Friday, February 22, 2019

Unpacking in the Dark, by Katy Lee

I write suspense. Nail-biting, tension-filled, and yes, sometimes dark suspense. But dark doesn’t necessarily mean gory and brutal. In fact, it shouldn’t unless there is a valid reason for those elements to be in the story. If there isn’t, then twisted components only bring a shock factor to the story that take away from the true emotion or idea that wants to shine through the darkness. Do the situations scream uncertainty, insecurity, inner fears and guilt? Those are the true elements of a dark setting. Those will evoke feelings and aid the reader in facing those feelings, even when they may make people uncomfortable. In fact, if discomfort comes into play, there may be something there to unpack.
When I wrote my book Blindsided, I took on the dark world of human trafficking. My editor feared the topic wouldn’t resonate with readers because of its nefarious influence. It’s not a memory or emotion most can identify with, and when the topic or theme is obscure it becomes an unbelievable story. It will be a story that is pushed aside and seen as fake. But say a character covers her scars from the world because she believes they will make others uncomfortable . . . just as the topic of human trafficking can cause. Covering the truth only instills shame and fear and leaves a person in the shadows with no hope.

And so, when I wrote Blindsided, I broached this shadowy world of human trafficking from the visual of a bright pink silk scarf hiding the truths that cause discomfort. But once that scarf came off, the darkness was brought into the light and could now be dealt with.

This is the reason for dark novels. They help us take down those boxes on the shelves we’ve avoided. The ones filled with uncertainty, insecurity, inner fears and guilt—and sometimes even shame. They force us to face the dark corners of our life, and when we do, we can hopefully put those boxes back on the shelf empty.

One of my favorite dark novels is The Book Thief. The fact that Death is the narrator of this story, could make many shut the book on page one. It sets the stage that this story will take the reader into the uncomfortable corners of life. But a well-thought-out dark novel will also bring out so much wisdom into the light.

Do you have any dark novels that have resonated with you? I’d love to hear how they affected you, and if they had a Happily Ever After—because not all of them do. Still, don’t always be afraid of the dark, because even if they don’t have the happy ending, they should offer hope for one.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Best Seller Lists and What They Mean to Authors!

 By Debby Giusti

Anyone who enjoys reading probably knows about the New York Times Best Seller List. Certain booksellers send their stats to the NY Times and the data is compiled to determine the placement of the top-selling books, both fiction and non-fiction, each week. Regrettably the NY Times has discontinued including category romance – romance stories published monthly – from their lists.

However, two other important lists feature category romance: the USA Today Best Sellers List and the Publishers Weekly Bestsellers List. Authors are always thrilled when their books “make” one of the lists. Editors are happy too!

On Monday, I learned that my February release, Amish Safe House, the second book in the new Love Inspired Suspense Amish Witness Protection Continuity, made the Publishers Weekly Bestseller List. I’ve had three previous books recognized as PW bestsellers and am always touched by the honor, most especially because having a book on the list means readers across the country are buying—and hopefully enjoying—my stories.

Today, I want to say thank you to my wonderful readers. You’re the reason I write. Your comments on Facebook, your reviews on Amazon, your emails and notes of support mean so much to me. Often you share details from your own lives, the highs and the lows. You allow me to pray for your special needs and you keep me in your prayers as well. As important as it is to have readers, I consider you even more. You’re friends. Close friends who share a common love of story.

Thank you hardly seems adequate to express my appreciation as well as my love for all of you! I’m humbled and so very grateful!

Happy Reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

Hiding in Plain Sight
The second thrilling Amish Witness Protection novel

After Julia Bradford’s son witnesses a gang shooting, hiding in witness protection on Abraham King’s Amish farm is the only hope the Englischer and her children have. Even as danger closes in, Julia is drawn to the community’s peaceful ways—and the ex-cop turned Amish protector. But when their location is discovered, can Abraham protect her family…and possibly have a future by her side?

