Saturday, September 27, 2014

Amber Schamel Interview

Today we're interviewing historical author Amber Schamel.
Bestselling 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. 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.

Amber, can you tell us about your new release, The Messiah's Sign?
The Messiah's Sign is the second book in the Days of Messiah series. It follows the storyline of Book One, but from the husband's point of view. Here's what it's about:
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?
The book releases on October 16th, so be sure to add it to your To-Read list on Goodreads!

What sparked this story?
Book one started as a short story, but a lot of people told me I should expand it. I picked up the story and began thinking about what the entire story would be like, and that's when the Lord drew back the curtain to show me not only Aaliyah's story at the leper colony, but also the story of her husband and son. Tyrus—as the heartless husband that banishes Aaliyah to the leper colony—is the villain of book one, so I wanted to show readers his side of the story.

What do you want readers to take away from The Messiah's Sign?
As hard as you try, you will never be sufficient on your own. It takes Christ working in you.
For those that have read volume one, I want them to realize that you cannot hate someone until you de-humanize them. The villain of book one becomes the hero of book two, and we see the motivations behind his 'heartless' acts. In truth, Tyrus was doing the best he could. If we can empathize with people in our lives, it will go a LONG way in keeping the roots of bitterness at bay.

What's your favorite genre in which to read?
The same one I write, Christian Historical. But I recently read a Christian cozy mystery that I enjoyed very much. It was The Jane Austen Encounter by Donna F. Crow.
It's the first cozy mystery I've read. I might have found a new genre! Actually, I might have found two...cozy mysteries and Jane Austen based fiction. Lol.

You grew up in a large family, how has that effected your writing?
Obviously growing up in a big family, with a job and a ministry, puts limits on the time I have to spend writing. But honestly, growing up in a big family has benefited me in many, many ways. I have had lots of experience telling stories, I have TONS of story fodder, a lot more people to base characters on, lots of people to observe, emotions to learn from, and on and on. Growing up in a large family has also helped me with public speaking, because it's public speaking every time I ask "please pass the salt."

Do you have a favorite writer?
I really enjoy Susan J. Reinhardt, Max Lucado, Julie Klassen and Francine Rivers.

If you had to come up with a book title to describe your life, what would it be?
Wow, that is a great question! I'm going to start using that one too. ;)
It would either be "But for the Grace of God" or "The Only Thing That's Good in Me is Jesus."

What are you working on next?
I am finishing up a really fun series with three other historical authors on the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
I'm also setting to work on a Christmas story set during the Civil War entitled The Christmas Pardon.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, a young lawyer battles with the U.S. Supreme court. In what seemed to be a Christmas miracle, he had secured a pardon for his friend from Lincoln himself. The army executed the boy anyway. On the fifteenth anniversary of his death, will the lawyer finally clear his friends name and bring justice to his memory?

I'm running a giveaway for a fan to pick the name of my two main characters! You can enter the giveaway here.

Thank you for joining us today, Amber.
Thank you for hosting me! It's been a pleasure. I'd like to invite each of you to join me in celebrating my new release with the Name-A-Character Giveaway! Enter to for a chance to pick the name of a main character in Amber's upcoming book The Christmas Pardon. Terms and conditions apply.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, a young lawyer battles with the U.S. Supreme court. In what seemed to be a Christmas miracle, he had secured a pardon for his friend from Lincoln himself. The army executed the boy anyway. On the fifteenth anniversary of his death, will the lawyer finally clear his friends name and bring justice to his memory?
Click this photo above to ENTER!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ane Mulligan Interview

Hi, Ane! Welcome to the Sweet South Blog! :)
Give us a couple sentences describing what you write.

My brand is Southern-fried fiction, and I write women's fiction set in the South. The "fried" part is the humor in my stories.

How would you label the overall mood of your stories: dark, gritty, poignant, sensitive, heart-warming, raucous, light, fresh, funny, educational, adventurous, witty, passionate, reminiscent, sweet, forceful, eye-opening.

Definitely light, funny, but there is always a message in my stories or seeds of God's truths planted in the plot.

What is the name of your latest book?

It's my debut book: Chapel Springs Revival


Chapel Springs Revival

With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is personal.

With their marriages in as much disarray as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.

Sounds exciting! Using any celebrity, past or present, whom would you cast as your main characters?

Funny you ask. I'm a visual writer, so I always find photos that look like the character I'm creating. I normally never use celebrities for this. But in Chapel Springs Revival, my character is like Diane Keaton as JC in the movie Baby Boom. My character, Claire, lives without filters. She moves without thinking, dragging herself and others into calamity.

