Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Distant Heart by Tracey Bateman - Review

Distant Heart (Westward Hearts Series #2)by Tracey Bateman
softcover, 2008, Avon Inspire
ISBN 9780061246340
264 pgs.

In this second book in the Westward Hearts series, will the promise of a new life out west heal the scars of Toni's past?

This series tells the stories of three strong women as they struggle to survive on the rough wagon train and lose their hearts to unlikely heroes along the way. Think Little House on the Prairie meets Francine River's Redeeming Love and you begin to get a sense of the riveting historical series that Tracey Bateman has created.

In this second installment, we follow Toni Rodden, a former prostitute who sought to escape her past and build a new life, and a new reputation, when she joined the wagon train. Despite much resentment and distrust from the other women, Toni has finally earned a place on the wagon train and found a surrogate family in Fannie Caldwell and her two siblings. For the first time in her life, Toni actually feels free.

But while Toni once harbored dreams that her new life might include a husband and family, she soon realizes the stigma that comes with her past is difficult to see beyond and that she'll never be truly loved or seen as worthy. As the trip out west begins to teach her to survive on her own, she resolves to make her own living as a seamstress when the train finally reaches Oregon.

But despite Toni's conviction that no man will be able to see beyond her marred past, Sam Two-Feathers, the wagon scout and acting preacher for the train seems to know of a love that forgives sins and values much more than outward appearances. Will Sam have the confidence to declare his love? Will Toni be able to trust in a God that can forgive even the darkest past? Faith, love, and courage will be put to the test in Distant Heart.

Tracey Bateman is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including Defiant Heart, the first in the Westward Hearts series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and recently served on the board as President. She lives in Lebanon, Montana, with her husband and their four children.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Shadow of Treason by Tricia Goyer - Review/Interview

A Shadow of Treason (Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War, Book 2)
by Tricia Goyer
softcover, 2007, Moody Publishers
ISBN 0802467687
288 pgs.

In A Shadow of Treason Sophie discovers that nothing is as she first imagined. When Walt, the reporter who helped her over the border, shows up again after Guernica is bombed, Sophie is given an impossible mission. She must leave behind the man she's fallen in love with and return to the person who betrayed her. Another layer of the war in Spain is revealed as Sophie is drawn into the international espionage schemes that could turn the tide of the war and help protect the soldiers from the International Brigade ... she must find a way to get a critical piece of information to Walt in time.


Q: A Shadow of Treason follows A Valley of Betrayal. This is the first time you've written books as a series instead of stand alone. Which way do you like better?

A: I love writing in series. It was great to continue with the same characters. In my stand-alone books I fell in love with these people and then I had to say good-bye after one book. It was wonderful to be able to continue on.

Q: In A Shadow of Treason Sophie must return to the person who betrayed her in an effort to help the Spanish people. It makes the book hard to put down because the reader has to know how Sophie's heart will deal with it. Why did you decide to make this an element of the book?

A: There are very few of us who go through life without giving away a part of our hearts to someone who didn't deserve it. Even though Sophie had the best intentions, she gave away her heart and she was hurt-not only that she must revisit those emotions.

I wanted to include this element-to delve into the topic that emotions are sometimes as big of a trap as any physical cage. Emotions are real and they guide us -- even when we don't want to admit it. Poor Sophie, not only does she have to deal with a war around her -- she also has to deal with a war within herself. It's something I've battled, and mostly likely others have too.

Q: There is an interesting element that arises in this book and that is Spanish gold. I know you can't tell us what happens in this book, but can you give us a brief history of this gold?

A: Sure. When I was researching I came upon something interesting. The Spaniards, as we know, had taken much Aztec and Inca gold during the time of the conquistadors. Well, at the start of The Spanish Civil War much of this gold was still held in Madrid. In fact Spain had the fourth largest gold reserves in the world at that time. The Republican government was afraid Franco would take the city and the gold. They had to get it out of Madrid and this included transporting priceless artifacts. The element of gold does make its way into my story. It was great to include this little-known (and true!) element into my story.

Q: Another historical fact I learned about was the Nazi involvement during this time. Not only were the Germans active in Spain, but they had spy networks busy around the world. How did you find out about this?

A: I love reading tons of research books. Usually I find one little element that I dig out and turn into a plot line. This is what happened with my plot-line for the Nazi pilot, Ritter. I dug up this bit of research of Nazi involvement in Spain -- and the United States -- because a lot of people aren't aware of the Nazi involvement prior to WWII. The truth is they were busy at work getting the land, information, and resources they needed far before they threatened the nations around them. The Germans knew what they wanted and how to get it. And most of the time they succeeded!

Q: A Shadow of Treason is Book Two. When will Book Three be out? Can you give us a hint of how the story continues?

A: Book Three is A Whisper of Freedom. It will be out February 2008. The characters that we love are all still in the midst of danger at the end of Book Two. Book Three continues their stories as we follow their journeys in -- and (for a few) out -- of Spain. It's an exciting conclusion to the series!

Q: Wow, so we have a least one more fiction book to look forward to in the near future. Are you working on any non-fiction?

A: Yes, I have two non-fiction books that will be out the early part of 2008. Generation NeXt Marriage is a marriage book for today's couples. It talks about our marriage role models, our struggles, and what we're doing right as a generation. It also gives advice for holding it together.

I've also been privileged to work on the teen edition of Max Lucado's book 3:16. It was a great project to work on. What an honor!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Perilous Proposal by Michael Phillips - Review

A Perilous Proposal (Carolina Cousins #1) by Michael Phillips paperback, 2005, Bethany House Publishers
352 pages
ISBN: 0764200410

Reading A Perilous Proposal reopened my eyes to the struggle made by the slaves of the south to gain their freedom – something they never allowed themselves to dream.

Jake a young black man in the south. Though a slave on a plantation, he is fortunate to still remain with his parents. One day the owner changes that, and with his decision, changes Jake’s life forever.

Years later the War Between the States looms on the horizon, and slaves everywhere start to allow glimmers of hope for a life like they have never known. Jake’s Ma makes him vow to search for the father who disappeared so long ago. But the anger that has been building in Jake for all these years towards a father that was never there, takes Jake on a perilous journey through a war torn south.

Finding love with a young woman, a former slave, Jake starts to find peace. But pieces of her and Jake’s past are not far behind, and their love is tested. Will Jake be able to forgive his Father and move on?

Mr. Phillips story kept the pages turning, as I was taken back to a different time and life. I enjoyed the real life characters as well as the events happening during the Civil War. A Perilous Proposal is a companion to the series Carolina Cousins – Shenandoah Sisters.

A Fire Within by Kathleen Morgan - Review/Interview

A Fire Within (These Highland Hills, Book 3) by Kathleen Morgan
Paperback, 2007, Revell
320 pages
ISBN: 0800759656

Immersed deep in the Scottish highlands, Kathleen Morgan takes us on her third and final journey into the Campbell clan. Surrounded by the rugged and beautiful Scottish country we are taken back to a time of castles and highland honor, a time of romance and danger.

Caitlin Campbell listens to her heart more then her head and in the past it has caused her pain. Extending the highland code of hospitality, she invites two men to stay at the home of her brother, Niall, chief of the Clan Campbell. Struggling to let God control her life, Caitlin’s world spins out of control when she is abducted.

Darach MacNaghten and his cousin travel under assumed names deep into Clan Campbell in an attempt to rescue his brother. Although he has been banished from his own outlawed clan he fights to save the Clan MacNaghten and resort honor to its name. When Darach realizes his rescue attempt is impossible he makes one last desperate effort and takes Caitlin as a hostage.

Will Caitlin finally let God control her life? Can Darach put his trust in God and realize His plans are much larger then his own? Can these two make it through the Scottish highlands will fighting their attraction for each other?

Kathleen Morgan once again captures our minds and hearts in this delightful tale of Highland romance.

Questions & Answers with Kathleen Morgan

Gail: What is your favorite part of Caitlin and Darach’s story?
Kathleen: The way they grew personally for the better as they met and overcame each new challenge, and began to fall in love.

