High tension from page one until the end. Even when Julia slows down to breathe and recover, author K.L. Ditmars has created frightening enough enemies that you feel them looming just off the page ready to overpower her.
When Julia’s husband is murdered in front of her, she only knows one safe place to run—to a homeless man living in the forest behind their home. The man, Charlie, is ex-military, carrying his own trauma from serving during the Rwandan genocide. And he’s not exactly homeless, or resourceless.
The human trafficking ring responsible for Julia’s husband’s death considers her a loose end—to be eliminated. She doesn’t dare approach the police, because the killers framed her for the murder. Threaded among Julia’s defensive plans and strategic actions and eventual investigation, we see glimpses of her enemies’ ruthlessness.
There’s a lot to like about this book: vibrant settings, courage, human kindness. And an Irish Wolfhound named Aengus. There’s also truth: about the ongoing scourge of human trafficking in Canada and the United States.
There’s also a strong thread of faith. Charlie combats his residual PTSD through prayer, finding comfort that God is with him in the darkness. His words point Julia toward trusting God and finding the help and strength she needs. Nothing is preachy, just a natural outflow of their time together.
Best thing I’m taking from this novel: “All is in Your hands.” This is Charlie’s prayer, which Julia takes for her own. It’s a simple enough prayer that any of us can add it into our lives.
This is the second Christian suspense novel I’ve read this year that includes profanity, and it’s a trend I don’t like to see. As with the faith talk, it seems to fit naturally in the dialogue, but I wouldn’t miss it if it weren’t there. If that’s a deal-breaker for you, be warned. If not, All That it Takes is a gripping read.
It’s one of those novels where the characters and their struggle stayed with me when I wasn’t reading. Favourite line:
Charlie… let the silence after her revelation sit between them like a cup of coffee needing to cool. [Chapter 10, ebook page 88]
All That it Takes is book 1 in the Where Can I Go? series. The sequel, coming later in 2021, will carry on Julia’s quest for justice. For more about Canadian author K.L. Ditmars, visit klditmarswriter.com. You can also read an interview she did with me here: interview-k-l-ditmars-canadian-author.
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: 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.
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.
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.
All That it Takes is available to order through your local independent bookstore (with the exception of Chapters/Indigo in Canada).
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.
I posted earlier how happy I am that Hidden Secrets (Green Dory Inn Mystery #2) is one of three suspense novels short-listed for The 2020 Word Awards. Here’s a link to that post, which tells you more about the other two finalists: )
In celebration, the ebook version of Hidden Secrets is on sale for 99 cents this week (ends June 14, 2020). This link will take you to international links for Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Nook: books2read.com/hidden-secrets.
One unexpected side benefit of The Word Awards ceremony not being held in a conventional venue is that readers can join the live-stream and enjoy the action!
Winners will be announced Saturday, June 13, at 7pm EDT (that’s 8pm here in Nova Scotia). Here’s a link to a time zone converter if you, like me, struggle with doing time conversion in your head.
You are invited to join in if you can. You might find some good new summer reads!
Hidden Secrets is one of three novels short-listed in the suspense category for The 2020 Word Awards (for work published in 2019).
Also short-listed are:
I haven’t read either of these novels yet, but I’ve met both authors, and their work is highly respected. Hidden Secrets is in good company. The beauty of this is that when the winning book is announced, I can either celebrate for my “imaginary friends” if it’s my book or celebrate for one of my real-life writer friends (at least acquaintances!). Win-win!
The 2020 Word Awards winners will be announced June 13, 7pm Eastern Time (8pm Atlantic) online via livestream on Facebook and Zoom. It’ll be free for anyone to tune in. Link details TBA.
For the complete short-list, visit The Word Guild’s Media page and click on the short-list announcement link.
A whimsical town, a host of quirky
characters, and events that seem to conspire to keep Matthew Sadler from
leaving once he arrives by “happenstance.”
Fleeing painful memories, Matt and his
motorcycle are roaring along the highway when a near-accident forces him onto a
hidden side road. On the far side of a covered bridge, he discovers the town of
He’ll leave as soon as he gases up. Or
after a night’s rest in the charming Happenstance Hotel. Or after he helps the
elderly sisters who run the hotel. Or after…
As well as the sisters, he meets Bear, a
local mechanic with some unusual turns of phrase, and Veronica, who bears a
startling resemblance to his dead wife.
The longer he stays, the more he suspects
a mystery behind the hotel’s troubles.
