Author * Speaker * Editor

Excellent storytelling, accurate historical reporting, and gritty, persevering characters

August 23, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
15 Comments

The Story behind The Loyal Heart by Shelley Shephard Gray

I’m pleased to welcome Shelley Shephard Gray to the Story behind the Story this week. She has a new Civil War book out. Here’s a little bit about it.

Loyal HeartRobert came to Galveston to fulfill his promise to a dying man and look after his widow. He didn’t expect to find love in the unlikeliest of places.

Robert Truax, former Second Lieutenant and Confederate officer in the Civil War, made a promise to his comrade Phillip Markham. If anything happened to Phillip, Robert would look after his beloved wife, Miranda. She was his life, his world, his everything.

After the war, Robert is left to pick up the pieces and fulfill his pact. When he arrives at Miranda’s home in Galveston, Texas, things are worse than he imagined. Phillip’s name has been dragged through the mud, everyone in town believes him to be a traitor, and his widow is treated as an outcast. Even more disturbing is her emotional well-being. Miranda seems hopeless, lost, and so very alone.

Robert had thought his duty would be simple. He would help Miranda as quickly as possible in order to honor a promise. But the moment Robert laid eyes on her, his plans changed. He’s mesmerized by her beauty and yearns to help her in any way he can.

He makes it his duty to protect Miranda, turn her reputation around, and to find some way to help her smile again. But it doesn’t prove to be an easy task—Robert knows something about Phillip that could shake Miranda to the core and alter her view of the man she thought she knew so well.

Sounds like a great read, Shelley. What inspired you to write the book?

I love Google. I use it to find images for books and guide me in my research. For The Loyal Heart, when I was researching Civil War prisoner of war camps, I honestly didn’t know what I would find. Then, to my surprise, I discovered that there was a Confederate Officer POW camp in the middle of Lake Erie!

I knew right then and there that I had to go visit it.

It just so happened that I had a library visit scheduled in Ada, Ohio, so my husband and I took a long weekend and decided to drive to Sandusky after I spoke at the library. When we got to Sandusky, we toured a beautiful Veterans’ Home. There I met the kindest gentleman who had spent much of the last twenty years doing research on nearby Johnson Island and the POW camp that had once been there. He took Tom and I upstairs to several rooms dedicated to the camp, walked us around, explained artifacts, and told me all kinds of stories about the men who were imprisoned there.

Eventually, Tom and I did make it to Johnson Island and toured the Confederate Cemetery. It was fascinating and so sad, too. I started thinking that the men who had been buried there needed to be remembered.

Once that decision was done, I began entertaining different ideas about where to set the main storyline in The Loyal Heart.  I knew I wanted my heroes to be from different areas of Texas, and I loved the idea of setting The Loyal Heart in Galveston. I grew up in Houston, and spent many weekends heading to the beach with my girlfriend Tiffany and her family. So, I called her up and we made a date to get together. Weeks later, Tom and I were walking on the beach with Tiffany and touring The Strand in downtown Galveston. We even stayed at the historic Tremont Hotel.

All these visits made the settings for the novel come to life for me. I hope the reader will be just as intrigued as I was with these places! That’s why I love writing historicals so much. It’s great fun to imagine a different time and place, then do my best to immerse myself in the research.

Thanks, Shelley. I agree that research is the best part of writing historicals.

SGrayShelley Shepard Gray writes Amish romances for Harper Collins inspirational line, Avon Inspire and historical romances as Shelley Gray for Harper Collins Christian Publishers. Her novels have been Holt Medallion winners and Inspirational Readers Choice and Carol finalists. Shelley’s novels have appeared on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

To date, Shelley has published over fifty novels for a variety of publishers. Her novels have been highlighted in the Philadelphia Enquirer, Washington Post, Time Magazine, and USA Today. She has also been interviewed on NPR as well as numerous regional radio stations.

Shelley is doing a giveaway of her book. Follow the directions below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for joining us, Shelley!

August 20, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
9 Comments

The Story behind Where Healing Starts by Angela Meyer

Please welcome Angela Meyer to the blog this week. She has a new release coming in September, Where Healing Starts. Here’s a little bit more about the book:

Coming Soon.temp book coverJoanna, full of bitterness over the past, can no longer ignore the growing storm inside her and is bent on self-destruction as she seeks to ease her pain. But the refuge she seeks is always out of her reach.

Her brother Blake must choose between what has always been safe and what he has always wanted. One mistake after another leads him down a dangerous path.

The one for all, all for one sibling bond can’t help them now. They are both determined to hang onto their anger, never forgetting. Never forgiving. They see no reason to trust God.

After so many years of turmoil, will the Hannigan siblings find refuge in the God who loves them? Or will they get lost along the way?

Sounds great. Tell us a little more about what inspired you to write the book.

