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December 5, 2017

The story behind The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy and Erin Woodsmall

It is my very great pleasure to host Cindy and Erin Woodsmall to the blog this week. They have a new release just perfect for the season. Here is a little bit more about their book The Gift of Christmas Past.

Arson wasn’t the only fire that ignited between them.

Young love…
Promises made.
Lies spoken.
She was arrested.
He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.

Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire.

Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family.

Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all?

Sounds like a great read! What brought you to write it?

Cindy here. 🙂 My daughter-in-law Erin and I just released our co-written Christmas novella, The Gift of Christmas Past. This is such a special story to us. It’s my first non-Amish book and our first that we released together. (We wrote one before this for Random House, but that one won’t release until fall of 2018.) What a joy The Gift of Christmas Past was to write!

The beauty of love takes my breath away, and the opportunity for second chances is one of its most powerful aspects. Nothing can stop the power of love—not time, disability, sickness, or even death. Seeds of love sown by a person who died will grow and produce fruit, and the people they loved will pass love on too. And on it goes.

I see family life as a metaphor for Christ’s love. His great love came into a fallen world, and nothing could stop it from spreading and growing in people’s lives. In the same way, love in a family spreads out and grows—to the family members and to everyone they touch.

Part of the storyline in The Gift of Christmas Past is about a little girl with apraxia of speech. Children with speech apraxia have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words because their brains have issues planning to move the mouthparts. My 3 ½-year-old grandson Kaden has apraxia, and seeing him try to talk, witnessing his sweet eyes reflect the desire to communicate and yet being unable to do so, was heartbreaking. Some think that sign language is the answer, and it can be a great tool. But sign language can’t fix the issue when children can hear the words they want to say, need to say, but can’t make their mouths form the words. After navigating Kaden’s first year of speech therapy with his loving parents, and with me attended a few of those sessions, I longed to share my heartbreaks and insights through a fiction story.

This poem is printed in the forward to the book. I’d like to share it with you here.

To sweet, precious Kaden

Right from your first day’s start,

You stole your Mimi’s entire heart.

Days of kisses, joy, and laughter,

Toddling carefree, with Mimi chasing after.

Eyes full of joy, your happiness light,

Your love of life was so very right.

You babbled and cooed as little ones do,

But at the right time, your words couldn’t come through.

You wanted to speak, and oh how you tried.

We wanted to hear you and many times cried.

But love does not fail to give its best.

Mommy and Daddy searched for answers without rest.

Therapies frustrated you after they had begun,

But now the hard work you do is often fun.

We couldn’t leave our buddy with a mouth that couldn’t speak.

The battle continues, but you win victories every week.

One day you’ll be able to voice what you think.

Your mouth and your brain will work in sync.

You’ll shout and sing and chatter till you’re done,

And you, precious Kaden, will have won.

Erin here. As Cindy stated above, this was a very special book to us. We got to really work together and get in sync both on and off the page. I learned so much from Cindy through this journey. If you have met her in real life, you know what I’m talking about when I say that she’s just a joy. So warm, bursting with creative life, and inspiring on a number of levels. God has truly blessed me to have her as my mother-in-law and as a friend.

In The Gift of Christmas Past, we wanted a strong connection between the two main characters, Hadley and Monroe. But the story, being a Christmas novella, needed to take place over only a few months. We knew them having a history was a must. One of love, but also one of hurt. They had to be pulled apart by multiple forces in their lives, but in the deepest, secret recesses of themselves they needed to still hold each other in their hearts. We came up with the idea of them being high school sweethearts. Fun fact: both Cindy and her husband, Tommy, as well as my husband, Adam, and I, met in high school, dated, and married as adults. At a young age, I realized that I could search my whole life and never find another person I love the way I do Adam. He’s my world and I am his. But what if circumstances beyond our control had separated us when we were teens? It was easy to put myself in Hadley’s shoes in this regard.

