Monday, September 15, 2014

Be Thou My Vision Cover Reveal

Today I get to be part of the cover reveal for my friend Faith Blum's upcoming book Be Thou My Vision! And isn't it just lovely? I absolutely love the way the hymn is overlaid over the sky and the way the title fits with the church steeple. Be Thou My Vision is the second book of Faith's Hymns of the West series. I had the pleasure of beta reading it and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a sweet Western romance with a good spiritual message. As part of Faith's cover reveal tour, I have her here today for a fun interview as well as an excerpt from the book. There's also a fun giveaway Faith is hosting. You can find the information at the end of the post, but first, a little about the book.
The church was empty when I dragged myself out of the pew and headed out the door.  As I opened the door, the corner of my eye caught a flicker of movement which I chose to ignore.  I walked down the steps and was nearly bowled over by two wild boys.  With arms grown strong and quick from man-handling two brothers growing up, I grabbed the two boys before they had a chance to escape me.
Anna Stuart is comfortable with her life.  She may be a 30 year old spinster, but she has her routine and enjoys taking care of her father and older brother.  One letter shatters all her routines, comfort, and enjoyment.  After learning of her brother’s death, Anna feels like her life will never be the same again.
Then she meets two motherless boys.  Did God place them in her life to lead her to a new vision of life?  Can she trust God to give her the desires of her heart before she even knows what they are?
The Kindle version of Be Thou My Vision is currently available at a special preorder price of only 99 cents, so make sure you take advantage of that!
1. What inspired you to write what you do?
Probably reading books about the time period. So far, I have mostly written Westerns and it was my love of Louis L’Amour’s books that really helped me write them. Since then, I have also found some other Western authors that I like, but Louis L’Amour will always be my Western author of choice.
2. Which of your characters would you most love to spend the day with?
In this book? Hmm… This is a hard question. I think I would most love to spend the day with Anna. We are very different, but her persistence and servant heart are inspiring.
3. Creating and working with characters is my favorite part of writing. What is yours?
The actual writing of the story and making the characters alive. I love creating the story that tells about people’s life struggles and how they get past those struggles.
4. I love it when I can find just the right “casting” choice for my characters because it helps clarify them in my mind. Do you have any casting choices for your characters? If so, who are some of the main ones?
I can’t say that I have. There have been a few characters who have similarities to me and I’ve written them that way, but otherwise, I don’t think that I have.
5. For me, actually getting my stories written is the hardest part of writing. Planning, rewriting, and editing are much easier. What is your least favorite or hardest part of the writing process?
As long as I can find the time, writing is my favorite (and the easiest) part. Rewriting and editing is my least favorite part of the writing process. Which is probably why I am procrastinating right now with my next book. :P
6. Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress or what’s next for your writing and publishing plans?
My next book follows close behind “Be Thou My Vision”. Lord willing, I hope to have “Amazing Grace” published in February. Here is my logline for it: “A doubting man agrees to wed a widowed mail-order bride, but he struggles with whether or not he can be a father to the woman's daughter who desperately wants a father's love.”
I have the rough draft written and now all I need to do is rewrite, edit, and edit some more. As I mentioned above, I have been procrastinating on that. Anybody want to get the whip out to help me move faster? 
7. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?
Reading (surprise, surprise), playing piano, and doing crafts. I love to play classical music and some soundtracks. My favorite crafts are knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, and sewing.
8. What are some of your favorite books?
The Bible, “To Win Her Heart” by Karen Witemeyer, “To Ride the River” by Louis L’Amour, “Red Rain” by Aubrey Hansen, The Shiloh Legacy trilogy by Bodie and Brock Thoene. Those are just a few I can think of right now.
9. What are three random facts about you that most people probably wouldn’t know?
Ooo! A list! Yay!
1. I live off of lists. If I don’t have something written on a list, I probably won’t remember to do it. I love making lists and crossing things off of them when they are done.
2. As much as I love historical fiction in books, I actually prefer watching science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary movies. Probably because most historical movies are about wars and get rather gory. Sci-fi and fantasy can also get gory, but it is different because that’s not real people.
3. We haven’t had a TV in our house for probably over 10 years now and I love it! The only thing I miss is watching the Green Bay Packer games. Dad did manage to get something to work, but it doesn’t always work and it is hard to watch on a computer monitor.
10. And finally, what advice would you give other authors seeking to publish?
Don’t rush through it. Set realistic goals and don’t be afraid to change those goals if you aren’t comfortable with what you have written so far.
       “Hello,” she said, sticking her hand out. “I am Wilma Gardner. I recently moved onto the neighboring farm with my husband. I heard there was a woman living here and thought we could possibly become friends. The ladies in town said not to pin my hopes up, but when have I ever listened to people like them?”
       In spite of myself, I found my lips curving up into a slight smile. First, this stranger was Southern. Second, this vivacious young woman might be my answer to getting me out of my...whatever it was I was in.
       “Anna Stuart,” I answered, returning her handshake and inviting her in. After seeing if she wanted something to drink, I continued, “I live here with my brother and father. They’re out in the fields.”
       “Maybe we could have you three over for dinner sometime this week,” Wilma offered. “I'm sure my husband would be glad for some advice from men who have farmed here for awhile.”
       I shook my head. “I doubt that would be possible. Da doesn't like visiting with people and he certainly does not like discussing farming with anybody, not even Caleb.”
About Faith
An avid reader, Faith Blum started writing at an early age. Whether it was a story about the camping trip that summer or a more creative story about fictional characters, she has always enjoyed writing. When not writing, Miss Blum enjoys reading, crafting, playing piano, leading on the Holy Worlds Christian Writing Forum and playing games with her family (canasta, anyone?). As a history enthusiast who has been fascinated for years with the Old West, Faith has endeavored to create a clean, fun, and challenging Western story. Faith lives with her family on a hobby farm in the Northern Midwest, where she enjoys the many cats they have.
Find Faith on:
To enter the giveaway for an Advanced Reader copy of Be Thou My Vision and an ebook copy of Aundy by Shanna Hatfield go to Faith’s blog and leave a comment to either ask her a question, or make a comment about what you think about the article.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Different Kind of Courage Blog Tour

