Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Janna's 8th Most Life Changing Book of 2008

I totally agree with Janna's pick. When it comes to her most life-changing, I haven't read all of them, but this book was amazing! Sharon Souza totally impressed me with Every Good and Perfect Gift. You can read my review of this book here. As before, leave a comment on Janna's blog to be entered to win a copy of the book.

The 8th
Most Life Changing Book of 2008 is
"Every Good & Perfect Gift"
Sharon K. Souza

I was thrilled to get to read this book, it is what I would categorize as women's fiction and is Sharon's debut novel. Based on this book I am anxious to see what she will accomplish for her 2nd novel. "Every Good & Perfect Gift" is a great book that draws on real life experiences and deals with some heavy issues such as infertility, illness, friendship and faith. Sharon manages to take these heavy issues and infuse them with humor and feeling. It is not a usual thing for me to find a book that grabs me from the first paragraph and doesn't let me go until the last page (as I'm bawling). This book does that, and its not a mystery or a suspense - usually I think of women's fiction as being a slowly developing work in character development and a continuously, unraveling plot line - Sharon's book breaks that mold in the manner of jumping right in with both feet. You will meet Gabby and DeeDee and follow their path with them as they show that true friendship breaks all conventional stereotypes and is truly a blessing from God.

Now let's meet Sharon...

1) One of the best opening lines in a book of 2008 was in "Every Good & Perfect Gift" - "Gabby, I want a baby." Before page 3 I was completely hooked and into the story. What was your inspiration for this book?

I wanted to write a story about extreme friendship between two women, and came up with what I thought was the best way to express that, using the issue of infertility. But that was just the springboard to bring awareness of an illness that a very close friend was diagnosed with a few years before I wrote the book. I didn't know such a thing existed until the diagnosis came back for Evie.

2) Not enough women have the kind of friendships in their lives that this book shows us. I believe that God made women to need other women in their lives to fill a place that husbands often times can't (just because of the way we are wired). Do you have this kind of friendship in your life?

I totally agree that women need friends, and that they fill a place husbands can't fill. Young married women especially are so busy raising a family and all that entails that friendships tend to get put on the back burner. I understand the dynamics of that, having been a wife and mother with 3 children, 3 years apart. It was a busy, busy time. I lost contact with the friends I'd had in high school, and didn't have time to cultivate new ones. I went through a period of time when I didn't have one single close friend, and didn't even realize how much I was missing until the Lord brought new friends into my life. By then I'd come to understand the value of friendship, and those friends have been very important in my life. The beautiful thing is that our husbands were also close friends, and so were our children.

I've recently reconnected with my three best friends from high school. The connection has been marginal with one, a little better with another. But the third friend, whom I only reconnected with a few weeks ago, was as thrilled as I was to be in communication again. I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me in all three cases to get in touch, and I hope to minister in each of their lives as the Lord leads.

3) You bring some heavy issues into this book, but handle them incredibly well... infertility, choosing not to have children, Alzheimer's and of course stress in marriage among other things. Yet this book is not heavy and depressing, but rather uplifting and inspirational - how did you strike such a balance?

I try to keep in mind as I write that reading a novel is a luxury for many women today. They take some of their precious time to spend in the pages of my books. I want to make that experience worth their while. I want them to enjoy the story, the characters, and to take something away from the book. But I don't want to burden them in the process. Adding humor to a heavy topic makes the topic more palatable. And bringing inspiration to the situation is what my writing is all about. The reader may not be dealing with the exact same issue, but they can still find the hope they need to get through whatever issue they are facing.

4) I re-read the last chapter to refresh my memory since it's been over 6 months and 100 books since I read "Every Good & Perfect Gift", and it pulled me right back in and made me teary-eyed all over again. That is masterful. What would you like readers to take away with them after reading this book?

It's easy to feel forsaken when we go through difficult trials, such as illness, loss, or betrayal. Gabby needed to be reminded that the Lord has promised never to leave nor forsake us, and I know from personal experience that he won't. Romans 8:18 says, "I consider that our present sufferings [no matter how hard they are] are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." I think about that when difficulties come, and I'm encouraged by those words, as it was intended I should be. I want to remind readers that something infinitely better is on the horizon, and we have to keep looking and moving forward. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25 & 26). I do, and it gives me hope I want to pass on to others.

5) You have a new book out, "Lying on Sunday" - tell us a little about that.

Lying on Sunday is the story of Abbie Torrington, a woman who's lived a charmed life right up until the story opens. Then her world is rocked in the most unexpected ways. We follow her journey as she discovers the life she thought she was living turned out to be a lie. We follow as she discovers the real woman beneath the facade recreated in her husband's false image. And we follow as Abbie learns that the truth really does set you free. Lying on Sunday is about betrayal, which comes in many forms. I trust this book will speak to women who have experienced the sting of betrayal, no matter how it was manifested. And I hope it will remind us all that there is indeed life after betrayal. I heard the story of a young woman who was brutally raped, and yet she had such a positive outlook. When asked about it, she replied, "He took an hour of my life; that's all he's getting." What an incredible attitude, and what a beautiful way to keep that man from taking anything more from her. Lying on Sunday is all about breaking free of the shackles that keep us from experiencing life at its fullest. It's another story of extreme friendship, and a story about the intricate and complex relationship between mothers and daughters.

6) What is coming up for you next so we know what to be looking for?

I've just completed a novel entitled Unraveled, and am at work on my next book. I hope to have details very soon as to the release date of Unraveled. You can visit my website for more information.

7) Where can readers find you online?

My web address is I'm also excited to announce the launch of a new blog I'm participating in called Novel Matters. You can find it at Novel Matters is the cooperative effort of myself and six other writers. We'll be talking about issues that relate to writers and readers, and what makes good fiction, well, good. I hope you'll check us out.

Instructions from Janna to win a copy of the book on her blog: And readers, look forward to my review of Sharon's newest book "Lying on Sunday" soon - I'm very excited to read it! If you would like to win a copy of "Every Good & Perfect Gift" from Sharon then
leave me a comment (with your email address or way to reach you) telling me who your best friend is and you will have 1 entry in the drawing! If you tell someone else (especially your best friend) about this interview with Sharon and they enter and put your name in the comment then you will have 3 extra entries, if you link to this interview from your own blog then you will get 2 extra entries - Good luck!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Janna's Honorable Mention for Most Entertaining Books of 2008

It feels a tad strange, but I'm starting with my books. Sandhill Dreams and Captive Dreams received Honorable Mentions in Janna's countdown of books. Be sure to go to my website if you want to read the first chapters of these books. And leave a comment on Janna's post if you'd like to be entered to win a copy of the series. Or leave a comment here. If there are at least ten comments, I'll pull someone from here to win a copy of the series as well.

Honorable Mention for

Most Entertaining Book of 2008

"Sandhill Dreams" & "Captive Dreams"

by Cara Putman

First up I have the honorable mention for Most Entertaining Book of 2008... maybe I should introduce a historical category, hmmm... Well, anyway - last year her debut novel "Canteen Dreams" was in the Top 7 for Most Entertaining Book of 2007 and just won Book of the Year in the Short Historical Novel category at the American Christian Fiction Writer's Conference! This year she added 3 more books to her library including "Sandhill Dreams" and "Captive Dreams" to complete the Nebraska Dreams trilogy. If you like history you will love these books - Cara has picked out 3 amazing (and almost forgotten) parts of Nebraska WWII history and novelized them.

