Thursday, February 16, 2017

Lost At Sea Scavenger Hunt Stop #13

 
Welcome to the Lost At Sea Scavenger Hunt where we are helping the Kinsman people find a new home. If you’ve just found us, be sure to start the adventure at Stop #1, which is Jill Williamson’s blog.
 
Collect all the clue words in order so you can enter to win the Kindle. If you want to enter to win the second Kindle, you’ll have to take a quiz at the end, so take your time and read each post carefully. The main prizes in the hunt are open to international entries. Individual author contests, however, might have different rules, so please read the parameters on each site. You have until Sunday night, February 19, at midnight, Pacific time to finish.
 
If you need help, or get lost along the way, click here for assistance.


Trevn wanted to stay in Hagenheim, but Onika the prophetess was certain this was not the place. Wilek led their party south until they came to a great chasm. Onika led the way to a very long, wooden ladder, and at her urging, they started down. At the bottom an ancient forest enveloped them. Picking their way across ground knotted with roots, they dodged bands of men in search of slaves and took circuitous routes around hunting parties out for blood of any kind. But cresting a ridge, they finally spotted the turrets of a castle flying blue and silver flags, assuring them they had indeed made it to Stop #13, the country of Ahavel from Chawna Schroeder’s novel Beast

Chawna Schroeder loves stretching both the imagination and faith through her novels. Living in Minnesota, she dreams of far-off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, and princes in disguise. When she isn't committing her dreams to paper, you can find her studying the biblical languages, working with fiber, or teaching about the importance of discernment. You can find out more about her at www.chawnaschroeder.com or connect with her on Facebook @ChawnaSchroederAuthor.

Here’s a closer look at Chawna’s novel Beast.

For as long as Beast can remember, she has lived among her master's dogs. With them she sleeps. With them she eats. With them she fights and struggles to survive. But through hunger and cold she dreams of one day becoming her master's favorite, earning bones with meat and a place beside the fire.

When her pack scatters after a surprise raid, Beast must defend herself against slavers, hunting down the loners.

They are so strong, and she is only a beast . . . or is she?

Ahavel: The Simple World

When it comes to a story’s world, Ahavel may seem pretty simple. There’s no complex geography to map out. There’s no complicated technology to learn. There are no strange races to meet, political intrigue to unravel, or complex socio-economic structures to navigate. Ahavel, by all appearances, is just your typical fairy tale realm. There are dark forests filled with a variety of wildlife. There are the stone castles with their dungeons and moats, throne rooms and turrets. Scattered villages, with their simple homes and the local tavern-inn, dot the landscape. All places any fairytale lover would recognize. Indeed, the most unfamiliar thing about the world maybe its name, which means “Love of God.”

Most of the time, this familiarity would be a huge detriment to a science fiction or fantasy novel, if not an outright death knell. After all, the complicated otherworldliness is one of the reasons we love to read those genres, right? Yet it is the familiar backdrop which allows Beast to act as the parable that it is. For with typical speculative novels, the reader’s brain is busy learning new rules of a world, what can be done, what can’t, and who belongs where. In the midst of such a steep learning curve, the not-so-obvious elements which must be mined—symbolism, metaphors, parallelism—often are overlooked or completely lost within the story. But parables rely on images already imbedded within the collective memory and imagination so that the reader might focus on mining its truth.

Not that every tree and building has great significance. If they did, Beast would be an allegory, not a parable, and the world would have to be complex indeed. But as a parable, Beast uses familiarity to disarm our defenses and simplicity to calm our hurried busyness, allowing the truth to find a home within the keep of our hearts.

You can order Beast on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or CBD

And don't forget your CLUE! Write down this clue: the

The next stop on our map is Stop #14, Acktar, on Tricia Mingerink’s blog.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New Releases - February 2017

are some of the new Christian novels releasing this month. More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.  
Biblical:
redeeming-graceRedeeming Grace by Jill Eileen Smith -- When famine visits Bethlehem, Boaz holds out hope for rain while his relative Elimelech moves his wife Naomi and their sons to Moab. For a while, it appears the Lord is blessing Elimelech's family, and his sons marry two lovely Moabite women. But calamities strike, one after another, leaving Naomi alone in a foreign land with only her childless daughters-in-law for comfort. When news reaches Naomi that the famine in Bethlehem has lifted, only Ruth will hazard the journey to her mother-in-law's homeland. Destitute and downhearted, Naomi resigns herself to a life of bitter poverty, but Ruth holds out hope for a better future. And Boaz may be the one God has chosen to provide it. (Biblical from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
 

