Christian parents are finally offered a true Potter alternative...
All the adventure of Harry Potter...
None of the sorcery!
This week the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is doing a blog tour for Landon Snow and The Island of Arcanum by R.K.Mortenson, published by Barbour Publishing (October 2006).
About the AUTHOR:
R.K.Mortenson is an ordained minister with the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. He has been writing devotional and inspirational articles since 1995. He currently serves as a navy chaplain in Florida and lives with his wife, daughter and son in Jacksonville.
This page at Barbour's site provides a few good links, two as recent as last week: http://www.barbourbooks.com/author/detail/r-k-mortenson/. The top link there goes to a story about Randy's adoption experiences, the second link goes to the Landon Snow short at Clubhouse magazine.
Randy got the idea for this series one late night, when flute music woke him from a sound sleep. As he stood at his window, trying to locate the source of the sound, he spied a library across the lawn. Suddenly, he envisioned an eleven-year-old sneaking out of his bed and stealing to the library in the dead of night...And thus Landon Snow was born.
In the latest adventure of Landon Snow And the Island of Arcanum, Landon, once again visits his grandparents in Button Up, Minnesota. If your familiar with the first two books, Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle, and Landon Snow and The Shadows of Malus Quidam, you'll know that Landon's adventures always start at the Library in Button Up.
This time, Landon's most dangerous journey yet, begins in a rowboat-shaped tombstone that floats. And it's lucky for him that it floats because a few drips from the library ceiling turns into a powerful waterfall.
The stone turns into wood, the stone book propped up in the prow of the boat turns to paper. The left page says "ANCHOR". The right page says "AWEIGH".
"Anchor aweigh?" said Landon.
Holly whispered, "Did you hear that?"
No one has time to respond, however. The next instant saw the water before them dropping away as the water behind them grew into a giant swell, pitching them headlong into the abyss.
Landon will have to protect his two younger sisters, Holly and Bridget, who wind up in the boat with him headed towards The Island of Arcanum. On the Island, the animals of Wonderwood are imprisoned and the evil shadows of Landon's nemesis, Malus Quidam lurk!
With the help of some old friends, a horse named Melech, an odd fellow named Hardy, a girl named Ditty, and the poet/prophet Vates--Landon seeks to unlock the island's dark secrets and escape with the animals intact.
But first, he must navigate his way through unchartered waters and battle the villainous Archans...Can Landon and his friends rescue the animals from deep within the island's stronghold?
R.K.Mortenson's website: http://www.landonsnow.com/
Book link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1597893587
Wednesday, 29 November 2006
Christian parents are finally offered a true Potter alternative...
On 13th October, 2006, my book club interviewed Charles Martin, author of The Dead Don't Dance , Wrapped in Rain , When Crickets Cry , Maggie and Chasing Fireflies (releasing in 2007).
We reviewed When Crickets Cry and then spoke to him via conference call. Below is the transcript of that interview which was fun and informative. Please forgive my typing errors!
Thanks again Charles for the gracious way you answered our many questions!
CM: Hello, this is Charles
NJM: Hi Charles, Narelle from Australia here. How are you doing?
CM: I'm good, how are you?
NJM: We're well, thanks. Had a good chat about your book.
CM: Oh, yeah?
NJM: Yeah. They've all made heaps of noise, couldn't stop talking and now they've gone all quiet on me!
CM: Well, don't do that!
NJM: No! We really appreciate your time so thanks for giving it to us.
CM: We're going to have to get over the language barrier!
NJM: Ok, you can't understand me?
CM: I can understand you a little bit, but it's more like after you say it. It takes about 30seconds for it to kinda swirl around in my head and then it's okay so that is what she said!
NJM: I'll speak a bit slower...
CM: Oh, that's much better!
NJM: We have a South African girl here so that will be even better!
CM: Oh goodness! How many of you are there?
CM: Ok. It sounds like you have a good phone or something because I can hear all of you. A lot of times when I do this whoever is calling me I can't really hear but you all sound really, I can hear you really well.
NJM: That's good, you just can't understand us!
CM: I have no idea what you are saying!
NJM: Well, this a new experience for us too, this conference call so we will just see how it all pans out.
CM: It's not necessarily new for me but its something that I am still a little , like, I mean its sort of a strange thing, I mean don't you all have something better to do than sit around and talk to some guy in Florida and Georgia at this time of night on Friday the 13th or something?
NJM: We're all, you know, enjoying a night together!
CM: There's the truth of it. I'm curious, since your there in Australia, here right now it is the morning of the 13th. What is it where you are?
NJM: It's 9.15 on the night of the 13th.
CM: Ok. So you're almost 15 hours ahead.
NJM: Something like that – we like being ahead of the pack! How about we get into it?
NJM: One of the favourite questions, no doubt you have heard it before and will probably have your answer all ready, what inspired you to wrote When Crickets Cry?
CM: A couple of things. If you read any of my other stories, especially The Dead Don't Dance, you will see in the acknowledgements, that, um, I am 36 now, when I was 27 Christy and I were out then at Virgina Beach. It's on the east coast of the United States and it's about due east of our capital. Anyway, we were out there at Graduate School and I was travelling to work one morning for UPS. Do you have UPS there? Postal service?
NJM: Something like that.
CM: Anyway, I was going to work for this big shipping company and I had to be at work about 3am so its about 230am and I am driving to work and I had this flash or this, I don't know, this picture that I kinda saw that was pretty detailed for me and I guess I had seen them most of my life but never really paid attention to them and I mean its just a daydream that I see in sort of technicolour. And I made some notes, I always carry a little notebook with me, and I made some pretty detailed notes and as the months went by it sort of became more solidified and that's when I sort of strapped a novel around it and that became The Dead Don't Dance. That has occurred to me with most, all of my stories now and I finished, I guess I've written five novels now.
