Friday, July 31, 2009

You've got to read this book!

Tell us a little about your book: The Call of Zulina is the first book of a three-book saga. Set in West Africa, it centers around Grace Winslow, whose mother is African royalty and her father a British sea captain. Trapped in a marriage arrangement with a pompous, offensive white slave trader, she flees from her home and ends up in the middle of a slave revolt at Zulina slave fortress. There she comes to understand the horrific nature of her family’s involvement in the slave trade. She is forced to choose a side—slave or slaver.

How did you come up with this story? In West Africa, I toured an old slave fortress and was struck dumb by a set of baby-sized manacles bolted to the wall. Right then this book began to germinate in my mind. Then, while I was researching Once Blind: The Life of John Newton—a slaver turned preacher and abolitionist, and author of the hymn Amazing Grace—I virtually “met” a couple who ran a slave business in Africa in the 1700s. I couldn’t help but wonder, “If they had a daughter, who would she be? English or African? Where would her loyalties lie?” That imagined daughter became Grace. The characters of Lingongo and Joseph Winslow, her parents, are modeled after that real-life couple.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Delving into the history. It was astounding and confounding! What did you like the least? The horror of this episode of history. I suppose there is a reason why we gloss over historical hard spots, but of course salving our collective conscience doesn’t make the truth go away.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel? Two, actually:
First: Having one foot in each of two worlds and not quite belonging in either is a common feeling, especially for Christians who are “in this world but not of this world.” I would like readers to see the power of taking a stand, even though there are consequences for doing so. The consequences of fence-straddling are far greater.
Second: Slavery is a blight on humanity that must be addressed. There is more slavery in the world today by four-fold than there was in the 18th century! Time for 21st century abolitionists to get to work!

What helps you relax despite looming deadlines? We have a great hot tub spa, and I love to relax in it—read or talk to my husband or do nothing at all! I also walk and enjoy the changing of the seasons. And I like to play tennis and bowl and golf via Wii!

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision. I am a pretty organized writer. Conception is no problem—my idea file is bulging! I gather info, then I make a fairly detailed chapter outline and attach all my research to the appropriate chapter. (This is a time-consuming step, but the better I do this, the easier and more trouble-free the actual writing.) Then I write a first draft: no corrections, no rethinking—just pouring it out. (I love this step!) Then I write a second draft: bringing order to the first, rewriting, switching info to another chapter, etc. (This is the painful step.) Then I do a final draft: polishing, fixing, double checking info. I move away from the project for a week or two and do something completely different and my husband reads it and makes corrections and suggestions. (He’s great!) I consider my husband’s comments, then I go back and reread the entire manuscript out loud one last time.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on? I have two more books coming out in this series. One is written (set in London) and I’m just starting book three (set in the new United States of America). I have also been approached about possibly going back to Sudan and writing the story of the displaced Southern Sudanese going home again. But I’ll have to say, after writing four books this year, I need a bit of a breather!

Do you have any parting words of advice? I love the idea of fiction with a purpose.
Before Barbara Scott at Abingdon, no one was willing to take a chance on slave-based fiction. More than one looked at my manuscript and told me, “I love the story, but I’m afraid it will rekindle old feelings and make people feel guilty.” I’ll have to admit, it did my heart good to see great reviews for the book in Publishers Weekly and The Library Journal with no mention whatsoever of rekindling or guilt! I applaud Abingdon for being willing to reach into fresh, untapped areas. Their entire fiction line is great, and I recommend every book on it

My prayer is that when readers finish The Call of Zulina – then when they finish the complete Grace In Africa series—they will long to see slavery wiped from the earth. And that they will be willing to be an active part of accomplishing that.
Kay Marshall Strom

First winner of Beyond Me contest!

We have a winner! Yes, the first winner of our "beyond me living" contest is Valley Pickren, nominated by her good friend Cindy Clarke (aka Gigi). Here are just a few of the things Cindy had to say about this amazing lady:

***She is an advocate for the disabled and helps them find the programs to help make their lives more manageable.

***She has put her needs on the back burner whenever a friend calls and needs her help.

***She gives of her time and minimal resources with no strings attached.

***She is a no-nonsense kind of person.... so don't try to lie to her because she can smell a lie a mile away!

***She was personally responsible for helping us gain custody of our granddaughter by going to pick her up from a questionable home life. We are forever grateful for that!