When I told Cara she was my honorable mention winner in the Most Entertaining Book of 2008 category she wanted to make sure she didn't make the list just because she's my older sister. In a way I suppose maybe she did, after all I might not have read them if I didn't know the author since I'm not a member of HeartSong Presents (the publisher), but the books and the history they exposed me too are why they won. I strongly encourage you to seek these books out - they are inexpensive, packed full of history, driven by wonderful romance threads and currently available at and (Canteen Dreams and Cara's mystery suspense "Deadly Exposure" are right now anyway).

1) Last year your first book "Canteen Dreams" came out and it just won Book of the Year in the Short Historical Fiction category for American Christian Fiction Writers. What was your reaction to winning?

I was so humbled and blown away -- and I have to say it was AWESOME to share the award with Mary Connealy, since watching her get the contract for that book at the ACFW conference in 2005 gave me so much hope that it could happen to me, too. The Book of the Year is becoming a well-respected award in the industry and to win the award at the same conference where I was awarded the contract two years earlier was pretty amazing. It was also awesome that you and Mom were there to enjoy the moment with me. :-) God continues to humble and amaze me with His gifts.

2) "Sandhill Dreams" and "Captive Dreams" complete the series that "Canteen Dreams" started. Canteen Dreams is set in North Platte, Nebraska during WWII and the canteen that the town set up for the soldiers that came through on trains. Sandhill Dreams takes us to Fort Robinson, Nebraska where the war dogs and horses were trained. Captive Dreams takes us to Holdrege & Kearney, Nebraska where Camp Atlanta (a POW camp) was. These are parts of history that most people are not even aware of. How did you find out about them?

Fort Robinson I knew about from a field trip there as a teen, though, in the oddest twist, the curator assured me I couldn’t possibly have remembered it. I guess it’s a modern mystery! Camp Atlanta I hadn’t heard about until I talked to you and Mom about my need for a third Nebraska based WWII story. It totally fit the bill because it was a little known fact and it completely intrigued me. That’s a key. If I’m not intrigued, it’s very hard to do the research necessary to get the details right and bring that slice of time alive.

3) How do you get into research for WWII historical books like this?

First, I choose WWII because I LOVE that timeperiod. That’s key for me. I love the music – I can get lost on-line watching YouTubes of scenes of folks dancing the jitterbug, finding the songs that topped the charts in 1941 or 1943. I love the movies. I love the clothes. Even the cars are pretty cool.

Then I have to find the event that hooks me. For Canteen Dreams it was the Canteen in North Platte – such a cool example of the lengths people were willing to go then to put others first! I loved the thought that half of the war dogs were trained at Fort Robinson, a hard to reach, little known fort in Nebraska. And the thought of prisoners of war in Nebraska – WOW! It was such a contrast to learn how we treated them and how they fared here… so different from our soldiers imprisoned by the Germans or Japanese. Each historical hook was a little different from the other books, and yet piqued my interest – still do in fact. I’d learn more even if I weren’t writing the book.

I love to go on site and visit the location. I changed the city location in A Promise Kept since I couldn’t get to Canton, Ohio to do research, it’s that important to me. I think I need to set one of these books in Europe!

4) You have a new series of Ohio books coming out soon, don't you? What parts of history will they focus on?

With A Promise Kept, the first book in the Ohio series, the hook came from learning that children evacuated from London came to the states. It was an exhibit at the Imperial War Museum in London that Eric and I almost skipped, but I am so glad we followed the prompt to walk through it. It’s title totally misled me! The second book has a top secret project and spy. I’ve loved Ultra, and now it gets to go into this book – I just plotted it and will write it this spring. I’m itching to start. And the third book has the all American girls professional baseball. I know enough to know what I still need to learn, but am already connected with the museum archivist who has access to all the documents I need. I can’t wait to race up to South Bend to explore his records.

Umm, can you tell I’m excited? J

5) You also had a contemporary mystery/suspense book "Deadly Exposure" come out this year. What do you like to write better - contemporary or historical - does one take more research than the other?

Oh, tough question! I love both. Seriously. I love the time period of the historicals. World War Two has fascinated me since I was a teen, so it’s a thrill to get to write about a generation I so admire. But I just wrote the sequel to Deadly Exposure: Trial by Fire. Honestly, I wondered if I could write suspense it had been so long and I’d written three historicals in between. I’ve got to tell you, I LOVED IT. They’re so different – but they both require research. At this point the historicals take more, but I interviewed a fire investigator for Trial by Fire, and loved the research angles.

6) Oh, and let's talk about the law book you just finished - how did that come about? And would you anticipate your regular readers to pick this one up and add it to their home libraries?

I’m sure tons of your readers would love to read the Complete Idiots Guide to Business Law. It’s a great sleep aid if you’re not in law school or taking the business law class somewhere. Seriously though, this book releases in May 2009. I call it my outlier, because fiction is what I see myself writing. But I was emailed by a fellow attorney who writes fiction Ron Benrey last February asking if I might be interested. His agent talked to me – and I honestly thought it was the longest shot ever. I mean, yes, I’m an attorney, clerked for a judge, and teach business law at Purdue, but there have to be others more qualified. But the publisher decided I was what they were looking for. It was a totally different style of writing, but I enjoyed it. And because it’s a Complete Idiots Guide, its as readable and fun as we could make it – though fun is probably a relative term for most. J

7) Where can readers find you online?

They can find me on facebook, twitter, at my blog ( and my website:

Thanks so much for having me!


Okay, readers you have a chance to win these great books! Here is what you do... leave me a comment (with your email address or way to reach you) telling me what you like about historical romances and you will have 1 entry in the drawing! If you tell someone else about this interview with Cara and they enter and put your name in the comment then you will have 3 extra entries, if you link to this interview from your own blog then you will get 2 extra entries - We will give away Captive Dreams - when we pass over 25 comments then we will add in Sandhill Dreams and Canteen Dreams and the winner will get ALL 3 books (THE ENTIRE SET!) - Good luck!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rick Acker Comes to Visit

I'm excited to welcome a new writing friend, Rick Acker, for an interview. He's an attorney in California who manages to find time to write. Here's more from Rick.

Your two latest books are legal thrillers with a technological twist. How did you find the germ of an idea that got you going?

Dead Man’s Rule literally began with a “germ of an idea.” I’d been following news stories about the old Soviet bioweapons program and the carelessness with which it was shut down. Germ warfare factories were simply abandoned when funding ran out, scientists with only one marketable skill suddenly found themselves without jobs or pensions, and so on. So I started talking to people I knew in the intelligence and bioweapons defense fields to explore story ideas. At first, I asked questions like “How hard would it be to breed weapons-grade smallpox in a high school lab?” By the time I finished, my main question was “Why are any of us still alive?” Scary stuff.

I slept much better while writing my second techno-legal thriller, Blood Brothers. This one was inspired in part by the “berserkers” mentioned in ancient Norse sagas. They were wild warriors with incredible strength and speed who were virtually unstoppable in battle. Most historians think they were real, but the secret to their remarkable skills has been lost. The most common theory is that they took a drug made from some unknown plant, so I started wondering what might happen if that plant were rediscovered and a pharmaceutical company began to make drugs out of it. There would be some impressive benefits, of course, but there might also be a few unforeseen side effects . . .

