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June 24, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
23 Comments

The Story behind Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

Another one of my favorite authors joins us today to tell us a little bit more about her newest release. Here’s what Sarah Sundin’s book Anchor in the Storm is all about.

Anchor in the Storm PK (002)For plucky Lillian Avery, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The challenges of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg’s attentions only annoy—even if he is her brother’s best friend. During the darkest days of the war, Arch’s destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves—and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions for sedatives Lillian has filled? The two work together to answer that question, but can Arch ever earn Lillian’s trust and affection?

Oh, that sounds so good! So, Sarah, what inspired you to write the book?

Imagine you’re spending a spring day at the seashore. Children shriek as chilly waves chase bare feet. Gulls call to each other. A salty breeze plays with your hair.

Out on the gray waves, a dark shape plods along, a tanker carrying oil vital to the Allied war effort.

Is it your imagination, or did you see a flash of light? A muffled boom creeps across the waters.

The laughter stills. You shield your eyes and squint out to sea. The dark shape expands—a black cloud, roiling, rising, slanting with the wind.

A woman sobs. A man curses. Mothers gather frightened children.

A German submarine, a U-boat, has sunk the tanker. You pray for the dozens of merchant marines aboard, pray they’ll reach the lifeboats, pray a ship will rescue them.

Scenes like this played out along America’s East Coast too often in early 1942.

After Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941, Adm. Karl Dönitz sent five U-boats to American waters with orders to attack shipping on the same day as in a loud, devastating “drumbeat”—in German, Paukenschlag.

On January 2, 1942, the British Admiralty warned the US Navy that U-boats were on their way to the East Coast. However, the US Navy could do little. Fifteen warships had been transferred from the Atlantic Fleet to the Pacific to battle the Japanese, and most of the remaining warships were committed to escorting North Atlantic convoys to Britain. The US had only a handful of small and obsolete vessels to protect coastal shipping.

On January 12 off Nova Scotia, U-123 sank the British freighter Cyclops, the first loss in Operation Paukenschlag. And on January 14 off Long Island, U-123 sank the Panamanian tanker Norness, the first sinking in US waters.

For the first six months of 1942, terror reigned off the Eastern Seaboard. One hundred merchant ships were sunk in the Eastern Sea Frontier, killing thousands of merchant marines, sailors, and passengers. The loss in tankers produced an oil crisis that led to gasoline rationing in the seventeen Eastern states starting May 15. Oil, flotsam, and bodies washed ashore, a grim reminder of the carnage offshore.

The military moved slowly but surely. As more escort ships were built, the Eastern Sea Frontier finally instituted partial coastal convoys in April 1942 and full convoys in mid-May. On April 14, the destroyer USS Roper sank U-85, the first victory by a US ship over a U-boat, but not the last.

By July 19, escorted convoys and heavy losses led Admiral Dönitz to order his submarines from the East Coast to the Caribbean.

In Anchor in the Storm, I wanted to show what the battle felt like for American sailors, conducting fruitless searches, rescuing oil-drenched survivors, and worrying about German torpedoes. More importantly, I wanted to show the sailors’ strength and bravery. Through Arch Vandenberg’s story, I hope readers gain hope that they too can persevere in any storm.

Sarah Sundin PK (002)Sarah Sundin is the author of eight historical novels, including Anchor in the Storm. Her novel Through Waters Deep was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and her novella “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in Where Treetops Glisten was a finalist for the 2015 Carol Award. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. http://www.sarahsundin.com

And Sarah is giving you a chance to win her latest book. Be sure to enter to win!

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Thanks so much for joining us, Sarah! It’s always great to have you.

June 21, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
24 Comments

The Story behind Song of Silence by Cynthia Ruchti

So tickled to have award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti with us this week! She’s a fellow Wisconsinite to boot! Here’s a little about her latest release, Song of Silence.

Song of Silence PK (002)Charlie and Lucy Tuttle are committed to each other for life, but that life isn’t turning out quite like they expected. Charlie retired early, but Lucy planned to continue in her position as a music educator in a small Midwestern K-8 school indefinitely. And then the day came when she was forced to retire. Lucy was devoted to the program her father started years ago and now she can only watch as it disintegrates before her eyes. The longer she is separated from the passion of her heart, the more the music fades from her life and she wonders if her faith’s song is fading too. When a simple misstep threatens to silence Lucy forever, a young boy and his soundless mother change the way she sees—and hears—everything.

 

  1. Lucy experiences a major upheaval in her life. What upheavals have you experienced?

Average upheavals. I wonder whose life has been a smooth upward trend with no dips and curves, no plunges into the depths followed by glimpses of wonderful. Some upheavals have been challenging, but in a good way. Finding out we weren’t going to have two children but three, nine years after our second child was born. Discovering that—wonder of wonders—I’d been elected president of American Christian Fiction Writers. I moved from Topic of the Week coordinator and volunteer choir director for the conference to president of the corporation. Smooth, huh? When my husband fell from his hunting stand and broke his back and his femur—an hour after I accidentally set the kitchen on fire—with full-time caregiving for my husband complicated by my own major surgery weeks later. Upheaval. (The full story takes 3 hours to tell.)

