Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lena Nelson Dooley: When I Was Just a Kid

Lena in junior high

Lena is one of the most admired and kind authors I know. She not only writes beautiful love stories but mentors authors all the time, even winning the American Christian Fiction Writers Mentor of the Year in 2006. She's continued to be a nominee every year since, as well. She is always friendly and outgoing, reaching out to everyone and she never lets you feel that she doesn't know you--she doesn't know strangers!

I have long wanted to do a kid interview of Lena, and she finally had some time to do this. I'm delighted. I think you will agree with me that she is an amazing person and that her childhood surely shaped her into the loving child of God we know today, as she used her trials for good in weaving her tender and delightful stories.Since I was a teacher, several things about Lena's own story especially touched me.

Let's read about Lena:

Childhood Ambition: 
My mother was a schoolteacher. She died when I was seven years old, so I don't remember too many things about her, but I wanted to be a teacher.

Fondest Memory (from back then): 
My favorite memory from before my mother died was in the evenings. We'd sit around the black, cast-iron stove in the evenings. Mother loved having her hair brushed, so my brother and I would take turns brushing her hair.

Proudest Moment (from back then): 
I had a teacher in first grade, who didn't really like me. She mistreated me in a number of ways. I would come home with welts on my legs, some of them bleeding. At that time, no one homeschooled their children, but my mother and daddy took me out of school and she finished teaching me the first grade curriculum at home.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:   
Now don't laugh. Those who know me now probably will. I was painfully shy. Really! I couldn't tell you what any boy even a year older than me really looked like without looking in the annual. I walked with my head down. Later, God told me that maybe the other people were just as shy as I was, so I should speak to them first and try to bring them out of their shyness. In the process, look what it did to me.

My First Job (paid or unpaid—something you feel is significant which can include chores you had to do as a child) : 
The first time I ironed as a child, I did Daddy's handkerchiefs and the pillowcases. I had to stand on a stool to reach the sink when I started doing dishes. And we always made our bed in the morning.

Childhood Indulgence: 

Remember, we were poor. When Daddy and my Stepmom went on fish distribution trips, they'd always bring me back a paper doll book. Back then, we used the Sears & Roebuck catalog to cut out more clothes for the dolls.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:  
Mother made me a beautiful gold wool dress with purple hand embroidery on it. I loved that dress, but it helped us find out that I was allergic to wool.

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show: 
We didn't have a TV until I was in the 6th grade. We listened to radio slows-- Fibber Magee and Molly, The Green Hornet, The Shadow, Amos and Andy, things like that.

Favorite Childhood Book: 
We went to the county library every Saturday and checked out a stack of books. As a young child, I loved The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. Later, I read all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime: 

We liked to play outside, catching lightning bugs in a fruit jar. We lived on a fish hatchery with a nice sized farm attached, so we had lots of room to roam. We'd make tunnels and rooms in the tall grasses on the hill.
Lena in high school
Best friends?: 
My best friend's mother was the telephone operator in the tiny town of Centerton, Arkansas. They lived in a rock house across the street. I loved going to their house. And of course, after all these years, I can't remember her name. That's what over 50 years will do to you.

Any Childhood Pets or Animals? 
My brother and I raised geese and rabbits, which we sold to a packing plant to buy our first bicycle.

Childhood Heroine:  
Dale Evans

Share your introduction to Christ, if it happened as a child or teen. or a  any significant event/person that/who led to your walk with Jesus.
I was raised in a family that were very active in the church. People talked about Jesus in our home all the time. When I was seven years old, a traveling evangelist stayed in our home while he preached a revival at our church. On Saturday night, I accepted Jesus into my heart at the revival. My journey since then has been long and convoluted, with me straying during college, but not turning my back on the Lord. And He didn't let go of me. Early in my marriage, I had a dynamic event that led me into the deeper walk with Jesus. I've never looked back.

Lena interviews many authors on her blog and has such interesting revelations:
Lena Nelson Dooley Today

Lena on Facebook (Fan Page)
Lena on Shoutlife
Lena on Twitter
Lena on Facebook
About Lena
Lena blogs at Bustles and Spurs (and has a Christmas story there)

Lena's latest release is Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico (Summerside Press)
Readers can see the rest of her books by going to her blog and clicking the My Books tab at the top of the page.

Winner of this book is announced in the comments! 

 Her next book is Family Secrets, which will release October 6, 2011.

The next two books in the McKenna's Daughters series will soon follow!

More About Lena:
Award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has more than 675,000 books in print. She is a member of ACFW and president of the local chapter.

Lena loves James, her children, grandchildren, and great-grandson. She loves chocolate, cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, and spending time with friends. Travel is always on her horizon. Cruising, Galveston, the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, Mexico. One day it will be Hawaii and Australia, but probably not at the same time. Helping other authors become published really floats her boat. And the high point of her day is receiving feedback from her readers, especially her fans. And she loves chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When I Was Just a Kid: Bonnie Leon

Cute Little Bonnie
Bonnie Leon had many special moments that she tells us about in this revelation, but she also experienced some tough things where she reveals how she faced them. Her mom with tears in her eyes said to her once, "I never thought you'd make it." We're sure glad she has, but also that her journey includes speaking and writing, to help others along.
Let's see what Bonnie tells us about her childhood:
Did you want to travel as a child? Did you? Places where you lived as a child?
Travel wasn’t something I thought much about. But we did take a family trip at least once a year. Most often we camped or made fishing trips. My father was an avid fisherman. We’d travel to Neah Bay, Washington, which is on the tip of the Washington Peninsula and stay a week. The fishing was usually great. With seven of us fishing we often left with ice chests filled with salmon and a variety of bottom fish.

