Hey, Readers! It has been a while since I have been on the blog, but I am reviving it due to active requests (thank you for your kind words!).
And I am re-launching it with a CHRISTMAS SERIES – featuring posts about Christmas novels, novellas, and short stories! (‘Tis the season, indeed.)
Now, I know you may be saying, “It’s too early for Christmas stories.” And perhaps you are right. But Christmas themed works start making their debut this time of year. And I, for one, plan to celebrate my fellow authors and their work!
First up, is another Sara(h)! Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer. I had the privilege to meet this author at my first ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference many years back. We were both newbies at that particular conference and both Historical Fiction/Romance writers.
I particularly admire her connection to the past through her ancestors and their lives. And how that has led to her writing about the Choctaw. I am only too eager to learn more about this connection and her works!
So without further ado, I will turn you over to Sarah!
by Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
I once made a humorous video declaring myself a writer for a contest. I used clips from classic TV shows and movies, and was tickled by one comment it got:
“I love this video, Sarah!! I thought an “older man” came up with this.”
To which I thought, “No, I was just raised by one.”
My daddy grew up in the days of listening to Gunsmoke as a radio show before it hit the black and white and later, color screen. Roy Rogers was his hero, and for all my life, we watched reruns of the classic TV Westerns:
Have Gun – Will Travel, Daniel Boone, The High Chaparral, Hopalong Cassidy, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, Annie Oakley, The Big Valley, Rawhide, The Rifleman, The Virginian, Zorro, and more.
And, of course, the ever classic Bonanza. Do you know the Cartwright boys? If not, allow me to introduce you: Adam, Little Joe, Hoss, and Pa (Ben).
Don’t ask which is my favorite because I love them all—Adam, the level headed, book reading, dedicated leader; Hoss (my mama’s favorite), the loving, forgiving gentle giant; and Little Joe, the quick tempered, fun loving but-don’t-mess-with-my-family protector. Then there was the patriarch, Ben, whose steadfast integrity and faith held those boys in line.
Right always prevailed, no matter what dangers threatened the family or their ranch, the Ponderosa. They laid it all on the line and never compromised.
In part, that long-running series from the ’50s-’70s helped shaped who I am as a person and as a writer. It also shaped one of the main characters in my Choctaw Tribune series without me even knowing it—Matthew Teller, Choctaw owner of a controversial newspaper in Indian Territory, 1890s.
I didn’t realize this until a friend (who has a “mom crush” on Matthew and threatened me to never kill him off in the series) asked how he came to be. Though I hadn’t contemplated it before, I knew right away: He’s a mash up of the four Cartwrights. He has elements from Ben, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe.
Once that came forefront to my mind, I started seeing it through each of the three books in the series: The Executions (book 1), Traitors (book 2), and Shaft of Truth (book 3).
I’m seeing it in the final three books that I’m working on in this series (books 4, 5, 6), and it makes me love Matthew Teller even more. He’s a brother like I saw the Cartwright boys being. (I always thought they should have had a sister, and Matthew does in the series!)
I wrote Shaft of Truth listening to the soundtracks of classic TV Westerns. I knew the theme songs as soon as they came up, especially Bonanza, which put me into that world as I wrote Matthew’s story.
In a way, these books came about because of my daddy and his love for old TV westerns.
But there’s someone else who had a great deal of influence on Matthew Teller — my great-great-great-great grandfather, William Robuck.
Young William crossed the Choctaw Trail of Tears as a boy with his family in 1831. Among the tragedies they experienced was burying his father on the trail.
With courage and faith, William went on to attend the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky and became a statesman for our tribe and served in several official capacities, including president of the Choctaw Senate. He and his wife, Annie, owned a ranch near present day Grant, Oklahoma. If you’ve ever been to Roebuck Lake near the Choctaw Travel Plaza and the Casino in Grant…yes, that 2,000 acre ranch at Roebuck Lake was in my family once upon a time. Uncle Preston’s ranch in the Choctaw Tribune series is loosely based on it. Danger on the Red River (A Choctaw Tribune Christmas Short Story) is set on the ranch.
I learned William’s story many years ago, and it prompted me to write my first Choctaw tale — Contrast, which mirrored my experience on one of our annual Choctaw Trail of Tears Commemorative Walks, and the hardships my family endured in the 1800s.
I see my grandfather William in Matthew Teller — passionate about serving his people, no quit no matter what, intelligent. I imagine my grandfather faced his own racial issues as a mixed blood Choctaw. It was said he could pass for a white man. To my knowledge, he didn’t try. He was involved in Choctaw tribal government until he passed in 1885.
That’s right about when Matthew’s story picks up. Maybe subconsciously, I was continuing my grandfather’s story, and the legacy he left me.
I like to think that as you get to know the Teller family…you’re getting to know my family, too.
Danger on the Red River
Christmas at Uncle Preston’s ranch sounds delightful to Ruth Ann Teller, who is ready for a break from the Choctaw Tribune newspaper and the hard times they’ve endured. Namely, nearly losing her brother to a gunman.
But drama follows them to the ranch with a flooded Red River, quicksand, and a surprise Christmas present that ties the whole family together.
Spend an 1893 Christmas with the Tellers in this free ebook!
Download a free copy of Danger on the Red River (A Choctaw Tribune Christmas Short Story) here!
Enjoy an Excerpt
Christmas Eve, 1893
“Come on, Matt! It’s past time to leave, and there’s a storm coming.”
Ruth Ann Teller skipped out of the telegraph office, a lean-to attached to the print shop, and went straight to the coat rack next to her brother’s desk. She halted and frowned.
Hair mussed like he’d been running his fingers through it, Matthew was leaned back in his chair, inky hands folded over his midsection. He stared at the empty wall on the other side of the vacant shop. He was that way these days, lapsing into nothingness whether there was work to do or not.
Well, they had no work left this morning. The siblings had arrived at the newspaper office long before dawn on Christmas Eve, a day they were closed but there was one last print job Matthew needed to run and Ruth Ann took care of telegraphs before wishing the other operators a jolly and joyful Christmas.
That and the print job finished and delivered, still Matthew sat rather than cajoling her to get moving so they could get on out to Uncle Preston’s ranch. Their cousin Peter Frazier had stayed home, finishing chores and helping their mother load the buggy. They were waiting on Matthew and Ruth Ann…
She rehung her coat and touched Matthew’s shoulder. He flinched and looked up, blinked, then smiled. He was back.
“Ready?” he asked.
“And waiting. We don’t want to miss Melinda’s noon meal. She made us promise to arrive in plenty of time to set the table.”
“Right. I’m almost finished here.” He shuffled papers scattered over his desk into neat piles, something he normally didn’t bother with. Busy-work, he called it, not something to waste time and energy on. But this morning, he was stalling.
Ruth Ann laid a hand on his arm, stilling him.
“It’ll all be here after Christmas,” she said quietly.
He didn’t move. “You’re right. This is Christmas. Time to put all this aside and just…be. And I’ve already taken care of your surprise.”
Ruth Ann scoffed and stepped back as he stood and lifted their coats from the rack.
“You aren’t fooling me this year, Matthew Teller, I’m going to guess your present by tonight.” She pulled her coat on. “You just worry about guessing your own present.”
His eyes twinkled in a way that told her he already had it figured out. She swatted him. He dodged and slipped into his coat.
The bell over the door jingled despite the sign that read “closed.” Ruth Ann was dismayed to see a customer step in, then he turned. It was Mr. Bates from the General Store for whom they’d run a sales sheet for him to pass out first thing after Christmas. Was something wrong with the flyer?
But Mr. Bates had a deeper look of concern on his aging face. “’Scuse me, but I just got a letter in the morning mail from my brother in St. Louis. I wasn’t going to make the trip up there this Christmas, but he says our mother is feeling poorly. That was two days ago, and he said not to worry, but I wondered…would you mind sending a telegram off to him before you leave? He should reply quick. Just want to make sure everything’s all right, you know?”
Ruth Ann didn’t bother removing her coat. She’d already banked the stove in the telegraph office, and coolness was setting in. Mr. Bates gave her the written message and she settled at the sounder, knowing she could get through to the St. Louis office. It was large enough to keep operators going through Christmas Eve.
Dots and dashes, dashes and dots, just like sleigh bells might sound dashing through the snow. They had little need for sleighs in Indian Territory, but the image made Ruth Ann smile despite the delay.
St. Louis responded that they received the message. She hesitated. How long would the reply take? Mama and Peter were waiting for them.
Matthew nudged her from behind. “Y’all go on out to the ranch. I’ll wait for the reply and catch up on Little Chief.”
Ruth Ann stood and met his gaze. He gave her a look that said she needed to stop being a mother hen.
Since the shooting, and the terror at the Warren home, she walked with him every morning to the newspaper office and stayed—no matter how late—every night to walk home with him. She didn’t want to let him out of her sight.
He’d tolerated it, but today he was firm. “I’ll catch up,” he repeated.
Mr. Bates apologized for the trouble, but Ruth Ann gave him a hug and wished him a merry Christmas and promised prayers for his mother.
Ruth Ann walked toward her family’s box house by the railroad tracks, moving slow despite a rumble of thunder, waiting to see if the telegram would come through and Matthew might catch up. But he wouldn’t, and it was time to stop walking in fear and start walking in the faith that there would be peace on earth, at least in their souls, as was promised so long ago.
More About the Author
SARAH ELISABETH SAWYER is a story archaeologist. She digs up shards of past lives, hopes, and truths, and pieces them together for readers today. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian honored her as a literary artist through their Artist Leadership Program for her work in preserving Choctaw Trail of Tears stories. A tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, she writes historical fiction from her hometown in Texas, partnering with her mother, Lynda Kay Sawyer, in continued research for future works. Learn more at SarahElisabethWrites.com and Facebook.com/SarahElisabethSawyer
Connect with Sarah and her works
This week, I have another author for you to meet. This is actually an author I have worked with in my local critique group. She is just the sweetest lady ever and I couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to her debut novel!
