Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Interview & Book Giveaway with Author Eddie Snipes

Welcome to today's guest, author and president of the Christian Authors Guild, Eddie Snipes.

Q:  What was your inspiration for I CALLED HIM DANCER?
A:  In 2009 I attended a meeting for the Atlanta Writers Club. The first hour was an author talking about her memoirs and journey to publishing. The second hour was a song writer. I have no interest in song writing, so I didn't plan on staying for the second hour. My wife and I headed out during the intermission. On the way down the hall, I had a sudden urge to stay. We headed back in and listened to a few songs and the two song writers discuss story telling in lyrics. They performed a song called, Dancer. It was interesting, but not my cup of unpasteurized whole milk.

Without warning, one of them said, "We have been trying to get someone to turn this song into a novel."

I looked up and saw an anvil hovering. Just as I said, "I wonder what that is," it hit me. My head vibrated for a few seconds, then I realized, this is something for me. I should write the story. In an instant, my mind raced through the plot and I saw the dancer as clear as cheesecake hiding behind cellophane. I saw what happened to the homeless man in the song, how his life played out, and how the song would end.

To make a short story long, I met with the two song writers, Tralena Walker and Tom Webster. They sent me the lyrics and gave me feedback on the novel. Two years later, it was published.

Q:  Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A:  When I was a child, I got my first book. I flipped through the pages, then tore it apart. I didn't know it at the time, but that's exactly what you do when editing a manuscript.

I hated writing when I was younger. I only did what I had to do, and sometimes not even that. Writers block was more like writers dementia. My mind didn't return to me until after... hmmm. What were we talking about?

In 1998, I became active in prison ministry. Many of the men I ministered to were eager to learn. Someone asked me if I had my studies or notes on paper. I agreed to write out the next study and then my writing career was born. The problem wasn't that I couldn't write. It was that I didn't have something to say. Or didn't realize I had something to say. Over time writing transformed from a task to a passion.

Q:  How does your faith impact your writing?
A:  As a Christian writer, I am constantly presenting a Christian world view. Even when I'm not writing on a religious topic, I'm still influencing others in some way. Presenting a secular work in a wholesome way, undergirded by God-given values is a testimony in itself. Even when writing or speaking about a non-religious topic, people will perceive you are a Christian if you hold to what you say you believe. The absence of foul language, sensual focus, and the values spoken will tip off readers.

Ultimately, anything that has no eternal significance has no value. Even entertaining works should ultimately point to the Lord.

Sometimes people underestimate the power of story to teach truth. Jesus used two methods of teaching through his words. To the masses, he taught with parables. They were fictional stories that presented a spiritual truth. To those who sought a deeper understanding, Jesus taught doctrine. So he used a two-tiered teaching approach that included both fiction and non-fiction. Clearly both methods of communication have an important role in reaching our culture.

Q:  How do you deal with writer’s block?
A:  I hook wires to my earlobes. If I fall below 20 words a minute, I get tazed.

Another effective method is to just write. I believe it was Hemingway that was stuck in writers block for days. He broke the barrier by writing about the wall behind his desk. Write about anything. A lot of this depends on the style of writer someone is. I write like I speak. I have no idea what's coming until the words start. So when I sit down to write, I don't have anything in mind. This can be a big demotivation for me. If I can uncurl my rebellious fingers and start writing, my thoughts begin to flow.

Reading helps as well. My biggest problem is not writers block, but motivating myself to start writing. When I read a good story, I feel inspired to write.


Q:  How long does it take you to complete a novel? How many drafts do you go through?
A:  For fiction, my method for a first draft is quick. Some think I'm obsessed, but I like to call it focus-surplused. For both my full length novel manuscripts, I finished the first drafts in six weeks. The number of drafts I go through would require a supercomputer to calculate. For my book, I Called Him Dancer, I have over 500 files with that name. So that should give you an idea of the number of saved revisions. On the advice of a publisher, I rewrote the novel completely, hated it, and rewrote it again. At one point I saved my manuscript with 'final draft' in the file name. When I hit final draft 29, I decided to name it something more realistic. It wasn't close to being final.

When everything was complete and perfect, I gave it to my editor. I received it back with needed corrections on nearly every page. This is where flipping through the pages and tearing it apart came into play.

Q:  There’s been a lot said about the future of publishing and the possible death of the print book. What’s your take on eBooks, self-publishing, and such?
A:  The popularity of eBooks will continue to grow. People have the mistaken idea that there is only so much pie to go around, so if you give extra to one, you have to take a slice from somewhere else. Statistically, this has been shown to not be the case.

While eBooks continue to grow in popularity, printed books are selling more than ever. It may not seem that way since bookstores are fighting for survival. The problem isn't that books are not being printed or sold; the problem is how consumers are buying books. More consumers are buying online than ever before. Amazon is changing the way consumers buy books, but the printed book isn't going away - at least not any time soon.

Q:  Why did you decide to self-publish?
A:  I'm a tinkerer. I like technology and trying things out on my own. Several factors went into my decision. I did manage to get my manuscript in front of a publisher. They liked the story, but didn't think there was a market for this type of book. The title does create a challenge. Someone told me, "I normally wouldn't read a book like this, but I was truly surprised." Yet I still feel it is important to link the novel to the song.

There were things I wanted to communicate in the story that may not appeal to the masses. It is not churchy in the traditional sense. It also has a strong spiritual message. This is my vision for the book and I didn't want to lose that. I also don't want to 'spruce up' the romantic side of the book. I wanted a wholesome story without foul language and sensuality, but would tell a story that reveals what true love is. And what it means to struggle, ask honest questions about God, and show the difference between shallow faith and true faith. I’ve gotten much feedback and no one has complained that it isn’t steamy enough. Maybe a love story doesn’t need a peeping Tom approach.

