GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY: Author Hannah R. Conway

Welcome, friends! I have a special treat for you today. I have author Hannah R. Conway on my blog today. She is a bestselling author, for one. Beyond that, she is a writing mentor (mine, in fact) and is very knowledgable in the craft of writing. She is also a phenomenal speaker. I can’t say enough good things about her! But I’ll let you meet her yourselves:

History Doesn’t Have to Repeat Itself

I’m so excited to be Sara’s blog & give away an eCopy of my latest novel, Up in Smoke! Enter to win at the end of this blog post!

Again, I’m super excited to be here. Sara is a dear friend, and talented historical fiction author.

I must say, though I write contemporary romance with elements of suspense and with military themes, I truly have a love for historical fiction. History in general brings a smile to my face, so much that I hold a degree in History, and even teach World History. So, anytime I get a chance to plot and shoot ideas back and forth with Sara, I’m all ears. The way she weaves history and fiction—beautiful!

Somewhere not so deep within me, lives a historical fiction story. One day y’all I will write it!

One of the things I love, and hate, about history is how it repeats itself. Historically speaking, we as a society forgo the lessons of our ancestors and doom ourselves to repeat their mistakes. Teaching history allows me to see those patterns, explore them, and discuss with my students ways we can prevent similar outcomes today, or in the future.

While it’s easy for me to cast a stone at our ancestors, and even present day folks for ridiculous repetitive destructive behavior while waving a pointed finger shouting “haven’t you learned anything?” I’m not innocent.

Countless times I’ve made the same mistake…sometimes knowingly. Ugh. Sad truth.

While writing my latest novel, “Up in Smoke”, my main character, Leanna Wilson, has a history of repeating her past mistakes too. Guess she and I have something in common. At a tender age, Leanna’s heart was broken by her first love, and the betrayal of her best friend. When Leanna’s life gets tough, she runs and puts her hope in people and things that do not fulfill, nor satisfy. This becomes a cycle in her life—history repeating itself.

As I continued to write Leanna’s story, I found myself identifying with her more. She and I both had a problem of letting the wrong history in our lives repeat.

How do we solve this problem?

Huff. Sigh. Groan.

And then it hit me. Wisdom. Wisdom only from God. He has to teach us the way, show us what needs to change in our lives, and create the change in us.

Isaiah 1:17 tells us to learn to do what is right.

How do we learn? By reading what God has to say in the Bible, and doing what it says. Eventually, the history repeating in our lives will be the right kind, the kind that lead to life, peace, and joy.

It seems Leanna and I have had to endure many self-repeating history mistakes, but it also seems like she and I at least now know how to get out of that cycle.

Let’s pray that we all will allow God to teach us the way, and the right kind of history to repeat.

Thank you for those words, Hannah. And for being here. Let me snag you for a few questions.

First, what motivated you to start writing novels?

This deep, deep desire; like, if I didn’t write, I would explode! Truly, I’ve enjoyed creating stories from a very young age, I simply needed to live a little before putting anything permanent down.

What a neat thought on that “live a little before putting anything permanent down”. I like that.

What author would you most like to meet?

Just one? I’d have to say Tosca Lee. Her stories pull me in, keep my up way past my bedtime, and leave me salivating for the next novel. Fan-girling a bit over here!

I know what you mean. I have a couple of those authors on my list 🙂

Where do you see yourself with your writing 5 years from now?

You know, I have a few goals regarding my writing career. I plan to write one book and one novella each year. Within five years I plan to write full-time for a living—say goodbye to the classroom, and increase my speaking platform. Lofty? No way.

I say that’s totally a manageable goal. And I believe in you!

Up in Smoke

Life heats up for Leanna Wilson when an accident claims her parent’s lives. Her dreams of a high profile law career are reduced to rubble when she returns home to assume custody of her sister, Brie. Without the financial means to take legal custody of her sister—or a binding will to place her safely in her arms—Leanna’s future becomes more uncertain than ever. Already prepared for a blazing custody battle, with less than capable relatives, Leanna’s world is set ablaze when her ex-fiancé complicates matters in an attempt to destroy her future and her faith.

US Army, SSG Garrison Burke has spent the last few years alone—balancing flag and fatherhood since the tragic death of his wife. Facing deployment, Garrison is desperate to find a safe caretaker for his son, Ezra—preferably anywhere but the abusive home he grew up in. So, when Leanna Wilson walks unexpectedly back into his life, he’s not sure if she’s a blessing or a curse. More importantly, Garrison cannot seem to forget how he betrayed Leanna many years ago. Yet, as Leanna and Garrison begin to run out of time, they start to see that the solution to their problems might lie within each other, but will they forget the past and allow their broken hearts to mend? As sparks begin to fly and their love is rekindled, a marriage of convenience will either make their wildest dreams come true or cause their best-laid plans to go up in smoke.

Buy Link


More about Hannah

Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, middle school teacher, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live near Nashville, Tennessee.

Connect with Hannah & her books


I (Sara) am so excited to tell you about this giveaway. She is offering one (1) ebook copy of her newest release Up in Smoke. Hannah’s book has been well received and well reviewed (including by yours truly). You can earn entries through the Rafflecopter below. Just follow the instructions!