By day you're a deputy attorney general in California. Did that make writing legal thrillers easier or more challenging? Why?

Both easier and more challenging, actually. Easier because I get to work on fascinating investigations and lawsuits that generate at least one book idea per week. Harder because most of the cases are sealed and I can’t actually use any of those ideas until the seal is lifted (if it ever is).

What made you decide it was time to write a novel? And how did you get the ideas for your initial young adult mysteries?

Back in the days before minivans came with DVD players and iPod jacks, I was the designated entertainment on all our long family drives. I can’t sing and my joke repertoire is limited, so that left storytelling. The most popular stories were mysteries and adventures about kids a few years older than mine, so I told a lot of those.

Most of my stories were forgotten five minutes after we got out of the van, but every now and then my wife would say, “You have to write that one down.” So I’d write it down, send it off to publishers, and wait for the rejection letters. Until one day a publisher decided not to reject one of my books after all.

Why do you think people are so fascinated with all things legal? And what keeps you writing them?

It goes back to the first rule all fiction writers learn: Every good story needs a good conflict. In our society, we tend to resolve most major conflicts (and plenty of minor ones) through lawsuits, which makes them natural springboards for all sorts of stories. If a young man retaliates against a bully and kills him, there will probably be a murder or manslaughter trial. If a widow’s evil in-laws try to cheat her out of her inheritance, a suit in probate court will often follow. If a romance collapses on the eve of the couple’s wedding, they may well sue each other—over ownership of the house they had bought together, for example. Pretty much any good story is a good lawsuit waiting to happen, and vice versa.

Note to nonlawyers: We’re exaggerating a little here about how interesting law really is. Anyone who is really “fascinated with all things legal” has never spent a Friday night researching local court rules to figure out whether footnotes in a brief are supposed to be in 12-point or 13-point font.*

*Correct answer in California federal courts: 13-point. And yes, there are judges who really care about this.

Um, the judges aren't quite that picky here in Indiana. If you could write any book you wanted and know it would land on the bestsellers list, what would you write?

Good question. I’d love to write a novel that captures the essence of the law and tells a compelling story of personal courage--like To Kill a Mockingbird or A Man for All Seasons. Except with a romance and a few explosions thrown in to spice things up.

Love the explosions and romance is always nice. As an attorney, I know I sometimes find myself analyzing legal thrillers for accuracy. What's your pet peeve legal mistake in novels?

Overwrought courtroom scenes. I hate those. Writers know that trials are supposed to be dramatic, but they don’t always know how to create drama without breaking fundamental legal rules. So they insert fiery exchanges between lawyers and judges, surprise witnesses, and heartfelt speeches to juries in the middle of trial. That stuff virtually never happens in real courtrooms, and when it does it usually ends with a mistrial and the dramatic lawyer in jail for contempt of court.

Tell us more about Blood Brothers. What surprised you most as you wrote this book? And what did you learn from your characters?

I was surprised by how much my characters wanted to talk. I had conceived of Blood Brothers as a fast-paced thriller with lots of twists and turns, some hard-hitting courtroom scenes, and a final surprise on the last page. The published book has all those elements, but it also has more character-driven scenes than I anticipated. I’m glad it turned out that way; the story wound up having more depth and resonance than I had expected.

As I got to know the characters better over the course of the book, I realized that most of them were facing the same questions: What do you want more than anything else? What are you willing to do—and sacrifice—to get it? Jesus’ answer to the first question was simple: To love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. His answer to the second was even simpler: Everything. As I pondered how my characters would answer those same questions, I became uncomfortably aware of just how often my own answers differ from Christ’s.

Thanks so much for joining us, Rick! Here's more about Rick:

Rick Acker writes his novels while commuting to and from his "real job" as a Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice. His most recent novel, Blood Brothers, is an intense sequel to the legal thriller Dead Man's Rule. Christy award-winning author Randy Ingermanson calls Blood Brothers "an excellent legal suspense novel, with a strong biotech backdrop. It reminded me of Michael Crichton's latest novel, Next, except that Blood Brothers is better." Rick is also the author of the well reviewed Davis Detective Mysteries, a series of adventure/mystery novels for "tweens."

Rick is a transplanted Chicagoan who spent thirty-five years in the Midwest before finally trading the certainty of winter and mosquitoes for the risk of earthquakes. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Anette, their four children, and two cats.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy New Year Giveaways

Good morning, y'all.

My sister, Janna Ryan, is running for best books of 2008 this week and next. Just like last year I will repost some of the interviews here. But until then, I wanted to point you to her blog so that you can participate in the giveaways. Many of the authors, including yours truly, are giving away copies of their books. So hie thee to her site and join in on the fun!


Monday, December 22, 2008

ACFW tool for Readers

ACFW has developed a wonderful new tool for readers. Check here to see what it's all about.

If you follow the link, you will see a new section for readers. It has three basic components right now, but we fully expect those to expand in the next year.

1) Genre list. This tool was unveiled in paper at the Mall of America signing. My sister Janna Ryan, who many of you met at the conference or know from her blog, put lots of hours into this project for us! This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a great place to start if you are looking for new authors to try.

2) There is also an author list/database. This allows you to enter an author's name and get a short sentence about what they write as well as a link to their website and shoutlife page.

3) There is a list of books divided by social issue. Looking for a book that deals with abortion, divorce, etc.? Then look here. Deborah Raney has kindly allowed us to post her list that has been developed over time, and ACFW will add to it over time.

So if you're looking for new authors to try or new books to read, check out this resource!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Living Rich for Less Review and Giveaway

Just in time for the New Year and all good intentions to get finances in order, here's a book that incredibly readable and filled with practical tips. In Living Rich for Less, Ellie breaks the book into three areas: giving, saving and spending smart. Each section is loaded with tips you can turn around and use tomorrow. When this book arrived, I flipped it open to get a feel for it. An hour later I surfaced. It was that easy to read and helpful. So if you're looking for a book that will give you the tips and strategies you need to pull your finances into shape, give this book a try. I have three copies of this book to give away between my blog, facebook page, and shoutlife, so be sure to leave a comment!

You really can be rich in every way, every day.

So you want to own the home you love, make memories on wonderful vacations with family or friends, finance college educations, and help others too?

You can—starting here and now.

With lively humor, proven know-how, and practical principles for financial health, Living Rich for Less helps you stretch your dollars to realize the lifestyle of your dreams. Ellie Kay’s entertaining and enlightening examples show you simple steps to save, spend, and give smart, and her three main principles are undergirded by dozens of effective rules and hundreds of Cha-Ching Factor™ tips that keep or put money in your pocket.

Ellie knows what it’s like to be financially-strapped or struggling, wanting to be the Joneses but feeling as poor in spirit as in pocketbook. She went, within two and a half years, from being a new wife and mom with $40,000 in consumer debt and seven children (and college educations) to support, to being completely debt-free and within fifteen years able to pay cash for eleven different cars, give away three of those cars, buy two five-bedroom houses (moving from one to the other) and nicely furnish each, take wonderful vacations, dress her family in fine fashion; and support more than thirty non-profit organizations in more than a dozen different countries, giving away more than $100,000.

Isn’t that the kind of transformation to a rich life that you want?

Living Rich for Less helps anyone get there in our taxed-out, maxed-out times. Because financial security doesn’t mean just genuine prosperity, but being able to live luxuriously, give generously, and care for yourself as well as the others around you.

