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

October 14, 2016

Reader Survey – Favorite Genres

In addition to our stories behind the stories, I’m starting a reader survey series. I’d like to hear from you, what you like and what you want to read. Look for the surveys going up on my Facebook page .

old_and_new_booksSo, let’s start at the very beginning. This week’s survey was on what your favorite genre is. The results are very interesting. In first place was WWII fiction. Now, this is a very unscientific survey, and probably skewed to my readers 🙂 Suspense/mystery came in second. That makes some sense. WWII is full of suspense and even some mystery. All the rest (historical and contemporary romance, fantasy, and biblical fiction) tied for the bottom.

In the survey, I also asked for any comments. Here are some of the most interesting. Don’t worry if you answer these questions. I can’t see who answered them, so I don’t know who said what.

  1. Contemporary romance, because it’s romance without smut. (Amen to that!)
  2. Biblical fiction, because it’s thought provoking.
  3. Suspense/mystery because I like being surprised and trying to figure out what’s coming next.
  4. WWII because it’s my favorite time period.
  5. WWII. The main reason is because my dad was a WWII vet.
  6. Suspense/mystery because the books are exciting and real page turners.

One respondent pointed out that I didn’t have Amish fiction as an option. Palm to forehead! Well, that might be good for another poll. Stay tuned 🙂

Thank you all for your responses. It was fun to see what you all think and what you like. Authors love to hear from their readers. It helps us to know what to write! Look on my Facebook page for the next poll!

September 23, 2016

The Story behind When Loves Arrive by Johnnie Alexander

Our guest this week is a friend of mine, Johnnie Alexander. She’s a very talented writer and a sweet lady. She’s here to share the story behind her latest release, When Love Arrives.

Here’s a little bit about the book.

when-love-arrivesDani Prescott came to the children’s hospital to spy on Brett Somers–so how did she end up on a date with him? Weeks earlier she’d seen an interview in which he blamed her mother for the plane crash that had killed his parents. But the crash had killed her mother as well, so Dani can’t believe the story Brett’s trying to sell to the media.

Vowing to find a way to discredit the privileged–and maddeningly handsome–Brett, Dani has been following him and taking photos, hoping to find something she can use against him. But when she catches his eye instead, she quickly finds herself offering up a fake name and agreeing to a date. Brett knows this mystery girl is hiding something–but he’s got his own secrets to keep. What will happen when he discovers who she really is? Will Dani and Brett look beyond their own heartaches to discover a love that could heal their deepest pain?

Fresh, flirty, and fast-paced, When Love Arrives is an engaging story that will have readers falling in love with the characters as they navigate the tricky waters between romance and revenge.

So, Johnnie, can you share a little bit about how this story came to be?

I love story-behind-the-story posts. And I’d love to share with you the fascinating spark behind my latest story, When Love Arrives, the second novel in the Misty Willow Series.

Alas. There isn’t one.

But don’t go away! There is a story behind the series and an odd example of how a decision I made over ten years ago affected the characters in When Love Arrives.

The series’ first story, Where She Belongs, was written because I’m in love with a house I lived in when I was a teen. I often dreamed of living there again, but that never happened. So I created a character with a similar dream who had the opportunity to make it come true.

At the time I wrote the first draft, as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) way back in November 2005, I didn’t expect to write a series. But when the time finally came—about eight years later—to shop it around, my agent suggested adding two more story ideas to the proposal. I signed a contract with Revell, handed in the manuscript for the first story, and settled down to write the second.

Brett Somers, the hero of When Love Arrives, is a character in the first story, so I knew him fairly well. Dani Prescott, the heroine, is a newcomer, but I knew she didn’t like Brett because he had, without knowing who she was, done something to hurt her.
But what had he done?

I thought I knew, but about a third of the way into the story—well, let’s just say I was wrong.
I tried again with a different motivation for Dani, reached about the two/thirds point, and hit a wall. This wasn’t working either.