Q:  Have you been happy with your decision to self-publish?
A:  So far I've been very happy with it. The quality of my book is outstanding, and the story is getting high reviews. I wouldn't rule out going traditional in the future, but I like the freedom of independent publishing. I created my own imprint so I could minimize the cost. It's a lot of work, but it has been worth it.

Q:  What’s the biggest obstacle for a self-published author? What’s the biggest blessing?
A:  There are a few obstacles to consider when self-pubbing. Editing is a must. Regardless of how great your story looks to you and your mother, it is filled with errors. Your eyes can't see it. Get it edited.

Anyone considering self-publishing should count the cost. It's a lot of work and garners little respect. Your book can be a best seller, and still will not be welcomed into the literary inner circle. I'm a member of several large writing guilds, and they don't acknowledge books unless they are published through approved companies. If respect is important to you, stick to the traditional road. If you don't mind taking care of the editing, cover design, printing, marketing, and all the other tasks that fall on independent authors, self-publishing is a good option.

A word of caution. Don't use any publishing house that charges thousands of dollars or can't get a novel on the market for under $10. The farther away from ten dollars you get, the fewer buyers you will have. Research. Either start your own imprint or find an honest publisher with reasonable costs.

Thanks, Eddie. A fun interview and lots of great information to boot!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eddie Snipes is president of the Christian Authors Guild (http://www.christianauthorsguild.org/) and founder of Exchanged Life Discipleship (http://www.exchangedlife.com/), a teaching and discipleship ministry. He has served as a pastor and interim pastor. Eddie also contributes to several online resources including OnePlace.com. He’s a member of ACFW and the Atlanta Writers Club.

Over the last two years, Eddie has won five writing contests and in April, his first novel, I Called Him Dancer was released. I Called Him Dancer is a story about how one woman's enduring faith and unconditional love drives her to reach out to a homeless man who has given up on life. He has two other books in the process of being published. Watch for an upcoming release called Simple Faith.


ABOUT THE BOOK - I Called Him Dancer
For a moment, Michael danced on top of the world, but one bad choice turned his life upside down. The once promising Broadway star now washes windshields for tips and lives among the homeless. When his former dance partner recognizes him behind the fray of whiskers, shame drives him away from her. Angry at God and the world, the Dancer refuses to allow anyone into his life. When everything is stripped away, three things remain: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.

I Called Him Dancer is a story about how one woman's enduring faith and unconditional love drives her to reach out to a homeless man who has given up on life.


WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of I Called Him Dancer, just leave a comment on this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on Monday, June 6th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.)

Good luck!

Monday, May 30, 2011

CFBA presents DARKNESS FOLLOWS by Mike Dellosso



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Darkness Follows
(Realms - May 3, 2011)
by
Mike Dellosso


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He writes a monthly column for Writer . . .Interrupted, was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years, has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets, and has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed Web sites and e-newsletters. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer's Network, the International Christian Writers, and International Thriller Writers. His short stories have appeared with Amazon Shorts and in Coach's Midnight Diner genre anthology. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master's Graduate School of Divinity.

Mike Dellosso writes novels of suspense for both the mind and the soul. He writes to both entertain and challenge. In addition to his novels, Mike is also an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and a faculty member at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer's Conference.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Sam Travis lives in a Civil War era farmhouse in Gettysburg, PA, where he awakens one morning to find an old journal with an entry by a Union soldier, Lt. Whiting…written in Sam’s own handwriting. When this happens several more times, both at night and during waking “trances,” Sam begins to question his own sanity while becoming obsessed with Lt. Whiting and his bone-chilling journal entries. As the entries begin to mimic Sam’s own life, he is drawn into an evil plot that could cost many lives, including his own.

Can the unconditional love of Sam's daughter, Eva, break through his hardened heart before a killer on the loose catches up with them and Sam’s past spurs him to do the unthinkable?


If you would like to read the Prologue and first chapter of Darkness Follows, go HERE


JEN'S THOUGHTS
From the first page of Darkness Follows, Mike Dellosso throws the reader into the middle of the action. Short chapters keep the pace zipping along, making it a hard book to put down. Set against the backdrop of Gettysburg, Delloso draws interesting parallels between contemporary times and the Civil War era. Most importantly, he creates characters who engage the reader. As important information is doled out, piece by piece, we become more invested in their stories, and must know what makes these people tick. As Dellosso himself has said, this is primarily a story of the pure love between a father and his daughter. All in all, he provides a profoundly satisfying - and sometimes startling - reading experience.

Because some readers are more sensitive than others, you may want to know there's a fairly high body count. Also, readers who dislike any kind of harm done to animals should proceed with caution. But I wouldn't let that stop you from reading this book. Darkness Follows is a powerful portrait of the darkness that seeks to devour mankind, and the only Light able to defeat it.


Watch the book video:


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interview & Book Giveaway with Author Caprice Hokstad

Today's guest is Splashdown Books author Caprice Hokstad. Welcome, Caprice!

Q:  Do you treat yourself to something special when a project is completed?

A:  Yes. Sleep. Seriously. I almost always have to burn a lot of midnight oil to get something completed and getting done means I can catch up on sleep.

Q:  Do you plot out your story ahead of time, or do you think it up as you go?
A:  Both. My first book was almost completely seat-of-pants, but the second one was outlined and then filled in.

Q:  There’s been a lot said about the future of publishing and the possible death of the print book. What’s your take on eBooks, self-publishing, and such?
A:  I would like to see print reserved for only the most special books, with people buying the majority of their books in electronic formats. It’s easier, more cost-effective, more convenient, and saves trees. We do need a waterproof Kindle/Nook/whatever for the beachgoers and bathtub readers, such as myself, but once they put those out, I am all for closing bookstores completely and running the entire industry on the Internet.

My only problem with self-publishing is quality control. I have self-published myself, so I have seen both sides. It’s hard for readers to wade through all the choices, but eBooks are almost always offered with free samples, so it’s less of a risk. Self-published are actually better off in the land of eBooks.

