Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mary Ellis Author Interview

Tell us a little about Midnight on the Mississippi.
What lies beneath the black water of the bayou? Hunter Galen, a New Orleans securities broker, suspects his business partner, James Nowak, of embezzling their clients’ money, but he’s reluctant to jeopardize their friendship. After James turns up dead, Hunter realizes his unwillingness to confront a problem may have cost James his life. Nicki Price, a newly minted PI, intends to solve the stockbroker’s murder as she establishes herself in the career she adores. As she ferrets out fraud and deception at Galen-Nowak Investments, Hunter’s fiancée, Ashley Menard, rubs her the wrong way. Nicki doesn’t trust the ostentatious woman who seems to be hiding something, but is the PI’s growing attraction to Hunter—the police’s only suspect—her true reason for disliking Ashley? As Hunter and Nicki encounter sophisticated shell games, blackmail, and death threats both subtle and overt, danger swirls around them like the mysterious dark water of the bayou. Only their reliance on faith and fearless determination give them hope they will live to see another day.

What inspired you to write this story? I have been intrigued by the mystery and romance of the French Quarter of New Orleans for years. My husband and I took frequent trips there while my mother-in-law was living in the Panhandle of Florida in the pre-Katrina days. We’ve been back many times since, and I knew I needed to set my first mystery/romance in that timeless city that I fell in love with.

If you were in your heroine’s shoes when the story starts, would you react differently than she? How so? No, I believe I would have reacted exactly as Nicki Price did. I usually stumble into situations that I’m totally unprepared for, but I make it my life’s work to learn the necessary skills to improve myself, no matter what the occasion.

How would you label the overall mood of your stories: dark, gritty, poignant, sensitive, heart-warming, light, witty, humorous, adventurous? I would label it as poignant and heart-warming, but also adventurous and (hopefully!) humorous. I don’t like reading books that are dark or graphic, so I couldn’t write one if I tried.

A sneak peek into what you're working on right now? I’m putting the finishing touches on What Happened on Beale Street, book 2 of my Secrets of the South Mysteries. When a talented musician is found dead in Memphis, two PI’s are determined to find their friend’s killer among a list of suspects longer than the Mississippi River. Releases in February of 2016.

If your life were a book, what would the title be? I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now, by Mary Ellis

Describe your writing space. Right now I’m working in my screened-in porch. I absolutely love it out here, even when it gets hot and humid. Since I live in Ohio, I’m cooped up in my normal office space for far too many months of the year.

What do you do for a fun break if you find yourself overwhelmed with writing pressures? I take my dog for a long walk down my dead-end road. It’s good for both of us—mind and body!

Do you blog? If so, leave us the address. I blog from time-to-time at

Bonus fun questions:
Where is your favorite spot to read?   Anywhere next to water—a lake, the ocean, or even the creek that runs through my yard. I find peace and serenity near water.

Author bio: Mary Ellis has written twelve award-winning novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances set during the Civil War. Her latest, Midnight on the Mississippi, first of a new mystery series, Secrets of the South, is set in New Orleans. 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. Mary enjoys traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming, and lives in Ohio with her husband, dog and cat. She can be found on the web at: or

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Encouragement for the Waiting: A Time for Proving

Proving: (v.) to demonstrate the truth or existence of something by evidence.


·         Proving involves Soul-searching.

Psa 26:2  Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.

Psa 139:23  Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

Psa 139:24  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Waiting is a time for God to show us evidence about ourselves, our sin, and our commitment to Him. While you wait, God is testing you, proving your faithfulness to him.

Also, waiting is a time for us to prove to the world God is true to His word. Others are watching you. Maybe we should rethink those times of waiting we hate so much and consider them as witnessing opportunities, places in our life to show that God is Who He says He is. That He is enough.

One thing we often find when we’re searching our hearts is fear.

Maybe fear of the unknown and what may happen.

Fear of not living, thinking waiting on God may cause you to miss out.

Fear of living and taking the next step by faith when God says move.

Fear is the opposite of trust. The devil tries to fight our faith with fear. But the Bible says in I John 4:18 perfect love casts out fear—let God who IS LOVE prove Himself to you during your time of waiting. When Jesus is the Lover of your soul, you don’t have to fear what He will bring into your life.

