This Blog is Set on Pause…

Thank you to all who’ve followed this blog since its inception in January 2012. Thank you for your excitement about each new release, for your questions and encouraging comments for each author.

I know I wasn’t the only author for whom this novella was her first release, and I can’t thank you enough for jumping on board and growing the readership here so quickly.

Starting in May, 2013, Barbour has chosen to shift the focus of the Romancing America line to publishling 3-in-1 collections of stories that had previously been released as single Heartsong Presents books. It’s a great endeavor for them and will allow them to get these wonderful stories to more readers. . .but it isn’t the focus of this blog.

I’m an author, not a Barbour employees. I’ve talked over my decision with several staff members there—gals who have been very supportive of the Romancing America blog—and they completely understand and support my decision to set this site on pause.

If/when Barbour Publishing re-opens the line as original, never-before-published 4-in-1 collections, I plan to be right here to open it back up to showcase new stories and new authors, so I hope you won’t cancel your subscription. If you’re still on the list, you’ll hear the exciting news before anyone else!

Blessings to all of you. I’ll miss you—both authors and readers—that I’ve gotten to know and work with through these 16 months.

Live well for the King who romances all our hearts!

Valerie Comer, an author of Rainbow’s End

Meet Eileen Key (Take 2)

Eileen-3Eileen Key, retired teacher, taught middle school for thirty years and survived. She is now a freelance writer and editor. She’s published three novellas and two mysteries. A lifelong reader, Eileen has owned a library card from eight different cities. Eileen is an active member of Grace Community Church. Keeping up with her three grown children and their families is her delight.

Congratulations on the release of your novella “A Hint of Lavender” in the collection Sundays in Fredericksburg. Please tell us a bit about this novella and how it came to be.

Searching for a unique spot near my hometown of San Antonio was so much fun. Fredericksburg is full of historical spots and holds the claim to fame for “Sunday Houses.” We four enjoyed speculating on how German settlers traveled into town from far out in the fields to come to church. The historical writers took the bit in their teeth and dreamed on. I write contemporary, so my Sunday house is one often inhabited even today.

Is this your first/only release? If not, what has released recently or about to be released that our readers would like to know about?

I had a release in September in another Romancing America collection, Cedar Creek Seasons. I’ve also published Door County Christmas, Dog Gone and Forget-me-not which are available on Kindle now.

What special something do you try to bring to every story you write?

I want my stories to show real people in the real world. My characters often have to deal with forgiveness issues and recognize God’s mercy and grace.

Have you ever been to the setting of your novella?

Connie, Lynette and I toured Fredericksburg together and had so much fun! We wandered through antique stores to find just the right look for so many things. My character actually works in one of those stores. BandBConnie and I especially enjoyed chatting at length with an eighty something year old lady who told of her childhood in Fredericksburg. (And Lynette brought us chocolate chunk cookies baked by her wonderful hubby, C.J. Had to snack on those as we watched the sunset from the front porch of our b&b. Sometimes research is taxing!)

What’s the most off-the-wall piece of research you’ve ever done?

While writing my first mystery, Dog Gone, I visited a kennel. Inside were private marble cubicles each with its own tv set. No kidding! An exclusive spa for Fido. I then toured the River City dog show…and saw the doggie masseuse. Opened up a whole wide world of wonder!

What’s one small bit of you that’s in your novella’s main character?

Curiosity. I’m always curious about people and tend to “interrogate” if I’m not careful, to plumb the depths of a person’s identity. I’ve had to learn to curb that trait in many relationships. Most people prefer to peel layers off like an onion.

Where or how do you like to connect with your readers?

Thanks for chatting with our readers, Eileen! If anyone would like to read her previous interview, it’s here. Questions for Eileen, anyone?

Every comment on a Sundays in Fredericksburg post is an entry for a giveaway for a copy of Sundays in Fredericksburg from Barbour Publishing. (USA only)

Excerpt: A Hint of Lavender

Copyright by Eileen Key

Here’s an excerpt from the fourth novella in Sundays in Fredericksburg.

