Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Bride At Last by Melissa Jagears Reviewed

First of all, I want to say how happy I am that Christian romance publishers are allowing bearded heroes now. I'm a long-time fan of whiskers (on men) and immediately developed a satisfied grin after my first glimpse of this cover. If you're a fellow beard fan, check out my "Whiskers" Pinterest board. If you happen across some spectacular scruff, send it to me through Pinterest, and I'll pin it to the board and credit you with the submission. :)

The characters: 
 This hero and heroine are my favorite of Jagears' couples so far. The hero, with his tough past and his reasons for reticence stole my heart right off. And the heroine's tendency to run from issues, as well as her willingness to help others without condemning them, challenged my own attitudes.

The plot:  
This author's plots are different from any other format I've read. The beginning of A.B.A.L. starts with a bang, then the first third of the book gently develops characters and mounts the odds against them. After that, it's a wild ride of unexpected twists!

The setting:  
The overall setting stays light and never distracts from the plot or characters. Historical aspects are woven expertly into the action and dialogue.

The theme:  
"Never give up." This story has heart. A fresh look at addictions will bring hope to the struggling reader and compassion to the judgmental ones. Excellent portrayals that felt very real.

The end:  
The feeling I had after reading this book was similar to the one after reading Tamera Alexander's To Whisper Her Name. Sweet symbolism was woven throughout to bring the story a satisfying conclusion. And that epilogue!!! One of the best I've read in a while. :)

You can get your own copy from these major booksellers:

Buy from Christian Book Distributor.
Buy from GoodReads.
Buy from Books-A-Million.
Buy from Barnes and Noble.
Buy from Amazon Kindle.
Buy from Amazon.

I'm grateful to the author and publisher for providing me a paperback copy in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Top Five Tips from the Pros: How to Create Memorable Characters by Tina Radcliffe

with guest Tina Radcliffe

Memorable characters are those characters that stay with you long after you close the pages of the book. They can be heroes or villains. We can love them or hate them. But they better be memorable.

You’ll know you’ve done your job when contest judges tell you they long to read more of your story, or a reader contacts you to say please tell me what happens to that secondary character in your book. The key is to make your characters so real, that readers are invested and care.

Since I am a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel, I keep my favorite writing tips for writing memorable characters close by whenever I start a new story.

1. Michael Hauge from The Hero’s Two Journeys:

“The audience becomes the character.”

Add two or more of these qualities to your characters to make your reader care about your protagonist.

a. Make the character the victim of some undeserved misfortune.

b. Put the character in jeopardy.

c. Make the character likable.

d. Make the character funny.

e. Make the character powerful.

2. Screen writer Linda Seger’s Creating Unforgettable Characters says:
“The more successful way of developing characters is actually to create a situation in which they have to react and the way they react is the way you get to know them.”

3. Gary Provost is one of my favorite craft book authors. Here are some insights from two of his books.

How to Tell a Story: "Bring your character onto the stage and let the reader see who she is and how she feels by how she acts when alone and with others, not by what she says or thinks."

Note the message here is show, don’t tell.

Make Your Words Work: “Think about one of your favorite characters from a book who is brought to life in a movie. We know those characters inside and out. We identified with them. …identification is why we read." That shared identity.

4. From Dwight Swain’s Creating Characters: Building Story People: labels are how you help your reader to recognize your story people. More than names, labels are those special and unique characteristics that make your character memorable on the page. We judge by first impressions. So think hard before you create your character’s first and possibly their most memorable impressions.

The four dominant impressions are:

1. Sex-male or female-Especially important with gender neutral names.

2. Age-in numbers or in descriptive features (gray haired, elderly).

3. Vocation- A special noun that describes vocation.

4. Manner-What’s going on inside a character.

Now put them all together. 

Agnes Brown, the cheery waitress at the Sunset Café with the purple tinted, bouffant hair.

Can you see Agnes? I can.

Don’t let your character walk onto the stage without introducing these impressions.

5. Character, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress. Nancy gives some great tips to consider when creating our character appearance.

“A person’s appearance consists of two different aspects: those he has chosen and those he has not. “

The first things to consider are what impressions you want your character to make with their appearance.

Character description of appearance should do the following:

a. Provide a strong visual image.

b. Imply personality traits and or personal background.

c. Intrigue us about what will happen next.

