Monday, April 30, 2012

Month In Review | April 2012

Another month has come and gone. I've had a lot going on but have still managed (somehow!) to read quite a bit. Even when I'm super busy, read

Books Read [8]

Favorite book this month?
Hands down, Baroness by Susan May Warren was my favorite this month! So excellent and I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

Reviews Posted [7]
By the Light of the Moon by Tricia Goyer (Litfuse Tour)
The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck (Litfuse Tour)
Lonestar Angel by Colleen Coble
The Discovery by Dan Walsh (Revell Tour)
Need You Now by Beth Wiseman (FIRST Wildcard Tour)
Loving by Karen Kingsbury
Echoes of Titanic by Mindy Starns Clark & John Campbell Clark (FIRST Wildcard Tour)

Blogside Chats

Giveaways
Promise Me This - Congrats to Angie! (Thanks, Cathy, for providing this giveaway copy!)
By the Light of the Silvery Moon - Congrats to Abbi!
Winner's Choice of a Titanic book - Congrats to Jo!
Words Spoken True - Congrats to Carmee! (Thanks, Ann, for providing this giveaway copy!)
Redeemed Jewelry Tabletop Mirror - This giveaway is still open through the end of the day today (Monday).
$10 Amazon Gift Card & possibly additional prizes! - This giveaway ends on Wednesday. Please spread the word. I'd love to give away multiple prizes but it all depends on how many people enter!

Update on Reading Challenges
I'm still doing pretty well on most of my challenges. I've had a hard time finding time to knock out some of my "Just For Fun" reads. I'm thinking about picking a month or a few weeks and doing nothing but reading for fun. We'll see! Anyway. If you want to see my progress, you can do so here.

Other Noteworthy Posts / Happenings
  •  April has been a month-long prayer focus around the world for the people living in the Horn of Africa. Will you join me in continuing to pray for these people?
  • I celebrated my 2nd Blogaversary at the beginning of the month. It was an incredible celebration. Thanks to all who stopped by!
  •  The Christy Awards announced their 2012 nominations. I was so excited to see some books that I've truly LOVED on the list.
So . . . now that you know what I've been up to, what have YOU been up to?!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Roaring 20s Kindle Giveaway from Susan May Warren!

Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

Expected to marry well and to take the reins of the family empire, they have their lives planned out for them. But following their dreams—from avant garde France, to Broadway, to the skies in the world of barnstormers and wing-walkers—will take all their courage. And if they find love, will they choose freedom or happily ever after?

Celebrate with Susan by entering her Roaring 20s Giveaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Signed copies of Baroness and Heiress by Susan May Warren

But hurry, the giveaway ends on 5/7/12. The winner will be announced on 5/9/12 on Susan’s blog, Scribbles!

Just click one of the icons below to enter! Tell your friends about Susan's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Pray for the Horn | India's Story


India became known because of her servant heart, always eager to help out, and her beautiful smile would light up a room. When she heard the Good News, she immediately understood and accepted Christ’s sacrifice for her. She is learning how to obey Him and how to share her faith with others.

There are thousands of men and women like India who are ready and willing to believe in the One who saves, but they have no chance to hear the Good News.

Romans 10:14-15 says, "But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, 'How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!'"

Please Pray
  • Thank the Father for preparing the hearts for the harvest.
  • Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers – that they would come from places far away as well as from within the harvest.
  • Pray that those like India would have a chance to hear the Gospel and become part of sharing the sweet story.
India's story was originally posted on the Pray for the Horn blog. For more stories, information, and ways to pray, visit Pray for the Horn.

* Photo Credit: Pray for the Horn

Friday, April 27, 2012

FIRST Wildcard Blog Tour | Echoes of Titanic [Review]

Echoes of Titanic
by Mindy Starns Clark and John Campbell Clark
Christian / Contemporary / Suspense
Available March 2012
Harvest House Publishers
400 pages


About the Book
Kelsey Tate comes from sturdy stock. Her great-grandmother Adele endured the sinking of Titanic and made it safely to America, where she not only survived but thrived. Generations later, Kelsey works for the firm Adele founded nearly 100 years ago.

Now facing a hostile takeover, the firm’s origins are challenged when new facts emerge about Adele’s actions on the night Titanic sank. Kelsey tries to defend the company and the great-grandmother she has long admired, but the stakes are raised when Kelsey’s boss is murdered and her own life threatened. Forced to seek help from Cole Thornton, a man Kelsey once loved—and lost, thanks to her success-at-all-costs mentality—she pursues mysteries both past and present. Aided by Cole and strengthened by the faith she’d all but forgotten in her climb up the corporate ladder, Kelsey races the clock to defend her family legacy, her livelihood, and ultimately her life.

My Thoughts

After starting the Million Dollar Mysteries series many years ago and catching up on the last couple in recent months, I was so excited to see that Mindy and her husband John were writing a new novel Echoes of Titanic. The story centers around Kelsey Tate, whose grandmother Adele survived the sinking of the Titanic and went on to make a name for herself in the business community in New York City. When outsiders begin to make accusations that Adele is not really who she says she is, Kelsey must fight to protect her grandmother’s legacy and to save the family business.

The bulk of the story occurs in the present-day, centered on Kelsey and all of the problems affecting her company. However, chapters flashing back to Adele’s and her cousin’s journey to America on the Titanic added a rich element and I loved the details of their time on the Titanic!

The plot was incredibly intricate, giving a lot of detail and information so that readers more fully understand the in’s and out’s of investments and the problems concerning the company. While these details made for a slower start to the book, it definitely helped to know these things as the story picked up. About halfway through, things really got moving and I found myself eagerly attempting to figure out who was responsible for each of the mishaps that occurred.

The addition of Kelsey’s ex-boyfriend and family to the story balanced Kelsey out. It would have been easy to simply portray her as a workaholic, but adding these characters made her seem more like a real person.

Echoes of Titanic skillfully combines suspense, romance, and corporate espionage, resulting in a novel that kept me turning pages late into the night. Anyone who loves “legal thrillers” will enjoy Echoes of Titanic! [4 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Harvest House and FIRST Wildcard Blog Tours in exchange for my fair and honest review.

For more about Echoes of Titanic, get a sneak peek at the first chapter and check out my recent interview with Mindy.

About the Author
Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright. Visit Mindy's website for more information.

John Campbell Clark is an attorney and CPA who works in the Christian nonprofit field. Married to Mindy Starns Clark, he has served as her brainstorming partner, research facilitator, and first reader for many years. A lifelong Titanic buff, he is pleased to be coauthoring with her now. John and Mindy live with their two daughters near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Loving by Karen Kingsbury

Loving
by Karen Kingsbury
Bailey Flanigan series, Book 4
Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Available March 2012
Zondervan
352 pages



About the Book
The answers Bailey Flanigan once longed and prayed for are finally becoming clear. In Loving, the fourth and final book in the Bailey Flanigan Series by New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury, Bailey is planning a wedding and making decisions that will shape her future. Bailey enjoys the beginning of her new career and time spent with Brandon while Cody faithfully coaches his team on and off the field. But has she agreed to marry the right guy? Will she spend her life with Brandon Paul in Los Angeles, or will her heart draw her back to Bloomington, Indiana and Cody Coleman, her first love? Bailey has learned much and grown over the years, but the greatest challenges, the richest joys, and the deepest heartaches are still to come. Featuring members from Karen Kingsbury's popular Baxter family, Loving completes Bailey and Cody's story—the finale thousands of fans have been waiting for.

