Friday, January 30, 2015

Thoughts Behind a New Cover

It's exciting to anticipate cover art. A writer wonders if the design team will capture the essence of the story, and if they will convey it in a way the reader will understand. It's even more challenging when the designer has to capture the essence of multiple stories, which is the case in a novella collection.

The Convenient Brides Collection encompasses nine stories, by nine authors, set in nine different locations and eras. The only commonality is the theme, which is marriages of convenience. Here's the back cover blurb the publisher released:

Join nine brides of convenience on their adventures in a variety of times and settings gone by—from a ranch in California…to the rugged mountains of Colorado…to a steamship on the Mississippi…to the dangerous excitement of the Oregon Trail…into high society of New York City. No matter the time or place, the convenient brides proceed with what must be done, taking nuptials out of necessity. . .and never dreaming that God might take their feeble attempts to secure their futures and turn them into true love stories for His glory.

It's amazing how many diverse settings this collection covers! Yet, the publisher had to find a cover image that could convey the heart of the collection. My story, A Groom for Josette, is the one they mention set on a steamship on the Mississippi--yet, in my story, Josette also spends time in a rough river town in central Minnesota, as well as a mission on Belle Prairie.

It would be impossible for the publisher to chose an image to convey all these settings, so they find one image that a reader might relate to marriages of convenience, and here it is:

As a reader, I often think of the early American West as a place where many marriages took place out of convenience. Since the publisher couldn't capture every setting, they chose a universal setting. A lone church on the prairie. It's a stunning picture, and so inviting.

I'm excited to be published with Barbour Publishers, and to have my name alongside all these other great authors. My friend, Erica Vetsch, is the lead author in this collection. It's thrilling to see her name at the top! Erica is a fellow Minnesotan and a wonderful historical author.

As the release draws closer, I'll share a little more about my story. It was inspired by a real event that took place in my hometown in the 1850s, and worked so well with the marriage of convenience theme. I can't wait to share it with you.

Your Turn: Do you have any questions about book covers or novella collections? What do you think of this cover? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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To Preorder:
A Groom for Josette releases in July. For those in my local area who want to preorder a copy, please consider supporting our local retailer, The Good Book Store. For those outside our area, you can preorder the collection here. Also, please be sure to visit Goodreads and mark this series as Want to Read. You can find it here.

My other novella, Four Brides and a Bachelor, releases with The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection in May. To preorder, you can go here. To mark as Want to Read on Goodreads, please go here.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Guest Author Rachel McMillan

I'm thrilled to welcome Rachel McMillan to my blog today! I've rarely been this excited about a debut author (and the awesome series she has written!). I met Rachel at the 2014 ACFW Conference and had a blast getting to know her. She's all sorts of amazingness! I've invited her to my blog to share about her writing, her passion for Toronto, and her series releasing with Harvest House in 2016. I can't wait for you to meet her! Welcome, Rachel.

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Hi everyone!
I recently contracted a three book series to Harvest House and I am so happy I can talk about it here in anticipation of my debut novel’s release next winter.  I wanted to walk you through a bit of the background to this rather unique take on CBA historical fiction in hopes that I can lure you over to my blog and eventually to checking out the soon-to-be-published books for yourself!

The basic premise: In 1910 Toronto while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, Jem Watts and Merinda Herringford perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

