Author * Speaker * Editor

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

March 29, 2017
by liztolsma@gmail.com
15 Comments

The Story behind Dynamo by Ellie Gustafson

Please join me in welcoming Ellie Gustafson to the blog this week. She’s here to share how her story, Dynamo, came to be. Here’s a short blurb about the book.

Jeth Cavanaugh is searching for a new life along one of Pennsylvania’s mountain ridges when he stumbles upon a stable of show jumpers owned by Rob and Katie Chilton. Throw in a volatile gaited stallion named Dynamo, and Jeth will do anything to work there. He earns his living by training and showing Rob’s jumpers, but Dynamo is his primary passion.

Everything changes when God enters his life—in the unconventional form of a hard slap by an old girlfriend—and ignites a new, greater passion within him. But along with fervor comes fear at the undeniable evidence of God’s hand on his life. Inexplicable events, both good and bad, make him moan plaintively, “Why does God do this to me? I get the feeling I’m being set up for something.”

He is, indeed. Jeth’s life is anything but predictable, much like the God he serves. The real Dynamo and his ultimate trainer emerge out of an excruciating mix of disaster and brokenness, which are never beyond the reach of redemption.

Ellie, please share with the readers what inspired you to write this book?

Dynamo has roots that date back many years. My first horseback ride around age 8, sitting astride a very large horse with a very skinny neck (from my up-top perspective), touched off a passion for horses that still smolders within me.

The very large horse died, which ended my riding lessons, but she was replaced a few years later by a smaller—and feistier—pony that taught me how to really ride. Got dumped three times but finally learned how to be the boss.

Our small, rural town was the locus of the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show, which grew to be one of the most prominent on the East Coast and provided much of the competition material for my book. An incredible event I witnessed there appears in the novel. Watch for Jo Jo and Jeth’s story in Chapter 20. Apart from the show, I occasionally rode a local horse, a nasty fellow named The Earl, that also pops up in the novel under the name, Lord Nelson.

My favorite classes, though, were the five-gaited show horses. Splendid, high-stepping animals with flowing manes and tails—the perfect pattern for the stallion Dynamo.

All of this plowed spiritual ground, as well. The horse material came from way back, but my passion for God picked it up and helped me craft a multi-layered story. The main characters are not Jeth and Dynamo, but God and Maybelle who work behind the scenes to mold a servant. Who is God, really? And what does He want of us? That’s the lesson Jeth needed to learn.

Ellie Gustafson began thinking up stories at a young age but did not begin writing and publishing until 1978. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Additional experiences include gardening, house construction, tree farming, and parenting—all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. One of her major writing goals has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant for today’s readers through the undeniable power of story.

Email: egus@me.com

Website:  www.eleanorgustafson.com/

Blog: www.eleanorgustafson.com/

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/eleanorgustafson

Twitter: @EgusEllie

Facebook: Ellie Gustafson

Dynamo   www.amazon.com/Dynamo-Eleanor-Gustafson-ebook/dp/B00IQEVRIG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398252590&sr=1-1&keywords=dynamo+gustafson

The Stones   www.amazon.com/Stones-Eleanor-Gustafson/dp/1603740791/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366735533&sr=1-1&keywords=gustafson+stones

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

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Thanks for joining us!

March 21, 2017
by liztolsma@gmail.com
54 Comments

The Story behind When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin is returning to the blog this week because she has a new release! It’s always a happy day for me when I hear she has something new out there. I love reading other views of WWII. Her newest book is When Tides Turn

When Quintessa Beaumont learns the US Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, eager to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. Lt. Dan Avery employs his skills in antisubmarine warfare to fight U-boats at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, but the last thing he wants to see on his radar is fun-loving Tess. As Dan and Tess work together in Boston, the changes in Tess challenge his notions—and his heart.

It’s always fascinating to hear about little-known parts of the war. What inspired you to write When Tides Turn?

When Tides Turn was inspired by two World War II events, the establishment of the WAVES and the turning point of the Battle of the Atlantic.

