Author * Speaker * Editor

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

February 5, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
2 Comments

The Story behind Patriot Heart by Diane Kalas

I’m pleased to welcome Diane Kalas this week. She has a fascinating story behind her book, Patriot Heart,  and is giving away a copy. Read her post and scroll down to find out how to enter.

Welcome, Diane. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book?

“Back in 1990-91, a US military operation called Desert Storm took place in the Middle East. Not long afterward, the veterans involved returned home with invisible scars that later became known as PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. The heartbreaking stories about the men and women who couldn’t keep jobs or relationships soon became a regular feature on the nightly news. The shocking numbers of veteran suicides have increased over the years.Patriot Heart cover

I write historical fiction and wanted to know how Civil War veterans who suffered with the same symptoms of PTSD were treated. Nineteenth century doctors diagnosed those afflicted with the condition as soldier’s fatigue. They offered bed rest in a soldier’s convalescent home, or recommended a discharge and a train ticket home. Often, the soldier had a note pinned to his uniform, giving his name and destination, because he was incapable of communicating. Let the veteran’s family deal with the troubled man. If the family couldn’t handle their loved one, suffering acute mania, for instance, then the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C. (St. Elizabeth’s) was the destination. Two cemeteries on the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s hold hundreds of Civil War soldier’s remains today.

As my story idea came together, I especially wanted to write my hero, Dan Goodman, as a strong Christian and show how he dealt with the horrors of Andersonville Prison for Union soldiers. Perhaps a 21st century veteran’s spouse, mother, sister, or girlfriend will read Patriot Heart and see there is hope for their loved one. Hope for the future in God, the Father, and salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son.”

Thank you so much for sharing, Diane. What a wonderful testimony this book is sure to be.

Diane_Kalas_031613Diane collects antique books written by men and women who lived through the American Civil War, and/or who pioneered out west. With a degree in interior design, she enjoys touring historical sites, especially Federal-era homes with period furniture. Diane is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Published writers Pamela Griffin and Gina Welborn have been critique partners and mentors. Diane’s biggest challenge is writing inspirational historical romance. Her biggest distraction is her fascination with historical research.

You can connect with Diane through any of these means:
www.facebook.com/dianekalasauthor
www.forgetmenotromances.com/authors/dianekalas
http://dianekalas.blogspot.com
http://pinterest.com/dianedreams
http://twitter.com/dianekalas

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December 18, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
8 Comments

The Story behind Jacob’s Christmas Dream by Darlene Franklin

To get us in the Christmas spirit, Darlene Franklin visits us today and shares the story behind her book, Jacob’s Christmas Dream. And, if you scroll down to the end, you’ll find a chance to enter to win her other book, Christmas Mail Order Angels Volume 1. You’ll get six fun Christmas stories in one!

jacob's dreamTell the readers a little bit about the story.

Becky Patterson escapes the stifling life at her father’s parsonage for an exciting life as a mail-order bride, only to learn her potential groom is a part-time preacher, Jake Underwood. Her dreams of working alongside Jake in his store stall when an itinerant preacher wants to ordain Jake as pastor of the growing church. Will Becky accept God’s calling on her life—or will she reject Jake’s love and the future God has planned for them?

Why did you choose to write a book set after the Black Hills gold rush?

I had decided a gold rush was the perfect setting for a mail order bride story. Who needed a bride more than men newly rich (or still poor) after trolling for gold? The Black Hills had the setting and time period I preferred: Wyoming in the 1870s. After the gold rush because I wanted to avoid a lot of research about mining, but instead look at what happened to the many ghost towns and the miners, those who won big and those who didn’t find anything.

How does the story of Abraham sending Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac play into your story?

My hero Jake’s father had made him promise to seek a bride from their home town of Merville, Maine—just as Abraham sent Eliezer back to Ur to find for Isaac.

So when the men of Angel Vale decided to seek mail order brides, they contacted the Ladies Aide Society of Seaside Community Church in Merville. Merville is short on men, due to the Civil War and deaths at sea, as Angel Vale is short on women. God made a great matchmaker between the two towns.

Late in the story we learn of a further connection between Jake and Merville which adds an extra dollop of sugar to the romance.

Oh, that sounds like fun! What themes do you hope resonate with the readers?

Do they get tired of the same old everyday life and hope to get away? That’s how Becky, the heroine, feels about her life in her father’s parsonage. When she arrives in Angel Vale and finds out her groom is a part-time preacher, she feels like God played a mean trick on her. Working through her will vs. God’s will—don’t we all struggle with that from time to time?

Why do mail-order bride stories continue to enjoy such popularity?

