Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Simple Secrets by Nancy Mehl

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Simple Secrets
Barbour Books (June 1, 2010)


Nancy Mehl


Nancy Mehl lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Norman and her son, Danny. She’s authored nine books and is currently at work on her newest series for Barbour Publishing.

All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “It’s a part of me and of everything I think or do. God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan especially for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”


Nancy Mehl is a mystery writer who loves to set her novels in her home state of Kansas. Her three-in-one book, COZY IN KANSAS, contains the first three Ivy Towers’s mysteries: IN THE DEAD OF WINTER, BYE BYE BERTIE, and FOR WHOM THE WEDDING BELL TOLLS which was nominated for the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award in mystery.

She and her husband attend Believer’s Tabernacle in Wichita.


Graphic designer Gracie Temple wants it all: the big city lifestyle and a successful job in advertising. And it looks like her life is on the right track when she takes a job at a struggling, midsize firm in Wichita.

But Gracie Temple's uncle left her a house in a rural Mennonite community. She soon learns he secluded himself for years to protect a secret about her own father. Now it's up to Gracie to decide if she'll keep the secret or if she can afford to expose it.

Sam Goodrich loves his fruit farm in Harmony, Kansas. But when he meets city-girl Gracie, he begins to wonder if he could leave it behind for a woman who makes him feel things he's never felt before.

When someone tries to keep Gracie from discovering the truth behind the town's collection of secrets, will Sam and Gracie cling to their faith to help them decide what's most important. . .before it's too late?

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

Margie's Comments: Nancy Mehl is an author to read if you like traditional mysteries. I fell in love with her characters and stories when I read the Ivy Tower mysteries, also published by Barbour. So I was excited to learn that she would continue to write romantic mysteries for them. Simple Secrets is a most satisfying read, setting up the series set in Harmony, Kansas. Nancy has created a world that is peopled with wonderful characters. For those who are fascinated by the Amish/Mennonite way of life will not be disappointed with Nancy's authentic depiction of the Mennonite faith. This is a book, and series, you don't want to miss.

Verse of the Day

You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 The Message)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Verse of the Day

God can do anything, you know--far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Ephesians 3:20 MSG)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Verse of the Day

So be careful that you don't become misers of what you hear. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes." (Luke 8:18)

Do you share what the Lord is teaching you? If so, how? If not, why not?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Verse of the Day

Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever.(1 Peter 5:8–9 MSG)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Writing E-courses with Janice Thompson

This week, Janice Thompson's fiction e-course launches into cyberspace. I'll let Janice tell you all about it. Janice is an excellent teacher, and I know that whoever takes this course will benefit highly!

Janice, I understand you’re about to debut a new fiction course online. Why fiction? What is your background, as it relates to fiction writing?
Every writer hopes to one day write “The Great American Novel.” I started writing novels as a child, so the desire to craft “story” has always been inside of me. In the mid '90s I started writing with the desire to be published. After years of trial and error, my first novel hit the shelves in 2000. Since then, I’ve published over forty novels—everything from inspirational romance to cozy mysteries to Y.A. (young adult) to romantic comedies. It’s been a great run! I’ve noticed a trend in recent years. “Young” writers approach me, one after the other, asking the same questions and struggling with the same problems. I’ve worn myself out giving the same answers! (There are only so many times and ways you can say, “You’re head-hopping, honey!”) Because of that, I decided it would be easier to compile the information into a fiction course, will debut mid-June at I can’t wait to see what novelists think of this exciting new course!

You’ve started with a lesson on understanding the genres. Why is that?
As mentioned above, I’ve been published in multiple genres. My first book was a suspense-thriller. I’ve since written historicals, contemporaries, children’s, young adult, romances, mysteries, and much, much more. Because I’ve been able to successfully cross genre lines, I feel qualified to teach on the subject. Before writers can establish themselves as novelists, they must develop an understanding of the fiction genres/categories. Choosing the best genre (or genres) is critical to your success. But with so many categories to choose from, how do you know which is your best fit? This lesson will give writers a thorough introduction to genre writing and will provide them with the necessary information to choose the one(s) best suited to their literary style and voice. 

