Thursday, January 31, 2019

Takeover Thursday with Lara Lee ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Lara has offered to give away an electronic copy of the book. You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends February 7, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)  

Excerpt from The Gryphon's Handmaiden

Once they were in the middle of the garden, Lord Ansil quickly turned and shot a red fireball at Timothy. Timothy was surprised but dodged it rolling in the grass. Then Lord Ansil created a wall of yellow fire around Timothy as he came to his feet.

What is he doing? thought Timothy as he noticed Lord Ansil’s glittering black eyes.

Timothy pushed the fire down and jumped out of the closing circle. Lord Ansel shot yellow fireballs that Timothy deflected to the side with his hands. Then came a red blaze. Timothy dropped down under and rolled. He tried to shift the blaze in a curve back to Lord Ansil. Timothy was breaking a sweat.

He shouldn't be doing this without sleep or much in his stomach, but his adrenaline was starting to kick in. He grimaced at the effort. Lord Ansil's mouth curved into a slight smile before shooting blue fireballs at Timothy.

These were not practice lobs, but shots that could kill. Timothy rolled out of the way of one and nearly got singed with another. He jumped to his feet to run around to Lord Ansil's side.

If he wants to play tough, then here we go, thought Timothy as he matched Lord Ansil’s intense expression.

Timothy gritted his teeth. He shot a series of red fireballs. Lord Ansil caught them and shot them back at him. Timothy dodged each one, but his clothes got singed again. Lord Ansil smiled as he again surrounded Timothy with the blue flame. Timothy struggled to fight the flames as it got closer to his legs. He was able to force an opening enough to jump through. He bared his teeth, turned, and threw a big blue fireball. Lord Ansil immediately burst into flame and walked right into Timothy's fireball. Timothy gawked and panted in tiredness.

“Enough then,” said Lord Ansil putting his fire out. “You did well, but there are definite gaps in your knowledge.”

“Right,” said Timothy still breathing hard.

He looked at his clothes covered in singed holes. This was a nice outfit too.

Lord Ansil tilted his head.

“Are you injured?” he asked Timothy.

Timothy couldn't tell if he was mocking him. He stood up tall calming his breathing.


Lord Ansil bared his teeth in the feral way that only Huldra can. He crouched down with his hands in front of him ready to cast a spell.

“Good. Now again.”

Q:  How did you come up with the concept for your novel?
A:  My first novel, Gryphendale, came from a desire to write a Christian fairy tale. At the time I wrote that book, I had lost my mother to brain cancer and my son was born extremely premature (23 weeks). The young adult fairy tale ended up being a wrestling with God about why do bad things happen to good people. The book offers no answers, but the characters find resolution in trusting that the creator God, the blue Gryphon, has a reason and plan. The story came out of a dark time for me, but the feel of the novel is light and optimistic. I write about hope.

Gryphendale was a stand-alone novel, but I missed the faerie world I had created. I then decided to write this trilogy 30 years after the events of Gryphendale. I didn't realize how much I still had to learn.

The Shadow of the Gryphon started with an old retired Brownie, Arthur, who helps twin princes, Timothy and Nathaniel, travel to the underside of their coin-shaped world to break the curse that turned Nathaniel's fiance to stone. Timothy and Nathaniel are named after my sons who died from being born too prematurely after my first son. The land they travel in is a swamp with many of the features of Florida. If my first novel had a lot of focus on mothers, this one focused a bit on fathers and father figures. I found myself wrestling with my past as each of the main characters do throughout the story. Each character has a different past crisis that they had to overcome to become who the Gryphon had created them to be. I too had to let go of my past pains and hurts. Again, this is a book about hope.

This newest book, The Gryphon's Handmaiden, was finally going to be an easy one to write, but it didn't turn out that way. Timothy and Arthur set out into the Nomad Desert to find the Gryphon's Codex. They meet a mute runaway slave girl, Tabatha, with extraordinary power who has all the answers.

Tabatha's significant disability, mutism, is caused by trauma. I had debated in making her autistic, but it made the story too complicated. I wanted to encourage my son that no disability can keep you from pursuing your dream. This is part of my message as an author. I've been very involved in the special needs community and have often seen children told what they can't do. A person may have to work harder because of a disability, but there is always a way to find your path in life. I too have had to work through my dyslexia to be a writer. God uses everyone, not in spite of their disability, but with it.

Q: That's so true! Your level of creativity makes me wonder about your childhood. Would you say you were very creative when it came to getting yourself out of trouble?
A:  I had to laugh at this because I was a very creative child. My mother always said I was sneaky. I wasn't a liar, but I was a great negotiator. I did tend to find more trouble than most children as well: getting stuck on top of a fence, standing in ant piles without meaning to, almost drowning, getting a tour group lost in Paris, tripping over a pew in a church in Austria, just to name a few. I have been told I was like Anne of Green Gable once, which may give you a clearer picture of my personality.