What is this story? I prayed as I walked the pasture to get my Fitbit steps. What is the reason for her anger?

I don’t remember how many days I prayed as I walked (and at other times, too), but I was in the pasture when the answer came.

Duh! Of course, that’s it.

The conflict between the characters in When Love Arrives is because of an off-the cuff decision I’d made a long time ago.

You see, in the first story, Brett’s cousin AJ is the hero, and AJ’s parents couldn’t be in his life. So, to put it delicately, I killed them.

In a plane crash with no survivors.

Brett ’s parents were on that plane, too.

Dani’s mom was the pilot.

When Brett publicly blames Dani’s mom for the crash, she is intent on finding a way to publicly humiliate him. This is the conflict that drives the story—a detail I stuck in “just because.”

Sometimes I wonder if our stories are somehow complete before we ever begin them. Perhaps the creative process is all about discovering a story’s “truth.”

It’s a mystery I ponder.

This I know: A simple decision made long ago for one novel is the story-behind-the-story of a second novel.

Thanks for sharing that with us, Johnnie. What an interesting peek into how a novel is written.

johnnie-alexanderJohnnie Alexander dreams up stories 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 (Misty Willow Series #1), her first contemporary romance, was a Library Journal Pick of the Month. Recent releases include The Healing Promise (Courageous Bride Collection) and When Love Arrives (Misty Willow Series #2).

Johnnie is marketing director for the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference and president of the American Christian Fiction Writers Memphis chapter. She lives near Memphis with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, the princely papillon who trees those pesky raccoons whenever he gets the chance.

Join Johnnie at to experience the charm of country living, the love of random travel, and the joy of treasured memories.


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

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Thanks for joining us, Johnnie, and sharing your story.

September 13, 2016

The Story behind The Things We Knew by Catherine West

Please join me in welcoming Catherine West to the blog this week. She’s sharing a little bit about what inspired her to write her new novel, The Things We Knew. Isn’t that a great title? Here’s a little bit about the book.

things-we-knewWhen their tragic past begins to resurface, can he help her remember the things she can’t?

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own familyand destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.

Oh, what a good-sounding read. What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always wanted to write family relational drama, so a story with a large family, albeit dysfunctional, really appealed to me. I wasn’t quite sure how it would all turn out until I started writing. But I think every family has its own set of problems, a lot of times hidden behind closed doors, and I wanted to write a story that exposed this and said, it’s okay, let’s face this and see what God can do with it.

You live on the island of Bermuda. Is that what gave you the idea to set this story on the island of Nantucket?

I thought a small island setting would be dramatic and Nantucket appealed to me because living on an island myself, I thought I would relate to that kind of life, and be able to describe the weather with some accuracy. Being able to incorporate elements like the weather, using storms in certain scenes, added to the mystery of the story. Although Nantucket is very different to Bermuda, the atmosphere is very much the same.

Are there any special challenges you encounter in research and writing because of where you live?

Really, the biggest issue for me is not being able to get to anywhere easily for research. I was only able to research online for this story, and fortunately Nantucket is small enough, that by using Google Maps, I could ‘virtually’ walk around and get a feel for the island that way! But thanks to the internet, most research is pretty easy with the click of a button, and people are always willing to help via email etc.

What message do you hope your readers will take away from the book?

Truth is the backbone of The Things We Knew. I think the lesson learned is that keeping secrets of any kind is never a good thing. But there is always forgiveness, grace, and hope to be found in any situation.

What else are you working on?

I’ve just finished edits on my next release with HCCP, which comes out in March 2017 – The Memory of You.

Thanks so much for joining us, Catherine. The book sounds so intriguing.

catherine-west-author-headshot-001INSPY Award-winning author Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children. Catherine’s novel, Bridge of Faith, won the 2015 Grace Award. Her new novel, The Things We Knew, released July 12th, 2016, through Harper Collins Christian Publishing.

