Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Operation Zulu: Hazardous Duty - SNEAK PEEK!

Do you Zulu?!?! Are you reading Ronie Kendig's serial e-novel, Operation Zulu: Redemption? If not, you are seriously missing out! Ronie is at the top of her game, and each episode gets better and better. The introduction/teaser, Overkill is FREE, so you have no excuse for not giving it a try.

Here are links to my reviews of the episodes released so far.

Overkill: The Beginning
Collateral Damage - Part 1
Out of Nowhere - Part 2

Ronie is giving us a sneak peak into Hazardous Duty - Part 3, which releases Friday, below. Brace yourselves, check out the exciting excerpt below, then RUSH to preorder!

Altitude: 34,000 feet
Unknown Date and Time

Cold steel bit into his wrists. Sam shifted where he sat—which is where, exactly?—and felt the cuffs make another greedy imprint on his arms. He gritted his teeth, noting the sound of chains scraping against metal. The vibrations worming through his entire body and the deafening roar of massive engines combined with the hollowing of his hearing warned him he was on a plane. In fact, his fourth one. If he’d been counting right.

Then again, could be the same plane, refueled and they’d placed him in different locations to confuse him. Aboard the first aircraft, he’d been strapped into a cushioned seat. They’d progressively gotten worse from there. Now, he’d been placed on a Globemaster in a strap seat on the uncomfortable-as-possible transport.

They’d cuffed him on scene, stuffed him in the SUV—but not before he spotted a glimpse out the heavily tinted windows of Solomon’s car hidden down the road. As soon as the door closed, he’d been hooded and taken to a chopper—a private one, he guessed—that ferried him to an airstrip. Nobody talked to him as they secured him into that first seat.

He knew two things from this little seek-and-find game: One, they didn’t want him knowing his location or destination. But this wasn’t the first time Sam had been a hostage. He had survival skills beyond most men, probably even more than those holding him. And two, patience would deliver him to whoever was behind this kidnapping. Patience would help him connect the dots of this incident to Ashland.

Ash. . .

Faced with the very real possibility of seeing her again, maybe even face-to-face, fear streaked through him. Stabbed his confidence. Mutilated his courage.

What if she didn’t want to see him again? What if she was some sick psycho who used men and loosed them?

Sam snorted and shook his head. She might’ve been able to hide her real name, but there was so much about Ashland she hadn’t been able to hide. The meticulous attention to detail that spoke of someone aware. . .very aware of her environment. Of threats. The hunger in her eyes for companionship and understanding. The way she responded to his kiss. That wasn’t faked, not simply because she’d kissed him back or how she’d done that. But because of the heat of passion in her face. That wasn’t something a person could fake.

Distinct and obvious, the descent pushed aggravation through his veins. Would this stop be one of many more? He’d tolerated a lot already but his fuse wasn’t endless.

Tires screeched against the tarmac, jolting him forward as the engines and the reverse thrusters slowed the aircraft.

Ashland, sure hope you’re at the end of this journey.

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


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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Full Steam Ahead - An Interview with the Author

Full Steam Ahead
Karen Witemeyer
(Bethany House)
ISBN: 978-0764209673
June 2014/352 pages/$14.99

When love simmers between a reclusive scientist and a wealthy debutante, will they abandon ship or is it full steam ahead?

Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas, to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole's father has always focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.

Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it's too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father's rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole's plans.

After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.

Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father's rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family's legacy?


Photo courtesy of
Amber Gilbert
Two-time RITA finalist and winner of the coveted HOLT Medallion and ACFW Carol Award, CBA bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes historical romance because she believes that the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. Karen makes her home in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at and connect with her on Facebook.


Karen Witemeyer writes such fun stories, and this one is no exception. I loved the connection to Galveston and was fascinated to discover there were steamships in Texas! Clever character development and verbal sparring between Nicole and Darius sparked plenty of chuckles as I read. On the flip side, the issues burdening their hearts are as relevant today as they were in the 1850's and added depth to the story. Witemeyer deftly weaves a thread of faith throughout, making this both an enjoyable and inspiring novel.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this this book from Baker/Bethany House 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.”