Another inspiration for this book was the beautiful setting. When we talked about Cindy writing a non-Amish book, we knew having an amazing location was a must, just like her Amish settings in handpicked spots in Pennsylvania. I suggested Asheville, North Carolina. The surrounding mountains are gorgeous and peaceful. So much of the city has a lovely “Christmassy” feel, especially Biltmore Estate and village. We traveled to Asheville twice for research. We did all the activities that the characters in the book do. In my opinion, this book is like a little trip to Asheville. I hope you’ll take that journey with us!

Cindy Woodsmall is the New York Times and CBA best-selling author of twenty works of fiction. She’s been featured in national media outlets such as ABC’s Nightline and the Wall Street Journal. Cindy has won numerous awards and has been finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards. Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. She can be found online at

Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of three. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. She is very excited about their first coauthored book.

How fun that you got to work together! Cindy and Erin are giving a way a copy of the book. If you would like to be entered, please follow the directions below.

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Thanks for joining us, Cindy and Erin!

November 28, 2017

The Story behind The Hope of Christmas by Terri Wangard

I’m pleased to have fellow WWII author and friend of mine, Terri Wangard, on the blog this week. And she’s here to tell us about her new Christmas release. Does it get any better?

Here’s a little bit about the book, Typhoon Prompting  in the collection The Hope of Christmas.

A destroyer escort is among the smallest of warships, but the Tabberer has the heart of a giant. A typhoon threatens the US Fleet in the Pacific during World War II, days before Christmas. The men of the Tabberer stand tall as they rush to the aid of their fellow sailors. For Seaman Jerry Collier, the typhoon prompts a greater awareness of what he wants in life. First, though, they have to survive.

Oh, that sounds so good! What led to you write the story?

After eight years of thinking, breathing, researching B-17s for my Promise For Tomorrow series, I was ready to disembark and concentrate on something else. But what? I had a vague idea of three friends who joined the WAC, the WAVES, and the WASPs, but nothing crystalized. Except for the WAC.

I didn’t want to completely turn away from flying, and I prefer topics that aren’t commonly known. How about a grasshopper pilot? My second character was on board.

I had toyed with the idea of a family generational series. A World War II story paired with a World War I story. But no, too unwieldy.

The WAC could have a sister, though, who stayed on the home front and did factory work. Oh, dear. I couldn’t completely stay away from B-17s. She’s building them.

She also needs a husband. He’ll be in the navy, and not on an aircraft carrier. A destroyer! I studied the list of Pacific destroyers and, oooh, the Spence. All kinds of possibilities there.

So there I had it: a sailor, his Rosie-the-Riveter wife, her WAC sister, and a grasshopper pilot. They’re all doing their part to help win the war, but sometimes the enemy isn’t obvious.

While researching the Pacific War, I came across the story of the USS Tabberer, a destroyer escort. I loved it, but I couldn’t use it in Wheresoever They May Be. It had nothing to do with my sailor.

When the opportunity to contribute a short story for a historical Christmas collection came, I immediately thought of the Tabberer.

Wow, can’t wait to read it! The best part is that it’s only $2.99 for the Kindle version! Scroll down for a chance to win.

Terri Wangard grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, during the Lombardi Glory Years. Her first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, she keeps busy as an associate editor of Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984.

Connect with Terri:

Twitter: @TerriWangard

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

November 14, 2017

The Story behind The Pretender by Ta’mara Hanscom

This week we welcome Ta’mara Hanscom to the blog. She is here to share with us the interesting story behind her book The Pretender. First, as usual, a little bit about the book.

South Dakota: 1975. Eighteen-year-olds could order 3.2 beers in a bar and loaded guns were kept under the counter. Frankie Valli sang My Eyes Adored You, and American soldiers returning from Vietnam struggled with their new reality.

It’s within this tumultuous season of American history that Tillie Caselli meets Noah Hansen, and they are never the same again. Their lives were mysteriously intertwined – and had been for many years – yet they had no idea.

