Friday, July 31, 2009

Review: TSI: The Eyam Factor

569718: The Eyam FactorThe Eyam Factor
By Walt Larimore & Paul McCusker

A top-secret group of forensic scientists investigates the past to save the future when a deadly plague infects innocent people. But as they study how an English village survived the 17th-century Black Death, they encounter 21st-century grave robberies, grisly murders, and a ghost! Who's trying to stop them from learning the truth---and why?
I really enjoyed this book. It has a novel idea: what if the solutions to some of today's medical/bio-warfare problems can be solved by the epidemics and plagues of yesterday. It's a suspense on a global scale -- had some Clancyesque feel to it. LOVED it! It is not for the faint of heart or big-honking chicken club card-carrying members though.

Why? Because the disease is an incredibly virulent strain of Ebola. Government agencies and a pharmaceutical company battle each other and an environmental organization that wants nothing more than to kill millions. The core of the book becomes the team of TSI: a forensic group that focuses their skills on the past.

The pages turned quickly as I tried to figure out how the different threads would come together. First, you have the government trying to stop the spread of this disease. Then you have the events in a tiny English village -- some from 1666, and some modern day. Add in the pharmaceutical company and the crazy environmentalists with international implications and the plot is a dizzying web of activity -- perfect for someone who loves thrillers. Overwhelming for those who don't like that pace and stakes.

The interactions of people's faith or lack of were woven into the story, only in rare spots stopping the plot. And the hint of romance left room for much to happen in sequels. The strength of this story is the question...will the government find the source of the plague and will TSI find the key to a cure? Be forewarned: the body count is high. This is the kind of book I would read again, but keep on a high shelf so little eyes can't read it before they're ready.

I can't wait to read the next TSI installment. A very creative concept set in a genre I love.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Where's the Hope?

Last week I picked up the latest novel from my favorite non-Christian suspense writer and promptly inhaled it. Didn't hurt that I was up in the middle of the night coughing, so could read while waiting for the medicine to kick in.

When I finished the book, I was left with an I don't know how else to say it but hopeless feeling.

There wasn't any sense of ah, the world is a bit better now. Justice has prevailed. The good guys won.

Instead, the book and characters were so complicated, the motivations so dark, that it ended with me quite frankly down.

What an eye opener as I get ready to work on my proposal chapters. I don't want to write books that leave people dejected at the end. Yes, the world is a dirty, gritty place. Yes, our books can go there. But my books (I hope) will always end with the hope that even when we don't understand we serve a God who does. The hope that He can make a way where there seems to be no way. The hope that on Calvary Christ defeated darkness forever. And the hope that justice can prevail over even the darkest moments in our lives.

So sense, I'm here in part to introduce you to writers who do those last things, leave a comment about how God has prevailed in your life -- it can be short -- and I'll pull some to get a book that's filled with hope and light.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn Review & Giveaway

Are you looking for a fresh voice in romantic suspense? If so, give Liz Johnson a try. In her debut novel, Kenzie Thorn is kidnapped from her job in a state prison. Thus, begins a plot that involves a great mystery with hints of suspense that ratchets up and down throughout the journey.

The heroine is feisty -- or as the hero says sweet and spicy. And the hero is the right blend of protector and romantic. He's so dedicated to his job that he will do what it takes to protect the heroine even if it risks their growing relationship.

There's a twist or two at the end that picked up the pace. And the thread about making sure we're depending on God rather than those around us to be our security and protector resonates. So if you're looking for a good read before fall hits, go get this book.

443483: The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn
By Liz Johnson

Myles Parsons is just another inmate in Kenzie Thorn's GED course.until his abduction plan succeeds. Terrified, Kenzie doesn't want to believe his explanation. That he's Myles Borden, FBI agent-placed under cover because someone wants her dead.

Now that Myles has got her out of harm's way, his plans start to fall apart. He attempts to take Kenzie to a safe house-but the stubborn woman won't go! He struggles to protect her even as she takes care of him. He tries to keep his distance.and finds himself falling in love.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Review & Giveaway: The Justice Game by Randy Singer

I'm going to end July with three reviews and two giveaways. Perfect ending to a really odd month :-)
You know how much I love a good suspense read. Nowadays, I'm always looking for the books and authors that can make my internal editor turn off and let me lose myself in the story.

Randy Singer has become my favorite author when it comes to true legal thrillers that don't leave you wondering how many pages you'll have to skip because of questionable content. So I was excited to get The Justice Game. Okay, thrilled is a bit more like it.

