Monday, December 19, 2011

A Picture is Worth . . .

A thousand words--isn't that the old saying: "A picture is worth a thousand words?" When you consider that I've probably teased you a hundreds of times about unveiling the cover for my upcoming book--the cover model hunt, a sigh-worthy Chicago photo shoot, the first cover art draft  . . .
Well, that in itself could qualify for a thousand words!.

So here it is: the official cover for TRAUMA PLAN, the first book in my new Grace Medical series--three novels, three exciting journeys, set in amazing Texas locales. The artist (and photographer), Tyndale House art director Stephen Vosloo, depicts our maverick physician hero, Dr. Jack Travis, in sharp contrast against an almost ephemeral image of heroine nurse-chaplain Riley Hale. At the lower border is the San Antonio skyline. The title is a bold cutout in red, with author name "chalked" in white. I think the whole composition makes a bold statement, supporting the back cover blurb:

Sidelined by injuries from a vicious assault, nurse chaplain Riley Hale is determined to return to ER duties. But how can she show she’s competent when the hospital won’t let her attempt even simple tasks? Determined to prove herself, Riley volunteers at a controversial urban free clinic despite her fears about the maverick doctor in charge. 
Dr. Jack Travis defends his clinic like he’s commander of the Alamo. He’ll fight the community’s efforts to shut its doors, even if he must use Riley Hale’s influential family name to make it happen. 
As Riley strives to regain her skills, Jack finds that she shares his compassion—and stirs his lonely heart. Riley senses that beneath Jack’s rough exterior is a man she can believe in. But when clinic protests escalate and questions surface about his past, Jack goes into battle mode, and Riley wonders if it’s dangerous to trust him with her heart.

Lest you think that the saying "worth a thousand words," means this cover allowed me to skimp on prose . . . no such shortcut there. This book may indeed be the longest I've written--packed with non-stop action, heart-tugging emotion, humor, great romance . . . all set against the colorful backdrop of San Antonio at Fiesta time. Though it's already available for pre-order, Trauma Plan is officially scheduled for release (on or perhaps slightly before) May 1st.  I can hardly wait to share! 

Here's what early reviews are saying about this book:

"Candace Calvert has crafted another gut grabbing medical thriller. Trauma Plan kept me engrossed from beginning to end as I immersed myself in the characters' lives, felt their pain and rejoiced in their victories. The faith message was clear, the medical traumas heart stopping and the romance heart melting. I loved everything about the story, especially little Hobo and his two wheeled cart. A great read and one for your keeper shelf." - Lynette Eason, award winning, best-selling author of the Women of Justice series 

 "Spine-tingling suspense  and a power-packed shot of adrenaline heat up Candace Calvert’s TRAUMA PLAN. Calvert’s tight writing and well-developed characters made for a story I could not stop reading. TRAUMA PLAN doesn’t disappoint, so grab your parachute and take a dive into an amazing story packed with solid characters, including Calvert’s Rx for great fiction—a heart-throb hero!!" ~~Ronie Kendig, author of the Discarded Hero series.

 "Candace Calvert paints an exciting story on a canvas she knows very well, the world of medicine and the people who inhabit it. Trauma Plan is a novel that will grip your heart and keep you turning pages."
--Richard L. Mabry, MD
--Author of the Prescription For Trouble series

I'm still pinching myself at the honor of having endorsements from those talented authors!

So, what do you think of the new cover: worth a thousand words?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Me . . .

Okay, I love this--it's from a post on Facebook, showing (in lighted glory) a holiday tree made from a stack of books. Sort of a virtual depiction of a book lover singing, "All I want for Christmas is . . . a box of books, crate of books, all I want . . ."  You get it.  I can relate, for sure. When I shared it on Facebook, the responses were similar--including one clever mention of trying to create a tree from Kindle downloads
And then I thought of this photo:

It was sent to me by a reader, showing a vintage 60's (ouch on "vintage," since I was most certainly a reader then) headboard bookcase. In the center book shelf cubby is my trio of Mercy Hospital books--that made me offer a vintage smile, for sure.

It all made me wonder . . . How big is YOUR stack of books? To be read, already read, destined for re-reading, signed by author, awaiting gift wrap? If you took them all, pulled them from cubbies, shelves, closets, under your bed (c'mon, there's one there, right?) and piled them up, would they be tall enough to string with lights for a tree? For the Rockefeller Center tree? 

And what do you do with your books after they've been read? Share them? Re-sell them? Donate them?

My mother was a voracious reader, at least one book a day. She had a room in her house that was off the kitchen, behind the basement door. It was once a watch repair workshop (my Dad's), but ended up a book room. Tidy shelves at first, then piles, then . . . very tall stacks. Avalanche worthy. Mom could have made a Christmas tree of books. With some left over to build a sleigh and big chair for Santa. Her collection was just shy of a "Hoarder's" episode--s book  lover's edition, but without that weird "Eeeeep" sound effect . . . you know the one.

My personal stack of books isn't tree worthy, as I tend to give them away--share them, forget to whom. And before we moved cross country I donated a carload for the local library's fundraiser. My office shelves do have duplicate copies of my own books, waiting to be sent to reviewers or blog giveaway winners. 
Here they are, in all their cover-hero glory: my Mercy Hospital series. In the photo, too, are bookmarks, a signed bookplate, and a handwritten letter--ready to send to a reader to include with a gift.
I wanted to remind you now--before it gets any closer to Christmas--that I am more than happy to send a free personalized book plate, bookmarks, and a letter for any Mercy Hospital book you're giving as a gift. As a reader just told me, it helps to make the gift even more special. Just let me know via e-mail:, and I'll get that right out to you.

So, back to that pressing question . . . is your personal stack of books tree-worthy? What's your number estimate? Should we say . . . "Eeeeep"?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Dressing . . . By Any Other Name

I couldn't resist this photo--I'd look worried, too, if someone attached a red felt turkey wattle to my chin. But this little guy reminded me of Jonah, the yodeling therapy dog in Disaster Status. And his predicament leads nicely into the gist of my holiday post: Turkey Dressing vs. Turkey Stuffing. A minor difference in wording. And probably more of a family custom when choosing which name you give to that traditional and buttery-sagey, delectable Thanksgiving side dish. Whether it be made of bread, cornbread, or . . . ?

Which let me to a little research on the whole Dressing vs. Stuffing issue. Here's some rather strange things that I discovered, thanks to Wikipedia:

Names for stuffing include 'farce' (~1390) 'stuffing' (1538), 'forcemeat'(1688), and (after 1880) the word was changed to 'dressing' in Victorian English. And . . .

It is not known when stuffings were first used. The earliest documentary evidence is a Roman cookbook which contains recipes for stuffed chicken, hare, pig, and dormouse (!) Most of these consisted of vegetables, herbs and spices, nuts, and spelt (an old cereal), and frequently contain chopped liver, brains, and other organ meat (eew, sorry about that). And . . .

It is sometimes claimed that medieval chefs sometimes stuffed animals with other animals--and we are not just talking "Turducken" here. More like a ram stuffed with small bird. And (deep breath): There was reportedly a recipe for a camel stuffed with sheep stuffed with birds stuffed with carp stuffed with eggs. I needed to sit down and hug a bottle of Tums just thinking about that! No. Thank. You.

So, back to the original two questions: 'Dressing' or 'Stuffing'--which do you call it?
And: Bread or Cornbread? Which do you prefer?