Today I have the pleasure of being part of the blog tour for my friend and fellow author Sarah Holman's new book, A Different Kind of Courage! I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but it's definitely on my reading list. I just love anything colonial. As part of the tour, I have Sarah here for a fun interview! During the tour, you can get the Kindle copy of A Different Kind of Courage on sale for $3.99! Sarah is also giving away 3 ebook copies, so don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post! You can see the rest of the stops on the tour on Sarah's blog. And now for the interview.
 1. What inspired you to write A Different Kind of Courage?

Two conversations actually. The first was one our family had after watching several of movies and TV shows about people with secret identities. We talked about the real consequences of such a life style that most of the movies and such didn’t show. The second conversation was one my mom and I had about people who try to live up to their parents expectations for them, instead of God’s.
2. Which of your characters would you most love to spend the day with?

From A Different Kind of Courage, I would be hard pressed to choose between historical character Dr. Joseph Warren and fictional character Selah Harrison
3. Creating and working with characters is my favorite part of writing. What is yours?

I love it when I get the feeling that I am just watching the story unfold along with my readers; the unexpected twists and turns that come as a surprise to even me. I also love creating stories like the ones I always wanted to read as a kid.
4. I love it when I can find just the right “casting” choice for my characters because it helps clarify them in my mind. Do you have any casting choices for your characters? If so, who are some of the main ones?
In A Different Kind of Courage, I had a huge list of casting choices, especially on the historical characters side. There were so many amazing men and women I wanted to include in the story, but space would not allow me to include all of them. It was hard to pick, but it is a wonderful feeling when you know you have the right ones.
5. For me, actually getting my stories written is the hardest part of writing. Planning, rewriting, and editing are much easier. What is your least favorite or hardest part of the writing process?

Editing is by far the hardest part for me. I love writing the story and getting caught in the excitement, but editing is hard process for me. I think partly because I am not extremely good at spotting my own errors, hence my need for a good team of proofreaders.
6. Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress or what’s next for your writing and publishing plans?

I am working on the sequel to my book, Adventures and Adversities, which is set in a fictional country in Europe. The book, Brothers and Betrayal, has a Robin Hood feel to it and should be ready for publication in early 2015. My first contemporary story will also be published next year. I am very excited about both.

7. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?

