Monday, February 29, 2016

Pepper D. Basham, Cecelia Dowdy, R.A. Giggie | New Novel News

The Thorn Keeper
by Pepper D. Basham

Released: February 28, 216
From: Vinspire Publishing  
Purchase: The Thorn Keeper

With her newfound faith, Catherine Dougall hopes to take the remnants of her threadbare life and make something beautiful, even if society shuns every choice she makes.

Dr. David Ross must save his war hospital from ruin, but when his notorious aunt makes an offer he can’t refuse, he must choose between his surprising affection for a reformed flirt or his dreams.

From the beautiful Derbyshire countryside to the trenches of World War One, Catherine and David must learn to trust in a God who never forgets his children and fashions beauty out of the most broken things.

Get to know Pepper...

Who is your favorite secondary character? 
Oh my goodness, that’s a very tough question. In The Thorn Keeper, I absolutely fell in love with Madame, but my overall trio of favorite characters are the three kids in my yet-to-be published novel, Just the Way You Are. Madame has a tremendous about of pizazz. The kids are some of my best writing of giving each child a unique personality. I absolutely love them.

What are you reading right now? 
Two books. Amy Leigh Simpsons’s upcoming release, In His Grip, and JoJo Moyes historical novel, The Girl You Left Behind. Very different books but great writing.

Which of your characters do you secretly have a crush on? 
Christopher “Wes” Harrison from my yet-to-be-published novel, Just the Way You Are. He has a Mr. Knightley likeability with a touch of the Mr. Darcy aloofness, and his own swoony-worthy charm.

Shades of Chocolate
by Cecelia Dowdy

Released: February 23, 2016
From: Indie Published
Purchase: Shades of Chocolate

Toni enjoys making chocolate treats in her bakery. Haunted by her abusive past, she struggles with her faith in God. Her world changes when a handsome stranger arrives, reminiscing about his childhood. Jason Matthews misses his days of working in his family's pastry shop. Estranged from his father, he longs to rediscover the joy and comfort from baking. When Toni's life is threatened, Jason realizes how deeply he cares for her. Can Toni and Jason overcome their pasts and learn to trust one another?

Get to know Cecelia...

Favorite season? 
Summer! I guess I’ve always thought about summer time as vacation time. School is out, the weather is hot and summer just reminds me of fun times!

Would you rather go to the future or go to the past? 
That’s easy, future. I’ve often wondered what my life will be like in the future. I’ve often wondered if I’d ever be able to have a full-time writing career. I also wonder what my son will be like as an adult.

What’s one thing you must have/do in the morning?
I must have a huge cup of coffee first thing in the morning! I drink mine with honey, cinnamon and creamer.

Emma's Prayer
R.A. Giggie

Released: February 17, 2016
From: Indie Published
Purchase: Emma's Prayer

A teen pregnancy. A couple desperate for a family. A baby awaiting adoption. When the opportunity presents itself, will Emma Leigh Roberts take back what’s rightfully hers, or will she come to terms with the consequences of her decision?
When Cynthia Manning, a small town speech therapist, suffers another miscarriage, she and her husband Logan turn to adoption. They’re delighted when a baby boy is placed in their home.

Is heartbreak inevitable?

Get to know R.A....

  If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters? 
Emma Roberts to play the part of Emma, and Ken Bevel (from Fireproof) as Austin.

Favorite season? 

What's your favorite chore? 
Writing! You have to admit, it IS quite a chore but a great one.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


First off, I wanted to let you all know I'm having some issues with my blog and comments. *Ugh* It's not just me and they've got people working on it, but still it's pretty frustrating. Your comments aren't lost--I promise--and I can still see them when I'm not signed into Google. But...when I am, they are gone. It makes it impossible for me to reply to you all - though I have been reading the comments and appreciate them SO much!

All of that to say, I went and double checked that I got everyone's name who entered last week's giveaway so even if you can't see your comment on the post, I saw you (in a not creepy way).

Thanks for your patience! I may just start using Rafflecopter exclusively to make it easier...I know that some who don't have Goggle may enjoy this better :)

Anyway, here is the winner of Annette's book from last week's post:

Cheryl Baranski

Contact me using the "Contact the Thinker" form to the right of this blog so we can get you your copy!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey | RE:View

Cold Shot will take you on a ride you won't soon forget with shocking turns, compelling characters, and a threat lingering at every corner. 

This was my first introduction to Dani Pettrey's writing and woozah! Awesome! I was immediately drawn in by her writing style. I really enjoy her descriptions and use of imagery to draw the reader in.

Cold Shot mainly focuses on Griffin McCray and Finley Scott, but the story is filled with other intriguing characters like Griffin's childhood friends Declan and Parker, among others. I loved Griffin and his somewhat grouchy exterior--give me a tough hero any day--but I also liked the other sides to him that are revealed through the book. If we're talking favorite characters though, I think Parker may take the cake...I mean, come one. That Irish accent? *swoon* I also enjoyed Finley's character and her tough, yet delicate sensibility. At first I was a little confused as to what her actual "job" was, because of where we come in at the beginning, but that got cleared up pretty quickly.