What is the theme of your story and how did you come to it? Any real-life inspiration?

Miscommunication in marriage. Years ago, I heard a young woman complaining about her husband. Let's face it; we all joke about men coming from Mars and women from Venus, but that's not what she was doing. She was stirring the water in a bitter well.

Another time in church, I overheard another conversation (yes, I'm a writer and I tend to eavesdrop). It went something like this:

"I just learned that God has the perfect mate all picked out for each of us, and we're supposed to pray to find that person."

"Yeah, so?"

"I didn't do that! I didn't know. So, that must mean John isn't the one God wants me married to."

Uh-oh. The conversation went on to include all the things her husband did wrong and the word "divorce." I later pulled her aside for a "Titus 2:4" moment.

I now had a seed of an idea. I brainstormed with a friend about a woman who, when she became a Christian, thought life and her marriage would be included in the new creation part. But her thighs are just as big, her husband as ornery as ever, and he still won't go to church with her. Toss in a BFF whose husband had grown non-communicative and was never home, and I had the foundation for a story.

A sneak peek into what you're working on right now?

The third book in the Chapel Lake series is called tentatively The Dreamkeeper. A best-selling author's latest book has bombed. While the reviewers are happily skewering her, her racecar-driver-husband, who just told her he's leaving her, didn't pay the lease and she's evicted. He neglected to tell her he also drained the their bank accounts. When his affair hits the papers, her publisher cancels her contract. Homeless and penniless, she and her little boy have no choice but to retreat to the house she'd inherited from her grandmother. A house that's been gutted. Then, a stranger knocks on her door. One that will change the course of her life. 

Describe your writing space.

We recently redid the front room (more of an unused parlor) into my office. It has a floor-to-ceiling arched window that overlooks the front garden. I let my husband tend that, since I have ten black thumbs. On the opposite wall stands a huge bookcase, with cabinets below. I have my mother's old antique Singer sewing maching cabinet as my printer stand, and an old 4-globed chandalier of hers over my writing chair.

What do you do for a break if you find yourself overwhelmed with writing pressures?

I check Facebook, post something on different social media, and then I play solitare. It's mindless, which I am at that point. I know soon enough my characters begin to talk to me again and let me know what was wrong with the story.

Do you blog? If so, leave us the address.

My blog is on the front page of my website which is

Now some fun stuff about you... :)

On a dream research trip, where would you go? What would you ask to see/experience first?

Savannah, GA or Charleston, SC. Those are two places I love and want to set a story in. They're quintessentially Southern.

When you read, do you prefer paperback, e-book, or audio? Why?

My preference is paperback, although I like my e-reader and use it quite a bit. It's especially good to put my own or my crit partners' work on to see how it reads as a book instead of a single chapter. When driving a long distance, I always get an audio book, though. It's great for that, but I have to be able to spend at least a couple of hours listening to it.

 Author bio.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two very large dogs.

Thanks for having me, Natalie! I hope your readers will stop by my website and see what they can do to be entered in the drawing for prizes.

Here's how it works: 

1. Each day of my blog tour that you leave a comment here on my blog, with your answer to the bonus question(s), you get a point (for each question answered).
2. Leave a comment on each of the blogs I'm on that day, and each one will earn you another point. (If I'm on 3 blogs that day, and you leave a comment on each of them, you'll get 3 points.)
3. If you post on your Facebook page that you have commented on a blog I'm on, tag me, and give the link, you get 2 extra points.
4. Tweet the same as #3, giving the link, and you get 2 more points.
5. Google+ the same as #3, and you'll get 2 more points. 

There is a possible 8 points for each blog I’m on each day. If I’m on 3 blogs, that’s a possible 24 points that day.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Darlene Franklin Interview

Give us a couple sentences describing what you write.
I write Christian romance, historical and contemporary. I find my characters often end up in difficult situations, where God’s grace and love must see them through.

How would you label the overall mood of your stories: dark, gritty, poignant, sensitive, heart-warming, raucous, light, adventurous, witty? 
Dark? No. Gritty, perhaps. I have heard them called heart-warming and sweet.

What is the name of your latest book?
The book I’m talking about today is Colorado Melodies, which is a repack of three of my books: Romanian Rhapsody, Plainsong and Knight Music.