I do! I sew, make jewelry (not as good as yours, Jaye), take long walks, and spend time with my awesome family.

8. What are some of your favorite books?

Christy by Catherine Marshall (that was a life changing book for me), A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin, Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden, the Firmament series by J. Grace Pennington, The Charity's Diary by Elisabeth Allen, the Messenger by Siri Michell and many, many more.
9. What are three random facts about you that most people probably wouldn’t know?

I am only 5’4 which makes me the target of much good natured teasing in my house as I am the shortest.
My room is normally messy, but my work space must always be clean
I have very strong and unusual ideas about the Civil War (at least I have been told they are unusual), and I love discussing it with people.

10. And finally, what advice would you give other authors seeking to publish?

Never stop writing. I have three books that will never be published, but I needed to write them to learn. Some for your writing may not be good enough to publish, but don’t look at those stories as failures, but as necessary stepping stones.

About Sarah
Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of five published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

Social Media Links
Twitter: @thedestinyofone


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review–Plots and Pans

plotsandpansOrder dictates Tucker Carmichael’s life—his orders. On a cattle drive, a moment’s hesitation can mean death. The Chisholm Trail is dirty, dangerous, and no place for women.

After years at school, Jessalyn Culpepper has come home and is determined to show everyone that a woman can manage everything from cooking to cattle—whether they like it or not!

Tucker tries to manage his partner’s headstrong sister, horrified when she wants to join the cattle drive. But when they need a chuck wagon cook, Jessalyn seems the only solution.

Will God stir up love along a trail filled with their Plots and Pans?

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

I’m really torn with this book. I have to admit, I haven’t finished it yet. This is the first time that’s happened. I got about 75% done and decided I had to set it aside. I do want to finish it at some point, but I thought it best to quit for now.

The thing is, the writing is very good. Very witty and entertaining. I loved that when I started reading it. And I even really like Jess! That’s definitely saying something since I typically like less than a quarter of the female protagonists I read about. I had really high hopes when I started this book. Where things went wrong for me, personally, was the internal monologue of the characters. As I said, it’s incredibly witty, but . . . there was just too much. It took up the majority of the book, and I began to feel as if nothing was actually happening. There was no antagonist that I’m aware of unless one shows up in the last quarter of the book. It was just the conflict between the two main characters. I guess I’m just used to quite a bit more action and less monologue.

On a good note, it has a good cast of characters. As I said, I really like Jess, and Tucker is an interesting character as well. My favorite besides those two was Desta. I really liked her part in the story. So if you don’t mind a more slow-paced Western romance with a spunky female protagonist and entertaining banter, you’ll probably enjoy Plots and Pans a lot more than I did.

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review–Storm Siren

9781401690342_JKT.inddIt took way longer than it should have, but here, finally, is my review of Storm Siren!

About the Book:

"I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don't want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you."

In a world at war, a slave girl's lethal curse could become one kingdom's weapon of salvation. If the curse - and the girl - can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn't merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth - meaning, she shouldn't even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she's being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn't want to be the weapon they've all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

My Rating: 5 Stars

I had been anxiously looking forward to reading Storm Siren ever since I first set eyes on the cover. Just look at it. Isn’t it one of the most gorgeous covers you’ve ever seen? I suppose I’m a bit biased considering my obsession with the color blue. But anyway, the book itself did not disappoint. Mary Weber created a fascinating world that was very different from other fantasy books I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a few since it’s my favorite genre). The society almost felt like The Hunger Games with the crazy costumes worn at the parties. Another of the things I found so different was that the book was in first person. I’m not sure I’ve read a first person fantasy before this. I personally prefer third person, but Mary did such an excellent job with first person that it didn’t bother me at all. Even though the whole book was from Nym’s point-of-view, you get a very clear sense of all the different character’s personalities, and they’re each very distinctive.

My favorite character was probably Eogan. I especially loved the twist when you learn his backstory. But I can happily say I really, really liked Nym too. That’s a big deal. I always have a hard time finding female protagonists I actually like, especially in first person stories.

If you’re looking for a lighthearted read, this probably isn’t for you. There’s a lot of cruelty and it is a pretty dark story at times. And if you’re used to really obvious Christian stories, this probably doesn’t fit that. But it has a strong theme of knowing your worth and that you were created for a reason. So if you don’t mind darker tones and like following the stories of broken characters like I do, I do recommend it to fellow fantasy readers who are looking for something different and interesting. Just be prepared for the agonizing cliffhanger ending! I literally yelled, “No!!” when I finished. Now I have to try to be patient book two’s release next summer.

