Monday, July 28, 2014

The Butterfly and the Violin-Don't Miss it!

The Butterfly and the Violin
(A Hidden Masterpiece Novel, Book 1)
Kristy Cambron
(Thomas Nelson)
ISBN: 978-1401690595
July 2014/336 pages/$15.99

A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz—and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.


Kristy Cambron has been fascinated with the WWII era since hearing her grandfather’s stories of the war. She holds an art history degree from Indiana University and received the Outstanding Art History Student Award. Kristy writes WWII and Regency era fiction and has placed first in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations and 2012 FCRW Beacon contests, and is a 2013 Laurie finalist. Kristy makes her home in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons.

Find out more about Kristy at


This is an incredible book, and even more so considering that it's a debut novel. Cambron has crafted a beautiful story about an aspect of World War II and Auschwitz that was completely unknown to me. Intertwined contemporary and historical threads blend to form a masterpiece that juxtaposes privilege and privation, hope and despair, freedom and fences. Meticulously researched and rife with emotion (though at times a bit difficult to read due to the anguish that rises from the pages), The Butterfly and the Violin reminds us that worship and beauty can and do rise from the darkest of places. Worth every ache and tear shed while experiencing this gem of a novel, this is a must-read, and I fully expect to see it gracing award lists next year.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson & Litfuse Publicity as part of a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Welcome to the launch campaign for debut novelist Kristy Cambron's The Butterfly and the Violin.
Romantic Times had this to say: "Alternating points of view skillfully blend contemporary and historical fiction in this debut novel that is almost impossible to put down. Well-researched yet heartbreaking. . . ."

Kristy is celebrating the release of the first book in her series, A Hidden Masterpiece, with a fun Kindle Fire giveaway and meeting her readers during an August 7th Facebook author chat party.


 One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 7th. Winner will be announced at The Butterfly and the Violin Author Chat Party. Kristy will be connecting with readers and answering questions, sharing some of the fascinating research behind the book, hosting a fun book chat, and giving away some GREAT prizes. She will also be giving an exclusive look at the next book in the series, A Sparrow in Terezin!

So grab your copy of The Butterfly and the Violin and join Kristy on the evening of August 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today. Tell your friends via 
FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.
Hope to see you on the 7th!


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Friday, July 25, 2014

Operation Zulu: Out of Nowhere!

Operation Zulu Redemption:
Out of Nowhere - Part 2

Ronie Kendig
(Shiloh Run Press)
July 25, 2014/185 pages/$4.99

Part 2 of a Brand-new 5-part Serial Novel!

Zulu races around the world fighting for answers—and their lives! The remnant of the first all-female Special Forces team, Zulu, will do whatever it takes to determine what really happened that night five years ago—when a trap entangled the team in the deaths of twenty-two innocent people in Misrata, Libya. With Lieutenant Colonel Trace Weston and Boone Ramage leading the way, Annie Palermo, Téya Reiker, and Nuala King are training harder and stronger, digging deeper for clues, and tracking down leads in the U.S. and Europe to clear their names. Former Navy SEAL Sam Caliguari refuses to believe Annie left of her own free will, not after what they shared. But his determination and efforts to find her have put Zulu at greater risk of being discovered—and eliminated—before they can find the truth. Francesca Solomon is determined to bring down Trace Weston, whom she believes is responsible for the tragedy in Misrata, for ruining her father’s career, and for tarnishing her family’s good name. When a source gives her pivotal information, Francesca leaps at the chance to make Trace answer for his crimes. Just when things start to turn for Zulu, a member of the team is targeted by one of the world’s deadliest assassins. Then another vanishes. Zulu wants the truth, but they didn’t know it might cost every one of their lives.

Start the mission with Operation Zulu Redemption: The Beginning and then don't miss any of these extended length 240 page episodes....

Available Now! Operation Zulu Redemption: Collateral Damage -- Part 1
Operation Zulu Redemption: Out of Nowhere -- Part 2
August 1: Operation Zulu Redemption: Hazardous Duty -- Part 3
August 8: Operation Zulu Redemption: Act of Treason -- Part 4

Ronie Kendig will leave you needing the next!


Whew! If you aren't reading along with this weekly digital series, you are Missing. Out! Just when I think things can't get more dangerous for the remnant of Team Zulu, I'm proved wrong! Kendig is at her best as she perfectly balances the non-relenting action with matchless character development and razor-sharp verbal exchanges. Vivid detail and descriptions bring each page to life...and leave me danging on the edge at the cliff-hanging end! I Can't wiat for Part 3 to come out next week!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this this e-book from Ronie Kendig and Barbour Publishing as part of a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Getting to know Katherine Reay

I was so excited to meet and interview Katherine Reay in June when I was in Atlanta for the International Chrisitan Retailers Show. She is a fresh new writer who is delighting all who meet her and read her debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley. Katherine was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist (First Novel) and the 2014 Inspy Winner for Debut novel, and is a finalist for two 2014 ACFW Carol Awards (Debut and Contemporary categories). Her second novel, Lizzy and Jane, will release in October. Katherine is absolutely charming and our time together just flew by. Grab a cup of your favorite brew and enjoy my interview with her.

I'm so glad to meet you. Tell me a bit about yourself. You're a brand-new author and Dear Mr. Knightley is your debut novel, right?

Yes, it's the first manuscript I've ever written and my debut novel. I'm very new to all of this!

Wow, so you haven't gone through years of rejections like some authors do.

Well, I think I compressed years of rejections into six months. I received so many rejection letters on this manuscript!

Tell me how it's been to be published. Has it been what you've expected? Or better or worse?

Far better! Not that I expected it to be bad in any way, but the community is amazing. I didn't really expect so many interactions with readers. So many new friends who are writers. So many friends in the industry. Everyone is so welcoming, so generous with their time and their knowledge and their support and their love. That's been incredible.

I have observed that so much. And I don't think it's solely because these people are Christians because there is certainly an "underbelly" to Christian ministry that can be ugly. But what amazes me is that all of these authors in ACFW are essentially competitors vying for the same readers, the same shelf space. But you don't see that. They are so encouraging to each other and are dear friends.

It's rooting for Christian literature.

Exactly. And a win for one is a win for all. This is what the body of Christ is supposed to be! That's not to say that everyone is perfect or that no one has private struggles, but it's one reason why I love being a part of ACFW and promoting Christian fiction so much. You don't deal with the ugliness that it seems would be there.

I agree. I can't tell you how gracious people have been. It's amazing.

You're coming on the scene as the whole face of publishing is changing. You're published by HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson who is very committed to Christian fiction. So you haven't known how it has been, only what it is now. So how has it been to do all of the marketing and promotion with Facebook and Twitter, etc.? Of course, you're part of the younger generation so it's probably easier for you than some.

I'm not that young. I'm in my forties. I was reading YA novels and realizing I'm not hip anymore! I never was, actually, but I'm certainly not now! Dear Mr. Knightley has resonated very well with people in their twenties. I keep thinking they're going to find out how old I am and say, "Why are we reading her?"

Well, they won't find out looking at your picture because I thought you were in your mid-thirties!