Why keep up with the Joneses when you can be them?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Angela Hunt comes to Visit

This week, I’m delighted to be joined by Angela Hunt. Her full bio is at the end of this interview, but I’ll summarize by saying she has written over one hundred books and sold millions of copies. Angela’s books have won awards like the Christy and one has been made into a Hallmark Movie. She teaches at many writers conferences and her readers have come to expect the unexpected when they pick up one of her books.

You may wonder why I’m interviewing her when I’m focused on novelists who’ve written legal suspense. Well, next year one of her titles is set in the legal environment. I am delighted to welcome Angela today.

Angela, you're known for telling readers to expect the unexpected. Why step into the legal arena?

Several reasons--first, I've never done a legal book, and the subject fascinates me. Second, I found myself involved in a legal situation, and since I was cramming like mad to learn all about it, I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone. Third, the seminal idea lent itself to a courtroom trial. So I suppose it was the conjunction of all those events.

You're stepping into the legal arena with one of your next books. What was the most challenging part of researching and writing that book? What can you tell us about this book?
I can give you the thumbnail synopsis of LET DARKNESS COME: Briley Lester is worried about her first capital trial—the prosecution has an airtight case and her client has no alibi. She plans on a mitigating defense—one that might get her client’s sentence reduced from first-degree murder to manslaughter—until she stumbles onto evidence that could prove her client’s innocence. In her struggle to achieve true justice, Briley must venture outside her self-protective boundaries to defeat an experienced prosecutor and the forces that are determined to destroy her client at any cost.

As to the most challenging part? Learning courtroom procedure; learning that you can't lead on a direct examination, but you're expected to lead on the cross. I had to learn a condensed version of what a trial lawyer would know, and learn it quickly. Fortunately, I had marvelous help from fantastic friends.

You've written over 100 books that are spread over a wonderful array of topics and issues. How do the ideas for your books come to you? How do you find a fresh angle for each?
Ideas just come--usually through things I read. I'll notice something and let it go, but when I notice it again in another source, that's when I latch onto it. I figure the Lord's bringing it to my attention for a good reason. As to the fresh angle--well, every story is different, but every story also has common characteristics. I usually always feature an intelligent woman in an unusual situation with a unique problem.

If you could write any book you wanted and know it would land on the bestsellers list, what would you write?

Talking dreams here, are we? Well . . . if I could KNOW that it'd be read by tens of thousands, I'd want it to be something that reveals the Father's love.

Take a moment to tell us about one of your current novels. What excites you about this one?
THE FACE is my latest release, and it reveals the Father's love . . . in a metaphorical way. I'm excited about this one because it's high concept and it combines a lot of issues that fascinate me--beauty, faces, the CIA, female relationships, computer science, and psychology. And spying. I love spy stuff.

Last question: If you could go anywhere in the world and take anyone, where would you go and who would you take?
I've really been hankering to go on an African safari, and my husband would never forgive me if I didn't take him. :-)

Well, if he won't join you, feel free to invite me :-). Thanks again, Angela.
With over three million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the best-selling author of The Tale of Three Trees (sales of over one million), Don’t Bet Against Me, with Deanna Favre (sales of over 195,000), The Note (sales of over 130,000), and The Nativity Story.
Hunt began her writing career in 1983. After five years of honing her craft and writing for magazines, she published her first book in 1988. Since then, she has written over one hundred books in fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults. In 2007, her nonfiction book Don’t Bet Against Me, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Eight of her novels have won Angel Awards from Excellence in Media. Hunt has also won four medals from ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award (for The Novelist, The Justice, The Canopy, and Unspoken), and a Christy Award for By Dawn’s Early Light. Her novel The Note was filmed as a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2007, and her books The Elevator and Uncharted have also been optioned by production companies. Romantic Times Book Club presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

In 2006, Angela completed her Master of Biblical Studies in Theology degree and in 2008 she completed her doctorate in the same field. To keep in touch with her readers, Angela maintains a vibrant web presence through her website and blog.

She and her husband make their home in Florida with mastiffs. In 2001, one of her dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest dog in America. Web page:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Idea I received today

I got this in an email ... read to the bottom for my twist.

"We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!

"There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books."

Cara again: I love my local bookstores...Carpenter's Son in Lafayette and Bible Supplies in North Platte carry all of my books. You can get two from Amazon and, but you can get all of them from these two stores. So here's the thing. If you're looking for a great, small present, think about contacting either of these stores and buying my books. If you do and let me know you did, I'll send you an autographed copy of Canteen Dreams, the 2008 ACFW short historical Book of the Year, as my thank you for supporting these great stores!

You can reach Bible Supplies at 308-532-4199 and Carpenter's Son at 765-448-6434. But even if you don't want to give my books as gifts (LOL), check through the reviews I've posted this year for other wonderful ideas. Then go to your local Christian bookstore and buy them. Books are a great gift!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Engaging Father Christmas

Today I want to mention a book that I read this week that is a delightful novella. Usually, I stay away from novellas because it's hard to imagine a story that short that has depth and meaning. However, last year I read Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn and thoroughly enjoyed it. This week I picked up Engaging Father Christmas after turning in the proposal (which has already been accepted!) for the second Ohio book. I needed a break and change of pace, and this book fit the bill.

Engaging Father Christmas is a book that I savored. The language is delightful -- so wonderful that I can't bear to part with the book. I want to read it again and soak in the beautiful way that Robin writes. It's the second book, but Robin does a great job of weaving in the details you need to know to understand what's happening.

In Engaging Father Christmas, Miranda returns to Carlton Heath and her newly discovered family. This trip is a sharp contrast to the year before because now she belongs. Yet many of her dreams still await fulfillment. The story weaves beautifully between events to a fulfillment --but hopefully not the end.

One phrase sums up the book. Miranda is standing in a cottage, overwhelmed by everything that is happening. Ian says "I'll tell you everything soon enough. Just drink in the moment." I had to stop and reread that a couple times. It struck me as so like God. I'll stand there with dreams being fulfilled -- dreams I thought were dead or impossible, and suddenly God hands it to me. I sit there jaw on the ground, questioning how it could happen, and God simply whispers, Drink it in and enjoy."

Those are the types of pearls buried in this wonderful book. It's a perfect Christmas gift or a small escape in the midst of the season.

Engaging Father Christmas

Robin Jones Gunn

Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.

But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.

And yet...maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Engaging Father Christmas, go HERE
Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawai’i.

She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown.

As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives.

Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sisters of the Quilt Series & Giveaway

I put off reading this series even as it climbed on to the NYTimes Bestseller list. I don't know if it was the kapp on the cover of the first two, but I kept walking past them. When the Heart Cries, When the Morning Comes, and When the Soul Mends tell the story of Hannah Lapp and Paul Waddell as well as members of Hannah's Amish community.

Hannah and Paul share a love that neither of their families will support. Hannah is Amish and Paul is Mennonite. They secretly become engaged, and then the unmentionable happens. In that moment, and the moments that follow to keep it all a secret, their lives are changed. The series flows seamlessly through their journeys.

But it's not just their journeys. The series is filled with the stories of Hannah's best friend and brother. Hannah's younger sister also plays a key role.

