SPOTLIGHT & INTERVIEW: Wendy May Andrews’s “Sophie”

Welcome to a special Wednesday, friends! I have an opportunity to introduce you to a book series that has so intrigued me that I am on the edge of my seat waiting for you to read about it! Fellow Clean Reads author Wendy May Andrews, whom you may have met here on my blog, is sharing about Book 1 in a new series (which I have already added to my TBR (To Be Read) pile). And the cover is AH-mazing. But I’ll stop and let “introduce” you to Wendy…

Thanks, Wendy, for being on the blog today. First, can you tell us a little about your novel?

Sophie is a prequel to a series I’m launching that will follow a group of young women as they escort a trainload of orphans as they head out west to start new lives. Each book will feature one of the young women and how this adventure leads her to love.

I am intrigued. My first love is clean Historical Romance. Can you share some of the historically significant events behind Sophie?

In the 1850s there were so many orphans due to the high death rate amongst the impoverished of New York. Mr. Charles Brace, a philanthropist who helped found the Children’s Aid Society, believed there’s always room for one more at a farmer’s table. He sent many of these orphans out west to be adopted into new families. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. The farmers could use help and the orphans could use a family.

I am only somewhat familiar with this tidbit of history. And I’ve seen other novels featuring this piece of history. But I like your concept. Three women escorting a train. And you are sharing their backstories through these prequels. I LOVE this concept. What was the inspiration for Sophie?

A friend was adopting a child and I began researching the history of adoption. It was fascinating!

It is so true that writers find inspiration everywhere! That’s one of the best parts of the process for me. But we know it’s not all fun… What part of the writing process do you dread?

Editing. And blurb writing. Yuck! I love writing the first draft, though, and that makes up for it all.

That is the truth! That blurb writing will give a writer a complex (well more than we already have)!

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Well, you’re already a great writer. But always grow. The biggest room is the room for improvement.

Thank you! I hope I do always strive to improve. I ask this question because I know that everyone, no matter where they are in their journey has wisdom I can glean from. I am always looking to learn.

What are you currently reading?

I’m an avid reader so this changes too often to say. But a friend of mine just released the 2nd book in her series. Rebekkah Lee Jenkins is her name and the book is Hope in Oakland. I read it while it was in rough draft form. I’m anxious to read the finished product.

This is maybe the strangest question like to ask, but a lot of non-writers are curious about it… How long does it take you to write a book?

It really depends on what else life is throwing at me but I can write 1000 words per hour of decent first draft writing. Double that for editing. So a 50,000 word book is going to take at least 100 hours. That 100 hours could be all in one month or spread out over six months depending on life…

I like how you put that. Because it’s so true. There is rarely a “normal”. It all depends on that particular season of life.

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

I’m working on the first draft of the fourth book in the series. I love these books! This is my first truly planned series and I’m really enjoying the process.

Wonderful. I just want to say that this cover is FABULOUS! And I myself am eager to dive in. So, I won’t keep my readers from digging into this sneak peek of Sophie.

Sophie

the Prequel

Book 1 in the Orphan Train Series

His pursuit of her threatens everything – except her heart:

Sophie Brooks has lived at the orphanage since she was ten years old. Now nineteen, she’s not only a resident, she works there as well. It’s the only true home she can remember and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep it safe.

When her budding relationship with the son of one of the orphanage’s benefactors threatens the charity’s funding, Sophie must choose between her loyalties and her heart.

Enjoy an Excerpt

She was just pinning what she hoped was a gracious smile back onto her face while scanning the gathering crowd, looking for the rest of her group, when her gaze collided with that of the most handsome man she had ever seen. His blue eyes were so clear and bright, they reminded her of the Atlantic on a sunny day. His dark hair was almost black and was clipped short. It looked as though it would have a tendency to curl if he had not controlled its length. His square jaw and high cheekbones should have looked fierce, but his lips quirked up in the corners as though he had a propensity for smiling or laughing. Sophie’s breath caught as she tried to take it all in and once again found herself hoping her mouth wasn’t hanging open.

He strode toward her, as she was frozen in place. There wasn’t much space separating them, so he was beside her in a few paces.

“Good evening, miss. I haven’t had the pleasure of making your acquaintance. I just saw you talking with my mother.”

Sophie blinked and almost turned to look behind her before she remembered that she had just been speaking with Mrs. Rexford. Feeling a blush stain her cheeks, Sophie tried to achieve coherent speech, but nothing intelligent came to mind so she merely offered him a slight curtsy like she had done with his mother.

Buy Links

Available for free through Kindle Unlimited!

$0.99 for Kindle: https://amzn.to/2MUwCJ9

More About the Author

I’ve been writing pretty much since I learned to read when I was five years old. Of course, those early efforts were basically only something a mother could love J I put writing aside after I left school and stuck with reading. I am an avid reader. I love words. I will read anything, even the cereal box, signs, posters, etc. But my true love is novels.

Eight or nine years ago my husband dared me to write a book instead of always reading them. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but to my surprise I love writing. Those early efforts eventually became my first published book – Tempting the Earl (published by Avalon books in 2010). There were some ups and downs in my publishing efforts. My first publisher was sold and I became an “orphan” author, back to the drawing board of trying to find a publishing house. It has been a thrilling adventure as I learned to navigate the world of publishing.

I believe firmly that everyone deserves a happily ever after. I want my readers to be able to escape from the everyday for a little while and feel upbeat and refreshed when they get to the end of my books.

Connect with Wendy and her books

Website: www.wendymayandrews.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/WendyMayAndrews

Instagram: www.instagram.com/WendyMayAndrews

Twitter: www.twitter.com/WendyMayAndrews

GUEST POST & INTERVIEW: Author Sarah MacTavish

Firebrand Book Club!

by Sarah MacTavish

Summer is in full swing! For a Texan like me, that means spending my days hiding from the heat indoors, and my evenings in the pool after the sun goes down (I burn like crazy). But I’m also a librarian, so it also means Summer Reading–busy days hosting fun (indoor) events for the community, helping swarms of kids and teens find books to read, handing out prizes…

Which inspired me this year to do something fun for my book, Firebrand. I’m currently hard at work editing the sequel, which should be out before the end of the year. So to get ready it’s release, I decided to host an online Summer Book Club during the month of July, with weekly live chats and giveaways as we read (or reread) Firebrand together.

Here’s a little more about the novel:

Firebrand is the first of a 4-part series about two abolitionist teenagers, Saoirse and Westleigh, as they survive one of the darkest chapters of American history, the Civil War. In the first book they find themselves struggling through the summer of 1860, trying to fight against the evils of slavery while also keeping their families safe, but they quickly realize they might not be able to do both. The story is told in two alternating perspectives: Saoirse Callahan, an Irish girl living in north Texas, and Westleigh Kavanagh, the son of a Pennsylvania sheriff.

All you have to do to participate in the book club is visit my website (http://www.sarahmactavish.com/book-club/) and sign up for my monthly newsletter, where you’ll get exclusive downloads, updates on upcoming novels, and be eligible for prizes in my drawings!

Then join me in July online every Sunday afternoon as we talk about the chapters for the week.

In preparation for this, I’m also releasing three short prologues each week that lead up to the events of Firebrand. You can find the first two for free on my website now (http://www.sarahmactavish.com/short-stories/).

That’s about it! You can find more details on my website. I hope you join me!

Thank you, Sarah! Both for the informative post and for being on the blog today. You know I love Historicals and I love how history inspires authors. Can you share the more historically significant events behind your story?

There was an event in Texas history called the Fires of 1860, or the Texas Troubles, that is the background for Saoirse’s part of the story. There was a series of mysterious fires that burned across most of the counties around modern day Dallas and Fort Worth that sparked rumors of an abolitionist-led slave uprising.

Today, historians think the fires were the result of a combination of volatile matches, Texas summer heat, and a drought. But at the time (just months after John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry), most white southerners feared an insurrection, so North Texans created vigilante committees to interrogate (or worse) suspected abolitionists.

