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Behind the Books

Interview with Author Lori Benton (Plus Give-away!)

Tue, 2017-09-12 05:34 -- Jocelyn Green
It's my great pleasure to have author Lori Benton here today! Lori was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring and photographing the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn; Christy nominee The Wood's Edge; A Flight of Arrows; and Many Sparrows. *Please note: Since Lori hails from Oregon, this is a great reminder to us to keep praying for the fires in the Northwest to be contained, and for all the communities affected, from residents to wildlife to first responders. Thank you! Before we get to her interview, here is the blurb for her new release, Many Sparrows: When settler Clare Inglesby is widowed on a mountain crossing and her young son, Jacob, captured by Shawnees, she'll do everything in her power to get him back, including cross the Ohio River and march straight into the presence of her enemies deep in Indian country. Frontiersman and adopted Shawnee, Jeremiah Ring, promises to guide Clare through the wilderness and help her recover Jacob. Once they reach the Shawnees and discover Jeremiah's own Shawnee sister, Rain Crow, has taken custody of Jacob--renaming him Many Sparrows--keeping his promise becomes far more complicated, the consequences more wrenching, than Jeremiah could have foreseen. I had the privilege of reading an early copy, and here's my take on the novel:  Stunning. Many Sparrows is everything I want in a book: settings that spring to life, characters I love, rich historical context, heart-wrenching drama, timeless spiritual insights, and prose that reads like poetry. Lori Benton handles the conflicted eighteenth-century with sensitivity in this tender tale of hope and fear, faith and doubt, of loss and new life. Truly, an inspired masterpiece sure to stir the soul. (Psst! You can read the first two chapters here!) My chat with Lori is below. Give us a glimpse into your research process. Is there any aspect of it which may surprise your readers?  LORI: I think readers would likely find my research more mundane than surprising. It consists mainly of pouring through stacks of books, taking notes, and creating a historical timeline when necessary. For Many Sparrows that timeline was crucial. It ended up being about 30 pages long, single-spaced, but it kept me from a lot of hair-pulling and rewriting/replotting as I worked to weave my characters’ stories in and out of dozens of historical events that occurred in the summer and autumn of 1774. That makes a lot of sense, and I operate the same way. A 30-page timeline, though? You have me beat, there! :) I love seeing the photographs you take and share on Facebook! Do you have any of the part of the country where Many Sparrows is set? LORI: I don’t often get to visit the settings of my novels while I’m writing, because I live 3000 miles away in Oregon! But for Many Sparrows I did. I journeyed back east and, together with novelist J. M. Hochstetler, traveled around Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, visiting sites we both wanted to research for our historical novels in progress.   Below is a photo of the area of Ohio where Cornstalk’s town and that of his sister, Nonhelema, once stood. The next photo shows a bend in Scippo Creek that ran between Cornstalk’s Town and Nonhelema’s Town. The photo below captures wildflowers growing along Yellow Creek, where it empties into the Ohio River. One of the surprises I encountered was our visit to the Point Pleasant battle memorial, on the point of land where the Kanawha River joins the Ohio, in West Virginia. There’s a walkway along the Ohio there bordered by a spectacular mural of the history of that area, including the battle that took place in October of 1774, and scenes depicting Shawnee life and culture. Below are some samples of this sprawling mural. Those photos are fantastic, and I'm delighted you made the trip with J.M Hochstetler! She is another favorite author of mine. If you were to make Many Sparrows into a movie, who would you cast to play the hero and heroine, and why? LORI: As early as possible in the writing process I like to find a model or actor who resembles my main characters. The choice is important. Something about the actor or model bleeds into who that character becomes on the page for me. I know this because I once switched actors midway through the writing process, when I found someone who looked more like the character than my original choice. Soon after, the character took on new layers and depths. I’m still amazed that happened. Maybe it’s like what an actor brings to their role on stage. The character they play is still the character on the page, but it’s also a blend of who the actor is. Just like an author pours herself out on the page, so too an actor brings something of herself to each role she plays. Apparently she does so even when she has no idea she’s been cast in a role in my story! For Clare Inglesby I chose Katheryn Winnick. In the roles I’ve seen her play, Katheryn embodies Clare’s strong-willed toughness, as well as the vulnerability that toughness hides. For Jeremiah Ring I’d cast Noah Wylie, as he looked in the series Falling Skies. Bearded! It wasn’t until I mentally cast him in the role that I nailed down my best description of him, given to the reader by Clare as they sit by a trail-side fire, early in their acquaintance. That is fascinating! I loved checking out your Pinterest board for the novel. The visuals are wonderful! I remember when you were in the writing process of Many Sparrows, you called this book your problem child. Can you explain why that was, and how you disciplined this problem child manuscript into shape? LORI: Oh boy, this book was so much harder to write than I expected it would be. For the longest time I simply couldn’t connect to my main character, Clare. I couldn’t get to the heart of what made her tick. I kept halting the writing process to mull her over, brainstorm ideas, trying anything I could to figure her out. Two things helped. As I mentioned above, she’s the characters I “recast” midway through the writing process. When I did, I began to get a better sense of why she was struggling so in her issues of trust and surrender. The second thing that helped me understand Clare was giving her nemesis, Rain Crow, more attention. When I stopped the writing process to really delve into this Shawnee woman’s back story, and figure out what her motivations and needs were, certain aspects of Clare’s deepest longings came into sharper focus. Writing is a mysterious process and no two books have come together for me in exactly the same way. Sometimes you have to keep trying this and that until you find what works. In that way they are like children! Other than that, this book got written on the wings of many prayers, my own and others. I know the Lord stepped in and helped, as He always does. I couldn’t write a novel without Him. My inadequacies are a bottomless well. But so is His grace, mercy, and help in time of need. I think most of us authors feel exactly the same way, that we are inadequate, but God is faithful to pour into our lack. What are you reading right now?  LORI: Finding time to read anything not work related is a challenge, but I usually have a book or two going. More if I can find them on audio. Right now I’m reading the latest installment of the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith. I recently read The Maggie Bright, a novel of Dunkirk by Tracy Groot (loved it, then went and saw the movie, Dunkirk and knew what was going on). Tracy Groot is one of my favorite authors. I'm a big fan of Tracy Groot, too! Thank you so much for being here, Lori!  Many Sparrows is available now at your local bookstore, ChristianBook, Baker Book House, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. Visit Lori Benton at her Web site here. The Give-Away *UPDATE: The give-away is now closed. Congratulations to Diane Bell for winning, and thank you to all who entered! Lori is generously offering to one lucky commenter (U.S. only), a signed copy of Many Sparrows and the special gift she created to go with this book,  a companion photo book with quotes. It’s a hardback book she created with landscape photos interspersed with quotes from Many Sparrows. To enter, please leave a comment for Lori below, telling her one thing you enjoyed learning from this interview. I'll choose a winner at random on September 20, and notify the winner via email. The winner has three days to respond before I select a different winner.