I see you’ve included a lesson on plotting. Is this based on your “Plot Shots” teaching, which you’ve offered at conferences?
Yes! I’m so tickled to finally be able to offer this teaching in a course format. I’ve become known as “that Plot Shots lady.” That’s okay. I can live with that! I’m a firm believer in laying out a great plotline. Why? Because every story needs a beginning, middle, and end. Careful plotting will lead the reader on a satisfactory, realistic journey through each of those stages, creatively weaving in and out, up and down.  The "Plot Shots" method gives writers the tools they need to plot their novel in twelve easy snapshots. It’s a fun and easy approach to plotting that won’t confuse or complicate the story.

Characterization is such an important component of fiction writing. Can you tell us more about your characterization lesson?
Years ago I developed a teaching that I call “Pandora’s Box.” It’s a layered approach to characterization, which uses the illustration of multiple boxes, one inside the other. In this lesson, I lay out the need for great characterization, then present the Pandora’s Box method. After presenting the method, I take the student through the process four times, using four fictional characters as a foundation. (Each character has a different personality, so the student learns how to apply the technique to the various personalities.)

So many writers struggle with POV (point of view). Is that why you included a lesson on that very tough subject?
Point of View (POV) is a critical fiction component. Employing to your best advantage is tough! Most of the young writers I know struggle in this area. The head-hop. Oh, they don’t mean to. . .but they do! My detailed lesson on Point of View offers students a thorough teaching on the various POVs (omniscient, third person, second person, first person), and gives specific examples and tips so that writers can become POV purists. 

What is passive writing? Why have you included a lesson about it?
Many of the manuscripts I edit are written in passive voice. They’re loaded with passive verbs and include huge sections of “telling.” The author “information dumps,” which stops the flow of the story. Knowing the difference between active voice and passive voice is key to writing a great novel. Conquering the art of "showing" instead of "telling" will give writers an added advantage. This detailed lesson—filled with nuggets of wisdom from published authors—will give writers the tools they need to strengthen their stories and pull them into active voice. 

Ack! Backstory! It’s so tough to add to our novels. Is that why you included a lesson on the subject?
Backstory. We all struggle with it, don’t we? In so many ways, it's critical to our story. After all, the reader needs to know where our primary character has come from—what she's been through—why she acts like she does. So, do you add the backstory or not? If so, can you do so without resorting to author intrusion? And where will you place it? At the beginning of the story? Elsewhere? Will it come out in lumps or snippets? This lesson offers students an intense look at backstory and includes tips for interjecting it without stopping the action. 

Many writers struggle with finding their “voice.” Can you tell us more about that?
A writer’s “voice” is her/her “stamp.” It’s the author’s “personality on the page.” And many young writers haven’t “found their voice” yet. This lesson delves into the topic, in detail, giving perspective on this very personal issue. The lesson (titled “Themes, Style and Voice”) also covers the various themes found in popular books, as well as style components.

Can you tell us some of the top fiction mistakes?
Sure! After editing hundreds of manuscripts, I can point out some of the “top” fiction mistakes: Lack of a good hook. POV issues. Passive writing. Weak characterization. Poor plotting (no “belly of the whale” scene). Overuse of adverbs. On and on the list goes. Many writers simply don’t realize they’re making these mistakes until someone points them out. They wonder why the book keeps getting rejected. This lesson offers writers a thorough list, detailing the top twenty mistakes novelists make.

