Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Finding Hollywood Nobody ~ Lisa Samson

It is May FIRST, time for the FIRST Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

Today's feature author is:

and her book:

Finding Hollywood Nobody

Navpress Publishing Group (February 15, 2008)


Lisa Samson is the author of twenty books, including the Christy Award-winning Songbird. Apples of Gold was her first novel for teens

These days, she's working on Quaker Summer, volunteering at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, raising children and trying to be supportive of a husband in seminary. (Trying . . . some days she's downright awful. It's a good thing he's such a fabulous cook!) She can tell you one thing, it's never dull around there.

Other Novels by Lisa:

Hollywood Nobody, Straight Up, Club Sandwich, Songbird, Tiger Lillie, The Church Ladies, Women's Intuition: A Novel, Songbird, The Living End

Visit her at her website.


Chapter One

Hollywood Nobody: Sunday, June 4

Well, Nobodies, it's a wrap! Jeremy's latest film, yet another remake of The Great Gatsby, now titled Green Light, has shipped out from location and will be going into postproduction. Look for it next spring in theaters. It may just be his most widely distributed film yet with Annette Bening on board. Toledo Island will never be the same after that wacky bunch filled in their shores.

Today's Hottie Watch: Seth Haas has moved to Hollywood. An obscure film he did in college, Catching Regina's Heels (a five-star film in my opinion), was mentioned on the Today show last week. He was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. Hmm. Could it be he'll receive the widespread acclaim he deserves before the release of Green Light? For his sake and the film's, I hope so.

Rehab Alert: I've never hidden the fact that I don't care for bratty actress Karissa Bonano, but she just checked into rehab for a cocaine addiction. Her maternal grandfather, Doug Fairmore, famous in the forties for swashbuckling and digging up clues, made a public statement declaring the Royal Family of Hollywood was "indeed throwing all of our love, support, and prayers behind Karissa." The man must be a thousand years old by now. This isn't Ms. Bonano's first stint in rehab, but let's hope it's her last. Even I'm not too catty to wish her well in this battle. But I'm as skeptical as the next person. In Hollywood, rehab is mostly just a fad.

Today's Quote: "It's a scientific fact. For every year a person lives in Hollywood, they lose two points of their IQ." Truman Capote

Today's Rant: SWAG, or Party Favors. Folks, do you ever wonder what's inside those SWAG bags the stars get? Items which, if sold, could feed a third-world country for a week! And have you noticed how the people who can afford to buy this stuff seem to get it for free? I'm just sayin'. So here's my idea, stars: Refuse to take these high-priced bags o' stuff and gently suggest the advertisers give to a charitable organization on behalf of the movie, the stars, the whoever. Like you need another cell phone.

Today's Kudo: Violette Dillinger will be appearing on the MTV Video Music Awards in August. She told Hollywood Nobody she's going to prove to this crowd you can be young, elegant, decent, and still rock out. Go Violette!

Summer calls. Later!

Monday, September 15, 4:00 a.m.

Maybe I'm looking for the wrong thing in a parent.

I turn over in bed at the insistence of Charley's forefinger poking me in the shoulder. "Please tell me you've MapQuested this jaunt, Charley."

She shakes her tousled head, silhouetted by the yellow light emanating from the RV's bathroom. "You're kidding me right?" She slides off the dinette seat. Charley's been overflowing with relief since she told me the truth about our life: that she's not really my mother, but my grandmother, that somebody's chasing us for way too good of a reason, that my life isn't as boring as I thought. We're still being chased, but Charley can at least breathe more freely in her home on the road now that I know the truth.

Home in this case happens to be a brand-spanking-new Trailmaster RV, a huge step forward from the ancient Travco we used to have, the ancient Travco with a rainbow Charley spread in bright colors over its nose.

"Where to?" Having set my vintage cat glasses, love 'em, on my nose, I scramble my hair into its signature ponytail: messy, curly, and frightening. I can so picture myself in the Thriller video.

"Marshall, Texas."

"East Texas?"

"I guess."

"It is." I shake my head. Charley. I love her, I really do, but when it comes to geography, despite the fact that we've traveled all over the country going to her gigs ever since I can remember, she's about as intelligent as a bottle of mustard. And boy do I know a lot about bottles of mustard. But that was my last adventure.

"If you knew, then why did you ask?" She flips the left side of her long, blonde hair, straighter than Russell Crowe, over her shoulder. Charley's beautiful. Silvery blonde (she uses a cheap rinse to cover up the gray), thin (she's vegan), and a little airy (she's frightened of a lot and tries not to think about anything else that may scare her), she wears all sorts of embroidered vests and large skirts and painted blue jeans. And they're all the real deal, because Charley's an environmentalist and wouldn't dream of buying something she didn't need when what she's got is wearing perfectly well. She calls my penchant for vintage clothing "recycling," and I don't disagree.

"Is this really a gig, Charley, or are we escaping again?"

She shakes her head. "No phone call. I really do have a job."

