Author * Speaker * Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My story begins on an airplane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good luck to you all!

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

The Story behind To Follow Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino

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

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

Sounds wonderful. What led you to write the book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations on that, Rebecca!

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

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

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Thanks so much for visiting with us, Rebecca!

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

The Story behind Jilted by Varina Denman

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

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

What inspired you to write Jilted?

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

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

Varina is giving away a copy of her new book.  You can enter below:
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July 15, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
17 Comments

The Story behind The Healing Process by Johnnie Alexander

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

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

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

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

It was a bureaucratic mistake with horrific consequences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about this historic event, please visit:

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

Purchase Link for The Courageous Brides Collection

Bookstore


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

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

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

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

The Story behind My Father’s House by Rose Chandler Johnson

Let’s welcome Rose Chandler Johnson to the Story behind the Story this week. Her latest release is My Father’s House. Before she tells us what inspired her to write it, here’s a little bit about the book.

Father's HouseGrowing up, life is idyllic for Lily Rose Cates due to one constant – her father’s love. But in her sixteenth summer, all that changes without warning. There begins Lily’s struggle to find herself and the life she’s lost.

Marriage promises fulfillment, but her happily-ever-after barely survives the honeymoon. Her husband’s sophisticated façade hides a brooding man with even darker secrets. When all illusions shatter, Lily must make hard choices – abandon her husband or risk losing much more than her marriage. She flees their home in Detroit and sets out on a fearful journey to a house in Georgia that her husband knows nothing about.

This is one woman’s compelling tale of love and survival as she finds her way back home to who she’s meant to be . . . in her father’s house.

That sounds like a great read, Rose. What brought the story about?

I wanted to write a story about a young woman who in spite of devastating hardships, disappointments, personal loss and mistakes ultimately finds happiness after reconnecting with family and faith.  I wanted the reader to take the journey with her, go with her through some of the hardships, but I didn’t want the painful things to be the focus of her triumphant story. Lily Rose has an indomitable spirit and warm heart that is endearing to readers.  Her father believed that she would be alright; the reader wants to know she will be too.  With my roots firmly planted in Georgia, the setting had to play a critical part in the story.  So, I modeled my fictional town after so many small Southern towns and I set in some of my love of nature and gardening. Being a Southerner, I had definite ideas about elements I needed for this story to come alive. Besides fascinating characters and a distinctive setting, there had to be a little crazy, eccentric, and some downright mean, mixed with suspense, romance, and lots of southern charm.

What else do you have in the works?

I have two stories in particular in mind – doing research for those, and working on my characters, but I am also toying with the idea of a sequel to My Father’s House.  I am writing another devotional that’s well on its way to completion. I think of the non-fiction as an overflow of what the Lord has done in my life and what He continues to reveal to me about Himself. I’m looking forward to seeing God’s timing in all of this.  In the meantime, I want to be faithful to write whatever God puts on my heart.

RCJMy Father’s House is Rose’s first novel. Her devotional journal, God, Me, and Sweet Iced Tea: Experiencing God in the Midst of Everyday Moments won the Georgia Author of the Year Finalist Award in 2014. It was also awarded the Selah Finalist Award in the same year. Rose enjoys writing for her blog, Write Moments with God and engaging with her readers. A native Georgian, Rose has lived in a suburb of Augusta for the last thirty years. Before retiring from Georgia’s public school system, Rose taught English, French, and ESOL. She is currently an adjunct English instructor at a community college. In addition to reading and writing, Rose enjoys cooking, sewing, gardening, and spending time with her six children and their growing families. And yes, sweet iced tea is her beverage of choice.

Connect with Rose:
Blog: http://www.writemomentswithgod.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rechanjo
Pinterest:   http://pinterest.com/rosecjohnson/boards/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rosechandlerjohnsonauthor
Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/18188725-rose-chandler-johnson

Enter below to win a signed copy of My Father’s House.

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July 8, 2016
by liztolsma@gmail.com
12 Comments

The Story behind Through Raging Waters by Renee Blare

Please join me in welcoming Renee Blare this week. She has a great story behind her brand new release Through Raging Waters. Here’s a little bit about the book.

RagingWaters copy (683x1024)If Mother Nature has her way, Timber Springs will never be the same…

A warm spring and early rainstorms melt the snowpack. Spring runoff compounded by the storm of the century sends Timber Springs into a tailspin.
Tossed into the role of rescuer, local pharmacist Paul Fitzgerald must face his past before the whole world falls apart. While he fights to contain the beast around him, he finds his steadfast control slipping through his fingers. And life…everyone’s life…hangs by a thread once again.
She isn’t a hero. Melissa Hampton has her own demons to battle. After she learns of her mysterious beginnings amidst her mother’s keepsakes, she faces more than just the river rushing outside her door. Now, she must discern friend from foe…but as waters rise and tension climbs within Timber Springs, she needs to rise to the challenge or lose the only man she’s ever loved.

Can two people find each other through raging waters?

What an interesting premise behind this story, Renee. Tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write the book.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end…for the most part. You open a book and let it take you to another time and place. Why? Because it can. Some may ease your mind there with barely a flutter while others crash along your cognizance like the percussion section of an orchestra. My new novel, Through Raging Waters is the latter.
I sat down in front of my white board to brainstorm for this novel about two years ago. At that time, I “knew” the overall premise and spiritual battle for the book. I thought I understood what God wanted me to write. The lessons, the dependence…I even knew how He wanted me to show it all. Boy, was I wrong…
About two chapters into the penning of the book, my world froze…literally. My shoulder froze and remained that way remainder of the project. Excruciating and thorough as it was, physical therapy offered no help.
But I wasn’t just in pain, I was angry. I may be a writer, but I’m also a pharmacist. A day at work day was torture. Now add three days of PT to that each week. When nothing worked and I still suffered, I lashed out. I cried. And through it all, God taught me that it was okay.
I could be the smartest person on the planet, but He still knew more than I did. I was a weak, human creature. He was the almighty God. And only through His power and strength I was much more powerful than I could ever be alone. I wasn’t in control.
Each word—scene materialized from memory or circumstance. The agony shooting through my body and mind surged onto the page like the river in the story. You can find it in the raging waters, and the turmoil of the characters.
Life isn’t easy. God never promises it will be, but He gives us the strength to face whatever comes. Love conquers all—His love.
I’m so thankful! God led me Through my Raging Waters.

Renee Headshot BH2 (800x580)Raised in Louisiana and Wyoming, Renee started writing poetry in junior high school. After having her son, a desire to attend pharmacy school sent her small family to the University of Wyoming in Laramie, and she’s been counting pills ever since. While writing’s her first love, well, after the Lord and husband, she also likes to fish and hunt as well as pick away on her classical guitar.
Nestled in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains with her husband, crazy dogs and ornery cat, she continues to serve her community as a pharmacist while penning her Christian stories any chance she can get. She loves to interact with readers and invites you check out her website, blog, and social media.

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/tE055Wyzaso

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Through-Raging-Waters-Renee-Blare-ebook/dp/B01HBSB9BM/

(shortened) http://amzn.to/28NQIF3

Renee is also giving away a copy of Through Raging Waters. Enter below.

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Thanks for joining us, Renee!

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

The Story behind Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Story behind Song of Silence by Cynthia Ruchti

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Thanks so much for visiting with us, Cynthia!

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

The Story behind Close to Home by Deborah Raney

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

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

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

Welcome, Deb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Story behind The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson

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

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

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

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

Sounds like a great book!

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

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

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

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

  1. What is the theme of the stories?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks for visiting with us, Melanie! It’s been a pleasure to have you.