Q:  How long does it take you to complete a novel? How many drafts do you go through?
A:  It really varies. My first novel’s first draft was done in four months, but then it needed the most extensive rewrites and redrafts. I didn’t count how many. It was a LOT. I edit as I go and now I don’t really do full roughs followed by full rewrites anymore. I do usually have a few crit partners read the draft and make suggestions and then I go back and polish.

Q:  What’s the one far out sci-fi technology you’d most like to see become a household item?
A:  Rosie, the robotic maid from the Jetsons.

Rosie is quite a popular choice. Whoever comes out with a viable robot-maid is going to make a fortune! Thanks for visiting with us today, Caprice. Lots of fun :+}


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Caprice Hokstad spends most of her time dreaming up other worlds to live vicariously in. Her first half-million words were spent on the fantasy setting of Byntar (where her published Ascendancy Trilogy novels are set). Her current obsession is a future Earth where the oceans are colonized (manifesting as seaQuest fanfiction). She attended Baylor University in Texas and lived in a log cabin in the mountains for ten years directly following college. She now lives--with her husband, two teens, a 7-year-old, a dog, a cat, two big rats, a tankful of guppies, and a leopard gecko--in a mobile home in southern California. She regularly stares at her simulated aquarium screensaver, singing "I Wish I Were a Fish" from "The Incredible Mr. Limpet". Her ultimate aspiration is to live in the first undersea colony, Atlantica, currently being built off the coast of Florida. She has been assured they will have electricity and internet and that there will be room for her laptop, so she can continue to write. At that point, she may change her screensaver, but no promises.


ABOUT THE BOOK - The Duke's Handmaid
Slavery. Loyalty. Torture. Passion. Betrayal. All the young outcast wanted was security in a world that destroyed her family and left her despised and rejected. Can the simple farmgirl find a new family through voluntary enslavement to the duke's household? Not if the prejudiced and conniving duchess has her way!


WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win the e-book, The Duke's Handmaid, just leave a comment on this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on Monday, June 6th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) E-book in the winner’s choice of format (nook, Kindle, PDF) can be downloaded from Smashwords (with free coupon code) or emailed.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Interview & Book Giveaway with Author Delia Latham

A big welcome to today's guest, author Delia Latham!

Q:  Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A:  Always…or at least as far back as I can remember. I joke that I was born with a pen in my hand, and it’s not that far from the truth!

Q:  Where do you find your story ideas?
A:  Everywhere. Ideas are like chameleons—they’re there, but you need to be looking for them to spot them. I like Orson Scott Card’s quote: Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any.

So I get some of my story ideas on a chameleon hunt…others are free gifts from God. :)

Q:  How does your faith impact your writing?
A:  My faith is my writing. It’s a ministry, one in which I try to reach readers who might never darken the door of a church house, but they will pick up a book for entertainment. If I can insert something into my fiction…a seed of truth, a grain of encouragement, a mustard seed of faith…then I’ve accomplished my goal.

Q:  How do you deal with writer’s block?
A:  Are you sure you want to know? :) I kick and scream and rant and rave and threaten to throw my computer out the window. When that doesn’t work (which is pretty much every time), I lay aside what I’m working on and concentrate on another project for awhile. Most of the time, I find that the block has crumbled when I return to the original project.

Once in awhile, nothing works except falling on my knees and asking God what it is I’m saying that shouldn’t be said, or what I’m leaving out that needs to be said. Once I’m back on track with His message, I can write again.

Q:  Do you plot out your story ahead of time, or do you think it up as you go?
A:  I am such a pantster. I get the grain of an idea and start mulling it over—meaning I think about it while making beds, doing dishes, dusting furniture and trying to get to sleep at night. Sometimes I pick up a notebook and do a little “free association.” Usually, by the time I actually sit down to write, I have a fairly good idea where my story is headed. At least, where I want it to head. My characters often take over and change the original plan, but that’s okay. They usually do a better job than I could have on my own. :)

Q:  What’s your favorite part of the writing business? What’s your least favorite?
A:  1. Writing. I love being “in the zone,” so wrapped up in my story that my characters are more real to me than what is real.
2. Marketing: In a perfect world, I could finish a book, then start immediately into another while someone else gets the word out. (((Sigh))) But God never promised a perfect world—not while I’m in this earthly body, anyway.

Q:  What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a fledgling writer?
A:  Write, write, write! You can pore over a hundred different books on the subject, and attend just as many writing classes and conferences—but you’ll never be a writer until you apply your rear to your chair and your fingertips to your keyboard and write. You won’t get better at it until you get the worst out of the way through practice…lots of practice. Do read the books. Absolutely attend the conferences. Then fire up your computer and put what you learn to good use. Otherwise, you’ll be an avid reader with tremendous, non-working knowledge of writing. You’ll be a career conference attendee. But you won’t be a professional writer, because writers write.

Q:  What does your family think about your crazy career?
A:  They’re supportive, especially my husband, who puts up with my crazy obsession with tremendous patience and a touching confidence that someday I’ll be on those bestseller lists. :) Do they “get it”? Well, no. Do they think I’m a celebrity because I have books with my name on the front? Not in the least. And I like it that way. :)

Q:  Scenario: You’re about to be dropped off on a deserted island. You can take along one survival item, one book, and one person (living or dead… but they’ll be alive on the island). What and who do you take?
A:  Survival item: A case of Dr. Pepper (I’m pretty sure I need that more than bread and butter…)
Book: My Bible (In that one Book are all the stories I need for entertainment and encouragement.)
Person: Jesus Christ (Wow, what an opportunity! I’d be praying the rescue ship never showed up.)