Biblical Romance:
 
building-benjaminBuilding Benjamin by Barbara M. Britton -- Naomi desires to dance well enough to catch the eye of a wealthy landowner. Her father needs a substantial bride price due to the deaths of her brothers at the hands of the tribe of Benjamin. But when Benjamites raid the Ephraimite feast and capture young girls, Naomi is bound and carried from her home by Eliab, a troubled shepherd who needs a wife. As Naomi awaits rescue, she finds Eliab has a strong faith in God and a just reason for abducting her. A reason that affects all the tribes of Israel. The future of the tribe of Benjamin hangs in the balance, but if Naomi follows her heart and stays with Eliab to rebuild his lineage, she must forfeit her family and become a traitor to her own tribe. (Biblical Romance from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])
 

Contemporary Romance:
 
grace-and-the-rancherGrace and the Rancher by Mary Alford -- Can a runaway singer and a makeshift rancher, thrust together by circumstance and held together by the common thread of loss and a love of music, find hope and a happily-ever-after under the stars of Delaney Mountain? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican]) capturing-beauty

*Capturing Beauty by Brenda S. Anderson -- Photographer Haven Carlysle is a changed man. He returns to Duluth to capture the North Shore's beauty ... and to recapture the love of his son. But that means making amends with his ex-girlfriend too. Enter Callie Beaumont. All her life, Callie has longed to work outdoors soaking up God-breathed beauty, and the opportunity is finally on the horizon. But being the liaison between the handsome photographer and his son has thrown her dreams, and her heart, into chaos. Can Haven capture her heart when she won't let him capture her image? And will his poor choices cost Callie her dream job and him the love of his son? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

  the-lawman's -secret-sonThe Lawman's Secret Son by Lorraine Beatty -- Suddenly a Father Police officer Seth Montgomery knows all about order—but his world is thrown into chaos when he learns he has a five-year-old son. With little Jack suddenly in his care, Seth turns to neighbor Carrie Fletcher for help. Given her checkered past, Carrie prefers to keep to herself, but there's no denying she cares for the boy—and her feelings for charming Seth are rapidly developing, too. When someone from Carrie's past shows up threatening to jeopardize the life she's worked so hard to build, Carrie will have to fight for her future with the new family she's found...or risk losing everything. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

maybe-it's-youMaybe It's You by Candace Calvert -- Micah Prescott's goal is to improve the Hope hospital image, but his role as a volunteer crisis responder is closer to his heart. The selfless work helps fill a void in his life left by family tragedy. So does a tentative new relationship with the compassionate, beautiful, and elusive ER nurse, Sloane Ferrell. Then a string of brutal crimes makes headlines, summons responders . . . and exposes disturbing details of Sloane's past. Can hope spring from crisis? (Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House)

  a-second-chanceA Second Chance by Alexis Goring -- Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with her “best friend,” Traci resigned herself to being a bachelorette for life. Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. But his widowed sister Gina Braxton appreciates his compassion and kindness, since she's raising her two kids alone. With God's guidance and the help of Gina's matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, Traci and Marc find hope for their broken hearts. (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romances)

  the-amish-wandererThe Amish Wanderer by Laura V. Hilton -- After her daed, the bishop, is admitted to a mental hospital after hurting their small Amish community, Bethany Weiss is ready to get away from Jamesport, MO—and away from God. Silas Beiler, dogged by a rough childhood and a family who blames him for each new disaster, is hitchhiking toward Pennsylvania in hopes of stability. He sleeps in barns where he can and works for food when possible. When Bethany spies a man asleep in the hayloft, she first fears the return of an unwelcome suitor. But when it is Silas who turns and speaks, the memories flood back: a happy summer six years ago, full of lemonade, long walks, and budding courtship. Can their old love overcome both this new pain and the hurt and rejection of their past? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House) avalanche

Avalanche by Gayla K. Hiss -- Set in the North Cascades National Park of Washington State, Avalanche is the inspirational story of one man set on revenge and the woman who risks everything to help him find the fugitive who killed his partner. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

the-doctor's-texas-babyThe Doctor's Texas Baby by Deb Kastner -- When Carolina Mason shows up in Haven, Texas, after a three-year absence, no one is more surprised than town veterinarian Wyatt Harrow. Especially when he sees Carolina's two-year-old son, Matty. Their son. How could she have kept his child a secret? Carolina doesn't deny the boy is his. She thought she was doing what was best for everyone when she left, but she realizes she was wrong. Though Wyatt is eager to make up for lost time with Matty, Carolina's not so sure that extends to her. Can these former sweethearts navigate their complicated past to make a family for their son? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

spring-raineSpring Raine by Delia Latham -- A last-minute decision sends a young woman to a seaside community and lodging at Paradise Pines...where life takes a whole new path. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