For my part, my family always called it 'Dressing,' and it was made from torn day old bread (I still remember  sitting with an old washpan and a loaf of Rainbow Bread the night before. Tearing, tearing . . .). Added to it would be butter-simmered onion and celery and some poultry seasoning. No oysters. Ever. No giblets either--the cats got those.

This year I'm making 'cornbread stuffing' (cornbread 'dressing' doesn't sound right), a recipe from Emeril Lagasse via Martha Stewart Living. It includes green onion, sweet red peppers, and crispy bacon.

I'm looking forward to the fun of preparing the meal, the scents wafting through the house . . . and especially to having family here--including our two tiny grand daughters. Blessings, for sure. And while I'm counting God's blessings and feeling grateful, I'll be thinking of YOU all, too. Your encouragement, support, and friendship have been a beautiful part of this year.

To celebrate that blessing, I'd like to do another book giveaway. Right here, right now:  Five signed and personalized copies of my current ECPA bestseller, CODE TRIAGE. If you win, keep it for yourself or gift it to someone who'd like an exciting, inspiring story of hope. One less gift to buy!

So, for your chance at one of five free books, leave a comment below telling me whether you call it 'stuffing' or 'dressing,'  and whether you prefer bread or cornbread as the main ingredient. Simple as that.
You MUST include your e-mail for contact. I'll do a random drawing on Tuesday November 29th and notify the lucky winners by e-mail.

Good luck and have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving, friends!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Give Me a Minute . . . Wouldya?

Friday, November 4th 8:25 AM (Pacific) Just for fun, I've randomly selected four names from those who have commented on this post: ANDREA, EDWINA, NICHOLE, LYN. If you'll contact me candace(at)candacecalvert(dot)com I'd like to offer you your choice of one the Mercy Hospital books. Critical Care, Disaster Status, or Code Triage. Signed and personalized as you wish, for yourself or for a gift to someone else. Just let me know. And thank you all for stopping by my blog--love seeing you here!Yesterday I was typing furiously on my newest work in progress, RESCUE TEAM ( second book in the upcoming Grace Medical series). Hubby was salmon fishing with a pal, which meant I'd have all day to work alone. Correction: it would be me and my fictional folks. It was a day that I needed to especially concentrate. You see, the story was at that delicate, pivotal point: prelude to a first kiss. Something an author wants to get just right. No broccoli on the teeth, no interruptions by whiny, needy secondary characters, no unplanned call for CPR--it could happen, I write medical drama. Anyway, things were going well. Got the destined couple past a day tour of Austin, let the heroine play a little air-guitar, fed them both some great, trendy SoCo Trailer Food (foodie-author must have yummy imaginary eats), then sent them to coffee on a deck overlooking Lake Austin. So far, so good. Then a slow dance. Even better. Got past a raccoon interruption (still better than CPR), then--at last-- they're taking a moonlit walk along the water. Banter turns from humorous to heartfelt, their eyes meet, the heroine holds her breath, and . . . I type these words:

His eyes searched hers for a moment, as if he were considering what to say.

And I sit there. Shift in my chair. Read them again. Sit there. Until the humor of it dawns on me: He's pausing . . . while I consider what he's going to say.

It struck me as so funny that I laughed out loud--and immediately Tweeted it. (This is what people must do when they work alongside only fictional people.) Characters staring at each other on the page, considering what to say. Hilarious. Profound.

Someone Tweeted back: "I'll never read those words the same way again."

Which, of course proved I'd written a cliche. But it also made me think that there are plenty of writers who do the same thing: wait for the words to come. Leave our characters mute in mid-sentence--stalled before a kiss--while we . . . consider our words . . . that will become their words.

And it made me wonder: Where (in what geographical location, what situation) do your best ideas, snappy comebacks, flashes of unexpected brilliance come? Shower? Dreams? While walking? Driving? Duct taping yourself to the desk chair, sweating it out? What works for you?

Do. Tell. I'd love to know.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering: our hero didn't say anything after all. Just kissed her. I guess he considered if he had to wait for me, it wasn't going to happen.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Scrubbing In: Dr. Richard Mabry

Sunday October 23rd, 1:35 PM Pacific time: CONGRATULATIONS to JUDY GANN! You will be receiving a signed copy of Dr. Richard Mabry's Lethal Remedy. And a big thank you to all who stopped by the blog to read my interview. We both hope you'll "scrub in" with our medical adventures.

This week it is my pleasure to host wonderful medical suspense author, Dr. Richard Mabry. It is always such a delight when he "scrubs in" here at RX: Hope, and I feel so honored to know that we share a readership. A physician and nurse teaming up in fiction much the way we did in the medical world! Most of you know the good doctor already, but for those who have yet to be introduced, here is a some background:

Richard L. Mabry, M.D., is a retired physician and medical school professor who achieved worldwide recognition as a writer, speaker, and teacher before turning his talents to non-medical writing after his retirement. He is the author of one non-fiction book, and his inspirational pieces have appeared in numerous periodicals. Most currently, he is the author of contemporary Christian fiction aptly tagged, "Medical Suspense with Heart." He and his wife, Kay, live in North Texas.

And not only has Dr. Mabry agreed to let me put him on the spot with some questions, but he will also be offering a chance at a signed copy of his newest book! I'll give details in a bit.

Right now, let's get started:

Candace Calvert: Welcome! Lethal Remedy, your newest release, marks your fourth fiction work. In what ways do you feel that you’ve grown and “stretched” as a writer during this time? What has most helped with that growth?

Richard Mabry: Until we get that first contract, we writers tend to agonize over every word, sentence, and paragraph. Once we reach the point where an agent and/or editor validates our work, we can obsess less over technique and concentrate on putting the words together to convey a story that draws in the reader. And once we’re writing on deadline, our concentration seems to be magnified.

Most writers will tell you that they don’t really know for sure how they reached their present level. For me, it involved putting into practice what I read and heard from others about the craft, writing four unsuccessful novels along the way. And I’m still learning.

CC: Christian fiction authors often experience special moments when a reader connects quite personally (sometimes unexpectedly) with the hopeful message offered by a story. Will you share a few words about a reader-connection that particularly encouraged you as an author?

RM: One of the toughest times for an author is when we fear no one will ever have the opportunity to read our words again, because no publisher will print them. I was “between engagements” (as the actors put it) when I received this email:

“Your books are fantastic! I'm enjoying them so much. I bought the 4th one today. There's only one problem, they're so good I read them too fast - and then they're over. Keep making them good, though.”

Not only that, but my novels led her to the non-fiction book I wrote, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse:
“Do you know where I can find the book you wrote about your wife dying? I lost my husband in 2002, but it still hurts today. Aren't we glad we know we'll see them in Heaven.”

So in one email she validated my fiction writing and showed me that my non-fiction book was still accomplishing God’s purpose. How much better could it get?

CC: Beautiful, and you're so right, Richard. That is the best.

CC: Let’s try something to tie together two of your passions: writing and golf:

CC: A caddy is invaluable to a golfer—advice, expertise, psychological support: Who’s your literary caddy?

RM: I have two: my wife, Kay, and my agent, Rachelle Gardner. Kay is my first reader. She is both my severest critic and my biggest fan, and I couldn’t function without her. Rachelle is a steadying influence in my writing life, offering suggestions about my writing, helping me make professional decisions, and in general encouraging me.

CC: Even professional golfers have challenging rounds, missed putts, bunker shots. Name an experience in your writing journey where you felt “deep in the rough.”

