Author Archives: Janet Sketchley

About Janet Sketchley

Janet Sketchley is an Atlantic Canadian writer whose Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense novels have each been finalists in The Word Awards. She's also the author of the devotional collection, A Year of Tenacity. Janet blogs about faith and books. She loves Jesus and her family, and enjoys reading, worship music, and tea. Fans of Christian suspense are invited to join her writing journey through her monthly newsletter: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews.

Interview: K.L. Ditmars, Canadian author

Author K.L. Ditmars

K. L. (Kelly) Ditmars is a Canadian writer of inspirational fiction, whose debut novel, All That it Takes, released January 2021. The opening chapters of All That it Takes won a Word Award in 2020 in the unpublished fiction category—a promising endorsement!

Welcome, Kelly, and congratulations on your new release! What is your book about?

My book is a fictional story about Julia Bowen whose husband is murdered.  As she navigates her grief she discovers that he died at the hands of a human trafficking ring which she attempts to expose. It is also about her spiritual journey and how the people that help her in her efforts against the trafficking ring also help her come into relationship with God.

What sort of research did you need to do for a subject like this?

To realistically address the issue of human trafficking, I read a lot of books about the human trafficking issue in Canada.

I also have friends who have worked in anti-human trafficking efforts for decades, so I was able to draw on their experience through interviews.

One of the main characters lives on a boat. I live on an island where a segment of the population lives aboard their boats, it wasn’t too difficult to find friends of friends to interview.

Two characters in the story were veterans of the Canadian military service and shared an experience as peacekeepers during the Rwanda genocide. To research this, I read a lot. Two specific books written by General Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the peacekeeping mission during the genocide, regarding his experience in Rwanda and dealing with post-traumatic stress: Shake Hands with the Devil and Waiting for First Light.

This list is just a tip of the iceberg of research resources I used while writing my book. But it is a good start for anyone looking to read more: https://klditmarswriter.com/resources.

Do you remember the first germ of idea for All That it Takes?

Most definitely. The beginning of this story came from a dream. In this dream I was fleeing from a friend’s house into the forest behind their home. Of course, when I woke up, I had no idea why I was fleeing. I immediately wrote it down. A month later I had written 52,000 words and had a rough first draft of All That it Takes.

Wow, that’s a fast start! Do you have a favorite character in the story?

Yes, Charlie is my favorite character, I had fun writing him and using him as a vehicle to share God’s love. A close second is Angus, the Irish wolfhound.

Glad I’m not the only writer who loves the animal characters as well as the humans. I see this is book one in the Where Can I Go? series. Will the next book continue Julia’s story or what connects the books in the series?

Yes, the next book will continue Julia’s story as she helps bring the human trafficking ring to justice. It will also be a thriller based around the real battle faced by law enforcement and the legal establishment to charge and convict human traffickers. The whole series not only sees Julia’s efforts against human trafficking, but also her spiritual journey, as she discovers a God who is present through it all. Her spiritual journey begins with an introduction to faith in God and coming to the understanding that God is with us and we are never apart from him. Even though we may not realize his presence, it is always there.

His presence makes all the difference. Can you share any special God moments you experienced working on this project?

I wrote a lot of Charlie’s faith journey from my own experience and when I did it caused me to look back at my own life and see God’s hand. I think writing this story was an affirmation of God’s faithfulness in my own life.

How long have you been writing? And what got you started?

I have memories of writing stories when I was a little girl, of course I don’t have any of those early scribblings, I’ve moved too many times in my life for them to have survived successive purges. A lot of my early writing experiences involved writing stage plays in church. It was my church youth group and creative ministry departments at the churches I’ve attended throughout my life that encouraged and fostered this aspect of creativity in my life.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

I still feel I am a beginning writer as this is my debut novel.  I guess I would say, keep writing, keep improving your craft. Take classes, learn from people and authors you admire and who are further ahead in the publishing journey. Go to conferences and mingle with fellow writers and authors.

Figure out what you have to do to make it a reality. I remember when I went to my very first writers conference in 2015,  I had a reality check regarding all the things on top of writing that an author has to do. It’s a little daunting and overwhelming at times but basically, it’s an ever-evolving machine to not just write books and stories but also to make sure that they come to be noticed out there in the world and to find their place on the shelf next to other writers.

Wise words. Thank you. Is there a particular song or scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Worship music for me is a huge influencer. Worshipping God and loving him through music and declaring his worthiness of his place in my life has always been a vehicle to really hear him speak to me. It puts me in a place where I can hear his voice and seek direction and just nurture that love relationship with him. So, no one song in particular, just the act of worship has made a difference.

There is one verse from Deuteronomy that seems to come to mind more often than any other.  Chapter 5 verse 29; “Oh that there were such a heart in them that they would fear me and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!” I come back to this verse quite often when I struggle with bad choices that I’ve made and circumstances I find myself in. It grounds me in knowing God has my best in mind, and always will. His commandments are there to give me direction and purpose, that I might live the best life possible and be an example and hopefully influence those around me.