I’ll show my ignorance by admitting I’m not sure who Mary Oliver is, but I like her quote I randomly found on Pinterest:


God is not late. He has not lost touch. He’s not limited. He will fill you in your time of waiting.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Susan Page Davis Interview and Blue Moon Bride Novella Featurette

Hi, Susan! So glad to have you back! Tell us a little about your new book.

This novella is a historical romance, and it’s a sequel to The Christmas Tree Bride, in which Polly had received a Christmas card from her friend Ava. In Blue Moon Bride, Ava rides the railroad to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to visit Polly. On the way, she finds danger and romance.

Gotta love the wildness of Wyoming! I was blessed to visit the historical Cheyenne Railroad station a couple years ago and took a photo beside the brass lady statue there (wish I could find the pic, I'd include it here). Fun! Alrighty, here's another question:

If you were in your heroine’s shoes when the story starts, would you react differently than she? How so?

Probably not. Ava’s younger sister is getting married before she does. I never had a younger sister, so I’m not sure how that would feel. I know being single does not have the stigma today that it did back then. But I would definitely see the trip to Wyoming as a grand adventure!

How would you label the overall mood of your stories: dark, gritty, poignant, sensitive, heart-warming, light, witty, humorous, adventurous?


A sneak peek into what you're working on right now?

My son and I just finished writing a seafaring novel, about a nineteenth-century merchant ship manned by women. It was great fun writing the story, and we hope to continue the saga. Right now, publishers are looking at the concept.

What do you do for a fun break if you find yourself overwhelmed with writing pressures?

Where I live, Jeopardy comes on at 3 p.m. That makes a great break for me—relaxing, enjoyable, and not too long. I also have a piece of exercise equipment near where I watch, so I can work out while watching if I want to.

Do you blog? If so, leave us the address.

I’m a regular on The formal name of the blog is Heroes, Heroines, and History. It’s presented by 31 historical fiction writers. Once a month, each of us blogs about the historical topic of her choice. My day of each month is the 23rd. In June, I blogged about the color orange, and what English-speaking people called “orange” before they knew about the fruit by that name. It’s lots of fun, and the topics are widely varied. Come see us and leave a comment. We have several giveaways each month, too, so it’s a great place to win a book by a historical fiction author.

Bonus fun questions:
Where is your favorite spot to read?

In bed, under a cozy quilt, or out on the back deck.

Author bio.

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than fifty published novels and novellas. Her historical novels have won numerous awards, including the Carol Award, the Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest. She has also been a finalist in the More than Magic Contest and Willa Literary Awards. Susan lives in western Kentucky with her husband Jim. She’s the mother of six and grandmother of nine. Visit her website at:

Book blurb.
In Blue Moon Bride, two young Easterners travel West, Ava to visit her childhood friend and Joe on business. They meet on the train and find themselves allies when they are robbed by an outlaw gang. While Ava emerges unscathed, Joe loses his job in the aftermath of the robbery. Will he land on his feet—and will he ever see Ava again? It only happens once in a blue moon.

Blue Moon Bride is available as an e-book in the Twelve Brides of Summer collection #1 for Kindle at and for Nook at

It is also found in the paperback anthology Old West Summer Brides, in Wal-Mart stores.

Susan is generously giving away either an e-book copy of Blue Moon Bride, or a paper copy of the collection it’s found in, Old West Summer Brides. Winner’s choice! Comment on the blog WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS (email at server dot com) to win.

Comment fodder:
What about you, readers? Where is YOUR favorite spot to read? 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Susan Anne Mason Interview

Hi, everyone! Please welcome Susan Anne Mason!

Hi, Sue! Give us a couple sentences describing what you write.
I write historical and contemporary inspirational romance. I describe my style as “romance sprinkled with faith” because in the midst of a wonderful romance, I love to spread God’s message of hope and love.

How would you label the overall mood of your stories: dark, gritty, poignant, sensitive, heart-warming, light, witty, humorous, adventurous?
I’d like to think of my stories as heart-warming, with some emotional angst (as is often the case when falling in love), mixed with a spiritual journey, and of course, a happily-ever-after!