Finding Joy by Melanie D. Snitker -- A horrific accident changed everything for Parker Wilson. He returns to his family's ranch, the scars on his face a daily reminder of all he's lost, yet his mom still insists he needs to stop hiding and live his life again. The beautiful new employee she hires is the last thing he needs, and he'll do whatever it takes to make the girl quit and regain the peace and quiet he prefers. Only deep desperation could force Chelsea Blake to work on a cattle ranch. But if she's going to avoid her parents' judgment when they arrive in three weeks, she must turn the temporary job into a permanent one. Between dodging mud, feeding longhorn cattle, and dealing with a handsome boss who keeps giving her the cold shoulder, staying gainfully employed is proving to be a challenge. Chelsea may not be cut out for ranch life, but her determination to succeed is stronger than Parker's efforts at forcing her to leave. Surprisingly alike, will the two set aside their disapproval to find immeasurable joy? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


General Fiction:
 
the-secret-heartThe Secret Heart by Marie Wells Coutu -- After a whirlwind romance, beautiful Shawna Moore marries Hunter Wilson, the governor of Tennessee. Now, she wonders if the governor ever loved her or only hoped to avoid a scandal. In this modern re-imagining of the biblical story of Bathsheba and King David, an investigative reporter is asking questions--the wedding took place only six weeks following the death of Shawna's first husband in Iraq. If he discovers the truth about Shawna's baby, Hunter's chances for reelection, as well as Shawna's reputation, will be ruined. But keeping their secret is destroying their marriage. Will Hunter's choice mean the end of his political career or his family? (General Fiction from Write Integrity Press)

  home-at-lastHome at Last by Deborah Raney -- All her life, Shayla Michaels, owner of the Coffee's On bakery, has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother's white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn't repeat in polite--well, in any company. Her father's family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry's incarceration, life has left Shayla's father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn't people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts? Everything changes one icy morning when Portia runs into the street and Link Whitman nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with Shayla. Can they overcome society's view of their differences and find true love? (General Fiction from Abingdon Press)

baggage-claimBaggage Claim by Cathe Swanson -- When Ben Taylor, widower and single dad, gets caught up in a dangerous insurance fraud network, he has to learn to take a stand for right - and make a leap of faith: can he trust his nanny - who isn't quite what she appears to be - and his newly-discovered biological father to hide and protect his four young children? (General Fiction, Independently Published)


Historical Romance:
 
the-matchmaker-brides-collectionThe Matchmaker Brides Collection by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Amanda Cabot, Lisa Carter, Ramona K. Cecil, Lynn A. Coleman, Susanne Dietze, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens and Liz Tolsma -- Meet nine women of the late 1800s who have found themselves in the role of matchmaker. They think they have mastered the art of recognizing romantic potential in others, but when it comes to their own lives they have been unlucky in love. In small communities from Tennessee to Colorado, Wyoming to Indiana, love unexpectedly enters the women's lives with men they never imagined marrying. But what will it take to get these ladies to say "I do"? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

  the-reluctant-guardianThe Viscount's Proposal by Melanie Dickerson -- Leorah Langdon has no patience for Regency society's shallow hypocrisy and unnecessary rules, especially for women. She's determined to defy convention by marrying for grand passion instead of settling for a loveless union like her parents--or wedding a stuffy, pompous gentleman like Edward, the Viscount Withinghall. But when a chance meeting in the countryside leads to Leorah and Withinghall being discovered in his overturned carriage--alone and after dark--the ensuing gossip may force them together.Withinghall has his reasons for clinging to propriety and he certainly has no time for a reckless hoyden like Miss Langdon. But soon the two discover that Withinghall's coach "accident" was no such thing: the vehicle was sabotaged. Strong-willed Leorah and duty-driven Withinghall will have to work together if they have any hope of saving her reputation, his political career--and his life. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press)

the-reluctant-guardianThe Reluctant Guardian by Susanne Dietze -- When Gemma Lyfeld inadvertently interrupts a dangerous smuggling operation in her English village, she's rescued by a mysterious Scottish spy. Now with criminals after her and her hopes for an expected marriage proposal recently dashed, she will make her society debut in London. But not without the man tasked with protecting her... Covert government agent Tavin Knox must keep Gemma safe from the criminals who think she can identify them—a mission he never wanted. But as he escorts her and her rascally nephews around London, the lovely English lass proves braver than he ever imagined. Suddenly, the spy who works alone has one Season to become the family man he never dreamed he'd be. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