I can hear God’s yearning over us in that verse. Now, for something a little lighter, to finish: Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or tea?

Definitely chocolate and definitely tea.

I have always loved chocolate.

As far as coffee goes, I have never developed a taste for it. I have had sips of coffee throughout my life but could never get past the bitterness.

It was only in my early 50s when I actually had my first cup of coffee. I was in Bulgaria and visiting a monastery with a group and we were offered coffee. I have been a missionary and we were taught that if someone offers you something you graciously accept it. So, that afternoon in Bulgaria, sitting in the courtyard of a beautiful monastery, I drank my first cup of coffee. I even took a picture to prove it. It was thick Turkish coffee, but served in a small demitasse cup and laden with sugar, which helped me finish it. I can still taste that bitter flavor to this day, and I hope I never have to drink another cup of coffee again.

Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

The mountains, ocean and the mild climate on the west coast. I grew up in northwestern Ontario, and lived a number of years in Alberta, so I have experienced the frozen Canadian winter for much of my life. The rainforest climate here, despite the cloudy wet days in winter, make a lush green background to living that I am enjoying at this point in my life. My mother use to always say, ‘you don’t have to shovel rain.’

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever done?

I think the most unusual thing I’ve ever done involves travel. I’ve been a missionary and lived and traveled to a number of countries, but in 2012 during my undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria, I went to Bulgaria. I participated in a three-week field school in which we documented, through photography and drawing, frescoes in medieval churches in the Balkan mountains. It was fascinating and educational and in a part of the world that I had never been to and I still long to return to.

Where can readers find you?

I have a website www.klditmarswriter.com where you can learn about my books and my writing journey.

Author Bio:

K. L. (Kelly) Ditmars was born in Kakabeka Falls, ON Canada, and has lived in several provinces since. She has lived and traveled to several countries both as a Christian Missionary and as a curious human soul. To support her traveling habit, she has worked in various industries and occupations throughout her life, from part-time catering to clerking in the Supreme Court of BC. Kelly completed a degree in Medieval Studies at the University of Victoria. She now lives in Victoria, BC where the adventure of life and her writing continues. All That is Takes is her debut novel.

Kelly loves to connect with her readers. You can find her on the following platforms.

www.klditmarswriter.com

Instagram

Facebook – I have a private Facebook Group called Readers of K.L. Ditmars. I have a live event every Sunday (6:00 pm Pacific) where I talk about my writing journey. This is a new platform for me and I am enjoying this new means of engagement with my readers. Readers can join it via my Author page, through the link provided.

ORDERING INFORMATION:

All That it Takes is available to order through your local independent bookstore (with the exception of Chapters/Indigo in Canada).

Book details:

Title: ALL THAT IT TAKES

Author: K. L. DITMARS

ISBN: 9781777410100 (paperback); 9781777410117 (ebook)

ONLINE ORDER LINKS:
Amazon.ca – Kindle & Paperback
Chapters/Indigo KOBO – eReader – Canada
Amazon.com – Kindle & Paperback
Barnes & Noble – Nook eReader & Paperback USA
Amazon.co.uk – Kindle & Paperback
Amazon.com.au (Australia) – Kindle & Paperback
Angus & Robertson ebooks – Australia

New Releases in Christian Fiction (February 2021)

February 2021 New Releases from Members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website 

 


Historical Romance:


The Paris Dressmaker
by Kristy Cambron — From fashion to desperation and haute couture to the perils of humanity, The Paris Dressmaker weaves a story of two worlds colliding years apart—where satin and lace stand between life and death in the brutal underbelly of a war-torn world. (Historical Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan))

 


A Change of Scenery by Davalynn Spencer — A motorcar accident on a rainy Chicago night steals Ella Canaday’s fiancé as well as her ability to ride. Clinging to the remnants of her independence, she cuts her hair and her ties with her wealthy father and takes a train west as the seamstress with a moving-picture company. Colorado offers the change of scenery she needs. But she doesn’t expect the bold cowboy who challenges her to reclaim both the loves she thought she’d lost forever. (Historical Romance from Wilson Creek Publishing)


A Dance in Donegal
by Jennifer Deibel — All of her life, Irish-American Moira Doherty has relished her mother’s descriptions of Ireland. When her mother dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1920, Moira decides to fulfill her mother’s wish that she become the teacher in Ballymann, her home village in Donegal, Ireland. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)


Vanessa’s Replacement Valentine by Linda Shenton Matchett — Engaged to be married as part of a plan to regain the wealth her family lost during the War Between the States, Vanessa Randolph finds her fiancé in the arms of another woman weeks before the wedding. Money holds no allure for her, so rather than allow her parents to set her up with another rich bachelor she decides to become a mail-order bride. Life in Green Bay, Wisconsin seems to hold all the pieces of a fresh start until she discovers her prospective groom was a Union spy and targeted her parents during one of his investigations. Is her heart safe with any man? (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)