Thanks for taking the time to hang out with us today, Delia. It was fun!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born and raised in a place called Weedpatch, Delia Latham moved from California to Oklahoma in 2008, making her a self-proclaimed California Okie. She loves to read and write in her simple country home, and gets a kick out of watching her husband play Farmer John. The author enjoys multiple roles as Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. She loves to hear from her readers. You can contact her through her website or send an e-mail to delia AT delialatham DOT net.


ABOUT THE BOOK - Kylie's Kiss

On a dare, Kylie Matthews lands smack in the middle of Solomon’s Gate—Castle Creek’s new Christian dating agency—and she finds herself revealing exactly what she’s waiting for in a relationship: “The kiss that steals my breath away.”

What she doesn’t reveal is her lack of self-esteem or her irrational reaction to facial disfigurement. Neither is applicable to her quest to find the perfect match. But that seemingly superficial malady becomes all-important when her first agency-arranged date is Rick Dale—a man who is everything Kylie is searching for. He’s handsome, smart, fun. Rick has it all…including an angelic six-year-old daughter with severe scarring on one side of her face.

Hard at work founding a therapy camp for young female victims of deformity or disfigurement, Rick wants Kylie to be a part of those plans. She’d love to say yes…but how can she, when every contact with the facility’s guests—and Rick’s own daughter—will make her violently ill?

Kylie is ready to admit their relationship doesn’t stand a chance, but she’s forgotten that God makes a way where there seems no way.


WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win Kylie's Kiss, just leave a comment on this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on Thursday, May 26. Please leave an email address so we can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Since this is an e-book, you will receive an email from Delia with information about how to download your book. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interview & Book Giveaway with Author Connie Stevens

A big HELLO to today's guest, Heartsong Presents author Connie Stevens!

Q:  What was your inspiration for REVEALING FIRE?
A:  The main characters in REVEALING FIRE were minor characters in my first book, LEAVE ME NEVER. Both Pearl and Hubert are in their mid-fifties—their “September years”. I so fell in love with these two people while writing the first book, I knew I had to give them their own story.

Q:How does your faith impact your writing?
A:  I’ve been asked this question before and my answer is always the same. It’s imperative that everything I write is God-honoring. Because it was God who carved out my writing path, I MUST write to please Him. If I’m not writing for God, what’s the point? From the day I learned I was getting my first contract, I began praying for my readers. That is such an awesome responsibility because at some point I know that unbelievers might pick up my book and I want them to see Jesus in the lives of the characters and understand how He works in their lives.

Q:  Do you plot out your story ahead of time, or do you think it up as you go?
A:  I do both. I plot out the major points and character arcs. I have a general idea of where the story is going and how I’m going to get to The End. But in every book I’ve written, my characters have taken me on unplanned detours. In most cases, they had better ideas than I did, so I followed along to see where we’d end up. (My husband keeps trying to tell me these people aren’t real.)

Q:  How long does it take you to complete a novel? How many drafts do you go through?
A:  My writing schedule is an ever-evolving process. It used to take me 8-9 months to write a book, but I wasn’t following a schedule. Once I had more than one contract and deadlines, (throw content edits, copy edits, and galley edits into the mix) I knew I had to be better organized. Now I can turn out a book (50K words) in approximately three and half months. Because I edit as I go, and as I get my chapters back from my crit partners, I don’t do several drafts—usually only two.

Q:  What’s your favorite part of the writing business? What’s your least favorite?
A:  My favorite part is the creating and the research. I love historical research. My least favorite is probably the content edits (No offense, Rachel J)

Q:  What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a fledgling writer?
A:  Don’t quit. God won’t start something in your life that He doesn’t intend to finish, so hang in there.

Q:  What’s the one far out sci-fi technology you’d most like to see become a household item?
A:  This is a funny question since I write historical romance, not sci-fi. My husband is the science fiction fan in our house, and I don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars, but I wouldn’t mind having a robot—like the one on The Jetsons. What was her name? Rosie? Rosie cleaned, and did laundry, and cooked the meals. Yeah, I’d like to have a Rosie.

I'd like to have, Rosie, too. Good choice :+} Thanks for joining us today, Connie. It was a pleasure!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connie Stevens lives in her favorite place in all the world, within sight of the beautiful mountains of north Georgia. She and John, her husband of thirty-seven years, share their home with one cantankerous kitty, misnamed Sweet Pea. When Connie isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, gardening, browsing antique stores, sewing, and collecting teddy bears. She also likes making quilts to send to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Visit her website at www.conniestevenswrites.com or look for her on Facebook.


ABOUT THE BOOK - Revealing Fire
Pearl Dunnigan is in her “September years”, well beyond the age when most women fall in love. She married her childhood sweetheart years ago. Now, as a widow, she operates the only boardinghouse in Willow Creek, Iowa, and is content with life . . . until Hubert dares to convince her to dream again.

During Hubert Behr’s youth, blind ambition and careless actions destroyed his family and his marriage. Have the lessons he’s learned since then made him worthy of a second chance, or has his past made him unsuitable for love? Hubert is willing to try again, but what will Pearl say when she learns his secrets?

Hubert’s estranged son arrives in town, and his anger and scorn threaten to undo Hubert’s and Pearl’s plans. When all the truth is revealed, will their love be destroyed or refined by fire?

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest . . . because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” 
1st Corinthians 3:13


WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Revealing Fire, just leave a comment on this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on Friday, May 20th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Book Is Free... Please Take One!

