Thursday, October 30, 2008

When I Was Just a Kid: Terry Whalin

(This interview first appeared on Chat 'n' Chew Cafe')

Do you ever wonder what someone like Terry Whalin was like as a child and teenager? What kinds of books inspired him as a child? Activities and first jobs? Someone like him--accomplished and a well-published author of over 60 books, an editor, literary agent, who works with the American Society of Journalists and Authors, teaching at conferences--who knows everyone and everyone knows him? Who has interviewed the likes of Billy Graham and Chuck Colson?

I did. And he was gracious to take time from his really busy schedule to reply to my probing into his past--with the same dedication that he gives an important deadline, I must add.He seems to have endless energy, as well as bottomless encouragement to those who want to write. And no wonder he does so well with teaching--whether at a conference or online in various venues--it is really in his genes, we find out. And how many authors do you know who would climb into a speeding bobsled,just to experience the blinding fast motion of his subject, Olympic gold medalist Vonetta Flowers, to write a book?

He patiently answers questions all the time from brand new writers or old pros. His book,Book Proposals That $ell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success. )

continues to sell to help writers create great book proposals.

And a life-changing moment came for Terry while he was a journalism student on the campus of Indiana University. That moment has in turn touched lives for years to come (or an eternity.)
From his bio:
A journalism graduate from Indiana University, Terry writes a wide spectrum of subjects and topics for the magazine and Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books and published in more than 50 magazines. For five years, he was an acquisitions editor at a book publisher, and now he is a literary agent at Whalin Literary Agency. Terry encourages writers of any level (from beginners to professionals) at To help people pursue their own dreams of a published book, Terry has written Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success.

Let's take a look at how Terry Whalin got started in life:

Childhood Ambition: Newspaper reporter chasing deadlines and stories
For most of my education, I had little idea what I would like to do with my life. I often thought about becoming a schoolteacher since this career is ingrained in my family DNA. My grandfather Whalin was a high school principal and superintendent in a small town in northeastern Kentucky. His father was a Kentucky teacher and the majority of his children (including my grandfather) went into some aspect of education. It's why the industrial arts building at Eastern Kentucky University is named after my great uncle Ralph Whalin. I'd say schoolteacher was as close to an ambition that I had beyond newspaper reporter.

Fondest Memory (then): Curled up on my granny's couch during the summers in Frankfort, Kentucky reading a stack of biographies from the library. I've always loved books and on those rainy summer afternoons, I pored through the pages of real life stories. It built something special into my background, and is probably why I love to tell the stories of others.Terry at age 3 at his home in Raceland, Kentucky

Proudest Moment (then): Two or three years in high school, I went to the finals in the National Forensic Society in the discussion category. Each weekend, I traveled with the speech team to a different part of the state to compete and it was a regular part of my high school life. I wasn't an athlete but I did get a high school letter in speech. Almost each weekend I came home with some place in the event--first, second, third, fourth or fifth. My parents gave me a lot of affirmation for this work.
A close second would be when I earned my Masters Degree in 1984. My parents both came for the graduation. It was a little replacement, because I blew off my college graduation ceremony (even though they invested a lot of hard earned money in that period of my life). Thousands graduated at the same time from my college but only a few of us achieved the Masters Degree at the University of Texas at Arlington in mid-year. It was a special experience for me.

Biggest Challenge as a child or teen: One of my greatest challenges came in junior high school (7th grade,) which is a difficult time for anyone. Our family moved from northeastern Kentucky to Townsend, Maryland (a suburb of Baltimore). People wonder about my growing up years in Kentucky and how little drawl is in my accent today--and it's because of this experience. I have clear memories of standing in the recess at the junior high and guys in my class surrounding me saying, "Say PENNIES for us, Terry." I had no idea how to say the word--but I quickly learned and changed my dialect of English--of course, it reverts back whenever I spend any time in that part of the country. My wife will look at me and wonder what has happened to me--but I naturally make the transition each time--then, to her relief, transform back to my normal dialect when I leave the area.

My First Job: In high school, I worked part time at the local newspaper. In general I wrote obituaries and clipped articles for their "morgue" (where the clippings were stored back then--something that is long gone, I'm certain). It gave me a taste of the journalism world.

Then, between my freshman year in college and my sophomore year, I worked on the railroad section crew. Yes, I drove spikes and shoveled gravel all summer with a bunch of guys in a beat-up work truck. I rented a room in Gaston, Indiana (not far from Crystal's home) and struggled to keep up with these stronger men. I would have been fired in the first two weeks except my father was a railroad executive. Whether they liked it or not (and I liked it or not,) I was there for the duration of the summer. I did make some good money toward my college that summer since the job paid well--much better than anything in journalism at the time.

Childhood indulgence: Playing pinball machines

Favorite Childhood Movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Favorite Childhood Book: One of the early Dr. Seuss books--and a little known title:
McElligot's Pool. I love this book and still have a copy.

Childhood hero: Superman, of course--comic and the old TV show--loved both of them.

As a child I never expected that as an adult I would: have the opportunity to write books similar to the ones I loved as a child. I'm thinking of some of my biographies that I've written about people like Billy Graham, Luis Palau, Chuck Colson, John Perkins, Sojourner Truth and Samuel Morris. It's been a thrill to put together these books and have them help others learn about these remarkable people.

Terry shares with us: "Where we've come from does feed into our lives as adults--but it's not the only factor. If we are open and constantly growing and changing, then we can do much more than we ever dreamed as possible. We serve a God which Paul writes about in Ephesians: He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think. I can think some amazing things and God is able to do above those thoughts."

Terry and his wife, Christine, live in Arizona where he has his literary agency and writes.

If you'd like to find out about his literary agency:

Need to know about blogs? Terry can help you there:

For Terry's blog, The Writing Life.

To find a copy of Terry's book, Book Proposals That Sell

Be sure to keep an eye on what he's doing--it can only help your own writing!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Virelle Kidder: Gifts for a Longing Heart

Virelle Kidder has a gift (and not just this gift at age 3 that you see above!) In fact she has several gifts! When I asked her What would you like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer and speaker whom you have become? she said this:

I grew up mostly in a single parent home. After my father left, my mother resumed her teaching career to support us. Although this was a less than perfect upbringing, she did her best to make our home inviting and always welcomed our friends. I appreciate how hard she worked for us to still be a “real family.” In my heart grew a deep longing, never expressed, to know whether God was real. I wanted to know the meaning of life, and where my father was once he died. It created a hunger in me that wasn’t satisfied until I met Christ, or He came to meet me, as a twenty-five year old. Single parents need the comfort that God is working on their child’s heart even if the child cannot express it. Children are much more open to God than adults. God hears every one of their prayers and longs to dry their tears.

Seeing Virelle how God saw her, I think you will agree that He took her gift of her heart and multiplied it abundantly!

Childhood Ambition:
To be a cowgirl and live on Roy Roger’s ranch.

Fondest Memory (then):
Playing in the woods with my girlfriend Barbie.

Proudest Moment (then):
Winning the 5th and 6th Grade short story contest in our district. I won my first Bible, which I hoped would give me the real meaning of life. I was just 10.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:
Grieving the loss of my father, who left when I was seven and died shortly afterward. Even though he was an alcoholic and mentally ill, I loved him greatly.

My First Job:
In college I helped a wealthy family by teaching English to their Spanish speaking maids and staying with their children in their absence.

Childhood Indulgence:
I don’t remember any. When I was sick, my mother bought me ginger ale and rainbow colored tissues to make flowers.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:
Six shooters, a red cowgirl hat and fringed vest. I also had cowgirl boots and a few things to dress up Barbie when she came over.

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:
Roy Rogers, Ed Sullivan, and Spin & Marty, an old TV series. I also loved the Today Show, news events, and Bob Hope. My brother and I watched shows like Dragnet but I pestered him constantly to explain what was happening. I loved the movie, “Around the World in 80 Days.”