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AUTISM: The Diagnosis

***When our son, Andrew, was first diagnosed, we started a blog (that we didn’t keep up with very well) called “Andrew’s Journey”. This is the first entry in that blog (edited for this post’s purposes).***

Andrew at 2

It seems like a lifetime ago that our pediatrician said to us that there was a possibility our sweet 2 year old, Andrew, might be autistic. It seemed unreal and I didn’t want to believe it was possible, so I just didn’t. But we agreed to have him tested to ease our doctor’s mind. What was the harm?

The first evaluation was with the Tennessee Early Intervention Services (TEIS). They nailed down his developmental delay and speech delay, but didn’t see anything that pointed to autism. We’re golden. (Sigh of relief.)

A couple of months later, received an unexpected call from the Vanderbilt Children’s Development Center. Apparently, Andrew was on their wait list to be tested by their psychologist. Okay, so this is the autism evaluation. Hold breath again. After solving a little hiccup with insurance (aren’t those fun?), we prepared ourselves for the 4 hour evaluation.

The test itself was pretty comprehensive. They asked me a LOT of questions and played with Andrew in both structured and freeform activities. There was no doubt in my mind they would confirm TEIS’s findings of some developmental delays and a speech delay.

I miss that ignorance.

After all was said and done, the diagnosis was “Autism Spectrum Disorder”.  No one was more shocked than I.  I mean, I knew he had some challenges, but nothing I had read in my (admittedly limited) research on signs of autism seemed to fit my little Andrew.

So right there, in front of the evaluating team members, I started to cry. And cry and cry and cry. I didn’t stop crying for an hour. I cried when I told my husband on the phone while Andrew and I made our way home. I cried when I told my parents. I cried as I looked at my sweet boy in the back seat who had, in my opinion, been given a life sentence.

Over the next few days, my husband and I grieved. We grieved the life we had hoped for Andrew and the inability to use the word “perfect” in the same sentence with “Andrew”. And I was angry with God and the choice He had made for my son. So angry that, even a week and a half later, I couldn’t bring myself to pray.

In the next week, Greg and I dove into the information Vanderbilt had provided us (they sent me home with a packet). And, the more we read, the more overwhelmed we became. There seemed to be two questions pop up for every one answered. But neither of us wanted to trust the internet.

I knew Andrew was (and is) the same boy he was before the diagnosis, that we now simply have a name for what he’s struggling with. It just takes a little while for that realization to travel from my head to my heart. And my husband and I have both struggled with the inability to call him “our perfect little boy” anymore.

Once I was able to get my head above water, I started sharing with my closest friends. The amount of love, support, and sympathy we received was so touching. One of my dear, sweet friends and sisters in Christ shared a truth with me that has really been a turning point for me in my own journey to process the diagnosis. After she extended her sympathies and assured me we were in her thoughts and prayers, she then said, “Praise Jesus that Andrew was fearfully and wonderfully made. And while this diagnosis is a shock to you all, it is not a shock to the One Who formed him in your womb.”

At first I thought it was odd that we should praise Him at all, but my heart softened to this truth and I began to see light in the midst of my grief. Andrew is fearfully and wonderfully made. God promises this. God formed him in my womb. And for whatever reason, this was always His plan for us and for Andrew. The truth is that He will lead us and equip us on this uncertain road with all of it’s ups and downs, twists and turns. Even more than that, I can begin to say that Andrew is perfect…because God made him and he is a miracle.


The blog article went on to share our intentions for the blog.

But, I want to share with each of you that this road has been hard, it’s been sweet, it’s been trying…it’s been everything it promised to be and more. And Andrew is just 6! But the victories have been tear jerkers. The first time he spontaneously said, “Mommy, I love you”, I had to bite my lip to keep from bawling in front of him. And those months when he would self-harm were heart wrenching as you can imagine.

No, it’s not easy. It’s not fun. But it is his journey. Our journey.

INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Tracy Popolizio

Hello all, and welcome to another Friday post! I have a great author to introduce you to. This is another Historical Fiction author friend I have met through the ACFW Historical Fiction Facebook Group. As you well know, I cannot say enough good things about ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). If this is your first time on my page (first: Hey! Welcome! Glad you’re here!), check out this post to learn more about ACFW (it is another author interview, but I share a bit about ACFW and some of the perks).

Author Tracy Popolizio is here today to share her book, The Longest New York Minute via interview and in a giveaway (details below). It is an interesting title, don’t you think? And it has an even more interesting thought behind it. Before I spoil the interview, let me just step out of the way and let you find out for yourself.

Welcome to my blog! Thanks for visiting today. First, Tracy, can you tell us a little about your novel?

A thirteen-year old girl, Jessica Bianchi, lives with her Christian family in an apartment in New York City. Her biggest problem is that her father doesn’t seem to understand her anymore. Life continues but then Tuesday, September 11, 2001, happens. The safe, secure world Jessica knows crumbles right in front of her eyes. The Twin Towers are attacked, her father is missing, and her mother is in another state. Jessica’s faith is tested in ways that didn’t seem possible. In The Longest New York Minute, I wanted to recap the events of the day from the perspective of a young girl.

Wow. What a hard day of events to take on. What was the inspiration for The Longest New York Minute? Was there something that made this story worth it?

My daughter was in 4th grade and came home from school interested to know more about 9/11. When I couldn’t find anything age-appropriate for her to read, I decided to write a story for both my children so they could have an idea of what happened.

I commend you. That is no easy task. Especially with such a heavy subject. But we do need to make such important parts of our collective story accessible to our children as it is appropriate.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

No, I wanted to be a teacher. I used to write poetry and a few short pieces of work, but it was never something on my bucket list.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Probably only after I finished The Longest New York Minute did I realize I wanted to do more.

