Thursday, September 24, 2009

MaryLu Tyndall Gives Us Some Inside Info


Today we have Part 2 of our visit with MaryLu Tyndall. If you missed last Tuesday's review of her new book, The Blue Enchantress, I'm sure you'll want to go back and check it out after reading this interview.


I think I first became acquainted with MaryLu Tyndall on someone else’s blog. She and I ended up involved in a lively discussion of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Will’s tragic fate. I’ve been intending to read her fiction ever since then, knowing she was fascinated with pirates, too, but just now got around to it. I just finished reading The Blue Enchantress and loved it!

MaryLu, I have to say, as I was reading along I was enjoying the book but was also thinking, darn! I must have started with one of her books that doesn’t include pirates. Then Captain Poole and The Enchantress showed up and the book really picked up for me, LOL! I have to say, I loved Captain Poole and the way you made him dangerous and a REAL pirate—yet I felt there was something redeemable and noble about him. Will we be seeing more of him in future books?

First of all, Thank you Robin for having me on your blog! Now about Captain Poole. I would LOVE to write a story about him someday. In fact, that’s why I left his story open-ended to include that possibility. The problem I’m having right now is selling pirate stories to the Christian market. My current publisher has asked me to steer away from the pirate theme for now. It’s a business after all and if pirate books aren’t selling, then that’s the way of it. But, personally, I can’t imagine readers not enjoying a great pirate tale from a Christian perspective!

And what about Abigail? Loved her, too—and the hint of a romance between the missionary and the pirate. Will we be seeing more of Abigail?

What I’d love to write is an entire novel about the growing romance between Abigail and Captain Poole. I mean, a missionary and a pirate? Sounds like an awesome premise, eh?

I think I read that you grew up in Florida and were fascinated by tales of sea-faring and pirates when you were young. What books and movies did you love as a child? What stories influenced your writing?

My favorite all time pirate book is Captain Blood by Raphael Sabatini. Don’t be turned off by the title. It’s an exciting, clean adventure with a bit of romance thrown in. I’ve read it several times. Other books I loved growing up were The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, All of Jane Austen’s books (of course), and The Last of the Mohicans.

Did you start writing stories when you were young? If so, did any of those stories or characters carry over into the novels you’re writing now?

I wrote several stories when I was growing up but just for fun. I never thought I’d ever get published. But no, none of those characters have resurfaced into my current novels. I think because I was not a Christian at the time and I had a very na├»ve knowledge of human nature. We learn so much as we mature and face struggles in life.

In reading your bio, it sounds as though you found God and rediscovered your writing a few years ago. How do you think these two events relate—if at all?

They are directly related! I believe God’s plan all along for me was to become an author, and He was only waiting for me to FINALLY turn my life over to Him. I spent many years wandering around in the desert like the Israelites, trying to find my own happiness on my terms and making quite a mess of things. I’m surprised God didn’t just open up the ground and swallow me whole and be done with it! But I’m glad He didn’t. I’m so thankful for His love and patience. As soon as I submitted myself completely to Him and His will, I felt the strongest urge to write a novel! Weird, huh? I hadn’t written in years. But it was that very novel that got me my first contract and ended up getting a Christy nomination as well. God is good!

I always like perseverance stories. Do you have any tips for those of us pursuing a dream (whether that’s writing or some other goal) when we fall into doubt, or wonder if we’re ever going to have any success?

Remember Joseph from the Bible. God told him that he would be a leader, that his entire family would bow before him. Then what happened? He was sold into slavery, lied about and thrown into prison with no hope of ever getting out. Not just for 1 year, but for 15! If God has called you to do something and you are truly submitted to Him, whatever the outcome, He will bring it to pass. Hang in there and believe. I once heard a famous preacher say when asked how you know God’s will for your life: “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and then do whatever you want.” In other words, if you’re truly following Him, He’ll put His desires for you on your heart.

Thanks! Can’t wait for the next installment of the Charles Towne Belles series!

Thanks so much for having me, Robin! The Raven Saint releases in January so you won’t have too long to wait.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Time with Family

I have been blessed in the last ten days or so to have gotten a visit from my dad and stepmom, who were in Anaheim for a conference. And not just Anaheim, but Disneyland! They were staying in the Disneyland Hotel. And then today (Wednesday), my mother is coming for a visit! How blessed am I? I was able to go and spend three nights in Disneyland and get to visit the parks for the first time (I've been to Disney World many times, but never to Disneyland.) And I got to spend time with family I haven't seen in a couple of months. It was a really nice time. I rode roller coasters and screamed too much, ate too much, and walked what felt like too much.



