Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's the Hodgpodge or Else!

1. Share one way you think the world has changed for the better since you were a kid?

Air-conditioned cars, central air in houses, color TV, dishwashers, microwaves, cell phones, for starters. Plus it's become smaller, in a sense. It's easier to connect, communicate, and travel.

2. How 'bout one way it's changed for the worse?

Like the time of Judges when Israel had no king, "everyone did as they saw fit." So many people are completely self-absorbed and have no use for God or others.

3. Starlight, starfish, starling, Starbucks...your favorite 'star'?

Drinking Starbucks under the starlight sounds pretty nice!

4. Name a song that's overplayed, but you love it anyway.

It's not overplayed as much now, but Blessed Be Your Name fell into that category.

5. When did you last have home made ice cream? Your latest favorite flavor?

Two Sundays ago when our Sunday morning Bible Fellowship group had a party. I'm a vanilla girl when it comes to homemade ice cream, although I don't mind some fresh Texas peaches tossed in there!

6. What do you think is the best way to inspire or motivate people?

With my kids, threaten 'em! LOL No, inspire and motivate them by example and encouragement.

7. When was the last time you were without power?

A few weeks ago. We have a lot of squirrels in our neighborhood and every once in a while one of them gets too friendly with a transformer and lives to regret it goes out with a bang.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Be sure to click the the pic at the top of my sidebar and enter to win a copy of randy Alcorn's new graphic novel!


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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

That Dog Won't Hunt - a Must-Read!

I have adored Brandilyn Collins since meeting her a couple of years ago finally managed to read her newest release, That Dog Won't Hunt, which came out in April. What a treat! As I'll mention in the "official" review below, those who have only read her infamous Seatbelt Suspense® and have seen the more "sinister" side of her mind and imagination have no idea that she can be an absolute hoot! She has a brilliant wit and a streak of mischief, and in a large gathering you usually can tell which group she's in by the peals of laughter emanating from that area! She also is an incredible prayer warrior and has a huge heart for God and for others. While I'm glad she's still writing suspense, (her next book, Dark Justice, is coming in October!), I'm thrilled that she is writing a women's fiction series. She wasn't able to be at ICRS but we have plans for an email interview, so be watching for that, hopefully coming soon!

That Dog Won't Hunt
(The Dearing Family #1)
Brandilyn Collins
(Challow Press)
ISBN: 978-0989240611
April 2013/254 pages/$10.99/(Kindle $2.99)

Meet the Dearings, a crazy, loving, boisterous family in small-town Mississippi. There's mom and dad, three daughters and their families, and the youngest—twenty-five-year-old Ben. Oh, and the family dog, a Yorkie who thinks she's royalty.

"This one's perfect," Ben says about his new fiancée, Christina, when he brings her home for a family reunion. Ben is just sure everyone will love Christina, and she'll fit right in.

He always did tend to wear rose-colored glasses.

Christina loves Ben but secretly fears their relationship will never work. They've only known each other ten weeks. She hasn't told him about her horrific past as an only child—the beatings, the neglect, and verbal abuse. Christina doesn't know how to trust or be honest about her feelings. Being thrust into the middle of a tight-knit family like the Dearings is sure to send her over the edge.

With poignancy and humor, That Dog Won't Hunt explores the complexities of relationships and the inner strength needed to overcome a difficult childhood. The Dearings are no perfect family, but they know how to love—if only Christina will accept it.

Read an excerpt.


Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e . . ."® Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn's awards for her novels include the ACFW Carol Award (three times), Inspirational Readers' Choice, and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice.

Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). The Writer magazine named Getting into Character one of the best books on writing published in 2002.

When she's not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers' conferences. She and her family lives in northern Idaho.


Brandilyn Collins is widely known for her heart-pounding suspense novels, but she is equally adept at writing women's fiction. That Dog Won't Hunt introduces the fun-loving and energetic Dearing clan, whose lively annual reunions overflow with good-natured teasing, a bit of bickering, and a whole lot of love. Collins's expertise at character development shines as she creates unique and step-off-the-page authentic personalities for each member of this gregarious family-including Lady Penelope, the dog!-and then deposits emotionally-scarred Christina smack-dab in the middle of it. Some novels addressing such difficult relational issues can tend to be a bit oppressive and full of angst, making the story drag a bit. Brandilyn Collins avoids this by infusing the story with the humorous moments that often occur in the chaos of extended family gatherings. Readers who only know the more serious, suspenseful side of Collins's imagination will delight in experiencing her wit while at the same time gleaning the important truths from this wonderful tale. I can't wait to see what happens next with the Dearing family. (A bonus at the end from Brandilyn explaining where she came up with some of the shenanigans situations in the book was an utter delight, especially the one that explains a precious tradition between Mama Ruth & Sy/Dad Dearing!) I'm so glad I bought this book and highly recommend it!


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Monday, July 29, 2013

An Interview About Eternity

UPDATE Sunday 8/4 8:55 pm WINNER!

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Timestamp: 2013-08-05 01:51:28 UTC

Congratulations to Barbara Thompson! Email me your address, Barbara, and I'll send the book your way!

* * * * *

Before I went to ICRS, graphic novels were relatively unfamiliar for me but I was intrigued to learn more about this genre, especially when I learned that Randy Alcorn was the author of Kingstone's newest release, Eternity. While I was in St. Louis, I was honored to sit down and chat with Art Ayris, who is the CEO of Kingstone Media Group and Kingstone Comics. I briefly saw Randy Alcorn at ICRS, but conducted an interview via phone a couple of weeks later. After talking with them and reading this graphic novel, I can see the huge potential for reaching teens and young adults with this medium. Here's a little bit about story, followed by the combined interviews and a giveaway!

Randy Alcorn & Javier Saltares
(Kingstone Comics)
ISBN: 978-1936164257
July 2013/120 pages

Available at Deeper Shopping, Amazon, and Comixology.

Eternity is a dramatic rendition of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

This graphic novel is a dramatic rendition of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Author Randy Alcorn and artist Javier Saltares take readers into the realm of first century Jerusalem and then two very different eternal realms.

Watch the trailer:


Eternity is a graphic novel, and I understand there is a difference between graphic novels and comic books. Can you explain the difference?

ART: Comic books are typically thirty-two pages or less and have the softer text paper. The graphic novel is a full story. A lot of times comics are serialized. We do some stand-alone comics and some serialized comic books. Primarily, they are either stand-alone stories or they will anthologize the comics into one big graphic novel. And frankly, retailers do better with graphic novels because they are more like books and they know how to place them and display them, that sort of thing. They aren't "floppy."

But the actual type of art is the same, correct?

ART: Yes. It's all serialized graphic art.

I know that the goal of this is to appeal to younger kids and to the teens, and you have said, "Put a Bible and a comic book on the table and which one do you think a teen's going to pick up?" While I agree with that somewhat, there is a point at which that breaks down. You put vegetables and junk food on the table and the kids are going to choose the junk. There's a point you have to teach people to like and choose that which is good and healthy. Can you address this?

That's a really good question and I don't think anyone has ever asked me that before. But let me share with you from my vantage point where I'm coming from. I'm a Southern Baptist pastor, an executive pastor of a large Southern Baptist church, and I am all about outreach. Over the years I've had a lot of relationships with people who were not people of faith, and of course a lot with those who are people of faith. If I've learned one thing in the Lord it's this: you have to connect with people where they are in life. One of the things that a lot of churches don't realize is that kids are already out there reading comics and graphic novels. There are two or three guys from my church that come to mind right now who read the graphic novels. So I think you need to start where people are. The truth is, a lot of the kids are already reading them.