* ~ * ~ *

Fredericksburg, Texas
Present Day

Gravel spit from under the car’s tires as it swung out of the parking lot onto the ribbon of highway away from the peach stand, enveloping Gwen Zimmermann in a cloud of dust. She brushed grit from her eyes, coughed, and leaned against the white wooden counter, bumping the small cashbox with her elbow. Only nine thirty this first day of June, and she already wished for a shower. Heat waves shimmered over the asphalt. The scrub oak and mesquite stood still in the brown fields across the road. Dust hung in the air like an oppressive vapor.

She tightened her scrunchie, moving her ponytail higher on the back of her neck, and flapped her T-shirt against her chest for a breeze. Now that school was out, she’d spend most of her time working at her parents’ roadside peach stand— in the heat. She angled the small fan on the countertop toward her.

“Yep, Gwen, cancel those summer-school plans.” Perspiration trickled down her forehead. She swiped it away with the back of her hand then shifted ripe peaches into small baskets to replace the ones the last customers purchased. The sweet aroma made her mouth water.

“Morning, Gwennie.” Harold Zimmermann strode out from the small store behind the stand carrying a crate tucked against his belly. “Need to set these out.” He shoved the box on the counter and lifted a jar, tilting the label in her direction. “Peach salsa. Tried this one yet?” He raised his gray bushy eyebrow.

“Nope. Is it good?” Gwen grinned at her father. He was always eager to showcase a new product from a local farmer. Buy local was her dad’s slogan.

His brown eyes twinkled. “Has a kick to it, all right. Good old South Texas style, I’d say.” He dusted his hands and surveyed the counters. “Get your mom to bring out a cracker tray and set up a new sampler.”

“Outside?” Gwen considered the heat and the possibility of insects. “Sure that’s a good idea?”

Her dad laughed. “Okay, maybe you’re right. Again. Miss Cautious.” He poked at a peach. “Time was we’d eat these straight from the tree, dirt under our fingernails, not a thought to germs.” His eyebrows waggled. “But you want to keep things sterile.”

“Daddy,” Gwen singsonged. “Not sterile, just clean. Safe. No food poisoning.” She watched her dad position more jars on an endcap. He looked pale beneath his tanned, wrinkled skin, broad shoulders stooped and customary denim shirt loose across his back. He seemed to have aged since her spring break. “You feeling okay?” She placed one hand on his arm.

“Hmm?” He swiped at his face with a handkerchief, pushing away a fine strand of gray hair until it stuck straight up. “I’m fine. A little tuckered, that’s all.” His brow wrinkled. “I’m okay, darling girl. And so grateful you are home to help us. I miss you when you’re gone.”

Gwen laughed. “San Antonio is an hour away and I come home all the time. I haven’t abandoned the orchard in lieu of school.” Her heart sped up. That wasn’t quite true. She didn’t want to return to the orchard, she wanted something new. This summer she could’ve worked near the college and taken more hours, but her family needed her—money was tight—so she’d foregone the opportunity and come home. She eyed her dad. Did he appear jaundiced or was it the early morning light? “But cautious that I am, I’m thinking you need to see Doc Hawkins if you’re tuckered out at this time of day.”

“I’m fine.”

He waved a hand at her. Standard Dad answer. Gwen watched him walk through the stand displays, rearranging a peach here, a tomato there. The drought had taken its toll on more than fruit and vegetables. He was definitely not himself. She needed to corral her mom and find out more.

A truck turned into the parking lot, kicking up more grit, and the driver honked the horn. Gwen smiled as the red pickup stopped, her brother behind the wheel. Rob parked and slid from the front seat. “Morning, y’all. Got a new batch to sort.” He tugged a basket of peaches from over the tailgate and plopped them in front of his sister. “Something for you to do, Peach-girl.”

Gwen’s lips pursed and she propped her hands on her hips. She glared at her tall, younger brother. A streak of dirt ran down his cheek and his A&M T-shirt clung to his back. A lock of his curly, blond hair drooped over his forehead, outlining a cherubic face. “Do not call me that.”

He laughed and went to his truck for another basket. “Whatever you say, sis.” Rob returned to the stand and angled his head toward his father. “You okay, Dad?”

Harold sat on the edge of a bench, bent forward, his breath coming in short puffs. “You know, I don’t think so.”

