February 24, 2014

Denise Swanson - Author Interview and Book Spotlight

Welcome to the next installment of my author interviews. I must apologize for not getting these interviews out as soon as I wanted but I caught the sinus bug and was down for a week. Now on to the interview.

I would like you to meet Denise Swanson. She is a great cozy mystery writer. So sit back and enjoy the interview. 

What made you decide to write cozy mysteries?
When I first started writing back in 1995, I had never hear the term cozy mystery. I enjoyed reading Carolyn Hart, Joan Hess, and Earlene Fowler and wanted to write novels that were similar in tone and structure to their books.  

How do you come up with the names of the characters for your books?
Naming characters is one of my favorite parts of beginning a new book. I have several baby naming books, but the two I use the most are The Baby Name Personality Survey and Beyond Jennifer and Jason. In order to get names with the right age feeling to them, I use the social security site that lists popular names for a certain year. 

Who designs your covers? Do you get any influence on them?
My publisher's art department handles both of my series covers and although, I am always asked for suggestions, those suggestions are not always taken or interpreted the way I would like. Still, I have liked most of my covers. 

I know this question is asked a lot but where do you get your ideas for your books and how long does it take you to do your research?
Most of my ideas come from my own experiences. I also a inspired by news and magazine stories. I generally do research as I write, so it's mostly a few minutes here and there. I write mostly about things I know so no really intensive research is required. 

What keeps you focused when you are writing?
Deadlines are great motivators. 

Who is your favorite character and why? How about your least favorite character and why?
In the Scumble River series, Trixie Frayne is my favorite character and in the Diie Store books, Poppy Kincaid is my favorite. Both for the same reason, they can do and say things that my sleuth could never get away with saying or doing. 

What can we expect from you in the future?
I plan to continue writing both the Scumble River series and the Dime Store books, as well as begin to publish some contemporary romances. For the latter, I have one completely written, a fist draft of a second, and about 75 pages of a third. Once all three are finished, I will look into getting them published. 

What is a favorite book or author you like to read or would like to recommend to your readers?
Charlaine Harris is one of my favorite authors. She has written four series that very from cozy to extremely hard edged, and is working on a fifth which I can not wait to read. I f you love cozies, Charlaine's Aurora Teagarden series is fantastic. 

Who or what influenced your love of books?
Probably being an only child growing up on a farm is how I started being such a voracious reader. y parents limited my TV watching to a couple of hours a day, so I read a lot. 

Is there someone who encourages you most in your writing? Who is it and how do they influence you?
My husband encouraged me to try and keep going. Even after 270 rejection letters for agents, he would never let me give up. 

When you are not writing what do you like to do?
I like to cook and play mahjongg.

List five random things about yourself.
I am a school psychologist
I love cats and dogs
I prefer vanilla to chocolate
I love reading zombie books and watching zombie movies or TV
I am not a natural blond

Scumble River Series

Dime Store Series

You can check out Denise's website (click here) to read more about Denise and her books. Dead Between the Lines comes out this coming March so be sure to get your copy pre-ordered. 

Denise Swanson lives in Illinois with her husband, classical composer David Stybr and their cool black cat Boomerang. Unlike her protagonist Skye, Denise realizes she can never really move very far from her hometown. But several times a year she and Dave sneak away for a little adventure. 

Thank you for stopping by. 

February 22, 2014

Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron
Quilts of Love Series
ISBN: 9781426752780
Trade Paperback

Synopsis: Tess has taken some ribbing from her fellow officer, Logan, for her quilting hobby. He finds it hard to align the brisk professional officer he patrols with during the day with the one who quilts in her off-time. Besides, he's been trying to get to know her better and he'd like to be seeing her during those couple nights a week she spends with her quilting guild.

Then one afternoon Tess and Logan visit her aunt in the nursing home and she acts agitated when Tess covers her with the story quilt. Aunt Susan seems to be communicating a message to them about Tess's uncle. There's a story behind this quilt, they realize, one that may lead them to a serial killer. Will they have a chance to have a future together or will the killer choose Tess for his next victim before they find him?

My review: I am a fan of mystery books so I was looking forward to this book. Another thing that had me looking forward to this book was that it takes places in St. Augustine, Florida which is one place I love to visit. I liked that the author paid attention to detail throughout the whole book. Of course the suspense in this book had me sucked into the story from page one.  Although I am used to Barbara writing Amish fiction I think she did a very good job with this book. If you are a fan of mysteries or Barbara's I think you will enjoy this book. 

Don't forget to stop by Litfuse (click here) and check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour . 

February 20, 2014

Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck
The Royal Wedding Series #2
ISBN: 9780310315506
Trade Paperback

Synopsis: Regina Beswick was born to be a princess.
But she's content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother's hand-painted book of fairytales.
Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation's future---and his own.
Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever. Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide if she's destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together---with a little divine intervention---Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love.