Why did you decide to add a lesson on humor writing?
I’ve been writing comedies for years and have learned so much along the way. Humor writing is tough stuff! Some writers are born with an overactive funny bone. Others have to work hard to be funny. (Ironic, isn't it?!) If you're interested in adding a little har-de-har-har-har to your novel, then you've come to the right place. In this light-hearted lesson on humor writing, I share my top ten tips for adding humor to your writing. The bonus feature contains another twenty tummy-tickling techniques, so hang on for the ride!

Putting together a book proposal is tough! What have you learned over the years?
Book deals are won or lost based on the proposal. If you've got a completed manuscript and you're ready to pitch it to an agent or editor, then this exciting lesson on query letters and book proposals will point you in the right direction, giving you all the confidence you need to submit, submit, submit! Students who use the information provided in this lesson can compose polished query letters and dazzling book proposals, sure to impress both editors and agents, alike.

Thanks so much for joining us, Janice. Where can people learn more about your courses? And where else can they find you on the web?
They can learn more at On that site, they will also find my “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer” course, which many students have already taken. Folks can learn more about that one by clicking on this video: I offered a free webinar on the subject about six weeks ago, and it can be found here: We’ll be adding to the course list every couple of months, so stay tuned for more announcements!

Other places to find me on the web:

Verse of the Day

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? (Psalm 56:3–4)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ozark Weddings by Anita Higman & Janice Thompson

Today, I'm very glad to have my friends Anita Higman and Janice Thompson answering some questions about their newest release, Ozark Weddings, a collection of three Heartsong romances in one book.

Back Cover Copy: The Hills Are Alive with the Ring of Romance. . .

And love is challenging three women to soar to new heights of hope and faith in the Ozark Mountains.

Larkspur Wendell hates to see anyone not enjoying life. So when a solitude-seeking neighbor moves in, she's compelled to get to know him. Everett Holden moved into a small town to work in peace and quiet. But his neighbor seems to have an entirely different agenda. Will Larkspur's attention being him out of his shell or drive him in even deeper?

Painfully shy Clair O'Neal suddenly finds herself attracting two different men—image coach Glenn Yves and musician Hudson Mandel. Both are drawn to her unassuming presence and inner beauty. Can a vulnerable Clair trust either of them with her heart?

Nori Kelly's biological clock is a ticking time bomb. But the only one seemingly interested in her is Zachary Martin, a tried and true member of the "geek" squad. Is this nerd her only hope of defusing her volatile situation?

Will these three women find their true loves amid this myriad of males—for better or for worse?

Margie's comments: I was privileged to proofread at least two of these books in this collection. And I've read the other, but don't remember if it was proofreading or just for pleasure. Even proofreading them was a pleasure. I love the way Anita and Janice work together to tell a compelling story with humor. While each of these stories are set in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, they are unique. The characters are delightful, and their problems are realistically faced and worked through. I'm not much for romance for romance's sake. The fluffy kind that is focused entirely on the romance. I like romance with depth, and Anita and Janice can be counted on to deliver that with their stories, both together and individually. I highly recommend Ozark Weddings.

And now, the interview:

Your Barbour Heartsong 3-in-1 collection is entitled, Ozark Weddings. Tell us a little bit about the three stories.
Anita: All three stories are set in Arkansas—Eureka Springs, Little Rock, and Hot Springs. Larkspur Dreams and Castles in the Air are romantic comedy, while the middle story, The Love Song, is more dramatic in tone.
Janice: Larkspur Dreams is a lighthearted, whimsical tale that will appeal to inspirational romance readers, particularly those with artistic leanings. The Love Song reaches into the depths of the reader’s soul, dealing with the topic of overcoming past hurts. Castles in the Air provides a humorous look at the way we are perceived by others, and teaches us that our prejudices (comical as they might be) often keep us from the very thing God has planned for us.