My newest release, Where Healing Starts, is book two in the Applewood Hill series. This series shares the stories of the Hannigan siblings, each one affected by the harsh upbringing of their father, but responding with a different coping mechanism.

Over the years, my sisters and I had numerous conversations about how we “turned out” in life. My parents were loving and kind, although, as most families, also had its unique personality and dysfunctions. We wondered what parts of us were developed from that upbringing. While we all had the same environment more or less, we each entered adulthood with different quirks and struggles in life. This fascinated me and was the seed for the Applewood Hill series.

I also wanted to explore that area between normal conflict within a family and outright abuse. That place where there is too much anger, but no malicious, intentional abuse and yet…children are hurt. Wounds fester. And lives are broken.

That place where wounded people wound others and leave a lasting, often devastating mark.

But then God steps in. He redeems. He restores. He heals. He gives hope. He sets free.

A part of the series so far that mirrors a portion of my adult life is found in Where Hope Starts, the first book in the series. My husband and I have walked through the difficult days of marriage. Of betrayal and redemption.  Parallel to editing this story, I was walking my own journey of forgiveness. I added many fictional plot points and the timeline was compressed because well…its fiction. However, much of the emotional responses, thinking behind the main character’s choices to forgive, came from my own experience.

In Where Healing Starts, you will get to know two more of the Hannigan siblings and see the process of God’s redemption and healing grace in their lives.

While no one person in this series represented any one person I know, the other siblings and their choices had bits and pieces of people I have been in contact with during my life. Their pain and wounds and healing. Somewhere inside every writer’s fictional story is bits and pieces of themselves, the emotions, world view, experiences, hopes, dreams and questions. These are mine.

You are very right about that, Angela.

pub pic 2016 tempAngela D. Meyer, author of The Applewood Hill Series, lives in NE with her husband of 25 years and their high school daughter. Their son serves our country in the Marines. Angela enjoys hanging out with her family, reading, connecting with friends and encouraging women to grow in their faith. One of her dream spots to vacation is next to the ocean and someday she wants to ride in a hot air balloon.

Connect with Angela:
Website  Facebook  Pinterest  Google+  Twitter

Coming Soon:
Cover reveal of Where Healing Starts Angela’s new release.
Pre-order special for Where Healing Starts: At the time of your purchase, receive a free download of Where Hope Starts, book 1 in the Applewood Hill series.
Sign up for Angela’s Newsletter so you don’t miss these announcements.

Follow the directions below for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Where Healing Starts when it releases.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Angela! It’s been great to have you.

August 12, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
12 Comments

The Story behind In the Land of White Nights by Bonnie Leon

Please join me in welcoming Bonnie Leon to the blog this week. She shares a fascinating story behind her latest release, In the Land of White Nights. Here’s a little bit about the book.

ae511d01-3633-4e4d-8a07-52a21e4825ddThe lure of the nineteenth-century gold rush calls to Erik, a civil-war veteran. He and Anna, his Aleutian bride, set sail for a new life together in Sitka.

Anna stands strong against the adversities of the new land with its unfamiliar culture and fearsome challenges. She fights her fears and the prejudice of others, while growing her newfound faith in the white man’s God.
When forced to move farther north and begin again, Anna refuses to give up, allowing nothing to stand in the way of her family’s happiness. They discover joy as well as heartache in the Alaskan wilderness. But will Erik’s love of gold put all they’ve worked so hard for in jeopardy?

  1. Why did you pick to write about the Alaskan wilderness and gold mining?

I have roots in Alaska. My mother is native and was the only one in her family to leave the state.  It is always fun to dig into my ancestral past, plus Alaska is one of the most formidably beautiful places on the planet—a stunning backdrop for a historical tale.

When the brutal harvesting of furs played out, the gold rush of the nineteenth century launched the territory of Alaska into the next era of change. Wealth and a growing population altered the northern wilderness forever. It is a fascinating time period for anyone who loves history.

  1. Have you ever been to Alaska? If so, tell us about it. If not, would you like to go some day?

Although most of my family has lived in Alaska at one time or another I have not. And though I’d love to visit the state more often, I’ve only been there once. My family traveled the Alcan Highway when 1200 miles of the 2400 mile journey was a gravel road.

That trip is etched into the place in my brain reserved for extra fabulous experiences. Traveling north from Seattle, it took seven days to get to Anchorage. We spent two weeks exploring the state and visiting family. I was privileged to visit the homestead where my mother spent some of her growing up years, a place I used in my Alaskan Skies series.

Trying to return from my grandparents’ cabin near the Susitna River, we were storm bound and had to hold over in a seal hunter’s cabin. There were a lot of us for two tiny cabins. At one point we were left afloat on a barge in Cook Inlet where we waited for two of my uncles to pick us up and transport us to the fishing beach. We had encounters with moose and bear, and even made our way, by dory, through a pod of beluga whales in Cook Inlet.

I long to return and I’m determined to make it happen. I have family to see and spectacular places to explore.

