Friends in ‘westerly’ places

While at ACFW I have the wonderful opportunity to meet people I’d only chatted with online. Of course, meeting the fabulous FIFITEEN of Seekerville is always a delight – and getting to hug on my fellow Alley Cats from The Writers Alley was another joy.


But I also got to meet marvelous ladies like Susan Ann Mason, a constant encourager and fabulous writer.


A Genesis finalist and magnificent lady, Karen Schravemade (who happens to have one of the coolest accents around)

Authors I want to be like when I grow up – like Ruth Axtell Morren, Liz Curtis Higgs, and Kaye Dacus.


And friends I NEVER grow tired of hugging – like Audra Harders, Laura Frantz, Mary Connealy, and Angie Dicken.


It’s pretty remarkable how God takes all these different people from different places and binds them together with a love for Him and the joy of writing.

I am SOOOOOOO glad He does! Aren’t you?

Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs

Breathtakingly beautiful, as only Liz Curtis Higgs can write.

If you see Mine Is the Night at your local bookstore, quickly look beyond the fantastic cover (okay, admire the lovely detail and artistry of the cover) and THEN delve into an unbelievable world of God’s grace. It is the long-awaited sequel to Liz Curtis Higgs’ novel Here Burns My Candle.

Into the wilds of Scotland and the turbulence of the English Civil War comes a love story straight from the Bible. Stitched together with amazing characters, gripping suspense, and an engaging plot, Liz brings the beautiful love story of Ruth to the Highlands (or Lowlands) in magnificent detail.

Widow Elizabeth Kerr and her mother-in-law, Marjory, are penniless and considered ‘traitors’ to King George because of their husbands’ Jacobite allegiances. Now seeking food and shelter, they return to Marjory’s hometown of Selkirk and throw themselves at the mercy of  Marjory’s poor cousin, Anne.

Marjory, who was once the astute and riche Lady Kerr, is now destitute and empty handed, except for the devotion of Elisabeth. Rejected by the people of the town because of her husband’s choices, and her own former pride, Marjory faces the bitterness in her heart with clear vision. Can God save her? Is He still with her?

Elisabeth, a gifted seamstress, must find a way to stitch together a life for the three women. When news arrives of a wealthy Admiral moving to the neighborhood, Elisabeth offers her services to sew dresses for his maids. Admiral Jack Buchanan is everything Elisabeth’s husband was not: kind, faithful, generous, devoted to his faith – but what does a penniless, foreign widow have to offer a man who has everything? Is her heart even ready to trust itself to the carelessness of another man? Will Jack fall for a woman who has beauty, wealth, and the Crown’s favor?

Get ready for a magnificent story about the mending of three women’s hearts, the compassion one amazing hero, and the faithfulness of a perfect Redeemer.

 Mine is the Night is the heart’s desire of everyone who always wanted the story of Ruth to be 300 pages longer 🙂 The heartache, loss, and elegance are all there.  The virtue, uncertainty, fear, bitterness, and beauty are all in place.

Elisabeth is a true, godly heroine.

And Admiral Jack Buchanan?

Well, I just have to say:

MOVE OVER, Mr. Darcy!!!

Jack Buchanan is a rival for any Austen hero. With his generous heart, kindness, and (oh yes) even a sense of humor, he’s the perfect picture of Boaz.

You may think you know the story of Ruth, but I can assure you, you’ve NEVER read it like this.

Thank you, thank you, Liz- for taking your pen and inspiring the rest of us through this story.

Catch a Reader by the Hook – great first lines

You’re standing in front of a shelve of deliciously tempting books inside Barnes and Noble or Books a Million…or even the library. The smell of imagination cooking between fresh print pricks your curiosity and you scan the rows looking for a title or cover to push you from temptation to commitment. Finally, something snags your attention and you draw the book from the shelf, the promise of a tantalizing visit to otherworlds tingling through your body. (okay, maybe I’m the only one who gets this feeling, but I also write fantasy so it works for me.

You slide your hand across the silken cover dancing with brilliant colors and a magical picture, finally flipping to the first page.

Once upon a time….

It was a dark and stormy night…

It is a truth universally acknolwedged….

Either the book grips you in the first paragraph and delivers on its’ promises from the back cover, or you realize…this book is not for you.

So what makes a gripping first line…a first paragraph even?

Part of it has to do with personal preference, I know, but first lines have a tendency to draw us in, catch us, and then hook us like a fish in the water.

