Monday, December 31, 2007

Abandoned Identity by Tamara Tilley

Happy New Year! It is January 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

and her book:

Abandoned Identity
Evergreen Press (AL) (August 1, 2007)


Hooray! Tamara is one of our very own FIRST members!

She resides with her husband, Walter, and their children, John, Christopher, and Jennifer, at Hume Lake Christian Camps in the Sequoia National Forest. They have served on full-time staff and ministered at Hume for 13 years.

Tamara manages one of the retail stores at Hume Lake, which serves thousands of kids visiting the conference center on a daily basis.

Not only does she write, she is also an avid reader and enjoys other hobbies such as scrapbooking, designing greeting cards and invitations, and enjoying God's creation from her from porch.


The young, blond woman stepped off the elevator, rushed past the receptionist, and quickly headed down the hallway.

“Jennifer, Mr. Lynch is looking for you,” Doris called after her.

Jennifer didn’t stop to acknowledge the message. She didn’t have time. She could hear the warning in Doris’ tone. Mr. Lynch was looking for her, knowing she was late returning from lunch. This could very well be her last day at Weissler and Schuler.

She glanced at her watch as she threaded her way through the multitude of workstations. She moved as quickly as she could, even though she knew her efforts were probably for nothing—after all, late was late. He would assume she had done it on purpose and would make good on his threat from the previous week. Lynch had given her two weeks to change her attitude or she would be fired.

She hurried past his office door, hoping against hope that she would be able to slip by without being noticed. A sideways glance told her otherwise. She continued towards her own office, knowing he would be quick on her heels. She had struggled all morning, trying to do her work, trying to keep it together, but with the way she was feeling, her resolve was beginning to crumble. She’d only had enough time to slip off her jacket before she heard his booming voice in the hallway.

“Ms. Patterson, you of all people should not be abusing time restrictions. A one-hour lunch is a one-hour lunch, not an hour and 25 minutes,” he scolded her loud enough so everyone could hear him as he made his way down the hall toward her office.

Jennifer hung up her coat and purse on the rack behind her door and slumped in the overstuffed sofa that filled her office. She braced herself for the inevitable.

“You knew we needed to get started on the Yomahama account first thing after lunch,” he said as he entered her office and firmly shut the door. “Obviously you don’t care about this account as much as you say you do.” He was poised for her counterattack but was surprised instead to hear her soft apology.

“I’m sorry. I thought I could make it home and back again. But with the snow, and the traffic, and the way I’m . . .”

What’s the use explaining, she thought to herself. He doesn’t care. She had just given him the excuse he was looking for. She figured she would be packing up her personal items in less than an hour. She took a deep breath, her eyes focused downward. “I’m sorry. It wasn’t intentional.”

Harrison was taken aback. In the short time he’d known Jennifer, she had never apologized for her actions. Everything she did was intentionally antagonistic toward him. But somehow he sensed a difference in her mood.

“What’s wrong?” he bristled, not really wanting to hear her excuse.

She glanced up at his imposing figure but lowered her eyes to the floor as she spoke. “I tried to kick something all weekend. I guess I’m just not feeling up to par.”

He said nothing, waiting for her to make eye contact with him. She stiffened her back, sighed and said, “It won’t happen again.”

Had she brushed a tear from her cheek? Not possible, he thought to himself. Jennifer Patterson was tough as nails. She would never lower herself to tears in the workplace . . . that was unless she really was ill.

He waited again for her to look up at him, and when she did, he was met with vacant eyes, pallid skin, and beads of sweat that were starting to form on her brow. Just then, the intercom system went off. “Mr. Lynch, Mr. Yomahama is on the line. Shall I put him through to Miss Patterson’s office or your own?”

Obviously Doris knew where to find him because of the scene he had just made. He walked around to the front of Jennifer’s desk and cleared his voice before pushing the intercom button. “I’ll take it in my office, Doris. Give me a minute to get there.”

Lynch gave Jennifer one last stern look and then marched from her office, shutting her door with a little more force than necessary.

She collapsed against the cushions, her strong exterior completely dissolving. She had done everything she could to hold back her tears in his presence, but his quick exit allowed her to unleash the torrent she had been suppressing.

She had never felt this horrible before in her life. She would’ve called in sick if it weren’t for the fact that she knew her job was in jeopardy. It isn’t fair, she thought to herself. I should have Lynch’s job. For the hundredth time Jennifer went over in her mind the scenario that had taken her completely by surprise.