  1. What kind of research did you have to do into the Aleutian culture? How did you go about it?

Research always begins with people and books. The many acquaintances and my Alaskan family were an unbelievable help. They happily answered my flow of questions and helped make the scenes believable. I borrowed books from the University of Alaska and purchased many used books about the state, its history, culture, and its people and native artifacts. I have a small library on Alaska and Alaskan history. One fabulous prize was a book of stories written in the native language on one page and on the opposite the English translation.

I read some fabulous books on the history and personal stories of Alaska gold-mining during the 1800’s. I also found amazing resources on native culture and history where I planted myself trying to capture the essence of the time and place.

Gold miners love to tell tales and there are numerous accounts of what it took to be a gold-miner in Alaska during the nineteenth century.  The daring early adventurers who explored the territory provided fodder for my brain and helped bring my story to life.

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

There are two main themes running through the story. One touches on the way mankind judges one another, relying on outward appearance rather than the condition of a person’s heart to decide what a person is all about. The second is our need and often inability to forgive one another for wrongs done against us, real or imagined. I hope readers will consider their own biases, especially the ones we’ve been unable or unwilling to see. We all possess prejudices. Secondly I pray that the principle of forgiveness will grab hold of readers. It is in forgiveness that we find freedom and true joy. A bitter heart cannot be made whole or healthy, but forgiveness is possible with God’s help.

  1. What’s up next for you?

I am presently revising book three in the Northern Lights series, Return to the Misty Shore. I’m enjoying revisiting the story of Anna’s daughter Luba who returns to the Aleutian Islands where she discovers her heritage, but at great cost.

I have a couple other projects I’m working on, one is a contemporary novel that takes place in Northern California and the other is a historical that plays out right here in Southern Oregon. In fact, my characters may well travel right through my back yard. I’m dipping into both stories, trying to decide which one I want to jump into.

Bonnie LeonBonnie Leon is the author of twenty-one novels, including the recently released To Dance With Dolphins, the popular Alaskan Skies and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons.
Bonnie’s books are being read internationally and she hears from readers in Australia, Europe, and even Africa.
She enjoys speaking for women’s groups and teaching at writing seminars and conventions and especially delights in mentoring young authors. These days, her time is filled with writing, being a grandmother and relishing precious time with her aged mother.
Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren.

You can find bonnie at
https://www.bonnieleon.com
https://www.facebook.com/BonnieLeonAuthor
https://www.bonnieleon.blogspot.com
https://www.@bonnie_leon
https://www.pinterest.com/bonnieleon/

Bonnie is giving away a copy of the book. Scroll down for instructions on how to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for joining us, Bonnie! It’s been great to have you.

August 9, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
12 Comments

The Story behind A Beauty Refined by Tracie Peterson

I am so thrilled to be welcoming Tracie Peterson today. I’ve read many of her books and had the privilege of meeting her several years ago. She has a new release, A Beauty Refined with an interesting story behind it. Here’s a little bit about the book.

A Beauty Refined (518x800)What Does It Take to Reveal the True Beauty of a Hidden Gem?

Phoebe Von Bergen, the daughter of a German count, is excited to visit America for the first time while her father purchases sapphires in Helena, Montana. Little does she know, however, that her father’s intentions–both for her and the gemstones–are not what she thinks.

Ian Harper, a lapidary working in Helena, finds the dignified young woman staying at the Broadwater Hotel more than a little intriguing. Yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes that her family story is based on a lie–a lie she has no knowledge of. And Ian believes he knows the only path that will lead her to freedom.

Meeting Ian has changed everything for Phoebe, and she begins to consider staying in America, regardless of her father’s plans. But she may not be prepared for the unexpected danger that results when her family’s deception begins to unravel.

As always, Tracie, that sounds amazing. And what a unique profession for the hero. What inspired you to write A Beauty Refined?

A BEAUTY REFINED is the second book in the Sapphire Bride series. Each book stands alone and only has Yogo sapphires and Montana in common.  Living in Montana I often heard about the Yogo sapphires and thought it would be interesting to learn about them. Yogos are unique to Montana and their history is fascinating. Miners who were panning for gold kept finding these pesky blue rocks clogging up their sluices. Finally, one of the men sent a shoebox full of these stones to a friend who in turn put them in the hands of Tiffany’s in New York.  It resulted in a check for over $3,000 and introduced the world to Yogo sapphires. As I researched the history, the stories just seemed to pop out. I wanted to show a lapidary in A BEAUTY REFINED and correlate how we as Christians go through a refining process so that, like a gem stone, we can better reflect the light and show our true beauty.  I dug in and researched lapidaries and talked with some wonderful folks who cut and refine Yogos for a living. Added to this, I learned about the Broadwater Hotel and Natatorium in Helena, MT. It’s long gone now, but was created to be a luxurious spa that would bring royalty and the wealthy. The Natatorium boasted a 100’x300’ swimming pool with a 40 ft. waterfall at one end. It was heated by underground hot springs and was supposed to have healing properties.  The hotel was appointed with beautiful linen and china, each room had a bathroom which was quite unusual for that time period and location, and there were glorious stained glass windows throughout. Unfortunately, no one really thought about how hard it was to get to Helena, MT in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and so the place failed. However, while it was here, it was an amazing retreat and I wanted very much to introduce the reader to it.  Another part of the story deals with the Yogos being substituted for what was considered the prize sapphires of the day – those from Burma and Ceylon. As the Yogos increased in popularity due to their unique quality of not needing to be heat treated to bring out their brilliant color, the situation reversed and the wealthy found themselves wanting Yogos instead.  All of this came together to help me create A BEAUTY REFINED.