You may remember when I posted several months ago that Randy was doing a fun experiment with this book. He posted a video for readers to watch and then let us vote for the ending. I have to insert right here, that I voted for the winning side :-) -- though the case was set up in such a way that it was a tough vote. Because of this experiment I wanted to see how he pulled off writing the book in a way that the case ending didn't matter.

Loved, loved, loved, loved this book! My husband beat me to the bookshelf to read it, but once I got it, I couldn't put it down. Singer is a master at drawing characters I care about and putting them into legal situations that pull me in. He's every bit as good as John Grisham if not better! And the twists -- even when I anticipate one, he throws in five more that I don't fully expect. I loved this book! If you like a page-turning legal thriller, buy this book today!

But if you'd like to win a copy, hop over to my interview with Randy, and then answer this question: what's one way that Randy balances the many hats he wears? Leave those comments. This is a book you want to read!

And go all the way to the bottom to see a couple new Q&A with Randy...

316345: The Justice Game The Justice Game
By Randy Singer

Bursting into a television station, the gun-toting target of an investigative report kills a co-anchor. When the gun manufacturer is sued, defense attorney Kelly Starling and prosecutor Jason Noble battle each other in court---but the real conflict lies with unseen forces bent on destroying them both. (The verdict was rendered by an actual reader poll!) 400 pages, softcover from Tyndale.

  1. In your novels, you often address a particular topic. How did you decide to address gun control in The Justice Game?

I like to write about moral issues that have no easy answer. On the issue of gun control, there are some pretty strong emotions on both sides. And people have typically trenched in—spouting off rehearsed arguments rather than trying to understand each other. But when you frame the issue in the context of a story, you can sometimes by-pass the automatic intellectual defenses and speak straight to the heart. I tried to create compelling characters on both sides of the story to help readers sort through the types of honest arguments that people of good faith make and then decide for themselves.

But on a larger scale, the issue of gun control is not really the focus of The Justice Game. The more important issues raised are these: (1) In America, can you “game” the criminal justice system? I have proposed a hypothetical system in The Justice Game that could do just that. (2) Can the main characters in the novel escape their past sins (and secrets) or will they let themselves remain captive to them? I once heard Rick Warren say that courage comes when you have nothing left to hide. That’s a concept I explore in The Justice Game.

  1. As an attorney, you served as lead counsel in a school shooting case in Virginia. What happened and what impact did the case have?

On December 16, 1988, a fifteen-year-old student named Nicholas Elliot took a Cobray semiautomatic handgun to Atlantic Shores Christian School and opened fire. He shot and killed a teacher named Karen Farley and wounded an assistant principal, then burst into a trailer where a Bible class was meeting. When he attempted to open fire on the students huddled in the back corner of the trailer, the gun jammed. The Bible teacher, Hutch Matteson, tackled Elliot and prevented the kind of tragedy that hit Columbine High School in Colorado several years later.

Atlantic Shores was the school where my wife taught. It was the school my kids attended (though they were not there that day).

And when I learned that Elliot had purchased the gun illegally from a gun store in Isle of Wight County through a transaction referred to as a “straw purchase transaction,” I represented the family of Karen Farley in an unprecedented lawsuit against the gun store.

The verdict shocked everyone.

In terms of the impact this real case had on my writing—it made the writing of the book both harder and easier. Harder because we lost a friend in the Atlantic Shores shooting and it was difficult to relive the emotions of the shooting and subsequent case. Easier because authors should write what they know best. I didn’t have to imagine what the feelings of the attorneys would be as they tried this case of national importance on an issue with such raw emotions. I had walked in those shoes. From that perspective, this book might be the most realistic book I’ve written.

  1. You had your readers determine the verdict in the court case at the center of the book. Why did you decide to go this route?

Two reasons. First, I thought it would be fun to create an interactive experience for readers. We put together a fake newscast with snippets of the closing arguments—just enough to inform readers about the case and let them vote. Second, I was trying to be balanced on this issue of gun control. What better way to demonstrate balance than to let the readers decide the verdict? Oh yeah, and third (if it’s not too late to add a third), the book ends up being about much more than just the verdict in the gun case. I knew that the ending would work out fine whichever way the verdict came out.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hearts at Home

One of the things I love about blogging is the exchange of ideas that takes place; after all, what mom can't use a new idea every now and then!