With When Crickets Cry the first thing I saw was a little girl in a yellow dress standing on a street corner in Clayton, Georgia, selling lemonade and the thing that struck me was a scar on her chest, it was just a little scar and a little pill container. Somewhere along that time, this kind of all happened around the same time, I began thinking about the heart and just, I don't know, just sort of this miraculous thing I hadn't thought of, here's this little organ that sits in the middle of our chest and it really ticks non stop until thay day you die, it never takes a break, it never takes a vacation. Something about that amazed me.
And then the first part of this equation was, Christy and I have three boys and the boys and I were reading somewhere in Proverbs and we ended up in the fourth chapter and the Psalmist was trying to give his admonition to his son and it starts in the second chapter and goes all the way through the third and it ends in the fourth and for some reason we got to the middle of that fourth chapter where he says “above all else guard your heart” and it just struck me, I don't know why, but it just struck me that here is the wisest man on the planet, saying “above all else”.
Those three things occurred within about a week of eachother – the picture I saw in my head, my thinking on the heart, then Charlie and that got me going towards the book that you all read.
To read the full interview, click here!
Read my review of The Dead Don't Dance
Read my review of the sequel Maggie
Tuesday, 28 November 2006
With December just around the corner, I imagined I had read all of the best books of 2006. By the end of the first chapter of Freefall I knew I was mistaken!
Set on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, Freefall commences with a woman tumbling down a waterfall and the testing of Monica Pierce's fragile emotions. Monica's instinctive compassion welcomes the beautiful but injured stranger into her home, her memory lost due to the traumatic fall. Monica names her Jade. As a result of a tragic childhood, Monica has always relied heavily on her protective older brother, Cameron, an insurance fraud investigator living on the mainland. Monica calls him to utilise his investigative skills to determine Jade's identity. Upon his arrival, Jade's reluctance to contact the police places Cameron's suspicions into overdrive and another man's life in the balance.
When Jade's identity is confirmed as the latest Hollywood "it" actress, Gentry Fox, the ugly side of such fame threatens to overwhelm her as she struggles to remember her past. Cameron's immediate derision of her occupation and the lifestyle he imagines Gentry has sought, is tempered as Gentry's strength of character emerges as they search for answers to the tragedy that befell her. In turn, Gentry glimpses Cameron's cynical and hardened exterior for what it is, a damaged heart and soul, following the early loss of his parents and his wife's more recent betrayal. Cameron resists his attraction to Gentry as danger continues to haunt her. The suspense ramps up and the relationships of all characters are tested as unscrupulous people seek to destroy Gentry's image and possibly, her life.
Kristin Heitzmann has written a powerful novel of suspense alongside a beautiful character study of the fragile yet indestructible nature of human emotions. Her characters have depth and authenticity, from Gentry and Cameron through to blind Okelani, Monica and police officer, TJ Kanakanui. The book delves into issues of integrity, the allure of wealth, the burden of guilt and the miraculous and forgiving nature of God. Secrets and Unforgotten are must read books but Kristin Heitzmann has trumped even those with Freefall.
Thursday, 23 November 2006
Susan May Warren, one of my favourite authors, is launching her Noble Legacy series with a Meet Nick site and giveaway!
Reclaiming Nick releases in January, 2007 and here's a sneak peek..............
Nick Noble hadn’t planned on being the prodigal son. But when his father dies and leaves half of Silver Buckle—the Noble family ranch—to Nick’s former best friend, he must return home to face those he left behind. And to make sure that the Silver Buckle stays in the Noble family.
Award-winning journalist Piper Sullivan believes Nick framed her brother for murder, and she’s determined to find justice. But following Nick to the Silver Buckle and posing as a ranch cook proves more challenging than she first anticipated. So does resisting his charming smile.
As Nick seeks to overturn his father’s will—and Piper digs for answers—family secrets surface that send Nick’s life into a tailspin. But there’s someone who wants to see the Silver Buckle leave Noble hands, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, even if it means taking a life.
Click here to register for a chance to win a bundle of Susan's books!
Monday, 20 November 2006
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kristin Billerbeck was born in Redwood City, California. She went to San Jose State University and majored in Advertising, then worked at the Fairmont Hotel in PR, a small ad agency as an account exec, and then,she was thrust into the exciting world of shopping mall marketing. She got married, had four kids, and started writing romance novels until she found her passion: Chick Lit.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Calm, Cool, and Adjusted is the third book in the Spa Girls Novels.
Billerbeck did a great job with the characterization of Poppy, a quirky Christian chiropractor who is a health nut. I'm talking real NUT. She is so obsessed with health that she forgets about living. When she finally realizes that she is over the edge obsessed, she doesn't know how to stop herself.
Best friends since Johnny Depp wore scissors for hands, "The Spa Girls" live very separate lives, but stay in touch with routine visits to California's Spa Del Mar.
The third novel in the Spa Girls Series focuses on Silicon Valley chiropractor Poppy Clayton, who is as calm, cool and adjusted as they come. Or is she? Known for her bad fashion sense, a love for all things natural and the inability to get a second date, Poppy is beginning to wonder if she might be misaligned herself. Her route to self discovery will be an unnatural one - a plastic surgeon, a dilapidated house in Santa Cruz, a flirtatious client, and a blind date from the dark side.