Anita, you and Janice co-authored the three stories in Ozark Weddings. How do writers go about co-authoring?
Anita: There are a number of ways to co-author a novel. One writer might do the research and the other writer may actually write the story. Or co-authors may each choose a character and write from that character’s POV. In the three novels, I guess you could say I wrote the body and wings of the stories, and Janice helped to make them fly. She has a gift for critiquing.
Janice: Working with Anita is a breeze because she conceives and fully plots the stories then lets me add my thoughts/tidbits to give them flavor. She is so quirky and fun to work with, and I am very proud of the stories we have co-produced.

Were there times when it was hard to work together?
Anita: Janice is not only talented, but easy to work with. There were a few times in one of the novels that I found myself writing in a way that strayed from the general concept of a Heartsong romance. Janice made some good suggestions, which steered me in the right direction.
Janice: I can honestly say that I’ve never worked with anyone who was so willing to accept critique and/or take suggestions as Anita. She is a precious friend and collaborative partner. I already knew she was talented (even before we began this project) but had no idea how gracious she would be. Since I’ve written for the Heartsong line for years, I was able to “teach her the ropes” (as it were) and she was a ready learner! That’s not to say she hasn’t taught me a thing or two. I’ve learned much from her throughout this process, particularly as it applies to romantic tension. She’s far better at that than I am, and I’m happy to admit it.

Why did you choose to be a writer?
Anita: Ever since I was a little girl, I had this need to express myself in some sort of artistic medium. I’ve tried a number of things: piano, painting, decorating, and acting. But I’ve never been very good at any these endeavors, except writing. I guess really then—writing chose me.
Janice: Like Anita, I’ve always been artistic. As a youngster, I sang, danced, and played the piano. I was also very involved in theater as a young person. I’ve been writing since childhood. I wrote my first novella in 6th grade, then went on to write musical comedies for the stage before turning to books in the mid-90’s. Like Anita, I can truly say that I didn’t choose writing; it chose me. Or, perhaps I should say that God chose it for me, as a gift.

When did you have your first success as a writer?
Anita: After several years of writing, I had some gradual success—books for children, books of one-act plays, and nonfiction for women. These successes were enough to keep me going toward my ultimate goal, which was to write novels.
Janice: This may sound a bit silly, but my first real writing “success” happened my senior year in high school, when I was chosen to help write the senior production. I had a blast, and the scene I crafted (a 1930’s/Busby Berkeley-esque “The Show Must Go On” scene) was a huge success. I can’t tell you what fun I had, or how great it felt for people to respond as they did.

Do you have any special methods of getting into the writing zone, such as favorite scents, music, or certain foods?
Anita: In the past I used to go to a French café, order coffee and scrambled eggs, and then write a rough chapter. The noise, music, and bustle always energized me creatively. But now I’m more of a homebody, so I sit for long hours in my office, working on my stories.
Janice: An "ideal" writing situation for me would involve someplace like Starbucks (or otherwise) with a cup of my favorite hot beverage in my hand (to be discussed below). Ironically, when I'm at home, I can't stand having music going. I find it terribly distracting ... something about the "beat" drives me nutty. Having the television on is okay, but it's often muted. Crazy, I know. I'm a fanatic about my Diet Dr Pepper and several flavors of hot tea. I particularly love Earl Grey and Chai Latte, among others. And I'm nuts about hot chocolate in the wintertime. I'm also crazy about my puppies. I have two red mini-dachshunds named Sasha and Copper. They usually settle in next to me on the sofa, Sasha on my right, Copper on my left. When we're all in place (with a cup of tea or a Diet Dr Pepper on the end table, depending on the season) I'm ready to begin. Of course, I usually have to weed through several emails (clearing a path) before I can actually start writing. Whew! Sounds like quite a process, doesn't it?! It's a wonder I get anything done at all!