Interesting. You made it through a whole book…and one that must have had its challenges before you got bit by the writing bug (so they say). But, as you surely know, it’s not all roses and sunshine. There are parts of this whole gig that’s not for the faint of heart. What part of the writing process do you dread?

Always the editing. It’s always been a very difficult thing for me, even in high school. Now I think I dread it because it reveals the area I struggle most-forming the words in the most meaningful, effective way to reach the reader.

You are not alone 🙂 The longer I interview authors, the more I get this response.

I think it’s important for writers to always be learning…and there’s a lot we can learn from each other. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Honestly the best advice I keep telling myself too is to give the entire piece of work to God. Let Him guide you through every step of the way.

I like that. A little while ago, I did an exercise in which I sought out a common core element in my novels. I won’t spoil everyone’s reading experience and give it away…but faith was at the very core. His guidance and purpose for me is very central. I couldn’t do it without Him. No doubt.

Just as we learn from each other, I think so much of what we know at the start is what we have intuitively picked up from reading. And continue to. So, I always ask: what are you currently reading?

Letters From Rifka, by Karen Hesse. I’ve been reading books that relate to the book I just finished to help me with wording, details, etc. This book follows a young Russian Jewish immigrant to America.

I totally set up a writing atmosphere. It just helps me focus better. What about you? Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

I seem to write the most at night just because it’s when I have the most time. When I can, I love to do my writing in the morning or later at night when everyone is asleep. My favorite place is probably the new office my husband made for me, sitting at my big desk that used to be my grandma’s with my cup of tea.

I can just picture it! Makes me what to tap away at the keyboard 🙂

Tracy, I gotta ask…can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

A young Jewish Christian boy helps Jessica find strength in God.

Intriguing… One last question and I’ll let you go. Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

YES! I am so excited, I just finished the first edits of my second manuscript. I’ve been working on it for about a year and a half and I am so thrilled that it’s nearly finished. The story takes place in Nazi Germany and is based on real life events of a young girl. This is a very special project because I was personally asked by the woman’s husband to write a story about her. It’s fictional, but after meeting with her a few times I incorporated events that she remembered from her childhood into the story.

Great. Now I’m totally intrigued and I have to wait (not my strong suit) 🙂 Love, love, love historicals over here.

At any rate, thank you so much, Tracy, for joining me today and for sharing about your book and giving us some insight into your process and yourself. I can’t wait to introduce my readers to more info on the book and give them details on the GIVEAWAY!! (Details below.) So, without further ado, let’s jump right in:

The Longest New York Minute

“I’m so excited to see a book that is encouraging and edifying for youth. This is a must read! A great read really for any age! The characters draw you right in. This book is also historically accurate and you get a real feel for what it was like to be in NYC during 911.” ~ 5 star Amazon Review

Enjoy an Excerpt

She held her breath as a second airplane made its way into the picture and, just as they predicted, collided with the second tower. As much as Jessica wanted to look away, she couldn’t…Every student in the room was speechless. The teachers had composed themselves long enough to try to help the students. From the weight of the silence in the room, it seemed like a ton of bricks was hanging over everyone. Then slowly, a little at a time, students and adults began to sob together. First the younger ones, then slowly it spread across the entire room. Slowly, Jessica felt suffocated by a fear she had never felt before as the realization hit her like a cold bucket of water. Her father! Her dad! All her anger and resentment took a backseat as new emotions swept over her. Was he inside the restaurant eating breakfast? Where was he? New Jersey?

Buy Link



More About the Author

Tracy Popolizio works with young children as a preschool teacher. While she has written pieces of poetry and short stories in the past, she is looking forward to using her writing as an avenue to draw young people closer to the Lord. She likes reading historical fiction and inspirational books that challenge her to soar even higher. In her free time, Tracy enjoys camping, running and taking walks with her husky, and spending time with her family. Tracy lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children and is blessed to be close to their extended family, enabling them to enjoy time together.

Connect with Tracy


Facebook Author Page:



Tracy is offering a paperback copy of her book, The Longest New York Minute, to one winner, within the continental United States, who will be chosen by the Rafflecopter below. Please follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter. Entries will be accepted today through Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 11:59 pm.

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INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Kadee Carder

Welcome to a different kind of Wednesday! First of all, it’s my birthday. Happy birthday to me! Secondly, we have a returning guest. I know what you are thinking…it’s Wednesday, not Friday…guest authors are on Friday. Well, this is a special guest and I made an exception. My friend who I have never met in person, author Kadee Carder, has added a new book to her repertoire. And I just had to introduce you to it.

Some of you may remember Kadee from her Insurrection Trilogy. I met Kadee through our common publisher, Clean Reads. Kadee stands out because of how she truly inspires other authors and helps everyone along on their journeys. Not only their writing journeys, but where they are in life. That is a special quality and I admire her for it. But, let’s jump right in and get to her book!

Hey, Kadee! Thanks for being on my blog today. I’m excited to hear about your newest release. What was the inspiration for Here Be Dragons?

My preacher introduced the idea that people who do not know God are simply prisoners of war. What better way to free prisoners than by love? What better way to fight darkness than with light? Do we work on earth to accomplish material things or do we share encouragement, love, inspiration, and good works in the name of someone much greater than ourselves? Do we humbly help and teach? We humans aren’t just here on this planet to make money or fill time. We are here for life, and a life full. God put each of us here, doing good work he created long ago for us to do. We don’t do any of it for our glory or success, but to free the prisoners of war.

