Included in the Angel Book Awards!

I’m excited to share that my newest release, Bitter Truth, received second place in the Angel Book Awards (mystery/suspense category)!

Congratulations to first-place Carrie Stuart Parks with Woman in Shadow and third-place Mary Dodge Allen with Hunt for a Hometown Killer. I feel like my characters are in good company!

You can see the full list of winners at the Faith & Fellowship Book Festival page on Facebook. Here’s the link to the announcement post.

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Review: The Inn on Hanging Hill, by Christy Barritt

The Inn on Hanging Hill, by Christy Barritt

The Inn on Hanging Hill, by Christy Barritt (River Heights, 2021)

A dilapidated old inn. A painful past. A reunion of friends.

Childhood friends Lindsey and Benjamin haven’t seen each other since the night she was abducted and he was sent away to live with relatives. She doesn’t remember that two-week period of her life. He’s hiding secrets.

As they work to renovate the inn where Lindsey grew up, can they discover what really happened that night and somehow unlock her memory?

Between threats, unfriendly locals, a suspicious sheriff, and fallout from her disastrous former job, will they have the chance?

Set in a small Virginia town on the Chesapeake Bay, the novel is a quick read where nothing is as it seems. It’s a clean read with a thread of faith. The atmospheric old inn adds a suitably spooky touch.

The Inn on Hanging Hill is book 2 in the Beach House Mystery series but it reads well as a stand-alone. I haven’t read book 1, The Cottage on Ghost Lane, and I had no trouble finding my place in this one. They appear to have entirely different characters.

Christy Barritt has written over 70 books in a number of fast-paced romantic suspense series. Some are funny, some quirky, and some serious. For more about the author and her work, visit christybarritt.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Writers Earning an Income (Guest Post)

Writers Earning an Income

by Steph Beth Nickel

Some writers put pen to paper exclusively as a means of creative expression. Some writers, whether they’re paid or not, do so to make readers aware of important issues. Others write what they love and seek to sell their work. Still others write exclusively for the purpose of earning an income. For many, it’s a combination of reasons.

There are countless reasons to write, but if you’re seeking to supplement your income or earn a full-time living from your writing, here are some things to consider:

  1. Authors rarely earn enough to live on exclusively from the books they write.
  2. If you would, eventually, like to earn a full-time living from your books, you’ll want to publish regularly.
  3. Building a devoted readership takes time. Plus, in most cases, it’s far easier to do if you stick with a single niche. Multi-passionate authors who write across genres about multiple topics can earn a good living, but it can be more challenging. You’ll want to weigh the pros and cons. Personally, I can’t imagine writing only one type of book forever and always.
  4. There are countless opportunities in the job market to earn an income using your ability to string together interesting, coherent sentences and paragraphs.
  5. If you want to earn an income with your words, there are times you may have to supplement your most impassioned writing with pieces on topics that are of little to no interest to you personally. I write about railcar movers, yard equipment, and various styles of fireplaces, for example. Don’t tell, but these aren’t my passion projects.

And finally…

If you’re an author who wants to earn a significant amount of money from your books, you’ll want to consider the following:

  1. Indie authors who self-publish retain far more of their royalties than traditionally published authors. However, they are responsible to foot the bill for editing, cover design, promotion, etc. This route requires a great deal of self-discipline and the willingness to learn about all facets of publishing and promotion, as well as writing, but can be very lucrative and satisfying for those who want control over every aspect of the process. It’s the route I intend to take with my yet unfinished series—plural.
  2. Only the extremely rare outlier hits it big with a single book. Writers who want to earn a steady income from their books will have to produce and promote an ever-increasing list of titles. Even traditionally published authors will have to promote their books—especially those on their backlist, provided they’re still in print.
  3. Authors typically earn supplemental income from their books while holding down a day job or a part-time job, perhaps one that makes use of their writing skills, perhaps not. I recently heard an author who has been in the business for over a decade say that a day job that doesn’t use up your creative skills leaves you with energy to pursue your writing even at the end of a long day. Interesting! It’s definitely something to consider, especially if you’re finding it difficult to even consider working on your book after you get home.

Remember! Your words have value, and there are readers who need them. And although you may produce thousands of words that never earn a dime, it is not wrong or unspiritual to earn an income from your writing.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

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: Sword Fighting, by Christine Dillon

Sword Fighting: Applying God’s Word to Win the Battle for our Mind, by Christine Dillon (Links in the Chain Press, 2020)

This practical guide begins with a biblical overview of the necessity and methods of using Scripture to combat the lies and distractions that can otherwise render Christians ineffective and keep us in a state of weakness.