Welcome to the blog, Chris! I’m so glad to have you here. First, I’d love to know about your inspiration for your debut novel, Liaison in Lyudinovo?
My family’s military duty stations inspire my novels. My Dad was in the Army, stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. My love for Carson provided the setting for this novel. They many unique soldiers that I’ve gotten to know in my life inspired the characters.
Dad also travelled to Russia when I was a kid. His stories from his trip, along with the mysterious lore of Russia, made me want to write about it.
I love it. 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 a psychiatrist starting around age eight. I partially credit the TV show ‘House’ to my obsession with medicine.
I loved reading, especially about all things military, and I wrote adventure stories ‘for fun’ in middle school. However, being a writer was not in my line of sight until much later in life. I’d prepared myself for Medical School and thought of no other career until the Lord changed my path in the middle of organic chemistry lab, junior year of college.
Goggles on, Bunson burners blazing, test tubes bubbling, he spoke. Call it divine intervention or an epiphany, but I felt a complete shift in my universe and knew with absolute certainty that I had to change course. It was difficult for me because I’d spent my whole education focusing on science, statistical analysis, and all things Med School. However, when the Lord moves you it is for a greater purpose.
So, I became a history teacher and rekindled a love of writing. There’s a whole novel in that story. One day, I’ll have to write it!
What a story! You should write it into a novel…I’d love to read it.
Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?
My next novel is about a psychiatrist who finds a diary that changes American history to its core! I’m currently working on the sequel to her story, where she links up with the heroin in Liaison. Fun stuff for sure!
Sounds fascinating! Thank you so much, Chris, for being on the blog and for sharing about your novel. I know my readers are likely eager to get a better peek at the book for themselves, so I won’t keep them…
Liaison in Lyudinovo
Liaison in Lyudinovo is about a single mom who’s spent the last ten years working overseas for the CIA. She’s romantically jaded, ready to go home, and on the last mission of her career. The last mission just happens to pair her with an attractive soldier who needs her help more than she knows. It’s a military novel about friends, faith, and finding love in the most unexpected places. I also threw in some espionage, guns, and intrigue!
Enjoy an Excerpt
About a mile from the cabin, Jackson pulled off onto a side road.
“What are you doing?” Sam asked, pushing the cuticles back on her fingernails.
He smiled. “Samantha Browning, have you ever driven a stick shift?”
Sam hesitated and looked away from him at the sky like a spaceship could land at any second. “Why?”
“Because the only reason you didn’t drive today is the car is a manual.”
She continued her fake search of the skies for anything to keep her eyes off him. “How do you know—”
“Come on now, Officer Browning,” he said to her as if he were trying to get a kid to fess up to a lie. “Your V8 Mustang is an automatic. You obviously like power, but you don’t know how to handle it.”
Well, that got her fired up. “Listen, Jackson Lee, I can handle power just fine. My Daddy tried to teach me once, but I just… I just…” She clenched her fists.
“You want to know a secret?”
“O…kay?” She shrugged.
“You know that you can try again, right? Some humans do that when they fail at something. Don’t let the secret out, though.”
She rolled her eyes. “Now? You want me to try now?”
“Now,” he repeated as he glared at her. “Do you and the guys have some sort of quilting contest going on back at the cabin, or do you want to learn?”
“Jackson Lee, we are not in a country where we can be distracted from the mission, shooting off on back roads for the enemy to find us. This is not the place to—”
“Do you trust me?” Jackson interrupted her.
She eyed him and shrugged. “This has nothing to do with—”
“Do you trust me?” he asked again, more firmly this time.
She hesitated but nodded. She didn’t like not knowing how to drive a stick shift, but she got frustrated easily with this particular skill.
“Did the Agency not require that you know how?” Jackson asked her.
Sam hem hawed around at the question. “Well, yes-ish. I took the test.”
Jackson stared into her eyes, waiting on the rest of the story.
“I didn’t really pass the test, but to be fair, I tried. And, I’ve never had trouble since. And, I’m very thankful for that. And, I know it could have gone pretty bad in some situations, but…”
Jackson’s eyes were narrowing in question. “Do I even want to know how any of that went down, the not passing and yet surviving in foreign lands with foreign vehicles?”
Sam rubbed her forehead. “Eh?”
“Fine. Another day,” Jackson said, “but today, you’re learning.”
More About the Author
Chris Ann Yim is a historian and author of the new novel Liaison in Lyudinovo. As the wife of an Army veteran, she holds an appreciation for the relationships between military service members and their families. With a background in the social sciences, she has spent the majority of her life researching military leadership, the psychology of war, and the development of culture in societal groups.
Chris is a cat mom who enjoys Blues Rock and Big Band music, drag racing, and photography. She lives and works out of her home on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, and spends her vacations eating good food and travelling the globe with her husband.
Her claim to fame was once being chosen as a contestant on the Price is Right, and in the future she aspires to go an entire week without tripping over her own feet or spilling a glass of sweet tea down her shirt.
Connect with Chris and her creativity
Author Website: www.chrisannyim.weebly.com
Facebook: Chris Ann Yim- Author
Good day, readers! I have an author for you today that I have come to “know” through a couple of venues. One is the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Romance genre Facebook Group and we also are part of another group, Pure Romance Reads and Readers of Pure Romance. I have been watching her books and am eager to learn more!
Welcome to the blog, Toni! It’s so good to have you here. Let’s jump right into the lightning round…
Not every part of the writing process is sunshine and puppy dogs…there’s always something that every author likes less. What part of the writing process do you dread?
I dread the editing process! Once I’m done writing the first draft I’m ready to move on to the next story and the editing process keeps me stuck in the same story.
I can totally relate to this…it gets to where I’m so tired of examining every little word.
I find that authors glean a lot from each other…even just in reading their work. What about you? What are you currently reading?
I have a few books in my immediate TBR pile. Forgiving Tess by Kimberly M. Miller, Stealing Adda by Tamara Leigh (a reread for me), The Heart Surrendered by Joy K. Massenburge, and The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey.
You have named a couple of my own favorites – all my readers know I’m a huge Tamara Leigh fan. And I adore Joy K. Massenburge!
What about your process? Is there some particular kind of music you listen to when you write?
It depends on the book. I create a Spotify playlist for each book I write. Usually a mix of country, R&B, and Christian/Gospel music.
It is interesting how many authors do this kind of thing…it has made me rethink my listening. I used to have an instrumental playlist for “writing.” Now, like you, I create one for each book.
One last question before you go – do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?
Right now, I’m writing a Christmas novella. My heroine is returning home after being laid off. As the youngest of 5, she wrestles with feelings of inadequacies. It doesn’t help that her sister is marrying her ex-boyfriend.
Interesting premise. I do enjoy Christmas novellas…I’ll have to keep my eyes open for this one 🙂
Thanks so much, Toni, for being on the blog and sharing. I’ll let you go and let my readers jump into Risking Love.
Nikki lives with a perfect trifecta of noes. No guys. No dates. No way. After years of keeping men at bay, Nikki Gordon has it down to a science. No one, not even the sweet, hunky Shorty Smalls can change her mind. Period. So if she’s got it all figured out, why does her heart sink to her toes when she sees Shorty with another woman? Read Risking Love today and see what happens when you risk your heart to the care of a good man.
Enjoy an Excerpt
“Welcome to The Maple…Pit.” Nikki Gordon forgot the rest of her speech because Gregory “Shorty” Smalls had just walked into The Pit with another woman.
Her breath faltered as she looked into Shorty’s dark brown eyes. He flashed his engaging grin as if nothing momentous had just occurred. She catalogued his features, taking in his warm russet brown skin and the close-cropped haircut that always had her hands itching for a feel. Everything looked the same except for the woman standing next to him.
“Um, Nikki, can we get a table?” Shorty eyed her, his head tilted in confusion.
“Right.” She grabbed two menus as her heart stuttered back to life in her chest.
For the past six years she’d been The Pit’s hostess, and not once had Shorty come in with a woman who wasn’t a relative. Not once had she imagined him walking in with a very attractive, petite blonde woman with a cute button nose.
He’s not your boyfriend.
And didn’t that burn! “Right this way.” She spun on her heel, marching toward an empty table. No way would she put them in a booth where they could get all cozy. Placing the menus down, she forced her lips upward. If her smile looked as painful as it felt, the mystery lady would think Nikki the most insincere hostess ever.
Not that I care. “Your server will be right out.” The words strained past the lump in her throat.
“Wait up, Nikki.” Shorty held up his hand.
Yes? His words rooted her to the floor.
“Nikki, meet Trina. Trina, this is Nikki.”
He was introducing them to one another? Ugh.
More About the Author
Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.
You can find her on her website at http://tonishiloh.com.
Amazon – https://amzn.to/2uGTV1q
Goodreads link – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44771917-risking-love
Connect with Toni and her books
Welcome, Readers! How are you? I hope you are well. I have this special Wednesday Edition of my blog for you all to enjoy! Author Angela Ruth Strong is with me today sharing about her newest release, A Cuppa Trouble. I am so excited to share this interview and book details with you. As well, Angela is offering a giveaway! Now that I’ve gotten you eager, I’ll get started…
Welcome to my blog, Angela! I’m glad you’re here. First, can you tell us a little about your novel?
A Cuppa Trouble is book two in my CafFUNated Mysteries. It’s about a tea lover and a coffee lover who start a shop together and their differences make them the perfect team for solving mysteries. This book is set at Valentine’s so there’s a romance thread (or two) as well as a spiritual thread about communication. I’ve tried to emulate the feel of the television show Psych, so it gets a bit silly at times, but I’m pretty proud of the suspense at the end. Not your typical cuppa tea.
