Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lucie, Can You Hear Me?

Hey Lucie, you're the winner of Suspicious Minds by Christy Barritt! I sent you and email but haven't heard from you. I think it's because AOL doesn't like Hotmail addresses :+{

Please email me at jallee725[at]hotmail[dot]com with your mailing address so the book can find its way to you!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

CFBA Presents - RUBY AMONG US by Tina Ann Forkner

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Ruby Among Us
WaterBrook Press (May 20, 2008)
Tina Ann Forkner


Tina Ann Forkner writes contemporary fiction that challenges and inspires. Originally from Oklahoma, she graduated with honors in English from CSU Sacramento before ultimately settling in the wide-open spaces of Wyoming where she now resides with her husband and their three children. Tina serves on the Laramie County Library Foundation Board of Directors and enjoys gardening, spending time outdoors with her family, and works as a full-time writer.


Sometimes, the key that unlocks your future lies in someone else’s past...

In Ruby Among Us, Lucy DiCamillo is safely surrounded by her books, music, and art─but none of these reclusive comforts or even the protective efforts of her grandmother, Kitty can shield her from the memory of the mother she can no longer remember. Lucy senses her grandmother holds the key, but Kitty seems as eager to hide from the past as Lucy is eager to find it.

From the streets of San Francisco and Sacramento, to the lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley, Lucy follows the thread of memory in search for a heritage that seems long-buried with her mother, Ruby.

What she finds is enigmatic and stirring in this redemptive tale about the power of faith and mother-daughter love.

“What an incredible story. As both mothers and daughters, Ruby Among Us struck a special cord in each of the four of us. Tina writes in a way that makes us feel like we’re there; from the first line, we were captivated and drawn into an intricate weaving of the precious and fragile relationships that define us.”
~Point of Grace~

“Reading is a passion of mine, and when I find myself identifying with the characters, anxious to get to the next page to find answers to my questions, I know I’m into a good book! The daughter-mother-grandmother theme in Ruby Among Us pulled me in. Wonderful story-telling.”
~Jordin Sparks~, 2007 winner of American Idol

“Highly recommended. If you’re a mother or daughter, you’re going to love Ruby Among Us. Forkner does an extraordinary job…. I look forward to more from this author.”
~Ane Mulligan~, Novel Journey

“Don’t miss this one! Tina Ann Forkner is a strong new voice in fiction and Ruby Among Us is an amazing story of trials, regrets, and, ultimately, redemption. Lucy and her family history in the historic wine country of Sonoma bring to life the Scriptures about the Vine and His branches.”
~Kristin Billerbeck~, author of The Trophy Wives Club

If you would like to read the first chapter go HERE


Every family has secrets. For Lucy DiCamillo, who lost all memory of her early childhood at the time of her mother's tragic death, it seems that every day uncovers something knew to deal with.

In Ruby Among Us Tina Ann Forkner weaves together memorable characters and a unique setting to create a standout debut novel. She explores the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters with honesty, and shows how the secrets we keep inside can eat us alive. This novel is a mixture of heartbreak, reconciliation and joy. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it, and look forward to the next offering from this talented new author.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Meet Cynthia Hickey - Interview & Book Giveaway

Cynthia HickeyI was at the ACFW lunch when Cynthia Hickey received her contract from Barbour, so it’s a real thrill for me to have her on the blog. Her new book is Fudge-Laced Felonies, part of the Heartsong Presents Mysteries line. Let’s meet Cynthia!


Cynthia Hickey lives in Surprise, Arizona with her husband, two of their seven children, two dogs, two cats, and a fish. They're a large blended family. Cynthia has one birth child, three step-children, three adopted children, and five grandchildren. She is also the Detention Monitor at the local elementary school. Life is busy, but there's always time to write.

She received her contract for Fudge-Laced Felonies during the American Christian Fiction Writer's Association's Friday lunch. In front of five hundred people. Instead of realizing the editor was talking about her, she glanced around the large room wondering who else had been an army brat and foster parent for nine years. Yep, it still hasn't completely sunk in.


JA: Your latest book is Fudge-Laced Felonies from Heartsong Presents Mysteries. Please tell us about it.
CH: Summer Meadows wants people to think of her more than the spoiled, almost thirty year old who lives with her aunt and uncle. She wants to accomplish something in her life, and catch the eye of her long-time crush, Ethan Banning. When she finds diamonds buried beneath her hopeful prize-winning rose bush, she sets out to solve the mystery, endangering her life in the process.

JA: In the course of solving the mystery, heroine Summer Meadows, must face her true feelings for handsome Sunday school teacher Ethan Banning. At the same time, Ethan is trying to hide his feelings for Summer. How much fun was it creating the tension between these two?
CH: Creating the tension between the two was great fun! Summer is, by nature, a selfish person. But she’s also witty, caring, and a complete ditz. When she thinks Ethan has his eye on the town vamp, she goes to extremes to attract his attention. There’s a lot of humor in her attempts to make him notice her.

JA: Summer’s aunt is a candy maker. Did you get to do any fun candy-related research for this book?
CH: Actually, Summer is the candy maker and her aunt works for her. I use to own a handmade chocolate store so research was done years ago. Besides writing, candy-making is the best job in the world!

Cynthia Hickey CoverJA: What do you hope people take away after reading Fudge-Laced Felonies?
CH: That we are all created unique. With faults and all. God loves us without the need for us to succumb to something other than what we are. Summer struggles with letting go and letting God. Something most of us need to work on. At least I do.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
CH: I’ve completed and submitted to my publisher books two and three in the Summer Meadows series: Candy-Coated Secrets and Chocolate-Covered Crime. I am now working on another cozy series set in the fictional town of Timbuktu, Arkansas.

JA: You grew up in a family of story tellers. How did that impact your life?
CH: The stories I grew up with where mostly true stories of family history. These stories raised many questions of “What if”. An older cousin was also the master at scary stories. Our imagination would take off to where we were afraid of a square of moonlight shining through the trees. I’ve made up stories since I was a child. It seemed natural to move to writing.

JA: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
CH: This is always a hard question. But, I guess it would be that beneath this blunt exterior, is a big heart. I always tell people, don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer. I also have a strange sense of humor.

JA: Have you read any books lately that thrilled you to your toes?
CH: Embrace Me by Lisa Samson. This story of wounded and disfigured carnival people rocked me to my toes. Definitely! What a true story of God’s love. I’m also really enjoying the other HeartsongPresents/Mysteries by Barbour. A lot of fun.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
CH: My visiting my blog or website, or

Thanks so much for visiting the blog, Cynthia. May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Fudge-Laced Felonies 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 June 2nd. 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, May 23, 2008

Meet Darlene Franklin - Interview & Book Giveaway

Darlene FranklinIt’s my pleasure to present Darlene Franklin, author of Gunfight at Grace Gulch, part of the Heartsong Presents: Mysteries line from Barbour. Let’s meet Darlene!


Darlene Franklin lives in the Denver area with her mother and her lynx point Siamese cat Talia. She has sold four novels as well as a novella and has contributed to numerous magazines, anthologies, and devotionals. She has also written curriculum for children’s Sunday school. She is a frequent guest speaker at local writers groups.


JA: Your latest book is Gunfight at Grace Gulch from Heartsong Presents Mysteries. Please tell us about it.
DF: Gunfight at Grace Gulch is the first book in the Dressed for Death series. Cici Wilde grew up in a small ranching community and is expected to marry the boy next door. Instead, she bucks tradition, opens a vintage clothing store, and is dating the new guy in town, theater director Audie Howe.