I feel the thrill of fear inside me, though there's no need right now. Biker Guy almost got me back on Toledo Island. (Yeah, he looks like a grizzled old biker.) To call the guy rough around the edges would be like saying Pam Anderson has had "a little work done."

I've been looking over my shoulder ever since.

But more on that later. We need to get on the road. And I need to get on with my life. I'm so sick of thinking about how things aren't nearly what I'd like them to be.

I mean, do you ever get tired of hearing yourself complain?

I flip up my laptop, log on to the satellite Internet I installed (yes, I am that geeky) and Google directions to Marshall, Texas, from where we are in Theta, Tennessee—actually, on the farm of one of Charley's old art-school friends who gave her some work in advertising for the summer. Charley's a food stylist, which means she makes food look good for the camera. Still cameras, motion picture cameras, video, it doesn't matter. Charley can do it all.

"Oh, we've got plenty of time, Charley. Five hundred and fifty miles and . . . we have to go through Memphis . . ."

My verbal drop-off is a dead giveaway.

"Oh, no, Scotty, we're not going to Graceland again."

The kitsch that is Graceland speaks to me. What can I say?

And you've got to admit, it's starting to look vintage. Now ten years ago . . .

I cross my arms. "Do you have cooking to do on the way?"

Yes, highly illegal to cook in a rolling camper.

"Yeah, I do."

"And do you expect me, an unlicensed sixteen-year-old, to drive?" Again, highly illegal, but Charley's a free spirit. However, she refuses to copy CDs and DVDs, so in that regard, she's more moral than most people. I guess it evens up in the end.


"Then I think I deserve a trip through the Jungle Room."

She rolls her eyes, reaches down to the floor, and throws me my robe. "Oh, all right. Just don't take too long."

"I'll try. So." I look at the screen. "65 to route 40 west. Let's hit it. And we'll have time to stop for breakfast."

Charley shakes her head and plops down on the tan dinette bench. The interior of this whole RV is a nice sandy tan with botanical accents. Tasteful and so much better than the old Travco that looked like a cross between a genie's bottle and the Unabomber cabin. "You're going to eat cheese. Aren't you?"

"I sure am."

And Charley can't say anything, because months ago she told me this was a decision I could make on my own.


"I've rethought the cheese moratorium, baby. I know you're not going to like this, but three months of cheese is enough. I can't imagine what your arteries look like. I think it's time to stop."

"What?" Cheese is my life. "Charley! You can't do this to me."

"It's for your own good."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah, I am."


"Because summer's over, baby, and we've got to get back to a better way of life."

I could continue to argue, but it won't do any good. Charley acts all hippie and egalitarian, but when push comes to shove, she's the boss. However, I'm great at hiding my cheese . . . and . . . I'm going to convince her eventually.

But still.

"This isn't right, Charley, and you know it. But it's too early to argue. And might I add, you have no idea what it's like to have a teen with real teen issues. You ought to be on your knees thanking God I'm not drinking, smoking, pregnant, or"—I was going to say sneaking out at night, but I've done that, just to get some space—"or writing suicidal poetry on the Internet!"

We stare at each other, then burst into laughter.

"Just humor me this time, baby," she says. "We'll come back to it soon, I promise."

I don't believe her, but I hop into the driver's seat, pull up the brake, throw the TrailMama into drive, and we are off.

Six hours later

I pull through Graceland's gatehouse at ten a.m., park near the back of the compound's cracked, tired parking lot, and change into some crazy seventies striped bell-bottoms, a poet shirt, and Charley's old crocheted, granny-square vest. Normally I go further back in my vintage-wear, but I'm trying to go with the groove that is Graceland.

I kiss Charley's cheek. "I'll be back by noon."

"When will that put us in Marshall?"

"By six thirty."

"Because I'm not sure where the shoot is."

"Please. Marshall's small. Jeremy and company will make a big splash no matter where they set up. Besides, growing up around this, I have a nose for it."

She awards me one of her big smiles. "You're somethin', baby. I forget that sometimes." She puts her arms around me, squeezes, pulls back, then smacks me lightly on my behind. "Tell Elvis I said hello."

"Oh, I will. He's one of the groundskeepers now, you know."

I've seen computer-generated pictures of what he would look like now, in his seventies. Scary.

I jump down from the RV, head across the parking lot, over the small bridge leading into the ticketing complex and walk by Elvis's jets, including the Lisa Marie. Gotta love anything with that name. Don't know why. Just has a nice ring to it.

Banners proclaim, "Elvis Is."

Is what? Dead? A legend? What? Because he isn't "izzing" as far as I'm concerned. Present tense, people! If the person's not alive, "is" can only be followed by a few options: Buried up in the memorial garden. Rotting in his casket. Missed by his family and friends. Not exactly banner copy, mind you.

Still, you've got to admit the name Elvis wreaks of cool. Perhaps the sign should read, "Elvis Is . . . A Really Cool Name."