Love it! A series with “caffeinated” attached to it? This coffee-lover is tuned in for sure! What was the inspiration for A Cuppa Trouble?
I love heist stories, so I really enjoyed researching the real life car jacking and smuggling rings. A lot of the crazy stories in my book are based on true events. A ten-year-old really did steal a car. A car jacker really did get stuffed in the trunk of a car by the car’s owner. Ohio really does have a law that it’s illegal to leave the keys in your car to let your car warm up in winter if the doors are unlocked. Some stuff is just too weird for me to have made up.
As a Historical Fiction/Romance writer, I can attest to that! Fact is often stranger than fiction.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?
My mom was a writer, so I grew up with stories about myself in Women’s World. When I was sixteen, I wrote about something that had happened to me, and my mom helped me submit it to a magazine—because that’s what you do, right? They paid me $100, and it was the easiest money I’d ever made. It hasn’t ever been that easy since, but it inspired me to go to college for journalism and attend writing conferences.
Neat. I can’t say, in all the authors I’ve interviewed, that anyone has had a parent writing about them in a magazine 🙂
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
4th grade when we wrote tall tales as a school assignment. I wrote about a dog who stopped a bank robbery. (I told you I’ve always loved heists.) In the carpool on the way home, the other kids wanted to hear my story. They laughed so hard that I pretended I’d lost the assignment and had to write another tall tale to read to them on the ride home the next day. Making people laugh has become one of my favorite parts of writing.
That’s cool. My work doesn’t tend to be humorous (except a phrase or line here and there), but in real life I’m your favorite jokester. Same reason–I like to make people laugh.
Now, as much as we love writing, there’s got to be something you don’t love as much…what part of the writing process do you dread?
Writer’s block. I hate spending a whole day (or days) just thinking things over when I should be getting words on the page. But I do believe that my writing is better for it.
Ugh! That is the worst!
On that note…do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?
This may sound contradictory, but you have to be both confident in your abilities and open to feedback at the same time. It’s the insecurity that makes people feel like they have to prove themselves and so they shut down or argue against feedback when it’s not what they’d hoped to hear. But if you’re pursuing excellence rather than recognition, you should welcome the suggestions that can help you make your story better.
Great advice! I agree that extra eyes and thoughts make your story stronger.
What are you currently reading?
I just downloaded Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan. The last books I read were On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter and Vigilant by Sara Davison, which was spectacular.
A couple more for my TBR (to be read) pile! I tend to read mostly in my genre, but it’s good to read a variety of things, I think. There are so many gifted writers I can glean from.
I typically “set the stage” for my writing sessions…music is a big part of that. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?
I like quiet while I write, but whenever I’m not writing, I’m listening to the radio for songs that I would play as a soundtrack if my book were a movie. Then I listen to them over and over and whenever I hear them down the road I think back to the book scene and what it meant to me. Most recently, I’ve been listening to Beloved by Tenth Avenue North. Sooo good.
I like that…a soundtrack for your book. My playlists that I make for my writing sessions usually reflect the music that would be in the soundtrack I suppose.
Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?
We just bought a sofa with a recliner that has an armrest next to it that works perfectly for my computer mouse. So though I have an office I could write off if I used it, this is my spot. And I like to get started as soon as everyone leaves the house in the morning, though that doesn’t always happen.
I get that. I don’t use my office nearly as much as I’d like 🙂
I get this question a lot myself, so I thought I’d ask it for the sake of my readers–how long does it take you to write a book?
Three months at a comfortable pace, though I did write a middle grade novel in a week once. I have to warn my family when I’m on book deadline like that because I won’t make sense when I talk. They find it very entertaining when I tell them to let the horses in (though I mean the dogs) or when I randomly mention that I was adopted (even though I wasn’t.) When they point out what I just said, we laugh until we cry. It’s pretty entertaining.
LOL! Ah, the life of a writer…
Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb?
As research, I had my writing group stuff me in a trunk. I was able to escape, though afterwards, I realized my hand was bleeding. Not sure how that happened.
Oh no! That’s fun though–an interesting way to get in a character’s headspace.
Before I let you go, I have to ask–do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?
I’m finishing up book three, A Latte Difficulty. This one has Marissa witnessing a crime and hiding out in a safehouse. If you know Marissa’s clumsiness as well as her controlling ways, you know this is just another recipe for crazy.
Love this! Thanks again, Angela, for being on my blog today and sharing about your book and your process. My readers love to glimpse into the “heads” of different writers and get a peek at how they operate. So, thank you.
But now, it’s time to get to the book…
A Cuppa Trouble
Can a couple of baristas chase down a car thief without spilling a drop of their favorite drink?
Plans for a Valentine’s Day grand opening of a small town coffee shop go awry when the first customer is killed. Evidence points toward the victim being mixed up in a car theft ring, but shop owners Tandy and Marissa have reason to believe he was framed. An assortment of suspects–from a pink-haired heir to Tandy’s charming ex–all seem to know a little too much about grand theft auto.
Without approval from either their boyfriends or the gum-chewing FBI agent in charge, the shop owners go on stakeouts, plan stings, and pursue justice in a high-speed car chase. If they don’t find the killer soon, it might be more than their love lives in trouble.
Enjoy an Excerpt
“You kidnapped my business partner.”
Vic crossed his arms. “You do business with car thieves?”
“What? No. She sells tea. As bad as that may be, it’s hardly criminal.”
Metal smashed, glass cracked, and a taillight burst from the corner of Vic’s vehicle. An ugly brown boot took its place.
“Tandy?” The muffled voice sounded like Marissa’s, but that couldn’t be her foot in the ugly brown boot.
“Oh fantastic.” Vic pointed the direction of the mess. “I caught her trying to steal a Jeep, and I made a citizen’s arrest to help the police. I didn’t realize she’d damage my car.”
What had Vic expected? He certainly couldn’t expect Tandy to believe his excuse. “She owns a Jeep. Maybe she got locked out and had to break in.” Tandy raised her voice so Marissa could hear. “Marissa, did you lock your keys in the Jeep again?”
The boot disappeared, and part of Marissa’s face filled the hole. “No!” Her response came with enough force that Tandy was a little scared of releasing her from the trunk.
Tandy shook her head at Vic. “There has to be a logical explanation for why she was breaking into a Jeep. You should have at least asked her what was going on rather than resort to kidnapping. That’s not how you make a citizen’s arrest.”
“Police lock criminals in the back of their cars. I was doing the same.” Vic lifted a shoulder, as if no responsibility rested there. “As soon as I let her out, you’ll see that she wasn’t using a coat hanger to get into her own vehicle. She has what’s known as a Relay Attack Unit designed to unlock cars without a key. Only a car thief would own such a thing.”
Now he was overtly lying. And Tandy would be able to prove it. Good thing he’d broken up with her last year. Otherwise she’d be dating a liar.
Sheriff Griffin sauntered from the police department. “What’s going on here, Tandy?”
Marissa banged against the inside of the trunk in response. “Griffin, get me out of here!”
Griffin’s hand rose to his holster.
Vic sidestepped farther behind his car as if he might need to duck from bullets.
Griffin pointed with his free hand at Marissa’s face in the hole. “Is someone in your trunk, sir?”
“It’s me. Marissa.”
Griffin’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Let her out right now.”
More About the Author
Angela Ruth Strong sold her first Christian romance novel in 2009 then quit writing romance when her husband left her. Ten years later, God has shown her the true meaning of love, and there’s nothing else she’d rather write about. Her books have since earned TOP PICK in Romantic Times, been optioned for film, won the Cascade Award, and been Amazon best-sellers. She also writes non-fiction for SpiritLed Woman. To help aspiring authors, she started IDAhope Writers where she lives in Idaho, and she teaches as an expert online at WRITE THAT BOOK.
Connect with Angela and Her Books
Find out more or join her newsletter at www.angelaruthstrong.com
Angela is offering to one (1) winner, chosen by Rafflecopter, an ebook copy of A Cuppa Trouble.
Please follow the directions on the Rafflecopter below to enter.a Rafflecopter giveaway
BLURB (Back Cover Copy)
Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines―until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.
Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.
Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.
Well, first of all, this was a fantastic read. It became one of my summer reads because of where it fell in my TBR (to be read) pile. This was not a gentle, slow read, though.
The story whisks you away, starting with the first line! And you are in this world with Keziah, Micah, and the challenges of the historical time. I truly couldn’t put it down.
Johnson’s ability to put words together and express the character’s point of view, while remaining easy to read was spot on.
The main characters are well-developed and come across so. They are definitely the “three-dimensional” characters we all long for. The secondary and minor characters are less filled out, but that is not atypical. Johnson’s focus on the hero and heroine’s development was well-spent. And she did not commit the egregious sin of “weighing the reader down with info dumps” as can be the case when the author spends so much effort on backstory. She continued to move the story along as we see different parts of these characters.
In the end, I really enjoyed the romance, the historical accuracy, and this story of overcoming. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves Clean Historical Romance, or just a well-tailored story in general.
Welcome to the blog, Tara! Thanks for visiting. We have become a little more familiar with your novel, Engraved on the Heart. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for Engraved on the Heart?
The spark of the idea for Engraved on the Heart began when our family visited Savannah, Georgia. I was entranced with the history and charm of the town. Secrets seemed to ooze out of every corner.
The first spark was ignited by a still unknown soul. During a historic riding tour of the city, I was intrigued by a fact rattled off by our tour guide. “Many of the older homes and buildings in and around Savannah were built by slaves. In fact, if you look closely, you can find some of their fingerprints in the bricks.”