My Thoughts
Loving by Karen Kingsbury is the long-awaited conclusion to the Bailey Flanigan series. Really, it answers the question of who Bailey chooses to spend the rest of her life with, which is a question that has been building for the last 10 or so books in the Baxter series. I love Karen Kingsbury and appreciate that she writes honest stories that give characters real problems with difficult solutions. I love the way that God is a main "character" in each book, with the other characters constantly being comforted or confronted by God "speaking" to them through Scripture, assurances, and conversations with other characters.

That said, I didn't think that Loving was Karen's best book to date (although it wasn't bad). I felt that the main question (who Bailey would choose—Cody or Brandon) had been set up a LONG time ago and nearly answered in previous books in this series. I was hoping for a proposal and a wedding and of course a few other interesting twists. Instead, I felt like we went back and re-visited some of the issues that had been addressed and dealt with between the three main characters in previous books in this same series. (Especially the back and forth, wringing of hands, who should Bailey choose?!) At times, I also felt like this story line was a repeat of Katy and Dayne's relationship and struggles—which was addressed in a whole other series of books.

My biggest complaint, though, is that Bailey seemed too perfect. All the other characters in these five series have major flaws / sin issues / personal problems. But Bailey—and the rest of the Flanigan family too—just seems so . . . perfect. I would have liked to see her "talk back" to her parents or fight with her siblings or really struggle with something. Even overall "good" kids struggle, and certainly we all sin. Bailey's only real struggle is choosing between Cody and Brandon—and the decision seems to drag on far too long. Maybe it would have been better to shorten this series to two or three books.

Despite these "complaints," I still enjoyed the book and read it in less than 24 hours. I personally was satisfied with Bailey's choice (it's all about me, right?!) and I was glad to see Karen give the other guy a happy ending too. After the release of the final (23rd) Baxter book this summer, I think I'm finally ready to say farewell to these characters. I highly recommend the Redemption, Firstborn, Sunrise, Above the Line, and Bailey Flanigan series. Start from the beginning and be prepared for an emotional journey with characters who will capture your heart! [3 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational novelist, with over 15 million books in print. Her Life-Changing Fiction™ has produced multiple bestsellers, including Take One, Between Sundays, Even Now, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, and Ever After, which was named the 2007 Christian Book of the Year. An award-winning author and newly published songwriter, Karen has several movies optioned for production, and her novel Like Dandelion Dust was made into a major motion picture and is now available on DVD. Karen is also a nationally known speaker with several women’s groups. She lives in Washington with her husband, Don, and their six children, three of whom were adopted from Haiti.

Karen Kingsbury Online
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Giveaway to Benefit Adoption


My friends Jenny and Stephen announced several months ago that they are adopting! Their plan (as of now) is to adopt through a special needs program in China. I cannot tell you how excited I am for them!!!

We are so blessed to live in a city and attend a church where adoption is just a part of everyday life. In fact, since several families at our church have adopted multiple, multiple (!!!) children, most people now ask how many children you’re adopting. That’s just hilarious to me!

Anyway. If you’re at all familiar with adoption, you know that adoption is incredibly expensive. If you’re not familiar with adoption, now you know. Adoption (whether stateside or international) costs tens of thousands of dollars, and then you have all of the normal costs—baby furniture, sweet clothes, diapers, formula, diapers, formula, toys, car seats, strollers, did I say diapers?!, etc. So, Jenny and Stephen are working really hard to save and raise the money they need to bring their baby home, and they are having an online auction next week!

People have donated some really awesome things for the auction and there's really something for everyone! Here are the details . . .

Online Auction for Adoption Fundraiser
Bidding takes place April 29 - May 5
For more information about Jenny and Stephen and their adoption, 
check out their blog.

I know you don't know Jenny and Stephen. But I do. And I think they're great. (You would too if you knew them!) They love the Lord, they love each other, they're great friends, and they're going to be amazing parents! Will you help me spread the word about their auction? And better yet . . . maybe bid on a few things?

In order to get the word out, I thought I'd host a giveaway! This giveaway will be a little different than some in the past. I've included tons of options for additional entries—and some that you can do multiple times. Also, the prizes—plural!!!—are not really bookish. Hopefully, this will encourage some of my (and your!) non-reader friends to enter the giveaway and help spread the word about the fundraiser. The more people that enter, the more prizes I'll give away.

Giveaway Prizes:
  1. $10 Amazon Gift Card
  2. Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care by Tony Merida and Rick Morton (Prize added if 20 people enter the giveaway)
  3. $10 Amazon Gift Card (Prize added if 30 people enter the giveaway)
  4. $10 Amazon Gift Card (Prize added if 50 people enter the giveaway)
I'm using Rafflecopter for this giveaway so check out the entries there. If you have trouble leaving a comment on the post or using Rafflecopter, email me at iblog4books (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks for helping me spread the word, but more importantly thanks for supporting Stephen and Jenny as they begin their adoption journey!

A Winner & Giveaways!

Lots of fun things going on here at i blog 4 books this week!
  1. I'm so excited to announce the winner of Words Spoken True by Ann H. Gabhart. I had a great time hearing about all of your pet peeves and decide that I might have more pet peeves than I originally thought. Thanks, Ann, for asking such a fun question of our guests and for stopping by to chat as everyone left comments!

  2. Congratulations to Carmee! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

  3. I've got another giveaway going on right now for a beautiful Jewelry Tabletop Mirror. I have this mirror on my dresser at home and I love it! Be sure to check it out. The giveaway ends on Monday.

  4. I'll be posting about ANOTHER giveaway at the end of this week—maybe Thursday or Friday. This one is especially special to me, so come back and check it out! Plus, it's totally non-bookish. So, spread the word to your non-bookish friends. :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

FIRST Wildcard Blog Tour | Need You Now by Beth Wiseman

Need You Now
by Beth Wiseman
Christian Fiction
Available April 2012
Thomas Nelson
320 pages

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group, for sending me a review copy.***

About the Book
We all count on the support of those around us when times are tough, but what do we do when those we depend on the most are suddenly gone? How do we cope when life has pulled the rug out from under us and left us with nothing and no one to hold on to? To whom can we turn when it seems no one, not even God, is there? These are the questions best-selling author Beth Wiseman addresses in her first contemporary novel, Need You Now (Thomas Nelson).

