Monday, July 31, 2017

How to Get Unstuck #Giveaway

Hi, everyone! Wanted to let y'all know I'm guest posting over at the Seekerville blog today (so exciting!) talking about getting unstuck, overcoming rejection, and facing our fears. The post is geared toward writers, but there are plenty of lessons for everyday life.

I'm giving away TWO writing craft books to two writers and TWO copies of Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection to two readers who comment on the post over there. Lots of fun interaction in the comments! Come join the fun!

Also, TODAY IS THE LAST DAY to enter to win a loaded Kindle Fire from we authors of Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection! Lots of top-name books on here guys, including a copy of our Collection. So if you haven't entered yet, hop on over to the Coffee Cups & Camisoles blog to get your name in the running!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Lead Me Home by Amy K. Sorrells #BookReview

From the Back Cover:

Amid open fields and empty pews, small towns can crush big dreams.
Abandoned by his no-good father and forced to grow up too soon, Noble Burden has set his dreams aside to run the family farm. Meanwhile, James Horton, the pastor of the local church, questions his own calling as he prepares to close the doors for good.

As a severe storm rolls through, threatening their community and very livelihood, both men fear losing what they care about most . . . and reconsider where they truly belong.

My Thoughts:

This book is not my usual review genre, but has the same title as one of my own early manuscripts and deals with similar themes, so I thought I'd give it a try. Also, I was curious to read a story taking on the plight of small congregations struggling under the pull of megachurches that draw members--and therefore fellowship and finances--away from the little churches. Not everything about the story sat well with me, but in the end, I was glad to have read it. If only to have another person’s view on issues I’ve lived through and that are close to my heart.

The characters and their struggles were relatable and kept a down-to-earth feel, so appropriate to the tone of the novel. The agrarian setting, the raising of cattle, brought back memories of my being raised on a farm. Issues of a small church and struggles of the pastor and daughter eased off the page to sit alongside me as I read nodding my head and smiling in several places.

Since this was a literary type novel, the first couple chapters were paced slow with lots of backstory and character reminiscing. The theme and spiritual message of this book were a tad cloudy in my opinion, but I don’t expect to agree with the message of every book I read. The author has a skill for painting vivid and unique descriptions on a gentle, emotional canvas, and I would enjoy reading more of her work.

***I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley and have stated my honest opinions.

Friday, July 21, 2017

George Mueller, Pinterest, & A #Giveaway

We've several things to cover in this hodgepodge post!

What does George Mueller have to do with Pinterest and a Kindle Fire? Read on.
Check out, an interesting and informative site about the man "who got things from God."

In my novella, For Richer or Poorer, my hero Woody’s inspiration was based loosely on the historical character of George Mueller (1805-1898), a man known for prayer, his great faith and devotion to God, and “getting things from God.” You can find biographical e-books about Mueller free for Amazon Kindle, and many articles about him online.

Mueller had a heart for orphans and built three large orphanages before his death at the age of ninety-three. The funds for these orphanages were not raised through fundraising or special pleas for church offerings or even through charity balls like the one in my story. Nope. George Muller’s orphanage funds came from his and his wife’s silent prayers to God alone, trusting Him as their ultimate and only Source of provision. His life and records of answered prayer are fascinating to read about. From what I recall, George was never surprised by God’s answering his prayers—he fully expected God would follow through.

My character Woody has a lot of growing to do in his novella to become like Mueller. But that's what fiction is about, right? Characters growing. Readers growing. Authors growing. Becoming more like Christ.


The CCC gals over at the Coffee Cups & Camisoles blog are having a blog blitz about the Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection, where each author in the collection shares a bit about their novella. Don't miss the running giveaway for a LOADED KINDLE FIRE! Yes, I'm a bit excited about that part. I recently shared on there a few secrets about my novella For Richer or Poorer, so hop on over to read my little-known confession about the novella's faith-journey and enter to win.

Here's a peek at our collaborative Pinterest Board...

Comment Fodder:

I’m often surprised by answered prayer, probably because I don’t really believe my request is worth God's attention. But He loves to meet our needs, even small ones. That’s the sweet thing. Have you ever been surprised by a sweet answer to prayer, big or small? Tell us about it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