The other thing is, a lot of people have reading issues. I used to be a school teacher, and some of the kids, especially boys, won't be into reading. My mother had a doctorate in education and she was a phenomenal teacher. She got me reading at a young age. I'm a big reader and I love reading all kinds of material. But the truth is, for a lot of different reasons, the graphic novel medium will be a better medium than text, for boys especially, to get into the window of their soul and heart. A lot of this stuff they wouldn't pick up, text-wise. A comic graphic novel is a quicker read and a more entertaining read in some ways to certain people. And people learn in different ways, too.

Randy, I understand that you are a big fan of comic books and graphic novels. Can you address the tension between the need to make things relevant for kids yet keeping the message intact, and not focusing so much on making things "fun" that we compromise the message?

RANDY: I think the most important thing to realize is that there are different reasons for different kinds of books. Each kind of book has its own audience. I write novels. I've written short stories. I write a lot of non-fiction - long, medium, and short in length. I write non-fiction articles. I've written non-fiction children's books and fiction children's books. Now, some people have said, "I'll read your non-fiction but I'm just not a fiction person at all." The same argumentation is what non-fiction people use against all fiction: "Non-fiction is true and fiction is false." That's what they think in their minds. Of course, the reality is that much non-fiction is false and much fiction contains a great deal of truth. So when it comes to graphic novels, that's just a matter of the medium.

I think it's easy for people to dismiss graphic novels because they think that it's just a comic book or it's all about violence or visual imagery that's disrespectful to women. Of course, if you are a Christian and you are writing a graphic novel, you don't do that! And I didn't do that. This graphic novel is a way of reaching people who will read a graphic novel and, in my opinion, because you asked about compromise, it represents no compromise whatsover. Zero! It's me telling a story and taking the liberties that are always taken in Biblical fiction. In Biblical fiction, my number one rule is: you never, ever, violate anything Scripture says. You always take what Scripture does say and you include it. For instance, every single verse and every single word of those verses about the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16 are in the story. What Abraham says in the parable, he says in the story of Eternity. What the rich man says in the parable, he says across the chasm.

But now, that's just thirteen verses and I'm writing a 120-page story. How are you going to do that? You take what Scripture does say and you try to elaborate on it. I think Jesus wants us to picture this, whether it's literal or figurative, as if it actually happened because the rich man says to Abraham, "send Lazarus over so he can dip his finger in water and cool my tongue." It's a very graphic imagery type of parable. Well, that's exactly what I'm doing in the graphic novel with the help of an artist - a lot of help, because it's very high quality art! He's depicting these things which, if I were preaching on it, I would be giving people words to try and create these mental pictures. To me, the book is very true to Scripture, does not contradict Scripture in any way and what it actually does - and this is the dynamic of it that I think addresses your question and is important for people to understand: if I had restricted the story only to those thirteen verses in Luke 16, I actually would have been misleading the reader. The reader is supposed to read the thirteen verses in the context of the entire book of Luke, which shows the Gospel. It shows Jesus. It shows the teaching of Jesus, the life of Jesus. It shows His substitutionary atoning death on the cross, and it shows His resurrection. Now if you just stick with those thirteen verses, there is no belief in Christ, placing faith in Christ for salvation, and if you only have those verses, you could actually conclude that you work your way to heaven for being poor or through caring about the poor.

By putting in the Messianic passages, Isaiah 52 and 53, I've included Old Testament prophecy about Jesus. I've also included the life of Jesus. (You meet Him on the street outside the home of the rich man and where Lazarus is in the street.) Virtually everything Jesus says is directly from Scripture. In the end, this graphic novel is fuller of Scripture and scriptural truth than just about 120 pages of anything you've ever read!

Yes, I was pretty amazed when I actually sat down and read it! I get a bit sensory overloaded just because of my style preference, but the meat of it is phenomenal. And I knew if there is anyone who would do something like this well, as far as the content goes, it would be you. The way you threaded it all together was incredible. And you even pulled in Titus! You covered it all.

RANDY: This is the liberty. You look at the story and think, "the rich man died." We're not told how or why he died. Everyone knows, because I put those exact verses of Scripture, that many of the things that I said are not actually in the text. But it doesn't contradict the text to suggest that the rich man may have been murdered. The text doesn't say that so if I were teaching, I might mention a variety of possible ways he could have died. If a preacher said that, no one would say he's gone off the deep end! When you teach a passage, you work with what's there and try to think of different possibilities of meaning and what might have happened. In fiction, you are doing exactly the same thing. You are just writing it as a story. As long as people understand that scripture is inspired and Biblical fiction based on scripture is not, then they can profit from the writer of Biblical fiction and envision what the larger story might have looked like. Then when we read the actual passages of scripture, such as the story of Sarah, we feel like we know her and feel like she was a real person. And maybe her personality was a little different than portrayed in the Biblical fiction, but the point is, she was a real person and we should think of her as a real person.

Well, I'm really impressed, kudos for the high quality and getting top people to do it. I hate when Christian stuff is cheesy. It gives us such a bad reputation!

RANDY: You raise a great point. Even though I've certainly talked with people a lot and shown them the quality, I haven't thought of it in those terms, and it's a very good way to put it. If we as Christians are going to become "all things to all men that by all means we can reach some," if we are going to enter into a realm that is popular-and this includes movies, computer programs, websites, social media, really everything-we have got to do it at a high quality. If we don't, we fall into the usual stereotype-and it's not just non-Christians who generally don't like Christian movies, I talk to many, many, many Christians and they are just generally disappointed in the quality of the Christian movies they see. Now there are exceptions, and someone will say, "That was really good, even though it was a Christian movie." That just shows that our expectations are that if it's a Christian movie, it's going to be stupid, corny, and cheesy with terrible acting, terrible direction, terrible special effects, and it's going to look like it was filmed in someone's basement with a handheld camera. Well, of course, that's a stereotype and there have been a number of good Christian movies. BUT, when we entered into the graphic novel realm, and maybe it's because it's easier to pull this off with a graphic novel than a movie due to the expenses, I can tell you this: anyone who looks at it just objectively, who doesn't evaluate the story on the basis of whether they like a religious story or not, if they simply look at it in terms of the layout, design, colors, and quality of the art, an atheist who loves graphic novels will have to admit it looks really good even he disagrees with the content of it. If you got "that looks really good." that's going to reach a ton of people because even the person who rejects the message will have read the message. But the vast majority of people who read the books that I usually write, if they reject that message, will usually put it down and quit reading. With a graphic novel, the art is going to compel them enough to keep going and hopefully the gospel message is going to get to them. Some of them may be surprised at the way the Holy Spirit touches hearts because He can use His word. He says His word will not return empty without accomplishing the purpose. And as we said, the Eternity novel is full of God's word, not just the parable but the words of Jesus, the whole gospel story. My prayer is that God will use his word in many lives to open hearts.

ART: I can't tell you, Linda, how many people have written us and called and said, "Thank you! There's somebody out there creating high-end Christian graphic media." The whole reason we started publishing Christian graphic media is that there weren't that many. We saw a market opportunity but from a pastoral standpoint, I saw outreach opportunity. We are about to sign a number of language licensing deals. Here in the US, the comics market is about $500 million/year. In Japan it's five billion dollars a year.