The US Navy established the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) on July 30, 1942. At first the Navy was reluctant to take women due to fears that women wouldn’t be capable or would distract the men. In my novel, Tess Beaumont joins the WAVES and has to prove herself. During the war, the WAVES quickly proved their worth, and soon all branches of the Navy were clamoring for more WAVES. By the end of the war, 86,000 women served as aviation machinists, yeomen, engineers, parachute riggers, radiomen, and more.

The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest battle of World War II, as German U-boats attacked Allied shipping and Allied warships fought back. In When Tides Turn, American naval officer Lt. Dan Avery serves during the peak of the battle in March 1943, when the U-boats sank 95 ships. However, the tide was already turning. Allied advances in breaking the German Enigma code and in radar and radio direction-finding helped locate the elusive U-boats. And air power turned the hunter U-boats to prey. In 1943, the Allies began using auxiliary carriers (also called escort carriers) in convoys. The carrier aircraft detected U-boats, sank them, and drove them away from the vulnerable cargo ships. May 1943 represented the turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic, when U-boats sank 41 ships, but 44 subs were lost, several to carriers such as the USS Bogue, the real ship my fictional hero serves on. Although U-boats remained active until V-E Day, they never again posed as serious a threat. Victory in this battle led to victory in the war by allowing American and Canadian troops to safely cross to Britain for D-day in June 1944.

Sarah Sundin is the author of nine historical novels, including When Tides Turn. Her novel Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award, won the INSPY Award, and was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. She also enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups.

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah! I always learn something when you’re on.

And you can enter to win a copy of this book. Follow the simple directions below.

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Good luck, everyone!

February 28, 2017
by liztolsma@gmail.com
16 Comments

The Story behind Whispers in the Branches by Brandy Heineman

Brandy Heineman is our guest this week, sharing what inspired her to write Whispers in the Branches. On our writing loop, the conversation this week is about titles, and I love this title! Here’s a little bit about the book:

Tending a void in her heart that demands to be filled, Abby Wells uproots her life in Ohio to move into the ancestral home in Georgia. Now that her mom is gone, it’s her best chance to connect with the last of her family, and she can’t deny the pull of the supposedly haunted house. The seductive comfort of believing that ghosts could be real drives her search, but Aunt Ruby’s plans for Abby don’t include revealing secrets kept for seventy years. Oh, there’s dirty laundry she’d like to air—just not her own.

Indulging in the attentions of the house’s handsome caretaker helps numb her pain, but Abby’s ex-boyfriend won’t let go of the past. He hounds her about his new found religion in hopes of reconciling, but why reach for him or the God who couldn’t or wouldn’t spare her mom? In the stillness of the old house, the spirit world feels so close she can almost touch it.

But she doesn’t know yet that there’s more than one way to be haunted.

Oh, Brandy, I have chills. Please share with us what inspired the house that’s such a main part of this story?

While writing Whispers in the Branches, I decided I needed a spooky old house as a model for my story. Not a photo, but a real place I could wonder at in all its decrepit glory. I lived in a such a place when I was eight—a 150 year-old house in Watkins Glen, New York. I imagined parts of its weird layout into my narrative, but the exterior was too hazy—probably because we weren’t allowed to play out front, since the house sat too close to the road.

I now live in an Atlanta suburb where spooky old houses are in short supply, but eventually, I found THE one. From the ramshackle porch to the overgrown kudzu, it was the sort of place that a person inclined to believe in ghosts could easily imagine was haunted. Since my story follows characters looking for truth in the wrong places, it was the perfect inspirational setting. I’d take any excuse to drive past it, craning my neck to soak in the details. I thought it was vacant, so imagine my surprise one night on my way home when I noticed the lights on inside. I had no problem dreaming up a ghost for the place, but was shocked that someone actually lived there.

The kicker came after my book released, when my inspiration house went up for sale. Friends encouraged me to call for a showing, but I didn’t think it was right to take the listing agent’s time to satisfy my curiosity. That didn’t stop me from perusing every single one of the thirty-eight pictures they posted online, however. I like my version of the interior better, although if I had large piles of money to get rid of, I can’t say I wouldn’t consider it . . .