shine-like-the-dawnShine like the Dawn by Carrie Turansky -- In a quiet corner of northern Edwardian England, Margaret Lounsbury diligently works in her grandmother's millinery shop, making hats and caring for her young sister. Several years earlier, a terrible event reshaped their family, shattering an idyllic life and their future prospects. An even which...might not have been an accident. When Nathaniel Harcourt returns from his time in the Royal Navy and inherits his father's vast estate, Morningside Manor, he also assumes partial control of his father's engineering company and the duty of repaying an old debt to the Lounsbury family. But years of separation between Nate and Maggie have taken a toll and Maggie struggles to trust her old friend. Will the search for the truth about her parents' death draw the two friends closer or leave them both with broken hearts? (Historical Romance from Waterbrook Multnomah)

the-bounty-hunter's-babyThe Bounty Hunter's Baby by Erica Vetsch -- Bounty hunter Thomas Beaufort has no problem handling outlaws, but when he's left with a criminal's baby to care for, he's in over his head. And the only person he can think of to ask for help is Esther Jensen, the woman whose heart he broke when he left town. But can he convince her to put aside the past until he tracks down the baby's outlaw father? Esther is ready to run Thomas off her Texas ranch--until she spies the abandoned newborn in his arms. Soon, working together to care for the precious babe stirs old hopes of a family. With trouble heading to their door, they could overcome it together--if she'll entrust her wary heart to this sweet, second-chance family... (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Thriller/Suspense:
 
raging-stormRaging Storm by Vannetta Chapman -- When a massive solar flare wiped out all modern technology across the globe, the small town of Abney, Texas, was thrown into chaos. Shelby Sparks and her diabetic teenage son, Carter, have found refuge, but Shelby knows Carter can't survive without insulin--and Shelby will risk her life traveling to Austin to make sure he gets it. Shelby's best friend and high school sweetheart, Max Berkman, won't let her make the journey alone. Together, they reach the capital--only to discover that Austin has turned into an urban nightmare on the brink of anarchy. Now the only thing more uncertain than finding what they need is the hope of making it out of the city alive. (Thriller/Suspense from Harvest House Publishers)
 

Speculative:
 
long-time-goneTime Search by Danele J. Rotharmel -- While the TEMCO staff searches for clues to unravel the mystery of his real name, their enemy is lurking in the shadows searching for his targets--it's anyone's guess whose search will be completed first! (Speculative/Time Travel Fiction from Prism Book Group)
 

Western Romance:
long-time-goneLong Time Gone by Mary Connealy -- Rancher Justin Boden is normally an unshakable and rugged man, but with his brother, Cole, shot and in mortal danger, even a tough man faces doubts. And it doesn't help that Angie DuPree, the assistant to the doctor trying to save Cole, is as distracting a woman as Justin ever laid eyes on. With her and the doc's timely skills, Cole looks to be on the mend, and Justin and the rest of the Bodens can turn their attention back to the dangers facing them. It's clear now that everything that's occurred is part of a much bigger plot that could date back to a decades-old secret. Can they uncover all the pieces before danger closes in on them, or is the threat to the ranch even bigger than any of the Bodens could imagine? (Western Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Stats of a First Draft: HopeWell

This morning I finished typing in my first draft of my newest novel, tentatively called HopeWell. (I hand-write all my first drafts.) Here’s the results:

HopeWell was 280 handwritten pages long, penned in four colors of ink: black, red, green and purple. No, there was no particular significance to the colors. I wrote with whatever was handy, occasionally changing colors intentionally to shake things up.

Those 280 pages translated into 243 computer pages, 36 chapters, and 62,600 words—with dozens of notations indicating additional scenes to write during revisions.  (My current target is somewhere around 90,000 words.)

I started HopeWell on April 3, 2013. This means that it has taken me just under four years to complete this first draft. That is an unusually long time, even for me. However, I originally started HopeWell as a “sandbox” story—something to just play with between other projects. So at the beginning, writing was very sporadic. About two-thirds of the story was written between April and December of 2016—just nine months.

HopeWell is the first novel I have written “blind,” that is, with no idea where the story was going. In fact, the first line of Hopewell reads “Novella #1,” reflecting my original intention to write the story as four, closely interconnect dystopian novellas. That intention went out the window somewhere around chapter 9. Not only is it no longer a novella collection, I'm pretty sure it doesn’t classify as dystopian either.    

HopeWell is also my first attempt at an omniscient narrator, which is one of those crazy things you are never supposed to do as a contemporary author, so of course I had try.