I was thinking about that with their big focus on Anime. Are you looking at going that direction (Anime)?

ART: No, we're going to stay with a more Western-style Marvel/DC look. When we started the company, Manga and Anime was super-hot. But we are wanting to be more cinematic, more film-like, so we stayed with the Western-style art. I'm glad I did because Anime has dropped some. The biggest one went out of business.

Do you foresee that you might do some films?

ART: Well, we've got an agreement right now with Sony. Sony came to us; they've got a great movie coming out that I'm very excited about. It's called The Remaining and it will be in theaters in 2014. They wanted a graphic novel with it and thought we were a good fit so we are doing that.

Is it a Christian movie? The title sounds like it.

ART: It deals with a group of college kids and what happens immediately after the Rapture. It is a great story. But it's kind of unusual because it's a horror/thriller type. We're having conversations now with Sony about what's going to be the best strategy but we're doing the graphic novel. We're producing it now so we will release it next year when the movie comes out.

Actually, we've had two of our novels that have been optioned for major motion pictures. With our fiction imprint, we don't print anything that we don't think is translatable to film. With our comics and graphic novels, I figured that at some point there would be film tie-ins because it's so prevalent with Marvel and DC. Besides the thing with Sony, we are actually talking to another studio now about some other projects. There is such a close kinship because you've already storyboarded it so you can see what it is. I figured film would come along at some point and now it's starting to happen a little bit.

You used the same artist who worked on the mainstream graphic novels. I don't presume that he is a Christian. If that is true, was that a challenge to communicate the concept and for him to do this type of project?

RANDY: The artist, Javier Saltares, is a Christian. He's a committed believer. There were other people involved in the project who were not believers. I have worked with three previous artists, two of whom were not believers, so I do know what that's like. On those occasions, I found it to be very rewarding because when I would explain to them what I was looking for, I would share the gospel with them. It's a great witnessing opportunity but you're certainly right. They still have to get it and be able to portray a thing even if they don't fully believe it. I think when it comes to Christian projects where unbelievers are involved at some level, I think it works best if it's not at the conceptual level, when it's not where they have control over the direction of something. For example, I know of some "Christian movies" that have had non-Christian directors. This becomes a very big problem because the directors normally have a freedom to change things. You can have a screenplay that has been carefully constructed in the word choices, the scenes, and the message, and then have a director who doesn't get it and decides it would be much more interesting to insert a love scene early in a relationship or makes some other change. So if it's a power or control position for the overall project, I think that should be avoided. But unbelievers can be involved in other aspects and certainly are. Not everyone who touches the book from production to the reader's hands is a believer. But you realize that God can use the final content and along the way, the more unbelievers who touch the project, the more potential unbelievers who may actually read the project!

Oh, definitely! I had just wondered, because the art is such an intimate and highly involved aspect to draw those pictures and convey the message, how that worked.

RANDY: Right. And I think it really did help with some of the scenes, especially involving Jesus-dying on the cross, the resurrection. One of the things in the book I asked Javier to do was give me this really powerful angel at the resurrection scene. So the angel appears and it's very powerful. Then I asked him, on the bottom of the next page, to have the angel pull back the stone and then bow his knee before the risen Christ, who's about to come out of the tomb. I'm not saying an unbeliever couldn't have done that but I think of a great angel of God, one of the most powerful beings in the universe but still a creature-what would he have looked like as he bowed his knee before the risen Christ, God's Son?-and I just think that, all things being equal, a skilled artist who is a believer can do that better than a skilled artist who's an unbeliever. The caveat to that is that an unskilled believer with the greatest heart in the world can make a shot at it, but you know what? A good heart doesn't cancel out bad art!

Do you see the impact of these being primarily outreach or in-reach? Or both? What is the heartbeat/

ART: Number one, I think we need to be a voice out in the market. I feel like God never leaves Himself without witness, whether it's nature or people. God always has witness out there. It's really fascinating because people don't know what to do with us! These guys are producing Christian graphic novels - high-end, premium quality Christian comic books.

So where are they sold? In the Christian bookstores or in Walmart?

ART: They're in both. Walmart has picked us up. Barnes & Noble is about to do a run with us.

Where do they put them? Are they in the graphic novel are or in the Christian section?

ART: They put them in the Christian section. But we just signed with Comixology, which is the largest comics app in the world. They had over 120 million downloads. They are the biggest e-book comics distributor in the world. We just signed with them and we will be live on there on July 10. We are the only Christian comics book publisher on Comixology. iBurst Media, which is the largest e-book seller to libraries, just signed us and they are rolling our stuff out. We are kind of nimble because we are not locked into denomination or other things; we are a little more "free-range," so to speak, if I were to use our Western analogy. Both the general market and the Christian market pick us up. In the general market, I want to say, "Hey! There's great premium quality here." And to the Christians, I want to say, "This is trustworthy material and it's also very effective in outreach." We have some churches and individuals that buy it by the box because they know it will reach and connect with kids.

You and I are the same. We want our kids, the kids in our church, and the kids in our community to understand the Bible.

We have an opportunity. There are a lot of people who are Bible-illiterate. My sense is this is going to be an entry point for them to learn and understand. Terri Blackstock said, "I have never read a graphic novel before. It was incredible." Max Lucado said, "I will never read the story of The Rich Man and Lazarus the same way again." I think when you marry the graphics and the text, it has an impact in a different way than just the text. I'm not against text; I'm reading a great novel right now. But that's why we're doing what we're doing.

It has been a pleasure talking with you and learning about graphic novels. Thank you so much!

I have an autographed copy of Eternity to give to one of you! To enter, leave a comment on this post no later than 8:00 pm CDT Saturday (8/3/13). US mailing addresses only, please. Winner will have 48 hours to respond after being notified or a new winner will be chosen.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Kingstone Media. 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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Friday, July 26, 2013

A Chat with Martha Rogers

I think everyone who has met Martha Rogers loves her. She just radiates faith and love and kindness. I want to be like her when I grow up! I'm always thrilled to see her at ICRS or ACFW, and I was eager to interview her about her recent novel, Love Stays True, which is based on the lives of her great-grandparents. You'll definitely want to read every bit of this charming author's words, both in the interview and her books!

Love Stays True
(The Homeward Journey)
Martha Rogers
ISBN: 978-1621362364
May 2013/304 pages/$14.99

Can Sallie and Manfred overcome the distance that the war has put between them and find love?

In April 1865, the day following the surrender at Appomattox, Manfred McDaniel Whiteman and his brother, Edwin, are released in an exchange of prisoners. They are given a few provisions, and they begin a long journey to their home in Bayou Sara, Louisiana.

At home Sallie Dyer is waiting word of her beloved Manfred. Though just a young girl when Manfred left, Sallie has grown into a caring young woman who is determined to wait for her love—despite her father’s worries that she is wasting her life on someone who may never come home.

On their journey Manfred and his brother encounter storms and thieves and are even thrown in jail. Will he make the journey home before someone else claims Sallie’s hand?

Available at Amazon, and other retailers.