My review: This book appealed to me because of the main character Regina. I liked that she worked in a classic auto restoration shop but it turns out that there was a "princess" in there after all.  I guess I just really like her as a main character. Don't get me wrong I thought all the characters in this book were well developed, but Regina was my favorite. It was fun to read how an everyday person is turned into a princess and finds her true love. Another thing I liked was how this was a classic fairy tale told in a modern way. I have not read the first book in this series but I would like to go back and do so now.  If you want to read a book about how dreams do come true then this is for you. 

Meet the author: Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as RITA nominatedThe Wedding Dress and RITA nominated Love Starts with Elle, part of the Lowcountry series, the Nashvegas series and the Songbird Novels penned with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Their novel Softly and Tenderly, was one of Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals. A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in an uncomfortable chair to write full time in 2004. Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker. Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour at Litefuse (click here)

February 19, 2014

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan
When Calls the Heart Series
ISBN: 9780764212314
Trade Paperback

Synopsis: Her courage and her heart will be tested in ways she never expected . . .

Beth Thatcher has spent her entire life in the safe, comfortable world of her family, her friends, and the social outings her father's wealth provides. But Beth is about to leave it all behind to accept a teaching position in the rugged foothills of western Canada. Inspired by her aunt Elizabeth, who went west to teach school several years ago, and gently encouraged by her father, Beth resolves to put her trust in God and bravely face any challenge that comes her way.

But the conditions in Coal Valley are even worse than she'd feared. A recent mining accident has left the town grieving and at the mercy of the mining company. The children have had very little prior education, and many of the locals don't even speak English. There isn't even a proper schoolhouse. In addition, Beth's heart is torn between two young men---both Mounties, one a lifelong friend and the other a kind, quiet man who comes to her aid more than once.

Despite the many challenges, Beth is determined to make a difference in the rustic frontier town. But when her sister visits from the East, reminding her of all the luxuries she's had to give up, will Beth decide to return to her privileged life as soon as the school year is over?

My review: I have been enjoying Janette's books since I was a teenager and this new book did not disappoint me in one bit. I like how her books are very easy read as well as touching. You fall in love with the characters from page one and feel as if they are your friends and you have known them you whole life. It was nice that this book was written by both her and Laurel, I think it just added to the book.  Beth was a strong woman to move to a place unknown to her and such a rough place.  To me the story just flowed along so much so I did not want it to end. I recommend this book to all ages. 

About the authors: Janette Oke Celebrated for her significant contribution to the Christian book industry, Janette Oke is the recipient of numerous awards. Her novels have sold more than 30 million copies and are beloved by readers around the world. Janette lives with her husband, Edward, in Alberta, Canada. 

Laurel Oke Logan is the daughter of Edward and Janette Oke, is the author of "Janette Oke: A Heart for the Prairie," as well as the novel "Dana's Valley," which she co-wrote with her mom. Laurel and her husband have six children and two sons-in-law and live near Indianapolis, Indiana.

Don't forget to stop by and check out the rest of the blog tour stops at Litfuse (click here)

February 17, 2014

MaryLu Tyndall - Author interview and book spotlight

Ahoy there mateys welcome to the next installment of my author interviews. Come aboard our ship and meet our Captain. 

I would like you to meet Captain MaryLu Tyndall. MaryLu writes historical fiction books with a few of them about pirates. The first series I have read by MaryLu is her Escape to Paradise series and I have enjoyed it. I am in the process of collecting the rest of her books to enjoy. So grab a bench and hang on in case we encounter some rough seas and enjoy the interview.

What made you decide to write historical/christian fiction as well as about pirates?
I had a story to tell. It was a story of how a little lost girl wandered the world getting into all sorts of trouble, seeking someone to love her, and how she found that someone in Father God. In His arms she found safety and love and protection and purpose and destiny. And I wanted to share that story with the world. That's why I decided to write Christian Fiction. The Historical art was just and interest of mine. And the pirates, well, honestly I felt like a pirate most of my life, and I just love writing stories where lost souls find the only One who can fill them and give them peace.  

How do you come up with the names of the characters for your books?
I use lots of different methods. I search the records for names that were popular during the time period I'm writing in. I also go to websites where you can search names based on meaning. For instance, if my heroine is a headstrong warrior type. I search for women' names that mean warrior or God's princess. Sometimes my character's names mean something, sometimes not. Sometimes I just choose the cause they sound cool. :-)

Who designs your covers? Do you get any influence on them?
All my covers up to this point have been designed by my publisher. Once a writer signs a contract, the publisher pays for the cover design, editing, book printing, formatting and some marketing. So honestly, I have no idea who the actual designer is. I have little to no say in the cover of my books. My publisher asks for my input and then basically does what they want! However, for the most part I have been extremely pleased. Especially with my last series, Escape to Paradise! 