As for the plot, loved it! I will say there were a few parts I was almost lost...there is a lot of information given at certain times and, though it's necessary, it felt a little overwhelming at times. It wasn't a distraction though, just a speed bump for me. I also enjoyed the location--hello backyard! She mentioned Severna Park and I was like "woohoo" because I often go up there for photo shoots. But I digress.

The only things I noticed that I was less a fan of were a few "leaps" the characters made at one point. More like assumptions, I guess? I felt they were a little to convenient for the case. And I felt like Griffin was a little bit too enamored with Finley at the, this I would almost not mention, but I'm just being honest here. I can see where there is a foundation for it, but I felt like his thoughts were very...overt? But eh--not a real "issue" to me, just a passing thought. It in no way affected my enjoyment of the book.

As a whole, I really enjoyed Cold Shot and I definitely recommend it. I feel like it was a solid, "team based" romantic suspense. I also loved the approach of multiple viewpoints--it heightens the tension and gives depth to the story. Dani's writing is so solid and I am definitely a fan. Excited to go back and check out her Alaskan Courage series (since a sweet friend just gifted me Submerged, book 1). Dani - you've made me a fan!

Rating: 4.5*
Purchase: Cold Shot (Chesapeake Valor Book 1)

Book Description
(from Dani's website)
In college, Griffin McCray and his four best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore PD. Declan Gray would head to the FBI, and Parker Mitchell would go on to graduate school as a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world–and friendships–crumbled.

Now Griffin is a park ranger at Gettysburg, having left life as a SWAT-team sniper when a case went bad. The job is mostly quiet–until the day he captures two relic hunters uncovering skeletal remains near Little Round Top. Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott determines that the body is modern–a young social justice lawyer missing since spring–and all evidence points to the work of an expert sniper.

When FBI agent Declan Gray takes over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he’ll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he–and those he cares about–are going to escape a downward spiral of murder that crosses continents.
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Honest Thoughts: The Hero

Hum, it seems a little...odd that my banner for "The Hero" is in pink, sorry for that, but hey--I had to stick with a theme here.

If you've been following this month's Honest Thoughts posts you may have caught my thoughts on fictional romance, happy endings, and last week's tribute to The Heroine. It's only fair that I spend equal time on The Hero.

I've got to be fair and admit right here and now that writing my male characters is my favorite thing! And reading a great male character makes me *super* happy. I'm not going to say I've got it down, just that I enjoy it. And, when I'm creating "my guys" (as I affectionately call them) these are some of the things I think through...

The Hero

Make him manly
Um, yeah, of course he'll be manly. He's a man. If you thought this, I don't blame you, but it's one of my biggest pet peeves. Newsflash: men are not women. *Gasp!* I struggle when I'm reading a book where the man thinks or reasons like a woman. Sorry, but that's just not how they (men) work. I think the challenge here, if you're a woman writer, is you're not a guy. That inherently mean's writing the male POV (point of view) will be more difficult. It will require research, men reading/critiquing your work, and truly getting out of your female perspective. But it's oh-so-worth-it because your readers will get a look into his brain and his heart.

I'm not saying he can't have feelings or emotions or that he can't think through things, but consider the context. I love what Ronie Kendig says about this in one of the classes I took from her titled "He giggled?" She points out that, while in the middle of a fire-fight (or some other high-octane situation) a guy won't turn to his girl and look at her through lovey-dovey eyes, kiss her and tell her how much he cares for her. No way! He'll be doing everything he possibly can to rescue her! I know it's tempting to put in those moments because they make us ladies go "awe" but there are better times and places for that and they would be more true to a man's nature.

Give him flaws
Just like with the ladies, our gentlemen need to have flaws. This is pretty standard with any character, but I think it's the type of flaws that matter. I love what Susan May Warren says in her book, Kiss and Tell: How to write a Brilliant Romance*.  She explains that every man's flaw is tied to a fear that they have. Once you know that fear, you find the flaw(s) that springs from that. Have you thought this through? Readers will be able to tell when a man has a weak flaw or no flaw at all. Our flaws are what make us human and what make characters easier to relate to! (tweet this)
*P.S. Her book is seriously fantastic and you should really go check it out...

Create a swoon-worthy guy 
My, oh my how I love a swoon-worthy hero! You know the one I'm talking about. Maybe he's sullen, or hilarious, or tough, or broken but trying not to be. Whatever he is, there are a few things that I think are distinctly "swoon-worthy":

- He's funny: Not every hero will have a sense of humor, but sometimes it's just right.
- He's relentless: Um, why do we love Mr. Darcy? Because he kept coming back!
- He's got honor at heart: He's not a coward, nor will he run from a fight.
- He's protective: Mmmm, one of my favorite traits of great male characters.
- He notices her: Kind of obvious, but there's nothing better than your hero really seeing your heroine.
- He cares: I love a guy who pretends he doesn't care when he does.

