So, I’m actually a writer. Amazing.

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A year ago, I was reading a very kind rejection of my now debut novel. How could I have known then that a year later, I’d have a debut book out now and another due out in the spring, with a publisher who is enthusiastic about my stories? I’m still pinching myself. But I can’t deny the fact that I put a tremendous amount of hard work into learning how to write better, and more effectively There’s a lot to be said for perseverance and determination to improve.

But with that, I received uncounted boosts of encouragement, advice, criticism and help from other writers. If you are a writer, join a writing critique group. On the advice of an agent who encouraged me even though she never took me on as a client, I joined a Christian critique group at ACFW. There are scores of wonderful writers there, in large and small groups. They are all a part of me becoming a published author. I could never thank them enough for their patient, continued advice and feedback.

With that wind in my sails, I brought dogged determination into the arena with my imagination and my love of words, and have begun a journey that I know will need continued effort for me to continue to improve, and say the things I want to say. For now, I can stand back a moment, survey this amazing terrain and say, Wow. I’m actually a writer!

I’ll post a link where you can see some of the reviews. If you read my book and like it, please post a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Goodreads, or Allromance ebooks. Thanks!

Review link on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_17?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=nancy%20shew%20bolton&sprefix=Nancy+Shew+Bolton%2Caps%2C228

Other links:

Barnes and Noble: To buy on Barnes and Noble

Smashwords: To Buy on Smashwords

Goodreads: On Goodreads

Prism Book Group: Prism Book Group

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Wow! I’m learning how to self-promote!

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As I’ve said in more than one blog interview, I’m not very good at the promotion aspect of being an author. But I’m learning! I’ll have to bring the same dogged determination to this as I do to improving my writing.

Anyway, here are some endorsements for my book, from other authors:

From Dvora Waysman:

“The Right Ingredients” is appropriately named.  Nancy Bolton has cooked up something very satisfying … a realistic look at life behind the scenes in a cake shop;  a romance that has its ups and downs as in real life; three dimensional characters and family situations; and a spiritual awakening that is very moving.   This is a novel you’ll be sorry when it ends as you’ll grow to love Ann and her experiences.”

Dvora Waysman  Author of 13 books including “The Pomegranate Pendant” now a movie titled “The Golden Pomegranate.”

From Lena Nelson Dooley:

This debut novel reminds me of the early Mitford novels. A slice of life story with a gentler feeling to it. Some interesting plot twists surprised me, and I fell in love with the characters.

–Lena Nelson Dooley, multi-award winning author of the McKenna’s Daughters series–Maggie’s Journey, Mary’s Blessing, and Catherine’s Pursuit

 

From Carlene Havel:

“The Right Ingredients” is an engaging book with realistic characters. Author Nancy Bolton manages to weave themes of divine, romantic, and family love into a cohesive plot, as the redemptive power of love transforms Ann from a timid wall flower into a mature, confident woman. Grab a tissue to dab at some happy tears while you immerse yourself in this tender love story.

Carlene Havel

Author, “A Hero’s Homecoming” and other love stories

 

From Diane Dean White:

I had the pleasure of previewing “The Right Ingredients” by Nancy Shew Bolton.   I wasn’t disappointed. Her story weaves a dream two college friends bring to fruition. Along the way they experience, faith, confidence, trust and love. A plus are the luscious goodies they make, that will bring a smile to your face and a dash to your favorite bakery!

Diane Dean White – author of Carolina in the MorningOn a Summer NightStories from a Porch Swing and Texting Mr. Right.

And here are the blog links for today:

http://blog.lindacarroll-bradd.com/interview/guest-interview/guest-interview-nancy-bolton/

http://marylouwrites.weebly.com/-behind-every-story-blog

http://susanbaganz.com/2014/09/26/the-right-ingredients-book-review/

And finally, the buy links for my book:

Amazon: To buy on Amazon

Barnes and Noble: To buy on Barnes and Noble

Smashwords: To Buy on Smashwords

I’m a Published Author Today!!!

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Yippee! Today my debut novel is out, and I’m officially a published author! So many people helped and encouraged me, or I wouldn’t have gotten here. Thank you a gazillion times, all of you! I’m excited! I said I’d post the links, so here they are. Amazon has it in paperback and ebook, and Barnes and Noble and Smashwords have it in ebook form. If you enjoy it, please leave a review on Amazon, or any of the other outlets. Thanks again, and I hope you like it!

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=The+Right+Ingredients+Nancy+Shew+Bolton&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3AThe+Right+Ingredients+Nancy+Shew+Bolton

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MY debut novel is out next week!! I’m excited!!

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It’s finally happening! After much work, editing, etc., my first book is finally ready to launch, with another waiting in the wings for the spring of next year! My first book is called “The Right Ingredients” and will be released on the 24th of this month. I’ve always loved September! Here’s a picture of the cover, and a headshot of me looking a bit surprised, but gratified that my book is coming out!

The story is a contemporary romance, and here is the tagline first, followed by the back-cover blurb. Tagline:

Missing the right ingredients for a life of joy, a young baker learns lessons in the true recipe for love.

Blurb:

Ann’s hectic work responsibilities demand all her time and effort, and what was once a useful, satisfactory life has become a burden. Her bakery partner Susan has lost none of her enthusiasm for their business, and Ann can’t understand her exuberance, or her friend’s Christian faith. So she trudges along, hiding her dissatisfaction from Susan, resigned to a life of work, sleep and problems.

