Friday, September 11, 2015

A Letter Home on 9/11

United Airlines Flight 93, crashed down in a field in rural Pennsylvania, never reaching its intended target because its crew and passengers fought back against the terrorists. I offer you a first had story of what happened:

September 11, 2001

My Dearest Caroline,
My heart was heavy as we left you and the kids this morning.  Somehow I felt a special connection with you as we warmly embraced and tenderly kissed goodbye.  Oh, how I hate saying goodbye to you.  My only consolation is that I will get to see you again soon, to feel your gentle arms surround me in welcoming me home.  Even though I will only be gone a few days, I will miss you tremendously, for I am incomplete when I am separated from those who fill my heart with love. 

James whispered in my ear to tell you hello, then proceeded to tease me for writing such emotional words.  Sometimes I think that he belittles me for my expressions of love.  He’s a man's man and doesn't seem to find much time for love in his life.  I can only imagine how lonely his wife and kids must be.  Yet, despite his brash criticism of me and my ways, I still find an appreciation for him.  He is James, and can be nothing else.

I know that you hesitated to let me take Little Charles with me on this trip, but he will soon be a man and must learn how to function in this world as a man.  Sometimes I find it hard to remember that he is only 10, for he is so confident and mature.  I smiled this morning as we boarded the plane.  He held open the door in the terminal for an elderly couple, and then he looked at me to see if I noticed.  I pretended not to, for I don't want him to act unselfishly just to win my approval.  Instead, I want him to do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do.  Right now he’s sleeping, his poor little head is dangling awkwardly, but he seems content for the moment.  As soon as we land, I’ll call and let you know that we made it safely.  Then I’ll email this letter to you at home.  I marvel at our new technologies that allow me to communicate with you in so many fashions.  Hold on a minute, someone is trying to tell us something...

Dear, I have bad news.  One of the passengers was talking on the phone and was telling us that a plane just flew into the World Trade Center in New York.  If that is so, we may not be able to return for several more days.  They think that it was a terrorist act, but that seems impossible.  Nothing like that would happen here in the United States.  Well, that passenger just told us that a second plane has hit the towers.  Oh my, I guess that we are under attack...  I’ll take a few minutes and explain to Charles what’s happening.  Some of the other passengers are afraid that something might happen to us.  I doubt that.  It would be way too hard to orchestrate.  Imagine that, in only a few minutes, our whole world changed.  May God have mercy on us all...

Well, I'm back.  Charles is sitting wide eyed next to me, trying not to be afraid.  I told him that it’s okay to be afraid, but not to let his fear control him.  He asked if we were going to die.  I almost told him yes, as we are all going to die.  We all know that.  There is appointed a day for all of us to die, and few us know when that day is coming.  But I told him that we would land safely.  Now I wonder if I lied to him just to make him comfortable.  Why am I unwilling to tell him of the distant threat that we might all be in as we fly through the sky?  I guess that I just want to protect him, but he will be a man someday and he must know how to deal with the truth.

Charles has now asked me what we would do if we knew that our plane was going to be flown into the World Trade Center.  I told him that I didn't know.  Then he became fearful of dying.  A natural reaction, I suppose.  But we have guided him to live a life where he would be ready to die if God called his name.  He said that he wanted to make sure, so he closed his eyes and appeared to be praying.  We then talked about those people on the planes and why they didn't stop the terrorists.  I told him that we need to have the courage to do what’s right, even if it meant our own deaths.  We seldom hear of people unselfishly sacrificing themselves for their brothers any more.  But it was a good opportunity for me to talk to Charles about being a hero.  To me, if we were to be taken over by terrorists, then I would find a way to stop them or die trying.  Not that being a hero is a great reward, but I couldn’t face my family if I dishonored them by cowering down behind my seat.  After all, how many lives could have been spared if the people on those planes had stopped the terrorists? 

Wow.  I have something to tell you.  A group of Arabs just stood up and started to take over this plane.  Oh my gosh... this is real.  I have so much to tell you, but I am out of time.  When the highjackers weren't looking, a guy named Todd just came past my chair and we are organizing a resistance.  Baby, I may die, and Charles with me, but I have to do what is right.  We can't let this group kill any innocent lives, we have to stop them.  Imagine the odds of me talking about this exact topic with Charles and then me having an opportunity to actually instruct him for real!  Sweetheart, these are probably my final words to you.  Know that I love you with all my heart.  I am sorry that I couldn't have loved you more and I am sorry for all the times that I chose to be selfish instead of giving to you.  I deeply cherish all that we are....  I don't regret one minute of what we shared.  Oh, how I love the kids.  Tell them to serve God with all their hearts and strength.  Tell them that I love them and that I am proud of them.  Tell them that I was given an opportunity to choose between being a victim and a hero.  Tell them that I chose not to die an ordinary death, but I died defending my family and my country.  Is there a greater honor?  I have to go, its time, at Todd said, “Let’s roll.”

I love you and I hope that you receive this letter.  See you at the East Gate! 
Your loving husband,


I don't know how many lives were saved because these heroes sacrificed their lives to protect us, but may God bless their survivors. These few are not forgotten.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Leah Atwood

My day with Leah Atwood:
But first, a peek at her newest release: 

Come To Me Again

Dominic Sellers dreamed of escaping a life of poverty and making a living playing music. On the brink of giving up, he’s offered the chance of a lifetime to be the new guitarist for Bryce Landry. His life finally aligned with his goals, but something was missing.