After the safety of one of their children is threatened, Need You Now’s main character, Darlene Henderson, and her husband Brad choose to move their family from Houston to the dot-in-the-road town of Round Top, Texas; moving into the old fixer-upper farm left to Darlene by her grandparents. Adjusting to the change is more difficult than any of them imagined, especially for the middle child, 15-year-old Grace, who becomes a cutter, using a dangerous and particularly self-damaging way of coping with stress.

The move also begins to take a toll on the couple’s marriage when Darlene decides to take a job outside the home in an effort to make new friends in the community. As the domestic tension rises, both begin to wonder if the same shared faith that has carried them through difficult times in the past will be strong enough to help them now.

To make matters worse, Darlene begins receiving inappropriate attention from the widowed father of the autistic young girl she is assigned to work with at the school for special needs children where she is employed. Unfortunately, this new attention comes just when she is most vulnerable. If there has ever been a time in her life when she needed God, it is now. But will she allow arising feelings of unworthiness to keep her from seeking Him?

In her first novel not set in an Amish community, Wiseman spins her well-honed characters and setting into a thought-provoking message that not only makes the reader ponder his or her own relationship with God, but also sheds light on the little-known disorders of using self-injury as a way of seeking relief and high-functioning autism. Need You Now is the perfect read for anyone who has ever questioned life and God’s will.

My Thoughts
In her first contemporary novel Need You Now, Beth Wiseman introduces readers to the Henderson family. Hoping to find peace in a simplified lifestyle, Brad and Darlene move their family to Round Top, Texas. Once there, though, the adjustment is more difficult than any of them anticipated. Brad is working overtime trying to make partner at his accounting firm. Darlene starts working outside the home for the first time. Chad is drinking and hanging out with a bad crowd. Grace is struggling to make friends and begins cutting.

I was impressed with how Beth tackled a number of really difficult issues in Need You Now. Adultery, cutting, divorce, anger at God—they are all shown fairly realistically and in light of God's grace. In fact, I've never read another book that addressed the issue of cutting, and I think this could be very enlightening to teenagers and parents alike.

While Brad, Darlene, and their children were the focal point of the book, I enjoyed "meeting" their neighbor Layla and Grace's friend Skylar. Their stories really interested me and I wish that they would have been featured more throughout the book.

I enjoyed Beth's writing style and found the story to be intriguing and captivating overall. Unfortunately, though, I felt that there were so many story lines that it was pretty unbelievable. It seemed that Brad and Darlene had a nearly perfect marriage (after 20 years, no less) and within a few weeks everything was falling completely apart. It just didn't ring true with me. The secondary characters in the book also had some pretty drastic issues that came to light in the book, and it just seemed a bit unrealistic that everyone in this small town would have such horrible problems to deal with all at the same time.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, but I'm not sure this is a book I would rush out to buy. It's definitely worth your time to read and prompted a lot of interesting conversation at our house. I'll be interested to see what Beth's other contemporary novels are like. [3 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via The B&B Media Group and FIRST Wildcard Blog Tours in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
When a personal crisis tested and strengthened her faith, award-winning journalist Beth Wiseman was advised by her agent to consider writing a Christian novel, particularly an Amish one. Encouraged by her agent’s urging, she began exploring the Amish lifestyle and soon developed a great appreciation for the more peaceful way of life. In 2008 Wiseman wrote her debut novel, Plain Perfect, featuring the Amish lifestyle within the context of a fictional love story. It was a bestseller, as have been all of the full-length novels and novellas she has written since.

While Need You Now is Wiseman’s first non-Amish novel, she is confident it will not be the last. She is already making plans to write a second contemporary novel in the near future. Like Need You Now, it will also be set in small-town Texas, a familiar background she thoroughly loves exploring and writing about.

Wiseman’s previous releases have held spots on the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) bestseller lists. In 2010, she received the INSPY Award for Amish Fiction (chosen by blog reviewers). In 2011, she received the Carol Award and was the Inspirational Readers Choice winner for her book Plain Paradise. Her novel Seek Me with All Your Heart was the 2011 Women of Faith Book of the Year. In addition, Wiseman has been a Retailers Choice Finalist, a Booksellers Best Finalist and a National Readers Choice Finalist. Prior to becoming a novelist she received many honors for her work as a journalist, including a prestigious First Place News Writing Award from the Texas Press Association.

Today, she and her husband are empty nest parents of two grown sons, enjoying the country lifestyle and living happily with two dogs, two cats, two pot-bellied pigs, two chickens and a single pygmy goat in a small community in South Central Texas. Along with writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, traveling and watching good movies. Her favorite pastime, however, is spending time with friends and family.

Beth Wiseman Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Darlene’s chest tightened, and for a few seconds she couldn’t move. If ever there was a time to flee, it was now. She put a hand to her chest, held her breath, and eased backward, sliding one socked foot at a time across the wooden floor of her bed- room. She eyed the intruder, wondering why he wasn’t moving. Maybe he was dead.

Nearing the door, she stretched her arm behind her, searching for the knob. She turned it quickly, and at the click of the latch, her trespasser rushed toward her. In one movement, she jumped backward, across the threshold and into the den, slamming the door so hard the picture of the kids fell off the wall. She looked down at Chad, Ansley, and Grace staring up through broken glass, then hurried through the den to the kitchen. Her hand trembled as she unplugged her cell phone and pressed the button to call Brad. Please answer.

It was tax time, so every CPA at her husband’s office was working long hours, and for these last weeks before the April deadline, Brad was hard to reach. She knew she wouldn’t hear from him until after eight o’clock tonight. And she couldn’t go back in her bedroom. What would she have to live without until then? She looked down. For starters, a shirt. She was later than usual getting dressed this morning and had just pulled on her jeans when she’d noticed she wasn’t alone.

She let out a heavy sigh and rubbed her forehead. Brad answered on the sixth ring.

“Bradley . . .” She only called him by his full name when she needed his full attention.

“What is it, babe?”

She took a deep breath. “There is a snake in our bedroom. A big, black snake.” She paused as she put a hand to her chest. “In our bedroom.”

“How big?”

She’d expected a larger reaction. Maybe her husband didn’t hear her. “Big! Very big. Huge, Brad.”

He chuckled. “Honey, remember that little snake that got in your greenhouse when we lived on Charter Road in Houston? You said that snake was big too.” He chuckled again, and Darlene wanted to smack him through the phone. “It was a tiny little grass snake.”

“Brad, you’re going to have to trust me. This snake is huge, like five or six feet long.” A shiver ran down her spine. “Are you coming home or should I call 9-1-1?”

“What? You can’t call 9-1-1 about a snake.” His tone changed. “Darlene, don’t do that. Round Top is a small town, and we’ll be known as the city slickers who called in about a snake.”

“Then you need to come home and take care of this.” She lifted her chin and fought the tremble in her voice.