Unexpected comments offered by two different people cause a crack in Ann’s armor and her thoughts careen into unexpected directions. Attention from a young widower with a son challenges Ann’s resolve to stay safe and uninvolved. Susan’s example of faith through trial furthers Ann’s curiosity about God. Ann must choose to step toward the unfamiliar freedom of giving and receiving love, or stay in the shadows, stuck in the grip of past hurt and long-standing barriers.

Now here are the endorsements:

From Dvora Waysman:

“The Right Ingredients” is appropriately named.  Nancy Bolton has cooked up something very satisfying … a realistic look at life behind the scenes in a cake shop;  a romance that has its ups and downs as in real life; three dimensional characters and family situations; and a spiritual awakening that is very moving.   This is a novel you’ll be sorry when it ends as you’ll grow to love Ann and her experiences.”

Dvora Waysman  Author of 13 books including “The Pomegranate Pendant” now a movie titled “The Golden Pomegranate.”

From Lena Nelson Dooley:

This debut novel reminds me of the early Mitford novels. A slice of life story with a gentler feeling to it. Some interesting plot twists surprised me, and I fell in love with the characters.

–Lena Nelson Dooley, multi-award winning author of the McKenna’s Daughters series–Maggie’s Journey, Mary’s Blessing, and Catherine’s Pursuit

 

From Carlene Havel:

“The Right Ingredients” is an engaging book with realistic characters. Author Nancy Bolton manages to weave themes of divine, romantic, and family love into a cohesive plot, as the redemptive power of love transforms Ann from a timid wall flower into a mature, confident woman. Grab a tissue to dab at some happy tears while you immerse yourself in this tender love story.

Carlene Havel

Author, “A Hero’s Homecoming” and other love stories

 

From Diane Dean White:

I had the pleasure of previewing “The Right Ingredients” by Nancy Shew Bolton.

I wasn’t disappointed. Her story weaves a dream two college friends bring to

fruition. Along the way they experience, faith, confidence, trust and love. A plus

are the luscious goodies they make, that will bring a smile to your face and a dash

to your favorite bakery!

Diane Dean White – author of Carolina in the Morning,

On a Summer NightStories from a Porch Swing and Texting Mr. Right.

So there you have a short introduction to my debut novel, which will be released on the 24th, and available at: Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and All Romance ebooks. YIPPEE!!!!!

Interview and Book Give-away with Lena Nelson Dooley

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CATHERINE’S PURSUIT  by Lena Nelson Dooley

The search for her sisters will become a spiritual journey for the entire family.

Raised by her father, Catherine McKenna has never lacked for anything, surrounded by people to take care of her every need. On her eighteenth birthday she discovers that not only did her mother die when she was born, but she has two identical sisters. Although her father vowed not to look for his daughters, Catherine made no such promise. Setting out on her own with one clue and her maid in tow, she’s determined to find her sisters.

Collin Elliott has seen better days. After losing his ship to a violent and unexpected storm, he is trying to recover–physically and emotionally. When Angus McKenna sends him to find, follow, and protect his daughter, he wants nothing more than to finish his task and return home. Can he help her find her sisters?

And will the discoveries they make along the way teach them both what’s most important in life?

 

Today is my third interview with Lena Nelson Dooley. We’ve focused the interviews on her latest series, a trilogy called “McKenna’s Daughters.” In this interview, we’ll discuss the third book, “Catherine’s Pursuit.”

The trilogy follows three daughters, separated at birth after their mother dies tragically during a difficult wagon train journey to the west. This last interview concerns Catherine’s story, the daughter who was kept and raised by the father of the girls, Angus McKenna. The book also brings together the narratives of the other two daughters, and brings a satisfying conclusion to a very enjoyable series.

Hi Lena! I finished reading Catherine’s Pursuit, the last book of your McKenna’s Daughter’s Trilogy and I loved it. You did a masterful job of weaving all three stories into the final book, and ending the trilogy wonderfully. So, I’ll begin the interview by asking about the trilogy.
I thought it was interesting how contact with Mary, and her very different life experiences facilitated a great change in Catherine’s heart. Did you plan this story thread out before you began writing, or did it evolve as the story did?

I had a general timeline for each story, but it’s just basic. The story evolves as I write it. As I was writing Catherine’s story, I realized that the timeline I’d made wouldn’t work with the other two stories. All three overlapped in the last part of the year. So I printed up a calendar for 1885 and put in the dates that had been in the first two books. Then I worked the events for Catherine’s story in the times that would work and transferred that to Catherine’s timeline.

That’s a great idea, using a timeline. I’ll have to remember that! I’m curious, did you find it harder to write from any of the male characters’ perspectives, or easier, or about the same as writing from the females’ perspective?

I do find writing from a male character’s POV to be hard. But I have studied a lot about the way male’s think. Then taking into consideration how individual each male is, I work out a way of thinking and speaking that is true to males in general and my male character individually. I have had several men tell me that I really “got” the male perspective.

Good for you! That can be challenging. So, how did you feel once you finished this series?

With each series I’ve written—this is my second one—I’ve missed the characters. In one way, I’m glad it’s over, but in another I want the series to go on and on. There are plenty of unattached characters who would make good heroes or heroines.

True. Who knows? You may re-visit them in the future. Do you plan on writing another series ?

I have started another series—Love’s Road Home. I’m most of the way finished writing book one—A Heart’s Gift. It is set in Summit County, Colorado, in 1891-2. The second book is set in Grape Vine, Texas (modern day Grapevine), and the third book is mostly in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Sounds interesting! Do you ever go back and re-read your published stories? If so, which ones?