Congratulations, Valley, and thank you Cindy, for bringing this "beyond me" lady to our attention. We are honored to know you both.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blog radio interview tonight!

If you'd like to hear more about "beyond me living"--aka, true discipleship--join me at 6 p.m. (Central time) tonight (7/30/09) on "Not Just Talkin' the Talk" blog radio with Linda Goldfarb at You can even call in during the program at 347-324-5810. I/we would love to have you join us!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Pearl Girls book to benefit charities

Margaret McSweeney uses the metaphor of a pearl in order to better describe the situations that ail us all. When an oyster takes in a piece of sand in order to create its coveted masterpiece, it is initially painful to the soft flesh of the creature. But, after the pain appears a clean, white symbol of simplicity, purity, and endurance that any woman would be proud to wear. Margaret believes that each woman is a pearl and, together, we form a necklace of great worth. In this book, readers will discover community and encouragement: women are not alone in either their pain or victories in life.

Respected authors such as Shaunti Feldhahn, Melody Carlson, Virelle Kidder, Robin Jones Gunn, Dannah Gresh, Kathi Macias, and others help remind every woman that they are not alone and that no circumstance is beyond the grace of God.

All royalties go to charity.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Where do you writers get your ideas???

I was attending a large outdoor family gathering recently, and as I sat on the sidelines, trying to regroup and relax a bit, Cousin Myrtle happened by.
“Hey, Kathi,” she said, grinning as she plunked down on the bench beside me. “How’s the writing going?”
As a professional writer who has authored thirty books in nearly as many years, I get this question on a regular basis. When I assure my interrogator that the writing is going very well, thank you, I invariably get the second-most asked question: “Where in the world do you get your ideas?”
Sure enough, Cousin Myrtle followed up with that very question just as her eight-year-old twin grandsons raced by behind her, shooting one another with red punch-filled squirt guns as their mother ran shrieking after them.
I smiled and shrugged. “It’s tough, but somehow they just keep popping up.”
She shook her head. “Well, I don’t know how you do it. I’d run out of ideas after the first book or two.”
The words were scarcely out of her mouth when her younger brother Clyde—one of my least favorite cousins—walked by, looking as cool as…well, as cool as any fifty-something guy can look when he’s trying to convince everyone he’s still in his thirties. (The spiked hair was bad enough, but the baggy pants that started just below his ample paunch were a bit much, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he really thought he was impressing the two twenty-something women joggers who were looking in his direction and laughing!)
“Yeah, it’s a stretch,” I assured Myrtle. “But you learn to be observant and find ideas in everyday occurrences.”
She frowned and glanced around, then shrugged. “You’ve got to be kidding. Books are supposed to be exciting, and real life is…boring.”
I smiled, as I watched my very pregnant niece give her husband “the look,” as he drooled after the disappearing backsides of the two shapely joggers who were still laughing at Cousin Clyde. I could only imagine the conversation that would follow when the expectant couple climbed into their car to head home.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve never thought of real life as being boring. In fact, I usually find there are so many things going on that I have to pick and choose which ideas I want to write about.”
Myrtle frowned again. “I find that really hard to believe.”
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Grandpa Amos, the patriarch of the family, entertaining his pre-school groupies by taking out his teeth and pretending they were talking to him.
Refocusing on Myrtle I said, “Hey, I’m just kidding. Nothing exciting goes on in my life either.”
She beamed. At last I had confirmed her suspicion that writers led boring, humdrum lives like everyone else. As she got up to leave, she asked one final question: “So out of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?”
“It’s Beyond Me,” I answered.
She chortled. “Just as I thought! One title blends right into the next one until you can’t even remember them anymore.” She was still chuckling and shaking her head as she walked away, mumbling, “I still can’t figure out where she gets all her ideas.”
Did I dare tell her that it was at a previous family reunion that I gathered much of the material for another book, How Can I Run a Tight Ship when I’m Surrounded by Loose Cannons? Nah. The concept might send her right over the edge….