Finally, this draft was only made possible through the support of dozens of family members, friends, and pesky critique partners, many of whom seem to think that if I showed them one chapter, the whole novel must be written!

And that sums up the first draft. Now on to revisions...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Christian Fiction--January 2017

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

Contemporary Romance:
Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley by Valerie Comer, Mary Jane Hathaway, Elizabeth Maddrey, Danica Favorite, Lee Tobin McClain and Annalisa Daughety -- Is love possible for a makeshift mom and a handsome widower? What about a bed and breakfast owner and the farmer next door? A curvy jilted bride and a mysterious, handsome chef? Then there's the real estate consultant and the grandson of her elderly client; a high-powered lawyer and a woman farmer, and a formerly engaged couple. Can love make a difference in their lives? Exploring food, friends, and family in Arcadia Valley, each of these novellas kicks off a three-book series, intertwined with the works of the other authors. This collection is only the beginning of your adventure! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Restoring Love by Jennifer Slattery -- Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. As Mitch struggles to keep his business afloat, and Angela works to correct the mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends discover they have something unexpected in common--a young mom fighting to give her children a better life after her husband's incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back from redemption and true love? (Contemporary Romance from New Hope Publishers)

Historical Mystery:
Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering -- Drew and Madeline Farthering visit the Yorkshire moor to catch a killer and solve a mystery that involves an old feud, a new rivalry and a huge, spectral hound that may or may not be a harbinger of death. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker])

Historical Romance:
A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander -- A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to get an audition at the newly-formed Nashville Philharmonic. But the conductor--determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music--bows to public opinion. Women are "far too fragile and frail" for the rigors of an orchestra, he says, and Rebekah's hopes are swiftly dashed. Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville's new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse--and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head--he must finish composing his symphony before the new opera hall opens. But far more pressing, he must finish it for his dying father, who inspired his love of music. Then Tate's ailment worsens. Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman's trust when you've robbed her of her dream? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The American Heiress Brides Collection by Lisa Carter, Mary Eileen Davis, Susanne Dietze, Anita Mae Draper, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Lisa Karon Richardson, Lynette Sowell and Kimberley Woodhouse -- Meet nine young women in America between 1880 and 1911 who have been blessed by fortunes made in gold, silver, industry, ranching, and banking. But when it comes to love, each woman struggles to find true love within a society where "first comes money, second comes marriage." What kind of man can they trust with their greatest treasure—their hearts? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Two Suitors for Anna by Molly Jebber -- In 1903 Ohio, a young Amish woman must choose between the life she has long planned for with her beloved Noah Schwartz, and a new, very different future… But Noah has a surprise for Anna: once they're married, he wants them to travel and live in other communities. Anna, who loves her home and her job at the quilt shop, is distraught when he takes her hesitation as rejection—and leaves. Daniel Bontrager's arrival adds to Anna's confusion. Since taking over his late brother's farm, the handsome roofer has offered friendship and gentle attentions. Yet the pull of first love is strong and deep, especially when Noah returns. Through each revelation, Anna must search her faith for guidance, knowing she is choosing not just a husband, but a life to nurture and to share… (Historical Romance from Kensington)

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas by Erica Vetsch -- Journey to Fort Bliss, Texas, where a battle of emotions versus ideals is about to be waged. When a high-steppin' eastern fashion artist, Priscilla Hutchens, swoops down on the fort to gain custody of her twin niece and nephew she is met with resistance by their uncle, post surgeon Major Elliot Ryder, who thinks he knows what is best for them. Who will win the battle? Or will a truce be called for the sake of love and family? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:
Dead Run by Jodie Bailey -- Kristin James's morning run turns deadly when she's attacked by a stranger who's after something her deceased soldier brother stole overseas. Her neighbor Sergeant First Class Lucas Murphy steps in to help her and won't let her brush the attack under the rug. He'll do everything he can to keep Kristin alive, but he can't tell her that he's under orders to investigate her link to her brother's misdeeds. Kristin has no idea what the bad guy is after and doesn't want to believe that her brother wasn't on the straight and narrow. But as evidence against him piles up, can they catch the criminals without becoming the next casualties? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley -- It's been eighteen years since TV crime reporter Andi Hollister's sister was murdered. The confessed killer is behind bars, and the execution date is looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned killer didn't actually do it, Detective Will Kincaide of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, the person who confessed to the crime is Will's cousin. They have less than a week to find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But much can be accomplished in one week--including uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and falling in love. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])