Thanks to my awesome publisher, Abingdon Press, you can now get an electronic copy of The Pastor's Wife for free! That's right, 100% free. From now until May 22nd it's available in several different formats. Here are the links:

Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble NOOK
Christian Book Distributors

Some folks have asked me how it benefits the author to give the book away for free. First and foremost, it's great to build exposure. The hope is that if you read the free book, you'll be excited about the release of my next book (The Mother Road, April 2012). You might even want to buy a copy of The Pastor's Wife to give to a friend. In any case, it's a win-win for both reader and author. So here's how you can help me...
  • Buy it -  Hey, it's free. Even if you already have the paper version, you may want to read it on the go one day.
  • Review it - If you enjoyed it, a review on one (or more) of the sites would be a huge boost. It doesn't have to be long or complicated. Just whatever you have time for. Simple is sweet.
  • Tell your friends about it - You don't have to be married to a clergy person to read this book. You don't even have to be a woman. A surprising number of men have read it without having a gun pointed at their backs, and enjoyed the experience. So let all the book lovers in your life know about it... the more the merrier!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Interview & Book Giveaway with Author Carrie Turansky

Today's guest is Christian fiction author Carrie Turansky. Welcome, Carrie!


Q:  What was your inspiration for Surrendered Hearts?
A:  I wrote Surrendered Hearts as a sequel to my first novel, Along Came Love. A few years ago I read an article in Real Simple magazine about a small town in Vermont. The article focused on the friendships of the women there, and that piqued my interest and set my imagination off on a journey. I visited Vermont and did some research and found an art and antique gallery in the converted barn that inspired the setting for both books. I’ve included photos of Country House Gifts and Antiques on my website. I also read an article in my local newspaper about a gas pipeline explosion and all the damage that did. I used that as part of my heroine’s past, and then had her work through accepting her scars and coming to faith through that experience as the main plot line for the story.

Q:  Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A:  I’ve always loved to read and be creative. But I was an art major in college and studied graphic design. I didn’t start writing until 1998 after our family returned from a spending a year in Kenya as missionaries. I missed Kenya so much, I decided to write a story set there as a way to relive some of those experiences. That became the setting for my first novel. I wrote five full-length novels and one novella before my first novella, Wherever Love Takes Us in Wedded Bliss, was accepted for publication in 2005. It took a lot of faith and perseverance to keep writing and submitting my books.

Q:  How does your faith impact your writing?
A:  My faith has a huge impact on my life and my worldview, so it is very evident in my writing. I like to put my characters in tough situations where they discover new things about their faith and how God can help them in their situation. Through my stories readers can see my characters learn about issues like forgiveness, honesty in relationships, self-sacrifice for the sake of someone you love, and other issues. In Surrendered Hearts, my heroine struggles with revealing her scars to others and reconnecting with God after some very painful losses. I hope my readers will be drawn closer to God by reading my stories and stepping into the lives of my characters.

Q:  Do you plot out your story ahead of time, or do you think it up as you go?
A:  I outline my stories and plot out the main points. I need to know where I am going and what makes my characters tick, but I don’t fill in all the details. That gives me some room to be creative and enjoy the writing process. Most of the publishers I have written for require a synopsis, so I have to plot it out for them to consider contacting the book.

Q:  What do you think about writing contests? Have you participated in any? What’s the benefit to an unpublished writer?
A:  I entered several writing contests before I was published and I appreciate the feedback and critiques I received from the judges. Those suggestions showed me how to improve my writing. I was a finalist in several contests and the winner of one. That gave me motivation to keep pressing on to publication.

Q:  What does your family think about your crazy career?
A:  My family is very supportive of my writing. My husband and my daughters all read my books and have offered me a lot of encouragement. My mother-in-law is also a great encouragement to me. I am blessed that they are interested in my books and writing career.

Q:  There’s been a lot said about the future of publishing and the possible death of the print book. What’s your take on eBooks, self-publishing, and such?
A:  My featured book for this interview is a self-published e-book. I believe this is the wave of the future, and I want to jump in and ride that wave. I believe there will always be a market for print books, but e-books are on the rise as more readers purchase e-readers and that becomes the norm. I think it is an exciting time to be an author. I’ve written two articles about self-publishing my e-book and readers can read those in the notes section on Facebook if they’d like more info on that.

Q:  Why did you decide to self-publish?
A:  I wrote Surrendered Hearts a few years ago and submitted it to two publishers, but it did not find a publishing home. Because it is 60,000 words, it was not long enough to be considered by most CBA publisher who usually like their novels to be about 80 – 90,000 words. But I LOVE this story, and I wanted to make it available to my readers, so I decided to try the e-publishing route.

Q:  Have you been happy with your decision to self-publish?
A:  Yes, I have been very happy with this decision. It has been exciting to learn all these new aspects of publishing and promotion.

Q:  What’s the biggest obstacle for a self-published author? What’s the biggest blessing?
A:  You need to spend quite a bit of time on promotion to get the word out which can cut into your writing time, so you need to be careful and plan wisely. The biggest blessing is knowing a story that I love is now out there for readers to enjoy.

Thanks, Carrie. It was fun and informative :+}

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carrie Turansky is the award-winning author of eight inspirational romance novels and novellas. She has been a finalist for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, The ACFW Genesis, and ACFW Carol Award and winner of the WRW Crystal Globe Award. She has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2000. Her latest releases are Christmas Mail-Order Brides, Seeking His Love, and Surrendered Hearts. She lives in central New Jersey with her husband, Scott, who is a pastor, author, speaker and counselor. They have five young adult children. Carrie leads women’s ministry at her church, and when she is not writing she enjoys gardening, reading, flower arranging, and cooking for friends and Family. You may contact her though her website: http://www.carrieturansky.com/


ABOUT THE BOOK - Surrendered Hearts
Jennifer Evan’s life changes forever when a gas pipeline explodes, starting a fire at her apartment. Losing her home and beloved dog are terrible blows, but the ugly scars that cover her arm, neck and shoulder steal her confidence and cause her fiancĂ© to desert her. With her funds depleted and her job on hold, she heads for Vermont where she hopes to reconnect with her brother and find a way to rebuild her shattered life. Bill Morgan, a strong and quiet man whose faith runs deep, challenges her view of God and faith. Will she hold on to the pain of her past, or will she surrender her heart and find the faith and love she seeks?


WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win Surrendered Hearts, just leave a comment on this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on Wednesday, May 18th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Since this is an e-book, you will receive a coupon code to use at the Smashwords website for the free book. They have formats that will work for just about any e-reader or for the computer. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interview & Book Giveaway with Author Michelle Griep

A big welcome to author Michelle Griep. Make sure to leave a comment on today's post for a chance to win a copy of her new novel, Undercurrent.


Q:  Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A:  Yes, except for a short season when I kicked around the idea of becoming an astronaut. Two problems with that, though. First off, I hate science and math, both of which you should at least have a mild interest in to be successful in a space career. Secondly, when I found out that astronauts don’t actually wear cool Lt. Uhura uniforms, it was a deal breaker.

Q:  What’s your favorite part of the writing business? What’s your least favorite?
A:  Getting paid for penning down my daydreams is my fave. Least is marketing. There’s a reason I’m not a salesman. I stink at it.

Q:  After becoming a published author, what surprised you the most?
A:  The freak magnet effect. When people hear you’re a published author, you will be blown away by the connection that others instantly feel toward you. I’m convinced that 99.9% of the population are wannabe-writers with not only novel ideas, but entire epic trilogy tales. These people will corner you and tell you every detail of their story, then expect you to help them get it published.

Q:  If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
A:  I’d be running a B&B in England. Near a castle. On a moor. With Mr. Rochester as my neighbor. Wow. Did I mention I’m an out-of-the-closet Charlotte Bronte fan-a-maniac?

Q:  What event, writer, or book has most impacted your writing life?
A:  My critique partners. These gals are ruthless. They’re cute when they wear their cheerleader costumes but my-oh-my…my head’s been on a platter many times over for lazy writing or a sagging plot. These writing buddies are always there for me whether I’m riding the crest of victory or weeping from rejection. I couldn’t play this game without them.

Q:  What does your family think about your crazy career?
A:  My husband knew I was certifiably insane when he married me, so no problem there. As for my kids… My oldest son thinks it’s great but only reads audio/technical textbooks. My second son reads my rough drafts, cutting out scenes that are too sissy and/or adding in some sweet moves to my fight scenes. My oldest daughter is too busy fixing her hair to notice that I write. And my youngest daughter is pretty sure Hollywood will make blockbuster movies of my stories, and can I please get her into a starring role?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes…except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. Find out more at www.mmgriep.com


ABOUT THE BOOK - Undercurrent
People go missing every day. Many meet with foul play, some leave the social grid by choice, but others are never accounted for. Such is the fate of successful linguistics professor Cassie Larson. She leads a life her undergrad students hope to attain, until she tumbles into the North Sea and is sucked into a swirling vortex…and a different century.

Alarik, son of a Viking chieftain, is blamed for a murder he didn’t commit—or did he? He can’t remember. On the run, saving a half-drowned foreign woman wasn’t in his plans.

Ragnar is a converted pagan shunned by many but determined to prove his Cousin Alarik’s innocence. He didn’t count on falling in love with Cassie or the deadly presence of evil that threatens his village in Alarik’s absence.



WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Undercurrent, just leave a comment on this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on Friday, May 13th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.)

Good luck!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Interview & Book Giveaway with Author Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Welcome to romance novelist Shannon Taylor Vannatter!

Q:  What was your inspiration for this series?
A:  In the first book in the series, White Roses, I mentioned a bleached blond clad only in a towel who had wrecked the heroine’s romance. When my editor asked if the book could be made into a series, I immediately thought of the bleached blond. I wanted to explore what would shape her character and what it would take to tame her. With book two, White Doves, an illegitimate son was revealed, so White Pearls wrapped up that story and I knew I wanted to set it in a historical plantation house in Rose Bud, AR. It’s one of those houses I can never drive by without craning my neck to look. They used the actual house on the cover.

Q:  Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A:  I had one creative writing class in the 3rd grade and I loved it. But that was all, so I never even thought of being a writer. I had a story in my head from the time I was fifteen, but never knew what to do with it. Finally at about thirty, I realized it could be a book, but didn’t start writing until three years later.

Q:  How does your faith impact your writing?
A:  It just comes out. The very first book I wrote was supposed to be a clean romance, but my characters kept talking to God. That’s when I learned there was an inspirational market.

Q:  How do you deal with writer’s block?
A:  I’ve only had it once and I thought it was a myth until then. I’m a seat of the pants writer. I usually know how the book will begin, a couple of big turning points, and how it will end. For the second book in the series, I had to write the chapter by chapter synopsis before writing the book. When it came time to write the book with a deadline hanging over my head and the book already plotted out, I had my first case of writer’s block. I thought it was a myth until then. I went to a writers’ workshop taught by Kaye Dacus. She mentioned she was a pantser and how hard it is for her to write a synopsis before the book. So after the class I asked for advice. She said to put away the synopsis and work on something else until it was out of my head, then write the book. I did it and it worked. The words starting flying.

Q:  Do you treat yourself to something special when a project is completed?
A:  High heel shoes. I love them and have probably fifty pair, but my closet is overflowing, so I’m going to have to come up with something else.

Q:  What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a fledgling writer?
A:  Join a local writers’ group and attend conferences. Join a national group geared toward your genre and attend all the national conferences you can afford.

Q:  What do you think about writing contests? Have you participated in any? What’s the benefit to an unpublished writer?
A:  I entered four or five contests and got 2nd place in two of them. I learned so much from the judges’ feedback. Some of it is subjective, but if two judges’ said the same thing, I paid attention. I learned to pray about the comments and then make changes accordingly. I recommend entering contests with feedback or where the final judge is an editor from the house you’re interested in.

