Thursday, June 28, 2018

"Porch Swing Girl" by Taylor Bennett

The story behind the story...

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing one chilly February morning when I woke up with a yearning to write in my heart and a book title in my head. I’d been in a creative slump for months, bouncing between story ideas like a ping-pong ball and struggling to find an idea that felt like “The One.”

And then it happened: Porch Swing Girl.

Those words—a book title, I decided—were suddenly just … there. And they were begging me to make a story out of them.

So I did.

I took a walk in the brisk, cool air and pondered the words—when I heard them in my head, they had a sad sort of sound to them, a touch of wistfulness. I decided that this girl on the porch—my main character, whoever she was—must have recently gone through something terrible. Tragic. And she’d found solace while sitting on the porch swing. Or maybe she hadn’t. Not yet.

By the time my walk was over, I had a solid idea of how to begin my book.

But that wasn’t the end of it. No, not by a long shot. I was a fairly new, unseasoned writer when I started writing Porch Swing Girl. In fact, I’d only completed one half-baked attempt at a novel, several years ago.

Getting Porch Swing Girl ready for publication was an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. I was so new to the writing world that I struggled with the practicalities of plot for months before finally creating a book with enough tension in it to get a publisher interested.

And then, miracle of miracles, I was offered a contract with my dream publisher, a small press called Mountain Brook Ink. And they didn’t just want Porch Swing Girl. No, they wanted two more books that would round it out into a complete trilogy.

And now, I am incredibly thrilled to be able to introduce you to Book One of my trilogy: Porch Swing Girl.

(I rated it 4/5 stars.)

About Taylor...

Homeschooled since kindergarten, Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of Porch Swing Girl, which was released by Mountain Brook Ink on May 1, 2018. When she’s not reading or writing, Taylor can be found playing her violin or taking walks in the beautiful Oregon countryside. She loves to connect with readers via her author website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (her favorite!), Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Where you can find Taylor online...

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tuesday Tip: Sight, Cite, or Site

Sight refers to the ability to see.
For example: Don't let the dog out of your sight.

Cite is used when quoting people, such as in a research paper.
For example: The source was cited in the footnotes.

Site is a place, such as a website or work site. It can also refer to putting a weapon in position.
For example: We need to be on site by noon tomorrow.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday Reads: "Stolen Secrets" by L.B. Schulman ... and a GIVEAWAY!

L.B. has graciously offered to give away a copy of this book. You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends June 29, 2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information.) 

The story behind the story...

L.B. Schulman first had the idea for Stolen Secrets two decades ago. She was driving in the car, listening to NPR, when she heard a Holocaust survivor give an interview. The woman sounded old and weak. L.B. began to think about the fact that, soon, there wouldn't be any more Holocaust survivors alive. How would that change the world? At first, she thought small: If students lost those firsthand teaching moments, they wouldn't care about history as much. But then her thoughts expanded: What if the voice of Holocaust Revisionists grew stronger once there weren't any more witnesses alive to defend the truth?

From there, she read an article about how the Revisionists insisted that Anne Frank didn't even write her own diary. Fortunately, handwriting experts put that conspiracy theory to rest. This led L. B. to create a contemporary story about a girl who discovers she thought was dead with a Holocaust mystery involving her family. What if Livvy's grandmother was hiding a huge secret, one that would affect everyone in the world?

As L.B. started her research, she ran across Anne Frank's given birth name in a train registry. Anneliesse Frank. L.B. was a few months pregnant with her first child, and as soon as she saw that name, chills rolled up her arms. She knew that would be the name of her child. Annalise just turned 21. And in case you're wondering, Lisa's daughter was one of the most influential editors on this novel. 


When Livvy's mother abruptly moves the family across the country to San Francisco, sixteen-year-old Livvy is shocked to find that she's been lied to. Instead of working for a bakery, her mom is actually taking care of Adelle, Livvy's grandmother who she thought was long dead. Suffering from Alzheimer's, Adelle begins to shout strange things, mistake her own name, and relieve moments that may have taken place in a concentration camp. When Livvy and her new friend, Franklin D., find journal entries from the Holocaust in Adelle's home, Livvy begins to suspect that her grandmother may have a shocking link to a notable figure -- Anne Frank.

My review...