Your hero may not "be" all of these things, but it's highly likely that he has at least one of these traits. Which ones did I miss? (tweet the question, join the discussion)

Make sure he's strong enough to rescue her
At the end of the day, we are drawn to heroes because they are the rescuers. That doesn't mean he won't fail or make mistakes, but he will do the right thing in the end. He'll make the grand gesture because of his motivation which is usually a combination of love or caring for the heroine or other characters and a sense of duty and honor. When a male character falls short of being able to rescue your heroine, we have to wonder...why is he the hero? I'm not saying that he needs to be Rambo, and maybe his strength isn't physical but mental and/or spiritual. I just personally believe a good hero makes the HEA (happily ever after) possible because of his strength.

And no, I'm not saying that heroines can't be strong or rescue their guys! But a man is created to be protective and giving him the room to do that within a novel can be a truly beautiful thing.

There you have it, some of my thoughts and The Hero. I can't wait to introduce you all to Slate "Thorn" Hawthorn, the main character in the first book of the series I'm working on. Talk about swoon-worthy!

Now it's your turn for honest thoughts: Who are your favorite male characters? Why do you like them so much? What draws you to them?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dani Pettrey {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Dani...

Dani Pettrey is a wife, mom, grandma, and the author of Cold Shot, the first book in the Chesapeake Valor series, and the Alaskan Courage romantic suspense series, which includes her bestselling novels Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, Silenced, and Sabotaged. Her books have been honored with the Daphne du Maurier award, two HOLT Medallions, a Christy Award nomination, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award, among others.

She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves—the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of her characters’ faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland, where they enjoy time with their two daughters, a son-in-law, and a super adorable grandson.

Connect with Dani...

Pinterest: Purchase: Cold Shot

Get to know Dani Pettrey

You and Writing 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...

Why do you write?
I have always loved the power of story and spent my growing up years daydreaming, reading mysteries and watching Scooby Doo. I took journalism, English, and creative writing classes in college, but never really truly thought I’d be able to write a novel one day. I got married and had two beautiful daughters and set my love of story on the back burner. Oddly enough God used a bout with a serious illness to bring it back to the forefront. Following my illness I had a long recuperation period and I spent my down time reading. Being immersed in stories brought back my passion for storytelling. I started slowly as I was a homeschooling mom, but during my free moments I started studying the writing craft. I joined writing organizations, attended workshops and read a ton. After a year or so of simply studying the craft I attempted my first manuscript, and then another and another. Seven years later, God graciously allowed me the opportunity to meet my editor Dave Long at an ACFW conference and Bethany House purchased my debut novel Submerged.

During my writing years God also blessed me with an amazing mentor—Dee Henderson. There are no words to describe the elation I felt when she offered to take me under her wing. She was and still is my favorite Christian fiction author. Her stories have impacted my faith and life greatly. It has been an absolute honor working with her and an even greater honor to call her friend. She has by far had the greatest influence on my writing life. Not only is she an amazing writer, but a lovely person. Having someone I respect so deeply to bounce ideas off of, to talk me off a ledge, and to provide thoughtful feedback is an abundant blessing.

Emilie here: I am a Scooby Doo fan too! And isn't it amazing how the Lord uses events--sometimes the traumatic ones--to show us a new direction He wants us to take. And how amazing that you and Dee are BWF (haha, this is a term my friend Natalie came up with meaning "Best Writing Friends"). I fell in love with Dee's writing with her Uncommon Heros series!

Your Writing 

Tell us a little bit about your book...

Did you get to do any fun research for the book?  Researching the Chesapeake Valor series has been an absolute blast. In some ways it’s like seeing my state for the first time. When you live somewhere you get comfortable going to the same places and you don’t always visit the tourist spots, but those spots are typically what make your state unique. I’ve taken time to visit all the places I’d bring a friend who’d never visited the area before. I’ve learned things on private tours I didn’t even know about my state. For example, did you know that Camden Yards warehouse (where the Orioles play) is the longest, continuous building east of the Mississippi? If you stood it on end, it’s only five stories short of the Empire State building. I’ve also taken time to revisit my favorite spots and places pivotal to the stories. For Cold Shot I visited Gettysburg, Ocean City, Baltimore, Fells Point, and St. Michael’s. Having a photographer hubby comes in very handy. I have lots of photos and video clips I’ll be sharing for readers to get a great feel for the area Griffin and Finley live in.

Emilie here: Oh, that is amazing! The same thing motivated me for my current work in progress Thorn. I mean, how could I live in DC and no be inspired???

What made you choose the setting for the book?
I chose the Chesapeake Bay region for the setting because it’s where I live. I thought it would awesome to get to share my backyard with readers. I live in such a diverse area. We head south a half an hour and we’re in Baltimore, a half hour north and we’re in farm land, a few hours east and we’re at the beach, and a few hours west and we’re in the mountains. It’s such a small yet diverse and beautiful state. I love living in Maryland and along the Chesapeake Bay in particular. I’m super excited to be able to share the state I love with readers. To show them the places I enjoy grabbing a cup of coffee and where we go for a nice night out on the town. I view it as inviting readers to join my characters and me for a hometown visit.