Everything Begins and Ends with Grace

Wed, 2017-08-09 07:46 -- Jocelyn Green
I have to ask. For those of you who have read both The Mark of the King and Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided Life--did you catch that I used the lesson the character Marc-Paul learned in the novel in the last chapter of Free to Lean? "Everything begins and ends with grace." Without taking the time to unpack that statement right here, I'll just say that this concept of grace is the perfect fit in both my novel and in my nonfiction book.  Grace is always our perfect fit. It's always in season. And there is never a time when I don't need it.  If you're not familiar with Free to Lean, it's my book for women that basically says it's OK to not do it all. Our goal should not be balance, but to lean into the priorities God has given us for our particular season of life. (Read more about the book here.) The entire last chapter of Free to Lean is devoted to exploring grace, along with some myths that keep us from embracing it. I do hope you have a chance to read it yourself, but let me just share a snippet with you today, from Chapter Ten:  Grace means it's not about what we can do, but what Christ has already done for us.  Grace means we don't have to earn His love, strength, or power. he has already declared us worthy of these gifts--and it has nothing to do with our striving. Grace means that when we fall short, all is not lost--because Jesus covers the distance between where we are and where we will someday be. I have motivational mugs and T-shirts that tell me to "Keep Calm and Write On," but my favorite one is the one pictured above. Because lots of days, I don't need a pep talk that tells me to be productive. I need grace. We all do. Below, I'd love for you to hear from my friend Susie Finkbeiner on this. I love that so much. Whatever we do, it's not by our power, but God's. There is such freedom in that truth! (You can view more videos on my Free to Lean YouTube playlist here. More videos will be added to it as Discovery House finishes editing them.) I want to leave you with a song by Sara Groves which I listened to over and over while I wrote Free to Lean. It relates so well, in fact, that I wanted to quote from the lyrics in the book. But alas, we were only granted permission for three years' time due to music copyright issues, so I'm just going to share it with you this way instead. (The video below is just audio, there's no real video component to it.) The song is called "I've Been Here Before," and it's from her Floodplain album. Listen closely to the chorus, and be encouraged.