Deep breath on the other end of the line. “You know how crazy it is here. I can’t leave right now. It’s probably just a chicken snake, and they’re not poisonous.”

“Well, there are no chickens in our bedroom, so it doesn’t have any business in there.”

“Chad can probably get it out when he gets home from school. Maybe with a shovel or something, but tell him to be careful. Even though they’re not venomous, it’d probably still hurt to get bit.”
Darlene sighed. “Our girls are going to freak if they come home to find a snake in the house.”

“Maybe—” Darlene turned toward a sound in the entryway. “I’ll call you back. There’s someone at the door, and I’m standing here in my bra. I’ll call you back. Love you.” She clicked the phone off, then yelled toward the door. “Just a minute!”

After finding a T-shirt in Ansley’s room, she pulled it over her head as she crossed back through the den toward the front door. This was the first visitor she’d had in the two months since they’d moved from Houston. She peeked around the curtain before she opened the door, realizing that her old city habit would probably linger for a while. Out here in the country, there probably wasn’t much to worry about, but she was relieved to see it was a woman. A tall woman in a cowgirl hat. She pulled the door open.

“Your Longhorns are in my pasture.” The woman twisted her mouth to one side and folded her arms across her chest. “This is the second time they’ve busted the fence and wandered onto my property.”

Darlene thought this cowgirl could have walked straight off the set of any western movie. She was dressed in a long- sleeved denim shirt with her blue jeans tucked into brown boots. She was older than Darlene, possibly mid-forties, but she was gorgeous with huge brown eyes and blonde hair that hung in a ponytail to her waist.

“I’m so sorry.” Darlene shook her head. Brad should have never gotten those Longhorns. Neither she nor Brad knew a thing about cows, but Brad had said a move to the country should include some Longhorns. Although it didn’t make a lick of sense to her. She pushed the door wide. “I’m Darlene.”

The woman shifted her weight, but didn’t offer a greeting in return. Instead, she stared at Darlene’s chest. Darlene waited for the woman to lock eyes with her, and when she didn’t, Darlene finally looked down. Her cheeks warmed as she sighed. “Oh, this is my daughter’s shirt.” Don’t Bug Me! was scrolled across the white T-shirt in red, and beneath the writing was a hideous picture of a giant roach. Darlene couldn’t stand the shirt, but twelve-year-old Ansley loved it. “Do you want to come in?” She stepped back.

“No. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to round up your Longhorns and head them back to your pasture. I’ll temporarily repair the fence.” The woman turned to leave, and it was then that Darlene saw a horse tethered to the fence that divided their property. She stifled a smile. This woman really was a cowgirl.

“Know anything about snakes?” Darlene eased onto the front porch, sidestepping a board she knew was loose. The porch was next on their list of things to repair on her grand- parents’ old homestead.

“What?” The woman turned around as she held a hand underneath the rim of her hat, blocking the afternoon sun.

“I have a snake in my bedroom.” Darlene shrugged. “Just wondering if you had any—any experience with something like that?” She padded down two porch steps in her socks. “I’m not sure I got your name?”

“Layla.” She gave a quick wave before she turned to leave again. Darlene sighed. Clearly the woman wasn’t interested in being friends. Or helping with the snake. Darlene watched her walk to her horse and put a foot in the stirrup. Then she paused and twisted her body to face Darlene. “What kind of snake?”

Hopeful, Darlene edged down another step. “A big, black one.”

Layla put her foot back on the ground and walked across the grass toward the porch. Darlene couldn’t believe how graceful the tall blonde was, how out of sync her beauty was in comparison to what she was wearing.

“Only thing you really have to worry about around here are copperheads.” She tipped back the rim of her hat. “Was it a copperhead?”

At five foot two, Darlene felt instantly inferior to this tall, gorgeous, horse-riding, snake-slaying blonde. She wasn’t about to say that she couldn’t tell one snake from the other. “I don’t think so.”

“All I’ve got is a .22 with me.” Layla pointed back to her horse, and Darlene saw a long gun in a holster. “But a .22 will blow a hole through your floor,” Layla added. A surreal feeling washed over Darlene. She thought about their previous home in a Houston subdivision, and a woman with a gun on a horse wasn’t a sight they would’ve seen.

“Do you have a pellet gun?” She stopped in front of Darlene on the steps. Darlene was pretty sure that was all they had— Chad’s BB gun.

“Yeah, I think so.”

Five minutes later, Darlene pushed open the door to her bedroom and watched Layla enter the scene of the invasion. The bed was piled with clean clothes, but at least it was made up. The vacuum was in the middle of the room instead of in the closet under the stairs. It wasn’t the way she wanted a stranger to see her bedroom, but it could have been worse.

Layla got down on her knees and looked under the bed. From the threshold, Darlene did a mental scan of what was under there. Boxes of photos, a flowery hatbox that had belonged to her grandmother, an old, red suitcase stuffed with baby keepsakes from when the kids were young—and a lot of dust. “There he is.” Layla leaned her chest to the floor and positioned Chad’s BB gun. Darlene braced herself, then squeezed her eyes closed as two pops echoed underneath the bed. A minute later, Layla drug the snake out with the tip of the gun. “Just a chicken snake.”

Darlene stepped out of the room, giving Layla plenty of room to haul the snake out. Big, black, ugly. And now dead. Blood dripped all the way to the front door. Layla carried the snake to the fence and laid it across the timber, its yellow underside up.

“Belly up should bring rain.” Layla was quickly up on her horse. “Maybe tell your husband that I’m patching the fence up, but he really needs some new cross planks.”

“I will. And thank you so much for killing that snake. Do you and your husband want to come for dinner tonight? I’d like to do something for you.”

“I’m not married. And I can’t come to dinner tonight. Thanks, though.” She gave the horse a little kick in the flank, then eased through a gate that divided her acreage from Brad and Darlene’s. She closed it behind her from atop her horse and headed toward the large house on top of the sloping hillside. Coming from town, the spacious estate was fully visible from the road and her youngest daughter called it the “mansion on the hill.” The rest of the family took to calling it that too.

In comparison to their rundown farmhouse, Darlene sup- posed it was a mansion. Both homes were probably built in the late 1800s, but Layla’s was completely restored, at least on the outside, with fresh, yellow paint and white trim. A split-rail, cedar fence also surrounded the yard, and toward the back of the property, a bright red barn lit up the hayfield not far from a good-sized pond. A massive iron gate—that stayed closed most of the time—welcomed visitors down a long, winding drive- way. And there were lots of livestock—mostly Longhorns and horses. If the wind was blowing just right, sometimes Darlene could hear faint music coming from the house.

She was hoping maybe she could be friends with Layla, even though she wasn’t sure she had anything in common with her. Just the same, Darlene was going to pay her a visit. Maybe take her a basket of baked goodies, a thank-you for killing that snake.

Brad adjusted the phone against his ear and listened to Darlene’s details about her snake ordeal, then she ended the conversation the way she always did. “Who do you love?”