For those who are meeting you for the first time, tell us…did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a child. I dreamed of walking in the big, puffy white suit and dancing on the moon. Now I guess my sci fi novels are the best way for me to get there!

What suggestions do you have to help me become a better writer?

To become better at anything, two words a wise woman once told me: Persistence. Consistency.

Write every day, and teach others to write. Make a list of words you misuse or overuse, and in editing, yank those suckers out of there, especially passive voice (is, was) and unnecessary words like “that” and “there.”

That is the truth! Good words. We are always learning from each other. Speaking of…as you know, we learn directly and indirectly (through reading others’ works). What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Royally Entitled by Melody Delgado.

Another Clean Reads author…and in my genre! I think you will find it a delightful read.

I always set a mood when I write… What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I adore 90’s punk rock like Angels and Airwaves, Blink 182, Green Day, Skillet, and epic music like Imagine Dragons. If it’s a good workout song, I probably dig it, especially for my battle scenes.

Neat. I wouldn’t have imagined any different 🙂 Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

I love the night. While the stars shimmer, they whisper songs of hope and freedom. And secrets. My favorite writing process includes taking a nice, slow walk at dusk as the stars begin to fall, and then sit down in my media room at my desk and tap, tap, tap into the night. It’s a fabulous evening when I can process the gravel of the road, the crunch of shoes upon pavement, and the whispering of life through the trees’ dancing.

Wow. How inspiring! How long does it take you to write a book?

Every book works differently! Insurrection began as my thesis for my Master of Fine Arts degree and I wrote the first draft in a month. Then in editing I chunked the first 30,000 words and added way too many in about two more months. Incomplete took approximately three months, and Indelible approximately four or five. Here Be Dragons I worked on for about four or five months.

My most recent manuscript took seven because I’ve been teaching more consistently, researching, and learning about mindset shifts. In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King wrote a manuscript shouldn’t take more than three months or the characters/plot get convoluted. I have to agree that the seven-month journey with this last novel was too long and I had several edits to help navigate some inconsistencies I discovered, but again, every novel has its own life and discovery. I needed to learn certain lessons before I could write the book, and time is one of the best teachers of all.

I love how you call it a journey. It truly is. You take a journey with your characters. Sometimes you map the path they take, sometimes they go “off trail” with you.

I have to ask…could you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

While researching Australia and all of its beautiful locations, I walked the streets of Perth in Google Earth. Off the coast of Perth lies an island named Rottnest Island. It’s home to a cute lighthouse, several hotels and camp grounds, and beautiful beaches. I decided my characters just HAD to spend some time there facing their monsters. I mean, if you’ve got to train for your life, shouldn’t you get to do it in an exotic locale with fabulous sunsets?

I can so picture it! One last question before I let you go: Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

I recently submitted a finale for my Alliance Military Guard characters to my publisher and I’m hoping to get a contract for it. I’ve done a lot of mindset work recently, on dealing with rejection and facing your fears. What does a hero do when she’s faced her fears…and they killed her? All people contend with a cup of wrath, a yoke, and a cross to bear. You must believe in yourself, your Alliance, and consider challenge an opportunity for growth. These ideas are what I’ve put into the fifth and final book with my Alliance characters.

Sounds like a great way to tie up a series. Thank you, Kadee, for joining me again on the blog and for your time. Now it’s time to turn our attention to Here Be Dragons and give the readers a little taste:

Here Be Dragons


Alliance Military Guard sent the order. Sergeant Tucker Thompson acquiesced. Hopping on a plane to his long-lost Australian birthplace, he’s been charged with his toughest mission yet. Thompson must rally his company of soldiers to prevent a new generation of weaponry from breaching the world’s borders.

Pound the war drums. Rattle the cages. Here be Dragons.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Creeping through the sultry space, footsteps steady and stealthy, we readied our weapons. Blood and fire pulsed through my veins like they’d done so many times in training. This was the game, after all. These Alliance builders loved their long hallways.

Our rustling stirred up dust underfoot, and cement beams overhead groaned in disuse.

“How many feet‘re we underground ya think?” Hawk asked from the back of the line.

“Don’t ask.”

Flashlights and head lamps illuminated the way before us, stark tile work on the ground cracked and chipped. With every few feet we advanced, the walls became more fractured and peeling, as if a wave of tremors had rippled outward from the explosions of the bombing. Like vines along the paint, crevices in the cement grew substantial and entangled. Cautious and wary, we proceeded.

After several minutes of quiet steps echoing along the corridor, someone’s beam of light caught a fleck of darkness upon the wall.

“What’s that?” Norita asked.

Burkman shined his light to the scrawled paint upon the wall. The black paint dripped the warning: Beware.

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Purchase here be dragons on kindle unlimited for only $4.99:

More About the Author

Fierce yet sparkly, I help seekers find brave new worlds. The goal is magic, the medium is ink, and the fuel is coffee. And sometimes pizza. I teach English on the university level when I’m not dancing around the living room with my family, lifting heavy at the gym, traveling the planet, or binging superhero shows.