Q:  What event, writer, or book has most impacted your writing life?
A:  American Christian Fiction Writers. I’ve attended the conference since 2005 and finally joined in 2007. If not for ACFW, I’d probably still be unpublished. Specific workshop: It all came together for me at the early bird in 2008. Margie Lawson’s EDITs class. The scales fell from my eyes and I knew what should be in a book and what shouldn’t. If writers ever get the opportunity, they should take it. She offers a lesson packet on her website.

Q:  Scenario: You’re about to be dropped off on a deserted island. You can take along one survival item, one book, and one person (living or dead… but they’ll be alive on the island). What and who do you take?
A:  I’m cheating here. My survival item would be my husband. I don’t rough it well, so I’d need him to survive. The book would be the Bible. And the person would be our son.

Thanks for visiting, Shannon. It was great fun!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shannon Taylor Vannatter married her high school sweetheart. Since then her husband answered the call to preach and they became first-time parents 16 ½ years into their marriage. She is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife.

White Roses, White Doves, and White Pearls is her first series with Heartsong Presents. All three books are set in Romance and Rose Bud, Arkansas. Brides and lovebirds take advantage of the re-mailing program to have wedding invitations and Valentines cards mailed from Romance with a unique postmark. Romance also hosts several annual weddings with Valentine’s Day the most popular date.

The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards named her #3 Favorite New Author, White Roses as #1 Contemporary Novel and #2 Favorite Contemporary Cover, and White Doves as #8 Contemporary Novel and #1 Favorite Contemporary Cover. She is currently working on a Texas rodeo series contracted with Heartsong Presents.

Learn more about Shannon and her books at http://shannonvannatter.com/. She’s active on Facebook: facebook.com/shannontaylorvannatter and Twitter: @stvauthor.


ABOUT THE BOOK - White Pearls
Shell doesn’t have a good reputation…

But no matter what everyone in Rose Bud, Arkansas, thinks of her, she’s back in town with a job to do. She’ll stick it out and make the best of things. But why does Ryler have to be the landscaper on this project? She was just getting her heart under control.

Ryler has his own reasons for being in Rose Bud, and they don’t include Shell. Spying on his birth family was going to be hard enough. He doesn’t have time to worry about a woman who dumped him…even if his heart says otherwise.

But God’s love can change even the hardest heart. In the light of His presence, even the darkest past can be overcome. They may not know it, but the people of Rose Bud are about the change!


WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of White Pearls, just leave a comment on this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on Tuesday, May 10th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

CFBA presents TO WIN HER HEART by Karen Witemeyer



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
To Win Her Heart
(Bethany House - May 1, 2011)
by
Karen Witemeyer




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife and mother of three who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.
After growing up in California, Karen moved to Texas to attend Abilene Christian University where she earned bachelor and master's degrees in Psychology. It was also there that she met and married her own Texas hero. He roped her in good, for she has lived in Texas ever since. In fact, she fell so in love with this rugged land of sweeping sunsets and enduring pioneer spirit, that she incorporates it into the pages of her novels, setting her stories in the small towns of a state that burgeoned into greatness in the mid- to late1800s.
Karen is living her dream by writing Christian historical romance novels for Bethany House. When she visited her publisher back in January of 2010, she was interviewed by the staff. If you'd like a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how she develops her story ideas and a description of her bumpy journey to publication, click here to listen to a podcast of that interview.


ABOUT THE BOOK

After completing his sentence for the unintentional crime that derailed his youthful plans for fame and fortune, Levi Grant looks to start over in the town of Spencer, Texas. Spencer needs a blacksmith, a trade he learned at his father’s knee, and he needs a place where no one knows his past.

Eden Spencer has sworn off men, choosing instead to devote her time to the lending library she runs in the town her father founded. When a mountain-sized stranger walks through her door and asks to borrow a book, she's reluctant to trust him. Yet as the mysteries of the town’s new blacksmith unfold, Eden discovers hidden depths in him that tempt her heart.

Eden believes she's finally found a man of honor and integrity. But when the truth about Levi's prodigal past comes to light, can this tarnished hero find a way to win back the librarian’s affections?


If you would like to read the first chapter of To Win Her Heart, go HERE.


THOUGHTS FROM JEN

I haven't received this book yet, so can't give a review. However, I can say that I loved Karen's first two books and am looking forward to reading this one. If you haven't read her debut novel, A Tailor-Made Bride, it's available for free right now on Kindle. Enjoy!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Interview & Book Giveaway with Author Louise M. Gouge

A big welcome today to author Louise M. Gouge!

Q:  What was your inspiration for AT THE CAPTAIN’S COMMAND?
A:  I discovered a tidbit of history I hadn’t known and turned it into a three-book series. I have lived in Florida for thirty-one years, and yet for twenty-five of those years, it never sunk in that this state was once a British colony. Florida? Spanish colony, right? Yes, for most of two hundred years. But during one of those many European wars of past centuries, Spain had to hand over this colony to England in 1763. Out went the hapless Spanish settlers, many of whom had been born here. In came the eager English AND a bunch of Americans from the northern colonies. Many settled in the capital, St. Augustine, and others established plantations, where they grew oranges, lemons, rice, indigo, and many other products. Then, when the thirteen colonists rebelled against England, many loyalists had to flee their homes and come to Florida, which had no wish to separate from the mother country. Of course, all this conflict makes a wonderful setting for a romance novel. In my case, it’s been the inspiration for a series of three books.

The first book, Love Thine Enemy (Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical 2009), takes place on one of those indigo plantations along the St. Johns River, and the hero and heroine are on different sides of the Revolution. Then, in one of those fun fiction happenings, a secondary character from that story asked for his own book, so along comes The Captain’s Lady (Harlequin’s LIH 2010). Again, the hero and heroine are on different sides in the conflict. For variety, this story takes place in London. What fun to imagine the drawing rooms and manor houses of England!