Louisiana and France’s Forced Colonization Experiment

Mon, 2017-01-09 11:53 -- Jocelyn Green
Decades before Marie Antoinette entered the scene, France was already in a desperate position. In 1714, the nation lost a thirteen-year war which had drained the royal coffers and disillusioned most of its military. Soldiers returning home had a hard time finding work. The weather hadn’t been cooperating with the farmers, driving rural people in to the cities to find other ways of earning a living. The streets of Paris teemed with poor. The monarchy didn’t like it. Vagabonds and the unemployed were arrested and thrown into prisons to keep them off the street. Prostitutes, too, cycled in and out of jail, and back in, and back out again. The capital city was rife was poverty, crime, and vice. Meanwhile, the French colony of Louisiana was practically dormant. After being claimed for France in 1699, the War of Spanish Succession soon tied up all of France’s resources, leaving the military outposts in Louisiana so bereft they would have starved to death had friendly native Americans not fed them and allowed them to winter in their villages. Now, the French king decided it was time for Louisiana to refill the French treasury, the way Mexico’s riches were making Spain wealthy. At the time, the territory of Louisiana stretched from Rockies to the Appalachians, from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes. Populating it proved to be a monumental task they never really mastered. When not enough French volunteered to settle the land—despite promises of gold, silver, fertile land and abundant game—France forced immigration. “We believe that We can do nothing better for the good of our State than to condemn [convicts] to the punishment of being transported to our colonies . . . to serve as laborers.” ~Royal Policy of France, January 8, 17191 Prisoners sentenced to the galleys were commuted to Louisiana instead. To relieve overcrowded prisons, they also sent military deserters, prostitutes, vagabonds who had been plucked from the streets after curfew. Because the men needed women to reproduce new settlers, shiploads of orphans and female convicts were sent over. In September of 1719, 184 female convicts were told to choose grooms from the same number of male convicts. They were forced to marry in a mass wedding ceremony, shackled two-by-two, and put onto the ship that would take them to Louisiana. The forced colonization scheme grew so out-of-hand that Mississippi bandoliers even began pulling people from the streets if they could not prove their employment. Riots broke out between the people and those charged with arresting them, resulting in injury and loss of life. After three years of the forced immigration (1719-1722), the crown finally decreed it unlawful. By then, however, Jean-Baptiste Bienville, governor of Louisiana, had his hands full managing the settlers France had sent. “It is most disagreeable for an officer in charge of a colony to have nothing more for its defense than a bunch of deserters, contraband salt dealers, and rogues who are always ready not only to desert you but also to turn against you.” ~Sieur Jean-Baptist Le Moyne de Bienville, 17192 It was under these conditions and with these challenges that Bienville founded New Orleans. With such a fascinating historical backdrop, I could not resist telling the tale of the people who struggled to survive and settle this town. The Mark of the King will bring you right into the middle of it all. Enjoy! Psst! For a free excerpt, video pronuncation guide and give-away (open til Feb. 16, 2017), hop over to my previous blog post here! For further reading: To learn more about this colorful chapter in American (and French) history, I’ll direct you to the two books which proved so helpful to me in my own research: Building the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans by Shannon Lee Dawdy, and Indians, Settlers & Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy by Daniel H. Usner. Sources: 1. The Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Series in Louisiana History, Volume 1: The French Experience in Louisiana, edited by Glenn R. Conrad. (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana), 115. 2. Ibid., 132.

New Video: The Mark of the King Pronunciation Guide

Fri, 2016-12-02 07:33 -- Jocelyn Green
In one month plus one day, The Mark of the King officially releases! Can you tell I'm just a little excited about this? :) Some people have already been reading the book through NetGalley, and it's so fun to see their reviews start popping up on Goodreads. (See what they thought of the book here!)  Today I'm delighted to share with you a six-minute video I hope will be come in handy when it's your turn to read the book! Because almost all my characters are French settlers in Louisiana, they naturally have French names. I tried to choose names that we English-speakers wouldn't stumble over when reading, but as you can see from this video, I had the wrong idea of how to say several of them, myself. Join me in this tutorial as my French sister-in-law Audrey sets me straight. Click below to begin watching. Did any of these pronunciations surprise you? 