And lacing all three books is the reality that the cost of secrets can be high, but there is the hope of restoration if we are willing to lay down our rights and hurts and offer and accept forgiveness. However, the books also portray in very real ways that life is not perfect. Even for those who strive to keep life simple, it is often far from that.

The best part about waiting to read these books was I could wander from one straight to the next. In fact I read the three in about a five day span the week of Thanksgiving. I simply couldn't put them down. And it was wonderful to literally close one and pick up the next. The characters were so compelling that I had to know how their stories would end. Even though I hoped the end would be the way it was, the ending was not guaranteed. And some relationships remained damaged even though initial healing had taken place.

Cindy Woodsmall is a beautiful writer, and it's easy to understand why this series has topped the CBA bestsellers list and entered the New York Times Bestseller list. So if you're looking for a Christmas gift for the reader in your life who doesn't care for suspense, but wants a read that addresses real world issues even through the simple lens of the Amish, this series would be a great gift.

The publisher has been gracious enough to provide a copy of When the Soul Mends for a giveaway. Leave a comment about how you are simplifying your life. I'll pick a winner before Christmas.

Monday, December 08, 2008

James Scott Bell Comes to Visit

I’m delighted to have James Scott Bell join me today. Currently, he writes legal suspense for Zondervan and Center Street. He’s also a great guy who loves to share what he’s learned about writing through his craft books and teaching at writing conferences. He also doesn’t mind giving career advice to a novice like moi.

So when I thought about interviewing some of my favorite suspense authors, he was at the top of the list. Fortunately, he was gracious enough to volunteer before I could beg him to visit. So here we go…

You're known for writing legal suspense. This latest series dives into the ABA waters. What prompted that?

Circumstances just sort of presented the opportunity. Besides, I've been thinking for years that there's been a turn toward too much darkness in general market suspense, and I think the readers are looking for alternatives. That's what I'm providing. I wanted to write a suspense novel that could have been published in 1947. That's my favorite era for movies, by the way. Film noir. Suspenseful without being offensive. In a way, that's what I've always written.

The scenes are short -- often very short -- in Try Darkness. Was that a conscious decision or did it simply flow better that way?

I wanted to create a bit of a movie feel, where you can cut here and there without being constrained by certain lengths. It's a style I've developed over the years. Readers today are much more cinematic in expectation, and this style fits that.

You've written close to twenty books. How do you find a fresh angle for each?

The secret is the characters. That's where writers should look for their originality. One way some secular fiction has gone off the rails is trying to be original by being ever more violent or sexual or descriptive of evil. So how far do you push those envelopes? It's not even necessary. More fascinating is the inner life of a character, and here the possibilities are limitless. So I want to present situations that are every bit as suspenseful as the best in the genre, yet also show how it affects a deep, dynamic character.

For example, there is more tension in "Double Indemnity" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (the Lana Turner - John Garfield version, NOT the Jessica Lange - Jack Nicholson version!) without being explicit than in any ten "show everything" movies you could randomly name today.

Why do you think people are so fascinated with all things legal? And what keeps you writing them?

There's natural drama in the law, in conflict. Especially in the courtroom. It's the modern form of jousting--which, by the way, is where the whole trial system came from. I keep writing them because it's what I know, and there are fresh plots all over the place. For example, in Try Darkness I wrote about an illegal practice I found out about called "the twenty-eight day shuffle." That just sounded interesting. I researched it and it became the basis of the plot.

If you could write any book you wanted and know it would land on the bestsellers list, what would you write?

I think I'd write something in the Speculative Fiction genre. Maybe time traveling aliens who snatch someone they think represents the whole earth, like Oprah. Zany hijinx ensue. I love the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so it would probably be along those lines. But then I'd go right back to my suspense fiction, which I also love.

As an attorney, I know I sometimes find myself analyzing legal thrillers for accuracy. What's your pet peeve legal mistake in novels?

When the writer doesn't know the rules of evidence, and all sorts of improper questions get asked in a trial--or, worse, a lawyer asks dumb questions a good trial lawyer never would. Like, on cross-examination, asking the witness, "Why did you do that, Ms. Smith?" On TV, the witness breaks down. In real life, such a question leaves the witness a wide swath to explain away the damaging admission you're looking for. You almost NEVER ask an open ended question on cross.

A trial lawyer needs to have these rules and tactics as part of his bone and sinew, and it takes years to develop. Of course, this is from a specialist. The readers don't know the rules, so most of this stuff probably slides by.

Ty Buchanan is an agnostic living in an abbey with a priest and a sister. How did they step into your imagination?

I wanted Buchanan to be a work in progress, like most people are.

Events in the first book force him to think more deeply about big questions. I came up with Father Bob, an African American priest, and Sister Mary, a basketball playing nun, to present him with ideas he's unfamiliar with. I also came up with, on the other side, "Pick" McNitt, a former college philosophy professor who went crazy, and now runs a coffee house. He's an atheist, but friends with Father Bob. Ty is in the middle, and keeps hearing things that make him think. But mostly, Ty is going after the bad guys, as well he should.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Jim. Can’t wait to read that next novel!

Here’s more info on Jim:

JAMES SCOTT BELL is the bestselling author of Try Dying, Try Darkness, No Legal Grounds, Presumed Guilty, Glimpses of Paradise, Breach of Promise and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence (Suspense category), and has also been a finalist for the award in the Historical category. He has served as the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and has written two bestselling craft books in the Writers Digest series Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing.

Jim has taught writing at Pepperdine University and numerous writers conferences. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied writing with Raymond Carver. A former trial lawyer, he now writes and speaks full time. He lives in L.A. with his wife, Cindy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dark Pursuit Review

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a fan of Brandilyn Collin's books. I discovered her with the Hidden Faces series, wrote a character on the first year of the character blog for Kanner Lake, and just read Dark Pursuits last week. I LOVED it. The premise: what if suspense writer Darell Brooke has lost the ability to write due to an accident. But now, he has to do something because his granddaughter is targeted. Darell had kicked Kaitlan out of his home years earlier, but now she's come to him for help. Can he give it and can he give it in time?

The pacing in this book is intense. It races from page one to the last with a timeframe of about 24 hours. Personally, I love that kind of pacing in the suspense I read. I don't want time to breathe as a reader, and the characters certainly shouldn't have any.

There were times I was convinced Darell would pull it off and other times I knew he'd get everybody killed. The characters did unexpected things that kept me guessing. In a twist, this book sets out from almost the first page with the bad guy revealed, which in many ways intensifies the suspense.

Pride laces the plot together. The pride Darell used to have in his life when he was adored as the King of Suspense. The self-hate that arises from the death of that adulation. Pride twists and turns the motives and actions of the characters. And it's handled with Brandilyn's light touch.
Get this book if you love suspense. You won't regret it!


Brandilyn Collins is known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. She is currently working on her 20th book. For chances to win free copies of her work, join her Fan Club on Facebook. Here’s what Brandilyn has to say about why she wrote Dark Pursuit:

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost Satan’s followers, kicked out of heaven, boast about storming the gates and reclaiming their territory. Beelzebub scoffs at their boasting as merely “hatching vain empires” and suggests a different revengeful scheme: seduce mankind away from God. So Satan visits the Garden of Eden to teach humans the very thing he and his cohorts have learned to be futile—the dark pursuit of hatching their own vain empires instead of following God. He presented man with this “gift” of death, disguised as life. And man fell for it.