 What is your best advice for aspiring writers?
 Anita: If you feel called to write, don’t let people discourage you. I’m sure they don’t realize the impact of their words, but negative remarks can undermine our courage and joy. Comments similar to: “Maybe you weren’t really meant to be published.”  Or, “Are you making any money at this yet?” Perhaps you’ve heard, “Why can’t you write like my favorite author?” Honestly, I could go on and on here. Writing is a great and honorable profession—one that can challenge, inspire, and change people’s lives. If you love words and love arranging them into stories, then don’t let the battering influence of dispiriting comments shatter your dream. Keep pressing on!
Janice:  I often say this to young/new writers:  Learn the craft, but don’t necessarily write what the publishers/agents/houses tell you to write. Trends change. Stick with the stories God places on your heart and if He intends them to be published, He will find the right publishing house in the right time.

What are your writing plans for the future?
Anita: I’d love to just keep doing what I’m doing. But I think I’d also enjoy writing novels for the young adult market.
Janice: I’m open to whatever God wants (and I really mean that). If He shifts me in a new direction (women’s fiction, for example), I’m following His lead! If He asks me to lay the writing down for a season in order to accomplish a different task, I’m open to that, too.

We’d love for you to visit our websites at and If you’re interested in our Heartsong collection, Ozark Weddings, it can be purchased in bookstores or ordered online at

Thanks for inviting us to your blog!

Verse of the Day

GOD . . . has this solemn counsel: "Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me—the very thing you've been unwilling to do." (Isaiah 30:15)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Verse of the Day

"I'll go ahead of you, clearing and paving the road. I'll break down bronze city gates, smash padlocks, kick down barred entrances. I'll lead you to buried treasures, secret caches of valuables—confirmations that it is, in fact, I, GOD . . . who calls you by your name. . . . I've singled you out, called you by name, and given you this privileged work. . . . I am GOD, the only God there is. . . . I'm the one who armed you for this work." (Isaiah 45:2–5 MSG)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Verse of the Day

Dear friends, if our conscience is clear, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive whatever we request because we obey him and do the things that please him. (1 John 3:21–22 NLT)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Verse of the Day

We have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:14–16 NLT)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Verse of the Day

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: (Psalm 103:1–2)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Tailor-Made Bride

Bethany House (June 1, 2010)


Karen Witemeyer


Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife and mother of three who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.

After growing up in California, Karen moved to Texas to attend Abilene Christian University where she earned bachelor and master's degrees in Psychology. It was also there that she met and married her own Texas hero. He roped her in good, for she has lived in Texas ever since. In fact, she fell so in love with this rugged land of sweeping sunsets and enduring pioneer spirit, that she incorporates it into the pages of her novels, setting her stories in the small towns of a state that burgeoned into greatness in the mid-to-late 1800s.

In January, 2009, Karen signed a contract with Bethany House Publishers for three inspirational historical romance novels, and she is thrilled to announce that her first book, A TAILOR-MADE BRIDE has released this month. For an inside look into the background and quirks of some of the major players in this upcoming story, click over to Character Corner


When a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity, the sparks begin to fly!

Jericho "J.T." Tucker wants nothing to do with the new dressmaker in Coventry, Texas. He's all too familiar with her kind--shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothes, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.

Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner, while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?

When Hannah decides to help Jericho's sister catch a beau--leading to consequences neither could have foreseen--will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Tailor-Made Bride , go HERE.
Review to come later.

Verse of the Day

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16 ESV)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Verse of the Day

The Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will. (Romans 8:26–27 NLT)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Seeds of Summer by Deborah Vogts

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Seeds of Summer
Zondervan (May 25, 2010)


Deborah Vogts


A word from Deborah:

If you haven't guessed by now, the books I write are set in the country. I believe my most dedicated readers will be those who live in the country, those who have moved from the country and still hold it in their hearts, or those who have never lived there but long for the simple life it offers. Because of this, I've chosen Country at Heart as my writing brand, which is also the title of my Blog.

On Writing:

I began my first book when I was in high school. In college I studied English literature and journalism. Then came marriage, kids . . . life. During that time, I piddled with my writing but didn't take it seriously until 2002 when I joined a local writer's group and American Christian Fiction Writers. I also joined a critique group, took online writing workshops, read writing book how-to's, and attended writer's conferences. Now I have an agent, Rachelle Gardner, at WordServe Literary and have been contracted with Zondervan for a three-book contemporary romance series.