For the third book, At the Captain’s Command, I wanted to do something different, so I began to ask myself more questions. What if my hero and heroine are on the same side? Furthermore, what if they are both in favor of England winning the war? What conflict could I create? Easy. She’s an American Loyalist of no particular social status who has vowed never to marry a seafaring man. He is an English naval captain, the son of an influential earl who would forbid his son’s marriage to a “common American.” Conflict enough? I think so.

Q:  Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A:  No, not really. As a child, I had a very active imagination that didn’t quit as I grew older. But I wanted to become an actress and opera singer and trained for both. However, to show how serious I was about that show biz career, when I met my wonderful husband, I gave up those dreams and had a wonderful time becoming a wife and mother. I happily settled for taking part in church drama and choir for many years. But as my children grew older, I wondered what I would do with myself. A friend gave me a shove (hi, Pat Bickers!) to start writing the stories that I dreamed up. I had been writing church dramas for years, but writing a novel? Well, I decided to give it a try. That first nugget of an idea became two books, my first publishing credits.

Q:  How does your faith impact your writing?
A:  If it were not for my Lord Jesus Christ, I would not be a writer. He is the Ultimate Reality, the One we all need to know for this life and for eternity. So when I write a story, my characters mirror real life when they come to God for salvation and for help to walk through this crazy world. Not that everything turns out just peachy, because it doesn’t in real life. We all have grief and disappointment. The most important lesson we can learn is that He will be with us, no matter how bad things get. I try to live with that hope, and I pray my readers will find that joy through my stories.

Q:  Do you plot out your story ahead of time, or do you think it up as you go?
A:  I have a basic plot and know where I’ll end up. But sometimes on the journey, I have side trips and secondary characters who keep interrupting the main story. Those are lots of fun and really enrich the stories.

Q:  What’s your favorite part of the writing business? What’s your least favorite?
A:  I love the whole process of creating characters and the adventures they will experience. When I begin a new story, it’s like going on a journey with new friends. As we progress on the journey, I find satisfaction in helping them reach their goals. As far as the least favorite part, I don’t like to be “in between contracts.” LOL!

Q:  What do you think about writing contests? Have you participated in any? What’s the benefit to an unpublished writer?
A:  I do love contests. I didn’t enter any as an unpublished writer, but I’ve entered several published books in contests. In fact, one of my books won the 2006 IRCC for historical fiction. What a thrill! But I also judge contests and try to give the entrants some helpful suggestions to improve their writing. Often the winners will end up with contracts, so I rejoice for them. I believe contests are a great way to discover whether or not you’re equipped for this tough writing business.

Q:  If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
A:  I do have another career that probably would be full time. I’m a college English and humanities professor at a nearby college. I love having an impact on my students, and they seem to respond to my efforts to interest them in a larger world.

Q:  What does your family think about your crazy career?
A:  My family has been wonderful in supporting me from day one. My dear husband is my first reader and often points out places where I could improve a story. My children and siblings encourage me and actually read my books and urge their friends to buy them. Long ago, when I first began, my kids would come home from school and ask what I’d written that day. They wanted me to succeed. Without that support, I doubt I would have continued.

Q:  There’s been a lot said about the future of publishing and the possible death of the print book. What’s your take on eBooks, self-publishing, and such?
A:  My attitude has completely changed in the past year. E-books are becoming very popular, so I’m excited to watch my sales go up in that format. As far as self-publishing is concerned, I know many people who have not been published traditionally are going that route when they can’t sell their books to traditional houses. Personally, I prefer that extra editing step before my book goes to print (or e-book). My editors have kept me from mistakes and have improved my writing. Too many people lack the skills to write, but they think readers will overlook that. Big mistake. If you must self-publish, at least hire a freelance copy editor or book doctor to spruce up your work. It will save you a lot of embarrassment. On the other hand, I may bring out some of my out-of-print titles that were published long before e-books came along and “self-publish” in that format. But these books have already been vetted and sold. Further, I’m a college English professor, so I know my grammar is correct. Aspiring writers should try very hard not to insult readers by offering inferior work just to stoke their own egos.

Q:  What’s the one far out sci-fi technology you’d most like to see become a household item?
A:  Oh, that’s easy. I would love to have a robot housemaid to clean my house and do all my cooking. I used to be such a great housekeeper, but when I have a deadline, the dust piles up. Fortunately for me, I have a wonderful husband who like to cook and is very good at it. In all fairness, though, I should do some of the cooking because he has a job, too. That’s when the robot would come in handy.

Thank you so much for having me as a guest blogger. I hope your readers will give my books a try.

Thank you, Louise! It was a pleasure.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction, calling her stories “threads of grace woven through time.” In addition to numerous other awards, Louise is the recipient of the prestigious Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. Married to David Gouge for forty-six years, Louise is a mother of four and grandmother of six children. In addition to writing, she teaches English and humanities at Valencia Community College in Kissimmee , Florida. To learn more about Louise, visit her website at http://blog.louisemgouge.com.


ABOUT THE BOOK - At the Captain's Command (Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical).
A heroic British naval captain, son of an influential earl, dares to fall in love with a provincial American girl. Then he discovers her family's devastating secret.

Loyal to the British Crown, orphaned Dinah Templeton has vowed never to marry a seafaring man, for her father died at sea and her merchant captain brother is always away. But when Captain Thomas Moberly sails into St. Augustine to defend the East Florida shores from American pirates, Dinah finds that her heart may overrule her head regarding this seafarer. Captain Thomas Moberly, captain of HMS Dauntless, has been assigned to capture the notorious American pirate Nighthawk, who plagues the Atlantic coast of East Florida. War-weary and hoping for a refreshing visit with his brother and sister, who live near St. Augustine, Thomas never expects to find love. But how can he resist the lovely Miss Templeton, even though she is what his father, Lord Bennington, would call a common American?


WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of At the Captain's Command, just leave a comment on this post. PLEASE NOTE: USA and Canadian residents only for this one. I’ll pick a winner at random on Thursday, May 5th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!