I know this question is asked a lot but where do you get your ideas for your books and how long does it take you to do your research?
Ideas come from everywhere. TV, Movies, Life, Friends, Family, God and History. Some of my books have been inspired directly from Scripture as in my Charles Towne Belles series, others from actual historical events such as my Destiny series or my Escape to Paradise series. If you pay attention, lie is full of stories waiting to be told. Once I have a story idea, I dive into research. I'll be the first to admit that research doesn't come easy for me. I'd much rather be writing. But darn it if you don't have to get all those little historical facts correct! Depending on the time period, research can take me anywhere from a couple weeks to a month. Then normally after I start the book I run into a ton of more details I need to look up. 

What keeps you focused when you are writing?
I'm usually so involved in my story that I don't need any incentive to keep focused. I do, however, have to write in a quiet place. (No coffee shops for me!) Sometimes I light a candle or put on some music that creates a mood for the scene I'm writing, and that really helps to transport myself to another place and time.  

Who is your favorite character and why? How about your least favorite character and why?
Of my books or any books? If my books, I'd have to say Charlisse, the heroine in my first pirate book. Her story is very much like my own life story (minus the handsome pirate), and she will always hold a special place in my heart. As far as any book, I have several favorites: Edmund Dante in the Count of Monte Cristo, Peter Blood in Captain Blood, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Beauvallet in Georgette Heyer's Beauvallet

What can we expect from you in the future?
I'm adding a fourth book to my Legacy of the King's Pirates series, The Ransom!!! I'm very excited about this book for a number of reasons, which I won't go into here. Suffice it to say it's like nothing I've done before. Release date is in March 2014. Also the third installment to my Escape to Paradise series, Abandoned Memories, is releasing in July! 

What is a favorite book or author you like to read or would like to recommend to your readers?
Any book by Julie Lessman, Laurie Alice Eakes, or Michelle Gripe

Who or what influenced your love of books?
I can't say that anyone did. No one in my family really read as I was growing up. In fact, they still don't. We watched a lot of TV. But one day, I picked up a book, I believe it was The Last of the Mohicans, and I fell in love!

Is there someone who encourages you most in your writing? Who is it and how do they influence you?
I belong to a group of close writer friends, all of whom have had a huge part in encouraging me and helping me stay focused. I highly recommend that every author have at least one or two close author friends to "dump" on now and then. This is an incredibly tough business. There's a ton of competition and rejection. Then once you put your "baby" out there, the book you've poured your heart and soul into for nearly a year, it can get slammed by bad reviews. Ouch! It really helps to have others to commiserate with, who can help you get your priorities back in line and remember why you are writing in the first place. 

When you are not writing what do you like to do?
No time for hobbies! I write full time and a a wife and mother (and soon to be grandmother) when I'm not writing!

List five random things about yourself.
Popcorn is my favorite food
I'm an introvert
I'm a health nut
I'm an insomniac
I moved 25 times before I was 18 (And no, we weren't in the military!)

The Escape to Paradise Series includes - Forsaken Dreams, Elusive Hope and Abandoned Memories

The Legacy of the King's Pirates Series includes - The Redemption, The Reliance, The Restitution and The Ransom

The Charles Towne Belles Series includes - The Red Siren, The Blue Enchantress and The Raven Saint

The Surrender to Destiny Series includes - Surrender the Heart, Surrender the Night and Surrender the Dawn. 

Also written by MaryLu are - The Falcon and the Sparrow, Veil of Pearls, Central Park Rendezvous (along with three other authors) and Pearls from the Sea (with Debbie Mitchell)

You can check out MaryLu's blog at Cross and Cutlass (click here) and her author's website (click here)  to learn more about her and her books. 

A Christy Award finalist, MaryLu Tyndall dreamt of tall ships and swashbuckling heroes during her childhood years on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. She holds a degree in Math and worked as a software engineer for fifteen years. Trapped in a land-locked cubicle, she was often seen pounding furiously upon the keyboard during her lunch hour, creating what would become her Legacy of the King’s Pirates series, all the while believing God’s promise to her that. “If you write it, I will get it published”. And He did! Fourteen books later, her loving husband and six children still haven’t gotten used to her historic costumes and nautical speech. MaryLu describes herself as an introvert, patriot, mother of six, the neighborhood cat-lady, tall ship enthusiast, friend of pirates and mermaids, obsessive compulsive control freak, history lover, hopeless romantic, and a sword wielding princess-warrior of the King of Kings. Her books are filled with adventure and romance and themes that are guaranteed to touch your heart! She continues to pen her romantic tales on the California coast while managing a home, husband, six adult kids, and several stray cats who have decided that her keyboard is the best place to sleep! She believes that without popcorn and chocolate, life would not be worth living, and her sole motivation in life is to bring others closer to God.