Gail: I love your website! The Scottish look is perfect. Anything that has to do with castles and Scotland has me intrigued. In fact one of the many pacts my twin sister and I have made is to one day get to Scotland and see the castles. This brings me to my next question. Have you ever been to Scotland?
Kathleen: Nope, never been to Scotland, but like you and your sister, I want to go someday. In the meanwhile, I use my extensive library of Scottish related book, along with some good Scottish music that I listen to on my computer, to stimulate my imagination.

Gail: What got you interested in writing books that take place in Scotland?
Kathleen: Scottish history is so full of drama, pathos, a wild, romantic land, and a people who stir the heart and imagination. Plus, I’ve got Gaelic blood in me and och, when the bagpipes play!

Gail: On your website we can read that you play the Celtic harp. What got you interested in that particular instrument and however did you find a teacher?
Kathleen: A lot of Gaelic music includes the Celtic harp. Plus, I love string instruments, and a harp has lots of strings J. Plus, I’ve never been known to do anything by half measures, and so, when it came to learning to play an instrument, I picked one of the hardest ones to learn to play. As far as teachers go, I was lucky to live in a large enough town to possess several harp teachers.

Gail: A Fire Within is the 3rd in your series, These Highland Hills. Is this the last book in this series or do you see more coming?
Kathleen: At present, A Fire Within is the final book in the series. From the start, I’d only planned on doing three books—Anne, Iain, and Caitlin’s story. Of course, I’ve also learned never to say never.

Gail: I just finished a fantasy series not too long ago. I see that you have a series started called Guardians of Gadiel and plans to start the next two in the series in 2008. Can you tell us more about it?
Kathleen: I love fantasy for its potential to depict a lot of today’s problems and issues in another time and place and, in the doing, hopefully make some point in a less threatening and preachy, but even more powerful, way. I also love the freedom fantasy gives me to create new lands, peoples, history, and conflicts without the usual historical constraints.

Even before I began writing Giver of Roses, the first book in the series, I plotted out the entire three book series. It just came to me so clearly. Though I knew it would have a love story (or even several J) in it, I also wanted not to so easily conclude that primary love story right away, like I usually do in my historical romances. I sought a new challenge—to develop the characters of Vartan and Danae (well, especially them anyway) over the space of three books, as they struggle not only with their love for each other, but also with their own, unique, God-inspired callings in addition to the bigger challenge of saving a realm—Gadiel—from the clutches of evil.

Gail: To you, what are the worst and best aspects of writing?
Kathleen: Best aspects: the excitement of a story that you just have to tell and can’t wait to get onto the page. Also, the often surprising revelations of plot and character as they evolve in the writing process, and the spiritual truths and insights that I personally gain in the writing of these stories.
Worst aspects: Writer’s block. Writing in the vacuum that all authors cannot help but experience, the not knowing if even the slightest vision of the story will find a place on the written pages, or if even one reader will understand that vision, much less like the finished book. Also, the need to keep yourself motivated through all the doubts and fears and sometimes actual drudgery of the writing process.

Gail: Is there any advice you have for budding authors?
Kathleen: Fiction is a lot harder than non-fiction, and requires patience, perseverance, and the willingness to put in the work necessary to hone a craft. And you’d also better love writing and storytelling, because it’s frequently the only positive experience you’ll have, especially while trying to get published. There are lots of talented writers out there—most of them still unpublished. Unfortunately—or fortunately—it takes more than just talent to succeed, much less survive, in this business.

Gail: Now for some fun questions, I love romance, so can you tell us how you met your husband?
Kathleen: I met my husband while on active duty in the Army as a nurse. My sister was trying to set me up with another guy for a blind date for New Year’s Eve. My future husband came along because the other guy (we all met at the Officer’s Club) asked him to as a possible out for him if he didn’t like me. Though that guy eventually gave my husband the signal that it was safe for him to leave (imagine that!), by then I was so taken with my husband that I didn’t want him to go. Luckily, I met my husband (the other guy didn’t win any points with me, I’m afraid) a few more times at the Officer’s Club in the ensuing weeks, and we ended up going out on our first date on New Year’s Eve. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back now, I realize it was the closest thing to love at first site that I’d ever experienced. And all because he was so friendly, and kind, and laughed a lot. He just came across as a great, sincere guy.

Gail: Caramel vs. Chocolate. Which would you pick in a crisis?
Kathleen: Most definitely chocolate, either dark chocolate or a very rich, creamy milk chocolate. Caramel is too sweet for my tastes. Makes my teeth hurt just thinking of it. J Oh yes, and I don’t need a crisis to eat chocolate. I don’t have a strong sweet tooth, so a little bit goes a long way with me.

Thanks so much for the wonderful interview Kathleen, we look forward to reading more of you!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Two Book Giveaways!

This month we are offering two free books. Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant and The Shepherd's Prayer by Richard M. Barry.

It's easy to enter! Simply post a comment in the comment section under their specific reviews and you are automatically entered into the drawing for that book. If you'd like a chance at winning both, be sure to post a comment for both books.

Winners will be notified on December 31st.

Remember that you need to post your email address so that we can notify you if you are a winner. We've had winners before and no way to contact them! If you are uncomfortable posting your email address on the blog, you can also email Paula at instead.

Have fun!

The Shepherd's Prayer - Review

The Shepherds' Prayer: A Christmas Novel by Richard M. Barry
hardcover, 2006, RM Barry Publications
ISBN 0976729059
127 pgs.

The horror of screaming babies, hysterical mothers and grief ridden fathers turns a tranquil night in Bethlehem into utter chaos. Roman soldiers ride through the streets, stealing the lives of innocent babies - at the demand of a jealous king.

One mother, her son clutched to her chest, grabs a soldier’s horse in an attempt to escape. But in the fight for her son’s life, she loses her own. The horse rolls down an embankment, crushes her and orphans a lambskin-wrapped baby boy.

Thirty years later, Anam is surrounded by the loving family who found him. His brothers are happily married and producing heirs and his father is enjoying the blessing of many grandchildren. But Aman’s thoughts aren’t focused on finding a wife and adding to the family. His heart is still searching for a place he feels whole.

The circumstances of his birth and family still linger in his mind along with the lambskin and the mysterious words written into the tanned hide: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to men of good will, through Jesus Christ, who was born of Mary in a stable in Bethlehem and who, wrapped in swaddling clothes, was in a manger, he who is Savior of the world. Aman decides it's time he found out what happened.

Through the story of Aman and his quest, I found myself drawn back in time to Bethlehem. I began to wonder what it must have been like for the people of Bethlehem during such a tragic time. What really happened after the slaughter? How did the town’s people view the shepherds who brought the news of Jesus birth and, as a result, send Herod into a jealous rage? How did they view Christ?

Richard M. Barry does a wonderful job in creating a man looking for answers. A man who becomes one of the greatest names in Biblical history.

Richard M. Barry is an author, publisher, inventor, entrepreneur and committed Christian, wrote The Shepherds' Prayer to help disseminate the untold story of the Bethlehem shepherds of the Bible. A labor of love, the inspiring story of tragedy, suffering faith, hope and triumphant vindication took nine years to complete.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

In Search of Eden by Linda Nichols - Review

In Search of Eden by Linda Nichols
softcover, Bethany House Publishers
ISBN: 0764201670
448 pages

Linda Nichols embraces the hurt and questions that plague mothers when they give a child up for adoption, in her book In Search of Eden. I found her story full of heartache and hope.

Miranda DeSpain has been wandering through life for 11 years, jumping from job to job, from one town to another. Unable to forgive herself for giving her baby to another, Miranda floats through her life without a purpose. When her mother gets ill, Miranda makes the long journey home to care for her, dreading the thought of taking care of a mother who showed her no love. In the process she uncovers clues to her own past that’s mysteriously linked to her mothers’. A past she never had closure on.

Miranda sets out on a new adventure in search for a baby she never knew and forgiveness she can only receive from her Heavenly Father. What she finds along the way kept me turning the pages and cheering her on in her quest for Eden.

Joseph North keeps his town and family close and protected. Taking his job as a police officer in Abingdon, Virginia seriously, he’s suspicious of a new young woman in town. One that likes to keep to herself and one that he finds himself surprisingly attracted to. His constant questions and her refusals to answer them, come to a head the day Joseph discovers an old picture of his niece, one Miranda treasures with all her heart. . .

