Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Ahem. I have a confession to make.

For you wonderful people who have participated in the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt and followed through on subscribing to my blog in order to receive a free copy of my novella, Reforming Seneca Jones—what I meant to request was that you sign up for my newsletter on my website home page, which is here:


Of course, there’s nothing wrong with subscribing to my blog…except that I don’t keep up with it as regularly as I should anymore! Signing up for my newsletter will get you a brief email from me, about four times a year—just giving you updates on what I’m working on, any appearances/book signings, etc, and of course new books! Also, that way I can pass along alerts to special deals run by my publisher, Amazon, or myself.

With that said, I will certainly honor your request for the novella, so I’ll send the download instructions along to your email address as soon as my hair is no longer on fire (it’s that time of year for high school teachers).

Carry on!


Read Full Post »

Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! I am a part of TEAM PINK, and this is Stop #5. If you’re just joining us, there are two loops—pink and purple—and they begin at Lisa Bergren’s site and Robin Hatcher’s site for stop #1 for either stream. If you complete either the pink loop or purple loop, you can enter for a Kindle paperwhite and the 17 autographed books from that loop. If you complete BOTH loops, you can enter for the Grand Prize of a Kindle Fire HDX and ALL 34 autographed books.

BE SURE to keep track of the clues at the bottom of every post in the loop and the favorite number mentioned. You’ll need those clues to enter for the loop prize and every number mentioned in order to enter for the grand prize.

The Hunt begins at NOON Mountain time on April 16 and ends at midnight Mountain on April 19, 2015, so you have a long weekend to complete all 32 stops and maximize your chances at prizes!

ALSO, please don’t use Internet Explorer to navigate through the loops. Some web sites won’t show up using IE. Please use Chrome or Firefox—they’re better anyway!

Without further ado, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to my guest for the Scavenger Hunt, Elizabeth Goddard.

goddard-LR-1 (2)

Elizabeth is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than twenty romance novels. A seventh generation Texan, Elizabeth graduated with a B.S. degree in computer science and worked in high-level software sales before retiring to home school her children and fulfill her dream of becoming an author. She currently makes her home in Minnesota, where she works with her husband in ministry. Find out more at elizabethgoddard.com, facebook.com/elizabethgoddardauthor, twitter.com/bethgoddard.

Here’s the summary of her latest book, BURIED:

Nowhere To Hide…

Fleeing to Alaska is the only option for Leah Marks after witnessing a murder. Afraid for her life, the legal investigator hopes a remote cabin will be a safe shelter. But the killer has tracked her to Mountain Cove. As he chases her into snow-packed Dead Falls Canyon, an avalanche buries them both. Saved by daring search and rescue specialist Cade Warren, Leah longs to tell him the truth. But how can she, without bringing even more danger into Cade’s life? Especially when they discover the killer is very much alive and waiting to take them both down.

Mountain Cove: In the Alaskan wilderness, love and danger collide

And here’s her EXCLUSIVE content, that you’ll only find in this hunt!

Avalanche Specialist: A Day in the Life

In BURIED, my hero is an avalanche specialist. That title covers a wide range of responsibilities, but mainly he’s a forecaster. Until I began research for the story, I had no idea there was such a job! I contacted an avalanche specialist to get details. He shared what he does for a living and his day-to-day activities. An avalanche specialist is an expert who works to keep people safe on the mountains and in urban areas where an avalanche can wreak havoc.

All photos by Bill Glude
He first gets experience on ski patrol, the best way to learn everything about avalanches. Ski patrollers get out early and assess the hazard by digging snow pits and setting off explosives to trigger avalanches in a controlled environment—all of this before the public hits the slopes.

After spending years doing this, a person gets a feel for the mountain, snow and backcountry terrain. Being in top physical condition, along with superior mountaineering skills, is also a requirement. And for a top job as a forecaster, an avalanche specialist needs a college degree in a technical or science field such as meteorology, engineering, geology or glaciology.

The work is grueling, and the pay isn’t always great. He lives and breathes avalanches. Lives are at stake.

But an avalanche specialist spends hours in the pristine mountain backcountry. He sees terrain and scenery that most never see. He skis or snowmobiles. Lives on the edge. Plays with explosives. Best of all, he saves lives!

So what does his day look like? Let Cade Warren tell you:

My day starts at 5 AM. I check temps, look out the window, record the weather and study weather websites as I get ready. At the office I work on the forecast that goes out at 7 AM so people can plan their day. Any changes in weather or avalanche warnings go out by 4 PM, again so people can plan their evening.