RM: The most significant instance was when I quit writing! There’s a bunker on the course at St. Andrews that’s so deep and hard to get out of that they call it “Hell.” That’s where I found myself. I was discouraged by continued rejections and responses of “not quite there” and “not right for us.” I even tried my hand at writing a cozy mystery (which was a big mistake). So I gave up. But God didn’t, since He led me to a new agent and a new direction in my life, and I was able to get back onto the fairway.

CC: And your readers are grateful you did! What writing experience has been a literary “Eagle”?

I actually had a second novel finished shortly after signing the contract for my first one. My agent submitted a proposal for that one, and wound up getting a two-book contract, Both the publisher and I felt that the third book would end the series, but when my agent circulated the proposal for my next one, Abingdon Press decided to give me a contract for that as well. That was my “eagle”—not anticipated, but certainly welcome.

CC: What single literary achievement would feel like a “Hole in One”?

RM: After my fourth novel from Abingdon, Diagnosis Death, I wasn’t under contract for any more books. Frankly, it was tough for me to write under those circumstances, because I became increasingly convinced that no one would ever publish more of my novels. But when Rachelle pitched my next book to a number of publishers, there was significant interest, culminating in a contract for three more books. (More about that in a minute).

CC: Which points us to the fact that you have two awesome reasons to celebrate. First, the recent release of Lethal Remedy. Tell us a little about this fourth and final medical suspense in your “Prescription for Trouble” series.

RM: Here’s the back cover copy:

Dr. Sara Miles’ patient is on the threshold of death from an overwhelming, highly resistant infection with Staphylococcus luciferus, simply known to doctors as “the killer.” Only an experimental antibiotic, developed and administered by Sara’s ex-husband, Dr. Jack Ingersoll, can save the girl's life.
Dr. John Ramsey is seeking to put his life together after the death of his wife by joining the medical school faculty. But his decision could prove to be costly, even fatal.
Potentially lethal late effects from the experimental drug send Sara and her colleague, Dr. Rip Pearson, on a hunt for hidden critical data that will let them reverse the changes before it’s too late.

CC: And (drum roll!) you’ve recently announced some very exciting news that has readers shouting for joy. Will you please share it again here?

RM: I’ve signed with the wonderful folks at Thomas Nelson Company for three novels of medical suspense. The first will be published in the spring of 2013, with the others following at about nine month intervals. As you can imagine, I’m terribly excited. I was privileged to meet with many members of the Thomas Nelson team at the recent American Christian Fiction Writers conference, and I’m looking forward to this relationship.

CC: Awesome! Can you give us just a hint of a storyline, setting, or characters?

RM: Dr. Matt Newman thought he was leaving his life in private practice for a better one in academic medicine. His kidnappers have no such plans for him. They just want him dead. Bound, in the trunk of his car, Matt’s only thought is escape. He does so, but at a price: a head injury that lands him in the ICU, where he awakens to find he’s charged with murder.
Sandra Murray is a fiery, redheaded lawyer who swore she was done with doctors, but the call from Matt presented a challenge she couldn’t turn down. She decided to give it one more chance.
Matt’s career is going down the drain. His freedom and perhaps his life may be next. Can he and Sandra uncover the truth before the kidnappers finish the job they started?

CC : Sounds exciting! Knowing your readers will suffer withdrawal symptoms during the hiatus between series, will you offer updates (possibly snippets?) during this time? Where can readers find you in cyberspace?

RM: I’m toying with the idea of an occasional short story to be posted on my blog, if I can snatch the time from my “real” writing to get them done. Of course, there’s my blog where I post twice a week. They can also keep up with me on Twitter and my Facebook fan page .

CC : Great, thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us, Dr. Mabry?

RM: I appreciate the opportunity to visit here. I’m delighted that Christian fiction is no longer a derogatory term. Thanks to you for helping popularize medical fiction. I look forward to reading more of your novels in the future, and hope your readers will enjoy mine.

Candace: And I feel exactly the same way, Richard--thank you for sharing all this with my readers!

And, speaking of sharing: For your chance at a signed copy of Lethal Remedy, leave a comment below. Be sure to include an e-mail address. I will select a winner via a random drawing on Sunday, October 23rd. Good luck to you all!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Travel . . . Book It!

A lifelong reader, I've learned there are consistent key elements that make a novel an enjoyable experience for me. "Musts" that keep me reading and, in a few cases, cause me to re-read again and again. Primary is the author's use of dialogue. I want it natural, honest and full of emotion (the gamut from anger to painful despair to passion)--and, if at all possible, to offer some stress-relieving snippets of humor. I want a reason to care for the characters. And I need those characters flawed, unique, vulnerable, and over-challenged but so determined. I want pacing (whether depicting action or emotion) that dares me to stop turning pages; I want to lose that dare. And on top of all that (like frosting on a cupcake) I require a well-drawn setting. Please, take me somewhere!
I want to feel that I'm there, merging into the scene--to see, smell, taste, hear and touch where the story's action is taking place. Let me travel--no limits, no passport (no century or planet!). . . no cringe-worthy gas station fill ups, TSA patdowns, or jet lag! A book is memorable for me when I am transported. As I reader I crave that experience.
As an author, I'm doing my best to make that happen for my readers.

Travel with me, then, to Lake Tahoe, California in my medical drama CRITICAL CARE.

" . . . Claire laughed . . . glad she'd been able to freshen her makeup and pick the pine needles out of her hair.
Sunnyside Mountain Grill, a favorite with both locals and tourists, was casually upscale with men and women sporting trendy resort wear and sunglasses no doubt worth half a nurse’s biweekly paycheck. A jazz combo played at the edge of the deck, its bass-heavy music blending with soft laughter, tinkling glassware, and the crisp flutter of sails in the marina below. In the distance, the majestic Sierra Mountains, peaks white with snow, seemed to rise from the glassy blue surface of the lake itself.
She closed her eyes for a moment, letting the sun warm her face and inhaling the wonderful mix of scents: pine trees, oiled decking, coconut sunscreen . . . and sizzling orders of burgers and fries. Her stomach rumbled and she smiled. This was not her typical day, for sure. Claire opened her eyes as Logan spoke . . ."

And on to the Pacific Coast in DISASTER STATUS:
" . . . The Sunday surfers were out in force, at least a dozen straddling their boards in the cove below Arlo’s Bait & Moor. Kids scurried along the sand chasing skim boards, dodging an older man as he tossed a stick for his tireless black Lab. Alongside parked vans, groups of young people stood talking and listening to music, women wearing smocked dresses and skirts in hibiscus prints and tie-dye; men in sunglasses and neon-bright wetsuits over plaid shorts, sand clinging to their tanned legs . . . Sand. Erin sighed. She’d had sand in her shoes when she got home last night. Had shaken them out over her grandmother’s hollyhock bed, but she was having less success shaking the confusing tumble of emotions left in the wake of her day with Scott . . . "

Then to timeless San Francisco in the Mercy Hospital series' finale, CODE TRIAGE.

" . . . Nick left Lombard and drove south east on 11th toward Mission, then onto the Embarcadero, weaving in and out of traffic under the jumble of humming electric bus wires, passing a double-decker sightseeing bus and a group of helmeted tourists navigating the crowded sidewalk on Segways. Then drove downhill toward Beach Street, Fisherman’s Wharf and the view of the Bay beyond the marina that always made his breath catch.
He skirted Golden Gate Park on the loop back, breathing in the familiar scent from the huge, peeling and silvery green stands of eucalyptus that lined it—sweet, clean, sharp . . . a hint of camphor. The same scent, in subtle traces, was in Leigh’s favorite herbal shampoo and he’d teased her more than once that she smelled like his favorite city. Like home . . . He sneaked a glimpse of her, noticing that she’d closed her eyes and relaxed back against the headrest. Almost as if she was sleeping. He tried not to think that he’d never see her that way again . . . "

I loved giving my readers a "taste" of these colorful Northern California in the Mercy Hospital series. And I'm just as eager to paint memorable settings in my new book series that will debut in Spring of 2012.