She had been groomed for the director’s position by Meg, long before Meg left to start a family. Jennifer had put in countless hours on different accounts to make sure her and Meg’s statistics had been well researched and presented in a polished manner. She had done the bulk of Meg’s work, along with her own, as Meg progressed into her third trimester. It simply wasn’t fair!

The day corporate brought in Harrison Lynch and announced he would be the new director, instead of her, she was livid. She felt demeaned and unappreciated. Everyone in the office knew she had worked hard for the job and had deserved it. But corporate behaved in their typical chauvinistic manner and took the opportunity to replace Meg with a man instead of another woman. Testosterone was the only asset that Harrison Lynch had that she did not.

While the other women in the office were quick to overlook the injustice of the situation because of Harrison’s availability, good looks, and charismatic personality, she only saw him as a thorn in her side.

She would only be fooling herself if she said she didn’t see his appeal. He was older than she was—the classic tall, dark, and handsome type. His sparkling brown eyes and wavy brown hair gave him a boyish charm, but his stature and muscular body proved him to be anything but boyish. His enigmatic character made him the kind of man that breezed through life with ease, putting the Midas touch on everything he encountered. But the way he clashed with her, rubbing her the wrong way and always trying to put her in her place, made his good looks less appealing.

Jennifer had butt heads with Harrison ever since he had shown up. She was not afraid to speak out against his proposals or the way in which he supplied information to a client. She had caused him more than one embarrassing moment in important meetings with prospective accounts. She upstaged him with what she called “a more efficient way to gather and record information.” She didn’t think it beneath her to use her feminine mystique with a client in order to work on a case that Lynch would’ve preferred to handle by himself. Lynch had put her on the spot on more than one occasion, but somehow she always came out looking professional in front of the clients.

When she had worked with Meg, Jennifer’s desk was out front with everyone else’s. She liked it that way. She enjoyed working in an environment that buzzed with activity. But Lynch changed all that. He made it very clear that Jennifer was his assistant, and he needed her at his personal disposal. And so he had her move her things into the smaller of the two conference rooms.

Giving Jennifer her own office was not a reward but a sentence. She felt he had isolated her on purpose to break her spirit. It had taken the wind out of her sails for a short period, but she decided two could play at that game. She promptly ordered custom office furniture and personalized the space. What he had intended on being a lonely, sterile environment, she had turned into a showplace of warmth and femininity.

She had one-upped him again and gloated in the fact that he could do nothing about it. After all, he was the one that gave her her own office and the freedom to decorate it the way she wanted. The fact that she did it with pastels in a style she knew he disliked (even though she disliked it too) was icing on the cake. Harrison had declared that an office should reflect professionalism not personality and initially insisted she get rid of everything. His request was denied when Mrs. Weissler came in and admired what she had done with the old conference room. With Mrs. Weissler on her side, Jennifer had once again thwarted Lynch’s authority.

Lynch had finally had enough. He called her into his office a week earlier and lowered the boom. “I’m giving you two weeks notice.”

“You’re firing me?” Jennifer was floored. Though she knew that he disliked her as much as she disliked him, he would have to explain to corporate why he was letting such a valuable employee go.

“No, I’m not firing you . . . yet.” He was cool and calm as he sat behind his solid oak desk. “I’m giving you two weeks to change your attitude. I’m tired of the mind games, the flirting with clients, and the way you insist on making proposals before discussing them with me. Weissler and Schuler should present a united front to all our clients, not a sense of division and indecisiveness. You have two weeks to get on board, assume your position as my assistant, and change your ‘I can top that’ attitude. If you choose not to, you will give me no alternative than to let you go.”

Now, it was just a week later, and Jennifer had given Lynch the perfect opportunity to show corporate that she was not the team player that they had assumed her to be. Corporate was breathing down everyone’s neck about the Yomahama account. It meant millions to them if they could seal the deal. If they felt she hadn’t given it her all, they would allow Lynch to have his way, no questions asked.

Jennifer sobbed into the arm of the floral couch that she despised. She thought about all the ways she had tried to make work uncomfortable for Harrison Lynch but knew she had failed. On occasion, he had tried joking with her and having innocuous conversations, but she would have none of it. She wouldn’t accept the olive branch that he tried to extend to her. Now he would have the last laugh, and it would be her own fault.

The door swung open once again. Harrison was poised and ready to battle with her, only to find her hunched over, her head in her hands and tears falling onto her charcoal colored slacks.

He felt uncomfortable finding her in such a vulnerable position. The all-business exterior he had resolved to use with her now took a back seat to the compassionate Harrison that others had seen. He stood for a moment before taking a seat on the couch alongside her and waited for her to gather her composure. It took several minutes before she could speak.