Upon this theme of man’s fall and spiritual blindness, I created the characters and events in Dark P
ursuit. The story clips along at a fast pace, with much symbolism running underneath.


Dark Pursuit—A twisting story of murder, betrayal, and eternal choices

Novelist Darell Brooke lived for his title as King of Suspense—until an auto accident left him unable to concentrate. Two years later, reclusive and bitter, he wants one thing: to plot a new novel and regain his reputation.

Kaitlan Sering, his twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, once lived for drugs. After she stole from Darell, he cut her off. Now she’s rebuilding her life. But in Kaitlan’s town two women have been murdered, and she’s about to discover a third. She’s even more shocked to realize the culprit—her boyfriend, Craig, the police chief’s son.

Desperate, Kaitlan flees to her estranged grandfather. For over forty years, Darell Brooke has lived suspense. Surely he’ll devise a plan to trap the cunning Craig.

But can Darell’s muddled mind do it? And—if he tries—with what motivation? For Kaitlan’s plight may be the stunning answer to the elusive plot he seeks...

Read the first chapter of Dark Pursuit, HERE.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Advent Countdown

If you love books and Christmas, then be sure to hop over to Tyora Moody's website where she's running Christmas scenes from various authors. I kicked off the countdown yesterday with one of my favorite scenes from Canteen Dreams.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Leave it to Chance First Chapter and Review

Today is your chance to read the first chapter to a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I didn't know what to expect when I received Leave it to Chance. Sierra Montgomery is a single mom of three kids. She's struggling to find a job, get child support, and help her children navigate a difficult time. Then she's left a horse in a will. Yes, a horse. The last thing Sierra wants is a horse, because she's scared to death of them and how her children could be harmed. I enjoyed reading this book that I'd classify as women's fiction/romance. Ross Morgan is the kind of hero that you root for from page one. He's exasperated yet being pulled in by the family and their horse.

The story flows with real life and challenges for this single mom who's wrestling with her ex over child support and how to raise the kids. Then there's living with her mom and a host of other issues. Yet the grace of God weaves through the pages. I enjoyed this gentle book and hope you enjoy the first chapter.

Leave it to Chance
David C. Cook (May 2008)


Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

She's also a blogger! So stop by and say hi to Sherri at Creations in the Sand!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (May 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799883
ISBN-13: 978-1434799883


“A horse? Mom, what am I going to do with a horse?” Just what she and the kids did not need. Sierra Montgomery sagged back against her old kitchen counter, where afternoon sunlight dappled the white metal cabinets across from her. She pressed the phone tight against her ear, hoping she’d heard wrong, as her four-year-old son, Trevor, ate grapes at the kitchen table.

“Miss Libby wanted you to have it. I’d think you’d be delighted, what with the kids and all. You remember Sally, Miss Libby’s daughter? Well, she just called and said it was all laid out in the will. None of their family could figure out who Sierra Lassiter Montgomery was until Sally remembered me from her mom’s church. So she called and sure enough, you were my daughter.” Sierra’s mom tsked into the phone. “Well, you know how Sally is.”

Sierra hadn’t the foggiest how Sally was, or even who she was. She barely remembered Miss Libby from her Sunday school class eons ago.

“She acted pleased that her mother gave you the horse, but I could tell she was miffed. Though what Sally Owens would do with a horse, I’d like to know.” Her mom’s voice was tight and controlled as if they were discussing how to deal with black spot on her Old English roses.

“But I don’t want a horse. You, of all people, should know that after what happened when—” How could her mom even suggest she get a horse? Painful pictures of her childhood friend Molly floated through her mind.

“Honey, accidents like that don’t happen more than once in a lifetime. Besides, Miss Libby wouldn’t have owned a crazy horse.”

Sierra stared out the window where the school bus would soon release her most precious treasures. Her mom never had understood the resounding impact that summer day had made in her life.

“You really need to think of the kids and how much fun they’d have. It’s not like you’d ever be able to afford to buy them one.”

Sierra wished she were having this conversation with Elise rather than her mother. Her best friend would understand the danger she feared in horses, and in her humorous way come up with a sensible plan that would include not keeping the animal.

Her mom, on the other hand, lived life as if she were on one of those moving conveyors at the airport that people can step on to rest their feet yet keep moving toward their destination. As long as everyone kept traveling forward, she could ignore the emotional baggage dragging behind.

“I don’t understand why Miss Libby would give the horse to me.”

“You know how my bingo club visited the Somerset rest home every week? Well, Miss Libby’s been there for years and she always did comment on how horse crazy you were when she taught your Sunday school class.”

“Mom, that was a phase I went through when I was ten and found National Velvet and Black Beauty at the library. I haven’t seen Miss Libby since middle school.”

“Obviously you were special to Miss Libby. I’d think you might be a little more grateful.”

Deep breath, Sierra told herself. “I am grateful.” An errant grape rolled next to her toe. Trevor’s blond head was bent, intent on arranging the fruit like green soldiers around the edge of his plate. Sierra tossed the grape into the sink and considered how to respond to her mom. She was a dear, but sometimes the woman was like dry kindling on a hot day, and one little spark…. “I’m just not sure that owning a horse would be a wise move at this point in our lives.”

The front door slammed and Sierra felt the walls shudder with the thud. The 3:00 p.m. stampede through the house meant it was time to get off the phone and determine how to get rid of a horse before the kids found out about it.

Her mom sighed. “It’s too bad Sally won’t keep the horse at her place for you, but she said her husband wants the horse gone. He wants to fill the pasture with sheep.”

Sheep? A kitchen chair scraped over the linoleum as Trevor scooted back from the table and dashed for the living room. “Mommy’s got a horse! Mommy’s got a horse!” Wonderful. Little ears, big mouth.

Braden and Emory shot into the kitchen, bright eyes dancing in tandem. Their words tangled together in fevered excitement despite the fact that she was on the phone.

“Where is it?” Braden’s eleven-year-old grin split his face, and his dark hair was rumpled and sweat streaked, likely from a fevered game of basketball during last recess.

She held a hand up to still the questions as her mom went on about the sheep that Sally’s husband probably did not need.

“We have a horse?” Nine-year-old Emory, her blonde hair still neat in its purple headband, fluttered in front of her mom, delight and hope blooming on her face.

Despite the fear of horses building deep in Sierra’s gut, her children’s excitement was a little contagious. She wished Miss Libby had willed her a cat.

Sierra ran her hand down Emory’s soft cheek and whispered. “I’ll be off the phone in a minute, sweetie.”

“Can we ride it?” Em looked at her with elated eyes.

Braden tossed his backpack on the table. “Where are we going to keep it?”

The kids circled her, jabbering with excited questions. Sierra rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. “I gotta go, Mom. I’ve got to break some cowboy hearts.”

The kids clamored around her, Braden taking the lead with an arm draped across her shoulder. When had he gotten so big? “Do we have a horse, Mom?” He asked the question with a lopsided grin, a foreshadow of the adolescence that had been peeking through lately. The preteen in him didn’t truly believe they had a horse—he was old enough to realize the odds—but little-boy eagerness clung to his smile.

“That would be yes and a no.”

“What? Mom!” he complained.

“I was given a horse, but we’re not going to keep him.” Braden’s arm slid off her shoulder, a scowl replacing his smile. “Why not?”