I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Karen Witemeyer back in June when I was in Atlanta for ICRS. What a delight she is! We had such fun chatting together about this book and her writing. In fact, I had so much fun talking to her that I forgot to take her picture! Here is my interview:

Congratulations on your Christy nomination for Stealing the Preacher! I love your books, and they always have the cutest covers!

Thank you! They have really done a good job for me. I've been very pleased!

They're fun stories with great characters. Your brand-new release is Full Steam Ahead, which is wonderful. Tell the readers about that.

It is a bit of a different time period for me. I'm usually in the 1880's. That's kind of my decade of choice. This time, however, I went back to the early 1850's. The reason is, when i was brain-storming ideas, I thought, "I want something explosive. I want explosions!" So I had to figure out what I was going to do to make explosions work in my plotline. At first I thought that maybe I'd have a hero who was a chemist who would have lab explosions and chemical things. But it's so long since I studied chemistry that it scared me to death to even try to research and understand what I'm researching. So I started doing some more research, and I remembered the steam engines and how fickle they were, especially in the early days and started researching steamboats. I found some great information on actual explosions that took hundreds of lives. It was really devastating because so many lives were lost to something that they didn't understand. Basically, the technology advanced before their understanding of it did. They knew it worked, so they used it but they didn't really understand how to make it safe or how to keep these explosions from happening. I kind of wanted a "mad scientist" type as my hero, so that's where I was going with this.

I put my hero on an actual steamboat that exploded in New Orleans. He was devastated by this event because he saw firsthand all these people who died, and some of them died pretty brutally and in rather ugly ways since the explosion was so massive. I found firsthand accounts of the event and played off of that in describing it.

Was it on the Mississippi?

Yes, on the Mississippi, down in the harbor of New Orleans. Basically, just as they pulled away from the levee, it exploded. It wasn't like it was a steamboat that was trying to push too fast or anything like that. There were a lot of different reasons why the steamboats exploded. It wasn't all just negligence or faulty equipment. My hero became obsessed with trying to figure out how to make this technology safer so no more lives would be taken by this. He carries a lot of guilt about a child he was unsuccessful in saving after the explosion, and that's where his obsession comes from.

Because all of my stories are set in Texas, I wondered if it was realistic to have steamboats in Texas. As it turns out, there were a lot of steamboats, especially around Galveston and going up the Trinity River. So my heroine is from Galveston, and she is the daughter of a shipping magnate who is in failing health. He doesn't have a son to carry on the business, and even though she is capable of carrying on the business, in the 1850's, there is no one who would take her seriously as the head of this company. She has to set out to find the next best thing to a son, which is a son-in-law. Her dowry is a pirate dagger that was bequeathed to her family from Jean Lafitte, who was a famous pirate out of Galveston. I have a bit of the pirate angle going with the heroine. She keeps the pirate dagger strapped to her side and has some skills in that area. It is believed that the dagger is what makes their business successful; whoever owns the dagger will be successful, and a competitor is after the dagger. She takes the dagger with her to spare her family from being in danger from the competitors. She planned to go to New Orleans, where her family has business connections, to find a husband, but to elude the competitor following her, she goes up the Trinity River and stops in Liberty, where my hero is conducting his experiments.

She's out of funds and finds work as his secretary since no one else will work for him because of all the explosions he makes in his experiments. So that's how they meet and the story unfolds from there.

That is fascinating. I never knew about the steamboats in Texas! And I loved the pirate angle. I've been trying to convince Mary Lu Tyndall to write a book set in Galveston!

That would be neat! It's not a major part but it's some back story that adds some flavor. It's a lot of fun.

Of course, since I'm from Texas, I love books set anywhere in the state, but Galveston is my kids' favorite place to go on vacation and not because of the beach. It has so many other places and history that we love to explore. It's fun to read a book that has a connection there.

I didn't get to go in person but I found some great pictures of historic homes that were built around the same time that my heroine's family would have been building houses. And I found a map of Galveston from 1848, I think, so I could see exactly where all the streets were and where all my fictional houses would be. It was really a lot of fun.

