Monday, May 9, 2011

"Singing in Babylon" from Ann Gaylia O'Barr

Clash of The Titles


Meet Former Clash of the Titles Competitor Ann Gaylia O’Barr,
guest post by Amanda Flower
Ann Gaylia O’Barr is a former Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department. She had several assignments overseas, including one in Saudi Arabia, which certainly influenced her novel, Singing in Babylon.

Clash of the Titles featured Ann during our Best Description of an Antagonist Week, and she was the Clash champion! Her villain kept our readers jumping!

In Singing in Babylon, recent grad Kate McCormack, saddled with college debt, has limited options…until she accepts an offer to teach English in Saudi Arabia. Plunged into a foreign world, she’s homesick and lonely, stuck in a gilded prison where women aren’t even allowed to walk around the block by themselves. The future stretches before her like a leaden sky.

Journalist Philip Tangvald, on the trail of a story about illegal immigration routes through the Middle East and North Africa, is intrigued by the feisty Kate, but wonders if he deserves to find love again. Too much loss and betrayal has burdened his life. First, his father, when he was eleven. And, a year ago, his wife. Now he’s free of everything—except the guilt from his past—and wants to stay that way.

Two worlds, two hearts in exile, are about to collide. And when they do, might they find a new song to sing … in Babylon?

We posed a few more questions to Ann, which she was kind enough to answer.

Who is your favorite character you've created and why?
I think Philip intrigues me the most. Kate is pretty clear cut in what she wants. Philip has so much to learn about forgiveness and being able to grow beyond childhood hurts and yield to the love he so wants to express but has difficulty doing. He’s a complex character.

Have you learned anything new about God's character through this book?
As I developed the male protagonist, Philip, the passage in the Bible about God removing our sins as far away as the east is from the west came alive in a new way. Philip’s deep need is to see God as one who yearns to love him despite his failings.

If you could interview one character in your book, which one would it be? What shocking or interesting thing might that character say? Why?
Actually, I have Philip, the journalist in the story, carry on a conversation with a citizen of Saudi Arabia who lived in the U.S. for some time. In that conversation, or interview, the Saudi surprises Philip, an American Christian, with the question of why Saudi Arabia would want the American way of life, given the hedonistic life style that he witnessed while in the U.S.

When's your favorite time to write?
When I get up in the morning (I tend to rise early). I have a short devotional period and then settle in to write. How much time I can spend with it (all morning, a couple of hours) depends on family needs, meetings to attend, household chores that can’t be put off any longer, and so on.

Share something about the book that you think readers would like to know.
Some of the perspective for Singing in Babylon came from the insights I gained while living in Muslim-majority lands. I saw America as Muslim Arabs might see it. I began to differentiate between America the country and American Christians. The years in those countries also strengthened my core Christian beliefs. I began to see Jesus as our living revelation from God, as contrasted with the Quran, which Muslims believe is God’s revelation.

Thank you so much for stopping by Ann. We enjoyed having you on Clash of the Titles and look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

Singing in Babylon was published by OakTara Publishers in 2010, and Ann has two more novels under contract: Quiet Deception and Searching for Home.

You can visit Ann at her website http://www.anngayliaobarr.com/.

Amanda Flower, an Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, is an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel and the first in a series featuring amateur sleuth India Hayes. Like her main character, Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime and on the Clash of the Titles staff. Her next mystery, Murder in a Basket, will be released in January 2012. Visit her online at http://www.amandaflower.com/.

"The Green Veil" by Naomi Musch

Clash of The Titles
Meet Former Clash of the Titles Competitor Naomi Musch,
guest post by Amanda Flower

 In addition to being a fiction author, Naomi Musch is a staff writer for Living Stones News http://www.livingstonesnews.com and a consulting editor with Port Yonder Press. The Green Veil is the first novel in a three-part generational series called Empire in Pine.

Clash of the Titles featured Naomi during our Best Hook week. Naomi’s gripping first page left our readers wanting more. She was also our champion for that week!

In The Green Veil, Colette Palmer is only a girl in 1841 when her father follows land speculator Harris Eastman from Michigan to Wisconsin Territory, a wilderness where lumber barons are taking land and timber by right, by force, and by theft. She has left behind dear friends, including her childhood love, timber cruiser Manason Kade. Separated from him by miles and years, she tries to forget her childish longings until the day compassion and circumstances compel her to marry another.

But Manason does come and plants his own stake in the Wisconsin lumbering trade. It isn't long before he uncovers illegal practices in the industry and by one company in particular. Now Colette's husband will stop at nothing to crush him.

Then one unsuspecting night, Manason and Colette meet again. As memories revive, and truth is set free, Colette is forced to choose between her first love and her commitment to her marriage vows. But how can she, with her faith and an empire in pine hanging in the balance?

We posed a few more questions to Naomi, which she was kind enough to answer.