“Someone gave you a horse?” Emory ignored her brother’s attitude and flashed her most persuasive grin. “Can we keep him? Please!”

Sierra smoothed her hand over the silky hair and leaned close to her daughter’s face as Emory went on. “I think we should get four horses so we each have one. We could go trail riding. Cameron’s mom has horses, and they go riding all the time as a family.”

“We’re not a family anymore,” Braden cut in. “We stopped being a family when mom divorced dad.”

A shard of pain drove into Sierra’s gut. She hadn’t had time to brace for that one. Braden’s anger at the divorce had been building like an old steam engine lately.

“That’s not fair!” Outrage darkened Emory’s features. “It’s not Mom’s fault!”

Sarcasm colored Braden’s voice. “Oh, so it’s all Dad’s fault?”

Sierra saw the confusion that swept over her daughter’s face. She was fiercely loyal to both parents and didn’t know how to defend them against each other.

Sierra spoke in a firm tone. “Braden, that’s enough!”

He scowled at her again. “Whatever.”

Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.

“Guys, we’re not going to play the blame game. We have plenty to be thankful for, and that’s what is important.”

Braden’s attitude kept pouring it on. “Boy, and we have so much. Spaghetti for dinner every other night.”

“So what, Braden-Maden!” Emory made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.

“No more fighting or you two can go to your rooms.” Her kids were not perfect, but they used to like each other. Something had changed. Her gut said it was her ex-husband, Michael, but what if she was falling into the whole “blame the dad” thing herself? What if she was really the problem? Two weeks without a job had added stress and worry. Had she stopped hugging them as often in between scouring the want ads and trying to manage a home and bills?

“Mom?” There was a quaver in Trevor’s soft voice.

“Yes, honey?” Sierra gave him a gentle smile.

“Can we keep the horse?”

Emory’s blue gaze darted to meet hers, a plea in them. Braden sat with his arms crossed over his chest, but his ears had pricked up.

Sierra looked at them, wanting them to understand and knowing they wouldn’t. “None of us know how to handle or care for a horse, so it wouldn’t be safe to keep him.”

Emory’s face lit up. “Cameron’s mom could teach us.”

“Honey, it’s not that simple. We can’t afford an animal that big. He probably eats as much in groceries as we do, and it would be very expensive to rent a place for him to live.”

“I could mow yards.” Anger at his sister forgotten, Braden turned a hopeful face to her. “We could help out.”

Emory jumped onto the working bandwagon. “Yeah. I could do laundry or something for the neighbors.”

Braden drilled his sister a look that said idiot idea but didn’t say anything.

Trevor bounced in his chair, eager to be a part of keeping the horse. “I could wash cars.”

“Those are great ideas, but they won’t bring in quite enough, especially since it’s getting too cold to mow lawns or wash cars.”

“You just don’t want to keep the horse, Mom,” Braden said. “I get it. End of story.”

“Honey, I’d love for you to have a horse, but when I was young I had a friend—”

Emory spoke in a helpful tone. “We know. Grandma told us about the accident.”

They knew? Wasn’t the story hers to share? “When did Grandma tell you?”

Braden’s voice took on a breezy air. “I don’t know. A while ago. Come on, Mom. We’re not going to do something dumb like your friend did.”

Defensiveness rose inside. “She didn’t do anything dumb. It was the horse that—”

“So because something bad happened to one person, your kids can never do anything fun for the rest of their lives.”

Sierra gave him a look. “Or you learn from your mistakes and help your kids to do the same.”

Braden rolled his eyes at her.

Worry drew lines across her daughter’s forehead. “Are you going to sell him?”

“Yes, Em. So we’re not going to discuss this anymore. You and Braden have homework to do.” At the chorus of groans she held her hands up. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to eat Grandma’s apple pie all by myself.”

Braden grabbed his backpack and slowly dragged it across the floor toward the stairs, annoyance in his voice. “We’re going.” Emory trotted past him up the stairs.

Trevor remained behind, one arm wrapped around her thigh. “I don’t have any homework.”

She squatted and pulled him in for a hug. “Nope, you sure don’t, bud.”

He leaned back. “Do I get a horse?”

Sierra distracted him by inching her fingers up his ribs. “What, Trev?”

He tried to talk around his giggles. “Do I get—Mom!” Her fingers found the tickle spots under his arms and he laughed, his eyes squinted shut and mouth opened wide. She found all his giggle spots, then turned on Sesame Street as the second distraction. Good old Bert and Ernie.

Now what? She had roughly forty-five minutes to figure out how she was going to get rid of a horse and not be a complete zero in her kids’ eyes.

She eyed the phone and made her next move. Five minutes later a white Mazda whipped into her driveway. Sierra hurried out the front door waving her arms to stop Elise before she could start her ritual honking for the kids.

Wide eyed, her platinum blonde friend stared, one long plum-colored nail hovering above the “ooga” horn on the dash. “What?”

“I don’t want the kids to know you’re here.”

Wicked delight spread across her perfectly made-up face. Light plum shadow matched her nails. Tomorrow, both eye shadow and nails could be green. “Let me guess! Mr. Pellum asked you out!”

“Nooooo!” Mr. Pellum was a teacher Sierra and Elise had had a crush on in seventh grade.

“Ummm … you robbed a bank and need me to watch the kids while you fly to Tahiti?”

Sierra gave her a mock-serious look. “Done?”

Elise tilted her head. “Can I get out of the car?”

Sierra glanced toward the house. All was still silent. “Yes, you may.”

Deadpan, Elise nodded and opened the door. “Then I’m done for now.” Her plump body, swathed in a creamy suit with a purple scarf draped across one shoulder, rose gracefully from the small two-seater.

Sierra closed the door for her, then leaned against it. Elise had a way of removing the extraneous and reducing a problem down to the bare essentials. “Elise, I’m in a predicament.”

“Hon, I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

Sierra shook her head. “I don’t think you could have seen this one coming even with your crystal ball.”

Elise gave her the spinster teacher look through narrowed eyes. “I don’t think I like the implications of that.”

Sierra held her hands out. “You are the queen of mind-reading, according to my children.”

Elise chuckled. “It’s a good thing I was just headed out for a latte break when you called. Now what’s the big emergency?” She owned a high-end clothing store for plus-sized women in downtown Eugene.

“A horse.”

Elise glanced around as if one or two might be lurking behind a tree.

“A herd of them or just one?”

“One. Full-sized. Living and breathing.”

“I believe I’m missing some pieces here. Is it moving in with you? Holding one of the children hostage? What?”

Sierra breathed out a slight chuckle and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “You’re not going to believe this, but I inherited it.”

Her friend’s eyes grew wide, emphasizing the lushly mascaraed lashes. “Like someone died and gave you their horse?”

Sierra nodded, raising her brows. “And the kids want to keep him.”

Furrows emerged across Elise’s forehead. “Who is the idiot that told them about the horse?”

Sierra tilted her head with a look that only best friends could give each other.

Elise’s perfectly painted lips smirked. “Moving along, then. Why don’t you keep it? The kids would love it. Heaven knows they deserve it.” She clapped her hands together. “Oh, oh! They could get into 4-H, and Braden could learn to barrel race. That kid would think he’d won the jackpot. Emory and Trevor could get a pig or some of those show roosters.”

Sierra let the idea machine wind down. “I don’t think so.”

“Angora rabbits?”

“No farm animals.”