Q:  Ha! When you say that your book is a young adult fantasy fiction, who is your target audience? How does the age of the audience determine what you write?
A:  In many writing guides, you will get conflicting advice. Some say you need to consider your audience first and others say to just focus on the story first. I write what I like to read. Perhaps it is a little narcissistic, but I still enjoy reading my books after working on a zillion drafts. I think I write good stories. At first, I marketed Gryphendale as straight fantasy fiction because my main characters are not teenagers. Then I found that teens enjoyed them and that some adults liked young adult books because they were cleaner. I changed my marketing and haven't looked back. It really comes down to finding your audience. My books interest people twelve years old and older. Some of my best compliments came from women in their forties. I really haven't had to adjust my writing style at all.

Q:  Tell me a little about your writing journey, thus far.
A:  My writing journey has been a bit like a drunk squirrel searching for its used up hoard of nuts. I've been making up fairy tales and stories as long as I can remember, but I was discouraged from writing for a living because of dyslexia and the fact that authors don't earn much. Since eating was a priority in my life, I got a real job until I was forced to quit to follow my husband on a crazy half-baked adventure to Scotland and then around Europe with a baby in tow. It wasn't until my thirties that I self-published my first book with fear and trembling. Since then I have had short stories and articles published as well as other books. My third book comes out this week. I'm now pursuing writing full time since I let my husband pay the bills while I play mom.

Q:  How many books of the Gryphendale series have you written so far and how many more do you have planned out, or at least you have ideas for them?
A:  I have two published books, one coming out January 29th, an anthology of short stories written, and five novels planned out. This isn't going to be a linear series, but an anthology series, an exploration of Gryphendale following the example of L.E. Modisett's Recluse series or Terry Brooks's Shannara series. I plan on continuing to write in the world of Gryphendale until I run out of ideas.

Q:  What challenges did you face when writing this book?
A:  I struggle with dyslexia, so the editing process of my books takes a great deal of time. I mostly struggle with spelling which computer spelling checkers help. I often have to run a grammar checker to check for missing articles since I read in chunks and struggle to see those mistakes. Grammarly is a great help, but it isn't perfect. I have learned some tricks to help my eyes to isolate what I want to proof, but it is very slow. I really have to thank my beta readers and editors for helping with those issues.

Along with the practical side of dealing with dyslexia, there is an emotional struggle. I wasn't encouraged to write when I was young and failed every spelling test I took. Many people would wonder why I still choose to write. It's because I have to. I am a natural storyteller and have been telling my own made-up fairy tales since I was a small child. I remember even forcing my younger brother and cousins to act out the adventures I invented for them.

It is hard to publish a book when you know that your greatest struggle is being exposed to the world. Can God use me even as I am? YES! This is the message of The Gryphon's Handmaiden, and it is a struggle that is very real every day to me. God often chooses the weak to teach the strong.

"I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness."

- Isaiah 42:6-7

That's so true! Thanks so much for sharing a bit about you and your story with my readers. 

About Lara...

Lara Lee is the author of the young adult fantasy fiction novels Gryphendale, The Shadow of the Gryphon, and The Gryphon's Handmaiden. She has also had two short stories published, "The Worst Hero Ever" and "Trust Old Juniper." Sometimes, she is also a graphic designer, wife, and mother. After growing up in Florida with her head stuck in various books, she ran away to Oral Roberts University to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design and a husband. Then, she worked professionally with the children's curriculum publisher Mentoring Minds in Texas before following her husband on a crazy adventure in Scotland. She has lived in three states and four countries and has visited even more destinations with an insatiable curiosity that shows up in her writing. Currently, she lives in Texas with her husband and two sons who all regularly participate in her misadventures and random schemes.

Where you can find her online...


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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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:

Write a story from the point of view of a snowman, from creation to melting.

Happy writing!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Monday Motivation

"I don't think of literature as an end in iteself. It's just a way of communicating something."
— Isabel Allende

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

"With This Pledge" by Tamera Alexander (JustRead blog tour) ... and a GIVEAWAY!


Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander, the first full novel of the Carnton series, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


9780718081836 Title: With This Pledge
Series: Carnton, Book 1  
Author: Tamera Alexander  
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: January 8, 2019  
Genre: Historical Romance  

History takes on vivid life in the stunning first full-length installment of USA TODAY bestselling Tamera Alexander’s new series, The Carnton Novels.  

What can a woman—a mere governess—do against the scourge of slavery?

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clouston’s quietly held principles oppose those of the Southern Cause—but when forty thousand soldiers converge on the fields of Franklin, Tennessee, the war demands an answer. The Carnton home where she is governess is converted into a Confederate field hospital, and Lizzie is called upon to assist the military doctor with surgeries that determine life or death. Faced with the unimaginable, she must summon fortitude, even as she fears for the life of Towny, her fiancĂ© and lifelong friend.

As a young soldier lies dying in Lizzie’s arms, she vows to relay his final words to his mother, but knows little more than the boy’s first name. That same night, decorated Mississippi sharpshooter Captain Roland Ward Jones extracts a different promise from Lizzie: that she intervene should the surgeon decide to amputate his leg.