With this thought in mind, I’ve listed a few ‘first lines’ in books (old and new) as an example. See what you think.

“Scarlet O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm, as the Tarleton twins were.” – Gone With the Wind

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” David Copperfield

“I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.” – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

“A gentle breeze from the north-east after a night of rain, and the washed sky over Malta had a particular quality in its light that sharpened the lines of the noble buildings, bringing out all the virtue of the stone; the air too was a delight to breathe, and the city of Valletta was as cheerful as though it were fortunate in love or as though it had suddenly heard good news.” – Treason’s Harbor by Patrick O’Brian

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

“A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. They drove away and left it lonely and empty in the clearing among the big trees, and they never saw that little house again.” Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalss Wilder

“There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.”  Holes by Louis Sachar

Now for some Christian Fiction examples How do they compete?

“Oh, to be a calculating woman!” Julie Lessman’s A Passion Denied

“Nice girl gone bad. That’s me: Claire Le Noyer.” Kissing Adrien by Siri Mitchell

“Nothing like running late to make a wonderful first impression.” Stand-In Groom by Kaye Dacus

“The day was gray and cold, mildly damp. Perfect for magic.” The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs

“Breathe not a word of my visit, Jean. not to a soul.” Thorn in my Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs

Bran!” The shout rattled through the stone-flagged yard. “Bran! Get your sorry tail out here! We’re leaving!” Hood by Stephen Lawhead

“Dragon riding isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Ashley grumbled. Enoch’s Ghost by Bryan Davis.

“Belle Tanner pitched dirt right on Anthony’s handsome, worthless face.” The Husband Tree by Mary Connealy

“They were coming. They were coming! Christophe shoves his little sister, twelve-year old Emile, through a hidden door in the wall, quickly following her.” Love’s First Light by Jamie Carie

Now, interestingly enough, these examples have something in common: They are out to get your attention BUT they use different means to get it.

– Some draw in the reader with ACTION. You enter the story in motion and are swept into the pages.

– Some use INTRIGUE…something’s ‘not quite right’, so your curiousity is peaked.

– Some use HUMOR and brings you in with a smile.

– Others use the UNEXPECTED – something is stated (kind of like intrigue) which is out of the ordinary so to keep from teetering on the brink of confusion, the reader must read on.

-Finally some capture you with WORDS, magically descriptive, palpable words which ensnare the senses.

Any way you choose to write it, SOMETHING has to happen in that first paragraph which captures the readers attention to keep them reading…wanting more, inescapably attracted…

and then –


You’ve caught yourself a reader. 🙂

Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

Evocative and beautifully written, Liz Curtis Higgs newest novel Here Burns My Candle brings a Scottish spin to the Biblical story of Ruth. Like her previous Highland series, Here Burns My Candle will capture your heart, twist it to the breaking point, and bring you to hope in the end.

Lady Marjory, the Naomi figure in this story, must be broken so she can be pieced back together in a way that will bring glory to God and Lady Elisabeth must find the strength to choose the unimaginable. Forgive the greatest of betrayals.

Lord Donald is a beautifully crafted, fallen hero and I wish I could have seen more of him. It raises my hopes for the second book and the ‘rebirth’ of a new hero.

Liz’s research of Scotland and her trip there shines in the descriptions and language of the book. If you enjoy a good historical novel, or if you’ve read Liz’s other books, you will fall in love with this story too.

About the Book from Liz: (

September 1745 

Edinburgh is a bustling city of fifty thousand inhabitants, the narrow closes and wynds crowded with rich and poor alike. Tongues are wagging over the impending arrival of Charles Edward Stuart—the young pretender to the throne—and his Highland army. Scotland, though bound by English law, is thick with Jacobites, who support the restoration of James and the overthrow of King George II.

Safely ensconced in their well appointed rooms overlooking the High Street are the Kerrs of Selkirk. Landed gentry from the Scottish Borders, the Kerrs have called Edinburgh home for a decade, all but abandoning their quiet country estate in favor of Edinburgh’s heady mix of culture, commerce, and political intrigue.

A spiritual famine has inflicted this family, a waning devotion to God. The Kerrs don’t belong in the city, and instinctively they know it. Edinburgh is foreign, unfamiliar, and even dangerous. Yet, they remain.

Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a keeper of secrets. A Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage, she honors the auld ways, even as doubts and fears stir deep within her.

Lord Donald Kerr has secrets of his own, well hidden from the household, yet whispered among the town gossips.