What Inspires Me:
Sherlock Holmes: My agent came back from ICRS a year ago June and was impressed by the amount of editors talking about suspense.  Knowing from my Facebook and my blog that I was a lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan, the question: “What about a girl Sherlock?”  was brought up on a Skype call.   Having been a die-hard Sherlockian since I was a little kid, I was so enticed by the opportunity to use a passion of mine to inform a story!
Strong, unconventional women: I am a rare bird—especially in church circles. I never felt I fit into some of the traditional women’s spheres so apparent like nursery duty and serving at the potluck and couldn’t see myself choosing a path of raising children and making a home. As a pastor’s kid who was entrenched in church social life and knowing that my gifts and passions lay outside of the traditional female sphere, I was often conflicted. I write for that unsure girl who was me so long ago; but I write for women now who go to the bulletin board to sign up for a Sunday School class and may have trouble discovering where they fit in. (How better to look at the shifts in women’s roles than cross-dressing girl detectives solving murders ;) )
Toronto was also a major inspiration for me. It is currently heralded as the most multi-cultural city in the world and, for me, is a patchwork-quilt of sewn up neighbourhoods boasting a strong immigrant influx that has become a mosaic and not a melting pot.  But, I knew it couldn’t have always be thus and so I delved back, back into the archives to photographs and statements, newspapers and testimonials and discovered an absolute goldmine.   
Why I write:
I write to establish a unique reading experience.
I write to reclaim a space often peppered with one view of a woman’s life and role.  A wonderful and high calling, but one that—whether by choice or circumstance—is not always a clear path for women—especially in the Evangelical sphere. I thought of how I could assume the very interesting conglomeration of intellect, spirituality, and questions presented in the Sherlock Holmes stories I loved in two very different women.  Both Jem and Merinda, incidentally, are two halves of the same coin and present two very different takes on faith and romanticism, but also on life.   Together they represent some deeper themes I hope Christian readers will find while enjoying a detective story.  Each relationship in the book represents some question I have had with God or some way in which I have interacted with faith—so the careful reader will be able to channel some of their own questions of faith, some of their confidences and hurdles within the metric of my characters.

What I hope to accomplish:
So many of the things that were being changed and tweaked and worked through in historical periods—social and cultural, etc.—are still broadly apparent in our society. As Christians, the very core of our relationship with God is still paralleled by open pursuit, the difficulties we run into and that mystery surrounding the dim glass we know will someday be cleared is something that is century agnostic.  I hope that my book will inspire people to seek a deeper understanding of what they believe and why.  But, more still, I hope it will prompt questions.  I believe God raises questions throughout history—throughout the Bible—throughout the human experience as a conscious way of shoving us further into a relationship with Him.   The insatiable need to solve puzzles and to explore the workings of the mind and the world is something inherent to the Sherlockian method and that is something that just pairs so well with the Christian experience.

I want people to have fun: watch two women try to make history as private investigators, fall in and out of love, trip over the lines of propriety and, yes, when needed, don their trousers and bowler hats and disguise themselves as men.

I am a contributor to Edgy Inspirational Romance and the curator of Rachel’s Raves on Novel Crossing.  You can visit my blog, A Fair Substitute for Heaven.

About Me:
I live in Toronto but am from a quaint town called Orillia. I like nautical history, Sherlock Holmes, traveling, Canada and giggling (the giggling is more apparent if I have good company and a pinot grigio in my hand). I also like to write books. When I am not reading or writing or socializing or exploring the fact that I live in the best city in the world, I work in Educational Publishing.  I have recently contracted my Herringford and Watts series to Harvest House. Stay tuned for the book "The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder" in early 2016. 
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Gabrielle: Thank you, Rachel! I love learning more about authors and what inspires them to write. I appreciate how candid you are about traditional female roles, especially within the Church. I love that God is using your unique talents and passions to open up this much needed discussion. Your comment about God raising questions to shove us into a deeper relationship with Him is so true. It's important to remember that God calls us to seek Him, and He's never afraid of our questions. I can't wait to read your books and explore these themes with you and your characters.
Readers, I encourage you to take some time to visit Rachel's blog and stop by her Author Facebook Page. You won't want to miss her updates and writing-related news.
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Your Turn: What do you think about the themes in Rachel's writing? Do you struggle with traditional roles within the church? Do you have any questions for Rachel? Are you as excited as me for this awesome series?!?!
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The winner of Lisa Jordan's Lakeside Redemption from last week's blog is: Amanda Barratt! Amanda, I'll be messaging you to get your address!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Happy Habits for Every Couple

My husband, Dave, and I decided to join the Happy Habits for Every Couple launch team with Roger and Kathi Lipp. We're part of a group of about a hundred couples working through the book over the next 21 days. As part of the process, we're asked to share our experiences on social media to help get the word out.

I knew who Kathi Lipp was through her popular book, The Husband Project, but the first time I actually heard Kathi talk was during a MOPS meeting. She was on the DVD our MOPS group watched, and I immediately identified with Kathi and her story about raising a strong-willed child.

I also knew Kathi was part of my literary agency, Books & Such. When I went to my bi-annual agency retreat in Monterey, California last year, I saw Kathi in person and introduced myself. My first impression? I loved her! She was so kind and energetic. I told her about my strong-willed child, and she told me about hers. The next day she brought me one of her books and we sat together during a brainstorming session. She's a class act, in the highest sense.