Thanks, Tracie. That is fascinating. The hotel sounds amazing! If you’d like to win a copy of her book, please keep reading a little further for instructions.

TraciePeterson444 (1)Tracie Peterson is the best-selling, award winning author of over 100 books.  Her work in historical romance garnered her the Best Western Romance Author of 2013 by True West Magazine. She was given the Life Time Achievement Award from American Christian Fiction Writers in 2011 and the Career Achievement Award in 2007 from Romantic Times, as well as multiple best book awards.
Tracie has been married to Jim for over 35 years and enjoys working with him on historical research for each of her books.  They make their home in the mountains of Montana. They have three grown children and three grandchildren. They also have an adopted family in Africa that has given them another seven grandchildren – two of whom were named for Tracie and Jim.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks again for joining us, Tracie! It’s been very informative 🙂

August 5, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
9 Comments

The Story behind Entangled by Julie Arduini

Please join me in welcoming Julie Arduini this week. Her latest release, Entangled, sounds like a great read. Here’s a little bit about it:

EntangledFinalCarla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son’s father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He’s the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will’s ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He’s bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

Julie, tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book.

ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past is my second book in the Surrendering Time series. Based in the fictional village of Speculator Falls, New York, the Adirondack-based stories all feature an element of time and a surrender theme. I also like to give at least one of my characters a love of chocolate.

Carla Rowling is the heroine in ENTANGLED. She was Jenna’s best friend in ENTRUSTED, and a single mom and sheriff. When her story begins, she’s been given the opportunity to leave her job and start cosmetology school. It’s what she’s always wanted to do, but the gift is so generous she feels unworthy. Carla can’t forget her rebellious past, and by hanging on to regret, she sabotages her future.

What makes ENTANGLED different than ENTRUSTED is I used two Upstate New York locations. Speculator Falls is based on the real Speculator. It’s where Carla and her son, Noah, live. It’s literal frontier land with no traffic lights in the entire county. The village has one stop sign at what locals call “The Four Corners.” Speculator is my absolute favorite place to visit. My dear friend from college invited me in 1994, and I instantly fell in love. I’ve been back several times, including for my honeymoon.

Just over forty-five miles south of Speculator is Gloversville. When I travel to Speculator from my hometown of Corning, I like passing through Gloversville. There’s a main street where I stop for lunch where I pictured the school and places the students would break for lunch. Although the small city is real, everything else in ENTANGLED is fiction.

My prayer for readers is that they first are encouraged by the characters and find freedom through surrender. I also hope readers fall in love with the Adirondacks and plan their own trip there. Who wants to go?

Thanks, Julie! I’d love to go there some day. Keep reading and have chance to win the book.

profileJulie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the  re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE and the weekly e mail. SUNDAY’S SURRENDER AND CHOCOLATE.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/JulieArduini
Twitter: http://twitter.com/JulieArduini
G+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JulieArduini/posts
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/JulieArduini
Instagram: http://instagram.com/JulieArduini
Snapchat: @juliearduini
Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/JulieArduini
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Julie-Arduini/e/B00PBKDRSQ/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1427852247&sr=8-1
Monthly Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/dCFG
Weekly Sunday’s Surrender and Chocolate: http://eepurl.com/bJ5yHP
Surrendered Scribe Media Promotions: (Book release info sent as needed) http://eepurl.com/bXAW0L

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for joining us, Julie!

July 29, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
12 Comments

The Story behind The Amish Princess by Patrick Craig

It’s my honor to have Patrick Craig join us today to tell us a little bit about his fascinating book that will hit shelves later in the fall. It’s the second book in his Paradise Chronicles series, and is set in the Pennsylvania wilderness between 1737 and 1780.