Questions for Ta’mara Hanscom

  1. What inspired you to write The Pretender? I was going through an extremely difficult time in my personal life. Things were very hard emotionally and I needed some sort of a respite. I had written a lot when I was younger, but one day during my trials I sat down at this old computer that my neighbor had given me and started to write. I wanted my story to be realistic (reality =  trials) but I also wanted God’s promises to prevail. I wrote the first 4 books (drafts) which was about 900 pages in less than a month.
  1. Why did you pick 1975? That’s a time not often written about. It was an interesting time in our country and, as you’ve accurately pointed out, it’s not often written about. There was a richness in that time period that gets overshadowed by modern liberties. However, there were many families (like my own) during that same period who sought to preserve our way of life, which was heavily immersed in the Church.
  1. How long does it take you to write a book? I’ve worked on this project for about 21 years total. It doesn’t take very long to write a book (maybe a month or so) but then comes the hard part—getting people to read it!
  1. Wow, you and your husband run a pizzeria. How do you manage to juggle that and writing? When we first started with just the one restaurant, it was more than a full-time job! We worked around the clock. Our kids were young during that time as well, so we were exceedingly busy. There were some years I didn’t get to write at all because I was too busy making pizzas! Over the last 18 years, we’ve grown our business into 3 restaurants, but we’ve managed to develop excellent management along the way. And while my husband is in the restaurants everyday, I have recently taken a step back and let him and kids run the show. They are extremely talented and gifted in the restaurant, and, honestly, at this point they do all the “heavy lifting,” or I couldn’t do what I’m doing now.
  1. What’s up next for you? To continue with The Caselli Family Series. The Pretender is only Book 1 in 5. We’re fully immersed in our second printing of the entire series and should have it finished sometime in the spring of 2018. I am hoping to have Book 6 finished by fall of 2018, but that’s only a hope at this point. And I have many other installments of The Caselli Family Series planned as well.

Ta’mara was born and raised in South Dakota, and loves her people and rich history. For many years she’s also had a deep love for Italy and her colorful chronology. She was fortunate enough to visit Italy on her 25th wedding anniversary, and added some of the details of her travels to my fictional series The Caselli Family Series.

Her favorite sport is baseball – Detroit Tigers – and she can’t wait until the next time she gets to see them play in Comerica Park. She lives for the next family barbeque.

She and her husband reside in Northwestern Iowa. They have three grown children and one grandson. They’ve rescued two cats and one Pomeranian. She teaches AWANA Cubbies and speaks at women’s events.

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of the pretender, please follow the directions below.

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Thanks for joining us, Ta’ mara! We look forward to reading everything in this series.

November 7, 2017

The Story behind Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer

I’ve been looking forward to having Kim Sawyer join us for some time now! She’s going to share a little bit about her new book, Bringing Maggie Home. Here’s a little bit about it.

Decades of loss, an unsolved mystery, and a rift spanning three generations

Hazel DeFord is a woman haunted by her past. While berry picking in a blackberry thicket in 1943, ten-year old Hazel momentarily turns her back on her three-year old sister Maggie and the young girl disappears.

Almost seventy years later, the mystery remains unsolved and the secret guilt Hazel carries has alienated her from her daughter Diane, who can’t understand her mother’s over-protectiveness and near paranoia. While Diane resents her mother’s inexplicable eccentricities, her daughter Meghan—a cold case agent—cherishes her grandmother’s lavish attention and affection.

When a traffic accident forces Meghan to take a six-week leave-of-absence to recover, all three generations of DeFord women find themselves unexpectedly under the same roof. Meghan knows she will have to act as a mediator between the two headstrong and contentious women. But when they uncover Hazel’s painful secret, will Meghan also be able to use her investigative prowess to solve the family mystery and help both women recover all that’s been lost?

Learn more and purchase a copy.

Sounds like a great book. What led you to write it?