  1. Lucy loses a passion. What does that do to a person?

I don’t believe Lucy is alone in her slow descent into depression after her life’s work and driving passion are ripped away. She was disoriented, confused, disappointed, heartbroken. Her life-plan dissolved in an instant. It took her too long to figure out that it was okay to not only admit how she felt, but to seek help. She tried to put up a strong front with the very people who would have been the first to hold her and cry with her. That created unnatural distance in her family relationships for a time. I think Lucy’s story parallels a story many of us can relate to.

  1. There is a deaf character in the story. How did you go about researching deafness and the deaf community?

In my immediate circle of family and friends, I am not blessed with connections with the deaf community. But I have a dear friend who is well versed in that world, having both parents and parents-in-law who are deaf. In addition to research through books, online videos and articles, and tidbits I’d picked up along the way, my friend and I conversed at length about the intricacies that don’t always make it into print. Relationship challenges and joys. The “loudness” or emphasis of what deaf people are saying with their hands and body language. The lip-reading versus signing debate, which I hadn’t realized was a debate. The music in communicating without sound. Her personal and life-long experience within the deaf community was invaluable help in writing Song of Silence.

  1. What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

My overarching desire is for the reader to leave the reading experience saying, “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in hope.” Through Song of Silence, my hope is that readers will also walk away realizing that the pauses, silences, and “rests” in our lives can be the most meaningful if they’re “played” with the kind of intensity with which we play life’s notes on the page.

  1. What do you like to do in your free time, when you aren’t writing?

I don’t claim to be a photographer, but I do enjoy capturing artistic moments and scenes. And—it may come as no surprise—I enjoy listening to and creating music. I serve on our church’s worship team and sometimes serve as the worship leader for writers’ conferences. That too added some of the emotional texture in Song of Silence.

Thank you so much for allowing me time to chat with you and your readers!

Cynthia Ruchti-PK (002)To keep up with Cynthia Ruchti, visit www.cynthiaruchti.com. You can also follow her on Facebook (Cynthia Ruchti), Twitter (@cynthiaruchti), and Pinterest (cynthiaruchti).

 

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Thanks so much for visiting with us, Cynthia!

June 10, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
29 Comments

The Story behind Close to Home by Deborah Raney

So super excited to have Deb Raney with us today. I’ve always loved her writing. And now, she’s out with a new book, Close to Home. Here’s a little bit about the book:

CloseToHome_FinalCoverBree Cordel Whitman is a Whitman by marriage, but sometimes she forgets she wasn’t born into Grant and Audrey’s family. Her late husband, Timothy Whitman, gave his life for his country on a windblown hill in Afghanistan. Bree has let the love of Tim’s family keep her ties to him strong–in the same way she keeps Tim’s memory alive for them. But it’s been almost five years, and she can’t hang onto the past forever.

Fighting the guilt she feels for wanting to love again, she can’t help her dreams about a tall, dark, and handsome man–a man who is not her Tim. How can she accept the flirtations from Drew Brooks without throwing the Whitman family back into grieving? And how can Drew compete with the ghost of a hero and the hero’s very alive family who seem to hold some spell over the woman who shares their name . . . a woman he might just love?

Welcome, Deb.

1.    What inspired you to write Close to Home?
Since this is the fourth novel in the Chicory Inn Novels series, some of the parameters had already been set for what the story would be. Each novel in my series is the story of one of Grant and Audrey Whitman’s children. In this case, the heroine is Bree Cordel Whitman, their daughter-in-law who was married to their U.S. Marine son at the time of his death in Afghanistan.

2.    What parts are of the book are based on something real?
I try so hard NOT to base any of my stories on things that have happened with my own family members. While there are many lovely, funny, heartbreaking, and fascinating stories to be told about my family, I decided early in my writing career that I would never (intentionally) embarrass my siblings or my own children by telling stories that weren’t mine to tell. But that’s easier said than done, and more often than I’d like, I do find similarities from real life creeping into my stories. My kids will tell you they see our family in everything I write!

In the case of Close to Home, I examined an issue I hadn’t even realized mirrored one in my family’s life until I was talking to one of my sisters about the synopses for the series one day. That issue—allowing a beloved in-law by marriage to move on after the death of the one who ties that person to the family—is the main theme of Close to Home.

While the details of the story in Close to Home are different in almost every way, the themes are similar to what we experienced when the young man my younger sister had been married to at the time of her death in a car accident, came to my parents and asked their blessing to begin dating again. My sister, 21, had only been married for three months, yet we loved her husband as if he were our own brother. We are so blessed and grateful that the woman God ultimately brought into his life embraced our family in a way few in her position would have. To this day, almost thirty-seven years later, we love her like a sister, and she quickly calmed one of our greatest fears—that we would lose touch with the brother-in-law we loved. Now we love the two of them together and count them among our most precious blessings (along with their four sons and their growing families.)