You're so kind! But yes, I have only come in this time of change. I will also admit that Dear Mr. Knightley was written in a very closed atmosphere, in the sense that I was not part of a writing group. I had no writing friends. I wrote a novel and started peddling it to agents, etc.

Had you joined ACFW?

No. I was really in a vacuum.

You broke all the rules [of writing]!

I did! I even called an agent, which you are not supposed to do. You are supposed to wait patiently. That's a really unusual God story which is really cool. But back to the original questions, everything is new. In fact, my first ACFW conference was 2012. I had connected with my agent, Lee Hough, literally two weeks before.

Ah, you had Lee!

I had Lee. My first year was his last year. God put us together in a most dramatic way. I got off the plane [at ACFW]—and the plane was late—walked into the hotel, recognized him from his picture, shook his hand, and went in to pitch. Daisy Hutton from Thomas Nelson was the first person we pitched to. We had not met at all, in person, prior to that.

But he had agreed to represent you?

He had agreed, yes. That was an amazing story. In 2010, I had not written Dear Mr. Knightley yet but at a conference, I met a publisher and she told me, "I'd be interested in seeing it when you write it." When I wrote it and received so many rejections, I decided that since she was a publisher, I would just send it to her. She was interested and the contract arrived, and it was terrifying! It was thirty pages that I could not understand with so much small, small print! I was really discouraged because I didn't have an agent and I had this overwhelming contract, and I didn't know what to do. That same morning that the contract arrived, a newsletter also arrived from the Christian Writers Guild. I opened the newsletter, and this is true! Title article: Why You Need an Agent, with my picture, a 2010 galley shot from that conference.

Wow! Was that kinda creepy?

It was really creepy. I was thinking, "Ooh, I've got to listen, God, 'cause you're talking!" That just doesn't happen! So I emailed Jerry Jenkins, telling him, "This is unbelievable! You have this article, my picture. Please reply. This is my situation." He wrote me back within an hour. "You need an agent. Don't worry; no one will turn you down because you have a contract. an offer." I didn't want to go back to the forty who had rejected me so I went to my bookshelf and I pulled out three books. Lee's name came up twice and another agent's came up once. I went to his website and pulled up Lee's picture. Very few times has God spoken to me but he did then and said, "That's your agent." So I called Lee Hough and left a message, kind of like I'm talking now–really frenetic, really nervous–three minutes. Then I went back and read his site and saw the books he represented and who he was, and it said NO PHONE CALLS. Submit a letter and wait. I thought, "I've broken every rule and he'll never call me back."

Thirty minutes later, he called me back! I couldn't answer a single question he asked because I didn't know how to do an elevator pitch, put a synopsis of my book in three minutes or anything else. I really was lost. He said, "I'm not offering to represent you, but I'll help you out." This was a Thursday. "Send me the manuscript, send me the contract offer, and I'll give you my best advice Monday." I thought that was fabulous. Monday came – no email. Tuesday came and I got a one-line email: "Don't sign the contract. We need to talk. I'll call Thursday. Lee" On Thursday he called and his first sentence was, "Where have you been? I want to work with you. If you can get a proposal done in two weeks and get to Dallas, we're going to pitch this." Dallas was 2012 ACFW. God just totally stepped in. Lee and I worked together for a year. It was amazing.

Wow. What a story. I know how many people were impacted by him, and I remember last year at the Christy Awards when they honored him with the Lifetime Achievement Award. To have had that kind of experience with him...

Unbelievable. He took such care of me. He explained everything. He taught me the things that I would need to know. All in the midst of what he was going through. I have never met a more Christ-centered man than Lee. I really am so blessed to have known him.

So now what? Do you have another agent?

I do. And I'm still working under the contract that Lee set up [with Thomas Nelson]. My next book will come out in October, titled Lizzy and Jane, about the sisters. The older one is fighting breast cancer and the younger one is just trying to find her way. They are kinda on their way back together as sisters. I'm really excited about that one. Right now, I'm writing a third book, which is a lot of fun, too! It will come out in Fall 2015.

Do you see this continuing?

I really would like it to. I love what I do! I love wrestling with different aspects of faith and presenting it in different contexts for both Christians and non-Christians. I'm finding that there is a lot of non-fiction that goes into fiction, and I love bringing those themes in, hopefully in subtle enough ways that they feel organic to the characters and to our lives.

When you write, are you a plotter or a pantster? Or are you too new to know yet?

That's probably the answer right there! But I will tell you that I'm "none of the above," which is a really weird thing. I start with a character's need. I have an idea of a character, and I know what I want her to feel like at the end. So I start with who she is and where I want her to go. Then I figure out what can I throw at her in the middle to get her there. I definitely start with big plots, but I will tell you that in Dear Mr. Knightley, emotions changed phenomenally. There are some points in the book that started as victory moments but by the time I finished wrestling with the characters, they were absolute defeats. They just changed. So lots of change goes on while I'm writing, and most of it is emotional change. I do know where I'm physically going to stick her at certain points. And I say "her" because I've not written from a man's point of view yet and don't know if I would dare to go there!

Do your characters surprise you and do things you weren't planning?

Absolutely! Dear Mr. Knightley is about a young woman who grows up in the foster care system, and her self-defense mechanism is to hide behind literature characters. She has to lay down those personas to find out who she really is. She's very tight and very closed and, beneath the surface, very angry, which one could expect from a traumatic childhood. So she did surprise me continually. I would think we were okay but realize, no, there's a ton of subliminal fear and anger here that she's bringing out. It's interesting: she was a much tighter, compressed character than say, Lizzie in the next book, and I was tighter writing. She was a tougher character for me. It would take me a little while to get her out of my head. Lizzie was an easier character and didn't have a lot of the anger Sam did. It was interesting the way all that played in my head.

I love talking to authors about the voices in their heads and how characters sometimes have minds of their own!

It is crazy but it is so much fun! It is so much fun!

Where did you get the idea for Dear Mr. Knightley?

In 2009 I was severely injured and admitted to the hospital. Most people get flowers in the hospital. My poor husband had to lug out thirty-one books! That's what my friends brought me, a lot of books. I got home and there was nothing that I could do. I couldn't drive and I could barely reach a can of soup. I read about sixty books and this character started forming. I read a lot of Jane Austen – my safe place is Jane Austen – and started with the old Jane Austen then went to the knock-offs. I read every prequel, sequel, everything! A character started forming in my head but she could not live in Jane Austen's world. Jane Austen's world is too confined, too safe. She wasn't fitting there.. Then I reread Daddy-Long-Legs. It's a 1912 book, an epistolary novel, about an orphan going to college. I read that book and realized that's where my character fits. It is, in many ways, a rewriting of Daddy-Long-Legs but I don't deal with the same themes that Jean Webster did. She had social issues and themes that she was dealing with and I picked different ones, but a lot of her plot points follow that. It's a novel about all the Austen books because she kinda hides behind Lizzie Bennett, Charlotte Lucas, Jane Bennett. It's a real nod to classic literature in general. There's Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo, obviously the Daddy-Long-Legs plotline. There's a lot of literature thrown in because that happens to be what I was completely absorbing during that time.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I do a lot of stuff! Right now, I'm training for the New York Marathon. I thought I was done with marathon running but I'm not. I love the half-marathon and think that's the perfect distance but I'm training for that. I love to play tennis. We just moved last week from Seattle to Chicago, so that's been taking a lot of time. I have three kids who are really active. My 17-year-old is the oldest and I have a 13-year-old and my youngest turns twelve today. So I'm not sedentary very long!