It never ceases to amaze me how something as simple as a photograph in an antique store, a headstone in a cemetery, or a rock building standing lonely yet proud on the prairie can stir the embers of a story to life inside of me. But it happens again and again, and in the case of Bringing Maggie Home, the spark came from a three-paragraph article, tucked at the end of a larger article, about an unsolved mystery in rural Arkansas. In the 1930s, several children from one community disappeared and were never seen again.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the children, wondering about them—where did they go? who took them? why were they taken?—and wondering how their families survived the loss. You can replace a stolen car or a stolen ring, but a stolen child? You would forever carry a hole in your heart.

As I pondered the real-life situation, a fictional account began growing in my heart—a story about three generations and how all were affected by the disappearance of one small child. Writing this story about Hazel, Margaret Diane (the daughter), and Meghan (the granddaughter) let me explore the unique relationships between mothers and daughters and grandmothers and grandchildren.

Bringing Maggie Home will always be special to me because so much of the love I feel for my daughters and grandchildren was poured onto the page through the characters’ interactions. I pray that readers who are at odds with a parent or a child will travel with Hazel, Diane, and Meghan to a place of restoration. “There is none so far gone that God’s grace can’t redeem him,” Hazel tells Meghan. And as long as we draw breath, there’s a chance to redeem broken relationships.

Can’t wait to read it!

Kim Vogel Sawyer is a highly acclaimed, best-selling author with more than one million books in print, in several different languages. Her titles have earned numerous accolades including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Kim lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband Don, where she continues to write gentle stories of hope and redemption. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and grandchildren.

Find out more about Kim at

Kim is giving away a copy of the book. Enter below.
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Thanks for joining us, Kim!

October 31, 2017

The Story behind Pendant by Mary Hamilton

This week, join me in welcoming Mary Hamilton to our blog. Mary has a new release, Pendant. Here’s a little bit about the book.

A field trip gone awry.

A student gone missing.

Haunted by a teacher’s worst nightmare for more than a decade, Elaine finally stumbles onto a vital clue—and discovers someone will do anything to keep the truth buried.

When her life is threatened, she allows a trusted neighbor to whisk her away to safety in Texas. But assuming a false identity and hiding among the quirky residents of a retirement home is not what she had in mind. Now Elaine must solve the mystery from afar, as soon as she figures out if her friend is keeping her from danger…or keeping her from the truth.


Oh, that sounds good! What inspired you to write the book?

Years ago, my local newspaper reported on an elderly woman who was dropped off at a retirement home by an acquaintance who said she knew nothing about the woman’s family history. The 93-yr. old woman arrived with only a jacket, a purse and a cane. A medical card provided her only identification. Although she was alert and chatty, the woman refused to give any information about her background other than to speak of her husband who had died many years before.

At the time of the article, I was just beginning to learn how to write fiction. But after reading it, I immediately thought, “Now there’s a story!” I filed the article in my idea folder, returning to it every so often to try out ideas for motivations and reasons why someone would show up at a care facility with so few possessions. And why was she so reluctant to reveal any information about herself?

I never did find the answers, but the idea simmered for many years until I decided to give it the attention it deserved. The story became my first foray into adult fiction, which felt so much more complicated than the middle grade stories I’d written previously. The suspense genre was also a surprise to anyone who knows me. You can imagine my husband’s reaction when I quizzed my hunter son-in-law about guns. Such as, what type of gun would you use to shoot someone inside a restaurant if you were driving by on the street? How accurate would it be? Would the window deflect the bullets at all?

Since my son-in-law is also an EMT, I quizzed him on how emergency personnel would manage such an event. Who would likely arrive first? How would you handle a woman whose husband has been shot?

I’m sure you can understand why my husband’s request. “Can we please talk about something else? This is Thanksgiving dinner.”