Emilie here: *Waves* from DC :D

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
How recently a body or remains have been found at Gettysburg National Military Park. You’d be surprised.

What’s your favorite snack while writing?
That’s an easy one. Coffee and chocolate. My absolute favorite is coconut milk hot chocolate with a shot of espresso and a midnight swirl Godiva dark chocolate. Yum! Needless to say most days it’s just a regular cup of Joe and a few dark M&M’s.

Emilie here: Um, now I need to go make hot chocolate...


Let’s talk about your writing life...

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
What really helped me was reading other authors. I read a ton of novels across multiple genres. I studied how the authors introduced characters, how they described the setting, and I took time to figure why I liked certain characters and not others. It helped teach me the craft in a very, hand’s on and visual way. Then I took that knowledge and started praying for God to guide me in my writing, to help me write my own unique stories and find my voice He created for me to shine through. Another thing that really helped me was learning that not every way was the right way for me. I heard numerous authors speak and I had to learn to take what resonated with me and was helpful and apply it, and then leave the rest. We all write differently. God made us all unique. There is no one ‘right’ way. (tweet this) If the idea of plotting gives you hives like me, don’t do it. If writing from the seat of your pants freaks you out, take time to outline. Find what works for you.

Emilie here: Oh my - just YES to this whole paragraph. I've found it's easy to find a number of influences (whether people, books, speakers etc.) but I need to be uniquely Emilie. Anything else will be fake and forced.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I don’t have an exact number, but I’d guess at least thirty-five, possibly as many as fifty. Writing is not for the faint of heart. (tweet this)

What does your writing process look like?
A hot mess. Seriously. I don’t plan. I have to sit and just let ideas percolate a lot and then I sit down and just see what flows. I write all my first drafts long hand (yes, I’m crazy), then I type them all in, editing as I go, and then I rewrite like a gazillion times. I have sticky notes all over the place with ideas and lines of dialogue, and pictures posted throughout my office. I’m such a visual person. I need to physically see my characters. But it’s the process that works for me. Not smoothly mind you, but it works. Or at least it’s allowed me to write six novels in the past four years. Pretty sure all the credit goes to God :)

Emilie here: My face was like this :O By hand!? Wow! That's awesome but proof again that everyone's process is unique!

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
I’ve found I can’t listen to music while I write my first draft, but I can while I revise. I created soundtracks for all my novels and listen to that books soundtrack while I’m revising it. Cold Shot’s soundtrack includes songs by Phillip Phillips (what were his parents thinking?), The Fray, Phillips, Craig and Dean, Third Day, Hillsong United, etc. As you can see a wide variety.

How do you grow in your writing craft?
I still read a lot, I attended writing conferences and workshops, I get feedback from authors I admire, I adore my editors and learn so much from them, and most importantly I pray a lot. It’s all in God’s hands.

Emilie here: Such a great reminder to pray! I've been convicted of that regarding my own writing too and it's so refreshing know that we are not alone in this!


What’s your most memorable (good or bad) Valentines date or gift? My husband and I have spent two Valentine’s weekends in the hospital. Definitely the most memorable. We’ve decided we don’t do Februaries well.

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Names Above All Names by Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson. Great book/study.

Thanks so much for hosting me, Emilie.

Emilie here: Thank YOU for being on the blog today! I really enjoyed your interview and I'm sure my readers will too! And thank you for offering another copy of Cold Shot to my readers. Hey, if you didn't win last time, maybe you will this time ;-)


I had Candace Calvert on the blog last week talking about her new release Step by Step and we've got a winner!!!

Kelli Jo Calvert

Congrats Kelli! Contact me using the "Contact the Thinker" form to the right of the blog :)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Annette O'Hare, Amanda Cabot & Lisa J. Flickinger | New Novel News

Northern Light
by Annette O'Hare

February 19, 2016

White Rose Publishing, an imprint of: Pelican Book Group Purchase: Northern Light

Civil War has robbed Margaret Logan of all she holds dear, including her beloved New Orleans home and her fiancé. When her family moves to the desolate Bolivar Peninsula to manage a lighthouse that is no longer there, all her hopes for a normal future are dashed.

Her world is rocked once again when a wounded Yankee soldier washes ashore needing her help. Despite her contempt for the North, Margaret falls in love with Thomas Murphy. As their love blooms, Margaret’s sister is overcome with neurosis, and her mind slowly slips away. Bitterness, psychosis and depression yield a decision fueled by contempt. Will one fatal choice cause Margaret to lose the man she loves and condemn Thomas to death?

Get to know Annette...