But it's not nearly as cool as my name. You see, my real mother loved the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. And that's my name: Francis Scott Fitzgerald Dawn. Only Dawn's not my actual last name. I don't know what my real last name is. My real first name is Ariana. Being on the run, Charley renamed us to protect our identity. So she honored my mother by naming me after Mom's favorite novelist. More on that later too.

It sounds fun, traveling on the road from film shoot to film shoot, never settling down in one place for too long, but honestly, it's very sad.

I always knew Charley lived with a sadness down deep, and when I found out why this spring, her sadness became mine. See, my dad is dead and my mother, Charley's daughter Babette, is too. Or we think she must be, because she disappeared under questionable circumstances and never came back. Learn that when you're fifteen and see where you land.

When I thought Charley was my mother, I had such high hopes for who my father might be. Al Pacino was number one in the ranking. Don't ask.

Okay, Elvis, here we go. Let's you and me be "taking care of business."

I hand over my money to the lady behind the reservations counter. I called thirty minutes ago on my cell phone, compliments of my mother's friend Jeremy, and reserved a spot.

"You'll be on the first tour."

Yes! More time amid the shag carpeting and the gold records. And the jumpsuits. Can't forget the jumpsuits. I want a cape too.

The gift shop calls to me. Confession: I love gift shops. They even smell sparkly. Key chains dangling, saying, "You can take me with you wherever you go!" Mugs with the Saint Louis Gateway Arch or the Grand Ole Opry promising an even better cup of coffee. Earrings that advertise you've been somewhere. That's exactly what I choose while I wait for the tour, a little pair of dangly red guitars with the words Elvis Presley in gold script on the bodies, and how in the world they put that on so small is beyond me. See, gift shops can even be miraculous if you take your time and look.

A voice over the loudspeaker announces my tour number, so I stand in line. By myself. Just me in a group of twenty or so.

Okay, here is where it gets hard to be me. I know I should be thankful for my free-spirited life. But especially now that I know my parents are dead, it feels empty all of a sudden. I shouldn't be standing in line at Graceland alone. My mother and I should be giggling behind our hands at the man nearby who's actually grown a glorious pair o' mutton-chop sideburns, slicked back his salt-and-pepper curls, and shrugged his broad shoulders into a leather jacket. Really, right? My father, who was an FBI agent the mob shot right in a warehouse in Baltimore, would shake his head like a dad in a sixties TV show and laugh at his girls.

We'd get on the bus like I'm doing now, each of us putting on our tour headphones and hanging the little blue recorders around our necks in anticipation of the glory that is Elvis.

The driver welcomes us as he shuts the hydraulic doors of the little tour bus with its clean blue upholstery, a bus in which an assisted-living home might haul its residents to the mall.

It smells new in here, and my gross-out antennae aren't vibrating in the least like they do when I go into an old burger joint and the orange melamine booth hasn't been scrubbed since the place opened in 1987.

In my fantasy, my dad would sit beside me. And Mom, just across the aisle, holding onto the seatback in front of her, would look at me as we pass through those famed musical gates, because she would have introduced me to Elvis music. According to Charley, my vintage sentimentalism comes from my mom. I've learned a little about her this summer.

Charley said, "She'd wear my cousin's old poodle skirt and listen to Love Me Tender over and over again while writing in her diary." She became a respected journalist, loved books as much as I do. I pat my book in my backpack, looking forward to tonight when I can cuddle into my loft and get into one of Fitzgerald's glittering worlds. "She was different from me, Scotty. I tried to change the world through protest. Your mother wanted to build something completely different and much better." She sighed. "All my generation could do, I guess, was tear apart. It's going to take our children to put the pieces back together. Babette was a very careful person. Very purposeful."

If it drove my freewheeling grandmother crazy, she doesn't let on.

"I could try to describe how much she loved you, baby. But I don't think I could begin to do her devotion to you justice. I was so proud of her, for how much she loved and gave away. She was amazing."

So in May I found out she existed, the same day I found out she is dead, or most likely dead. And now I'm going into Graceland alone, truly an orphan. Who wants to be an orphan?

We disembark from the bus—me, Elvis Lite, some folks from a Spanish-speaking country, and a lot of older people. I miss Grammie and Grampie right now. More later on them, too. And you'll get to meet them. Like the waters of the Gulf Stream, we seem to travel in the same general direction. I spent a week with them this summer in Tennessee. Yeah, we did Nashville right. They're loaded.

Standing beneath the front porch, my gaze skates up and down the soaring white pillars and comes to rest on the stone lions that guard the steps. My father was a lion. That's why he ended up with a bullet in his chest. Speaking in very broad terms, the story goes as follows:

Dad, undercover, worked his way into a portion of the mob, or mafia if you prefer, that was heavily financing the campaign of a Maryland gubernatorial candidate. When they discovered him, they shot him on site, in a warehouse in the Canton neighborhood of downtown Baltimore. My mother watched, gasped, and a chase ensued. She hid in a friend's gallery, called Charley and told her to keep watching me. (Charley had kept me the night before because my mom and dad had some glamorous function to attend.) And then she disappeared.