On field days, two of us work together for safety reasons, while others remain at the Mountain Cove Avalanche Center to monitor and report weather. We check paths, monitor loading and wind at starting zones, and study paths through binoculars, recording activity and conditions. When we forecast over Mountain Cove, we test slopes next to the starting zone that would affect the houses below. That requires helicopter access.

In case of extreme danger, an alert goes to the city, the National Weather Service, and SAR teams and media. During avalanche season, we’re in the field at higher elevations observing first hand. If we’re caught and a helicopter cannot return, then we have a designated path to ski down. Field work can take all day, taking pictures and making notes before skiing back down. At home I continually monitor conditions, especially during inclement weather. This sounds simplistic, but it’s too complex to explain. Avalanche stability evaluation includes observation, slope and traveling tests, and snow pit studies.

And there you have it—a day in the life of an unsung hero of the mountains!


Thanks for stopping by on the hunt! Before you go, make sure you WRITE DOWN THESE CLUES:

Secret Word(s): The

Secret Number: 12, for the number of steps in the chromatic scale

Got ‘em down?? Great! Your next stop is #6, Elizabeth Goddard’s site. Click on over there now. And if you get lost, a complete list of the loop with links can be found at our mother host’s site.

One more thing before you head out—I’m offering an extra treat for anyone who signs up for my newsletter: a free electronic copy of my novella “Reforming Seneca Jones”! Just fill out the subscribe form on my home page.

Read Full Post »

young woman adjusting stockings by the windowThe following post is Part Two of an article I wrote for Angie Arndt of http://seriouslywrite.blogspot.com. Angie is posting the first half of the article at the above link, so if you haven’t read it yet, you might want to hop over there for the introductory section, then come back here for the rest. This comes in celebration of the release of my brand new historical romance, The Pelican Bride!


I’ve learned my own rhythm of composition. I know when I need a large quantity of time alone in my “writing cave”—and I’ve learned to unashamedly, firmly, but kindly insist on being left alone. I’ll call a substitute for my kids’ Bible study class so I can stay home and focus. I’ll take a day or two off from work (not too often though!) or say no to a Saturday babysitting request.

On days when I know there are going to be constant interruptions—like a three-day off-campus conference with my choir students—I take along research reading material and my iPad for notes, so that when I have a few minutes to myself I can occupy myself with something that doesn’t take as much concentration as composition or editing. And I save monotonous tasks (like updating my website or transferring addresses into a newsletter list) for broken-up tracts of time.

One thing I’ve learned the hard way: if I don’t discipline myself, the work doesn’t get done. Bottom line, if you want to write a book, nobody is going to do it for you. I, for example, have to say no to Sudoku. I have to occasionally turn off my favorite writers’ email loop. I have to limit TV time to an hour before bedtime.

And, as a Christian writer, I must be careful of priorities—or I cannot expect God to honor my desire to write for his glory. Priority number one is devotional and prayer time. Every single day. Priority number two is protecting my relationship with my husband. He gets the best of me, not the leftovers. After that, I listen to the Holy Spirit, as I said earlier. Sometimes the teaching job comes next, sometimes it’s my kids and grandkids, sometimes church responsibilities, sometimes the fiction writing.

A common question I get is How do you do all that and not go nuts? Well, holding those things loosely is one thing keeping me sane. Letting any one of those titles—writer, teacher, musician, wife, mother—define me, take over my life, would be seriously unhealthy. I’ve seen people become filled with pride to the point that they fall apart when the gift is removed.

Another suggestion (besides the obvious thing of staying in church fellowship) for keeping it real is to foster close relationships with other Christian writers who can keep you accountable—both to the work of writing and to maintaining spiritual health. Besides my husband and my sisters and mom, I have two or three very close friends/prayer partners whom I would be lost without.

I hope I haven’t set myself up as an expert in time management. I struggle daily to fit in all that seems important—and still write potentially life-changing stories. All I know is that my life to this point has been one wild, surprising ride. Jesus has been in it with me from the beginning, and I cannot wait to see what he has next. I would love to hear others share things they have learned in the course of balancing this high-wire of life. What say you?

Read Full Post »


A Promise Kept cover

I would like to introduce my readers to a new book by my dear friend Robin Lee Hatcher. The only reason I haven’t read it yet is because it will release in a couple of days! Robin has been one of the most influential authors of my life, both personally and professionally. She has mentored and taught me (often without being aware) and many, many other Christian writers—and she has produced some truly groundbreaking novels in the Christian fiction marketplace. I’ll never forget reading The Forgiving Hour, early in my own publishing career. (Go. Get. That. Book.)

After, that is, you’ve read this new one! Personally, I can’t wait! And tomorrow I will post an interview with Robin about A Promise Kept.