Kathi and me at the 2014 Books & Such Literary Management
Retreat in Monterey, California

So when my husband and I were chosen for the Happy Habits launch team, I was thrilled! I can't say enough wonderful things about Kathi's ministry, and this book is no exception. Practical, straight-forward, and couple-conscious, it's a great investment of our time, energy, and resources.

The basic idea is that my husband and I will spend the next 21 days blessing each other and our marriage. The book outlines 21 daily projects, but we're encouraged to personalize the projects and tailor them to our needs and preferences. Everything from cooking a meal together, to buying each other a special treat, to writing down a list of things we love about our spouse. Along with the 21 daily projects, we're encouraged to go on a weekly date. The book also has suggestions for our date nights. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it has to be meaningful. The book also outlines three "bonus" projects of the red-hot nature, offering a few suggestions for those, as well.

When I first learned about the Happy Habits book, I was concerned about the cost and time involved in blessing my marriage for 21 days. Three dates? Childcare? Special gifts? But as I read the book, and thought more about the concept, I realized my marriage is worth every dollar and minute we invest in it. Not only will it bless my husband and me, it will also bless our children.

I admit, my husband and I have a unique situation. He owns a landscaping and lawn care company, and he's home almost every day during the winter. It's not difficult for us to find the time to do this. But, on the flip side, it's still awesome to be intentional about how we spend our time together. I'm thankful he's willing to participate with me.

Sunday marked Day One in the Happy Habits for Every Couple project. Next Monday, I plan to share some highlights from our week. I'm looking forward to seeing what the week brings.

Your Turn: Have you read any of Kathi Lipp's books? What do you think about a 21 day project like this?

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Oh, my! I'm so excited about Wednesday's blog. I'll be welcoming debut Author Rachel McMillan! She's an up and coming author you won't want to miss. If you like: "Sherlock Holmes, the Edwardian Era, trouser-wearing Lady Detectives, awkward first kisses and a whole lot of criminal and commonplace," then she's the author for you! Be sure to stop back and meet her on Wednesday. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cake (THM: S)

Over the past year, I've been on a quest to eat healthier. Last January, I blogged about the big changes my family had made in our diet (to see that post, go here), and then, in September, I heard about Trim Healthy Mama (THM). The book was another eye-opener. Before reading THM, I understood the importance of eating clean, whole foods, but after reading THM, I finally understood how food actually works in our bodies. I learned about fuel sources, hormones, foods to eat, and foods to avoid.

THM offers a great, straightforward plan for eating. There are wonderful, healthy recipes to try, practical advice to follow, and amazing success stories to marvel at. I won't go into too many details, but if you're looking for a healthy lifestyle change, consider checking out Trim Healthy Mama.

With THM in mind, I've adapted one of my favorite oatmeal cake recipes and thought I'd share it here. My children and husband actually liked this one! I've tried a few others, and received the thumbs down. We've had to throw away some baked goods that did not hold up to the promises made on blogs and websites. It always such a let down (and a waste of money!).

This recipe is different. It has that cake texture we love, with rich, wonderful flavors. I love it.

Here's my one caveat: I never compare a healthy recipe to its un-healthy counterpart. When I do, I'm inevitably disappointed. Let's be honest. Sugar and refined white flour are divine. That's why we've been eating it in excess (and our health has been suffering). Replacing sugar with stevia or xylitol, and white flour with oat flour, will give you a different product. Judge each recipe on its own, not in comparison with another. Not just the recipe I'm offering below (which I think is amazing), but with all healthy recipes.

Without further ado, here is my Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cake (THM: S). It's similar in flavor to the Cookie Bowl Oatmeal in the THM cookbook. Yum!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cake (THM: S)
1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 c. oats
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. Truvia (or your favorite sweetener of choice, adjusted to your preference)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 c. oatmeal flour
4 tbsp. cocoa powder
4 tbsp. defatted peanut butter (or peanut butter flour)
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar free chocolate chips (optional)

Pour water over oatmeal and let stand 20 minutes covered. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9x13 pan. Cream together butter and sweetener, then add vanilla and eggs. Mix well. In a separate bowl, combine oatmeal flour, cocoa powder, defatted peanut butter, soda, and salt. Add to wet mixture and mix well. Will be very thick (like brownie batter). Add wet oats and chocolate chips, and mix again. Pour into greased pan and bake for 25-30 minutes (don't over bake).