The INSURRECTION trilogy, Here Be Dragons, and non-fiction inspirational Ignite roll out perilous motives, twisty plots, and daring protagonists. Grab some real estate and your copy of my latest adventure, and follow along at

Connect with Kadee and Her Books

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I’m giving away a free, empowering e-book to those who subscribe to my email list at Titled IGNITE, the 60-page book offers a serving of inspiration, a dash of hope, and a cup of grace to help you get kickin’ on those challenging tasks you’ve got to do!


A free copy of the Alliance Military Guard Training Guide containing 10 workouts! With over ten years of experience specializing in metabolic conditioning, and as the official trainer of the Alliance Military Guard, Fit By Faith© owner Krista Johnson has created ten workouts to get you in gear and ready to crush life. Utilizing a variety of whole-body strengthening techniques, your FREE WORKOUTS will be just what you need to start your new year off the right way. Each of the ten workouts can be completed at home or in a gym, and takes approximately thirty minutes or less.

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INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Amber Schamel

Hello! It’s that time. Friday. The day we look forward to meeting another author and hearing about what they have been working on. Today, I have award-winning author Amber Schamel on my blog! She is here to talk about her latest release and chat a bit. Amber is another member the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and we connected through the Historical Fiction genre page. And, again, I cannot recommend this organization enough for what it offers writers of all levels and stages. Check them out:

Hello, Amber! Welcome to my blog. Thanks for being on today. First, can you tell us a little about your novel?

Solve by Christmas is a clean, fun historical mystery set in Denver during the great blizzard of 1913.

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

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

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

A mystery and a historical!?! I am always happy to hear more about historicals! Care to share the more historically significant events behind your story?

There are two big historical elements to Solve by Christmas, and they were both SO much fun to incorporate. The first is the great blizzard of 1913. This storm still holds records in Colorado today! In fact, it was all the snow from this historic storm that spawned the ski industry in the state.

The second element is the union wars taking place in the city during that era. It was a time when labor unions and regulations were gaining ground, but it was also a turbulent time. Riots, strikes, court cases…all of this and more. There was a militant unionist group growing in Denver during 1913, so I chose to use them in the story as well.

As if history itself wasn’t inspiration enough, I love asking writers where that nugget, that spark, that first seed of a story comes from. What was the inspiration for Solve by Christmas?

I needed a story idea that would be of shorter length. I had already determined that I wanted to make it a Christmas story. As I was thinking about that, I wondered about plots with a deadline of Christmas. By Christmas…that was intriguing. As I made a mental list of different story lines one came to mind about a detective who had to solve a case by Christmas. I liked that idea, because I’ve always had a fascination with detectives and mysteries. Then the though popped into my head, what if the case the detective had to solve wasn’t a “case” as he thought? And there’s where it began.

Intriguing! Of course we love writing…it’s the flame inside us. But it’s not all roses and sunshine. There are things about the craft that not every writer loves. What part of the writing process do you dread?

Editing is a love/hate deal with me. Okay, mostly hate. It’s that phase of writing where I question everything and get that feeling like, “Why am I doing this? I am horrible. What an awful sentence! I can’t show this to the world. I’ll never be able to leave my bedroom again.” But when I look back and see something absolutely awful become an intriguing scene, that’s pretty cool.

Editing truly is a necessary evil…

Many great authors speak to how important it is to read others’ work. I know as much as we learn from craft books and conferences, we pick up things intuitively from reading fiction as well. What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Hope for Christmas by Linda Shenton Matchett, Jodie Wolfe and Terri Wangard. Those three are blogging buddies of mine, so I was super excited to read an anthology with all three of them! I love Christmas stories, so I am squeezing as many as possible in before the season is officially over.

As my readers already know, I set the mood for my writing sessions. And music is a big part of that. What about you? What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I listen to soundtracks. When I start planning a new book, one of my preperations is to find some music that fits the genre, feel and emotion of the story. I create a playlist that I listen to while I write. Since I do a lot of writing in the car with my family, I need a way to plug in and get my mind into the story. Music helps SO much with that.

Solve by Christmas was kind of a hard one to get a playlist for. I ended up using a lot of music from the Titanic soundtrack (same era, you know). Not so much the ones that ended up on the film, but the other songs from the time-period that came as a bonus.

Interesting. I’m a movie soundtrack girl, too. Instrumental music only.

Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

There is a very slight romance thread between Detective Hollock and another character. There’s also an underlying element of learning not to rely on our own abilities and intellect, but instead seeking our answers in Christ, not ourselves.

I like it. What’s next? Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

Ha, I have a lot of current projects. 😉 The trick is getting them over the finish line.
I am in the editing stages of a civil war story, the beginning stages of my first romance story set during WWII, and I’m also working on a couple of biographical non-fiction projects.

I, too, suffer the same problem. Never working on just one thing…too many projects, only 24 hours in a day…and I pretty much enjoy sleeping for some of those hours.

Thank you again, Amber, for joining us today. And I look forward to checking out what goodies you have provided about the book below!

Solve By Christmas

Enjoy an Excerpt

Denver, December 1, 1913

At last, Jasper Hollock, Private Investigator, was going to get his first real case. He cleared his throat to keep from letting out a whoop as he jumped from the trolley and dodged traffic across Broadway. After two years of monotonous union cases, it was about time. One of these days, he’d put criminals behind bars instead of employees out of work. This day would be his first step toward the destiny God had ordained for him.

His overcoat streamed behind him as his long strides carried him toward the Rudin Sugar Company building. The brick structure loomed ahead, lined with windows across the middle and top floors. A flash of movement signaled the employees were about to begin the day’s work.

