Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

What a fun year of reading, reviewing and writing this has been.

Watch for many more reviews and author interviews coming up in 2009!

Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Restorer by Sharon Hinck

Though I finished this book the day after Christmas, my mind still lingers in Sharon Hinck’s created novel land. First, let me say I rarely read fantasy. So how did I end up with this book? Sharon was a presenter at the ACFW writer’s conference I attended this year. She led a session on keeping God first as a Christian author ("Habits of a Healthy Writer"). Her warm, open, generous and gracious reflection of God’s Holy Spirit so impacted me, I had to investigate her fiction. Her maturity in the Lord and her wisdom intrigued me. Enter…


Here's the back cover copy:

Meet Susan, a housewife and soccer mom whose dreams stretch far beyond her ordinary world. While studying the book of Judges, Susan longs to be a modern-day Deborah, a prophet and leader who God used to deliver the ancient nation of Israel from destruction. Susan gets her wish for adventure when she stumbles through a portal into an alternate universe and encounters a nation locked in a fierce struggle for its survival. Now stranded in a strange culture filled with poisonous enemies, Susan must overcome tremendous odds to deliver a desperate people and restore hope to a world far from her own. Author Sharon Hinck presents a unique blend of fiction written with a woman's sensibility. Female readers will uncover a story of empowerment that encourages a personal pursuit of destiny.

Back to my review:

You know when you’re reading a novel and it’s so well-written that you see yourself in the story, becoming the character? That’s what this reading experience was for me. I became the Restorer, with all her flaws and human weakness. Her transformation, though, was marvelous.

Check out this blurb:
“In a fierce struggle for survival,
don’t mess with a mom.”

I love it! Sharon did a fantastic job incorporating the spiritual truths I cling to—that God’s Word is powerful and that God fights on behalf of His faithful followers. In her fanciful, created world, the People of the Verses thrived, so long as they clung to the One and His verses. But this simple command was as difficult for the People in her story as it was for the Israelites of the Old Testament. Yet, when they determinedly made their choice, the One came through for them. Sharon wisely depicted how negative thoughts can get into people's minds and rob them of peace, dragging them down into depression. Then, she gave the perfect antidote--the Verses. As a reader and a Christian mentor, I appreciated her pointing believers in the direction of the Word of the One to help them break free from the pull of evil, poisonous thoughts.

I highly recommend this first book in the Sword of Lyric series. I believe readers of Christian fiction in general, women's fiction, fantasy, or even allegorical fiction will enjoy this novel/series.

I look forward to her next two books (already released). She has gained another fan!

Note: this book released in 2007, along with the second in the series. Book Three released in 2008. The titles are: The Restorer; The Restorer's Son and The Restorer's Journey.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What Makes You Love A Novel?

When you've finished reading a book, what is it that makes you say "Wow, that was a great novel!"?

Is it the prose (the stringing of words together) or the plot? Was it how the author tied things together and concluded the story? Was it how the author surprised you here or there? Was it the emotions you experienced while reading? How much did the genre influence your enjoyment of the book? What else makes you love a book?

If an author could design the perfect book for you, what would s/he include?

Let's interact. Name your favorites book(s) and tell us what you loved about them. Or, just tell us what your favorite kind of novel would include.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Stones by Eleanor Gustafson

Here's the back cover copy for this January, 2009 release:

With comprehensive detail and flowing prose, Eleanor Gustafson crafts the retelling of King David s life from his teenaged anointing to his death as seen through the eyes of Asaph, a Levite historian. Fictional in scope, yet with amazing scriptural accuracy, The Stones provides a revealing, behind-the-scenes glimpse into biblical history with all the twists, turns, thrills, and romance of the world s great drama. You will be there as: A young teen collects stones to take on a giant. A prideful rebel takes count of his fighting men. A fallible leader succumbs to lust, temptation, and deceit. A poet and musician grows closer to God through prayer and worship. A man after God s heart discovers the unfailing love and forgiveness of his Creator. The Stones is an epic adventure of man s innate need to worship God and rely on Him for strength and how badly things can go when he fails to do so.

Here's the author's bio:

Eleanor K. Gustafson has been publishing both fiction and nonfiction since 1978. Her short stories and articles have appeared in a number of national and local magazines. The Stones is her fourth novel. In many of her stories, Eleanor explores the cosmic struggle between good and evil in light of God s overarching work of redemption. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she has been actively involved in church life as a minister s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. She has enjoyed a variety of experiences, from riding horses to building houses, all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. She and her husband live in Massachusetts, where he teaches philosophy. They travel extensively, spend time with their three children and eight grandchildren, and enjoy camping at the family forest in Chester, Vermont.

And now for my review:

Eleanor Gustafson’s novel “The Stones” is an insightful approach to the life of King David. I’ve read the stories of David in the Bible, but I did have a hard time following his storyline in Eleanor’s book. Though the story was at times difficult to follow, the prose was so delicious readers will not mind wading through for the nuggets. I appreciated that Eleanor tackled this king’s life story and enjoyed reading about him. There were moments I could feel the tangible presence of God as I read, as I connected with her description of David’s relationship with God. Her depiction of David’s heart life before God was the best element in the book. Throughout the challenges which led him to the throne of Israel, he continued to call on God. As you read the Bible, you see He wrote many Psalms, and sometimes even in the context of the stories you can read his very personal prayer-songs to God. But Eleanor’s interpretation of David’s heart was believable for the most part, and a blessing often. Though the book doesn’t extend to David’s experience of settling down in peace from his neighbors all around, or his indiscretion with Bathsheba, Uriah and his wife are mentioned as they related with David and his wife Abigail (again the author’s ideas of what could have happened.) I would have liked to see the story continue. There was much time spent on David’s attempts to steer clear of King Saul. Perhaps because this was such a training time for David’s character, the author remained here in his pre-coronation days. There were times the story seemed to drag as I waited for David to be made king. But my overall impression, after reading the entire book, is very favorable. This book will inspire your relationship with God. David took his fears, his concerns, his joy straight to God, even in the midst of the people he led. (Imagine doing that in any given moment, say during a business meeting). He chased after God’s heart. You catch a glimpse of what that might have looked like as you read “The Stones.” I highly recommend this novelization of King David’s life.