Ask yourself what one thing makes each of them memorable? Can you see how the tips above were applied to create such three dimensional characters that in the reader/audiences mind these characters became real instead of fictional?

I hope these tips help the next time you sit down to create your story people.

I’ve got some real “characters” in my latest release from Love Inspired romance, Safe in the Fireman’s Arms. Check out the cover with Geek Girl, Maggie Jones and Mr. Macho, Jake MacLaughlin. Leave a comment to win a print copy. Tell us some of your favorite fictional characters from books or film.

Tina Radcliffe is a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, a 2012 ACFW Carol Award finalist, and a 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner, Tina has won first place in over twenty RWA chapter affiliated contests. Tina currently resides in Arizona where she writes inspirational romance for Harlequin Love Inspired and independently publishes sweet romances.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tips on Writing Novellas by Melissa Jagears

I'm thrilled to welcome award-winning novelist and novella-writer Melissa Jagears to the blog today! She has some fantastic tips on writing novellas. Here's Melissa:
          I have a confession to make; I’m not much of a novella reader. Or didn’t used to be anyway. I would’ve joined the chorus of readers who say they don’t like novellas because they’re too short and you feel cheated out of time with the characters.....even though I might only have ever read one novella in my life.... (and a handful of short stories in English classes).
http://www.amazon.com/Home-Christmas-Sweetest-Inspirational-Collection-ebook/dp/B0064DQTJS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432750947&sr=8-1&keywords=a+home+for+christmas+connealy          So, when I was asked to write a novella, I read some to see how they were done . . . and you know what? There were some pretty good ones out there! I was impressed with one by Mary Connealy called The Sweetest Gift in the A Home for Christmas Collection. It was as good as any novel I’d read! (Don’t let the cover fool you.) And then the second one in that collection by Hatcher was quite a good read too.
          But then, there were quite a few duds. Most of them seemed to be trying to pack in too much and therefore fell flat and felt shallow. It seemed that there was no middle ground with novellas. They were either good or they weren’t.
          It seems that everyone who complains about novellas, complains that just as soon as they get to know the characters, the story ends. So these haters of novellas prefer depth of character over plot. And how much incredibly unique plot can you pack into less than a hundred pages anyway? So....

1. Give your Characters One Problem.
          Decide on one character problem for both of the characters to overcome, but in different ways. Decide what the virtue is and give the hero and the heroine its vice, but from the opposite perspective.
          So if compassion is the virtue you want your characters to achieve, give the hero too much compassion so he gets walked all over by people, then give the heroine too little compassion, so she’s either selfish or has difficulty feeling compassion.
          Or if you want your characters to adopt a child, give the heroine little faith that she could successfully help the lonely child and give the hero so much faith that God will take care of the orphan that the hero doesn’t see that God plans for him to be His way of caring for the child.

2. Give the Story One Twist.
          Now, just because you can’t pack in a lot of plot doesn’t mean you should write the predictable. Before you start writing, think of one story plot point you can turn on its head. The rest of the plot should probably be pretty comfortable because you don’t have a lot of room to take readers for a joy ride on the plot roller coaster. But rather, your story should be more like that amusement park ride where you stand in a barrel and it spins you against the wall by centrifugal force. Pretty boring right? Just spin and spin, but then the floor drops out from under you, yet you’re still stuck to the wall five feet above the floor’s new position. It only lasts for a minute or two, but it’s still fun because it’s not something that has ever happened to you before!
          So think through how the plot ought to go to get the hero and heroine to achieve their character arc goals, and then near the two thirds part of the story, look at the plot points and ask what if questions. Figure out if you could do the opposite, find a wrench to throw in it, bring something or someone crazy into the picture, make your characters do something unpredictable. Dig around for a plot twist where your own mind’s floor drops down and surprises you with a few minutes of fun you’ve never read before.

3. Keep your Developed Characters to a Minimum. 
          My magic number seems to be eight. Two principals and a mix of six people who will either help or hinder that require a bit of character development because they affect your character’s plot/arc. But be careful not to give them any real subplots that require tying up strings. Only give them roles that affect your main plot and characters. If you plan to use them in another story, you can hint at something unresolved that will make readers curious, but don’t develop it to the point your reader is left unsatisfied if you don’t deal with the other character’s story. You don’t have time for that.