And now, I am super-excited to see my mother very shortly now! I've been trying to plan what we might do. Definitely she must see Venice Beach and the pier at Santa Monica. Also, I haven't done the whole Hollywood walk of fame thing with all the stars on the sidewalk. I have been down to Hollywood and Vine, but I'm usually on my way somewhere else and have no time to stop. I think we should certainly check that out and see whose stars we can see. She's going to get to meet my roommate and see my place, and just the amazing beauty of the mountains and water around Los Angeles.



Anyone have any other suggestions for what we could do, both touristy and non-touristy? I think my roommate, who is a chef and bartender, will make us dinner one night. Oh, and I almost forgot- we're hitting Vegas over the weekend. It should be a nice drive- not to mention absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Even though a lot of it will be through the massive desert, I still think it's amazing. I've been missing the rain, but with all the flooding I'm hearing about in my home state of Georgia right now, I'm reminded to be thankful for what I have. Thank You, Lord, for beautiful weather!!!!



So, I am quite blessed to see so much of my family during these two weeks. Now, only if I can get to see Robin and my wonderful grandparents soon, all will be right with the world.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Blue Enchantress: Reviewed

Today I'm reviewing MaryLu Tyndall's new book, The Blue Enchantress. On Thursday, I'll be interviewing MaryLu, so be sure to come back!

Betrayed by the man she longed to marry, Hope Westcott finds herself on an island in the Caribbean being auctioned off as a slave to the highest bidder.


Raised in an unloving home and after enduring a difficult childhood, Hope's search for love and self-worth have led her down a very dangerous path. All she ever wanted was to find true love and to some day open an orphanage where she could raise children with all the love she never experienced as a child. But how can a woman with a sordid past ever hope to run an orphanage, let alone attract the love of an honorable man?

Determined to overcome the shame of his mother's past, Nathaniel Mason worked for many years to build his own fleet of merchant ships in an effort to finally acquire the respect of Charles Towne society. Ignoring the call of God on his life to become a preacher, he forges ahead with his plans for success at a distant port in the Caribbean, when he sees a young lady he knows from Charles Towne being sold as a slave.



In an effort to save Hope, he is forced to sell one of his two ships, only to discover that her predicament was caused by her own bad behavior. Angry and determined to rid himself of her as soon as possible, Nathaniel embarks on a journey that will change the course of his life.


If you've known me for awhile, you'll know I love a good pirate story. And since M.L. Tyndall is known for writing a great pirate story--complete with romance, swashbuckling adventures, and feisty heroines--you would think I would have gobbled up everything she's written. I'm embarrassed to say The Blue Enchantress was my first Tyndall read, but it definitely won't be my last.

The story opens up with Hope being auctioned at the slave market in St. Kitts. Of course things are looking dire. It seems pretty obvious why the lecherous old men are bidding for Hope. Apparently their plans are also obvious to Nathaniel Mason, who sees what's going on and recognizes Hope from Charles Towne. Even though he barely knew Hope back home, except for her occasional haughty snubs, he realizes he has to save her. It's his Christian duty. So Nathaniel sells his ship to raise the money to buy her, intending to escort her home to Charles Towne. That part of his plan, at least, succeeds, but it doesn't make him particularly happy.

I appreciated the fact that Nathaniel, as a sincere Christian man, consistently tried to do the right thing--and frequently hated every minute of it. I've been there myself. I want to please God and help people and make noble sacrifices. But then I find myself feeling grumpy and used and having to overcome a bad attitude in spite of my grand gestures. So Nathaniel's moods seemed quite human to me.
By no means wealthy, Nathaniel has struggled to raise himself from poverty, become a captain, and build two ships of his own. Now Hope has single-handedly wiped out half his fleet. It would be different if he could bask in her gratitude, congratulate himself that he had saved an innocent maiden from a terrible fate. But he can't help but feel that Hope has brought most of her troubles on herself by throwing herself at men--even married ones.

Even after being rescued by Nathaniel, Hope faces her own struggles. The man she thought she loved has betrayed her. In fact, he's the one who left her to be sold into slavery. The whole business has shocked her into wanting to reform her life, but that seems easier said than done. Her reputation prejudices most women against her and causes men to expect the wrong things from her. More and more, she finds that the only man she wants anything from is Nathaniel. She would like to have his good opinion, but after their bad beginning things just get worse. One misunderstanding follows another, and poor Nathaniel seems to suffer nothing but bad luck when she's around. By the time she's finished with him, well...let's just say he should have been grateful he had even one ship left.
To earn their passage to Kingstown, where his one remaining ship is waiting for him, Nathaniel hires himself out as a navigator on another vessel. But soon a freak storm causes them to be shipwrecked and stranded for a time on an island. Rescue comes in a strange form--pirates! (I had been wondering when the pirates would show up.)

My two favorite characters played a large part in the story during this period. Captain Poole, the pirate captain, was strong and menacing, but could be persuaded to do the right thing. Poole apparently had a brush with God sometime in his past that caused him to be intrigued with Abigail, a young missionary who was marooned along with Hope and Nathaniel. There was no easy, convenient conversion for Captain Poole--at least not yet. But I have hopes for his future, especially if he shows up in another Tyndall book. And let's hope he does!
The Blue Enchantress is the middle book of a three-part series. I didn't find myself at all confused by not having read book one (The Red Siren), but I was intrigued enough that I'll probably go back and read it now. Loose ends are tied up pretty well for Hope and Nathaniel by book's end, but another adventure is beginning, so if you want more, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Winner of the Signed Nancy Grace Book

I am pleased to announce that the winner of the signed Nancy Grace novel, The Eleventh Victim, is Melanie Dickerson. Finally I get to give a prize to Melanie--one of my most faithful blog readers!

I plan to start a new contest in the next week or so, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Christina Berry's Familiar Stranger: Reviewed

"Craig Littleton has decided to end his marriage with his wife, Denise, but an accident lands him in the ICU with fuzzy memories. As Denise helps him remember who he is, she uncovers dark secrets. Will this trauma create a fresh start? Or has his deceit destroyed the life they built together?"

First, I must apologize to Christina Berry.

Yes, I looked forward to reading her book. After all, she's a friend--at least a virtual, online friend--so I'm excited that her first published book is now a reality. Plus I knew from reading her blog and newsletter that she's a good writer. However, I really thought I could predict the whole story from reading blurbs like the one at the start of this review.

Boy, was I wrong.

I almost read the entire book Sunday and finally made myself put it down and go to bed, because I really, really wanted to know what the heck was going on in The Familiar Stranger.

The story starts with a long-married couple, Craig and Denise. They're arguing because Craig is planning to skip not only church, but a deacon's meeting as well, and go hiking instead. The tension is simply crackling in this house, and you just know things aren't going well in this marriage. Because the story is told in alternating viewpoints, you soon learn that things are even worse than bickering and tension. Although we don't know exactly what Craig is up to, it's apparent that he isn't just going hiking.

Denise takes their sons and goes on to church, as usual. But at the end of the service, she gets a horrifying phone call. Craig has been in a car accident that's left him badly injured and another man dead. She soon finds out that Craig remembers nothing about his life, or about her.

Okay, at this point and from the blurbs, I thought we had a nice, straightforward contemporary fiction book about a man who was probably cheating on his wife. Through the accident, Denise would discover Craig's infidelity, but the accident would cause him to depend on her, to see her in a new way, perhaps even to repent of his past actions. It would be compelling but not terribly suspenseful.

Instead, Ms. Berry thickened the plot on me at every turn of the page. Who was the man who was killed in the crash? Why was he seen arguing with Craig before the accident? What about the mysterious teenage girl who is also in the hospital?

I don't want to say much more, because I don't want to give away the delicious twists and turns. I must say, though, that I'm amazed at the intricacy of Christina's plotting, and her ability to create suspense. She knows exactly how much to reveal and when, and how to phrase things to throw us poor readers off. At one point I actually figured out what was going on, but her misdirection was so skillful that I doubted myself and she led me off in another direction entirely.

The Familiar Stranger is the kind of suspense that I love. Not the campy kind with a villain chasing some poor heroine with a gun. It's the kind of suspense that comes from believable characters and skillful writing. From the psychological "evil that lurks in the minds of men." I absolutely urge you to pick up a copy of this book.


Oh, and by the way, Christina is giving away several copies of The Familiar Stranger. Just leave a comment on this post and she will enter you in the drawing to be held at the end of this month. How easy can you get! (Now that I've gotten you all curious about what Craig is up to, however, you might not want to wait.)


Single mother and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, releases from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!

More places to find Christina:

Thursday (9/17) at Novel Journey, the next stop on her blog tour (where you can also enter again for her book drawing)

Her blog: http://www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.com/


Her "infrequent, humorous newsletter":
www.ashberrylane.net/update.aspx
(Just by signing up, each person will be entered to win a 4GB iPod Shuffle or free books for the life of her writing career!)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Entry deadline extended for Nancy Grace signed book drawing

That was a very convoluted headline, but the point is we're extending the deadline for the drawing for the autographed copy of Nancy Grace's new novel, The Eleventh Victim. You must leave a comment saying you want to enter--along with a way to get in touch with you if you win--no later than September 17. I'll announce a winner on September 18.

For more details about the book and the drawing, click here.

Gods with a small "g"?

I have a question for all you Christian readers and writers out there. What do you think of literature that incorporates gods into the story as characters? You know, gods like Zeuss or Jupiter or others from ancient mythology.

I'm asking this now because I recently finished reading The Lightning Thief, the first book of a kids' series called Percy Jackson and The Olympians. The premise is that twelve-year-old Percy, a misfit who has been expelled from numerous schools but still is a pretty good kid, discovers that he is one of many "half-bloods" in the world. In other words, his mother is a regular mortal woman, but his absentee father is actually the god Poseidon. Percy discovers this when some not-so-mythological-after-all monsters try to kill him, and he is sent for his protection to Camp Halfblood, where a lot of other children like himself learn how to fight and live with their unique situation.

The Lightning Thief was, for the most part, an imaginative and enjoyable read, and Percy is a pretty admirable little hero. But I have to admit, I'm always a bit uncomfortable with stories with gods and goddesses. The Percy Jackson stories are secular books, of course, but I had the same problem when I read The Chronicles of Narnia last year. I loved Aslan and all the Christian imagery, but then started to squirm when Baccus came prancing through, or when the characters were saved by a river god.

I trust C.S. Lewis and his writing, though, and I know that Shakespeare sometimes threw in an appearance by a goddess or two. (I'm thinking of The Tempest in particular.) So what am I missing?

Is this just another of those things that you have to examine the motives of the writer and the rest of the story? Or could it be that in Shakespeare's and even Lewis's day, no one believed in gods and goddesses anymore so they didn't have to fear anyone taking the story seriously? I'm not sure I could say that in these Da Vinci Code times.

So what do y'all think?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Random, but Excellent, Movie Suggestions

I was trying to think of a really great blog post topic, but I was at a complete loss. So, I decided to write a little about something I like, movies, and even more than that, sharing what I think are good movies with other people. Here is a short list of some of my favorites. It's certainly not a comprehensive list, and I'm choosing to leave off some of my favorites that I think most people probably know of already, like Star Wars. This is more of a "Hey, here are some great movies you may not know about" kind of list. Here goes...


Jesus of Nazareth- a long, but wonderful and reverent, adaptation of the greatest story ever told. Many people star in this one. Robert Powell plays Jesus. If memory serves he has a British accent, but to me that's better than American, and about as good as you can get unless they speak in the original language like in The Passion of the Christ. 1977- Franco Zeffirelli directs.


Big Fish- starring Ewan MacGregor, about a dying man whose life story seems too good to be true. His son seeks out the truth and finds some fascinating answers. Uplifting with great storytelling. 2003. Don't think there's too much to worry about here- maybe some language.


In the Bedroom- starring Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei, Tom Wilkinson. This is a drama about a married couple who lose their teenage son to violence (about an hour into the movie) and their struggle to deal with the aftermath. It is heavy and sad, but a very well-told story with amazing performances. I watch this when I'm in the mood for a good catharsis. 2001. Violence and adult themes.


A&E's Pride and Prejudice- for those of you participating in Melanie Dickerson's Jane Austen challenge, I highly recommend this faithful, five-hour adaptation of one of my favorite books. The Kiera Knightley version does not come close to this one. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle star. 1995.


The Best Man- a young Italian woman, sometime around the turn of the century, is forced by her family to marry a man she doesn't love. His long-time friend arrives from America to be the best man, and she immediately falls in love with him instead. Sweet story. Subtitled. 1998.


Waiting for Guffman- a hillarious mockumentary by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, in the tradition of Spinal Tap, about a community theatre troupe in Blaine, Missouri who wait anxiously for a Mr. Guffman from New York to come and see their show and make them all big stars. The cast is mostly the same as in his other works- Catherine O'Hara, Guest, Levy, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, and many others. 1997. Language warnings.


A Room with a View- based on the E.M. Forster novel and starring Helena Bonham-Carter, Julian Sands, and Maggie Smith- oh, and how can I forget????!!! Daniel Day-Lewis as the foppish Mr. Cecil Vyse!!! (which proves what an awesome actor he is, that Nathaniel from Last of the Mohicans could also play this part- unbelievable!!!) I'm getting myself so worked up by this entry, I think I'll go and watch it now! 1985. Great love story set in England and Italy around the turn of the century (the last one- not the millenium). Light-hearted and delightful. There is nudity- but it's not of the vulgar kind.


If you've seen any of these, let me know what you think. If you watch any based on my recommendations, I'd love to hear your opinion!

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Labor Day Every Week

I don't know about you, but I'm thrilled about the Labor Day holiday this coming Monday. I have nothing planned, but that's what makes it so wonderful. I can feel my nerves relaxing a little just thinking about a break from the routine, the busy-ness, the LABOR.

Oddly enough, I just made a note about something I read in Scripture this past week, and I realized that it's the perfect devotional for a Labor Day weekend. I realized that God gives us a Labor Day every week!

It's a commandment actually. One of the Big Ten. We're supposed to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. God wants us to perform our labors in six days, but on the seventh day we're supposed to (gasp!) rest.

That's quite a concept in our culture. Even if we don't go to our jobs, do we really find time to rest--on any day of the week? I'm not trying to be legalistic here or talk about rules. It just struck me as an interesting contradiction. Our culture values busy-ness, productivity, and achievement. But God knows we also need rest. We need to quieten our minds and be able to concentrate on spiritual things. On Him.

Even on my Christian writers' loop, during a discussion about trying to find writing time, someone suggested that if nothing else, we could possibly cram in a few hours' writing time on Sunday afternoons between morning and evening church, because that was usually a quiet, slack time. Hmmm...

I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong with writing on Sundays. But if it's become another chore to fit in, another job...is that resting from our labors?

Last week's Scripture reading was from Ezekiel. God was reminding the prophet that he gave his people the Sabbath day of rest "as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I, the Lord, had set them apart to be holy, making them my special people."

The suggestion here is that it was unusual even back then for people to take time away from their labors. I picture the temptation to the people of Israel if their heathen neighbors had one extra day of productivity every week. Were they afraid of falling behind? Not getting as much produce to market? Not producing as many goods? Losing out to the competition?

Were they just like me, in other words?

If God were a harsh taskmaster, mainly concerned with their productivity, he wouldn't have taken away one-seventh of their workdays. Instead, God showed them that he could prosper them when they relied on him instead of relying on their strength. Their work. Their schedules.

That's a reminder I constantly need. Even during this three-day weekend. Because in addition to thinking of being away from my job, I've also started compiling lists of the house-cleaning chores to catch up on, and the stuff I need to do for my online shop, and the writing, and the blogging...

I'd say I definitely need to readjust my focus!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Little Fish Updates

So what have I been up to lately, artistically speaking, that is? Here are some tidbits:


I met today with Antonio Sacre, an awesome bi-lingual storyteller. I first met him at the Jonesborough International Storytelling Festival in Tennessee in 2007. He lives out here and makes his living telling stories, and I wanted to meet with him and pick his brain about just that. He was very generous with his brain, and gave me lots of info and advice, so this goal will be taking a priority over certain other artistic projects. I need to get my content ready, get a website and some video ready, and market myself to schools and libraries. I already have some content in the form of folktales. As some of you may know, I was a member of the KSU Tellers back in Georgia. But I need to find my voice as a storyteller. This may take a while, but for now, I can just do my best with the content I have.


Tonight I went to my weekly class for The Write Club. In this club, what we do is often storytelling, but it is called "solo performance", which as I've been told is actually different than storytelling. Solo performance can incorporate storytelling, but storytelling is much more of a specific craft. In The Write Club, we write stories, mostly personal narratives, or poems, or whatever, and perform them. Some of the works coming out of this class are amazing! This is an awesome class, and the fact that I was able to get in is a gift from above, I believe, because it is by invitation only. I'm learning so much here about crafting stories from my own experience.


When I first got to L.A., I tried several things right off the bat. I took an improv class, a different solo performance class, and did a showcase with some other actors of An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein. Theatre out here is primarily performed in order to gain attention from film industry people, and thus showcases abound. Limits of money and time required that I make choices. I already know a lot about improv, the solo class was too expensive, and the showcase is remounting, but I opted out for the second go round. I am trying to narrow my options.


On the other hand, I'm picking up new ways to spend my time. I've joined a band, and have been working to advance my guitar skills, in addition to singing. Plus, there is my writing, which there never seems to be enough time for. I wonder why?


I'm still waiting to see if I get into that Warner Brothers television writing program, so I'll keep you posted about that, and these other endeavors. Hopefully God will make my path straight, because it gets tough being away from my family and the life I had in Georgia. But like my wise grandpa told me on the phone recently, "You can't have everything." At least not on earth, anyway.