Welcome to the third day of my blogoversary extravaganza! Today is actually my official blogoversary, as I started blogging March 30, 2010. =) To celebrate today we're looking back to two special events from this past year: Reading Retreats Week and my interview last July with author Julie Lessman!
For those of you who are visiting or are new to the blog (or if you just want a blast from the past!), here are the links to the posts from Reading Retreats Week:
And here's the link from my last interview with Julie Lessman:
I have to say, Julie is like a rock star in the Christian fiction world. ;) It's so much fun to have her visit!Amber: It’s such a pleasure to host you here at “Seasons of Humility” again! It may not be a “Hot Summer Day” for this particular interview, but I’m sure we can pretend, right? ;) Could you share with us what you’ve been up to in your writing career since Summer 2010?Julie:
ell, book 1 in the “Winds of Change” series came out September 1st, A Hope Undaunted
, which is Katie O’Connor’s story (and Cluny McGee’s), and I am thrilled to say that it ranked #5 on the Booklist “Top Ten Inspirational Fiction for 2010,” which blessed the socks off of me!!
Then I started in on the final book of the O’Connor saga, A Trust Restored
(working title), which is Steven O’Connor’s love story with a new heroine who is mentored by Faith O’Connor. I did this because I wanted to bring the saga full circle with a heroine who is as strong in her faith as Faith O’Connor was in A Passion Most Pure
Finally, I just submitted a new proposal to my publisher for a 3-book series entitled “The Cousins McClare,” about the struggles of heart and faith for three cousins in 1933 San Francisco amidst the glitter and glamour of San Francisco’s Nob Hill to the seedy dance halls and gambling dens of the Barbary Coast.Amber: Well, you've been keeping busy, which is good new for all of us readers! ;) What’s on the agenda for this next year? We’d love to hear anything you can tell us about your next release! (And if you have a sneak peek to share, that would be absolutely wonderful!)Julie:
Book 2 in the “Winds of Change” series, A Heart Revealed
, releases September 1st (August 1st on CBD.com) and I was doing cartwheels this week because Mary Connealy (one of my favorite authors and people who has graciously agreed to endorse my book) said: "It's the best yet, Julie. Beautiful, powerful, funny at moments, so wise in others that I'm humbled. Fantastic book."
I have to be honest—I was pretty worried because although A Heart Revealed
is my husband and crit partner's favorite books of all those I’ve written, it’s not mine by a long shot and I actually wasn’t sure if it was any good or not. Trust me, it’s one thing to have your husband say it’s the best so far, but somehow SO much better when an author the caliber of Mary Connealy says it is!
Here’s the overview for A Heart Revealed
'The ring on her hand belongs to one man…
but her heart belongs to another.
As a battered woman, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston ten years ago, seeking shelter for a heart badly bruised by both her husband and guilt. But when she falls in love with Sean O’Connor, a man who wrestles with demons of his own, fear and shame almost destroy her … until she is finally set free by a heart revealed.'
And, because you asked, here is a sneak peek at a scene at Dennehy’s Department Store where Emma is manager and Sean is now a temporary Assistant Manager since he lost his job during the Great Depression. Sean is desperate to regain Emma’s trust after an incident where he lost his temper in a violent manner, nearly destroying their ten-year friendship.
~Excerpt from A Heart Revealed~
“Oh, I love the smell of rain,” Emma whispered.Amber: Oh, thanks so much for sharing that, Julie!
“Me too,” he said quietly, suddenly aware he’d been holding his breath. Easing back in his chair, his chest slowly contracted as the air left his lungs in one long, silent release. He thought he had known her, but she had surprised him more than anyone ever had, slipping out from the shadows of ambiguity to become a strong and steady force in a world where men reigned supreme. He’d watched her dicker with a salesman over surcharges on a foreign shipment, battle a shipping agent over late delivery, and soothe a disgruntled customer, all in one day. She was calm and kind to her staff without leaving any room for lax behavior from any employee whose paycheck she signed. And yet through it all, she was Emma, a woman who preferred to fade into the background, and yet wielded a power that was serene, gentle, and strong. His neck warmed. And somehow—in the intimacy of this setting—sensual.
The fawn-colored eyes opened, revealing a hint of pale green hue, and he suddenly saw her as she must have been years ago, perfect features, hypnotic eyes and a magnetic innocence so strong, it aroused both a strange longing within and an ache in his chest. He observed the faint scars on the left side of her face—and realized that for him, they had never hindered her beauty. “You’re different here,” he whispered, “secure, resolute, invincible.”