One trip that stands out above all the others was one we made to Alaska when I was ten. My parents saved up for more than a year. Money wasn’t easy to come by, and in those days people didn’t borrow for things like vacations. My mother grew up in Alaska and it had been more than twenty years since she’d been home to see her family. We set off on a June morning, pulling a tear-drop trailer behind our station wagon and traveled 2400 miles, half of it on a gravel road. We saw all kinds of wildlife, including a moose that wouldn’t get out of our way on the road, a lynx that actually jumped at our car (with deadly results), a bear, and while traveling through Cook Inlet in a dory we drove through a school of beluga whales. The panoramas were impressive even to a ten-year-old.

It took us seven days to travel to Anchorage and nine days back. We spent two weeks exploring the state, which included my grandparents homestead on Alexander Creek, where to this day the only way in is by boat or water plane or snow machine in the winter. That trip was one of the most amazing excursions I’ve ever taken. I was young, but it left a lasting impression and the scenes and fun is still very close in my memories.

Childhood Ambition:
I remember wanting to be a cowgirl when I grew up. Annie Oakley was my favorite television show. Of course when I got a little older, my goals changed. I decided I’d like to be a psychologist. I never managed to accomplish either of these goals in a professional way, but as I grew I did do quite a bit of horseback riding and as any mother will tell you, psychology is part of our job description.

Fondest Memory (then):
This is a silly thing, but it stands out above everything else. I was very young, probably three or four. We had one of those small inflatable swimming pools and I’d dropped a table knife into it, putting a hole in the bottom. The pool was ruined and the water drained out. My brothers were so mad at me and ran to tell our mom. I remember my mother coming out to investigate and I was so afraid because I knew I deserved a spanking. Instead, she smiled at me and said, “You’re full of prunes,” which was an expression of endearment that she used. Then she pulled me into her arms and hugged me. It was one of those moments when you know you’re loved and forgiven.

Proudest Moment (then):
My fifth grade class was given an assignment – write a story. I wrote, what today I’d consider a silly story, but it was pretty good for a fifth grader. It was about a battle between Indians and soldiers (1800’s) and how a native girl steps out bravely and puts a stop to the fighting. I received a A+ for the story and my family was so proud of me. I remember them thinking that I was a pretty good writer. I kept that story for many years, but somewhere in our many moves it got left behind. I’ve no idea what happened to it.

My Proudest Moment as an Adult;
I guess the birth of my first child was my proudest moment. It wasn’t an easy labor (is there such a thing?). I remember holding that perfect little boy in my arms and knowing I’d done something special. It was very empowering. After that, I figured I could do anything.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:

Overcoming a speech impediment was one of the toughest things I had to overcome as a child. My mom said I’d repeat myself and repeat myself, each time raising voice until I’d be shouting, trying to make people understand me. Kids are mean and so they teased, but I found a friend in a speech therapist. To this day, I can envision him and he was so kind and helpful. It took a couple of years of therapy, but I made it. I actually give speeches now and usually people understand me.

My First Job:

I worked in the fields (berries & green beans) as a teen-ager, but my first “real” job was right after I graduated from High School. I moved to Downey, California to live with my fiance’s family while he went oversees to serve in Viet Nam. I went to work for an insurance agency as a receptionist. It was a good experience and I learned a lot. Monday mornings on the switchboard could be interesting, though, with every line lit up.

Childhood Indulgence:

I have to name more than one. I had several, but I’ll share just three. I loved riding horses, the smell of them, the sound of a leather saddle, and the feel of the horse was fabulous. My sister and I would ride the trails in the woods near our home and run the horses through nearby fields. Whenever possible we rode bareback, which seemed more daring and fun because I felt more a part of the horse.

In those days I loved reading (still do). I could spend hours in a book. Whenever possible, I’d read a book straight through. I wish I still had the time for that kind of reading—maybe one day.
Birthdays were always special at my house. It was a day set apart to celebrate our birth. We were relieved of our daily chores, except for necessities; we chose what we wanted for dinner, and chose what kind of cake we wanted. My birthday is just four days after Valentines Day so my mother would always make me a heart shaped cake and make sure I got the point—it had the most frosting. Yum.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:

When I was ten my favorite outfit was a pair of white cotton capris (pedal pushers in that day) with a white sailor-suit type blouse that matched. I remember thinking I was pretty hot stuff in that outfit.

Favorite Childhood Movie:
I had lots of favorite movies, but probably The Wizard of Oz is an all time favorite. My brothers and sisters and I watched it on television every year for years. I also must include the Shirley Temple movies. I loved them all and still do.

Favorite Childhood Book:

The Bobbsey Twins books were some of my earliest favorites, then Nancy Drew stories. I think I read every one. I also read The Hardy Boys. After that I moved on to Gothics and then to books like The Hobbit. I was so sorry when I finished reading that book. I wanted it to go on and on.

Childhood Hero:
Helen Keller was one of my heroes. After reading the story of her life, I thought she had to be the bravest and most intelligent person ever born. I wanted to be like her.

Favorite Childhood Pets:

I grew up with a Dachshund called Hans. We bought him as a puppy for our mom (the only way to get a dog was to make a gift of one to our mom). But she loved him. I remember her crying when she saw him. He was such a cute little guy and grew up to be loyal and brave. He’d chase down any dog who dared step in our yard, no matter how big it might be. I also had a cat, Sophie. She had long gray hair and white paws and was my buddy. She loved to cuddle. She was a great cat; I’ve had only one as special since and his name was Simon.