I walked down the cobblestone streets, admiring the weeping willows and moss hanging from the towering trees. As I passed a home, a darkened impression molded into the crumbling brick snagged my attention. I sucked in a surprised breath over the precious detail. There it was, staring back at me. The fingerprint of a slave.
I ran my finger over the scarred impression, marveling that such a small mark could tell such an exquisite story. Whose hands had formed the old brick? What was his name? What were his dreams? Running my fingers over that precious print linked me inextricably to the past, binding an invisible cord between the nameless slave and me.
The next day, we visited the Georgia State Railroad Museum where I found several books in the gift shop about famous women of the Civil War. Courageous heroes like Elizabeth Van Lew who fought against the norms of her culture to give freedom and hope to those trapped in darkness.
God slowly unfurled a story in my heart…the tale of a girl who battled epilepsy as a child, just as I did, but grew to understand her worth in the eyes of a loving God.
Absolutely fascinating. I love how history is telling, but holds so many secrets.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?
No, first I wanted to be a singer, which is funny because for ten years I was signed with a Christian ministry and record label. I would imitate everyone from Julie Andrews and Sandi Patty to Ethel Merman and Mariah Carey. Later, I wanted to be a teacher, then a marine biologist and later a physical therapist. Writing was never on my radar, although I was a voracious reader.
What a story! I guess most writers start with being an avid reader. And remain so.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
After traveling for ten years and singing concerts in churches, prisons and for ladies’ conferences, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, which quickly began to limit my ability to sing more than a few songs at a time. I began blogging about my frustration and the lessons I was learning. I discovered a beautiful outlet in writing.
A friend suggested I attend the American Christian Fiction Writers National meeting. I balked, still confused as to why God would let my voice disappear when it seemed He’d told me He would use it to bring others to know Him. In my very first ACFW class, the speaker taught us about every author’s voice, their unique way of spinning words and phrases together. That’s when God showed me I could have a voice and still not have a voice. I’ve been writing ever since.
That is beautiful! A voice though you don’t have a voice… Love it!
I’m always learning from others…do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?
I received two great pieces of advice early on in my writing career. The first one came from Tamera Alexander. She said, “Your books are not your babies. They are a product. Never confuse the two.” It was such a terrific observation. Keeping this distinction in mind takes the sting out of criticism, and helps me remember my worth has nothing to do with how well or poorly my latest story is received.
The second piece of advice was, “Villains are always the hero in their own story.” I’ve never forgotten it. This simple thought prevents me from writing cardboard characters. We are all deeply flawed, yearning for significance and desperate for love.
Love both of those nuggets!
Tell us a little about your writing process. Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?
My favorite time to write is in the morning or early afternoon, and my favorite place is outside. Always outside, whether the sun is shining or I’m on my porch watching the rain fall. There is something so soothing and creatively stimulating about nature.
The outdoors is inspiring for certain!
The question I most often get from people about being an author is “How long does it take you to write a book?” So, let me turn that question on you.
On average it takes me eight to nine months to write a book. That includes research time. I usually spend a month or two just doing research and developing character wounds before I ever begin to write a word.
I, too, have found as I grow as a writer that taking the time to develop the character thoroughly is so valuable.
Thank you, Tara, for being on the blog today and for giving us a peek at your process. Now, I believe it is that time to let the readers delve into your books!
Engraved on the Heart
Enjoy an Excerpt
April 12, 1861
Don’t fail. Tonight of all nights, don’t fail.
Keziah Montgomery placed her gloved fingers into the waiting hand of the man smiling at her with confident expectation.
Taking a shallow breath against the corset threatening to crush her ribs in its unyielding grip, she willed her fluttering stomach to calm and allowed Mr. Watson to lead her into the middle of the crowded dance floor. A colorful array of bright silks and lace flurried around her in spinning circles. The thick, sticky air carried the weight of bay rum and a nauseating mixture of expensive perfumes and rice powder. The din of chatter and polite laughter choked her dizzying thoughts.
From across the room, she caught Mother’s penetrating stare. Elsie Montgomery had been adamant Keziah be at her best. No one must know her shameful secret. The sooner she marry, the better . . . before her future husband realized what her parents were so desperate to keep hidden.
Looking up, she smiled into the youthful face of Tate Watson as he cupped his warm hand against her waist, keeping the proper distance between them as the musicians struck up the opening strains of ”The Scenes of Our Childhood”. She noted the golden stubble lining his jaw, his brown eyes bright. A flush of heat crept up her neck.
She blinked away the grit filming her vision. It was late into the festivities and the night seemed to drag. Still, she maintained her pasted-on smile and allowed him to sweep her through the swirl of spinning couples and blurring faces.
“Are you enjoying the dance?”
Mr. Watson’s lips moved, but it took her several moments to focus on what he was saying. If only it wasn’t so warm.
“Yes. The Ballingers throw an exquisite party.”
“Indeed, although I fear all the talk of impending war may have dampened the festivities to a degree.”
She nodded demurely, though she’d never admit conversing about the possibility of war was far more interesting than being forced to make polite niceties to the elite of Savannah’s upper echelon. Her mother would faint if she allowed her tongue to spill the unladylike sentiment.
“If war is declared, will you go?”
His eyes glinted, his bearing starched as he circled her past potted palms, pulling her into the thick of the dancers. “Without hesitation. It’s my sacred calling and duty to defend the freedoms Mr. Lincoln is attempting to rip from our way of life. No man worth his salt would dare flee his duty.”
Keziah pressed her lips tight, unwilling to say anything further, knowing if she did, she would be unable to stop. The issues did not seem so starkly cut to her. Instead, she smiled and nodded again, praying her mother could understand the depths of her desire to please. She would not mortify her. Not again.
The room suddenly dipped and twisted. Her breath thinned. Stay upright. Focus.Blinking hard, she realized Mr. Watson was asking her something, though she didn’t understand what. Alarm flooded her, followed by a frisson of something indefinable tingling up her spine.
No, God. Please, no. Not here. What will Mother think?
The prayer had hardly crossed her thoughts before she plunged into the abyss, the spinning colors collapsing into merciful blackness.
Where Dandelions Bloom
Cassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.
Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.
Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?
Engraved on the Heart – Amazon
Where Dandelions Bloom – Amazon
More About the Author
Tara Johnson is an author and speaker, and loves to write stories that help people break free from the lies they believe about themselves.
Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, as well as numerous other accolades. In addition to be published in a variety of digital and print magazines, she has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television and podcasts. She is a history nerd, especially the Civil War, and adores making people laugh. She, her husband, and children live in Arkansas.
Connect with Tara and Her Books
Tara is offering, for one (1) winner, chosen by Rafflecopter:
Winner’s choice! A paperback copy of Engraved on the Heart, or a paperback or ebook copy of her new release Where Dandelions Bloom.
Please follow the directions on the Rafflecopter to enter. This giveaway is only for those in continental United States.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Welcome, readers! It’s been a little bit since I posted. I’ve been quite busy, rather sick, and then traveling this summer. But I am back today with another author for you to meet–Author Shaen Layle! Shaen is a suspense author and is here today to share about a couple of her works as well as her process. So, I’ll turn it over to Shaen…
Welcome to the blog, Shaen. First, can you tell us a little about your novel?
The back cover blurb says it best 😊 Prickly Virginia Lawrence, a preeminent scholar of Vineyard history, is also a notorious recluse. Therefore, the island is abuzz when Priscilla manages to book a library lecture with the local eccentric. However, on the evening of the event, Virginia is a no-show and nowhere to be found, and the valuable museum artifacts in her possession are now missing as well.
As Priscilla delves into the mystery of Virginia’s ill-timed disappearance, a seemingly unrelated puzzle emerges. Could a rash of random cemetery plunderings somehow be connected to the missing historian? As pressure builds to find Virginia and the missing priceless artifacts, Priscilla begins to doubt her own instincts- especially when she spies Gerald having mysterious dinner meetings with a lovely blond-haired woman.
Ooohh…interesting! Did you always want to be a writer?
Always, always, always. I found a home early on in the world of words.
Excellent! Usually people find their way there. How neat that you knew from early on. But though we love it, there are things that we don’t love as much. What part of the writing process do you dread?
When tech goes awry! The only time I get super frustrated as a writer is when my computer freezes/crashes or my phone goes dead.
Nightmare for me! I’m in that “should know tech” generation, but I don’t do super well with it…
I love hearing from authors where they are getting inspired through reading…and maybe like getting some recommendations 🙂 So…what are you currently reading?
I’ve really been digging into a lot of contemporary romance and women’s fiction lately. I thoroughly enjoyed Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner and am partway through Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes. Amanda’s book has the most beautifully lyrical language- and the atmosphere! You feel drenched to the bone with seaside. Next up in my TBR pile is Becky Wade’s Sweet On You. I’m trying to politely avoid mentions of it on social media because so many people have already read it, and I don’t want spoilers!
I like to set the stage for my writing…music and all. What about you? What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?
I used to have to have silence while writing, but that’s changed since I had kids! I’m a full-time work-at-home parent, so I have to figure out ways to tune out Daniel Tiger now. Sometimes I listen to classical music, but more often, I pull up white noise in an app (I’m particular to rain sounds) or background soundscapes on YouTube.
It’s Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse over here 🙂 Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?
If I had my pick of writing time, it would definitely be early morning (after a good cup of tea, of course). Some people, like my husband, like to burn the midnight oil; I’m more of a sunlight and primrose kind of person myself. I love the possibility the morning holds, and it’s also when my house is the quietest and my energy is the freshest. I’m a nomad when it comes to location- another way I’ve had to learn flexibility after having kids. I have a small laptop that I carry from the living room to the bedroom to the sunroom as I need to. I write in the car a lot. I hardly ever sit at a desk, even though I have the space set up.