Shoving his left hand into his pocket, he ensured the note was still present before opening the glass double door and slipping out of the cold. He’d come as soon as Denny appeared at his apartment door with the note. Dare say, he probably beat the errand boy back to the factory—hardly a fair brag considering he paid the trolley fee while the poor adolescent rode his bicycle through the slushy streets. But he needed to get more facts. The janitor’s short explanation was not anywhere near enough.

Details, people. Details. Didn’t they know life and death could be found in details?

He mounted the stairs two at a time to the second floor. Mr. Rudin’s secretary glanced up from his papers as Jasper passed. “Morning, Mr. Hollock.”

“Detective Hollock, if you don’t mind. Would you be so kind as to let Mr. Rudin know I must speak with him directly? I’m to take a look down the hall, and afterward, I will need to speak with him.”

The man raised an eyebrow above his monocle. “Already done, detective. I was just about to send for you.”

Jasper halted and turned around. “Were you?”

“Indeed. It appears Mr. Rudin would like to speak with you as well. Shall I show you in?” The elder man placed both his palms on the desk as if to rise.

“No, I have a short order of business first.” Spinning on his heel, Jasper continued down the hall. He could feel the secretary’s glare on his back. Old Mr. Stosch liked to keep things prompt, but this couldn’t wait.

Turning down another corridor, Jasper came upon the janitor standing sentry over the factory laboratory door, mop in hand. The man’s shoulders loosened, and his mop wavered. “There you are, Detective Hollock.”

“Now, now, Charlie. What’s all this? You said next to nothing in your note.”

“I couldn’t, sir. Didn’t want to raise an alarm without talking to you first.” The mop of hair on his head rivaled the one in his hand. He brushed gray strands out of his eyes. “I was coming to mop up before the boys begin, and I found the door ajar.”

Jasper chewed the inside of his cheek. The laboratory doors were never left unlocked, much less open. “Any sign of tampering?”

“None. Well…” Charlie’s eyes flitted to the doorway. “Leastwise, as far as I can tell.”

Crouching to examine the knob and lock, Jasper searched the metal surface for scratches. After pulling his magnifier from his pocket, he held it up to the lock and surrounding area. He puffed a hot breath against it, but no grease or finger marks appeared. Curious, indeed.

“Detective, I locked up on Friday night, I know I did. I just can’t understand how it would have been open.”

Jasper took his time before standing. He patted Charlie’s shoulder. “Not to worry, man. We’ll get it sorted out.”

A sugary scent wafted through the room. Bright lights dangling from the ceiling gleamed on countless shelved glass vials, and various pieces of equipment standing at attention on desks lined up in smart rows—a drawer on one end hung partially ajar.

“Are you the only one with a key, Charlie?”

“The lab manager has one. And Mr. Rudin, of course.”

The windows along the far wall, facing Broadway, appeared neither broken nor tampered with, but a round splotch of wet darkened the wooden boards. The wetness stretched from the original site to the window and back again to the door. Charlie had apparently mopped up. “Was there some kind of spill in here recently?”

“Not that they’ve mentioned. I’m thinking it was done when whoever it was snooped around. There was a broken vial, too.”

Interesting. Jasper tucked that piece of information away for later. He took a brief stroll around the room. “Is this window usually left unlocked?”

Charlie’s boots squeaked as he crossed the floor. “No, I don’t see why it should be. Do you think the perpetrator came in that way? Then snuck out the door? That’d explain why it was open after I left it locked.”

Lifting the window frame, Jasper peered out. “How would one get up here without being seen from the street? Is there roof access somehow?”

“Dunno. I haven’t paid much attention. I guess I could go up and take a look.”

“Details, Charlie. Details. They’re important.” Jasper pulled his head back inside and shut the window securely. “When will the lab manager be in?”

“He usually comes in around nine, I believe.”

Jasper flipped open his pocket watch. Eight thirty-five. “I will have to return to question him then. Lock it up, won’t you? No one besides the manager comes in until I return. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.” Charlie’s chest puffed out. “No one in but him.”

“Thatta boy.” Jasper gave the janitor a nod and headed toward Mr. Rudin’s office. He could always think better when walking. If someone had broken into the lab, what might they want? And what harm could come to Mr. Rudin’s company because of it? Whatever the intent, Jasper would stop it before any harm touched his dear old patron.

“Could Mr. Rudin beg an audience with you now, Detective Hollock?”

Jasper rolled his eyes at the secretary’s sarcastic tone. “I’ll forgive you, Mr. Stosch. I couldn’t expect a secretary to understand matters of more pressing consequence than newspaper advertisements.”

Mr. Stosch folded the newspaper he’d been perusing and straightened his monocle. The man’s drooping brown eyes reminded him of an old hound. Perhaps it was a result of reading too many newspapers. “I read the newspaper by Mr. Rudin’s request, Mr. Hollock.” He stood and opened the door to the proprietor’s office. “Mr. Rudin, Detective Hollock to see you.”

“Yes, well, show him in. Oh, but come here a moment, Stosch.” Mr. Rudin waved them inside as he crossed from a filing cabinet. Half a grin hid under his curled white mustache, and instead of sitting, he rocked back and forth on his heels. “Do close the door.”

Jasper claimed the chair facing the desk and crossed one leg over his knee. Mr. Rudin was robust as ever, except for the lines between his eyebrows. Perhaps he hadn’t slept well.