Gwen raced to her father’s side and gripped his trembling hand. Her heart banged against her ribs. “Rob, help me get him into your truck.” She braced her father under one arm and helped him stand. Her brother grabbed his other arm and flung it across his shoulders. Neither spoke. Fear rumbled in Gwen’s chest and her mouth dried out. They shuffled to the pickup and Harold clambered in the front seat. “Grab me a plastic sack,” he wheezed. “Feel kinda punk.”

Rob tugged a black garbage bag from behind the seat, handed it to his dad, and then crawled under the steering wheel as Gwen climbed in and shut the door. Her brother darted a glance at her, his mouth a grim line. He started the engine and pulled onto the highway. “Doc or Hill Country?”

Gwen gripped her father’s clammy hand. “Hill Country Hospital. Step on it.”

* ~ * ~ *

Excerpt used by permission of Barbour Publishing. Check out this page for places to buy Sundays in Fredericksburg !

Every comment on a Sundays in Fredericksburg post is an entry for a giveaway for a copy of Sundays in Fredericksburg from Barbour Publishing. (USA only)

A Hint of Lavender

By Eileen Key

Fredericksburg, TX, is billed as a city with German heritage and Texan hospitality. That certainly proved true when Lynette Sowell, Connie Stevens and I visited in August of 2012. Hot? Hmm. Of course! But the heat didn’t deter the three of us as we pictured our characters walking the streets of this charming city.

The main drag is filled with everything from antique shops to a fudgery. After checking in to our lovely bed & breakfast, the Dancing Star, we drove in to begin exploration. At one end of town was the Pioneer Village—which Connie drooled over. Her historic fantasy took flight. In the center of town was the Admiral Nimitz museum where Lynette researched. (All we were missing was Margie and the hospital where her characters worked!)

EnchantedRock2My characters walked the present day streets. They munched on German foods at a Bavarian inn, poked into an antique shop Gwen’s aunt owned, and then drove to Enchanted Rock, where Clay’s research took place. A granite rock which rises some 425 feet above ground, Enchanted Rock is truly a magical place to hike.

However, in the heat, we authors opted for cooler locations. A dessert in the Greater Grace Christian coffeehouse topped off the end to an exciting day of exploration. Adding local flavor to our stories was very important to us. Nothing jars a person out of a book faster than knowing Main Street and Adams Street do not run parallel. And believe me, authors get called on the carpet for just such inaccuracies. It’s the little things that do count.

Wildseed Farms FredericksburgTX _credit Wildseed Farms_Gwen, my character, wants to begin a lavender farm, so Connie and I circled out the highway to the Wildseed Farms. Despite the heat, the two hundred acres were dotted with colorful blooms of hundreds of flowers from red phlox to beautiful Texas bluebonnets. A late afternoon stroll through God’s beauty was the perfect way to end our vacation—Oops…research trip!

Thank you to the Wildseed Farms and Trish Rawls for use of the pictures.

Every comment on a Sundays in Fredericksburg post is an entry for a giveaway for a copy of Sundays in Fredericksburg from Barbour Publishing. (USA only)

Meet Lynette Sowell (Take 2)

Lynette Sowell is the award-winning author of more 15 titles for Barbour Publishing and Heartsong Presents. When Lynette’s not writing, she works as a medical editor and part-time newspaper reporter. Lynette was born in Massachusetts, raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but makes her home on the doorstep of the Texas hill country with her husband, dog, and a trio of cats who have them well-trained. She loves traveling, reading, cooking, watching movies, and is always up for a Texas road trip.

Congratulations on the release of your novella “Letters From Home” in the collection Sundays in Fredericksburg . Please tell us a bit about this novella and how it came to be.

The whole idea of a book about Sunday houses came about because of a summer stay-cation my husband and I took a few years ago. We spent the day in Fredericksburg and I saw my first Sunday house and learned what they were. The rest is “history” after I ran the idea by Eileen and she helped pull our group together.