I’m not sure, although I loved seeing the variety of stories our group of eleven authors came up with. Perhaps because we get to live the adventure vicariously. Why do so many people use online dating sites to meet a potential mate? Here we can exchange pictures and daily (or more often) messages. Back then, letters took days and weeks to cross the country. They couldn’t know if a person was telling the truth or not. But for women looking for a way to escape, to enjoy an adventure—to have a family! For men in women-starved parts of the country. It took courage and faith in hopes of finding love to take the risk.

FINAL MOA vol 1Thanks for joining us, Darlene! It was great having you. I, for one, am looking forward to checking out this great Christmas read. Enter below to win a copy of  Christmas Mail-Order Angels.
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Darlene FranklinBest-selling author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. She lives in Oklahoma, near her son and his family, and continues her interests in playing the piano and singing, books, good fellowship, and reality TV in addition to writing. She is an active member of Oklahoma City Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Christian Authors Network. She has written over fifty books and more than 250 devotionals. Her historical fiction ranges from the Revolutionary War to World War II, from Texas to Vermont.

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December 11, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
1 Comment

The Story behind Love Stays True by Martha Rogers

Author Martha Rogers shares with us the truly fascinating story behind her book Love Stays True. She has quite the interesting family background. To help us get in the holiday spirit, she’s giving away a copy of her book Christmas at Holly Hill. Read the post, and when you get to the bottom, you’ll see instructions on how to enter.

Thanks for joining us, Martha. Tell us a little bit about how the book Love Stays True came to be.

A numberLoveStaysTrue_sm of years ago, my father gave me a packet of letters belonging to my great-grandmother Sarah Louise Dyer Whiteman. Those letters sparked my interest in genealogy and led to this story. In my family research I found wills, marriage licenses, baptismal records, death records, and books with information about the Whiteman and Dyer family line. Other information about them came from my grandfather and great-aunt Alice’s memories of their parents and from parts of a journal from that time. Although this story is loosely based on the love story of Sarah Louise Dyer and Manfred MacDaniel Whiteman, many incidents taken from letters and notes from journals have been expanded and fictionalized to complete the story. Real names have been used for many of the characters.

Sally Dyer and Manfred Whiteman met in St. Francisville, Louisiana, when she visited her grandparents there. I am not sure of their ages at the time, but I do know it was before the war, and that Manfred had shown affection for Sally just prior to his leaving to join the Confederate Army in 1861. In a letter, Manfred mentions seeing her before he left to rejoin his regiment in the summer of 1864. I used an excerpt of that letter in the story as the one he sends to Sally to declare his love for her. The wedding ring Manfred had made from a twenty-dollar gold piece is still in the family. It was passed down to their youngest son, Thomas Dyer, and has been used in several wedding ceremonies of family members since then.

Manfred’s father, John Whiteman, owned a shipping company at Bayou Sara on the Mississippi River down the hill from St. Francisville, Louisiana. I’ve been down to the river which now covers the old settlement of Bayou Sara and found a map of the former town and the location of the company. Both black and white men helped load the ships coming into the port at Bayou Sara, but none of the documents showed any slaves being owned by the shipping company.

Manfred came from a family of five boys. His brother Henry came home from the POW camp with snow-white hair and died a little over a year later. His story has been passed down through the generations. Although Manfred moved to Texas, his remaining three brothers stayed in the St. Francisville area, married, and had families. Most of them are buried at Grace Church in St. Francisville.

Sally’s father, Thomas Dyer, was a cotton merchant in Woodville, Mississippi, about twenty-five miles north of St. Francisville. As a businessman, Thomas Dyer used hired hands to handle the cotton sales. I found one of his letters to Sally when she went to finishing school in New Orleans before the war; it reveals that he regarded women with high esteem and he wished her well in her endeavors to become whatever she chose in life. Sally’s maternal grandfather was known as Judge Woodruff, so I assumed he must have been a lawyer. None of Sally’s family owned slaves at the time of the war. Sally’s grandmother, Mary Woodruff, had two housekeepers, and from their ages I assumed they were sisters, but I made them mother and daughter in the story and put them in Sally’s household.

In this story, I have included real towns and actual events from the war, such as the attacks on Grace Episcopal Church during the battle of Port Hudson in 1863; the day the war stopped for a Masonic burial at that church on June 12, 1863; Susan Allen putting out fires to save the covered bridge in Marion, Virginia, in December 1864; and the deplorable conditions at the prisoner of war camp in Point Lookout, Maryland.

Manfred returned to St. Francisville from Point Lookout with his brother Edwin in June of 1865 and married Sally that same June. He became a doctor and stayed in Louisiana until 1880, when he moved to Texas with his family to practice medicine in Victoria, Texas. That move became a part of the tree that formed the future and led to my being a fifth-generation Texan after my grandfather Tom married a young woman whose parents and grandparents were Texans. What I’ve learned about them and the Texas Revolution may well lead to another series.