Look for this book in January out from Whitaker House.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Box

This week I mailed Christmas presents to family out of state, that and a pile of Christmas cards. There I knelt on the living room floor, wrapping little gifts to nieces and nephews, parents and siblings. Lights on the Christmas glowed, holiday music hummed and wrapping paper crinkled. The Christmas spirit was tangible as I filled the boxes.

What does this have to do with writing or reading?

I like reading books that are outside the box. A few authors have inspired me in this. One of them is Travis Thrasher. He doesn't write predictable fiction. Check out any three of his books and you'll see he's not a box-inhabitor. Maureen Lang hasn't fit into any specific box. These two are successful and what makes them interesting to read is their work doesn't follow expected norms. That kind of writing gets people's attention. There's value in not fitting into a known box. Take a peek at The Shack for confirmation. Wayyyy outside the box.

So, unlike those boxes full of Christmas presents, this kind of box isn't fun to unpack. It's routine.

Here's to new and interesting fiction---outside the box.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Balancing Act

I usually try to post every Tuesday and Thursday. Yesterday got away from me. I'm a little busy these days...

I've got a growing stack of wonderful fiction to review, and I'm knee-deep in reading. I've got kiddos, and writing of my own to do. Oh, and it's Christmas....

But my husband reminded me of the key for dealing with all these wonderful responsibilities at once. Take each day as it comes.

So what, the calendar's full until January, 2025?? (jk) I hope to get my Christmas cards out this week, but if they go out next Monday, it's not the end of the world. It'll all come together. Here's my assurance as I balance everything:

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

God will make a way as I follow Him. There will be time for the purposeful things. Whew.... now, back to it!

All the best this Christmas season. Give yourself a much-needed break and READ something yummy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Writing Update

I just posted the covers for devotional books I've been involved with over the last few years: Penned From the Heart, volumes xii - xv (see sidebar). Their current daily devotional book just released with a couple of my devos included. For more information about Penned, click over to my website: and click on non-fiction.

I've also just posted a blog entry (over at Net's Notes) about reading devotionals and/or having devotional time with the Lord everyday.

As I listened to a teaching today from ACFW's 2008 writer's conference, workshop teacher Sharon Hinck ( reminded listeners/students that to write works of spiritual depth, we must be people of spiritual depth. That happens through daily time with God so He can shape us. Check out the full post at Net's Notes.

It's a balance for me between reading the Bible (an absolute must) and other non-fiction, and all the fiction I read for reviews and entertainment. But God is faithful and gracious to help me keep that balance. Reading is such a gift. (I know, a verb used as a noun, work with me here. ;-)

Happy, edifying reading.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Voluntary Book Reports?

Did you enjoy writing book reports when you were in school? I didn't. I couldn't always put together my thoughts well enough, or remember everything I wanted to include.

Now I'm reviewing voluntarily. Amazing. But I'm having so much fun! Just today I heard back from a new author whose book came out yesterday. I'm so excited to read her novel and post my review and perhaps an interview, if we have time.

What a privilege to get involved in promoting Christian fiction. I still meet people who've never even heard of Christian fiction. That's somewhat surprising to me, probably because I've been immersed in it for over a decade, maybe closer to two (though there were a whole lot fewer books to read back then). I love how it's growing, and look forward to continuing to promote it.

Even if I have to write voluntary book reports. :-)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Love Finds You in Miracle, Kentucky

I'm excited to feature another Summerside Press book today.

You can do a lot with a theme on miracles. Andrea Boeshaar’s new book “Love Finds You in Miracle, Kentucky," depicts a single woman who leaves behind a druggy boyfriend and a dead end job to pursue her dreams of making a difference as a teacher while getting her life on the right path. Her grandmother takes her in, and what follows is the story of how Meghan Jorgenson experiences a few life-changing miracles. There’s the area of her relationships: her potential relationship with God; a difficult relationship with her selfish mother and the possibility of a relationship with a man named Vance whose daughter needs a physical miracle. A drunk-driving car accident killed Vance’s first wife and left Vance’s daughter unable to walk. Maybe, in a place like Miracle, Kentucky, you mind find just the right combination of prayer and the faith of one little girl to produce a miracle, or two.

Andrea Boeshaar is a pro at weaving together well-written inspirational romance. I’m most familiar with her novellas from Barbour (in their four-in-one anthologies), so when I saw her name come up as one of Summerside’s authors, I was excited. She expertly immersed the readers into story world and kept us reading to see how she’d work out the challenges surrounding her heroine.

Add Andrea’s Summerside book to the growing list of great fiction coming from this new house. Anyone looking for true-to-life situations, coupled with the dependability of a wholesome inspirational romance, as well as a dash of country living, will enjoy this novel. It’s a break from the fast-paced rush. Grab a cozy throw, curl up in your favorite nook and enjoy!

You can learn more about Andrea at her website: Also, check out for more on this book and other Summerside titles.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills

I'm excited to post a review for an upcoming book by one of my favorite author friends--DiAnn Mills. She is a dear person, gentle and kind.