When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin — Evelyn Brand is an American foreign correspondent determined to prove her worth in a male-dominated profession and to expose the growing tyranny in Nazi Germany. To do so, she must walk a thin line. If she offends the government, she could be expelled from the country—or worse. If she does not report truthfully, she’ll betray the oppressed and fail to wake up the folks back home. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Contemporary:


The Orchard House by Heidi Chiavaroli — Two women, one living in present day Massachusetts and another in Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House soon after the Civil War, overcome their own personal demons and search for a place to belong. (General Contemporary from Tyndall House)


The Way it Should Be by Christina Suzann Nelson — Can there be healing after addiction takes its toll on a family? (General Contemporary from Bethany House (Baker) Publishing)


Bridges
by Deborah Raney — Facing an empty nest for the first time since the death of her husband, Dan, three years ago, Tess Everett immerses herself in volunteer work for the Winterset public parks, home of the famous covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa. But when former resident J.W. McRae shows up at one of the bridges with paintbrushes and easel, sparks fly—because J.W. was once married to Tess’s late friend Char. Worse, J.W. was a deadbeat dad to Char’s son, Wynn—then a college student—who Tess and Dan took under their wings after his mom’s death. (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

Mystery:


Death and a Crocodile
by Lisa E. Betz — Sensible women don’t investigate murders, but Livia Aemilia might not have a choice.

Rome, 46 AD. When Livia’s father dies under suspicious circumstances, she sets out to find the killer before her innocent brother is convicted of murder. She may be an amateur when it comes to hunting dangerous criminals, but she’s determined, intelligent, and not afraid to break a convention or two in pursuit of the truth. (Historical Mystery from CrossLink Publishing)

Thriller/Romance/Suspense:


Tides of Duplicity by Robin Patchen — Private investigator Fitz McCaffrey went to Belize on a case, bringing his teenage sister Shelby along with him. They have no good reason to leave the resort and hurry back to the harsh New England winter. They lost their parents, he lost his job as a cop, and they both need time to heal. Besides, when Fitz meets and spends time with the beautiful and charming Tabitha Eaton, he falls hard. But minutes after Tabby’s flight leaves, Fitz is summoned by a mobster who believes Tabby broke into the hotel safe the night before and made off with half a million dollars’ worth of jewels. The clock is ticking as Fitz scrambles to recover the jewels. If he succeeds, it’ll cost the woman he’s come to care for. If he fails, it’ll cost his sister’s life. (Thriller/Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Glimmer in the Darkness
by Robin Patchen — Cassidy Leblanc worked hard to shake off her tragic childhood. As a foster child with a mother in prison for murder, she was an outcast in her small New Hampshire town until she met James. But she and James’s sister, whom she was babysitting, were kidnapped. She escaped, but Hallie didn’t survive, and everybody assumed Cassidy killed her. Like mother, like daughter, after all. With public opinion and the authorities united against her, young Cassidy fled. Now, a decade later, another little girl has been kidnapped, and Cassidy may be the only person who can find her. (Thriller/Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Obsession by Patricia Bradley — Natchez Trace Ranger and historian Emma Winters hoped never to see Sam Ryker again after she broke off her engagement to him. But when shots are fired at her at a historical landmark just off the Natchez Trace, she’s forced to work alongside Sam as the Natchez Trace law enforcement district ranger in the ensuing investigation. To complicate matters, Emma has acquired a delusional secret admirer who is determined to have her as his own. Sam is merely an obstruction, one which must be removed. (Thriller/Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)


Ben in Charge
by Luana Ehrlich — Operation Concerned Citizen will be Ben’s first assignment as the primary officer in charge of a mission. When Titus learns it’s a simple mission with a clear objective but requires a complicated plan, he questions whether Ben will be able to handle it. When he discovers there are underlying circumstances, he questions whether he’ll be able to let Ben handle it. When the simple mission proves difficult, Titus discovers he’s not the man he thought he was, and he’s not the man he wants to be. He’s a man learning to live out his faith while living in the shadows, and sometimes those shadows aren’t shadows at all.
(Thriller/Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Amish Romance:


The Heart Knows the Way Home by Christy Distler — Janna and Luke, a widower struggling to balance business and family responsibilities, reacquaint as Janna assists his grandmother and cares for his son. Her self-protective independence and his conservative principles put them at odds, but the difficulties they face draw them closer.
When long-lost friendship rekindles into unexpected love, will either be willing to make changes so they can be together? (Romance: Amish from Avodah Books)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

Writing Home by Amy R. Anguish, As they grow closer through their written words, the miles between them seem to grow wider. Can love cross the distance and bring them home? (Contemporary Romance)

The Rancher’s Legacy by Susan Page Davis, Matt Anderson’s father and their neighbor devise a plan: Have their children marry and merge the two ranches. The only problem is, Rachel Maxwell has stated emphatically that will never happen. (Historical Romance)

A Heart’s Gift by Lena Nelson Dooley, Is a marriage of convenience the answer to their needs? (Historical Romance)