Brandy Heineman writes dual timeline novels from a Christian world view. Her passion for genealogy occasional inspires hare-brained schemes like a five-county research trip in a rented Mustang, but she usually sticks to sharing vignettes and research tidbits on her blog. Her debut novel, Whispers in the Branches, was a 2014 ACFW Genesis finalist and released the following year from Elk Lake Publishing. She currently serves as the Vice President of the ACFW North Georgia chapter, and she is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency.

Brandy and her husband, Michael, reside in the metro Atlanta area with their two demanding yet hilarious kitties. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at brandyheineman.com.

Brandy is giving away an e-copy of the book. Follow the directions below to enter.

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Thanks for visiting us, Brandy! It’s been great to have you!

February 24, 2017
by liztolsma@gmail.com
10 Comments

The Story behind Door to Freedom by Jana Kelley

This is one of the best sounding books I’ve heard about in a long time, and I’m excited to have the author, Jana Kelley, stop by this week and tell us a little more about her new release, Door to Freedom. First, let’s get acquainted with the book.

“It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s a masterpiece. It’s us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.”

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister’s sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom—the freedom that only comes when you trust God’s sovereignty more than man-made security.

Part of New Hope® Publishers’ line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader’s eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors.

Wow, how very interesting and timely, Jana. Can you share with us what led you to write it?

Most of my life has been lived outside of the United States even though I am from Montana by birth and Texas by driver’s license. I love cross-cultural living and I love learning about other cultures. So you write about what you love, right?

My first novel about Sudan was Side by Side. When I finally finished it, I told myself that was difficult and I would never do that again! Of course, by the time it released, I realized that I had enough ideas to write a second and maybe even a third book. Readers and friends asked me what the rest of the story was, and I began to ask myself the same thing. It wasn’t long before I began writing the sequel.

Like the first novel, Door to Freedom is written about a time and place in my life that is very dear to me. My family lived in North Africa and the Middle East for over 13 years and during that time, the people from those countries, wove themselves into my heart. So when I wrote the characters and scenes from Door to Freedom, I was writing from actual memories more than imagination.

Just like anywhere else in the world, the people of Sudan are searching. Like the characters in the book, some look for secular answers (Maysoon), some look for Truth (Rania), and some try to combine both worlds (Jamal).

I tried to write a realistic character when I wrote Mia. She is an American Christian, trying to thrive in a Muslim country. That’s the story of my life. I wrote her character pretty raw and often not very lovely. Her struggles are real struggles that either I had, or my friends had.

I really enjoyed writing Door to Freedom. Because it is fiction, I had a lot of freedom to combine personalities or events in order to have themes and story-lines that made sense. Because it is realistic, I felt a bit like I was putting together a scrapbook of scenes which was great fun!

Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After thirteen years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys, moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Jana has authored two novels and two devotional books. You can learn more about Jana at www.JanaKelley.com.

Jana is giving away a copy of the novel. Follow the simple directions below to enter.

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

February 21, 2017
by liztolsma@gmail.com
3 Comments

The Story behind Restoring Love by Jennifer Slattery

I’m pleased to welcome Jennifer Slattery to the blog this week. She has a new release, Restoring Love, and is excited to share with us how the character of Bianca came to be. First, a here’s a sneak peek at what the book is about.

Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. She’s almost his worst nightmare, and she s also working on restoring something herself. As he struggles to keep his business afloat and she works to overcome mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends soon discover they have something unexpected in common, a young mom who is fighting to give her children a better life after her husband’s incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back or unite them and bring redemption along with true love?

Wow, love the premise, Jennifer. Can you share the story behind this story?

Some characters develop slowly. Maybe I’ll catch a glimpse of their career or whom they spend most of their time with. Sometimes, as is the case with Bianca, real women and their struggles merge to create an individual that so completely captures my imagination, I have no choice but to share their story.