Here is the back cover copy of her next book (due out in March, 2009)--

Paige Rogers survived every CIA operative’s worst nightmare.

A covert mission gone terribly wrong.

A betrayal by the one man she thought she could trust.

Forced to disappear to protect the lives of her loved ones, Paige has spent the last several years building a quiet life as a small-town librarian. But the day a stranger comes to town and starts asking questions, Paige knows her careful existence has been shattered.

He is coming after her again. And this time, he intends to silence her for good.

Because I have a stack of books in line for reviews and because my husband loves suspenseful reads, I asked DiAnn's permission for him to review her book. She was glad to give us the nod. So, here is my husband Paul's review of Breach of Trust. (He's becoming a regular guest reviewer over here. I like this setup! *grin*)

"Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills was a thoroughly enjoyable read that I enthusiastically recommend. Having grown up reading bestselling thrillers and spy stories by such legendary authors as Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler, I developed an appetite for a tightly woven story of suspense, mystery, drama and excitement with occasional plot surprises that keep you guessing until the end. For those who share my interests, this novel will not disappoint and may keep you up at night flipping pages. But as a romantic suspense novel, Breach of Trust manages to skillfully blend the action and suspense with a believable and appealing romantic plot that tugs on your heart strings and makes you yearn for the impossible to happen between the two lead characters. Add to that a dangerous yet respected villain, and the themes of former spy woman hiding out as a small town librarian, international intrigue, political corruption, dealing with the ghosts of the past, and putting everything on the line for a greater cause, and you get a tale that satisfies on multiple fronts. I can’t wait to read more of these from the author."

There you have it. Look for this one next spring. Thanks again to my dear husband who read it for review. If I get the chance, I'd love to read it, too. Thanks DiAnn for continuing to inspire readers and writers. We wish you all the best!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Let Them Eat Fruitcake by Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson is a familiar name in Christian fiction. She's written fiction for adults, children and teens--150 books in all. And she's won awards. "Let Them Eat Fruitcake" is a Christmas-time novel and is part of the 86 Bloomberg Place series.

Here's the back cover copy:

It's the holiday season, and all of the roommates are a little blue. Megan's dealing with a ridiculous boss, and now her mom is leaving her alone for Christmas. Lelani can't afford to fly home and isn't sure she'd be welcomed. Anna's old boyfriend has sailed back into her life, just when she's met a for-real "nice guy" (who she's keeping away from her crazy Latino family). And Kendall's got a crush on a famous actor who might be the answer to her money woes if she could only convince him she's the love of his life. Thank goodness God's around to listen!

Let's face it, relationships can be hard work whether they're with family and friends, coworkers and customers, or boyfriends and girlfriends. And when you've got your first house, a real job, and grown-up responsibilities, relationships are loaded with confusion, emotion, and secrets you can't tell to anyone but God.

Here are my thoughts:

Melody wasn't afraid to tackle tough issues right from the beginning in this David C. Cook imprint. Writing this ensemble cast allowed her to explore some very real, and some might say “edgy,” elements. But she also provides a balance by including a Christian witness in the midst of her storylines. Because I had several books ahead of this one in line I wasn't able to finish reading it before the blog tour deadline of today, so this "preview" will have to suffice. It's sort of a "first impressions preview" rather than a review. What a reader can likely expect is the redemption of the edgier elements as the book progresses. You'll have to read it to find out. :-) And if you're like me, you enjoy reading seasonal books this time of year, so this one is an addition to your stack of Christmas fiction for reading during the holidays.

Here's an interview with Melody:

Tell us a little bit about your background and your family.

I grew up in a non-church-going home with divorced parents and considered myself an atheist until my teens when I did a complete 180 turn and gave my heart to Christ. I’ve been married 30 years (to the same guy!) and I have two grown sons and a four year old granddaughter. Also a lovable chocolate Labrador named Bailey. We live in the Cascades mountains in Oregon. I’m a full time writer.

What has God been teaching you lately?

It seems like I have to keep learning some lessons over and over again. Particularly patience. I am, by nature, the most impatient person I know. I want it done and I want it done now. And I want it done right…yada-yada. But that’s not how life generally works. And it’s not how God usually works. So I have to continually remind myself to keep my mouth shut, to keep praying, and to JUST WAIT. You’d think I’d have it down by now (hear my impatience there?) but I don’t. I probably never will. I can imagine being 100 years old and on my deathbed, saying, “Okay, God, could you just hurry it up, please?”

What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?

We’re pretty low key about the holidays. Mostly we enjoy being with family members and try to keep things light and bright. My husband’s birthday happens to be Christmas day and years ago, he decided he prefers lasagna to turkey so we have “Christmas lasagna.”

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I think it changed a lot. Everything from a lawyer (since I loved to argue) to a doctor (except I don’t like gore) to a teacher (probably because my mom was one). I never seriously considered being a writer (although I wrote all the time) because that seemed like the impossible dream to me.

How did you get involved in writing?

In my mid-thirties, I got the strongest desire to get serious about writing. I’d been doing some op-ed pieces for the newspaper and suddenly I just wanted to write a book. Fiction, of course. So I simply began writing and it seems I’ve been writing ever since.

How do you find time to write?

I treat writing as a fulltime job, which it is for me. Aside from procrastinating, I usually write daily (Monday through Friday, office hours) until the book is finished and then I give myself “time off” until it’s time to start the next one.

What did you enjoy most about the writing process?

I love not knowing exactly what’s going to happen next. I don’t outline, and I’m as surprised as the reader when a story takes a twist or turn.

What was the most difficult aspect of the writing process?

