Friday, November 20, 2009

Meet the Co-authors of Wild West Christmas

"Harold Miller III twisted on the train's bench, trying to find a more comfortable position.  Every time he moved, all the thin padding under the leather upholstery shifted away from him.  After spending the night in the Pullman, he wished for his plush feather bed back home.  If his father hadn't insisted he come out West, he'd be rested, not aching and weary.  Just the thought brought a strong twinge in his stiff neck.  And he'd be working with the numbers he loved, instead of heading toward some godforsaken place in Texas.  Why would anyone name a town Horsefly?  He hoped it wasn't an indication of what he'd find when he arrived."

And so begins a Wild West Christmas, a collection of four novellas by seasoned authors Kathleen Y'Barbo, Lena Nelson Dooley, Darlene Franklin, and Vickie McDonough. 

Welcome ladies!  I love reading Christmas novellas each year and really enjoyed the stories of the Christmas courtships of the four
Ames sisters from Texas.  Let's introduce them.
"Romance takes root in the lives of a Texas rancher's four daughters.  Charlsey Ames loves being a cowhand until a dandy tenderfoot from the city begins opening her eyes to unexplored territory. Sharpshooter Lucy Ames takes a shot at love while traveling with a Wild West show. Horse-trainer Sarah Ames finds herself falling for a suspicious drifter with a gentle hand. Tracker Bessie Mae Ames is being trailed by a handsome yet guarded Texas Ranger. Will love corral these Lone Star ladies hearts this Christmas?"

 On to meet 'n greet our authors  . . .

We'll start our conversation with Lena Nelson Dooley.  Lena, you have had much experience with anthologies.  Please tell us what the process of collaboration on an anthology is typically like?  Was this one any different?

With the Barbour anthologies, the authors usually plan out the stories for the most part in the proposal stage, and then send the proposal to the editor. After the novella is contracted they sometimes need to keep in close contact during the writing phase. With this one, since the stories happen yearly, one after the other, we didn't have to do as much connecting while writing.

You started off the book with Charlsey's Accountant.  Tell us about Charlsey and how you decided to shape her story.

It's really funny with this series. Usually with families, we have the oldest marry first. Not so with this collection. Charlsey is the youngest. I made their mother die in childbirth with her, so she grows up with older sisters who mother her and a father who teaches her to work the ranch. Quite a combination. Of course, Charlsey can be quite the lady when needed.
I enjoyed Charlsey, she certainly had her hands full.

Was there some insight that you personally gained during the writing of this story that you'd like to share?  

The message of my story is about how often we misjudge people by appearances. It made me more aware of the people around me and helped me look deeper into them.

Yes, isn't that so true.  And Charlsey and Harold sure made their fair share of assumptions.

You are a speaker as well as a writer.  What projects do you have coming your way?

So far, I'm booked for these events in 2010:
May 8, 2010 – ACFW The Woodlands (Writers on the Storm) – Two workshops Painting Historicals With Authenticity & Taking Settings to the Next Level
August 28, 2010 – ACFW Shreveport – Taking Settings to the Next Level
October 2, 2010 – ACFW Tulsa (WIN) – Taking Settings to the Next Level – a hands-on workshop.
I also will apply to speak at the ACFW national conference in Indiana. And I'm open to other bookings either for writing or women's groups. 

What great workshop topics!

Do you have a favorite verse or quote that inspires your writing?

God will bring to completion everything He starts in your life . . . in His time.

Please tell us where you can be found online. - Author interviews/Free books - Regular Blogger
And now we turn to Darlene Franklin.  Tell us, Darlene, what was it like collaborating with 3 other authors? 

We had a dream team! I admire Lena, Kathleen and Vickie greatly. And everyone worked hard to make our stories fit together seamlessly.

You wrote Lucy Ames, Sharpshooter. Tell us about Lucy and how you decided to shape her story.

