Darlene Franklin Interview

Give us a couple sentences describing what you write.
I write Christian romance, historical and contemporary. I find my characters often end up in difficult situations, where God’s grace and love must see them through.

How would you label the overall mood of your stories: dark, gritty, poignant, sensitive, heart-warming, raucous, light, adventurous, witty? 
Dark? No. Gritty, perhaps. I have heard them called heart-warming and sweet.

What is the name of your latest book?
The book I’m talking about today is Colorado Melodies, which is a repack of three of my books: Romanian Rhapsody, Plainsong and Knight Music.

Using any celebrity, past or present, whom would you cast as your main characters?
  • For Carrie Randolph, my na├»ve missionary working in a Romanian Orphanage: maybe a young Laura Gilbert.
  • For Steve Romero, the widower who lost his wife and child in Romania: Cary Grant
  • For Joe Knight, the art store owner with the heart of a romantic: How about Hugh Grant? Or even Errol Flynn?
  • For Michelle Morris, a romantic who can’t seem to get her life together: a young Michelle Pfeiffer
  • For Ty Knight, the family’s black sheep: Jensen Ackles
  • For Sonya Oliveira: Sofia Vergara

What is the theme of your story and how did you come to it? Any real-life inspiration?
The sub-title says it all: “Three modern couples Seek Love that will endure hardships.”
            Romanian Rhapsody is the first book of mine that was published. I took my passion—for the various nationalities that have made America their homes—and focused on orphans coming from Romania (this was back in the 90s). From there, I added elements I know very well: a musical touring group. 
            By the time I finished Carrie and Steve’s story, Michelle had appeared as a romantic, best friend, so I wrote Plainsong for her. And Sonya Oliveia appeared in that story, a talented artist whose work was stolen. She earned her story in Knight Music.  

A sneak peek into what you're working on right now?
            I just finished edits to An Apple for Christmas, part of the Christmas Traditions series which will come out in late September. I’m also nearing the end on Runaway Love, a story about a single mom and a truant officer in a small Vermont town.

Describe your writing space.
My writing space is my computer sitting on a rolling bed table. I use it either when I’m sitting or in bed.

What do you do for a break if you find yourself overwhelmed with writing pressures?
Sometimes I take care of business which doesn’t take so much out of me. (Like creating a writing schedule for my next book). Other times I write something entirely different, like poetry. Or word search, tv, reading. Finding excuses not to write.

Do you blog? If so, leave us the address.
My blog is in a bit of a hiatus for now. I’m trying to come up with a better, more consistent format.

Bonus fun question: Candy corn or S’mores? Apple cider or hot chocolate?
S’mores, of course!  Real apple cider vs. hot chocolate—that’s a tough one. Maybe ciders, because they’re hard to come by.

Author bio:
Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. She lives in Oklahoma, near her son and his family, and continues her interests in playing the piano and singing, books, good fellowship, and reality TV in addition to writing. She is an active member of Oklahoma City Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Christian Authors Network. She has written over thirty books and has written more than 250 devotionals. Her historical fiction ranges from the Revolutionary War to World War II, from Texas to Vermont. You can find Darlene online elsewhere at http://darlenehfranklinwrites.blogspot.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/Poet.Darlene.Franklin.

Book blurb:
Visit colorful Colorado through the stories of three couples longing for love’s sweet song. One couple’s compassion for orphans will either draw them closer or tear them apart. A young woman in survival mode will be swept off her feet by a true “knight.” And two people needing to rebuild their lives will find their hearts need renovated, too. Watch as these three couples’ stories intertwine with friendship, faith, and love in the presence of the majestic Rocky Mountains.

What about you, readers? Apple cider, or hot chocolate? S'mores or candy corn? 

Oooh! Let's have a virtual hotdog roast! I'm bringing the hotdogs and marshmallows! Feel free to join in and "bring" your favorite virtual bonfire foods!

Kate Middleton's Secret

Don't we all love a good fairy tale? "And they lived happily ever after" are some of my favorite words. When something special like that happens in real life, the whole world watches. 

With the announcement of a new baby, the Duchess of Cambridge is once again under the scrutiny of the world's snoopy little eyes. :)

Kate Middleton is admired all over the world for her trim figure, impeccable posture and enviable wardrobe. But those traits alone don't create the magnetism, criticism, and mimicry inspired by this lovely young lady.