“I know what you’re going to say, so I’ll save you the energy.” She rubbed at her aching brows and sniffled. “You’ll have the files for the Yomahama account on your desk by the end of the day, and I’ll clean out my things. You can do what you want with the furniture. I don’t want it.” She held her head like she was afraid it was going to snap off her neck.

Harrison just sat there, not saying a thing. Jennifer wished he would just leave. She felt defeated and humiliated. He’d gotten his way; he’d won. With the experience she’d gained at Weissler and Schuler, she’d have no problem getting a job elsewhere, so she resolved to give up without a fight. Her only desire right then was to get home before her head exploded.

It seemed like an eternity before he spoke again. “What have you taken for it?”

“What?” She was confused. There was no smugness to his tone. In fact, if she wasn’t mistaken, he actually sounded concerned. She didn’t dare look at him. Just lifting her head would hurt too much.

“Is it a cold or the flu?”

“A cold,” she answered, wondering why he was being so nice. It was a trait she didn’t think he was capable of, at least not with her. He got up and left the room without saying another word.

She glanced at his receding steps, totally confused. She grabbed a tissue from her purse and tried to wipe away the salty tears and runny nose that was moistening her lips. She gently rolled her head back against the couch and sighed heavily, thankful for the solitude. It didn’t last long; within minutes, Harrison was back.

He sat down alongside her, causing her head to sway and a small moan to escape her lips. He handed her a glass that was fizzing, along with several pills. “Here’s something for your headache, a decongestant, and a bi-carbonate. They should do the trick.”

“No thanks,” she said through closed eyes. “I can’t take pills. They knock me out and make my head swim. Besides, I still have too much work to do. I don’t have time to pass out.”

“The way I see it, you’re already wasted. You’re no good to me like this. Take these, and in an hour you’ll feel a lot better. I guarantee it. We’ll work on the Yomahama account then.”

“I should have known you wouldn’t let me die quietly,” Jennifer retorted, looking at the pills he was still holding. “And if I don’t take your concoction?”

“Then I’ll have to assume the Yomahama account isn’t as important to you as I gave you credit for, and I’ll get Jerry to work on it with me instead.”

“Jerry!” She sat up, her head throbbing with disapproval. She slowly lowered herself back to the comfort of the couch, covering her eyes with the palms of her hands. “There’s no way I’m going to let Jerry take all my research and screw it up.”

“Okay, then. I guess you’ll have to do it my way,” he said. “Take these, dim the lights, and allow yourself some sleep. Don’t worry about watching the clock. I’ll come and get you in about an hour.”

Jennifer realized it was no longer a suggestion. Harrison put the pills in her hand and waited for her to drink them down with the bi-carbonate.

She tossed them to the back of her throat and held her breath as she drank the fizzy water. She knew she had to do it in one swig, or it would never stay down. Her shoulders shuddered in protest, and she thought she saw the hint of a smile form on Harrison’s lips. He pressed the button for the automatic shades to cover her office windows and dimmed the lights. “I’ll check on you in an hour.” With that, he closed the door and left her with her thoughts.

What just happened? she thought to herself. He had the perfect opportunity to fire me, and instead he helped me. Jennifer couldn’t concentrate on figuring out the answer to that one. Her head was throbbing so hard, it was making it impossible for her to reason.

She pulled her feet up under her and allowed her head to rest on the padded arm of the couch. An hour’s sleep, then I’ll be able to push through the rest of the day. She drifted off quickly. She was a lightweight when it came to tolerating medicine, and with the mixture she had just taken, she knew that she would finally get some rest.

Harrison walked back to his office and closed the door. He stood before the expansive window and watched the falling snow blanket the Chicago streets. Jumbled emotions crowded his mind. He was afraid that he’d allowed Jennifer’s weakened state to play on his sympathy, but it wasn’t unlike him. He really was a nice guy. It’s just that since he’d arrived at Weissler and Schuler, he and Jennifer had clashed . . . no, more like collided.

He found out soon enough that she had thought she was a lock for his job because of the work she had done with the previous director. He tried to talk to her about it and let her know he understood her disappointment. When he told her he was excited to be working with such a talented analyst, she only stiffened at his attempt at civility. Her spitefulness and malice made her look so unattractive—nothing like the vulnerable woman he had just left in the darkened office. He finally saw in her what some of the men in the office already had seen. She was a lot more appealing when she wasn’t being conniving or manipulative. With her defenses down, he actually found himself drawn to her, but he was wary that would change as soon as she had her strength back.