Here’s a little more about it:

The-Amish-HeiressOpahtuhwe, The White Deer, is the beautiful daughter of the most powerful Chief of the Delaware tribe. She is revered by her people as a true Indian Princess. Everything changes when the murderous warrior Ehèntawisèk brings three Amish prisoners to the Delaware camp. The only survivors of the brutal massacre of most of the Hershberger family perpetrated by the renegade known as Scar, Jonathan and Joshua Hershberger are twin brothers that Ehèntawisèk is determined to adopt and teach the Indian way. The third prisoner is Jonas Hershberger, their father, who has been made a slave because he would not defend his family against the Indians who murdered his wife, two daughters and younger son. White Deer is drawn to Jonathan but his hatred of the Indians causes him to push her away. Joshua’s gentle heart and steadfast refusal to abandon the Amish faith lead White Deer to a life-changing decision and rejection by her people. In the end, White Deer must choose between the ways of her people and her new-found faith. And complicating it all is her undying love for the man who can only hate her.

1.    What a unique time setting. Why did you choose it?
In my first Amish book, A Quilt For Jenna, Jerusha Hershberger hears the story of her great-great-great-grandfather, Joshua Hershberger from her grandmother, Hannah.

Hannah handed the second book to Jerusha.  It was small with a plain leather cover.
“What’s this, Grandmother?” she asked.
“This is the story of Jonathan and Joshua Hershberger,” said Hannah.  “It tells of the choices the twin brothers made after Indians massacred their family near Fort Henry on the Ohio, and what effect those decisions had on generations of Hershbergers.  One brother, Jonathan, forsook the Amish church and he and all his descendants went out into the world.  The other brother, Joshua, stayed in the church and remained faithful, even under the most difficult conditions.  Joshua was your great-great-great grandfather.  It was his grandson, my father, who came to Apple Creek in 1860 as a boy.  It is because Joshua stayed true, that you are here today.”

In my second book, The Road Home, Jerusha’s adopted daughter, Jenny Springer, meets Jonathan Hershberger who she discovers is the great-great-great-great-grandson of Jonathan Hershberger, the twin who married an Indian princess and left the Amish faith. So I thought this book would be a great opportunity to tell the story of both brothers and the Indian Princess and tie it into the family that is the centerpiece of both the Apple Creek Dreams series and The Paradise Chronicles series.

2.    What were Amish settlements like at that time?
The Amish were Anabaptists who did not believe in infant baptism. Because of this they were terribly persecuted in Europe by both the Catholic and Protestant church as well as the secular authorities. William Penn came to the Netherlands in the early 1700s to encourage people to colonize Pennsylvania. When he offered the promise of religious freedom, the Anabaptists jumped at the chance. The first Amish came on board The Charming Nancy in 1720 and settled around Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Northkill Amish Settlement, the setting for the beginning of my new story, was established in 1740 in Berks County, Pennsylvania. As the first identifiable Amish community in the new world, it was the foundation of Amish settlement in the Americas. It was a typical Amish settlement that based its life around the Ordnung, the verbal law passed down form Menno Simons and Jackob Amman, the founders of the the Mennonite and the Amish churches. The Amish settlements were agrarian and remain that way to this day. Their philosophy of life was one of non-violence towards all men.

3.    How did you go about researching the book?
Ah, the wonders of Google! Yes, the Internet is an incredible source of information. I have Google bookmark folders for all my books and there are dozens of bookmarks in each one. For the Amish Princess I have articles that include facts about everything concerning my book–articles like the passenger list of The Charming Nancy, the life of William Penn, A Delaware Indian dictionary, the Massacre at Gnaddenhutton, the American forts in the Ohio territory, the treatment of conscientious objectors in wartime and dozens of others.

4.    What draws a man to write about the Amish?
Actually, I was reading a blog by Nick Harrison when he was still at harvest House back in 2010 in which he asked for one-sheets for story ideas about the Amish and about quilting. With no previous knowledge of either subject, I sent him the story idea for A Quilt For Jenna. Harvest House loved the idea and asked for sample chapters. I sent them the book. Then they asked if I could do a three book series. And that is how The Apple Creek Dreams series came to be. That gave me a platform to write more books on the Amish and so after my contract with Harvest House was up, I Indie published The Amish Heiress, the first book in The Paradise Chronicles series, which stayed on the Amazon top 100 best seller lists in three categories for over 8 months. Now I am writing the second book in that series, The Amish Princess.

5.    What else do you have in the works?
I just released a new edition of the first book in my kid’s mystery series, The Mystery of Ghost Dancer Ranch. Visualize Frank Peretti mixed with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and you will get an idea of what the book is like. Also, I have the third book in the Paradise Chronicles series, The Mennonite Queen, in the works and that will be out next year. It has been a bit difficult being typed as strictly an Amish writer, but I am trying to convince my agent that I can write Historical Romance, Thrillers, and other genres and am slowly writing my way out of the Amish-only brand.

PCraig2aBest-selling author Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next 26 years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor in churches, and at retreats, seminars and conferences all across the western United States. In 2011 he signed a three-book deal with Harvest House Publishers to publish his Apple Creek Dreams series. His current series is The Paradise Chronicles and the first book in the series, The Amish Heiress, was published by P&J Publishing in August of 2015 and remained on the Amazon bestseller lists for seven months. The second book in the Series, The Amish Princess, will be released in the fall of 2016. Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in Idaho and are the parents of two adult children and have five grandchildren. Patrick is represented by the Steve Laube Agency.