You can eat 1/8 of this cake to stay in S mode, which is about two generous pieces! Share the rest with your family, or save it for later. I actually liked it even better the next day. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Interview with Lisa Jordan

I'm excited to welcome author Lisa Jordan to my blog today! I met Lisa a few years ago when I went to my first ACFW Conference in Dallas, Texas. Lisa is an award-winning novelist by night, an early childhood educator by day, and the coordinator of the My Book Therapy Voices. I can't wait for you to meet her!

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Lisa and me at the 2013 ACFW Conference during
our agency breakfast.

GM: Welcome to my blog, Lisa! I’m excited you stopped by to visit today and talk about your newest release, Lakeside Redemption.

LJ: Thanks for having me, Gabe. J I love talking to other readers, and such great timing to talk about my newest release. ;)

GM: I'm thrilled that you're here to talk about your fourth Love Inspired book, Lakeside Redemption. For readers meeting you here for the first time, can you tell us a little about yourself and your publication story?

LJ: I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 16 and had just finished reading The Promise by Danielle Steel. I wanted to make readers feel that same heart-sigh I felt after reading “The End.” I set the dream aside for about a decade while I got married and started a family. In 2004, I completed my first novel during NaNoWriMo. My husband realized I was serious about this writing stuff and bought me a laptop. The next year, I joined ACFW, attended my very first writers conference and met the incredible Susan May Warren, who was so amazing to hang out with. She took me under her wing. Under her friendship and mentorship, I learned how to write a novel that would attract an agent’s attention. In 2009, I finaled in ACFW’s Genesis contest. I had pitched to Rachelle Gardner, who requested the full. A week before my birthday in March 2010, she offered representation. On January 7, 2011, Melissa Endlich of Love Inspired offered a contract for what became Lakeside Reunion, the story of my heart. That novel won the 2012 Carol Award for short contemporary romance. Now I’m working on my fifth novel, and I couldn’t be happier to be living my dream.

GM: And I know so many readers who couldn't be happier that you're living your dream! Can you tell us a little about Lakeside Redemption? 

LJ: My third novel, Lakeside Sweethearts, was inspired by a local woman’s dream to open a home for women released from prison to help them readjust to society once again. In Lakeside Sweethearts, Ian and Agnes work together to restore an old house into Agape House for Ian’s sister who was going to be released from prison soon.

Lakeside Redemption is the story of Zoe, Ian’s sister, a year after her stay at Agape House. She has been given a fresh start...just like all of us have been. We serve a God of second chances. I wanted this book to show there is nothing that will destroy the love God has for each one of us. He may not approve of our negative choices, but nothing separates us from His love. We are redeemed.

GM: I love the heart behind your fiction--and behind everything else you do. I’m so impressed with how you manage your day job as a daycare provider, your work as an award-winning novelist, and all the other ways you volunteer in your community and in the publishing industry. What is your best advice for keeping yourself organized?

LJ: I’m a bit of a control freak. I thrive on lists, order and the ability to do more than one thing at a time. Some days are harder than others, especially when I’m on deadline. I believe in making S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals. I use my calendar and planner to keep track of deadlines, word counts, and appointments. I plan a menu for the month, and I do grocery shopping for a month. Our boys are in their 20s now, so I’m not caring for little ones in the evenings. That’s when I do most of my writing. Each writer needs to create a system that works best for her family and situation. Um, did I mention...and a whole lotta prayer.

GM: I love your acronym for setting goals. I'm in the process of creating my goals for 2015 and I'll have to make sure they fall under S.M.A.R.T. Since we just celebrated a new year, I’d love to know your best memory of 2014.

LJ: I’m going to be very honest and say 2014 was an incredibly hard year for my family. We were already mourning the loss of my dad. Each month brought another trial, including losing my father-in-law to cancer. The hardest battle we had to fight was when our youngest son became critically ill and nearly died the same week Lakeside Redemption was due to my editor. I spent a week begging God to spare his life. God answered that prayer with a yes. I’m so incredibly blessed by the amazing power of prayer that circled the globe on my son’s behalf. To me, that was my best memory—so many people loved us and cared for us to pray for someone they didn’t even know. I can’t even type about it without getting teary eyed.