Did you grow up in Texas?

No, I grew up in California but came to Texas to go to Abilene Christian University. I met my husband in college and stayed! We both work at ACU. I work as a testing coordinator. I give ACT's and CLEP tests, stuff like that, as my day job. (She laughs.) That's a very left-brain job and then writing is right-brain!

I'm amazed at authors like you that have full-time jobs and manage to write as well!

And I have three kids at home, too! That's why I only get out one book a year.

Tell me about your kids.

My oldest is a daughter. She just turned sixteen, so we're working on the whole driver's license thing; that's fun! Then I've got two boys, fourteen and twelve. They keep me hopping!

What are you working on next?

There will be a follow-up novella to Full Steam Ahead. One of the characters is a runaway boy who is sort of adopted by the hero and heroine during the course of the story. I wrote a novella that will feature him once he's all grown up and he's finally, after seventeen years, going back to the home that he ran away from, facing his past. Of course, he finds love on the way. That will release on February 3, 2015 and is called Love on the Mend. It will just be in e-book format for now.

That seems to be a trend now, to put out novellas and e-books.

Yes, and because I only put out one book a year, that's a long time for readers to wait to see something from me. I'm trying to find new ways to get more content out there. Last year I wrote a novella for my last Archer brother and put it in a compilation with Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Carol Cox called A Match Made in Texas that came out in January. We're trying that again with this novella, only it will just be a single release on my own. We're just playing with it to see if it's something that's marketable. If it is, then maybe it's something that can continue. I can find a way to squeeze in a novella in my year's worth of writing, but there's no way I can write two full-length books in one year. I'm trying to find new ways to stay in touch with readers and give them new content and make them hungry for more so they don't forget me over the course of the year!

Then my next full-length book will come out around the same time period, early summer, in 2015. It's called A Worthy Pursuit. I'm still writing it. It's due on August 15. It's set in 1891 in Texas, of course!

It's interesting that you love writing books set in Texas so much since you are originally from California. Not that I'm complaining!

Well, it's home. I've lived in Texas now longer than I lived in California. And since I live here, it's easy to research and access. Also, it is so varied. You can get the ocean, the forest, the desert, everything in Texas. I've tried to move my stories around geographically within Texas to give it a different feel. This next one will have a bounty hunter who is going after what he believes to be a kidnapped child, and the teacher who took the child – to protect her from her grandfather – has three children with her who are all child prodigies in some way. They all have different gifts, so that's fun to make it unique. Over the course of the story, each of the children's gifts come into play in the plot.

Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

All different kinds of places! I love to read, and I probably get most of my inspiration from things that I read. Sometimes movies and TV play into it, too. Before I ever started writing, I was a historical romance reader. That was all I read. I never read contemporary. Historical romance was my genre and I loved it. I'm still that way. Some people say, if you write in the genre, you shouldn't read in that genre. I'm the exact opposite. I want to be so absorbed in the genre that it's just natural and flows. So I get ideas from different authors. I take something from here, something there, twist it and make it something completely different.

Do you read just Christian authors or do you read general market as well?

I read both. In fact, Short Straw Bride, with my first Archer brother, kind of had two main inspirations. One was the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Then Jodi Thomas, who is also a Texas author who writes for the general market, has a similar set of books with a set of brothers who are somewhat reclusive and that kind of spawned an idea for me. I took those two inspirations and mixed them up and made something totally new.

Do you plan everything out or do you have just the basics and see where the story takes you?

I'm kind of a combo. I don't write out a synopsis for every chapter or anything like that. Of course, I have to write a synopsis for my publisher before they'll sign a contract. I need to know the basic story problem and how my hero and heroine are going to meet. I usually know two or three big events that are going to happen in the plotline and how the happy ending is going to work out. Part of that is research, like with the steamboats. If I want explosions, how am I going to get explosions? Once I have those pillars of the story, I just start writing. I have my road map, but sometimes it may get a little wavy between Point A and Point B.

Do your characters ever do things that surprise you?