I loved the idea of my sister running away to join the circus (Wild West show in her case) and sharpshooting seemed like the best fit. I had visited the Pawnee Bill Ranch during a visit to Oklahoma and found myself fascinated by his wife’s fancy costumes. I wanted Lucy to have that kind of flare.

Lucy's character really came to life for me.

Was there some insight that you personally gained during the writing of this story that you'd like to share?

Lucy and Gordon’s passion for evangelism challenge me to share my faith more intentionally!

I see you're also a mystery writer.  What projects and new releases do you have coming up?

I loved writing my Dressed for Death series, but I don’t have any plans for writing more mysteries at this time. Instead, I am focusing on writing devotionals and historical romance. Next summer, my first Vermont historical, Prodigal Patriot, will come out from Heartsong Presents. Patriot Josiah Tuttle is torn between his devotion to country—and a particular Patriot beauty—and his responsibility to his Tory father. Next fall, my third Christmas novella will come—Face of Mary in A Woodlands Christmas.

I look forward to reading Prodigal Patriot.  And, of course, another Christmas anthology!

Do you have a favorite verse or quote that inspires your writing?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Isak Dinesen in Out of Africa: “"Pride is faith in the idea that God had, when he made us . . . . Success is the idea of God, successfully carried through."  I remind myself of that when I worry over much about "success” or compare myself to others.

It's a good thing to keep that perspective in mind.

Please tell us where you can be found online.

You can follow my blog at (or find me on 

Vickie McDonough. Hello!  Vickie, you've also contributed to quite a few Christmas anthologies.  How much advance writing and publication time does it take for a Christmas release?  

The first step is that a team of writers will get together, brainstorm and plot a collection of novellas. Then a proposal is compiled and submitted, and you may wait weeks to several years before you know if your collection has sold or been rejected. Writers are usually notified during the summer that the editor is interested in publishing a collection, and the stories are usually due by Feb 1st of the next year. Some authors write their novella immediately upon learning it has sold, but others will have fall or winter deadlines that have to be completed first. That is generally the case with me. It takes me about 3 weeks to complete a novella and then I like to send it to my critique group for proofing and comments. The Christmas collections are usually released in September and on sale through the Christmas season.

Learning about the process is all very interesting.  Wow! You can really write a novella in 3 weeks?  Amazing!

Your story A Breed Apart was about Sarah Ames.  Tell us about Sarah and how you decided to shape her story.
Sarah is the third of four daughters, and as such, she doesn’t feel she fits in. She doesn’t like household chores and prefers being outside, training the horses. She has a gift for working with horses and has become her pa’s main trainer. Now that she has reached marrying age, her pa has decided that she needs to learn to be more ladylike and help in the home more, which causes some near disasters. Sarah longs for her father’s approval, but what he’s asking of her is nearly impossible. She wishes she’d been born a boy.
When planning her story, I knew that the worst thing that could happen to Sarah was to lose her job training the horses. Enter half Scottish/half Mexican Carson Romero, a man with an unusual way of breaking horses who takes Sarah’s job. Needles to say, she isn’t happy.

Was there some insight that you personally gained during the writing of this story that you'd like to share?
Carson is a man who wants to be accepted for his abilities and who he is on the inside and not belittled because of his skin color. The story is set in the late 1800s in Texas, which has a long history of fighting the Mexicans and many prejudices still existed then. Being a large woman, I can relate to Carson’s feelings. We all know people are often judged on their looks, good or bad. This is something I still struggle with, and what I hoped to convey in my story is that we need to look at one another the way God does. He looks at our hearts, not our bodies.

That is so true. 
There are so many types of prejudices. Not to sound cliche, but your truly cannot tell a book by its cover!  That was what I took away from the story, too. 

Also, you have another Christmas anthology out now, too.  Tell us about it. What else are you working on?