What's her secret, then? Why is she so special? 

What can we learn from her?

 Let's look at some basic things we know about Kate:

1. She's royal. *snort* Well, that kills the hope of any of us "non-royals" ever truly becoming like her, doesn't it? As if there's an abundance of available, kindhearted, lonely princes in the world waiting around for that "normal girl" to sweep them off their feet. Or what if you've already found that drop-dead gorgeous love of your life and sweet heavens to Betsy you discover he's not a blue-blood! What then? Are you doomed to eternal ordinariness? Not so fast, Miss Snarky-pants. :) If you're a child of God, you have become royalty via His stellar adoption program. (John 1:12, Revelation 19:16) ***To learn more about becoming a child of God, click here.

2. She knows she's royal. Catherine lives in light of this fact every single day. From the moment she wakes in the morning to the moment she falls asleep at night, this princess business is her life. If we as Christians lived each second of our lives in the light of our royal redemption, I mean really patterned our life around that truth, how would we live differently? How would we feel differently about ourselves and others?

3. She loves the people.  Now, I don't keep up with European politics as religiously as others I know, so I'm no expert. But Kate seems to truly care about her kingdom. Here's where it gets tricky for us. Christ says for us to love each other in John 13:34. And as God loves the people of the world (John 3:16), so should we, because we are to be like Him. But other people won't always love us. As with everyone who tries to stand for anything, there will be criticism. I'm sure Kate faces it daily. But she keeps serving, because it's her job, and because she loves her prince. :) Which segues nicely into the next point.
4. She's loved by a prince. Haven't you seen the pics of them together? He adores her, and she knows it. She's confident in his love for her. We, too, can be confident our Prince of Peace loves us--Jeremiah 31:3 & Zephaniah 3:17. 

So yeah, these things make her special, but what is her secret?


Come a little closer. 


*whispers*  She's real. 

Now, I know what you're thinking... "What? That's the big secret? Natalie, it's time for a reality check. WE ALREADY KNEW THAT, CRACKERJACK." 

Okay, not "real" as in opposed to fake or make-believe. What I mean is, she started out as an ordinary girl. She's relatable. That's the secret. That's what makes her special. 

Why? Because she brings into reality the fantastic dream that we don't have to be born "royal" for someone royal to love us. That maybe, just maybe, we can be loved just as we are, in spite of our not starting out perfect.

In other words, she makes every other ordinary girl feel like we could be a princess, too.

You know what? We can. God has made a way for each and every person to be "joint-heirs with Christ." Anyone can be royalty!

B-b-but... If just any old gal (or guy) can be royal through Christ, doesn't that take away the specialness? Nope. Because the specialness isn't determined by how many of us there are. The specialness comes from Him to whom we belong, Who loves us. :) He is what's special, and He loves us individually. That, in turn, makes us special. 

What about you? When you were little, did you dream of becoming a princess or at least enjoy princess stories? What did you enjoy most about them? Fancy dresses? The rags-to-riches tales? Princes? The way baddies always got their comeuppance? Fairies? Castles? Adventure?

Tweet It!

Kate Middleton's Secret, via @nataliedmonk. Click to tweet.

Happily Ever Afters For Free, via @nataliedmonk. Click to tweet. 

Can Fairy Tales Happen In 2014? Asks @nataliedmonk. Click to tweet.

*This post was written for educational and entertainment purposes and does not in any way intend to religify British royalty or determine their personal beliefs. This content is simply used for a word-picture comparison, to bring encouragement. And maybe a good laugh.

Cooking Up Characters


1 fun personality
1 backstory wound
1 corresponding, life-crippling fear
1 catalyst for redemption

Mix and let set until plot idea forms. Write story. Synopsis optional (Ha! Don't we wish?)