By the presidential election in November, over 100 people were killed, others run out of town, but there was never any actual evidence of a plot found. So Saoirse’s part of the story centers around trying to uncover the truth of what’s really going on.

Westleigh, on the other hand, is up against the Fugitive Slave Law, which required lawmen even in free states to aid in the capture of people who’ve escaped slavery, or face fine and/or imprisonment. When Westleigh finds out the man staying in their house is actually on the run, he has to keep it a secret from his father, the sheriff, and soon finds out he’s in way over his head.

Wow! So intriguing! What was the specific inspiration for Firebrand?

My mother. When I was young she gave me the idea of writing about an abolitionist boy from the South that runs away to fight for the Union Army in the Civil War. It was immediately interesting to me–a character that goes against the way he was raised to fight for what is right. That idea grew to include a girl from the north who disguises herself to fight as a soldier. Eventually the two characters swapped places, and I realized I wanted to start the story before the war, to give a better picture of why they both become soldiers.

Now I’m really hooked! I know we authors are always looking to the next thing…that imagination is always going… Do you have current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

Yes! As I said, I’m working on the sequel to Firebrand right now, Paladin. This will pick up at the beginning of the Civil War, when Saoirse, Westleigh, and their friends enlist in the Union Army. You can check out the book cover and description here! (http://www.sarahmactavish.com/books/paladin/)

Firebrand

In the summer of 1860, when slavery ruled the heart of America, two young abolitionists discover how dangerous it can be to believe in freedom for all.

Saoirse Callahan’s family is broken. Hunger forced them out of Ireland and they still struggle to survive in their new home, where scorching Texas droughts threaten their small farm. Then, on one blazing Sunday afternoon, a series of mysterious fires devastates the region. Whispered rumors of a slave rebellion soon flame into a statewide panic. Vigilantes scour the countryside for arsonists, targeting foreigners and slaves in a bloodthirsty witch-hunt. Saoirse is determined to find out how the fires really started, but the more questions she asks, the more she puts her family and friends in danger. And the truth may be more than she can handle.

Meanwhile, safe in Pennsylvania, Westleigh Kavanagh can call himself an abolitionist with little fear. But when he realizes his father’s new boarder is actually a runaway slave, he must keep the wanted man’s identity a secret. Because Westleigh’s father is the sheriff, and bound by law to help capture fugitives, whether he believes in slavery or not. Westleigh wants to protect his father from the truth, but the longer he lies, the greater chance they will all be caught. Then Westleigh makes his own discovery—an old forbidden journal that holds secrets of his father’s past. Secrets that lead to the Callahans. Secrets that, if unraveled, could destroy both families.

Enjoy an Excerpt

My cousin sank into the armchair and wilted, limbs sprawled. “There were fires in Denton yesterday afternoon,” he said hoarsely. “Dallas, too. Pilot Point. Corsicana…”

“All on the same day? But–”

“They figured ours started at the general store. Sam thinks it was those new matches everybody got in.”

“Just the matches?” I sighed in relief. “That’s welcome news.”

“It would be, if that was the word being whispered ‘round town–” he stopped to cough up more smoke. Then his head started to droop.

“Well? What are they saying?” I kicked his foot. “Jack!”

He lifted his red eyes. “Arson.”

Buy Link

Amazon

More About the Author

Sarah MacTavish is a small-town Texan with “Yankee” roots, and a heart that belongs to Ireland. In addition to being a writer she is also a teen librarian, incurable Star Wars nerd, and proud Hufflepuff. Her first historical novel, Firebrand, was described as “a moving, expertly written, and entertaining work of Young Adult fiction” by Self-Publishing Review. Connect with her online and get the latest updates about the Firebrand series at sarahmactavish.com

Connect with Sarah and her work

Website: sarahmactavish.com

Instagram: @sarahmactavish

Twitter: @sarahmactavish

Facebook.com/authorsarahmactavish

OVERCOMING GOOD CHOICES: Is there a best option?

We all make choices. Every day. Many times a day. To get out of bed, to shower, what to wear (a BIG decision for some), what to eat for breakfast, and the list goes on. Some of these decisions are so easy they don’t really feel like options any more. We do them automatically. The better choice seems obvious.

Choosing between staying in bed and getting out of bed, for example (if you are not sick or struggling in some other way), seems like a bad choice (or an unhealthy choice) versus a good, healthier choice. It’s pretty easy. (Although if you haven’t gotten adequate sleep, it may not always be so easy 🙂 )

Likewise, moderate choices in life about your schedule, for example, may come easily too. Do I say yes to this huge thing that will take up a lot of my time and doesn’t fit in with my goals? Or turn it down? Now, that’s relatively simple to see that you might should turn that down. The people pleaser in some of you is saying…yeah, right! I know. I’ve been there. It’s sooo hard to say ‘no’. But it is necessary. Let’s take this a step further.

What if the choice is between two good things? A pastor asks you to serve in a ministry at your church. That is an awesome thing. Nothing wrong at all with that. BUT…has God called you to it? Yes, we are generally called to serve. But we are not called to burn ourselves out. God equips and calls us to specific things. As I’ve said before, right now, I feel He has led me to focus on my family, my writing, and the moms ministry I am a part of. So, this request to be a part of another ministry is not a bad decision, but it may not be my best choice.

What if, for instance, God is nudging someone else? If you step into that role, that person will not have the chance to step up. They may end up feeling their help is not necessary and never step up.

And imagine what adding something to your already overwhelmed schedule will do? It may end up hurting your other calling, even if what you are doing is good. The things you have been called to may suffer for it. You are just one person. And can only do so much.

So this choice between good and good is actually a choice between good and BETTER. Maybe, even, you could say good and BEST.

If you have a full schedule, like me. And struggle to people please, you may need to remember that every time you say “yes” to something, you are saying “no” to something else already on your plate. So, saying yes to that added opportunity, means saying “no” to one of those three areas – my family (maybe dinner around the table, devotion time with my kids, etc), my writing (making a deadline, having the time to market, etc), or this moms ministry (I end up staying up all hours of the night finishing a talk for the meeting, I am rushing last minute to get a newsletter done, I drop the ball on my leadership team, etc).

Is it worth it?

When these opportunities present themselves, it’s all about perspective and wisdom.

I no longer answer with “yes.”  Or even “no.” I say “let me pray about it and check my calendar.” Then I weigh the time commitment and pray, seeking God’s will for my involvement. Then I can answer confidently. If they need an answer that second, it has to be “no.” Because I cannot know, but I DO know that my schedule is pretty tight as it is.

What about you? Is your schedule crammed as it is? Are there things you need to pare down? Say “no” to?

GIVEAWAY & GUEST POST: Author Leanne W. Smith

Up and Down Goes the Heart

by Leanne W. Smith

In April I flew to Chicago for a conference. April is a busy month for educators, and this conference took place during the highest peak of my work season. I was tired when I left, and tired when I came home.

Down goes the heart.

Still…perhaps due to the difference in routine tasks—an opportunity to step off the normal hamster wheel of my world—I returned refreshed, with a heart fuller of thought than normal.

And up again.

I flew Southwest on a Wednesday. The day before, a woman got on a routine flight like mine and didn’t live to reach her destination. I may never sit peaceably in a window seat again.

Down. 

After Ubering to the hotel, I realized Hamilton was playing down the street. So on Thursday between academic sessions I bought a prized remaining ticket.

It is heralded as a great musical for a reason. The writer in me was moved and thrilled by the story, the lighting, the music, the acting.

I walked away wanting to be a braver writer; believing once again in the power of words and stories well told.

And up.

Friday, on the flight home, I finished reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Another kind of story—heart-breaking and beautiful.

And down.

While I grieved the atrocities of her first-hand account of war and its wide swath of horror, I marveled at the faith and obedience of her family…the ways they loved, and the shafts of light God sent them.

And up again.

I returned to my own house more appreciative of the comfort and sanctity of home, to find my gloriously uneventful life as I had left it—to French-press coffee on Saturday morning in my easy chair, Stan reading the Wall Street Journal beside me, its front page filled with another story of abuse.

Down.