Thank you, Martha. We’d love to see a series about the Texas Revolution!

Martha_website_smMartha Rogers is a freelance author of both fiction and non-fiction and a speaker. Her stories and articles have appeared in a number of compilations and magazines. Her first fiction novella released in 2007.

Her experiences as a public school teacher, Sunday school teacher, youth leader, First Place leader, Mom and Grandmother give Martha a unique field of ministry.

 

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December 4, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
18 Comments

The Story behind The Color of Sorrow Isn’t Blue by Sharon Souza

Today, I’m pleased to welcome Sharon Souza to the Story behind the Story. She shares with us the very moving motivation behind her novel The Color of Sorrow Isn’t Blue.

Welcome, Sharon. Tell us what brought you to write this novel.

In 2009, Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00075]having finished my novel Unraveled, I was ready to begin work on a new manuscript and as I considered what that project might be, a question came to my mind: What happens when God says no? Having lost my son, Brian, in 2007, I knew there were times when God did, in fact, answer our prayers in ways so contrary to our hopes and our understanding.

When that question came to mind, I was instantly reminded about a tragic event that had taken place in our community several years before. It was a story that eventually went national. A young woman named Cyndi Vanderheiden, age 25, vanished on the night of November 14, 1998, from Linden, California, a rural community just a few miles from where my family and I lived in Lodi, California. Cyndi’s disappearance became very personal to our community, and to me in particular, because I knew her mother, who was, and still is, a teller in the bank my husband and I use. Terri and I were not friends in the sense that we socialized together, but we always talked when I went to the bank. I grew to greatly admire Terri for the strength she exhibited throughout this ordeal, which lasted more than a decade for the Vanderhieden family.

For you see, Cyndi disappeared in 1998, and by the time I finished writing The Color of Sorrow Isn’t Blue in 2010, her family still had no idea what specifically had happened to Cyndi. Two men were arrested and ultimately convicted of Cyndi’s murder in 2001, when traces of blood found in their car matched Cyndi’s DNA. They were convicted of three other murders as well, and it is believed they were responsible for up to ten murders. It wasn’t until 2012, however, some two years after I finished writing my novel and 14 years after Cyndi’s disappearance that her remains were found, along with the remains of several other victims of these two men.

So throughout the writing of the book, the question, what happens when God says no, is what guided me. No to the discovery of a missing daughter; no to the explanation of why my son died. The Color of Sorrow Isn’t Blue is a story about the disappearance of four-year-old McKinsey Taylor and the impact it has on her parents. It is not Cyndi’s story, and it is not Brian’s story. But the idea was birthed from Cyndi’s disappearance, and I drew on my own emotional experience over the loss of my son as I wrote it. It was the most difficult book I’ve ever written, but I’m convinced I’ll never write a better one.

At one time or another, God has said no to all of us. What was it He said no to you about, and how did it affect your relationship with God?

img_3823Sharon K. Souza is the author of inspirational novels for and about women. Her novels deal with difficult subjects that women often face: infertility, infidelity, extreme loss, but always include a healthy dose of humor. And her stories are rich with relationship: best friends, sisters, and the deeply complex relationship between mothers and daughters. She and her husband Rick have been married 44 years. They have three children, one of whom resides in Heaven, and seven wonderful grandchildren.

 

 

Sharon has agreed to give away a copy of The Color of Sorrow Isn’t Blue. Follow the instructions for the Rafflecopter giveaway to enter.
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October 17, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
41 Comments

The Story behind Refuge at Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky

Welcocturansky-2lowme Carrie Turansky to The Story behind the Story. It’s so exciting to have her here. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you’ll love her books. Read the post, and at the end, you’ll have a chance to win a copy of the book if you live in the U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you come up with the idea for this series?

IMG_1359

Early in 2012 I attended the American Library Association Conference in Philadelphia with aut

hor friend, Cathy Gohlke. I spoke to an editor there and asked what she was looking for. She said she’d love to see and Englis

h historical romance series set in the same time period as Downton Abbey. I’d enjoyed watching the first season of Downton, and I especially liked the way the screenwriter gave equal time to developing the storyline of the

wealthy family as well as the loyal servants. I didn’t know much about Edwardian England, but I jumped into the research, and fell in love with the time period. The ideas for the characters and plots rose out of my research and the issues

of the time. The titles of the novels in the Edwardian Brides Series are The Governess of Highland Hall, The Daughter of Highland Hall, and A Refuge at Highland Hall, which releases October 20, 2015.

What kind of research was required for the book?

I love research. That’s how I usually find the characters and events in my stories. I took two trips to England to research this series and spent hours reading books about the time period, customs, and issues in Edwardian England. I wanted to understand life “below stairs” as well as life “upstairs” lived by the aristocratic class. I watched several documentaries that were helpful, and I read a biography about a brave young British pilot that was a wonderful inspiration for the hero. I also took an online course about World War One aviation to help me write the hero’s scenes.

www.randomhouse.com

Why did you choose to focus on both the male and female protagonists?