I hear you. I find myself concentrating better away from my desk strangely enough…
How long does it take you to write a book?
Like any other writer will probably tell you, it all depends on the deadline! I am the worst about obsessing over the details of a piece if I don’t have a solid date when I need to stop. I have a contemporary romance I hope to pick up again this summer that has been in the works for five years, but I wrote my last cozy mystery in several months.
Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?
I’m actually stepping outside of my wheelhouse this summer to participate in the Summer of Suspense anthology, which is a collection of mystery and suspense novelettes from some of the top names in Christian Fiction. The anthology is available for pre-order right now, and you get sixteen novels for .99. If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, it’s a lot of reading for a little price!
Thank you so much for being on the blog today and for sharing! Now, let’s have a look at Waves of Doubt and check out an excerpt!
Waves of Doubt
Enjoy an Excerpt
This scene happens partway through the book, when our sleuth, Priscilla, and her cousin, Trudy, are trying to track down missing scholar, Virginia Lawrence, and get sucked into a high-speed car chase across the Island!
Priscilla waved at Trudy to jump into her car. A few seconds later, a pink Cadillac came into view. Virginia, wearing her distinctive red cape, hunched so low over the steering wheel that Priscilla couldn’t even see her face. Bu Virginia obviously saw Priscilla. Virginia threw the car into Reverse and peeled out of the driveway so fast, tornadoes of gravel swirled in her wake.
“After her!” Trudy yelped and clicked on her seat belt.
Priscilla dropped her phone into the cup holder and gunned the engine.
Ahead of them, Virginia continued driving fast, kicking up clouds of dust that coated Priscilla’s windshield. Trees swaying overhead threw shadows on the road in front of her, further obscuring her vision, but she kept Virginia’s taillights in view.
“Watch the speed limit, Priscilla,” Trudy cautioned. She gripped her hands in her lap. “The last thing you need right now is to get in more trouble with the authorities.”
Priscilla set her lips in a tight line and pressed the gas pedal down a bit more. Thirty, forty, fifty. She watched the red line on the odometer creep up, bit by bit, and tightened her sweaty grip on the steering wheel. She turned left, then right, then left again, following Virginia in a maze of directions. Trudy alternately egged Priscilla on, and then shrieked at her to slow down.
Priscilla tried her best to keep up with Virginia, but the pastel car twisted and turned so rapidly on the wooded roads in front of them that she lost sight of it within a few miles. She found a clearing where she could pull over, and she put the vehicle into Park.
Trudy’s eyes were wide like saucers. “I had no idea Virginia could drive that fast.”
More About the Author
Trained as a literary novelist and with a decade of librarianship under her belt, Shaen Layle writes inspirational fiction from her home in the Midwest, where she lives with her artist husband, Danny, and their two rambunctious, but adorable, little boys. She loves drinking Lady Grey tea and discussing all things bookish with readers at her website and on social media.
Connect with Shaen and her works
Website URL: www.shaenlayle.com
Shaen is giving away, to one (1) winner, one (1) signed, hardback copy of her Guideposts’ cozy mystery, Waves of Doubt. Please read the directions on the Rafflecopter linked below to enter. (Must be in the continental United States to be eligible.)
I am participating in a compilation devotional project. Each author has chosen a fantasy author or popular book series and will write devotionals based on those. I chose “The Maze Runner” series. Below is one of the devotionals included in my selection:
Everybody Needs a Chuck
What’s the difference between humility and self-deprecation? Can an audacious someone also be humble? And in the Maze Runner, why did Thomas care so much about Chuck?
Think of the famous warriors we study from the stories of old – the legends, the rulers, the patriots, the freedom fighters – and what picture do you draw? What adjectives would you provide to describe them? Bold. Fierce. Strong. Valiant. Brave. Would you ever say, “humble”? Would that be a first-word choice?
Humility has four definitions:
- Not proud or arrogant; modest
- Having a feeling of insignificance or inferiority
- Low in rank, importance, status, quality; lowly
- Courteously respectful
Humility shows up all over the place in the Bible. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 reminds, “Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these forty years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
We find our true selves in times of trouble. God provides these opportunities to let us see who we are and who we can be. He also allows us to see his provision as our Shepherd. He allows us to see what we can be and whose we are. He loves us enough to allow us to become stronger; and remember he’s there with us the entire time. This builds our reliance on him, teaching us those hard-learned, hard-earned lessons of trust, faith, and humility.
The Jews for Jesus website offered a unique take on the idea of humility. “In the Bible, the most common word group displaying the meaning of humble uses the related words ‘ani’ and ‘anav’. ‘Ani’ usually denotes a condition of circumstance. Those who are ‘ani’ are suffering or afflicted and as a result find themselves in a lowly condition, whether physically, materially or socially. This affliction is often imposed by someone else: usually, the wicked…There is a related verb, ‘anah’ (to “humble”) that not only refers to what one might do to one’s enemies but also to what one does to oneself as a spiritual practice or what God uses to bring about repentance (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)… Often, being an ‘ani’ in circumstance leads to being an ‘anav’ in character…The difference between the two is that the ‘ani’ is needy and must depend on God to meet his or her needs; the ‘anav’ is humble because he or she has chosen to depend on God. The first is circumstantial; the second is a mark of character.” (Rich Robinson)
Part of the plot of Maze Runner was that the boys in the Glade were gifted, and placed intentionally within the program to see which of their attributes would be the perfect, precise mix of abilities to survive despite the worst odds. The boys’ memories were wiped, and they were planted with specific drops of memories to attend the Glade with them, along with new names. The names were given based on historical people of influence.
“So…Thomas,” [Chuck] said through a huge bite of mashed potatoes. “Who am I nicknamed after?”
Thomas couldn’t help shaking his head–here they were, about to embark on probably the most dangerous task of their lives, and Chuck was curious where he’d gotten his nickname. “I don’t know, Darwin, maybe? The dude who figured out evolution.”
“I bet no one’s ever called him a dude before.” Chuck took another big bite, and seemed to think that was the best time to talk, full mouth and all. “You know, I’m really not all that scared…I mean, last few nights, sitting in the Homestead, just waiting for a Griever to come in and steal one of us was the worst thing I’ve ever done. At least now we’re taking it to them, trying something” (324).
Chuck was not well-liked among the Gladers. He was not on the council, he was not a leader, he did not draw the crowds in with his star personality and ruggedly handsome good looks. Chuck did not seem to belong in The Glade. Newt adapted well, ready to try ideas, a friend to the willing, and courageous in his tasks. Minho followed orders, used his strength and perseverance to run his course, and obviously had a memory of stone, capable of learning and memorizing in a snap. Thomas had his audacity, his willingness to run farther and faster, and his loyalty. And Chuck? Chuck was a bit clumsy, a bit annoying, and scared. He wasn’t quick. He wasn’t quick-witted. He waited for instructions. He lacked leadership capability. He lacked skill; he picked up the trash.
But Chuck was Thomas’ friend when everyone else looked away.
Chuck believed in Thomas from the start.
Chuck believed life could and would be better.
Chuck gave Thomas a reason to want to survive. Chuck inspired Thomas to take the hard steps, because Chuck was worth helping.
Perhaps Chuck’s greatest gift was his humility. His meekness. His simplicity. He didn’t require perfect people and circumstances; he didn’t demand more from others; he didn’t seize attention and commodities. He did his job. He stayed the course. He took courage when necessary.
“Chuck’s pudgy face was there, staring with frightened eyes. But then they lit up and a smile spread across his face. Despite it all, despite the terrible crappiness of it all, Chuck smiled” (298).
So you see, we all need a Chuck. We need a friend who can smile even during the grievances. When the grief comes, where’s your Chuck? Are you Chuck?
Let’s go back to those four definitions of humility:
- Awareness of smallness
- Awareness of rank
- Courteously respectful
Humility is not simply lacking in pride; humility is not simply thinking less of self. Humility has many layers. Humility has a lot of intention. Modesty protects; smallness realizes bigness of others; rank recognizes there are those above and those below; and courteous respect treats all with dignity. Humility serves the leader in his power so that he sees the significance of each member of his tribe. Humility serves the follower in that he knows his worth.
Charles Darwin was known as a leader in the scientific community of his day; he was the man who made popular the idea of, “survival of the fittest.” The Creators of the Maze must have seen in Chuck the necessary characteristics to inspire warfare and survival. They understood what made humans motivated the most: life and love. They saw in Chuck this ability to befriend and build up, a scarce commodity in times of trouble.
In these days where almost everyone has a platform and the opportunity to make a staunch position, sometimes the best is the calm, quiet one. Being willing to accept that every leader follows another reminds even the smallest of us that the quiet smile serves as inspiration for even the most courageous of hearts. We all need a Chuck at our side in the halls of the maze. We all need a Chuck to follow along. We all need a Chuck to inspire us to lead.
Even if you’re the Thomas, or the Newt, the Minho, Teresa, or even the Gally…everybody can be a Chuck. He’s a gift. A rather scarce commodity. And one of the most valuable of them all.
*** Follow @kadeecarderink on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, to see updates on when this devotional book releases. Each devotional of my selection has application questions for you to dive in to your own maze running abilities
Hey, Kadee! Thank you so much for those thoughts. And thank you for being back on my blog today. First, I want to ask about the inspiration behind your book series.
The particular book I am offering for a giveaway today is called, “Kingdom Come,” which is a non-fiction inspirational book I wrote almost simultaneously with my fifth science fiction adventure, “Earthshine.”
Through the multi-year process of writing my five-book series, I experienced every emotion a human can endure, and most of them were the dramatic ones – rejection, frustration, depression, the cliché blood, sweat and tears, betrayal, loneliness, and fatigue.
