Friday, February 28, 2014

Fabulous Friday Feature: Anne Elisabeth Stengl



Today I welcome an author who weaves a garden of life experiences into her stories: 
author Anne Elisabeth Stengl


Enter to win Anne's 
March 2014 release,
Shadow Hand

Scroll to the end of the post to see how to enter.



While chatting with friends on FB, I met Anne. I heard about the fantasy stories she wrote, and having read many wonderful fantasy stories myself, we dialogued about her new release. I asked Anne to share how God has led her on her journey. Wow! What a beautiful story of hope and healing. Here is what she said:



The Garden of the Soul


Long ago—before I can remember—God planted the seeds of a new world in my head. Those seeds were Curiosity, Wonder, Creativity, and Passion. All the right seeds that must be planted and nurtured in the garden of an artist’s soul if new worlds are going to blossom.

These seeds are gifts from God, and I can take no credit for them. They grew by His will, not my own. My only role was to nurture them to the best of my abilities. To explore the possibilities of the written word, to study and to strive. I knew that this new world blossoming in my head was a rich one, full of tremendous possibilities. I wrote poems and short stories—I read great literature and made notes on what I learned from the masters. I nurtured those seeds and tended that garden to the very best of my abilities, all the while hoping and praying that it would bloom in great bounty.

But there were key ingredients missing.

You see, for any garden to be truly beautiful, the gardener must water it, fertilize it, and pull up the weeds. I did. I watered my Curiosity with tears of Disappointment. I sifted Heartbreak over the soil of Wonder. And with pain, I pulled up the weeds of Fear and Rejection, only to see them grow back again.

And I wondered how a good God could allow me, this child He had gifted with a whole new world in her head, to suffer such discouragement. How could He expect me to produce good fruit amid all this frustration?

Then one summer, in the midst of a near-crippling depression, I began to write. After several years of rarely setting pen to paper, I opened up a little spiral-bound notebook and began to spin a story. It was a simple enough tale—about a princess, a prince, and a lying, poisonous dragon—but for the first time I was able to write it with a true knowledge of the emotions I sought to express. As a child and a student, I could only communicate through hearsay—I could only write about things I had read, for I had not experienced enough of life—both good and bad—to know the truth behind the stories I sought to tell.

But that summer I realized that I did know what Heartbreak meant. I could write about it with sincerity, with authenticity. And the world in my head suddenly took on a life far more vivid than it ever had before!

Disappointment. Heartbreak. Fear. Rejection. All of these pains we seek to avoid. And we long to shelter ourselves and our loved ones from any of these experiences.

But God intended so much more for me. He intended a bountiful garden. Thus He allowed pain so that true beauty could bloom. I would never go back and change the past—I wouldn’t even offer warning to a younger, more foolish me to help her avoid the mistakes I made. No, for these were all part of God’s plan. And I love this garden of stories in which I work, this fantastical world through which I go journeying with each new project I write. Without the gift of pain, none of this could exist. So let me praise God for the pain as well as the pleasures.


And let me always praise Him for the gift of Creativity, in whatever form it takes.


~ ~


Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series, adventure fantasies told in the classic Fairy Tale style. Her books include Christy Award-winning Heartless and Veiled Rose, and Clive Staples Award-winning Starflower. She makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration and English literature at Grace College and Campbell University.
To learn more about Anne Elisabeth, visit:

Twitter: @AEStengl


Shadow Hand, book 6 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood, releases on March 4, 2014. 
Golden Daughter, book 7 in the series, is coming November 2014.
~ ~

Shadow Hand (available now):

This is a story about love, and blood, and the many things that lie between . . .By her father's wish, Lady Daylily is betrothed to the Prince of Southlands. Not the prince she loves, handsome and dispossessed Lionheart, but his cousin, the awkward and foolish Prince Foxbrush. Unable to bear the future she sees as her wedding day dawns, Daylily flees into the dangerous Wilderlands, her only desire to vanish from living memory.

But Foxbrush, determined to rescue his betrothed, pursues Daylily into a new world of magic and peril, a world where vicious Faerie beasts hold sway, a world invaded by a lethal fey parasite . . .


A world that is hauntingly familiar.