Dowager Lady Marjory Kerr hides gold beneath her floor and guilt inside her heart. Though her two abiding passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, Marjory’s many regrets, buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, continue to plague her.

Bound by marriage, then torn asunder by cruel circumstance, the Kerr women will be forced to depend upon one another. And that’s when things will get verra interesting…

A mother who cannot face her future.
A daughter who cannot escape her past.
A timeless saga of love and betrayal,
flickering against the vivid backdrop
of eighteenth-century Edinburgh.

Here Burns My Candle is based on the beloved Old Testament story of Naomi and Ruth, set in another time and place to demonstrate the timelessness of God’s Word. Scotland forever, dearie!

A Birth of Faith with Liz Curtis Higgs

I’m so tickled to have award winning author, Liz Curtis Higgs, answering my special question for today. Liz’s talents spread from fiction to nonfiction and children’s fiction, with  her series Bad Girls of the Bible and best-selling historical Scottish novels winning awards like the Christy and Retailer’s Choice Awards.

 She’s a worldwide speaker and encourager to both readers and writers, while her nonfiction books, such as Embrace Grace, are like  intimate discussions with a friend about the limitless beauty of God’s grace.

 Liz’s own personal ‘birth of faith’ story is as beautiful and certainly one of the reasons her books hold such emotional strength and spiritual depth. To learn more about her story and her many books she offers, check out her website at:

 Now for the Christmas Question:

 Of all the novels you’ve written, do you have a scene featuring someone’s ‘birth of faith’ (conversion, recommitment, etc) that you found particularly touching or fulfiling to write? why?

 I like to let such scenes happen when and where they will in the story. When the time is right, when the character is ready, such transformations unfold on their own without any help or direction from me. Although I do have a fairly detailed plot in hand before I start writing, I don’t plan the spiritual discoveries. They just happen, sometimes when I least expect it.

In my first novel, Mixed Signals, a contemporary romantic comedy with two heroes and two heroines (and, of course, two happy endings!), one of the characters took me completely by surprise. Of the four main players, Patrick Reese is the least spiritual, the least likely to reach out to the Lord. But on New Year’s Day, standing in his office, he offers up a prayer only he could pray–awkward and funny and self-conscious yet sincere. I remember sitting in my living room, banging away on my laptop keyboard, tears streaming down my face. I was just so happy for the guy!

In my forthcoming novel, Here Burns My Candle, Elisabeth’s spiritual journey is more gradual, with moments of growing awareness along the way. At one point I wrote, “It was as if she knew something she’d not known a moment before. Like lighting a candle in a darkened room and instantly being able to see every corner.” That certainly captures my own experience OF coming to a deeper knowledge of Christ in my late twenties. Proverbs 4:18 describes it best: “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”

Here’s a ‘teaser excerpt’ from Liz’s novel Mixed Signals.

 He closed his eyes, pretty sure that’s how such things were handled. “Dear God–” he felt awkward yet as certain as he’d ever felt in his life–“Uh…happy New Year.” Happy what? He could tell his palms were sweating.

Norah squeezed his hands and a sense of peace overtook him.

     Yeah, Okay. Happy New Year, that’s good. “Thanks, God. For loving me before I loved you. And for Norah. For loving me before I loved her. I don’t deserve all this, Lord. but I’ll take it. I need it.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          His chest tightened around his heart even as he felt it expanding, making room for Norah. No, not just for her, For the one who made him, loved him, died for him. Yes, you, Lord. It’s you I need.

           In the blink of an eye, the tightness was gone and a sweet, cleansing breath slipped out of him. Whew. Not so hard. Almost as eash as telling Norah he loved her. He had told her he loved her, right? 

       He cracked open on eye. Yeah, I must have. Look at her face.

      She was smiling wasn’t she? Crying, too, bless her beautiful self. What a woman. My woman. Happy New Year wasn’t the half of it.

Excerpted from Mixed Signals
Copyright 1999 Liz Curtis Higgs
Published by Multnomah Books

Pepper here:  It’s such a pleasure to learn from you, Liz. May God continue to bless your writing. I can’t wait to get my hands on Here Burns My Candle which premieres in March, 2010.

 Birth of Faith Bible verse:

 Let’s join with Liz’s character, Patrick Reece, in celebrating the truth that God loved us, before we loved him – when we were unlovable. It’s the heart of salvation. I John 4: 17-19 says,

In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

 We love because he first loved us.”