Sometimes I’ll procrastinate. I’m not even sure why exactly, but it’s like I get distracted with any little thing that will keep me from sitting down to write. But then, once I sit down, I write pretty fast anyway, so maybe my procrastination is actually a way of stewing on a story before I begin putting it all down in writing.

When you write do you generally know where you’re headed or are you sometimes as surprised as your characters about the way things end?

Yes, as I said above, I don’t know. I guess it’s that impatient thing again, but I would be bored if I knew where the story was going. I’m a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. That used to worry me…until I realized there are others out there just like me. Viva la difference!

Tell me about your road to publication.

I really wanted to write fiction, but back when I started writing there wasn’t a lot of fiction in the Christian market. To me that meant there should be more. To publishers it meant “it won’t sell.” Thankfully I was right—there needed to be more. But for my first few years, I was rejected time and again (for fiction). I just kept on writing until I had about five books completed (some adult, some teen). And finally an editor who believed in me asked if I’d consider writing nonfiction. So I did and it sold. About the same time I began to sell my fiction as well. Fortunately I have my little stockpile of books, all which sold. And, over the years, I’ve published with some of the very same publishers who originally rejected me. I guess, besides being impatient, I’m also persistent. In the publishing arena, persistence pays off.

What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?

Like I just said, be persistent. But besides that, write and read A LOT. Take a writing class. And perhaps most importantly (to me) was to join a critique group. I learned so much from that group. Also try to keep an eye on the market—ask yourself what kind of books are selling? What kind of books are not? Finally, write from your heart—you’re a one-of-a-kind original and you probably have some one-of-a-kind stories to tell.

Where did you get the idea for the book?

Having written for teens for nearly a decade, I wondered about my readers who were in their twenties now. I think that’s a hard age these days and I wanted to create something that would speak to that young career woman who’s trying to sort out her life, her values, her friends, her faith…. I think fiction is a great way to teach truth and my hope was that these 86 Bloomberg Place characters living together under one roof would inspire readers to be better friends, share their faith, and live life more fully.

What are the major themes of the book?

I jokingly tell people that 86 Bloomberg Place is like that old TV sitcom “Friends” with faith mixed in. The main themes are relationships, life decisions, and where faith fits in.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope they’ll enjoy a few laughs, a peek into the lives of some very human-like characters, and perhaps a spiritual challenge that they’ve found tucked between the lines.

Will we see any of these characters again?

Let Them Eat Fruitcake is the second book in a four book series (86 Bloomberg Place). The next installment is titled Spring Broke and the housemates end up going to Maui, where some mysteries about Lelani’s life are resolved. Also, there is romance and few other surprises. The final book is Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah.

You can find "Let Them Eat Fruitcake" by Melody Carlson on and her website at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas by Sandra Bricker

I'm thrilled today to welcome a new-to-me author named Sandra D. Bricker as we highlight her new book "Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas" out from the new publishing house, Summerside Press. Readers: we're having a contest for a free, autographed copy. Read on to learn more.

Because Summerside Press is a new house, here's a bit of what this Christian house is about:

Love Finds You(tm) is a series of full-length romance novels that give readers a peek into the flavor of local life across the United States. The novels are uniquely named after actual American towns with quirky, interesting names that inspire romance and are just plain fun! This means that each fictional story draws on the compelling history or unique character of a real place.

Our fresh, original love stories will feature everything from romance kindled in small towns, to old loves lost and found on the high plains, to new loves discovered at exciting vacation getaways.

Here's the back cover copy:

So what if she can't hook a fish? This city girl has a plan to snag something else . . . and his name is Justin. Lucy Binoche is reasonably attractive, intelligent, and fit. She has French lineage and better-than-average hair. So why is she nearly 30 and still single? Justin Gerard is the rugged hottie new to her church's singles group. When he signs up for a camping trip in the Ozarks, Lucy loses no time writing her name on the line beneath his. There’s only one problem Lucy's idea of "roughing it" is suffering through a long line at Starbucks. She assumes she can rely on the grace of God and the assistance of her friend to get through. But at the campsite in Snowball, Arkansas, Lucy bungles everything she attempts as she tries to impress Justin. She can't fish, hike, or ride a horse; caves make her hyperventilate; and hot-air balloons make her ill. Soon, events are snowballing out of control. Will Lucy pretend to be someone she’s not just to snag a boyfriend? Or will she discover someone who loves her just as she is?

And now for my review, followed by an interview with Sandra!

Oh. Yum. This book is so much fun. If novels are about entertainment, this one is a best friends’ get-together—complete with laughing guests, a roaring fire, music in the background and a delicious meal on its way. You will laugh out loud as you witness Sandra’s characters’ missteps. Sandra’s timing and ability to create hilarious scenarios make for one enjoyable escapade after another. For this new series of books by Summerside, one of the elements is that of including the name of the real city in the story. She cleverly uses the term of “snowball” in her story (read it to see what I mean). Though the story is set in the fall, it's an anytime read. Sandra’s romantic thread is very enjoyable and for the most part unpredictable, making this a more enjoyable find. Another very fun aspect is the inclusion of recipes. Sandra included some great recipes I plan to try. Romantic comedies are a favorite read of mine, and they come along only once in a while. I appreciate the pacing of this story, the LOL factor, the setting, the storyline. And though some blunders were predictable (where the character, who’d been tripping up all along, would be tripping up again) some were a surprise, and most were downright slap-your-thigh funny. Careful about reading this book in a quiet house. You might wake everyone else up with your uproarious laughter! (Well, okay, that’s probably the best time for reading. But, just a little forewarning.) LOL factor=10. “Enjoyability”=10. “Recommendability”=10. Enjoy!

Now for our interview:

How long have you been writing?