Whenever my idea or plot has come from a real story, especially if it’s a painful one, I change as many details as possible to protect the privacy of those who’ve lived the story I’m writing as “entertainment.” There’s a real danger in appearing to “profit” from someone else’s tragedy, and I don’t ever want to be accused of that!

3.    Did you get to talk to any military families when writing the book?
Because the circumstances of my Marine’s death are all long-ago backstory (Timothy was killed almost five years before the novel opens) I haven’t used a lot of details from his actual death. I did have to research how a family member would be informed of such a death, and some details like that. I have a former Marine nephew who served several terms in the Middle East, so I knew firsthand what it was like for family members to worry about and pray for a loved on in harm’s way—and the pride of having a close family member serving his country and risking his very life…and as a mother of two sons, I could certainly understand what it might feel like to lose a son. But it was the personal struggle over feeling you’ve also lost their spouse, that I drew on for this novel.

4.    What’s next for the Whitman family?
The final novel, releasing next February, Home at Last, is the remaining Whitman son’s story. Link has watched each of his siblings marry and have children, and he’s often teased about being the “last man standing.” But he doesn’t want to settle for just any woman. And he’s not sure he has his own life figured out yet, let alone drag a woman into his uncertainties about what he wants from life. He certainly didn’t expect to fall in love with a woman with a child, and a woman whose father strongly opposes their relationship. Home at Last may very well be my favorite book in the series. Its themes of forgiveness and racial reconciliation are those I’ve explored as sub-plots in other books, but never so boldly as I do in this one. I can hardly wait for it to land in bookstores! (And at the same time, I’m a little nervous about how it might be received because of those themes!)

5.    One reviewer said the next one sounds good, and she wished she didn’t have to wait so long to read it. Why can it take a while for the next book in a series to be released?
For me, it’s mostly because I’m a very slow writer! I may be able to write the first draft in 4 months or even less, but that is preceded by months and months of research and reading other books (non-fiction as well as novels) about my topics. I’m a very visual writer, so I find photographs that resemble my characters, and I use house plans and photos from home decor magazines so I can visualize the rooms where my scenes take place. I simply have to live with my characters for a good while before I can get their story on paper.
And then, the editing process takes much more time than readers might imagine. Most publishers have at least 3 or 4 layers of editing—substantive, line edits, copy edits, and final galley reads—that each take the time and efforts of an entire team. And of course, that doesn’t count the cover design, interior book design, setting up promotions with the publicity department, getting advance reader copies out for review, and of course, getting the book to press (often in many formats…e-book, audio book, foreign editions, etc.)
I honestly sometimes feel guilty that my name is the only one on the cover! There are SO many other people involved in bringing a book into the world! And I appreciate each one more than I can say!

DKRatdesk1DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years, thirty books, and numerous awards later, she’s still creating stories that touch hearts and lives. She and husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas for life in the city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and seven grandchildren who all live much too far away.

Deb is giving away a copy of her new book. Enter below.

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Thanks for visiting with us, Deb! It’s been great to have you.

June 3, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
7 Comments

The Story behind The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson

You’ll never know what will inspire an author to write a book. Melanie Dickerson’s new book, The Beautiful Pretender, is inspired by something that might surprise you. Here’s a little bit about the book.

The Beautiful PretenderAfter inheriting his title from his brother, the margrave has two weeks to find a noble bride. What will happen when he learns he has fallen for a lovely servant girl in disguise?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble born ladies who meet the king’s approval to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.
Avelina has only two instructions: keep her true identity a secret and make sure the margrave doesn’t select her as his bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences.

Sounds like a great book!

  1. Which stories did you use as inspiration for your book?

For The Beautiful Pretender, I was inspired by Beauty and the Beast and Princess and the Pea.

  1. Why did you choose to use these ones? Do you have a particular love for any of them?

I really love Beauty and the Beast. It’s my favorite fairy tale, and even though I’d already done a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I had always thought I could write lots of Beauty and the Beast retellings and no two would be the same. It’s such a great framework for a romance and provides lots of possibilities. I knew I wanted the margrave from The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest to have his own story, and I also knew he’d make a great “beastly” character. And since I was doing a series of “mash-ups,” I decided to throw Princess and the Pea into the mix. It was feasible that the king would want the margrave to marry someone who would help draw the different regions together, and since a Princess and the Pea story would require the hero to “test” possible brides, it seemed the perfect fit. And since I don’t especially like the idea of a prince choosing his bride based on something as silly and inane as being able to feel a pea under her mattress, I changed that part of it.

  1. What is the theme of the stories?

One of the obvious themes of Beauty and the Beast is that you can’t judge a person by their appearance, because a person’s heart—kindness and goodness—is more attractive than their outward beauty. With Princess and the Pea, I guess the theme is that you can try to fool other people into thinking you’re something you’re not, but you’ll eventually be found out. In my story, the heroine discovers that she’s just as worthy as an earl’s daughter, even though she’s only a servant.

  1. Your agent didn’t like the idea of a “beastly” hero at a scary castle in a forest. Do agents have a lot of input into what their authors write?