Can you guess from the picture below where (working title) TRAUMA PLAN is set?

If you need more help, here's a little "taste":

". . . Riley stopped halfway down the steps from St. Mary’s Street, boggled by her first glimpse of the San Antonio Riverwalk. It felt like she’d been swept up in a Texas tornado and dropped into a South of the Border Oz-- below the streets of the seventh largest city in America. She held her breath, staring at a sultry and beckoning tangle of green: water, jungle-thick foliage, and a canopy of trees strung with colored lights and endless steamers. There were bright umbrellas, riverboats, tables on meandering sidewalks, neon signs, balloons, people everywhere. And a rich thrum of sounds: the chug-burble-splash of boat engines, childish squeals, ducks, sudden explosive cheers, the brass-and-string strains of Mariachi music, and—
'Smell that?' Jack asked, pressing close to allow a family in magenta sombreros to squeeze by. 'Every kind of food you can imagine . . . on a stick . . . ' "
I'm eager to share this story with you!

Well then, in a span of moments we've journeyed to four great places . . . without leaving our computer chairs. Or air conditioning. Something to be said for that:

Summer travel--book it!

Where are you traveling with your current summer read?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On Father's Day . . .

In honor of fathers everywhere, I'm going to share an essay that I wrote many years ago. It was during a particularly tough time in my life . . . when the blessing of a father's love made all the difference.

Magnetic Energy
“It’s full of Magnetic Energy,” my father whispers as he spreads the thin sheet of gauzy fabric on my waterbed.

A fan of cure-alls, he proves it by lifting his trouser legs to show me that he has the same stuff wrapped around his knees. They are swollen and knobby like a camel’s and his lower legs are thin and wasted. When did that happen?

A photo album flips open in my mind, faded black and white Kodak snapshots held in place by tiny corner tabs. I see Mom’s handwriting, white ink on black paper.

“Orville 1955”: Dad, tanned and muscular, curly black hair, movie-star smile, holding a hunting bow. Our can’t-sit-still dog Caesar is half in-half out of the picture behind him. Across Dad’s shoulder is a quiver of handmade arrows. I smell singed feathers and see his fingers, wearing the black onyx ring, deftly glue them to the arrow’s shaft. “It’s called the fletching, sweetheart, and see: they must be exactly straight, or the arrow will not fly true.”

“Oak Lake 1958 ”: Dad in hip waders proudly hefting a big mouth bass, a little girl in seersucker shorts and a tee shirt and dark braids squatting on the bank beside him. I breathe the rich odor of moldy oak leaves, wood moss and algae. Summer sun warms my back. My bare toes squish into the mud of the lake’s edge as I struggle to form a ball of Rainbow Bread around a tiny brass hook to catch a sun perch with a twig pole. The tick- tick of a reel and the swish- whir of Dad’s fiberglass pole gives me confidence as he casts his line beside me.

“Girl Scout Father-Daughter Dance, 1961”: Dad in a suit and tie beside his chubby twelve-year-old daughter; too-big teeth, bushy eyebrows, tottery high heels, first time razor-nicks on her legs. “You are the prettiest girl here, Candy. Now I’ll teach you to fox-trot; it’s one two quick-step, one two quick-step…”

He leans close to me now as he talks, the way that puts some people off; tilting his head to avoid his deaf ear, his curly white hair wild like Einstein. He punctuates his words with little jabs of his fingers, dark eyes darting to see through paint specks on his glasses. Dad is telling me about the latest antics of his little dog, Teddy. His laugh hisses in and out between his teeth.

I suddenly remember the sound of him sucking kernels of corn from between his teeth while eating dinner. He wore a zip-front jumpsuit-- “My rompers,” he called them-- sitting in the living room with a TV tray in front of him. The tray was white metal with gold legs and had a fanciful line drawing of a rearing circus horse.

I’d huddled invisible beside the high rolled arm of our tweed couch, my back against a furnace register to soak up precious puffs of heat from our stingy furnace. I winced, rolled my eyes and covered my ears with every toothy hiss from that despicable corncob. I was a prickly teenager then and certain that my friends’ fathers ate only in dining rooms, never in front of the TV and laughing out loud at Jackie Gleason. The sucking sound made me crazy.

Today his laugh sucks corn from the air around me and I laugh too; the pain from the rib fractures searing my chest like a hot poker. It seems peculiar that I should remember the TV trays with the horses, since Daddy is here now because of a horse.

“Do you see, baby?” he asks me, as he smoothes the homeopathic fabric carefully under the spot where I will sleep. “You just lie on this thing and the Magnetic Energy will move into you; you’ll think nothing is happening, and then you’ll start to feel the warmth. I know it will heal you.”
He leans close to me and takes my hand a little gingerly, like I am a piece of delicate glass. “Good—God,” he whispers, separating the words, emphasizing the D’s at the end of each, “I still can’t believe that horse broke your neck.”

I can’t either except that in the past few weeks since the accident I have walked slower, my posture skewed a little sideways like a damaged crab released from a fisherman’s net, my right arm a dangling useless claw. I take a breath and feel the reality of the seven fractured ribs, the faint purring sensation of the blood absorbing around my lung. Dad is smiling now, his gaze somewhere beyond me, remembering.

“You were always so horse crazy. We couldn’t walk into your room without falling over the pile of plastic horses on the floor. Remember the time Mr. Dutton called you into his office because you took your stick horse to school? You and your friend Mary, trotting instead of walking, always holding those imaginary reins…” He looks directly at me now, like I am a little girl who’s crossed the street without checking both ways “Tell me you’re not going to ride anymore, Candy.”

“Sure, Daddy,” I tell him shaking my head a little at the still unbelievable events of the past eighteen months, “I promise you: no bucking horses, no unfaithful husbands, no houses in a flood zone…” Hot tears sting my eyes. “I sound like a bad country song.” Dad moves toward me and I use my left arm to raise my right arm, spreading my fingers to keep him at bay. “Don’t. Don’t hug me Dad, it might kill me,” I tell him and we both laugh again.

“Then let me tell my favorite daughter a little story,” he says and I think how his voice sounds the same as it did when I was a little girl.

We sit down on the edge of the waterbed, and he begins to talk in that amazing way he has. The words tumble out and take on a life of their own, becoming bigger, grander each moment like a side-show hawker; his arms wave in the air, sweeping aside some imaginary canvas curtain, do-you-want-to-see-the Bearded-Woman, little lady?

Suddenly I feel myself bouncing along the highway in the back seat of a blue 1957 Plymouth station wagon on the way home from Disneyland. Mom and Dad are in the front seat bickering with each other, Mom’s crimson painted nails drumming atop the seatback. We four kids are crowded in back, my sister Debbie asleep with her curly blonde head on my shoulder and her Indian Princess doll tucked to her chest. My brothers wear “shades,” and wave at girls in the passing cars, their hair leaving greasy smudges on the windows--- Dixie Peach Pomade.

“Tell us a story, Daddy.” I had asked him then.
“What do you want to hear?” he tantalized, “Bugs, spacemen, magic glow worms?”
“Oh please, magic glow worms!”
He talked nonstop all the way back to Sacramento.