Monsters under the bed never bothered author M L Hamilton—it was the man hiding in her closet, waiting for her to fall asleep so he could jump out and harm her. She never did figure out who he was, how he managed to hide in her messy closet, or why he was waiting until she fell asleep to harm her. But since then, she has imagined all sorts of other scary situations, which she hopes will provide the basis for more mystery/suspense stories.

When not writing, she enjoys knitting, reading, spending time with her family, and amateur photography. She and her husband live in Texas, but you can connect with Mary in these places.





Ebook available for pre-order at Amazon and other retailers (coming soon in print). Delivery on November 8th.



Thanks for joining us, Mary! She’s giving away either an ebook or paperback version of the book. Enter below. 

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Thank you to everyone who stopped by and entered!

October 18, 2017

The Story behind Solve by Christmas by Amber Schamel

While the leaves are still falling, its not to early to decide on some great Christmas reads. Amber Schamel joins us today to give us some insight into what inspired her new holiday mystery, Solve by Christmas.

Here’s a peek into what the book is about.

When sabotage threatens the Rudin Sugar Factory, Detective Jasper Hollock believes this will be his first real case. But dear Mr. Rudin—the only father Jasper has ever known—holds a different assignment for his private investigator.

“I’ve struck a deal with God, Jasper, and you’re my angel.”

Mr. Rudin charges Jasper to build a “case” of reasons for his employer to continue his life. If he fails, Mr. Rudin will end it in suicide on Christmas night.

As the incidents at the factory become life threatening, Jasper’s attempts at dissuading Mr. Rudin prove futile, and Jasper is left staring at the stark reality of his own soul. Time is ticking. Jasper must solve both cases by Christmas before Mr. Rudin, the company, and Jasper’s faith, are dragged to perdition. Will this be the Christmas Jasper truly discovers what makes life worth living?

So, what led you to write this book?

When I decided on Denver during 1913 as the setting for my Christmas mystery, I had no idea what an and exciting city I was stepping into. The city was abuzz with industry. The National Western Stockshow had already been formed, the democratic convention had been held there a couple years prior, and already they had an amazing streetcar system of over 160 miles which had become the main mode of transportation. The bustling of crowds, the trill of a trolley bell, and the crisp winter air set the perfect backdrop for Jasper’s adventure.

I have to admit, I’d never heard of a Wobbly. Even growing up outside of Denver. But as it turns out, the Wobblies were a large part of Denver’s history and their labor wars and free speech fights.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Organization was formed in 1905 in Chicago by folks who held some pretty extreme views and have been called “militant unionists”. Their main doctrine was that the capitalist system was evil, irreparable, and that a good society could only exist outside of such a system. Naturally, this brought on a lot of conflict between the IWW group and the business class. Their nickname soon became “Wobbly” or “Wobblies” although the origin of the term is unclear.

The organization moved into Denver not long after their formation, but the free speech fights didn’t begin until 1913. The city officials had banned the Wobblies from speaking on the streets, however this played into the Wobbly’s tactics. They spoke on the streets anyway, and were arrested, and soon the judicial system was so clogged with free speech cases and the jails were so full that concessions had to be made.

Most fascinating about this group, is their tactics and methods. One very popular method would be for men to stand up on a trolley or subway and begin preaching to a captive audience. Other known methods were parades with banners and bands down the city streets who would play and sing Wobbly folk songs. My favorite though, is when a man would run out into the street screaming “I’ve been robbed! I’ve been robbed!” and of course when everyone turned to look he would continue “I’ve been robbed by the capitalist system!” and launch into his lecture. You can experience some of these tactics as well as the scene in Denver 1913 in my new release, Solve by Christmas. ?

The IWW is a very interesting group that is apparently still around today. It appears they were very instrumental in the development of labor laws and worker’s rights throughout the United States.

Denver IWW Hall

Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call “historical fiction at its finest”. A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at age 21, she has continued to hone her craft and has been awarded the 2017 CSPA Book of the Year Award in Historical Fiction. Between ministry, family and working in their family-owned businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog, or on any of the major social media sites.  Amber is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Newsletter & updates:
Blogs –

Facebook –

Twitter – @AmberSchamel

What a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing, Amber! She’s giving away an EBOOK copy of the book. Follow the instructions below to enter.