It's all enough to send a girl - and her gal pals - running for the comfort zone of their spa
Thursday, 16 November 2006
Welcome to Amy Wallace, author of Ransomed Dreams and fellow CFBA blogger to Relz Reviewz.............
Rel: Thanks Amy for joining me! Please share some of your writing/publishing journey with us
Amy: I began my writing journey oddly enough. In searching for good stories to share with my girls one Christmas, I came across some grown-up novels. Devouring my first taste of fiction since my college years, I'd then hand the books to my husband and tell him how I'd change them. After about seven, my husband handed a book back and said to write my own. I shook my head. But then a dream about FBI agents and a mom in trouble wouldn't be dismissed. So I wrote the story and got involved in an awesome writer's group called the American Christian Fiction Writers. I spent a little over three years learning the heart and craft of writing, all the time working on a number of novels, short stories, and proposals. Then I received a recommendation for an agent who loved my first book and we signed a contract. Eighteen months later the publishing house I dreamed of working with offered me a three-book contract.
Boy, does all that sound nice and easy. Actually this journey has been anything but. It's more closely resembled a difficult pregnancy than a walk in the park. But God returns me to a few basic things: He called me. He promised to equip me. And I rise and fall to Him alone. The other big thing God reminds me of often is that writing is an act of worship. True worship is costly, so says 2 Samuel 24:24. It's my constant prayer that with every step of this writing journey I'll offer up to God a pleasing sacrifice, an offering that has indeed cost me something.
Who encouraged you or what made you decide to write a novel and seek its publication?
I think it was my intent from typing the first word that I'd seek publication because I wanted someone to hear the story I had to tell. It never occurred to me not to try. God was gracious to put some amazing writers in my path who read my pitiful fledgling attempts and took me under their wings, showing me kindly how to improve . They also encouraged me to keep at it. So I did. I love that many novelists say the key to good writing is putting your backside in the chair and doing the work. I'd add praying all the way is the best way to retain your sanity.
Why Christian fiction?
Christian fiction is simply a natural fit for who I am and how I view life. My husband and I share a life's passion to know God and show others how He heals hearts and how we can glorify God by enjoying Him forever. We tend to focus on the Body of Christ to live out that heart desire, but are open and willing to go where He sends us and share with anyone He puts in our path.
I note you homeschool your children. What does a typical writing day (or night!) look like?
A typical writing day looks like a Saturday. :-) That's the day I work from 9am to after midnight and get the majority of my writing done. I attend to edits and business things during the week while my children have afternoon quite times and then I also work after bedtime.
As a confessed chocoholic, what do you recommend to get you through those difficult writing days?
Godiva is my chocolate of choice! But any chocolate will do on those tough days. On really difficult days, I pair my favorite dessert with a white chocolate mocha from Starbucks and lots of prayer. Together those help me salvage and learn from even the worst of writing times.
What are you working on now?
Ransomed Dreams will release in April, 2007 and now
Why FBI Agents and children?
I wanted to be an FBI profiler after I graduated college. But that's not the path God intended for me. Instead I get to interview, read about, and then write about people I admire~ without having to do all the pushups. LOL Why children? I adore my children and am passionate about them being a gift to treasure and helping tired moms (what mom isn't tired?) remember that.
When writing these books, did the plotline or characters come first?
That's a tough call. I'd have to say I knew the characters first, but the basic plot came hand in hand with Gracie and Steven. It was in telling their story that I got to know them, which made the rewriting of the entire book go well and end up being a story I'm excited about sharing.
Do we "see" some of you in your characters?
Totally. But it's not the obvious character choices. In truth, there are bits and pieces of who I am in every character.
Many authors say they "hear" their characters talking to them. How does it work for you?
I don't really hear my characters; I see them. It's like having a movie reel playing all the time in my head. Often that's incredibly distracting. But the cool thing about the way I'm wired is I see these stories and characters as ways the Holy Spirit speaks to me. Many times God touches on areas where I'm weakest or leads me to explore my greatest fears. In telling the best and most intense story I can, I walk it through with my characters and I'm changed. I love that part of being a writer. Especially when I don't have to get shot at to learn!
If you were casting actors for a movie of Ransomed Dreams, who would you choose?
That's tough because even though I "see" my characters, I see more of their inner life than physical descriptions. Besides, I'm woefully inept in keeping up with Hollywood names and faces.
The Defenders of Hope website has a page with resources for protecting children. This is obviously something very close to your heart. Can you explain your passion and what you hope to achieve?
My best friend says that when we're at a mall she's looking for great shoes while I'm monitoring the exits. I totally resemble that statement. Growing up military behind the Iron Curtain, I used my imagination early to dodge "spies" and concoct stories of what would happen if. Now as a mom and a suspense writer who does tons of research, my imagination takes me places I hope to never go in real life. I'm painfully aware that we don't live in a safe world. So I want to share all I've learned with other moms as well as to encourage parents to not walk by fear, but be armed with knowledge tempered with faith in an all-powerful God.
Do you read Christian fiction yourself? If so, some favourite authors or books both Christian and/or secular?
I LOVE Christian fiction! My all-time favorite author is Dee Henderson. Mark Mynheir, a cop writer, is at the top of my list too. I also really enjoy Robin Jones Gunn and Kristen Billerbeck. Three new entries to my favorites list are authors Karen Ball, Rene Gutteridge, and Trish Perry. I love to read everything these authors write and I wait a tad impatiently for their next release.
Where is your favourite place to read a book?
Anywhere with chocolate. :-) I especially love reading outside or reading side-by-side with my hubby curled up on the couch.
Who inspires you?