Lizzie is nothing if not a woman of her word, earning the soldiers’ respect as she tends to the wounded within Carnton’s walls. None is more admiring than Captain Jones, who doesn’t realize she is pledged to another. But as Lizzie’s heart softens toward the Confederate captain, she discovers that his moral ground is at odds with her own. Now torn between love, principles, and promises made, she struggles to be true to her heart while standing for what she knows is right—no matter the cost.

From the pages of history and the personal accounts of those who endured the Battle of Franklin, Tamera Alexander weaves the real-life love letters between Captain Roland Ward Jones and Miss Elizabeth Clouston into a story of unlikely romance first kindled amid the shadows of war.

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


Head HERE for an exclusive excerpt!



Tamera Alexander is a USA Today bestselling novelist whose works have been awarded and nominated for numerous industry-leading honors, including the Christy Award (two-time winner, seven-time finalist), the RITA Award (two-time winner, four-time finalist), the Carol Award, the Maggie Award, the Booksellers Best Award, and Library Journal's top distinction, among others. After seventeen years in Colorado, Tamera and her husband now reside in Nashville, Tennessee, where they live a short distance from Belmont Mansion and Belle Meade Plantation, the setting of Tamera’s two USA Today bestselling Southern series.  

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram



(1) winner will win a release copy of With This Pledge + $10 Amazon Gift Card

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight January 14, 2019 and last through 11:59 pm January 28, 2019. US only for a print copy of the book. International winners will receive an ebook. Gift card prize will be issued as an e-gift card. Winners will be notified within 2 weeks 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.

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

"The Amish Sweet Shop" by Emma Miller, Laura Bradford, and Mary Ellis ... and a GIVEAWAY!

The publisher has offered to give away a print copy of the book (US ONLY). You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends January 31, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)  

It's almost Valentine's Day, the busiest time of the year at Beechy's Sweets, where the Amish gifts of love and faith are even sweeter than the home-made candy.

THE SWEETEST COURTSHIP by National Bestselling Author Emma Miller
At age thirty-six, Jacob Beechy is a rarity--a master candy maker, and a bachelor. His mother, however, still hopes for grandchildren. With Valentine's Day around the corner, she convinces Jacob he will need extra help in the shop and interviews a string of applicants--for his future wife.

Bluebird, Pennsylvania

     "Jacob, you really needn't look so sour." Clara glanced at her only son and then tugged on her black prayer kapp, adjusting it until it was just right.
     "I'm not sour." He frowned as he poured sugar into the kettle on the old iron would stove he'd converted to propane gas. No one would say Beechy's Sweets wasn't modern.
     The entire kitchen in the back of the candy shop smelled of chocolate, a rich, earthy aroma as pleasing as Clara had ever smelled in her fifty-eight years of life. It was a scent that she associated with contentment, if not happiness, because while her life and not turned out as she had thought it would, it was still a good life, a blessed life. And her greatest blessing was her son, her only child, her only tangible evidence of the beloved husband she once had.
     "I'm not sour," Jacob repeated, reaching for a long-handled wooden paddle he'd fashioned in his own wood shop for just this task. "I just think you're wasting your time with these interviews. I don't need any help here." He stirred the kettle with greater vigor than necessary. "We do this together, Mam. You and I."
     Clara harrumphed. "We won't be doing it together, you and I, while I'm in Indiana with Sadie and the little one. I could be gone three weeks, longer if there are complications."
     Her mouth twitched into a smile at the thought of her upcoming trip. Her niece was expecting her first baby soon and when Clara's youngest sister said she wouldn't be able to help after the baby was born, not with nine little ones still at home, Clara jumped at the opportunity to go. She loved babies and she loved an adventure and traveling alone to Indiana would certainly be one.
     "You can't run the cash register, wait on customers, and make the fudge," Clara pointed out, smoothing her apron as she checked the clock on the wall. She hoped the first applicant of the day would be prompt, otherwise Jacob would be ready to cross the young woman off the list without even giving her an opportunity to interview. "This is our finest year yet, with so many orders for Valentine's Day." She smiled at him. "You make the best fudge in Lancaster County. Everyone says so. Your secret recipe is the key, I tell them."

THE SWEETEST TRUTH by National Bestselling Author Laura Bradford
Sadie Fischer has accepted that she will never marry. Her scars from a barn fire are a daily reminder of why. So when she receives mysterious gifts leading up to Valentine's Day, including chocolate from Beechy's, she's bewildered--yet curious. Sadie may not think she's pretty, but there's a young man who sees only sweetness when he looks at her...