Martha Rogers’ novel Not on the Menu debuted on May 1, 2007, as a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Her series Winds Across the Prairie debuted in 2010 with Becoming Lucy, Morning for Dove, Finding Becky, and Caroline’s Choice. Her other credits include stories in anthologies with Wayne Holmes, Karen Holmes, and Debra White Smith; several articles in Christian magazines; devotionals in six books of devotions; and eight Bible studies. Martha served as editor of a monthly newsletter for the writer’s organization Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, for whom she writes a weekly devotional. Learn more at her website.


Martha Rogers always writes a compelling love story but Love Stays True is especially stirring because it is based on the lives and courtship of the author's great-grandparents. I was immediately drawn to Manfred and Sallie and their tender love. After all that they (and everyone else in the fractured nation) had experienced during the Civil War, it was excruciating to experience the long trek from Maryland (mostly by foot) that Manfred and his brother had to endure to reach their home in Louisiana, as well as the horror that Sallie and her family had encountered when the battle got way too close to home. Determination and faith, as well as grace and forgiveness, intertwine in this tender love story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Realms 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.”


It's always a treat to talk to you! Love Stays True is your most recent release, and it came out in May. This is the one that is based upon your great-grandparents' story, right? Can you share about that?

My dad gave me some letters that were from Manfred to Sallie and from her father to her when she went off to ____. When I read them, I thought, "There's a story here someplace." I wanted learn more so we started researching and doing all kinds of genealogy stuff based on these letters. We found out that he was a Prisoner of War and that he graduated from Centenary College before the war. He graduated in 1860, then he went into the Louisiana Regiment in 1861. I then began to look at Sallie. They lived in Woodville, Mississippi but her grandparents lived in St. Francisville, Louisiana, the same town where Manfred lived. I wrote up a story for my family and they got excited about it so they started doing more research. Then we started having "fill in the blanks" discussions. What if this happened? Could this have happened? We know he left Point Lookout in Maryland in April, and they got married in June of that same year, 1865. So we just filled in the blanks and based the whole thing on what facts we knew.

Of course, when I started writing it, I had other names in it. I was just writing it as a novel. The editor said, "No, use their real names and real time and real towns and places and events." That took tons of research but we got it. We figured out how they could get from one place to the other in that length of time and what route they would have to go. The only thing I had to do was make sure the towns that are on the map now were on the map then. If they didn't exist, I'd go to the next one.

Wow, what a treasure!

Then I looked to see what was happening, what battles happened around that area? I did research there and found actual towns that had battles and I could include actual towns that people could tell Manfred and his brother what had happened. It was a lot of fun.

This would just be a treasure, I would think, for some museums and historical societies to have.

It's dedicated to my cousins. We have Cousins Camp every summer and they would brainstorm with me. One summer we chose to go St. Francisville and we celebrated the 150th anniversary of our great-grandparents' wedding. We went to the church and got all the information about their wedding and their marriage license, so we included that. It was really exciting. I also included the information we got from my grandmother and my aunt about my great-grandmother's wedding ring, how it was made, and that it's still passed on to the oldest daughter and to her child. It was used in two or three weddings just recently.

Do you have any pictures?

No, we don't. We have a lot of pictures of their children, my grandparents. We have pictures of my grandmother's family-a picture of all her brothers and sisters and her parents-but nothing from my grandfather's side. We went to Victoria last year and looked and looked. We got such odd bits of information but couldn't find anything. We know that Sallie lived until the 1920's, and she lived with my grandfather in a boardinghouse in Tyler. That's where she died, and I found her obituary. But we never could find out about Manfred. We know he was a doctor because they had him listed as a doctor in Victoria but where he went from there or if he died, we don't know. He's not buried anywhere around there. He just disappeared! You know, the 1890 census records were burned so there's no record of the 1890's. So that's the missing piece, where he was then. If we could have found out that, then we could have found out more information.

Besides being exhausting, how did this whole process impact you personally and spiritually?

Reading the letter-I incorporate some of one of the letters into the book-touched me. The faith that my great-grandfather had was really tremendous. It showed in my grandfather. It carried through to my grandfather. My grandfather kept a journal, and he wrote about all the ways that God had impacted his life. He recorded different miracles that had happened. We have a book, about an inch thick, of all of his testimonies and devotionals and stories he wrote about things God had provided. We can see that it was his father's influence on him that made such a difference. Then we went back and looked and saw that all of Manfred's family were very staunch Christians, very active in the church. The names were everywhere in the church record. It was so much fun to see all that and know that they were so involved. My grandmother was the biggest influence in my life when I was growing up. So I had two wonderful Christian grandparents.

I can just see such a legacy that has come down.

That's why we had to write it, because we knew that there was so much there.

Well, just from knowing you, I know that's also going to be the testimony that your grandkids and great-grandkids are going to have about you! They are going to be talking about Martha and her faith. You are one of those people that just radiates it.

Our 24-year-old granddaughter is living with us right now. I thought, "She is going to think I am glued to this computer!" Every time she comes home or walks down this hall, I'm at the computer! (She laughs) She's going to think, "My grandma doesn't have a life. She's chained to her computer!"

That's because you're writing all these great books!

It's been fun having her stay with us. I remember the six months that I lived with my grandmother were the most influential in my life. She made such an impact on me and helped me through so many difficult situations. I just hope there's some influence there on my granddaughter. She's such a neat girl.

Now that this has released, what other things are you working on?

The second and third books in this series. The second one will come out in January, and the third one will come out in the fall of 2014, I think.

So you're writing a whole series! I love that!

Yes, but the second and third books are pure fiction because when I wrote them, I used different names. We didn't know the order of the children, and I wanted to write a series. So I had made the oldest one a girl when it should have been a boy. I did get all the names in there of Alice, Juliet, and Tom.

So the kids' names are the real names?

Just about. Molly is not. But Hannah Grace is the heroine of the second book, and she is Sallie's younger sister. We couldn't find anything out about her except that she missed Sallie, and in one of the letters they talk about it. We found out later that Aunt Annie, as they called her (her name was Hannah Grace and they called her Aunt Annie), lived with them in one of the boardinghouses for a time. There is a really funny ghost story about her that cracked us up.

The third book is based on one of the children. But it's all fiction and what we had fun conjecturing and making up.

Those will be fun to look forward to in 2014!

I do have a book coming out in July. It's an e-book from B&H, part of the Bloomfield series. It's called Best Laid Plans. Here's the blurb:

Welcome to Bloomfield, where life is simple, love is real, and stories are shared.

Architect and hometown boy Hal McKenzie is called back to Bloomfield when the mayor needs help figuring out how to expand the city hall and courthouse. That will mean having to move the old Founders Cottage provided by the Caroline Short family.

Hal was sweet on Caroline back in high school and knows that moving her family’s historical landmark isn’t the best way to take another shot at having a love connection. Now he must respect the mayor’s wishes while convincing Caroline that he still cares for her.

Best Laid Plains is a charming romance illustrating how honesty really is the best policy, and God is in control of even the smallest details of our lives.

What is happening with the Bloomfield series now that B&H has shut down their fiction line?

Our editor, who won't be working for them anymore, and our agent are working on finding another publisher. My book is the final book in the series for now.

Anything else you'd like to share?

I'm waiting on a new contract. I have a proposal for a new series that I'm really hoping I get to do. My agent also has a proposal for a contemporary series that I would like to do. We'll see where that goes.

I love how you just keep going strong!