Order HERE!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

There's nothing like a happy ending!

Hi Everyone, Danica Favorite here, and I have to tell you how much I love a happy ending! That's why I write romance. Today's happy ending is special to me, and I had to share it with you. You might remember in previous blogs that I asked for prayers for our horse, Ava. I've been keeping you all updated, and today's update is the best of all.

Ava is completely healed!!

She'll always have scars on her legs, and we have to slowly work her back up to where she was, but my daughters rode her again for the first time this week. We didn't get pictures in all the excitement, but I'm sure there will be plenty in the future.

 It's so amazing to me, remembering how we weren't sure she'd even make it, and to just hope that we'd have a pasture horse, to know having hope of her being ridden again. We still have to take it slow, and she's still not yet fully back with our other horses, but we're working on it. So, soon.

But here's the other wonderful part. The vet thanked us for not giving up on Ava. I didn't know what that meant, but then I found out that most people would have put her down, especially with how grim things looked. I had asked about it, but only in terms of whether or not she'd needlessly suffer. It had never occurred to me that some people wouldn't have wanted to take care of her injuries and nurse her back to health, not knowing if she'd ever be able to be ridden again. Some friends of ours were at the vet's, and another horse had come in, with similar, but not as bad, leg injuries as Ava. The people didn't know what to do, and the vet pulled out pictures of Ava and her recovery, and our friends joined in, and they all told the people about how, with a lot of love, and a little patience, their horse can recover, just like Ava did. We didn't just save Ava, but we saved this other horse, and countless others who go in to one of the few horse surgeons, looking to save their horse.

I know people don't always get happy endings, but can I tell you that there is nothing like the feeling of participating in one.

And that is why I write romance.

Speaking of romance, my first release for Love Inspired is out this month, Her Cowboy Inheritance. I'm very excited to share Three Sisters Ranch with you, and it should come as no surprise that those stories are all about getting a second chance.

About the book:

A new life. A new start.
And a new love at the
Three Sisters Ranch

Inheriting a ranch with her two sisters is the fresh start widowed mom Leah Holloway desperately needs. The problem? Leah knows nothing about ranching. And the only person willing to teach her is Shane Jackson, the handsome and oh-so-infuriating cowboy next door. Trusting each other means they’ll risk everything—including a connection that might just blossom into something dangerously real…

About Danica:

A self-professed crazy chicken lady, Danica Favorite loves the adventure of living a creative life. She and her family recently moved in to their dream home in the mountains above Denver, Colorado.  Danica loves to explore the depths of human nature and follow people on the journey to happily ever after. Though the journey is often bumpy, those bumps are what refine imperfect characters as they live the life God created them for. Oops, that just spoiled the ending of all of Danica’s stories. Then again, getting there is all the fun.

You can connect with Danica at the following places:

Facebook Reader Group:


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Setting: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary by Jo Ann Brown