The Seasons of the Tallgrass series captures the spirit and dreams of ordinary people living in the Flint Hills of Kansas--one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world.

The first book, Snow Melts in Spring, is available in stores now. Seeds of Summer released May 2010.


When opposites attract, sparks fly--like an electrical malfunction. That's what happens when former rodeo queen, Natalie Adams meets the new pastor in Diamond Falls.

Upon the death of her father, Natalie returns to the Flint Hills to raise her two half-siblings and run the family ranch, giving up her dreams for the future. She soon realizes her time in college and as Miss Rodeo Kansas is not enough to break the bonds that held her as a girl.

Jared Logan, a new pastor in Diamond Falls, is set on making a good impression to his first congregation, but finds that change doesn't come easy for some people. In fact, most in his congregation are set against it. Natalie and her troubled family provide an outlet for his energy and soon become his personal mission project.

Having raised her stepbrother and sister from an early youth, Natalie's self-sufficient nature isn't inclined to accept help, especially from a city-boy do-gooder like Jared Logan. Though attracted to him, there's no way she'd ever consider being a pastor's wife. Bible studies and bake sales just aren't her thing.

Jared repeatedly comes to Natalie's rescue, forcing her to see him with new eyes. At the same time, Jared's plan to plant Christ's word in Natalie's heart backfires when he loses his own heart to this wayward family. When problems arise in his congregation, he must face his greatest fears---of letting down God, his congregation, or those he loves. His time with Natalie has shown him the importance of standing by those you love, a lesson he chose to ignore in order to please his father years ago.

This is put to the test when Natalie faces a battle of custody of her half-siblings against the mother who abandoned them twelve years ago. Natalie's fight for the children turns into a fight for custody of her heart as she learns the true meaning of unconditional love. In turn, Jared must decide which dreams are his own---and whether Natalie is part of those dreams.

If you would like to read the Prologue and first chapter of Seeds of Summer, go

Review to come later.

Verse of the Day

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Verse of the Day

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8–12 ESV)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Verse of the Day

You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience . . . doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it. . . . It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2:2–5 MSG)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Hopeful Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Hopeful Heart
Bethany House (June 1, 2010)

Kim Vogel Sawyer


Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fifteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren.


Dowryless and desperate, Tressa Neill applies to the inaugural class of Wyatt Herdsman School in Barnett, Kansas, in 1888. The school's one-of-a-kind program teaches young women from the East the skills needed to become a rancher--or the wife of one.

Shy and small for her twenty-two years, Tressa is convinced she'll never have what it takes to survive Hattie Wyatt's hands-on instruction in skills such as milking a cow, branding a calf, riding a horse, and cooking up a mess of grub for hungry ranch hands. But what other options does she have?

Abel Samms wants nothing to do with the group of potential brides his neighbor brought to town. He was smitten with an eastern girl once--and he got his heart broken. But there's something about quiet Tressa and her bumbling ways that makes him take notice.

When Tressa's life is endangered, will Abel risk his own life--and his heart--to help this eastern girl?

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Hopeful Heart, go HERE
Margie's comments: Admittedly I'm a tad bit biased when it comes to Kim's books. She's not only been my critique partner for the past six years, she's also a very dear friend. Still, in our critique group we strive to keep each other true to our voices and writing styles, so I try to be objective when reviewing her books.

A Hopeful Heart has a unique feature with the Wyatt Herdsman School. The owner and teacher, a widowed rancher, is a character who will continue to occupy your attention even after you finish reading the book. Aunt Hattie's eccentricities set her apart from her male counterparts in Barnett, Kansas. But they also endear her to her female students, and she's caught the attention of a wealthy rancher. Since the main goal of the school is to match her students with single ranchers in the area, romance abounds throughout the book.