     Stepping back, Sadie Fisher drank in the varying shades of yellow that fairly danced across the quilt like rays of sunlight. "Miss Jenny, I think this just might be the prettiest quote we've ever had in the shop. Ruth Hershberger does fine work. I think this one will sell very fast."
     "I certainly hope so." Jenny Duggan pulled her attention from the front window of Bluebird Quilts long enough to beckon Sadie to her side. When Sadie acquiesced, the sixty-five-year-old shop owner pointed out to the street. "I think the buggy-to-car ratio on Main Street today favors the buggy."
     Sadie nodded as her own gaze followed three different buggies past the shop, their destination certain. "Ya. Ruth's daughter, Miriam, is to be married tomorrow. To Atlee Stutzman. Many people from many communities will be there. I'm going, too — with Mam and Dat, of course."
     "Miriam and I went to school together and she is in our church district."
     "Are you close?" Miss Jenny prodded.
     "We spoke a little and hymn sings. Mam says that is because we were friends as little ones. But I think it is because we were the last of our group to get married. But that will change now as it has with the others." Sadie watched yet another charcoal-colored buggy meander down the road and then hooked her thumb in the direction of the quilts she still needed to price. "I should put the tag on Ruth's quilt before more customers come in."
     "What will change, dear?"
     "The talking part. We will speak after church, I'm sure. But she will be married, like the others, and I will not be. Soon, we will have even less to say to each other than we already did."
     Ms. Jenny took one last look out the window and then trailed Sadie across the shop to the section earmarked specifically for new additions. "It could happen for you, too, dear."
     "What could?" Sadie pulled an empty tag from the drawer beneath the register, noted the price with ink, and then carried it over to Ruth's quilt.
     "Getting married."
     She felt her throat tighten as it always did when her English boss brought the conversation around to boys. It wasn't that she didn't think of them, because she did. But trying to get Miss Jenny to see things as they were was exhausting. Still, she tried and hoped that maybe, just maybe the woman would finally come around to the same reality Sadie had been forced to accept six years earlier. "A boy would have to be interested for me to marry, Miss Jenny. And there is no one."

NOTHING TASTES SO SWEET by Award-Winning Author Mary Ellis
Pregnant and suddenly widowed, Hannah must give up the dreams she once had. But when she learns that her longtime English employer plans to sell his hardware store, she's determined to buy it. She doesn't realize that will mean following a clue from Beechy's to clear a man's name--and finding a partnership in work, faith, and love...


     "Daniel," Hannah called from the stove. "Your breakfast is ready. Those quote
     "What are we having — Eggs Benedict?" He teased. "Corned beef hash?"
     She laughed. Daniel always requested the same menu each Monday morning and today was no different. "Two eggs, over hard, four strips of bacon, and three pieces of buttered toast. Better hurry before everything gets cold." She filled his mug with coffee.
     "Ahh, my favorite.. How did you know?" He winked while adding jam to a slice of toast.
     Hannah took her coffee over to the window seat. Normally she ate with her husband, but today her stomach didn't feel right. In fact the thought of bacon grease and butter made her downright queasy.
      "Any plans this week, other than work?" he asked between bites of egg.
      "If Wednesday's weather is nice, I may call for a ride to Mam's. She's hosting a quilting at her house. Then Dat can bring me home."
     "What does weather have to do with quilting?"
     "I don't want him out late if it's snowing. That makes it too hard to see buggy reflectors.""
     Daniel nodded and refilled his mug.
     Hannah peered down on the street below. "Oh, my, your ride is here already."
     "Tell Mr. McCourt I'll be down right now." Daniel built a sandwich with his remaining eggs and toast and then headed to their bedroom to finish packing.
     Hannah wiped the glass and squinted, but couldn't distinguish whether it was Mr. McCourt — her husband's regular driver — or not. "I hate screaming out the window while everyone in town is sleeping," she called on her way to the stove. "After I fill your thermos, I'll carry down a cup of hot coffee. Mr. McCourt might have asked someone to fill in today."
     Without warning, her husband of eight years crept up behind her, enfolded her in his massive arms, and lifted her off her feet.

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Author bios...

Emma Miller lives quietly with her family on a farm in Kent County, Delaware. She also writes sweet Amish romances for Harlequin's Love Inspired line and Amish mysteries for Kensington.

Laura Braford is also the author of the national bestselling Amish Mysteries, including A Churn for the Worse and Suspended Sentence as well as the novel Portrait of a Sister. Under the pen name Elizabeth Lynn Casey, she writes the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries. She lives in Mohegan Lake, New York, with her husband and their blended brood. Visit her website at

Mary Ellis has written twelve award-winning novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances. Before "retiring" to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate, a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. She lives in Ohio with her husband, dog, and cat. Visit her website at or find her on Facebook at

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tuesday Tip: Adverse or Averse

Over the next few months, I'm going to be posting about some common words that can be confusing.

Adverse is an adjective that means unfavorable or antagonistic in purpose or effect.

She had an adverse reaction to her medication.

Averse is an adjective that means to have strong feelings of opposition, antipathy, or repugnance.

Many children are averse to the idea of year-round school.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

"Who I Am With You" by Robin Lee Hatcher ... and a GIVEAWAY! (Read with Audra blog tour)

About the book...

For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith.

Jessica Mason isn't looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter--and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband's betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship--but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this smal-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination.

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather's Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have broken their hearts, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again.

Who I Am with You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica's great--grandfather's story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

Who I Am with You is the first book in Robin’s new “A Legacy of Faith” series.

My review...