I told my agent, "If God wants me to have these and I get a contract, then that means I'm going to live a few more years so I can fulfill the contract!" (She laughs.) That's the way I look at my contracts. If I get one, I know I'm going to live a few more years! But we'll see. You never know! I'm enjoying it.

I hope you get a bunch more contracts and get to stay around a long time! Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me. It's always such a blessing to spend some time with you.


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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cynthia Ruchti Shares Ragged Hope - Interview!

When I think of Cynthia Ruchti, the words grace and hope come to mind. Not only are they very prominent themes in her books, they exude from her personally. I've been blessed to get to become acquainted with her just a bit through ACFW these past couple of years but ICRS was the first time we sat down for an interview. And before we even started, she took the time to pray over me about a couple of things that were going on in my life. She is a treasure and I'm delighted to share that interview with you and tell you about her brand-new book. We also discuss her recent novel, When the Morning Glory Blooms, which I reviewed in April.

Ragged Hope:
Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices

Cynthia Ruchti
(Abingdon Press)
ISBN: 978-1426751172
July 2013/208 pages/$15.99

Where do we find hope when it’s clouded by the ashes of other people’s choices?

What do you do when your life is affected by someone else’s choices? Where is God when you are doing everything right yet, because of someone else, everything is wrong? This insightful and hope-giving guide will comfort, support, and encourage you through whatever situation you must face.

Cynthia Ruchti, who has walked this road herself and has spoken to hundreds of people through her radio show, assures readers that God is ever present and offers unwavering love. There is hope, grace, and a future in every situation—even (and especially) those we did not cause but now live. Vetted by professional counselors and caregivers, this is the one guide you need to thrive no matter what you are facing.

Available at, Amazon, and other retailers.


Cynthia Ruchti has more than three decades of radio broadcast experience with “Heartbeat of the Home” radio and currently serves as Professional Relations Liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers. Find Cynthia on the Web at, on Facebook, and Twitter.


This book is a gem. The simple and honest title gives a hint of the gentle grace found within its pages. Although filled with heart-rending, real-life anecdotes of folks who are reaping the difficult and life-altering harvests that others have sowed, this book is not oppressive but will uplift, inspire, and encourage you. Those not personally experiencing challenges such as those described in the book will become more sensitive to ways they can come alongside and support those who are wearied by the trials assailing them. Each page pulses with compassion and tenderness, and even the questions for reflection at the end of each chapter are presented gently without chiding or condemnation. Ragged Hope can be used by individual or groups. (It would make a marvelous study for a ministry team). Don't miss this wonderful book!


I'm so excited to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to you in an "official" interview. I love your books and the grace you weave into them. I recently read and reviewed When the Morning Glory Blooms . It is a beautiful story which touched my heart! It handles such a difficult subject that can be so divisive. It has both contemporary and historical elements. Pregnancy outside of marriage was such a hard thing so many years ago still even today, especially among Christians people just don't know how to handle it. Can you share how you came to write about this and how you decided to pull in the multiple threads of the three women from different generations who are connected, yet it's not a familial story.

The initial seeds for the story started many, many years ago and partly it was because of situations within our own family, our extended family, where there was an unwed or an unplanned pregnancy that shook our world for awhile. And watching the approbation of God's grace onto a situation that is difficult no matter how you look at it, and from whoever's perspective that you look at it. So initially, the story just started with Anna. I was trying to imagine, if you take what's happening in our lives and you put it back into the setting of the 1890's, when the church very definitely had a hard time embracing or knowing what to do with unwed moms. There was a time when an unwed mom wasn't even allowed to come into the church. She wasn't allowed to come to the church services because that would be inappropriate. That was the thought of the time in the church culture. So to have a woman in the 1890's who would be trying to run a home for unwed mothers was a challenge that wasn't even going to receive support. She wasn't going to receive government support. She wasn't going to receive support from the people she would have hoped would have been most compassionate and most full of grace. That was a tough thing.

As I toyed with that story, I realized there were more layers. And then I introduced the idea of Ivy, who is the character in the 1950's element of the story who is in her early twenties. She's been "around the block" a few times. She's pregnant with the baby of her boyfriend who is serving over in the Korean conflict, and he's unaware that there's a baby growing inside of her. She doesn't want to tell him. She's afraid it's going to destroy the relationship, and what woman hasn't felt a thing like that at one time or another? So she holds the secret to herself for way too long. She's also dealing with the fact that she has no place to live. She's living temporarily with her father who is about to kick her out of the house because he doesn't know what to do with a daughter who is pregnant in that stage of life. In his mind, he's probably thinking, "When she starts to show, I can't have her living here anymore." He's not only emotionally distant, but he doesn't know what to do. I am absolutely sure in my heart of hearts that that's been the position of some dads down through the centuries, not just in the 1950's. That also showed up in the 1890's story as well.

I had these two stories going back and forth where Ivy now is not only expecting a baby that she has no idea what to do with and can't even really relate to, she's caring for Anna in the nursing home, when Anna is now in her 80's, reaching the end of her life. Many people who are taking care of Anna in the nursing home expect that these wild stories she's telling are just the ramblings of a mind that's not quite there anymore, not realizing that they're the stories of a remarkable life and the way that God used her to touch so many women and bring them the true picture of what God's love and grace and hope are like.

As I thought about that and watched Ivy and Anna interact, I thought, "This still goes on!" This is an internal wrestling match that happened since the beginning of time and is still going on today. I look around my community today and my church today and I see teen moms and I see the idea of a teen pregnancy being celebrated on television and idolized in some ways and thinking, "People, where is the 'reality' part of reality TV? Where is the concept of how far the ripples go in a thing like this? The human drama is what creates this novel that is full of drama but very much full of heart, also. And also, what I pray is a clear picture of what do you do when someone is broken? Well, you help them pick up the pieces. You love on them all the more because they're broken. You find ways to show them where is hope hiding and where is the grace in all this.

So I added the third element, the modern day story, where it's told from the perspective of the mom of a teen mom. What does a mom of a teen mom go through? How does she help her daughter become a mom when she doesn't know how to be a mom? And how does she wrestle with her own issues of "where am I helping and where does this turn into enabling, and how are we going to manage this? How are we going to walk side by side? I'm the one raising your child, in essence, but you need to be a mom. How are we going to work that all out?"

I think one of the biggest challenges, maybe, is knowing - and pendulums swing. It used to be such "hellfire and damnation" with churches, and now it's swung so much toward grace that we don't see a lot of emphasis on repentance. Finding that happy balance between showing that love and God's grace and yet there being accountability --

There are consequences!

Yes, consequences and recognition that yes, this was sin.

There was one line in the book, in particular, where that kind of became encapsulated for me. The father and the mother in the modern-day setting are sitting in church waiting for the service to begin, and their daughter has just taken their grandson to the church nursery. She doesn't even know how to give her child over to someone in the church nursery yet. They are watching the announcements scroll through on the screen as they do in many churches. And slide after slide is talking about one kind of recovery group or service opportunity and then Teen MOPS and all those kinds of things flowing through. The dad just casually comments, "I wonder how much money the church is having to invest in paying for other people's mistakes and sins." There's a soberness to that. There's also a realization that this is part of what God designed a church to do, to embrace or welcome or engage with those who are broken because that's where they are going to find healing. God is the only source that's going to bring healing. But I didn't want to leave the book giving the impression that there are not heavy prices to be paid, consequences to be paid. And this particular story, When the Morning Glory Blooms, some of those prices were paid many, many, many years down the road. Some of it is in emotional health that has been damaged and needs repair. Some of it is, when you keep a secret, it is going to eat away at you. And in other ways, there are things where "Okay, we think we're going good now" and here comes another wave of consequence for not following God's perfect plan in the first place.