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It’s been nice to have you with us, Amber!

October 13, 2017

The Story behind Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

This is a 2-for-1 week with Lori Benton joining us today. She’s going to share the story behind her new release, Many Sparrows. Here’s a little bit about the book.

Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would. . . .

In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.

When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son . . . especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do—be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?

Learn more and purchase a copy.

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

The scene in the opening of my new release, Many Sparrows, is one I lifted from the history books and set down in the pages of my novel to be the inciting incident—that event from which all other events of the story flow.

Read any history concerning the Virginia frontier of 1774 and the relatively little known pre-Revolutionary conflict, Lord Dunmore’s War, and you’ll likely find at least mention of a Native American man most often called Chief Logan. Logan was a Mingo who lived with his people on the western bank of the Ohio River. He was known widely as a friend to the white man. Until April 30, 1774, when in his absence the members of his family and some of his warriors were lured across the river by white men promising liquor. These Mingos had visited the tavern and trading post there many times in peace and friendship, but these men had a darker purpose in mind. All the Mingos were cruelly murdered, save for one little girl—Logan’s niece—whose life was spared. This tragedy is known to history as the Yellow Creek Massacre.

During the fall of 2016 I journeyed along the Ohio River, visiting the settings of the novel I was still writing at the time. I spent a night in the hotel that now occupies the land where the trading post and tavern once stood. I lay awake that night thinking about what happened there and knew there was one question Many Sparrows wouldn’t answer: who led that group of white men who murdered Logan’s family and the warriors who crossed the Ohio that fateful April morning? Frontiersman Michael Cresap was initially blamed due to previous threats of violence he’d made against the Ohio Indians, but Cresap was innocent of these murders, as later came to light. The true culprit, leader of the gang of frontiersmen who lured in and murdered these men and women was a man named Daniel Greathouse.

I’d long known of Logan’s story, and the letter of lament he wrote later that year explaining the subsequent vengeance he took for the deaths of nearly his entire family. When the idea for Many Sparrows first came to me, I knew it was the right story in which to include Logan’s tragic tale. Alas, no matter how much I’d have liked to, I couldn’t rewrite his story, but I could give Logan room in the pages of my novel to live and breathe again. To tell his tale. To let it remind us all of our shared humanity; in God’s eyes we are of equal and priceless value—far more than many sparrows, each and every one.

Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring and photographing the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of “Burning Sky,” recipient of three Christy Awards, “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn,” Christy-nominee “The Wood’s Edge,” and “A Flight of Arrows.”

Find out more about Lori at

Wow, it sounds like a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing! Lori is giving away a copy of the book. Follow the directions below to enter.

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Thanks for joining us, Lori!

October 11, 2017

The Story behind The Sheep Walker’s Daughter by Sydney Avey

Please welcome Sydney Avey to the blog this week. She shares the unique story behind her very unique story. Here’s a little bit about the book, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter.

In 1953, a war widow’s difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of her daughter’s father and his cultural heritage. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency? Why is her own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that he isn’t telling?

All of this head-spinning mystery breaks a long, dry period in Dee’s life and leads her to embark on an odyssey. She might just as well lose her job and see where the counsel of her new spiritual advisor and the attentions of an enigmatic ex-coworker lead her.

The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs a colorful Basque immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with one woman’s search for identity and fulfillment. Dee’s journey will take her through the Northern and Central California valleys of the 1950s and reach across the world to the Basque Country.

Along the way, she will discover who she is and why family history matters.

Sounds fascinating. What inspired you to write the book?

The Sheep Walker’s Daughter explores the issue of why parents might hide their ethnic and cultural history from their children. When people grow up unaware of the traditions that sustained their ancestors, what do they lose? I chose Los Altos, California in the Fifties as the setting because it was a time of recovery from WWII. The future promised prosperity; new industries would transform the Valley of the Heart’s Delight into Silicon Valley.