4. The Ending Still has to Satisfy.
          Even if your main story resolves, you need to make sure your readers will be satisfied with a firm happily ever after even if you plan to use your characters in another story to show their happy ending. Readers won’t give you a pass for not satisfying them in the end just because it’s short.
          I’m not sure I satisfied my readers well enough with my first novella. Of course the main story resolved, you know the boy got the girl, but I had some readers feel like I didn’t conclude it; they wanted to know if the characters they loved actually turned out all right without having to pick up the next book. So don’t leave them on the high of story resolution. Give them a cool down with a couple of pages that gives them a sigh of contentment.

5. Don’t Fight your Natural Writing Style.
          You’re not going to magically become something else because you’re writing short. So take into account your writing habits, quirks, strengths and weaknesses and plan around them.
          For instance, what is your average chapter or scene length? Don’t think that you’re going to change that flow just because the book will be shorter—or longer for that matter. So divide the novella word count, by your average chapter/scene word count and figure out where to have the plot structure coincide with that many chapters before diving in.

So that’s what I’ve done to write my (so far) three novellas. And since the first one won the Carol Award for 2014, I hope something I said will be helpful for others contemplating writing novellas!


My current novella is out this month in The Convenient Brides Collection entitled Blinded by Love, and it’s actually about a secondary character in my award winning novella Love by the Letter which you can read for FREE if you haven’t already!



Author Bio
Much to her introverted self’s delight, Melissa Jagears hardly needs to leave her home to be an elementary homeschool teacher, day-care provider, church financial secretary, and historical romance novelist. She doesn’t have to leave her house to be a housekeeper either, but she’s doubtful she meets the minimum qualifications to accuse herself of being one in her official bio. Her passion is to help Christian believers mature in their faith and judge rightly. Find her online at www.melissajagears.com, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads, or write her at PO Box 191, Dearing, KS 67340.

Check out Melissa's Page on Amazon.com!

Comment Fodder

For Readers:
Do you read many novellas?
What's your favorite thing about them?
Have you ever read a novella and wished you could tell the author how it could be better?
Do you have any novella writing tips from a reader's perspective?

For writers:
Have you ever thought about writing a novella?
What is holding you back?
Have you already written a novella?
What was your favorite thing about the process?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Encouragement For the Waiting ~ Waiting Is A Time For: Patience

Waiting is not only a time for prayer, it’s a time for:

2. Patience: (n.) the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.  

"Well, doh, Natalie. And wait just a minute. All your other points in this waiting series are active verbs. How can patience be active?" 

Here it is: 
  •  Patience involves Surrender

Psa 37:5  Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
Psa 37:7  Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

Psa 25:1  A Psalm of David. Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.

Psa 25:2  O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.

Surrender is one of those deeds "easier said."

Last week, God gave me a "surrender moment," which I wouldn't have chosen for myself, when my hopes for placing in a prestigious writing contest took a face plant. I knew exactly why the piece didn't score well, but by the time I figured it out, the opportunity to revise had passed. Took me about three seconds to realize God knew all this would happen before I did and He'd already made provision to soothe my squashed dream of being on that finalist list.

As an outpouring of His infinite goodness and love, ofttimes the Lord paves the way for our surrender to Him, preparing us for the event with a grace-gift beforehand. He did this for me when I learned one of my critique partners' entries DID make the finalist list! I rode high on that gem of celebration for the next three days since I'm a huge fan of these stories--and the writer--and can't wait to see both take off and soar.

God is sooooo good like that.

When we acknowledge what and Who we're waiting on as well as why and where we're waiting, then pray, trusting in the God Who hears, we can surrender our situation to our Creator and rest in Him. He will prepare us plus take care of the outcome.

Recently departed speaker and writer Elisabeth Elliot knew something about surrender. Elisabeth was a missionary widow who spent two years ministering to the remote Indian tribe who murdered her husband. She later remarried, but in her relationship book for singles, Passion and Purity (highly recommended), she shares what she learned waiting on God. "I do know that waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one's thoughts."