July 2017 Fiction Releases #ACFW

July 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

On Love's Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson -- When Natalie O’Ryan’s fiancé booked their wedding in her hometown, Natalie didn’t know the only reception venue available would be an old barn belonging to Justin Kane--the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness--and that there may be more than an old friendship between them. (Contemporary Romance from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Their Ranch Reunion by Mindy Obenhaus -- Single mom Carly Wagner is surprised to learn she'll have to share ownership of the home she's inherited with her first love—and first heartbreak—Andrew Stephens. The man who fled their tiny Western town is back and standing in the way of her dreams to expand her B and B. Now a successful businessman, Andrew has eight weeks to buy Carly out. But Carly's too stubborn to persuade—and too beautiful to ignore. When fire ravages her inn and she and her daughter move in to their shared property, Andrew's in over his head. Time is running out and Andrew must decide: leave and chase another deal...or stay and chase Carly's heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Time and Tide by Kristen Terrette -- Recovering from addiction and a near death experience, Chad moves to Moanna Island, a small island close to Savannah off the Atlantic coast, to begin a job with his family’s real estate empire, a job he was supposed to have taken years ago. Free-spirited Ryan Mason is a Moanna local girl from a blue-collar family. She’s dropped her own dreams to help her father care for her schizophrenic brother. When Chad and Ryan meet at the rehabilitation center where her brother lives, feelings develop between them. Can their crazy worlds ever fit together once he learns her secret and she finds out he is the sole heir to the Cusher Empire? (Contemporary from Hartwood Publishing Group)

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh -- When a workaholic interior designer returns to her hometown to check on her brother’s welfare, she reconnects with a soldier, secretly in love with her, over a renovation project that will help the struggling town. (Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House)

Cozy Mystery:

A Tempting Taste of Mystery by Elizabeth Ludwig -- Judging a pie contest leads Cheryl Cooper and friends into mayhem and mystery after someone begins methodically sabotaging the entries. (Cozy Mystery from Guideposts Publications)

Over Maya Dead Body by Sandra Orchard -- FBI Special Agent Serena Jones arrives on Martha's Vineyard with her family, ready for a little bit of R&R and a whole lot of reminiscing as they celebrate the engagement of an old family friend. But crime doesn't take a vacation, and she's soon entangled in an investigation of a suspicious death tied to an antiquities smuggling ring.When her investigation propels her into danger, Serena must stay the course and solve this case before anyone else dies. But just how is she supposed to do that when the two men in her life arrive on the scene, bringing with them plenty of romantic complications--and even a secret or two? (Cozy Mystery from Revell [Baker])

Historical Romance:

The American Conquest (Window to the Heart Sage, Book 3) by Jenna Brandt -- Margaret must leave behind her title and wealth in Europe in order to escape and start a new life in the Colorado Territory. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection by Susanne Dietze, Michelle Griep, Anne Love, Gabrielle Meyer, Natalie Monk, Jennifer Uhlarik, Erica Vetsch, Jaime Jo Wright, and Kathleen Y'Barbo -- Journey along in nine historical romances with those whose lives are transformed by the opulence, growth, and great changes taking place in America’s Gilded Age. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for leisure activities, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more. Watch as these romances develop and legacies of faith and love are formed. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Rebel in My House by Sandra Merville Hart -- Promises can be impossible to keep--especially when a Confederate soldier trapped behind enemy lines looks to a Gettysburg seamstress for help. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Match for Melissa by Susan Karsten -- Wanting a godly husband, Melissa's only choice is to follow her father's wishes, even when doing so may not achieve the desires of her heart. (Historical Romance from Prism Book Group [Pelican]).

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels -- Moor your heart on Mackinac Island along with resident sweetheart Maude Welling, an heiress trying to prove her worth by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel. Meet Ben Steffans, a journalist posing as a wealthy industrialist who has come to the island to uncover a story about impoverished men pursuing heiresses at the famed hotel. Will a growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed in this Gilded Age romance? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Salvation by the Sea by Kristen Reed -- Life has been anything but easy for Muirigan thanks to a series of life-altering calamities, but she's found peace with her new, understated life by the sea. However, the maid's past comes back to haunt her when she saves the shipwrecked Prince Halvard one morning. Failing to recognize one of his dearest childhood friends, the prince invites Muirigan to live at court as a reward for her valiant heroism. As the two reconnect, something deeper than friendship blossoms, but will their newfound affection survive when Muirigan’s lies are revealed and Halvard learns the truth about what has befallen since their tragic separation? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:

Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble -- As a 911 dispatcher, Dana Newell takes pride in being calm in tough circumstances. In addition to her emotionally-charged career, she’s faced enough emergencies in her own life. She recently escaped her abusive fiancé to move to tranquil Rock Harbor where she hopes life will be more peaceful. But the idyllic town hides more danger and secrets than it first appeared. Dana is continually drawn to her new friend Boone, who has scars inside and out. Then she answers a call at her job only to hear a friend’s desperate screams on the other end. Soon the pain in her past collides with the mysteries of her new home—and threatens to keep her from the future she’s always wanted. (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])


The Genesis Tree by Heather L.L. FitzGerald -- Deception is rampant, the enemy is subtle, and love dares to tug at Sadie’s heart amid the turmoil that forces her and her family back to the Tethered World below. (Speculative/Contemporary Fantasy from Mountain Brook Ink)

*All authors whose books are included on the ACFW New Releases list attest that their book meets CBA standards for clean, Christian content. The posting of this list on the Sweet South Blog is not a review or an endorsement of any book on the list.