She smiled, and weariness weighted her delicate features. “That’s because too much rests on the success of this store—my debt to Mitch and Charity, the livelihood of every employee here …” She drew in a frail breath and buffed her arms. “My own peace of mind.”
“You’re a special woman, Emma Malloy. I’m honored to be working with you.”
A wash of color ebbed in her cheeks and she quickly rose to her feet, avoiding his eyes. “Well, if I can’t convince you to go home, then the least I can give you half of my supper.” She peeked up, her manner tentative despite a shy smile that quickened his pulse. “It’s not Bert’s meatloaf by a long shot, but it should be enough to tame your hunger pangs for a while.”
His lips parted in a grin. “Sounds good. And while we’re dining, I’ll share some of the ideas I have for increasing market share.”
She paused, her hesitation halting the breath in his lungs. “Sorry, I’m … afraid I have a lot of work I need to finish before I go …”
“Ten minutes,” he said quietly. “That’s all it’ll take to bolt some food and hear my ideas.” He studied her profile, stomach cramping at the reluctance he saw in the downcast eyes, the shift of her throat, the hand on the knob. She was no longer comfortable being alone with him, and the very thought twisted his insides into a knot. Her lips parted in slow motion, and he held his breath, unwilling to hear the wrong answer. He rushed on, his voice quiet but resolute. “Emma, we need to talk. To clear the air. Please … if only for my peace of mind?”
His words stilled her for a moment before she finally nodded, rib cage slowly deflating. Without another word, she slipped from the room, leaving him alone with his regret.
He released a weary breath and dropped his head on the back of the chair, a bittersweet smile edging his lips at the thought of dining with Emma and clearing the air. Whatever it took, he would regain her trust. Her friendship was too important. And so was the harmony they’d need to work side by side.
“I assume being a full-blooded Irishman, you like corned beef and cabbage?” she asked upon her return, gaze averted despite a faint smile on her lips. She deposited a small basket on the edge of his desk and popped the lid to unearth slices of corned beef swaddled in wax paper and a small bowl of cabbage sealed with aluminum foil. Smoothing out the foil, she carefully placed a sliver of corned beef on top and then scooped a child’s portion of cabbage alongside. She produced two forks, obviously from the makeshift kitchen at the back of Bert and Alli’s office, then placed the rest of the corned beef into the bowl with the cabbage. With an almost childlike focus that made him smile, she carefully slid it across the desk, keeping the smaller portion for herself.
He pushed it away. “Oh, no you don’t—you take more than that.”
“Don’t make me pull rank on you, Mr. O’Connor. This is all I want.” She nudged it back.
His tone was gentle. “You haven’t called me Sean once since I started, Emma. Why?”
She fumbled with her foil, suddenly preoccupied with positioning the corned beef just so. “I just thought you’d appreciate more formality in the work place, you know, in front of the employees.”
“Emma,” he said quietly. “Will you look at me?”
Her gaze lifted slowly, and his heart squeezed at the caution in her eyes. “We’re alone now, but even if we weren’t, I’d prefer you call me Sean.”
She nodded and looked away, apparently reluctant to maintain his gaze.
“Emma,” he said again, his voice as serious as it had ever been, and this time her eyes met and held his. “I hurt you deeply I know, losing my temper at Kearney’s that day, and I want you to understand that it will never happen again.” He swallowed hard, emotion thickening the walls of his throat. “That degree of anger … well, it’s only happened twice in my life, and I regret one of those times was with you.” He paused, seconds ticking away like minutes. “Will you forgive me? Please?”
“I’ve forgiven you,” she whispered, but it didn’t ease the wariness in her face.
“No, I don’t think you have. We’re friends—good friends. But somehow I feel that friendship has been cut off—”
“That’s not true …” she said too softly, a twinge of pain in her eyes.
“Isn’t it? You’re not comfortable with me anymore, and you avoid me like the plague.”
The timidity of her manner broke his heart as her gaze lowered once again. “You scared me, Sean,” she whispered. “I thought I knew you …”
“You do know me, Emma. We’ve known each other through thick and thin, weathered crises together, partnered in Pinochle and Dominoes and horseshoes in the summer. I’ve told you things I’ve never told my sisters, and we’ve given each other advice and support during rough times. Please don’t let one stupid mistake on my part take that all away.”