Catherine loves to connect with her readers and can be reached at; Website:

Catherine is giving away a copy of the book. Scroll down to enter!

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Thanks so much for joining us, Catherine!

September 9, 2016

The Story behind Breaking Barriers by Gail Pallotta


Gail Pallotta joins us on the blog today, talking about her new book, Breaking Barriers. Here’s a little bit about the book.

breaking-barriers-original-2-small-copyIn this action-packed thriller gunshots ring out as Ann Jones enters church. She hides in the bathroom until they stop then stumbles into the sanctuary. The congregation lies dead in pools of blood. To rebuild the church she starts True Light Guardians. At the first meeting she’s attacked by a terrorist but rescued by James Crawford. He melts her heart, cold from her father’s abuse, and they fall for each other. She’s afraid to commit to love that might grow angry later like the type she knew as a child. James yearns to stop other attempts on Ann’s life, but can’t. Tormented by her constant risks, he breaks up with her. When an assault sends her to the hospital, an unlikely ally shares Ann’s plight with James, but he reveals a lead that puts all three of them in even more danger.

That’s quite the premise, Gail. Can you share with us what inspired you to write the book?

When I learned that Joan Bauer Alley at Prism Book Group wanted to publish a series taken from I Corinthians 13: 4 – 8, I wanted to be part of it.

We all hear the passage again and again at weddings. We read it at church and in Sunday school.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. Love never fails…”

Was there a line meant for me to explore? If so, which one was it, and could I write something worthy of it? I read the Scripture over and over. Finally, the words “it is not easily angered” stood out to me. Years before I had worked on a book with characters filled with anger toward Christians. I’d left the manuscript in a drawer, but perhaps it was time I got it out.

It became Breaking Barriers, Book #8 in the Love Is…Series

The heroine, the victim of those who seek to destroy Christianity, loves her faith so much she’s willing to defend it against the unsavory people attempting to wipe out Christianity—and her.

The hero not only brings romance to the story, but he shows the heroine the difference in a consistent loving guy and an explosive, angry person like her father who says he loves her, but acts as though he doesn’t.

portrait-shot-gail-pallotta-2Gail Pallotta’s a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A regional Writer of the Year for American Christian Writers Association in 2004, she was a 2013 Grace Awards finalist. Gail’s published five books, poems, short stories and several hundred articles. Some of her articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums.

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Twitter – Gail Pallotta @Hopefulwords

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Gail is giving away an e-book copy of Breaking Barriers. Follow the instructions below to enter.

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

September 7, 2016

The Story behind God Bless Us Every One by Eva Marie Everson

Christmas is knocking at the door. Crazy, I know. I saw my first Christmas ad on TV the other day. No, I really did. It was so shocking, I can’t remember what the product was. And both my husband and my daughter are singing Christmas carols.

So, I guess that means it’s appropriate to be hosting Eva Marie Everson this week. Her Christmas novella is releasing, and she shares what inspired her to write it.

Here’s a little bit about the story.

god-bless-us-every-oneCharlene Dixon—called Charlie by family and friends—is devastated at the recent loss of her job. For the last five years, the twenty-seven-year-old has blossomed as the activities director of an exclusive all-girls school. But when a misunderstanding with the head mistress leads to a pink slip right before the holidays, Charlie packs up dreams and returns to her grandmother, called “Sis,” who raised Charlie as her own.

When Charlie arrives—broken and confused—Sis immediately puts her granddaughter to work behind the scenes of the local school’s Christmas play, A Christmas Carol. When Charlie disapproves of having to work with Dustin Kennedy, the seventh-grade drama teacher, Sis encourages her to take a deeper look at why the book by Charles Dickens had been written in the first place and what the book could teach Charlie about the needs of the people in their own community.

So, Eva, could you share what sparked the idea for God Bless Us Every One?