At that time, immigrants flooded the valley. Many shed “the old ways” to pursue the American Dream. Some went so far as to cut ties with extended family. The seeds of isolation that people experience today in Silicon Valley, where I grew up, were probably sown then.

I chose the Basques as my main character’s unknown heritage. I wanted a culture that few people had associations with so readers could make discoveries alongside Dee. My research showed that communities of Basques are scattered all over the world, including a large Basque population in Bakersfield, a four-hour drive from Los Altos. That meant I could do original research!

Crossing the railroad tracks Alonso and Iban would have crossed to reach the boarding house that would shelter them helped me connect with the mixed feelings they must have had. I ate family style in the dining hall where they would have eaten and talked with old sheepherders who told stories about the hardscrabble life–the sacrifices and the rewards.  That experience left me with an understanding and appreciation for the way the Central Valley and the Basque people enriched each other.

In the fictional account, Dee’s daughter Valerie travels to the Basque land. I have not yet had that opportunity, but I hope to one day. A bit of serendipity–when I needed a new publisher for The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, The Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno stepped up.

Sydney Avey is the author of three historical fiction novels, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, The Lyre and the Lambs, and, coming February 2018, The Trials of Nellie Belle. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Forge Journal and Out of the Fire (Manzanita Press) and her short stories in magazines such as Blue Guitar, TWJ and Foliate Oak.
Sydney worked in high tech marcom before beginning her creative writing life. Her first novel has been republished with generous funds from the Basque government, and her third novel debuts February 6, 2018. She lives with her husband and a cat named Clyde in the Sierra foothills near Yosemite, CA and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.
Sydney is giving away an Apple iBook copy of The Sheep Walker’s Daughter. Follow the instructions below to enter.

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Thanks for joining us, Sydney!


September 26, 2017

The Story behind Gathering the Threads by Cindy Woodsmall

Ooo, I can’t tell you all how excited I am to have Cindy Woodsmall on the blog this week! Cindy is a well-known author of Amish novels and has a new release, Gathering the Threads. Here’s a little bit about the book.

Finally back in the Old Order Amish world she loves, will Ariana’s new perspectives draw her family closer together—or completely rip them apart?

After months away in the Englisch world, Ariana Brenneman is overjoyed to be in the Old Order Amish home where she was raised. Yet her excitement is mixed with an unexpected apprehension as she reconciles all she’s learned from her biological parents with the uncompromising teachings of her Plain community. Although her childhood friend, ex-Amish Quill Schlabach, hopes to help her navigate her new role amongst her people, Ariana’s Daed doesn’t understand why his sweet daughter is suddenly questioning his authority. What will happen if she sows seeds of unrest and rebellion in the entire family?

Meanwhile, Skylar Nash has finally found her place among the large Brenneman family, but Ariana’s arrival threatens to unravel Skylar’s new identity—and her sobriety. Both Ariana and Skylar must discover the true cords that bind a family and community together and grasp tight the One who holds their authentic identities close to His heart.

Learn more and purchase a copy:

Cindy, could you share with us about the real-life people who inspired the book?

My latest release, Gathering the Threads, is the third and final book in the Amish of Summer Grove series. It centers around two young women—one Amish and one Englisch—who were switched at birth. After finding out that life-altering news, they both have to go live with their birth parents for a time.

I molded Ariana after a young Amish woman I met and have heard stories about for years, so it was fairly easy to get inside her head. She is both optimistic and vulnerable. Ariana is a go-getter despite being raised in poverty. She knows how to have almost nothing and turn that into something that will put food on the table. But she’s convinced that each aspect of life and the faith that she’s been taught in her sheltered Amish community is completely right. And she has the willpower to honor her Amish parents through obedience . . . until her intellectual atheist “Englisch” dad confuses her on all fronts.

