Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CFBA Presents - THE BIG PICTURE by Jenny B. Jones

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Big Picture

(NavPress Publishing Group April 15, 2008)


Jenny B. Jones


Jenny B. Jones is the author of A Katie Parker Production series. The other books in the series are In Between and On The Loose. Though now an adult, she still relates to the trauma and drama of teen life. She is thrilled to see her writing dreams come true, as her previous claim to fame was singing the Star Spangled Banner at a mule-jumping championship. (The mules were greatly inspired.)

Jenny resides in Arkansas, where, as a teacher, she hangs out with teens on a regular basis.


Sometimes there’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy—and Katie Parker is walking it.

School is winding down for the summer but Katie Parker is having a bad day. After leaving the drive-in, where her imploding love life was the main attraction, Katie arrives home to a big surprise on the Scott's front porch.

Her mother, Bobbie Ann Parker, a former convict and recovering addict, wants to take Katie away from her family, friends, and church. Now Katie's life will be changed by a series of dramatic choices as she struggles to understand what family and home really means.

Katie is forced to walk away from In Between, leaving behind a family who loves her, a town drive-in to save, and a boyfriend who suddenly can’t take his eyes off his ex. When the life her mother promised begins to sink faster than one of Maxine’s stuffed bras, Katie knows she needs to rely on God to keep it together.

But where is he in all this? Can Katie survive a chaotic life with her mother—and one without the Scotts? And if God is there, will he come through before it’s too late?

A Katie Parker Production series offers teen girls real-world fiction balanced by hope and humor. The The Big Picture helps us realize that the difficult chapters in our journey are only part of God's big story for our lives.

You can read the first chapter HERE

"A heroine to love. Jones just gets better with every book, and The Big Picture is her best one yet."
~BARBARA WARREN, author of The Gathering Storm

"Such inspiration in a package of fun and faith!"
~EVA MARIE EVERSON, author of the Potluck Club series


In The Big Picture, Jones brings us the third act of her Katie Parker Production Series. Katie's given her life to Christ, but that doesn't mean everything is all sunshine and happiness. Between the return of her ex-convict mother, the romantic trials of her foster grandma Mad Maxine, and being drawn to her not-sure-if-he's-a-boyfriend Charlie, Katie's got a lot going on in her life. Jones writes with humor and a heart for teens. She never speaks down to the young people who will read this book. But this isn't just a young adult novel. Even if you're old enough not to get carded anymore, I guarentee you'll enjoy this story of family ties and trust.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Introducing "Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon"

Today I’m pleased to present a sneak peak at a new book from a wonderful new author.

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon
Debbie Fuller Thomas
Moody Publishers
June 1, 2008
ISBN: 978-0802487339

An Interview with Debbie Fuller Thomas

Debbie Fuller ThomasYour story is about a mother whose daughter was switched at birth. How does Marty find out that her child was switched?
Marty's daughter, Ginger, is the victim of a fatal genetic disease, Neimann Pick Type C, which often strikes every sibling in a family. Marty is concerned for her other 2 daughters, and when it's determined that she and her ex-husband are not carriers of the disease they know something's not right.

Where did you get the idea for your story?
My inspiration for the book came straight out of real life from a news story I heard about two families fighting over switched-at-birth babies when one child is orphaned. Of course, the circumstances and setting in my story are different, and the characters are completely fictitious. But I knew it would be a heartbreaking dilemma for any parent, especially for one who had suffered through the death of a child she thought was hers.

Do you have a favorite character?
I would have to say Andie, because even at 13-years-old, she doesn't become a victim. She's a little quirky, and she's had to mature quickly. Even though she's developed an attitude toward God and her situation in general, she keeps it to herself most of the time, and we understand her need to vent occasionally.

On what level do you think women will identify with Marty, her biological mom?
I think most moms would understand the panic of discovering they had the wrong child, and the guilt at not realizing instinctively that something was wrong all along. On another level, Marty is a caregiver who sets aside her own dreams to nurture her family. As women, we often set aside our dreams out of necessity, guilt or lack of support from our families, but like Marty, we don't have to abandon our dreams completely.

Blue Moon CoverThe story is set at a drive-in movie theater. What led you to choose that setting?
I think there's a nostalgic winsomeness about drive-in theaters and I want to encourage families to take advantage of the few drive-ins that are still in operation. I remember the smell of hot coffee when my mother poured cups from the thermos, and falling asleep in the backseat with my pillow and blanket. There's a sense of intimacy and togetherness that comes from being alone with your family, even though hundreds of other people are watching the same movie. I also used the run-down condition of the Blue Moon Drive-in as a reflection of the relationship between Marty and Andie and of the condition of their spiritual lives when they first meet.

What is the meaning behind the title: Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon?
Tuesday night is family night at the Blue Moon Drive-in. Andie needs a family, and the desire of Marty's heart is for her dysfunctional family to be a whole again.

Who are some of the other interesting characters in your story?
Andie is sandwiched in the birth order between Winnie, the needy younger sister, and Deja, an older teen who is bitter about the situation. Some interesting dynamics take place when the three of them interact, especially when mom has to work long hours and there's too much unsupervised together-time.

What is the message that you would like your readers to take away from Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon?
I believe that God is our Father and that we were created to commune with Him on a deep level, but sin orphans us. When we're open to it, God is ready and willing to re-claim and restore us as his children.

How did you begin your writing career?
I operated a home day care for 6 preschoolers when my children were young, and I was in desperate need of a distraction to keep my sanity. So I began to write a novel during their naptimes. I finished it in about 2 years. It was my 'practice novel' which gave me confidence and helped me plot the blueprint for Tuesday Night.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as a writer?
Don't quit. I sold the first article I ever sent to a publisher and didn't sell another thing for 19 years. It's not going to happen overnight. It's an apprenticeship - a craft to be honed. When you're tempted to give up, remember the encouraging things other writers, agents or editors have said about your writing. If God has given you some talent, what acceptable excuse can you give Him for not using it?

"I am passionate about good fiction, the kind that grabs you and won't turn loose. My hope is that my characters will capture you and that you will consider my stories old friends with whom you visit often." Debbie Fuller Thomas


To use Debbie’s own words, this is the kind of fiction that “grabs you and won’t turn loose.” From the moment I met the hopeful Marty and the defensive Andie, Thomas had me enthralled. I particularly liked how she let each of them tell the story from their own point of view. As in life, nothing is as clear cut as it seems. People misunderstand each other’s motives, feelings are hurt, progress is made and lost and made again. In Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon, Thomas introduces us to two families who are both dealing with tragic loss. How they finally turn to God, and each other, to move forward and find healing is a journey well worth taking. I was entertained and moved and I anxiously await the next novel from this talented author.

Friday, April 25, 2008

CFBA Presents - WINTER HAVEN by Athol Dickson

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

Winter Haven
(Bethany House April 1, 2008)
Athol Dickson


Athol Dickson's university-level training in painting, sculpture, and architecture was followed by a long career as an architect then his decision several years ago to devote full time to writing.

Athol Dickson’s writing has been favorably compared to the work of Octavia Butler (Publisher’s Weekly), Daphne du Maurier (Cindy Crosby, and FlanneryO’Connor (The New York Times).

His They Shall See God was a Christy Award finalist and his River Rising was a Christy Award winner, selected as one of the Booklist Top Ten Christian Novels of 2006 and a finalist for Christianity Today's Best Novel of 2006.

He and his wife, Sue, live in Southern California. Visit for more information.


Boys who never age, giants lost in time, mist that never rises, questions never asked...on the most remote of islands off the coast of Maine, history haunts the present and Vera Gamble wrestles with a past that will not yield. Will she find refuge there, or will her ghosts prevail on...Winter Haven

Eleven years ago, Vera Gamble's brother left their house never to be seen again. Until the day Vera gets a phone call that his body has been found...washed ashore in the tiny island town of Winter Haven, Maine. His only surviving kin, Vera travels north to claim the body...and finds herself tumbling into a tangled mystery. Her brother hasn't aged a day since last she saw him.