Elise’s mouth perked into humorous pout. “Sierra, you’re such a spoilsport. Those kids need a pet.”

“A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.”

Diva Elise took the stage, hands on her ample hips. “Don’t tell me you didn’t want a horse growing up. Remember, I was the one who had to sit and watch National Velvet with you time ad nauseam. You’ve said yourself that Braden needs something to take his mind off the problems he’s having at school and with his dad.”

Guilt, a wheelbarrow load of it, dumped on Sierra. “You are supposed to be helping me, Elise, not making it worse. I want to get rid of this horse and …” her eyes dodged away from her friend, “… you know.”

“Mmm-hmm. And still look like Super Mom in your children’s eyes.”

Sierra nodded, but couldn’t find the nerve to say yes.

“Sierra Montgomery, those children have been to heck and back in the last couple years and you’re willing to deny them the pleasure of owning their own free horse because … because of what?”

Sierra stared at the ground for a moment, feeling a tangle of emotions rise within. She let her eyes rest on Elise’s and said quietly, “Fear? Terror? Hysteria?”

A look of puzzlement, then understanding settled on Elise’s face, smoothing away the annoyance. “Molly.”

Sierra nodded. “I won’t put my children in that kind of danger.”

Elise leaned forward and grabbed Sierra’s hands, holding them tight. “Oh, hon. That was a long time ago. Don’t let your life be ruled by the what-ifs. There’s a lot of living left to do. And your kids need to see you taking life by storm, taking chances, not hiding in the shadows.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You were voted most likely to parachute off the Empire State Building.”

Elise gave her a cheeky grin, both dimples winking at her. “We could do it tandem!”

“If you see me jump off the Empire State Building you’ll know my lobotomy was successful, because there is no way in this lifetime you’ll catch this body leaving good sense behind!” Sierra heard the words come from her own mouth and stared at her friend in wonder. “Oh, my gosh. That was so my mom.”

“It was bound to happen, hon.”

Was she serious? “You think I’m turning into her?” Sierra brought a hand to her throat and quickly dropped it. How many times had she seen her mom use the same gesture?

Elise laughed. “You need to stop fretting and just live. We all turn out like our mothers in some respect.”

“All except you. You’re nothing like Vivian.”

“Other than the drinking, smoking, and carousing, I’m exactly like her.”

Sierra lifted a brow. Her mom had rarely let her go to Elise’s house when they were growing up—and for good reason. Elise struck a pose like a fashion model. “Okay, I’m the anti-Vivian.” She gave Sierra a soft smile. “All funnin’ aside, I really think you should keep the horse.”

“I’m not keeping the horse. And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.” Sierra took a settling breath and stared at the tree over Elise’s shoulder.

“Michael still hasn’t paid?”

Elise knew more about her finances than her mom did. “He paid, but the check bounced again. So now he’s two months behind in child support.”

“Have you heard if Pollan’s is rehiring?”

“They’re not.” Jarrett’s, the local grocery store where she worked for the three years since the divorce had been recently bought out by Pollan’s. They had laid off the majority of the checkers with the possibility of rehiring some.

Elise cringed as if she was bracing herself for a blow. “And the unemployment fiasco?”

Sierra shut her eyes. “Mr. Jarrett did not pay into our unemployment insurance, so there is no benefit for us to draw from. Yes, it was illegal, and yes he will pay, but it may take months, if not years, for various lawyers and judges to beat it out of him.” She gave Elise a tired smile. “That’s the version minus all the legalese.”

“So the layoffs are final, no unemployment bennies, and you’re out of a job.”

“Momentarily. The résumé has been dusted off and polished.” She gave a wry grin.

“I wish I could hire you at Deluxe Couture, but I promised Nora fulltime work. And besides, your cute little buns would drive my clientele away.”

Sierra waved a hand over her jeans and sweatshirt. “Your clientele would outshine me any day.”

“You sell yourself far too short.” Elise glanced at the hefty rhinestone encrusted watch on her wrist. “Anything else I can do for you? Help the kids with their homework? Babysit while you sweep some tall, dark, handsome man off his feet?”

Sierra laughed. “And where is this dream man going to come from?”

Elise gave a breezy wave of her hand and opened the car door. “Oh, he’ll turn up. You’re too cute to stay single. I actually have someone in mind. Pavo Marcello. He’s a new sales rep from one of my favorite lines. I’ll see if he’s free Friday night. You aren’t doing anything, are you?”

“Hold on!” Sierra stepped in front of the car door to keep her friend from leaving. “First, I’m not looking. Second, given my history, I’m not the best judge of character. I’ve already struck out once in the man department.” She pointed to her face with both index fingers. “Not anxious to try again. Third, you just told me I’m turning into my mom, which makes me definitely not dating material.”

A twist of Elise’s lips signaled a thought. “You know, now that I think about it, I believe he has a boyfriend.” She shook her head and lowered herself into the car. “We’ll keep looking. I’m sure Sir Knight will turn up.”

Sierra shut the car door and grinned down at her friend. “And what about finding your knight?”

Elise gave her a bright smile. “Mr. Pellum is already taken. You really need to find a way to keep that horse; it’ll be your first noble sacrifice.”


The little car backed up, and Elise spoke over the windshield. “The others don’t count.”

Sierra stared at the retreating car. There was no way she was keeping that horse.

After dinner, Sierra crept into Braden’s room. He sat on the bed intent on the Game Boy in his lap, the tinny sound of hard rock bleeding out of his earphones. She waved a hand and he glanced up. She waited and with a look of preteen exasperation he finally pulled the headphones to his shoulders.

“What, Mom?”

“I just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night.” His hands started to readjust the music back into position.

“I looked at your homework.”

“You got into my backpack? Isn’t that like against the law or something? You’re always telling us not to get into your stuff.”

She crossed her arms. Frustration and worry gnawed at her. “You lied to me about doing your assignment. Why, honey?”

He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.

She took one step and snatched the game from his hands.


“I want some respect when I talk to you, Braden.”

His chin sank toward his chest, his gaze fixed on his bed, his voice low. “I didn’t want to do it.”

She sat next to him, her voice soft. “Is it too hard?”

He shrugged. “It gives me a headache when I work on it.”

“Braden, if you need help, I’d be happy to work with you after school.”

He stared at his knees and picked at a loose string of cotton on his pajama bottoms.

“I got a phone call from Mrs. Hamison today.”

His body came alert, though he didn’t look at her.

“She said you’re flunking most of your subjects, and she hasn’t seen any homework from you since school started a month ago.”

He glanced up, his jaw belligerent, but with fear in his eyes.

“What’s going on? I know school isn’t easy, but you’ve never given up before.”

“Middle school’s harder.”

She wanted to touch him, to brush the hair off his forehead and snuggle him close the way she used to when he was small. Back when a hug and a treat shared over the kitchen table was enough to bring the sparkle back to her son. “She thinks we should have your vision tested.”


“She’s noticed some things in class and thinks it might be helpful.”

He shrugged again. “Can I have my game back?”

“You lied to me, son. Again.”


“You break trust every time you choose to be dishonest. Is that what you want?”

His voice was sullen and he stared at his comforter. “No.”

She touched his leg. “What’s bothering you, honey?”

“I dunno. Can I have my game back?”

She stood up. There was a time for talking and this obviously wasn’t it. “You can have it tomorrow.”

But would tomorrow be any different?


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