Audie directs a reenactment of a famous gunfight from Grace Gulch history. With the whole town watching, one of the actors is shot dead. Suspicion falls on Cici’s old boyfriend and her sister; she decides to investigate.

JA: Your heroine, Cici Wilde, owns a vintage clothing store. Do you share her interest in vintage items?
DF: You know, I probably would if I could find clothes to fit. The right outfit, from hat and hairdo to footwear, says a lot about setting and personality. But the main reason my heroine owns a vintage clothing store is that it sounded like a fun, quirky occupation that could lead to some interesting mysteries.

JA: The Graces and the Gaynors have been feuding for more than a century. How did you dream up these families?
Gunfight at Grace Gulch DF: The historical inspiration for Gunfight at Grace Gulch—the multiple Oklahoma land runs—triggered a lot of bitter feuds. Three times as many participated in the runs as there was land available; some people chose to cheat by getting to their land “sooner” than anyone else. That is, they camped out on the land instead of making the run on the appointed day. As you can imagine, that led to bitter accusations and years of claims tied up in court. I’m sure that in real life, more than one gunfight erupted over disputes.

Having said that, the Graces and the Gaynors are purely fictional. I took the facts I knew and asked the essential writer question, “what if?”

JA: What do you hope people take away after reading Gunfight at Grace Gulch?
DF: Mostly, I hope they enjoy their stay in Grace Gulch as much as I do. If they struggle with self-image like Cici does, I also hope that they can accept the beauty of God’s creation in them. We are each unique, and called to different areas of service.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
DF: I am finishing the second book in the Dressed for Death series, A String of Murders (scheduled for a late December release from Heartsong Presents: Mysteries), and also hope to write a third book, Paint Me a Puzzle. This fall, I will have a novella in the Snowbound Colorado Christmas anthology and several devotions in Barbour’s line of 365 Daily Whispers of Wisdom. Beyond that, I hope to continue exploring America’s west, whether through mysteries or historical novels.

JA: Is writing something you always wanted to do, or did you discover your passion after trying a lot of other things?
DF: I studied church music in college, and Christian education in seminary, and both continue to be a big part of my life. I took up writing after a painful divorce, and discovered a new passion.

JA: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
DF: I don’t know, I’m pretty boring and predictable! Perhaps my description of myself as “humor challenged.” Laughter, including the ability to laugh at myself, is something I discovered rather late in life.

JA: Who are some writers that inspire you?
DF: Inspire. Now, that’s a good question. I would love to match Dick Francis’ characters, James Lee Burke’s ability to capture setting, or Faye Kellerman’s ability to weave faith into taut mysteries. I particularly enjoy reading Philip Yancey, Mark Buchanan, and Liz Curtis Higgs. John Grisham and J.R.R. Tolkien changed the way I look at the world.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
DF: Check out my website,, or my blog,

It was great having you on the blog, Darlene. May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


When a staged gunfight goes terribly wrong, the citizens of Grace Gulch have a real life murder mystery on their hands. In Gunfight at Grace Gulch, author Darlene Franklin introduces us to a unique bunch of characters. The ongoing fued between the Graces and the Gaynors adds to the suspense and the fun. By weaving letters written by Robert Grace in the late 1800s into the contemporary setting, Franklin offers a glimpse into the past… one that continues to affect the present. Fans of cozy mysteries will enjoy this frontier story with a twist.


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Gunfight at Grace Gulch 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 May 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!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

CFBA Presents - BROKEN ANGEL by Sigmund Brouwer

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Broken Angel
WaterBrook Press (May 20, 2008)
Sigmund Brouwer


Sigmund Brouwer is the author of eighteen best-selling novels for children and adults. His newest book is Fuse of Armageddon and his novel The Last Disciple was featured in Time magazine and on ABC’s Good Morning America. A champion of literacy, he teaches writing workshops for students in schools from the Arctic Circle to inner city Los Angeles. Sigmund is married to Christian recording artist Cindy Morgan, and they and their two daughters divide their time between homes in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada and Nashville, Tennessee.


Her birth was shrouded in mystery and tragedy.
Her destiny is beyond comprehension.
Her pursuers long to see her broken.
She fights to soar.

A father's love for his daughter…a decision that would change both their lives forever. But who is she really─and why must she now run for her life?

Caitlyn's body has made her an outcast, a freak, and the target of vicious bounty hunters. As she begins a perilous journey, she is forced to seek answers for her father's betrayal in the only things she can carry with her─a letter he passes her before forcing her to run, and their shared memories together.

Being hunted forces Caitlyn to partner with two equally lonely companions, one longing to escape the horror of factory life in Appalachia and the others, an unexpected fugitive. Together the three will fight to reach a mysterious group that might be friend or foe, where Caitlyn hopes to uncover the secrets of her past...and the destiny she must fulfill.

In the rough, shadowy hills of Appalachia, a nation carved from the United States following years of government infighting, Caitlyn and her companions are the prey in a terrifying hunt. They must outwit the relentless bounty hunters, skirt an oppressive, ever-watchful society, and find passage over the walls of Appalachia to reveal the dark secrets behind Caitlyn’s existence–and understand her father’s betrayal.

Prepare yourself to experience a chilling America of the very near future, as you discover the unforgettable secret of the Broken Angel.

In this engrossing, lightning-paced story with a post-apocalyptic edge, best-selling author Sigmund Brouwer weaves a heroic, harrowing journey through the path of a treacherous culture only one or two steps removed from our own.

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE.


Before I offer my review, here are a few things you need to know about me: I'm a big fan of sci-fi, futuristic stuff, and action/suspense. It's important to keep this in mind when I say how much I enjoyed Broken Angel.

Brouwer has created a vision of the not-so-distant future that while at first might seem a little far out, leaves you thinking.... hmmm... what if... The story begins with Caitlyn and her father fleeing bounty hunters. At this point, we don't know exactly why they're being hunted. In fact, the further on you read, the more questions pop up. Brower writes as though we know what's going on and don't need to have it explained. The result is a slow revelation that makes this book compulsively readable.

If you are squeamish, be warned: there are some fairly graphic torture scenes of Jack Bauer intensity. But there are some lovely moments, too. The scenes between Caitlyn, Theo and Billy are touching. And the implication of the church as a political force, devoid of grace, is particularly powerful and timely. My one beef is that the end of the book seemed to come too quickly and I was left with at least two unanswered questions. Maybe I just missed something, or maybe the author wanted to leave the reader with something to ponder. In any case, I greatly enjoyed this unique book. If you enjoy futuristic action and don't faint at the sight of blood, you'll want to pick up this book!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

David Won!

David CookDavid Cook, that is!

Yep, I watched the American Idol finale... all two hours of it. Could have done without the plug for "The Love Guru" but other than that, it was pretty enjoyable. In case you missed it, here were my favorite moments:

  • Seal singing with Syesha - No, not "a seal" but the singer Seal. Yowza, that man got's an awesome voice. Heidi Klum, you are one lucky woman!
  • David Cook singing with ZZ Top - This is what I love about David C. He can sing anything: rock songs, ballads, show tunes, even eighties standards. The only thing missing was the twirling guitars (guess they can only do that in videos)
  • Gladys Knight and the Pips - in this case, the Pips were Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. Black and his amazing trained eyebrows stole the show, as usual.
  • Simon Cowell admitting that he got it wrong - Last night, Cowell crowed that David A. won with a "knockout." But after watching it back, he realized he made a mistake. Oops. It was quite nice of him to admit it, though.
  • Not having to see David A. quiver and pass out - That was my big fear if the younger finalist won... that he would finally have a complete emotional breakdown right there on the stage. I'm so glad we were all spared that. And now David A. will go on to great success (remember, Clay Aiken came in second, and that worked out okay for him).