Linda Nichols weaves a wonderful story of second chances of acceptance, forgiveness and love.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist - Review/Interview

Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist
Softcover, Bethany House
ISBN: 0764202251
336 pages

Deanne Gist’s Courting Trouble made me laugh, made me cry, and made me ponder the actions and choices of the heroine in her book.

Essie Spreckelmeyer has endured thirty years, and has, in many of the townspeople’s minds, failed to catch a husband. Impatience leads her to try and give God a helping hand with the project. Listing the attributes and drawbacks of the eligible men in her small home town of Corsicana, Texas, she randomly picks the first one her finger lands on and sets out on the mission of seizing herself a man.

What follows in a hilarious dose of Essie’s outgoing and somewhat unconventional personality on the men of Corsicana. From her ability to catch snakes, or flying through town on her bicycle, the local residents get a glimpse of Essie as well as her ankles!

What starts out as a mission to get what she has longed for, Essie journey’s through a painful chapter in her life leads to decisions she will come to regret, and find peace with.

Although Ms. Gist’s book is not the ordinary romance novel I was expecting, I find myself contemplating the story and how Essie’s journey is a mirror of many woman’s, and how letting go and letting God is more satisfying than anything Essie can cook up.

I am looking forward to reading the next chapter in Essie’s life with some impatience of my own!


Gail: Deeanne, I loved your book Courting Trouble. Although not the typical ending in most romances, I left the story feeling very satisfied with the ending. Can you tell me what inspired you not to create that typical ending in Essie’s story?

Deeanne: I originally had every intention of having a traditional ending, but while I was working on Essie’s character arc and praying over it, I realized that my character thought she wasn’t a whole person without a man. The Lord stopped me and said He had several gals (real ones) who thought the same thing.

I put my pencil down, telling Him how sad that was because all those girls needed was Him. He agreed, then told me that is what He’d like my main character to learn. I immediately began to argue with Him, stressing this was a romance and if my character’s big epiphany at the end was that she didn’t need a man, then ... where would the romance come in?

But the Lord was through talking. He said what He had to say. Now He expected obedience. I knew, in theory, it was literary suicide to write a romance where the girl didn’t get her guy at the end, but the only thing I fear more than having one of my books fail, is being disobedient to the Lord. So ... that’s why Essie doesn’t get her man at the end.

Gail: I think the Lord knew what He was talking about! You took a great step of faith in writing a "unromantic" romance. But you have always taken that step of faith with your writing. Your books fall into the “edgy” Inspirational Fiction category. What made you interested in this genre?

Deeanne: I am, for the most part, a secular fiction reader. When I began reading secular romance, the protagonists were of high moral fiber. But as the years went on, the bar kept getting lower and lower until now, in some cases, the bar has been thrown completely out the window. So, the Lord challenged me to write a book for Christians who weren’t currently reading Inspirational, but were reading secular fiction. So, that’s what I did. Because my target market has a fairly high tolerance for fiction with a bit of an edge to it, my work has been tagged as “edgy.”

Gail: What message do you hope readers leave with after reading your books?

Deeanne: I try to leave that between the reader and Lord. I don’t usually set out with a specific agenda (though I did in Courting Trouble, but that’s more the exception for me). The goal I have for my writing is that I use my gifts and talents to glorify the Lord. The rest is up to Him.

Gail: Do you have a favorite scripture verse?

Deeanne: You know what, I really can’t say I have a favorite. There are so many awesome ones, I couldn’t possibly pick. I was just reading 2 Kings last week and ran across the story where the king of Aram surrounded the city with an army of horses and chariots. Elisha’s servant walked out of the house, saw them and completely freaked out. Elisha told him not to be afraid, then said to the Lord: “O Lord, open his eyes so that he may see.” And He did. And the servant then saw that the hills were covered with horses and chariots of fire. Is that just the coolest thing? I love that!

Gail: I think there are many things the Lord chooses not to reveal to us, if we could see, I think we would be blown away at His awesome power. Speaking of revealing things, can you tell us anything about Deep in the Heart of Trouble the sequel to Courting Trouble?

Deeanne: Yep. In Deep in the Heart of Trouble, Essie gets her man. At the start of the book she has been walking joyfully in her singleness for 4 years and is so fulfilled that when the Lord brings a flesh-and-blood man into her life she is rather resistant to the whole thing.

Gail: Do you feel you and Essie share some personality traits? Which ones?

Deeanne: I’m sure we do. I think I leave a little bit of myself in each of my characters. But since I don’t do it on purpose, I couldn’t really tell you which parts are me and which aren’t. If you asked my sister, though, she’d be able to tell you. On second thought, let’s not ask my sister. ;-)

Gail: Hmm, I know what it's like to have sister know all your bad habits, in my case she shares them with me, so I'm pretty safe! Tell us what is a typical day in your life?

Deeanne: I write full time. In the mornings after I’ve had my quiet time, worked out and had a cup of peppermint hot chocolate, I settle in with my computer. I usually take care of administrative duties in the morning (emails, phone calls, mail, paperwork, etc). Then in the afternoons I write up until quitting time.

Gail: Can you share any insights about the publishing process with us?

Deeanne: Your publisher, editor and marketing department know what they are doing. Trust them.

Gail: What was the hardest part of Essie’s story for you to write?

Deeanne: The ending was the hardest part of Essie’s story for me to write. Even though it seems like having Jesus Christ as her groom would be a very fulfilling ending, romance readers have certain expectations. And the gal getting her man is one of them. So, to convince the reader that Christ really was enough without sounding preachy or gooey was very tough.

Gail: One fun question Deeanne – what is one of your worst habits and are you willing to share it with us?

I “graze” instead of eating properly. When lunch time rolls around, I’d rather have a Ding Dong or a bag of mini-Oreos than make myself a sandwich. Terrible habit. I keep telling myself I need to treat my body better. But, Oreos are so much more yummy than a turkey sandwich, you know?

Deeanne Gist has won the Christy Award for Best Romance in 2006 and 2007. Her book Bride Most Begrudging has sold over 100,000 copies. Courting Trouble so far, has hit three best seller lists. She was also nominated for the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance in 2007.

Thank you so much Deeanne to take time out of your busy schedule to chat with us!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant - Review

Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant
hardcover, WaterBrook Press
ISBN: 140007360X
240 pages

Amy Grant has been in and around music for thirty years when she started her career as a teenager singing songs about faith to churches, youthgroups, and weddings. Her first record came out in 1978 during her senior year in High School. Since then Amy's life has been uphill and downhill experience she shares with us in her biography Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far.

Ms. Grant shares heartwarming stories of her past growing up in Tennessee, along with honest insights to her everyday life and struggles. She bravely opens up with stories of her stuggles in motherhood, friendship, faith, her marriage to country artist Vince Gill, her children, and things she's learned along the way. Amy adds a collection of her songs and poems that flavor her unique stories.

I remember Amy's songs growing up. My Father's Eyes is still one of my favorites. Mosaic offered me a great opportunity to see and feel the life of one of Christian music's legends. I learned so much more about the person who is "Amy Grant" and delighted in the fact that she shares the same fears and triumps that we all do as Christians, mothers, parents and spouses.

Amy Grant is the best-selling Christian music artist of all time and the first to garner the number one spot on Billboard’s chart. Since beginning her career at age 17, she has earned six Grammy Awards and twenty-five Dove Awards, and last year she received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Grant’s numerous television appearances include Oprah; Good Morning, America ; and Late Night with David Letterman. In 2007 she’ll tour nationwide, performing with local symphonies in Atlanta , Minneapolis , Kansas City, and elsewhere.

To purchase a copy of Mosaic, CLICK HERE.

Bittersweet by Cathy Marie Hake - Review

Bittersweet by Cathy Marie Hake
softcover, Bethany House Publishers
ISBN: 0764201662
400 pages

Laney McCain has loved Galen from afar, impatiently waiting for him to notice she is a woman now, and not just his friend’s kid sister.

Galen starts to take notice of the sweet young girl that has grown up before his eyes. Meanwhile a poor family of squatters takes up residence on the edge of Galen’s family farm.