If you are interested in a blog that brings a group of mommy bloggers all to one place, stop by and visit the Hearts at Home blog.

Hearts at Home's contributing bloggers write about motherhood, each with a unique perspective, reflecting on the spiritual, emotional and downright funny aspects of motherhood. Their group of bloggers range from professional speakers to authors to stay-at-home moms, all who share a passion for the profession of motherhood.

The Hearts at Home blog covers a variety of topics, such as practical mom tips, recipes, book reviews, and advice for tackling tough mommy issues.

Take a peek at this great resource and connect with real moms sharing real stories today!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

2009 Book of the Year Finalists & I'm one!!!!!!

I am so delighted to announce that Sandhill Dreams just finaled in the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year contest. I love this story and am thrilled to have finaled. Just look at the list below and you'll see I'm in some pretty amazing company. By the way, if you're looking for some summer reading, you might start with this list. It's impressive!

Last year I was stunned when Canteen Dreams tied for first in the Short Historical category of the Book of the Year. And to get a shot at that category again has me humbled. Now back to writing the final chapter of A Promise Forged...without further ado here are this year's finalists:

Here are the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year finalists. Congratulations to all the fabulous authors who entered and those who finaled!!

2009 American Christian Fiction Writers
Book of the Year Contest

Debut Author
• A Passion Most Pure (Julie Lessman)
• Courting Miss Adelaide (Janet Dean)
• Every Good and Perfect Gift (Sharon K. Souza)
• Hero, Second Class (Mitchell Bonds)
• In the Shadow of the Sun King (Golden Keyes Parsons)

• Faking Grace (Tamara Leigh)
• Picket Fence Promises (Kathryn Springer)
• Single Sashimi (Camy Tang)
• Sweet Caroline (Rachel Hauck)
• Truffles by the Sea (Julie Carobini)

Long Contemporary
• Lookin Back Texas (Leanna Ellis)
• One Holy Night (J.M. Hochstetler)
• Stuck in the Middle (Virginia Smith)
• Summer of Joy (Ann H. Gabhart)
• Symphony of Secrets (Sharon Hinck)

Long Contemporary Romance
• Along Came a Cowboy (Christine Lynxwiler)
• Controlling Interest (Elizabeth White)
• The Convenient Groom (Denise Hunter)
• Finding Stefanie (Susan May Warren)
• Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black & White (Claudia Mair Burney)

Long Historical (6 finalists due to a tie)
• The Apothecary’s Daughter (Julie Klassen)
• Calico Canyon (Mary Connealy)
• Deep In the Heart of Trouble (Deeanne Gist)
• From A Distance (Tamera Alexander)
• I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires (Cathy Gohlke)
• My Heart Remembers ( Kim Vogel Sawyer)

• The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (A.K. Arenz)
• Death on a Deadline (Christine Lynxwiler, Sandy Gaskin, and Jan Reynolds)
• Drop Dead Diva (Christine Lynxwiler, Sandy Gaskin, and Jan Reynolds)
• For Whom the Bell Tolls (Nancy Mehl)
• Of Mice . . . and Murder (Mary Connealy)

• The Cookie Jar (Janet Lee Barton in A Connecticut Christmas anthology)
• Dressed in Scarlet (Darlene Franklin in Snowbound Colorado Christmas anthology)
• Santa’s Prayer (Diane Ashley in A Connecticut Christmas anthology)
• Snowbound for Christmas (Gail Sattler in A Connecticut Christmas anthology)
• Stuck On You (Rhonda Gibson in A Connecticut Christmas anthology)

Short Contemporary
• Buffalo Gal (Mary Connealy)
• Clueless Cowboy (Mary Connealy)
• Family Treasures (Kathryn Springer)
• Her Unlikely Family (Missy Tippens)
• White as Snow (Janice Thompson)

Short Contemporary Suspense
• Bayou Paradox (Robin Caroll)
• Broken Lullaby (Pamela Tracy)
• Countdown to Death (Debby Giusti)
• Forsaken Canyon (Margaret Daley)
• Killer Cargo (Dana Mentink)

Short Historical
• Family of the Heart (Dorothy Clark)
• Masked by Moonlight (Allie Pleiter)
• Reckless Rogue (Mary Davis)
• Return to Love (Susan Page Davis)
• Sandhill Dreams (Cara Putman)