Today I am 47 years old, have a broken neck, a broken marriage, a prickly teenage daughter, and a For Sale sign on my house. The horse I have raised from a foal is boarded in another town, awaiting decisions for his future. I have to wonder about my own future. Will I be able to continue in my career as a nurse?

I spend my days in physical therapy doing biceps curls with Campbell’s soup cans. “You’ll work up to the one-pound dumbbell, Candy.” And trying to identify objects with my numb right fingers while blindfolded. “It’s a marble?” “It’s a thumbtack, Candy, just try again.” And I sleep in a king-size waterbed alone. What kind of story can my Daddy tell me today? How can I tell him magic glowworms just aren’t magic enough?

But today he tells me real stories, not so grandiose and not stories I haven’t heard before. They are stories I haven’t heard as an adult, and that makes a difference. He talks to me about being a parent, an employee, a spouse, and a reluctant senior citizen. He shares regrets, disappointments and broken dreams, dwindling health, a failed marriage to my mother. He talks about starting over.

They are his stories; my family’s story, maybe everyone’s story, really. I see how he has come to accept change more gracefully now. How he remembers most vividly the happy times, less so the bad ones. His volatile anger has been gentled with time, but not his zeal.

At age seventy-four he teeters on a cane when he walks but still plays golf, and is planning to add a huge addition onto his home, doing all the work himself. “I’ll tie my self up there with a rope when I do the roof work,” he tells me. “Trish will yell at me,” he says of my stepmother, and his dark eyes sparkle, “but she’ll finallyget the big kitchen and dining room she’s always wanted.”

Dad points to my waterbed now. “Don’t forget to smooth out the wrinkles before you lie down,” he cautions me as he covers his magic fabric with my bedsheet. “I’ve got it pulled up so it can reach your whole spine.”

I walk him to the door and kiss his cheek and tell him goodbye.

“Be patient,” he tells me one last time. “Magnetic Energy takes time.”
It is somehow morning; early daylight awakens me and I gaze out my curtainless window toward the dawn, my favorite time of day. A fine mist rises over the alfalfa fields behind our property and a heron wings slowly across the quicksilver-orange sky, his long sticklegs trailing lazily behind.

I can see the stables, the Dutch door of a stall open wide. For a split second I wonder if I’ve forgotten to latch that door. I think of fixing my husband's coffee, the way he likes it: one spoon of sugar two of Coffee-Mate. Did I buy more Coffee-Mate?

Then sleep leaves my head and reality enters too abruptly. Somewhere in the distance I hear a tractor chug, a neighbor getting an early start. My heart cramps. I miss my horse. I miss my husband.

I pick up my journal, from a tall stack of journals lying beside my Bible, and realize how vital writing has become to me. It fills some need in the way food relieves hunger; the way balm soothes a blistered burn. I need to tell the story.

I force my clumsy right hand to form the loops and connecting lines, willing my fingers to feel the pen, feel the paper beneath the pen. I begin to write about Dad’s visit, about his stories, his stubborn zeal—his hope.

And then I feel it. I feel the warmth.

It starts at my feet and I curl my toes to test it. Yes. It’s really there and it spreads upward using my spine as its highway, until it radiates to my shoulders, my neck and into my chest. It fills my broken heart.

I raise the pen in a half-crazy salute and I laugh out loud. It’s all going to be okay.

Magnetic Energy. It’s not in any piece of fabric. It’s genetic. From Dad to me.


Happy Father's Day, Daddy. I miss you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

If an Author Kisses the Blarney Stone . . .

Monday, June 6th 1PM Pacific Time: I placed your names in my crystal bowl, gave them a swirl, breathed a prayer. And our book winner is :

GLYNNA! Congratulations! I'll be sending you a signed, personalized copy of Code Triage!
And, again, thank you all for leaving comments. Stay tuned, as we'll be doing another book giveaway in the near future!

Yes, I am back from the cruise. And, yes, that is me kissing the famous stone at Blarney Castle in Ireland--and, well sure, I did have fleeting nurse-like thoughts of the sanitary factors involved in such an endeavor. So, afterward, I wiped my lips off with my fingers--obviously, I wasn't a surgical nurse. But still . . . I did it--climbed 100 steps to the lofty top of an Irish Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone! I even have a certificate to prove it, that reads in part:

"I, Sir Charles St. John Colthurst of Andrum, Inniscarra, in the County of Cork Baronet do hereby certify that Candace Calvert of California, USA . . . is now sent forth with the Gift of Eloquence."

Eloquence? Hmm. I had to wonder . . . will having kissed the Blarney Stone add 10,000 words to my newest novel in progress? Will my editors have to beg, "Enough . . . enough already!" ?

As I write this, I'm currently starting the final "polish" on TRAUMA PLAN, due to my Tyndale House editors on July 1st. So far, I have had no urges to insert additional passages of long and flowery prose . . . so perhaps I've escaped The Stone's "gift of gab." Or maybe . . . I'm already, at this very moment, writing the world's longest blog post . . . Egads, let's nip this in the bud and do a book giveaway, instead!

So here's the deal: leave a comment below, sharing a favorite place you've traveled to, OR a place you dream of traveling to one day. And I'll put your name in for a chance at an autographed and personalized copy of my most recent medical drama, Code Triage. Keep it for yourself, give it as a gift, or donate it to your library; I'm honored to share its story of hope!
I'll (randomly) draw the winning name on Monday, June 6th. Please leave an e-mail address so that I can notify you if your name is drawn. Good luck!

Meanwhile, here's a few lines of pre-Ireland blarney from the working draft of Trauma Plan.

Snipped from Chapter Twenty-Five--welcome to Lukenback, Texas:


. . . . “C’mon.” Jack slid an arm around Riley's waist. “Let’s get out of here.”
He guided her through the dancers, out the huge open-air dance hall, and back toward the outdoor theatre, a ramshackle stage embellished with thousands of license plates, under gigantic spreading oaks that gave roost to chickens. There was another boisterous crowd out there, every age and all attire; from biker leather and bandanas to designer linen. Hands hoisted old-fashioned sarsaparilla bottles and long neck beers, and laughter was the common language—along with music. This time it was an aging, bearded guitar picker wearing an “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach” tee shirt. And Willie Nelson braids.
Riley shook her head. “I think we’ll have to stand,” she said, her voice already hoarse. “There’s no room.”
“Not staying.” Jack tugged her hand, pointing back toward the famous wooden post office and a chrome and leather sea of Harleys. “Back to the car. Sunset time . . .”
It's good to be home, friends--thanks for waiting for me.

Now post a comment . . . let's give a book away!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Whee . . . Free!

There's nothing like the feeling of FREE, whether that brings to mind a patriotic image of the American flag, a pulse-spiking leap from a skydiving plane, the soul-soothing peace of forgiveness, or . . . something as simple but rare as a no-strings-attached FREE GIFT! I'm delighted to say that my publisher, Tyndale House, is doing just that. They are offering everyone a free e-book! My second Mercy Hospital novel, DISASTER STATUS, will be a free download between May 1st and May 28th. Which means that right now, you can go to the Amazon Kindle page and download this exciting story--no need to own a Kindle or other e-reader device; you can download it to your computer, or to other options. The Amazon Kindle page offers several free applications to get you reading the book in mere minutes! I had a great time writing this drama set at the California coast, and I think you're going to enjoy it. Here's the story summary from the back cover of Disaster Status:

Charge nurse Erin Quinn escaped personal turmoil to work on the peaceful California coast. But when a hazardous material spill places Pacific Mercy Hospital on disaster status and stresses staff, she's puts to the test. And thrown into conflict with the fire department's handsome incident commander who thinks her strategy is out of line.