So congrats to David Cook. Not only is he an incredible performer, he seems like a truly nice guy. And I'm so thrilled that the person I've wanted to win from the beginning actually did! (This is especially satisfying because I don't vote... never have, never will. But I send really good thoughts out into the ozone.) So that's it for American Idol until January. Now, on to So You Think You Can Dance!

Meet Sherri Sand - Interview & Book Giveaway

Sherri SandIt’s my pleasure to introduce Sherri Sand, author of the debut novel Leave it to Chance. Let’s meet Sherri!


Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you’ll find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (and surrounded by chocolate). Then to elude that calorie consumption you might see her running on the trails throughout Eugene, a city considered to be the running capital of the world. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude.


JA: Your debut novel is Leave it to Chance. What’s it about?
SS: Single mom of three, Sierra Montgomery is desperate to find a new job to keep from having to move back home and be smothered to death by her mother’s good intentions and overbearing love. So when Sierra inherits Chance, a quirky old gelding she doesn’t have a clue what to do with, she thinks her best bet may be to sell the horse to cover another month’s rent—a decision that devastates her children.

SS - Leave it to ChanceEnter Ross Morgan, a handsome landscaper who just happens to have an empty barn and fenced pasture… perfect for an old horse to live out his days as the pet of three wounded kids. Ross develops a soft spot for eldest child Braden…and he just might have one for Braden’s mother. But what he doesn’t have is time for distractions—he’s got a landscaping business to run and nursery plants to tend.

But Sierra has a secret. She’s terrified of horses and—thanks to her past—wary of attractive men. Yet seeing the way her angry son idolizes Ross and adores that old horse forces Sierra to confront her fears. Will she remain distrustful and self-reliant, or will she seek help from God and those who love her?

JA: Chance is quite a unique animal. Did his character evolve as you wrote the book, or did you know how he’d be from the first word?
SS: Some of his antics surprised me, but he fits so beautifully into the story.

JA: Sierra Montgomery is a struggling single mom with horse and man issues. What’s your favorite thing about her?
SS: Her love for her children, even when she’s completely exasperated, her heart aches to be a good mom.

JA: What do you hope people take away after reading Leave it to Chance?
SS: The sense that we don’t have to do it on our own. That God truly wants our best and won’t leave us to flounder.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
SS: I’m working on a collaboration series with another writer. I just met with her and our agent a few weeks ago to do some brain storming and character development. It’s going to be a fun series to write.

JA: You have a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon. Do you find this insight into the human psyche gives you an edge when you’re creating characters?
SS: I think I’ve always been an observer of people and studying psychology helped me understand some of the why’s behind what people do. I think that’s one of the fun things about writing is to back a character into a tough corner and see how they respond. Sometimes they surprise you.

JA: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
SS: Hmmm . . . that I love fast cars. I grew up in a small town where muscle cars and the boys that drove them were at the center of most everything that was happening (and not all of it good). My mom would have had heart failure when I was fifteen if she’d known that I was a passenger in Barracuda traveling just over 100mph. Hopefully my daughter will have better sense than I did.

JA: Are there any books you just can’t wait to get your hands on?
SS: Anything by Siri Mitchell, Susan Meissner or Kristen Heitzmann.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
SS: I’ll keep updates on my website as well as send out quarterly newsletters.

Thanks for being a guest on the blog, Sherri. May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


I admit it, I’m one of those horse crazy girls who never really grew out of it. So when I found out that Sherri Sand’s new book contained romance AND a horse, I was hooked.

Leave it to Chance is a sincere story of a single mom struggling to keep her children’s world from falling apart. Financial problems abound, and even though Sierra believes that God exists, she’s convinced He’s got bigger things to worry about than her. This feeling is only reinforced when all her efforts to move her family forward seem to fail.

Sand has written a lovely first novel. She really nails the mother/child dynamic here, not only with Sierra and her children, but with Sierra and her own mother. Unique secondary characters and a hunky hero with issues of his own round out the novel and make it a truly wonderful reading experience. I highly recommend this book, and look forward to future offerings from this talented new author.


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Leave it to Chance 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 May 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!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

CFBA Presents - EMBRACE ME by Lisa Samson

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Embrace Me
(Thomas Nelson March 4, 2008)
Lisa Samson


Lisa Samson is a Christy Award-winning author of 19 books, including the Women of the Faith Novel of the Year, Quaker Summer. Lisa has been hailed by Publishers Weekly as "a talented novelist who isn't afraid to take risks."

In Embrace Me, the latest novel by acclaimed author Lisa Samson, readers are privy to the realization that regardless of outward appearances…hideous, attractive, or even ordinary…persons are all looking for the same things: love, forgiveness, and redemption.

This story explores a world that is neither comfortable nor safe, a world that people like Valentine know all too well. Masterfully crafted by Samson and populated by her most compelling cast of characters yet, it is a tale of forgiveness that extends into all spheres of life: forgiving others, forgiving oneself, forgiving the past.

She lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and three kids.


Biting and gentle, hard-edged and hopeful...a beautiful fable of love and power, hiding and seeking, woundedness and redemption.

When a "lizard woman," a self-mutilating preacher, a tattooed monk, and a sleazy lobbyist find themselves in the same North Carolina town one winter, their lives are edging precariously close to disaster...and improbably close to grace.

Valentine, due to her own drastic disfigurement, has very few friends in this world and, it appears as if she may be destined to spend the rest of her life practically alone. But life gives her one good friend, Lella, whose own handicap puts her in the same freakish category as Valentine. As part of Roland's Wayfaring Marvel and Oddities Show, a traveling band of misfits, they seem to have found their niches in an often curiously cruel world.

Residing in a world where masks are mandatory, Valentine has a hard time removing hers, because of her disfigured face but more so because of her damaged soul. It is much easier for her to listen endlessly to different versions of a favorite song, Embraceable You, and escape reality. Yet, life has more in store for her when she meets Augustine, replete with tattoos, dreadlocks, and his own secrets. With his arrival, Valentine's soul takes a turn.

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE


In her haunting novel, Embrace Me, Lisa Samson presents a cast of unforgettable characters in a stirring metaphor of Christ's body, the Church.

In Chapter One we meet Drew, former power-pastor and TV personality, and current self-mutilator. In Chapter Two, we meet Valentine, the disfigured young woman who becomes the "Lizard Woman" in Roland's Wayfaring Marvels and Oddities sideshow. The story continues, alternating between Drew and Valentine, until their paths finally cross in the most unexpected way.

The irony of our looks-conscious society is that some of the most "beautiful" people have downright ugly souls, and vice versa. Here, Samson examines the things that motivate us, our standards for success, and the pure, cleansing love of the Father. This book is more literary in tone and may make some uncomfortable with its unapologetic look at the church, warts and all. But in the end, you'll be left with a feeling of hope and a renewed sense of the redemption found in God's love.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Meet Jenny B. Jones - Interview & Book Giveaway

Jenny B JonesI’m so pleased to welcome author Jenny B. Jones. Her latest book, The Big Picture: A Katie Parker Production, Act 3, is the third and final book in the Katie Parker Production series. Let’s meet Jenny!