Monday, July 3, 2017

HEART ON THE LINE by Karen Witemeyer #BookReview #Giveaway

Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can't let the villain she believes responsible for her father's death release his wrath in Harper's Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she's ever known.
Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship--dare he believe, courtship?--has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

*This review includes a giveaway. Please read giveaway rules carefully.

My Review Summary:
This tale includes two breathtakingly sweet romances, touches of mystery and suspense, and the kind of characters that stand romance stereotypes on their heads!

The Characters:
Karen’s Harper’s Station characters tend to burrow into a readers heart and stay there. Grace, Amos, Lee, and Helen are no different. Not to forget Amos’ glasses-grabbing nephew. So adorable. Grace was relatable for me in her occasional shyness and her deep love of friends and family. Amos surprised me. I love that Karen chose the opposite of the usual “broad shouldered, square jawed” type as her hero, a character who beautifully embodies the theme. She took an insecure, bookish telegraph operator and put him into conflicts that exposed, grew, and eventually showcased his heart of deep integrity. Bravo, Karen!

The Romance:
Amos’ candid interactions with Grace brought plenty of swoon-worthy moments, especially since he always let her know up front where he stood concerning her. His tact, his honesty, his commitment, courage, faith, and kindness wooed her in ways other suave “ladykiller” types couldn’t. Grace appreciates him as a man of character and values his friendship, as well as his attentions and valorous offer of protection and assistance. The romance develops organically over the course of the story and has a gentle, natural feel. Lee and Helen’s story held my curiosity as much as the main storyline, and I loved watching them overcome past wounds with God’s and one another’s help.

The History:
I found the telegraph operating bits fascinating, from the terminology about telegraph blanks and call signatures to the heroine's referring to the hero's fine hand at the key. The velocipede thread was certainly fun, too! Karen's stories always immerse me in the era so much that I don't want to leave. Can't wait to dive into her next story!

The Faith Element:
Amos, Grace, Lee, and Helen all rely on their faith to see them through difficult and even life-threatening circumstances. Grace’s scripture memory comes to her aid in a particularly charged moment, and the strength she gains from the Bible verses brought fresh thankfulness to my heart for the Word of God.

The Stakes:
All the characters stand to lose something in this story: the safety of Harper’s Station, Amos’ heart, Grace’s father’s life’s work, her friends’ safety, and later her own life. For Lee, his life and mission. For Helen, her wounded heart and the life of the only man she’s ever trusted. The other two couples from Harper’s Station books Malachi and Emma and Tori and Ben, also face danger in this story and play a part in the resolution.

The Theme:
Inner character matters more than outer appearance.

The Villain:
I'm including a special section for this baddie. Karen has crafted a brilliant and chilling villain in Heart on the Line, who incarnates the theme in the most despicable way. This was a villain I loved to hate, and I think you will, too. :)

The Overall Impression:
I loved seeing old friends from the ladies' colony work together with new characters. After all they endure as a community, at the end of the book I definitely wanted to spend more time with them. But the happy ending drew things to a satisfying conclusion. I look forward to more stories from Harper’s Station!

 Up Next From The Author:
The Love Knot 
 (novella, 2018)
 Claire Nevin has identified herself in many ways during her brief eighteen years: Irish immigrant; professional embroiderer; jilted fiancé; runaway mail-order bride; and most recently, apprentice healer for the ladies of Harper's Station. The one role she treasures above all, however, is sister. When her troubled younger sibling sends her an unexpected package by rail, the gift, and the man who delivers it, threaten to redefine her life once again. Fighting to hold on to all she has built, will she lose what matters most?

I’m giving away a copy of the FIRST book set in Harper’s Station, No Other Will Do (Pictured Below). This is Malachi and Emma’s story that kicks off the whole series with a bang. :) Leave a comment with your email to put your name in the drawing. Giveaway ends July 7, 2017.