I originally sent Natasha the idea I had for a Beauty and the Beast retelling, for which I wrote about a chapter. She just wanted me to come up with an idea that was a little more original, I think, to push me to come up with the best proposal for a new series. So I set it aside and brainstormed some more and came up with the idea for The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, a mash-up of Robin Hood and Swan Lake. It wasn’t really that she didn’t like the idea of a beastly hero, since she’s told me my specialty is wounded heroes. But she is great at bringing out the best in me. I wouldn’t say she has “a lot” of input in what I write, but an agent’s job is to help shape an author’s career, to help them make the most of their talent. Natasha takes this aspect of her job very seriously.

  1. Is there going to be a third book in the series?

Yes, I’ve just finished writing it. It’s called The Noble Servant and is about Avelina’s friend, Magdalen, and a duke she danced with at the ball in The Beautiful Pretender. It’s a Prince and the Pauper *slash* Goose Girl story, as the duke gets ousted from his position by his look-alike cousin and evil uncle, and Magdalen gets usurped by her maidservant, who forces her to switch places with her. Magdalen and the duke, Steffan, have to join forces to get their lives back—and fall in love in the process, of course.

Melanie DickersonMelanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer s Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of the National Reader s Choice Award for Best First Book. Melanie earned a bachelor s degree in special education from the University of Alabama and has been a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her online at www.melaniedickerson.com  Facebook: MelanieDickersonBooks and Twitter @melanieauthor

You can also enter to win a copy of Melanie’s book!
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Thanks for visiting with us, Melanie! It’s been a pleasure to have you.

May 27, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
4 Comments

The Story behind Sister Eve and the Blue Nun by Lynne Hinton

I’m pleased to welcome Lynne Hinton to the Story behind the Story this week. Here’s a little bit about her new release, Sister Eve and the Blue Nun. (Great title, don’t you think?)

Sister Eve and the Blue NunWhen Sister Eve returns to the monastery, the last thing she expects there is murder.

After solving several mysteries with her father at the Divine Private Detective Agency, Sister Eve finds herself torn between her calling as a nun and the thrill that comes with detecting. She knows she’s been using her father’s health as an excuse to extend her leave of absence from the monastery, but that excuse is running thin. She prays that a return visit to the monastery for a conference on the Blue Nun will help bring clarity to her calling, but when the conference speaker is murdered, Sister Eve’s two worlds collide.

Sister Eve knows the number one suspect, the victim’s brother and monk in residence, couldn’t possibly have committed the crime, and she’s determined to find the real killer. To do so means she must track down some mysterious newly discovered writings from the Blue Nun, said to date from the 17th Century, when the sister bi-located to the New Mexico region from her home in Spain. Could these texts from long ago be the key to today’s mystery? And will they offer any guidance to Sister Eve as she chooses which calling to follow?

Sounds great, Lynne. Can you tell us a little bit about how this story came to be?

Sister Eve is struggling with her vocation as a nun; she struggles with the sexism she feels in her community and from the Church hierarchy. She also has another deep love and that is solving mysteries. The story behind this story is that I too am a “called” minister, ordained in the United Church of Christ. As a woman in ministry, I have struggled with the undercurrents of sexism. I don’t feel them quite as much as I used to; but there were some hard days in my past. I also, like Sister Eve, struggle with whether I am a minister or a writer, two passions. And I’m never quite satisfied with just choosing one. Presently, I am getting ready to take a position as a co-pastor, allowing me the opportunity to have three months off a year to write. Perhaps, this will be the situation I have been searching for!

What a unique premise.

Lynne's PhotoLynne Hinton was born and raised in North Carolina. She is a graduate of UNC-Greensboro. She also attended NC School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking and graduated with her Masters of Divinity from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, where she served on the Board of Trustees for six years and was a Distinguished Alumni in 2003. She is ordained in the United Church of Christ.

Lynne is the author of eighteen books, including the NY Times Bestseller, Friendship Cake and Pie Town, the 2011 NM Book of the Year: Fiction/Adventure, Drama Category and 2011 National Federation of Press Women’s Fiction Book of the Year. She has penned two mystery series and has one nonfiction collection of essays. She is a regular guest columnist in the Faith and Values Section for The Charlotte Observer and was the 2008 Lucy B. Patterson Author of the Year by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in NC. In 2010 and 2015, she was the recipient of a Louisville Institute Pastoral Study Grant and was named Favorite Local Writer in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2012 by Albuquerque, The Magazine.

Lynne and her husband, Bob Branard, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico where Lynne has served as a hospice chaplain and pastor. She continues to write as well as teach classes and lead retreats on writing as a spiritual and healing practice. She can be reached at www.lynnehinton.com

Lynne is giving away a copy of her book, Sister Eve and the Blue Nun. Follow the directions below to enter.

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Thanks for visiting with us, Lynne!

May 16, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
10 Comments

The Story behind Promise Me by Jo Huddleston

I want to give a special welcome this week to Jo Huddleston. She’s been very patient while we worked out some problems and around some senior moments LOL! She has an interesting story behind her new release, Promise Me.

Here’s a little more about the book.