My children. They love life and they love God unapologetically. They work hard, play hard, and get back up when they mess up. They also forgive easily and love deeply. I want to grow up to be more like them.
Please share some of your faith journey
I was an alcoholic at age 13 and a total type A personality on a crash course toward destruction. When my military family moved back home to Louisville, KY I made a friend in my sophomore German class who invited me to church. I ran for cover. What little I knew of God conjured pictures of thunderbolts and scowls. But try as I might to avoid church, I eventually slipped through the doors of a Baptist church and heard for the first time that God wanted a relationship with me and that the cross was proof positive He was serious about sin as well as able to cleanse and heal me and make me a beloved part of His family. I think I wore out the entire church staff and youth group with my endless questions. I didn't receive many answers that satisfied, but when I realized the depth of my sinful aching heart and that God still asked me to come, I stepped into the most amazing love affair ever. I was 15 then, and while there have been plenty of times I've said "this is NOT what I signed up for" I've come to see there is no better place to be than in the arms of my Savior experiencing the love of my heavenly Daddy.
Any last words.................................
My prayer for my readers is that they will come face to face with the God who smiles at them and longs to draw them closer and closer to Himself. I also pray they'll know deeply His never-ending love and heart healing so that they'll find their passion and live fully the story God has placed them in.
Thanks Amy for sharing so honestly - you have been a delight to interview :) I can't wait to read Ransomed Dreams. Look for my review in early 2007!
Amy is a fellow CBFAer so check out Amy's Blog for more of her thoughts.
Wednesday, 15 November 2006
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rene Gutteridge is the author of several novels, including Ghost Writer (Bethany House Publishers), Troubled Waters (Bethany House), The Boo Series (WaterBrook Press) and the Storm Series, (Tyndale House Publishers. She has released three novels in 2006: Storm Surge (Tyndale) My Life as a Doormat (WestBow Press, Women of Faith)Occupational Hazards Book #1: Scoop (WaterBrook Press).
She has also been published over thirty times as a playwright, best known for her Christian comedy sketches. She studied screenwriting under a Mass Communications degree, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Oklahoma City University, and earned the "Excellence in Mass Communication" award. She served as the full-time Director of Drama for First United Methodist Church for five years before leaving to stay home and write. She enjoys instructing at writer's conferences and in college classrooms. She lives with her husband, Sean, a musician, and their children in Oklahoma City.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The Occupational Hazards Books are a series of books about seven homeschooled siblings whose last name is Hazard. The parents died in a freak accident leaving the kids ages 16-26 with a lucrative clown business but the kids realize that God has other plans which doesn't include being a family of clowns for the rest of their lives.Scoop, is the first of the series and centers around Hayden, who was age 20 when her parents died. If you haven't yet guessed by the series title, this book is packed with many laugh out loud moments and great one liners.
Hayden is a strong Christian who, having been homeschooled, lacks some of the politically correct social norms...like not praying in front of everyone during a crisis. She finds herself in an internship at a television news station with a boss that takes stress pills, an aging news anchor that everyone wishes Botox on, a weatherman who wants to predict love for himself and Hayden, and a reporter struggling with his own politically correctness of being a good reporter and being a Christian.
Old School meets New School meets Homeschool. A smart and funny read.
Rel: Unfortunately Scoop hasn't made its way Down Under yet but having read and loved every one of Rene's previous books (both humourous and suspense), I have no doubt Scoop will be a keeper.
Here is a brief interview Rene was kind enough to give me on short notice:-
You have a young family, what does a typical writing day look like for you?
It's been easier since the kids have gotten into school. My son goes all day in 1st and my daughter half a day in Pre-K, so I write every afternoon for 2 1/2 hours, and on Tuesday and Thursday mornings as well. I'm trying my best not to work on weekends.
Characters or plot - what comes first for you?
It truly depends on the story. Sometimes the characters have come first, sometimes the plot, and sometimes the 'what if' question!
Who reads your books to check the humour really works?
Ha! That's a good question! Well, of course my editors always look at them and give me feedback, but pretty much the only person that decides if the humor really works is me. However, I have a really high standard. If I'm not laughing out loud then I know my readers won't either.
How many Occupational Hazard books can we expect?
So far three! Next up is Snitch, due out in May, and then Skid, coming in 2008.
Choose a cast for Scoop ( remember running a competition for Boo?! I won a book!)
Well, let's see, I don't really have one in mind yet. I will have to give this some thought...
Do we see glimpses of you in Scoop?
Oh sure. I'm in nearly every character, except maybe Hayden. I would like more of Hayden in me.
Your favourite fiction reads?
Right now I'm taking a little break from fiction, catching up on some non-fiction I've been wanting to read. Jesus by Leith Anderson is phenomenal. Life changing! I am loving it. Also highly recommend Lessons from the Carpenter by H. Michael Brewer. Okay, you asked for fiction! I have a lot of favorites, too many to list here.
Share some of your faith journey
Lately I've been learning about a heart of gratitude. It's really a life changing lesson, and one that I'm only getting small glimpses of right now. But I know if I can grab a hold of this, it's really going to make my life amazing.
Thanks Rene - a pleasure as always :)
Monday, 13 November 2006
www.charlesmartinbooks.com Read my review of The Dead Don't Dance
4 1/2 stars
Maggie continues the poignant journey of Dylan and Maggie Styles introduced in Charles Martin's excellent debut novel The Dead Don't Dance . Martin did not intend to write a sequel when he completed The Dead Don't Dance but his readers will be grateful he changed his mind!