I caught a glimpse of Bianca years ago, when I spent time working in a church daycare. She managed one of the preschool classrooms and was also a single mom of three—one older elementary boy who seemed to always be angry and two little ones who seemed to always be sick. As I watched, I soon realized the incredible struggle this poor woman was facing. She loved her kids fiercely. That was obvious, and in an effort to provide for them, she arrived early and stayed late … earning minimum wage.

I’m not sure if she received any kind of assistance, but I do know she lived in poverty.

I have no doubt she went home every night exhausted and frazzled, only to find her day was far from over. Parenting is crazy hard. Single parenting is even harder. Single parenting while living in poverty?

I can’t imagine.

Though I haven’t seen Tina* in over a decade, I’ve thought of her often—when my family and I sit to dinner and begin Bible devotions, or when my husband and I walk hand-in-hand while discussing a parenting issue, or when we pray for our daughter and her future, drawing strength and assurance from one another and Christ. And I’ve often wondered how hard it would be, how insecure I would be as a parent, if I didn’t have my husband to bounce ideas off of or gain perspective from.

The more I wondered, the more my writer’s brain was triggered until Bianca took form. She, like Tina, is doing all she can to provide for her kids and help them find a better life. But with a husband in prison, mounting bills, and all the hours she spends working for minimum wage, she feels as if she’s always trudging up hill with leaded weights attached to her ankles.

And yet, she’s not alone. I don’t believe any of us ever are. God reaches out to us, through a friend, a coworker, a neighbor, or perhaps the kindness and generosity of a stranger. If only we could look above our mess and all the chaos, I’m certain we’d see His hand.

This was the beautiful truth I wanted to capture in Restoring Love. The story is about three unlikely characters, each fighting to overcome a lifetime of regrets. But more than that, Restoring Love is about the God who loves us with an unyielding love and is, at this moment, fighting on our behalf. Ultimately, this story is about the God who gives us the power to rise above.

Let’s talk about this! When has God reached out to you through someone else? Or, when has God asked you tor each out to somebody? Share your stories and examples in the comments below, because we can all encourage one another!

*Name changed for privacy sake

Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team put on events at partnering churches designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. She writes devotions for Internet Café Devotions, Christian living articles for Crosswalk.com, and edits for Firefy, a Southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte

Buy it on:

Christian Book Distributors

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Connect with Jennifer

Twitter: @Jenslattery

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jenslatte/

Thanks for sharing with us. What an incredible story. 

February 14, 2017
by liztolsma@gmail.com
10 Comments

The Story behind The Amish Wanderer by Laura Hilton

I’m excited to welcome Laura Hilton to the blog today. We’ve gotten to know each other over the years, and we’ll be in a Barbour collection, Second Chance Brides, in August. She’s been a guest before, but she’s back with a new book, The Amish Wanderer. Here’s a little bit about the story.

Bethany Weiss has been fascinated by Silas Beiler since he spent a couple of years in Jamesport, Missouri, before he and his family moved to another Amish community. They hadn’t kept in touch, but she hasn’t forgotten the friendly young man who brought her lemonade and took her home once from a Singing years ago. When she finds a man sleeping in her family’s barn, like Jesus sleeping in the hay, she is stunned to recognize Silas. He’s left the Amish and is backpacking across the country. She talks him into staying, at least until after Christmas.

Silas’ family has never been happy living in one area for long, and their vagabond ways are wearing on him. He’s lived in Amish communities all over the nation, moving whenever his daed became disgruntled with the leaders, and he’s looking for some sense of stability. His intentions are to make it back to Pennsylvania and stay with his Englisch onkle and his family—and pursue an education. Will Bethany be the one to bring Silas in from the cold? Or will he continue on his way to his extended family and become Englisch?

Laura is giving away a copy of the book, so once you’ve read what inspired it, finish scrolling down to find the directions to enter.

So, Laura, what brought you to write this book?

I didn’t intentionally set out to write an Amish story loosely based on a true story. If fact, when people asked me if I would write my maternal grandparents’ story, I told them no.