A familiar walk through the neighborhood. The azaleas in bloom and my hostas peaking through the soil. Worship on Sunday with people I love.

Up.

Then learning of another shooting in a public place.

Some weeks the heart volleys up and down more than others. In seeking to end this week on an upswing, here’s a short snippet from The Hiding Place, in case your heart benefits from the power of words and story as much as mine does.

Once—I must have been ten or eleven—I asked Father about a poem we had read at school the winter before. One line had described “a young man whose face was not shadowed by sexsin.” I had been far too shy to ask the teacher what it meant, and Mama had blushed scarlet when I consulted her. In those days just after the turn of the century, sex was never discussed, even at home.

So the line had stuck in my head. “Sex,” I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a girl or boy, and “sin” made Tante Jans very angry, but what the two together meant I could not imagine.

And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?”

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.

“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

“It’s too heavy,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

And I was satisfied. More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions—for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.

From The Hiding Place: The triumphant True Story of Corrie ten Boom 

Interview Questions

Leanne, thank you so much for those words. I love that reminder in the excerpt from The Hiding Place. But let’s get back to you and your works. What does your research process look like?

When I was working on my first novel, Leaving Independence, my youngest daughter and I traveled to Missouri. The largest overland trails research library is in Independence. We walked through an old cemetery, and a kind gentleman with a booming voice drove us around town in a prairie schooner with his mules. This time, my oldest daughter and I went to Colorado. We rode The Georgetown Loop through the Rockies, visited museums and a mining town, and I could see Hoke charging up over a hillside.

Wow! What a great way to get into the setting! Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes, for as long as I can remember. Two summers in college I worked for my county’s election commission. When new folks moved to town and registered to vote in those days, they often came by the office. I sat at the front counter and filled out the forms. One day when I asked a man, “Profession?” he said, “Writer.” My pen paused mid-air. It was by far the coolest answer anyone had ever given. I think that’s the moment it dawned on me there were real people who wrote for a living; it wasn’t simply the stuff of my dreams.

Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Finishing my first book was like having a first child. I thought, “There will never be a creative high to top this.” But finishing Contradiction was even more thrilling! The day I wrote the final scene I felt like David must have felt when he danced with abandon in the streets. I stayed in my living room, but my joy was no less thick.

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

Yes! Five: three historicals, a contemporary, and an adaptation. I really need to focus.

Thank you again, Leanne, for being on the blog and for sharing a bit more about your process and your work. Now, I’ll turn it over to my readers so they can jump into your newest release!

A Contradiction to His Pride

*This novel is set to debut June 12, 2018*

From the moment James met Corrine as they traveled the Oregon Trail, in Smith’s best-selling debut novel Leaving Independence, he couldn’t resist trying to win the sharp-mouthed beauty’s affections.

Now, as the core group of pioneers in Colonel Dotson’s wagon train begins to settle in Baker City, Oregon and build homesteads, James is restless to make his fortune so he can stake his own claim and win Corrine’s hand with honor.

But when James takes Corrine on an outing designed to impress her, things go tragically wrong. James foils a bank robbery and unwittingly sets a series of events into motion that shatter Corrine’s heart and now threaten her life, along with his and her older brother Charlie’s.

Soon there are several folks heading back down the trail—James, Charlie, Corrine, Harry and Tam Sims, the Baker City Sheriff, a newspaperman, a notorious criminal family, and Hoke Mathews—all set to collide in a final showdown in a Colorado mining town as outlaw Duke Walden seeks to make James pay for his heroic actions.

Enjoy an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

A cold wind rustled the leaves of the evergreens west of Baker City, building like the crescendo of a symphony. When the wind unfurled and swept into town, it lifted the top layer of a twenty-inch snow that had fallen the day before, sending icy sprays swirling over several residents who rushed to stand in the drifts and on the boardwalk following the gunshots.

James Parker wanted to give Corrine Baldwyn a day to remember him by, not a day to curse his name.

Now, as she thrashed while he tried to hold her, the blood from her hands raking stains over the sleeves of his coat, James squeezed his eyes shut against the wind, the ice, the snow and the slaughter, and wondered if she could ever forgive him.

Buy Link (for Pre-order)

Amazon

More About the Author

Leanne W. Smith is the author of Leaving Independence, On a Dark & Snowy Night (short story), and A Contradiction to His Pride.

In the 90s she wrote a family humor column for two Middle Tennessee weeklies called “My Two Cents.” These days she writes historical fiction novels and serves on the faculty of Lipscomb University’s College of Business.​​

Leanne and her husband, Stan, have two daughters and a son-in-law who make the world a more beautiful place through their art, design, photography, songwriting and mandolin-playing. Visit Smith’s website at www.leannewsmith.com.

Connect with Leanne and Her Books

Website: www.leannewsmith.com

Find her Social Media links are available on the website.

Giveaway

For a chance to win a free paperback copy of Leanne W. Smith’s newest book, A Contradiction to His Pride, enter below. (Only valid for continental United States.) Please follow the directions on the Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’re on Goodreads, enter there by June 30th for a chance to win one of 12 free copies: https://bit.ly/2sxOjoy

OVERCOMING MY SCHEDULE: My 3-Fold Purpose

Ever felt overwhelmed by your schedule?

Had too many things on the “To Do” list than you could possible do that day? Orthat week?

Do you know all too well the intense stress of having too many things to do right now and nothing can be put off?

Brothers, sisters, we can commiserate together! You are in good company. These questions are solid YES’s for me. I have hunted and searched and tried numerous ways to hone and tune my schedule to make the most out of the time I have. I’ve even blogged about.

I have talked about “finding your purpose/goal/calling and take everything else out of your schedule”…

Now, that is all-star advice. Because, even though that other stuff may be good, it can be excess, clutter, things that would be, again, good, but not necessarily good for you at this time.

So, what’s the problem? Seems I found the answer: find my calling/purpose/goal and focus on that, letting the other things slide by.

And I have. My family (my role as mom/wife), my writing career (writing/marketing/editing/etc), and the moms’ ministry I help coordinate. These are the things God is calling me to right now in life. These are the things that fill my schedule and take priority. The other stuff…gets a harder look…realizing that if I say “yes”, I do so to the detriment of one of these things or to myself.

Here’s the problem…I tend to be a people pleaser. Yep. I said it. It’s not a bad thing. Having a servant heart is a very good thing. It is a gift. The challenge is taking responsibility over that heart. Because you were made for service, yes, but for service in some areas, not in all. You were not intended to wear to the bone, sacrificing your called areas, for the sake of service.

I recently finished Lysa TerKeurst’s book “The Best Yes“…and that book was soooo freeing! It spoke directly to where I was struggling–as a people pleaser; as a woman who has grown up in the church hearing how we are to serve, serve, serve; as a person who is just overwhelmed.

See, as TerKeurst presents, when you keep saying “yes” to things you aren’t called to, even for the sake of service, you may miss out on God’s specific calling on your life. To say “yes” to this thing, means to say “no” to other things. We all have the same 24 hours in each day. And we choose how we spend those hours.

And I, for one, would prefer to spend my life pursuing my calling, my purpose, than bowing to an insane schedule that is idealistic, yes, but also frankly unrealistic.

So, friends, let us evaluate where our heart is. Where our time is. And how we want to spend our days. Let’s be proactive, not reactive. (Placing things on our schedule, rather than adding things at the random requests of others.)

My default answer to a request now is “I’ll have to check my schedule and get back to you.” If they push for an answer now, the answer has to be “no”. I can no longer give of myself blindly.

There is a cost for every “yes”. I’ll say that again–there is a cost for every “yes”.

Count it.

GIVEAWAY & INTERVIEW: Author Cindy Ervin Huff

Hello, readers! I hope you are all well and enjoying the summer weather…even if it is a little hot and a bit stormy at times. Seems like the right time to curl up with a good book to me. At the beach, in the mountains, on the back porch, at the pool…wherever! ESPECIALLY if it’s raining. Nothing better than a cozy house with a blanket, a coffee (insert “tea” if you’d prefer), and a good book.