Anything else you'd like readers to know about you as a child that affected the writer today:
I had a good childhood—good parents and a nice home, but it also contained some tough stuff—my speech impediment, sexual abuse, rape, and then as I grew older drugs and alcohol. I was not an ideal child by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, after I came to Christ and realized how much God loved me and started walking with Him, my mother would sometimes look at me and her eyes would fill with tears and she’d say, “I never thought you’d make it.” I have to smile. God knew. He knows the beginning and the end. He has used the good and the bad to shape me into the person I am. And I know enough of the tough stuff to write from the heart and I also know enough good to realize how wonderful life is.

Bonnie Leon Today
From Bonnie's Bio we learn a few more things about her:
Storytelling has been an integral part of Bonnie Leon’s life ever since her childhood, when she sat at the feet of her Aleut ancestors, listening to the legends and family history they shared.
Throughout the ensuing years, Bonnie dabbled at writing but didn’t seriously consider becoming a professional author. Instead, as a young woman, she happily stepped into the full-time profession of homemaker and mother. Pollywog hunting, finger-painting, blackberry picking, and creating fun messes in the kitchen with her children are some of her most precious and irreplaceable memories.
When her youngest child was nine years old, Bonnie decided it was time to return to the working world. She took a position in her hometown of Glide, Oregon, working with the elderly and handicapped.

Then on June 11, 1991, her world was shattered when a log truck hit the van she was driving. The accident left her unable to work, and after months of rehabilitation she was told by physicians that she would never return to a normal life. Facing a daunting fight to reclaim her life and feeling as if she had nothing to offer the world, she asked God to give her something to do that mattered.

His answer came when she received a scholarship to attend the Oregon Christian Writer’s Summer Conference. That conference ignited Bonnie’s passion for literature and for writing, and she has been writing ever since

Be sure to check Bonnie's web site to see her latest releases and other news!

Bonnie's Books!

The Alaskan Skies Series
Touching the Clouds - Book 1 in the Alaskan Skies series- by Bonnie LeonTouching the Clouds (Book 1)

She went looking for adventure . . . and found more than she bargained for.

Kate Evans is an adventurous and independent young woman with a pioneering spirit. When she leaves her home in Washington State to follow her dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, she knows it will be an uphill battle. But she never expected it to be quite like this. As the lone woman in a man’s world, she finds that contending with people’s expectations is almost as treacherous as navigating the wild arctic storms.

When she crosses paths with a mysterious man living alone in the forbidding wilderness, she faces a new challenge. Can Kate break through the walls he has put up around his heart? And will fear keep her from realizing her dreams?

Touching the Clouds will draw you in with raw emotion and suspense, all against the stunning backdrop of the Alaskan wilds.

To Love Anew, historical fiction, that opens in 1804 London. It is the story of John Bradshaw and Hannah Talbot—two people betrayed by life who must find a way to live and love again.
The Sydney Cove Series

To Love Anew by Bonnie LeonTo Love Anew

Hannah Talbot has no one. Forced to leave the only home she's ever known, she works for a cruel employer who brutally takes the one thing she has left—her dignity. Defiled and facing the compounded shame of pregnancy, Hannah prays for the child’s death. When an ensuing miscarriage crushes her beneath a burden of guilt and shame, Hannah is certain her sin is too great for even a benevolent God to forgive.
John Bradshaw was a successful businessman whose untamed spirit sometimes wanted more. When he is betrayed by those closest to him, he loses everything—his wife, his business, even his freedom.
Then John and Hannah's paths cross aboard a ghastly, nineteenth-century prison ship en route to Australia. Can they find a way to keep hope alive and learn to trust the encompassing love of a merciful God?

She also has a story about one of her family pets, Benny, a great big loveable dog who was part of her life for fifteen years. The story is included in a compilation book called A Prince Among Dogs and Other Stories of the Dogs We Love.
Bonnie says:
"I’m excited about this book! Benny was a wonderful family companion. It’s wonderful to share his life and the kind of impact he had on us with others."
Bonnie has a slew of other books, and you may find one that sweeps you away. Be sure to check them out!

The Queensland Chronicles Series
When the Storm Breaks by Bonnie LeonWhen the Storm Breaks (Queensland Chronicles Book 3)

The terrible drought continues in Thornton Creek, parching the land and the strength of all who live there.
After a devastating fire eats up most of Douloo and leaves them with barely enough to survive, Daniel and Rebecca Thornton are forced to go to extremes to provide for their growing family.
Can hope be found in such a barren land?

For the Love of the Land by Bonnie LeonFor the Love of the Land (Queensland Chronicles Book 2)

Before Rebecca Thornton arrived at Douloo Station, she knew it would be very different from her beloved Boston. But she never imagined what troubles awaited her and her new husband, Daniel, or how their faith would be tested.
In the midst of a serious drought, Daniel’s heart becomes as parched as the flat prairie around him. And though she’s surrounded by family, Rebecca’s dreams of a happy life seem to be slipping away.
Can Rebecca and Daniel overcome the drought in their land and in their souls?

The Heart of Thornton Creek by Bonnie LeonThe Heart of Thornton Creek (Queensland Chronicles Book 1)

When proper Bostonian Rebecca Williams follows handsome Australian Daniel Thornton to his family's Queensland cattle station, she's in for a few surprises. Daniel's father, Bertram, not only controls the prosperous ranch, but everything and everybody for miles around--including his son.
Will Rebecca adjust to the bullying, or will Bertram drive the young couple apart?