I love books pertaining to World War II, so I was more than happy to read this book. It is one of my favorite reads for 2018 so far (though it was released in 2017)!
Livvy is a strong, authentic teenage character. The mystery is engaging in this page-turner. The story may spark the reader’s interest in learning more about Anne Frank, the Holocaust, etc., which would certainly be a good thing, as it is something that shouldn’t be forgotten. I love how Anne is woven into this story, and the twists show up just when you think you have Oma’s story figured out. Schulman has crafted an engaging, multi-layered coming-of-age story that is hard to put down. It has just the right blend of mystery/history, with a little bit of teenage drama thrown in for good measure. Serious topics (alcoholism, Holocaust, Alzheimer’s, and family dysfunction) are addressed tactfully. Her book will stick with me well past the final page.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy,  but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

About the author...
L.B. Schulman has written two young adult novels. Stolen Secrets, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book, came out this past fall. Her debut novel, now available on e-reader, is League of Strays, which delves into issues of bullying, revenge, and consequences of being a follower. When she's not writing, L.B. is a genealogy hobbyist, digging deep to recreate her family history and find famous ancestors. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and a pair of lovable rescue mutts.

Where you can find her online...

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Writing Prompt Wednesday

If you're feeling stuck in your WIP (work in progress) or just want to shake things up a bit, here's something different to try today:

He had an hour to get home. If he didn't make it...

Happy writing!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday Motivation

"My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living."
— Anais Nin

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

100 Bible Stories for Children

My review...

This book is truly beautiful. It contains shortened versions of one hundred of the most popular Bible stories, told in a way that is easy for children to understand (and even read themselves). These stories are the perfect size to be read at bedtime or even during a family devotional time. It’s great for adults, too, as these stories are so important to read and remember.

There is a nice mix of stories from the Old Testament (fifty-three) and New Testament (forty-seven). The Bible references are provided for each story, and the images are bright and inviting. It would’ve been nice if there were questions to go along with each story to go a bit deeper, but these are something perhaps the adult could add in. This book would also be useful for Sunday School or VBS classes to use.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Takeover Thursday with J'nell Ciesielski ... and a GIVEAWAY!

J'nell is here to share a bit about herself and her debut release. She's offered to give away a copy of the book (hard copy - US ONLY or electronic copy - anywhere) of her book. You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends June 21, 2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.) 

Q&A with J'nell...

Q:  We'll start with a few serious questions. What message do you hope readers take away from your story?
A:  When I first sat down to write, it was a love story between a girl and a soldier. As I dug further into research, I realized it wasn't so simple. Gwyn and William came to symbolize what was happening to millions of people caught up in the Great War. Their generation became known as the Lost Generation, and for too long their story has gone untold or forgotten with the passing of time. This year is the centennial of the end of WWI, and light is being shed on this incredible time and the amazing people who lived through it. I hope in some small way Among the Poppies honors those who lived and died, who sacrificed all to defend their country and brothers in arms, gives voice to the women who worked behind the frontlines, and the freedom they preserved for us today. Lest we forget.

Q:  What advice do you have for new authors?
A:  Never give up! If this is truly a passion and you can't imagine doing anything else, read, read, read. Reading expands your use of language and imagination. Learn everything you can about the craft and industry, enter contests, join writer's groups, but most importantly, write. Write every day because that is how you become a writer instead of someone wishing they could write.

Q:  Great advice! What can you tell us about your next project?
A:   My next novel is coming out in January 2019. Set during WWII, an American student must fight to keep her identity a secret in Nazi-occupied France, but a German officer may hold the key to her freedom and heart. I'm super excited about this one because I got to explore my fascination with WWII and spies and the mindset it took to survive. Plus, who doesn't love a good romance that seems doomed from the start? Don't worry. All my stories end happily :)

Q:   Ooh, that sounds good! I love books set during WWII. I can't wait to read it. What writers have inspired you?
A:   Gilbert Morris was my first "adult" writer, so I'll always be grateful for his amazing stories and the depth of character he introduced me to. Kathleen Morgan started my writing and obsession with Scotland. Diana Gabaldon's characters have brought me to tears with such description that feeds my soul. All of these authors have shaped me into the writer I am today. They push me to what is possible with the written word, seeking to discover those hidden depths within each of us and lay them there on the page.

Q:  What book do you wish you'd written?
A:   If I have to choose one that made a big impact on me it would be Tolkien's masterpieces. His gift of storytelling blows my mind. The man created 20 languages of mythical beings and wove in a history so complex it is easy to believe it could be our own. His themes of friendship, sacrifice, loyalty, and love echo through the ages and encourage us all to strive for greatness. Talent does not begin to describe this man and the extraordinary works he gave the world.