Not often. I finally did read my first book about two years after it was published. I have read parts of books when I choose to use the selections when I’m teaching a writing class.

What’s the best part about hearing reader reactions to your books?

When they like my books, it’s like getting applause in live theater or a concert. If they don’t really care much for my books, and if they give a good reason why, it can influence my later writing.

If you’ve ever received a less than positive review, how do you handle that, and how does it affect you?

I won’t lie, it hurts. But I’ve learned not to let it hurt long. I let myself have half an hour to mourn. Then I move on. You can’t please all the people all the time. I’m writing for those who do like my writing.

What advice would you give to someone who tells you they’d like to write a book?

I hear that all the time. I do talk to them to find out why they want to write a book and what kind of book they want to write. Then I try to get them as much help as I can. I really don’t have time to give much help to every person who asks.

Before you started writing, if you’d known how much time and effort it required, would you still have become a writer?

God created me to be a writer in my mother’s womb. If I don’t write, I’m not happy or fulfilled the way God wants me to be. Some people are created to be writers who encourage other people, and they may never be published. Others write other things. God did bless me to be able to see my books published and my plays performed.

How much time per day, or week, do you usually spend on writing?

I’m in my home office at least 6 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, according to deadlines. Some of the time is writing manuscripts. Other time is maintaining my Internet presence or doing research for the books.

Do you have any pointers on which social media you feel is most important for a writer to utilize?

I actually utilize these: a Facebook page, a Facebook profile, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, and Linkedin.

Did any of your books stump you to the point where you had to do a major re-write or step away from them for a time?

Writers often have to step away from a story and let it stew in our brains. When we come back, we have a fresh perspective. That’s just part of writing.
Thank you, Nancy, for having me.

And thank you for the interview, Lena! It’s an honor to speak with you.

Okay readers, I’m including an excerpt from the first chapter of “Catherine’s Pursuit” below. Enjoy, and leave a comment for a chance to win this wonderful book!

 

Chapter 1

September 19, 1885

San Francisco, California

 

Catherine Lenora McKenna could hardly believe the long-awaited day was here. Her eighteenth birthday.

 

Now she was an adult, and her father would have to stop hovering over her as if she were a fragile china doll in one of his stores. She would be free. Holding her hands above her head like the ballerina in the music box on her bureau, she whirled in a circle that lifted the hem of her blue taffeta skirt to a scandalous height. That didn’t matter, because no one was here to catch a glimpse of her ankles anyway. Not even her personal maid, Julie, who had gone downstairs to grab Catherine a more substantial breakfast from the kitchen before she fainted dead away.

 

Aunt Kirstin wanted Catherine to eat very light before her party tonight, where a sumptuous banquet would precede the ball. There would be presents to open as well. Catherine hoped her father planned a spectacular gift for her birthday … maybe to send her on a tour of the Continent. Of course, Aunt Kirstin would probably accompany her, but at least she would be able to see more of the world for herself, not just read about it.

 

Europe should be beautiful in the autumn, or in any season of the year. Since both of her parents were born in Scotland, she wanted to visit there as well as London … Paris … Rome. She had read every book and magazine she could get her hands on, so she knew so much about Europe. A thrill of anticipation shot through her whole body. Visions of crossing London Bridge, strolling along Avenue des Champs Elysees, or touring the Colosseum danced through her head. Pictures she’d enjoyed studying with their Holmes stereopticon. She wondered if Father would accompany her or if he would allow Aunt Kirstin to be her only escort … besides a few servants, of course.

 

“Where is Julie with my food?” Catherine huffed out an exasperated breath. “Am I going to have to go to the kitchen myself?”

 

She thrust open the door and hurried down the hallway, the sound of her footsteps lost in the thick cushioning of the carpet. At the top of the front stairs, she stopped to see if she could figure out where her aunt Kirstin was before she sneaked down the backstairs.

 

Peering over the balcony railing, she caught a glimpse of her aunt’s face through the partially opened door to the library. Her brows were knit together into a frown as she stared at someone in the room with her. Catherine had never seen such a fierce expression on her aunt’s face.

 

Father’s voice was muffled as he said something to his sister-in-law. What is he doing home at this time of morning? Catherine wished she could tell what they were talking about. She had never heard her father use that tone with anyone, especially not Aunt Kirstin. As if he were angry or terribly upset.

 

Catherine leaned farther over but kept a firm grip on the railing so she wouldn’t tumble down. A drop like that onto a marble floor could be deadly.

 

Aunt Kirstin gripped each hand into a fist and planted them on her hips. “Just when are you going to tell her?”

 

Come to think of it, her aunt was using a harsher tone than Catherine had ever heard her use.

 

Father didn’t answer.

 

Catherine quickly crept down the stairs being careful not to place her foot on the second step from the foyer, which would squeak and reveal her presence. At the bottom, she straightened and checked her reflection in the gilt-framed, oval mirror beside the front door. When she found everything satisfactory, she tiptoed toward the library.

 

“I don’t know.” Her father’s words stopped her in her tracks.

 

What did he not know?

 

“Angus.” Aunt Kirstin’s voice was firm and insistent. “She deserves to know the truth. And now she’s old enough to understand.”

 

Catherine didn’t hesitate to enter her favorite room in the house. She pushed the door farther open, and both her aunt and her father turned startled eyes toward her. The two looked as if they had been caught in an act of mischief.