Well, just being a mom of three kids keeps you plenty busy!

I know, and getting them all moved and continually checking to be sure they're each okay!

Lizzy and Jane has a lot of cooking in it as one of the ancillary themes. The main character is a chef. About a year and a half ago, my three kids said, "You need to step up your cooking." It was kindly said, but Mom was not producing good dinners, I gather! So I got out all these cookbooks and started to really enjoy cooking. I'd never enjoyed it before. I really started to love it so a lot of that is in the book. I made her a chef so I could parlay into my new fascination with cooking.

Anything else you want to share with readers?

I'm just so delighted that they're reading the book and loving it, and that they're finding some of the layers in it.

What has been the most meaningful letter or email you've received from a reader?

I'll be honest. I've had a few from victims of childhood abuse or the foster care system, and they have actually thanked me for one, bleeding on the page, and the other, for handling abuse so well, and another, for understanding the foster care system. I have been very careful and I said in the back of the book, I was not a foster kid and I did not suffer abuse as a child but I am so grateful that they wrote me and, while I cannot walk in their shoes, I gather I handled it respectfully. That means a lot. When I started the book, I interviewed a lot of foster kids but I did not write down any of their names. I cannot tell you a single name of anyone I interviewed. The reason for that is I did not want anyone's story to be reflected in the book because it's fiction. I really wanted to be respectful of their lives and their individual stories. I also read a lot of autobiographies and biographies of foster kids. So what they said really means a lot because I am treading in someone's very personal world there, and I hope I've done it well.

I have not had breast cancer, so the point of view in Lizzy and Jane is the younger sister, who does not have breast cancer. Although I've had many friends who have had it, I have not walked in those shoes, either. We'll see if I handled that well.

And I don't know if I handled everyone's experience in foster care well but I hope I was respectful. That actually does mean a lot because that's tender ground.

But also, I like when the twenty-year-olds write that they love it, and that they love Mr. Knightley and they love Sam's journey! It's really about her finding her own voice. It's a love story, absolutely, but it's also about her finding parents, her finding God. She does not know of a loving father, so how can she understand anyone who believes in God at the beginning of the story? She doesn't understand the concept. There are so many different journeys that she's going on. I'm really glad that people have picked up on different aspects of it.

What do your kids think about Mom being an author?

They absolutely love it! They're so cute. My seventeen-year-old son, of course, is never going to read it! Some day he might, but I just can't anticipate that. My thirteen-year-old is about to read it but I'm not encouraging her at all. I think when she gets a little bit older and she's read a little Jane Austen, etc., it will be a little more interesting to her. But they are very excited. They really are. In fact, at the bookstore, my son will say "I rearranged them." I told him he couldn't go in the bookstores and rearrange the books! "Why not?"

Oh that's so fun! Knowing how exciting it was for me to see a couple of my reviews in print as endorsements, I can only imagine what it would be like to have your name on a book!

Crazy! It's crazy! I will tell you, and I don't know if it's the same with other writers. I have quit reading reviews on the whole. Because if I believe the really nice ones, then the really horrible ones I have to believe too! And those are hard! But I'm learning! It's just all been so incredibly fun!

Thanks so much, Katherine! It's been wonderful talking to you!

Readers, you can learn more about Katherine Reay on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads!

And right now, you can get the digital version of Dear Mr. Knightley for just $3.99!

Mocha with Linda, Katherine Reay, and Allison Pittman
at the Christy Awards in June!


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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Hodgepodge

It's always good to have a Tuesday off so I can get my Wednesday Hodgepodge answers ready to post on Joyce's blog! Come along and join the fun!

1. When I look at the sky I feel__________________________________.

...amazed at God's creation.

2. If you had to run for political office, which one would you run for? Do you have any real desire to actually do this?

Probably the door! LOL I can think of few things less desirable thank running for any kind of office.

3. What scent makes you think of home?

Cinnamon and cloves and oranges - brewing some spiced tea!

4. How often do you take a step back to think about where you're headed in life? Do you need more or less self-reflection?

I have plenty of self-reflection but it's not that type. I think most of us would do well do focus on ourselves less!

5. July is National Ice Cream Month...besides a cone, what's your favorite food item to top with ice cream?

Warm pie.

6. What might your autobiography be called?

I am not nearly creative enough for these questions! LOL Let's see....One for the Books?

7. Your least favorite mode of transportation? Why?

Walking. I get a migraine if I'm out in the sun and heat very long. And I sure don't want to walk if the weather's not nice!

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Funny how my mind can be filled with random thoughts until I'm instructed to have one!


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Monday, July 21, 2014

Interview with Irene Hannon

Today I am happy to share my interview with Irene Hannon. I have loved Irene's suspense novels and have forgotten, at times, that she is an accomplished Women's Fiction author as well. When I was in Atlanta in June, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet her and sit down with her for an interview. We chatted on Monday, and then I discovered at the ACFW Press Conference on Tuesday that she is a finalist not once, not twice, but THREE times for ACFW Carol Awards - twice in the Romantic Suspense category for Trapped and Vanished (click the titles for my reviews) and once in the Short Novel category for Seaside Blessings.

I'm so excited to finally meet you because I love your books! You are really talented because not everyone can write in two genres and have a following in both. In fact, I sometimes forget that you write the contemporary romances because I associate you with your suspense novels because that's where I first discovered you.

Right. And most people who read primarily trade books know me through my suspense. When they find out I'm writing the contemporary romance women's fiction, their response is, "Wow, that's really nice that your branching into a second field!" I have to laugh because I've been writing contemporary romance forever! But I was writing it as series books, the smaller mass market paperbacks – in recent years, for Love Inspired. So I've been writing those longer than suspense, but my suspense readers tend to only know me through my suspense, so the other seems new to them. These contemporary romance books are longer with more complex stories and more points of view, but I'm not new to the genre.

So is marketing – or cross-marketing – a challenge, since you have two audiences that don't necessarily know about the "other side" of your writing?

It is somewhat of a challenge, and a lot of people have discovered my contemporary romance women's fiction novels because they've read my suspense books and they've decided since they liked those books, they'd give the others a try. I've found that there's tremendous crossover. Once people find out that there are the two genres, and they sample them – unless they are just a die-hard suspense fan and that's all they read – I've had huge crossover, even from my smaller Love Inspired books. Those people have tried my suspense books and now they've moved on to my longer contemporary romances. The kind of stories I write, which tend to be very character-driven. I'm not into the super high-action, adventure thriller books, which some people gravitate toward. My main interests in any book I write, whatever the genre, are the people. I want to know what makes them tick. The genre that I pick is really just a device to talk about people. The tone in my books, from romance to suspense, is similar in terms of the character development. People who sample both tend to like them both unless, like I said, they're just die-hard suspense fans and don't read anything else. So I don't see a whole lot different marketing-wise. I tend to emphasize the fact that if you like the people you've read about in these books, you will probably like the people you read about in the other books. They're not that dramatically different. It's not like I'm writing prairie romance and sci-fi.