Kim's gentle style of telling a story gives the reader a quiet, refreshing read. A Hopeful Heart delivers a well-researched story, delightful characters, and a rich sense of history. I especially appreciate the way Kim incorporates a little bit of suspense and intrigue into this story. I highly recommend A Hopeful Heart.

Verse of the Day

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8–9 ESV)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Verse of the Day

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart's desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. (Psalm 37:4–5 NLT)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Deceit by Brandilyn Collins

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


Zondervan (June 18, 2010)


Brandilyn Collins


Brandilyn Collins is an award-winning and best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e..."®  Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). She is now working on her 20th book.

In addition, Brandilyn’s other latest release is Final Touch, third in The Rayne Tour series—young adult suspense co-written with her daughter, Amberly. The Rayne Tour series features Shaley O’Connor, daughter of a rock star, who just may have it all—until murder crashes her world.


Skip Tracer Joanne Weeks knows Baxter Jackson killed his second wife---and Joanne's best friend---seven years ago. But Jackson, a church elder and beloved member of the town, walks the streets a free man.

The police tell Joanne to leave well enough alone, but Joanne is determined to bring Jackson down. Using her skip tracing skills, she sets out to locate Melissa Harkoff, now twenty-two, who lived in the Jackson home at the time of Linda Jackson's disappearance.

As Joanne drives home on a rainy winter night, a hooded figure darts in front of her car. In her headlight beams she glimpses the half-concealed face of a man, a rivulet of blood jagging down his cheek. She squeals to a stop but clips him with her right fender. Shaking, she gets out of her car in the pouring rain. The man will not let her see his face. Before he limps off into the night he warns her not to talk to police.

As Joanne tries to find Melissa, someone seems to be after her. Who was the man she hit on the road. Is Baxter Jackson out to silence her? Or is some other skip she's traced in the past now out for revenge?


If you would like to read the first chapter of  Deceit, go HERE
Margie's comments: Deceit is typical of Brandilyn Collins's trademark style. The action takes place in a very short amount of time. It is intense, relieved only by chapters set in the past from another character's point of view. And some of those also involve intense drama and action. If this is the kind of fiction you like, you will not be disappointed with Brandilyn's latest stand-alone suspense.

Verse of the Day

You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You're out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! (Ephesians 5:8 MSG)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Flight That Went Nowhere

Ah, the joys of travel.

I've been doing my share of traveling, mostly by plane, in the last two years. With hubby Roger working in Phoenix, most of my recent travels have been in and out of Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport. Most of the time things go relatively smoothly. But not the last two weeks. At least on the flights I've been on.

Last Monday, June 24, was a very windy day in Denver. Now when I say very windy, I don't mean what most people think of as windy. Believe me, I've lived in many different places, but never have I encountered winds like those in Colorado. That day we had wind clocking in at 75 mph. All day.

My flight was supposed to leave around 6:00 p.m., and I checked with the airline before leaving for DIA. My flight was scheduled to leave on time. Even when I checked my baggage, all the way through security and out to my gate at the very end of the concourse, everything posted said my flight would leave on time.

Until ten minutes before we were to board. No plane. And even then, there was no announcement. I looked up from my book to see Nashville flashing above the door to the Jetway instead of Phoenix. What?

I checked the departure monitors. Now delayed until 9:15.

The plane didn't arrive from Phoenix until well after the winds died down. The day-long backlog of arriving flights were vying for clearance to land, and it was 10:15 before our plane arrived.

We finally left at 10:45. Yep. Five hours late.

However, I chalked it up to another experience in my travel adventures, and didn't think anything more about it really. Until yesterday's installment of Margie's travel escapades.

My plans were to fly to Wichita, Kansas (via Denver), to meet up with two of my online critique partners for a weeklong "retreat." My flight to Denver was scheduled to leave Phoenix at 7:00 a.m. So . . . up early, finished packing, got in the truck for the ride to Sky Harbor Airport.