Favorite Childhood Book:
Possibly the series Cherry Ames Student Nurse, and the Nancy Drew books. I didn’t read much as a child, honestly. My voracious reading habit began as a young mom living alone in the country while my husband attended grad school.

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:
Rollerskating, riding my bike, fishing, playing in the woods, exploring our old barn attic, visiting friends’ farms and seeing the animals. On rainy days I played “store” and paper dolls, and had a wild imagination.

Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child?
No, but I was always giggling and whispering in school. It was the only thing I ever got in trouble for.

Childhood Heroes: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Childhood Pets? First, Chummy, a Welsh Terrier who died when I was ten. My favorite pet was a little white parakeet I raised from a baby. It walked all over the house.

About Virelle Kidder:
For over twenty-five years Virelle Kidder has been writing and speaking about the love of God. She is funny, transparent, highly relatable and solidly biblical.

A full time writer and conference speaker, Virelle once hosted her own daily radio talk show in New York's capital district. Now she's a Florida resident, still focused on encouraging women on their spiritual journey. She is the author of six books including her newest release, Meet Me at the Well with Moody Publishers and The Best Life Ain't Easy, releasing in October. Just for fun, she's now working on her first murder mystery.

No doubt, you've met her before. Virelle served for many years as a contributing writer for Today's Christian Woman and enjoys being a mentor with the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild. She is widely published in national magazines such as Moody Magazine, Focus on the Family's Pastor's Family, Decision, Pray!, Journey, HomeLife, Tapestry and others, as well as many collected works. Her articles have been reprinted around the world in multiple languages.

Virelle and her husband, Steve, have four grown children and eight grandchildren and love their new life in Sebastian, Florida.

Virelle's Books:

The Best Life Ain't Easy, but It's Worth It (Moody Publishers, October 2008)

HERE NOW!! October '08 is The Best Life Ain't Easy, but It's Worth It, also from Moody Publishers. Often funny, sometimes sad, this spiritual memoir is really the story of the surprising, persistent, and patient love of God in an ordinary life. I hope it will encourage readers know God better and trust Him fully in their own lives.

Meet Me at the Well: Take a Month and Water Your Soul (Moody Publishers, 2008)

Feeling wrung out? Exhausted? Like God's asked too much of you lately? I could be your Queen.

Want to feel better? Not even Jesus was not immune from similar exhaustion. He knew that without renewal our spirit dries right up. We just can't keep going. Why else would God's closing words in the Bible be a shouted invitation to "Come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life."

This book follows a period months, maybe years, of being desperately parched, learning to sit still, open my spirit wide and let God ladle in Life again. Come. I'll take you there. You can find out for yourself. Foreword by Carol Kent.

Chapter One of Meet Me at the Well: Chapter One - "I'm Dying Here, Lord."

I'm no Wonder Saint. You're not either? Good.

If you find yourself currently overwhelmed by your responsibilities, torn in two by the needs of others, waking up begging for strength to get you through the next day, we might be related. Do people count on you to be strong but your emotional tank was empty long ago? I bet you wonder why God gave you more than you could possibly accomplish in one day, maybe a lifetime? Ever want to quit?

I'm your queen. May I be honest?

Here's what others are saying about it:

"Meet Me at the Well is for every woman who has ever tried to be all things to everyone and, more often than not, ends up spiritually dehydrated. Virelle Kidder is a master storyteller. Her transparent, captivating writing, coupled with God's enduring wisdom, offers a refreshing dive into God's word you cannot afford to miss."

—CARMEN LEAL, author & founder of SomeOne Cares Christian Caregiver Conferences.

"Meet Me at the Well is not just another Christian book. It's a way of life. This book shows us how to be safe in God's arms . . . to really, really believe He is there at the well for us every day."

—PATRICIA LORENZ, inspirational writer, speaker, & author; one of the top contributors to the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.

"Through Meet Me at the Well, Virelle Kidder lets us into her life and takes us with her on a month-long journey to dig down to our common source of Living Water. There we are directed to the Word and the truth that He is there, and will meet us, no matter what. I found her message real, warm, and reassuring, and I know many others will too."

—NANCY CARMICHAEL, author & former editor of Virtue Magazine

"If life has ever left you feeling so completely dehydrated that you could be blown away by even the slightest breeze, then this book is for you. Virelle's book is an oasis in the deasert. It provides a cool, refreshing drink for a parched soul."

—LINDA MOORE, Director, By Design Ministries

"With warmth and honesty, Virelle Kidder invites us to the spiritual well—not only to drink deeply of hope and love but to rest in our heavenly Father's lap. Read Meet Me at the Well and be refreshed."

—SANDRA P. ALDRICH, author and speaker

Donkeys Still Talk: Hearing God's Voice When You're Not Listening (Navpress, 2004)

Life is full of donkeys, those challenging circumstances that block our path from going where we want to go. God uses these donkeys to get our full attention, and speak with us in a brand new way, inviting us closer than ever before. The problem is, we can miss the message completely.

What can you learn from a donkey? A lot! Many times in life with my planner full, I've saddled up my donkey like the prophet Balaam in Numbers 22 and headed on a determined path until the road began to narrow and my plans unraveled. At times like these I've found that donkeys still talk and it pays to listen.

Encounters like these have shaped the course of my life and opened a surprising new sweetness in knowing God. They have also bent my will to the point of breaking.

Donkeys Still Talk is about waking up to hear God speak in the narrow places of our journey and finding the Father-child intimacy we were created for. Face-to-face encounters with God reassure us of His love, offer forgiveness of sin, the healing of wounds, and a quieted heart to learn His will right when we need it most.

Foreword by Liz Curtis Higgs.

Getting The Best Out Of Public Schools (Broadman & Holman, 1998)

Co-authored with her husband, Dr. Steven Kidder, an educational psychologist, Virelle Kidder partners her years of shepherding four children through the public schools with her husband's lifelong career in public education to offer this unique and inspirational tool for difference-makers. Whether you're a parent, grandparent, youth worker, administrator, or teacher, this book will give you an insider's guide to bringing positive change to your local school system. Includes an extensive “tool box” of resources.

Foreword by Dennis Rainey.

Loving, Launching, And Letting Go (Broadman & Holman, 1995)

Even with the best kids, the years leading to launch our children into their adult lives can be among the most stressful ever. With her four children finally on their own, faith in tact, Virelle Kidder wrote the book she wished she'd owned then. Full of fun, solidly biblical, poignant and practical, she tells you what no one else will:

How to know of your teenager is really ready to leave home.
How to help them avoid unhealthy entanglements.
Effective ways to urge a “late bloomer” out of the nest.
The hidden blessings of struggles, even failure.
How to build lifetime closeness as a family.
Foreword by Gail MacDonald.

Mothering Upstream (Victor, 1990)

From mother of four, Virelle Kidder, comes solid help and encouragement over the many hurdles mothers face.” The real truth about mothering is that it is the hardest job you will ever do, and that you are probably less prepared for it than you were for your learner's permit….mothering is also the most costly investment you will ever make, for it involves giving yourself lavishly for others, filling in the deep wells of self-centeredness in your life with acts of kindness, care, maintenance, and love." You will arrive, as every other mother before you, at the end of your own adequacy. When you find yourself needing your Heavenly Father every moment, even as you are needed by your children, you will be exactly where God wants you.

Virelle's Blog Got a Minute for God?

Need a conference speaker?
Virelle frequently serves as a keynote speaker and conference instructor at Christian writers' conferences around the country and abroad.

Here are Virelle's most popular conferences and seminars: (Also, see her web site:)

Meet Me at the Well
Three or four sessions for those seeking refreshment and renewal

Donkeys Still Talk
Three or four sessions on hearing God's voice in the midst of life's challenges and obstacles we can't move

When Your Mate Doesn't Believe
Three sessions

The Complete Woman
Three or four sessions leading the wounded person with us to a place of joy, healing, ministry, and purpose.