If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters?
Oh, good question! If I had to choose an actress to play the part of Margaret Logan I would choose, Amy Adams. I fell in love with her as Giselle in the movie, Enchanted. She’s so gorgeous, and I’m probably wrong, but I’ve never heard anything about her in a negative light. My hero, Thomas Murphy, is an Irish immigrant, so I would pick Colin Farrell. He’s Irish, a great actor, and did I mention he’s completely dreamy!

What are the names of your pets? If you don't have any, what would you name your pets?
How did you know I was a dog lover? My oldest dog is a nine-year-old Weimaraner I rescued from the animal shelter named Max. My other dog is a year old Jack Russell Terrier mix. I rescued him from a bad home situation. His name is Jay. I’m also the proud grandmother of my son and his fiancé’s Chi-weenie named Charlie, and my daughter’s Chihuahua mix named Tris. They’re both rescue dogs too!

Favorite place you’ve traveled to?  
I love the beach and have been going to Texas beaches all my life. But the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever traveled to (and my favorite) are in the Caribbean. Two recent cruises have taken me to beaches in Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and The Grand Cayman Island.

On Lone Star Trail
by Amanda Cabot

February 2, 2016
Purchase: On Lone Star Trail

If there’s one thing Gillian Hodge never wants to see again, it’s a man on a motorcycle. Her last encounter with one left her right hand crushed, ending her promising career as a concert pianist. Unsure about the next phase in her life, she heads to Rainbow’s End Resort for some R&R when a sudden thunderstorm causes a motorcycle to crash right in front of her.

When TJ Benjamin’s wife died, he lost more than his best friend; he lost his faith. He has spent the past year wandering the country on his motorcycle, trying not to think about the future. When he finds himself stranded with a busted bike and a reluctant rescuer, he has to wonder about God’s sense of humor.

As these broken people collide, they find that a bright future is still ahead—it just might not be the one they imagined for themselves.
Get to know Amanda...

Favorite season?
Spring. I love seeing the rebirth of so many plants, and the longer days make my heart sing with joy.

What's your favorite chore?
I think I may be cheating here, but my answer is cooking. The reason I say I may be cheating is that while some people – my mother included – consider preparing meals a chore, it’s something I really enjoy. I think it’s fun to try new recipes, tweaking them to make them healthier. Of course, washing the dishes afterwards is much less fun.

What's one chore you hate doing?
Vacuuming. Without a doubt, vacuuming. I hate dragging the vacuum cleaner around, and the fact that it’s noisy makes it even worse. The only good thing I can say is that the carpets look better once they’ve been vacuumed.

All That Glitters
by Lisa J. Flickinger

February 16, 2016
Ambassador InternationalPurchase: All That Glitters

The world has gone plum crazy over gold. Men and women alike would do almost anything to make their fortune. Leaving behind her family and a dying father, Ginny Connor follows the cunning Logan Harris up North to strike it rich. Twenty-year old Vivian Connor embarks on a cross-country chase to rescue her sister Ginny and they are both led into the chaos of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Meanwhile, Ben McCormack leaves his farm to retrieve his intended bride from a rowdy, tent town on the Alaskan coastline. Ben’s path inadvertently entwines with Vivian’s and he finds his heart tugging him in a different direction.

Danger and disappointment plague all their journeys to the far North. Will Vivian find her sister in time to return home to see their father? Can Ginny forgive herself for the decisions she's made? Will Ben find the lifelong love he searches for? When the world listens only to the call of gold, redemption and love become scarce treasures.

Get to know Lisa...

Favorite place you’ve traveled to?
Paris, the city of love. The history and architecture of its buildings amazed me and the kindness and generosity of its people thrilled me.

Which of your characters do you secretly have a crush on?
The main male character in my novel All That Glitters portrays a lot of the same characteristics as my husband (but a lot less stubborn). I have a crush on both of them.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee, absolutely! Tea keeps me awake for days. My favourite latte is Crème Brulee.


 Um WOW - last week's New Novel News giveaway was awesome!!! We've got 3 winners here:

Amanda G. Steven's Haven Seekers Series (winner's choice of book):

Dominique Burleson
A Spy's Devotion by Melanie Dickerson:

Deanna Stevens

Terri Reed's Ransom:

Anne Rightler

Congrats to everyone! Make sure you contact me using the "Contact the Thinker" form on the side of the blog!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Thin Ice by Irene Hannon | RE:View

In this second book to the Men of Valor series, Irene Hannon creates an interesting, plot-twisting read following the second oldest McGregor brother, Lance.

Christy Reed is a former Olympic athlete and Lance McGregor joins the FBI after being a Delta Force operator. Talk about two high-octane people meeting over the surprise of Chrisy's sister "coming back to life" after supposedly dying in a fire. True to Irene Hannon form, Lance and Christy realize early on that there's more than just attraction there, but the roadblock of the case is enough to (mostly) keep them apart for the majority of the book.

I think my favorite part of the book was the McGregor brothers! This is totally a personal thing, but I always tend to enjoy reading (and writing) from the male POV more than the female (most of the time). I feel like Irene did a great job of capturing them. What will happen with Finn???