My guest today is here to introduce us to her newest release which promises to be such a book. Romance, internal struggles, connection, overcoming…sounds like a good read to me! But I’m getting ahead of myself…and her. Let me let her share…

Welcome, Cindy! And thanks for joining us today. First, can you tell us a little about New Duet?

Aurora, Illinois

The idea for this novel came to me while I was part of a church’s worship team. A what if moment. What if the worship leader dropped dead. I have the greatest respect for that worship leader, so the idea was nothing personal. Several years earlier a missionary had dropped dead during an elders’ meeting due to an aneurysm. That idea germinated into the story line of an abused widow starting over in a new town. (Why not make it my town Aurora, Illinois) and meeting a wounded warrior who was adjusting to life minus a leg and aided by his service dog. Each need to start over and come to understand themselves and grow in faith.

I’m in a military town and come from a military family (my grandfather was a career military man) and there is hardly a family in the area who is not touched by the army in some way. The concept of your novel definitely speaks to me. What was the inspiration for New Duet?

The emotional issues Isabella and Dan struggle with are the same as some of my friends and family. My oldest son works hard to keep his PTSD under control. It is not as violent as the media portrays it. But depression and panic attacks are often a part. The issues of domestic violence are common, sadly, even in the church.

Wow. So you write from a place of deep knowledge. The media definitely doesn’t do the best job portraying many mental illnesses. I am still in recovery from postpartum depression (experienced after each of my three children). It’s not exactly what the media portrays either. What they show is usually postpartum psychosis. Not quite the same.

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

I did. But I also wanted to be an actress. I think writing novels is a great way to create characters too.

So true. Brandilyn Collins writes books about developing characters utilizing what she learned pursuing theater. It’s an interesting concept. One I wouldn’t have thought of.

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

When my 8th grade teacher entered my short story in a writing contest. I didn’t win or even place, but the die was cast.

I imagine so! It only takes a taste, doesn’t it? But, as you know, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine…there are things we don’t like as much. What part of the writing process do you dread?

Editing.

Truth. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Keep writing every day. It doesn’t have to be good writing just consistent. Keep a notebook in your purse and others around your house so you can jot down ideas. And read, read, read in the genre you want to write in and craft books. Attend conferences and network, network, network. What I learned there was priceless. And the critique groups I’m in has grown my writing by leaps and bounds.

Well said. I noticed that you founded a Word Weavers group. I have recently discovered that these exist. I hope to become part of a nearby group soon or start my own! I am currently in a critique group, but I like what Word Weavers has to offer.

What are you currently reading?

A novella collection The Cowboys of Summer. I just finished Backcountry Brides Romance Collection, these help me focus on correcting stuff in my own novella that has a deadline this August.

I LOVE those Barbour novella collections! They are great for a great quick read or getting yourself in a setting (i.e. I was writing in a ranch setting and grabbed the “Cowboy Bride Collection” – not for research, but to put me in that mood.)

What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I prefer quiet or instrumental only, otherwise I tend to sing along.

I’m the same way 🙂 Instrumental only. Or it’s a one-woman Sara show.

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

Early morning. I take my laptop to wherever the quietest place is at the time. I’ve had to write all different times when on deadline.

One of those questions that everyone is curious about is: How long does it take you to write a book?

Let’s see. I wrote my Historical romance, Secrets and Charades in five months, but did rewrites for years. I wrote the first draft of New Duet in two months and spent another year (not daily) in rewrites. My historical novella took four weeks to write. I’ll need another few weeks to edit before submitting. That’s 20,000 words compared to 80,000.

Great! Well, Cindy, thanks again for being on my blog. For sharing about your novel and your process. Do not fear, dear readers, we will certainly dive more deeply into New Duet below. AND Cindy has a GIVEAWAY offer below as well. So, without further ado, I’ll let you check it all out:

New Duet

Isabella Melinda Wilson has been squeezed into the music ministry model of her controlling husband’s making. Before she can leave him, he leaves her a guilt-ridden widow. Her mother-in-law is no comfort and presses the guilt button at every turn. Isabella flees to her sister’s home in search of her own identity and a new beginning.

Dan Sweeney has one goal. Be as normal as possible. After losing a leg, some fingers and his self-worth, he needs his service dog Brutus to help keep his PTSD at bay. Career-less and clueless about the future, he struggles to put his life back together.

Isabella isn’t looking for a new relationship and Dan feels unworthy of one. Can these two broken people heal into one whole love?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Isabella Melinda Marklin scurried ahead of her husband Ron. She reached the driver’s side door of the red Dodge Durango first. Ron closed the gap between. His breath brushing across the top of her head. “I’m driving.”

She faced him feeling for the handle and pulling the door open.

Anger flashed in his dark brown eyes. Melinda stood her ground.

“You have one of your migraines. “I’ll drive.” She climbed in before he could grab her arm.

“Fine.” Ron moved to the passenger’s side, slammed the door, and leaned back on the gray leather head rest. “It’s so bright.” His forearm covered his face.

“Here’s your sunglasses.” Melinda took them from the visor before gazing into the rearview mirror. The gravel driveway flowed beneath the tires. Her chest tightened with the gears shift into drive.

Ron adjusted the sunglasses. “Can you drive a little faster?”

“No.” A tremble escaped her lips. White knuckles gripped the steering wheel. Fear wrestled her confident tone. “We’ve got time.”

“You’d better be right.” Ron massaged his temples with his index fingers. “If we’re late it’s all on you.”

Typical.

Everything always seemed on her lately. Always her fault, always her problem. Blame had been the morning focus.

“What’d you do with my socks?”

“Why haven’t you folded the laundry?”

“Did you break the iron? I wouldn’t hand off this shirt to the homeless”

“You forgot to charge my phone again.”

His harsh words produced her own headache which found solace in a bottle of pain reliever.

The silent treatment a welcome change. Sweet worship music streamed into the car comforting her soul relaxing her thoughts. Peace flowed from the melody. She turned the wheel and panic assailed her. Her wrist was bare. I left my witnessing bracelet on the bathroom sink. The colorful beads used to share the gospel. Oh, how she hated it. He gets so mad when I forget it. Please, please don’t notice. Another reminder of her failure in the ministry.

“Turn off the radio. The music’s killing my head.”

“Maybe we should return home and you can rest.”

Ron raised his head, lifted his sunglasses, and glared. “And give you another excuse. Six Sundays, Melinda, six times sitting in the pews and not helping with worship. Well, my migraine will not be your seventh excuse.”

Melinda’s knuckles ached on the steering wheel. Tight lips held back tears. Arriving at church in the middle of an argument would make things worse later. God forbid anyone would see them arguing. That would be my fault too. She hated being in ministry, on the worship team and under a magnifying glass in this congregation. If I don’t get away soon, I’ll go insane. God forgive me.

Ron made no mention of the headache once they arrived at the church. His spotless dress shirt and neat pressed Dockers (no thanks to her imperfect ironing ability) added to his confident air. His look had changed over the past few years from casual jeans and collar-length hair to short moussed hair and black dress shoes.

Ron wanted her to get a make-over. The CDs sales had switched her husband’s focus. When they first married, Ron asked her to grow her hair out. “Sweetheart, the Scripture says long hair is a woman’s glory.” Now a file folder of acceptable hairstyles created by the church secretary lay in the bottom of her underwear drawer.

Maybe I should bleach my hair and spike it, wear my bra outside my blouse if he is so interested in a professional image. The bitter taste of her thoughts convicted her. Father, I seek your peace again. Please be with Ron when he shares his new song and don’t let my attitude hamper what you’re going to do here today.

“Blessing.” Ron hugged each member of the worship team in turn. “How’s the new baby, Mark.” Ron’s smile never giving time for a response before he continued.

“Angelina, nice dress.”

He seemed to have pushed through the headache, making Melinda wonder if it was all an act to keep her in line.

“Melinda, sweetheart, go tell Graham to watch for my cues.”

Mister sweetie pie is back. I swear… Every Sunday Ron used the same syrupy tone to issue the same instructions.

“Graham, you know.” Melinda tried on a sincere smile.