Jenny B. Jones is the author of the Katie Parker Production series. When she’s not writing about the drama of teen life, she’s living it as a high school speech teacher in Arkansas. Since the author has very little free time, she believes in spending her spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits such as watching E!, going to the movies and inhaling large buckets of popcorn, catching Will Ferrell on YouTube, and writing her name in the dust on her furniture. Check her out at


JA: Your latest book is The Big Picture. Please tell us about it.
JBJ: Katie Parker's life teeters on a fine line between comedy and tragedy. Bobbie Ann Parker, released from prison, wants to start a new life with her daughter—in a new town. Katie is forced to walk away from In Between, leaving the family she loves, an endangered town drive-in, and a boyfriend who suddenly can't take his eyes off his ex. As life with her mom takes a serious nosedive, Katie must rely on her faith to keep it together. Yet God seems to be nowhere around. Can she trust him to see her through, and will her big picture ever include a happily ever after?

JA: Katie Parker has gone through quite a lot since we first met her in In Between. What’s your favorite thing about Katie?
JBJ: I like how much freedom I have with Katie. She’s very flawed and sarcastic, but beneath it all she is someone who wants “right” in her life. I’ve enjoyed writing about a teen who has not had a great start and has been shaped by that, but still overcomes it. As a teacher, I see this all the time—kids who are a product of their upbringing and a part of this generational cycle.

JA: The Big Picture is the last of the Katie Parker Production books. Was it hard to say goodbye to the series?
JBJ: Oh, yeah, definitely. They’ve really become a part of my life the last few years. In Between was my first book, so this entire series will always be profoundly near and dear to me. And the character of Mad Maxine, the psycho foster grandma, was possibly the hardest to leave behind. Writing doesn’t come easily to me, but her scenes were so crazy that they almost wrote themselves. If I could write Maxine into every book I ever publish, I would. This is a character who has license to say or do anything, so I loved working with that and never worrying about making her politically correct or even Biblically correct.

JBJ - The Big PictureJA: What do you hope people take away after reading The Big Picture?
JBJ: I think the book brings home a few points. First of all, life doesn’t make sense. Period. Life is unfair and it’s hard. And though we don’t always get all the answers, God offers hope, no matter the outcome. This book was about a new and struggling Christian learning to lean on God at a time when things were all around horrible. I think the book is also about family—true family. We have so many definitions of family these days, but it’s the ones who love you and invest in you, maybe not necessarily the ones you are genetically tied to.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
JBJ: A Pulitzer? Just kidding. Next is the Charmed Life series, which will debut with So Not Happening in 2009. It’s totally different from the Katie books, but still will include humor, sass, and teen issues. This series revolves around Bella, a 17 year old socialite from NYC. Her life radically changes when her plastic surgeon dad dumps her mom for a newer version, and Mom remarries…a professional wrestler from Oklahoma. I’m writing book two as we speak and really excited about the series. And any time you can work in male characters who wear spandex, it’s a good time.

JA: As a teacher, you’re around lots of teens for great periods of time. Do any of your students manage to find their way into your books?
JBJ: Definitely. Katie Parker was based on two students I had. One was a kid who was tossed around from family member to family member and just had a horrible, miserable life. She was a rough girl. When a friend’s aunt adopted her, this girl had her first taste of a real home. She had someone to cook for her, care for her, go to parent teacher conferences. My student changed into a completely different person. The other student I had in my drama class. I taught in a small school, and we started a drama program. This girl was not the smartest, not an athlete, not a musician. But when she got into drama, she just found her place and became top dog at something. So both of those girls can be found in Katie Parker.

Also my students now ask me to put their names in the book, and though I usually blow them off and roll my eyes…I totally do it.

JA: I was perusing your website and read that your “previous claim to fame was singing the Star Spangled Banner at a mule-jumping championship.” Okay, you’ve got me really curious. Please share.
JBJ: Ugh. The mule jump. Pea Ridge, AR is my hometown, and it’s also THE mule-mumping capitol of the world. (I know, you’re jealous, right?) So in high school a small group of us had to sing at the thing. It was not pretty. But it is a really great place to get a fried Twinkie.

JA: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
JBJ: Wow, I don’t know. With blogging these days, I feel like it’s pretty much all out there. Maybe that every time I get on a plane I’m convinced my life is over, my favorite job as a teen was assembling paint ball guns, I couldn’t touch the gas pedal in my first “real” car, and I’ve had fourth row seats at the Dave Letterman Show.

JA: Who are the authors that make your toes tingle?
JBJ: Jennifer AlLee. Have you heard of her?

I think for nonfiction it doesn’t get any better than Rick Bragg and Haven Kimmel. For fiction I like Meg Cabot, Stephanie Meyer, Janet Evanovich, Richard Peck, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. With the exception of Bragg, if it’s funny and fast paced, I want to read it.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
JBJ: Definitely stop by my new website at My blog is front and center, and that’s where all the action is.

Thanks so much for letting me stop by!

Thanks for stopping by the blog, Jenny. May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


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.


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of The Big Picture 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 May 26th. 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, May 16, 2008

Virginia Smith Interview -Win SINCERELY, MAYLA

Ginny Smith PhotoI’m so pleased to welcome back the warm and wonderful Ginny Smith. Her current novel is Sincerely, Mayla, the follow-up to Just As I Am. Let’s chat with Ginny!


Virginia Smith is a writer of humorous novels, a speaker, a snow skier, a motorcycle enthusiast, and an avid scuba diver. Since leaving her twenty-year profession as a corporate director, she has written numerous books, including her debut, Just As I Am (Kregel Publications, March 2006) and Stuck in the Middle (Revell, February 2008). An energetic speaker, she loves to exemplify God's truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, “Biblical Truth in Star Trek.”


JA: Your latest book is Sincerely, Mayla. Tell us about it.
VS: The quirky young woman who enjoyed a starring role in my debut novel, Just As I Am, again takes center stage in Sincerely, Mayla. This time she has set her cap for Pastor Paul—if only he would give in and accept the inevitable. When he stubbornly resists her charms, she goes off to sulk at her grandmother’s. Soon the house fills up with strays: a sullen teenage runaway and an angry ex-friend. As Grandmother serves up huge portions of guilt along with her famous fried chicken, Mayla realizes being a control freak is an inherited trait.

I just love Mayla. She is such a unique character, and she’s so much fun to spend time with. Apparently a lot of people agreed with me, because I can’t tell you how many people wrote demanding to know “What happens to Mayla next?” And especially, “What happens between Mayla and Pastor Paul?” Well, now everyone can find out!

JA: Mayla dances to her own beat, but she has a really good heart. What’s your favorite thing about her?
VS: I love her relationship with the Lord. Because she didn’t grow up in a church, she had no pre-conceived ideas about what her relationship with God was supposed to look like. So she doesn’t wrap her prayers in fancy language or “official” requests. She talks to God like He’s her constant companion – which He is.

JA: Mayla struggles with control issues, which really spoke to me. What advice would you give someone facing the same struggle?
VS: I struggle with control issues, too, so I know where you’re coming from. I had to discover what Mayla eventually realizes, that refusing to put God in control is, in essence, telling Him you don’t trust Him to work things out the way you want Him to. Once I realized that, it was easy to turn over the tough issues to Him. Okay, maybe it still isn’t easy, but it’s getting easier!