Mr. Rudin gripped the back of the leather chair he stood behind. “Stosch, I was thinking.”

The secretary clasped his hands behind his back. “Yes, sir.”

“It is December the first today, getting right on toward Christmas. I’d like to give a little something to each of the employees. A gift of sorts. What do you recommend?” He leaned forward and extracted a candy from the dish on the corner of his desk.

“Well, sir, most workers would be pleased to get an early leave for the holiday.”

Mr. Rudin popped the candy in his mouth. “Quite right, but I expected to give them something tangible. Some memento of my appreciation for them. Perhaps a golden coin or something.”

Jasper smiled as he studied the elder man. Mr. Rudin was just that type of fellow. He’d been considerate and kind to Jasper’s mother when she arrived in Denver with nothing more than the clothes on her back and the babe in her arms. What would they have done if the Rudins hadn’t taken her in as housekeeper? Since then, the sugar baron had been like a father, teaching him how to golf and even shoot. With a pistol very much like the one now sitting in the man’s leather chair. How odd.

“Thank you, Stosch. That is all for now.” After the door closed behind the secretary, Mr. Rudin’s gaze shifted to Jasper. He pressed his lips together. “My boy, I have a new case for you.”

A grin spread across Jasper’s face. This was it. The moment he’d been waiting for. His employer would reveal some secret stolen from the lab, and he’d have his first case of any consequence.

Rudin took a breath and stepped around his chair. “I will warn you ahead of time…it won’t be an easy one.”

“I can handle it, sir.”

One white brow rose above Mr. Rudin’s deep-set eyes. “I’m a hard case.”

Jasper frowned. “Sir?”

Bending down, Mr. Rudin picked up the revolver. “I’ve struck a deal with God, Jasper, and you’re my angel.”

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More about the Author

Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call “historical fiction at its finest”. Her title, Dawn of Liberty, was awarded the 2017 CSPA Book of the Year award in Historical Fiction. She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!

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Amber has generously offered a giveaway: an e-book edition of Solve by Christmas. If you would like to enter to win this e-copy, simply follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below. Thanks and best of luck!

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INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Dana Romanin

Hello, all! Another Friday, another wonderful author for you to meet. Dana Romanin is another author in the Clean Reads publishing family. As many of you know, I just love being a part of this group of authors. We help each other, encourage each other, and give much needed advice. This group is how I met Dana. So, she is on my blog today talking about her novel and even offering a giveaway (details below).

Thank you, Dana, for being on my blog today! First, can you tell us a little about your novel?

Abby’s Letters is a story about sisters, first love, and forgiveness. It’s about a seventeen-year-old girl who fakes her mom’s life in order to keep her little sister from going into foster care. Along the way she discovers things about herself, her cute next door neighbor, and most importantly her dead mother that changes the way she looks at life forever.

Interesting… What was the inspiration for Abby’s Letters?

Well, the idea for my story came from a morbid newspaper article I read years ago. It was about the amount of unclaimed bodies crowding the morgues. They’d just be written off as John or Jane Doe and would be stored for months, even a year or longer. It was sad to think that someone could die and nobody know or care enough to claim them. Then I thought, unless there was a reason no one claimed them. Maybe they were protecting someone. And Abby’s Letters stemmed from there

It is true that inspiration for writers comes from anywhere. I totally get it.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been seriously writing for almost seven years. Before that, I was more of a dreamer. I was enamored with the idea of being an author. I’ve dabbled in writing since I was a preteen and I had this romanticized “Anne Shirley” type notion of what writing was supposed to be like. But I didn’t have a good reason for why I wanted to write. Therefore, if it got too hard, which it inevitably does, I just didn’t do it. I’d give up. I never thought it was possible to actually become a published writer, because it just seemed too doggone hard. But it wasn’t until I became a youth group leader that I figured out why I wanted to write— to encourage, comfort, and bring light into hurting girl’s lives. Once I figured out why I wanted to write nothing was going to stop me. It didn’t matter how hard making it in publishing was, I wasn’t going to quit because I had a reason not to quit.

I love that. You really have a wonderful personal inspiration. Something you said is really true. It does get hard. There are parts of the process that are not as fun. What part of the writing process do you dread the most?

The part of the writing process that I dread the absolute most is writing the blurb and synopsis. I can write 400 pages, but ask me to write one paragraph about that 400 pages, and I’m paralyzed.

I always ask, because we are always learning from each other… Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

The best advice I can give is don’t fight the story. Don’t shy away from writing the tough stuff. There are parts in Abby’s Letters that I didn’t want to write. I wanted to do some things differently, but that wasn’t the story. I wanted to take the easy way out, but I had to dive into those scenes and write them anyway.

I always have to set the mood when I write…and music is a key part of that. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

The music I listen to depends on my character’s personality. One of my character’s personality most matches French music, so when I’m writing in his POV I listen to the French Cooking Music on Pandora. Another one of my characters has a lot of issues so Julia Michael’s Issues song is perfect for her scenes.

Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

I write best in the morning. My brain is completely fried by the afternoon so I found that the best time to write is first thing in the morning after the coffee kicks in. And my favorite place to write is anywhere that I’m not interrupted. I have three kids so that can be hard to find.

I totally get that. I have three of my own, so it can be challenging 🙂

How long does it take you to write a book?

