Agape for Writers…

I so appreciate Sandra Ardoin for inviting me to participate in a writer’s blog hop. Sandy’s blog is always a great source of encouragement to writers, especially her High Five Fridays!! Discovering new blogs and getting to know other writers is the perfect reason to join a blog hop, don’t you think? But I’m following an example of another sweet writer friend and, instead, sharing some “Agape” love to some writers who have meant a lot to me in my life. Sorry, Sandy, for shaking it up a bit. Hope you don’t mind! 

So here we go…

What am I working on?

After cranking out six books in the last sixteen months, I breathed a relieved sigh and scheduled a little decompression time. I stuffed three weeks full of family, travel, and…not so much writing. I used that break to prayerfully consider my journey and reestablish some goals. An idea for a new series simmered, featuring three Kester siblings who vow to save their ranch after their father’s sudden death. It’s my first contemporary western featuring, you guessed it…cowboys!

Roping the Cowboy is the first book in the Kester Ranch series:
Hungry for the coveted VP position in her father’s company, an ambitious oil executive chooses the cowboy’s heart over the contract.

Picture Channing Tatum as hunky hero Fargo Kester who attempts to romance Darby Brewster (Keira Knightly) away from her father’s company and onto the ranch to stay. Have I mentioned lately how much I love being a writer? 🙂

This is my first venture outside the inspirational genre, but it’s still sweet, with the same values and standards as my other books. 

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My writing tends to veer towards the steamy side of inspy, which might make some people uncomfortable, but I don’t believe romance is all about the bedroom. You don’t need to be embarrassed if your children or grandchildren pick up one of my books and start reading. They won’t find graphic bedroom scenes or vulgar language. They will find stories bursting with passion and depth, and characters who deal with real life issues such as single parenthood, domestic violence, weak self-images, emotional or physical abandonment, and more. 

The major difference between secular and inspirational romance is the faith element. I love creating stories where the faith thread is weaved, natural and seamless throughout the story, framing a theme or message that wraps itself around your heart and remains with you long after you reach “the end.” 

But lately, I’m sensing a call to toss my fishing net farther away from the boat. 🙂

Why do I write what I do?

To me, romance is an integral part of everyday life. It takes on many forms. Whether that’s sharing coffee or lunch with my hubby on our back deck, content to just soak in each other’s company and the natural beauty surrounding us; catching my grandson’s face light up when he sees me arrive at daycare and his tiny hand stretching up to grab mine; that sweet spot in my soul as worship music covers me like a warm blanket; or feeling the warmth of the sun on my back as I walk around the park. God showers me with His love every day. How can I not write about love and hope, grace and forever? How can I not sprinkle my books with messages of forgiveness or that it’s never too late for redemption?

How does my writing process work?

I started my writing career as a total pantser. My goal was to give birth to great characters or an idea and let the story flow organically from there. Since I’ve graduated to contracting on proposal with my publisher, I have forced myself to become a plotter, but that just means I have an initial story concept, like the blurb on the back cover, along with a skeletal outline, including the cute meet and how I want the story to end, but nothing is written in stone. Then, it’s all a matter of planting my tush in the chair and tapping out the story, four hours a day, five days a week.

Maria Bostian

That wraps it up for me. Now, to share some AGAPE love for writers who have blessed my life. Say hello to Maria Bostian > 

She’s a Life Safety Educator for the City of Kannapolis Fire Department and- who knew? -a writer!  She works at the fire station with my hubby and she always has a smile on her face. Can’t you just see the joy bubbling over? That’s Maria. Her September debut is a children’s safety book about playing with matches and lighters. You can get to know Maria here. Maria will be carrying the blog torch, and be sure to stop by and congratulate her on her contract and her blog debut.

Susan Tuttle

Next, I’d like you to meet someone who has encouraged me tremendously and faithfully… 
<<Susan Tuttle. When I put out the call for influencers for my first book, Journey’s End, Susan immediately responded with a fabulous review. She took a chance on a new writer, and for that, I will be forever grateful. When I asked her to join Seriously Write as a monthly contributor, she didn’t hesitate. She’s an inspiration, a blessing, and a true friend. One day I will meet her face to face and tell her how much she’s meant to me. Susan just completed her first novel, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing wonderful news from her real soon! Be sure to check out her blog, Steps Into An Abundant Life. Her devotions always seem to be just the words I needed to hear on that particular day, and I look forward to her Wednesday quotes and Bookshelf Fridays. 

Sandra Ardoin

And lastly, Sandra Ardoin. >>
Sandy and I met online through ACFW, and imagine my surprise to discover that we lived just a few miles away! Our friendship has evolved over coffee breaks and local ACFW meetings, and I treasure our time together. Since inviting me to join this blog hop, Sandy signed her first contract with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas for her Christmas novella, The Yuletide Angel! Don’t you just love the title? I can’t wait to read it! Congratulations, Sandy! If you know Sandy, please stop by and offer your congratulations here. Even if you don’t know Sandy, I’m sure she’d be thrilled to hear from you. 