HARRISON HAD BEEN WORKING TIRELESSLY at his computer when he glanced at his watch. He realized it had been more than an hour since he had left Jennifer in her office. He quietly opened her door and leaned in to see how she was doing. She was curled up on the couch, her face flushed and moist. He moved to her side, leaned down, and carefully placed the back of his hand to her forehead. She was feverish. She stirred under his touch, but her eyes had a difficult time focusing. She looked at Harrison and tried to figure out why she was lying down and why he was hovering over her. She closed her eyes and vaguely remembered being late to work and taking a handful of medicine.

“What time is it?” Her voice was barely above a whisper.

“Almost 3:00 p.m.”

“Oh, my gosh.” She tried sitting up as her head spun out of control. “I’ve got to get working. We have the Yomahama meeting tomorrow. We can’t waste any more time.”

Harrison pressed his hands against her shoulders and gently pushed her back against the couch cushions. “You need to rest. Your body is obviously trying to fight something. You have a fever.”

“We don’t have time for this, Mr. Lynch.”

She again moved to a sitting position. She wiped at the perspiration on her forehead and scooped her long blonde hair up into a handful on top of her head. She started pulling at the pink cashmere sweater she was wearing, bellowing it to get some cool air up against her skin. “I feel like I’m suffocating.”

“That’s the fever.”

Before Harrison realized what she was doing, Jennifer reached for the hem of her sweater and began to pull it over her head.

He turned away and sputtered, “What are you doing?”

“If you have a fever, you’re supposed to keep at least one foot and one shoulder exposed to cool air.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“I’m not sure, but it’s worked before.”

She continued to remove her sweater. Harrison was relieved to see that she was wearing a silky, pink shell underneath the soft sweater. She pulled her black, high heeled boots from her feet and curled up into a fetal position once again.

“You look miserable; you need to go home. This is ridiculous. There’s no way you’re going to be able to get any work done under these conditions,” Harrison added as she tried to get comfortable.

“I’d be fine if my head would just stop pounding, and I wasn’t so hot.”

“Let me call you a cab. You need to go home.”


Another new author has now been introduced into my reading world. This story is somewhere between very romantic and somewhat suspenseful. It was a good story, overall, but quite frankly, it was just too unbelievable. The story had too many convenient happenstance meetings, sightings and connections for my taste.

The story line moved too slowly in the first half of the book. Two incredibly sexual people kept placing themselves into intimate situations and then backing off - it made them seem kind of silly. I mean, if the main character was such a strong believer, why did he keep putting himself in compromising situations with someone he was so drawn too sexually? Once – maybe. Twice…okay, it’s fiction. More than that…we get the point so move on already. To me, it didn’t create tension, but made the whole relationship unrealistic and stuffy. It was very hard to keep reading.

The last half of the book moved a lot faster, and the first half could have benefited from some of the action crammed into the end. The author tried to “fix” everyone’s problems too neatly and too quickly though, so again, I was left feeling unattached to the story. I was never made to care about the characters.

If you like romance…okay, you will like this. If you like a strong message, you will like this. If you are looking for suspense, look elsewhere. This book just didn’t grab me. It’s not a bad read, just not my style. Make up your own mind though. Purchase your own copy today. Abandoned Identity

Monday, December 24, 2007

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon

I just HAD to pop back in here and tell you guys about this book! I am a huge fan of the Mitford books, and Jan Karon's newest novel - the beginning of the Father Tim series, is wonderful! I had the chance to read this over the weekend, and truly it was like sitting down and learning about an old friend's childhood.

As usual, Jan Karon does a wonderful job of making you feel like you are side by side with Father Tim as he travels back to his home town in Mississippi for the first time in almost forty years. There were a few surprises along the way, but all of them were in keeping with the story of God's grace in the lives of these dear characters. And again, the door was left wide open to come back for another visit. Given the circumstances, I know I'll be back!! The sooner the better! Excellent start to a new series Ms. Karon! I look forward to many more stories together!! I highly recommend this book!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Time for a holiday break!

Well folks, it's time for family gatherings, travel, church outings and a host of other activities! I hope there will be time for you to sit down with a good book near a roaring fire and enjoy a great story or two! I'm reading ahead for my January posts, and I can tell you now, it's going to be busy here in my Window! I'm looking forward to sharing lots of great books with you!

I've made a few connections here in the world of blogging, so I'm hoping that I will be able to offer more give away items and continue to broaden the scope of my work here in the coming year. I look forward to getting to know my audience better!

So enjoy this special Season with those who are dear to you, and keep reading!!

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Distant Heart by Tracey Bateman

In the second book in the Westward Hearts trilogy, will the promise of a new life out west heal the scars of Toni's past?