 Most of my readers are wom

en, so I gave the heroine a few more scenes than the hero, but in this book the hero, Alex Goodwin, has several key scenes showing his role as a pilot chasing German Zeppelins across the front lines in France and Belgium. Those are quite exciting scenes that are inspired by real events, so I think male and female readers will enjoy those. I also try to balance the number of scenes given to the staff with those of the family so readers have a view into both sides of life.

 

 

Can you tell us about your research trip to England?IMG_0838

My husband and I visited England in 2012 and focused our time in Oxfordshire, the Peak District and the Cotswolds. Our tour of Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is set was the highlight of that trip for me. I loved seeing all the rooms where Downton is filmed, including the great hall, the library, the upper gallery and bedrooms. The gardens and greenhouse were lovely, and I had those in mind for several of the scenes in The Governess of Highland Hall. But I wanted to find a unique estate and setting for my books. My online research led me to Tyntesfield, a beautiful estate near Bristol in southwest England. It was a perfect choice. Tyntestfield is featured on the cover of A Refuge at Highland Hall and The Governess of Highland Hall, and I used the interior design of this house to help me envision the scenes in my novels.

I was very excited to visit Tyntesfield in May 2014. What a thrill to see all the rooms and take a private tour of the day nursery and the governess’s bedroom! It’s even more beautiful than my online research revealed. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit to Tyntesfield. I have a Pinterest board filled with photos to help me remember everything I saw there.

Press Kit:

Book and Series Title:  A Refuge at Highland Hall, The Edwardian Brides Series, Book 3

Back Cover Copy: The Great Ward shakes the world of a spirited young woman and the brave British pilot she loves, sending her home to Highland Hall and him into the war-torn skies over France. Can their love and faith see them through the heartbreak of war?

Penny Ramsey has always considered Highland Hall her home, but when Britain becomes involved in World War One she travels to London to assist her sister Kate with the eight orphan children Jon and Kate have taken into their home. Doing her part for the war effort takes priority over Penny’s dreams of romance until she meets Alex Goodwin, a Royal Naval Air Service pilot in training.

Alex is determined to prove his worth and do his part to defend his country. Knowing he is heading off for the dangerous assignment of chasing Zeppelins across the front line in France, he feels it’s unwise to form any romantic attachments. But he can’t help admiring the pretty, warmhearted Penny and wondering what it would be like to find her waiting when he returns home from the war.

Penny writes to Alex, their friendship blossoms, and she becomes his tie to home and normalcy as he faces the hardships war. But being an RNAS pilot means confronting the enemy, and the fallout form those experiences push Alex beyond Penny’s reach. Can God mend the brokenness left by the losses of war? Will faith and forgiveness bring them together again?

Praise for A Refuge at Highland Hall:

“In A Refuge at Highland Hall, master storyteller Carrie Turansky weaves together another beautifully written tale of courage, hope, and love. Her story swept me back to the streets of London and then on to France during the conflict of World War I. I love reading historical fiction, and it was a joy to learn so much about this era through the endearing Ramsey family. A Refuge at Highland Hall is a powerful conclusion to the Edwardian Brides Series!”

Melanie Dobson, award-winning author of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor and Chateau of Secrets

Here’s your chance to win a copy of this wonderful book. Follow the instructions to enter (it’s easy!). Contest runs utnil 12:00 a.m. on October 23.

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Audience: Teen girls through grandmothers, Downton Abbey fans, and those enjoy English historical novels like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.

Genre: Historical Romance

Release Date: October 20, 2015

Author Name: Carrie Turansky

Author Website: http://carrieturansky.com

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorcarrieturansky

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/carrieturansky

Author Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/carrieturansky/

Author Other Social Media: (blog) http://carrieturansky.com/index.php/blog/

 

 

 

 

 

October 7, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
3 Comments

A Faith Journey

For aA Faith Journeys long as I can remember, I wanted to work in the publishing industry. I was in fifth grade when the love of writing took root in my heart.

But God had a different route mapped out for my life. I got a degree in elementary education, taught school for four years, worked for a real estate advertising company for about seven years, and worked as our church secretary for fifteen years. And His plan was good. Perfect. My education background served me well when it came time to homeschool our children and when Jonalyn came into our family with all of her special needs. My job in the advertising business helped finance two adoptions. And working as our church secretary provided me the flexibility I needed at times to care for my family in the best way I could.

My dream never died, though. I started writing, and started getting serious about writing. For a while, my husband and I talked about my leaving my job. It was scary to yank away the safety net we’d depended on for all of those years. We have a daughter on the brink of college!