Also check out:
The Matanuska Series
The Sowers Trilogy
The Northern Lights Series
and a stand alone:

A Sacred Place by Bonnie LeonA Sacred Place

As World War I breaks out, the arranged marriage of Mary Matroona, an 18-year-old Aleut girl, to Sean Calhoun, an Irish immigrant, begins a story of enduring human spirit and the power of love to break through every barrier.
She also speaks on topics concerning her life experiences and on becoming a writer. Check this link to see where she will be speaking and how to get her to come to your event.

Bonnie Leon's Blog

IF YOU ARE A WRITER OR WANT TO BE then go to this page for a lot of useful information!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Winner of A Door County Christmas

Winner of A Door County Christmas by Eileen Key, Becky Melby, Rachael Phillips and Cynthia Ruchti is... Sharon Kirk Clifton!

Congratulations to Sharon, and thanks to all who left comments and shared with us. We are all grateful for your interest.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Door County Christmas: Cynthia Ruchti

Cynthia with her doll when she was just a kid

 Here's what you may know about Cynthia Ruchti:

Cynthia Ruchti is the current president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), which she’s served in various volunteer capacities since shortly after she became a member in 2002. In her role as president of ACFW, Cynthia writes a monthly “From the President” column for ACFW’s Afictionado ezine. For two years she was one of four humor columnists for Afictionado’s“Let There Be Lite.” In 2007, she was the recipient of the ACFW Member Service Award. In 2008, Cynthia won second place for Women’s Fiction in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Contest.

Now, I'm going to give you a peek at the child who would become Cynthia Ruchti. She is a loving and kind woman who those of us in ACFW are proud to call our president, and whose book, They Almost Always Come Home, was one of my favorite books this year. Now she has a story in the book, A Door County Christmas, and is part of our blog fun this week. Come learn about Cynthia when she was just a kid:

Childhood Ambition: Waitress, flight attendant, nurse (Mom's occupation), teacher (Dad's occupation), biologist, florist, Spanish teacher, orphanage director, interior decorator, the same profession as whatever book I was currently reading. I don't recall longing to be an author. I think I considered it too fond a dream to be possible.

How did life turn out? Waitress--I've served HOW many meals over the years? Flight attendant--Love to fly and usually find someone to help up the aisle. :) Nurse--Dole out plenty of bandaids to my grandkids. Teacher--Radio teacher and teaching writer workshops. Biologist--Worked in a chemistry lab and my daughter graduated with a degree in Biology. Does that count? Florist--I can arrange dandelions and Indian paintbrush in lovely bone china vases. Spanish teacher--No comprende. But my sister, her daughter, and her daughter-in-law teach Spanish. Orphanage director--Birthed three babies and mentally adopt every hurting child. Interior decorator--Most of my furniture started out as something else.

The unspoken desire of my heart--to write novels. Contented sigh.

Fondest Memory (from back then):
When I was 12, my mom piled all five of us kids (I was the eldest) and my grandpa into our station wagon and hauled us from Wisconsin to New Jersey to visit her brother. We stopped at Niagara Falls on the way. I can still feel the spray on my face, still sense the awe of the water's power and the endlessness of its forceful flow. I caught a glimpse of the concept of eternity while watching the water race past without exhausting its supply.

Proudest Moment (from back then):
Many of my proudest moments from childhood are related to music. In Junior High, four friends joined me to form a woodwind quintet (I played bassoon) that consistently won first place awards at solo-ensemble contests. The medal meant less to me than the wonder of creating beautiful music. And seeing the pride in our band teacher's (my dad's) face.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:
My mom worked full-time, nights, and slept (or tried to) during the day from before I was born until she retired. As the firstborn, many of the childcare and housekeeping duties fell to me as soon as I was old enough (and sometimes before that). I had a great deal of responsibility...but with no authority. Five siblings, and there were only seven years separating the firstborn from the last. I learned early in life to balance learning and serving, working while I grew, making do, living on a budget, and stirring a pot while reading a book.

My First Job (paid or unpaid—something you feel is significant) :
Big surprise, I babysat to earn my first wages. Twenty-five cents an hour. But at 16 I secured a job as a checker at a Kroger grocery store. My best friend worked at the next register. Great job. Wonderful experience. And in those days, a girl could earn an entire set of china for her hope chest with grocery store coupons.

Childhood Indulgence:
When Mom left for work at 10:45 p.m., Dad and I and would often open a can of fried rice and eat it while watching the Tonight Show. The other kids were long in bed. It was fun to share that indulgence with my perk of being the oldest. Canned fried rice. Imagine. My tastes have become a tad more refined since then!

Favorite Outfit as a Child:
I really did have a poodle skirt--gray flannel with a perky pink poodle. My sister had one to match. With our hair done up in pin curls (pin-curled perky pink poodle-skirt partners,) we owned the neighborhood.

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:
I watched The Wizard of Oz until I had the lines memorized. Then my cousin and I would do live theater of the screenplay. We played all the parts, including the audience.

Favorite Childhood Book:

The Boxcar Children books captivated me. Ingenious children making do with what they had and overcoming obstacles.
Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:

Reading under the covers by flashlight.
Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child?

I had a secret admirer who passed me love notes. I wrote back mature things like, "Bug off!" and was caught by a teacher who sent me to the principal's office on the day my dad was serving as acting principal.

Best friends?:
We moved twelve times before I was twelve, so I log my friends by location. My South Dakota friend. My Minnesota friend. During Junior High and Senior High, my best friend was a girl from my youth group...and the cousin of the young man I set my heart on. (I've been married to him for 38 years now).

Any Childhood Pets?

We had a scruffy mutt named Bootsie, several batches of guppies, and then a long-haired neurotic chihuahua named Mitzy.