Fire Captain Scott McKenna has felt the toxic effects of tragedy; he's learned to go strictly by the book to advance his career, heal his family, and protect his wounded heart. When he's forced to team with the passionately determined ER charge nurse, sparks fly. As they work to save lives, can they handle the attraction kindled between them . . . without getting burned?

Sound exciting? Fun? You betcha! I'm excited to share this story with you. And with your family and friends--please DO let them know about this free gift.

I would like to ask a favor during these upcoming weeks: if you enjoy reading Disaster Status, will you please consider posting a positive book review on Amazon?A few minutes of your time would be a huge blessing to me. One reason that publishers offer free books, is to introduce readers to authors. Your positive, star-studded reviews go a long way in encouraging folks to "scrub in" for my stories of hope. And inspiring and encouraging people is at the very heart of why I show up at the keyboard each morning. Your enthusiastic comments can welcome thousands of readers to take a chance on a new author--me. If you've read (and enjoyed) Disaster Status in the past, but haven't had a chance to post a review, I hope you'll do that now. It would mean a lot to me. Thank you in advance for your time and kindness!

And now, on a personal note, I'll offer another definition of FREE: this author on vacation.
On April 4th I finished the first draft of Trauma Plan, the first book in my newly contracted series. Though there is "polishing" to do before my official deadline, this is the time that I let my story sit in a drawer (okay, in a computer file) and "steep." So that I can pick it up with fresh eyes, read it, and make some necessary changes before sending it to my editors. Having the bulk of the work finished early is the consummate definition of FREE for an author. To celebrate this (and so many beautiful recent blessings), I'll be climbing hand-in-hand with my wonderful husband up the gangway of a cruise ship. Yes! So excited! As I write this, we are packing up, compiling instructions for the house-sitter, and counting the scant days until sailing: from Florida across the Atlantic to the Azores, and on to ports in Ireland, Scotland, Wales . . . and then France, to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary in Paris (yes, my knees are weak at the thought). We'll spend a few extra days in London before flying back home--all in all, nearly 3 weeks. I'm. Jazzed. Big time!

I will to try to post photos on Facebook, to give you a bit of the flavor of our journey--pretending that I've tucked you along in my luggage (ouch, sorry about the shoes!) Wouldn't that be cool?

So, yes, FREE. Please enjoy my publisher's book gift to you. And bear with me if my response to your e-mails is slow. Rest assured that I'm missing you and that I'm percolating a sequel to Trauma Plan. Really. Even if it appears that I'm dressed in evening wear and standing at a ship's rail. In a romantic Atlantic crossing, with a handsome silvery-haired man dressed in a tuxedo and toasting me with a glass of champagne. Ah, yes . . .

Bon Voyage, my friends!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Author Richard Mabry M.D. ~ Cover My Shift #3

Weds. April 27th: Congratulations to our book winners Vanessa, Carol Moncado, and Marjorie!!

I'm delighted to have Dr. Richard Mabry "cover my shift" today! A bit later, he's going to explain the circumstances under which we met, but let me tell you that it's been wonderful to have my Mercy Hospital series released along the same timeline as Dr. Mabry's Prescription for Trouble series. And, from our mail and reviews, it seems that our readers heartily agree! Though we both write medical fiction, sometimes I smile to myself about our differences--it's kind of like when Marie Osmond would tease her brother, "I'm a little bit country . . . he's a little bit rock and roll." Only with us, Richard's emphasis is on suspense and mine tends toward romance. Yet we each include both elements in our books, along with plenty of exciting medical detail . . . just for you.

Before we meet Richard, here's a brief bio:

Richard L. Mabry, M.D., is a retired physician and medical school professor who achieved worldwide recognition as a writer, speaker, and teacher before turning his talents to non-medical writing after his retirement. He is the author of one non-fiction book, and his inspirational pieces have appeared in numerous periodicals. He and his wife, Kay, live in North Texas.

The first two books in the Prescription for Trouble series are Code Blue and Medical Error. The third book in this series, Diagnosis Death, has just released:

From the back Cover:

The threatening midnight calls followed Dr. Elena Gardner from one city to another, prolonging her grief. Even worse, they are echoed by the whispers of her own colleagues. Whispers that started after her comatose husband died in the ICU . . . then another mysterious death during her training. When a third happens at her new hospital, the whispers turn into a shout: “Mercy killer!”

Why doesn’t she defend herself? What is the dark secret that keeps Elena’s lips sealed?
Two physicians, widowers themselves, offer support, telling Elena they know what she is going through after the death of her husband. But do they? And is it safe to trust either of them with her secret? Soon Elena will find that even when the world seems to be against her, God is for her, if she'll only trust him.

For more information, and to connect with Dr. Richard Mabry, check out these links:

And now here's his message just for you:

Nurse Candace Calvert and Doctor Richard Mabry first met as they kneeled across from each other, ministering to a member of ACFW who’d crumpled from her chair at lunch during the annual meeting. Thankfully, her problem wasn’t serious, but it brought together two people who were members of the medical profession and enjoyed writing about it.Since then, Candace and I have been cyber-friends, even though shortly after that time she traitorously left Texas for the California territories. For a while, Amazon was packaging books from Candace’s Code Triage series with those my Prescription For Trouble books. And now she’s asked me to “take her shift.” This may be the first time in history that a doctor has stepped in to cover the shift of a nurse, and I hope I can handle it. After all, doctors and nurses, although both are important members of the health care team, are trained differently. We’re used to doing different jobs. And that’s a good thing.
You can draw a parallel with the professions Candace and I have moved into from our medical careers: the publishing industry. When an editor accepted my first novel, I figured I’d done all the work necessary for its publication. Oh, someone would have to see to the mechanics, but the writing was obviously so good that it could go right to the printed page. Wrong! There was the macro-edit, the line edit, editing the galley proofs, designing the cover art… You get the picture. I was no more the most important member of the publishing team than a doctor is the most important part of the health care team. The novel needed more than I could give it, and the work was best done by people skilled in that area.
Two of Candace’s readers will win ARC’s (advance reading copies) of my novels. ARC’s are generally printed from the author’s first revisions, the version of the book that incorporates changes suggested by the macro-edit. But there are still more edits to come, so what appears in an ARC may not be what the consumer eventually purchases. That comes after others add their magic touch. It’s a team effort. And I’m glad it’s that way…in medicine and in publishing.
Candace, thanks for letting me cover your shift. Now I think I’ll put my feet up and have some coffee. This is tough duty.

Richard, wise words on all counts! I SO appreciate your "covering my shift,"--even though (giggle) you turned down my offer of matching red scrubs. Seriously, it's been a complete pleasure to have you here, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing you again at the ACFW conference in St. Louis this fall.

Meanwhile, I can hardly wait to share your exciting medical mysteries with my readers!

To be entered for the book giveaway drawing, please leave a comment and e-mail address below. I'll draw three names randomly on Wednesday April 27th. I'll post the names here as well as contact winners by e-mail.

Good luck to you all. And have a wonderful Easter celebration!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cue the Leading Lady . . .

Sunday March 20th, 1:56 PM ~ congratulations to our giveaway winner:
AMBER! I'll be sending her a signed copy of Disaster Status. Thank you all for stopping by the blog and leaving such nice comments. And stay tuned to see who "covers my shift" next.