Please contact Virelle at

Fees available upon request.

The Christian Writers Guild
The Christian Writers Guild exists to educate, train, and support writers who desire to promote a biblically-based, Christian worldview through their writing. Find out more about their important mission and their influence on modern publishing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sandra D. Bricker: Heartthrobs R Us

(This is not Sandie Bricker, but one of her best friends, a collie named Sophie!)

Sandie Bricker knew she was going to be a writer way back in the day. Her dad reminded her of her proclamation as child again shortly before he died. And so it was true!

Now she has written one of the new Love Finds You books and I just saw the ad in a (Parable) Carpenter's Son Bookstore 25th Anniversary flyer (Lafayette, IN.) So cool.

Also, here's some trivia for you: Who sang "Billy, Don't Be a Hero?" Don't know? Well, not only does Sandie know, she took part in publicizing the 3 million records they sold to get a Gold Record.The song is even mentioned in Stephen King's The Stand. Sandie was still doing publicity for various heartthrobs up until she wrote her own heart-thumping novels.

So let's see what this rockin' dog lover who turns a romantic phrase to get the whole country swooning--city by city--was like, back in the Flower-Powered Days:

Childhood Ambition:

I don't remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer. In my professional bio, I tell the story of the prophetic nature of that ambition ... I was just learning to write cursive letters and, on a Sunday afternoon, I figured out how to string together the letters to sign my name for the first time. My dad fell asleep on the sofa while watching a football game, and I ran in and woke him up to declare, "Daddy, guess what! I'm going to be a writer when I grow up!" Of course, I meant writer in the most literal sense but, before he died, my dad reminded me of that day and said I'd always been a girl ahead of my time.

Fondest Memory (then):

I really have so many fond memories of my childhood. It wasn't idyllic or anything ... but I was happy. I spent most of my "formative years" (like the Wonder bread commercial) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Summers were spent running around barefoot, having neighborhood barbecues in the back yard and swimming in our pool or, later, on my dad's boat. (Photo below is of me and my best friend Marian on the boat on the 4th of July, 1979. She's still one of my best friends, all these years later).

Dad had this "secret recipe" for teriyaki steak, and he would always say that whoever helped the cook got the first taste. He'd been an officer in the Marine Corps, and he would often use this silver meat fork with U.S.M.C. engraved on the handle to give me the first bite. I still have that fork in my kitchen to this day.

Proudest Moment (then):

My proudest moment then was in my senior year of high school. I was a page editor on the Conestoga, the school paper, and the teacher who served as the advisor recommended me to write an article about our foreign exchange student, Jorgen, for the Cincinnati Enquirer. I recently found Jorgen on, and I emailed him. After my mom passed away, I found a clipping of that article in one of her books, and I scanned it and sent it to Jorgen, who lives in Paris now. (Photo below of the newspaper article in my mom's book)

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:

I've battled a weight problem for my entire life. In fact, I'm still battling it. But it was devastatingly challenging back then. Kids can be so cruel, and I endured a lot of heartbreak that was related to my weight. I pretty much idolized my older brother, and he was one of my harshest critics. And then there was the ongoing boy troubles, broken hearts, low self esteem that result from being overweight ... But I can say this: The scripture that says God turns all things to good for those who are called according to His purpose has been proven true many times over. I think our greatest challenges in life often turn out to produce our most profound lessons learned.

My First Job:

I was a sort of volunteer publicist at around age 16 for a local Cincinnati band that went national with a hit song. They were Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods, and the song was "Billy, Don't Be A Hero." The manager of the band (Bo's mother) offered to pay me and my best friend Joy if we would help organize fans to promote the record. I don't know whether to be proud, or if I should apologize at the same time(the song does tend to replay itself in your head!)to tell you that the record actually sold more than 3 million copies and earned a gold record. And the "paycheck" we got was being allowed to tour with them and being invited to rehearsals now and then. Not that we cared, of course. And by the way, I also found Joy again recently on! I should do a commercial for them.

I took those early skills and rolled them into a career later when I became a publicist for actors in the soaps (General Hospital and Days of Our Lives) in Los Angeles. While P.R. paid the bills, I studied my craft of writing, and my first book (a Christian YA adventure) was published in the early 90's.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:

I grew up in the 60s and 70s, so Flower Power fashion had a big impact on me. I had this shocking pink tunic that hung off the shoulder, with a bright turquoise sash that tied at the waist. I wore it with a skirt that was far too short for me and black go-go boots. I thought I was just as cool as Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In!

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:

The first show I can remember really getting into (and I think it was in reruns already when I found it) was The Dick Van Dyke Show. I thought Laura Petrie was so beautiful, and I wanted to marry a man just like Rob Petrie (Of course! He was a writer!). Then later, like every other kid my age, I fell in love with The Monkees (I was convinced I was going to be Mrs. Peter Tork), and I had an enormous crush on Ben Murphy from Alias Smith & Jones. But the life-changing tv show for me was Here Come the Brides. I wanted to be Candy Pruitt so badly, and find romance with Bobby Sherman up in the beautiful forests of Seattle! I just recently bought the first season on DVD, and I seriously found that I could say some of the dialogue right along with them. It left quite an impression on me!

Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child?:

I was a big note-passer all through school. I had a group of friends, and we just LIVED for writing notes to one another and folding them up like a flag in those diagonals. I had dozens of pen pals too, and sent around what they called "slams." I don't remember what that stands for, but they were little booklets where you wrote about your interests and then they were passed all around the country, and people with similar interests would write to you. So I had long distance friends who shared my interest in the Osmonds, movies, music, tv shows ... and did I mention the Osmonds? They were very key in a long season of my life back then. And guess who their opening act was on one of their tours! Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods. See how things come full circle?

Childhood Pets?:

I saw an Old English Sheepdog on a tv show called Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Well, I wanted one of my own so much, and I begged my parents for months to get me one. When my father finally agreed that I could have a dog, he came home with a little rat-like creature in his shirt pocket. It was a Chihuahua puppy ... which of course is about the furthest thing from a Sheepdog that there is. Corky lived for 16 years! Oh, and I did finally get my Sheepdog as an adult though; actually two of them, but my best buddy, Caleb, was with me for 14 years until he died of bone cancer. (Photo below)

Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?

I was fairly young when I met the love of my life. He passed away when I was 19, but he started something in me ... or perhaps watered a seed that had been there all along ... and I became a sappy, cry-at-commercials, grab-my-heart-over-love-songs, swoon-at-roses-and-chocolates, true believer in romance! I look back at those years as my beginnings as a writer, and particularly as a romance writer. All these decades later, I'm still a true believer. Love is a powerful thing, especially when it's paired with a hopeless romantic like me. I don't think I could stop telling these Happily Ever After stories if someone offered to pay me to stop!

Any special links? I am a freak about dogs. I love them. Every shape and size and color and temperament. I support several animal welfare organizations, but one of my favorites is the one that hooked me up with Sophie, my 3-year-old Collie, after losing Caleb. The Lost Angels Animal Rescue is a group of tireless warriors on behalf of homeless animals in the Central Florida area. They exist due to donations of time and finances, and I encourage anyone else who loves dogs to consider supporting them.

The daughter of a Marine Corps officer, Sandie has had the privilege of calling many states “home.” Her first book was published in the mid-1990s. Since then, she has published two young adult novels and four romances. Sandie’s books include romantic comedy, romantic suspense, and inspirational romance and have been successful in both general and Christian markets. Her published titles include Wish I Weren’t Here, UnWANTED: Husband, and Change of Heart.

Before Sandie published her first novel, she spent more than 10 years in Los Angeles working as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television’s hottest stars. She now resides in Tampa, Florida, with her best buddy, a Collie named Sophie. Sandie would love for you to visit her website,

Also, visit her Seasonal Blog.
Sandie is involved in writers groups for inspirational writers:
The Faith, Hope & Love chapter of Romance Writers of America:
American Christian Fiction Writers:

Summerside Press Each book will be set in a town somewhere in the U.S.