The sound tech took a sip of his coffee and grinned. “Yeah, yeah.”

Melinda headed back to the front of the auditorium muttering. “The mics worked. Why doesn’t he tell Graham himself? Another irritating thing to add to my I-Hate-My-Life List.” Her face warmed as people filled the pews. Fake smile in place. Wave at a few friends. Don’t dare stop during the warm up to chat.

Once the worship team prayed together she gained composure. Ron was presenting his newest song, “I Am Your Bond Servant”. The worship team had worked hard to get it right. Graham was recording it to add to Ron’s growing collection of songs for his latest CD. Next month would be his first live concert.

She’d told Ron she was done. He’d laughed. “Sugar, you know you love it as much as I do.” Then he’d squeezed her arm. The bruise covered by her sleeve.

Today would be her last performance. His last critique of her performance, her last time to pretend she cared.

Melinda took her place left of Trevor, the bass player with Angelina and Griffin the other backup singers. She preferred not being center stage. The service started with announcements and prayer. God’s presence filled the stage when worship began. “I Am Your Bond Servant” was the last song in the set before the pastor’s sermon. Ron, for once had given equal parts to all three singers as well as special orchestration for all the instruments. Her husband, in great form. He seemed connected with the Lord in a way Melinda hadn’t seen in years. The crescendo before the last line seemed to lift everyone’s hearts to God.

Ron finished the song, lifted his hand in praise and crumbled to the floor, knocking music stands and microphones in all directions. The clatter echoed through the sound system reverberating off the walls.

****

Melinda stood dazed, hands shook at her side, and legs rooted in place.

Trevor started CPR. Andrew, the guitarist, called 911.

Ron’s vacant eyes stared heavenward.

Clamminess covered her skin.

The congregation erupted in screams, weeping, and concerts of prayer all over the sanctuary.

Her heart reached out to Ron, but her body betrayed her.

The paramedics entered the sanctuary in a slow-motion run. Before they reached the stage, blackness enveloped her.

The coolness of the stage floor greeted dulled senses. Muffled words. Gentle arms held her.

“Melinda.” Maureen, her mother-in-law, hovered. “He’s dead, dear. What are we going to do?”

Her blunt announcement rambled through Melinda’s numb brain. He’s dead. Who’s dead? Ron’s dead.

“Oh God! Oh God!” Her shrieks joined the congregation’s. Guilt shrouded her. Relief mixed with guilt ate at her, and the packed suitcase in the trunk of her car.

Buy Link

Amazon

More About the Author

Cindy Ervin Huff received the Editor’s Choice Award for her debut novel Secrets and Charades, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Secrets & Charades placed third in the Maxwell Awards.

Over the past forty years her by-line has appeared in numerous publications. Her latest release a Contemporary Romance New Duet is set in Aurora, Illinois. Healing Hearts, part of The Cowboys novella collection is slated for release in August 2019.

Cindy is the founding member of the Aurora Illinois chapter of Word Weavers and a member of ACFW. Her blog Jubilee Writer offers writing encouragement to all newbies, especially those starting later in life. www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com

Visit Cindy on her Facebook www.facebook.com/cindyehuff or follow her on twitter @CindyErvinHuff.

Connect with Cindy and her work

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/author.huff11/about/?ref=page_internal and www.facebook.com/cindyehuff,

Twitter: @CindyErvinHuff,

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8029703-cindy-huff

Blog: www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Cindy-Huff/e/B01N9UAOZA/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

GIVEAWAY

Cindy is offering one (1) e-copy of her book, New Duet, to a winner, chosen by Rafflecopter. Please follow the directions below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CHARACTER INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Amanda of “A Convenient Risk”

Hey, everyone! I know, I know, this is normally the day you get to meet a “new-to-you” author and learn about fabulous new books. But today, I am doing something a little bit different. Oh, it’s still and interview, as you can see, but it’s an interview with Amanda, one of the characters from A Convenient Risk. I have included the particulars about the book below and I am offering a giveaway this week as well (see details farther down).

Because of this unique situation, I will put the book details before the interview. Enjoy!

A Convenient Risk

 

A widow with a young son is in trouble.

Amanda Haynes must put aside her grief and do something to take care of her son. Marrying a struggling rancher who wants her dead husband’s herd appears to be her only choice.

Only…she’s never going to love again. No one can replace the only man that ever loved her.

Butting heads over managing the ranch, her frustrations seem insurmountable. What has she gotten herself into? Is there any way out?

You’ll never put down this marriage of convenience romance, because everyone has hope.

Enjoy an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE ~ Beginnings & Endings ~ Scene Six

Brandon fidgeted with the cuffs of his best Sunday jacket. Moisture beaded on his forehead. Was it warm in here? He shot a glance at the preacher. The man seemed fairly comfortable in his jacket.

Perhaps it was something else then. He gazed up at the ceiling and took some deep breaths. Was he truly that nervous? Why? It wasn’t as if this was a real marriage. Though it was the only one he would ever have.

He never had such silly notions as love. That was a grand idea, but did those marriages ever work out? His parents had been matched for better reasons and they seemed well suited for one another. Surely that was wisdom enough to seek a more logical process for choosing one’s life partner.

And what he knew of Amanda Haynes, though little, did not put him off. She was pleasant enough to gaze upon. Everyone that spoke of her told of what a good wife she was. The only criticism Cook had ever heard tell of was that she kept to herself. He could find no fault in that. That may even be a trait that earned her admiration in his book.

A hand landed on his shoulder. He turned toward its source. Reverend Mason looked at him.

“I’m certain she will be here any moment.”

Brandon nodded. How long had it been? Was she late? He glanced over at Uncle Owen and Cook, seated in the first pew. Uncle Owen gave him a nod and a smile.

Was he doing the right thing? No doubt he did the prudent thing. For this poor widow and for his own ranch. But did he preclude her from finding love again? That is if she put such stock in these things.

The door to the small church opened, breaking his thoughts. Amanda stepped in, holding her son’s hand, straggling behind. As she walked down the aisle toward him, her eyes remained glued to the floor. But his were on her. Would he remember how she looked this day?

She wore a cream colored shirt trimmed in lace fabric. Her skirt was smooth and pink. Perhaps her best church outfit. Had he expected a white dress? No, that would not have been appropriate for a woman who had…well, who had already been married.

Her long blonde hair had been pulled back and up in an attractive style with curls piled on top. She had even adorned the right side with flowers which matched the bouquet she carried.

The boy did not seem aware or pleased at the circumstances. He fairly scowled as his mother pulled him along behind her. As she neared the front of the church, she set him on the front pew opposite Uncle Owen and Cook. She spoke some words to him in hushed tones. He whined in protest, but soon quieted. Then she pressed a kiss to his hair and he leaned back, folding his arms across his chest.

What was Brandon going to do about the boy? He hadn’t considered how the youngster would feel about a new man in his mother’s life. And so soon after his father’s death. But nothing could be done about it at this point. Sometimes very adult decisions had to be made regardless.

Amanda turned and faced Brandon, smoothing a hand down her skirt. Then her eyes were on his. And his breath caught. She was quite a sight up close. Her cheeks were flushed and eyes bright from the slight exertion. That only served to highlight her features.

“Sorry I’m late.” Her words came out in a breath.

Brandon opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. So, he closed his mouth and simply nodded.

“If everyone is ready, we can begin,” the preacher stepped closer to them.

Amanda nodded, licking her lips and grasping her flowers. Did he see a slight trembling in the delicate buds?

“Yes, Reverend,” he said, swallowing against a dry mouth. He shifted to face Pastor Mason and sensed Amanda do the same.

The preacher spoke words about the institution of marriage, but Brandon had a difficult time listening. He found himself stealing glances at Amanda. What was she thinking? Did she have second thoughts? Regrets?

Still, they moved through the ceremony, responding in turn when they were asked to.

Amanda spoke the words that would bind her to Brandon seemingly without hesitation. Should it surprise him? It did.

“Now it is time for the presentation of the rings.” Reverend Mason turned toward Brandon. “Do you have the rings?”

