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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Author Interview - Peggy Levesque



Anne: We have a real treat here this morning. Peggy Levesque is a sort of new author with Elk Lake Publishing, and the book that published in Kindle format a few months back has just been also released in paperback. She might be new to this game, but I gotta tell ya folks, she's good. I reviewed her book yesterday, and you can read that review HERE.

Please tell us, Peggy, what inspired Ashes in the Wind?

Peggy: I guess the short answer is…Nancy Drew. Of course, there’s a story behind that, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll keep it simple and say that she introduced me to the skin-tingling sensation of adventure and danger that intrigues me even today.

I played around with writing a novel for a few years before I actually got serious, so I could say the story I tell--and the characters--of Ashes evolved. Since I most enjoy reading suspense, I decided that’s what I had to write. Living in Arizona where drug trafficking is so prevalent, that seemed like fertile ground for the antagonist element, which also meant that law enforcement made the perfect counterpoint on the protagonist side. Of course, faith had to be a strong factor, because, well, that’s where I live. It’s what I know.

Anne: I love that answer! Which character do you find the most interesting? Why?

Peggy: Naturally, I’m totally in love with Mac and Sara, and their individual journeys, but I think I would have to choose Selina as most interesting. A precocious eight-year-old, she has a bottomless faith that steadies her. While she stumbles a little here and there, she relies on the presence of a dog no one else can see (a gift from the Christ child at La Posada) to keep her safe. When the dog disappears at a critical moment, she ultimately understands that Jesus is her one true protector. The faith of this little child has a profound impact on Sara.

Anne: What do you love best about this book?

Peggy: Oh, wow, now there’s a question, and the answer has to be the way the story all came together in the end. I began writing Ashes with the goal of completing a book that I would actually want to read.. After many false starts, a lot of trashing entire scenes, and often reworking others from a different angle, the result pleases me. No matter how many times I read it, for whatever reason, I still get caught up in the story, in the characters. I really love that.

Anne: What was hardest about the writing of Ashes?

Dare I say everything? As a neophyte, with every step I took, I discovered how much I didn’t know about crafting a story, dialog, giving the characters depth, researching, even figuring out how to add that dash of romance without sounding contrived. But as I learned, as I finished each scene, I felt a rush of accomplishment beyond anything else I had ever experienced in my work life, so all the agony of creation seemed trivial in comparison.

Anne: What were the first words you uttered when you finished the first draft?

Peggy: Now this is just plain embarrassing. I don’t remember what I said. I’m not sure I can say I even finished a first draft. As I wrote this story, I didn’t know enough to write the whole story and then go back and rewrite. I slaved over each scene, each word even, until I felt I could move on. Not terribly efficient. I still struggle with this tendency, but hope I’m making progress. I don’t even remember what I said when I finally had what I considered it in 2006 to be a completed manuscript (I confess that every time I read my work I have to change something, often a significant something). I do remember the overwhelming relief—and, okay, some pride—that it was done. Or so I thought at the time.

Anne: How long did it take you to find a publisher?

Peggy: I began taking my work-in-progress to writers' conferences in 2003, and while I received a number of invitations to submit to editors, since it wasn’t yet complete, I didn’t send it in. Then, when it was finished, I submitted it to a number of publishing houses. I received some lovely rejection letters, but for one reason or another, it didn’t work for them. The last time I sent it out was in 2008 to an agent, and I never heard back from her, so I set it aside and started working on another project.

Last year Donna Goodrich, a dear friend in my writers' critique group, announced that she planned to find a home for Ashes if it took the rest of the year. That same year, arguably the worst in my life, my husband fell ill and eventually succumbed to cancer in October. Three days after his memorial service I received an email from Donna with the news that Kathi Macias was interested in acquiring the book for Elk Lake Publishing. That makes it seven years to find a publisher.

But you know, I believe God had the timing planned. Updating the manuscript and getting it ready for publication not only kept my mind busy, but gave me a reason to see my future as hopeful.

Anne: Would you like to tell us about your next book?

Peggy I would love to. In Night Shadows, two of the characters from Ashes have an opportunity to tell their stories. Selina’s mama, Amalia, had a very minor role, but here, she emerges as a woman with a secret past. That past catches up with her to put not only herself, but her entire family in danger. After being shot in the line of duty, Mac’s friend and fellow DEA agent, BJ, has to face his own demons and his true motivation for joining the DEA. And, of course, romance blossoms between BJ and Amalia.