Photo from the Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command

The photo of the HA-19 Japanese submarine is the “a-ha” moment for me when we proposed the book. I was wracking my brain for a WWII story line. I knew that Admiral Chester Nimitz was from Fredericksburg, but by the time of WWII, Nimitz hadn’t lived there for years, although I learned he did keep close ties to his hometown. Then I saw the photo of the midget submarine, taken during WWII when a war bond tour passed through Fredericksburg (you can see the Nimitz building in the background). That’s when Bradley Payne, nationally renowned journalist, stepped onto the stage of my imagination. The Museum of the Pacific War has a similar submarine in their collection. If you ever get to Fredericksburg, it’s well worth the visit.

Is this your first/only release? If not, what has released recently or about to be released that our readers would like to know about?

Currently I have two other releases available in ebook, a novella called Spring Comes to Barncastle Inn as well as a Heartsong Presents title, Love’s Stormy Gale. The first title is brand-new and part of a spinoff from the previous Barbour anthology Christmas At Barncastle Inn. I also have a trade fiction title releasing in December called Tempest’s Course, part of the Quilts of Love series from Abingdon Press.

What special something do you try to bring to every story you write?

I notice that lately I’ve had a number of grieving characters, whether it be due to losing a family member, or the grief that comes when our dreams aren’t fulfilled. So I guess I’d call that special something healing or second chances.

Have you ever been to the setting of your novella? Do you have photos and a little story you’d like to share?

Nimitz Museum

Nimitz Museum (Photo: Lynette Sowell)

Oh, yes, I’ve been a number of times, once for a research trip and the others because Fredericksburg is a unique Texas town with lots of charm and fun to visit. After the book sold, Eileen, Connie, and I spent several hot August days there on our research trip. I felt like I was bouncing back and forth through time – Connie was researching the pioneer and early days for both her and Margie; Eileen focused on present-day Fredericksburg; and I was hunting down everything I could about World War II’s fingerprints on this town.

They almost sent a search party for me to the Museum of the Pacific War, located right behind the Admiral Nimitz Museum. I found the whole place extremely moving, especially the exhibit including a door from the U.S.S. Arizona. I broke a rule and laid my hand on the rusty door, thinking about what the war had meant to all the citizens in landlocked Fredericksburg. Their favorite son, Admiral Nimitz, became one of my heroes that day. Another high point was talking to a volunteer at the Pioneer Museum who grew up in Fredericksburg and was a teenager during WWII.

How do you deal with the stress of being an author?

Like many authors, my writing “world” can consume everything. If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. I feel pressure to keep writing, always thinking about the next thing ahead of me. Sometimes I make myself take a time-out mentally and realize that God’s taking care of things in ways that even I can’t imagine, and that writing is not all there is to life.

What’s one small bit of you that’s in your novella’s main character?

Trudy has been described as a homebody with a bit of wanderlust. That’s me. I love the security of family and knowing where I belong, but I love to see what’s out there. The world is a big adventure, but it’s nice to come home again. I have a short bucket list of places I’d love to visit one day—the Grand Canyon, a European cathedral tour, going to the Holy Land, with a side trip to Dubai.

Where or how do you like to connect with your readers?

I enjoy connecting via my author page on Facebook or via Twitter.

Thanks for letting our readers get to know you a little, Lynette! Anyone have questions? Some of them might be answered in our previous interview with Lynette.

Every comment on a Sundays in Fredericksburg post is an entry for a giveaway for a copy of Sundays in Fredericksburg from Barbour Publishing. (USA only)

Excerpt: Letters from Home

Copyright by Lynette Sowell

Here’s an excerpt from the third novella in Sundays in Fredericksburg.

* ~ * ~ *

Fredericksburg, Texas

“C’mon, Trudy! C’mon!” Eric Meier tugged on his sister’s arm. “We’re going to miss the parade! We can find a good spot to watch if we hurry.”

“Hold your horses. I’m right here with you.” Trudy didn’t mean to drag her feet, because part of her wanted to see the parade and hear the band and some of the Hollywood performers passing through Fredericksburg. Listening on the radio wasn’t the same thing, or reading about it in a magazine. Little Fredericksburg wasn’t a regular stop for many Texas visitors. Not until their own Chester Nimitz had risen to the top ranks of the navy to show the world that even from landlocked Fredericksburg, someone could go on to do great things.