Thank you for joining our voyage. 

The Priority List by David Menasche

The Priority List by David Menasche
ISBN: 9781476743448

Synopsis: Based on a beloved teacher’s most popular lesson, The Priority List is a bold, inspirational story of learning, love, and legacy that challenges us to ask: What truly matters in life? 

David Menasche lived for his work as a high school English teacher. His passion inspired his students, and between lessons on Shakespeare and sentence structure, he forged a unique bond with his kids, buoying them through personal struggles while sharing valuable life lessons.

When a six-year battle with brain cancer ultimately stole David’s vision, memory, mobility, and—most tragically of all—his ability to continue teaching, he was devastated by the thought that he would no longer have the chance to impact his students’ lives each day.

But teaching is something Menasche just couldn’t quit. Undaunted by the difficult road ahead of him, he decided to end his treatments and make life his classroom. Cancer had robbed him of his past and would most certainly take his future; he wouldn’t allow it to steal his present. He turned to Facebook with an audacious plan: a journey across America— by bus, by train, by red-tipped cane—in hopes of seeing firsthand how his kids were faring in life. Had he made a difference? Within forty-eight hours of posting, former students in more than fifty cities replied with offers of support and shelter. 

Traveling more than eight thousand miles from Miami to New York, to America’s heartland and San Francisco’s Golden Gate, and visiting hundreds of his students, David’s fearless journey explores the things we all want and need out of life—family, security, independence, love, adventure—and forces us to stop to consider our own Priority List.

My review: I have to say I really enjoy this book. When I first heard about it I knew at once I wanted to read it. Then when I started it I realized it was not quite what I thought it was going to be but I continued reading and am very glad I did. I could not imagine going through what David is going through and then to stop treatment and leave home without a plan is a pretty brave move. Reading David's story and what he did for his students was worth the read. After reading this book I can only wish that I had a teacher like David who cared as much as he does for each of his students. You can really see his passion for teaching and his students as you continue through this book. I encourage you to pick this book up and give it a chance and then think about your own priority list. 

February 14, 2014

Sheila Roberts - Interview and Book Spotlight

Welcome to the next installment of my author interviews/book spotlights. I hope you have enjoyed them so far. 

I would like you all to meet Sheila Roberts. She is the author of the Icicle Falls Series as well as other great books. I have read about three of her books so far and I have to tell you they are fun reads that will have you smiling as you read them. Her characters are fun to read about and would make a great friend to have. So sit back - enjoy the interview and then I will tell you a little more about Sheila and her books. 

What made you decide to write the genre you do?
I love reading about other women, their loves, their lives, how they work out their problems. So writing about that was a natural fit. 

How do you come up with the names of the characters for your books?
That varies. I try a lot of names on my characters before I find one that fits. Sometimes, as in the case of Hope Walker in "Love in Bloom" the name choice is symbolic. 

Who designs your covers? Do you get any influence on them?
That is the work of the art department at my publisher. Authors don't have a lot of say when it comes to cover art so I'm grateful that Mira does such a lovely job for me. 

I know this question is asked a lot but where do you get your ideas for your books and how long does it take you to do your research?
Ideas can come from anywhere - something I see happening in the lives of the people around me, from my own life, the news, you name it. We authors always have our antennae up, looking for ideas. My book "On Strike for Christmas" was inspired one holiday when my husband was being naughty. I threatened to put him in a book and he thought that was hilarious. He was a little embarrassed when the book came out but has since gotten over that and thinks it's great fun that he inspired such success. 

What keeps you focused when you are writing?
Getting into the story. 

Who is your favorite character and why? How about your least favorite character and why?
I think one of my favorite characters is Hope Walker. I have a real soft spot in my heart for her, probably because she'd already been through a lot at a young age. I rewarded her properly at the end of the book. Least favorite? I don't have a least favorite. I love all my characters, even the naughty ones. :)

What can we expect from you in the future?
Lots of books coming out this year. Look for "The Cottage on Juniper Ridge" this March, followed by "Te Teashop on Lavender Lane" this June. Then, come Christmas "The Lodge on Holly Road" will be out and I can hardly wait for that because it's my new favorite of all my Christmas books. 

What is a favorite book or author you like to read or would like to recommend to your readers?
I adore Kristan Higgins. She's my new addiction.

Who or what influenced your love of books?
I think our local library was responsible. It was a beautiful, old Carnegie library and simply going in there was awe inspiring. It was so ... quie. And all the books, just waiting for me to check them out - it was like having access to great treasure. 