Daisy’s Decision by Hallee Bridgeman, She soon finds herself in a full-blown relationship with hearts on the line. She can’t keep her secret much longer. Daisy has a decision to make. (Contemporary Romance),

A New York Yankee on Stinking Creek by Carol McClain, Two women. Two problems. Each holds the key to the other’s freedom. (Contemporary)

The Amish Baker’s Rival by Marie E. Bast, Amish baker Mary Brenneman is furious when handsome Englischer Noah Miller opens up a bakery right across from hers. Now she must win a local baking contest just to stay in business—and beat know—it—all Noah. But somewhere along the way, Noah and Mary’s kitchen wars are quickly warming into something more. (Contemporary Romance/Amish)

Rekindled from Ashes by Cindy M. Amos, Based on the true story of the Starbuck fire of 2017 that ravaged western Kansas–and area ranchers who demonstrated vulnerable resiliency in its aftermath. Strength for the day…with eyes on the Almighty. (Contemporary Romance)

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Review: All the Devils are Here, by Louise Penny

All the Devils are Here, by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books / St. Martin’s Press, 2020)

Armand Gamache is one of my fictional heroes. As a homicide investigator he has seen more darkness than most, but he also believes that, to quote the author, “goodness exists.” Perhaps that’s why I’m so fond of him and comforted by his presence on the page. I’ve grown fond of the other recurring characters too.

This is the one series I’ve persisted in reading despite the profanity and the times when the darkness gets a little too grim for me. In their own ways they’re stories of hope. Of second chances, restored relationships. Light in the darkness.

The context of the title is the Shakespearean quote, “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”

The Gamache novels are mysteries with a strong focus on the characters. This time, instead of the serene and peaceful Quebec village of Three Pines, All the Devils are Here is set in Paris. A reader who knows the city will find an extra bonus, as the author has gone to great lengths to familiarize herself with the subtle nuances that bring it to life on the page.

Another thing I appreciate about this book is the evocative language. Some of my favourite lines:

Where else would you find darkness but right up against the light? What greater triumph for evil than to ruin a garden? It wouldn’t be the first time. [Chapter 1, 1%]

What’re you going to focus on? What’s unfair, or all the wonderful things that happen? Both are true, both are real. Both need to be accepted. But which carries more weight with you? [Chapter 1, 2%]

Séverine Arbour stood at the door, her face set in a pleasant smile with a base note of smoky resentment and a hint of smug. [Chapter 2, 4%]

Until he saw the stain on the floor. And the outline of the body. Like skin around a hollow man. [Chapter 31, 63%]

All the Devils are Here is the 16th Gamache novel. This is a series you could start here, but it’s well worth beginning at the beginning. That way you’ll understand the character relationship nuances. For more about bestselling author Louise Penny, visit louisepenny.com.

[Electronic review copy from the public library.]

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Just Write! (Guest Post)

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Just Write!

By Steph Beth Nickel

Some of the best writing advice I ever received …

Even before you know exactly what you want to write, you have to get the words on paper. Just write!

I have four manuscripts partially completed: a devotional on the gospel of John, a contemporary women’s fiction novel, a YA fantasy, and a memoir I’m coauthoring.

While niching down has its place and is well worth the effort, waiting until you’re 100 percent sure what you want to create for the long haul pretty much guarantees you won’t hit PUBLISH (or pitch an agent) on any project.

So, consider this your invitation to write … just write!

Here are some suggestions to inspire you:

  1. Pick up that book of writing prompts that has been sitting on your shelf gathering dust. Open it to any random page … and write.
  2. Scan photos online until you find one that inspires you and go for it.
  3. Make a list of all the topics you’d like to write about. Obscure? No problem. No market? It doesn’t matter at this point. Plus, you might be surprised. Don’t think you have what it takes? Tell your inner critic you’ll get back to her later—much later!
  4. Create a list of your favourite genres, authors, writing styles …
  5. Choose a topic and a genre … and write! (You don’t have to know everything about the genre. There’ll be plenty of time to polish in subsequent drafts.) Or you may want to …
  6. Create an outline for your project before you begin to write. (Discovery writers [aka pantsers] prefer a simple scaffolding at most. Plotters will want to include more details but can get caught up in “perfecting” the outline before they even start. At some point, both types of individuals must take a deep breath and begin to write.)
  7. Allow the story or nonfiction project to flow—even if it does so in spurts and starts. Bullet points. Notes to self (i.e.: insert character name here). Skipping around in the story. (I’ve written an epilogue for a novel that isn’t finished yet.) If you run into a roadblock, these and other methods are 100 percent acceptable “fillers.”
  8. Try your hand at something you’ve never written before. I wrote 40K of a YA fantasy novel back in November for NaNoWriMo. I wondered if I had what it took to write fantasy, but I figured, Why not? And I’m having lots of fun.
  9. If you’re writing to deadline for a traditional publisher with specific guidelines, you have a responsibility to fulfill your obligations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore other genres, other writing forms, that idea you’ve long buried at the back of your mind (or in the bottom of your drawer) …
  10. Writing can be both a job and a creative outlet, but don’t let the business side of things squelch the joy you feel from simply putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. JUST WRITE!