I have a novella in A Blue and Gray Christmas. In case you can’t tell by the title, all of the stories have a Civil War theme. Mine is the last story in the book and takes place right after the war. It’s the story of an embittered Union soldier who loses his heart to his mother’s southern caregiver. It’s safe to assume, he doesn’t give in easily. 

I’ve just finished my first trade size book called The Anonymous Bride. It’s the first book in my Texas Boardinghouse Brides series and will be released in April. It’s the humorous tale of a town marshal who suddenly has three mail-order brides arrive in town, each expecting to marry him. The problem is…he didn’t order a bride.

I’m currently writing the second book in the series called Second Chance Brides. It’s the story of two of the leftover brides. 

These sound like great stories!  I'm curious about the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series.  Congrats on your first trade sized novel!

Do you have a favorite verse or quote that inspires your writing?

My favorite scripture is: Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Please tell us where you can be found online.

I’m a regular contributor to the Bustle and Spurs blog:

Thanks for having me as a guest!

And thanks for being here, Vickie!

Kathleen Y'Barbo, so glad to have you here. Can you tell us how the Wild West Christmas novella project for Barbour Publishing came about?

The Texas Hill Country has been on my short list of favorite places since I went to college there, so when I was approached by the other ladies about doing this anthology.  Saying no just wasn't an option.

You concluded the book with Plain Trouble.  Tell us about Bess Ames and how you decided to shape her story. 

I began where many of us start, by creating a character who believed a lie about herself that shaped not only the way she viewed herself but also how she viewed her place in the world. Balancing a heroine whose insecurity has kept her chained to the past with a hero who can't imagine see her as anything but beautiful was so much fun.

I haven't seen that handled in a story before.  I really enjoyed it and found myself hoping the truth would clear things for them. 

Was there some insight that you personally gained during the writing of this story that you'd like to share?  

Working with Lena, Vickie, and Darlene was a blessing and a truly fun time! Any reader who hasn't picked one of their books is really missing out!

It seemed to be a great fit!  I hope visitors will be sure to check out all of your books.

As both writer and publicist how do you find balancing the two?  Will we be seeing any new releases in the coming year?

I'm trying to cut out that pesky habit of sleeping! I've got two nonfiction books coming up: I Know I'm Not Alone: Turning Points for Divorced Women and The House is Quiet, Now What?: Turning Points for Empty Nesters.
In fiction, look for: Cajun Hearts (Barbour), Beloved Counterfeit (Barbour), and The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper (Waterbrook) in stores now and Anna Finch and the Hired Gun (Waterbrook) coming in 2010.

The Turning Point books sound like they will really minister to others.  They all sound like great reads. 

Do you have a favorite verse or quote that inspires your writing?

"Do it scared." ~~~Glenda Thomas, Piercing the Darkness Ministries

That's the second day in a row I've heard that one . . . hmmm.  Maybe I will.

Please tell us where you can be found online. - From my website, you can also sign up for newsletters as well as my Facebook Fan Page and my Twitter posts.
Thank you all for visiting with us today and taking the time out of your busy schedules to be here.  It was fascinating learning more about you all and Wild West Christmas!  I look forward to reading your upcoming books!   Oh, and Merry Christmas! 

Be sure to get this book now, I hear it's selling like hotcakes.  Or perhaps I should say Christmas cookies!


As a special thank you to our visitors, Lena is offering you a chance to win a copy of Wild West Christmas. Just join the conversation by posting a comment below.  For an extra chance to win link to this post through your blog, facebook, or twitter and indicate so in you comment.

Please include your email address like this - myemail [at] myaddy [dot] com.  Contest ends one week from date of post (
midnight Nov. 27th). 


  1. Great interview, Carla! Sounds like fun Novella's to cozy up to in front of a fire.

    Wanted to stop by and say thanks so much for pulling my name for Laura Frantz book. I'm looking forward to reading it.

  2. Darlene, I'm so glad you stopped by! It's my pleasure having you here. I learned so much from the interviews with you all.