Behind the Scenes with Author Laurie Alice Eakes

Fri, 2016-11-04 15:26 -- Jocelyn Green
I'm so pleased to have author Laurie Alice Eakes on the blog today! The first book I read of hers was Lady in the Mist, and I absolutely adored it. So much so, in fact, that after hearing that Laurie Alice offered book coaching services, I hired her to coach me through writing my first novel, Wedded to War! She is a very talented storyteller, and I can't wait to dive in to her new book, My Enemy, My Heart.  Laurie Alice has written a behind-the-scenes guest post for us today, but first, I want to share with you more about her new book. Here's the blurb:  The sea has always been Deirdre MacKenzie’s home, and the crew of her father’s Baltimore clipper is the only family she loves. She’s happier wearing breeches and climbing the rigging of the Maid of Alexandria than donning a dress and learning to curtsey. But, when the War of 1812 erupts, the ship is captured by a British privateer . With her father, the captain, dead, Deirdre sees her crew herded into the hold as prisoners-of-war. Their fate is the notorious Dartmoor prison in England. Her fate as a noncombatant prisoner is uncertain, but the one thing she knows—she must find a way to free her crew.  Kieran  Ashford has caused his family one too many scandals. On his way to exile in America, he is waylaid by the declaration of war and a chance to turn privateer and make his own fortune. But he regrets his actions as soon as the rich prize is secured. Kieran figures his best chance at redeeming himself in the eyes of his family is to offer Deidre the protection of his name in marriage. He has no idea that secrets from his parents’ past and Deirdre’s determination to free her crew are on a disastrous collision course.  Love and loyalty clash, as Kieran begins to win Deirdre’s heart despite her plot to betray him and his family.  While Kieran works to mend the relationship with his family, he begins to love his bride in spite of what lies between them. Sounds fantastic. You all know I'm drawn to war stories anyway! And now without further ado, I'm handing the post off to Laurie Alice Eakes. She writes: The play “The Mouse that Roared” could have been written about the United States going up against Great Britain for what has become known as The War of 1812 in the United States and not even talked about in Great Britain, except by military historians. We had 18 ships in our Navy, most of which weren’t even seaworthy, and the British had 506 or so, all commissioned. Half of our country was against the war, and the Army was a joke. Yet in June, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. We lost nearly every land battle, had our capital burned, and our First lady and president sent fleeing for their lives. Yet we signed a treaty giving us everything we wanted. No one should have been surprised by this turn of events. For over half a decade, we had been building up to such a momentous and drastic decision to go to war. The British thought they owned the seas. They impressed our sailors, declaring they were British citizens, not American. They told us where and with whom we could trade our raw and finished materials. They were just generally arrogant about what was their empire—the entire world, if they had their way. We were just trying to survive as a nation. We had tried peaceful means of resolving these issues, from an embargo against British goods, which went over like a crowd volunteering for the flu—that is to say, it didn’t make Mr. Jefferson popular. Diplomatic means failed. That left war. Against this background, I have, for many years, wanted to set a book. The idea has lived in my brain and partially on my computer for well over ten years. What if an American lady ends up stranded in Great Britain during the war. But no, I had to make it worse. She had to be in Great Britain against her will. Into the research tomes I delved. Out of them I picked up bits and pieces of information about British privateers, noncombatant prisoners of war, and, most of all, Dartmoor Prison. Dartmoor was built in 1809 for French prisoners. When America declared war on Great Britain, the English began to cram Americans into this stone fortress built on the bleak and inclement wasteland of Dartmoor in Devonshire. That is near Plymouth in the West Country, maybe 40 miles east of Poldark country, for those who follow that series. It is still a prison today, and I could write more just about Dartmoor and the St. Bartholomew Day massacre. Another time, should Jocelyn invite me back to talk about prisoners of war. For My Enemy, My Heart, I don’t talk much about the battles or loss of ships and money; I focus on the human toll of the war. Deirdre loses her father, her crew, and the merchantman on which she has lived for most of her life. Losing her freedom and having to act like a proper lady is possibly the hardest thing she has ever done. Falling in love with an Englishman is worse, for Deirdre plans to free her crew from prison, but to do so, makes her a traitor to the family who have shown her nothing but love and kindness. The enemy is good. Her crew have always been her family. Deirdre is loyal to both. She must betray one or the other. I can’t tell you how My Enemy, My Heart ends, and I can tell you how the war ended. On Christmas Eve, 1814, we signed the Treaty of Ghent. The British stopped impressing our men. They stopped telling us where and with whom we could trade. And we stopped scarfing up their merchantmen like children at a Halloween candy bag. Yes, our Navy, though vastly improved by the war experience, didn’t win the war; our privateers did. We built fantastic and fast merchant ships we turned into fighting vessels and sailed off to scoop up rich, British prizes. Our vessels were so fast we could cut out those sluggish British merchantmen and sail them off as prizes. We took so many, the merchants of Great Britain hollered ‘uncle’ and demanded an end to the war. Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Laurie Alice! I'm beyond intruiged. Happy reading, everyone! You can find My Enemy, My Heart at Amazon, Goodreads, ChristianBook, BarnesandNoble, and more. About Laurie Alice Eakes: “Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic Times of  bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author, with more than two dozen books in print. She has recently relocated to a cold climate because she is weird enough to like snow and icy lake water. When she isn’t basking in the glory of being cold, she likes to read, visit museums, and take long walks, preferably with her husband, though the cats make her feel guilty every time she leaves the house.

Interview with Heather Day Gilbert + Giveaway!