Is there someone who encourages you most in your writing? Who is it and how do they influence you?
Probably my husband. He's my number one fan. And my business partner. He proofreads all my manuscripts. 

When you are not writing what do you like to do?
Oh, I have a ton of things. I love to go dancing, love hanging out with girlfriends and playing games. I'm also big on tennis and I recently took up golf. And of course, I love to read. 

List five random things about yourself.
Love chocolate, love meeting readers, tend to always run late, am a big fan of chick flicks, need to lose twenty pounds but am just not that motivated. :) Oh, and here's one last thing. I enjoy visiting readers' blogs. So thank you, Angela for having me. 

Icicle Falls

You can check out Sheila's website for a full list of her books Sheila's place (click here)

Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children. She’s been writing since 1989, but she did lots of things before settling in to her writing career, including owning a singing telegram company and playing in a band. Her band days are over, but she still enjoys writing songs. Sheila's books are best sellers and often appear as Reader's Digest Condensed Books. Her novel "On Strike for Christmas" was a Lifetime Network movie and she has since optioned more books for film.

When she’s not speaking to women’s groups or at conferences or hanging out with her girlfriends she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.

Thank you for stopping by. 

February 12, 2014

A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron
Amish Roads Series #1
ISBN: 9781426740596
Trade Paperback

Synopsis: Elizabeth is at a crossroad. She's been given the chance to experience life outside of her community, away from the responsibility to care for her eight younger siblings, but Elizabeth Bontrager can't decide which road to take. Goshen has its charms and pressures, but Paradise, Pennsylvania, sounds . . . well, like paradise. And it's also home to her Englisch friend, Paula. Decision made. Elizabeth is Paradise bound.

But will the small town live up to its name? When Elizabeth meets Paula's friend, Bruce, she quickly learns he wants more than a friendship. And the same might be true of Saul Miller, her new boss at the country story that sells Amish products to the Englisch community. As the two compete for her attention, Elizabeth is surprised to realize she misses her family and becomes even more uncertain about where she belongs. She has a choice to make: return home or embrace this new life and possibly a new love?

My review: Barbara did a good job with this book as she does with all of her books. I enjoyed reading how Elizabeth's character develops as the story moves along. The title is very fitting for the story as well since Elizabeth is going down a road unknown to her. This book was enjoyable from the first page and kept me satisfied until the very last page. I thought it was neat how there were characters from both the quilt series and stitches series, it was a nice added touch.  I am looking forward to the rest of this series. If you are a fan of Amish fiction you will enjoy this book.   

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour at Litfuse (click here) 

Barbara Cameron is celebrating the release of A Road Unknown with a $200 Visa cash card giveaway and a fun "Amish Roads" Facebook party.
One winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa cash card
  • A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 27th. Winner will be announced at Barbara's "Amish Roads" Facebook Party on February 27th. Connect with Barbara for an evening of book chat, Amish trivia, laughter, prizes, and more!

So grab your copy of A Road Unknown and join Barbara and friends on the evening of February 27th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 27th!

February 11, 2014

Assassin's Creed: Renaissance by Oliver Bowden

Assassin's Creed: Renaissance by Oliver Bowden
Assassin's Creed #1
ISBN: 9780441019298
Mass Market Paperback

Synopsis; Betrayed by the ruling families of Italy, a young man embarks upon an epic quest for vengeance. To eradicate corruption and restore his family's honor, he will learn the art of the Assassins.

Along the way, Ezio will call upon the wisdom of such great minds as Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli -- knowing that survival is bound to the skills by which he must live.

To his allies, he will become a force for change -- fighting for freedom and justice. To his enemies, he will become a threat dedicated to the destruction of the tyrants abusing the people of Italy. So begins an epic story of power, revenge, and conspiracy.

My review: I have to say this is the last book I thought I would pickup seeing as it is based on a video game but I for one am glad I did. When I saw the lastest commercial for the newest version of the video game I thought it looked good, then one day I was in the store and saw the newest book it also looked good and then I saw it was part of a series, so I went and found book one. I think what appeals most to me is the historical aspect to the story. Once I picked this book up I could not put it down and yes I have already purchased the second book in the series. The weapons that they create in this book are pretty cool. Of course Ezio was my hero throughout the book, I enjoyed meeting the whole cast of characters and found myself routing for the assassin as he is kind of a Robin Hood type of character. I am looking forward to the next book to see what the next mission is.