For as long as I can remember. I wrote my first story in the 6th grade, and my first article was published when I was a senior in high school. I wrote screenplays in the 80's, adventures for kids in the 90's and then finally found my way to women's fiction in 2003. I'm an editor in my "day job" too, so writing is just a way of life for me now.

Do you generally write romantic comedies?

When I was writing for Avalon Books, I wrote two comedies and two suspenses. But recently it's come to my attention that people really seem to respond to my comedy more than anything else. I wasn't really looking to make a niche for myself, but that's what happened.

I haven’t read your earlier work, but I can say you nailed the romantic comedy genre! How did you get connected with the new press, Summerside?

As soon as I heard what they were planning, I really wanted to be a part of it. I put together several proposals but, when my editor finally called me, she started out by saying that they weren't going to be publishing any of them. I thought, "You're calling to tell me you're NOT buying my books?? Well, that's different!" But she went on to say that they wanted some lighthearted comedy to launch the line, and they thought I was just the author to deliver it. Since everything I’d proposed was rather serious in nature, I asked her, "Um, what would make you think that?" As it turns out, the e-mails we’d exchanged throughout the proposal processes were what sold them. I guess I cracked them up. Three days after sending in the book proposal I worked up based on that phone conversation, I got an email from the publisher saying I'd "nailed it!" and that I would be one of the first two authors representing them.

Wow. That’s a great story! I love it. How much research was involved in learning about Snowball, AR?

Well, I'd been to the area several years back when I was living in Los Angeles and working as a publicist for actors in the soaps. One of my clients had a personal appearance in the area, and we kind of went exploring for a couple of days afterward. I fell in love with the area around the Buffalo National Park, which is coincidentally where Snowball is located. So I called on my memories from that visit, and then I just started calling locals and asking them questions. It was such fun!

Sounds great. Seems to me the best kind of research is in person, and then contacting folks to fill in the blanks. I can’t wait to read your next book. What is next for you?

Thanks for asking! I have two more Love Finds You books contracted. One set in Big Sky, Montana, and another in my own back yard, in Holiday, Florida. I recently spent a whole day in the Holiday area, and had such a great time. Then in Spring 2010, Abingdon Press will release another comedy called The Big Five-OH!

How exciting that readers can look for more coming soon! Where can readers contact you?

My website is at They can email me via the contact form on my site.

Anything else you’d like to add?

If your readers would like to see a video trailer for Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas, they can go to

Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas by Sandra. We'll have the drawing on Tuesday, November 25th, just in time for Thanksgiving. Leave an email address in your comment, like yourname [at] wherever [dot] com.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We Have This Moment by Diann Hunt

Recently I heard of a delightful read, got my hands on a copy, and dove in. Here's the back cover copy for Diann Hunt's "We Have This Moment," a Grace Chapel Inn book:

Autumn is a beautiful time in Acorn Hill-and a busy time at Grace Chapel Inn. Love begins to blossom when one of Alice's patients reunites with a long-lost love who just happens to be one of the inn's guests. Will these high school sweethearts get a second chance at love? Jane is occupied with a secret project and her suspicious packages and frequent trips to neighboring Potterson keep her sisters guessing. Meanwhile, Louise, with the help of a very special little girl, helps a worn-out teacher discover her true calling in life and Lloyd goes to great lengths to get a special gift for aunt Ethel. Preparations for a harvest party, complete with pumpkins, cider, and a hayride, make the season festive and remind the Howard sisters to appreciate every moment they have together.

Isn’t that a homey cover? If you’ve read my reviews before, you know covers are important to me. Diann’s story is just as cozy inside as this cover portrays. With simplistic style, Diann takes us into a warm inn run by three biological sisters who look out for each other and minister to those around them. You’ll feel included as they settle in for tea or as they arrange get-togethers for the other characters (in their quaint town) or guest. the other elements beyond this familial one is that of a romance between two old flames. Personally, I would have liked for this relationship to have moved faster or that we could (as readers) have spent more time in those characters’ heads as their reuniting and rekindling occurred. But this novel centered on the sisters, and their cozy acceptance is enough escape for some readers. The book didn’t proclaim itself as a romance; it is what it claims to be—a lovely, homey, entertaining read. Some books set out to be edgy. Not this one. And though this reviewer appreciates edgy elements, I found this book charming and entertaining. Diann has penned a simple and sweet story, perfect for curling up by the fire on a chilly autumn evening.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Writing Career

We're still holding our contest until tomorrow for a chance to win Sharlene MacLaren's book. Leave a comment on the post for "Hannah Grace" for a chance to win.

Until then, here are my thoughts this morning...

Yesterday I was listening to teaching MP3s from the September ACFW conference. I took notes as fast as I could type. And every now and then the phrase a teacher said stood out and I wanted to remember especially that sentence. So, I highlighted the words and clicked on a different font color, then bolded it, too. That way I can open the file later and immediately mine those nuggets any time I want.

A lot of the teaching yesterday wasn't about writing craft as much as it was about writing careers. There were tips from seasoned pros in the business of writing. Anytime I can learn from someone else's wisdom, I want to take advantage of the opportunity.

Funny thing was, I was inspired to get writing, even as I listened to this pro talk about the business side of what I do. I also felt encouraged to know I'm one of many who are pursuing this call to write. You might wonder about that, considering competition. But I feel less alone knowing there are several others out there like me. That's why I love ACFW and the eloop. We are here together, checking in, asking questions, learning, celebrating and striving together.

Whatever your vocation, don't go it alone. Find fellowship and seek out training. You'll be encouraged.