In 1Promise Me (300)960, civil discord in Vietnam fills the news. After his college graduation, Patrick Fitzgerald plans to join his daddy’s South Carolina accounting firm. But Uncle Sam may have another position in mind for Patrick—in the U.S. Army. His family’s affluence would be no match for the persuasion of the military draft.

Adriana Montagna’s papá ekes out a living as a coal miner in the mountains of West Virginia. Can a lasting relationship form with Patrick, or will his wealth become a barrier between them?

Meanwhile, the fiber of America’s unity stands on the precipice, while its youth fight a no-win battle on foreign soil. What good can a young couple hope for at such a time as this?

1.    What inspired you to write Promise Me?
Promise Me is the third and last book of the West Virginia Mountains series. My inspiration for the series came from visiting a college friend’s home in West Virginia where her daddy owned a coal mine. I saw the meager living conditions and super work ethic of the coal miners and their families and wanted to put that in a story. As for the inspiration for Promise Me—as the series had progressed, the characters of Adriana and Patrick strengthened until they deserved a book of their own.

2.    What struck you most about the conditions the coal miners and their families lived in?
In the 1950s the living conditions of the coal miners usually rented their houses from the mine owner who also owned the houses, school, church, and company store. These rental houses most usually had only two bedrooms, living room, and kitchen with no running water or indoor plumbing. All the families drew their water from a lone community well, and each family had an outhouse for their bathroom. In my research, I was impressed with the fact that rarely did a photograph surface that showed a coal miner and his family smiling. Despite their sparse living conditions, the coal miners had an excellent work ethic.

3.    The Vietnam era is one not many authors write about. Why did you set your story then?
The West Virginia Mountains series begins in 1955. When I began this series, I did not plan to write about the Vietnam War era. Books #1 and #2 in the series took the reader into 1960. When writing historical novels, I try to immerse my story in that time frame by having my characters involved with the happenings around them. Promise Me begins in late 1960 just as America was testing the waters of the civil conflict in Vietnam. The time line of the series gave me no option but to set my story in the Vietnam War era. Because of that, part of Promise Me’s plot involves the Vietnam War.

4.    What was research like for the book?
When the time came to write Promise Me, I was comfortable writing the beginning. Promise Me is set in West Virginia, as were books #1 and #2 and I had done research by personal visits, conversations, and reading. When Promise Me wove its way to the battlefields of the Vietnam War, I had to turn to research to make my story authentic and convincing.
I had various available avenues for research. One valid and valuable resource was the written word. For my reading about the Vietnam War, I relied on encyclopedic references, photos taken on location, and testimonials of Vietnam War veterans. In addition, one of my most valuable resources was face-to-face accounts from American servicemen.

Although a few of the personal accounts I was privileged to get were from veterans of wars other than the Vietnam War, war is war regardless on which continent it occurs.  As you read Patrick and Adriana’s story in Promise Me, I hope you will find Patrick’s experiences realistic. In part, I wrote them based on facts and feelings I received from respected, reliable, and living resources.
Yes, Promise Me, is fiction. But to make historical fiction believable, an adequate amount of reality must be woven with the threads of fiction. That’s what I attempted to do when writing this new release. I hope you won’t doubt what you read about the historical situations and locations mentioned within its pages.

5.    What else do you have in the works?
I’m currently writing a novella in a series of novellas by various authors, all set along the legendary Route 66 that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. When I finished Promise Me, another sweet Southern historical romance story settled into my mind. I don’t do a lot of plotting on paper, but I know the beginning and probable ending of a novel when I begin. Then I write what happens between and most times my characters will take over and I let the story go along with them. I can tell you that most of my next full-length novel will take place on a seashore. I’m excited to get started on it!

JO PK b2 copy (2)Jo Huddleston is an Amazon Bestselling author of books, articles, and short stories. Novels in her West Virginia Mountains series and her Caney Creek series are sweet Southern historical romances. Her novels are endorsed by Amanda Cabot, Debra Lynn Collins, Cara Lynn James, Sharlene MacLaren, and Ann Tatlock. The redeeming story of God’s pursuing love is the foundation of her novels, and in them you will find inspiration, hope, and gentle stories that are intriguing and entertaining. Jo is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Literary Hall of Fame at Lincoln Memorial University (TN).

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Thanks so much for joining us, Jo!

May 10, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
7 Comments

The Story behind Mars…with Venus Rising by Hope Dougherty

Don’t you just love books with intriguing titles? I didn’t even have to read the synopsis of Hope Dougherty’s new book Mars…with Venus Rising before I wanted to pick it up. She’s going to share what inspired her to write it, but first, a little about the book to whet your appetite even more.

MarsWithVenusRising_w11898_300A meddling horse, paper bag floors and a flying saucer on the town square. The little town of Mars has it all—including a brand new resident who might spell heartache for one of its own.

Twenty-something Penn Davenport yearns for an exciting life in the big city and wants to shed the label of orphan that she’s worn for years. To achieve that dream, she must pass the CPA exam then move away from the two aunts who reared her after her parents died in a plane crash.