“You, baby.”

It was their thing. Nearly twenty years ago, at a bistro in Houston, Brad wanted to tell Darlene that he loved her—for the first time—and he was a nervous wreck, wondering if she felt the same way. He’d kept fumbling around, and the words just wouldn’t come. Maybe she’d seen it in his eyes, but she’d reached over, touched his hand, and smiled. Then in a soft whisper, she’d asked, “Who do you love?” His answer had rolled off his tongue with ease. “You, baby.” Then she’d told him that she loved him too, and the who-do-you-love question stuck. Darlene asked him all the time. He knew it wasn’t because she was insecure; it was just a fond recollection for both of them. That night at the bistro, Brad had known he was going to marry Darlene.

He flipped his phone shut and maneuvered through the Houston traffic toward home. He was glad that he wouldn’t have to deal with a snake when he got there, but he was amused at Darlene’s description of the tall, blonde cowgirl who shot it with Chad’s BB gun.

He had four tax returns to work on tonight after dinner. All these extra billable hours were bound to pay off. He needed the extra income if he was going to make all the renovations to the farm that he and Darlene had discussed. Brad wanted to give her the financial freedom to make their home everything she dreamed it could be. Cliff Hodges had been dangling the word partner in front of him for almost two years, and Brad was sure he was getting close to having his name on the door.

If they hadn’t been in such a rush to move from Houston, Brad was sure they could have held out and gotten more for their house. As it turned out, they’d barely broken even, and just getting the farmhouse in semi-livable shape had taken a chunk of their savings. Buying out Darlene’s brother for his share of the homestead had put a strain on their finances too, but it was worth it if Darlene was happy. She’d talked about restoring her grandparents’ farm for years. The original plan had been to fix the place up over time so they could use it as weekend getaway. But then they’d decided to make the move as soon as they could, even if the house wasn’t in tip top shape.

Forty-five minutes from his office, he’d cleared the bustle of the city, and the six lane freeway narrowed to two lanes on either side of a median filled with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Nothing like spring in Texas to calm his mind after crunching numbers all day long, but leaving the office so late to head west put the setting sun directly in his face. He flipped his visor down, glad that the exit for Highway 36 was only a few miles. Once he turned, he’d get a break from the blinding rays. Then he’d pass through the little towns of Sealy and Bellville before winding down one-lane roads to the peaceful countryside of Round Top. It was a long commute, almost an hour and a half each way, but it was worth it when he pulled into his driveway. Small-town living was better for all of them. Especially Chad.

Brad could still recall the night Chad came stumbling into the house—drunk. His seventeen year old son had been running around with a rebellious group of friends in Houston. And sometimes Chad’s glassy eyes had suggested more than just alcohol abuse. He shook his head to clear the recollections, knowing he would continue to pray that his son would make better choices now that he had some distance from his old buddies.

Brad felt like a blessed man. He’d been married to his high school sweetheart for nearly twenty years, and he had three amazing children. He wanted to spend his life being the best husband and father he could be. There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t thank the Lord for the life he’d been given, and it was Brad’s job to take care of his family.

Darlene finished setting the table. She regretted that her mother couldn’t see her enjoying her grandmother’s dining room set. Darlene had been surprised to find the oak table and chairs still in the house when they’d moved in. The antiques had been dusty and in dire need of cleaning, but they were just as sturdy as ever. She could remember many meals with her parents and grandparents in this house, at this table.

She still missed her grandparents—and her parents. Dad had been gone almost six years, and two years had passed since her mother’s death. Her parents had started their family late in life, both of them in their late thirties when she was born, and Dale was born two years after Darlene. She was glad her brother hadn’t wanted the farm. It had been a struggle to buy him out, but no regrets. Someday, they too would have a “mansion on the hill,” like Layla’s. She cast her eyes downward, frowning at the worn out wooden floors. She’d be glad when they could afford to cover the original planking with new hardwood.

Thinking of Layla brought a smile to her face as she mashed steaming potatoes in a pot on the stove. She couldn’t help but wonder what the tall blonde was doing all alone on that estate. Darlene had never even been on a horse or owned a pair of cowgirl boots. Several of her friends back in Houston sported a pair of high-dollar, pointy-toed boots, but they didn’t particularly appeal to Darlene. Her friend, Gina, had told her it was un-Texan not to own a pair of boots.

She missed Gina. They’d been friends since their daughters had started Girl Scouts together, but after Gina’s divorce, they’d drifted apart. Gina’s interests had changed from Girl Scout and PTO meetings to going out with new single friends.

She left the dining room and went back to the kitchen, glad that the aroma of dinner covered up the dingy old-house smell that lingered, despite her best efforts to conceal it with air fresheners.

“Mom! Mom!” Ansley burst into the kitchen with the kind of enthusiasm that could mean either celebration or disaster; with Ansley you never knew. At twelve, she was the youngest and the most dramatic in the family.

Darlene gave the potatoes a final stir before she turned to face her. “What is it, Ansley?”

“Guess what?” Ansley rocked back and forth from heel to toe, and Darlene could tell by the grin on her daughter’s face that the news was good. “I did it. Straight C's and above!”

Darlene brought her hands to her chest and held her breath for a moment, smiling. When Ansley was in grade school, early testing indicated she was going to struggle, and Darlene and Brad knew she was a bit slower than other kids her age.

Not so thrilling was what Brad had promised Ansley if she received a report card without any failing grades. “Sweetie, that’s great. I’m so proud of you.” She hugged her daughter, knowing it was highly unlikely Ansley wouldn’t remember her father’s promise. Ansley eased out of the hug.

“I know they scare you, Mom, but having some chickens and roosters will be so much fun! We’ll be like real farmers, and every day after school, I’ll go get the eggs.” Ansley’s dark hair brushed against her straightened shoulders, and her big brown eyes twinkled. “Think how much money you’ll save on eggs!”

Darlene bit her bottom lip as she recalled the chickens her grandparents used to keep on this very same farm. And one very mean rooster. Eight dollars in savings per month was hardly going to be worth it, but a promise was a promise. She’d told Brad before they’d left Houston not to offer such a reward, but Darlene had put it out of her mind. At the time, it seemed a stretch for Ansley to hit the goal and make all C’s.

“Maybe just have laying chickens. You don’t need a rooster.” Darlene walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a tub of butter.

“Mom . . .”

Darlene set the butter on the table and raised a brow in time to see Ansley rolling her eyes.

“Even I know we can’t have baby chicks without a rooster.” Ansley folded her arms across her chest.

Darlene grinned. “I know you know that, but how many chickens are you hoping to have?” She recalled that on some of her visits to her grandparents’ house, if the wind blew just right, she could smell the chicken coop from the front yard, even though the pens were well over fifty yards away, back next to the barn. When they’d first moved in, Brad had fixed up the old coops as an incentive for Ansley to pull her grades up. Sitting on the porch swing with Brad late in the evenings had become a regular thing, and smelly chickens would be an unwelcome distraction.