For Bonus Entries: 

  1. Subscribe to my E-newsletter and let me know in the comments. (New subscribers must click "confirm subscription" in email to qualify for entry.)
  2. Subscribe to Karen's E-newsletter and let me know in the comments. 
  3. Tweet about this giveaway and leave your tweet URL in your comment.
  4. Share this giveaway on Facebook, Google+ or/and other social sites and leave the post URL/s in your comment.
  5. Add Heart on the Line to your Goodreads "Want to Read" shelf and let me know in your comment.
  6.  Add Heart on the Line to a Goodreads Listopia list and leave the list URL in your comment.
  7. Add Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection to your Goodreads "Want to Read" shelf and let me know in your comment.
  8. Add Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection to a Goodreads Listopia list and leave the list URL in your comment.
  9. Like Karen's Facebook Page. 
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Comment Fodder:
  • Have you read any of Karen's books before?
  • Which of Karen's books is your favorite? Favorite scene?
  • Can you think of any movie characters who turned out to be far different than they first appeared?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

FOR RICHER OR POORER Story Inspiration (Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection, Barbour 2017)

It's release day!

Happy birthday, Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection! :)

In order to bring her starving family to New Jersey, Polish immigrant and housemaid Marcella Lipski must marry wealth…so she dons her employer's discarded ball gowns and goes husband hunting at Newark's tourist spots. There's just one problem. Ella can't speak a speck of English. She considers herself blessed to secure free English lessons from a poor-but-mysterious cart driver—until she loses her heart in the process.

I thought for today's post I would tell you how I come by the ideas for my stories.

They can sneak up on you from anywhere...

News Articles/Segments
Plot Twists On Classics
Personal Anecdotes
Greeting Cards
Overheard Conversations at the Grocery Store
People Watching at the Mall
Perfume Names
Awkward Situations
Family History

Or a combination of many situations, sights and feelings.

The idea for For Richer or Poorer came from the latter. It started as a twist on Cinderella or a rags-to-riches type tale. At this point, I had no idea the Collection would have rags or riches in the name. The Collection was then tentatively called The Gilded Age Brides Collection, but was changed in the process of publication to attract more readers. How fun that the new title matched my story's original inspiration idea!

Inspiration for my heroine, Ella, came from a conversation with the daughter of a Polish immigrant, who came to New Jersey during WWI. The family sent their children to America one by one to spare them the ravages of war in their own country. As the story goes, one daughter came over as a domestic and eventually met her husband, also Polish and working in domestic service. This sister didn't see her other siblings again until she was well up in years, and then was reunited with only one of her sisters.

Four things from that conversation stuck with me. Poland. Domestic service. Sister. New Jersey.

My story, I knew, must be set during the Gilded Age (1870-1900) since that was the Collection theme at the time. I started researching why a young Polish woman might come to America by herself during this period. A brief overview of the changes in Polish rule led me to info on the class systems, where I found out Austrian-Poland had tenant farmers during the Gilded Age--something akin to Southern sharecroppers in America. My grandmother was a sharecropper's daughter. There you go. My heroine is a tenant farmer's daughter.

For Woody's character creation, I had several components I really wanted for him from the start. His inspiration was based loosely on the historical character of George Mueller (1805-1898). You can find biographical works about Mueller free for Amazon Kindle. I knew I wanted Woody to have a Southern gentleman flavor, so I made his father a Southerner who moved north to "spare his family the ravages of war." (See how inspiration sneaks in?) Woody has a brief history as a street-fighter, an idea I nabbed when it popped out of his backstory. Also, in order for Woody and Ella to interact well enough to fall in love in 20K words, I needed him to be a linguist. Ha! So I gave him a couple professor-like qualities to soften his rough past. He loves maps, and drinking tea. Though I had these things established early on, I really fleshed out Woody's character after studying Joanne Bischof's Charlie Lionheart. I noted Joanne's use of quirks, familial influences, driving goals, cherished items/symbols, the character's inner sense of morality, and how everything the character experiences in his past adds flavors to his present/future actions/reactions. That got me digging through Woody's backstory to find out more about him, and I discovered something...Woody has a secret.

I can't tell!!! That would be cheating!

You'll have to read the book to find out. *sly grin*

Choosing the Myers-Briggs personality types that seemed to fit the characters and stories, I filled out a character questionnaire for Woody and Ella, coming up with many things on the spot that were later refined into their final personas during the draft and edits.

All other main components of the story came through extremely quick brainstorming. Due to several factors--chiefly my location and lack of internet access at the time of plotting--I had only one week to plot the story, write the synopsis and first scene, get beta reads, edit, and hit send! (I have awesome beta readers and a mighty big God!)

So there you have it. A bit of trivia on the For Richer or Poorer novella in the Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection. I'm not sure it'll be worth telling your grandkids about, but maybe knowing these little gems will entertain you as you read the story. :)

Grab your copy here:

Comment Fodder:

  • Readers, what is the most recent book you've read with a big plot twist? Did any of these sources of inspiration surprise you? Which ones?
  • Writers, what are your most surprising sources of story inspiration?