But today Trudy felt closer to forty-one than twenty-one. Her legs felt like lead weights, her muscles tired from working at the beehives until sundown yesterday. She fought away the fatigue, clutched the Brownie camera that hung from a strap around her neck, and tried to be positive. Maybe today she’d get some good shots. Of course, she’d need to order more photo paper, something at a premium during these lean years.

She paused at her parents’ bedroom door. “Mama?” She heard nothing, so she pushed the door open a few inches. Her mother’s low snore filtered through the space. It was best she let her sleep, all worn out from her volunteer work at the hospital. She’d arrived home early that morning.

The front door banged. “Tru–dy! Come on!”

Trudy shook her head and closed the door. Eric could tear all over the countryside on his bicycle, yet for some reason he couldn’t make it to town without her presence at his side? “I’m coming, Eric.”

The May morning sun promised a toasty afternoon. If she had her way, she’d bicycle down to the creek with a book, a pen, and her camera. She’d sit under her favorite live oak tree and watch the wind blow the puffy clouds across the sky. The favorite tree would remind her of Kurt and the promise they’d made to each other under its branches.

Trudy blinked at the momentary pain and let it pass. She closed the front door to the house behind her, as if that could close off the memory. Today, she’d definitely win the bike “race” to town that Eric always tried to egg her to join.

“They have a midget submarine, you know.” Eric’s voice jolted her. He bent over to check the chain on his bicycle. “All the way from Japan. I wonder if we can touch it.”

“I’m sure you’ll make it your mission to find out if you can.” Thank You, Lord, that Eric can keep his childlike wonder, even during the war, even with Father away. It seemed like everyone gave something up once their country had entered the war. A lifetime of days had ticked away since December 7, 1941, a little less than eighteen months ago.

Soon they were off, down the winding road that led into town. Trudy could close her eyes and feel each curve in the road, anticipate each landmark, no matter how minor. The sameness should comfort her, but instead it itched her like a wool scarf that her grandmother had made.

Trudy thought of the ring that still lay inside the jewelry box on her dressing table. Kurt had released her from her promise to marry him after he returned from the war, before his last letter. . .

He deserved someone who’d be by his side at the peach farm owned by his family, someone who was satisfied with Fredericksburg, with the small-town routine. Once, she’d shared with him her wild dream of seeing the world. Kurt had blinked and asked, “Why?”

Less than a month later, his orders came and he shipped out, leaving her behind. Jealousy fought against fear inside her.

The town hadn’t changed much since her childhood. She caught sight of the first few homes on the outside of town, a snug row of Sunday homes, the middle one owned by her family. Her oma had lived there until her passing over the late winter. Trudy slowed down. If things were different, she’d ask her mother if she could stay in the house by herself and have a measure of independence. Of course, her help was needed most at home.

Next door was the Zimmermann family’s home. How she’d loved Sundays growing up in Fredericksburg, all the comings and goings and visiting. And the food. Oma, I miss you, and every time I see the house, it reminds me of what we’ve all lost.

Eric left her literally in his dust. He rang the bell on his bicycle and the jubilant sound joined with the sounds of celebration ahead of them on Main Street. The war bond tour had descended on Fredericksburg. It wouldn’t surprise her if nearly the whole town assembled along Main Street.

Instead of following Eric, Trudy moved off the road and circled back. She might as well leave her bicycle parked at the Sunday house. She could negotiate any crowd on foot, where a bicycle might get in the way.

“You’re just in time for the parade.” Her longtime friend Kathe exited the Zimmermann family’s Sunday house. Kathe Zimmermann, soon to be Kathe Mueller, grinned.

“Eric made sure.” Trudy tried to pop her kickstand down, but the contraption stuck so she leaned the bicycle against the house, just past the porch. “So how are you? I’ve been such a poor bridesmaid, and I should be helping you prepare for the wedding.”

“You’ve done plenty,” Kathe said as she linked her arm through Trudy’s. “Peter and I are keeping things simple, especially now. But my cake is going to be made with white sugar, not brown, and have gobs of buttercream frosting.”

The thought of a rich, creamy wedding cake with plenty of frosting made Trudy’s sweet tooth ache a little. “I’m so happy for both of you.”