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Picks from 2020

Graphic credit: Goodreads


Seventy books is a reduction in reading for me, and I’m happy about that. It allowed more time in a crazy pandemic year for knitting, jigsaw puzzles, baking, and other comforting activities. Plus I read more nonfiction in 2020 and that takes longer.

Here are the books I’ve most enjoyed last year. Some were produced in 2020, some previously. Pop a note into the comments with your own favourites?

My top picks from 2020:

Book of the year (fiction): Set the Stars Alight, by Amanda Dykes

Book of the year (nonfiction): Letters to the Church, by Francis Chan

Christian living: 
Fiercehearted, by Holley Gerth
Forgotten God, by Francis Chan
Get Out of Your Head, by Jennie Allen

Mystery/suspense novel: 
A Dream of Death, (Kate Hamilton Mysteries #1), by Connie Berry
All the Devils are Here (Armand Gamache #16), by Louise Penny

Science fiction novel:
Chaos Rising (Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy #1), by Timothy Zahn
Ghost Riders in the Sky, by Timothy Zahn

Series re-read: The Quadrail series, by Timothy Zahn

Favourite re-read: The Icarus Hunt, by Timothy Zahn

New Releases in Christian Fiction (January 2021)

January 2021 New Releases from Members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Contemporary:

 


A Future for His Twins
by Susanne Dietze — Will these children get their greatest wish? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


For the Love of Joy
by Janet W. Ferguson — When she’s suddenly injured with not a soul to help her or her son, Joy is forced to rely on the man who has the most reasons to hate her. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

An Unexpected Arrangement by Heidi McCahan — He needed a fresh start, but twin babies weren’t part of the plan… (Contemporary Romance, Love Inspired [Harlequin])


An Unlikely Proposal
by Toni Shiloh — For these two best friends, marriage could be their greatest test yet. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

 

Historical:

 


All Through the Night
by Tara Johnson — When Joshua and Cadence unearth the workings of a secret society so vile, the course of their lives, and the war, could be altered forever. If they fight an enemy they cannot see, will the One who sees all show them the way in the darkest night? (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)


Books Afloat
by Delores Topliff — Blaming herself for her childhood role in the Oklahoma farm truck accident that cost her grandfather’s life, Anne Mettles is determined to make her life count. Will she go it alone? Or will she team with the unlikely but (mostly) lovable characters? One is a saboteur, one an unlikely hero, and one, she discovers, is the man of her dreams. (Historical from Mantle Rock Publishing)


Night Bird Calling
by Cathy Gohlke — With war brewing for the nation and for her newfound community, Lilliana must overcome a hard truth voiced by her young friend Celia: Wishing comes easy. Change don’t. (Historical from Tyndale House)

 

Mystery:

 


One for the Road
by Mary Ellis — Staying at an estranged relative’s B&B, Jill’s plan to uncover what makes the state’s bourbon tours so popular goes awry when she discovers a body at one of the distilleries and quickly becomes a suspect in a brutal murder. Can she navigate high-stakes bourbon rivalries, centuries-old family feuds and ill-fated romance to catch a killer?
(Cozy Mystery from Severn House)

 

Romantic Suspense:

 

Texas Witness Threat by Cate Nolan — What do you do when you know you witnessed a crime and no one believes you, but the killers are still coming for you? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

 

Thriller/Suspense:

 


Every Good Plan
by Urcelia Teixeira — Good fortune was always his best friend. Until it became his enemy! Adam Cross is back in another gripping Christian Suspense that will have you strapped to your favorite reading chair until you turn the very last page! (Thriller/Suspense, Independently published)

 


Young Adult:

 


Heart of the Crown
by Hannah Currie — The last place Lady Wenderley Davis ever expected to find herself after swearing off princes forever was living in a palace with two of them. Even if it is only temporary. And she did agree to it. Kind of. Against her better judgement. (Young Adult from WhiteFire Publishing)

 
Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

Penelope Pumpernickel: Precocious Problem-Solver by MaryAnn Diorio – In this first of the delightful Penelope Pumpernickel Series of chapters books for six-to-ten-year-old children, Penelope Pympernickel learns that no matter how big a problem you face, there is always a way to solve it with God’s help. (Children’s)

The Inn at Cranberry Cove by June Foster – Can two people allow the majestic northwest and fragrant coastal air heal their wounded hearts? Will they discover the secret of The Inn at Cranberry Cove? (Contemporary Romance)

The Rancher’s Family Secret by Myra Johnson – Despite their family feud, Spencer Navarro is determined to help his neighbor, Lindsey McClement, when she comes home to save her family ranch. And Lindsey returns the favor by allowing him to house his foster rescue horses in her empty barn stalls. But when the generations-long strife threatens their forbidden friendship, Spencer must choose between a new love and his family. (Contemporary Romance)