To see what else I've been writing this morning, click over to my other blog:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hannah Grace by Sharlene MacLaren

Today, I'm excited to post my review of Sharlene MacLaren's January, 2009 release-- "Hannah Grace" the first in the Daughters of Jacob Kane Series, published by Whitaker House. We'll be doing a contest. So read on to learn more!

Here's the back cover copy:

Growing up in the west Michigan resort town of Sandy Shores in the early 1900s, Hannah Grace, the eldest of Jacob Kane's three daughters, is feisty and strong-willed, yet practical. Between working at her father's general store and courting the town's physician, Ralston Van Huff, Hannah has her life planned out in an orderly, meaningful way. Or so she thinks.

Hannah's world turns upside down when the new sheriff comes to town. Gabriel Devlin is strong, outspoken, and a Christian, to boot-but he's sworn off women, having met ones mostly interested in money and apathetic about God.

Determined to ignore the newcomer's handsome looks, Hannah is drawn to him nonetheless by a shy, runaway orphan boy named Jesse. While Hannah works to befriend the shy vagabond, who's living with Gabriel until other arrangements can be made, God works in her heart. What plans does He have in store for this young woman who thought she had it all together?

And now for my review:

Most historicals I’ve run across are set before 1900. This story’s timing was 1903, so Sharlene could include telephones and “water closets.” It was fun reading of a time still somewhat foreign, but not lacking every convenience. I was a little surprised at moments, though, when the item she mentioned worked in the story. Like teachers handing out lists of state capitals. I’ve read too often of slates and chalk. Imagine a world without handouts and at least mimeographed copies….

Hannah, this story's heroine, has to choose between two paths—one known, but lacking love and the other unknown, but bearing love, excitement and above all, the affinity of another believer. Add to this the mystery of a mute boy’s past and the outlaws in pursuit, a sheriff who has grown to love the boy like a father, and you have lots of elements for a good story.

Sharlene is a pro at coming up with fresh wording. She weaves together elements and tension which will keep you reading. I would have liked the plot to move a little faster and could have done without the extra descriptions thrown in at the height of the story. But Sharlene brings a satisfying ending through both her characters’ actions and hearts to the reader. Lovers of historical romance: don’t miss this one, especially if you’re looking for something new. This book’s timing (early 1900’s and not 1850s) and setting (Michigan, not somewhere further west—like the usual Texas or Colorado) make it an interesting read, apart from the usual elements of historical fiction.

This book will release in January, 2009. Watch for it from Whitaker House. You can visit Sharlene at her website: She’s also a busy participant at ShoutLife. Check out her page at

CONTEST INFO: Shar will likely have copies of this book before January rolls around, so leave a comment here and we'll have a drawing for a copy. When she gets her advanced author copies, she'll be in touch with you. When leaving a comment, leave a contact email like this: yourname [at] yourserversname [dot] com. We'll have the drawing Friday, November 14th, 2008.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How We Write

While I finish the book I'm reading for review, I thought it'd be fun to give a little behind-the-scenes info about SOTP writers vs Outliners.

Some authors write SOTP--that stands for "seat of the pants." These writers sit down at their computers and let the story "write itself." A prime example of this is The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Jerry has admitted he is an SOTP writer (he primarily wrote the fiction element of The Left Behind series). He doesn't outline every single part of the story before writing it. And reading the Left Behind series, you can see it. He backs his characters into the nastiest corner and then switches to his other characters, gets the second characters into or out of a mess and comes back to try to think of a way to get the first characters out of their mess. It's a very effective way of writing. Ever read "Left Behind"?? You won't be able to put it down.

Outliners are those who work out what they want to write beforehand, but a lot of them will tell you they leave room in their outline for changes or variations. A prime example of an outliner is Karen Kingsbury. She has written of her outlining on airplanes and then coming home to pound out the stories she so prolifically puts together. Ever read her work?? She's one of the best. Consistently a bestseller (like Jenkins above).

So either way is good. I'm SOTP with occasional bouts of outlining. But, even as an SOTP, I still put together character charts and motivation charts and timelines. And outlines are often involved, if not before the story unfolds for me at the keyboard, then after it's been tapped out on the keys. One of my writing buds and critique partners is an outliner (most of my writing friends are). We can barely understand each other's method. That's okay, our work is still mutually respected.

Have you read a book where you could tell which way the author went about it? I recently reviewed "Healing Stones" on this blog, and I believe that novel was outlined ahead of time. Sometimes the characterization gives it away, that and plot layering. "Healing Stones" was so well characterized and layered, with systematic reveals, that it seemed obvious to me it was well planned ahead of time. But, like with Jerry Jenkins' work, I was so often surprised with the story's path that I wondered if Jerry himself was, too. He wrote later that as he'd written one of the early books in the Left Behind series, he was astonished to learn that one of the main characters died! He, the author was surprised. How fun is that? And if the writer is surprised, the reader will be also. I love it.

Okay, let's here from some outliners out there. If you're a writer and you prefer to outline, let's hear from you. What's your method? Have you tried SOTP? And from the SOTP folks, how about you? Ever run into writer's block? Have you tried outlining? What happened? What makes you stick with SOTP?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tough Reviews

In the past few months, I've ran across a couple of books which I had agreed to read for possible review and which I didn't enjoy as much as the others I've read. The idea is to write as positive a review as possible in order to support the work. And my purpose here is to promote Christian fiction. But what to do when a book I've received is something I can't promote...? or didn't enjoy?

In one instance (review not posted on this site), I wrote my honest review and then contacted the author, letting her know my thoughts. In the review and email, I was respectful and honest, praising what I could about the work and honestly disclosing what I didn't appreciate. I asked her if she thought my review would be helpful or harmful. Then, I waited to hear back.

