Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Using Family History to Create Fiction

My father handed me a pack of letters in 1994. They were letters he’d saved that my grandfather had given him. As I read them, I became fascinated with Sarah Louise Dyer, my great-grandmother. One of the letters came from my great-grandfather and was written in 1864 a month or so before he was captured at Nashville and taken to Maryland as a POW.

That letter sparked my interest in our family history and genealogy. So began a trek to the past that uncovered more and more about my great-grandparents and their families. As I discovered interesting facts and information about Manfred Whiteman and Sarah Dyer, I had to write about them. Using the facts I had and adding my own ideas to fill in the blanks, the story Love Stays True was born.

 My husband and I first visited St. Francisville, Louisiana and Woodville, Mississippi as a vacation in the summer of 1994 a few months after receiving the letters. We spent time in the courthouses in both places and uncovered documents that gave me dates, times, and information about births, deaths, and marriages. Through these documents I began to piece together the relationship between Manfred and Sarah, or Sally as he called her.

My father had two sisters and two brothers, and our families remained fairly close despite my parents’ divorce. With fourteen grandchildren, my grandparents had wonderful family gatherings for us and the cousins became friends until we began our own families and moved to different parts of the state and country. Although we still visited occasionally at family gatherings, we had our own lives and families and didn’t keep in close touch. At our grandmother Mammy’s funeral, we decided we needed to keep better contact with each other.

 We did, and our annual “Cousin Camp” began in the late nineties. I shared with them what I had learned about our family and began a scrapbook of all the documents and pictures I’d found. From the information I had, I wrote the initial story and shared it with my cousins and my two aunts who were still living. They all loved it and were fascinated by all I’d found out about the Whiteman and Dyer families.

 The book circulated in the family for a number of years until I decided to expand it into a novel. After more research and more visits to St. Francisville, I began the book. We submitted it to a number of publishers, but none were interested in another Civil War novel. Finally, we submitted it with two other ideas as a series to my editor who wanted another series from me. She liked it and offered a contract.

Now, in May 2013, that novel will be released as Love Stays True, the first book in the Loves Journey Homeward series. At our annual Cousin Camp a few months ago, we had great fun talking about the book and new information my cousins Tom and Holly had found through a website on ancestry. They are all looking forward to getting their copies of the book.

 Stories are all around us, and the past contains more than we’ll ever be able to write. We’ve already discovered that our grandmother’s family had just as much history and drama in their background as did the Dyer and Whiteman’s. Who knows, there may be a book there, too.
My question for you is: How much do you know about your family history?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Coming Soon--"Dark Hour"!

I'm pleased to announce that the third and final installment in my The Coming Evil Trilogy is due out early next year. Not only that, but it is titled Dark Hour, and here's the cover!

This series of "Christian Horror" books has been a dream of mine for a very long time now. It's always been my desire to write about that battle between fear and faith, good and evil, God and Humankind's Rebellious Attitude.

The Coming Evil Trilogy follows the struggles of the small town of Greensboro. Ever since the highway moved, the once prosperous town has fallen on hard times and abandoned their collective faith. The barriers of protection that gaurded this small town for over a hundred years has fallen and their apathy has paved the way for a terrifying devil--enigmatically called "The Strange Man"--to make his move.

In the last two books of the Trilogy (The Strange Man, Enemies of the Cross), the Strange Man has been moving pieces of his diabolical puzzle into place to bring about the Dark Hour. With the publication of Book Three early next year, the Strange Man's plans will come to fruition.

There is hope, though. A small group of Christians is beginning to wake up and lay hold of the faith they have taken for granted for far too long. The odds are impossibly stacked against them, but through perseverence, friendship, family, and love, they must stand against the Strange Man and his army of monsters.

Realms has been instrumental in helping me realize this dream, publishing the first two books in the Trilogy. For the last installment, Splashdown Books will be handling publicshing duties, building upon the top notch quality that Realms began and seeing this series to its dramatic end. I hope you all will come on board for this wild ride through the depths of darkness and to the heights of hope.