Maggie has awoken from the coma into which she fell after the traumatic labour that ended in the stillbirth of her firstborn son. Dylan, forever grateful for her restoration believes, "All the world was right.". As with all tragedy those it strikes are permanently changed and life never returns to what it once was. Dylan and Maggie struggle to adjust to the emotional and physical fallout from their trauma and as life becomes complicated and their hopes for a family diminish rapidly they need to find a way to hope again.
Parallel to their story, Martin develops the intriguing yet damaged character of Bryce Kai McGregor, whose penchant for playing the bagpipes naked added so much humour to The Dead Don't Dance . In Maggie, his eccentricities are highlighted and explained, as Dylan discovers the horrors through which he has lived, survived but remains scarred in the deepest places of his heart.
Dylan and Bryce's friendship is one of the many treasures to be discovered in this novel. Dylan's childhood friend, Amos and his wife, Amanda Lovatt also return as part of the tapestry which connects this sequel so seamlessly to The Dead Don't Dance .
Charles Martin's characters tug at your heartstrings due to their authenticity and his ability to convey the inner workings of their hearts and minds. His secondary characters are of the same quality and substance as his main characters being one of the many factors that set Charles' writing apart. While the number of tragedies befalling the young couple and their friends escalate at an alarming rate, the story is saved by Charles' unique literary style and unequalled character development. Charles' use of symbolism throughout his novels is beautifully done and his avoidance of tying up all the loose ends neatly is a credit to him and a compliment to his readers.
Read my review of The Dead Don't Dance
4 1/2 stars
The Dead Don't Dance was Charles Martin's debut novel and it clearly stamped Charles as an author to watch. Charles' books have become a "must read" for this reviewer!
The Dead Don't Dance weaves the heartrending tale of Dylan and Maggie Styles, a young couple seeking to make ends meet on their South Carolina farm, while eagerly anticipating the birth of their first child. Their joy is stripped away with the stillbirth of their son, the physical and emotional trauma leaving Maggie in a coma, and Dylan distraught and self-destructive. As the doctors hold out little hope for Maggie's recovery, Dylan stumbles blindly through his grief and commences a journey which will bring him to his knees before he discovers hope in the wilderness of his despair.
Charles Martin's prose is simply a joy to read. He has an uncanny ability with the written word, conjuring pictures in his readers' minds and expressing emotions with painful clarity. Written in the first person, Dylan's tender love for Maggie is transparent and touching, his grief palpable and confronting. The minor characters are well developed, add humour, substance and believability to a novel that is not to be missed.
Read my review of the sequel Maggie by Charles Martin
Revealed is the second book in Tamera Alexander's Fountain Creek Chronicles and readers will be pleased to know that Tamera has written another powerful story of two broken people seeking redemption from their past. This is the story of Annabelle Grayson and Matthew Taylor, pivotal characters in Tamera's first book, Rekindled.
After the death of her husband, Annabelle chooses to follow his dream and travel to Idaho and the land he had claimed. She wants to start afresh and locate her young friend, Sadie who has disappeared. Annabelle advertises for a trail guide to accompany her on the arduous journey and is shocked to discover that Matthew Taylor, her late husband's brother, unwittingly reponds. Matthew despises Annabelle and wants nothing more than to expose her as the conniving and immoral woman he believes she is.
Tamera's deft hand writes a tender and realistic story of two people struggling to move beyond their tainted past into a fresh and forgiven future. Annabelle and young Sadie's haunting past is sensitively portrayed as is Matthew's guilt and regreat over his broken relationship with his brother. Matthew's unforgiving prejudice towards Annabelle reveals a tendency in most of us to pass judgement on prior behaviour rather than on a person's current character and conduct. Revealed is a moving story which challenges you to consider how you view those around you in light of God's grace and forgiveness to us all.
Thursday, 9 November 2006
Wednesday, 8 November 2006
Siri Mitchell has crafted another beautiful story, as unique as it is
thoughtprovoking , interspersed with humour, delightful characters and the anticipation and heartache that characterises an attraction between a man and a woman.
Jackie Pert Harrision, a civilian working at the US Air Force Academy, has created a life for herself which is predictable and safe, protecting her emotions from the hurt of her mother's desertion. Jackie's security is disrupted when her office is divided forcing her to share with Lt. Col. Joseph Gallagher, a new Academy lecturer. In order to vent her frustrations with this new situation Jackie begins an anonymous blog and is surprised at the interest it creates among readers. As Jackie starts to experience conflicting feelings for Joe, her blog becomes the only way she can express the joy, fear and confusion he has caused. When she discovers Joe has been reading the blog she is terrified he will discover her true identity and all she has fought to hide will be laid bare.
Siri Mitchell's characterization is superb! You will easily relate to Jackie and the supporting characters as realistic people who could live next door. Even Joe's initial "perfectness" is tempered as more of his history unfolds. Written in the first person, you will literally laugh and cry with Jackie, her heartache palpable to the point of agony at times but I guarantee it is well worth the ride. Excerpts of Jackie's blog and other bloggers' responses make a fascinating end to each chapter. As with Siri's other books, the message behind Jackie's journey of discovery will stay with you long after the last page is read.
Now you have read my review, keep going and read what Siri had to say in my interview with her.............
Siri, welcome to Relz Reviewz and thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into the life of an author.
Rel: Please share your writing journey with us.