Anne: Wow, I am so impressed--and I am so hoping you will also let me influence for you on the next book! Blessings on you, writer girl!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review - ASHES IN THE WIND by Peggy Levesque


Heartache, suspense, and romance. *sigh* The perfect combination.

Sara Jennings' husband has been killed, and now they say that Greg is suspected of being involved with drug lords. She knows better, but she has no proof. Her husband's best friend, James "Mac" McIntyre, wants to shield her, but from what?

Then someone tries to kill them. Before long, they are hiding from everyone and trying to figure out what her husband had meant by the cryptic message he left.

This is really a good one, folks. Order from CreateSpace, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review - SILVER BELLS AND CANDLELIGHT by Peggy Blann Phifer



A touch or two of romance, a round or three of confusion, and all the sheer panic of wedding preparations. Totally delightful, Peggy Blann Phifer.

Rozine Gentry, owner and manager of Gentry's Family Restaurant in Sweetland, is in love with Pastor Mike Carson, but she has four seventeen- and eighteen-year-old girls. She has to choose where to have the wedding--her own church or her fiance's? What colors? Who will be the matron of honor and bridesmaids? And how in the world will Rozie ever make it as a pastor's wife?

All will work out just fine if you go to Amazon, buy the short story for a mere 99 cents, and figure out the happily ever after for Rozie.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Morning Devo - Under His Wings

When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.
Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
Psalm 63:6-7

A couple of years ago, I watched a mama and daddy quail do a practice drill with their babies. He sounded the alarm from the fence post, even no danger was anywhere I could see. Mama quail quivered her wings, and one by one the dozen or so quarter-sized babies hid under her feathers. Not a one downy head or body could be seen, not a peep from a frightened baby. Daddy quail watched proudly from the top of the post.

In a minute or two there must have been an all-clear sounded, because the tiny chicks popped out here and there, happily scratching and investigating which things were edible and which were not, always staying close by their parents.

We can be like those little baby quail sometimes. Things get rough, and we really want a mama or daddy to protect us, to hide us from the threat.

He's there. We can hide in Him, in the shadow of His wings. No matter how long it takes, He is there. We can trust Him. Every fear we've had, He has known too. Any pain we've had, He's experienced worse. He understands the agony, the heartsickness.

Thank You, Jesus. We need the shadow of Your wings. We need to know You care, that You know how we feel. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Sermonette: Beyond Grateful


Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalm 100:5, NKJV

I received some wonderful news this week--the devotional that was born in my heart over two years ago will be birthed this week. I don't want to tell you much about it right now, but next weekend (Sunday) watch for the new release on this blog.

I have been so blessed by this process, I can't begin to tell you. It's been laborious, especially to Kathi Macias and Fred St. Laurent, editors at Elk Lake Publishing. Kathi and Fred both told me they were moved to tears by the writers who laid their souls bare  to help someone else who might be going through the same thing they are and to offer encouragement. God must have touched each of these writers' hearts and shown them what to write.

I love it when people are willing to relive the fear--sometimes sheer terror--in order to help someone else through the same situation. That's raw courage. And that's what God calls us to do. Lay down our own fear, even our own lives, to save someone else. That's love. That's what Jesus did, and He is our everlasting example.

Lord, thank You. I love You more than I can say. I ask You to give each of these writers the blessing of knowing how they helped. Thank You, sweet Jesus.



Friday, October 24, 2014

Book Review: PEARLS OF CHRISTMAS by Patti J. Smith

(Not able to post picture, sorry)

This is Volume Four of the Christmases Past series, and Patti J. Smith has created a wonderfully heartbreaking and heartwarming story set in the Vietnam War era.

Jason Jacobsen volunteers for the Air Force the day after he graduates from high school, leaving behind his sweetheart Sarah Anderson. At first, it's not all that scary.  They exchange almost daily letters and frequent phone calls. Jason stays stateside until he has a brief tour in Thailand. No phone calls then, but the letters are regular. Even so, Sarah has a recurring nightmare of a chaplain showing up with Jason's dogtags to report his death.

When he is released from the Air Force, they think their fears are past--but he gets a recall notice. He's optimistic, though, that he will be home by Christmas. Just in case, he sends her gift--a string of pearls and a scarf--that arrive a couple of days before Christmas. Then her nightmare comes to pass. The chaplain tells her and his parents that there is no hope and they need to accept that Jason won't be coming home.