Determined to show a Christian example, he allows them to stay and hires twin brother and sister, Ishmael and Ivy to help around the farm in exchange for food. But his Christian kindness is tested in a turn of bitter events neither Laney nor Galen are prepared to handle. They must both learn to trust God's plan for their lives and rely on His wisdom.

Bittersweet continues with characters from Ms. Hake’s book Letter Perfect about Josh and Ruth. I was drawn into Ms. Hake’s wonderful tale as both Galen and Laney’s attitudes toward what is happening in their lives is out of their control and in their Heavenly Father’s hands. The characters come to life in this book that is both fun and witty as well as one that makes you think. I’ve enjoyed Ms. Hake’s books and look forward to more.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Letter Perfect by Cathy Marie Hake - Review/Interview

Letter Perfect by Cathy Marie Hake
softcover, 2006, Bethany House Publishers
379 pgs.

Cathy Marie Hake introduces Ruth Caldwell in an unforgettable story filled with humor, tears, and love.

Ruth is an obedient daughter - at least she tries to be. Her mother wishes her to attend a school for young ladies and to grow up properly. But Ruth’s innocent mishaps at the latest school sends her home once again. Once home, Ruth realizes that her mother is dying. She concedes to her mother’s dying wish that she live with her estranged father on his ranch in California.

Ruth’s arrival to California not only causes uneasiness in her own heart, but in the lives of those she meets. She arrives in town only to discover that her father passed away several years ago and part of his ranch is now hers.

Joshua McCain and his father own the other half of the ranch. But until they can settle who the rightful owner is, with the help of a circuit judge, Ruth has nowhere to go. Joshua and his family invite her to stay at the ranch and she finds an instant friend in Josh’s sister, Laney.

Life settles into a bit of a routine, albeit unpredictable as it seems Ruth has a wont for finding trouble. But the outhouse door falling on her and falling off of the sidewalk weren’t really her fault - they were accidents. Joshua struggles between trying to protect her from herself and finding her humorous charm irresistible.

When Ruth’s accidents turn into foul play, she and Josh learn to trust in their heavenly Father in a whole new way.
Cathy Marie Hake writes a wonderful story that will keep you turning the pages!


Paula: Ruth, the main character in Letter Perfect, has a habit of finding herself in humorous situations. Did you create her based on someone you know?
Cathy: Truth be told, I'm a lot like Ruth. I'd love to say that I'm graceful and poised, but it would be a terrible lie. I have a knack for getting myself into crazy situations. As a result, I have to concoct creative ways of solving problems.

Paula: What do you hope readers take away after reading Letter Perfect?
Cathy: That we don't have to be perfect; God loves us and accepts us just as we are.

Paula: One of your newest books, Bittersweet, is a play off of Letter Perfect. Are there more books to follow?
Cathy: Bittersweet is a sequel to Letter Perfect. After that, I've skipped over to Texas and have started a new series there. The first book in that series just came out. It's entitled Fancy Pants. In it, a proper English lady winds up masquerading as a boy on a cattle ranch. The hero sure has his hands full dealing with Sydney!

Paula: We’ll be reviewing Fancy Pants later this fall. It looks fantastic! On your website you mention your need chocolate to survive. (I’m glad there’s more of us out there!) White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark?
Cathy: DARK!!!! Better still, dark with caramel or nuts.

Paula: You’ve authored or coauthored more than twenty books. What is one writing technique that you’ve learned since your first book that has impacted your writing the most?
Cathy: WOW. That's a tough question. Perhaps it is the Goal, Motivation, Conflict concept Deb Dixon teaches so brilliantly. Every character has a specific goal, there is a motivation driving him/her to achieve that goal, and there is some kind of obstacle or conflict that they must resolve. Without those three components, no character or story works.

Paula: You juggle family, a ‘real job’, deadlines . . . When do you find time to write?
Cathy: LOL! It's a quarter to two in the morning as I'm answering these questions. I'm a night owl, so when everyone else sleeps, I click away on the computer keyboard.

Paula: Your being a ‘romance writer’ makes me wonder how you met your husband?
Cathy: OH! You'd all love Christopher! I met him at church when I was thirteen. It was the very first time he'd ever attended church. He's the first guy I ever dated. My first kiss. *sigh* how romantic is that? For a time, we drifted apart and dated other people--but I came home from college for the summer, and the usher seated me next to Christopher. He walked me to my Sunday school class after the service and asked me out. There's something irresistible about a man who loves the Lord. Gorgeous blue eyes are terrific, too. We've been married for 27 years now.

Paula: How did you teach one of your dogs to moo?
Cathy: Skylar already mooed when we adopted her. All three of our dogs have come from the Humane Society. She had an Oreo cookie face (White stripe between the eyes and down her muzzle, black ears and eyes) One look, and we *had* to have her--even if they labeled her as "old" because she was eight years old. For nine years, she shadowed me everywhere. Last year, we lost her. Neither of our other dogs moos, but they team up every night to go on "possom patrol."

Paula: Every book an author writes has a special place in their hearts. Is there one of your books that holds first place? Why?
Cathy: OUCH. That's like asking if I have a favorite child. Each book is a labor of love, and the characters end up feeling like friends. I guess my favorite book is the one I'm working on--probably because those are the characters I'm focused on. It's like have dear friends who come to visit--you drop everything and relish the time you have to share together. Other friends are just as valued or treasured, but you can't help lavishing your love on the one who's sitting at your table, sharing a cup of tea with you.

Paula: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Cathy: Italy. Definitely Italy. I was there very briefly twenty-five years ago, and it was a wonderful, fun place. The day we were in Rome was the one day out of the year that the Sistine Chapel is closed. I want to go back and see that!

Thanks so much for popping in to visit with us, Cathy!

Monday, October 01, 2007

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to Cherie J. who left a comment and won Homeschooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, and Family in the Real World by Marilyn Rockett.

Cherie, just email me at and I'll get this wonderful book out to you asap.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Remembered by Tamera Alexander - Review

Remembered (Fountain Creek Chronicles, Book 3) by Tamara Alexander softcover, 2007, Bethany House
ISBN: 0764201107
384 pages

The threat of war--and a final request--send Véronique Girard from France to a distant and uninviting country. In the Colorado Territory, she searches for the man who has held her heart since childhood--her father. Pierre Girard left Paris for the Americas to seek his fortune in fur trading, vowing to send for his wife and daughter. But twenty-five years have passed and his vow remains unfulfilled. Sifting through shards of broken promises, Véronique embarks on a dangerous search for a man she scarcely remembers.His grief finally healed, Jack Brennan is moving on with life. After years of guiding families west, he is now working as a freighter to the mining towns surrounding Willow Springs. What he doesn't count on is an unexpected traveling companion on his trips up into the mountains, and how one woman's search will cause havoc with his plans... and his life.

Tamera Alexander is a bestselling novelist whose deeply drawn characters, thought provoking plots, and poignant prose resonate with readers. Alexander’s books have won multiple awards, including Romance Writers of America’s 2007 RITA® for Best Inspirational Romance, the 2007 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, 2007 Bookseller’s Best, and Library Journal’s Top Christian Fiction of 2006.

Her books have received acclaim from Library Journal, True West Magazine and Historical Novels Review, and Rekindled debuted on the CBA fiction bestseller list. She has a professional background in business management and conference coordination. A leader of women's ministries for over twelve years, she is currently active in music ministry, facilitating small groups, and mentoring other women. A graduate of Harding University, Tamera lives with her husband and their two teenagers in Greeley, Colorado.

Her other two books in the Fountain Creek Chronicles are Rekindled (Book 1) and Revealed (Book 2). To celebrate the release of Remembered, as well as the 3-volume boxed set of Fountain Creek Chronicles (Rekindled, Revealed, and Remembered), Tamera is currently giving away boxed sets in a contest on her website. Check out the contest at .

From a Distance, the first book in Tamera’s next historical series (Timber Ridge Reflections) releases in spring 2008.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Novel of the Gifted: The Begotten and The Betrayed by Lisa T. Bergren - Review

The Begotten (The Gifted Series, Book 1) by Lisa T. Bergren
softcover, 2006, Berkley Books
ISBN 0425210162
447 pgs.

hardcover, 2007, Berkley Books
ISBN 9780425217085
405 pgs.

