy hit all private schools. They are down by 20% on average. Since most early childhood centers operate on a shoestring anyway a 20% shortfall over a year or more can lead to disaster. His school was holding its own but administration did not want to take the hit of his salary for one more year so they decided to eliminate his position and run the school from their other location. Jeff was no longer going to be employed in the fall.  Perhaps the time was not right after all. Then Jeff’s pickup truck caught on fire and the extra car our youngest son used at college broke down. Suddenly we were a one car family without income to purchase another car. Sound familiar? So many people I know are in similar or worse situations these days.

And we began a new prayer. Lord, our plans never quite work out the way we think that they ought to. We know that you have plans  for us more wonderful than we can imagine. We are hanging on. Show us the way.

Have you been there?

The main character, Riley Morgan, of Long Trail Home has been there. Riley hasn’t heard from his family or his fiancé in more than a year. At the beginning of the third book in the Morgan Family series, Riley returns home from the Civil War in 1865. He left home an innocent, young man of 19 and was returning a war-weary man of 23.  

Riley had plans when he returned home. He planned to apologize to his parents for the foolish words he uttered the last time he saw them, and beg their forgiveness. Then he planned to snatch up the women of his dreams and take her to the altar as fast as he could. He and his bride would settle on his pa’s ranch until they got their own place. This is something he had always wanted. It was right at the top of his Bucket List.

He returned home to find his parent’s ranch burnt and empty. There were two new graves in the family plot. His parent’s crosses joined his younger brother’s on the hillside. Riley’s family was gone.

Riley galloped toward Miranda’s house. Hoping, praying that his fiancé was alive and that she still loved him. He was welcomed into the Cooper’s home only to be told that he has lost Miranda too. She married another man while he was away at war. Devastated he refused to return to his parent’s home,  refused to face the memories. He had no job, no money, and no place to live.

The haggard Riley wandered across The Wilcox School for the Blind looking for work. In some ways he reminded the Headmaster of the girl, Annie, who they accepted into the school seven years earlier. She too, lost her home and family—and presumably her sight. But Annie had a secret.

Riley starts over living in a small room out back of the school. Doing odd jobs, he works for little and begins to let the pieces of his life come back into place.

But how could God have allowed him to lose so much?

Check in next week for the second part of Tale and a Treat.  God assures us that he will not let us stay the way we are regardless of our present condition; he has plans better than we can imagine.

~Deb

TREAT:

Cornbread is a wonderful addition to chili which we talked about last week. The two really go hand in hand. Just talking about this combination is making me yearn for fall and all of its belly warming food. I like my cornbread with a little kick and I also like to be able to eat it alone as opposed to it being so dry that it can only be used to soak up soup or chili. I add a half can of green chilies to my cornbread recipe which adds a little flavor and a little heat. If you eat a slice warmed with melting butter and a touch of maple syrup it is a great combination of sweet and savory.  You will notice that a skillet is mentioned in the instructions and I will say it really is the way to go. I was just talking to Deb about cornbread and she informed me that she has a skillet that is meant only for her cornbread. That is a special skillet. Check out the recipe here and don’t wait for fall to whip up a batch. 

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup canned creamed corn
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1/2 can green chilies, drained

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°F. Butter 8-inch square baking pan. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl to blend. Add creamed corn, butter, egg, and chilies. Stir just until blended. Spoon batter into a skillet.

Bake until edges begin to pull away from skillet sides and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in skillet on rack.

~Brittany

An Interview with Darlene Franklin from the Texas Trails Series

Hello Fiction Fans,

You were introduced to Texas Trails author Darlene Franklin here, then here, now we would like to dig in a little deeper with this interview. Deb sat down with Darlene and this is what we learned about her and the book Lone Star Trail, the first in the six book Texas Trails Series that will begin being released early next month:

Lone Star Trail highlights the roots of German influence in Texas. What drew you to this subject?

All four of my mother’s grandparents arrived in America in the great wave of immigration in the late nineteenth century; I have an abiding interest in the people who left their homes and everything they knew to risk it all in a new land. Also, when I started writing books set in Texas, with Texas authors, they were quick to point out “there’s a huge German influence in Texas.”  So when Susan, Vickie and I brainstormed ideas for our Texas series, I knew I wanted to write about the German Verein. 