Some publicists will tell you: any publicity is good publicity. Just get people talking. Some will hope you don't post the tough reviews because though they're honest, they may do more harm than good. That specific author agreed with the former position--post it. It's publicity. She even stated, "I asked for your honest review, and that's what you gave me."

Since then, I've asked other authors and publicists and heard different responses. I sometimes pre-submit the review before posting. That way, we can work out the best strategy. Again, my purpose is to promote Christian fiction. And as a Christian, I believe in honesty. But what I never want to do is burn bridges, write disrespectfully, or hurt someone.

My critique group met this week. Oh, what a great group of fellow writers! We laugh together, share our lives and help each other with our work. There is mutual respect among us, as well as skill in regards to knowing the elements of a good story. We're all students of the craft. That's important, no matter what level fits any particular writer.

Sometimes my crit buddies tell me what I don't want to hear. Their words are helpful, but difficult to absorb. But here's the thing, sometimes as a writer, you have to hear the hard words in order to write the better story. In the end, the novel is better for it. Either way, honesty pays off and so does humility (taking the suggestions and working with them as they fit). But when a book is already published, what the feedback will do is hopefully lead to better writing in the future.

So, my time line for posting reviews to this blog may get interrupted if I run across a novel in the stack which I cannot review positively, or which the author/publicist would prefer I not review, given my opinion about the work. I can only offer my own opinion, as a writer and as a reader. I've been reading Christian fiction for nearly two decades. I've been studying the craft for nearly one decade. And my opinion is only one of multitudes, but it's what I'll offer here at this site. For the sake of inspiring writers and readers, for the sake of encouraging better craft (which I'll continue to strive for myself--because I certainly haven't arrived!) and for the sake of better fiction, I'll review honestly. And for the sake of promoting Christian fiction, I'll keep reviewing. Because I love it!

Happy reading.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Diamond Duo by Marcia Gruver

Marcia Gruver is a new voice to Christian fiction. Her book, Diamond Duo, a Barbour imprint, released October 1, 2008.

Here's the back cover copy:

Murder strikes Jefferson, Texas, putting love and faith on trial. Bertha Biddle is desperately in love with Thaddeus Bloom... Trouble is, she's not sure he returns her affections. When a stranger named Annie Monroe comes to Jefferson, charming every man in town, Bertha is determined to learn her beguiling secrets. But just how far will she go to win Thad's heart? Thad is more than smitten with Bertha. But his father plans to send him away to military school. Will Thad follow his father's dream at the cost of losing Bertha's love forever? When Annie's unsavory companion enters the scene, foul deeds are afoot, testing faith and hearts. Will a murder provoke a startling twist of fate--in this world and the next?

Here's my review:

This historical hosts an ensemble cast of mixed characters, which the author skillfully distinguishes. Marcia adeptly incorporates dialects into well-penned dialogue. She keeps the reader in suspense about the mysterious newcomer, Annie Monroe, while growing a romance between her lead characters. Marcia believably paints her old west setting, and for the sake of escape and entertainment, readers will enjoy going along for the ride. This new author has lots of potential, and I wish her all the best in her writing.

For more information about Marcia, visit her website at: or her blog at: To find the book on amazon, click here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman

Julie’s second novel is just as passionate and bold as her first novel (“A Passion Most Pure”). Again, she took risks in portraying real-life characters facing temptation or giving in to sin. While this story stayed within the Christian fiction boundaries on a large scale, there is one scene which may offend some readers’ sensibilities.

On the whole, though, this book is fantastic. Again, Julie's prose shines. She is masterful at creating new phrases, and my copy of her book is filled with sticky notes where I made notes to myself about her writing. (I read as a student, as well as for review and entertainment.)

There are plenty of surprises in this novel, large and small. I could predict some of the larger surprises, but the occasional small surprises were delightful to run into. When you hold this 477-page novel in your hands, you know you’re in for a treat. Julie’s plot kept me turning pages. I never felt uninvolved with the story. She kept the plot moving in interesting ways that were unexpected and made me wonder if she was a seat-of-the-pants writer. (As opposed to one who outlines the entire story before writing.) I wondered if some of the plot elements were a surprise to her as well.

If you enjoy well-written, edgy Christian fiction, you’ll enjoy this story. Julie has again delighted her readers. When I met her face to face in Minneapolis last month at the ACFW conference, she said, “You’ll have to tell me if I redeemed Charity” (the lead female character in the book). Yes, Julie, you certainly did. She not only turned to God with her words, but also with her entire life. This hurting, conniving character learned to let God work out the details of her life.

Great novel. I look forward to Julie’s next offering, book three in her Daughters of Boston series: “A Passion Denied” coming in the spring of 2009.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Duchess and The Dragon by Jamie Carie

What will it take to tame a dragon? And what will become of a Quaker turned Duchess when she learns of her husband’s deceit? This dragon knew no other way. He feels his only option is deception. But some time in the king’s tower might prove the sort of motivation he needs to reconsider, that and his newly embraced understanding of God and His ways. But can his wife hang on, knowing the future of her and their baby is at stake?

Jamie’s sophomore offering is just as intriguing and engaging as Snow Angel. Again, readers will notice this is not an inside-the-box sort of inspirational fiction. She took risks, especially where passion is concerned. Yet, boundaries are kept, making this novel a true work of Christian fiction. Yes, she pushes the envelope again, but not without the witness of God’s work in the lives of some very real characters. Though they face realistic situations of temptation and fear, mistakes and their consequences, they also grow to understand where God is in all the turmoil. The genuineness of Jamie’s faith is always apparent in her fiction.