And even in One Perfect Spring, since you have to have some tension in a plot, there is some suspense in that story.

There is. And that's naturally how I write, no matter the genre. There have to be pieces of information that people don't know, that they want to know, that makes them keep reading. In One Perfect Spring, you want to know what happens with this older woman and what happened with her son she gave up for adoption. And this young guy who is the main hero, what is in his background that's really bothering him about this whole assignment he's been given? So yes, there are questions and there is, in that sense, an element of suspense in the book.

So, the age-old question, how do you come up with your ideas? And how do you decide which genre to plug an idea into?

Some of it is dictated by contract, because I do have contracts out pretty far for both genres. So I look at what's due next and shift gears to think about that. In terms of where do I get my ideas, I envy some authors who say, "I have this whole file of ideas that I just can't wait to get to!" I wish I had that but I don't. My ideas come as the books happen. Once in a while I'll get an idea for a future book. But usually, it's as I'm sitting down to write, I start trying to come up with an idea. Often it's something very subtle. I'll overhear a snippet of conversation or I observe something or I'll read something in the newspaper, and it just plants this little tiny seed of an idea and I start the "what if" process and build from there. There's no magic formula to it, and if someone were to hold up a book, such as One Perfect Spring and say, "Where did the idea for this come from?", 99% of the time I could not go back and identify the moment that inspired it because it is so subtle.

The only exception I can think of, and it's pretty dramatic, is the first book in my Private Justice series, Vanished. That idea was a very specific incident. I can tell you exactly how it came to me, in fact for the entire series. I was driving home from church one night, in the dark on a narrow road, and a bicyclist appeared in my headlights. There was no shoulder so he was right there, really close, so I swerved around him and thought to myself, "Wow, that was pretty dangerous." That's when I started thinking. What if a woman was driving out in the country in a rainstorm and a figure appeared in her headlights? She jams on her brakes, swerves out of control, knows she hit the person, hits the tree. A person stops and says, "I saw the accident and I'll take care of it. Sit here since you're hurt." She blacks out and then wakes up and there's no evidence that anything ever happened. The person who stopped is gone; the person she hit is gone. She calls the police and they see no evidence and tell her maybe it was a deer or something. But she knows she saw something and she lines up a private investigator to help her. She's an investigative journalist so she's not letting this thing go. That all came from this moment of seeing this bicyclist. Not only did it give me the idea for that book but for a whole series with PI's. I can tell you for that book but for most books, it's a real subtle seed that gets planted. And once I have that seed, then I'll start to think about what kind of people might be involved and how can I best put people together that would interact well. From there, I move on to what might happen in the book. Most of the book develops as I write.

I do know how it will end because I write romantic suspense and I know it has to end happily. Regular suspense writers don't necessarily have to do that, but I know I'm aiming toward that happy ending. Once I have my people centered in my mind, I think about what would make the most dramatic opening scene, and then I just walk into it and go from there. That's how the process works for me. I can't really set out ten steps to follow in writing a book. Every writer is different.

So are you more of a "pantser" than a plotter?

It's probably a hybrid because I think about my characters a lot and really develop them before I start, including the villain. My books are not mysteries. I tell you who the villain is pretty early in my books so the suspense doesn't come from "who did it?", it comes from "are they going to succeed?". Because I introduce the villain early on, I take readers right inside the head of the villain, which can be very spooky. The readers know more than the hero and heroine know.

Yes, it makes me hold my breath to watch them walk into a dangerous situation!"

Right! You want to say, "Don't open that door!" Since I spend a lot of time focusing on the characters and know them so well, it's not a pantser in that sense. I know the basic plot but beyond that, I just let it flow.

Does your manuscript ever take off in ways you don't expect it to? Or do your characters ever surprise you?

I can't say I've ever been totally surprised by the direction of a story because it evolves naturally and I let it go where it needs to go. I don't try to control it that much. I have been surprised, occasionally, by my characters. One of my darkest villains was really spooky and he scared me. I thought I knew him pretty well, and then five or six chapters in, he revealed he had killed his mother, which I had no idea he had done! I stopped typing in the middle of the page and said, "You did what?!" But it made him a much more interesting character. I had to adjust a few little things that had happened prior to that in order to make it work. That was not planned! He literally told me that he did that.

Oh, I love talking to authors like you and hearing you talk about these characters in your head talking to you! Y'all are so delightfully weird!

I know! If I say that to someone who doesn't know and understand writers, I get the "Okaaay, I'm leaving now!" look.

Brandilyn Collins would say, "Careful, we're around 'normals' now."

It's true! The way the writer's mind thinks is pretty weird sometimes!

I know you don't write the heavy suspense, but have you done things like taking the Writer's Police Academy?

The research piece of my work is huge. You lose credibility so fast if you make mistakes, and the whole law enforcement aspect was very intimidating to me because I had no background in that. I did as much research with that as I could. I only had one contact in law enforcement initially. That was a police detective who ultimately connected me with an FBI agent and US Marshals and private investigators. But I started with one. I did take the Citizen's Police Academy in my town and I expected to learn something but I assumed it would be pretty filtered and tame. I was blown away! They brought in the top people from every division—the canine officers, the SWAT team, the medical examiner, etc. It was the best education I could have ever gotten and it was free! It was amazing. One of the things that they offered was a ride-along with a police officer. I knew that would be good since I could observe and listen to the lingo and look at the equipment. That was really all I wanted out of it. I signed up for an early evening shift in a nicer part of town, thinking it would be a quiet few hours. Well, we weren't an hour into the shift when he gets a call for a domestic disturbance in a really nice neighborhood. I know it happens everywhere but I thought "wow, this is intense" and was really a bit scared while he was talking to them.

So you went in with him?

They told us in the instructions to stay in the car but when we got there, the officer said, "If you stay in the car, you're not going to see anything, so come on." He actually took me in and I'm thinking I should have stayed in the car because it was so tense. We got through that and ten minutes later, he got a call for an in-progress burglary. And it had gotten dark. He hits the lights and the siren and takes off, weaving in and out of traffic, and I thought, "I'm going to die tonight." When we got there, I honestly think the poor guy had to peel my fingers off the dashboard when it was all over. (I did stay in the car for that call.) I tell people I learned a lot from that ride-along! But the biggest thing I learned is that I much prefer my suspense between the pages of a book. Real-life suspense is not for me!

But I do try to make sure the books are accurate by doing a lot of research. If I make a mistake, someone will find it, and my credibility is just gone.

I agree. I'm a nurse and it drives me nuts when medical stuff is inaccurate or they violate HIPPA regulations.

I always vet my medical stuff with medical people. My very first suspense, Against All Odds, focuses on an FBI Hostage Rescue Team, which is an amazing group of guys. They're hard to research because they're somewhat under the radar. They're like Navy Seals but on the civilian side. So I did all my homework and really researched it and I got a weird email a few months after the book came out. It said "I read Against All Odds and really enjoyed it. But I chewed tobacco; I didn't chew on a cigar." I thought that was a weird email. Then I looked at his signature and he was a former commander of a Hostage Rescue Team who happened to have the same first name as my fictional commander. I had no idea when I wrote it that any commander had this name. I wrote him back and told him it was a total accident, and he wrote back and said he was amazed how well I had captured his personality. He also said, "I have to commend you for your research because you had everything right, down to the actual radio call signals that are used during a mission." That made me feel so good because I work so hard to be accurate, and to have a commander of Hostage Rescue Team tell me I got it right was so nice.