But when time came to write Bethany’s story, all I knew was a short paragraph blurb about it. Bethany and her once-upon-a-time boyfriend Silas who left that particular Amish district and her before their relationship became serious. I didn’t know their backstories, really, and had no idea how the story would proceed. And since I don’t plot, I spend a lot of time praying about the story, because really, I want to write what He says to write. He knows who He wants it to reach.

So I sat down to pray about it. And God gave me a verse. Which is unusual at the beginning of the story. Usually, for me, it’s at the middle when God reveals His theme for the book. But this time, it was at the beginning. The verse is:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (KJV)

And the verses caused more prayer. What am I supposed to do with it?

I was driving to Melbourne (Arkansas, not Australia) to pay property taxes and get my vehicle tags renewed, listening to the radio as we (my three daughters and I) drove down Larkin Road (that’s not the real name, just what everyone calls it—we have a lot of those around here: Day Road, Moko Road, etc—because there are ghost towns on these roads so they are called by the name of the ghost town). A song came on the radio and I don’t remember the name of it, or even who the singer was, but when I arrived in Melbourne, I had the opening line to my story.

The sky is falling and I’m searching for somewhere to hide.

I’m sure the people at the county clerk’s office might have been a little concerned about the state of my mental health when they saw the words scribbled at the top of my bill. I did get a strange look. I didn’t offer an explanation. And they didn’t ask.

When I got home, I started writing and paying close attention to Bethany’s mental clues (and Silas’s) to figure out what their stories were. And how they tied into the verse God had given me.

And then, without even realizing it until it hit, I knew who’s story I was writing.

My grandmother’s. My grandfather’s.

Except they are different. My grandmother wasn’t date raped. It was a member of her own family. And she wasn’t in love with my grandfather. She just discovered he was leaving the Amish and she wanted—needed—to escape.

Neither were Christians at the time. My grandfather was saved on his death bed. My grandmother’s youngest child was a teenager when she was saved. My mother, her sister, and all their girlfriends went to a tent meeting for a United Brethren Church and my grandmother attended one of the meetings with her daughters and was saved as a result. And their testimonies ultimately led to the salvation of my uncle and my grandfather.

Both of my grandparents had a lot of issues to work through as to why God allowed the bad things in their lives to happen. That they eventually came to Christ is a miracle but I’m glad they did, as I was raised in a Christian home.

Why does God allow bad things to happen to people? The short, pat answer is: because sin entered the world. Yes, God could stop them. But what if He uses the bad thing to refine a person’s faith, to draw them closer to Him as a result?

How a person reacts to the bad things directly ties in to how they affect them. In my story, Silas chose to trust God even though he feared for his life. No, he didn’t like what had happened, but even though he didn’t see how, he trusted God was working behind the scenes to bring Silas to where he needed to be, spiritually and physically. On the other hand, Bethany believed God had rejected her. Pushed her away and didn’t care about her. If He didn’t care for her, why should she care about Him? So she went into a stand-off with God.

The lessons ultimately learned, for both my grandparents and my characters, brought them to their knees before the living and holy God who was, and is, and is to come. And I trust God will use this story to help a reader out there who might be questioning something terrible that happened in their life.

You might not see how now and may not know why until eternity, but God has this. Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep believing.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (KJV)

Wow, Laura, what an amazing story your family has. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.

Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye and currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.

When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas.

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

  Follow the directions below to enter to win a copy of the book.

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Thanks again for joining us, Laura. It’s always great to have you.

February 7, 2017
by liztolsma@gmail.com
9 Comments

The Story behind Romancing the Widow by Davalynn Spencer

Davalynn Spencer is our guest this week. She’s stopping by to share the story behind her book Romancing the Widow. Here’s a teaser:

The light went out of Martha’s soul when her husband fell to a bullet in St. Louis. Now, back in her hometown of Cañon City, she’s convinced she’ll never know happiness again. Until she crosses paths with a darkly mysterious Colorado Ranger.