Skylar, who was raised by modern American parents, was a harder character to work with. She’s both spoiled and wounded by her childhood. In order to do her justice, I needed to find and work closely with a real person about her age who had experience with drugs in a similar manner to Skylar. Researching this character caused me to dig deep into illegal prescription drug use among young people. I also had long, intense conversations with an intellectual atheist in order to create Nicholas, Ariana’s biological dad and the man who helped raise Skylar.

I hope that both of these girls feel very real for readers, because I believe I understand people from those walks of life much more now than I did before I wrote the series.

Wow, those must have been some interesting conversations you had with people to build those characters. Thanks for joining us! Continue to scroll down for your chance to win a copy of the book.

Cindy Woodsmall is an award-winning New York Times and CBA best-selling author who has written 20 works of fiction, including her most recent series, Amish of Summer Grove. Her connection with the Amish community has been widely featured in national media outlets, including ABC’s Nightline. The Wall Street Journal listed Woodsmall as one of the top three most popular authors of Amish fiction.

RT Book Reviews recently presented her with a Career Achievement Award and gave her latest release, Gathering the Threads, a Top Pick review.

Woodsmall and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains.

Learn more about Woodsmall and her books at She is also active on Facebook (@authorcindywoodsmall).

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Good luck to everyone!

September 19, 2017

The Story behind The Road to Mercy by Kathy Harris

The lovely Kathy Harris is our guest this week, sharing with us her inspiration for The Road to Mercy. First, as always, is a sneak peek at the book.

Tragedy, love and secrets meet on a journey of faith.

Contemporary Christian singer Josh Harrison and his wife, Bethany, face a difficult decision that also tests their faith. A rupture in Beth’s carotid artery leaves her on the brink of death even as she’s pregnant with their first child. When Dr. Ben Abrams urges her to terminate the pregnancy to save her own life, she and Josh step out on faith and decide to carry the baby to full term.

During the next few months, Josh struggles with his faith, and Beth hides a secret that may destroy their marriage. But she also discovers a decades-old connection to Dr. Abrams, and a young boy named Isaac Ruben, that could change their lives forever.

Wow, Kathy, I’m intrigued. What inspired you to write the book?

As a young child, I witnessed the aftermath of a small plane crash only miles from where I lived. Among the victims were three children—ages four, three, and less than two years—not much younger than I was at the time.

Most traumatic for me was being on site when my dad, who worked in law enforcement, discovered the body of the final victim. Daddy’s face was pale when he told my mom and me that he had found a baby.

The memory of that morning haunted me for years. For some reason, I felt a special connection to that child. I wished so badly for him to have lived. And I wondered what he might have accomplished in life if he had. It was decades later when that ‘what if’ became the premise for my first published novel The Road to Mercy.

The book opens with the scene that had replayed over and over in my mind. At the time my manuscript was drafted, I knew very few real facts. Ironically, the year the book was contracted, a longtime friend found a newspaper clip about the crash. I was dumbfounded to learn that almost everything I had remembered had been accurate. In fact, a few of the details I had intentionally fictionalized appeared to be actual possibilities in the real-life characters I portrayed.

Of course, the “life story” of Isaac Ruben was purely imagination, because in my book he became the only survivor of the devastating crash. In The Road to Mercy, Isaac’s story drives an entangled plot that spans fifty years. And his character touches many lives.

I’ve always hoped that the real “Isaac Ruben,” if he could somehow look down from heaven, would be proud of the book his short time on earth inspired.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. James 4:15 NLT

Kathy Harris ( is an author by way of the Nashville entertainment business, where she has worked as a marketing manager for more than thirty years. Kathy writes women’s fiction and romantic suspense and is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency. Connect with Kathy on Facebook ( and Twitter (

If you’d like to win a copy of The Road to Mercy, follow the instructions below.

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Thanks for visiting with us, Kathy. It sure sounds like a great read!