Determined to uncover what happened in those lost years, Vera soon discovers there are other secrets lurking in this isolated town. But Winter Haven's murky past now seems bound to come to light as one woman seeks the undeniable and flooding light of truth.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Meet Terri Kraus - Interview & Book Giveaway

Terri Kraus PhotoIt’s a pleasure to present Terri Kraus, author of The Renovation: Carter Mansion (Project Restoration Series, Book 1). Let’s meet Terri!


After eleven co-authored books with husband, Jim, Terri Kraus has added her award-winning interior designer’s eye to her world of fiction. Terri has worked as a professional designer for 25 years. She has also directed women’s ministries at her church for the past 6 years and has traveled extensively internationally. She makes her home in Wheaton, Illinois, USA, with her husband, son, Elliot, miniature schnauzer, Rufus, and Siberian cat, Petey.


JA: Your latest book is The Renovation. Please tell us about it.
TK: The lives of Ethan Willis, a master carpenter and restorer of old buildings, and his son, Chase, were forever changed when Lynne, Ethan’s wife and Chase’s mother, was murdered during a carjacking attempt. This story, set seven years later during Ethan’s dream restoration project—the Carter Mansion—sees both father and son struggle with unresolved issues. Young Chase thinks the death of his mother was his fault, and Ethan allows that lie to remain unchallenged because of his own grief. Like an old house, neglected and in ruins, Ethan’s faith and life are in need of renovation and renewal. Then Cameron Dane, a young reporter on the local newspaper assigned to cover the Carter Mansion project, enters their lives. Seeing his father start a relationship with another woman makes Chase resentful…and makes Ethan feels guilty, as if he is betraying Lynne’s memory. But it is through Cameron, and her own need for forgiveness over an event in her past, that Chase accepts the freedom of forgiveness. It is also through Cameron that Ethan recaptures his lost faith and finds the ability to forgive his son. And as the Carter Mansion is restored to its original beauty and intent, so are their lives.

JA: After co-authoring eleven books with your husband, Jim, what made you decide to write this one solo?
TK: Writing a novel set in the world of the restoration of old buildings has always been a dream of mine. The idea of renovation is in my family’s blood. I’m an interior design professional. My brothers are rehabbers. My husband, Jim, and I have survived the renovation of three houses, and I’ve been the one on the front lines of working with the contractors. So this was a natural for me to write alone. My husband Jim has gone solo, too. His last two books were contemporary—one more of an end-times story (The Silence) and the other a bio-terrorism thriller (The Micah Judgment). I love writing and researching historical fiction, and he doesn’t get as excited about it as I do. So we’ve both sort of found our own voice and what we’re really passionate about writing. We’ve also been told by publishers and our agent that books by two authors will often not sell as well, for some unknown reason. We still are each other’s best critic and supporter, and that will never change.

JA: In The Renovation, the mending of broken relationships is mirrored in the restoration of the run-down Carter Mansion. As an award-winning interior designer, this must have been quite a satisfying book to write.
Terri Kraus - The RenovationTK: VERY satisfying. I love the metaphor of restoration, which is why I came up with the idea for the Project Restoration series—stories that would follow both the physical restoration of a building and emotional/spiritual restoration of a character.

I’ve always been captivated by old buildings. Poring over books about art, architectural styles, and decoration from all over the world has always been one of my favorite pastimes. As I’ve traveled internationally and visited many of the places I’ve studied independently and in the course of my education in design, I’ve become even more passionate about restoration. After all, God is in the business of restoring lives—reclaiming, repairing, renewing what was broken and bringing beauty from ashes. I know, because I’ve seen his renovation firsthand. For many years, I’ve worked in women’s ministries. I’ve seen many women—as well as the men and children they love—deal with scars from their past that shape their todays and tomorrows. They all long for restoration—to live joyfully and productively once again—but that also requires forgiveness. Forgiveness of others (whether they deserve it or not) and, perhaps most importantly, forgiveness of oneself in order to be healthy and available to God. Clinging to past hurts or “unfairness,” hostility, anger, grudges, resentment, bitterness, or allowing abuse to alter your self-worth renders your life virtually useless. Unforgiveness shapes your perception of yourself, your outlook on life, the kind of relationships you have, and keeps you in “stuck” mode. It leaves you in a dark, emotionally paralyzing, spiritually debilitating, physically draining state and causes so much unnecessary pain…even addiction. So I’ve become passionate about this kind of restoration, too.

JA: I noticed that one of the characters is named Elliott, just like your son. Did you model him after your son, or just borrow the name?
TK: There are some things about the Elliot in the book that are very much like my son. But my Elliot is smarter than how I portray the Elliot in the book.

JA: What do you hope people take away after reading The Renovation?
TK: I want them to know that God himself stands and waits, extending the gift of restoration. The light of his love shines on all those dark places deep within us, exposing what needs his healing touch. For when our souls are gloriously freed through God’s renovation, we become whole, useful, and able to extend the forgiveness we have experienced to others. Then individuals, families, churches, and entire communities can be transformed!

Perhaps there are readers who have an event in their past they need to let go of. It is my hope and prayer that by reading the book some will experience the renovation that awaits them through saying yes to God’s invitation of heart restoration…and the life-transforming joy that will follow.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
TK: I’m just completing Book 2 in the Project Restoration SeriesThe Renewal—to be released in the Fall. That will be followed by Book 3 next Spring. My work in progress is historical, about an Italian-American young woman in the 1930’s and 40’s, in which I draw on many elements from my Italian heritage. It’s set mainly in Italy, so I will use what I have seen and learned in my travels there. I’m really excited about it, and hope a publisher will be, too.

JA: You’re a long-time resident of Chicago. (I’ve been there twice and did, in fact, find it to be quite windy!) What’s your favorite thing about the city?
TK: The gorgeous lakefront and beaches, the skyline, the diverse ethnic neighborhoods, the fabulous cultural offerings. It’s a great place to work in design, being a city of awesome architectural history. It’s cleaner, safer and smaller than New York, but with just about as much to offer.

JA: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
TK: Hmmm…that I’m 100% Italian, love to cook and bake Italian food, have studied the Italian language for many years, and hope to someday live in Italy---even for just a short time. That I adore thunderstorms. I used to be a total sun-worshipper, and hated rain, but as I’ve aged I’ve come to love it. Sitting out on a porch, with a cup of tea and a good book, listening to the rain…it doesn’t get much better that that. If there’s thunder, all the better!

JA: You’ve got quite a few stamps in your passport. Do you have a favorite traveling anecdote?
TK: Yes--attending a small Presbyterian church on the South Island of New Zealand for an Easter service. When we walked in, it was dark, with all the windows covered. Then, suddenly, some women of the congregation came out from the doors behind the altar with these amazingly beautiful, huge arrangements of Autumn flowers (it’s Autumn there when we’re having Spring) and one shouted, “Why darkness? Undrape the windows! Grieve no more! Let the light in, for JESUS IS ALIVE! HE IS RISEN!” The drapes were opened, and the music began, and we sang traditional Easter songs about the Resurrection and took communion, which was bread, wine and fish. It was an incredibly moving experience that I will never forget.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
TK: My website is

Thanks so much for stopping by, Terri. May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


I’m about halfway through The Renovation and am thoroughly enjoying it. In fact, I had to pull myself away to post this interview. Like a fine home, this book has good bones, and Kraus has built upon it with a great story. It’s populated with characters that make you care about them. Even the supporting folks are unique and multi-dimensional. In The Renovation Kraus has given us a wonderful beginning to what I’m sure will be a popular series.


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of The Renovation just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll combine the responses of my Blogger and ShoutLife blogs to pick a winner at random on April 30th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) ShoutLifers will be contacted via ShoutMail. Good luck

Monday, April 21, 2008

Welcome Back Susan Page Davis - Interview & Giveaway

Susan Page Davis PhotoI’m pleased to welcome prolific author Susan Page Davis back to the blog. Her latest novel is Witness (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #98). Let’s meet Susan!