I also feel like Irene included just the right amount of faith elements to show where Christy and Lance were in regards to what they believed and were struggling about, but not to "preach" about where they should be. What was shared, I liked, and felt it was very natural to the story.

One issue I had at the very beginning was the fact that freshly minted Agent Lance McGregor immediately fights an instant attraction of Christy Reed. I just...*sigh*. I understand a guy noticing that a girl is attractive but he was checking her out while on his very first assignment as an FBI agent. It just rubbed me the wrong way. I don't know, maybe that does happen, but it seemed completely unfounded (aside from physical attraction which happens--I get that) and a little premature.

The other issue I had (without going into spoiler-details) is something that happens with regards to one of the secondary characters. The character makes a choice that just didn't sit well with me. It was really hard for me to get past it and see it as a "good" plot choice because of what I think it implies. This is, obviously, personal on my part, but I will say that it could be difficult to read for some.
***If you're interested to know why, see my comments at the bottom of this post. Note:  They do spoil the plot a little.

All in all, a good read. I really liked the quick pace of the ending as well. I'd recommend it to fans of Irene's work--same style as Buried Secrets etc.--and those who enjoy romantic suspense with more romance that knuckle-whitening thrills. I am interested in the last book in the series, mainly because I want to see where Finn comes in and what his story will be!

My rating: 3.8*
Purchase: Thin Ice (Men of Valor book 2)
Buried Secrets (Men of Valor book 1)

Book Description
(from Amazon)
After losing her parents in a car accident and her sister to a house fire, Christy Reed has been mired in grief. Life is finally starting to feel normal again when an envelope arrives in the mail--addressed in her sister's handwriting. And the note inside claims she is still alive.

FBI Special Agent Lance McGregor, a former Delta Force operator, is assigned to reopen the case, but he's coming up with more questions than answers. If Ginny Reed is still alive--who is the woman buried in her grave? Where is Ginny? And is Christy a pawn in a twisted cat-and-mouse game--or the target of a sinister plot? As he digs deeper, one thing becomes clear: whoever is behind the bizarre ruse has a deadly agenda.

Bestselling author and two-time Christy Award finalist Irene Hannon warms readers' hearts as they root for a romance between Lance and Christy, but she pulls out all the stops as this high-stakes thriller chills to the bone in a race to the finish.

***Spoiler Alert***
Just a note here: A secondary character makes a choice to take her own life (which helps to further the plot). It's not graphically depicted or anything like that, but the issue I take with it is the fact that the character was agonizing over the decision (a good thing) and focusing on her prayer book (also a good thing) but then does it anyway. It just...didn't sit well with me. It's one thing for her to have made the choice, one that was for the good of the main character at the end, but (to be bluntly honest) I just didn't like it. I feel like I saw ways around it and that it speaks a confusing message. Suicide isn't okay and is, in and of itself, a selfish act. In this case the woman was in a quandary and felt like she had no other means of escape, therefore making her "sacrifice" understandable but even in that situation I don't feel as if the Lord would condone taking your own life, no matter how dire the situation is. I guess we could look at other acts of sacrifice, like going into a battle where you were assured you would die, as a type of "suicide" but I see that as differently I guess.  
For those of you that have read it I'd be interested to know what you thought. Did it bother anyone else? 
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Bottom Line of Social Media and Marketing for Writers

This post, extremely overdue? *Grins* But I came across a post my agent shared on the the Steve Laube agency blog and I realized I'd never really combined all of my social media and marketing posts into one place. Oops!

Better late than never right? And, I'll give you all a little the month of April I'll be doing this again! I know, you're thinking "what more could you say" but oh, the beast of social media and marketing for writers and authors is far from tapped my friends! Mark you calendars, I'll be bringing in more guests as well as giving some tips and tricks for building platform as an unpublished author.

Social Media and Marketing for Writers

1) A Look at Blogging for Writers

2) Write to the market or your heart? by Michelle Griep

3) A Look at Facebook for Writers

4) Social Media for Writers (or anyone else) by Ralene Burke

5) A Look at Twitter for Writers

6) A Look at Guest Posting for Writers

7) A Look at Instagram for Writers

8) A Look at Marketing for Writers

9) My platform helped grow my writing business by Cherie Burbach

What's your favorite post from this list?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Honest Thoughts: The Heroine

Oh boy, oh boy! Or maybe I should say oh girl... We're talking about heroine's on the blog today and I'm pretty excited. Following my thoughts on fictional romance and my obsession with happy endings, I thought I'd take a look at the people behind both of those things: her and him.

The Heroine

Where can I start with this? It's a huge topic, I realize that, but I thought maybe I'd do a few pros and cons that I've come across in my fictional escapades. This is not a complete list and I haven't done research (um, unless you call reading a ton of books research?). I do think it comes down to who the author sees their characters as too, but these lists are more for taking a look at what makes up an amazing heroine...and what doesn't. I'll use examples where possible of characters I've loved or not-loved, but again it's not all inclusive.