What is the name of your latest book? My latest book is “Irish Meadows”, an historical romance set in 1911 New York. It’s a little different in that it chronicles two distinct romances of the O’Leary sisters.

Using any celebrity, past or present, whom would you cast as your main characters? And/Or give us a description, and we can give our own casting opinions in the comments!  Well, I have four main characters (two complete romances) in this story. I’ll concentrate on the main two. For the heroine, Brianna O’Leary, I picked actress Molly Quinn, who plays the daughter in the TV series “Castle”. With her red hair and pretty features, she definitely reminds me of Brianna. And for her love interest, Gilbert Whelan, I chose the very handsome Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) for his dark hair and blue eyes! If you like Pinterest, I have a board created for “Irish Meadows”. Here’s the link if you’d like to check it out!


What is the theme of your story and how did you come to it? Any real-life inspiration? The main theme of my story, one that all the characters struggle with in one way or another, is that of being true to oneself. It’s something that resonated with me, as I’m sure many people can attest to, the need to follow our own heart, and stay true to our own inner moral compass, even when it disappoints other significant people in our lives.

A sneak peek into what you're working on right now? I’ll be working on galleys for book 2 in the Courage to Dream series called “A Worthy Heart” which is Adam O’Leary’s story.  And I’m in the beginning stages of the third book in the series, working title “Love’s Healing Grace”. This book will chronicle Deirdre O’Leary’s journey to love, with her brother Connor finding his life’s partner along the way!

Describe your writing space. Right now it’s my kitchen table near our bay window. It’s the cheeriest spot in the house and the one with the most light! One day, I hope to have my own office (when the children fly the nest!) and will decorate it exactly how I wish!

Bonus fun questions:
Which is your favorite hot drink to sip while reading? Tea, coffee, hot cocoa, apple cider, wassail or other?    Though I drink coffee in the morning, I normally sip tea while I’m writing (or reading). My favorite is a red African tea called Rooibos.

Favorite movie for this time of year? I love romantic comedies any time of year. One of my favorites is “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Another is “Leap Year” with Amy Adams!

Author bio. 
Susan Anne Mason describes her writing style as “romance sprinkled with faith.” She particularly enjoys exploring the themes of forgiveness and redemption in her stories. Irish Meadows is her first historical novel and won the Fiction from the Heartland contest sponsored by the Mid-American Romance Author chapter of RWA.
Susan lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband, two children, and two cats. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Learn more about Susan and her books at

Irish immigrant, James O’Leary, has spent his life building Irish Meadows into a thriving horse farm and is not about to let hard economic times threaten its success. He intends for his daughters to marry prosperous men—ones who will secure the family’s rightful place in society, and at the same time, guarantee the future of Irish Meadows. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.
Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their father expects them to marry well. Yet despite his wishes, Brianna, the quieter sister, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry—as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards. When stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from college and distant family member Rylan Montgomery stops in on his way to the seminary in Boston, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Historical Quiz and Tidbits with Amanda Cabot

Little Known Bits of History
By Amanda Cabot

I promised Natalie a post about history today, but let’s start with a quiz.  Oh, you weren’t expecting that, were you?  Let’s try, anyway.  Here are a few questions to test your historical knowledge.  I’ll make it easy on you.  Instead of fill-in-the-blanks, which I hate, these are all true/false questions.

1.      Abilene was founded in 1867 as part of the Union Pacific’s expansion west.  Like most early railroad towns, it was characterized by saloons, gambling halls and so much rowdiness that it became known as “Hell on Wheels.”

2.      The Army post that was established to protect the railroad workers in Omaha is still in existence today, although it’s now an Air Force base.

3.      When it opened in 1882, Denver’s opera house was the only one west of the Mississippi.

4.      In 1883, San Francisco was the wealthiest city per capita in the world.

5.      The Inter Ocean hotel in Salt Lake City was the first anywhere to have electric lights in each of the guest rooms.