GM: I'm sorry to hear 2014 was a tough year. Here's hoping 2015 will be a much better year for you and your family.

I have one more question, just for fun. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

LJ: I am so longing to be on a sun-kissed beach right now. Due to some life events, we haven’t had a family vacation since 2009. This week, I’ve been searching for beach vacations. I love lying on the warm sugar sand as the salty air breezes my skin while I listen to the cawing of the sea gulls as they dip and soar over the white-crested surf. Give me sand, sun, and surf, baby.

GM: Right now I could go for some sand, sun, and surf, too!!

Thank you for answering my questions, Lisa! It’s been a pleasure to have you stop by my blog.

Your Turn, Reader: What is your favorite memory of 2014?

Be sure to comment below and enter to win a copy of Lakeside Redemption!

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Fresh Start Family
Zoe James is starting over. She's worked hard to get past the foolish mistakes that landed her in trouble four years ago. Now the young mom is back in Shelby Lake and ready to reconnect with her son. When she bumps into old friend Caleb Sullivan and his two adorable girls, she sees the possibility of a happy future. Caleb has always secretly loved Zoe, but her turbulent past brings up tough memories of his own. As they spend time together training his girls' new puppy, Zoe and Caleb will learn that if they can forgive themselves, they might have a chance at a new life—and new love—together.
Zoe James is starting over. She's worked hard to get past the foolish mistakes that landed her in trouble four years ago. Now the young mom is back in Shelby Lake and ready to reconnect with her son. When she bumps into old friend Caleb Sullivan and his two adorable girls, she sees the possibility of a happy future. Caleb has always secretly loved Zoe, but her turbulent past brings up tough memories of his own. As they spend time together training his girls' new puppy, Zoe and Caleb will learn that if they can forgive themselves, they might have a chance at a new life— and new love—together.

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Meet Lisa Jordan:

Heart, home and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories with those elements come naturally. She has been writing contemporary Christian romance for more than a decade. Happily married for over twenty years, she and her husband have two sons. When she isn't writing or caring for children in her family childcare, Lisa enjoys family time, romantic comedies, good books, crafting with friends and feeding her NCIS addiction. 

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Last Week's Winner:
The winner of last week's drawing for Susan May Warren's, Always on my Mind, is Melissa Mailhiot Oldaker!! Melissa, I'll be sending you an email soon.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Writing Partner

This year, I want to focus on the riches, or blessings, in our lives. In my opinion, our greatest blessings are our friends and family. A person is truly rich if they're surrounded by people who love them.

I couldn't pursue my writing career without my family and friends. I have a husband who believes in me, family members who encourage me, friends who inspire me, a church who equips me, a community who embraces me, and children who love me unconditionally.

Within each of those groups, there are individual people who touch me and minister to me in unique ways. From those closest to me who know the intimate details of my daily life, to those on the outer rings, who simply know me by name and face, they each play a significant role in my support network.

I thought it would be fun to highlight some of these people from time to time on my blog. They have no idea I'm going to write about them, but I hope through my words they know how much they mean to me.

This week, I've been especially blessed by a writer friend I met a few years ago. She's an amazing woman I have the pleasure of calling a friend. She, along with Melissa Tagg and Lindsay Harrel, have become a lifeline for me. Ironically, in our day to day lives, Alena and I would have probably never met in this big, wide world. She lives in Texas, and I in Minnesota. But through our shared love of writing, we were introduced at ACFW by Melissa.

Alena and I at the 2014 ACFW Conference
Alena Tauriainen is who I want to be like. She has a heart like no other. I love her gentleness, wisdom, and positive perspective. She's truly a servant at heart, and loves to bless people with her time and energy. As a mom, she's the type everyone wants to have. She offers her children discipline and grace, and sprinkles in a lot of laughter and fun. As a wife, I admire the way she loves and respects her husband, and speaks so highly of him.

Alena is the retreat coordinator for My Book Therapy. She takes care of everyone and does it with so much love, you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. If you've ever been to one of the retreats she hosts, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Alena and I became writing craft partners a few months after we met. Besides critiquing each others writing, we've agreed to keep each other accountable to follow through with our writing goals. But more than that, we're here for each other to encourage and offer support. It's amazing what one email, text, or phone call can do to brighten my day. When I receive writing-related news (both good and bad), Alena is one of the first people I tell. Even though she's in Texas, I know I have someone who understands what I'm going through.