This is the first book I’ve read by Robin Lee Hatcher, but I’m sure I’ll be adding more of her books to my TBR pile!

Who I Am With You is the first in a new series. This heartfelt story contains beautiful prose and realistic characters who are overcoming obstacles. The story is woven together with the help of Andrew’s Bible, and I look forward to reading other books in the series to see how those characters benefit from his Bible. The book contains two storylines. I preferred Helen/Andrew a bit more than Jessica/Ridley, but all characters were well-crafted and relatable, particularly in the ways they dealt with the ups and downs of life, all the while seeing God’s goodness and unconditional love in the circumstances.

 Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the Read with Audra blog tour, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

About Robin...

Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 75 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Robin is an ACFW Carol Award winner and an eight-time finalist and has won two RITA Awards and been a finalist eleven times. Her numerous other awards include the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. She is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.

When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.

Tour-wide giveaway...

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

"Handmade Hearts" by June McCrary Jacobs Blog Blitz (with JustRead tours) ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Handmade Hearts blog blitz

Welcome to the Blog Blitz & Giveaway for Handmade Hearts by June McCrary Jacobs, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

Handmade Hearts Cover.jpg Title: Handmade Hearts  
Author: June McCrary Jacobs  
Publisher: JMJ Story Stitcher Books  
Release Date: December 18, 2018  
Genre: Historical Romance 

'Handmade Hearts' is an historical romance short story set in New Orleans during World War II and was inspired by a true story.

Toward the end of his life, the author asked her Uncle 'Allen' how he met his wife. He shared about how he met 'Irene' at a church social in their neighborhood in New Orleans in the early 1940s. He had been seriously wounded in Guadalcanal in the South Pacific as a young Marine and was using crutches to get around as best he could.

He had many inner wounds which needed time to heal, too. He had no way of knowing when they first met that Irene had suffered her own wartime tragedy. She bravely sought to keep her grief locked away deep inside because thinking about her loss caused her even more sorrow. She needed to be strong because she was the breadwinner for her small family.

Times were tough, but these two unique individuals made it through each day with inner fortitude, determination, and the sincere hope of something greater just over the horizon.

This inspirational short story follows the growth of Allen and Irene's relationship beginning with their chance meeting and leading forward to a lifetime spent together. 'Handmade Hearts' was created to honor this unique couple's love for and devotion to each other in a relationship which spanned seven decades.  

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon


New Orleans, Louisiana
October 20, 1944

Allen wrestled with his heavy wooden crutches. Each step was agonizing. He grimaced as he labored up the stairs of the church's fellowship hall proudly wearing his uniform—a uniform he’d dreamed of wearing since learning of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
In addition to the almost intolerable and constant pain, the three bullet wounds received from a sniper in Guadalcanal two months ago had wreaked havoc with his plans for his life. Well, at least I still have a life . . .
Dozens of his fellow Marines had not made it out of Guadalcanal alive on that horrendous, life-altering night. Allen felt himself slipping into the abyss of traumatic memories once again. The vivid memories that plagued him daily flashed in front of his eyes. His pulse quickened, and his heart pounded loudly in his ears. He felt clammy and nauseous, and both legs began to tremble.
A woman's melodic voice roused him from his memories of the ambush.
 "Good evening, Lance Corporal. May I hold the door for you?"
 Allen wondered how long she had been speaking to him before her voice drifted through to his subconscious. He blinked as the details of her face came into focus.
"Uh, what? Yes, I guess you'd better," Allen snapped.
When he recognized the hurt expression on her face, he turned toward her.
 "Sorry if I sounded gruff. I just feel so helpless being dependent on these blasted crutches!"

"No need to apologize or explain," she answered in a soothing voice.  "Let me introduce myself. I'm Irene Carston."


author photo_black & white

June McCrary Jacobs was the winner of Cedar Fort Publishing's 2013 Holiday Tale Contest for her debut novella, 'A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom'. 'Robin's Reward', her first full-length novel, was set in her favorite location in California—the Mendocino coastal region. This book is the first installment of the 'Bonita Creek Trilogy'.

June's debut middle-grade novel, 'RES-Q Tyler Stop', an historical novel set in Sonoma County, California, in 1968, will be released in the spring of 2019. The second installment of the 'Bonita Creek Trilogy', 'Penny's Promise', will be released in late 2019 or early 2020.

June's original sewing, quilting, and stitchery designs have been published in over one hundred books, magazines, and on sewing industry blogs in the past decade. When she's not writing, reading, blogging, or sewing, June enjoys cooking, walking, visiting art and history museums, and touring historic homes and gardens.

CONNECT WITH JUNE: Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Goodreads Blog | Amazon


handmade hearts giveaway
(1) winner will win an ebook copy of Handmade Hearts + $15 Amazon Gift Code 
(2) additional winners will each receive an ebook copy of Handmade Hearts

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight January 15, 2019 and last through 11:59 pm January 22, 2019. Open internationally except where prohibited by law. Winners will be notified within 2 weeks 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.