When John Townsend—full of life and the joy of living—moves to town, he rattles Penn’s view of herself, her life, and her dreams…which isn’t such a bad thing until she falls for him…and discovers he’s a pilot.

Hope, tell us what brought you to write this book.

When I wrote my first novel, Irish Encounter, I broke a lot of guidelines—setting the book in Ireland, having a forty-something widow as the protagonist—then discovered those kinds of manuscripts could be difficult sells.

For my second manuscript, I wanted a twenty-something United States citizen, like the ones found in a particular line I liked to read.  

For almost fourteen years, we lived near an intriguing town in western Pennsylvania called Mars. So, I had my American location and my title, Love Finds You in…Mars, PA.

Mars is a cool place complete with a flying saucer planted in the middle of town. The residents are called Martians. The ball teams’ mascots are the Planets.

Being a Southerner means I have plenty of interesting friends and relatives, and I’ve heard plenty of crazy stories, like selling socks to finance a coast to coast vacation, burying heavy equipment for revenge (not my relatives), and making Jell-O cakes. Add my Southern roots to zany tidbits from Mars, temper crazy into quirky, and I had my tone.

From there, I focused on the characters. To discourage friends from thinking I’m Penn Davenport, I made her my opposite. She teaches math and studies to become an accountant.

Reared by her great aunts after her parents died in a plane crash, Penn struggles with belonging and lives her life quietly and safely. John Townsend, a live-life-with-gusto freelance writer and pilot who’s new in town, nudges her out of her comfort zone.

So I had location, tone, characters, and a target publisher, right?

Not exactly.

During the summer that I wrote my rough draft, my target publisher unfortunately closed. Undeterred, I changed the title to Mars…With Venus Rising and kept writing.

That’s the big story of how Mars came to be. Smaller pieces fell into place as I prayed and wrote and wrote and prayed.

Much of writing is a mystery to me. I have an idea. I pray, and God delivers—like He does in all things.

 

Amen, Hope, amen.

Hope DoughertyHope Toler Dougherty holds a Master’s degree in English and taught at East Carolina University as well as York Technical College. A member of ACFW, RWA and SinC, she writes for Almost an Author. Before writing novels, she published non-fiction articles on topics ranging from gardening with children to writing apprehension. She follows the Pittsburgh Steelers, ACC basketball, and Army West Point Football. Hope and her husband, Kevin, live in North Carolina and chat with their two daughters and twin sons through ooVoo. Her debut novel, Irish Encounter, is partially set in Ireland. Her second one, Mars…With Venus Rising, is published with Pelican Book Group.

http://hopetolerdougherty.com/

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May 6, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
5 Comments

The Story behind the Amish Firefighter by Laura Hilton

I’ve known Laura Hilton for a long time now, and I’m pleased to welcome her here this week. She is a multi-published author of Amish stories, and her latest release is the Amish Firefighter.  Here’s a little bit about the book:

AmishFirefighter coverA Beautiful Young Woman Banished from Home
Abigail Stutzman thought it was bad enough being dropped at the nearest bus station and sent to live several states away with some relatives she’d never heard about, much less met. But now, just a week after her arrival in Jamesport, Missouri, she finds herself at the scene of a barn fire. An intentional barn fire. And all fingers are pointed at her. She’s desperate to prove her innocence and protect her reputation, but nobody’s making that easy to do. And God certainly doesn’t seem willing to help.

A Brave Firefighter with an Agenda of His Own
Sam Miller is in the process of turning over a new leaf. Determined to atone for the follies of his past, he is a volunteer firefighter, an EMT, and a doctor–in–training. When local barn fires escalate, everyone suspects arson. And since the Miller family are among the victims, no one is more determined to see the perpetrators brought to justice than Sam.

A Kindled Flame Neither One Could Have Anticipated
When their paths first cross, at the site of a barn burning, the emotional intensity rivals the warmth of the flames. Soon, they must decide whether this fire is one they should feed or extinguish. And they’ll discover that the truth can prove more dangerous than a blazing inferno.

Welcome, Laura.

The premise is very intriguing. Why did you decide to write about an Amish firefighter?

I saw a picture of an Amish man fighting fires with Englisch firefighters and it intrigued me. When I started researching it, I discovered that many Amish volunteer as firefighters and even serve as EMTs or paramedics.

You’ve written quite a few Amish books. What draws you to them?   I love contemporary romance and Amish. Writing a combination of the two is wonderful. Plus my maternal grandparents left the Amish, so it is kind of discovering my roots.

Has the Amish community received your books well? Are they willing to help you with research?

I don’t know any Amish that have actually read my books – well, I know some who have, because my husband’s aunt loans them some. And one of the ladies makes homemade cards to give me on occasion.  But yes, they are willing to help me with research.

What makes Amish books so popular?

I think because a lot of people are fascinated by the Amish, the “simple life” and their ability to “remain separate” in this world.

What else do you have in the works?