Undercover Protector by Elizabeth Goddard -- Undercover at a tiger sanctuary, Special Agent Grayson Wilde is convinced the owner's involved in a wildlife trafficking ring--until someone tries to kill her. Gemma's determined to rebuild the tiger oasis she lost when her family died, but someone wants her out of the way, and she's starting to wonder if her parents' and uncle's deaths were really accidental. Grayson says he'll do anything to protect Gemma, but she can't shake the feeling that her alluring new volunteer might not be all that he seems. With a vicious criminal closing in, though, she has to trust Grayson…because she won't survive without him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Buried Memories by Carol J. Post -- A soldier hero suffering from PTSD and a young woman struggling to overcome a traumatic childhood fight for their lives and find healing together. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Still Life by Dani Pettrey -- Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright--and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart. Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead--and the photographer insists he didn't take the shot. Worse, her friend can't be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Supernatural Thriller:
Fatal Accusation by Rachel Dylan -- Attorney Olivia Murray hopes her life in Windy Ridge will get back to normal after a hard-fought trial. But she soon finds out that the forces of evil have not given up. An embezzling scandal rocks the community church to its core. The New Age groups are ready to declare victory when a high-profile prosecutor files criminal charges against the local pastor. However, Olivia is not willing to give up on the community she's come to love. She takes on the defense pro bono knowing it could destroy her career, but it's a case she is called to defend. The battle will be fierce, but she's not fighting it alone. Her friend and fellow attorney Grant Baxter is by her side. Olivia must use all the tools in her arsenal to combat those who seek to destroy the believers in the community. If Olivia can't prove the pastor's innocence, more than her career is on the line. The entire community of Windy Ridge could fall to the forces of darkness. (Supernatural Thriller, Independently Published)

Monday, November 7, 2016

On this Election Eve

For the most part, I prefer to stay silent on political issues. It is not an area in which I have been trained or I have been called to speak. So while I sometimes have thoughts on what is going on, I do not feel it is something I should be vocal about in a public forum for the most part. And even now, I do not believe it is my place to say whom you should vote for. After all, I might be wrong in what I would advise you, and that is not a responsibility that I want to shoulder.

But on this election eve, I do have two requests of my fellow American citizens:

1. Vote. That's it. Just vote. You may or may not like your choices this year, but the fact remains that we do have choices. That is a wonderful privilege and a huge responsibility. Don't neglect it.

2. Don't vote out of fear, anger or hate. Every vote cast from fear, anger or hate is really a vote cast for Satan, no matter the candidate it is cast for. For it is Satan who rules with fear, encourages dissension, and flames anger into uncontrollable rage. So as you make your selections for state and federal officials, I ask that you choose based on love--love for God, love for others, love for country (in that order)--and on the conviction that your choices are the best people for those offices, no matter their odds of winning or losing.

Finally, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know that the internet has been overloaded with political noise this year. I know how easy it is to glaze over and skip another "political post." So thank you for listening to my heart. I hope it provides a little hope and clarity for anyone who, like me, has wrestled long and hard with this year's election.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Beast: The Story Behind the Story

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off; my heart was free.
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
--"And Can It Be?"

Thus beats the heart of my novel, Beast, as the story follows the transformation of a feral child into a princess.

It is a journey both difficult and painful, yet beautifully breath-taking at time too. At least it was for me as the author. Yet as wonderful as the story between the covers is, more amazing to me is the story which God has been writing behind the scenes.

No, my story behind the story doesn’t include showy displays of supernatural power. Nor does it contain death-defying experiences. Rather, the path taken may seem mundane and even obvious, with every event and incident able to be explained away. Yet God’s fingerprints are unmistakable. As Christian theologian Alfred Edersheim once wrote:

“It is in the supernatural direction of things natural that we ought most to recognize the direct interposition of the Lord. . . God marvellously uses natural means for supernatural ends.”

And it is this supernatural timing which has marked this book’s journey to publication. Indeed, if I had been left in charge, Beast would have never existed.

For in my mind, this story was too dark to write. Too violent, taking my imagination where I did not want to go. Moreover, no publisher in the Christian market would want to story like that, so why waste the months it would take to write it?

But God is far more stubborn than I am, and in the end, I sat down in January 2008 and wrote the first chapter of Beast. Nothing else I was working on at the time was going anywhere anyway. And looking back now, I think I secretly hoped that if I wrote the first chapter, the story would get out of my system and I would be able to move on to more marketable stories.

Instead, when I read the first chapter to two critique partners, I received a reaction which I had never received before and have never received since:

Dead silence, followed by an in-breathed, “Wow.

At that point I knew I would have to finish the story, wherever it led.