Brandon reached in his pocket and produced the circlets of gold.

“Will you take the smaller ring and place it on your bride’s finger and repeat after me?”

Brandon spoke the words after the preacher as he took Amanda’s smaller hand in his underneath the bouquet. Sliding the ring on her finger, which seemed impossibly smaller than his, he was surprised when he encountered resistance. Her other wedding band.

His eyes shot to hers.

Hazel eyes widened and slid closed.

Reverend Mason, having paused, spoke in that moment. “Is there a problem?”

Brandon slid his wedding band off of her finger.

Amanda pulled her hand out from under the bouquet.

The preacher’s brows shot up. “I see.” He eyed Brandon. As did Amanda.

Everyone seemed to be waiting on him with baited breath. What was he to do? Was it his place to remove Jed’s wedding band? Surely that was something she needed to do. But everyone looked at him as if he were to be the one to act.

So, he reached for her hand once more. Her eyes flitted between his and the wedding band on her finger. He gently grasped it and pulled. It wouldn’t come. Twisting a little, he felt it budge. From there, it took little work to get Jed’s wedding band off.

His face warmed. Why did he have to do that? It just wasn’t right. To remove another man’s claim on his wife. She should have been the one to do it.

But he held fast as he slid his wedding band onto her finger.

Reverend Mason let out a sigh and continued, instructing Amanda to place the other wedding band on Brandon’s finger.

He held out the wedding band to her, but he now held Jed’s wedding band and the one for him in his hand.

As her fingers reached for the band, they hovered for just a moment over her former band. Perhaps no one else would have noticed. But Brandon did. And why shouldn’t she? It had been on her finger for years. She must be loathe to part with it, perhaps one of the last pieces of her husband she had left.

Still, she picked up the band for Brandon and slid it onto his finger, releasing his hand as soon as the ring was securely on.

Brandon continued to watch her face, but her eyes shifted toward the preacher soon after. Was she afraid? Embarrassed? He had not meant to offend her.

But he turned his attention toward the preacher as well for the remainder of the simple ceremony. It wasn’t long before Reverend Mason spoke the final words and declared them husband and wife.

“You may now kiss your bride.”

Brandon looked over at Amanda. She didn’t meet his eyes. Her gaze caught on his chest. Why had he not thought about this particular part of the ceremony? The woman seemed so scared, so vulnerable.

She needn’t be, he decided. So, he leaned forward, tilting his head down and pressed a kiss to the side of her face before pulling back.

Then she met his gaze, eyes wide. Did she wonder at his simple contact? He wanted nothing more from her than what they had discussed. If she feared differently, than she was mistaken.

All he wanted…needed was that cattle. He needed it desperately. Now it was his. And that was all that mattered.

Teaser Trailer

Buy Link

Amazon

Interview: Amanda

Hello, Amanda, I hope you are well. I understand that you have recently lost your husband. I am sorry to hear that. But congratulations are also in order, I suppose as you have remarried as well.

It’s not like that. My son needed…we needed…it’s not as you make it sound.

I apologize. I did not intend to “make it sound” any way at all. Merely making conversation.

<Silence.>

Alright. Perhaps we can just get to these questions, since we are off to such a great start 🙂

I saw that you live in Wharton City, Arizona now, but is that where you are from?

No. I came from further east.

Care to elaborate?

Not really.

Listen, I do apologize if I offended you. I meant nothing by it. Honest. I do hope we can put it behind us and make the most of this interview.

<nods>

What is your earliest memory?

Probably of my mom. She was unwell a lot. So, I remember playing in her room, by her bed while she slept.

(Pauses) Hmmm… Interesting. What about school? Did you enjoy school growing up?

Yes, very much. I was quite good in school. I always did well.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Well, there aren’t many prospects for women during this time. Teacher…mother…nurse…that’s about it.

What would you say is your greatest achievement?

My son, Samuel. He is my light, my sunshine. The reason I keep going.

What is your greatest fear?

To be a burden on anyone…especially on him, my Samuel.

I write romances, so my readers would probably like to know if you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?

No.

But you are just newly–

No.

Okayyy…moving right along then…

Tell us about your family.

My family growing up or my family now?

Your choice.

Well, as you know, I recently married into this rancher, Brandon Miller’s, ranch family. Samuel, of course, is still with me. And there is Cook, who takes care of the house and cooking. Uncle Owen who seems to be an adviser of sorts to Brandon. I think he used to work a ranch when he was younger. Then there are the ranch hands. They’re nice fellas.

A ranch!? Is there a dog? Tell me there’s a dog!

Oh yes, there’s Daisy. Samuel is rather taken with her. I worry because she is older. I don’t like the idea of him becoming too attached.

That’s understandable. Pets are such a blessing in a child’s life!

Mother to mother…HOW do you deal with stress!?!

I may not be the best person to ask. But I’ll give it a try.

I try to stay calm and remember that whatever Samuel is doing is just him being a kid. That gives me good perspective.

Oh my! Our time has gotten away from us! I have time for one more question: what is the best thing that ever happened to you?

My first husband, Jed. He married me and took care of me. I very much needed someone to love me and give me some purpose, you know? But it was different than I’d always expected.

Oh? How so?

Just…you know, not as…warm…I guess, as I’d always thought the companionship of love would be.

Hmmm… What about with Brandon?

I do have these stirrings…more like sparks. But there is heat. Still, I am more wary of it than anything else.

Intersting…well, we’ve run out of time, Amanda. Thanks so much for sitting down with me today. I look forward to seeing how everything turns out for you 🙂

You can follow the rest of Amanda’s story as well in “A Convenient Risk”.

More About the Author

I’m a coffee lovin’, word slinging, Historical Romance author who’s super power is converting caffeine into novels. I love those odd little tidbits of history that are stranger than fiction. That’s what inspires me. Well, that and a good love story.

But of all the love stories I have read, mine is my favorite. I live happily with my own Prince Charming and our gaggle of minions. Three to be exact. They sure know how to distract a writer! But, alas, the stories must be written, even if it must happen in the wee hours of the morning.

Happy Reading!

Connect with Sara and her books

Facebook: AuthorSaraRTurnquist

Twitter: @sarat1701

Instagram: sarat0103

Pinterest: SaraVTurnquist

YouTube Channel: Sara Turnquist

GIVEAWAY

Two (2) individuals will be selected via Rafflecopter to receive ebook copies of both books in the Convenient Risk Series.

This includes A Convenient Risk and An Inconvenient Christmas. Please follow the directions on the Rafflecopter.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

OVERCOMING MYSELF: Getting Out Of My Own Way

As you know, this blog has become so much about the things that I have had to overcome in my life. And there have been so many, I have found, who can relate. Those who have encountered similar struggles with depression, grief, children who don’t “fit the profile”, and the like.

Well, what happens when you realize that YOU are the one holding yourself back? That’s what I want to explore a bit today. Because I have found that I can be my own biggest obstacle. And what an insurmountable obstacle I can be!

How did I come to this great epiphany? That is a good question. I have, for some time, had the suspicion that my very loving husband and encouraging friends, who became a vital support network in my recovery (from depression) process, had become more than a net to catch me. That I had, well, over-used that “net” and it was becoming more of a hammock, if you will. Especially my husband.

One might call that co-dependancy.

Maybe.

Okay…probably.

Then, the opportunity for me to go to a writers conference in the mountains came. This is a conference I have had my eye on for a few years now and it just hasn’t worked out. This year it did…but there was one catch: neither my husband nor my usual “conference buddy” could go with me. I would have to go alone.

Well, that’s a little intimidating.

No worries, I thought. I got this.

And to prove it, I’ll make it an extended vacation – I’ll visit family in that part of the country and even sightsee before returning home.

So, now that the reservations are made and paid for, the family arrangements made, and the sightseeing adventures booked and cancellation dates passed, I have realized what I have done.

Oops.

Can I really do this?

Really?

Like, without someone there to be with me?

As it turns out…yes. The conference is half over and I am doing well. I do miss my kids and husband, and am tired, but I am actually excited about my mini-vacation after the conference.