Was there anyone in your childhood who pointed you to Jesus?
My Dad pastored small country churches in addition to teaching band. I was born in a sea of the love of God. He was followed, modeled, and revered in our home. At a very young age, I came to understand my need to accept Christ as my Savior and make Him Lord of my life. I slammed open the screen door after summer swimming lessons and told my parents I wanted to give my heart to Jesus. The lessons I learned in church played a part. The lives my parents lived led the way.

Cynthia Ruchti at the 2010 ACFW Awards Dinner in Indianapolis. Cynthia serves as president of the American Christian Fiction Writers

 In addition to my role as a novelist, I write and produce a daily, scripted radio drama broadcast called The Heartbeat of the Home, which airs on Christian radio stations across the country. I'm the editor of the ministry's Backyard Friends magazine and write two monthly columns. One is for Wisconsin Christian News and the other is for the ACFW ezine, Afictionado. I currently serve as president of the 2200 member American Christian Fiction Writers and consider it key to my path to publication. I live within 15 minutes of my three kids and five grandkids, and within about two feet of my husband of 38 years in between the heart of Wisconsin's woodlands and cranberry marshes.


2010 saw the release of my debut novel--THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME--women's fiction from Abingdon Press, and a romantic comedy--The Heart's Harbor--in the Barbour Publishing Christmas novella collection, A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS. Different as they are, I pray both books reveal to readers where they can find the Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark.

Cynthia's Abingdon Press novel, They Almost Always Come Home
Have a chance to win this book by leaving a comment!

Door County Christmas Authors take a break from writing. Left to right: Rachael, Eileen, Cynthia, Becky
Cynthia's Links--check them out!

Cynthia Ruchti Reader Fan Page
Cynthia Ruchti on Facebook
Cynthia Ruchti on Twitter
The radio ministry website is

The Clearing, an artist's retreat where A Door County Christmas authors stayed--Don't you want to go there??

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Door County Christmas: Eileen Key

Eileen used to be a school teacher, so she knows several sides of the "desk." Nowadays she does writing and can use so many of her experiences in that. Her childhood prepared her for what God had in mind for her as an adult--for example, one note-passing experience in seventh grade probably came in handy in how she would deal with kids in her class, but also it could've been considered her first "romance" writing! (And reading it aloud was her first critique!)  :)

I've gotten to know Eileen from her writing, and now I feel a kinship with her from this interview. (I, too, was a school teacher.) Come along with me in finding out about the third storyteller in A Door County Christmas--Eileen Key!

Cutie Cowgirl Eileen, Who Went on a Few Cattle Drives as a Kid!

Childhood Ambition:
I wanted to be a teacher and a secretary. Funny, I've been both! I spent 30 years in the classroom and now am a part-time church secretary.
Fondest Memory (from back then): 
My cousins owned a ranch outside of Houston and I rode on a couple of "cattle drives" with them. Granted, not miles and miles, but we had a chuck wagon and had to "keep them dogies movin'" even if it was down a highway and into Matagorda Bay.
Proudest Moment (from back then):
I can't pinpoint one moment, but I can tell you how awesome it was to know Daddy was proud of me.  He bragged on any accomplishment I had and was especially excited about how many books I read. I can remember him telling my grandmother that someday I'd write a book. Sad to say, he died before that reality.  

My First Job (paid or unpaid—something you feel is significant—child or teen) :
I drove as delivery girl for my dad's pharmacy. Met some unusual people along the way. True story: my dad filled prescriptions for the Baptist nursing home. One doctor prescribed "spirits of fermenti" to lower blood pressure. Daddy poured Jim Beam in those bottles! If those lil' ole ladies only knew what was in that tablespoon each night!
Childhood Indulgence:
Mother grocery shopped on Saturday, and I'd get chocolate chip cookies! Yum. Or chocolate ice cream. (emphasis on anything chocolate!)
Favorite Outfit as a Child:
I participated in an "etiquette class" at Foley's in Houston. I won a plum colored skirt and vest. Plum must've been the fashion color that year!  
Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:  TV:
My Friend Flicka and Sky King onSaturday mornings! (Talk about dating myself!) 
Favorite Childhood Book: Little Women. I cast myself as Jo.
Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:
Reading. Mother said I was born with a book in my hand. My parents made sure I had access to the neighborhood library when I read almost all the elementary school library books.
Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child?
Ugh. Seventh grade! Mr. Hale caught me passing a note to my girlfriend and READ IT OUT LOUD. Poor Ivan Jones. I wrote about how cute I thought he was...
Best friends?:
Cynthia Roberts and Mary Ann Faigle. We're still close today.
For the past 20 years we've carved out 3 days each summer to catch up on old times.
A Favorite Christmas Memory from Your Childhood:
On Christmas Eve we gathered around the one black rotary dial telephone and talked with my grandparents and aunt in Memphis. I thanked them for my gifts. That was the extent of long distance calling, unless you had a death in the family!
What was Christmas like when you were growing up?
Quiet. Our kinfolk lived in Memphis. Often Daddy had to work at the drugstore on Christmas Eve so traveling wasn't an option. I loved it when my grandparents came to Texas! The worst ever was the year Daddy bought the aluminum tree with the spiraling colored light which shone on the branches turning it red, gold and blue! Only happened one year! We stopped that tradition in a hurry.
Was there anyone in your childhood who pointed you to Jesus?
Pastor Leonard Mansen. I joined Oaks Christian Church in seventh grade, and my parents soon followed. Daddy's schedule kept us from attending church often. But when I became friends with Esther Shaw, and spent the night with her, I attended church.
Share your introduction to Christ as a child or teen or a significant event that led to your walk with Jesus.  Pastor Mansen's sermons pricked my teen conscience for sure. Between his passion for the Lord and LaVerne Cross's dedication to our youth group, I learned about Jesus. There wasn't a tug on my heart, it was like a magnet. I became a true believer and was baptized when I was fourteen.
Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become? I was loved. By my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles. I felt valued. I had the normal teen angst and times when I didn't "fit in" but I had a strong values system and Jesus on my side. What more could a girl want?
Author Eileen Key

  About Eileen:

  Eileen Key, freelance writer and editor, resides in San Antonio, Texas, near her grown children and two wonderful grandchildren. She’s published eight anthology stories and numerous articles. Her first mystery novel Dog Gone from Barbour Publishing released in 2008.She also taught school for thirty years.