The book industry is a challenging one. As Moriah Peters wrote it, “No one ever told me / This would be easy / But I never knew / That it could be this hard.” So as I found myself stumbling, questioning what I had spent about ten years working toward, I did some seeking. I took several mindset course, spent many hours praying, walking in the sunshine, and “Kingdom Come” is the result of the questions I asked in the darkness.
“Earthshine” tells the story of Saylor getting back up again, while “Kingdom Come” is the guidebook to the mindset we need when we are required to rise from the ashes.
I don’t have all the answers—we each have a unique journey—but I think “Kingdom Come” will serve as a field guide for anyone going through trials of their own. It digs into the lies we tell ourselves, embracing the truth, and deciding to be an overcomer despite all odds.
I love this idea…of a parallel journey almost, between you and your Saylor character. You’re right, this whole writing/publishing/marketing journey is not for the faint of heart.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I worked as an office manager at a church after college. I enjoyed the job but also felt like something was missing as I folded bulletins, placed offering envelopes in chairs, and checking off role sheets.
I started a blog and complained on it A LOT and one of my friends noticed my struggle. She simply told me to read the book, “Walking On Water,” by Madeleine L’Engle. I did, and the book changed how I viewed my life.
I decided to get my Master’s Degree, and when I saw that Creative Writing was an option, it’s like I came awake for the first time. Poetry began to flow out of me, stories began to take shape, and I realized I could do the things my heart ached to do, starting one step at a time.
Now I teach English at Liberty University online, I am a fitness instructor at my local gym, I have written five amazing adventure books, and I write articles for the local school district.
I get to tell stories of underdogs, I get to help others become stronger, and I get to help others communicate better. Words and writing make life sparkle for me; I just had to find the outlets for it that suited me and that required some heartbreak in the process.
I love this story about your journey to where you are now! Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
I took the photo on the cover of Kingdom Come. My husband and I like to take the week of the Fourth of July to go hiking in the mountains. One year we went and explored Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
This staircase showed up along a trail, so visitors could view the waterfall from a clear spot, and as the sun meandered through the sky, dwindling over the mountaintops, the peacefulness of it all registered in me. I wanted to remember that moment of adventure, peace, and hope forever. This earth, this life, truly is our kingdom come.
As I worked with editors on the cover choices, looking at stock photos and trying different elements, this photo continually won the choice. It’s a little gritty, it’s authentic, it’s taken from a place of exploration, which captures the heart of “Kingdom Come.”
Thank you again, Kadee, for being on the blog…for your sharing your devotional post and for answering a few of my questions. Now, I’ll let my readers get a look at Kingdom Come and Earthshine!
Opt in for an adventure to discover purpose, tenacity, and to build your empire. Are you stuck? Questioning your purpose? Are you tired, broken, and hurting in the stale crumbs of the daily grind? Even the most ordinary of humans can do impossible things. The elements of storytelling are tools to help us understand our purpose and to build a life greater. Here we discover the three protocols every hero satisfies in order to fulfill the mission. You’re the hero in your own story. Transforming into the hero may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done, but it will be the best thing you’ve ever done. Within these pages, discover the ultimate objective in understanding and experiencing the combined unity of these three tools in your hero story. Get ready to travel the vast horizon of the hero plot line and forge new paths toward your legacy.
Enjoy an Excerpt
Crucible: a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new (Merriam-Webster.com). What’s your crucible? Are you there?
My kids and I dove into a Bible story the other day, where God rescued his people from Pharaoh’s impending doom. He’d rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and Pharaoh allowed them to leave captivity. The people left, headed home, facing days and nights in the hot desert, following a pillar of fire toward the unknown. They ended up on the sands of the Red Sea, a body of water flowing for miles in both directions. And then Pharaoh and his 600 men and their raging chariots raced to recapture them. The Israelites freaked out then, as I think most of us would. They projected their fear, they cried, they whined. And God replied, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:15-16).
Essentially, God told Moses to tell the Israelites they couldn’t go over it. They couldn’t go under it. They couldn’t go around it. They had to go through it. And to stop whining.
Just like the classic picture book of “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt,” the adventurers had to face a challenge bigger than they understood.
You, oh incredible wayfarer, will face challenges bigger than yourself and bigger than you understand. It’s the plight of mankind. It’s your job. Don’t ask, “Why isn’t this easier?” Ask instead, “How can this make me better?”
The good thing about these challenges is that they make us into our best selves. Challenges aren’t just part of the story; they’re the story.
Fear may be a liar, but hope can be a monster.
Saylor single-handedly saved the world from a devastating solar flare…and it nearly killed her. Now her father’s Alliance Military Guard must track down pirated tech, missing ships, and a rogue billionaire, and they’ve requested a reluctant Saylor’s help.
Tucker spent a year training the rookie Guardsmen. They call themselves Dragons. He calls them defiant. Dispatched across the ocean on a mission to retrieve AMG’s bootlegged tech, he rallies Saylor to overcome her fears and return to the field by his side.
Working together wielding unprecedented tech and determined to defy their destinies, the two wrangle missing ghosts, brunt force betrayal, and the swagger of power. What lies beneath the earth just might save it.
Standing on top of the world changes a person. So does dying.
Earthshine will be $0.99 from May 31st – June 7th!!!!
More About the Author
Fierce yet sparkly, Kadee rallies seekers to thrive in their stories. The goal is magic, the medium is ink, and the fuel is coffee. And sometimes pizza. Kadee teaches English on the university level when she’s not dancing around the living room with her family, lifting heavy at the gym, traveling the planet, or binging superhero shows.
INSURRECTION, INCOMPLETE, INDELIBLE, HERE BE DRAGONS, EARTHSHINE and non-fiction inspirational KINGDOM COME roll out perilous motives, twisty plots, and daring protagonists. Grab some real estate and your copy of my latest adventure and follow along on KadeeCarder.com.
Connect with Kadee and her works
Visit http://www.kadeecarder.com for inspiration, encouragement, freebie codes, and more!
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I’m giving away a free, empowering e-book to those who subscribe to my email list at kadeecarder.com/subscribe. 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!
Kadee is offering a print copy of Kingdom Come to one winner (in the continental United States). Please follow the directions on the Rafflecopter below.a Rafflecopter giveaway
I have a fabulous, award-winning author for you to meet today. And is she ever prolific! Author Dana Mentink has joined me today on my blog to share about her release and is offering a giveaway as well as talking about her process! Let’s jump right in…
Welcome to the blog, Dana! First, can you tell us a little about your novel?
Danger on the Ranch is a romantic suspense novel set on the California coast. Hero Mitch Whitehorse is a loner since he put his serial killer brother in prison, but things are about to change when Wade escapes and returns to settle the score.
Whoa…a serial killer brother!? You’ve got this Law & Order enthusiast’s attention. What was the inspiration for Danger on the Ranch?
I read a non fiction book about a woman who was married to a serial killer and had no idea what he was up to. I wondered what kind of impact that would have on a person’s psyche, and how they could triumph over that terrible situation.
I have to say, that thought has crossed my mind, too. But not for long enough to birth a story…I am intrigued!
Tell me, 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 Olympic ice skater, and a circus clown. Now I am a third grade teacher and a writer, so that wasn’t even close!
Circus clown? That’s different. I loved watching ice skaters when I was young! When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a story teller. My fifth grade teacher really encouraged me to write fiction and I’ve been doing it ever since!
I know you know this…The beginning to end of putting a book out into the world is not all fun and games…as with pretty much any occupation, there are things we writers would rather pass off to someone else if we could. What part of the writing process do you dread?
Writing a synopsis is like crawling over glass. It’s just a nasty, ugly process to strip down a story to the bare bones. I usually wind up cleaning out closets and reorganizing the spice cupboard to avoid this job.
It can be a bear! Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?
Read, read, read. The best writers are passionate readers.
I usually “set the mood” for my extended writing sessions…music included. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?
Not a thing. I need quiet or I can’t get anything on the page.
That seems to be the majority of writers I encounter…
Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?
If I can sit in my garden, early in the morning and bang away on the keyboard, I’m a happy camper!
Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
The series follows the men and women who work on or around the Roughwater Ranch. They are unofficial siblings. This was very special to write, as I am also a third grade teacher and I’ve seen so many “unofficial” families that are just as loving and caring as biological families. Our God given capacity to love one another is breathtaking.
What a wonderful thread to hold a series together!
Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?
I write three books a year for Love Inspired Suspense. I also write ebooks for Forget Me Not Romances, and I’m looking forward to clacking away on a mystery series idea.
Fabulous! That is just amazing how prolific you are! Thank you so much, again, for being on the blog and sharing about yourself and your books. Well…I won’t linger too long, I want to give my readers the chance to dive into the featured work, Danger on the Ranch, the excerpt, and the other wonderful things below! So, here goes…
Danger on the Ranch
A Roughwater Ranch Cowboys story
Her child’s life is on the line
After putting his serial killer brother in prison, former US marshal Mitch Whitehorse chooses a solitary country life—until his brother escapes. Now Mitch’s former sister-in-law, Jane Reyes, needs protection…for herself and the toddler she’s kept a secret. Mitch still isn’t sure of Jane’s innocence in his brother’s crimes, but to keep his nephew out of a killer’s grasp, trusting her is his only option.
Enjoy an Excerpt
The illogical notion trickled again through Mitch Whitehorse’s gut as he surveyed the late afternoon fog choking the windswept cove. Strange, since there was no sign of a weather front moving in through the mist. He fingered the scar that grooved his cheek, the rough patch oddly numb, a dead spot courtesy of his brother. The occasional blurred vision and migraines were an additional reminder of how close he’d come to dying at Wade’s hand.