Can you talk a bit about the title? It's such a sweet title! And oh my goodness, the cover! I just love it!

Thank you, Linda! I love the cover, too. I think Abingdon Press did a wonderful job choosing a cover which wouldn't necessarily reveal which era this was from, since there are three eras represented in the book, but also it's a little bit mysterious but hope-giving at the same time, which is great.

When the Morning Glory Blooms is the title that came to me in the writing of the story. As I'm following along and writing the Anna story from the 1890's, there was a scene that I wrote--and I'm one of those people that I don't know exactly where I'm going when I start writing a book. I know a basic plot and then I take off from there. And I'm just as excited to discover what these characters are doing as the reader is! That's the way I write. It just happens to be my style. But I got to this wonderful scene where there was a brokenhearted mother in the 1890's. Her husband had, in essence, kicked the daughter off the back of the wagon and left her at Anna's doorstep because he didn't want anything to do with a young woman who had, in his words, "gotten herself pregnant." And probably, in those days, he wouldn't even have used the word pregnant. But he just wouldn't even talk about it and essentially kicked her off the back of the wagon. Anna took her in and ministered to her and was helping her grow. The mother, who you kind of sense from the background might have been forbidden by her husband to have contact with their daughter, would find ways to show up at this home that Anna was running. She would find ways to reconnect. She would also come back and give back to that community - bring cloth for diapers, bring little things that Anna's home could use to love on these women. One day she came with a little scraggly section of morning glory vine. Quietly, without even saying a word, she just planted it beside this house. Anna had no sense that this mother's gift to the home was going to survive, especially since it was a drought year and it had all odds going against it. But then the day came when that vine took root and it was filled with blossoms and it became so symbolic, then, throughout the whole story that what starts out looking like an ugly black seed of something, in God's timing and in His healing love and light can turn into these twisted tight blossoms that unfurl to reveal the most beautiful, beautiful flower that, honestly, looks like it's glowing from within.

Oh, I love that. You have a non-fiction book coming out soon, also, right?

I do. July is the official release date and it's called Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices. The two books are not unrelated! The idea of Ragged Hope is that we hear a lot about people whose sins make the headlines. Who is addressing and listening to the needs of the people who are really bearing all the fallout of what that bad decision was, what that sin was, or what that unthinking or negligent act might have been? There are many, many stories in the book. They are all stories from real life, real people who have found ways to cling to a little ragged thread of hope while they're waiting for rescue to arrive. Sometimes that's for a few days or a few weeks. Sometimes it's seasons. Sometimes it's many years before they are going to get relief from whatever it is, the ash cloud that has fallen over them. I have a very clear mental picture of 9/11 when that ash cloud came billowing down the street and the people were running to escape it. They couldn't escape it and they were covered from head to toe in the consequences of something they had nothing to do with. They just happened to be standing there. They did nothing wrong to deserve this but there was this tremendous ash cloud that made it impossible to breathe, and there was nowhere to go where they could breathe. Sometimes when you're caught in the high price that you're paying for what someone else has done, it's like that. You don't even know how you can catch your breath.

This book was written those people, to give them voice and to look at their stories and see what are those admirable things they are doing to keep connected to God, to reestablish strength in their lives. But it's also written for those of us who care about people like that. If we aren't experiencing a fallout situation like that ourselves, we know someone who is. Everyone does. I wanted to explore the idea, what is it I can do in a practical way-beyond just saying, "I'll pray for you"-that's going to help them breathe, lessen their load, and help them to be sure they can cling to that hope. From God's perspective, the hope that He offers is rock solid. It has never moved; it's unshaken, unchanging. From our perspective, as we look at it, it gets worn around the edges, especially the longer a problem goes on in our lives or the deeper those consequences are.

Is it a sit-down-and-read book? Or is it a devotional book?

My hope is that it will serve both purposes. I think there will be some people who will sit down and read it from cover to cover. There will be others who decide they want to use it for their Bible Study group, and they might do one chapter per week. They'll read the story and reflect on it deeply. At the end of each chapter, there are reflection questions for "if you are that person" whose story was told in that chapter. There are some questions to ask and some reflections to think about and some scriptures to look at, too, to ask "How are you dealing with it? What has worked? What would you advise others in the situation that you're in? There's also a set of reflections for you if you know someone like that. Some of them are practical ideas to consider. Some of them are just questions to get us thinking. It's so easy to take the avoidance response. It's so easy to just back off and stay clear and stay away, and many times that's the last thing that hurting person needs. Job's friends didn't do him any service when they tried to shove all kinds of advice at him. When they became meaningful to him in his pain was when they just came and sat with him. Sometimes that's what we need to do.

That is so true. You were really busy, writing these books so close together, or were you writing them simultaneously?

There was some editing that overlapped. But they also overlapped with crises in our own family. I was writing about principles that I needed to apply that moment! We had some ragged hope at our house while I was working on it! That was not surprising because so many times the Lord does that. He asks us to walk through something so we can write about it more authentically.

What has been the most surprising thing of your writing journey and being published?

Honestly-and I don't want this to sound self-serving-I believe that ACFW prepared me very well for what happened when publication came. I wasn't surprised by how hard the work was going to be. I wasn't surprised by how narrow the opportunities are. I wasn't surprised by how long the process sometimes takes. I have been surprised by how much I've loved every aspect of it. I thought just the writing was where I would feel in my groove, and I've been surprised to see how much I really appreciate even the marketing, as long as I keep my eyes both on the Lord and on the reader. So those things haven't been surprising. I like to encourage other writers, when I talk to them in writer's conferences and things like that, that if they make themselves a "one-trick pony" (if only one book is on their heart, or if they only want to write but they don't want to be involved in anything else such as the marketing or publicity or speaking to readers) to really rethink that. Not only is that an important thing to do, but that's really where it all comes together. The words on the page really come alive when the readers bring their imagination to that book, too. Then the Lord meets them there in that whole reading process! That's where the joy really is!

What's on your desk right now? Are you working on some projects?

I have a novel coming out in 2014 called All My Belongings. In a nutshell, it's the story of a woman whose father is kind of a Kevorkian type figure. He believes his community service project is to help people die. She wants to distance herself as far as she can from his reputation, from his life, and from his name. They have a very distinct last name and it's instantly equated with his decisions, which are opposed to the kind of decisions she would make. She feels like she has no place to belong, all through her childhood and now in her adulthood. She feels lost, like many of us do at times. She has longings that are driving her and she doesn't know where to bring them to rest. This novel has beautiful romance in it. It has some suspense and mystery in it as well, and then it has this incredible picture of the way she grows from where she is at the beginning of the book to the end. Watch for that from Abingdon Press next spring.

I'm also one of the authors that wrote devotions for Mornings with Jesus 2014 for Guideposts. That was an incredibly wonderful experience, to be able to sit down and produce devotions that will be used in that book. It's wonderful to realize that there will be people all over the world who will be opening up and reading the stories that I've taken from my own life and then thrown the spotlight on where God's principles intersect with what I'm experiencing today, and how do I reconnect with what He wants me to gain from this.