First, I’ll tell you the story behind why I wrote the book. I wrote the novella, initially, because I was asked to. (Insert grin here.) I got a call from the editor at Abingdon, Ramona Richards, asking me if I was interesting in writing a Christmas novella …not a retelling of A Christmas Carol, which has been done to death, but a novella with A Christmas Carol as the thread.

Well now … that was a tall order, but I’ve never shied away from tall orders. So, I said “Sure.”

But if I wasn’t going to write a novella that was a retelling, what would I write about?

So, I decided to dig in and learn why Charles Dickens wrote his celebrated novel in the first place. And, I gotta tell you, I was intrigued. I was intrigued by what Dickens had gone through in his life, what he’d lost, what he’d gained. And I was intrigued by the period of time in which Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. Christmas as we know it today didn’t exist up until that time. Dickens, with the writing of his short story, put the Dickens in Christmas.

But all the while, there was a problem which stemmed from the imprisonment of his father and the continued embarrassment his father put him through, even as an adult.

So I asked myself, “What if a young woman today had the embarrassment of a father and mother who had gone to prison and the father suddenly returned to make amends? Or, maybe it wasn’t amends? Maybe, like Dickens’ father, he is seeking a way to steal money? Secondly, what if the issue of hungry children and homeless families came into play?” See, this isn’t only an issue in our time; this was an issue in Dickens’ time. He sought to change that with his storytelling.

So Charlie Dixon, in my novella, learns much about a world outside of her own, and even more about love and forgiveness based on what she learns while co-directing her hometown’s production of A Christmas Carol.

Wow, what an interesting background to a story. I never knew all of that about Charles Dickens. Thanks for sharing.

eva-marie Eva Marie Everson is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 30 titles, both fiction and nonfiction. She is the president of Word Weavers International, the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference, and a popular speaker at writers’ conferences and churches. She and her husband make their home in Central Florida. They are the parents of three tremendously fine children and the world’s greatest grandchildren. They are owned by their dog.

Eva is also giving away a copy of the book. Scroll down for all of the details.

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Thanks for visiting with us, Eva!

September 2, 2016

The Story behind Starving Hearts by Janine Mendenhall

We welcome Janine Mendenhall to the blog this week. She’s sharing the story behind her new release, Starving Hearts. Before she shares with us, here’s a little bit about the book.

Starving HeartsSince her assault, Miss Annette Chetwynd has been plagued by nightmares and worries about an arranged marriage. But she yearns to find her anonymous rescuer. Unfortunately, her health and intellect prevent it. Both repel suitors and cause Annette to doubt God’s existence, at least until He answers her prayers in an unusual way…

Mr. Peter Adsley is joining the clergy, and he desires a godly wife by his side. After a failed attempt to obtain one, he engages in a clandestine meeting with the bewitching young woman who keeps crossing his path. But she is so unsettling.

Destined for disappointments, Peter and Annette both endure disgraceful situations. Will Peter’s faith sustain him through overwhelming setbacks? Can Annette overcome her doubts? Or will their starving hearts yield to the machinations of a mad man?

Janine, can you please share with us what inspired you to write this story?

The story behind Starving Hearts isn’t pretty. In fact, it used to wake me in the middle of the night.

After quite a few sleepless nights and rough next mornings, I decided I’d write it down if I dreamed it again. I even promised to include it in a book someday, if only I could get it out of my head. If you’ve read Starving Hearts, you’ll spot my nightmare scene in the book’s subplot about the slave trade. If you haven’t, all I can say is—much to my horror—my dream made it seem like I was right there watching the horrendous abuse of some defenseless slave.

Now, much to my relief, it’s buried in the heart Annette and Peter’s story.

Have you ever had any nightmares like that? How did you feel trying to get back into life’s routine the next day?

For me, the process was so disturbing, I began to wonder how that stuff got imprinted on my mind because I didn’t remember studying too much of it, at least not in such painfully vivid detail.

Then it struck me.