    Thanks, Eileen. WWC is a fun Christmas read. I just love Christmas novellas! I'm sure you'll enjoy TFD as well. So glad you won!

  3. OO!! Sounds like a great book!! I would love to win this for my sister. She has been wanting my copy:) Please enter me. Thanks!!

  4. I was gonna comment even before there was a giveaway! I LOVE reading about women whose lives were so different than my own. How fun to read the interview! Thank you! Glad to have found you!

  5. Welcome to Writing to Distraction Charity & Libby! You're both entered in the drawing for the book. Truly fun characters. 4 unique sisters in the wild west!

  6. You have a great interviewing style, Carla, I'm amazed out what I've gleaned from reading the authors' responses to your questions.

    I think what really stands out in my mind is the way they each identified a conflict to use as a starting point for their story. Just reading what they had to say about the Ames' sisters has me wanting to read the book. I don't know if I'm explaining this right...but it's like they knew their characters so well that they knew what buttons to push to create tension in the plot and keep the reader turning those pages. That's a grounding lesson learned for an aspiring writer like myself. I mean, I've read that before in how-to books but I think I had an 'aha' moment while reading this interview. I think I get it now. LOL.

    I also like reading novellas because it's a great way to be introduced to new authors. And sometimes I just like to snuggle up and read a story from start to finish in one sitting. I'm a fairly new reader in the Christian market so I'm just curious -- are there only novellas at Christmastime or do they have them with other themes throughout the year?

    And from the way I understand it -- these authors weren't approached by a pulbishing house to write a Wild West Christmas? They had to pitch it like any other manuscript? That notion intrigues me because, since they are all published others with their own following, you'd think a novella would be a sure thing.

    Anyway, I love being introduced to new authors and I'll certainly keep my eyes peeled for Wild West Christmas when I go to my Christian bookstore next.

  7. Hi Kav!

    I'm so glad you enjoy my interviews! And I enjoy reading your comments. It was great getting to do a group interview for this book. Darlene, Kathleen, Lena, and Vickie all did such an awesome job making this book cohesive I would have thought they had sat and hashed it all out together from start to finish. They really did make a great team and part of that, as you noticed, was how well they all knew those Ames sisters and were able to transform their quirks into conflict. The lessons each of main characters learned were so true to life, including the spiritual lesson; but although the stories were fun, they weren't fluffy. You sound like me, Kav, as a writer I read to enjoy, but also to learn!

    One thing I love about Christian fiction, besides the excellent quality of the writing, is that the facet of peoples lives which is in tune to God is not ignored, it is embraced. It's not usually preachy usually, rather it shows real life struggles. They give good examples of character arc which is so much like the journeys real people have finding faith in God or about their imperfect walk with him, which we all have. Did you know that Walmart has a great selection of Christian books? K-mart has some, too, and sometimes you can even find them in the grocery stores on a "Choice Books" rack.

    Novellas are not just for Christmas, although they would make good Christmas gifts! Novellas are a great way to be introduced to new authors, as you mentioned, as are collections which typically have 3 short books incorporated into one. Poke around our WWC authors' websites and you'll find a variety. Since you liked Laura Frantz's The Frontiersman's Daughter, perhaps you'd like reading Virginia Brides with Vickie's Spinning Out of Control. Cathy Marie Hake and Susan Page Davis are her co-authors (two of my favorites). It was interesting learning about the whole process and that the authors had to present a book proposal in the normal way.

  8. Kav, I'm glad you had an "aha!" moment while reading our interviews. To me, the best books have great plots and complex character, and it's amazing how much you can do through the novella format.

    Yes, novellas have to be proposed to the publisher. A couple of years ago, Barbour cut back from novellas twice a year to only at Christmas. The competition is as fierce as any other book proposal! So I was delighted that Becky Germany chose Wild West Christmas.

