Saturday, August 30, 2014

Author Interview with Joanne Otto

Today I would like to introduce you to an author friend of mine. Joanne is the author of two books, and one of my close writing buddies.
Welcome, Joanne! Tell us a little about yourself.
As a lifelong student of the Bible, I’ve done extensive Bible research, taken numerous Bible courses, and had the privilege and the joy of taking four exciting tours of Bible lands. I’ve taught foreign languages and English, and more recently, as an academic language therapist, I’ve helped dyslexic children strengthen their reading and writing skills. I’m a music lover and amateur pianist and especially enjoy accompanying singers.

Wow. That's quite a resume. How did you discover your calling to be a writer?
In a word: gradually. As a youngster in school, I actually found creative writing assignments intimidating. Later I discovered that writing can be a wonderful way to think through an idea in greater depth, and I wrote some articles and a few poems. But when I made an attempt to get a short story I’d written for teenagers published and wasn’t even given the courtesy of a rejection slip, I allowed myself to become discouraged.
In the ensuing years, however, two book ideas—one for young children and one for teens—came to me and refused to let go. These did not feel like ideas I personally had come up with. They felt like ideas I’d been divinely entrusted with, and I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I must share them somehow. Within a few years of the day when an author friend, Angela Sage Larsen, told me about independent publishing, both books—The You Song and Daughter of Jerusalem—had been completed and published.
Eventually I summoned up the courage to send my books to the highly respected Kirkus Reviews to get an unbiased evaluation of their literary worth. It was truly heartening to have a critic refer to Daughter of Jerusalem as “a moving, exquisitely written tale of a young woman’s search for meaning.” It has been a long and circuitous journey to becoming a published author, but a very worthwhile one.

What books have influenced your life most?
First and foremost, of course, the Bible, but two other books have also been especially important to me. Mary Baker Eddy’s book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, has been a very helpful guide in applying the healing Word of the Bible to my life. And Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, has really helped to open up the fount of my creativity since I first read it in 2002. There’s nothing like what she calls “morning pages” to get the juices flowing.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Much as I admire and enjoy reading the works of many different authors, there really isn’t one that stands out to me above all others or one that I try to emulate.

What is your favorite time in history?
I especially enjoy reading about both Bible history and American history. They go back to the roots of what I value most.

We have that in common! Please tell us about your book, Daughter of Jerusalem.
It had a long gestation period! Decades ago the basic outline of a story about a Jewish girl of 14 or 15—marriageable in the first century!—who has a life-changing encounter with Jesus began to develop in my imagination, but though I started doing some historical research, I was not yet ready to begin writing it or even certain that I could. The idea was shelved.
In 2009 I shared the outline of the story with my younger daughter, Meghan Williams, who ended up designing the cover. She was so enthusiastic about it that I resumed my research, but I still didn’t feel confident enough to start writing a novel. I turned to Angela with the thought that we might collaborate on it, but she had a book contract to fulfill first. She recommended I write an outline of the story in the meantime. To my happy surprise, the outline grew and grew until I realized that if I could get this far, I could write the book. And as I did, I felt as if God was gently leading me step by step through this unprecedented and inspiring process.
At first I was concerned that the book might be too short. At 88 pages for the story, it’s a novella rather than a novel. But as I thought of the print-shy dyslexic kids I’ve taught and of the busy lives most people lead, I realized that it could be an asset to have a book that most readers could sit down and finish in about the time it takes to watch a movie. For those who want to explore the story and its biblical roots in more depth, there’s a study guide in the back which includes about 30 pages of discussion questions, Bible references, and a glossary.

What was the most outstanding thing you learned while researching for this novella?
I learned a lot of interesting things about the life of first-century Jews—their menus, houses, clothing, tools, birthing practices, religious observances, taboos, etc. It was especially important to me, however, to know how they would have referred to God in their conversations. I’ve always thought of Yahweh as a Jewish term for God, but it’s actually a form of YHWH, the secret name which was considered too sacred even to speak aloud. So what would they have called God when conversing with one another? My research led me to the term HaShem, which means “the name” in Hebrew—a reference to the name that they were not to pronounce. I also learned that the name Adonai (Lord) was substituted for YHWH in prayers. So both these names found their way into my book.

What do you want your readers to take away from Daughter of Jerusalem? importantly, an appreciation for the healing way that Jesus saw. Interestingly, the paragraph about it which follows Mara’s one-on-one encounter with him was not included in the first draft of that scene. But the following day, I realized that my young heroine would not simply turn around and start walking home after such a life-transforming moment. What was she thinking and feeling after this private conversation with the Master? This realization led me to write about what he had seen in her.
I also hope that if readers come to the book with the idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute or that all Pharisees were hypocrites who hated Jesus, this view will change. Mary is often thought of as the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, but this woman is never mentioned by name, and there is no indication whatsoever that she was Mary. In my story Mary is a devoted follower of Jesus whom he’d healed of demonic seizures (hence the “seven devils.”) As for the Pharisees, it’s true that most of those on the Sanhedrin did oppose Jesus, but some were also among his loyal followers, including the two who saw to it that his body was given a proper burial. I hope my readers will give them credit for the courage that took under the circumstances.