• The Book of Names (D. Barkley Briggs)
• DragonLight (Donita K. Paul)
• The Restorer’s Journey (Sharon Hinck)
• Shade (John B. Olson)
• Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy (Theodore Beale)

• Anathema (Colleen Coble)
• The Black Cloister (Melanie Dobson)
• Fossil Hunter (John B. Olson)
• Lonestar Sanctuary (Colleen Coble)
• Perfect (Harry Kraus)

Women’s Fiction (7 finalists due to a tie)
• A Month of Summer (Lisa Wingate)
• Every Good and Perfect Gift (Sharon K. Souza)
• My Sister Dilly (Maureen Lang)
• The Perfect Life (Robin Lee Hatcher)
• The Shape of Mercy (Susan Meissner)
• Stepping into Sunlight (Sharon Hinck)
• Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon (Debbie Fuller Thomas)

Young Adult
• The Big Picture (Jenny B. Jones)
• The Fruit of My Lipstick (Shelley Adina)
• It’s all About Us (Shelley Adina)
• The Owling (Robert Elmer)
• Trion Rising (Robert Elmer)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

ACFW Conference

there are less than 58 days until this year's ACFW conference. Ack!

I LOVE conference.

I wouldn't be where I am without it, but here's the list of things I have to do before then:
  • Finish the manuscript for A Promise Forged: August 1
  • Finish the sample chapters for a requested proposal: August 1
  • review the three Nebraska books for Cornhusker Dreams: July 27
  • Rewrite the proposal and sample chapters for the third LIS book after talking with my editor last week: August 15th or sooner.
  • Write more sample chapters for another requested proposal. August 1 to 15th.
  • Lead an ACFW course on preparing for conference
  • Lead the ACFW first timers eloop
  • Maintain membership officer responsibilities
  • Begin homeschooling around August 1, though we never truly stopped
  • Be a good wife
  • Be a good mom
  • Be a good friend.
You get the idea.
So what's going on in your life right now that has you clinging to God? I'll pull a winner of a book. :-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Interview with Patti Lacy

I'm delighted to have my friend Patti Lacy join us today. Her latest book, What the Bayou Saw, released earlier this summer. I invited her to join us today.

Patti, What the Bayou Saw is your latest book. Where did the “What if” for this book come from?

Wow, Cara, what a great question! Kinda reminds me of the title of the New York Times bestseller What is the What (a must read, by the way!

Sheila Flanagan, assistant director of the Museum of Mobile, broke my heart when she shared one of her first memories. In the 60s, segregation and a chain link fence had separated Sheila from her friend, another twelve-year-old girl. For seven years, the two friends stuck toys through the spaces in the fence in an attempt to play. I loved the image of those two hands, one light, one dark, and their determination to find community despite of society’s twisted views. A “gotta write this one” thought grabbed my brain and wouldn’t let go!

Sally was a key character in An Irishwoman’s Tale. Did you know when you wrote that book, that she would demand her own story?

Cara, you make me laugh. It’s one of the few things I DID know when I started out writing! Originally, Sally’s and Mary’s stories tangled together like an old ball of yarn. My poor brother, numero uno editor, battled a desire to toss the whole mess in the trash. Somehow tact prevailed and he helped me separate out the two novels.

The setting for this book is very different from your first book. How did you select it?

I originally wanted to set the story in Mobile, Sheila’s home, but since we’d only lived in Mobile for one year, I turned to Monroe, Louisiana, a town where I attended elementary, junior, and senior high schools.

Normal, Illinois, was a logical choice since we Lacys live here!

In tribute to my beloved New Orleans, I wove Katrina and post-Katrina stories into the plot. May God bless the Crescent City during this troublesome time.

With each book, I try to push myself to improve over prior books. Was there an element you focused on for this book?

Oh, my, yes! Since An Irishwoman’s Tale was meant to reach those struggling with a wide range of mental health issues, I left the plot door a bit too wide open. In What the Bayou Saw, one goal was to provide closure—for at least one day—to my eclectic cast of characters. Then there’s the passive voice issue and the show-and-not-tell issue and the likeable protagonist issue…

Recently a friend who’s suffered a stroke begged me to read to her An Irishwoman’s Tale. (I had vowed never again to open the book’s gorgeous cover.) Oh, it has been a painful—and humbling—experience to see things you wish you’d known “then” so the book would be better written!

What do you hope readers discover as they read What the Bayou Saw?