  9. I don't know how anyone can write and not read...well I don't know how anyone can not read period. Though I read for enjoyment, I seem to soak up writing essentials while I'm at it. Reading is Writing Essentials 101 for me. I'm really looking forward to reading Wild West Christmas now.

    About Christian fiction. I've been very impressed with what I've read so far...and the wealth of fantastic books to choose from! Talk about a kid in a candy store!

    My background is in children's literature and I work in school libraries so I read a lot of juvenile fiction. In fact, I've been very loyal to that genre since I was a child. Partly because I love it, but also because I found secular fiction, particularly romance, going in a direction that I just wasn't comfortable reading. It got to the point where I couldn't even relate to the characters at all. Then a friend introduced me to Christian fiction and I'm astounded at the selection and the quality that's out there.

    Now that I'm poking my nose into the writing side, I'm also seeing how supportive the people involved in this aspect of publishing are. Blogs like this one are a boon and so many of the writers seem to be approachable and encouraging.

    Something else I love about this genre are having Christ's lessons reinforced to me in a totally different way. For instance, I've been touched by a character's struggle that mimics one of my own or by a passage of scripture I've read in the bible a hundred times but it suddenly pierces my heart when a character I've come to know as a friend uses it. I'm lifted up and comforted when I read the wonderful words of these authors. I come away with so much more than a good story.

    I'm in Canada and I don't think our Walmart carries Christian fiction, our grocery stores definitely don't. I do have an excellent Christian bookstore in my city (alas, I think it is the only one!) and I treat myself when I'm feeling flush with a shopping spree there. I'd rather read than eat! LOL. I think I'm due for a visit. I'll be sure to pick up Wild West Christmas and I'll look for Virginia Brides. I'm collecting lots of new-to-me authors on a list and between the bookstore and my public library I've always got something on hand to read.

  10. Kav, Since you're from Canada, you might like to check out Linda Ford's "Alberta Brides." (available at Barbour and on Amazon, I'm sure.)

  11. Kav, you called reading Writing Essentials 101 - so true! And I've learned so much online from many authors who freely share their expertise. I'm glad I'm writing now instead of before the age of the Internet! But as far as learning from reading goes, I learn so much about the craft of writing, but also, like you, the Lord just blesses my socks off (note: the sock on the chair in my blog header!)and reaches into my heart so often.

    I guess we are spoiled here in the US, Kav. Every time I go to Walmart I find myself in the books. WWC is there and Laura's TFD is there, too! Our co-authors all have many of their books published by Barbour and Walmart carries them regularly. But whether you're in Walmart or in a Christian bookstore isn't it fun seeing familiar names of the authors we meet online! And yes, like you said, Christian authors are the best, they are indeed so approachable and so helpful and encouraging to aspiring writers. Aren't we blessed?

    Thanks, Darlene, for joining our conversation! It's fun getting to hear your extra advice. Thanks for mentioning Alberta Brides. That sounds interesting having a Canadian setting. Another question for you if you happen by again: are most of the Christian publishing houses in the US?

  12. The major publishing houses that I know of are in the U.S., yes.

    And BTW ... it's not being in the U.S. It's being on the East Coast. I've never seen the Christmas novellas in Wal-Marts either in Colorado or Oklahoma! Although many other Barbour collections are there, as well as a variety of other Christian publishers.

    I've heard that Christian writers are a special bunch ... unlike secular writers ... I know the community has been a great blessing to me.

  13. Sorry I wasn't able to stop by sooner. I was out of town at a conference and could not get Internet service.

    Kav, I think Darlene addressed most of your questions. Our publisher, Barbour, only does Christmas novellas collections, but there are other publishers who do them. And if you can't find our books in your area stores, you can get them online at

    Good luck with your writing, and keep at it. We were all new writers at one time.

  14. Glad you could stop by, Vickie. I hope your conference went well. We've been having a great time chatting about WWC!


Thanks for visiting Adventures of the Heart. Be sure to check back for my responses to your comments. Be blessed!