Well, I can’t mention titles, since I’ve only kept four of the titles I’ve come up with so far and I don’t know if they will keep my titles yet or rename them. But I have a book releasing in the fall of 2016, spring of 2017, and fall of 2017.   The one in the fall will be the closest I ever will come to telling my family’s story—and it was hard to write. The spring one I’m writing now is much easier!

Laura HiltonAward winning author, Laura Hilton, her husband, Steve, and their five children make their home in Arkansas. She is a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom and home-schools. Laura is also a breast cancer survivor.

Her publishing credits include three books in the Amish of Seymour series from Whitaker House: Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts (winner of the 2012 Clash of the Titles Award in two categories), and Promised to Another. The Amish of Webster County series, Healing Love (finalist for the 2013 Christian Retail Awards). Surrendered Love and Awakened Love followed by her first Christmas novel, A White Christmas in Webster County, as well as the Amish of Jamesport series, The Snow Globe, The Postcard, and The Birdhouse. Other credits include Swept Away from Abingdon Press’ Quilts of Love series. Laura is contracted for another three book Amish series set in the Jamesport area, with the first book, The Amish Firefighter releasing in May 2016, followed by two more Amish books and a Christmas story releasing in Fall 2016, Spring 2017 and Fall 2017 respectively.

She has self-published a Christmas novella, Christmas Mittens.

Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer and blogs for Putting on the New and Seriously Write.

http://www.amazon.com/Laura-V.-Hilton/e/B004IRSM5Q
visit my blogs: http://lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com/  & http://lauravhilton.blogspot.com/
twitter: @Laura_V_Hilton
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Laura-V-Hilton/161478847242512
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/vernetlh/

Purchase my books:
Amazon   http://www.amazon.com/Laura-V.-Hilton/e/B004IRSM5Q
CBD: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=laura+hilton&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCG&nav_search=1&cms=1
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/laura-hilton?store=allproducts&keyword=laura+hilton
Deeper Shopping http://www.deepershopping.com/index.php?query=laura+hilton&x=0&y=0&module=productsearch&_logmode=Y&querymodule=SPX

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Thanks for joining us, Laura!

April 29, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
1 Comment

The Story behind The Crux of Honor by Paula Mowery

LoveIs_CruxofHonor copyPlease join me in welcoming author Paula Mowery to the blog this week. She has an interesting new release with a great story behind it. And, she’s giving away an ebook copy of it. Read the interview and scroll down for your chance to win.

Here’s a little more about the book.

Chelsea Wilson’s life is a constant reminder of what living dishonorably looks like. At every turn she continues to prove her mother’s shunning must be deserved.

Dr. Kevin Alley returns to the old home place to establish his medical practice. After running into Chelsea, he knows his love for her is still strong.

Chelsea is ousted from her small rented room when her mother bursts in, proclaiming Chelsea’s pregnancy.

Kevin takes Chelsea in, giving her space to live on the upper level of his house.

When Chelsea’s baby displays life-threatening symptoms, Chelsea must face her mother. Secrets unfold about Chelsea’s parents. Can Chelsea and Kevin uncover the secrets linked to Amish heritage in time to save the baby? Can the two find love together despite their history?

  1. What led you to write a book that involved the Amish community?

My husband’s first church to pastor out of seminary was in Southern Maryland. We found ourselves very near an Amish community. On our way to different places we would ride through the roads their houses and land were on. I was fascinated with their way of life. We discovered that the Amish had a market on Saturdays. We would stroll around and purchase many of their goods and produce. When life becomes hectic, I often think on the simple life the Amish portrayed. Theirs wasn’t an easy life by any means. I had watched small Amish men plow with those huge horses. But things didn’t seem so complicated. I also respected the way they helped each other. I remember an incident where an Amish man was killed. The neighbors stood in the yard of the family’s home in silence and respect. When a family needed a house or a barn, the whole community came together and built what was needed. That was so appealing to me having lived in places where I never even knew my neighbors. And in this area of Maryland, it seemed that the Amish and the Englisch had found a way to live side by side harmoniously.

  1. Why did you include a crisis pregnancy in the story?

My church association has its own pregnancy crisis center. I was asked to be the devotional leader which I did for about a year and a half. I have such respect for the women who run this ministry. They show the unconditional love of God in every way.

  1. What do you hope your readers get from the book?

As stated above, I hope readers experience the unconditional love available from God. My parents modeled God’s love for me, so it wasn’t difficult for me to believe that He could love me that way. But not everyone has had His love modeled for them. No matter how you may have been treated by those who should have loved you, God loves you with no strings and no grudges.

  1. Why did you want to become an author?

Becoming an author was a calling I received from God. There are messages He has for me to share through my writing. Nothing is more thrilling than for God to inspire my stories and then have them touch readers for His glory.

  1. What else do you have in the works?

Right now I am writing a sequel to my Christian romantic suspense which released in September of 2015 called For Our Good. The sequel is tentatively called Face in the Mirror.

I also taught a class at last year’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference about writing devotions. We culminated that class by writing a devotional for Christian writers from Christian writers. This devotional was contracted and is set to release on April 19. The publisher wants to do another one, so I am thrilled to be returning to the conference to teach this class again.