Golden Daughter (coming November 2014)

BEYOND THE REALM OF DREAMS
IS A WORLD SHE NEVER IMAGINED

Masayi Sairu was raised to be dainty, delicate, demure . . . and deadly. She is one of the emperor’s Golden Daughters, as much a legend as she is a commodity. One day, Sairu will be contracted in marriage to a patron, whom she will secretly guard for the rest of her life.

But when she learns that a sacred Dream Walker of the temple seeks the protection of a Golden Daughter, Sairu forgoes marriage in favor of this role. Her skills are stretched to the limit, for assassins hunt in the shadows, and phantoms haunt in dreams. With only a mysterious Faerie cat and a handsome slave—possessed of his own strange abilities—to help her, can Sairu shield her new mistress from evils she can neither see nor touch?

For the Dragon is building an army of fire. And soon the heavens will burn.



To enter the contest for an autographed copy of 
Anne Elisabeth Stengl's book: "Shadow Hand":
leave a comment (and email address)
AND become a follower of this site, 
if you aren't already.

Sorry  US  only

Winner announced on my facebook page.


Thank you, Anne Elisabeth, for Joining us This Weekend!
.

Have you read Christian fantasy books? 
What I especially like about the fantasy genre is the story takes me to a new world and invites new creatures. Books like "The Hobbit"and "The Chronicles of Narnia" opened my eyes to this genre that weaves great truths into the story.

If you haven't read a Christian fantasy book, join Anne Elisabeth by sharing a praise for God in your comment.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Timely Flat Tires


I had a list of errands and wanted to get them done before we left on a trip. Hubby happened to be off work and went with me. 

We drove thirty minutes in the bitter cold to town, did two errands then drove to our local grocery store for errand number three. 

The usual parking lot competition for the closest spot was in progress when we arrived. We lost and had to park into one of the farthest slots. Oh well, we needed the exercise.

Typically, when doing errands with hubby, I'd open my car door and scoot around to the side he was on and walk with him. This time, though, and I credit God, I stayed on my side of the car and happened to look at the front tire. "This tire looks low." I looked at the back one and said, "This one looks low, too."

Hubby came around to my side of the car and scrunched his lips like guys do when they are thinking about something. "We'll put air in it when we come back out." 

We did our shopping and wheeled the cart out to the car. Hubby looked at the front tire as he opened the door. "It's flat!"

He was not happy.

Fortunately, across the parking lot was the very tire store we'd purchased the tires. Talk about perfect timing. Hubby nursed the car to the air machine, filled the tire then pulled it into a spot in the front of the tire store. 

30 minutes later, and no charge, we were on our way.

Having the tire store so close to where we had the flat was great to share. Not only had God allowed the incident to happen next to the repair shop, but He also let it happen before we left on a trip up the coast where there are few gas stations much less any repair places.

God's timing is perfect.

~

There was once a short man who heard Jesus was coming to his village. He raced to where the crowds stood but couldn't' see over their shoulders. To his right he noticed a sycamore. He climbed the tree and waited for Jesus to walk by. 

The crowds cheering grew louder, indicating Jesus would soon arrive. Closer and closer the sound came. The short man held on to a branch and leaned forward to see the man whom everyone talked about. 

When Jesus came close to the Sycamore, He looked up and said, "Zaccheus. Come down. I'm going to your house." 

How timely. 

Because Zaccheus heard the news at the right time, he arrived at the very place where a tree, planted years before, gave him not only a view of Jesus, but also an invitation from the Son of God.

Timely doesn't always mean something good will happen. However, as in the case of our flat tire, the unpleasant may happen where the best solution presents itself.

Here is another quick example: a house went on the market five minutes before our realtor showed it to us. The price was great and the location perfect. After we moved in, five people knocked on the door and asked if the house was still for sale. 

God allows events good and bad to happen at the perfect time to help us grown in our relationship with Him.

Okay, I've share two examples of today's one word: timely. Your turn. Share something that happened in a timely way for you or someone you know.

This post was brought to you by the one word: Timely

Monday, February 24, 2014

High School Tenacity



Photo Courtesy
Last week I saw an interesting news report. The event took place in New York City.

Like in many cities across the country, New York City was pelted with a harsh snowstorm. Schools and businesses remained open despite transportation issues.

The reporter stood on a corner of the city and happened upon three female high school students. "Where are you going?" he asked.