Check out my original announcement for Dark Hour on my blog, and, if you've yet to jump into The Coming Evil Trilogy, Books One and Two are on sale in your favorite bookstore, as well as online and in Kindle and Nook formats.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why Bother With Book Signings?

Why do authors hold book signings? To sell books, right?

I’ve held at least a couple of dozen book signings over the years. I can think of at least three of these events where I sold almost 50 books. But, the others? Well, at one signing I didn’t sell a single book. In fact, not a single person even stopped at my table. Most of my book signings result in selling less than a dozen books. So, why continue to work so hard to have a book signing?

It’s the people. You can’t meet people face to face on Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites. You can’t reach out and touch someone through their Kindle or Nook. But, you can look someone in the eye over a book signing table. And, most importantly, you can hear their STORY.

This is what life is all about -- sharing our stories; writing our stories; continuing the Story that God has written for our lives. And, there is one story that always plays out at my book signings. It goes like this:

A man in his mid forties walks up to the table. Before him are my first two fiction books, “The 13th Demon” and the newest, “The 12th Demon”. Sitting to my side is my co-author, Mark Sutton and in front of him is a pile of our book, “Conquering Depression”.

The man pauses in front of me and picks up “The 12th Demon”. But, his gaze averts slightly to the pile of depression books. Why? Because that book is the real object of his quest. However, a man cannot admit his is depressed. Certainly not a stranger and certainly not even to himself. But, that book is tantalizingly just out of reach. Maybe if he shows interest in the fiction SOMETHING will happen and he might get his hands on the depression book. There is a deep seated discomfort with his life; a gnawing desire to face the beast head on and kill it; but to do so is to admit weakness, failure, the inability to FIX it! And so, he peruses the fiction book instead and asks me the inevitable question.

“I have a (son, daughter, nephew, grandson, granddaughter) who likes scary books. Would they like your book?”

“If they like books by Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti they will like my book. It’s about vampires so if they like the Twilight series, they’ll like my books. And, don’t worry about the subject. There is a redemptive message in the book. It does have a Christian point of view.”

The man looks at me and I sense a profound sadness. “That may be a problem. You see he/she has renounced their faith. He/She’s an atheist now.”

Ah, here is the question. Here is the heart of this man’s sorrow. It is most difficult to lose a child to death. But, to lose a child to atheism? That is a lingering death that drives the knife into the heart day after day. How do you deal with this? How do you love someone when they no longer share that faith connection with you? Is it possible?
I tap my second book. “One of my minor characters in this book wrestles with just that issue. She has become an assassin but early in life professed Christianity. She has wandered far away from her faith. In fact, she can no longer consider the possibility that God exists because if He does, how will she ever be forgiven for her heinous acts of violence and murder? Is it possible to move beyond God’s forgiveness?”

He just looks at me and his gaze drifts for a second to the depression books. “I don’t know . . .”

I am an apologist; someone trained in the defense of the truthfulness of the Christian faith. My discipline utilizes historical, scientific, and philosophical evidence as fuel for logical “arguments” in support of Christianity. But, I have learned the hard way that when someone loses their faith, rational discourse; reasonable debates; objective evidence will fall on deaf ears. It is because evidence is not the issue in question. Most people who fall away from their faith do so because they have been hurt or angered or disillusioned by well intentioned “Christians”. This hurt comes from someone in a position of authority or respect. Bottom line is the person is hurt; a heart felt need. NOT a head need!

I ask the man a simple question: “What happened between the two of you?”

He looks at me as if I have read his mind. What then unfolds is a tale of woe and pain. As with previous such encounters the story is one of a nasty divorce between the person’s parents or an abusive parent or a figure of trust who violated that trust. Bottom line: people will always let us down. Always!

I reach for a depression book. “Listen, you are depressed. This book is what you need. You can buy my books for your nephew/niece/son/daughter. My fiction books will give them something to think about. But, until the two of you repair your relationship, he/she will continue to be distant from their faith. Love him/her. Simple and clean. Show him mercy. Show him forgiveness. Show him the love of Jesus. That will bring him back. Then, one day, if he has questions that need hard factual answers, contact me and I’ll give you some resources. But, for now, he needs your love. In fact, both of you need love.”