The second, longer section addresses specific issues like anger, worry, fear, etc. It’s worth reading the full book no matter how irrelevant certain topics feel to you—they may help you better understand someone else. However, you can easily jump first to those where you most relate.

Perhaps because I’ve read on this topic before, I found the start a little slow. I’m glad I kept reading, because the examples of specific Scriptures applied daily (or more often!) to retrain people’s negative thought patterns were challenging and inspiring.

The author includes case studies (names changed) of individuals who were crippled by doubt, low self-esteem, etc and who achieved breakthrough into the full life God intended for them through this simple method of identifying suitable biblical truth and repeatedly wielding this Sword. Far too often we raise the weapon once or twice and then give up.

I highly recommend Sword Fighting as a practical example of how we can win the battles in our own heads by accurate use of Scripture.

Some (of many) highlights in my copy of the book:

If a thought or temptation comes into our mind and we can’t immediately combat it with appropriate verses or principles from Scripture, then we are spiritually flabby. [Not said in judgment, but in a call to develop our “muscles.” Chapter 4, Kobo page 2 of 8]

It is the action of “taking every thought captive” that is the core of spiritual sword fighting. [Chapter 4, Kobo page 3 of 8]

You have been listening to your own thoughts, but now you must begin to listen to what God says in His word and to what God says through other people. [Chapter 13, Kobo page 8 of 20]

Christine Dillon writes both nonfiction and fiction. This book was many years in the writing but was ultimately published as a companion to her novel, Grace in the Desert, in which the characters experienced the need (and results) of this type of spiritual warfare. Since fiction can give examples but not detailed instructions, Sword Fighting was released. And I’m grateful.

To connect with the author or learn more about her ministry and her books, visit storytellerchristine.com. If you enjoy fiction that combines a good story with solid spiritual growth, check out her Grace series. I’d encourage you to begin with book 1, Grace in Strange Disguise, since the characters change and grow throughout the series.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (October 2022)

October 2022 New Releases

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


Amish Romance:

 

The Story of Love by Beth Wiseman — With little left to tie her to her home state of Texas and yearning for a slower life, Yvonne Wilson jumps at the chance to shake things up with a move to Montgomery, Indiana. A dream job awaits her—managing an Amish bookstore for her good friends Jake and Eva. Besides the slow-paced setting and the comfort of beloved books, Yvonne hopes the change will help distract her from the emptiness she feels after the death of her fiancé. No longer a part of the Amish community but still a resident of Montgomery, Abraham Byler finds himself in over his head with his job as a police officer combined with a new but fast-moving relationship with the wealthy and aggressive New York native Brianna Stone. When Abraham realizes that his old crush Yvonne is back in town, he’s not just in over his head—he suddenly finds himself head over heels for Yvonne—and in hot water with Brianna. (Amish Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan))


Contemporary Romance:

 

Christmas at Whispering Creek by Barbara Britton — All Samantha Williams wants to do is to use her teaching degree to instruct a classroom of second graders. But, after a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of twenty-three, and failed reconstruction surgery, Sam finds herself without a job and temporarily living with her parents. This isn’t the life Sam expected. When a family friend dies and leaves Sam a house and land in Whispering Creek, Tennessee, Sam must decide if leaving Wisconsin for Southern living is in her lesson plans. Nashville native, Cole Donoven, left his family’ s electrical business to write country music. When Cole’ s song-writing partner and girlfriend dumps him for a country music star, Cole abandons Nashville to hole up in Whispering Creek and compose one more song. The last thing Cole expects to find in the sleepy small town is a deceased friend, estate squabbles, and a Northern beauty. Will the chaos in Whispering Creek help create a bestselling song for Cole and possibly help him find a life-long collaborator? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing (Pelican))

Destination Christmas by Cathe Swanson, et. al. — This Christmas, pack your bags for a holiday away from home. Join the Christmas Lights Collection authors as we travel to Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and New Cheltenham for warm and wonderful stories of love and Christmas cheer. Destination Christmas offers a stress-free travel experience without traffic, delayed flights, or forgotten toothpaste. Instead, you’ll enjoy wonderful destinations, delightful new friends, and a heartwarming experience! (Contemporary Romance from Havilah Press)