Throughout my writing career, I’ve enjoyed writing about distant times and places. That requires a lot of research, because what did I know when I first started about Regency manners
or the hills and valleys of the Middle East or the gold fields of the Yukon? Not that I’m complaining. I love doing research, finding all the ways people and their lives in other times and places are different from ours...and how they’re the same. Sometimes I found facts I hadn’t expected and which made me change my story to fit the reality. I was astonished—and more than a bit pleased—to discover during the Yukon gold rush, Canadian saloons were closed on Sunday in honor of the Sabbath. A tidbit I could share with readers to make them feel the same aha moment I’d had when I found the information.
Finding a fact that makes my story real is a reward for me after hours of research and trying not to be sidetracked by other information that doesn’t have anything to do with my story, but would be oh, so delicious to track down to its origins.
Being able to learn more about other eras of history and faraway places was what brought me to writing in the first place. I’d been working on the Mayflower Puritans and suddenly, instead of facts and figures, I found myself wondering what it must have been like for those people traveling from their homes to the New World. The words flowed for what would become my first completed short story, one that I wrote wholly for myself. But that story set the path for my writing for years to come. I’d write about, as the song says, “those faraway places with the strange sounding names.”
Then I happened upon the tidbit during research that inspired the Amish Spinster Club series. I needed to figure out where I should set the quartet of books. I knew the Amish had begun buying farms in the Whitehall, New York, area. That’s about thirty miles north of the small town where I’d grown up. Common sense suggested I put the series in my home town, but a part of me balked. Wasn’t I supposed to write about exciting places instead of an ordinary little town?
I began to think about other books I’d enjoyed and how the authors had placed their stories in their hometowns. Those towns weren’t familiar to me, so it was fun to walk the streets along with their characters.
I realized it could be the same for readers if I introduced them to the small town of Salem, New York.
All I needed to do was find a way to make the ordinary a moment of extraordinary discovery for readers. I recalled what I’d liked about growing up in that town and what I hadn’t. I thought about the stories I knew of those who’d lived there before me and after me.
With that, Harmony Creek Hollow was born in Salem, and my characters soon were settling in and walking along the streets as they did their errands and lived their lives. What startled me was how much research I still needed to do. I realized I didn’t know the mileage from Salem to many other places around the area which I’d driven many times. I hadn’t paid attention then, but I had to for my characters and the time line in my books.
So I guess it’s not true that you can’t go home again. I’ve been going home again while writing the series...and I hope the readers I’ve taken along with me have enjoyed getting to know my hometown just as I have all over again. The Amish Bachelor's Baby, the third book of The Amish Spinster Club, is available now in print and will be available on March 1 as an ebook. C'mon along and visit my hometown!

Monday, February 18, 2019

To Protect and to Serve

For many people, today is a holiday. In the United States, we celebrate President's Day. In different provinces in Canada, today is either Family Day or Heritage Day. There are even some rather strange holidays celebrated today, such as Cow Milked While Flying in an Airplay Day.

Silly holidays aside, for most people this is a day to celebrate people that you hold in respect. So I'm choosing to celebrate a group of people who put their lives on the line on a daily basis: the police.

I recently attended a Citizen's Academy for my local town. Officers from the police department came and talked about what they do. They opened up on any aspect of the job that people wanted to know about and provided demonstrations on different tactics. We were even provided with the opportunity for hands-on practice sessions.

I learned how to use a Taser--on a cardboard cutout, not a real person. (Some people actually wanted to have a Taser used on them, but the officers drew the line there.) I also learned what it felt like to be handcuffed, and how they go about cuffing a person and why.

The officers were very patient with handling strange requests. For example, when I mentioned that I write novels, they answered questions about whether it's possible to unlock handcuffs with a paper clip (yes) and let me try to see if I could unlock the handcuffs with a bobby pin (nope).

This class was one of a series of classes that cover various aspects of law enforcements. There were a lot of people there, over thirty on this night. I saw people in their teens and retired couples as well as a paraplegic in a wheelchair. Several of the younger attendees mentioned that they were interested in becoming police officers themselves, but other people were simply curious.

I even got to practice shooting a Glock and a rifle. Granted, they didn't have live ammunition, but these were the training guns that the police themselves trained on. These guns shoot cartridges that contain little spots of different-colored paints, so the trainers can tell in the training sessions who was hit and where.

More importantly, the police officer who gave the gun demonstration talked about when to use a weapon, the various steps that lead up to the decision to shoot, and what the police do to try to defuse a situation before it escalates into open violence. The officers I spoke with said that most of the time, they are able to talk people down when things start to head in the wrong direction. The only encounters most people hear about are the ones on the daily news. The vast majority of the time, no one notices when a confrontational situation is defused and people's emotions are diverted into non-violent outlets.

Above all, going to this Citizen's Academy was an opportunity for me to gain some insight. It used to be, most of what I knew about police work was what I learned from watching television. Now, I have some understanding into the parts that can't be wrapped up neatly in one hour including commercial breaks.