Sandy and Susan have already shared some writer love, but how about you? How can you encourage your favorite writer? Find a way to spread the love…

Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter ~My Review

Dancing with Fireflies
Amazon ~Pre-order Link
Releases on 3/11/14

About the book~
Jade returns home to Chapel Springs after years of protecting her fragile heart. Then along comes Daniel, making her long to dance again.

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.

The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.

As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt.” Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

Sharing my review~
“I hate to ask another favor, but–” This one was harder than the last. More personal.
“Go on.” His voice was deeper than she remembered.
“It’s just that you know so many people, what with being the mayor and all. I was going to ask Ryan, but he tends to be, well, too brotherly, and if left up to him I’m afraid I’d never–“
“Spit it out, Jade.”
“I need a man.”

Some scenes were just laugh-out-loud funny. Other times, I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest. Jade had been in love once, but after her fiance died, she vowed she’d never go down that road again. So when she discovers she’s pregnant, love isn’t included on her “list” of qualities for a husband. Daniel helps her out with a date, but inside, he’s dying, only wanting what’s best for her, but that isn’t him. At times, I wanted to throttle Jade. The perfect man for her was right in front of her face, and it took her awhile to realize that. Even then, she still makes some wrong decisions, but who could fault her for all she’d been through? I probably would have made the same choices.

Daniel’s a hero who never gives up on the love of his life, no matter how far she runs or how long she stays away, or how many times she overlooks him for somebody else. 
Kinda reminds you of somebody else, doesn’t it? What a gentle, intrinsic way to weave faith into the story. 

I thoroughly enjoyed A December Bride and her short piece in Smitten, and after reading this little goodie, I plan to snatch up some of her older titles! Dancing with Fireflies is a great book to curl up with in the evenings, to take on vacation, sitting in the carpool line, soaking in the tub….you get the idea. It’s perfect for any time!

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction and NetGalley for allowing me the privilege of reviewing this book. I received a free copy of Dancing With Fireflies in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. This opinion is my own, and I received no compensation.

My Review of CLAIMING HIS HEART by Tanya Hanson

Claiming His Heart
Purchase Link

About the book: Caught between a noose and a gold mine cave-in, Tulsa Sanderson must do anything within his power to prove his outlaw brother’s innocence…even if it means marrying a gold miner’s daughter he just met. Tulsa needs every nugget and flake he can pull from beautiful Charmlee’s worn-out claim, but he sure doesn’t need a wife! Charlotte Amalie lost her heart, her virtue, and her money to the last disreputable outsider who passed through her peaceful California valley months ago. She has no desire and no choice but to wed the handsome stranger who arrives, bearing a mysterious letter that will change both their lives forever. Charmlee and Tull each have plans of their own. He’s set on raising quick money to save his brother’s life—a secret he isn’t going to share. She’s determined to leave the valley to find a new life for herself and medical treatment for her own brother. Marriage would put an end to the plans they’ve each worked so hard for, but is there a bigger dream for the future ahead that they can’t see? Trusting comes hard for them both, but Charmlee realizes it’s the only way to stake her claim on what’s really important— CLAIMING HIS HEART.

Sharing my thoughts:

“Something warm and soft touched Tull head to toe. Like somebody had dripped honey down his back. This picture of friends helping out when they had tasks and busy days of their own was no mirage at all. After tending Reno for who knew how long, Miz Trudy still remained to help Charmlee even as Zeal expected a large shipment. And Miz Maudie, herself a new bride, had a homestead and husband out at the Pine Tree mine.

Yet, here they were. True community…A fine little town of good folks, this Spiggleville, this out-of-the-way settlement long used up, but not used up at all.”

Claiming His Heart transports you back to the gold rush days in California, to a tight-knit mining community called Spiggleville. Neighborly folks all come together to help each other out when times get tough, and believe me, things get plenty rough in this story. You’ll be drawn in and won’t want to leave!

Tull’s pa named all his kids after places like Tulsa, Bronx, Reno and Charlotte. Yep. You read that correctly. A twist I didn’t see coming, and it’s not what you’re thinking. You’ll have to read the book to figure that one out. 🙂 

“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, 
in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”
“Since then, Tull did fear. Never trusted. Never prayed.”
Both Tull and Charmlee reminisce on this verse as the tragedies keep piling up. Hanson does a great job keeping you furiously flipping pages, ramping up the conflict, leaving you wondering if Charm and Tull will ever cast aside their past hurts and finally open up and trust God and each other. Claiming His Heart kept me reading through all the busyness of the Christmas season. It’s the perfect book to curl up with in front of a crackling fire, a sweet romance with enough kindling to warm you more than the fire. But when summer rolls around, it should also be the first book you pack to take to the beach!

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to the author, Tanya Hanson, and Prairie Rose Publications for providing me with a review copy of Claiming His Heart. The opinions expressed here are my own, and I received no compensation.

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