The Graceland tour recorder tells me to look to my right into the beautiful white living room with peacock stained-glass windows leading into the music room. This room really isn't so bad, I've got to admit. A picture of Elvis's dad hangs on the wall. He really loved his parents.

I've toured this house at least seven times before, and I'll tell you this, Elvis's love for his family soaked into the walls. A girl that lives in a camper, has dead parents, and is being chased by someone from the mob who knows my grandmother knows what went down, well, she can feel these things.

Charley thinks someone's trying to kill us. This guy is always trying to find us, but Charley's really great at evasion. She said the politician who won the governor's seat all those years ago just announced his candidacy for president and—oh, GREAT!—he's probably trying to make sure nothing comes back to haunt him and sent Biker Guy to finish off the entire matter.

The thing is, he seems to be after me too. And what in the world would I have to do with all of that?

I'll bet Charley's back in that camper shaking in her shoes because I'm over here by myself; I'll bet she's figuring out more ways to be utterly and overly protective of me. I wouldn't be surprised if she's wondering whether locking a kid in an RV is child abuse.

But I love Charley. I really do. I know she's scared back there, and despite the fact that I would be no real help if Biker Guy caught us, I can't leave her there so frightened and alone for long.

Elvis dear, I can only stay a little while. So love me tender, love me sweet, and for the sake of all that's decent, don't step on my blue suede shoes.

I hurry past the bedroom of Elvis's parents, decorated in shades of ivory and purple, very nice, and through the dining room—a little seventies tackiness I'll admit—into the kitchen with dark brown cabinetry and the ghosts of a million grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches, then on down into the basement. Okay, I admit, I've got to just stand for a second in the TV room and admire the man's ability to watch three TVs at once on that huge yellow couch with the sparkly pillows.

I shoot through the billiard room, which is, honestly, truly beautiful with its fabric-lined walls and ceiling, up the back steps and into the Jungle Room, probably Graceland's most famous room. Green shag carpet overlays the floor and the ceiling, and heavily carved, Polynesian-style furniture is arranged around a rock-wall waterfall at the end of the room. It really defies the imagination, folks. Google Jungle Room Graceland and see what I mean.

The second floor of Graceland is closed off to the public because Elvis died up there. On the toilet. Wise decision on the part of Priscilla I'd say.

Out the door, into the office building, down to the trophy hall, I whiz through all the gold and platinum records, the costumes, the awards, and even a wall full of checks he'd written for charity. According to my recorder, Elvis was an active community member in Memphis. And he obviously didn't care what race or religion people were. He supported Jewish organizations, Catholic, Baptist. Pretty cool.

Of course, this recorder isn't going to tell of the dark side of the man. But Elvis Isn't, despite what the banners say. So why drag a dead man through the mud?

I hurry through the racquetball court, more gold records, the infamous jumpsuits, back outside to the pool and memorial garden where Elvis has been laid to rest.

An older lady cries into a handkerchief. I don't ask why.

Good-bye Elvis. Thanks for the tour. Maybe one day I'll do something great too.

A few minutes later . . .

Monday, April 28, 2008

Max Elliot Anderson Review

My son and I just finished a book called The Newspaper Caper by Max Elliot Anderson. Jacob won this book because Mr. Anderson was giving it away on another blog. Jacob has had a hard time reading since he started school. Mr. Anderson has determined to write books not just for every reader, but intentionally for boys who have a hard time reading; whether it's boredom with reading or struggling with it academically. As he states on his Home Page "My books are written especially for reluctant reader boys 8 and up."

This was an easy book to read. I was even captivated with the fast pace of the book and was bummed every time Jacob was ready to be done with reading time! I didn't read ahead, but stayed at the same pace. Jacob has a hard time putting his thoughts into words, but I wanted to know what his opinion of the book was once we finished. What I got from him was, “I really liked it." I tried to ask him what he liked about it and he wasn't sure. I knew I could ask him all kinds of questions, but wanted him to come up with reasons of his own. I think because of the age of the 3 boys in this book, he was able to relate to them on some level. Mr. Anderson certainly understands boys and what they like: bikes, sports, and mysteries.

I want to make it clear that Mr. Anderson's books aren’t only for boys who have reading problems. Girls would definitely enjoy the adventure and excitement. . Here is a link to his blog as well: I would like to thank Mr. Anderson for filling a gap in the writing world…boys who have a hard time reading. I never understood how hard it could be to get a boy to read. I have 2 teenage girls who have walked around with books in their hands since they were 5 yrs old. I didn’t understand how to get a boy to read a book, but I think finding the right book is a huge accomplishment. Jacob has found an interest in adventure and mystery series. So, The Newpaper Caper was a great adventure for the both of us.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nicole Petrino-Salter winner

I wanted to thank everyone for reading the interview with Nicole and for entering the contest to win her book. The winner is ChristyJan. I sent her an email to let her know. I also wanted to thank Nicole for her generous offer of sending others her other book! I hope you all enjoy her work.

In Him,

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chosen by Ted Dekker

It's April 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!