A promise from God is a promise kept

Robin Lee Hatcher draws on her own personal pain to illustrate God’s goodness.

When Robin Lee Hatcher’s marriage ended in divorce, she was devastated.I’d been so convinced God had promised me that He would save our marriage,” the author says, but she quickly learned that sometimes God answers prayer in the most unexpected ways. In the following years, God used the pain of what appeared to be a failed marriage to draw her closer to Him. In A Promise Kept (Thomas Nelson/January 7, 2014/ISBN: 978-1401687656/$15.99) Hatcher draws on that personal pain to craft a story about a woman married to an alcoholic, a woman who has to learn the value and importance of surrendering everything to the Lord.



Despite the similarities to her own life, Hatcher notes, “Allison’s life is not the same as mine. I didn’t retreat to a mountain cabin nor have an aunt whose journals helped me discover truths I needed to know, nor did I withdraw from God during the depths of my grief as Allison does. But every lesson God teaches me eventually makes its way into one of my stories. That was certainly true of A Promise Kept.”



In A Promise Kept, Allison finds herself divorced despite her long-held belief that God would save her marriage. She’s left asking, “What became of God’s promise?” Tony Kavanagh had been Allison’s dream-come-true. They were in love within days, engaged within weeks, then married and pregnant within a year. Her cup bubbled over with joy . . . but years later, that joy had been extinguished by unexpected trials.



The day Allison issued her husband an ultimatum to get and stay sober or leave, she thought it might save their marriage. She never expected he would actually choose to walk out the door. She was certain God had promised to heal; it was clear she’d misunderstood. Now, living in the quiet mountain cabin she inherited from her single, self-reliant great aunt Emma, Allison must come to terms with her grief and figure out how to adapt to small-town life. But when she finds a wedding dress and a collection of journals in Emma’s attic, a portrait of her aunt emerges that takes Allison completely by surprise: a portrait of a heartbroken woman surprisingly like herself.



As Allison reads the incredible story of Emma’s life in the 1920s and 1930s, she is forced to ask a difficult question: Has she really surrendered every piece of her life to the Lord?



Drawing from her own heart-wrenching story of redemption and eventual reconciliation with her husband, A Promise Kept is Hatcher’s emotionally charged thanksgiving to a God who keeps His promises. “I hope readers will be encouraged to keep walking forward,” Hatcher says. “I hope, if they are in a troubled marriage, that they will seek God with their whole hearts and not act out of selfishness but out of obedience. I hope reading A Promise Kept will deepen their faith in a God who answers prayers, in His own way and His own time.”


Robin Lee Hatcher will be hosting a Facebook party on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 8:00 PM EST to chat with readers about A Promise Kept, give away copies of the book and reveal the grand prize winner of a social media giveaway. More details will be available on her Facebook page.


Advance Praise


“A beautiful, heart-touching story of God’s amazing grace, and how He can restore and make new that which was lost.”


~  Francine Rivers, New York Times bestselling author



“Hatcher’s beautifully crafted tale alternates between the past and the present. Allison and Emma are incredibly relatable characters, and readers are able to examine their own lives through the mirror of the novel’s events. Filled with family and faith, the author’s phrasing is exquisite and a treat to savor.”


~ RT Book Reviews Top Pick



“Hatcher departs from her more recent historical novels for this contemporary exploration of the conundrum faced by believers when they accept God’s word but can’t see it being manifested in their lives. Seeking refuge from the pain of her recent divorce, Allison Kavanagh moves to the remote mountain cabin in Idaho, bequeathed to her by beloved Aunt Emma… With the help of family and newfound church community, Allison reconsiders the trajectory of her marriage, and gradually works through her spiritual and emotional turmoil. The mountain setting is as appealing an aspect of this upbeat, well-paced novel as Allison, Emma, and their family and friends.”


~ Publisher’s Weekly


“Award-winning Hatcher’s latest is a story of love, heartbreak, and redemption… Hatcher’s inspirational novel dramatizes the perception that even when it seems like you’re alone, you are always a part of a greater plan.”


~ Booklist 


About the author



robinLeeBest-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She discovered her vocation after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. Winner of the Christy, the RITA, the Carol, the Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and many other awards, Hatcher is also a recipient of the prestigious RWA Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the author of 70 novels and novellas with more than five million copies in print.



Hatcher’s own experience being married to an alcoholic led her down an unexpected path. Her divorce, though painful, strengthened her faith and gave God the opportunity to save not only her husband but her marriage as well. Their reconciliation became the answer to prayer Hatcher had been waiting for and it became part of the deeply personal story she wanted to share with her readers in A Promise Kept.