Haskell Jacobs has a mission. And the beautiful, flame-haired widow sure isn’t it. But Martha is somehow mixed up in the crime that brought Haskell to the rough-and-tumble town…and soon, she’s entangled in the lawman’s heart. But the danger that lurks around them is all too real. Can they find strength and love in each other before it’s too late?

Davalynn, share with us a little bit about how the story came to be.

Authors are always on the lookout for memorable character names. Baby-name books are a common resource, as well as census records.

So are families and obituaries.

I combined these last two sources for the hero’s name in my *award-winning novel, Romancing the Widow.

Haskell Tillman Jacobs is a Colorado Ranger hunting a notorious horse thief in 1888.

He’s also a combination of my maternal grandfather and the brother of a deceased friend.

Romancing the Widow is the third in what I refer to as my Cañon City series. I based all three historical novels in Cañon City, Colorado, and included many actual historical details in the stories.

The Widow is set at the height of the famous Bone Wars during which two universities vied for possession of the many dinosaur fossils recovered in Cañon City’s Garden Park area.

For the first book in the series, The Cowboy Takes a Wife, I also mined family names and found the perfect match for a prickly minor character. However, the name belonged to my mother-in-law who is not far enough removed, historically speaking, and bears no resemblance to the less-than-affectionate character.

For the sake of peace in the real world, I relinquished the name and chose another beginning with the same letter.

Some people are pleased when their names appear in a novel, others not so much. It depends upon the character bearing their, uh, likeness.

I’ve found it much safer to search through records at least two generations removed when it comes to borrowing family-member names. Especially when writing not-so-nice characters!

*Romancing the Widow won the 2015 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction.

Bio: When the handsome, dark-eyed cowboy sauntered into my life, the gate to adventure swung wide. And what a ride! Yes, I married him. As the wife of a rodeo clown and bullfighter, I got a front-seat view on a fast-paced life and great opportunities to write for national rodeo markets and win awards in the process. Today I’m living my dream as a novelist and living for real on Colorado’s Front Range with our Queensland heeler, Blue, and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. I hope you’ll join me in the inspirational Western romance world for stories about rugged cowboys, their challenges, and their loves.

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http://www.davalynnspencer.com

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Davalynn is giving away an ebook copy of Romancing the Widow. Follow the directions below to enter.

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

January 25, 2017
by liztolsma@gmail.com
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The Story behind Garden Grown Romance by Valerie Comer

Please welcome Valerie Comer to the blog this week. She’s sharing with us a little bit about her story Garden Grown Romance in the collection Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley. Here’s a little more about the series:

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley is the gateway to a shared world where you will find:

Spring’s Blessing (Seasons of Faith series) by Mary Jane Hathaway
A librarian’s desire for a simple garden is complicated when a large white rabbit, a motherless child, and a mysterious neighbor encroach on her carefully laid plans.

Loaves and Wishes (A Baxter Family Bakery Romance series) by Elizabeth Maddrey
Inheriting her friend’s Bed and Breakfast in Idaho is a second chance to succeed, but falling for the farmer next door wasn’t in the plan.

Sheltered Hearts (Romance from the Heart series) by Lee Tobin McClain
A curvy jilted bride gets stranded in a snowstorm with a handsome restaurant cook who’s not what he seems to be.

Sow in Love (A Garden Grown Romance series) by Valerie Comer
A real estate consultant charged with repurposing two abandoned greenhouses bumps heads — and hearts — with a garden center owner.

The Scent of Romance (Legacy of the Heart series) by Danica Favorite

A high-powered lawyer must convince a woman determined to protect her family’s legacy to sell the family farm, but finds his heart softening.

A Romance Rekindled (A Homegrown Love Story series) by Annalisa Daughety
After more than a decade apart, a formerly engaged couple is thrown together again with the future of the Arcadia Valley Farmers Market at stake.

Valerie, could you please share what spurred you and the other authors to write this series?

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away… okay, maybe that’s the wrong intro! This story does start well over a year ago, though, when an author friend and I began a ‘what if’ discussion. You know that question, right? It’s the foundation of every novel ever written. ‘What if’ there was a character like this? ‘What if’ this happened to them? ‘What if…?’