Are you ready for the answers?  Number one is false, number two is false.  In fact, they’re all false.  Surprised?  You’ll probably be more surprised to learn that if you substitute “Cheyenne” for the city names I used, the statements all become true.  Yes, in less than twenty years, Cheyenne went from a rough and tumble railroad town to become both the territorial capital and one of the wealthiest cities in the country.  That wealth brought with it many of the amenities you’d expect, including an opera house that attracted the likes of Lily Langtry, streets lined with mansions, some of which boasted their own ballrooms, and electric lights for both homes and streets.
Though Cheyenne was founded as a railroad town and though the Union Pacific, along with the territorial government were major contributors to the city’s growth, much of the wealth came from cattle.  Believe it or not, raising cattle in Wyoming came about almost by accident.  When bad timing forced one herd to remain in Wyoming rather than be driven east during the winter of 1854, the owner left, probably expecting the worst.  Instead, when he returned in the spring, he discovered that not only was his herd still intact, but the animals had thrived on the air-cured grasslands of eastern Wyoming. 
Cattle ranching grew rapidly in Wyoming Territory, in part because of the open range.  Who could resist the lure of free grazing?  The result was an influx of ranchers and cattle companies, culminating in what was called the “Great Grass Bonanza” of 1876 to 1886.  It was during that era that Cheyenne reached its pinnacle of wealth and influence, with cattle barons dominating the city’s social events.  But all things end.  Greed that led to overgrazing, and a particularly brutal winter with massive herd losses caused many of the cattle barons to declare bankruptcy during the spring of 1887.    
Depressing?  Some might say so.  I’m sure that if I’d lived in Cheyenne then, I would have been distressed by all the changes that the end of that first cattle era brought.  But as an author 125 years later, I found that final year of immense wealth and prosperity intriguing enough to use it as the background for “The Fourth of July Bride,” my story in The 12 Brides of Summer: Novella Collection #2.
So, let’s end with one more quiz:
1.      True or false: An author can find a story in almost anything.
True.  Definitely true.

The 12 Brides of Summer -- Coming July 1,2015
Fireworks start to fly as love finds its way into open hearts in the 12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection #2.

A Bride Rides Herd by Mary Connealy
Matt Reeves arrives at his brother's ranch to find Betsy Harden alone with the little girls during a cattle drive. Will the ladies be too much to handle when Matt steps in for the missing ranch hand?

The Fourth of July Bride by Amanda Cabot
Cattle baron Gideon Carlisle offers to pay for surgery that Naomi Towson's mother needs, if Naomi will enter a faux courtship with him while his mother is visiting over the fourth of July. It's a business arrangement, nothing more.

The Summer Harvest Bride by Maureen Lang
Sally Hobson is practically engaged to the mayor's son when Lukas Daughton and his family come to town to build a gristmill. She can't deny an unusual feeling growing for Lukas, but is he trustworthy?

With both parents avid readers, it's no surprise that Amanda Cabot learned to read at an early age. From there it was only a small step to deciding to become a writer. Of course, deciding and becoming are two different things, as she soon discovered. Fortunately for the world, her first attempts at fiction, which included a play for her fifth grade class entitled "All About Thermometers," were not published, but she did meet her goal of selling a novel by her thirtieth birthday. Since then she's sold more than thirty novels under a variety of pseudonyms. When she's not writing, Amanda enjoys sewing, cooking and - of course - reading. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Bride At Last by Melissa Jagears Reviewed

First of all, I want to say how happy I am that Christian romance publishers are allowing bearded heroes now. I'm a long-time fan of whiskers (on men) and immediately developed a satisfied grin after my first glimpse of this cover. If you're a fellow beard fan, check out my "Whiskers" Pinterest board. If you happen across some spectacular scruff, send it to me through Pinterest, and I'll pin it to the board and credit you with the submission. :)

The characters: 
 This hero and heroine are my favorite of Jagears' couples so far. The hero, with his tough past and his reasons for reticence stole my heart right off. And the heroine's tendency to run from issues, as well as her willingness to help others without condemning them, challenged my own attitudes.

The plot:  
This author's plots are different from any other format I've read. The beginning of A.B.A.L. starts with a bang, then the first third of the book gently develops characters and mounts the odds against them. After that, it's a wild ride of unexpected twists!