Hatcher enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. Her main hobby (when time allows) is knitting, and she has a special love for making prayer shawls. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband, Jerry, make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with Poppet, the high-maintenance Papillon and Princess Pinky, the DC (demon cat).



For more information about Hatcher and her books, visit her online home at www.robinleehatcher.com, become a fan on Facebook (robinleehatcher) or follow her on Twitter (@robinleehatcher). 




Read Full Post »

I’ve always been a library geek. As soon as I started earning my own money, mostly from babysitting, I began to collect keepers—books I would take off the shelf and read over and over. Now there exists an obscene amount of reading material stashed on shelves and in closets and cubbies all over the house.

Like most professional writers, though, I came to a point where, if I wanted to be productive, I had to curb the addiction. Plus, I started getting a lot of books free, at conferences. Funny thing: a story that costs nothing has less appeal than one for which one plunks down hard cold cash. About a year ago I realized I hadn’t read anything for pleasure in, well…years. I guess Harry Potter was the last one. How could that be? Reading has been a life-threatening illness for me, since the days I sat in my father’s lap reading the funny papers with him.

So on a whim I decided to read a book that my best friend recommended so highly that she bought a whole crate to disseminate amongst her reading acquaintance. Um, I was hooked. Now here’s the crazy thing. It’s an epic fantasy series to the tune of 300,000-400,000 words a pop—with a gazillion viewpoint characters, weird spellings, maps, supernatural heebie-jeebies, blood and gore, and—you name it, everything I hate in a book (Do not take this as a recommendation; The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin is not appropriate reading for young and/or squeamish readers. There is sexual and language and violence content that I had to judiciously skip over.).

But I can’t put it down. I think about the characters at odd moments. The tangled relationships and mythology satisfies some story itch I didn’t know I had. And I would never list fantasy as my favorite genre, in fact it generally makes me stick a finger down my throat.

I want to learn to write like this. So I sat down and tried to list the things that keep me glued to the page. Here they are in no particular order:

10. Reality is Relative

If the story world is laid out and developed carefully, even a fantasy becomes so “real” that the reader instinctively knows when something is “off.” I think that’s part of the fun of reading fiction. To guess and predict what might happen but maintain enough curiosity to follow the story to the end, to see if you’re right.

Usually I am not patient enough as a reader to wade through paragraphs of description of alien trees and life forms, but even a wall of ice becomes a character in its own right, if the form of it, the age of it, the thickness of it, is built so integrally into the plot that it couldn’t be extracted without damaging the fabric of the story.

This tells me something about the spiritual element of the genre I choose to write. Religion is going to be alien (i.e. unrealistic) to some readers. Those folks might not be my “target audience,” but I could potentially draw them in, if the “God element” is treated as an invisible character, with traits as attractive/interesting/critical to the plot as any other.

9. The Darker the Struggle, the More Powerful the Payoff

There is a place for lightness and escapism. I’m a fan of comedy, musical theater, rom-com. I have written and performed all of the above. By the same token, I avoid tragedy like the proverbial plague. Oprah’s Book Club choices used to make me want to stick a pencil in my eye. I occasionally tried to be all highbrow and read one, but I would get maybe through a chapter and think, “Life’s too short to invite depression. Give me a happy ending any day.”

Then I realized that a large part of my enjoyment of Martin’s fantasy series was the vicarious relief I felt when the protagonist was delivered from a place of dark struggle. I had come to passionately care for Jon Snow, to worry when he faced painful circumstances, to agonize with his loss of love and trust. It’s a difficult thing to put my own characters into a crucible, because I love them, and because their emotions are my own. If they’re in pain, I’m in pain. I just have to remember that deliverance is coming. Gotta have that happy ending…eventually!

8. The Hero Could, and Probably Will, Die

There’s some unwritten rule of the romance genre, that the hero must never die. So when I came to the quarter point of Game of Thrones, and the point-of-view character who seemed to be the lead was beheaded, I threw the book across the room. What the heck? Really?

After I calmed down and reluctantly began to read again, I realized what was going on. This writer could not be trusted. If Ned could die, literally anything could happen! And that was sort of freeing. All was lost, but All Was Not Lost…sort of like in the Bible, in the sense that Jesus had to die in order for His followers to live. So in a way, this is an extension of Number 9. I must be willing to take my hero/heroine all the way to death and back again, if I want to create the ultimate story experience for my readers.

7. Ugly is More Interesting Than Beautiful

Okay, if I can find myself rooting for a hero who is less than 5 feet tall and has lost most of his nose in a sword fight, or a homely 10-year-old girl, what does that say? It says my job as a writer is not to make my heroes fantasy-level beautiful, but rather to develop their inner psyches, to make sure their actions reflect heroism, to the point that the reader begins to cheer for them, identify with them, indeed feel their emotions on a visceral level. And I think that goes, again, back to Number 9. Take them to a place of darkness and fear, and allow them to fight their way out.