 

“Tell me what? What will I understand?” Her questions hovered in the air, quivering like  hummingbirds without a way to escape the net of tension that bound the three of them together.

 

Her father glanced at her aunt, then turned his attention back to Catherine. The deep scowl on his face dissolved, and he dropped into the closest chair, dejection dragging his shoulders into a slump. Tears welled up in his eyes and rolled down his cheeks unheeded. He didn’t even blink.

 

“I knew this day would come eventually.” Each word sounded as if it had been wrung from his throat.

 

Catherine had never before seen her father cry. And he had always been such a strong man. But right now, he was draped in defeat. Her heart hitched in her chest, making her breathless. Something must be terribly wrong. Was he sick with a deadly disease? About to die? How would she live without him? She wanted to grab him in a tight hug and cling with all her might to keep him close.

 

Aunt Kirstin dragged two chairs closer to where he sat and offered one to Catherine before settling on the other. She smoothed her skirt over her knees and clasped her hands tight enough to blanch her knuckles.

 

Fear swamped Catherine, trying to drown her in its depths. The strong foundation her life had been built upon shuddered, then she felt as if a crevasse opened deep within her. Tears leaked into her own eyes, blurring her vision as she stared first at her father and then at her aunt who, were always anchors in her life.

 

Her father raised red-rimmed eyes toward her, his face a pale, scary caricature of the man she’d always leaned upon. “There’s so much you don’t know … my precious daughter.”

 

Such a formal way for her father to talk to her, as if they were separated in some unseen way. Trembling started in her knees. She was glad she was sitting, so she didn’t sink to the floor in a swoon. The tremors rose over her whole body, and she shook as though a chill wind had swept through the room.

 

Dare I ask another question? When she tried, her tongue stayed glued to the roof of her mouth, so she waited for him to continue.

 

Aunt Kirstin didn’t utter a single word either.

 

“I’ve brought Miss Catherine a bit of a snack.” Julie bustled through the open doorway, breaking the unbearable tension for a moment. “There’s enough for all of you … and a pot of that new tea you just received from China.” She set the tray on the table that stood beside Aunt Kirstin’s chair, then exited the room.

 

Mechanically, Catherine’s aunt poured three cups of the steaming liquid and added just the right amount of milk and sugar to match each person’s preference. When she handed the saucer and teacup to Father, both of their hands shook, rattling the china.

 

Catherine received her tea and kept one hand on the cup, warming her icy fingertips.

 

“Would you like a sandwich or a piece of cake?” Aunt Kirstin’s whispered words were only a bit louder than the clink of the dishes.

 

Catherine didn’t think she could get a single bite down her throat that now felt like a sandy desert. She shook her head.

 

Father didn’t glance at her aunt before he handed his cup back without even taking a sip. He turned his gaze toward Catherine and took a breath, releasing it as a soul-deep sigh. “Some things happened when you were born … that I’ve never shared … with you … with anyone, except your aunt.”

 

 

Remember to leave a comment to be entered in the book drawing! To learn more about Lena and her books, here are some links:

Lena’s webpage: http://www.lenanelsondooley.com/

Lena’s blog: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/

Lena’s books: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/p/books.html

On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_18?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=lena%20nelson%20dooley%20books&sprefix=lena+nelson+dooley%2Cstripbooks%2C449

 

Interview and Book Giveaway With Dvora Waysman

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Interview and Book Giveaway with Dvora Waysman

Today I’m interviewing Dvora Waysman. She’s a multi-published author as well as a syndicated journalist, who lives in the ultimate city: Jerusalem! Her newest book, “Autumn Blessing,” an e-book published by Prism Book Group, is available now. After the interview, I’ll post a blurb about it. If you leave a comment, you’ll be included in the drawing for a free copy of “Autumn Blessing!” So, here we go!

Hi Dvora! I’m so enjoying getting to know you. Let me start the interview by asking what inspired you to start writing fiction books?

I have always been a writer – short stories, articles, poetry – anything that invoves the written word. I also love reading, so novels were a natural progression for me.

I’ve read that you began writing at age 7! What age were you when you began to write fiction novels? What was your first novel, and how long did it take you to write it?

My first novel was “The Pomegranate Pendant” now a movie titled “The Golden Pomegranate”. It came late in life – in1995 – when I was 64. “The Pomegranate Pendant” is a historical novel set in Jerusalem over 100 years ago (in 1882, when the first Jewish Yemenites arrived in the Holy Land to escape their persecution). I had to do a lot of research, and especially about Yemenite jewelry as my heroine is a silversmith. It took me 9 months to write.

“The Pomegranate Pendant” was made into a movie. What was it like to see something that began as an idea in your head actually fleshed-out into reality?

Having it made into a movie was very exciting. It is fairly faithful to my book although certain things were added for dramatic reasons.

I’ve heard some authors say they wished they hadn’t let go of creative control when their book was made into a movie. Did you feel that way? Was it hard to let other people take control of your story?

I had the right of veto and was present on the set for much of the filming – in fact I appear, like Hemingway, in a cameo part – but if you blink, you miss me. I exercised my veto on a rape scene they wanted to include. It held up the filming for a while, but in the end they agreed to delete it.

You’ve certainly had a very interesting life so far, and I can see that some of your books incorporate your experiences into them. After I read “Autumn Blessing” I found myself wondering how much of it was based on your own life. Care to expound on that?