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas
by Sandra D. Bricker

Lucy Binoche is not an outdoorsy kind of girl!
In fact, her idea of "roughing it" is suffering
through a long line at Starbucks.
But will she pretend to be someone she's not
just to snag the guy? Or will she discover
someone who loves her just the way she is?

Laugh-out-loud romantic comedy
for the inspirational market.

Go here if you want to see her video!
Leave a comment for a drawing of this book--and if you don't win, it comes out October 1st in a store near you! Drawing will be October 10.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lynn D. Morrissey: The Singing Kid

Lynn is a writer (among many other things) now, but back in the day her hours were filled with French, her studies and musicals, along with very special people like her mother, daddy and MaMa. The warmth of family has sustained her and is part of her faith journey. When she grew up, she was able to draw upon those childhood memories in order to help others. She still sings, but also speaks,journals(is a journal facilitator,) writes, blogs, teaches Bible study and nurtures her family these days.

Let's take a look into the delightful childhood of the beautiful Lynn Morrissey:

Childhood Ambition:
Whether or not I had career aspirations before I was in grade school, I’m uncertain. My grandfather told my father upon my birth: “Well, Bill, you didn’t get a football player, but you got yourself a great little pie baker.” Despite that I can still make a mean strawberry pie and a luscious French fruit torte, I never had ambitions of becoming a French pastry chef.

However, when I entered fifth grade and Madam Colvis’s French class, I dreamed of teaching French just like her. Once each day, our class would ascend steep, winding steps into a loft at school that looked as if it were a replica of the garret in Puccini’s La Bohème. The walls were colorfully plastered with posters of Paris, a perfect setting for our very own teacher imported straight from France. I loved listening to her musical accent and whisper-soft speaking voice. What an inspiration she was. I loved everything about her—her classy femininity, her love for language, her ability to inspire, her challenge to aspire, and her constant verb-conjugating encouragement.

I took French all the way through my freshman year of college, but in the end, God had different plans. I’ve learned over the years to consult Him first before following my own agenda. Now I’m a journaling facilitator, author, speaker, and soloist. I still love French, though, and am grateful that my minimal conversational speaking ability was useful when my husband and I traveled to France, especially when we had to find the nearest bathroom! I also love singing in French (exquisitely beautiful art songs) and coaching our daughter, Sheridan, who currently studies la Français in high school. She too has fallen in love with la belle langue.

Lynn at three

Fondest Memory (then):
It’s impossible to select a single fondest memory; there are so many. I’ll share several. I was definitely a “Daddy’s Girl” and loved playing with my father. One of our favorite games we simply called "store." Daddy would allow me to drag out all the canned fruits and vegetables from the cupboard. We used a little red bank that he’d saved from his own childhood to sort and count change. I still have it today. But I also loved accompanying him to the real grocery. This was the highlight of my week, especially because Daddy always invited me to select my favorite treats. The best part of the jaunt, however, occurred when we were ready to go home. I’d stand at the “tail end” of the shopping cart. My father pushed the cart, racing to our car as I squealed with delight. My pony-tail flew with abandon in the wind.

Lynn with Daddy

I especially loved watching Daddy play horseshoes with his friends. This was his specialty, and he usually won. Other times, I’d watch Mother, Daddy, and their other friends play spirited games of Monopoly. When no one was looking, I'd put extra money on my parents’ stacks of bills. (I never told them this until I got older)! I guess that wasn't very nice, but it was my child’s way of helping them win. (That sounds good anyway!).

In the winter, our favorite pastime was tobogganing down "Suicide Hill" in the city park. My father was a big, broad-shouldered man, and I felt so safe sitting behind him, as he blocked the freezing snow that sprayed in our faces. Afterward, we’d head for a wonderful Italian bakery for piping hot bread, just out of the oven; we devoured it ravenously, and there was never any left by the time we got home.

It’s bittersweet for me to recall these memories, because I lost my beloved father on May 27, 2007. I miss him every single day. He was my biggest exhorter, always challenging me to keep getting published and never to give up. He championed all my books, and constantly queried, “What are you writing now?” Those words still echo in my mind.

And if Daddy was my strongest prodder, Mother was and is my most earnest encourager. She loved me unconditionally, encouraged my singing and writing, and listened endlessly to all my childhood ramblings and teen-age dreams. It was Mother who taught me to play the piano and to appreciate classical music and good literature. We still share these loves, and we’re best friends today.

I also have fond memories of my great-grandmother, MaMa. Stooped-shouldered and frail, she would suddenly spring to life at the sight of her great granddaughter, setting a kettle on the stove to boil. She brewed strong tea for herself and a child’s version for me—heavy on milk, light on tea, and liberally laced with sugar. We feasted on sandwiches, cakes, memories, and faith. I loved listening to Mama’s tales about her childhood in the South, life as a young widow, her grief at the death of her infant son Eric and how God had comforted and sustained her through the difficult years ahead.

MaMa often quilted as she talked, cutting calico scraps from her colorful dresses, from her colorful life. At times the pieces unraveled and she sutured them together with the same love that stayed my childhood fears and mended my heart into wholeness. Now I realize that as she shared, MaMa was painstakingly stitching together her story and mine, shaping one story, as intricate, variegated, and tightly connected as the patterns of her quilts. Because I had the privilege of knowing my great-grandmother, I received from her inestimable treasures. Today, I still wrap myself in her hand-made treasure: a now-worn quilt that she sewed just for me. More important, she wrapped me in her invisible gifts of love and faith that will never fray.

Lynn's MaMa

Proudest Moment (then):
My proudest moments always revolved around acting and singing. I played Mrs. Santa Claus in the fifth-grade play and often performed during the summers at a neighborhood center, where my Aunt Wanda was a social worker, responsible for musical productions. She introduced me to the world of singing.

Lynn with Santa before her days as Mrs. Santa Claus in fifth grade

Later in highschool, I played Tuptim in The King and I and Nellie Forbush in South Pacific. I won the musical achievement award as a senior in high school. Yet these personal achievements paled in comparison to the pride I felt when my father sang or when his mother, my Grandma Nina, played the piano. My father had a gorgeous bass-profundo voice that left me spellbound as he sang beautiful hymns, stirring spirituals, Gilbert and Sullivan arias, and his most-requested songs, “Old Man River” and “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” I literally felt chills whenever he sang. I experienced a similar thrill when Grandma Nina played hymns, Joplin rags, and songs from her heyday in the twenties and thirties. She could also “play on demand.” You could hum a tune, and she’d immediately mimic it by ear; her fingers just took off, frolicking across the keys of her old upright. Her playing sounded like a lively player piano.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:
I skipped a grade and was put into the “gifted program.” Translation: I did about four to five hours of homework a night. It absolutely consumed me. In retrospect, Mother said that she and Daddy would never have made the decision to enroll me, because it devoured my childhood. Perhaps all that studying and a subsequent move to a new neighborhood when I entered junior high accounted for how shy I became–almost debilitatingly so. It was certainly more than a challenge and led to real depression. In the end, my performing in choruses and musicals drew me out and helped me to communicate openly.

My First Job:
During my junior and senior summers at high school, I put down my school books, picked up a tray, and waited tables at Walgreen’s. During the sixties, Walgreen’s boasted both pharmacies and restaurants. I wore a crisp black-and-white uniform with a little white V-shaped apron, ugly white shoes (think old-time nurse shoes), and I swept my waist-length hair atop my head and secured it with a net. In those days, hair nets in restaurants, caps in swimming pools, and nurse’s hats in hospitals were standard requirement. (I have a theory that when boys started growing long hair, swimming caps were suspended, and have been ever since).