Keeping Christmas by Cathe Swanson — In castles far and near, long ago and yesterday, find happily-ever-afters wrapped in love and tied with Christmas joy. (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)

To Believe in You by Emily Conrad — Can she trust her heart to a man who can’t trust himself? Since his dismissal from the rock band Awestruck, former bassist and addict Matt Visser has been transformed by faith and a year of sobriety. If he can repay his parents for one last major debt from his years of irresponsible living, he can move into the future with a clear conscience. Now if only his latest stunt hadn’t gotten him fired from the family business. After Lina Abbey’s fiancé gambled away their wedding savings, she surrendered her hopes of a family of her own—what man could she trust enough to marry—and moved for a fresh start in Wisconsin. She busies herself with her jobs managing Awestruck’s social media and directing Key of Hope, a non-profit funded by the band to teach music lessons to kids from low-income families. She would never hire a man with Matt’s track record as a bass guitar instructor, but Awestruck’s manager, Tim, forces her hand. In need of a job and eager to clear his debts, Matt begins work. Unable to resist a challenge, he soon adds the goal of winning the trust of his beautiful but cautious coworker. Lina is impressed that Matt resists Tim’s ongoing efforts to reconnect him with Awestruck, but when a new truth about Matt’s past reveals a wrong he can never right, he and Lina both need something more trustworthy than Matt to believe in. Otherwise, history will repeat itself in all the worst ways (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


Lost in Winter’s Wonderland by Sandra Ardoin — Sometimes getting lost takes you right where you belong. Seeking a peaceful week before the annual Callahan Christmas migration, Kelsey Callahan retreats to her mountain cabin in Tennessee. When a snowstorm dumps a lost love on her doorstep, Kelsey must choose between trusting in Justin’s appeal for a second chance at romance or giving in to fear and losing him forever. A humiliating mistake steered Justin Strong away from the woman his teenaged-self had planned to marry and onto the path of business success. Years later, after being rescued by her, those old feelings reawaken, and he questions his past decision. But with the lure of a long-sought client, Justin is torn between redeeming his youthful blunder and proving he’s a man Kelsey can rely on. How much will each of them sacrifice to build a future together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


The Misadventures of Itchy Izzy by N Y. Dunlap — Life has imploded for Isabelle Chavalier, MBA, knocking the silver spoon from her mouth. Her cushioned inheritance can buy her anything, almost anything. She desperately desires another moment with her mother. Now, a family feud has threatened to rip apart the little sanity Isabelle has left. And with it, all she ever believed in . . . hope. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


Historical Romance:

 

Restoring Miss Hastings by Edwina Kiernan — Harriet Hastings has nowhere left to turn: after losing both her parents within a few months of each other, she is penniless and alone. So when a distant relative makes arrangements for her future, Harriet faces another loss — leaving the place she calls home to go and live with strangers. (Historical Romance, from Moliant Publishing)


A Hope and a Prayer by Julie Lessman — She’s in love with her best friend. He’s in love with her cousin. But when the war reveals a gift so rare, will they be saved by a hope and prayer? As Head Nurse at 2d Hospital in Nancy, France, Lieutenant Hope Dennehy is known for her healing touch, especially when it comes to mending the wounds and spirit of her best friend, Lieutenant Bren O’Neill. When Hope’s cousin breaks Bren’s heart, Hope is always there, helping to heal him with a friendship so anointed and deep, it threatens to break her heart too. Flying high as a daredevil aeromedical evac pilot in the European Theatre, “Lieutenant Love” O’Neill crashes and burns when the woman he loves falls for another. Depending on the support and prayers of Nurse Hope Dennehy to save him, Bren re-evaluates his free-wheeling lifestyle when he witnesses the heinous atrocities of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Suddenly nothing in life is as important as taking care of those he loves … or is it? Battling demons from his past, Bren learns that only one thing can truly save him from himself. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Freedom’s Flight by Penny Zeller — When she discovers the handsome Reverend Matthias Sorenson assisting runaway slaves, can Annalise VanHouten convince him to allow her to help? Or will mistrust prove fatal for all involved? (Historical Romance from Maplebrook Publishing)

 