If you're interested in attending a Citizen Academy, there might be one for your own town or county. I was surprised to learn that every city in my local area had its own academy. If you're curious about learning more about the people who protect your community, I recommend the experience!

Evelyn M. Hill is a multi-published author who lives at the end of the Oregon Trail. Her debut book, His Forgotten FiancĂ©e, was published by Love Inspired Historical. Her latest book, The English Lieutenant's Lady, deals with British spies in the Oregon Territory (based on actual events). 
When not being distracted by her cat, she writes inspirational romances set in Oregon. She loves to hear from readers. Please visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Scripture

The Beatitudes, James Tissot, c. 1890,
Brooklyn Museum. [PD-US]

Jesus came down with the twelve
and stood on a stretch of level ground
with a great crowd of his disciples
and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”
Luke 6:17, 20-26

If you have any prayer needs, please mention them in the comments section so we can join you in prayer. You do not need to include specific names or situations of a private nature, just say that you have a prayer request. The Lord knows your heart and the needs you have. It is a privilege and honor to pray with you and for you.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

When Valentine’s Day Isn’t Lovely ------- by Sara K. Parker

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s heart-filled, candy-laden, flower-blooming Valentine’s Day, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that plenty of others feel the same way I do today: disenchanted and a little sad.

All the reasons why don’t really belong on a blog like this, but my husband and I have weathered some fierce storms over the past several years, and we could use a break.

Currently, he is on around day 25 of a pretty serious health slump with no end in sight. So, on this Valentine’s Day you won’t be getting a story of roses and sunshine from me. Instead, allow me to give you a window into the crisis that hit our family suddenly twelve years ago this February.

But first, I’ve got to back up.

My husband and I met on a blind date in 2001, and our love story developed like many love stories do – we fell fast in love and knew early on that this was *IT*. We married in March 2003…

Enjoyed a couple years of adulting and traveling…

Lunch in Scotland on a three-week backpacking tour in 2004.
Then suffered a chemical pregnancy and infertility, and zoomed right into the world of adoption in 2005, when we adopted our two sons from Ethiopia, who were 11 months and 2.5 years old. 

Life. Was. Magical.

Financially, we struggled a bit, as I’d quit my job to become a stay at home mom, and DH had recently finished college and was searching for a higher-paying job (he’d done four years with the Marine Corps. before college).

But by the summer of 2006, God had answered our prayers: DH got his dream job and we moved to Northwest Houston where we could actually afford a single family home. Predictably, it wasn't long before I grew homesick.

When I was out of sorts, my hubby would stay home with the kids on a Friday night or Saturday morning and send me out to shop. At 27, I was slightly addicted to retail therapy. On one such day in February 2007, DH stayed home with the boys who were three and four years old, and I shopped to my heart’s content – never knowing that he was miserably sick at home, even though we’d spoken on the phone several times throughout the day. In truth, he’d been throwing up all day, but hadn’t wanted to ruin my shopping adventure.

What we assumed was a stomach bug didn’t go away. Instead, the illness progressed with varying symptoms – debilitating fatigue, nausea, vomiting, extreme vertigo, migraines, rashes, excessive sweating and body aches, to name a few. He couldn't tolerate noise or light, so he moved into the office upstairs in our house, covered the windows with blankets, and shut himself off to the world. He was basically bedridden for nearly a year as I dragged him to more than 20 specialists searching for answers.

Keep in mind, we had no friends or family nearby. We had just moved across the country and were on our own. We had no medical histories here, no doctors who cared about us, no way to know how to navigate this catastrophic problem. He was diagnosed with Epstein Barr Virus, and then mono, and then chronic mono, and maybe Lyme disease until finally all the doctors settled on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is by far the most idiotic name ever given to such a life-stealing medical condition. Once he was labeled with CFS, doctors lost interest, and we lost hope.