When I was a child, my parents forbade me from watching the film of Alex Haley’s Roots. I used to sneak out of bed and catch a few minutes here and there by hiding in the kitchen and watching through the food pass-through, though. And they never caught me.

Maybe those images were stamped in my mind way back then.

Anyway, as both an English teacher and an author, I’m very careful with plagiarism so I went back and watched Roots and Queen, its sequel, to confirm that I hadn’t accidentally copied them.

But there weren’t any scenes like the one I had in mind.

And the question kept haunting me. Where had I viewed or experienced those images?

Toward the end of the editing process, I made another concerted effort to present my worry about copyright issues to the Lord and prayed for Him to show me how I came to have such terrible dreams.

Thankfully, He revealed the source, which I had forgotten about, and sure enough, I found what had been locked in my memory when I studied it again.

I made adjustments to Starving Hearts to prevent copyright problems, of course. Now the scene, which shall remain a secret here, is in my book instead of my head.

Oh, no. I just had a thought.

What if you get nightmares when you read Starving Hearts? Just kidding, sort of. As of this moment, no one has contacted me regarding bad dreams so, I believe, you’re safe.

There is, however, another lesson to be learned.

Children with impressionable minds are sneaking peaks at all sorts of things that are inappropriate. It’s everywhere. Are you watching yours as carefully as I watched mine when they were younger? Just saying.

Thanks so much for joining us, Janine! It’s been great to have you. Sounds like a fabulous read. Another one on my TBR pile 🙂

Mendenhall (Can you find hidden titles of some favorite books/films I’ve added in my bio?)

In 1976, I watched Beauty and the Beast with George C. Scott, and now resistance is futile, especially where reading historical fiction and sewing Regency or Victorian gowns are concerned.

A couple years ago, I stayed up all night sewing an 18th century costume just so I could be Elizabeth Swann, for Disney Day at school.

My interest in historical fiction and fashion grew into a magnificent obsession with beauty and a happily ever after.

A couple years later on Halloween, I sacrificed my chance to dress up in a princess bride costume just so I could watch The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan with Lindsey Wagner.

That fateful evening, I discovered time travel and a new kind of love story.

Now I find (or lose) myself somewhere in time using: Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice or a number of other classics like Jane Eyre and Redeeming Love. 

I also cry over Amazing Grace, both the movie and the hymn.

But they are tears of joy over God’s blessings.

Then again, that could stem from being lost in Austen one too many times.

After thirty-eight years in Los Angeles, living in North Carolina is another gracious blessing. I’ll always be amazed by living trees and four distinct seasons.

They remind me that God is so awesome, even creation speaks of Him.

Social media is a mystery to me, however. I mean, who reads a book to learn how to use Facebook besides me, and then still messes up?

When they are not helping me figure out 21 century technology, my husband, Tom, and five children enjoy playing the piano and other stringed instruments; computer programming, solving math and physics problems, and doing other left-brained activities.

We also love and worship the Lord.

On that note, I truly enjoy worship songs, but if I attempt to clap while singing, it’s likely I’ll stop breathing so I don’t. Instead, I praise Him for His infinite sacrifice on my behalf and for the opportunity of sharing the Gospel in my historical fiction/romance novels and on my blog.

You can visit Janine at

August 23, 2016

The Story behind The Loyal Heart by Shelley Shephard Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks for joining us, Shelley!

August 20, 2016

The Story behind Where Healing Starts by Angela Meyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are very right about that, Angela.

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

Connect with Angela:
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Pre-order special for Where Healing Starts: At the time of your purchase, receive a free download of Where Hope Starts, book 1 in the Applewood Hill series.
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Follow the directions below for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Where Healing Starts when it releases.
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Thanks so much for sharing your story, Angela! It’s been great to have you.

August 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What’s up next for you?

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

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

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

You can find bonnie at

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

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

August 9, 2016

The Story behind A Beauty Refined by Tracie Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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