General William Booth (who Founded the Salvation army in London in 1865) was once asked to reveal the secret of his success. After some hesitation, tears came to his eyes and he said, “I will tell you the secret. God has had all there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I have, men with greater opportunities, but from the day that I got the poor of London on my heart and caught a vision of what Jesus could do with them, on that day I made up my mind that God should have all of William Booth there was." It was this which led Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, the questioner, to remark, “I learned from William Booth that the greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.” (Encyclopedia of Illustrations #12616).

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand  

Do you have a favorite poem or song about waiting or surrender? Share about it in the comments.

Winner of Jennifer Slattery's When Dawn Breaks is Bonnie Roof. Congrats!!! :) I'll be in touch. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

How To: Writing that Challenges by Jennifer Slattery

Jennifer Slattery is here letting us in on some tips for writing challenging fiction.


Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Here's Jennifer:
I was completely blindsided and leveled, for some time to come. In fact, I’m not sure the ache God started years ago has ever left. That ache of knowing, really knowing, and feeling completely and utterly inept. More than that, of wrestling with what God might be calling me to do, and yet, erecting barriers to obedience before the prayer concludes.
Double-minded. Partially surrendered. Angered by the injustice of it all yet paralyzed by fear, selfishness, and uncertainty. Some problems seem just too big to tackle, and yet, God—the infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God, has a plan. If we’d but tune our ears and step out in obedience, to whatever He calls us to do. For some that means opening our home to broken children. For others that may mean acting like a support for friends who’ve answered the call to foster. The opportunities to help are endless.
And the need, urgent. There are so many reasons we can say now, but there’s a huge and pressing reason to say yes.

Through the eyes of one of America’s forgotten:

Kraigen stood in the doorway holding a large garbage bag that wasn’t even half full despite the fact that it carried absolutely everything he owned. Clenching his jaw, he braced himself for the worst. Based on the sappy faces and wide, almost teary eyes that stared back at him, this was gonna be one long night. He pretended to listen to the high-pitched chirping that pricked his ears, but in reality, his mind was a million miles, and neighborhoods, away.
He knew the drill. They were happy to have him, wanted him to feel at home, yah-da, yah-dah, yah-dah. He’d heard all that before. And he’d pretend to buy it, for now. Until they shipped him off somewhere else. Because they always did. This was his third home this year, the tenth home since those high-and-mighties down at children’s services shipped him off five years ago when they found his mother passed out on the living room floor, a used heroine needle dangling from her limp hand.
“Can I take your…um…bag for you?” A lady with a way too big smile and mascara caked eye-lashes asked, reaching for Kraigen’s things.
He jerked away instinctively and clutched the smooth plastic to his chest. The woman’s eyes went wide. The man beside her, tall with a thick shaggy beard and thick glasses, started to move forward. When Kraigen looked directly into the man’s eyes and squared his shoulders in his best, “Wanna piece of me?” stance, the man slackened and stepped back.
“Are you hungry?” The woman’s voice was shaky. “I made spaghetti and meatballs. Come with me.”
Kraigen followed reluctantly into a brightly painted kitchen with pink and purple flower curtains. A large, round table laden with salad, milk, steamed vegetables and hot spaghetti sat in the center of the room. Hen tightened his throat to stop his nose from inhaling the aroma of Italian sausage and roasted garlic. Last thing he needed was for his stomach to go growling like some wild animal. Yah, he was hungry. So what? He’d been hungry before, and he’d be hungry again. One hot meal, and a few nights in some Beaver-Cleaver home really wasn’t going to make that much of a difference. It was all temporary, despite their lofty promises.
“Here, have a seat.” The man pulled out a chair and patted the cushion.
Kraigen glanced at the clock. How long were these charades going to go on? But that was how the game was played. They’d do their part, give him a few hot meals, tell him how special he was, that it wasn’t his fault his mom was sick, like they had any idea what they were talking about. But then he’d mess up, or they’d get tired, whatever, and he’d be shipped off somewhere else.
“Like spaghetti?” The lady shoved a steaming hot plate piled high with soft noodles and dripping sauce in front of his face. “I made this just for you.”
An image of his mother passed out on the vomit-stained carpet, her thick, matted hair spread out across the maroon fibers like clumps of wool, flashed through his mind.
He cleared his throat to keep his tears at bay. “Thank you,” and began to push the noodles around his plate with a shiny silver fork.
The man with the thick glasses pulled up a chair, sat beside him and nodded for the lady to do the same. Kraigen pretended not to notice the pathetic looks of sympathy that were etched in their middle-class faces. It was like they were watching some mutated cat trying to lap up a pile of spilled milk.
“I know this is hard for you—”
Yah, right. You and your pretty little white picket fence and two-car garage? You don’t know And I know you won’t stick around long enough to find out. No one does.