Ginny Smith - Sincerely MaylaJA: What do you hope people take away after reading Sincerely, Mayla?
VS: I hope people enjoy spending time with Mayla. I want them to laugh and maybe even shed a tear or two before the book ends. I strongly believe that fiction should entertain, not preach, so I hope all of my books are primarily entertaining. But because I am a Christian, and because Mayla is a Christian, elements of God’s grace show up naturally in the story. So if someone wants to learn a thing or two, they can. But mostly, I just hope they like the story!

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
VS: I write in two genres – contemporary and mystery/suspense. In the mystery area, I’ve got a series coming out soon about a classical music trio who play at weddings. Everywhere these girls go, somebody dies and they get sucked into the situation. The series tagline is “When Murder Comes to Town.” The first, A Taste of Murder, comes out in October. Then Murder at Eagle Summit is April 2009 and Scent of Murder will be released in June 2009. I’m working on Scent of Murder now.

I am really excited about my new Sister-to-Sister Series. The idea for this series came straight from my own life – my relationship with my sisters. They are amazing women, fun and energetic and creative and lively. I wanted to write a story that relays the depth of our feelings for each other, and that lets readers get a peek of just how much fun we have together Book one, Stuck in the Middle, came out in February, and the second book, Age before Beauty, comes out February 2009. That book is finished, and I’m working on the third, Last but Not Least.

JA: Congratulations on being named Writer of the Year at the 2008 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference! How did it feel when they called your name?
VS: Thank you! That was one of the most amazing moments of my life. When the conference director started reading my bio, I recognized the first line. I was sitting beside my agent, Wendy Lawton, and I grabbed her hand and squeezed. My heart started pounding so loud I didn’t hear another word until he announced my name. Then people all around me were standing up and applauding, and Wendy had to shove me out of my seat telling me to, “Go! Go!” When I stood up on that stage, I just kept thinking, “Lord, you are amazing. Thank you for this special gift.” And that’s exactly what it is – a gift from God. I’ll cherish that memory always.

JA: You went from being a corporate director to becoming a full-time author. What inspired you to take the plunge?
VS: My husband and I had a long distance marriage for the last 4 years of my corporate career. My career specialty took me first to a company in Florida, and then I was hired away by a company in Kentucky. But my husband worked for the state of Utah, so we lived in two houses. When I sold my first novel, he said, “Okay, it’s time to stop this. Are you ready to be become a full time writer?” Was I ready? You bet! I jumped at the opportunity. I know I’m really blessed to have a husband who is so supportive of my writing – and I’m glad he actually wants to live in the same house with me full time!

JA: What’s the last book you read that made you tingle down to your toes?
VS: Just yesterday I finished reading a book that won’t be available until September. I got a galley so I could consider writing an endorsement. Sharon K. Souza’s Lying on Sunday is an absolutely amazing book. It’s about a woman who discovers that her husband has died in another woman’s bed, and then is served with divorce papers less than an hour later. It was one of those books you can’t put down. I got so involved in the main character’s life, her relationships with her children and her parents and her best friend, and especially with her husband, I felt like I was living in the story. To me, a book that draws me in so deeply that I forget to notice the author’s writing style (a hazard of being a writer!) is a good book. This one is that kind of book.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
VS: My website address is I invite people to stop by often. I run contests to give away books by me and other writers on the “Fun Stuff” page all the time. I also have a bimonthly eNewsletter that has a little bit of everything – updates about my books, reviews, devotionals, links to cool blogs, and contests. At the end of March I gave away a $500 shopping spree to an eNewsletter subscriber! People can sign up through my website.

It was great to have you visit the blog again, Ginny! May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


“I’ve always said if the Lord had intended His people to live in snow He would have put the garden of Eden in the middle of the North Pole.” So begins Sincerely, Mayla. With these opening words from Mayla Strong I immediately related to her. And even though she’s a bit younger and more impulsive than I am, I stayed with her through the whole book, feeling her struggles, laughing at her joys, rooting her on as she tries to fix things.

Nobody can handle serious subjects quite like Virginia Smith. She deals with several “hot button” topics here, but with such a light touch that it never comes off as preachy. This is just Mayla, living her life, trying to be the person God wants her to be, and hitting a few speed bumps along the way. Smith has written a funny, touching sequel to Just As I Am. If you haven’t read it, you will still enjoy Sincerely, Mayla., but you’ll probably enjoy Mayla’s story a lot more if you know how she started.


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Sincerely, Mayla 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 May 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!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

American Idol - The Battle of the Davids

Let me just say, this has been a really weird season of American Idol. The judges seem totally bored with the whole thing, so much so that they pay more attention to each other than the contestants. And the the singers have been an unusually chatty bunch, explaining why they relate to broken birds and how hard they've all fought in the industry. Yep, we get it, it's hard. But you're up on stage now. It's time to live the dream, not explain why you goofed up that last song!

American Idol - The DavidsI don't mean to be down on the contestants. There was a lot of talent in this bunch. Many of them had previous record deals that never panned out (which is a whole other topic of discussion!) Once it was narrowed down to a final 12, I picked my favorites: David Cook, Jason Castro and Brooke White.

Now you might be thinking, What? Why not David Archuleta? Good question. David A. is a very talented young man. But there's something... off about him. The poor fellow looks like he's about to break down in tears at the end of every song. And his Q and A sessions with Ryan are simply painful to watch. Granted, he's only 17, but I think it's more than immaturity.

So now it's David A. and David Cook in the final two, and I'm SO glad. David C. has impressed me from the beginning, but even more so on Andrew Lloyd Webber night. When he sang "The Music of the Night" as it was meant to be sung, well, I got a bit choked up. It was truly beautiful. The thing about David C. is that I believe he gets the songs he's singing. He connects with the lyrics and finds the meaning in them. He also sounds great and has a really cute smile.

So in the end, it's not a battle of David and Goliath. It's a battle of David and David, two competitors equally matched in their vocal skill. What it will come down to, in my opinion, is their ability to translate emotion through their songs and connect with the people who choose to vote. I wish them both good luck and look forward to the finale next week!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Meet Cecelia Dowdy - Interview & Book Giveaway

Cecilia Dowdy PhotoA big welcome to Cecelia Dowdy, author of John’s Quest part of the Heartsong Presents line from Barbour. Let’s meet Cecilia!


Cecelia Dowdy is a world traveler who has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. When she first read Christian fiction, she felt called to write for the genre.

She loves to read, write, and bake desserts in her spare time. She also loves spending time with her husband and her toddler son. Currently she resides with her family in Maryland. You can visit Cecelia on her websites: and


JA: Your latest book is John’s Quest from Heartsong Presents. What’s it about?
CD: John French, a science professor, is an agnostic--he’s unsure if God exists. When he’s hired to tutor a blind seven-year-old child, Scotty, he finds himself falling for the child’s beautiful aunt/guardian, Monica Crawford. Monica’s life changes drastically when her irresponsible younger sister abandons her handicapped son on her doorstep. As John helps Monica to educate her nephew, he falls in love with her. However, problems arise when Monica, a devout Christian, finds herself drawn to Scotty’s handsome and intelligent tutor. Monica finds herself in a bind because she knows it’s a sin to be unequally yoked with a non-believer. How in the world can these two lovebirds overcome the huge problems that stand in the way of their relationship?

CD - Johns QuestJA: Your hero, John, is agnostic and the heroine, Monica, is Christian. What particular challenges did this relationship present?
CD: His being an agnostic created a very strong challenge with their relationship. Monica is a strong Christian and she knows how the Lord feels about being unequally yoked with a non-believer. Yet, John’s and Monica’s attraction continues to grow, yet they know they can’t be together romantically. It creates an interesting and strong conflict in the novel.