6. Questions Are Better Than Answers

I quickly noticed something about the structure of Martin’s stories. Every chapter, nearly every scene, ends with some dramatic question, which is followed by a scene from the point of view of a different character, and the original question is not answered until several scenes later.

I have to confess, this made me crazy, at first. But it also made me read faster and kept me glued into the story, impatient to find out what was going to happen to answer that question…and then I would get caught up in the present character’s action/dilemma, and the cycle continued… until several hundred pages later, we would have a boiling mass of action and complicated story threads that somehow miraculously connected into one giant story.

Obviously, there has to be an ending somewhere. And the payoff had better be pretty spectacular to justify this bait-and-switch structure. But I have been challenged to stretch my own story-telling wings and try that delayed gratification technique a little more often.

5. My Vocabulary Isn’t as Big as I Thought

Some conventional writing wisdom says that for maximum sales impact, one should write to the fourth grade level. Mr. Martin didn’t get that memo. More than once along the way I’ve had to resort to the dictionary to check my understanding of some wonderful word, though the context made it fairly clear. And I love it. New words! New verbal colors to put in my paint box!

And why should I not give my own readers the full range of that paint box? Why settle for a generic sketch, when we could have a master work? Viva education!

4. The Past Explains the Present

Martin makes no effort, at first, to explain his characters’ sometimes bizarre, cruel, and anti-social behavior. But in bits and pieces, we get into the thoughts and memories of those people, until that inexplicable behavior in the present story becomes perfectly logical and justified, in some cases even heroic. This is the genius of creating characters who may not be “likable” in the traditional formulaic sense, but who are sympathetic, in the sense that we identify with their motivations in a psychological and/or spiritual sense. I’ll find myself thinking, Well, if that happened to me, I might feel/say/do the same thing. Certainly Martin is capable of creating truly evil, despicable characters, but it resonates deeply with me that anyone who is abused or tortured long enough can descend to almost anything. And often, it takes little to make most of us act out of purely selfish motives. Original sin, and all that. Biblical concept.

3. Flashback is Not a Dirty Word

The longer I write for a living, the more I question some of the carved-in-stone “rules” I learned as a newbie, the more I understand them to be rather guidelines for clarity. One such rule of thumb involves the use of flashbacks as a storytelling technique. Conventional wisdom prohibits a flashback in the first few pages of the story. There’s wisdom there, as rapid shifts in time frame can cause reader confusion. Also, long flashback scenes tend to slow or stop action in the present story. But when skillfully woven into a character’s reaction to present action/dialogue, memories can deepen and enrich the reader’s experience, creating closer identification.

Think about it. We are created to be reflective, empathetic beings. What we see, hear and experience makes us remember and think about other things we have seen and heard and experienced. We compare and contrast, we project and worry about what could happen, we try to interpret. Any writer who can smoothly take me so deeply into a character’s psyche, that I don’t even notice that I’ve been in his or her “past” for several pages, has discovered the art of identification.

And that, friends, is fiction gold.

2. Villains Are People Too

This point is related to #4 above, but it deserves a little elaboration. For a long time, I thought of the “villain” or “antagonist” as a necessary evil, if you will, of novel construction. The hero, I reasoned, can be only as heroic as the villain is evil. Well, thats’s sort of true. But a more complex, perhaps more mature way to think of it, as I heard one writing teacher say, is that every villain is the hero of his own story. His actions should be just as well motivated as the hero’s.

How much more compelling is Darth Vader, how much more powerfully frightening is he, when we understand that he once was Jedi, and his evil comes from a frustrated craving for the power and recognition he thinks should have been his? Another good example is in the musical Wicked, where every good character from The Wizard of Oz is turned upside down, and vice versa. Perspective is everything.

So, as I plot these days, as I work on story arc, I spend a lot of thought and research on my antagonist. He or she must be the perfect foil for the hero, with hopes and dreams and disappointments of his own. Specificity creates identification in the reader. Reader identification is the goal.

Character Trumps Genre

Romance has been my go-to genre since I was a teenager. Romantic suspense, historical romance, romantic comedy, inspirational/Christian romance. But mostly I read for author voice and character development. So when I find an outside-the-romance-box writer who can get me deeply invested in her characters’ lives, I am sold. Every time. Western. Mystery. Chick lit. Young adult. Even science fiction and fantasy, which used to glaze my eyes.