This gently-paced novel will bring smiles—and
maybe a wistful longing to find a place like Happenstance in the real world.
The road was scarcely wide enough for two cars to pass, a dirt path with a scattering of gravel on top as a sort of apology. [Kindle location 30]
We got whatcha want, unless you want what we don’t got, and then you prob’ly don’t need it. [Bear, describing the town; Kindle location 50]
They came with their offerings of food to their gods of guild and duty and pity, but he would rather have been alone. [Matt remembering the visitors after his wife’s death; Kindle location 1788]
Author Janice L. Dick is known for her
faith-filled historical fiction. Although The Road to Happenstance is a
contemporary novel, the town’s nostalgic feel lends an impression of stepping
back in time, and Matthew’s personal struggles are affected by his faith. For
more about the author and her work, visit janicedick.wordpress.com.
[Advance review copy provided by the publisher. My opinions are my own.]
Subtitled “A Caregiver’s Journey,” Bring
Each Other Home is a book for everyone. Most, if not all of us, will have
someone in our circle of acquaintance who’ll deal with dementia or Alzheimer’s
While Angelina and Joe’s story is their
own, the experiences she shares can make readers more sensitive to the needs of
both caregiver and patient. Let us not be people who add more hurt by
disbelieving, blaming, or judging caregivers if we don’t see in a brief
encounter what they see in 24/7 care. Nor let us add hurt by avoiding the
Readers who are caregivers will find
strength in knowing their struggles are not unique, and will be encouraged to
reach out to support groups and healthcare professionals for much-needed help.
[Note: caregivers new to this role and still dealing with the rawness of it all
may not be ready to read this book just yet.]
“This is my child. I love him dearly. He has walked with me a long, long time. I need for you to walk with him the rest of the way.” [The author’s impression of God speaking to her, p. 76]
…gradually we began to see the treasures God always tucks into the dark places He guides us through. [p 110-111]
Angelina Fast-Vlaar writes with honesty
and poignancy of the long, slow loss of her beloved husband, Joe. The narrative
is interspersed with poetry and restful black-and-white photos. It’s a sad
story, but one of love, faith, and persistence.
I was eager to read this book, since I’ve
communicated enough with author Susan Harris to respect her Christian faith and
her integrity. Despite the popularity of books recounting near-death
experiences (NDEs) I’ve avoided them until now because I had no way to verify
the writer’s trustworthiness.
Subtitled “A True Story of Heaven,
Healing, and Angels,” Touched by Eternity is a memoir of the author’s three
NDEs and related visions and how these events have shaped her life. A
nonfiction author with an analytical mind, she relies heavily on details
(including her hospital records and notes taken at the time) to anchor her
personal experiences in as much fact as possible.
At the same time, the events themselves
make the book as easy to read as a novel.
An experienced speaker, leader, and
teacher, Susan Harris makes no claims to having touched Eternity by her own
merit or strength. Instead, as one would expect with a near-death experience,
her moments of greatest physical pain and weakness have been the gateways to
the spiritual realm.
She writes with honesty about her personal
failings and about her struggle to understand what happened and to accept the
disappointment of tasting Heaven and then being returned to earthly life.
Christians can be uncomfortable discussing
NDEs out of fear of drifting into heresy or false teachings. The Bible shows
people being brought back from the dead, but we don’t get their testimonies of
what they saw while they were gone.
I appreciate how Susan Harris finds
biblical connections for many of her observations and how she’s careful to
present her interpretations as her own and not as doctrine or fact. Her stated
purpose in writing this book is to stimulate discussion, encourage the faith of
Christians, and inspire non-Christians to seriously consider Jesus’ words about
Heaven and Hell.
It’s interesting to read that in her
research into other NDE accounts, she found similarities and yet differences,
as if individuals were seeing part of a much-greater whole.
My whisper was hoarse, the broken kind He hears because He Himself had hung ragged on a rugged cross. [Kindle location 2284]
No matter how much or little pain we’ve
endured, Touched by Eternity reminds us that it’s in our brokenness that
we’re closest to God. It challenges us to take time alone with Him, to remember
what He’s taught us in the past, and to obey anything He’s called us to in the
present that we may have been neglecting. Our time on earth is limited, and we
need to be about our Father’s business before that time runs out.
Other books by Susan Harris include Little Copper Pennies (a history of the Canadian one-cent piece) and Remarkably Ordinary. She currently hosts a television show called ETERNITY. For more about the author and her work, visit susanharris.ca.
[Review copy provided by the author. My
opinions are my own.]