Ted Dekker

and his book:
Chosen (The Lost Books, Book 1) (The Books of History Chronicles)
Thomas Nelson (January 1, 2008)


Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. To see a complete list of Dekker's work, visit The Works section of

Here are some of his latest titles:


Black: The Birth of Evil (The Circle Trilogy Graphic Novels, Book 1)




Our story begins in a world totally like our own, yet completely different. What once happened here in our own history seems to be repeating itself thousands of years from now,
some time beyond the year 4000 AD.

But this time the future belongs to those who see opportunity before it becomes obvious. To the young, to the warriors, to the lovers. To those who can follow hidden clues and find a great
treasure that will unlock the mysteries of life and wealth.

Thirteen years have passed since the lush, colored forests were turned to desert by Teeleh, the enemy of Elyon and the vilest of all creatures. Evil now rules the land and shows itself as a painful, scaly disease that covers the flesh of the Horde, a people who live in the desert.

The powerful green waters, once precious to Elyon, have vanished from the earth except in seven small forests surrounding seven small lakes. Those few who have chosen to follow the ways of Elyon now live in these forests, bathing once daily in the powerful waters to cleanse their skin of the disease.

The number of their sworn enemy, the Horde, has grown in thirteen years and, fearing the green waters above all else, these desert dwellers have sworn to wipe all traces of the forests from
the earth.

Only the Forest Guard stands in their way. Ten thousand elite fighters against an army of nearly four hundred thousand Horde. But the Forest Guard is starting to crumble.


Day One

Qurong, general of the Horde, stood on the tall dune five miles west of the green forest, ignoring the fly that buzzed around his left eye.

His flesh was nearly white, covered with a paste that kept his skin from itching too badly. His long hair was pulled back and woven into dreadlocks, then tucked beneath the leather body armor
cinched tightly around his massive chest.

“Do you think they know?” the young major beside him asked.

Qurong’s milky white horse, chosen for its ability to blend with the desert, stamped and snorted.

The general spit to one side. “They know what we want them to know,” he said. “That we are gathering for war. And that we will march from the east in four days.”

“It seems risky,” the major said. His right cheek twitched, sending three flies to flight.
“Their forces are half what they once were. As long as they think we are coming from the east, we will smother them from the west.”

“The traitor insists that they are building their forces,” the major said.

“With young pups!” Qurong scoffed.

“The young can be crafty.”

“And I’m not? They know nothing about the traitor. This time we will kill them all.”

Qurong turned back to the valley behind him. The tents of his third division, the largest of all Horde armies, which numbered well over three hundred thousand of the most experienced warriors, stretched out nearly as far as he could see.

“We march in four days,” Qurong said. “We will slaughter them from the west.”

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Christian Author Nicole Petrino-Salter and Giveaway

I "met" Nicole on Shelfari. She sent me a post saying she'd released her book The Famous One. I asked her if she'd want to send it to me to review and then post and she was gracious enough to do just that. She has now agreed to do an interview and give away her book.

As a review I would have to say The Famous One is "edgy", especially the way Nicole explains it in our interview. The main character, Joey, grows up pretty much without any positive influences aside from his grandma and grandpa. He lives in the it's fullest...and that's where I would say the "edgy" comes in. Nicole isn't graphic, she just allows the reader to know what is going to happen. There's no swearing in the book, but she allows for the reader to fill in the blank, literally! Joey's life isn't easy, to say the least and we see how he struggles thru his early years not even realizing his need for God. Then, as it always is, God's timing is perfect with a woman who is brought into his life out of the blue and shines the light of the Lord into his world, his empty world. From there, changes Joey never expected begin to happen and we follow that thru to the end of the story. I was surprised at the ending and it touched my heart.

Here is what is written on the back of the book:

What drives the handsome, troubled Joey Parr in his search for “real”? Joey Parr’s journey from a troubled childhood and rebellious adolescence leads him into a career in film and reluctant celebrity. The Famous One chronicles his life and allows the reader to share in his beginnings, his awkward fame, and the love which finally finds him when he least expects it. As his dream of having a family unfolds, he is stunned to learn something is still missing from his near perfect life.

The Famous One takes an introverted yet passionate character of few words and deep running emotion and puts him into the spotlight of fame where he is hungry for value, substance, and real love but struggles to find them.

“An engaging plot; characters that are real and intriguing; true craftsmanship—what more can you ask? Nicole Petrino-Salter’s writing is certain to touch many people.”––Robert Liparulo, author of Deadfall, Germ, and Comes a Horseman

The following is my interview with Nicole Petrino-Salter.

Nicole, tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been writing.