The girls struggled to hold their hoods in place. One answered, "We're going to school. The school busses aren't running today."

"How are you going to get there?" the reporter asked.

"Well we have to take…" 

I didn't have a chance to scribble notes about the details, but the girls explained they had to take one bus, transfer to a second bus, and then transfer again to a third bus to reach their school.

Piles of snow stood behind the girls and cars slid in the streets. The wind swirled around them carrying snowflakes. While the reporter and the girls had difficulty speaking over the storm noises, the three high schoolers smiled throughout the interview. 

What amazed me most was not only the tenacity of the three girls to get to school that day, but also, their jovial attitude. They seemed to treat the whole scenario like a great adventure. Such a spirit is bound to help these young ladies become successful in their future careers.

~

During a time of forty days, Satan tempted Jesus. Knowing Jesus was hungry, Satan told Jesus to turn the stones to bread. Jesus answered him, "Man shall not live by bread alone." Satan offered to give Jesus kingdoms if only Jesus would worship him. On and on Satan tried to break down Jesus' tenacious spirit to do the will of His Father. Yet, Jesus answered each temptation with Scripture proving His faithfulness and obedience to God the Father. 

Never once did Jesus give in to temptation.

The dictionary defines tenacity as: holding fast, not easily pulled asunder.

Your turn. Think of a time when you were tenacious about something

I'll go first. The first time I decided to read the Bible in one year, many, MANY interruptions worked to keep me from completing the goal. It became a game. As long as the reading was done by midnight, I counted the daily goal done. On December 31, I was incredibly happy as I read the last chapter of Revelation.

It sure feels good to be tenacious in well doing.

Can you share a time when you or someone you know has been tenacious to get something done?

This post has been brought to you by the one word: Tenacity

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fabulous Friday Feature-John Faubion




Today I welcome a crit partner and a master of words, 
author John Faubion. 

Enter to win John's 
February, 2014 release,
Friend Me

Scroll to the end of the post to see how to enter.

AND
Scroll farther to see an added bonus!

Our life's journey may take us many places all predesigned by God. In those places God uses those around us to help us accomplish the work He asks us to do. John and I were talking about our families. I asked him to tell you how God has led him on his journey. Here is his story:



God Uses Our Daughters to Help Us


In 2010 I began paying more attention to what my thirteen year-old daughter was doing after school on Tuesdays. She was a member of a Creative Writing Workshop. Every time she came home, she was working on some new short story or something. It really began getting under my skin. No, I wasn't unhappy that she was doing so well -- just the opposite! The fact was, I was bothered that I'd been talking about writing all my life, but had never done it.

I decided if she could do it, so could I. So, I began to apply myself.

I started with the premise that since I knew what I liked to read, I'd just write something like that. I called my book, The Darkness Within, and based it on Luke 11:35, "Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness." I wrote a few chapters, maybe five or six, and asked my girl to look at it.

I expected her to say something along the lines of, "Wow, Dad! That's great! Amazing! I never knew how talented you were!" I was pretty confident in my expectations.

Instead, she stood in front of me reading the loose sheets I'd handed her, then finally looked up at me and said, "Dad, there's no conflict."

Boy, was I proud. "Nope, none at all! Keep reading." Yes, it's true. I didn't know writers were supposed to have conflict in their stories.

Then she said, "And Dad, what's your POV? I can't figure it out."

Well, she had me there. For all I knew, POV was some kind of pipe you use for plumbing. Or PVC. Whatever. I asked her, "What's POV?"

I'll shorten this whole narrative. Most of it's too sad to recount. I finished the book, still kind of liking it. I'd worked harder on conflict and POV, and took it to an ACFW conference.

What an embarrassment! Those editors/agents who deigned to look at it were polite enough, but the light was finally dawning on me. If I was going to write anything anyone would read, I had a lot to learn.

The second time around was much better. And that's how Friend Me came to be. And if I learned anything in this experience, it’s Be humble. Everyone else is more talented and smarter than you are. You just have to make up for the lack with dogged persistence.
~ ~


John Faubion was born April 23rd, 1945. He was born again on May 9th, 1965, while in the Air Force, stationed in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He served in Vietnam during the year of 1966.