Using any celebrity, past or present, whom would you cast as your main characters?
  • For Carrie Randolph, my na├»ve missionary working in a Romanian Orphanage: maybe a young Laura Gilbert.
  • For Steve Romero, the widower who lost his wife and child in Romania: Cary Grant
  • For Joe Knight, the art store owner with the heart of a romantic: How about Hugh Grant? Or even Errol Flynn?
  • For Michelle Morris, a romantic who can’t seem to get her life together: a young Michelle Pfeiffer
  • For Ty Knight, the family’s black sheep: Jensen Ackles
  • For Sonya Oliveira: Sofia Vergara

What is the theme of your story and how did you come to it? Any real-life inspiration?
The sub-title says it all: “Three modern couples Seek Love that will endure hardships.”
            Romanian Rhapsody is the first book of mine that was published. I took my passion—for the various nationalities that have made America their homes—and focused on orphans coming from Romania (this was back in the 90s). From there, I added elements I know very well: a musical touring group. 
            By the time I finished Carrie and Steve’s story, Michelle had appeared as a romantic, best friend, so I wrote Plainsong for her. And Sonya Oliveia appeared in that story, a talented artist whose work was stolen. She earned her story in Knight Music.  

A sneak peek into what you're working on right now?
            I just finished edits to An Apple for Christmas, part of the Christmas Traditions series which will come out in late September. I’m also nearing the end on Runaway Love, a story about a single mom and a truant officer in a small Vermont town.

Describe your writing space.
My writing space is my computer sitting on a rolling bed table. I use it either when I’m sitting or in bed.

What do you do for a break if you find yourself overwhelmed with writing pressures?
Sometimes I take care of business which doesn’t take so much out of me. (Like creating a writing schedule for my next book). Other times I write something entirely different, like poetry. Or word search, tv, reading. Finding excuses not to write.

Do you blog? If so, leave us the address.
My blog is in a bit of a hiatus for now. I’m trying to come up with a better, more consistent format.

Bonus fun question: Candy corn or S’mores? Apple cider or hot chocolate?
S’mores, of course!  Real apple cider vs. hot chocolate—that’s a tough one. Maybe ciders, because they’re hard to come by.

Author bio:
Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. She lives in Oklahoma, near her son and his family, and continues her interests in playing the piano and singing, books, good fellowship, and reality TV in addition to writing. She is an active member of Oklahoma City Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Christian Authors Network. She has written over thirty books and has written more than 250 devotionals. Her historical fiction ranges from the Revolutionary War to World War II, from Texas to Vermont. You can find Darlene online elsewhere at and
Book blurb:
Visit colorful Colorado through the stories of three couples longing for love’s sweet song. One couple’s compassion for orphans will either draw them closer or tear them apart. A young woman in survival mode will be swept off her feet by a true “knight.” And two people needing to rebuild their lives will find their hearts need renovated, too. Watch as these three couples’ stories intertwine with friendship, faith, and love in the presence of the majestic Rocky Mountains.

What about you, readers? Apple cider, or hot chocolate? S'mores or candy corn? 

Oooh! Let's have a virtual hotdog roast! I'm bringing the hotdogs and marshmallows! Feel free to join in and "bring" your favorite virtual bonfire foods!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kate Middleton's Secret

Don't we all love a good fairy tale? "And they lived happily ever after" are some of my favorite words. When something special like that happens in real life, the whole world watches. 

With the announcement of a new baby, the Duchess of Cambridge is once again under the scrutiny of the world's snoopy little eyes. :)

Kate Middleton is admired all over the world for her trim figure, impeccable posture and enviable wardrobe. But those traits alone don't create the magnetism, criticism, and mimicry inspired by this lovely young lady.

What's her secret, then? Why is she so special? 

What can we learn from her?

 Let's look at some basic things we know about Kate:

1. She's royal. *snort* Well, that kills the hope of any of us "non-royals" ever truly becoming like her, doesn't it? As if there's an abundance of available, kindhearted, lonely princes in the world waiting around for that "normal girl" to sweep them off their feet. Or what if you've already found that drop-dead gorgeous love of your life and sweet heavens to Betsy you discover he's not a blue-blood! What then? Are you doomed to eternal ordinariness? Not so fast, Miss Snarky-pants. :) If you're a child of God, you have become royalty via His stellar adoption program. (John 1:12, Revelation 19:16) ***To learn more about becoming a child of God, click here.

2. She knows she's royal. Catherine lives in light of this fact every single day. From the moment she wakes in the morning to the moment she falls asleep at night, this princess business is her life. If we as Christians lived each second of our lives in the light of our royal redemption, I mean really patterned our life around that truth, how would we live differently? How would we feel differently about ourselves and others?

