Monday, January 30, 2012

Cathy Gohlke - Interview & Giveaway

It is my pleasure once again to host Cathy Gohlke at Write Now. You might recall Cathy's other visits; she is the Christy Award winning author of William Henry is a Fine Name and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires. 

Her new book, Promise Me This is hitting the shelves as we speak. It is, in my opinion, another winner. (Click here if you missed my review in last Thursday's post.)

Cathy is always a gracious guest who offers wonderful insight on writing and life. I hope you enjoy the interview, and don't forget to check out the giveaway details below.

Karen: Welcome back to Write Now, Cathy! I’m thrilled to have you visit us again. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed your book, Promise Me This. It was wonderful!
Cathy: Thank you for having me, Karen.  I’m delighted to be here, and delighted that you enjoyed Promise Me This.  The research into Titanic and WWI carried me away, and the story unfolded in all the ways I love. 

Karen: What was your inspiration for Promise Me This?

Cathy: I’ve always been fascinated by Titanic—certainly the romance of the era and the magnificence of the ship, but especially the people who sailed, the passengers and those employed by the White Star Line.  I’ve wondered about the hopes and dreams cut short that fateful night, and about those who survived—how did they go on with their lives knowing they’d been miraculously, magnanimously saved when so many died around them?  

The first time I saw a copy of the ship’s manifest, I saw a gardener listed, Owen George Allum, third class, who’d sailed from Southampton. He reminded me of my great-grandfather, who’d emigrated from London just a few years before.  Unable to find work as the gold leaf artist he was, he became a gardener for a wealthy Buffalo family, and developed new varieties and strains of flowers.  From these two real people, the character Owen Allen was born, and I wrote a short story, “The Legacy of Owen Allen,” which eventually grew into the full length novel, Promise Me This.
Karen: I didn't realize this book grew out of a short story. Very interesting! How did you decide on the setting and the circumstances? It was great fun reading about the area in NJ where I grew up, btw. This was one reason why I was so excited about it. :)       

Cathy: The facts of Titanic’s sinking provided the perfect backdrop for a story of self-sacrifice and heroism.  Decisions were made that night—who lived and who died—and they were not all made by the officers of Titanic. In the history, and in the fictitious character of Owen Allen, I saw the perfect opportunity to paint a portrait of Christ’s love for us, of His sacrifice for the world.  In the life of Michael, the abused young man he saved, and in Owen’s younger sister, Annie, who grieved mightily for her brother, I saw pictures of our response to Christ’s unmerited gift and His command to love one another as He has loved us. 

The settings were the easiest of all to choose and the most fun to research. Titanic was built and launched in Belfast, Ireland (where my first character stows away), then sailed to Southampton, England, where she received her final outfitting.  It helped that Owen Allum, the real passenger aboard Titanic, was a gardener from London.  I walked streets and haunted cemeteries, museums and gardens in London and Southampton, snapping hundreds of photographs. I discovered so many wonderful details—the unemployment crisis caused by a coal strike, the building of Southampton’s town hall gardens, the girls’ school in which Annie could have enrolled, the name of the nursery and names of men who supplied flowers for Titanic, even the pub popular among her crew.   

All of these and more found their way into the story. And then I traced, through research, Titanic’s route to ports in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland, where at last she bound for the western sea.  I followed the timeline of the sinking ship, the rescue of survivors by the Carpathia, and the help they received in New York. Where better for a gardener to plant his roots of Old World roses than in our own Garden State of New Jersey?   

When I toured the delightful  Leaming’s Run Gardens in Swainton I knew I’d found the perfect setting for Allen’s Run Gardens. The librarians of Cape May County Library in Cape May Court House, and the staff of Cape May County Historical Society were wonderful in helping me discover Swainton, 1912-1919, as was Somers Carston, a local historian. I realized from the timeline and settings of my story (Ireland, England, France, Germany, USA) that my characters would face the rigors of rationing and the horrors of WWI.  The story naturally bent toward France and the nightmare at Verdun.  Traipsing the hills and dales of lovely France and ferreting out the history with my husband and our son, who translated for us, was one of the great joys of my life.
Karen: It sounds like a wonderful experience. What a great way to do research! So is research, or another aspect of the writer’s life, your favorite?

Cathy: Research.  I can get lost for months in the joy of digging up the past through travel—foreign or domestic, exploring cemeteries and diaries, old newspapers, attics and archives, rediscovering the places, insights and things that time forgot.

Karen: What part do you dislike? What steps do you take to work through this? 

Cathy: I dislike being rushed through a story.  A story, to ring true and unfold beautifully, needs to grow organically.  A too-short deadline can thwart that process. I’m still learning to work through that.  I try not to agree to deadlines I don’t believe I can meet, and I work very hard to meet those I’ve committed to.  If possible, I work ahead.  I’d rather have days off at the end than be rushed and worry that I’ve done a poor job. 

And life, as we all know, has a way of happening. I’ve also come to understand that the birth of a book is a team effort, and my needs are only part of the process.  All the other members of the team need their allotment of time, too—agent, editors of different varieties, proofreaders, design, marketing, publicists, sales team.  Because I care about them—people with lives as demanding as my own--it makes me more understanding.