“Autumn Blessing” is pure fiction, except for the name Dorothy which was my name in Australia (Dvora is the Hebrew version). Thankfully I am not a widow and have been married 59 years. But I think all fiction must represent emotions the author has experienced from time to time, or it would not be realistic.

I really enjoyed the way you describe Dorothy as if she were a flower herself, coming out of a dark, dormant phase and gradually responding to light and new growth. Was this a familiar process for you in your own life?

In my long life, I have lived in many places and travelled the world,sometimes on book tours When I was young, I lived a few years in London and Youth Hostelled my way around Europe; I have spent time also in the Far East – Hong Kong, Bangkock and Singapore. But my life took on a new dimension when we came to the spiritual city of Jerusalem. It is a great privilege to live here.

A large portion of American women (the baby-boomers, as we call them) are now around the age of your main character Dorothy. What advice would you give on how best to navigate this stage of life known as the golden years?

The golden years are really a misnomer, for they can’t replace youth where every day is a new exciting experience. But if you keep your heart young and take time to look for the dewdrop in the heart of the rose, you will go on finding life to be beautiful.

What is the main idea you want to convey to the reader through Dorothy’s story?

I think that when one door closes, another one opens. We shouldn’t cry because it’s over, but smile because it happened. Memories should be cherished.

What do you like most, and least about being a writer?

I love everything about being a writer. The joy never leaves me. I am in love with words!

What are you working on now?

A new novel called “Searching for Sarah” set in Jerusalem. It is about a portrait of a young woman found abandoned in a studio and the search for the artist. I am 83 now, so this will probably be my swan song. It is both prose and poetry and I aim to make it memorable if God grants me enough time to complete it.

I pray that He will, and more besides! Thank you so much for doing this interview, Dvora. I’m honored and thrilled to know you. I pray for blessings and safety to you in this challenging time in Jerusalem. May God’s protection cover you and all of Israel, and may there soon be peace.

Now, here’s a short blurb about “Autumn Blessings.”
Autumn can be a desolate season. For Dorothy, after losing her husband, the autumn of her life stretches before her lonely and uncertain. But a change, a new hobby, and new friends prove this new season to be bountiful with blessings.
Be sure to leave a comment, and you’ll be entered in the drawing for a free copy of the “Autumn Blessings” e-book.

To visit Dvora’s blog, go tohttp://dvorawaysman.com
To learn more about Dvora, go tohttp://dvorawaysman.com/about-me/
To read about and purchase her books, go to either of these:  http://dvorawaysman.com/my-books/

Orhttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref%3Dnb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=dvora+waysman

Interview and Book Give-away with Lena Nelson Dooley!!

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Today, I’m interviewing Lena Nelson Dooley, a multi-published writer who has over 800,000 books in print! I find that pretty mind-blowing!  She’s written a trilogy of historical romances about triplet sisters separated at birth during an arduous wagon-train journey. It’s called “McKenna’s Daughters.” My first interview with Lena, on my group blog, focused on the first book, “Maggie’s Journey.” The interview today will focus on book two, “Mary’s Blessing.”
Here’s a teaser about it: 
Mary Lenora Murray knows she is adopted. As she was growing up, her mother called her “God’s blessing.” But now that she’s gone, Mary no longer feels like any kind of blessing. Her father, in his grief, has cut himself off from the family, leaving the running of the home entirely in Mary’s hands.
As she nears her eighteenth birthday, Mary can’t see anything in her future but drudgery. Then her childhood friend Daniel begins to court her, promising her a life of riches and ease. But her fairy-tale dreams turn to dust when her family becomes too much for Daniel, and he abandons her in her time of deepest need.
Will Daniel come to grips with God’s plan for him? And if he does return, can Mary trust that this time he will really follow through?
When her mother dies, Mary Lenora must grow up quickly to take care of her brothers and sisters. Can love help her to shoulder the burden?
After the interview, I’ll post the first chapter of the book, to whet your appetite some more! If you leave a comment, you’ll be entered in a drawing for a free copy of the book!
Okay, here we go with my first solo interview on my personal blog! I share in a wonderful group blog where I post interviews, but am really looking forward to doing interviews here, as I can add more content if I want to.

So, here we go!

Hi Lena! Welcome to my personal blog. To begin with, I’d like to say I really enjoyed reading about Mary and her many challenges. I’m wondering, has any of your own life experience fueled your ability to portray the realities of Mary’s stressful life?

Yes, I was shy with a poor self-image until about the time I was a senior in high school.

I find it interesting how different Maggie’s and Mary’s lives are, as well as their emotional processes. Do you have a definite idea of their character’s responses no matter what happens, or do they evolve as you write?

They pretty much evolve as I wrote it. However, I did add certain characteristics that all three girls shared.

Daniel was an interesting character as well as her father. Both of them learned to change their attitude toward Mary, and appreciate her. Had you decided on this theme when you first thought of the story?

 I wanted to showcase the difference in the kinds of homes that Maggie and Mary were raised in. As the stories developed, so did the themes.

I loved the Tony Chan character. I know this area of the country had many immigrants from China and Japan at the time, and they helped build the railroads, and perform much manual labor. I’d love to see this character again. Will Tony figure into the final book?

Yes, Tony will be instrumental in Catherine’s Pursuit as well. James and I eat at Chan’s Mongolian Grill. The owner is Tony Chan. One day, I went in and got something to take home for lunch. We were visiting, and I said I had to get back to my writing my novel. He asked me if I would name a character after him. I told him yes, then had to do research into Chinese names. Once he was in this story, it had to carry over to the next book.