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

Friday, January 18, 2019

"The Rancher's Unexpected Baby" by Jill Lynn ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Jill has offered to give away a hard copy of the book (US ONLY) or an electronic copy (anywhere).  You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends January 25, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)  Here's Jill...

How the story came to be...

When I began writing this series, Emma quickly became a tender woman who would do just about anything for anyone. And Gage was so cynical and wounded. I kept thinking, who could bring healing into his life but sweet, sacrificial Emma? I wanted this book to be about healing and second chances and growth for both characters. 

My review...

This is the second book in Lynn’s “Colorado Groom” series, but it can be read as a standalone.

Gage finds himself the unexpected guardian of baby Hudson after Gage’s friend dies. Gage is sure that there must be someone better suited to be a father, but he agrees to keep Hudson until that person can be found. Emma agrees to help him, but she hopes to change Gage’s mind.

While there is a bit of predictability to Love Inspired stores, Lynn has crafted relatable, well-drawn characters with a few unexpected elements and wonderful chemistry. Her writing is full of charm and heart, as well as vivid detailing. It’s easy to root for the characters in this quick read, which will leave the reader anxiously anticipating Lynn’s next story.

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

Jill Lynn is an author of small-town romances filled with faith, humor and happily ever after. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethel University and lives near the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children. Jill loves to connect with readers on social media or at

Where to find Jill on social media...

Current Giveaway & Newsletter:

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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:

You wake up to find that you're trapped inside your house by an unexpected blizzard. Write a story about what you do until you are freed three days later.

Happy writing!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday Motivation

"A real book is not one that's read, but one that reads us."
— W. H. Auden

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

"30 Days to Understanding the Bible" by Max Anders

My review...

Is it really possible to understand the Bible by spending just fifteen minutes a day for thirty days? Yes, it is!

I was a bit skeptical when I started reading this book. Granted, I haven’t memorized everything, but I now know far more about the Bible than I did. I read through things at a quicker pace than thirty days so I could review the book, but I will be going back through it again, one day at a time for a month.
Anders’s latest is packed with tons of information, but it’s presented in an easy-to-read format. For someone knew to Bible study, this book could prove to be invaluable. However, long-term believers will also benefit from using this guide. The author helps the reader see how everything fits together in a way they may not have noticed before. Repetition truly is the key, and that’s what’s provided in this book. The chapters are clear and concise, and everything is presented in small, manageable chunks. This is a great resource to add to my daily Bible study time.

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

About Max Anders...

Dr. Max Anders is the author of over 25 books. He has taught on the college and seminary level and is a veteran pastor. Max was also one of the original team members with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. He provides resources and discipleship strategies at to help people grow spiritually. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

"In the Shadow of Croft Towers" by Abigail Wilson ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Abigail's publisher has offered to give away a print copy of the book (US ONLY).  You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends January 17, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)  

About the book...

Orphaned Sybil Delafield jumps at the opportunity for a position at the mysterious Croft Towers. She believes she was hired to act as companion to a dying woman, but a highway robbery and a hostile welcome from the Chalcroft family cause her to wonder if she was actually hired to help someone spy for France. An unsolved murder adds intrigue to this already secretive family, and Sybil recognizes Mrs. Chalcroft's handsome grandson as one of the infamous highwaymen who robbed her. Sybil must determine if this man's charming smile and earnest eyes speak the truth or if he is simply using her like others in the house. Everyone seems to have something to hide, and Sybil must decide who to trust while also coming to terms with the truth about her own past

My review...

This is Wilson’s debut novel. It has a gothic romance feel. Sybil Delafield travels to Croft Towers with the intention of being a companion to the elderly mistress of the Towers. Along the way, she encounters highwaymen and a household full of intriguing characters. Sybil sets out to solve some personal mysteries: who her parents are and who she truly is. Sybil has caught the attention of two potential suitors, but she’s unsure of whether she can trust anyone she meets because everyone seems to have a secret.

Ample intrigue and twists are provided in this first-person POV tale. I was expecting a bit of a Christian angle, and I found that to be lacking, but it is definitely a clean read. I did figure out Sybil’s parentage before the reveal, but a few things kept me guessing.

For the most part, the characters are well-rounded, though some are a bit better developed than others. Sybil is a character who is easy to root for, as she is determined, humble, resourceful, and quite likeable. It did take me a bit to get into the story, and then there were a few lulls later on, as well as a few parts that seemed a bit convoluted. Overall, however, Wilson has crafted a solid, and enjoyable, debut.

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

About Abigail...

Abigail Wilson combines her passion for Regency England with intrigue and adventure to pen historical mysteries with a heart. A Registered Nurse, chai tea addict, and mother of two crazy kids, Abigail fills her spare time hiking the National Parks, attending her daughter's gymnastic meets, and curling up with a great book. In 2017, Abigail won WisRWA's Fab Five Contest and ACFW's First Impressions contest as well as placing as a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her husband and children.

Connect with Abigail...

Instagram: @acwilsonbooks
Facebook: @ACWilsonbooks
Twitter: @acwilsonbooks

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tuesday Tip: Historic or Historical?