February 8, 2014

Hopeful by Shelley Shepard Gray - Review and Giveaway

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Hopeful by Shelley Shepard Gray
Return to Sugarcreek Series #1
ISBN: 9780062204462
Trade Paperback

In the Amish town of Sugarcreek, love comes in many forms. But will it come at all for Miriam?
Miriam Zehr has worked at the Sugarcreek Inn longer than she cares to admit. The restaurant is a favorite of town residents as well as the many tourists who come to taste the famous Amish fare. Though she always tries to have a smile for every customer, deep down Miriam knows something's missing: a family of her own.
Miriam has never felt particularly beautiful, especially because she's always been a bit heavier than other girls her age. When Junior, the man she's pined for all her life, suddenly seeks her out, she's thrilled to be noticed . . . until she realizes he's only asking her to help get the attention of Mary Kathryn Hershberger, her pretty friend.
If Miriam helps Junior court Mary Kathryn, she'll get to spend a lot of time with him, but she might lose him in the process. Are these few stolen moments worth a lifetime of sacrifice? Is Miriam right to even hope for the life she dreams of?

My review: I enjoyed reading this book. Shelley did a good job with keeping you from putting this book down. While reading this book you feel as if you have known these characters for a long time. There is really two stories here, the story of Miram and Mary Kathryn. Another thing I enjoyed was the little extras in the back of the book. If you are a fan of Amish fiction you will enjoy this book. 

About the Author: Shelley Shepard Gray is a two-time New York Times bestseller, a two-time USA Today bestseller, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Holt Medallion winner. She lives in Southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.

Learn more about Shelley at: http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com

Be sure to stop by Litfuse (click here) to see all of the stops on the book tour. 

Welcome to the blog tour for Hopeful, the first book in Shelley Shepard Gray's new series, Return to Sugarcreek. Critics have already given their thumbs up for Hopeful: “Lovable characters and a good story, full of romance and suspense . . . a must read." (Library Journal)

Enter to win one of FIVE copies of the book. 
Five winners will receive:
  • Hopeful by Shelley Shepard Gray
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 23rd. All winners will be announced February 24th at Shelley's blog.

Enter today and be sure to visit Shelley's blog on the 24th to see if YOU won one of the books!

February 6, 2014

Heather Webber/Heather Blake - Author Interview and book spotlight

Welcome to the second installment of my author interview and book spotlight.

I would like you all to meet Heather Webber. Now before you all get confused Heather also writes as Heather Blake so you get double the fun with her books. She writes cozy mysteries. I have read three out of four of her series so far and have enjoyed each one even though I think the Wishcraft series is my favorite. Now on to the interview so you can learn a little more about Heather and her books. 

What made you decide to write cozy mysteries?
I grew up wanting to be a medical examiner (thanks to my obsession with the TV show Quincy ME) and finally realized it was the mystery in the show that I loved, not so much the medical part. I love a puzzle with twists and turns, so it was natural for that to influence my writing. When I finished my first mystery, I didn't realize I was writing a "cozy" -- I'd never heard the term until my editor shared it with me. I'd simply written a mystery about a female amateur sleuth who happened to own a landscaping company. (A Hoe Lot of Trouble, written as Heather Webber) But the term fits the genre - and my writing - perfectly. 

How do you come up with the names of the characters for your books?
Sometimes the names just come to me, and sometimes I search and search for one that fits the character. I use a lot of genealogy search engines, baseball rosters, road names, and when I attend my kids' school events, I save the program booklets. From time to time I'll ask my readers for help via social media. There are a lot of creative people out there. 

Who designs your covers? Do you get any influence on them?
For my traditionally published books, I get some say in the design but not full control. I don't know most of the cover artists used--they're hired through the publishing company. I do know Bella Pilar designs the covers for my Wishcraft books, and she's wonderfully talented and uses a lot of my ideas. For my self-published books, I've used a variety of designers and have a lot more control over colors, fonts, images. 

I know this question is asked a lot but where do you get your ideas for your books and how long does it take you to do your research?
A lot of my storylines come straight from the news bites. It's usually something that sparks an idea then I then twist, turn and embellish into a fictional plot. Research is ongoing during my daily writing process. For example, the other day I was writing and needed to know what time the sun set in Alabama in August...Research. Then I needed to know how a certain poison affected a body. More research. And then I needed to know the proper name for the curved wooden arched thingy over a doorway...more research. I always keep a search engine tab open when I am writing. 

What keeps you focused when you are writing?
Ha! I wish I had an answer. I'm easily distracted. (Squirrel!)

Who is your favorite character and why? How about your least favorite character and why?
Oh gosh, a tough question. Too many favorites to choose from! I have to say some of my favorite characters to write are the familiars in my Wishcraft books. There's something so liberating and fun writing them. I've wracked my brain and don't think I have anyone I don't like to write. 

What can we expect from you in the future?
More books! I hope to have four out this year (A Wishcraft, a Potion, a Lucy Valentine and a Nina Quinn).

What is a favorite book or author you like to read or would like to recommend to your readers?
I primarily stick to reading mystery and romance with a few memoirs thrown in for good measure. For comfort, I go back to the classics. I love Jane Austen books and cna read the over and over. For mystery, I'm on a Lisa Lutz kick. 