Leave a comment for a chance to win this book!
Eileen's Books:
Forget-Me-Not, A Plants Alive! Mystery, Avalon Publishing, Coming soon
A Door County Christmas, Barbour Publishers, December 2010
Dog Gone, Barbour Publishers, 2008

A Commitment to Helping Writers--Eileen Key's Web Site

Left to right: In Door County, Wisconsin ice cream shoppe: Rachael Phillips, Eileen Key, Cynthia Ruchti, Becky Melby, authors with stories in A Door County Christmas

The Clearing, an artist's retreat where Door County Christmas authors stayed!

Don't forget to check out the Door County Blog and meet the characters of the book there.  

Leave a comment for a chance to win A Door County Christmas 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Door County Christmas: Rachael Phillips

Rachael as a toddler
Rachael Phillips is special to me and I admire her quite a lot. She's kind, funny and such a good writer and friend. As a fellow member of the Indiana Chapter and American Christian Fiction Writers, I've been able to get to know her better. And she is usually willing to take a break from her writing to meet up at Ivanhoe's in Upland, IN where she can work on her sundae list. (Ask her about this in your comments!)

Her humor is wonderful, but she also is a great prayer warrior. And she's a top notch choir director and singer--she knows her music! She and her husband have taken many-a-mile bicycle rides on their tandem bike--and she has in fact rode on that bike to my house to drop off her latest fiction book with her story, "Ride with Me into Christmas" in the A Door County Christmas.

If you live in an area where you can get her columns in the newspaper, you will have your laugh for the day, as well as learn something about life in general. Rachael is gifted and God was developing her special gifts even when she was a young girl. (And with all those brothers, it's no wonder she has a great sense of humor!) Join me in discovering Rachael as a young girl who had a cat named Velvet Indiana:

Childhood Ambition: To be a famous popular singer like Barbra Streisand. Or a missionary.
Playing the piano, practicing to be a "star" --or a missionary

 Fondest Memory (from back then): In Brown County, Indiana, my parents owned a ramshackle cabin on Lost Lake. I rowed a boat alone to the middle of the lake on a gorgeous spring evening and watched God set the sky on fire with flaming pink roses. I must have sat there more than an hour, simply reveling in His artistry. 

Such a cutie!
Proudest Moment (from back then): I won a state poetry contest as a junior higher with a poem—not surprisingly—about a sunset.
Rachael in her office at a young age
Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen: Although I often opened my big mouth, I was painfully insecure—especially as an adolescent. Skinny legs and a negative bust measurement can really kill a girl’s self-confidence. 
Someday this gal would learn to see herself through God's eyes--beautiful!
My First Job (paid or unpaid—something you feel is significant—child or teen) :I first worked as a waitress for Howard Johnson’s restaurant. With 28 flavors, it was one of the first multi-flavor ice cream places, and I loved cleaning up the soda fountain! I also liked singing “Happy Birthday” to customers. Some of my non-musical fellow servers paid me tips to sing for their tables. 

Rachael in High School, got paid for singing!
Childhood Indulgence: There weren’t many. I was the oldest girl with four siblings. But when I walked to Charlie’s General Store to buy bread for my mom, she often gave me a nickel or dime extra, and I bought yummy Butterfinger or PayDay candy bars.

Favorite Outfit as a Child: As a preschooler, I didn’t really care what dress I wore—we wore dresses a lot—but I always insisted on wearing my ruffly can-can to church. It was scratchy and so stiff it hit me in the nose when I sat down. But I was SO proud of it. I tried to call it a “ruffle-on-top-of-a-ruffle,” but could only say a “ruckle-on-top-of-a-ruckle.”   
Young Rachael with her fabulous "ruckle-on-top-of-ruckle" dress
Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show: We didn’t go to the movies much. One night we all went to the drive-in and saw Lady and the Tramp, which I loved. I also liked watching Mighty Mouse because I loved his singing. Sometimes I tied a towel (cape) that hung down my back and jumped off the sofa, singing, in my best operatic imitation, “Here I come to save the day!”

Favorite Childhood Book: Wow, hard to say. I read voraciously and raided the county Bookmobile that visited our village and the Columbus, IN public library every chance I got. Probably Louisa May Alcott’s books, Alice in Wonderland, and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. I also read biographies, Nancy Drew mysteries, and I stole my brother’s Boy’s Life magazines. Once I got a hold of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, but when I asked my mother what a concubine was, that ended my foray into adult literature for a while.     

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime: Reading. Singing. Imagining. Baking cookies.

Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child? Yes, I wrote my cousin in Louisiana and my girlfriend who had moved from Columbus to Seymour, Indiana for several years.

Best friends?: Donna in first grade. Bonita, Debbie, and Kathy in elementary. 

Any Childhood Pets? We had a silky black cat named Velvet—I called her Velvet Indiana because I was proud of my state. We had various dogs, but my favorite was Shaggy, a cocker spaniel. I still like cockers.