Everything went like clockwork. Until we were all loaded and had pushed back from the gate. One minute the pilot came on to tell us we were waiting for clearance to get in line to take off, the next minute he's telling us they were going back to the gate to have maintenance look at a computer glitch. Shouldn't take too long.

Ri-i-i-i-i-ght. Seven went to eight, as it inevitably does. And we were still sitting at the gate. I called Roger. I called Kim. Knowing I'd missed my flight to Wichita, I debated about whether to go ahead and fly to Denver and take my chances on the airline getting me on another flight to Wichita or staying in Phoenix until the next flight.

Either option would have been fine . . . if it weren't the day after a holiday weekend. Sigh. I crawled out of my seat by the window and made my way to the front of the plane to speak with the gate agent. She told me there was another flight to Wichita that day and she would check to see availability.

So I crawled back into my seat, of course displacing my two gracious seatmates once again. Called Roger. Decided to wait a little longer.

Now it's 8:30. People are getting restless. Making desperate phone calls. Postponing meetings. Leaving the plane to make other arrangements for travel.

I kept asking the Lord what I should do. And every time He reminded me of the verse I posted here earlier that morning. Proverbs 3:5–6 from The Message:

"Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. 
Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track."

So I sat. About 8:45 Roger called and said he'd checked the flights for the rest of the day. No available seats. 

Okay. For over an hour we'd had no word on how the work was progressing. Maintenance had put in a new computer, rebooted all the systems on the plane, and they still had a glitch. 

I could fly to Denver . . . whenever that would be. And arrange for a seat on a flight Wednesday from there. I could spend the night at home. Or I could get off the plane now, arrange for the next available flight, and have Roger come get me. I opted for the latter.

Grabbed my stuff, asked my long-suffering seatmates to let me out one last time, and headed down to ticketing to see what I could arrange. But first I asked the gate agent to get my checked luggage, if possible. 

An hour later I had a ticket on a flight this afternoon, getting into Wichita at 9:30 p.m. And I now own a $200 voucher from the airline for any domestic flight in the next year. My luggage was waiting for me at the carousel, and Roger came a few minutes later.

Back at the condo, I had lots of time to think.

I'm a firm believer in the sovereignty of God. Nothing is too small or too big for Him to handle. Of course, living as though I believe that truth is many times a challenge. But God makes no mistakes, and somewhere there is a reason why I didn't get to Kansas as planned.

As I have mentioned before, the word the Lord gave me for this year is trust. So I knew it wasn't a mistake that Proverbs 3:5–6 appeared in my quiet time yesterday. Nor was it a mistake that He directed me to put those verses here and on Facebook. I couldn't get away from those verses.

God wants my full, unquestioning trust in every area of my life. He wants me to plunge deep into His promises (Romans 4, The Message), never doubting that He has my best in m ind. I don't understand why He didn't want me to get to Kansas yesterday. He doesn't have to share with me His reasons. He just wants me to trust Him . . . in everything.

I'm to trust Him knowing He always has my best in mind. He is teaching me, step by step, how to trust Him fully, unquestioningly, constantly listening for His voice in everything. He wants me to follow Him closely, not lagging behind asking a bunch of skeptical, whiny questions that reveal my lack of faith in His sovereignty, goodness, and love. He doesn't want to look back and see me fainting by the way unsure of my ability to do what He's already said He would enable be to do. He doesn't want me to rush ahead of Him, confident that I know best how He wants to accomplish His purposes in and through me. 

All He wants is my complete, constant trust. 

And then this morning He gave me today's verses: "By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward--to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision--you'll see it yet!" (Philippians 3:13–15 The Message)

Verse of the Day

Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward--to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. (Philippians 3:13–15 MSG)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Verse of the Day

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. (Proverbs 3:5–6 MSG)