Our question ran like this: ‘What if’ several authors — six, for instance — got together to write Christian contemporary romance in a shared world? ‘What if’ they shared common themes and characters? ‘What if’ they each wrote a novella AND a three-book series, and bundled those novellas together, and overlapped their characters, and marketed together? What would happen then?

We liked it! We ran with it. We invited four other authors who also are into real food in their personal lives, and spent a long time brainstorming ideas, choosing a setting, and figuring out the logistics of how the project would work.

The result? Arcadia Valley Romance! (http://arcadiavalleyromance.com)

We’ve just kicked off with Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley. http://valeriecomer.com/books/romance-grows-arcadia-valley/  It looks like a same-old box set on the outside (except for the paperback!) but on the inside, it is the gateway to Arcadia Valley, where faith, family, a foodie culture, and romance — definitely romance! — grow hand-in-hand.

The Arcadia Valley Romance authors  are on schedule to release one novel every single month through July, 2018, until each author has completed a three-book series. While all are set in Arcadia Valley (a fictional town near Twin Falls, Idaho) with foodie themes, each author chose her own focus within that. You’ll find stories set around a bakery, a community garden, a farm-to-table restaurant, a farmers market, and more. The sense of community is palpable!

My own contribution is the Garden Grown Romance series set in Arcadia Valley, starting with the premise of an old pair of greenhouses donated to a local church through a living trust. How will they make use of the opportunity? In the novella ‘Sow in Love’ (part of Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley), a real estate consultant charged with repurposing two abandoned greenhouses bumps heads — and hearts — with a garden center owner. The three novels that follow all carry through with linked characters making these dreams come true.

Won’t you join us in Arcadia Valley? We invite you through the gateway and into our shared realm. Come on in, pour yourself a cup of tea, and curl up by the fireplace. Be welcome here.

Sounds wonderful! Thanks for joining us.

Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She is known for writing engaging characters, strong communities, and deep faith laced with humor into her green clean romances. Visit her at ValerieComer.com.

Valerie is giving away an ebook copy of her story to anyone anywhere in the world! How great is that. Follow the directions below to enter.

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January 17, 2017
by liztolsma@gmail.com
12 Comments

The Story behind The Mark of the King

It is my pleasure to welcome Jocelyn Green to the blog this week, with her new release The Mark of the King. As way of introduction, here’s a little bit about the book:

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

Wow, what a unique time period and premise. What led you to write the book?
There are many excellent books set in the British colonies, but the French colony of Louisiana seems to be much lesser known. When I learned about the years of forced immigration, whereby Paris cleaned out its prisons to populate a floundering wilderness, it was just too rife with story potential to ignore. It’s a story of incredible hardship and courage, fear and hope, judgment and redemption. It also offered an opportunity to unlock a slice of American history most of us know little about, which appeals to me a great deal.

What was it like trying to research Louisiana during that era?
Hard! J My previous series was set during the Civil War, and there is a ton of material out there which helped with my research. But The Mark of the King was set more than a century earlier than the Civil War, and the people who lived in Louisiana at that time did not speak English. It was primarily French or native American languages. So when it came to diving into primary sources, I had to rely on those that had already been translated into English. There are a number of those, thankfully. But I also went down to New Orleans to an archives center that contains a lot of French sources. I knew enough to know which chapters I wanted to take home with me, so I made copies and brought them back to my French sister-in-law, who translated for me. That was a huge help!

You mention the king’s mark on the heroine’s shoulder. Could you explain what that is? Was something like that really used then?
The mark of the king was the fleur-de-lys symbol of the French monarchy that was branded on certain criminals during the time the novel takes place, to permanently mark them with judgment. In the novel, this mark plays a big role. But there is a spiritual layer to the phrase, as well. As believers, we serve a higher King than any authority here on earth. Our lives are marked by His grace, no matter how scarred we may have been by judgment from others—whether that judgment was deserved or not. God’s grace covers all of it. Grace covers all of us.