Following his discharge, he enrolled in Bible College, graduating in 1972. With his wife Janet and two daughters, the family returned to Vietnam in 1974 to begin missionary work. That ended with the termination of the Vietnam War, and the family moved to Guam the following year. With another missionary, they started a church and Christian school in Guam.

Desiring to continue with missions in the orient, they moved to Taiwan, Republic of China, in 1977. During that term their third daughter was born, and a local church established. He began his fluency in Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan. Yes, he speaks Chinese as a second language :-) 你不想信嗎

In 1981, Baptist International Missions asked John to assist in the office with their computer work. For the next seven years he designed, programmed and managed the donation receipt and accounting system for the mission agency.

In 1988 the Lord called him to mainland China. During the course of raising support to go, his wife Janet went to be with the Lord, the result of a brain aneurysm. This was a difficult time for him and the three girls. God was gracious, and the next year God gave him his wife Beth. They have had two more children together, a son and a daughter. They served the Lord together in China until 1999.

Since returning to the United States, John has worked as a senior software developer for a large mid-western appliance chain. He teaches an adult Sunday school class, enjoys writing, and driving his 1949 Packard automobile. John and Beth live on five acres, just west of Indianapolis with their high-school daughter.


Friend Me FRIEND ME
A lonely wife and a frustrated husband create virtual online friends, trying to deal with the pressures of a marriage gone flat, and a high-pressure job.

Torn between his love for his wife, and the perfection of his virtual girlfriend, he becomes unfaithful. Neither dream that behind the screen is a single real woman, masquerading both as friend and lover. She is determined to have the man for herself, so his wife must die.
Visit  John's website
John blogs about Writing, Virtual Realities, and Internet Security. Click here for blog.


To enter the contest for an autographed copy of 
John Faubion's book: "Friend Me":
leave a comment (and email addy)
AND become a follower of this site, 
if you aren't already.

Sorry  US  only

Winner of this give away announced on my facebook page.
~

AS A BONUS:
John is inviting us to participate in this special giveaway listed below. Please note it ends 2.22.14.  
This is the link to participate: Friend Me Kindle HDX and Book Giveaway




Thank you, John, for Joining us This Weekend!
.

God has led John in many interesting places. Sometimes we don't realize how valuable each experience is or the influence of the people in those places. Who would you say has been a great influence in your life?

Do you have a prayer request?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review: Friend Me by John Faubion

I met "Jay" Faubion at the ACFW conference. I had worked with him online with critiques previously, but this was the first time I met this author. 

I was excited to read his debut novel, Friend Me. What a fantastic read. Here is my review of this amazing book:


To me a five star rating not only says you liked the book a lot, but it also indicates that one can learn/make life changes as a result of reading the story. For this reason I chose a "five" for Friend Me by John Faubion.

Faubion tackles an epic twilight zone subject pointing out it is the seemingly little issues that engages and pulls us into bigger problems. Our true personality comes out to play when we make choices in secret. Will we lie to save our job, click on the site just once, hide this information, and etc?


The main character Scott makes these and other difficult choices.

Scott convinces himself he is remaining true to his faith and his marriage when experimenting with a new social media program. His free time is spent in a virtual world, something not real, and therefore whatever he does in that world cannot count as anything wrong. The more he struggles with his job and his marriage, the more he turns to the virtual world for comfort--until... 

As with Twilight Zone stories, a realistic consequence comes about, which opens the door to Scott's secrets and threatens the very lives of those he loves. 

Power packed with a realistic situation, Friend Me is a spellbinding read that easily hooks the reader, lures him/her into turning pages late into the night through the spiraling braids of suspense and into an ever questioning: am I--have I? Lord help me.

I highly recommend this book because it WILL make you think.



I received an advanced reader copy from the author. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

John Fabion will be my guest this weekend. We look forward to talking with you about his book and God's leading in his writing journey.

Friend, What do you think about such a book? Do you like to read books like this one?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Wisdom

There is a time, after great preparation, study, practice, and drive when we are on center stage.

Perhaps we are cooking for our in-laws.
Going for the treasured job interview.
Taking the Bar exam.
Giving birth.

Some events take a life time of preparation, others moments. 

Late week, Russian skater Evgeni Plushenko made a decision. 

He'd skated early in the week as part of the Russian skating team and helped his country earn a gold medal.