Where can readers find him online?
www.patrickecraig.com  Webpage
https://www.facebook.com/PatrickECraig  Facebook
https://twitter.com/PatrickECraig  Twitter
Where can readers purchase his books?
http://tinyurl.com/n6sfagg Amazon

The Amish Heiress is available in on Amazon, B&N and all your favorite online stores.  You can also find it on his website  at http://www.patrickecraig.com/my-book-store/
Look for The Amish Princess in late September, 2016.

Wow, what a career you’ve been blessed to have. Patrick is giving away a copy of The Amish Heiress, just to get you ready for The Amish Princess this fall 🙂 Follow the directions below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much for joining us, Patrick! We’ll be looking for The Amish Princess in September!

July 26, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
15 Comments

The Story behind Like a River from Its Course by Kelli Stuart

Please join me in welcoming Kelli Stuart to the Story behind the Story. I’m so excited to have her here, as she shares a story that really excites me, and one you’ll want to be sure to read.

First, a little bit about her book, Like a River from It’s Course.

Like a River from its CourseThe city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler’s blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little-known history of Ukraine’s tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the “killing ditch”. He survived, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda Michaelevna never knew her mother. Growing up with an alcoholic father, Luda is only sixteen when the Nazis invade, and she’s brutally attacked due to her father’s negligence. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Herrmann is sure in his knowledge that the Führer’s plans for domination are right and just. He is driven to success by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism.

Oh, that sounds so good, Kelli. Can you share with us what inspired you to write the book?

My story begins on an airplane.

I was fifteen years old, struggling with all the angst and turmoil that comes with being a teenager, and I’d been invited to travel to the other side of the world, to a country I’d never heard of, and minister to other kids just like me.

Only they weren’t just like me, you see, because until just three years before I arrived in their homeland, they had lived under the rule of communism. They had witnessed firsthand the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the culmination of what it meant to live independently.

Here I was, a young American girl with no concept or understanding of the world outside my narrow borders, and I looked out the window of our airplane as we taxied down the runway in Minsk, Belarus, and I knew immediately that I would be back.

It was as though the fabric of that part of the world had long ago been knit into the fibers of my very being.

When I returned home two weeks later, I could say a handful of phrases in Russian, and I was already planning when I would return.

I spent the spring breaks of my junior and senior years in high school in Kiev, Ukraine. While there I met a woman named Maria Ivanovna whose story of survival in a World War II Nazi slave labor camp left me wide-eyed at the reality of a history I’d never much considered.

In college, I returned to Kiev, spending a semester in the city exploring, studying Russian, meeting people, and further placing roots in a land that somehow felt like a second home to me.

I wanted to tell the stories of that country, because they were stories I’d not heard before, and they were real to me. I spoke with countless veterans, and many men and women who worked as partisans in those long war years.

In 2003, I was pregnant with my first child, and I knew that if I was going to finish telling the stories, this was my last chance for a long time to gather them, so I returned to Ukraine one more time, and I spent a month touring the country, speaking to people along the way, and dreaming up the stories I would tell.

Life, and babies, and the mounds of research I did to ensure accuracy made writing the books a slow process, but finally, mercifully, I typed THE END.

Like a River From Its Course started on an airplane in 1994. It ignited in the heart of an insecure girl with a penchant for the written word. It is the real life stories of the many men and women who faced the worst that humanity had to offer, and lived to tell me the story.

In turn, they asked that I tell you, and so I have. This novel is the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of dreaming, wishing, toiling, believing, and living.

And today I offer it all back to the world, praying I’ve honored well the history, the people, and the dream.

Like a River From Its Course follows the stories of four unique characters, allowing the reader to experience World War II through their eyes. It is a story of grief, heartache, hope, and redemption, and it’s now available for purchase!

This is my gift to every reader who thinks they’ve heard all there is to hear about World War II. These are the stories you’ve been waiting for.

Kelli StuartKelli Stuart is a storyteller at heart with an affinity for languages, travel, and history. She is fluent in the Russian language, and has spent the last twenty years researching the effects of World War II on the former Soviet Union. Kelli’s first novel, Like a River From Its Course, is an epic story of war, love, grief, and redemption set in World War II Soviet Ukraine. It releases June 27, 2016. Kelli lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband and four children.

Wow, that is an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Kelli is giving away a copy of the book to one very lucky winner. Follow the instructions below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to you all!

July 22, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
15 Comments

The Story behind To Follow Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino

Please join me in welcoming Rebecca DeMarino this week. She’s the author of a new book, To Follow Her Heart. What a great title! Here’s a little bit about it.