Susan Page Davis and her husband, Jim, have been married thirty-one years and have six children, ages thirteen to thirty. They live in Maine, where they are active in an independent Baptist church. Susan is a homeschooling mother and writes historical romance, mystery, and suspense novels. Visit her Website at


JA: Your latest novel is Witness from Love Inspired Suspense. Tell us a little bit about it.
SPD: Petra sees her neighbor kill a woman. She calls the police, but they can’t find any evidence of a crime. She’s afraid to tell anyone else, for fear they’ll think she’s crazy. Detective Joe Tarleton wins her confidence and determines to help her prove that she’s telling the truth. But will their investigation cause the killer to turn on Petra?

JA: Your heroine, Petra Wilson, witnesses a murder but can’t convince anyone that it happened. What sparked this story idea for you?
SPD: There was actually an incident in my family’s past that started the idea brewing. No, nobody got strangled, but there was a person who felt wronged. And we have distant relatives in Nova Scotia who sometimes take the ferry to Maine. Add that to my having read Agatha Christie’s What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw, and the story came together for me.

Susan Page Davis - WitnessJA: Petra hires Joe Tarleton, a private investigator, to help her uncover the truth. What kind of a man is Joe?
SPD: Joe is laid back, a bit world weary, and downtrodden—by himself. A former police officer, he left public service when the responsibility began getting to him. But when Petra comes on the scene, he rises to the occasion. After he gets it through his head that God has forgiven him and he should agree with God on that, Joe shines.
Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved.

JA: What do you hope people take away when they finish reading Witness?
SPD: Even though it sometimes seems evil is taking over, God is still in control.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
SPD: I just finished a longer suspense book, Inside Story, the third in my Frasier Island series from Harvest House. It’s coming out next January. And following that in February will be another Love Inspired Suspense, set in Maine, like Witness. The title is On a Killer’s Trail.

JA: In our first interview, I asked you about your interest in genealogy and the unique characters in your family, to which you implied that some of the quirkiest ones came from your husband’s family tree. Care to share?
SPD: Ha, ha! He’s not going to read this, right? My husband is a direct descendent of John Billington and his son Francis, who came on the Mayflower. The Billington family were the black sheep of said Mayflower. John was the first white man hung for murder in the colonies. There are dozens more “quirky” characters in Jim’s family. Take Timothy Wales, for instance. A family history book tells us that “Timothy Wales, of Milton, was eminently pious, and in the latter part of his life married a second wife, but she was so clamorous and uncomfortable, that he built a cave in the woods, where he lived alone for a number of years, and died aged 80.” (Genealogy of the Descendants of Timothy Wales of Connecticut, 1875). Maybe I’ll write about him someday.

JA: If you could choose one of your many books to be made into a movie, which one would it be, and who would you cast as the main characters?
SPD: Well, my agent, Chip MacGregor, says that if my book Witness gets made into a movie, he gets to play the Harrison Ford character. (Yeah, like that would happen. :+} ) Seriously, I think Frasier Island would make a fantastic movie. Exotic setting, limited cast, tension, romance, big boom of an ending, and American flags. What more do you need? I think I’ll leave the casting up to the director. But, no, Chip, you can’t play George. (Could we get a young Harrison Ford?)

JA: What authors get you excited about reading?
SPD: There are so many! I recently read Linda Nichols’s In Search of Eden and loved it. Ditto Susan Downs and Susan May Warren’s Heirs of Anton series. I’m in the middle of Denise Hildreth’s The Will of Wisteria. Some of my all-time faves would be Dick Francis and Dorothy L. Sayers. In CBA publishing, I always enjoy Brandilyn Collins, Colleen Coble, Dee Henderson. Looking forward to reading more Brandt Dodson very soon, and I have to say that my historicals critique partner, Vickie McDonough, always makes me laugh. Except when she burned that gal up in the house that one time. . .Oh, I digress. Anyway, she’s doing a North Dakota series for Heartsong that keeps me in stitches as I read for her.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
SPD: Come visit me at my Website: I’d love to see you!

It’s always great to talk to you, Susan. Thanks for stopping by and continued blessings to you in your writing journey!


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Witness just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll combine the responses of my Blogger and ShoutLife blogs to pick a winner at random on April 28th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) ShoutLifers will be contacted via ShoutMail. Good luck

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Meet Sharlene MacLaren - Interview & Book Giveaway

PhotobucketIf you haven’t met Sharlene MacLaren, get ready to smile! She’s one of the sweetest people I know, and a great author to boot. Her latest novel, Courting Emma, is the final book in her Little Hickman Creek series. Let’s meet Shar!


I'm a retired schoolteacher who, after 31 years, decided to say, "Bye-bye, Students!" and "Hello, Writing World!" It's been an interesting, exciting, challenging, heart-wrenching (AT TIMES), and inspiring adventure to say the least. One thing I know--God dropped a seed of passion for writing in my heart back in the summer of 2000, and He's been growing it ever since. (Who else in her right mind would jump out of bed in the middle of the night just to run to the computer and finish a scene that all of a sudden comes together in her head?) I have two wonderful daughters and two handsome sons-in-law, but the joy of my life (besides my sweet, darling husband) are my adorable grandsons, Dylan, born March 21, 2006 and Gavin, born March 3, 2008. AND GUESS WHAT ELSE!!! I'm expecting a GRANDDAUGHTER in June '08. Does life get any better than this? Grandma and Grandpa MacLaren just love their babies!

I’m an occasional speaker for MOPS, am involved in KIDS’ HOPE, USA, a mentoring program for at-risk children, counsel young women in the APPLES OF GOLD program, and attend two weekly Bible studies. I also enjoy my involvement in church choir and worship team.

My darling husband, Cecil, and I live in Spring Lake, MI with Dakota, out loveable collie, and Mocha, our lazy fat cat.


JA: Your latest book is Courting Emma. Please tell us about it.
SM: Here’s a brief “book blurb” about Courting Emma:

Twenty-eight-year-old Emma Browning has experienced a good deal of life in her young age Proprietor of Emma’s Boardinghouse, she is “mother” to an array of beefy, unkempt, often rowdy characters. Though may men would like to get to know the steely, hard-edged, yet surprisingly lovely proprietor, none has truly succeeded. That is, not until the town’s new pastor, Jonathan Atkins, takes up residence in the boardinghouse. After a stunning, unexpected turn of events, will Emma risk removing her protective shell to accept the love of God—and the love of a man?

JA: Courting Emma is the third and final book in your Little Hickman Creek Series. As a reader, I hate to see a series I love come to an end. How do you feel about bringing this series to a close?
SM: Isn’t it strange how we allow ourselves to become so emotionally involved with fictional characters? I suppose in a way I did find it hard to say goodbye to Little Hickman Creek and all its lovely people. After all, we spent a few years together! BUT—there was also that WONDERFUL sense of relief to have written that final chapter; thus, freeing me to move on to the next series brewing in my head. ((We writers must be gluttons for punishment.))

JA: Of your three Little Hickman heroines – Eliza Jane, Sarah, and Emma – which would you say is the most like you?
SM: Wow, no one has ever asked me this before; hence, I’ve never thought about, but now that you ask, I’d probably have to say “Sarah”. “Liza” is a spitfire, determined, independent, brave, and outspoken. “Emma” is strong and stubborn, and quite rebellious when it comes to all things Christian. “Sarah” embodies some of the above characteristics, too, particularly the outspokenness, but she’s probably the most gentle-spirited, passionate about her faith, practical-minded, and tenderhearted of the three. I think I see myself more in her character than any of the others.