I have other things on my desk, as well, that need a whole lot more work before they can be talked about!

You also are very involved with ACFW on a senior level.

I'm the Professional Relations Liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers. What that means is that I serve the organization by making connections with retailers, libraries, book clubs, readers, and the public in the industry. My goal is to make sure they all know about ACFW and that ACFW has its foot in the door so that our membership is at its best advantage in information and contact and connections with the people that are in the same business but coming at it from a different angle. We love the idea of connecting, especially with the libraries and the book clubs and the readers and the retailers , and getting great books into the hands of the people who are eager to read them.

What do you like to do for down time? Or does your life totally revolve around books?

There is an awful lot involved with writing and books, as well as creating magazine articles and that sort of thing. And I go out and speak quite often to women's retreats and women's events. I also teach at writer's workshops. All that is tied into that same subject! But music is a big part of my life. I serve on the worship team at our church. That's a very meaningful time for me. I not only need the worship for my own spiritual engagement and refreshment but I love the way God uses words set to music to bring the heart closer to Him. So there again, words are still involved! I come from a musical family and music is a big part of it.

I love to travel. I don't get as much opportunity to do that as I'd like to, but that may still be coming in the future. I do still knit, although I don't have very much time to knit. I'm a great appreciator of cooking shows and home and garden concepts. I love to experiment with taking something that cost fifty cents and making it look like it cost $500!

I admire you for that! I have friends who tell of going to certain stores and finding a steal that they use so cleverly. When I go to those places, I just see a bunch of junk! I do not have that knack.

It's a lot of fun for me!

You mentioned that you enjoy cooking shows and when we were at dinner with a group last night you were quite delighted by the unique ingredients. If you had a weekend and you had a private chef to cook whatever you wanted, what would you choose?

Grilled vegetables - but that wouldn't be the top order. I'm just getting that in because vegetables would be a smart thing to do! Seared scallops. Creme brulee. For one meal. (She laughs.) I have the whole weekend! Then we might do the same thing the next night. Then we might slip a little crab in there somewhere. That would be good, too! Because I live in the heart of the country, far from any ocean, when I get the opportunity to have real seafood, it is such a delight! I was born in California but only lived there eight days. I think a little part of me lives along the ocean somewhere! When I tasted real Dungeness crab for the first time, I thought I had found my life's food, like people look for a life's verse!

So what would be the thing that you would love to learn how to cook?

Mmm. You know, I see risotto around and I've never attempted it. It sounds like it's tricky. I love to experiment in the kitchen and I would probably would do a lot more of that if my husband were an experiment-in-the-kitchen kind of guy. He's a real meat and potatoes guy. He appreciates meat and potatoes and a few vegetables here and there. Plus he's not the griller in our family; I am. So that's a good question, Linda. I might have to think about that one a little bit!

It was such fun watching you last night. You were so excited about that "lemongrass foam" on your steak and I had never even heard of it!

I know! It was like seeing the best of the best on the cooking channels right there in front of me on my plate! I'm a great appreciator of it and those who can do things like that.

[I couldn't find a picture of the dish you had to share with my readers who might be not know what lemongrass foam is, but you'll probably be happy with this dish: scallops with lemongrass foam! You can have your personal chef fix it. LOL]

Anything else you'd like to share with readers?

Just the tremendous respect I, as an author, have for my readers. I want to give them stories that are going to be worth their time, and I want them to know that we work very hard at that. When they finish a book, my hope is that they either finish it with a sigh, that it was very satisfying to read and that the time they invested was well worth it, or that they will come away thinking in a new way than they have before about a topic or an issue or somebody they care about. Or that they'll walk away with such a sense of refreshment and maybe-and I especially think of this, too-feeling like somebody finally gets what it feels like in their situation or someone was able to express what they felt but didn't have the words for it. That would give me a great deal of satisfaction, to know readers are feeling that way about the book.

Thank you for this! It's been great!

Cynthia Ruchti  is celebrating the release of Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (Abingdon Press) with a $200 Visa Cash Card "Hope" Giveaway and Facebook Party!


One winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa Cash Card
  • Ragged Hope by Cynthia Ruchti
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 31st. Winner will be announced at the "Ragged Hope Author Chat Part on August 1st. Connect with Cynthia for an evening of encouragement, laughter, and more! Cynthia will also share an exclusive look at her next project and give away books and other fun prizes throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of Ragged Hope and join Cynthia on the evening of August 1st 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. Hope to see you on the 1st!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Abingdon Press and 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.”


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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Royal Hodgepodge

1. July 24th is Amelia Earhart Day. Earhart was the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. What's something you've recently accomplished solo?

In terms of a new accomplishment? Can't think of anything.

2. What's one product you use that never ever fails?

Toilet tissue has been so incredibly trustworthy that I have never banned it from my house.

3. Have you found your place in the world? Where is it?

Totally missed this one last night. Of course my answer is TEXAS!

4. Worst movie you ever saw?

I don't even remember the name of it, and I guess I really can't say I saw it because my boyfriend and I walked out of it less than ten minutes after it started. This was way back in 1978 or 1979.

5. What's the last fun thing you did?

Answer the Hodgepodge, of course!

6. The month of July is named for Roman Emperor Julius Caesar...ever been to Rome? What's your favorite Italian dish?

I've never roamed to Rome. Favorite Italian dish - haven't been there in a long time but I've always LOVED Macaroni Grill's Penne Rustica.

7. What is one piece of advice you'd offer new mom Kate Middleton?

From the way she and Prince William seemed to be interacting with each other and totally smitten with their sweet baby, I'm not sure she needs any advice. But I would say for the three of them to shut the world out and enjoy each other!

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I happened to see Prince William and Kate come out with the baby yesterday. I absolutely LOVED it when William said the experience was "very emotional" - nothing warms my heart like seeing a daddy head over heels, smitten with his baby and in love with his wife. And I love how Kate is so sweet to honor Diana's memory and place in his life, from wearing a polka dot dress yesterday to having Diana's wedding ring.


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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Big Year for Lily

A Big Year for Lily
(The Adventures of Lily Lapp)
Mary Ann Kinsinger
Suzanne Woods Fisher
ISBN: 978-0800721343
July 2013/272 pages/$12.99

Lily Lapp’s family has settled into their new home in Pennsylvania, but life still holds big changes and big steps for Lily. Good changes, like once again living close to her beloved cousin and best friend, Hannah. Bad changes, like a mean girl who plays tricks on her. And no change at all where Lily would most want one–Aaron Yoder sits near her in school and relentlessly teases her. Surprises are in store for Lily as she learns, with Mama and Papa’s help, to manage the ups and downs of growing up Amish.

The third of four charming novels that chronicle the gentle way of the Amish through the eyes of a young girl, A Big Year for Lily gives children ages 8-12 a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Amish–and lots of fun and laughter along the way. It combines Mary Ann Kinsinger’s real-life stories of growing up Amish and the bestselling writing of Amish fiction and nonfiction author Suzanne Woods Fisher. With charming line drawings in each book, this series captures the hearts of readers young and old.

Learn more about the series, play games and download the coloring sheets at the Lily website.