Childhood Hero: Jesus. I loved Him from an early age. And English royalty fascinated me. I read everything I could get my hands on about Queen Elizabeth I, a strong woman who ruled a powerful kingdom during an era when kings possessed most of the power. 

Rachael, age 16, and her brothers
A Favorite Christmas Memory from Your Childhood: When I was eleven, I wanted white ice skates so badly I dreamed about them. My mother told me we couldn’t afford them, and I’d have to continue to rent the ugly brown ones at the rink. I drooped in despair. How could I be Peggy Fleming? But on Christmas morning, I opened a big package, and there they were: perfect white ice skates that magically transformed me into an ice fairy. My family went skating Christmas night, and I’ll never forget the light silvery snow falling as I twirled on the ice, wearing my new skates.   

Rachael and a family dinner
What was Christmas like when you were growing up? Most of our Christmases were quite simple, with a Charlie Brown-type tree (Dad refused to spend money on a better one) and a few presents. He did make sure we had lots of fruit around—boxes of big Delicious apples, tangerines, oranges. Mom bought bags of hard Christmas ribbon candy and worked hard to make Christmas special. Occasionally, we spent Christmas with relatives, but mostly, we stayed home together, often playing games we received as gifts. And sometimes we went ice skating. My dad, who ran a construction business and pastored a church, took Christmas off—the only day of the year I remember his being around all day. 

Was there anyone in your childhood who pointed you to Jesus? Certainly my parents, especially my mom. She was and still is an amazing woman of God. And the people of our small congregation. 

Share your introduction to Christ as a child or teen or a significant event that led to your walk with Jesus.  My parents modeled their faith in every aspect of their lives. They made Him so real that my early memories involve Jesus almost as much as them. When I was three, I was told Jesus was my best Friend, and that He was with me all the time—just invisible. So whenever I sat down, I scooted over and made room on my chair for Jesus to sit beside me—that’s what best friends do, right?

Rachael Phillips, author, wife, mom, grandmother and funny lady (have her speak at your event!)

 Rachael's Writing and Life:
 A Door County Collection (Barbour Publishing), including The Heart’s Harbor by Cynthia Ruchti, My Heart Still Beats by Eileen Key, Christmas Crazy by Becky Melby, and  Ride with Me into Christmas by Rachael Phillips, releases in September 2010.

A Door County Christmas: Add a comment with contact email and have a chance to win this book!

Left to Right in A Door County Ice Cream Shoppe:Authors Rachael Phillips, Eileen Key, Cynthia Ruchti, Becky Melby

Rachael co-wrote a reference book called Women of the Bible (Barbour Publishing) with Carol Smith and Ellyn Sanna that will release February 2011.  Rachael just finished writing a women’s fiction called Kneady Women, a story about a lonely fiftyish writer who finds fun, food and fellowship with an offbeat bread-baking group called the "Loafers." Rachael writes humor columns for three newspapers and articles for newspapers.

A Door County Christmas webblog site
Rachael's Web Site
Rachael on Facebook
Rachael's Author Page on Facebook
Rachael on Twitter!


    Rachael Phillips, a former choir director(who directs the ACFW choir once-a-year at conference,) owes her unplanned writing career to a church secretary who solicited staff contributions to the church newsletter at gunpoint. Rachael published her first fiction, a comic romance novella called Ride with Me into Christmas, part of A Door County Christmas Collection, in September 2010. She also has co-authored a reference guide called Women of the Bible, to release in February 2011. She wrote  four biographies in Barbour Publishing’s Heroes of the Faith series: Frederick Douglass: A Slave No More; Billy Sunday: Major League Evangelist; St. Augustine: Early Church Father; and Well with My Soul, a collection of four mini-biographies of hymn writers.

More information about her writing and awards can be found on her Web site,

Rachael writes a weekly humor column called “Coffee Corner” for the Marion Chronicle-Tribune in Marion, Indiana, the Pilot News in Plymouth, Indiana, and the Marion, Illinois Review. The 2004 Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award winner, she published stories in the Zondervan collection Help, I Can’t Stop Laughing (2006), which includes authors such as Barbara Johnson and Martha Bolton. She also has published devotions and stories with Guideposts, Moody Publishers, and others. Rachael has written for magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman, Marriage Partnership and Today’s Christian. More information about her writing and awards can be found on her Web site,

Rachael has been married 35 years to Steve, a family physician and adjunct professor at Taylor University.New to the Upland area, they attend Upland Community Church. Steve and Rachael have three married children: Beth (Frank); Christy (Bryan), and David (Janelle). Four perfect grandchildren provide lots of writing inspiration: Annabelle Kate, 6; Joey, 4; Linus, 2; and Jay, 2.

The Clearing, an artists' retreat where A Door County Christmas authors  stayed
Rachael, Keeps on Writing, Keeps on Singing, Keeps on Doing God's Will and Eating Sundaes!

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Door County Christmas Special: Becky Melby

Becky, age 3, and her baby brother (from a family Christmas card) in their cute, footie pjs!

Becky has an unusual childhood treat she liked to eat. (See if you can find it in this interview!) I wonder if she still would eat it today? No matter, there are some things that have stuck with her through the years--her writing and passion for words, her family commitment and her ability to get through the tough times with a hope. Life wasn't always easy for Becky, but her relationships sustained her and she weaves her stories with relationships, too.

Before this latest book was written, A Door County Christmas, authors Rachael Phillips, Eileen Key, Cynthia Ruchti and Becky Melby gathered together at retreat center, The Clearing, to discuss and see the setting of their novella collection in Door County, Wisconsin. They had a fun time (though at one point the electricity went out!) and brought back more than stories for a book--they brought back treasured memories and friendship.
The Clearing: An artist's retreat for the Authors of A Door County Christmas in Door County, Wisconsin

Come find out about Becky and then at the end see what sorts of stories Becky writes. See if you can relate:

Childhood Ambition:
I started writing stories when I was eight, and knew I wanted to become a writer when my fifth grade teacher put my poem about a bunny on the bulletin board with a huge red A+ on it.