3. She loves the people.  Now, I don't keep up with European politics as religiously as others I know, so I'm no expert. But Kate seems to truly care about her kingdom. Here's where it gets tricky for us. Christ says for us to love each other in John 13:34. And as God loves the people of the world (John 3:16), so should we, because we are to be like Him. But other people won't always love us. As with everyone who tries to stand for anything, there will be criticism. I'm sure Kate faces it daily. But she keeps serving, because it's her job, and because she loves her prince. :) Which segues nicely into the next point.
4. She's loved by a prince. Haven't you seen the pics of them together? He adores her, and she knows it. She's confident in his love for her. We, too, can be confident our Prince of Peace loves us--Jeremiah 31:3 & Zephaniah 3:17. 

So yeah, these things make her special, but what is her secret?


Come a little closer. 


*whispers*  She's real. 

Now, I know what you're thinking... "What? That's the big secret? Natalie, it's time for a reality check. WE ALREADY KNEW THAT, CRACKERJACK." 

Okay, not "real" as in opposed to fake or make-believe. What I mean is, she started out as an ordinary girl. She's relatable. That's the secret. That's what makes her special. 

Why? Because she brings into reality the fantastic dream that we don't have to be born "royal" for someone royal to love us. That maybe, just maybe, we can be loved just as we are, in spite of our not starting out perfect.

In other words, she makes every other ordinary girl feel like we could be a princess, too.

You know what? We can. God has made a way for each and every person to be "joint-heirs with Christ." Anyone can be royalty!

B-b-but... If just any old gal (or guy) can be royal through Christ, doesn't that take away the specialness? Nope. Because the specialness isn't determined by how many of us there are. The specialness comes from Him to whom we belong, Who loves us. :) He is what's special, and He loves us individually. That, in turn, makes us special. 

What about you? When you were little, did you dream of becoming a princess or at least enjoy princess stories? What did you enjoy most about them? Fancy dresses? The rags-to-riches tales? Princes? The way baddies always got their comeuppance? Fairies? Castles? Adventure?

Tweet It!

Kate Middleton's Secret, via @nataliedmonk. Click to tweet.

Happily Ever Afters For Free, via @nataliedmonk. Click to tweet. 

Can Fairy Tales Happen In 2014? Asks @nataliedmonk. Click to tweet.

*This post was written for educational and entertainment purposes and does not in any way intend to religify British royalty or determine their personal beliefs. This content is simply used for a word-picture comparison, to bring encouragement. And maybe a good laugh.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cooking Up Characters


1 fun personality
1 backstory wound
1 corresponding, life-crippling fear
1 catalyst for redemption

Mix and let set until plot idea forms. Write story. Synopsis optional (Ha! Don't we wish?)

How many of you love to cook? How many love reading? (Well, duh, Natalie.) How many of you like reading about characters who love to cook? Me! Me! *raising my hand*

Valor Hill, the heroine from my current manuscript, loves to bake sweets. Savory dishes? Not so much, especially if it involves chopping raw meat or any such distasteful chore. But, in honor of her passion for baking, I have included at the end of the post a modern kitchen tip for cleaning your electric mixer--something Valor would've loved to use. She (and my great great grandma) had to beat all her batters with something akin to one of these contraptions:

Also, the oven Valor uses in Heart of Valor is an Elmira wood stove like this one (in the scene, she's using the hero's mother's stove):
Price of Goods in 1870s according to the University of Washington:

Flour - $0.04/lb.
Sugar - $0.10/lb.
Molasses - $0.15/gallon
Lard - $0.06/lb.
Butter - $0.15/lb.
Coffee - $0.12/lb.
Cookstove - $25.00
Cheese - $0.05/lb.
Rice - $0.05/lb.
Fresh Apples - 2 for $0.05
Dried Apples - $0.10/lb.
House (32' x 40', 4 rooms) -- $700
Wagon -- $65
Lantern -- $1
Kerosene -- $0.15/gallon
Coal -- about $80/year

According to some rough approximations by, the value of $1 in 1878 would be equal to about $22.50 in 2010. The 2010 dollar value in 1878 would be equal to about $0.44.

That would be like us paying $11 or $12 for a 5 lb. bag of sugar, but "only" about $4.50 for a 5 lb. bag of flour. Interesting, huh?

Okay, here's the modern kitchen tip for you:


Get a large cup of soapy water and "mix" it with the mixer on high. Beaters will be clean in seconds. Ta da!
(Please ignore my rusty old beaters. I'm pretty sure that's a health hazard.)

Have you lately read about any characters that cook?

What's your most favorite character quirk you've read so far?

What is a job you'd like to see written about as a character's occupation (historical and/or modern)?