“Not too many,” Ansley said as she pulled a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water.

One was too many in Darlene’s opinion, but it was a well- deserved reward. Darlene gave a lot of the credit to the school here. Much to her children’s horror, there were only 240 students in grades kindergarten through twelve in the Round Top/ Carmine School District, but Darlene felt like they were getting a better education and more one-on-one attention. Darlene had been on the verge of homeschooling Ansley before they left Houston, but Ansley threw such a fit that Darlene had dis- carded the idea.

Ansley chugged the water, then put the glass in the sink. “I can’t wait ’til Daddy gets home.”

Darlene smiled. Her youngest was always a breath of fresh air, full of energy, and the tomboy in the family.

She thought about the snake and realized Ansley probably wouldn’t have freaked out after all. She heard Brad’s car rolling up the gravel driveway, and moments later, the front screen door slammed and Ansley yelled, “Daddy! Guess what!”

An hour later, everyone was gathered at the dinner table, except Chad. After about ten minutes, he finally sauntered into the room, slid into his chair, and folded his hands for prayer.

“It’s your turn to offer the blessing, Chad.” Darlene bowed her head.

“Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings you’ve given us, for this food, the roof over our head, and Your love. And God . . .” Chad paused with a sigh. Darlene opened one eye and held her breath. More often than not, Chad’s prayers included appeals for something outside the realm of what should be requested at the dinner table. Like the time he’d asked for God to help his parents see their way to buying him a better car. Darlene closed her eye, let out her breath, and listened.

“Could you heal Mr. Blackstone’s cancer and bring him back to school? He’s a good guy.” Darlene’s insides warmed, but then Chad continued. “Our substitute stinks. Amen.”

“Chad!” Darlene sat taller, then cut her eyes at Brad, who shouldn’t be smiling.

“No, Mom. I mean, really. He stinks. He doesn’t smell good.” Chad scooped out a large spoonful of potatoes. “And he’s like a hundred or something.”

“Even more reason you shouldn’t speak badly about him. Respect your elders, remember?” Darlene passed the meatloaf to Chad, who was shoveling potatoes like he hadn’t eaten in a month of Sundays.

“Grace, how was your day?” Brad passed their older daughter a plate of rolls.

“It was okay.”

Grace rarely complained, but Darlene knew she wasn’t happy about the move from Houston. Mostly because of the boy she’d left behind.

Ansley turned her head to Darlene, grunted, then frowned. “Mom, why are you wearing my shirt?”

Darlene looked down at the big roach. “Oh, I had to borrow it earlier. I sort of couldn’t go in my room for a while.”

Darlene told the full-length version of the snake story that she’d shortened for Brad on the phone.

“I’ve seen that woman,” Chad said. “And she’s hot.”

“She’s old like Mom, Chad! That’s gross.” Ansley squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then shook her head.

Darlene took a bite of roll. At thirty-eight, when had she become old in her children’s eyes? “I believe Layla is several years older than me, Chad.”

Her son shrugged. “Whatever. She’s still—”

“Chad, that’s enough.” Brad looked in Chad’s direction, and Darlene was glad to see him step in since it seemed like she was the one who always disciplined the children. Brad, on the other hand—well, he promised chickens.

They were all quiet for a few moments before Chad spoke up again.

“Did you know Layla drives a tractor? I’ve seen her out in the pasture on the way to school.” He shook his head. “Seems weird for a woman.” He laughed as he looked to his left at Ansley. “Can you picture Mom out on a tractor plowing the fields?”

Ansley laughed. “No, I can’t.”

“Don’t underestimate your mom. You never know what she might do.” Brad reached for another roll as he winked at Darlene.

Darlene smiled. She found herself thinking, yet again, that this was a good move for them. They all needed this fresh start. None of the kids had been particularly happy at first, but they were coming around.

“Can I be excused?” Grace put her napkin in her lap and scooted her chair back.

Darlene knew meatloaf wasn’t Grace’s favorite. “Whose night is it to help with dishes?”

Grace and Ansley both pointed at Chad.

“Okay,” Darlene said to Grace. “You can be excused.”

Darlene watched Grace leave the table. Her middle child was tiny like Darlene, and she was the only one in the family who inherited Darlene’s blonde hair and blue eyes. And her features were as perfect as a porcelain doll’s, complete with a flawless ivory complexion. She looked like a little princess. Chad and Ansley had their father’s dark hair and eyes—and his height. Darlene loved her children equally, proud of them all, but sometimes it was hard not to favor Grace just a little bit, especially since they’d come so close to losing her as an infant. Grace had come into the world nine weeks’ premature, a surprise to everyone, including Darlene’s doctor, since Darlene had delivered Chad at full-term with no complications just two years earlier. Grace struggled those first few weeks with undeveloped lungs and severe jaundice, and twice they were told to prepare themselves for the worst. But their Grace was a fighter, and as her sixteenth birthday approached, Darlene silently thanked God for the millionth time for His grace.

There’d been issues and struggles with both Chad and Ansley from time to time—mostly with Chad. But Grace had never given them one bit of trouble.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Confession: I'm a Saver

I’m a saver. I suppose if things got out of control, you might call me a hoarder. But for the most part, my “stuff” is under control. Give me another 50 years and we’ll see if that’s still true!

I save things that have special meaning behind them. Things that remind me of a friend, a season in my life, a lesson that I learned (the hard or the easy way!).

In middle school and high school, I saved notes. Shoe boxes full of them. Notes exchanged in the halls, passed during class, or slipped into lockers. They all got saved. When my parents moved several years ago, I read through them and laughed at how silly we were, how dramatic we were, and how creative we were in the folding of those notes. But, alas, I couldn’t keep all those shoe boxes (where would I put them?!), so I—gasp!—tossed them. Yes, all of them.

Through the years, I’ve tried to find ways to save some of those special mementos so that I can continue to enjoy them. What’s the use of knowing that I have boxes full of ticket stubs, pictures, programs, etc., if they’re just shoved under the bed, in the back of a closet, at my parents’ house, or in the attic?

The best—and hardest—idea I came up with was a t-shirt quilt. My sweet grandmother agreed to tackle this project for me. (And once it was done swore she would never do another one!) Let me just say, I had quite a t-shirt collection by the time high school graduation rolled around. We took all of my old, worn out, not-really-cool-anymore t-shirts and made an incredibly beautiful and time-consuming quilt from them. (The finished product is the perfect size for my queen-sized bed!)

Besides the fact that my grandmother made it for me, the best thing about this quilt is that each "square" evokes wonderful memories when I look at it! Poor Hubs has to hear about that awesome Wayne Watson concert I went to in middle school or the time I went to overnight camp in third grade and nearly drowned in the swimming pool or the mission trip to Colorado in ninth grade when our bus broke down on the side of the road in Texas for five hours just about every night when we go to bed. I took something old (can anyone still wear a t-shirt from the 3rd grade?) and make something that I can use every day.