Q:  So true! Now, a few questions, just for fun. what famous person would you like to me and why?
A:   The Duchess of Cambridge, or as I like to think of her, Kate. I adore everything about her. She is the perfect role model of what a lady should be. Beauty, brains, perfect manners, kind, fabulous wardrobe. I hope she let me try on a few tiaras.

Q:  Wonderful choice! I adore her (and the rest of the family!). What's one thing about you that would surprise your readers?
A:   I was in the United States Air Force for four years. I'm such a girly girl that people do a double take when I say I wore combat boots for a while. I'm proud to have served my country, but I'm grateful to be a civilian again.

Q:   Thank you for your service. Do you have any writing rituals (such as a particular pen, outfit, or music) you must have or do when writing?
A:   I like quiet (which is difficult with a four-year-old tearing through the house). If I play soft music, it needs to relate to the time period I'm working on. I get a lot of bagpipes when I'm writing about Scotland :) Sitting at my desk in my very pink office helps me write better than if I were to sit on the couch or at the kitchen table. Don't even suggest leaving the house to write!

Q:   Ha! I don't blame you. I love having music in the background when I'm working at my desk, too. Who are three fictional people you'd like to meet?
A:   Jamie Fraser from Outlander because he is the ultimate dream in a kilt. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter because everyone needs a friend with magical abilities. And, last but certainly not least, the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey. Coolest woman ever! She could teach me some great one liners!

Q:   Wonderful choices! I love those characters, as well.Who would play you in a movie about your life?
A:   For looks alone, people say I'm a dead ringer for Leann Rimes, but I would love Lily James to play me. I mean, come on, she's Cinderella! She seems like so much fun, but yet a really simple girl.

Q:   I don't think you could go wrong with either choice! One final question. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you need to have with you?
A:   Lotion! I have bottles of the stuff all over the house in all different scents because you never know when you need to moisturize. I keep the industry in business. I feel like I talked quite a bit about Tolkien, so I'd better bring one of his tomes along to keep myself entertained. And lastly, a toothbrush. I hate dirty teeth.

It sounds like you're all set! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. I'm sure my readers will enjoy getting to know you a bit better. Now, about your debut book...

The story behind the story...

Like many people the world over, I got swept up in the whirlwind that was Downton Abbey. The elegance, the estates, the manners, and, of course, the clothes. Oh, to wear fancy hats again! Season two plunged the audience into WWI, and there I saw it, Lady Sybil the nurse and her world-changing chauffeur love of a man, Branson. I had to be a part of this world! Gwyn became a chauffeur's daughter longing for adventure beyond the garage doors, and William is an an army captain who, above all else, desires order. But Gwyn is anything but orderly!

(I rated it 4/5 stars.)

About J'nell...

Believing she was born in the wrong era, J'nell Ciesielski spends her days creating heart-stopping heroes, brave heroines, and adventurous exploits in times gone by. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages contest and Maggie Award, J'nell can often be found dreaming of a second home in Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black-and-white movies. Born a Florida girl, she now calls Virginia home,a long with her very understanding husband, young daughter, and one lazy beagle. Find out more at

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tuesday Tip: Use Strong Verbs

Verbs are the main source of energy in your sentences. Weak verbs rely on adverbs for their meaning.

You can sharpen a verb by making it more precise, such as:

  • Instead of look, you could use: stare, gaze, gawk, or peak
  • Instead of throw, you could use: toss, pitch, hurl, or flip

Verbs should be in charge, so make them count.

Friday, June 8, 2018

"Reuniting with the Bull Rider" by Jill Kemerer ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Jill has graciously offered to give away a copy of this book (paperback - US ONLY or electronic copy - anywhere) of this new release. You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends June 15, 2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information.) Here's Jill...

Thank you for having me, Leslie! I’m very excited Reunited with the Bull Rider is finally in stores. It’s the second book in my Wyoming Cowboys series, and it’s dear to my heart.

I got the idea for it while walking one day. I live near bike trails and a river, so I try to get outside whenever the weather is nice. Anyway, my mind wandered toward this fictional couple who had been madly in love a decade ago, and then the guy just left town without a word. What a jerk!