I tap the second book again. “In this book the assassin’s anger and violent nature can be traced back to her father. This will provide an angle from which you can find common ground with him.”

He bought all three books. But, what he walked away with was not something to read. It was something to think and pray about. And, a little dose of hope.

I had listened to a sermon at First Baptist Church Orlando the night before. In that sermon, the pastor talked about Jesus being surrounded by a rambunctious crowd when Jarius came to him requesting Jesus heal his daughter. Jesus was headed for Jarius’ house when something happened. He was interrupted. He felt the power go out from him and stopped to ask his disciples “Who touched me?”

Can you imagine the disciples looking around at the milling crowd. I’m sure they wanted to say, “You’ve got to be kidding, Master. This is worse than Disney World on the 4th of July! You want us to tell you who touched you? Look around! Pick someone at random!”

Or something like that! Of course, Jesus didn’t ask them because he wanted an answer. He asked them to see if they were paying attention to the lowly, broken woman who had been shunned by society -- bleeding and “dirty” and forbidden from touching ANYONE. Jesus wanted to know if the disciples had NOTICED. They had not. They only saw the powerful and wealthy Jarius.  But, Jesus noticed the unnoticeable; the man or woman wandering up to the table in desperate search for answers to their pain; for healing; for the gently touch of a caring conversation or the kind brush of a hand on their shoulder. Jesus noticed this woman and praised her for her faith.

I will never forget this unique perspective on that account from John. I had never seen the woman as an interruption; a divine appointment unforeseen by anyone except God. THIS is why I continue to hold book signings. There will always be one person whose day I hope God will interrupt with a moment of hope and caring. And, I can only pray I will be there with the caring message God wants me to share. It’s not about the books. It’s about the PERSON!

Friday, November 16, 2012

By Way of Introduction

My name is Brandi Boddie, and this is my first post to Just The Write Charisma. When I was invited to join the Charisma authors on this blog, I jumped at the chance to connect with fellow writers and people who love to read a good story.

Introductions and bios have always been a little awkward for me. I can't help feeling that I'm interviewing for a job. I want to do it right, but am I leaving important information out? What's the best way of letting people know who I am? So instead of trying to place everything in paragraphs, I thought it would be more fun to put things in list form. Here goes.

1. I'm a new author at Charisma House. My debut novel, a historical romance tentatively titled Garters For Lace, is scheduled for release in Fall 2013.

2. I'm originally from Ohio, but having a spouse in the military has taken me to various regions throughout the country. In the three years since I have been married to my wonderful husband, we've lived in four different states. One of them inspired the western/prairie setting of my novel. 

3. When I'm not writing, you can find me taking part in swing dancing. I love that 1940s era where big bands played at the Savoy, clothing was tailored to perfection, and Bogie and Bacall ruled the big screen.

4. I'm a self-professed geek. If time and money permits it, I will be at the nearest Renaissance festival, Sherlock Holmes mystery society, or sci-fi convention. And yes, I do go in costume.

5. My favorite books aren't just those in the romance category. I also love epic fantasy, noir mysteries, and speculative fiction.

That's a little bit about me. I look forward to future posts and learning more about the blogging community here at Charisma. Feel free to connect with me on Facebook and check out my personal blog, where I post about the writing life and adventures on this side of eternity. Have a blessed day!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wow! I Missed My Day Posting

I was supposed to post on Monday, and I missed. So I'm posting today. I had so many birthday greetings on Facebook, that I was dealing with them almost all day Monday and Tuesday. I'm glad people like me enough to take the time to wish me a happy birthday.

I was anxious to share the cover for my next book release with the readers of this blog. Here it is:

I'm impressed with the covers the Charisma graphics department did on all my covers. I loved the cover for Maggie's Journey. Then when Mary's Blessing came out, I liked that one even better. And now this cover blows them both away.

Catherine’s Pursuit is book three in McKenna’s Daughters. This series is about the lives of identical triplet girls, who were born on one of the last wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. Their mother dies giving birth, and the girls are separated. They don’t find out they have sisters until near their 18th birthday.

