During the 1800s, the majority of Americans still lived in rural, agriculturally-centered communities. Towns were small. Farms and ranches spread over hundreds of acres which oftentimes separated neighbors by miles. Isolation was a way of life for many families. Yet humans long for connection, for belonging. And the harsh circumstances of pioneer life often necessitate a dependence on others. Neighbor wives were often called upon to deliver babies or provide food when a woman became ill. Men relied on their nearest neighbors to help bring in crops or butcher hogs. All of this required community. And how was community built and nurtured? Through the small country churches.
They might seem like they were built out in the middle of nowhere, but these country churches were strategically located to enable the most families to be able to attend. Some families lived a day or more away from the nearest town, so giving up two days a week, one being a workday, to travel to church wasn”t feasible. Therefore, churches were planted in locations where rural families would only have to travel a couple hours at most each way.
People gathered at these churches not only to worship, but for community meetings and events, for burials, and for weddings. They fostered friendships and commitment to the local community.
In today”s society, the country church is losing its significance. Fewer communities are rural-based these days with most populations having moved into towns and cities. Ease of transportation has also impacted the survival of these landmarks. Yet some country churches are still hanging on.
My husband and I attend a small country church on the outskirts of Abilene, TX in the farming community of Hamby. A few years back we celebrated the congregation”s 100th year with a grand celebration. We continue to have potlucks or “dinner on the ground” every couple months, everyone knows everyone else, and everyone chips in whenever there is a need among the members. It”s like a little piece of history that I am happy to keep alive.
My latest book, Stealing the Preacher, centers around just such a country church. Joanna Robbin”s beloved church building has stood empty for two years without a minister, and she longs to bring it back to life. The community needs it. She needs it. But most of all, her unbelieving father needs it. Little does she know that, thanks to an offhand comment she made, her ex-outlaw daddy has decided to break out the old face-hiding bandannas and kidnap her a parson from the local rail line. Crockett Archer might have been stolen, but Joanna can”t shake the feeling that God intended him for her church. Can she convince Crockett that he ended up right where he belongs?
Questions for you:
* Have you ever attended a small country church?
* Do you have a country church in your community? Is it abandoned or still going strong?
And don”t miss out on the Kindle Fire giveaway with my Author Chat Party on Facebook! It”s going to be a lot of fun! Enter today for a chance to win…
My newest book, Stealing the Preacher, releases June 1, but I received my author copies early and would love to give a couple away. But before I do, I thought it would be fun to share some behind the scenes secrets from the making of Stealing the Preacher’s book trailer.
The marketing director from Bethany House contacted me back in April, worried that they wouldn’t be able to get the trailer done in time for my release because of the long winter they were experiencing up in Minnesota. The snow just wouldn’t melt. Thankfully, God brought the sun out just in time, and one week after the thaw hit, the creative team grabbed cameras, donned costumes, and brought Crockett and Joanna to life.
Dan Pitts, the creative genius behind the camera, actually sneaked in front of the camera for a cameo. Rather “Hitchcock” of him, don’t you think? Dressed as Crockett, he became my leading man, lassoed by the pretty heroine in pink. One of the editorial assistants, Elisa, stepped in to play Joanna and reeled him in. I just love how everyone at Bethany House is willing to get in on the action. Such great sports.
The result is a fun trailer that carries an old-time silent movie feel. Enjoy!
If you’d like a preview of the first three chapters, they are available as an excerpt on my Facebook page. Anyone who likes my page will gain immediate access to the content.
So now for the giveaway! Since Joanna Robbins receives a huge shock when her father presents her with the preacher he stole as a birthday gift in Stealing the Preacher, I thought it would be fun to hear about the most surprising brithday gift you ever received.
I will choose two winners from those who leave comments, so be sure to include your email address to make it easy for me to contact you if you win. Unfortunately, I can only mail to US addresses. I’ll post the winners’ names by tomorrow.
Alamo survivor? Could that be right? I thought everyone died at the Alamo. Isn’t that what made it famous? Well, all the fighting men who made their stand at the mission, did, in fact, die. But there were others present–women, children, slaves–who didn’t perish during that fateful battle in 1836. Susanna Dickinson was one such survivor.
Susanna joined her husband, Almaron, in San Antonio in December 1835 after her home back in Gonzalez, TX was looted. She hosted many of the men at her table (including David Crockett) and took in laundry for the men at the fort. On February 23, 1836, she and her daughter Angelina moved into the Alamo with her husband due to the increased threat from Santa Ana and his army.
On March 6, after the battle was over, Santa Ana collected her along with the other women, children, and slaves, and questioned them before eventually releasing them with a gift of a blanket and two silver dollars. But to Susanna, he gave a special task. She was to carry a letter of warning to Sam Houston. One of the slaves accompanied her for protection. She and her daughter left on March 7 and finally found her way to Gonzalez where Houston was camped by March 12. Susanna accomplished her mission at the tender age of 22.
Unfortunately, her tale hit a rough patch after the death of her husband at the Alamo. Penniless and with a child to support, she married a man named John Williams. The man turned out to be a brute who beat both Susanna and young Angelina. Susanna wouldn’t take the abuse, so she petitioned Harrisburg County for a divorce and was granted one of the first in that county’s history. She attempted marriage three more times without success. Either death or divorce ended each of the relationships. Nevertheless, Susanna received praise from the Baptist minister Rufus C. Burleson for her work nursing cholera victims in Houston, where he baptized her in Buffalo Bayou in 1849.
Finally, in 1857, she met a German man in Lockhart, TX and became Mrs. Joseph Hannig. They moved to Austin where Joseph set ran a successful cabinet and furniture shop. They remained married until Susanna’s death in October 1883. After all she’d been through, I’m so glad she finally found the love of a good man.