“Thanks.” Her friend’s expression fell. “I know this must be hard for you, with Kurt. . .”

Trudy shrugged. “It’s all right. Like I said, I’m happy for both of you. The fact that Peter survived, came home to you, and now you get to have your happy ending, I’m just glad someone else is finding some joy in the middle of all this.”

She didn’t have to mention the Wagner twins who’d perished and now lay buried in a Fredericksburg cemetery. The war had cost Fredericksburg so much already, even with their favorite son, Chester Nimitz, commander in chief over the Pacific theater. Kathe hugged her. “Thank you. I’m praying you’ll have your happy ending, too.”

“I hope so, someday.” A lump swelled in Trudy’s throat. Gertrude Meier, I see now why you wish to travel the world and see life beyond Fredericksburg. That has never been my desire, and I release you to find your way. Lord willing, once this war is over and you have traveled, maybe we will find our way back to each other again. Trudy shoved the letter’s words away, burned into her memory. “Let’s go. I wonder if Mitzie Harmon looks the same in person as she does in the movies.”

Kathe laughed and the sound propelled Trudy back to more innocent times, to childhood. She echoed the laugh as they ambled the rest of the way to Main Street.

* ~ * ~ *

Excerpt used by permission of Barbour Publishing. Check out this page for places to buy Sundays in Fredericksburg !

Every comment on a Sundays in Fredericksburg post is an entry for a giveaway for a copy of Sundays in Fredericksburg from Barbour Publishing. (USA only)

The “Greatest Generation”

By Lynette Sowell

I knew World War II was a difficult time for people like my grandparents. Long ago, I’d seen ration books that my mother had saved from her parents. When I was small, she explained to me what they were for.

“When I was a baby,” she said, “You couldn’t just go to the store and buy as much as you wanted, whenever you wanted. You would be issued ration tickets and had to use those for certain grocery items.”

I didn’t grasp how much World War II affected everyday lives until I went to the Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg. One of their multimedia presentation was about the hours leading up to the attack at Pearl Harbor.

“We are now in this war. We are all in it — all the way. Every single man, woman, and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history. We must share together the bad news and the good news, the defeats and the victories – the changing fortunes of war,” said President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his radio address from December 9, 1941.

That’s when Fredericksburg’s favorite son, Chester Nimitz, was sent to take command of the Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor.

As I passed through the museums, both the Nimitz museum dedicated to the Admiral and the Pacific War Museum, I wondered if little Chester Nimitz ever imagined he’d go so far–literally–from tiny Fredericksburg. As I toured on that hot August morning while my coauthors visited other spots for their books, it wasn’t so hard to imagine Fredericksburg of 70 years ago.

What capped off my visit to “Fred” was going to the pioneer museum and meeting a woman in her late eighties who was a teenager during World War II. She helped me see firsthand that while I was writing about fictional characters, I was writing about a very real time in history that she’d lived through. I hope this book “did her proud.”

Every comment on a Sundays in Fredericksburg post is an entry for a giveaway for a copy of Sundays in Fredericksburg from Barbour Publishing. (USA only)

Meet Marjorie Vawter

Marjorie Vawter HeadshotMarjorie Vawter is a professional freelance editor and writer who proofreads and edits for CBA publishers, edits for individual clients, and writes. An avid reader, she also judges for several prestigious awards in the inspirational marketplace, and she serves as conference director’s assistant for the Colorado and Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conferences. She has published several articles and numerous devotionals, many of them in Barbour publications. Mom to two adult children and a daughter-in-love, Marjorie lives with her husband, Roger, and cat, Sinatra, in the Ozarks of southwest Missouri.

Congratulations on the release of your novella “A Shelter from the Storm” in the collection Sundays in Fredericksburg. Please tell us a bit about this novella and how it came to be.

As a yet-to-be-published fiction author, I was thrilled when Connie, Eileen, and Lynette invited me to be part of their novella “team.” As an editor I’d worked with all three authors on various books with Barbour, so I was familiar with their work. Plus Connie and Eileen are also critique partners of mine. When they told me that they were thinking about something set in Texas, I got excited all over again. Texas is where I grew up and I’ve always wanted to write a book set there.