The writing jobs piled up. I signed a contract for a new novella collection. I have several other projects in the works. All year, I’ve been taking editing classes and am getting a steady stream of clients. The work piled up. Sure, I only went into the office on Fridays, but that meant one less very precious writing day for me.

When it came down to it, we needed to take the proverbial leap of faith. Step off the edge of the cliff and pray that God would catch us.

And He has. The very day I handed in my resignation, there was an email in my box from a prospective client. I got that editing job. Other jobs followed soon after. I’ve completed most of them, so yesterday, my prayer was that the Lord would send me at least one more client. Instead, I got an email from someone asking me to write an article for them. Again, He provided on the very day I asked Him to. (Yes, I’d still like to take on at least one more client, if you’re interested!)

Does He always answer in this way? No. I don’t want to give the false impression that the Lord will give you whatever you want if you ask for it. That’s not the way He operates. He’s not the big Santa in the sky. Sometimes, He says no. He’s said that to me many, many times. Then, I need to learn to lean on Him and trust Him. Sometimes, He says wait. Or He’ll give a different answer to my request than I expect.

That’s the one thing God is – faithful. Dependable. Trustworthy.

That’s the important lesson I’m learning on this faith journey. No matter what, He is always there. I can count on Him. Even when He says no, I can rely on Him to do what is perfectly right for me at that time in my life. There will be times of struggle. There will be times of discouragement. But there will also be times of amazing provision at the perfect moment.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 84:15

How have you seen the Lord provide for you?

September 18, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
9 Comments

The Story behind For Our Good by Paula Mowery

Wow, I can’t believe how fast the summer went. We had a break of a couple of weeks, but now that we’re back to a regular routine, the Story behind the Story feature is back! I’m pleased to welcome Paula Mowery today.

ForOurGood copy (1)

  1. What inspired you to write For Our Good?

The first inspiration was from my father. He had a mysterious man approach him just like Colton and Marshall do in the story. (He turned the man down, just like Marshall does.) Also, being a pastor’s wife, I’ve experienced the heartbreak of discovering that a church member was involved in something completely opposite to what is expected of a Christian. I’ve observed this wrecking not only the person’s testimony but his family as well.

  1. What parts of it are based on real life?

As stated above, the man approaching Colton and Marshall at the airport is based on a real circumstance. Also having someone in the church be involved in illegal drug activity is sadly based on real life as well. There is a character who deals with infertility which is based on my personal experience.

  1. The book deals with drug trafficking. What was the research like on that?

Unfortunately, I didn’t have to do a lot of research due to the fact that much of that was based on real life occurrences. Though we live in what would be considered a small town in East Tennessee, we have seen way too much occur in the drug scene here.

  1. Was it a difficult book to write?

The book was difficult to write when I considered how sad it is that much of it was based on actual happenings. Writing it truly made me consider whether I’m being an authentic Christian. But, I found I enjoyed creating the suspense and especially the spunky character, Charlie. I liked that she turned out not to be the damsel in distress.

  1. Did you find that publishers were gun shy about tackling such a hard subject?

My editor at Prism Book Group accepted the submission instantly. I think that Prism isn’t afraid to tackle the real issues that face people every day. I believe they like the opportunity to be a good influence and encourage readers through the books they put out.

  1. What’s on the horizon for you?

Can you believe it? For Our Good was just to be a stand alone book, but that has changed in the last couple of weeks. I woke up from a dream a few weeks ago and knew that Charlie and Colton would be in another book. I have a few pages of notes and the beginning of the first chapter. I’m glad. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my spunky heroine.

I also have a Christmas story releasing from Prism Book Group as well as a story in their Love Is series which will debut in February.

Sounds like a great read, Paula! Thanks so much for sharing with us.  This sounds like a story so badly needed in this day and age.

Paula is giving away an ebook to one lucky commenter. Follow this link for directions on how you can enter to win!

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paula mowery

 

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

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

As an acquisitions editor for Prism Book Group, Paula particularly looks for romance stories with Christian values at its core. She’s especially attracted to those manuscripts that leave the reader mulling over the story long after turning the last page.

Having been an avid reader of Christian fiction, she now puts that love to use by writing book reviews. She is a member of ACFW and is on the author interview team. She was a member of the 2014 and 2015 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference faculty.

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

You can follow Paula at www.facebook.com/pages/Paula-Mowery/175869562589187. Learn more about Paula at her blog at www.paulamowery.blogspot.com or enjoy her monthly columns on www.christianonlinemagazine.com. You can also check out her blog for Christian writers at www.ccwcu.blogspot.com.

August 15, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
6 Comments

The Story behind To Dance with Dolphins by Bonnie Leon

Please welcome Bonnie Leon today! I’m so thrilled she’s sharing her story. To Dance with Dolphins is definitely on my to-be-read list!