That lying lips soil everything they touch. That God can use women who have endured sexual assault. That though racism still stains relationships in America, respectful dialogue can promote healing. Hopefully readers will gain insight about a Southerner’s venture north of the Mason-Dixon Line as well!

Thanks for your time, Cara, and for the chance to appear on your popular blog!

Thanks for joining us, Patti!
429378: What the Bayou Saw What the Bayou Saw
By Patti Lacy

When Sally Stevens left Louisiana, she buried the secrets of her childhood under a sunny smile and sugar-coated lies. But when one of her students is raped, Sally's memories bubble unbidden to the surface. As her carefully woven web of deceit unravels, will she be able to face the truth . . . whatever the consequences? 320 pages, softcover from Kregel.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

CFBA Tour: Pirate Hunter

Usually, I only participate in these tours if I've read the book ahead of time. This time I haven't seen the book yet -- but have a feeling it's waiting for me. Eric and I both enjoy Tom's books, so when this book came up as an option, there was no question that I wanted to jump on the tour. If you've read it already I'd love to hear what you think. I can't wait to read it. Look for a review later.


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Pirate Hunter

Bethany House (July 1, 2009)


Tom Morrisey


Tom Morrisey is a mountaineer, aviator, shipwreck diver, and explorer, who holds a Full Cave certification from the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section.

He has launched, edited or contributed to numerous national publications and is an award-winning adventure-travel writer. A popular speaker, he is also active in both evangelism and the arts. Morrisey earned an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University, and his fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines.

His first novel, Yucatan Deep (Zondervan, 2002) was a finalist for the Christy award, and he is the author of six novels, including Wind River and In High Places. In addition Tom has also written two nonfiction books: 20 American Peaks & Crags (Contemporary Books, 1978) and Wild by Nature (Baker Books, 2001). He and his family live in Orlando, Florida.


High Seas Adventure Meets a High-Tech Quest for Pirate Gold West Indies, 18th century Young Ted Bascombe is rescued by notorious pirate Captain Henry Thatch, finding himself caught up in a world of crime, adventure, and a daily fight for freedom.... Key West, 21st century Marine archaeologist Greg Rhode embarks on a treasure-hunting expedition in the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys, but he's as beguiled by a beautiful diver with different-colored eyes as by the lure of pirate gold...The Hunt Is On! Interweaving these two stories, pro deep-sea diver Tom Morrisey spins a multilayered tale of two young men's quests to escape their past by losing themselves to adventure on the high seas. Romantic and thrilling, this unique novel explores the timeless truth that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

If you would like to read the first chapter of Pirate Hunter, go HERE

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Love's First Light

From the first page Jamie Carie will sweep you back in time to a land removed from our own. Journey to the bloody landscape of Revolutionary France. Robespierre and his mania form a secondary character that smears across the pages of this rich romance.

Christophe has lost his entire family to the blood-soaked French Revolution. When he flees to an ancient castle in southern France, he hides and conducts his scientific research in relative peace...until he stumbles upon Scarlett, a war widow who regularly visits her husband's grave in the early morning hours.

It amazes me how Jamie can paint such vivid pictures of places I've never visited and a time that is foreign to me. What I knew about the French Revolution prior to this book were a few dates, names and how Thomas Jefferson and other founders thought we should support the revolution. While this book does an amazing job of capturing the time and feel of that war, the romance is never sacrificed. Instead, the attraction between Christophe and Scarlett is richer because of everything that strives to keep them apart.

This is another great book from author Jamie Carie. She has solidified her spot as one of my favorite historical romance authors.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ever have those times...

Ever have those times when God shows you a reflection of yourself that leaves you evaluating yourself?

I've had one of those recently.

Went through a situation where I called on a few friends to pray. I knew I could count on them to pray, and they did.

God then asked me if I'm as faithful. Ouch!

Don't you hate that? God, don't show me myself in a mirror like that. But at the same time I need those accountability moments. Am I faithful? Am I doing what's asked? Even more am I following through when I make a commitment. Pondering.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Ruby's Slippers

446982: Ruby"s SlippersRuby's Slippers

By Leanna Ellis

Dottie Meyers, 35, is a real-life Dorothy Gale living with her little black dog on a small farm in Kansas that's about to be hit by a tornado. Knocked unconscious by the storm, she awakes three months later at a recovery facility in California where her father, last seen when she was four, has left her a mysterious pair of ruby slippers.