Which is harder when writing historical fiction – the research or the actual writing of the book?
It depends on the era. For my Civil War books, the research was easy, the writing comparatively harder. For The Mark of the King, it was the opposite. The research posed some challenges, so the actual writing was easier by comparison.

What else do you have in the works?
My next fiction release is a novella collection from Barbour releasing in March! The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection was written by five of us, including Joanne Bischof, Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang and myself.

Yay! Always love having something to look forward to.

Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including Wedded to War, a Christy Award finalist in 2013, and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. Jocelyn lives with her husband and two children in Iowa. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.

Jocelyn is giving away a copy of her book. Follow the easy steps below to enter.
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Thanks for being with us, Jocelyn!

January 10, 2017
by liztolsma@gmail.com
5 Comments

The Story behind Second Chance Love by Pamela Meyers

Happy new year, everyone! Hope it’s off to a great start. I’m pleased to welcome Pamela Meyers to the blog this week. We have known each other for a long time, so it’s great to have her come and share what inspired the book that’s set to release in two weeks.

Here’s a little bit about Second Chance Love.

Chicago lawyer Sydney Knight and Texas bull rider Jace McGowan have nothing in common but everything to lose when they are thrust together during a weekend rodeo in rural Illinois. Neither one of them would have imagined two years ago that the deep attraction they sensed during a day-long outing would resurface when Sydney’s boss assigns her to Jace’s legal case.

Sydney has been through a world of hurt since losing her dad when she was sixteen, then being dumped the morning of her wedding. She’s sworn off romance and instead devotes her time toward a partnership in her father’s law office.

Jace has found faith in God and wants out of his sponsor contract with a risqué restaurant chain that requires him to pose with scantily-clad women. He’s about to bail on the contract and pay steep penalties something he can ill afford, given that his deceased father left the family with unpaid taxes.

Sydney is determined she’ll get Jace out of his contract and return to Chicago with her heart intact, but Jace is just as determined to help her see they’re meant to be together. Can a city girl with roots deep in Chicago and a bull-riding rancher with roots deep in Texas give themselves a second chance at love?

What inspired you to write the story, Pam?

I’ve loved everything cowboy since I was a child, and dreamed of living where I could have a horse. But, unfortunately, that wasn’t a dream my parents shared, and as I grew into adulthood, I moved on to other interests. I used to think that all rodeos happened in the west, but about a dozen years ago learned I was mistaken. There are a lot of rodeos going on in my home state of Wisconsin and all around the Midwest during the warmer months.

The Pioneer City Rodeo, where Second Chance Love is set, is a real event that happens every Labor Day weekend. A friend and I attend the rodeo every year. Like in my story, there are rodeos on three consecutive evenings, and we attend all three. Located in the tiny village of Palestine, a southern Illinois town nestled along the Wabash River, the rodeo offers a wonderful getaway to cap off the summer. We meet a lot of the locals sitting around us in the stands and on Main Street during the street fair. Although some of the retail establishments in my story are from my imagination, many are real, including the Back Porch Smokehouse and the Wabash Coffee House, located a short distance upriver from Palestine.

When I decided to write a story set at the Pioneer City Rodeo, it was a natural to make my hero, Jace McGowan, a bull rider, since that’s one of my favorite events. My heroine, Sydney Knight, is a born and bred Chicagoan and can no more picture herself living on Jace’s Texas ranch than he can see himself hanging up his bull rope and living in a Chicago apartment building.  Little do they know how much they really do have in common, but will it be enough to bring them together? I hope you’ll read my story to find out.

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love and her historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Her novella. What Lies Ahead, is part of a novella collection, The Bucket List Dare, which is now available at Amazon in both print and Kindle formats. Second Chance Love from Bling!, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, releases in January 2017. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.

Website: www.pammeyerswrites.com

Blog:  www.pamelasuemeyers.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pamela.meyers

www.facebook.com/PamelaSMeyersAuthor/

Twitter:  pamelameyers

Pam is giving away a copy of her book (available after January 24). To enter, follow the instructions below.

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Thans for joining us, Pam! Sounds like a great read!

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