I will readily admit that I’m not a fan of science fiction and other worldly powers besides that of Christ. But in picking up The Begotten and The Betrayed by Lisa T. Bergren, I found myself pleasantly surprised. I was drawn to her characters, her plot, and the intriguing question--‘what if’.

It’s the year 1339; a time when Christianity was ruled by the papacy. Scripture could only be read in Italian, reading the Bible for yourself was unheard of, and political gain ruled the church.

Enter this timeframe, Daria d’Angelo, a woman of means, without father, brother or husband. She finds herself with the sudden ability to heal people. She meets a gentle priest, a knight of the church, and a little girl who soon discover that they are members of a group called “The Gifted”.

Lisa’s novel expounds on the fact that Paul wrote letters to churches that were never canonized, or included as Scripture. In the first book, The Begotten, a part of one of Paul’s letters is discovered, telling of The Gifted and only that they will come together to share the truth of Christ with others along with their miraculous gifts. But the road ahead of them is not paved with gold.
The Sorcerer, a man who has succumbed to Satan’s hold, is drawing a following of his own. He’s determined to discover who The Gifted are and stop them - permanently.

Lisa’s second book, The Betrayed, continues the saga of Daria, her faithful knights and their journey. They must find the rest of The Gifted, ascertain the other half of the letter and decipher it and stay out of the Sorcerer‘s reach before it’s too late.

I found Lisa’s books wonderfully detailed in the history of the church and written in such a way as to leave you turning the next page with baited breath. Not only does she share God’s truths in a gentle way; she also brings to light the turmoil the church faced in that era.

The Blessed, book three is scheduled for release in 2008.

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the author of 28 books, with over 1.3 million sold. She is a publishing consultant, writer, Bible study leader, mother and wife. Her hobbies include travel (mostly from an armchair), reading, watching movies, cooking and exploring with her family. Lisa's most recent books include The Begotten, The Betrayed, God Gave Us Heaven, What Women Want and The Busy Mom's Devotional. She resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado. To sign up for her monthly email (which includes a new, unpublished devotional) go to her website at and join her newsletter list.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Homeschooling at the Speed of Life by Marilyn Rockett - Review/Interview with Marilyn Rockett - WIN THIS BOOK!

Homeschooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, And Family in the Real World
by Marilyn Rockett
softcover, 2007, B&H Publishing Company
ISBN 9780805444858
176 pgs.

Homeschooling mothers are prone to tons of questions. How can you be sure your children are learning everything they need to know? Why on earth wouldn’t you want to send your children to school in the fall and be free of them for a few months? But it’s this question: How do you manage to balance your home, school, and your family? that causes a homeschool mom to pause.

Throwing clothes into the washer, browning hamburger for an easy hotdish, cleaning up the grape juice stain in the carpet while your seven year old is asking you how to spell organize and your twelve year old is wondering how to get his science kit out of the dog’s mouth . Organize might be impossible to spell until you’ve learned how to do it yourself.

That’s where Homeschooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, and Family in the Real World comes in. Marilyn Rockett is the mother of four grown sons and she homeschooled three of them for fifteen years. Her wisdom, experience and reliance on God has given her the chance to share all of that in her new book.

Marilyn writes in a manner that makes you expect to look up and see her sitting across from you as you chat over a cup of hot tea. Chapters such as Real-life Home Management teach you to establish priorities, take a hard look at what consumes your time, create running to-do lists with columns and reminds you to start small. Each chapter is full of practical ideas along with some of Marilyn’s own personal stories.

Marilyn also includes Stop, Look, Think sections at the end of each chapter for you to evaluate and determine what your next steps should be as well as encouraging verses in the devotions section.

A CD-Rom with her File-a-Plan System is included. As a whole, Homeschooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, and Family in the Real World gives the homeschooling mom a practical hands-on approach to getting organized with a biblical approach.

For a chance to win Homeschooling at the Speed of Life, simply leave a comment here or at Through the Eyes of an Author. Winner will be announced on October 1st.


Paula: You've written and contributed to several books for homeschooling moms including The Time Minder File-a-Plan, The Time Minder, The Home School Manual, Easy Homeschooling Techniques, Easy Homeschooling Curriculum, and Laundry Tales to Lighten Your Load. Can you tell us why you've chosen to use your gifts in this way?
Marilyn: I’ve been writing in various ways since I was a little girl and have always had something to say (just ask my husband!). When I struggled as a young wife and mother, I longed to talk to an older woman, but one never seemed to be available. Older Christian women seem to have forgotten about the verses in Titus 2. I knew that I had to obey the Lord in sharing what I knew with younger women. I wanted to help younger women avoid some of the struggles I had experienced, so writing to minister to them seemed natural.

Paula: Tell us a little about your seminars. What topics do you cover?
Marilyn: I currently have eleven topics for groups to choose from and am adding more – topics on clutter, paper control, teaching children life skills, grandparents and homeschooling, real-life home management, and more. See the complete list on my web site at and I welcome suggestions for additional topics. I speak at events with one or more topics, but I also give my own seminar for those who want to sponsor my one-day Minding Your Time seminar.

Paula: How did you meet your husband, Chesley?
Marilyn: His cousins introduced us thinking we each needed someone just to go to dinner with – never dreamed we would get married! In fact, they pestered him until he finally called me. After all, would you want to go out with someone your cousin was trying to fix you up with! Neither of us were believers when we met, so God was so wonderfully merciful in bringing both of us to himself! I liked him a lot when I met him, but I really liked his mother – a great mother-in-law! By the way, Chesley was very skeptical at first when I talked to him about homeschooling, but he quickly saw the benefit.

Paula: As a homeschooling mother of four boys myself, I have to ask: Would you have a different topic for your book if you’d had four girls?
Marilyn: Probably not! Boys or girls, life moves fast and any active family struggles with balance. My friends with girls say that, generally, they are busier with their girls because girls are more social and want to be involved in outside activities more than boys. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but either way, families today have so many choices and options for activities that we stay busier than we should.

Paula: What did you learn while writing Homeschooling at the Speed of Life?
Marilyn: First, I learned that it is hard work to pour your heart out in print - LOL! But I also realized that any mom’s struggles are the same no matter what age she is or how many children she has. We have the love for our children in common and would do anything necessary to be a successful parent. We have many of the same fears, heartaches, joys, and rewards. Each of us has something to share with another mom who needs encouragement and support.

Paula: Tell us one thing about you that most people don't know.
Marilyn: Most people don’t know that in my single and early marriage days I sold life insurance and cars. Before the Lord convicted me that I should stay home with my children (two then), I thought I could work outside the home and be an equally good mom. Maybe some women can do it, but I saw that I couldn’t. My hat is off to the many single moms who are successfully homeschooling. I’m so thankful now that I came home and later homeschooled. Jeremiah 29: 11-13 has been my life verse. He DOES know the plans that are best for me!

Paula: Do you have another project/book in the future?
Marilyn: Yes, I’m working on others things now. I hope to have a couple of e-books out soon and I’m discussing other projects with publishers. What would you like to see in print? I welcome readers’ suggestions and ideas. In my book, I ask for input from readers about publishing the File-A-Plan in an easy, ready-to-use boxed kit. I welcome thoughts on that product as well. Readers can check my Web site to see what is coming. They can also sign up for a free newsletter, Timeminder Tips, and have fun with other moms who subscribe. If I can conquer the technology, I’ll have more out soon! A wordsmith often isn’t very good with techie things -

Paula: Anything new and different you are doing now?
Marilyn: I’m glad you asked! A Yahoo book discussion group of homeschool moms who wanted to read my book in their online book group invited me to moderate the discussion—a “read through with the author.” It starts in September and I’m so thrilled to interact with these moms as we read, chapter by chapter, through Homeschooling at the Speed of Life. It is such a great idea that I plan to lead another one of my own early in 2008. Moms can watch for the announcement on my web site and in Timeminder Tips. I will also be a guest for a one-hour segment on Phyllis Schlafly’s radio program on October 20. Other events and replays of past events and appearances are on the Web site.