This series tells the stories of three strong women as they struggle to survive on the rough wagon train and lose their hearts to unlikely heroes along the way/ Think Little House on the Prairie meets Francine River's Redeeming Love and you begin to get a sense of the riveting historical series that Tracey Bateman has created.

In this second installment, we follow Toni Rodden, a former prostitute who sought to escape her past and build a new life, and a new reputation, when she joined the wagon train. Despite much resentment and distrust from the other women, Toni has finally earned a place on the wagon train and found a surrogate family in Fannie Caldwell and her two siblings. For the first time in her life, Toni actually feels free.

But while Toni once harbored dreams that her new life might include a husband and family, she soon realizes the stigma that comes with her past is difficult to see beyond and that she'll never be truly loved or seen as worthy. As the trip out west begins to teach her to survive on her own, she resolves to make her own living as a seamstress when the train finally reaches Oregon.

But despite Toni's conviction that no man will be able to see beyond her marred past, Sam Two-feathers, the wagon scout and acting preacher for the train seems to know of a love that forgives sins and values much more than outward appearances. Will Sam have the confidence to declare his love? Will Toni be able to trust in a God that can forgive even the darkest past? Faith, love, and courage will be put to the test in Distant Heart.

Tracey Bateman is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including Defiant Heart, the First in the Westward Hearts series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and recently served on the board as President. She lives in Lebanon, Montana, with her husband and their four children.


I will preface my comments by saying that this is the first book I’ve ever read by Tracey Bateman. Her personal story is a wonderful testimony to God’s faithfulness and His ability to use a willing heart to accomplish great things. The popularity of her books speaks for itself. Phenomenal!

However, (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) this book was not my favorite. It was ok, but I couldn’t connect to these characters. I felt like the plot was predictable and the characters just didn’t feel realistic. Perhaps this book would have been more meaningful if I had read the first one in the series, but I can’t say for sure. The Oregon Trail and all of its heartache just didn’t ring true, and I’ve read other, more meaningful stories of a prostitute redeemed.

The book is well-written, and there are some scenes that I enjoyed (like the bathers getting trapped in the water by the bear), but overall, if I was rating Distant Heart on a one to five scale with five being the best, I’d probably give this book a three. Try it for yourself and see if you like it. You will be able to purchase your own copy in January, 2008. I would also encourage you to visit the author’s website here if you want to read a real testimony of what God can do in a person’s life when they are obedient to Him. Personally, I plan to check out Tracey’s contemporary fiction to see if I enjoy it better than her historical novels.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Echoes by Kristen Heitzmann

This book will make you think and feel more than you want to. It will follow you into your dreams. It will keep you from doing things you should be doing besides reading. This book is AWESOME!! I've read the other two books in this series, Secrets and Unforgotten, and this one is better than both of them combined. If you want to read your emotions raw, read this book!! It is powerful!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Nothing’s going to stop Kyla…

until the ground crumbles beneath her feet.

Kyla Justice has arrived. Her company, Justice Construction, is one of the most critically acclaimed, commercially successful companies in the Pacific Northwest. And yet, something is missing. Not until she’s called on to build a center for inner-city kids does she realize what it is: her sense of purpose. Now nothing can stop her, not the low budget, not supply problems, not gang opposition, not her boyfriend’s suggestion that she sell her business and marry him–and most especially not that disagreeable Rafael Murphy.

Rafe Murphy understands battle. Wounded in action, this Force Recon Marine carries the scars–and the nightmares–to prove it. Though he can’t fight overseas any longer, he’s found his place as a warrior in the civilian world. So he soldiers on, trusting that one of these days, God will reveal to him why Rafe survived the ambush in Iraq. That day has arrived.

Kyla and Rafe both discover that determination alone won’t carry them through danger and challenges. When gang violence threatens their very foundations, there’s only one way to survive: rely on each other, be real–and surrender to God. In other words, risk everything…


Karen Ball , bestselling novelist, is also the editor behind several of today's bestselling Christian novels. Her love for words was passed down through her father and grandfather - both pastors who shared God's truth through sermons and storytelling. Blending humor, poignancy, and honesty, Karen's writing style is a powerful force for revealing God's truth. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Don, and their "kids," Bodhan, a mischief-making Siberian husky, and Dakota, an Aussie-terrier mix who should have been named "Destructo."


Having already read the first two books in the Family Honor Series, Shattered Justice, and Kaleidoscope Eyes, I was anxiously awaiting the third installment, What Lies Within. (You can enjoy each of the books individually, but having read the first two does lend added depth to the story.) Karen Ball writes in a style that is really beautiful and stays with you long after you finish the last page. What Lies Within was no exception! The first page grabs you and doesn’t let go! There is plenty of suspense and romance, as well as many unexpected plot twists interwoven among real personal relationships between the main characters and Christ.