JA: You’ve been married to your awesome hubby, Cecil for over thirty years (is it thirty-two now?) Do you find yourself writing Cecil into your heroes?
SM: Yes, I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for 32 years, and he’s a very loving, faithful, gentle, romantic man. It’s definitely easier to write romance when you see it lived out day-to-day! I don’t actually consciously write him into any of my characters, though. All my male characters wind up having their own, very distinct personalities.

PhotobucketJA: What do you hope people take away after reading Courting Emma?
SM: My very deepest desire and heartfelt prayer is that my books will cause people to recognize the love of Christ and His redemptive power in their lives. I want to give people a reason to go back to their Bibles. Not long ago, after having read Courting Emma, one of my reviewers wrote this:

This book touched me in ways that are totally unexplainable. Never before has a book made me shed tears, especially in a crowded roomful of strangers. It made me think of my own issues, which helped me to strongly identify with the main character. My only reaction was a strong desire to fall to my knees and pray. This book reopened things about myself that I’d let go of and should probably find my way back to.
That review represents everything that I’m about as a writer. I want to touch lives through Christ’s power and strength.

JA: You’ve written both contemporary and historical fiction. Do you prefer one over the other?
SM: I enjoy both genres. My first two books, Spring’s Promise (2002) and Through Every Storm (2006) are contemporaries. And I’m releasing another contemporary, Long Journey Home, this September. But I also LOVE writing historical books. I love the period between, say, the 1880s up through about 1910 and I think it’s because my own grandparents were born in the 1880s and because my memories of them remain fresh, the era seems more real to me.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
SM: I envision myself writing into my 90s if God allows! I can’t imagine ever reaching the point of saying, “I don’t like doing this anymore.” I’m too passionate about it. It is in MY BLOOD!

What’s next? Well, The Daughters of Jacob Kane is another 3-book series, this one with a West Michigan 1903-05 setting. If all goes well, it should start releasing in January ’09. The three books are titled Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, and Abbie Ann. As in my “Hickman” series, each girl will have her very own unique personality.

JA: I know you’re a big American Idol fan. My favorite this year has become David Cook. How about you? What are your thoughts so far?
SM: Ha! We digress! Yes, I am an AI fan, but this year I’m having a much harder time identifying with any particular contestant. I’d read that Chikezee is a Christian – so I rooted for him. But now that he’s gone, I can’t say I have a favorite. They’re all so amazingly talented, so I guess I’ll just sit back and see who takes the prize.

JA: Is there something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
SM: Hmm, what would people be surprised to learn about me? Maybe it’s that by all appearances I’m a very friendly, open, and outgoing person (yes, even funny!), but on the inside, I sometimes feel insecure and shy. I sometimes have to work at my “outgoingness”. I LOVE spending time with friends and family, and I enjoy making people laugh with my antics, but I’m also a very private individual who loves solitude and quiet. I’m rarely the one who gets on the phone and instigates the social gatherings. I will be glad to attend things when invited, but if given a choice, I’m more apt to want to stay in the comfort of my home and just veg-out with my hubby. Fortunately, he feels exactly the same as me. Two boring little fuddy-duddies; that’s what we are! Pathetic, huh! haha

JA: Between family, writing, and church commitments, you are one very busy lady. If you had a week off with no deadlines, nothing marked in your calendar, how would you spend it?
SM: Probably what I described above, only I’d add that I’d want my precious grandkids with me. Maybe enjoying time by the pool, playing, reading, EATING scrumptious food, and maybe going to some exotic place.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
SM: Oh, I love visitors to my websites. I always reply to comments there and all emails. Please feel free to come “see me” anytime. I also welcome prayer requests and promise to lift you to the Father with any needs weighing heavy. Here is my contact information:

Thanks so very much for allowing me to share from my heart. It’s been great fun.


Thank you, Sharlene, and continued blessings to you in your writing journey!


Emma Browning has had a lot to deal with in her life. Coloring everything she does is the memory of the abuse she endured at the hands of her alcoholic father. Jon Atkins had an equally difficult childhood, but rather than hold on to the bitterness, he turned to the Lord. Courting Emma is not just a historical romance. Rather, it’s a story of redemption, forgiveness and how God truly does work things out for good. Fans of the Little Hickman Creek series will not be disappointed in this, the final book of the series.

MacLaren populates her novel with a great cast of supporting characters. The interplay between the citizens of Little Hickman is wonderfully natural, evoking a time when people knew what it was to live in a “community.” While the burgeoning romance between Emma and Jon is lovely, the real strength here is the evolving relationship between Ezra Browning and the rest of the town. How Jon, Emma, and even the church, look on Ezra will be sure to inspire and convict readers.


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Courting Emma just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll combine the responses of my Blogger and ShoutLife blogs to pick a winner at random on April 23rd. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) ShoutLifers will be contacted via ShoutMail. Good luck!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Meet Megan DiMaria - Interview & Book Giveaway

Megan DiMaria PhotoIt’s my great pleasure to introduce Megan DiMaria, author of Searching for Spice. Let’s meet Megan!

Megan DiMaria loves to spend time with other writers and be an encouragement to colleagues on their writing journey. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, HIS Writers, and is assistant director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild, Rocky Mountain Region. Searching for Spice, Megan’s debut novel, released April 2008, and her second novel, Out of Her Hands, will release from Tyndale in October 2008.

Megan received her B.A. degree in Communications, with a specialization in Mass Media from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. She has been a radio and television reporter, a Web content editor, a contributing writer for local newspapers and has worked for a weekly newspaper. Megan has sold magazine articles locally and nationally. In her day job, she works in the marketing department of an upscale Denver portrait photography studio. She is also a freelance writer, crafting magazine articles and advertising copy.

Megan and her husband Carl currently live in suburban Denver near their three adult children. They often travel back to their roots in Long Island, NY to visit family and get their fill of delicious Italian food.


JA: Congratulations on your debut novel, Searching for Spice. Time to dish: How does it feel going into a store and seeing your book on the shelf?
MD: I know it’s cliché, but it is a dream come true to see my book sitting on a store shelf. It’s funny, for years I’ve always noticed where my book would sit on a shelf, whether it was in a book store or a library—and not, there it is!

JA: Please tell us about Searching for Spice.
MD: Searching for Spice is about a woman who’s been married for 24 years who decides she wants to have an affair—with her husband. Of course nothing’s simple, and life doesn’t always go according to plan.

JA: Linda Revere longs to put some spice back in to her 24-year-old marriage. As a wife and mother of three, how do you keep things interesting? (Without getting too personal, of course!)
MD: I love to flirt with my husband and always have. We also laugh together on a daily basis, and that helps to dissipate any tension that may be in the air. Despite however long someone’s been married, it’s exciting when your spouse shows interest. And I’m convinced that no matter how secure or manly your husband is, he loves to be the object of your attention.

Megan DiMaria CoverJA: Unfortunately, most people don’t equate “romance” with married couples – at least not in fiction. What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
MD: My novel is not so much about romance as it is about love. I could be wrong, but romance brings up images of new relationships. When you’re married for more than a few years, you know your spouse better than anyone else. That’s the great thing—you know exactly what type of flirtation or gift would hit their hot button. And in that respect, writing Searching for Spice wasn’t such a challenge. I just had to imagine situations that would allow my characters to relate to one another in the manner of two people who know each other inside and out. However, even the best of intentions can be off the mark, which only makes life more interesting.

JA: What do you hope people take away after reading Searching for Spice?
MD: The main thing I would hope people would take away from Searching for Spice is the notion that marriage is valuable, and your relationship with your spouse should be warm, deep, exciting and loving.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
MD: I just finished edits for Out of Her Hands. That story involves the same family featured in Searching for Spice, but the focus in on the relationships my character has with her young adult children. Out of Her Hands will be available in October 2008.