DeMarino_ToFollowHer COVERDuty and love are powerful forces. Only one has the power to make her life complete.
In 1664 Patience Terry is devastated to learn that Captain Jeremy Horton’s ship has been shipwrecked off the coast of Barbados. There were no survivors. She had hoped that Jeremy would someday give up the sea and settle down with her in Southold, Long Island.
Unaware his memorial service is being planned, Jeremy sails aboard a British warship with secret orders to attack New Amsterdam and claim it for the British Crown. When he makes his surprise return to Southold—and to an overjoyed Patience—it’s not quite the happily-ever-after his beloved had hoped for.
With a finely tuned sense for authentic historical characters and settings, Rebecca DeMarino plunges you into a world of tall ships, daring journeys, and yearning hearts.

Sounds wonderful. What led you to write the book?

I grew up with stories my mother, Helen Horton Worley, passed down through the oral tradition. It was of sailing ships and casks of gold and our ancestors from England. She knew Barnabas was a great-grandfather from many generations ago and that he’d come from England on a little ship called The Swallow.

In the 1990’s my brother became interested in genealogy and traced the Horton line through to Barnabas and discovered there was a lighthouse named after him on Long Island. I pulled out a map, and found Horton Point in Southold, NY. I didn’t have to ask my mom twice about visiting.

Barnabas and Mary were the largest landowners in Southold. He built the first timber-framed house on eastern Long Island, home to six generations of Hortons until it was demolished in the 1870’s. The site of their home on the Peconic Bay side of the north fork is marked with a plaque, and across the road is the cemetery where Barnabas is buried.

At the cemetery we found Barnabas’s grave, covered with a large slab of blue slate, engraved with an epitaph he is said to have written. Below the epitaph is the Bible verse “He being dead yet speaketh.” That intrigued me, and I reread the epitaph. One line in particular caught my eye, “And you dear children all, follow the Lord. Hear and obey his public sacred Word; and in your houses call upon His name.” It was as if Barnabas was speaking to the generations of Hortons to follow. And here I stood with my Mom, over three hundred years later.

We wandered the cemetery looking for Mary’s grave. At the Southold Historical Society we’d looked at Barnabas’s will, written shortly before he died. He named her executrix of his estate, so we knew she was still alive when he died. But we couldn’t find her grave. The church secretary searched the records, but Mary was not listed. She told us it didn’t mean Mary wasn’t buried there. Many gravestones had deteriorated before the church began to keep records.

I went home wondering about Mary. The lack of information about Mary Langton Horton, Barnabas’s brave young wife who left family to come to the wilds of Long Island—and our great-grandmother—troubled me. I did discover Barnabas was a widower when she married him. She must have been courageous as she left her family to cross an ocean with him and his two young sons by his first wife.
I wanted to give her and the other brave women who followed their husbands a voice and I began writing her story in the fall of 2008. The working title for that first novel was The Blue Slate. It sold to Revell as A Place in His Heart, as book one of a three-book historical romance series. The third book, To Follow Her Heart released this month!

Congratulations on that, Rebecca!

Demarino-29REBECCA DEMARINO inherited her love of baking and gardening from her mother; a love of horses, reading, and writing from her dad—and the wanderlust gene from both parents. Her new novel, TO FOLLOW HER HEART releases this month from Revell. She is the author of A PLACE IN HIS HEART and TO CAPTURE HER HEART, books one and two of The Southold Chronicles. A free prologue to THE SOUTHOLD CHRONICLES series available here: www.RebeccaDeMarino.com And visit Rebecca here: www.facebook.com/AuthorRebeccaDeMarino

Rebecca is giving away a copy of the book. Follow the directions below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much for visiting with us, Rebecca!

July 19, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
11 Comments

The Story behind Jilted by Varina Denman

Today I’m so pleased to have Varina Denman with us. Here’s a little bit about her new release Jilted.

JiltedLynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago.
Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life where the shadow of shame is replaced by the light of love.
Jilted tells of a woman who has lost the joy of living, a man determined to draw her back toward happiness, and a town that must—once and for all—leave the past where it belongs. It is a gentle reminder that all things can work together for good.

What inspired you to write Jilted?