I've learned a very valuable lesson on this writing journey. I'm not meant to walk it alone. God has brought amazing people to help me down this path. Alena is one of them.

I can't wait to tell you about the others. :)

Your Turn: Who has blessed you this week?

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Speaking of great writer friends, this Wednesday I'll be welcoming author Lisa Jordan to my blog! Stop back to learn more about Lisa and enter to win a copy of her newest release, Lakeside Redemption.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Review: Beyond All Dreams, by Elizabeth Camden

I have the privilege of reviewing books for Bethany House Publishers. Each month we're sent an email with the books releasing in the upcoming month, and we're allowed to choose one book we'd like to review. In exchange for our honest review, we're given the book for free.

I had no idea this review program existed until a couple years ago (and there are many more like it). It was one of those, "Where have you been my whole life?" kind of moments. I'm an avid reader, and I'm especially fond of Bethany House books. I think my love affair with their books began when I read Love Comes Softly for the first time. It's a dream come true to get a free book, just for my opinion!

This month I chose Beyond All Dreams, by Elizabeth Camden. I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth's writing. Every one of her books is full of mystery, intrigue, romance, historical details, and a compelling plot. This is the third book I've read of hers, and each one has highlighted a hero in a powerful position, and a very intelligent, career-minded heroine. Beyond All Dreams, like the other two I read, Against the Tide, and With Every Breath, are set in Washington, D.C., which is a fun setting.

I had high expectations when I picked up this book, and it didn't disappoint. I love the heroine's job as a research librarian in the Library of Congress. It was a unique setting and I truly felt like I was with Anna inside the map room where she worked. The attention to detail was wonderful. I learned a lot about cartography and the history of the Library of Congress. Anna's character was similar to other female characters I've read, but she had a few quirks I really liked, which set her apart. I cheered her on from the first page to the last.

I also loved that the hero was a congressman--another unique career, and one I learned more about while reading this book. Luke Callahan was a great hero! Very masculine and powerful, but filled with enough flaws that he was likeable. He has a family many people can relate to, which also endeared him to my heart. He and Anna were complete opposites, but their relationship worked because of it.

Overall, it was a great book, one I couldn't put down.

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Anna O’Brien has the perfect job at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across a baffling mystery of a ship that disappeared at sea. When forces conspire to prevent her from learning the truth, she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan is one of the most powerful men in congress until his career begins collapsing amidst scandal. When he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship, he is stunned to find himself falling in love with the down-to-earth librarian. Despite the attraction, strict rules forbid Anna from any romantic entanglement with a member of congress, and each meeting puts her career in jeopardy.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation to the scholarly archives of the nation’s finest library, Anna and Luke will begin unraveling a mystery larger and more dangerous than ever imagined.

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A research librarian and associate professor, Elizabeth Camden has a master’s in history from the University of Virginia and a master’s in library science from Indiana University. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband in central Florida.
Your Turn: What was the last book you read (or are reading)?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Interview with Susan May Warren

Susie and me at the 2013 ACFW
Gala Awards Dinner rockin' our vintage dresses
I can't believe it's taken me so long to have Susan May Warren on my blog!! When I started blogging about my road to publication, I quoted an old proverb that says: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." When I met Susie, I felt like she grabbed me by the hand and sprinted me down a leg of that journey. I know, without a doubt in my mind, that I reached "published" so quickly because of her incredible teaching.

Susie is not only a multi-published, multi-award winning author, she is also the creator of My Book Therapy, an organization designed to teach, encourage, and equip authors. She hosts retreats, teaches workshops, and mentors new authors. She has more energy than ten women, and she has an incredible mind for stories. More than that, she's kind, generous, and as nice as you can imagine.

I could go on and on, but she's probably blushing right now... J Without further ado, here's my interview with Susie.

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GM: Welcome to my blog, Susie! I’m thrilled to have you here. (I’m grinning as I write this. J) It’s such an honor to have you stop by. From my first Pitch & Promotion Seminar, to my Storycrafter’s & Deep Thinker’s Retreats, and my Frasier Finals—you’ve been a huge part of my writing journey. Not only are you a wonderful author, teacher, and mentor, you’ve also become a good friend. What’s more, you’re a Minnesotan—can it get any better than that?!?! J

SMW:  Yes, we Minnesotans need to stick together (or we’ll freeze to death!) It’s been so fun to get to know you over the years – and watch you go from just starting to PUBLISHED AUTHOR. SO cool! Thank you for inviting me to your blog today!