JA: As a child, your family used to make weekly trips to the library. What’s your favorite library memory?
MD: The library we visited is a grand, old building. I recall having a clear impression that it was an important building. What I didn’t know as a child is that the Troy (NY) Public Library, which was built in 1897, is an example of American Renaissance style. Its design and style is based on Italian renaissance palaces. It is absolutely gorgeous—marble floors and original Tiffany stained glass windows. I loved everything about that building, and my favorite memory is the huge mural of Gulliver’s Travels that decorated the wall of the children’s room.

JA: Is there something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
MD: Probably not. I’m not that much different than the woman next door. I have the same desire for a healthy, happy family and enjoy the love of family and friends.

JA: What’s your idea of the ultimate vacation?
MD: I’m torn between touring places I haven’t yet visited to and sitting on a beach with a satchel full of great books to read for my ultimate vacation. Of course it must include my husband and perhaps my kids.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
MD: I love to communicate with my readers. The easiest way to peek into my world is by visiting my website at or my blog at

Thank you, Megan, and continued blessings to you in your writing journey!


Remember young love? That first blush of I-can’t-wait-to-see-him excitement? Well, Linda Revere sure does, and she wants some of it back!

Megan DiMaria’s debut novel crackles with the yearnings of a long-married wife who just wants to put a little spice back in her marriage. Anybody who’s been married for more than a few years will relate to Linda’s many failed attempts at seducing her husband. A sick dog, kid trouble, even the neighbors get in the way. But through it all, Linda rediscovers the man she married and redefines just what makes a man a prince.

Searching for Spice is an impressive debut novel. It’ll make you laugh, make you think, and maybe even bring a tear to your eye. DiMaria is a skilled writer with a gift for dialogue. She puts her characters into realistic situations and has us rooting for them till the end. I look forward to her follow-up novel in October, and many more literary offerings in the years to come.


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Searching for Spice just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll combine the responses of my Blogger and ShoutLife blogs to pick a winner at random on April 21st. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) ShoutLifers will be contacted via ShoutMail. Good luck!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

American Idol Shouts to the Lord!

Idol Gives Back LogoSo, did you catch any of Idol Gives Back last night? It was a nice evening, even though the only live part of it was the contestants and Ryan Seacrest on the phones. (Which is okay... do we really care if it's live?)

The best part was the finale. Ryan introduced the final eight, and when he said they'd be singing "Shout to the Lord" my mouth fell open. (It really did. See, this isn't a cliche - people actually do this!) I mean, this is a heavy-duty praise song. Maybe it wasn't the one I was thinking of. Maybe there was another song with the same name. And then the contestants came out and sang the whole song. Amazing. If you didn't see it, here's a YouTube link: - the video's not the greatest, but the audio is pretty clear. It still gives me goosebumps to watch it.

Over the last few weeks, I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of spiritual songs the group's been singing. Dolly week was a treasure trove of inspirational songs I'd never heard before, and when Dolly sang "Jesus and Gravity"... WOW. It was like being in a revival. Last week, Christy Lee Cook sang "Anyway" by Martina McBride. Another song that I hadn't heard before. Now they're both on my iPod.

AI did tweak "Shout to the Lord" just a bit. At the beginning, instead of singing "My Jesus" they sang "My Shepherd." Some might see this as a big deal, but I'm okay with it. My feeling is this - millions of people heard that song. Those of us who are Christian know who the Shepherd is, and the song remained just as powerful. And what about those who haven't met Jesus yet? I'm certain there are people out there who were deeply touched by the words of the song, even if they don't know why. For them, a seed's been planted. What an awesome thing that is!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Allison Bottke on Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children

Allison BottkeI’m thrilled to feature another non-fiction book today: Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents by the incredible Allison Bottke.


Writing from firsthand experience, Allison Bottke identifies the lies that kept her, and ultimately her adult son in bondage-and how she overcame them. Additional real life stories from other parents are woven through the text. Most important...six concrete steps to hope and healing are the key elements of this landmark book.

Addressing a worldwide epidemic, this important and compassionate new book from the creator of the successful God Allows U-Turns series will help parents and grandparents of the countless adult children who continue to make life painful for their loved ones.

A frequent guest on radio and TV programs around the country, the 700 Club featured her life story in what has become one of their highest rated programs ever, and she has appeared on the covers of such national magazines as Writer's Digest, BOND, The Christian Communicator, O.H. Magazine and others. With 23 non-fiction and fiction books published since 2001, Allison speaks and teaches at conferences around the country. Her column for baby boomer women, Boomer Babes Rock! appears monthly in Christian Women Online (CWO).


The book comes out of your own personal experience with your son. Please tell us about that.
ALLISON: For years I really thought I was helping my son. I wanted him to have the things I never had growing up. I love my son, and I didn’t want him to hurt—but sometimes pain is a natural result of the choices we make. For a long time I didn’t understand the part I was playing in the ongoing drama that had become my son’s life—I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to live in constant chaos and crisis because of his choices. When I chose to stop the insanity and start living a life of hope and healing my life changed. It’s a feeling I want other struggling parents and grandparents to experience. I want other parents to know that change is possible when we choose to stop the destructive cycle of enabling. And we can stop it. I know, because I’ve done it.

How can we determine whether we are helping versus enabling our children?
ALLISON: Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.

Enabling is doing for someone things that he could and should be doing himself.

An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem to persist with his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior.

You say the main problem with dysfunctional adult children isn’t the choice they make or don’t make – but something else entirely. If their choices aren’t the main problem, what is?
ALLISON: Our biggest problem isn’t about our adult child’s inability to wake up when their alarm clock rings, or their inability to keep a schedule, or their inability to hold down a job or pay their bills. It’s not about their drug use or alcohol addictions. It’s not about the mess they’re making of their life. The main problem is about the part we’re playing in stepping in to soften the blow of the consequences that come from the choices they make. The main problem is us. Instead of praying to God to stop the pain, remove the difficulty, or change the life of our adult child, we must rise up and pray for something entirely different. We must pray for the courage to look deep in our own heart and soul—pray for the strength to begin a journey that quite possibly may change our own life—and pray for the wisdom to make new choices in our own life

Why are you so passionate about reaching out to other parents?
ALLISON: Because I’ve been there—I still am in many ways. I’m a parent who has traveled this painful road of enabling. I understand what it feels like to have your heart break because of a choice our adult child has made.

Allison Bottke CoverThat is the ultimate goal of Setting Boundaries?
ALLISON: While recognizing and identifying enabling issues must come before positive change can be made, it is the eventual peace and healing parents will feel as they gain power in their own lives that is the goal of this book. It’s a tough love book for coping with dysfunctional adult children, as well as getting our own lives back on track, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children empowers families by offering hope and healing through six S.A.N.I.T.Y. steps. I walk parents through a six step program to regaining control in their home, and in their life.

What are the six steps for hope and healing you refer to in Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children?
ALLISON: S.A.N.I.T.Y. Six Steps for Regaining a Healthy Relationship with Adult Children
S = STOP Enabling, STOP Blaming Yourself, and STOP the Flow of Money
A = Assemble a Support Group
N = Nip Excuses in the Bud
I = Implement Rules/Boundaries
T = Trust Your Instincts
Y = Yield Everything to the Higher Power of God (Surrender)

Tell us about the S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group Network you founded. How can people get involved?
ALLISON: The “A” step in S.A.N.I.T.Y. is to ASSEMBLE a support group. This is a vital component in being able to look at our situations more objectively. We have developed a powerful Companion Study Guide that can be read individually or in a group setting. This Companion Study Guide contains all the information you need to conduct a S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support group in your neighborhood or community. Visit our web site here to find out more:

The S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group Network is a powerful resource to help parents and grandparents who have challenging adult children gain S.A.N.I.T.Y. in a world spinning
out of control. During the years I spent as an enabling parent there were no support groups available for me as a parent in pain. Although it’s a tremendously successful program, AA wasn’t quite right for me, and I attended a few Alanon meetings, but the kind of empowering strength I needed for my situation wasn’t available. I needed to hear from others who had walked in my shoes—I needed to hear what they were doing that worked. I needed people around me who would lovingly hold me accountable to my own choices as I experienced the journey of parenting and enabling a dysfunctional adult child. I needed an action plan to help me make changes in my life.