I think it would be hard those of you who do write about some of these subjects because there are some things the FBI and the military can't tell you. There's a fine line between being accurate and pushing limits.

Right. There are certain things they won't tell you. My FBI source is a recently retired FBI agent, which actually is a big advantage because he will tell me more than if he were currently active. They are very close-mouthed about a lot of things. It can be a challenge to research some things.

Even for my contemporary women's fiction, I make the same effort to be accurate. The heroine in my book coming out next summer is a cranberry farmer in Oregon, so I actually tracked down a cranberry farmer in Oregon who was very delightful and willing to help me with all of the research for cranberry farming. I do all of my book research and online research first because I never want to waste people's time. I generally go to them with questions that are unique to my book. It's amazing, though, how much of the online information isn't 100% accurate. He did correct a few things. So I try to be accurate for all my books, no matter the genre.

It would be like someone writing a book about Texas and having bluebonnets bloom in June. They only bloom in late March and April and are gone by the first part of May.

Right. And it's easy to make those kind of mistakes. Look at the huge audience who would immediately say, "Well, if that's wrong, what else is wrong?" You lose a lot of people right away.

Plus, it's distracting and pulls the reader out of the story. I'll be immersed and all of a sudden stop reading because an erroneous detail jars me and disrupts the flow.

Exactly. Pulling people out of the story is the number one "sin" for a writer. You never want to do that, ever. I've also found myself being pulled out of a story if a writer dumps a lot of backstory in. A reader can read a bunch of facts but then they're not in the story anymore.

Yes, and some authors know how to do that better than others. Historicals, especially war novels, are a particular challenge. I've ended up skimming paragraphs and even pages when they include too many details.

It becomes a history lesson more than a story. It's a challenge for any writer, whatever the research is. I usually end up with one hundred single-spaced typed pages of research notes and citations for a suspense novel, and I probably use five percent of that in the book. I need to know the information to be sure I'm presenting it authentically but my readers don't need to know it, and they don't want to know it. They just want to know enough to know that I know what I'm talking about.

One thing I've learned, and I was sharing this when I spoke to our local writer's group about what makes books get good reviews, is that, even if a character needs redemption, the writer still has to give them some likeable characteristics. I told the group that I'm one of the few people who doesn't like Gone with the Wind, and the reason is that Scarlett O'Hara is such a brat. I don't see any redeeming qualities in her!

It would be okay if she started out the way she did, but she never had a change of heart. If you never have a character change and learn something, that person will never be a sympathetic character. With my villains in my suspense books, I'm not into black-and-white, plastic characters. My villains are interesting people because a lot of them have really good qualities. In Vanished, it was a physician who was doing wonderful work and, for reasons that become clear in the book, ends up with mixed-up notions about ways to make sure that work continues. It was appalling but in his mind it was the greater good that he was working for. But he was a good person, basically, who did bad things. I don't want people to end my books thinking, "I hated that guy." I want them to say, "Oh wow. I can almost see why they did it. It's wrong but I understand the motivation." I think that makes for more interesting reading.

It's like several historical authors have done with many of the prostitutes in the 1800's. It was wrong but there were not many options for women without husbands back then! It gives you more compassion.

Right. It does give you a different perspective. You still don't approve but you can understand how that could happen. It opens your mind a little bit so that maybe you're not so quick to judge. And I think most situations are like that. People aren't black-and-white. Even the worst people, in general, have a few redeeming qualities.

And maybe that will translate over into our real lives, that we will extend that grace and compassion to others.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I love to sing and perform in community musical theater. I do that whenever I can.

You aren't the typical writer introvert?

When I'm onstage, I love it.. Now when I'm in a crowd, I wouldn't be the one to come forward. In my private life, when I'm not onstage, I'm definitely quieter. I don't like mingling in a crowd, especially with people I don't know. I do love one-on-one interactions, such as interviews.

What's coming next for you?

The final book in the Private Justice series, Deceived, comes out in October. That's in final production. (And it's available for pre-order!) In April, I'll launch a new suspense series called Men of Valor. It focuses on three brothers who all have Special Forces backgrounds and have now moved on to other things but they have this really interesting background that they bring to their current jobs.
The first book is called Buried Secrets. I'm most excited about that book because my heroine is actually a police chief and my hero is a pretty new police detective in a different municipality. She's more experienced than he is, and he's assigned to help her with a case. It's an interesting dynamic. She's a really strong character; I like her a lot. The story will hold a couple of surprises that people won't see coming. (She says with a sly grin!)

Ooh! That sounds wonderful! I can't wait!

I also have another contemporary romance women's fiction coming next summer which is set on the Oregon coast in a little seaside village, which I think will end up being the setting for other stories as well. I can tell there are more stories in that town!

Thank you so much for talking with me. It is so wonderful to finally meet you!

Readers, you can learn more about Irene Hannon and her books at her website,, as well as follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Whether you like romantic suspense or women's fiction--or both!--add her name to your reading list!


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Friday, July 18, 2014

Collateral Damage

Operation Zulu Redemption:
Collateral Damage - Part 1

Ronie Kendig
(Shiloh Run Press)
July 18, 2014/338 pages/$4.99

They want answers. They want redemption. And they want to live.

Five years ago, six soldiers made American military history as the first all-female Special Forces team, named Zulu. A tragic mistake in Misrata, Libya, leaves twenty-two innocents dead and Zulu fleeing for their lives. Now Jessica Herring and Candice Reyna are dead at the hand of an assassin, and Keeley Shay clings to life in a hospital. The last three Zulu members are forced into a fight for answers, for redemption, and for their very lives. Annie Palermo and Téya Reiker had settled into their hidden identities when their lives are upended and their loved ones attacked. Annie’s flame, Samuel Caliguari, is a former Navy SEAL who can hold his own, but the attack leaves Annie livid—and fleeing once again. When Téya’s Amish loved ones are threatened, she must also hide. But how can she not go back and protect these peace-loving people, no matter the risk? Nuala King never really settled after Misrata, and she can’t shake the horror of the disastrous mission, the lives lost, or the terrible nightmares that still haunt her. Lieutenant Colonel Trace Weston and his right-hand man, Chief Warrant Officer Boone Ramage, struggle to hold the Zulu remnant together. They must track down who hit the team and deliver justice to the enemy—if Sam Caliguari and relentless Army intelligence analyst Lieutenant Francesca Solomon don’t get them all killed first. . . .

Start the mission with Operation Zulu Redemption: The Beginning

And don't miss any of these extended 240 page episodes....
July 18: Operation Zulu Redemption: Collateral Damage -- Part 1
July 25: Operation Zulu Redemption: Out of Nowhere -- Part 2
August 1: Operation Zulu Redemption: Hazardous Duty -- Part 3
August 8: Operation Zulu Redemption: Act of Treason -- Part 4

Ronie Kendig will leave you needing the next!

Want a sneak peak at an excerpt? Click here!