In book three of the McKenna’s Daughters series, Catherine McKenna begins a journey to find her lost sisters that turns into a spiritual journey for the entire McKenna family.

When Angus McKenna was forced to give two of his daughters to families in the wagon train, he promised he'd never try to contact them. Catherine made no such pledge. But when she sets out to find her sisters, she doesn't go alone. Angus sends Collin with her. Will they discover the two women---and love?Show More

Here's the first page:

Chapter 1
September 19, 1885
San Francisco, California

            Catherine Lenora McKenna could hardly believe the long-awaited day was here. Her eighteenth birthday.

            Now she was an adult, and her father would have to stop hovering over her as if she were a fragile china doll in one of his stores. She would be free. Holding her hands above her head like the ballerina in the music box on her bureau, she whirled in a circle that lifted the hem of her blue taffeta skirt to a scandalous height. That didn’t matter, because no one was here to catch a glimpse of her ankles anyway. Not even her personal maid, Julie, who had gone downstairs to grab Catherine a more substantial breakfast from the kitchen before she fainted dead away.

            Aunt Kirstin wanted Catherine to eat very light before her party tonight, where a sumptuous banquet would precede the ball. There would be presents to open as well. Catherine hoped her father planned a spectacular gift for her birthday ... maybe to send her on a tour of the Continent. Of course, Aunt Kirstin would probably accompany her, but at least, she would be able to see more of the world for herself, not just read about it.

            Europe should be beautiful in the autumn, or in any season of the year. Since both of her parents were born in Scotland, she wanted to visit there as well as London ... Paris ... Rome. She had read every book and magazine she could get her hands on, so she knew so much about Europe. A thrill of anticipation shot through her whole body. Visions of walking on London Bridge, or along Avenue des Champs Ellysees, or visiting The Colosseum danced through her head. Pictures she’d enjoyed studying with their Holmes stereopticon. She wondered if Father would accompany her or if he would allow Aunt Kirstin to be her only escort ... besides a few servants, of course.

            “Where is Julie with my food?” Catherine huffed out an exasperated breath. “Am I going to have to go the kitchen myself?”

            She thrust open the door and hurried down the hallway, the sound of her footsteps lost in the thick cushioning of the carpet. At the top of the front stairs, she stopped to see if she could figure out where her Aunt Kirstin was before she sneaked down the backstairs.

            Peering over the balcony railing, she caught a glimpse of her aunt’s face through the partially opened door to the library. Her brows were knit together into a frown as she stared at someone in the room with her. Catherine had never seen such a fierce expression on her aunt’s face.

Catherine's Pursuit will release on February 5.

When you're trying to decide whether to buy a book, what is the deciding factor? The cover? The back cover copy? The first page? Or something else?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Escape Into Medical History: Smallpox

Edward Jenner (1749–1823
Have you ever thought it might be fun to have lived at a different time in history? No computers, no phones, no airplanes. You may immediately think, no way! I like those conveniences. There are pros and cons to many aspects of living during different historical time periods. However, the lack of current day medical practices and our extensive knowledge of disease is something I wouldn’t want to leave behind if time travel were possible. Read more  here on my personal blog.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cat Block

I bet you’ve never used a cat to gage your level of writers block…but I don’t hear anyone opposing the idea so I’ll continue. I don’t know about you but I have three furry friends who keep me company while I write. After a dog bone, a scoop of cat food, and a cup of coffee, the four of us head up stairs to settle in. My old hound dog leads the way only to be past by my blue-eyed Persian, but my street kitty streaks passed them both to get the prime spot by the heater. I’ll be using Ash in my blog simply because he pushes his way in without permission anyway, and he is a good model.




This in an example of writers block, at least it is for me. It’s so far back I can’t possibly think of what to write, but that doesn’t stop me from staring at it, wishing it would suddenly pop out at me with some compelling idea for the scene I’m working on. As I stare at the beast blocking my vision I look around, up and down, to see past the black and white furry creature that’s keeping me from moving forward with my story.