Copy (1) of To Dance With Dolphins coverTwenty-two-year-old Claire Murray has suffered from a mysterious disease for years. Her social circle has shrunk to a small support group for people with chronic illness and disability. But what if life could be about more than doctors, pain, and medications?

Claire and three others—old grouch Tom, hippy-holdout Willow, and moody Taylor—hatch plans for a cross-country trip to swim with the dolphins in Florida. Only a day into the trip, they unexpectedly need help. And who happens to be hitchhiking along the highway but a young, good-looking loner named Sean Sullivan? However, the last thing he wants is to be harnessed to a bunch of ailing travelers.

Though the journey proves difficult, following God’s plan might be even harder. Will they find the courage to follow their dreams and dare to live again?

 

1.To Dance with Dolphins is the story of five people with disabilities – both mental and physical. Why did you want to write such a story?

 Following an auto accident in 1991, I’ve lived with chronic pain and disability. Every day is hard. Hanging onto joy, hoping for better days, and seeking purpose is difficult.

The months that followed my accident were devastating as life as I knew it slipped away. Physicians prescribed pain medication, told me there was nothing that could be done and advised that I adjust to the new me. I never have completely accepted that directive, though a certain amount of acceptance has been necessary.

Through the years I’ve met many others who live with chronic illness, disability or pain. And most live the same struggle I do. I wrote this book mostly for them, to uplift and encourage. To help the disabled to see there is always hope and life is a gift filed with potential no matter where we stand or sit.

I also wrote this for family and friends of those who fight for their life. Sometimes the ones who stand beside us suffer the most.

 2. What led to your own disability?

In 1991 I was driving up a winding country road when a loaded log truck, coming from the opposite direction, barreled around a corner and tipped over in front of me. The logs spilled down an embankment and the trailer hit the front of my van. I was told by a local sheriff that “someone” was watching out for me. He couldn’t see any way that I should have survived the accident.

Without God’s intervention I likely would have perished that day. But God had other plans for me. And although I was left with a number of injuries and spinal damage that has remained through all the years, I’m grateful for my life, and all that God has done with it. However, I admit that on some of the rough days I do long for heaven.

 3. What did God teach you through your struggles?

There have been, and continue to be, more lessons than I can share here, but there is one that stands out. It is that our sovereign God knows best. And even on my worst day, he loves me and has a plan for my life. I can trust him. I don’t need to know the why’s of how I got here or why some days are all about pain. God knows why, and one day I will stand before my heavenly Father in the Kingdom and see clearly what he had in mind all along. It is my hope that I do not fail in what he has called me to do.

 4. Some would say that such a book is too depressing. How would you answer them?

This is a good question. And I can assure readers that this book is not depressing, though a reader may shed a tear or two.

When I set out to write the story I was determined to give a real and honest account of what living with disability is like. We each have our own unique experiences, but share many of the emotional and physical challenges. And one of those challenges is to not soak and sour.

Depression is a real human emotion – disabled or not, we are all familiar with it. It is worsened by things like chronic pain, which hinder the production of good chemicals like endorphins and increases the chemicals that elevate emotions like unhappiness. So, keeping our moods above ground can sometimes be a challenge.

Unique and fun characters are the key to this story. They are real-to-life and present a genuine picture of what it’s like to live with chronic illness or pain. They grieve and they rejoice. And just like all humanity, they sometimes triumph and other times fail.

I crafted my travelers with rough edges and depth of character. And it is my prayer that the challenges they face will help those who suffer find vision and hope for their own lives.

 5. Have any of your other books been based on real-life people or events?

All of my books have some elements of real life, but not necessarily personal experiences. However, true incidents do creep in from time to time.

In one of my Alaskan books, a character becomes entrapped in heavy mud in Cook Inlet. That scene came straight from an experience my brother had. He became mired in the beach mud so badly that he had to wait for the tide to come in before he could free himself with help from his workmates. He very nearly died.

Another book, A Sacred Place, was based on an experience my grandparents had when they were first married. Just as in the book, they had an arranged marriage, which did not sit well with my grandmother in the beginning. And they also spent their first winter stranded on an Aleutian island. I had a lot of fun creating a fictional account of their true-life story.

 6. Was it difficult to write a book that hits so close to home?

To Dance With Dolphins was more difficult to write than I had expected. Many of the topics did hit close to home, and I was forced to take a closer look at my personal life. And I realized I need to make some changes. I’m working on it.

My characters, though they came from my own mind, had a lot to teach me.

One issue that was especially painful had to do with Claire’s sister who suffers from bi-polar disorder. My sister did also. She died young, in a nursing home, from lupus. While she was alive, I never fully understood her bi-polar condition, and I wasn’t as supportive as I could have been. Now, I long to tell her how sorry I am, but it’s not too late. She’s waiting for me in heaven.