Every once in a while, but I'm a pretty strict taskmaster. I like to keep them on task and on track. Sometimes they'll say things I don't expect or will move the story in a tiny detour and then come back. I let them have a little bit of leeway, but I don't let them go too crazy. I'm too much of a control freak!

I'm also one of those strange authors that likes to edit as I go. I don't have a big session of writing creatively and then going back to layer and fix it. I'm a perfectionist. It has to be polished as I go through it. So I pretty much write one draft, but it's a very polished draft. I send each chapter to my critique partners, so I polish it as I go. So when it's The End, it's the end, and I turn it in. Of course, I get my editorial feedback and go back and make changes based on that but for the most part, it's a very slow first draft, but it's the only draft. I'm odd. I think I'm in the low percentage of authors that do it that way!

Yes, most authors I've talked to just want to get something on the page and then go back and fix it.

Right. But my bent is more editorial than it is creative. The creative part is really hard for me. I put in all that energy at the beginning so I know what the story is going to entail and what direction it's going to go. Once I have that outline, my editor comes out and says, "Okay, I want to play! And I want to fix it and make it perfect before we go on to the next thing." I guess I have to keep both sides of the brain happy as I go through because my editor will not be quiet!

Oh, I can see that I would be that way, too. I'm such a grammar geek and continuity person. It would drive me nuts to misspell a word and not fix it.

I've got enough of a perfectionist streak in me that I can't move on until it's taken care of. If I can't find the right word, I will sit there and work on that word until it comes to me, and then I'll move on!

Do you hear the voices in your head or see it playing out like a movie?

I would say I'm more visual. I'll see it as a movie, and that's how I try to describe it: as I see it. If I can't figure out where he's standing – and it might not be anything that's on the page – I have to visualize it to make sure he can actually use that hand to do that or whatever I'm writing.

You are plenty busy with working and family and writing. If you ever do have spare time, how do you like to spend it?

Besides reading, my next favorite hobby is counted cross-stitching. I really enjoy that. I don't do it as often as I would like because, obviously, time is an issue. And sometimes I get in reading mode where that's all I want to do when I have free time. Other times, I'll be ready to take a break from reading and I'll cross-stitch while we watch TV. My husband loves to watch Texas Rangers baseball, and I like it fine but I'm not riveted, so that's a perfect time to get out the cross-stitching.

What has been the best thing about your writing journey?

My favorite thing of all is hearing from readers and seeing what God can do through my story. I will probably never meet these people in person but God can do wonderful things even through simple, lighthearted stories. My books have been translated into Dutch and German; I've even had a couple in Romanian. To hear from people all the way across the world tell me they loved my books and why and how it impacted them, it just blows my mind to think that someone has read my book and has become closer to God because of it.

Tell me more about that. Your books are definitely more lighthearted, as you say, rather than issue driven. Faith is more subtle.

It is. My approach to Christian fiction is that I write what I would like to read. Because I've been a Christian for many, many years, the characters I most relate to are characters who are already Christians. What I have my characters deal with is not so much the "finding Jesus" as the day-to-day reconnecting, and learning how to deal with things that weigh on them. For example, in Full Steam Ahead, the hero has had guilt just weighing on him for nearly two years, and he's trying to atone himself by finding these new safeguards. That's his way of trying to redeem his failure. It takes the heroine coming in and seeing things from a different perspective to say, "You can't redeem your failure. Only Jesus can do that for you." Those kind of moments. I know the things that I struggle with. You will see worry a lot as a theme in my books because that's something that women deal with a lot, as well as anxiety about the future. Because I experience that myself, I let my characters deal with it, and hopefully letting them find peace helps me and helps others find peace and trust and surrender. That's my faith message. These are established believers dealing with everyday life and stuff that happens, just like we do. How do we find Jesus in the midst of all that? How do we remember to lean on Him? And sometimes, how do we lean on each other when it's hard to ask for help? At the same time, while my faith message is subtle, you will find overt places where the characters are going to the Bible and finding wisdom there instead of feelings. I incorporate Scripture into my stories as well. So that's my angle.

I love it. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me! It's so much fun to meet you!


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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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