So what have I learned from my least-favorite genre (not counting literary, which is another kettle of fish completely)? That creating characters which transcend genre doesn’t just happen–it takes the hard work of plotting, research, wordsmithing, psychological truth, and honesty. It takes the will to enter dark, untraveled emotional places, the courage to take risks, break rules, turn formula and cliche on its head.

Above all, I have learned how much there is to learn about the craft and the art of storytelling.

Read Full Post »

In High Places by Tom Morrisey

I hardly ever write book reviews anymore, particularly for books I haven’t yet read. For one thing, this blog is not about sales and promotion, except incidentally as the subject arises. But today I received notice that a good friend of mine, Tom Morrisey, has a book being offered FREE in electronic form for the next few days, in time for Fathers Day. I have already downloaded In High Places and plan to gift it to my son, who is an avid reader. (Aside: I have read and enjoyed other books by Tom.)

My first connection with Tom was through one of our mutual publishers. We met at an author retreat in Grand Rapids a few years ago, where we had a chance to encourage one another in writing and family and ministry. I discovered Tom to be funny, warm, adventurous and a knock-your-socks-off writer. In fact, he’s so good that the Disney corporation hired him to be their on-site “writing guru.” He currently suffers for Jesus in Micky World, Florida!

In High Places is a Christy Award finalist about the journey a father and son each take to deal with their loss in their own way. I hope you’ll take advantage of this great offer as an introduction to a wonderful author.

Here are the URLs:




iBook: Available through the app or the iTunes Store

Read Full Post »

See, I have this friend. She writes, too. Yes, one of those people. A few weeks ago she emailed me to see if I would like to help her use some gift certificates to a spa. Spend a day with nothing to do but sleep, eat, read and write? Oh, yeah, I’m game. Twist my arm.

So here we are, lounging in the Battle House Hotel Spa Quiet Room, barefoot and dressed in fluffy chenille bathrobes. Recessed lighting softened by the orange glow of a fire pit. The muted roar of a hot tub background to twanging sitars in the sound system. Leafy palms and ferns tucked into a couple of corners, and candles glowing on glass-topped tables.

A girly room.

I’ve been here more than seven hours, and I’ve had a manicure and a nap, I’ve eaten lunch, worked a crossword puzzle, read a couple of articles about historic Mobile. It’s time to write. So I sit here daydreaming, thinking about the historic Battle House Hotel. Wondering about the journalists and politicians and everyday people who stayed here when it first opened, prior to the Civil War.

As it happens, my first completed manuscript—which was my eleventh published novel, Redeeming Gabriel—contained a couple of scenes set in the Battle House. I wrote those scenes purely from imagination and a couple of history books, because at the time, the Battle House had been long closed and fallen into disrepair. It has since been restored to glistening, luxurious splendor, complete with crystal chandelier in the domed atrium of the lobby and antebellum mural in the grand ballroom. It’s delightful to walk through, gaping at the columns and parlors, even more beautiful than I’d imagined them.

If you’ve read Redeeming Gabriel, you didn’t find those scenes. The manuscript was published by Steeple Hill Books for their inspirational romance series, Love Inspired Historical. That won’t mean anything to most people, but prior to ebook days, series books were constrained by word-count—read: short. The original manuscript was way too long, so my editor insisted on chopping off the first two-and-a-half chapters. I reluctantly agreed (to me it was like hacking the nose off a sculptured bust).

Anyway, as I was thinking about the Battle House and those cutting-room-floor scenes, I thought it might be fun to polish them up a bit and plant them here for my handful of die-hard fans. If you haven’t read Gabriel (whose ancestor, by the way, is the hero of my Work-In-Progress, The Pelican Brides), it’s available here.