Tue, 2016-11-01 08:08 -- Jocelyn Green
Friends, I am so excited for two reasons. First, I turned in the manuscript for Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided Life last night! Woohoo! (It releases from Discovery House in August 2017.) Second: today is RELEASE DAY for Heather Day Gilbert's amazing Viking tale, Forest Child! Find it on Amazon, BarnesandNoble, iBooks, Kobo, and Goodreads. I had the privilege of reading this early and endorsing it. Here's what I had to say: Forest Child is one of the bravest works of fiction I’ve ever read. Brimming with tension, yet laced with tenderness, this powerful saga is sure to keep you turning the pages far into the night. An ingenious blend of Viking history and timeless issues of the heart still relevant today. Heather graciously answered a few burning questions I had after reading Forest Child: Heather Day Gilbert 1) What first inspired you to write inspirational Viking stories?  I was interested in my Viking heritage (I'm allegedly related to Eirik the Red/Leif Eiriksson via my Norwegian blood), so I bought a copy of The Sagas of Icelanders. I read up on them and found stories of Viking women who did heroic things—one was a Christian named Gudrid, and one was a warrior named Freydis. 2) Well that is the coolest thing, being allegedly related to Eirik and Leif! I love both God's Daughter and Forest Child so much, but I think Forest Child is my favorite. Do you have a favorite character that you've written? If so, which one and why?  That is always such a tough question. I'm a little bit in love with each of my leading men (and some of the side men, like Leif Eiriksson and Snorri Thorbrandsson!). I think it's because I'm in my main characters' heads, so I'm writing men I know fit with that character—but the men, as you know, are far from perfect! I would say I love Thorfinn Karlsefni for a fave male character and probably Freydis for female in my Viking series, but don't tell Gudrid I said that! She would probably stew over that slight for weeks. Gudrid tends to ruminate on things, whereas Freydis just rushes right into situations. Let's just say I relate to Freydis a bit more. ;) 3) I had a hard enough time doing research on eighteenth-century France for my upcoming novel. How on earth did you research for these books?  It is tough, because there are limited written records of the Viking era. I based both novels so closely on The Saga of Greenlanders and Eirik the Red's Saga that the plotlines stemmed from there. One fantastic resource I discovered while writing Forest Child is the Hurstwic.com site. They study/replicate Viking weapons and warfare, but have also compiled some helpful articles on things like Viking farm life and the Althing council meetings. Vikinganswerlady.com is another helpful online resource. And of course I've accumulated a lot of books on the period! As you know, when you write book 2 in a series set in a particular time period, you have a better grasp of the foods they ate then, materials used for clothing, houses, etc., so that makes those details easier to integrate the second go-round. 4) Freydis, daughter of Eirik the Red, was quite a strong, brave character! In telling her story, were you tempted to gloss over some aspects if her life or character? How did you handle that?  Oh, yes. Yes indeed. I would have loved to leave out one of the most defining moments of her warrior "career", but I knew that was impossible. Every Norse historian knows exactly the event I'm referring to—it was that famous. So I knew there would be no glossing over it! But because I have a strong Christian reader base, I knew I had to make sure the violence wasn't over-the-top and graphic. It was a real tightrope of balancing her real-life actions with a story that wouldn't make you hate her. It took years of pondering and a heavy blanket of prayers to finally break through and discover a reason I thought could explain why a woman would have taken the action she did. After I wrote that pivotal scene, I felt such a sense of relief. It still seemed a bit edgy compared to most Christian fiction, but I felt God helped me handle it in a way that (hopefully!) wouldn't alienate any of my loyal readers. And as it turns out, many of my readers are saying they love this book more than God's Daughter, so that is just evidence that God did this thing, not me! 5) I thought you handled that scene amazingly well. I'm so thrilled that you have another Viking tale coming out in March in the Message in a Bottle Romance Collection! Can you tell us just a little about what we can look forward to in that story? I'm so excited about this collection, because you know I'm dying to read YOUR novella that's in it! My novella shares the tale of a Viking, Ari, who sails to Ireland to take vengeance for his brother's death, but through a series of God-directed events, he winds up getting to know a rather solitary and bookish Irish princess named Britta. Will they learn to overcome their cultural differences and trust each other? I'd probably better stop right there, because I have a tendency to be a walking "spoiler alert"! Thank you so much, Heather! It's going to be a fantastic collection, I can't wait for it to release in March! Thanks so much for letting me visit, Jocelyn! And right now, I have four softcover book bundle giveaways going on to celebrate the release of Forest Child. Here's the link for your readers to check those out: http://bit.ly/2e0eHCi ! Enter before November 13 for a chance to win!  Yes, these are amazing book bundle packages! See the photo collage below and then jump to the link Heather provided to enter the drawings! Congrats, Heather, on your truly wonderful new book.  