JA: Monica is hired to tutor seven-year-old Scotty, who is blind. What kind of research did you need to do for this aspect of the story?
CD: My husband is totally blind, so I’ve had a lot of experience in dealing with a blind person.

JA: What do you hope people take away when they finish reading John’s Quest?
CD: I hope their faith in God is strengthened when they read my story.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
CD: Currently, I’m on a deadline for my next novel, Milk Money. Here’s the tentative back cover copy for that novel:

Running a dairy farm is a big job, but doing it alone is almost impossible.

When her dad dies, Emily must work hard to save the family farm, but she manages. Until the day the CPA pulls in her drive and announces he’s there to do an audit on the place.

Franklin Reese is appalled at the lack of interest the Cooper women have in the financial end of their livelihood, but he dives in, determined to help them learn. The further he looks into Mr. Cooper’s dealings, however, the more uncomfortable he becomes.

Can he uncover the truth of the situation and still earn the love of the amazing Emily Cooper? Will issues in Franklin’s own life keep them apart, even after the farm is taken care of? Only God can heal hurting hearts and repair broken lives. Will these two let Him in?

JA: You are very well traveled. Of all the places you’ve visited, which is your favorite?
CD: I love any tropical place with a nice beach with clear blue water! Places like Tahiti, parts of Mexico, and the Cayman Islands are my favorites.

JA: What’s your favorite thing to read for pure enjoyment?
CD: Just about any type of Christian fiction. Although, I tend to prefer Christian women’s fiction and Christian romance novels.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
CD: Through my blog and website. I’m always updating both sites with my latest release news! and

Thanks for visiting with us, Cecelia. May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of John’s Quest 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 May 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!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Meet Christy Barritt - Interview & Book Giveaway

Christy BarrittToday I’m pleased to welcome author Christy Barritt. Her latest book, Suspicious Minds, is the second in the Squeaky Clean Mystery series. Let’s meet Christy!


Christy Barritt is a freelance writer, author and speaker. Her newest book, Suspicious Minds (Kregel, 2008) is a lighthearted mystery about a sassy crime-scene cleaner who likes to stick her nose into police business. The first book in the series was Hazardous Duty, a finalist in the ACFW Book of the Year contest. She’s also the co-author of Changed: True Stories of Finding God in Christian Music (Standard, 2005).

Christy enjoys teaching and speaking at various functions, from writers groups to women’s luncheons. She has a passion for sharing the truths and lessons that she’s learned throughout her life. For two years, she was an assistant editor at Standard Publishing. When her father became ill, she moved home to be closer to him. The move propelled her back to her first love—writing—and she hasn’t stopped since.

She’s married to Scott, a teacher and funny man extraordinaire. They have one son, Eli Samuel, and two dogs, Duchess and Benji. When Christy’s not writing, she enjoys having coffee with friends, taking crazy road trips that usually involve no maps and flipping coins, and making her 24-month-old son giggle


JA: Your new book is Suspicious Minds. Please tell us about it.
CB: In Suspicious Minds, crime-scene cleaner Gabby St. Claire takes a mold remediation job to make ends meet. While in the crawlspace of a dilapidated old house, she finds Elvis—dead and still wearing his blue suede shoes! Gabby can’t resist sticking her nose into another investigation. Along the way, she tries to figure out her love life, her spiritual life and the wacky world of Elvis impersonators!

JA: How did you get the idea of incorporating a dead Elvis impersonator into this story?
CB: I’ve been writing for my local newspaper for five years now. One interview I did was with an Elvis impersonator (or, an Elvis Tribute Artist, as I was quickly informed) performing at a senior citizens’ center. I had no idea what to expect before I went. After I finished the interview (and I’ve had easier times getting interviews with senators than I did with this guy after his show), the president of his fan club came running after me as I walked to my car. She presented me with an autographed picture of him. I thought, this man has a fan club? The ideas spun from there.

JA: This is the second outing for heroine Gabby St. Claire. Are there certain challenges to keeping a character fresh and interesting when she’s the center of each book?
CB: Definitely. I have an overall character arc for the series and for each book. Gabby is such an interesting character, so complex in many ways, that it’s simply a matter of choosing which of her issues to deal with in each book! I actually loved writing about the same character—at this point, I know her so well that I instinctively know how she’ll react to a situation or how she thinks. Writing book number two was a lot of fun.

CB - Suspicious MindsJA: What do you hope people take away after reading Suspicious Minds?
CB: First of all, I hope they’re entertained and have a great time reading the book. I also want them to learn a little about themselves by learning about Gabby St. Claire, my protagonist. She struggles with questions of faith and issues of loneliness. I think we can all learn a little about those areas.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
CB: I’m writing the third book in the Squeaky Clean Mystery series. Gabby, of course, has to get into some more trouble! But she also explores her relationships… from friendships, to romance, to God. She has some unresolved issues from her past that she needs to lay to rest. And, of course, she has crime scenes to clean! I have a couple of other projects as some other publishers. We’ll see what happens there!

JA: What inspired you to write become a writer?
CB: I’ve always loved stories and I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a writer. I studied communications at college and worked at a publishing house after graduating. Today, I don’t just write books… I’m also a stringer for my local newspaper and a freelancer for a couple of magazines. I love to tell stories!

JA: Who are some of your favorite authors?
CB: Too many to name them all. But here are some of my favorites: Linda Hall, Siri Mitchell, Terri Blackstock and Mary Connealy.

JA: You’re a worship leader at your church and have written a book about finding God in Christian music. How has music, Christian and otherwise, impacted your life?
CB: Music has always acted as a soundtrack for my life. It ministers to me so deeply. I’m one of those people who constantly sings or hums or whistles. I often find that when I’m going through a tough time, God will place a song on my heart that ministers to me. I may not realize it at the time—I may just be singing absent-mindedly. But all at once I realize how the lyrics apply to what I’m going through.

JA: If you could pack up your family and take off for a fantasy vacation, what would be on the agenda?
CB: I’ve always wanted to go to Venice. On my agenda? Eating lots of good Italian food and riding down those streets of water!

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
CB: Just visit my website at

Thanks for visiting with us, Christy. May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Suspicious MInds 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 May 19th. 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, May 9, 2008

Meet Shelley Adina - Interview & Book Giveaway

Shelley Adina It’s a pleasure to present Shelley Adina, author of It's All About Us: A Novel the first book in the All About Us Series. Let’s meet Shelley!


Award-winning author Shelley Adina wrote her first teen novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages.

Shelley is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She knows the value of a relationship with a gracious God and loving Christian friends and writes books about fun and faith--with a side of glamour. Between books, Shelley loves traveling, playing the piano and Celtic harp, movies, and period costuming.


JA: Your new book is It’s All About Us. Please tell us about it.
SA: People ask me all the time where I get my ideas. Well, for the first book and the series as a whole, I can sum it up in one word: Eavesdropping. One day I overheard some women talking about their daughters’ reading material, which involved a line of books I won’t name but that focus on glitz and glamour. I could tell by their voices how distressed they were about it, yet on the other side of the coin, their girls were reading. We all want kids to be reading, right? So it was a dilemma for these parents. A light went on in my head and I thought, “What if there was a series of books where, given similar choices and circumstances, the characters made different decisions based on their faith (or lack of it)?” Next thing I knew, I was running for my computer!