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A great historical (and romantic!) read...

Thank you so much for inviting me to appear on your blog. I thought maybe your visitors might like to know a little bit about my writing journey.

I grew up with a very active imagination and began writing my stories down in 1984. Once I started to write, I plunged into learning how to do it well. After completing my first book, a short contemporary romance, I went back to college and earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. Then I did major edits on the book!

I also attended writers’ conferences and soaked up everything I could learn. At one conference, I met an editor who liked my novel. She bought the book and had plans to buy the sequel, but her company went bankrupt. Being a Christian of integrity, she took the time and trouble to find another publisher for me. What a rollercoaster ride of emotions I went through! But I knew God had a plan. In time, that contract produced a two-book series that gave me the credentials to be contracted by an agent, who found a publisher for my next and much bigger project, a three-book historical series entitled Ahab’s Legacy. After a second three-book series, this one set in the post-Civil War period, my agent, Wendy Lawton, made a perfect match for me: Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historicals. I’ve written two books for Steeple Hill and am working on a proposal for a third one.

Each step along the way, with each new book, I continue to learn more about writing. I have a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a master’s degree in liberal studies. But the most valuable resources in my writing life now are several excellent critique partners and a membership in the American Christian Fiction Writers.

If you’re dreaming of being a writer, here’s what I advise: If God gives you a vision for a story, don’t let anyone tell you not to write it. BUT make sure you study the craft of writing and learn about current trends.

My brand new release from Steeple Hill is Love Thine Enemy, a Revolutionary War love story set in the East Florida Colony. Most people assume Florida was always a Spanish colony until the United States acquired it. But for twenty years, during which time the American Revolution created a brand new country just north of Florida, England owned the area from the Florida Keys all the way to the Mississippi River. Fascinating, right?

So what’s a romance writer to do with that information? Why, I do a bit of research, find a specific setting (St. Johns River), and create interesting characters: an American heroine who would rather be in Boston helping with the Revolution and a British hero whose only concern is making East Florida a prosperous colony for the Crown. Here’s a blurb.

The tropics of colonial Florida are far removed from America’s Revolution. Still, Rachel Folger’s loyalties remain with Boston’s patriots. Handsome plantation owner Frederick Moberly’s faithfulness to the Crown is as certain as his admiration for Rachel—but for the sake of harmony, he’ll keep his sympathies hidden. After all, the war is too far distant to truly touch them...isn’t it? A betrayal of Rachel’s trust divides the pair, leaving Frederick to question the true meaning of faith in God and in country. Inspired by Rachel to see life, liberty, and love through His eyes, Frederick must harness his faith and courage to claim the woman he loves before war tears them apart.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love Thine Enemy, go to my Web site, Both here on Kathi’s site and on mine, leave a comment to be entered into my drawings, and you might win a free copy of my book. Love Thine Enemy is also available anywhere that books are sold. Here’s the ISBN: 13: 978-0-373-82815-9.

Thanks again, Kathi!

Weary yet still pursuing...

Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan
{and} crossed over, weary yet pursuing (Judges 8:4, NASB, emphasis added).

The story about Gideon and his meager band of men defeating a massive enemy gathering is always inspiring to me. First, I’m reminded that no battle is ever won in my own strength. Second, I’m encouraged by the fact that nothing is impossible with God.
This last week, however, as I reread this familiar passage of scripture, three little words jumped right off the page and into my heart: “weary yet pursuing.” Wow. Though this story emphasizes God’s strength and power and sovereignty, it also points out what is required of us as we partner with Him in battle. Certainly we will grow weary, for the battles continue throughout our lifetime here on earth. But even when weary, we are to continue pursuing!
What does that mean? In the story found in Judges 8, we see the victorious Gideon and his 300 men pursuing the pagan kings who had escaped. Though we as believers aren’t called to pursue pagan kings, we are definitely called to pursue the King of kings—even when we are weary—for it is in His presence that our strength is renewed. If we give in to our weariness and fall by the wayside, we will miss seeing the victory that God has already won. And oh, how the enemy would love for that to happen!
Beloved, it is God Himself who fights for us, but He has called us to keep pursuing His heart, His presence, His mercy—even (and most especially) when we are weary. As the world changes about us and life as we have known it melts into the realities of fulfilled prophecy, it is more important than ever to pursue God with each step, clinging to Him and His Word with every breath, refusing to turn aside from following hard after Him (see Psalm 63:8, KJV).
May our motto today and always be that we are “weary yet pursuing,” for God will see that our pursuing is rewarded by His presence!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Know anyone fighting cancer?