Paula: What was the most influential thing you learned on your homeschooling/mothering journey?
Marilyn: Simplify your life and enjoy your children while they are with you! Listen, love, and laugh, because they will be gone sooner than you realize now. Academics are important and you should pursue them with excellence, but your children grow and learn when they trust you in your relationship. That comes first. They will learn (sometimes in spite of you!), and there are no perfect mothers. In fact, God can only use an imperfect mom, because that is the only kind that exists. He works through us, including through our imperfections, in our children’s lives. Our job is to seek Him first.

Paula: That's something we all need to hear as parents! If you could give new homeschoolers, especially those taking their children out of the public school system, one piece of advice, what would it be?
Marilyn: You can do it! Forget what you know about institutional school and do what is best for your child. Follow your instinct with the Lord’s guidance. You are teaching and raising a child for eternity. We struggle when we try too hard to reproduce “school” in the home, rather than home for school. As I mention in Homeschooling at the Speed of Life, Ruth Beechick, author of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, says “If you find yourself struggling to mold your child to a book, try reversing priorities. It’s the child you are teaching, not the book.” This applies to your household as well, if you are trying to mold your family to your school—It’s the family/child you are dealing with, not the school. Real-life happens (see some of the stories in my book) and your children will learn from those things as well. Homeschooling will be the hardest “easy” thing you have ever done! Worth all the effort and certainly worth it for your children. Blessings to every mom who embarks on the journey.

Thanks so much, Marilyn!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Reluctant Burgular by Jill Elizabeth Nelson - Review/Interview

Reluctant Burglar (To Catch a Thief Series #1)
by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
softcover, 2006, Multnomah
ISBN 1590526864
335 pgs.

Desiree Jacobs schooled her breathing as she handed her ID to the museum guard. Relax. . .just relax. This guy has no idea what you are up to.

And so begins line one, chapter one, in book one of the To Catch a Thief Series. Reluctant Burglar, the spin-tingling, nail-chewing debut novel by Jill Elizabeth Nelson throws us into the world of Desiree Jacobs. A world that suddenly spins out of control when she learns of her father’s murder.

Add to the whirlwind Tony Lucano, a Special Agent with the FBI who’s hot on the trail of an art thief who he suspects is Desiree’s father. Toss in hidden codes, kidnaping, a hard case of trust, and international art thieves. The events that follow throw Desiree into a cat and mouse game that will have readers on the edge of their seats.

But inside this tornado of events, both Desiree and Tony learn that only God can calm their hearts and give them direction in a fast-paced world.

Jill Nelson does an excellent job of making real-to-life characters while giving us an exciting read and eager anticipation for Book #2 and #3 in the To Catch A Thief series.

Wonderfully done!


Paula: Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey.
Jill: I wrote my first novel (novella length, actually) in 6th grade. It was a ridiculous mystery tale involving a gaggle of kid-sleuths. Not a shred of the manuscript yet exists, and the world is grateful. However, I finished it—a major milestone for any would-be writer. Many manuscripts molder in desk drawers or PC memories that never get beyond a few chapters or even a few pages. In order to be a writer, you must write, and you must finish what you write! Since then, I’ve worn the hats of poet, journalist, essayist, short story-teller, and book reviewer. But my current chapeau is my favorite—novelist.

Paula: How did you come up with the idea for Reluctant Burglar?
Jill: I dreamed the story . . . literally! In the wee hours one morning, I woke up all tense from a vivid dream about a woman dressed in black clothing who sneaked into a mansion in the middle of the night. She took a painting off the wall and replaced it with an identical one. In the way of dreams, I knew that she was stealing the forgery and putting the genuine back. How odd! I also knew that if she were caught, disaster would follow for many, not just herself. She was just starting her escape when I woke up.

Two questions haunted me after that dream. What sort of career could that woman have that would give her cat burglar skills and yet not make her a crook? My answer was museum security expert. What bizarre circumstances would force her to do something so outrageous? The answer to that question became the plot for Reluctant Burglar.

Book excerpts, a video trailer for Reluctant Runaway (book two), and a monthly contest for free books are all available on my web site:

Paula: We’d like to know some of your personal tastes. What is your favorite book, author and movie and why?
Jill: My favorite book is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. After I closed the last page of that book, I checked to see who’d had the Godly guts to publish such a moving and disturbing novel. It was Multnomah. I remember standing up and saying out loud, "One day, I’m going to publish with this house." God must have heard and smiled. My publisher for the To Catch a Thief series is Multnomah!

Paula: Are you a seat of the pants writer?
Jill: To a large degree. I know my characters, because they guide the story from one event to the next based on their personalities and how they would uniquely react to situations. I also know the beginning, high points in the middle, and the place I want to arrive at the end. The other details flow as I go.

Paula: What was/is the hardest thing about writing - beginning with your idea for a novel to getting your first box of books and everything in between.
Jill: Writing. It’s hard work—work that I enjoy, but work nonetheless. Like I mentioned above about the incomplete manuscripts, the largest part of the writing life is finishing what you start. The polishing can come after, but a writer must write in order to be a writer. That sounds like a duh! comment, but with so much wasted talent around, it bears saying. Writing is not a discipline for the lazy or unfocused, especially when you have a deadline.

Paula: Can you share with us something embarrassing that has happened to you - and have you ever used that in a book?
Jill: At my first writers’ conference ever, I mistook the small bowl of mayonnaise in front of me for vanilla pudding and took a big bite. Ewwww! I felt like an idiot. Since I never had the courage to ask anyone at my table if they noticed my icky error, and no one ever said anything, I may be sharing an embarrassing moment that could have remained my secret. And no, I’ve never put this one in a book, but maybe I will one day. Dinner table foolishness can be pretty hilarious, and I always inject notes of humor into my books to temper the suspense.

Paula: You speak on a variety of topics from Art Snatchers and Thief Catchers, How to Treat Your Loved Ones Like Strangers, I Want to Be a Published Author–How Do I get There and more. Why did you choose these topics?
Jill: I have something to say from my heart and experience about these subjects. The answer is as simple as that. Writers must write from the heart. Speaking topics are the same. Next month, I’ll be teaching an on-line course for Sormag and am tentatively scheduled for an in-person class at the Northwestern Bookstore in Maple Grove, MN.

Paula: Reluctant Runaway was recently released and the third book in the To Catch a Thief series, Reluctant Smuggler will be available in January 2008. Will there be more titles to this series or will it end there?
Jill: At this time, the series is set to end with Reluctant Smuggler. However, if sales please the publisher and fans clamor for more Desi and Tony, that notion can be revisited. I’m working on proposals for other suspense novels at the moment.

Paula: We both live in Minnesota, so if we were to shop together at the Mall of America, what store would you want to go to first?
Jill: Barnes and Noble. ;-) Seriously, the MOA is not my idea of shopping bliss. Too big, too crowded, too much time wasted walking from one far-flung store to another. A couple of reasons I enjoy living in a rural community are no lines and no traffic jams. Both conditions exist at the MOA. And I am so not a fashionista. But, say, let’s head on over to the Terry Redlin Center in Watertown, SD, or some similar emporium that features great art or great books, and I’m right there with you!

Paula: Can you tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know?
Jill: Hmmmm! Well, here’s a quirk about myself that sends my family into stitches. When I get to laughing so hard I can scarcely breathe, I let out these squeaky, breathy snorts that sound like Muttley from the old Dastardly and Muttley cartoons. My husband says, "Here comes Muttley," and they’ll all yuk it up . . . at me, not with me!

Thanks so much, Jill!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy - Review/Interview

Petticoat Ranch (Lassoed in Texas Series #1) by Mary Connealy softcover, 2007, Barbour Books
ISBN: 1597896470
320 pages

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that I have agreed with the heroine as much as in Mary Connealy’s Petticoat Ranch. I even caught glimpses of my husband in the character of the exasperated hero. That is why this book has made such an impact on me while reading it. The characters thoughts and emotions so closely mirrored my own that I was drawn to them in a way that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Sophie Edwards has been fending for herself and her four daughters for what seems like forever. They work together like a well trained team, protecting themselves from the men, both good intentioned and bad, around Mosqueros, Texas.

