I'm so pleased to have AJ Nuest as my guest today. AJ's book Jezebel's Wish releasing from The Wild Rose Press in April has the most beautiful horse on the cover! AJ is here today to tell us where her creative ideas come from. Being the fantastic writer that she is, AJ couldn't help but tell us the answer in a story. To enter this week's contest worth $25 in gift certificates, leave AJ a comment that answers the question at the end of her story. Here's AJ:
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked this question. “Where do you come up with the ideas for your stories?”
Although my answer may sound incredibly vague, I always reply the same. “God.”
This response is usually met with a wide-eyed stare, followed by a blink.
I certainly don’t mean to throw my readers for a loop, nor is my answer meant to imply I have a direct line to the Almighty. The simple truth is God gives me my stories.
Enter Dart, the wounded American Kestrel Falcon.
A few days following Christmas, I was carting a load of broken down boxes out to what we in the sticks affectionately call ‘the burn pile’, when I opened the back door to our garage and was confronted by one of the most beautiful birds I’ve ever seen. He perched on a boulder on our back patio, and eyed me with all the blasé disinterest due a speck of dirt. I, of course, was both appalled and heartbroken to see his condition. Wing twisted and hanging limp, bloodied side, neck pulled in and feathers ruffled against the chill. My first instincts told me I needed to help this poor creature, but try as I might, I couldn’t get close. And he was big, with a sharp beak perfectly honed for tearing flesh. I knew if I left him unattended he would die, either from cold or the various other predators living in the wild outback of Northwest Indiana.
So I did what any normal writer does at this moment. I promptly named him Dart and assigned him a starring role in my work in progress. These musings were quickly followed by a rapid succession of phone calls, first to my husband, and then several local veterinarians and animal shelters, where I was finally directed to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The woman on the other end of the line assured me I would be contacted before the end of the day by one of their rangers, who would come out and assess the situation.
Throughout the afternoon, I repeatedly checked on Dart. I went online and looked up the dietary needs of a falcon, found out their favorite delicacy is freshly killed rodentia, considered whether or not I should try feeding him a piece of ham from the cold-cut drawer and quickly dismissed that idea.
As evening neared and the pale sun disappeared behind the horizon, Dart decided he’d spent more than enough time outside, thank you very much, and took up residence in our garage, claiming a vacant pet carrier as his home. I was happy to oblige.
A few hours later I was contacted by Ranger Wendorff of the Indiana DNR, who appeared shortly thereafter–heavy leather gloves in hand–to collect our new friend Dart. The affable ranger spent an hour in the garage with my family, detailing to a fascinated audience all the unique characteristics of the American Kestrel Falcon. Turns out other than the humming bird, they are the only other aviary species capable of hovering in flight.
That sealed the deal. My heroine in The Willow Tree will now be aided on her epic quest by a beautiful falcon named Dart, a loyal, deadly assassin who comes to her rescue in the nick of time.
My eight year-old daughter recently asked me if God truly speaks to us. I answered that of course He does, but you must pay close attention and listen well. God sent me Dart. How else do I explain out of the thousands of homes in our community, this amazing bird ended at mine? Whether God knew I would ensure His beloved creature was well looked-after, or as inspiration for a story, who knows? My guess is God leaves those details to me.
Answer this question to be entered into the weekly drawing: According to Ranger Wendorff, what’s the difference between a falcon and a hawk?
Jezebel’s Wish Blurb:
Available April 15, 2011 from The Wild Rose Press
Haunted by nightmares, tormented by guilt, Jezebel came to Redemption Ranch to escape the past—except now she's stuck in the middle of nowhere with no redemption in sight. When her mother pushes her into riding lessons with local veterinarian Matthias Saunders, Jezebel balks. Sure, the doctor is gorgeous, but he’s completely obnoxious and knows how to push every one of her buttons.
Only her deep connection with The Reverend, a gentle stallion who guards her darkest secrets, has her agreeing to spend any more time with Dr. Saunders. Caring for the stallion is the first bright spot in her life in months, and if being around the horse means she has to deal with Matthias Saunders, then so be it. Surely a city girl like her can handle one country vet—even one with disturbing blue eyes. Can't she?
Jezebel’s Wish Excerpt:
Jezzy stopped. “I thought I was having a riding lesson.”
“You are.” He nodded toward the empty paddock. “Go in.”
“Go in?” Jezzy propped a hand on her hip. “You sure you know what you’re doing? Because it was my understanding that an actual horse is needed for a riding lesson.”
“Don’t you think it would be wise at this juncture to leave the understanding up to the professionals?”
Jezzy rolled her eyes. “You’re making this way too easy. Professionals? Please. Don’t get me started.”
“Why not? Getting you started is exactly what I’m here for.”
Jezzy’s jaw dropped. She didn’t quite know how to interpret that remark.
He held out the rope. “Now go in. And take this lead line with you.” Steely blue determination glinted in his eyes. There was no way he was going to give in.
Jezzy snatched the lead line from his hand and stormed through the gate, then turned when he closed it behind her.
He put a foot on the bottom railing and rested against the gate, facing the horizon. “Take the chair to the center of the paddock and sit down.”
“And just exactly how is that supposed to teach me to ride?”
He cocked an eyebrow. “You want out of the deal?”
Jezzy’s fist clenched tight around the lead line. What she wanted was to march back to the fence and smack his face.
Visit our Valentine month-long Themes from the Heart Blog Tour and leave a comment to win a prize. The more blogs you visit with comments, the better your chances of winning. Prizes begin valued at $20, increasing each week to a Grand Prize of over $50!
Other blogs to visit in our tour include:
Author AJ Nuest lives in a small farming community in Northwest Indiana with her loving husband and two beautiful children. She is the author of two contemporary romance novels.
Contact her on the web:
Thanks, AJ, for joining us today! Good luck commenters! -Kat