Plushenko worked through many injuries during the course of his training and endured many surgeries including having a synthetic disk placed in his back. He worked hard during rehabilitation and won the hearts of the audience and judges during the team skating competition.

But later in the week, while warming up for the men's single skating program, he did a triple axle, fell, and felt pain surge in his back. He'd fallen several times during the practice each time experiencing the back pain. According to NBC sports, he knew then he would be unable to compete. Plushenko received immediate assistance and was encouraged to go out that evening and skate for his country. He had only a short time to consider what to do.

The decision weighed heavy on him even to the moment his name was called and he skated out on the ice. The crowd cheered, filling the stadium with the sound of their applause and anticipation of his performance. 

Plushenko waved to the people and bowed in gratitude. He smiled and waved again. At that moment he made his decision. He skated to the judges table and withdrew from the competition, citing he was retiring. 

He later said to an AP reporter, "I think it's God saying, 'Evgeni, enough, enough with skating. Age, it's OK. But I have 12 surgeries. I'd like to be healthy."

I can't help but have tremendous respect for this man who had already won a gold in this 2014 Olympics, and two silver medals and a gold in previous Olympic games.

At thirty-one he demonstrated great wisdom. He'd proven his skill; he'd used his talents for his country, and now he wisely realized his health needed his focus.

What bothers me is the insensitivity of those who have their priorities in the wrong place. Take this news report: "Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko withdrew with back pain to deprive the host nation of one of its most anticipated moments at the Sochi Olympics..." Bloomberg News at Bloomberg.com

Seriously? Would they rather he had fallen in front of his countrymen who have great respect for him and end up having to be carted out on a stretcher?

Plusheko said to ABC News, "I almost cried because it's hard, believe me. This is [the] end of my career but I try to make best. I am normal people like you. I'm not robot. I try my best and I try to go 'til the end."

I feel he deserves a standing ovation for his decision. He didn't have a choice in the timing. But he did have the choice to be wise.

Kudos, Plusheko. You have become a great example to others.

Obviously I have shown my opinion. 
This is an open forum.
What do you think about Plusheko's decision to retire seconds before his performance?

Resources February 13, 2014: 
NBC Sports, 
ABC News, 
AP, 
Bloomberg News

This post is brought to you by the one-word: Wisdom


Friday, February 14, 2014

Fabulous Friday Feature-Susan Meissner



Today I welcome a kind lady and masterful writer: author Susan Meissner 

Enter to win Susan's 
February, 2014 release,
A Fall of Marigolds
AND
There's an Added Bonus!

Scroll to the end of the post to see how to enter.

I met Susan when she visited the Writers Alley where I am one of the team writers. Susan has an exciting story. I asked her to tell you how God has led her on her journey. Here is her story:



God Made Me A Writer-Years ago
When I was a Kid


I’ve loved to write for about as long as I can remember. I penned many once-upon-a-time stories in grade school and a ton of teenage-angst poetry in high school. In my twenties, however, when I was newly married and working fulltime, and then in my thirties raising four kids, I let the creative writing slide because I was afraid to see if I was really any good at it. I became editor of a small town newspaper and did the journalism thing for ten years. But all along there were novels inside me clawing to get out.

The pivotal event for me was the death of my beloved paternal grandfather in July 2002 — my Papa. As I stood at his memorial service, which was held in the beautiful landscaped yard that he had spent forty years creating, I realized my life was essentially half over. He was eighty-four when he died and I was forty-two. I knew I didn’t want to come to the end of my life having only dreamed of writing a novel.

When I returned home I resigned as editor of the newspaper, which was a very hard decision to make, and set out to write my first book, Why the Sky is Blue. It only took four months to write – probably because I was so incredibly ready to write it! - and then ten months to be accepted by a publisher.

During that waiting time, which in retrospect wasn’t really that long, I had to daily surrender my hopes and dreams of being published over to God. I didn’t know it would take less than a year for a publisher to want this book.

What I knew was that getting published was often as hard as or harder than writing the book itself. I had to be okay with having answered the relentless nudge to write. I had done my part. I had been gifted to do something and I had done it. And now it was up to forces bigger than me to roll out the next phase, if there was to be one.

What was key for me was that I finally understood that I’d rather live with rejection than regret. Over the years I have realized that God has a unique purpose for each one of us. He has gifted each of us to play a part in history, and instilled dreams and hopes within us that dovetail with our talents and passions. There is a longing God has placed within us; it is our life-dream, and we follow our dreams best when we let God blaze the trail. And then recklessly follow.