Having been sequestered in classrooms behind books for most of my life to that point, I found life at Walgreen’s to be a rude awakening to the real world. But it did provide a magnificent microcosm of the life to which I would eventually need to acclimate myself. I learned a lot: I had to be responsible and keep my commitment to work, whether I wanted to or not. I realized that there are “all kinds of people,” and they deserved good service (whether they were nice to me or not). I soon learned that the customer is always right (whether they were or not) and to serve with a smile. And I discovered that hard work is rewarded.

I received a number of dollar tips (a fortune in those days) for remembering customer’s preferences, like coffee or tea, or maybe just because people took pity on me. In fact, I wore my “trainee” badge for a whole year, just to engender their sympathy. But people weren’t too sympathetic when I spilled coffee. Once a whole table of people got up and moved when they saw me coming! Perhaps more than anything, working at Walgreen’s spurred me on to go to college so I could broaden my horizons.

Lynn in Baby Dress

Favorite Outfit as a Child:
Grandma Nina sewed me a lot of darling outfits, and I particularly liked a green jumper that she made me for St. Patrick’s Day. She always made sure that I was decked in green and gave me cute shamrock costume jewelry to wear. One Easter, my mother and I also wore look-alike Easter dresses, in yellow satin patterned with daisies. I was so proud to be her twin.

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:
What was not to like about television in the good old days? Parents never feared letting their kids turn on the tube. Nearly every sit-com was sweet, innocent, and Mayberryesque— and yes, I loved The Andy Griffith Show. Of course, everybody also loved Lucy, and so did I! Add to this list of favorites Sky King, The Lone Ranger, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, and Father Knows Best, and earlier, Captain Kangaroo, Popeye, and The Little Rascals. In high school I was a Patty Duke Show aficionado. As a child, I loved Shirley Temple movies, particularly Curly Top and Heidi, and the western, Shane.

Favorite Childhood Book:
When I was very small, Mother read to me wonderful books like Good Night, Moon, A is for Annabelle, The Real Mother Goose, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.When I could read myself, I relished Little Women, Eight Cousins, and Heidi, and in high school, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights. (I still love all things English.)

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:
As I’ve said, I loved to sing! I also played the piano and “played show” with Grandma Nina in her kitchen. Our favorite songs were from South Pacific. We even knew all the hand motions to “Happy Talk.” Grandpa ignored us and watched Perry Mason in the living room. Hmmm . . . I wonder what tells you about our performance prowess?

Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child?
Following in my mother’s correspondence footsteps (she had penpals for years in England, Scotland, Norway, and Russia), I had a French penpal named Martine Desbaisieux. She and I wrote for several years, but unfortunately we lost touch over the years. And yes, I most certainly passed notes in junior high and high school! It’s amazing that we girls could write and talk on the phone as much as we did, considering that we saw each other on a daily basis.

Childhood Hero:
Hands down, my father was my hero. He still is.

Childhood Pets?
I had a big gray cat named Claude. This was Daddy’s clever name for our nail-sharp feline (think “clawed.”). Claude started out sleeping in the garage, made his way to the basement, and eventually slept across Daddy’s feet each night. Sadly, he was put to sleep when he scratched my little sister’s eye, and she nearly lost her eyesight. Blessedly, she received excellent medical treatement and her eyesight was not seriously impaired in the end.

Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?

I never aspired to be a writer as a child. I made good grades in English, but I wanted to teach French. And in college, I switched majors and decided to become a music teacher. I didn’t pursue writing and speaking until much later in life. It was a colossal surprise to me when the Lord led me in this direction.

Yet, in retrospect, I can see how God used my mother’s exposing me to good literature and poetry and sharing her own passion for writing and journaling, to instill in me a love for language. I can also see how those long, laborious hours of isolation in doin homework prepared me to be an author. Today, I work alone at home for hours on end. School work also taught me rigorous discipline, and I need plenty of that to write.

Mostly God used my parents’ faith and their love for Him to draw me to Himself. We attended church every Sunday as a family, and we read His Word and prayed. These things more than anything have undergirded my writing and shaped me as a Christian.

LYNN D. MORRISSEY, Author/Speaker/Journaling Facilitator/Soloist
Dynamic author and speaker Lynn D. Morrissey is in the ministry of metamorphosis. An avid journal-keeper for over thirty years, she speaks passionately about the power of prayer-journaling to heal hearts. Through journaling, God has set Lynn free from suicidal depression and alcoholism. Lynn understands journaling as a unique means of enjoying intimacy with God, experiencing spiritual transformation, and noting life’s significance.

Lynn has facilitated journaling seminars for over ten years and her signature book, Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy through Written Prayer (Multnomah Publishers), is highly acclaimed. Lynn is the author of two devotional books, Seasons of a Woman’s Heart and Treasures of a Woman’s Heart (both, Starburst Publishers), contributor to numerous bestsellers, and an AWSA and CLASS speaker.

Lynn, her husband Michael, and daughter Sheridan live in St. Louis, Missouri, where Lynn served as executive director for the world’s largest USO. Lynn has a bachelor’s degree in vocal music and sang with the St. Louis Bach Society and St. Louis Chamber Chorus. She was also a director of Christian education, and currently pursues a journaling credential from The Journal Therapy Center.

Check out Lynn's regular feature on the Set Free Today blog. She is their resident journaling expert and writes a column every other Monday called Journaling Your Journey.

Sample of Lynn's blog entries:
Stones of Remembrance

As Lynn says: "God has used prayer-journaling to absolutely set me free from depression and a host of other difficulties. Journaling has been a powerful way to connect with God and to experience His joy."

Love Letters to God

Written by Lynn D. Morrissey
Illustrated by Katia Andreeva

Hardcover, 80 pages
Multnomah Books | Religion | January 2004 | $16.99 | 978-1-59052-189-2 (1-59052-189-7)
Women yearn to share their experiences with the Lover of their souls in a way that is honest and simple, yet deeply satisfying. The key to this intimate self-expression is prayer-journaling. By pouring her heart out on paper to God, a woman can enjoy God's loving presence, explore her purpose and passion, appreciate life's beauty and answer its perplexities, experience spiritual transformation, and leave a permanent record of God's faithfulness in her life. Love Letters to God is a woman's invitation to take a personal pilgrimage through her own 'sacred writings' to the very heart of God.

Story Behind the Book

Writing one’s prayers in a journal (unlike verbal or silent prayers) provides an actual safe place to grow spiritually and to enjoy and enhance a personal relationship with God. Verbal prayers are soon forgotten, but our "love letters to God" become a permanent place for exploring our hearts, a tangible testimony of God’s love and faithfulness in our lives, and a detailed document of our spiritual journeys. We can literally see the progression of changes in our lives as expressed on the "pages of our soul," our prayer journals, and we can see God’s answers to our prayers recorded there. Like the psalmists, many people have discovered that writing is the key to intimate self-expression, providing a deep, emotional catharsis that is often missing from their verbal or silent prayers.

Do you journal? Leave a message for Lynn about your experience and I'll draw a name to send Lynn's book.

Drawing will be on September 26th. Leave your contact information (yournameAT isp dotcom)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Janet Dean: When I Was Just a Kid

This interview is special to me in many ways. I met Janet as part of the American Christian Fiction Writers Indiana Chapter. She's a former teacher; so am I. She loves to draw, play golf and loves dolls; so do I. And then, her first historical romance novel was set in the town I was born in--Noblesville, Indiana! Janet is first class in my book.

Janet's childhood was filled with family storytellers. The creativity and stories from then have influenced Janet's writing today. Let's take a look at this beauty's past:

Childhood Ambition: At twelve I wanted to write. I illustrated my little romances, drawing my heroines in profile with turned up noses and long curly hair. I wish I had those stories today, but as I matured, they must have embarrassed me because I tossed them.

Fondest Memory (then): Christmas was a very special time in our house. Decorating the tree with icicles hung just so, singing Christmas carols, lighting a star-shaped candle, the excitement of Christmas morning with gifts under the tree. When we were little, my brothers and I woke before dawn. Some years our parents had barely gotten to bed, but they’d drilled into us that we weren’t to go downstairs until they were up.