Over the next few months, I'm going to be posting about some common words that can be confusing.

Historic is an adjective that means well-known or important in history.

A historic event is memorable.

Historical is an adjective that pertains to past events.

A historical event occurred many years ago.

Friday, January 4, 2019

"We Hope for Better Things" by Erin Bartels ... and a GIVEAWAY!

Erin's publisher has offered to give away TWO (2) hard copies of the book (US ONLY).  You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends January 11, 2019. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)  

Q&A with Erin...

Q:  We Hope for Better Things blends family drama, mystery, and romance into one intriguing story. How did you come up with the plot for your debut novel?
A:  It's hard to say exactly how it all came about, because I'm not a big plotter. In fact, it wasn't initially a story that was going to delve into race relations and reconciliation at all. That element came later. The first spark of the idea was simply a little mystery: who is the man behind a bunch of photos?

As the photographer in my family, I have to make a conscious effort to take a photo of myself during trips or special events, in order to prove I was actually there. The photographer is the silent, invisible observer, and when we look at a photo, we look at what someone has chosen to show us. And that role of silent storyteller is interesting to me.

From there, the story grew … a lot. Once I decided that the photographer was not going to be around, I had to decide why. Once it was clear that race and race relations was going to be a part of Nora's story, I began to think about how quickly a family's legacy might change. How long would it take to go from brotherhood to bigotry? How long does it take a wound to heal? The mystery of the identity of this photographer became the romance between William and Nora, which led naturally into a lot of family drama. The whole process was unplanned and organic, just following where the story was logically leading me.

Q:  With so many great elements, who would you say is your target audience?
A:  When people ask me what I write, I find it hard to come up with a quick and easy answer. I can tell you what the book is not. It's not a romance, though there are romantic elements. It is not a mystery, though there are plenty of mysteries to unlock. It is not historical fiction, though two of the three storylines take place in the past. Fundamentally, it is the story of a family, and it is the story of three women trying to find their way through lots of different relationships that are fraught with traps and pitfalls.

In a way, it is the story of all of us as we try to navigate our times, polarized and volatile as they are. My target audience is thoughtful readers who are troubled by the times we live in and are looking for sense in what seems like chaos. People who want more than just an escape when they read. People who want to feel less alone in their struggles. People who want to know they're not the only ones who yearn for meaning in the midst of what often feels like an incomprehensible world.

Q:  Your novel covers some very volatile times in American history, including the 1960s and the Civil War. Why did you choose to focus on these time periods?
A:  I've always been a student of history. At some point in my adulthood I had a realization that fundamentally changed my view of it. When we learn history as kids in school, we generally cover things in chronological order. We put things on timelines. This linear way of learning sends a subliminal message to us that history is a line, that it is moving forward, that it is progressing. Which seems to mean that things are improving. How could it be otherwise?

But when you really delve into world history, you don't see lines. You see cycles. We like to believe we are living in enlightened times, but we aren't. People are people and will always be people. And people are sinful. Time doesn't change that. We're still making the same mistakes our ancestors made — and we're making new ones besides. I read people saying things online like, "How can something like this happen in 2018?" And I think, Why wouldn't it? It's been X number of years. It was bound for a comeback.

So when I started thinking about Nora and William, I started thinking about how little had changed for black Americans in the 1960s since the end of slavery. I started thinking about how little had changed for black Americans today since the 1960s. Progress. Backlash. Regression. So many of us are apt to say, "Well, my ancestors didn't own slaves," thinking that excuses us from discussions about race and racism in our country. But it doesn't. Every generation needs to choose how they will believe and behave.

The short answer is, I didn't decide to focus on the 1960s and 1860s. Those times chose me. One hundred years apart, and black Americans still couldn't live in certain neighborhoods, still earned less than white Americans, still had to worry about making the wrong people mad, still found themselves being viewed as a danger to the rest of society. The next natural question to ask is, Is it any different today?

Q:  Did you find it difficult to intertwine different eras in characters in your book?
A:  Not in the least. It was completely natural. Some people ask if I wrote the stories separately and then combined them. I did not. I wrote the chapters in the order you see them, jumping from one era to the next. It seemed to me the only way to write this story, even if it might be considered rather ambitious for a first novel. The connections practically made themselves.

Perhaps this is because I've always felt that everything in history and life is completely entangled and intertwined. I'm obsessed with making connections between events as they try to make sense of why things happen in history. It's like the world is one giant billiard table, covered in millions of balls all smacking into each other over and over, never knowing the chaos they cause down the line.

Q:  What do you hope readers will gain from reading your novel?
A:  First and foremost, I hope they will feel they've just been part of a great story that swept them up and won't quite let go even when they finish the book. 

Secondly, I hope readers come away with a lot more empathy for others. I'm not talking about in terms of people who look different from them, though that's part of it. I know that even in the process of writing this book I developed a lot more empathy than I ever had for people who make bad choices, because much of the time those choices seem like the only ones they have. We never know what someone else has been through, and we could all stand to be a bit more patient and understanding toward each other.