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 a new 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. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @suzannewfisher. Get Amish proverbs delivered right to your mobile device! Download the Free App! Find out more about Suzanne at


This such an adorable series! Somehow I missed the second book but I loved meeting Lily when I reviewed Life with Lily last fall. I would have loved reading these with my girl when she was in elementary school. Lily is sweet and innocent but just like any young girl, she sometimes makes bad decisions and she struggles with her friendships and with knowing how to deal the annoying kids. Even the Amish have "mean girls!" Utterly charming without being over-the-top sickeningly sweet, A Big Year for Lily is a wonderful chapter book for an eager reader. Highly recommended!

Suzanne Woods Fisher is celebrating the release of A Big Year for Lilybook three in the beloved Adventures of Lily Lapp series, with a giveaway extravaganza!

 One winner will receive:
Twelve winners will receive:
  • Special prizes specially picked by Lily (something new each day)! Suzanne will announce the winners on July 29 on her blog!
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 27th. All winners will be announced July 29th at Suzanne's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun;
enter today and be sure to visit
Suzanne's blog on the 29th
to see if you won one of the fun prizes!

(Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement
delivered to your inbox!)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Revell and 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.”


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Monday, July 22, 2013

A Chat with Terri Blackstock

Although I have had the privilege of meeting and interviewing authors for several years now, there are a few of the "top names" in Christian fiction that I have not crossed paths with. One of these is Terri Blackstock, one of the premier authors of Christian suspense. I was thrilled to discover that she would be at ICRS last month and available for an interview. What a delight she is! I immediately felt as if I had known her for quite awhile and we had a great time chatting. In fact, during the interview, we ended up chasing a few rabbits, so to speak, and I had to remind myself to get back on task asking questions that could be officially part of the interview. The time went much too quickly and I look forward to the next time I have the opportunity to spend some time with her. Grab a mocha or your favorite summer sip and enjoy my conversation with Terri.

I am so thrilled to finally meet you and have the opportunity to sit down with you. I love your books! My daughter read the Intervention series and loved it as well. I always lose myself in books but I read that series with a mother's heart, and knowing that you wrote it from your personal experience made it even more touching. The emotion of that series gripped me as I read it. [Note: Click the titles for my reviews of the books in this series: Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall.]

Well, good, because it was really hard to write! I mean, I enjoyed writing it but at the end, I was just so drained. I decided I needed to write something that was not so much like opening a vein. I've enjoyed doing a whole different thing.

Truth Stained Lies is your most recent release. I read and reviewed it and really liked it as well.

I saw your review when you first posted it, and I looked at it again just now. It was really good. Thank you for that! I appreciate it. Your reviews are very coherent and intelligent and you don't give away the plot.

Aww, thank you! Can you tell my readers a bit about that book? I understand you got the idea for that from the Casey Anthony trial, right?

Yes. I'm the type of person who follows trials. When I was a kid, I rushed home from school every day and watched the Watergate hearings! I love that kind of courtroom drama. I read these behind-the-scenes investigative blogs, some of which were written by attorneys, and they were finding things about the [Casey Anthony] case that were not being allowed in court. That just captured my attention. I wanted to write a character like this! It kind of evolved away from that somewhat because it's not really about that. But it gave me the idea, just the question of what if somebody she [the character] had accused or judged got mad and came after her and threatened her. That's kind of what started the book but then it all evolved differently and really had nothing to do with that.

The whole theme of the book focuses on things not being what they seem and what do you do when the truth sounds absolutely ridiculous. The main character's brother is accused of a murder, and when he tells the truth about what happened, no one will believe him because it's so ludicrous. The truth is just too ridiculous to believe. The only ones who believe him are his sisters and some close friends, and they try to figure out who set him up with this ridiculous scenario so he wouldn't be believed. The tables are kind of turned on his sister Cathy, who is a blogger, because she's always trying to go with the obvious. Well, in this case, the obvious is completely wrong.

I wanted to do a series with three sisters who are very different, so I've got Cathy the blogger; Juliet, who is a stay-at-home mom; and Holly is a ne'er-do-well taxi driver whose life is a total mess. They go to work for Michael, who is the love interest in this story. He's a private investigator. They start learning the ropes from him and try to investigate some crimes that are related to their family. Each book will focus on one sister.

Oh, I'm excited it's a series!

Yes, it's called the Moonlighter series [because the sisters are moonlighting as investigators] and book two is about Juliet. It's called Distortion. It's tentatively scheduled for early next year but I think they are looking at possibly moving it up. And I'm working on the third book now.

This fall, we're going to repackage the Restoration series--Last Light, Night Light, True Light, and Dawn's Light--about the global power outage. I wrote that maybe ten years ago about a massive global power outage and this family has to figure out how to survive. They decide to share, even though it's a risk that they'll starve to death. They decide to be Christ and trust Christ through this crisis. People are killing each other for food. It sounds really fun, doesn't it? (She laughs.) There has been a resurgence of interest in these books since the economy has been so bad, and there have also been some TV shows, like Revolution, that people thought I wrote because it was similar to my series. I had hundreds of people asking me that! I think people have become really interested in it, so we are going to repackage them, put new covers on them, and put them out again this fall to hopefully pick up some new readers.

Another one of yours that I read was Predator, where the teenage girl was stalked online. My daughter read it, too. I was a little nervous for her to read it, although we had some really strict guidelines for our kids and the computer. But Oh! My. Goodness! That one scared the living daylights out of me! [My review is here.]

When I wrote that, it was pushing the edge a little more than I usually do as far as the fear factor and the stuff in it. But I wanted to scare the socks off of people because when I started using Facebook, I was just flabbergasted at the amount of information people are dumping. I thought, "This is a predator's playground." They don't have to go out and stalk you anymore. They can just collect information and know exactly where you are going to be. Even adults are doing that, but I wanted to scare everybody into changing their habits. Sometimes I think my kids are disappointed that I don't talk about them more or put pictures, but I just don't want people to know anything personal that would lead them. I don't tell them about weddings. I have mentioned that I have two grandbabies coming this fall. Think about it. I have 17,000 followers. There might be five predators, or ten. It's just so scary. That book was not just about that. It was also about suffering and why God allows horrible things to happen to people who love Him. I really got into that story, too, and Krista's dealing with her sister's murder from the stalker. I think I had a good response to that book. I don't know if I should say that I have a favorite, but it's one of the ones that I'll suggest when somebody says, "Which book should I read?" Plus it's a stand-alone and I like the cover!

Because of some things that happened in my childhood, I've always been easily frightened so I've been careful what I read. Particularly when I was single and lived alone, I never read anything scary that I would be able to relate to. Of course, I'm at a different place in life now and most plots of the suspenseful books I read are pretty removed and not going to happen to me. But that one really hit home and made my heart pound!

It can happen to anyone! When I started plotting the book, I really thought the villain was going to be collecting information for the government or for a political party, but then I decided I didn't want to get into the politics or the government. But now, that's so timely! You know, we're just feeding information to whoever is there and it doesn't bother us a bit! And I do it, too. It's a scary time.

Anything else you'd like to share with readers?

I've already got my next series in my head, which I'll start as soon as I finish this book. I don't want to talk about yet, but I'm really excited about it. God is still giving me ideas, and when they dry up, I guess I'll retire!

I hope that won't be anytime soon! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. It's been an absolute pleasure.

If you haven't read Terri Blackstock's books, I highly recommend them! The ones we discussed are just a few that she's written. You can see the complete list and learn more about her by visiting her website at You can also connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.


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