Great! With the masterful hints you’ve given in the first two books, you’ve piqued my curiosity on how the three sisters will possibly meet. Is it difficult to coordinate all these personalities and variables into an ending that fits all three sisters?

I didn’t have much trouble with that, but when I got to book three, I had to change the timeline of that story to fit into the right places with the other two stories. The last one overlapped with the last parts of the other two.

Is writing a trilogy different than a single story?

Yes!!!

Are you more satisfied at the completion of a trilogy, or is it harder to bid goodbye to your characters after spending so much time writing about them?

Writing this trilogy was easier than the first book series I wrote. There were four books in it. And by the time I hit book three, I was really tired of the characters. By book four, I loved them again. Of course, books one and two of the trilogy are really stand alone stories, so that didn’t happen.

Do you have a favorite sister in these stories, or did you find them all to be interesting company?

I loved each one as I wrote her.

For me, Mary’s character had an increased depth of emotional impact, due to her difficult circumstances and responsibilities. Her character’s challenges really tugged at me, and you wrote her emotions so well. I’m curious:  Did the writing of Mary’s story coincide with an emotional time in your own life?

No, other than having to meet the book’s deadline.

You’re funny! I’m excited about reading the third book, and featuring it next month for our last interview on your trilogy! Can you give me a bit of a teaser on the third book about the other sister Catherine, the only daughter raised by the father of the three sisters?

Catherine is the sister that the father kept, but she doesn’t know she has sisters. She is raised as an only child. When she finds out she lost sisters as well as a mother, it’s very emotional for her, because she always wanted siblings.

Thanks for the interview, Lena! For those of you who’d like to learn more about Lena and her writing, you can visit her at her blog: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/ and learn about and buy her books: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/p/books.html

Also her website: http://www.lenanelsondooley.com/

NOW, Here’s the first chapter of Mary’s Blessing:

Chapter 1

Outside Oregon City

April 1885

“Pa?” Mary Lenora Murray shouted back over her shoulder as she picked up the heavy picnic basket. “You ready to go?” Why does he always drag his feet when we’re going to church?

Her father came through the mud room into the kitchen, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. He smelled of heat, hay, and sunshine, with the strong tang of muck from the barn mingled in. By the looks of his clothes, attending church was the farthest thing from his mind. His ratty trousers held smudges of several dark colors. She didn’t even want to guess what they were. And the long sleeves of his undershirt, the only thing covering his torso, were shoved above his elbows. Grayed and dingy, the shirt would never be white again, no matter how hard she tried to get it clean.

Mary bit her tongue to keep from scolding him as she did her younger brothers and sister when they made such a racket entering the house. No doubt, he would give her some excuse about having too much work to go to church. Not a big surprise. She’d heard it all before too many times.

He set a bucket of fresh water beside the dry sink and gripped his fingers around the front straps of his suspenders. That always signaled he was about to tell her something she didn’t want to hear.

“I’m not going today.” This time, he didn’t really make any excuses. Just this bald-faced comment.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm her anger. She’d give him a sweet answer even if the words tasted bitter in her mouth. “The new pastor is coming today. We’re having dinner on the grounds after the service. Remember, I told you when we got home last Sunday.” She flashed what she hoped was a warm smile at him and prayed he couldn’t tell it was fake.

“What happened to the last one? He didn’t last very long, did he?” Pa started washing his hands with the bar of homemade soap she kept in a dish on the shelf. “Don’t understand why that church can’t keep a pastor. Someone musta run him off.”

Mary couldn’t keep from huffing out a breath this time. “I told you about that, too.” She clamped her lips closed before she asked the question that often bounced around her mind. Why don’t you ever listen to me? At seventeen, she was close enough to being an adult to be treated like one, and she’d carried the load of a woman in this household for years.

“His wife died, and his father-in-law begged him to bring the grandchildren closer to where they live, so he headed back to Ohio. Living in the same community as their grandparents, he’d have a lot of help with the younger ones.”

Mary had never known her own grandparents, none of them. Not her mother’s parents. Not her father’s parents. Not the parents of whoever gave birth to her. She didn’t wonder about any of them very often, but today, her heart longed for someone who really loved her.

With bright red curly hair and fair skin that freckled more every time she stepped into the sunlight, she didn’t resemble anyone in this family that had adopted her as an infant. Since they were black Irish, they all had dark hair and striking blue eyes, not like her murky green ones. And none of them had ever wanted to know what she thought about anything … except her mother.

“Well, I’ve gotta lot to do today.” Her father reached for the towel she’d made out of feed sacks. “You and the others go ahead. I might come over that way at dinner time.”

No, you won’t. Mary had heard his statement often enough to know he was trying to placate her so she would leave him alone. So she would.

“Frances, George, Bobby, come on. We don’t want to be late.” She shifted the handle of the loaded basket to her other arm. “Frances, you grab the jug of spring water. We might get thirsty.”

Her father’s icy blue eyes pierced her. “Pretty warm out today. No sign of rain.”

“We’ll be picnicking in the field between the church and Willamette Falls. It’s cooler there, especially under the trees with the breeze blowing across the water.” She started toward the front door.

“Keep your eyes on the boys.” His harsh command followed her. “Don’t let either of them fall into the river. They could drown. Water’s fast right there.”

She nodded, but didn’t answer or look back at him. All he cared about were those boys and getting them raised old enough to really help with the farming. He already worked them harder than any of the neighbors did their sons who were the same ages.