Born and raised a city girl in Seattle, Washington, somehow I loved horses from "the beginning", so apparently God ordained it. I was never fond of school although I did well in it and had a lot of friends. So when my parents wanted me to go to college, I dutifully attended the University of Washington for one year and took primarily literature classes but decided to quit when spring quarter ended and go to work to save my money for a trip to Europe to chase after a British actor. I met him on my last day in London--he'd just gotten married. You have to understand I didn't yet know my Savior Jesus Christ even though I've always believed in God. When I returned from Europe, I went back to the U. for a quarter and then finally found the racetrack where I could be around horses everyday. Over 30 years later my husband and I finally "retired" from horse racing. I'm married, have two sons, one adorable daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren. There's a lot of "stuff" in there before finding Jesus that isn't pretty.

I realize it can sound cliché, but I really have been writing for as long as I can remember, although certainly more at some times during my life than others.

Do you love living in the Northwest? It was where I spent a bulk of my growing up years. I miss the mountains, the Puget Sound, the greenery, and yes even the rain!

You know, I really do. As far as I'm concerned, it's the near perfect climate. We have the desert-type weather on the eastern side of the state and the more mild, and, yes, rainy climate on the western side. Very seldom do we have severe weather, the worst being flooding in certain areas. It's truly beautiful here, and we have just about everything within reach (forests, mountains, ocean, lakes, the Sound, islands, farms, the desert).
What other books have you written?

You're referring to my first novel Hope Of Glory, a story about one race meet at a middle echelon Thoroughbred racetrack. I can honestly say it is the most comprehensive novel written about American horse racing for adults, capturing the language, lifestyle, and culture of racing. It even has a Glossary of Terms in the back for those who don't recognize some of the "lingo". (This particular novel is only available from me, and I will send you a copy of it, Mimi, if you want one.) However, it is very much a first effort, technically imperfect, but I'm not ashamed of the effort because I wrote it in direct response to the Lord's direction once I yielded any talent he might have given me for writing to Him.

The second novel is The Famous One, written after another "dramatic" experience with the Lord. These are the only two published books of seven complete novels. The others are Sweet Release, Wounds . . . and Healings, Destination, The Fixer, and Breath of Life. I'm working on number 8 right now.

Do you feel like you have a genre you’d write more for?

I call what I write "non-traditonal" romance, but, honestly, I don't think that says enough. I wish I could write a mystery, but, so far, the Lord has kept me in whatever place I'm in, and I trust His leading far more than my own.
What kind of books do you like to read and do you read a lot?

I read a lot, yes, and sometimes too much. The kind of books I prefer to read generally aren't being written right now. I write the kind of books I like to read, meaning long novels as in sagas or epics. I want to know the ins and outs of everything about the characters, the scenes, the plot--all of it. But, no, today we get the slam, bang, "lean" writing for the most part. Not my favorite. Give me Dostoevsky over Hemingway any day. I read mysteries and thrillers, not too many straight romance novels anymore because so many of them seem cloned--and that's nothing against the authors because they're just writing what they need/want to meet their personal or publishing obligations.

Ok, so your new book is called The Famous One, how did you come up with the idea for this book?

Well . . . I watched a film. I'll just say it wasn't a drama. That very night the Lord dropped the actor so strongly into my heart that I could barely say his name aloud without tearing up. So a small part of this novel is semi-autobiographical. I carried the burden for this actor's salvation like none I've had before it for two years. This book literally erupted from the experience as I was going through it.
Do you have any history in the Hollywood scene? What was the research like?

My only experience in the Hollywood scene is a love for good movies, few and far between as they are. I've always been a drama queen of sorts. I was able to have a communication several years ago with a television screenwriter who at the time was writing for the series JAG. He wrote several episodes which were distinctly Christian in "flavor", so I wrote to him to praise the episodes and inquire as to his faith. Turns out he was an agnostic man of Jewish heritage, but he wrote back a couple of times and ended up sending me an autographed copy of one of the "Christian" scripts completely unsolicited.

The only other "connection" I have to the scene is the incredible burdens for prayer for a few of its constituents.

The research for The Famous One consisted of a couple of books on movie production and about the actor, a few websites. As you know, Mimi, the film references and the ins and outs of "the biz" in the novel are very general on purpose.
I think readers would consider this an “edgy” Christian story, would you agree?

"Edgy" is a term which conjures up all kinds of debates and controversy. If by "edgy" you mean it's not "fluff", it addresses sinful issues plainly without judgment, and it shows the lifestyle of a young person growing up without God in his life, then, yes, without a doubt it is an "edgy" Christian story.
Was it hard for you to get your book published in a Christian market that involves sexual, drinking, and drug issues?

I had to publish it myself. Early on I made it to the final process at a top Christian literary agency, but in the end they declined it. I'm not so sure the length in today's market is more undesirable than the frank dealing with sexual, drinking, and drug issues. This novel is 143,000+ words, a definite no-no.

When you started writing this book, did you know who you wanted Joey to end up with? There were a couple times I thought, “Oh she would be perfect for him”, but in the end I think you picked the best one, of course!

I'm a "seatof thepants" writer so I knew there was "the" one out there, but I had no idea when or where or who she would ultimately be until she "appeared", but I did know some things about her. Other readers have said the same thing you just did about the girls who came before "the" one.
Did you know how you wanted to end the book when this story came to mind?