Who or what influenced your love of books?
My parents always made sure I had books in my life. My love of mystery in particular was sparked by a 10th grade English assignment - The Hound of the Baskervilles - and was fueled by Mary Higgins Clark ad Agatha Christie. 

Is there someone who encourages you most in your writing? Who is it and how do they influence you?
My husband is the one who encouraged me to start writing all those years ago, and he's still my biggest supporter. I also have a group of critique partners and some close writing friends who continue to amaze me with their talent and creativity. 

When you are not writing what do you like to do?
I love to read, bake, crochet, watch movies with my family, and we're on a jigsaw puzzle kick these days, too.  

List five random things about yourself.
I apparently stole a Mary Higgins Clark book from my high school library. I recently found it when we moved. I can only imagine the fines...(The high school no longer exists, or I'd send it back.)
Even though I wake up early, I am not a morning person. I need a good coule of hours before I'm fully coherent.
I'm horrible at answering email.
I love thick fuzzy socks and wear them year round.
I adore the TV show Gilmore Girls and wish they'd have a reunion. 

Here is a little more about Heather. Heather grew up in a suburb of Boston, where she learned early on how to ride the T, skips rocks in the ocean, and root for the Red Sox. As a young mother, she tried her hand at writing novels and hasn't looked back. These days she lives in southwestern Ohio with her high school sweetheart and their three children. For more things you may not know about Heather you can check out her websites - both have extensive lists in the "About Me" tabs. Heather Webber (click here) and Heather Blake (click here)

Heather's series are:  Wishcraft Mystery and Magic Potion Mystery written and Heather Blake and Nina Quinn and Lucy Valentine written as Heather Webber. She has also written four novels, a Novella and a Non-fiction book. You can see them all at her websites. 

Lucy Valentine #1

Lucy Valentine #2

Lucy Valentine#3

Lucy Valentine #4

Magic Potion Mystery #1

Nina Quinn Mysteries 1-7

Wishcraft #1

Wishcraft #2

Wishcraft #3

Wishcraft #4

February 3, 2014

Lauraine Snelling - Author interview and book spotlight

Hello all - I am doing something a little different this month and am hosting some author interviews. I had fun doing this and hope you will enjoy the interviews.

I would like you to meet Lauraine Snelling. She writes historical family sagas, contemporary women's fiction and adventures for middle readers all in the inspirational market. I found and started reading Lauraine's Red River of the North series and was drawn in from the first page I read. It felt like I was reading a little of what my family may have gone through as this series is about Norwegians that settled in the Dakota territory and my family was Norwegian and settled in the Dakota Territory. I highly recommend her books for a nice reading experience that will keep you wanting more. Well let's get started with the interview and then I will tell you a little more about Lauraine. 

What made you decide to write historical fiction?
They kind of chose me. I started out writing adventure stories of girls and horses. I write both contemporary and historical because some of my stories fit one, and others need a different time period. 

How do you come up with the names of teh characters for your books?
I work hard at this because I want to give my characters a name that either fits them in the beginning or will later in the story. I use naming books, phone books and am always on the lookout for different names. Trying not to use a nae repeatedly is getting more difficult because I have written so many books. But I keep working at it. 

Who designs your covers? Do you get any influence on them?
The graphic arts department at my publishers ask me for suggestions depending on characters and the stories, then they do a mock up, I make suggestions and sometimes we go back and forth, but I am blessed because they care about what I see in my head. We come to an agreement and of course that means bending on both sides. I trust them to teach me along the way. I get great covers, ones that people rave about. 

I know this question is asked a lot but where do you get your ideas for your books and how long does it take you to do your research?
Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. Something I've seen, heard, touched, read about and discussed, prayed for, people I meet, I never know how one will come. Daydreams, voices in my head, a family story I've heard, a line from a song or a story. I love to share the Stories behind the Stories when I am speaking. Fascinating. There is no time element in research, just whatever it takes. I write to a certain place, briefly describes what I need, and go on, then go back and find the answers to what I needed. Usually things like that are ideas that came from the story, would not have know to research that before starting the book. 

What keeps you focused when you are writing?
My very tight deadlines keep me focused, but once the story really gets rolling that pulls me along. I tell writers about the BIC principle, Butt in Chair. I threaten myself with a lock and chain at times.

Who is your favorite character and why? How about your least favorite character and why?
My favorite character would have to be Ingeborg of the Red River series. I want to be like her when I grow up. She is one I know the best because I've written about her for so many books. Why? Her strength and wisdom, all learned the hard way. My least? Any scumbags, i.e. The man who bought the store in Blessing from Penny and then was nearly run out of town on a rail. While scumbags are needed at ties that doesn't mean I have to like them. 