Six long years ago her mother and older sisters contracted diphtheria when they went to help Aunt Miriam and Uncle Leland settle in their house on a farm about five miles from theirs. On the trip to Oregon, one of them had contracted the dread disease and didn’t know it until after they arrived. No one knew they were all dead until Pa went looking for Ma, Carrie, and Annette a couple of days later. He saw the quarantine sign someone nailed to a fencepost and didn’t go closer until he had help. When he came home, he told Mary she would have to take over the keeping of the house. Six long years ago.

When did my life become such a drudgery? Had it ever been anything else? At least not since Ma died, which seemed like an eternity ago.

***

Daniel Winthrop whistled while he dressed for church. He looked forward with anticipation to the moment when he would lay eyes on Mary Murray. Even her name had a musical ring to it.

He’d been waiting and planning what to say when he approached her. Today he would start his subtle courting. With the situation at the Murray farm, he knew he would have his work cut out for him to convince her she could start a life of her own with him. After he achieved that, he’d ask her father for her hand.

Visions of coming home to her each night and building a family together moved through his head like the slides of photographs in the Holmes Stereopticon they had at home. He loved her already, but more than that, he wanted to get her out of that house where she was loaded down with so much work and responsibility.

Daniel had often gone with his mother when she bought fresh produce from the Murrays. So he knew what her life had been like since her mother died. Their families came to Oregon on the same wagon train so he’d known her all his life. He was only three years older than she was, and he had watched her over the last few years as she blossomed into a beautiful young woman.

Mary needed to be appreciated and cared for, and he was just the man to do it.

“Daniel, we’re leaving soon.” His father’s voice prodded him from his dreams.

With a final peek into the tall cheval glass, he straightened his necktie before he headed out the door of his room. “I’m on my way.”

He bounded down the stairs and took their picnic basket from his mother. “Something really smells good.” He gave a loud sniff. “Do you need me to test and make sure it’s all right?”

He welcomed her playful slap on his hand that crept toward the cover on the basket. Her laughter reminded him of the chimes he had heard in the larger church in Portland.

“Not a single bite until dinner.” Like a queen, she swept out the door Father held open for her.

Their familiar ritual warmed his heart. He looked forward to creating family rituals with Mary. Once more, he whistled as he headed toward the brougham. Nothing could cloud his day.

When they pulled up to the Methodist Church, his father guided the team toward the back where a large area paved with fine gravel gave plenty of space for those who arrived in horse-drawn vehicles. While Father helped Mother down from the open carriage, Daniel took the reins and tied them to one of the hitching rails that outlined the space. He chose the rail under a spreading black cottonwood tree, so the horses would be in the shade while the family worshiped.

He scanned the lot, looking for the Murray wagon. Not there. Disappointed, he stared at the ground. Please, God, let Mary come today.

Clopping hoofs and a jingling harness accompanied a wagon taking too fast of a turn into the parking area. Daniel cut his eyes toward the advancing disaster. Two of the wheels did indeed lift from the ground. Before he could get a shout out of his mouth, he heard Mary’s sweet voice.

“Lean to the right, boys!”

George and Bobby, Mary’s brothers, scrambled across the seat, followed by Frances. The wagon wheels settled into the gravel, and Mary pulled on the reins.

“Easy. Settle down.” Even though she spoke to the horses, he heard every word.

His heart that had almost leapt from his chest also settled down when he realized she was no longer in danger. Thank You, Lord.

The wagon came to a standstill, and Mary put her dainty hand to her chest and released a deep breath. The green cotton fabric, sprigged with white flowers, looked good on her, setting off her red hair, pulled up into a bunch on the top of her head. Without a hat or bonnet covering it, the sun danced across the curls. He loved seeing the wisps frame her face. That’s how he pictured her when he dreamed about their future.

Mary sat a moment without moving. She was probably scared out of her wits. Where was her father? He should have been driving the wagon, not her. How long had it been since the man had attended services? Daniel couldn’t remember the last time. It was not a good thing for a man to neglect his spiritual nature. He’d just have to pray harder for Mr. Murray.

Daniel hurried toward them. “Hi, Mary.”

She looked up, straight into his eyes, fear still flickering in the back of her gaze. “Daniel. Good morning.” Her words came out riding on short breaths.

He took hold of the bridle of the horse nearest him. “I can hitch your team under the trees for you.”

After releasing another deep breath, Mary nodded. “Thank you. I’d like that.” She turned toward her siblings. “Frances, you get the picnic basket, and George, you carry the jug of water. Go find us a pew, perhaps near the back of the sanctuary, and put the things under the bench. I’ll be right in.”

The younger children climbed out of the wagon and followed their sister’s instructions. Mary watched them until they’d gone around the side of the building toward the front. Then she stood up.

Before she could try to climb over the side, Daniel hurried to help. He held out his hand to her. She stared at it, then looked at his face.

“I’ll help you down.” He gave her his most beguiling smile.

For the first time since she arrived, she smiled back, and pink bled up her neck into her cheeks. Her blush went straight to his heart. Oh, yes, he loved this woman.

Mary slipped her slim fingers into his hand. Even through the white cotton gloves, he felt the connection as warmth sparked up his arm like fireworks on Independence Day. She glanced down, so she could see the step. When she hesitated, he let go of her hand and both of his spanned her tiny waist. With a deft swing, he had her on the ground in seconds. He wished he had the right to pull her into an embrace. Wouldn’t that just set the tongues a-wagging? He couldn’t do that to her. Mary needed to be cherished for the treasure she was. And as far as Daniel could see, her father really didn’t treat her that way.