Finally, I hope they gain perspective. Problems do not arise in a vacuum. They come from people who choose to behave in particular ways. We combat our problems by examining our own preconceived notions and prejudices and then choosing to act a different way. We can't change other people. We can only change ourselves. And while we can't change the past, we are, all of us, all the time, molding the future. What kind of future do we want?

Thanks so much for stopping by, Erin. Your debut book, as well as your answers, certainly gives readers a lot to think about. I'm sure my readers will enjoy learning more about your new release.


Detroit, July
     The Lafayette Coney Island was not a comfortable place to be early. It wasn’t a comfortable place, period. It was cramped and dingy and packed, and seat saving, such as I was attempting at the lunch rush, was not appreciated.
     Thankfully, at precisely noon as promised, an older black gentleman in a baggy Detroit Lions jersey shuffled through the door, ratty leather bag slung over one drooped shoulder.
     “Mr. Rich?” I called over the din.
     He slid into the chair across from me. I’d fought hard for that chair. Hopefully this meeting would be worth the effort.
     “How’d you know it was me?” he said.
     “You said you’d be wearing a Lions jersey.”
     “Oh yes. I did, didn’t I? My son gave me this.”
     “You ready to order? I only have twenty minutes.”
     Mr. Rich was looking back toward the door. “Well, I was hoping that . . . Oh! Here we go.”
     The door swung open and a tall, well-built man sporting a slick suit and a head of short black dreads walked in. He looked vaguely familiar.
     “Denny! We’re just about to order.” Mr. Rich set the leather bag on his lap and slid over in his seat to accommodate the newcomer.
     The man sat on the eight inches of chair Mr. Rich had managed to unearth from his own backside, but most of him spilled out into the already narrow aisle.
     “This is my son, Linden.”
     Something clicked and my eyes flew to one of the many photos on the wall of famous people who’d eaten here over the years. There he was, between Eminem and Drew Barrymore, towering over the smiling staff.
     I sat a little straighter. “The Linden Rich who kicks for the Lions?”
     “Yeah,” he said. “And you are . . . ?”
     “This is Elizabeth Balsam,” Mr. Rich supplied, “the lady who writes all those scandal stories in the Free Press about corruption and land grabbing and those ten thousand—eleven thousand?—untested rape kits they found awhile back and such. She covered the Kilpatrick trial.”
     I offered up a little smile, one I’d practiced in the mirror every morning since college, one I hoped made me look equal parts approachable and intelligent.
     “Oh, yeah, okay,” Linden said. “I see the resemblance. In the eyes.”
     “I told you,” Mr. Rich said.
     “You did.”
     “I’m sorry,” I broke in, “what resemblance?”
     A waiter in a filthy white T-shirt balancing ten plates on one arm came up to the table just then and said, “Denny! Whaddayawant?”
     We ordered our coney dogs—coney sauce and onions for me, everything they had in the kitchen for Linden, and just coney sauce for Mr. Rich, who explained, “I can’t eat onions no more.”
     “And I need silverware,” I added in an undertone.
     When the waiter shouted the order to the old man at the grill, Linden was already talking. “You are not giving her that camera.”
     “You said the photos—the photos should stay for now,” Mr. Rich said. “Why shouldn’t I give her the camera? It ain’t yours, Denny.”
     “It ain’t hers either.”
     “No, she’s going to give it to Nora.”
     Linden took a deep breath and looked off to the side. Though probably anyone else would have been embarrassed to be so obviously talked about as if she wasn’t even there, years of cutthroat journalism had largely squelched that entirely natural impulse in my brain.
     I jumped on the dead air to start my own line of questioning. “On the phone you said you’d been given a few things that were found in a police evidence locker—that belonged to a relative of yours?”
     “No, they belong to a relative of yours. Maybe I should just start from the beginning.”

My review...

Wow! What a powerful, eye-opening story. It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. Bartels weaves together three POVs/three timelines, which isn’t an easy task, and she pulls it all together masterfully. The characters, particularly the three heroines, are multilayered and realistic. They demonstrate strength and love and are courageous. The story lines tackle the harsh reality of racial issues, spanning from the Civil War to the 1960s to present day. Through it all, there is an overwhelming feel of hope, and the reminder that we are all the same in God’s eye is subtly tied in.

I was immediately pulled into this novel, and I hated to put the book down (though I did have to do something else, on occasion!). Historical and present-day events are highly detailed and equally developed, which isn’t always the case in books with multiple timelines. The prose is beautiful and engaging. There were historical components I’d learned little about, especially in relation to the racial tensions in Detroit in the 1960s. It was easy to feel a connection to the characters in this emotional read with themes of pain, loss, love, and hope. This is one book that will likely stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.

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

About Erin...

Erin Bartels has been a publishing professional for more than fifteen years. Her short "This Elegant Ruin" was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. A freelance writer and editor, she is a member of Capital City Writers and the Women's Fiction Writers Association and is a former features editor of WFWA's Write On! magazine. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son, Calvin, and can be found online at We Hope for Better Things is her first novel.

Where you can find Erin online...

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