The twist in this book is that my heroine, Lissa Mansfield, is used to being on the A-list. She’s tall, blonde, beautiful, and has a sky-high limit on her Platinum Visa because her dad’s a movie director. But when she transfers to Spencer Academy, she finds that the stakes are much higher and being popular is not as easy as it used to be. She figures that if she can land Callum McCloud, the hottest boy in school, she’ll be “in” with the popular crowd he runs with. Getting him isn’t the problem, though—keeping him is. She considers being a “technical virgin” to hang onto him while trying to stay true to the promise she made to God about her purity.

JA: Lissa Mansfield has to deal not only with fitting in at her new school, but also pressure from her new boyfriend to go all the way. These are some serious issues young woman face today. Kudos for addressing them in such an accessible way. What kind of response have you had from young readers?
SA: I’ll need to table this one until the book comes out. At press time, there has only been one review, but it was very positive.

JA: It’s All About Us is the first in the All About Us Series. I love the upcoming titles: The Fruit of My Lipstick, Be Strong and Curvaceous… Which comes first for you, the title or the story idea?
SA: Usually, it’s the story idea. In It’s All About Us, the story certainly came first. But then one night I was kicked back with my local Christian writers’ group, which includes Kristin Billerbeck and Camy Tang, and we were batting around title ideas and these chick-lit twists on Bible verses started spitting out. I actually sold the last three books on titles alone—and then had to come up with stories to go with them.

  • Who Made You a Princess?
  • Tidings of Great Boys
  • The Chic Shall Inherit the Earth

Shelley Adina - All About Us JA: What do you hope people take away after reading It’s All About Us?
SA: In each book in the series, the protagonist learns to find within herself a biblical power. It’s never mentioned or spelled out, but it’s always there as part of the underlying theme. In It’s All About Us, Lissa discovers the power of discernment—especially when it comes to boys. In The Fruit of My Lipstick, releasing in August, her roommate Gillian Chang learns the power of honesty—with herself. And in next year’s Be Strong and Curvaceous, their friend Carly Aragon finds out that there’s such a thing as being too nice and going with the flow—that sometimes you need the power of courage. I want girls to know that the powers in the Bible are still alive and well, and you can draw on them in your own life to get you through any experience, and to help you learn and grow.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
SA: I have three books left to go in this series. I’m working on Who Made You a Princess? right now, the theme of which is the power of choice. I mean, what would you do if, in your senior year, you found out your parents had committed you to an arranged marriage … to a prince. Whose personal net worth was over a billion dollars. Hmmmm? Based on a true story. I kid you not.

JA: What inspired you to become a writer?
SA: My DNA [LOL]. I’ve always written and always known I was going to be a writer. When I was 8 I turned in a composition about a ghost in a graveyard and got a rave review from my teacher. I realized then that writing could affect the emotions of people, and I was hooked.

JA: You're a self-confessed pop-culture junkie. As a fellow lover of pop, I’d love to know some of your favorites: TV shows, movies, books…?
SA: Oh my. Once I get started, it’s hard to stop :)

  • TV shows: Supernatural, Bones, Gossip Girl, New Amsterdam, Masterpiece Theatre, Mystery Monday on BBC America.
  • Movies: anything set between 1800 and 1945. The Indiana Jones movies. Star Wars. Anything Joss Whedon or Eric Kripke cook up.
  • Books: My favorites are my friends’ books :) But I also discovered Tosca Lee and now I want to be her when I grow up. Oh, and I have a collection of everything Lucy Maud Montgomery ever wrote. First editions from the early 1900s. Yum.

JA: You’ve traveled a lot. Where haven’t you been yet that you can’t wait to get to?
SA: I think my country count is up to 27 now, but I haven’t been to Australia or New Zealand. I’m trying to tempt my husband with visions of trout fishing in majestic Kiwi fjords. So far he’s resisting, but like a constant dripping on a rainy day, I’m sure I’ll wear him down eventually.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
SA: FaithWords is managing the series website at As soon as the site is fully populated and running, you can get all the latest news there!

It’s been great getting to know you, Shelley. May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of It’s All About Us 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 May 16th. 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, May 7, 2008

Meet Cara Putnam - Interview & Book Giveaway

Cara PutnamToday I’m thrilled to present Cara Putnam, author of Deadly Exposure (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #102) Let’s meet Cara!


Cara describes herself as “an attorney, wife, mom, women's ministry leader, and all around crazy woman. Crazy about God, my husband, and my kids, that is.” In her "spare" time she serves as publicity officer for American Christian Fiction Writers ( and adviser to the Indiana chapter.


JA: Your latest book is Deadly Exposure from Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired Suspense line. Please tell us about it.
CP: I love suspense mixed with a good romance, and that’s what Deadly Exposure is. Here’s the blurb:

How could a killer strike in a crowded theater? That was the question plaguing TV news reporter Dani Richards. She'd been in the box next to the victim -- and hadn't heard or seen a thing. Now the very man who broke Dani's heart years ago is investigating the murder. And when her coverage of the story led the killer to stalk her, police officer and former flame Caleb Jamison insisted on protecting her. Dani was afraid to let Caleb close again. Yet she had no choice. The killer's sinister phone calls left no doubt that he'd come for Dani next.
JA: Your heroine, Dani Richards, is a TV news reporter. Caleb Jamison, the hero, is a police officer. Did you have to do much research to nail down these characters’ professions?
CP: Actually not as much as you’d think. I worked at a small TV station in Nebraska for two years during college, so had an up-close experience with that field. After that I trained aspiring journalists, designed a TV studio, and even served as a panelist on a Gen X Crossfire type show, so kept my fingers firmly in that arena. I’ve always loved broadcast journalism, so it was fun to go back to the field – even if it was only in my mind and write Dani.

For Caleb I did a lot of research on how the Lincoln Police Department is setup, but because of my legal background had a good handle on the investigative side. I also have read several books on the investigative side, so felt pretty comfortable about getting the facts right.

Cara Putnam - Deadly ExposureJA: Was there a certain incident or “ah ha” moment that inspired this story?
CP: Actually, my husband and I were brainstorming in the car. I knew I wanted to start writing and that first book would be a suspense. I picked Lincoln as a setting because I’ve lived in Lincoln and still visit there, so it was an “easy” setting to picture and capture. At the same time, I liked the idea of a feisty journalist for the heroine. And again that was a comfortable role. Then I tried to think about something that would make a unique place for a murder. The rest flowed out of those initial ideas.

JA: What do you hope people take away after reading Deadly Exposure?
CP: That God is a rock and a fortress. Even when we don’t acknowledge Him, He can be that for us if we’ll just turn to Him.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
CP: I’m getting ready to start a new three book World War Two series. I love finding homefront stories that can serve as the backbone of the romances, and can’t wait to dive into the research. I’m also writing a Complete Idiots Guide this summer. Should be a fun twist and return to my legal roots. I’m also working on a couple suspense proposals.

JA: You’ve been writing since you were a teen but put the dream on hold until a fortuitous meeting at book signing event in 2005. This is the kind of story I love to hear! Would you care to tell us about that?
CP: Wow! You’ve done your research LOL. I’ve loved to read since I could pick out words. And out of that grew a desire to write my own books. I tried my hand at it as a teen, and then got busy with life. But the dream would burble back to the surface every few years. I’d hold it in my hands and ask God if it was time to kill it, breathe life into it, or put it back on the shelf. For years, He said wait. So I’d read novels, pick up how to write books at the library, and wait.