The Lady’s Mission by Mary Davis — Will Cordelia abandon her calling, for love?  Cordelia Armstrong wants nothing more than to escape the social norms for her station in society that require her to look pretty and do as she is told. However, unless she can skillfully maneuver her father into giving up control of her trust fund, she might have to concede defeat—as well as her freedom—and marry. To ward off potential suitors, she puts on a giggly persona. Every time Lamar Kesner finds a fascinating lady, her heart belongs to another. He doesn’t merely want a beautiful wife. He wants an intriguing partner with intelligence and wit. Is he asking too much of any woman? When a vapid socialite is offered up as a prospective bride, he contemplates flying off in his hot air balloon instead. Is Lamar the one to finally break the determination of Cordelia’s parents to marry her off? Or will this charming bachelor fly away with her heart? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

The Lost Melody by Joanna Davidson Politano — When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant’s father dies, he leaves to her the care of an adult ward she knew nothing about. The woman is supposedly a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. The woman’s portrait is shockingly familiar to Vivienne, so when the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams. The longer she lingers in the deep shadows and forgotten towers at Hurstwell, the fuzzier the line between sanity and madness becomes. She hears music no one else does, receives strange missives with rose petals between the pages, and untangles far more than is safe for her to know. But can she uncover the truth about the mysterious woman she seeks? And is there anyone at Hurstwell she can trust with her suspicions?. (Historical Romance, from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)


Romance:

 

A Nanny for the Rancher’s Twins by Heidi Main — Returning to small-town Texas was her fresh start. She never expected a ready-made family. What could be better than running a rustic wedding venue? Event planner Laney Taylor has it all laid out…except for the serious renovations her inherited property needs. Rancher Ethan McCaw will help—but only if she’ll nanny his toddler twins. Laney’s all about planning weddings for others and shielding her own heart, but Ethan, Zoe and Tori might be just the ones to change her mind. (Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

Keeping Christmas, Vol. 2 by Tabitha Bouldin, et. al. — The King’s Promise: In a world of airships and kings, a prince makes a promise that tears him away from his love. An ordinary baker’s daughter finds herself caught in the middle of a game where the winner earns the queen’s crown. They both want what they can’t have as they struggle toward a seemingly impossible happily ever after. Plus, five other stories! (Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)

Uncharted Christmas by Keely Brooke Keith — As Dr. Lydia Bradshaw makes her rounds in the village of Good Springs this Christmas season, each family she visits seems to be blessed in ways she is not. All the homes are beautifully decorated for the holiday, and every woman is expecting another baby. Every woman but her, that is. While the haze from the volcanic ash cloud outside the Land looms on the horizon, calls for the doctor force Lydia to work around the clock. Torn between fighting for the home life she craves and the career that defines her, Lydia needs a Christmas miracle. Meanwhile, at Falls Creek…Philip Roberts spends his lonely nights in the parsonage next to the humble chapel. Pastoring the church across from the Land’s only inn means encouraging many a road-worn traveler to carry on, whatever their journey might be. Philip also watches the ever-changing rotation of guests for the one person he prays will stay at Falls Creek forever. Only he doesn’t know her name. (Romance, Independently Published)


General Contemporary:

 

Where the Blue Sky Begins by Katie Powner — When confident and handsome Eric Larson is sent to a rural Montana town to work in the local branch of his uncle’s financial company, he’s determined to exceed everyone’s expectations, earn a promotion, and be back in Seattle by the end of summer. Yet nothing could prepare him for the lessons this small town has in store. At forty-six years old, eccentric and outspoken Eunice Parker has come to accept her terminal illness and has given herself one final goal: seek forgiveness from everyone on her bucket list before her time runs out. But it will take more courage than she can muster on her own. After an accident pushes Eric and Eunice together, the unlikely pair is forced to spend more time with each other than either would like, which challenges their deepest prejudices and beliefs. As summer draws to a close, neither Eric nor Eunice is where they thought they would be, but they both wrestle with the same important question: What matters most when the end is near? (General Contemporary from Bethany House (Baker) Publishing)


General Historical:


Mary by Shannon McNear — Worlds Collide Along the Shores of the Outer Banks. Immerse yourself in the “what if” questions related to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. What if an English boy and a native girl met in the wilderness? The push-and-pull between two very different worlds begins as one seeks simple friendship and the other struggles to trust. And can it–dare they–allow it to be more? Sparks fly between Mushaniq, free-spirited daughter of Manteo, and Georgie Howe, whose father was brutally murdered by undiscovered native warriors before they’d been on Roanoac Island a full week. As Georgie struggles to make sense of his life and to accept that not all they call “savage” are guilty of his father’s death, Mushaniq grapples with her own questions about who Manteo has become. As tentative friendship becomes more, forged in the fire of calamity and attack upon their community, both must decide whether the One True God is indeed who He claims to be and whether He is worthy of their trust. (General Historical from Barbour Publishing)