This girl....YES!

1) She's strong
I'm not talking about the super-human-strength type of strong (though maybe, if it's speculative fiction). I just mean she's got strength of chracter. A heroine that grabs my attention when she's got something worth fighting for (ha! see what I did there?)

2) She's brave
Bravery looks different in different characters. I honestly can't stand a heroine who is whiny. I get that women can be delicate and afraid of things--totally okay--but I can't sit through reading a book where she never finds some inner (or outer) strength. An example of a heroine who isn't like this is Kelsea from The Queen of the Tearling. She's not your typical "beautiful" heroine, but she's brave and smart.

3) She's got a unique perspective
Getting into the thoughts of a heroine (or hero for that matter) is probably one of the most connecting things a writer can do with their reader. When I see into a characters thoughts (whether in first person or third) I know them. I know their fears, their motivations, their likes and dislikes. It's personal. That is also why it's sooooo important to give your heroine a unique perspective. (tweet this) It's a tenuous line to walk between getting annoyed at her (*cough*Twilight*cough*) and loving her (*smile*These Broken Stars*smile*).

4) She's got issues
Okay, this one comes with a major warning. It is possible to have too many issues. We're talking about the girl who never gets it right and who is completely down on herself. All. The. Time. That's not what I mean. I think what I love to see is a girl who has real struggles. I think Cinder in The Lunar Chronicles is a great example of issues that are real, but not over done. We can relate to her insecurities but admire her for pressing on despite them.

5) She overcomes
There is nothing more satisfying than a heroine who overcomes the obstacles that are in her path. (tweet this) I mean, this is the time where you jump up and down and shout out for her. You think--I could be like her--because you see that, despite the issues she has, she is someone who overcomes. Some good examples of this in my opinion are Mare from Red Queen, Parvin from A Time To Die/A Time To Speak, or Bilquis from The Legend of Sheba.

That one girl...NO!

1) She's annoying 
Well, obviously this would be a problem.  How can you read through an entire book when the heroine get's on your nerves. I've mentioned Twilight, but though I really liked the Hunger Games series, there were times when Katniss really got on my nerves. I felt that way a few times with Matched and City of Bones. Not enough to stop reading, but it was something I did take note of.

2) She's weak
Yeah, I can't do this. Again, I'm not saying she needs to be able to leap tall buildings or lift a car or something, but her weakness needs to come from a real source, possibly her background or something, and then it needs to be proven false or overcome. To let a character exist in her weakness for long periods of time creates a mundane cycle that we as readers can't escape. (tweet this)

3) She's too emotional
Gah. Anyone else feel me on this one? Yes, I know girls are emotional (I am one) but I cannot stand the repetitive cycle of thoughts and emotions that spiral downward. She should be affected. She should have dark times. But if that's all we see of her, she's one dimensional in her emotions.

4) She's got issues 
Yes, same as above. But it's true. If she's got too many issues, we are only focusing on her issues. This could work for a women's fiction, but even then I'd say there must be more to the plot than her issues. The outward influences on those issues will be a factor. Her relationships will be a factor. You get the point...

5) She's flat
A heroine needs to be vibrant. (tweet this) She needs to be the reason we pick up the book again and again (ok, the hero can be that too, but work with me here). This is even more important if the book is mainly about her, her characterization needs to be strong enough to give us a good sense of who she is but not so narrow that it alienates others from connecting with her. That's a tall order, but I've seen it done well. Make her vibrant. Make her real.

So there you have it. Some of my yes and no moments about heroines. As much as I love a fantastic plot (and I would say this is a requirement for me) I also love fantastic characters. They really do make or break a book for me, but what about you?

Now it's your turn for honest thoughts: What do you like/not like about heroines? Give some examples of heroines you loved and those you didn't like as much.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Candace Calvert {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Candace...

Candace Calvert is a former ER nurse and author of the Mercy Hospital, Grace Medical, and Crisis Team series. Often called “medical hope opera,” her stories offer readers a chance to “scrub in” on the exciting world of emergency medicine. Wife, mother, and very proud grandmother, Candace makes her home in northern California.

How to connect with Candace...

Amazon Purchase

Get to know Candace Calvert


Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing... 

How did you start writing? 
Many folks already know that my writing career got a dramatic jumpstart when I suffered serious injuries in a fall from a horse—a nurse landing in her own ER with a broken neck and spinal cord damage. During my recovery, I had a strong sense I’d been spared for a reason. When my inspirational account of that accident was chosen for Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, I knew God was calling me to write.

Emilie here: Oh wow! I didn't know this and that is amazing!

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book...

Why did you write this book?
Step by Step is the second book in my Crisis Team series, stories that honor selfless and compassionate community volunteers—chaplains who offer solace to survivors after life-altering tragedy. True unsung heroes. It’s my privilege to honor them.