Karen: I never thought about it from that angle, and I appreciate your insight. I'm sure those you work with do too! I know that Promise Me This is just being released, but are there any new stories on the horizon? If so, can you give us a hint

Cathy: Band of Sisters will release in September 2012—the story of Irish sisters who escape an abusive English landlord, only to find themselves drawn into a web of human trafficking beginning at Ellis Island (1910-1911).  Hope springs when an unlikely band of sisters and two good men ask and act upon the question we all face, “What would Jesus do?” The novel raises awareness of modern day slavery—there are more than twice as many people enslaved today as at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade—and the role we can play in abolition.

Karen: Band of Sisters sounds like a winner, too. Can't wait to read it. Thanks so much for the sneak peek, and thank you for stopping by. Wishing you much success!

Cathy: Thank you so much, Karen.  It’s been a pleasure! Promise Me This is available on-line or wherever books are sold.  I love hearing from readers and can be reached through my website

Giveaway Details
  • You must be a follower and leave a comment, with email address, on this post.
  • Gain bonus entries (+1 each) by posting this on Facebook, your blog, and/or Twitter. Please include link with your comment where applicable.
  • Open to residents of the United States.
  • Deadline to enter is midnight EST, Friday, February 3, 2012. Winner will be notified via email and will have 36 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. Winner will be announced Monday, February 6.

Do you have any questions for Cathy? What period or event in history do you think would make a good fictional story?

Happy writing,

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Promise Me This - Book Review & Giveaway

Today's review celebrates the release of Cathy Gohlke's latest book, Promise Me This. Cathy has generously offered a copy for a giveaway (details below), and will be stopping by again on Monday with an insightful interview. Hope you can join us!

Promise Me This                    

Annie Allen is devastated upon learning that her older brother Owen perished when the Titanic went down.  Her only remaining relative in England is Aunt Eleanor, and Annie has never been close to the bitter spinster.  As details unfold, Annie learns that Owen requested a favor of a young street urchin and Titanic stowaway, Michael Dunnagan. Owen asked Michael to fulfill his American dream by going to Swainton, NJ, where Owen’s aunt and uncle own and operate Allen’s Run Gardens. He also requested that Michael bring Annie to America so she could start a new life, far from Eleanor’s disapproving eyes. 

As Michael begins a new life stateside, he struggles under a heavy weight of guilt that he survived and Owen did not. He reaches out to Annie via letter, but she rebuffs his correspondence at first. Eventually though, she warms to Michael’s efforts to build a friendship and letters fly back and forth across the pond. 

Michael works overtime to save enough money to bring Annie to NJ, only to see World War 1 erupt, making travel to and from England dangerous. In the meantime, Annie busies herself by training with the Red Cross, and she and a friend sign up to work with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in regional hospitals. As the war drags on, Michael is restless and more concerned for Annie’s safety, and embarks on a perilous journey across the Atlantic to see her. His arrival coincides with Aunt Eleanor’s mysterious dying wish that throws a cruel wrench into Annie’s plans to go to America.

Cathy Gohlke’s stories are not your run of the mill predictable fare. This Christy Award winning author has several books under her belt, with tales that envelop the reader with rich descriptions and intriguing plots. Promise Me This is no exception. Just about the time I thought it safe to turn a page and take a breath, Cathy ramped up the action with exciting twists and turns. As a fan of happy endings, I was relieved to see that these seemingly impossible knots were all happily untangled. 

One of my favorite aspects of this book was that it was partially set in southern NJ, just minutes from where I grew up. Allen’s Run Gardens was fashioned after Leaming's Run, a real botanical garden in Swainton that we visited on numerous occasions. Cathy captures the essence of the area and era to lend authenticity to Annie and Michael’s emotional journey through tragedy and beyond.

I seldom give a five star rating to a book, but this one earned it and then some. In my opinion, Cathy Gohlke possesses the gift of bringing stories to life in an amazing way. If you haven’t already guessed, I highly recommend this book. 

To learn more about Cathy and her books, click here. 

Giveaway Details
  • You must be a follower and leave a comment, with email address, on this post.
  • Gain bonus entries (+1 each) by posting this on Facebook, your blog, and/or Twitter. Please include link with your comment where applicable.
  • Open to residents of the United States.
  • Deadline to enter is midnight EST, Friday, February 3, 2012. Winner will be notified via email and will have 36 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. Winner will be announced Monday, February 6. 

A Big Favor 

My blog has been nominated for a Top Blog Award at If you like my blog and would like to vote for me, click on this link and scroll down till you see Write Now, check the box, and click on VOTE. I'm told that visitors can vote as often as they like through February 3, 2012 at 5 pm. Thanks for your time and consideration!

Don't forget to stop back on Monday for the interview with Cathy. :)

Have you read any "five star" books lately?

Have a great weekend,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dirt and Life


 Some people see dirt like this - brown and useless.


Others see dirt like this - full of life and potential.

I think George Washington Carver summed it up nicely when he said,

"People murder a child when they say, 

‘Keep out of the dirt!’ In dirt there is life." 