Proudest Moment (then): Good grade cards. My dad was a teacher and I became one so perhaps that’s why I took such pride in my report card.

(Janet with her brothers above)

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen: The summer before I entered fourth grade, my family moved from a city suburb to the outskirts of a tiny community five hours away. It seemed everyone was either related or knew each other from birth. I was shy so making friends wasn’t easy.

My First Job: I babysat and picked strawberries for my dad, but I got my first real job during college. I took care of the younger children at an elementary school near campus while teachers had their lunch. I met my husband on that job. He oversaw the older children. We joined forces on the playground during recess. Soon children sang,” Dale and Janet sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First came love, then came marriage, then came Janet with a baby carriage.” LOL Not sure if that’s why he asked me out, but we started dating. That job gave me way more than a paycheck and five lunches a week.

Childhood Indulgence: Ice cream cones. Still love them.

Favorite Outfit as a Child: My mother made me a black velvet straight skirt. I was so proud of that grown-up skirt. I wore it to our extended family Christmas celebration and split the seams jumping with my younger cousins on my grandparents’ featherbed. I was devastated and red-faced to admit I wasn’t the young lady I believed myself to be.

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show: I loved all of the cowboy TV shows. I could watch one after the other and never tire of them. Still love the cowboys!

Favorite Childhood Book: Black Beauty.

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime: Reading and coloring. When I have the time, I now draw with colored pencils.

Childhood Hero: My mom. I thought she was beautiful. I admired her fun spirit, work ethic, and creativity. She was a quilter, made ornaments for our Christmas tree, could whip up a lovely meal and a couple pies, and volunteer in the community. I loved to sit on her bed and watch her get ready for formal occasions. I can still see her powdering her shoulders. I miss her.

Childhood Pet or Favorite Toy: The family dog, a shaggy mutt named Rags. He lived to a ripe old age, but we had to put him down following a stroke. A sad day at our house. Since then, I’ve developed allergies to cats and dogs. So our girls had hamsters, fish and a guinea pig for pets. My favorite toys were dolls. I still love them.

Favorite Subject in School: I loved school and liked all subjects except math. I don’t have a head for numbers, but fortunately my husband does.

See photos and more of Janet's writing journey at:

See what Janet's thoughts are at her blogspot:

Janet and her writer friends' blog at Seekerville:

Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?

I grew up in a family with a strong creative streak that cherished the past. My father recounted fascinating stories, like his father before him. Their tales installed in me a love of history and a desire to write.

Thanks for having me today, Crystal! I enjoyed it.

Courting Miss Adelaide

Mass MarketPaperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Steeple Hill (September 9, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0373827962
ISBN-13: 978-0373827961
The “orphan train” seemed like small-town spinster Adelaide Crum’s last chance to know the simple joys of family life. So many lost children, every one of them dreaming only of a caring home—the home she longed to offer. And yet the narrow-minded town elders refused to entrust even the most desperate child to a woman alone….

Newspaperman Charles Graves believed his heart was closed forever, but he swore to stand by this lovely, lonely woman who was fighting for the right to take some motherless child into her heart. And her gentle soul and unwavering faith made him wonder if even he could overcome the bitter lessons of the past, and somehow find the courage to love….

4 1/2 Stars, Romantic Times BOOK reviews

"Janet Dean's Courting Miss Adelaide (4 1/2) is a wonderfully sweet love story that includes facts about the orphan trains."

Like to win a copy of this book in a drawing? Just leave a comment with your contact information (your name AT
MARTHA A. WAS OUR WINNER!! Thanks so much for all the comments.

The second book in the Courting series, Courting the Doctor’s Daughter will release in May 2009.

Janet's Awards
Fascinated by history and the role of strong women in our nation's past, Janet brings both together in her faith-based love stories. Two of her manuscripts were 2005 and 2006 Golden Heart finalists. One of those manuscripts was a 2006 Genesis finalist.
You can also order at eHarlequin.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Seeing Double: Dayle Allen Shockley

Dayle (on left) with twin, Gayle at nine months

No, you are not seeing double, Dayle is a twin to Gayle! And while this is about Dayle, when you talk about one child, the other one is right there. Dayle has some wonderful memories, and she and Gayle also had their share of fears(read about it.) But like a good story that Dayle can tell, Dayle's scary story has a happy ending to her kid fear factor.

Dayle's childhood was the basis for some pretty solid values, which contributed to her Amy Award-winning editorial in 2001. I think you will love meeting Dayle(as I did) and at the end of this interview, look for the book she is offering in a drawing to a reader who leaves a comment. Let's read about the Delightful Dayle!:

Childhood Ambition: To abolish school.

Fondest Memory (then):
I should preface everything by saying that I have an identical twin sister, Gayle. We did everything together. Looked alike. Dressed alike. Talked alike. So when you ask about “my” childhood, it will almost always include her.

Dayle (right), Elaine and Gayle on Easter Sunday

One of my fondest memories was waking up one Christmas morning and discovering that my mother had painstakingly sewed a fabulous wardrobe for my and Gayle’s Tammy dolls. The garments were exquisite, and I still have every one of them.

Biggest Challenge as a Child:

Gayle and I were about five years old when we developed an unnatural fear of dogs. It sounds like a small thing, but it was very debilitating. When you’re deathly afraid of anything, it’s a very scary and unforgettable experience, and often embarrassing. Many of our friends had dogs, but we couldn’t even go for a visit without them having to lock the poor dog up somewhere.

For a child, it was a heavy burden to carry. There were no leash laws back then, so any outdoor activity was accompanied by a bit of hesitation. We were afraid to even ride our bikes through the neighborhood, lest a dog suddenly appear. But, praise God, we overcame this challenge around the age of 11. I can still remember the name of the dog who managed to win over our trust—Tina, a beautiful boxer with sad eyes. For some reason, Tina captured our hearts and from that magical moment on, our fear of dogs ceased; we’ve both loved dogs ever since.

My First Job:

I was still in high-school when I worked evenings at a local five-and-dime store during the Christmas season. I hated every minute of it. I realized right then that retail was not in my future.

Childhood Indulgence:

Buying soft-serve lemon ice-cream cones from the ice-cream truck that came through the neighborhood. I’ve never tasted anything like it.

Dayle at 18 months with Gayle (Can you guess who Dayle is?)

Favorite Outfit as a Child:

My mother was an expert seamstress (still is) and made most of our clothes as children and teenagers. I could never pick just one outfit as a favorite; I seriously thought they were all fabulous.

Dayle with Mom, her dress designer, and her sisters

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:

We never had a television in our home, growing up. As a child, I was too busy playing to even notice. As a teen, I sometimes felt deprived. But Daddy stood firm in his decision. Looking back, I’m grateful, because I learned to do more productive things with my time. While I have a television today, I still feel that it steals so much valuable time from both adults and children.

Dayle at 11 months (left) with Dad

Favorite Childhood Book:

As a youngster, I absolutely adored The Trolley Car Family by Eleanor Clymer, a charming story about a family who makes their home in a trolley car. I don’t know how many times Mother read the book to us, but hundreds might not be an exaggeration. In later years, I re-read it dozens of times. I never grew tired of it. When my daughter was born, it was one of the many books I read to her, and I plan to read it to my grandchildren, should the Lord bless me with such treasures.

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:

There are dozens I could name, but playing paper dolls with Gayle has to rank #1. We cut all sorts of “people” out of the Sears catalog, and spent hours shuffling them back and forth in their own little world. In the summertime, we would stay up until the wee hours of the morning playing paper dolls.

Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child?

Yes, on both accounts. I always enjoyed the act of writing, the sound of pen to paper, although I never dreamed I’d grow up to be a “real” writer.

Childhood Hero:

My older sister, Elaine. I thought she was the smartest, kindest, most beautiful, most talented sister in the world. I still think that and she remains my hero today.