Enjoy this deleted scene!
At the western edge of the city of Mobile, Gabriel Laniere paused and pulled off the disreputable slouch hat he’d found somewhere on the side of the road. Slapping it against his knee, he knocked off a cloud of dust and plopped it back onto his head. A stream of sweat dripped off his blistered and peeling nose. He had ridden in a straight shot from New Orleans for a day and a half and couldn’t decide which would be most welcome—a bath, a meal, or a good night’s sleep. He sat his no less travel-weary gelding and wished he could go back to those simple times he’d spent on the Texas plains. No war. No orders. No people. No women.
Well, he supposed women were people in the loosest sense of the word. He’d rather argue with a greenbroke mustang any day, but he was going to have to deal with one this very night. Not only deal with her, but entrust to her everything for which he’d been working for the last six months. His very life would be in her lily-white hands. The knowledge made him bare his teeth in a snarl that sent a little colored girl, pushing her hoop past him, scurrying as if the devil himself was after her.
At the sight of those rolling eyes and bobbing pigtails and the pink soles of her flying feet, he chuckled and chirruped to the horse. No sense putting it off.
Gabriel had more than once cursed Admiral Farragut’s courier system, which forced him to depend upon other agents. He had to admit, though, that it eased the transmission of time-sensitive tactical intelligence. He knew for a fact that New Orleans’ surrender would have been delayed by several months, maybe even a year, if he’d had to leave the city in order to deliver information. Gabriel was to report this time through one Delia Matthews, an actress who traveled aboard an Alabama River showboat.
An actress. Gabriel snorted with disgust, and the bay danced at the jerk on the reins. “Sorry, fella.” He settled the horse, but his thoughts continued to seethe. He of all people knew better than to trust an actress.
He really had no choice except to meet the woman as planned. The information he had to give her was so incredible that only the influence of Farragut’s stepbrother, David Porter, had convinced the Admiral that his favorite agent hadn’t simply cracked under the enormous pressure he’d been under for the past year.
A boat that traveled underwater. Unthinkable.
But the fishboat was real—or had been, before it was hastily scuttled by its inventors just before New Orleans surrendered. And more than one source confirmed that the financiers and designers had removed to the nearest Confederate port to try again. The military implications of such a vessel boggled the mind.
Gabriel was determined to not only annihilate such a tool for the enemy—but to seize the plans as contraband. No matter what he had to do to get them.
He rode through downtown Mobile and reached the famous Battle House Hotel, named not because it had anything to do with the war, but for the family who had built it. Presidents, entertainers, journalists—everyone who was anyone had spent some days basking in its luxury. Even the livery stable was appointed in the first style of quality, its whitewashed shingles neat and free of the mildew that blackened most wooden buildings in the city.
Gabriel left the bay in the care of a decrepit but genial Negro, who grinned toothlessly when Gabriel flipped him a coin.
He crossed the muddy yard to the grand entrance, where he had to scrape his boots before entering the elegant lobby. Last time he’d been in this city, he’d barely had boots on his feet, much less a horse of his own and money in his pockets. In fact, the day he left some ten years ago, he’d possessed little more than the clothes on his back, a head full of useless knowledge, and a mountain of pride.
Remarkable how time could change one’s perspective.
Mobile, which had once seemed to him the embodiment of gaiety, arrogance, and self-absorption, now neither impressed nor intimidated him. He’d seen Boston, New York, St. Louis, and other cosmopolitan cities that made this little backwater town rather an object of pity to him. Indeed, he could almost forget his resentment.
Almost, but not quite.
Shrugging off bitter memories, he headed for the registration desk, his boots sinking deep into a plush oriental carpet. The fourteen-foot ceiling dwarfed even his six-foot frame, and the wrought-iron railing of the oval atrium drew his gaze up and up to a sparkling crystal chandelier hanging two stories above. He gave a soundless whistle. His stay here was going to cost the United States a pretty penny.
Behind the registration desk, a prune-faced woman dressed in black bombazine sat behind the counter knitting what appeared to be a deformed stocking. “Livery’s in back,” she said without looking up.
“I’ve been to the livery. I need a room.”
The flying needles paused as the woman looked up and took in Gabriel’s heavy, unkempt beard, singed hair, and wrinkled clothes. “I’m afraid—” Her gaze lit on the gold half-eagle Gabriel had flipped into the crease of the book. The pursed lips softened. “Ah. I believe Governor Slough checked out just this morning.”
“How fortunate.” Gabriel smiled. “Then maybe you could show me to my room.”
“I’ll call Sally right now. Sally!” The woman turned toward the doorway behind her stool. “Take this gentleman’s luggage up to—” She glanced at Gabriel, who shook his head. She sniffed and turned to the doorway again. “Never mind, ask Mr. Cottrill to step out here for a moment.”
“Thank you—Mrs. Battle, I presume?” Gabriel dipped the quill into the inkwell.