In the end, writing the book was a positive experience. I am better for having written it. And it is my prayer that the experiences of Claire, Sean, Tom, Willow, and Taylor will uplift readers.

Bonnie LeonBonnie Leon is the author of more than twenty novels, including the recently released To Dance With Dolphins and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons.

June 11, 1991 a log truck hit the van she was driving, and her world changed. The accident left her unable to work, and after months of rehabilitation she was told by physicians that she would never return to a normal life. Facing a daunting fight to reclaim her life and in search of personal value, she discovered writing. She has been creating stories ever since.

Bonnie is familiar with the challenges of disability beyond her personal experience. Her sister endured the debilitating illnesses of lupus, MS, and Bi-polar disorder. And her daughter is grappling with the chronic progressive disorder of syringomyelia.

Through chronic pain and disability Bonnie found new purpose. She enjoys speaking for women’s groups, teaching at writing seminars, and mentoring young writers. She also administers an online support group for those living with chronic pain and disability and is a participating member of the Syringomyelia and Chiari Network.

She is married to her teen-age sweetheart, the mother of three grown children, and grandmother of eight. Bonnie and her husband Greg live in the mountains of Southern Oregon.

LINKS

Amazon                       http://amzn.to/1SqHoqK

Website                       http://www.bonnieleon.com

Facebook                     https://www.facebook.com/BonnieLeonAuthor?fref=ts

Twitter                        @Bonnie­_Leon

 

 

August 7, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
4 Comments

The Story behind A Hometown Fourth of July by June Foster

Today, June Foster joins us. She shares the story behind her new release, A Hometown Fourth of July. 

Hometown fourth

My book, A Hometown Fourth of July, released July 1, 2012 with Desert Breeze Publishing, but the summer months are always a good time to talk about it. The story has a July 4th theme and is a romance between a young Hispanic man and the beautiful woman he leads to a relationship with God. In the story, the hero searches for his true identity believing if he finds his birth family, he’ll be a whole person. But I’ll let you read the story to find out what happens. Though the story is fictitious, the premise is based on a my husband’s brother. Here’s the story – the real one, that is.

My husband loves to tell a story about his parents when they were childless. His mom and dad were of the Catholic faith, so after they’d been married for eight years with no babies on the way, they decided adoption would be a good route to begin expanding their family. They paid a visit to the Catholic Charities in Birmingham, Alabama. There they found a darling, four year old boy named Marshall and brought him home to be a part of their family.

For reasons known only to God, after two more years, Mrs. Foster found she was pregnant and delivered her first biological son, Mike. After that came my husband Joe, then Pat, then Helen, and finally Steve. Marshall was thrilled with so many brothers and a sister.

The story goes that Mrs. Foster decided that the two older boys, Mike and Joe, needed to learn that their oldest brother was adopted. She called a formal family meeting and made the solemn announcement about how Marshall came to their family. At the end of the meeting, Joe questioned his mother, “Marshall still gets to be our big brother, doesn’t he?”

Even though my husband left for the army after he grew up, he and Marshall remained in touch. When we moved to Lacey, Washington where he lived, Marshall mentioned to Joe he’d be interested in finding his birth family but had no idea how to go about it. Since Joe had a good knowledge of the computer, he offered to help. Alabama, which had been a closed adoption state, opened their records up in the early 2000’s, and Joe was able to find out some information.

Marshall was sorry to hear his birthmother had passed away ten years before but was encouraged to learn he had a sister. Joe couldn’t find a contact number for Marshall’s sister, but located a number for Marshall’s niece, his sister’s daughter. Marshall was too ill-at-ease to make the call so Joe dialed the number while Marshall looked on clasping his hands tightly in front of him.

When a woman’s voice said hello, Joe said he was phoning on behalf of his brother, Marshall Foster, and that Marshall was looking for his sister. Joe asked if he had the right number. My husband thought the woman had hung up as he heard nothing but silence, then a sob carried over the phone. Finally, the woman said she believed he had the correct number. She was Marshall’s niece and said her mother, Marshall’s sister, had been looking for him for years, always hoping to meet her brother. Joe asked if the mother lived in the same town, and again, the niece let out a sob. She said her mother had died two months before. Marshall was devastated, but his niece’s promise to come to Washington to visit him with her other sister the following July, cheered him, and they made plans. But in June, just two days after Marshall’s birthday, he died of cancer, never getting to meet even his nieces.