Dayle on left with hero sister, Elaine

Childhood Pets?

I was about 12 when we got an adorable black cock-a-poo puppy and named her Snoozy. The cutest thing you ever saw.

Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?

As a child, I loved to read. Most Saturdays found us headed to the library, where I would check out a mountain of books—mostly by Beverly Cleary. I was in second or third grade when, in an attempt to imitate Cleary, I penned my very first short story, which I still have. It wasn’t very good, but we all have to start somewhere.

Dayle is an award-winning writer whose byline has appeared on more than 200 articles and essays in national and regional publications, including The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Beaumont Enterprise, Southern Families Magazine, Houston Woman, Guideposts, Focus on the Family, Moody Magazine, Catholic Digest, Standard, Power for Living, and Christian Home & School, and online at,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and

In addition to her freelance writing, Dayle is the author of three books and has contributed to sixteen other works, including multiple Chicken Soup titles. Since 1999, Dayle has been a freelance contributor to The Dallas Morning News and received an Amy Writing Award for her editorial, “Prayer Returns to Front,” in 2001.

In January 2008, Dayle's husband retired, following a 33-year career as a captain in Houston's Fire Department. Dayle followed suit in February and feels blessed to be able to put writing on the front burner for the first time in 21 years. She and Stan just celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary in August. They have one grown daughter.

Dayle’s web site

Dayle’s writing blog
When she isn’t writing, gardening, traveling in an RV with hubby, or playing Scrabble with her twin sister, Dayle occasionally spends time blogging about various writing topics—the good, the bad, and the downright deplorable.

Dayle’s personal ramblings

Books by Dayle Shockley:

Whispers From Heaven contains thirty-four short devotions, guaranteed to refresh a sagging spirit and breathe new life into a busy schedule. Each story will encourage you to open the windows of your heart and embrace the beauty contained in an ordinary day.

WIN SILVER LININGS! Leave a comment (with your contact--your nameAT your we'll draw a winner for this book on September 10th!
NEWS FLASH!!! SHAR MACLAREN has won Dayle's book!

Silver Linings is a collection of essays that will warm your heart when you find yourself in the midst of a difficult season. Each story will help you see that in every trial, there is something to be gained. It may not be tangible, or immediately apparent, but with a little effort, a silver lining can be discovered.

Home Improvement: 9 Steps to Living a Joyful Life
Home Improvement will motivate you to:

Establish a personal relationship with God.

Dump disappointments into a “trash bag.”

Keep a cheerful attitude.

Rid yourself of emotional baggage.

Nourish your spiritual self.

Be the best spouse you can be.

Maintain appropriate boundaries.

Fulfill the second-greatest commandment.

Make time for rest and relaxation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sharlene MacLaren: Dreams That Come True

Sharlene "Shar" MacLaren was a teacher, a wife of a banker, a mother (she became a grandmother in 2008) and a long-time Christian when she started having dreams, literal dreams, of being a novelist eight years ago. (Today is her 60th birthday--happy birthday, Shar!) While talented in music, she was thinking so much about what God would have her to do at this point in her life, she was working it out in her dreams.

She didn't need a dream interpreter to figure out what came next--she started writing novels--and continues today. While she brushed off her friends who clamored for her handwritten romances in high school, she could no longer brush off God's call.

Let's see what the birthday girl's life was back then that makes her into the superb romance writer she is today:

Childhood Ambition:

I always wanted to be a rancher’s wife! Must’ve been all those silly romances I read in junior high and high school! ‘Course, like most young girls, I wanted a horse, too, so I figured ropin’ me a handsome rancher would get me the horse. Hahaha. Today a horse sounds like way too much work, and the rancher—no thanks. I got me a handsome banker instead.

Once the whole rancher notion blew over, I started playing “teacher” by lining up chairs in my living room for my pretend students and writing on a big chalkboard my parents had bought me for a gift. That was the dream that took hold, as I wound up teaching second and fourth grades for 31 years. Oh, I almost forgot— in high school I wanted to be a nurse for about two weeks when I found out the future nurses’ club was taking an excursion and I could get out of school for an entire day. I joined the group then quickly dropped out after the field trip. Nursing was NOT for me. We visited a state mental institution, and it was 1964. Need I say more?.

Fondest Memory (then):

It’s very hard to come up with just one, but when I think of my childhood I can’t help but think about my dad, who was such a jokester and simply loved life! He and I spent time fishing together on foggy summer mornings when the sun was just peeking over the horizon and the lake shone like glass. We were supposed to sit quietly and wait for the fish to bite, but Dad loved making me laugh, so he’d do silly things like pretend he was falling out of the boat, or make believe he had a fish, or make a weird face at me, anything to get a giggle. Those memories stand out to me like diamonds on black velvet.

Proudest Moment (then):

One of the earliest recollections I have of feeling proud was when my second grade teacher singled me out to the rest of the class and showed them my beautiful penmanship. I remember glowing inside and out. (Oh, what an opportunity teachers have to make positive impacts on their students.)

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:

I grew up in the 50s and 60s, graduating from high school in 1966. The biggest challenges I faced were plain silly compared to what kids face today. I probably worried that I didn’t have very nice clothes, but then most families were poor back then, especially in the town in which I grew up. My mom was a wonderful seamstress, so she sewed me all the latest fashions, but back then, girls didn’t care that much about name brands. We lived much simpler lifestyles. Perhaps one challenge that stands out was that I didn’t feel very “smart” compared to my classmates. I always had a low self-image when it came to learning subjects and studying for tests. I couldn’t remember facts worth beans—and I still can’t. Math was awful for me, as was chemistry, biology—all the sciences. Actually, history was no cup-of-tea, either, now that I think about it. ENGLISH, now that was where I learned to shine.

My First Job:

Most girls didn’t get jobs at young ages back then like they do today, so my first “real” job didn’t come till I graduated from high school. After graduation, I decided to delay college a year, so I did secretarial work in the office of a manufacturing company. A bunch of old women worked there (haha-they were probably in their 30s and 40s), I missed my high school friends, and I felt like a fish out of water, so after one year I applied for college and off I went to Spring Arbor University the following fall!

Childhood Indulgence:

I always volunteered to bake the cakes and cookies in my family, which my mom loved, so that I could snitch the batter and dough when no one was looking. Oh, yummmmmm…..

Favorite Outfit as a Child:

I still remember these summer shirts my mom made me that had these cool necklines. They were called “boatnecks”. When I was about 13, and just starting to think I was “cool”, one of the neighbor boys, who was about 16 or 17, told me I looked very nice in my new ‘hot pink’ shirt. Since I had a terrible crush on him…Larry Duram…I continued wearing it everytime I saw him!

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:

Easy-peasy…favorite TV shows were: My Friend, Flicka, Howdy Doody Show, Mickey Mouse, Fury, Sky King, Father Knows Best, My Three Sons, The Red Skelton Hour, Lassie, and Candid Camera to name a few.

Favorite Childhood Book:

Elves and the Shoemakers, The Yearling, Black Beauty, Lassie, and later, anything by Victoria Holt and other fiction authors

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:

Jumping rope, playing baseball, shooting baskets with my brothers, playing ‘house’ with all my dolls, jacks, fishing, swimming, exploring the woods across the road, climbing trees, catching turtles and frogs (I grew up on a lake—and with all boys!)

Childhood Hero:

It sounds cliché-ish, but I would have to say my daddy. What an amazing man of God—who had a way of showing his faith but in a completely unpretentious way. My mother, too—absolutely wonderful woman who served her Lord with fervency and sweetness. My parents lived consistent lives that mirrored Christ so powerfully that I never would have dreamt of going the other direction. I praise the Lord for such a fabulous heritage, one that rubbed off so thoroughly that now our children and their spouses have strong faiths too.

Shar's Mother and Shar's New Grandson

Where to find Shar:

Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?