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as I was writing Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child that a vital part of the outreach would be the development of an international support group network based on the six S.A.N.I.T.Y. steps I had developed.
We need a resource that can help us to set appropriate boundaries and get some S.A.N.I.TY. in our households, as well as assuring us that we are walking in God’s will. Following the steps outlined in Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child is a start in addressing this issue. Attending, and/or facilitating a S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group in your community is the next vital step in gaining hope as you walk the often painful path to healing.

Where can my readers go for more information on your book and on the S.A.N.I.T.Y. ministry?
ALLISON: Everything you could possibly need is contained on our web site at:

I encourage your readers to tell me what they think about Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child. I really do want to hear reader feedback. They can reach me at: Please be sure to visit our web site at where they will find additional resources for helping them on their road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. Remember to tell a friend in need and help save a life!


Allison Bottke is a gifted teacher, but that’s not all she brings to her latest book. She’s also a mom who’s been there. Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child opens with a section titled “Why I Had to Write This Book” in which Bottke shares some of what she’s gone through with her own son. Full of insight and hope, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child will encourage, support and equip you to deal with one of the hardest trials a parent can face: watching your adult child follow the wrong path and face the fact that you can’t fix it. Even if you don’t have adult children, I recommend picking up this book to give you some perspective, a glimpse of what you might need to watch for as your children grow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

CFBA Presents - AMBER MORN by Brandilyn Collins

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Amber Morn

(Zondervan Publishing Company - April 2008)

Brandilyn Collins


Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense™. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline

“Don’t forget to b r e a t h e …®”

Brandilyn writes for Zondervan, the Christian division of HarperCollins Publishers, and is currently at work on her 19th book. Her first,
A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. She’s also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons), and often teaches at writers conferences.

Brandilyn blogs at Forensics and Faith. Visit her Website to read the first chapters of all her books.


The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than sixty seconds.

Bailey hung on to the counter, dazed. If she let go, she’d collapse—and the twitching fingers of the gunman would pull the trigger. The rest of her group huddled in frozen shock.

Dear God, help us! Tell me this is a dream . . .

The shooter’s teeth clenched. “ Anybody who moves is dead.”

On a beautiful Saturday morning the nationally read “Scenes and Beans” bloggers gather at Java Joint for a special celebration. Chaos erupts when three gunmen burst in and take them all hostage. One person is shot and dumped outside.

Police Chief Vince Edwards must negotiate with the desperate trio. The gunmen insist on communicating through the “comments” section of the blog—so all the world can hear their story. What they demand, Vince can’t possibly provide. But if he doesn’t, over a dozen beloved Kanner Lake citizens will die...

Amber Morn is the climactic finale to Collins’ widely read Kanner Lake series. All first three titles in the series, Violet Dawn, Coral Moon, and Crimson Eve, were bestsellers. Library Journal placed Crimson Eve on its Best Books of 2007 list, and hailed it the “Best Christian suspense of 2007.”

A few early reviews of Amber Morn:

“… essential reading … a harrowing hostage drama.” – Library Journal

“… heart-pounding … breakneck pace … satisfying and meaningful ending.” – RT Bookreviews

“This cataclysmic ending left me breathless … Kanner Lake is the Best Suspense Series of 2007/2008.” –

“Collins has saved the best for a last .. a powerful ensemble performance.” --

“… a staccato tempo … Sometimes you just have to close the book in order to come up for air.” – Dale Lewis

“…a masterpiece of page-turning suspense with a cast of dozens.” – Peg Phifer


This is one fast-paced novel. It's kind of like watching a whole season of 24 in one sitting. Short chapters, each from a different character's point of view, lend themselves to the escalating tension of the situation and the explosive finale. Fans of Collins' Kanner Lake Series will not be disappointed with this final book.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Meet Amy Wallace - Interview & Book Giveaway

Amy WallaceWhat an honor to be the first stop on Amy Wallace’s blog tour! Amy’s latest book, Healing Promises is the second in the Defenders of Hope series. Let’s meet Amy.


Amy Wallace is a wife, homeschool mom of three, writer, speaker, Bible study leader, and avid chocoholic. She loves crafting high-action suspense that delves deep into heart issues, but who she really is can be summed up in a few short words: Amy is a daughter of the King learning to live and love with laughter.


JA: The Defenders of Hope series was born out of the tragic events of 9/11. How did that inspire you?
AW: Long before I had any idea I’d become a novelist one day, I sat glued to my TV, crying with the rest of America and watching the events of 9/11 unfold. I stayed transfixed for over a week, numb and yet so full of pain at the same time. But as I watched the firefighters, police, military, and FBI being real-life heroes, a deep desire to pay tribute to them started to grow. I had no idea then what God would do with this desire, but the seed was planted. God watered it with a literal dream, some amazing research books, and an awesome federal agent contact. That seed of an idea has now grown into the three-book Defenders of Hope series.

JA: Your current book is Healing Promises. Tell us about it.
AW: Healing Promises is a high-voltage suspense novel which explores how a life-threatening medical diagnosis and the search for an elusive serial kidnapper affects even the most solid, loving Christian marriage and poses a key life question: Can God be trusted when things don’t go the way we pray?

JA: Since Healing Promises is the second book in the series, should we read Ransomed Dreams first, or does each book stand alone?
AW: As a suspense reader and romantic at heart, I’m passionately asking that people please read Ransomed Dreams first! ;-) Some major plot points in Ransomed Dreams are revealed early on in Healing Promises, so it’s really much better to read the books in order. Plus, the experience of Healing Promises will be greatly enhanced by walking through Ransomed Dreams first.

JA: Healing Promises focuses on FBI agent Clint Rollins and his wife, Sara. For you, how does dealing with a married couple differ from a couple who finds each other during the course of the story?
AW: Writing Clint and Sara’s story was a more intense experience, not just for the physical and emotional intimacy, but also because a shared life and family meant far more was at stake for the characters. It was also more painful and conversely more fun. There were personal jokes and special memories that only a married couple can share, but that was also why it proved to be more painful at the same time.

Healing Promises also includes the beginning of Michael Parker and Hanna Kessler’s relationship. That added to the fun of writing this story in contrasting the excitement of new love with the passion and commitment of married love.

Amy Wallace - Healing Promises JA: What do you hope people take away after reading Healing Promises?
AW: My hope for readers of Healing Promises is that as they become involved in Clint and Sara’s journey, they'll experience a deeper sense of the goodness and trustworthiness of God, even when life doesn’t go as we prayed. I also hope readers will see that at the end of ourselves only one truth remains—God is good. What we do with that fact changes everything.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
AW: I’m diving into a new suspense series that’s still piecing itself together in my heart.

JA: The tag line on your web site is “Heart Chocolate… words to enrich heart & soul.” I love it… makes me want to curl up with a cup of cocoa and read your books! What is “heart chocolate” to you?
AW: Thanks so much for those kind words! That’s exactly the feel we were going for in designing the Heart Chocolate website.

What is Heart Chocolate to me? It’s the snuggled up declaration of my children and husband saying, “I love you to infinity and beyond!” It’s the shoulder of a friend to cry on and the reminder of truth that God is good and I’m loved and wrapped securely in His arms. Heart Chocolate is anything that slips beneath the surface of the soul and leaves the sweet fragrance of a pleasant memory.

JA: What’s something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
AW: Maybe that my favorite novels aren’t about guns and hard-core suspense, but are more along the lines of Sharon Hinck’s Restorer series and Trish Perry’s The Guy I’m Not Dating. I’m much more likely to read books that make me laugh and learn something deeper about God.