Then in April 2005, I went to a booksigning at my local Parables store. I was determined, almost obsessed, with getting to that event – to the point I think my husband wondered what was up. I thought I just wanted to meet Colleen Coble. God knew much more would come out of it. Colleen and I were chatting, when Eric asked her if I’d mentioned I wanted to be a writer. Colleen lit up in her special way, and the next thing I know I have marching orders.

I emailed her a quick thank you, and followed her advice. She truly was the midwife for this book. She encouraged me every step of the way and has become a dear friend in the process.

JA: As well as being a writer, you’re also a lawyer, a wife and a mom. How do you manage it all?
CP: I don’t. :+} I’ve stepped back from the law a bit. I teach business law at Purdue and take on only the cases that interest me right now. I’m trying to pour as many of my daytime hours into my kids as I can…and combining work at the firm and homeschooling had become a challenge. I don’t sleep much, but I know I’m right where God wants me for right now.

JA: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
CP: I am a HUGE college football fan, especially when the Nebraska Cornhuskers are playing. :+} I also come from a very competitive game playing family. The card game of choice: ten point pitch.

JA: Are there any books in your “to-be-read” pile that you just can’t wait to dig into?
CP: Denise Hunter’s Convenient Groom; I’m reading Diann Hunt’s For Better or For Worse, and I can’t wait to read Colleen’s new book Anathema.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
CP: I blog weekdays at I post reviews of great Christian fiction that I’m reading. Update folks on my books and writing life, and even include snapshots at life in general. I also have a website: I routinely update it as well.
Thanks so much for having me, Jennifer.

Thanks for spending time with us today, Cara. May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Deadly Exposure 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 May 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

Monday, May 5, 2008

Meet Author and Artist Betty Anne Bantz

betty Anne BantzIt’s my pleasure to introduce the multi-talented Betty Anne Bantz. Sit down a spell and get to know her!


Elisabeth, better known as Betty Anne, can see God's call on her life, from her earliest interest in art and music, to the scriptures she learned at the family supper table; from her choice of a Christian college, to her first job as a proofreader; from designing Yellow Page ads to her graphic arts job (that included everything she had learned thus far); from her encounter with Christ as a teenager, to her prophetic call later in life. Every newsletter, every article, every song, every novel she writes is built on this foundation set by God. Her most recent song from Psalm 31:15 sums up her trust in God: My Times are in Your Hands. She and her husband have been walking together with Jesus Christ since 1966. They live in Illinois, fifteen miles due south of the St. Louis Arch, surrounded by most of their children and their families.


JA: What inspired you to begin writing Christian fiction?
BAB: The short story is: I saw a need, and God led me to do my part to fill it.

The long story goes back to 1976 when my thirteen-year-old daughter, already an avid reader, brought home a bag of Romance novels a relative had given her. I understood her passion for reading; I had it, too. But I felt uncomfortable letting her read the world’s concept of love, even though I weeded out the worst of them, and it bothered me all summer. These books leave God out of the picture altogether.

I remember wishing that there were Christian Romances available, but there weren’t. Suddenly I received a vision while registering my youngest son in kindergarten, and the story grew in my head until the characters seemed so real, I didn’t know what to do with them. So I asked God, and He said, “Write a Christian Romance.”

From that unusual beginning came my first four books, but I didn’t write them in order since I had no idea I’d be writing a series. I wrote the second book first, the third book next, and the first and fourth I wrote alternately at the same time to bring the series full circle. I love a challenge!

JA: Secrets of the Heart is a four book, generational saga. Please tell us about it.
BAB: The story begins in the near present when Kinzey White, a young columnist, meets a spry 90+ lady who’s led a remarkable life, and decides to write her story in the form of a novel. As book one takes off, she adds sequels, until her own story takes over.

BAB - Family SecretsFamily Secrets, Ruth’s story, begins in 1904 where her parents meet at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Or so she thinks. That’s the first secret, but Ruth has many miles to travel before she finds the answers she seeks.

Next, Ruth’s niece Rachel takes the spotlight in The Secret Cove, when she elopes with her young math teacher to avoid the man her father had chosen for her. The marriage lasts less than a day.

Book 3, Sins of the Fathers, follows the children of Rachel and David Christianson who befriend a new student in their 6th grade class and become embroiled in Melissa’s mystery.

Snatched, begins when Kinzey White’s four-year-old daughter disappears while shopping at the mall with her grandparents. Ruth and the Christianson clan come to her aid, but something more than a kidnapping is happening behind the scenes.

JA: What do you hope people take away after reading this series?
BAB: Besides the benefit of taking four fabulous mini-vacations across the country in my books, I hope the series conveys that no matter how devastating the circumstances may be, God can and will make something good out of them if we trust our lives into His care. Forgiveness is the key, God forgiving you, and you forgiving those who have hurt and disappointed you.

JA: You’re an artist as well as an author. These two talents are combined in your picture book, God Made Me. How did that come about?
BAB: Ah! (Smile!) I’ve had the joy of watching my younger grand-twins (both our daughters have twins) since they were babies, and when they were about two, I was rocking them before naptime, and singing “God is so good” to them. It got me wondering if their young minds could grasp who God is.

BAB - God Made MeWe had just come in from a walk, so I just started singing about all the beautiful things we had seen on that walk, and it turned into rhyming verses like: God made the animals. God made trees. God made the birds that fly. God made bees. God made the sun and sky. God made the butterfly. God made the world and God made me. I soon added hand motion to each verse, and we had fun practicing it almost daily. Then, knowing their love for books (I wonder where that came from?!), I painted a watercolor of each subject, scanned them into my computer, and printed them each a book they could pretend to read.

A few years later, the song (and the book) got adopted by their pre-school, and from there I switched the pages over to my Quark program so could scan each child’s picture, drop it into the pages, and print it out with his or her own name. God Made Me comes with the musical lead sheet (melody & chords) and hand-motion instructions. It’s a small 24-page 4.25” x 5.5” book printed on 44 lb. glossy card stock. (Did I mention that I’m a retired graphic artist?) You can see some of the pages on my web site if you’re interested.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
BAB: A modern mystery with a biblical twist, Light in the Darkness follows a fallen angel (who thinks he was banished to the earth by mistake) as he tries to get a Harvard professor to tell his story before it is too late. (Think stuck with the bad guys in you-know-where.)

But I’ve put my goals on hold for a while to help others reach their goals. I’ve been reviewing more manuscripts lately. And doing book reviews.

JA: You’re the mother of five and grandmother of fifteen (so far). How do you keep up with all those precious kids?
BAB: One step at a time. No. Actually, I tell them to slow down. They are a joy, that’s for sure. I guess the grandchildren are our reward for raising five great kids (despite our mistakes). And all but one of our children live nearby. When we all get together, there are 27 of us.

JA: Is there something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
BAB: This might not sound surprising, but I also write music. I figure if other people do, why not me. And I play the guitar, ukulele, a home-made banjo, and a little piano. No, not a small piano; I play just enough to get by.

JA: What authors inspire you?
BAB: T. Davis Bunn. Michael Phillips. Craig Parshall. Karen Kingsbury. Tracie Peterson. Apostle Paul. Saint John. Moses. And oh, so many more! I love reading all the new authors’ books I’ve been reviewing.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
BAB: Come see me at (It’s my first try at setting up a web site.) And be sure to leave a message in my guest book. I’d like to meet you!

Thanks for reading this far. God bless you!

It’s been a pleasure having you here, Betty Anne. May God continue to bless you in your writing journey!


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Family Secrets 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 May 12th. 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