How many of you love to cook? How many love reading? (Well, duh, Natalie.) How many of you like reading about characters who love to cook? Me! Me! *raising my hand*

Valor Hill, the heroine from my current manuscript, loves to bake sweets. Savory dishes? Not so much, especially if it involves chopping raw meat or any such distasteful chore. But, in honor of her passion for baking, I have included at the end of the post a modern kitchen tip for cleaning your electric mixer--something Valor would've loved to use. She (and my great great grandma) had to beat all her batters with something akin to one of these contraptions:

Also, the oven Valor uses in Heart of Valor is an Elmira wood stove like this one (in the scene, she's using the hero's mother's stove):
Price of Goods in 1870s according to the University of Washington:

Flour - $0.04/lb.
Sugar - $0.10/lb.
Molasses - $0.15/gallon
Lard - $0.06/lb.
Butter - $0.15/lb.
Coffee - $0.12/lb.
Cookstove - $25.00
Cheese - $0.05/lb.
Rice - $0.05/lb.
Fresh Apples - 2 for $0.05
Dried Apples - $0.10/lb.
House (32' x 40', 4 rooms) -- $700
Wagon -- $65
Lantern -- $1
Kerosene -- $0.15/gallon
Coal -- about $80/year

According to some rough approximations by mykindred.com, the value of $1 in 1878 would be equal to about $22.50 in 2010. The 2010 dollar value in 1878 would be equal to about $0.44.

That would be like us paying $11 or $12 for a 5 lb. bag of sugar, but "only" about $4.50 for a 5 lb. bag of flour. Interesting, huh?

Okay, here's the modern kitchen tip for you:


Get a large cup of soapy water and "mix" it with the mixer on high. Beaters will be clean in seconds. Ta da!
(Please ignore my rusty old beaters. I'm pretty sure that's a health hazard.)

Have you lately read about any characters that cook?

What's your most favorite character quirk you've read so far?

What is a job you'd like to see written about as a character's occupation (historical and/or modern)?

Meet Mary Hamilton

Give us a couple sentences describing what you write.
I write contemporary coming of age novels that are aimed at 10-15 year olds. They’re set at a Christian youth camp and feature mostly male characters who are dealing with family and peer relationships.

How would you label the overall mood of your stories?
I’d call them heart-warming and hopeful, with a bit of adventurous thrown in for good measure.

What is the name of your latest book?
My latest book is Speak No Evil. It’s the second book in the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series.

What is the theme of your story and how did you come to it?
One theme of Speak No Evil is to look deeper than the outer appearance. Taylor, a 15 yr. old boy has a reputation for being a bully. But that tough outer shell protects a hurting, insecure heart. The one person who believes in him is his sister, whose adventurous spirit keeps landing him in trouble. It’s not until someone else sees the good in his heart, and believes in him in spite of overwhelming evidence, that he recognizes what his need for God to cleanse him and give him a new start.

A sneak peek into what you're working on right now?
I’m working on the third book in the series, titled See No Evil. It’s an interesting title because the main character is a 17 yr. old young man who is blind.

Describe your writing space.
I write in several places. I have a desk and comfortable chair in an upstairs bedroom where I go when I really need to concentrate and not be distracted. But I occasionally write at the dining room table, standing up at the kitchen counter, or sitting out on my patio.

Do you work a "day job?" Is there a secret/technique you’ve found that helps with balancing the writing and working life?
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost 28 years. My kids are grown now so I don’t have the tug of war between family and work. But I find writing on deadline very stressful because I’m a slow writer. I’m looking forward to completing the Rustic Knoll series so I can have a life again. At least until the next idea strikes!

Do you blog? If so, leave us the address.
I don’t blog regularly, but I do have one on my website: www.maryhamiltonbooks.com

Now the fun stuff... :)

On a dream research trip, where would you go? What would you ask to see/experience first?
This has nothing to do with what I’m writing now, but I would go to the British Isles and explore every part of them. I’ve always been fascinated by castles, so that’s what I’d initially want to experience.

When you read, do you prefer paperback, e-book, or audio? Why?
I’m not much for audio books, although I did enjoy one I received as a trial. I like e-books when I’m reading for fun, but for instructional books or authors whose writing style I really enjoy, I prefer paperback so I can underline and mark spots I want to remember.

Author bio.
Mary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp in southern Wisconsin, much like the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. While raising her own three children, she was active in her church’s youth ministry, hosting small group Bible studies and pancake suppers. One summer, she even volunteered as a camp counselor for a week—and decided once was enough.
When not writing, Mary enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors. She and her husband make their home in Texas with a rescued Golden Retriever.