It’s taken the better part of this first half of the conference for me to step out of my own way and make myself see that I can do this AND enjoy it. Without a friend-parachute. Relying on my own devices. Networking all on my own.

It just took this push…a driving reason to get me out of my comfort zone, and I found that this baby bird could fly. If I just trusted my wings.

What have you done lately that you just needed to get over yourself to do?

GIVEAWAY & INTERVIEW: Author B.W. Morris

Hello, all! Sorry you haven’t heard from me in a while. It’s been all craziness here as I get ready to head off to North Carolina for the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference! I am so excited. It will be my first time at this particular conference and I am beyond thrilled to be in beautiful Asheville.

Today, I have a great author to introduce–B.W. Morris. He is another Clean Reads author and his novels have definitely intrigued me. I will admit that I got caught up in the excerpt. My next stop, I think, will be Amazon 🙂

Thank you for being on the blog, B.W.! First, can you tell us a little about your novel?

Six Pack: Gyration is the second book in The Six Pack Series. The first book came out last year and the second book follows up on the events of the first. Set in the distant future, it follows the tale of six teenagers who consume a drink that gives them strange powers and leads to them learning about a movement against the government of Novusordo. They must determine how their powers can help change the world – but they must learn to work together as a team. In the second book, their decision to save their professor, Roger Woods, leads to significant consequences that impact everyone – including themselves.

Hmmm…I like the idea. I must admit. I peeked ahead at the excerpt. I am very intrigued! What was the inspiration for The Six Pack Series?

The first inspiration came from watching the animated TV series Young Justice and thinking about my own ideas for a team-up of teenaged superheroes. It wasn’t until I read The Hunger Games, though, that I got an idea for the story’s setting – what if these superpowered teenagers had to take down a controlling government? And because my original idea was that these teens would gain their powers after consuming a drink, that led to the idea that the government used a drink to keep the population from questioning its agenda. Everything fell into place by then.

You’re not making me want to read it any less 🙂

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

I’ll admit when I was much younger, I thought I wanted to be a fireman. However, it was when I got into the fourth grade that I realized I had the gift for writing, even if I didn’t think about as a future career. By the time I got to junior high school, I read the student newspaper and thought how great it would be to write for it. That was the first time that writing really crossed my mind.

Strange how we don’t see what’s right in front of us sometimes…I just did a career day talk for third graders and realized that it was about that age that I started writing little stories. Even though my heart was set on being a doctor until much, much later.

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

Once I had my mind set on journalism, I knew that writing was something I wanted to do. But it wasn’t until I got older that fiction writing crossed my mind. I had done some creative writing in my spare time, but once I got ideas in my head for novels, I gave more serious consideration to writing one. I threw together a draft in the summer of 2015, visited the Kansas Writers Association for the first time and it grew from there.

That writing but does eventually make its mark on us, doesn’t it?

But as much as we all love it, I know there are things we don’t love as much. What part of the writing process do you dread?

The editing process! It can take a lot of time to go through a draft, several times over, to make sure you get everything to the best it can possibly be. It’s worth it, though, once you see the final product come together.

I hear that! Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Do a lot of reading. That’s the number one thing for everyone to keep in mind. Spend your time reading novels, pay attention to how characters are developed, how tension is built, how pacing is done. You can also get ideas for how these things work by watching movies, but reading books is of the utmost importance. And it helps to practice writing – spend your time jotting down whatever comes to mind. Even if it’s just notes to yourself, every bit of writing helps.

What are you currently reading?

I’m going through several young adult, science fiction and thrillers to get ideas about what other authors are doing. I’m reading Five Nights at Freddy’s right now – it’s good so far, though I’m still only a few chapters into the book. I like to read a book before I go to bed and try to read one chapter per night – though sometimes I’ll run across a book that’s so good, I keep going through chapters and can’t put it down. (That’s what it was like reading The Hunger Games for the first time!)

I know! I couldn’t put it down either!

Let’s talk about setting your writing mood… What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I can’t listen to music when writing. I sing along with the lyrics too much!

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

Evenings work the best for me, though I may try to squeeze in some writing on Saturday mornings if I’m not busy with something else. As for where I write, I’m usually sitting in front of the coffee table in my living room – yeah, that may seem odd, but I find it works better because it’s somewhat different from work, when I’m always sitting in a big chair in front of a desk.

How long does it take you to write a book?

My first drafts take about two to three months to complete. Then I let it sit for a couple of months, before I pull it out, edit and rewrite. And then it’s on to beta readers, meaning the full process from first draft to a draft that’s ready to submit may take a year or more.

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

I put several Easter eggs in it – for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, those are lines or details in the book that refer to other works. I found ways to work in lines that were lifted from Young Justice and the Arrowverse, without them seeming out of place. Something that’s fun for readers to pick up on if they notice them!

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

I am completing my own tribute to the Arrowverse called the Arrowverse “Other World” Project on my author blog (which is in the process of transferring to a new website). My third book in The Six Pack Series is undergoing beta reads and I hope to polish it up by the end of the summer. In the meantime, I’m planning to work a draft for another book in the coming months – just need to finalize an outline and then I can get started.

Again, thank you so much for being on the blog, giving us some insight into your books and your process. Now, readers, let’s dig in and check out these books!

BOOK 1 – Six Pack: Emergence

Just weeks before Tyler Ward is to graduate from secondary school, he learns the truth about Novusordo and how a drink controls the population. After sharing this information with his five friends, they visit a professor’s house, take another drink and gain strange powers. It leads to them learning more about how the government controls people and the discovery of a movement against the government. Calling themselves the Six Pack, Tyler and his friends must learn how their powers can change society. But they first must learn to trust this movement… and even each other.

Six Pack: Gyration

Months after the Six Pack has fled City 37N104W, Tyler Ward wonders how much longer the Underground Network can afford to wait to make its next move against the Novusordo government. The disappearance of five more students from Monroe Secondary School pushes his desire to take action. And when he learns that Professor Roger Woods may be in trouble, he is convinced he and the Six Pack must take matters into their own hands, even if it means defying the Network. But actions have consequences, and the decisions Tyler and his friends make will impact everyone they encounter — including themselves.

Available May 22 on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited!

Enjoy an Excerpt

Tyler pressed a hand to his chin as he listened to Diane. The more he heard, the more agitated he became.

“So every marriage only happens because the government says so?”

Diane leaned back in her chair. “Couples get together at their places of work, but the government must approve a marriage, yes.”

“What if somebody fell in love with a person who worked a different job than them?”

Diane shook her head. “The government won’t allow that.”

Tyler flexed his fingers. “That isn’t right.”

“Yes, but that’s one of many reasons why the Network wants to change society.”

“So what are we waiting for? After all, the longer we wait, the worse things will get. Not to mention that my parents could be in danger if the government found out what I’m doing for the Network.”

“Your parents are fine. As far as we know, the government isn’t going after them.”

“As far as you know.” Tyler narrowed his gaze. “How can you be sure?”

Diane held up her hand. “I understand you want to help the Network. That’s why we are letting you know more things over time. But we do need to be patient.”

“That’s all I ever hear.” Tyler took a deep breath, trying not to raise his voice. “But the more I hear, the more I ask myself how much longer we can wait.”

“Tyler, you have to understand that Professor Woods chose you for a reason.”

“Yes, he believed I was the right person because I was the top student in my class. Makes me wonder what would have happened had I never met him.”

“That’s why you need to know that you were intentionally placed at Monroe.”

Tyler did a double take. “What?”

Diane leaned forward and folded her arms across the desk. “A teacher at your elementary school, who was part of the Network, recommended you be placed at Monroe. The government allows the top students to be assigned to schools, and that teacher had hoped you would meet Professor Woods.”

Tyler looked away for a second. That revelation convinced him, more than ever, that he couldn’t keep hiding. If he was meant to bring change, he needed to bring it about. His gaze shifted back to Diane. “If I was meant to meet the professor, to be part of a movement for change, shouldn’t I be out there doing it?”