I received this book free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Review–Chasing the Lion


From the blood-soaked sand of the Roman arena, a divine destiny will rise.

For as long as Jonathan Tarquinius can remember, everyone has wanted something from him. His half brother wants him dead. His master’s wife wants his innocence. The gladiator dealers want him to fight—and die—for their greed. Rome’s most famous prostitute wants his love. And the gentle slave girl who tends the wounds on his body and the hidden ones on his soul longs for him to return to his faith.

What Jonathan wants is simple. Freedom. But God wants something from Jonathan too—something more than anyone would ever imagine. The young warrior’s journey will push him to the limits of human endurance and teach him that true freedom is found within. The greatest battle Jonathan must ever fight will not come in the arena, but deep within himself as he is forced to choose between vengeance and mercy—with the fate of an empire and the life of the woman he loves hanging in the balance.

* * *

My Rating: 5 Stars

Right off, let me tell you Chasing the Lion has made it to the number one spot of my historical fiction favorites, and is my third all-time favorite book after Lord of the Rings and Books of the Infinite by R.J. Larson. There are few books I’ve enjoyed quite to this extent. I also want to make a note that I recommend it for older teen and adult readers. It does not shy away from the rampant immorality of Roman society, though I felt Nancy Kimball handled it well without unnecessary details. It also contains violence and extreme cruelty (most scenes cut away, but you still have to read about the aftermath). I have a pretty high tolerance when I read, but I caution more sensitive.

That said, I devoured this book in a little over a day. I first came across it a couple of weeks ago on one of the ebook sale websites I follow. I never spend more than 99 cents on an ebook I’ve never heard of before. I just have too many to read right now. This one was $3.99. Normally, I would have passed it up, but when I saw it involved gladiators, I just couldn’t. (I have quite an interest in gladiators since that became part of Jace’s backstory in Ilyon Chronicles.) I am SO glad I bought it. Chasing the Lion has a very Joseph-like storyline in the beginning, though Jonathan is not quite Joseph in character. He spends a good portion of the book driven by hatred and desire for revenge, yet, was so noble. I completely fell in love with his character. He was so easy to relate to, and my heart just ached with all his hardship. I don’t remember the last character who pulled at my emotions like he did. My heart would just be pounding sometimes as I was reading.

The book sucked me right in. The writing was so good that I completely forgot I was reading. I was just right there in the story. And it wasn’t only Jonathan who made the book. It had a very diverse cast of interesting individuals and points-of-view. Though historical, it had just enough description to lay out the setting, but not so much as to draw you out of the story itself. A perfect balance, in my opinion.

But I think what set this book apart from most was the spiritual aspect of it. Most fiction is just entertainment and relaxation for me. For more, I read non-fiction. It has to be a special book to touch me spiritually, and this one did. I feel like God brought it into my life at just the right time. Reading about how the believers in the book endured their trials and clung to their faith encouraged me to do the same in the trials I’m facing. The theme of forgiveness was also very powerful.

I can’t say enough good things about this book, and I can hardly wait to read more by Nancy Kimball. This is the first time I’ve wanted to start reading a book again immediately after I finished it. I even went and bought the paperback right away just so I could grab it off my shelf and easily flip to my favorite parts.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Exciting News + Free Etsy Shipping!



Look!! Resistance has won a bronze medal in the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards!!! I’m so excited right now I can barely sit still! I can hard believe it. This is the first time I’ve ever entered a book contest before, and I’m thrilled to have made it this far. I’ve been publishing my books for seven years now, but the last few months since first publishing Resistance have been the most exciting in all my years of being an author, and this is one of the biggest moments so far. Thank you so much to everyone who has followed along so closely and has encouraged my so much with your kind words. I can hardly wait to see what the future holds, especially with the publication of the next books in the series.

Now, today also marks my one year anniversary of opening my Etsy shop. I’m very pleased with how it has gone in the last year. To celebrate, I’m offering free U.S. shipping throughout September. So if you've been interested in anything in my shop, come check it out!