Where do your best ideas come from?
Great question! My best ideas come from overlooked portions of history I stumble upon combined with human scenarios I find intriguing. The Green Veil merges the nostalgia of the lumberjacks, land barons, and mill owners rushing to control the pine lands in 1840s Wisconsin Territory with the idea of a young woman swept far away from her roots and her childhood sweetheart into the arms of a man who'll stop at nothing to destroy his enemies.

Book 2 in this Empire in Pine series (releasing in October), takes place in the months leading up to the most devastating fire in our nation's history. Do you know what fire that was? It was called the Great Peshtigo Fire. Most people haven't heard of it because it happened on the same day as the Chicago Fire. However, while the Chicago Fire destroyed a large section of the city and about 250 people lost their lives, the Peshtigo Fire consumed around 2000 square miles in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It swallowed up the entire town of Peshtigo, and as many as 2500 people were killed. Combining that page of history with a broken young woman determined to live life on the edge and a pair of brothers who are disillusioned Civil War veterans gave me a really great story called The Red Fury.

Share something about the book that you think readers would like to know.
The theme in The Green Veil is juxtaposed to that of many romances which tell us that the characters will be happy if they only follow their hearts. But the heart is awfully fickle and dangerous! It seems to me that characters allowing emotions to guide them might wind up with inescapable, dire consequences. Colette has a compassionate heart and somewhat gullible nature. She's been given warning bells but impulsively follows her heart anyway. So I don't give her any easy outs when it comes to consequences.

Another thing is that I don't enjoy predictable stories. It's one thing to know that two characters will end up together. It's another thing altogether to be one step ahead of the author all the time in knowing how they are going to get there. I like twists and turns, and I spoon them liberally into the story.

Who is your favorite character you've created and why?
Yikes! That's kind of like asking which of my children my favorite is! I even like the bad guys. But, since I'm forced to choose, I will say that in this book Joseph Gilbert was raw fun to create. He stepped onto the page with little more than a name, and from that point on I never knew what was going to come out of his mouth or what he'd do next. No matter what I plotted, Joseph, incorrigible as he was, could take over a scene. Sometimes he surprised me as much as he surprised Colette.

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?
Because I like layers and sub-plots -- which need to stay organized and woven in -- I'm definitely a plotter. I start with a 15-point outline of the book, working from each end toward the middle. Then I flesh it out, free-writing to tell myself what has to be accomplished in each section. These are later broken into scenes and chapters. (I usually end with around 40 chapters, give or take). That said -- each scene is less plotted and more panstered. (How's that for a verb -- panstered? Ha!) With the scene's purpose in mind, I only have a vague picture of its construction. I do not have it precisely mapped out. The characters take over at that point, and I just tag along.

Thank you so much for stopping by Naomi. We enjoyed having you on Clash of the Titles and look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

You can visit Naomi at her website at http://www.naomimusch.com/. You can also follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/NMusch.

Amanda Flower, an Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, is an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel and the first in a series featuring amateur sleuth India Hayes. Like her main character, Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime and on the Clash of the Titles staff. Her next mystery, Murder in a Basket, will be released in January 2012. Visit her online at http://www.amandaflower.com/.

"Deliver Us from Evil" by Dee Smith

Clash of The Titles

Meet Former Clash of the Titles Competitor Dee Smith,
guest post by Amanda Flower

Dee Smith writes for young adults. Dee states on her website, “I write fiction for young adults and reach out to teens by writing fiction with a message of hope, redemption, and the power of God.”

Clash of the Titles featured her second novel, Deliver Us from Evil, during our Best Description of an Antagonist Week. The description of her villain, Philomena Jones, gave our readers chills.

In Deliver Us From Evil, thirteen-year-old Angela Ross, a small town Texas girl, runs away in terror after she shoots her abusive father during his latest violent attack. She flees without knowing if he is dead or alive. Now a fugitive, she melts into the busy crowds of the city, desperate and penniless.

On a rainy afternoon a few days after she arrives, she walks a cobblestone path to the cottage of Philomena Jones, Psychic. Soon after, Angela regrets ever entering the deceptive white cottage with its charming picket fence. It's too late to escape Philomena's reign of terror, but a few years later, a talent agent, Arnold Peck, discovers her, grooms her into a music star, and renames her Angel.

At a performance, Angel meets Jessica Nelson, a devoted fan. Both lonely girls bond and become friends. Their meeting triggers a kidnapping plot and plunge them into indescribable horror as prisoners inside a medieval castle. Angel uncovers the kidnappers' plans--plans so evil that they will die by torture in a few hours. Can they escape? Will rescue arrive on time?

We posed a few more questions to Dee, which she was kind enough to answer.