The Mended Hearts series revolves around church hurt and forgiveness, touchy subjects. However, I’ve heard it argued that anyone who’s been in the church for more than twenty minutes has experienced a taste of church hurt. It’s not fun, and it’s not pretty, but unfortunately, it’s real. And it saddens me.
I’ve never experienced anything as monumental as the pain inflicted on my characters by other Christians, but I’ve heard tales from friends, and I’ve witnessed a few things as well. One friend, as a child, walked into worship with the family, but when they opened the church bulletin, discovered they had been asked to leave the congregation.
At first, I thought the story was unbelievable or that things like that only happened decades ago, but over the years, I heard similar stories, and I began to realize, sadly, that this sort of thing happens all too often. Even now. So I felt compelled to build a story around the conflict.
Lynda Turner, the main character in Jilted, made her entrance into the series in Jaded when she was disfellowshipped from the local congregation, along with her young daughter. For the next two books she is understandably bitter as well as clinically depressed, and she struggles to forgive those who have wronged her.
When Jilted opens, Lynda has decided once and for all that she is going to put her bitterness and depression behind her, and move on with her life—toward happiness. But having been jilted by more than one man, as well as her friends and the church, she must learn that people are trustworthy after all.
In writing the Mended Hearts series, it’s my prayer that I’m able to help readers deal with church hurt and forgiveness issues. Things don’t always work out like we imagine they will, and friends let us down—even friends who call themselves Christians. Lynda and Clyde learned the necessity of keeping communication open, of begging forgiveness when they were in the wrong, and of readily forgiving others who hurt them, and we should remember the same thing. It’s not always fun, and it’s never pretty, but fortunately, it’s possible. And it gives me peace.

VarinaDenman-byMadalynWallaceVarina Denman writes stories about the unique struggles women face. A native Texan who spent her high school years in a small Texas town, Varina now lives near Fort Worth with her husband and five mostly grown children. Her passion is helping others make peace with their life situations. Varina’s Mended Hearts series is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance. Connect with Varina through her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Varina is giving away a copy of her new book.  You can enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

July 15, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
17 Comments

The Story behind The Healing Process by Johnnie Alexander

This week my fellow writer and new friend Johnnie Alexander joins us. She has a new release in the Courageous Brides collection. Here’s a little bit about her story.

During a forced march to Oklahoma, the Ponca Indians camp outside Neligh, Nebraska. When Marcy Whitt is unable to save the life of a Ponca child, she risks her reputation and her engagement to help the grieving family. When her compassion and courage attract the attention of a man who is more worthy than her fiancé, will she give him her heart?

Sounds like a lot of great stories. What inspired you to write The Healing Process?

White Buffalo Girl, an eighteen-month-old toddler, lived with her parents along the Niobrara River in Nebraska. That is until her family and other members of the tribe were forced to leave their homes. Several years earlier, the U.S. signed a treaty with the Sioux that gave them the Ponca land.

It was a bureaucratic mistake with horrific consequences.

Instead of negotiating a new treaty, the Poncas had to move to the Oklahoma Territory in May 1877 during thunderous weather. Many died on the long and arduous trip. White Buffalo Girl was the first.

At her funeral, attended by a few members of the Ponca tribe and the nearby community of Neligh, the child’s father said these words:

“I want the whites to respect the grave of my child just as they do the graves of their own dead. The Indians don’t like to leave the graves of their dead, but we had to move and hope it will be for the best. I leave the grave in your care. I may never see it again. Care for it for it for me.”

White Buffalo Girl and her parents, Black Elk and Moon Hawk, are still remembered by the Neligh community. The original oak cross was replaced with a marble marker in 1913 which was then replaced by a historical monument that memorializes the promise made so long ago.

I read about this event in a newspaper article way back in the early 1980s. I lived in Norfolk, Nebraska at the time, and it seemed the events of the “Old West” weren’t as deep in the past as when I lived further east. The sense of history, stronger and more authentic than the pages of a textbook, sparked inside me.

When I read that article, I immediately wanted to write a story about it. But I didn’t have the words or the experience to do so. So I filed the article away, taking it out now and again as years—decades—slipped by.

Then Barbour House requested novellas for The Courageous Brides Collection, and I knew my opportunity had arrived. I pulled out the article again and did more research while imagining a compassionate woman who seeks God’s strength as she attempts to ease the grief of these heart-broken parents.

It’s a story of love amidst grief that I hope honors the memory of the Ponca Trail of Tears and especially White Buffalo Girl and her parents.

To learn more about this historic event, please visit:

Johnnie AlexanderJohnnie Alexander writes stories of heritage and hope while raccoons and foxes occasionally pass by her window. Her debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, was a CBA bestseller and has been translated into Dutch and Norwegian. Where She Belongs, her first contemporary romance in the Misty Willow Series, was Library Journal’s Pick of the Month (February 2016). Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, and stacks of books. She lives near Memphis with Rugby, the princely papillon who trees those pesky raccoons whenever he gets the chance.

Purchase Link for The Courageous Brides Collection

Bookstore


Blog        http://www.johnnie-alexander.com
Facebook Profile (Friend or follow me!) https://www.facebook.com/johnnie.alexander.author
Facebook Author Page    https://www.facebook.com/JohnnieAlexanderNovelist
Twitter        https://twitter.com/johnnie_alexndr
GoodReads    https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6802954.Johnnie_Alexander
Amazon Author Page    http://www.amazon.com/author/johnniealexander

Johnnie is giving away a copy of the Courageous Brides collection.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you so much for joining us, Johnnie. We enjoyed having you!