What can we expect from you in the future?
Two historical a year, I have a contract for four more in the ongoing Red River, sometimes called the Blessing books, based on the town's name, or the Ingeborg books. I am just finishing book one, To Everything a Season where I return to Blessing and catch up on my characters' lives. One contemporary a year. Heaven Sent Rain will be out this summer. A woman dedicated to creating products to help those with diabetes, a small boy and his dog and a Veterinarian memorializes his patients with them in caricatures. An unlikely trio for sure. On to a story of three single career women in midlife who choose to share a house and each other's lives. This one is still in the dreaming stage so no concrete title. 

What is a favorite book or author you like to read or would like to recommend to your readers?
I recommend books and authors all the time in Face Book, in discussions and in my monthly column for a local paper that is also published in a North Dakota paper and then put up on my website at www.laurainesnelling.com. I have favorite according to genres. DiAnn Mills: suspense, Julie Klassen: regency, Cynthia Ruchti: contemporary, Debbie Macomber: romance, Harry Krause: medical, and a plethora of others. 

Who or what influenced your love of books?
I have always love to read, take a book with me everywhere. My mother read to me. I adore losing myself in a good book. Always have. Something else would be curiosity. Reading is the way to knowledge and I have a huge curiosity bump on the back of my head. 

Is there someone who encourages you most in your writing? Who is it and how do they influence you?
Most is a tricky word. I have a lot of close friends who are always cheering me on. My husband Wayne is a staunch supporter who also works in this our business. We sell my books and other products so there is plenty to do. My agent Wendy Lawton, one of the wisest women I know, helps guide me and keep me on track. 

When you are not writing what do you like to do?
I love to read but I've not been able to have that at the top of my list for some time now. I'd rather read than about anything, have been that way all my life. I love to talk books with people, what they are reading, etc. My biggest problem is that I have soooo many things I like to do. And many others, I'd like to try, but I keep telling everyone, don't tempt me, I don't need another hobby, so this question: Do you have any hobbies?, made me laugh. Oh, and I do love to laugh and help other people laugh and enjoy themselves. My second most delight is water color painting. I started a few years ago, a life long dream come true, but lately I've not even had time for that. I enjoy needlework of many kinds, I used to sew a lot and still have my machines. One of these days. My flowers and yard take up a lot of time in the spring and summer. I love the colors, the fragrances, the growing. Add birding to the list too. As you can see, I have a lot of interests and those are just the things at home. 

List five random things about yourself.
I love to travel, we have a 42' motor coach and it becomes my office periodically.
Keeping house is not my favorite job.
Jesus Christ is Lord of my life and the adventures ahead with Him are mind boggling. Knowing He loves me makes life easier and more complete.
I love animals, almost all kinds. Especially dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, elephants, whales and am a staunch proponent of rescues.
I would love to farm again but of the gentlewoman type, meaning someone else to do all the hard work and leave me to write, travel and enjoy the benefits of life in the country, i.e. animals, gardens orchards, etc. 

Here is a little bit more about Lauraine:
Award-winning and best selling author Lauraine Snelling began living her dream to be a writer with her first published book for young adult readers, Tragedy on the Toutle, in 1982. She has since continued writing more horse books for young girls, adding historical and contemporary fiction and nonfiction for adults and young readers to her repertoire. All told, she has seventy books published.
Shown in her contemporary romances and women’s fiction, a hallmark of Lauraine’s style is writing about real issues of forgiveness, loss, domestic violence, and cancer within a compelling story. Her work has been translated into Norwegian, Danish, and German, and she has won the Silver Angel Award for An Untamed Landand a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart for Song of Laughter.
As a sought after speaker, Lauraine encourages others to find their gifts and live their lives with humor and joy. Her readers clamor for more books more often, and Lauraine would like to comply ... if only her paintbrushes and easel didn’t call quite so loudly.
Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons, and live in the Tehachapi Mountains with a watchdog Basset named Winston. They love to travel, most especially in their forty-foot motor coach, which they affectionately deem “a work in progress”.

You can find Lauraine on Facebook (which is her favorite social network), email: tlsnelling@yahoo.com and her website: here

A few of her series are: Golden Filly, Dakota Plains, Red River of the North, High Hurdles, Secret Refuge, Return to Red River, Dakotah Treasures, Daughters of Blessing, Home to Blessing, Wild West Wind, S.A.V.E. Squad, Songs of Blessing and a host of stand alone novels. A good place to find out more about these books is Fantastic Fiction (click here for Lauraine's page)

Red River of the North Series

Return to Red River Series

Daughters of Blessing Series

Home to Blessing Series

Wild West Wind Series

Dakotah Treasures Series

Secret Refuge Series