Join the community that is Team Zulu!


I don't know whether to be glad or exasperated that this is a serialized novel. On the one hand, I'm not sure my heart could take it all at once, and I KNOW I wouldn't be able to put it down. On the other hand, waiting a week between each installment is already about to make me crazy! While the FREE teaser/prologue Overkill: The Beginning (which I reviewed here) was heart-stopping, Kendig was just getting warmed up! Collateral Damage plunges the reader straight into the non-stop action--and the emotion!--of this fast-paced thriller. Not a scene or word is wasted as the story unfolds and the team's lives unravel. Pulsating, intense, and sure to leave you gasping for breath Collateral Damage is a top-priority reading assignment. Don't miss it!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this this e-book from Ronie Kendig and Barbour Publishing as part of a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Match of Wits

A Match of Wits
Jen Turano
(Bethany House)
ISBN: 978-0764211270
July 2014/352 pages/$14.99

After his departure from New York two years ago to meet up with his almost-fiancée, Zayne Beckett is the last person Agatha Watson wanted to stumble upon in her travels as a reporter with the New York Tribune. Quite pathetically bedraggled, he clearly needs to be taken in hand and sent back East to his family. Although she no longer has feelings for him, Agatha realizes, by hook or by crook, she'll have to be the one to get the obstinate man home.

Zayne has no desire to be taken anywhere and is prepared to drag his heels all the way home... until he finds himself slipping back into the familiar banter of his former friendship with Agatha. Once they arrive in New York, Zayne realizes Agatha's determined nose for news has earned her a few enemies, and he hopes to repay her help with some help of his own. When she rebuffs all his attempts to prove himself a knight in shining armor, the lengths to which they'll go to win this battle of wills lead to some memorable antics.

Everyone else may think them a match, but nothing could be further from the truth--until Agatha finds herself in real trouble. Have these two stubborn, too-smart-for-their-own-good people been meant for each other all along?


Photo Credit:
Sara Karam Photography
Jen Turano, author of A Change of Fortune, A Most Peculiar Circumstance, and A Talent for Trouble, is a graduate of the University of Akron with a degree in clothing and textiles. She is a member of ACFW and lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Visit her website at


In her trademark style, Jen Turano has released another delightful novel full of engaging characters. I have loved each of her previous books (click here to see those reviews) and this one is equally enjoyable. Turano once again showcases her gift for creating unique plotlines and imaginative dialogue. But while the lively repartee between Agatha and Zayne kept me chuckling, the sure yet subtle faith message woven throughout the story makes this much more than a frivolous way to while away a few hours. Don't miss this charming novel and while you're at it, be sure to read Jen's earlier books as well. She's an author you don't want to overlook!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Rescue

The Rescue
An Inn at Eagle Hill Novella
(The eBook Shorts)
Suzanne Woods Fisher
May 2014/55 pages/$1.99

He’s taking a chance on love . . . and there’s no plan B.

Will Stoltz has returned to Stoney Ridge with a clear plan. He’s opening a wild bird rescue center and is determined to rekindle his fizzled romance with Jackie Colombo, the veterinarian who stole his heart. But nothing is working out as Will planned. The leased building for the rescue center is a disaster, his funding is rapidly dwindling, and Jackie Colombo has disappeared without a trace.

When an injured eagle is found in a pasture near the Inn at Eagle Hill, Will is desperate to prove to himself, to his skeptical father, and to everyone else that his mission has not been in vain. But even the best laid plans are no match for fate.


Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Inn at Eagle Hill series, Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of an Amish children’s series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. For more information, please visit and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher. Get Amish proverbs delivered right to your mobile device! Download the Free App!


I am loving Suzanne Woods Fisher's Inn at Eagle Hill series, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review a bonus e-novella about one of the secondary characters in this series. Although novella plots are generally limited by the brevity of the story, Fisher makes every word count. While I didn't care much for Will in some of the earlier books, I definitely came to like him more in this story. The Rescue will warm your heart.

[I do wish the book summary had been worded differently to indicate that "...the best laid plans are no match for God's designs" rather than using the word fate. It may be semantics, but fate has always sounded random and dire to me.]

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this e-book from Revell & Litfuse Publicity via Net Galley as part of a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Operation Zulu - Collateral Damage: SNEAK PEEK!

Have you downloaded your FREE copy of Operation Zulu Redemption: Overkill - The Beginning yet? (My review of Overkill is here.) You do NOT want to miss the latest adrenaline-laced thriller from Ronie Kendig! Operation Zulu Redemption is a serialized e-series that will release in four installments. The full series is the length of TWO full-length novels! The prologue/introduction is FREE, and Collateral Dammage - Part 1 will release NEXT FRIDAY, 7/18!

Ronie is giving us a sneak peak into Collateral Damage below. Brace yourselves, then RUSH to preorder!

Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina
2 May – 2200 Hours

Unforgiving branches dragged their gnarled, sharp fingers against her cheek. She winced at the slice of pain but plowed onward. Through the brush. Deeper into the darkness and shadows. Fighting branches, fallen limbs, stumps, and her rancid fear. She shoved a branch aside. A green, monochromatic hue guided her. The specter of darkness stole into the mountains, draping the thick, hilly foliage in a blanket of fog.

Three minutes. She just needed three minutes.

Nuala King plunged on, focused on one goal—getting to her spot. Ignored the shouts back at the remote lodge. Shots rang through the still, oppressive night. She refused to allow herself to think about what was happening back there. Whether Coleman Carson would survive the two men who’d shown up at the lodge, acting like hikers lost in the mountains. If the men were both butchers and rapists—would Sonja survive unscathed?

Nuala knew better. So did Coleman, which is why he’d been reaching for his gun beneath the counter as soon as the men shut the door. They’d seen enough hikers and trackers to know the difference.

And she had seen enough special ops soldiers to recognize one. Or in this case, two.

She sailed over a fallen oak. Hit the ground and kept moving liked a seasoned runner. Upward and to the east. She’d done it a million times. Could do it blindfolded, although she’d really rather not. Dark with NVGs made it tough enough.

Each step rammed her heart farther up her throat, strangling oxygen from her. She was getting closer, but if the snapping branches and shouts were any indication, so were the assassins.

Bark and leaves exploded twelve inches to her left.

Biting back an expletive, Nuala ducked and threw herself right. Didn’t slow as she zigzagged through the green-bathed terrain. A pair of eerie gold eyes popped up as an animal—Deer? Big cat?—lifted its head. Bolted in the other direction.

Breathing hard now, Nuala dove through the brush and weaved through a thick copse of pines, allowing the craggy fingers to trace her path. Pushing through the dense foliage slowed her a little but also hid the path she’d taken in the dense litter. As she ran, the slight incline of the hill weighed on her endurance. Altitude pressed on her lungs. But she kept going.

Run or die.

Join the community at to learn more, interact with Ronie Kendig, and be a part of this mission!


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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Abandoned Memories

Abandoned Memories
Escape to Paradise
MaryLu Tyndall
(Shiloh Run/Barbour)
ISBN: 978-1616265984
July 2014/320 pages/$12.99

In MaryLu Tyndall’s stunning conclusion to her Escape from Paradise series, Angeline Moore longs to make a fresh start in the Confederate colony of New Hope, Brazil. James Callaway longs to create a city free from immoral women who caused his failure as a preacher. But a series of strange happenings soon lead the colonists to believe they have been brought to this place for a divine purpose.