Character Inspirations for The Mark of the King

Tue, 2016-05-03 08:02 -- Jocelyn Green
I spent last Friday at Bethany House Publishers' offices in Minneapolis, and I'm getting so excited to see what they come up with for The Mark of the King's book cover! I will likely do the cover reveal through my newsletter (see sign up in the footer of this page) two weeks before it appears on all the retail sites. The book releases in January, but the cover will be finalized this summer. Yippee!  Now, since I don't have the cover quite yet, I thought I would at least show you some images that I've been using as inspiration for some of my main characters. Julianne is our intrepid midwife sent from Paris to New Orleans in a colonizing scheme. The three other men pictured all play really, really important roles in her life. I don't want to say what yet, because I fear I may spoil the story for you.  Two of these character images in the collage above come from the same movie. Do you know what it is? :) One of my favorites. Now that I have you, allow me to settle a little housekeeping issue. I feel I owe you an explanation for my hiatus on the blog during the last several months. I have two good reasons for being quiet. First, I was writing a novel: The Mark of the King. It's turned in now, so I have some time to breathe, and blog. Second, for months, I've been dealing with hackers on my Web site. They infected my site in such a way that visitors may also get infected by dropping by my Web site. So I certainly didn't want to invite you over until that was taken care of. Randomly, after one malicious hacker was taken out of the picture, the next issue was that all links on my site would redirect you to a British asparagus farm. I kid you not. So, again, not exactly motivation to blog.  Thankfully, my husband is a Web developer, so he re-created my Web site from scratch. There are some new things we added since the whole Virus-Asparagus Fiasco. Now on the "Books" page, there is a scrolling shelf of my book covers, and you can click on any one of them to get to that book's page. (The dropdown menus are still there, too.) In the "On Writing" page, instead of just recommending my favorite books for writers, I now have a little Amazon shop with my top picks so you can shop right from there if you are feeling anxious to get those books. On the "Free Stuff" page I added a collage of reader pictures! Send me your picture with one of my books and I'll add you to the rotation! We also added "Add to Goodreads" buttons in addition to the buy links on every fiction and nonfiction book page which I hope you will feel free to use. :) Last, we added another book that is now available for pre-order: Refresh: Spiritual Nourishment for Parents of Children with Special Needs. One more thing. For those of you who subscribe to the blog, I noticed it sent you a digest of the last ten blog posts last time. I apologize. I don't know why that happened--maybe feedburner thought they must have missed something because of my extended absence. Hopefully that won't happen again.  OK, I feel much better having gotten that off my chest. Onward!

Little Union Girl Touches the Heart of a Confederate at Gettysburg

Thu, 2015-07-16 07:02 -- Jocelyn Green
Edward McPherson Farm. Gettysburg farms like this one were used as field hospitals.
During my research for Widow of Gettysburg, I read everything I could related to the battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) and its aftermath. I read so many gory descriptions of the carnage that I started to glaze over them. But one day, a sweet letter from a soldier to a Sunday school girl brought tears to my eyes. I want to share it with you. First a little background: during the Civil War, the Christian Commission (born out of the YMCA) encouraged Sunday school classes in the North to put together "comfort bags" which were distributed by delegates of the Christian Commission to soldiers. These bags were small cloth kits which included thread, sewing needles, small scissors, and scraps of material. Each child also included a note with the bag to encourage the receiving soldier. At Gettysburg, a wounded Confederate received one of these comfort bags from a little girl in Massachusetts. He wrote back to her: My Dear Little Friend--I received your present, the comfort bag, and it is thrice welcome, although it was intended for Union defenders. It was given to me by a Christian woman, who lost her holy anger against Rebels--for such am I--in her bounteous sympathy with the unfortunate. My little friend can imagine my thankfulness for the favor, when I inform her that I have no friends this side of heaven--all gone, father, mother, sister and brother, and I am all alone.   The dear comfort-bag I shall always keep as a memento of true sympathy from a generous heart in the loyal State of Massachusetts. I hope you will not be disappointed by this, coming as it does from a Rebel; for I was forced into the ranks at the point of bayonet, for I would not go willingly to fight against the dear old flag, whose ample folds have always shielded the orphan and made glad the oppressed.   I have read your note very many times over, and have wished it could rightfully be mine. "Do they think of me at home?" Silence--all is silence! Not so with the Union soldier; a thousand tokens tell him yes.   I was wounded in the second day's fight and am now packing up my all to be exchanged or sent back a cripple for life. I am seventeen years old, and now am turned out with one arm to carve my way through the world; but my trust is in my heavenly Father, who will forgive and bless. Hoping that God may in mercy reunite us all again as brothers and sister. I am your unworthy friend.   E--A--Co--. Miss. Volunteers This touching letter appears in many documents and books, including Gettysburg and the Christian Commission by Daniel Hoisington. Following the battle of Gettysburg, the United States Christian Commission provided spiritual and physical care to thousands of wounded and dying soldiers of both armies. More than three hundred volunteers came to the battlefield, leaving a legacy of “a thousand little nameless acts.” The book includes important contemporary accounts of the battle’s aftermath, including the first complete publication of the diary of John Calhoun Chamberlain, one of the first delegates at Gettysburg and brother of the hero of Little Round Top. Jane Boswell Moore’s letters provide a glimpse of women’s work among the soldiers. Andrew Cross’ official report describes the carnage of battle as “a most fearful judgment of God upon a nation and people.” In a postwar story, George Peltz tells of a return to the Second Corps Hospital eight years later on a final mission of mercy. For more about the Heroines Behind the Lines Civil War novels, visit the Web site.