Four years ago, Maisy Rothchild walked away from her fiancĂ©—her best friend and the only man she’d ever loved. She’d give anything to go back and change that day, but that wasn’t possible. There were factors that complicated the situation, things she couldn’t tell anyone.

When she makes a bold move to restore their friendship, can the same love that tore them apart bring them back together?

What a privilege for me to hang out with Leah for a little while and chat with her about her books. I’m so proud for this opportunity.

Q. How many books have you published? How many series?

Oh man, you didn’t tell me I’d have to do math. J  Let’s see.   I began with the Mail-Order Matches short stories.  There are nine of those.  The Brides of Weatherton series currently has three book, but will have five total and the Come to Me Series has three, and will get a bonus Christmas novella. Last but not least is the Freedom Bride series on which I collaborated with Susette Williams.  There are six in that series, three of them from me. So let’s see—that’s eighteen that I’ve published and are available.

Q. What do you enjoy most about writing historical fiction, and how did you get started in that genre?

They say to write what you love and the period of American westward expansion has always fascinated me.  The men and woman who pushed west and paved new roads for everyone else have such stories or bravery, courage and perseverance.  I would love if time-travel existed so I could experience it firsthand, but since it doesn’t, I have to live vicariously through my characters.

Q. You excel at historical fiction. Why did you decide to venture away from that and start a new modern day series?

Contemporary romance was always part of the equation, but the story I was working on never felt right.  A conversation with a friend was the catalyst for Come to Me Alive and the characters came to life, begging for more stories.  Funny, that series had spurred new ideas for the original series I planned but could never get the plots where I wanted, and it will now be a spin-off from the Come to Me books.

Q. You have a unique talent for making your stories light hearted and charming. Is that something you do deliberately, or do you even realize you do so?

Is there such a thing as a deliberate subconscious?  I write “inspirational romance to make your heart happy,” so there is a definite decision to keep them light-hearted, but I let the characters write the story. Seriously.  If you ever see me talking to no one in particular, I’m not crazy, but probably talking out a conversation between two characters.

Q. You have a series about mail order brides. How did that come to be?

Again, the idea absolutely fascinates me. Marriage is hard enough under normal circumstances, but to a complete stranger? And to move clear across the country in many cases?  My husband (then fiancĂ©) and I knew each other a very short time when I moved across the country to stay near him when he transferred, and even though I knew him that was scary (but very rewarding!).   I don’t know that I would have had the courage to make that move had he been a complete stranger.

Q. You have been transitioning several of your novels into audio books. Do you plan to make all of your novels available with audio?

I do. I actually made a contract offer today for another one.  It’s not a quick process, but hopefully by next summer my entire backlist will be available and all new works will have an accompanying audio version within two months.

Q. What is next for you?

Right now, I’m working on two Christmas novellas that will tie up the Brides of Weatherton and Come to Me series.  I have a fun little contemporary series planned for this winter about modern day marriages of conveniences, and then next year, the to-be-titled Come to Me spin-off and a new historical series set in South Dakota.

Q. You are completely a self-start author, beginning with your first book, and you are very successful. Why did you choose to be self-published, knowing that you had opportunities to be traditionally published?

For me, this was the best choice. I have the freedom to write as I please, juggle contemporary and historical series.  I have full control over everything I put out and I can get it to my reader’s in a quicker timeframe than traditional publishing would allow. Each person has to make their own decision based on what’s best for their goals and needs—which might be going the trad pub route for someone else, but for now, I’m very happy with my choice.

Q.  How much discipline does it take to be a full time writer? Can you describe your ordinary work week?

It takes a lot! I don’t have a set schedule because I try very hard to maintain a balance between work and family. Until the last few weeks, I still had a child home with me, so it meant a lot of late nights and early mornings to maintain a full writing schedule. Now it’s a bit easier and I can do a solid six hours during the day and only a few in the evening.  On any given week, I probably put in about fifty hours, but not all of that is strictly writing.  There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that also comes with the territory, but those tasks help break up the mental wear of straight writing.

Q. Who is your favorite writer?

Other than you?  Haha.  Let’s see, that’s another toughie.  I absolutely love Rosanne Bittner’s books and really hope she publishes more faith fiction.  Where Heaven Begins is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read! It stays with you long after you read it.

Q. What advice would you give an emerging writer who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Writing is a fun and rewarding job, but it requires a tremendous amount of work and dedication. Learn your craft. Find a network of other writers from whom who can learn and grow.  Always be willing to learn, and in return help others who are just beginning.

Bonus round:
Q. What was your favorite Christmas present ever?

I’m not sure that it’s my favorite, but it’s the most memorable. Back in the day when Nintendo first came out, my parents bought it for me and my brothers to share. For some reason, we were allowed to open it Christmas Eve. (Generally, the Christmas Eve present was reserved for pajamas, but knowing how my mom, she was super excited to give it to us.)  At some point during the middle of the night, my brothers and I all woke up and sat in front of the TV playing Super Mario Brothers.  My dad came in sometime around three and made us go back to bed, but I still look back with a smile every time I think of it.  It’s one of those fun memories we still joke about. By the way, Santa’s cookies were still on the table when we first started playing. 

Q. How can readers keep up with what’s going on in your world?

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What a great interview with a top notch writer! I deeply respect Leah’s writing craft and I look forward to what she has in store for the future. Leah has a very positive and light hearted way of expressing herself and those qualities define her characters. If you’ve never had the opportunity to read her books, I strongly encourage you to do so—sooner rather than later. Leah delivers time and again, and I think she will continue to improve her flawless method as she goes. Perfection being perfected.

You’ll see!