Siri: I had been writing for 10 years, had written 4 books (the first no one will ever see; the second was Something Beyond the Sky ; the third was Christians Should Be More Parisian; the fourth was Chateau of Echoes ). I had accumulated 153 rejections from publishers and editors. And the thought of writing another book without a guaranteed sale was just too much to ask. So when publisher approached me about writing a fifth, I replied. “What an intriguing idea!”, all the while thinking, ‘Not on your life, buddy!” I let the idea drop for a couple months. Then God and I had a little chat. I told him concentrating on the things I didn’t have (i.e. a published book) was destroying the happiness that other parts of my life offered. Although I loved writing, I’d decided that it wasn’t worth the sacrifice. I was becoming bitter and cynical about everything. I told God I’d follow up all the trails I had at that point (several publishers to follow up with, etc.) and that if, at the end, there was no positive response, then I’d consider it a sign and stop writing. After that conversation, I got back in touch with an agent I’d contacted 4 years earlier. A month later (while we were visiting Canberra in fact) I got an e-mail that he wanted to represent me! And my last trail to follow was the one with the editor at Harvest House who had suggested the fifth story above. I got back in touch with him, scheduled a meeting, and wrote a few sample chapters. They liked what they read and contracted Kissing Adrien and Something Beyond the Sky. Chateau of Echoes was picked up by NavPress because a different author’s book had fallen off their schedule. They needed something fast and my agent sent them my manuscript.
Rel: A number of your books are set in countries other than your homeland, America (Kissing Adrien & Chateau of Echoes are both set in France). Why have you chosen to do that?
Siri: I’ve always been interested in other cultures. Even when we lived in Canada, I was fascinated by the differences in the cultures of two countries that are neighbors. Whenever I live outside the U.S., I try to look for the positive aspects of the cultures I’m living in. So many of our Christian friends assumed Europe is spiritually-dead and that we’d have a terrible time when we moved to Paris. Our experience was exactly the opposite. In writing this book I tried to show those well-intentioned friends how God is everywhere. Christianity is not an indigenous religion. Not for any people of any nation. None of us own it; we can't brand it with a national patent. But we can share it with all people of all nations. Because God doesn't just speak our language, he speaks everyone's language. I also wanted to investigate the idea that our Christianity may be cultural, not biblical. That some of the things we assume are necessary to faith are actually only necessary to our culture. I found some of the American parts of my Christianity were irrelevant in France. So what did that mean? It certainly didn’t mean God was irrelevant, it meant that my idea of him was. Since we’re created in God’s image, I think we all (even in our corrupted state), reflect pieces of him. And different cultures reflect different pieces of him. That’s why I think heaven will be so revelatory: we’ll all be together and we’ll be able to see God in his reality, not through poorly pieced together shards of him.
Rel: Have you written your books while living in the country it is set in?
Siri: Alas, no. It would have been much easier that way! I find I’m always at least one location behind. My husband is in the military, so we move a lot. From France we moved to Colorado Springs and it was there that I wrote Chateau of Echoes. From Colorado, we moved to Tokyo where I wrote Kissing Adrien. From Tokyo, we moved to our current assignment where I wrote The Cubicle Next Door (set in Colorado) and where I am currently writing a book about Tokyo. The worst part of writing about France when I was in Tokyo is that we’d put half of our books into storage (including most of our European guidebooks, because why would we need those in the middle of Japan?!) And our large wall maps of France and Paris as well. I had to buy a few reference materials like a one-way street map of Paris. I also use the internet for research. I have a very visual memory, so that helps a lot. I also prefer writing about places I’ve actually lived or visited, so that adds to the authenticity I think.
Rel: Do you read a lot Christian fiction if so who are some of your favourite authors?
Siri: I read both Christian fiction and general market fiction. Susan Meissner’s books are always heart-wringing. Ginger Garrett is my good friend and her books are wonderful. I love Tim Downs Bug-Man series – such a creative idea. I enjoyed Lorena McCourtney’s Ivy Malone books. I read Lori Wick’s ‘Sophie’s Heart’ every year; it’s like an old friend. I’m a big fan of historical mysteries. In the general market, I like Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series. I loved Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael mysteries. I guess I like history in general. I’ll read in binges: medieval histories for several months; WWI for several months, etc. One of my favorite authors is Rosamunde Pilcher. Her characters feel like normal people and her plots aren’t contrived. (Contrived plots or coincidences are big taboos for me – my editors will not let me write that way.)
Rel: Why do you write Christian fiction?
Siri: Mostly because I have a Christian worldview. I view the world through a Christian lens. I may experiment with a book for the general market if I can make the time, but it would still have themes that would be familiar to any Christian and it’s simply because that’s who I am.
Rel: Have you been published in the secular market?
Siri: No. But interestingly enough, in the U.S., Christian fiction is the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry as a whole (in both Christian and secular markets). I’m not sure if it’s the same in Australia.
Rel: Please share a brief description of your journey with God.
Siri: I was raised in a Christian home by loving parents. We moved around when I was young (even spent 4 years in Canada), due to my father’s job, so we attended churches from many different protestant denominations. When it was time for university, I chose to attend a secular university. I don’t know whether it’s the case in Australia, but in America, Christians seem to have developed a separate but parallel culture. i.e. Christian schools, Christian music, Christian books, Christian fashion, Christian gyms and health-clubs, etc. I guess I just wanted out of the Christian fish bowl. Not for any bad or rebellious reason. I joined a sorority and enjoyed it, while still holding onto my Christian beliefs. While I was there, I came into contact with people making poor choices or living non-Christian lifestyles, but I was voted into the position of sorority ‘Chaplain.’ Instead of reading platitudes or reciting cute little poems, I ‘preached’ in non-threatening ways. Mustn’t have been too offensive, because I was president by my senior year. During those university years, I learned that people really watched the way I lived my life. That my actions spoke much louder than my words; that the best way to reach people was to be genuine rather than self-righteous. (And to do a lot of listening.) God taught me a lot of lessons about not judging people…which he continues still to teach me today!