The setting:  
The overall setting stays light and never distracts from the plot or characters. Historical aspects are woven expertly into the action and dialogue.

The theme:  
"Never give up." This story has heart. A fresh look at addictions will bring hope to the struggling reader and compassion to the judgmental ones. Excellent portrayals that felt very real.

The end:  
The feeling I had after reading this book was similar to the one after reading Tamera Alexander's To Whisper Her Name. Sweet symbolism was woven throughout to bring the story a satisfying conclusion. And that epilogue!!! One of the best I've read in a while. :)

You can get your own copy from these major booksellers:

Buy from Christian Book Distributor.
Buy from GoodReads.
Buy from Books-A-Million.
Buy from Barnes and Noble.
Buy from Amazon Kindle.
Buy from Amazon.

I'm grateful to the author and publisher for providing me a paperback copy in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Top Five Tips from the Pros: How to Create Memorable Characters by Tina Radcliffe

with guest Tina Radcliffe

Memorable characters are those characters that stay with you long after you close the pages of the book. They can be heroes or villains. We can love them or hate them. But they better be memorable.

You’ll know you’ve done your job when contest judges tell you they long to read more of your story, or a reader contacts you to say please tell me what happens to that secondary character in your book. The key is to make your characters so real, that readers are invested and care.

Since I am a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel, I keep my favorite writing tips for writing memorable characters close by whenever I start a new story.

1. Michael Hauge from The Hero’s Two Journeys:

“The audience becomes the character.”

Add two or more of these qualities to your characters to make your reader care about your protagonist.

a. Make the character the victim of some undeserved misfortune.

b. Put the character in jeopardy.

c. Make the character likable.

d. Make the character funny.

e. Make the character powerful.

2. Screen writer Linda Seger’s Creating Unforgettable Characters says:
“The more successful way of developing characters is actually to create a situation in which they have to react and the way they react is the way you get to know them.”

3. Gary Provost is one of my favorite craft book authors. Here are some insights from two of his books.

How to Tell a Story: "Bring your character onto the stage and let the reader see who she is and how she feels by how she acts when alone and with others, not by what she says or thinks."

Note the message here is show, don’t tell.

Make Your Words Work: “Think about one of your favorite characters from a book who is brought to life in a movie. We know those characters inside and out. We identified with them. …identification is why we read." That shared identity.

4. From Dwight Swain’s Creating Characters: Building Story People: labels are how you help your reader to recognize your story people. More than names, labels are those special and unique characteristics that make your character memorable on the page. We judge by first impressions. So think hard before you create your character’s first and possibly their most memorable impressions.

The four dominant impressions are:

1. Sex-male or female-Especially important with gender neutral names.

2. Age-in numbers or in descriptive features (gray haired, elderly).

3. Vocation- A special noun that describes vocation.

4. Manner-What’s going on inside a character.

Now put them all together. 

Agnes Brown, the cheery waitress at the Sunset Café with the purple tinted, bouffant hair.

Can you see Agnes? I can.

Don’t let your character walk onto the stage without introducing these impressions.

5. Character, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress. Nancy gives some great tips to consider when creating our character appearance.

“A person’s appearance consists of two different aspects: those he has chosen and those he has not. “

The first things to consider are what impressions you want your character to make with their appearance.

Character description of appearance should do the following:

a. Provide a strong visual image.

b. Imply personality traits and or personal background.

c. Intrigue us about what will happen next.

Ask yourself what one thing makes each of them memorable? Can you see how the tips above were applied to create such three dimensional characters that in the reader/audiences mind these characters became real instead of fictional?

I hope these tips help the next time you sit down to create your story people.

I’ve got some real “characters” in my latest release from Love Inspired romance, Safe in the Fireman’s Arms. Check out the cover with Geek Girl, Maggie Jones and Mr. Macho, Jake MacLaughlin. Leave a comment to win a print copy. Tell us some of your favorite fictional characters from books or film.

Tina Radcliffe is a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, a 2012 ACFW Carol Award finalist, and a 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner, Tina has won first place in over twenty RWA chapter affiliated contests. Tina currently resides in Arizona where she writes inspirational romance for Harlequin Love Inspired and independently publishes sweet romances.