That said, I’ll admit to having had a writer’s crush on story hero Seth Donovan since the moment this big-hearted chaplain walked on scene in By Your Side. He has a regrettable past, a passionate new calling, a bum knee, and a gangly Labrador puppy— a man described by our story’s heroine as “a mix of well-worn teddy bear and fearsome warrior.” Who could resist that?

Emilie here: Um, he sounds pretty fantastic! 

What is the story’s theme?
The theme of Step by Step centers around our need for personal control and the reluctance to put our lives in God’s hands—even when everything is falling apart around us. I especially loved showing nurse Taylor Cabot’s efforts at control by giving her an activity tracking bracelet. She counts her calories and exercise effort—“step by step.”

And, um . . . I suppose I should admit here that I own a Fitbit.

Emilie here: Hehe! Everyone keeps raving about these...and, admission: I kind of want one.

Did you face any challenges writing this story?
It was particularly challenging to write from the point of view of Step by Step secondary character, ER nurse Sloane Wilder. She’s a brittle and complex character, easy to dislike because of her actions and outward attitude. Yet, because Sloane will be a continuing character, I had to offer readers a hint of softness and vulnerability beneath that prickly exterior. I needed them to risk caring for her even a little; to want to understand what made Sloane the way she is. It was an intriguing task. And, in the end, I enjoyed it very much.


How many rejections did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
It took me literally 100 queries to find an agent to represent my work—that meant 99 rejections.

Then, even with a top notch agent (Natasha Kern), it was more than two years before we secured a first publishing contract. I learned, I honed . . . and I printed off reams of paper. In those days, manuscripts were submitted hard copy. Returned (rejected) manuscripts arrived in a disappointing thunk in the mailbox. I have writer friends who left wrapped candies, tootsie roll pops, etc. to appease the “mail gods.” I’ll admit to planting good luck kisses on manuscript boxes.

Emilie here: I think it's something I'm starting to realize on my own publishing journey--a book is not written nor published in a day! Time can be a good thing thought (at least that's what I keep telling myself).

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?

Here are some things that helped me:
  • Study craft (I initially took online classes)
  • Make connections with other writers/published authors. Insider glimpses help so much with navigating this biz.
  • Join ACFW. Completely invaluable.
  • Attend conferences/workshops. Not only do you learn, but you make those all-important networking connections.
  • Read widely. Successful writers are avid readers.
Emilie here: Yes! I love all of these ideas :D

Are you a Pantster or Plotter?
A mix, probably. I always know the opening scene (high adrenaline, emotive action), the climax and Dark Moment, and how it will all end. I’ve learned to grit my teeth and jot down a brief synopsis covering those points. Then I start writing, letting the characters talk, fight, fall in love, and generally fill in the blanks. I especially love it when minor characters pop up and introduce themselves. Like the wise and wonderful former rodeo clown in Trauma Plan, an abused one-eyed donkey in Code Triage, the elderly California-hippie coffee shop owners in Disaster Status . . . My office gets crowded.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
(Unlike many writers) I really love the editing process—snipping, tweaking, and shaping that manuscript. I always joke that it’s like topiary gardening, and I’m a happy Edward Scissorhands.

What I enjoy least is the “tick, tick, tick” of multiple deadlines. Being creative under pressure is an enormous challenge. I’m SO not a math person, but you’d better believe I break down the process into daily word counts and set written goals/dates for percentages of completion. I plan it so I’m finished early enough to let the work “steep” for a few weeks, then revisit it with fresh eyes before deadline.

Emilie here: Yeah, I'd have to say at this moment I don't love the editing process near as much as I probably should...realizing that it does shape the story. But I am with you on breaking it down! I do that with my daily word counts too.


All right, let’s keep things real: Flowers or chocolate . . . or books?
I have to choose? Well, maybe a book that offers (along with action, love, humor, tears) some yummy dessert scenes, the occasional romantic flower bouquet, and . . . Hey, wait. I write that.

What’s your most memorable (good or bad) Valentine’s date or gift?
Way back (before I met my amazing husband, aka “Mr. Bond”), a guy I was dating sent an enormous bouquet of long-stemmed red roses to the ER. Right to the nurses’ desk in front of the entire staff and all the patients. I think I nearly blushed myself onto a trauma gurney. Much later, it served as research: the revised rose scene appears in Trauma Plan.

What are you currently reading?
I just finished (and heartily endorsed!) Carla Laureano’s Under Scottish Stars, the final book in The MacDonald Family Trilogy.

Emilie here: Thank you so much for being my guest Candace! Readers, I got the distinct pleasure of taking headshots for this lovely lady and she is just the sweetest person you'll every meet! Seriously! I am so happy I could snag her for a few minutes to share some insights into her writing and her writing life. Don't forget to leave a comment below for her to enter to win a copy of this amazing book!


I had Debra E. Marvin on the blog last week and she offered up a copy of her new release (with Susanne Dietz, Anita Mae Draper, and Gina Welborn - all ladies I just LOVE!) and we've got a winner:

Laruie Bergh

Congrats Laruie - I know you're going to love this compilation!