William’s Cry, An Enid Gilchrist Mystery by Sylvia Anne Nash – When genealogist Enid Gilchrist is asked to unravel the family mystery surrounding a seventy-year-old baby blanket, she is intrigued. She expects the project to be a short one that will in no wise interfere with her long-awaited marriage to Chief of Police Patrick Mulhaney. When her short project unravels more threads than expected, both project and wedding plans run amuck as someone makes every effort to stop her investigation. (Cozy Mystery)

A Holiday Heart by Denise Weimer – When Ashlyn arrives at White Falls Lodge armed with cosmetic bags and designer shoes, little is she prepared to be stranded by a snow storm, irritated by the handsome resort owner who seems determined to peel away her facade, and redirected by a God Ashlyn wants to forget, through Mamie Lou’s real gift … the secret story of her grandmother’s past. (Contemporary Romance)

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Review: Murder on Birchardville Hill, by Ruth Buchanan

Murder on Birchardville Hill, by Ruth Buchanan (Harbourlight Books, 2017)

Crime podcaster Morgan Scott has a successful online career (complete with crazy stalker and an incarcerated murderer who has vowed revenge) but she doesn’t have many in-person friends.

Sitting home alone over the Christmas holidays would just give her time to brood about her enemies, so she decides to follow up on an old murder in a town so remote that it’s barely marked on the map: Birchardville, Pennsylvania.

Her life in Florida has not prepared her for winter with actual snow. And while Birchardville may be remote, danger still finds her there.

I liked the fact that Morgan is Asian-American (her birth name is Chen Meifeng). This doesn’t factor much into the story, but it’s nice to see a protagonist who’s not your standard Caucasian.

What does factor in is her independent, self-reliant, sometimes-funny personality. And as one Birchardville resident says, she’s “theologically sound.”

I enjoyed the author’s voice in this story, and will be looking for more of her books.

For more about Ruth Buchanan and her books, visit ruthbuchananauthor.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Not Always Merry and Bright (Guest Post)

Not Always Merry and Bright

by Steph Beth Nickel

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Struggling?

Loss. Illness. Loneliness. Isolation. Fear.

Regardless of the year, Christmas can be a difficult and depressing season for many people. But 2020? Enough said.

You may be having a challenging day. Simply getting through it may be all you can do.

Here a few ideas that may make your day a little easier:

Even though it’s Christmas, reach out to a family member or friend if you need to chat even for a short time.

Work on a craft project. You don’t have to be good at it.

Write in your journal. It can be a great way to work through how you’re feeling. Don’t censor yourself. No one else ever has to read your words.

Watch your favourite movie. One that makes you laugh rather than cry may be a good option.

Listen to uplifting music. Some people like to listen to music that reflects their mood. I’m a fan of listening to music that reflects the emotions I want to feel.

Read a book. How about one that has been sitting on your To Be Read list for far too long?

Read the Christmas story in Luke 2.

Take a nap.

And if you’re up for it …

Make a list of things to be thankful for.

Connect with someone else who may need to hear a friendly voice today.

Know Someone Who’s Struggling?

We must never forget those having a rough time of it. (Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25 about doing for “the least of these.”)

Here are some ways to reach out to someone during what, for some, is the Most Difficult Time of the Year:

Connect via Zoom—or another virtual means. Remember to include the children if you have little ones. For some, a child’s smiling face can go a long way to making them feel better. Plus, it helps your children learn that not everyone has a merry Christmas.

Create a Spotify playlist of your favourite uplifting music and share it with someone who needs the encouragement.

Pick up the telephone and call.

While you’re chatting ask if there’s anything you can do for the other person.

Pray for the individual you called. If they’re uncomfortable having you do so on the phone (or on Zoom), let them know you’ll pray when you hang up—and then do it.

Drop off Christmas dinner (or a plate of cookies) on someone’s porch. (Attach an encouraging note.)

If it’s impractical to drop off food, a card with a handwritten note could go a long way to cheering a lonely soul today.

Commit (even to yourself) to stay in touch. Throughout the new year call, visit, or fire off a note at least once a month.

While today won’t be merry and bright for many people, I pray the Lord will bring you the “peace that passes understanding.”

I also pray that He will increase our compassion for those He brings into our life and that He gives us opportunities to show them His love, the love that sent His Son to earth so long ago.

Have a Blessed Christmas, one and all!

Tweetables

  • Christmas can be a difficult and depressing season for many people. And 2020? Enough said. (click to tweet)
  • Simply getting through Christmas may be all you can do. (click to tweet)
  • Even though it’s Christmas, reach out to a family member or friend if you need to chat. (click to tweet)
  • We must never forget those having a rough time of it. (click to tweet)
  • Connect with someone who is struggling. (click to tweet)
  • Throughout the new year call, visit, or fire off a note at least once a month to someone who is having a tough time. (click to tweet)
Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Review: Eye of the Storm, by Janice L. Dick

Eye of the Storm, by Janice L. Dick (Tansy & Thistle Press, 2020)

During the turbulence of the Great War and the Russian Revolution, Eye of the Storm continues to follow the lives of the Hildebrandt family, Russian Mennonite landowners in an era of upheaval, and of Paul Gregorovich Tekanin, revolutionary and journalist.