As with the heroes, I think it's important that my readers' first glimpse of the book's heroine is a strong one. Usually she's involved in some physical action (whether at work or play)--and always, I strive to show her determination and passion. This, of course, will translate equally into her struggle toward her main goal for the story. If you've read Disaster Status, you may remember that our first sighting of nurse Erin Quinn involved boxing gloves:

Muscle it. Punch through it. Control it. Be bigger than the bag.

Erin Quinn’s fist connected in one last spectacular, round-winning right hook, slamming the vinyl speed bag against the adjacent wall. And causing a tsunami in her grandmother’s goldfish tank. Water sluiced over the side.

“Whoa! Hang on, buddy. I’ve got you.” She dropped to her knees, steadying the tank with her red leather gloves. Everything she’d done in the last six months was focused on keeping Iris Quinn safe, secure, and happy, and now she’d nearly KO’d the woman’s only pet.

Erin watched the bug-eyed goldfish’s attempts to ride out the wave action. She knew exactly how he felt. Her own situation was equally unsettling: thirty-one and living with her grandmother and a geriatric goldfish named Elmer Fudd in a five-hundred-square-foot beach house. With two mortgages and a stubborn case of shower mold. She caught a whiff of her latest futile bout with bleach and grimaced.

But moving back to Pacific Point was the best option for her widowed grandmother, emotionally as well as financially. Erin was convinced of that, even if her grandmother was still skeptical . . . and the rest of the family dead set against it. Regardless, Erin was determined to put the feisty spark back in Nana’s eyes, and she had found the change surprisingly good for herself as well. After last year’s frustrating heartaches, being back in a house filled with warm memories felt a lot like coming home. She needed that more than she’d known.
In my newest medical drama (working title) Trauma Plan, the heroine is Nurse-Chaplain Riley Hale. Many of you will remember her from Code Triage, an ER nurse sidelined after an assault left her with serious injuries. In this new series, she's moved back home to Texas, but has no intention of letting her prominent family fuss over her. She's determined to re-claim her career and her life. Here is where we meet her in Chapter One:

“Twenty one, twenty two, twenty three . . .” Trauma chaplain Riley Hale straightened her elbows and leaned over her patient’s bare chest, using her left hand to sink her right palm as deeply as she could into his pliable breastbone. Her long hair swung across her shoulders with each focused effort. She pushed again, counting cardiac compressions while visualizing the patient’s failing heart squeezed between sternum and spine, her rescue efforts delivering essential blood to his brain and vital organs. “Twenty four, twenty five, twenty six . . .”
Riley compressed again, felt sweat trickle beneath her tailored shirt, then glanced at her patient’s pale, waxen face. She told herself that she was saving his life with her bare hands. My own two very capable hands. A registered nurse performing exactly what she’d been trained to do, had done a hundred times during her years in the ER. Nothing had changed, except . . .
“Argh!” Riley yanked her hands away and whirled to face ER charge nurse, Kate McCord. Her right hand cramped mercilessly, fingers curling inward beyond her control. “I’m working on a dead body, right? He’s dead because I’m doing a pathetic job trying to save him. Tell me the truth, Kate.”
“Well . . .” The petite brunette took a long swig from her vitamin water, then leaned back in the conference room chair. “It’s not looking good for Mrs. CPR Training Manikin—she should probably buy a nice black dress.” Her nose wrinkled. “On the bright side . . . the chaplain’s already here?”
Riley tried to smile . . . and failed.
Kate nudged her lunch plate aside. “Look, you have spinal cord damage that affects your arm--it’s weak; you can’t help that. That sick maniac broke your neck! You could have ended up in a wheelchair. The truth is that I’m amazed you’re doing as well as you are . . . ” {scene snipped for excerpt}
Riley traced her index finger slowly across the training manikin’s plastic shoe, and felt nothing. Dull as wood, completely numb. Her heart—her life--had begun to feel that same way. Numb, except for unrelenting frustration and the miserable jabs of guilt that came every time people applauded her “brave” journey to recovery. “You could have ended up in a wheelchair.” Was she selfish and ungrateful to want to be healed completely? Was she supposed to be happy that a horrifying assault left her with “only” a permanently weakened arm?
“It’s been a year now.” Riley's gaze connected with Kate’s. “Physical therapy, occupational therapy . . . every kind of therapy. I want to be back in the ER”-- she glanced at her suit jacket draped over a chair—“in scrubs. I want to be a real part of the team. I have to make that happen.”
And I promise you, our new heroine is going to throw herself into that goal heart and soul.

I'm typing as fast as I can to bring you this exciting new story--in fact, those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook probably heard that I've completely worn the "L" off my keyboard! The "E" and "D" aren't far behind. So . . .

To celebrate this progress AND to applaud real life heroines everywhere, let's have a book giveaway!

Leave a comment below to have your name entered for a (random drawing) chance at a signed copy of Disaster Status. Keep it for your personal library, gift it to a friend, or donate it to a worthy cause. I so appreciate your encouragement and support as I continue this journey!

Be sure to leave an e-mail address so that I can contact you if your name is chosen.
I'll draw the giveaway winner on Sunday, March 20th.
Good luck to you all!

*** As mentioned before, Trauma Plan is a work in progress, and this scene excerpt will very likely change (several times!) in the editing revisions required to get this book to press ***

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Author Leanna Ellis ~ Cover My Shift #2

SUNDAY March 6 89:13 AM ~ Congratulations to our giveaway winner: Lelia!
And, once again, thank you Leanna for "covering my shift," and to all of my readers for leaving comments.

Today, I'm excited to have fabulous women's fiction author Leanna Ellis "cover my shift." Even if we didn't share an agent and a mutual tendency toward giggle-fits, I'd be nuts about Leanna because of her work: funny, quirky, imaginative, and heart-tugging stories . . . how can you not love the title of her debut inspirational novel: Elvis Takes a Back Seat? I was hooked! And then she reeled me in with Lookin' Back Texas, Ruby Slippers, Once in a Blue Moon, and today's giveaway book: Facelift:

In life and love, we could all stand a few nips and tucks . . .

Kaye Redmond, a "can do" kind of woman, has the magical touch when it comes to staging houses to attract buyers. Her ability to make things "perfect" has served her well in her career. If only it could transform her personal life as well. With a failed marriage, an angry teenage daughter, and an ex-mother-in-law who is no fairy godmother, Kaye's life is about as imperfect as it gets.

But sometimes blessings come in the strangest packages. Like her ex-mother-in-law landing on Kaye's doorstep after a botched facelift. Could caring for the impossible woman help Kaye get what she wants most: her husband back? Isn't that what God would want? And what her daughter needs? But no fairy princess ever faced such obstacles: an ex-husband's surgically enhanced mistress, hormonal teenagers, and--worst of all--an extra handsome prince! How's a woman supposed to find happily-ever-after with all that going on?

Check this Amazon page to see a wonderful book trailer for Facelift.
And you're more than welcome to visit Leanna at her Facebook Page as well--always something fun happening there!

Here's Leanna's brief biography from the back of the book:

"Leanna Ellis, formerly known as Leanna Wilson, has sold more than one million books and been published in more than twenty countries. A recipient of the Reader's Choice Award, she lives with her family in Texas."