GM: You were one of the first published authors I met in person, and you've been such an integral part of my journey. I'm so thankful for you! And I’m also excited to read your newest release, Always on My Mind. Stories often start with a single spark. What sparked your idea for Always on My Mind?

SMW: It started with a true story – a local friend had a daughter who had inadvertently walked into an abusive relationship. I prayed for this woman as she tried to figure out how to help her daughter – going from “I can’t leave him,” to “I’m afraid to leave him.” This beautiful, intelligent woman confessed that she didn’t exactly know how she got there—just that one day she opened her eyes and realized the horrible truth. But, as she traced her path, she realized that she’d told herself a million tiny lies along the journey that eventually landed her at this terrible place.

Those outside the horrific journey warned her. Wanted—tried—to wave her off. And watched with torn hearts as she entwined herself in a situation that nearly cost her—and her children—their lives.

Eventually, the abuser hurt someone else—someone less afraid, less intimidated, less willing to believe lies—and was imprisoned. Justice, finally.

But we so often find ourselves in similar situations – we let lies drive us into decisions that are dangerous and tragic. We even accept abuse because we can’t lift our eyes off ourselves and onto truth.

I’ve always been about grace, and lavish love of God to rescue us from ourselves in my stories. I believe Jesus stands outside the lies, waving at us to stop our self-destruction, to believe Him for freedom, to reach out for His love, to trust His justice. And he asks us, as Christians, to stand in the darkened pathways and shed light. So, I wanted to write a story about a man who couldn’t escape the pull of love God had for the broken, the lost—and yet depict the agony of seeing them run away into destruction. Just as God must feel when we push Him away and stubbornly head into darkness.

GM: What an incredible story of redemption and grace. I love your writing—and so do many other loyal fans. You’ve published over forty novels in the past eleven years, in multiple genres. You’ve also created My Book Therapy, an organization designed to teach and encourage writers along the path to publication. Your love and dedication to the writing industry is unmatched by anyone I know. Where does your love for stories come from? At what point did you realize you wanted to be a published author?

SMW: Oddly, being a novelist wasn’t really a dream for me – not realistically. I wanted to be a career missionary, and dove into writing great newsletters. However, we lived in Siberia and there’s not a lot to do there, so at night, I wrote stories. It wasn’t until I came home on furlough and attended a writing conference that I began to consider that I could publish them. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything different!

GM: I can't imagine you doing anything different, either! You've touched countless lives and accomplished a great deal already, but knowing you, I have a suspicion you’ve only just begun. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

SMW: Oh boy – I’m not sure. I’ve never been good at seeing out that far – more of a “take the next step through the open door” girl. I do know I’d like to continue to write great stories, and continue to help people see their publishing dreams come true. I guess I’m just excited where God might take those desires as I surrender them to Him.

GM: I love how you stated that. It's a great adventure to surrender our desires to Him and watch where He takes them. Now that I’ve asked some serious questions, here’s one just for fun. If you could have a meal with three people who are no longer alive, who would they be and why?

SMW: I’d like to have lunch with the Inklings (C.S Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, etc.) And I’d invite Robin Williams, just because I am still sad about the world losing him.

GM: That would be an incredible meal! Three men who touched the world and left their indelible fingerprints. Thank you for answering my questions, Susie! You’re always a joy to spend time with. I hope we can do it in person again one day soon.
SMW: It’s a date! Yes! Thank you for having me, Gabe!

YOUR TURN, READERS: If you could have a meal with three people who are no longer alive, who would they be and why?
Be sure to enter below to win a free copy of Susie's newest release, Always on my Mind!
* * * *

To read an excerpt of Susie’s newest novel, go to:

After a failed dig in Honduras, aspiring archaeologist Casper Christiansen heads home to Minnesota to face his unresolved feelings for Raina Beaumont, the woman of his dreams. But when he arrives unannounced on her doorstep, he receives the shock of a lifetime: Raina is pregnant with someone else’s baby.

Heartbroken, especially when he discovers the identity of the baby’s father, Casper tables his dreams and determines to be dependable for once, helping his older brother, Darek, prepare the family resort for its grand reopening. Casper longs to be the hero of at least one family story, but a never-ending Deep Haven winter and costly repairs threaten their efforts—and the future of the resort.