This sounds like a sad story, but wait. There’s more. During the process of helping Marshall to find his birth family, my husband and I had occasion to tell Marshall about our awesome and powerful God who sent his son Jesus to the earth to die for our sins. We shared how to have faith in the Savior and about our final home – Heaven. Marshall began going to church with us and gave his life to the Lord at Thanksgiving that year before the following summer. He started coming to Bible study in our home. We were warmed when he told us how he’d always felt empty. He pointed to his heart. He said he was no longer empty inside, and he finally knew who his real Father was.

Joe and I were present on that day in the middle of June when Marshall went to be with the Lord. I’ve never witnessed anyone die before, but I can say, truly, without hesitation, that the experience was beautiful. And I know that someday we’ll see this wonderful man again when we join him in Heaven to be with Jesus forever.

Thank you, June, for sharing such a touching, personal story.

June Foster

An award-winning author, June Foster is also a retired teacher with a BA in Education and a MA in counseling. She is the mother of two and grandmother of ten. June began writing Christian romance in 2010. She penned her first novel on her Toshiba laptop as she and her husband traveled the US in their RV. Her adventures provided a rich source of information for her novels. In 2013, June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and in 2014 a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father won The Clash of the Titles book of the month for January 2014 and was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the 2014 Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s 2014 Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is available from WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and Books One and Two in the Almond Tree Series, For All Eternity and Echoes From the Past, are available from Amazon.com and Smashwords. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find freedom to live godly lives.

July 31, 2015
by liztolsma@gmail.com
1 Comment

The Story behind Island Dreams by Kimberly Johnson

Island Dreams Cover (2)1. Tell us a little about the story behind Island Dreams?

Island Dreams takes place on Wildflower Island in the Southern Puget Sound. It is the second book in my Wildflower B&B Romance Series. Here is the back cover copy.

Piper Hunt arrives on Wildflower Island to develop family property into an upscale resort knowing this may be her last chance to prove her worth to her father. With grandiose ideas, she soon finds herself at odds with adjoining property owner, Chase Grayson. As she begins to appreciate the simplicity of the island, she struggles to maintain balance between her father’s wishes, preserving the natural beauty of the island, and her attraction for Chase.

Chase Grayson values the peace and quiet of Wildflower Island. That serenity is threatened when Piper Hunt discloses her plans to develop an upscale resort that not only butts up to his property, but will turn the island into a busy tourist destination. In fighting her plans, he also finds himself fighting his attraction to her. If he doesn’t stop her plans for the resort, his life will be altered forever. If he succeeds, it means he will never see her again. Can he live with either choice?

2. What made you want to use something true in your story? I like to use actual places as settings, but in this case the island I planned to use wasn’t large enough to fit my story. The first book in the series worked fine, but by the time I got to the second I realized it was too small. So I changed the name to Wildflower Island. If you are familiar with Anderson Island in Washington state you will see a few places that are actually on that island like the general store and golf club in my series. When it was going to be called Anderson Island I did my best to find pictures of the island and read anything I could find about the place.

3. Have you done something similar before? Will you do it again? Yes and no. I set my very first contracted series in Leavenworth, WA. The setting ended up being a character all its own and an important part of the story. The stories would not work if you picked them up and moved them to another small town, that’s how important that setting is to the series.

I visited Leavenworth several times to get a feel for the town, but I did tweak the layout just a bit to fit my stories. J

4. Did it require a lot of research to use real life? Yes. Because I patterned Wildflower Island after an existing one that had been my original setting, I did a decent amount of research on Anderson Island, in Washington State. I finally came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t work for my series. You may see a few similarities between the two, but they are different.

5. How long does it typically take you to write a book? I write books in the 45-50k word count, and on average it takes me three to four months. That being said, I can write much faster if I must and I have. J I’ve also spent longer when I’m not under deadline.

6. What else you do have in the works? I’m currently working on a series that takes place in Central Oregon resort town. I’ve been working on it off and on for years, and I’m looking forward to spending quality time on it for a couple of months. Speaking of needing to research for a setting, I’ve been working on this series so long that I’ve had to rewrite scenes because buildings have been demolished, and moved. Included a swimming pool that I’d been to more times than I can remember! I’ve had to go back a few times to take in the new constructions. Even a restaurant I used in one scene was demolished and rebuilt. It’s nothing like my original building I described. Thank goodness for the internet or I never would have realized so much had changed. Beyond that series I need to start writing a novella that will release in June of 2016.

kimberly johnson

Kimberly Rose Johnson holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, and their yellow lab. She writes sweet Christian romance and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She enjoys taking long walks with her husband and dog, reading, dark chocolate and time with friends.
You may contact Kimberly via her website at http://kimberlyrjohnson.com/

Buy link:

Amazon Island Dreams: http://www.amazon.com/Island-Dreams-Wildflower-Romance-Book-ebook/dp/B00XYYRP66/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436895628&sr=8-1&keywords=island+dreams

Amazon Island Refuge: http://amzn.to/1PSwybE