But unlike The Wizard of Oz, this isn't a dream, and the yellow brick road journey that Dottie and three friends are about to take from Los Angeles to Seattle in search of her dad will show the realities of a broken childhood. More importantly, everything connected to those sparkling red shoes will prove to Dottie that there's only one true wonder worker behind the so-called curtain who can heal her wounds and prepare the heart for love.

Dottie Meyers has been content with life on the small family farm in Kansas -- but then it's all swept away by -- you guessed it -- a tornado. In this twist on the Wizard of Oz, Dottie is given a pair of ruby slippers as she recovers and must decide whether to track down the giver and who she can trust on her journey.

She begins her journey a woman isolated from all she knows and loves. But as the journey progresses she must choose whether to remain aloof, or open her heart to the people around her as well as fully embrace her heavenly Father. While the spiritual thread is woven throughout the story, it is a natural part of the story's tapestry. Without it, the book would fall flat. With it, I felt a connection with Dottie and her journey of discovery. Ultimately, she'll discover that life is so much more than a pair of ruby slippers.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Interview with Adam Blumler

This week's book is Fatal Illusions. I've just started it and so far am enjoying it. Instead, of a review, come back for that, here's an interview with debut novelist Adam Blumler...
Adam, this is your debut novel. How did the what-if for the book come to you?

Frank Peretti’s earliest supernatural thrillers taught me that Christian novels can do more than entertain. I wanted to write something not only suspenseful but also meaningful. My prayer is that the message will resonate with readers and maybe even challenge their spiritual thinking.

The novels of Mary Higgins Clark also inspired me. I studied the organization and plot lines of her novels and wondered if I could write something as good. I also like her shifting points of view and her short, numerous chapters. (Readers might notice a resemblance.) Her novel You Belong to Me especially inspired me to try my own hand at a serial killer “female in jeopardy” suspense tale. Because most Christian readers are women, I decided to make my main protagonist female—in fact, a pastor’s wife, a protagonist you don’t read about very often. Add to that my love of true crime and forensic science, and I was on my way. Christian suspense novels by Brandilyn Collins and Terri Blackstock have also been a big influence.

A past experience also provided a creative springboard. A church voted to remove from membership a believer who was sincerely repentant of immorality. I began to play the “what if” game in my mind. What if the person who was disciplined got really ticked? What if he or she became mad enough to kill? I thought a church discipline scenario created an unusual motive for murder—hence one of the subplots in Fatal Illusions. I also read Ruth Brandon’s The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini. This biography of the famous illusionist fascinated me and helped me develop the characterization of my serial killer. In fact, readers will discover an important plot clue connected to Houdini.

Oh, Mary Higgins Clark has been an inspiration for me, too! I wanted to write like her before the Christian market opened up. I’m so glad there’s now a place for books like ours! Tell us a bit about your journey to publication...

I loved writing imaginative tales when I was a kid, but I didn’t start taking my writing seriously until I won a state high school creative writing contest. That’s when I realized that my writing was better than average and that perhaps God wanted me to do something with it. Because I loved writing and got good grades in English, I decided to get a journalism degree in college; it seemed like a smart vocational decision fitted to my skills. By then, it was pretty much a given in my mind that God wanted me to write. Exactly what I was supposed to write I didn’t know yet. For fourteen years I served as a staff editor for two ministries, but I always preferred writing stories.

I began Fatal Illusions in 2002 in conjunction with a Writer’s Digest correspondence course on novel writing. I finished the first draft in the fall of 2005 and began contacting literary agents. In January 2006, agent Steve Laube, a well-known and respected voice in Christian fiction, asked to see the full manuscript. Though he ultimately declined to represent me, he sent me a two-page letter, pointing out how few manuscripts reach the stage that mine did, and gave me eight pointers on how to make the novel publishable. Energized, I followed his advice and got to work, but I still couldn’t find an agent or publisher.

A year later, I contacted Kregel Publications about opportunities to edit books from home (my day job is as a freelance editor). The managing editor noticed on my resume that I had written several unpublished novels and asked to see my latest project. Kregel liked what they saw in Fatal Illusions and accepted it for publication. God opened a door I never could have opened for myself!

How exciting! God is definitely our best agent and career coach. What one thing do you wish you'd known before you started this journey?

How much time and work go into a novel between the contract signing and the finished product. I honestly thought an editor just made a few tweaks, and then the novel was ready for publication. Ha! I also never realized how airtight the timeline and plot need to be, especially in suspense. One of my editors actually checked flight times to be sure one of my characters could plausibly be at a certain location at a certain time. My eyes were opened to the importance of checking details, and I’ll never write another novel the same way again.