No, I did not.
Where can our readers get in touch with you? I know you have a Shelfari site, but anywhere else?

I really do love to hear from people. Please visit my blog and leave a comment on any post of your choice, and I will definitely get back to you. You can also find me at:
Thank you so much for doing this interview and I pray that your book is enjoyed by many people!

The pleasure was all mine, Mimi. Thanks for asking such thoughtful questions. I hope my answers weren't too long or ridiculous. May the face of the Lord shine upon you for your willingness to present a nobody-in-the-industry with such a wonderful opportunity. Thank you.

So, has this whet your appetite to read The Famous One? If so, leave a comment and a way to reach you. I will draw a winner April 23 at 8pm.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My winner for Cathy Marie Hake is...

Shellie! My daughter drew her name (not guilt for me!). Shellie, I sent you an email through ACFW on the Yahoo group. If you don't receive it there, I will try and find a different way to get in touch with you. I want to thank Cathy again for doing this interview.

In Christ,

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cathy Marie Hake Interview and Drawing and Auction

My daughter and I absolutely loved this book! We've read the last 4 books Cathy has written and we can't say enough about them! Forevermore incorporates characters from her previous book Fancy Pants. Have you ever flubbed up a saying? Well, we meet Hope in Forevermore and let's just say she has a way with words. She is a character the reader will grow to love. If you'd like to read an excerpt, you can visit Bethany House Publishers online. Here is a description of the story from Bethany House Publishers:

Like a dandelion in the wind, Hope Ladley blows from one farm to the next, helping cook for the field hands during the harvest. Illiterate and often twisting cliches and Bible verses into mind-boggling observations, Hope leaves widower Jakob Stauffer baffled by her unconventional ways. But her sunny disposition and unstinting love make changes of a different kind around the place. His little daughter and the pregnant sister he's shielding from an abusive husband adore Hope, and things are getting accomplished even if Hope's methods are unique.

Then Jakob's brother-in-law shows up and threatens the newfound peace and happiness of the farm. With Jakob's future uncertain and his heart tangled, can the farmer convince Hope to take root and remain as his wife?
Now for the blessing of Cathy's interview and chance (for a fund raiser) to name a cat or dog in her next book...

Have you considered writing a story that centers around a character who's a Lamaze teacher?
Truth is stranger than fiction--no one would ever believe what I'd write! (Cathy laughs) There's the daddy who cut a hole in the mattress so his wife could sleep on her tummy, and the mama who brought her sick pygmy hedgehog to class... I suppose this is one of those cases where time is my friend. I write historicals, and Dr. Lamaze didn't come up with his childbirth preparation theories until 1930.

What book(s) have you enjoyed writing the most?
My books are like my babies--I love them all, but in different ways, and for different reasons. Forevermore was touching for me in so many ways because of how the Lord guided me. Just one example is that I pray over my writing and had asked for a verse for that next book. As a bargain hunter/scrounge I went to GoodWill and there was this HUGE oak framed, numbered horse-and-buggy-farm print with a Bible verse matted below it. It was *the perfect verse* and it was only $5.99 and then it was half price. That picture was beside me the whole time I wrote as a reminder of the Lord's faithfulness.

What kind of books do you read? How many books would you say you read a month?
I'm a readaholic. I read mayonnaise jar labels, the book from my purse at the doctor's office, and the emergency pamphlet on airplanes. It's hard to say how many books I read in a month because I read several books at the same time. There's the book I carry in my purse (fiction), the big stack of nonfiction books I'm reading to do research for the book I'm writing, the primary fiction book I'm focusing on in the living room, and another fun sort of book in the ahhhh... "reading room.* When I'm on writing deadline, I barely read at all, when I'm not on deadline, I read voraciously.

Have you always been interested in the Wild West? If you had been around during that time period, what kind of person do you think you would've been – like any of your characters?
I have early childhood memories of my parents taking us through antique stores, showing us odd contraptions and telling us how they were used. They collected fine antiques, and I caught the "bug." If I lived back then, I'd have to say I'd be like Ruth in Letter Perfect. I'm klutzy and don't always say the right thing. My heart's in the right place, but my foot's often in my mouth.

You have a number of books you've coauthored. What's that process like and are you given the choice of who to work with or is it a surprise? Is there an author you haven't written with that you would like to write with?

The books I've "coauthored" have either been novellas that released in anthologies or stand-alone books that were part of a series involving multiple authors. In all but two cases, I was given full choice about whom I worked with, and the process is a blast! After coming up with a core idea, I'd grab one other person and flesh out the idea. Either she and I did the whole thing, or we'd assemble a team and expand the process. We draw up a map of the town, make note of whose dress is blue, whose settee is rose-colored, etc. Keeping track of all the details becomes a game. As for the future--I'm now writing with a different publisher, so the process is different. There are so many authors who'd be a delight to write with. I'm open to whatever the Lord and my editor would lay before me.

Who are some of your favorite authors? What genre do you enjoy reading?