JA: If you had a week to go to a luxurious spa and do nothing but be pampered and read, what books would you take along?
AW: Before books, I’d actually have to take chocolate. ;-) Some amazing Godiva dark chocolate mint to be specific. Then I’d take the two books I’m enjoying right now: Sharon Hinck’s Symphony of Secrets and Julie Carobini’s Truffles by the Sea. I might also pack Madeleine L'Engle’s Walking on Water and Dr. Robert Paul’s Finding Ever After.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
AW: I’d be honored if people would check out my Heart Chocolate website at and join the Dark Chocolate Suspense newsletter! Or they can jump into the discussions on my Heart Chocolate blog at I’d love to see you there!

Thank you, Amy, and continued blessings to you in your writing journey!


This is one of those books that I couldn’t put down. From the first page, Healing Promises takes off running. Wallace has populated her book with an intriguing cast of characters. There are no cookie-cutter, two dimensional people here. Wallace dares to look at the reality of each situation with honesty and hope. She’s not afraid to say it like it is, even when getting into the head of the “bad guy.” But this isn’t just a crime novel. While the agents of the Crimes Against Children Unit continue their desperate search for a serial kidnapper, Agent Clint Rollins and his wife, Sara, are facing the biggest trial of their lives; Clint’s battle with cancer. The juxtaposition of these two plotlines provides a wonderful combination of heart-stopping action and heart-rending emotion. I highly recommend this novel, and look forward to more great reads from this talented author!

Read the first chapter of Healing Promises.


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Healing Promises just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll combine the responses of my Blogger and ShoutLife blogs to pick a winner at random on April 14th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) ShoutLifers will be contacted via ShoutMail. Good luck!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Meet Brandt Dodson - Interview & Book Giveaway

Brandt DodsonToday we’ve got another first! I’m thrilled to welcome my first male guest, author Brandt Dodson, whose new book is White Soul. Let’s meet Brandt!


Brandt Dodson was born and raised in Indianapolis. He is a board certified Podiatrist and the author of White Soul and The Colton Parker Mystery series from Harvest House Publishers. He resides in southern Indiana with his wife and two sons and is currently at work on his next novel. You can visit Brandt at


JA: Your latest novel is White Soul. Please tell us about it.
BD: White Soul came about because I have a fascination with crime fiction and that’s especially true when the novel deals with organized crime. I think it’s one of the greatest scourges we have and one of the greatest drains on our economy that we’ve ever faced. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that these groups make their money and grow their influence because they prey on the weaknesses of others. In short, because they know the temptations that many people face and are all to willing to capitalize on them.

Satan works the same way. Every one of us has been - and will be - tempted. Now we are not all tempted to sin by the same thing, but we all have our weakness. Even the most solid among us, will crumble if we do not keep our guard up as Paul warns us to do. Undercover officers face temptations as a matter of course. So when I decided I wanted to write a novel that confronts this issue, I could find no better vehicle than a novel about a Christian undercover officer who must deal with the temptations that surround him. To further add to the luster of the lifestyle he’s investigating, I set the story in Miami, the capital of flash and materialism.

In White Soul, Ron Ortega penetrates a group that is run by a ruthless drug lord name Ricardo Estevez. Estevez is trying to rebuild The Corporation (a real entity, by the way) in order to seize control of the drug flow into the U.S. and build new opportunities in the new, post-Castro Cuba. (Which we’re beginning to see) As his investigation proceeds, Ortega must answer the basic question: “Do the right thing? Or do the desired thing?”

JA: Your hero, Ron Ortega, is a cop torn between his family and his professional ambition. As someone who comes from a long line of police officers, how much of your personal experience were you able to put into Ron?
BD: In the sense that I grew up in a family of police officers and clerked with the FBI, I’ve been able to build the story off the psyche that cops seem to share as well as my own experiences. But other than that, the novel is built wholly off a mix of speculation and research. Which is not unusual, by the way. Mario Puzo is alleged to have once said he got everything he knew about Sicilian crime families from the public library. (Unfortunately, he didn’t have the internet)

Brandt Dodson - White SoulJA: What do you hope people take away after reading White Soul?
BD: That temptation comes at us when we are at our most vulnerable and that if we going to resist it, we must live close to God. “Abide in me,” Jesus commanded.

In White Soul, Ron Ortega is a what I call a “functional” Christian. His conversion is real, he attends church services, and might even pick up the Bible on occasion. But he is not maximizing the opportunities that God has provided. He isn’t living as close to God as he could and therefore, like a moth, he is drawn to the flame.

JA: By the way, I love book cover art, and I have to say the cover of White Soul is just great. Is that a gun I see in the clouds, or are my eyes playing tricks on me?
BD: I had the same question when I first saw it. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks. It’s a gun. I had an opportunity to meet the cover artist during the last ICRS (CBA for all of us oldies but goodies) and to tell him how much I have enjoyed and appreciated every cover he’s done. He just happened to have a mock up for White Soul with him and when he showed it to me I was ecstatic. When you write (or at least, when I write) I have an imaginary cover in my head. But I must say, the covers I have mentally pictured are in no way as good as the ones he does. He’s a very talented artist. I’m very fortunate.

JA: There are four books in your popular Colton Parker series. Do you have any more adventures planned for Colton? Is White Soul the beginning of a new series?
BD: I have several Colton Parker novels in my head, ready to go. But for the moment, my publisher has asked for some stand alones. White Soul is written as a stand alone, but could also be part of a series. I’ll have to see what develops. My next release, Daniel’s Den (January 2009) will be a stand alone and a straight suspense novel.

JA: I read that you were contacted by a porn actor after he read you first novel, Original Sin. What an awesome thing to be able to reach someone who isn’t the stereotypical “Christian fiction” reader! What’s the overall response been to your books?
BD: Very good. Very solid. My intent was to write for a male reading audience, an audience that has largely been neglected. In that sense, we’ve been successful.

My personal mission statement, as it relates to my writing, is to generate enough thought in the reader to have them go back to the Bible for more information. If I can direct my readers to become God’s readers, I will have completed the task that I feel He’s given me to do. The awesome thing about writing is that it covers the spans of time and space. I had a missionary in China recently contact me about an article I wrote over eight years ago. So you never know who your writing is going to touch, where it’s going to touch them, or how. I’m convinced that God meant for his people to be a reading people. After all, He wrote the greatest bestseller of all time.

JA: Besides being a successful fiction author, you’re a husband, father, and board-certified podiatrist. What does your family think about your literary life?
BD: They’re supportive. If they weren’t, I couldn’t do this. And I think they’re proud of me, but it hasn’t reached the point –yet- where my wife is willing to stand next to my chair while I have dinner and fan me with a big feather. (I say, “yet”. She’s says, “Never”) Karla and I have been married for almost 28 years. She still tells me to take out the garbage. To my sons, I’m just dad. And that’s a good thing to be.

JA: What’s something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
BD: That I like poetry. I read Dickens, Eliot, and local Hoosier favorite James Whitcomb Riley. I think poetry adds to life and it can add to a better, more economical use of language in nearly any writing endeavor.

I also like to cook.

JA: What authors have had the biggest impact on you?
BD: Chandler, Hammett, and Robert B. Parker, for obvious reasons. But it was Dean Koontz who got me to reading again. I had just opened my solo practice and since patients don’t exactly beat a path to your door in those early years, I went to the mall and bought a copy of The Bad Place. I read it and was impressed enough to read something like 12 or 15 of his backlist titles over the next two or three weeks.

I’ve also been influenced by Ken Follett, Tom Clancy, Jack Higgins, Ed McBain, and recently, Brad Meltzer and David Baldacci. From the classics, I like Poe (nobody, I mean NOBODY creates mood better than him), Dickens, Twain and London. (Dennis “Doc” Hensley turned me on to Jack London by opening up his work for me in a way I wished they had done when I was in school)

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
BD: I have a website which is probably the best way. I can be reached at I answer all correspondence and keep the site updated. I also blog on Amazon and on Keep Me In Suspense at

I enjoyed speaking with you, Jennifer. Thank you for the opportunity.