Book blurb.
Having his younger sister at camp was a pain, but Taylor Dixon never expected the pain would go so deep.
At 15, Taylor dreams of getting his driver’s license and driving racecars when he’s older. Only his younger sister, Marissa, believes in his dreams, but her adventurous spirit keeps landing him in trouble. Dad won’t let Taylor get his license unless he stays out of trouble, and predicts he’s heading for the same jail cell as his once-favored older brother.
Taylor returns to Rustic Knoll Bible Camp, expecting softball, swimming and sermons. Then he discovers a classic Mustang in the camp’s machine shed, and the owner’s invitation to help restore it fuels his dream of driving race cars. But when Marissa falls for his snobbish cabin mate, the ensuing war of words and pranks escalates until it threatens to destroy both the car and his dreams for the future.
Will Taylor fulfill Dad’s prediction?
Or will the message of the old Mustang’s engine set him free from the prison he built himself?
To view a book trailer go to: http://tinyurl.com/on44xf4

Which of these things can readers can do to help spread the word about this book?
Word of mouth,
Amazon.com/Goodreads reviews,
Blog posts,
Tweets/Facebook posts,
Like the author's Facebook page, follow on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads,
If you win/buy a copy, post a pic with the book,
Repin book quotes or cover art from the author on Pinterest.com,
Recommend to a library or book club, or start one with this book.
All of these are great suggestions. I’d add one more: if your church has a library, or your kids attend a private school, buy this book and donate it. Thank you!
You can connect with me here:

Thanks Mary!

Trying Fan Fiction

It started with a necklace.

Actually, it started with a book... Okay, it started way before that, but for the sake of brevity--it started with a necklace.

I wanted the replica of Jonathan Tarquinias' ivory horse head necklace, and I wanted it bad. (Why? Read Chasing the Lion to find out.)

So when I saw author Nancy Kimball wearing one in a photo, I asked where I could purchase one of these necklaces. She said "Nuh-uh, girl, you're going to have to work for it." Haha! No, not really--she's a sweet lady. But she did mention she was giving away one of the necklaces in her upcoming fanfic contest.

Write fan fiction?
What? It'd be way too hard. There's no way I could get into the characters' heads enough to be believable. After all, these people came out of someone else's head, not mine. I'd fail epically, then be laughed permanently out of Wannabe Writer Land.

But, aaaaggghhh, I wanted that necklace! So I decided to try.

I reread half the book (Which was a pleasure--since picking up the quill, I seldom get to reread books I love. This gave me the perfect excuse.). I steeped myself in the provided backstory. Researched Roman vases and looked up words in Latin. Wrote a horrible draft that was WAY too short. Revised. Revised again. Edited. And WOAH, word count overflow. Trim trim trim. Snagged a proofread. Sent the entry. Whew!

Waiting thoughts: Prolly won't even final. Nancy's writing's amazing. I know she has lots of writer friends, and if they write half as good as she does, I won't have a chance. At least I'll have fun reading the winning entry and seeing how other writers represent Nancy's characters.

So I mosey over to:

What in the world?!

Is that my face? Is that MY entry???


I'm a little woozy over this news and the lack of my usual Sunday nap, so this post may read like an 8-year-old's diary, but I wanted to share my first fanfic experience with y'all. Fanfiction-ing was fun! 

Now I'm off to listen to the audiobook, narrated by Joseph Narducci--y'all, he is SO Jonathan.

BTW, Chasing the Lion is only $3.99 on Kindle as of 8.10.14! 

Full Steam Ahead Review

A few short thoughts on Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer:


This story starts with a bang (literally) and draws you into the plot. Darius Thornton and Nicole Renard don't meet until well into the story, but the payoff was definitely worth staying with it.

The faith thread, as well as the romance, is sweetly beautiful.

The hero/heroine combo is delightful:
Pirate-princess secretary meets deeply wounded, propriety-flouting gentleman scientist.

This hero broke free of every character cliche I've ever read. Darius is just chock full of contradictions. Gentle, but intense. Wounded, but so strong. Protective, but entrusting. Curious and cautious. Clean and unkempt. Taking on the world's problems while shirking his own responsibility. Annoyingly determined. Dangerous. Delightful.

His perfect complement, Nicole was a gutsy, running off by herself, protecting everyone at her own risk, females can do anything kind of girl. I've seen quite a few of these types recently, but happily, despite her opposition to the view of womanhood held by society in the 1830s and 40s, she remains decidedly feminine. Bravo, Mrs. Witemeyer! Also, Nicole's willingness to sacrifice for those she loves and her ability to bring healing to the hero was a beautiful thing to behold.