Mystery – Cozy:


The Merchant’s Curse by Antony B. Kolenc — When a merchant appears to be cursed by a witch, a peasant boy in medieval England races against time to save the man’s life while avoiding capture as a suspected traitor to the king. (Mystery, from Loyola Press)

 

FIVE DAYS LOST by Luana Ehrlich — Mylas agrees to investigate a bizarre incident from a prominent senator’s past, but as he tries to untangle the clues from a dead woman’s diary, he’s faced with an unexpected threat. Is it related to his investigation or is it something far more dangerous? (Crime Mystery, ACFW QIP (Qualified Independently Published))

Dog Days of Summer by Kathleen Y’Barbo — Mishaps Abound as Second Chance Ranch Struggles to Get Its Start. Trina Potter, Nashville country music star, buys a ranch near her hometown in Brenham, Texas, to help her niece open a rescue facility for dogs. Her presence in town stirs up some old high school rivalries—and romance. Finding property to buy is a challenge, convincing her mother to move there with her is daunting, and navigating a string of strange accidents is perplexing. Then there’s the handsome man from her past who just might convince her not to go back to Nashville. Sometimes Trina feels like she’s purchased her own three ring circus instead of a beautiful piece of land. But her first priority will be figuring out who wants Second Chance Ranch shut down before they even have the grand opening. (Mystery – Cozy, from Barbour Publishing)

The Plot Thickens by Susan Page Davis — Jillian only wants to redecorate one room at the Novel Inn—but first she has to deal with murder. Murder strikes Skirmish Cove during the coastal town’s winter carnival. Jillian Tunney, part owner of the nearby Novel Inn, discovers the body of a clerk at her favorite bookstore. With her sister Kate and brother, Officer Rick Gage, she tries to find out who killed him. Meanwhile, Jillian is immersed in redecorating one of the themed rooms, but Kate is annoyed when a mysterious guest at the inn doesn’t want to leave his room. The innkeepers find they have way too many secrets to solve.. (Mystery – Cozy from Scrivenings Press)


Speculative Fiction/Fantasy:

 

Dream of Kings by Sharon Hinck — The Future Never Sleeps. In the glacial nation of Norgard, Jolan the Dream Teller serves every seeker, whether peasant or high lord. Though she loves using her gift, she struggles to navigate the corrupt and dangerous court and the jealousies of the Guildagard. When an old man’s nightmare imparts a dire warning, Jolan realizes her entire nation is in danger. But before she can sound the alarm, she is betrayed by the guilds and sold into slavery in a rival kingdom far to the south. As a slave in a foreign land, at first Jolan can’t see beyond her singular focus: return home to warn Norgard of the coming calamity. After facing new dangers, making new friends, and forgiving old wrongs, she must fulfill the purposes the Provider has set before her. Only then can she face a decision that could cost her the man she loves, her calling, and her freedom—all to save a people who abandoned her. (Speculative Fiction/Fantasy from Enclave Publishing)


Thriller/Suspense/Crime:

 

Circle of Vengeance by Ramona Richards — Twenty-five years ago, a body was discovered in the Turney family barn–and folks around town were all too ready to believe that killing blood ran through all the Turney’s veins. Every member of the family came under suspicion, their reputations crumbled to pieces, and with no convictions, no one could be cleared. Daughter Jill, now a Chicago lawyer, is ready for this case to be solved and for her broken family to be repaired at last. Who better to find the answers than cold-case P.I. Star Cavanaugh? But as Star begins to dig into generations-old secrets, the killer resurfaces to make sure none of those skeletons leave the closet–no matter what the cost. As the danger mounts, Star again joins forces with police chief, Mike Luinetti, and begins to uncover truths that the whole town has kept hidden. But becoming the target of the determined killer isn’t the way Star wants to find the answers. It’s a race to solve the case before it becomes a matter of her life or death. (Thriller/Suspence/Crime from Kregel Publications)


Thriller/Suspense/Romance:

 