But as I made my way back home I realized that the hero isn’t really a jerk. As I thought about him, my heart broke for him. Then the premise of the book hit me. What if the heroine was asked to mentor a little girl only to realize it was her ex’s child?

I know I would have handled a situation like that badly! I had to write their story. Naturally, things aren’t what they seem. All three main characters, Nash, Amy, and Ruby, are forced to deal with past pain, and I hope readers enjoy their story.

(I rated it 4/5 stars.)

About Jill...

Jill Kemerer is an author and freelance writer. A multi-published inspirational romance novelist with Harlequin Love Inspired, Jill also writes nonfiction books, blogs, and articles. Her essentials include coffee, M&Ms, a stack of books, her mini-doxie, and long walks outdoors. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two almost-grown children. Please visit her website,, and sign up for her newsletter.

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  Instagram  |  Amazon  |  Website  |  Newsletter

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Writing Prompt Wednesday

If you're feeling stuck in your WIP (work in progress) or just want to shake things up a bit, here's something different to try today:

He was going back to a place he'd hoped he would never see again.

Happy writing!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Monday Motivation

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
— Ernest Hemingway

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

"The Linen God" Blitz Tour (JustRead blog tour)

the linen god blitz

Welcome to The Linen God blog blitz and giveaway, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


the linen god Title: The Linen God  
Author: Jim O'Shea  
Publisher: Ambassador International  
Release Date: March 31, 2018  
Genre: Inspirational Suspense/Thriller  

The Shroud of Turin is the most studied and controversial religious relic in human history.

The ancient linen cloth bears the image of a man, alleged to be that of Jesus of Nazareth. What if it were real? What if it contained a secret powerful enough to alter the course of human history? And what if it fell into the wrong hands?

Manny Lusum is convinced the Shroud is the genuine article and obsessed with proving it scientifically. Grace Barden is not only Manny's best friend, but also secretly in love with the physics student and soon-to-be Catholic priest. Across the globe, three grisly murders and the theft of a secret manuscript thrust Grace and Manny into a generations-old conspiracy of biblical proportions. From New York to Rome to the inner sanctum of the Vatican, they struggle to untangle a bizarre mystery surrounding the controversial artifact.

In a dramatic confrontation between faith and the ultimate evil on the world stage, Grace and Manny are pushed to the edge of an abyss, balanced on the brink between heaven and hell.

This suspenseful and captivating thriller is perfect for fans of Dan Brown, John Grisham, Robert Ludlum, and David Baldacci. Order your copy today and experience a unique blend of history, science, conscience, religion and a battle of good versus evil that will keep you reading into the early morning hours!

“ . . . a wonderfully engaging, page-turning thriller.” —Doug Peterson, Award Winning Author of The Vanishing Woman and The Puzzle People

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository


Father Daniel Neumann pushed the office door open with his knee. “Sorry it took so long.” He set three unmatched mugs on the desk and pulled open the drapes. The dirty glass exposed a pale brick wall thirty feet across an open courtyard but added little to the light in the room. “Had to go all the way to the convent to find hot coffee,” he said, his lips trying to form a thin smile. “I hope you can handle it black.”

His casual words annoyed her. She stifled an expletive and said instead, “I can handle black coffee, Mr. Neumann. What I can’t handle is your—”

“Black is fine, Father Dan. Thanks.” Manny glared at her. She withdrew her hand from his.

“My pleasure.” Father Neumann closed the door before sitting down behind his desk and sipping his coffee. Slowly, he inhaled the steam.

Grace gripped her own mug in silence, releasing her tight hold when the heat burned. She sipped the black liquid as if it were a magic elixir that could wake her from this latest nightmare. Her entire life seemed like a prologue to this moment. Yet now, sitting in a dim office outside an even darker church, she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what came next.


jim o'shea

Jim is a long-time resident of Chesterfield, Missouri…“The City of Sculptures”. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri in Columbia and now spends his time crafting novels of suspense that tackle the complex relationship between science and religion, stories designed to take the reader places he or she may not have previously considered.  

CONNECT: website | Facebook


Ambassador International is giving away:
Grand Prize: (1) print copy of The Linen God (US Only)  
PLUS 4 more winners will receive an ebook copy of The Linen God (open internationally, except where prohibited by law)  

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below.

Giveaway will begin at midnight June 2, 2018 and last through 11:59pm June 9, 2018. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

tour schedule

Follow along with the blitz for more chances to win at JustRead!