Random Reading Facts: 
  • While reading, I sensed nuances of both Pride and Prejudice and Beauty and the Beast.
  • Also, I kept picturing Darius as Tom Hiddleston a la Cransford, which makes no sense, since I haven't watched that in a while and Darius doesn't exactly look the same, but there you have it.
  • Nicole's name and irrepressible spirit reminded me strongly of Drew Barrymore's character Danielle in Ever After.
  • I kept closing the book to scowl at the cover--Darius is blonde.
  • On page--er, I forgot what page it was (and can't go find it, because I just loaned the book to my BFF), but somewhere in the middle of the book, on the lower right-hand page, is a smudge of caramelly praline goodness. I had made a praline graham cracker treat and was so into the story, I forgot to lick the caramel off my finger before turning the page. :) (Sorry, BFF!)

Back Cover Blurb:

          When love simmers between a reclusive scientist and a wealthy debutante, will they abandon ship or is it full steam ahead?

          Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas, to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole's father has always focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.
          Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it's too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father's rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole's plans.
          After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.
          Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father's rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family's legacy?

*** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. ***

Have you read Full Steam Ahead? What did you think of it? What are you reading now?

Mary L. Ball Interview

Hi, Mary! Thanks for visiting us today! 

Why don't you start by describing what you write.
I write Inspirational fiction, mystery, suspense, and romance.

How would you label the overall mood of your stories: dark, gritty, poignant, sensitive, heart-warming, raucous, light, fresh, funny, educational, adventurous, witty, passionate, reminiscent, sweet, forceful, eye-opening?
Hallmark stories laced with the faith and the Lord’s mercy. 

What is the name of your latest book?

Stone of Destiny. 

What is the theme of your story and how did you come to it?
The theme is having faith through prayer. It really came about in an odd way. My grandson likes to read all those magic books. One day I passed him reading and  thought, “I need to write about God’s wonderfully, mysterious ways.” 

A sneak peek into what you're working on right now?
Before Christmas, I signed another contract with my publisher. We’ll soon begin the editing process. Below is the blurb.

Redemption in Big Fork Lake

What happens when an addiction takes over?

Only after Robert Turner attempts to hurt someone does he realize how much of a hold alcohol has on his life.
For Robert, a chance meeting with an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor offers hope.
A new devotion to the Lord and a relationship with Belle McBride gives him expectations for a better future.

His life appears to be on the right track, until he comes full circle with his past and faces the one mistake that haunts him daily. Can forgiveness-free Robert or will he return to the life he once had?

Wow! That premise resonates with me, because the hero of my historical WIP faces the same issue. Very needful subject these days. 
Now, about you. Do you work a job other than writing? Is there a secret/technique you’ve found that helps with balancing the writing and working life?
Yes and no-I don’t work in a public job, but I keep my grandchildren and I’m a part-time caregiver for my eighty-one year old mother. My technique isn’t one at all. I write when I can, as I can. Sometimes, it’s a few hours a day, or I go several days and only write a few paragraphs.    

When you read, do you prefer paperback, e-book, or audio? Why?
I read both paperback and e-Books. I love paperbacks. The feel of the pages takes me back to an easier time, but with my busy schedule there are times when I wouldn’t be without my e-reader. I can read while waiting at appointments and don’t have to worry about remembering my books. 

I completely agree! Thanks for coming, Mary!

About the Author:
Mary L. Ball enjoys weaving together Inspirational fiction novels blended with romance.
Mary lives in North Carolina and weaves together stories that she hopes will encourage people to see the wonder of love and a divine guidance that often lies dormant, waiting to be found.
When she’s not writing Mary enjoys fishing, reading, and hiking.

Stone of Destiny Book Blurb):

Taylor has given up on everything but her work. After becoming the youngest CEO of Mugful’s Beverage Company, she believes life is complete--until her grandmother asks her to oversee the renovations of the family home, in addition to searching for a missing heirloom.

Her first contact with what she believes is an insignificant ring, lost for fifty years, sends her life spinning. Taylor experiences strange, unexpected feelings that she doesn't understand. Thoughts that should remain unspoken are voiced.

Taylor’s emotional journey begins, testing a heart as cold as the ring itself and forcing her to question everything she believes.

Is this a fairytale, or simply her soul reaching out for a different world--a life she can only find through faith and a divine trust in God?

Where can readers find you and your books online?

To follow Mary on her blog, click here:
Like Mary's Facebook page:

Follow Mary on Twitter: https://twitter.com/inspires4mary