Behind the Scenes: The Making of an Audio Book!

Thu, 2015-07-09 06:30 -- Jocelyn Green
Today I'm thrilled to be sharing an interview with the very talented Laura's Voice, who brings Widow of Gettysburg to life in audio book format! This is my first novel that has been made into an audio book, so I've been very curious about the process. I hope you'll enjoy learning about it from Laura as much as I did! Jocelyn: How do you choose which books you want to lend your voice to? Laura: Whatever I do, I want to help share a message that is inspiring, edifying, or juicily entertaining--or all three! Tell us about your process once you've contracted to do the narration. I like to print the manuscript and I still use a pencil--creating a character list of each one's first appearance and first speaking part, along with any notes from the text that describes his/her personality, voice, tone attitude, etc. In the margins, I make notes of any kind that occur to me--typos (as a former English teacher and technical writer, I simply can't help myself!), and other corrections, moments where I want to emote in a certain way--then I may add a smiley face, a sad face, exclamation points, etc. After an entire read-through, I'll go back to the author/publisher with any questions I may have. I create a sample for the client to listen to and get their approval and, if necessary, will also include a character sample to ensure he/she likes the voices I create for each character. Once we have final agreement on tone, character voices, pronunciations, and any corrections that alter the text, I record and edit the text, creating .mp3 files for the listener! [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1289", "attributes":{"class":"media-image wp-image-3349", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"550", "height":"366", "alt":"This markup picture shows where I had to switch from Harrison to a commanding officer to the young soldier who overstuffed his rifle and kept chanting to himself."}}]] This markup picture shows where I had to switch from Harrison to a commanding officer to the young soldier who overstuffed his rifle and kept chanting to himself.   I see you've noted Harrison's voice as deep but clear. That's exactly how I imagined it, too! How do you create the different voices and accents for the characters? In addition to what I described in the answer to Q2, when a character is said to be from a particular region, I study that region's accents (by listening to folks on YouTube) and practice, practice, practice! I love how you captured the various accents in Widow! How else do you mark up the text? I like to underline lines or phrases I especially like--just in case I have the chance to tell the author--it's always nice to hear what someone likes about your work! I have also printed pictures of places and maps of regions to have with me as I read the manuscript in order to get to know the content better. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1290", "attributes":{"class":"media-image aligncenter wp-image-3351", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"550", "height":"489", "alt":"LaurasVoicetext2"}}]] Take us behind the scenes on a recording day. How much time do you spend in a recording session, and how many times do you typically read the same passage? I like to have everything done to avoid interruptions--wait until the kids are on the bus, make sure the dogs have gone potty, wait at least a half-hour after brushing my teeth and have been drinking plenty of water so my mouth isn't dry, etc. I like to break the reading up into chunks--most easily by chapters, but if a chapter is particularly long, I find a good stopping point within the chapter. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1291", "attributes":{"class":"media-image wp-image-3353", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"550", "height":"310", "alt":"LaurasVoicestudio"}}]] Where the magic happens!   Now, if the section I'm working on has a lot of difficult voices--male, gruff, deep, or perhaps a character is sick, wounded--anything that would cause strain and take extra energy to act out--I may be limited to only about half an hour of recording. It could take several hours or even another day before I can return to recording! If a passage is difficult, it may be due to long sentences, multi-syllabic words, older style of speaking, or a number of character voice changes. Those may require several takes--so I'll stop, wait a couple of seconds, say "Take Two" (or sometimes three, four, five, six, grrrrr . . . . (and restart from a moment when there was a natural stop because of a paragraph break, punctuation, or breathing. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1292", "attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft wp-image-3208 size-full", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"300", "height":"300", "alt":"widowaudible"}}]]I'm sure that different projects require you to strike different tones, from upbeat and energetic to slow and thoughtful. How would you describe the tone (or tones) you employed for Widow of Gettysburg? Widow of Gettysburg required a lot of different tones--from memories, life-changing considerations, guilt and regret, longing, love and loss, renewed love, evil and lust for power. There were times I had to read a passage to myself before recording to get into the right mood--maybe even practice the passage a bit to get just the right amount of remorse Silas felt, or anger and frustration both Bella and Libbie had with each other--especially as Bella kept her secret. Amelia was one of my favorite characters to capture her various tones depending on her audience the moment and the events and how they altered her perception--or clarified her position. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1293", "attributes":{"class":"media-image wp-image-3360 size-medium", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"300", "height":"200", "alt":"LaurasVoiceheadshot"}}]] Laura   Amelia was really fun to write! What do you think would surprise the rest of us about your work as a voice actress? Perhaps the people I've consulted in an effort to get the correct pronunciation for a town. A lot of terms I can Google--but not all! Taneytown, as it's pronounced, cannot be found ANYWHERE on the Internet! I ended up calling the Adams County courthouse and asked the first person to pick up the phone how she pronounced it! For other projects, I've consulted scientists for help with nine-syllable chemicals and related formulas; a banker and our local economic development corporation for help in reading aloud the acronyms for various programs and forms needed to obtain the correct licenses. That may be one of the most fun tasks is tracking down the pronunciation or accent that a story requires and once I've had success--! I usually have to call my mom to tell her I did it! My dogs just aren't quite enthusiastic enough. I think the other thing is that, locally, people are quite surprised someone in a town of less than 9K is the voice for books they very well might listen to--it's always nice to see the wonder on a person's face. :) That is so neat! Thank you so much for being with us and sharing how you do your job! I found it fascinating! Listen to the first scene of Widow by clicking "Play Sample" on this page. If you enjoyed this "behind the scenes" post, you may also enjoy: Behind the Scenes: The Making of a Book Trailer Revealed: Evolution of a Book Cover The Writing Life: A Single Scene in the Making