Concrete Evidence by DiAnn Mills — On the family’s Brazos River Ranch in Texas, Avery Elliott helps run her grandfather’s commercial construction business. Raised by Senator Elliott, Avery has never doubted her grandfather is the man of integrity and faith she’s always believed him to be . . . until the day she finds him standing with a gun over the body of a dead man. To make matters worse, Avery’s just discovered a billing discrepancy for materials supposedly purchased for construction of the Lago de Cobre Dam. Desperate for answers, Avery contacts FBI Special Agent Marc Wilkins for help. As Marc works to identify the dead man Avery saw, threats toward Avery create a fresh sense of urgency to pinpoint why someone wants to silence her. With a hurricane approaching the Texas coast and the structural integrity of the Lago de Cobre Dam called into question, time is running out to get to the bottom of a sinister plot that could be endangering the lives of not only Avery and her loved ones but the entire community. (Thriller/Suspense/Romance from Tyndale House)

Defending Honor by Kelly Underwood — Laila Rabbinowitz is all business. Tough and stoic, she was the perfect Mossad agent…until a terrible betrayal led to her worst nightmare. Being a bodyguard with the Elite Guardians allows her to keep her heart safe–she’ll never let anyone close enough to betray her again. And she’s certainly not going to trust anyone who doesn’t earn it. Billionaire and former playboy Preston Whittaker walked away from his famous family after a terrible event, but then his father and brother are killed in a suspicious boating accident. Since he’s next in line to helm the family business, now someone wants him dead. Preston needs someone by his side 24/7, and the only solution is a fake marriage. In order to keep him safe, Laila will have to convince everyone that she and Preston are in love. She’s used to putting her life on the line for a client. But what will this case cost her heart? (Thriller/Suspense/Romance from Sunrise Publishing)

Explosive Christmas Showdown by Darlene L. Turner — A bomber brings terror to Christmas as the presents go tick…tick…boom. With criminal investigative analyst Olive Wells at the center of a bomber’s dangerous game, she’ll do anything to catch the culprit—even work with her ex-fiancé and his K-9 detector dog. But with the Christmas rampage drawing ever closer, Zac Turner’s convinced the attacks are personal. Can they piece together their ties to the bomber…before another gift explodes? (Thriller/Suspense/Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

Wreathed in Disgrace by Robin Patchen — When she discovers the handsome Reverend Matthias Sorenson assisting runaway slaves, can Annalise VanHouten convince him to allow her to help? Or will mistrust prove fatal for all involved? (Thriller/Suspense/Romance, Independently Published)


Western Romance:

 

A Model of Devotion by Mary Conneally — She’s finally claimed her independence . . . how far will she go to keep it? A brilliant engineer, Jilly Stiles has been educated since childhood to help run her father’s lumber dynasty. With the company safe from her stepfather after the marriages of her two sisters, Jilly can now focus on her dream of building a mountaintop railroad–and never marry. Nick Ryder came into Jilly’s life when he saved her mother from her no-good stepfather, and he’s prepared to protect Jilly from anything that threatens to harm her–as long as he keeps his heart from getting involved. But when a cruel and powerful man goes to dangerous lengths to make Jilly his own, she must make a decision between her safety and her hard-won independence. (Western Romance from Bethany House (Baker) Publishing)


Women’s Fiction:

 

The Choices She Made by Felicia Ferguson — In 1997, seventeen-year-old Madeline Williams is torn between continuing her family ranching legacy and accepting her Army-bound boyfriend’s marriage proposal. But when an assault by John David Billings, the son of a wealthy rancher, leaves her pregnant, Madeline sacrifices both options, choosing to leave town and raise the child alone. It’s been several years, and when she returns to her hometown to meet with her father, rumors circulate about John David’s trial–for assaulting other women. Madeline struggles with the secret she’s kept from her daughter–and everyone but her father–all of these years. If she testifies, John David could be put away for good. It doesn’t help that he’s hired a killer lawyer, and it would take a testimony like hers just to put him behind bars. But if she unveils her past, that could have some dangerous repercussions for her daughter.She has trusted God throughout her entire life, but can she trust him to carry her through this trial? (Women’s Fiction from End Game Press)

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

The Scarlet Cord by Carlene Havel, Rahab is forced to make an immediate decision, knowing the wrong choice will cost her life. (Biblical)
 
Turfmen and the Prodigal by John Malcolm Cunningham, Jr., Will Gideon and Sam reconcile in time to save Joe and Johnny Boy? Will Ned and Becky escape to freedom, or will they continue to suffer the Sturgises’ cruelties? (General Historical)
 
A Heart to Trust by Judith McNees, Can two broken hearts learn to trust each other…and God? (Contemporary Romance) 
 