But it wasn’t so much the pain of having his occipital bone crushed or the resulting symptoms that stuck in his mind, it was his brother’s smile. Even when Wade was led from the courtroom after the guilty verdict which would send him to prison for two lifetime sentences, he’d been smiling right at Mitch, a smile of pure evil, cold as the grave, unrepentant, undefeated.
Rosie, the big roan mare, shifted underneath Mitch, probably wondering why they were standing on a bluff in the numbing fog, staring out at the crawling Pacific instead of sheltering from the February wind. They’d spent a full day moving a herd of cattle from one pasture to another and chasing down an ailing cow to administer medicine. Straightening, Mitch ignored the twinge in his back, courtesy of his days as a US Marshal and the fact that he was now a hardworking cowboy staring forty in the face.
There it was again, the warning his instincts kept whispering in spite of what his eyes could see.
More About the Author
Dana Mentink lives in California where the weather is golden and the cheese is divine. Her family includes two teen girls (affectionately nicknamed Yogi and Boo Boo.) Papa Bear is retired from the fire department and he met Dana doing a dinner theater production of The Velveteen Rabbit. Ironically, their parts were husband and wife.
Dana is an American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year finalist for romantic suspense and a two time ACFW Carol Award winner. Her suspense novel, Betrayal in the Badlands, earned a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. She is honored to write for Harlequin’s Love Inspired, Harlequin Heartwarming, and Harvest House Publishers. Besides writing, she busies herself teaching third grade. Mostly, she loves to be home with Papa Bear, Yogi, Boo Boo, a dog with social anxiety problems, a chubby box turtle and a feisty parakeet.
Connect with Dana and her books
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/danamentink/
Twitter – @DanaMentink
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/authordanamentink/
YouTube – Author Dana Mentink
Instagram – dana_mentink
Dana is offering a giveaway! She is offering a print copy or ebook of Danger on the Ranch (print in continental U.S. only). Please follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below to enter:a Rafflecopter giveaway
Welcome back, readers! And I am welcoming back another author for you today as well! Author Sara Jane Jacobs is sharing with us about her upcoming release, Season of Faith. And she has some wonderful extras for us as well! Including a peek at the cover! So, let’s dive in…
Thanks for being on the blog today, Sara! First, can you tell us a little about your upcoming release?
My new release (scheduled for June) brings everyone from the first story, Season of Hope, back to Nathan’s Mountain. What starts as a reunion full of joy and new beginnings will soon turn into tragedy.
We can’t have everything going smoothly, now can we? What was the inspiration for Season of Faith?
Although I was satisfied with the amount of closure at the end of book two, I had readers asking me if there would be a third book in the series. I told everyone that I was starting a new series that focused on Hannah who is mentioned in Season of Deception, as Eric’s former girlfriend. In the back of my mind I was entertaining the idea of something like a special Christmas novella to wrap up the story of Tyler and Amanda. (The story of Hannah had been rolling around in my head since 2006 and I needed to get it out!) In May of last year, I was well into writing that story when a song came on the radio that sort of threw me off track and started me thinking about Tyler and Amanda again. Although I was nearing the completion of Hannah’s Story, by August I completely switched gears because I had become convinced that there was definitely going to be one more Season and it needed to come first. So, that’s when I started on Season of Faith. Now readers will get better closure and I’ll feel like the story has closure as well. That’s the long answer, lol. The short answer is this song:
I like the long answer (and the short answer). I love how the creative mind works!
Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?
No. When I was little, I was always fascinated by child actors and was about eleven when I decided that was what I wanted to be. Although I was painfully shy, when I started high school, I ventured out of my comfort zone to audition for plays at our community theater. That eventually led me to writing. To me, writing is like every part of making a movie and I love it!
So fun! I hadn’t thought of it like that, but that’s true.
But as much as we love writing, there are parts that we don’t love as much. What part of the writing process do you dread?
After I type that last sentence and my seemingly endless rounds of editing begin! It can be daunting when you’ve put all that time into getting the story out but you know it’s nowhere near finished. Once I start working with my editor, I actually enjoy it because of the team work involved. I love reading her reactions and getting her suggestions along with the challenge of rewriting things to make them better.
Neat. I, too, like getting my editor’s reactions. I love the feedback.
What are you currently reading?
Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter. I’m only on chapter three but this book drew me in quickly. I actually just picked up a copy from the library so my daughter could read it with me! I’m really excited about this book!
It always intrigues me when someone uses that phrase “it drew me in quickly.” I might have to give that a look.
I always set a “mood” when I write…just my process…music is a big part of that. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?
I mostly have the windows open so I can hear the birds but occasionally I will put on some classical (I can’t write if there are words!) Sometimes I will write a scene that has a song on the radio or in the background. I will pause the writing and start listening to a variety of genres for inspiration. So far, all of my books reference a song or hint at lyrics. Even Hannah’s Story.
I like it. Before I let you go, I have to ask–can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
Hmm. Someone very unexpected is going to show up. It even caught me by surprise. This was not planned.
That is by far my favorite thing about writing—the surprise, the unexpected things that happen as the story unfolds for me, much like it will for my readers! Love it!
Thanks for being here with us, Sara. I’ve enjoyed our interview. But I don’t want to delay getting the readers to the details of your book and the fabulous excerpt below. So, here you go….
Season of Faith
Enjoy an Excerpt
Excerpt from Season of Faith. Tyler and Amanda have just been talking about where they’ll go after they get married . . .
“Sounds perfect.” She welcomed his lips as they brushed across hers. His strong hands caressed her shoulders before wrapping around her. Nuzzling his neck as her cheek rested against his shoulder, she caught the faint scent of his cologne. This time she picked up on the notes of oakmoss, Brazilian rosewood, and juniper. Feeling like they had just made a small step toward reconnecting, now seemed like the right time to bring up her plans to return to modeling. “And since we’re not really sure when that is going to be, I’m thinking seriously about going back to New York.”
“Oh. Like, to visit?”
She lifted her head to monitor his reaction. “Um, I was thinking more like to live . . . and model.”
His embrace loosened slowly and then it was gone as he released her. Moving hands to hips, a puzzled look clouded his face, followed by a shake of his head. Dropping his gaze to the dusty floor, it seemed as if he was searching for a way to handle her announcement.
“Why?” was the only word that came out as he lifted his eyes back to hers.
She caught a glimpse of the slight twitch in his square jaw. Why did this have to be so hard? He had to know how much she loved him. And she knew he loved her. Yet emotionally, it felt like there was a canyon between them most of the time. How were they supposed to get across it and stay close without his deployments pulling them apart again and again? She’d eventually figure it out but while she was experimenting with different coping methods, she knew staying busy was what would work for her right now.
“Because, I go a little crazy when you leave on deployments and I barely get to communicate with you. And I feel like I need a life besides the one where I’m constantly thinking about when I’ll be able to talk to you again.”
“Do you not want to do this?”
She threw her arms out to the side and let them drop as her words came out with a mix of anger and frustration. “Here we go again with that question! You haven’t exactly asked me to marry you yet!”
Tyler barely let a second pass before he reacted. “You know, what? You should go to New York. Go get your life back.”
Amanda froze. She lowered her jaw, and a tiny puff of air escaped her lungs with a muted, “Ha.” She was way too stubborn to let him see her cry right now. “That’s it, huh?” She nodded and her eyes locked with his. Their bright blue color had the power to melt her heart again and again. But not this time. “Okay, then.” The words came out with a quiet but fierce determination. With a single shake of her head, she stormed past him, secretly hating the fact that he didn’t stop her this time. Her determined strides had her out of the barn, across the stretch of pasture and almost to the house in just under a minute.
“Did you find him?” Her father stopped rocking as Amanda raced up the steps.
Amanda pulled the screen door ajar, her voice trembling as she continued to hold back her tears. “No. The only person out in the barn is a stranger. I have no idea where Tyler is.” Rushing inside, she let the door close with its familiar squeak of the spring, followed by the slapping sound of wood on wood. As Amanda hurried through the den, her mother’s laughter echoed from the kitchen, fading behind her as she ran up the stairs to hide inside her old room.
A sob caught in her throat at the sudden memory of her last time in here; changing out of wet clothes after a playful fight out in the yard with Tyler over the water hose. Lowering herself onto the bed, she let the tears come as her head fell across the blue and yellow floral pillow sham. Rolling over on her side, her body shook with the cries she fought to keep silent.
Season of Hope FREE DOWNLOAD – HERE **MAY 3rd is the LAST DAY**
Season of Deception – BUY HERE
Season of Faith – COMING SOON
More About the Author
Sara Jane Jacobs is an author of contemporary romance who makes her home in Pensacola, Florida. Her summer vacations in her father’s hometown of Franklin, North Carolina were the inspiration behind her first novel, Season of Hope. A few of the adventures of her characters on the fictitious Nathan’s Mountain outside of Bryson City give us a glimpse into some of her cherished childhood memories. While Jane loves the Florida sunshine and Pensacola’s sugar-white sand beaches, the Great Smoky Mountains hold a special place in her heart. She’s a mom to two, Nonni to four and shares her home with a family of felines.
Connect with Sara and her books
Website – https://sarajanejacobs.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/sarajanejacobs
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/jacobsjanesara
Instagram – https://instagram.com/authorsarajanejacobs
Since Season of Hope is still be free for download today, Sara is offering to one (1) winner, the second book in the series – Season of Deception – as an ebook. Please follow the directions on the Rafflecopter below to enter:a Rafflecopter giveaway
Hello, readers…coming to you a bit later in the day. I have a returning author for you to “meet” again. Author Brett Armstrong is here, sharing about his newest release. And a special treat, he has some hand-drawn images of this world he has built narratively AND a giveaway! So, I won’t keep you from the post, but let you have at it:
Thanks, Brett, for being on the blog today! Can you first tell us a little about your new release?