Chronic illness is utterly devastating. It is often invisible, not well understood, and extremely isolating. It destroys friendships, finances, and families.

But, we have this hope. It is an anchor for our souls, firm and secure. (Hebrews 16:19)

As my husband struggled with this debilitating illness, I floundered for years through severe depression, anxiety and loneliness. I began to doubt what I had always believed about God: that He is good and loving and with me always.

I stopped going to church and reading my Bible. When I tried to pray, I mostly ended up in the darkness of my closet, sobs pressed into a pillow I’d brought in with me so I wouldn’t freak out the kids or worry my husband.

The story of my own healing and the strengthening of my faith is a long one, and it’s still evolving - but slowly, light filtered back into my life. It began, I believe, when I went back to church one Sunday. After the service, I went to a side room to ask for prayer, but when I walked into the room and opened my mouth to speak, I started weeping. My heart was broken, and I had no words. 

A man who was stationed there to pray simply opened his Bible and began to read. He prayed Psalms over me, and that would mark the first time in my life when I experienced what I’d read and been taught – that the Bible is God’s living and breathing word (Hebrews 4:12). Relief poured over me, my tears stopped, and I felt an inexplicable sense of comfort – even peace.

At home, however, faced with our hard reality again, my peace quickly dissipated. I’d put a Bible by my bed, intent on reading it, but it collected dust for weeks, maybe months.

Then one morning, I woke up with what was now a familiar sense of dread, and I opened my eyes and stared at the leather-bound Bible. 

It’s hard to explain this moment, as I didn’t hear an audible voice, but somehow my heart heard these words: Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you.

I had never heard God speak to me, and I have never had an experience like that since…but I knew He was speaking to me. I’d like to say that I jumped out of bed, grabbed my Bible, and read out loud for hours on my knees. Instead, I turned away. I rolled over and went back to sleep. It was a very long time before I would open my Bible again.

But those two experiences replayed in my head time and again over the years – as God brought me deep friendships and then added our two daughters to our family…

As He sustained my husband’s job despite his chronic health condition, as He provided financially during more than one disaster, as He healed our daughter from a cancer that I felt almost certain would take her life

After surgery for Ewing Sarcoma in February 2017

Ringing the bell to celebrate completion of cancer treatment in September 2017

As He lovingly deepened my faith and taught me to pray and listened and sat with me in anguish, as He heaped joyful blessings on my life during the hardest times…
Celebrating my first LIS sale at RWA with two of my sisters who also write for LIS - Mary Ellen Porter, who has two books out, and Shirlee McCoy, who has been churning out romantic suspense since 2003. :)

Kids and cousins playing on a beach in Hawaii at sunrise.

Boarding a plane to Florida for our daughter's Make-A-Wish trip (a Disney Cruise).

A scene from a serene retreat I recently attended at Laity Lodge in Leakey, Texas.
So, yes, on this Valentine’s Day, I admit to feeling a little sad because of all my husband’s illness has stolen from us - but through Jesus, I have a hope that sustains me (2 Corinthians 4:17). This world is wrought with pain and suffering, but it is also overflowing with goodness and light. I don't think it's coincidental that our most important jobs here (love God and love others - Matthew 22:37-39) actually relieve stress, reduce pain, and lift loneliness. Appropriate for Valentine’s Day, don’t you think? 

If you're struggling with hope today, may I suggest how I plan to celebrate (because the hubby and I will have to take a raincheck)?

1.     Write a letter to God, recognizing the blessings in your life, and then pour out your sorrows to Him.
2.     Read out loud a chapter of the book of Psalms (23, 27, 91, 119, 121, 139, for starters).
3.     Order some take-out and settle in with a good book – because good food and great books are cheap therapy.

How do you hold onto hope when reality feels bleak? What do you do to dust yourself off when life is dragging you around? What is the best way someone has shown you love in a time of crisis?

Many blessings to you on this Valentine’s Day.

P.S. I love to connect with readers and other writers on my Facebook author page  and over at