Read an excerpt.


MaryLu Tyndall, a Christy Award finalist and bestselling author of the Legacy of the King’s Pirates series, is known for her adventurous historical romances filled with deep spiritual themes. She holds a degree in math and worked as a software engineer for fifteen years before testing the waters as a writer. MaryLu currently writes full time and makes her home on the California coast with her husband, six kids, and four cats. Her passion is to write page-turning, romantic adventures that not only entertain but open people’s eyes to their God-given potential. MaryLu is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Visit her website.


MaryLu Tyndall pulls out all the stops in this sweeping conclusion to her epic series! Plenty of adventures and danger lurk within the pages but as the colonists battle the elements and struggle to build and rebuild their community, it appears that something more sinister and unseen may be at work. Tyndall's depth of character development, her multi-faceted plot, and her flair for romantic tension kept me breathlessly turning pages while the underlying spiritual message was thought-provoking. This book--and the whole series--would make an incredible movie. Grab your copy of Abandoned Memories and Escape to Paradise today!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Shiloh Run Press/Barbour Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Never Bored with the Hodgepodge!

After a couple of weeks out of pocket, I'm glad to finally be joining Joyce once again for the Wednesday Hodgepodge! Come join the fun!

1. July is National Anti-Boredom Month. When was the last time you were bored? What's your go-to cure for boredom?

Bored?! I would love to have that much time! Besides, bookworms are never bored.

2. What's the last thing you made a reservation for?

My flight to ICRS.

3. What's one thing on your summer 'bucket list'? Any plans to make it happen?

It's already happened: hanging out with my author friends at ICRS.

4. What's your favorite summertime sip?

Cold sweet tea!

5. What do you find is the best way to handle another person's hostility and hopefully ease the tension?

Either back off and leave them alone or do something, be empathetic, or do something kind for them.

6. Your favorite film set in summer?

The only one I can even think of is Grease, which I loved in high school but can't believe how risque it really is! LOL

7. What word are you using too much lately?


8. Insert your own random thought here.

Nothing ruins a perfectly good day off like someone backing into you in the Walmart parking lot. She got my side, so hopefully her insurance will accept responsibility that she hit me since I was further out and already partially turned. Of course, her car was hardly scratched. I'm grateful no one was hurt but I hate the hassle.


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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Love Comes Home

Love Comes Home
Ann Gabhart
ISBN: 978-0800721855
June 2014/384/$14.99

When the flush of victory fades, there remains a winding road to an uncertain future.

World War II is finally over and the people of Rosey Corner are joyfully welcoming the boys home. The Merritt sisters in particular are looking toward the future. Kate is eager to start a family and live out her dream of happily ever after with Jay. Evangeline craves a beautiful house and encourages Mike to pastor a big-town church. Victoria wants what can never be. And Lorena is growing up and wondering more and more about her birth family.

Each sister must learn to hold her plans with a loose hand, trusting that God will guide and strengthen them as they share the joys and sorrows of life in their little corner of the world.

Award-winning and bestselling author Ann Gabhart invites you back to Rosey Corner for a heartfelt story that closes the distance between the things that were and things that can yet be.

Read an excerpt.


Photo Credit:
 © Scott Campbell Photography
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Words Spoken True, as well as several Shaker novels--The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted--and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at


Ann Gabhart has once again transported me to another time and place with a tender story about the Merritt family. I fell in love with the community of Rosey Corner when I read Angel Sister and Small Town Girl (click the titles for my reviews). Each of these books can be read as stand-alones but you don't want to miss a single one. As with the previous novels, Gabhart's prose breathes life into the pages, causing me to feel the many emotions encountered in the story. Elation over the war's end is tempered by grief, and Evie's and Kate's husbands, who went off to war as idealistic young boys, return as sober men burdened by the memories of what they experienced and uncertain what that means for their future. My heart hurt for sweet Tori as she wrestles between being faithful to a memory or reaching for a new beginning. And oh! Lorena has stayed with me long after bidding farewell to this family and town. Family dynamics, sister bonds, adoption, community, and acceptance are just some of the themes explored and celebrated in this heart-warming story. Don't miss your opportunity to spend some time in Rosey Corner. You'll be richer for it!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Monday, July 7, 2014

Passing Strangers - Interview with Angela Hunt!

Passing Strangers
Angela Hunt
(Christian Writers Guild)
ISBN: 978-0991337606
May 2014/350 pages/$14.99

A train roars over the rails, carrying passengers on a trip that will change their lives. Among the many people aboard the 97 Silver Meteor are Andie Crystal, a lonely young woman hiding from her youth as a reality TV star; Matthew Scofield, a widower trying to manage his responsibilities to his two young children; and Janette Turlington, a middle–aged mother running from a situation that has destroyed the peace in her home and marriage. These three form a makeshift family on an Amtrak tour through the Southern seaboard, a journey that just might heal their wounded hearts and restore them to the people to whom they matter most . . .


I love Angela Hunt's books and remember her writing this one (she talked a bit about it on her blog at the time) so I eagerly bought a copy as soon as it was available. Hunt's expert character development is matched by the unique situations in which she places those characters. Andie, Matthew, and Janette each have their own individual story in this suite that forms one novel, and the result is a book that I couldn't put down. Multiple layers are woven throughout as each of the characters form bonds outside their comfort zones and face some difficult truths about themselves and the circumstances that led them to embark on the rail journey. As always, Hunt leaves the reader with much to ponder. Highly recommended!


One of the highlights of ICRS for me was meeting Angela Hunt. She has been in my Top Five favorite authors for years, ever since Nancy Rue told me, "I think you'd enjoy my friend Angie's books." While I had stalked connected with Angie on her blog, I had never had the opportunity to meet her, so when I saw her name on the list of authors scheduled to be in Atlanta, I begged requested an interview immediately! She is just as delightful in person as I expected her to be! In addition to interviewing her on Sunday afternoon, I unexpectedly had the amazing opportunity to have dinner that night with her, Hannah Alexander, Brandilyn Collins, and Lisa Wingate, along with a husband/wife editor team, Dave & Cindy Lambert. (I told someone at one point when I was in Atlanta that ICRS is like crack to me. That night was a perfect example! LOL) Here's my interview with Angie.

As with all your books, I really enjoyed Passing Strangers, and I remember when you were writing it several years ago. Can you share a bit about it and why you have published it independently?

I got the idea at a writer's conference one night, when I was just sitting at dinner and the idea of a train and the people on the train and how they bond popped into my head. I had never taken a train trip or known anyone who did. People either fly if they are in a hurry or drive if they want to go slowly. So I called a cousin of mine and we flew to D.C., then we rode the train and spent two days in Williamsburg, two days in Charleston, two days in Savannah, and two days in St. Augustine and it basically delivered us back home in Florida. I got all the research about train travel but I still had to come up with the characters and the plot.