I’ve also been busy working on a pilot program, encouraging kids to write. This program is called TAG – Tomorrow’s Author Guild.

Paula Mowery

Paula Mowery is a published author, acquisitions editor, and speaker. Her first two published works were The Blessing Seer and Be The Blessing from Pelican Book Group. Both are women’s fiction, and their themes have been the topics of speaking engagements. Be The Blessing won the Selah Award in 2014 in the novella category. In November of 2013 her first romance released in the anthology, Brave New Century, from Prism Book Group. This book went to number five on Amazon’s bestseller category, historical Christian romance. Legacy and Love was her first solo romance and was a finalist in the Carolyn Readers Choice Awards in 2015. Her other titles include a Christian romantic suspense called For Our Good, a Christmas romance called Love Again, and a romance inspired from the Love Chapter called The Crux of Honor.

Reviewers of her writing characterize it as “thundering with emotion.” Her articles have appeared in Woman’s World, The Christian Online Magazine, and the multi-author devotional blogs, Full Flavored Living and Putting on the New. She wrote a section for Join the Insanity by Rhonda Rhea. She has devotionals included in several collaborative books.

Having been an avid reader of Christian fiction, she now puts that love to use by writing book reviews. She is a member of ACFW and also on the faculty for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

Paula is a pastor’s wife and mom to a college student. She homeschooled her daughter through all twelve years, and they both lived to tell about it. Before educating her daughter at home, she was an English teacher in public school.

Learn more about Paula at her blog as well as find other links to connect with her at www.paulamowery.blogspot.com.

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Thanks so much for joining us, Paula!

April 22, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
7 Comments

The Story behind What Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis

Welcome today to Mary Ellis, who shares with us a fun detail about the true hotel which inspired her latest novel, What Happened on Beale Street.

Here’s a little bit about the book:

What Happened on Beale StreetA cryptic plea for help from a childhood friend sends cousins Nate and Nicki Price from New Orleans to Memphis, the home of scrumptious barbecue and soulful blues music. When they arrive at Danny Andre’s last known address, they discover signs of a struggle and a lifestyle not in keeping with the former choirboy they fondly remember.

Danny’s sister, Isabelle, reluctantly accepts their help. She and Nate aren’t on the best of terms due to a complicated past, yet they will have to get beyond that if they want to save Danny.

On top of Danny’s alarming disappearance and his troubled relationship with Isabelle, Nate also has to rein in his favorite cousin’s overzealousness as a new and eager PI. Confronted with a possible murder, mystery, and mayhem in the land of the Delta blues, Nate must rely on his faith and investigative experience to keep one or more of them from getting killed.

Welcome, Mary. Tell us a little bit about the location that sparked your story.

Location, location, location…those are the watch words when selecting investment real estate, a vacation destination, or a good place to retire. Mystery writers know that setting is also crucial to a story. For my latest romantic suspense, What Happened on Beale Street, I chose the opulent Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis. When two detectives arrived to investigate the death of a friend, they chose a hotel in the heart of the blues music scene. I visited the Peabody several times and stayed once during research. Although I renamed the Peabody to the Carlton since I liberally changed details to suit the story, this historic landmark offered inspiration on many levels. Their hundred-plus years in business have produced plenty of intriguing vignettes, and sparked my fictional subplot about hidden jewels, missing for fifty years. While a guest at the Peabody I took the concierge’s tour and learned plenty about the fountain, a veritable masterpiece in marble.

peabody lobbyBut truly the Peabody’s premier attraction is their resident ducks, which spend afternoons in the fountain and off-camera hours in the rooftop Duck Palace (also accessible to tourists.) Twice a day the tuxedoed Duck Master marches his mallards from the palace into the elevator. With great fanfare at the precise hour, the elevator door opens and the ducks march down the red carpet, up a ramp, and into the fountain—all to the cheers and applause of a multitude of fans. In the late afternoon, the march repeats in reverse after the ducks finish their workday. I was lucky enough to observe a duck-flock marching in single file with soldierly precision to the Duck Master’s commands. On another occasion, I viewed a new batch of trainees and saw a different show indeed. (Ducks remain for a short period and are then returned to the wild.) When the elevator doors opened the Duck Master herded a squawky, rambunctious pack down the red carpet who definitely hadn’t grasped the concept of single file. What an entertaining show! Although there’s no need to hunt for missing diamonds since my story is pure fiction, the Peabody Hotel in downtown is one of America’s must-see landmarks. Whether for a romantic getaway or a quick stop to see the famous ducks, you may just find your own brand of inspiration.

 

Wow, Mary, how interesting! Thanks for sharing with us.

Mary Ellis has written twelve award-winning novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances set during the Civil War. Her latest, What Happened on Beale Street, is second of a new mystery series, Secrets of the South, from Harvest House Publishers. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate, a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. Mary enjoys traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming, and lives in Ohio with her husband, dog and cat. She can be found on the web at: www.maryellis.net or https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Mary-Ellis/126995058236

Mary is also giving away a copy of the book. Enter below.

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Thanks again!