If I could just get a peek at what the last few lines were maybe I can remember where I was going with this. I move Ash’s tail, and now I see it was something about…an unfriendly neighbor, now I remember. There was an altercation and things were about to get heated between the locals and the new transplants that moved close by. Things are starting to roll now and my Cat Block gets a little smaller. I can see more of the screen and some of the words are visible, prompt words that will tell me where to pick up where I left off.




Good, it’s a little clearer and can I read some of the words. So now I’m typing along and the juices are flowing. The chapter is coming together and the story is moving forward. The bad guys are really ornery and the good guys and taking their licks, but I don’t want it to end that way. There has to be a sliver of hope that can lapse over to the next chapter. If I could see the whole scene I’d be able to figure out how to shake things up to get a good hook that sheds a bit of light for the reader.



There…now I have your attention, and my characters are able to shove that Cat Block clear out of the sky with one meaty sentence. Now I can tie everything up and know where I’m going when I start the next scene tomorrow.

 But as I click the save button I hear three words…I’ll be back!

 Was that my cat talking?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What Do Male Writers Bring to the Table When Writing Romance?

     I was asked this question recently in an interview and thought I’d share my answer with you. It’s been an interesting journey because I didn’t start out writing romance fiction. As a youth I was into Tarzan and Buck Rogers, and so I wrote jungle adventures and outer space odysseys. I created a character—Zip Carter—and he many a wild adventure, I can tell you. But in time, after I met and married my wife, I discovered that I liked watching romantic comedies and dramatic love stories with her. My thoughts turned to stories about relationships, and, before I knew it, I was writing love stories.
     So what do male writers bring to the table when writing romance? Well, this may come as a shock but . . . men and women are different! They think and communicate differently. They express their emotions differently. I’m not going to make any sweeping generalizations—like men are more about physicality and women are more about emotionality—but I think male writers bring a different perspective to the table. They have a different way of looking at relationships and a different way of presenting them. No one can think more like a man than a man. Similarly, no one can think more like a woman than a woman. (Although my wife claims that she knows me better than I know myself.) So it’s that difference that allows male writers to bring another perspective to the table. A woman who recently read my first novel, The Anniversary Waltz, commented, “I could tell it was written by a man. Not that it’s a bad thing. But I could just tell.” So even though the difference in perspective is discernable to women readers, thankfully it’s not a bad thing.
     And just who gives me the best feedback on the aspects of my books that are from a female POV? There’s no question about that. My wife! She is my biggest supporter and toughest critic. Everything I write I bounce off her to get her opinion, especially in regards to my female characters and their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Sometimes she laughs at my efforts, and sometimes she just rolls her eyes. But when she doesn’t have a list of suggestions to offer, I know I’m on the right track. Also my editor, Lori Vanden Bosch, is amazing in helping me with the female POV. I wouldn’t dare send anything to my agent for submission to the publisher without first obtaining my wife’s and my editor’s stamp of approval. (But sometimes it sure is hard to come by!)

There is Power in the Blood!

I just launched the second book in The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel. “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” picks up right where the first book ended. The story is about vampires. Yes, vampires.

How can a Christian write about vampires? Why not? Vampires are a perfect metaphor for the unsaved. After all, a vampire is the “undead”. A vampire must feed off the living to stay alive. They can’t stand their own reflection. They are afraid of a cross. And, their only redemption is in the blood.

In my book, vampires receive their “vampire majick” from a human affiliated with the “12th demon”. That power comes from drinking genetically altered blood and relies on supernatural intervention for the blood to work. What kind of supernatural intervention? Well, you will have to read the book to find out!

As with my first book, “The 12th Demon” covers the historical background of vampires. And, I discuss a powerful Christian theme, forgiveness. How far can you go before you are unforgivable? Is there a sin so heinous that God will not forgive it? Can a person commit such a sin and truly become the “undead”, forever shunning the light and forever lost?

You can find out more at my website and here are some photos from my book launch at the Well on October 19th and a book signing at First Baptist Orlando bookstore on October 27 and 28. During both events, my co-author, Mark Sutton, joined me to sign copies of our book, “Conquering Depression”.