And now, here's a note from my friend Leanna, just for you:

What an honor to step in for Candace today! Thanks, Candace, for trusting and inviting me here and thanks to her readers for giving me a precious moment of their time. Thankfully, this duty doesn’t require knowledge of stethoscopes, I.V.’s or surgical procedures, because the sight of blood, the smell of antiseptic and the sound of others in pain are things I try to avoid. I can tell you that Candace is wonderful and nurturing and she would be my first choice for a nurse, but if you’re sick you really don’t want me around.

So, what do Candace and I have in common besides writing? When I think of Candace and the times we have spent together, I always think of laughter. We love to laugh. Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” When I’m with Candace I get my monthly quota of laughter. Although Candace usually writes with drama and angst, I often have humor infused in my writing. Even when I write about deep, serious subjects, I just can’t seem to go for too long without some sort of humor. Right now, I’m writing an Amish/vampire book. Yes, you read that correctly. Okay, I’ll wait while you stop laughing. Go ahead get it all out. Finished? Yes, it’s true, I really am writing an Amish/vampire book called Forsaken and a publisher has even bought it. It’s actually a serious book in that it’s a story about good versus evil and it’s a bit darker than my last few books but I totally loved writing it. Still, I couldn’t help but add touches of humor, and since I have one major character that is Cajun it was easy for him to see things in his own unique way.

Another thing Candace and I have in common is food. We love food. She loves to cook, and I love to eat. Even though I have learned to make Paula Deen’s beef stroganoff, which I must say is yummy, I am not much of a cook. But Candace… oh boy! She writes on her Facebook page what she’s cooking each night, and she has a knack for making it sound delicious. One night, I’m gonna show up on her doorstep in time for dinner!

One last thing Candace and I have in common is our love for animals. Last year I interviewed Candace on my blog and also interviewed her horse! I often write about my personal adventures with my crazy labradoodle, which we have affectionately named the Hilo Monster. Hilo was very helpful in the days after my father’s death when I could not write and was needing to put words on the page for my book Facelift. Those were dark days for me. But Hilo was not quite a year old and she was into everything. This dog has eaten over eight pairs of eyeglasses, so many pens I lost count, nine spicy chicken wings (bones included), half a turkey, a bunch of grapes, a chocolate Easter bunny (foil wrapper included) and who knows what else. She regularly jumps on my dining room table. Obviously she does not obey well, but quite frankly she makes me laugh. So I began writing about her and she burrowed her way into my novel and not only helped me write Facelift but also helped my heroine loosen up a bit. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” And maybe that laughter and healing is what Candace and I have in common the most. May you find some laughter today and true healing through our Lord and savior.

Thanks for joining me here today, and thanks, Candace, for not making me don scrubs or a stethoscope because I much prefer my writing outfit: pjs and houseshoes.

Ah, thank you, Leanna--and you are welcome at my table any time.

And, now: Let's have book giveaway!

Leave a comment below, for a chance at a signed copy of FaceLift. Be sure to leave an e-mail address so that I can contact you.
I'll draw the winning name on Sunday, March 6th.

Good luck to everyone!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Enter the Hero . . .

Sunday 2/27 10:12 AM
I so enjoyed your responses, that I decided to draw TWO winners: CONGRATULATIONS to JAN MARIE and to KELLY. I will be sending you each signed copies of Critical Care!
As many of you know, I love to open my novels with an action scene, physical, emotional, and loaded with conflict. I want to grab my readers and pull them, breathless, into my characters' world. And in all three Mercy Hospital books, this scene introduces the story's hero. Like in this opening snippet from Critical Care, a finalist for the 2010 Carol Award:

Don’t die, little girl.

Dr. Logan Caldwell pressed the heel of his hand against Amy Hester’s chest, taking over
heart compressions in a last attempt to save the child ’s life. Her small sternum hollowed and
recoiled under his palm at a rate of one hundred times per minute, the best he could do to mimic
her natural heartbeat. A respiratory therapist forced air into her lungs. Don’t die. Logan glanced
up at the ER resuscitation clock, ticking on without mercy. Twenty-seven minutes since they’d
begun the code. No heartbeat. Not once. Time to quit, but--he turned to his charge nurse, Erin
Quinn, very aware of the insistent wail of sirens in the distance. “Last dose of epi?”

“Three minutes ago.”

“Give another.”

Logan halted compressions, his motionless hand easily spanning the width of the two year
old’s chest. He watched until satisfied with the proficiency of the therapist’s ventilations,
then turned back to the cardiac monitor and frowned. Asystole--flat line. Flogging this young
heart with atropine and then repeated doses of epinephrine wasn’t going to do it. A pacemaker,
pointless. She’d been deprived of oxygen far too long before rescue. Logan pushed his palm into
Amy’s sternum again and gritted his teeth against images of a terrified little girl hiding in a toy
cupboard as her daycare burned; and a frantic search in a suffocating cloud of smoke, amid the
chaos of two dozen other burned and panicking children . . .

Exciting, commanding--offering a hero who takes center stage immediately. In the *working draft of my newest book, (tentative title) Trauma Plan, I plan to introduce hero Jack Travis in similar fashion:
“Man on fire!”
What ?
Jackson Travis hurled his duffel bag to the floor and charged back out the clinic’s door, his government-issue mountain boots pounding the splintered wooden porch. He squinted into the April sun: the parking area was swarming with people. A car swerved toward the San Antonio Street curb, brakes screeching, as he vaulted over the porch rail. Honks joined a rising barrage of shouts and screams.
“Someone’s burning up--film it!”
Jack waded into the crowd, clenching his teeth at a confirming whiff of smoke and singed hair, far too reminiscent of those long-ago weeks in Khandahar. . . . {scene shortened for excerpt} . . .

“Hold still!” Jack raced forward, knelt beside the victim—felt an immediate jab of pain in his right knee. He ignored it and went to work, blinking against the smoke and flames as he stripped off his field jacket. “Don’t move, sir. I’ve got you.”

He used the heavy fabric to extinguish the flames; patting, slapping, smothering the still-hungry blaze. Then swaddled the man inside the jacket and eased him down to the dusty asphalt. The burn victim struggled, whimpered, and Jack pinned his arms as gently as he could to keep him from getting up again. The raw panic in the old man’s eyes made Jack’s throat tighten. “Easy, buddy. Hold still,” he whispered. “Let me help you now". . . .

Besides the action, each opening scene aims to give the reader a glimpse into the emotional character of the hero. Logan Caldwell's internal plea that his patient won't die.
Jack Travis' visceral reaction to the burning man's pain, his gentle, reassuring whisper.

I think the combination of strength and compassion is important in a hero. Add his willingness to fight for a cause (for Logan, building a top-notch medical team) (for Jack, saving his urban free clinic), a good measure of human flaws, a conflict-filled situation that forces him out of his comfort zone and challenges him to change . . . and you have the makings of a story.

Of course, if it's a romance--and it is, if I'm writing it--there will be an equally compelling heroine. Stay tuned, in a couple of weeks, I'll give you an opening glimpse at Nurse Chaplain Riley Hale, the leading lady for Trauma Plan.

And be sure and stop by next Sunday, when fabulous author Leanna Ellis "covers my shift."

But right now, let's have a book giveaway! Leave a comment below for your chance at a signed copy of Critical Care. If you haven't read it, here's your chance. If you have, keep it for your collection of autographed books, gift it to a friend . . . or donate it to your favorite library. I want to keep sharing this (exciting and) encouraging story of hope.

Be sure to leave an e-mail address so that I can contact you if I draw your name.

I'll pick the winning name in a random drawing on Sunday, February 27th.

Good luck!

* This brief, edited snippet is a working draft, and will very likely change in the (several) revisions that happen before the book goes to print*