Natalie here again. What a beautiful, challenging glimpse into this young boy's life! I have a few questions for you, Jennifer:
1. What were the circumstances that inspired you to write this piece?
My sister has been involved in the foster care system, first as a CPS worker and now as an in-home therapist, for some time, and so her passion for hurting children has bled into me. But also, I went through a period of homelessness as a teen, and a time of feeling unwanted. I carried my belongings--all I really had were clothes--with me in a big trash bag, and so, I've always felt a deep empathy for homeless teenagers and children. But I also know the power of life-changing grace and the hope we, as believers, can offer to America's hurting children. 

2. Where can writers look to find subjects that challenge readers--and themselves? 
 I'd say the best way writers can learn about and really write authentically about deep subjects, such as orphan or foster care, is to get involved. Spend time with people. Everyone has a story and a mission. Learn about them, then write about them. When you do, God will open your reader's hearts to healing, their calling, and their unique mission. 

3. How does your faith affect your writing? 
My faith is the foundation of all I do, and I hope everything I say and write points to God's amazing grace. If not, I'm wasting my time. :) 

Bonus question: What's the best quick-draw writing advice you've ever received?
The best writing advice I've received, the best life advice really, is just get 'er done. So many people say they want to write a novel, some even say it's a driving passion, and yet, many don't regularly devote time to it. Though writing with our muses is great, if we want to make it a career and ministry, we need to learn to write on demand, which means, sometimes we'll have to force our rear ends into the chair and eek those words out, many of which will probably get deleted. Because though writing is a passion, it is also work. We must never forget that; never expect it to be easy. Not to sound cliche', but nothing worthwhile is.

I love these answers. Thank you so much, Jennifer. Hey, everybody. Check out Jennifer's book, When Dawn Breaks:
When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution propel her north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. Then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here.

You can buy a copy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  or CBD

Jennifer is generously giving away a signed copy of When Dawn Breaks. Comment on the post below to enter, and name a novel that challenged you in some way. Mention if you shared on social media to get an extra entry for each share.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Karen Witemeyer and Characters

Y'all, I'm SO excited today. Want to know why? Do ya? Do ya? Do ya?

What would YOU do if you had the chance to host one of your favorite-est-ever authors on your blog?
  • Faint?
  • Scream?
  • Jump up and down like a three year old when they hear the My Little Pony theme song?
  • Fist pump your laptop in the air and whisper, "Yesss."?
  • Go into cardiac arrest?
Yeah, nobody ever said the bookish life was easy.

I know, I know. With so many author friends, I'm not supposed to have "favorites," but sometimes an author's work just resonates with you and you have no choice but to like all of their books. Besides, it's my blog. I'll have "favorite authors" if I want to. Boom. ;)

Today, I have the proud-peacock pleasure of introducing to you the incomparable inspirational historical romance writer, Karen Witemeyer. (Yes, I warned her I might gush a bit.) 

She has graciously brought along her newest hero and heroine to answer random questions for our reading pleasure. Warning: you will fall in love with each character by page 24 or I'll eat my cat. (Don't worry, I don't have a cat. This is probably why.) 

Why page 24? IDK, maybe because that's when I stopped to giggle and wiggle my toes. 

I know you want to hear from her, and I've "talked enough, already," so here's Karen:

Christy Award finalist and winner of both the ACFW Carol Award and HOLT Medallion, CBA bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes Christian historical romance for Bethany House, believing the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. To learn more about her books or to sign up for her newsletter, please visit her website at http://karenwitemeyer.com/

I decided to let both of my main characters answer these fun questions. To give you a quick glimpse at who they are so you can better understand their points of view, I've included a brief character sketch of each:

1891, Texas

Stone Hammond – Orphaned at a young age, Stone has made his own way in the world. He worked for years bringing in bounties on outlaws and renegades until he built a reputation of being the best "retriever" in Texas. Now he hires himself out for non-criminal retrievals, his current project being to find the kidnapped granddaughter of a powerful railroad investor.