The woman simpered. “Oh, dear, no! I’m Lucretia Price-Williams. And you’re—” Glancing at the registry, she melted noticeably. “Oh, Reverend Leland! We’re honored to have you as a guest. Clergymen are always—” She broke off as a portly little man, notable for gray chin-whiskers bristling with self-importance, popped from a side parlor off the lobby. “Mr. Cottrill, there you are. Come meet Reverend Leland.”
Cottrill prissed up to the Gabriel and shook hands limply. His bald pate didn’t quite reach Gabriel’s shoulder. “How d’ye do, Brother Leland?”
Gabriel smiled. “To be perfectly frank, it has been a long ride from New Orleans. I’m ready for a bath and a meal.”
“Yes, I’m sure—won’t keep you a moment. General Withers made it policy some time ago that newcomers must be questioned by the Vigilance Committee—search out Lincolnism, you know.” Cottrill pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of his tight suit and mopped his brow. “Forgive the inconvenience, dear sir, but I must ask you to step into the parlor for a moment.”
Suppressing a sigh, Gabriel followed the man into a parlor decorated in the grand French style, where Cottrill sat down behind a cherry escritoire and motioned for Gabriel to take a seat in a brocaded Louis XIV wing chair. He complied as the Vigilance Committee noisily adjusted a stack of papers, dabbed his forehead, and cleared his throat.
“So pleased to have you, sir—er reverend.” Cottrill scrabbled in the desk for a quill. “That is, we hope your stay in our fair city will be a lengthy one. That is, will it?”
Gabriel hid a smile. “I may be here for several weeks. I am assuming responsibility for the churches of Reverend Tunstall.”
Mr. Cottrill tsked and looked sympathetic. “Naturally you’ll need time to acquaint yourself with your new flock.”
“I don’t know a soul here.” Gabriel sighed and glanced at the other man, whose whiskers fairly quivered with emotion. “I don’t suppose you could—No, no, I shouldn’t impose on such short acquaintance…”
“Brother Laniere, I am honored—” The good man applied his handkerchief to his moist eyes. “I would be more than happy to introduce you to any parishioners of—which church did you say you are pastoring?”
“The First Methodist Church of Spring Hill. A young but growing congregation, I understand from the widow Tunstall’s communication.”
Mr. Cotrill pursed his lips in thought. “I shall write you a letter of introduction.” He fumbled in a lap drawer and produced a scrap of pink wallpaper. He proceeded to cover it with tiny, elaborately curly manuscript, mumbling aloud as he wrote. “…make you acquainted…the Honorable Reverend Gabriel Leland…late of—” Cotrill blinked up at Gabriel. “I beg your pardon, sir, what is your city of origin?”
“Boguechitta. Over in Mississippi.”
Mr. Cottrill brightened. “A most felicitous little community. I visited my wife’s family there not a fortnight past.”
Forcibly reminded that southern families invariably extended their tentacles in unexpected directions, Gabriel decided he’d best extricate himself from this conversation as quickly as possible. “Mr. Cottrill, I deeply appreciate your hospitality.” He reached over to snick the wallpaper from his host’s pudgy fist and perused the salutation. “‘Mrs. Thomas St. Clair.’ A matron of some social stature, I assume?”
“Indeed, yes. Mrs. St. Clair will introduce you to any number of prominent citizens who can prosper your ministry.”
“I’m sure the good Lord needs all the help He can get.” Gabriel stood and ruefully indicated his own grubby attire. “But I can hardly pay my respects to such a grand dame in all my dirt. Is the Vigilance Committee satisfied as to my credentials?”
“Oh, dear me, yes.” Cottrill launched himself to his feet and motioned for Gabriel to follow. In the lobby he hailed the proprietress with a flap of his handkerchief. “Mrs. Price-Williams, Reverend Leland is cleared to take up residence in our city. I beg you to make him comfortable with every amenity possible.” After a jerky bow, he sprinted back into the parlor, leaving Gabriel to withstand Mrs. Price-Williams’ bellow for the long-suffering Sally.
Sally, a minuscule scrap of femininity in an enormous mobcap and apron, duly appeared and dipped a shy curtsy. “Follow me, sir.” She swung her starched apron sideways in order to maneuver it up the stairs.
Struggling not to laugh, Gabriel followed. Halfway up he touched her elbow. “Miss Sally—” The girl squeaked in surprise, and nearly sent them both tumbling back down the stairs. He steadied her with a smile. “I was just going to ask, what happens to those unfortunate souls who don’t meet the requirements of the Vigilance Committee?”
Sally fanned her rosy face. “Oh, sir, that ain’t never happened. Mr. Cottrill and Mayor Forsythe yap about how they gonna deport the abolitionists, but far as I know they ain’t no abolitionists in Mobile. You ain’t no abolitionist, are you?”
Gabriel winked. “Do I look like an abolitionist to you?”
“No, sir.” Sally giggled. “You look just like Jonah, steppin’ outa the whale! I ain’t never seen no preacher looked like you before.”
Gabriel tried to look pastoral. “Perhaps you could have a hot bath brought up, so that I might remedy that.”
“Oh! Yessir!” Blushing, Sally turned to wrestle her apron up the remainder of the stairs.
Gabriel followed, feeling a certain kinship with the reluctant prophet to Ninevah. Hail and brimstone would be too good for these southern traitors, and he hoped Farragut would find a way to blast their sleepy little port to smithereens.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »