Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?

Homesick today! Look at these boiled crawfish! Don't they make your mouth water? How about the cafe' au lait and beignets at the top? Mmm, lunch, anyone?

Anyone out there know what it means to miss New Orleans?

My mom and grandmother lived there, I have cousins I miss all over town, and New Orleans itself is always on my mind like a dear friend, one I am finally about to visit again for the first time since Katrina!

I've written a 100,000-plus-word story that takes place there as well as in Israel Paris and--Pensacola. One of these days, an editor will recognize its sterling qualities. LOL

But I digress.

Leave a comment if you like, tell me some of your favorite thoughts about that fascinating historical city by the Mississippi.

Natalie, a dear friend in Arizona, a glorious place in the Sonoran Desert where I used to live, just sent me this joke about a good lawyer in Louisiana and his encounter with the FHA:

Only in Louisiana - you have to love this lawyer -

A New Orleans lawyer sought an FHA loan for a client who lost his house in Hurricane Katrina and wanted to rebuild. He was told the loan could be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to the parcel of property being offered as collateral. The title to the property dated back to 1803, which took the Lawyer three months to track down. After sending the information to the FHA, he received the following reply:

(Actual letter):

"Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we compliment the able manner in which you have prepared and presented the application, we must point out that you have only cleared title to the proposed collateral property back to 1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear the title back to its origin."

Annoyed, the lawyer responded as follows:

(Actual Letter):

"Your letter regarding title in Case No. 189156 has been received. I note that you wish to have title extended further than the 194 years covered by the present application. I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the property area, would not know that Louisiana was purchased, by the U.S., from France in 1803, the year of origin identified in our application. For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France, which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from Spain. The land came into the possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to Ind ia by the Spanish monarch, Isabella .

The good queen, Isabella, being a pious woman and almost as careful about titles as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to finance Columbus' expedition. Now the Pope, as I'm sure you may know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and God, it is commonly accepted, created this world.

Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that God also made that part of the world called Louisiana . God, therefore, would be the owner of origin and His origins date back to before the beginning of time, the world as we know it AND the FHA.

I hope you find God's original claim to be satisfactory. Now, may we have our loan?"

(The loan was approved !)

Love it! And it reflects some of the rich history of New Orleans. And that got me started on this blog.

Yes, God definitely created Louisiana, and my soul will rejoice to be there soon. : ) At the 160th birthday of a precious, historical church, (click here:) Zion Lutheran.

Established in 1847, it has seen the Civil War, and lost two pastors in the Yellow Fever epidemics.... My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all went there, and my aunts and great-aunts.... My beloved cousins have organized a wonderful celebration and one of my grown daughters is going down there with us. Can't wait.

So, I can definitely answer yes to the question.

I'll just have to sit down and watch Buccaneer starring Yul Brynner with hair, as the pirate Jean Lafitte, and then, maybe Undercover Blues with Dennis Quaid, hilariously silly. And King Creole, Elvis's favorite, a drama by Harold Robbins.

And, oh, here's one of my favorite places, Preservation Hall. Click on their Radio button.

And this is fun, also from Preservation Hall, Complicated Life

When I heard another song, New Orleans Ladies, tears flowed over those street names, I was so grateful that "the sliver by the river," the French Quarter, and the Garden District where my grandmother lived, all the way down to the antique stores along Magazine Street, where I used to walk to the bank and grocery with my grandmother, had escaped Katrina's fury.

And can you help me out and name this song?

Remember Captain Kangaroo? He'd play a song video about a riverboat, whose title I never knew. It has a line like, "River Queen, what have you seen from St. Paul down to New Orleans and all the small towns in between that know the river's song? --- Don't leave me standin' on the shore, but if you've room for just one more, how 'bout takin' me along?"

The producers didn't remember the song and it's not on Google. If anyone out there knows the name of it or where to find it, please, please email me or leave a comment below.

Meanwhile, I'm about to get down my suitcase and get my tires checked because I am NOT "Walkin' to New Orleans"!

God bless, and happy humming!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Please (don't) pass the mushrooms?

Hello! Virginia Smith here, stepping in for Margo Carmichael,
who has graciously agreed to host me on her blog as a part of
my virtual book tour celebrating my latest release,
Murder by Mushroom.

I’ve been given free reign over my topic for today,
so I’ve chosen one of the discussion questions included
at the end of Murder by Mushroom.

The question reads as follows: have you ever been surprised to
discover that the thing you desired was packaged differently
than you imagined?

In Murder by Mushroom, the hero and romantic interest, State Trooper Dennis Walsh, had a very definite idea of the type of woman with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Quirky, socially inept Jackie Hoffner didn’t even begin to fit the bill. And yet by the end of the book, he discovered that she was, indeed, the woman God had picked out for him. (I’ll let you read the book to see how he managed to figure that out!)

I’ve had times when the thing I wanted turned out far differently than I imagined. Writing was one of them. I wrote my first short story in my early twenties while on maternity leave awaiting the birth of my son. That story lit a fire in me, the first flickering flame that quickly became a roaring passion for writing. Almost instantly, a full-fledged longing blossomed – I wanted to be a published author. Wanted it badly. I dreamed of my life as a career author, flitting here and there to booksignings, seeing my name top the New York Times Bestseller list. I would spend my days on sandy beaches under a colorful umbrella, casually typing out my next bestseller on my laptop while tanned waiters brought me fruity drinks with umbrellas – paid for, of course, with all the money the publishers threw at me. (Oh, yes. I dreamed big!)

God had plans for me and for my writing, but they were different than mine. That first story was rejected, and many after it. I spent twenty years struggling to produce a publishable piece of fiction, and watching my dream fade away like a giant bonfire dwindles to embers.

And then, when my dream was no more than a mere whisp of smoke curling from the nearly-dead fire, the Lord stepped in. He showed me a better way – His way. I realized that He had lit that little flame to begin with, but then I fanned it into something that He never intended. Humbled, I surrendered myself and my dream – my writing – to Him.

That’s when the first book contract arrived. And the next. And the next. My dream has been fulfilled, but success doesn’t look a thing like I expected. I have an announcement: I shall not be retiring to the Caribbean to live off my royalties anytime soon.

But that’s okay, because every day I enjoy an overwhelming sense of peace and satisfaction as I sit at my computer and pound away at my next book. No umbrellas. No fruity drinks unless I get them myself. No bestseller list (but I can still hope for that, can’t I?) God has granted me the desire of my heart, and along with it, the joy of knowing that it is His dream for me, too.

Since surrendering her dream to God, Virginia Smith ( has received contracts for seven books. Her latest, Murder by Mushroom (Steeple Hill, August 2007) received a 4-star review by Romantic Times, and has been hailed as “a delightful cozy – great summer reading!” She invites you to pop over to her website and find out about her August contest to give away a 30GB video iPod!

Thank you, Virginia. Murder by Mushroom looks darling and I look forward to jumping into it. And I do love mushrooms!

So, what are you reading now--ABA and CBA?

I am in the middle of a nonfiction book by Anita Renfroe called If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother. I’m really enjoying it. Next on my night stand is Life, Libby and the Pursuit of Happiness by Hope Lyda. I don’t know if I dare say this, but a recent secular book I’ve really enjoyed is the 7th Harry Potter book. (Do you think I’ll get blackballed for that?!)

Blackballed? No. Debated--definitely! LOL (Scroll down to July 17th entry, then scroll down to Comments there. : )

I’ll totally alienate myself when I admit that I adore Terry Pratchett’s Discworld fantasy novels. They make me laugh until tears roll down my cheeks. I also really enjoyed The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve.

I enjoyed the surprise ending, too.

And I like general market mysteries, such as the Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries by Tamar Myers, and the horsey-set mysteries by Dick Francis.

THANK YOU so much for taking part in my blog tour for Murder by Mushroom.

Our pleasure!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Robin Shope on her latest, The Candidate

It's my pleasure today to welcome my friend,
Robin Shopes.

Hello Robin, welcome back for another interview. Last
year around this time I interviewed you about your last book,
The Replacement. And now this summer you have
a third book just out, The Candidate.

Hi Margo. It’s my pleasure to be here and talk about
The Candidate.

Yes, we spoke a year ago about the second book in the trilogy. And The Chase is the first book. All three of my books are co-authored with Susan Wales.

What is your favorite scripture?

That changes from time to time depending on what the Lord is speaking to me in that particular season of my life.

But the enduring passage that I return to is the root of salvation, John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. That is beautiful. God loves us. That is the driving force behind everything He has done for us. We are not motivated by anger and punishment, but by that great sacrificial love that Jesus came and laid down his life for us.

I agree. Awesome to realize the Creator of the universe knows and loves us personally. That is Good News! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My husband and I are former missionaries. Although he is in business now, Rick saves his vacation days so he can still go overseas once or twice a year for ministry. This October will be his sixth trip to India. Rick has also spent a great deal of time in Kenya and has been the first white man in many of the villages.

Wow. The Lord bless you for that.

Last semester I taught 8th grade ELA, but this year I have a new job as a high school teacher for the Denton County courts system and will continue my work with at-risk teens.

And for that!

Rick and I have two grown children, Kimberly and Matthew, and a cocker spaniel, Cooper.

What other writing have you done?
Over two hundred magazine articles, a few dozen short stories in popular collections such as the CHICKEN SOUP books, New York Best Seller Joan Wester-Andersen IN THE ARMS OF ANGELS, to name only a few.

I have an article coming out this fall in the Oct. 2007 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY and a cozy mystery set on an island in Lake Michigan.

What led you to be an author? A very prolific author, I might add.

In fifth grade, I learned the power of words. Always too shy to speak, I found my voice in written form. I met the Lord in my Sunday school class and knew I wanted to write about people who were lost then found their way to God.

There is nothing more beautiful than a transformed soul.

As a teen I filled one journal after the other, recounting snapshots of my day, my thoughts, and my prayers. Writing stories seemed to be an evolutionary process and I always felt if I weren’t writing about Him, what was the purpose?

Professionally I began writing articles ten years ago, and then started writing short stories. Having a book published was answered prayer -and that first novel developed into a three-book series. I’ve always wanted to be God’s storyteller. Being a CBA author is a lovely bonus.

What are you reading now?

Right now I am reading a cross section of books in the mystery genre from both the CBA and ABA markets.

What is the most exciting thing God has ever done for you?

I can’t name just one because each day has its own special excitement. Of course I think of all the big events like when I met my husband, the day we wed, celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary this summer, the birth of our kids and all of their accomplishments, and seeing my books in print; all the fabulous things everyone rejoices in. Its exciting when God answers a prayer, or shows me a truth in His word, each time I can pray with someone, when I teach my at risk kids and tell them about Jesus.

But I’d like to quickly share a little true story about something that was said to me last school semester. An eighth grade boy Tom (not his real name) said, “Mrs. Shope, when I came to school this year I had no hope. I started each day with a shot of whiskey. But you gave me hope when you told me about Jesus and it made me stop drinking. Now I want to live. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Wow. Powerful. What a blessing to know your work touched a young life like that!

How did you come up with the concept for your books?

The Candidate is the third book in the trilogy. Since the first book began in my hometown of Delavan, Wisconsin, with The Chase, I wanted to finish the series there. I knew that Barnum & Bailey Circus used to winter there and so we used some of the historical facts from that to incorporate in the book.

Also, several years ago, the lake was drained and many artifacts were found dating back hundreds of years. There are maritime laws that forbid their removal.

That's intriguing!

That gave me a great idea! I thought, how about a buried treasure that may or may not include some of what was actually found? And so the basic concept for the story was formed.

Of course, we had to think of ways to use Jill and John. Since Jill had moved back home to run the towns paper it was natural for her to investigate and report. So how about a drowning that turns out to be murder? And what if the victim turned out to be a congressional aide? And what if a congressman was rowing the spotter boat when the murder took place just feet below the lake’s surface?

Hmm, how could a murder happen underwater without anyone on the surface having a clue while they watched a sailboat race?

The ideas are enticing. Is any part of The Candidate factual?

Yes, the story is based on several true historical events that actually took place in Delavan. But the basic story is quite fictional. I also have real characters from the town in the book. Case in point is Gordon Yadon who is the town’s historian both in real life and in my story.

How closely is this story based on your life?

I can’t say it’s based on my life, but I did bring in people from my past to help tell the story. The setting is my hometown, and most of the characters are drawn on people who live there. But I tweaked them all so they might have a hard time recognizing themselves.

I, for one, want to read it! Thank you, Robin Shope.