I find I'm always learning as I write books. What did your characters teach you?

As a writer, this project stretched me more than anything else I've ever worked on. Many of the novel's themes are also areas I've had to work through in my own thinking. When life doesn't seem to make sense, how do I respond? Do I trust God, even when His ways are difficult to understand from a human standpoint? Do I try to keep secrets from God or from others? Do I try to hide who I really am inside? What happens if I try to live a lie?

What else would you like to tell us about this book?

I did a lot of research for this project. Calligraphy didn’t require much research because I had dabbled in it in high school and won a few awards. Information about magicians wasn’t tough to find either because I had already been researching Houdini on the Internet after reading a biography about him. For serial killers, I watched a lot of Forensic Files and Body of Evidence on TV and read Mary Higgins Clark and other crime/suspense authors. One big area I had to research was police procedure since a retired homicide detective helps the Thayers catch the Magician Murderer. I researched crime scene investigation, forensic science, computer crimes (since my villain is a cyber-stalker), and other related areas. But these have always been areas of interest, so I hardly thought of the research as work. Because Gillian is a professional calligrapher of famous quotations, Bible verses, and love poems, I also had to research her literary side since that’s her lens for viewing the world.

What's coming next for you?

A sequel called Plagues. The main characters from Fatal Illusions are reunited, this time at a Christian conference center in Michigan’s north woods, which is where all novels in my hoped-for series will be set. Marc and Gillian Thayer think they are getting away for some much-needed R&R, but protestors with placards and bullhorns shatter the otherwise-peaceful surroundings. A Bible translation committee is holding its regional meeting, and a mob is protesting the committee’s efforts to create a controversial parallel Bible.

While the protestors call down God’s wrath, an apparent plague of blood strikes the facility. Is God displeased with the committee? Are the protestors somehow to blame? When a committee member turns up dead, Marc and Gillian put their vacation on hold, enlist the help of retired homicide detective Chuck Riley, and take a closer look at the bizarre plagues as they escalate in intensity. Throw in a fictionalized account of a true mine disaster and an autistic boy who can apparently see the future, and you get the gist. I’m having a blast planning and writing the twists and turns.


Adam Blumer lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife, Kim, and his daughters, Laura and Julia.

He works full-time as a freelance writer and editor. A print journalism graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC), he served in editorial roles for fourteen years at Northland Baptist Bible College (Dunbar, WI) and Awana Clubs International Headquarters (Streamwood, IL).

He has published numerous short stories and articles. Fatal Illusions released by Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI) is his first novel.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Exposure CFBA

I'm really trying to be a good girl as I work under deadlines, so I haven't read this book in one setting like I usually do. HOwever, I can tell you that Brandilyn has done it again. She's set up a book that is filled with interesting, very real characters in situations that are all too familiar. Who hasn't struggled with fear? The fear of the unknown? The fear of not having enough? The fear of being overlooked and unloved?

This book is a compelling, page-turning suspense with that deeper layer of spiritual truth that propels the story forward rather than slowing it down. Get this book if you love suspense!

When your worst fear comes true.

Someone is watching Kaycee Raye. But who will believe her? Everyone knows she’s a little crazy. Kaycee’s popular syndicated newspaper column pokes fun at her own paranoia and multiple fears. The police in her small town are well aware she makes money writing of her experiences. Worse yet, she has no proof of the threats. Pictures of a dead man mysteriously appear in her home—then vanish before police arrive. Multisensory images flood Kaycee’s mind. Where is all this coming from?

Maybe she is going over the edge.

High action and psychological suspense collide in this story of terror, twists, and desperate faith. The startling questions surrounding Kaycee pile high. Her descent to answers may prove more than she can survive.

To read the first chapter, go
“More twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster! Highly recommended.” ~CBA Retailers
“Mesmerizing mystery…authentic characters…a fast-paced, twisting tale of desperate choices.” ~TitleTrakz
“Brandilyn Collins is a master of suspense, and Exposure is her best book yet!” ~Dianne Burnett,

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 to
Exposure, Brandilyn’s other latest release is Always Watching, first 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.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Two-O’Clock Cup of Coffee

I’ve learned that I hit the wall at about 2pm. Emotionally. Physically. Creatively. It’s definitely my down-time. If I’m getting cranky, just look at your watch--chances are it’s 1:54. I’m thinking that perhaps I never outgrew the whole nap-time thing (although I’m not a napper by nature).