After we started brainstorming what we wanted to have as the elements running throughout each of our stories, it triggered some family history nuggets that morphed into my characters and the Spanish influenza that dominated so much of post-World War 1 America. It was icing on the cake to learn that Sundays in Fredericksburg had been chosen as part of the Romancing America line.

Is this your first/only release? If not, what has released recently or about to be released that our readers would like to know about?

Hope“A Shelter from the Storm” is my first book release, but I have two nonfiction books that will release this year. One is Encouraging Thoughts for Women: Hope, a devotional book releasing from Barbour in August. The other is Calming the Storm Within: God’s Peace for Depression and Anxiety published with OakTara later this year.

While fiction is my first love, I’m very excited about these nonfiction books. I was first published with devotionals in several venues, including some devotional compilations from Barbour. So when they asked me if I would be interested in writing/compiling the book on hope, I gladly accepted.

Calming the Storm Within is what I would call the nonfiction book of my heart. Depression and anxiety in its many forms have been a part of my entire life. When I experienced my own severe clinical depression over 20 years ago, the life lessons I learned morphed into this book. For a long time I didn’t think it would ever find a publisher, but I’m very thankful that the Lord’s timing is perfect and I pray it will be used to help many others who suffer depression.

What special something do you try to bring to every story you write?

Over the past two years, and with the help of a very special group of ladies, I’ve come to see God’s purpose and plan for me. That has led to my tagline of Discovering Foundations of Truth from Isaiah 58:11–12. As I’ve traced back even to my teen years, I can see where the Lord has directed me to the foundational truths of Scripture and has used those as the basic core of my service back to Him.

As a Sunday school teacher, youth sponsor, Bible study leader, schoolteacher, musician, writer, etc., He has used me to establish and, in many cases, reestablish these foundations. So when I write a story, I search for the basic foundational truth the Lord desires to be lived out by my characters to encourage my readers.

Have you ever been to the setting of your novella?

Even though I grew up in Texas, I have never been to the setting of my novella. I have been to other portions of the Hill Country where Fredericksburg is located, so I had a general idea of the area. However, when my writing partners in Sundays in Fredericksburg made a research trip to the town and area, they knew what I was looking for and took pictures and did some of the on-the-spot research. I wasn’t able to join them because of assisting the conference director of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference going on at the same time. (I do think it was cooler in Pennsylvania than in Texas that year!)

Sunday HouseI was very intrigued by the various Sunday houses and how they have been added onto over the years and have been used. We tried to portray some of these changes in our stories. I loved how during their research trip, Connie, Eileen, and Lynette all made me an unseen member of their group through frequent e-mail, text messages, and photos.

What’s the best part about writing for you? The hardest?

The best part of writing for me is the editing/rewriting that’s a part of every author’s process. The hardest part is getting that initial story written. Since I’m a freelance editor in my “day job,” it’s hard for me to turn off that editor when it comes to writing the story. I’m constantly hearing her urging me to go back and make it “perfect,” before I can go on.

I’ve found that the easiest way for me to turn that editor off is to move away from my laptop and write my first draft on my AlphaSmart, a word processor with a very small screen. Via a USB cable, I can transfer the chapters into Word on my laptop and then let the editor have fun. For me, it’s usually easier and more fun to have something to work with than being faced with a blank page.

What’s one small bit of you that’s in your novella’s main character?

Since my novella’s main character Mildred is based on my paternal grandmother, there is probably more than a little bit of me in her. But probably the part I see most is our shared love for the flowers and the earth that God created to produce the plants that color our lives. Mildred finds refreshment and solace when she visits the wildflower field her mother planted years before, as do I when I spend time—either literally or in my imagination now that I live in Missouri—at our family’s cabin in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

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Blog: The Writer’s Tool

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Every comment on a Sundays in Fredericksburg post is an entry for a giveaway for a copy of Sundays in Fredericksburg from Barbour Publishing. (USA only)

Excerpt: A Shelter from the Storm

Copyright by Marjorie Vawter

Here’s an excerpt from the second novella in Sundays in Fredericksburg.