Indeed. Life. 

And potential to learn, grow, and to savor with all of our senses.

 Dirt enriches our writing by encouraging curiosity and discoveries, don't you think?

I trip over new things every day, it seems. 

A thread of an idea here, a snippet of info there.

Before you know it, it's an article, a post, or a missing piece to the WIP.

Have you been digging in dirt lately?

What have you discovered?

How has it helped your writing?

 Happy digging,


Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Groucho's Reading Advice

Outside of a dog, a man’s best friend is a book. 

Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. 

Groucho Marx

Do you agree? :)

What are you reading this weekend? 

Have a good one!


 Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, January 16, 2012

MyTwo Cents

 Just in case you are interested, 

I'm offering my two cents as guest blogger 

over at Susan J. Reinhardt's blog,  

Hope you can hop over and join us.

Thanks a bunch!

Happy writing,



Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You Got a Problem?

Years ago my sister shared a line from a movie she'd just seen. I can't recall which movie it was, however, the line went like this:

"It's not a problem, it's a situation."

I thought it was a clever statement, and have often turned it over in my mind. It's a good thing, I think, to view problems this way. Life is full of these "situations" so we can learn, don't you think?

If we were never challenged, how would we know what stuff we were made of? What would we have to spur us on to count our blessings and appreciate life?

Bottom line: problems invite creativity and progress. The choice is ours, we can choose to view them as stumbling blocks or as useful tools.

While I don't always like, but can appreciate life's problems, I see the value in them for our writing. Just think of all the ideas that can be found within - story plots, article ideas, blog posts, poems, and other great stuff.

(FYI: This post, What is a Problem? over at Idea Sandbox was the catalyst that prompted my ponderings. It's brief, so if you have a minute, hop over!)

How are your problem solving skills? What "situations" have you encountered? Have you used any in your writing?

Have a great weekend!


P.S. You get brownie points if you remember what movie that line was in. :)

Image credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, January 9, 2012

Creative Endurance?

Ever stop and think how creativity and endurance might intertwine?

Are you creative? 

Of course you are! You are a writer, after all. 

Do you have endurance? 

Well sure, you say, I can write a blog post without getting winded.

So do you think you have creative endurance?

Six Steps to Building Your Creative Endurance by Jarie Bolander may have your answer.

It explains the ins and outs on maintaining long term creativity.

Just how do we do that?

By honestly assessing the barriers that hold us back,

like lame excuses and wasted pockets of time, and taking productive steps forward.

Good stuff, and very inspiring. I encourage you to check it out!

What hinders your creativity? What boosts it? What do you do to maintain it?

Happy writing,


 Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Do You Wallow?

What goals have you set for the year? I've set several, but have mostly been pondering the big picture.


Because I realized recently that I've been wallowing.


By allowing circular conversations in my head to discourage and defeat me.

They go a lot like this:

"You don't know enough to apply for that writing job."

"You don't have the right clips to send to that editor."

"You've wasted too much time, there's no sense in starting now."

Just so you know, I am normally an optimist, you know, a glass half full kind of gal. But I let down my guard through a handful of events over the past few years. I know better, but I let it happen anyway. And you know, sometimes it just seems easier to stay in the mud and wallow, rather than make an effort to pull yourself out.

But I've had enough. I've beat myself up way too much, sniffled and sniveled over things I can't change. It's a new year, and the future is all I have. It's time to move forward.

What's my battle plan?

1) When tempted to wallow, push through and redirect lousy thoughts. Seek Godly wisdom, pray, and affirm positive truths.

2) Frame the big goals. Attack the WIP more diligently and actively seek more freelance work.

3) Assess how my time is spent, and target wasted areas as potential for productive use.

4) Count my blessings, and rejoice in the accomplishments, no matter how small.

So what about you, ever find yourself wallowing? What do you do? The future is all we have! Who's moving forward with me?

Have a great weekend!



Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, January 2, 2012

Coming Attractions


It's 2012, can you believe it?

I'm excited about Write Now's upcoming events!

What kind of events, you ask? How about interviews, giveaways and
other goodies? Here's a peek:

Christy Award winning author Cathy Gohlke will be stopping by in February to discuss 
Promise Me This, which brings readers aboard the Titantic and onto the shores of
New Jersey, not far from where I grew up.

Another of my favorite authors, Ann Gabhart, will visit as well. Her latest book,  
Words Spoken True, debuts in February, and we'll get the scoop on this
historical gem set in Louisville, KY in 1855.

Good friend and writer Carol Alexander drops in to share her experience on writing an
ebook. Carol is also a homeschool and homesteading expert, so I expect that we'll glean much from her words of wisdom.

I'm also excited about Jeanette Levellie's book, Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top,
which is being released in April. Jen will be hopping over for a visit to explain
how we can get chuckles on top of grace every day.

March marks my third blogoversary, so of course, we must celebrate with a 
chocolate giveaway, don't you think?

That is just a portion of what's on the horizon for this year. Stay tuned, it's going to be a good year!

What are you looking forward to?

Wishing you the best in 2012,


Photo credit: Stock Exchange