In rides Clay McClellan, determined to seek vengeance on his brother’s killers, he decides it’s his Christian duty to marry his late brother’s widow and protect her and the girls from a hard life on the Texas frontier.

From Clay’s misunderstood proposal, his horror that little girls cry a lot, and the fact he has no clue what to do with five females. To Sophie’s and the girls’ frustration for being treated like delicate china, dealing with a man that’s sure his way is right, and trying to translate the manly grunts they hear from a new husband and father. Ms. Connealy’s book is seasoned with hilarious examples of the differences in the way men and women think and handle situations.

Pile on top four adorable girls who would over anyone’s heart, a ruthless outlaw bent on destroying anyone who stands in his way, and this book is a page turner that will keep you chuckling long after the last page has been turned.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS with Mary Connealy

Gail: I loved the sense of humor in your book, have you always been a writer with a flare for humor or was Petticoat Ranch your first?
Mary: I end up putting humor in everything I write. I just can’t resist having the heroine sass the hero. When it’s a choice, she ALWAYS mouths off.

Gail: The four adorable daughters in the story, do they resemble anyone you know?
Mary: I have four daughters and in the most general ways possible the girls resemble mine.
Mandy is the oldest, responsible, orderly.
Beth is the animal lover with the soft heart.
Sally is the tom boy, the daddy’s girl
And the baby, Laura, well, she’s pretty undefined.
Except for Laura they are similar to my girls but of course I went wild and deviated any time I thought it served the book, so their resemblance is minor.

Gail: I very much enjoyed the confusion that Sophie and Clay felt for the opposite gender and how they tried to understand the thinking behind each other’s actions. You were able to put it in a non-offensive way. What was the inspiration for this story line?

Mary: I think of Petticoat Ranch as my husband’s story. My husband, Ivan, is from a family of seven sons. Now we have four daughters. Sometimes, watching Ivan react to the girls, doing the very normal things the girls do, is hilarious. They just shock him. One time, during an extensive discussion of control top panty hose, Ivan shook his head and said, “This is a conversation we never had at home.” I used his well intentioned efforts to figure out women as the background for Clay, my hero in Petticoat Ranch. At least Ivan had a mother, girl cousins and classmates. Then we dated and married, then added the daughters one at a time. Clay came from an all male world, first in the Rocky Mountains, then in the war. He was dropped into his all-girl family with absolutely no preparation. Believing it is his Christian duty to protect and care for these women, he marries Sophie about four hours after he regains consciousness in her care. And then the shocks start coming. The giggling, the hair pulling, the tears. He handles it all as badly as possible all while being charmed and drawn to his wife and daughters. The man is wildly conflicted and the comedy of his confusion just floods the entire book.

Gail: What one character of Sophie’s do you feel you share with her?
Mary: I really don’t think Sophie is much like me. Instead, I think of Sophie as how I’d like to be. My role in my family seems to be the disciplinarian…so that’s a bit like Sophie, and the calm in the middle of the hurricane. So, I spend most of my life dealing with emotional girls and a husband who could be … oh, Italian maybe, for his inevitably noisy over-reactions to whatever is going on. What that amounts to for me is, I say about one tenth of the things I think of. Mostly I just keep my own opinions locked up because I just need to calm everyone else down and not add to the chaos.
But not Sophie. Sophie says exactly what she’s thinking. She isn’t afraid to get in Clay’s face and tell him how it’s going to be. That is so not me. I think the reason I write books is because of the opinions I have to keep to myself.

Gail: I see there is a 2nd book coming after Petticoat Ranch; can you tell us more about it?
Mary: Book 2 in the Petticoat Ranch series is Calico Canyon. Prissy Miss Calhoune, the schoolmarm from Petticoat Ranch and Daniel Reeves with his four unruly boys star in Calico Canyon. She expels his boys from school. He gets her fired. A completely innocent compromising situation sees them married the next day.
Five little boys are horrified.
Daniel is a trapped rat.
Grace is stuck in her worst nightmare.
She’d walk out on them all…with their fond farewell, except her past caught up with her in town, which is why she hid in Daniel’s wagon and ended up spending the night with him and the boys.
Coming Summer 2008 from Barbour Publishing
Calico Canyon is the flip side of Petticoat Ranch. A finicky woman who deals very poorly with men is trapped in a family with six of the most ‘male’ men and boys who ever lived.

Gail: What have you been working on recently?
Mary: I’ve been hard at work, Gail. I am going through Calico Canyon one more time before turning it into Barbour. It’s done but I want it to really sing.
I’ve just been informed that Golden Days, which came out with Heartsong Presents last May, is now going to be part of an anthology called Alaska Brides and will be released next September. Cathy Marie Hake and Kathleen Y’Barbo wrote the other books in the anthology.
I’ve just finished the third book in a cozy mystery series I’m writing for Heartsong Presents Mysteries. The first, Of Mice…and Murder, will be out Christmas ’08.
And I’ve been contracted to write a three book series for Heartsong Presents. I’m done with two of them, written before I was offered the contract, and am into the third. These are set in South Dakota and centered around a small town with a big buffalo ranch.
The first book in that series, Buffalo Gal is a vegetarian who dreams of the day her beloved buffalo can roam free on the Great Plains and a cattle rancher who is standing right in the way of her dream and has no intention of moving an inch. Of course it’s a mess that can only be overcome by True Love.

Gail: What do you feel the hardest part of getting published was for you?
Mary: Wow, Gail. Getting published is just so hard. The hardest part? Yikes.
Going back to writing after I got a ONE on a scale of One to Ten in the Golden Heart, for Petticoat Ranch which was winning almost ever contest I entered it in. THAT was hard.

Going back to writing when an editor has just sent you your zillionth rejection letter.
Staying in the game when I realized I’d been rejected for using language wrong for the historical time period. Trouble was, my book was a contemporary. Which told me I’d been rejected before the editor had read two full pages, because they were driving a pick-up truck on page two. That’s how long of a chance you get to impress someone. Very humbling.

The stacks of rejections. I remember one for Petticoat Ranch that was just particularly disappointing and I stared at that rejection letter and thought, “This is the best thing I’ve ever done, I put everything I’ve learned, every skill I know, every trick of the trade into this book, and it’s not good enough. What now?”

HARD is just…like…a synonym for Publishing. I tell people who really get down about rejection letters…I mean some people really take it badly, are devastated by it. I tell them to get out NOW! Grow yourself a rhino hide or GET OUT because dealing with disappointment and rejection is just LIFE when you’re a writer and if it hurts you this much, don’t do it to yourself.
About the last two years before I finally got a contract, I developed an attitude that really helped me through the tough times. Seriously.


I’d send out my submissions and just figure GUARANTEED REJECTION and go back to writing. The rejection would come, I’d think, “Of course” and go back to writing. It really helped me stay sane. I highly recommend hopelessness for unpublished authors.

Gail: Can you pass on any words of advice to budding authors?
Mary: My first reaction here is; if a budding author is taking advice from me, they are in big trouble. I’m still amazed that I got a book published.
I think, fundamentally, the way to become a published author is to write.
That’s it. Write, everyday if you can. Steady, keep at it. Write and write and write some more. You really do get better with practice.
I had twenty books finished when I got my first contract, and when I look back at the old ones, it is painfully obvious that I got much better as time passed.

Other advice. Enter contests; they are worth the price for the critique. Attend conferences; you make connections that will really help. Take classes. I belong to ACFW and they have, on their website, an archive of classes taught by scads of authors and the information in those archives is pure gold. Join ACFW, study those archives, connect with the other members, attend their conferences and take the classes and meet the editors and other authors.

A lot of people will tell you that in writing, “It’s all who you know.”
There’s some truth to that. It really does help to know people. But what isn’t included in that rather, sneering comment, “It’s all who you know.” Like it’s not about writing talent at all. What isn’t included is how easy it is to get to know people.

I belong to a critique group through ACFW, or did for a long time rather, I credit what I learned in that group with developing so many skills. We were all unpublished, four of us, and three of us are now published. We could see the mistakes in each other’s work but not in our own, isn’t that odd. We were a great team. The fourth member, who isn’t published, took a side trip away from writing into motherhood so she’s got a great creation on her hands, too.