Kyla Justice has to learn firsthand what the phrase “there but for the grace of God go I” means in her life. As she begins working among a gang infested neighborhood, she learns to cling to God’s direction with a tenacity and courage she has almost forgotten in her climb to corporate success. However, she reaches an epiphany moment when she comes face to face with the gang leader. I won’t spoil the story, but I can say it is a scene that will cause you to examine your own faith in a new and deeper way. It was powerful!!

This story sort of clings to you for a day or two after you finish the last chapter. I actually dreamed about some of the characters last night! I know I will probably go back and revisit the Justice family, because their characters struggle and ask many of the same questions of life that I do. They ring true. So does Karen Ball! Thank you, Karen! I look forward to your next book!

Buy your copy today! What Lies Within

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Body in the Baptistry by Betty Pratt Barrett

Let me entice about some farm-raised catfish fingerlings fried to golden perfection served with shoestring potatoes (fries to those not from the South), hushpuppies, a side of Napa salad and a tall glass of sweet iced tea. Not a fan of catfish? Well there is always a serving of barbecue ribs in a sweet tangy sauce of brown sugar, molasses, lemons, ketchup and mustard served with a side of Brunswick stew, coleslaw and white bread. Oh, and let's not forget the sweet iced tea and lemon pie for dessert. Too much? Ok, how about a coca-cola and a pack of peanut butter crackers?

True to Southern tradition, whether you are a bigamist, a loan shark, murderer or a member of a library board bent on blackmail, there is a wonderful meal or snack just fit to accompany the gossip that comes with so much going on in the small town of Wild Crabapple, Alabama. Who in the world would ever dream such a quiet little hamlet could contain such a wild variety of crime?

Well, Mrs. Betty Barrett has released a wonderful "cozy" mystery entitled The Body in the Baptistry that contains so many plot twists and turns that you'll need "a coca-cola and two tylenol" before the adventure ends! Betty is a wonderful lady and someone who has become a dear friend to me. She has lived all over the world as a pastor's wife and English professor and most of that time has been spent in the deep South. She currently serves as the Branch Manager of the LaFayette Pilot Public Library, and her observation of human nature is delightfully combined with Southern tradition and local color to create a truly fun read! The characters are an eclectic group from a wide variety of backgrounds who are very adept at using the local grapevine to learn all that goes on behind the scenes in their small town. Finding the song-director's body in the baptistry of the local church is literally the tip of the iceberg in this wonderful book!

As a matter of fact, there are so many layers of secrets to uncover you'll need an entire pitcher of sweet iced tea to make it through...or how about a hot cup of Earl Gray with a slice of chess pie to help you figure things out? The Body in the Baptistry is a must read for cozy mystery fans! Delightful, Mrs. Betty!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Just Jane by Nancy Moser

Whether it was through a high school English teacher or a College professor, almost everyone has either read one of Jane Austen’s novels or read about the author herself. Jane Austen seems to capture the essence of romance and real life in a way that is universally recognized no matter the time period. Although much has changed from the early 1800’s when Jane self-published her first novel, the heart of mankind still wrestles with many of the same challenges.

I found two passages particularly moving…on page 327 Jane ponders the dormant years in which she wrote very little. She concludes, “Lately I have found comfort in a verse: And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten…Although it will take some time, I vow to dispel my guilt regarding those lost years. For the Almighty will restore them, in His own time, in His own way.” And on page 339 Jane is thinking about real life choices that we all make and how we often experience things differently than we had hoped we would. She states, “People do not always make wise choices. People do not always have control over the choices made to them. People do not always become all they should be. And yet…even within the complicated weavings of life, people can find happiness. If they chuse to seek it…differently.”

While I realize these words belong to Nancy Moser and not really to Jane Austen, after reading about her life experiences, I can well believe these would have been her own conclusions. Because God granted her the talent to write and the wisdom to realistically understand human nature, we are blessed with many great stories that will linger for many, many more years! Nancy Moser must surely share this same wonderful insight and love of people to have written such a powerful and delightful novel!

I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of Just Jane and revisit the life of this fine lady as seen through the eyes of another great author. This is a terrific book!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My Interview with Virginia Smith

I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Virginia Smith about her latest book. I am thrilled to share a few moments with you here, and I know you will find her to be as delightful and warm as I did!