I was also somewhat inspired by a movie called The Station Agent which is about a group of misfits in this little town. One is a little person. One is a woman whose husband has left her after their child dies. The movie is about how these three hurting people bond. Of course, it wasn't a Christian movie. But I really loved the quirky characters and the fact that three strangers could bond like that. My book club had just read a book that was a suite – separate stories put together. All these ideas were rummaging around in my head: I wanted to do a suite. I wanted to write about strangers that bond, and I wanted to write a train story.

At the time, Jon and Kate Gosselin were going through that terrible divorce and I had watched Jon & Kate Plus 8 because I kept thinking about their kids. Their life was not normal and I wondered what they would be like when they had to live a normal life. That spun off into Andie, the first character's story. As for the lawyer, I thought about lawyers working 80 hour weeks, especially when they are young and getting started. He loses his wife and then his nanny...well, what's a man to do? Most men I know would say "My mom will take care of them." So that's what he's planning to do, not thinking of himself as a terrible father but thinking his mom will love this! The third lady is dealing with mental illness in her almost-grown child, and that's something we've dealt with in my family. So I thought I'd put these people together, stir, and see what comes out.

I wrote it and handed it in to my editor when I had a three-book contract.. She had told me up front that she didn't like a train story. She still didn't like it after I handed it in and I had a contract, so I wrote Five Miles South of Peculiar in its place. But I liked the train story and decided to save it. After I was done with my contract, I decided to pick it up again. My agent had read it and offered me several suggestions on some details. A couple of years had passed so I was fresh and realized I could smooth out a few things and make it stronger.

Publishing has changed drastically in the last five years. There are fewer publishers because some are shrinking and other big publishers are buying them up. Everyone is consolidating; therefore, there are fewer slots for publishers to buy books. The economy is bad so fewer people are buying books. Writers like me, and a lot of my friends, who write three or four books a year suddenly have no one to buy our books. So we are investigating independent publishing. There are lots of different ways you can do that. You can pay a lot of money and have a garage full of books. You can pay no money and have print on demand, but sometimes those are cost-prohibitive because they have to mark them up. When they came up with this program (Jerry Jenkins Select), I thought it sounded like a nice hybrid. Through Jerry's program, the books are distributed to bookstores, which is not usually the case with self-published books. At the same time, I was able to control every aspect. Usually a traditionally-published author has very little say in the cover, and I designed my own cover and had a lot of say in everything. I've been very pleased with it so far. It's been fun!

Now you are also still working with a traditional publisher with your upcoming book Esther, right?

Yes, Bethany House is doing that series. It's just that publishers are getting a lot pickier. They are "risk averse" and I really don't blame them. In a bad economy, you don't want to take risks. My books are all a little different. They're not predictable and they're all a little different. No one wanted to take a chance on this one. As for Esther, that's Biblical fiction which, historically, does okay. So Bethany was willing to take that on, for which I'm very grateful. But this story was a little riskier for a publisher, and I think it is the perfect book to independently publish.

Well, I love so many of your books and how they make me think. Tell me about the message you hope people take away from Passing Strangers. I know recently on your blog you told of an encounter you had with a woman when you were at a medical appointment.

The woman with the cute haircut. Yes, there is a point. There is an angel character in there, the man with Morgan Freeman's voice. There's one point where Janette is sitting there feeling so sorry for herself and he says, "'re not the only one suffering from heartache. The people you passed as you walked out this morning – your eyes only grazed the woman whose son is in prison for life, you nearly tripped over the foot of a young mother who just miscarried her baby, and you barely noticed the old man who is so lonely he comes downtown just to be near other people." And of course he knew, because he was a supernatural being, what was going on all around her, and he reminded her how much she missed by focusing only on herself.

I think, especially when we're not dealing with a problem, we just sit and we're fine but we still don't pay any attention to the people around us! Maybe you're sitting somewhere and there's a woman who is quietly crying. How many of us would even have the courage to go up and say, "Can I help you with anything?" A lot of us think, "That would be too intrusive, too personal. It would be prying. I can't do that!" I just think that we're all on this planet together and we ought to pay attention to passing strangers. I'm sure there have been people who have helped us at times.

And with technology, we're just that much more oblivious and focused on our cell phones all the time.
Yes! We are so attached to our phones. I forgot mine the other day and I felt so amputated! I introduced myself to the young man who sat next to me on the plane. "I'm Angie and I don't have my cell phone." I felt so weird! The world has changed.

Tell me what's next for you. Esther is coming out next?

Yes, Esther is done and comes out in January. I'm working on the first draft of Bathsheba. I'm doing what I call the three "Bible Babes" (Esther, Bathsheba, Delilah). I was researching beauty and the word tob in Hebrew means a certain kind of beauty that is sexual and draws men to you. Those three are tob women. Their beauty got all of them into precarious situations.

[Mocha with Linda insert: We talked a little bit more about Esther, which was fascinating, but I'm going to make you wait until a little closer to January for that part of the interview. Grin! But Esther is now available for preorder!)

Outside of writing, you're doing a lot of photography, although you aren't getting to photograph your granddaughter right now. She's on the opposite side of the country in Alaska!

Yes, about as far as you can get! But they make me little videos and we message them to each other. But my granddaughter doesn't understand the videos because we also Skype, so she talks to the video expecting us to talk back! She's three and growing up so fast.

Your husband has also had a bit of career change after many years as a middle school pastor. Tell me about his new ministry.

We've started a new ministry called Unclub Ministries. We have a team of dedicated volunteers and a camp coming up, and we are praying for a building. We've found the perfect building and we are praying that God will lead the bank that holds the foreclosure to donate it to us. We are going to have an after-school program for middle schoolers. They are too old for babysitters but really too young to be left unsupervised. We are so excited about this. My husband feels twenty years younger!

I haven't seen you baking as much lately. You were really churning out the macarons there for awhile!

No, I haven't been. For one thing, my baking (and eating it) started catching up with me! And when I'm not writing I'm either studying photography or taking pictures. But I do still remember how to bake all these things! Every once in a while I bake some macarons or some brioche or something exotic.

Anything else you'd like to share with readers?

Thank you for reading! I don't write for the joy of writing. I write for the end result, for touching reader's hearts or making people think or see the world in a different way. So when I get emails or even read reviews (the good ones!) and see that I've accomplished the goal, then that makes it all worthwhile.

One other thing. The other day I was in a chat and someone said that a book didn't have enough Christian content for them. I jumped in to say that authors have different audiences that they are writing for. Many of my friends write for Christian readers. I have always felt called to write to the world and that my Christian belief, my worldview, is going to show through.

I write a book that I think a saved woman could give to a non-believing neighbor. That's always been my goal. When you're approaching a person who doesn't know anything of the Lord, you can't include so much spirituality that they either don't understand it or they're turned off or just put the book down. It has to be eased in. It's similar to the four levels of youth ministry we learned years ago: 1) just get them through the door, 2) evangelize, 3) disciple, and 4) teach them outreach. Most of my books are probably level one, some are level two, and I have several, such as The Debt, that I wrote for Christians which are level three. Each story is different and I have a different audience in mind for each one, but you can't expect every book to be a level three.

Thank you so much, Angie! It has been just as wonderful to meet you as I anticipated!

Visit Angela Hunt's website to learn more about her, her (more than 110!) books, and sign up for her newsletter. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


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