Gail: When is your favorite time to write?
Mary: I’m an insomniac. I do most of my writing late at night. It’s kept me sane while the hours tick by and I’m still awake.

Gail: One last fun question – would you call yourself a shop-aholic or a choc-aholic?
Mary: This is so easy, Gail. Neither. I hate to shop. One step into a mall and my head starts aching and my feet start hurting and I start to feel POOR.
I love chocolate but it’s by no means an addiction. I’m far too much of an equal opportunity snacker to commit to a single food.
I think I’m a book-aholic. Honestly, if reading was beer, my family would be holding an intervention.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Revealed by Tamera Alexander - Review/Interview

softcover, 2006, Bethany House
ISBN: 0764201093
336 pages

The second book in the trilogy Fountain Creek Chronicles, Revealed captured my attention within the first few pages. This is Tamera Alexander first series, and a great introduction to a wonderful new author.
The story follows Annabelle Grayson, a woman whose husband had accepted her past and loved her in spite of it. Upon his death, she is left alone to fight the bitter memories of a previous life she can’t change.

Haunted by angry words said to a brother now gone, Matthew Taylor struggles to find his way. Wrong choices catching up with him, he’d do anything to leave it all behind.
Two people needing to accept God’s unconditional love, and each others’ shadowed lives.

With the people of Willow Creek knowing her past, Annabelle Grayson McCutchens is desperate to leave and start fresh. But she needs to find a guide to take her to her late husband’s land. Matthew Taylor’s contempt for his late brother’s wife is unmasked, but he needs the job.

Two unlikely people, with God’s loving mercy, embark on a journey of the heart.

Can Annabelle show Matthew that the person she has become is not the person she was? Can Matthew understand his late brother’s acceptance for a scarlet woman and discover the reasons he’d loved her, for himself?

Tamera Alexander weaves a beautiful story of God’s abounding love and forgiveness. Her characters come to life as each page turns. This story is an uplifting tale of forgiveness, acceptance and God’s power to change people.

Once engrossed in the characters I couldn’t put it down, I was wrapped in the story until the final page. I am very eager to read more of Ms. Alexander’s work.
Questions & Answers with Tamera Alexander
Gail: When did you begin writing?
Tamera: I’ve always loved writing, even as a young girl, and dreamed of being a writer when younger, but never thought I had any talent at it. So I tucked it away…until God unearthed it again a few years back.

The first novel I wrote in 1999 is one I targeted specifically for Bethany House and their historical line. It got to the final review board but then was ultimately “passed over” in early 2002. There were problems in that novel and in my writing that I needed to work on, so they were right to let that one slip through their fingers! After that experience, I realized that if I was going to have a good shot at this publishing thing, I needed to get serious about learning the craft and addressing the weaknesses in my writing.

I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (HUGE for me!), and began dissecting novels—books that I’d loved and read multiple times—with the goal of finding out what made them ‘tick’ for me. I prayed that God would bring people into my life who would help me become a better writer by telling me what I needed to change, how I needed to grow. And He did. I’m so thankful for those writing partnerships.
Gail: Your book Revealed deals with forgiving past actions and hurts, not only in others but also in yourself. What inspired the story for you?
Tamera: Revealed was inspired by some real events in my life. But to tell this accurately, I need to start with the people who first inspired me to write…

Several people, some of whom I’ve never met (other writers), have inspired me to follow this dream of writing. But one person whom I did know and who influenced me in a lasting way was my 7th grade teacher, Miss Debra Ackey of Idlewood Elementary School in Tucker, Georgia. In fact, I dedicated Revealed to her with hopes that a copy of that book will some day find its way into her hands.

I was sexually abused as a young girl (my perpetrator was not someone from my immediate family nor a blood relation), and I was dealing with a lot of guilt, doubt, and repressed anger during those years (7th grade). Writing served as an outlet for me. Looking back at the stories and poems I wrote during that time, it’s easy to see that I was obsessed with death, and the source of those feelings isn’t hard to understand.

With God’s strength and mercy, I’ve long forgiven the person who abused me, and I’ve thanked God often for placing Miss Ackey in my life at that time. She read so many (what I’m certain were) horrible poems on death and dying, and encouraged me anyway. She reached through the pain I was dealing with, past the ugliness I felt steeped in, and she breathed new life into my dry bones. I pray she’ll one day know just how much she did for me.

And I also pray that God will use the story in Revealed to breath new life into others who share a past similar to mine.

Gail: I know you are working on another series, can you tell us anything about it?
Tamera: I’m currently writing From a Distance, Book 1 in a new series entitled Timber Ridge Reflections.

Here’s a brief peek into the book:

When Civil War Sharpshooter Daniel Ranslett moved west, the strong, silent loner hoped to find solace following the devastation of his beloved South and a tragic and untimely death. Ten years later, he's not looking for love when he finds an unexpected, unwanted attraction to a Yankee photographer who is determined to get the picture and tell the story, as long as it’s not her own.

Elizabeth Westbrook believes some secrets are meant to be kept, but finds her own life in peril when her assignment to photograph the newly-discovered cliff dwellings takes an unexpected twist. A photograph she takes turns out to be the convicting piece of evidence in a murder trial—the murder trial of a man she would never have thought capable of the act.

For thirty years, Elizabeth has remained unmarried and untouched, waiting for her life to begin. Yet she’s accepted loneliness as a way of life. That is, until Daniel Ranslett. Now a Son of the South and a Daughter of the North must decide if secrets will come between them forever . . . or free them to love.

From a Distance releases in Spring 2008.

Gail: What is your favorite part of the day to write?
Tamera: Late at night. I write during the day too but I seem to get the most done during the hours of 10 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Gail: What are some helpful hints that you can share with us about the process of getting published?
Tamera: I would encourage writers who have a goal of being published in the Christian Bookseller’s Association (CBA) to join a professional writers’ organization such as American Christian Fiction Writers ( Iron sharpens iron and being in relationship with other writers—critiquing their work and having your own work critiqued—is crucial. Then…write, write, write. And read the genre in which you write. The best writers are great readers!

Gail: Is this series the first work you have gotten published?
Tamera: Yes, it is. Fountain Creek Chronicles (Rekindled, Revealed, Remembered) are my first books. I’ve still got my first novel that I wrote tucked in my desk beside me—right where it should be! ;)

Gail: Is there a certain book out of the Fountain Creek Chronicles series that is your favorite, and why?
Tamera: That’s like asking a mother which of her children is her favorite. I’d have to say that of the three, I love the married romance in Rekindled, the sarcasm and healing in Revealed, and the foreign flair and restoration in Remembered. But of the three, Revealed will always be special due to the nature of that book and its personal connection with my past.

Gail: Do you struggle with a certain aspect of writing?
Tamera: Yes, the entire first draft! Seriously, writing the first draft of a novel is flat painful for me. Yes, there are occasional moments of “yippee!” this came together, but most of it just plain hard work. However, I LOVE the rewrite stage!

Gail: What is your favorite part of the process of writing a book? From the beginning, to actually seeing the book in your hands?
Tamera: Rewriting, no doubt about it. The rewrite stage is when the book just blossoms in regard to character depth and in seeing how God has brought everything together for that particular story. Yep, rewrites. I love them!

Gail: Just one fun question to get to know you better. What is one of your worst habits, in any area, that you wouldn’t mind sharing with us?
Tamera: Oh...let’s see…that’s actually easy to answer right now. I tend to overextend myself. I always think I can do more than I actually can. Or write faster than I actually do. Or juggle more plates in the air that I can actually manage.

This is NOT something I like to admit but I had to call my editor today and ask for another month with From a Distance. The story is coming together well and I’m loving Daniel Ranslett and Elizabeth Westbrook (the hero/heroine) but with our family’s move from Colorado to Tennessee in June, I’ve just flat gotten behind on everything in my life. So that’s my worst habit right now—overcommiting. That and eating Peanut M&M’s for breakfast.

Thanks so much Tamera, for your time, insight to writing, and a peek at your new series coming out!