Just about every one of us knows someone who is struggling with the diagnosis of cancer. I personally remember hearing those words spoken to me by a military doctor when I was just nineteen years old with a baby at home and another one on the way. My husband was stationed at Amarillo Air Force base, and we had no family or close friends nearby. What I would have given for a book like Hope for the Journey through Cancer by my precious friend Yvonne Ortega! Obviously I am now a cancer survivor, as that diagnosis came in 1967, but I haven't forgotten the feelings that swirled around me when it was first delivered.

If you or someone you know/love is in that position now, please consider getting a copy of this excellent devotional-type book of encouragement, available at, any of the major online venues, and/or anywhere books are sold.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Making the Time to Pray

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Nearly thirty-five years ago, as a relatively new believer, I was getting ready to leave a Sunday morning church service when I noticed a newcomer sitting in the pew in front of me, a few seats down. As we all made our way toward the center aisle to exit the building, my eyes caught his so I smiled and introduced myself. We exchanged brief pleasantries, and then, as I turned to move on, I wished him well and promised to pray for him and his family during the week. I had no sooner climbed into my car, however, than I felt convicted of not having taken the time to pray for him on the spot. The feeling that I needed to offer to do so would not go away, though I argued with myself that he had probably already left. Still, I decided to go back into the building to check.

Sure enough, though the sanctuary was otherwise empty by then, the young man sat alone in a pew, his head in his hands, and I realized my sense of urgency had been God’s call to prayer. I went to him and told him I believed the Lord wanted me to pray with him, and he began to weep.

“I live just down the street a few houses from this church,” he said. “My wife left me a few days ago and took the kids, and I’ve been so depressed. This morning I decided to give life one more chance by coming here to this church. I told myself that if God would send someone to pray with me, I wouldn’t kill myself when I got home. I’m so glad He sent you.”

And I’m so glad I obeyed! How often do we say we will pray for someone and then forget our promise? And how important is it to obey God’s specific call to prayer? Sometimes that call to prayer comes as a nudge from the Holy Spirit, as it did for me that day more than three decades ago, but other times it comes through a command in the Scriptures. First Timothy 2:1-2 is explicit in its call to all believers to pray “first of all” for those in authority, whether political or church leaders. Are we heeding that command? Do we regularly pray for our pastors, our congres sm en, our President, regardless of how we may feel about them personally?

I’ve been a part of the presidential prayer team since its inception in 2001, meaning that I daily prayed for President George W. Bush, those who worked with him, and their families. It also means that I now pray daily for President Barack Obama, those who work with him, and their families. As a believer I have no choice. If I fail to pray for those in authority simply because I don’t happen to agree with them, then I am being disobedient to God. And yet I have heard Christians complain about George Bush and his policies, as well as Barack Obama and his. We seem to be quite accomplished as complainers, but not so faithful as intercessors. In addition to being disobedient, that makes us poor witnesses to those who don’t yet know the One who issued the commandment to pray.

I for one have been guilty many times of promising to pray but not following through. As a result, I find myself becoming critical of others. Whether a young man contemplating suicide or individuals in positions of authority with nearly unfathomable responsibilities on their shoulders, people need us to be obedient and to intercede for them. Let’s commit together to use our words “first of all,” as the scripture instructs, to pray for and bless people, rather than criticize them. If we do, God will be faithful to fulfill His purpose.

***Please take a moment to visit my website at to sign my guestbook or leave a comment on my blog for a chance to win one of my new books. Please check out my new blog as well:

***Also, please visit, where I serve as Spiritual Director. Come as you are…leave with a new beginning! Drop us a note or prayer request while you’re there.