However, I’m terribly insecure, especially when it comes to my writing. So on a last-minute whim, I submitted the first 15 pages of Beast to a competition for unpublished novelists called the Genesis. My hope was to receive some positive feedback.

In typical God-fashion, I received an overabundance of encouragement: Beast won my category in the Genesis.

I was thrilled. Not only because I won, but because the winners of the Genesis, especially at that time, often landed an agent within a year, with a publishing contract right behind. After eight years of work, doors were opening wide to me!

Or so I thought.

Instead, they slammed shut in my face. I submitted Beast to agent after agent, editor after editor. I even had an author give me a direct recommendation into his editor. But whereas before I had received requests to see proposals and full manuscripts, I couldn’t even get past the “Here’s my idea, would you like to see more?” letter. I had entered a drought.

Making things tougher, a new publisher called Marcher Lord formed during this time. What made Marcher Lord special is that they handled only Christian science-fiction and fantasy. A perfect match for my kind of story. Yet each time I considered submitting to them, God blockaded my way.

So months, then years passed. I wrote other stories and tried to sell them as well, with no more success than with Beast. I questioned God—frequently. Should I self-publish? Should I be doing something else entirely? Again the answers came back, “No.”

Many friends during this time commented on my patience. What they didn’t realize is that if I'd had my way, I would have walked away. But God simply gave me no choice in the matter but to keep walking the road He had placed me on. Many days, writing was an act of obedience and nothing more.

Then in early 2014 Marcher Lord sold and was renamed Enclave Publishing. The man who bough Marcher Lord was one of the judges who awarded Beast the Genesis win almost six years before. God finally seemed to say “Yes.” So with bated breath I submitted my novel for review.

And nothing happened. Months passed without a word.

Figuring my submission had been lost in the transition, I decided I would attempt to talk to the new owner of Enclave at a writing conference we would both be attending. I was already scheduled to sit through one of his classes.

To my surprise, the room cleared quickly after class, and soon I was face with the publisher. Prepping myself for a long pitch of Beast, I told him that six years ago he judged a Genesis my manuscript won. Before I could say more, he said, “What did happen to that story?” and then invited me to send in the full manuscript.

I did so. Two more months went by. Then the week of Thanksgiving, I received an e-mail for Enclave.

Beast had been rejected.

I was crushed, and I walked into 2015 more confused and uncertain than ever. For even though I had written other novels since Beast, I still considered it some of my best writing. And if after fifteen years of labor my best writing was still not good enough to be published, would it ever be? Why should I keep writing? Why did God insist on dragging me down a road that went nowhere?

Those first few months of 2015 I struggled deeply. I toyed with switching genres as well as dabbled with the idea of self-publishing again. I even took the time to format and print a rough cut of Beast for a couple of my early readers. If one of them had asked, even teasingly, when they could get another copy, I would have pursued self-publication and this story would probably have turned out much differently. But not one of them asked, God effectively slamming the door shut again.

Then the first weekend in May, I opened up my e-mail. To my surprise, I had received another e-mail from Enclave.

The publisher was apologizing for the long delay in response, for my manuscript had been misfiled, but he wanted to give me an update on my submission: My opening chapters were liked by the beta readers, so the full manuscript was under review!

Never in a hundred years could I have imagined that reversal! God truly can do whatever He wants, no matter how impossible or implausible.

So I went back to waiting. June, July, and August passed. By September I began to get nervous, for I should have heard back long before then. Finally in October 2015, I sent an e-mail asking for a status update, even as I steeled myself for a rejection. For every time I have had this kind of long delay, it always resulted from a lost rejection.

Therefore, with trepidation, I opened the e-mail I received shortly thereafter. But instead of the rejection, the publisher admitted he thought my manuscript had been set aside in error. Soon after he found it on his desk, waiting for his review, and by November I was doing what I thought was impossible a year earlier:

I was signing my first contract for Beast with Enclave.

Moreover, in this delay, God proved His impeccable timing: Normally it takes 12-18 months from contract to publication. But a spot had suddenly opened up, allowing my novel to be fast-tracked for a release under a year’s time.

This route is not one I could have imagined, nor is it one I would have designed for myself. But God is a master of details, and as I stated at the beginning, God marvelously uses natural means for supernatural ends:

For it is only natural I would enter a writing competition. It is only natural I would seek feedback on a new manuscript. Only God could have provided words so perfect that an early draft of an unfinished novel could win a prestigious competition.

It is only natural that the finals of a writing competition would be judged by industry professionals. It is only natural that the judges would like the winning entry enough to publish it. But only God would orchestrate for my entry to be judged by a man who would not own a publishing company until six years later.