Q - I've never read one of your books, and I'm a huge fan of "cozy" mysteries. Looking at your website, it seems mysteries are only one type of writing you enjoy. What is your favorite genre to read? To write? Why?

A – I enjoy reading many different genres, everything from chick lit to science fiction. (Yes, I’m one of those science fiction geeks!) If a book is well-written and the story is captivating, I want to read it. I honestly can’t pick just one favorite, though I am partial to mysteries and to humor. I’m a huge fan of cozies, too, probably because cozies typically include an element of humor.

I can’t pick a favorite genre to write, either, which is why I write in a couple. My contemporary novels tend to be funnier than the mysteries, and I laugh a lot while I’m writing. But they also tend to include more serious spiritual issues, and I sometimes sit at the computer with my fingers flying over the keyboard and tears flowing down my face. On the other hand, I love writing mysteries because I really get into laying out the clues and red herrings. My goal is to create a mystery that stumps the reader, but entertains them so much that they enjoy being stumped.

Q - Reading your website, it seems God has gifted you in several areas. You enjoy speaking and singing in addition to writing. There is indication that you tried to get published for a long time, what was the breakthrough moment and how did your first published work come into being?

A – You’re right; it took me twenty long years to finally break that publication barrier. I actually collected 143 rejection letters before I made my first sale. (I know. I saved every one.) Part of the reason, of course, was that I was learning the skill. I guess I’m a slow learner.  But another reason was just pure stubbornness. I decided that I wanted to write science fiction and fantasy novels, and that’s all I wrote – or read – for most of those years. Turns out God had different ideas for my writing career, and He was patiently waiting for me to ask Him about them. My breakthrough came when I received that 143rd rejection letter. During prayer (if you read between the lines you will hear me sniveling and whining to God, “WHY did you give me this desire to write if you’re not going to let me get published????”) I finally surrendered my dream of becoming a published author to Him. That’s all it took. I’m not kidding, within days I got an idea for a totally different kind of story than any I had ever written. I wrote Just As I Am, which is about a purple-haired young woman with multiple facial jewelry who becomes a Christian in her mama’s little Kentucky church. And it sold to the first publisher I sent it to.

Q - Again, reading from your website, it seems you have a passion about sharing with others what it means to be surrendered to Christ. Can you tell us, as readers and writers why you feel it so hard for many of us to surrender our own dreams for God's plan? I know I struggle with this myself, and it seems I repeat my own mistakes. How can we discern whether our dreams are God inspired or they are our own selfish creation?

A – Oh, Kim, it’s so hard, isn’t it? And surrender goes way beyond writing. Surrender is something we have to do every single day, in every aspect of our lives. I think the key is in learning to be satisfied in the place God has you right now. And how do we do that? By knowing—way down deep inside—that He has everything well in hand. One of my favorite Scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When we really understand that, we can relax and know that He’s in control. It makes the waiting a little easier.

When I look back over those twenty years of trying to break into publication, I can see now that God was teaching me every single day. I could not have written Just As I Am when I first started trying to write, and I don’t mean because I didn’t have the writing skill (though at the beginning, I didn’t). I mean because I wasn’t mature enough, I had not yet learned to hear the story He wanted to whisper in my ear. I had to learn to trust Him. If I’d learned that earlier, it would have made those twenty years so much more bearable!

How do we discern whether our dreams are God inspired or our own selfish creation? We surrender them. Willingly. Completely, without holding anything back. If they’re His, He’s going to bring them to pass in our lives. If they’re not… well, we don’t really want them anyway, do we?

Q - What made you want to write about horses in Bluegrass Peril? Are you a horse owner or just an admirer?

A – Just an admirer, though more of one now than before I wrote Bluegrass Peril. My aunt, to whom the book is dedicated, is a true enthusiast. She’s a thoroughbred breeder, and her love for her horses truly is an inspiration. And she’s so proud when a horse she has bred races. She can tell you the racing record of every horse she’s bred, which I find really amazing. I was so grateful to have someone in my family to call when I came up with a million and one questions as the story unfolded.

The idea of writing about thoroughbreds came about when I visited a farm similar to the fictitious one in Bluegrass Peril. This place is called Old Friends (Old Friends) and it’s the only retirement farm in the country that houses champion stallions, because they’re really hard to take care of. The founder gave me a tour of the place, and he said something that intrigued me. We were looking at a horse named Ogygian, and the director said he still gets requests to breed him. But he would never do that, because it was a condition of the contract when he acquired Ogygian. I started thinking, “Hmmm. What if someone wanted to breed a champion really badly?” The story grew from that idea.

Q - Are you going to continue to write mysteries as you launch your new contemporary series Sister to Sister?