Any fun behind-the-scenes tidbits you’d like to share with us?
For me the most fun I had writing Daughter of Jerusalem was writing the dialogue. It tended to take on a life of its own, and I was never sure exactly where it would end up. One day, as my husband was walking by my study, I looked up from the computer keyboard and said, “I can’t wait to find out whether he’s going to propose to her!”

What is the next project you’re working on?
Right now I’m more involved in letting people know about the two books I’ve already written. The second one, The You-Song, is for young children. It’s illustrated with beautiful photos of boys and girls playing, working, and interacting with others—being God’s unique and wonderful songs. The text is written from my background as an academic language therapist, so it’s easy to read as well as poetic.

How can readers find you on the internet?
I have a website ( and each of my books has its own Facebook page.

Thanks so much for being with us today, Joanne! You're book is downloaded on my kindle, and I'm looking forward to reading it. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cover Reveal: The Messiah's Sign - Volume II Days of Messiah Series

For those of you that missed it, on Thursday night we revealed the cover for my October release, The Messiah's Sign at the Helping Hands Press Thirsty Thursday party. I was thrilled that so many of my friends were there to celebrate with me! For the special occasion, we all partook in a Samoas Milkshake.

Doesn't it look yummy?! Here's a link to the recipe.

Well, you'll be happy to hear there's a fresh batch made up for today's blog post. NOT ONLY THAT, but we also have a giveaway! I'm running a rafflecopter giveaway for an autographed paperback of The Messiah's Sign when it becomes available in October!The giveaway runs through September 5th, and you can earn entries by tweeting/facebooking about the giveaway each day, so you have lots of entries you can earn!

And now....Drumroll Please....


Are you ready to see the cover?


Okay, okay, here it is!

What do you think? Do you like it? 

For those of you that read Volume I, does he look like the Tyrus you pictured in your mind?

I'd love to hear your feedback!

About The Messiah's Sign:

Dreams…they shouldn’t bother him, but when Tyrus’ worst nightmare is vindicated, he has no choice but to face reality. His wife has been unfaithful, and God has punished her with the most feared disease in the land: leprosy. Banishing her to the leper colony, Tyrus struggles to raise their son alone and protect him from a merciless outlaw. But when Malon begins following the teacher from Nazareth, what remains of their business and reputation is at stake. Can Tyrus save his son from the beguiling lies of a false Messiah before he loses the only thing he has left?
 Coming October 16th!

Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Samuel Adams the Beer Man?

"Oh, Sam Adams, isn't that the beer guy?"
The next person that says that to me is likely to get a thorough tongue lashing from me! LOL
Why? Thank goodness you asked!! :D
Since 1985, Samuel Adams has been known as an alcoholic beverage more than a patriot. It doesn't help that the Sam Adams Lager website claims "Samuel Adams was a Boston firebrand, a revolutionary thinker who fought for independence. Most importantly, Samuel Adams, was also a brewer who had inherited a brewing tradition from his father." This is partly true, but not completely.

Read the rest of this post on the Gelati Scoop.
Discover Samuel Adams the Father of the Revolution in the Declaration of Independence Series! Right now only $.99 on Amazon!

Volume II Samuel Adams

Volume VI Samuel Adams - A Shot at Freedom

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Trip to Steamboat Springs Colorado (with pictures!)

Coming over the mountain into the Steamboat Springs valley
Last weekend, my family and I took a mini vacation to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Nestled in a lush valley surrounded by the majestic mountains, Steamboat has a great climate and rich history. This town was formed by rugged pioneers who had to put up with outlaws, mountain winters, and the fact that Steamboat is pretty far from any large city.

While there, we visited with a couple of my good friends. I stopped to discuss the Declaration of Independence Series with Benjamin Franklin and he posed for a picture with my siblings and me.

I also got to pose with Mark Twain. How cool is that?

While in Steamboat, we visited the Tread of Pioneers museum. It was filled with interesting facts about the area, as well as the Victorian era. They also had an interesting display about the 10th Mountain Division during WWII which is a special division that was trained in the harsh mountain climate and was able to accomplish great missions because of their specialized training.
See, I'm not the only woman who ski's in a skirt! Not that I ski much...I'd rather sit in the lodge and write a book.
We enjoyed going to the rodeo while we were there as well. Here's a picture I snapped with my cell phone just as the clown jumped in front of the bull to save the cowboy from being plowed over.
But my favorite thing, was our hike up to Fish Falls on Sunday. We hiked all the way up to the foot of the falls. I stood there in the refreshing mist of the waterfall and thought, this is the life. :)

I have a lot more pictures, so let me know if you're enjoying these and I'll post a part two. :)
I hope you've enjoyed my little trip report. 

 Now here's a question for you, have you ever been to Steamboat Springs? What's the most beautiful or interesting place you've visited?

Best selling author Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest". A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at age 21, she has continued to hone her craft and was honored to be a judge of this year's ACFW Genesis contest. Between ministry, family and working in their family businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog, or on any of the major social media sites. 

Twitter: @AmberSchamel