ROMANCE. The Bible is the ultimate romance--Jesus is the prince who overcame the deadly obstacle of sin to rescue me and provide the eternal Happily Ever After. Because of that, I particularly love to read books that have hope and happy endings in them. My bookshelves are full of historicals by Tracie Peterson, Judith Miller, Francine Rivers, Kim Sawyer, Kelly Hake, Deeanne Gist, and Lauraine Snelling. When it comes to contemporary romances/women's fiction, I love Karen Kingsbury, Dee Henderson, and a couple of newer authors, Julie Carobini and Kathryn Cushman.

Are you a history buff? When did you decide that Historical Fiction was the genre you wanted to write for?
I've never been great with numbers. I can't rattle off dates. I can't remember the "address" for verses in the Bible, either. I can recall the facts, the words, the events and verses-- so I'm a history buff without the incredible encyclopedic mind that others have. When I began writing, I tried my hand at both historical and contemporary stories. Historical books require significantly more research. (When were black lisle stockings invented???) But those stories just *sang* to me. I enjoyed writing them so much more, it wasn't hard to see what I ought to focus on.

Do you ever have times as a writer where even though you're in the middle of writing a book, circumstances around you keep you from being able to write? How do you overcome that? Do you go without sleep so that you can keep the momentum going? How do you balance marriage, parenthood, being a Lamaze coach, and a writer, not to mention everything else in life?
Mimi, have you been spying on me? (Cathy laughs) I've had some major health issues that interfered with writing--like the time I shattered my left elbow and had to type one-handed for over a year, and the time more recently that a severe auto accident made it hard for me to sit and type for more than an hour at a time. At times like that, I've had to talk to my editor at delay my deadlines and book releases. Right now I'm on deadline, and a crazy sort of dementia sets in. The book is pretty much done, but suddenly, I think perhaps I ought to go back and tweak something. I'm a night owl, so I'll be up until 5 or 6 am. My husband gets up for work, give me a kiss and I'll finally go sleep awhile. My daughter Kelly is also an author. She and I "cover" for each other by cooking, grocery shopping, doing laundry, etc. during crunch times. Even then it's a comedy around here. Currently I'm on deadline, I have to get ready to go figure out taxes, and one of the dogs just came to me with paint on his tail because my husband is painting the living room!

Did you already have Hope's story planned out in your mind when you were writing Fancy Pants? Will there be any other stories that involve these characters?

Amazingly, no. I now have the next three books planned out, but at that time all I knew was that I'd be writing more books set in that fictional Texas community. Yes--I have plans for other characters in Gooding--so I'll have a chance to see the characters from Fancy Pants and Forevermore again and find out how they're doing.

Do you find it hard to keep up with all of your readers who share how much they've enjoyed your books? From the looks of the Guestbook on your website you have quite the following!
Readers are awesome. It's humbling to think about how busy everyone is, yet they spend their leisure time with me by picking up my book. I'm a technopeasant, so I rely on my husband to do the technical stuff. He's currently looking at email programs and the legalities of online newsletters. Once he figures all that out, I hope to have one up and running.

What are you working on right now? Do you have any other books coming out this year?
Whirlwind is next. I'm importing a new store owner from England to Gooding. It'll come out later this year. The cover features a woman in a gorgeous white dress, holding her hat, standing on the bow of a ship.

In Forevermore, how did you come up with all those cliché's that Hope continually bungled? The way you were able to change the wording to fit the situation was fantastic.
It was so fun to make those up! The real problem was not using some of the ones I dreamed up--In future books where Hope appears, I have plans to slip in one or two more of her unique cliché’s.

Have you considered writing a book that's set in modern times?
I have for two previous publishers. I wouldn't rule out the possibility. Sometimes it's fun to mix things up a bit. My first love is historical, but if God opened doors, I'd willing walk through them.

How long did it take for you to have your first book published? What was that process like for you? Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?

I wrote for ten years. The first five, I wrote alone. Then I found a local writing group that gave excellent guidance. After a year and a half, I submitted a manuscript to an editor and got a "good rejection." I thought the editor was being polite when she invited me to send in anything else I had. Crushed, I didn't submit anything more for four years. Then I submitted a book to a different house. At that point, when I sold, I had so many books written I started signing contract after contract. I have two pieces of advice: Get involved in a group such as American Christian Fiction Writers. Before you put your hands on the keyboard, fold them in prayer.

One last fun thing, Mimi: I'm participating in an online auction to help raise funds to fight juvenile diabetes. I've donated two different "lots." One is the right to name the cat in my next book and to get a bag of cat goodies. The other is the right to name the dog in my next book and to receive a bag of dog goodies. You can go bid on them--the auction will close on May 31. Here are the 2 pages for Cathy's items! Good luck bidding.

I would like to thank Cathy from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to share a bit of herself with us. I definitely wish I were hanging out with her in sunny, warm Cali as opposed to frigid, melting Minnesota!

If you would like to win a copy of one of her books, leave a comment and I will have a drawing on April 17. You can enter until 8pm that night.

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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.