Diane shook her head. “It’s not that simple. First of all, the professor expected your ability to reason would be enhanced, not something else. Second, ever since what we’ve learned has been happening in City 37N104W, we’ve had to reassess.”

“How long can we afford to do that?” Tyler gestured with his hands. “What happens if we’re forgotten? Allen Ford keeps wondering why we haven’t been around.”

Diane took a deep breath. “We have reason to believe the Novusordo government is trying to lure you there.”

“We had reason to believe Governor Grayson was trying to lure us, but Mr. Harrison agreed we should go.” Tyler flipped his hands. “What’s different this time?”

She shifted in her chair. “What’s different is that the government increased security there. Tighter restrictions at Monroe: on everyone who lives there and works there. We’re trying to determine the best way to handle things.”

Tyler shook his head. He wanted to believe Diane. But though her voice remained steady, her eyes moved just enough to suggest something bothered her. How he wanted to read her mind, but he respected her too much to do that. “So what else aren’t you telling me?”

She didn’t answer.

“What is it?” Tyler asked.

She shifted position again. “All right, it’s only fair you know. The professor and I are a couple.”

“You two are dating?”

“Yes, that’s how I became involved with the Network.”

Tyler frowned. “I thought the government determined who could get together.”

“Not those in elite positions, such as the professor and myself.”

“Okay. So why wouldn’t you want to do something to help him?”

Diane held up her hand. “He and I came to an understanding about things.”

He shook his head again. “You and he may have done that, but I haven’t. How can you stay here while he’s down there at Monroe, in who knows what situation—that is, if you already know and don’t want to tell me.”

She took another deep breath, as if she didn’t want to raise her voice. “And as we have told you—I have told you—several times before that it’s too risky for the professor to leave. As much as I care for him, I’m not going to put him in danger.”

“But he’s in danger right now, isn’t he?” Tyler gestured with his hands. “Five students disappear, so does Mr. Walls, and the professor could be next if we don’t take action.”

“And you could be in trouble if you go down there,” Diane said. “The professor does not want anything to happen to you.”

“And I don’t want anything to happen to the professor. Do you?”

Diane cupped her hands and pressed them against her chin. She didn’t seem to know what to say. Tyler had a stray thought, that he wasn’t being fair to her or the Network. But all he could think about was doing something to help Roger.

“I mean, how has the Network handled things for the past, what is it, seventy-five years or so?” Tyler stood up. “I’m sorry, but if there’s going to be change—real change—then we need to take action.” He spun away from her.

She leaned forward. “Tyler, wait…”

But he opened the door and marched out. He strode down the hallway, eyes straight ahead. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been so harsh with Diane. But it hurt him, knowing that she cared for Roger, but didn’t feel compelled to help him. How could she leave him behind like that?

He approached the lounge and almost ran into Jennifer Blake. Great, she was the last person he wanted to be around.

“Hey, slow down,” she said.

“What do you care?” He brushed past her, but felt a tug on his arm.

“Mind, I need you to listen to me.”

She pulled him away from the door and toward the opposite wall. When she released her grasp, he stumbled and stared hard at her. What was her problem, anyway?

“They told me you could be a great leader,” she said. “I want to believe that, but the way you’re acting makes that difficult.”

“What is it with you?” He threw up his hands. “All I hear from you is criticism.”

“I’m trying to keep you from becoming what I once was.”

He blinked. “What are you talking about?”

She leaned against the wall. “When I was twenty-one years old, my mother died. Publicly, they said she had food poisoning. But I learned that the government arranged for poison to be slipped into her meal because she was too critical of the government.”

She pushed back her hair. “I remember how angry I felt. I wanted to get at the government so badly. Make them pay for it. I wanted to hurt them, hurt the president, the way they hurt me. But then I met James Harrison. He calmed me down, made me realize that if I did anything rash, I could make things worse. And he told me about the Network.”

She crossed her legs. “My mother kept a diary on her tablet. The last entry she wrote was that patience can be a difficult thing to learn, but when you learn it, you find it will serve you well. She also wrote that, while she hoped for Novusordo to change in her lifetime, if she could inspire others to push for that change, she’d know she’d done well.”

Tyler wanted to say something, but she held up her hand. “What stood out the most was she believed that change could happen if you gave it time. Be persuasive, difficult as it may be. It’s the best way to ensure you don’t lose much. Because in the past, when people tried to change things, they became aggressive, resorted to violent measures, used tactics that did more harm than good. Those tactics are what led to the rise of Novusordo. So if change is going to come, it has to come the right way. Through persuasion, not violence.”

Tyler’s eyes narrowed. He didn’t doubt she told the truth. But the tone of her voice sounded like a scold. That he didn’t appreciate. It made him harder to accept that she might be right about being patient. “Why didn’t you tell us this when we all first met?” he asked.

“I wasn’t sure about the six of you.” She relaxed her posture. “I heard about the things you did, and wondered if having such power was a good thing, especially somebody your age. I wanted to see firsthand what you were all about.”

“So you don’t trust us?”

She shook her head. “No, it’s that I wasn’t sure if the things you could do were the best way to bring that change. I’m not convinced yet, but the patience your friends are showing, at least from what I’ve observed, give me reason to believe. But it’s not only about that. It’s about understanding what you are up against and what happened before, about not repeating those mistakes.”

She locked eyes with him. “And believe me, Mind, there is a lot you need to understand.”

Tyler’s gaze hardened. He wanted to sympathize with her. But here was somebody like Arnold Walls, who thought that teens couldn’t handle this situation. That they were too young, too inexperienced, too reckless. Arnold rubbed him the wrong way, just like Jennifer.

But it didn’t matter. Arnold was in trouble, too. He may not like him, but he’d never turn his back on him if he might be in trouble, if the government came after him. Jennifer was no different. The government had no right to target anybody for death, whether he liked the person or not.

He thought about responding, but she raised her finger and spoke. “I don’t want you to dwell on how much you want to change things. Believe me, the more I dwelled on it, the worse I felt. Now, I haven’t given up on changing things, but I understand it comes with time and with patience, not violence. You need to understand that.”

She lowered her hand. He sighed but couldn’t deny she had a point. After all, he never wanted to hurt anybody when he used his powers. Still, he couldn’t help it. Something bothered him, that there was more to things than she let on. And he had to be sure of that. Though he may have promised he wouldn’t pry into the minds of those he respected, this was different. Even after everything she told him, she hadn’t earned his respect.

“All right, fine.” He extended her hand, acting like he wanted to make amends. “I’m sorry.”

She sized him up. He tried not to give away what he was thinking. After a moment, she took his hand.

That’s when Tyler focused on her. He kept it for a few seconds and heard enough to confirm his suspicions.

Professor Woods is in trouble.

She released his hand. “You should go join your friends.”

“I will.”

She turned and walked down the hallway. He entered the lounge. He knew what needed to be done, what he had to tell his friends. The Six Pack had to return to City 37N104W.

More About the Author

B.W. Morris is a longtime writer for small-town newspapers who put his inner comic book geek to work through writing novels. Born in Texas but grew up in Colorado, he has lived in New Mexico, Oklahoma and currently resides in Kingman, Kan. Greg Weisman, Suzanne Collins, Stan Lee, George Orwell, and Conor Friedersdorf all influenced his writing. Morris is a fan of the Young Justice animated series, the Arrowverse shows on the CW Network, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Star Wars films, and more graphic novels than he can keep track. You can learn more about his love for science fiction at his blog, relaxingwithsixpack.blogspot.com, and his new website to be launched in June at bwmorrisauthor.com.

Connect with the B.W. Morris and his books

Follow B.W. Morris on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sixpackwriter

Visit his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bwmorrisauthor/

Stop by his blog: relaxingwithsixpack.blogspot.com

Email him with questions about his work at bwmorris@mail.com.

New author website to be launched in June: bwmorrisauthor.com.

GIVEAWAY

B.W. Morris is offering, to one (1) winner, an e-book copy of his first novel in the series, Six Pack: Emergence. The winner will be selected from among entries in the Rafflecopter below (follow instructions on the Rafflecopter to enter).

a Rafflecopter giveaway