I used to try and gut through it. You know, press on, keep at that ol’ to-do list. Then came the invention of the Starbuck’s drive-thru. Now, don’t get me wrong, caffeine is definitely one of my favorite flavors, but a mocha latte is more like masking he symptoms than caffeinating the bloodstream. A grande-skim-mocha in the car cup-holder is not a real, true coffee break.

A real, true coffee break, I’ve discovered, is a nice cup of coffee in a pleasant, unhurried surrounding. It’s more about the act of drinking something warm and comforting than the actual beverage. At 2pm, I need to be rejuvenated, not just caffeinated. There’s a difference.

Life comes at us from every angle. Often, the deluge shows no mercy, and it all hits at once. We’d all love to get away for a two-week tropical vacation, but most of us won’t get that chance. The daily break, whenever you discover you need it (even if you need three), is a wise choice. Creatively. Emotionally. Physically.

My hero and heroine in BLUEGRASS BLESSINGS learn this lesson the hard way--by being taken over the edge of their ability to cope. Each of them is looking for affirmation and rejuvenation in places that only mask the symptoms. They end up in the wrong places and require serious u-turns. God loves those, I think. Because He knows the real high-octane of life comes from being where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing, surrounded by people who care. Always has.

Stop tomorrow at 2pm and ask yourself “what do I really need?” There’s power in the answer.


An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, doing laundry, running carpools, and finding new ways to avoid housework. She grew up in Connecticut, holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University, spent fifteen years in the field of professional fundraising, and currently lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing nine years ago has given rise to a career spanning two parenting books, six novels including the multi-nominated MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing. Visit her website at <> or her knitting blog at <>

Back cover copy:


Everyone in Middleburg, Kentucky lines up for baker Dinah Hopkins’s cinnamon rolls. Everyone except her handsome new landlord, Cameron Rollings. The jaded city man doesn’t like anything about small-town life--from the fresh air to her fresh-baked snickerdoodles. And he clearly considers Dinah as quirky as her eccentric oven. The way to Cameron’s heart is not through his toned stomach. But the Lord led him to Kentucky Corners for a reason. And Dinah plans to help him count his bluegrass blessings.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Critical Care Review

Did you enjoy watching ER? Love any of the medical dramas on TV? Then this debut novel from Candace Calvert is for you.

Critical Care takes a former ER nurse Claire Avery and throws her into her worst nightmare -- back into an ER with another doctor who is constantly looking for the weak links and booting them before they can harm his patients. What he doesn't know is that she was the weak link after she watched her brother die in her former ER.

Dr. Logan Caldwell carries the responsibility for his patients in the ER. If he pushes his staff, he doesn't any harder than he pushes himself. And the staff push themselves hard. But even a finely tuned team needs help when unexpected tragedy occurs.

This book isn't suspense; instead it's a gripping romance that takes the reader deep into a field that fascinates many of us. I loved watching ER -- even though I went to law school rather than med school for many reasons -- not the least of which was the blood! In fact, it's the layers in this book that kept me reading and turning the pages as fast as I could -- not typical with a straight romance and me.

Dr. Logan Caldwell and Claire are both fully-developed characters; each have unique flaws and scars that they have to overcome before they can decide whether the sparks flying between them might be more. This book was a quick and satisfying read. I'm already anticipating Ms. Calvert's next novel. And I hope it focuses on one of the many secondary characters that are developed in Critical Care.

325439: Critical Care, Mercy Hospital Series #1Critical Care, Mercy Hospital Series #1

By Candace Calvert

After her brother's tragic death fighting a fire, former trauma nurse Claire Avery can't face going back to the ER. But when she must offer staff counseling after a propane explosion in a local day care center, Claire's plan self-destructs. She's back in the ER, battling painful memories-and the handsome and surly doctor who thrives on chaos. Dr. Logan Caldwell has learned to distance himself from painful emotion. He expects his ER staff to be as tough as he is, and when hospital administration sends a beautiful but pushy education nurse to offer counseling, he'll have none of it.

author bio

Candace Calvert is an ER nurse who landed on the "other side of the stethoscope" after the equestrian accident that broke her neck and convinced her that love, laughter—and faith—are the very best medicines of all. The inspirational account of her accident and recovery appears in Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul and launched her writing career.


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