Bella’s Beautiful Miracle by Kimberly Novak, Adventure awaits as Bella the caterpillar discovers hidden treasures in secret places! (Children’s)
 
The Bride of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep, As Kit digs into the mystery of what happened, she unwittingly tumbles into her own history and endangers her future happiness with Jackson. (Historical Romance)
 
The Brightest Star by Patti Jo Moore, When she volunteered to head up the children’s Christmas program at her church, Macy Crawford never expected to become so attached to a shy, orphaned girl in the program. (Contemporary Romance)
 
Her One in a Million by Rachelle Paige Campbell, With the odds stacked against them, can they both achieve the financial and personal success they crave?. (Contemporary Romance)
 
The Dark Atonement by Sarah Hamaker, As their lives intersect, the pair find themselves in a race to discover the whereabouts of her grandfather—and whoever wants to silence him—before the past catches up with the present. (Thriller/Suspense/Romance)
 
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Review: The Shadow of Memory, by Connie Berry

Book cover: The Shadow of Memory, by Connie Berry

The Shadow of Memory, by Connie Berry (Crooked Lane Books, 2022)

A stranger is found dead in the church yard—and he turns out to have a past connection with a local woman. When their mutual friends begin dying, can those deaths really be of natural causes? Meanwhile, Kate senses something fishy—and sinister—about a painting whose owners need to sell for quick cash.

I’ve been enjoying the Kate Hamilton mystery series, and book 4, The Shadow of Mystery, continues that trend. We have welcoming small British towns with just enough detail for atmosphere—and with plenty of good food for readers to savour vicariously.

In these books, the mystery comes first: cleverly plotted, clean, and with the present-day death somehow connected to secrets from one or more generations past.

The characters feel lifelike and come with personal and relational complications. These never overshadow the mystery, instead adding background flavour.

American Kate is an expert on antiques, currently assisting her English friend Ivor Tweedy (don’t you love his name?) with his shop, The Cabinet of Curiosities. Kate’s fiancé, Tom Mallory, is in British law enforcement. Once they set a date for the wedding they’ll need to decide which continent to call home. Kate and Tom have each lost a previous spouse and each have adult children. They each have a mother, too: Kate’s is a steadying source of advice, while Tom’s can’t accept him remarrying. Guess which one lives nearby?

We also have the elderly Vivian Bunn, with whom Kate currently boards, and the even older Lady Barbara Finchley-fforde living in the nearby manor house.

Readers can begin with this book with only mild spoilers for the previous ones, but I’d encourage you to start with book 1, A Dream of Death. You won’t regret it.

Despite the familiar and detailed way she writes British small town settings, Connie Berry is an American author based in Ohio. Check out her books at connieberry.com and sign up for her monthly newsletter, The Plot Thickens.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Is Balance a Bad Word? (Guest Post)

Letter tiles spelling out "Balance".
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Is Balance a Bad Word?

by Steph Beth Nickel

How do you feel about the word balance?

When I was in Bible College (approximately a million years ago), I thought the word was synonymous with compromise.

If you “balanced” your spiritual life with your other responsibilities, weren’t you denying the scriptural mandate to do everything as if doing it for the Lord?

It took time, but I realized balance is not a bad word. It doesn’t necessarily mean compromise. Plus, it doesn’t mean that you believe God is more interested in certain aspects of your life than in others.

For example, we are faced with the challenge of balancing how we spend out time and what we focus on every. single. day.

Do I stop and pray for those in the path of hurricanes such as Fiona, which recently affected friends in both Bermuda and the Atlantic provinces of Canada or do I forge ahead, crossing off items from my never-ending To-Do List?

The answer should be BOTH.

As I pray, I can ask God if He wants me to become more personally involved.

If the answer is yes, then I may have to set aside items on my list that are not of high priority.

I must find the right balance.

When I hear about things that are important to me, things that fire me up, I can be tempted to change course, to take up a banner that is not mine to carry, to get distracted from the call of God on my life. I can—and often do—become unbalanced.

I have to ask myself some questions when I’m tempted to change course, something that happens far more frequently than you might imagine.

These questions might also help you if you’re trying to balance your priorities and pursuits.