Let’s see…after university I worked on campus for two years, during which time I met my husband (he was getting a master’s degree). We were engaged 6 months after we started dating and married one year (to the day) of our first date. My husband has taught me everything I know about having fun. He’s much like Adrien (from Kissing Adrien)in that way. He’s helped me understand that having fun (for fun’s sake alone) can also be a virtue.
When we moved to France (4 years), God taught me all about culture and faith and that if He doesn’t look like what I expected him to, that maybe the problem is with me and my assumptions and perceptions.
When we moved to Tokyo (2 years), God taught me that he is always with me, even when I can’t see him. That faith still works even in cultures that are very foreign. There’s only so much planning you can do ahead of time, only so much you can do to prepare. And then you just have to trust that the things you know and the things you have will be capable for the experiences that lie ahead. At some point, you have to move beyond preparation, past observation and just push out into life…however foreign to you that life might be. Maybe you sometimes feel like you’re stuck in the back of beyond; that you’re of no use to yourself or to anyone else. Maybe you feel like you’re just killing time until your life gets back to normal. The problem is that God doesn’t have enough of us to waste. No matter what you think, God has you where he’s placed you for a reason. Maybe he needs to teach you something, maybe he needs you to teach someone else something. Whatever the case may be, it’s best to just redefine ‘normal’ and get on with living life.
Rel: Borrowing one of Kevin Lucia's questions, who would you cast in the roles for "Cubicle"?
Siri: Hmm. For Jackie I’d say Selma Blair or Natalie Portman. (Actually, I would have said Winona Ryder or Ally Sheedy, but that would be showing my age, wouldn’t it?)
Joe, it would have to be Ben Browder.
Adele: Gloria Stuart
Betty: Julie Christie
Grandmother: Olympia Dukakis
Thelma: Judi Dench
Oliver: David Kelly
Rel: What are the projects you are working on now?
Siri: I just finished my draft for next summer’s release, Moon Over Tokyo (which you were kind enough to read for ‘Australian’!). The story centers around Allie and Eric, high school classmates (and enemies) who are suddenly reunited in Tokyo nearly fifteen years after high school graduation. Moon Over Tokyo is a novel that questions stereotypes on many different levels. Filled with exotic sights and sounds, from the din of Tokyo to the temples of Nikko, the shores of Kamakura and beyond, the novel follows Allie as she re-discovers her voice, re-thinks her past, and re-shapes her future.
Rel: Siri, thanks so much for your time - it has been a pleasure "visiting" with you!
Click here to see my review of Chateau of Echoes by Siri Mitchell
Friday, 3 November 2006
Thursday, 2 November 2006
Gracie Ann Lang is being watched by a man who will stop at nothing to hide the truth from her.
Having lost the only man she ever loved and the children who were her world, the truth is all Gracie wants—an explanation for what really happened. She longs to move forward but is bound by chains of fear. Then she meets Steven Kessler, an FBI agent assigned to uncover an international plot to kidnap the British Ambassador’s daughter.
Steven awakens more than memories; he revives the possibility of a life Gracie desires. A life where healing and peace crowd out the nightmares. But his case and her past are dangerously connected. Suddenly, Gracie must decide if she’s able—let alone willing—to pay the required ransom to redeem dreams and restore hope.
Ransomed Dreams is to be released by Multnomah Books in April, 2007.
Amy has recently launched her Defenders of Hope website which includes descriptions of all the books in the series, a fantastic competition and important information about protecting our children.
Amy's own website is also a great place to visit!
Coming soon.......my interview with Amy.
Wednesday, 1 November 2006
This blog is featuring a contest to win a
copy of Nancy's new book, Coldwater Revival. Just put in a comment and you
may be the winner!
Just three weeks before her wedding, Emma Grace Falin has returned to her hometown of Coldwater, Texas, consumed by a single, burning desire. She must confront the guilt and shame of a devastating event that has haunted her since childhood.
"...What a stunning debut novel."
--Wendy Lawton, Literary Agent, author of Impressions in Clay
"An astonishing debut! Coldwater Revival is a hauntingly beautiful story made doubly so by Nancy Jo Jenkins stunning, lyrical writing. I was mesmerized from cover to cover."
--Deborah Raney, author of A Nest of Sparrows and A Vow to Cherish
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Meet Nancy Jo...
Q. How long did it take you to write Coldwater Revival?
A. I perceived the idea for Coldwater Revival in June, 2003, and completed the manuscript in March, 2005.
Q. Tell us about your journey from writer to published novelist.
A. During my teaching career, I dreamed of the day when I could write the stories that continually swam around in my head. I didn't know at the time that it would take me four or five years of attending workshops, conferences, retreats, lectures, and of studying tapes, books and other materials before I was ready to put my newly-acquired knowledge to use, and begin writing the stories that God had prompted me to write. In March, 2004, at the Mount Hermon Christian Writing Conference, I submitted a book proposal to Steve Laube (Literary agent), and Jeff Dunn, (Acquisitions Editor) for RiverOak. Both gentlemen asked me to send them all I had written on Coldwater Revival, which at the time was 109 pages. During the summer of 2004, both men offered me a contract. My book was published by RiverOak and released in May, 2006.
Q. The agony and healing Emma Grace went through are so real. What personal experiences did you draw from to portray Emma Grace's feelings so well?