Getting published was not God affirming this gift for expression He has given me. Writing well is what affirms me. Being published allows me to share my stories – and ultimately my worldview – in a larger setting, but it’s not what has made me a writer. God did that, years and years ago, when I was just a kid.
~ ~

Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of fifteen books, including The Shape of Mercy, named one of the 100 Best Novels in 2008 by Publishers Weekly and the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. She and her husband make their home in Southern California.
~ ~

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away....

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries…and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her?

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers…the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?


To enter the contest for an autographed copy of 
Susan Meissner's book: "A Fall of Marigolds":
leave a comment (and email addy) AND become a follower of this site, 
if you aren't already.

Sorry  US  only

Winner announced on my facebook page.

And NOW the added bonus for this weekend!!

Today we're participating in a blog tour for a new book by award-winning novelist Susan Meissner who’s here to talk about her newest book from Penguin NAL. A Fall of Marigolds is a part historical novel, part contemporary novel set on Ellis Island in 1911 and in Manhattan a hundred years later. 
Make sure you read to the end of this bonus section
 to find out how to get in on a drawing
 for a fabulous gift basket that includes a $100 Visa gift card.

1. Susan, tell us where the idea for A Fall of Marigolds came from.
I’ve long been a history junkie, especially with regard to historical events that involve ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. A couple years ago I viewed a documentary by author and filmmaker Lorie Conway called Forgotten Ellis Island; a hauntingly poignant exposé on the section of Ellis Island that no one really has heard much about; its hospital. The two man-made islands that make up the hospital buildings haven’t been used in decades and are falling into ruins, a sad predicament the documentary aptly addresses. The images of the rooms where the sick of a hundred nations waited to be made well stayed with me. I knew there were a thousand stories pressed into those walls, stories of immigrants who were just a stone’s throw from a new life. But unless they could be cured of whatever disease they’d arrived with, they would never set foot on America’s shores. Ellis Island hospital was the ultimate in-between place – it lay between what was and what could be. A great place to set a story
2. What is the story about, in a nutshell?
The book is about two women who never meet as they are separated by a century. One woman, Taryn, is a 9/11 widow and single mother who is about to mark the tenth anniversary of her husband’s passing. The other is a nurse, Clara, who witnessed the death of the man she loved in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in Manhattan in 1911.In her sorrow, Clara imposes on herself an exile of sorts; she takes a post at the hospital on Ellis Island so that she can hover in an in-between place while she wrestles with her grief. She meets an immigrant who wears the scarf of the wife he lost crossing the Atlantic, a scarf patterned in marigolds. The scarf becomes emblematic of the beauty and risk inherent in loving people, and it eventually finds it way to Taryn one hundred years later on the morning a plane crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The story is about the resiliency of love, and the notion that the weight of the world is made more bearable because of it, even though it exposes us to the risk of loss.

3. Why a scarf of marigolds? What is their significance?
Marigolds aren’t like most other flowers. They aren’t beautiful and fragrant. You don’t see them in bridal bouquets or prom corsages or funeral sprays. They don’t come in gentle colors like pink and lavender and baby blue. Marigolds are hearty, pungent and brassy. They are able to bloom in the autumn months, well past the point when many other flowers can’t. In that respect, I see marigolds as being symbolic of the strength of the human spirit to risk loving again after loss. Because, face it. We live in a messy world. Yet it’s the only one we’ve got. We either love here or we don’t. The title of the book has a sort of double-meaning. Both the historical and contemporary story take place primarily in the autumn. Secondarily, when Clara sees the scarf for the first time, dangling from an immigrant’s shoulders as he enters the hospital building, she sees the floral pattern in the threads, notes how similar they are to the flames she saw in the fire that changed everything for her, and she describes the cascading blooms woven into the scarf as “a fall of marigolds.”