It is only natural that I would submit to a company that publishes exclusively Christian science fiction and fantasy. It is only natural that I would talk to the publisher at a writing conference. Only God could cause a publisher to contract the identical manuscript that they had rejected only a year earlier.

Indeed, only God could have used the first fifteen pages of an unfinished manuscript to land a contract seven years later.

Now I don’t know where this story finds you today.

Maybe, like me when I began writing Beast, you’re facing a choice and you’re afraid to go the direction God is leading. Let me encourage you to take the leap of faith and risk. God is greater than whatever you are facing.

Or maybe you’re enjoying a recent success and see doors opening to you, just as I did with my competition win. Praise God for His goodness—all the while holding everything loosely. The God who opens doors also has the right to close them.

Or maybe you feel stuck in a barren wasteland, obedient but fruitless. Persevere! The road is hard, but God is faithful. He has not forgotten you, but has some purpose even for this wilderness.

Perhaps today some of you face impossible circumstances, leaving you at a loss of what to do next, like I felt after that rejection from Enclave. Have hope and wait on God, trusting His timing. While what you face may be impossible from man’s perspective, nothing is impossible with God. He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants however He wants wherever He wants with whomever He wants.

Finally, maybe you, like me, are celebrating today how God has acted on your behalf. Let me encourage you to share your story, proclaiming what God has done.

For to Him belongs all glory, dominion, honor, and power, forever and ever!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Influences on Beast

Story has been part of my DNA from my earliest days. So perhaps it is no surprise that the work of other storytellers and writers have influenced me, both as a person and as a writer.

While I cannot begin to enumerate every story or author who has influenced me over the years, here are a few which have impacted the development of Beast. . .

Classic Children’s Picture Books  
I listened to a lot of picture books as a child, including the works of Dr. Seuss, Robert McCloskey, and Tomie dePaola. These stories encouraged my imagination and a love of reading. 

Dad’s Stories
Along with picture books, I listened to many stories which my dad made up. Through him and the storybooks read to me, I learned the cadence and pacing of story. But more than that, Dad’s stories are also the original source of my desire to write: One of my grand ambitions at age six was to grow up and write Dad’s stories down.

The Five Little Peppers, Miracle on Maple Hill, Blue Willow
These stories represent the multitude of novels that captured my heart as child. But a common thread through them all is a tale of someone lost being found or those displaced finding a home. So each of these contributed to the strong emotional touchstone which would form the heartbeat of Beast.

The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
As perhaps my favorite novel of all time, this classic rags-to-riches story provides the base for the aforementioned emotional touchstone. But more than that, it taught me the value of letting characters hurt in order to make the end even sweeter, for the end of A Little Princess just isn’t as poignant if her father didn’t really die.  

 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
A Sunday school teacher read this novel to my first-grade class. It was my first taste of traditional Christian fantasy, the same basic genre to which Beast belongs.

The Fairy Tales by Grimm, Anderson, MacDonald, and Disney
I grew up on the classic fairy tales, and more significantly, their retellings by Disney. All of these contributed to the fairytale style of Beast, from the romanticized medieval setting to the happily-ever-after.
Arena by Karen Hancock
This novel introduced me to modern Christian science fiction and fantasy.

Firebird Trilogy by Kathy Tyers
Arena may have introduced me to modern Christian science fiction and fantasy, but it was Lady Firebird who made me fall in love with the genre. Through Firebird, I saw the possibilities of the genre, and I was taught how to balance story with spiritual threads. I would not be writing science fiction or fantasy today without the influence of this trilogy.
 
The End for Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards
This essay deepened and broadened my understanding of God’s glory, which has impacted every area of my life, including how and about what I write.

Snow White
There is an old animated version of Snow White wherein Snow White hides from the huntsman in a tree and he mistakenly thinks a wild boar in the bushes is her. This scene provided direct inspiration for one of Beast’s escapes from the villain.

What the Deaf Man Heard
While I love this movie for a variety of reasons, it earned a place here because the opening scene, where the boy plays deaf, as it provided inspiration for Beast’s border crossing with Tracker.  

The Holy Bible
Without God’s Word, Beast would not be.

 It was from the truth of Scripture that Beast’s journey was conceived, and it was the truth of Scripture that gave purpose and meaning to the story. Many of the best and most powerful moments in Beast are rooted directly in some truth found in Scripture. Indeed, without the foundation of the Bible, Beast would be nothing more than a few pretty words strung together. 

Now It’s Your Turn!
I’m sure that I’m not the only one impacted by the books I’ve read or the movies I’ve seen. So which books and movies have impacted you—and why?