Thank you, Brandt, and continued blessings to you in your writing journey!


This is the first book I’ve read by Brandt Dodson, and I became an instant fan. When I picked up White Soul, I had just finished reading three chick-lits in a row, so I was ready for some serious action… some testosterone, if you will. Man, did Dodson deliver!

In undercover agent Ron Ortega, Dodson creates a character who wants to do what’s right, but is constantly reminded of what he perceives as his shortcomings. Entrenched in the decadent and dangerous subculture of drugs and organized crime, Ron is surrounded by temptation. Through twists, turns and non-stop action, Dodson delivers a compelling, energetic story that is sure to challenge and entertain readers.


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of White Soul just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll combine the responses of my Blogger and ShoutLife blogs to pick a winner at random on April 11th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) ShoutLifers will be contacted via ShoutMail. Good luck!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Meet the Authors of SIMPLE LITTLE WORDS & Giveaway

I’m pleased to welcome Michelle Cox and John Perrodin, authors of the new book Simple Little Words: What You Say Can Change a Life. Let’s meet Michelle and John!


Simple Little Words - JohnJohn Perrodin is Senior Editor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written three YA novels with Jerry in the Renegade Spirit series. For 12-plus years he worked at Focus on the Family and served as Special Assistant to Dr. James C. Dobson. He and his wife, Sue, live in Colorado Springs.

Simple Little Words - Michelle Michelle Cox is a speaker, co-author (with John Perrodin) of Simple Little Words: What You Say Can Change a Life, and the author of Mothers Who Made a Difference. She writes frequently for various publications at Focus on the Family, has written greeting card text, and recently taped as part of a DVD small group curriculum on parenting and marriage for Focus on the Family. She and her husband, Paul, live near Asheville, North Carolina.


JA: Simple Little Words: What You Say Can Change A Life is a collection of stories about the importance of words. Please tell us a bit about it.
JP: Simple Little Words shows the powerful impact that the words we say can have on others. Too often we think that brief connections with family and friends don’t matter. Truth is some of the most meaningful words we’ve ever heard began as mere oft-hand comments. That’s because we rarely stop to consider how the words we say – for good or ill – will be remembered, maybe even for a lifetime.

MC: Simple Little Words features poignant stories of lives that were touched or changed by words someone said to them. I love that the book contains something for everyone. We have powerful stories about teachers, caregivers, individuals with disabilities, parenting, marriage, the business world, singles, aging, and many more. A different story touches me each time I read the book.

Simple Little Words JA: This book contains stories from (among others) author Karen Kingsbury, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, movie producer Ken Wales, and Chick-fil-A founder and CEO Truett Cathy. What was the reaction when you began seeking contributions for this project?
MC: John and I submitted the proposal for this book and then waited over seven months before we heard the publisher was going to send us a contract. They wanted the book in six weeks—and we only had two stories! Our first thought was panic and then we prayed about it. Two days later, I called John and said, “If God sent us the contract, He will send us the stories.” Only a few people turned us down when we requested submissions. When all the stories were finally in place, I read from beginning to end, and I wept because I realized God’s vision had been so much bigger than ours had been.

JP: My first thought was: How will we do this? But I knew that working with Michelle would make a daunting task doable. Plus, we completely turned the project over to God. We asked Him to bring us the stories to include. I’m certain that’s why we got such a tremendous mix of contributors.

JA: This is probably like asking a mother to pick her favorite child, but do you have a favorite story? One that really speaks to you?
MC: That’s a tough one since I love all of them. Dr. Dennis Hensley’s “One Word Made All the Difference” always squeezes my heart. This story features one of his students and the way Sean’s life changed forever because of simple words Dennis wrote on his quiz paper.

JP: I love “Avery’s New Shoes.” This story is full of home-grown touches and child-like wisdom. As a reader, I learn along with the kids about whom the tale is told. But you’re right, picking out a “favorite” is nearly impossible. Each story is so different and each shines like a gem in its own right.

JA: Can you recall a specific moment when someone’s words changed your life?
MC: One of those moments is the reason this book exists. As a child from a dysfunctional home situation, I had no self-esteem and no self-confidence. On a class field trip one day, a classmate’s mom said, “You have the most beautiful green eyes I’ve ever seen.” To her they were ten simple little words, but to a child who needed to hear there was something of beauty about her, they were life changing.

JP: My life is filled with many such moments. I think about recently when I was feeling frustrated over the enormous task of working full-time and writing books “on the side.” My sweet wife, Sue, just said, “You’re going to make it.” That helped me see past the deadlines and the unwritten words to the point when I can put aside the current Hot Project – and move on to the next one!

JA: What do you hope people will take away with them when they finish reading Simple Little Words?
MC: That our words are powerful tools that can be used to wound and defeat or to inspire and encourage. And those words are often remembered for a lifetime. What simple little words do you need to say to someone who needs to hear them?

JP: I hope our readers will be swept away by the variety and strength of each story. I want them to forget the day-to-day hassles for a few moments and reflect upon how quickly life passes. That being the case, why do we so often make cutting remarks when we could offer a splash of praise instead? I sincerely believe that each of us can do better at encouraging others – and that the tips provided in Simple Little Words will help make that happen.

JA: What’s next for each of you in the writing arena?
MC: I just finished a 360-page cookbook as a gift to welcome my son’s new bride to our family. I’ll continue writing for Focus on the Family Magazine, and John and I will soon begin working on a study guide/workbook for a large evangelistic ministry. I have several projects under consideration at various publishing houses.

JP: I’m working on four books in The Trio Plus series from Thomas Nelson. The first two novels in this YA series for teen girls are Uncover Me and Surviving Me. They release in August 2008. The Trio Plus books are co-written by Susie Shellenberger, Editor of Focus on the Family’s Brio magazine.

JA: When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your time?
MC: I love being with my family. Paul and I have three mischievous—and awesome—sons ranging in age from 23 to 31. They are responsible for all my gray hairs and nervous twitches—and they are the joy of my life. Our youngest son is getting married in May so we are busy with wedding preparations. My husband and I work with the singles at our church and we love our 70+ “adapted” kids. From the time I was a little girl, reading has been my favorite hobby. Is anything any better than the crisp pages of a new book? I even read junk mail! Go figure.

JP: I love being with my family. My wife, Sue, and I are blessed with seven wonderful children ranging in age from 2 to 18. We enjoy singing, hiking, reading, walking, talking, playing games, and generally goofing around together. And Michelle and I enjoy getting out the word out about Simple Little Words in our spare time as well!

JA: Other than each other, who are some of your favorite authors?
MC: John’s young adult books in The Renegade Spirit series (with Jerry B. Jenkins) brought out the big kid in me. I love anything by Francine Rivers and Karen Kingbsury. And I’m at the store waiting when a new Brandilyn Collins, Dee Henderson, or Steven James suspense novel releases. I have tons of wonderful author friends and I enjoy all of their books.

JP: Michelle’s book, Mothers Who Made a Difference, is both beautiful and touching. I know your readers will enjoy it. I also find read biographies and recently finished the fascinating volume Steve & Me by Terri Irwin. I love reading George MacDonald and Henry Van Dyke. (Everything they wrote.) I consider Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind an all-time favorite. Jane Stanton Hitchcock’s Social Crimes and Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence are riveting novels of manners and morals. Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy is a classic that my older children also find deeply moving.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
JP: We would love to have friends visit us at There they’ll find a wealth of fun, and yes – simple ways to make life a bit easier. We have simple little recipes, simple little cleaning tips, simple little writing hints, etc. You get the idea. I’d also enjoy having visitors on, my “official” author website.

MC: After you visit and, click on over and visit me at

Thank you, Michelle and John, and continued blessings to both of you in your writing journeys!


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Simple Little Words: What You Say Can Change a Life just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll combine the responses of my Blogger and ShoutLife blogs to pick a winner at random on April 8th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) ShoutLifers will be contacted via ShoutMail. Good luck!