  1. What are my current obligations? Are there any I could consider setting aside? Which are non-negotiable?
  2. If a new opportunity comes my way, do I have room in my schedule and the energy to take on something more or will I have to set aside something I’m currently working on?
  3. Do I say yes to tasks because I feel God has brought these opportunities into my life or do I say yes because I have a hard time saying no to people—especially if the opportunity intrigues me and is something I have the skill set to accomplish?
  4. On the other hand, do I wear blinders and miss opportunities that the Lord brings my way because I’m so focused on sticking to my current To-Do List?
  5. Do I take on things because I’m “a fixer” who genuinely cares about coming alongside others? Still, there is only so much I’m responsible for, and it’s important to prayerfully discern God’s priorities before jumping in and trying to “fix” something He hasn’t called me to fix.

As a woman of a certain age (61), I’ve finally had to admit that I can’t pursue every shiny object or take up every cause that is important to me.

I foresee that I will always be eclectically interested and eclectically involved. However, I am prayerfully trying to focus my energies on accomplishing the tasks that God has clearly given me and leaving the rest up to others.

Have I found the perfect balance? Not by a long shot, but I’m getting closer.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

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.

Interviewed at Fiction Finder!

I missed sharing this interview back in May. Pop by and have a read. Fellow Canadian writer Pearl Fredericksen asked some fun questions, including “If I were not an author, I would be __).”

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Did Bobby McFerrin Have It Right? (Guest Post)

Image by Sirpa P from Pixabay

Did Bobby McFerrin Have It Right?

by Steph Beth Nickel

Whether it’s cancer, COVID, or corruption, it seems everywhere we look there is something threatening to steal our peace.

And in the writer’s world there are contacts, conferences, and contracts to consider as well. While these may be exciting, they can still cause stress.

So, what are we to do?

Should we simply do our best to follow Bobby McFerrin’s advice: Don’t worry; be happy. (Yes, Bob Marley sang it, but Bobby McFerrin wrote the lyrics.)

We can only ignore what’s going on around us for so long. Plus, in the long term, this is 1) virtually impossible and 2) extremely irresponsible.

We are called to fulfill our commitments. Granted, some of us (read “most of us”) take on too much—at least at times. But even if we’ve learned to say, “No, I’m unable to add that to my schedule,” it’s probably because our plate is already full to overflowing.

And would we really be at peace, worry-free, if we could sing and dance our way through life without any thought to the heartaches going on all around us?

Sure, we need to take regular breaks to clear our mind and refresh our body. But the real happiness, the real peace, comes from obeying God’s commands in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (ESV).

If we try to obey the first part of this verse in our own strength, we’ll soon throw up our hands in defeat. It isn’t as easy as choosing happiness instead of worry.

However, as He always does, God shows us how we can set aside our anxiety. Pray and give thanks.

That sounds easy enough, but we all know it’s not “one and done.”

I have a tendency to obsess over (read “worry about”) things I can’t change until God reminds me AGAIN of Philippians 4:6.

So, what are you laser focussed on with regard to your writing right now? Is it stressing you out? Is that stress quickly turning into full-fledged worry? Is it immobilizing you, which adds to your stress levels?

Be encouraged. God cares about you. He can—and will—work out all the details.

Take your concerns and requests to Him. Focus on all the things you have to be thankful for. “Rinse and repeat” as necessary. If you’re anything like me that will be often.

Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

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: The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip, by Sara Brunsvold

The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip, by Sara Brunsvold (Revell, 2022)

Life-affirming, inspiring, and heartwarming, this novel pairs a young female reporter with an elderly woman at the end of her days. Clara Kip may be dying, and she may claim to be ordinary, but the “simple” acts of love and friendship that unfold from her past have changed hearts, impacted her city’s history, and saved lives. All because she dared to hold onto her Saviour and love those He allowed to cross her path.

What begins as a disciplinary assignment for Aidyn Kelley will upend and reshape her life and goals. What she discovers in Clara’s words will challenge readers as well.

Clara is the star of the story: feisty, faithful, fierce, and not at all prepared to lie down and let the cancer take her quietly. Instead, arriving at the hospice that she knows will be her final earthly home, she believes the Lord has work for her to do even in this place. [Spoiler: He does!]

This beautifully-crafted novel celebrates friendship, faith, sacrifice, love, endurance, laughter, human kindness, care for refugees, and much more. Definitely life-changing fiction and well worth the read. Expect to see it showing up in lots of “favourites” lists and literary awards.

The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip is Sara Brunsvold’s debut novel. For more about the author, and to download a copy of “Mrs. Kip’s 8 Rules to Live By” (limited time offer) visit sarabrunsvold.com.

[Review copy from the public library via Hoopla.]

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