And really, isn't that how it is with each of us? Tired, worn out, unworthy. But redeemed by God's grace into daughters (or sons) of the King of kings. Daughters and sons who He will use every day for His glory—if only we will let Him.

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:13, NIV




You’ve heard me mention (in)courage at least half a dozen times—or more! They’ve just released a brand new Redeemed collection of beautiful jewelry, home d├ęcor, stationery, and hand bags.
Life is a patchwork of the meaningful things we keep with us—memories, moments, and connections—that serve as daily reminders of where we’ve come from and who our loving Heavenly Father says we are in Jesus. The Redeemed collection celebrates the way God, in His generous grace, sews together every beautiful bit of our lives to form one masterpiece creation after another.
I had the privilege of receiving two of these amazing products for review and loved them both!

The Redeemed Necklace combines a detailed round charm with a dainty bird charm on a chunky antiqued gold chain and adds a special touch to any outfit. The verse referenced on the back of the charm (2 Thessalonians 2:13) will serve as a constant reminder of how the Lord is working in your life.

If possible, I love the Jewelry Tabletop Mirror even more. The simple design of the mirror serves as the perfect addition to any room. It sits on my dresser and is where I put the finishing touches of my makeup on jewelry on each morning. The inscription from Ecclesiastes on the mirror—“He has made everything beautiful in its time”—is a beautiful verse to meditate on each morning and remind me of God’s redemption in my life and in whatever comes across my path that day.

There are a ton of other great products in the Redeemed collection and through the end of the month, ten of them are on sale!

Plus, one of YOU will win the Redeemed Jewelry Tabletop Mirror. OR, it would make a wonderful gift . . . Mother’s Day is coming up, plus this is the season for tons of weddings and graduations! I absolutely love it and hope you will too.

Enter via the Rafflecopter below. (Note: The winner will be responsible for the shipping costs—around $8. Open to US residents only.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pray for the Horn | Joy's Story

Joy is a young lady who heard about Jesus when she visited a clinic for prenatal care. The first time she heard the Good News, she did not believe. After delivering her baby, Joy returned to the clinic and heard the news a second time. Joy was so excited that she was helping tell the story. When she began to hear about Jesus taking our sins, she supplied the words, “Through Him, our hearts are made clean.” Just one month before, she had heard the Good News and rejected it. But during that month, God worked in her heart. John 5:17 says, “My Father is at work to this very day and I too am working.” Praise God for bringing people to Himself!

Please Pray
  • Pray that believers will be lead to boldly share their faith with those in whom God is working.
  • Pray that those who believe in Him would grow and find community.

Joy's story was originally posted on the Pray for the Horn blog. For more stories, information, and ways to pray, visit Pray for the Horn.

* Photo Credit: Steve Evans

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Read-A-Thon?

I've been seeing a posts all day today from a few blogger friends about a 24-hour read-a-thon going on today. I've participated in a few "thon's" in my time—a dance-a-thon to benefit St. Jude's being the most memorable—but never a read-a-thon. I'm intrigued.

So . . . did you participate in the read-a-thon today? How much did you read? Would you do it again? I want to hear all about it!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blogside Chat | Ann H. Gabhart

Ann H. Gabhart is with us today for a Blogside Chat! I absolutely LOVED her latest novel Words Spoken True (you can read my review if you want to know more) and am so excited to get to know her better. (HINT: Stick around to the end for a chance to win a copy!)



i blog 4 books: Ann, thanks so much for coming by today! For any readers who might not be familiar with you, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Ann H. Gabhart: I’m a country girl, born and raised in Kentucky. Growing up, I helped my dad on the farm and then I married a farm boy. So, of course, the first thing we did when we could afford it was buy a farm. We still live on that farm but our farming these days is limited to a few beef cows. I’ve known I wanted to write since I first discovered storybooks, so that’s always been my focus along with taking care of my family. Always, always I was writing that next story. I have worked some temporary secretarial jobs along the way, but only until the need to write overpowered the need for the extra income. Our three children are all grown and married now. They’ve blessed us with nine beautiful grandchildren.

I’ve published twenty-three books with four more contracted to come out in the next few years. I started out writing historical romances for the general market. Then I wrote several coming of age books for young adult and middle readers. A few years ago, I began writing for the inspirational market and was fortunate to have my first inspirational fiction book, The Scent of Lilacs, selected as one of Booklists’ Top Ten Inspirational novels for 2006. Since then I’ve had other books picked as finalists for awards with this year Angel Sister being a RT Book Reviews Magazine nominee for best inspirational novel of 2011.

ib4b: Give us a little background on Words Spoken True.

AHG: Words Spoken True is the most romantic story I’ve written for Revell Books. My other books have romance in them. The Shaker books are definitely historical romances, but because of the beliefs of the Shakers – they didn’t believe in romantic love between a man and a woman – I had to sneak romance into those stories without much opportunity for romantic scenes. Angel Sister is a family story with a romantic thread but it’s only one of the ingredients in the whole. The Hollyhill books are about a family in a small town with a sweet romance throughout too, but the romance is not the most important element of the story. Oh, but in Words Spoken True, romance jumps up on the center stage and demands the spotlight. The background history is eventful and has some timely themes that relate to some of our issues in America today, but it’s the romance that lights up every scene.
Here’s the back cover copy.
Adriane Darcy was practically raised in her father’s newspaper offices. She can’t imagine life without the clatter of the press and the push to be first to write the news that matters. Their Tribune is the leading paper in Louisville in 1855. Then Blake Garrett, a brash young editor from the North with a controversial new style of reporting, takes over a competing paper and the battle for readers gets fierce. When Adriane and Blake meet at a benefit tea, their surprising mutual attraction is impossible to ignore. Still, Blake is the enemy, and Adriane is engaged to the son of a powerful businessman who holds the keys to the Tribune’s future.
I hope readers will like Adriane and Blake and be cheering for them to figure out a way to overcome all the obstacles in the way of them having a happily ever after ending. You’ll have to read the book to see if they succeed.

ib4b: What was the inspiration for writing it?

AHG: While reading some history, I came across accounts of the 1855 election riots in Louisville, a day that became known as “Bloody Monday” because of the violence and loss of life. Some historians laid part of the blame for the riots at the door of the newspapers of the day. I was intrigued by this bit of history that was so new to me and also the role of the newspapers in that historical era. So I got my characters involved in the newspaper business and dropped them down into 1855 Louisville society and I was off on a new story hunt. 

ib4b: What do you hope readers will take away from reading the book?

AHG: I always want my readers to be entertained by my stories and to fall in love with my characters. But it’s also nice when they can find out a little about their historic past. We can’t change history but it is good when we can learn from it. Perhaps my readers can learn that none of us is perfect but that love can make a difference in our lives, whether that’s romantic love, family love, or the love of God.

ib4b: If Words Spoken True was being made into a movie, who would you cast as the main character(s)?