Here's the back cover copy:

Two Worlds, One Destiny. Drake Weston, duke of Northumberland, is heir to wealth, prestige, and power. But when his rage pushes him to a tragic mistake, he must leave everthing behind. Not just his home, but England herself. Cloaked in a false identity, Drake slips aboard a ship bearing indentured servants to America.

Serena Winter lives out her Quaker beliefs tending that sick who arrive on ships in the Philadelphia harbor. But never before has she seen such squalor and misery as she finds on the latest shop from England. Nor has she ever met such a one as the half-conscious man with the penetrating eyes and arrogant demeanor. Though she saves his life, even taking him into her family home, there is little gratitude or humility in this man. And yet Serena is certain that beneath the brash exterior is a heart in search of peace.

Against the rich backdrop of Regency-era England and a young America, two passionate, seeing hearts find in each other the strength to face hard truths – and confront an insidious web of deceit that may destroy all they hold dear.

I highly recommend Jamie's fiction novels and look forward to "Wind Dancer," her winter release.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Snow Angel by Jamie Carie

There I was shopping on-line and this book cover popped up in the recommendations. Nice cover. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I do, sometimes. Since it was through B&H's newer fiction line, and because I liked the story synopsis, I decided to check it out. I'm glad I did.

Here's the back cover copy:

When Noah Wesley heard the faint sound outside the door of his remote Alaskan mountain cabin during a violent nighttime blizzard, it was no less than the voice of God that urged him to take a closer look, soon to discover his snow angel. Unconscious and more than half frozen to death, her name, as Noah would later learn after boldly saving her life, was Elizabeth, a beautiful young woman, fragile yet fierce, and intent on discovering gold like so many others in that region during the late 1800s. But why Elizabeth was so drawn to the gold, and why she would chase it even through a pounding storm that no man would dare face, was a secret to be shared with no one else, not even at the invitation of Noah's deep blue trusting eyes. First time novelist Jamie Carie pens a can't-put-down debut in Snow Angel, a masterfully romantic story wherein cold and lonely hearts risk everything to be forever warmed.

Intriguing, huh?

Jamie took some risks with this story. At times, it reads more like a secular romance novel. To some, she may have crossed a few lines in regards to passion or violence. Yet, the story is so compelling you are involved before you can resist. I liked the setting of this story, which she realistically painted with her words. Her characters were well-drawn and her plot pacing kept me turning pages. I highly recommend this award winner, though it's not for everyone. If you enjoy edgy Christian fiction, this one's for you. Jamie is a fresh voice in Christian fiction who writes original prose and great stories.

Look for my review of her second book "The Duchess and the Dragon" later this week. This winter, her book "Wind Dancer" will be released. Can't wait.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cursebreaker by Nancy Wentz

Several weeks ago, I received an envelope with new fiction coming out from Whitaker House in January, 2009. One of the books was "Cursebreaker" by Nancy Wentz. Since the genre interested my husband more than me, I asked if he'd review it.

Here's the back cover copy:

A ten-year-old boy escapes from an abusive father and is taken in by a local pastor—only to discover that the boy is a prophet with a powerful anointing from God. Known as “Luke,” the boy’s gift of prophecy leads him into direct conflict with the Fratellis—a powerful mafia family with a generational curse of demon possession dating back to the sixteenth century.

As he navigates the spiritual world and the streets depression-era Colorado, Luke is befriended by three unlikely people: a member of the Fratelli family; the crusading attorney trying to take down the family; and Clara Crawford—an intriguing woman who is c
aught between the two sides. Will this small boy and his gift be enough to save lives—and souls—before the cycle of revenge and demonic possession destroys everyone he knows? His only weapon is the all-powerful name of Jesus…

Author Nancy Wentz’ drama unfolds in both the physical and spiritual realms, treating the reader to a thrilling tale of mystery, passion, and historical intrigue.

And here's my husband's review:

"As a reader of Christian suspense I enjoyed reading Cursebreaker by Nancy Wentz. This book offers a unique mix of authentic historical settings, suspense and supernatural thrills. The story centers around a 10-year-old boy with the gift of prophesy, and a mafia family during the prohibition era of the 1930’s, which has a generational curse of demon possession. The action is realistic and the pacing strong. Characters are well developed and the dialogue is believable. The Christian evangelical angle is well done and not preachy or overly sentimental. The book is not for those who desire lighter reading; it has all the corruption, violence and bloodshed you might expect from a leading gangster family and their activities controlling a major city. But it also shows that ultimately God is in control; He leads men to change their hearts, and He provides protection for His children. Those who love the style of Frank Peretti should enjoy this work because the elements of grand conspiracies and intrigue, demon possession and spiritual warfare are strong and contribute substantially to the overall appeal and readability of the novel. I look forward to reading upcoming books in this series."

A bit about Nancy:

Born and raised in Colorado, award-winning author Nancy Wentz graduated cum laude from the University of Colorado. Two of her short stories, Henry Cushing and Babi Yar, were winners in the National Writers Association Short Story Contests. She has also written plays for the youth group to perform at her church, and has freelanced articles for her current employer. Nancy has a great love for history and English literature, and, in their pursuit, found her creative outlet by incorporating aspects of both into her writing. Her voice is unique in that it reflects a classic nuance not typically seen in modern writing. Nancy became a Christian in her childhood and for years has prayed for God's will in her life. Through trials of brokenness and faith, God has shown her that He uses the most insignificant, the most defeated, to bring about His will and glory. This theme was the inspiration for her first novel, in that God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Nancy is married and together they have a beautiful young son. She and her family are active members of Littleton Baptist Church.

Look for this book in early January, 2009, though its page is already up on Amazon. We wish Nancy all the best in her writing.