It’s the first entry in a saga that revolves around two characters, Jason and Anargen, who live centuries from one another. Jason has a dark past he’s trying to escape and accidentally stumbles on an inn where the owner is telling a story about Anargen. Jason’s world is an early 20th Century society so they regard the stories from Anargen’s early 17th Century world as fables. But as he listens to the storyteller, he notices the teller himself doesn’t seem crazy. Or like he questions the reality of what he’s saying. Jason gets pulled into the very quest Anargen was on centuries before and their efforts to fulfill this quest span the length of the Quest of Fire series, gradually weaving together and building off one another.
Wow! Just fascinating. What was the inspiration for THE GATHERING DARK?
This book had a kind of fun start. It began as an assignment in my high school creative writing class. We were told to write a three to five-page fairy tale retelling. My teacher was really accommodating for me, so what I wrote was a twenty-seven-page fusion of my favorite parts of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve re-written over and over and over since then. It looks very different, thankfully, from back then. The inspirations, still carry through, along with Biblical influences. I got the idea for swords that burn without being consumed from the account of Moses and the burning bush, for instance.
And this is why I so like your work…creative, imaginative, and has those recognizable Biblical influences.
Now, we know that the writing process is not all rainbows and sunshine. There are things we don’t all love so much. What part of the writing process do you dread?
Everything after release. Tolkien said it rightly when he released Lord of the Rings: “I am dreading the publication, for it will be impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at.” It’s kind of nerve-wracking waiting to see whether people will love what you’ve written the way you did. Writing is like trekking through the mountains for me. During the writing I discover things much like a reader would. I’m also not much of a salesman, so getting the word out about my books isn’t my strong suit either.
So much agree with this. I discover with my characters and readers as I write. And I am not the promoter I could be either.
Here’ s a question for curiosity’s sake…what are you currently reading?
I’m in between reads, but I’m planning to start Jason Joyner’s Launch soon, which is a Christian superhero novel. I’ve been following him as an author and after all the excitement over Avengers: Endgame, I kind of wanted a little more superhero storytelling in my life.
Interesting….I am on a kick to watch all the Marvel superhero movies right now myself leading up to this weekend, when my husband and I will finally watch Endgame. It’s been interesting, this intense movie-watching of one genre…
Now, as my readers, know, I usually “set a mood” when I write with music and whatnot. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?
All different kinds. Classical, movie scores and soundtracks, Christian hymns and contemporary music, select classic and alternative rock, etc. While writing this I really like the sound of the Hunger Games: Sounds From District 12 and Beyond. There’s a lot of folk music in it with that Appalachian sound to it. Which having grown up in Appalachia seems like an obvious choice though it was more for the tonal quality. I feel like even when it’s a happy song, Appalachian music has a kind of somber almost melancholy edge to it. That tenuous balance between tragedy and triumph fits well with a lot of The Gathering Dark. I also really like TobyMac’s Move and Beyond Me for thematic reasons as well.
Neat. I typically do a lot of instrumental soundtracks and had my go-to mix. But recently have made a new mix for each book based on historical time/place.
What about your writing “atmosphere”? Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?
My favorite time isn’t really a specific time of day, its’ that first instant when an idea hits me. Like really hits me and I can’t stop imagining how this bit of a scene or dialogue or sometimes whole chapters play out. I’ve never quite had writer’s block, but normal writing compared moments like those are almost like writer’s block by comparison. They can hit me anytime, anywhere. So long as I have the means to write everything down, that place and that time are my favorites.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies pretty wildly. I’ve written books in a few months, others I’ve refined for years. The Gathering Dark took about fourteen years from the first time I wrote about Anargen to holding all 424 pages in my hands. I believe God works everything out in His timing, and with books sometimes there is some essential element of what a book could be that is lacking when you first type “The End.” It’s kind of like making pottery. Every time you hit “The End” again after the first is like the clay spinning around and around, being shaped, reshaped, and ever so subtly adjusted till at last you have something more than the sum all it was composed from. I feel like that might be an “artsy” type answer, but writing is art. And craft. And a journey for reader and writer. Above all, it’s a phenomenal privilege, whether it takes a couple months or a decade and more.
It really is a journey…each time. Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?
I keep a page with some select projects in the works on my website: https://brettarmstrong.net/works-in-progress/. I will say that in addition to those listed there, I’m closing in on finishing edits to my dystopian/sci-fi novel, Day Moon. I’m pretty excited for that because it’s the first time I’ve had expectations from readers. People ask when I’m going to be done with it and that’s a pretty great feeling. Even if it’s also terrifying, because I don’t want to let anyone down. For the record though, I think Veiled Sun is pretty special and works a lot like Empire Strikes Back for my Tomorrow’s Edge Trilogy.
Nice! Well, I appreciate you coming back on the blog and sharing more about your work and especially opening up about your newest release. I won’t ramble on here though, I bet my readers are eager to jump into the details and the excerpt!
Quest of Fire: The Gathering Dark
Jason is an expert at running from his past. When it catches up, he finds himself hiding in a peculiar inn listening to a tale from centuries past.
The story is Anargen’s, a teen who is pulled from all he loves to follow his oaths of loyalty to the fabled King of the Realms. Together with his mentor, Cinaed, he rides north on a special quest to mediate peace talks between ancient foes—the men of Ecthelowall and the dwarfs of Ordumair. Nothing goes as planned. Many on both sides of the dispute despise Anargen’s Order. Worse, an arcane evil has returned to the North. This “Grey Scourge” seeks to ruin the peace talks and ensure a lost treasure held by the dwarfs is never found by those for whom it is meant.
As Anargen’s story unfolds, Jason begins to wonder whether it is truly just a fable. He soon finds himself drawn into the conflict Anargen faced—a battle which has shaped and can destroy his world.
Enjoy an Excerpt
As much as Quest of Fire is epic fantasy and has adventure and action, I think this scene was among the most fun to write. There are layers of things going on here in both Anargen and his mentor Cinaed, with the backstory for Cinaed appearing in a novella that will release soon. It also inspired the song that became the theme music for the whole book (you can hear the melody in the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/embed/t3KEBnl7E80?rel=0).
Anargen ducked a low hanging tree limb. As he passed under it, he felt its gnarled branches rake over his back like fingers through hair. Spurring his horse on a little faster, he worked his way past the offending tree. Rain continued to fall on the stand of trees in a steady downpour. It was as though the Knights were walking through curtains of rain suspended before them rather than it simply falling from the sky.
After days journeying across a rolling plain of tall, verdant grasses, Anargen should have been glad for this forest. It was, after all, far more evocative of the home he’d left behind. Before entering it, however, the wind took on a boisterous bluster, buffeting them as if trying to push them back to the coast. Then came the rains, which persisted ever since. Today marked a full day of rain. A full day of rain in a wood lacking most of the beauty to which Anargen was accustomed. This stand of spindly ironwoods and other gangly trees was bereft of most of its leaves already. Coarse bushes and thorny vines filled out the spaces and complicated the passage. The scent of multi-flora rose was heavy here, almost sickly sweet.
Somewhere in the distance a limb broke loose and crashed with a muted cry to the ground below. Anargen wanted to spur his horse on faster, but the forest passage was too narrow.
At the head of a single file column, Sir Cinaed cut the path. Into the dark, he trilled the notes of a song.
“Will you be home, will our wait ever end?
What friend may we seek, for our hearts’ rends?”
Cinaed’s voice was clear and mellifluous, the best Anargen had ever heard. But the song was about a family waiting for a father who would never come home. It was the saddest song Walhonde’s mountains ever bore.
“When all our journeys’ ways mend,
Will you be home again?
Will you be home again?”
The songs words pierced between the plates of Anargen’s armor. Passing his mail coat unopposed to strike his heart. Memories of a fire, warm and low in his home’s hearth beset him. His father’s laughter as he told familiar stories with fresh mirth. Mother cooking a savory stew from the autumn garden gleanings.
Then there was something new to the scene. Seren’s smile. Her hand soft and sure in his own as they sat by the fire. It was no longer memory but a longing. Hiraeth. Cinaed’s song was more than words now, it was in his very bones.
Anargen shook his head and refocused his thoughts on where he was. In the unfamiliar wood, dark and cold, riding to the unknown. The storm masked the sky and only the luminance of their armor afforded any light.
Amidst the sea of dreariness, the rain drops sticking to their armor did not extinguish the faint flames. As the drops slid down, they glowed. Ahead, Sir Cinaed looked like a body of earthbound stars gliding through the ebon night.
Of a sudden, the song and stellar migration halted, hovering in wait. Sir Cinaed had reached a wider point in the path. The sound of rain striking the softened soil was like the roar of a small waterfall. Over it, Sir Cinaed boomed, “We’re only a mile or so from a village. We’ll stay there the night and head out tomorrow. Pair up so you don’t get lost, the path becomes rather winding soon.”
Amazon – ebook
Amazon – print
More About the Author
Brett Armstrong has been exploring other worlds as a writer since age nine. Years later, he still writes, but now invites others along on his excursions. He’s shown readers hauntingly sorrowful historical fiction (Destitutio Quod Remissio), scary-real dystopian sci-fi (Day Moon), and dark, sweeping epic fantasy (Quest of Fire – April 2019). Where he heads next is as much a discovery for him as readers. Through dark, despair, light, joy, and everything in between, the end is always meant to leave his fellow literary explorers with wonder and hope.
Connect with Brett and his books
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/brettarmstrongwv
Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/BArmstrongWV
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/BrettArmstrongAuthor
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/ChristianKid044
Website – https://BrettArmstrong.net
Brett is offering one copy of the Kindle version of Quest of Fire: The Gathering Dark one winner. Please follow the directions on the Rafflecopter below to enter.a Rafflecopter giveaway