Beyond all reason, Sarah refuses to accept that reality. You can find out what happens, bad and good, by purchasing the short story on Amazon.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Guest Post - Sherri Wilson Johnson: When Marriage Isn't What You Thought it Would Be


Anne: Please help me welcome Sherri Wilson Johnsonan inspirational romance novelist, a speaker, and a former homeschooling mom who’d rather have laugh lines under her eyes than worry lines across her forehead. She lives in Georgia with her husband, her two children, and her Chihuahua, Posey. Her favorite thing to do when she’s not with her family is to curl up with a good book or work on her current work-in-progress. She loves to dream of visiting romantic places and is passionate about the Lord, motherhood, homeschooling, and writing. Sherri is the author of To Dance Once More, Song of the Meadowlark, and To Laugh Once More. She’s also a columnist with Habits for a Happy Home and Choose NOW Ministries.

Sherri: As a little girl, I dreamed of being a wife and mother. I was born in 1966, and there wasn't much else for a little girl to aspire to be. I loved my Legos and built houses all the time, complete with a room for all the babies I'd have one day. I played with Barbies and pretended to be Ken's wife. Of course, when I got my Barbie airplane, I have to admit, pretending to be the flight attendant (or stewardess, as they were called then) was a guilty pleasure of mine. My dad didn't let my mom work even after we were grown and it was pretty clear that he thought I'd start an occupation after graduating while waiting for my prince charming to come and sweep me off my feet. Although I wanted to be the next big nightly news anchorwoman, I let my mind settle on "just" being a wife and mom.
Along came my prince charming a few years later, and I couldn't wait to be his wife. I wasn't sure if I wanted to jump right in and start having babies, but I could definitely see what our future was going to look like. We owned a company and worked side-by-side every evening cleaning office buildings. We spent late nights at Dunkin' Donuts, came home, and snuggled until the morning light. In less than a year, I became pregnant (surprise) and the lazy days of hanging out together and the carefree nights of working alongside one another until 2:00 a.m. came to a grinding halt.
Totally unprepared for motherhood, I kind of freaked out. I felt alone and wanted to go back to being a couple. But being a strong-willed, second-born child, I sucked it up, put on my big girl pants, and gave it my all. The only problem: I didn't know how to divide my attention between my husband and my daughter, and I didn't know how to ask him for help without looking like a wimp of a mother. Life was not turning out to be as fun and footloose as I'd dreamed it'd be when I was a little girl.
In my latest novel, To Laugh Once More, a Victorian Romance set in the South, Lydia, the heroine, suffers from this same kind of disillusionment. She thought marriage would be one big happy whirlwind of romance, complete with travels around the world and a houseful of children, all of which a governess would tend to. But three years in, she realizes that she feels no different than she did when she was a young debutante on her father's plantation waiting for a beau to sweep her off her feet. Married to the man of her dreams, she's still childless and is often left at home for days at a time while he travels on business and "lives the life." She pitches quite a few hissy-fits trying to get her way and life doesn't do her any favors.
What do I have in common with Lydia? Well, we both suffered from a heavy (not healthy) dose of selfishness in our early years. We also didn't take into account the plans God had for our lives. Instead, we had an idea of how it was supposed to go; and when it didn't go that way, well, let's just say it wasn't pretty. While I'm not one to act outwardly in a dramatic fashion, pitching fits and screaming and letting everyone know how I feel about a situation that didn't go my way, I'm still guilty of getting my point across. I just often do it with silent treatments or huffing and puffing for a day or two.
Throughout my twenty-six years of marriage, I've learned to ride the tide a little more. Take everything in stride. Stay calm when the raging waters wash over me. I've learned to hold my breath and to keep my eyes focused upward because every storm passes. Once the storms pass, it's easier to see the blessings that have been placed in my life. I'm able to see the treasure it is to be "just" a wife and mother.
How has it turned out for me so far? Well, my daughter is now twenty-three. Her brother is twenty. My husband is still with me, and that makes me happy. We're back to being the carefree couple we were years ago, although we don't work alongside each other in our own company. Maybe one day. I'm not an anchorwoman, but I am a published author, which was truly my dream all along.
Do I have the picket fence? Sure. But it doesn’t look like what I thought it would forty years ago. There's splinters. There's a few nails poking out that might stick you if you're not careful. It needs to be repaired and sprayed with a fresh coat of paint every now and then. But the One who built the house and who built the fence that keeps us safely tucked in each other's arms keeps us set on a firm foundation with a solid roof over our heads. I'm thankful that we let God build our marriage from the ground up. I'm thankful that He stood in the gap on the days I didn't much feel like being a wife and mother. When you build your marriage on the Solid Rock of Jesus, you can endure and even flourish throughout all of life's storms.