How did you come up with your idea for your antagonist?
She came from another novel I had in progress. In that book her character was like the good sidekick or confidant for my heroine. Then almost as if she had a will of her own she became the “bad guy,” developing through her occupation as a psychic. I chose her darker side because my story draws clear lines between good and evil.

Who is your favorite character you’ve created and why?
Kos, the young FBI agent in the story. He’s the handsome hero, and the love story begins in my second book. I had so much fun creating him to be the good-looking, daring, and courageous guy I’d like to knock on my front door some day.

If you could interview one character in your book, which one would it be? What shocking or interesting thing might that character say? Why?
It would be Darla, Angel’s aunt. I would ask her, “Why did you take the rap for Angela after she shot her father? Since Darla is my prototype for the “good Christian” in the book, it would shock me if she answered, “I was on my way to shoot him, but Angela got there first. So intent was already present in me.”

Have you learned anything new about God’s character through this book?
Nothing new, but even as much evil Satan generates, God is the final authority.

Where do your best ideas come from?
The Source from above. I’ve been in the shower, taking a walk, driving somewhere. Sometimes I have a vivid dream.

Thank you so much for stopping by Dee. We enjoyed having you on Clash of the Titles and look forward to reading more of your work in the future.You can visit Dee at her website http://dee-smith.squarespace.com/  or Facebook.

Amanda Flower, an Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, is an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel and the first in a series featuring amateur sleuth India Hayes. Like her main character, Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime and on the Clash of the Titles staff. Her next mystery, Murder in a Basket, will be released in January 2012. Visit her online at http://www.amandaflower.com/.

"A Dream Unfolding" by Karen Baney

Clash of The Titles

Meet Former Clash of the Titles Competitor Karen Baney,
guest post by Amanda Flower

Karen Baney is software engineer, who spends her evenings and weekends writing Christian fiction. A Dream Unfolding is her debut novel.

Clash of the Titles featured Karen during our Best Hook week. Karen’s first page left our readers wondering what will happen next!

In A Dream Unfolding, the promise of a new life and a chance to start over…
Hannah Anderson had the life she always wanted, married to the man of her dreams. When her husband’s brother gets in trouble with the law, the town turns against them, shattering her perfect life. Now they are left with only one choice—to head west to the Arizona Territory in the hopes of creating a new life. Will the journey be worth the cost?

Will Colter, after burying his father, is forced to leave the ranch he has called home for nearly thirty years. The journey is dangerous, challenging him and his men. Will he find the new life he was hoping for?

Or, is there a new dream quietly unfolding before their eyes?

We posed a few more questions to Karen, which she was kind enough to answer.

Have you learned anything new about God's character through this book?
The process of writing A Dream Unfolding was a new challenge for me. I had to depend on God most of the time and I learned (or maybe re-learned) that he really does care about the smallest details of my life. If I was struggling to make a character real, I prayed that His message would come through the story. If I lose my confidence that my writing is good, I ask him to help me see my work as he sees it. If I stress out about slow sales, I ask him to get the book into the hands of those he wants to read it. With each prayer, I’m reminded of why I write—to share God’s character through inspirational stories that will touch the lives of others.

Who is your favorite character you've created and why?
I love Will Colter. Even though he’s a cowboy with a bit of a tough image, he still faced insecurities. He loved God because he knew what he had been saved from. He’s a great leader, but very humble.

Where do your best ideas come from?
Some of my best ideas have been inspired by research. When I first started the research for A Dream Unfolding, I did not plan to write about the actual journey to Arizona. After all, that would involve a ton of research and it was my first book—talk about intimidating. Then I came across letters written by Jonathan Richmond. He was one of the original members of the governor’s party as they traveled west to the Arizona Territory. I was so excited by the wonderful details included in his letters that I had to write about it. Thus, Hannah and Drew’s thread of the story was born. And yes, it was a ton of research, but well worth it.

Share something about the book that you think readers would like to know.
I started writing the book in the middle at the climax. It was the first scene that came to my mind and I felt it was inspired by God, so I had to get it down on paper. Even after dozens (felt like hundreds) of revisions that scene remained fairly unchanged.

After that scene, I wrote the book to the end. Then I had to start at the beginning. That was a huge challenge—one I probably won’t do again—because I had to make sure that everything in the beginning fit with the context of where the story was going. It all worked out in the end, but I definitely caused myself more work for the beginning half of the book.

Thank you so much for stopping by Karen. We enjoyed having you on Clash of the Titles and look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

A Heart Renewed, the second novel in the Prescott Pioneers Series was just released in ebook in April. Be sure to check it out!

You can visit Karen at her website at http://www.karenbaney.com/. You can also follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/karen_baney and Facebook.

Amanda Flower, an Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, is an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel and the first in a series featuring amateur sleuth India Hayes. Like her main character, Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime and on the Clash of the Titles staff. Her next mystery, Murder in a Basket, will be released in January 2012. Visit her online at http://www.amandaflower.com/.