 Fondest Memory (from back then):
We lived in Minneapolis when I was four. I remember my mother (then about 40) putting on a pink bathing suit and running up and down the sidewalk with me when it rained. Around the same age, I lost my favorite stuffed bunny. My mother took the bus downtown to Dayton’s to find a replacement. She called me from the store—it may have been my first phone call. I remember holding this huge black telephone receiver and picturing my mom in the toy department. She said they didn’t have any bunnies, and wondered if I would be happy with a pink dog. I said yes and she brought him home. From her example, I learned so much about respecting children and getting down on their level.

 Proudest Moment (from back then):
In high school, I wrote a poem about Jackie Kennedy after President Kennedy was assassinated. It was published in the local paper. Loved seeing my name in print!

 Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen: My father died when I was seventeen, just weeks before graduation. That was a difficult time.

 My First Job (paid or unpaid-something you feel is significant-child or
 teen) :
I did a lot of babysitting from twelve to fourteen. I’d been taught to do the dishes and clean up even if I wasn’t there to fix a meal. I loved the surprise and compliments when tired moms came home late and found the kitchen clean. For several years I sat for a family of seven kids. It was a great feeling of accomplishment every time I survived the night!

Childhood Indulgence:
Toast with peanut butter, sprinkled with Tang!

 Favorite Outfit as a Child:
I remember walking around and around the driveway in my first saddle shoes. I couldn’t believe I had shoes just like Mom! I had an Easter dress that was white lace on top and sheer peach on the bottom. With white gloves, I felt like a princess.

 Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:
My Friend Flicka, Lassie, or anything with dogs or horses.

 Favorite Childhood Books:
Scuffy, The Little Engine that Could, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. In junior high and high school, I read Mrs. Mike almost every summer.

 Best friends?:
When I was between five and nine we lived on a circle drive in a subdivision in St. Joseph, Michigan. There were four other girls my age on the circle—Chery, Pam, Sandy, and Kathy. We did everything together, but Chery was my best friend. When we moved to Wisconsin, it was devastating.

 Any Childhood Pets?
Three dogs: Blacky, Daisy, and Candy. I was ten when we got Candy. Who knew I’d still have her when I got married? Hubby was less than thrilled with my shedding, golden retriever “dowry.”

 A Favorite Christmas Memory from Your Childhood:
Two dolls. I was given “Miss Christmas” when I was four. She had a maroon velvet dress and a collar and muff of real fur. A few years later, I was ecstatic when my parents gave me an almost-life-sized doll. I remember twirling around the living room with her. (When I was about ten, my little brother cut off her fingers. Still haven’t gotten an apology from that boy.)

 What was Christmas like when you were growing up?
Small and traditional. Our family consisted of my parents, my brother, and me. We didn’t have extended family living close. On Christmas Eve, we went to the candlelight service at church, came home and ate oyster stew, and opened gifts. On Christmas Day we had ham or turkey with plum pudding for dessert.

 Was there anyone in your childhood who pointed you to Jesus?
I grew up in a very liberal church, but my mother had a very strong faith, and read her devotions and prayed daily. I do remember a Sunday school teacher, probably in her sixties at the time, who showed slides depicting the crucifixion every Easter, and every year she cried as she gave the presentation. I didn’t understand it at the time, but it stuck with me, and I sure do now.

 Share your introduction to Christ as a child or teen or a significant
 event  that led to your walk with Jesus.

In high school, I was invited to a Billy Graham movie by friends. It was there I heard the message of salvation for the first time. I recommitted my life to Jesus because, in my mind, I’d always really believed in Him. Years later, in my twenties, I finally understood what it meant to truly surrender and allow Him to be Lord.

 Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood
 which affected the writer you have become?
My paternal grandfather and an aunt were both authors and my father read constantly. I think that exposure helped foster my desire to write.

Becky's current works:  Minnesota Moonlight, a 3-in-1 contemporary collection I co-authored is now available. I’m currently working on the first of a three book series for Barbour. Tomorrow’s Sun, contemporary fiction with a historical thread going back to 1852 and the Underground Railroad, is scheduled to release in the fall of 2011.

Check out Becky's blog.

Books to read:

A Door County Christmas: Add a comment below to have a chance to win!
"Christmas Crazy" in A Door County Christmas -- September 2010

Minnesota Moonlight -- July 2010, Dream Chasers
                               -- 2010 RWA IRCC Finalist

Pleasant Surprises & Parting Secrets available now.  
Pure Serendipity coming soon-
all from Barbour Publishing, Inc.

Door County Christmas site.

Becky's Web site  --warm fiction with dollops of faith and sprinkles of joy--
Author Becky Melby

Becky has been married to Bill, her high school sweetheart for 38 years. They have four married sons and eleven (count 'em!) fabulous grandchildren ranging from almost fifteen years to five months. When she's not writing or spending time with family, she loves hopping on the back of their Gold Wing motorcycle or taking weekend RV trips!

LEAVE A COMMENT today for a chance to win A Door County Christmas! Be sure to leave a contact email in this format: yourname AT ISP dot com.

Ice Cream Parlour, "Not Licked Yet" where the four authors met to retreat from brain-storming their stories for A Door County Christmas: Left to Right--Rachael Phillips, Eileen Key, Cynthia Ruchti, Becky Melby