A – Oh yes! In fact, I am working on another mystery right now, called A Taste of Murder. It’s about a classical violin player who accepts a gig to play her violin in a small Kentucky town. She arrives in time to join in the festivities of the local Bar-B-Q Festival. But when she checks into the hotel, she’s is in for a few unpleasant surprises--like a body in the bathtub covered in barbeque sauce. I’m trying to crank up the suspense a little in this one, at the urging of my editor. A Taste of Murder will be out in October 2008.

Q - You are obviously passionate about books. Who are a couple of your favorite authors? Who has made the greatest impact on you personally?

A – I love Rene Gutteridge’s mysteries, and Sharon Dunn’s. Deborah Raney’s characters are so well-developed that I feel like I know them, so I love her books. Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s To Catch a Thief series is excellent, and I have learned a lot about suspense from her. I didn’t read Kristin Billerbeck’s Ashley Stockingdale series until after I’d written Just As I Am, but when I did, I said, “That’s what my book aspires to be!” And—here comes the weird one—Terry Pratchett writes a fantasy series that I absolutely love. They’re ridiculous and outrageous and I have laughed so hard while reading his books my stomach muscles hurt the next day.

The writer who made the biggest impact on me personally was C. S. Lewis. My mother read the Chronicles of Narnia to me when I was little, and she discussed the symbolism with me. When Aslan gave himself for Edmund, I was able to grasp the concept of Jesus’ sacrifice for me personally. And of course that is the most important fact of my life.

Q - If you could offer a parting word of encouragement or point of focus to your readers, what would it be?

A – A point of focus, huh? Okay, here’s one that’s sort of appropriate for the theme of racing in Bluegrass Peril:

“… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1b-3, NIV)

So there you go. Don’t become discouraged in this race we call life. Instead, keep your eyes fixed on the One who is the greatest prize of all, and you won’t lose heart. (Gee, maybe I should consider a career as a preacher instead of a novelist!)

Thanks so much, Kim! I’ve enjoyed chatting with you.

Bluegrass Peril by Virginia Smith



Local police had tagged single mom Becky Dennison as their prime suspect. But she'd only been in the wrong place at the wrong time...admittedly, with her boss's lifeless body. Sure it looked bad, but Becky had no motive for killing...even if she had opportunity.

When the director of the retirement farm for thoroughbred champions is murdered, Becky Dennison teams up with the handsome manager of a neighboring horse farm, Scott Lewis, to find her boss's killer. Soon the amateur detective are hot on the trail of the murderer...even as their feelings for each other deepen.

The amateur sleuths uncover a trail of clues that lead them into the intricate society of Kentucky's elite thoroughbred breeding industry. They soon find themselves surrounded by the mint julep set - jealous southern belles and intensely competitive horse breeders - in a high-stakes game of danger, money, and that famous southern pride.

And for Becky and Scott, this race on the Kentucky tracks has the greatest stakes of all: life or death!

Romantic Times awarded Bluegrass Peril
* * * * FOUR STARS! * * * *


Virginia Smith left her job as a corporate director to become a full time writer and speaker in the summer of 2005. Since then she has contracted eight novels and numerous articles and short stories.

She writes contemporary humorous novels for the Christian market, including her debut, Just As I Am (Kregel Publications, March 2006) and her new release, Murder by Mushroom (Steeple Hill, August 2007). Her short fiction has been anthologized, and her articles have been published in a variety of Christian magazines.

An energetic speaker, Virginia loves to exemplify God’s truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, “Biblical Truths in Star Trek.”

Bluegrass Peril isn’t as perilous as the title might imply. However, if you love a good “cozy” mystery told from a warm, Christian perspective then this is the book for you! Virginia Smith writes with a very personal voice in her novel, and she uses some universal human relationships (divorced, single mom, new romantic relationships vs. old flame) to move her plot along. This is the type of book that goes perfectly with a warm cup of cocoa on a cold afternoon, so it will be perfect for its December debut! I encourage everyone to enjoy Bluegrass Peril and share a copy with a friend!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Prayer for December

I jotted this down last week, and have shared it with friends. I felt it might be an encouragement to someone here, so I share it with you. A prayer for this busy time of year. May we all listen to the One for whom we live each day.

Father, God in Heaven, teach me to be still.
Amidst all life’s joys and sorrows,
May we seek to do Your will.

Though forgiven and redeemed,
We don’t want to yield control.
Clinging tightly to our own desires,
Regardless of the toll.

So Father, please forgive me,
And loose the grip of my self-will.
I love you Lord and crave your presence…
Please teach me to be still.