Susanna Dickinson inspired my characters in Short-Straw Bride. As you probably recall, all four Archer brothers were named for heroes associated with the Alamo: Travis, Crockett, Bowie, and Neill. Their mother (named Susanna, of course!) had a healthy dose of Texas pride and took the call to “Remember the Alamo” to heart.
In just a couple weeks, the next Archer brother’s story will hit the shelves. Stealing the Preacher is Crockett’s story. Three years have past since Short-Straw, and Crockett has trained with a local minister to prepare himself for his dream of ministering to a congregation of his own. But when he’s on his way to a final interview, he’s abducted from a train by a gang of aging outlaws and faced with the choice of either escaping to follow his own dreams or staying to help the daughter of his captor fulfill hers.
Stealing the Preacher is avilable for pre-order now! Just click on the cover to order from Amazon.
To read the first 3 chapters for free, follow this link to my Facebook page. If you “like” the page, you gain immediate access to the content. Enjoy!
Question for you:
Do you know someone who was named for a historical figure? Or do you have family names that have been handed down through the generations?
My oldest son carries on the WDW tradition. My husband’s initials are WDW and his father’s initials are WDW. So it was important to Wes that we carry that on with our son. Finding a W name we both liked was a bit of a challenge. I finally opted for Wyatt (what western fan wouldn’t love such a name – Wyatt Earp, anyone?). The D came from my father who passed away when I was 16. His middle name was Dale, so now we were bringing in family tradition from both sides. Then, we we told my grandmother the name we had selected. She was giddy and thanked us for naming him after her. I hadn’t known until that moment that her maiden name had been Wyatt. How cool is that? I love names that are rich with family meaning!
A few weeks ago, I shared with you some wonderful behind-the-scenes photos my editor sent me of the cover shoot they did for my upcoming release,Stealing the Preacher.
Well, about a week before Christmas, I received an email from my editor. They”re changing the cover. Not just a few touch-ups here and there with computer magic. Nope. They”re doing a whole new photo shoot.
As it turns out, some of the bigger retailers gave them some negative feedback.
They didn”t like the praying hands – thought they were too silly
The heroine needed a new dress – something more elegant, more in keeping with some of my other covers (see below)
They wanted a cover that readers would immediately associate with my brand – something more in keeping with my other designs.
So what did they come up with? Well, I am pleased to unveil the brand new cover for Stealing the Preacher!
Da, da, da, Daaaa (trumpet fanfare) . . .
So, what do you think?
Those who know me will tell you that I”m usually very resistant to change. However, I really like this second version. Both cover designs are fun and playful, but this one steps up the elegance, and the country church in the background is exactly as I described it in the book. It”s perfect!
The heroine”s dress is gorgeous and really draws the eye. And even though I can”t see my handsome hero”s face, he still makes a strong impression.
And best of all, it matches the feel of my other covers. The only thing I miss is having my preacher tied up. (He
is actually lassoed in the book.) I still think that would have been fun.
Which cover do you prefer?
How much difference, if any, does a cover make to you when you”re choosing a book?
Stealing the Preacher is available for pre-order at a pretty good discount at Amazon. Click on the book cover to order.
One of my favorite parts of the publication process is seeing my book cover for the first time. Will it capture my characters? Will it reflect the tone and style of my story? Will I love it?
Thankfully, my publisher has blessed me with some truly fabulous covers. That helps ease the anxiety over whether or not I will like what they come up with, because authors really have very little say in the design of their covers. We give ideas and feedback. We give descriptions of our characters, their clothing, and the setting, but then we turn it over to the Art Department and trust them to work their magic in a way that produces a cover that will catch a reader’s attention.
With my latest project, Stealing the Preacher, I had several fun ideas, all of which required that my preacher be tied up somehow on the cover. So when my project manager finally sent me the finished cover, I couldn’t wait to see how it had turned out. Well, here it is:
Yep – I got my preacher tied up. WooHoo!!! Crockett Archer is in for one crazy adventure.
But how did this cover come to be? Well, my editor was kind enough to send me several pictures she managed to take on the sly during the photo shoot.
First, meet our two cover models, Isaiah and Katie. They make a cute couple, don’t they? Notice that Katie is actually a blonde. My heroine is a redhead. Thanks to some serious photo-shopping talent, her locks changed color on the cover.
Now we need some costumes. I love the dress they found for Joanna Robbins (my heroine). The style is gorgeous. The only problem is that Joanna never once wears red in the book. She’s a redhead, remember, and there are very few redheads that can carry off red clothing as well. However, from a marketing perspective, the red is very eye-catching and will easily draw a reader’s attention, so I couldn’t argue with the color. In fact, I went back during the editing phase and added a deep red skirt to Joanna’s wardrobe.
Next comes the really fun part. Time to play with different poses and scenarios. My original idea was to have a lasso around Crockett’s middle because that accurately depicted the scene in the book where he first met Joanna. Aren’t these shots fun?
The one they ended up choosing, however, does a great job of capturing the heroine’s personality while still keeping my preacher tied up, so I am completely satisfied with the final result.
Some of the photos were taken in a studio, others were taken in the designer’s back yard. They did all they could to ensure they got the perfect shot.
So what do you think? Did they do a good job?
What makes a good book cover in your opinion? Do you prefer men or women on the cover or both? No people at all?
Also, if you like sales, I thought I’d let you know that today only, my third book and the winner of the 2012 Carol Award and 2012 HOLT Medallion, To Win Her Heart, has been discounted for a one-day promotion. Today only, you can download the e-book version for only $2.99. This price is valid for both Kindle and Nook.