Her fingers shook as she picked at her food, gaze fused to the beef on the foil. When she finally spoke, her words were frail and low. “Forgive me, Sean, please, but I’m afraid that when one has lived with a violent man, fear can become a constant companion.” A muscle jerked beneath the creamy skin of her throat as she continued, the waver in her voice piercing him as her eyes trailed into a cold stare. “The first time Rory lost his temper in a fit of rage, he broke my jaw. Until then, I never knew he was even capable of such anger because he was always so gentle and kind, so devoted while we courted, and even after.” The faintest of shivers skittered over her like a ripple on a mirror lake. “I remember feeling so safe with him because he was nothing like my father, nothing like the man who would rage and roar over the slightest little thing.”
“Emma, I’m sorry …” he whispered, the pain in his heart bleeding into his voice.
“I know you are, Sean, and I’m sorry too.” Her gaze rose to meet his. “But the truth is, once that happens to a human heart, ‘sorry’ is never quite enough again.”
He swallowed the ache in his throat. “What can I do, Emma, to win back your trust?”
The barest of smiles tempered some of the wariness in her eyes. “You can give me time and patience, Sean, until this uneasiness fades. You can understand that although I value your friendship immensely, a part of me is not only struggling over trusting you again, but also a little angry that I even have to.”
He leaned forward, eyes intense. “I will win your trust, Emma, you have my word.”
“I know,” she said quietly. “But it will take time.”
Exhaling deeply, he slowly rose and extended his hand across the desk. “Well, there’s no time like the present.” His manner was easy despite the vise crushing his chest. “Shall we start over?”
She looked up, staring at him for several moments, as if torn between her fear and her willingness to give him another chance. He watched the muscles in her face slowly relax and felt the knot in his chest unravel like a clenched fist unfolding into an open palm. She gave him a gentle nod, and carefully shook his hand, releasing it almost immediately. “Thank you,” he whispered, his stomach beginning to rumble. He quickly reached for his fork and speared the beef, grinning like a little boy with a big crush on a little girl. “This looks incredible. When do you have time to cook like this?”
Some of the stiffness left her body as she eased back in the chair. “On Sundays. It’s the only day I really get to rest and forget about the store. I enjoy fixing dinner for my eighteen-year-old neighbor, Casey, and my elderly landlady, Mrs. Peep. We have a lot fun together—the three of us generations apart, yet giggling and playing dominoes like school girls at a party. Livvie’s mother Susan used to work here at Dennehy’s, but she returned to Kansas to care for her sick mother. She asked me to watch out for her daughter, so Casey and I have become very close.”
“Let me see,” Sean said with an exaggerated drawl, “you single-handedly manage one of the most popular stores in Boston, you make time for my family, Alli and Mrs. Tunny, you befriend my sister, which is a full-time job in itself, and now you also play nursemaid to a teenage girl and cook for your neighbors?” He took a bite of the corned beef and chewed, his eyes warm with approval. “You’re amazing.”
A soft blush dotted her cheeks. “As far as managing the store, you forget I don’t do that alone anymore,” she said with a shy smile. She bit off a tiny corner of the beef. “You’ve only been here a week, and I honestly don’t know how we managed without you.” She hefted her chin in an uncustomary show of pluck. “It appears Mr. Kelly is not only a moron, but a fool.”
He laughed, something he did a lot in her presence, and it felt good. He snatched some meat and took a bite while he leaned back in his chair, more relaxed than he’d felt in a long time. “I do believe that’s the harshest thing I’ve ever heard out of those soft-spoken lips, Mrs. Malloy,” he said, teasing her with his eyes. “Obviously my sister’s a bad influence.”
A low laugh rippled from her lips. “Don’t be too sure about that. With Charity, at least one knows where they stand, which in some ways, is the height of honesty, being a woman so forthcoming. While I on the other hand, remain a mystery—even to myself.”
“A mystery,” he whispered, the very word intriguing him—like the woman herself. He chewed slowly, his blood warming at the prospect of exploring the inner recesses of this woman who drew him. For the first time, he understood fully the true treasure she was in his life, and his heart began to thud at the prospect of slowly unwrapping the gift that was Emma Malloy ...