Gettysburg Diaries: Sarah Broadhead's Suspense in the Cellar

Wed, 2015-07-01 06:00 -- Jocelyn Green
On this day in 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, shed its small town tranquility as the most famous battle in the entire Civil War began. For three days, war would rage in fields and orchards, with farmers and townspeople alike caught in the crosshairs. Today I'd like to share with you one woman's perspective. The following is excerpted from my nonfiction book, Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front: Suspense in the Cellar [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"677", "attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft wp-image-228 size-full", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"124", "height":"179", "alt":"BB-homefront-cover_125"}}]]While Sarah Broadhead’s husband stayed in their Gettysburg home to protect it, Sarah and her child fled to a friend’s cellar in a “safer” part of town to ride out the fighting on the first day. There they remained huddled together all day, only emerging when the firing ceased. She recorded in her diary at the end of July 1: How changed the town looked when we came to the light. The street was strewn over with clothes, blankets, knapsacks, cartridge-boxes, dead horses, and the bodies of a few men, but not so many of these last as I expected to see. . . We started home, and found things all right. As I write all is quiet, but O! how I dread tomorrow. The next two days of battle, the Broadheads stayed together in their own cellar. Staying in the dark for hours at a time while the battle raged, the suspense was nearly unbearable. On July 3, Sarah wrote: Nearly all the afternoon it seemed as if the heavens and earth were crashing together. The time that we sat in the cellar seemed long, listening to the terrific sound of strife; more terrible never greeted human ears. We knew that with every explosion, and the scream of each shell, human beings were hurried, through excruciating pain, into another world, and that many more were torn, and mangled, and lying in torment worse than death, and no one able to extend relief. . . Who is victorious, or with whom the advantage rests, no one here can tell. It would ease the horror if we knew our arms were successful. As Christians, we are in spiritual battles of our own, and we see the physical evidence of sin in every corner of the globe. Man’s inhumanity to man is often incomprehensible, and natural disasters from floods to fires cause tremendous heartache and destruction. But unlike the Gettysburg citizens hiding in their cellars, we don’t have to live in suspense about who holds the ultimate victory. Jesus had victory on the cross, and He is victorious in the end. When you feel attacked, remember that you are fighting on the winning side! Prayer: Lord, I praise You that You are victorious—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega, Almighty God! “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” ~Revelation 19:6 ___________________________ [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"771", "attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft wp-image-891 size-full", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"125", "height":"193", "alt":"Widow cover 3 125"}}]]Sarah survived the battle and offered her nursing help to the wounded soldiers being cared for at the Lutheran Seminary building. Her diary of the weeks during and after the battle has proven to be one of our most valuable eyewitness accounts of the civilian experience. Stories like Sarah's inspired me to bring these women's voices to life with my novel, Widow of Gettysburg, in which Sarah plays a small but important role. I am so pleased to report that just last month, a marker was dedicated at Sarah Broadhead's grave to honor her contributions. If you liked meeting Sarah, you may also enjoy 3 Heroines of Gettysburg. Learn more about Widow of Gettysburg here, or view the one-minute trailer below for a taste of the story.

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