 Charlotte Atherton – Charlotte is the headmistress at an academy for exceptional youths. She, herself, was a musical child prodigy, yet she hates being in the spotlight. She would much rather live quiet and unnoticed, keeping attachments to a minimum. People can't hurt you, after all, if you're not attached to them. Yet when danger threatens her charges, she realizes she can remain detached no longer. She secrets the children away and vows to do whatever it takes to protect them.

These interview questions were answered after the conclusion of their adventure together.

Your most embarrassing moment?

Charlotte: When my former beau asked me to pretend to have twisted my ankle so that his actual fiancé (who had shown up unexpectedly) wouldn't wonder why I had been holding his arm. Needless to say, I never stepped out with that particular young man again. Lying scoundrel.

Stone: Posing for that ridiculous photograph that appeared in the final installment of the Dead-Eye Dan dime novel series. My former partner, Dan Barrett, still hasn't let me hear the end of it. Only did it 'cause Charlotte and Lily asked. It was the only way to get Stephen's father to allow him to come back to school, so I guess the ribbing was worth it. Stephen's a good kid. Practically family.

What is your first reaction when you meet a fetching lady/handsome gentleman? Blush? Stutter? Run? Flirt? Engage them in intelligent or witty conversation? Start an argument to see how handle anger? Offer a helping hand? Ask a friend what they know about them?

Stone: If I need information from them, I smile and flatter and get them to talk until I learn all I can. If they aren't part of the job, I keep my distance. Keep things simple, that's my motto. Followed it, too, until Charlotte came around. Nothin' simple about that woman, but she was well worth the pursuin'.

Charlotte: I did my best to avoid men most of my life. After my father's betrayal and that of my beau, I didn't trust them. Especially the handsome, charming ones. Didn't trust Stone, either, when we first met—we were enemies, after all—but he wore down my resistance. Takes a patient man to get through all the walls I had erected to protect myself. I'm thankful he's the persistent type.

Are there any children or pets in your life? What do you love about them?

Stone: Lily is our adopted daughter, as full of life as ever, and reading books faster than we can set them in front of her. We're pursuing adoption for John Chang, as well. Charlotte believes he will soon exceed her talents on the piano, but I find that hard to believe. No music stirs my soul more than my wife's rendition of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Stephen Farley is a regular at the Hammond School for Exceptional Youths, and we are accepting a couple new students next year as well. Oh, and despite me and my wife being much older than most new parents, God has blessed us with our own new babe, due in just a few weeks. That's sure to be our biggest adventure yet.

What are your hobbies?

Charlotte: Playing the piano and knitting baby blankets and booties for the coming little one.

Stone: Building things. All my life I wanted a permanent home I could call my own. Now that I've got it, I make sure everything stays in perfect working order. Except for when the gnome gets to it first. Dobson likes to beat me to the punch, old codger. Unless it's the roof. After his near miss, he lets me do all the repairs up there.

When’s the last time you had a really good meal? Courtesy of whom?

Stone: Last night. Charlotte and Lily outdid themselves with ham steak, potatoes, string beans from the garden, yeast rolls, and strawberry pie for dessert. If I'm not careful, I'm gonna be in the market for some new trousers soon, ones with a wider middle.

Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan's Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the little girl entrusted to her care after her mother's death. Charlotte promised Lily's mother she'd keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When the teacher he's after produces documentation that shows she's the little girl's legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he's been led to believe. Is Miss Atherton villain or victim? She acts more like a loving mother than an abductress, and the children in her care clearly adore her.

Then a new danger threatens, and Charlotte is forced to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone becomes determined to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he's ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte's heart.

*Squee* Natalie, here. Doesn't this make you want to read the book so bad? Well, then. I have GREAT news! Karen has generously offered an AUTOGRAPHED PAPERBACK to one happy U.S. resident. To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below.
So everyone else commenting will know, the comment-question in the Rafflecopter is: What made you smile when reading the characters' answers? Do you have any questions about the book?

P.S. I would've included a link to my reviews of this book, but alas, I don't have them up yet! I'll do that soon, though, and do a review here on the blog later.