He watched her walk toward the front of the building, enjoying the way her skirt swayed with each step, barely brushing the tops of her black patent shoes. That is one beautiful woman. He turned back to her team. Walking beside the horses, he led them toward the hitching rail where his family’s brougham was parked. Her team would enjoy the shade just as much as his would. As he crossed the lot, several other conveyances entered, and he waved and exchanged greetings with each family.

The church was the first one established in Oregon City. At that time, it was the Methodist Mission but grew as the town did. Along the way, members of this body had a great influence on what happened in the burgeoning city. And that was still true today. His Winthrop ancestors, who settled nearby, had been instrumental in both the growth of the church and of the town. He felt a sense of pride at being a part of something that important, and he wanted to increase the town’s assets, because he planned to raise his own family here. Maybe establish a dynasty of his own, watching his sons and daughters, then his grandchildren, prosper.

His woolgathering slowed the progress of tying the horses to their spot. He needed to hurry so he wouldn’t miss the beginning of the service. As he opened the front door, Mrs. Slidell struck the first chord on the new Mason and Hamlin reed organ. The church had ordered the instrument from the manufacturing plant in Buffalo, New York. When it arrived only a couple of weeks before, the music added a special feeling to the worship and helped most people stay on the right tune better than the old piano did. He hummed along with the introduction to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” his favorite hymn.

Glancing around the room, Daniel finally spied Mary and her siblings sitting on the second pew from the back on the right side of the aisle. He squared his shoulders and confidently approached the wooden bench. He asked if he could sit with them, and she scooted over to make room. Just what he wanted. He would be sitting right beside her.

Throughout the service, Daniel had a hard time keeping his mind on the proceedings. Mary sat close enough for him to touch her if he leaned a little to his right. He was so tempted to bump against her arm, but he held back. He imagined clasping her hand in his and holding it for longer than just a few seconds while helping her down from a conveyance or through a doorway. Really wrapping his large fingers around hers and intertwining their fingers. Just thinking about it caught his breath.

He whooshed it out, and she turned toward him, her eyes widening with a question. After flashing a smile at her, he glanced up at Reverend Horton. The man’s delivery was smooth and his words made a lot of sense. He’d be a good pastor for them, but Daniel couldn’t keep a single word of his message in his mind. Not while he could feel Mary’s presence with every cell in his body.

Instead in his mind, he searched up and down the streets of Oregon City, seeking a place to turn into a home for him and his beloved. If the right house wasn’t for sale, he could build her one. She could help him choose the design. That’s what he’d do. Build her the home she’d always dreamed of. His heart squeezed with the knowledge of what he planned to do. He could hardly keep the idea to himself. He hoped it wouldn’t take too long for him to convince her that they should marry.

He’d even hire servants to help her manage their home. Whatever her heart desired, he’d do everything he could to present her with all she wanted. He only hoped it wouldn’t take too long. At twenty years old, he was ready to move on to the next phase of his life … with Mary by his side.

“Now let us bow our heads in prayer.” Reverend Horton raised his hands to bless the whole congregation.

Daniel dropped his head toward his chest. How had the man finished his sermon without Daniel noticing? Next Sunday, he’d have to listen more closely. He really did want to get to know the new pastor and his family.

“Amen.” After the pastor pronounced the word, several other men echoed it.

Daniel watched his father rise from the second pew near the front on the left side of the aisle and take his place beside the new preacher. He placed his arm across the man’s shoulders. “Dear friends, on your behalf, I welcome our new pastor. Now let’s all meet his lovely family.” He waved toward a woman sitting on the front pew. “Mrs. Horton?”

The woman stood and turned toward the congregation. She was pretty, but not as young or as pretty as Mary.

“And,” Father’s voice boomed, “these are their children.”

Four stair-step youngsters stood beside their mother. The tallest a boy, the next a girl, then another boy, and the shortest a cute little girl. As if they had rehearsed it, they bowed toward the people in unison.

Several women across the sanctuary oooed or aahed before a loud round of applause broke out. The three oldest children gave shy smiles, and the youngest tugged at her mother’s skirts. When Mrs. Horton picked her up, the girl waved to the people, clearly enjoying the attention.

“I hope you all brought your blanket and picnic baskets.” Father beamed at the crowd. “We’re going to spread our food together. I believe there are plenty of sawhorse tables set up near the building. And you can pick a spot under the trees to settle for your meal. Just don’t forget to take the time to greet our new ministerial family while you’re here.” Father led the Horton family down the aisle and out the front door.

Daniel turned back toward Mary. “Perhaps you and your brothers and sister could spread your blanket beside my family’s.”

A tiny smile graced Mary’s sweet mouth. “If you’re sure your mother wouldn’t mind, I’d like that.”

“Oh, yes. I’m sure.” He stepped into the nearly empty aisle and moved back to let Mary and her family precede him, and he quickly followed behind.

His heartbeat accelerated just thinking about spending special time with the object of his affections. Without thinking, he started whistling a happy tune.

Mary glanced back at him. “I didn’t know you whistled.”

“Oh, yes. I’m a man of many talents.” His heart leapt at the interest he read in her gaze. Thing were well on their way to working out just the way he wanted them to.

End of chapter one! Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win the whole book!! Thanks for stopping by!