AHG: My publisher sometimes asks this question in order to decide on the right look for the models for my book covers. I’m not a big movie goer or television viewer so sometimes I’m at a loss here. I have to Google this by putting in “show me pictures of a blue-eyed, dark-haired man or a beautiful brunette.” Google generally comes through with dozens of photographs of different actors or actresses. Then I have to look through them to find a person who matches my idea of what my characters look like. The only trouble is that one actor can have a dozen pictures and look different in every one of them. And since I’m not all that familiar with the actors and actresses, I worry that I might pick one who has such a bad reputation that those who are familiar with actors and actresses would be totally repulsed just at the mention of the name of the actor or actress. But I plunge ahead and nearly always find a photo that looks just like I imagine my character looking. Or at least very close.

With that explanation, these are the people I picked for the two main characters in Words Spoken True. Alexis Bledel as Adriane Darcy and Eric Dane with darker blue eyes and longer curly hair as Blake Garrett.

ib4b: I totally understand . . . AND love the actors you chose. I think they look exactly like how I pictured Adriane and Blake! It seems like most authors have quite an interesting journey to getting published. What did you do in your "former life"?

AHG: I’ve known I wanted to write since I was about ten, so I’m not sure I have the kind of former life you’re asking about. I grew up on a farm, married a farm boy, and we’ve lived the country life all our married years. So I’ve been a farm wife, a mother, a part-time secretary, even worked several years as a substitute coordinator for our local school board, but first I was a writer. Then the rest was added.

That’s not to say that I sent in my first story and the editors went “wow!” and sent me a check. My road to publication was trial and error as I learned about writing and submitting my work. My first book was published in the general market in 1978, but even that wasn’t a magic door opening that stayed open. After that, I’ve had years when the editors didn’t like what I was writing, but I never quit. Before I wrote The Scent of Lilacs, I thought perhaps I should quit. It had been ten years since I’d had a book accepted for publication. I was weary of rejection.

So I went back to the drawing board and said if I’m only going to write one more book, I’m going to make it a book I love. I decided to use my own background of growing up in a small town as the setting and then assembled a cast of characters I could love and began writing. I’m not sure I was consciously aiming for the Christian market, but I’m glad I landed there and found an editor who loved my characters as much as I did. I do feel as if I’ve come home to the inspirational or Christian book market. I like being able to include my characters’ faith journeys in their stories. And a major plus is that the readers have been so receptive to my stories. I love making reading friends via my website and blog or Facebook and Twitter.


ib4b: What were some of your favorite books growing up?

AHG: I remember loving Little Women. The Hardy Boys mysteries were what inspired me to first pick up pen to try to tell my own mystery starring me. When I was fourteen, I read Gone with the Wind during one delicious Thanksgiving weekend. In high school, I immersed myself in the classics hoping that would give me the ability to write a great book too, I suppose. And perhaps I did absorb some of the magic of those stories that helped me learn how to put words together.

ib4b: What was the last "must read" Christian fiction book that you read?

AHG: I have a huge stack of Christian fiction books waiting for me to have the time and opportunity to delve into them, and way too many Christian writer friends to put one of their books as a must read over another friend’s. LOL

ib4b: Ha! You have a good point there. :) Now for a few totally random questions . . . what is your biggest pet peeve?

AHG: People who grumble about everything in life and forget to notice the many good things happening all around them. And pencil erasers that get hard and won’t erase. Never mind that the pencil might be twenty plus years old. LOL.

ib4b: What was the last thing you bought online?

AHG: A book, naturally. Ernie’s War, the Best of Ernie Pyle’s World War II Dispatches edited by David Nichols. And a replacement bulb for one of those daylight lamps that my husband uses. The bulb for it had been broken for a couple of years, and I could never find a replacement locally. I also did most of my Christmas shopping on-line last year because of my limited time to shop now that I’m having to spend so many hours taking care of my elderly mother who suffers from dementia.


ib4b: If you could only drink one beverage for the rest of your life, what would it be?

AHG: Hot tea – definitely. Black tea, strong with the caffeine still in those tea leaves and no flavors or sweeteners added.

ib4b: Do you have a "life verse" or favorite Scripture?

AHG: I put a different Scripture reference in all my books when I autograph them. I try to find something that fits in with the title or the story. Sometimes that’s been easy. For example, I put Mark 9:23 “All things are possible to those who believe” in my book The Believer. I used Romans 15:13 in Orchard of Hope. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” The Bible is chock full of favorite verses. The last verse in John (21:25) is one that boggles my imagination and so I love it too. “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (NIV) Wow! 

ib4b: Can you tell us a bit about what you're working on now? When can we expect to see it in stores?

AHG: I just finished final edits of my next Shaker novel, The Gifted. It’s set in my fictional Shaker village, Harmony Hill, and has a free spirited heroine named Jessamine Brady. Part of the book also takes place at a spa hotel where in the mid-1800s the rich gathered to “take the waters” for various health ailments and also to enjoy many social events. I hope readers will like exploring the contrast of the two lifestyles – the hardworking Shakers who want to shut away the frivolities of the world and the social upper class who embrace the finer things of life. The Gifted is scheduled to be released in July 2012.

I’m currently working on a sequel to my novel, Angel Sister. At this time is has a working title of Far from Rosey Corner, but I expect that to change. I’m following up the characters as WWII looms on the horizon and love begins to find the Merritt sisters. That book has a projected summer of 2013 release date.

ib4b: Wow, both of these books sound really intriguing. I'll have to watch for them! How can readers connect with you (website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)?

AHG: You can check out more about me and my books at my website. I also post twice a week on One Writer’s Journal. You never know what I might be talking about there (neither do I!) and I love it when readers join in with their comments. I have a Facebook author’s page, and you can follow me on Twitter. I’m dabbling in Google+ too.

ib4b: Ann, is there anything else you'd like to share with us before we go?

AHG: I enjoy talking to readers and hearing what they think about my stories. It’s always fun to come visit on blogs of other writers and readers who have as much fun talking about writing and books as much as I do. So thanks for asking me over to talk to you, Brooke, and to your reading friends. I wish you many more great reads in the days ahead. I do my best to always respond to comments on my posts on my blog and those I visit. So ask me some hard questions and I’ll see what answers I can come up with. I’ll think of something. After all, I do write fiction.

Ann H. Gabhart Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter



Ann has graciously offered to give an autographed copy of Words Spoken True to one of you! The giveaway is open to all readers! If the winner lives in the US or Canada, Ann will send you a paperback copy of the book. If the winner lives elsewhere in the world, Ann will send you an e-copy. Sound good?! You know the drill, so click on the Rafflecopter and enter away.

(Remember, you MUST complete the mandatory entry to be entered in the giveaway. If you have trouble commenting on this blog, you may email me at iblog4books [at] gmail [dot] com, but please try to leave a comment first.)


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