When I was a child, I never would have believed I’d wind up an author with several PUBLISHED books. I had always enjoyed dabbling in writing, and in high school, I used to write ‘silly’ teenage romances that circulated amongst my friends. I had a wildly vivid imagination, and they always told me I had a talent for writing, but I laughed and brushed off their compliments.

Most of my life, music held my focus, as I sang in ensembles, choirs, duets and performed lots of solos. But after raising my children and winding down my lifelong career in education I began to pray about what to do with the last half of my life, still loving music, but no longer seeing it as my main ministry. I wanted whatever I did to count for Christ!

Writing was something that had fallen into a deep sea of forgetfulness for me, but in the summer of 2000, after turning 52, I started dreaming I’d written a novel. A novel?! It was a strange recurring dream, but one cloudless day, I took it to heart and sat down at my computer to try carving out a story. Let me tell you I could barely believe it when the “fire” started rolling through my veins, pouring out of me like hot lava. It was an experience I shall never forget—that day my writing passion grew wings and took flight! Even today, it remains somewhat of a phenomenon to me, but I’ve learned to accept it as my calling.

Since then, I’ve written countless manuscripts, many of which have found their publishing home in Whitaker House, and I have no one to praise for this but the Lord Jesus. He plants the passion in our hearts—but it’s our job to run with it!
And something else…God is simply not done with a willing heart until He says so, no matter the “age or stage” we may be in. And for that, I Give Him Glory!

More About Shar:

Her favorite Bible Verse: Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Born and raised in west Michigan, Sharlene MacLaren attended Spring Arbor University. Upon graduating with an education degree way back in 1971, she traveled internationally for a year with a small singing ensemble, then came home and married one of her childhood friends. Together they raised two lovely daughters, both of which are happily married. Recently retired after teaching elementary school for 31 years, ‘Shar’ enjoys reading, writing, singing in the church choir and worship teams, traveling, and spending time with her family, which now includes her very wonderful, adorable, precious grandson, and in 2008 -- two additional grandchildren.

A Christian for over forty years, and a lover of the English language, Shar has always enjoyed dabbling in writing—poetry, fiction, various essays, and freelancing for periodicals and newspapers. Her favored genre, however, has always been romance. She remembers well the short stories she wrote in high school and watching them circulate from girl to girl during government and civics classes. “Psst,” someone would whisper from two rows over, and always with the teacher’s back to the class, “Pass me the next page.”

Shar is a an occasional speaker for her local MOPS organization, is involved in KIDS’ HOPE USA, a mentoring program for at-risk children, counsels young women in the Apples of Gold program, and is active in two weekly Bible studies. She and her husband, Cecil, live in Spring Lake, Michigan with their lovable collie, Dakota, and Mocha, their lazy, fat cat.

Sharlene MacLaren's Awards:
IRCC finalist 2008
Reviewer's Choice Award 2007 and 2008 - "Road to Romance"
ACFW Finalist for Book-of-the-Year 2007

Leave a Birthday Wish for Shar in the comments and win Through Every Storm, an ACFW Book of the Year finalist! (Yes, August 26th is Shar's 60th birthday!)___________________________________

Shar's Latest Book:
Long Journey Home — IN STORES NOW

Book Description:
After divorcing her abusive husband, single mother, Callie May, is still nursing the scars of a painful past. The last thing she needs in her life is another man, so she’s less than thrilled when a handsome but brooding stranger moves into the apartment across the hall. Dan Mattson may be attractive, but his circumstances certainly aren’t; a former pastor, he abandoned his flock in Michigan and fled to the Chicago suburbs after the death of his beloved wife and baby daughter in a tragic automobile accident. Embittered by his loss, Dan turns his back on God. Callie mistrusts men, and the angry Dan often gives her good reason. Both are weighed down by the scars and disappointment in their pasts. When Callie’s ex-husband shows up to wreak more havoc in her life, Dan finds himself coming to her defense—and facing his own demons in the process. Will Dan and Callie be able to get past their baggage and give love another chance? Can they come to see life’s tragedies as part of God’s perfect plan? And most important, will they allow the power of God to change their hearts and mend their hurts

"Little Hickman Creek" Series — IN STORES NOW

Loving Liza Jane

Book Description:
The story follows 21-year-old Eliza Jane Meriwether from Boston to Little Hickman, Kentucky in the year 1895. Naïve, but full of confidence and zeal, Eliza will assume the job as Little Hickman’s schoolteacher. But when she first rides into town on a ramshackle buckboard, her initial thought is, “Oh, Lord, what have I done?” Kentucky is nothing like her native Boston. Will she ever grow accustomed to its rolling hills and wide open spaces, not to mention the lack of modern conveniences? Although filled with doubts, she is convinced God has led her to this point, and soon the new schoolteacher is beloved by all, including Benjamin Broughton, a handsome widower with two young children. Trouble is her contract implicitly states, “marriage or any other unseemly behavior by women teachers is improper and will thereby result in immediate dismissal”. Liza has a lot to learn about God’s perfect plan for her life.

Sarah, My Beloved

Book Description:
Sarah Woodward has come to Kentucky as a mail-order bride, contracting with the services of the Marriage-Made-In-Heaven Agency. However, when she steps off the stagecoach to meet her betrothed, he kindly informs her he has fallen in love with another woman. Sarah is disappointed, yes, but she feels strongly God has led her to this rickety place for a reason. If not to marry Benjamin Broughton, then to fulfill some other duty and, thus, she will stay firmly planted in Little Hickman until she discovers that plan.
Rocky Callahan’s sister has died, leaving him to care for her two young children. When he meets up with the fiery Sarah Woodward, he proposes the answer to both their problems—a marriage in name only. Sarah soon comes to love the children, but Rocky is afraid that she’ll never survive as a farmer’s wife with her privileged upbringing. Can he let go of the pain of his past and trust God’s plan for his life? Will she leave him or will they actually find a marriage made in heaven?

Courting Emma

Book Description:
Twenty-eight-year old Emma Browning has experienced a good deal of life in her young age. Sole owner and operator of Emma’s Boardinghouse, she is “mother” to an array of beefy, unkempt, often rowdy characters. Though many men would like to get to know the steely, hard-edged, yet surprisingly lovely, proprietress, none has ever succeeded. That is, not until the town’s new pastor, Jonathan Atkins, takes up residence in the boardinghouse, affecting not only her with his devout faith and strong convictions, but her clientele as well. Emma clings desperately to her stubborn ways, refusing to acknowledge God’s love—until all of Little Hickman witnesses a miracle—the conversion of her abusive and alcoholic father, Ezra Browning! Only then will Emma begin to experience God’s transforming power at work.

Through Every Storm (ACFW finalist for Book of The Year 2007!)

Book Description:
When tragedy strikes, can love survive? Struggling through the tragic loss of a child, Jeff and Maddie Bowman experience the immense pain and grief brought about by a broken heart and a marriage severely strained and headed toward divorce. Feeling completely hopeless, Maddie questions whether life will ever be normal again. Then, when faced with having to care for a precocious little boy, Maddie slowly realizes how to let God be in control even when life is crashing down around her. The love she finds will give her hope and strength to make it through every storm


The Daughters of Jacob Kane - (2009)

Other book by Sharlene
Spring's Promise

Book Description:
Michigan-born twin brothers launch a ski trip to the Rockies in mid-January. But elation turns to despair when one of the twin brothers is tragically killed on the slopes. In an attempt to appease his guilt and grief, Jake Evans, the living twin, sets out to make amends with his sister-in-law, Raychel, by offering his help with her two small children, doing odd jobs around her house, and generally easing her heavy load. Left to raise her three-year-old daughter and newborn son on her own, Raychel is anything but willing to be coddled by her brother-in-law, particularly since there is some ‘history’ between them. Determined to make it on her own, she is shocked to discover that God has other plans for her, and those plans just may land her in the arms of her husband's brother.