4. What led you to dovetail the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 with 9/11?
When I first began pulling at story threads, my first instinct was to tell a story about an immigrant struggling to remain hopeful as an unwilling patient at Ellis Island hospital. But the more I toyed with whose story this was, the more I saw instead a young nurse, posting herself to a place where every disease known and unknown showed up. It was a place like no other; a waiting place – a place where the dozens of languages spoken added to the unnatural homelessness of it. Why was she here? Why did she choose this post? Why did she refuse to get on the ferry on Saturday nights to reconnect with the real world? What kind of person would send herself to Ellis not just to work, but to live? Someone who needed a place to hover suspended. I knew something catastrophic had to happen to her to make her run to Ellis for cover. As I began researching possible scenarios, I came across the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which up until 9/11 was arguably the worst urban disaster to befall Manhattan. There were similarities between that fire and 9/11, including the tragic fact that many trapped workers jumped to their deaths rather than perish in the flames.  For every person lost in disasters such as these, there is always his or her individual story, and the stories of those who loved them. I wanted to imagine two of those stories.

5. One important plot element is the moral dilemma Clara faces when she discovers something about the dead immigrant’s wife that he does not know. What led you to include this story thread?
A good story has to have tension; there has to be some kind of force tightening the screws, forcing the characters to react and respond. The main character of any novel wants something and the tension increases whenever what she wants eludes her. Clara is desperate to keep love golden, perfect in her mind, and without sharp edges. This moral dilemma I impose on her forces her to truly ponder what she thinks she wants. Is love really at its grandest when there are no sharp edges to it all? I don’t think so. I think to love at its fullest means we might get hurt. Probably will. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth sharing, giving, and having. I include a line in the book that sums it up for me. “Love was both the softest edge and the sharpest edge of what made life real.” I think if we’re honest with ourselves we don’t want to settle for love being just as safe as “like.” Clara wrestles with what to do with her knowledge because she doesn’t want the beauty of love to somehow be tarnished; even it’s tarnished by truth.

6. Your last few novels have had historical components interwoven within a contemporary story. Why do you prefer that kind of story construction?
I think living in Europe for five years awakened my love for history. It’s like it was always there but my time spent overseas just woke it up. When I think back to the subjects I did well in and that came easy to me in high school and college, it was always English and history, never math or science. I appreciate the artistry of math and the complexity of science, but neither subject comes easy to me.  History has the word “story” in it. That’s what it is. It’s the story of everyone and everything. How could I not love it?  Study history and you learn very quickly what we value as people; what we love, what we fear, what we hate, what we are willing die for. History shows us where we’ve been and usually has lessons for us to help us chart where we’re going.

7. Are you working on anything new at the moment?
My next book is set entirely in England, mostly during The London Blitz. My main character starts out as a young, aspiring bridal gown designer evacuated to the countryside with her seven-year-old sister in the summer of 1940. Though only fifteen, Emmy is on the eve of being made an apprentice to a renowned costumer and she resents her single mother’s decision to send her away. She sneaks back to London – with her sister in tow – several months later but the two become separated when the Luftwaffe begins its terrible and deadly attack on the East End on the first night of the Blitz. War has a way of separating from us what we most value, and often shows how little we realized that value. I have always found the evacuation of London’s children to the countryside – some for the entire duration of the war – utterly compelling. How hard it must have been for those parents and their children. I went on a research trip to the U.K. in the fall of 2013 and I spoke with many individuals who were children during the war; some were separated from their parents, some were bombed out of their homes, some slept night after night in underground Tube stations, some watched in fascination as children from the city came to their towns and villages to live with them. This book explores issues of loss and longing, but also the bonds of sisters, and always, the power of love.
8. Where can readers connect with you?
You can find me at www.susanmeissner.com and on Facebook at my Author page, Susan .Meissner, and on Twitter at SusanMeissner. I blog at susanmeissner.com. I also send out a newsletter via email four times a year. You can sign up for it on my website. I love connecting with readers! You are the reason I write.

As part of the release of A Fall of Marigolds and this blog tour, Susan is giving to one lucky winner a gift basket that includes a $100 Visa gift card, a copy of the book, the DVD Forgotten Ellis Island, and a beautiful re-purposed infinity scarf patterned in marigolds and made from a vintage Indian sari. 

To be eligible, just leave a comment here between today and midnight Eastern on Friday, February 21. If you would like to see a list of the other participating blogs on this tour, just click here. Feel free to visit those blogs and increase your chances of winning by posting one comment on those blogs as well. One comment per blog will be eligible. Good luck!

Thank you, Susan, for Joining us This Weekend!