A. There was a time in my life when I suffered with depression, though it was not due to a death in the family, as Emma Grace's was. At the time, it seemed that I was in a daily knock-down, drag-out fistfight with sadness. I was truly blessed in that I was never prescribed any kind of medication to treat my depression, which proved to be relatively short-lived. But I did receive counseling, which was just what I needed to win the battle with this debilitating condition. During that time of depression I endured many of the symptoms that Emma Grace suffered through. Excessive sleeping was about the only symptom we did not share. There were times when I couldn't swallow my food, and times when I could almost touch the face of that same blackness that almost overwhelmed Emma Grace. Her sorrow and guilt were difficult scenes for me to write, and I found myself crying each time I wrote about Emma Grace's sadness and the continual ache in her heart.
Q. Emma Grace loses all desire for life when her brother dies - not eating or talking, just living in the blissful cocoon of sleep. Do you have any advice for folks who are in that dark place right now?
A. Communication was the key that unlocked the door of depression for me. Communicate with God, even if the only words you can utter are the words, "Help me." But I also benefited greatly from talking to a certified counselor; one who was trained in helping people express their pain, their needs, their fears. I hope that anyone who feels sad and lonely for an extended length of time, will contact their pastor, or someone who can direct them to a Christian counselor.
Q. Emma Grace's grandmother lives in the city while the rest of the family lives in the country. Why do you think she didn't move out to the country with the rest of the family long ago?
A. Granny Falin immigrated from Ireland to America with her husband and son when Emma Grace's papa was just a lad. This family shared a dream about their new country. It would be a place where they could find work and prosperity, raise their family, and put down roots. Even the Great Hurricane of 1900 couldn't wash those dreams from Granny's heart. Though her only remaining child lived a hundred miles away in the rural township of Coldwater, Texas, Granny could never leave Galveston. The island and the sea that surrounded the island were her home now. It was where the ashes of her husband and three children were buried. It was the home she and her husband had dreamed of during their desperate years together in Ireland. If she left Galveston and moved to Roan's home, she would be giving up the dream she had shared with her husband.
Q. Papa and Elo have a tough time showing their emotions. Elo, especially, is so hard to read in the book. Why do you think some people hole up inside themselves rather than sharing their emotions?
A. I believe we are born with a portion of our personality already deeply embedded within us. Some people are reticent to express their feelings and emotions, while others have no problem whatsoever in expressing what they feel or think. I have known many individuals who are like Elo; people we sometimes refer to as "the strong, silent type". Papa and Elo are powerful protectors and providers who waste little time and effort on words. Both of these men feel that "actions speak louder than words". Added to that is the fact that Elo feels extreme discomfort when his mother and sisters are emotionally distraught, therefore, he maintains a rigid demeanor, in part, to provide a stable link in the chain that makes up his family - The Falins.
Q. Do you have other books coming out soon?
A. Thank you for asking about my upcoming books. I'm about to submit my proposal for a novel entitileld, "Whisper Mountain". This story takes place in the early 1900's in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is the story about lost love, and a desperate woman's journey to fill the void that deprivation and loss have left in her heart. The story has elements of mystery, intrigue, murder, and of course, romance. I'm very excited about this story. I've also begun writing a sequel to "Coldwater Revival" which will parallel both Emma Grace's life after 1933, and the adventurous trek Elo begins when he falls in love.
Three weeks before I was to marry Gavin O'Donnell, I set my feet upon the beaten path leading to Two-Toe Creek. What I had to offer Gavin in marriage—my whole heart, or just a part—depended on the
decision I would make today.
As my feet tracked the dusty pathway they stirred loose soil to the air. My heart stirred as well, for the guilt I had buried in its depths smoldered as though my brother had just died, and not five years earlier. In the shadowed days following the tragedy, my disgrace had glared like a packet of shiny new buttons. I'd not thought to hide it at the time. In truth, I'd thought of little, other than how to survive. But at some point during that time of sorrowful existence, when my days and nights strung together like endless telegraph wires, I dug a trench around my heart and buried my shame.
From that day until this, I deeded myself the actor's role, closing the curtain on my stain of bitter memories, hiding my sorrow behind a veil of pretense. But that old deceiver, Time, had neither softened my guilt nor put it to rest; only allowed it ample pause to fester like deadly gangrene. Now, as the day of my wedding drew near, my heart cried out for healing. It was, you see, far wiser than my head. My heart understood its need for restoration—before I exchanged wedding vows with Gavin. For this reason, I now walked the trail to Two-Toe Creek. To revisit my failures of yesteryear and reclaim the peace that had slipped past the portals of my childhood. Perhaps then I could give Gavin the entirety of my heart.
Rel'z Review - 5 Stars
Coldwater Revival is a book replete with wonderful characters, beautiful prose and emotive scenes that take you on a journey that will leave an imprint on your heart and mind for some time to come.
A young Emma Grace Falin realises just weeks before her wedding the need to return home to Coldwater, Texas to expunge the guilt and torment she has lived with for five years following the tragic loss of her little brother, Micah. In an attempt to do this, Emma delves into her childhood memories of growing up with little material goods but surrounded by the love of her parents and siblings until tragedy shatters the family and community in which they live. Emma relives her spiral into despair, the fear of her parents that she will not recover and the journey to her Grandmother's home in Galveston, a woman also shaped by her own experience of grief.
Nancy Jo Jenkins' debut novel is captivating! I was swept away by the palpable loss sustained by Emma and the additional grief that befalls the family when Emma sinks into depression despite the love and compassion of those who grieve with her. Nancy Jo Jenkins' portrayal of the fragile Emma, the stouthearted yet broken brother Elo, compassionate parents Roan and Annaleen, and Tate, the young man refined by flames in his own life is exceptional. A story doesn't get much better than this!