Abby’s Letters took me about a year to write from beginning to end. However, I’ve recently made changes so that I can focus solely on my writing career, and I hope that will decrease that time frame quite a bit.

I’m going to take a chance and ask if you could tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

In my original plan for Abby’s Letters, Clark’s character did not exist. If you read the book, you will see how different that would make the book! And Lindsey was supposed to be nothing but a minor character. But she was so insistent on having more depth that I wound up giving her a book of own.

Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

As I mentioned before Lindsey was so insistent on being more than just a stock character that I’ve revolved the second book in the series around her. So I’m currently in the editing process on the second and third book in the Abby’s Letters series. I’m also writing a novella from the perspective of Beth, Jane’s best friend in Abby’s Letters. I also have a rough idea for a supernatural trilogy that is just begging to be written. So now you can see why I need to work on my turnaround time on writing books. So many books to write, so little time!

I so get that! So much inspiration all around us! We have to pick and choose sometimes.

Thanks for being on my blog today. It was so great to hear more about you and your process. I look forward to hearing more about the book!

Abby’s Letters

For years, Jane’s mom told her horror stories about her time spent in foster care. Now she’s determined to keep her little sister from suffering the same fate.

Seventeen-year-old Jane Sanders has had to take care of her alcoholic mother and little sister, Abby, since her dad died seven years ago. And now Mom had to go and die too. Authorities determine it was a homeless transient who died in the fire of the old manufacturing plant, but Jane knows the truth.

There is no way she’s going to let Abby go into foster care which leaves her with one option—fake her mom’s life. As far as Abby knows, their mom is in rehab. And Jane wants to keep it that way. She’d be eighteen in a few months then she could become legal guardian to her sister. With the help of her best friend, Clark, it should be easy, right?

Juggling nosy neighbors, a concerned school counselor, and an oblivious new boyfriend turns out to be harder than Jane thought. But the real problem begins when Abby starts writing letters to Mom. Through Abby’s letters, Jane sees a different side to their mom—a side she could have loved. And loving Mom is something she didn’t plan on. Because loving somebody makes it harder to ignore their death.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Clark exhaled. “Anything for you, Janie.”

Oh. He had to pull out the nickname. It crushed her. Asking Clark to lie for her—she had never asked so much of him. It went against everything he believed in. She didn’t believe in all that Christian stuff, but he did. Keeping this secret would mean disrespecting his mother. It meant he would have to go against his beliefs.

Disrespect his God.

But his God wasn’t there for her, and He certainly wasn’t going to save Abby from foster care.

Jane would, though.

She entwined her fingers with his. He was so different than the little boy who’d played hide-and-seek with her on warm summer nights, back when her world was filled with her father’s laughter and her mother’s smiles. Now his muscle twitched in his strong jawline. What happened to the freckle-faced boy she had played G.I. Joe and Transformers with? He even had stubble.

“Thanks, Superman.”

“You’re the only one allowed to call me that.”

“And you’re the only one allowed to call me Janie.”

“This is too much. You can’t do this alone.” His thumb caressed her hand.

“I’m not. I have you.”

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More about the author

Dana Romanin has dreamed of being a writer since she was a little girl pretending to be Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables). She used to write under a forsythia bush, but now she writes in a messy office that she shares with her sewing obsessed daughter.

Dana’s short story, The Silence of Sand, was chosen for adaptation into a short video performed by the Blue Man Group. Dana has also published short fiction for teens in Encounter—The Magazine and had a short story published in a Family Fiction anthology, The Story 2014. Her first novel, Abby’s Letters, released June 20, 2017.

She lives nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with her wonderful husband, three beautiful kids, and a lot of persnickety pets.

Connect with Dana and her books

You can find her blog and awkward videos on her website She can also be found on Twitter (@DanaRomanin) and her Facebook fan page (DanaRomaninAuthor).


Dana has generously offered an ecopy of her book Abby’s Letters to one Rafflecopter winner. So, please follow the instructions below to enter to win this fabulous prize!

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GRIEVING: The holidays are not quite the same this year

Every year, I hear the very thoughtful words of the wise mention how the holidays are not the “most wonderful time of the year” for everyone. That for those who have lost loved ones during the year, it can be a time of painful reminder of their absence. It is not that I didn’t believe these sages in my life. I just never knew how true this was.

Until now.

The loss of my mom is not the first loss in my life.

I was very close to my grandparents. And had a close friend that was lost in a tragic drowning accident while I was in college. But it’s so different. So very different.

Perhaps part of it is the place she held in my life.

Maybe there is some truth to the idea that you experience all the previous losses again each time you lose someone else. So, in effect, I am dealing with this very difficult loss and reliving these other losses at the same time.

I don’t know.

But I do know that I ache.

I hurt.

And the joyfulness of the season seems to elude me.

I can stop and be thankful for the many, many blessings in my life. My mom’s influence being one of them. But none of it detracts from the pain of the loss. And I come back to that over and over.

Perhaps that’s okay. For this to just be a different kind of year. Part of the “new normal”.

Maybe this year, I can lean in to the grief and let it be. Lend my tears to the loss. Honor her memory and the absence of her laughter at our gathering.

Without dreading it. Or worrying if I’m upsetting someone else…acknowledge that it is what it is. For me. And for everyone else. That we all must take it as it comes.

And Christmas is what it is this year. No expectations. No forcing ourselves into any molds.

For better or for worse.

In that freedom, perhaps we will find some peace.