~End of Excerpt~
During “Reading Retreats Week” last year, I told my story about reading your debut book
A Passion Most Pure in Borders and up in a tree during the Senior Picnic at a Boy Scouts camp. Do you have a favorite reading retreat—a place where you most like to read? Or do you have a fun story about the strangest place you’re been caught reading?Julie:
A favorite “reading retreat,” eh? Well, I’m afraid my reading time is not very glamorous as the only time I have to read is in the car when my husband is driving, in the powder room, doctor appointments, standing in lines at stores or briefly before I go to bed. I carry a book and a little book light in my purse at all times, so surprisingly, I can read about six books a month that way, which is pretty good, I think.
As far as the strangest place I’ve read, I once read a review by a blogger I didn’t know who said she read about four chapters of A Passion Most Pure
one night, then got up the next morning and decided to get a bath while reading some more and ended up finishing the book … in the bathtub!! I figured if she could do it, I’d try it, but I didn’t like it at all as it was uncomfortable holding the book out of the water. So I guess the craziest places I’ve read is when I am driving and stopped at a red light or a train crossing because if a book is really good, I will literally read it at every stop light.Amber: It is hard to read in the bathtub and keep the book from getting wet! ;) And you know you're an avid reader when you always carry a book with you at all times (like in the car!), right?
If we could celebrate this blogoversary in “real life” (as a tangible party and not just a cyber party) and you were asked to help come up with ideas for party costumes, what would you suggest? Julie:
Oh, no question about it—a Gone With the Wind
party!! My friends at work actually threw a Gone With the Wind
surprise party for me after I got published, which was SO much fun!! When I arrived at the house, there was a big poster of Scarlett with her fist in the air with the caption: As God is my witness, I will never go unpublished again! I was met at the door by one of the gal’s moms who is four-foot-eleven 92-year-old everybody called Grammy, and she was dressed in a “Mammy” outfit with head wrap and all. They rented a Scarlett dress for me to wear and piped Tara’s theme throughout the house while they served mint juleps and a Southern-style luncheon. It was WONDERFUL!! Also, when I was sixteen, my first job was at a theatre showing GWTW, and the manager paid for us to be costumed in hoop-skirt Southern belle ball gowns with upsweep curly hairdos. That was SO much fun, that I would LOVE to have a GWTW party with authentic Southern belle dresses like that, fun updos and a Southern BBQ with all the fixin’s. Sweet tea in Georgia, that sure does sound wonderful!Amber: Sounds awesome! Do you have a funny memory you can share with us from a party/celebration that you attended or hosted this past year?Julie:
No funny stories in the last year, but I did have a very questionable dinner party I threw years ago that was a total disaster. As you know, I joke about having MSD (Martha Stewart Disease) because I have been known to pipe dinner guests’ initials into their twice-baked potatoes! At times I would throw elaborate dinner parties in various themes and one time decided to do an authentic Italian dinner with veal parmagian, Italian broccoli, pasta and an Italian dessert called Spoom. I had never made veal before and asked the butcher for veal patties. They looked so small to me, that I doubled them up and they ended up looking like blimps on the plates with almost no sauce. I followed directions for the broccoli to a T, but all the heads fell off, leaving only tree trunks. The dessert was a frozen custard/pudding with strawberries in it that you pulled out of the freezer and poured champagne over.
The dinner went from bad to worse. The minute I cut into the veal, I made the mistake of saying something like, “Gosh, it’s hard to believe veal is made out of baby cows.” All of a sudden you heard forks clink to the plates as everybody lost their appetite for the veal blimp on their plate. They had to scoop the broccoli floret pieces up with their spoons like tiny peas and when it came to the dessert, all you heard were forks clinking against glass because the pudding froze rock solid. All in all, it was a REALLY embarrassing experience that my friends and I laughed about later.Amber: Hahaha, nice one, Julie! ;) Reminds me of the scene in the first
Anne of Green Gables movie, when Anne tells Miss Stacie not to eat the pudding because a mouse drowned in it!
Thank you so much for being our guest today, Julie--it's always a treat to host you!
Julie has generously offered to give away a signed copy of the winner's choice of one of her books (including A Heart Revealed
!!!) to one lucky commenter! To check out all of Julie's books, you can visit her website
Just leave a comment for Julie along with your e-mail address for a chance to win!
(Everyone loves a good mystery, right? Well, don't forget to join me tomorrow for some mystery fun with author S. Dionne Moore as we reminisce Mystery Week!)