Setting and circumstances unfold in sweeping historical saga style, giving readers a glimpse into the turmoil of Russia in 1917-1919. We see urban and pastoral, slum and estate, tragedy and hope… and the occasional flash of humour to keep the story from becoming too heavy.

Like the Amish in North America, the Mennonites’ faith teaches pacifism—a choice for which many have been persecuted or killed over the years. Here in this part of Russia where they’d been promised peaceful haven, some are now considering the desperate step of taking up arms to protect their families. Others press into the way of peace with the knowledge that it may cost their lives.

Favourite lines:

“Life is demanding. I believe when once one accepts the fact that it is so, one becomes much freer to make the best of it.” [Maria Hildebrandt’s grandmother, Chapter 2]

“No matter how insignificant or overwhelming our contributions may be, if we act in obedience to God and our conscience, we can make a difference.” [Johann Sudermann, Chapter 3]

The ideas were raw and unchewed, but Paul swallowed them whole, starved as he was for something to fill the enormous void in his life. [Chapter 14]

Reading this novel in the middle of the uncertainty of a global pandemic helped me draw courage from the Hildebrandts’ example. As they struggled to make sense in the darkness and to see their way forward, relying on their faith, I was reminded that for all that changes, much remains the same. Every generation faces difficulties, and somehow that perspective can give us hope.

Eye of the Storm is book 2 in Janice L. Dick’s Storm series, originally published by Herald Press and now re-releasing as part of The Mosaic Collection’s historical line. For more about the author, visit janicedick.com. For more about The Mosaic Collection, visit mosaiccollectionbooks.com.

[Advance review copy provided by the author.]

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December 2020 New Releases in Christian Fiction

December 2020 New Releases in Christian Fiction

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

A Prayer Quilt Christmas by Nancy J. Farrier — Meg’s ex-husband took her boys away for the holidays, and she’s lost her heart to celebrate, but Wade is determined to make this Christmas special for her. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

His Holiday Prayer by Tina Radcliffe — After receiving an unexpected job offer in Texas, widower Tucker Rainbolt decides he and his twins need a fresh start. But moving on means leaving his best friend, Jena Harper, and their vet clinic behind. For the first time, Tucker sees Jena as more than a buddy. What if leaving isn’t the answer? Maybe what he’s been missing has been right beside him the whole time… (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Christmas on Ocracoke by Christina Sinisi — Reeling from the upheaval of a failed marriage, Annie Hanahan is desperate for a new start—and when she inherits a cottage on Ocracoke Island, she may finally get it. Without a second thought, she packs up and leaves everything behind: her first name, her job, and her ex-husband. But when she arrives in the Outer Banks, she finds the island—and her promised refuge—ravaged by Hurricane Dorian. As a contractor who has given so much of his time to helping Ocracoke recover, it surprises no one when Trey Kingsley offers to help the beautiful newcomer, but something is holding her back. Life keeps throwing them together, though, or perhaps God’s hand is giving them a nudge. Will a little bit of divine intervention be enough for a Merry Christmas on Ocracoke? (Contemporary Romance, Anaiah Press)

A Holiday Heart by Denise Weimer — Atlanta film makeup artist Ashlyn Jennings is willed a mysterious box containing a key from her grandmother’s estate. Mamie Lou, the former Hollywood B-lister who inspired Ashlyn’s path in life, always demonstrated a flair for the dramatic. But did Mamie Lou really expect her to put everything on hold to clean out a mountain cabin no one even knew about? And right at Christmas? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Contemporary:

Season of Hope by Brenda S. Anderson — Life is good for Ronnie Coborn. She’s newly married to a man who loves her and dotes on her daughter. A man handpicked by Ronnie’s father, a popular pastor at a megachurch who’s been married to her mother for forty years. Yes, life is good. Until a shocking revelation exposes the fact that everything in her idyllic life—her marriage, family, and faith—is based on a lie. (Contemporary, Independently Published)

Historical:

Hope’s Reward by Carol Ashby — When a gladiator slave becomes a Christian and runs away from his life of killing to join other believers, his rescue of a Roman woman makes him her escort on a dangerous journey that opens unexpected futures for both of them. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)

The Mulberry Leaf Whispers by Linda Thompson — A WWII Japanese naval officer. The teenage daughter of a legendary Christian samurai. Three centuries separate them, but a crucial question binds their destinies together. Which lives have value? (Historical from Mountain Brook Ink)

Historical Romance:

For the Love of Emma by Starr Ayers — A rose-covered grave, seventy-nine letters, and a scribbled note unearth buried emotions and the timeless beauty of first love. Inspired by actual letters found in her mother’s trunk, Starr pens a poignant love story set in the throes of the Great Depression and portrays a young couple’s quest to keep their love alive, regardless of events that threaten to tear them apart. (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Depending on You by Melissa Jagears — Can the joy and hope of Christmas restore their love before it’s too late? Leah Whitsett’s life was ideal until the disastrous day she nearly died because of her husband’s deceit. When he returns home weeks before Christmas, she knows the best gift she can give him is forgiveness, but how can she relinquish her hard-won independence knowing he plans to turn their family’s life upside down again? Bryant has always known his wife was a gift he’d never deserved, but how can he provide for her in a town that no longer wants anything to do with him? He longs to atone for the misery he’s put his loved ones through, but when he brings a family member home for the holidays, he and Leah may end up even further apart. With emotions high and their marriage at stake, will the season bring the hope they need…or are their rifts too large to mend? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Legacy of Love by Linda Shenton Matchett — Escaping Boston to avoid a marriage of convenience aimed at garnering society’s respect for her family name in the shadow of her father’s war profiteering, Meg Underwood settles in Spruce Hill, Oregon. Despite leaving behind the comforts of wealth, she’s happy. Then the handsome Pinkerton agent, Reuben Jessop, arrives with news that she’s inherited her aunt’s significant estate, and she must return home to claim the bequest. Meg refuses to make the trip. Unwilling to fail at his mission, Reuben gives her until Christmas to prove why she should remain in Spruce Hill and give up the opportunity to become a woman of means. When he seems to want more than friendship, she wonders if her new-found wealth is the basis of his attraction. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)
Romantic Suspense:

Deadly Amish Reunion by Dana R. Lynn — Jennie Beiler’s husband was supposed to be dead, so she’s shocked when he rescues her from an attacker. Although Luke has no memories of his Englisch wife, it’s up to him to protect her from someone who won’t stop until she’s dead. Can the peaceful Amish community he returned to after losing his memory shelter them and their son this Christmas when danger strikes again? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Christmas Protection Detail by Terri Reed — When a call from a friend in trouble leads Nick Delaney and Deputy Kaitlyn Lanz to a car crash that killed a single mother, they become the baby’s protectors. Now figuring out why someone is after the child is the only way to save her. But they must find answers soon…or this baby’s first Christmas might just be Nick’s and Kaitlyn’s last. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative:

Dawn of Vengeance by Ronie Kendig — Haunted by a prophecy that promises pain and war, bounty hunter Marco Dusan forges alliances to protect the primitive world against Symmachia’s devastating influence. But one truth becomes painfully clear: the biggest threat to their world may be much, much closer to home. (Speculative Fiction from Kregel Publications)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

A Question of Survival by Alice K. Arenz – A victim of domestic violence searches for hope after her recent miscarriage. (Women’s Fiction)

Ask Lolita by Roger E. Bruner – Not only does the Town Curmudgeon’s pet hen Lolita learn to use the computer and get her own newspaper column, she helps the lifelong bachelor survive the challenges of old age and find true love in the process. (Contemporary Fantasy)

The Mistletoe Contract by Jennifer Chastain – He needs a wife to inherit the family business, she needs money for her mother’s medical treatment, but is their convenient marriage a blessing or a disaster waiting to happen? (Contemporary Romance)

Dreaming of Tomorrow by Michelle De Bruin – Love leads them to a lifetime of commitment where the dreams they have held onto for so long start to come true. (Historical Romance)

Grumpy the Gator by Melissa Henderson – In Grumpy the Gator, we are reminded to be careful around alligators. Always tell an adult when we see a gator. (Children’s)

Lessons Learned in Love by Milla Holt – The boss’s daughter is off-limits. Especially when she steals the job that should have been his. (Contemporary Romance)

Fractures by Jason C. Joyner – A group of teens with superpowers must navigate high school, parents, and the enemies that want to destroy them. (Young Adult)

His to Keep by Sherrinda Ketchersid – He’s fighting for his inheritance – she’s marrying her sworn enemy. (Historical Romance)

Making Memories by Ruth Kyser – When her life is changed by a car accident, Kelly finds hope again through faith and an old friend from high school, Michael. (Contemporary Romance)

Reagan’s Reward by Susan G. Mathis – When her life is changed by a car accident, Kelly finds hope again through faith and an old friend from high school, Michael. (Contemporary Romance)

Georgia Ann, English Rose by Elva Cobb Martin – The lure of the legendary Spice Trail beckons, but he may never find a spice more precious than the treasure he left in Charles Town. (Historical Romance)

Giving Grace by Jennifer Pierce – Nothing is more embarrassing than Grace Dixon’s dog peeing on the new mailman. Except maybe when she thinks she’s hit the handsome man with her SUV. When he’s assigned to cover an injured co-worker’s route, Evan McDonald assumes it will be like any other mail route he’s done. But then he meets Grace Dixon, and he’s thrust into total Christmas chaos. (Contemporary Romance)

The Snowbound Bride by Davalynn Spencer – On the run from a heartless uncle, Arabella Taube hides in Nate Horne’s farm wagon just as a harsh winter storm sweeps into Colorado. Despite Ara’s mysterious background, Nate’s mother thinks she is the answer to a prayer and the hope for his future. (Historical Romance)