* ~ * ~ *

Hill Country, Texas
December 15, 1918

Mildred Zimmermann looked out the railcar window, vainly searching for a speck of light to indicate home was within reach. Nothing. They had to be getting close. She glanced at her military-issue wristwatch and sighed. Ten thirty. Too late for any of her family to meet her.

But Harold might be there. Surely he was home from the war now.

“Fredericksburg, next stop,” the conductor called out as he entered the railroad car.

He shut the door behind him, closing off the cool draft before walking up the aisle toward her. He stopped to speak to a man Mildred had noticed as soon as she entered the car in San Antonio—absolutely the most handsome man Mildred had ever laid eyes on. Not that she was looking. But after serving nearly two years in field hospitals in Belgium and France, she could safely say she’d seen her share of men, good-looking and otherwise.

The train slowed, and steam from the locomotive billowed past her window. Finally home. Excitement tickled her stomach as she reached down to grab her pack—all her worldly goods in one small bag. She hadn’t needed much outside of her navy nurse’s uniform, but it would be nice to wear something different for a change.

“Excuse me, miss.”

A man’s rich baritone startled her out of her musings. She looked up into steely blue eyes that contrasted sharply with his dark brown hair. Her handsome fellow traveler. Heat rose from the pit of her stomach, and she prayed it would stop before it reached the top of her high-necked blouse.

Swallowing hard to dispel the rock stuck in her throat, she mentally shook herself for her reaction to this stranger. “Yes?”

“The conductor said you might know if there is somewhere to stay the night, a hotel or boardinghouse? I didn’t expect to get in so late.”

“You must be new to Fredericksburg not to know that this train never keeps its published schedule.” Mildred smiled.

“But surely someone is expecting you.”

“Dr. Bachman, yes. I am his new assistant.”

“Dr. Bachman needs an assistant?” Neither her parents nor her doctor uncle had mentioned it.

The train lurched and slowed as the whistle blew its warning, and the stranger grabbed at the back of the seat to steady himself. Only then did she see his cane. “Oh my.” She scooted closer to the window. “How rude of me to make you stand. Please, sit down.”

Relief shone in his smile as he sank into the seat next to her. “Thank you. I’m still getting used to this.” He raised the cane in the air.

“What happened?” She winced. “I’m sorry. I have no right to ask. Just my nurse’s training.”

With more heat radiating from her cheeks, she looked out the window as the train bumped to a stop. A handful of people stood on the platform, but not her parents.

“Oh look.” She nudged her companion. “There’s Dr. Bachman. You won’t need the hotel after all.”

“Yes.” The man’s voice was hesitant. “Are you here to give Dr. Bachman a hand with nursing?”

Mildred lifted her eyebrows. “Why on earth would you think that? As soon as I can get out of this uniform, my nursing career is over.”

“Oh, well. . .I thought that in light of. . .”

His hesitation made her stomach clench in unease, and she looked more closely at the elderly doctor on the platform. Now she saw his tired—no, exhausted—stance. Exhaustion etched his wrinkles deeper than she remembered in the beloved face. After seeing so many fatigued military doctors, she hadn’t expected to see her uncle in the same state.

Turning back to her companion, she struggled to keep the alarm out of her voice. “Who are you?”

“Dr. Nelson Winters.” He stood and held a hand out to help her rise.

But she ignored it. Tightening her grip on her bag, she stood without his assistance. And immediately noticed he was a head taller than she. She’d long ago gotten used to the fact that she was taller than many men. Even Harold, at five foot eleven, looked her straight in the eye.

A blush rose up her neck at Dr. Winter’s close scrutiny, and she lowered her gaze and made her way past him, taking care not to knock into his cane.

“Spanish influenza,” he said as she started down the aisle to the car door.

She looked at him over her shoulder. “Excuse me?”

“Have you heard of it?”

“Yes, of course. We had several cases at the last field hospital where I worked. But surely that’s just in Europe.” She stopped and turned toward him, catching his solemn demeanor. “Oh no. . .”

* ~ * ~ *

Excerpt used by permission of Barbour Publishing. Check out this page for places to buy Sundays in Fredericksburg !

Every comment on a Sundays in Fredericksburg post is an entry for a giveaway for a copy of Sundays in Fredericksburg from Barbour Publishing. (USA only)