Worse, one of Casper’s new jobs constantly brings him into contact with Raina, whom he can’t seem to forget. A tentative friendship begins to heal fresh wounds, but can they possibly overcome past mistakes and current choices to discover a future together?

* * * *

Susan May Warren is the bestselling, Christy and RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

My (Not-So-Glamorous) Word for the Year

A few years ago, I decided to choose one word to focus on each year. This word usually stems from a place within my heart that God is speaking to.

In 2014, I chose the word Hope from Isaiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Throughout the year, God worked through this word to teach me more about Himself and the calling He's placed on my life. It was a wonderful word to meditate on. I love HOPE.

This year, a new word settled in my heart. One I wouldn't choose on my own, but one I feel God wants me to think about often, and put into practice. The word is Discipline, from Hebrews 12:11. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Italics mine.)

This word is much less glamorous than last year's word, but it means a great deal to me for many reasons. God has blessed me with many privileges, but with them come a great responsibility. I feel disciplined in certain areas of my life, but I need to get better in many others. Some of the areas God is calling me to discipline are: time management, sleep, exercise, healthy eating, etc.

Interestingly, I was all set to focus on Discipline after the New Year. Starting last Monday, I was going back to my workout schedule, I had my shopping list ready, and I went to bed early on Sunday night to get into a better sleeping habit.

But I had a hard time falling asleep, and when I woke up early to exercise on Monday, I had a sore throat and I felt crummy. My entire family (minus one), ended up with Influenza and Strep Throat. I didn't leave my house for six days. Six. For me, that's unheard of.

My well-laid plans to focus on Discipline went to the wayside.

I felt terrible. My first week of Discipline was sabotaged by life's circumstances. I didn't exercise. I didn't eat as healthy as I had hoped. And my sleep schedule was totally messed up.

But I learned a great lesson this week. Discipline isn't always about accomplishing a to-do list. It isn't necessarily about exercising, or sleeping, or eating the right foods.

Often, Discipline is all about submitting.

Submitting to my limitations, submitting to God's plans when I have other ideas, submitting to my husband (yes, I said it), even when I want my own way, submitting to my list of priorities, even when they aren't always fun, and submitting to a healthy lifestyle.

Discipline is about doing the right thing, even if I don't want to. It might hurt in the moment, but later on, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace when I've been trained by it.

Your Turn: Do you choose a word to focus on each year? If so, what's your word for 2015?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year: New Blog Focus

I heard a quote recently, and I've been pondering it a great deal.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”
Benjamin Disraeli

I love sharing the blessings God has given me, especially here on my blog. I do it to reveal His goodness and grace. But this quote made me realize that sometimes the best way to reveal God's goodness and grace is to help others see the blessings in their own life.

With that in mind, I've decided to use the new year as an opportunity to restructure my blog. I still plan to share my passions for writing, family, faith, history, and Minnesota--but I hope to do it in a way that exhibits the goodness of God, and reveals His blessings in everyone's lives, and not just my own.

Here are some ways I plan to do that:

1. I'm taking part in a 21 Day Challenge to be Clutter Free in 2015 with author Kathi Lipp. I plan to blog about this experience and what I learn about God's eternal blessings for all of us as I de-clutter my life.

2. I'm also on a launch team to help promote a new book by Roger and Kathi Lipp called Happy Habits for Every Couple. My husband and I have agreed to participate in a 21 day challenge to a happier marriage, and I'll blog about our experiences here.

3. I will share my love of history through fun posts about objects, people, places, and events that have shaped our world. Through history, we can see the Hand of God at work, and understand His great love for us.

4. I've lined up amazing authors to join me here on Wednesdays. Each person will offer a giveaway and will talk about their stories and writing. I have every genre in Christian Fiction covered, so there will be something for everyone.

5. I will continue to share my perspective on family, faith, and friendships, and how we can recognize the blessings in our daily lives.

6. I also plan to share some recipes and tips about healthier eating to encourage all of us to honor the bodies God has blessed us with.

These are just some of the ways I hope to reveals the riches in all our lives. It's going to be a great year! I hope you'll join me often as we explore the vast and incomparable wealth of God.

Your Turn: I'd love to hear your suggestions. How can we help reveal the riches in other people's lives?