What research did you do in preparation for writing Lone Star Trail?

I did my usual online research and also ordered books. One book in particular, German Seed in Texas Soil, gave the kind of detailed information that writers live for: what crops did they grow? How much did a cow cost? Where did they live? How was their way of life different from their American neighbors? I also got to take a trip through the Texas hill country, the heart of German culture in Texas. I spent two nights in historic Fredericksburg, drove to the modern port of Puerto LaVaca which is in the general vicinity of Carshafen (the original town was destroyed by two hurricanes), and spent another night in Victoria, the setting for Lone Star Trail. In Fredericksburg, I went to the Pioneer Museum Complex. I got to poke around Sunday houses, a one room school, half-timbered dwellings (amazingly cool in the hot summer heat!). I enjoyed chatting with the docent about the Verein. 

Tell us a little about the German influx into Texas in the mid-1800s.

Prince Carl von Braunfels founded the “Adelsverein,” the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, in 1842. At the time, Texas was an independent country. The Society was an attempt to colonize a New Germany within Texas borders—the source of Jud Morgan’s displeasure. Texas was encouraging immigration, however, and offering land to any who wanted it. Although the Verein was organized by a noble, it appealed to the common man, and the immigrants flooded the port of Carlshafen in 1844-1845. Faced with limited resources, no way to get to the promised land, and disease, the members of the Verein bonded together, formed societies to learn from each other, and created a vital community. A later group of German intelligentsia arrived in 1848, after revolutions rocked their homeland.

 Lone Star Trail is the first of six books in the Texas Trails series. Texas Trails is unique in that it features three different authors. How did you connect with fellow authors Susan Page Davis and Vickie McDonough?

I’ve known Susan and Vickie for years; Susan and I met when I was looking for authors from the state of Maine; and Vickie lives just down the road from me (I’m in Oklahoma City and she’s in Tulsa). We’ve written a number of novella anthologies together, although this is the first time all three of us have worked on the same project. We also happen to share the same agent: Chip MacGregor. Chip asked the three of us to develop a series of historical romances set in Texas. We jumped at the chance! 

Jud Morgan, the hero of Lone Star Trail, was thrust into his position as head of the Morgan family at a young age. Tell us a little bit of his history.

Jud’s parents moved to Texas when he was only a small child and worked on establishing the Running M Ranch. By 1834, things looked bright for the family—Jud had been joined by his brother Calder and his sisters Marion and Billie. Then Jud’s father went off to fight in Texas’s war for independence from Mexico and never came back. Jud jumped into position as the head of the family. Time passed him by while his brother Calder married and left home and his sister Billie was captured by Comanche. He’s stayed so busy taking care of his brothers and sisters, he wonders if he will ever have a family of his own.

What were the special challenges about writing the first book in a six-book series?

Myriad! I had to not only set up Jud’s story, but the family background for all six books. Also, being first meant I had a little less time for every step of the publication process than Susan or Vickie. I also carry the responsibility of introducing the Morgan family and the series to our readers. If they love Lone Star Trail, they’ll be enticed to read Captive Trail and Long Trail Home. If they don’t, I’ve let down River North as well as Susan and Vickie.         

What’s next for the Morgan family?

The Running M Ranch remains in operation, but the family scatters. Our readers will meet stage-coach owners, nuns, civil war vets, Texas Rangers, ranchers, cowboys (and cowgirls) and more.

What did you enjoy most about writing Lone Star Trail?

I enjoyed looking into German customs. A lot of my readers know about the origins of the Christmas tree, but maybe they’ll be as surprised as I was to learn about the Easter egg tree!

How can today’s reader identify with the pioneer experience?

Pioneers represent much of the best of America. Brave, resilient, resourceful, they depended on each other—and God—to see them through the worst of times. In spite of the difficulties they faced, they maintained faith and fought for what they believed in. Isn’t that what we still want for our nation?

Wande Fleischer represents the millions of immigrants who came to America in search of a better life. What can we learn from her today?

Reach for the brass ring. . .how much are we willing to risk to live the life we’ve always dreamed of? What do we cling to when we’re separated from everything familiar?

Look for Lone Star Trail at your favorite local bookstore or online at your favorite store early September.